A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
The woman lay tiredly back against the straw of the mattress. It was a girl; another girl to add to the seven that she had already borne for her husband. He wouldn’t be pleased to hear the mid-wife’s news. He had been so sure that this time he would have a son, someone to help him in the fields and take over the flocks when the child was old enough. Yes, he would be angry.
She stared at the tiny, red, squalling infant who squirmed in the nest of homespun blankets in the wooden cradle. So small this one was and it was nearly winter. Soon the town would be filled with illness. The babe would be sure to die before she’d reached her first full year. Probably it was for the best, if she died so young she would never know the brunt of her father’s anger, she would be spared.
The door groaned as a small hand pushed it open and a dirt smudged face peered around the rough wood, intense eyes huge in the dim light.
Smiling faintly, the exhausted woman beckoned the little girl to her side. “Come, sweet one, you’ve a new sister to play with.”
A bright smile lighting her wary expression, the girl bounded into the room, leaning over the cradle to brush a finger lightly against the infant’s smooth cheek. “What will we call her, Mama?”
“Oh, my Ahd, I have no name chosen. You decide for me, pick a name that suits the babe.” She lay back again, watching her favorite child stare down at yet another sister. Pleased that at least someone was happy about the babe, even if she did have the misfortune of having been born female.
The young girl stared down at the baby in awed silence, watching at the little one’s fist clamped around her own small finger. A name for the new baby. She would have to think of a good name before she told her mother her choice.
Tearing her eyes from the tiny child, she watched her mother closely. The labor had lasted longer than any of the others and she looked so tired. The mid-wife had told Ahd to send word to her should her mother become ill but the look in the old woman’s eyes had relayed the probability of survival. Her mother had borne her last child.
Ahd thought of her other sisters. The entire village knew that the eldest of the girls would never be wed. Mala was different, she had trouble keeping up even with her youngest sisters; there was something wrong with her mind, something that, no matter how many charms were cast, would never be fixed. It was only through Ahd’s intervention that their father left the girl alone, bringing his anger to bear on her rather than Mala who would never be able to understand how to keep out of his way when he flew into one of his rages.
At eight, Ahd was the second born, no different from any other eight-year-old girl in the area except that she spent a bit longer lingering in the forest and speaking with the old hermit witch who lived there. The rest of the children were, blessedly, no different than their peers. Of the five youngest, Ahd had named two and she watched after them all, Mala included.
She smiled at her mother; she knew what the babe would be called. Leaving the cradle, she sidled up to the bed and leaned down to whisper the name in her mother’s unhearing ear. “Mama,” her breath played lightly against the rapidly cooling cheek, “we’ll call her Varad. That way you’ll always be with us.”
She sat in the middle of the field, tall grasses swaying around her in the hot afternoon breeze, shaking their tasseled heads at her in silent scorn as she hid among their stalks. She was far from the dusty road that led travelers to and from her village, hidden by the golden grain from the view of strangers and acquaintances alike. The quiet solitude suited her, soon enough she would have to face the village elders again and suffer the repercussions of her deeds.
As a child she and Mala would often hide in the fields when there hadn’t been chores to see to. Their mother’s passing had put an end to such pastimes, and then when Mala had followed their mother into death’s blissful arms, Ahd couldn’t bear to return to their childhood hiding place.
Much had changed since Mala had left them. Ahd had spent even more time with the hermit witch in the woods, learning simple spells and charms and ignoring her father’s quest to find a suitable husband. Ahd knew that his idea of suitable was anyone who would forego the dowry, regardless of age or temperament.
But now she had other, more life threatening things to worry about. The council was in an uproar, the village egging them on and led by none other than Edgan himself. "Burn the witch," was the most commonly shouted demand. Edgan was no better than his son, she decided. He was lucky she didn't turn him into a troll right along with Olaf, the obnoxious bull that he was.
She caught her long hair in a tense fist, twisting it into a thick coil only to shove it back behind her shoulder again in her growing agitation. Looking down at her dress, she noticed for the first time that it was torn and the hem was matted with dried mud. It was her favorite dress, the nicest of the three she owned. She guessed its sad condition no longer mattered. It would burn just as well dirty as it would clean.
