"It's a beautiful school." The woman, dressed from head to toe in a deep, reserved shade of blue, turned her eyes to take in the view from the Headmaster's study. "The grounds are spectacular."

"They are, aren't they." He stood up, joining her at the window. "You can't see it from here, but there's a lake on the other side of those trees. Sculpted of course, but it looks natural; especially when the ducks are out in force."

"Wonderful." She smiled at him. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to working here. I'm so grateful to you for giving me the job. I know that the Board wasn't exactly in favour."

"The Board is a trifle old-fashioned, to put it mildly." He gave her an awkward smile. "We had… an incident. Some years ago. After that they were a little unwilling to employ women as teachers; but don't worry about them, we'll soon have you settled. After that they won't remember why they didn't want you."

"I hope so." She turned back to the window. A steady stream of neatly uniformed boys were making their way across the lawns at the front of the school, and she gave an approving nod. Uniforms all correct, hair at regulation length, shoes and socks all the appropriate colour. They looked as though they had all been well trained. Her gaze wandered to the wall almost directly beneath the Headmaster's window, and she frowned. A group of boys stood there, milling around another boy who was sitting on the wall. He was wearing school uniform, but only just. His tie lay on the wall beside him, and he wore a leather jacket, the collar turned up. His scuffed shoes swung backwards and forwards, idly kicking at the wall. He seemed to be smoking, and as she leaned slightly out of the window, she could see that his trousers were torn. Her mouth fell open.

"What is that?"

"What?" The Head peered out, looking down at the rabble of boys and their leader. "Oh - Rupert Giles. He's one of the older boys. Sixteen. I rather think he's staying on for the sixth form." There was a look in her new employer's eyes which made it impossible for the woman to tell if he was glad or terrified by the prospect of another two years teaching the boy. "A… free spirit."

"Free spirit?" She stared down, this time catching the unmistakable glint of gold as the boy turned his head. "He has his ear pierced."

"Yes…" The Headmaster frowned. "I have tried telling him to remove it, but he's… well he's not the sort who takes too kindly to being told what to do."

"And you let him stay on?" She frowned at him, suspicious. "Is he related to a member of staff?"

"Hardly." He shook his head, momentarily staring off into space. He looked confused. "He's… he's a special case. I'm not allowed to expel him. Can't remember why…"

"You can't remember?" She sighed, amazed. "I know the term doesn't officially start until tomorrow, but if it was up to me I'd have him thrown out of here by the end of the day. Just look at him; hair below collar length, leather jacket, torn trousers. He's smoking, and there's not a single Prefect out there doing something about it."

"No. I rather think that the Prefects are all a little scared of him." The Headmaster gave her another of his nervous smiles. He was confusing her all the more now. She had seen him deal with a pair of potential troublemakers on his way to her interview, and she had judged him to be a strict man, who took no nonsense from anybody. His record as a disciplinarian was there in black and white for all the world to see. So why did he let a child such as this one get away with flaunting the school rules so openly?

"Is he the son of a Board member?" she asked. He paused again before answering, then shook his head.

"No. No he's not. The father is dead, so far as I know. Strange fellow, never went anywhere at night. Giles certainly isn't here through nepotism. The boy's got a good brain in his head, when he chooses to use it. He won his place here just like the other boys." He frowned. "I just know that I'm not allowed to expel him. I don't remember why, but I know that it was important." He stared off into space momentarily. "There was a man. A very tall man, with very pale skin. Wore a black suit, and a crucifix." He shook his head. "I don't remember. He said it was important, but I really don't remember." He gave a small, perplexed laugh. "Strange, isn't it."

"It's downright peculiar if you ask me, Headmaster." She sighed. "Ah well, I have things to do before tomorrow. It'll be good to get to work. If that's all…?"

"Hmm? Oh yes, yes. That's all yes." He smiled at her, clearly distracted. "Curious fellow, he was. Donated a lot of books to the library. I saw the paperwork, but the oddest thing is that I've never seen a single one of the books he donated. Not a single one."

"Really." Shaking her head she left him to his musings, walking briskly down the stairs and out of the front door. She had been hoping to have a quick word with Rupert Giles before heading to her rooms, but by the time that she reached the wall where he had been sitting, the boy was gone. There was nothing there save a cigarette butt, still gently smoking. She picked it up and deposited it in the nearby litter bin, then strode off towards the teaching staff living quarters. There was plenty of time yet to deal with Rupert Giles. She had to take him for a couple of classes a week at least. She was rather looking forward to it.


In the end it was Wednesday before she saw him again. He was sitting at the back of the classroom as she entered for the third lesson of the day, gazing out of the window with an expression of patented disinterest. His leather jacket hung on the back of the chair next to him, as though challenging anybody else to try sitting there. She nodded at the class.

"Good morning, boys."

As one they stood up, Giles included, and carolled a good morning in tones of varying cheer. Some of them sounded half asleep, some irritatingly polite. She sat down at her desk and signalled for them to do the same, before glancing once more in the direction of Rupert Giles. He was gazing out of the window again, and she stole a quick glance out herself, trying to determine exactly what it was that he was so interested in. There was nothing in view save the grounds, the trees blowing slightly in the gentle wind.

"Page thirty-seven, silent translation." Suddenly annoyed she set them the task, ignoring the faint groans. She set out some marking before her on the desk, but before ten minutes had passed by she realised that Giles was still staring out of the window. She stood up, going towards him.

"It's Giles isn't it?" she asked him, her voice sharp. He glanced up at her, as though surprised that she could possibly be wanting to talk to him.

"Yeah." He frowned. "Can I do something for you?"

"You can start by tearing your eyes away from the fascinating vista outside that window and getting some work done." She folded her arms, staring down at him. He sighed, as though deeply bored by the proceedings, and pushed his exercise book towards her.

"Page thirty-seven," he said, rather pointedly. "Translated."

"I beg your pardon?" She stared down at the book. The handwriting was not the best that she had ever seen, but it was neat enough to pass muster; and as far as she could see he had not got a single word wrong. She frowned, aware that he was smirking at her, a faintly superior glint in his eyes. "Fine. Then you can do page forty-two as well." There. That should take the smirk off his face. Instead he shrugged.


"That's 'Yes Ma'am'," she told him, unable to keep the irritation from her tone any longer. He shrugged.


She left him to it, unsurprised when she soon saw him gazing out of the window once again. Every time she set him a passage to translate it was done almost as soon as she turned her back on him; and yet he seemed to derive no pleasure from it - quite the opposite in fact, for clearly he found her lessons deeply boring. She had had the rest of the class twice already that week, and he had not turned up to either lesson. She stared towards him, wondering why it was that he was allowed to remain at the school. With his pierced ear and loose tie, to say nothing of the hair that almost reached the bottom of his collar, he was openly flaunting school rules; and yet every teacher that she spoke to merely shrugged. They were as much in the dark about it as was she, and clearly they had all given up worrying about the situation. Expelling him was down to the Head, and he wasn't going to do that for as long as the mysterious tall man with the black suit and the crucifix told him to let the boy stay. It really was the most unacceptable state of affairs. She decided then and there that she was going to do something; she was going to find out what was so special about Rupert Giles. She smiled firmly to herself. By the end of term she would have him brought to heel, or she would have him thrown out of the school. It should be easy enough.


"Hey Giles." Quentin Forbes, unwelcome shadow of Staffordshire Hall's most rebellious student, wandered into the dormitory and sat down on the bed next to Giles' own. "What are you doing?"

"Reading. Get lost." The dark head did not lift from the book resting on the desk, and Forbes sighed.

"You said that you wanted my help this term. With the magic and stuff. When are we going to do something?"

"I gave you the chance, and you turned it down." Giles glared at him, green eyes hot with threatening fires. "And keep your bloody voice down you prat. Do you want everybody to hear?"

"There's nobody in here." Stubbornness showed itself on Forbes' face. "You only gave me the one chance. You wanted me to help you make a spell for the night of the dance. I had to say no."

"Why? Scared one of the girls might have been too hot for you?" A look of scathing disgust crossed Giles' expressive face. "It was one little spell, just to brighten things up a little. It wouldn't have hurt anybody."

"You don't know that." Forbes crossed his arms. "I don't believe you anyway. I think you're just making it all up. You think you're really tough, and you think this magic thing is a way to make people look up to you. You're just a common little scholarship boy, and I don't think you can do anything."

"You don't, huh." Giles rose to his feet with casual grace, turning towards the other boy. "Maybe I can change your mind."

"I doubt it." Forbes stood up, looking towards the door. "I'll leave you here with your spells, you fraud."

"Uh huh." With sudden speed Giles moved towards the other boy, grabbing him by the lapels of his blazer and pushing him. Forbes flailed at the air with his hands, desperately trying to keep his balance, then crashed over backwards. He hit the bed he had been sitting on, and rolled over it to land heavily on the floor on the other side. Giles was there before he could stand up, dragging him to his feet and slamming him against the wall.

"For starters, I don't play the magic kick to look tough. I don't tell anybody about it, so that's hardly gonna work. Secondly, I am not a scholarship boy. I don't talk like you 'cause I've got better things to waste my afternoons on than elocution lessons, dig? And thirdly, this is not all a fraud. I could fry your brain with a few words. You want to try it? See if I'm faking?"

"No." Forbes tried to pull free, but Giles' grip on his collar was unbreakable. "I didn't mean--"

"Pah. You meant it alright, you just don't have the guts to follow it through." Giles grinned at him, a flick-knife suddenly in his hand. "Maybe you'd like to take your grievances to the back field."

"No chance." The back field was where the boys went to argue out their differences, where right and wrong were decided through no-rules fist fights that invariably led to spells in the infirmary. His eyes flicked towards the door. "Er…"

"What?" Giles had heard the Prefects arrive. Their room was directly below the dorm, and they were sure to have heard Forbes' somewhat heavy landing. He smiled. "Want to come inside, gents?"

"No." The lead Prefect was staring at him with an icy expression on his face. He was not going to make a move just yet, and Giles knew it well. All of the Prefects wanted a chance at taking Giles down a peg or two, but so long as he was in the school building he knew that he was safe. He had had some close calls in the grounds, but so far he was still standing.

"See you around then." He waited until they had gone, then threw Forbes aside. "I'll be seeing you around too," he said meaningfully. Forbes climbed back to his feet.

"You'll regret that," he said shakily, a vague attempt to show some bravado which was not going to fool anybody. Giles grinned.

"Ooh, I'm just so scared."

"You will be." Forbes backed away to the door, straightening his collar and blazer as he did so. "You will be." The door swung shut behind him, and Giles stared at it for several moments. Finally he shrugged, and turned back to his books. He had better things to worry about.


"It's not fair." Forbes crossed his legs, staring at his brother across the coffee table. "He's out of control, Derek. We have to do something."

"I have to do something." Derek leant back in his chair, swirling the remnants of his tea around in the bottom of his cup. "I'm the Prefect, not you."

"Yes but--"

"But nothing. It'll only cause trouble if we get you involved too. There's nothing wrong with the Prefects handling this, but this is only your first month in the Sixth. It's not your problem."

"But I want to help!" Forbes sounded whining, desperate to do something to win back a little of his pride. "Come on, Derek, let me help. I'll be a lookout or something. Anything."

"We don't need lookouts." Derek set aside his teacup and stood up, going over to the window. It was nearly dark. "What I have in mind is something a little more special."

"Such as?"

"Oh, I don't know… Maybe something rather more fitting than a dust-up in the back field." His brother turned back to grin at him, and in the shadows of the growing dark outside the window he looked suddenly strange and unfamiliar. A chill ran down Forbes' spine, although he didn't understand why.

"What do you mean?" The thrill of excitement filled him now. Derek laughed.

"Don't give up, do you." He shrugged. "Okay, come on. This way." He headed for the wall, pulling aside a section of panelling to reveal a hidden switch. He pulled it, and the faint grating of machinery drifted through the thick walls. Forbes' eyes widened.

"A secret passage?!"

"Old priest hole, so far as I know. We've done a little remodelling of our own." Derek opened the wardrobe and ushered his brother inside, following after him and pulling the door shut behind. Ahead, where there should only have been clothes and the wooden back of the cupboard, there was a faint yellow light and a long flight of stone stairs. Forbes gasped.

"Down there?" he asked, somewhat pointlessly. Derek pushed him ahead.

"Just keep moving." They went down the stairs together, the way lit by a faint phosphorescence which cast an eerie glow about them. Forbes moved mechanically, gazing ahead with a growing sense of trepidation. He got the distinct feeling that he was about to discover something about his brother that he did not want to know. They came at last to a heavy wooden door which stood ajar, and he pushed it open, walking into the room that lay beyond. Derek followed close behind.

They stood in a large space, a stone room with low wooden beams hung with crystals and gently swaying candles. A thick black carpet muffled the floor and cloths of a matching shade hung at intervals about the walls. A single electric light bulb hung from the centre of the ceiling, its glow muted by a pale red shade. Forbes turned in a circle, staring at the unfamiliar symbols painted on the walls, at the blackened scorch marks blighting the paint work around them.

"What is this place?" he asked. Derek laughed.

"Home." He clapped his hands, and five other boys moved out of the shadows. They had been invisible before, or at least so it seemed to Forbes. He recognised them all as Prefects, two of them the ones who had interrupted his confrontation with Giles earlier in the evening.

"What's he doing here?" one of the boys asked. Derek smiled reassuringly.

"He's here to help. We've come to an agreement, and I think it's time I revealed our hand to my brother."

"You're doing something." Forbes approached one of the symbols on the wall. It did look vaguely familiar, now that he really thought about it. "You're doing magic, just like Giles is."

