NB: By request, seventh arc in the Five Gold Rings canon
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: The Immortal Anton is now universally accepted as the Sire of the High Master William Aurelius (aka Spike) and his Esteemed Consort, now Childe, Xander, just as he is to the Full Blood Aurelian, Connor. He has supported them all in the past, perhaps now it's his turn
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Connor was on the brink of exhaustion, not only maintaining the family’s business interests, but also tending to the Aurelian Court matters and deeply concerned regards his true relatives and their inert state.
Stressed and terribly worried, he had raised his voice to tiny Olivia for ‘squealing’ repeatedly on the third evening after the boys all went under the spell. It resulted in his daughter Amelie rescuing the now crying child. But it was really Connor who desperately required a hug and reassurance just to get through another night of his relatives’ magic induced comas, he finally received it from his lovely partner Helle after she was told by Amelie that “Dad just *lost* it for no reason!”
That night, despite her own fatigue, Helle sat with Connor and kept vigil until both were simply too tired and handed over to Dawn who promised to alert them if there was any change.
Two rather bewildered young boys woke to an angry slap from their camel master and the rather smelly snort of their charges as the camels too were stung by the leather crop. Both lads still felt exhausted as they tried their best to respond ‘enthusiastically’ for fear of yet another beating.
They noted the third handler, a silent newcomer who was definitely older. They wondered at his choice to be handler, he was obviously of ruling family blood, and some of the cargo was his (admittedly he had sworn them to secrecy – their silence paid for in honeycomb straight from the hive… Bliss!)
They travelled the Silk Road, stopping nightly but pausing otherwise only to trade.
Xander and Spike spent most of their nights wrapped around each other under a rudimentary cover that fended off little but a mild rain. If the downpour was stronger, they bedded with the rather ornery camels, the passing of rather ‘whiffy’ bodily functions actually preferable to suffering the near freezing wet of their own ‘accommodation’.
Though only around eleven years old, the boys had apparently been the working with the camel train for almost three years, contracted to the camel owner by two desperate families who each virtually sold their youngest son into slavery.
In Xander/Inditus’ case it was to pay a gambling debt incurred by a now dearly departed father. But for little Spike/Abdul, his virtual abduction in the middle of a hot Turkish night was done with the express permission of his only remaining, older sister to ‘fund’ the funeral of their mother, father and two younger siblings, who had all died within days of each other of an illness unknown to the local physicians.
The grieving Jasmine took the advice of her abusive husband, a state official (and wife beater) Raoul. She agreed with a painful nod, her only remaining relative was to be ‘apprenticed’ to the camel traders.
Raoul added the sack of salt, and few coins he received from the boy’s sale to his wife’s (now by law his) small inheritance, and hardly even noticed the small, sobbing blonde being led away.
Despite their tender age, the boys were fairly street wise by the time their bodies were ‘otherwise occupied’, and Spike/Abdul was particularly wary of one of the senior camel handlers after seeing his sister repeatedly beaten by her husband and had heard her gagged cries at night as Raoul did something unspeakable to his pretty, wife. The young boy ‘felt funny’ about one of the camel handlers. He often said strange things, and made the boys do errands for him that seemed odd, demanding they washed his clothes in the river, or refastened the hobbles on one or two of the camels while he watched.
Their reaction to Anton could not have been more different. Spike and Xander both recognized Anton immediately, the quiet demeanour and unmistakably beautiful green eyes shining out from behind his head cloth kept fastened across his face. He never failed to thank them for watering his three steeds and sometimes even gave them a hand full of dates or teaspoon of salt for their trouble.
Using Spike and Xander’s knowledge of him and their own circumstance to their advantage, the two obtained sheep’s blood from a butcher in exchange for two coins Xander had spied on the ground as they entered town. Amazed that they had been able to pocket the prizes without the others seeing, the two managed to complete their purchases then meld into the general melee of a small market town at the top of Persia, one set up for the flux of travellers and local merchants willing to provide almost anything for a price.
