Where Do We Go From Here?

Picture from Raelyn.

Ariana looked at the assembled humans and listened as they attempted to question her. 

She didn’t answer their questions, but it was less to do with not listening to them, which she wasn’t, and more to do with the fact that her thoughts were down the hallway and in another room. Angelus was, from the few moments she’d been in his presence, everything her mother ever told her. He was, indeed, handsome, tall, and muscular; his hair was the same shade as Ariana’s as it brushed his shoulders, and his eyes were the deepest brown she’d ever seen. 

He also had a fierce temper on him, something Buffy alluded to on more than one occasion, and he obviously loved his wife. That was noticeable immediately, and would be, Ariana thought, even if she hadn’t known how they felt about each other. The way his eyes lingered on her, the way he spoke to her and no one else. Of course, after how long in these realms? Well, it was understandable if he stared at the wife he left; it’d been two hundred years for him, after all. 

And why would he speak to her, Ariana? He didn’t know her, not really. It hurt, in a way, that he wouldn’t but Ariana vowed to change that. She vowed to show her father what he missed all these years, who she was and what she was capable of. The daughter of the most powerful elf and the strongest Ancient promised herself that she’d make Angelus see that she was worthy of being his daughter and that maybe, in the future, they could have the relationship she’d always wanted with him. Desperately wanted with her father. 

He wouldn’t speak to any of the guards, or the warriors Buffy brought here, that was beneath him, and he wouldn’t speak to either his First or Buffy’s because, well, because he probably hadn’t anything to say to them. They were of a different caste than he, and Angelus, Ariana was sure no matter the state of his soul, was very conscious of that. It was the way he knew, the only way he knew. 

“…his soul.” 

Whipping her head around to whomever spoke those damning words, Ariana narrowed her golden eyes at the redhead. Advancing on the unsuspecting woman, Ariana demanded, “What did you say?” 

“Ah, ah…” what had she said? Willow couldn’t remember, suddenly too frightened to remember the words she’d just spoken. She had one surprise after another today and felt, unreasonably so, that she should’ve known at least some of the revelations she’d discovered today. It was unreasonable and Willow knew that, but she felt it anyway. 

“What about,” the tall woman asked, using her height to intimidate the now shaking human, “His soul?” 

Oh, right! “Angel’s soul, it’s allowed him to be good, to help…” Willow trailed off at the look in the other woman’s eyes and seriously feared for her life. 

“You will never,” Ariana said with deadly calm as she hoped that the guards outside the door hadn’t heard Willow. “Never speak of his soul to anyone outside this room, is that clear?” 

She didn’t think that these humans possessed a true threat to her, and she was more concerned with what the guards by the door might overhear. Ariana, calling on the magicks of her mother’s people, quickly and efficiently, cast a silencing spell over the room. She’d take it down once they were finished, but she didn’t want anyone else to overhear what went on in this room, especially if they were talking about Angelus’ soul. 

Willow nodded like a good little human, but the brunette next to her asked, “Why?” 

Not used to being questioned, and even less liking having to answer such a question, Ariana smirked. “Because it’s bad for your health,” she said in the same deadly calm voice. “Angelus being here is because of dangerous gypsy magicks, magicks he spent the last two hundred years trying to purge from his system.” 

The brunette stood, not really intimidated by the taller woman. Faith had faced a lot of creatures in her career as a slayer, and somewhere along the way she lost the fear so intrinsic with the demonic aspect of society. Maybe it was because she was simply tired of fighting, or maybe it was because she didn’t care. It was probably a combination of both, not caring that she fought, only continuing to do so because it was all she knew. 

“You do know,” Faith said with the cocky attitude that saw her through most of her life. “That Angel does have his soul, right?” The condescending tone and the matching smirk belied the concern Faith felt towards the vampire; the words his daughter (God, daughter!) spoke scared Faith for reasons the slayer couldn’t place. 

“Of course,” Ariana snapped. She opened her mouth to say more, but stopped. These were the people Angelus stayed with for years, how many Ariana wasn’t sure, but at least three. These were the people who know him, not best, certainly not, but who knew what he was doing in this realm, what things he did against his own kind, against the demons he wouldn’t have looked twice at before. 

