Xander vs. Dracula

Author: M. McGregor <erstwhile_visionary[at]yahoo.com>

Summary: Season 5 premiere, Xander's encounter with Dracula goes in a whole new direction. Crossover with Castlevania.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Buffy and all related characters are Mutant Enemy and all that, whereas Castlevania belongs to Konami (which I now call "We-Can't-Make-a-Game-Without-The-Main-Character-Being-An-Albino-Hermaphrodite-Ami"). I own sneakers. That's about it.

Rating: R for violence and horror, assuming I'm not too much of a wuss to write it that way. Expect foul language as well (worse than "crap" even!)

Relationships: I like Xander/Anya, I really do. It just wasn't meant to be for this story. Expect the possibility of B/X to show up. Riley gets worse treatment than Anya. Sorry.

Author's Insane Ramblings: I'm taking a few licenses with Castlevania here in order to help fit it into the story better. And I'm ignoring pretty much everything that's happened in the games since "Symphony of the Night" came out, mostly because so much of it is kind of dumb. I'm especially ignoring the "origin" story from Lament of Innocence, and it's ridiculously adrogynous and stupid looking hero. Please save us from feminine looking heroes in video games. Belmonts used to look suitably manly, now they look like female cross dressers. Anyway, that's not how things began in this universe, so forget it.

Mostly I'm changing around a few of the dynamics surrounding subweapons and where those abilities come from. Nothing too glaring, and for most people I don't think they'll even notice. Mostly I'm just coming up with my own ideas about why things are the way they are in the Castlevania games, and bullshitting like crazy to get it to fit in with Buffy.

Chapter 1

She was the last of the line. With her death would be the end of her clan. Yet it was not the clan that mattered, it was the blood. That, she swore, would remain.

Grace stepped off of the passenger car, glancing back only once at the huge iron and steel locomotive.

California. America. Here her life might be spent away from the darkness that had followed her clan for hundreds of years.

The station was newly built, part of the boom that the invention of the locomotive had caused. Everything here was some shade of brown, from the remnants left behind from horses to the soft sand that seemed to cover everything. She hefted her simple luggage in her strong yet feminine hands, and began to look for the man that had been described to her.

A softly smiling gentleman who was dressed as the cowboys she had read of sauntered up to her. Like all around him he wore shades of brown, although his shirt was an immaculate white. He smiled warmly at her.

"Grace, I presume?" He asked in that guttural voice that Americans had.

"Yes, that is me," she said in a lilting accent. She had been practicing her English, but she knew she was not perfect yet.

"Well pleased to meet you," he said. "We're real glad to have your here ma'am."

"I am happy to be here as well," she smiled.

"Oh shucks, just where did I put my manners anyway?"

the man chuckled. "My name's Richard Wilkins. I'm the Sheriff around about this sleepy little town."

"I am Grace," she said, and he took her hand, kissing it gently to his lips.

"So the way I hear it told," Richard said. "You're here to help teach our youngsters?"

"I am here as a teacher, yes," she replied. "Although I may need help for English."

"Aw no need ma'am. Seems to me you speak it better than half the people I meet with every day," he chuckled, and his warm nature began to rub off on her.

She found herself laughing along with him.

"Shows you why we could use a good schoolmarm,"

Richard smiled. "I tell you, the kids nowadays, they don't fully appreciate the opportunities before them.

This town's got real potential. You can almost feel it in the air, can't you?"

Grace paused and allowed her senses to extend outward. Yes...There was something in the air.

Familiar, almost a part of her. It reminded her of home.

"Well why don't you come with me, and I'll show you to the house we got built all ready for you."

"A house?" she said, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice.

"Oh of course," he said. "We take care of folks here in Sunnydale. Not like those towns down south or out east with all the gunplay and gambling and the like.

No, we got a real family town here."

They walked for a ways, Richard carrying her bags for her. He had an easy charisma about him. He was the kind of man who just seemed good and decent. The kind of man you could trust. Richard spoke of the recent developments in town, at how lucky they were to get the railroad to connect through them, and how excited he was about getting the school set up.

"I tell you there's nothing that makes a town a real place to live like a proper school. I predict big things for this town thanks to this school."

He led her to a very nice cottage style home, with a white picket fence and a carefully tended garden outside. It was beautiful, and she was very impressed.

"It is wonderful," she said happily.

"I thought you might like it. James has been working on it for, oh gosh, had to have been the last three months now."


The front door opened and a powerfully built man with a thick mop of black hair came out. He was smiling broadly. He was sweaty and his skin was tanned brown from the sun.

"That'd be James Harris, ma'am," the man said. He wore a belt of tools at his waist and held a large hammer in his powerful hand. His white teeth were a shining contrast to his sun-browned skin, and made it seem even bigger than it already was.

"James here is in charge of building the school, but he was kind enough to work on your place when we heard you were coming," Richard said.

"I got it set up real nice," James said. "I was just workin' on a back porch so you could sit out an' read yer books."

"That's very kind of you," Grace said. The man smiled at her shyly.

"Ain't nothin' for it. We got real need of someone with book learnin' around here. Ol' Rich here's ain't got half a brain in his head. The poor dumb soul wants ta be Mayor!"

Richard and James both laughed, and Grace frowned in confusion.

"Don't mind James," Richard said. "He's a likeable fellow, but he don't take to politics."

James shrugged. "Don't see why no respectable person'd want ta sit behind a desk readin' papers all day." That may have been because James didn't know how to read.

He looked at Grace, and suddenly seemed to realize his faux pas, "Uh no offense Ms..."

Grace looked at him carefully.

"Belmont," she said softly. "Grace Belmont."

Chapter 2

*Sunnydale, California September, 2000*

Dracula stood before him.

"Great. Perfect." Xander Harris said as he stared at the suave man before him. "You know what? You're not so big. One round of old fisticuffs and you'd fold like a bitty baby."

Dracula scowled at him, but said nothing. His eyes stared at Xander with a complete lack of concern, and his face held the hint of a disgusted sneer.

"Okay, let's do it." Xander rolled up his sleeves. "And no poofing. Come on puffy shirt. Pucker on up, cause you can kiss your pale ass-"


"Good…" Xander trailed off, blinking rapidly a few times in attempt to clear his head.

"You will be my emissary. My eyes and ears in daylight." Dracula spoke softly, making hypnotic movements with his hands as he stared at Xander.

Xander blinked rapidly, holding up a finger as if he were going to speak.

"Serve me well and you will be rewarded," Dracula intoned. "I will make you an immortal. A child of darkness that feeds on life itself. On blood."

Xander stumbled back. His mind reeled, and he sought to control his sense of self.

*Not again,* he begged inwardly. Xander was no stranger to forces occupying his mind. Not again.

Never again.

"Bad Dracula!" he managed to spit out, shaking an accusing finger at the pale vampire. "No fair using mind-whammies!"

Dracula's face twisted into a sneer, and his fangs extended. He hissed at Xander, grabbing him by the throat in a burst of inhuman speed. The Master Vampire held him tightly, staring into Xander's eyes. Darkness reigned within.

"You will submit your will to mine!" Dracula commanded. "Such is the power of the Dark Master!"

Xander choked and his eyes bulged as he stared into Dracula's eyes. Xander's fingers clawed at Dracula's, trying desperately to open the airways of his throat.

"You will be my servant!" Dracula's voice rumbled low and powerful, and Xander felt his senses stagger under the force of will. His face tightened and grew red as he struggled for air. He shut his eyes against the unholy gaze of Dracula. His mouth opened in a silent scream, and slowly, so painfully slowly...he began to pull Dracula's fingers off of his throat.

Dracula's face twitched and his teeth gnashed as the young man peeled back his fingers. The undead legend hissed in shock and disbelief, and Xander fell back, shoving Dracula's hand away.

"B-Back off!" Xander coughed as he fell to one knee. He felt inside his pocket for the small cross he always kept there. Dracula made to attack him again, and he held the small silver cross up in his path. "I said back off!"

Dracula backhanded the cross, sending it flying out of Xander's hand. A moment later it tinkled softly against the street.

"You cannot hope to thwart the will of Dracula," the vampire said softly as he stepped forward. Xander stumbled back, still struggling to breathe. "Why do you fight it? Your reward would be sweet beyond reckoning."

"Blood makes me queasy," Xander gasped.

"If you will not be my eyes and ears in the daylight, then you shall be my slave in the darkness!" Dracula grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him in close to sink his fangs in the young man's neck.

Xander's arms shot forward, slamming into Dracula's chest. The vampire stumbled back, his eyes wide with surprise. Xander rushed forward, connecting a fist across his jaw. His breath came in deep pants, and his eyes burned with a look that caused Dracula to shrink back.

"I hunt the darkness," Xander growled. His voice was gravelly and strained. His fists were clenched into fists as he stared at Dracula. "I am of the protectors of man. You are a corruption."

"Impossible," Dracula whispered. "Your line is ended!"

Xander dimly wondered where his words flowed from, but was thankful that Dracula seemed frightened by them. They felt true. They felt right.

"I will not allow it to be!" Dracula screamed, and flung himself at Xander. Xander watched the unholy creature move towards him at impossible speeds, and felt the strength rise up within him. Protector of Man. Hunter of Darkness. Purge the corruption and wield the power!

His fist connected with Dracula's face, cartilage and bone snapping beneath the heavy blow. His left fist swung out in a deadly arc, and its impact staggered the vampire. Dracula threw himself at Xander again, connecting a claw swipe against his chest. Xander screamed in anger and brought his elbow down on Dracula's arm, following up with a powerful side kick into his chest. Dracula slammed back against a lamppost.

Xander's knuckles were covered in blood, and he wondered how much of it was his own. He stood ready, waiting for Dracula to make another move. His eyes flicked to the tiny glittering cross in the middle of the road.

Their eyes locked. Dracula sprang at him, and Xander pushed himself off of the sidewalk, diving for the cross. Dracula just barely missed him, and Xander rolled into the middle of the street, grasping the tiny cross in one hand. He could feel its holiness flowing through him. For an instant he felt a flash of inspiration. This was a symbol of faith. It was power, and there was no force that could stand against it.

He closed his fist over the cross, squeezing it until he felt a trickle of blood from where it bit into his hand. The power suffused him. Dracula roared, looking altogether out of place considering his previous attitude of suave stoicism and sophistication.

Dracula dove through the air, fangs bared and claws outstretched, prepared for tear the young man limb from limb. Xander thrust out his hand, and screamed as the power exploded within him. His hair stood on end and his body rose into the air. A beam of brilliant white light shot down from the heavens and engulfed him as he held the cross high over his head. From high above he could make out a glittering object, and in barely a blink it had plummeted to earth at impossible speeds.

Two gigantic and ornate crosses spun around Xander like shields, rotating at incredible speeds and slamming against Dracula. The white light seared the undead monster's flesh and the crosses buffeted him back and forth in mid air. Xander's scream was unearthly and filled with a power beyond himself.

A ringing tone echoed and the beam of light dissipated, the giant crosses fading into nothing.

Xander collapsed to the ground. Dracula lay broken in the middle of the street.

"You are doomed," Dracula laughed quietly. "From this moment, you shall be harrowed for all time."

Dracula's laugh rose to an insane pitch, and suddenly his body was engulfed in a bright green fire. He screamed in torment as it reduced him to ashes. A moment later, he was gone.

Xander still clutched the small cross in one hand, staring at the place where Dracula had been. He smoothed back his hair and took a deep breath.

