Deirdre Page pushed the front door open and wandered listlessly over the threshold. The house was cold inside, but that was nothing new. In all the months she had lived there, she had never known it to be warm and welcoming. Even when there were fires burning in every fireplace, still a chill pervaded. It was a creeping chill, which filled all the corridors. It was a subtle chill, that slipped up on people, catching them unawares. It was a dangerous chill, or felt like it. It made hackles rise, and pulses beat a little faster, and it left creeping fingers of cold that trailed over shoulders, and left whispers hanging in mid air, threatening violence. Deirdre no longer shivered when these cold fingers brushed against her, just as she no longer jumped when footsteps followed her into the house. There was nobody with her, she knew that. Nobody was behind her. Yet still she heard the footsteps following in her wake, marching boldly and brazenly into the house after her. She didn't even bother turning to look, since she knew that there was nobody there. Ethan said it was the restless spirits of all the dead bodies they had stolen from the graveyard. All the dead people they had brought to this house under cover of darkness, in order to take them into the cellar and give them to Eyghon. The Demon Sleepwalker was strong amongst them now. He spoke to them in their sleep, and they saw him in every mirror, every reflective surface. His face wandered into their sleeping dreams and their waking nightmares. Slowly he was crawling his way through their memories, removing key figures from all their pasts, and substituting his own, grinning visage. Deirdre knew that her first headmaster had been a tall, grey-haired man with a pasty-white face; and yet she saw him in her mind's eye as Eyghon. Mottled skin, large fangs, pointed ears. Could he have been Eyghon? In her heart of hearts she believed that he had - and she didn't much care. Eyghon's world was her reality now, and she believed all that he had told her. She served him, and she wanted to give all of herself to him. All that she had once been was now gone. She could feel herself coming apart, could feel herself falling into his embrace. She wasn't afraid, and it didn't worry her that soon she would no longer be herself. All of her old ties were falling away, just as the house which had become her home was beginning to fall apart around her. Whether it was Eyghon's doing, or whether it was the strange spirits he seemed to have brought with him that were responsible, she didn't know. Her friends didn't know. If they cared she hadn't noticed. She didn't notice much these days, just as she didn't notice how the rain came through her bedroom roof now, and that when there was a fire on the drawing room hearth more smoke came down the chimney than went up it. What did it matter? Rebuilding a house was not on Eyghon's agenda. She wasn't sure what was, yet. She only knew that she had to be ready to do his bidding, as soon as he saw fit to pass on his next instructions. She only knew that she had to make sure that her friends were as committed to him as was she. That was what was important. That, she was sure, was what Eyghon wanted.

The opening jangle of Baba O'Riley coming from the top of the stairs told her that Giles was at home, and comfortably ensconced in his usual ways. Of all of them he had changed the least since coming under Eyghon's patronage. Maybe the demon had taken to him less strongly, or maybe he was built of stronger stuff anyway. Perhaps it was the strong magical heritage so peculiar to the Watchers and their Slayers - she didn't really care. That in itself was peculiar. At one time the mere thought of the Ripper had been enough to push the blood faster through her veins. Now she thought no more of him than she did of any other male - any other save Eyghon himself, her lord and master. Even the sound of the music escaping from his bedroom did little to stir her senses. It had done once, she was sure of it. She remembered it like a distant echo of something strange in the back of her mind - like a dream, half-remembered, and recalled only in moments of oddest passing. She had delighted once only in the classical music so beloved of her mother; had hated the harder sounds that she had heard since leaving the family home, and coming amongst such people as were Ethan Rayne and his band of brigands. It had been Giles, with his extensive record collection and his own wild guitar playing, who had opened her ears to sounds such as those he was playing now. The raucous music of The Who, the harder sounds of Led Zeppelin, the more melodious, multi-level sounds of Queen. The complex, poetic creations - like hallucinations put to music - that was the older sound of Cream. She remembered turning the volume up, feeling the beat in her chest, feeling it vibrate throughout her body as the air turned darker with marijuana smoke, and the peacock feathers gathered in vases at the corners of Giles' bedroom began to drift aimlessly in the new, hot draughts. It all felt distant now, and yet she felt no urge to recapture any of it. She was something new now - someone new. Someone stronger. And some part of that new self - some voice that rested like a shadow over the voice she still thought of as her own - was angered by it. It wasn't right that Giles should withhold a part of himself from his new master. He belonged to Eyghon, so why had he not given up the trappings of his old life? Deirdre viewed it as a form of betrayal - a denial of Eyghon himself. She wanted to ask Giles about it - to challenge him directly, and ask him whether or not he was with them; whether or not he was truly prepared to become a disciple of The Sleepwalker. Funny that she had never thought of him as a traitor before. She had never doubted him before. Yet now... She shrugged off her strange thoughts, denying the possibility that they were not her thoughts at all. If Eyghon had doubts about Giles, his doubts were hers - his concerns were hers. If Eyghon was worried that Rupert Giles might be a threat to him, and to the unity of his band of followers, then Deirdre would have to handle that threat. Hadn't the Ripper been her friend? She froze at that thought, trying to remember. Hadn't she once wanted to be closer than mere friends? Hadn't there been something else? For a moment the memories held her, made her think, made her wonder - then with the strangest sensation as of a fist closing tightly about her mind, the past was gone. It was all so much clearer now. Giles had to be tackled - had to be challenged. They had to know how he felt about Eyghon - and they had to know it soon. And then they had to decide what to do next.

As if guessing her thoughts, Giles was oddly quiet that evening. They had all gathered, as usual, to read together in the dimly lit living room of their crumbling old mansion house - but rather than join in the discussions of spells and other conjurings, Giles sat alone on the window sill, gazing out at the dying garden. It had been vibrantly alive when they had first taken up their residence - a bright profusion of colour and vegetation. Mostly weeds, granted; but colourful weeds, healthy weeds - strong and prolific weeds. The garden had been full of them, and it had taken weeks for Deirdre to clear away enough of them to enable her to begin growing her own plants. Foxgloves grew anyway - but she had needed specially prepared soil for some of her other, more particular horticultural favourites. She had abandoned all of that now, and alongside her herbs and wicked looking shrubs the weeds themselves were dying off. It looked as though some dreadful disease had infected the garden; and in a way it had. A demon had possessed the house, and all of the people within it - and its clawed and scaled hands now gripped all life within the garden walls. Birds died by the score, and mice and rats dropped dead in the gutters. Even the earthworms shrivelled up and died. The old glass tank in the cellar, which had once held a vast and thriving collection of spiders, now contained only the dried and shrivelled husks to which Deirdre had once sung lullabies - husks which had once laid eggs and fought each other, and battled over the live bait thrown into their tank to please them. Husks which had once had names, and distinct personalities. Now they were all dead, and nobody seemed to have noticed their passing.

"Not joining us tonight Ripper?" Sprawled before the huge fire on the hearth, Ethan glanced up towards the window. Rupert Giles, his dark head turned away from his friends, did not answer at first.

"Hey, Ripper." It was Randall James who challenged him the most openly, rising to his feet and taking a few steps towards the man of whom, no more than a month earlier, he had been deeply afraid. Giles glanced up.

"What?" Firelight glinted on his earring, which Deirdre had once thought the most important symbol of his standing in their community. It had amazed her that anyone could have been so completely, so very much the image, of all that her mother despised. Now it was just a ring of gold, and had lost all of its charm and mystique. What was her mother anyway? And why had it been so important to flaunt her rules? Deirdre couldn't remember.

"Why aren't you joining us tonight? Company not good enough for you?"

"Don't be stupid. I just wanted to finish reading my book." The young Watcher frowned. "Why, what's the problem? Has somebody found a new spell?

"No." Randall folded his arms. Giles smiled almost wistfully.

"I thought not." He closed his book with a snap. "I know we've learnt a lot from Eyghon. I know he's strong enough to give us a lot, but I don't like putting all of our eggs in one basket. I want to look in other directions too."

"There are no other directions." Randall's eyes had narrowed. "Eyghon gives all that we had ever wanted, and we don't need to look elsewhere. Eyghon may be cross with us if we do." His tone became insinuating. "Or perhaps you don't want to be his disciple. Perhaps you don't want to follow him, and learn from him. Perhaps you don't want to feel his powers dancing in your veins."

"It's not that, Randall." If Giles sounded vaguely irritated it was because that was exactly how he felt. His long and patient hours of research had led to the discovery of Eyghon, the ancient and powerful demon so beloved of tightly-knit sects such as his own. He had caused the demon to first be summoned into their group; but it was Randall who had first felt his touch most strongly. Now Randall was inspired almost to boiling point by his new master. It seemed that there was more of Eyghon within him than there was of himself; and the mixture was not one that inspired great joy in Rupert Giles. Randall had always been a wildcard - an unpredictable member of an unpredictable group. Now he was disjointed from reality to an almost lethal degree.

"Then what is it?" The quiet, almost comical Philip Thomas spoke in a virtual monotone these days; more of an echo of Randall than a person in his own right. Giles had always rather liked him - now he just thought of him as a failure. A soul already lost. Eyghon would take him soon enough, if something even more catastrophic didn't happen first. "Perhaps you'd like to explain your doubts to Eyghon himself?"

"I don't have any doubts." Giles stood up, frustrated with them all. "I just wanted to read my book. It happens occasionally. Some days I like to try and live a life outside of magic - something a little more rooted in normality. I doubt that Eyghon would begrudge me that, no matter how many plans he has for us." He threw the book aside. "Let's just forget it shall we? I'll join you, if you've found something worth discussing. Perhaps we could abandon the forum altogether - go out instead. We could go round the clubs perhaps, or go to the cinema. There's sure to be something worth seeing."

"We have no need of the cinema." Randall looked like a fanatic in the grip of a religious fervour. "We have Eyghon, and that is what I wish to discuss."

"Well there's a surprise." Giles sighed, wandering over to the mantelpiece to gaze into the flames. Even Ethan, his closest friend, seemed to be eyeing him strangely. Randall glared daggers in his direction.

"I'm fed up with summoning Eyghon to dead bodies and ethereal projections. I want to summon him for real. I want to bring him here, amongst us - into one of us. It's in the books, we know it is. We've all read it a thousand times. Once we wear the Mark of Eyghon and become his initiates for real, there is nothing that he cannot empower us to do. Think about it."

"It could be dangerous." Ethan's voice was soft and level. Randall stared at him with scorn in his eyes.

"Dangerous? With Eyghon watching over us? Nothing can happen. It might be as well to take precautions the first time. Some other demon might attempt to intercept the summoning, and destabilise the portal. Anything might happen, if we're not ready for it."

"But we will be ready for it." The final member of the group, Thomas Sutcliff, was sitting a short distance away, a book hugged closely to his chest like a talisman. "It's all in here. All the proper procedures. All the proper steps we have to take. It says that the feeling of having Eyghon with you is like the greatest high you can get. Better than anything you can smoke. I say we go for it. Right now. Tonight!"