These were the people who could get him killed. 

Going with that, with the knowledge that they at least cared for him, or the ones in this room did, Ariana didn’t think the other three would care if Angelus were on his deathbed. They weren’t reading up on his past exploits, they weren’t scowling at the door where he spoke, privately, with Buffy, they actually knew who he was, cared for him. It only made sense that they’d want him to live as well. That, and that alone, caused Ariana to soften.

She looked at Andre and knew he thought the same thing; that these people, caring of Angelus as they might be, were also his biggest threat. Her lover nodded to her, his eyes telling her what she already knew. 

These were the people they needed on their side. 

“You care for him, yes?” Ariana asked, looking first at Faith, then at the other three occupants. When they all nodded, Ariana smiled. “I thought so. And that’s a good thing, he needed that here, I’m sure. But things are different with him, as I’m sure you also know. Vampires do not have souls, it’s simply unheard of, despite Angelus having one. However,” and she looked at each of the four humans in the eye. “If anyone were to know that Angelus, Ancient, Master and King of Aurelius, husband to Buffy, Princess of Elves, Queen and Ancient of Aurelius, had a soul, his life would be forfeit.” 

There was silence for several long moments before the redhead, Willow, asked, “You mean Buffy’s not a vampire?” When everyone looked at her, she hastened to add, “Er, how could they not know Angel has a soul?” 

Andre stepped next to Ariana and answered. “Angelus,” he corrected, “You must call him Angelus, not Angel. Why do you not refer to him as such?” 

All eyes turned to Doyle and the half demon smiled slightly. Angel was his friend and he truly wanted his friend to be happy, but not at the cost of their friendship. Doyle knew that if Angelus was to go back with his wife, then he’d never see the vampire again. It depressed him, but at the same time the half demon knew Angel’s going home might be the best thing for him. “That was my grandmother’s fault. She referred to him as her saving Angel and the name stuck.” 

Neither Ariana nor Andre knew what to say to that, so they ignored it. Instead, Andre continued, “If any were to know that Angel was helping the human populace fight against the demonic forces inhabiting this world was the same as Angelus then the revolts that we are currently fighting will explode into a full out war. The Continuum is held together now because our Queen has made it clear she rules in our King’s stead. That Angelus was infected with unknown magicks and refuses to return to the Land of Light until such time as he is cleansed of these magicks.” 

“And people,” Cordelia asked with skepticism, “Believe this?” 

“Of course,” Andre answered as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “Buffy made the announcement shortly after it was discovered what happened. They are both well loved and respected in our Land, naturally she was believed.” 

“What’s so bad about having a soul?” This was from Willow, who looked as if she was putting together a complex puzzle.

Both vampires stared at her incredulously for a moment before Ariana, who did possess her soul, answered. “It isn’t done.” 

Seeing that this wasn’t what the redhead was looking for, and Ariana admitted that it was a poor answer, the heir to the Aurelius throne clarified. They needed these people, she reminded herself, they needed them and if they had questions such as this, then she would do her best to answer them. If for no other reason than to earn their trust to keep their mouths quiet. 

“You have a soul, yes?” It was a rhetorical question and Ariana continued without pause. “Your soul, this conscious of yours, tells you when whatever you’re doing is right and when it’s wrong. It tells you that to steal that piece of candy from the store is wrong and that to lie to your friends is bad. It tells you that killing the man who beat you up, while satisfying, is equally wrong. Vampires do no have souls. 

“When they’re made, they lose that soul; it resides in the aether in peace and tranquility. The being they become is conscious free. Whatever he feels like doing, he does. If they want to kill, they do, if they want to lie on their taxes, they do; depending on who they lie to, death may be the result, but it doesn’t matter to the vampire. We have a Continuum to prevent chaos from reigning, to create order out of beings who revel in chaos. Our society is based on an order that is the antitheses to the chaos we create. But they don’t care about breaking the rules, unless they’re caught. 

“Now imagine this, imagine being soulless for millennia, imagine ruling ruthlessly for so much of that time and doing what you wanted when you wanted to do it. Now imagine suddenly having your soul back, that conscious that tells you that things are right and wrong, that allows you, that forces you to feel guilt. It makes you an anomaly among your people, makes you an outcast from everything you’ve ever known.” 

