by Joseph Anderson

Buffy and company belong to Mutant Enemy and no copyright infringement is intended with this fanfic, which may not be sold and must contain notice of copyright. Macbeth is in the public domain.

Pairings: Buffy/Spike, Willow/Tara, Xander/Anya

This is Macbeth by William Shakespeare written out with characters from Buffy and Angel in various roles. It started out just as the idea the witches from Buffy would be interesting as the witches in Macbeth, and it went from there. Pretty obsessive, I know.

Warning for violence and character death. This is Macbeth after all. There is a graphic rape scene some might find disturbing.

Please send me any comments at I love feedback.


Scene I. (Woods.)

Mostly he kept his head down and watched his feet so he wouldn't trip on the uneven ground, or step in something gross. One old tennis shoe plodding ahead of the other, the short young man in a striped T-shirt trudged along deeper into the woods, following an almost invisible path. Finally he spotted them under a huge ancient tree with tentacle-like branches spreading overhead. Jonathan glowered suspiciously. Did they roll their eyes when they saw him? Willow, a pale redhead in a dark bodice, tight pants and glossy stiletto boots, looked bored, but Tara, a blonde in a long nut brown skirt, belly shirt and Birkenstocks, smiled encouragingly.

Awkwardly traversing the maze of gnarled dark roots that twitched and pulsed at his step, Jonathan whined, "When shall we three meet again? In summer, lightning or in rain?"

Willow had an exasperated expression. "When the hurly-burly's done. When the battle's lost and won." Duh.

Tara touched Willow's arm and explained to Jonathan, "That will be ere the set of sun." She took Willow's hand intertwining their fingers.

Jonathan smirked until Willow met his gaze and his face reddened. He quickly asked, "Where the place?"

"Upon the heath," Willow answered with a shrug. "There to meet with..."

All three said in unison, "Buffy!" Far-off thunder punctuated their words.

A black cat wound around Willow's feet. The redhead looked down with an ironic smile. "I *come*, Graymalkin."

A gray bat swooped out of the woods and flapped around Jonathan's head. He flailed wildly at it while the girls tried not to laugh. As it flew off he complained, "Paddock calls."

The cat nipped her ankle and Willow said, "Anon!"

Tara looked from one to the other and said uncertainly, "F...F...Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through f...fog and filthy air."

Willow and Jonathan studied the gray sky visible through gaps in inky foliage and nodded at Tara. The witches disappeared into the tangled woods holding hands. The warlock smirked and renegotiated the grasping roots to reach the serpentine path. Pausing to rest, the bat buzzed him again and he hurried on muttering.

Scene II. (A battlefield.)

The line of vehicles halted while men were sent ahead to sweep the road for mines. The King got out to stretch his legs followed by his entourage of conservatively dressed men and women. None of them managed to look as conservative as King Quentin Travers though. There had been recent fighting here and the King spotted a man in black camouflage gear leaning against a low stone fence. He waited for one of the others and then said with resignation, "What bloody man is that? He can report, as seemeth by his plight, of the revolt the newest state."

Moving as a group toward the wounded soldier, Wesley recognized Riley and hurried with Donalbain to his side. "This is the sergeant who like a good and hardy soldier fought 'gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend! Say to the King the knowledge of the broil as thou didst leave it." Wesley and his brother helped him to stand.

With a gash on his forehead, a bloody field dressing visible on his side and an oddly bent right arm, Riley still held a rifle loosely in his left hand. He nodded at Wesley and saluted Quentin Travers as well as he could. "Doubtful it stood. The merciless Macdonwald from the Western Isles..." Riley started to fall, dropping his weapon, and young Donalbain caught him. He grimaced and continued, "Fortune on his damned quarrel smiling, showed like a rebel's whore! But all's to weak; for brave Buffy (well she deserves that name), disdaining Fortune, with her brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution, like valor's minion, carved out her passage, till she faced the slave; which ne're shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, till she unseamed him from the nave to the chops, and fixed his head upon our battlements."

Quentin Travers got a satisfied expression.

Riley pulled away from the brothers and continued, "But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage, with furbished arms and new supplies of men, began a fresh assault."

Quentin Travers asked, "Dismayed not this our captains, Buffy and Faith?"

Riley grinned weakly. "Yes, as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion. So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe. Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds or memorize another Golgotha, I cannot tell." Riley's legs gave out and Wesley and Donalbain kept him from falling.

Quentin said, "So well thy words become thee as thy wounds; they smack of honor both. Go, get him surgeons." As Riley was carried away a dull green motorcycle with an empty sidecar was stopped by soldiers and allowed through. Quentin demanded, "Who comes here?"

"The worthy Thane of Ross," Wesley answered as the motorcycle rolled up and the engine shut off. He nodded at Rupert Giles who removed goggles and climbed off the machine. Giles acknowleged the king and two princes with curt bows, fastidiously took his glasses from his pocket and cleaned the lenses before putting them on.

"God save the King."

Quentin Travers asked, "Whence cam'st thou, worthy thane?"

"From Fife great king. Norway himself, with terrible numbers, assisted by that most disloyal traitor, the Thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict." He spoke grimly as if preparing them for the worst. Giles paused as they all looked expectantly at him. With feigned nonchalance he said, "And to conclude, the victory fell on us." He grinned.

Quentin Travers shook his head at the dry humor; Giles had spent too much time in England. He said, "Great happiness." The King added coldly, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest. Go, pronounce his present death, and with his former title greet Buffy."

"I'll see it done," Giles said with approval, replaced his glasses with the goggles, made a looping turn and roared away on the motorcycle the direction he had come.

Quentin Travers said to his sons, "What he hath lost, noble Buffy hath won." It was a lesson in kingship and loyalty. He hoped they understood.

Scene III. (A heath.)

Willow sat down on the ground wrapping her arms around her knees. She wore a silk blouse with tight black jeans and brown boots. She pressed her red lips together and impatiently fidgeted. Rising behind her a weathered stone monolith jutted into the gray sky. Shattered remnants of others survived to litter the heath. Tara and Jonathan approached together. Tara's hair was in short braids and she wore a baggy sweater whose sleeves covered her hands. Jonathan had on a bright yellow t-shirt.

Willow got up and abruptly demanded, "Where hast thou been, sister?"

Tara looked hurt. "K...k...killing swine," she said defensively and pushed her sleeves up to reveal her bloody hands.

Jonathan stood taller, raised his chin and looked in Willow's eyes. "Sister, where thou?"

Willow's eyes flashed at his tone but he set his jaw. She got a rueful smile and Tara looked relieved. Willow sat down again and said, "A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap, and munched and munched. 'Give me,' quoth I. 'Aroint thee, witch,' the rump-fed runnion cries."

Tara and Jonathan got a gleam in their eyes as they squatted beside her.

Willow angrily said, "Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master of the Tiger; but in a sieve I'll thither sail, and like a rat without a tail, I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do."

Tara took her hand and looked deep in her eyes. "I'll give thee a wind."

"Thou art kind."

Jonathan had a mean smile. "And I another."

Willow nodded decisively. "I myself have all the other. He shall live a man forbid. Weary seven nights, nine times nine, shall he dwindle, peak and pine. Though his bark cannot be lost, yet it shall be tempest tossed." With a conspiratorial smile, she said in a hushed childish voice, "Look what I have."

Tara widened her eyes. "Show me, show me."

Willow opened a wrinkled brown paper bag. The other two peered inside. "Here I have a pilot's thumb, wracked as homeward he did come."

At a pounding beat they leapt up and Jonathan cried, "A drum, a drum! Buffy doth come!" He threw a glass vial at the ground that broke sending up a cloud of purple smoke. When it cleared they stood naked inside a glowing pentagram, eyes glittering like black stones. The coven formed a circle with interlocking hands.

The Weird Sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about,
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.

Willow cried ecstatically, "Peace, the charm's wound up!"

The pounding music got louder as a jeep pulled up painted in blotchy grays, greens and browns. Weapons and armor were piled haphazardly in the back: a couple of helmets, rifles and swords, two battered Kevlar breastplates, and some broken night vision goggles. The blonde driver looked at her brunette passenger holding the source of the deafening sound, a gleaming CD/cassette/radio with XTRA Megabass. The blonde wore a yellow halter-top and the brunette a tight maroon t-shirt, and each had a bare midriff and tight black leather pants. Both were splattered with copious amounts of blood in areas a breastplate and helmet wouldn't have covered. The blonde spoke but the brunette pointed at her ear. The driver repeated herself again and her passenger shrugged. The blonde grabbed the boombox and hurled it into the bleak landscape where it smashed on the ground. In the silence she said, "So foul and fair a day I have not seen."

The brunette stared at the broken ghetto blaster then looked sardonically at her companion. The blonde got an embarrassed face and made futile gestures indicating she'd replace it.

The brunette lost her mocking smile. "What are these?" She pointed to three murky nude figures.

The blonde leaped out of the vehicle and whipped a wooden stake from a pocket. "Speak if you can. What are you?"

"All hail, Buffy! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!" Willow exclaimed.

"All hail, Buffy! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!" Tara echoed.

Jonathan cried, "All hail, Buffy, that shalt be queen hereafter!"

Buffy stood holding the stake as if she were transfixed. The dark girl smiled and said, "My noble partner you greet with present grace and great prediction of noble having and royal hope, that she seems rapt withal: to me you speak not." She languidly rose to stand in the vehicle and look down at them. From a sheath pointing at her crotch she pulled a beautiful large knife with an ornate blade. "If you can look into the seeds of time, speak, then to me, who neither beg nor fear your favors nor your hate." She threw the blade between Jonathan's bare feet, making him jump.

Willow said, "Hail!"

Tara said, "Hail!"

Jonathan stared at the knife, looked up and squeaked, "Hail!"

Willow crooned, "Lesser than Buffy and greater."

Tara exclaimed, "Not so happy, yet much happier."

Jonathan excitedly said, "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail, Buffy and Faith!"

Willow said, "Faith and Buffy, all hail!"

The three turned away and Buffy came out of her trance. "Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more. I know I am Thane of Glamis but how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives, and to be queen stands not with the prospect of belief, no more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence? Or why upon this blasted heath you stop our way with such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you."

Willow, Tara and Jonathan smiled and faded away until there was nothing left but their grins that finally disappeared too.

Faith retrieved her beautiful knife from where it was imbedded in the ground. "B, have we eaten on the insane root?" She walked over to her broken boombox and nudged it like a dead animal.

"Your children shall be kings."

Faith responded, "You shall be queen." She retrieved a disk from the CD drive and returned to the jeep.

"And Thane of Cawdor too. Went it not so?"

"To the selfsame tune and words." Faith found the case for the CD under the seat. She heard an engine then spotted an approaching motorcycle. "Who's here?"

The Thane of Ross rode up, turned off the engine and raised his goggles. He frowned at their clothes; they were generals, dammit! Why did they persist in... He kept his opinion to himself. They were the Chosen Ones, not him. Giles announced, "The King hath happily received, Buffy, the news of thy success. And for an earnest of a greater honor, he bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor, in which addition, hail, most worthy thane, for it is thine."

Faith murmured, "What, can the devil speak true?"

Buffy looked shocked. "The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?"

"Who was the Thane lives yet." Giles took his glasses from a breast pocket and gestured with them. "But under heavy judgment bears that life which he deserves to lose. Treasons capital, confessed and proved, have overthrown him."

Buffy said, "Thanks for your pains." She caught Faith's eye and they moved off to speak quietly. "Do you not hope your children shall be kings, when those that gave the Thane of Cawdor to me promised no less to them?"

Faith glanced at Giles to be sure he couldn't hear them. "That, trusted home, might yet enkindle you unto the crown, besides the Thane of Cawdor." She put her hand on Buffy's arm. "But 'tis strange: and oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence." She shouldn't have to tell B this. It was more something Buffy would say to her. Faith decided she was being stupid and sauntered back toward the Thane of Ross. "Cousin, a word, I pray you." She hooked her thumbs in her pockets and tugged her leather pants down to expose an inch more belly. Giles practically bit his tongue to keep from scolding her.

Buffy barely heard a word Faith said to her. She was imagining herself with a crown. "Two truths are told, as happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme." She glanced back and saw Giles quietly fuming as Faith stuck her ass in his face. Ordinarily Buffy would join Faith in a game of push-Giles'-buttons but she merely said, "I thank you, sir." Buffy turned away again and said to herself, "This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, why hath it given me earnest of success, commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor: if good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings. My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smothered in surmise, and nothing is but what is not."

Faith saw Buffy talking to herself and said to the Thane of Ross, "Look how our partner's rapt." She rolled her left shoulder and watched Giles manfully try not to look at her tits.

"If chance will have me queen, why, chance may crown me without my stir."

Faith called impatiently, "We stay upon your leisure, B." She didn't want to push Giles too far. What if he stroked out or something? Then what would she do for fun?

