All previous parts can be found here.
Continued from Part 5A.
Part 5B: Slayers for Pele, Part 2
“Xander!” Cheryl involuntarily cheered.
“Indeed, it was he! The monsters followed him only half way to Renata’s,” Andrew said. “According to Our Brave Hero, the demons peeled off one by one and disappeared into the night until he and his Slayerly guardian angel found themselves running from absolutely nothing. He ran the rest of the way to Renata’s so he could call the Council house and find out if everything had been resolved.
“Well, at that point Paulo put Xander on speakerphone so everyone could hear his voice and be reassured that, yes, their Brave Heroes were alive. Paulo informed Xander that his heroic gambit did succeed in drawing the monsters off, thereby giving the delivery Slayer and her Watcher enough breathing room to turn over the magical items to our brave ally. However, even though the transaction had been completed, the horde of demons had returned and were even now howling for Slayer blood,” Andrew dramatically said. “‘Something in this house is drawing them here,’ Paulo told Xander. ‘Whatever it is, it’s strong enough to pull them away from you and bring them back here.’”
“I’m with Paulo,” Kristin said. “Two lone people running through the streets have to be easier pickings than a Council house. So it is weird for the demons to just give up the chase for no reason.”
“Indeed, Number One.” Andrew thought that Kristin deserved the designation since it was her idea that he tell a story. “It was all very mysterious. But Xander’s voice boomed out of the speaker and said, ‘Then whatever is causing all the problems has to still be there. If the magical items we know about aren’t the culprit, what about something that seems mundane? Furniture? Clothing? Jewelry? Knick-knacks from a vacation? Anything like that come into the house?’”
“Oh, oh. Something tells me that the Suriname Slayer is in big trouble,” Helen said.
“Well, I wouldn’t be exaggerating at all if I said that all eyes in the room pretty much did turn to her,” Andrew said. “That’s when Paulo figured out that it had to have been something she had brought into the house.”
“Wait, Xander didn’t figure it out?” Kristin looked surprised.
“Well, he wasn’t there, so he couldn’t see everyone’s reaction to the idea that the cursed object may have been disguised as something that didn’t seem at all magical,” Andrew said. “But he did figure out the lava rocks.”
“How? Like you said, he wasn’t there,” Helen pointed out.
“Well, he did show up. Ummm, sort of. Renata cast a spell on Xander so his hologram was present,” Andrew explained.
The four Slayers exchanged glances.
“I’m afraid to ask, but ‘hologram’?” Helen asked.
“It was exactly like a hologram, only kind of not. It wasn’t like Renata killed Xander and then used a computer program to create a hologram with all of Xander’s memories or anything like that. He wasn’t at all like poor Arnold Rimmer, BSc SSc, from Red Dwarf.” Andrew paused to sniff sadly. “Xander was alive and well at Renata’s, but his, ummm, spirit was teleported into the house so he could help with the investigation. Not that he could touch anything, because he totally couldn’t. In fact, he didn’t look like a real hologram either, because you could kind of see through him. But, he could talk to everyone and could see everything.”
“I didn’t know witches could even do something like that,” Susan said.
“Only the powerful ones,” Andrew assured her. “Like I said, Renata was powerful. Not nearly as powerful as Willow, of course, but pretty powerful.”
“I bet her bill for this was simply awesome to behold,” Helen chuckled.
“Well, it was a little bit steep, but it was totally worth it,” Andrew assured the Slayer. “Before Xander’s hologram appeared, the various Watchers and Slayers began taking up positions all around the house so they could fire arrows and crossbow bolts at will at the massing horde of demons to repel their immanent attack. The only people who didn’t go man the barricades were Paulo and Mariana, because they were busy questioning the Suriname Slayer about, well, everything,” Andrew said. “So, unh, I guess you can say the Suriname Slayer wasn’t involved in the defense of the house, either.”
“But she was involved!” Cheryl exclaimed. “She was helping Paulo and Mariana figure stuff out!”
“Cheryl’s right,” Susan said softly. “Sharing important information is helping, even if you think it’s going to make things worse.”