Ariana paused in her description and watched as it al sunk in. Cordelia looked somewhat bored but worried for her lover. Faith looked like she already knew all this, but Willow, Willow who seemed the most innocent of them all, looked as if Ariana’s words never before occurred to her. That having a soul was something she took as a given and therefore she never thought about not having one. 

“Angelus ruled for ages without a soul,” his daughter finished, “He did things that ensured his continued reign, and that caused the deaths of countless beings. He traveled to these lands and killed whenever and whatever he wanted to. If anyone were to discover that that being, the one they feared and still managed to love and follow, no longer had the qualities they feared, loved, and followed, what do you think would happen to him? To his kingdom, that survived years without him because of his reputation, because of his wife and her reputation, because of that fear?” 

“He’d die,” Faith said flatly after barely a moment, “He’d be hunted down and killed, his wife and child, too,” she looked up into Ariana’s slightly disconcerting golden eyes. “His kingdom ripped apart and this war you speak of would spill across realms, into wherever vampires lived.” 

Ariana said nothing to that, but Andre added, “All that and more. Whatever you’re thinking, it’d be a thousand times worse.” 

Not looking at the rest of her group, Faith nodded. “We won’t say anything,” she jerked her head towards the door. “But I can’t guarantee the rest of them. They never trusted Angel…Angelus. I don’t think they’d say anything about his soul, it’s not exactly something that comes up in casual conversation; but if they knew it could harm him, they would.” 

“I appreciate that,” Ariana said with a genuine smile. Then, because she wanted to know, because she needed to know, she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to speak with her father, but understood her mother’s need to do so first. She wanted to get to know the man who sired her, in the elfin way, not the vampire way, she wanted to tell him every little thing she’d saved up to tell him once she really did meet him. 

Ariana wanted to know everything he’d done since leaving Buffy, and everything he felt. She wanted to know what he saw, if he wondered about her, if he thought about how she grew, who she looked like, how she turned out. And she wanted to tell him everything in return, the first time Gunn and Oz supervised her riding lessons, how she’d fallen off, sprained her wrist, but got on again because she didn’t want anyone to make fun of the daughter of the Ancient. The first time she’d fought Drusu in hand to hand combat and won, the first Council meeting she attended and the first official decision she made. 

Wanted to know if everything William and Drusilla told her was true, how she knew of Darla’s betrayal but how the vampiress changed. How Darla honestly cared for her, how she tried to make up for that treachery, how she guarded Ariana with her life, and never, ever lied to her. How Buffy told her of her father, and how very much Ariana wanted Angelus to be proud of her. 

She felt Andre at her side, felt his strong comforting presence, felt his love and his support and how much he wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her. How he didn’t because that was a sign of weakness, even in front of beings they didn’t think they had a reason to fear. Ariana felt him by her side and found, somewhere deep within her, the courage to ask the question. 

“Tell me how you met him?” 

And they did, the four humans who considered Angelus their friend, despite the limited understanding they truly had for him, told his daughter whatever they knew about him. And in the telling, understood much more about their friend than they had before. They understood why he avoided vampire clans, why he was the true definition of a silent partner, why he locked himself away in his room for sometimes days on end. 

Insights they never understood before, they did now, because of the revelations of the past few hours, the wife, the child, the kingdom. They understood motivations for things past and, they hoped, they understood what made their friend stay with them. 