"That was definitely of the strange and terrifying," he said to himself. Somehow...He had just killed Dracula. He stared at the bloodstained cross in his throbbing hand.

"With a magic cross," he said, shrugging. "Apparently."

He closed his fist around the cross again. "Definitely not letting this baby go."

He sighed and turned down the street. He should probably go tell Giles about this. He ignored the pain in his hand and started walking swiftly towards Giles's place.

He was a block away when he heard a sound behind him. A soft scraping sound, like stone against stone.

Xander looked over his shoulder.

Not stone against stone. Bone against bone.

A shambling group of skeletons ambled their way towards Xander. Each held a rusted red blade in skeletal fingers. The grinned blankly at him, some with desiccated pieces of flesh still hanging off of their faces.

"Whoa, getting major league Army of Darkness vibes here," Xander said. "Or are you guys from Clash of the Titans?"

Their only response was to attempt to hack his limbs off. The one closest to him suddenly charged forward, sword held high in a bony arm. It slashed down with the sword, and Xander leaped back just in time to inspect the blade close up as it passed an inch from his nose.

"Whoa!" Xander yelled, backing away slowly. "I get it, you guys are mad about Dracula. That's cool; I know what it's like to lose a loved one. But this is not a healthy way to grieve!"

Another slash cut through his shirt, barely missing the skin of his chest. Xander's grip on the cross tightened, and he thrust his fist into the air.

"Um...Arrrgh?" he screamed lamely. Nothing happened. He tried again. "YAARRGH!"

"Ok, magic cross is out of juice," he said sadly. "That's OK. We're not panicking. We're not panicking.

We're not...GILES!"

He turned and ran for Giles's complex, a half dozen rotting skeletons hot on his heels.

"Giles! Open the door, open the door, open the door!" he banged on the solid oak door loudly. Xander glanced back, and saw that the skeletons were entering the courtyard. "Giles! Wake up you senile old Brit!"

The porch light clicked on and Giles opened the door partway, a crossbow aimed at Xander's face.

"Lemme in!" Xander yelled. Giles opened the door fully, keeping the crossbow trained on Xander but stepping back to let him in uninvited. Xander hurried inside and slammed the door behind him.

"Xander, what are you doing here at this ungodly hour?" Giles asked in exasperation.

"Well, it's a funny story really," Xander replied. "I kind of killed Dracula, and now I've got Bone Thugs N' Harmony out there after me."

"Harmony has returned?"

"What?" Xander asked, confused. "No! Skeletons man! Skeletons with swords!"

As if to give proof to his words, a rusted red sword suddenly chopped through the front door, sending splinters flying in every direction. Giles and Xander raised their arms in alarm.

"Who is it?" Xander called expectantly. Giles shot him a sour look.

"The weapons chest," Giles said, pointing behind his couch. Xander flipped it open and pulled out a sturdy longsword, tossing it to Giles. He chose a spiked flail for himself, on the principle that crushing was better than slashing against things made entirely of bone.

Giles held the sword out with one hand while he dialed Riley's emergency number. He frowned as he tried to remember the code he was supposed to punch in at the tone. Another sword cutting through the front door spurred his memory, and he quickly tapped in the combination. He hoped Riley's idea for an emergency contact system for them all worked properly.

Xander was standing in front of the door, and every few seconds he would thrust his fist out towards the swords that kept hacking away.

"Xander, what in the world are you doing?"

"Trying to get my magic cross to work," Xander said matter-of-factly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"My magic cross. It kind of went all flashy with the beams of light and giant pummeling crosses when Dracula tried to kill me."

"Uh yes," Giles said. "You *killed* Dracula?"

"Well he burst into green flames and turned to ash, so I think it's safe to say he's kaput."

"Look out!" Giles yelled at the door exploded inward. They covered their eyes as splinters flew at them.

Then the skeletons rushed in the door. Xander dove forward on pure instinct, slamming his flail into the head of the first to enter, crushing the skull and sending it toppling to the floor. He spun with his momentum and smashed his weapon against the decaying ribs of the second. He kicked forward, and the skeleton toppled back into the others.

"Down!" Giles yelled, and Xander immediately ducked down. Giles's sword sliced over his head, biting through the arm of the third skeleton, it's rusting red sword clattering to the ground as it tried to grab at Giles with its other hand. Xander sprang up with an uppercut, his fist shattering the decaying bones of the undead things arm, and Giles staggered back with the hand still grasping his shirt. He ripped it off and threw it aside.

Another skeleton sprang into the room, swinging its sword with both hands. Giles's sword sprang up to block it, but the force of the blow caused him to cry out in pain and almost drop his weapon. Xander kicked out, tripping the skeleton before grabbing Giles by the arm and pulling him away just in time to miss having his head separated from his neck.

The one-armed skeleton slammed against Xander, tackling him through Giles's window and sending them sprawling into the courtyard outside.

"Xander!" Giles cried in alarm, but was quickly distracted by yet another attack. His own defensive moves were becoming increasingly desperate, and his arm was aching with the force of the blows.

Xander and the skeleton slid across the courtyard as the thing snapped its jaws and attempted to choke him with one hand. Xander kicked up at it, sending it flipping over his head. He sprang to his feet, and felt the cross biting into his hand. He felt as if some of the power from before had begun to build inside of him again. The skeleton scrambled towards him again, and Xander threw a heavy punch at its face, shattering the skull and causing the rest of the skeleton to collapse to the floor. It burst into green flames and was quickly gone. Xander felt as if he could feel that strange power increase with its destruction.

His eyes rose to the destroyed window and he saw Giles cry out as another strike tore his longsword from his grasp. The skeleton's ever present grin showed no sign of emotion as it raised its sword for the killing strike.

"Giles!" Xander cried, and cast his hand out on pure instinct.

The glittering silver cross flew from his hand, seeming to grow in size as it flew. It sliced through the air like a boomerang, a glowing silver streak of light. It smoothly flew through the destroyed window and cleanly cut the skeleton in half. It circled slowly in the air, and arced through another on its return stroke. The two skeletons burst into green flame as they collapsed, and vanished.

The cross sailed smoothly back into Xander's hand, and he caught it with ease, marveling at how it returned to its normal size an instant later.

"Wow," he whispered. The power was diminished, but not as it had been when he had used it against Dracula.

"Xander!" Giles called as he grabbed his sword and leaped out the destroyed window. Two skeletons followed after him. Xander scooped up his flail, gripping the cross tightly in his other hand. He heard that bone-on-bone scraping sound, and glanced behind him. Four more skeletons stood at the entrance to the courtyard.

"Hey Giles?" Xander asked.

"Yes Xander?"

"I think running might be a good idea."

"I'm forced to agree," Giles said. Xander screamed a wordless battle cry and charged the four skeletons blocking the exit.

"I didn't mean towards them," Giles muttered. Then he screamed himself and charged after Xander.

Xander met the skeletons with a vicious swing of his flail, shattering one almost completely. He threw a hooking punch at another, twisting its skull around with the force of the blow. Giles suddenly appeared beside him, and his sword smashed down against the sword of one of the skeletons. Giles grunted as he threw his enemy's blade aside with his own, and sliced his sword through the skeleton's spine. It collapsed, and vanished in the green flames.

"We gotta get to Buffy's," Xander said. Giles was panting heavily and he held his sword wearily. Xander wasn't sure how long they could last, or where this mysterious strength he himself seemed to have had come from. Or when it would leave.

"My car," Giles panted, gesturing to his brand new red sports car.

"Whoa," Xander said. "Nice."

"Y-yes, I thought so," Giles remarked as they jumped in. Giles patted his pajama pockets.

"No keys?" Xander whined.

"Just a moment."

Giles reached under the steering column and ripped off a piece of plastic. He did some fiddling that Xander couldn't see, and suddenly the car roared to life.

"Wow," Xander said. "You gotta teach me that sometime."

"Absolutely not," said Giles. He put the car into drive and peeled out. He took the corner fast, and was unable to dodge the skeletons that were coming up the street. The car smashed through them, sending dust and bones flying everywhere.

"Blast!" Giles spat. "I'll never explain that to my insurance company."

The short ride to Buffy's house revealed that there were many skeletons roaming the town, all shuffling towards Giles and Xander whenever they were spotted.

"Giles, how come you never told us that killing Dracula meant unleashing the Army of Darkness?"

"This is highly irregular," Giles remarked in response.

"No kidding."

They pulled up to Buffy's house to find her and Riley rushing out with weapons in their hands.

"Buffy!" Giles called.

"Giles! What's going on? Riley said you hit the emergency number."

"We got dem bones problems Buffy," Xander said.


"Dem dry bones!" Xander yelled, pointing to the advancing group of skeletons. There had to be at least thirty, if not more. All wielding the rusted red swords and grinning.

"Well that's new," Buffy said dryly. She dropped her bag of weapons and pulled out a heavy mace.

"Smashy smashy," she grinned. Xander hefted his flail and jumped out of the car.

"Xander, Giles, you guys get inside and call Willow, let her know you're here and that we might need some witchy backup."

Giles nodded and wearily jogged to the house. Xander stood where he was.

"Go Xander!"

He shook his head. "Gotta do this, Buffy."

"Xander, I am not going to argue with you about this. Get inside and stay safe. Look, you're already injured," she pointed to his bleeding fist, the cross still held tightly within.

"It's nothing," he assured her. "I'm staying."

She groaned. "If you die, I'm kicking your ass."

"Guess I won't die then," he grinned.

There was no more time to argue as the first of the skeletons pressed in for the attack. The clashing sounds of battle filled the night air as Buffy, Xander, and Riley fought against the mass of undead warriors.

Buffy was in her element, flowing like water through the throng of enemies. Her mace smashed and crushed through skeleton after skeleton, and the resulting green flames cast an eerie light on her dance with death. Beside her Riley was swinging his baton with military efficiency, busting out kneecaps and disarming - literally - several attackers.

But Xander was a force beyond them. His mace never stopped moving, and his powerful strokes had a haze of bone dust and green flame encircling him almost constantly. He could feel the strange power flowing within him with every enemy he destroyed. Without thought his hand cast out the cross when he saw Buffy struggling against four skeletons. As before, it arced out like a boomerang and sliced through two before returning swiftly to his hand. Buffy paused only for a moment to stare at him in shock.

"Xander, what?" There was no time for a response as they were both set upon by more skeletons. There seemed an infinite supply, and no matter how many of them vanished in green flame, more seemed to appear.

"Riley!" Buffy screamed when one caught him across the middle with a biting cut. Riley gasped and fell back, clutching his stomach. He held a hand out to keep her from going to him.

"It's OK," he groaned. "Body armor took most of it."

He took a steely breath and returned to the fight, but he was noticeably slowing down. So was she, Buffy had to admit. The skeletons were strong, and every blow she blocked made her arm tingle with the power behind it.

She brought up the mace to deflect a strike, but nearly had her head lopped off by the one she hadn't seen. Xander's flail crashed into its face, and it fell back before being engulfed by the green flames.

He spun gracefully and cast his hand out again, sending the cross out to destroy three more of the undead creatures.

Riley fell. He stumbled back to dodge a swing of a sword and tripped against the curb, slamming onto the ground. He clutched at his stomach and groaned. He did not get up.

Without words Buffy and Xander shifted their areas of attack, both of them moving to cover the downed soldier. They fought back-to-back, arms swinging with unnatural power and speed as they smashed skeletons to bits. Xander's hand lashed out every few seconds to send the cross out to destroy a few more. Still they came.