"Summon Eyghon into one of us?" Ethan frowned at the carpet, clearly mulling over the idea in his mind. Like Giles, he seemed less under the thrall of the Sleepwalker than were the others - less willing to throw himself completely under the demon's control. His independence was important to him, but the others saw it less as individuality and more as a betrayal of the spirit of their unity. He knew this, as he stood in silence by the fireplace, avoiding Giles' searching eyes. He knew that the Ripper, for all his strength and certainty, was afraid now. He wasn't sure that they were capable of controlling Eyghon. He wasn't sure that they wouldn't regret ever having heard the demon's name. Ethan himself, on the other hand, had different thoughts. So what if they couldn't control Eyghon? Strictly speaking that only mattered to the person whose body he was inhabiting. That was the person within whom he would be reborn. That was the person who would die horribly. Ethan himself was not planning to be that person - or at least, not until he was sure that it was safe. He smiled. Summoning the demon into a live host did have certain attractions. The demon would be stronger - would have greater freedom. He would be able to teach them a lot more than he had so far done - show them a great deal more, give them a great deal more. Even as he thought about it, Ethan felt the dark fist of the Sleepwalker close around his mind, and a shiver ran down his spine. He should follow the Ripper's advice of course. It was Giles who really knew of such things. Giles was the one who had learnt the ways of demons practically from the cradle. Giles was the one who spent every spare waking hour researching the Sleepwalker and his brethren. Ethan nodded inwardly. It was decided then. He would agree with Giles. He would make the suggestion that they wait until another night.

"I agree with Thomas." Giles spoke up before Ethan could show him any sort of solidarity. "I think we are ready - or at least as ready as we're ever likely to be. We could wait for months and never get any stronger, any better prepared, than we are now. We might as well go for it."

"You're sure?" Surprised Ethan looked up, but Giles avoided his gaze.

"I'm sure." He was staring at the darkened window, towards the dying garden beyond. "What sense is there in waiting?"

"None." Ethan smiled at him, then strode over and slapped him on the back. "We'll remember this night, Ripper. We'll remember it twenty years from now - fifty years from now." He grinned, his eyes showing his own doubts even if his voice did not. "If we're still alive that is. We just need to decide who'll be the first."

"Me." Randall sounded like an excited child - a boy of no more than six or seven begging to be chosen. "Please, me. It should be me. I heard his voice first, the strongest and the loudest. It should be me."

"I don't want to do it." Philip was sitting hunched up in his chair. "Not the first time."

"Me either." Thomas sounded almost as childish as Randall. "It ought to be him. Him or the Ripper."

"Me." Randall sounded sulky. Giles shrugged.

"I'm not fussed about going first. But we can't do it here. There isn't enough space, and we're not sure what's going to happen. We need to find somewhere else - like that warehouse down by the docks where we fought the Lincolns that month. It's out of the way, and nobody ever goes there."

"Yeah. I agree." Randall, who had once been little more than an acquiescent voice amongst the gang, now seemed to be taking far more of a lead than was normal for him. His voice seemed to be stronger, and his stance a good deal more resolute. With a broad smile taking over his face he strode forward, clapping Giles on the back just as Ethan had done. A few months - even weeks - previously, he would not have dared to make such a move. Ordinarily Giles might have moved away, or glared him into submission. Tonight he merely stood his ground, and smiled a strained smile.

"Don't think that this is going to be easy, Randall." His voice was soft, as though he intended his words to be for the other man alone. Randall's smile faded and his face darkened.

"Scared, Ripper?"

"No, not scared. Just cautious." Giles turned away from the window, trying to look Randall in the eyes. There was a darkness in them that eluded him however, and no matter how hard he stared he did not seem able to pin down that light that was essentially Randall James. It was as if there was something else now that existed between them. Something unfathomable, and unyieldingly dark. "Eyghon is a very powerful entity. He comes from ancient times, and his strength and persistence are legendary. If something goes wrong--"

"Nothing will go wrong, Ripper." Randall shook his head, apparently disgusted by his companion's unease. "You worry too much. Stop being the Watcher, and try being the Ripper again. What happened to marauding? To meeting the world with a flick-knife, and worrying about the consequences later?"

"Nothing happened to it." The shadows in Randall's eyes, which had been born more than a decade ago in the eyes of Rupert Giles, floated in the air between them. "Let's just get underway shall we? Before we change our minds."

"The only person likely to change their mind is you, Rupert." It was a long time since Randall had used that name, and Giles stiffened at the sound of it now. His eyes narrowed, but he made no comment. Randall turned away.

"Come on everybody." There was a note of authority in his voice now, and Thomas and Deirdre moved instantly to obey him. Only Philip hesitated, but eventually even he followed on, his shoulders gradually losing their gentle slump, and instead taking up a hard set, like that of a marching soldier. Soon only Ethan and Giles were left behind.

"They used to follow us like that," Ethan observed, kicking out the fire and dropping the room into instant blackness. Giles smiled into the shadows, although he knew that his friend could not see him.

"That was a long time ago now."

"A fortnight, no more."

"A fortnight can be an infinity." Instinct led Giles to Ethan's side, and he reached out for his friend's arm. "What do you think - about this whole Eyghon business? It was fun at first, but--"

"But nothing. It's still fun. It's going to be a whole lot more." Giles felt Ethan shrug. "Randall can't keep up this tough guy act forever, and once he's tired of it we'll move back in and take control - the way we're supposed to. Lighten up, man. Like you said, we're as ready as we'll ever be. What could possibly go wrong?" He pulled away and headed off towards the door, his silhouette illuminated in the doorway for just a second before he plunged back into darkness. Giles stared after him.

"Anything could go wrong." Left alone he felt suddenly cold, and the sensation of somebody else's presence was strong enough to make even the Ripper shiver. He thought that he felt somebody's breath on his neck, but when he whirled around there was nobody there. Eyghon's voice echoed in his mind, and he felt the need to obey. He shook the moment off, but indecision still haunted him. He frowned into the darkness. Could it hurt to summon Eyghon? Would the effects really be as dire as his senses suggested to him? A thin smile threaded its way across his face, and he sunk his hands into his pockets. Darkness was knocking at his mind's door once again. What did it matter? How could it bother him? If Eyghon chose to be reborn from within Randall, that was Randall's problem, not the Ripper's. And if Eyghon chose to use his rebirth to tear the world apart, then the Ripper, at least, would have a ringside seat - and a chance to bow out in style. Right now he didn't really care about anything else. He grinned to himself in the darkness, and felt Eyghon's fist closing about his mind. The chill it brought was familiar, the sense of dislocation from the world around him was not. He didn't care - or at the very least he didn't want to. The rest of the world meant nothing to him. The rest of the world could walk in some other demon's footsteps. Tonight belonged to Eyghon.


"Last chance to back out, Ripper." There was a teasing smile on the face of Randall James; as though he were gleeful, in a smug kind of way, now that he could consider himself to be stronger or more in control of the situation than did Giles himself. The young Watcher cast him a harsh look.

"I don't want to turn back." He smiled rather coldly. "Unless you do." Randall glowered.

"Let's just get on with it shall we?" He crossed to the pile of logs laid out in the middle of the room, and without preamble dropped a match into their midst. Instead of spluttering or smoking, the logs caught instantly. A fountain of red flame leapt towards the high ceiling, and the ground seemed to shake. Thomas jumped in shock, and Randall laughed. Clearly he was considering it a good game to be in command of events, for here and now even Ethan seemed ready to defer to him.

"We must bear the Mark of Eyghon." Putting on a deep and theatrical voice that pleased him immensely, Randall tugged back his shirt sleeve, rolling it past his elbow. His skin beneath was startlingly white, showing the long hours that he spent indoors during the daytime, as well as the equally long hours spent prowling the streets after dark. Philip looked decidedly ill.

"We have to do it ourselves?" Strangely for a man who had lately taken to digging up corpses to feed Eyghon's desire for physical manifestations, he sounded less than enthusiastic about this suggestion. Randall cast him a look of utter disgust.

"What did you expect? That we could all just sit around holding bunches of flowers, and chanting songs of peace, love and understanding? We want to become true disciples of Eyghon, not altar boys for the Vatican." He delved into his pocket with his free hand, and came up with a flick-knife. "Who's going to do the honours? Or do I have to do it myself?"

"Don't be daft. We want to summon a demon, not kill each other from blood poisoning or tetanus." Deirdre took the knife. "It won't be a proper tattoo if we do it with this, anyway. We need a drill, and inks and stuff. Like they do at the parlour down the High Street." She looked meaningfully at Randall. "They have local anaesthetic there too. And sterile equipment."

"Bugger to that. We're not after a certificate from the Board of Health." Randall snatched his knife back. "Well Ripper? What's it to be? Are you with the sourpuss brigade, who want to paint pretty pictures and speak nicely to the demons, or are you with me? Do we do this properly or what?"

"We do it properly." Giles strode over, abandoning his position standing listlessly by the door. "We need ink."

"I've got ink." Delving back into his pocket once again, Randall produced a bottle of black dye, in a small bottle beset with statements of excellence, and comments about proper use and permanence. "I lifted it from the tattooist's in the High Street." He grinned. "I went in there, said I wanted a tattoo done. Picked a big fancy one, with a bear and a Red Indian and a giant white buffalo. Then when the guy went out the room to wash up and all that, I went out the window with the ink." He shook it, as if to demonstrate its fluidity. "We just have to be willing to do it. Eyghon will do the rest."

"You really think that using a flick-knife and a bottle of black dye you can give us the Mark of Eyghon?" Ethan took the bottle. Clearly he was as unconvinced as Deirdre and Philip. Thomas snatched the bottle from him, gazing at it with the sort of wide-pupiled stare that suggested he had recently been smoking something.

"Sounds okay to me." He giggled, looking towards Randall. "We tried once before though, and it didn't work. When you tried to write that girl's name on your leg - remember? What was it... Mary? Hannah? Something like that. You had to go to Casualty."

"My hand slipped. I was drunk." Randall smiled a beatific smile, which suggested that he was just as drunk now - although possibly on a substance rather less earthly than alcohol. "This time it'll be different."

"Randall's right." Giles rolled up his own left sleeve. "I'm next. If we don't do this, we're never going to know what could have happened - what we could have had as disciples of Eyghon. If there are any risks involved in wearing the Mark, I think they're far outweighed by the benefits. Okay, so we have to watch our rituals; be sure that we follow the correct procedures all the time. Well that's easily done. It's not as if Eyghon's going to kill us or anything, is it. We'll be the ones in control, and he'll have to do what we say. He can only be here, in this dimension, if we summon him." He turned to Deirdre, offering her the kind of dazzling smile that might, less than a month ago, have set her heart a flutter, and made her wonder how she would ever be able to lure him away from the others and make a go of life together. Now all that it did was make her frown, and wonder if this course of action was really what Eyghon wanted. He had not told her as much, but admittedly he seemed to speak mostly strongly through Randall. The rest of them only heard his voice when he had manifested himself, in the grotesque and rotting bodies that they dug up for him in the graveyard. She nodded.

"Okay. We do it."