Most importantly, however, they told his daughter everything she wanted to know.
~~~~~~~~~~
“Tell you about her?” Buffy asked in a voice that was both incredulous and filled with longing. She wanted to; oh she wanted to tell Angelus all about his daughter. About her courage, her brain, her beauty. The love and joy she brought her mother. But Buffy didn’t and wouldn’t. 

“You should’ve been there, Angelus,” she said instead. “You should have been there for all that.” 

“I know,” the vampire admitted, his gaze never wavering from Buffy’s face. 

“You know?” She asked, angered again, “Then why didn’t you? Why weren’t you?” 

For a long minute Angelus said nothing, trying to put into words all he was feeling, all he felt over the years. Once upon a time words were unnecessary, once upon a time everything between them flowed freely, there were no secrets, no reason to wonder. And yet…and yet if there weren’t any of those things, then why had all this happened? 

“I didn’t realize,” he said, not directly answering Buffy’s question. “At first, I mean. I didn’t realize what happened. Suddenly everything was different and I didn’t understand what.” 

He had her attention now, Angelus saw but then she would’ve left long ago if he hadn’t. For the first time in forever, Angelus tried to explain what happened to him, what he felt, what he experienced, changed as he was. She knew, he was sure, some of what happened, but their lives forked afterwards, after the birth of Ariana. Ariana, he had so many questions about her, about her birth, her life, what kind of woman she grew into. 

Were those questions better left to the daughter? But what if Ariana didn’t want to see him, didn’t want to know the man who never personally acknowledged her, never even met her? He knew she was his, knew she was his daughter, and an instinctive part of Angelus already loved the girl. A father’s love. But the person Ariana was, the actual person she grew into, not the one he’d made her out to be…would that person want to even speak with him, let alone get to know him? 

“Until Darla kicked me out of the hut I’d left her to die in, I didn’t realize that they had cursed me with a soul. All I knew was that something was different, that something was wrong, there were these voices screaming at me, and I didn’t know where they came from.” 

Again, he paused, not comfortable with revealing such things, even if it was to Buffy. But she deserved to know what happened, what changed him. Then, maybe, she’d leave him alone. He didn’t want that, never had, but he knew he couldn’t go back to the being he was. Not as he was. 

“They were all there, every one of them, I suddenly remembered no matter how much time passed. I remembered the first human I drained, and the torture I inflicted on the Watchers the night we met. I remembered taking over Aurelius and suppressing the token rebellion with impunity and I remembered slaughtering entire towns after I…left you.” 

Angelus stood, wandering to the window to watch the first rays of sunlight break over the city. Now, more than ever, he felt an outcast in this town, with these people, doing what he was doing. But could he repay his debt, could he, like Doyle, atone for his sins? He didn’t think so and wasn’t sure it was even possible or that he wanted to. He could never atone for his greatest sin, his sin against his beloved wife. 

“You could’ve come home,” Buffy said as she watched him stand by that window. 

Her anger was still within her, a living breathing thing that threatened to consume her, but she wondered, for the first time she wondered. She wanted Angelus to return home to her, promising him that nothing had changed, that everything would be fine and that she loved him, always loved him. Buffy had not, however, considered the possibility that maybe Angelus didn’t want to return, not because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t know how. 

She was born with a soul, it was a part of her, and something she never truly thought of until Angelus’ was returned. The fact that his soul was returned never changed her feelings towards him but maybe that wasn’t enough for the proud Ancient. 

Maybe he didn’t know how to return to her because he’d never experienced what he was then, and now. He’d survived millennia without a soul, the demon within taking over, completely. With the intrusion of his soul, with the sharing between two polar opposites, what had he gone through? What had he experienced within his own mind, his own body that Buffy couldn’t, no matter their bond, understand? 

“I know,” Angelus admitted, but didn’t voice the doubts he had as to his welcome. In both his kingdom, and in his wife’s arms. There was still that lingering hurt that she’d never tried, personally, to find him. Oh, she had to rule the land, had a child to raise, alliances to forge and maintain, but it’d been so long, so very long…surely she could’ve found time? She had for this. And just who was in charge in her absence? 

But none of their thoughts were voiced and the silence remained. Finally, long minutes after Angelus admitted his fear, Buffy asked, “Tell me,” she coaxed, “Tell me what you felt? Then, when those gypsies first cursed you.” 

Looking over his shoulder at his wife as he let the thick drape fall back into place, effectively blocking the rising sunlight, Angelus did. He told her of his confusion, of his loneliness, of the turmoil that kept him from sleeping, that gave him nightmares, and that tortured him as surely as the never ceasing voices did. 

