2014 - November
William is ten and a half years old.
Finally, the action starts to build. We welcome the (hopefully) long-awaited return of several characters. Will is still in fine fettle. No grief, no angst. Uh oh…!
Please, as always, read and comment! We’re keeping the muse under tight rein. She has this shifty look about her that says she’s likely to scarper off given half a chance. Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my sweetie-bear and beta-supreme, and gillo, for her quick-Brit and wit beta turnaround, and just_sue, for her unbelievable patience with my insecurities.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Interlude 19-20B – Invitation to the Dance
Lydia shut the window and pulled the curtains closed in the small, non-descript hotel room they’d rented for anonymity’s sake. Giles walked stiffly to a small, round table, pulling out one chair for her and easing his aching frame onto the other.
He rummaged through the old carpet bag he’d carried in, removing pure white beeswax candles, dried sage bundles, matches, chalk, sacred sand, an ornate vial of holy water, and five unblemished multi-faceted prisms cut from white quartz.
Every second that passed felt momentous as she tried to temper the hope that this time they’d succeed where they’d failed so many times before. Giles’ hands were steadier; a testament to his perseverance during physiotherapy. He’d come back such a long way from the day she’d found him slumped on the floor.
Lydia held her breath as he drew the outline of a pentagram, its five points extended to the very edge of the circumference of the table. There were only the slightest of tremors as he poured the sand, painstakingly tracing along the outline. The candles were placed just inside the outer points, and the crystals butted the inner joints of a smaller pentagram. Last and most important of all, the holy water was situated in the center of the design, on a square of fabric ripped from one of Will’s t-shirts. If the spell was completed properly, Will would be one step closer to going home.
There were two spells entwined, worked with one purpose – to protect the boy – especially if the rescue failed. Whilst Giles worked the main spell to drop the wards against Angel, it was her job to work the secondary spell to keep up the illusion that the wards were still in place. Stealth was the only way to guarantee the lad’s safety.
Picking up the first bundle of sage, Lydia set fire to the tips then blew them out. She walked slowly around the table, weaving the smoke in a pattern whilst murmuring the ancient Sumerian words she’d spent hours memorizing. Within moments, a light sheen of sweat broke out on her forehead and between her shoulder-blades. Magic did not come easily to her, and what she was being asked to perform was far from a beginner’s spell. She forced herself to remain steady and focused on her task.
Giles stood and spread both arms over the pentagram, eyes closed in concentration as he worked his own incantation. The very air seemed to thrum around him as the magicks took over and expanded to encompass Lydia, as well. She could feel it work its way into her consciousness; joining with her words to form an additional entity.
A sharp burst of energy from Giles’ fingers lit up the vial of holy water in the center of the pentagram, turning the liquid into a roiling swirl of brilliant blue.
Lydia nearly floundered in her incantation but held to her woven pattern of steps around the table. She fervently hoped they’d done it right this time. The activity within the vial was a new development – perhaps the indication they’d been waiting for.
And unlike what had happened on the countless times and variations they’d tried before, a wind whipped through the room, extinguishing the candles. A soft glow arose from the sand formation and expanded, filling the room with a golden shimmer. With a *pop* the wind died down and Giles collapsed into his chair.
“Did it work, Rupert?” she whispered, unable to take her eyes off the exhausted man.
“I do believe we have been successful,” he murmured, barely able to believe it, himself. “It’s never been done before – it must have been the corrected edition of your chant that did the trick. Congratulations, Miss Chalmers. You’ve become an adept sorceress at advanced charms and incantations.”
Lydia’s cheeks pinkened at his compliment. It wasn’t often she’d received praise for any of her accomplishments, much less something of such importance.
“So, what do we do now?”
Giles began to remove the evidence of the spell-casting. The sage, the candles… even the sand went back into the carpetbag to be properly disposed of.
“I wish I understood your brother’s reasoning.”
Lydia shook her head. “I’ve tried talking with him, and there’s just no give at all. Nathaniel is convinced of his methodology. Even fancies himself the lad’s savior. The only thing I can be glad for, Rupert, is that young Will is being treated far better under his care than under the auspices of Mr. Wyndam-Pryce.”
“Roger always… well, he held little sympathy even for his own son, let alone for a child like William – whom he doesn’t even see as human. He was once a great Watcher, but this work… it does things to people. Makes them hard – makes them treat their own children as little adults in order to prepare them for a life of service to the Council.
He hesitated before continuing, obviously torn between being totally open and adhering to his own ingrained Watcher service.
“When Roger first proposed to the Board that we remove the boy from his parents, he was shot down. I can’t believe that he and Nathaniel managed to work their way by running roughshod over my directives and wishes. Will is just a little boy… a human child. I don’t see what gain is possible except to destroy the lives of everyone who loved him.”