"Yeah, I'm with you too." Ethan stared into the fire for a few moments, as though wondering for the first time just how it had started so quickly and easily. "Something tells me that I'll probably come to regret this, but okay. In for a penny, in for a pound, as my great-aunt Olivia was given to saying." He shrugged, looking fatalistic. "But then she was also much given to saying that great-uncle Albert was a damnable Hun, come to rape nuns and casserole babies, so I've never held much store by her opinions. She was never the same after her aeroplane was shot down over Kenya by poachers in 1936."

"Your family could make the Olympic gold medallists in dysfunctional behaviour look like normal, loving family members." Thomas, in the act of rolling up a sleeve, got stuck, fought momentarily, and then rolled up the other sleeve instead. "I never met most of my relations. They all seem to have died before I was born. I had an aunt called Olivia though."

"Was she nuts?" Philip asked him, standing a short distance away, rooted to the spot in his fascination for the pre-ritual trance into which Randall appeared to be sinking. Thomas glared at him.

"No, as it happens. She practically raised me after my mother went shopping one Christmas with the window cleaner who lived three doors down. That was Christmas 1961, and she didn't come back until New Year 1963." He looked very reflective all of a sudden. "She was married to a guy who looked like Eyghon. He had very long teeth, and kind of mottled skin."

"I had a teacher who looked like Eyghon." Deirdre was staring into the middle distance. Philip nodded sagely.

"The guy who lived next door to me looked just like him. Even had pointed ears."

"Wow." The word was Ethan's, but the sentiment was shared by each and every one of them. One by one the need for conversation was leaving them; and one by one they were sinking into a still and silent state. The fire in the middle of the room began to burn brighter, and it seemed to the gang that the flames were painting the Mark of Eyghon in the air. The spirit of the demon appeared to be in all of them, and no longer were they interested in small talk and in jokes. Perhaps it was the spirit of the ritual of tattooing which had gripped them all, but it seemed that only Giles had retained any of his normal attitude. As they threw the last of the ink onto the fire, and cleaned the last of the blood from their hands, still the rest of the gang seemed subdued. They stood around in groups, heads bowed, comparing odd and seemingly inexplicable memories of Eyghon. He even seemed to be replacing their closest relations and closest friends now; his face gradually pushing aside older, better known faces from all their pasts.

"You didn't know anybody who looked like Eyghon. He's playing with your brains." Rupert Giles, ever the man of knowledge, seemed amused by his fellows and their warped sense of what was real in their memories. "How do you expect to control a demon when you can't even control your own perceptions?" He shook his head, caught somewhere between amusement and frustration. "You have to be strong. This is the Sleepwalker we're talking about here, not some two-penny demon we can control blindfolded. If this goes wrong, we could be talking serious trouble - London getting fried. Remember when we summoned him before. Remember the way he stalked through the streets. Remember the people he killed? That was nothing to him."

"And it was nothing to us." Randall sounded insinuating now, a horrible tone taking over his voice, implicating imminent threats and violence. "Or maybe the Ripper isn't as tough as he would always have had us believe? Maybe the Ripper is really just a mummy's boy, or a nancy boy, or some pathetic waste of space that couldn't say boo to a goose. Huh Ripper?"

"Say that again." Giles' voice was like ice, and before Randall even had time to see it coming, the young Watcher's arm had snaked out, his hand closing around his confederate's throat with a powerful, unbreakable grip. Hard, strong fingers dug into Randall's throat, and his bulging, surprised eyes seemed to stand out on stalks like the antennae of some confused alien creature. He made a strangled gasping noise that might have been a plea for mercy, but sounded rather more like a laugh. After a second Giles relaxed his hold. Randall smiled, rubbing his neck where finger marks stood out starkly in red against the pale skin.

"That's more like the Ripper that brought the gangs of London to heel. That Ripper wouldn't be worried about London boiling in its own blood, or about whether or not we can control a demon. That Ripper wouldn't care whatever happened."

"Wrong." Giles sounded disgusted with Randall's lack of foresight. "If London gets razed to the ground by demon or by delinquent, I couldn't give a damn. But if it means that I have to burn with it, I'm might just have a few objections. I've got nothing against going out in a blaze of glory, but why let that happen if there's an alternative? What sense is there in dying horribly in the fires and flames of hell, when just a little thought can prevent it, and give us a chance to make something worthwhile out of the powers we're able to exploit?" He turned away, beginning an agitated pacing that had little to do with his anger and more to do with a nervousness that he did not want to admit to having felt. Ethan was nodding.

"That makes sense. Do you have some kind of a suggestion?"

"Yes." Immediately dismissing his concerns, his anger forgotten just as quickly, Giles strode over to one of the battered cupboards and filing cabinets that lined one entire wall of the gigantic, dilapidated room. He dragged open one rusted iron door, revealing a much-plundered storeroom within. Ropes hung there, along with leather straps of the kind used to secure loads onto horses, or to lash up mutinous pieces of machinery. The young Watcher dragged these tangled items from their resting places, and took them back to Ethan.

"It's simple," he announced, holding them up for all to see. "Whoever is possessed is strapped down - tied to the table. It makes more sense, and it gives us some room for error. If we can control the demon when he's inside his disciple, we can make sure that he remains within our territory."

"Eyghon won't like that," Randall announced. Ethan shot him a dangerous look.

"I don't care what Eyghon would like. I care what I would like, and what the Ripper thinks is sensible. And I agree with this. For now, at least until we're sure of ourselves, we should take a precaution like this one. At least then we know that we're safe, up to a point."

"Precisely." Gils grinned, beginning to like this idea all the more for the inconveniances it caused Randall. "So get up on the table and be a good boy. Let us make you all safe and secure."

"You get away from me." Backing away, Randall held up his hands in an attempt to fend the Ripper off. "Leave me alone."

"Oh grow up and don't be such a jerk. Why fry when you can have some fun?" Giles made a grab for the other man. Randall leapt aside, but the large table Giles was propsing to tie him to was in his way, and his routes of escape were limited.

"You can't do this. Eyghon wouldn't like it." Turning in a circle, in order to see the others and point at them each in turn, Randall finished up staring straight at Giles, his eyes flashing in dramatic malice. "I won't let you."

"I'm just watching all our backs." Giles folded his arms, looking resolute. "We don't know what will happen yet. We've never given Eyghon a live body to inhabit. All I'm saying is that it makes sense to tie you down. If he's going to possess your body, and something goes wrong, he'll be reborn within you. You know that."

"Nothing's going to go wrong." Randall folded his own arms, trying and failing to look as resolute as Giles. To emphasise his point he tapped hard on the side of his head with a forefinger. "Eyghon speaks to me. I know what he wants."

"You do talk a load of claptrap." Giles turned away, exasperated. "Eyghon doesn't talk to you any more than he talks to the rest of us. He's not even in this dimension unless we bring him here. Stop trying to sound like the head disciple, and help me fix up these straps."

"You expect the prisoner to chain himself up?" Randall shook his head, arms folded once again. "No chance. When Eyghon comes, he comes free. If he arrives in my body and discovers that I'm tied down, he'll be angry. I might lose control of him. This whole bloody building could get sucked into hell for all we know."

"Don't over-exaggerate." Ethan sounded amused. "Look, we just want to see what's going to happen. We just want to see if we can control him. What's the big deal?"

"Everything." Thomas was glaring nearly as much as Randall. "We're supposed to be his disciples. We gave ourselves the Mark. That's supposed to mean that we learn his ways, obey him. We're supposed to serve him, not the other way around."

"Exactly." Deirdre had the look of the converted - like a religious zealot facing up to criticism of her faith. Her sharp, accusing eyes turned on Giles. "You're a traitor. You don't follow the ways of Eyghon. You don't hear his voice."

"I do." Giles sounded defensive, even to Ethan. "I hear him as much as you do. I follow him as closely as you do. Just because I don't feel ready to fall at his feet and kiss the ground whenever he appears doesn't mean I'm not as much a part of this as you lot." He shook his head. "Look, if you're that determined to get fried, we'll do this the way Randall wants. We'll let Eyghon come into him unrestrained. We'll let him blow the whole bloody world up if he chooses. But if you wake up in hell tomorrow morning, don't come moaning to me about how hot the flames are. Understand?" He threw the eclectic collection of leather straps and ropes onto the table, then strode over to the fire. The flames leapt upwards at his approach, sending a great cloud of purple smoke towards the ceiling, and spitting great chunks of angry flame about the room. Several pieces of sizzling wood began to eat away at the scarred polish of the floor. Giles did not so much as bat an eyelid at this sudden commotion. Philip, on the other hand, jumped violently.

"We're not supposed to argue." He was staring at the floor, looking extraordinarily like a small child shyly reading a prepared speech at a school play. "We have to be close. We have to work together. Last time we argued, Eyghon made us all friends again."

"Don't talk rubbish." Randall did not even bother looking at him. Philip frowned, looking vaguely insulted.

"It's true. Don't you remember? We were arguing 'cause of Ethan and the Ripper going off, and us thinking they weren't coming back, and we were trying to raise a demon without them but it went wrong and I got frazzled. We were yelling at each other, and then suddenly we were friends again." He frowned. "Do you really not remember?"

Ethan scratched his head. "I remember going off with the Ripper. I remember getting back and finding you'd been trying summonings without us. I don't remember arguing."

"Of course we didn't argue. We never argue. He's just going as screwy as Giles, thinking he knows better than Eyghon. I keep telling you--" Randall's angry tirade was cut short by Thomas, hesitantly raising his hand, trying to assert himself into the conversation without drawing any of the ill will currently circulating the room.

"I remember." He frowned, drawing patterns in the dust on the wall near to where he stood. "I remember the Ripper getting really angry, and we were all about ready to walk out, and then suddenly it was as if we'd never even argued. We were waving more olive branches than the olive branch foundation. Eyghon needed us to be close knit, so he made us that way whether we liked it or not. We hadn't even summoned him, and we weren't wearing the Mark or anything like that - but he still managed to exert that kind of an influence on us." His face broke quite suddenly into a huge, broad grin. "It's kind of scary, isn't it."

"It's kind of cool." Deirdre's eyes were shining, and her face was flushed. "Just think about the kind of power he must have."

"All the more reason to follow the Ripper's advice and play safe."

"No." Randall was practically spitting flame as he spoke, but Philip and Thomas and Deirdre seemed to be losing interest in the whole affair. Thomas shook his head.

"What's the big deal, man? Just agree and we'll get this show on the road. If Eyghon's got objections he can show them. Soon as he's here he can fry the Ripper's head if he feels like it. But let's bring him here first okay?" Randall stared at him, angry and sullen - then in a splintering of suppressed tension he nodded and climbed up onto the table.

"Okay." He lay down, stretching out his arms and legs. "We'll play this your way Ripper." His eyes narrowed. "On your head be it - 'cause it's your head that's going to suffer if Eyghon chooses to complain."