And for the first time since their estrangement, Buffy listened.
**********
Darla listened to the three males shoot questions at her, one after the other. 

She did not, however, answer them. It was obvious they not only had very little understanding over what they fought, but even less over Angelus, and the difference between he and any other vampires out there. She was not about to enlighten them for the simple reason that if she so much as uttered a syllable about Angelus’ soul, she knew nothing would stop Buffy from killing her. 

The only reason Darla was alive now was because Ariana loved her, despite their arguments over the years, and that Buffy needed her…but now that Angelus was back, Buffy no longer would. Now what place did she hold in her Queen’s life, what place in Aurelius? 

“And you say you’re his sire?” The one with the glasses, Wesley Darla thought, asked. 

Nodding, she took another sip of her whisky before answering. “Yes, several…millennia ago I found him on the Realm between Places, where great warriors fought and died, and I turned him.” It was, in fact, much more complicated than that, but that was another story, for a different group. 

“And,” Wesley asked, fascinated, “He became one of the Ancients? I thought,” he continued before Darla could answer. “That they were myths.” 

Laughing, Darla finished her whisky. “No, they’re very much real. Ancients,” she said, choosing her words carefully as she noticed the boy, Xander, refill her glass, “Are our ruling circle. The Continuum is comprised of Ancients from every major Order in the Land, though each of the four kingdoms has their own King and Master. Angelus is the strongest among us, and the Continuum, therefore he is Ancient of Aurelius.” 

Wesley scribbled that down and Darla decided she’d said enough. She’d have to warn Gunn and Oz about this, not about her words, Darla needed to discover what this group knew, but about the fact that Wesley was so obviously taken with this newfound knowledge. She shot the whisky back in one gulp and watched as they refilled her glass once again. Did they think they could get her drunk? The chances were slim, but Darla decided not to take that chance. 

With Ariana here, and her duty to the child clear, she didn’t want to take any chances. Not with the only being she really, truly loved.  Leaving the glass alone, Darla rose and wandered around Wesley’s office. 

The room was spacious, enough to fit all four of them. Three walls were lined with books, reference material mostly, she assumed, reading the spines. Hmm, The Yggdrasil, that was interesting; the book was said to be lost some time ago, around the beginning of the split between realms. It was the history of the beginning of Lore, the time before the written word, penned by a sorcerer who collected the stories into this book. 

The Yggadrasil Tree was actually a Norse myth, said to be the most important holy place of the gods. It was an ash tree whose branches spread over the world, land, sea, and sky. Protecting all, knowing all, its four roots dug deep into the most important things to both god and man, and ensured their safety and survival. The book, however, contained all the tree knew, its genetic memory if one allowed. The memory of who created even it. 

What was a human Watcher doing with it, and did he realize the value? 

Moving on, Darla noted several dozen volumes on demonic references, and an entire wall lined with journals of some sort. Puzzled, she allowed herself to linger over them, ignoring the men behind her who watched with interest. They were meticulously dated, she noticed, and named as well, though none of the names lasted more than a few logs. 

Slayer journals, Darla realized as she turned back around, nothing about her realizations on her face. They were the chronicles detailing the lives and deaths of slayers through the years. How was it, she wondered, that a world that prided itself on being so very civilized could send little girls out to their deaths? Oh, she realized that beings such as her helped none at all, but one would think that these Watchers would have an army, such as Aurelius did, to battle the creatures who stalked them. 

And since Darla wasn’t about to stop stalking the weak humans that populated this realm, and doubted anyone else was going to either, one girl wasn’t going to do a whole lot. 

“And this Buffy,” Wesley said, looking back at his notepad as he scribbled comments on the conversation. “What of her?” 

In a blink, Darla was hovering over the seated man, her nails extended into claws and her eyes golden in her anger. No matter how many times she wanted to call the elf by her name, to show some of that disrespect she felt towards the woman who stripped her of so much, she didn’t. She didn’t because she realized it wasn’t worth her life to do so, and it wasn’t worth the loss of Ariana’s respect. 

“You will,” she snarled, “Refer to her as Queen.” 

Actually, Darla was somewhat surprised that no one corrected the Watcher before. Or maybe they had but he ignored it? The vampiress didn’t know but it didn’t matter. She released Wesley’s throat and stepped backwards. Looking over her shoulder to the other two men, Darla made sure they understood as well before nodding to them and leaving the office. Returning to the hallway, she reported to Gunn and Oz her conversation. 

