Story by CN Winters
Written by CN Winters
Produced and Directed by CN Winters
Edited by DragonWriter17
Sounds by CSR
Art Direction by Robert Kidman
Artists – Robert Kidman, CN Winters, Zahir al Daoud, Isis, Mattxxx and Humaira
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Afternoon
Rowena, Willow, Faith, Kennedy, Kadin, Xander, and Vi all sat at a rectangle table talking.
"Room for one more?" Jim asked as he walked up.
"Sure," Willow offered and motioned Rowena to scoot down. Rowena looked across to Faith, who stuffed some macaroni in her mouth to try to stop herself from grinning at Rowena’s discomfort.
"So," Jim began as he took his seat next to Willow. "How’s everyone’s day shaping up?" he asked.
"Pretty good," Xander answered. "I’ve found a manufacturer to make those automatic mini-crossbows. We should be able to have one for every slayer in the next few weeks."
"Excellent news," Jim commended. "I saw the ones that a few girls at the London bureau had, and I gotta tell you, they loved them. They got the job done and weren’t too bulky for them to carry."
"Thanks," Xander beamed.
"No, thank you," Jim replied. "That device saved Lexa’s hide last year. The vamp thought she was unarmed after she lost her stake but, poof, he was toast when she pulled that baby from her holster. Oh, speaking of vamps," he said as he leaned in front of Willow, "how goes your research, Rowena?"
"It goes," she commented. "I’ve got a meeting with a woman named Winchester today. She says she might know of other sources that the Council isn’t aware of."
"Winchester?" Kadin asked.
"Yes, Adrienne Winchester," Rowena asked.
"Lives in Barcelona?"
"You know her?"
"Know her? She’s related to me. She’s my great aunt," Kadin replied. To herself she muttered, "Why didn’t she tell me she was coming?"
"Probably because she doesn’t know what part of the world you’re in at any given moment?" Kennedy offered.
"I’ll give you that," Kadin answered. "Anyway," she said, turning to Rowena again, "this wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the Codex Cluj, would it?"
Rowena put down her fork and leaned across the table. "How do you know all this? Have you seen it?"
"Like I’ve said before, professional monster hunter since birth," Kadin answered. "The book’s supposed to hold vampire lore dating back millenniums, and it’s held in some secret fortress somewhere. To my knowledge the book or the place doesn’t really exist. It’s just a fable."
"Now you’ve done it," Jim chuckled, making everyone look his way. "One thing you may or may not know about Rowena…she loves to chase fables."
"Yes," Rowena replied. "Fables like the Opus Obscurum, I suppose?"
"Touché," Jim replied. "But getting back to the subject at hand…if this thing exists, I’m sure Rowena will find it. The woman is like a dog with a bone when she gets her mind set on something." He looked over to Willow for a moment and added, "You probably know that better than anyone."
Willow grinned and glanced at Rowena to see a scowl forming on the woman’s face. "Well, she’s very tenacious, a-and that’s not a bad thing," Willow said quickly.
"Nope, not at all," Jim replied. "Just making an observation."
Watchers Council – Meeting Room – Later That Day
Rowena opened the door of the meeting room and motioned an older woman in her early sixties inside with Kennedy and Kadin following behind them.
"Right this way, Ms. Winchester…Everyone," Rowena announced, "this is Adrienne Winchester. She’s got some information regarding a book called the Codex Cluj." As Adrienne took her seat, Rowena asked, “Can I get you something, like a glass of water?”
"No, sweetie, I’m fine," Adrienne answered politely.
Seated around the table were Buffy, Willow, and Faith.
"Hello, Ms. Winchester," Buffy began.
"Please, call me Adrienne," she told her.
"Okay, Adrienne," Buffy started over. "Rowena says you might have information important to her study of vampires as demons."
"Not information. Just a location to said information."
"A-and where exactly is it?" Willow asked.
Adrienne appeared nervous as she looked around at the faces in the room. "I tried to get it myself, many years, and a few knee surgeries, ago. There’s a temple, a palace of sorts, deep within mother Russia – a place few souls can survive."
The group looked on curiously with the exception of Rowena, whose color left her face.
"Go on," the watcher told her.
"Rumor has it, it’s a place you know, my dear," Adrienne remarked to Rowena with a slight grin as she pointed toward her with a prosthetic hand. "But you managed to leave with both hands," she added when she noticed the reaction of some members of the meeting. "Anyway, much of Eastern Europe’s real history and lore is stored there. Aside from the danger of getting in, there is the matter of finding it once inside."
"I’m not sure I understand," Buffy added.
"If it’s the place I’m thinking of," Rowena added, "the palace is filled with halls and corridors, like a maze. One wrong turn and you could be lost for weeks, or even months, trying to get out."
"Well, providing you brought enough food to sustain you that long, yes. You have been there then?" Adrienne asked.
"I have," Rowena answered.
"Well, you’re not the only one looking for it at the moment," Adrienne added.
"What do you mean?" Rowena asked.
"I got a call from someone today named Tyrell. Like you, he asked for the location. In fact, I thought he was your assistant since he knew so much."
"What was his first name?" Rowena asked.
"Something with a ‘J’," she answered.
"Jordon, James, Jeff…?" Rowena asked again, trying to act like she was throwing out random names.
"James! He said he worked with the Council, and I did recognized the Tyrell name from years ago. He asked me for the same information, so I provided it. Hell, if he’s crazy enough to go, more power to him."
"This is not good," Rowena said, closing her eyes.
"But he works for the Council," Adrienne replied.
"He used to work for the Council. He tried to have one of our slayers killed, and he was imprisoned until the fiasco earlier this year. He escaped and hasn’t been seen since."
"I’m sorry," Adrienne offered. "I thought he—"
"It’s not your fault," Rowena told her. "But it does move things up quite a bit."
"Well," Buffy replied, "we’ll head up a team with Rowena as lead and—"
"No," Rowena answered. "I’ll get the Codex…but I go alone."
"Ro," Willow began. "If Tyrell has someone after it already and this place is as dangerous as you say…"
"It is," Rowena answered, not letting her finish, "but I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again."
"Do you think that’s wise, dear?" Adrienne asked.
"I do," Rowena answered. "And that’s why I won’t sacrifice anyone else in this mission. Do you have the specifics within the temple?"
"Yes," Adrienne answered. "But getting there…"
"I’ll worry about that part after I have the location."
"Ro…" Buffy, Willow and Faith all said collectively at once, trying to argue.
"Enough, guys," she answered. "I’m doing this…alone."
End of Teaser
To Act One