Buffy turned and apologetically said, "Give me your favor. My dull brain was wrought with things forgotten. Let us toward the King." As they prepared to follow the motorcycle, Buffy said to Faith, "Think upon what hath chanced, and at more time, let us speak our free hearts each to other."

The other Slayer studied her through slitted eyes. "Very gladly."

Scene IV. (A military encampment.)

"Is execution done on Cawdor? Are not those in commission yet returned?" Quentin Travers spoke irritably. Ordering a man's death was nothing he did lightly and he wanted it over with.

Donalbain glanced at his brother and Wesley went to where their father sat on a simple stool among his soldiers. It seemed like a throne. Wherever Quentin Travers went he brought his regalness with him. Wesley used to wonder if it was just him but plenty of others mentioned it as well: the Lady of Fife, the Thanes of Ross and Glamis, even the traitor Cawdor.

Wesley said, "My liege, they are not yet come back. But I have spoke with one that saw him die, who did report that very frankly he confessed his treasons, implored your Highness' pardon and set forth a deep repentance: nothing in his life became him like the leaving it. He died as one that had been studied in his death, to throw away the dearest thing he owed as 'twere a careless trifle."

Quentin studied his son. Wesley needed seasoning. Donalbain had more of a feel for rule but he wasn't the eldest. Maybe he'd send Wesley to assist Buffy and Faith. Wesley needed to understand the underbelly of power. The two slayers certainly understood it. Thank Jesus they were loyal.

Quentin said, "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face: he was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust."

The soldiers came alert as a motorcycle and a battered mud stained jeep pulled up. Buffy and Faith approached and quickly bowed, as did Giles. Quentin went to Buffy. "O worthiest cousin! The sin of my ingratitude even now was heavy on me. More is thy due than more than all can pay."

"The service and the loyalty I owe, in doing it, pays itself." Buffy spoke perfunctorily.

"Welcome hither, I have begun to plant thee, and will labor to make thee full of growing." He turned to her companion. "Noble Faith, that hast no less deserved, nor must be known no less to have done so, let me enfold thee and hold thee to my heart." He hugged Faith who looked as surprised as everyone else. This wasn't Quentin Travers' style. It really meant something and everyone knew it.

Faith's voice caught. "There if I grow, the harvest is your own." She wiped her eyes.

The King stepped back embarrassed. His own eyes were red. "My plenteous joys, wanton in fullness, seek to hide themselves in drops of sorrow." Quentin looked around and announced, "Sons, kinsmen, thanes, and you whose places are the nearest, know, we will establish our estate upon our eldest, Wesley, whom we name hereafter the Prince of Cumberland." The King said to Buffy, "From hence to Inverness, and bind us further to you."

Buffy smiled. "I'll be myself the harbinger, and make joyful the hearing of my husband with your approach; so, humbly take my leave." She bowed to the King, Prince Wesley and Prince Donalbain.

"My worthy Cawdor!" Quentin exclaimed as Buffy went back to her vehicle.

As she drove away Buffy muttered to herself, "The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, for in my way it lies."

Scene V. (Inverness. Buffy's castle.)

The shiny wooden floor was bare but heavy tapestries hung over the windows. A wiry muscular man in tight black jeans and a black T-shirt sat on the edge of a large canopied bed, skin startling pale, slicked-back hair bleached blonde. As he read a letter by the light of a Tiffany lamp he brought a cigarette to his lips. He lowered the page and raised his head to look at nothing then bent to reread it. Finally, he read aloud as if to make it real, "These Weird Sisters saluted me and referred me to the coming on of time with 'Hail queen that shall be.' This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.'"

Spike studied the letter a moment longer then took a lighter from his pocket and set a corner of the sheet on fire, dropping it as the flames reached his fingers. He took the cigarette from his mouth and, with smoke curling up around his cold blue eyes, said quietly, "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be what thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it." He smiled thinly. "Hie thee hither, that I may pour mine spirits in thine ear."

A teenage girl with straight brown hair and baggy jeans sauntered into the room and waited innocently. Spike glowered and raised his eyebrows in a question. "The King comes here tonight!" she said in a rush and jumped up and down squealing.

Spike was as still as the dead. "Thou art mad to say it. Is not thy sister with him, who, were it so, would have informed for preparations?"

Dawn grinned and went up to him. "So please you, it is true. One of my fellows had the speed of her." She went behind Spike and hugged him laying her head on his shoulder.

"He brings great news, niblet," Spike said, patting Dawn's hand. The girl kissed his pale cheek and bounded out of the room looking for someone else to tell. Spike watched the innocent young teen leave and said softly, "The raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Quentin under my battlements." He stood and crushed his cigarette out in an ashtray. "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. Stop up the access and passage of remorse..." Spike stopped and got a rueful smile. He glanced at a mirror that showed an empty room. It was a little late for all that.

Spike waited in the shadows of the guard tower in his long black duster. When Buffy eagerly entered the main castle gate, he said seductively, "Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, greater than both by the all-hail hereafter. I feel now the future in the present." He made a kiss with his lips.

Buffy's eyes were shining as she joined him in the dark. "My dearest love, Quentin comes here tonight."

Spike said nonchalantly, "And when goes hence?"

"Tomorrow, as he purposes."

Spike roughly grabbed Buffy's shoulders. "O, never shall sun that morrow see!" He paused for Buffy's reaction. She stared at him with wide eyes and then ran a tongue over her lips. Spike purred, "Your face, my thane, is as a book where men may read strange matters. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it."

Buffy tried to pull away but Spike held her. She yanked free, bared her teeth and backhanded him. He stumbled and leapt at her with a snarl. Buffy sneered and dropped him with a kick but he rushed her and smashed her against the stone wall so her head swam. Spike struck her savagely across the face and held her hands in a tight grip above her head. Breathing raggedly, Buffy craned her head up and Spike hungrily kissed her. He nuzzled her neck and said, "He that's coming must be provided for; and you shall put this night's great business into my dispatch."

Buffy began to shake her head. Spike slid a hand between her legs. She closed her eyes and moaned softly, let her head loll to the side and murmured, "We will speak further."

Spike nibbled her earlobe making her moan again. He whispered, "Leave all the rest to me, pet."

Scene VI. (Inverness.)

The King paused with his entourage at the gate to Buffy's castle. Wesley and Donalbain were on his right, and to his left stood Faith and the Thane of Ross, her sexy clothes contrasting with Giles' stiff formality. The King's soldiers were close.

Quentin Travers said, "This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses." He looked at Faith and waited.

Faith said uncertainly, "The air is delicate?" Quentin Travers nodded his approval. Wesley and Donalbain nodded their approval. Giles nodded his approval. Faith smiled.

Quentin Travers said, "See, see our honored host!"

Spike stood in the shadowed entranceway wearing a gray suit with a red carnation. His black fingernail polish was gone. He said innocently, "All our service." Spike bowed.

Quentin Travers said pleasantly, "Fair and noble host, we are your guest tonight."

"Your servants ever."

The King said, "Conduct me to mine hostess: we love her highly and shall continue our graces towards her."

Spike smiled and beckoned Quentin and the others to follow him inside.

Scene VII. (Buffy's castle.)

The stone-arched wine cellar was well stocked. Buffy quietly entered in an elegant white evening dress, her hair up, sapphire earrings glittering. She reached to finger the small gold crucifix from her mother but wore a diamond neckace instead for the banquet. Buffy lowered twitching fingers and pushed away any thoughts of Joyce. "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. If the assassination could trammel up the consequence...that but this blow might be the be-all and end-all here." Buffy said like she couldn't believe it, "He's here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his hostess, who should against the murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself."

She paced excitedly. "Besides, this Quentin hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against the deep damnation of his taking off!" Buffy stood still and said with disgust, "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself and falls on the other."

In a black tuxedo, Spike entered the wine cellar and looked accusingly at Buffy.

She said, "How now, what news?"

"He has almost supped. Why have you left the chamber?"

"Hath he asked for me?"

"Know you not he has?"

"We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honored me of late."

Spike casually studied the racks of wine bottles, selected one and said conversationally, "Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valor as thou art in desire?" He walked up to Buffy and sneered, "Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem'st the ornament of life and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would.' From this time such I account thy love."

Buffy looked away, "Prithee, peace. I dare do all that may become a Slayer. Who dares do more is none."

The blonde man said with contempt, "What beast was it, then, that made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a Slayer; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the Slayer."

Buffy reached for her cross but her fingers caught in the diamond necklace. "If we should fail..."

Spike roughly slammed the bottle down. "We fail." He looked in her eyes. "But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail! When Quentin is asleep his two chamberlains will I with wine." He nodded at the bottle. "When in swinish sleep their drenched natures lies as in death, what cannot you and I perform upon the unguarded Quentin?"

Buffy stared in Spike's blue eyes with her own green ones. Finally she said, "Will it not be received, when we have marked with blood those sleepy two of his own chamber and used their very daggers, that they have done it?"

"Who dares receive it other, as we shall make our griefs and clamor roar upon his death?"

Buffy spoke in a flat voice, "I am settled. False face must hide what the false heart doth show."

ACT II Scene I. (Inverness. Courtyard of Buffy's castle.)

Faith playfully shined a flashlight over the face of a dark-haired young boy. He had her eyes and his father's chin. She didn't want to mess up his marriage. It happened before they met but even so. One of these days she'd clue Xander in about Fleance. It was just one of those things. "How goes the night, boy?"

Frowning, he shielded his face from the bright light. At a sound she panned the light around and held out her hand. Her son placed the beautiful knife in it. "Who's there?" Faith demanded.

"A friend." Buffy was trapped in the glaring beam like an escaped convict. She wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and tight low-cut jeans. An ugly, no, hideous servant followed her.

Faith lowered the flashlight. "What, girl, not yet at rest? The King's abed: He hath been in unusual pleasure and sent forth great largesse to your offices." She reached into a pocket and held something gleaming out for Buffy. "This diamond he greets your husband withal, by the name of most kind host."

Buffy accepted the gaudy tie pin. Spike would hate it; have to wear it though since it was a gift from the King. Quentin was nothing if not tasteful...this was probably a joke he cooked up with Faith, and he'd let Spike off the hook when he wore it once. That was pretty damn funny. Buffy suddenly remembered what they planned.

Faith caught her eye. Buffy indicated for her servant Clem to give them privacy. Faith said, "I dreamed last night of the three weird sisters: To you they have showed some truth."

"I think not of them. Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve... If you would grant the time." Buffy looked questioningly.

"At your kindest leisure," Faith replied.

Buffy slowly said, "If you shall cleave to my consent, when tis, it shall make honor for you."

Faith studied the knife she held. "So I lose none in seeking to augment it, but still keep my allegiance clear, I shall be counseled, B."

Buffy ran her tongue over her lips. After a pause she said, "Good repose the while."

Faith softly said, "Thanks. The like to you." She walked off with her son.

Buffy said to Clem, "Go, bid Spike, when my drink is ready, he strike upon the bell." She patted his arm. "Get thee to bed." Clem smiled and disappeared into the castle.

When she was alone Buffy sought out the window of Quentin Travers' room. She sighed and turned away then stopped. "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" She reached her hand out to grasp at air. "Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not and yet I see thee still." She paused. "Art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?" She asked the question with self-disgust, then pulled a dagger hidden by the sweatshirt and held it up. "I see thee yet, in form as palpable as this which now I draw." She followed something with her eyes that led back to Quentin's room. "Thou marshal'st me the way that I was going; And such an instrument I was to use." A bell rang and she said firmly, "I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. Hear it not, Quentin, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell." Buffy decisively strode into the dark.

Scene II. (Buffy's castle.)

Spike paced in the main hall smoking. He stubbed his cigarette out and ripped off the tuxedo jacket. He pulled his black tie off and started to unbutton the formal shirt then muttered, "Bugger!" and tore it open with buttons flying. It was almost dawn. Light filtered through stained glass to fall on his angled face and model his chiseled chest and abdomen in cold blue shadows. "That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold; what hath quenched them hath given me fire." At a sound he tensed then whispered, "It was the owl that shrieked." He smiled. "She is about it. The doors are open, and the surfeited grooms do mock their charge with snores. I have drugged their possets."

"Who's there?"

Spike cursed, "Alack, I am afraid they awaked and 'tis not done! The attempt and not the deed confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready; she could not miss 'em. If it weren't for this damned chip in my head, I had done it." Sensing something he turned and saw Buffy standing in a shaft of red light from the stained glass. "My wife!"

"I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?" The hood of the sweatshirt was up and her hands were buried in her pockets.

"I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Did not you speak?" Spike replied tensely.



"As I descended?" Buffy looked around.


Buffy said, "Hark! Who lies in the second chamber?"

"Donalbain." Spike answered.

"This is a sorry sight." Buffy whispered.

Spike sneered, "A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight."

Buffy looked in his eyes. "There's one did laugh in his sleep, and one cried 'Murder!' That they did wake each other. I stood and heard them. But they did say their prayers, and addressed them again to sleep."

Spike shrugged.

