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Chapter Eight - Wrapped Around Your Finger

The wind, tortured and angry, scoured the land

And with it brought the rain, a tortuous lash

That tore the bark from trees, turned fields to marsh.

The squirrels sought their refuge in the trees

Rabbits ever deeper under roots.

The sparrows hid their wings, forced from the air,

But none of this disturbed Morgan the Fair.

Ev'r deeper into wild woods traced her path

As farther from the court her feet did stray.

Blinded by her grief she wandered on,

Hate giving her direction through the storm.

'And what to my wood brings the Lady Morgan,

Called Fey for faerie blood flows in her veins?'

The speaker stood in shadow of the oak,

His visage cloaked in darkness, form unclear.

'Lord Bres,' began the Fey, 'I travelled far

To beg thy lordship for a minor boon.'

Lord Bres threw back his head and roared with mirth,

His laughter causing land and sea to quake.

'A boon you say? And what, pray, of the price?

Think thee that such a gift be given free?

Nay, for naught doth come without a debt to pay.'

'I have no fear of any form of debt

For I can offer that which thou most prize.'

'Thine words are sweet,' Lord Bres did thus reply,

'But men tell tales of Lady Morgan's words.

How her honeyed tongue tends to bewitch

The ear of him who hears, leaving him dazed.

His mind so addled, many are the things

He may in haste perform to late regret.'

And Morgan did reply, 'I have no wish

Thine lordship to deceive with shadowed words.

Rather, I offer up thy greatest prize.

The cauldron of thine fathers shall I gift

To thee if unto me this boon bestow.'

Now Bres knew well the Fey's most treach'rous ways

Yet still his heart did skip upon a beat

And hunger rose with his frames as he

Thought with delight of that prize in his hands

And though his mind warned him away, he turned

And asked her, 'Tell me of this boon you seek.'

Thus Morgan knew she had his lordship snared.

'This boon, tis but I tiny thing I say,

A little matter of a person's love.

To thee I gift the cauldron, in return

Thou shalt the heart of Merlin help me steal.'

* * *

'We're wasting time.'

Buffy was wearing a hole in Giles' carpet with her constant pacing.

'Buffy, I understand your frustrations,' Giles began.

'No. You don't.' Buffy stopped pacing and rounded on him, brandishing a stake. 'Strange creatures are popping up all over Sunnydale. Riley's in hospital. Dawn's missing. We ought to be doing something.'

'We are,' Giles assured her, taking a step closer so that he could place his hands on her shoulders.

'What if…' Buffy began, then tried again. 'What if Glory's got her?'

'She hasn't,' Giles promised quietly.

'How can you be so sure?' Buffy's voice was barely more than a whisper.

'Because if she had then I very much doubt we'd be having this conversation now. You've been searching all night. Xander's still out looking for her. If he finds anything he'll call. And we'll all join him just as soon as we can, but what we most need now is time to think things through.'

He took the stake from her hand and then gently, but firmly, sat her on the couch next to Anya.

'There, there,' Anya said, then grinned brightly. 'Feel better now?'

'Much,' Buffy responded, her expression perplexed. She turned to Giles. 'So, shouldn't we be, like, comparing notes or something.'

'Yes, quite.' Giles took off his glasses and peered at the lenses before putting them back on. 'Willow, perhaps you and Tara would care to start us off.'

'Me?' Willow looked to Tara for support and the other witch took her hand in hers. 'Um, okay. Well, we'd got back from the quarry and Tara had gone out for milk and I was playing with Miss Kitty and the Tara came back and then this big golden guy came in through the window and he was asking about a cauldron and…'

Buffy shot off the couch.

'Will, you were attacked!'

'Yeah. It was so cool.'

'I admit that's not a word I use frequently,' Giles began, 'but are you quite sure it means what you think it means?'

Willow frowned.

'Well, I don't mean being threatened by a demon is cool - though, I guess, depends on your point of view - but you should have been there.' Willow's smile broadened as she remembered. 'He was all, 'I'm the big bad. Give me the cauldron or I'll cut you into tiny pieces,' and then Tara cast a spell that froze him and then I cast a spell and I threw him out of the window and then he disappeared. Only, not in a magicky kind of way.'

'We think he ran,' Tara explained.

'With his tail between his legs,' Willow confirmed proudly. 'Only without, you know, tail. Oh! Oh! And I was witty!'

'She was very witty,' Tara agreed.

'Good for you, Will,' Buffy said.

'And Tara,' Willow prompted.

'And Tara,' Buffy agreed. 'Three cheers for my two favourite witches.'

'How many witches do you know?' Anya asked curiously.

The others glared.

'What?' Anya demanded before muttering, 'I was only asking.'

Buffy shook her head and decided a subject change might be in order.

'This golden guy sounds like one of the things that attacked Riley and me last night,' she commented.

'How is Riley?' Willow asked.

