(Here is the finally amended version of chapter one. Hope you enjoy it.)
The dark-haired man stood back and looked up at the sign above the shop as he wiped his hands on the rags. His eyes glittered sardonically and he grinned.
"Ah, genius is so under-appreciated in these unenlightened times," he said and then walked through the open door beneath the sign that read: 'Ethan's.' Once inside he looked around, the smile still on his face. Getting hold of the costumes hadn't been hard. He'd met an old customer of his, who'd been down on his luck and sufficiently desperate to accept help from him. Having him hack into the inventory of a large fancy dress shop chain and... 'divert'... a consignment of costumes in return for an orb of seduction and an introduction to a supermodel had been easy. He would have been happier with a wider selection, but the other consignment had been bought up and collected by a Yank from LA.
His gaze fell on one of the robes and he moved the hem slightly to reveal the silver cylinder beneath it. "More grist for chaos's mill," he purred.
"Halloween," said Xander Harris, reflectively. "Ah, magic night of chocolaty over-indulgence. It brings back memories of manic twitching nights." He looked back at Buffy and Willow and then deflated slightly. "Of course, being forced to take a bunch of kids trick-or-treating by Snyder takes all the fun out of it."
"Kinda," said Willow droopingly, looking around at the costumes that surrounded her. Then she brightened up. "But at least we get to dress up!"
"Mmmm," said Buffy, "I kinda like Halloween. The joys of being weird and wild for a night." She grinned at Willow. "What's this place like then?"
Willow shrugged. "It's very new. Nice choice of costumes though."
The three wandered through the shop, looking at the costumes. As they did, Xander wondered why he was there. He didn't have the kind of cash that would allow him to hire a really good outfit for the night. There were a few that tempted him, like the one of the Flash, the blue Union colonel's uniform and the Batman costume. No, he already had his Halloween outfit, in the form of a set of fatigues that would allow him to appear as a soldier. All he needed was a weapon...
As he wandered around the shop he paused. There was a gleam of silver to one side and he looked down to see a cylinder that was about 3 inches thick and 9 inches long, with switches down the side. Picking it up he looked at it. There was a hook on one end of it.
"It's a prop," said a British voice to one side of him. "There's a rumour that it was used, I believe, on one of the Star Wars films. I've no idea which one, but it might have been the original Star Wars." A dark-haired man in his late 40's appeared to one side and smiled at him.
Xander's brain boggled. A lightsabre? Wow, he'd seen the Star Wars Trilogy so many times that he could recite large chunks of it with his eyes closed. Then fiscal reality set back in.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I don't have enough cash on me to hire that."
The Brit quirked his lips. "I said it might have been. No one knows. It's just a rumour. Anyway, it is for hire - just for the night of course. $20 was the going price in LA, but I'm sure we can make a deal here..."
When the three left, Buffy was clutching an 18th Century dress, Willow had something in a plastic bag and a proud Xander was clutching his lightsabre. It was a lot better looking than the plastic lightsabre he had bought after he had seen Star Wars for the first time when he and Willow were kids. They'd both spent a large part of that summer playing with it, making loud 'Vmmm' noises before waving Xander's lightsabre around until finally the sadly-abused plastic end flew off and hit their neighbour's cat. His parents had publicly told him off for that, and had then privately bought him the biggest chocolate sundae he'd ever seen. The damn thing had been extremely good at doing its business at the foot of his mother's roses.
The only problem that Xander faced was which Jedi to go as and it was this that was the tricky bit. "Luke?" he wondered aloud that afternoon. Nah. The kid was the kid, all blonde and impulsive and he wanted to go the other way, for the sunny hills of fake maturity. That left either Obi-Wan or Anakin. He shuddered at the thought of the latter. There was no way that he was going to tempt fate by appearing as an early version of Darth Vader. The Hellmouth was far too freaky a place to even think about that.
So. Obi-Wan Kenobi it was. In his early days, of course. His early, unbearded days. Which just left the question of garb, as his army fatigues were obviously not the right part at all.
Hunting through his closet he got lucky when he found his old dressing gown, which had been washed so many times that it had gone a sad off-white colour that matched an off-white old pair of jeans. With some boots to set it off (he honestly couldn't remember what kind of shoes Obi-Won had worn in the films) and the red-brown cowled robe that his mother had picked up in her student days during a trip to Morocco, and he had his costume. All that remained was a belt, from which he clipped his lightsabre.
Looking at the overall effect in a mirror he had to admit that it wasn't bad.
And the chances were that Willow was going as a ghost again, which meant that there would be a pretty odd collection of trick-or-treaters on the streets of Sunnydale.