Buffy continued: "One cried, 'God bless us!' and 'Amen' the other. As they had seen me with these hangman's hands; listening their fear, I could not say 'Amen,' when they did say 'God bless us!'"

"Consider it not so deeply." Spike took out a cigarette and bent his head to light it. He closed the lighter with a snap.

"But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'? I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen' stuck in my throat."

Spike gestured with his cigarette. "These deeds must not be thought after these ways; so, it will make us mad."

Buffy stared at the floor. "Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more! Buffy doth murder sleep'--the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast---"

"What do you mean?" Spike was puzzled.

Buffy said intensely, "Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house; 'Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more; Buffy shall sleep no more.'"

Spike angrily gestured with the cigarette. "Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy Thane, you do unbend your noble strength, to think so brainsickly of things." He put the cigarette back in his mouth and said briskly, "Go get some water, and wash this filthy witness from your hand." He grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands out of her pockets. Buffy held two knives. Bloody Hell! "Why did you bring these daggers from the place? They must lie there: go carry them, and smear the sleepy grooms with blood." Her sweatshirt would have to be destroyed too. He was thinking quickly.

Buffy shook her head. "I'll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done; look on it again I dare not."

Spike tossed his cigarette aside and hissed in her face, "Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures. 'Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt." He grabbed the knives from her strengthless fingers and hurried out of the hall.

Buffy remained still until a loud knock made her flinch. "Whence is that knocking? How is it with me, when every noise appalls me?" She looked at her hands and spread her fingers wide. "What hands are these? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes! Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?"

Spike reentered the chamber, held bloody hands up and said contemptuously, "My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white." The knock came again. "I hear a knocking at the south entry. Retire we to our chamber. A little water clears us of this deed; how easy is it then! Your constancy hath left you unattended." The knock returned. "Hark! more knocking. Get on your nightgown, lest occasion call us and show us to be watchers. Be not lost so poorly in your thoughts." He took her arm.

Buffy said, "To know my deed, 'twere best not to know myself." The knock came once more. "Wake Quentin with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!"

Scene III. (Buffy's castle.)

Clem scratched his head and made his way to the south entry gate where the knocking became more and more impatient. He peered through a peephole and saw the Thane of Fife and Thane of Lennox. Hurriedly he unlocked the gate and swung it open. He smiled ingratiatingly at the important young nobles. A big dark-haired man with a smaller companion with brown hair walked in.

Xander asked, "Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed, that you do lie so late?"

Clem smiled sheepishly, "Faith, sir, we were carousing till the second cock: and drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things."

Playing along, Xander asked, "What three things does drink especially provoke?"

"Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes; it provokes the desire but takes away the performance."

Xander looked at Oz who nodded. When you're right you're right.

Xander asked, "Is your mistress stirring?" Then he saw Buffy in pajamas and a robe. "Our knocking has awaked her; here she comes."

Oz said, "Good morrow, noble lady."

"Good morrow, both," Buffy replied.

Xander asked, "Is the king stirring, worthy Thane?"

"Not yet."

Xander explained, "He did command me to call timely on him; I have almost slipped the hour."

"I'll bring you to him.," Buffy said. She led them through the courtyard and pointed out Quentin's room.

Xander said a little hesitantly, "I'll make so bold to call." He headed up the stairs.

Oz said to Buffy, "Goes the king hence today?"

"He does; he did appoint so."

The short noble stretched and commented, "The night has been unruly. Where we lay, our chimneys were blown down, and, as they say, lamentings heard in the air, strange screams of death, and prophesying with accents terrible of dire combustion and confused events new hatched to the woeful time."

Buffy agreed, "'Twas a rough night."

"My young remembrance cannot parallel a fellow to it." Oz was happy to have experienced it.

Xander stumbled down the stairs, his eyes wide. "O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!"

"What's the matter?" Buffy and Oz asked interrupting each other.

Xander grabbed a shoulder of each. "Confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacriligeous murder hath broke ope the Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence the life of the building."

Buffy demanded, "What is it you say? The life?"

"Mean you his Majesty?" Oz asked grimly.

Xander looked up the stairs. "Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight with a new Gorgon; do not bid me speak; see, and then speak yourselves." He released them and yelled out, "Awake, awake!" Buffy and Oz ran up the stairs. Xander called, "Ring the alarum bell. Murder and Treason! Faith and Wesley! Awake! Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit, and look on death itself! Up, up, and see the great doom's image! Wesley! Faith! as from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites, to countenance this horror. Ring the bell."

Spike rushed up wearing a black silk robe, careful to avoid the sun. "What's the business, that such a hideous trumpet calls to parley the sleepers of the house? Speak, speak!"

Xander's face fell. "O gentle lord, 'tis not for you to hear what I can speak." He didn't see Spike roll his eyes. Faith ran up wearing nothing but sheer black panties, a pistol in one hand and her knife in the other. Xander almost wept, "O Faith, Faith! Our royal master's murdered."

Spike exclaimed, "Woe, alas! What, in our house?"

Faith flicked her eyes over Spike's face. "Too cruel anywhere." She looked back at the Thane of Fife and said emotionally, "Dear Xander, I prithee, contradict thyself, and say it is not so!"

Buffy and Oz, joined by Giles with rumpled hair in pajamas came down the stairs. Buffy said, "Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant there's nothing serious in mortality; all is but toys. Renown and grace is dead."

Wesley and his brother Donalbain appeared shirtless and barefoot. The younger brother asked, "What is amiss?"

Buffy said, "You are, and do not know it."

Xander's voice broke. "Your royal father's murdered."

"O, by whom?" Wesley demanded.

Oz glanced at Buffy. "Those of his chamber, as it seemed, had done it: their hands and faces were all badged with blood; so were their daggers, which unwiped we found upon their pillows. They stared, and were distracted. No man's life was to be trusted with them."

Buffy exclaimed, "O, yet I do repent me of my fury, that I did kill them."

Oz and Giles caught each other's eyes. Faith changed her grip slightly on the knife. Xander was stunned again and furiously demanded, "Wherefore did you so?" Wesley and Donalbain stood off by themselves.

Buffy held her hands out. "Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral in a moment? No man. Here lay Quentin, his silver skin laced with his golden blood; there the murderers, steeped in the colors of their trade. Who could refrain, that had a heart to love, and in that heart courage to make her love known?"

No one spoke. In the silence Spike keeled over like he was suffering a seizure.

Xander stopped staring at Buffy. "Look to the lord."

Wesley whispered to Donalbain, "Why do we hold our tongues, that most may claim this argument for ours?"

Donalbain answered, "What should be spoken here, where our fate may rush and seize us? Let's away."

"Look to the lord," Faith said and servants carried Spike out. "And when we have our naked frailties hid, that suffer in exposure," she indicated her near nudity and the shirtless princes, "let us meet and question this most bloody piece of work, to know it further. Fears and scruples shake us. In the great hand of God I stand, and thence against the undivulged pretense I fight of treasonous malice."

Xander said fervently, "And so do I."

"So all." The rest echoed. Giles and Faith caught each other's eyes.

Buffy said, "Let's briefly put on manly readiness, and meet in the hall together."

"Well contented," Giles said. The thanes hurried to their rooms, leaving Wesley and Donalbain alone in the courtyard.

Wesley looked at his brother. "What will you do? Let's not consort with them. To show an unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does easy. I'll to England."

"To Ireland, I," Donalbain answered. "Our separated fortune shall keep us both the safer. Where we are there's daggers in men's smiles; the near in blood, the nearer bloody."

Wesley's eyes were blazing. "This murderous shaft that's shot hath not yet lighted, and our safest way is to avoid the aim. Therefore to horse; and let us not be dainty of leave taking." He and his brother hurried away.

Scene IV. (A town.)

The Thane of Ross sat with a cup of steaming tea before a cafe. As a car pulled up, Giles marked his spot in the book he held and said, "Here comes the good Xander. How goes the world, sir, now?"

The Thane of Fife said to the older man, "Why, see you not?" He sat down and a waiter brought him coffee without being told.

Giles asked, "Is it known who did this more than bloody deed?"

"Those that Buffy hath slain," Xander said sarcastically.

"Alas, the day! What good could they pretend?"

Xander suspected Giles was mocking him but couldn't be sure. The Thane of Ross spent too much time in England. Xander gave him the benefit of the doubt. "They were suborned: Wesley and Donalbain, the king's two sons, are stolen away and fled, which puts upon them suspicion of the deed." He snorted derisively.

Giles was silent, then said, "'Then 'tis most like the sovereignty will fall upon Buffy." He sipped his tea.

"She is already named, and gone to Scone to be invested."

"Where is Quentin's body?"

"Carried to Comekill."

Giles asked seriously, "Will you to Scone?"

Xander said gruffly, "No, cousin, I'll to Fife."

Giles looked concerned but at the look on Xander's face simply said, "Well, I will thither."

"Well, may you see things well done there. Adieu, lest our old robes sit easier than our new!" Xander gulped his coffee down and drove off. Giles sighed and set his teacup down on the saucer.


Scene I. (Forres. The palace.)

The empty banquet room was lavishly appointed. Walking slowly in Faith whistled and stopped before the massive carved chair at the head of the table. "Thou has it now: Queen, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the weird women promised, and I fear thou play'dst most foully for it." She plopped into the chair, put her feet up on the table and smiled. "Yet it was said it should not stand in your posterity, but that myself should be the root and mother of many kings. If there come truth from them--as upon thee, Buffy, their speeches shine--Why, by the verities on thee made good, may they not be my oracles as well and set me up in hope?" She heard approaching footsteps and quickly got out of the chair.

Buffy entered on Spike's arm wearing a jewel-encrusted crown. He wore a simple coronet. Both were richly dressed. The Thanes of Lennox and Ross and other lords and attendants accompanied them. Dawn slipped in wearing a revealing low-cut evening dress too old for her. She slid up to the Thane of Ross and took his arm. Giles looked down in surprise and was momentarily speechless. Spike spotted her and touched Buffy's hand. Giles was ready to protest his innocence but Buffy silenced him with a look. She caught Dawn's eyes, frowned and shook her head. Dawn gave Spike a pleading look, but he pointed at the door. The teen pouted, threw Giles' arm away and stomped off. Faith observed it all with amusement and gave Giles a thumbs up. He blushed.

"Here's our chief guest."

Faith realized B was talking to her and stopped teasing Giles.

Spike said, "If she had been forgotten, it had been as a gap in our great feast, and all-thing unbecoming."

Buffy said, "Tonight we hold a solemn supper, and I'll request your presence."

"Let your Highness command upon me, to the which my duties are with a most indissoluble tie forever knit." Everyone opened their eyes in surprise at the eloquent speech. Faith preened and smiled.

The queen asked, "Ride you this afternoon?"


"We should have else desired your good advice in this day's council; but we'll take tomorrow. Is it far you ride?"

"As far as will fill up the time 'twixt this and supper."

"Fail not our feast."

"I will not."

Queen Buffy said, "We hear our bloody cousins are bestowed in England and in Ireland, not confessing their cruel parricide, filling their hearers with strange invention. But of that tomorrow. Hie you to horse. Adieu, till you return at night. Goes Fleance with you?"

"Ay, our time does call upon us." Faith answered frowning slightly.

Buffy smiled. "I wish your horses swift and sure of foot, and so I do commend you to their backs. Farewell."

Faith nodded and left. Buffy said, "Let every man be master of his time till seven at night. To make society the sweeter welcome, we will keep ourself till supper-time alone. While then, God be with you!" Everyone left but Spike. Buffy looked at him and at the door. He sneered and left as well. Buffy was alone except for an ugly figure who stepped out of the shadows. "Clem, attend those men our pleasure?"

"They are, my lady, without the palace gate."

"Bring them before us." Buffy set her crown on the table and ran her fingers through her hair. She rested her hands on the jeweled object. "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus-- Our fears in Faith stick deep, and in her royalty of nature, reigns that which would be feared." She started to pace. "There is none but her whose being I do fear; and under her my genius is rebuked. She chid the sisters, when first they put the name of Queen upon me, and bade them speak to her; then prophetlike they hailed her mother to a line of kings. Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown!" Buffy grabbed a chair up and tore it apart with her hands. "For Faith's issue have I filed my mind; for them the gracious Quentin have I murdered; put rancors in the vessel of my peace only for them; to make them kings, the seeds of Faith kings!" She punched a wall, leaving an indentation in the stone. "Who's there?"

Clem reentered with two men. Buffy said, "Now go to the door, and stay there till we call."

Clem left and the two men looked nervous. They had a jailhouse pallor and the bigger one had a teardrop tattooed under his left eye. Buffy smiled. "Was it not yesterday we spoke together?"

"It was, so please your Highness." The tattooed man spoke and the other nodded.

"Well then, now have you considered my speeches? Know that it was she in the times past, which held you so under fortune, which you thought had been our innocent self; this I made good to you in our last conference. Thus did Faith."

"You made it known to us."

"I did so; and went further, which is now our point of second meeting. Do you find your patience so predominant in your nature that you can let this go?"

