Angel rushed towards the vault that held Acathla and the Honda Fireblade. He entered an adjacent chamber and halted in his tracks. “Ah so!” he exclaimed, staring at the four robed figures who sat waiting for him. “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”
“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” a Spaniard in a black robe said. “Our chief weapon is surprise… and fear. Our two chief weapons are…”
“Hush, Brother Forrest,” ordered the only woman among the Spaniards. “Greetings, Shogun Angel. I am Reverend Mother Margaret Walsh, Chief Inquisitor to this region. My assistants are Brother Riley Finn, Brother Graham Miller, and Brother Forrest Gates. We are pursuing a dangerous heretic and rebel. You gave her shelter, I am told, and now she has turned against you.”
“Ampata? Yeah. Ungrateful little bitch.” Angel’s forehead creased. “I’d be more than happy for you to go after her, but you’re gonna have to go up against her friends. They’re all pretty tough. Can your guys handle themselves?”
“All are chosen for their skill with weapons as much as for their piety,” Reverend Mother Walsh declared. The three monks bowed, slipped their hands under their habits, and drew out pistols and rapiers.
Angel beamed. “Skill with weapons? That’s what I like to hear. She’s thataway, guys. Go get her. Kill her, and Wesley Wyndam-Price, and I’ll let you build a Catholic church here in Sunnydale. Kill Chopstick as well and it can be a cathedral.”
“We shall be more than happy to slay that unbeliever for you, Shogun,” the Reverend Mother told him. “And all of the others as well. Except perhaps for the young man who is some kind of fox or wolf spirit. We’d rather take him alive so that he can be burned at the stake, for he is an abomination.”
“So, you’ve heard him playing the biwa?” Angel nodded. “Yeah, his songs are pretty abominable. Not a single line about Mandy, or the Copacabana, or the Bermuda Triangle. He’s nearly as bad as Chopstick. You can burn him at the stake, sure. Now go do that voodoo – uh, sorry, that Catholicism – that you do so well.”
Chopstick fidgeted with his katana as he waited for Ampata to disentangle herself from Wesley. “Bit bloody much,” he muttered. “They’ve only been apart for about five minutes. Don’t see the need for the big reunion snog scene.”
“Well, I think it’s sweet,” said Buffy.
“Yeah, but…” Chopstick broke off as the intertwined pair separated. “How’s Dalton?”
“The good doctor says that he is doing well,” Ampata told him. “He cannot fight, but he will live.”
Chopstick smiled. “Good to hear that. S’ppose we’ll just have to leave him with the Doc and get on with the fighting without him.”
Buffy’s forehead creased. “So, now we are six.”
Quentin Travers stepped out of the castle. “Seven,” he said. “If you’ll have me.”
“Huh?” Buffy glared at him. “And why should we trust you?”
“I agreed to assist Shogun Angel only on condition that Ampata was not to be harmed,” Travers said. “He has gone back on his word. He has made a new deal with the Spanish Inquisition. They’re going to kill Ampata, and Wesley, and as many of the rest of you as they can, and in return Angel will allow them to build a church here.”
“So, this is a ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ thing, huh?” Buffy said.
“To some extent,” Travers admitted. “I am adamantly opposed to the Inquisition. I would want to protect Ampata in any event, however, and I strongly object to Angel’s request that the Inquisition should slay Mr. Wyndam-Pryce. He may be something of a rascally character but, despite his flaws, he is an Englishman. He himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit, that he is an Englishman.”
“In spite of all temptations to belong to other nations,” Wesley agreed, “I remain an Englishman.”
“I think you’re turning Japanese,” Chopstick put in. “I really think so.”
“I think not,” Wesley denied. “And, if Ampata will do me the honor of consenting to be my wife, I shall marry her by Church of England rites.”
“Wife? You are proposing?” Ampata asked. Her eyes widened.
“I am,” Wesley confirmed. He dropped to one knee. “Ampata Gutierrez, will you marry me?”
“It is so sudden,” Ampata said. “I do not know what to say.”
“Just say ‘yes’,” Wesley urged, “and make me the happiest man on Earth.”
“Oh, Wesley,” Ampata sighed, “of course it’s yes.” She flung herself into Wesley’s arms for yet another passionate embrace.
Their companions could do nothing but wait for them to finish. Chopstick took out a cigarette, remembered that he had told Buffy that he would give up smoking, and threw it away unlit.