Buffy was wearing down, her arms growing heavy even as she bolstered her resolve. She felt the sultry dark power of the Slayer rise within her, and redoubled her efforts to protect Riley and destroy these creatures.

She swung her mace across the ribs of one and kicked out the legs of another, but she cried out when a sword sliced against her arm. She stepped back, clutching her upper arm and felt warm blood. She struggled to raise the mace to block another blow, and fell to one knee.

Xander smashed his mace against her attacker's arm, backhanding another as he stood in front of her. He screamed and lashed out; striking five of them in rapid succession in a flurry of movement that should not have been possible for him. He crushed the head of another by grabbing it in one hand and slamming it against his knee. He felt the power surge.

He screamed and held the cross over his head, feeling the built up power flow through him and outward through the cross. As before, a shimmering beam of purest white light shone down from the heavens, engulfing him in it as he rose into the air. Buffy fell back in total shock, staring at the brilliant and beautiful spectacle.

Two huge crosses plummeted to earth, flying around Xander in tight arcs and smashing against the dozens of skeletons. Any engulfed in the light or touching the crosses immediately burst into green flame, and as Xander's scream ended, the light seemed to expand, illuminating the whole street in white for a split second before vanishing.

Xander landed lightly on his feet and looked up. The skeletons were destroyed. He stared at the cross.

"What was that?" Buffy asked in amazement.

"Uh...My magic cross?" he showered her the glittering cross in his hand. It was slick with his blood.

"Xander," she said cautiously. "I bought you that cross at JC Penney's for thirty dollars."

He shrugged. "Well unless I'm having hallucinations, I'm going with magic cross."

She clutched at her arm as she knelt beside Riley. He was panting, but staring at Xander with wide eyes.

"We better get you guys inside and patched up," Xander said. He glanced up at the sky. It was almost dawn.

"That was impressive," said a deep voice. Xander turned around, the flail held tightly in one hand.

A tall man with angular features and long, pale blond hair that seemed almost white. He wore a dark black cloak over a black jacket trimmed with gold. He seemed dressed as some swashbuckling swordsman of the seventeenth century.

"What do you want?" Xander asked warily.

"The same thing you want," the man said. His voice was far deeper than his features would imply. His handsome face bordered on pretty, but his expression was dark and without joy. "The destruction of Count Dracula."

"Well then I've got good news for you, he got a taste of my magic cross and now he's ash," said Xander.

"The Dark Lord is not so easily defeated," the man said. "You bested one of his lower shades. His hand in the dark, nothing more."

"Yeah listen Porthos, I'd love to stay and chat, but I want to get my friends some help. So just tell me whether or not you're here to use that fancy sword at your hip so we can either have at it or I can go help them inside."

The man seemed to scowl slightly. "Attend to your friends. Then we shall speak."

Xander and Buffy both helped Riley to his feet, and they both half-dragged him inside Buffy's house. Giles attended to Riley's wound while Xander quickly wrapped his hand, cleaning the cross slightly before hanging it around his neck. He would not be leaving it aside any time soon. Once he'd wrapped his own hand he helped Buffy to clean and wrap the slash on her arm.

The strange man in black stood silently by the window as the sky lightened. He watched the scene without expression, waiting patiently.

Willow arrived a few minutes later, just as Giles was finishing taping up Riley's chest.

"You should probably take it easy for some time," he told the soldier.

"Don't think you have to worry about that," Riley groaned as he lied back on the couch. His eyes almost closed before he snapped them open again. "Oh man, I'm gonna have to get a tetanus booster now."

"You needn't worry. If the wound were going to fester, it would have already done so," the strange man said.

"Uh, hi," Willow said as she and Tara entered the house. "Everyone OK?"

"A few close calls Willow," Giles said. "But everyone seems to be in one piece."

"What happened?"

"I'm rather curious about that myself."

Xander shrugged and reached into his shirt, pulling out the tiny silver cross. He jingled it slightly, catching everyone's attention.

"Magic cross," he said.

The man with the long pale hair turned his dark gaze on Xander.

"Your symbol is not your power," he said. "It is merely a token of He who has bestowed his might upon you."

"A bacon powder?" Xander asked quickly.

"Just who the hell are you anyway?" Buffy questioned.

She held her injured arm and glared at him. "You look familiar."

The man opened his mouth to speak when the front door burst open. A distraught looking Anya panted heavily as she entered. She held a baseball bat in her hands.

She frowned when she saw the small crowd in the living room.

"Where are the skeletons?" she asked suspiciously. "Giles said there were skeletons."

"Xander vaporized them with his magic cross," Buffy shrugged.

"Xander doesn't have a magic cross," she said, placing the bat against the couch as she sat next Xander. "What happened to your hand?"

"Held my magic cross a little too hard," he said soothingly. "It's nothing big."

"What magic cross?"

Xander showed her the cross that hung at his neck, "This one."

Anya stared at it quizzically, feeling the cold silver. It was small, and rather cheaply made. It could not have been very pure, and she remembered complaining to Xander that Buffy must not be a very good friend if she would buy him such a cheap birthday present.

"That's not a magic cross," she said firmly.

"Sure it is," Xander insisted. "Check it out."

He pulled the chain over his neck and held the cross in his good hand. He extended his arm, attempting to cast out the cross as he had before. The power felt depleted within him, and the cross sailed across the room and clattered the floor, unchanged.

The darkly dressed man knelt down and picked it up, rubbing the cross between his fingers.

"As I said, the power lies not within your symbol, but within you."

"Thanks," Xander said sarcastically. "I'm so glad I've finally got a mysterious riddle spewing stalker all my own."

Buffy shot him a dark look, clearly understanding to whom Xander was referring.

"Who's this guy?" Anya asked, giving the darkly dressed man a frowning look of appraisal. "Those clothes haven't been in fashion for about two hundred years."

"Another reason I'm glad we live in the age of denim," Xander quipped.

"I want to know who you are too," Buffy said.

"Wait wait wait!" Xander held up his hands. "Lemme guess. Um...Tortured vampire with a soul fighting the good fight in order to get redemption?"

"Xander," Buffy said warningly. The man in black frowned.

"You are remarkably insightful," he said. "Although it is not my own redemption I fight for."

"Seriously? I was right?"

The man simply nodded.

"Hel-lo," Buffy said. "Holding a cross. Standing in the sun. Didn't get invited in," she counted off on her fingers.

"Maybe he's delusional," Anya suggested. "Like that man on the television that thinks he's Michael Jackson."

"Anya, that is Michael Jackson," Xander told her.

She waved a dismissive hand at him, and snorted, "Michael Jackson is black."

"Perhaps you should explain yourself," Giles said to the strange man.

"Very well," he said. He stood a little straighter. "I am Alucard."

Everyone was silent, save for Anya.

"Really? Get out!" she exclaimed in excitement. "Are you really?"

Alucard seemed slightly confused, and almost made to leave.

"She didn't seem this excited about Dracula," Willow observed.

"Oh my gosh," Anya said, her hand covering her mouth. "Is that why you're here?"

Alucard nodded, but looked at Anya with suspicion in his eyes.

"Wow," she whispered.

"Feel like letting the rest of us in on the amazement?" Buffy asked.

"He's Dracula's son," Anya said.

"Don't worry!" she added quickly. "He's totally a good guy. That's why he's called Alucard. It's Dracula backwards. Opposite! Get it?"

"Yeah," Xander deadpanned. "It's neat."

"I understand that my lineage would cause concern,"

Alucard spoke in a low voice. "I assure you that I am his foe, and thus your ally."

"Wow, he's even better looking than his dad," Willow breathed. Then she gave Tara a sheepish look. "I mean, if you like that sort of thing."

Tara rolled her eyes, but grinned and put her arms around Willow.

"I-I'm afraid I've never heard of a vampire siring an actual child before," Giles said. "You-You were conceived naturally?"

"I was."

"That is astounding."

"Dracula is no vampire," Alucard said. "He is the Lord of Evil. His origins are shrouded in mystery, even to myself. His powers are dark and beyond imagining."

"The Lord of Evil?" Giles gasped.

"Bad?" Buffy asked him.

"Very," he replied. "I've read accounts of a being known as the Lord of Evil, sometimes referred to as the Dark Master or the Lord of Night. He is...Widely believed to be an incarnation of the Devil himself."

"Closer to the truth than you might imagine," Alucard said. "Lord Dracula is the master of evil on this plane, though it was not always so. He has allowed the corruption of evil to taint his soul irrevocably, more so than any man that has ever lived. He is darkness personified, and the hand of evil throughout a dozen realities."

"He's five foot ten and turns into a bat," Buffy snorted.

"What you encountered was not the true Dracula," Alucard informed her. "That was a copy of his shadow, sent to watch the realm of man while the Master sleeps."

"The Lord of Evil needs a nap?" Xander asked.

"Dracula is forced to marshal his reserves for many decades before breeching our world with his powers.

During this time his minions scatter the earth. When he returns, they will flood back to the site of ultimate evil."

"Lemme guess, the hellmouth?" Xander groaned.

Alucard nodded slightly, "The Mouth of Hell is the conduit for the return of Castlevania."

"Castle what?"

"Castlevania. The home of Count Dracula. The powers of hell transformed into a shifting dark castle, where a thousand times a thousand souls are trapped forever, and the warriors of hell pay tribute to their master.

To Dracula."

"So how do we stop it?" Willow asked.

"There is no force I am aware of that can stop Castlevania from rising."

"So what's this got to do with magic crosses?"

Alucard gestured for Xander and Buffy to follow him outside.

"Come with me," he said. Buffy and Xander exchanged looks, but followed after him, the others trailing closely behind.

"You will have observed," Alucard said. "That I am not affected by sunlight, by holy symbols, or by other rules which govern vampires. That is because Dracula is beyond a vampire, and I am his son. However, it is also because my soul is not corrupted, as my father's is."

He stood in the middle of the street, still holding the small silver cross. He swept his cloak back over his shoulder and held his arm out.

"Despite this, I am infused with dark power. Power that, with practice, I can harness, awakening the hidden power within holy symbols and ancient weapons.

"This is the first thing I impart to you, Alexander Harris. Feel no pity for my father, for it is his own choice that brought him to his fate. Dark power is a sinister force, yet is not wholly incapable of being used for good."

With that, he cast his hand out, and the silver cross seemed to swell in size. In an instant it was over two feet long. It glittered with a sparkling light as it sailed across the air, shimmering in the dawn light.

It arced outwards, sailing smoothly before circling back into Alucard's hand, where it returned to its normal state.

He held up the cross between two fingers. "All crosses are imbued with this holy power, the same power that repels vampires and minor demons. Using my own abilities, I am able to call on more of the holy power within."

"Astounding," Giles whispered. "I have never heard of dark energy being used to fight for the light."

Alucard raised an eyebrow at Giles. His pale hand raised, and pointed a finger at Buffy.

"You have not heard of the Slayer?"

"Hey!" Buffy shouted. "I don't have dark power, I have good power!"

"I make no distinction between the morality of your power. The simple fact is that your power stems from the same darkness you fight. It is a rare creature that uses dark power to fight its own, but the Slayer is a rare creature. Created out of the nurturing soul of a woman and the pure destructive force of a demon, she is a warrior for light that has tasted of the darkness. Is this not true?"

Buffy frowned, but could sense the truth of his words. She'd felt it so often lately, that thirst to hunt and kill. Though she did not want to believe, she knew deep down that the Slayer Spirit was a dark force.

"It's true," she whispered. Alucard nodded.

"We are similar beings, you and I. Our powers stem from the same place, and yet we fight against that power in every other instance."

Buffy shrugged forlornly, "I guess."

"Does that mean Buffy could do the magic cross thing too?" Xander asked.

"Given proper guidance," Alucard said. "Our powers do not naturally flow in that direction. It takes patience, skill, and will power to utilize it."

"Three things I don't have," Xander said. "So how come I can do it too?"

Alucard walked smoothly towards Xander, leaving an odd shadowy blur in his wake, as if a part of him trailed slowly behind. Then all at once he seemed to shift, his body morphing smoothly into that of a large wolf. The wolf charged at Xander with unholy speed, fangs bared and snarling. No one had any change to react.

Xander kicked off the ground, leaping high into the air and flipping backwards at the height of his jump.

He had a brief instant to realize he could see over the roofs of several houses before he smoothly fell back to the ground, landing in a half-crouch, the wolf skidding to a halt behind him.

The others gasps of alarm or shouts of surprise died on their lips when they saw Xander land. The wolf morphed easily back into the form of Alucard.

"Because of who you are," Alucard finally answered.

"What the hell was that!?" Buffy yelled.

"That was a taste of my dark power, and Alexander's reaction to it."

Xander was in a daze, amazed at the unnatural ability he had just displayed.

"You tried to kill him!"

"No," Alucard said. "Merely startle him."

"It worked," Xander breathed.

Alucard walked slowly back to him, hands raised in a sign of no-aggression.

"There are three of us here who might use the cross as I did," Alucard said, staring into Xander's eyes.

"There is only one who could use it as you did."

"I don't understand."

"For centuries my father has attempted to solidify his power in this realm. He has been thwarted each time by a single clan. This bloodline has consistently defeated him, until they were though to have been wiped out over a hundred years ago.

"The family name is gone," Alucard said. "But the blood lives on. In you. You are the last of the Belmont Clan."

"My great great grandmother's name was Grace Belmont," Xander whispered.

"Oh my god," Anya whispered, staring at Xander's face. "I can see it. How come I never noticed it before?"

"Noticed what?" Willow asked.

"He looks just like Richter Belmont."

"They are very similar," Alucard agreed.

"Who the heck is Richter Belmont?" Buffy asked. This was getting very confusing, and her own revelation about the nature of her power had her temper rising.

"One of the most powerful members of the Belmont Clan," Alucard informed her. "He defeated Dracula in the late 1700's along with his...Sister. Maria."

"Someone sent me to curse him once," Anya said by way of explanation. "I barely got out with my life."

"To curse Richter Belmont?" Alucard asked.

"Oh...Well, yeah. I kind of used to be a demon."

"You are no longer?"

"No, I'm totally reformed, right Xander?"

Xander nodded blankly. "Yeah."

"That is remarkable. I've never heard of such a thing."

"It's a long story," Anya said nervously. "But I'm totally human and real sorry about the stuff I did."

"It is said that any may be forgiven of their sins, if they have truly repented. I hope that you truly have," Alucard said coldly.

Anya swallowed nervously, but nodded nonetheless.

"Uh, about this Belmont guy?" Xander reminded them.

"Oh yeah," Anya said. "I was supposed to curse him cause he didn't tip a barmaid enough. Not one of my happier days. Belmont's are...Legendary, but I didn't know who he was until after I tried to liquefy his guts. I only barely teleported away in time."

"Your curse was ineffective?" Giles asked curiously.

"There has only been one instance of a Belmont ever being cursed," Alucard told him. "Simon Belmont was cursed by my father, and yet still the curse was lifted by the Belmont's own hand."

Buffy frowned.

"What's so special about Belmonts?"

"The origins of their family are as unknown as those of my father," Alucard said. "Yet what I do know is this:

"There are two major forces for mankind. One is the Slayer, a being with the power of darkness to battle the forces of Darkness. She is the Chosen One."

Buffy grinned self-consciously, always happy to get a little recognition.

"The other is the Belmont Clan. Since Dracula has existed, they have fought him at almost every turn, and defeated him just as often. They are holy warriors, empowered to battle the forces of Darkness.

"The reason you can use the power of the cross in a way beyond myself or the Slayer," Alucard said. "Is because your power stems not from darkness, but from the Almighty. You are the Warrior of Light."

"No kidding," Xander said blankly.

Giles stepped forward. "What exactly does this mean, Mr. Alucard?"

"Alexander is the last of the bloodline of the Belmont Clan. His presence was unknown to both my father and myself. All have believed the Belmont Clan wiped out over a century ago. Since that time I have been ever active in my struggles against Dracula, as without the Belmonts, his power grows ever stronger.

"Dracula's shade has arrived here," Alucard said thoughtfully. "Which suggests that the Lord of Night himself is not far. He will be aware of your presence now, and thus far more wary than he has been before.

His power has been building in anticipation of solidifying his presence in this realm. The presence of a Belmont may give him pause, for now."

"I thought you said that the other Belmonts killed Dracula," Xander said in confusion. "So how is he still around?"

Alucard sighed. He said nothing for a moment as he let the warm morning sun cool the cold he always felt inside.

"My father is beyond death. His defeat drives him to slumber until such time as he can gather his forces again. I am unsure whether he will ever be truly defeated, or if such a thing is even possible."

"There's unkillable and then there's unkillable," Buffy said. "What happens if we cut his head off, throw him in the sun, light him on fire and dunk him in holy water?"

"The destruction of Dracula's mortal body reverts him back to his own personal hell dimension where he marshals his energies until his next attempt. I'm afraid I know of no way to truly defeat him."

"Great," Xander groaned. "So what now?"

Chapter 3

Xander lay on his back on his lumpy bed in his parent's basement. Anya stood in the doorway, a large suitcase in one hand.

"You should come with me," she said.

It was mid-afternoon, and Xander was still trying to absorb the things he'd learned since the night before.

Ancient bloodlines, magic crosses, way-too-pretty sons of evil legends with plenty of bad news. And now Anya was packed and ready to skip town. He sighed and rolled off the bed, sitting up.

"You're just going to leave?"

"You bet your sweet bippy," she said.

He shook his head sadly. "Ahn, you can't just leave every time something supremely evil and apocalyptic waltzes into town."

Anya scowled at him, "Are you crazy? That's exactly when you *should* leave."

Well she had a point there. Still, there was no way Xander could leave. He'd never leave Buffy and the others to fight Dracula on their own. Besides, if they failed, the world was probably going down the crapper anyway. Better to stay and fight.

"It's just as safe here as anywhere," he said.

"No, I'm done with it Xander. I've only got another eighty years if I'm lucky, and I'm not going to risk them going up against the True Dracula. I've heard stories, I've seen things. This isn't an Ascension or some really angry cyborg thing. The Lord of Night is the top of the heap."

He took her hands in his comfortingly and looked into her eyes, "Don't go. I have to stay. You know I do."

"Why? So you can get killed?" There were tears in her eyes.

"I have to help, you know me Anya."

She nodded and wiped away a tear. "I do know you Xander. I love you. But I also know that I can't stay here and watch you throw your life away. "

He let go of her hands and slumped back down on the bed.

"So that's it? You're just leaving?"

"You can still come with me," she whispered. "But I know you won't."

"I can't," Xander said simply. Anya nodded and picked up her bag. Xander felt numb inside.

"Thanks," Anya said as she opened the door. "For everything."

Xander didn't know what to say to that. You're welcome? Please don't leave?

"No problem," he said softly. Anya gave him one last look, and was gone.

He fell back on the bed, staring up at the unfinished ceiling of the basement. He knew why he wasn't surprised. Anya was Anya. Xander just wished that some part of her might have been willing to brave certain death in order to stay with him.

He snorted, chastising himself. He was an unemployed demon hunter's sidekick, who occasionally worked construction in order to pay his parent's their rent money. Of course she wouldn't risk everything to stay with him.

Except he was more now, wasn't he? Some kind of legendary demon fighter of his own, like Buffy. It just didn't seem possible. He was Xander. He wasn't some chosen champion of destiny.

Yet that feeling when he unleashed the entirety of his power into the cross had been beyond anything he'd ever experienced. He couldn't doubt the divine brilliance he'd felt when engulfed in that pure white light. The feeling of being safe, protected, and above all...Righteous.

Alucard had warned him that now that Dracula knew of his presence, he would have to be constantly on guard.

The half-vampire (sort of) claimed that Castlevania would likely appear in Sunnydale soon, and things would really hit the fan when that happened.

Apparently armies of rusty sword wielding skeletons were the least of their concerns.

He sighed and put an arm over his eyes. Buffy was probably working with Alucard right now to utilize her own Slayer power to duplicate what Alucard and Xander could do with the cross. Alucard claimed as well that a cross was only one of the many items that could be utilized in such a way. Besides other holy items such as blessed water, ashes, and books, there were more mundane items that could be used as well. Alucard claimed that time-keeping devices, daggers, axes, crystals and other items all held ancient or holy power that could be harnessed.

Xander picked up his watch, rubbing the face of it with his thumb. He could feel the power inside of himself as he held it. It was low and insufficient to do anything with the watch. He idly wondered what might happen if he could use it. Time travel? Would the watch turn into some kind of clock-ninja-star? It was amusing to think about.

He strapped the watch to his wrist and pulled on his sneakers. Maybe he'd go stop by Buffy's and see if she was still working Alucard. He still had some questions about these powers of his.

On the way out Xander picked up a small dagger he kept in his meager weapons chest. He was hardly as well stocked as Buffy or Giles, but he always made sure to have a few weapons lying around just in case.

He flipped the dagger in between his fingers.

His battle with Dracula's shade had definitely woken something within him. A day ago Xander would have been very careful with how he dealt with the sharp blade, but today it danced between his fingers expertly. He felt the power within him, and it felt as if somehow utilizing it with the dagger would be easier than with the watch.

He held the dagger between thumb and forefinger, and released the power. It exploded out of the dagger, and he made a quick throwing motion with his hand.

A large dagger streaked from his hand like a laser beam, moving almost too fast to see. It sunk deep into the concrete wall. Then it vanished. Xander looked in his hand. The dagger was still there. He looked to the wall. So was the hole.

"Wow," he said. "That is one versatile power."

He tried again, but the power was depleted. Xander frowned.

"Just how the heck do I charge up anyway?"

He tried tensing his arm. He tried meditating. He tried doing jumping jacks. He tried eating from his hostess snack cake stash and he tried some shadow boxing. Nothing seemed to help the power within him grow.

Xander picked up the spiked-flail that had served him well the previous evening, sticking it in his back pocket.

"Just remember not to sit down," he told himself. He pulled his oversized shirt over his pants, hiding the weapon as he grabbed his keys and a Twinkie for the road. Hopefully Alucard would be able to tell him more about this power.

As he walked to Buffy's house, he thought of how strange it was that he was taking his new power in stride. Was it because he had always wished for something special of his own? He didn't think that was it.

No, the truth of the matter was that this power was right. He had heard Buffy speak of the Slayer spirit before, complaining about how it had intruded on her life and changed her. This didn't feel that way to Xander. This was good. This was...Divine.

"And I don't even go to church," Xander joked to himself as he walked. Before last night he had always been kind of ambivalent about religion. He saw so much of the bad side of the supernatural that he sort of wondered if that's all there was. He'd certainly never seen a sign of some higher power before now. Sure, they sometimes spoke of the "Powers that Be," but that seemed like something else entirely.

He fingered the silver cross that hung at his neck. He'd never really thought about it before, the way that a cross could repel a vampire. To him it was a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Was the cross a holy symbol and therefore repelled vampires, or did a cross just naturally repel vampires and therefore was a holy symbol?

Xander closed his eyes, remembering the feeling of that pure white light washing over him. He was beginning to suspect...

No...He was beginning to believe.

"I guess this is what it means to have faith," he said to himself. It was a good feeling. Maybe they didn't fight this war alone after all. The thought reminded him of a different Faith. A girl who had done some terrible deeds, and was seeking penance. He suddenly felt very proud of Faith.

Chapter 4

"Let the power wash over you, and cast out your hand," Alucard commanded. Buffy sighed but did as he instructed. Her hand flew forward, and the tiny dagger she held in her fingers clattered to the floor.

They were in Buffy's basement, and Alucard was attempting to help her utilize her own dark power. So far Buffy had actually succeeded twice, so despite her weariness she was quite excited about the whole situation. New abilities meant she could kill vampires faster, and killing vampires faster was always a good thing.

Xander came stomping down the stairs as she picked up the dagger.

"Hey," she greeted.

"Hey Buffster," Xander grinned. "Your mom said you were down here."

"Greetings Alexander," Alucard said, nodding.

"Yeah hey," Xander said. "You know you could just call me Xander."

"As you wish."

"He's a real barrel of laughs," Xander said with a lopsided grin.

"Hey leave him alone," Buffy said defensively. "He's helping me learn how to do that weapon thing. I did it twice already!"

"Oh yeah, that's actually what I came over about. I was hoping you could explain things to me a little more."

"I will assist you in any way I can Xander," Alucard said.

Xander held up his own dagger.

"I was checking out what I could do with this, cause you said it was one of those things that I could use the power on. Only after I got it to work the first time I felt...empty. Now I can't do any of it anymore.

Did I break it?"

Alucard shook his head, reaching forward to take the dagger from Xander. He deftly spun the blade, holding it by the hilt.

"You have exhausted your heart supply."

"Eh...Say what?"

"That is how my mind interprets the force which allows me to use the power," Alucard explained. "It is as if the power of one's heart is replenished in order to do so. Using the power slowly lowers it."

"What happens if you run out? Do you die?" Xander asked with concern.

"No, it is not literally your heart. Just my interpretation of the phenomenon. When you run out, you can't use your item abilities until you recharge it. Some items use a lot of hearts, others just a few.

The dagger is the easiest of all items to use, and therefore would be the last item you could use before being completely depleted."

"So how do you recharge?" Buffy asked.

"There are three ways I am aware of," Alucard said.

"The first is through a magical item. There are several that I know of that will replenish these 'hearts.' Some are simple potions that will charge a small amount, and others are equipment that can replenish you in any number of ways. However, these are all very rare, and I have only encountered those which may be used by beings with dark power, such as myself or the Slayer."

He noticed an old candle resting by the fuse box, used for emergencies if the power went out. Alucard placed the candle on a small card table as he spoke.

"The second way is to defeat those with dark power themselves. When you battled last night, you would have noticed your ability to use the cross increase with each skeleton you felled."

Xander frowned, "But the first time I used it I hadn't killed any skeletons yet."

Alucard raised an eyebrow at him, "You have lived on the hellmouth all of your life. Surely you have killed quite a few dark creatures."

Xander shrugged. That was true, he supposed. Mostly vampires, but there was a demon or two here and there, even a zombie gang.

"You were no doubt at your maximum level when you encountered the Shade. That is why you were able to use your item crash."

"My what?"

Alucard waved his hand over the candle, muttering a spell. It flared slightly as a flame lit the wick.

"That is what Richter Belmont called it. Or rather, that is the closest translation. Item explosion perhaps, but that is not quite it either. It was the ability that made Richter Belmont the most powerful of all his kin. It appears that he has passed that ability on to you."

"You mean the giant crosses and the beam of light?"

Alucard nodded. "Yes, this is your unique ability as a Belmont. Buffy and myself would be unable to duplicate such a feat. By using a far greater number of...'hearts,' you are able to unleash the power of an item in a powerful force."

"Item Crash," Xander said softly. His hand unconsciously rose to the cross at his neck. This just got stranger and stranger.

"The third way," Alucard said. "Is to violently snuff out a flame."

"What?" Buffy asked skeptically.

"It is the same principle as defeating a dark creature. By violently destroying the flame, you release some of its destructive power."

He stood back from the candle and gestured to Xander.

"See for yourself."

Xander frowned, but pulled the flail from his pocket. He whirled the end in a circle, finding that his control over the unwieldy weapon was superb. He gave Buffy "Here-Goes-Nothing" look, and quickly slammed the flail against the candle. The candle smashed, and the flame puffed out.

He felt the inner power surge slightly.

"Hey I think I felt it!" he said excitedly. He could almost envision the heart that Alucard spoke of, swelling slightly with the increased energy. Xander thought that if he concentrated, he could even find out how "many" hearts he would need before he could use the watch. He took the dagger from Alucard, and could somehow sense that he once again had enough to throw it as he had before. When he focused on his watch, he could sense also that he didn't have enough to use that.

"Weird," Xander said. "I can feel how much I need to use certain items."

"Yes," Alucard nodded. "With time you may be able to understand precisely the amount of power you have at any given time. Your total ability may also rise, with time."

"You mean I'll be able to hold more...uh...hearts?"

"Possibly. I am unsure of the minor differences in the use of dark power versus light. I'm afraid I'm more suited to helping the Slayer train than you."

Buffy grinned smugly at Xander. He stuck his tongue out at her.

"That's OK Al," Xander said. "I guess I'll figure it out by myself."

Alucard raised an eyebrow. Al?

"So Buff," Xander said, plopping down in a chair.

"How's Riley?"

She shrugged, "He seems better. He's been sleeping a lot and Giles thinks he'll be out of it for a couple of days. He's still got a lot of that Initiative stuff inside, and Giles says that might be helping him heal."

"That's good, I think."

Buffy nodded, but there was clearly worry in her eyes. None of them knew how badly the Initiative had affected Riley's body.

"So what's the plan tonight? I'm thinking we should probably all stay close in case of skeleton attack."

"Yeah good idea," Buffy said. "What do you think Alucard?"

The graceful immortal took a seat himself. "I suspect that the Dark Master will attempt to send his minions again at sundown. There is strength in numbers."

"OK," Buffy said, unconsciously slipping into Slayer mode. "I'll call Willow and Tara and have them come over. Xander, can you call Giles and Anya?"

"Uh...Yeah, about that..."

Buffy gave him a curious look.

"Anya's um...Kind of gone."

"What do you mean gone? Is she OK?"

Xander shrugged, "Yeah she's fine. She just...She left. Don't worry about it."

Buffy looked sadly at Xander and gave him a friendly hug. He took it stoically, but it was clear he wasn't comfortable with the display.

"It's OK," he said. "Really."

She frowned at him, but nodded. "All right. Just uh...Just call Giles then. We should all get together before the sun sets. I don't want to take any chances."

Chapter 5

Xander idly twirled the dagger between his fingers as he stared out the window. The sun was slowly setting, which meant that the Scooby gang's real day would soon be beginning. He didn't often contemplate the effect night had on Sunnydale, other than the basic knowledge that you were far safer in daylight than moonlight.

"That's it," Buffy's voice came from the kitchen where she slammed the phone down on the receiver.

"We're going over there."

"Still no answer?" Giles asked with concern.

"Nothing. Get whatever weapons you can hide and let's go."

Giles nodded silently, slipping a small crossbow inside his jacket. He grabbed a baseball bat as well and carried it in one hand, the end resting on his shoulder.

"I said weapons you can hide," Buffy pointed out.

"Ah my dear Buffy," Giles grinned, pulling a beat up old baseball cap from his back pocket. He put it on his head and took off his glasses, slipping them into his shirt pocket. Suddenly the bat didn't look quite so out of place. "Allow me to demonstrate the wonderful skill of camouflage."

Buffy just rolled her eyes, but couldn't suppress her grin.

"Come on Xander," Buffy said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "We're going to the dorms. Willow and Tara aren't answering their phone."

"Right," Xander said. He felt an odd sort of clenching in his stomach, and turned to see Alucard standing at the entrance to the living room. "Great.

Another sneaky vampire. You and Angel should start a club."

Alucard simply raised an eyebrow at him.

"You coming?" Buffy asked the son of Dracula.


"Then let's go."

It was clear something had gone wrong when they got close to the school. Students were running screaming away from the school, and the car shook when a deafening explosion echoed. Fires burned out of control everywhere.

"What the hell is going on?" Buffy gasped as Giles sped towards the dorms.

"I'm thinking that has something to do with it," Xander said, pointing at the large winged...Thing. It was almost invisible against the night sky, its skin an oily black that absorbed the light. Glowing red eyes were set close together on a reptilian head. It was like a pterodactyl, only it was definitely not extinct. It screeched hideously and a burst of flame shot out from its beak, and a student scrambled away to avoid being scorched.

"That's the dorm!" Buffy exclaimed. "Hurry!"

"Screw hurry," Xander said. He quickly opened his door and dove out of the still moving car. He landed in a roll, and was up to his feet in an instant, racing towards the huge demon.

Buffy groaned, "Who decided to give Xander superpowers? He so needs to learn some restraint."

Giles struggled to keep his mouth shut. Buffy sighed.

"Come on Alucard, let's go...Alucard?"

The vampire's door was open, and she looked back to see him following swiftly after Xander.

"Damn," Buffy whispered. "Stop the car!"

Giles slammed on the brakes.

"I'll check the dorms," he said to Buffy as she clambered out of the car. "See if the girls are all right."

"Right," Buffy agreed as she jumped out and sprinted after Xander and Alucard. They were fast, and she had to pour on all of her Slayer speed in order to keep their distances even.

Xander clutched the flail in one hand, circling the huge winged demon. It screeched at him, and a jet of flame spat out of its mouth. Xander leaped backwards, sailing high into the air before landing in a half-crouch.

"Hey watch it!"

The demon screeched again, but this time its head whipped around to spray flame at the dorm. Xander's breath caught in his throat when his eyes followed the line and saw the dorm had clearly already been burned before.

"Willow," he whispered. The jet of flame swirled towards the dorm and he screamed as he ran towards it, not really sure what he would do if he got there in time. A flashing blue dome of energy shot up from one of the burned out holes along the wall. Xander could make out the figure of a blonde woman holding her arms out.

"Tara!" he shouted. Her eyes flicked to his, but she was concentrating too much on maintaining the shield to be able to speak. He could see the pure fear in her eyes. Where was Willow?

Xander jumped at the demon, the flail held tightly in both hands. He swung it with all of his might at the apex of the leap, and felt the chain snap as the spiked ball broke off against the demon's beak.

It screeched again, and a huge claw lashed out, knocking Xander halfway across the parking lot. He landed on his side, scraping against the pavement before slowing to a halt.

"Nice on Xander," he groaned to himself.

Xander struggled to his feet, and saw the demon grasp the spiked ball with its claw. It ripped it out quickly, and seemed to snarl at him.

Alucard was suddenly there, the strange not-shadows that followed in his wake trailing eerily behind him.

His sword flashed out as he leaped at the demon, and he suddenly seemed to be on the other side of the demon. His shadow-trail remained in his prior position. Alucard's sword cut out twice in rapid succession, cutting into the side of the huge demon.

Then he seemed to simply return to where his shadow-trail had remained.

"Whoa," Xander said. "That's a nice trick."

"He's so going to teach me that!" Buffy said as she sprinted past him. Her own favored short sword was clutched tightly in one hand. She and Alucard circled the creature without a word, and both shot forward to cut into its. It screeched and its massive claw swiped against Alucard, sending him flying into the building.

Xander looked everywhere for a weapon. His flail was gone, and all he had left was the dagger. He could feel his heart level was far too low for the dagger to be used more than once or twice.

Still, there was little else he could do. Buffy was valiantly struggling to stab at the thing and still dodge its flames and claws. So far she was succeeding, but the stabbing cuts didn't seem to be doing too much damage.

Alucard was there once more, his sword cutting and slashing all over the creature. He and Buffy danced around it gracefully, their moves surprisingly similar. If he hadn't known their power was of the same origin, just watching them fight would have suggested the idea.

Realizing that there was little he could do without a weapon, Xander sprinted towards Tara. He easily jumped the piles of debris that scattered the lot, and even had the foresight to kick at a flaming wastebasket, snuffing the flames and feeling his heart level rise slightly.

"Tara!" he called as he jumped through the destroyed wall of the dorm room. She was struggling to stand, and breathing heavily.

"X-Xander," she said breathlessly. "Willow. They g-got Willow!"

Giles burst through the door on the other side of the room, and was momentarily speechless at the destruction.

"What do you mean Tara? What happened?" Xander asked.

"There were two of them. We tried to fight them off, and Willow stunned one with a s-spell. Then they started breathing fire over everything! We tried to protect the students and Willow forgot to keep her own shield up when she tried to save a boy who was trapped under some of the wall. The thing just scooped her up and carried her away!"

Tara wiped a tear from her eye angrily, and stared up at the giant demon thing. Alucard and Buffy were striking it from every direction. It was roaring and snapping at them, but so far it didn't seem too harmed.

"We have to get out of here," Xander said. "Now, while the thing is distracted."

"I think there are some people trapped in the other dorms," Tara said quickly when Xander grabbed her arm.

"Xander and I will help them," Giles said. "Tara do your best to keep a shield up if Buffy and Alucard should lose the creature's attention."

Tara nodded and turned to face the destroyed wall, her face set in grim determination.

Xander and Giles each took a separate direction down the hall. Xander kicked in a door, surprising himself when the door flipped off of its hinges and slammed against the far wall.

"Oops," he said sheepishly. "Uh...Stand clear?"

Luckily no one had been in the path of the door. The dorm was filled with debris, and there was a young man pinned underneath part of the destroyed wall.

"Help!" he screamed, clawing at the ground as he tried to pull himself free.

"Hold on!" Xander called. He vaulted over a destroyed desk and examined the wall that had the man pinned down.

"Are your legs OK?" Xander asked.

"I think so," the man groaned. "They hurt, but I can sort of wiggle them."

"All right, I'm going to lift this thing off you. As soon as I do you have to get yourself clear. If you can't walk, pull yourself free and then I'll help you out."


Xander knelt down beside the wall and dug his fingers underneath. Two days ago this would have been completely beyond his ability. Now?

He grit his teeth and his muscles tensed as he pulled up at the wall. It groaned and rumbled as he slowly pulled it off the young man. Once his legs were free, the trapped college student gave a small yell of pain as he dragged himself away from the wall.

Xander grunted in effort, sweat beading on his forehead as the man crawled free. Just a few more seconds. He screamed, and finally let the wall slam back down.

"Holy shit," the man said. "How'd you do that?"

"Uh...Adrenaline," Xander lied. The man seemed to find this perfectly reasonable. Xander put an arm around the man's chest and helped him up. The man's legs were pretty useless, and Xander suspected they were probably broken.

Xander and the man limped their way to the parking lot where Xander helped him into Giles's car.

"My friend should be here in a minute," Xander said. "He'll get you out of here."

The man said nothing, as his eyes were transfixed by the gigantic winged lizard that was being attacked by what looked to be two women. Xander sighed and ran back for the dorm. He came across Giles heading back for the car, a badly bloodied young woman in his arms.

"You need a hand?" Xander asked as he slowed to a jog.

"I've got her," Giles said. "The rest of the dorm is clear. Get Tara and meet us at the car."

Xander didn't bother to nod. He sped past them and back to Willow's dorm. On the way he kicked out at a small fire that was burning on the back of a chair. He nodded grimly as he felt the power within increase slightly. He slipped the dagger out of his belt. It was his only weapon for now.

"Tara! We're good to go!" he called into the room. She gave one last look to the demon outside and nodded. He grabbed her hand to help her over some of the debris. She hopped slightly off of what used to be a couch, and screamed when the entire room seemed to explode behind her. She and Xander were slammed back against the wall, with Xander twisting his body in mid-air to protect Tara from the blast.

An inhuman roar caused them both to cover their ears in pain. The roar was echoed by an almost identical one an instant later. Xander swallowed nervously, and looked up.

A huge winged lizard bared fiercesome looking fangs at him through the burned out and destroyed wall of the dorm room. Behind it, Alucard and Buffy were still battling its twin.

"Great," Xander said. "Look who came back to play."

"Look out!" Tara screamed as the demon pulled back its huge head, and a stream of flame burst from its mouth. Xander and Tara dove for cover, screaming under the intense heat of the flames.

"Go!" Xander ordered. "Giles is waiting at the car!"

"B-But!" she began to argue, but Xander shoved her backwards down the hall, just as another gout of flame ripped through the destroyed room and spilled out into the hall. Xander fell back from the force of the flames, but somehow he was not the extra crispy version of Xander that he should now be.

"Just go!" Xander screamed. He grabbed his dagger firmly in hand and sprang to his feet. His clothes were singed and half burned off, and his skin was red and irritated. Still, he didn't seem to be burned.

"Hey Puff!" Xander yelled at the thing. "Time to take a trip back to Honalee!"

He felt the power, the "heart" that Alucard had talked about, and let the dagger fly. It shot out like a bullet, sailing straight and true. It whistled through the air, and sunk deep into the undead dragon's eye.

It roared in pain and anger, and a giant claw swept out to crash through three rooms. Xander dove down the hall as half the dorm came down all around him.

"Bad idea Xander!" he yelled at himself as the building crumbled all around. He leaped forward, twisting gracefully between two falling chunks of cement. His hands pressed briefly against a falling support beam, and he pressed off of it to flip forward through a still standing doorway. He slid underneath a half destroyed desk and smoothly punched down at the ground to snap himself back up to his feet. He sprinted across a dorm room and jumped through the shattered window at the far end.

Xander burst out of the dorm, rolling as he hit the ground, and just barely springing back before the demon slammed a huge claw into the ground where he'd just been.

"Eep!" Xander shrieked in a very un-manly kind of way. "I mean, Argh!"

The dragon thing roared again, and spewed flames down at Xander. He rolled away and sprinted across the parking lot. He could see Giles with Tara and the two rescued students in the car.

"GO!" he screamed at them, and lashed out with his dagger again. The mystical copy shot out towards the dragon, catching it in the side before vanishing.

He had to get the dragon away from the school, and especially away from Buffy and Alucard. A quick glance told him they were handling the other dragon, but just barely. Two would not be a good thing. He just hoped that Alucard wasn't lying about this being in Xander's blood. Going against an undead dragon with a tiny dagger were not his kind of odds. He generally preferred to be armed with an ICBM and facing a particularly nasty schnauzer. Well, beggars couldn't be choosers.

He threw another dagger, feeling the power deplete slightly, but still with enough reserve that he wasn't completely weaponless. This one caught the dragon in the neck, and it screamed horrifically before snapping its jaws down at him. Xander dove out of the way and began sprinting across the courtyard. The dragon lumbered after him, causing the ground to shake with every step.

Xander yelped when the dragon snapped at him again, and could feel the hot rush of its disgusting breath against his back. He grunted in exertion and ran as fast as he could. The terrain seemed to fly by as he ran, but the dragon was still right behind him.

*Good,* he thought. *Get it away from everyone else.*

*Only what do I do once I get it away?*

That was a good question.

Chapter 6

Xander screamed in pain as the dragon swatted him with a huge claw, sending him flying across the field.

He hit the ground with a thud, and slid across the dirt for a time before coming to a rest. He groaned into the dirt, and spit out some blood.

"Whose stupid plan was this anyway?" he groaned. Oh that's right. It was his.

He'd led the dragon to the high school, or what used to be the high school anyway. They'd kind of blown it up at graduation. Xander figured that if you could kill one giant lizard thing here, maybe you could kill two. So far it was not working out quite the way he was hoping.

Apparently it's a lot easier to kill giant lizard demons if you have a few tons of explosives to help.

He'd have to remember that.

Xander scrambled to his feet, and flipped backwards just in time to avoid his guts being torn open by a huge claw. The strike was followed by a gout of flame, and he dove to one side in order to avoid it. He let loose the dagger, which sunk into the dragon's chest, causing it to roar.

"This is like trying to kill a lion with a safety pin," Xander groaned. Another burst of flame had him scrambling for cover. On the plus side, he'd been able to stamp out a few fires here and there, and found that his heart level was staying high enough to continue throwing daggers.

A quick shifting of his senses to the cross at his neck told him he was nowhere near high enough to call the beam of light. He thought of trying to just avoid the dragon until he could build up enough of a heart level, but so far he didn't think he could stay out of its way without using the daggers to distract it.

The thing rushed towards him, and a monstrous claw gripped him around the middle, pulling him into the air. Xander screamed in anger and let the dagger fly, catching the dragon in the forehead. It roared and let him go.

About forty feet in the air. Xander covered his head with his arms and curled up, twisting so his shoulder would hit the ground first. He slammed into the ground hard. The soft soil gave way under the heavy impact and he fell through the newly created hole, sputtering and spitting out dirt as he tumbled underground.

Xander groaned, not wanting to move for a moment. He was in some kind of building. Maybe it was part of the basement of the school? He looked up the hole and saw the giant yellow eye of the demon peering down at him.

"Not good," Xander said.

"Not good!" he screamed when the dragon's mouth appeared. He dove to one side, smashing through some rotted wooden chairs. The room burned red with flames for a few seconds as Xander cowered under an old desk.

The flames dissipated, and Xander quickly kicked out the remaining fires.

It was an old classroom. Really old. Was this the school from before the high school was built? It certainly looked that way. He winced at the sight of several child-sized skeletons cowering in the corner.

"Sunnydale strikes again," he sighed. He wondered if this school was buried during the same earthquake that had buried the Master underground for decades. He couldn't imagine what it would have been like to be trapped in this room, with the hellmouth only a few yards away.

From the looks of things, the students hadn't died peacefully. Several were huddled in one corner, and a few more clutched at wounds that had long since decomposed away. The walls were filthy, but he suspected that some of the larger stains had been blood.

Xander peeked back up the hole carefully, and saw the dragon stomping around, clearly frustrated that it couldn't get to its prey. Xander was glad for the respite, but he had no idea how he was going to get out of this.

Weapons. Maybe he could find something he could fashion into a weapon. It was a long shot, but there was nothing else he could think of. He grimaced and pushed one of the skeletons aside to check the closets. He slid one open, and jumped back in surprise when another skeleton fell out.

Xander clutched his chest and tried to calm his breathing. This place was definitely giving him the creeps. It was dark, the air was stale, and he was surrounded by the skeletons of people who had died violently. He was not very happy.

Then the skeleton moved.

Slowly at first, its tiny hands flexed with a creaking noise. Then it slowly pushed itself up, the skull grinning at him.

"I hope you don't think I'm surprised," Xander told it. "We're really talking about par for the course here."

Its empty eyes glowed deep red, and an otherworldly hiss escaped from its mouth as the skeleton leaped at him. Xander grabbed its arms in midair, swinging it across the room to slam against one of the desks.

"Argh!" Xander screamed. Another skeleton had latched its jaws around his arm, and bit down hard. He punched the thing in the head several times before it finally ripped free, taking a chunk of his arm with it.

"Fuck!" he cursed, clutching his arm to his stomach. "You know what? I'm glad you little brats got buried!"

As if in answer the rest of the classroom seemed to stir, and soon Xander was staring at a small army of child-sized skeletons.

"Fuck," Xander repeated. Then his eyes widened in horror and he jumped behind the desk, just as another gout of flame rushed down the hole, bathing the room in light and heat. This time the flames didn't dissipate so easily, and several desks had caught on fire, as well as a few of the skeletons. They didn't seem to be bothered by the flames, and slowly ambled towards Xander.

Xander grabbed one of the legs of a desk and swung it mightily into the first skeleton, ignoring the throbbing pain in his arm as he did so. The desk and skeleton exploded together, flaming wreckage spewing across the room. He spun and backhanded another across the face, and hit a third with a powerful uppercut as it dove at him.

Xander kicked another desk into three others and jumped halfway across the room as another jet of flame rushed inside. He was coughing as it dissipated, and smoke was beginning to fill the room. A skeleton threw a desk at him, and he jumped over the teacher's desk for cover.

Behind the desk was the skeleton of the teacher; the only adult sized one in the large classroom. From the tattered remains of its clothing, he judged that it had been a woman. She lay on her chest, and from the amount of dark brown stains surrounding her it was clear she'd been bleeding heavily when she died. Her hand was outstretched, as if she were reaching for...What? He followed the path of her hand. There was nothing there but the chalkboard. He frowned.

A skeleton leaped over the teacher's desk, and Xander punched it directly in the face with all of his strength, shattering the skull and sending the rest of it tumbling back over the desk. He flicked the dagger up with one hand and sent one flying into the head of yet another skeleton, shattering its skull as well.

Another jumped onto his arm, knocking the dagger from his hand. He roared and slammed the thing against the wall several times before backhanding the skeleton into one of the others, destroying them both. He jumped out of the way just in time to dodge a flaming desk thrown in his general direction. The desk smashed against the chalkboard, destroying both the desk and the board itself.

Xander rose to his feet coughing. The room was beginning to spin, and his arm throbbed in pain, and at least a dozen skeletons still remained. The dagger was gone, and he didn't have enough heart to use the cross. He clenched his fists, trying to ignore the pain in his arm.

The skeletons screeched inhumanly and all rushed him at once. He jump kicked one in the face, kicking off its skull to flip back and stomp a second. A flaming skeleton got an elbow to the ribs, shattering half of its body and causing flaming bone to explode across the room.

A bony fist slammed across Xander's face, sending him spinning back towards the teacher's desk. He fell over the skeleton of the teacher, which still lay unmoving.

He idly wondered why it wasn't joining in on the fun.

He kicked out at the teacher's desk, sending it flying into several of the skeletons, and he rolled back and onto his feet just in time to avoid getting his neck torn out by the snapping jaws of another.

Tiny bony fingers slashed across his chest, and he screamed with the burning pain of it, retaliating with a heavy roundhouse to its face, sending it across the room, but not destroying it. He could feel his strength waning.

A skeleton was suddenly clawing at him, jaws snapping in his face. Xander screamed at it and threw it off, but the thing dug deep scratches into his arm as it went. Xander panted, staring down the remaining skeletons. He glanced down at the teacher. Her arm remained outstretched, reaching desperately for something. Whatever it was, she had died before reaching it. He wondered if his skeleton would at least stay dead like hers when this was over. Wearily his eyes followed the path of her hand again, and he looked at the destroyed chalkboard.

It was hollow.

Xander lashed out wildly with his slightly better arm, catching one of the skeletons on the shoulder and sending it sailing into a desk. It picked up the desk and hurled it at him with unholy might, and Xander half-fell, half-leaned back out of its path. He clutched at the chalkboard, grabbing the edges to keep himself on his feet. He pulled himself up, and looked inside.

It was a whip.

What the hell kind of teacher kept a whip in a hidden compartment in her classroom?

A Sunnydale teacher. Well, he'd seen weirder, and it was a weapon. He wasn't sure he could figure out how to use it, but he was running out of options. He reached his good arm inside and gripped the handle.

It was made for him. He knew it in that very instant. This was his weapon. This was his self.

The whip lashed out without thought, and snapped powerfully into the skull of one of the flaming skeletons, exploding bone and flame in every direction. He swung with the momentum and the heavy chained whip crashing into a second and third, shattering them on impact.

His scream was righteous and powerful as he attacked, and the whip acted as an extension of his arm, obeying him utterly and without thought. He darted through the skeletons with ease, a new sense of utter right-ness flowing through him. The whip lashed out again and again, creating a circle of destruction around him that none of the skeletons could defend against. The powerful weapon shattered desks before they reached him, arms were torn off and skulls exploded against the holy force of the ancient weapon of the Belmont Clan.

A stream of flame raced down the hole, and Xander crashed the whip against it. The whip ignited, the flames seeming to course up the length of the ancient weapon. He could feel the heat tickling around his arm, but there was no pain. Xander snapped the whip out, and two more skeletons exploded under the fiery attack.

The whip swung over his head and slashed back down again, catching another in the side before he snapped it back to shatter the skull of another. Finally he swung it in a wide circle around him, and caught the last skeleton around the neck. He yanked hard, and pulled the undead creature across the room by the neck, shattering it against the wall.

Xander stood in silence, gripping the whip tightly in his hand. He had never felt so perfect in his entire life.

He snapped the whip slightly, marveling at how simple the weapon was to use. Already it felt like a part of him, and he knew he would not be getting rid of it any time soon.

He coughed slightly, and seemed to notice the flames all around the room for the first time. He was sore and bloody. He felt great.

Xander picked up the dagger and held it in one hand. He coiled the whip in a way that seemed second nature, and stared up the hole. The yellow eye of the dragon blinked back at him.

"You still here?" Xander asked. He flipped the dagger, holding it by the edge. "Good."

The power exploded within him, and Xander unleashed his birthright.

"Item Crash!" he screamed, and hurled the dagger up the hole. His roar was powerful and devastating. The dagger exploded into dozens of knives, each streaking up the hole at incredible speeds, riddling the dragon's good eye and causing it to rear back in pain and horror.

Xander raced towards the hole, crouching down slightly before exploding upwards in a powerful leap.

He soared up the hole, his arm outstretched, the coiled whip held out before him. He shot out of the hole, sailing another ten feet before flipping gracefully and landing in a half crouch. He let the whip uncoil and rest at his side, and flipped the dagger easily into his belt.

The dragon screamed and lumbered towards Xander, the ground shaking with every step.

"Come to papa," Xander whispered. The whip lashed out to meet his foe.

Chapter 7

Buffy grunted as the huge claw slammed into her, and she rolled across the pavement. She saw Alucard rush towards the dragon, his powerful sword slashing two cuts across its chest. The thing roared and spewed flames at him, but Alucard seemed to shift out of the way. She found herself staring in awe at his fluid movements and powerful attacks. She really hoped he wasn't lying when he said she could do that kind of stuff too. The hypnotic effect of the not-shadows that trailed behind him as he fought were definitely more than just a cool effect. The creature often times would snap its jaws at the shadows instead of Alucard, allowing the Son of Dracula to escape unharmed.

The dragon roared and twisted its body, and its massive tail struck Alucard hard in the chest. The immortal demon hunter sailed across the parking lot and smashed into a parked car.

Buffy was on her feet in an instant, her own sword clutched tightly in one arm. They'd been battling this thing for what felt like hours, and had made little progress. Tiny cuts adorned the dragon, but it seemed only to get angrier at each attack. Buffy hurdled over the tail as it swung at her, and shoved her sword deep into the creature's side. It screamed and swiped at her again, but she ducked and rolled out of the way.

Alucard was back, and leaped at the huge demon. It blasted flame at him in midair, but Alucard shifted to mist form and passed harmlessly through, solidifying to finish his leap and slice against the creature's snout. It howled and quickly swiped at him again. He was sent flying into a large oak tree before sliding down to the ground.

"You are getting on my nerves!" Buffy yelled, and dodged another strike. She jumped over a gout of flame and stuck her sword into the thing's side. She took a firm grip and used it to swing up onto its neck, clutching at its huge scales. It bucked and screeched, trying to throw her off. She pulled the sword out and slammed it back down, then again, and a third time.

The dragon screamed and flailed about, but Buffy's Slayer strength gave her a firm grip on the scales, and she would not be thrown.

Alucard staggered to his feet and picked his sword up slowly. He was covered in blood, most of it his own.

His eyes focused forward and he saw the Slayer clutching to the dragon's back, slamming her sword in over and over again. He was impressed.

He coughed as he stumbled forward. He was hurt, and he knew it. Alucard flexed his fingers, and performed a quick gesture in the air.

"Dark Metamorphosis!" he intoned in a deep voice. A sheen of red seemed to flow over him, and the dragon's blood flared green. Alucard inhaled deeply through his nose. That was better. The spell would last a few moments. During that time, the blood of those he attacked would heal him. It was a dark spell, and potentially evil if used in the wrong way. He had never known another being to use it as he did.

He sprinted forward, his mother's family sword held tightly in one hand. He leaped forward and slashed at the creature's stomach, causing blood to spray out over him. He fought the urge to lick his lips, but felt his strength return nonetheless. He slashed again and again, perhaps not damaging the creature greatly, but at least he was making it bleed.

He was also distracting it from Buffy, who used the opportunity to climb up higher. She punched her fists into the thing's neck and the back of its skull as she climbed, and was soon holding on tightly to the back of its scaly head.

"Yee-Haw!" Buffy cried as the dragon attempted to buck her off. She held on tightly, and raised her sword high before slamming it down into the back of the dragon's skull. It roared and spun, falling backwards.

"Wuh oh," Buffy said, realizing she was about to be crushed. She sprang off of the creature's back and hit the ground in a roll. The lizard demon slammed into the ground with a heavy thud, crushing a bench and a metal trashcan under its heavy weight. It roared again, and rolled over slowly.

"Damn," Buffy cursed. "I was hoping that'd do it."

"Apparently not," Alucard said darkly as he sidled up beside her. "Are you injured?"

She took a quick inventory. Everything seemed to be working properly, "No I'm good. What about you?"

"I'll be fine."

Buffy gave him a quick look, "That's an awful lot of blood for fine."

Alucard raised an eyebrow at her, "For those such as us, blood is very powerful."

"Ugh," Buffy groaned. "I so don't want to know."

Alucard seemed almost to smile. Then the creature roared again and rolled to its feet. It screeched horribly and sent a jet of flame at the both of them.

The two dark warriors dashed to either side, both ready to begin round two.

Alucard shifted to wolf form as he ran, and darted around the creature's legs. He called upon his inner pool of magic and unleashed it in a powerful snarl, snapping his jaws through the dragon's leg and exploding through the other side. The dragon roared and began flapping its wings slowly in an attempt to remain balanced.

Buffy cut across its other leg with her sword, driving the blade as deep as she could while still being able to remove it easily. She grunted, ignoring the hot spray of blood that coated her. She sighed inwardly. This was not the first time she'd been covered in demon blood, and she doubted it would be the last.

Suddenly the dragon lashed out, and a huge claw slammed into Buffy's side. She screamed as the claw pierced her side, and she was thrown bodily across the lot. She landed in a heap, weakly clutching the heavy wound to her side. Alucard cried, "Slayer!" and rushed across the field, dodging flames as they sprang from the dragon's mouth.

Buffy forced herself to sit up, despite the blinding pain in her side. She pressed her hands against the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood. Alucard slid to a stop beside her, kneeling quickly. The dragon lumbered after him.

"I'll be OK," she groaned. He gave her a cold look that said he was not so certain.

"The wound is a deep one," he said.

"Hey don't sugarcoat it or anything," Buffy moaned sarcastically. Her eyes rolled up and she fell back for a moment.


"Buffy," she said. "My name is Buffy."

"Buffy. Give me your hand."

He didn't bother to get her assent, and instead he grabbed her hand, performing a quick gesture in the air with it. He did it once more quickly as the dragon bore down on them.

"You must do that in the air, Buffy," he told her. "Exactly as I've shown you. Concentrate on your core as you do it, and let your power flow through your hands. Quickly!"

She groaned and half-heartedly repeated his gesture. He shook her slightly, "Concentrate!"

The dragon reared back and Alucard tore the cross from around Buffy's neck, quickly casting it out at the dragon. The glittering silver cross emerged from his hand, spinning quickly through the air and slicing into the dragon's neck. It roared and stumbled back slightly.

"Hurry Buffy! Concentrate!"

He did the gesture again, and slapped her hard across the face, "Concentrate!"

"Hey!" she whined, and then seemed to realize where she was. She blinked once, and looked at her hand. She repeated the gesture carefully.

"Just like that, but faster, and concentrate on your core," Alucard said. He prayed that the Slayer had defeated enough dark creatures in her career to have a pool of mana large enough to cast the dark spell. He himself was no mage, but their dark powers allowed them both to cast a few fairly powerful dark spells.

Her hand twitched out, repeating the gesture almost perfectly. Her eyes flashed with a dark power, and she cried out in a low voice, "Dark Metamorphosis!"

A red sheen seemed to coalesce around her. She shuddered and convulsed as the dragon blood flared green around her. She panted heavily and groaned, "What?"

"No time," Alucard said. He held up his hand and sliced his sword across the flesh of his palm. It bit deeply into him, and blood began to pour from the wound. He held his hand over Buffy's abdomen, pouring the blood onto her wound?

"What are you--" Buffy gasped as the blood flared green, and she twitched again. It felt...So good. It was pure life, and it was flowing into her. She arched her back and groaned as she felt the wound twisting and knitting the flesh back together. It was over as fast as it had begun, and she collapsed.

"What was that?" she whispered. She rolled over, and found that the pain in the wound was almost completely gone.

"A dark spell," Alucard said. "Use it wisely."

Alucard hoped he had done the right thing. To absorb life energy through the blood of another was some of the darkest of magic. While he knew that dark was not necessarily evil, he also knew of no other being who used dark magic as a way to fight the dark itself. He hoped that the Slayer had learned not to use her own powers for personal gain, and that the dark spell would not corrupt her. Time would tell.

The dragon roared, and the both of them snapped their heads up, having momentarily forgotten it was there.

It limped forward and breathed a heavy stream of flame in their direction. Buffy grabbed Alucard and threw him out of the way, diving in the other direction herself. She half-slammed into a tree as she did so, but at least she wasn't roasted alive.

Alucard groaned and struggled to rise. His hand throbbed powerfully. Draining himself of some of his own blood to heal Buffy had taken more of himself than he expected. He felt his inner pool of mana was dangerously low. He would not be able to cast another spell as powerful as Dark Metamorphosis, not for some time. He was running out of options.

The undead dragons were no doubt part of Dracula's army, but Alucard had never seen the Dark Master use such powerful minions outside of Castlevania. It spoke powerfully about the importance of the coming days.

The Lord of Night was not taking any chances this time.

The dragon spun and slashed at Alucard with its huge claws, raking across his chest and throwing him into the pavement. He gasped as he landed, and wished he had not given up so many of the relics he'd recovered so long ago in Castlevania. He'd thought that such power would be too tempting.

It surely was, but right now he would have taken them all without thought. He didn't even have a single healing potion.

The dragon roared and snapped its jaws down at him. Alucard rolled desperately to one side, the gaping jaws just barely missing their opportunity to snap him in half. He struggled to get to his feet, but found that his body would not obey his commands.

A jet of flame snaked out of the dragon's mouth, and Alucard shut his eyes in the anticipation of pain. He grunted when Buffy slammed into him, grabbing him powerfully and wrenching him from the ground. She sprinted with him across the lot, carrying the larger man in her small arms. There was no doubt about it, this girl was powerful. He no longer wondered how she had survived for so long. He groaned slightly when she dropped him in a heap a short distance away.

"Do you have any kind of flashy thing you can do to heal?" Buffy asked.

"No," he admitted. "Not until my mana recharges."

"Your momma?"

"Mana," he said. "The force within me that allows me to cast dark spells or use dark relics."

"Right," she said skeptically. "Look, you gotta tell me right now if you can stick with this. I'm not letting this thing rampage through town without a fight, so if you're down for the count, I need to know."

He nodded sadly.

"Take my sword," Alucard said. She raised an eyebrow at him.

"You sure?"

"I am."

He slowly handed her his sword. The sword of his mother's family. It was razor sharp and unbreakable, forged in light and wielded in darkness. He hoped it would serve her as well as it had served him. He suspected their powers were similar enough that it would.

"I'll try to keep it away from you," she said.

"Thank you."

She gave him a momentary look, and nodded. Then she turned and ran back to the dragon. The sword was light and seemed to hum slightly in her grip. It was a good sword.

Buffy leaped over a burst of flame and ran straight for the dragon, sword held out at her side. She sprang forward, and sailed through the air, reaching the dragon's giant mouth at the apex of her jump. She slashed forward with Alucard's sword, and screamed in surprise.

She seemed to wrench forward in the air, passing through the dragon and appearing on the other side of its head. The sword lashed out twice in quick succession, cutting deep into the back of the dragon's skull. A brief glimpse showed the strange not-shadows that Alucard seemed to have following him were now showing an outline of herself.

Just as soon as she noticed it, she was back on the other side of the dragon, and was dropping back to the ground. She landed softly, and stared at the sword.

"Wow," she said. "Now that's a cool feature."

Alucard allowed himself the barest of smiles. She was truly a dark warrior. The blade reacted to her as it reacted to him. Her incredible ease with which she took to the new skills and powers suggested to him that she might be more powerful than himself.

Once again he prayed that she would be able to use those powers wisely. The Slayer had a strong soul, anyone could see that. But he knew how much the dark loved to corrupt strong souls. He vowed he would watch over her and make sure she stayed on the right path.

He glanced around at the destruction these dragons had caused, and remembered that Alexander had led one away from the campus. He hoped the Belmont blood would serve him well. If he were even half as powerful as Richter or Trevor, then he would no doubt survive.

Belmont's were notoriously difficult to kill.

Buffy danced around the dragon, dodging flames and claws as she lashed out with the sword occasionally.

The dragon was slowing, but her own fatigue was beginning to show. The dragon had unholy strength and stamina, and the first time she stumbled only slightly, it struck. The claw lashed out again, and slammed into her. She twisted just in time to avoid getting pierced in the side again, but the strength of the hit still jarred her newly healed side and sent her careening into the side of the building.

The sword clattered across the parking lot as Buffy smacked against the building and crumpled to the ground. She groaned loudly, and struggled to her hands and knees. She looked up woozily and saw the dragon seem to snarl in delight as it limped towards her. She tried to get up, but her legs wouldn't support her weight any longer. The world spun.

She felt for the cross around her neck, hoping to use it as Alucard had shown her. It was gone. She stared up at the giant demon. It's huge head reared back on a long neck, preparing to engulf her in flames.

It whistled through the air as it wrapped around the demon's neck. A long chain-like whip circled around it, and the dragon suddenly jerked backwards, actually coming off of its feet slightly as it was thrown back.

The whip uncoiled easily. She traced it with her eyes and saw...


He was covered in blood. His clothes were burned and torn, and his arms were covered in some very nasty wounds. Still, he smiled brilliantly at her, and held the whip in one powerful hand.

"Hey Buff," he said. "Gimme a minute, OK?"

She blinked at him, speechless. Xander grinned at her and turned to the dragon. It hacked fire into the air as it coughed, and a red line around its neck showed that the whip had bit deep into its skin.

It roared at Xander, although not quite as loudly as before.

"Yeah yeah," Xander said. "I already heard that one."

Then he ran at the thing, leaping into the air as the whip swirled around him before striking out with the speed of a snake. It snapped into the demon's face.

The dragon was struck across the snout. Its head snapped to the side and a huge chunk of bone and flesh was torn from its face. It bellowed furiously.

Xander's leap brought him directly to its jaws. Xander landed on the creature's mouth, kicking off and flipping back as the whip lashed out again. It whipped across the dragon's jaw, almost knocking it off.

The demon roared again and fell to the ground with a heavy thud. Xander landed gracefully beside it, and sliced out with the whip again. It pierced through the dragon's scaled hide, and it screamed in pain.

Xander's other hand came up, and Buffy gasped as dozens of daggers seemed to fly from his hands, each striking the fresh wound of the demon like a bullet.

Alucard forced himself to sit up as he stared at the scene before him. It was magnificent. No other word could describe the pure beauty of watching a Belmont in battle. Alexander moved with a speed and powerful fluidity that seemed unreal, and the strength of his attacks were devastating. Alucard knew the weapon must be the ancestral weapon of the Belmont clan. He didn't wonder as to how Xander had received it. The weapon had a way of finding its master when it was needed.

Alucard knew Xander would have it until the day of his death, as had all the legendary hunters of his ancestors.

For Alucard and for Buffy, dark power was used to battle darkness. It was powerful to be certain, and effective if used wisely. But there was nothing like the holy strength of a Belmont. To watch them battle evil was to watch all the power of faith. The strength of Heaven was within them, and darkness could not help but tremble before that might.

Xander cracked the whip against the dragon again, bursting its chest open. It screamed and twitched.

Xander whirled the whip up and let his power loose. He leaped straight into the sky, his body curling up for a moment before he shot his limbs outward. The whip ignited with holy flames, and when he landed he struck deep into the creature's belly. The whip burst with energy against the undead flesh, and the demon screamed as the flames consumed it.

A moment later it was gone, and all was quiet. The flames dissipated slowly from the whip, and Xander unconsciously coiled it around his arm.

"You guys OK?" he asked Buffy. He held out a bloody arm to help her to her feet. She looked at it gingerly, but realized she was equally coated in blood and guts. She gratefully took his hand and he helped her up.

"I think so," she said, wobbling slightly.

"Good," Xander said. "Let's go help Al, then we have to get back right away."

"Why? What happened with the other dragon?"

"Nothing, I killed it."

"Then what's wrong?"

Xander's face was grim.

"He's got Willow."