"We are men, my liege."

Buffy sneered, "Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men; as hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, shoughs, waterrugs and demi-wolves are clept all by the name of dogs." She watched their faces redden. "Now if you have a station in the file, not in the worst rank of manhood, say it, and I will put that business in your bosoms whose execution takes your enemy off, grapples you to the heart and love of us, who wear our health but sickly in her life, which in her death were perfect."

The man who was quiet before spoke. "I am one, my liege, whom the vile blows and buffets of the world hath so incensed that I am reckless what I do to spite the world."

The tattooed man agreed. "And I another so weary with disasters, tugged with fortune, that I would set my life on any chance to mend it or be rid on it."

Buffy's eyes gleamed. "Both of you know Faith was your enemy."

"True, my lord."

Buffy stood between them and put her hands on their broad shoulders. "So is she mine, and in such bloody distance that every minute of her being thrusts against my nearest of life; and though I could with barefaced power sweep her from my sight and bid my will avouch it, yet I must not, for certain friends that are both hers and mine. Thence it is that I to your assistance do make love, masking the business from the common eye for sundry weighty reasons."

The second murderer said, "We shall, my lady, perform what you command us."

The first murder started to say, "Though our lives--"

Buffy interrupted him. "Your spirits shine through you. Within this hour at most I will advise you where to plant yourselves, for it must be done tonight. And something from the palace; always thought that I require a clearness; and with her-- to leave no rubs nor blotches in the work--Fleance her son, that keeps her company, whose absence is no less material to me than is his mother's, must embrace the fate of that dark hour. I'll come to you anon."

The two murderers answered, "We are resolved, my lady."

"I'll call upon you straight. Abide within." Buffy opened a side door for them. When the door was closed, she said, "It is concluded: Faith, thy soul's flight, if it find heaven, must find it out tonight."

Scene II. (The palace.)

Spike asked Clem. "Is Faith gone from court?"

"Ay, sir, but returns again tonight."

The blonde man nodded. "Say to the Queen, I would attend her leisure for a few words."

"Sir, I will." Clem left.

Spike reached behind a chair cushion and came out with a bottle. He muttered, "Nought's had, all's spent, where our desire is got without content: 'Tis safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy."

He turned as Buffy came into the room. "How now, luv! Why do you keep alone, of sorriest fancies your companions making, using those thoughts which should indeed have died with them they think on? Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done is done."

He walked over and wrapped his arms around Buffy. She allowed him to kiss her but didn't respond, instead taking the bottle from his hand. Spike stepped back frowning as she took a swig, shuddered and stuck her tongue out.

Buffy said, "We have scorched the snake, not killed it. Quentin's in his grave; after life's fitful fever he sleeps well. Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison, malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing, can touch him further."

Spike sighed. "Come on, gentle my pet, be bright and jovial among your guests tonight."

Buffy took another swig. "So shall I, love; and so, I pray, be you: Let your remembrance apply to Faith; present her eminence both with eye and tongue: unsafe the while, that we must lave our honors in these flattering streams and make our faces masks to our hearts, disguising what they are."

Spike looked in her face. "You must leave this."

Buffy heavily set the bottle down. "O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear husband! Thou knowest that Faith, and her Fleance, lives."

Spike didn't answer but nodded his head, waiting.

"There's comfort yet; they are assailable."

"What's to be done?"

Buffy slipped her arms around Spike's neck and rested her head on his chest. "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, till thou applaud the deed." She glanced at the darkening window. "Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night's black agents to their preys do rouse. Thou marvel'st at my words: but hold thee still; things bad begun make strong themselves by ill: So, prithee, go with me." She looked up into his concerned eyes. He let her pull him toward their bedroom.

Scene III. (Near the palace.)

"But who did bid thee join with us?" The murderer with the teardrop tattoo looked suspiciously at a broad-shouldered, curly-haired, young man in a black sweater.


The second murderer said to the first, "He needs not our mistrust; since he delivers our offices and what we have to do to the direction just."

Warren smirked and crossed his arms.

Teardrop tattoo muttered, "Then stand with us. Near approaches the subject of our watch."

Warren whispered furiously, "Hark! I hear horses." They hid behind trees on the road to Buffy's palace. They heard Faith's voice. "Give us a friggin light there, ho!"

The second murderer said, "Then 'tis she."

Tattoo said, "Her horses go about."

Warren explained like he was an idiot, "So all men do--from hence to the palace gate make it their walk."

Faith and her son Fleance came walking down the road. The boy led the horse as the woman sauntered along with a flashlight.

The second murderer whispered, "A light, a light!"

Warren said bluntly, "'Tis she."

Teardrop tattoo said, "Stand to it."

Faith pinched her son's cheek. He made a face and pulled away making her laugh. She knelt down and smoothed his dark hair out of his face and stared in his eyes until he grinned at her and looked away. The dark-haired Slayer kissed him and stood up. She raised her arms stretching sensually. "It will be rain tonight, Flea."

Teardrop stabbed Faith in the back. "Let it come down!"

"O treachery!" The Slayer cursed and fell.

The second murderer jumped at her but Faith sent him spinning with a backhand blow. Wounded as she was she spun around and kicked Teardrop in the face. She saw Warren creeping up behind her stunned son. Faith grabbed him up and placed him on her horse leaving herself completely unprotected. Warren drove a dagger into her belly. Faith crumpled up but managed to punch Warren in the nose and felt a satisfying crunch. The Slayer cried to her son, "Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!" She slapped the horse's rump making it bound away with the terrified small boy. The second murderer swung a sword at her that she blocked but Warren slashed her right hamstring and Faith collapsed. She yelled after her son, "Thou mayst revenge." Warren stabbed her again in the back. "O slave!" She cursed and kicked sending him flying. Teardrop smashed a heavy rock down on the back of her head.

Warren held his nose and said with disgust, "There's but one down; the son is fled."

The second murderer said, "We have lost best half of our affair." He grimaced with a hand on his side.

Teardrop tattoo looked at the others. He suddenly kicked Faith in the ribs even if she couldn' feel it. "Well, let's away and say how much is done."

Warren opened his mouth but closed it when Teardop caught his eyes.

Scene IV. (The palace.)

The banquet hall was radiant. Queen Buffy entered with her consort Spike, Giles the Thane of Ross, Oz the Thane of Lennox and other lords and ladies. Servants stood ready along the walls.

Buffy said, "You know your own degrees; sit down: at first and last, the hearty welcome."

"Thanks to your majesty," several lords said as they found seats at the table.

The Queen smiled. "Ourself will mingle with society and play the humble hostess." She picked a bottle up and made a production of filling Oz's cup. He smiled uncomfortably. She indicated Spike who remained seated. "Our host keeps his state, but in best time we will require his welcome."

Spike smoothly said, "Pronounce it for me, lady, to all our friends, for my heart speaks they are welcome."

Clem waved discretely to get Buffy's attention. Behind him stood the man with a teardrop tattoo. Buffy said, "Be large in mirth; anon we'll drink a measure the table round." As the lords began talking she went to the tattooed man. Clem left them alone without being told.

"There's blood upon thy face." Buffy spoke quietly.

"Tis Faith's then."

"Tis better thee without than she within. Is she dispatched?"

"My lady, her throat is cut; that I did for her." He handed the Queen Faith's ornate knife.

Buffy grinned as she held it, eyes wide. "Thou art the best of the cutthroats. Yet he's good that did the like for Fleance; if thou didst it, thou art the nonpareil."

The murderer got pale. He whispered, "Most royal lady, Fleance is escaped."

Buffy glared at him, then turned away. "Then comes my fit again; I had else been perfect." She looked back at the man. "But Faith's safe?"

Relieved, the man said, "Ay, my good lady: safe in a ditch she bides, with twenty trenched gashes on her head, the least a death to nature."

"Thanks for that." She said to herself, "There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for the present." Buffy ordered, "Get thee gone. Tomorrow we'll hear ourselves again."

The waiting servant let out the murderer. Buffy tossed the knife to Clem and made her way back to the table. Spike said loudly, "My royal lady, you do not give the cheer."

Buffy forced herself to smile. "Sweet remembrancer! Now good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both!"

Oz said, "May it please your Highness, sit."

Buffy patted Oz's shoulder. "Here had we now our country's honor roofed, were the graced person of our Faith present--who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance!"

Giles said pompously, "Her absence lays blame upon her promise. Please it your Highness to grace us with your royal company?"

Buffy said, "The table's full."

Oz said, "Here is a place reserved."


Oz stood and pointed to the head of the table. "Here my good, lady."

Buffy smiled with confusion since she saw someone sitting there with head bowed. The figure raised her bloody head. Buffy stumbled back and dropped her wine. Faith's mangled face looked accusingly at her.

Oz exclaimed, "What is it that moves your Highness?"

Buffy snarled, "Which of you have done this?"

Oz asked, "What, my good lady?"

The Queen frantically said, "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me!"

Giles got up. "Gentlemen, rise, her Highness is not well." All of the lords got to their feet. Buffy was still staring at the empty chair speechless with terror.

Spike took charge. "Sit, worthy friends. My lady is often thus, and hath been from her youth. Pray you, keep seat. The fit is momentary; upon a thought she will again be well. If much you note her, you shall offend her and extend her passion. Feed, and regard her not." The lords unwillingly sat down again and Spike went to Buffy's side. "Are you a Slayer?"

Buffy licked her lips and didn't take her eyes off the chair where Faith continued to stare at her, blood dripping from her chin. "Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that which might appall the devil."

Spike glanced again at the empty chair. "O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear. This is the air-drawn dagger which, you said, led you to Quentin. O these flaws and starts, impostors to true fear. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all's done, you look but on a stool."

Buffy grabbed Spike's shoulder and pointed, "Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! Lo! How say you? Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too. If charnel houses and our graves must send those that we bury back, our monuments shall be the maws of kites." Buffy saw Faith stand up and saunter out of the room. Buffy followed Faith's exit with her eyes.

Spike whispered viciously, "What, quite unmanned in folly?"

Buffy finally looked at him. "If I stand here, I saw her."

"Fie, for shame!" Spike looked around at the lords straining their ears to overhear them.

Buffy loudly said, "Blood hath been shed ere now, in the olden time. Ay, and since too, murders have been performed too terrible for the ear." Spike saw Oz and Giles catch each other's eyes. Buffy raved, "The time has been that, when the brains were out, the man would die, and there an end; but now they rise again, with twenty mortal murders on their crowns, and push us from our stools. This is more strange than such a murder is." Several lords whispered to each other.

Spike said with barely controlled anger, "My worthy lady, your noble friends do lack you."

Buffy stared at him, then looked around at the staring nobles. She got a wan smile. "I do forget. Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends; I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing to those that know me. Come, love and health to all! Then I'll sit down. Give me some wine, fill full." She raised her cup. "I drink to the general joy of the whole table, and to our dear friend Faith, whom we miss; would she were here! To all and her we thirst, and all to all."

The relieved guests raised their cups and said in unison, "Our duties, and the pledge."

Buffy smiled widely, glanced to her side, and found Faith's gory face right next to her. She frantically cried, "Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!" Buffy scrambled to the other side of the room. "Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; thou has no speculation in those eyes which thou dost glare with." Buffy was frothing at the mouth.

Spike stepped in front of her and said loudly, "Think of this, good peers, but as a thing of custom; 'tis no other. Only it spoils the pleasure of the time."

Buffy said, "What Slayer dare, I dare. Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves shall never tremble. Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!" She watched Faith's bloody ghost hold up two hands with the middle finger raised. Then she disappeared. Buffy felt relief wash over her. She said weakly, "Why so, being gone, I am a Slayer again. Pray you, sit still."

Spike said frigidly, "You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, with most admired disorder."

Buffy looked curiously at the blonde man. "Can such things be, and overcome us like a summer's cloud, without our special wonder? You make me strange even to the disposition that I owe, when now I think you can behold such sights, and keep the natural ruby of your cheeks, when mine is blanched with fear."

Giles asked, "What sights, my lady?"

Spike spoke quickly, "I pray you, speak not: she grows worse and worse; question enrages her; at once, good night. Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once."

Oz said, "Good night; and better health attend her Majesty!"

Spike held the door open. "A kind good night to all!" Everyone left, bowing to Buffy as they did so. Spike gave them time to get away, slammed the door and turned furiously to Buffy.

The Queen sat weakly in a chair. "It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood." Spike walked over to her and the anger left his face. Buffy reached up to take his hand. "What is the night?"

Spike sighed. "Almost at odds with morning, which is which."

Buffy looked up at his concerned face. "How say'st thou, that Xander denies his person at our great bidding?"

"Did you send to him?"

"I hear it by the way, but I will send: There's not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee'd. I will tomorrow, and betimes I will, to the weird sisters: More shall they speak, for now I am bent to know by the worst means the worst. For mine own good all causes shall give way."