"I'll take the consequences." Giles sounded carefree as he bent to fix on the straps and the ropes - but as he leant away from the others, his face went pale. He was beginning to feel afraid, and he had no idea why. Randall's mocking smile didn't help, and neither did Deirdre's sporadic giggling. A cold hand seemed to be tracing its way down his spine, and he had the most unpleasant impression that he was about to do something that he would forever regret. He swallowed his concern and concentrated on his knots. He had summoned demons before. This time would be no different. He almost managed to convince himself, such was his determination - but in his heart of hearts he knew that this time was not the same as before. Eyghon was different. Eyghon was something else. This time was something very different indeed.


The wind blew. Gradually, as the sound of its ceaseless blowing began to rise, Randall's face began to change. Gone was the look of arrogant satisfaction. Gone was the gleam of childish spite. In its place, peering out through Randall's drooping eyelids, was the echo of an alien presence. Slowly the lips curled back from the teeth. Gradually the mouth widened and the hint of something ferocious began to show itself, just faintly at first, in the corners of his vacant expression. Deirdre took a step forward.

"Randall?" She spoke his name cautiously, unsure of the likely reaction - unsure even if he was still there, or if he was gone forever. The half-closed eyes snapped open wide, staring straight at her with a look that she recognised - and the flash of rage of something that she did not know at all.

"Yes!" Randall's face split apart in a massive grin, and his face, once pale, flushed deepest red with excitement. "Yes!"

"You... you are Randall. Aren't you?" Scared now, Deirdre reached tentatively for his hand, then stopped, pulled back, hesitated. He laughed.

"I'm Randall. I'm Randall and I'm Randall's father and I'm Randall's mother and I'm--" He broke off, giggling excitedly for several seconds. "I'm Ethan Rayne." His voice dropped slightly, taking on a more sinister tone. "And I'm Rupert Giles." He frowned, as though struggling with something. "I'm the Watcher, and I'm the Watcher that will be. I'm Rupert Giles... and I'm - I'm..." He shook his head. "And I'm Lady Guinevere. And I'm John Wayne." He began to laugh again, this time with much greater hysteria. "And I'm Marie Curie, and Louis Braille. And I think I'm Rodgers and Hammerstein too, but that might just be an illusion." He stared up at her, grinning incessantly like some unfortunate chimp from the space programme. "What do you think?"

"You don't sound like Randall." Philip moved forward, standing over his friend with a look of deepest concern. "You sound like somebody from a nut house, or worse."

"And I feel like it." Randall was laughing softly. "I feel... I feel like... I feel like I'm hot and cold, and cold and hot. I feel like I can feel everything much stronger than I ever felt anything before." He paused, frowning. "I feel like I know what you're thinking, and like I know what everybody all over London is thinking." He frowned up at Philip, grinning all over his twisted, possessed face. "I know that right now, about three miles from here, a woman named Janice is getting into bed with a guy called Henry. Only Henry isn't her husband. He's her husband's kid brother, and it's his seventeenth birthday." Randall began to giggle again, although this time with less indication of growing insanity, and more indication of a burgeoning strength, and control over all that he was starting to see and understand. "He's going to have a birthday to remember - but he's not going to be remembering it. See, right now Henry's brother - Janice's husband - is stuck in traffic, but in about half an hour he'll be heading upstairs, looking forward to wishing his wife a good evening, and climbing into bed with her. I think he's going to be doing a whole lot more than that come morning - like maybe washing his kid brother's blood off his hands, and trying to hide the murder weapon in the Thames. But somebody will find it, 'cause they always do. And somebody will say that they saw good old Henry's brother running away from the scene. By this time next week he's going to be locked away in the slammer somewhere, waiting to get sent down for life, and Janice will be rubbing her hands together, and going off with Marcus, the guy who works in acquisitions at the firm her grandfather owns, 'cause that's what she's been planning all along." He drew in a deep breath. "I can see it all. Like it's the past, present and future, all laid on in my mind. Like... like linear projections. I see the day Ethan walked out on his old life. I see the day Deirdre ran away from home. I see Giles..." He frowned. "I see Giles being born, and I see a little man in a dusty little room writing it down in a book as old as London - older. And he's writing down the day and the date and the time, and he's checking it a hundred times, a thousand times, in all these books of prophecy..." He began to giggle again. "I can't begin to tell you how incredible it feels. I see so much. I feel so much. I feel like I could take on all the armies in all the world, and win so easily that I could still reach up into the sky at the end of the day and pluck out the moon. I feel like I could take every woman in Europe to bed, and still be fresh enough to take on the whole of the American continent before breakfast. It's like every drug I ever took, every doctored cigarette I ever smoked, is churning around inside me right now, singing songs and making my blood cells dance the tango. My head wants to do a three sixty spin and then some. My heart wants to go for a long ride somewhere and set up home on its own." He began to giggle in a curiously high-pitched way. "I want to do everything, everything in the whole world, and I want to do it all at once, right now. But I'm tied up. You've got me strapped to the table, and I can't move, but I want to. I want to get up, and I want to go somewhere, and I want to do something I've never done before. I want to do it loudly, and quickly, and I want to do it with thirty beautiful women and a hundred gallons of absinthe." His eyes narrowed in sudden, cold malice, and his voice deepened. "Set me free."

"You know we're not prepared to do that." Ethan sounded firm, although Deirdre thought she detected the first hint of a waver in his voice. She moved closer to him, as though she could bring him around to her way of thinking just through the closeness of her body. She did not notice the earliest traces of jealousy in the eyes of Rupert Giles at this development. She would not have cared anyway.

"Then take my hands." Randall's eyes had widened to their greatest extent, and were fixed intently on Giles. "Come on." Although his arms were strapped down, he was able to lift his hands to a certain height - and he raised them now, the fingers splayed and craning upwards, the palms stained with dribbles of blood, run down in rivulets from the unprofessional tattoo so recently engraved upon his arm. Giles stepped forward, spurred on by some irresistible whisper in the back of his mind. His step was almost robotic as he moved alongside his prostrate friend. Deirdre began to giggle, a curiously high-pitched, nervous sound, which echoed in the still air. Almost immediately it was drowned out by the sudden, much louder sound of rain drumming on the shuttered windows. This new sound had come so quickly, so unexpectedly, that everybody jumped - everybody except Randall and Giles. Their eyes remained locked, their faces rigid and unchanging - even their breathing seemed to come from the same pair of shallow, rhythmic lungs. Randall's pallid features were frozen into a leering grin, wide and gaping; his teeth nearly as white as his skin, a slight twitch ticking away at the corner of one lip. Giles on the other hand appeared to have been left forever with the expression of a learned scholar. The slightest of frowns disturbed his smooth face, and puzzlement and confusion vied for space in his eyes alongside stubbornness and the usual measure of arrogance.

"I can't see you anymore." He was staring into Randall's eyes, captivated by something that he saw within them. "Randall? Are you still there?"

"One of us is." Randall's voice was deeper, more hoarse, and this change in tone seemed to lie easily in Giles' mind with whatever he now saw strapped to the table in place of his confederate. "Who do you see, Rupert?"

"I see my father." A frown deepened on the forehead of the young Watcher, and his head cocked slightly on one side. He closed his eyes for a second, rubbed at them, shook his head. "But you also look like somebody else."

"Who?" Ethan stepped forward, concerned for his friend and intrigued by the drama unfolding before him. Giles did not respond to his voice - did not even seem to hear it. Randall smiled.

"Who do you see Giles?" His eyes were holding the other man prisoner, keeping him rooted to the spot, apparently drawing him deep within himself. Still their breathing remained perfectly in unison, growing deeper and deeper with each inhalation, sounding somehow torturous in the hissing weakness of its shaky lack of substance.

"I see my headmaster, at my old school... and the head tutor at Oxford." Another frown, less deep this time. "Angela Grayford, the old woman who used to look after me when my parents went out at night when I was a little kid, and--" His head cocked on one side again, and the frown flickered and danced repeatedly across the confused and strangely lonely eyes. "And Peter Handel, the kid from my class at prep school. He was hit by a car coming into school one day, and he never woke up. We all had to go to a memorial service. His mother... she looked like a ghost. She went mad. My mother took me to see her at the hospital, and she sat in a corner and played with prayer beads and talked about the harpies that she said were trying to get into her bedroom window every night. I was eight." He shook his head. "I can see her too."

"Then take my hand." The craning fingers could not get any closer to him, for the straps were too strong, and tied too tightly. It seemed to the transfixed onlookers as if those stretching, straining digits were growing - becoming elongated and warped in shape in order to press nearer and nearer to the frozen Ripper. "Take my hand and see my truth."

"Eyghon?" Giles sounded clearer now, and more certain. "Which of you is Randall and which is Eyghon?"

"We both are." The voice had dropped another notch, taking on an almost bestial growl. There was anger in its depths. "Now take my hand."

"Don't do it." Philip seemed surprised to hear that the words had been given voice. They were little more than faint whispers, but clearly that had not been intended even for that much volume. Randall's eyes flashed, but he did not break his hypnotic hold on Giles in order to glare his rage at the source of this interruption. A pulse began to beat violently above his right eye, so powerful that the skin seemed about to burst open under the pressure. The veins in his neck and at his temples were swelling fit to burst. Giles did not seem to hear Philip's words, or if he did hear them he did not care about them. A tight, meagre trace of a smile hardened across his mouth, and his own eyes flashed in sudden resolution. Staring at him across the prone form of Randall James, Ethan saw a ghostly reflection shine for a second in the eyes of his friend. It was Randall who lay before Giles, in Ethan's vision at least, but the face that was reflected for so brief an instance in those clear green eyes was that of Eyghon. The fanged mouth was split into a triumphant grin, and the cat-like yellow eyes burned with a furious passion. Above the rage of the unexpected storm, Ethan thought he heard a disembodied cackle echo through the looming rafters. It was a voice that he thought he recognised, but it did not seem to be that of Eyghon. Strangely it sounded to Ethan very like the laugh of the long dead midwife who had helped him into the world twenty-two years previously. She had been a friend of the family for some years afterwards, until finally she had gone mad. He remembered hearing her demented cackling as a small child, and remembered the horror with which she had responded to his presence. She had shrunk back from his approach, and muttered in terror about shadows that walked in their sleep. Odd to remember that now, and yet he was sure that the hysterical laughter he heard echoing about him belonged to her. It was Randall's mouth that hung open though; Randall's lungs and throat and chest that were producing the sounds. The laughter grew louder and louder as Giles moved forward, as he reached out with his left hand, as his palm brushed Randall's own. The craning, stretching fingers of Randall James snapped tight shut around his hand, and in that very instant the fire in the middle of the room leapt skyward with a sudden, dazzling flash of brilliant, intense purple light. And Giles screamed.

The sound filled the room, echoing in its dusty, cobweb-filled extremities. It bounced off the windows, already bowing and buckling under the onslaught of the incredible downpour outside. It shook the rafters and it cut through the dry, musty atmosphere of the room. Randall's own scream rose above it, to a piercing intensity, his eyes widening until it seemed that the lids must tear, his mouth stretched open so much that the lips began to bleed in the corners, and his gums seemed about to crack. Above the sound the laughter began again, surreal and warped, bouncing in a hundred different directions all at once, coming from nowhere and going nowhere else. The floor began to shake, and the fire in the middle of the room split its boundaries, racing across the scuffed wooden tiles and attacking the abandoned cupboards and cabinets stacked in the corners. Galvanised into a hesitant kind of action, Philip made a dash towards the flames, flapping at them ineffectually in a vague and useless attempt to stamp them out. They rose higher regardless, their flickering colours passing through every stage of the rainbow and more besides. New colours, unnamed and unnameable, flashed dazzlingly in an intangible tower stretching from floor to ceiling. Helpless, Philip fell back.