Ethan Rayne was ready. He had closed the shop, assembled all the ingredients he needed for the spell and almost chuckled himself hoarse at the sheer amount of chaos he was going to inflict on this miserable town.
He still wasn't sure quite why Ripper had settled here. It was possible that it was just the lure of the Hellmouth, although Ripper was now dear old fluffy where-did-I-put-my-cocoa Rupert. On the outside anyway. From one of his contacts he'd heard that the Slayer was in town, but that seemed unlikely. Besides the last time he'd heard mention of the Slayer she was in Jamaica.
No, it was enough to start the ball rolling and start up chaos, a chaos augmented by the immense natural power of the Hellmouth. This was going to be fun.
He started the ritual.
Walking around town with a number of pre-teenage kids on a Halloween candy hunt was not anyone's idea of fun. At all. But Willow found it all a kind of fun. It was kinda neat watching the reaction of the kids to the candy and it was even neater watching the way that people staggered back in mock- shock at some candy-smeared eight-year-old in a costume that started off neat and then, almost by magic, became disarranged.
She looked around. Her group were collecting their candy from Mrs Shaplinski, who had retired from school a few years back and was probably quite glad not to be teaching any more. She was far too kind to be in the same school as Principal Snyder, who was just mean. Buffy, resplendent in her dress, was leading her crocodile of kids up the road towards them and Xander had his in a circle around him and was lecturing them on how to get yet more candy by looking sad and pathetic. Tears, she could see him saying were okay, but were the weapon of the last resort. By the eager way that the kids were nodding, she could see that the Harris School of Halloween Tricks had a new generation. Well, at least he looked quite the Jedi. Obi- Wan Kenobi himself, all long flowing robes and with the lightsabre clipped to his belt. Grinning she moved on.
"-Janus, Carpe Noctem!" The room shook slightly and a cold wind swept through, drying some of the sweat that was standing from his face. Something seemed to pass through him and the blood on his eyelids and hands burned for a second. He had the God's attention. "Showtime," he whispered, pleased.
A wind passed over Sunnydale, cold and yet hot at the same time, dry and wet, hungry and satiated. Something seemed to be looking down at the place, something that was hungry above anything else. The last priest of Janus had died one and a half millennia ago and since then the flame of his memory had been kept alight by dabblers, acolytes, madmen and the occasional true believer. Janus, the old Roman god whose Temple in Rome was now thronged with unbelieving tourists, who represented the door, or the opening, was happy with this night. He looked down and saw the marks on the costumes below him. The way was open for him. What a good joke. He breathed over the streets and chaos followed in his wake, as red paint became red skin, plastic became bone and masks became faces. They had chosen their costumes. They would become their costumes. Be careful what you wish for...
Willow came to her feet with a start. Her head hurt, she felt sick and her ghost costume had fallen off. She looked around and then almost fainted. There was a figure lying close to her feet, dressed in her ghost costume. Shaking all over she was about to bend down to check it out when she heard a long scream - and then another. More screams, shouts, snarls and what sounded like a howl in the distance.
Her first thought was for Buffy, her second being for Xander. Xander! He was just standing in the middle of the road, staring around at the running people around him with a strangely calm look on his face.
This was certainly not Coruscant, thought Obi-Won Kenobi wryly. For one thing it was far too dark and primitive. Street lighting of some sort lit the scene around him and the road surface beneath him was made of some sort of crude chemical synthetic. The stars were wrong as well, he couldn't recognise a single pattern, let alone a single star. He put his hand to his chin and then looked down, startled for the first time. His beard was gone! He ran his hands over his face and frowned. This felt very wrong. His face felt... unfamiliar, he was stuck on a backwater planet that made Tatooine look like an industrial centre and... there were things around him.
He paused and used the Force to sense the feel of the area. That felt wrong as well... he could detect human forms tainted by something else, not the dark side but something more primeval and chaotic. He sensed someone approaching from behind and he whirled, using the Force to propel his lightsabre into his hand. Then he relaxed. He sensed nothing dangerous coming from the person, although the sound of the familiar buzz as the blue blade extended itself might have been a touch comforting. He kept it deactivated though, as all he was sensing from the person was extreme worry. Instead he found himself looking into the eyes of a very startled- looking redheaded girl in a tight top that bared her midriff and a short skirt.
"Whoa," she squeaked in a high voice, "Xander, how'dya do that?"
Obi-Wan frowned. Here was yet another thing to add to the number of wrong things around him. She felt... odd. Half there, as if her mind was in front of him but her body was elsewhere.
