The flames crackled merrily in the dining room hearth, and the soft music of Brahms filtered slowly through the walls of the great house. Smoke from the fireplace drifted through the halls, floating up the stairs, wreathing the huge old chandeliers with fingers of transient lace. Someone coughed. The music grew louder, not quite covering the vague sound of laughter that came from the cellar stairs.

"Incy Wincy Spider…" sang the falsetto voice of Deirdre Page, just breaking through above the noise of the classical music on the radio. She was playing with a glass tank full of spiders, watching her favourite Black Widow devour a common garden spider which had strayed too close. The leaves in one corner of the tank moved in time to her singing, suggesting that the red-kneed tarantula was also awake. It didn't do much, which had been a disappointment to her at first, until she had realised that it had laid a whole clutch of eggs. She was rather hoping that there would be an epic battle soon - Willow the Black Widow against Titania the Tarantula.

"Turn that bloody racket off." Thomas Sutcliff's muffled voice came faintly from the other side of the cellar, where he had collapsed in a heap behind one of the massive, worm-eaten old wine racks. His head was covered with a pile of old sacks in a vague attempt to keep out the noise. "Some of us are dying back here."

"You'd miss your own funeral with a hangover." The shadowy form of Randall James gave him a hefty kick to the shin. "Get up and look lively. It's daylight, and I want some breakfast."

"Then go make it." Thomas pulled the sacks off his head and blinked blearily up at his confederate. Randall had changed a lot in recent weeks. At one time he would never have made such a demand of one of his fellows.

"I told you to go and make it." Randall heaved Thomas to his feet, but footsteps on the cellar floor made him halt. He turned his head. Deirdre stood close by, a large spider balanced on one hand. It crawled idly around her wrist as she glared at Randall.

"You can make us breakfast," she told him. "Let Thomas go."

"Who died and made you Ethan?" Randall pushed roughly past her, and she had to turn her attention to her spider. It clung gamely on, apparently unconcerned by the shaking, and turned its multitude of beady eyes to look after the retreating figure. Deirdre smiled down at it.

"Don't worry. He's only feeling bad 'cause he had a rough time last night." She deposited the creature back in its case, where it was immediately set upon by another of its kind. Deirdre watched the battle with a detached interest. "We told them, didn't we," she whispered to her pets. "We warned them not to try a summoning without Giles and Ethan. But they wouldn't listen, and it all went wrong."

"We don't need them." The vehemence in Thomas' words surprised her, and she forgot all about her spiders to turn and look at him instead. "They walked out on us two days ago without so much as a warning, and we don't even know whether they're coming back. So if we want to summon demons we can. We bloody well don't need Ethan to be here calling the shots."

"Of course not. All you did was nearly kill Philip; it's not as if anything major happened. London will never know how close half of it came to being dragged down into the depths of hell, but what's half a capital city amongst friends." She tapped Thomas on the chest. "How is Philip?"

"See for yourself." They crossed the cellar together, to where the smoke-blackened body of their friend lay. Philip Henry was not a large man, and his thin body seemed even more so in the gloom. He opened his eyes at their approach, blinking up at them through flickering eyelids.

"Is it morning?" he asked them. Thomas nodded, and hauled him to his feet.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm still alive." Philip gripped his head with his hands, forcibly turning it from right to left, as though making sure that it was still attached. "At least I think I am. My head isn't convinced."

"Convince it. Giles and Ethan will be back soon, and they won't want to see you looking like this." Her voice devoid of sympathy, Deirdre ran her hands over her companion's head, studiously avoiding Thomas' eyes. After the violent arguments which had led to the departure of her two friends, she had no real reason to expect them back at all, let alone soon. Somehow though, she knew that they would be back. Randall's harsh words were not reason enough for them to leave for good. She abandoned her thoughts to mutter a few words over Philip's throbbing skull. "How's that?"

"Better." He stared at her, his eyes hooded with shadow. "I saw it all, you know. When the creature grabbed me, I saw it all. I saw the darkness, the despair… I felt the terror. It clawed at my soul." He ran a dry tongue over his lips. "Any chance of a drink?"

"Randall's making breakfast." Thomas helped him to walk. "Think you can make it to the stairs?"

"Sure. So long as there's nothing with claws and a forked tail lurking at the top." He looked around suddenly. "What happened to the girls?"

"Girls?" Thomas sounded genuinely perplexed. "Oh yeah. The girls you brought home last night." He shrugged. "Randall needed a little something for the summoning. Don't worry about it. I doubt they felt much pain."

"He gave them to the demon?" Philip's eyes strayed back down the cellar steps, looking towards the pentagram which had been drawn on the stone floor in red chalk. "But they were just kids. I saw that thing. I saw what it does with its victims. How could he--"

"Forget it, Philip." Thomas's hand squeezed his shoulder, with just a little too much force to be entirely friendly. "They were old enough to come here. They were over eighteen."

"I suppose." With a sigh Philip managed a shaky smile. "I suppose Randall knew what had to be done. And it was pretty spectacular before it all got out of hand."

"Exactly." Thomas grinned at him, steering him towards the kitchen. "So don't let's hear any more about it. Soon as its dark again, we'll bury what's left in the garden. It's no concern of ours. Not any more."

"We hope." Deirdre smiled at them, looking oddly girlish and innocent as she fluttered her eyelids in mock flirtation. "I think I smell the sweet fragrance of charred bacon. Shall we go and have breakfast before Randall sets the kitchen alight?"

"I don't know that I can face breakfast." Philip looked uncertainly towards the kitchen. "My stomach still thinks it's in the next dimension." The rattle of the door handle in the main hall made him turn his head nervously, almost as if he expected the demon of last night to descend upon him from the front porch. Thomas laughed at him, pushing past to go to the door himself.

"Relax," he said, his voice brimming with unspoken putdowns. "It's only Ethan and the Ripper." The door opened as the words formed in his mouth, and Ethan Rayne, leader of the group, glared at him.

" 'Only Ethan?' " he mocked. "Thanks a bunch." His eyes surveyed the group with their usual, slightly superior, gaze. "What's been going on here? You look like you went three rounds with Godzilla. Deirdre?"

"We were only playing." She wandered over towards him, putting an arm around his shoulders, then peered around the doorframe. "Hey Giles."

"Deirdre." The young renegade Watcher, looking for all the world like a refugee from a bad teen hooligan movie, puffed a stream of smoke at her from the cigarette in his mouth. "Eggs hatched yet?"

"No. Can't be long yet." She slid an arm through his, pulling him past Ethan and towards the kitchen. "Come and have some breakfast. Randall's cooking."

"In that case I'll pass." Giles' coldly observant eyes drifted over the group standing in the hallway. "Ethan's right. You lot do look like hell. What's been going on?"

"Nothing." Thomas looked sulky. Philip just looked ill. Ethan stormed up to him, shaking him hard. The bleary eyes of the student dropout blinked uncertainly back at him, singed eyelashes batting irregularly up and down.

"We just tried out a little summoning Ethan. It was nothing." He smiled. "Things got a little out of hand."

"A summoning?" This time Ethan's voice was so cold that it carried shades of an Arctic intensity. "We're gone less than two days and already you're starting to act like amateurs? What the hell got into you? We had an agreement."

"We got bored." Thomas sounded more mutinous than ever. "Why the hell should we sit around the house and wait for you to get back from wherever it was you went to, when we've got a book full of spells we haven't tried yet?" He took a step closer to Rayne, staring into his eyes. "It was just a summoning. We handled it."

"Just about." Deirdre, still draped all over Giles, grinned back at the others from the doorway to the kitchen. Tendrils of smoke wreathed her in white, and fingers of the stuff tangled themselves in her hair. The smell of charred bacon and eggs was disturbingly strong. "The demon wasn't happy about being at our beck and call, and he got a little shirty. Randall had to feed it Philip's dinner guests to make it go home. And even then it wasn't satisfied, and it tried to take Philip along too." She leant her head on Giles' shoulder. "It was rather an anticlimax in the end. Can we try something else tonight Ethan? A proper summoning?"

"You summoned a demon, and fed it outsiders?" Pushing Deirdre away from him with a violent shove, Giles turned on Thomas. "Are you crazy? We're a unit. We do things together, the six of us. We're anointed as a group. We're known to the spirit world as a group. If you go trying to do things alone now you risk destroying our unity." He spat the cigarette from his mouth, grinding it into the hall carpet with the heel of one shoe. "Who were these 'dinner guests' that it ran away with?"

"Just a couple of girls I ran into at a night club." Philip sounded extremely subdued. "We were a little drunk, and I asked them back here. I thought we could use them for a few spells… You know… Something to make them a little more amenable… a little more obliging… But Randall suggested the summoning instead. It sounded cool. It's okay, nobody saw us coming here. We can bury them later. Nobody's ever going to find them in the garden, and two more out there's hardly going to make any difference."

"Nobody saw you coming here, huh. But how many people saw you laving the night club together?" Giles sighed, sounding disgusted. "Man, we leave you alone for less than forty-eight hours, and we come home to find that you're ready to throw away everything we've been working towards. That book is powerful. You got that? It's full of spells that could destroy the world, if they're used wrong - or even if they're used right. You can't go flashing it around to impress girls." He turned away from them, disappearing into the kitchen. Angry, Thomas pursued him, and the others followed. Randall glared at them all.

"If you want breakfast you'll have to keep out of my way." He was busy cracking eggs into a smouldering saucepan full of burnt milk and barely ground peppercorns. Giles' own glare was frosty enough to make him falter, and he stepped away from the oven, leaving the egg mixture to bubble itself into a merciful oblivion.

"We were small fry," Giles was saying, leaning against the large windows that led to the kitchen garden. "We were just a bunch of wannabes trying to make our mark, remember? Then out of the blue comes this book with spells in it that could get us everything we want - or destroy us on the way. We agreed to take it steady. We agreed to be sure we knew what we were doing. What's the point in making your way to the threshold of destiny, only to destroy yourself before you can take the final step?" He lit another cigarette from the flaming mass that had been Randall's attempt at breakfast. Already the saucepan was on fire, although nobody made any move to quench the flames. "I won't have my big chance ruined by a bunch of cloth-headed morons who are more interested in impressing a couple of girls than they are in getting a shot at real power." A cloud of cigarette smoke pushed its way upward as he blew out a long breath. "Me and Ethan have been killing ourselves these past months, try to prepare for what's due, and you jeopardise all of it. And for what? A mischief demon? A creature supposed to give you riches? Which one was it, huh?" His voice was thick with contempt. "Feraci? Telerak? Polakor?"

Thomas shuffled his feet, finally beginning to look contrite. "It was Liachor," he said at length, putting some rebellion into his voice. Clearly he resented Giles' assertion that he had tried to summon one of the lesser demons. "We overestimated our abilities, Ripper. It's not like you've never done the same thing."

"Oh cut it out, all of you." Pushing Giles aside to reach the now blazing saucepan, Randall held it under the tap for a full minute to quell its rage. For the briefest of seconds he wished that he could do the same thing to Giles. "Look, you two have just got back; and don't think we're going to forget how you just walked out on us, so don't try all those speeches about unity in here, Ripper." Fuming eyes burned in his direction, but he kept on. "The day's only just begun. What the hell are we arguing for? We've been at each other's throats for the last month, and it's getting us nowhere." He slammed the soaking saucepan down on the table. "There. Breakfast."

There was a silence, as all five of his companions peered dubiously into the pan. Its contents were no longer recognisable, and the pan itself was barely so. A blackened mass of egg and other, unidentifiable ingredients smoked gently from the centre of a lake of tap water, itself smutted with soot. As though to complete the spread there was a coughing noise from the oven, and with a whoosh of flame that reached briefly to the ceiling, the grill caught fire. This time it was Ethan who played fireman. He peered down at what remained of a pack of bacon, and raised his eyebrows at Randall.

"Correct me if I'm wrong," he said, with ponderous emphasis, "but didn't you used to be a chef?"

"Yeah." Randall took the grill, and prodded at a few strips of the bacon. It crumbled into chunky ash. "There's nothing wrong with that. Perfectly edible."

"Didn't anybody ever tell you that you don't crack eggs into a saucepan? You're supposed to fry them in a frying pan. That's what frying pans are for." Scraping egg residue off the inside of the mangled saucepan, Deirdre winced noticeably. It was all reminiscent of some of her more inadvisable potions, during the early months of her attempt to become a witch.

"Well thankyou Fanny Bloody Craddock. As it happens I wasn't frying them, I was scrambling them. Hence the milk." He shrugged. "If you people don't know cordon bleu cookery when you see it it's not my fault. I shall retire to the nearest coffee house. Alone."

"Don't bother." Deirdre waved her hands above the saucepan and the grill, and in seconds the smell of bacon and eggs filled the room. Randall raised an eyebrow.

"And you couldn't have done that earlier?" he asked her. She smiled up at him.

