Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Fiction » Toadification


Disclaimer: I do not own Anya, Willow or Dawn. They are very definitely the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. I'm just playing in their universe for a bit.

Thanks to LadyStarlight for the lyrics.


It had been nineteen days, three hours and forty-six minutes since Anya had forsworn vengeance demon-ing in favor of remorse, and she was beginning to wonder if she hadn’t made a horrible mistake. Repentance was so everlastingly boring.

As she polished the brand-new display case containing iced newts’ eyes, dried salamander tails and pickled toads, she hastily assured herself, that she was anything but eager to rip the hearts out of another group of frat boys—no matter how vain, insensitive and useless they were. And she certainly didn’t want to transform any other men into giant annelids. That was just too Lair of the White Worm for words.

But eternally regretting what she had done during her tenure as a vengeance demon seemed so meaningless…unless someone paid proper attention to her breast-beating and brooding. And that certainly wasn’t likely to happen. Humans, she had noticed over the past thousand years, tended to be uncomfortable in the presence of pure nobility.

Anya sighed, then brightened up as the door to the newly renovated Magic Box jangled open and a college-aged couple duck-walked in—the young man leading, the young woman trailing six or seven steps behind.

Anya frowned for a moment, then resolutely put her assumptions about the couple aside. Just because she’d seen this sort of servile humility ten thousand times or so over the past millennium did not mean that she was necessarily correct about what it meant this time.

“Good morning, and welcome to the Magic Box!” she said in her best faux-cheerleader voice. “Please feel free to look around and to purchase everything you need. Even more!”

The young man—a large, soft, pale creature who resembled a tight-mouthed version of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man—ignored her, striding swiftly and deliberately toward the dark amulets’ section. The plain and square-jawed young woman, her dark eyes filled with mute, uncomprehending hurt, nervously glanced toward Anya and smiled weakly, as if apologizing for her companion’s rudeness.

Just then, the young man turned around, spotted the look and the smile, and fired a venomous glare in the young woman’s direction. As if a string had been pulled, the young woman erased the smile from her face and bowed her head as she winced away from him.

The young man shook his head reproachfully at the girl, a sorrowful “why do you make me do this?” expression in his small, shallow blue eyes. Then, placing his hands on her shoulders as if he were about to give her a stern talking-to, he gripped her left shoulder tightly and gave it a vicious wrench.

“You can’t do that!” The words burst out of Anya’s mouth.

The young man glanced about, clearly as baffled as if a chair had spoken.

Anya slipped from behind the counter and strode toward the couple. “Leave her alone! You have no right to hurt her! Or—anyone.”

“Mind your own business,” he said in a contemptuous drawl. “I don’t need to take advice from a frigid cow like you. Valerie likes it, okay?”

“Nobody likes being hurt,” Anya snapped, her patience already beginning to feel a mite threadbare. If I had a dollar for every time I heard THAT one, the World Bank would be begging to borrow money from me.

“She’s consented.”

“What?”

The young man sighed, and rolled his eyes heavenward. “Never heard of BDSM? Figures.”

“Of course, I’ve heard of it,” said Anya, debating how much she could talk about sex in front of this trollspawn and still compel him to listen to her. Probably not much—he acted as if he believed that women were solely for striking and screwing, and nothing else. She doubted very much that this was a sexual game of theirs; the girl looked as if she were biting back a scream of agony. She got no sense that Valerie was enjoying this.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t really prove that the young man was being abusive. Even if she called the cops, it would be her word against theirs.

If only Valerie would wish something vengeful! Anya knew any number of vengeance demons who would be overjoyed to answer a summons like that. But the girl just stood there, choking back sobs of pain and grief, her mind a tangle of rage and helpless terror. And no vengeance demon could wish FOR Valerie. Least of all a vengeance demon who didn’t have her powers anymore.

Anya had never felt more irked. A self-righteous abuser who, she sensed, falsely claimed to indulge in kinky sex to shut up people who might otherwise stop him from hurting others, and a girl so torn apart with pain and fear that she couldn’t even think of getting a well-deserved revenge. It was positively maddening.

