Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down -- Part the Second by Mad Hamlet
Drain Brameged Inc. Proudly Presents
A Mad-Hamlet Production

Title: Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down
Author: Mad-Hamlet
Email: Mad-Hamlet@usa.net
Webpage: None yet.
ICQ: 7632978
MSN: Mad-Hamlet@usa.net
AOL: MoodyOberon
Archive: Of course. Just let me know so I can ogle.
Content: Vengence
Summary: Things went wrong, now she's going to put them right.
Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Inc. The Crow is property of J.O'Barr.
Rating: R

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |

Drain Brameged Inc. Proudly Presents
A Mad-Hamlet Production

There were three crows, sat on a tree.
They're as black as crows can be.
One of them said to the mate:
What shall we do for grub to eat?
There's an old dead horse in yonder's lane,
Whose body has been lately slain.
We'll fly upon his old breast bone,
and pluck his eyes out one by one.

- A traditional ballad

 

Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down
Part the Second
You Call me Trickster
You Call me Judge
You Call me Carrion Eater
You Call me Messenger

She strode up the sunlit path to her small, three room home. The one she shared with her roommate, her friend, her sister.

Her lover.

The signs of the sudden storm the night before were still evident. Branches, leaves...even the occasional bough, all lay on the ground in mute testimony to the power unleashed the night before. The news was full of reports. 'Experts' with explanations and idiotic commentary on how 'surprising' the whole thing had been.

She hadn't been surprised. She'd known it was coming. For the past few weeks a charge had been building. She could feel it. All her sisters had been able to. A sense of expectation, of potential, of power, beyond magic or reality and far above the constant level of energy that was flung outward from the Hellmouth. Last night it had finally happened.

Just what had happened she wasn't sure. Cleansing rituals had not worked, scrying, pleading with powers, even invocations had done nothing to deter whatever that had come, from coming. The only clue given at any attempts at divination had been an odd sound. As of something soft whipping through the air. Like feathers on wings.

The significance of the day was not lost on the young woman, supernatural occurrences aside. And indeed the storm had been just that, or, more accurately, the byproduct of a supernatural event.

The evening before had marked the third anniversary of...

Even now, three years later she couldn't really give that event a name, a label, in her mind. Was either because it was too horrible to think of? Or was it that giving it a name might numb her to the tragedy? She couldn't say, but in either respect, she couldn't actually give the event a name.

Her time with them had been so short, and very painful. Despite both factors against, she treasured the memories, both for her folly, and how it had taught her and made her better.

"Let her go," Willow said simply. "Sheíll never do anything like this again. Will you, Tara?"

Looking back on it, the young woman decided, she must have completely out of her mind to do what she had done, or tried to do.

"You have my word," Tara nodded. "I know better now than to break up what was meant to be. Keep the book, Willow. Donít let anyone use that spell again, itís too p-powerful." As she started for the door, she looked at Buffy, and said, "You are so lucky."

Of course in that context she had been wrong, like usual. And it had been Buffy, ironically, who had been correct.

"I know it," Buffy agreed, too happy to be reunited with Willow to stay angry at Tara. "Youíll find someone. Just give it time."

Yes. She decided, walking up the steps that lead to her front door. Buffy had been right after all. Turning her key in the lock, she was pleased to find the latch undone, that meant her lover was home from classes already.

Tara Maclay stepped through the front door. "Amy? I'm home."

***

'The human mind is a funny thing,' the girl decided.

She hadn't moved since collapsing in the rain the night before. The sun had risen, the clouds moved on, occasional birds flew from branch to branch singing. Looking for breakfast and singing. Pecking through mud and filth and earth looking for things that themselves oozed through mud and earth and filth. Called it home. Singing birds looked for these things to eat. And sang while doing so.

Except the one she belonged too. Oh it hopped, and pecked, and scratched, and searched for flesh among the mud like the rest, it just had the grace to not act all pretty while doing so.

'Yes,' She repeated mentally. 'The mind is a strage thing. Even dead ones.'