“That’s right,” Helen said as Kristin nodded her agreement.
“Then I consider myself duly corrected,” Andrew said as he bowed.
“And you, of course,” Helen said.
“What?” Andrew startled. “What about me?”
“You weren’t manning the barricades, because you were with Paulo, Mariana, Xander, and the Suriname Slayer and witnessing everything, right?” Helen said.
Andrew blushed to the roots of his hair. “You force me to admit that I wasn’t there. I, unh, was busy running from person to person to make sure that they had all the ammunition and weapons they needed and to deliver any important messages that needed to be delivered. Although, I did have my own crossbow waiting for me right near one of the front windows, so I was prepared to take up arms should the worst happen. So, no. I have to admit that I didn’t actually witness this next part. I only heard about it afterwards.”
“I was just wondering,” Helen cheerfully said.
“You must’ve been scared,” Cheryl sympathetically said. “I know I would be.”
Frankly, Andrew had been terrified as he scurried back and forth between weapons storage and each of the combatants. There were a lot of demons in that horde, and it was far, far scarier than he had led his little lambs to believe. In fact, he had been pretty sure that they were all going to die. Except for Xander and his guardian Slayer, because they were under the protection of a very powerful witch. Oh, and the delivery Slayer and her Watcher would survive simply because they weren’t even there.
“I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried,” Andrew reluctantly admitted.
Kristin gave her head a hard shake. “Wow. For you to admit that much? It must’ve been really, really bad.”
Andrew felt himself growing 10 feet tall. It was nice to realize that his students looked up to him and saw him as a Real Hero. “You have no idea. So, like I said, this part is the part I didn’t actually see. I heard about it afterwards.”
“Duly noted,” Helen solemnly nodded.
“In the middle of Paulo and Mariana questioning the Suriname Slayer, Xander’s hologram blipped into existence. While everyone reacted in shock, Xander quickly explained that he had Renata do a spell so he could come back, at least in spirit, and help with the investigation. Once everyone recovered, Paulo and Mariana began questioning the Suriname Slayer again. Except the Suriname Slayer was now getting really mad. She kept swearing up and down that she had never, ever experienced bad luck before she moved into the Council house, and that she didn’t carry anything into the house with her that was gift from a mysterious stranger or had been secretly tucked into her bags. Everything she brought with her was stuff that she had already owned, so she couldn’t be the one who was causing all the bad luck.”
“I feel very bad for her,” Cheryl said sympathetically. “They were basically accusing her without any proof.”
“You forgot the part where she did cause all the bad luck because of those stupid lava rocks,” Helen said.
“But she didn’t mean it. She didn’t even know,” Cheryl said. “So it’s not her fault.”
“You can’t blame people when they honestly don’t know that they’ve done something wrong,” Susan quietly added. She sighed. “She didn’t know.”
“Okay, okay. I feel bad for her, too,” Helen said with raised hands. “But they were right. If she was the only person to move into the house around that time, maybe she should’ve spent more time thinking and less time getting pissed off.”
“Helen’s right, too,” Susan sighed again.
“Guess I won’t count on you to break any ties, hunh?” Kristin jokingly said.
“I can see where everyone’s coming from,” Susan replied.
“So can I. And, as it turned out, so could Xander,” Andrew loyally said. “But when you’re in the middle of nasty badness, tempers can sometimes run a leeeetle hot. Which they did in this case. Things were heading right for a full-blown fight when Xander interrupted. See, he’d been quiet before now, mostly because he was trying to figure out what was going on. Good thing too, because that meant he had to listen really hard. In any case, he interrupted and said that he believed the Suriname Slayer.”
Kristin made a face. “Hunh? So how did he leap from believing her to finding out that she brought in the lava rocks that caused the mess in the first place?”
