CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: FOUR YEARS AGO
Buffy felt helpless as she watched Willow being led into the room, followed by Castillo and almost a dozen vampires. The little cabin had literally become wall-to-wall undead, rendering all of the exits impassable. Buffy wanted to do something, to strike out at this creepoid who thought he was so suave, but she couldn’t see any scenario where she could both take him down and keep Willow from becoming a midnight snack.
Her hopes dimmed further when she saw that Willow was handcuffed, and that the vampires had brought extra pairs of manacles for her and Cordelia. And what about Xander? Buffy thought to herself. If he can come up with a plan to kill a baker’s dozen of vampires all by himself, we’re saved.
“You see, we’ve been watching you for quite some time now, and I’ve heard of your exploits as a Slayer,” Castillo said as one of his employees secured the manacles on Buffy. “And thus we have prepared accordingly. You will find that not even a Slayer can extricate herself from handcuffs of that material.”
Buffy tried anyway, and found that he was right—they were made out of some kind of plastic that tightened and pinched the more she struggled to get loose. The three girls were forced to sit with their backs to a wall in a corner of the room as the vampires stood eyeing them and occasionally snickering to themselves.
“What is this, Biker Vampires From Hell? Well, anyway, let’s hop to it. It’s getting late, and Cordelia needs her beauty sleep,” Buffy said, trying to regain some control. “This is the part where Doctor Octopus tells the imprisoned Spider-Man about his plot to take over the world, just before Spider-Man escapes and destroys the Doomsday Death-Ray Laser Cannon, right? So what’s your clever super-villain codename?”
Willow and Cordelia turned and gave her surprised looks, but then relaxed visibly—they had been through this before too, and Buffy always came through for them. She’s got a plan—she always does, Willow thought. It’s like magic or something—as long as we’re together, nothing can ever really hurt us.
Castillo’s lips pursed tightly, and he did not smile.
“Feeble attempts at humor in the face of danger,” he said. “Yes, I’ve been told about that too, and I assure you my men and I have a highly developed sense of humor—we will laugh heartily when tonight is over. But since you asked nicely,” he continued, aware that everyone’s attention was on him, “my name is Angelino Castillo. Some of my men call me Angel, because, so often, I am the last thing people see before they die.
“And as for my ‘plot to take over the world,’ as you put it, I can put your fears to rest. I have nothing so dramatic in mind--the world, so far as I am concerned, is four-fifths rubbish, not worth anyone’s time to bother with.” He kneeled down right in front of Buffy. She could feel his hot breath on her face and instinctively turned away. “No, I am merely a businessman, Ms. Summers, looking to expand my operations from the east coast to the west. Currently my company is developing some rather important weaponry for the government, which will be demonstrated on Sunnydale’s vampire population shortly. Of course, the Slayer and her Watcher must be disposed of first.”
“You create weapons to kill vampires?” Willow interjected, disbelieving.
“Oh yes, it will be rather profitable. Of course, the military does not realize that my employees and I are of the unliving as well, with full control over the weaponry and its activation codes. But as for other vampires, what do I care? This way, you see, I gain total control of any efforts to eradicate them—and therefore I can except me and my own from the process, ensuring a healthy profit all the while.”
“This is all so cliche,” Buffy said. “Some leader-vampire, stronger than normal vampires, tries to take over the Hellmouth. Been there, done that. Remember the Master?”
“Yeah, Buffy pulverized him!” said Cordelia, scared, but able to speak up.
“Literally,” said Willow, nodding at Cordelia.
“The so-called ‘Master’ was a fool. I knew him back when he was simply called Heinrich Nest. And
opening the Hellmouth to unleash pure evil upon the world? What sense is there in that? After a few decades of rampaging and blood-drinking, the novelty wears off. Then what? Now don’t get me wrong,” he spoke politely, as if he were rubbing shoulders with an old colleague, “a little mayhem and terror is enjoyable in short spurts. But what about the Moliere, the Racine, the Chardonnay, or the Wagner? The finer things—what would their place be in such a world?”
Castillo sighed, as he realized from their faces that the girls, except for perhaps Willow, had no idea what any of the names he mentioned referred to. He stood up and walked back towards his men, then faced his captives again. This witless banter is pointless and almost depressing, he thought. Best to end it now and be on our way.
He walked over to Buffy and then kneeled towards her again, holding her still with his arms. She struggled, but he had the strength to keep her in place. His face contorted into a vampire’s visage as he opened his mouth and aimed his fangs for Buffy’s throat. He could literally taste her as his teeth met the thin skin around her neck and prepared to plunge in. But they stopped there, and he pulled his head back.
“I believe you have convinced me, Ms. Summers. This has been done before, perhaps in every instance when a Slayer has fallen to her former prey. I would hate for your death to be repetitive—the least I can do is make your last moments the stuff of legends. Yes, something more memorable, more . . . cinematic comes to mind.”