"We've got to put it out!" He sounded sick with fear, but Thomas and Deirdre did not seem to hear him, and Randall and Giles were preoccupied with terrors of their own. Randall lay limp now, unmoving and apparently unbreathing, a smile of magnificent proportions emblazoned across his face. His eyes hung half-open, the colour gone, only the whites visible. Every so often his eyelids twitched and fluttered, and his hand, still resting in Giles', gave a convulsive jerk. It was the only indication that he was still alive. Giles was slumped beside him, half sitting and half lying, almost seeming to hang from the grip on his hand. He appeared to be unconscious, but he too moved occasionally, more as though he were lost in some deep and dreamed-filled sleep than in the empty depths of complete oblivion. Philip's shrieks did not reach him, wherever he was, but just as Ethan was beginning to think he was alone in the room - that everybody save himself was lost - the drooping head of the young Watcher raised itself up, and the eyes rolled back to reveal their usual, watchful green. He was looking straight at Deirdre, and he was smiling in a manner that did not seem entirely his own. Like a teenage girl being acknowledged for the first time by the hero of her dreams, Deirdre smiled back, then stepped forwards to take the outstretched hand. The still unconscious Randall giggled furtively.

"Ripper?" Ethan strode over, determined to reach his friend before Deirdre. Giles did not look at him, but his words, fluttering forth from a dry and constrained throat, were clearly directed at the older man.

"Not now Ethan."

"But Giles--"

"I'm learning, Ethan. I'm seeing it. I'm seeing this and that and everything else. There's so much to learn."

"I don't understand."

"No, you wouldn't. Not yet." With a jerk of his head, Giles acknowledged Randall. "Take his hand."

"Why? What will I see?"

"I don't know. I think we all see something different. I think Randall is experiencing something very different to me. We don't know yet do we?" Giles grin was childish and teasing. "Take his hand."

"Ripper?" Deirdre was close now, leaning over him and reaching out for his one-armed embrace. He grinned at her.

"Welcome to the fold."

"I doubted you." She was leaning in close, and his arm encircled her. "I thought that you didn't want Eyghon; that you weren't ready for him." Giles rested his head on her shoulder, an expression of blissful contentment drawn across his face, tempered only by the unearthly glow of his green eyes, and the hint of demonic glory that sparked deep within them.

"I've been ready for him since the day I was born." He brushed her fingertips with his own, and she gave a gasp as the demon's powers tickled at the corners of her mind. She heard his muted whisper race through her senses, and felt his stretching arms take hold of every synapse in her brain. Giles' hand closed around hers, and she felt her body sing out in restless glee. Everything flashed in circles of darkness and restless light, and a rainbow of fire burned the last barriers in her mind. The storm outside embraced her, and with it came freedom. All around her was a new enlightenment, and deep within her was a newer dawn.


They walked together in a dark place, where they could see each other and nothing else. The intensity of the dark was astounding - an endless sweep of unbroken blackness which raced on forever and never looked back. It was impossible to define whatever light it was that enabled them to see each other. Certainly they could not see any kind of a light, or any kind of a light source - they only knew that they could see each other, but that the colours were all wrong. Deirdre thought that the faces of her three companions were suffused with an orange light; but Ethan thought that he saw a tinge of blueness on their skin, and Randall was lost in a world where everything appeared to have been washed in a bath of green dye. They did not ponder over the anomalies they saw. They did not ask each other questions, or pause to consider where they were and how they came to be there. They did not ponder at the whereabouts of Thomas and Philip, who were missing from their number. They did not even wonder at the apparent lack of solid ground underfoot, or the complete non-existence of their surroundings. It was as if they were comprehensively nowhere, and were going nowhere else. They walked because there was nothing else to do.

"Where do you suppose we are?" Deirdre broke the silence, her voice hesitant and uncertain. Randall did not look at her as he strode along, his step confident and his back firm and straight.

"We're inside," he told her, his tone sharp and brisk.

"Inside where?" It was Ethan's question this time, his own voice sounding closer to Deirdre's uncertainty than to Randall's loud confidence.

"The dark places." Giles spoke softly, which was not unusual for him. He did not seem unduly afraid, or at a loss, but there was some hint of something undefinable in the sound of his voice.

"Is Eyghon inside us?" Hushed excitement rose in Deirdre's tone, and her eyes widened. "Is this what he shows his disciples?"

"No." Giles sunk his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, wishing he had a weapon on his person. He suspected that any knife or stick would be useless in a place where he himself was not real. "We're inside Eyghon, or at least inside a place he's made for us."

"Then where are we going?" Ethan took a couple of steps away from the invisible path they seemed to have been following. Immediately he felt the ground - or lack of it - vanish from beneath his feet, and he had to stumble back towards the others. "There's a bloody great cliff over there!"

"There's no bloody great cliff. There's nothing anywhere, that's just the point. We're here because he wants us to be, but if you move away, you'll fall." Giles seemed even more unworldly than ever in the suffusion of unearthly light that showed his presence to his friends. "He's playing with us."

"It's exciting." Deirdre pressed closer against him, glad of his presence, and glad that he had chosen to be here with her. He had joined Randall, and then he had asked her to join him. In her mind she could feel that Eyghon was pleased, and that pleased her. Giles seemed more disturbed than excited by her close proximity, but he did not pull away.

"It's like a bad trip." Ethan took the lead, moving ahead of the others, letting instinct tell him where the non-existent path was. "It's like smoking something that doesn't agree with you, and getting lost in some crazy world that doesn't add up. Like looking at a painting by Escher."

"We're not lost here." Randall was grinning his skull-like grin once again. "All you need to do to get out of here is to let go of my hand."

"I'm not holding your hand." Ethan looked down at his own hands, ghostly white in colour now, as the world around him began to change. Between sheets of impenetrable blackness there was a race of deafening colour beginning to rush towards him. Reds and oranges and hideous purples; greens and golds and pulsating masses of shocking pink, all beating or sucking like mouths, pounded by a rhythmical, heartbeat-like noise that drove each wash of colour a little closer towards them. The colours came in circles and in squares; in pentagons and in polygons of all description. They raced around, spinning, and they came in spears of lancing urgency. Ethan wanted to take a step back, but found that his feet did not want to move in that direction. Some whispering voice that was lodged in the back of his mind told him that the path behind them was gone as soon as they had trodden it - and that to take a step back was to take a step to the side, and find oneself falling forever into non-existent nothingness. Randall was laughing.

"Of course you're holding my hand. That's why you're here."

"My hands are nowhere near yours!" Ethan held up his hands, staring at them, entranced for a second by his sudden, frightening ability to see every vein with bright clarity. He could see the blood moving through them, beating with the same, rushing, anxious pulse as the beat governing the nauseating colours that were beginning to surround him. Randall just laughed harder.

"In this world, Ethan, your hands are your own. In the real world, which is what counts, I'm holding you closer than I'm holding myself. If you want out of here, you have to let go of my hand, and if you're not holding it in this world - well then that's just hard luck."

"Who are you?" Giles reached out for him, grabbing at his shoulder. "Are you Eyghon? Or are you Randall? Because I swear if you don't give me some answers I'll tear your lousy head off."

"Try it, Ripper." Randall's voice dropped to a whisper, and suddenly the colours had gone. They were standing on an island of towering marble - a sheet of pure white in the middle of nowhere, with sheer sides that raced on down into crashing black emptiness. The island was lit with soft pink light, with a corona of harder yellow in the background that seemed to possess the form of two giant, watching eyes. "Tell me what it was like when you took my hand. Tell me what it felt like. Tell me how my hand felt in yours, and how the moment filled you. Tell me why you called for Deirdre to join you, and why you called for Ethan." His voice dropped low into the guttural sound Giles had come to recognise as the voice of Eyghon himself. "Tell me how it felt."

"It felt..." He couldn't answer, and wound up just shaking his head. Deirdre took his hand, just as, somewhere in the real world, he was holding hers.

"It felt like life," she told him, her voice filled with wonder. "My heart felt like it was beating for the very first time. I felt like I was having my first ever thoughts, or my first ever daydreams. It was like the greatest high I ever had, when I smoked the purest grass I've ever been able to get hold of - only it was stronger than that, and bigger, and better, and more - more - more special. I could see my grandfather being born, and hear my great-grandmother crying when she saw him take his first steps. I saw my mother cut her first teeth. I saw magic."

"Yeah." Ethan's eyes looked starry and wide; tired and yet filled with wonder and energy. "It hurt, but it felt good. It was like I was about to die, but it was going to make me more alive than before. I've never been so afraid, but it made me feel more vital, more intense, more focussed than ever before." His eyes narrowed. "What's wrong, Giles? Don't you appreciate the gifts Eyghon is giving us? Don't you want to be one of his disciples?"

"You people are always questioning my allegiance." Giles turned in a heartbeat, and the soft pink light which washed their marble island became cold and blue and intense. He tore off his leather jacket, hurling it out into the abyss, letting it fall endlessly into whatever black and eternal night lay beneath and around and above them. On his left arm, bared now where the sleeves of his T-shirt were not long enough to cover it, was the bright and clear Mark of Eyghon. In the real world, wherever that happened to be, it was a jagged mass of dried blood that was still to take the shape of its permanent design; but here it was easily seen and was coloured blood red. It seemed to shine, as though the ink, or the blood, or whatever it was that marked out its shape, had been filled with the essence of diamonds. It sparkled in the cold blue light, lashing illusions of fire that dazzled Ethan and Deirdre and the insanely laughing Randall.

"I've got the Mark too, see?" Giles didn't sound entirely like himself anymore, as though all the implied threats and simmering psychosis with which he had greeted life throughout his adolescence had suddenly matured into the promise of something stronger, harder and considerably more dangerous. "I had it before any of you save Randall. I found the book that brought us Eyghon. I summoned him for the first time."

"Poor Rupert." Randall reached out, stroking his head much as a father might absently stroke his small child. "Always filled with doubts."

"Doubts?" Giles sounded incensed. "I don't have any doubts."

"Yes you do. You think you're tough, but you don't really want to hurt anyone. You think you can break free from the hold of the Watchers, when all that you really want is to take up your position serving the Slayer. You lay claim to havoc and chaos when the only ideals you've ever really embraced are love and affection. You're one of the good giys, Ripper. You're not a true disciple of mine."

"I am." Giles pulled away from the patronising hand stroking at his hair, coming instead within serious danger of falling off the circular island of marble. The edges were rounded and smooth, making a fatal slip all the more likely, but he did not seem concerned. "I brought you here. I put the sequence of events in motion. Me, not Randall. Not Ethan or Deirdre or Philip or Thomas. Me."

