Wherein we discover the erstwhile villain of the piece and the cause of Alexander's illness
Xander arrived back at the cottage just as Mr. Giles and his daughter’s pony trap pulled into the stable yard.
“Come along Harris, if you’re feeling that much better, you can help us with this barrier spell. I don’t fancy waking up with my house and barn on fire, thank you very much.”
“ Certainly, sir.” He hurried to unload the trap. “I’ve been to see my Lord Asheton.” Giles eyebrows flew upward, but he said nothing. “He wants to defeat Angelus as much as we.”
“I would ordinarily not bother to answer that ridiculous statement, but why would he? He is no more than a vampire himself.”
“I have told you there is something different about him. His own people love him and has he ever been a bad landlord?”
Giles had to concede that point, “But the village people are not so kind.”
“That is because of Angelus. He and his kind preyed upon them while Asheton did nothing to stop them. All sorts of tales have sprung up, no doubt many of them true.”
“He has been weak, that is true. Between Angelus’ cruel punishments and that Ethan Rayne…”
“What name did you say?” Giles thundered.
“Rayne. Ethan Rayne, the Bath apothecary who prescribed the poisons…”
“Ethan Rayne perished ten years ago. I saw it happen.” Giles eyes were shuttered and a grim look spread across his face, “He was a dear friend and fellow wizard who trod too far into the darkness before it consumed him.”
Xander considered this and then gave a brief description of the foxy smile and clever eyes. Giles stalked away to finished setting up the brazier and spell components, then returned.
“I have been considering this spell. If what you say is true, and I think it is, this cuckoo in the nest…the thing that doesn’t belong must be another Ethan Rayne. It would be far too difficult to create some creature wholly new. How better than to slip into the life of someone dying or already dead. He has used this spell to leap from one dimension to another, dragging you and who knows how many others, as a source to keep the spell powered as well as leave himself an escape hatch should things become to warm for him. Ethan ever was an opportunist.”
Giles hands had been busy while he spoke and soon Miss Giles returned with Oz to help.
“How is your headache, Mr. Harris? Better now?” Willow inquired. She sprinkled salt in a widening circle followed behind by Oz with a handful of burning herbs.
“Yes, the tisane has blown all the pain away. But I must beg you all to give my Lord Asheton sanctuary.”
Giles considered him sadly, “My dear Alexander, I fear none of us shall survive the night do we not complete our preparations. Help us finish this and we will see about helping Asheton.” He patted the younger man on the back, “Why don’t you go into the kitchens and fetch me that pot of boiling herbs.”
After the soldier disappeared into the cottage, Willow turned to her father and whispered, “I fear he hasn’t long to live, father.”
Giles nodded grimly, “You are correct, my dear. I believe this faux-Ethan is using the life force of the other-dimensional victims to sustain his own through a self-perpetuating Egyptian Ka Hex. I recognize it now and it’s a vile thing. If what I think is true, the Alexander Harris of this dimension was dead a year ago—this one is merely walking around in his place, an actor in Rayne’s little play, not truly here nor there. No wonder the poor boys head aches so. His life force is slipping away further every day from its real home.” Xander smiled at them, blind to his peril, from the doorway. “Poor, poor boy. I only pray we can put this to rights.”
Giles called to Oz, “Come now, and let us make the circle complete. Tomorrow we find Ethan Rayne and put and end to this for one and all.”