Spiegel Im Spiegel
Part Fourteen: The Foundation Crumbles
Buffy walked between the tombstones absently, thinking.
The forest was changing-- thinning. The brush grew smaller, the trees
farther apart. And between them, an ancient cemetery began to sprout from
the earth. The stones were worn down, most were broken to pieces. The
amorphous, limestone stumps filled the ground around her. Most of the
names were illegible.
Beside her, a tree root broke clear through the chest of angel, splitting
the statue in half. The roots covered the base in clinging tendrils, like
the alien, sucking tentacles of a sea creature. The angel's face was
still serene-- still fighting along-- even while it fell apart into
faceless, empty nothingness. Its hands were still clutched together, where
the fingers were melting into one, amorphous object. Its identity was
crumbling with its features.
Buffy could relate.
She stopped and reached out to touch the thing. A piece crumbled off in
her hands, left a trail of white powder across her gloves.
Soon the forest would be behind them, a distant memory of blue spaces,
shadowed light, and tall branches. The memory of living things moving in
the wind-- birds calling in mournful, rasping voices.
One fluttered down at that moment, and landed on the angel's robed
It regarded her a moment. One wanderer to another. But their worlds only
crossed-- they weren't the same. She thought a moment of a life in the
sky, moving on cold currents of wind, soaring over the trees that would
seem small from the height-- the world below like a train set-- where the
giant expanse of forest was simply a place to land and rest before taking
to the clouds again.
And she wondered if it was aware of itself-- if it had memories and
attachments, or if its animal mind was too narrow to pinpoint those
And in that moment the bird sprang from the angel, and soared into the air.
It flew high and higher, and she followed its progress up into the sky,
where it landed again on the very top of the bell tower of the ruined
church that sprung from the ground like an ancient mountain or solemn,
Gothic. Like those spider-web trees. She walked over a swell in the
ground, and headed for the church. They'd stayed there to sleep. It had
been good to wake up and see walls around her again. It broke the
agoraphobic expanse of the trees and made things feel more grounded.
Far above the woods, in the arched, glassless window of the tower, Maggie
crouched, a tiny figure, staring off into the distance.
And suddenly, it wasn't a vampire on in a gothic window, but Dawn up on her
tower. And the image of her sister hung in her mind's eye, frozen in time
and space and removed from everything else. It impelled her forward,
suddenly, as if she wasn't in that woods at all, as if she were back on
that ugly construction site.
She burst through the ruined doors of the church, and up to the east, past
the worn alter. And the vision swam away, faded from her eyes. And she
was just there, again. Just Buffy. The arched entrance to the shadowed,
murky stairwell stood before her.
And the birds rode the currents of the wind high above her as she began to
climb up the uneven stairs.
They were on the move.
Their quick, darting progress through the trees brought them well past the
highway spaces pilgrims walked and into the eerie remnants of a vast and
rambling churchyard. One paused, clinging with flexible, sensitively
clawed fingers to the tip of an obelisk. It looked like a spidery gargoyle
come alive, with its distorted features evocative of humanity, but forever
removed and alien from human life and thought.
It clung to the top of the pale, white monument, and took in the air. The
scent was getting stronger.
With white, willowy arms and pale, rubbery movements, they leapt together
through the night, charging forward with bestial grace. Occasionally, they
would communicate in the guttural, low frequency noises that broke the
silence together with the impact of their powerful, arachnid legs and
lupine claws on the wood and stone.
The pack would find the two hunters soon-- the predators that threatened
the hunting of their territory. And this pack of creatures, the long-
nosed, short-necked creatures, were all the more strange for the oddly
human visages, the nagging similarity that suggested that, in the dimension
they called home, these were what humans were, and would always be.
And they had a plan, as ancient and ingrained in their blood as the
instinct to feed.
They knew they could wait for the two strong fighters to separate, and they
could take them one by one.
One by one, when they fed. They always separated to feed. Which was
ridiculous. Any pack animal knew it. And these two hunters, the smell of
predatory power pouring off them in waves, they traveled together, like a
pack should. But they were separate. Eternally disconnected from each
other in some fundamental way. And that would be their undoing.
And the otherworldly predators moved as one through the trees, strong on
the scent of their hunted.
She darted up the stone stairs, crumbling from where they split apart in
the cataclysmic death. One floor and then another, and yet another went
past her as she leapt forward with agile grace.
The cold faded from her bones as she moved, and she left the trees behind
her, with the weighty pressure of the earth, as she climbed into the sky.
The stairwell was dimly lit and dust filled. Shafts of light pierced
mistily through the stonework where small, pigeon hole windows stood. Old
bird's nests settled close to the tired, wooden support beams.
And she felt calm, suddenly, as she ran, as she moved up the stairs. The
world slowed around her. This is what she had always done and what she
would always do. She wasn't Buffy anymore, as she ran, she was just
movement. The air rushing past her cheeks was pure solace.
And she came to a place where the stairs suddenly crumbled away, and the
gargantuan church bell had fallen into the landing, imbedded into the
crumbling stonework. An entire wall of the tower had fallen away at that
point, and she could look back down into the roofless sanctuary, its stone
floor scattered with fallen stones. She could see their own bags and
equipment there, crowded around where they would make their campfire.
She pulled herself up on the stonework, vaulting up from the neck of a
gargoyle on the outer wall and up to the half-demolished bell chamber. She
The breeze was stronger here, where the tower was nothing but delicate
gothic stonework, slowly falling into decay. It pulled at the dark whisps
of her hair, fallen from her braid, brushing them cross her flushed cheeks.
