Spiegel Im Spiegel
Part Nine: Ring of Fire
"I'm an effigy / A parody of who I appear to be. / Put your flaming
torches under me..."
--Natalie Merchant, 'Effigy'
A tiny of flicker of movement caught their attention. It had followed the
voice-- the voice that floated calm and measured through their numbers.
"I what?" their leader questioned, turning to the interloper, where he
stood behind the fire, hidden in the flickering shadows. Small glimmers of
orange light reflected from him, making only parts of his shape clear at
any time. The line of a shoulder, the gesture of a hand, the head tilted
slightly to the side, as if admonishing them-- or apprising their power.
"I don't think you're going to want to do that," the shape repeated,
simply. It turned, as it said it, to look at the human leader sideways.
It stepped slowly and languidly around the circle, far back, where they
could barely see.
And their leader followed it with his gaze, and said nothing. Instead, a
strange, little smile thrilled across his face, and shined into the glimmer
of his eyes. The kind of smile that came across vampires when they saw
easy prey. Mindless and mirthful, he smiled at the prospect of the coming
The pregnant girl, bound and trembling, stared at that smile with instant
recognition and foreboding. Her flowered crown sagged on her brow, falling
to the left awkwardly as she recoiled in visceral horror.
The smile grew into a toothy grin as he drew a dagger from his belt, and
gestured to those around him to stand. A moment of silent pause filled the
crowd, and the sound of the crackling fire dominated them all for a short
space. But as they began to rise and join their leader, their movement was
broken by the sound of the voice as it began to circle, slowly, around the
"I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees," it declared
It spoke with an unwavering confidence that paralyzed them in motion. The
poetry fell with simple clarity from the creature's unseen lips. They
stared into the darkness with disquiet, straining to see the shape making
its slow progress in circles around them, the sound of its boots shuffling
across cardboard and the great masses of assorted dross from their
campground. It stank of waste and rotting leavings. The smell of it was
utterly overpowering. They lived in itinerant, careless filth.
"All times I have enjoy'd greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when thro' scudding drifts the
rainy Hyades vext the dim sea..."
Their leader stayed his followers once more with a signal from his thin
hand. He took a step forward, his eyes gleaming with a joke that only he
"Who are you?" he asked, chuckling with cold humor.
The shape seemed to pause a moment, and the sound of its movement in the
cold night stilled to nothingness. And it shrugged, the shoulder dipping
into the orange light of the wavering fire, the tired leather momentarily
visible. Its calm voice continued in an unassuming, nearly dismissive
"I am become a name," it responded steadily, "For always roaming with a
hungry heart much have I seen and known,-- cities of men and manners,
climates, councils, governments, myself not least, but honor'd of them
"I can cut you," the leader responded simply, with a quiet menace. He
stared into the black just beyond the flames, heard the strange sound of
the creature's motions, the heady smell of strong alcohol and travel
following it as it moved.
"And drunk delight of battle with my peers," the creature continued,
unwavering, "Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy..."
The creature paused once more, behind the group of followers clustered to
one side of the fire, directly across from the leader and the isolated
The leader slowly became aware, as the figured moved, that it must be
stalling... something, something about them was keeping it from attack.
His brow furrowed slightly, thought breaking through the exhilarating
promise of violence. His eyes followed the figure as it walked once more
around the circle, towards where he stood with the cursed woman.
"I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch
wherethro' gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades for ever and
for ever when I move..."
The opponent was close, the leader could feel it. The girl was aware of it
too, standing right next to her, a few feet to the left, hidden past the
firelight. She felt a tear slide down her cheek, catching on a leaf
clinging there like a raindrop. And the thing leaned in, and she heard a
crisp, metallic snap sound close beside her.
A lighter came to life in its hand, a faint light glowing from it. It
illuminated the monstrous fangs, the golden eyes. Savage and feral, it
smiled to them both as it spoke.
"That last bit always made a lot of sense to me..."
Windy Troy. The delight of battle. He knew them. And, like Ulysses, he
alone remained, wandering.
Spike let his fingers trail quickly through the lighter's flame as he
looked in on them. The girl gasped as their eyes met, and stared in bright
shock, unable to turn away. The rest of the assorted humans simply watched
him from across the fireside, cautiously looking to their leader for a
And their leader laughed once more, louder now. He had that look in his
eyes-- the mad, smiling gleam that made him unpredictable. He liked this.
