"Cicely the Vampire Slayer..."



Summary: You've read pieces in my various Cicelyverse AU tales...Now the whole thing, laid out...

Disclaimer: Not mine but thine...O, Joss!

Archived at the Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, http://www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/Cicelypg.html or direct to story at http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/cvs1.html...

(Don't worry about the Underwood name from "Lies My Parents Told Me", or the 'Cicely' for that matter, this is AU land…Sides I've used the Addams' name for years and am not about to drop it now…)

[Note: Got a Cicely, pre- or post-Will adventure you're too embarrassed to post yourself?...Send it to me and I'll add it to the Cicely adventures links from this tale on the Cicelyverse page…Outlines will be accepted but define them well or I will feel free to expand on them in any way I like…(remember her career spans from 1870-1880 and she only has from March to November 1880 after Will…Her best friend and Will's is her cousin, Henry Foxcroft…And the evil Watcher's name is Simon Duncan Farris…the rest is up to your imagination.)

For more background info the key Cicelyverse tales are "Original Sin", "Romance Palace", "Sunrise", "Drusilla"...All however deal with alternate outcomes for Cicely and Will...]

***

Prologue:

"Once upon a time, not all that long ago...In a rather famous land I'm sure you've heard of...

There was a brave, courageous, dashing, and handsome young hero...

Who at the age of thirteen was called to set upon the noble path that heros must take...

And soon proved worthy to be numbered among the greatest of them, saving millions, defending all Humanity, and defeating hideously evil, clever, and powerful foes...

But this young hero labored under a dreadful curse...

Which said that she, like all the others of her kind before her, must never seek to be like others...Never hope to be loved as others...Lest those she loved suffer evil worse than death...

And...That she herself was doomed to die young...And alone...

This, naturally, was a source of great sorrow to her...Though, hero that she was, she resolved to do her Duty to the last...

Until one day...When she met the gentlest...Kindest...Sweetest...And most beautiful of young men...

(Though perhaps not the best of poets...And perhaps a bit argumentative at times...)

And fell in love...

A love that was to her joy, returned in full...

But...

She feared her curse...And the dark fate that must claim her beloved...So saying nothing to him of her secrets, she turned to those who had guided her in her noble work for aid...

And those who had guided her in her service to Humankind, in particular he who had trained her for her calling, were sorely angered by her seeking to leave them and escape her fate...So much so it was decided she must pay a terrible penalty for abandoning her Duty...Not through her own suffering...But through that of her sweet lover...

Deceiving her, they persuaded her to let them drive her love away using a creature of evil in her own form...She never aware of their dark and hideous plans for her beloved...Until it was too late...And her love was snatched away, transformed into a horrible and evil thing...A twisted mockery of the love she had known...And now was her enemy...

Unaware of their treachery, she blamed only herself...But instead of returning to Duty, she sought to devote her life to rescuing her poor beloved...Or if she could not, of freeing his tormented soul from its monstrous prison...Knowing that only she could reach and save him...

Learning of this resolve of hers drove the one who had trained and loved her mad with bitter jealousy...And he persuaded the others that their hero must be put aside to make way for another who would follow the path of Duty...

And so, the hero who had defeated so many evil foes fell an easy prey to those she trusted...But, bearing one last secret...

The child of the lover she still sought even as she faltered and grew weaker day by grim and weary day...Until finally even she could search no more...

But, in dying, with her child, she heard her lover's trapped soul calling to her...Still seeking her as she sought him...And she knew both the search and the fight were not over..."

The tall, dark-haired reader closed the old notebook with a chuckle...A lovely, if rather hard-faced blonde lady in elegant dress seated near him on an ornate sofa smiled coldly...

"That's what he's been writing in that thing?..." the lady shook her head...

"That's it...Do you believe it...?" the reader now laughed...Turning to the third member of their party... Who was frowning at both her two companions and the notebook...

"Dru?...What do you think of your little poet's effort?..." the reader teased what looked like a genteel and lovely young woman...Who suddenly snarled at him, taking on the face of a hideous creature...

"Sounds like a Grim fairy tale to me..." the first lady laughed...