There were so few princes in this world, and so many toads. What a pity that the toads couldn’t simply be—well, toadified, so that they could contribute to the world’s ecology and decrease the surplus population.

“Now, if you’re through making judgments about our lives because you don’t have one, I’d like to buy a few things.” The young man shoved a list of items at her. After a moment’s hesitation, Anya accepted the list, holding it gingerly between two pinched fingers.

She glanced at the list. Fairly standard stuff, really…a statue to Tiwaz, ancient Germanic god of war, lightning and all-rule; a prayer to Jurupari, a child of the sun who overthrew the rule of women; an amulet blessed with the ability to control one’s enemies; a spell to gain unthinkable power…

Hmmm.

“This won’t work,” she said authoritatively, tapping the list and hoping desperately that he was a dabbler who didn’t know superstition from real spells.

“What won’t?” The young man’s voice was surly, but Anya thought she could hear a jagged shard of fear edging his voice.

“This…so-called power spell you want to order.” Anya sniffed disdainfully. “It’s worthless. Don’t waste your money.”

“You’re just saying that because you didn’t like my twisting Valerie’s shoulder.”

“No, of course I didn’t,” said Anya calmly. “But that has nothing to do with this. If you want to throw two hundred dollars away on a useless spell, be my guest, but I would much prefer that you actually get your money’s worth so that you will continue to come back and will spend even more money.”

“How would you know?” The young man scowled at her. “Are you a witch?”

“No,” said the vengeance demon. “I know something about magic, but I’m definitely not a witch.”

“Then how do I know you know what you’re talking about?”

Anya shot him an incredulous look. “Please! I work in THE magic shop in Sunnydale, a town where anything can happen and usually does, several times an hour. People and things come into this shop every single day, buying magic supplies, chatting about spells. You learn, after a while.” She turned toward the counter, as if she were no longer interested in chatting with him.

She crossed her fingers, praying, hoping, willing him to take the bait.

“Well…” The young man scowled. His voice was shaky and unsure. “The spell might be useless, but I don’t know what spell would work.”

Got him!

She forced herself to speak in a hesitant tone, as if she were unsure that she should do this. “There is one spell that might work—but you wouldn’t want to use that. I mean, yes, it would fill you with vast power, the strongest on Earth. But there would be a risk. I mean, total power changes people. It could change you forever.”

“Forever?” The young man’s eyes lit up like a General Electric showroom.

Anya shrugged. “That’s kind of up to you. You’d have to decide before the spell was cast if you wanted to retain the power forever…or only temporarily.”

The young man made a rude noise, deep in his throat. “Who wants temporary power? Permanent or nothing. That is…if you can really do it.”

“Oh, I can do it,” Anya said with perfect honesty. “I’ve done it before. Though not often. It’s a difficult spell, and so is the ritual that goes with it.”

“Ritual?” Once again, Anya could hear the hidden strain in his voice.

“Oh, yes,” she said, unconcerned.
“There’s the blessing, the prayers of praise and thanksgiving, the sacrifice—”

“Sacrifice?” The young man’s voice rose an octave. “You mean like…blood?”

For a moment, Anya could have sworn she saw the flicker of a smirk on Valerie’s face.

“No,” she said patiently. “Not blood. Beer.”

“Beer?!”

Valerie’s face became shadowed with disappointment.

Anya sighed. “Some deities prefer the taste of blood. Others like the taste of beer better…look, I really can’t tell you any more. If the ritual is to be successful, I have to maintain a certain level of—secrecy.” She managed to sound as if she were speaking of matters of state.

“Just one thing.” The young man spoke with considerable urgency. “When can you conduct this…ritual?”

Anya pretended to consider. “Tonight?” she asked timidly. “At eleven?”

The young man nodded emphatically. “We’ll do it. We’ll be here.”

“No.” An imperious look swept across Anya’s face. “Not your girlfriend. The ritual is for the person conducting it and for the person seeking power. No one else.”

