the bunny warren v. Faith

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Genesis I - The Tree of Knowledge

Author: Mikelesq
Rating: PG-13
Concept: The curse that restored Angelus' soul has an unexpected consequence- thaumogenesis. The gypsies find themselves hunted by the demon they created, and only Angel can save them. But will he want to? Part One of a trilogy.
Spoilers: General through Season 6 of BtVS and Season 3 of AtS
Feedback: Please. E-mail Mikelesq[at]aol.com
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like.

Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil."

Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 22

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Spike: The thing about magic? There's always consequences. Always.

'After Life,' BtVS, Season 6, episode 3

----------------------------------------------------------

Prologue


"It is certain?"

"Yes, Uncle," Stevan replied. "Kisha was peddling charms in the street. She is certain that the man she saw..."

"It is not a man," Borka interrupted.

"Yes, Uncle," the boy sheepishly replied. "She saw...the monster. He...it took a young woman into the darkness of an alley. It emerged moments later, weeping. The woman followed shortly. She was unharmed. It cannot feed."

"It can feed," Borka corrected, turning to look into the orange light of the fire that illuminated the gypsy camp. "It cannot feed without pain. It will find a way to sustain itself. It must."

"I'd be happy to know how," a voice called out.

Borka and Stevan turned. Angelus stood before them.


Part I.


"The Beast!" Stevan shouted, reaching for the work knife he kept on his belt.

Other men began to gather, each carrying the tools of their crafts that could, if needed, be used as weapons. The married women gathered their families into the wagons. The unmarried women followed, although some observed the stranger longer than others.

"Take no action," Borka said, lifting a cautioning hand into the air. "Let it approach."

Angelus, weak with hunger, stumbled forward.

"You did this to me," the vampire growled. "Undo it."

"There is no undoing that which has been done," Borka replied. "You will come to know that, vampire."

"I will kill every man, woman and child in this camp if you do not undo what you have done," Angelus said, taking a step forward.

"Then come!" Stevan threatened, raising his knife. "You were no match for us when...."

"Enough," Borka said. He turned to Angelus. "You will kill us if we do not do as you demand? You may begin with me."

Borka walked toward Angelus. His eyes never left the vampire's gaze.

Angelus panted, his heavy breath an unforgotten reflex of the days when his body instinctively associated a need for air with the desire for life. The fullness of his lungs did not satisfy Angelus now, physically or psychologically. His face grimaced as he turned his head from Borka's gaze.

"As I suspected," Borka finally said. "Your threats are empty, vampire. Your appetite and your stomach cannot find peace with each other. Oh, this is a delicious irony."

"What would you have of me?" Angelus begged. "If you wish me to die...."

"Not to die," Borka said. "To suffer. Stevan, bring me one of the rabbits."

Stevan only gazed in confusion for a moment; among his people, one did not question an elder. He quickly ran to one of the wagons, and soon emerged with a trembling rabbit. He ran to his uncle and handed over the small animal.

"Lovely creatures," Borka said, stroking the creature's fur. When the animal had stopped shaking, Borka grabbed its head in his free hand, and twisted. The gypsies heard a soft crack through the whisper of the forest wind.

"Here," Borka said, tossing the dead rabbit to Angelus, who caught it in his hands. "Drink. Feed. It is but an animal, and I was the one who did the killing. Regain your strength. You will find ways to live, vampire. And every day you live will be a day of torment. You will live many lifetimes, and our revenge will pain you long after we cannot."

Borka turned to his kinsmen and said:

"This thing will trouble us no more. We, however, will trouble it through the ages. We must leave now. If it can find us, its companions surely will."

The men moved toward the wagons. Stevan glanced over his shoulder as he walked; his youthful energy made him eager for the opportunity to take a less complicated revenge against the beast that had killed his cousin.

Angelus felt the warmth of the rabbit's body. It would sustain him. However, he was not sure that he wanted the life it offered. These men...these humans...he could not kill them. Humans had faced him, Angelus, who had delivered ugly death throughout Europe for a century...and yet these roaming peasants lived.