"Give it to me, Angelus...Into the fire it goes...Bad boy, bad, silly William...Must be punished...Mummy will smack, smack her bad, silly boy..." the aforementioned Dru, Drusilla in full, bearing a young woman's face again, grabbed for the notebook...The reader, the same Angelus pulling it away and mockingly holding it from her...



"Oh, no Dru...A work of this charm must see the light of the day..." he teased...

"That idiot is obsessed with Slayers..." the blonde lady sighed... "Now he wants to write fairy tales of them..."

"Slayers?...What Slayers?..." Dru looked nervously at the notebook... "It doesn't say..."

It's just a dream...Some bit of nonsense drifting in from his silly soul...He couldn't...Know...she whispered to herself...But loud enough for the others to hear...

"Know what?..." the blonde lady frowned...Her mate, the famed and feared vampire Angelus, looking at their companion as well...

"Nothing...Lets have it...Mummy must burn the nasty, nasty thing..." Dru grabbed again...Angelus tossing it over to his mate as Dru just missed catching at his hand in time...

"Darla!...Give that to Dru...Dru will burn it...Burn, burn, burn..." she struggled as Angelus pulled her back roughly, snarling at her in his own demon's face...

"Enough, Drusilla!..." he shoved her down into a chair…

Burn Cicely...she breathed, too faint this time to be heard, even as she gave up and relaxed...Darla pocketing the notebook in glee...

Burn up and die...Be gone…Forever…

No…Oh...He knows...He's waiting...Some part of him, that miserable soul, that Bad One…Waiting…

And one day...She will come...His true love, to rescue him...

Shit...After all I've done for him...Immortality...Incredible strength...Giving free license to his darkest nature...

And I was even ready to let his mother live with us...

Men...

***

Part I...

Mid December, 1868...

The small town of Brusset, England...A grim and forbidding industrial town, surrounded by wasteland...Shrouded in a perpetual haze of blinding, choking soot and smoke…Hardly a living, green thing in view for miles outside the town...Made perhaps a hair less grim, even if more deadly by the heavy snow fallen round the night before...

In the center of the town a small crowd of mostly weary, largely dirty men and women watched a large and ornate coach moving slowly through the partly swept-away snow clogging what passed for the main street of the town...A few of the men chatting after the coach passed, one or two having raised their hats to it just as it went by...

"Sir Richard Addams' coach I'm tellin' ya..." one bald-headed man among one group of three chatters insisted after pausing to hack repeatedly into a dirty handkerchief which he shoved back into a grimy pants' pocket... "Here for the childrens' concert...He comes almost every year...We bein' part of his constituency..."

"Sounds about right...Once a year out to pat the little heads...Next day his boys are back to kick a few heads in of those that speak up about his factories..." a heavy-set man sneered... "If they're lucky to get off so light..."

Ole Dick Addams bein' the sort that does a through job of it...he noted, spitting after the departing coach...



"Cicely...?" the said Sir Richard. Addams, a lean, graying, tense man...His handsome features marred a bit by the cold and set look of his stern face, called to his slender, brunette-haired daughter, sitting across from him, rather eagerly staring out the open carriage window at the town...

"Father?..." she turned to him...

"Pull the window up and sit like a lady, girl...You're not some mill drudge on a sightseeing tour..."

"Yes, Father..." she closed the window reluctantly and sat back...Her dark brown eyes darting to the window...

***

"Boy!...William!..." a large, balding, solidly-built man of about forty-five or so, bellowed at a young boy of ten or so dressed in what was clearly meant to be his shabby best...A much-patched suit...Laughing at another boy who'd just thrown a snowball his way and preparing to return the favor, snow partly molded in hand...

"Stop your foolishness and get on!...We're late!...You ruin that suit today and I'll have your hide whether it leaves you fit for work tomorrow or no!...You hear me, boy?!"

"Aye, Uncle..." the boy sighed...Starting to drop the half-molded snow from his hands...Halting...Staring at the remains in his open hand that clung like fur...

Fur-like snow endewing my hand...he thought...

"I said, move on, boy!..." the uncle shook him, then shoved him on...Towards a large church whose cold, grey-stoney grimness seemed to hold little hope of compassion or salvation...

The boy hurried on and climbed the steps of the church...A stern-looking, elderly priest at top, glaring down at him and several others following him...