“What if I brought her along? I don’t like leaving her back at the dorm.”

“Then it won’t work,” Anya said in a take-it-or-leave-it tone. “And you will never gain power. And the power that would have been bestowed on you in the ritual will be given to another.”

The young man stood silent for a few moments, debating whether he would rather gain power or retain total control over Valerie. Anya speculated for a few moments on whether greed or domination would win. She’d bet on greed.

“All right,” he said at last. “I’ll leave Valerie back at the dorm.”

Anya nodded, and gathered the remainder of the things on his list, placing them on the counter.

“There is one thing I need to know before I conduct the ritual,” she said as she rang up the sale.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. I have to be able to tell the gods who to bless.”

“Oh!” The young man flushed to the roots of his blondish hair. “It’s Richard.”

Anya smiled. “How appropriate. I should be able to do the ritual properly now.”

Valerie shot Anya an anguished gaze of pure betrayal. How can you protest him hurting me and then help him become even more powerful? the wounded brown eyes demanded. How?

Wait and see, Anya thought at Valerie. Don't judge me till the night is over. Wait and see.

*

At 10:59 p.m.—about two minutes after Anya had finished packing all the ingredients she would need for the spell into a backpack—Richard arrived at the Magic Box, all eagerness and nervous tension, volunteering to drive Anya and himself wherever they needed to go.

Anya shook her head as she slipped the backpack on. “We have to walk.”

Richard’s small piggy eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”

“Gods like you to come before them humbly. Driving to a holy place in a”—she glanced out the window at his grey Jaguar—“a silver chariot capable of galloping faster than a hundred and sixty horses does not qualify as humble.” She checked her watch. 11:04 p.m. “We have to hurry. The ritual must begin before midnight.”

They soon left both the Magic Box and the town behind and entered the forest surrounding the town. Carefully, Anya led Richard toward the center of the wood, where Tara had once shown her a holy glade. “Consecrated to all the gods of nature,” Tara had said, smiling gently.

But tonight was not a night to speak to the Goddess or her consort. Tonight was a night for other gods. The most terrible, ghastly, gruesome deities imaginable. Civilizations had been crushed at their word. Glorificus herself would tremble before them. Thank—well, Them—that they preferred beer to blood.

Initially, at any rate.

Anya shivered. She’d never liked Them, their worshippers or their kin. Here's hoping I get out of this alive and in one piece.

They reached the holy glade by half-past eleven. It wasn’t much to look at—just an ordinary clearing with one large flat rock in the center. Richard was disappointed and said so, loudly and often. Anya tried to ignore his whining as she washed the altar stone, then retrieved dried, sanctified herbs from her purse and sprinkled the herbs upon the stone. But by the time that she had finished the formal prayers of praise and thanksgiving twenty-odd minutes later, Richard was ready to leave.

“I’m out of here. This is stupid.” He turned, and started walking toward the edge of the clearing.

Anya rolled her eyes. “Fine. Leave. Forget the fact that in five minutes you could gain the strongest power on the face of the planet for the rest of your entire life. Forget the fact that I have just spent twenty minutes honoring the most sinister deities this world has ever seen, and that they are going to be mightily irked with both of us if you stand them up. So forget power, forget the wrath of the gods, and just go crawling back to your meaningless, mediocre, little life.”

Richard stalked back to Anya’s side and scowled down at her. “This better work. Or else.”

Anya knelt before the altar stone, then glanced at Richard, who was still standing. She gripped his right arm and pulled. Hard.

Richard, caught off-balance, fell to the ground in a semi-kneeling position. “Hey!” he shouted, struggling to get back to his feet.

Anya impaled him with her gaze. “Remain on your knees and silent for the next seven minutes. Otherwise, this has no chance of working.” She surveyed him critically. “In fact, considering your blatant rudeness to several hundred omnipotent beings, I would suggest that you lie face down on the ground and grovel abjectly. If you still want ultimate power, that is.”