"I'm an artist. I need motivation." She sat down at the table. "Is somebody going to serve out?"

They ate together, avoiding the topic of recently summoned demons, and even more recently dead girls. An air of tension hung over the table, not yet dispersed even by the antics around the oven, and again it was Randall who tackled it first. He swung his legs up onto the table, landing his feet heavily in the middle of Philip's recently cleared plate. A chunk of broken china skimmed across the table and hit the floor with a thud. Philip jumped, violently.

"We've got to talk," Randall announced to the room in general. Ethan glared at him.

"Who made you chairman?"

"I did." The young man sat up straight, lighting up one of his pre-rolled cigarettes, from the stash he kept under the table. The smell of cannabis filled the room, mingling gently with bacon and eggs, and the still-present odour of burnt food. "Listen, we've got problems and it's about time we admitted to it. We set out to achieve something together, and so far we've achieved bugger all. We argue more now than when we first met. Six months ago you wouldn't've given a damn if we'd summoned half the demons in hell, and yet now we're getting the third degree over it. If we're going to be who we want to be, we've got to get some things straight. Such as where do you two get off storming in here after disappearing for two days, yelling at us for doing what we've always done?"

"Okay. Enough." Ethan sighed, scuffing his shoes absently on the floor. "I get your point, and I'm sorry. Things have been fraught, that's all. I didn't mean to bite any heads off when I came back today; it's just that you don't understand. There could well be a lot at stake just at the moment. There's stirrings in the netherworld. The Slayer died last night."

"No kidding?" Thomas gave a whistle. "Boy, no wonder old Liachor got frisky. So does this mean it's like a big free-for-all out there right now? Teacher's left the class to play?"

"Something like that. For a little while." Ethan leaned back, hands behind his head. "The next Slayer is always ready to move forward and take up her position, naturally, but the new one will need a bit of time to settle into her new post. Paranormal incidents are likely to go up by as much as twenty-five percent over the next couple of nights. This is just the kind of big opportunity we've been waiting for."

"So was it really just coincidence that you two went off right before she died?" Deirdre folded her arms, fixing her leader with a dark, almost hypnotic stare.

"Yeah." Randall's grin was almost lascivious. "Did you waste her?" Ethan raised his eyebrows, and it was Giles who eventually answered.

"It wasn't exactly unforeseen, if that's what you're getting at. But it wasn't us, no. She died in battle with a vampire, as part of a trap set up several days ago."

"By some demon whose name I'm not even going to try to pronounce," finished Ethan. "Ripper found a prophecy in the back of that Majick And Mysterye book he's had his nose stuck in for the last month. We needed a change of scenery, and we figured we'd take a trip, see what was happening. Maybe catch the show."

"Something like that." Something in Giles' voice suggested that his reasons for going had been different to Ethan's, although he did not elaborate. "Look, the details are unimportant. All that matters right now is that, to all intents and purposes, the world is Slayerless tonight. I don't plan on missing out on this opportunity so I'd appreciate it if we could try to forget about our differences for a little while." He pulled a few sheets of old parchment from inside his jacket and threw them onto the table. "Spells. Major spells, that Ethan found hidden in the cover of the book. You may have done us some good after all, with everything that you got up to last night. Those two dead girls might be just what we're looking for."

"Reanimation?" Deirdre looked positively reanimated herself. "Cool. The demon didn't leave a whole lot, though. We're talking scraps mostly."

"Shouldn't be a problem." Giles sorted through the ancient sheets, handling them with an almost spiritual reverence - if it could be said that any occupant of the house was capable of behaving spiritually. "Here. It hints that limbs might work as well as complete beings. Do we have at least one head?"

"I think if we talk in terms of general equipment, we can probably scrape together one whole one, yeah." Randall grinned, tipping his head back as he puffed smoke ceiling-ward. "Is this gonna be messy? 'Cause I never did like the sight of blood." He smirked at his own joke, which the others had tactfully ignored. There seemed to be few things in life that Randall James enjoyed more than the sight of blood; other people's at least.

"We don't need to stick the pieces together." Giles held up a piece of parchment, showing it to Deirdre. "Can you handle this?"

"Sage, digitalis, dandelion root, watercress - watercress? Are we reanimating corpses or making them a mixed salad?" She shrugged. "Yeah, we've got most of that growing in the garden. I don't have any sage personally, but one of the neighbours does. I've been borrowing stuff from her herb garden for a month now, and she hasn't objected yet."

"No?" Thomas grinned. "See, not everybody objects to having a witch next door."

"She did actually. She turned out to be a practising Catholic, actually believed in ghosts and witches and demons and the like. I really thought she was going to turn out to be a problem." Deirdre folded the piece of parchment away like a shopping list, and rose to her feet. Clearly she was going to begin gathering her ingredients immediately. "Just as well she died, really."

"Did we kill her?" Ethan asked the question sleepily, as though he could not really care much either way. Deirdre frowned.

"No. Strangest thing. It was about a month back, just around the time that Chief Inspector Wilkes died? Well I was out one morning stealing herbs, and she was lying in her garden, dead as you please, with a couple of holes in her neck. Blood all gone, very unpleasant. I did think 'vampire'. Meant to mention it, Giles. Must have slipped my mind."

"No problem. It's not exactly my particular area of giving a damn." He frowned. "What did you do?"

"Staked her, just to make sure, and buried her in the herb garden. I'm hoping that next season's crop will be showing some marked improvements with her… input." The witch beamed around the table. "I'll be back in a tick."

"Jolly good. Might as well get things started." Giles rose to his feet, slapping Randall's feet off the table. "Come on. Show me those girls. I need to know if they'll be enough on their own, or if we have to dip into our private stash out back."

"There isn't anything near fresh enough out back. I haven't put anybody there in weeks." Randall grinned his lazy, unpleasant grin. "I'll go get us something nice and new if we need it."

"No you bloody well won't." Stirring himself into action, Ethan snatched Randall's cigarette in order to light his own, then headed towards the door. "I won't have all of my work jeopardised by some bloodthirsty lout with a hacksaw fetish. One of these days you're going to bring the cops raining down on this place."

"We'll have cleared out long before that happens." Randall's tone of voice was as arrogant and as insolent as always, but there was a glimmer of rebellion in his eyes. Sometimes it hurt to be ordered around by people like Ethan and Giles, and Randall had had just about enough of it. It had all been very well in the early days, when they had spent their time in a fog of marijuana smoke and a haze of alcohol-induced madness, fighting with the local street gangs and dealing out their own special brand of violence. Times had changed now, and the rest of the group were losing themselves in magic - complex, dark magic, that left Randall on the sidelines. He was a hooligan, not a sorcerer. Not for him were rituals and spells and mystical castings. He wanted a quick fix of cold, sweet violence. He had thought that the Ripper was with him in that - but maybe he had been wrong.

"Just forget it." Giles pushed past him, wandering out into the corridor. "Are these girls in the cellar?"

"Yeah." Thomas followed him, taking the lead as they reached the cellar steps. Randall wandered along in the rear, looking moody. "It's not a very pretty sight."

"And you really think that's going to bother me." With all his usual display of the social graces, Giles pushed past again, clomping down the steps in the semi-darkness. There was a smell of blood in the cellar; a cloying smell that no amount of cleaning had as yet been able to get rid of. Not all of the blood was human, and not all if it was fresh. For all of their tough talk and unpleasant behaviour, the gang were not murderers - but accidents happened, as the previous night had testified. Giles slapped at the light switch on the wall by his head, filling the room with a pale, watery yellow glow that only added to the eerie atmosphere. He stared around at the roughly-scrawled chalk pentagram, and noted the splashes of blood.

"What a mess. Did you even try to do this properly?"

"Of course we bloody did." Pushing past the others just as Giles himself had done, Randall stomped on down the steps, his heavy boots clattering on the stone. "Quit talking to us like we're idiots, Ripper. We know what we're doing, same as you do."

"Okay. Lighten up." Giles turned away to look back towards the shadows, but Randall caught his arm.

"Don't turn away from me, dammit. What is it, huh? Do you think we're all stupid? Do you think we're not as good at this as you are? 'Cause you're Rupert Giles, and you were raised to be a Watcher, with all your books and your knowledge and the rest of that trash. Well you're not as hot as you think you are, Ripper."

"I said, lighten up." Giles' voice was soft, and he did not seem to have moved at all; but when Randall looked down he found the blade of a flick-knife pressed against his chest. Its sharp point had already cut through the cloth, and as he watched he felt its cold touch on his skin. Its presence was insistent; threatening, despite the friendship that was supposed to exist between the pair.

"If you were going to use that thing on me, Giles, you'd have done it six months ago." Somehow Randall did not sound convinced. He stepped away, and went straight back up the steps, lingering for a second in the doorway at the top. "I just want you to know that I've had it with being pushed around by the rich boy runaway and his Oxford dropout thug. Got it?" With that as his parting shot he was gone. Ethan stared after him.

"What's got into him?"

"Boredom." As far as Giles was concerned, that was an explanation for anything. He apparently gave the matter no further thought, instead turning back to his search. "Where am I looking, exactly?"

"Under some sacks." Sounding uncertain, as though unnerved by Randall's outburst, Thomas pointed vaguely. Giles followed his directions, coming eventually to a pile of sacks in one corner of the room. A wine-rack had fallen partially over the heap, hiding it almost entirely, and he tugged the rotting pieces of wood clear. It was almost possible to believe that the bodies had been hidden years ago, rather than just a few hours previously, as was the reality.

"They were quite pretty," Thomas said in mild recollection, as the threesome stood by the newly resurfaced pile of sacks. Giles shot him a distant smile.

"It's a little late for compliments." He tugged the sacks clear.

Beneath lay a mass of blood and flesh that was scarcely recognisable as ever having been human. A mangled torso rested on the top of a gruesome pile of body parts, mostly coloured a dead fish-scale grey. Clotted blood covered everything, hanging in heavy globules that were frozen in the attempt of dripping earthward. Jagged pieces of torn skin hung loose, trailing on the floor, and one lone eyeball, headless, lay on the stone tiles. A piece of eyelid still clung to it, giving the oddest impression of a sly, knowing wink. Ethan raised his eyebrows.

"Talk about playing mix-and-match. Are you really sure this is going to work?"

"We don't have to assemble a fully-working beauty queen from this little lot. The spell will handle most of it for us." Giles used his foot to turn over the pile. He could see at least two hands that seemed to be in fairly good condition. "She's not going to be the perfect dinner-date, but if she walks and talks we're on our way."

"On our way to what?" Thomas sounded faintly suspicious, and Giles glanced towards him in surprise. Thomas stood his ground. "You know what I mean. You two are up to something. You vanish in the middle of the night, you come back with talk of the Slayer's death, prophecies hidden in some bizarre book half the demons in hell are supposed to want to lay their hands on - and all of a sudden it's reanimated corpses and meaningful glances. This whole arrangement smacks of secret agendas, and I want to know what's going on."

"Are you siding with Randall in this?" Giles still had his flick-knife in his hand, and although he didn't point it at the other man, there was the clear hint of a threat in his stance. Thomas blanched noticeably. Randall might make out that he was not afraid of the Ripper, but Thomas had no time for similar pretences.

"No." He tried to look determined. "But we all know that you're up to something. So why don't you just come clean?"

"Not my style, Tom." Giles flashed him a grin that was pure arrogance and intimidation. "Go and help Deirdre pick her salad vegetables, and we'll talk about this later."

Thomas folded his arms. "We'll talk about this now."

"No, we'll talk about it later." Ethan's arm slid around his old friend's shoulders. "I may be just a rich boy runaway, and the Ripper here might well be nothing but an Oxford dropout thug, but we are still in charge here. Understood?" He leaned a little closer, his voice dropping to a gentle whisper. "And we intend to enforce our authority where necessary. Run along Thomas. There's a good boy." Thomas went, without further encouragement. Ethan laughed.

"What a bunch. You know, sometimes it's hard to understand why I had the hopes for them that I did. Maybe Deirdre could be good, if she'd apply herself a little more. The others are a complete washout."

"We need them." Giles put away his flick-knife and crouched beside the remains of the two dead girls. He tugged a tattered arm loose from the pile and winced. "This really is revolting, you know."

"Don't you start going soft on me, Ripper." Ethan took the arm, waving it in grim salutation at his friend. "You always did have a worrying tendency to start getting sentimental. Keep it in check."

"Certainly, Mon Capitan." Giles clicked his heels and turned back to the pile. A brief rummage produced the blood-soaked remnants of most of a head. The top of the skull was missing, but providing their corpse didn't fancy doing too many handstands, that didn't necessarily need to be much of a concern. He tossed the head to Ethan.

"If you want to get ahead…" Ethan grinned. "Sorry. Bad joke."

"Old joke, Ethan. Really old. The guy in charge of the guillotines in Revolutionary France probably thought that one deserved to go into retirement." They assembled their growing collection of pieces into a roughly human-shaped arrangement on the floor, close to the centre of the pentagram. There were only one and a half feet, and several fingers were unrecoverable, but between the two bodies there was enough left to give them all of the major body parts. "What do you think?"