"You're late!...Come on, all of you, get inside...Walthrop!..." the priest ended by addressing the boy who'd led the climb up the church stairs...

"You're lead singer!...What the devil was keeping you?...Did you wish Sir Richard and his daughter to await your good pleasure, you lazy...?"

"The boy's let it go to his head, Father...As addled as his silly mother..." the uncle addressed the priest...The priest eyeing him rather sharply...

Where'd the fool find a pub open at this hour?...Must've laid a few bottles up at home…

"There'll be no more such nonsense after tomorrow..." the man grimly eyed his nephew...

Whom he found staring rather coldly back at him...

"Yes?...Well, get along now, boy...Mr. Andrews is waiting in the loft..." the priest, perhaps a hair less harsh as he stared at the uncle and nephew a moment, pushed the boy hastily behind him and up towards the open entrance...

"Sir Richard here yet, Father?..." the uncle had paused by the old priest now as the boy went into the church...The priest frowning at the renewed smell of liquor on the man's breath...

"Not yet, Mr. Pratt..." he said coldly...

"Snow's blocking them up..." the uncle had relaxed a bit and was settling into conversational mode...The priest considering a sharp remark but holding off on seeing the large coach enter the churchyard...

"There they are...You'd better get inside, sir...Mr. Andrews will take William in hand..."

"Aye, Father..." the uncle made no move to step on, watching the coach stop and its driver hop down to open the door...

The man himself...Ole Dick Addams...he noted to the priest who grimly stared at him a moment...



"Best to go on in, sir...The service will start shortly..."

"Eh, not before you get old Dick in his seat, eh Father?...That his daughter?..." he pointed at the young girl emerging after Sir Richard and being helped by him and the driver to the ground...Her eyes looking rapidly about, taking in everything...The driver pulling a large basket from the rear of the coach...

"Aye..." the priest sighed now... "Really, sir...The boys will be coming down for their gifts...Please to get in..."

"Right, right..." the man nodded, but remained in his spot...

Damn should've kept the boy with me a bit...Good ground for opening a chat... "Fine day, sir...My nephew Walthrop here's the lead singer..." That sort of thing...

P'haps I should've made my foolish sister come...Has that genteel air to her...Well, let it go...Best she earns her keep...

Yes, try it on the way out...If the boy manages well, might be a good chance to...He noticed the pew nearest the door had a vacant spot by the end and made for it...Good positioning being essential...

The priest offering a brief prayer of thanksgiving as Sir Richard headed up the steps to him, his daughter beside him, his hand holding hers firmly...

"Ah, Sir Richard..." the priest extended a hand... "We're so glad you could come in spite of the roads..."

"They were clear enough, Father Thomsen...Father...My daughter, Cicely...I thought it time she see how the other three-quarters live..."

"Yes, indeed...Welcome, miss..." the priest nodded to her... "Our boys have worked hard on their music, I trust you'll enjoy it..."

"Quite..." Addams sighed a bit... One must endure these things as part and parcel of being an MP....

"Oh, yes sir..." Cicely responded to the priest's remark... "Ummn...Are there girls in the choir?..."

"Oh, pon my soul no, child...It would hardly do..." Father Thomsen stared at her...

"We have an occasional woman singer for special services but here in the country we prefer to honor God without frivolity..."

"Oh..." Cicely, frowning a bit...But holding in check her full reply at her father's hard stare...No foolishness now, girl...

"And here come our boys...I'll have their master, Mr. Andrews, present them...Andrews?..." the priest called to a gaunt, ill-fed-looking young man who came over, obviously quite unnerved by the occasion...

"Sir Richard, our choirmaster, Mr. Andrews..."

"Sir...Richard..." Andrews offered a hand...Which Sir Richard stared at a long moment before the young man sheepishly retracted it...Ummn...

Father Thomsen frowning...Damn fool…And us counting on Addams' annual, if less than p'haps generous support…

"Hello, sir..." Cicely cut in, smiling kindness at the unhinged-by-embarrassment young fellow who now managed to recover a bit under her warmth... "My father and I are very anxious to hear your boys today…"

"Uh...Yes, well...The boys are ready..."

"Good...Lets have them then..." Sir Richard, a bit curtly...He turned and waved the driver bearing the basket from the coach to bring it over by Cicely...