“I don’t think they have any idea who her majesty is,” she said in a whisper. “But the Watcher has all the journals of the previous Watcher’s there, lined up neatly in a row by date. It’s only a matter of time before he puts all the pieces together and realizes just who he has visiting.” 

Darla looked behind her as if someone was hovering there, but no one was. “He knows little of Angelus, and nothing except what I allowed about the Continuum. Everything we live he thinks is a myth, and I’m sure his Watcher’s heart will begin researching as soon as he can. It didn’t sound as if he trusted Angelus before, now I know he doesn’t.” 

Gunn and Oz nodded, but said nothing, not exactly sure what to say. Finally, Oz motioned for Darla to stay by the door. “I’m going to talk with these humans, see if any of them know anything, and check up on the Princess.” With one final look to his counterpart, the elf started down the hallway. 

Normally, he’d never leave his mistress alone, even with Gunn guarding her, but there were other things here that needed taken care of. Like double checking on the princess, though Nicholaus was more than capable. And seeing what these humans knew of Angelus. That was what worried Oz the most, that they knew of the state of his soul, and how could they not and still work with him, and that they didn’t know the value of keeping that a secret. 

If he was honest with himself, Oz thought as he nodded to Nicholaus and the other guards at the doorway, he also wanted another look at that human girl, the redhead. She was interesting, that was for sure, and she had an aura around her that intrigued him. Opening the door without knocking, he entered to a scene he never thought to see. 

Ariana and Andre were leaning against the wall, nearest the curtained window, listening to the others as they told some story. Oz obviously interrupted the story as when he opened the door, six sets of eyes immediately focused on him and three hands instantly held weapons. Raising an eyebrow at the scene, he didn’t say anything but looked at Andre instead. 

“Darla’s back,” Oz said in his usual taciturn way when in the presence of outsiders. 

Andre scowled but Ariana simply nodded. She turned to the group and bowed slightly before leaving. Andre followed her but motioned for Oz to remain. Curious the First waited for the vampire to explain. 

“They know of Angelus’ soul,” he whispered to Oz, knowing that the First knew everything that went on with his master and mistress and that by telling the elfin First that the group knew was in no way violating anyone’s trust. “Make sure they say nothing to anyone else.” 

Oz nodded and waited until the two had left before returning his attention to the group. There were several things he already knew; one was that the brunette leaning against the wall was the slayer and that the man on the couch was the seer. But he didn’t know anything else about them, and nothing about the other two women. His eyes lingered on the redhead and when he spoke, it was to her. 

“How long,” he asked, choosing his words carefully, “Have you been working together?” 

“All of us?” Willow asked with a quick glance at Faith. When the man nodded and smiled at her, Willow sighed in relief. She wasn’t sure what she thought was going to happen, but he made her nervous, nervous in a way that she was unfamiliar with. “About six years, I guess, since Faith was in high school.” 

“You’ve been a slayer that long?” At Faith’s cocky grin and nod, Oz was impressed, though he didn’t show it. “Interesting, I hadn’t realized slayers lived that long. You must be very impressive.” 

“Well usually they don’t,” the brunette on the couch next to the seer said, “Usually it’s vamps like you who pick them off.” 

Instinctively Oz went to deny her accusation, that he was a vampire. It was a matter of pride, after all. One simply did not call one a species one was not. But then he paused. They didn’t know the difference and if they realized that he wasn’t a vampire, that he was an elf, Buffy’s identity might also be revealed. He couldn’t have that, no matter how much anyone seemed to trust these people. 

“When one is sent to kill one,” he said instead and with obvious regret in his voice, “Then it’s hard not to strike back.” No one said anything to that, so Oz tried again. He was usually much better at conversation than this. “Tell me about what kind of work you do here, I understand,” he turned to Doyle, “That you’re a seer. Please, explain that to me.” 

“You don’t have seers from wherever you’re from?” Doyle asked, interested. 

“Oh, we do, but their visions aren’t about people in need, they’re about people who live in the kingdom, about one’s future, one’s destiny. The good of the kingdom and Land, and the path one should take as part of the destiny.” 

“Really?” Doyle asked, “How then do you know who needs help?” 

And so the conversation began, with Doyle and Oz comparing the differences between their seers, not the least of which was that the Land Seers weren’t coerced into their calling, and experienced no pain with their visions, when Doyle had mind bending headaches that lasted days. Oz wondered, as the rest of the group joined in, comparing other things as well, such as food and sunlight, horses and crops, if there was a way for either he or Tara to heal Doyle of the viciousness of the visions. 

To help someone was a gift, not a curse, and it seemed only right that whoever these Powers That Be were, they’d realize that and want to help.
~~~~~~~~~~
Ariana approached the door her parents still hid behind and looked at Darla. 