Derek laughed. "Not quite like Giles is." He sat down cross-legged on the floor, motioning for his brother to do the same. The other Prefects also sat, completing a rough circle. Derek spread his hands on the floor, staring intently at them for several moments, as though intrigued by the way that the fingers moved, and by the shape and colour of the hands themselves. Then he smiled.

"It angered us," he said, speaking in a soft, steady voice. "We had no outlet for our anger, until he came."

"Who?" Forbes asked, but a look from one of the other Prefects silenced him.

"He offered us a way to solve our grievances, to handle our… problem. He offered us a way to win us back our pride."

"Giles?" Forbes was confused now. Derek laughed.

"No. Not Giles. He was the cause of our unrest, he was the reason for our failing pride, our decreased standing. How can we be the effective law of the school, when one boy makes us look like a laughing stock? How can we be respected as Prefects when the younger boys look to Giles first? We were angry. And then he came."

"Who?" There was frustration in the voice of his younger brother now; an anxiety to be heard and answered. "Who came?"

"Our leader." Derek pointed into the shadows of the room. "There."

Forbes turned. In the darkness he could make out a shape; a vague shape that appeared to be a big man, half hidden by the hanging black cloths. Slowly he moved forward, the soft red light from the lamp and the flickering flames of the candles casting shadows across his face, so that his features were at first indistinct. Gradually, step by slow, shuffling step he came forward, and stood before the seated circle. He leant down, his heavy brow ridge barely a foot from Forbes' own, wide eyes. He caught a breath of stale, dusty air, and a glimpse of thick, rough green skin. Yellow eyes blazed at him, and a huge, toothed mouth grinned in strange mockery.

"Greetings." The apparition moved back slightly to speak, its hoarse voice coming haltingly at first through its pointed teeth. A snake's forked tongue flickered in and out of the mouth as the voice came, filling the room with a persistent hiss. "I see that I have a new apprentice."


Katherine Seaton, Latin, French and sometime Spanish teacher, leaned back in her chair and glared at the piece of work before her. It was faultless; but it had no right to be. It should be a mess, unreadable, incorrect… it should be wrong. She should be able to demand for it to be redone, so that she could haul the boy responsible to the Head's study and demand an appropriate punishment. Instead she could do nothing but put a tick beside it, and give it full marks. She scowled.

"Can I go yet?" Rupert Giles, seated in the back of the classroom with his feet on the desk, hands folded behind his head, was gazing up at the ceiling. "School ended ages ago."

"You'll sit there until I give you leave to go." She turned the page in the exercise book, and glared at the next piece of work. It too was faultless. The boy hardly bothered turning up to her lessons, and when he did put in an appearance he never seemed to do any work; and yet here were his exercises all done without cause for complaint. He had a remarkable talent for languages from what she could gather, although the books that she had caught him reading so far did not seem to be written in any language recommended by the Board of Education. She sighed.

"Are you going to give me a detention or not? I've got better things to do you know." He had risen to his feet and was standing beside her desk now, staring at her with those intense green eyes. She frowned up at him.

"Did I tell you to stand?"

"Nope." He turned away. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"You'll stay right where you are." He hesitated, then turned back to face her and smiled.


"I've told you before, you say 'Yes Ma'am'." She waved his book at him. "Your grades are good. Would you like to tell me why you miss half of our lessons?"

He shrugged. "I'm lousy at telling the time. Always oversleep."

"You've been seen in the library. That's not oversleeping, that's intentionally being elsewhere." She frowned. "Besides, I'd like to see the boy who can oversleep in a dormitory shared with twenty-nine other people. With a house-master to call you for room inspection at five to seven every morning."

He shrugged again. "I don't sleep in the dorm. Back every morning before roll call, out every night after lights out. I have a suite of rooms at the Ritz I prefer to use. The service is better."

"The service." She folded her arms, nodding slowly. "You think you're pretty funny, don't you."

"Nope." He sighed, a veil coming down over his eyes which took away most of the insolence and replaced it with anger. "Listen lady, I don't want any of this. I don't want to stay at this school another two years, and I don't want to go trailing off to Oxford when I've finished. I don't want to sit in here listening to you teaching Latin verbs I learnt when I was twelve, and I don't want to trail off with the others to Geography when the bell goes. I'm not a child."

"Nobody is saying that you are. I--" He broke into her sentence, startling her, although something about the intensity of his gaze stopped her from exclaiming at his rudeness.

"Then why can't you people just leave me alone? I know why you're here, and I know it's not just to teach Latin to a gormless bunch of the sons of the aristocracy. I know who you are."

"Who do you think I am?" He ignored her question, the words falling over themselves in his clear frustration. There was the beginnings of a stutter there, she noted, as though his words were trying to escape rather faster than his mouth could cope with them. She got the impression that his brain was too quick for his lips.

"I know all about your dumb tricks, and all your stupid mind-games. I knew they'd send somebody, after what happened last summer. There hasn't been a female teacher here in thirty-seven years; not since the last one got pregnant by one of the Prefects, and they ran off together during Whitsun. There's got to be some reason why they'd employ one again now."

"What did happen during the summer?" She was confused now, and faintly disturbed by his growing anger. She had heard that he owned a flick-knife, and judging by the fire in his eyes he might just be prepared to use it. She wondered if there was anybody still in the classroom next door, and if they would be likely to hear her call for assistance.

"Don't play that game with me. You're all the same, all of you. All with your silver crucifixes and your pocket Bibles, just in case some vampire gets lost, and mistakes you for somebody important." He shook his head. "Well I never asked for any of it, and I sure as hell don't plan to wind up like the rest of you. There can be others. There are others. Who decides which poor sods are born to be like us? I didn't have some tattoo when I was born, so you can just strike it down as a mistake all round. Tell them that. Tell them to just leave me alone." He spun on his heel and left, the door slamming shut behind him. Seaton blinked, a frown jumping in and out of focus on her forehead. She couldn't quite work out what had just happened; but she knew that it was important. She hurried from the room, leaving her briefcase behind on the desk. She had to follow him now, she had to see where he was going to go next. She didn't have a clue what the outburst had been about, but quite suddenly she needed to know.


She followed him across the schoolyard, convinced all the time, in that strange way that one tended to feel around Rupert Giles, that somebody was watching her; or perhaps was watching him. She glanced around, wondering if there was somebody standing at one of the windows of the main building, but she could see nobody. All the same her senses tingled. She quickened her step, following Giles to the library. He had a duplicate key, she saw, which rang fresh alarm bells in her mind. It was Tuesday, when the building was closed early so that the librarian could run his weekly chess lessons in the leisure hall; but clearly such trivialities did not bother Giles. She saw him re-lock the door after his entrance and then vanish quickly into the interior of the building, and she hurried on after. As a volunteer assistant she had a spare key to the library, and it was easy to gain access to the building. Once inside she hurried into the darkened foyer, looking around for her errant student. There was no sign of him. On a whim she took to the stairs, hurrying up four flights to the floor where she had most often seen him. There was not a living soul in sight, and she prowled about the shelves, staring down long rows of neatly arranged titles that were barely visible in the half-light. A shape moved up ahead, and she smiled grimly. Half-hidden by the large shelf of early twentieth century crime fiction, Rupert Giles was doing something; moving a bookcase aside by the look of things. She frowned, easing her way closer. As she watched he shifted the case aside, glancing this way and that as though suddenly aware of her presence; then he slipped past the bookcase and disappeared. The case swung back into place behind him, and all was once again normal.

"Well I never…" She breathed the words softly, barely aloud, and went over to the bookcase in question. It looked innocent enough, and clearly could not be moved aside by accident, but as she stared at it the mechanism became clear. A certain pressure on a certain point and beneath her steady hands the bookshelf moved aside. She smiled, slipping past it. A long, sloping tunnel was revealed, leading forward. She followed it along, until the faint glow of a distant light brought new caution to her movements. She edged slowly forward, peering around the final corner; and gasped.

She was in a library; an astoundingly well-stocked place with shelves that reached from floor to ceiling. Some were covered in dust, others hung with cobwebs, but the books themselves were clean and tidy. A suspicion touched her mind - that these were the books that the Head had mentioned, which had been donated and then never seen again. She ran her eyes over the sight; shelf after shelf of books, arranged in an almost complete circle about a small wooden table with a chair beside it. There was an electric lamp on the table, a small stack of hard-backed books, a bottle of something that definitely was not ginger beer, and a notebook which lay open, a pencil resting across its spiral-bound pages. A faint glow caught her attention and she turned her head to a second table, further in shadow than the first. An ultra-violet lamp stood there, casting a glow over a small yet hearty indoor garden of cannabis plants. There were other plants too, although only a few of them meant anything to her. A few herbs, some wild, green growths which looked as though they belonged in a witch's garden. The thought made her smile - at first.

"It's getting harder." The voice was soft, and she hardly recognised it as belonging to Rupert Giles. He had always spoken loudly and forcefully when she had been around, and the softness of his tone now surprised her. She edged forward, peering around the nearest bookshelf to gain an uninterrupted view of the room beyond.

Giles was sitting on the floor, in an area fenced off by piles of books not yet shelved. A candle burned on the floor in front of him, bowing and bending in some non-existent draught. Shadows raced in a circle about the boy, moving slower and faster depending on the movements of the candle flame.

"Why is it getting harder?" She could not place the second voice, and it startled her. She stifled a gasp, trying to move closer to the unnerving little scene, to get a better grasp of the situation. Giles shrugged.

"It just is. The Watchers have sent another spy, like you said they would. She's so cold…"

"You're sure she's a Watcher?"

"She must be. She wears a crucifix, and she carries a Bible, and her room is full of stuff. She's got a book about vampires, and one about demon lore. She's been watching me much more than any teacher would."

"Indeed." The voice quickened, sounding almost excited. "Then she must be removed."

"I can get her sacked I guess. It'd only need a quick spell and she'd be swooning at the Headmaster's feet. Maybe I could even steer her into an affair with one of the students. The School Board's pretty jumpy about that kind of thing, after the last time."

"I remember the last time." The mysterious, apparently bodiless voice broke into a laugh. "But sacking isn't enough, Giles. She has to be removed, understand? Then the Watchers won't send anybody else."

"I… I don't know about that." The boy shifted uncomfortably. "You mean kill her? I'm not sure that--"

"It's necessary, Giles. With her out of the way, and the Hierarchy too scared to intervene, who's going to get in your way? Who's going to stand against Rupert Giles then? They'll let you go."

"They'll kill me. They said they would. If I won't fulfil my destiny they'll put me out of the way."

"Exactly. But if they're too scared to send a Watcher to replace this one, who will they dare send to kill you? You'll be free of them Giles. All that you need to do is kill this woman. I can help you. It'll be easy."

"You think?" The boy shrugged, his leather jacket reflecting light from the candle. "Okay. I guess." His hand went to his pocket, pulling out the flick-knife that he always kept there. "I guess I can get her out of the way. I mean… I mean she is a Watcher, and they know the risks of the job, right?"

"Of course." There was a smile behind the voice now. "There's no need to worry, Giles. I'll protect you. Nobody will know that it was you. Kill her quickly, and leave the body somewhere prominent; somewhere noticeable. Make a mess."

"I - I can do that." Giles was smiling, and Seaton knew it. She couldn't see the sinister curve of his lips, or the shadowed flash of his expressive green eyes; but she knew that he was smiling. She shivered. He was talking about killing her. He had been into her rooms, had seen her books. Her hand grasped the crucifix about her neck, the metal of it suddenly cold against her palm. Who were these Watchers that he seemed so sure she was tied to? And who was he talking to? She was filled with a sudden desire - a sudden need - to find out.

"Giles." Her voice was like a gunshot as she stepped forward. He swung about, his feet knocking the candle over, so that the flame was snuffed instantly out. Darkness welcomed them.

"What are you doing here?" There was anger as he answered her, and she saw his small, lithe frame stiffen with determination. "You had no right to--"

"What have rights to do with you Giles? You're hiding here, on school property, with stolen school equipment. You have alcohol here, cannabis-- This is pretty damning evidence for the School Board. I can have you out of here in days, and then where will you be? At home trying to explain your behaviour to your mother, with the police knocking at your front door? All that talk of Oxford - you'll have to forget that for a start."

"I wish I could." His voice was a whisper; deadly and cold. "How long were you there?"

"Long enough." She moved towards him, her hand grabbing his arm. "Where is he Giles? And who is he? Why do you have someone hiding here?"

"He's not hiding." She thought that she saw a smile in the darkness. Slowly the boy's eyes turned, silently pointing towards the shadowy shape amongst the bookshelves. She could see no more than a vague outline, but she knew that her escape route was cut off. Whoever the person was, they didn't want her to get out of this secret room. Her pulse quickened.

"Who are you?" She took a step forward, peering into the darkness, her eyes half-closed as though that could somehow focus her gaze. The shape moved, and she thought she heard the faint suggestion of laughter.

"My name is Randolph."

"Randolph?" She didn't recognised the name. It wasn't one that she had heard recently on the news, although that didn't necessarily mean that he wasn't wanted. "Randolph what?"

"Just Randolph." He was closer to her now, and she could smell something; a rank odour that hung just out of reach in her memory. Dust moved in the air, and she smelt dampness. Something was stale, something was old. That went with the books, but somehow it didn't quite fit. She advanced further.

"Hello." He was right in front of her now, peering into her eyes with the same expression of curiosity that she knew she had displayed herself, when trying to see him. She saw bright, black eyes flash with red.