"I think we're nuts." Ethan dug into his pocket, taking out a small black leather case. "I'll get the next step done; you go upstairs and get the others sorted."

"On my way." Giles was almost bouncy as he went to the foot of the stairs. "Did you really mean what you said, Ethan? Do you really think that we should leave the rest of the gang behind?" There was a silence, and eventually Ethan shrugged.

"Who knows. Let's see how this little experiment goes, okay? It may be that come tonight we won't have any need of the others anymore anyhow." He pulled a piece of paper from his shirt pocket, and studied it intently. "Now get a move on. I'll be finished here in just a tick."

"I'm on it." Giles ran up the steps and disappeared. Ethan opened his leather case, peering at the vials of blood carefully arranged inside. Their contents were dark with the promise of coagulation, but as he extracted one of the vials its contents still moved freely. He opened it carefully, and crouched down by the nearest point of the pentagram. Back hunched, he set to work.


Randall and Thomas were in the kitchen, commiserating together over a bottle of newly distilled vodka. It was a particularly potent home-made brew, liable to strip the enamel off one's teeth without prior warning, and Giles recognised the signs. Brooding rebellion. He caught the bottle off the table and headed for the sink.

"Hey!" Randall threw himself after the bottle, catching Giles' arm. "What the hell do you think you're doing with that?"

"Saving you from the demon drink?" Giles grinned, one of his favourite, particularly insulting grins. "Look at you. You call yourself a danger to society, but you wouldn't be a danger to the Cheltenham Ladies College lacrosse team right now. Sober up. Ethan wants us all down in the cellar."

"Then Ethan can want all he likes." Randall made another grab for the bottle, and this time he succeeded in pulling it out of his companion's grasp. "I'm staying here, with my bottle, for a little drink. And Thomas is staying too."

"Er… yeah. I am." Thomas didn't sound convinced. Giles shook his head.

"You're hopeless, the pair of you. Me and Ethan busted our guts to try and get you lot somewhere, and the minute we turn our backs for a couple of days you turn back into what you were before. Drunken scum."

"You take that back." Randall threw the bottle across the table, aiming roughly for Thomas' waiting hands but missing entirely. He grabbed Giles by the shirt front. "You think you're really tough, don't you. You like to think you're some major magician with attitude. The dropout with a destiny. Well you're not, Ripper. You're just like the rest of us. You're the sort of person society reckoned they could get along without - a kid playing tough guy in the streets because he figures that's got to be more fun than trying to live a proper life. You wave that flick-knife around, and the rest of the street scum run for cover. But not me. I'm not scared of you, Ripper. Not anymore." He let go of the other man's clothing, pushing him abruptly away. Giles slammed hard into the counter, almost losing his footing.

"So I like to play at being a tough guy, do I?" He smiled, no longer the smile of the arrogant. Instead it was the smile of the dangerously refined. His words turned themselves to point at Thomas, even though his eyes did not leave Randall. "You wanted to know why Ethan and I went off? And you wanted to know what we've been up to the last couple of days? Well maybe it's time I told you." His smile became a grin full of gleeful threats. "I was reading that book. It's a big, dark book, full of big, dark secrets; and just like you said, half the demons in hell would like to get their claws into it. But they don't have it. I do." This time his smile was oddly innocent; boyish almost. "I found a prophecy of the Slayer's demise, and I went to warn her. I used to know her. We were friends once, and I knew her better than anyone; knew I could get her to listen - maybe come with me. Imagine that - us, with the Slayer in our pockets." For a second there was pain in his eyes, and his voice was tinged with the strain of bitterness. "But we were too late, and the prophecy was inaccurate. She died in Paris as I stood waiting for her in Sussex…" There was hesitation written on his face, and he seemed to need a moment to gather his thoughts. "But now one plan's failed, I intend to turn it about and make it into another plan instead. The Slayer's death might be just the break we've been looking for. Ethan found something in that book too - the instructions on the raising of a demon more powerful than any you've ever encountered. A demon to make your pathetic conjurings look like the work of a nursery class." He caught Randall by the shirtfront. "A demon so strong, so intense, so filled with the power of hell that he could turn the heart of an angel into a bubbling pit of filth." By now his eyes were no more than a few inches from Randall's own. "A demon to make your blood run cold, to freeze your heart."

"Words." Randall tried to turn away in a demonstration of disgust, but Giles was too strong for him. "Get off me Giles. Go back to your books and your learning. Go and be a proper little Watcher, and leave the real business to the rest of us."

"That's enough." In the blink of an eye the fires ignited within the Ripper. His muscles tensed, and Randall found himself flying back against the wall. He looked up, for a brief instant, into the blazing green eyes above him; then the cold steel of the flick-knife was against his throat.

"Giles…" Thomas did not sound particularly moved by any great desire to save Randall's life. "Come on, man. He didn't mean any disrespect." Giles' head snapped around with bone-shaking speed, and his fearsome glare took in the other man as well. The flick-knife pressed harder, and Randall felt a drop of blood well up, trickling its way down his neck. He closed his eyes. He wanted to speak, but he didn't dare. Even breathing seemed to carry a very real risk of cutting his own throat.

"Ethan wants you down in the cellar." There were new footsteps on the kitchen floor now, and Randall couldn't shake the feeling that it was the sudden arrival of their owner which had saved him, more than Thomas' words or a sudden change of heart from Giles. Slowly the pressure on his throat decreased and he straightened up. Without another word he stormed from the room. After a second, Thomas followed.

"Is everything alright?" Alone in the room now with Giles, Deirdre's voice was surprisingly gentle. He glanced up at her. For a second she received the full force of his glare, then gradually his temper subsided. He smiled.

"Everything's fine. Thankyou."

"Why don't I believe you?" She was trying to sound firm, almost motherly, but her presence made him smile. She looked so strange, dressed in heavy boots and gardening gloves, holding neatly tied bunches of assorted greenery. Not the usual image of a witch. She caught his smile and frowned.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing." He took the bunches. "Sorry you had to see that. We had a little misunderstanding, that's all. I guess it's been brewing for a while now."

"Randall's been acting weird for ages. Every time we have a run-in with something not-of-this-world, he seems to loose another handhold on his sanity. Don't let it get to you." Her nonchalance was infectious, and Giles found himself smiling again.

"I've got kind of used to having him around. He's been a useful member of the team."

"So's the purple candle I use to light my ceremonial herbs. That doesn't mean it's not replaceable." She took his hand. "Come on. I thought you needed these things right away."

"I do." Giles allowed her to lead him from the room, but as she did so his eyes travelled to the flick-knife still in his hand. Slowly he reached out, and as they walked past the shelf by the kitchen door he put the knife down onto it. It lay there, hidden by a plant pot of home-grown cannabis, and he turned his eyes away. Suddenly he didn't want to look at it any more.


"What exactly are we waiting for that's so spectacular?" Randall's voice sounded jaded. Ethan ignored him. He glanced up towards the cellar door, nodding a greeting to Giles.

"Everything sorted?"

"Doors are locked, windows are shut, there's a key blocking every keyhole." He grinned his oddly boyish grin. "Just to be on the safe side."

"Great." Setting aside his vials of congealing blood, Ethan took the collection of proffered, freshly-picked greenery and arranged it in the centre of the pentagram. The dead stalks of the foxglove burst into flower.

"Cool." Philip reached out to touch the flowers, but withdrew his hand almost immediately. "They're hot."

"They bloomed in the mouth of hell. What did you expect?" Ethan gestured about. "Take a seat everybody. Our guest is waiting."

"Her?" Deirdre peered down at the faintly revolting collection of dead body parts, assembled in a gruesome caricature of life amidst the garden plants. "Whatever you say."

"Oh ye of little faith." Ethan's smile was sardonic.

"Who are we summoning?" Philip sounded enthusiastic, which was enough in itself to earn him a look of disgust from Randall. He didn't back down. "Do we have to do anything?"

"It's all already done." Ethan gestured about them, to the designs he had painted on the floor with the blood from his vials. All the designs were identical, like curious, twisted tridents that had tied themselves in knots. There was an identical design on the forehead of the makeshift dead body, which looked rather as if it had been cut in with a razor blade. Ethan moved to take his place in the circle formed by his friends, as one by one they joined hands to create a circle within the pentagram.

"What's the watercress for?" Deirdre asked him, in a stage-whisper. He glared her into silence.

"Are we all ready?" he asked. Philip nodded enthusiastically. Thomas tried to look cool. Giles and Deirdre both gave him a short, sharp nod, and Randall gave his best look of bored acquiescence. Ethan closed his eyes. "Good." His brow creased in concentration, and as his mind sent out focussing waves, the rest of the group closed their eyes. Ethan began to chant.

He spoke in Latin, intermingled with Greek. He spoke in a language that none of his friends save Giles had heard before. He spoke in a harsh, guttural tongue that had no name at all. In the heart of the pentagram, the foxglove flowers caught fire.

He spoke onward, words of English mixing with the other languages. Giles joined in, adding his voice to the chorus. He spoke in the unfamiliar words of a long-dead language no longer understood by anyone left alive on Earth. He spoke words learned by rote from an ancient spell book, the meaning long lost, even the name of language itself unknown to living man. It was a language that the most learned of Watchers would not have recognised. The design cut into the head of the corpse on the floor began to glow. Around the pentagram, the painted designs glowed in answer. A soft, red light rose from the bunches of greenery arranged around the corpse, and for the briefest of seconds, life sparked back into the dead eyes. The living fear of an eighteen year-old girl flashed, startlingly bright, in eyes that had once been blue; then the features of the face began to ripple and blur. The torn mouth formed into a last, desperate shriek, which remained forever silent. Then slowly the corpse sat up.

"Who calls me?" The voice was very deep and very hoarse, as though long unused. Ethan opened one eye.

"Er… my friends and I do." He wasn't sure why, but his own voice sounded very small, very hesitant. Giles' eyes snapped open, and the corpse turned to look at him.

"Why do you call me?" it asked.

"To help us. To answer our questions." The Watcher broke the circle of joined hands, in order to step forward into the heart of the pentagram. The soft red light illuminated his features with a look as demonic as anything that burned within the corpse. At such close quarters he could see the places where the demon's own powers were holding loose pieces of the body together; pieces that would collapse into just so many spare parts once the possession was over.

"You are not properly anointed." The corpse cocked its head on one side. Giles nodded.

"We don't intend to be your apprentices until we're sure it's what we want." His voice was firm. The corpse laughed.

"You think you can get me on a ten-day trial, human?" A dead hand reached out, grabbing Giles by the throat. "You take me within you. You take me into your soul. Otherwise you are nothing but insects to be crushed."

"Not true actually." Ethan also stepped forward, the dancing red lights flashing in his eyes like the lights of a disco. "We summoned you. You have to do as we tell you until the possession ends. We haven't given you life. We've just given you a temporary hold here. That's what the herbs and things are for, and you know it as well as we do. You can't leave the pentagram."

"Human fools." The corpse pushed Giles away, sending him flying back across the room with the barest of effort. "You don't know who I am."

"Yeah we do." Back on his feet, back in the pentagram as though nothing had happened, Giles was grinning. "We know exactly who and what you are. And you know who we are. You know that you need us if you want to gain a foothold here."

"You want me to do your bidding. To come here when called, for a few minutes of life here, a few minutes there. Even now you give me a body so repulsive, so decrepit, that only my life force holds it together." The corpse rose to its one and a half feet, a jagged piece of heel bone scraping on the floor. "You want me to accept a half-life, in order to help you to have some fun? A quick fix, like in the days of the pagan priests? You must think me a fool."

"If we summon you, you have to come." Ethan's voice was dark and strong, and the corpse, for a second, looked at him as though he were someone of note.

"True. But if you make a mistake - if your rituals are improperly performed, by even the most minor of details - I shall be free. And then you will never be safe from me. You will never be able to escape my powers."

"Only if we agree to be your disciples." Giles' voice was as strong and as dark as Ethan's. The creature laughed, half choking on the congealed blood that still remained lodged in the throat of its host.

"You will agree," it told him. "You know it as well as I. It's what you want. It's what you've been looking for. You want strength and power, and the freedom to do as you choose. You think that I can give that to you; and you may be right. But remember, Watcher, that as Time passes, people change. Their aspirations change. What happens twenty years from now, when you are still my disciple? When all you want is to live the life of your ancestors? To follow the path of your destiny?" It moved closer to him, the skin of its hands and feet smouldering as it pressed against the edges of its prescribed domain within the pentagram. "Your heart is not as dark as these others, Watcher. You haven't realised that yourself yet, but you will. Are you sure that you want to become my disciple? Are you sure that you want to wear my mark for the rest of Time?"

"I want everything you can give me." Giles' voice was as cold as ice. The corpse laughed.