"Cicely...One to a boy..." he turned to her, she nodding...

"Well...Mr. Andrews…" Father Thomsen…Get on with it, you…



"Lakey!…" Andrews called…

A rather hefty young lad of ten or so stepped forward in reasonably clean if clearly much used and patched choir robes, his heavy shoes crunching on the step…

"Here you are…" Cicely held out a wrapped parcel…Lakey staring at it a bit vacantly…Then at Cicely…Who smiled at him…

"Thank the young lady, Lakey…And go back to the choir loft…" Thomsen urged…

Lakey continued staring…

"It's just a little something for Christmas…" Cicely told him kindly… "I hope you like it…"

He nodded, staring still…Sir Richard rolling eyes…

My future constituency…

"Lakey…" Andrews hissed…

The Father shook his head…And grabbing for the boy's hand, pulled him away…

"Goodbye…Happy Christmas…" Cicely called…

"Bye…" Lakey suddenly found voice…Waving a bit…

"Brenton…" Andrews called…A sallow-faced, short boy stepped out of the darkness of the doorway…

Another one, Sir Richard sighed as Brenton stood blinking in the sun…Bedazzled as much by the sight of the lovely little girl before him, holding package…

This is sure to take all morning…

"Walthrop!..." Andrews called as Brenton nervously grabbed the package and scurried off…Cicely repeating her farewell to Lakey to him as best she could…

"Our lead singer, miss…" Father Thomsen indicated the little boy stepping reluctantly forward at Andrews' pulling…

"Hello…Happy Christmas…" she turned to the little boy…The prettiest little boy, she could not help noticing, now in his robes…Now in front of her, eyeing her carefully…Warily…

"Walthrop!?...Where's your manners, boy?...Thank the lady and be…" Thomsen was startled into silence as the boy coolly handed the package back…

"No, thank you, miss…I don't need it…"

"William…" Andrews hissed, turning a beet red…

"You don't…?" Cicely eyed him back…Looking him over, down to the frayed trouser legs emerging from his robes and the worn shoes…

"A package of your old odds and ends and some candy won't keep me in school, miss…Thanks…Tell your toff friends in London not to waste their time…" he turned…

Sir Richard vaguely amused as much as annoyed…At last, a little spirit…

Father Thomsen recovered his voice…



"Boy…" he said in a precise, icy tone… "Come back here…Apologize to the lady and Sir Richard…Go to the loft…And I will deal with you, later…"

"Christ…Jesus…" a voice murmured…Pratt emerging from the entranceway side where he'd slipped, hoping to exploit his nephew's expected…And carefully rehearsed…Good performance…

"You little…!" he grabbed the boy and carried him away from the others off into the churchyard…

Andrews looking at Father Thomsen…Who coldly turned back to Sir Richard…

"My apologies, Sir Richard…The boy has let his spot as our lead singer go to his head…"

"Little bastard!!...Little…" Pratt's voice reached them from where he stood over the little boy, now thrown to the ground, but suddenly rolling to the side and hopping up…

Cicely…Andrews…And several others about unable to keep a smile from their faces…A smile that froze quickly on Cicely's as the uncle grabbed young Walthrop by his hair and tossed him back down…

"Father?..." she looked to Sir Richard… "He'll hurt him…"

"The boy is being punished by his own, Cicely…He's insolent and deserves…" A loud thwack…Even Thomsen looking a bit perturbed…Lead singer after all…As Pratt struck the boy with a board from the ground…Repeatedly…The boy trying to dodge but making no cry or pleas…Only the heavy, dull sound of the board striking flesh…A sound was somehow far worse than screams or cries would have been…

"…whatever he's earned…"

"Mr. Pratt!..." Andrews had run out…Cicely staring after him, after a hard, brief look at her father's set face…

"I need Will for his solo now!…Sir, please!…Please!..." Andrews pulled at the man's arm as Pratt raised it to strike again…

"Boy's getting off easy at…that…" Sir Richard had caught his daughter's renewed stare at him…A coldly appraising stare that he recognized as his own…

"Shall we get on with this, Father?..." he hurriedly addressed the priest as Andrews led a staggering William back toward the church door…The boy not looking at any one, particularly the lovely girl watching him as he passed through the door…Some dark stains recognizable as blood visible on his now wet and muddied robes at several places…

Pratt standing in the yard, still clutching his board…Looking at the group watching him from the doorway…His eye catching the icy look of the young girl…

"Yes…Certainly, Sir Richard…" the priest hastily turned back to the doorway… "Who's next in there?...Wells?..."

"He might have killed him, Father…" Cicely said in a low voice, coldly as they were left a moment… "It was wrong to let it happen…"

"It's not our concern, girl…Here, you…Boy, step up…" he waved a young Wells, Tucker by first name…Forward…

"Hello…Happy Christmas…" she smiled at the nervous face…Turning to grab another package and avoid her father's eye…

"Will…For God's sake, boy…What got into you there?..." Andrews hissed as he helped young Walthrop up the stairs…Thank God nothing broken, he sighed…

"I'm sorry, Mr. Andrews…" the boy said quietly, grimacing as they climbed up to the loft…

"I couldn't take that thing from that girl and go off, smiling…" he sighed a bit, wincing…"Hardly matters now, any way…Tomorrow I go to work, that's all for me…"

"Will…If I could do anything…"



"I don't mind if it helps Mum…But she won't see a penny, you know…"

"Will, you can still study…I'll do what I can to help you…"

"It's the way things are, Mr. Andrews…But I'll try to do better…" he smiled a little…

"So that's a fine young lady…From London…" he tried to look back toward the entranceway and groaned a bit… "Tell her I'm sorry if I was rude…"

"It's not the end, Will…" Andrews patted his shoulder…

"No…" the boy nodded… "I tole meself if Uncle Pratt didn't kill me then and there after that, I'd have to stick it out and see…Has to be something worthwhile coming out of it…" he managed a painful shrug, smiling...

"That's the lad, Will…"

"She said somethin' to her dad…I saw…Did she?..."

"I think so, Will…"

" 'Have the bloke beat 'im harder', you think?..." he teased…

"Andrews!..." Father Thomsen called from below… "Are you and the boys ready?..."

"Aye, Father…Just a moment whiles I help young Will to his place…He's a bit wobbly…"

"I'll give him what for to be 'wobbly' about if he misses his key after this…" the priest called up… "Go on now…"

"Will, can you manage?..." Andrews led the boy into the choir box…The group of boys in their robes eyeing him…

"Aye…" the boy nodded…And made for the front of the loft…

There…There she was…And looking back, up…

Such a lovely one…And looking for him…

'Her raven's tresses glimmering in the bright gleam'…Well, not so bright in this dark box of a place…

She was…Looking for me…

He smiled down as she looked up and caught his stare at last…Andrews tapping for attention as he took his seat at the large, if second-hand organ…A careful look to William who nodded....

Worth…Ow, a wince…Every bruise…he thought…

And began his song, an old Welsh lullaby…Every note for her…Sung to her…As she stared up…Ignoring her father's look…



No, there has to be something worthwhile left...Some hope...He thought...

While there's something like her in the world...

***

"Cicely the Vampire Slayer..."





Summary: You've read pieces in my various Cicelyverse AU tales...Now the whole thing, laid out...

Disclaimer: Not mine but thine...O, Joss!

Archived at the Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, http://www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/Cicelypg.html or direct to story at http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/cvs1.html...

(Don't worry about the Underwood name from "Lies My Parents Told Me", or the 'Cicely' for that matter, this is AU land…Sides I've used the Addams' name for years and am not about to drop it now…)

[From more background info the key Cicelyverse tales are "Original Sin", "Romance Palace", "Sunrise", "Drusilla"...All however deal with alternate outcomes for Cicely and Will...]

***



Part II...



June 1870...The Northwest Frontier on the border of British India and Afghanistan...

One of the tinier British client states, recently occupied by a force sent out to suppress what had been assumed to be an outbreak of unrest...

Not an upswell of Evil that threatened the foundations of the Empire and all Humanity...At least after the junior leader of the occupation force, an ambitious young colonel, had had his ambitions unnaturally expanded to a world stage...

Though no longer able to live up to that saying about "mad dogs and Englishmen..." and the noonday sun, the colonel, one Hughston Forbes, now grandly self-styled Rajah of Buraipore, could be said to have performed his assigned duties admirably...The unrest had indeed been "suppressed"...

By the simple act of the Undead 'agitators having become his followers and agents after his encounter with and defeat of their previous leader...

However, those in Delhi and in London who had sent the young colonel out had been distressed to learn, via Imperial and other agents, that the new Rajah, leading a strangely powerful and growing force of natives and his own men, seemed unwilling to return to his post just yet...At least not until he would return Master of India, as his first major step...

Some, naturally, in this era of the "Great Game" between Russia, Britain, and to a lesser extent, France", suspected the ambitious Forbes had been bought off by the Czar, possibly by Napoleon III in another vain attempt to re-establish the French in India...Others that the young man had simply let the natives' adulation go to his head...Not all that uncommon in British India...

And a few, highly placed, with special knowledge and contacts, suspected the Empire faced, once again, a very real and grave threat from the world's Darker Side...And had turned to those who could best deal with such a threat...

So it was that a middle-aged, tall but rather slight, graying man, of scholarly appearance...Accompanied by his somewhat more robust, though white-haired and of equally gentle face...Though perhaps a vaguely detectable hardness in him...Found themselves riding in carriage towards the gates of the capital of Buriapore, Mysaze...

Along with, to a few occasional stares from the natives...Most, though, at least since crossing into Buriapore, looking too gray and drawn, as if worked practically to death and numbed by horror, to take any interest...A small, lovely Indian woman in her thirties....Dressed in green, gold-trimmed sari as if for a formal occasion...

"The Colonel seems to fear very little, Mr. Rathskeller..." the woman smiled at the slighter and grayer of the two men sitting opposite from her...

"I imagine, as usual, he has very little to fear, and has taken little trouble to ascertain that which might be cause for fear..." the addressed Arthur Rathskeller smiled back...

"A fool, like most of his kind..." the other man, Dr. Simon Duncan Farris, by name, shook his head... "All my reports from our operatives suggest he's done nothing to investigate the occult arts or learn of the Council or the Slayer..."

"If your operatives are correct...And unturned..." the woman faintly smiled... "This expedition should be an easy and pleasant one..."

"I've had all reports and their bearers double-checked, my dear Amara...You can place confidence in them..." Farris eyed her...A slight stiffness in tone...

"Then we are grateful to have their and your assistance, Mr. Farris..." she smiled...

"Indeed, Simon..." Rathskeller nodded... "I am very grateful the Council sent you out...As we are that you agreed to come..."

"Only my duty...And pleasure, Arthur..." Farris smiled... "And I've longed to see you and Miss Amara in the field after reading of your exploits together for so long...Our longest lived Slayer to date..." he beamed at Amara, who nodded graciously...

"Only good fortune, sir...And the help of my Watcher..." she smiled at Rathskeller... "My time will come when the Fates choose..."

"Shiva, you mean..." Rathskeller teased..."She has labored to make me a Hindu for many years, Simon..."

"Fate, God, Shiva...All words for the same thing, Arthur..." she replied... "And only one end in all of them..."

"Not for some considerable time, I trust..." Farris said warmly...

***

London...Same time...

Townhouse of Sir Richard Addams...

"Father?...This looks ridiculous..." Cicely sighed, looking at herself in the back parlor mirror...A long stick running through her arms behind her back...

"Not at all, girl...One can never do enough to maintain proper bearing and carriage...Your mother had a fine carriage...You should wish no less..." Sir Richard frowned... "I should think twenty minutes promenade in the back garden will do..."

"Father...I don't want to be seen walking with this across my back..."

"And you won't...In the back garden...So that your fine posture will be seen as natural...You must fill your dear mother's shoes, Cicely...You have an important position in Society to maintain, young lady...It is your Duty to me and your mother's sainted memory..."

He relaxed his hard stare a moment... "You have your sweet mother's eyes, Cicely...Don't disappoint her...And me...We're not the usual layabout aristocratic fops, are we?...Show us you're an Addams, my girl..."

She sighed but went out, stick behind her back...Head, to Sir Richard's unexpressed pleasure, held regally...Like the future Queen of Society an Addams girl was destined to be...