As much as she wanted to give them all the time they needed to work out whatever needed to be worked out between them, now wasn’t the time. There were other dangers that needed facing first, the rebellions, the humans, here, who knew of her father’s soul, and the ones they might not be able to trust. Too many things, and they were all happening at once. Wasn’t that how it always was? 

“Darla,” Ariana said, “What have you learned?” 

“Other than they don’t trust us, have no idea who her majesty is, and that they didn’t, until today, realize that Angelus was within their midst all this time?” At Ariana’s rueful nod, she smiled. “They have The Yggdrasil.” 

Even Gunn turned his attention to Darla at that announcement. William walked the few steps separating them and grabbed Darla’s arm. “Are you sure?” He asked, suspicion coloring his voice. 

“Positive,” she said as she wrenched her arm from his grasp. “I saw it myself, and I don’t think that Watcher has any idea what it is, or he’d have locked it up away from any and all prying eyes, in some Watcher Museum or something.” 

“Do you think my father,” Ariana asked, “Knows it’s here?” 

“If he did,” William answered for Darla, “He’d have taken it and returned long ago. That book is reputed to contain all the lost spells of the Old Ones, from the time when the Realms were one.” 

Gunn wondered at that but said nothing. He didn’t like that his Ancient left, deserting wife, child, and kingdom, but still wondered what he’d do if in Angelus’ place. And why was William so positive that Angelus’ would return to Aurelius had he known of the book? So far as he knew, William didn’t know of Angelus’ soul. Instead he nodded to Nicholaus. 

“Have one of the guards go to our house and tell the rest of the warriors to meet here. We’re moving into our Ancient’s home, as is our right and his invitation.” 

Angelus issued no invitation, but he would’ve if given the chance, and a little prodding, Gunn was sure. It wouldn’t look good for the Ancient, in his self-imposed exile, to refuse his people shelter, not when they finally found him, and not, as evident by Ariana’s next words as she told of how he finally purged all the magicks from his system. Briefly the First wondered if he was overstepping his bounds, but with both Buffy and Angelus indisposed in the latter’s room, something had to be done before rumor started flying. 

“Tell them,” Ariana finished when she realized the direction of Gunn’s thoughts and realized the importance of his orders, “That our Ancient has been successful in purging the harmful magicks from his system and that he was making ready to return to us when the rebellion came to his doorstep. Not able to desert his kingdom, no matter where he was, our Ancient made ready to fight. These humans, also fighting the rebels, are temporary allies and should be treated as such. Understood?” 

Nicholaus nodded and did as his mistress bade, repeating, verbatim, to the elf and vampire guard he sent to their base, what Ariana told him. He knew there was something more going on, but so long as his mistress and her family were safe, didn’t care what secrets were kept from him. He had enough to worry about with the precocious and resourceful princess without worrying about things that didn’t concern his duties. 

Ariana watched her First talk to the other guards and turned back to the door that separated her from her parents. Should she go in? Did she want to? Yes, oh, yes she most definitely did. She wanted to see her father, wanted to finally speak with him, not hear all about him from others; her mother, Darla, William and Drusilla, the humans who worked with him these last years, even her own lover. 

Still she hesitated, not willing to knock on the door. There was one question that plagued her, that pounded in her mind and screamed through her blood. One thing that plagued her throughout her life, no matter who told her what, or how many times they told her. 

Would Angelus want to know her?

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