Richard muttered something profane and incoherent, and stretched out in front of the altar, face pressed against the ground. “Can’t wait till I get the power,” he said in a low voice. “I’ll really be able to teach Valerie a lesson after that. And after Valerie, then you.”

Anya paid him no mind. Time was short, and she still had to offer the sacrifice and make a formal request of the gods.

Swiftly, she removed the backpack from her back, withdrew twenty six-packs of Pabst Blue Label, Coors, Michelob and Budweiser, opened the cans and poured each one over the altar stone. Too bad that she couldn’t offer the gods octli—that was the form of alcohol they really liked—but there hadn’t been any of that drink, or the plant it was made from, in the Magic Box. Hopefully, beer would do.

She began to chant in Toltec, praying that she was getting the pronunciation right. It would never do to upset a group of trickster deities who were also patrons of the various forms of intoxication. They had such unpleasant imaginations.

“Hear me, O Tepoztecatl,” she prayed softly. “Heed my humble prayer, O Centzon Totochtin. In exchange for this, my poor—well, expensive—offering, I do beg and implore you to grant this mortal man the greatest of powers, which he so deeply desires.”

The air shimmered as if a door were opening. Then the grotesque faces and forms of the Four Hundred—led by their eldest brother, Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of drunkenness—appeared.

Tepoztecatl gazed at Anya with surprise and amusement. “I never thought to see you, of all demons, kneeling before us,” he said in Toltec. “You truly wish this mortal to have our greatest blessing?”

“I do, Tepoztecatl.”

The god frowned and pricked up his massive ears at this. “He is a destroyer. He crushes souls. He is not worthy.”

“No, he is not. But he needs your blessing. Badly. As does his woman.”

“This is about vengeance, then.”

Anya shook her head. “No. The woman has not requested vengeance.” She squirmed a bit, searching for exactly the right words. “I just think that he would be a much improved…being…if he were able to serve you, your brothers and sisters, and your mother, Mayahuel, more…completely. With all his body, mind and soul.”

“As one of our people.”

Anya nodded eagerly.

Tepoztecatl and the rest of the Four Hundred stared at Richard for some time. Whispers filled the night air. Anya shifted from side to side on her knees and waited for the gods to decide.

At last, the whispering stopped, and Tepoztecatl turned toward Anya again.

“He is all foulness,” said the god, wrinkling his nose as Anya shivered. “But it may be amusing to teach him of true power--and of a god other than himself.”

“Then you accept?”

The Four Hundred all answered with one voice. “IT IS DONE!”

With that, they vanished, leaving Anya and Richard alone in the glade.

Richard struggled to his feet. “That’s it? That’s your whole thing? A few herbs, some wasted beer, several friends of yours muttering gibberish? What was the point of all that? To freak me out? To scare me into not hitting Valerie again?”

Anya stood, turned and faced him. “The gods accepted the sacrifice. They agreed to give you the power.”

Richard leaned toward her, his thick lips twisted into a sneer. “Yeah? Well, news flash, lady—I’m the same boy I used to be.”

Anya regarded him unsmilingly. “Are you?”

Richard’s temper flared out of control. He ran at Anya like a maddened bull, fists windmilling, feet kicking and churning. Viciously, he swung a ham-sized fist at the vengeance demon.

A purplish light filled the glade.

A high-pitched shriek of pain and horror echoed throughout the forest.

And then there was only silence.

*


The following morning, Willow and Dawn were just sitting down to a breakfast of lopsided pancakes when the doorbell rang at the Summers residence.

"Anya?!" Willow said in astonishment as she opened the door. "What are you doing here at 7 a.m.? And why did you drive Xander's car?"

Anya shuffled her feet. “It’s—well, I hope you won’t think I’m being rude or insensitive, but, well, I know you’re sorry that Miss Kitty Fantastico is—no longer around, especially as you and Tara got her, and Tara is also—no longer around….”

“Yes.” A shadow of grief, swiftly suppressed, swept across Willow’s face.