"Then prove it to me Giles. Prove to me that you are who you say you are. Show me that you can be as devoted a disciple as your friends, and show me that you're worth the energy it takes me to keep my hold on you. Show me you're worthy of the Mark." Randall's skull-like grin was once again in serious danger of taking over his face, as though the essence of Randall himself was present beneath the the hand of Eyghon, and it was his humour, not the demon's, which showed forth in response to the young Watcher's torment. "Show me, Giles."

"How?" He wanted a cigarette, or a strong drink of something with bite. He wanted to be back in a world where the lights didn't blast the back out of his skull like the neon bursts of a night-club. He wanted to be somewhere where it felt as though his lungs were breathing air, and not whatever tainted, dry emptiness surrounded him here. Gone were the joys and the madnesses of the earliest moments of the summoning. Gone were the heightened senses and the feeling of deepest passions and long-held desires about to be fulfilled. All that he was experiencing now was the tightening chest and pounding heart of a trip gone wrong. He couldn't even control the colours of the hallucinations which were still flashing through his skull. The voices he had welcomed at first, and the pictures he had seen in Randall's eyes before grasping his hand were still there - but with them and around them and in between them were other pictures. Skulls with rotting flesh still hanging off the bleaching bones, worms curled in eyeholes and maggots snaking their way through supperating skin and matted, tangled hair. Bony, skeletal fingers reaching out to grab at him, so that he could almost feel the touch of their hard whiteness on his arms and his legs. He could hear their tortured screams, see the pains in their faces, see the flames of hell which licked at their thighs and their waists. He could smell them burning, and share in their anguish as they realised that the torment lasted forever. He felt sick, and his head spun in wretched circles, rising and sinking like a kite tossed about on a strong breeze. Randall's face was hard to discern amongst all the others, and it seemed to Giles as though his voice came from a long, long way away.

"Undo the straps."

"Straps?" He didn't understand at first, and it was only with difficulty that he was able to drag his mind back through the mire or hallucinations and nightmares and pulsing blue lights to the world that awaited him somewhere else. He could see the warehouse, with its magical fire of purple and blue flame, with Thomas and Philip standing in a stupor amidst cracked window panes and blistering floors. He could see Randall strapped to the table in the middle of the room, his body covered in a layer of dust that he had dislodged when he had first climbed up onto his resting place. Ethan stood beside him, looking as though he were asleep on his feet, right hand gripped in Randall's left, his hair hanging down until it all but obscured his eyes. On the other side of the table, holding on to Randall's other hand, was Giles himself, slumped on the floor, leaning against a convenient table leg, Deirdre collapsed half on top of him and half on the floor. Her free hand was wrapped around his shoulders, giving the impression somehow that they were lovers entwined in each others arms, lost in a moment of forever frozen passion. It was strange to look upon his body and not to be inside it - or at least not in any way that made sense to him.

"Remove the straps." Eyghon's voice was deepening. Behind him Giles felt Deirdre draw closer, and he knew that her eyes were flashing with yellow lights. He could see them in her silent and still form, lying on the warehouse floor in the back of his mind. He could feel the presence in her own mind, as she pressed close to him, wrapping her arms around his chest.

"Remove the straps," she breathed, her voice so soft a whisper that he felt it rather than heard it - felt the tremors of her voice caress his heart. Her breath tickled his ear. "Remove the straps. Let him go."

"We can't. Randall isn't strong enough." He heard his voice echo and crack, and was startled at the way that the acoustics of this place of nothingness manage to accentuate every doubt and every worry that was bothering him. "If we let Eyghon go now, before we know how to control him properly, he'll tear Randall apart, and us too."

"Remove the straps." There was a giggle in Deirdre's voice, but it was the giggle of madness, not the giggle of humour. Her grip tightened across Giles' chest, and he felt her hands pressing uncomfortably hard against his ribcage. At one time he would have relaxed, leaning back into her embrace and welcoming her closeness. Now he felt a momentary burst of quite irrational terror.

"Remove the straps." Randall reached out towards him, catching Giles by the shoulders, his bright, yellow-tinged eyes blazing with all the fury of a demon long-caged. "I want to walk again. I want to be free in this world in the body of one of the initiated. You've kept me cooped up too long in the bodies of the dead and the rotting. I have a live body now. I intend to keep it."

"No." Giles shook his head, but he could not move away from the looming figure, and he could not escape that penetrating, manic stare. Deirdre's grip tightened until it felt as though his ribs were beginning to bend under the force. He had never before thought her strong enough to squeeze so hard; but now of course she was acting with the strength of someone - something - else to back her up. She wasn't the Deirdre he had known. She wasn't the Deirdre he had lived with, and hoped to stay with forever. Not now. Not anymore. On his shoulders Randall's hands began to shake.

"Help me Giles, " His voice was shocked and shaking. "He'll kill me if you don't help me. Let him go."

"No." Giles tried to take a step back, suddenly afraid of him. Randall's legs were beginning to quiver.

"Please. You have to help me. I can feel him inside my head. He's burning me. He's going to tear me apart from the inside."

"No." Giles tried to see back over his shoulder, wondering where the hell Ethan was. The blue light which had been hurting his eyes for so long had gone now, and in its place was a lingering sense of grey. As Deirdre's grip increased in strength, the greyness was taking over everything. "Ethan..." He could barely get the words out. "Ethan, help me!" There was no answer, save the whispering of Deirdre's breath in his ear. He tried to turn around, suddenly afraid for his friend, apparently the only ally he had left. Bizarrely the girl, no match for him ordinarily, was too strong now. He could not move. Before him blood was beginning to bubble and froth on Randall's lips, and his eyes were widening in horror. He took a step forward, until there was barely an atom's width of air between him and Giles, so that when he spoke the foaming blood around his mouth sprayed onto the young Watcher's face and clothes.

"Giles..." He was sinking, gradually drooping down onto the floor. The blood flecks were becoming rivers, and his face was slowly becoming the colour of fresh milk. "Giles..."

"Cut it out Randall!" Panic showed in Giles' face. "Ethan, help me! Please!"

"He can't hear you..." Deirdre's insinuating whisper became a sing-song of gentle mockery. He could feel her fingernails cutting through his shirt, and although they had never seemed very long in the past he felt sure that they would soon be cutting through his skin. He could practically feel her fingers clutching his heart. "Ethan's dead."

"No." He shook his head, but the image before him, of Randall now lying motionless in a pool of his own blood, made him doubt his own certainty. Eyghon's laughter echoed in his head, and he felt the slashing, biting tear of claws digging into his chest. Deirdre's hands were marked with the scaly, blotchy reptilian leather of the demon himself, and beneath the translucent silk of her sleeves he could see the same new skin covering her arms. All trace of the human was gone, and her echoing mockery was tinged with the deep, rich tones of the Sleepwalker. Blood began to soak the front of Giles' shirt.

"You're really prepared to die?" The voice was disbelieving, tinged with advanced distaste. "You're really prepared to end it all, just to stop me from walking free and uncontrolled? You're really prepared to let me tear your heart out through your throat and feed it to the birds - just to protect your lousy capital city?"

"No." His voice sounded hoarse, and more like Eyghon's than his own. The laughing in his ears told him that the demon did not believe him.

"You're weak, Watcher. You want all sides of everything. You want to destroy your precious Watchers, and yet you can't stop yourself being one of them. You don't deserve to wear that Mark, and you don't deserve to be my disciple." With a sudden push the demon sent the still protesting Ripper stumbling away from him, careering across the slippery white marble disk towards the sheer edge--

Which quite suddenly wasn't an edge at all. It was the muddy, rain-soaked slope of a small stream; and carried on by his own momentum Giles skidded down the bank in a rush, landing up to his knees in icy cold, fast-flowing water. He heard an explosion of laughter behind him and whirled. Ethan, Randall and Deirdre, all looking normal, all apparently unhurt, were sprawled on the grass together, in fits of mirth over his impromptu soaking. Giles stared at them all, dumbfounded. Randall was drinking from a bottle of beer; Ethan was smoking a home-rolled cigarette with a familiar, exotic smell; and Deirdre was making a daisy chain, spinning each flower into the next with a spell and a spark of blue flame. She giggled.

"You look silly. Why don't you look where you're going."

"Huh?" He gaped at her, and she laughed again.

"I hope those aren't your suede boots that you're wearing, or somebody's going to have to break into the shoe store again to replace them. And that guard dog's getting suspicious. I think he recognises the smell of your after shave."

"Huh?" He realised that he probably sounded daft, but he could not seem to make the different processes of his brain connect. "Where are we?"

"You really did have too much of that cheap sherry, didn't you." Ethan made a vague attempt to stand, and gave up after not even making it to a sitting position. A drift of blue smoke floated from the end of his cigarette, forming mystical symbols in the air. Some of them developed a life of their own and ran away, others stayed where they were and refused to disperse in the manner of normal smoke. Giles barely noticed. "We're in Derbyshire. We came here for the yacht race."

"There is no yacht race in Derbyshire." Giles finally made it out of the stream, almost slipping back in again as his feet lost their grip on the wet mud. "Are you all alright?"

"Are we alright?" Randall was laughing. "You're the one who belongs in the nut house, Ripper. No yacht race in Derbyshire? You'll be telling us that there's no ocean here next."

"I don't understand." He rubbed at his eyes, listening to the cries of wheeling seagulls, smelling the distant smell of salt on the breeze. Ethan laughed, and his voice dropped into a tone of distinct malice.

"You're not supposed to." The seagulls vanished, and the warm and gentle breeze became a howling, icy gale. Giles could barely hear him above the noise."You're just supposed to go mad."

"There's a simple way to end it." Deirdre, her arms folded across her chest, was standing upright in the tumult as though there were still hardly so much as a gust of wind. The raging fury of the veritable hurricane did not so much as disturb a hair on her head. "Admit that you're no disciple of Eyghon's, or prove that you are."

"How?" He had to dash the shards of frozen rain from his eyes before he could see her, and even so his vision remained blurred. All at once there was solid ground beneath his feet - hard ground like that of a road or a pavement. He could see the grey sweep of tarmac, and the accumulation of water and ice in a snaking black drainage channel. Randall's voice rose clearly above the mad, bad weather, filling his ears and resounding about inside his head.

"Bring me a sacrifice. Bring me a person I can take with me back to hell. A soul to satisfy me while I wait to be summoned again. Give me a life."

"No!" The thought horrified the Ripper, although he could not imagine why. He had spent the best part of seven years caring nothing for the lives of others - had endangered them again and again without thought or worry. He had fought in the streets armed with a deadly flick-knife; had willingly and carelessly stalked the streets armed with an automatic pistol. He had left a succession of gang members and delinquents - some juvenile, some not-so-juvenile - bleeding in the gutter. There had been public appeals for information about his reign of terror - pictures of his victims hooked to beeping, hissing hospital equipment. He had done all that he could to make life unpleasant for as many people as happened to have the misfortune to cross his path. He was the Ripper, and it was his goal in life to hurt, to maim and to torment with magic. It was what he did. It was who he was.