"Then make your next move, humans. You have three days to call again, before your hold on me crumbles. Three days. We'll see if you have the strength and the courage to go through with it, or if you abandon me to fester in the pits of hell for another hundred years."

"We'll call you," Giles told it. The corpse laughed at him. It was still laughing even as its body corrupted and decayed. There was a flash of brilliant red light, the plants in the centre of the pentagram burnt to a cinder, and the corpse melted into bubbling, white froth. The room went dark.

"Wow." Thomas sounded vaguely shell-shocked. Randall grunted.

"That's it? That's the spectacular discovery that's going to make us something special? For as long as I've known you, Ethan, you've been promising us a quick road to the top of the pile; telling us that this time we're going to make the whole world sit up and take notice - raving on about this bloody book and how it's going to make us invincible. And now you say the way to do that is by making dead girls sit up and chat? Sure, it's cool. Sure, your average Londoner doesn't mention that little skill on their CV. But this is supposed to set us up for life; free the Ripper from thousands of years of destiny? I don't think so. It's just another demon."

"Oh no it's not, Randall." Ethan walked towards him, crossing through the centre of the pentagram. He kicked the ashes of the plants aside, sending fountains of degenerating slime into the air. For a second, as he reached the centremost point of the mystical symbol, a wind took him, blowing his clothes and his hair, sucking the light from his eyes; then he was standing before his sceptical colleague, with shadows still gathered about him. "This is something different. This is Eyghon. The Sleepwalker."

"The Sleepwalker? The cool demon who's gonna light our fires is a sleepwalker? Is that supposed to be a selling point?" Randall grinned around at the others. "Listen to him. He really thinks we're still prepared to do everything he says, even after months of slumming around in this house failing to make the big time. I say we cut this jerk now, and go it alone. The four of us. What do you say?"

"They say, shut up Randall." Ethan's hand was at his throat before he could respond. "They say, apologise before I break your neck." His fingers tightened, and his victim's face began to turn an interesting shade of grey. "They say, can I get on with what I was saying now please."

"Yeah." Randall could barely get the word out, and it bust forth as a strangled sound. Ethan nodded in satisfaction and let him go.

"As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted." The look that he shot Randall was pure poison. "He's called the Sleepwalker, because he inhabits the bodies of those who rest in a deep sleep; in unconsciousness or even in death. Even those who can instinctively detect the presence of demons - such as the Slayer for instance, or even other demons themselves - even they cannot tell when the Sleepwalker is amongst them. He walks unseen within his host. His powers are untold, his strength unsurpassed. He can pass from body to body without hindrance. And tonight there will be no Slayer on patrol, anywhere in the world. The forces of darkness will walk en masse. There will be chaos and violence in every dark alley; madness in every shadow. Tonight we raise Eyghon, and we lead him out there - right into the heart of London. According to the information Giles has, this one night, before the next Slayer can step forward to take the place of the old and before she is bonded with her Watcher, the gates of hell open just that little bit more widely. It's sort of a balancing out of the forces on either side; and it's all happening right here in London."

"Why right here?" Deirdre sounded uncertain, as though it were all just a little too good to be true.

"A different city is the focus each time. This time it's the turn of London, that's all." Ethan reached out his hands, stroking her cheek with a gentle touch. "With Eyghon with us, the other dark forces won't be able to harm us, and we can go out there and take the best from the chaos. We can make our mark on the very fabric of the world."

"I've heard that one before." Randall shook his head, disgusted. "Okay, big man. Show us."

"Not now. I told you, it has to be tonight." Ethan nudged with his toe at the pool of slime which had been Eyghon's host. "But we're going to need another host body."

"One of us?" Thomas asked. Randall glared at him, as though he were letting the side down by showing such deference to Ethan Rayne.

"No, not one of us." Giles, now sitting cross legged at a point at the head of the pentagram, was playing with a book of matches. The glow of each tiny flame sparkled in his eyes. "He's too strong for any living creature who isn't properly initiated. Declaring oneself to be a disciple of Eyghon is a big step, and one that I'm not prepared to make just yet. We need another host, preferably a dead one. That way Eyghon can inhabit his body without being reborn upon this Earth." He frowned, looking for all the world like an idle scholar - albeit one who had been momentarily possessed by some malign force. "We'll have to set up some mobile version of our little world down here. Something to keep Eyghon answerable to us, without allowing his force to escape. Painting the pentagram onto the host body should be enough, and a scattering of various herbs and whatnots as well. Then at the stroke of midnight…" He grinned. "Carnage." The word came from his lips in an almost reverent whisper, as though it were the name of some mighty god.

"Or more likely disaster." Randall scuffed at the chalk pentagram. "Don't look at me like that. I'm not a traitor. I just want some assurances here. We all came together because we thought we were better than the rest of the city. It was the summer, remember? We had all dropped out of various colleges, universities… like we had some grand plan. Well the months have been ticking by, and most of my friends have graduated now. They have jobs. Families, some of them. Half of the people who dropped out at the same time as us - they used to live with us, remember? Back in the old days, when we were still running a commune for the disaffected? Before he came along." His eyes shot daggers at Giles. "They all went back, turned themselves into something. And meanwhile we're still here, squatters in some stupid old house that even the ghosts don't bother haunting anymore. We steal electricity from the neighbours. We rob houses to make ends meet. We fiddle the social security to buy ingredients for Deirdre's potions, which are supposed to make us 'something to be reckoned with', and so far have got us zip. I'm tired of standing around in a dark house with the curtains drawn, watching a bunch of would-be amateur magicians cast spells that don't mean a thing, trying to bring chaos and darkness and mayhem down upon a city that's forgotten they ever existed. Giles, always talking about hiding from the Watchers and his big, bad destiny. I'm willing to bet the Watchers gave up looking for you months ago. And Ethan, hiding from his big, rich daddy who wants him to be the next director of his empire. Well daddy's got another son, hasn't he? Who's to say that he hasn't long ago been groomed to take your place? Daddy probably called off the search last year." Enraged beyond words he kicked the matches from Giles' hands. They scattered about the floor, some still burning, some going out in an instant. Chalk dust from the pentagram lit in a powdery flame that sprinkled its way earthward. "We're nothing. Who cares if a few street gangs playing with zip guns and flick-knives are scared of us? That isn't the big time. That's just tragic." With that he spun on his heel and walked from the room. His feet clattered on the steps leading back up to the rest of the house, and after a second the front door banged shut. Ethan let out a long, deep breath.

"Someone's been smoking the green bits again."

"Don't joke, Ethan." Thomas rose to his feet. "He's right you know. Ever since I met you you've been talking about making it big, and about scaring the whole of the city - maybe even the whole of the country. Well all you've done so far is nearly get us killed, about thirty times over. Why are we supposed to think that this time will be any different? Why are we supposed to think that this is the time when all those mystical forces and dark whatevers will come knocking at our doors? I don't even remember anymore why I wanted all that power. What's the point in bringing London to its knees? What then? We're not demons, Ethan. We're not even vampires. We're barely even adults for pity's sakes." He shook his head. "Maybe Randall's right. Maybe you two going away for the weekend was the best thing that could have happened to us. It's made us think about who we are, and how much we really need you. Maybe you should never have bothered coming back." He spun on his heel and marched off after Randall. Philip stared after him.

"He's got a point, you know." He spoke in a very small voice. "I'm sorry Ethan, but when we woke up the other morning, and the pair of you had gone… well it kind of got us all thinking. About… about all kinds of things."

"So you want to leave too, huh?" Ethan didn't even bother looking at him.

"I didn't say that. I want to raise Eyghon. I want to make London sit up and look at me. It owes me that much. I just… I just don't know that I really care about magic anymore. It's brought us nothing but trouble. All I was after was a few spells to pass the time. You, Deirdre, Ripper… you're the magicians. The rest of us are just spectators. It's getting wearing." He glanced towards the cellar door. "I'll go after the others, see if I can talk them into coming back."

"Forget it." Ethan sounded bitter. "We don't need them."

"Yes we do." Philip offered him a hesitant smile. "Maybe they'll change their minds after they see Eyghon in action tonight. Maybe we all will. And maybe it'll fizzle out and we'll end up saying our goodbyes. If it does… well it might just be for the best. Last summer was a lot of fun, but it's been over a long time. The rest of our world has got on with its life, and I'm starting to feel left behind." Slowly, without looking back, he too walked up the stairs. Ethan rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and lowered himself to the floor. He looked very tired.

"I still believe in you." Deirdre took Giles' hand. "In both of you. I think we can make a go of this."

"You still believe in fairies." Ethan made the words sound like an insult, but Deirdre just laughed.

"And you don't?" She moved over to rub at his shoulders, in a half-hearted attempt to loosen his tense muscles. "Ethan, I've stuck with you all this time for a reason. Randall, Thomas - even Philip - they don't have anywhere else to go, or any reason to go there. They don't have anything. Me, you, Giles - we can all step back into our old lives any time we choose. We're here because we've actively chosen to be. The others are just going with the flow. You have to expect them to rebel every so often."

"Our old lives." Ethan's whisper was hard to catch. There was a look of sorrowful reflection on his face. "If this doesn't work, and we do end up going our separate ways, we might just end up getting those old lives back."

"No bloody chance." Giles pulled him to his feet. "If this doesn't work, and if we end up traipsing back here again like bloody sheep, I'll jump on the next banana boat west and take up voodoo."

"Yeah, I can just see you with a hoard of zombie slaves." Ethan smirked, then slapped his friend on the shoulder. "I'm going out for a bit, okay? You see that everything's set up in here. I plan to go ahead with the summoning whether the others come back or not."

"Using what as a host, exactly?" Deirdre asked him. He shrugged.

"A dead dog if needs be. We'll find something. For now I need to take a walk and get some air. I'll see you later."

"Yeah, sure." Giles followed him to the stairs. "Remember not to stay out after dark. I wouldn't like to be caught out there on my own once the sun goes down."

"Don't worry." Ethan flashed him a grin that was only half sad. "I'll be back." He took the steps two at a time, vanishing quickly into the shadow in the hallway above. Giles shook his head.

"It's all falling apart," he said dolefully. Deirdre came up behind him and draped her arms over his shoulders.

"Don't be so defeatist."

"But it is." He turned to look at her, taking her hands. "Don't you see? We used to be inseparable; the whole sodding bunch of us, out there night after night so close you couldn't see the light between us. Now we can barely stay in the same room without fighting. We've failed in everything we set out to do. Time and time again we've wound up fighting the dark side instead of embracing it, just so that we could stay alive. I set out to break away from my destiny, and I've wound up serving it."

"Boy, you lot are a cheery bunch tonight, aren't you." She cuffed him lightly over the head. "Rupert…" He flinched at her use of his given name, but she carried on regardless. "It doesn't matter. Whatever you say, whatever they say, the only thing we ever set out to do was to have fun, and we've done that haven't we? Okay, so we wanted to bring London to heel, and we wanted to rule over the denizens of darkness, but come on. Be serious. What were the chances of us really managing that? If we'd even got close we'd have got ourselves Slayed. The oldest and the most powerful of demons fail each and every time they go for world domination, and they've got a lot more going for themselves than a few college dropouts with a handful of spell books." She took his hands and led him up the cellar steps, walking backwards all the way so that she could look into his eyes. "We set out to have fun, and we managed it. While our contemporaries sweated their way through exams and dissertations nobody else could give a damn about, we've got drunk and we've got high, and we've partied our way across half the counties in England. Remember February 2nd? We danced along the Thames at midnight, and we woke up in a cable car halfway up the Alps. You still think you've wasted the time we've spent here? Or what about the time that woman in the next street complained to the police three nights running about our music? Ethan sent a pocket demon over to trash her house and it caught a gas main with a few sparks too many. It took out half a terrace." With a happy smile she kissed him. "Grow up a little, Giles. Stop looking for the world."

"Couldn't you have given that speech to Randall?" He grinned at her, ready now to welcome her embrace. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like I was giving up. I've come too far for that. I'm sorry that Ethan and I went off the other day without telling you, and I'm sorry that our going pulled the gang apart. I'm sorry that I--"

"No." She put a hand over his mouth. "Being the Ripper means never having to say that you're sorry."

"Well then I'm sorry that I'm sorry." He pulled free from her for a moment, staring about at the high walls. "Do you know something?"


"I hate this house. I've always hated it."

She giggled. "Me too."

"After tonight, why don't we leave? You and me and Ethan. We don't need the others."

"For what I've got in mind we don't need Ethan either."

"Yeah, but what I've got in mind is more fun." He blushed, for a second looking very young. "Well, not more fun necessarily…"

"Shut up Ripper." She shook her head in mock exasperation. "I've got watercress to pick."

"And I've got some research to do. I have to check on the details about tonight." He turned to go, but her hand on his wrist stopped him. "What is it?"

"Rupert… when you and Ethan went off together, just why did you go?"

