Title : Dark and Dangerous
Author : spikesdeb
Rating : PG
Summary : Beth Tennant is a powerful witch and stuck in Sunnydale far away from home. As far as she is aware, she is an orphan with no family, the closest to it is Lucas Varden a practitioner of dark arts and a forceful personality. But when she receives an e-mail from a stranger, she begins to doubt every certainty she has ever known.
Disclaimer : Any reference to persons living or dead is coincidental. Characters referenced from BtVS belong to Joss Whedon et al, as does my fangirl heart for providing such delicious fodder for the muse:) Beth Tennant, Lucas Varden and other original characters are figments of my strange and unsettling imagination.
Beth Tennant sipped her coffee and watched the world go by outside the Espresso Pump. People walked in pairs and groups, chatting and smiling in the late afternoon sunshine. She sat here, the same table at the same time, every Tuesday before heading back to Sunnydale High to take an evening class in Drama and Dance. Well, ostensibly that was what it was. In reality it was an opportunity for her to sound out and select likely pupils.
Beth Tennant was a witch. Not your comic book, lives with her cat and her ditzy aunts type of witch. She was the real deal, dark powers, communing with evil, the full hit. But not by choice.
27 years ago....
The wind blew, gusting the dead leaves that littered the ground into eddies of whirling colour. The dark grey car that sped through the night scattered the artfully piled vegetation, nature having to start anew.
"Faster man! We have to be there within the hour or all is for naught."
Lester sighed, but bit his lip on the snide retort. He was driving a thirty year old museum piece, and his master wanted him to go faster? It would take a magician.
Of course, his master was a magician, and a very powerful one at that, in charge of a coven numbering fifty seven. And tonight, that number was to rise to fifty eight if Lucas Varden had anything to do with it.
"Yes sir, Mr Varden. I'll do my very best."
Lucas Varden relaxed back into his seat, not content but sufficiently reassured to unclench his jaw. He just had to get there in time, he had to. It had been foretold that the infant was destined to be his greatest work, and he was not going to let her die, doctors be damned. The mother was sick after the birth, so he'd heard – but that was no matter, she was of no consequence. The power didn't pass to her from the maternal side; her father was the great witch James Tennant whose exploits were legendary. Lucas had promised her late father that when the child was born he would take over her raising, the dying man not content to leave it to her mother. The babe's mother was merely chosen for her genes, her colouring and temperament. It was never intended that she would take any active part in her daughter's life. Her death would be a happy accident that meant Lucas could dispense with his regrettable yet necessary plan to orphan the child.
Unfortunately, the mother – Sarah – had a sister and an aunt that had not shown on first screening. A flogging for the sorry boy that had overlooked the living relatives had gone some measure to making Lucas feel better, but he would not be satisfied until he had snatched the newborn infant away and set in motion the story that both mother and daughter had passed in childbirth.
Hence the rush to arrive at the leafy private hospital in the backwaters of Liverpool. If the sister and the aunt should persuade the staff to allow them admission to the heavily warded room in which the screaming baby lay it would be a hefty complication.
"Time?" barked Lucas from the creaking leather seat.
Lester checked the time and informed his master that they should be at the hospital in about twenty minutes.
Lucas smiled to himself. It would be done.
+ + + +
Present day, Sunnydale
Beth drained her cup and stood, leaving enough to cover the bill and a tip. /Check!/ she admonished herself – not bill, check. She'd been in Sunnydale for four years now, surely she should be thinking in American English and not her native tongue? Wasn't as if she would be going home any time soon, despite her tear-filled pleas. Lucas wouldn't budge an inch, insisting that her work was important to the cause and she had to remain in Sunnydale awaiting the arrival of their greatest ally.
He wouldn't expand on his words, but every request to return home was denied. Lucas was the nearest she had to family, her father dead as she was in the womb and her mother dying giving her life. Both parents had no living relatives, so Lucas had been good enough to step in and raise her, giving her stability and a purpose. There had been many times over the years when Beth questioned her mentor's actions and motives, but somehow she came away from each confrontation with a muzzy head and little recollection of the conversation.
That was the problem with being cared for by a master magician; reality and imagination blurred into one. And the magic. It became all-encompassing; spell-casting, mind invasion, bewitchment of objects and people. It was second nature to her, but she didn't care for the darker arts. Lucas insisted she study though, told her it was important.