“Hey,” Buffy said to Travers, “if you came out through that door, does that mean that the spearmen inside it have, like, gone away?”
“I am afraid not, young lady,” Travers told her. “They let me pass because I was on their side. I doubt if they would permit me to re-enter now that I have joined you, and they most certainly would not admit you without a fight.”
“Hard to get past them in the corridor,” Chopstick mused. “The baby-cart would get stuck at the first corner so we can’t use it to bash our way through. Bugger.”
Xander frowned at Travers. “How come you found out this stuff about Angel and the Spanish Inquisition?”
“I overheard him discussing something with his paramour Drusilla,” Travers explained. “It worried me more than somewhat, and when he left I followed him. He met with the Inquisition people and I overheard their discussion. I reconsidered my position and decided to warn you.”
“Fair enough,” Chopstick said. “Question is, can you be any use?”
“Undoubtedly,” Travers assured him. “Proverbs 24, verse 6; ‘For by wise counsel you shall make your war’.”
“Was thinking of something a bit more constructive than advice,” Chopstick said. “Can you fight?”
“I am perhaps a little old for swordplay and fisticuffs,” Travers conceded, “but I am sure that I could make a contribution. After all, you have among your number a professional clown who wears a frying pan instead of a helmet. I’m certain that I can be of more help than the Tamagotchi.”
“That’s Taikomochi,” Xander corrected him. “Hey, I’ve clocked field time. And don’t mock the wok.”
“Xander-san’s done good,” Chopstick agreed. “Dunno if you can be even half as useful.”
“Oh, I’m sure that I can,” Travers said. “I know how to operate the cannon, for a start.”
“So does Wesley-san,” Chopstick pointed out, but then he looked at the lovers, still wrapped in each other’s arms, and sighed. “Pity he’s otherwise engaged. Okay, Canon, load the cannon.”
Wesley pulled his lips away from Ampata’s and turned his head towards them. “Wait a moment,” he said. “The spearmen are lurking around the corner of the corridor and thus we have no target for the cannon. No-one is going to walk out of this door if the cannon is trained on it and we shall end up with something of a stand-off. I think that this calls for a cunning plan.”
Angel opened the door of the Shogun’s treasure vault and took a step inside.
“Angel-san! Stop!” a voice called out from behind him.
Angel turned his head and saw Giles approaching. Jenny Calendar, Willow, Cordelia, and Harmony were close behind the deposed Shogun. He grabbed for the key to the vault and pulled it free, lest they lock the door behind him and seal him within the chamber. “You’re too late, Giles-san,” he said. “You can’t stop me from getting to the sword. Once I have the Honda Fireblade I’ll be invincible. Surrender now and maybe I’ll be merciful.”
“As if,” Cordelia sniffed.
“You’re making a terrible mistake, Angel-san,” Giles said. “The demon Acathla will waken once the sword is removed. We’ll all be sucked into the realm of the Overfiend and ravaged by tentacle demons.”
“Even if I believed you, which I don’t,” said Angel, “it’s not like I have an alternative. You’re the guy who goes on about ‘the punishment fitting the crime’, and overthrowing the Shogun is about as big as a crime gets. Getting ravaged by tentacle demons would probably be the easy option.” He kept one eye on Willow and Jenny, in case they had any more spells like the one that they had used to garrote him in the dungeons, but it seemed that they had exhausted their repertoire for the time being.
Giles pursed his lips. “In the circumstances I would be prepared to reduce your sentence somewhat,” he conceded. “A quick and clean death, neither humorous nor lingering, with absolutely no use of boiling oil or molten lead.”
“I’ll take my chances with the demons,” Angel said. He stepped further into the vault and slammed the door shut. There was no keyhole on the inside and so he seized a set of bookshelves and pulled it over. It crashed against the door and jammed it closed. A second later there was a ‘thump’ as someone outside the door tried to push it open and failed. Angel grinned and set off towards the sinister stone statue.
Brother Riley Finn poked his head cautiously around the corner of the corridor. The coast appeared to be clear and he advanced, followed by the other two monks, with Reverend Mother Walsh bringing up the rear. He cocked his pistol as he approached the doorway, flattened himself against the wall, and peered out. There was no sign of the runaway heretic or her companions. Their armored battle carriage lay empty and abandoned nearby. He aimed his pistol at the only man in the vicinity.
