This ficlet follows on from Tales of the First - The Calling, and is intended to be the first of a number of short fics concerning the First Slayer. Many thanks to whiskyinmind for the beta. Feedback always welcome!
Tales of the First - The Desert
By Sam Perlo-Freeman
Characters: The First Slayer
Disclaimer: The character of the First Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Just playing in a big sandbox!
She went out into the desert, and she found an oasis surrounded by dunes, where she stayed for forty days and forty nights. She ate nothing, drinking only water. Through the forty days she spoke not a word, but throughout the nights she cried out in loud, incoherent cries to the spirits of the earth and the sky and the stars and the desert, and danced fevered dances around the oasis. She slept under a canvas of animal hides.
After forty days, she ate: fruit from the trees, cacti, and some small animals she hunted and caught. Then she went forth across the desert to the east, towards the Great River, drawn by an impulse that came from the very core of her being. Seven nights later, on the night of the full moon, she came to a village at the edge of the desert. She sat down at the entrance to the village. The people of the village were afraid of her wild, savage appearance and they kept well away from her and spoke to her not a word.
When midnight came, nine vampires came down from the nearby hills and approached the village. The Slayer stood in front of the village gate, tall and erect, her stake in her hand. The vampires laughed when they saw her. “She will make a tasty morsel to start” said one.
“No,” said another, “Look at her! She is all rough and straggly and filthy. Her blood would be rank and bitter to the taste!”
The largest and nastiest of the vampires approached her and said “Out of our way, strange and ugly girl! You stand between us and our feast!” But the Slayer stood there mutely.
“Snap her neck!” called out one of the vampires. The lead vampire rubbed his hands and stepped forward towards the Slayer, preparing to strike, but before he got halfway she was upon him with a fearsome shriek, and had plunged her stake into his chest. The look of shock on his face had barely dissolved into dust before she was in amidst the others, assailing them with a flurry of blows, knocking them helter-skelter across the ground, whirling from one to another like a howling gale, kicking, punching and finally staking, ululating all the while in shrill, eldritch tones. Some tried to fight and quickly met her sharp wooden stake. A few tried to run, but she charged after them one after the other and leaped on their backs, bringing them to the ground, then staking them through the back.
Less than a minute later, there was only one left. Him she pinned to the ground and straddled. She beat him to the edge of unconsciousness, then lightly pierced his throat with her stake, his blood dribbling out onto the ground. As he gazed up at her in paralysed terror, she pressed her face close to his and bared her teeth. Then she rasped out a single word to him:
Then she got off him and pulled him to his feet, then kicked him square in the chest, sending him flying away from the village. He picked himself up and, without so much as a glance behind him, fled off into the hills as fast as his undead legs would carry him.
The next morning some of the children of the village came out to her (for some had heard the noise the previous night and had come out to see what had happened), and they brought her baskets of fruit and grain and meat. They laid it at her feet, gawking at her in awe, then ran back into the village. After a while more of the people of the village came out, and they danced and cheered and sang in her honour, and some of them threw palm leaves in front of her. The leading men of the village came to her, and the chief spoke to her and thanked her for saving the village from the Evil Spirits. But they kept their distance from her and did not invite her into the village – not that she would have taken up the invitation if they had – and the celebrations quickly died down as the people began to be afraid of the strange and terrible Slayer at their gates, and before long they had all vanished back into their huts or away to their fields, leaving the village seem as deserted as if the vampires had got to it after all. The Slayer ate what she would, and took some more of the food with her in her pack, and sloped off into the hills where she slept beneath a large acacia tree.
She lived in the desert, in the mountains, in the forests, in the valleys. She never stayed in one place for long, and she shunned human habitations. She foraged and hunted for food, and slept in trees, or under animal hides. She kept no possessions, even weapons; these she found and used as she needed, then discarded. She wandered from one place to another as the impulse within her drove her – or sometimes where she was sent by the Shadow Men, who made contact with her from time to time through various messengers, human, animal and supernatural. Wherever the creatures of the night threatened most, she followed them and she slew them, and they came to fear her, and stories of her deeds spread far and wide amongst both men and demons. Those she saved were grateful, and gave her gifts, and some even worshipped her as a goddess, but they also feared her and kept their distance, and she for her part shunned the company of other humans.
In time, she almost forgot how to speak, only able to produce isolated, rasped words and phrases, and that with great effort. People took her for little more than a fearsome, mindless animal, but she communed still with her own heart, and with the spirits of the world. When she was alone at night, by her fire, sometimes she would dance before the moon and the stars and watch the long shadows she cast. Sometimes she would paint images in caves in the mountains where she briefly abided, depicting her battles in chalk and dye. But whenever she did so, she would leave the next day and never return.
At night, she dreamed. She dreamt of the terrors that stalked the world, she dreamt of the places she must go; she dreamt strange, troubling dreams of other girls, in other times and other places, who strove against the forces of darkness. each girl was different, in colour, in form, in clothing, even in her thoughts; but somehow she knew that each girl was also her. Sometimes she dreamt of the pale girl, who was also her.
She died a thousand deaths in her dreams, but each death seemed to strengthen her and harden her, so that she feared her own death less and less.
If she dreamt of her family and her village and of Alleya, she remembered it not. But sometimes she woke from sleep sobbing, and in a sweat, and with a sorrow in her heart that she could not fathom, though she could recall no dream. When this happened, she would immediately set forth and hunt for the nearest vampire to kill, and bury the sorrow deep, deep within her being.