The small conspirators, were invisible in such a bustling market, Xander/Inditus scampering after the much swifter Spike/Abdul. They purchased their prize after a little haggling with a rather bemused butcher, who in the end simply acquiesced on the grounds that the boys had caused him to laugh harder than he had for years! They also manage to obtain two tiny pomegranates with the ‘change’. A prize relished as they returned to their camp on the outskirts.
The older men had were smoking in the head handler’s tent as they tiptoed past, but both knew that Anton would not be present so continued to the rudimentary tent where they found him sitting sketching characters of some language in the dirt.
The small boy shyness struck quite unexpectedly and both found themselves dumbstruck for a moment. Xander shifted uncomfortably and pulled the rather large sheep’s bladder bag closer to his chest, while Spike shifted a little from foot to foot, hoping that the older man would look up.
Anton kept his eyes down, however, so Spike tried another tack, “Where’d ya learn them from?”
Anton looked up to the child as he completed the Greek then Roman then Egyptian symbols for ‘Outcast of the Gods’, “Many places and nowhere. Would you like to learn to read them?”
Spike/Abdul’s eyes lit up… but they were there for a reason and that had to go first. “I … um yes please, but… um…” for some reason the boy suddenly felt very shy as the rather sad green eyes met his directly, he dropped his gaze and toed the ground.
Xander/Inditus jumped in, he may have had all Xander’s memories, but it was pure Inditus speaking, “We… we noticed that you are from a… different culture… and you… you are new and kind… and we… we didn’t steal it!! But Allah showed us the money and we knew it was a blessing… so we… Abdul says he’s tried it with milk before… and it’s not that bad. One of the handlers we met – he was from somewhere in the desert I don’t remember now but is that how you have it? Cause we don’t have any money left so you’ll have to buy your own… or I guess we could I don’t know… um…?” The boy’s tone dropped as he fell silent looking worriedly from Anton to Spike and back.
As the skin full of blood was handed over mid babble, Anton gasped as he identified the contents of the skin. “I… I… I’m rather… this is a very special thing you have done… thank you.” fell to his knees, placed the skin carefully on the ground beside him then opened his arms, offering the only thing he had to truly give – a brotherly hug of thanks.
The two youngsters moved forward to accept initially rather tentatively but as soon as they were touched by the Immortal they felt instantly safe, and had the sensation of an adult human being giving them a familial kind of affection for the first time since they had joined the camel train.
They did not witness Anton drinking their gift, but went back to their sleeping spot happy that they had done well
For the next three weeks, as the camel train made its way across the top of Persia, the three became firm friends, and Spike felt the thrill of Abdul as he began to learn to read and write (albeit the latter was in the dirt with a stick). Inditus was less studious and Xander’s memories confirmed that as a boy he had much rather *do* things than sit and study.
Inditus fidgeted, made yet another mistake in the strange lettering that was supposed to say ‘father’ then sighed again. He found it all a little boring, preferring spend *his* meagre leisure time using the slightly curved dagger he carried (for everything from cutting food to slicing through a rope) to whittle the end of a stick, or try to land a stone in a target drawn on the ground.
Anton saw the boy’s discomfort and asked Inditus if he would not mind fetching them all a little water. Inditus jumped at the chance and headed off in the direction of the tiny well they were current camped by. The Xander part of the boy’s mind simply said ‘donuts’, but thought nothing more of his other life.
Abdul was a fine student, and desperate to be able to read. Lately, if they passed through a town, he would even risk a beating from the camel master to run forward and ask Anton the meaning of a sign here and there. He finished one last set of symbols – a whole sentence this time, “To die with honour defending what you know to be just, is to have died well.” It was late and Inditus had not returned. He looked up hoping to see the usual look of approval on Anton’s face but instead saw deep concern. He felt suddenly cold as he realized the reason. Inditus had not returned and it was already dark.
Anton stood abruptly, hissed to an alarmed Abdul, “Stay!!” then took off into the night in the general direction of the well. The now frightened boy curled up, hugging his knees and stared into the night, rocking a little.
There was no sign of Inditus at the well yet Anton could smell him close by – along with the ominous odour, human blood and semen. He silently moved toward a small thicket of scrub, his vampire senses on full alert and night vision engaged. And he found what he dreaded, the tiny broken figure of Inditus, face slightly turned to the side, bruises obvious and wrists still tied behind his back, his legs were apart and at rather odd angles, and he was bleeding alarmingly fast from his rear passage.