"I think you must have me confused with someone else, miss. I'm not a Xander, whatever that is. I'm not even sure where I am. Can I ask which planet I'm on and how far I am away from the Galactic Republic?" he said, frowning as something that was large and uncoordinated flapped overhead.
"Xander, quit messing around and sounding all British, something majorly weird is going on here," she insisted, a frown of her own forming.
"I'm sorry, but my name is Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, miss, not this Xander you keep going on about. I don't know who you are or where this place is, but I do suggest you find a place of safety, as I don't think that this is a very safe area. Something seems to be affecting the people around here and some of them are not exactly human. Tell me where you need to go and I'll escort you." Then he paused. That was a good point. They were all human, or almost human. He couldn't sense any aliens in the area. That was odd.
There was a noise that was half-roar and half-bellow behind them and Kenobi turned to see something hairy walking towards them. It looked like a badly shaved dwarf Wookie but felt partly human, with that strange dark taint present again. Whatever Kenobi was about to do obviously alarmed the red- head, because she squeaked again: "No, Xander, Kenobi, whatever, there's a little kid in there. It's not a monster, that's a kid!"
Pausing he shrugged and flicked an eyebrow. "Very well." There was a surge as he used the Force to propel the creature, whatever it was, ten metres back into a large bush, where it struggled for a brief moment before righting itself and then lurching off in a less dangerous direction, whilst roaring in a rather self-conscious way.
Then he turned back to the redhead and snapped his lightsabre back onto his belt. "Can I ask if you have an explanation for all of this, miss?"
She was still staring at the bush where he had propelled the creature before shaking her head and transferring the stare back to him. "Okay," she said, "Looks like Xander, but not quite Xander. I'm Willow. We need to find Buffy. Um, blond-haired girl – I mean brown tonight – and wearing a red dress and she's the Slayer... uh, a powerful warrior. And this is too freaky for words."
As they wandered down the road, if it could be called that, the redhead babbled a great deal about needing the Slayer, whatever a Slayer was. Then he caught sight of a girl in a very odd mode of dress that fitted his companion's description. She was lying on some grass in front of a metal prong with a tube of some kind running from it. Every now and then it would whir and shoot water in a circle around it.
"Buffy!" cried the redhead and, running forward, stretched her hand out to grasp the girl's hand, only for it to pass straight through her. She gaped at this and staggered. Kenobi raced up to her.
"I sense that you aren't entirely there," he said tersely. "Now I need to know what's going on? What's happening?"
"I don't know," she wailed, holding her hands up in front of her face and clasping and unclasping them. "I'm like..." She stopped dead and stared at him. "A ghost. I dressed... as a ghost... and you were dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Buffy..."
There was a groan from ground level and Kenobi looked down distractedly. This made no sense. He had dressed as himself? And Willow, odd name, had dressed as a ghost? Everyone knew that ghosts were just myths, although the Mon Calamari told odd tales of ocean spirits that... he shook his head and calmed himself down. There had to be a good explanation to all this. It was just a question of asking the right questions and trusting in the Force.
The brown-haired girl stirred and then opened terrified eyes. One look at the two people standing over her and she was scurrying backwards on her hands and feet, finally coming to rest against a bush.
"Who are you people," she whimpered, "Where am I? This isn't Boston, there are strange things here... I was at the Colonel's mansion, and there was someone from the Black Watch and Quebec had fallen to General Wolfe and there was a celebration and... I was here. What is this place? Why does that thing squirt water? What was that metal moving carriage?"
"Okay," said Willow, "Calm down. Your name is Buffy, and I am Willow and this is..." She hesitated and looked up at Kenobi. He sighed and bowed formally.
"Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, my lady, at your service."
She perked up at this. "A knight? Such a strange name though, are you one of the Knights of the Order of St John?"
He thought rapidly. The name meant nothing to him and he could not lie. But he could tell the truth from a certain point of view. "No, my Lady, I am from Coruscant. I do not think that you have heard of us here."
Willow looked at the two of them and seemed to come to a decision. "Okay, we need to get to safety. Buffy's house – abode, place of residence or whatever. Follow me? Sheesh. Why couldn't she have dressed like Xena?"
The dwelling place was just as primitive as the street had been, but for the first time Kenobi had the chance to test the improbable theory that the redheaded girl – Willow – had told them. He looked into a mirror and for the first time that night almost lost control of himself. The face that looked back at him was that of a dark-haired young man, nothing like his own. Shocked he sank down on the chair behind the mirror and concentrated on the force. The words of old Master Yoda appeared in his mind; "Trust in the force, yes, in force and wrong you cannot be, yes, young Obi-Wan."