There was no escape for her, she would die at the stake just as her neighbors demanded, there was no alternate course of action. If she ran, the wolves would only find her and turn her into their dinner. If she tried to defend herself, she would not be heard above the raucous mob. If she hid in the witch’s hut, they would only demand the old woman’s death as well.
She could feel the prickle of tears begin to sting her eyes. She didn't want to die, not yet, not when she was still so young, even by her village's standards. She wanted to see things, to go places far away from the only home she had ever known, she wanted to meet people and listen to the stories they had to tell. There were so many things she had yet to even think about doing, and now, because of Olaf, she would never be able to do them.
She didn't regret conjuring the spell; Olaf had betrayed not only her trust but her love as well, he had been fully deserving of his punishment. She only wished she had thought to wait until he was in the fields to cast it, rather than in the middle of the square on market day, haggling over the price of a yoke for his beloved oxen.
Her mind kept replaying the events of that day, recalling with vivid clarity the expression on his face as the spell had begun to work toward his permanent change. She remembered watching in fascination as the curved horns sprouted from his temples with what must have been searing pain if Olaf's tormented wail was any indication. He grew larger too, his already generous bulk giving way to monumental troll proportions, bones and tendons straining against the suddenly lengthened proportions. All in all, it had been a spectacular display, at least from her own tainted perception. The other villagers had not been equally impressed.
The smile that had played at her lips was what had given away her inclusion in the dark spell. For what she had perpetrated on the miller's eldest son, she would be punished with death by fire.
The sun had finally set against the backdrop of the scorched village, trails of smoke blending into the dark sky. As interesting as the woman's wish had been, it had ended with far reaching consequences, not only for the man who had cheated on his girlfriend, but also for the entire village. Who would have guessed that the combusting man would end up setting the thatched roof of his home on fire, igniting those of his neighbors as well as every other building in the small village?
The vengeance schemes were beginning to blend together after so many hundred years. It was hard to keep them straight in her mind. One pair of terrified eyes looked the same as all the rest. Even the women were hard to separate, all making the same foolish mistakes time and time again, calling on Anyanka, patron saint of scorned women, to beat down their unfaithful lovers… over and over again.
She considered again the decision that had led to a life, or rather a non-life, filled with vengeance. Just as the townspeople were coming to drag her to the stake she had been approached by a demon and offered her salvation. That salvation had assured she would never be persecuted for turning Olaf into a troll but it had also taken from her her own humanity. Oddly enough losing her humanity hadn't been such a difficult decision to make. In that instant, Ahd had ceased to exist and Anyanka was created.
Leaving behind her younger sisters had been her only concern at the time. But once she had accepted D’Hoffryn’s offer she had never again thought about them. She didn’t know what had become of them; if they’d married and had families of their own, or even if they remembered the sister who had taken care of them for so long.
Taking one last look at the smoldering remnants of the huts, Anyanka turned her back on all that had occurred, on all that she had set into motion unwittingly or not, and, in the blink of an eye, returned to D’Hoffryn’s fold.
Cordelia Chase was nothing more than just another mortal woman who had been betrayed by her boyfriend, merely a child really as was evident by the ill outcome of her wish. Anya sighed in annoyance at having been forced to masquerade as a teenager to fulfill her duty to the girl. There should be some age limit set for vengeance declarations, she thought ruefully, otherwise she’d be hopping around from one girl to another in every high school on the planet. That thought held little appeal for her. As a teenager, she couldn’t even order a beer after a hellish day without getting hassled by the bartender.
Everything would have been fine had that librarian not interfered and destroyed her amulet. Being trapped in twentieth century California in the body of a high school student wasn’t her idea of a dream existence. And to top it all off, that same body, the one she was stuck with until she could find a way out of “Sunnyhell,” kept responding to the boy who had cheated on Cordelia in the first place.
She hated life. She hated high school. She hated high school math.