"Are you scared, Rupert?" Randall's voice was purely Randall's voice, without so much as a hint of Eyghon. Ordinarily Giles would have hit him for speaking to him like that. Deirdre giggled, but for the first time that Giles could remember, she was laughing at him; siding with Randall. Deirdre Page, the love of his life, the one person he cared for almost as much as he cared for himself. The one person save Ethan who came close to being his equal - and yet now she was standing with Randall against him. It should have hurt, but it didn't.

"I'm not scared." He felt six years-old. Perhaps he was. Nothing else made sense, so why should he still be who he remembered himself being - or who he thought he remembered himself being at any rate.

"Then bring me blood." Without seeming to move she raced towards him out of the storm, staring into his face, her eyes flashing yellow. Beneath her skin he could see Eyghon leering at him, and he felt the Mark on his left arm burn as though painted in acid. His legs began to give way.

"I won't kill somebody for you." For the first time in a very long time he felt as though he wanted to cry. "I can't."

"Oh Ripper." She reached out to touch his face, but by the time her hands caressed his skin they had transformed into the cold, scaly hands of the Sleepwalker. "I had such high hopes for you. I've been watching you for months now, trying to guide your destiny. I saw you embark on your quest for chaos, I saw you battle those who tried to stop you. I looked forward to welcoming you into my fold. Don't tell me that just as I get you, you're going to become one of the good guys."

"No." He was starting to fall, but Eyghon/Deirdre's hands on his arms kept him upright. He stared helplessly into the fiery yellow eyes before his own. "I just don't want to do this."

"You're pathetic. You're not built to be one of the bad guys Giles." Eyghon's voice was filled with disgust. "You're no crusader for chaos."

"I am." He felt his resolve hardening, even if his body was weakening. "I'm whatever you want me to be."

"My disciple?" Triumph flashed in the demon's eyes. Giles nodded.

"Your disciple."

"Then bring me blood. Bring me somebody living." The demon's growl was now just a whisper. Giles found himself smiling, and realised that it hurt. He had bitten his lip enough to fill his mouth with salty red liquid, and as his grin became broader the blood poured in rivers down his chin. It made him look like a vampire, drinking its fill.

"Yeah." His voice was hard, determined, strong. "I'll do it." He felt his mind burn and his heart lighten - and something inside him cried out and curled up into a ball. The demon laughed.

"Good boy Ripper." And then he was alone in the road, and the rain had stopped, and the wind was dying down; and all that he could see in the darkness was a pair of headlights rushing towards him. A horn sounded, and the powerful engine of a mighty truck roared closer and closer. He didn't have time to shout out or to scream, or even to think of getting out of the way. All that he had the time to do was to fling up one arm in front of his face before the truck was upon him, and he felt his body being hurled helplessly through the air. Everything exploded in lights and colours and sound bites from thirty different dimensions. Then there was nothing but whiteness, and in the midst of it all, a simple swirl of black. He recognised it as the Mark of Eyghon, and knew that it was now forever burned onto his soul.


"Giles?" It was Ethan's voice, coming from somewhere above him. Giles blinked, slowly persuading his eyes to open, wondering dismally what visual hell he was lost in the midst of this time. The battered old warehouse hove into view, wisps of blue smoke wreathing the concerned face of his friend as it drifted into focus. Giles breathed a sigh of relief.

"Sanity?" He asked it as a confused question. Ethan didn't seem to understand.

"Are you okay?" He didn't sound as concerned as he looked, somehow; as though it were all some joke to him. Of course - Ethan Rayne didn't really care who was hurt, even if it was his closest friend in all the world. Just as long as he thought he was getting something from it, and just as long as he wasn't the one getting hurt. It was a code to live by - or had been. For some reason there was a sick feeling in the pit of Giles' stomach as he came to this uncomfortable realisation. At the thought something burned in the back of his mind, and he felt his inner strengths take over. He tried to sit up.

And failed dismally. He was lying down, on something hard and warm, like wood. He raised his head, blinking blearily about, seeing the others gathering in a rough circle about him. He saw Deirdre, Thomas and Philip, all looking blank. He saw Ethan, smiling his tight smile of faint amusement. And he saw Randall, standing in the forefront, his arms folded. As Giles watched, Deirdre moved closer to Randall, standing beside him, like a queen who had chosen her king. She began to smile.

"How did you get free?" Giles remembered Eyghon ordering his release, but he didn't remember the release actually occurring. He didn't remember much, come to that. Just pain and confusion and lots of noise. He tried again to sit up, and discovered to his shock that he was strapped to the table. The trap he had set for Eyghon had been set again for him. Randall was smiling.

"Time to welcome the demon, Giles. Time to be one with the Sleepwalker."

"No!" For some reason that he did not understand, Giles was terrified. He had seen the power of Eyghon, and he had become drunk on the incredible high of a shared possession - and yet now, just as he was on the verge of achieving all that he had set out to achieve, something else was dragging him back.

"Oh yes." Randall was looming closer, his eyes widening with every step. His hands reached out, taking Giles by the head, staring deeply into his mind, flecks of blood and spittle flying from his lips. "Time to go to sleep!"

"No!" The cry was choked off before it had begun, as with a rush of intense heat Giles felt his consciousness burn away from within him. His vision was obliterated in a rush of hot white light and his senses sang in joyous abandon. His heart began to beat with such violence that he thought it was about to burst through the wall of his chest. Somewhere far above him he heard Deirdre's voice singing a lullaby. It sounded incongruous to him, and yet part of him relaxed to its sound. In his head he heard Eyghon laugh, and this time he heard himself laughing with him. With a feeling of divine satisfaction he released his hold on his body, and bowed before his new master.

"Oh Rupert." Eyghon's voice was within him, and the mere sound of it made his heart sing. "Perhaps I was wrong about you after all. Perhaps you are ready to serve me."

"Yes." He felt himself growing desperate to please - desperate to do whatever he could to show the demon that he was willing to obey him. A rush of deepest pleasure surged through his body, and his hands and feet tingled with the sudden suffusion of blood. He thought that he felt a warm, tender hand touch his head in fatherly affection, and he leant into this new embrace. "Please. Just tell me what you want."

"You know what I want." He could hear Eyghon's smile in his words. "I want a life."

"My life?" He was conscious suddenly of a desire to do even this much. Something in the back of his head balked at the suggestion, but something much, much stronger couldn't wait to offer himself forward. Eyghon laughed.

"No, not your life Rupert. Not yet. I have other plans for you."

"Then what?"

"There's somebody coming. Somebody who'll provide me with the blood I crave. Somebody who can give me a life and a soul to feed from. Give me that person."

"I--" Confusion bubbled forth. "You want me to kill someone?"

"You're the Ripper aren't you? Is the Ripper afraid to perform this simple task for his master?"

"No." Something inside Giles was shuddering, but something else was feeding him with greater and greater strength. "I'll do it."

"Then bring him. Make him come to me, and I'll do the rest." Yellow, burning eyes filled the young Watcher's vision. "Prove yourself, and I'll give you all that you've ever desired."

"Yes." He was nodding hard, so hard that it hurt - and yet all that he felt was pleasure and joy. "Yes."

"Good boy Rupert." The burning eyes were fading from his vision. In their place, Randall's eyes loomed large. Once again Giles was back in the warehouse; and in the distance, crunching on broken boards and loose floor tiles, he could hear approaching footsteps. A huge, crooked grin spread its way across his face. Was this the point of no return that he had read about in his books as a child? - the moment when a man strayed irretrievably from the path of light to the path of darkness? Or had he already crossed over that point long ago? A thrill of excitement rose within him. The final decision; the final moment in which to decide what he was going to do. He felt himself beginning to shake.

"What did Eyghon say?" Randall sounded urgent. Beside him Deirdre was leaning closer, a voluptuous smile on her face, her eyes fading in and out of focus. She looked as though she had smoked every joint in the city.

"Are we going to destroy London?" The words came out with a rush of giggles. Giles glanced up at her, faintly annoyed. She was such a child. She didn't understand half of this. Had he ever really considered her to be the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with?

"Shut up Deirdre." He tried to sit up, anxious to go to meet the approaching figure - the sacrifice for Eyghon. He couldn't move. Frustration ran through him, and with a yell of rage he fought against the ropes. Somewhere inside of him a different part of his psyche was fighting against ropes of its own, still struggling to throw off the hold of the Sleepwalker. Furiously the Watcher struggled, his eyes wide, the pain of his desperation to accede to his master's demands more strong than any sensation he had ever experienced before. It felt almost as though his head might be about to explode.

"What in God's name-?" The cry came from the doorway, where a young man dressed in blue serge had emerged from the dilapidated corridor. He stood framed in light, staring at the dishevelled group before him, looking in amazement at the magical flames of their fire, and gasping in shock at the young man bound to a table, struggling in desperation against his bonds. "What do you people think that you're doing in here?"

A lop-sided grin found its way onto Giles' face, and with a sudden burst of glee he let the fears of his inner self merge with the joy of his new conscious. He raised his head as far as the ropes would allow him, and turned all of his desperation loose.

"Help me!" He struggled harder, trying and failing to sit up. "Please! They're going to kill me!"

"Okay, this is it." Striding forward with the confidence of the young, protected by his own faith in the image of his uniform, the policeman went straight to the table. "None of you people move." He bent over the table, reaching for his knife, anxious to cut this unfortunate young man free as soon as possible. He didn't see the smile widening on Giles' face, and he didn't see the flash of yellow that ignited first in the eyes of the man he was trying to save, and then immediately afterwards in the eyes of Randall James. A deep-throated chuckle burst from Randall's throat, and with a sudden, swift movement he hurled himself forward and caught hold of the policeman. The two young men struggled together, fighting each other, falling into the smouldering dust around the fire.

"You don't want to do this." Momentarily getting the upper hand, the policeman stared down into the frenzied eyes of the man beneath him. "Assaulting a police officer is a serious offence."

"So is assaulting a disciple of the Sleepwalker." Randall was grinning, and the policeman felt a sudden rush of fear. Randall saw it, and he laughed. His hands moved of their own accord, reaching into his pocket, extracting the flick-knife he had been carrying for so long. It had been waiting a long time to be used in this way.

"You have to turn yourself in." The policeman was starting to look as though he wished he had never laid eyes on the warehouse. Randall just grinned all the wider.

"Think again." With a sudden rush of hatred and spite, he drove the knife as deeply as it would go into the policeman's side. The young man let out a cry of pain and confusion, then slowly toppled forward. Randall grinned a tired grin, then rose to his feet and hurled the slumping figure into the heart of the purple flames.

"Beautiful..." With a flash of yellow and red, Eyghon's form emerged from the fire, the policeman gripped in one fiery hand. The young man was still alive, and fear showed in every one of his strangled gasps. He moved his hands in faint and feeble desperation, but to try to break free from Eyghon was folly indeed. The Sleepwalker raised him high above his head, and all around the ground began to shake.