"What has been done to me – to us?" he muttered, as he looked at the now almost hysterical young woman in the red dress as she gaped at the mirror and shrieked about not looking like she should. If he hadn't been told that she was a great warrior he would never have guessed, as she was currently doing a very good impression of a panicky teenager. Which is what she looked like.
Willow turned around and looked at him. "I don't know, but I need to talk to Giles – he's a good guy, bit like..." she strained visibly for the right words before finding inspiration, "Our version of Yoda! But without the itty-bitty body and the greenness and the ears, and the grammar..." her voice wound down she he stared levelly at her. Then she turned back to the others, the recently arrived man who felt both wrong and yet right in the force, like light and darkness occupying the same place, and the selfish silly girl in the bizarre feline costume. "Okay. I'll go talk to Giles. Keep them here, keep them safe."
Then she walked through the wall.
Obi-Won stared for a moment and then sighed. Based on what she had said, it was turning out to be a long night. Then he paused and stared back at the man.
"You're not human," he said levelly. The man – Angel, Willow had called him – gaped at him, while the other girl in the cat costume snorted and muttered something about Harris losing it completely before disappearing off to something called the bathroom.
Angel looked at him. "You're dressed as a Jedi," he said doubtfully.
"I am a Jedi," said Kenobi dryly as he walked up to the window and looked out, moving the odd hangings away from his line of sight. Something with horns on its head was walking up to the front door and he used the force to spin it round and propel it into a bush. He seemed to be doing that a lot tonight.
Turning back he looked at this Angel creature. A figure of light seemed to be superimposed over some kind of creature, both trapped in a dead body. It felt odd just looking at him.
"What are you?" He asked quietly.
"A vampire with a soul," came the reply. "How can you be a Jedi, here?"
He smiled. "The Force is the Force. It's an energy field that surrounds us and protects us, that binds the Universe together. It's all around us. It is us, although you put out an odd feeling in it my friend, an odd feeling." He held out his hand and his lightsabre snapped up into it. "We have company," he added grimly and the blue blade hummed into life.
"Where's Buffy," asked Angel, and then things got very complicated. Something that was a vampire without being a real vampire was in the house, Buffy had vanished screaming into the night after seeing Angel's vampiric face and Obi-Wan Kenobi was running in search of her. He had to protect the innocent. Even if she had no idea who she really was. But he was a Jedi.
His chest was on fire, his cheekbone felt broken and two of his fingers were sticking out at odd angles. From his position on the floor Ethan Rayne spat out a gobbet of blood and smiled. "There's the Ripper I know," he said. A boot thudded into his right kidney and he hunched over it, retching. Rupert Giles leant over him.
"I'm tired of asking this: how do you stop the spell?" he ground out between clenched teeth. "Ethan..."
The tip of the boot came back again and Ethan realised that enough was enough.
"Smash the idol!"
Spike was annoyed. He had the bitch of a slayer in the perfect position to kill her and then Harris turned up. A dark-haired little wanker who, by his clothes and his little sodding silver cylinder, thought he was a bloody Jedi. And he'd just strolled in here, with two of Spike's own minions following him and looking bloody baffled. Although he had to admit that his voice was impressively British upper class.
The vampire sighed. "And what the bloody hell do you think you're doing, Harris?"
There was a horrible buzzing noise as what looked to be a real lightsabre activated itself. "My name," said Harris, "Is not Harris but Obi-Wan Kenobi. From what I have been told, I'm just a guest here. But if you do not release her, I will have to kill you."
There was a blur and Spike's now headless minions exploded into dust.
Suddenly Spike's mouth felt very dry.
Back came the blue blade and then forwards and just before it hit him... it didn't. Instead he found himself looking at a very confused-looking Harris, who let out an "Eep," of fear, before springing backwards, still clutching what was a Star Wars prop and nothing else.
"Gotcha," said Spike and then suddenly the Slayer was standing in front of him, her wig gone and her glare firmly in place.
"Guess what?" She said sweetly, "Normal service has resumed."
Tidying up was turning out to be less of a nightmare than they had thought. Fortunately there hadn't been as many deaths as they had feared, although the sheer amount of fury that Buffy was feeling over being reduced to a crying 18th Century helpless unemancipated girl was impressive. Giles was also annoyed and frankly no one had suspected that the man had such hidden depths... not to mention such hidden darkness.
For one person however, the night had brought a hidden problem. Xander Harris sat in a quiet part of the library and stared down at a pencil a few yards away from him on the floor. After a while it started to slowly move towards him, then accelerated up and smacked into his hand. He sighed. He could feel Obi-Won's knowledge, feel his mastery of the force. Damn it, he could feel the force on his own.
He had a problem.