“Well…the thing is…I felt bad for you, because we’ve all lost so much the past few years, and it’s very unfair, so I decided to get you a successor to your cat. Not that you could ever really replace your cat, but—to give you something else to love. Wait a second, it’s in the car. I’ll go get it.” So saying, she slowly headed back to the car.

Dawn, who had left the kitchen to see why Willow had been answering the front door for five minutes, caught the last few sentences. “What do you suppose she got you?” she whispered to Willow.

Willow shivered. “I hope it’s not a frog. I have frog fear.”

White with tension, Anya all but crept back to the front door, holding at arms’ length the largest and most solidly built cage imaginable. It looked more like a fortress than a pet carrier. And inside…

“It’s a bunny!” squealed Dawn. “A big fluffy white bunny!”

Willow gaped at Anya. “You HATE bunnies!”

“Yes,” said Anya. “I do. But have you tried to get a cat in this town? I have, and it’s impossible. Either you have to prove that you have an impeccable bloodline and the money of Bill Gates, or else the shops are all sold out—thanks, I suspect, to some demons who like playing kitten poker. And I saw this white rabbit in a shop a few towns over, and the salesman in the pet shop said that if the shop didn’t sell the rabbit that day, the manager would donate the rabbit to a laboratory for experiments. And I hate experiments. I have since the Initiative. So I thought, well, maybe you would like to own a bunny. Though I have to say that being in the same car with that creature was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.” She shuddered violently.

She shoved the cage at Willow and Dawn. “Here. Please. Take it.”

Willow took the cage from Anya, looked at the bunny, then stuck a tentative finger through the bars and began stroking its soft white fur. The rabbit trembled and gazed at her wild-eyed.

Dawn regarded the rabbit with interest. “What is it? Boy or girl?”

“Oh, she’s a girl.”

Yes. The Centzon Totochtin--the Four Hundred Rabbits--had made certain of that. After all, Richard had kept begging for the ultimate power, and the Four Hundred were Aztec gods of fertility, as well as trickster gods of intoxication. Naturally, they considered the ultimate power to be the ability to create life within one's body, just as they considered cruelty to women to be the utmost in disrespect shown to their mother, a fertility goddess and protector of all mothers, actual and potential.

"Yes," Anya repeated. "Definitely a girl."

The rabbit stared at Anya with dazed horror in its large eyes.

Anya smiled at the rabbit cheerfully.




NOTES: Yes, the Centzon Totochtin are real Aztec gods. Here’s the Dictionary of World Myth (Roy Willis, General Consultant; Barnes and Noble Books, New York, NY, by arrangement with Duncan Baird Publishers, London, UK, © 1995, 2002 edition, p. 43) on the subject:

Centzon Totochtin: “The ‘Four Hundred Rabbits,’ a group of little Aztec gods associated with the intoxicating beverage called pulque or octli, which was made from the maguey plant and widely used in public rituals and festivals. Aptly, the Centzon Totochtin include Tepoztecatl, the god of drunkenness. The rabbit is renowned for its fecundity and for its seemingly mischievous antics and this probably explains the creature’s association with pulque. The liquor was also linked with fertility—sometimes depicted spurting from the breasts of a mother goddess.”

The line I used was: “I’m the same boy I used to be.”


Valerie - by Steve Winwood

So wild, standing there
With her hands in her hair,
I can't help remember
Just where she touched me.
There's still no face
Here in her place.

So cool, she was like jazz.
So cool, she was like jazz
On a summer's day…
Music high and sweet,
Then she just blew away.
Now she can't be that warm
With the wind in her arms.

Valerie, call on me.
Valerie, call on me.
Call on me, Valerie, come and see me--
I'm the same boy I used to be.

Love songs fill the night,
But they don't tell it all,
Not how lovers cry out
Just like they're dying.
Her cries hang there in time somewhere.

Someday, some good wind
May blow her back to me.
Some night I may hear her
Like she used to be.
No it can't be that warm
With the wind in her arms


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