Chapter 2 – Lost Souls
Three clouds loomed on the horizon. Shaped like warships, long, broad and dense, with anvil-shaped prows. They streamed closer, blackening the entire sky, hurling down salvos of heavy rain and stinging hail. The wind was a solid wall of sound, pounding a counter-rhythm to the percussive shocks crumpling the sky. Lightning tore at the graphite heavens, ripping them apart. It seemed that Nature in all her wildest fury was hell bent on destroying the rook as it soared above the city. Yet this weather was no natural phenomenon, the Storm Fiend was fuelled with anger, brutal and feral, and it burnt the air with each lightning flash. The stench of sulphur lingered, despite the driving rain, thudding down relentlessly in implacable volleys; Ares’s warrior-archers’ aim deadly, sure and true.
“You must witness certain events as they happened if you are to understand and accept the journey that lies ahead.” Illyria’s voice said from somewhere inside Angel’s head.
He opened his mouth to speak, struggling against the confines of the body in which she’d trapped him. “Illyria? Where am I? Where are you?” These were the words that echoed through his mind. What he heard was the rasping sound of rusty metal on metal, ending in a vaguely familiar ‘cack cack’.
“To fight is futile.”
Angel had looked on the world with eyes that were not his own once before, when the Darkness that was Acathla swallowed him. Then he’d been left with a lingering image of Buffy, the sword with which she had just run him through still in her hand. He peered through the downpour, more or less certain now that he was airborne, and a reluctant passenger with Illyria, within her Spirit Guide.
As he relaxed, Angel could feel the whip and wire of the air through his feathers, the sting of each hailstone on head and beak and wing, as they rode the switchback of the spirals and curves of storm-tossed thermals. No city lights guided their way as the rook plunged through the tumult, spiralling downwards, riding the waterfall thundering to the streets below. Angel tried bracing himself for a rough landing, forgetting for an instant that he was not the one in control of this borrowed body, straining to see through the blackness that accompanied their descent.
Slowly, the light returned and with it, the realisation that he was no longer part of the bird that stood watching him, head cocked, blue eyes glittering.
“A power such as I have not enjoyed since my Wesley robbed me of it, will guide you now, half-breed. My task is done,” croaked the bird with Illyria’s voice. And with that, the rook lifted its wings and beat the air twice before disappearing in a flurry of ebony and purple-black velvet.
Angel blinked and stared at the man in front of him through Lorne’s eyes.
“You don't trust me. You don't think a man can change?” Lindsey grimaced up at him.
“It's not about what I think. This was Angel's plan.” Lorne’s voice replied solemnly. Angel flinched, knowing what was to come.
Lindsey smiled at him. “I could sing for you,” he offered.
“I've heard you sing,” Lorne’s weary voice replied.
Angel looked down at Lorne’s hand, holding the gun he himself had given him. He smelt the cordite of the explosion, watched the bullet making its way, in slow motion towards Lindsey’s heart.
“Why-why did you...?” Lindsey gasped.
“One last job,” came Lorne’s toneless response. Angel’s thought joined him in perfect harmony. “You're not part of the solution, Lindsey. You never will be.”
The dying man slid down the wall, his words coming in painful gasps. “You kill me? A flunky?! I'm not just... Angel...kills me. You don't... Angel...”
“But I just did,” Angel told his closing eyes.
Lorne swung the car into the slow moving traffic, wiping the condensation from the front window with the sleeve of his jacket. Angel watched the driving rain and listened to the squeal of the windscreen wipers as they tried valiantly to clear the deluge.
Angel’s mind screamed in pain at the newsreel of visions that flooded in causing Lorne to pull over and stop the car, his hands shaking on the wheel; Fred, holding Wesley’s body, crying “My love. Oh, my love”; her hand smashing Vail’s skull into thousands of fragments; Fred, in Wesley’s arms, “Why can’t I stay?”
More events crowded into Lorne’s mind, threatening to overwhelm Angel; sounds and sights he could almost touch. Conflicting memories warred with one another: Spike crashing through the observation window of the training room, a circle surrounding the hieroglyphs from Illyira’s coffin, Wesley, holding a crystal aloft; Connor, lying bruised and bloodied on a sofa in Spike’s office. Angel’s mind screamed for emptiness. Those things never happened. His soul writhed with guilt. He hadn’t saved her. He’d let her die.
Lorne rested his head on his trembling arms and sobbed. He was shaking so violently that Angel could feel his own consciousness colliding with that of the Pylean. He battled furiously to take control but felt Lorne’s will slip from his grasp, as more apparitions flooded in; Illyria, crouching beside Wesley’s lifeless form, keening, “What dost thou behold, fair light? But thou dost smile and depart. Farewell, thou silent beam! Let the light of Heimdall’s soul arise!
‘Cordellia’s visions.’ The thought struck Angel like a physical blow. She’d passed them to Lorne. ‘Impossible!’ She’d given Angel the single gift that had enabled him to take out the Circle of the Black Thorn.
Illyria appeared before them, blue hair streaming in the wind and rain. “Turn the car around,” she commanded. “There is more yet that you must do.” As she dissolved back into the storm, Lorne turned the key in the ignition and spun the car through a U-turn, ignoring the oncoming traffic and leaving a line of rear-shunted cars in his wake as he sped back towards the city.
The Merc squealed to a halt across the path of hooded figure hurrying away from an apartment block. The headlights caught a flash of white hair as the monastic robe was discarded. Spike’s face was bloody from battle but he crouched in defensive mode, ready to face whatever emerged from the car. Angel watched him visibly relax as he recognised the former Karaoke Host.
“Lorne! Thought you’d quit. Didn’t think you went in for spectator sports.”
“Need you for a solo spot before the main act gets underway,” replied Lorne. He glanced anxiously at the sky. “Don’t have much time.”
Angel observed the incredulous look that passed across Spike’s face and he gave Lorne’s consciousness a metaphorical kick. “Tell him what’s at stake,” he clamoured silently, as Spike turned to make his way towards the Hyperion.
Lorne gripped Spike’s arm. “It’s Fred,” he said simply. “I know where she is.”
Spike lowered his eyes as a grimace of pain flared across his face. “She’s dead, mate,” he said softly. “Dead and gone.”
The thunder rolled across the sky, increasing its cacophony with each jagged burst of lightening. Lorne stared at the blackness over their heads. “Never knew there could be so many shades of black.”
‘A thousand shades of black
But the same rule always applies
Smile pretty, and watch your back,’ he crooned.
Lorne’s singing ended abruptly and he fixed Spike with a resolute stare. “Sparrow lied!” Lorne drove the word through gritted teeth. “ Fred’s soul couldn’t be destroyed, any more than yours or Angel’s could. It’s out there, Spike. And I know someone that’s willing to do a deal. Another little bird brought a message from The Powers.”
“Why me?” asked Spike. “What have I got that the Powers want?”
“Nothing that’s of value to them. That’s not the way it works. They’ll grant a favour for the right price.”
“And that would be . . . ?”
“Something important to you.”
As Angel waited for the rest of Lorne’s explanation, the light faded once more and he felt himself swept into the air and dumped unceremoniously back into his own body in the Hyperion’s reception area.
Lorne waved sheepishly at him from behind Buffy. “Hi Big Guy,” he smiled. “You all caught up, courtesy of Little Miss Blue Eyes?”
Angel looked at Spike who was standing beside the staircase with his back to the wall, pulling at a cigarette as though his life depended on the fumes he inhaled. A clatter from the head of the stairs drew everyone’s attention. Looking dishevelled and bloody, but very much alive, Wesley stumbled into view and half-fell down the first few steps. His gaze swept the room below, as if searching for something or someone. It stopped at Illyria, who raised her head regally to meet his stare.
“I . . .” Wesley began, his voice cracked and hoarse. “Fred’s room. It contains something important, something I can’t read.” He paused. “The walls, they . . .”
Wesley sat down abruptly and Illyria appeared by his side, though no one saw her move from her place below. “We need someone with powers greater than those that remain to me,” she said.
“What you need is a Witch.” Buffy’s voice sounded a clear clarion call to action. “Fortunately for you, we already have one of those.”
Link to previous chapter
NB: To make sense of this story, it is necessary to have read Family:Blood Calls to Blood.