Hunger overcame pride as Angelus sank his teeth into the creature's flesh, sucking the blood from it. He could feel the strength slowly returning. Such a small creature could sustain him for a day, perhaps less. Angelus began to mentally calculate how many such creatures he would need to have at hand if he were to use them for food. He had killed an animal breeder in Naples many years prior. Angelus remembered walking among the cages, each holding a single mink, while he and Darla waited for the ship that would take them to Athens.

Animals, Angelus thought. An eternity as an animal breeder. After fighting his whole life to escape the suffocating routine of his youth, to end up a farmer....

Angelus sank to his knees.

A woman's scream echoed through the night. Angelus looked up, and saw that the gypsies had all gathered around their campfire. A large man held a small, limp body in his arms.

Angelus, for reasons he did not comprehend, ran to the fire to see the cause of the commotion. As he drew nearer, he could see that the body was that of a young girl, much younger than the girl he'd....

The gypsies turned to face the approaching vampire. Stevan, a look of rage and horror on his face, pointed to Angelus and screamed:

"You!"


Part II.


"Stevan, stop," Borka said, placing a restraining hand against his nephew's chest.

"It did this!" Stevan exclaimed. "As it did before! It...it...."

"I didn't do this," Angelus muttered.

"And I suppose you didn't kill my cousin?" Stevan spat. "And you didn't kill Kolya as she...?"

"Enough," Borka said. "The child has not bled. A vampire did not do this."

"Then what?" an older man asked. "The child is scratched. Her bones broken. Just as we found Kolya before we began our journey."

"There is something in the forest," Borka concluded.

"And the other?" Angelus asked.

"You will not speak of this!" Stevan shouted.

"This forest is twenty miles from where you were," Angelus continued. "You crossed two rivers and five miles of grasslands to arrive here. Whatever's killing you, it's following you."

"It is the others," Stevan stated. "The vampire has companions. They hunt us."

"There are no bite marks," Borka said.

"Where was she found?" Angelus asked.

"I told you...!" Stevan screamed.

"Hold your tongue, Stevan," Borka instructed. "This monster may prove useful." Borka turned to Angelus. "The body was found to the north, not more than a mile from here."

"It's not Darla," Angelus stated. "Your fire can be seen for miles. If Darla were close enough to kill the girl, she'd be here now. Darla won't play games with you. She likes games in the parlor, but not in the forest. She'll kill you if she finds you, but not this way."

"And the others?" Borka asked.

"They will do as Darla commands," Angelus replied. "At least for awhile. And none of them will kill without feeding. They'll want you to know it's their handiwork."

"It is correct," Borka said. "Vanya, take us to where the child was found."

The men began to move to the north end of the clearing. Stevan turned when he noticed Angelus was following.

"This does not concern you, vampire," Stevan growled. "Be on your way."

"I thought you blamed me for this?" Angelus replied. "If I did it, you'd better kill me, or keep me at hand. And you've made it very clear that killing's too good for the likes of me."

"Why do you wish to come?" Stevan asked. "What possible interest can you have in this?"

Angelus did not answer. He had no answer to give.

"Come, vampire," Borka said.

"Uncle," Stevan protested.

"I did not ask your counsel, nephew," Borka said, turning toward the north. The gypsies followed, with Angelus close behind.


Part III.


"Uh, this village is filthy," Darla mumbled, rubbing a lace handkerchief across the lip of the clay cup in her hand. She took a sip, and winced as the bitter taste of the cheap wine stung the back of her throat.

"I can hear the crickets under the tables," Drusilla sighed. "They rub their legs like fiddles, but no one wants to dance."

The peasants seated around the tavern turned and stared.

"Drusilla," Darla whispered. "If you sit quietly, you can hear the spiders waltzing to the music."

"Really?" Dru said, a giddy smile crossing her face.

"Yes, you can...ugh, of course not, you fool!" Darla snapped. "Damn, how does Angelus tolerate your prattling!"

"I checked the place out," Spike said, as he strutted up to the table and sat next to Dru. "This is the only tavern in the village that rents out rooms."

"I find that hard to believe," Darla muttered.

"No, really," Spike replied. "I asked this bloke at the livery, and he said...."

"That was sarcasm, you imbecile," Darla said. "I can't believe I might actually have to journey all the way to China with the pair of you."

"You might thank me," Spike said.