"I'd had a big bust-up with Randall. I needed a change of scenery, and Ethan came too." He lowered his eyes. "I saw the prophecy in that book, and I-- Well I wanted to do something, that's all."

"That's all? Really? I thought I heard you say that you knew her."

"Yeah. I did." He shrugged, pulling free from her hold. "But that was a long time ago. A very long time. And either way, she's dead now."

"Yeah." She could see echoes of sorrow in his eyes, and didn't press the point. "I don't mean to sound as though I'm jealous."

"I know." He smiled at her, then turned his back and headed up to the next floor. She watched him go. All it would take was a spell, and he would turn round and walk back towards her. There would be no more talk of Eyghon or of Ethan. There would be no more need for either. She smiled at the thought. Maybe another day. After all, it wasn't as though some sleepwalking demon was ever going to come between her and her friend.


Giles lay on his bed, reading a heavy tome bequeathed to him by his great-grandmother before he was even born. Quite how she had known all that time ago that he would be born a Watcher was beyond him. But someone somewhere had to know, he supposed. Someone somewhere could tell, when a child was born, whether or not a new Watcher had just breathed his or her first. He turned each pages with both hands; thick, heavy pages, made from hand-cut, yellowed paper edged with red. The edging had run at some time, and several of the pages had red ink dribbled across them, as though some messy-eating vampire had used the book as a place-mat. The print was heavy and black, in some grossly outdated font that would have looked more in place on a wedding certificate or a graduate's diploma. Some of the words were hard to read, or had been once. Giles remembered struggling to read it as a boy, even before his destiny was revealed to him, wondering why he had to sit indoors and fight his way through barely readable books even in the middle of summer, and why his father had always looked so crushingly disappointed whenever he had failed to learn the set chapter for each day.

He found Eyghon at the back of the book, in a section that he had never noticed before. That was hardly surprising in itself; after his father's death he had put the book into a deep, dark cupboard in the cellar of his parent's house, and had not looked at it again until he had left to go to university. Something had told him - a whisper in a dream perhaps - that the book might just come in handy one day. Giles had learned a long time ago to take notice of whispers in dreams. They usually turned out to be right, whichever side of hell they came from.

There was a picture of Eyghon, hand-drawn in coloured ink in the margin. It showed a powerful beast with fangs and yellow eyes, grinning magnificently to better show off its demonic splendour. The Mark of Eyghon was beneath, drawn upside-down as though in fear of summoning the creature were it to be drawn correctly. Giles traced it with his finger as he read the words close by. The English was surprisingly modern given the outdated style of the rest of the text, almost as if these words had been added in later - written even as he was searching for them through the rest of the book.

The Sleepwalker preys on the weak and the disaffected. He comes to those who call themselves his disciples, and he offers them strength and power. His presence is deeply addictive, and those who call him are condemned to one day lose their hold over his possession of their bodies. One day the desire for his strength will become too much for the disciples to bear, and the demon will be reborn within, for however short a time, killing the host and eventually disintegrating the host body. This fate comes to all who wear the Mark of Eyghon, unless extreme measures are taken… Giles grinned. Such worst-case-scenario details were commonplace in books like this one. He had come to ignore it over the years. He read on, smiling from time to time at the stylised picture of the demon himself, or at the dramatic flair that kept asserting itself in the text.

Eyghon is known to come to groups, who have set themselves apart in many ways. In history it was the priests and the spell-casters who called him, usually as part of some orgiastic ceremony. There would be great drunkenness and violence, and a false feeling of devoted brotherhood amongst fellow disciples. This illusion of intense loyalty is often exploited by Eyghon, who uses it as a way of undermining the rituals of the Summoning, and therefore increasing the likelihood of his disciples to make mistakes, and allowing him to be reborn amongst those who wear his mark. The last recorded summoning of the Sleepwalker was in 1756, when a group of students at a European university of great repute were reported to have marked themselves, and called the demon. Eyghon was reborn within the leader of the group, and after taking each of his disciples whole was eventually consigned once more to the pits of hell by the intervention of a local priest of some learning. After being summoned by his prospective disciples for the first time, Eyghon must be summoned again within three days by proper ceremony, or his hold upon this Earth is lost for a hundred years. Consigning him to the pits is a precise art, and if not done properly he may remain undetected upon this side of hell for untold years, as long as there is a plentiful supply of the dead for him to him inhabit. When Eyghon walks, he walks with the dead, and where the dead gather, so will Eyghon be found. He is thought to be indestructible, and his summoning is not a thing to be taken lightly. There can be no telling of the possible consequences should he ever be raised again upon this Earth.

"Well aren't you Mr Optimistic." Giles shut the book with a clap, and sat up. So Eyghon was big and powerful, and he usually managed to con his disciples into making mistakes. Well big deal. He hadn't messed with Ethan and the Ripper before, had he. A self-satisfied smirk of immeasurable arrogance spread its way across Giles' face. He could handle some scaly demon, no problem. He was a Watcher, wasn't he? Well, okay, so technically speaking he wasn't, and had no wish ever to be, but he came from a good pedigree. No demon with a yen for wild parties and smash-fests was going to catch him sleeping on the job. In a manner of speaking.

Stretching happily, Giles climbed off the bed and wandered over to the window, stopping on the way to throw a record onto the record player. He cranked the volume up to full and gazed out at the view of the city before him, as the music swelled to shake the glass. It was just past midday, and the streets were bright and sunny, alive with people moving in every conceivable direction; a vast mass of shouting, yelling, pushing, shoving humanity. For a second he thought about what Randall had said, about going back to that - about living amongst other people again, instead of avoiding them save for the occasional wild all-nighter in somebody's dingy flat. He smiled, mulling it over in his mind, thinking about his days spent back in Oxford; the studying and the snooty undergraduates; the libraries and the lecturers and the closed ranks of upper society. They were all the same, really, the whole world over. People thinking that they were superior, that they were at the top of the food chain. That they were better than everyone and everything else. Well he knew different, and tonight Eyghon was going to show him something that was even more different still. He didn't need other people, no matter what Randall said. When was he ever going to need anyone other than Ethan and Deirdre? As if he could ever go back, and as if some Slayer could ever take the place of Ethan in his affections. He laughed at the thought, and threw open the window to clamber out onto the roof. Book in one hand, cigarette in the other, and a bottle of something decidedly aggressive hidden in the drainpipe - perfect for an unseasonably sunny afternoon. He lit up, then dug the bottle out of its hiding place and flipped open the lid, before lying back on the sun-warmed slates. A grin found its way onto his face. Eyghon… Even the name sounded cool. With a warm feeling of the deepest confidence, he just knew that this was going to be the start of something great.


Randall James was alone in London. He had seen Thomas coming after him, and had heard Philip following on behind; but he had given both of them the slip, and had headed off into his favourite inner city slum. The houses were close together here, with dank alleyways linking the bigger roads, and dustbins lined up in the streets, waiting for dustcarts that rarely bothered to come by. Shaky, monochrome graffiti marked the walls; hand-scrawled signatures mostly, and the occasional message questioning the manliness of local boys, or casting aspersions on the moral qualities of various girls. He read through the messages, recognising some names. He had written some of the older scrawls himself, when he was a kid. He had clear memories of standing in this very street, a stolen aerosol can in one hand, spraying Jacko 4 Sharon in letters twelve inches high on a freshly painted white wall. Judging by the state of the wall now that had been the last time anybody had bothered giving it a new coat. White had become grey, and the criss-crossing mishmash of graffiti covered more than one place where the old paint had come away altogether.

He turned in a rough circle, staring down the long line of houses that stretched away before him. Some were earmarked for demolition, or so the local council said; but then they'd been saying the same thing since 1965. Now it was 1977, and all the money in London was going towards funding street parties for the Silver Jubilee. They would brighten up these dingy grey houses with strings of plastic Union Jacks, and they would give the local school a new lick of paint, and that would be it for their rejuvenation scheme for another decade. He had seen it all before, even though he wasn't all that old. You saw a lot, when you came from the sort of places Randall had lived in.

"Penny for them, sugar?" A deep, throaty voice attracted his attention, and he turned with a start. A woman was standing in the doorway of one of the nearby houses. She was dressed in the skimpiest of silk dressing-gowns, with a tie-around belt that was barely done up. Peroxide blonde hair fell around her face in waves, almost hiding her shockingly blue eyes.

"Huh?" He frowned, uncertain where she had come from, and equally uncertain what she was doing in that particular house. The windows had been boarded up for six-and-a-half years, ever since the family that lived there had been thrown out by the local council. Randall remembered it only too well. They had locked his father away, supposedly for wife-beating, although a number of other charges had been mentioned too. Randall had hated them for that. As far as he was concerned, his mother had only got what she deserved. It certainly hadn't been right to lock his father away and send Randall and his sister into care. Randall had only stayed three days. He had come back to his house some weeks later, only to find the windows boarded up and the door nailed shut. Something to do with an ongoing police investigation, and with nine-and-a-half bodies supposedly found beneath the floorboards of the master bedroom. Teenage girls, mostly. They had talked about pulling the house down there and then, but it was still here. Still would be in another six years probably.

"You looked as though you were miles away." The woman made no move to come closer, and instead she took a step back into the darkened hall behind her. "You need some cheering up."

"Yeah, maybe I do." He frowned at her, wanting to accept her blatant invitation and yet not entirely happy about going into that house again. Not after all of this time.

"So are you coming in or aren't you?" She took another step back, and he felt his frown fading away. What the hell was he scared of? It was only a house, and he was supposed to be one of the most fearless men in London. Policemen were scared of Randall James. Women travelled in groups for fear of running into him alone. He grinned at his own weakness, and stalked forward.

"Of course I'm coming in." He stepped over the threshold, into the darkness beyond, and was surprised when the door slammed shut without being so much as touched. The woman laughed, a curiously spine-tingling laugh that set his pulse a-racing. He felt his grin growing wider.

"I used to live here," he told her. She took his hand.

"Me too. Briefly."

"Oh yeah? When?"

"Same time as you." She put her arms around him, and he was surprised to find that her skin was icy cold. Her eyes burned more blue than ever. "Your father brought me here once."

"Really?" He was starting to shiver, and as if in response to his discomfort she hugged him more tightly. Her touch was so cold now that it hurt him. He tried to pull back, but she pressed her lips to his own, and chilled him to the bone with a passionless kiss.

"Let go of me!" He managed to break free at last, but other hands were holding him now. He turned his head, and looked straight into the eyes of a strange, dog-like man who appeared to have risen from nowhere. Its squashed snout bristled with whiskers, and although its eyes were human its head was a mass of matted black fur. A long red tongue lolled from the corner of its mouth. It grinned at Randall, flexing its claws so that they shone a dull yellow in the light from the candle on the sideboard at the edge of the room. A low moan escaped from Randall's lips.

"Hold still." The voice of the dog-man was deep and rough, and it spoke carefully as though to avoid catching its long tongue on its sharp teeth. Randall tried to step away from it, but the woman was behind him, holding him still. She gripped his right arm, and held it out for the dog-man to take. Its hands were hairy and hot, and Randall recoiled from its touch. It was no good. Slowly, almost curiously, the dog-man held up one fearsome claw, and dug it into the skin of Randall's arm. Randall wanted to cry out as the claw cut at his flesh, but his voice seemed to have achieved what he could not, and had run far away from this place without him. He watched the claw move in a brisk, precise fashion, carving some curious design into his flesh. He recognised it as the creature finished its unpleasant work; it was the same design that Ethan had painted in blood on the floor of the cellar around the pentagram. The Mark of Eyghon.

"That's a nasty cut," the dog-man said dispassionately, as it wiped the blood from its claw on Randall's shirt. "I'd get it seen to if I was you." Then it grinned at him, its mouth twisting upwards in a revolting caricature of a friendly smile. Randall suddenly had the oddest desire to faint.

"Do visit us again, won't you." The woman behind him was propelling him towards the door. He let her push him, let her send him stumbling out into the street beyond the front door. Almost immediately it crashed shut behind him, and he stared back up at the old building. He could see nothing; no sign of habitation, no indication that anybody had set foot in the place since his family had been dragged out that morning, six-and-a-half years ago. He shuddered, feeling the cold touch of the woman's arms about him. They were as cold in his thoughts as they had been in reality. Turning his back on the house, he ran away down the street, heading back down the alleyways towards the roads that had become his new home. Suddenly he had a strange desire to be back in that big old house with Ethan and the others. Magic or not, they seemed more friendly now than anything that came from his past. Maybe his future lay with the gang after all. Or more correctly, perhaps his future was with Eyghon. He wasn't sure why, but that prospect was suddenly greatly appealing.