“What I mean is, Xander believed her when she said that she didn’t bring anything into the house that she didn’t already own. But, he pointed out, she could’ve bought something new just before she left home, say, some clothing, and brought it with her without knowing that it would cause problems. Paulo told Xander that they had been trying to tell the Suriname Slayer that all along and Xander responded that maybe Paulo and Mariana had been saying that, but they were doing it in a way that was very angry and accusing, so it was no wonder she was getting all defensive and stuff. At least, Xander added, it sounded to him like they were accusing her, instead of saying that she could’ve been put in a bad situation without even knowing about it. If the Suriname Slayer brought something bad into the house without knowing about it, then it was an accident, pure and simple, Xander said. And if a mistake was made, it certainly didn’t make the Suriname Slayer evil or even dumb. It was just a mistake, and no one could blame her for that, especially since she was still a little bit on the green side.
“Well, anyway, it was looking like Mariana and Paulo were going to start fighting with Xander about whether or not they were accusing Suriname Slayer of being evil or stupid, because they got really touchy,” Andrew said. “But before the argument could get too far, the Suriname Slayer finally spoke up. ‘Ummm, maybe it was something I bought in Hawaii,’ she said.”
“Hooray! They’re almost there!” Cheryl cheered.
“Yes,” Andrew nodded happily. “Xander’s ringing defense of her innocence, not to mention the fact that he had drawn Pualo’s and Marian’s angry, angry questioning away from her, gave the Suriname Slayer the opportunity to think. While Paulo, Mariana, and Xander circled each other as they prepared for the tricky art of the verbal battle, the Suriname Slayer realized that the only new things she had brought with her had come from Hawaii. If any of that stuff had been cursed, she realized, she wouldn’t know because she only had a three-day layover between coming back from Hawaii and moving to the Brasilia house. The bad luck probably wouldn’t have had a chance to start working its dark mojo on her before she was already snug in her new room with her new roommate.”
“Sounds to me like the Suriname Slayer figured it out, not Xander,” Helen smirked.
“No, Xander was the one who figured out that it was the lava rocks causing the problem,” Andrew was emphatic. “The Suriname Slayer was the one who pointed the way to the right path.”
“If you say so,” Kristin said.
“I do say so.” Andrew resisted the urge to stick out his tongue at her, because that would’ve been childish. “Anyway, upon hearing the Suriname Slayer say that maybe it was something she brought back from Hawaii, Xander, Paulo, and Marina asked her to bring them up to her room so they could look at the suspect merchandise. In short order, they were in her room and the Suriname Slayer was piling everything she thought might be the cause in the middle of the floor. There was a pair of flip-flops, a pair of sandals, three t-shirts, a skirt, a pair of shorts, two blouses, a snowglobe—”
“A snowglobe? From Hawaii?” Helen hooted.
“Well, it wasn’t a real snowglobe. Just a globe full of water that rained down sparkly stuff when you shook it,” Andrew said. “And, of course, the three lava rocks.”
“And that’s when Xander shouted, ‘Ah-ha!’” Cheryl declared.
“Weeeeellll, not right away,” Andrew said. “When the Suriname Slayer was done, Xander, Paulo, and Marina just looked at the pile with these lost looks on their faces. If anything in that pile was cursed, then a whole lot of people all over the world would be cursed as well. Everything she had put in the middle of the room seemed like it was the normal kind of stuff anyone would take with them from Hawaii.”
“Except for the snowglobe,” Helen interrupted. “Hate to say it, but I would’ve been looking really hard at that because, y’know, a snowglobe from Hawaii is just weird.”
“I told you. It wasn’t really snowglobe,” Andrew huffed. “Anyway, as Xander’s eyes — I mean, eye because the left eye is totally fake — wandered over the pile, he suddenly frowned. ‘What kind of rocks are those?’ he asked as he pointed to the lava rocks.”
“Here it comes,” Cheryl said with excitement.
Andrew nodded, “Yes, indeed! When the Suriname Slayer told him they were lava rocks that she had picked up on the beach, Xander’s frown got even deeper. ‘So, those are the only things you didn’t actually buy from a store?’ Xander asked. When the Suriname Slayer said yes, Xander immediately said it was possible the rocks had been booby-trapped with a curse and anyone who picked them up would be stuck with bad luck.”