"I might put garlic in my soup," Darla replied. "But I wouldn't wager on it. What did you find out?"

"What I hear," Spike whispered, "two days ago this Romani shows up, all by herself. Calls herself Kisha. She's got a bag with trinkets. Sells the lot, real cheap, to a tinker in the town square. Pays for a room here. Round noon this girl meets a gypsy in this tavern. They talk, and she sods off with him. Doesn't even run upstairs to grab her things. "

"They must be meeting her people soon," Darla said. "That means they're close."

"I still don't see why we didn't just kill her back in Borsa," Spike said.

"All of her people left," Darla said. "She stayed behind to watch Angelus. If we didn't follow her, we wouldn't be able to find the rest of them."

"Will Daddy join us in the East?" Drusilla asked. "I don't want to be an orphan. Orphans eat cold gruel, and no one tells them stories at bedtime."

"Never worry," Spike said, throwing an arm around Dru. "I'll make sure my girl sleeps sound every night."

Drusilla giggled.

"That's touching," Darla said, rolling her eyes. "But do let's try to keep our attention to the matter at hand. We need to find those gypsies if we're to get Angelus back as he was."

"I dunno," Spike said. "What do we need Angelus for? I've done a fair job at taking care of everything. You birds stick with me, and we'll do just fine."

"Spike," Darla responded. "Listen to me. Just because a jackass pulls a cart from the front, that doesn't mean it's leading the journey. Angelus is the leader. You are the jackass. Until we bring him back to us, you'll do what I tell you. And nothing else."

Spike's jaw tensed. "You listen, lady. No woman tells me what to do. The only reason I'm along on this fool's errand is that it gets me closer to China. I've got a little appointment with a girl that I hear's...."

"Ooooooohhhh!"

Spike and Darla stopped as Drusilla's wail filled the tavern. The peasants stared at the trembling woman.

"Drink your swill!" Spike shouted to the patrons.

"Is it a vision?" Darla asked in a hushed tone.

"Dru," Spike whispered. "Tell me what you see."

"The gypsies have a wooden baby," Drusilla whimpered. "It cries and claws and wants to play."

Darla turned to Spike. "Are you comprehending any of this?"

"Angelus is the one who understands her," Spike answered. "Me, lately I can get every third word. I hope to work up to half by the time we get to China."

"The gypsies have a wooden baby," Drusilla repeated. "Daddy wants to give it a spanking. But the baby has great arms, and Daddy hurts as it hugs him."

"Daddy," Darla repeated. "Is Angelus in danger?"

"If Daddy doesn't run, the bad baby will hug him until he isn't my daddy anymore."

Darla looked into Drusilla's eyes. Dru's words were cryptic, but the fear in her face was unmistakable. Darla turned to Spike and ordered:

"Get horses."


Part IV.


"There!" Borka said, pointing to the base of a tree. "There is a piece of cloth on the ground. This is the place."

"Uncle, look," Stevan said, pointing to a high branch of the tree. "There is a piece of Alena's dress in the tree."

"The child must have climbed the tree and fallen," Borka surmised. "That would explain the broken bones. The scratches must have come as she fell."

"She didn't fall," Angelus said.

Borka grasped Stevan's arm, cutting off the protest the boy had surely been prepared to make.

"There's blood in the high branches," Angelus continued. "I can smell it on the wind. And it's not just this tree. Her blood is on the highest branches of that tree, there."

Angelus gestured to a tree across from the first. Borka looked, and saw that another piece of the girl's dress was snagged on the branches of the second tree.

"She cannot have fallen from both trees," Borka said. "What could have...?"

Borka stopped as the ground began to move beneath them. The gypsy men grabbed onto tree trunks to keep their balance. Angelus, whose agility allowed him to maintain his footing, remained standing, looking for the source of the disturbance.

"Uncle, there!" Stevan said, pointing to one of the trees.

A powder blue mist crept toward the base of the tree. The mist then enveloped the tree, disappeared within its trunk, and the branches bowed down and grasped one of the gypsy men. The twigs of the branches crackled as they surrounded the man's body. The gypsies watched in horror as the man screamed. The sound of breaking bone ended the man's screams. The branches then reached for another man, who kicked and struggled to avoid the tree's grasp.