Crossing the courtyard, she took a seat near the parking lot to eat the sandwich and apple she’d packed for her lunch. Money was tight if not wholly impossible to come by and she was discovering that she liked to eat which meant she needed money to buy food. A few more weeks and she’d be completely out of peanut butter.
No longer part of the “in” crowd, she watched Cordelia lean against her car, a gaggle of adoring girls standing around her in rapt attention. Anya’s eyes smoldered at the sight. It was Cordelia’s fault that she was there at all. No, she shook her head, it was Xander’s fault. But if she thought about it, it was really Giles’ fault, or maybe Buffy’s. Possibly it was Olaf’s fault because if he hadn’t cheated on her she never would have drawn D’Hoffryn’s attention. Letting out a pent up breath, she buried her head in her hands out of sheer exasperation. Even her thought process was tied to that of a teenaged girl.
She needed a good stiff drink, she decided. And as soon as she turned twenty-one, she could buy one.
“Well, if it isn’t Anya. Ex-evil Anya. What? Not having any men’s entrails for lunch today?”
Her heart did a funny little skip beat at the sound of his voice. Xander Harris appeared from behind her, a goofy grin plastered across his face. Struggling to keep her breathing on an even keel, Anya tilted her head up to look into his eyes. It was so strange this attraction she felt for him, she couldn’t understand it, had in fact stopped trying to understand and just tried to let herself go with the flow of her roller coaster emotions. She smiled.
“Wow, don’t tell me, you’re fantasizing about how to keep on eviscerating men as a mortal now?” Xander quirked his brow, his grin still firmly in place. “Or are you still trying to get your powers back?” A sudden worried expression washed across his features, displacing the humor that had been there a moment before.
“I’ll get them back,” she said, certainty tingeing her words, “it’s just a matter of time.”
Xander nodded and began to walk away, spying Willow and Buffy on the far side of the courtyard.
He paused his steps and turned to look at her again. “What is it?”
“This prom thing? It’s just a dance, right? Like all the other dances?” She couldn’t seem to look away from his eyes and didn’t want him to leave so soon.
“Yeah, it’s just a dance, a formal-spend-more-money-than-you-can-afford-on-an-outfit-and-dance-the-night-away dance. No big deal,” he assured her.
She watched as he walked back across the grass, turning on her bench to see him join his friends. Prom. She had two days to figure out how to get him to go with her. She didn’t know why she wanted to go so badly, but she did, and as far as she had been able to ascertain, he still didn’t have a date. She had to go and she had to go with him. All she had to do was decide how to convince him to do what she wanted him to do. A little threat might work nicely, or maybe even the truth would suffice.
She was smiling like a fool and she knew it. Ever since she had high-tailed it back to Sunnydale and accosted Xander in his basement, she had known this was what she wanted. She looked down at the beautiful ring in the velvet box. She couldn’t have been any happier.
She slipped the little box into her pocket as Tara and Willow walked through the front door of The Magic Box. She had to be careful, beautiful though the ring was and as excited as the idea of marrying Xander made her, she couldn’t bring it up yet. Not so soon after Buffy’s death.
She quickly opened the cash register to count the money. She couldn’t stop smiling, let Willow think that she was giddy about the money, that’s what she would think anyway. Money, money, money, that’s all Willow thought she cared about. It just went to prove how little the red headed witch really knew about her.
All Willow had to do was look at everything that had happened in the last several months to know how she felt about Xander, and how Xander felt about her. Anya had balked each time Xander went off to fight, afraid that he would be injured. She had been the one to tell Xander to chose her when Olaf was insisting Xander pick either her or Willow to die, she would had done the deed herself had it saved Xander’s life. When Xander’s life and well-being were in question, she jumped in every time with the determination that he would remain safe and unharmed.
“Hi, Anya, how’s business been?”
Tara’s soft-spoken question jarred her from her thoughts, and she nearly dropped the handful of change she had scooped up in order to count. “Fine,” she beamed.