In a show of support, Lydia gently gripped Giles’ shoulder. “There really was nothing you could do to prevent it… not being incapacitated as you were, no thanks to Mr. Wyndam-Pryce’s machinations and the depression. But…” she said, looking frankly into his wounded eyes, “You’ve come such a long way, Rupert. The doctors and therapists have managed to reverse most of the damage from the absinthe, and with physiotherapy, your weakness should soon be a thing of the past.”
“They took advantage of me, Lydia. It was disgraceful on my part to have let myself go so far without seeking treatment.”
Lydia made a brief call on her mobile phone and stood up, taking the carpetbag from Giles. “We can feel guilty and remorseful later, Rupert. I’ve put in a call for a car to take us back to the Council grounds. There is no more time to waste. William and Emma Jane should be at the exercise track by now, and it’s time to perform the last part of the spell.”
With one last check of the room, they headed out, closing the door behind them.
Giles was unable to take his eyes off the scene playing out before him. “Dear Lord,” he murmured softly, staring through the binoculars at the children performing their warm-up exercises at the side of the track. “Is that lanky child my William?”
When last he’d seen the lad, Will had been a curly-haired youngster who’d barely come up to his hip, dressed in brightly colored t-shirts and blue jeans. In his estimation, the boy on the field was probably shoulder-high, wore his hair slicked back and had lost almost all of his baby fat. A quick glimpse of Will’s face caught the emergence of Spike’s infamous cheekbones beginning to make themselves known.
“He’s such a good lad, Rupert.” With a wistful smile, Lydia patted his arm. “He’s doing so well these days. Nathaniel’s been really pleased with his physical progress in the past few months.”
Leaning heavily on his cane, Giles lowered the binoculars and turned to face his accomplice. “This is what his parents should be able to see, Lydia. We must act now. That boy needs to go home.”
Lydia fussed with the picnic basket containing the blood-laden food prepared especially for Will, and Emma Jane’s untouched repast.
“Do be careful not to rouse your brother’s suspicions. If we fail….”
“Thank goodness the Council is ruled by its timetables – he won’t expect me to have meddled with the children’s meal. I’ve been bringing it out for weeks now.”
Picking up on his train of thought, Lydia completed it for him: “If we fail, Nathaniel will see to it that I no longer have contact with William, and he’ll be kept under guard around the clock. I’ll be careful, Rupert. Young Will has become very dear to me in the short time I’ve been allowed to spend with him. You know I only have that boy’s best interests at heart.”
“If it means anything to you, I am sorry to have to put you in a position of opposing your family.” Giles held the potion in his hand, seemingly unwilling to part with it. “You have a good heart, Lydia. I can’t begin to thank you for all you’ve done for me, as well.”
She blushed hotly at his words, his fingers gently brushing against her cheek. Lately she’d taken to wearing her hair loosely about her shoulders, and was that a hint of jasmine in the air? Why, Ms. Chalmers… you sly minx!
“You will be careful?” he repeated, shaking himself from his reverie and handing her the vial, holding onto her hand slightly longer than necessary to make the transfer. The words were more of a plea than an order, and Lydia nodded, adding the liquid to Will’s premixed sports bottle.
Giles watched as she made her way towards the building. They’d agreed it was best if Lydia made her appearance from the usual doors.
He raised the binoculars once again as Nathaniel stood to relieve his sister of her burden. Chalmers loved his younger sister… still trusted her. Giles hoped that this would be his downfall.
As expected, Emma Jane and Will soon left the track and sat down at the table, across from the Chalmers. A film of sweat formed on the man’s lip as he watched Will reach for his drink.
A small frisson of fear wriggled its way through Giles’ belly when Will put the bottle down after his first sip. Did he taste something off? Would he let the cat out? Giles sighed in relief as the lad picked up the bottle and emptied it without stopping.
Giles lifted his head in silent prayer that for once, things had gone according to plan. He pushed the pre-programmed number on his mobile phone, needing to get the remainder of the players into place.
“Angel, it’s Giles.”
He winced as he held the phone away from his ear. It took ten minutes for the irate vampire to calm down enough to leave an opening for Giles to speak.
“Don’t be a berk. I had nothing to do with kidnapping William, as you should know by now. Would you please shut your trap so I can formally re-invite you into the country and to the Council, itself? Detailed instructions will be hand delivered shortly.” Without another word, he broke the connection and looked around, making sure he hadn’t been overheard.
He stood stiffly, watching his boy just a little while longer, before making his way back to the private car waiting to take him back home.
They couldn’t afford detection now… not when they were so close.