"I--" The words caught in her throat as she tried to step away from him, but his hands caught her arms, refusing to let go. She could see his face now, or parts of it at least. The skin was like parchment, dry and yellowed, the cheeks sunken and the mouth a broad, gaping gash of black. He tipped his head on one side, and a deep, rumbling growl escaped from his throat. His face had changed. Behind the yellowing skin, with its appearance of old, rotting paper, something else moved. Something else lived. She could see the change come into his eyes; a sudden, bestial glare as his features shifted and blurred. His brow ridge grew, his nose wrinkled, his teeth - his teeth. She gasped. They were long, and they glinted at her in the faint light that remained. She saw them in their long, sharp totality, grinning at her much as a dog might, when waiting to be fed. Her head swam.

"You're - you're a--" The words still wouldn't come. "You're a vampire."

"Sure am, honey." His voice had a faint lilt to it, the suggestion of mid-west America, as though he were some undead cowboy lost abroad. His eyes alighted on her crucifix and he hissed, turning slightly to avoid its presence.

"Miss Seaton." Giles was stepping forward, moving as though anxious to prevent her taking this opportunity to escape. She swung, glaring at him in sudden rage.

"Don't speak to me. Don't even come near me. You're mad, utterly mad. To think that anybody - anybody - would have the stupidity to--"

"Don't blame the boy, Miss Seaton." The grip on her wrist was renewed, and she found herself thinking, in a curious, detached way, that the vampire had a strength which was completely inhuman. It stood to reason of course; from all that she knew, vampires weren't human; at least, not in the usual sense. "He's only doing what comes naturally. It's you people who press the issue. You're the ones who led him to it, not that I'm complaining."

"You think I'm somebody else, don't you." She turned her back on the creature, although it required a mighty effort of will to turn away from something that might be about to sink its teeth deep. "Giles - I heard you. You think I'm a… a Watcher? You have to listen to me; I don't even know what a Watcher is. I'm just a Latin teacher."

"I wouldn't expect you to tell the truth." He sat down on the corner of the nearest table, staring at her with clear interest. "What do you think Randolph?"

"I think I fancy a snack." The vampire leaned in close, teeth bared, and Seaton felt her chest spasm in sudden shock. She tried to struggle, but all of a sudden he was holding her close, immovable, helpless.

"No." Giles stepped forward. "Leave her alone."

"Why? You were going to kill her. What's the difference now? I'm tired of living on pigeons and bats, Giles. I want real food." He growled meaningfully. "You're not buying that story about her not being a Watcher? They never tell the truth, you know that. Not to somebody like you."

"I know." He shook his head. "You just can't kill her, that's all. I don't want you to." He began to pace, clearly restless. "It was all so simple before. It was supposed to be simple."

"What was? What is it that you're planning? You can't have made some deal with this thing?" Again she turned to face him, and again she saw eyes filled with anger and rebellion. "Giles, listen to me."

"No." His voice was hot and forceful. "I don't want to listen to you. I've been listening to your kind ever since my father told me what I am. All the books, all the stories, all the magic and the ancient folk lore - and they wonder what went wrong when I decide to start using a little of it." He was close to her now, something in his body language making her even more afraid of him than she was of the vampire. "You can stay here, with Randolph, and maybe he can show you a little of the world you've been reading about all of these years. It'll do you some good to see what it's really like. To see what your kind sends the Slayer out to face, without caring to accompany her, to learn what it is she has to go through." He grinned and his eyes glittered, making her think of twin emerald fires, burning within a prison of ice. "Meet the real world, Watcher."

"I am not a Watcher!" her voice was desperate now. "Giles listen to me! I don't even know what it is I'm supposed to watch. Please! You can't leave me here with this thing!"

"He won't hurt you." The boy's voice was without emotion now, the anger either gone or just laid aside.

"My patience won't last forever." Randolph sounded guttural and intense. "Just forty-eight hours, Giles. If our work isn't done by then, I'll eat her. Understand me?"

"I understand. It'll be done, I promise." He turned about, heading towards the secret tunnel. "Goodbye, Miss Seaton. Sleep well." Then the shadows had taken him, and he was away down the tunnel, and she was left alone with the creature of her nightmares. Gradually the fear began to welcome her, and she lost herself in its embrace.


In the secret room where Quentin Forbes and the Prefects had met, the demon was restless. It could feel the changing of the moon outside the walls, but it could not see it, and its blood cried out for the touch of its light. It could feel the changing of the seasons which had passed by since it had taken refuge in secrecy. It knew the comings and goings, it saw the changing faces of its disciples, and it knew that the years had left it behind. It had been necessary; it had all been necessary. Now though, things were starting to change. The pieces were beginning to slide into place, after so many long and lonely years of waiting.

"Soon..." Its voice, creaky and deep through long periods of disuse, broke free from its throat as it paced up and down its hidden room. "So soon…" And it lifted its huge, leathery head to the ceiling and roared aloud. The floor trembled beneath its feet and the demon laughed, causing the candles swinging from the beams to flutter and dance. Some went out, and the shadows came swiftly in to replace them with darkness. The demon laughed once more. It would see the moon again soon, and it would walk anew, fresh with all that was coming. All that it needed was another forty-eight hours of patience before the last piece of the ancient jigsaw puzzle fell into place; and then glory and blood would flow as one.


Giles left the library without bothering to lock it, running full tilt across the yard back to the main building. His head hurt, and his heart was pounding in his chest. He had not thought that it would be so hard to do Randolph's work. He had never imagined that it would be so hard to help another person to die. He had seen dead people before; on more than one occasion. He had touched them, had even seen them die. But this time… He had failed Randolph and he knew it. The vampire was hungry, in need of something to provide him with a little more sustenance than some insect-munching bat. He had asked for Miss Seaton, and yet Giles had demanded that he leave her untouched. He was angry with himself, and for a moment considered going back to the library to tell the vampire to drink his fill. The boy swore and kicked at the ground. He couldn't do it. He was supposed to kill her, to keep the Watchers away, and in the end he hadn't even been able to let somebody else do the killing for him. He was useless.

"To hell with it." He caught up a large stone, weighing it in his hand, pleased with the bulk and the weight. There was still plenty of time; forty-eight hours. When the night fell on Thursday - when the moon rose on that fated night - Randolph would be able to leave the library for the first time in two hundred years. The curse would have been lifted. After that the world was their oyster. They could travel around Europe, and the vampire would have his choice of the most fulfilling victims that the Continent had to offer. He would be happy enough then. Giles nodded, weighing the stone in his hand a final time before letting it fly. It spun through the air as though it were a cricket ball bowled by a master, heading straight for the window of the staff room on the ground floor. Giles grinned in satisfaction as his missile struck the glass dead centre, making a clean, almost round hole. Long cracks radiated out from the point of impact, the glass hung as though immobile; and then the entire pane shattered, collapsing in on itself as though it had possessed invisible support wires which had suddenly been cut.

"Who did that?" The voice was livid, an angry shout that spurred Giles into action. He leapt aside, making straight for the wall beside the window, where the angle of the building and the copious ivy sheltered him from view. He grinned. The voice belonged to Mr Harrington, the Head of Geography, a bullet-headed man of about fifty-five who hated his fellow man with a passion. His hatred for all humanity was well known, and his hatred of schoolboys in particular was legendary. He was built like an ox, was never without a cane, and was hardly averse to throwing items of furniture at the boys in his class, for the slightest of imagined misdemeanours. Giles hoped that the stone had hit him, right in the middle of his stupid, bald head.

"I'll find you!" The voice, angry at being denied sport, faded away as Harrington returned to whatever he had been doing before. Giles considered throwing another stone, just to press the issue still further, then dismissed the thought. He had better things to waste his time on than annoying stuck-up adults. Well, strike that. Actually that was his main focus in life, besides toying with the black arts; it was just that, right now, he honestly did have something better to do.

With a quick tug at the ivy to make sure that he was standing at the safest point, he pulled himself up and began to climb. The twisting green growth bore his weight easily, and he climbed it with speed, eventually reaching the window of the main building's first residential floor. The second window that he tried opened easily, and he jumped inside. He was in one of the first year dorms, he could see that immediately. Nobody else but the first-formers, now into their second month at the school, still kept pictures of their parents beside their beds. He grinned. Any other day he might have had a little fun with the pictures, or looked for a few stray first-formers to persecute. Today he was feeling magnanimous. He sauntered through the dorm, heading on down the corridor to the stairs. First and second years on this floor, third and fourth years on the floor above that, plus a few extra rooms for the Prefects so that they were as much in the middle of things as possible; and then fifth- and sixth-formers - both upper and lower - shared the top floor. There were an average of a hundred and sixty kids living on each floor, and that was just a fraction of the total school population. Other houses had other premises, and there was an entirely separate residential block for the weekly boarders. The school was like a city, separate within itself, possessing its own rules, its own laws, its own enforcement system; and its own royal family, government, ministers and vigilantes. There was no wonder that in such a vast place, with so many people leading their own lives, it was so easy for an enterprising boy to lead his own, entirely independent existence. He would have been almost willing to bet that they wouldn't notice if he stopped going to lessons altogether, and spent his whole life studying in the secret room in the library, or practising basic spells in the boating shed.

He took the stairs two and three at a time, reaching the next level in seconds. The muted sound of voices drifted towards him; a few of the third-formers appeared to be at home. He smirked. The third formers-all thought that he was cool; that he was the greatest kid on campus. They were just the right age to idolise an older boy who flaunted the rules and spoke back to all the teachers. It might have pleased him, but he gave not the slightest care for their adulation or their respect. He wasn't the way he was for the sake of peer approval. He stalked past the dorms, heading for the next staircase, which would take him to his own dorm. There would be other kids there too at this hour, and he would have to be careful what he did; but darkness was almost completely upon them now, and if anybody did happen to watch him leave the building, they would not see where he went.

"I don't understand." He heard the voice of Quentin Forbes, and frowned. Brother of a Prefect or not, he had no right to be in one of their rooms; and the Forbes brothers never broke the school rules. They were famed for it. He hesitated, wondering if they were saying something that might be of interest; then dismissed the thought and walked on by. What could a bunch of Prefects have to say that could possibly interest him? All that they ever discussed was who should be the next recipient of their own brand of school-approved, exacting justice. The voice of Derek Forbes, Quentin's irritatingly dedicated Prefect brother, brought Giles to a more certain halt, several paces down the corridor.

"There's nothing to fail to understand, Quen. Maedthol is our master, the creature that we serve. He gives us knowledge and strength, and he promises us the ability to vanquish our enemies. We follow him, and we do his bidding, and in return he will give us what we asked of him, when the time comes."

"But who is he? I mean… what is he?" Quentin sounded uncertain. Another voice answered, this time that of Donald Creighton, another duty-happy Prefect with whom Giles had tangled on more than one occasion. He hated the snooty sound of the older boy's voice, and could just imagine the superior tilt to the head, and the glassy grey-blue glint in those fashionably detached eyes.

"He is a demon, who was cast upon this earth centuries ago, and was eventually sealed in this building. Two nights from now, when the moon and the planets and the position of the Earth in relation to the rest of the universe are in the exact position required by the forging of his curse, he will be able to break free from his prison. Then he can give us all the things he's promised. It's really very simple."

"Thursday night?" Giles breathed the words softly, his mind working fast. He had never heard of this Maedthol character, although if he had been secretly sealed up in a school building all of this time, it was little wonder that many books missed out his name. The same was true of Randolph after all.

"What is this bidding that we have to do?" Quentin sounded stronger now, more certain. Giles could hear the chinking of glasses above the sounds of the conversation, and he guessed that his classmate was being supplied with some form of alcohol. Unused to it as he was, it was a certain way to bring him into line with the thinking of the others, at least until it was too late for him to turn back.

"There are preparations which have to be made before Thursday night." Derek Forbes had regained centre stage, his voice slow and precise. "Maedthol is weak after the years of his imprisonment, and he needs to regain his strength. We have to assist him in certain rituals. There must be offerings."

"Offerings?" Quentin's voice sounded slurred now, as though the alcohol was taking a definite effect. Giles moved closer, determined to see what was going on. He peered around the doorframe just as the sound of scuffling, reluctant feet broke free from the confines of the room. He stifled a gasp. Within the room, bound by a ring of yellow fire, stood some thirty first-formers. They were all dressed in their uniforms, their clothes and their shoes still neat and unscuffed. It was, after all, barely two months since they had first been worn.

"These are the offerings." Another voice, this time belonging to a Prefect whom Giles knew only as Mountjoy, cut through the anxious murmurings of the first years. "Maedthol will eat them alive, and then he will be strong enough to meet the lifting of the curse."

"Eat them?" Quentin sounded momentarily taken aback, although not at all disturbed or incensed. He giggled softly to himself. "Can I watch?"

"When Thursday night comes you can do whatever you want, little brother." Derek folded his arms, staring down at the group of terrified boys before him. Giles had never noticed before how young they all were. Not one of them was above twelve, and to a man they were small and thin. Not much of a meal to a demon, whether ravenous or sated. He pressed himself back against the outer wall and closed his eyes. Now what? Clearly this Maedthol character had some connection to Randolph. It appeared that they had been bound by the same curse, if nothing else. He wondered what his vampire colleague knew about the demon, and what, if anything, should be done to stop him. In the meantime there was the question of the small boys now held prisoner by the Prefects. He had no idea what or do about them - or, indeed, if he should even care.

"What about Giles?" It was Quentin speaking again, and he frowned. He knew, of course, that the Prefects hated him. All figures of authority in the school did, save for Roger Hardiman the groundsman; and he only felt the way he did thanks to an experimental spell Giles had woven, in one of his more light-hearted moods, which had proven to make the walls of Hardiman's vegetable garden impervious to slugs, caterpillars and weevils of all form.

"What about Giles?" Mountjoy gave a short, disparaging laugh. "Maedthol has promised to give us the strength to defeat our enemies, and of all of them Giles is the one we hate the most. On Thursday night we'll be given the power to do whatever we want with him."