Buffy released Spike's hand. He looked worried, squatted down and was about to speak when Buffy said, "I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go over." She looked in Spike's eyes and tiredly explained, "Strange things I have in head that will to hand, which must be acted ere they may be scanned."

Spike kissed her forehead and murmured, "You lack the season of all natures, sleep."

Buffy stood up and leaned on Spike letting him lead her. "Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse is the initiate fear that wants hard use. We are yet but young in deed."

Scene V.

This scene with Hecate and the witches is usually considered an interpolation not written by Shakespeare and is not used here.

Scene VI. (The Palace.)

The Thane of Lennox and Thane of Ross walked on the west battlement where they could not be overheard. Oz said, "Only I say things have been strangely borne. The gracious Quentin was pitied of Buffy: marry, he was dead. And the right-valiant Faith walked too late; whom you may, if it please you, Fleance killed." He barely kept a straight face. "For Fleance fled." Oz sarcastically said, "Men must not walk too late. Who cannot want the thought, how monstrous it was for Wesley to kill his gracious father? Damned fact! How it did grieve Buffy! Did she not straight, in pious rage, the two delinquents tear, that were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep? Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely too; for it would have angered any heart alive to hear the men deny it. So that I say she has borne all things well: and I do think that, had she Quentin's son under her key--and it please heaven, she do not--he should find what it were to kill a father. So should Fleance."

Oz shook his head disgustedly. The irony was too hard to maintain. "But, peace! for from broad words, and because he failed his presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear, Xander lives in disgrace. Sir, can you tell where he bestows himself?"

Giles looked over the vast countryside. "The son of Quentin, from whom this tyrant holds the due of birth, lives in the English court, and is received of the most pious Edward with such grace that the malevolence of fortune nothing takes from his high respect. Thither Xander is gone to pray the holy King to wake Northumberland and the warlike Angelus; that by the help of these, with Him above to ratify the work, we may again give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights, free from our feasts and banquets of bloody knives, do faithful homage and receive free honors: All which we pine for now. And this report has so exasperate the Queen that she prepares for some attempt of war."

Oz asked, "Sent she to Xander?"

"She did." Giles replied, put his glasses on and met Oz's gaze.

The smaller man said, "Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance his wisdom can provide." He added with frustration, "That a swift blessing may soon return to this our suffering country under a hand accursed!"

"I'll send my prayers with him." Giles put his hand on Oz's shoulder but removed it when the young thane looked quizzically at it.


Scene I. (A witches' haunt.)

The magic shop was a clean, well-lighted place that smelled of scented candles and sandalwood. Flyers were up for Astrology readings, colonic irrigations and empowering daycare. In the window Great Abs In Five Spells and Wicca Tennis waited in piles to replace No Men in Menstrual! and Flowing with Pride. Outrageously marked-up silver and gold pentagrams, ankhs, and zodiac symbols were attractively displayed in glass cases. Selections of tarot decks were on sale next to healing crystals and, as a joke, Magic 8-balls. The management was uneasy about people not getting the joke but it was one of their most popular items.

Approaching the shopdoor, Willow wore a dark blazer over a frilled silk belly shirt, with her black leather pants and favorite stiletto boots. Tara had five piercings running up the outside of each ear, with her brown hair combed back, and wore a long pastel dress. Jonathan had on a plain white longsleeve shirt and blue jeans. Willow used her key and she, Tara and Jonathan filed inside, the young man awkwardly carrying a cardboard box that half covered his face. He set the box on the counter and huffed tiredly until he saw Willow and Tara watching him, when he sucked his stomach in. Tara tore open the box, put the warranty card and receipt in a drawer, and extracted an extra-large avocado green crockpot.

As they took jars down from shelves, Willow got a sly smile. "Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed."

Jonathan added, "Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined." He grimaced trying to open a jar of lizard legs.

With a look of rapt listening, Tara turned revealing a cockroach the size of a wharf rat covering half her face. Jonathan dropped the lizard legs that spilled out. Tara affectionately scratched the shiny brown carapace that wiggled in response. She said, "Harpier cries. 'Tis time, 'tis time."

The insect leapt to the floor, grabbed a lizard leg and scrambled away as Jonathan jumped up on a chair. The two witches crossed their arms. He sheepishly climbed down and picked up the spilled reptile parts.

Willow glanced at Jonathan and took her blazer off with a sigh. Tara sighed and kicked her shoes off and reached under her skirt to roll her natural fiber panties down. As they stripped, Jonathan unbuttoned his shirt, then bent down to untie his tennis shoes. He peeked up as Willow slid her bra off. Why did they keep sighing? When they were naked, Willow's frail white body contrasted with Tara's voluptousness, and Jonathan's masculine frame. Willow and Tara had to admit he was in better shape than either witch expected. Jonathan surreptiously checked on the status of the girls' Brazilians and heard them sigh again.

The coven opened two cans of free-range chicken stock which they emptied into the crockpot along with a bottle of microbrewery beer. Tara plugged the crockpot in. While they waited Jonathan read a comic book as Willow and Tara held hands and whispered to each other. When the crockpot started to steam Willow stood before it, Tara on her left, Jonathan on her right. The ingredients were ready and premeasured in plastic Tupperware.

Jonathan turned the lights off. Willow picked up a flashlight up, flipped it on, and held it under her face to look spooky. She said,

Round about the caldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Sweltered venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first in the charmed pot.

Tara and Jonathan added ingredients as Willow named them.

They all said together:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Willow handed the flashlight to Tara who shined it up into her own face making Willow giggle. Willow and Jonathan were ready. Tara intoned,

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blindworm's stingv
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

They all repeated in unison:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Jonathan took the flashlight from Tara, squinting in the bright light. Tara and Willow carefully checked the ingredients and nodded at Jonathan. This was it.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch's mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravined salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digged in the dark.
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Slivered in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-delivered by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our caldron.

Jonathan weaved dizzily and Tara steadied him. Willow patted his shoulder and took the flashlight back.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Willow unstopped a test tube and poured in the contents.

Cool it with baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Willow flipped the lights back on. Tara was putting the Jew livers away when she whirled around, heavy breasts swinging, nipples hard, eyes bright. She held her hands up. "By the pricking of my thumbs, s...s...something wicked this way comes!"

The witches and warlock waited. The shopdoor flew open from a kick, shattering the frame and breaking glass. Buffy stood revealed in a long dark coat, black knit cap, and raccoon eye makeup. Tara smiled uncertainly and Jonathan tried to look tough. Willow smirked. The Slayer strode inside, glass crunching beneath expensive pointy black shoes.

"How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do?"

Willow smiled flirtatiously. "A deed without a name."

Buffy pursed her lips as if duly considering that answer. She backhanded Willow and brought a knife out of her coat. Buffy held the point of Faith's ornate blade to Willow's chin, making her rise up on her toes. The naked witch stared down at her with wide obsidian eyes.

Buffy said, "I conjure you, by that which you profess, however you come to know it. Answer me. Though you untie the winds and let them fight against the churches; though the yesty waves confound and swallow navigation up; though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down; though castles topple on their warders' heads; though palaces and pyramids do slope their heads to their foundations; though the treasure of nature's germens tumble all together, even till destruction sicken, answer me to what I ask you."

Willow spat, "Speak."

Tara whispered, "Demand."

Jonathan giggled, "We'll answer."

Buffy allowed Willow to lower her chin but held the knife ready. She glanced at the others and saw their eyes turn to soulless black.

Willow sweetly said, "Say, if thou hadst rather hear it from our mouths, or from our masters?"

"Call 'em, let me see 'em." Buffy commanded.

The nude pale redhead said to Jonathan, "Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten her nine farrow." She looked at Tara. "Grease that's sweaten from the murderer's gibbet throw into the flame." When it was done Willow, Tara and Jonathan said together, "Come, high or low, thyself and office deftly show!"

Buffy watched a miniature black and white television rise out of the crockpot, then grow until it was a full 40-inch flat blackscreen with Dolby surround sound. Willow held a remote. A news program came on with a serious looking brunette anchorwoman behind a desk.

"Tell me, thou unknown power--"

Willow said, "She knows thy thought: Hear her speech, but say thou nought."

The network anchor Cordelia Chase read from a teleprompter: "Buffy! Buffy! Buffy! Beware Xander! Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me: enough." The screen went blue.

Buffy said, "Whatever thou art, for thy good caution thanks: Thou has harped my fear aright. But one word more---"

Tara said, "She will not be commanded. Here's another, more potent than the first."

The screen flickered back to life and showed an operating room. This time Cordelia wore a white nurse's uniform with her breasts nearly spilling out. She raised a bloody baby up, umbilical cord curling like a pig's tail. "Buffy! Buffy! Buffy!" the newborn screamed spitting bits of gelatinous tissue that clung to the screen.

"Had I three ears, I'd hear thee," Buffy answered, making a face. Icky much?

"Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Buffy." Nurse Cordy took huge shears and snipped the cord that sprayed blood like a garden hose. She moaned and french kissed the gooey baby. The screen went blue again.

Buffy exulted, "Then live, Xander: what need I fear of thee? But yet I'll make assurance double sure, and take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live."

Willow raised the remote control and the screen showed a suburban home with a wide driveway. An SUV pulled up driven by a frazzled looking Cordelia dressed like a soccer mom. She lifted a little boy out of the childseat in the back and set him down. He wore a paper crown decorated with glitter and little stars. Cordy gave him a tree-shaped air freshener to distract him but took it away when he prepared to eat it. He bent to examine a dried cat turd as an exhausted Cordelia leaned against her sports utility vehicle and made a face at Buffy.

The queen demanded, "What is this, that rises like the issue of a king, and wears upon his baby-brow the round and top of sovereignty?"

Tara said with exasperation, "Listen, but speak not to it." Buffy cringed.

The toddler lost interest in the cat excrement and glared at Buffy. "Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Buffy shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against her." An infomercial for a home gym came on before Willow clicked it off.

Buffy raised her hands triumphantly. "That will never be. Who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root? Buffy shall live the lease of nature, pay her breath to time and mortal customs. Yet my heart throbs to know one thing. Tell me, if your art can tell so much: shall Faith's issue ever reign in this kingdom?"

"Seek to know no more," Jonathan spoke warningly.

Buffy smiled and grabbed the naked young man's testicles. "I will be satisfied. Deny me this, and an eternal curse fall on you! Let me know."

Willow cried, "Show!"

Tara cried, "Show!"

Jonathan squeaked, "Show!" Buffy released him.

The coven chanted, "Show her eyes, and grieve her heart; come like shadows, so depart!"

Willow aimed the remote at the mystic television. Buffy saw Faith in close-up. The dark Slayer smiled and stepped back revealing a line of eight bronzed muscular men in tight speedos on a beach. They wore huge foam rubber golden crowns on their heads. Cordelia in a chrome-yellow string-bikini massaged oil on the ripped pecs of one then sensuously moved to start on the well-defined quads of another. Faith gave Buffy the finger with both hands. The screen changed to scrambled porn and the apparition dissipated into smoke.

"Filthy hags! Why do you show me this? Horrible sight! Now I see 'tis true. Faith smiles upon me, and points at them for hers. What, is this so?"

Willow smiled unctuously. "Ay, all this is so. But why stands Buffy thus amazedly? Come, cheer we up her spirits, and show the best of our delights."

Buffy suddenly was in a crowded nightclub. Jonathan leapt onto a stage with a microphone, trim and suave in a tailored tux with diamond cufflinks. Buffy's heart beat faster looking at him: JONATHAN! Why would she feel...? Girls screamed as he sang "Tainted Love.* Suspended in go-go cages, Willow and Tara danced in Day-Glo bikinis. Jonathan winked at Buffy and smiled with perfect white teeth that gleamed unnaturally bright. JONATHAN! Oh God!! He looked at her! He's so DREAMY! Maybe she could get backstage! Buffy imagined Jonathan's engorged manhood impaling her needy womanflesh. At least she'd give him a blow... There was a crack of teeth-shaking feedback and Buffy stood alone in the small magic shop.

Buffy shuddered and shook her head to clear it. "Where are they? Gone? Let this pernicious hour stand aye accursed in the calendar!" She called out the door, "Come in, without there!"

The Thane of Lennox stepped inside. "What's your Grace's will?"

"Saw you the weird sisters?"

"No, my lady."

"Came they not by you?"

"No, indeed, lady."

Buffy looked around the magic shop angrily. "Infected be the air whereon they ride. And damned all those that trust them! I did hear the galloping of horse. Who was it came by?"

Oz clasped his hands behind his back. "Tis two or three that bring you word Xander is fled to England."

"Fled to England?"

He had a shadow of a smile. "Ay, my good lady."

Buffy stared where the crockpot had stood. "Time, thou anticipates my dread exploits." She turned to Oz. "From this moment the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand. And even now, to crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done. The castle of Xander I will surprise; seize upon Fife; give to the edge of the sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool. This deed I'll do before this purpose cool."