So; Sunnydale. It wasn't a bad place on the whole. There was enough to keep a witch occupied, more than enough if you took a proper interest. Beth had experienced a privileged upbringing in England, a private tutor until the age of seven, then private school, a finishing school, and a course in assertive behaviour. But she truly hadn't lived until she'd come to America and been responsible for her own well-being. Lucas encouraged her to use her powers to make her life more comfortable. It was boringly easy and she tried to manage without resorting to magic.
But in Sunnydale all she had was her cat; some stereotypes were true. Neccessity had forced her hand and she soon had full-on Fantasia type assistants dashing about to cater for her every need. After all, she'd never even made herself a cup of tea before. No reason to start now that she was free of the nest and without adult supervision for the first time ever.
It got tedious after a while though. There were only so many inanimate objects she could bewitch with any degree of success that would prove useful in the home. And the feeling of being naughty didn't keep her warm at night. She missed her home. She missed Lucas.
At first she did, anyway. It was only while out of his immediate sphere of influence that she came to question what exactly he had planned for her.
And why every time she told him that she'd found a boy or girl with innate talent, that child soon disappeared from Sunnydale.
+ + + +
Lucas replaced the receiver on the cradle and sat back in his overstuffed leather chair. Yet again Beth was questioning him; he didn't know what had gotten into the girl. His decision to send her to the Hellmouth unchaperoned seemed, with hindsight, to have been a little reckless. She was used to firm discipline and the hitherto unknown freedom had changed her. Little by little she was heeding him less and stretching her boundaries. It couldn't continue. Either she would have to be reined in or she would have to be dealt with. Then there was the disturbing news that the sister of Beth's dead mother was trying to track her down. It may all be a fishing expedition of course, but steps would have to be taken to see an end to it.
He hoped he could reach Beth and bring her back to his side. He hated to admit it, but he was fond of the girl. Lucas Varden, master sorcerer and a man known for his lack of emotion, had allowed a young witch into his heart. He was proud of her. Beth was an accomplished witch with natural talent and a hunger to learn. She had an unfortunate tendency to the lighter side of magic, herbs, earth goddess worship and the like. Lucas had bombarded her with every dark art he knew, and she was good at it; but she didn't embrace it as he did. Time apart from him and the coven had relaxed his grip on her.
It was time to bring her home. Dead or alive.
+ + + +
Beth clicked on the internet and signed into the site she spent all her spare hours on just lately. Class had been interesting, but when she'd reported back to Lucas that she had no likely apprentices for yet another term, he'd become angry and she'd ended the call in tears. Now, she was back to surfing the internet and looking for some solace. The familiar screen popped up – 'Search for your Ancestors'. She logged in and started playing catchup with the pages of posts she'd missed over the last few days.
She knew she wouldn't find any living relatives, but she needed to know where she came from. Lucas hadn't even been able to tell her her mother's parents' names, nor give her a picture. Oh, she knew all about her father and his legendary exploits. There were pictures aplenty of him, and books, and magical amulets. Her father was worshipped at the coven. But her mother was almost anonymous. She used to accept it as the norm, but being away from the coven had awoken in her a yearning to belong to somewhere, to somebody.
She just wanted to know if she was anything like her. So, after attending an interesting talk at the library she was now in the throes of tracking her mother's family down. Anything she could find out would be a help and would soothe her ache. She almost missed the post as she mused on her life.
Frantically, Beth clicked back, hoping she wasn't seeing something merely because she wanted to so much. No. There it was. A post addressed to her, the e-mail address a '.co.uk'. Somebody from home. Heart racing,she clicked on the link to open the message.
/To: Beth Tennant
From: Jennifer Barratt
Subject: Your Mother
Sorry to simply write to you like this and post it on a public forum, but you didn't give a contact address. I will just ask the question outright; was your mother Sarah Marshall?
I only ask because if she was, I am your aunt. Sarah Marshall was my sister but she died in childbirth. If not, sorry to bother you. If there's any possibility that you could be my niece, please contact me at the address above.
Beth stared at the screen. Could this be her aunt? But, why would Lucas tell her that she had no family if she did?
Had her mother really died?
Beth could feel the power building inside, threatening to burst from her in uncontrollable rage. She struggled to contain it, screwing her eyes tight shut and muttering incantations to stem the rising power.
The message was still there when she opened her eyes. With shaking hands she framed a reply.
/To: Jennifer Barratt
From : Beth Tennant
Subject: Re: Your Mother
I received your message. Can we talk? My mother was called Sarah Marshall and she did die giving birth to me, but I was told I had no relatives and that my mother was an only child. It's probably a coincidence but I would be happy to speak to you.
I was born in Liverpool in England 27 years ago. I am currently in America working.
Please get in touch. My e-mail address is above.