“So it was all because the Suriname Slayer just happened to stumble across a booby trap?” Kristin asked.
Andrew wavered a hand. “Noooooot, exactly. See, Xander was close to the truth, but not quite there. He was right that the bad luck was attached to the lava rocks, but he was wrong about the cause. Heck, he even admitted to Paulo, Mariana, and the Suriname Slayer when they asked him why he was blaming the poor, innocent-looking lava rocks for all the trouble that he was only guessing it was lava rocks. He also admitted that he kind of hoped the lava rocks were to blame, mostly because he didn’t want to think about the can of worms that would open up if it turned out that something else. He figured it was better if they started with the easiest solution, especially since all the demons outside were going to attack at any minute.
“Anyway, after Xander admitted he was guessing, everyone was silent for a minute. Then Paulo said, ‘Worth checking.’ Mariana said, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose.’ The Suriname Slayer said, ‘I’m really sorry if I did cause all this.’ Xander told her not to worry about it, because if the lava rocks were the cause of all the bad luck, it really wasn’t her fault since she didn’t know. Once Xander reassured our Suriname Slayer, he told Paulo to call Giles and see if the Council research division knew anything about curses getting attached to lava rocks. When Paulo went off to call Giles, Xander asked Mariana to do some online research, just in case Giles couldn’t come up with an answer right away. So they all tramped down to the house library so they could do just that.”
“Online research. Good idea, especially since time was probably running out,” Susan said.
“Hey, are we going to get a big battle scene at all in this story, Andy?” Helen asked.
“Sorry. No battle scene,” Andrew said. “Mariana found the answer before the demons worked up the nerve to attack.”
“They found the answer by just using Google?” Kristin asked.
“Yup,” Andrew nodded proudly. “In fact, it was the very first link that Google returned when Mariana typed in the phrase ‘lava rocks Hawaii.’ Mariana, with Xander and the Suriname Slayer looking over her shoulder, immediately began reading a Web page that said, ‘Return Lava Rock to Hawaii!’ right across the top. The Web page explained that the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele views lava rocks as her children and that she gets very, very upset when those children are wrongfully kidnapped, or maybe I mean rock-napped, from Hawaii’s fair beaches.”
“Go Internet,” Susan weakly cheered.
Andrew nodded his agreement. “The Web page had all these stories about people experiencing bad luck after they had left Hawaii with the wrongfully purloined lava rocks. All of these people said their luck got progressively worse and worse until the heavy burden of life weighed them down and sapped them of their will to live.”
“According to the Web site, the best way to get rid of the bad luck was to send the lava rocks back to Hawaii as quickly as possible,” Andrew continued, “While Xander, Mariana, and the Suriname Slayer absorbed this, Paulo returned to tell them that the Council research division was working to find the answer. Before Paulo could finish delivering his message, Xander pointed at the Web page and told Paulo that the answer had already been found. Needless to say, Paulo was soon reading the Web site over Mariana’s shoulder. When he was done reading the information, Paulo said, ‘Superstitious rubbish.’ Mariana said, ‘I’m kind of having a hard time believing this, too.’ And Xander said, ‘Worth a shot. I’ve seen weirder things.’ The Suriname Slayer said, ‘Have I mentioned that I’m really sorry?’”
“So what did they do? Pop the lava rocks in the mail and wait a week for the curse to be lifted?” Helen asked. “Seems like a long wait when you’ve got the United Nations of demons circling your house.”
“Close,” Andrew said. “Xander suggested that the Suriname Slayer pack up the lava rocks so they could be mailed back to Hawaii at the first opportunity. There, unh, was a mailing address right on the page where people could send their lava rocks. The organization that ran the Web site promised to return all the lava rocks they received to their proper place as soon as they received them. While the Suriname Slayer scampered off to find an appropriate box, Xander told Mariana to use the email address on the Web site to compose an apology that was directly addressed to,” here Andrew took a deep breath, “the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele.”