"Will you now." His voice low and hard, Giles held his ground for several more moments, thinking hard. He had to speak with Randolph, and discover just what was going on here. He turned to walk down the corridor, then paused, remembering the small boys and their unpleasant fate. What to do about them was the hardest question to answer. He shook his head. He could not burst in, to face six Prefects and Quentin, without putting himself in hopeless danger; and his knowledge of magic was still somewhat limited. Somehow he didn't think that making Derek Forbes and his friends impervious to slugs was going to win him much ground. He could do nothing. Slowly he turned away, listening to the fearful whimperings of the imprisoned first years fading away behind him. Odd that no others heard the noise. Odd that nobody went to investigate; and yet, tonight, as he headed towards his own room on the floor above, it was as though he alone in all the school was awake. With the exception of the Prefects in their dark sanctuary, he alone had eyes and ears; and he alone had the means to save the day. The only decision he had left to make was whether he really wished to do the saving; or the ruining.


Katherine Seaton sat in the secret room in the library, in a cage of wood that Randolph had come up with from somewhere. Her knuckles were bruised from banging on the bars, but she could not make the vampire pay her any attention. He studiously ignored her, seated on the floor some yards away, his head in a book. She wondered what the title was. From what she had so far seen of the collection, it could be anything from Ancient Myth And Legend to How To Curse Your Family In Three Easy Steps. She wondered if black magic weirdoes like Giles subscribed to some strange branch of Readers' Digest to get all their bizarre texts.

"Will you listen to me!" Her patience finally snapping, she kicked out at the bars, setting the cage trembling fiercely. Randolph glared at her, his eyes flashing a wild yellow in the dim light. He growled, his teeth bared to good effect.

"Keep quiet, or I may not be able to control my lust for blood." His voice was a hoarse whisper, and she saw the muscles standing out in his neck. He really was having to contain himself; to use all of his strength to stop himself from being able to get to her. Suddenly it struck her that the cage was not to keep her in, but rather to keep him out. She wondered why he would bother. Why would some fearsome undead creature be so willing to obey the word of a teenage boy - particularly one as insufferably obnoxious as Rupert Giles?

"Randolph!" The voice made them both jump, and they looked as one towards the corridor as Giles burst into the room. He looked flushed, tired, as though forced into great exertion. The vampire rose to his feet.

"What is it?" he asked, his face fading back from its vampiric fury to its almost normal mask of humanity. The boy leaned on a bookcase to catch his breath.

"Thursday night," he said finally, clearly agitated. "What do you know about a demon called Maedthol?"

"Maedthol?" Randolph moved close to the boy, his eyes bright. "What do you know about him?"

"I know that he's cursed by the same spell as you, and that he's trapped in the main school building. He has a bunch of the Prefects working for him. Last I saw they were going to sacrifice a whole dorm full of first-formers to him. They said he needs the strength to break free on Thursday night."

"Well he might. He can't feed from the creatures who crawl in the walls the way I can." Randolph laughed. "He can only feed on human flesh."

"Then you do know him?" Giles looked excited, thought Seaton, as though this was all some great sport to him. "Who is he?"

"Just a demon." Randolph shrugged. "An old enemy. We fought centuries ago, but we annoyed a local warlock and he cursed us." He laughed. "I'm glad he still lives. I had worried that our fight was over."

"Then you're going to fight him again on Thursday?" Giles did not look pleased. "That wasn't part of the deal."

"Our deal concerned my helping you break free from the thrall of the Watchers." Randolph cast him an intense glare. "Anything else is hardly your concern." He laughed. "Don't worry, boy, it won't get in the way of our plans. I'll destroy him and that will be that." He took Giles by the shoulders. "Now tell me, are our preparations at an end?"

"Nearly. I made the potions the way you said." Giles was frowning as though still bothered by something. "I just need to bring them here. I'll do that tomorrow."

"Good." Randolph released him, rubbing his hands together with glee. "Tomorrow I drink the potions, and my strength is replenished a hundred-fold. Then on Thursday I shall be ready. I shall burst free and drink my fill of blood; true, warm, living, human blood. I shall be free!"

"We shall be free." Giles sounded mutinous, as though betrayed by his companion's great excitement. Randolph laughed.

"Giles, my boy, without you I could never be ready for Thursday. I needed you to make me these potions, and I need you to bring them to me, and to guide me out of here on the appointed night. Without you I would be a useless kitten when the curse breaks, and Maedthol would break my back as easily as you could break a twig. I'll set you free from your cursed Watchers, never fear."

"He's lying." Seaton wasn't entirely sure how she knew that; she just knew it. "Don't listen to him." Contemptuous eyes turned to glare in her direction, and for a moment she was struck by the darkness and the shadows in those young eyes; then Giles shook his head and turned away.

"I'll get everything set up," he said shortly. "I'll bring the potions over as soon as the sun starts to go down on Thursday."

"And what about those boys?" Seaton could feel a cold certainty in her stomach; but it was a feeling that she didn't want to think about. For a second Giles looked regretful.

"They're dead already," he told her, his voice thick. Something flashed across his face. "What could I do? Just me, with all of them, plus some demon?" He shook his head. "Nobody else heard anything. Nobody else ever does. Two weeks ago a fourth year called Hopkins vanished without a trace. Did you notice it?"

"Hopkins?" She frowned. The name did ring a bell, vaguely. "I - I don't--"

"No, exactly. Nobody ever notices." There was anger in his voice. "Hopkins was a good kid. Helped me out last year when some of the Prefects went all vigilante on me and a bunch of others they didn't like. Now suddenly he disappears, and the same bunch of Prefects turn out to be feeding other kids to a pet demon they've got hidden in the skirting board. Pardon me for not being particularly impressed, Miss Seaton, but who the hell are you to get on my case, when you don't even notice half these kids going missing?"

"Some kind of enchantment," she offered lamely, wondering why on earth she couldn't remember this Hopkins boy. Even if he wasn't in one of her classes, somebody should have mentioned it to her when he vanished. Somehow she wasn't surprised that nobody had noticed. There was something deeply weird about this whole school.

"Yeah, sure. Some enchantment." He shook his head and turned away, grabbing a couple of books off the nearest pile as he left. Seaton caught a glimpse of one, and inwardly she shuddered. Not exactly her notion of bedtime reading. She watched him leave.

"That is one angry kid," Randolph observed. Seaton looked over at him in disgust.

"Is that why you chose him?"

"Me?" He turned to her in clear surprise. "I didn't choose him. I'm just a wandering vampire sealed up in a school library, dear lady. What makes you think I have that kind of control over my destiny? No, I didn't choose Giles."

"Then who did?"

He laughed. "We all have our places in Time. We all have our written pathways. Some of us have a greater part to play than others, that's all."

"I don't understand."

"You're just a Latin teacher. You're not meant to." He moved closer to the bars, changing as he came, and by the time he reached her he was a vampire incarnate one again. His yellow eyes flashed, and his tongue ran slowly across the tips of his fangs, almost as though he thought that he was flirting with her. "Your destiny lies on quite a different path."

Somehow she couldn't help thinking that she knew what he meant.


In the depths of the school, Maedthol fed. They had brought the children to him one by one; small, terrified schoolboys who went down easily. They didn't test his starvation-diet metabolism, used only to the most occasional snack when he had been able to grab an unsuspecting meal. As the last boy was brought to him he smiled, anticipating with some glee how he would taste. This boy, although small, was bigger than the others. He should make a pleasant end to the feast.

"Wait!" The boy's voice was small and afraid, but Maedthol could feel something different about him; something stronger, less afraid. He stared down into the eyes uplifted to his, and frowned.

"Why should I wait?" he asked. "I've longed for this meal for two hundred years."

"I can offer you more than a bunch of stick insects." The boy straightened his spine, staring up at the huge, misshapen demon, with its unpleasant, horned head and huge, clawed hands. One of those hands descended on his shoulder, gripping hard.

"Maybe I like stick insects."

"And maybe you'd like something a lot older. A lot more fulfilling."

"Any more would be noticed." Maedthol shook his head. "There are still two days before I can break free. I won't do anything to bring others here. There is already at least one Watcher, and I'll not risk the Slayer too. She's in Britain at the moment. I have felt her."

"Nobody will notice. Nobody noticed before." The boy moved closer to him, apparently unconcerned by the size and might of the demon before him. "I've taken others. One or two, here and there; nobody noticed. Nobody ever does."

"And why would you take children?" Maedthol asked him. The boy laughed.

"We all get hungry from time to time."

"You?" The demon leant closer to him. "No, you're human. I can see it in your eyes."

"I'm human, more or less." The boy shrugged. "But the one I serve is more than that. Much more."

Maedthol frowned. "The one you serve?"


"Eliz?" The demon leaned close, his breath coming in short, sharp gasps. "She's here?"

"She's here. She lives in the woods at the back of the school. She's been waiting for you all these years."

"Eliz." Leaning back, Maedthol laughed. "Of all the--" He frowned. "How do I know you're not lying?"

"Why would I lie?" The boy stepped towards him. "My brother served her, and my father, and my grandfather. Ever since you were sealed here, a member of my family has been tending to her needs. We feed her, we help her to stay strong."

"Indeed." Maedthol stared off into space, his eyes flashing in tandem with the gentle rocking of the red-shaded lamp on the ceiling. "Indeed."

"Is it a deal?" the boy asked, seeming suddenly small and pale to the great creature before him.

"Hmm?" The demon stared down at him, detached, his mind gone off on a tangent. "Yes, boy, it's a deal. I can hardly devour the servant of my wife." He smiled, leaning back into the shadows, so that only his eyes glowed in the darkness and the rest of his body was hidden. "Destiny takes another step forward."


In the depths of the wood, a creature stirred. For many years the locals had wondered at the lack of wildlife in the area; but every time they tried to introduce rabbits, or hares, or squirrels, the experiments failed. Suddenly the animals would all be gone, overnight, without a trace. No birds sung in the trees, no dragonflies buzzed and danced above the ponds. No bees hummed. There were no flowers for them to feed from, and no light to enable any to grow. The trees grew thickly together, two hundred years of growth that defied all else to take hold there. The ponds had become stagnant, the water thick and green with the consistency of soup. Had anything penetrated that far into the woods, and attempted to drink from the ponds, they would not have lived for long afterward. But nothing did penetrate that far. No animal would ever have dared to go there by choice, and no person ever bothered. The only creatures who tried to make it that far in were those who had no choice; those brought as offerings to the demon who dwelt at the centre of it all.

Eliz was a female, although many demons defied all notion of gender. She was tall and slender, with long fingers bearing claws of equal length, sharp and strong as the greatest of knives. Her skin was as that of a crocodile, save that it was thicker, and more impressively armoured. No wooden stake could penetrate her chest, no knife could cut her, and no bullet could break through her defences.

She was beautiful, in her own, corrupted way. Her body was green, and her eyes as yellow as any of the wildest vampires, but her face possessed a certain, strange beauty, a grace that was almost unique amongst her kind. It was a beauty that was truly terrible, for it could capture the soul and enslave the hearts of mortals; but few gazed upon her and so few came to her as slaves.

She lived in a clearing, where the close knit branches of the trees grew together overhead, sealing her into a castle of green light, where the rock strewn floor of her world was covered with the bones of the dead. Some still bore the last, sorry scraps of school uniform, others the gowns of teachers and professors. A mortarboard lay beside one gaping, flesh-stripped skull. Had Giles chanced to walk there, he would have recognised the ring worn by one skeleton, and he would have known the fate of Gareth Hopkins, the fourth-former he had befriended the year before.

No wind blew in the clearing. The air was heavy and thick. In the corners, where there was nothing save darkness and heavy, oppressive heat, the screams of the dead still echoed. Their ghosts still wandered, flitting restlessly amongst the tree trunks, seeking freedom where no freedom lay. They appeared from time to time, almost solid, almost real, to gaze sorrowfully upon the world they had so cruelly left, standing in long rows to gaze upon the distant school in its sealed seclusion. Their eyes were wide and pitiful, their faces gaunt and pale. They alone knew the way that the future lay; for they had seen it in the visions of terror which had consumed them when they had first been brought before Eliz. They had seen the dark spells woven by an ancient circle of warlocks; they had seen the gatherings of spirits and demons. They had seen the dark conjurings which had brought forth Maedthol and Eliz, and set them free to wreak their havoc. They had seen the coming of Randolph and his hoardes; a gang of vampires to bring darkness to the hardiest of hearts. And finally they had seen the battle; the great, long, ceaseless battle of Maedthol and Randolph, when all the vampire's companions had been slain, and he alone still lived to challenge the other demons. The sacrifices of Eliz had seen the warlocks, afraid of the magic which they and their ambitious forefathers had wrought upon the world, creating new and more terrible spells to try and correct their mistakes; spells which had served only to increase the powers of the undead monsters who fought in the woods. Finally, unable to think of anything else, the greatest of all the warlocks, a towering, grim individual named Aosda, had woven the Spell Of Great Binding. He had set his servants to build the school; a place where some good could be brought from the chaos. He had sealed Maedthol in one building, and Randolph in another, although Eliz had escaped his spells. From all over the country, people had brought their sons to attend the school; all of them without knowledge of the place; all of them unsuspecting of what had gone before. And Aosda, who had been born just plain Samuel Giles, had fallen victim to the hunger of Eliz. Gone was the only man who knew of the fate of Maedthol and Randolph. Gone was the only man who knew what lurked within the walls of Staffordshire Hall. Staffordshire Hall - which stood many miles away from Staffordshire, which was anything but that which it appeared to be - had continued to serve as a school. And no one noticed the things that went on there. Nobody noticed the boys who disappeared. Nobody noticed the candlelit rituals performed by the Prefects, nobody noticed the unusual disappearances amongst members of staff. Nobody noticed the figures who ran to and from the buildings late at night, many of whom never returned. Only the parents of the vanished boys ever stopped to wonder. Sometimes they asked questions, sometimes they tried to investigate. If they did they were silenced, for the Prefects would not allow them to discover the truth. Those that posed a greater problem lay still undiscovered, in the deep, long forgotten cellar beneath the library.