She watched for a reaction but Oz kept his usual Oz face. She smiled bitterly, waved the dagger she still held, and snorted, "But no more sights!" Buffy said coldly, "Where are these gentlemen? Come, bring me where they are."

Scene II. (Fife. Xander's castle.)

The sitting room was stylish yet comfortable, indicating taste without pretension. With newly platinum blonde hair and a clinging dark green dress with long flowing sleeves, Anya sat across from a tall distinguished gentleman while she rocked a wooden crib. She sighed and slumped her shoulders, continuing to rock the cradle. Anya asked the Thane of Ross, "What had he done, to make him fly the land?"

"You must have patience, madam." Giles took his glasses off to polish the lenses.

Anya complained, "He had none: his flight was madness. When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors."

"You know not whether it his wisdom or his fear."

Anya exploded, "Wisdom! To leave his wife, to leave his babes, his mansion and his titles, in a place from whence himself does fly? He loves us not." She said disdainfully, "He wants the natural touch."

Giles said importantly, "My dearest coz, I pray you, school yourself. But, for your husband, he is noble, wise, judicious, and best knows the fits of the season. I dare not speak much further." His voice petered out on the last words as he wilted under Anya's withering gaze. He straightened up and made another attempt at pomposity: "But cruel are the times, when we are traitors and do not know ourselves; when we hold rumor from what we fear, yet know not what we fear, but float upon a wild and violent sea each way and move." He stopped. Anya was making funny faces at the baby in the crib and not even listening. Giles stiffly said, "I take my leave of you."

Anya smiled and didn't try to stop him. Rising Giles added, "Shall not be long but I'll be here again. Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward to what they were before. My pretty cousin, blessing upon you!"

A seven-year-old boy who looked like Xander slouched into the room. Anya stood up, dramatically pointed at the boy, and exclaimed, "Fathered he is, and yet he's fatherless." The boy looked at his mother with a look of 'Huh?"

Giles saw he was being ignored. "I take my leave at once." Anya waved vaguely as he left the room like he had a poker up his ass.

Anya eyed her son. "Sirrah, your father's dead: and what will you do now? How will you live?" She tossed her head with a dramatic flourish and placed her hands on her hips.

The boy said with mock innocence, "As birds do, mother."

She knelt down to look fiercely in his face. "What, with worms and flies?"

"With what I get, I mean; and so do they."

Anya tragically intoned, "Poor bird! Thou didst never fear the net."

The boy said smugly, "Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for. My father is not dead, for all your saying."

"Yes, he is dead: how wilt thou do for a father?"

"Nay, how will you do for a husband?"

Anya raised her chin and smiled. "Why, I can buy me twenty at any market."

"Then you'll buy 'em to sell again."

Anya held her hands out. But of course.

The boy grinned at her. "Was my father a traitor, mother?"

She nodded decisively. "Ay, that he was."

"What is a traitor?"

"Why, one that swears and lies."

The boy asked, "And be all traitors that do so?"

Anya said firmly, "Every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged."

"And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?"

"Every one."

"Who must hang them?"

"Why, the honest men."

The child triumphantly said, "Then the liars and swearers are fools; for there are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them."

Anya laughed and hugged her son. "Now, God help thee, poor monkey! But how wilt thou do for a father?"

The boy said with a superior tone, "If he were dead, you'd weep for him. If you would not, it were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father."

"Poor prattler, how thou talkest!"

Anya picked the baby up from the crib and brought out a breast to feed her. Her son tickled the baby's feet until Anya gave him a look. She looked up surprised as a young man with tousled blonde hair stumbled into the room out of breath.

"Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known, though in your state of honor I am perfect." He remembered to bow slightly and hurriedly said, "I doubt some danger does approach you nearly: if you will take a homely man's advice, be not found here; hence, with your little ones. Heaven preserve you!" Andrew cried hysterically, "I dare abide no longer!" Before Anya could say a word he was gone.

The Lady of Fife said in a panicked voice, "Whither should I fly? I have done no harm. But I remember now I am in this earthly world, where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly." Her face became firm and she said angrily to herself, "Why, then, alas, do I put up that womanly defense, to say I have done no harm?"

A tall man with curly dark hair and a bandaged nose stepped into the room followed by two others. One had a teardrop tattooed on his face. Behind them Anya saw soldiers holding the young man who tried to warn her.

"What are these faces?" Anya spoke furiously.

Warren asked, "Where is your husband, baby?"

"I hope in no place so unsanctified where such as thou mayest find him."

Warren smirked and stepped closer. He reached a hand out to stroke her baby's head then let his fingers stray to her breast. Anya struck his hand away. His face got red. "He's a traitor."

Xander's son yelled, "Thou liest, thou shag-eared villain!"

Teardrop tattoo grabbed the child up. Warren sneered, "Why, you egg!" He stepped closer and liesurely drew a knife while Anya and the child frantically struggled. "Young fry of treachery!" Warren furiously stabbed the helpless boy. Anya screamed as Teardrop let her son fall.

Anya made a break for the door but the other murderer caught her. Warren wrestled her crying baby out of her arms. Anya's eyes were wide. She kicked and cursed as Warren tossed the infant to Teardrop. The sallow man flung the baby to the floor and stomped down with a heavy boot, grimaced and stomped again, and then once more.

Warren slugged Anya splitting her lip. He grabbed both her breasts then ripped her dress away. She struggled while Teardrop and the other man pulled her down in the blood of her murdered children, her son's dead face beside her own. She sought out her dead baby. Warren's eyes were bright and he licked his lips, then yanked off her bra, fingered it and shoved it in his pocket. Anya managed to knee him in the groin. Warren bared his teeth and battered her face over and over with his big fists while the murderers held her arms. He slipped a tooth into a pocket, cut her panties off and stuffed them in her bloody mouth. Yells came from other parts of the castle. Buffy's voice gave orders. Warren grinned and unzipped his pants. He roughly spread her open, gouging her with his chewed nails, while she struggled. Warren licked the side of her bloody face as the others laughed and waited their turn.

Scene III. (England. Before the King's palace.)

Xander waited for Wesley in the ordered and well-kept garden. It offended him. Nothing should look so peaceful while his homeland was being raped. He knew how unfair it was to feel that way. Wesley seemed at home here which also offended him. Also not fair, he knew. He saw Wesley speak to a couple of officers, then come toward him.

Wesley said, "Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there weep our sad bosoms empty."

Xander grabbed Wesley's arm. "Let us rather hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men bestride our down-fallen birthdom. Each new morn new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face!" Wesley looked down at Xander's hand and he quickly released him.

Wesley looked in Xander's eyes and said coolly, "What you have spoke, it may be so perchance. This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues, was once thought honest." He said with emphasis, "You have loved her well; she hath not touched you yet. You may deserve of her through me."

Xander's face got red. "I am not treacherous."

"But Buffy is. A good and virtuous nature may recoil in an imperial charge."

"I have lost my hopes." Xander spoke discouraged.

Wesley still watched him closely. "Perchance even there where I did find my doubts. Why in that rawness left you wife and child? I pray you, let not my jealousies be your dishonors, but mine own safeties. You may be rightly just whatever I shall think."

Xander's face got even redder. He turned away. "Bleed, bleed, poor country! Fare thee well, lord: I would not be the villain that thou think'st for the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp and the rich East to boot."

Wesley laid a hand on his shoulder. "Be not offended: I speak not in absolute fear of you. I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; it weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds. I think withal there would be hands uplifted in my right; and here from gracious England have I offer of goodly thousands; but for all this, when I shall tread upon the tyrant's head, or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country shall have more vices than it had before, more suffer, and more sundry way than ever, by him that shall succeed."

Xander was relieved but mystified. "What should he be?"

Wesley answered, "It is myself I mean. Black Buffy will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state esteem her as a lamb."

Xander made a snorting sound of disbelief. "Not in the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned in evils to top Buffy." Wesley smiled. Xander had never seen such coldness in Wesley's eyes before. He was no longer the slightly comical figure Xander remembered.

Wesley said, "I grant him bloody, luxurious, avariciousness, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name: but there's no bottom, none in my voluptuousness: your wives, your daughters, your matrons and your maids, could not fill up the cistern of my lust."

Xander looked away and was quiet. Finally he said, "We have willing dames enough."

Wesly smiled. "Were I King, I should cut off the nobles for their lands, desire his jewels and this other's house; and my more-having would be as a sauce to make me hunger more, that I should forge quarrels unjust against the good and loyal, destroying them for wealth."

Xander stared at Wesley's calm face. He shoved his hands in his pockets. "This avarice sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root than summer seeming lust. Yet, do not fear. All these are portable, with other graces weighed."

Wesley laughed in his face and said, "But I have none; the king-becoming graces, as justice, verity, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, I have no relish of them, but abound in the division of each several crime."

"O Scotland, Scotland!" Xander exclaimed.

Wesley purred, "If such a one be fit to govern, speak: I am as I have spoken."

"Fit to govern! No, not to live. O nation miserable! Thy royal father was a most sainted king. Fare thee well! These evils thou repeatest upon thyself hath banished me from Scotland. O my breast, thy hope ends here!" Xander was almost in tears.

"Xander," Wesley said in a different calmer voice, "this noble passion, child of integrity, hath from my soul wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts to thy good truth and honor. Devilish Buffy by many of these trains hath sought to win me into her power. God above deal between thee and me! For even now I put myself to thy direction, and unspeak mine own detraction; here abjure the taints and blames I laid upon myself, for strangers to my nature." Xander didn't answer. Wesley continued, "What I am truly, is thine and my poor country's to command: whither indeed, before thy here-approach, Old Angelus, with ten thousand warlike men, was setting forth. Now we'll together. Why are you silent?"

Xander said in a distracted way, "Such welcome and unwelcome things at once 'tis hard to reconcile." He pointed a finger. "See, who comes here?"

Wesley said, "My countryman; but yet I know him not."

Xander exclaimed, "My ever gentle cousin, welcome hither." He hurried to take Giles' hand.

Wesley waited for them to come to him. "I know him now." He spoke up, "Good God, betimes remove the means that makes us strangers!"

The Thane of Ross stopped and curtly bowed his head. "Sir, amen." He was pointedly not looking at Xander.

The Thane of Fife said ironically, "Stands Scotland where it did?"

Giles still wouldn't look at Xander. He gravely answered, "Alas, poor country! Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot be called our mother but our grave, where nothing but who knows nothing is once seen to smile; where sighs and groans, and shrieks that rent the air, are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy. The dead man's knell is there scarce asked for who, and good men's lives expire before the flower in their caps, dying or ere they sicken.

Xander exclaimed, "O, relation too nice, and yet too true!"

"What's the newest grief?" Wesley asked.

Giles said, "Each minute teems a new one."

Xander laid a hand on Giles' arm. "How does my wife?"

The Thane of Ross answered quickly, "Why, well."

"And all my children?"

"Well too."

"The tyrant has not battered at their peace?"

"No; they were well at peace when I did leave 'em."

Xander was irritated. "Be not a niggard of your speech: how goes it?"

Giles took his glasses off to do something with his hands. He spoke to Wesley,

"When I came hither to transport the tidings, which I have heavily borne, there ran a rumor of many worthy fellows that were out; which was to my belief witnessed the rather, for that I saw the tyrant's power afoot. Now is the time of help. Your eye in Scotland would create soldiers, make our women fight, to doff their dire distresses."

Wesley said decisively, "Be it their comfort we are coming thither. Gracious England hath lent us good Angelus and ten thousand men; an older and better solder none that Christendom gives out."

Giles said in a trembling voice, "Would I could answer this comfort with the like! But I have words that would be howled out in the desert air, where hearing would not latch them."

Xander was still. "What concern they? The general cause or is it a fee-grief due to some single breast?"

Giles met his eyes. "No mind that's honest but in it shares some woe, though the main part pertains to you alone.

"If it be mine, keep it not from me, quickly let me have it."

"Let not your ears despise my tongue forever, which shall possess them with the heaviest sound that ever yet they heard."

Xander's voice broke, "I guess at it!"

"Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes savagely slaughtered. To relate the manner were to add the death of you."

Wesley exclaimed, "Merciful heaven!"

Xander held his hands to his head and took a few faltering steps but did not speak.

Wesley said to him, "Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the over-fraught heart, and bids it break."

Xander looked up at Giles. "My children too?"

"Wife, children, servants, all that could be found."

Xander's eyes were wide and voice frantic. "And I must be from thence! My wife killed too? Anya?"

"I have said."

Wesley put his hand on Xander's shoulder. "Be comforted. Let's make us medicines of our great revenge, to cure this deadly grief."

Xander held his hands out pathetically. "She has no children. All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam at one fell swoop?"

"Dispute it like a man." Wesley sounded like Quentin Travers.

"I shall do so; but I must also feel it as a man. I cannot but remember such were, that were most precious to me." Xander saw Anya letting her robe slip off her naked shoulders as she looked in his eyes. He saw his children waking them both up in the morning and climbing into their bed while he pretended to be grumpy and Anya tickled them. He imagined what their last minutes were like. "Did heaven look on, and would not take their part? Sinful Xander, they were all struck for thee! Naught that I am, not for their own demerits but for mine fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!" Xander clasped his hands together.