"No." The ropes were falling loose from Giles' body, and he found at last that he could sit up. He didn't seem to have to the strength to climb off the table. "Leave him alone." Eyghon laughed, and in a last, powerful rush of heat and flame he disappeared. The policeman let out a shriek of mortal agony as the flames consumed him; then with a sucking, wailing sound the fire was gone. All that was left was the battered and burnt body of the policeman lying on the floor. Silence reigned.

"Oh boy." Philip rubbed his forehead, where sweat and grime had accumulated in equal measure. "Ethan? What do we do now?"

"Why are you asking me?" Ethan scratched his head, staring down at the body. His eyes sought Giles, always their expert in matters of confusion, always the source of their knowledge. "Ripper?"

"I don't know." He felt utterly lost, certain that it had been his actions which had led to the policeman's death. He felt sick. "We have to - to - I don't know. I guess we have to hide the body." That felt right. It felt as though somewhere someone was congratulating him. "I guess we hide the body, and we swear never to tell. We can't tell. This is about Eyghon, and it has to be a secret. Agreed?"

"Agreed." Randall sounded belligerent, as though, beneath his new-found strengths he was as scared as the rest of them. "We swear it now."

"I swear. I'm not going to tell anybody." Philip sounded scared. "I don't want to go to prison."

"I swear too." Thomas sounded as though it were all a great joke. Deirdre leant on Giles, smirking at him.

"And me. I swear I won't tell anyone." She draped her arms over his shoulders. "You worry too much, Rupert. Anybody would think you didn't want that policeman to die."

"I don't know what I want." Giles pushed her off. "Now me and Ethan are going to get rid of this body. You lot stay out of trouble."

"Yes sir, Ripper sir." Randall was grinning. Giles fought off an urge to punch him. What was happening to him, that one moment he could welcome the chance to kill in Eyghon's name, and the next he was not even sure of his own direction? He rubbed at his eyes.

"We'll meet here again tomorrow night. Tomorrow we'll summon him for real."

"No straps?" Randall was smirking at him now, in open challenge. Giles glared at him.

"No straps." He knew that it was foolhardy, but he was thirsty now. He wanted to feel the full might of Eyghon - needed it like he needed food or water - and like he needed a long drink, right now, of something very strong and very illegal. Every nerve end in his body was jangling.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Ethan was looking at him with concern. Giles met his gaze and held it, and gradually let a smile fade back onto his face. He let his heart rate slow, let his breathing ease, let his mind see everything a little more clearly. Something felt very right, beneath the pain and confusion.

"Yeah." He nodded, then bent down to pick up the bruised and battered body. It seemed to weigh nothing at all. "Yeah, I'm certain." And deep inside his mind, just as something broke out into cheers, something else gave a convulsive shudder and broke down altogether. Rupert Giles might have felt confused and uncertain, but the Ripper felt stronger than ever.



"And then what happened?" The soothing voice relaxed him, and assuaged a little of his fears. He leant back into the hard solidity of the dark wood bench, and rested his head on the wall.

"And then? We summoned Eyghon. Lots of times. Sometimes it was just for fun, sometimes it was because we wanted things. It felt - it felt incredible. Like the greatest of all highs. I've never felt so alive."


"But? What do you mean, but? Why should there be a but?"

"There always is." There was a smile in the voice. "After all, why are you here?"

"You know why I'm here."

"Yes, you told me. You killed a man. Who was he?"

"Randall." Giles heard his own voice shake as it spoke the name. "I suppose I always knew the risks that we were taking, but I ignored them after a while. It became easier and easier each time we summoned Eyghon. It became nothing more than a wonderful game."

"Until you made a mistake." The gentle prompting kept him on track, and he managed to nod despite the fear.

"Yes. Randall missed out part of the ceremony. We were lax. Randall wasn't ready, and the demon consumed him." He closed his eyes, seeing the scene before him, and knowing that he would see it in his mind for the rest of his life. "There was blood everywhere. Eyghon was taking Randall's body and life as his own. It wasn't like before, when we'd seen him feed on the bodies of the living for nourishment. This was... this was different. He was being reborn from within Randall. We knew that we had to do something, so we - so we--" He felt his resolve break with his voice. "So we killed him. We killed Randall. Thomas hit him with a stick. We all hit him. We hit him and we went on hitting him, and Thomas used his knife, and--" He took a deep, shaky breath. "And then he was dead, and the demon was gone."

"And then you got scared, and you came to me." It was more of a statement than a question. Giles shook his head.

"No. No, not at first. I've been wandering around since it happened. Hiding in back streets and alleyways. I was too scared to come out, and I didn't know what to do. The others... I don't know about them either. I don't know where they've gone, or where they'll go. At the end it was only Eyghon who was holding us together. Without him the group will break up."

"I think that's probably for the best."

"I think you're right." Giles closed his eyes. "So what is it, huh? Say ten Hail Marys, and promise never to do it again? What kind of absolution can I get for this?"

"What kind of absolution do you think you deserve?" The priest no longer sounded quite so kindly, although the patience and the sympathy were still present in his voice. "Are you here through a genuine wish to repent, or are you here merely through fear? What was it that led you to leave your friends?"

"I don't know." Giles stared at the floor, no longer able to look up. "I've done some terrible things."

"And are you sorry for them? Really sorry?"

"I don't know."

"Why did you do them?"

"I don't know." He drew in a long, juddering breath, hearing the onset of helpless tears. "I've hurt everybody. Deirdre, Thomas, Philip - they were all just small time troublemakers before I got my claws into them. I showed them the dark ways. I led them to Eyghon. I was responsible for Randall's death."

"Then perhaps it's time you looked for a new direction in life." Beside Giles' head, the small slotted window of the confessional chamber slid open, and for the first time he was able to see the silhouette of the priest's head. "Look up." Slowly Giles looked up, seeing the strong, dark eyes of the priest staring back at him from the dimly lit chamber beside his own. "What are you running away from Giles?"

"How do you know my name?" Fear burst into his chest, but it was gone in an instant as the priest spoke again.

"How did you know to come to me? What was it that led you to this Church? You're not a Catholic. You're not even a Church-going man - and yet you came straight here, past a dozen other places of worship."

"You're one of them, aren't you. You're a Watcher." He felt like banging his head against the wall of the chamber until the blood ran, but the priest's calm voice lent him further strength.

"No, I'm not. My name is Robert Flanagan. My daughter was a Slayer. She didn't last long, and she died before her eighteenth birthday. I hardly knew the truth about her calling before she was gone forever." The gentle voice shook. "There's more than just luck and coincidence guiding you through your life, Rupert Giles. Never forget that. Everything you are, and everything you've done, comes in the shadow of something greater."

"If you're trying to tell me that I'm not responsible for my actions, forget it." He wanted to stand up and walk away, but his legs didn't seem to have the ability to move. Either that or he had lost the knowledge of how to make them. Father Flanagan laughed softly.

"Of course I don't mean that. You're responsible, Rupert, and you'll take your punishment in a lifetime of guilt and regret. But you have to see the greater picture. You have to understand."

"Understand that there's a place waiting for me in the Watcher Council? Understand that I have a Slayer to train, to guide, to kill?"

"No. Understand that there's a greater force governing your destiny. You can run, but you can't hide, Rupert. You will Watch."

"Over my dead body." He found that he could stand, and stand he did, struggling to open the suddenly uncooperative door of the chamber. "I came to you for help - for guidance. I came because I thought you could show me the way. And all I get is crypticisms and lectures. You people never change."

"Your future is waiting for you Giles." The priest was still smiling. "You can't hide from it forever."

"I can try." The door opened at last, and he strode out into the Church beyond. The arched nave was empty, the stained glass windows casting their coloured patterns down onto a silent and invisible congregation. Giles marched on past. Behind him Father Flanagan also left the confessional, standing alone in the shadowy corridor to which his chamber gave him access. Another figure stood behind him, insubstantial and dark in the blackness.

"I don't think he's ready to be a Watcher." Flanagan headed for the main part of the Church, arriving in the room just in time to see the heavy wooden door slam shut behind Giles' speedily exiting form. The shadowy figure, a tall, pale man in an ancient and shabby black suit, stared at the door. His pale grey eyes seemed to be seeing past the simple barrier, focussing instead on the young man now running down the street outside.

"Good." He rubbed his ashen hands together, causing the heavy gold rings on all his fingers to knock together with a dull tapping, scratching sound. Flanagan stared at him in surprise.

"I thought that you wanted him to return to the fold?"

"Not exactly." The tall, dark-suited man smiled until the two gold fillings at the back of his mouth caught the multi-coloured light coming through the stained glass windows. "Not yet anyway."

"I don't understand."

"You don't have to." Still smiling benevolently, the tall man reached out, and with a simple, easy slap, he slammed Flanagan's head against the stone of the wall, crushing his skull as if it had been made of china. "Nobody needs to understand what life has in store for Rupert Giles. Much less dear Rupert himself." He slapped his hands together a few times, as though ridding them of the departed Father Flanagan, then straightened his lapels, turned about, and walked straight through the wall and into oblivion. Behind him a few wisps of sulphurous smoke lingered a moment, and then they too were gone.

Outside, Giles ran until he could run no longer. It was dusk, and the streetlamps were already on. He stared up into the sodium yellow glow of the nearest, and pressed his forehead against the cold concrete of the post, trying to catch his breath. It was going to be cold tonight, but he had nowhere to go. He had no one to turn to, no friends save Ethan and the others - and he knew that it would likely be a very long time before he could face looking at them again. He wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Anger and fear washed over him in waves, and Flanagan's words came back to haunt him. You can run, but you can't hide, Rupert. You can run, but you can't hide. He didn't understand, and he didn't want to. He wanted to be normal. He didn't want to have a destiny or a sacred duty, and he wished to God that he had never discovered magic, or heard of the dark forces that dwelt within the world. Heavy with sorrow and misery, he turned away and began to wander off into the darkening streets of London. There had to be somewhere he could go. There had to be somewhere where destiny couldn't touch him.

"He looks nice." A shadowy figure with long, sharp fangs smiled in anticipation of am easy meal as it watched the lonely figure stumble along. Licking his lips the vampire moved forward to cut him off, eager to feel the warm young blood filling his mouth. A hard hand landed on his shoulder, and he spun about, staring into the hot yellow eyes of another of his kind.

"Not that one, Brother Antigonus." The second vampire had a note of warning in his voice. His companion frowned.

"Why not, Brother Falcimor? Why is he so special?"

"Because." Together the two vampires melted back into the darkness, letting the young Watcher run on unmolested. "There's a mark on him. Somebody somewhere has plans."

"Who?" Antigonus sounded cross, but Falcimor was merely amused, delighting in the game that some dark spirit was slowly unfolding.

"I don't know." The moon rolled out from behind a cloud, illuminating the centres of his eyes and the tips of his elongated teeth, and leaving the rest of him bathed in utter darkness. "But I have a feeling that we'll be finding out before much longer." And in the distance, oblivious, Giles ran on. For a moment he thought that somebody was watching him; yet in an instant the feeling was gone. He was alone. But in the shadows of every street corner a pair of hot yellow eyes burned in careful observation. In the maze of London's back streets, a hundred hounds of hell were watching the Watcher - and the Watcher himself came a little closer to them with every step.