The girl never knew what killed her. One moment she was walking along the street, glancing through the windows of an abandoned shop, the next a heavy hand closed around her mouth and snapped her neck. No thought passed through her mind save the initial shock of the capture. There was no time for anything else. A bag fell from her lifeless fingers, snapping open as it hit the ground. Three things fell from it - a broken brooch she had been planning to fix one day; a single five pound note, crisp and new and never used; and a small, black and white photograph from an Instamatic. It showed a pair of identical twin girls, standing either side of a little old woman with her hair drawn into a bun. Randall didn't look at the photograph as he grabbed the items up along with the bag, and dragged the woman into the shadows of a nearby alley. He threw her to the ground. Her head hung at a very unnatural angle, but he couldn't see Eyghon worrying about that. He hadn't been too bothered by his pick-and-mix body from earlier, after all; and this girl at least was nice-looking. She had thick black hair, and her eyes, although now rather dull and staring, were a nice shade of green. It was a striking colour against the beautiful, Oriental richness of her skin. He remembered reading something once, about Chinese girls with green eyes. Something about good luck, he thought. Well this was good luck alright, for him at least. He gave the brooch a cursory examination, decided that it was worth at least a tenner, and stuck it into his pocket along with the five pound note. The photograph he threw back into the bag, and chucked the lot into the nearby drainpipe. It struck him as he did so that he should probably find a better hiding place, but he couldn't be bothered to think of one. He couldn't really be bothered to think of anything. Without giving the matter any more thought he hefted the dead girl over his shoulder and pitched her over the fence behind him. He knew this area like the back of his hand, and at this time of day getting a body back to his house should be child's play. He had done it before. A tickling on his arm attracted his attention, and he saw that his new mark had begun to bleed again. Irritably he wiped the fresh blood away, then clambered after his victim and bent to heft her once more onto his shoulders. Thus occupied, he never saw the glitter of gold that flashed momentarily within the wet redness of his wound, nor did he see the way that the mark itself glowed red. He felt a second's gentle burning as the glow shone brightest, but he didn't give it a thought. All that he was concerned about now was getting home. It was the one place in all the world that he wanted to be.


Deirdre straightened up and massaged her back, wishing that she had thought to bring a cushion out to kneel on. It was a horrible image as she stood there, rubbing her lower back and gazing down at her herb garden, but she could so clearly see her mother in her mind, bent over a flowerbed and moaning about the latest growth of weeds. Deirdre glowered. If there was one thing she didn't want to be it was her mother. Eleanor Page was a very rich woman with very rich tastes, and a rebellious daughter had never been one of her greatest loves. Deirdre remembered the day that she had run away from home, deciding that she would rather rot in a gutter somewhere than spend another day being brainwashed into becoming another Eleanor clone. She almost smiled at the memory. Her sister had stood in the doorway of her bedroom and gleefully predicted that she would be back by nightfall. That had been nearly five years ago now. There had been times, of course, when she had thought about going back; times when she had been sleeping in gutters and had had nothing to eat for several days; times when she had been so cold that hypothermia had become a very real threat, and gangs of marauding thugs had been attacking the other homeless kids. She had thought about going back then, and about slipping back into her old life. Nothing could have been further from her mind now. She stared down at the herb garden, taking solace in the fact that it was ragged and unkempt, and that the mere sight of it would have been enough to give her mother forty fits. Deirdre wasn't another Eleanor. Not yet. She smiled at that thought, and gathered up her latest crop, then headed back across the lawn to the kitchen door. She could hear the sound of loud singing as she reached the patio by the kitchen window, and she glanced up. Far above her Giles was sprawled on the roof just outside his bedroom window. He was taking long pulls from a bottle, alternating it with puffs on one of Randall's special mix home-rolled cigarettes. The bottle, she knew, contained a heady blend of substances; a base of powerful absinthe with a few special herbs from Giles' own garden. Sunshine for the soul, he called it. She could think of several other names that were definitely rather more apt. She waved up at him, but despite the fact that his head was stuck in the latest Queen album, his eyes were equally stuck in some heavy, leather-bound tome, and he didn't see her. Instead he turned a page, his head bouncing up and down in time to his music - or, possibly, in reaction to the noxious concoction he was drinking - until it seemed highly unlikely that he could even see the words, let alone read them.

Thomas and Philip were sprawled in their chairs at the kitchen table, clearly in an advanced state of boredom. She ignored them, instead setting about dicing her collection of garden greenery. Some of it, she noted with some pride, shouldn't even have been ready for picking yet; and yet oddly it was. She nibbled on a leaf of watercress as she mashed the stalks of the latest bunch of foxgloves. An aggravated beetle-like creature scuttled out of the way of her industrious grinding, and she watched it as it took flight. Its black wings shone with previously hidden iridescence as they spread wide in the sunlight. It changed direction at the last minute as Randall appeared in the doorway. He made an aborted attempt to crush it against the doorframe, but to Deirdre's relief it escaped, flying on out into the garden. Randall staggered into the room, a heavy burden on his back. Deirdre ignored him. Thomas and Philip didn't even seem to have noticed his arrival.

"Isn't anybody going to welcome me home?" Randall sounded vaguely hurt, which was odd coming from a man who had left suggesting he was never going to return. "I come bearing gifts."

"The only thing you ever gave anyone was syphilis." Thomas snorted quietly at the joke, then stuck his head back into his magazine. Deirdre hadn't noticed which one it was today, but with Thomas it could be anything from The Journal Of Psychiatry to Playboy.

"Very funny." Randall ignored him, turning instead to Philip, but the lack of enthusiasm that he received from that quarter made him turn again, this time to the door. Giles had just appeared in the hallway outside, cigarette in one hand, book in the other. He had a decidedly detached look about him, his eyes dull but their centres oddly sharp. Deirdre smiled at the sight.

"Feeling rough?" There was no sympathy in her tone. If he was going to go mixing his illegal substances she wasn't going to offer him any condolences. He didn't respond. Instead he veered away from the door, peering uncertainly down the corridor. There was a china unicorn balanced on the dresser by the front door, and it was lowering its head to point its horn at him in a very threatening manner. He made a swipe at it, but it ducked to one side and vanished into the skirting board, so he ignored it and wandered back into the kitchen. A particularly unfriendly looking banana awaited him there, winking in a surprisingly seductive fashion from the top of a pile of rotting fruit. He hit it, and it fell from its pile and skidded under the table, where it glowered silently to itself and shook its fist in mute rage. He sat down, and began studiously ignoring everything. His chair at least was behaving itself for now, but he had had to deal with it before when it had got ideas above its station. Only vaguely aware of Randall, he caught sight of the other man staring at him from the other side of the room, and spared him a curious look. He appeared to have a dead body thrown over one shoulder, but Giles thought that that might be just an illusion. You had to be careful, when you were engaged in a staring competition with an egg-cup shaped like Sooty. It smirked at him from its post on top of the bread bin.

"This place is so comforting in its uniformity." Randall dumped the dead body on the floor and grabbed a slice of bread from the bread-bin, upsetting Sooty in the process. The egg-cup rolled away across the counter and disappeared behind a jar of coffee. Giles grinned in silent triumph.

"We weren't really expecting you back." Philip glanced up at him, noticing the dead girl for the first time. His eyes widened. "You didn't…"

"Ethan wanted a body for Eyghon, and what Ethan wants, Ethan must have." Randall rolled the girl over with his toe, so that her dead green eyes gaped up at the ceiling. "Pretty little thing, isn't she. I was almost sorry afterwards, but by then she was already dead. So it was a bit late." He grinned. Thomas rose to his feet.

"You… killed… her?"

"Well there's no need to overdo the enthusiasm." His voice dripping with sarcasm Randall heaved his victim into a chair. She slumped forward, but he arranged her arms on the table to keep her sitting almost upright. Philip slipped quietly out of the way. Deirdre didn't speak, and neither did Giles.

"You can't…" Thomas shook his head. "Is this a wind up? Is she gonna stand up and do a striptease or something?"

"Her striptease days are long gone." Randall sounded wistful. "Actually I don't think she looks the type to have done that sort of thing anyway. Clothes are all wrong, see?" He tugged at her collar, which was tightly buttoned and revealed nothing.

"Then you must have lifted her from the morgue, right?" The tone of Thomas' voice was beginning to show signs of panic. Randall shook his head.

"What's with you people? Eyghon needs a body, so I got him one. It's that or one of us has to play host, and I don't wanna try that just yet. Not till we're sure we've got our rituals right. Otherwise it's curtains, buddy, and a long lingering afterlife in hell with some rampaging horned creature living it up back here in your body. Not my idea of fun." He slapped Thomas on the back. "Lighten up, man. She's just one girl. Who's gonna miss her?"

"Her family? Her husband? Her boyfriend? Her boss?" Philip had found his voice, and was currently backing away from the table. "Hell, man, she's not gonna be alone in the world. Not a girl who looks like that. She's probably got three or four guys fighting over her." He had gone very pale, and his large, frightened eyes focussed on Giles. "Ripper! Tell him."

"I think…" Giles rose slowly to his feet, still keeping a wary eye out for inanimate objects that might be poised to attack. "I think that we've gotta problem." He took the girl's chin in one hand and tilted her head back. Dead green eyes stared back at him. "Yep. She's dead alright. Neck's broken." He waggled her head from side to side to prove his point. A sickening sound of grating bone ends made Deirdre wince involuntarily, and she rubbed her own neck in response. "This is murder."

"It's not murder. We needed the body." Randall shook his head. "What's with you guys? I thought you'd be pleased. I did this for you - for the gang. I thought Eyghon was what we wanted."

"Eyghon's what we wanted. You said you didn't want anything to do with him." Giles focussed on the cut on his compatriot's arm for the first time, and pointed at it with a wavering arm. "That's the Mark of Eyghon. Where'd you get it?"

"You probably wouldn't believe me." Randall offered him a childish, almost pathetic grin. "I just wanted to help, Ripper. You know we're supposed to be prepared to do anything for each other. Well I wanted to do this for you guys. To say sorry. Look, raising Eyghon's gonna be the best thing that's ever happened to us. I didn't want you to change your minds. We have to do this, tonight, like you said. We have to. And for that we needed a body." He gestured to the dead girl. "Therefore, I give you just that. I was led to her, man. She's perfect. What d'you say?" There was a silence, as all eyes turned to stare at Giles. Even the dead body seemed to be looking to him for an answer. He stared back, then glanced down at his book. The cigarette in his other hand was burnt down almost to the point of endangering his fingers, but he stuck it into his mouth nonetheless, to get the last of it. Then he walked slowly to the other side of the room, retrieved the sinister Sooty egg-cup, and gleefully ground the butt into the china creature's face.

"I guess there's nothing to say." He threw the book onto the table, somehow contriving to make it land open on the right page. Eyghon's painted eyes stared up at the ceiling, and for a second the eyes of the dead girl flashed bright green in answer. "Get her down to the cellar. We'll start as soon as it's dark."

"Giles!" Deirdre sounded horrified, but he silenced her with a look. One of his hands reached out to take one of hers, and he pressed it gently.

"You want me to turn him over to the cops instead?"

"No." She looked away, but he turned her head back to look at him.

"Then what?"

"Then…" She shook her head. "Then I guess we have no choice."

"Exactly." He smiled a small, sad smile. "We started this, Ethan and I. You don't have to follow us now."

"Yes I do." It was her turn to give his hand a small squeeze. "Like Randall said, we're supposed to do anything for each other." Her eyes strayed to the girl, currently being manhandled from the room. "I just hope we're not making a big mistake."

"How can we be?" He broke away and retrieved his book, staring down into the two-dimensional, yellow eyes of the demon in the picture. "This is our future, Deirdre. Nothing's gonna go wrong. I swear."


Dusk came more quickly than was usual. A curious sense of urgency descended upon London, and with each progressive darkening of the streets, less and less people ventured outside. It was not especially cold, and it was not especially windy; the skies were not wet with rain. And yet it had become, by unspoken agreement, one of those nights when only the police walked the streets. A few night-watchmen patrolled their grounds, a few other night workers scurried back and forth across the streets; but for the most part that night, the entire population of London stayed indoors. No doubt the morning press would report unnaturally high viewing figures for the night's soaps, and would almost certainly attribute it to the latest love-triangle story-line; and perhaps thus start off a trend of similar story-lines for years to come. Whatever the reason, all across London the curtains were closed, and of all the inhabitants only one young woman wandered the streets alone. She was a beautiful woman with eyes of a striking green and hair of a lustrous black; and she was looking for her sister. She listened to the sound of her footsteps striking the ground as she walked, and she heard their echoes in the silence. She didn't understand why she was alone, and she didn't care. All that she knew was that her twin was out here somewhere, alone and possibly hurt, and that something somewhere was very, very wrong. Perhaps it was the link with her twin that warned her, or perhaps it was the instincts inherited from a powerfully psychic grandmother. Perhaps it was just simple common sense. Something led her to the shop window where her sister had met her violent end, and something guided her to the drainpipe where a small leather bag was stuffed into a cramped hiding place. A force beyond her own moved her stiffening fingers on the clasp, opening the bag and fumbling with the picture inside. Her own eyes stared back at her from the photograph, and in that instant she knew. Her fingers tightened on the strap of the bag until her knuckles whitened, and the corner of the photograph creased under the pressure.