Even the Watchers did not know the truth. For years they had sent as many of their kind there as possible, to learn and to be taught in a good, old-fashioned boarding school. Valuing discipline and knowledge above all else, the Watchers had not questioned, and they had not seen, and they had not heard. They were known when they came, and the Watchers became the Watched; but there had never been any cause for concern. The school went on, a community unto itself, a world apart. Nobody could ever guess at the truth.

Until now.

Stirring with the first indications that something was changed; something was new; Eliz opened one huge, yellow eye and gazed up at her roof of twisting and twisted green branches. Something was different. She didn't know what day it was, and she gave no thought to the changing of the years; but this was something that she had never felt before. It was an Awakening; a feeling of new birth. The time drew near; the pieces were falling into place. She smiled, and her long, forked tongue hissed and danced on her lips, flickering in the still, dead air. Destiny was reawakened, and she could feel it in every bone in her body, in every scale of her skin. Maedthol would soon be free.

"Comes the moment." She tilted her head on one side, listening to the movements of the Earth. Someone knew. Someone had seen, or heard, or guessed. Someone had missed one of her victims. This was new. She smiled more broadly, and her teeth flashed in the eerie green light of her tree-embraced world. There could only be one who would guess; only one who could ever have seen through the enchantments. The one she had waited for was coming. Slowly she moved her body to the edges of her clearing, and for the first time in two hundred years, she stepped out into the forest beyond. Her body moved easily through the trees, for they moved aside to let her pass, anxious that she should not touch them, and bring upon them the death and disease that she had wrought upon her clearing. She smiled as she walked, but the smile would soon have dimmed if she could have looked back upon the place in which she had dwelt for the last two centuries; for now that she had gone, a chink of daylight showed through the roof of misshapen tree branches; a small beam of sunlight that shone down upon the ring of Gareth Hopkins. For a second the gold band blazed, and the chunk of onyx flashed a bright, clear black. The spirit of the boy it belonged to frowned, and turned his head to stare after Eliz. Slowly he began to follow her, his pale, wraith-like form almost invisible in the darkness. She didn't notice him. She had other things on her mind.


Giles stood at the edge of the wood, wondering what strange inner instinct had brought him to its borders. He had passed a restless night following his conversation with Randolph, bothered by all that he had seen and heard that night, confused by all that he now knew. He no longer thought that Katherine Seaton, whatever her strange choice of reading material, was a Watcher. It didn't matter. He couldn't let her go now; didn't know what to do with her. Somehow he felt sure that Randolph would solve that problem soon enough. Once he was free he was going to drain the blood of everybody he could catch; and Seaton could hardly run away. Giles wasn't sure how he felt about that. Somehow it had been easy enough to swap vows of allegiance with a trapped vampire; one that was no threat to anybody save the bats that lived in the roof above his head. It all became different when he talked about running amok through the school, draining all that he touched.

The school. That was why he was here. Something was wrong, and it was becoming clearer to him by the minute. Some instinct had brought him to the woods, and he knew that it was the same instinct, the same strong inner sense, which had first told him that something was wrong here; not just with the wood but with the whole school. He had known it the very first day he had arrived here, five long years ago, as a lowly first year in a brand new uniform. He had noticed a strange feel about the place; a sensation of confusion and detachment, but it had remained out of his reach; beyond his comprehension. It had been when he had completed his first year at the school, and was away during the summer awaiting the new term, that things had begun to drift into focus for the first time. He had had a dream, during which he had seen a handful of boys; boys he knew. They had all started the school with him as first-formers the previous year, and yet strangely he did not remember having seen any of them since. They had all vanished. He had returned to school in September, just like all the others in his form, ready to begin their first days as second years; several hundred twelve year-old boys with nothing more pressing on their minds that whether or not the Stones were better than the Beatles. It was 1967. The summer of love was just around the corner; the Vietnam War was a million miles away to a bunch of upper class British kids at an exclusive boarding school. Nothing mattered to any of them. Except one.

Boys were disappearing. In dribs and drabs, with other, new kids arriving every so often and ensuring that the population never decreased by a suspicious amount; but they were disappearing all the same. The went for walks and they never came back; they went to swim in the lake and were never seen again. They failed to turn up for lessons and their beds went unslept in; and nobody else noticed at all. Only Giles saw the gaps in the classrooms; only Giles saw the mothers, confused, certain that there had been something; some reason for their presence at open days, or at other school functions. Many of them seemed almost certain that they had taken their sons away themselves; that they had gone missing in some faraway place; anywhere other than at Staffordshire Hall.

A long finger of mist drifted free of the trees, brushing through the thin material of Giles' school shirt. He had left his leather jacket at the library, in a vague attempt to make the Prefects think that he was studying there. He had come to the woods actually wearing his school uniform, properly, for the first time since he was about fourteen. He was hoping, although he didn't know why, that the others would think it was some other kid heading for the woods; and not him at all. Somehow he knew that this was important; he just didn't know why.

"Here goes nothing." Something about the woods unnerved him, but he shrugged aside his concerns. He had been there before. There had been cross-country runs through it, and ball games amongst its branches; even picnics and school outings and the occasional nature lessons. One bright young Science teacher named - what had it been? Franklin? - had let his class spend many long, warm afternoons wandering among the trees, ostensibly to identify the plants and tree types. They had found mushrooms growing on the forest floor, but little else. Franklin had mentioned in passing that the mushrooms appeared to be of the hallucinatory sort, and somewhat predictably a whole bunch of them had found their way into the canteen. Giles had actually been innocent on that occasion, although he had taken the blame and most of the punishment. Still, it had almost been worth it; save that young Franklin had been sacked on the spot. He had gone for a farewell wander through the woods, and had never returned. As always, it had been only Giles who had noticed, and only Giles who had cared. Even the Watcher Hierarchy refused to believe him, and he had gradually given up trying to make them listen. He hated them anyway, and their feelings towards him couldn't have been much clearer.

His footsteps echoed in the forest, and he felt the wetness of the ground beneath his feet as his shoes sunk into the leaf mould and the general muddy decaying residue of the ground around him. He stared up at the trees above his head, but they were all too close together for him to see anything save the occasional chink of light. Somebody had once tried to cut back the larger trees, as he recalled, to give the rest of the woods a chance so that something might actually grow. The architect of the plan, an ecology professor from Oxford, had been found hanging from one of the trees, strangled (accidentally, of course) by the flex of a particularly large electric saw. His two assistants were found to have killed each other, probably in a drunken fight, with a pair of chain saws. Bits of them had never been found.

He had been walking for nearly half an hour before he became aware of another presence. Somebody was watching him. He turned in a circle but could see nothing. He frowned and pressed on. Time passed.

He had never noticed before how big the wood was. He walked on through it, but he didn't seem to be getting anywhere. He saw no sign of a thinning out of the trees; no indication that he was nearly through. Occasionally he saw evidence of broken walls and old ruins, but the trees grew too thickly about them for him to be sure what they were. They were the only different things in a wood full of monotonous similarities. He wondered at them, although they seemed without reason or purpose. He seemed to remember reading in the school's ancient prospectus, printed in 1921, that Staffordshire Hall was set in a piece of beautiful rural England, with farms nearby and a small, picturesque village with a thatched Church. By the time that he started at the school, in 1966, nobody seemed able to remember the farms or the village, or the people who had dwelt there. Giles had a feeling that he just found them, although how the trees had managed to grow around them so thickly and so fast, was beyond him. They had been gone less than fifty years, and yet there was at least two centuries worth of deciduous growth about them now, the walls almost completely collapsed beneath an overbearing weight of ivy.

Turning away from the ruins he felt the sensation of company again, but this time he did not spin around to look for the other person. Instead he carried on his way, listening carefully. Minutes passed. He heard trees rustling, branches moving; and then a clear, definite footstep. He stopped abruptly and spun around. A woman had just emerged from the trees nearby, and she stood watching him, with large, blue eyes that seemed to engulf him. Her long, lustrous dark hair blew around her head, although he could not himself feel the breeze that blew it.

"Hello." She moved towards him, eyeing him with her head cocked slightly on one side. "You must be Rupert Giles."

"You've been expecting me?" That unnerved him slightly, although in many ways it was a relief. He wasn't going mad; there really was something going on here.

"For two hundred years." She moved closer, and he did not step back. "Did Maedthol send you?"

"Randolph." He frowned at her. "Who are you?"

"My name is Eliz." She smiled, reaching out to touch him, amused as he moved quickly out of her reach. "You've heard of me I see."

"Sort of." He couldn't remember when, or how, for her name had not been in any of the long, interminable lists that his father had made him memorise all those years ago, during one of their unwelcome "bonding" sessions over piles of dreary books and papers. "Why have you been waiting for me?"

"Because I always knew you'd come." She leaned towards him. "I saw it in the stones two hundred years ago, when Aosda imprisoned my husband in that infernal school. I saw it even before that, when I first stepped onto this world, and I saw this wood in my nightmares. You are the Watcher."

"I bloody am not." He drew himself up to his full height, which admittedly was not terribly impressive, and glared back at her. "I'll never be one of them. Never."

"Not one of them, no." She smiled. "Not a Watcher. The Watcher. There are many Watchers, but only one who is the Watcher. Only one who guides the Slayer."

"I'm never going to do that, either." Anger flared up on his face. "If you think some demon is going to tell me what to do--"

"I don't tell, I only report what I see." She took his arm. "Many have served me over the years, Giles. Many have brought cowering offerings to my feet. Maybe you'll bring something better." He could see beneath her disguise now; could see the glow of her yellow eyes and the flicker of her snakelike tongue. But still she was beautiful, and still she was beguiling. He stepped back, although her hand remained fast about his wrist. He could see her claws now, digging into his skin.

"I don't serve."

"You can't deny what was written in the stars two hundred years ago."

"I can bloody well deny anything I like." He pulled hard, tearing free of her grip. "I don't know why I came here today, but--"

"You came because destiny led you. It was written that you would come here, now, today, so that the next step could be taken." She caught his wrist again, seizing his arm tightly enough to hurt. "You don't have to be willing. That bit wasn't written. Just that you had to be here."

"No." He struggled, but although his shirt tore and her grip shifted with it, he could not pull free a second time.

"It won't hurt, Giles. I just need the blood of Aosda. It's not just planets and stars that break the curse; he would never have been fool enough to create a spell that easy to break. It needs his descendant to fulfil prophecy, and take the next step through his own destiny." She pulled him closer.

"No." He was struggling wildly, and around him he thought he heard voices. He thought that they were encouraging him, until he recognised the tones of Derek and Quentin Forbes. Maedthol's apprentices had come to greet his returning wife. The embrace of Eliz was suffocating, and her rough, armoured scales grazed his skin. He stared up into her face; so inhuman and yet still so beautiful. He saw her mouth open and her fangs gleam in the muted green light. His struggles did not cease until long after she had bitten into his throat, and he had lost too much blood to care about anything anymore. He was barely aware that she had finished with him; that she had thrown him aside and turned away. He felt the cold, hard ground beneath him, and was aware of people moving about above his head. His world spun in dizzying motions, and his eyes blurred. Hands grabbed him, and voices shouted insults that his brain could not be bothered to translate. They remained as meaningless pieces of sound that could not connect. After that, he ceased to be aware of anything at all.


He awoke when the buzzing in his head had finally faded, and when the dreadful sense of light-headedness had departed. He still felt weak, although not nearly as bad as he had been. Eliz was not a vampire, he knew that much, and although she had drunk from him for a long time she had not taken all that much of his blood. Clearly her fangs were not as efficient as Randolph's. A proper vampire would have drained him completely in the time it had taken for her to drink.

He opened his eyes, looking around in confusion. He was in a clearing, where bones were strewn about the floor and shadows hung heavy in the corners. As his vision cleared he became aware of bars around him; rough-hewn poles of wood enclosing him. Rope bound his wrists, although they were in front of him, granting him a certain amount of movement. There was a ring of faces gazing at him; Derek and Quentin Forbes, Mountjoy, Donald Creighton, the three other Prefects he had overheard speaking of Maedthol, and a smaller boy with an unmistakable pride in his eyes; the certainty of the devout. Giles thought that he had seen him the night before, in the gaggle of potential victims held in the Prefects' rooms. Obviously the older boys had captured something unexpected in their net that night, and it had led them here. It was probably all another part of the destiny Eliz had been harping on about. He frowned at the smaller boy.

"You're in charge here I presume."

"Mistress Eliz is in charge. I speak for her." The boy moved closer to the bars. "My name is Alexander Montgomery."

"Of course it is." He should have guessed. One of the previous years' upper sixths had been a Montgomery; a self-possessed, unbearable mountain of a boy who had told anybody who would listen, and many others besides, that his younger brother would be starting at Staffordshire Hall the very term after he himself left. There had always been a Montgomery at the school, at least as far as anybody knew, since it had been opened two hundred years before. "You do realise that once she's got her husband back she won't need you anymore."

"She will always need willing servants." Montgomery folded his arms. "I would be quiet, if I were you. She has no further use for you."