Wesley said, "Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it."

Xander looked at Wesley. "O, I could play the woman with mine eyes, and braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, cut short all intermission; front to front bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself; within my sword's length set her."

Wesley said clearly, "This time goes manly. Come, go we to the King. Our power is ready; our lack is nothing but our leave. Buffy is ripe for shaking, and the powers above put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may. That night is long that never finds the day."

Xander and Wesley walked off together leaving Giles forgotten. The Thane of Ross was insulted. He was older and more experienced than either of them. Giles remembered Anya with a jolt, rocking a cradle and bantering with her son. He advised her to be patient, then left to save his own skin. He remembered her eyes when he said, "I dare not speak further." Giles lowered his head and slowly followed Wesley and Xander.


Scene I. (Dunsinane. In the castle.)

The handsome young doctor said to the big-eyed teenage girl in pajamas. "I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive no truth in your report. When was it he last walked?"

Dawn pouted and frowned that Ben doubted her. "Since her Majesty went into the field, I have seen Spike rise from his bed, throw his nightgown upon him, unlock his closet, take forth paper, fold it, write upon it, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep." She snuck a glance at the doctor's profile. He was so cute!

Ben said thoughtfully, "A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching. What at any time have you heard him say?"

The teenage girl set her mouth. "That, sir, which I will not report after him."

"You may to me," Ben said seriously, "and 'tis most meet you should."

Dawn shook her head. "Neither to you nor anyone, having no witness to confirm my speech."

Before Ben could lecture her about medical confidentiality they saw an approaching light and then Spike entered the room carrying a candle. Dawn whispered, "Lo, you, here he comes! This is his very guise, and upon my life, fast asleep! Observe him; stand close!"

Ben was amazed at how bossy she had become. Spike was naked under an open black silk robe. Ben saw the girl checking out Spike's package with avid interest. He asked, "How came he by that light?"

"Why it stood by him. He has light by him continually. 'Tis his command." Dawn explained.

Ben said softly to himself, "You see, his eyes are open."

"Ay, but their sense are shut."

Spike set the candle down.

"What is it he does now? Look how he rubs his hands."

"It is an accustomed action with him, to seem thus washing his hands: I have known him continue in this a quarter of an hour." She smiled. Dawn loved having the answers.

"Yet here's a spot." Spike spoke like he'd made an amazing discovery.

Ben took out a small pad of paper. "Hark! He speaks. I will set down what comes from him, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly." Dawn held up a miniature tape recorder. He accepted it from her as she rolled her eyes.

Spike loudly cursed, "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why, then 'tis time to do it. Hell is murky. Fie, my lady, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"

Ben said, "Do you mark him?"

Spike looked around frantically. Ben almost jumped when Spike looked right at him. "The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands ne're be clean? No more of that, my lady, no more of that! You mar all with this starting."

Ben whispered to the girl, "Go to, go to! You have known what you should not."

Dawn crossed her arms. "He has spoke what he should not, I am sure of that." Spike rubbed his hands together and sniffed at them. "Here's the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand."

Ben murmured, "What a sight is there! The heart is sorely charged."

"I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the dignity of the whole body." Dawn spoke sympathetically.

"This disease is beyond my practice," Ben said bluntly.

Spike exclaimed, "Wash your hands; put on your nightgown; look not so pale! I tell you yet again, Faith's buried. She cannot come out of her grave."

Ben said softly, "Even so?"

Spike spun making his black robe fly around his white muscular nude frame like bat wings. His eyes were terrified. "To bed, to bed! There's knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand! What's done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed!" Spike grabbed the candle and rushed away.

"Will he go now to bed?" Ben asked.

"Directly." Dawn answered.

Ben punched REWIND on the tape recorder, then ERASE. The handsome young man said, "Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets. More needs he the divine than the physician." Ben added, "God, God forgive us all! Look after him; remove from him the means of all annoyance, and still keep eyes upon him. So good night. I think, but dare not speak." He picked his medical bag up and slipped away.

Dawn watched him leave with judgmental teenage eyes. "Good night, good doctor." She tossed her head to get her hair over the shoulders and went looking for Spike.

Scene II. (The country near Dunsinane.)

A column of soldiers halted as their leader held a hand up. The Thane of Lennox rode in a motorcycle sidecar to join the heads of three other columns. Oz left his driver and approached a tall powerful looking man with a shaven head. The bald man said, "The English power is near, led on by Wesley, Angelus and the good Xander." Gunn carefully scanned the countryside as he spoke. The weapons in his vehicle were in easy reach.

A short naturally balding man with an angry face said, "Near Birnam Wood shall we well meet them; that way are they coming." Snyder looked like he expected an argument.

Another man with a shaved head but a fastidiously trimmed beard asked, "Who knows if Donalbain be with his brother?"

Oz answered Robin Wood, "For certain, sir, he is not. I have a file of all the gentry: there is Angelus's son, and many unrough youths that even now protest their first of manhood."

Gunn asked, "What does the tyrant?"

Robin Wood answered like he was giving a presentation. "Great Dunsinane, she strongly fortifies. Some say she's mad; others, that lesser hate her, do call it valiant fury: but, for certain, she cannot buckle her distempered cause with the belt of rule."

Snyder said self-righteously, "Now does she feel her secret murders sticking on her hands; now minutely revolts upbraid her faith-breach. Those she commands move only in command, nothing in love. Now does she feel her title hang loose about her, like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief!"

The others covered their mouths to hide their smiles. The small man opened his eyes wide.

Gunn headed off an argument. "Who then shall blame her pestered senses to recoil and start, when all that is within her does condemn itself for being there?" Robin Wood climbed into a camouflaged vehicle with a mounted machine gun on the back. A soldier took his place at the weapon. Robin said, "Well, march we on, to give obedience where 'tis truly owed." The thanes returned to their troops. When the Thane of Lennox reached his men, Oz ordered, "Make we our march towards Birnam."

Scene III. (Dunsinane, in the castle.)

Soldiers came to attention when Buffy swept into the throne room followed by new officers. Most of her old ones had deserted her. The young doctor uncomfortably trailed along behind. Buffy wore an olive green tank top, khaki pants and heavy black laced boots. Faith's knife waited in a sheath on her hip and a new jagged scar crossed from her upper to lower lip. She put one boot up on a chair, spat on it and started shining the black leather. She said brusquely, "Bring me no more reports; let them fly all!" She switched to the other boot to give it a spit shine. "Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane I cannot taint with fear." She brought the boot down with a crash making those with her jump. "What's the boy Wesley? Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know all mortal consequences have pronounced me thus: 'Fear not, Buffy; no man that's born of woman shall ever have power upon thee.' Then fly, false thanes, and mingle with the English poofters. The mind I sway by and the heart I bear shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear."

A servant ran into the room, then stopped seeing Buffy. He was shaking and pale. The Slayer pinned him with her gaze. "The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon! Where got'st thou that goose look?

The servant stuttered out, "There is ten thousand--"

"Geese, villain?" Buffy demanded.

"Soldiers, mam."

"What soldiers, whey-face?"

"The English force, so please you."

Buffy approached him to look in his terrified eyes. "Take thy face hence." The servant ran out of room. Buffy scanned the faces of her officers seeing how they took the news. They looked nearly as bad as that lily livered boy. She waved them away, noticed the doctor and indicated for him to stay. She called, "Clem!" Then said to herself, "I am sick at heart, when I behold..." She called, "Clem, I say!" Buffy continued, "This push will cheer me ever, or disseat me now." She took out Faith's beautiful knife, a gift from someone who loved her. Buffy had stolen it. "I have lived long enough. My way of life is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf, and that which should accompany old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their stead, curses not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath, which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not. Clem!"

Clem entered. "What's your gracious pleasure?" He had kind sad eyes in his hideous face.

"What news more?" Buffy asked.

"All is confirmed, my lady, which was reported." He shrugged and held his hands out.

Buffy looked at Faith's knife. "I'll fight, till from my bones my flesh be hacked. Give me my armor."

Clem said gently, "Tis not needed yet."

"I'll put it on. Send out more horses, scour the country round. Hang those that talk of fear. Give me mine armor." Clem nodded and left. Buffy noticed Ben. "How does your patient, doctor?"

Ben nervously approached her. "Not so sick, my lady, as he is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep him from his rest."

Buffy studied the handsome nervous face. "Cure him of that. Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon the heart?"

"Therein the patient must minister to himself."

Buffy grumbled, "Throw physic to the dogs, I'll none of it."

Clem reentered the room with servants carrying pieces of armor. Buffy's face brightened. "Come, put mine armor on. Give me my staff. Clem, send out." Clem sighed and left again. As her breastplate was fitted Buffy said to Ben, "Doctor, the thanes fly from me." She snarled at the servant fumbling with the fastenings, "Come, sir, dispatch." Buffy looked at Ben. "If thou couldst, doctor, cast the water of my land, find her disease and purge it to a sound and pristine health, I would applaud thee to the very echo, that should applaud again." Unable to remain still, Buffy tore at the half-attached armor, "Pull it off I say." The servants hastily freed her from the encumbrance and she began to pace. She looked at Ben with a manic smile. "What purgative drug would scour these English hence? Hear'st thou of them?

Ben carefully said, "Ay, my good lady; your royal preparations makes us hear something.

Buffy waved at her armor, "Bring it after me. I will not be afraid of death and bane till Birnam Forest come to Dunsinane." She strode out followed by the servants.

Ben was shaking and sat down in a chair. "Were I from Dunsinane away and clear, profit again should hardly draw me here.

Scene IV. (Country near Birnam Wood.)

Wesley wore a crisp uniform and simple coronet. Next to him stood the famous English commander lent to him: Angelus. Actually he was Irish, and the big dark-haired man looked surprisingly young for how old Wesley knew him to be. He was handsome in a square-jawed way and he found things amusing no one else saw humor in. Angelus had his son Connor with him. The androgynous looking youth had an air of confidence like his father. Wesley's commanders awaited their orders. He said, "Cousins, I hope the days are near at hand that chambers will be safe."

Gunn rolled his shoulders and said easily, "We doubt it nothing."

Angelus tapped a map spread out on a table. "What wood is this before us?"

"The Wood of Birnam," Gunn answered.

Wesley glanced at Angelus who nodded imperceptibly. Wesley ordered, "Let every soldier hew him down a bough and bear it before him. Thereby shall we shadow the numbers of our host, and make discovery err in report of us."

The commanders looked approvingly at him and caught each other's eyes. "It shall be done," Snyder announced and put his hands on his hips.

Angelus said, "We learn no other but the confident tyrant keeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure our setting down before it."

"Tis her main hope," Wesley said with a smile. "For where there is advantage to be given both more and less have given her the revolt." The commanders grinned; this was almost too easy. "And none serve her but constrained things whose hearts are absent too." The men laughed. Practically her entire army had deserted and those who hadn't wanted to.

Xander gruffly said, "Let our just censures attend the true event, and put we on industrious soldiership." Everyone stopped smiling as the Thane of Fife spoke. Xander retreated back into his usual moroseness.

Angelus stepped forward and said forcefully, "The time approaches, that will with due decision make us know what we shall say we have and what we owe." He smiled and said lightly, "Thoughts speculative their unsure hopes relate, but certain issue strokes must arbitrate." The big man giggled raised his hands and shook them like he was doing a dance number as he crooned, "Towards which advance the warrrrrrrrrr!" He drew the last syllable out and fell to his knees like he expected applause. Angelus looked around expectantly with a huge grin plastered on his face.

Wesley hid his distaste but his thanes weren't as successful. Angelus caught his son's eyes and both he and Connor laughed. Father and son strolled away as the thanes looked after them. Xander spat on the ground and fingered an intertwined bracelet of Anya's and his childrens' hair.

Scene V. (Dunsinane, within the castle.)

Buffy was sprawled in her throne turning Faith's knife watching the light dance off it. Shiny. Clem stood nearby looking troubled and soldiers guarded the doors.

Buffy said distractedly, "Hang out our banners on the outward walls. The cry is still 'They come!' She sheathed the knife. Buffy said forcefully to Clem, "Our castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn. Let them lie till famine and the ague eat them up!" He didn't answer. She said like it explained everything, "Were they not forced with those that should be ours, we might have met them dareful, beard to beard, and beat them backward home." Buffy looked at Clem expectantly. He nodded.

Buffy sat up. "What is that noise?"

Clem looked distressed. "It is the cry of women, my good lady." He hurried out the door.

Buffy fell heavily back in her throne. "I have almost forgot the taste of fears." She said ironically, "I have supped full with horrors. Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts, cannot once start me." Clem returned with his arm around Dawn. The girl was crying hysterically. Buffy sat forward. "Wherefore was that cry?"