"This way…" Maybe it was just the wind, or maybe it was something inside her that whispered the words. She listened, uncertain that she had really heard them. They came again, coaxing her on, and she followed them down the alleyways, along the empty streets, to a part of town that she was entirely unfamiliar with. Twisted shapes hid in every shadow, and she was aware of the sound of harsh breathing. Eyes gleamed in the dull sodium glow of the streetlamps. Somewhere a hoof scraped on tarmac. She knew that there were many beings hidden here, but none made a move to touch her. None came close. She tried to spy them, to pin down the source of the breathing and the moving and the gentle scratching sounds; but she could see nobody. Nobody, that was, save for the young couple standing beneath a streetlamp some twenty yards down the road. Odd. She could have sworn that they hadn't been there earlier. The girl was wearing a long black dress, of a curiously old fashioned design, and her long dark hair was gathered into a French plait. Her beau was dressed in a long overcoat that looked as though it had been trampled by a herd of bison. His hair was bleached blond, spiked upwards like a lot of the newer rock bands were wearing theirs these days. He glanced up from his girlfriend, sparing a moment to look back and grin at his lost spectator. She was just considering smiling back when she found herself wondering if his teeth really were that long, or if it was just some optical illusion…

"Don't go near them," a voice was saying in her head, and she obeyed it just as she had obeyed the similar voice which had led her here in the first place. She turned away. There was a crowd of people moving in the shadows nearby, and from the sound of their voices they seemed to be about her own age. She turned away from the kissing couple and concentrated on these new arrivals. They seemed to be led by a pair of young men in their very early twenties; one ramrod straight with light brown hair, the other leather-clad and dark. She saw the glimmer of an earring in the muted light, and heard the sound of an East End accent raised to an arrogant volume.

"Man, this place is dead."

"It's a Demon Zone." Another voice, similarly accented, answered the first. "Everybody's gonna be indoors. It's like a sixth sense thing."

A third voice, well-spoken and deep, broke into the conversation. "Which is just perfect for us, right?"

"Right." The second voice seemed to belong to the leather-jacketed man with the earring. The watching woman took a step forward. She could see his eyes now, flashing green with suppressed malice. Her eyes travelled past him, over the rest of the group. Five men in total, and two women. The first was aged about twenty-one, and was dressed in clothes that were on the borderline of fashionable. Home-made jewellery was strung about her neck. The second woman was a year or two older, dressed in businesslike fashion, in a blue skirt and matching blazer. Her green eyes shone out at the world from beneath a design, painted onto her forehead in some red liquid that still glinted wetly in the glow of the lamps. A cold yellowness flashed intermittently in the depths of her green eyes as she stared about at the streets. She seemed to be looking at the world with the interest of one who had not seen it in a very, very long time. That in itself was ridiculous. She had lived in London, not two miles from this very spot, for the whole of her life. Her mouth falling open in surprise, the watching woman stepped forward, holding out her hand for her sister.

"Grace?" The word came to her lips in almost halting fashion, as though somehow deep inside she knew that something was very, very wrong with her twin. The green eyes turned to her, and a bestial yellow flash ignited momentarily in each. An unpleasant smile spread its way across the face that she knew so well. "Grace, are you alright?"

"Oh I'm fine…" She seemed to be thinking. "…Jackie." A smile, and another flash in those horribly unfamiliar eyes. "How are you?"

"There's something wrong, isn't there." Jackie took a step forward, but the dark-haired man with the earring moved to stop her. His hand was hard on her arm, the fingers digging in painfully.

"Don't," he told her simply, and the look in his eyes was as much a plea as it was a request. She frowned.

"I want to talk to my sister."

"She's not your sister." He was speaking in a low voice, almost as if he did not want the others to hear. Grace laughed.

"How sweet. I think he likes you, Jackie. Or maybe he just likes everybody. He gets these attacks of compassion at times, don't you Rupert. It's positively sickening, but I'm hoping to drum it out of him with time."

"We don't need to hurt her." The man with the earring pulled Jackie back, lowering his voice still further. "Look, I'm trying to help you. Go home."

"If she wants to stay, Rupert, let's not get in her way." Grace sauntered forward, pushing him aside with a touch that was at once both sensual and commanding. "She's my sister. I feel a togetherness moment coming on."

"She's not your sister." The other woman, who looked, Jackie thought, as though she were trying not to be scared, tried to interject herself into the exchange. A look from Grace caused her to back away. "Look, this is supposed to be about a night without a Slayer. She's human, we don't need to involve her in this."

"How true." Grace smiled in a way that was entirely unlike her. "Jackie my dear, run along home. If you stay, I shall feel obliged to rip your throat out." She slid a hand up her sister's arm. "I really would hate to do that." The twinkle in her eyes negated that particular statement.

"You're not Grace." Her voice was stiff and weak, and she wasn't sure why it had taken so long for the truth to sink in. At a loss she turned on Giles. "What is going on here? What have you done with my sister?" For a second he looked almost about to back-pedal in the face of her fury, then a sly smile grew across his face.

"I didn't do anything with her. But you on the other hand…" His smile was becoming positively lascivious. She slapped his hand away, vaguely aware that his friends were circling around her, threatening her escape route. She ignored them.

"I want my sister. Where is she?"

"She's dead." The voice that spoke now belonged to one of the other members of the gang, and was filled with a sort of detachment; a complete lack of emotion save a vague kind of pride. "Now get lost." There was a childish giggle. "We wanna have some fun."

"Dead?" The word was almost too quiet for them to hear. It was the obvious answer; how else could Grace be here and yet at the same time not be here at all? She took a step back, and bumped into the tall man with the light brown hair and the well-educated accent. He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in close to whisper into her ear.

"It was very quick. So I'm told… And we're very grateful." She could feel his lips against her cheek as they twitched into a smile. Her whole body was rigid.

"Leave me alone." She wanted to tell him to get away from her. She wanted to rant and to rage and to scream at him, but she could barely get just those three words out. A tremble was born deep within her, and her teeth began to chatter.

"Just leave." The other woman stepped forward, trying to look kindly but failing dismally. There was a darkness in her eyes that seemed to be growing. "Just walk away. We won't hurt you if you leave us now."

"I can't do that." She was amazed at whatever inner strength had allowed her to speak those words. "She's my sister." Hands closed around her neck.

"We can't let you get in our way." The emotionless voice of the man to her right sent new waves of fear running through her. The hands on her neck were his, even though he was too far away to be actually touching her. She could feel his fingers pressing into her throat. Her head began to tingle. She turned her eyes, seeing Grace staring at her. There was an expression of deepest interest on her sister's face, mingled with a touch of great amusement. The faintest of smiles twisted that familiar mouth into a curve. There was something else in there, and she could see it now that she was really looking. Some other form that rested beneath the light brown skin. Some other eyes that burned within Grace's own. There was the slightest hint of large horns that rose above the ears, twisting and curling like those of a ram.

"Leave her alone." Giles stepped forward with sudden force, as though spurred into action by something over which he had no control. He pulled Jackie forward, and although she resisted his touch he seemed to be pulling her free of the unseen hands about her neck. She felt their grip loosen and fail, and then she was slapping at him, trying to pull loose. He clung grimly onto her wrist, dragging her away from the group. She felt their eyes on her, on him, as they moved away.

"Get away from here." His voice was young and earnest and it bore the traces of an occasional stammer. "Please."

"What are you people doing here?" She sounded repulsed, and for a second a flash of hurt - maybe of anger - flared up in his eyes. He smiled.

"Living. Partying. It's cool." He looked for all the world like a kid out for a good Friday night on the town. "But you don't want to get in our way, understood?"

"I think I'm beginning to." She glanced back at the others. They were standing in a rough half-circle about Grace, whose eyes were beginning to burn with a dreadful yellow light. Her features were blurring, mixing with those of whatever creature had inhabited her body. Jackie caught a glimpse of reptilian skin and a mocking, fanged mouth. In that moment she turned and ran.

"Rupert, Rupert, Rupert." Stalking forward with a heavy step that seemed unnatural in such a graceful, feminine figure, Eyghon reached his wayward companion. "We are going to have to do something about this compassionate side of you." He reached out with one hand; Grace's still - and yet showing the first signs of claws and scales beneath. The hand cupped Giles' chin, forcing his head back so that he had no choice but to look into those fearsome yellow eyes. "I could have inhabited her next. This body might not last the night."

"You're not having anybody else. You're here by our say so." Giles pulled free, his eyes hot. "This is all on our terms." He gestured to the pentagram painted on the back of Grace's right hand, which served to seal the demon inside its current host. "We're not killing anybody else for you."

"You're going soft." A transforming hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat, pulling him forward and lifting him almost off his feet. "I've been watching you for a long time, waiting for you to come under my influence. I knew that it would happen. I've guided you where I could. So what happened, Ripper? Where's the madman who led the bad magic charge? Where's the little delinquent I've been waiting to get under my spell? Maybe you'd rather be out there, with the Slayer?"

"That's crazy and you know it." Strangely it was not hard to pull free, even though Eyghon's strength was supposed to be immeasurable. Giles turned away, straightening his clothes. "We came out to have some fun tonight. Are you going to show us what you're capable of, or are we going to swap insults and terrorise women until sunrise?"

"You want to know what I'm capable of?" There was a laugh behind Eyghon's words, although he did not smile. "You might regret asking that, Ripper." The creature stepped forward, the last of Grace's body giving way to his emerging form. In the flesh, as it were, he was even more impressive. He stretched his mighty muscles and smiled sardonically at his human followers. The pentagram painted onto his hand glowed with a faint purple light. "If I let you live that long."

In the shadows, Jackie watched the group as they headed off into the night. She heard scratching sounds, and the sound of faint whispers, and from her hiding place she looked on as a multitude of fluid black shapes followed in the wake of the demon and his cohorts. Creatures of unimaginable shape and size, some humanoid, some as small as rats that scuttled along in the shadows. Great, bat-like clouds flapped their way overhead, and she heard a shriek of inhuman pitch. She shrank back into her own shadow, trying to ignore the yellow eyes that peered at her as the hordes travelled past. Cold winds blew through her hair, fingers trailed their icy way through her mind. When at last the multitude had passed she sank to the ground, hugging her knees and burying her face in her arms.

"Go home." The voice that spoke to her was American, although the accent sounded somehow new; as though its owner had lived in a lot of places and had only recently begun to acquire the sound of an adopted home. She looked up into a young face with old eyes; a man roughly the same age as the group she had just encountered. He wore jeans and a leather jacket, and there was a haunted look to his face. He seemed… angelic somehow; but angelic in an oddly alien way.

"I want to know what's going on." She trusted him instinctively, although she didn't want to. "My sister…"

"Your sister is dead, and you'll never see her again." He put his hand on her shoulder. "You don't understand what's happening tonight."

"I want to."

"No you don't." He pulled her to her feet. "The forces of light and dark are in imbalance tonight. The focus of that imbalance is here, in London. From all over the world creatures you couldn't begin to understand are being summoned. The undead are walking these streets. Go home."

"Then what are you doing here?" She recoiled from him instinctively as she asked the question. He smiled, and stared off into the night, looking after the crowds of departing creatures.

"Part of me revels in the joy of tonight." His eyes seemed to glow, and suddenly his face was anything but angelic. A snarl escaped his throat, and long teeth gleamed at her in the eerie lamplight. "Trust nobody." Then he was gone, moving into the shadows, running into the darkness that seemed to have engulfed the whole town. Above her the nearest streetlamp flickered and went out. Jackie whimpered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then turned and ran after the hordes. She had to see where they were going, and she had to see what was happening. There was nothing else for her to do.


Eyghon fed. He fed on the blood of the innocent; the ones that he could catch. He fed on the flesh of the foolhardy, who had ventured out of their homes and their offices. He fed on the policemen who had no choice, who had to walk the streets regardless of the danger. Their courage gave him greater strength. He threw the pieces to the creatures that followed, and watched in amusement as the multitude of misshapen beasts fell upon the scraps. A man who had come to his window to see what was going on screamed only once, before Eyghon tore him through the glass and hurled him into the air. A motley collection of flying demons caught him there, carrying him far up above the houses, where they tore him limb from limb. Something warm and wet hit Deirdre's cheek, and briefly she closed her eyes. Eyghon laughed, and the demon hordes laughed with him.

"Are we having fun yet?" Spinning on his heel the huge creature encircled the six humans with his arms. "Is this the power you always dreamt of?"

"Yes!" Randall was intoxicated, his eyes wide and shining, his mouth hanging open in stupefaction. He was laughing as he spoke, staring about at the feasting demons, his hair wild in the unnatural wind. There was the deepest darkness in his eyes. "Look at them! All of them! They're terrified!"