Anton could hear the tiny heart struggling and knew the boy was unlikely to live even with his Immortal blood as a bolster. The external damage was extensive enough, and the internal… frightening to even contemplate, even if he did survive, there would be serious repercussions ongoing risks of infection and many months of care and recovery needed. Still, he *had* to try to do something.
Anton sunk his fangs hard into his own wrist and dripped the precious fluid down the damaged back and into the violated hole. There was little change to the injuries and the Immortal could hear the heart failing. He sliced through the material binding the boy’s arms, and did the only thing he could, he lifted the small broken figure as gently as possible, cuddled him to his chest and sprinted back to where Abdul was waiting.
The youngster had seen death before and knew without Anton even saying a word. The little blonde simply sat by the now kneeling Anton and took the lax hand of his friend in his and began to recite the prayer his sister had taught him to say for his parents and sisters on their death beds.
“Stay with him – I will get the camel master.” The grief stricken little boy merely nodded and continued to hold the hand of his dead best friend.
The Immortal had recognized the scent of the man who had murdered the lad and sniffed the night air with purpose as he departed the tent, not even the smell of their beasts of burden could conceal the culprit’s stench. He stalked the vile creature as any predator might, the individual was alone humming to himself happily. Anton moved with preternatural speed, let his fangs drop and, hand over the human’s mouth, he bit down hard into the neck and par-drained him before licking the wound and watching the punctures and line of teeth marks begin to heal.
Anton then hefted the culprit to just outside the camel master’s tent and gave a shout to raise the alarm.
What ensued was the trussing up of the attacker, inspection of the dying boy, consequent admission and swift retribution. Strung up against a tree within seconds of his confession, the man screamed as his penis and scrotum were removed, then was silenced as his throat was cut so harshly that there was barely anything holding his head to his body. Post death his eyes were pinned open and hands removed, they and the other removed appendages placed at his now dead feet. He would be left still tied to the tree to rot as the camel train moved on.
The attention then moved to Anton’s sleeping tent. The entire group of ten handlers Anton and the camel master attended, shocked to the core by the damage to the lad. They quietly knelt in prayer as Anton knelt opposite Abdul, the inner Spike also feeling he was losing his Xander in this moment. Tear-filled blue eyes met agonized green, as the broken small boy coughed once, convulsed a little, then died.
Abdul began to keen then his world went black too and the two shifted once more.
They had been changed again, though this time the shift was a little more dramatic.
Even after a week, it was strange to have eight legs to manage, but the eyes were even more odd, none were able to move to focus, but after a day or so the input from all eight fixed orbs allowed the brain to interpret. The instinct to stay in the shadows was familiar and strangely comforting for both vampires, though the all consuming imperative to release and weave silk into a deadly web was at once disturbing, yet also somehow reassuring in the same way as one might methodically repair a fishing net or knit. The detection of the prey, and the swift hunt and attack was familiar. And the diet was still a liquid one, but this time ingestion occurred only after their own venom had liquefied the internal organs of the victims.
Xander could see his fellow arachnid in the opposite corner of the temple. He could still feel Spike through their link. But once more there was no voice and certainly no physical contact with his blonde counterpart. They simply did as instinct dictated, they watched and waited until prey came to them, and in the meantime observed the Immortal as the now acolyte of the Tibetan monastery had his head shaved yet again as he knelt on the dirt before the temple, then sat in silent prayer as the others were similarly stripped of hair.
Raven locks removed and a saffron robe donned, there were few differences between he and the others in the place of contemplation and study, though his height, extraordinary eyes, timelessness and immense age, and now a very apparent inner calm, after nearly eighty years of careful schooling, set him quite apart from the others.
The two spiders heard the rumours from the other acolytes, he had come from the Rome at the time of the emperor Claudius, via Constantinople and then the silk route, veering off to stop in a temple high in the Tibetan hills at Shalu, around twelve miles south west of Shigatse, and almost so remote as to be almost the stuff of legend.
