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Ficlet: Six Thousand Miles - Words in the Heroes' Tongue
I have a variable-sword. I urge calm.
Ficlet: Six Thousand Miles
There is a discussion currently ongoing at the Twisting the Hellmouth forums which is supposed to be about how a single Slayer could possibly protect the whole world, especially in the ages before air travel, although it has wandered off-topic somewhat. I’ve always espoused the idea that the Slayer is Called where she is most needed and that’s why I’ve written this story.

It's 1883, and the Council of Watchers learns of an impending Apocalypse-level threat, but the Slayer is six thousand miles away from the danger spot and they only have five days to save the world... PG, 1,000 words.

Six Thousand Miles

“A telegram from Anstruther, sir.”

“Anstruther?” Sir Archibald Travers raised an eyebrow as he accepted the message.

“Our man in the East Indies, sir,” his assistant said.

“Ah, yes,” Travers said. “George Anstruther. Has that rather promising Malay Potential, if I recall correctly. What was her name, Perkins? Sock Tongue?”

“Seok-Teng,” Perkins corrected him. “The telegram has already been decoded, sir. Professor Dawson says it’s rather urgent.”

“Oh?” Travers scanned the document. “Awakening a volcano god? Sounds dashed unpleasant.”

“Indeed so, sir,” the assistant agreed. “Professor Dawson was rather... perturbed.”

“I dare say,” said Travers. “Send the Professor up to see me right away, Perkins, there’s a good chap.”

“I took the liberty of anticipating your wishes, sir,” Perkins said. “The Professor is just outside.”

“Capital show,” Travers said. “Send him in.”

“Well, Dawson, what’s all this about?” Travers asked, after Perkins had departed and the Professor entered. “Some blighter is planning on waking up some volcano god, I gather. Didn’t really follow all the academic jargon. Explain it to me in straightforward terms, old chap, if you’d be so good.”

“Certainly, Sir Archibald,” the Professor said. “The demon Rangda plans to awaken Agung, the god of volcanic fire. You will recollect, no doubt, the eruption of Krakatoa in August?”

“Read about it in The Times, of course,” Travers said. “Dashed impressive show, I gather. They say the explosion was heard as far away as Australia.”

“That is correct,” the Professor confirmed, “and it would appear that it was not, after all, a natural event. Anstruther has discovered that it was caused by the second ritual to rouse Agung.”

“The second ritual?” Travers raised his eyebrows. “That sounds rather ominous. I take it there is to be a third?”

“Indeed so,” said Professor. “According to what Anstruther has discovered there are three rituals necessary. The first makes Agung stir in his sleep. That, apparently, took place last May. The second causes Agung to cough. That was carried out in August and, as a result, the island of Krakatoa blew itself to pieces.”

“And the third?”

“Is to be carried out at the next full moon.” The Professor produced a diary from his pocket. “Next Wednesday.”

Travers’ eyebrows climbed. “I suppose we can expect some rather, ah, violent volcanic activity?”

“Without doubt,” the Professor said. “There are rather a lot of volcanoes in the East Indies. I suspect that the awakening of the god will cause most, if not all, of them to erupt simultaneously.”

“Hmm.” Travers raised a hand and fiddled with the tips of his moustache. “Just how bad would that be? A purely local disaster, with a few thousand brown native chappies killed by tidal waves and a lot of mud huts buried by lava, or something bigger?”

“A lot more than merely local, I’m afraid, Sir Archibald,” the Professor said. “It would be pretty much the end of the Dutch East Indies, for a start, and I fear the Straits Settlements would suffer severely too. There are more than a hundred volcanoes in the area. They say that Krakatoa killed sixty thousand people. If they all erupted hundreds of thousands, even millions, of natives would perish. On top of that the clouds of smoke from the volcanoes would block out the sun perhaps for many years.”

“Hmm.” Travers stroked his moustache again. “This Rangda chap wouldn’t be a vampire, would he?”

“She, actually,” Professor Dawson said. “Yes, indeed. Rangda is the Queen of Vampires in the East Indies.”

“It sounds quite the catastrophe,” Travers said. “We’ll have to stop it. Do you think Anstruther and his Potential would be able to manage if I arranged for the Governor of the Straits Settlements to put a gunboat or two and a regiment at their disposal?”

Professor Dawson shook his head. “Rangda is a remarkably formidable vampire,” he said. “Absolutely impervious to bullets and, I gather, to stakes as well. She can be slain only with a kris, a type of dagger, which has been blessed by a holy man called the Pemangku. Luckily Anstruther is on good terms with the current Pemangku and obtaining the blessed kris won’t be a problem.”

“Dashed good show,” said Travers. “So, young Sock Tongue takes the kris, stabs naughty old Rangda, and Bob’s your uncle.”

“If only it was that simple,” Dawson lamented. “Rangda is an exceptionally dangerous fighter. No mere Potential, no matter how well trained, will be able to overcome her. They need a Slayer.”

“A Slayer, in the East Indies, by next Wednesday.” Travers scowled. “Damn it! Why couldn’t Anstruther have found this out two months ago?” He stood up, came out from behind his desk, and paced the room.

“Damnably awkward, Dawson,” he said, pausing beside one of the portraits that hung on the oak-panelled walls. He gazed up at the bewigged man in the painting. “I know what old Lord Coningsby did, when he heard about that mad Russian cove who was trying to bring back Baba Yaga, but I had hoped never to be in the same situation myself. Telegraphs, railways, and steamships, all the miracles of the age, and none of it helps. Well, apart from the telegraph.”

“The current Slayer is in Sweden,” said Dawson.

“I know, I know.” Travers once more stroked his moustache. “Dagny Faltskog. Bright girl, I’m told, performed admirably at her Cruciamentum and has an impressive Slaying record. Damn it, I wish there was another way.” He returned to his desk and rang a bell.

“You rang, sir?” Perkins hastened into the room.

“Job for you, Perkins,” Travers said. “There’s only one way to get a Slayer to Anstruther in time to avert an Apocalypse. Take a message, get it encoded, and send a telegram off to Doctor Grunhagen in Stockholm straight away.”

“Of course, sir,” Perkins said. He produced a notepad and a pencil. “Ready, sir.”

“It’s only three words,” Travers said. He sighed heavily. “I really wish there was an alternative. Tell Grunhagen ‘Kill your Slayer’.”

Epilogue: An Inconvenient Truth

Disclaimer: the Watchers’ Council is not mine but is being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original BtVS episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television show. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.

Current Location: Bali, Indonesia
Current Music: Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water"

57 comments or speak 2 me
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From: demonbrat_98 Date: November 13th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's scary how plausible I find this scenario!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
brutti_ma_buoni From: brutti_ma_buoni Date: November 13th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh nicely done. Such a light voice to the piece, apparently poking easy fun at moustachioed Victorian gents and their idiotic prejudices, but then shifting tone for the simplicity of their response. Which is horrible, but hugely logical.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! That's exactly the effect I was going for.
beer_good_foamy From: beer_good_foamy Date: November 13th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I say, good show, old sport.

Dagny Faltskog

Did you just name a Slayer after an ABBA member? :-)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 13th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

No, I just went through lists of Swedish surnames and female first names and picked a pair that seemed to go well together; I wasn't thinking of Agnetha at all, at least not consciously.
agilebrit From: agilebrit Date: November 13th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I should not be giggling at this as much as I am...

I saw the ending coming as soon as they said "The current Slayer is in Sweden." Because, really. What else were they going to do?

I was laughing my ass off at the understatement of it all. "This really is dashed awkward." *dies* Good show, old chap.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
wildecate From: wildecate Date: November 13th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh that's just... wrong. Because it's probably so right.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Indeed so.
kcarolj65 From: kcarolj65 Date: November 13th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe I'm a bit thick, but that was a neat twist. Neat, in that it's shocking - and quite plausible, given the Council's ruthlessness.

Poor Dagny.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
petzipellepingo From: petzipellepingo Date: November 13th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes, that could definitely happen - quite often I suspect.

speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Of course there will have been time periods when news of impending Apocalypse would never have reached the Council, so they wouldn't have had to make such decisions (presumably the Powers made sure that the existing Slayer was smitten with the Slayer death wish at the right time and some random vampire had his 'one good day') and in the jet age it became no longer necessary.

They really should have had one or more episodes in which Buffy was jetted off to Bolivia or Thailand or somewhere to stop a non-Hellmouth related Apocalypse. Athough Joss would have cocked it up anyway, as his knowledge of geography outside California seems to be on a par with that of the average tree frog.
slaymesoftly From: slaymesoftly Date: November 13th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I saw that building and cringed! But it probably happened more than once.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Quite probably, mainly in the post Industrial Revolution, pre jet age, period.

Before that time it would have been up to the Powers to make sure that a Slayer stuck too far away from a looming Apocalypse suffered an attack of the death wish syndrome at the right time.
cbtreks From: cbtreks Date: November 13th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder how often that's been done in the Slayerverse. Here's a horrible thought - what it the Potential in the East Indies isn't the one that's called when Dagny is murdered? Multiple Potentials is canon, isn't it? (At least in the last season.)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
They just have to trust that the Powers really do Choose the Slayer who is in the place where a Slayer is most needed.

It must have worked as the world was not plunged into an ice age by 144 simultaneous volcanic eruptions in November 1883.
gillo From: gillo Date: November 13th, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Horribly believable. But surely they could have found a friendly Barong to deal with Rangda? THat's how it's usually done, I believe...
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps Rangda lured the Barong to Krakatoa before the interruption and neutralised her ancient enemy that way.

Edited at 2009-11-14 12:01 am (UTC)
rahirah From: rahirah Date: November 13th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Half way through this I had a feeling that was going to be the ending...
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I did rather telegraph it.
(Deleted comment)
paratti From: paratti Date: November 14th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh. I like. I very like..
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
From: hezzabeth Date: November 14th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC) (Link)
This gave me chills and yet I could totally see it happening!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Quite so. Thank you!
audela From: audela Date: November 14th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Creepy, but oh so plausible.

Love the tone, and the sense of inevitability.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
empresspatti From: empresspatti Date: November 14th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow!! Very well done and horribly plausible.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
evilawyer From: evilawyer Date: November 14th, 2009 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Chilling, but so very Watcher's Council. Great story.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
eowyn_315 From: eowyn_315 Date: November 14th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dashed awkward, indeed! But very plausible...
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
thirdgorchbro From: thirdgorchbro Date: November 14th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, dark. And really, really good.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 14th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
zanthinegirl From: zanthinegirl Date: November 14th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I figured you were going there-- ouch. I'm a little worried that I can easily buy that one!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 15th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I don't think it's much of a stretch from what we saw of the Council.
rebcake From: rebcake Date: November 14th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, this is the Council, as I see it. You explained it all in "straightforward terms, old chap", so you get a cookie. Poisoned, of course.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 15th, 2009 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Luckily I spent the last few years building up an immunity to poisoned cookies.
hesadevil From: hesadevil Date: November 15th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC) (Link)
No wonder Giles was always uncomfortable about the 'ending' of his Slayer. Those Watchers Joss really didn't think the whole 'one girl' thing through properly.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 15th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
There are a lot of things Joss didn't think through properly but the 'one girl' thing does work - if you assume that the Powers don't dish out the Calling randomly and that the Council is prepared to be as ruthless as necessary.
shakatany From: shakatany Date: April 10th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep I can just see the CoW doing exactly that.

It's seems a bit chancy to have to have relied on the PTB/Universe to see that the Slayer was activated where she needed to be in the thousands of years before modern communication and transportation.

speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: April 11th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
There were quite a few apocalyptic disasters in the millenia before high-speed communication (e.g. the eruption of Thera, the prior eruption of Krakatoa that may have taken place in 535 AD and caused 30 years of worldwide famine, the Black Death, Justinian's Plague, etc) and in the Buffyverse these disasters may have been, not natural, but caused by supernatural agencies that weren't thwarted by Slayers because the Slayer was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or maybe the boom years for demons wanting to destroy the world didn't come until the communications age and One Girl In All The World worked well enough in the slower-paced ages before the steam engine and the telegraph.

Or perhaps the PTBs manipulated the 'death wish' of Slayers to make sure they died at the right time - and if the CoW had taken no action, in this scenario, the Swedish Slayer would have died anyway in a routine fight with a standard local vampire who had his 'one good day'.
sparrow2000 From: sparrow2000 Date: April 10th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
“Hmm.” Travers raised a hand and fiddled with the tips of his moustache. “Just how bad would that be? A purely local disaster, with a few thousand brown native chappies killed by tidal waves and a lot of mud huts buried by lava, or something bigger?”

This reads like an Ealing Comedy at it's most brutal. I can just picture Alec Guinness playing multiple parts including Dagny Faltskog.

Just beautifully done :)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: April 11th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Cruel Hearts and Coronets?

Thank you!
thismaz From: thismaz Date: April 11th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
*points at brutti_ma_buoni's comment* She voiced my thoughts better than I could.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: April 11th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
*points at my reply to brutti_ma_buoni's comment*
57 comments or speak 2 me
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