She pressed send and sat back in her chair. She probably wouldn't get a reply tonight; it was about 4.00 am in the UK and Jennifer Barratt, whoever she was, would be in bed. Beth was too wound up to sit and do nothing so she grabbed her bag and coat and headed into Sunnydale's nightlife.
The Bronze was rocking, the music thrumming through her veins as soon as she walked in. She grabbed herself a rum and coke, sipping on it as she scanned the crowd. She hadn't really made any friends here; not that she had many friends at all back home either. Lucas didn't approve of her mixing with 'outside' people and the members of the coven were too afraid of him to form an acquaintance with his particular favourite. Beth found it difficult to mix with anybody therefore, preferring to stay on the sidelines and watch others.
She made her way to the balcony where she stood in the darkness, out of sight. She let her eyes drift shut and utilised her other senses. She could feel the presence of power there, some strong auras overlapping and whirling as the owners of them moved around. Some dead auras: vampires or other demons. A few peculiar ones. The Slayer.
Oh yes, she knew about the Slayer. 'Vampire Slayer' supposedly, but since the latest one had arrived in Sunnydale seven years ago she'd been systematically slaughtering vampires and other demons with no distinction. Lucas had given Beth strict instructions that she was not to interact with her, at least not yet. Again, he'd implied that there was a master plan and that the day would be coming soon when they'd be joined by an ally to fulfill their destiny.
Beth frowned; she didn't like the sound of that at all. What was it that she sensed? Something...her eyes shot open. That was impossible. The whole vampire with a soul thing was just a rumour; so why was that the very thing she was sensing now?
And who was it?
+ + + +
Spike trailed after the Slayer like a loyal puppy, head bowed. He still wasn't used to being around her, the soul kicking at her proximity and screeching in his head that he didn't deserve to be near her. Buffy had no idea how hard it was to just be in the same room as her.
But it was helping; he felt as if he was doing penance for...for the thing. It would probably take forever, and even then it wouldn't be right, but by helping her he felt like he was beginning to make amends.
Buffy turned and smiled at him, nodded her head to beckon him on and he went, a slight smile on his lips. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep him going knowing that she at least didn't hate him any more.
His eyes drifted upwards to the still, silent figure on the darkened balcony; she was staring right at him, her eyes black. Spike didn't have time to think about it, hurrying after Buffy as she left the club.
Beth Tennant filed the information away for future use. The vampire Slayer had a souled vampire in tow. Lucas would be pleased with her.
+ + + +
It took two nights for Jennifer Barratt to reply to Beth's e-mail. The flashing envelope on the computer's desktop demanded attention, but Beth was nervous and kept putting it off. Eventually, she clicked it open, swallowing nervously.
/To: Beth Tennant
From: Jennifer Barratt
Subject: Your Mother
I can hardly dare to believe it, but everything you wrote has convinced me that you are my sister's daughter. I was told you'd died, but the cult your mother was wrapped up in wouldn't release the body. I was always suspicious that you weren't really dead, but there was little I could do. The hospital gave me two death certificates, one for your mother and one for you. There was no name on yours – just 'baby Tennant'.
About thirteen years ago, a nurse at the hospital where you were born sent me a letter. She was an old lady and said she wanted to die with a clear conscience and couldn't go to her grave with the secret she was about to tell me. She gave me details of your birth and the fact that she, along with other staff, was ordered to tell me and my aunt – your great aunt Sophie – that Sarah was dead and you gone with her. She wrote that it was impossible to disobey the order, the very act of talking about it causing the memory to fade and become confused.
She found that now that she was slipping away from life she was able to keep things clear in her head and wanted to make things right.
Dear Beth; what I have to tell you may shock you. I don't know where you've been or what you've been doing all of your life, who has been looking after you. If you are still attached to the cult that took your mother's life then I may be placing myself in danger; but I still have to tell you what I know.
The cult – your mother claimed it was just a group of people wishing to live simple lives away from the modern world, but I now know different – killed her.
Sorry to be so stark, but I believe that to be the truth. The old nurse told that on the night of your birth, a man arrived to spirit you away, going into your mother's room and coming out some minutes later with you swaddled in his arms, coldly informing the staff that your mother had died. He suggested that she'd suffered a heart attack, and that was the cause of death noted on the certificate. He also gave orders that you were stillborn and that he would dispose of the body.
Strangely, even though the nurse when she wrote remembered you, your colouring and the fact that you were crying loudly, at the time it was just accepted that what he said was the truth. It was assumed that he was a medical man and the certificates were issued.