“That’s good.” Tara smiled back. “We just thought you might want a break since you’ve been working every night for the last few weeks. You know, take some time off, maybe see a movie or have dinner with Xander.”
Willow stepped forward. “I know you don’t like to leave the till unattended but we’ll be fine-” she was cut off by the sound of the till closing. Wide-eyed, she watched Anya grab her purse from beneath the counter and lift her jacket from its place on the wall.
“Bye,” Anya called as she walked to the door. If she was fast, she could catch Xander before he left for the bowling alley with his friends from work. Surely an evening alone with his fiancé would merit a rain check on bowling with the guys. “There’s a spare key in the till,” she called as she sailed out the door.
She never looked back to see the shocked expressions on Willow’s face or the thoughtful smile in Tara’s eyes.
It was over. Her happy dream of marital bliss was just a fading mirage made of mist and mirrors. Nothing mattered any more and she was exhausted from it all. Worn out from crying and ranting and staring blankly at the floor.
He had left her at the altar, literally. After all the preparations she had made, the epiphanies she struggled with. None of it was enough to keep him there with her. She would never be enough for him and she couldn’t understand what had happened. Sure, the man she had once cursed had shown him a false future, but it hadn’t been their reality. It was a lie. Maybe it was just one of many lies. Maybe he had never really loved her at all.
Buffy, Tara, Dawn, even Willow had tried to help her, they didn’t understand either but when she insisted on being left alone, they went. Maybe they understood enough to know that she knew what was best.
Her dress hung limply, its ruffles and lace long ago dampened by a torrent of tears. Her dream of the future was shattered into almost as many pieces as her heart. Nothing would be able to return to the mold she had wanted it to fit into.
That morning, everything had been gloriously perfect, the wedding guests had been as passive as could be expected for a group that consisted of demons and the Harrises. She had been almost painfully happy.
She had come to realize that Xander had managed to do something no one else had ever even tried to accomplish. He had made her cherish her humanity and understand what love was really about. When Giles had destroyed her amulet, he had made her mortal, but it was Xander’s influence that made her human.
D’Hoffryn stood before the favorite of his vengeance demons. His realm had been too long without Anyanka. “You can end the pain, Anyanka.”
“I’m just so tired,” she whispered. Her shoulders slumped in exhaustion and her eyelids drooped.
Choices. She’d made a thousand or more choices in her lifetime and during her existence as a demon. What to name to baby who hadn’t lived to see her first birthday, how to take revenge on Olaf, who to help when a thousand women called on the powers to avenge them, whether to marry Xander Harris. She’d never regretted any of the choices she had made. The things she had done as a demon couldn’t be laid on the head of the human she had become, Anyanka and Anya were, in point of fact, two completely different entities.
Her only question was whether she wanted to turn back to Anyanka’s ways. She loved Xander. She hurt so badly she thought she might never stop hurting, but she still loved him. She didn’t want to see him hurt even when he was causing her so much grief and heartache.
She raised her tired reddened eyes to gaze at the amulet D’Hoffryn offered her. Could she just step back into her old position so easily? Things were different this time around, her life was different, the world was different, but most of all her heart was different.
She looked up, her tear-streaked cheeks shining in the pale light. She couldn’t go on living without Xander, without her best friend, without her lover. But there were other options besides a return to riding the vengeance by-way. She had choices now, and she had family. “I love him.”
Anyanka was back in Buffy’s bedroom in a flash of noiseless light. She sucked in a shuddering breath, slumping even further down against the headboard. She was so tired. There were decisions she needed to make, choices to be studied, but first she needed to rest.
No one ever needed to know what had transpired. She wondered dimly if they would even consider the fact that she would be offered the chance to revert to vengeance. She wondered too what they felt she would do if given the choice. What they thought didn’t make any difference now, the choice had already been made, there was no turning back.
She curled up on her side, clutching one of Buffy’s pillows to her chest. Maybe if she could fall asleep, she’d be able to wake up next to Xander and discover the whole day had been nothing more than a horrible nightmare.
All she had to do was wish Xander had never spoken to that man at the wedding…