“Ah, good day, Brother,” the man greeted him. He was a gaijin, an Englishman from his speech, and he stood behind an easel and raised a paint-brush aloft. “Reverend Mother, Brothers,” he added, as the rest of the Inquisition party appeared. “If you would just stand in the places that I have taken the liberty of marking out with chalk I will proceed with the recording of this momentous occasion for posterity.”
“You must have mistaken us for someone else,” Reverend Mother Walsh said.
“Hardly, Reverend Mother,” smiled the Englishman. “The famous Spanish Inquisition is instantly recognizable.”
“You were expecting us? Impossible,” Brother Riley protested. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”
“Shogun Angel informed me that you were here,” the Englishman revealed. “He requested that I make a pictorial record of the event. It won’t take up much of your time. I am famed for my speed with the brush.”
“Where are the Peruvian heretic and her companions?” Brother Riley asked. “They were supposed to be attacking the castle.”
“They have broken off for a tea ceremony,” the Englishman explained. “It’s one of the peculiarities of this country, although it does make me feel rather at home here. Everything stops for tea.”
Reverend Mother Walsh rolled her eyes. “I suppose we may as well oblige the man,” she said. “I shall take the central place, of course.”
“Of course, Reverend Mother,” the Englishman smiled. “The two taller monks at the outer places, please. Thank you, that will do nicely. Now, say ‘auto-de-fe’.”
Travers brought his hand down below the level of the easel, released the paint-brush, and pulled the trigger of Wesley’s duck’s-foot pistol. The four barrels belched flame and smoke. Four holes appeared in the canvas. A fraction of a second later four more holes appeared in the Inquisition agents.
Gates and Miller dropped dead on the spot. Reverend Mother Walsh reeled backwards through the door and collapsed in the corridor. Riley Finn staggered but stayed on his feet. He brought up his pistol to retaliate.
Something stirred in the apparently empty baby-cart. The small figure of Oz sat up and raised a harquebus. He took aim and fired while the injured Spaniard was still trying to raise his own weapon. Brother Finn slumped against the castle wall and then toppled to the ground.
“Thank you, young man, you saved me from a rather sticky situation,” Travers beamed. “Jolly good show.”
“Whatever,” said Oz. He raised his voice. “Hey, guys, we took them out. It worked.”
The rest of the gang appeared around the corners of the castle. “So far so good,” said Chopstick. “Now we just have to get past a whole bunch of spearmen.” He surveyed the bodies. “Pity these blokes are all so bloody tall. None of the robes will fit me. Or any of us, come to that. Dressing up as them and sneaking past the guards might not be as easy as I thought.”
Wesley picked up the Spaniards’ fallen weapons. “Wheel-lock pistols,” he remarked. “Ingenious, but a little fragile for my taste. Still, they’ll make a useful addition to our firepower. Nice rapiers, too.”
“I may have come up with a way to neutralize the guards,” said Travers. “Xander-san, my good chap, would you be so kind as to boil some water? And find some cups? Thirty should be enough.”
Angel glanced down at his hands to check that they were adequately smeared with blood. He took hold of the hilt of Celestial Fury and chanted the haiku that had been written upon the statue’s label.
“Wash your bloody hands
For to enter Acathla
He pulled at the sword. It stuck for a moment and then slid smoothly free of the stone. He brandished it aloft with both hands for a moment and then let go with his right hand. He twirled the blade around, finding that the balance was superb and it was easy to control the katana with only his uninjured left arm, and then brought it down in a slash.
“Nice balance,” he remarked to himself. “It certainly looks and feels like a super-weapon. But then, Chopstick’s Suzuki katana and Buffy’s Kawasaki sword are fine blades too. What is there about this one that makes it special?” He spun on his heel and brought the katana whistling across in a blow aimed at one of Giles’ bookcases.
It passed through case and books with no detectable resistance. Angel had to look twice before he could be certain that he hadn’t somehow missed his target. “Now that really is special,” he admitted. “I think I have the edge that I needed. If the Inquisition can get rid of that pistol-packing Wesley I’m back in business. Let’s go to work.” He slipped the katana into the empty scabbard from his discarded Ôdachi and began to stride confidently towards the vault door. A noise behind him made him spin around.
Acathla’s mouth was opening. Wider than should have been possible given the size of the statue. Things seemed to move within the gaping maw. Sinuous things, writhing and twisting, long and thin. Tentacles.
Angel’s jaw dropped. “Shimata,” he cursed. “It looks as if Giles-san may have been telling the truth after all. I think I’m screwed.”