I have been investigating her death, and your disappearance, ever since the letter. The signatures on the death certificates proved to be false, but despite all my efforts I couldn't get the authorities to take notice of me. They dismissed me as being a crazy old lady. Maybe I am. But I have to tell you what I know.
I don't believe in magic, especially not black magic – but I can see no logical explanation for what happened. It all seems so fanciful; maybe the old nurse was mistaken, her brain addled for some reason. I don't know what to think any more. If it is dark magic, and the cult is an evil organisation, I could be placing you and myself in mortal danger. I sound crazy even to myself.
Beth; I am going to leave you with a telephone number. You can contact me there if you wish. If you simply want to ignore this as insane ramblings, well that is a matter for you of course. But the fact that you were posting on this site gives me hope that you were searching for the truth of your birth and cannot just walk away from a possible explanation.
I will not leave any other details with you. I fear that my delving has made me enemies. There is no point concealing my identity, as the cult is more than aware who I am. I am living under an alias now, however, and I don't believe they know where I am or what I am calling myself. The telephone number is a disposable mobile; I will keep it for one week only. If you don't call, I won't contact you again.
I wish you well, whatever you decide.
Beth gasped. Her mother murdered? Was it really her mother anyway? Her head was whirling with the possibilities. And this cult that the woman wrote about – it couldn't be Lucas and the coven, could it?
She felt sick. A brief visit to the bathroom later, she sat down at the screen and re-read the message. She had to speak to Lucas, ask him once again about her mother and her mother's family.
Beth dialled the number, not caring about the lateness of the hour. Lucas rarely slept anyway, and this was something that she needed to do now before she over-analysed everything she'd read.
The phone rang out; no reply. Beth re-dialled Lucas, using his office number. Nothing. Becoming anxious, she checked the number in her diary and lifted the receiver to dial Ms Brannan, Lucas' assistant. If anybody would know where he was, she would. The phone was answered, a sleepy voice warbling 'hello'.
"Elaine? Is that you? It's Beth. Look, I know it's late, I'm sorry – but I need to speak to Lucas urgently. I've tried his office and home, but there's no reply. Do you know where he is?"
Elaine Brannan knew exactly where he was. He was presently on a chartered jet to America. But she wasn't going to divulge that to Beth Tennant.
"Beth? No, I'm sorry. You know he doesn't like to be disturbed sometimes; maybe he's in a trance or something. I'll let him know you're trying to trace him tomorrow. Don't worry; you'd know if he was in danger. Go to sleep, I'll call you tomorrow."
Beth reluctantly ended the call, promising not to worry. For once she found that she wasn't worried about Lucas, or at least, not worried about his well-being. She was worried what he was up to and how he would react to her questions.
She suddenly felt very alone in a foreign country.
Tears choking her, she turned off the computer and headed to bed.
It was just after 3.00 am when the banging at her door woke her. Grabbing a heavy spellbook for use as a bludgeon and muttering protection spells under her breath she tiptoed to the front door.
"Beth! It's Lucas – please let me in. I'm sorry for the late hour, but I've just landed."
Lucas. Here. Was it coincidence that a lady claiming to be her mother's sister had just contacted her and warned her of possible danger? It sent a shiver down her spine; she didn't know who to trust. And for the first time in her life, the one person she usually confided her fears in may well be the threat that had her shaking.
"Beth? Are you there. Hurry girl, I've been travelling for hours."
+ + + +
"And you're sure it's in Sunnydale?"
"Giles, I'm sure. The coven have traced a huge power here, dark and dangerous; and don't look at me like that, it's not me! Why does everybody think it's me if it's dark and dangerous? Oh...yeah; maybe that's a stupid question..."
"Willow; I know you're nervous. But everybody knows you've worked through your issues. They trust you, I trust you. I've seen how hard you've been holding the power in. We're all very proud of you. I know it wasn't easy to carry on after the First Evil passed into you, and still you came through when you were needed."
"Makes me shiver to think about it. But yeah – no black-eyed veiny girl, so yay me!"
Giles smiled at her, hoping to convey his support. Willow was still very fragile and afraid of using her power in case it took her over. She was an extremely powerful witch but a recovering addict; her recovery would be slow.
"So, Willow. Is this power a danger?"
"Ethnae wasn't sure. But we need to locate the source. You can bet if we know, the First Evil knows – and if it gets to him or her first..."
"Yes, quite. I see your point." Giles sat down heavily, removing his glasses in classic fashion. It made Willow smile. A familiar gesture to remind her she was with friends. "So, how do we locate said power?"