Even now the pain and hate and rage bit at her, gnawed on the insides with eternal teeth but she didn't care to scream, or cry any longer. She had 'adapted'. She had grown 'accustomed' to the tearing and the tears. She had 'come to grips' with what had been done and how it could not be unmade.

Like her baby had been unmade.

In a flash of steel and biting white, her daughter had been undone.

But she couldn't cry anymore at the thoughts. She had 'accepted' it. So why was she crying again then?

More time passed on by as it is it's wont to do. Singing, pecking, birds marked its passage as they continued plowing the muddy earth. She saw none of this though, she had not seen much at all since her rebirth. Except certain things, played over and over across the mind's eye, each time a little longer, each time a little clearer. Over and over the memories played on, teasing with more to show, cutting with sharper edges.

"Red, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it will me." Faith smiled over the blade that hovered in front of her eyes. "Reconsidered, I realize it won't hurt me at all. I'll probably have a hell of time cleaning the stains up...but...I think it'll be worth it."

Then came pain. Pain in memory is odd, she never had been ever to really remember it before. Many times she had recalled falling off her bicycle when she was a child. She never had managed to remember what it felt like when her head had impacted with the concrete though. This pain was different.

Every unholy second was lovingly recorded in her mind. From the initial sliding sensation of white lightning piercing her, the coppery taste of blood flooding the back of her own throat, to the stomach churning feeling of fingers fumbling around _inside_ to the very ending of Faith's shriek of triumph. By then, thankfully, she had grown too weak to keep her own eyes open.

She could hear though.

A wet sound of something soft hitting something hard. At violent speeds.

Of her labored breathing.

Faith's laughter, she remembered that too. Above Faith's cackle though she remembered...hearing...Buffy. A light whisper, barely capable of floating across the space separating them. But she heard.

"I'll wait for you...Willow. I'll wait for you....both."

Then Faith. "Well B, had my fun, don't need you anymore do we?"

The sound of flesh parting before steel again, grating across bone.

Then she hadn't even heard her wife's breathing at all.

"And to wrap things up." Faith had chuckled. "I'll be nice. I'm feeling too groovy, too shake your think oh funky one good, to be mean. I'll do you quick Red. Call in a consolation prize."

Fingers had wrapped themselves in her hair, warm steel bit her neck.

Her last thoughts, from before, came to her then.

'It's not fair. It's not fair. It shouldn't have been this way. It's not fair, it's not fair..It shouldn't have been this way, I won't let it end like this. I won't! I won't! I wo-'

A sharp jab in her side snapped her back to the now.

It stood before the girl, abyssal eyes unblinking in the dawning sun, reflecting nothing, absorbing all. She looked at it, it looked at her.

They stayed like this for some time. Not moving, around the them the day continued to pass, the woods became more alive as those who lived within were woken from their slumber by mornings progress.

The girl pulled herself to her feet, breaking eye contact with the black bird that stood in front of her.

It studied her carefully. She had not been like the others; confused, yes, suffering, yes..but that burning rage so common in all the others. That was lacking. She did not follow it, she did not understand it. It hadn't been mistaken had it? This had never happened before. Ever.

The girl rested her forearm on the trunk of a great tree then rested her forehead on her arm. She had loved the woods once. She would come here, sometimes with her other, her lover, her wife, and they would touch the trees.

"Can't you feel it Buffy?"

"Uh...bark?"

"No ya dummy, life! It's so powerful here. This one in particular...he's old you know. But strong and full of living. I can feel it."

And she would lay her hands on the rough surface and feel the deep, slow thrumbing of ancient hearts.

"Are you sure I'm doing this right Willow?" Buffy had asked.

"All you have to do it touch the tree Buffy."

"It's too rough, isn't there anything else I can touch?" She had pouted when saying that. Sticking out her lower lip just a bit, just enough so, if she was inclined Willow could have caught it between her own. "Something soft? Something warm?"