"Spike, my lady, is dead." Clem spoke clearly. He gestured down with a nod of his head. Buffy saw Dawn's hands covered in what looked like dust. Dawn's sobs became louder. She opened her red eyes, saw Buffy and ran to hug her, smearing ash on the khaki. Buffy stroked her sister's brown hair and said, "He should have died hereafter; there would have been a time for such a word."

Dawn looked up with shocked eyes. She stared at Buffy and backed away. Her sister watched her. Clem stood waiting.

Buffy brushed her husband's ashes from her pants. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps at this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death." Dawn turned and ran out of the room. Buffy and Clem watched her then met each other's eyes. Buffy said, "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more."

Clem sighed and approached Buffy. She looked in his kind ugly face. Buffy stood up and said bitterly, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing." Buffy patted his shoulder and looked at the dust on the floor.

A frightened soldier stood in the doorway. Buffy smiled in a fake way and waved him closer. He inched inside, then moved more quickly at the look in the queen's eyes. Buffy enunciated clearly, "Thou com'st to use thy tongue; thy story quickly!"

"Gracious my lady, I should report that which I say I saw, but know not how to do it."

"Well, say, sir."

The messenger blurted out, "As I did stand my watch upon the hill, I looked toward Birnam, and anon, methought, the wood began to move."

Buffy punched him in the gut. "Liar and slave!"

He weakly looked up at her. "Let me endure your wrath, if it be not so. Within this three mile may you see it coming; I say a moving grove."

Buffy pulled Faith's knife and held it to his throat. "If thou speakest false, upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive, till famine cling thee. If thy speech be sooth, I care not if thou dost for me as much." She stood up and turned away. The messenger scrambled to his feet and scampered out of the room. Buffy saw Clem disappearing out the door. She ironically said, "I begin to doubt the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth."

Scene VI. (Dunsinane. Before the castle.)

The camouflaged army halted behind their commanders. The Thane of Fife looked expectantly at Wesley. The young man looked over his men and ordered loudly, "Now near enough. Your leafy screens throw down, and show like those you are." As the first row of camouflage was discarded and the word went back, Wesley beckoned Angelus over. "You shall, with your right noble son, lead our first battle. Worthy Xander and we shall take upon us what else remains to do, according to our order."

Angelus smirked and scratched his ear. "Fare you well. Do we but find the Tyrant's power tonight, let us be beaten, if we cannot fight." He winked at Wesley and went to his troops.

Xander watched him leave with distaste then ordered, "Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath, those clamorous harbingers of blood and death."

Scene VII. (Another part of the field.)

Three soldiers spotted her and charged. Buffy waited till they were almost on her when she ducked and crushed the first one's throat with a kick. She blocked the second's sword stroke with Faith's knife and gutted him. The third cursed and swung at her with a mace. She tumbled out of the way, came up behind him, grabbed his head and broke his neck. Buffy let him drop, looked at the bodies and then around the desolate scene before her castle. She should be at the head of her troops...if she had any when she captained Quentin's army with Faith...winning glory and honor. But most of her men had deserted. Even Clem; he'd tried to explain when she found him with the two murderers. Buffy cut them all down without a word.

"They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, but bearlike I must fight the course." Buffy wiped the blade off on a body. "What's he that was not born of woman? Such a one am I to fear, or none."

A slender soldier in fine armor stepped out of the woods. Buffy watched him without much interest. Connor demanded, "What is thy name?"

"Thou'lt be afraid to hear it."

The son of Angelus sneered, "No; though thou call'st thyself a hotter name than any is in hell."

She let her head loll to one side and said sensuously, "My name's Buffy."

Connor bared his teeth. "The devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear."

"No, nor more fearful."

"Thou liest, abhorred tyrant; with my sword I'll prove the lie thou speak'st."

Connor leapt at her. Buffy barely avoided being split down the middle, surprised at his speed and strength. Angelus's brat? Had to be. A backhand blow sent her flying. She leapt up and slashed but it skittered off his breastplate. Connor blocked another stroke and sent her reeling back, then nearly beheaded her but she rolled away in time. He kicked at her but she caught his leg and wrenched it out of its socket making him cry out. He fell and she kicked him in the head leaving him senseless. She knelt and gently patted his cheeks until he recognized her. She said, "Thou was born of woman. But swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn, brandished by man that's of a woman born." The boy's eyes lit up. He opened his mouth to speak when Buffy slit his throat. She left him choking and stunned in his fine new armor.

(Another part of the field.)

Xander went to investigate more bodies: Clem and two men who looked like convicts. He could tell from the way they were butchered who was responsible. They never stood a chance. Xander glared around furiously and listened. "That way the noise is." He yelled, "Tyrant, show thy face!"

Xander fingered the bracelet of hair and muttered, "If thou be'st slain and with no stroke of mine, my wife and children's ghosts will haunt me still." He waved at other bodies, regular soldiers in awkward poses of death. "I cannot strike at wretched kerns, whose arms are hired to bear their staves. Either thou, Buffy, or else my sword, with an unbattered edge, I sheathe again undeeded." He listened for the sounds of fighting and followed it.

(A distance from the fighting.)

Tara sat naked on the ground with stacks of money and glittering jewelry. Her brown hair hung straight framing her face and black writing decorated her smooth back. A man furtively emerged from the woods and Tara twisted, stretching sinuously to give him a good view. Her lower lip trembled piteously while her eyes were moist like a puppy's.

Warren looked around to be sure she was alone. He felt his nose glad to be finally rid of the bandage. Fight for Buffy or Wesley? He didn't think so. He moved closer, eyeing the money. And if the jewelry was real it was worth even more. He licked his lips. Family killed and she went nuts? Warren thought it was Greek painted on her back. She couldn't do that herself. He looked carefully around; seemed alone now. She was a little bottom heavy for his taste. Slipping a hand in his pocket, he fingered Lady Xander's tooth. Warren wouldn't hold it against her.

When he reached the bitch and took a good look, Warren smirked; completely shaved and he caught a glimpse of pink. He rolled his powerful shoulders and rubbed his fingers and thumbs together. She looked helplessly up at him as Warren unzipped his pants. He heard a sound. Turning his head he saw a couple people he used to know a long time ago. He smiled uneasily as Jonathan wagged his finger disapprovingly. Jonathan looked about the same but Willow dressed better than she used to, hip and sophisticated. She also had these funny eyes like black marbles and her hair was black now too. Tara stood up, smiled shyly at him and brushed her big ass off making her breasts wobble. Willow sauntered up with a half smile while Jonathan held his hands out and shrugged. Then they talked. Then Willow got bored. Then Warren didn't have any skin.

(Before Dunsinane castle.)

Dunsinane's great gate stood open. Wesley approached it with Angelus. The big man held his hand out and said sardonically, "This way, my lord. The castle's gentle rendered. The tyrant's people on both sides do fight; the noble thanes do bravely in the war; the day almost itself professes yours, and little is to do." Wesley glanced at Angelus. The tall man smirked. Wesley ignored it and saw some of Buffy's soldiers remove their helmets and bow. "We have met with foes that strike beside us."

Angelus grinned and flipped off the surrendering soldiers when Wesley wasn't looking. He said smoothly to Wesley, "Enter, sir, the castle."

Scene VIII.

Buffy watched Wesley and Angelus enter her fortress unopposed. Another two soldiers were dead at her feet. She positioned Faith's beautiful knife over her heart and grasped its handle with both hands. She snorted derisively and lowered the lovely blade. "Why should I play the Roman fool, and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes do better upon them."

"Turn, hell-hound, turn!"

Buffy took her time. "Of all men else I have avoided thee. But get thee back! My soul is too much charged with blood of thine already."

Xander's eyes blazed. "I have no words: my voice is in my sword. Thou bloodier villain than terms can give thee out!" He charged at her.

Buffy drew her sword as well and blocked his blow, then kicked Xander's sword out of his hand. She pushed Faith's knife to his throat while she lightly held her sword ready in her other hand. Seeing Xander's enraged face, she remembered his smart ass little boy who looked so much like him. She thought of Anya and his other children. She knew Warren. Buffy lowered the blade. "Thou losest labor: as easy mayst thou the intrenchant air with thy keen sword impress as make me bleed: Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests; I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born." Buffy turned her back on Xander and strode away.

Xander scrambled to retrieve his sword and spat at Buffy's back, "Despair thy charm, and let the angel whom thou still has served tell thee, Xander was from his mother's womb untimely ripped."

Buffy turned and stumbled. "Accursed be that tongue that tells me so, for it has cowed my better part of man! And be these juggling fiends no more believed, that palter with us in a double sense; that keep the word of promise to our ear, and break it to our hope. I'll not fight with thee."

Xander stood up holding his sword. "Then yield thee, coward, and live to be the show and gaze of the time; we'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are, painted upon a pole, and underwrit, 'Here may you see the tyrant.'"

She looked in his face and dropped her sword, then awkwardly picked it back up as Xander came towards her. She dropped the sword again and clumsily fell to her knees. Xander stood over her and watched her frantic fumbling. She glared at him as she finally managed to get the sword back in her hand. He stepped back as she got to her feet. Faith's knife in her left hand, the sword in her right. She was badly shaking but said, "I will not yield, to kiss the ground before young Wesley's feet, and to be baited with the rabble's curse. Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane , and though opposed, being of no woman born, yet I will try the last. Before my body I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Xander: and damned be him that cries 'Surrender!" [Lay on, MacDuff: and damned be him that first cries 'Hold enough!']

Buffy swung awkwardly at Xander, slipped and fell. Xander stomped her hand and Buffy grunted as her fingers broke on the handle of Faith's beautiful knife. When she rose Xander knocked her down again with the pommel of the sword that cracked her cheek bone. As she weakly got up again, Xander waited until the angle was right and swung his sword. Buffy met his eyes before her head went flying.

The throne stood empty. This was his life from now on. Wesley saw his thanes watching him and thought of his father Quentin. He'd never expected or wanted this so soon. Two soldiers pulled a white-faced teenage girl into the room. Wesley indicated for them to release her and motioned her closer. Dawn weakly obeyed shaking so badly she could barely take a step. She tried to curtsey but lost her balance. The Thane of Ross helped her up. Wesley looked in Giles' eyes then nodded. Giles returned to his place with his arm protectively around the girl. He said something reassuring and Dawn cried in relief. Wesley knew what Angelus and the thanes were thinking: too trusting, like his father. There were worse things.

Wesley said, "I would the friends we miss were safe arrived."

Angelus said, "Some must go off; and yet, by these I see so great a day as this is cheaply bought." He flashed a smile.

Wesley said, "Xander is missing, and your noble son." Angelus made a pouty face. Connor could take care of himself.

The Thane of Ross said clearly, "Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt." Angelus turned to look at him. Dawn tried to make herself invisible. Giles continued, "He only lived but till he was a man; the which no sooner had his prowess confirmed in the unshrinking station where he fought, but like a man he died."

"Then he is dead?"

Giles felt all his dislike of Angelus disappear; some of it anyway. "Ay, and brought off the field. Your cause of sorrow must not be measured by his worth, for then it hath no end." He gave Dawn another squeeze. She was terrified of Angelus. She should be.

"Had he his hurts before?" Angelus asked.

"Ay, on the front."

"Why then, God's soldier be he! Had I as many sons as I have hairs, I would not wish them to a fairer death: and so his knell is knolled."

Wesley said, "He's worth more sorrow, and that I'll spend on him."

"He's worth no more: they say he parted well and paid his score: and so God be with him!" Angelus growled, "Here comes newer comfort."

Giles placed his hand over Dawn's mouth. She bit down hard but he wouldn't let her make a sound. He welcomed the pain.

Xander strode into the throne room and hurled Buffy's head at Wesley's feet. "Hail, King! for so thou art: behold, where stands the usurper's cursed head. The time is free." He looked around at the watching thanes. "I see thee compassed with thy kingdom's pearl that speak my salutation in their minds, whose voices I desire aloud with mine: Hail, King of Scotland!" The crazed edge to his voice made everyone careful. He spotted Dawn held by the Thane of Ross. Xander reached for his sword but let his hand drop. She was staring at her sister's head. Giles bent to whisper in her ear, keeping his tight grip on her and a bloody hand over her mouth. Xander looked away.

"Hail, King of Scotland!" The room reverberated. Even Dawn joined in with terrified eyes as Giles carefully took his hand away

Wesley picked up Buffy's severed head. Giles clapped his hand over Dawn's mouth again. The King stuck the staring trophy on the end of a pike and gave it to a soldier to hold up.

"We shall not spend a large expense of time before we reckon with your several loves, and make us even with you. My thanes, and kinsmen, henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland in such an honor named. What's more to do, which would be planted newly with the time--as calling home our exiled friends abroad that fled the snares of watchful tyranny, producing forth the cruel ministers of this dead butcher and her fiendlike mate, who, as 'tis thought, by self and violent hands took off his life--this, and what needful else that calls upon us, by the grace of Grace we will perform in measure, time and place: so thanks to all at once and to each one, whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone."