All evening Buffy had had a feeling that she was being followed but she saw no-one. She tried turning round at random intervals, and even doubling back on her tracks, but still couldn’t catch sight of her follower. It was far too stealthy to be Willow or Xander, only an occasional soft ‘clink’ of metal on metal giving evidence that she wasn’t imagining things, and kept up with her far too easily to be Giles. She believed that it must be an enemy until she encountered, and staked, a vampire. The stalker didn’t take advantage of the situation to attack while she was engaged in combat, which was an indication that he or she wasn’t hostile, but it was still worrying.
Then Buffy entered an alley and was confronted by two vampires. She braced herself for a tough, but winnable, battle and then realized that two more vampires had followed her into the alley. Now she was in trouble. She rushed at the pair ahead of her; she had to finish them off quickly, before the others got into the action, or she’d get boxed in and overwhelmed by superior numbers.
Unfortunately the two vampires were tough, skilful, and fought as a team. It took ages before she could get one into a position where she could drive a stake home. All the time she was expecting to be jumped from behind by the other two but it didn’t happen. Instead she heard the sounds of combat from that direction. The thud of blows, cries of pain, and that same clink of metal on metal that she’d heard earlier.
Eventually she staked one of her opponents and risked a quick glance to the rear. She saw a man in what appeared to be chain-mail, wielding a sword and shield, fighting against the vampires and more than holding his own. One of the vampires had lost an arm at the elbow, and was slumped against the alley wall clutching the stump, and the other was attempting to get past the shield but without success. Buffy just had time to notice that the swordsman appeared to be wearing a helmet, and some kind of mask, before she had to turn her attention back to her remaining foe.
Now that she was fighting a single opponent it didn’t take her long to dispose of the vampire. She turned around in time to see the swordsman bash the uninjured vampire with his shield and then, as the vampire staggered, slash his sword across to take off its head. As it crumbled to dust the crippled vampire made a run for it; Buffy sprinted past the swordsman and rammed her stake into the vampire before it could escape.
She tucked her stake away and turned to face the man in armor. He had moved out to stand under a street light and she could see him clearly. Something about him reminded her of a Viking but the front of his helmet, as she had noticed earlier, was a face-shaped mask that wasn’t like any Viking helmet she’d seen in any movie or history book. It was of steel but had gilded strips to portray the eyebrows, the nose, and a mustache. He was fairly tall, perhaps an inch or two under six feet, and looked to be powerfully built under the armor.
The warrior sheathed his sword, which seemed to confirm that he was on her side, and took off his helm. The face under the mask was younger than she had expected; college freshman age, or thereabouts, she estimated. The mask had portrayed a bushy, ‘Magnum PI’ style, mustache but the real mustache underneath wasn’t that bad. He was fair-haired, blue-eyed, and handsome. An actual knight in shining armor.
“Wes hāl,” the knight said. He tucked his helmet under his arm and bowed to her.
“Uh, hi, Wes Hal,” Buffy said. “I’m Buffy. Thanks for the assist but who are you and why have you been following me?”
“I am Osred, King of Northumbria,” the swordsman replied, “at your service.”
Buffy’s eyebrows shot up and her hand went to her hair. “A king? Huh? Like, a real king, not just some guy from the SCA dressing up?”
“I am in truth a king, or was,” the king confirmed. “My realm of Northumbria encompassed all the lands between Mercia and the Pictish kingdom of Fortriu. My father was King Aldfrith, who died when I was eight, and a council of ealdormen ruled in my name until I reached my eighteenth year and attained my majority. I then took my place upon the throne. Yet I was king for but one year, alas, before I was ambushed by Pictish raiders and slain.”
“If you’re a king, and dead,” said Buffy, “what are you doing following me around in Sunnydale? Shouldn’t you be in, like, Heaven or wherever?”
King Osred lowered his eyes. “I was not granted admission to Heaven,” he confessed. “I was pious enough, having been brought up by Bishop Wilfrid, but I had a fault. I did not respect the chastity of the holy nuns. Thus I was deemed sinful and refused entry. Yet now I have been granted a chance to win my redemption. By the grace of God I have been returned to life, and sent back to the world, and charged with the duty of watching over, and protecting, the fair maiden chosen to slay the vile draugr who drink the blood of the living.”
“That would be me,” Buffy said. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hey, this is super cool. I already have a Watcher, and he’s okay, but he only does research and training. You look to be pretty good with that sword. If you’re going to help with the actual Slaying it will make things way easier. Who was it that sent you, anyway? My guess would be Saint Peter.”
“No, it was Saint Gregory,” King Osred replied. “He told me that I am to be your guardian Angle.”