"I...think something can be arranged." The stillness of that night have been briefly, quietly, interrupted with the rustle of clothing dropping to the forest floor.

"Mmm..very soft."

The girl didn't cry anymore. Shadowed under the canopy of leaves, face downcast, realizing that memory too was lost, that she couldn't feel the trees anymore, that she couldn't feel the touch anymore, that her connection was lost, that her love was lost, realizing all this she didn't cry.

Lips, unused to such hateful actions followed commands anyway. A snarl, a curve of flesh that bared teeth. Fingers against ancient wood curled once more and tore bark, crushing it with enough strength to punch the splinters through the flesh. What she took from the tree she returned to the forest with blood.

And she didn't cry. She spoke. One word.

"Faith."

It watched from nearby, perched on a rotten log; ignoring, for the moment a fat grub it had revealed choosing instead to watch her.

It was about time.

***

"Amy?" Tara called into the house.

"Kitchen." Came the reply.

Kicking off her shoes, and setting her books on a nearby table she made her way past the one plaster wall that separated the main room from the kitchen. Amy was standing in front of a large pot in which...something...was bubbling. It didn't smell like any concoction Tara recognized though.

Amy's hands were on her hips and she was glaring at the stuff.

"Lunch?" Tara asked sliding her arms around Amy's waist and staring down at the bowl over the brunette's shoulder.

"In theory," Amy quipped. "But I'm not willing to eat it."

"Well, if the chef isn't having any..." Tara murmured.

"Order pizza?" Amy asked resting her hands atop of Tara's.

With a loud WHOOMPH the material in the pot caught fire.

"Let's go out," Amy answered her own question while backing away quickly.

***

The sun was setting as the young couple worked there way back to their abode.

An orange glow lit the horizon sending a cascade of colors that deepened in hue to the black of night as it swept across infinity.

Tara walked with both hands on her belly, taking little tiny steps, her expression wasn't very happy.

"I can't believe I let you talk me into trying pineapples on my pizza," she groaned.

"Well...you're the vegetarian in the family." Amy protested. She was walking backwards so she could see Tara as they went home. She stopped, put one hand on Tara's shoulder and used the other to cup the blonde's chin and tilt her head up so they were eye to eye.

"I'll rub your belly when we get home." Amy whispered.

Tara smiled shyly. "That would probably help."

"No more pineapples?" Amy returned the smile.

"Well... if you promise to take care of me afterwards...maybe." Tara's eyes broke the contact.

Amy noticed a shape in the sky flying in their direction, it seemed to soak up what little light in there was, absorbing it, consuming it. It let out a cry.

Tara noticed where her lover was starting. "What is it?" She asked looking in the same direction.

"A crow." Amy answered. "I think."

She paused, a thoughtful expression on her face. "If I recall correctly..." she murmured quietly.

"Okay," she said pointing at the setting sun. "That's west..." She turned to the few stars that were in the sky. "I think that's the North Star." She said pointing overhead...so...it was approaching us from the south.

"Oh." Tara said quietly. "I think I know where your going with this...uh...a crow from the south means a friend is coming...doesn't it? Or is that Southeast?"

Amy shook her head. "No. Southeast means evil. Misfortune."

"Let's hope it was South then," Tara replied quickly. "I'd rather not have evil visiting us."

Amy hooked her arm through Tara's. "I don't want anyone visiting us," she said simply.

Walking in step for a minute Tara finally took the bait. "Why not?"

"I have bellies to rub!" Amy was wearing a triumphant smirk.

"Oh. Right. Ow my tummy! My poor poor tummy."

***

The walk home went swiftly. The actual sun had dipped below the edge of the world by the time they reached the walkway leading to their front door. Both had seen, and knew, too much to be foolish enough to dawdle about in the night.

Amy had Tara in a playful headlock as they walked up the path. "Now I have you girly, and your little dog too!" she cackled.

"Oh no!" Tara squealed playing along. "A big, mean, witch has me prisoner! Whatever shall I do?"