'Stable,' Buffy replied. 'He should wake up any minute, but…'

'He'll be okay,' Willow promised.

'Sure he will,' Tara agreed.

Anya was fidgeting on the couch.

'Nobody attacked me,' she commented. 'You'd think that a vengeance demon, even an ex-vengeance-demon, would be worth a little effort. Am I losing my edge?'

'No, I'm sure men still run in fear from your presence,' Willow shot back. 'This isn't about you, Anya. Can't you see Buffy's upset?'

'Down, girl,' Buffy said. 'I'm sure Anya didn't mean anything by it. Besides, she's made a good point, in an Anya-ry kind of way.'

'I did?' Anya asked.

'These guys, whoever they are, seem to be attacking people pretty much at random. There was a girl Riley and I found on the way home, then you guys and then Riley and me.'

'And then there's this,' Tara said, laying a copy of the Sunnydale Press on the table.

'Three dead and eleven injured in night of terror,' Buffy read.

'Just a normal night in Sunnydale then,' Anya said.

'Sunnydale residents are living in fear today following a night of apparently unconnected break-ins and assaults,' Buffy continued. She looked up. 'You don't think?'

'That each victim was asked about a cauldron?' Tara suggested.

'What's that about, anyway?' Willow asked. 'Giles?'

Giles was staring out of the window.

'Giles?' Buffy repeated.

'Sorry?' Giles raised a hand and began to massage the back of his neck. 'I was…distracted.'

'Distracted.' Buffy put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side. 'So, how is she?'

'I'm sorry?'

'Your guest?' Buffy prompted.

Giles removed his glasses and began to polish the lenses.

'My, er, guest?' he repeated.

'Now, don't be coy,' Buffy said with a smile.

'Yes, we already know that you and Olivia have been boinking,' Anya agreed.

'Thanks, Anya,' Buffy said dubiously. 'I would have put it a bit more delicately, but still…'

Giles leant against the window frame, his shoulders rising and falling as he chuckled softly.

'You thought Olivia and I…' he said. 'Whatever gave you that idea?'

'Well…' Anya began.

'On second thought, I'm certain that I really don't want to know. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but, to the best of my knowledge, Olivia is still in England. She's certainly not here with me.'

Buffy glared at Willow.

'My bad,' Willow mouthed back.

'Now, one of you had a question,' Giles prompted.

Tara raised her hand.

'I was asking about c-cauldrons,' she said.

Giles began to pace.

'Yes, that would seem to be our best lead. It's a pity we don't have any more to go on.'

'He called it 'the Cauldron of the Dagda'. I think,' Tara said. 'Does that help?'

'The Cauldron of the Dagda.' Giles crossed to the bookcase and began running his finger along the spines of the books. 'Yes, I think that helps quite a bit, actually.'

'You know what it is?' Buffy asked.

'I've got a theory.' Giles did not look up. 'Blast! The books I need are over at The Magic Box.' He stepped away from the bookcase. 'Why don't we all meet back there this afternoon. That would give me some time to do a little research into the subject.'

'We could help,' Tara suggested, 'couldn't we, Willow?'

'Just call us the researcher-gals,' Willow agreed.

'Do you want to meet me there?' Giles asked, throwing his keys to Willow. 'There are some…things…I need to sort out around the house first.'

'Sounds like a plan,' Buffy said. 'And it gives me a chance to keep looking for Dawn.'

'Good luck!' Giles called after her as Buffy led the other girls outside.

The front door banged closed and Giles took a half-empty bottle of Scotch from the kitchen counter and poured himself a glass. It was a bit early in the morning, but if his theory was right then he needed this.

'I thought they'd never leave,' Jenny Calendar remarked from the top of the stairs. She was wearing one of Giles' shirts and little else.

'Be fair,' Giles chided her gently. 'There is a lot going on at the moment.'

'Does that mean you're going to have to go out, Rupert?' Jenny asked as she descended the stairs.

'Well, they do need my help,' Giles explained.

'Right now?' Jenny asked.

She was standing in front of him, her lips curled in a sly smile.

'I suppose I could be persuaded to stay for a little while,' Giles admitted.

Jenny took the glass from him and set it down on the counter. With his free hand, Giles brushed her dark hair away from her ear.

'You didn't tell them about me, did you, Rupert?' Jenny whispered as Giles pulled her closer.

'You asked me not to,' Giles replied.

Jenny used two hands to remove his glasses and put them to one side.

'I know, but they're your friends.'

'And you're not?' Giles asked.

'Always,' Jenny promised as Giles lifted her up into his arms.

Wrapped around each other, they made their way up the staircase and into the bedroom. Giles gently lay Jenny down on to the bed and she stretched her arms above her head, fingers curling around the headboard. On his hands and knees, Giles loomed above her.

'Rupert,' Jenny began, 'You do realise that you haven't called me 'Jenny' once since I've been back?'

'I know,' Giles replied. And then he kissed her.


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