Anton had apparently arrived and was accepted for his willingness to learn and very genuine need to establish his own balance. He had been wandering rather aimlessly for so long alone, that he had even begun to doubt his own existence. Despite occasionally acting as interpreter, respected (and paid) for assisting merchants through Persia and India, he was still unable to see his own reflection and his continuing need to feed on blood had led him to seek the ‘truth’.
As the two spiders took their next meal in their new form, Anton knelt with his fellow students, though unlike their bowls of rice and curries, he humbly accepted the small bowl of goat’s blood, reassured that the animal had been treated with reverence and kindness after she gave up the fluid. His prayer of thanks to the dear beast – and to his Goddess – was noted by the other monks.
Three days later, in a moment of lapsed concentration during chanting, Anton noticed the webs in the front two corners of the temple. Later in the day he had meant to dismantle the delicate structures with a long handled broom, but his hand was staid by his teacher – an ancient looking priest, Ahindeh.
“Why is it you wish to destroy that which is built with such care?”
Anton immediately dropped the broom and fell to his knees. “I simply thought to keep the temple pure, teacher.”
The old man put a kind hand on Anton’s shoulder, “These creatures are doing just that, they are ensuring we are free of insects and indeed in this hot summer, are doing a service. You too know the need to hunt for your meal, and more importantly to be feared and misunderstood by humans for that very same need. Get the ladder little brother, meet your fear and befriend the two – that they might remain our protectors for the summer.”
First Xander then Spike crawled onto Anton’s open palm in turn, both nervous at first yet reassured by the calm, solid flesh. Anton spoke quietly to each in turn then gently pushed his hand back to their corners of refuge.
For the next two weeks he greeted them daily and thanked them for their service, acknowledging their right to exist and their need to kill and feed. And at the same time began to truly accept his own nature and purpose.
And then there was a shift.
The two little girls were hugged close, first by the strong arms of their saviour then by the ample bosom of their soon to be adoptive grandmother. The kindly cook had given them fresh milk and a small portion of sausage and bread each. Xander (apparently now called Margot) had felt quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. She ate as much as her small stomach could take and knew that wasting food was wrong but really could not finish her dinner, finally giving in to the fear and grief of their devastating loss and consequent flight from France.
Spike (now Margot’s little sister Louise) stopped mid sip of her milk and shuffled swiftly along the bench seat to comfort her sobbing sibling. She almost need not have bothered. They were both scooped up, kissed soundly, then held and rocked for many minutes. In a language that neither recognized but coos and kind caresses culminated in them both sitting quietly, hand in hand, whilst the kindly Liesel measured boiling water into two of her largest cooking pots then topped it up with cold then found some of her scented home made soap (normally kept for gifts).
The girls were helped out of their filthy travelling garb before being lifted into the blissfully warm water, each in their own ‘pot’. They were efficiently but kindly washed with a rather rough but sweet smelling cloth, and had their hair lathered then rinsed before they were allowed to stand.
Spike (Louise) stood draped in a dry cloth obviously designed for some other purpose while Xander was dried and similarly attired.
Anton and Gregor (sporting a very fresh marking bite) entered the kitchen soon after and assisted the kindly Liesel by carrying the girls to her small living quarters one story up from the kitchen and putting them to bed.
Gregor sat for many minutes stroking over freshly washed faces and quietly reciting a children’s poem he recalled from his own childhood. Xander had already given in to exhaustion and was sleeping soundly, but Spike was awake enough to feel first Gregor then Anton kissing his forehead as they did each of the little refugees in turn, and the whispered, “Here you are *all* loved and safe. We will see to that.”
As Gregor lifted the candle and the two men departed the room, little Louise (aka Spike) saw Anton throw an arm across the other man’s shoulders, saw the brotherly hug and heard, “That means you too remember… You are a good man, my new friend… I am pleased you chose to trust me.”
Just before snuggling down to spoon his ‘sister’, Spike made out the quiet reply, “Thank you Master, but I am no longer a man.”
“Nor am I Gregor, nor am I… so be at peace.”
Spike felt the shift just before he fell asleep.