She groaned under her breath, parading grimly up and down the garden's main path...



A paper ball striking her just in the crook of her very straight back...

"Damnit, Henry!..." she called to the grinning young dark-haired boy eyeing her from a window in the adjoining townhouse... "It's hard enough to walk like a trussed-up turkey to Christmas dinner without you using me for target practice!..."

Another ball hit the side of her stick in answer... "Henry!!..."

The aforenamed Henry, Foxcroft by last name, staring in some little surprise as the thick broomstick behind his cousin's back suddenly snapped as she raged at him...

From an unopened window in the Addams house, a tall, rather gaunt-faced woman staring as well...

My goodness...Miss Trent, Cicely latest governess...Following on four deemed too unsatisfactorily indulgent by Sir Richard...blinked...

If she'd be not the future Chosen One as Mr. Farris thinks, I'll be very much surprised...



***

The streets of Mysaze, capital of Buriapore...A capital which had definitely seen better days from the shattered, fearful, and weary-unto-death looks which greeted the visitors...Only one man so far, an oily underling of the new Rajah encountered at the entry portal gate, summoned by the uncertain guards, having offered anything approaching a smile or voiced greeting...Though his effusive wishes as to their well being and eagerness to offer an introduction to the new Rajah, by his account, a forgotten nephew of the old, though well-educated, raised up to the throne by the same benevolent Providence that had delivered India to British care, that evening, was hardly any more confidence-building...

They having made contact with a Council agent, a small, nervous-looking man who assured them there was good reason for the fear on the faces in the street, Farris had suggested they split up briefly for a chance to get a better lay of the land by day before their evening's encounter with the worse-than-renegade Colonel Forbes and his less daylight-tolerate minions...

"Not a British uniform in sight...Forbes is a fool not to keep some alive...I doubt we'll have all that much trouble with him at that..." Rathskeller smiled to his companion who was carefully viewing the main palace gate before them, taking careful note of the guard towers and the sentries...As well as observing the road to the outer gate...

"I wouldn't underestimate him, Arthur...He couldn't have had many left after he'd fought the Pathans...And he must be a skilled fighter to have defeated his own sire so soon after rebirth...Look at them..." she nodded at the men and women retreating within their stalls...Goods and produce offered only hesitantly...The sellers scurrying back under full shade as quickly as possible... "Mostly transformed but all warned to keep human for the day...His true palace guard, no doubt...He's aware of the need to conceal his hand until he's ready...And I would guess he's also well aware of our coming...This whole town is one gigantic nest with a human herd kept alive for show and steady feeding...And quite probably, a trap...He's hoping to take me, I've little doubt..."

"Should we go?...Seek more assistance and return later?..."

"We'd have to kill our way through his humans...And we did come here to meet him, which meeting he's kindly offered...It would hardly do to reject such hospitality..." she focused her lovely brown eyes on the main town gate...Well-secured but fairly simple mechanism...

"It was kind of Dr. Farris to leave us a while..." she suddenly smiled back at Rathskeller, her survey complete... "He must sense this an awkward situation...He being your friend..."

"I hope you're not too put out by Simon's being here, dear girl...I know him well...I assure you he'll do a fair evaluation of your skills..."

"Arthur...Dr. Farris is here to evaluate you, not me..." Amara shook her head at him...Touching his arm as they strolled...

"The Council fears we've grown too close and is concerned you won't be ready to do your duty when the time comes..." she smiled at him...

"Nonsense...And outrageous...They've no right to...What do you mean?..."

"I'm over thirty, Arthur...I've lived too long for their taste..." she sighed... "They fear that soon I'll be too old...And they've never fully trusted me in any case...Especially after 1857..."

"You did what you thought was right for your people...You've never wavered from your duty towards the Undead then or since...I've always told them that...They can't..."

"Arthur...The Council is run by Europeans, dominated by the British...It regards the security of the Empire as the security of Humanity...And more important than most of that Humanity...And they've never been happy about being defended by what they take to be an inferior...Especially an inferior who joined her people in their rebellion against that Empire..."

"Amara..."

"I'm not afraid to die...But I am afraid to be left alone, without my dear Watcher...It is cruel of them to wish to take you from me...Given all I've done for them..." she shook her lovely head sadly...

***