Letting Tara's head go, Amy pulled her up so they were eye to eye, faces only an inch apart. "Suffer," she murmured.

"Not likely," Tara whispered back before sliding through the rest of the space, intending to go for a kiss. Amy's lips, not being where she expected them to be, didn't allow that. Opening her eyes Tara saw Amy staring over her shoulder with a nervous look on her face.

"Amy? What is it?" She turned around herself. The front door of their cozy little home was slightly ajar. The crack of darkness from within, in the greater darkness without, made the cozy factor less so. Now the house appeared...hungry.

"Did...did you leave the door unlocked?" Amy whispered.

"No of course not." Tara whispered back. "Should we call the police?"

"If it's what we're afraid of, what help would they be?" Amy replied. "Open the door Tara."

"What?" Tara nearly shouted spinning to face her love she saw that Amy's eyes were blackened over. The air around her was heavy and potent with raw mayhaps. Certainties and absolutes that had been forged in the maw of creation were not any more, at least in the area around the brunette witch.

"Open the door," Amy repeated through gritted teeth. "Whatever it is, I'm ready."

***

The door creaked open slowly, casting long shadows of the two girls down the front hallway, born of what little light remained in the heavens. These newborn were quickly swallowed by the greater darkness within.

. As her eyes adjusted to the inner darkness she began to make out details. Silioutes of furniture, the lamp, the fresh flowers on the tiny table between the sofa and the television. And on the sofa...

The little light struggled feebly across the room, highlighting red hair and pale skin. A face, half lit, half dark lifted itself upright and green eyes weakly stared into brown. "T...Tara?" A broken voice croaked. "H...he...help me."

"No," Tara whispered. "W...W...Willow...it...it c-can't be.." Terror took form and forced her incapable of movement. Her mind no longer was there, her soul twisting in some hellish gale from inside that rent walls and barriers, half healed wounds tore apart and bled anew as she beheld what had never been hers yet she had loved.

"Tara!" A commanding voice bellowed from behind her. "Move!"

The sharp command snapped her free and she dove to the side. The girl on the sofa had half gotten to her feet, one hand held out placatingly, pleading for time, time she would not be given.

"Nanshe I call thee to judge before me!" Amy snarled out. The power lifted her off the ground and half seen whispers of form began to whirl around her.

"Utu bind this mockery of flesh and friend!" The eldritch light blazed brighter and flew faster about the witch in concentric circles.

"Ninisinna heal this degraded form and let the soul rest, may you three banish this cthonic blasphemy!" The spell ended with a shriek of rage and as the light focused about Amy's outstretched hands the the redhead flung her hands up in a vain attempt to ward off a very tear in reality from rending her apart.

Warped space leapt across the room to devour the intruder, it spun and about her body, invading the body, burrowing within the flesh, trying to find the corruption and annihilate it. She screamed. Back arched, light blazing from behind her eyes, from out her widened mouth, it blazed and burned and tore.

And faded.

Leaving her gasping but still very much there in the living room of the two witches.

The redhead slumped to the ground, supporting herself on the edge of the sofa.

"Okay," Amy growled out. "That didn't work. Time for the big guns."

Tara, still lost in a haze could only look on in fear as her lover again took flight, the power and rage boosting her already formidable abilities.

A sharp rapping on the window disturbed the conflict before any more escalation was possible.

Three heads turned to the window. Backlit by the the last golden rays of the sun, as if ringed in flame, on the sill, stood a crow. It's black eyes peered through the glass, swinging first to the redhead still sprawled upon the floor, she didn't raise her head to meet it's stare. Then it's eyes moved to the brunette who was wrapped in an aura of rage and power. She had black eyes of her own, a marking, a symbol of her heritage and what she was. But hers were nothing. A newborn fawn, mewling on the forest floor. They melted away before ancient, obsidian, eyes. As her power faded she landed back on the ground no longer buoyed against gravity's will. Finally the black, feathered, head turned to the blonde. She too lay on the ground, not having moved since flinging herself there in obedience to her lover's commands. She met it's eyes, briefly before looking down the floor in supplication.