Angel reached out and grabbed the knife from Stevan's belt. Stevan's eyes focused on the blade as he, for the moment, forgot his horror of the attacking tree.

Angelus hurled the knife into the trunk of the tree. The branches of the tree recoiled from the cowering gypsy. The mist returned, surrounding the tree, then seeping back into the ground, and finally fading away.

The gypsy men began to slowly return to their feet, and apprehensively approached the now dormant tree. After a long silence, Borka said:

"It is gone. Stevan, help Rudolph. Vanya, take Mischa's body back to the camp."

"What of the vampire?" Stevan asked.

"This is not the work of the vampire. Rouse Alena from her sleep. She will consult the volumes."

Stevan and another gypsy lifted the injured Rudolph, while two others grabbed the dead man's corpse.

"He saved me," Rudolph gasped, as the two men picked him up. "The monster...it saved...."

"It saved itself," Borka replied. "It did what it needed to do to continue living. Come."

The men began to move toward the camp. Angelus stood in silence. Borka turned, and gestured for the vampire to follow. Angelus walked behind the men toward the camp.

'I could have run,' Angelus thought to himself. 'I did not need to attack that monster to save myself. I was trying to save that man. Why? God, what has happened to me?'


Part V.


Angelus stood at a short distance as the gypsy men gathered around the campfire. An old woman sat on a stool.

"Grandmother," Borka said to the old woman, Alena. "There was a creature in the woods. It attacked us. The same creature must have been responsible for the death of Kolya. It follows us."

"Does a child not follow its father?" Alena replied.

"Father," Borka repeated. "Grandmother, we do not have time for riddles."

"We sired this creature," Alena replied. "We gave it life. I warned you, grandson. The magicks you persuaded me to perform have created the monster that now hunts our people. We violated the gift of knowledge passed down from our ancestors. The herbs that heal, the charms that protect, they are the magicks of light and nature. The curse delivered upon the Beast, that spell was a thing of darkness. Dark spells are not gifts, grandson. They are bargains, and no bargain comes without a price. Kolya and Mischa paid that price. Others will follow."

"We are safe here," Borka said. "The creature is in the trees. We are camped in the plain. It cannot touch us here."

"But Darla can," Angelus replied.

The men turned to face Angelus.

"I found you," Angelus continued. "If I can, she won't have a problem doing the same. And she will come for you. If you cannot move into the forest, you will die here. Your only chance is to kill this creature and move through the forest before Darla comes. She'll bring others. You won't be able to fight all of them."

"The vampire is correct," Alena agreed.

"If you can get past the village on west side of the forest, you'll escape," Angelus said. "There is a hamlet three miles to the east of your camp. Darla and the others will stop there to feed, and at the next village as well. The two vampires with her cannot be among people for long without drawing attention to themselves. Sooner or later they'll get into a bind that'll have them running instead of searching. Keep moving, and you'll survive. Wait, and you wait for death, as certain a death as any that will come from the creature in the trees."

"Approach me, vampire," Alena said.

Angelus took a few tentative steps toward Alena.

"This curse," Alena said. "It is a heavy burden. It would have been more merciful to kill you. Vengeance is a thing of evil. It is cruelty hidden behind a cloak of justice. It does more harm to those who deliver it than it does to the object of the vengeance. Of course, men do not understand such things. This is why the magicks of our people are entrusted to the women. I should not have relented."

"I can kill this monster in the trees," Angelus said. "I've been in a mood for killing. I'll take what I can get."

A slight smile crossed Alena's face. "You wish to help us, vampire?"

"At what price?" Stevan shouted. All eyes turned toward him. For anyone of his age to speak at such a meeting was unheard of. "It came to us to demand we lift the magic, so it could return to its murderous ways."

"Is that what you wish, vampire?" Alena asked.

"It was," Angelus said. "Now...I...I don't know what...."

"This creature is not of flesh," Alena stated. "You cannot feed from it, but it can certainly kill you. You face death. Do you want to die?"

Angelus had no answer.

"You have tasted something, vampire," Alena said. "You seek something. Something you cannot name."

"I can't explain this," Angelus said. "I...I wanted to be what I was. I...I don't want to be that anymore."