Maggie sat in a gothic arch, that dwarfed her with its size. She stared
into the distance absently, blonde hair spilling over her back, tangled by
At the sound of Buffy's feet shifting on the stone, towards her, Maggie
Her face was contorted, her white fangs glowing against her pale skin. Her
eyes shined a golden yellow.
And they were full of tears.
"Hey..." she whispered, turning back to watch the landscape. Buffy avoided
the gaping holes in the stone, and made her way carefully against the outer
walls to her. As she sat down beside her friend, the expanse of the
eastern sky stretched out beyond her vision.
She could see the space beyond the forest, where the lace of branches
trailed away to nothing.
And there was sky-- a large, mighty sky painted like a renaissance fresco
in half-lit oranges and deep reds. Rimming it-- as if the space between
heaven and earth, were the carved faces of rolling hills. They were alive
with golden grasses, vast and timeless, nodding together in the moving
winds like ocean waves.
She heard a strangled sound from her friend, who had turned to wipe a small
hand against her monstrous face.
And Buffy suddenly remembered that little sampler in the violin case.
She'd read once that girls used to make them to practice the sewing they'd
need in adult life. If they made it that far.
She wondered how long it had been, after Maggie embroidered it, that she
had died. Looking at her, it couldn't have been more than a few years.
Since the destruction, Buffy had aged. She looked the older of the two.
"Are you ok?" Buffy asked, softly, her voice unsure and tentative. They
rarely talked about their thoughts or motivations. Buffy had always felt
there lay a path to trouble, and had avoided it. But somehow, above in the
sky, it seemed to matter less that the girl next to her fed on blood and
death. And she felt a wave of peace move through her as she settled
comfortably against the gothic arch.
Maggie smiled, the gesture strange and discordant through her carnivorous
"Yeah... it's just that..."
Her voice trailed off, and she gestured to the expanse of moor land. A
herd of wild horses ran across it in the distance, a small rush of shapes
moving through the grass.
"It's beautiful..." Buffy whispered. She couldn't get that sampler out of
her mind. Mary Magdelene Neville.
"Why'd you drop your first name?" Buffy asked on an impulse. Maggie turned
away from the landscape, to her friend, her hair rimmed in gold half-light.
"I don't know..." she said, "I didn't, at first. But it just didn't fit
anymore-- it went on too long. Like I wore it out."
Buffy nodded. It made sense to her. And Maggie continued, her voice still
tremulous, though her tears had faded away.
"You get to--- well, when you get to be around as long as I have, things
change," she said, "Things that don't seem like they could ever change.
Names and places and countries and language-- everything that was certain
just isn't so sure anymore."
Buffy remembered the pilgrims around their fire, telling the legends of
their post-modern hero. And for so long, that name was hers. It had meant
her. But she wasn't Slayer now. It'd been usurped. The world had moved
past her when she threw down her cause like a long suffered burden.
It sent a stab of pain through her that was almost jealousy. It was true.
Things change, things that seem set in stone. Roles and status. People.
The foundation crumbles, the rock erodes.
"I don't know if you need to live forever to get that," Buffy said softly.
Maggie chuckled, and shook off her vampire's face. She was just a girl
again, her blue-green eyes rimmed red and swollen.
"I guess not," she replied, calmly, "I guess not..."
And Buffy smiled. They sat together in combinable silence, taking in the
glory of the cloud-strewn sky.
"It's good, Buffy, you know that? All of that out there, it's still
good..." Maggie sounded like she was just talking to herself, to the air
around her that spilled over their faces in cold, flowing waves, "It's
still beautiful... still full of life."
And Buffy was listening to the dead creature extol the beauty of the living
world, among the ruins, as the dragon's wings came into view.
The webbed membrane suddenly shrouded the space around them like a tent,
and the dragon's body made sharp impact with the stone of the bell tower,
as it sped out into the plains.
The stone shook, pieces falling into the trees below. They clung tightly
to the walls, desperately clingining so as not to fall. They could see the
rippling, dark scales in detailed relief they were so close.
Roaring, screeching sound tore at their ears, echoing through the hills.
And its wings beat as it sped away at full strength into the grassy fields.
The world was still again. The women stared. Maggie rose to stand,
shakily, staring intently at the receding creature. Buffy stood with her,
framed in the archway.
It soared over the distant, grassy hills, swift and twisting in the air.
The wild horses ran from it as it dropped low, skimming the herd. Missing,
it swooped down for another pass.
Buffy cringed as its roar filled the air again. She'd heard that sound
before... she'd seen the shadow of these wings before...
The noise of it could be heard moving in the air, muted as the direction
pulled away from them, and roaring when it carried on the wind. The orange
light rolled off its black wings, its dark scales, as it stalked and hunted-
- as it moved with violent determination among the horses, and seized one
in its claws. A savage shake, and the thing lay still in the sharp talons.
And it dropped it like a doll, and went on chasing the herd where it raced
across the hilltops, swiftly thinning its numbers.
Buffy whispered out her horror.
"Holy mother of--"
A hand touched her arm.
"Stop it..." Maggie whispered vaguely. Their eyes were still fixed on the
sight pulled from a thousand legends. Grendel and gargoyle-- the mythic
Beast. Enemy to man, lonely wanderer of the dark places.
"What...?" Buffy asked, her eyes still on the nightmare monster. Her mind
reeling, racing with the memories of coming to consciousness on that stair
on Glory's tower, a whirlwind of confusion and pain and light and the sound
of that roar-- the screech of that *thing* as it was born in the glowing
green radiance and soared away.
Maggie responded, her tone distracted, watching the living shadow tear the
herd to shreds with deliberate, systematic savagery.
"Don't swear in church..." she said.
Continued in Part Fifteen: The Lady of Heorot