"A spell. I have the ingredients here...I'm just stalling. The First Evil was yucky; I'm not in a big rush to taste that again."
"I'm here. You're not alone."
Willow felt a rush of warmth flood through her; she was not alone. Anything else she could deal with.
"Okay; here goes..."
+ + + +
Beth awoke feeling drained, the slight headache testament to the fact that somebody had probed her mind. It must be Lucas; but what would the man she thought of as her father want to do that for? She loved him, she would do anything he asked. She sat upright, remembering that he was here.
"Lucas!" Beth bounced out of bed and shot into the living room. Lucas sat in front of her computer, brow furrowed as he trawled through her files. He looked up, eyes stormy as she stood at his side.
"Lucas! I'm so pleased you're here."
"It looks as if I'm here just in time. Did you reply to this e-mail?"
Beth leant forward to see what he was reading. She read the opening line, her lips moving soundlessly.
"Re Your mother? But my mother's dead. Who sent this?"
Lucas let out his breath in a sigh of relief. His mind probe from the night before had obviously worked. Beth had no recollection of the e-mail or the information it contained. His hold over her hadn't totally disappeared. But it was time to take her home and away from the temptations in this town.
Until the final battle of course. The First Evil had need of Beth Tennant and was calling on its age old agreement with the half-demon known as Lucas Varden to deliver her to him. He'd been promised she wouldn't be harmed, would in fact be elevated to greatness. It was the culmination of all his plans.
Lucas stood and hugged his ward, grateful for the fact that she was no longer struggling against his influence.
"Just a crank, Beth. No need to worry. But you are coming home with me. Make ready; we have much to do."
Over his shoulder, Beth's mouth formed a silent 'o' of horror as the bewitchment from the previous night wore off. While Lucas had been probing her mind, Beth had been probing his. What she discovered, now that her mind had cleared, shattered every certainty she'd ever known and had her floundering for answers.
Lucas had murdered her mother. It had been plotted before she was even conceived, her father's premature death the only flaw in the plan hatched between the two old friends, Lucas Varden and James Tennant, to deliver a gifted witch to a hideous monster in sacrifice.
And that sacrifice was her.
+ + + +
Beth tried to stay calm, she couldn't afford to let Lucas know her thoughts were her own. She had to get out of there, get away. Where to, she didn't know, but she couldn't remain in this house with the man she'd loved like a father. The betrayal cut so deep she could scarcely breathe.
She did the only thing she could. She used her powers to escape. Going airborne took a lot out of her, but it got her away from Lucas. He would be able to track her, but she should just keep moving. She didn't know what else to do. Tears were tracking down her face when she set down on top of Kingsmans's Bluff. She didn't know why she was drawn here; the mound was bare of all vegetation for the most part and a strange edifice poked through the barren earth. It was covered in sigils and the power that emanated from it, although now dead, had obviously been great once not long ago. The signature that she could feel was that of an extremely powerful witch full of rage and anger; the darkness of the magic made her gasp. But overlaid on it was a sense of love and peace.
Beth sank to the ground, her back to the monument, and cried. Her tears fell for the mother she'd never known, the family she'd been dragged away from and for Lucas. For the man she thought he was and now knew he could never be. She cried for herself.
There was a shimmer at the side of her and she started, panic momentarily wiping any spells from her mind as she thought Lucas had tracked her. She didn't recognise the figure that materialised from an aerial journey; but she recognised the aura. It was linked to the bluff.
Willow knelt down in front of the woman and made eye contact. She was scared, Willow could see that. There was huge power there, power almost equal to her own but untried. The witch didn't know how strong she really was.
"Hey, I'm Willow. You're safe now; well, as safe as Sunnydale gets. Come with me." She held out her hand; after a minute of hesitation, Beth took it and got to her feet. She didn't really have much choice; either the red-haired witch was a friend or she was about to get ripped to shreds by a master magician. Either way, it would be an end.
"Beth. Beth Tennant. I'm..."
"It's okay. You can fill me in later. The coven want to get you safe."
Beth screamed, going limp in Willow's arms. It was all too much. She'd walked into a trap. Willow walked her away not knowing that Beth was convinced that she was going to her death.
From the shadows, Lucas Varden watched with hooded eyes. Willow Rosenberg; now wasn't her involvement interesting? The darkest witch to ever live, now redeemed to the light according to rumour. And she'd taken Beth. Question was, did Ms Rosenberg know about Beth and her involvement with the First Evil?
Lucas steeled himself for the battle to come. He just hoped that when it did, his little boobytrap buried deep in Beth's mind would still function.
He had debts to repay.