"You will," Alena said. "There is clarity in knowing nothing but evil. You will crave that clarity, many times. You have more knowledge of good and evil than most men ever have. And you have eternity to walk with evil at your shoulder. You are taking your first steps down a rough path. Are you prepared, vampire?"

Angelus paused, looked into the forest, then turned to the gypsies and said:

"Someone get me a rabbit."


Part VI.


Angelus walked through the woods carrying the axe the gypsies gave him. He looked down at the parchment the gypsy woman had given him. It was torn from one of the few books she had that was written in English. The old woman said that, since Angelus was not a warlock, any spell he attempted to cast should be in his native language, if it were to stand any chance of success. He read in the moonlight:

'Thickening, a spell to bind a demon created by thaumogenesis.'

Thaumogenesis. Angelus had seen many things during his century of killing and torture, but this was unthinkable. The creation of a demon, as a byproduct of magic...it seemed impossible. Of course, any concept of consequence was foreign to Angelus. At least, it had been.

Angelus' keen hearing caught the sound of footsteps rustling through the forest. He glanced up, saw a branch, and leapt up into the tree. He waited.

A shadow approached on the ground. As it grew closer, Angelus saw that it was a man. He waited until the shadow was directly below his branch, and then leapt down. He grabbed the man by the throat and looked at his face in the moonlight.

"You," Angelus said.

"Release me, demon," Stevan hissed, his fingers clawing at the vampire's hands.

Angelus dropped the man to the ground.

"This is no place for you, boy," Angelus said. "Return to your people."

"I still do not trust you, vampire," Stevan said, rising to his feet and rubbing his sore neck. "I have no intention of letting you out of my sight."

"You're no warrior," Angelus said. "If you get yourself killed out here, your people will blame me."

"They have no love of you now," Stevan replied.

Angelus sighed, and said:

"Fine, but I'm not out here to play governess. Watch yourself, for I won't."

Angelus walked deeper into the woods. Stevan followed.

"Keep your eyes open," Angelus said. "This thing's after you more than me."

"Funny about demons," Stevan said. "They never kill the right people. Ah, but then, you are not a person, are you?"

"You hate me, don't you?" Angelus asked.

"With all that I am."

"Feels good, doesn't it?" Angelus said. "Makes you feel alive. The drive. The pure simplicity. It's like being an animal. No thought. No regret. Just the lust for blood."

"Do not even suggest that I am like you, vampire!"

"Keep your voice down," Angelus said. "And no, you're not like me. You see, Stevan, I would gain no joy in your death."

For the first time in a long time, Stevan had nothing to say.

The two men stopped as the ground began to move. Angelus stood his ground, and Stevan would not allow himself to fall while the vampire remained standing.

"Your mouth may have drawn out our demon," Angelus said.

The blue mist appeared, and crept into a tree beside Angelus. The light permeated the tree, which sprang to life. A branch of the tree swung down, knocking both Stevan and Angelus to the ground with one sweep.

"Attack it!" Angelus shouted, rising to his feet and swinging the axe at the descending branches. "I need to read the spell!"

Stevan crouched and watched as a branch knocked the axe from Angelus' hands and surrounded the vampire's torso, lifting him from the ground. Another smaller branch rushed toward Angelus' chest. Angelus caught the branch with both hands, struggling to keep the sharp point from his heart.

"Not as easy as a creature of flesh, is it, vampire?" Stevan said, a slight smile crossing his lips. "How do you like being helpless?"

"I...am...never...HELPLESS!" Angelus roared, as he released one of his hands from the branch and brought it down into the bark. The branch snapped, and the tree released Angelus, who fell to the ground. The tree shuddered, as though in pain.

The mist returned, and crawled across the earth to a smaller tree immediately behind Stevan. The branches of this tree animated, and pinned Stevan to the ground.

Angelus drew the parchment from his coat pocket. As he looked up into the moonlight to see the incantation, he saw Stevan struggling against the branches. With his free hand, Angelus swept up the axe and hurled it toward the trunk of the tree. The tree recoiled, releasing Stevan. The blue mist materialized again. Angelus quickly read:

"Demon life/
Demon Birth/
Not of Heaven,/
Hell or Earth/
Light to fire/
Dust to ground/
Quicken, thicken/
Be now BOUND!"