"I'm sure she'll think of something." Giles was thinking hard. It didn't take much intelligence to see what was going on; Eliz knew that he was working with Randolph - she could hardly fail to, since he himself had told her as much - and as the wife of Maedthol she presumably hated the vampire. He had been her husband's enemy, after all. If she kept him here, unable to go to Randolph, the vampire would not get his all-important revitalising potions; the magical concoctions that would have given him more than enough power to defeat Maedthol after their release. Randolph might have been a vampire, ready willing and able to kill every living thing in the whole of Staffordshire Hall, but Giles wanted him to win the coming battle. He could not stand to see Eliz and her husband claim victory. Maybe it would be enough that Randolph had Seaton. She was young and in good health, after all. She could not give him as much as the potions, but she could certainly give him a good start.

"Eliz won't kill Giles. Maedthol has promised him to us." Derek Forbes smiled a most unpleasant smile and adjusted his tie, the image of a forthright and proper young gentleman, despite his somewhat wild surroundings. Giles laughed.

"And you believe that?"

"Yes." Creighton glared at him, eyes bright and feverish. "You've never met him. You don't know what he's like."

"I think I have a very good idea." Giles moved closer to the bars. "You really do think I'm just some troublemaker here to test your patience, don't you. That I'm some other problem case for your little vigilante squad to deal with. You don't even begin to see the truth."

"Oh yeah?" Mountjoy reached through the bars before Giles could move aside, grabbing the younger boy by the shirt front. "And what is the truth? What makes you so special?"

Giles smiled at him, denying his attacker the pleasure of seeing him flinch back at the sudden assault. "You wouldn't understand."

"Try me." The fingers tightened, pulling him into the bars with a force that went past plain uncomfortable. Giles gave Mountjoy a cold, sneering smile.

"Go back to crawl at your demon's feet, Mountjoy. This is way beyond you."

"You little--" Whatever the Prefect had been planning to do was prevented by the sudden passing of Eliz, who gathered the group of boys to her with a look. Giles fell back into his cage.

"You shouldn't antagonise them. Especially Alexander." The voice was distant and yet Giles heard it clearly. He scrambled back to his feet, looking around.

"Who said that?"

"I did." There was another boy in the cage, although as soon as Giles saw him he knew that this was no other prisoner. This boy could leave whenever he wanted to. He knew the face, despite its unfamiliar pallor and drawn appearance.


"Hello Giles." There was a sad tone to the other boy's voice, a heavy sound that left his words hanging in the hot, still air. "Listen to me carefully. There's something we have to do."


Wednesday passed very slowly for Katherine Seaton. The vampire slept for much of the day, and she was left entirely alone. She paced about, deep in thought; she tried to break open the cage; she shook the bars and shouted and screamed for all she was worth, but nobody heard and nobody came. Even Randolph seemed oblivious to her cries. Finally he reawakened, and began to pace up and down the room. Seaton watched him very nervously. She knew that Giles was supposed to return before Thursday night with the promised potions, and so far he showed no sign of doing that. Randolph was hungry, and frustrated almost to breaking point.

"If you let me go I'll get your potions for you." She knew which was Giles' dormitory, and such was her anxiety to be free that she would have gone straight there to do the creature's bidding. He looked at her, his yellow eyes glinting in the half light.

"Giles will come."

"What makes you so sure?"

"He wants what I promised him. He'll come."

"What did you promise him? I - I heard about freedom, from these Watchers. I don't understand any of it."

"Why should you? He thinks you're one of them, but I can see now that you're not. You aren't faking your ignorance."

I don't need to. Right now I don't think I've ever felt so ignorant in my whole life. She smiled. "Suppose you enlighten me?"

"Why bother?" Reclining on the tabletop he gestured vaguely in the air. "You'll be dead in a day or two."

"It might pass the time."

"True." He paused, and for a second she almost thought he had fallen asleep again. Finally he opened one eye and peered at her. "The boy is a Watcher. Destined to be the Watcher, if the cards read it right."

"And the Watchers are?"

"Those who watch." He folded his arms behind his head and gazed at the ceiling. "Since the beginning of Time there have been those like me, and those like you."

"Good and evil," she retorted immediately. He shrugged.

"Call it what you will. The fact remains that the people like you are scared of the people like me." He smiled. "With good reason."

"And the Watchers fight the people like you?"

Randolph laughed uproariously. "Are you joking? Hardly, my dear. The Watchers watch. They learn, they read, they do research. Most of them spend their lives with their heads stuck in one book or another, learning about demons and vampires and witchcraft. Oh they learn combat, and they're taught how to fight the undead, but none of them ever put those theories into practice."

"Who chooses the Watchers?"

"Destiny?" He shrugged. "Every so often a child is born, and the Watcher Hierarchy knows. As soon as the child is deemed old enough, the instruction begins. They're to be the second line of defence in the battle against the undead." He grinned at her, just to remind her of his teeth. "People like me."

"Then what's the first line?" She was hoping that this line of questioning would keep him occupied; it seemed to animate him a good deal more than their previous attempts at conversation. She was interested too. It sounded like the sort of thing she wanted to know; even if she wasn't going to live long enough to find out more.

"The Slayer. One girl in all the world with the power and the--" He broke off. "I hate that bit. It's so depressing. One girl in all the world who can leave us bursting into ash with monotonous regularity. She's an irritating girl; or at least the one I met was. She's chosen by destiny to fight us, she has a Watcher - the Watcher - to train her. To teach her, to watch her, to - well, to be her Watcher." He shrugged. "The only one in the whole useless bunch of them who gets to do something useful."

"No wonder he's bitter." She leant back against the bars of her cage. "I don't think I'd like to have that hanging over my head all my life."

"Giles isn't that bitter. His training has opened up all kinds of doors to him. He would always have rebelled, whether he was destined to be a Watcher or a bank clerk. This way he gets to know all about the dark side, and how to exploit it. He gets to rebel with true class." Randolph grinned. "It has possibilities, it really does. I'd almost be willing to keep him around."

"You don't plan to help him, do you."

"I plan to keep my promise. I plan to set him free." Randolph smirked at her, and glanced at his watch. It was a modern looking wrist watch, and she couldn't help wondering where he had got it, having spent the last two hundred years locked up in this room. "It'll be morning soon. Thursday morning."

"And then what happens?"

"Havoc." Randolph drew his legs up and hugged them, grinning at her merrily over the tops of his knees. "Pure havoc."


Though it would doubtless have given Katherine Seaton little comfort, Giles had passed Wednesday in as uninspiring a situation as had his Latin teacher. The cage in the clearing was uncomfortable, the hot, heavy air most unpleasant, and the ropes around his wrists a downright nuisance. His shoulders were stiff, he had a headache, and his neck hurt from where Eliz had sunk her fangs into his jugular vein. The only comfort there was that something in her saliva had obviously stopped the blood from flowing, because he hadn't bled to death yet, and he was fairly sure that he would have done by now. He watched Alexander Montgomery helping Eliz to preen herself, feeling vaguely sick. The demon held the boy completely under her spell, and he was glad of it. He considered it his born duty. Giles was allergic to born duty, and he suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to use the younger boy's head as a football.

The Prefects vanished during the day, no doubt heading back to rejoin Maedthol. He probably had things that he wanted to do before he was freed, especially now that he knew he was to be reunited with his wife. Giles wondered idly if their little union had produced any offspring, and decided that he didn't want to know.

"Giles?" It was Hopkins' voice, and Giles turned to him in relief.

"Hopkins? Where the bloody hell have you been? I thought you said you were going to get me out of here?"

"Not easily done." The wraith rematerialised, the bars showing through his thin, pale body. "I have no form, no solidity. I can't go and steal the keys."

"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry." Giles didn't want to think about what the younger boy had been through; how it must have been for him to be dragged to this place and fed to Eliz. "What's the plan?"

"It'll be morning soon." Hopkins turned to stare at Eliz. "She'll rest then. Alexander will probably go back to school."

"Glad to hear it." It was a little infuriating to think that his frequent sojourns were met with such disapproval, when not only Alexander but a whole gang of Prefects must be missing more school than they attended. All that he was doing was a little sorcery, a little illicit study, plus maybe one or two trips to the nearest town for more beer, and the odd visit to the cinema. It wasn't as though he was feeding half his classmates to a pair of demons, or helping one to escape from a two hundred year-old prison. Well, yeah, he was doing that, granted - but only because it would annoy the hell out of the Watchers.

"When she sleeps, her powers weaken in the clearing. It's easier for me to move around. I might be able to break the lock."

"Cool." Giles sat down on the floor, trying to get comfortable. It struck him that he should try to get some sleep. "Then what?"

"Then I guide you through the wood, and you return to the school. After that you're on your own. Even if I did know what to do next, I can't ever leave the wood." His big, dark eyes widened in the very image of deepest sorrow. "It's a shame. There were so many things I wanted to do. It's not easy to do them stuck in here."

"Maybe when she's dead…" Giles wasn't sure how to finish that sentence. He didn't want to get the other's hopes up. Hopkins gave a short laugh.

"When she's dead, I was hoping I would leave this place. There'll be no more reason for me to stay here." He stared away into the middle distance. "Maybe I can visit my folks then." Giles didn't like to tell him that his parents didn't even seem to have noticed that he had gone. He was just another statistic in the saga of Staffordshire Hall; one of the unimaginably long line of vanished students that only one young Watcher seemed to have noticed.

"Yeah, sure." He closed his eyes, resting his shoulders against the bars and giving up hope of being able to get comfortable. "Goodnight Hopkins."

"Goodnight Giles." Hopkins watched and waited until the other boy was asleep, and then gradually his form faded. The clearing was silent and still. The skeletons gazed soundlessly up at the forest canopy, and Eliz preened herself in the mirror Alexander was holding out to her. She gave no thought to Giles, or to the souls who wandered restlessly about among her trees. She thought only of Maedthol, and of the chaos they would soon cause.


"I thought you said right."

"I did." The ghostly form of Hopkins moved ahead, drifting through the trees. "But I guess I meant left."

"Just perfect." Coming to an abrupt halt, Giles looked left and right. Right looked easy; inviting even. The pathway was broad and the trees grew less thickly. He turned immediately to the left. Instantly the trees were all about him, pressing down on him, threatening to suffocate him with their greenery. Hopkins flitted on ahead.

"Hold on." Breathless Giles struggled to keep up; struggled even to move in the almost impenetrable thickness of it all. "Is there… is there any sign of Eliz?"

"Nothing that I can see. I told you, she sleeps during the day."

"It was day when I met her." He redoubled his efforts, fighting his way past a tree determined to ensnare him in its green-fingered grasp. "I was better off in that bloody cage."

"Hard luck." Hopkins sounded weaker, less sure of himself. "Come on, speed it up a bit. At this rate we won't be out before nightfall, and a right useless pair we'd be then."

"We? What's with the we?" Trying to increase his pace Giles heard something tear, and gave thanks that he wasn't wearing his leather jacket. He batted away a few dangling creepers that tried to scratch his face, and hoped that none hit upon the idea of snagging in his earring. That really would be painful. "I wish you could come with me. I haven't got a bloody clue what I'm going to do."

"You have to stop Maedthol from winning. He's more powerful than Randolph."

"But Randolph is going to kill everybody. He can keep the teachers for all I care, but there are one or two people I would rather didn't die." Actually he would have had a problem thinking of any specific names, but he was sure there were one or two. At the end of the day, whether he liked them or not, they were only children. There was an unpleasantness on a very basic level about a vampire who wanted to kill children; whether or not they were the annoyingly stuck-up sort, who preferred Debussy and Brahms to Cream and The Who.

"Maybe you can stake him."

"And maybe I can get sucked dry by a very hungry vampire on the rampage. Thanks, but I have big plans for my seventeenth birthday. I plan to still be alive when I get there."

"That's a luxury some of us can't share." There was no bitterness in Hopkins' voice, but all the same Giles felt guilty. It took some getting used to, being in the presence of a dead person. There were certain things it did not seem at all fair to say.


"Now there's a word I never thought I'd hear Rupert Giles say." This time Hopkins actually sounded jovial. "Come on, buddy. Keep up."

"I'm just a little more solid than you are, buddy. The trees seem less happy to have me walk straight through them."

"Now you're just looking for difficulties." Hopkins flitted ahead, vanishing from sight, and reappeared several moments later. "She's realised you've gone."

"Oh, well that's encouraging." Finally tearing free from a pair of particularly enthusiastic trees with a clear liking for his trousers, Giles stumbled straight into yet another thicket, possibly even more tenacious than the last. "What's she doing?"

"I can feel her moving. She's looking for you." His form wavered. "She knows I'm helping you."

"Helping me!" Giles' voice was little more than an indignant yelp as he forcibly tore his arms free from the tangle of branches about him. "You're not exactly helping. I--" He broke off. Hopkins had vanished. Stumbling away from the trees into a piece of fairly open ground, Giles turned in a circle. He could not see his friend anywhere. A pang of sorrow ran through him, and he hoped that there was nothing that Eliz could do to him. Given that she had already taken his life, there didn't seem to be much else; but that thought was hardly comforting. He broke into a run, remembering Hopkins' last words to him. Eliz was looking for him. She knew that he would be trying to get back to the school. Maybe she also knew that he was well and truly lost. He chose a direction at random and increased his speed still further. Branches slapped into his face, brambles tore at his clothes and his skin. He fell over roots and bushes and slipped on wet and muddy ground, but he did not slow down and he did not look back. Dusk was not far off. He had been running all day. If he didn't get back soon Randolph would drain Miss Seaton, and then he would go forth to meet Maedthol without proper preparation. He clenched his fists tightly and ran on, ignoring the growing oppressiveness of the air. Eliz was near, he could feel her. He only hoped that he could make it to the edge of the wood before she reached him.


The school was quiet. Everybody seemed to have taken it into their heads to have an early night, which Giles was not going to complain about. Better that they should sleep through this, and perhaps never know what had happened; particularly if they were all to be murdered by Randolph on a crazy killing spree.