“God, the Web site must’ve loved getting that email,” Kristin said.
“That was pretty much Mariana’s reaction, especially since Xander told her to write nothing less than the absolute truth,” Andrew said. “Including the part about Slayers and demons and how it was absolutely vital that the goddess Pele smile upon them because innocent lives were at risk.”
“Let’s add a ‘really’ in front of that ‘loved’,” Helen remarked.
“Actually, I don’t think they really got the email,” Andrew said. “Or if they did, it probably said something completely different.”
“How do you figure that?” Susan asked with a frown.
“I’m about to explain that,” Andrew said. “Well, Mariana typed up this really, really long email detailing absolutely everything that had gone wrong. She also typed up a really, really sweet apology explaining that the Suriname Slayer didn’t mean any offense, and that she’d send the lava rocks back ASAP, but first the horde of demons outside the house had to be vanquished before they could mail them back. When she was done, and after Paulo and Xander read it over and added a few extra items, she hit send. Then, the most amazing thing happened.”
“What? What happened?” Cheryl was now officially bouncing up and down in her seat.
“There was a flash of light that was soooo bright, that everyone was momentarily blinded. Even Xander was momentarily blinded, and he was only a hologram,” Andrew said. “When they could finally see again, they saw that the Web browser was no longer showing the ‘Return Lava Rock to Hawaii!’ page, but instead showed a picture of a Ti Plant, which is a mythological Hawaiian symbol of good luck. I think.”
“Wow,” Cheryl said.
“I have to admit, that does sound really cool,” Helen said.
“In the meantime, I had taken up my post by the front door with my crossbow,” Andrew continued. “As I prepared for the second bloodiest battle of my life — the bloodiest being the battle where I fought side-by-side with Anya against the forces of the First Evil itself — I saw the entire demon horde suddenly break apart. Some of the demons started fighting each other, but most of them just seemed to lose interest and drift away. That’s when we all knew. The curse was broken.
“Well, I was told to immediately go find Paulo and tell him that the crisis was over, so it was with a happy heart I did just that,” Andrew said. “I went to the library right away, since that was where I last saw Paulo. When I got there, I was shocked to see that a very ghostly looking Xander was there, too. I guess I must’ve looked really upset, because Xander quickly reassured that he wasn’t dead, just that his spirit was there via a spell. Right then, the Suriname Slayer ran back into the room with her packaged of lava rocks, ready to be mailed. ‘I made sure to include a little card telling Pele I was sorry,’” she said.
“Before I could ask what she meant by that — remember, I hadn’t yet heard the stirring true story about how the tireless efforts of the quartet solved all our problems — Xander asked me why I was there,” Andrew continued. “I explained that whatever they did to get rid of the bad luck, it worked. The demon horde was breaking off and melting into the cityscape around us.”
“Hooray! The house was saved!” Cheryl cheerd.
“No so fast, little one,” Andrew held up a finger. “You forgot about the people who lived all around us.”
“Oh, yeah.” Cheryl hunched her shoulders. “So maybe it’s not a happy ending after all.”
Andrew felt bad remonstrating her like that, especially since she was only getting into the spirit of the story. “Actually, it is a happy ending, mostly because we didn’t forget. Or maybe I mean Pele. Yeah, it was definitely Pele. Well, anyway, my news acted like an electric current. Xander’s hologram seemed to get paler as he looked at Paulo and said, ‘My God. Renata lives in a crowded section of the city. If they’re coming here, a lot of innocent people are going to get killed.’”
Susan sat straight up. “Why did Xander think the demons were going after him?”
Andrew shrugged. “Well, he and his guardian Slayer did lead them on a merry chase through the city streets, so Xander probably knew that they had his and his guardian Slayer’s scent in their nostrils, so to speak. Since the demons had been so cruelly robbed of the Council house, he probably figured they’d try to pick up the trail and hunt down their easy prey.”
“Iffy bit of reasoning there, but definitely better safe than sorry,” Helen remarked.
Susan just kept making a face and shaking her head, like she was thinking very, very hard about something.