The mist began to glow brighter, and then exploded into a burst of light. Angelus shielded his eyes against the glare. The tree thrashed, as though disoriented. Angelus took this opportunity to grab Stevan and drag him to a safe distance.

Stevan rose to his feet. "You...you could have left me to...."

"The demon is trapped," Angelus said, in no mood for the boy's observances. "It has been made whole. Of course, with those roots in the ground, it's also been kept still."

Stevan turned to face the tree. The trunk bowed as though blown by a gale force wind, and the branches whipped madly, like a drowning man grasping for anything to hold.

Stevan turned to Angelus, and said:

"Approach it from the left. I will approach from the right with my knife. If we can avoid its grasp, we can...."

"Stevan," Angelus said, drawing a small bottle from the folds of his tunic. A limp rag hung from the neck of the bottle. "Your people may know a lot about revenge, but you have a lot to learn about killing."

Angelus reached into the pocket of his vest, drew a match, lit it, and set the rag afire. He threw the bottle onto the trunk of the tree. The oil in the bottle sparked into a small flame, which slowly grew brighter and brighter.

Angelus recalled a book, written by a Buddhist monk, which questioned whether roses could scream. That monk may have found his answer in the shrill whine that filled the night sky as the fire enveloped the tree. Angelus and Stevan watched until the flames died, and the tree moved no more.


Epilogue


"Where will you go, vampire?"

"I don't know," Angelus replied, as he and Stevan walked toward the fire of the gypsy camp. "My plan was to find Darla at the village beyond the forest. Now...."

After a pause, Stevan said:

"I would be dead were it not for you. I will not pretend that I owe you my life. I do not. No living man could owe a debt to one such as you. However, I will acknowledge that...."

"Quiet," Angelus said, grasping the boy's arm. Angelus stared into the distance, focused on the circled wagons.

"What is it?" Stevan whispered.

"There's something wrong," Angelus replied. "Something has been to the camp."

"I see nothing."

"My eyes are stronger than yours," Angelus said. "Follow me."

Angelus and Stevan slowly approached the camp. As they grew closer, Stevan saw the bodies of his kinsman strewn on the ground. The wagons smoldered from the fires within.

Stevan ran and knelt next to one of the corpses. As Angelus approached, he could see Stevan turning the head of Borka's limp body.

"Uncle!" Stevan gasped, as Angelus saw the bloody gash on the side of the old man's neck.

Angelus looked at the destruction around him. Not one wagon remained standing. Not one person moved. No one had been allowed to live. Angelus closed his eyes and whispered:

"Darla."

Stevan rose. In his hand he held a plank of wood that had been shattered from one of the wagons. He raised the wooden stake into the air.

Stevan stared into the face of the vampire. A fiery hatred burned in his eyes. A moment passed. Even to Angelus, who had walked the earth for over a century, the moment seemed to last a lifetime.

"You think I mean to kill you," Stevan finally said. "You are wrong." He tossed the wooden plank to the ground.

Angelus had no response.

"My uncle told me a great deal about the curse we delivered upon you, vampire," Stevan said, an eerie evenness in his voice. "It will not end. You will never know a moment of peace."

"Stevan, I tried to...."

"My people have cousins who travel to the east," Stevan continued, with no regard for anything Angelus had to say. "I will find them. I will live among them. I will marry, and the woman will bear sons. My sons will follow you, Angelus, and their sons after them. You will roam this earth for a lifetime, and we will never forget."

Stevan turned and walked away into the night.

As Angelus watched Stevan, he thought of Alena's words: the clarity of evil. The meaning was now apparent to Angelus. He'd risked his life to protect these gypsies. He'd succeeded, and they'd died anyway. They may have been dead already when the tree was trying to squeeze the life from his body. Any nobility in the futile gesture was far too ambiguous for Angelus. It was certainly too ambiguous for Stevan. There were only three creatures in the world that wanted any part of Angelus, and that part was not his soul.

Angelus waited until the boy was gone, and then walked toward the west. He might not find Darla at the village, but he would catch up with her in time. As he left the camp, Angelus muttered:

"I'll be damned if I ever help a human again."

At that time, it did not occur to Angelus that he might be damned if he did not.


THE END


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