With weak hands Giles tried the main doors, finding them locked. He tried his spare library key, desperate enough to attempt anything, but it didn't work. He stared up at the window of his dormitory. He didn't fancy climbing up the ivy just now, but he knew that he had no other choice. Dusk was almost complete. Soon the darkness would fall in earnest, and after that he had no idea what would happen. Forty-eight hours ago he had been looking forward to tonight. Now he knew that he had been set up, and that Randolph had never been the man he had appeared to be. Giles didn't want to help him; didn't want to give him the potions and watch him break free; but he knew that he had no choice. If the choice was to be between Maedthol and Randolph, it had to be the vampire. Instinct told him that the other way meant doom for them all.

He was tired indeed when he finally fell through the window into the dorm. The other boys were asleep, not one of them waking as he clambered to his feet and went to his bed. He twisted the combination tumblers on the locker set into his bedside table and pulled open the door with feverish hands. He almost dropped the potions as he pulled them out from under the collection of witchcraft accessories and old-fashioned spell books.

"Well well. Look who it is." The light clicked on just as he stood up, and he spun to face the door. His six favourite Prefects stood in the doorway, their expressions icy. Derek Forbes advanced into the room. "How did you get free?"

"Does it matter?" He backed off slightly, until he felt the sharp pressure of a knife in his back. He groaned, suddenly remembering Quentin. Great. Just great.

"Put the jars down." Quentin sounded more sure of himself than at any other time since Giles had met him. The young Watcher considered his options, then turned to the bed, lowering the jars onto it. Forbes major and Mountjoy grabbed his arms, twisting them painfully behind his back.

"Gotcha." There was cruel relish in Mountjoy's tone. Giles forced himself to relax. There was only one possible way to handle this, and it was not a way he was going to enjoy. The door was still blocked by four Prefects, and he was on the top floor. He forced himself to act defeated, hanging his head, letting his whole body slump. Mountjoy suddenly found himself having to support almost the entire weight of his prisoner. He had to alter his grip.

With sudden, impressive speed, Giles tore free of his persecutors, grabbed the jars, stuffed them into his shirt and ran for the window. They stared after him, amazed by his actions, and gaped as he pushed Quentin aside. The window waited, yawning wide. Without time for hesitation, he leaped.

The air rushed by him, cold and powerful. His arms flailed and he fought to keep his eyes open. He nearly prayed. His fingers reached out, grasping, searching, desperate; and finally they snagged in the ivy. His fall was brought up short and his arms jerked painfully. For a moment he thought that he had dislocated his shoulder, but he had no time to worry further. He climbed quickly to the ground, falling half of the way, landing heavily enough to risk breaking the precious jars.

"Giles!" He heard Creighton's voice above him, and tipped back his head to stare up. Quentin was already climbing down after him. He turned about and ran, reaching the library just as the first of his pursuers reached the ground. He unlocked the door and dashed for the stairs, almost losing his footing on the highly polished wooden floor tiles. The secret door yielded to his touch, and he fell into the corridor beyond, stumbling and slipping into the room. Randolph stood in the centre of the floor, Seaton gripped in his hands. He looked up as Giles entered, a primeval growl snarling its way from his throat in a warning not to disturb the feed; then he saw who had come and he threw the teacher aside.

"Is - is she--" Giles stepped forward, eyes going from the vampire to the teacher, unsure what had happened. Randolph's only answer was a vicious, deep growl. His hands shot out, seeming to reach straight for Giles; then went past him, seizing the figure which had just erupted into the room behind the young Watcher. Quentin Forbes let out a shrill warning scream, then made no further sound. Randolph's teeth were at his throat in seconds, and the body of the boy went limp. Giles turned away in disgust, trying to ignore Seaton's anguished expression. She had better get used to it; she was going to see a lot more of that sort of thing if she survived the night.

"I thought you had forsaken me." Throwing Quentin's dead body aside, Randolph reached out for Giles, stroking the boy's hair with his clawed fingers. "Now give me the potions. It's coming. I can feel it."

"Don't do it." Seaton tried to rise to her feet, but quite suddenly her legs would not obey her. "You've seen what he's like."

"And I've seen the opposition too." Without meeting her eyes he pulled out the jars and handed them across. Randolph let out a whoop of delight and tipped the green and rank-smelling contents of both down his throat. His head began to glow.

"I can feel it. At last!" Throwing his hands up into the air, the demon let out a laugh of sheer joy. The ground shook.

"What's happening?" Seaton asked, staring about her with eyes that were suddenly wide. She had tried for so long to be brave, but now she no longer felt that she could ever be brave again. "Giles?"

"Hold on to me." There was a growing wind in the room, blowing books left right and centre and sending whole shelves of them crashing to the floor. He reached her just as the shaking of the ground reached a crescendo, and a rumble of thunder echoed throughout the room.

"The time has come!" His eyes brighter than ever before, Randolph reached out, suddenly grabbing Giles around the neck and holding on tight. "We have the last part of your destiny to fulfil."


The courtyard was empty and dark, but the Prefects were carrying lamps; two each, swinging from their hands. Giles could see the flickering of candle flames within glass shields, and was glad of the light. They provided little warmth, however, which was unfortunate. Despite the heat of the day he felt cold now, although he knew that it had nothing to do with the temperature outside. It was just him who was cold, shivering as he stood beside Randolph before the library doors. Maedthol stood with the Prefects, and his first sight of the demon impressed Giles immensely. It was a truly horrific creature, with its great long teeth and wicked horns. Blood stained his chest, and he well knew whose. Visions of the first years, trembling and terrified, passed before his eyes.

"And so it begins again." Marching out of nowhere, Eliz approached the others with Alexander trotting obediently at her heels. He held a glass ball, almost as big as his head, and set it on the ground almost directly between the two combatants. "We are here once again."

"Of course." Randolph nodded politely at her. "It's good to see you again Eliz."

"Likewise." She almost looked to be flirting with the vampire, and Maedthol howled in protest. Eliz laughed.

"How have you been, husband?"

"Bored." He moved towards her. "I missed you."

"I missed you too." She turned to the Prefects. "Keep out of the way, and keep the lights burning. You stand back too Alexander."

"When does the fight begin?" Strolling closer, Randolph stretched his arms. His muscles were not impressive by human standards, but vampire strength did not rely on a powerful build. "I've waited a long time for this."

"The fight begins at the last stroke of midnight." She tipped her head back, gazing at the moon. "You know the rules. Whoever manages to take the glass orb and hold it aloft is the winner. He takes the strength of the ball, and the power that lies within it. Our old powers, stolen and sealed away by Aosda."

Maedthol growled at the mention of his old foe, and his eyes flickered across to Giles. "And the descendant of Aosda?" he asked. "What happens to him?"

"You promised him to us," Derek pointed out, although his voice seemed to have lost some of its surety. Maedthol laughed.

"Be glad that I will promise you your lives. Nothing else." His eyes burned, the power of his gaze holding Giles. The boy felt that his body no longer seemed to belong to him; all that he was aware of were the eyes, and of Seaton's hand gripping his arm. He could feel her shaking with fear. Eliz also glanced in his direction, her words filled with amusement.

"His destiny was to join the Watchers, but destiny changes with each step we take tonight. Tonight the stones showed me new paths for all of us."

"And the cards showed me new prophecies to write." Randolph caught Giles by the arm, startling him free of the gaze of Maedthol. "It's fitting that our escape should end with his death, just as our imprisonment ended with the death of his ancestor."

"But… you promised." Giles wanted to be angry, or even just to be scared, but too much was happening for him to be able to feel anything at all. Randolph laughed.

"I promised to set you free, and what better way to be free of the Watchers than to be dead? Rewrite your own destiny, boy. You'll never have to serve a Slayer, and you'll never have to study again." He laughed harshly, throwing Giles away with barely an ounce of effort. "Now stay out of my way. I have a battle to fight."

"A battle you wouldn't have a hope of winning if it wasn't for me." Giles climbed to his feet, eyes bright with new anger. "You'd be losing already if I hadn't made the potions for you. You can't push me aside now."

"Why? What will you do? Kill me?" Laughing Randolph shook his head, and his yellow eyes glowed more fiercely than before. "Keep back, boy."

"Make me." He advanced quickly, his fists clenched and his jaw set. Fear blazed a trail through Seaton's eyes and she grabbed his arm.

"Giles, don't be a fool!"

"Get off me." He knocked her roughly aside, and for a second she was afraid of him too. There was something in his face that was as wild as Randolph or Maedthol; something in his eyes and in his stance that promised as much violence as they were capable of. She flinched back. Maedthol laughed.

"He would challenge you, Randolph. Perhaps I should stand aside and let the pair of you battle it out first."

"You keep quiet." Enraged, Randolph almost turned to attack his rival, then swung back to face Giles. He knew that the boy wore a crucifix, but it would take a lot more than that to defeat a vampire as strong and as powerful as was Randolph himself. He felt no fear or concern; merely anger and frustration. It would be simple to kill Giles now, but he was bound by the rules named by Eliz. Giles went to the winner of the battle.

"Come on, man. Fight me." Every inch the street thug, as though he believed that Randolph was just another kid looking for a fight on the school field, or in some city back street, Giles took another step forward. "You think I can't take you?"

"Stay out of my way." In a blaze of blue fire Randolph raised his hands, pointing them at his challenger. He threw back his head, beginning to laugh. "I can feel my powers again! Free at last!"

"Giles?" Hurrying to her pupil's side, Seaton stared up at the blazing arcs of blue fire. "What's he doing?"

"Casting a spell." Giles looked around, searching for something to deflect the magic, or to absorb it. He could see nothing. "Run for cover!"

"Too late!" With a deep, rumbling roar, Randolph threw the spell. The fires spread, flashing, burning, splintering like tracks through breaking ice. Giles felt their heat on his face, feeling his senses confuse and whirl; then suddenly all was clear and still once again. He blinked, and looked around. He was standing on the library roof, Seaton beside him, far above the three undead creatures he had tried to face. He ran to the edge of the roof and stared down. The figures below were small, plainly out of his reach.

"No…" His voice was weak, filled with all of his exhaustion and fading hope. Up here he could do nothing. Up here he could not even run. There was no door in the roof, no way down to the interior of the building. There was no ivy climbing up the walls, no balconies, no jutting windowsills. On the top two floors the windows did not even open. There was no escape.

"It'll be alright." Seaton's voice was too shaky to convince even the world's most gullible person, and Giles did not bother answering her. He sat down on the edge of the roof and gazed hopelessly down at the scene beneath him. Soon it would all be over, one way or the other. Whichever of the pair won, he would not be alive to see the havoc they wrought.


And so the battle raged. They roared, they slashed, they tore at each other with their teeth. To the spectators above it seemed that the damage was superficial, but to the six Prefects it appeared as though neither combatant could last for long. The blood flowed freely, pouring from torn skin. Maedthol's scales were a barrier of sorts, but against the vicious tenacity of Randolph any armour would have been but a stopgap. The demon was in trouble.

"Go for the orb!" The encouragements of Eliz reached the pair on the library roof, and they stared down as the demon made a dash for the glass sphere. He nearly made it, slipping on the ground, reaching out with his bloodstained claws. Randolph caught him in time, heaving him backwards, falling on top of him with a growl of darkest ferocity. In a second his teeth were at the demon's throat.

"Get off me." Throwing the vampire aside Maedthol struggled to his feet. His hands began to glow with red fire, and the Prefects began to swing their lamps from side to side. Randolph could hear them chanting under their breath, and he howled with fury. They were helping their master. Ignoring the demon he rushed at the six, tearing into their midst with a growl. Creighton screamed, and Giles saw two of the six fall. He wanted to turn away, but he couldn't. He had to watch. He had to know what was going on.

"You fight me, not them!" Maedthol was on Randolph's back almost immediately, tugging him back. Even as he went to the assistance of his apprentices, his feet were crushing the two who had fallen. If they had not been dead before, they were now. His feet slipped in the gore.

"Keep them silent, demon!" Knocking Maedthol aside, Randolph twisted about, throwing his opponent away. "I will destroy them if they stand against me!"

"Shut up and fight." With a solid backhand Maedthol sent Randolph flying, then raised his hands again, once more beginning to intone his spells. Again his hands crackled with red fire, and this time Randolph raised his own hands to meet the attack. Blue fire charged from his finger tips, flowing towards Maedthol who sent arcs of his own red fury to meet it. The colours blurred and mixed, flames leaping sky-high in their struggles against each other. Both combatants staggered, and Eliz let out a shrill scream.

"This is mad. They can't keep it up forever." Leaning precariously over the edge of the roof, Seaton shaded her eyes with her hands and tried to avoid the leaping, lashing flames. "We have to do something."

"Jump on them?" Sarcasm made his tone bitter, but Giles was hardly worried about being polite to the teacher. He wouldn't have cared about that on a normal day, let alone the situation they were currently caught in.

"Well you're the expert!" Anger flared in her eyes. She had had just about enough of the walking rebellion machine. "Look Giles, this isn't my fault. Maybe it isn't yours either, but we're both here, and we might as well try and do something about it."

"I'm all out of ideas." He stared up at her, young and subdued once again. "I have a crucifix, and that's all." He toyed with it, pulling it out from inside his shirt. "At this distance it's not even going to make them flinch."

"Well there's got to be something else we can do." A mighty blast of red fire shot past them, making the whole of the library shake. "Quickly would be good."

"I don't know!" He was shouting at her now, his voice raised above the growing wind and the rising sounds of battle. His eyes were bright and fierce, threatening violence. "These creatures don't die easy you know. They're not people, and they're not even ordinary demons. They have more power than most of their kind. Even if I could get close to them I couldn't do anything. They're not going to let me run up to them with a wooden stake or a bottle of Holy water."