“Well, Paulo definitely agreed with it. He told Xander that he would send the entire house out right away to make sure that every last member of the demon horde met their death by Slayer before anyone got hurt. Xander just nodded, and then he blipped out of existence like he was never there,” Andrew said. “Paulo was about to tell me to spread the word when all of a sudden a portal opened up.”
“Wait. You mean the story’s not over yet?” Kristin asked.
“Not quite,” Andrew admitted. “See, as it turns out, the portal was there to transport Willow back to Brasilia. As soon as she stumbled through the portal, she demanded that she see Xander as quickly as possible.”
“You’re kidding,” Helen deadpanned. “You mean to say that even though she was having huge problems of her own in Rio, she still decided to pop home to see Xander?”
“Or maybe she had stopped having problems,” Kristin said. “Remember, the bad luck was affecting her, too. So if the portal spell worked right, that means her troubles were probably over.”
“Exactly,” Andrew nodded. “I found out much later from Willow that her people suddenly scored a total victory over their evil opponents right about the same time that our demon horde started breaking up.”
“And the first thing she does is decide to share her victory with her best friend,” Helen giggled. “Yeah, tell me that there isn’t something funny going on between them. Kennedy’s a far more understanding girlfriend than I would be in her shoes.”
“It’s not like that,” Andrew huffed. “Willow herself told me that she was desperate to get to Xander because she needed his help.”
“But you said that Willow had just won,” Cheryl said with a frown. “So why did she need Xander’s help?”
“Well, to hunt down the stragglers, of course,” Andrew answered. “Willow told me that Xander was the closest field scout, geographically speaking, and they needed his tracking expertise.”
“You mean she couldn’t just cast a locator spell and do it herself?” Kristin asked with disbelief. “Is she the most powerful witch on the planet, or what?”
“She is, but Willow would be the first to tell you that sometimes doing things without magic is easier that doing things with magic,” Andrew insisted. “Besides, why all the questions? I mean Paulo and Mariana didn’t think it was at all weird that Willow was yelling for Xander.”
“They didn’t?” Susan suspiciously asked.
“Nope. They just told Willow that he was under a protective magical forcefield at Renata’s because the odds were good that a demon horde was heading his way,” Andrew said. “Willow immediately ran back to the portal while yelling that they had to contact Renata and tell her right away to lower the forcefield so she could teleport in and get Xander.”
“And no one even blinked at that,” Susan muttered. “Even though there was a horde of demons wandering through the city and they needed all the fighters they could get, they just let Willow spirit him away to Rio before he was done in Brasilia.”
“Yeah. That strikes me as weird, too,” Helen said.
“Me, three,” Kristin said.
“I, unh, I hate to say it, but I think that’s really weird, too,” Cheryl said.
“Look, Willow wouldn’t have insisted on taking Xander away from us if it wasn’t absolutely vital,” Andrew said. “Besides, as it turned out, we didn’t really need him.”
All of the Slayers looked at him with expressions of shock.
“It’s true,” Andrew said. “Because as we fanned out across the city to hunt down and destroy the demon horde we kept finding their dead bodies all over the place. As for the demons that started fighting each other as the horde broke up, they all killed each other without our help.”
“Hunh?” Kristin asked.
“It’s true. All of the demons just dropped dead. Or melted into goo. Or turned into dust. Or just disappeared,” Andrew insisted. “It was like some great hand came down and struck them dead.”
“Like the hand of a happy Hawaiian volcano goddess named Pele?” Cheryl eagerly asked.
Andrew nodded. “Exactly like that. In fact, not one person in all of Brasilia died that night. Well, if they did, they didn’t die because of a demon or vampire attack. So even though we started the evening believing that we would all die fighting a valiant, if losing, battle. We ended the night peacefully strolling through the streets of a sleeping city. And when the morning dawned, we looked up at the sky and saw the most beautiful rainbow any of us had ever seen arching its way over the peaceful city.”
“Wow,” Helen breathed.
“And it was all thanks to Xander Harris,” Cheryl said.