He stood up and pulled her to his feet. He turned towards two of his men and said “Watch the two girls while I’m gone. Do not begin until I have returned. The rest of you,” he continued, looking at the other vampires, “may return to the trucks. Inform the drivers that we will be ready to depart shortly.”
He pulled Buffy gently along with him towards the door of the cabin. She hated to leave Willow and Cordelia behind, but I might actually get a chance to do something if it’s just me and this Castillo creep. Outside, she saw a long row of motorcycles parked neatly in a row. She hadn’t even heard them pull up, and wondered idly if they had been walked up slope. Castillo pushed her towards the seat of the nearest motorcycle, and then climbed on behind her. He was tall enough he could still reach the handlebars, even with her sitting on his lap. The engine kick-started and he said loudly in her ear.
“Have you ever ridden a motorcycle down icy mountain roads before? I believe you will find it most . . . exhilarating.”
She didn’t answer.
Xander turned and saw what could only be a vampire rushing up the stairs towards them. The creature was dressed like the kind of ruffian that couldn’t get past the Bronze’s bouncer, but his fangs made it clear he meant business. How did it get here? Maybe Cordy was right—maybe Buffy is a vampire magnet. Xander backed up and tried the doors to the guest rooms—they were locked, meaning he and Amara were trapped on the balcony with a vampire in between them and the stairs!
“Amara, when I give the word, run,” he said, keeping a close eye on the approaching menace. Amara was strangely quiet, but Xander didn’t notice as the adrenaline surged through him. He was both relieved and distressed to see that the vampire’s eyes were fixed on him as well—it meant Amara had a better chance to escape, but it reduced his own chances.
When the vampire reached the top of the stairs, it walked slowly towards him and then darted forward. It was on Xander before he defend himself and punched him hard, knocking him against the wall. He dropped the lamp and it skittered along the floor on its side, sending a cone of light rolling against the ceiling.
“Run!” Xander shouted. He was no Buffy, and being struck like that hurt. The vampire advanced on him again but this time Xander was ready and landed a solid shot to the vampire’s jaw. It didn’t hurt the creature much, but when Xander grabbed the vampire’s hair and slammed its head into the wall, it stumbled back several feet.
Xander sprinted for the stairs, but the vampire recovered quickly and tackled him, wrapping up one of Xander’s legs and bringing him to the ground. It started pulling Xander back, while the boy clawed at the floor to keep from going. Xander looked behind him and aimed carefully with his free leg, smashing it into his attacker’s chest. He got to his feet just as the vampire got to its own.
Xander noticed the lantern had rolled near him. Grasping it with both hands, he brought it far back behind him as the vampire charged for the last time, and then swung it around hard like Sammy Sosa trying to set the home run record. The lantern shattered as it violently struck the vampire right in the side of the head, knocking the unholy creature into the banister. It crashed through as Xander lost his grip on the lantern, and everything—the vampire, the remnants of the lantern, and wood from the banister—struck the ground below.
Xander barely managed to maintain his balance to keep from falling off himself. On his hands and knees, he saw that the gasoline lantern had ignited when it struck the ground, and that the vampire and the floor all around it were starting to burn. The vampire screamed as it ran around frantically, spreading the fire all over the dry wooden floor.
Xander got to his feet and looked around frantically for Amara. Where is she? he thought, trying all the doors and pounding on them. They were still locked. Did she slip past us? “Amara!” he shouted. He was already coughing from the smoke caused by the fire below. “Amara!” he shouted once more. Still nothing.
He ran for the stairs, the bottom of which had just caught. He hurled himself down them and leaped the last few steps, over the flames. All around him was fire and thick smoke. He crawled around, his eyes filling with tears and his throat spasming with coughs. He couldn’t even see the exit and realized he was probably wandering around aimlessly. This is it, he thought, burning to death in the middle of a ski resort. Ironic, I guess.
Everything around him grew dizzy and he was just about to pass out from the smoke when he felt something tugging at his shoulder. He couldn’t see what it was, but he instinctively followed it. The next thing he knew, he was laying on the snow outside the lodge, gulping in the fresh winter air. Several yards in front of him, the lodge was an inferno of flame and smoke. Well, if Buffy gets to burn down high school gymnasiums . . .
“Good-bye, Xander,” a girl’s voice said, and he saw Amara leaning over him. “I have to leave now. It was . . . memorable.”
He felt her kiss him gently on the lips and then she was gone. He tried to call out to her, but speaking justmade him cough more.
After a few minutes laying in the snow, he felt well enough to stand up, though still shaky. For the first time since they had arrived at Arctic Ridge, it was snowing—a light but steady swirl of snowflakes. If there’s one vampire . . . there could be more. Xander started running for the cabin to warn Willow and the others before it was too late.