"Garlic." She sat down, shaking her head. "Crucifixes. I got that book about vampires from a second hand book store when I was really bored and I had nothing to read. Look where it got me. If I hadn't read that book you'd never have suspected me of being one of those damned Watchers, and I would be asleep in bed right now, just like all the others."

"And I would be alone here right now." He turned his head to stare towards the main building, just visible through the flame and the smoke. The curtained windows of the dormitories stared back at him, silent, normal. Peaceful.

"I can't say I would be sorry for you." She sighed. "I was only reading that book a couple of days ago, and I was thinking about how stupid it all was. Now I find myself sitting here having a conversation about how to kill demons." She chuckled, almost insanely. "Do you have a sword handy? Or a flaming crossbow?"

"My sword is at home." He sounded serious. "All that I have is my knife."

"And I have my Bible." She pulled it out of her pocket. "Does it help?"

"Not from up here, no." He watched her flick through the small book, turning the pages as though she knew their contents by heart. Her face flickered in the light of the raging battle, and he saw the expression fixed on it. She looked reverent, transfixed. The book gave her an inner peace that he found, for the slightest of moments, almost appealing. "That stuff really means something to you, huh."

"My father was a Roman Catholic Priest." She shrugged. "I wanted to follow the same career, but it's not allowed, not yet. I thought about becoming a nun, but it wasn't the same. Not for me. I wound up as an officer in the Salvation Army."

"No wonder you ditched it. Even being a teacher's gotta be better than that." He shook his head, turning back to stare once again towards the fight. Randolph and Maedthol were locked together, their bodies almost entirely hidden by the raging torrent of purple flame. He could hear their voices, still screaming their spells at each other. The four remaining Prefects were standing stock still and silent.

"You cannot defeat me!" His voice a shrill scream, Randolph hurled Maedthol aside, flame spitting from his mouth and igniting his hair. "I will have the orb!"

"No!" Even as the vampire made for the sphere, Mountjoy leapt forward. He grabbed at the orb, dodging out of Randolph's reach. "You can't win!"

"Fool!" With a roar of fury, Randolph sent a stream of fire at the Prefect, obliterating his body in a wall of coloured flame. The boy screamed, and as the fire faded, so did he. He had gone completely, and only a fine dusting of ash drifted now on the wind. The glass sphere hung for a second in the air, marking the place where Mountjoy's hands had been; then it dropped like a stone, hitting the ground with a mighty crash. A peel of thunder shook the school, and a shard of lightning split the sky. Black wind erupted from the shards of glass; great long tendrils of mist and flame that began to spin and whirl.

"Oh no." Seaton stared down at the mess, seeing Randolph and Maedthol doing likewise. Their fight seemed forgotten. "Why do I think that is not good?"

"The sphere contained some kind of energy concentration; the powers that sorcerer guy stole from them and sealed away." Giles choked as a tendril of the cloying mist brushed across his face. It seemed to suck the oxygen from his lungs and the warmth from his body. He stumbled out of its way.

"So now what?"

"Now the power is free. Anything could happen." He leaned over the edge of the roof, staring down. Alexander and Eliz were walking into the centre of the mist. "Uh oh."

"Uh oh?" She peered over next to him. "What's going on?"

"Did you ever read The Complete Three?"

"I grew up reading Arthur Ransome books, Giles. What in Heaven's name is the complete three?"

"My father bought me the book years ago. He didn't know why. Something made him do it." He clenched his teeth. "I think I know what."


"Meaning that The Complete Three tells the story of a hugely powerful demon which split itself into three in order to widen the scope of its power. Instead the three new demons fought. They couldn't get along. One in particular hated the other two." He stared down at the threesome and the new tendrils of mist. "I think it's time for three to become one again."

"You're kidding! It would be unstoppable!"

"Yeah." He sighed, shaking his head. "I wish I'd never come to this school."

"I wish I'd never answered the ad in The Times." They were still gazing down at the goings-on beneath them, but all three creatures were invisible now, lost in the whirling mist. Alexander and the three surviving Prefects had also been absorbed. Gradually the mist was starting to take on a new shape; a new solidity. "Time's running out, isn't it."

"Not if I can help it." He was staring around, searching for something, and eventually settled on a large tank at the corner of the roof nearest to them. He ran to it, climbing up the rusted ladder set against the side.

"What are you doing?" The thunder still echoed above them, and was now rising to a greater volume than before. He could hardly hear her.

"It's the water tank for the library! It supplies all the washrooms inside!" He was leaning dangerously to one side, reaching for a valve meant for someone with far longer arms than his. The valve was as rusted as the ladder, and the latter began to move first. The valve cut into his palm.

"What are you going to do? Offer them a bath?" She ran to the bottom of the ladder, trying to steady it, but it was threatening to tear free from the tank altogether. He shook his head, still caught between fighting the valve and hanging on for dear life.

"No. You're going to turn it into Holy water."

"I am?" She frowned. "Er, Giles? I'm not a priest."

"You're the closest I've got. You're in the Salvation Army, aren't you? If this doesn't count as salvation I don't know what does."

"You've got a point." She scrambled up the ladder, passing him awkwardly, painfully aware that it was only the strength in his arms holding the ladder to the tank now. She climbed past him, up to where the tank stood open to the elements. Despite the recent hot weather it was almost full; countless gallons of water lying silent and still. She wiped the sweat from her eyes and breathed deep. "Okay, er… I…" She stopped, peering down at him. "Er, Giles? How do I do this?"

"How the bloody hell should I know?" He swallowed his irrational anger and frowned. "Pray over it. Ask for help. Just whatever you do, do it quickly!" He stole a look over his shoulder towards the piles of gathering black and white mist. It had formed into the shape of a new demon; a huge creature that threatened to be big enough to reach right up and snatch him from the roof. It was still growing, and he knew that it was just a matter of time before life was renewed in its veins. Somehow six storeys up no longer seemed safe enough.

"Okay." She closed her eyes, spreading her fingers above the water. "Er… As an officer in the Salvation Army, and, um, a - a servant of the Lord…" Her voice trailed off. It was the oddest time to get such a feeling, but she felt like a complete prat standing there intoning all this stuff. "I ask Him to bless this water, and purify it and--"

"Hurry up!" Giles shouted at her. She wobbled, and nearly fell in the tank.

"And I ask him to make it Holy and - and - and - well that's about it." She groaned. "If I was Him, I don't think I'd have listened to that."

"Let's be thankful you're just a teacher and not a god." He clenched his teeth, glanced up at her one final time, and took a long, deep breath. "Hold on tight."

"What are you going to do?"

"Just hold on!" With a burst of strength, using the last of his precious reserves of energy, he let go of the ladder and swung all of his weight onto the valve. He felt it strain, felt it slip, and then at last heard the stubborn rendering of metal. Even as he felt the valve and its supporting pipe give way, he saw the head of a huge demon emerge from beneath the roof. Two gigantic eyes stared at him, blazing yellow, and a mouth bigger than a cathedral door bared man-sized teeth. He heard a roar that could have drowned out any thunder, and saw an immense clawed fist moving towards him. At the very same moment, the pipe broke.

He fell hard, the drop less than he had thought it to be, but was painful nonetheless. Winded, he tried to struggle to his feet, but quite suddenly his feet could no longer find purchase on the roof. Water was pouring from the tank above his head, soaking him, soaking the roof, turning everything into a giant lake that threatened to sweep him over the edge and into that cavernous, waiting mouth.

The water hit the demon full in the face, knocking it back with a scream that echoed into the air. Onwards the water poured, and flame leapt skyward, erupting from the body of the massive creature beneath. Breathless, Giles watched, seeing black blood and fire burst into the air, fountaining up from the demon in torrents, like geysers from the very mouth of hell.

"You'll die for this!" Gasping the words out of its tortured mouth, the demon flailed its arms, trying to climb back to its feet. Giles managed a breathless grin.

"Not tonight Josephine."

"Giles!" Up above him Seaton was loosing her grip on the ruptured tank. He stared up, surprised to see her still up there.

"Hold on." Struggling to make his way through the knee-deep water he slipped and skidded his way over towards the tank. The ladder had gone of course, fallen away at the same time as him, lost over the edge of the roof now.

"I can't!" Her voice sounded desperate.

"Yes you can!" He climbed up onto the raised edge of the roof, grabbing hold of the bottom of the tank. From there he was sure he could climb the side of the tank, especially once he had got past the torrents of water. It was still comparatively sane up where Seaton clung on. There was no water there, no intermittent bursts of flame, no geysers of black blood or cloying mists.

"Giles!" With a shriek she fell, her body dropping past him. He reached out instinctively, grabbing her, holding on to her hands with one of his own. His other gripped the edge of the tank, but the metal was wet and slippery. Beneath him he could see the demon turning to ash, but the building was still shaking. The last of the creature's screams still hung in the air. The world was not yet back to rights.

"Hold on." He tried to grip her, but his hands were soaking wet. The tank was soaking wet, the roof was soaking wet. All about him were rivers of water, mixing with the blood of the demon. Seaton was wet too now, caught in the last of the waterfall still coming from the tank. Her hair was plastered to her head, and she coughed and choked for air as the torrent poured into her mouth.

"I - I can't. I can't keep hold." He could barely make out her words through the water, and through the last shrieks of the demon.

"Yes you can." His fingers were slipping even as he said the words, and he knew that he could not hold her for long. At any moment, he told himself; at any moment someone would wake up and come to his assistance; but he knew that they wouldn't. Nobody would come.

"Giles…" She was panting, gasping, trying to speak to assuage her own fears. "It's going to be alright. Everything's going to be alright. Tomorrow… it'll be like none of this ever happened. We'll talk. I - I can help you, you know. I - I can help you to get out of this mess you're in."

"Shut up and hold on." Her words annoyed him, reminding him that, despite all they had been through together, she was still a teacher. He could see the same things in her eyes as in all the other adults he knew. Judgements, assumptions, disapproval.

"It's not too late. I'm sure I can--"

"Shut up!" He was angry now; angry with her, with the water, with the night itself. "Just shut up!"

"Hold me!" Her hands slipped again, and now there was nothing left for him to hold onto but the tips of her fingers. Anguish showed on her face. He leaned towards her - and with a last, lingering scream she fell from the roof. He saw her face as she fell, and he wished that he could have saved her.

And he wished he knew for sure whether he'd tried.


The Christmas holidays came slowly, and for Giles the term stretched on. Staffordshire Hall was as steady as ever, unmoved by the events of that cataclysmic November night. Nobody noticed that six Prefects had disappeared without a trace; nobody seemed to remember that there had ever been a Quentin Forbes in Giles' own dormitory. Alexander Montgomery did not go entirely unmourned, for it seemed that the whole of his family had disappeared during the course of that night. The police suspected foul play, but it was the Fraud Squad that got called in. Rumour got back to the school that the Flying Squad was investigating a link with Middle Eastern terrorism. Giles would have laughed, had he not seen what had really happened; had he not been in the thick of it that night. Had he not been the one who had carried the blood-drained body of Quentin Forbes out of the library under cover of darkness, and buried it in the clearing in the forest where he had also buried the bones of the victims of Eliz. It had been quite an undertaking, but in the end he had settled for one large grave for the whole lot of them; except Gareth Hopkins. He got a grave of his own, with a rough wooden cross to sit on top of it.

The police investigated the death of Katherine Seaton, putting it down to suicide; or a freak accident given the flooding from the broken water tank; although what she had been doing on the library roof in the middle of the night was anybody's guess. Giles didn't bother trying to tell anyone. Nobody ever listened.

When the last day of term finally came, and Giles went for a last, lonely walk in the woods, he found his feet carrying him to the clearing where Eliz had made her home for two hundred years. The trees had thinned out since her death, and he was fairly sure that there would be wildlife there in the spring. The peace and quiet would be gone. It would be a blessed relief. He sat down on the flat patch of ground where his cage had stood, and leaned back to look up at the patches of blue sky. It was a beautiful day, although cold. December had come with an earnest, and there were the signs of a frost on the ground. He lit a cigarette, puffing clouds of smoke up into the air, and wished that it was something a little stronger than a normal shop's brand tobacco-and-nicotine affair. His most recent crop of cannabis wasn't ready yet.

"Pick your shoes up… Put that cigarette out… Can you please remove that earring before the Charnhams come." Quietly he muttered his mother's favourite instructions to himself, thinking with little relish about how soon he would be back with her again. As much as he hated school, he hated home more, and life with his mother was becoming unbearable. There was always something for her to complain about, and nothing he ever did was good enough; not that he ever tried to do anything good. It was so hard to practice his magic at home, where he got an interrogation every time he stepped out of the house. The confines of his bedroom were no good either; at least, not for the kind of magic he was interested in. Last summer had been about that; about breaking free and trying to find somewhere where he could live alone, and do what he wanted to do; but it had ended in disaster, with supernatural interference and the death of his girlfriend in a house fire. Not the best start to his life of independence. He grinned to himself and climbed to his feet. Hell, there was always next time.

"Happy Christmas Mum," he muttered to the trees, and as he turned to walk away a small piece of paper fluttered across the ground in the light breeze. One train ticket, open return. Without looking back Giles strode away through the woods, heading off into the middle of nowhere. It was starting to snow, but he didn't care. He had his leather jacket to keep him warm. He wondered where he would wind up this time, and grinned to himself. Did it matter? It would end the same way as always; with an angry display from the Watcher Hierarchy, tears from his mother, and a virtual armed guard back to school at the beginning of next term. Still - there was nothing like tradition; and with a spring in his step and the Headmaster's wallet in his pocket, he set off to find his next adventure.

And in the darkness of hell a new demon was born.