"Amy, c...could you please open the window?" Tara said quietly.

"What?" Amy hissed, her eyes never leaving the black bird on the other side.

"Open the w...window." Tara repeated.

"Tara, I really don't..." Amy began.

"Do it." Tara quietly insisted. "I...I think.." And her voice drifted away as, almost against her will she looked from the redhead to the bird and back to the redhead.

A look of such sadness passed over her features. Amy didn't understand what was happening. She could only watch as silent tears slid down Tara's face and were soaked up by the fuzzy blue rug that lined the floor. A powerful impulse swept over her, she wanted to swoop down and hold the blonde. To comfort and heal, whatever was wrong. To help her forget ...forget...forget whatever terrible something this was she was seeing.

She took a step, arms beginning to outstretch when Tara's open palm, held up as a clear 'stop' command, interrupted her.

"Now now." Tara whispers huskily. "We...we don't have time. I'm fine. Really. Just, open the window. P...please."

Without a word Amy stepped around where Tara still lay and reached for the latch binding the window shut. Carefully standing out of the way she eased the window up. It was slightly warped with age, and she couldn't open it without moving directly in front of the glass. Using both her arms she finally managed to lever it open. Stepping quickly away from the window her eyes nervously never left the crow sitting on the other side. It didn't move until Amy, carefully walking backwards, had reached Tara's side. She knelt down and enveloped the blond witch is a hug from behind, both witches' eyes though never stopped watching the bird.

The bird, with a hop, landed on the inside of the sill. It looked away from the girls on the floor, ignoring their concerned stares. It spread it's wings and effortlessly flew across the room landing on the redheads shoulder. She didn't move or in any way acknowledge its presence. The silence is this dark room was only broken by her heavy breathing.

Turning slightly on it's new found perch the crow again faced the two mortals. It eyed them, occasionally cocking its head to one side. As if wondering if they were worth all the bother it had to had to go through.

Shrugging off Amy's embrace Tara slowly climbed to her knees. Clasping her hands before her, but not taking her eyes off the black bird she quietly and solemnly spoke.

Badb Catha I greet you.
Judge I name you.
Morrigan I greet you.
Carrion Eater I name you.
Coronis I greet you.
Mother I name you.
Chimata-No-Kami I greet you.
Crossroads Walker I name you.
One Crow counted, One Crow stands
Living Echos walks across the lands.
Crow. I name you.
Crow. I greet you.

If it was surprised, or gratified, or anything whatsoever it gave no sign. It was too old, too wise, for that. It was bit interested to find one who knew some it's names. Though, names, as far as it was concerned were mere boxes. Boxes created by mortals in an attempt to comprehend something beyond their ken. It knew where the bones of empires lay, empires that had been completely devoted to it. And it did not mourn them, or care about them even now. So why would it care about mere names?

It had a duty to perform. That was all that mattered.

"Badb Catha?" Amy whispered. Understanding, or the bare minimums of it, skittered across her mind. It could see that as her face took on a similar pall of fear and sorrow as the blonde now wore.

So. They both had an inkling of an idea. They were not the normal mortals who found themselves snared in the ensuing drama. Usually there had to be explanations. For some reason that always happened. Those who were brought back always seemed to find a mortal to assist them. It never had understood why though these two seemed to know more than most. Perhaps that would be a boon.

It remained silent on its chosen roost as the redhead simply...was.

The sun had set on the first day. There were as many left as needed though. Vengeance would be served. In a dark room three girls sat in silence. A crow, perched on the shoulder of a redhead also did nothing to disturb the quiet.

Finally, drawing in a shaky breath the girl who had come seeking help, spoke.

"What am I?"

* * * * * *

Authors Notes: Let me make this clear. This is an OFFSHOOT of Sappho's Scrolls by Shyfox, written with her permission. NOT a continuation. Yes, you probably think this is dark, and it is. But I can fix anything.

Continue to Part the Third

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