He liked this a great deal. Spike smiled right back through sharp fangs
and contorted features. This was a game he knew.
"You're a vampire," he said, "You think we'd even be alive right now if we
were afraid of *one* vampire?"
"It depends on the vampire," Spike replied grimly.
"You'd be dust before you even moved," the man replied, a shaking,
smoldering anger coiling in his voice.
"And I could rip your lungs out before you could try it," Spike snapped
back, "So I wager that's a stalemate, then, isn't it?"
"Now I don't understand why you even care," the leader countered
conversationally, "Unless you wanted her for an easy snack-- why even
"I made a promise to a lady."
Bound and helpless. The sound of breathing and the smell of pure fear.
Large and trusting eyes.
The moments dragging into the dread of impending silence. And an answer
that inevitably came, with blades and apocalypse and her screaming after
"I'm taking if you're giving," he said dryly, "What use is she to you
anyway-- save you the bloody trouble."
"Oh," the leader sighed, his eyes suddenly distant in their hilarity, "It's
The light moved between them like a living spirit, flickering, licking at
the edges of their hands. The light didn't penetrate the dark-- swallowed,
overwhelmed by night cold that stood like empty, negative space around the
circle. Spike felt a strange sense of anger raise in his gut, twist
serpentine in his veins.
This was the world he knew. This was a world he'd lived in for a hundred
years, the world that he inhabited comfortably. The shadows clung around
him like the familiar old leather on his shoulders. It sang to him from
the corners with its promise of blood and dust-- empty like the ashes
flying up on the heat of the fire, glowing red and fading-- absorbed whole
into the night darkness. Empty, but so bright as it flared.
The bonfire moved still in its undulating currents. His lighter glowed in
his hand, the metal burning his fingers with heat where he held it. The
sensation moved in his mind as he stared into the elated face before him.
And he was a little in love with the moment, when he could believe for a
blind instant that he was as he should have been-- that he could tear into
the throng and come out blood-soaked and alive with the sheer and useless
rage of it all.
But then a dead girl raised a hand in his memory, brushing her hair away
from her tearstained face. She was in his element, hidden in the secret
places, the night caves. She came, even before that, to him-- for fairy
stories of infanticide and didn't seem to understand that they were true.
She thought she was evil. She didn't know. She had no concept of it.
Even when that dark nightmare void was crawling at the edges-- creeping
with desperate certainty to claim her and steal her and rend her living
flesh to pieces in its teeth.
She just didn't know.
And he looked into the lust-laced, blue eyes of his opponent and hated his
own with a bitter, uncontrolled spite. He jaw clenched with it.
"Ok, I asked. Now I'm telling," he said, anger starting to take over his
movements. He began to pace back and forth behind the weeping woman. She
was shivering in the cold and staring at him in the familiar, old way. He
could have told Dawn quite a story about it, if the situation was only
"Give the girl to me," he ordered, a thick growl rising in his throat,
"Give her to me now."
The man before him smiled once more, breathed in heavily as if he were
savoring the moment.
"You see friend, it's like this," he said, his arms spread wide, "I really,
really just don't want to."
Spike smiled back, his closed lips curving slightly. He allowed his human
features to settle back into place.
Then he shrugged. His voice was amicable, nearly careless, when he spoke
again. It rang in the taught and nervous silence.
He threw the flask swiftly into the fire. He dropped his lighter onto the
trail of alcohol he had
poured out around them, while he circled them and recited dead poetry.
The fire flared and the chaos ensued, the cardboard and discarded trash
taking quickly to the flame, eaten fast and spreading the holocaust into a
ring around the camp.
He leapt forward and grabbed the girl, still bound and screaming. The
others struggled desperately to control the fire all around them. And he
clutched her head close to protect her skull, moved back a space-- coiled
and leapt out with preternatural strength into the negative space of the
blackness, rolling with the impact as his shoulder hit the broken asphalt
and frozen earth.
The brilliant fire met smokey darkness at his back.
"Endless-- so far in myself. Follow me..."
--Natalie Merchant, 'Effigy'
Continued in Part Ten: Duet for One