"Precisely." Eyghon stroked the human's brow with a thoughtful claw-tip. "Precisely. And what of you others? Are you satisfied yet? Is this what you longed to gain from your studies of the dark side?" He spun suddenly, delving into the depths of the piles of rubbish cans at his feet, extracting the huddled and terrified form of a young man. He was about twenty-five, although years of living rough had made him look older. Whether through fear or through a natural condition he did not speak, but his silent eyes spoke volumes. Eyghon held him up by the scruff of his neck.

"I love this town!" His voice was a guttural roar, which was gaining strength and volume with every passing second. "They all hide themselves away in their homes, and yet they leave half of the population out here, helpless. Thousands of them cowering in the streets, hiding behind rubbish bags." He gave the young man a violent shake, then threw him at Randall. "He's yours. I give him to you." Randall's only answer was a laugh that was no longer entirely sane.

"Randall, don't be crazy. Let him go." Even Ethan, usually at the heart of all things dark and ugly, sounded shocked now. The demon multitudes growled, and the earth shook beneath their feet as the creatures tried to resist the temptation to take this latest victim for themselves. Randall laughed again.

"Are you kidding? Nobody's gonna know, Ethan. By this time tomorrow they'll be back to living their normal lives again. Tonight must just as well never have happened." He gripped the young man's head, licking his lips. Deirdre began to mutter an incantation under her breath.

"Silence!" Eyghon's hand came down so fast that none of the group saw it coming. With all the power of his dark centre he backhanded the witch, sending her tumbling head over heels across the tarmac, towards his waiting minions. They moved forward as one, a great wash of blackness that descended upon the human girl. She screamed, and Giles, throwing caution to the winds, hurled himself forward. He caught her arms just as the demons snatched at her legs, and she screamed again.

"Hold on, Deirdre!" She didn't need to be told. She clung onto him, her fingernails cutting his hands to ribbons. The raging wind threatened to tear the hair from his head, and the noise of shrieking, screaming demons was like a physical battering. His legs threatened to give way beneath the onslaught, and still he clung on. He heard a surprisingly human chuckle, and looked down into the eyes of a crowd of men and women. No, not men and women - vampires. He saw their teeth, saw their furrowed brows, saw their gleaming yellow eyes. They were all young, all his age, all dressed in fashionable clothes. They looked like the people he hung out with on Friday nights; the people he partied with; the people he had so often invited into his home. They were those people. Their hands reached out to grab at him and he kicked out, aware that there was no longer firm ground beneath his feet, aware that he and Deirdre were hanging suspended in the grip of the bat-like, flying demons. The vampires were laughing at him, the cruel, teasing laughs of the adolescent; the harsh, sardonic laughs of adult bullies. Teeth grazed his leg, scraped at his arms. A grinning, skull-like face loomed up beside his head, teeth bared, tongue lashing the cold air. He knew the face. It belonged to a girl with whom he had once danced; a pale-faced, tragic girl who had curled up beside a three-bar electric fire in her brother's flat, and watched with huge grey eyes as Giles played his electric guitar. Her arms were a mass of track-marks, her far-gone, soulful face a decade or more too old. Now those same grey eyes were lit from within, and the pale moon features were twisted into an expression of purest malevolence. He struck out at her, but the vampires were coming from all quarters now, and the girl was leading the onslaught. He felt her teeth against his neck, and he tried to struggle. He felt Deirdre being torn from his arms. He felt the first puncture wound, cutting deep into his neck, and almost immediately he felt his strength begin to fade. His eyes closed of their own accord.

"Release them!" Striding into the midsts of the horde, Eyghon parted the scurrying, scuttering creatures through sheer force of will. Air rushed past, the crowds thinned. Giles felt hard ground rushing up to meet him, with a bone-shaking force of which he was barely aware. He blinked up into Eyghon's bright yellow eyes. A scaled hand closed about his collar, dragging him to his feet.

"The power is yours, Ripper. They'll do your bidding, just as you wanted them to. London's yours tonight. If you want it." He thought that a hundred voices were speaking the words together, fading in and out of his hearing in a mad rush. Only Eyghon's lips were moving; there were no others; but still he could hear the voices of countless others besides. He stared into those fierce yellow eyes, and the Mark of Eyghon burned brightly in the centre of his vision.

"I was drunk," he managed to say, although he wasn't sure where he had found the strength or the presence of mind to speak. "When Randall brought the girl for you to possess, I was too far-gone to care. Otherwise I wouldn't have--"

"Oh yes you would, Ripper." Eyghon was smiling at him, looking for all the world like a proud father - although there was something very like contempt behind the smile. "Don't try to hide your true nature in weakness. I know what you are, and I know what you're capable of. I know the truth, Ripper. I know the truth about everybody." His smile was becoming more gentle, more insinuating. "Tell me what you want, Ripper. Is it to walk away from this, and to wonder for the rest of your life what you've missed out on? Or is it to finally make good on all those predictions about your abilities? You always knew that that book could bring you great things. Now that you've finally got the chance to reach them, are you really going to throw them away?"

"No." For a moment Giles didn't even recognise his own voice. "I'm not throwing anything away. I've come too far."

"Good boy, Ripper." Eyghon was pulling him close, his claws cutting into the young man's arms. Giles didn't seem to have noticed. "Now do I follow you, or do you follow me? Make your choice wisely."

"I--" Giles stared up at the yellow eyes. What was the demon asking him? Whether or not he wanted to become a disciple? To wear the Mark of Eyghon and allow this huge creature inside his own body? His mind blanched at the thought, at the danger and the implications of it. But at the same time his heart sung with the possibilities it suggested to him. There was no danger when you knew what you were doing. Eyghon could only destroy his disciples when they made mistakes; when they failed each other and got their rituals wrong. He didn't have to fear that. He trusted the others with his life; they had never so much as had an argument in all the time that they had been together. He remembered the long evenings spent together, the vows of allegiance and brotherhood. They hadn't spent so much as twenty-four hours apart in the last six months. Never a cross word, never a difference of opinion. A few simple rituals should be child's play. He felt a crooked grin twist its way across his face. "I'm prepared to follow you."

"Good." Eyghon let go of him, spinning away into the crowds of demons and vampires. When he re-emerged he was holding a girl by the arm; a terrified, green-eyed girl with long black hair and a very familiar face. "Now prove it. Prove your allegiance to me, Giles, and kill this girl. Drink her blood. Be my disciple." He pushed Jackie at the young man. Deirdre gasped. Randall appeared from nowhere, the blood of his own victim staining his chin. The homeless man's tattered jacket hung in shreds from his arms, blotched with red. Randall pulled it closer about him, as though deciding to wear it as a fashion statement.

"Come on Giles," he hissed, showing teeth still coloured blood-red.

"Don't be crazy." Philip's voice sounded dull with shock. Giles took in a long, deep breath, his mind crying silently. All around him he could hear noise; the shrieks and cries of demons, the howls and screams of their victims. London's homeless. Its night workers and its guards. The skies above were black, and scarlet clouds were gathering on the horizon. Even the moon was coloured blood-red. He felt the ground shake. Slowly he reached out a hand and touched Jackie's cheek. She shied away from him, crying in short, staccato bursts of disbelief. He wanted to promise her that it wouldn't hurt; that she wouldn't feel a thing. He wanted to promise her that it would all be over soon. He couldn't even speak. Slowly, mechanically, he reached for her throat - and as his hands brushed her neck she gave a convulsive shudder and fell forward into his arms. He caught her automatically, and found himself staring at a knife, emerging from her back in a sticky mess of blood. He looked up. Deirdre stood there, staring down at him, eyes wide and face pale. She was shaking, and without hesitation he threw Jackie aside and went to his friend. She clung to him.

"We're supposed to be prepared to do anything for each other," she whispered to him. Strangely he felt as though a horse had just kicked him in the stomach. He held Deirdre tightly.

"You didn't have to do it."

"Yes I did. This is everything you've ever dreamed of, Giles. This is our future. This is fun and power, all in one. I couldn't let you lose that."

"Then it's settled." Eyghon caught up the body and hurled her towards his greedy fellows. They fell upon her, shredding her still faintly moving body. "The streets are yours tonight, my children. Walk through them. Take what you want. Do what you want. Loot and pillage if it takes your fancy. But tomorrow night, be ready for me. Wear the Mark. Summon me, and I will answer you." He laughed, his teeth bared in wolf-like fashion. "Are we having fun yet?"

Ethan grinned. "Yeah," he said, and his eyes shone with a faintly unnatural brilliance. "Yeah, we are."


They ran through the streets, burning and looting, smashing windows, breaking down fences. Philip ransacked an off-license, and emerged bearing bottles of whisky. They drank as they ran, hurling bottles like Molotov cocktails. Giles hot-wired a car, speeding round the streets with Deirdre and Randall hanging out of the windows. Thomas broke into a hardware store, finishing up with a pile of spray cans. He went to work on the walls, painting warped faces with red eyes; nightmare images from a tortured mind. Great, shadowy beasts hung in the corners, watching him work. He felt their presence, and he felt their strength. He welcomed them inside, and they burned their way through his veins. He wandered alone and watched vampires feed. He laughed at the wildness of it all.

They regrouped at the far end of town; miles from where they had started out. Fires burned behind them, marking chaos left reigning in their wake. The demons were massing in the skies overhead, like a great black curtain about to fall over the city. Dawn was coming. The bodies of the dead were gone, devoured in their entirety, and the only signs of the madness which had passed was the destruction left by the human six. They stood together, staring back at a blazing car, watching a demon bathing itself in the flaming wreckage. Disembodied laughs echoed about them. Eyghon stroked Deirdre's cheek, and she relaxed into his embrace.

"No more spells of binding." He stroked the pentagram on his hand, and it peeled off like some absurd sticker. "I don't mind being trapped in the bodies of my disciples, but there'll be no more talk of restricting my powers."

"Of course." She could feel herself sinking into him, and knew that he was fading away. "Tonight--"

"As soon as it gets dark." She was falling then, as his voice echoed in her ears, and she could see that his host body had finally disintegrated. The sticky whiteness of its residue clung to her arms and her clothes. A pair of eyes were all that remained of the body, staring up at her from the midst of the gooey remnants of a girl named Grace. Mere hours ago, Deirdre might have recoiled from the sight. Now she smiled, and draped herself over Giles and Ethan.

"I feel very, very good," she announced. Ethan took her hand.

"You're high," he told her, without reproach. She giggled.

"Yeah." Reaching out she ruffled Giles hair. "What d'you think, Ripper? Can I be the first one tonight? Can I be Eyghon's host?"

"You really want to go through with this?" Strangely there was worry in his eyes; and something very like fear. She laughed at him.

"Are you kidding? After all of that? Giles, this is paradise! This is the world, lying at our feet. This is an unlimited license to do anything."

"I thought you told me I had to stop looking for the world?"

She frowned. "I never told you any such thing. Come on, man. You've shown us the way, now don't be such a spoilsport."

"You really want to be his servant?" Something was troubling Giles, and he had no idea what it was. Something was gnawing away at his mind, worrying his conscience. He couldn't remember doing anything that required worrying about a conscience; but then his whole head seemed to be in turmoil, and he wasn't sure that he remembered anything at all.

"You've drunk too much." Randall clapped him on the shoulder, and Giles felt himself smiling back at him, agreeing. That would explain matters, certainly. He remembered the fierce elation of the rampage through London, remembered the white hot joy fuelled by countless evil creatures chasing through his shadow. It was like smoking all the grass he could get his hands on; like drinking all the volatile home-made vodka in Randall's secret store - and still the high wouldn't be as great as the one he was on now. He felt as though he were about to burst into flame. The others were pulling him homeward, racing through the now silent streets, and he seemed to be running in thin air - flying high above the intermittent fires and the ransacked shops. No more wishing. No more hoping. This time he had really arrived.

And as the days passed, and Eyghon's presence grew, the house changed. Bright lights lit the shadowy halls. Winds raged down the corridors. Blood stained the carpets and windows broke without reason. Poltergeists fought in the attics, and demons fed in the cellars. Parties raged all night, and guests never went home. Times passed. Days went by. A thousand miles away a lonely mother buried her daughter, and cried tears of anger over ancient destinies and unfair demands. What use did she have of a Slayer? All she had ever wanted was a daughter. Giles heard tell of the funeral, and wondered why he had a strange desire to go. Did Slayers mean something to him? He stayed at home instead, and drunk another bottle of home-made laudanum. Deirdre played with her tarantula hatchlings. Ethan practised magic spells on the stairs.

And a few streets away an old woman stared at a photograph of her twin granddaughters, and wondered what had happened to them. She prayed that they were safe somewhere, and that one day she would see them again. She prayed that they were together. And in the lamp-lit sanctuary of her home, with its doormat that invited all to enter, she went on praying; until a bleached-blond vampire and his willowy girlfriend tore her throat out, and shared her blood as the last of her lamps went out.