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Xander eyed the tall vampire and weighed his options,
which were to make the vampire mad by saying no or to have a seat and maybe
learn something. Maybe this guy could get him free, though Xander doubted that.
“What’s in it for me? You drain me of information
then drain me of blood?”
“Food? Drink? You entertain me, human. That’s hard
to do these days.”
Xander shrugged. He’d played Zeppo for worse reasons
than to save his life. While he wanted to leave that behind, it was a useful
persona to keep around. Besides, he really was hungry.
“So he had food brought in and we talked for hours.”
“Talked? About what?”
“America. California. How I knew about vampires. The
Slayer. Stuff like that.”
Spike realized he’d been leaning forward, eager to hear
Xander’s story, and made himself lean back. “Oh. Of course.”
Xander laughed. “And about you. Nothing bad.” Spike
gave him a doubtful look. “Really. He was keen to know about your soul and I
told him about your sacrifice to save the world.”
“Oh. Well then.” Spike found himself glad to learn the
boy had not thought bad of him for some time.
“What happened after that? He obviously didn’t eat you.”
“He called a guard, said some things to him, and I was
taken to a cell by myself with a cot and a blanket. I slept very well that
“Huh.” Spike was dying to know more, but didn’t dare
push. He picked up a tattered box
and started taking out pieces of the motor.
Time passed as they worked quietly on the bike, with Spike laying out the parts and Xander handing him tools.
Finally, Xander picked up his story. “My training started
the next day. To fight. There was a huge natural cavern where the floor had been
leveled and lights installed. There was a big sandy area and several smaller
rings. Basically, they would shove two of us captives in a ring and watch to see
who had better skills. I got pretty beat up the first few times until I managed
to convince the other men we needed to work together.”
“Survival of the fittest approach? That never works
except in death matches.”
“I know,” Xander said quietly.
“Peaches got drawn into one of those in L.A. once. I wish
I could have watched…”
“Angel’s a good fighter. I realize how good now.”
“Yeah. Yeah, he is.” Spike bit down a pang of loss as
he remembered what it was like to fight along side of Angelus.
“So we’d train one another. There were ten of us.”
Spike took mental notes of the names Xander listed and their descriptions. “We
were never allowed to talk or socialize. We’d fight, then we’d be separated.
I came to realize I was getting special treatment.”
“I had a cell to myself, the rest of them had a dorm type
room. They asked me why and I had no clue. Actually, I didn’t find it all that
special. After I got used to the constant echoes of people crying and screaming,
the chill of the cave, the lack of baths, the crappy food, and the exhaustion of
training, I was damned lonely and bored.”
Spike nodded. He knew isolation and boredom. Memories of
being locked away for a month and barely fed by Angelus, and his weeks at the
Initiative, bubbled to the top.
“I was lucky. The more things I saw, Spike, the luckier I
knew I was.” Spike nodded, cleaning an already clean valve. “Some people
were used as human ponies. They had to pull the feeding and cleaning carts
around. Some were kept as pets. Once in a while I saw the fat cat who ran the
place, or so I assumed he was.”
Spike looked up from his work. “What’s he look like?”
“He’s a big man, dark skinned, large nose, goatee. He
had a gold ring with a stone in it on every finger. And he has a tattoo of some
kind of glyph on the side of his neck. He always had a pretty woman on a leash
with him.” Xander’s voice was hard. “Each one had bruises.”
With a start, Spike realized he’d seen this man once on
the ship. At the time he’d assumed he was another buyer. “That’s good
news, Xander. I’ve seen that pompous ass. This means he travels on that ship
once in a while and we can get to him.”
Xander nodded, his face grim. “Good. I want a piece of
“Every scrap of information brings us one step closer.”
Spike fitted a piston into the body of the motor and tested
its movement. Xander slowly clicked a ratchet wrench around and around.
Normally, Spike would have taken it from him or snapped to stop the annoying
sound, but he let Xander be. Spike noticed Xander seemed to cope better when he
had something to fiddle with.
Xander finally broke the silence. “Days were pretty
routine. Sleep, eat, train, sit. Every eight days they’d take me to a cavern
with a hot springs and hole high in the ceiling. I could wash and stand in the
sun for a while.” Xander sighed. “I was about to go mad.”
“No one to talk to,” Spike sympathized.
“That is a favorite thing of theirs, not allowing talking
among the prisoners. After maybe four months of being trained, they brought a
woman to my cell. I guess they liked how I was progressing. I… held her.
Spike, it was so good to just have non-violent contact with someone.” Xander
blushed. “She wanted to do more… and I didn’t stop her.”
“Xander, there’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, it
may have gotten her in trouble if you hadn’t.”
Xander nodded. “So I learned later. But I did get her in
trouble. I started to talk to her. To babble like I do. She pushed out of bed
and kept shaking her head no. I didn’t understand. I just wanted to... talk to
somebody.” Xander dropped the wrench and put his face in his hands. “The
guard came and dragged her out of there. ‘No talking!’ he said and hit her.
Hard. I don’t know why they didn’t hurt me. I was the one talking.”
“You were more valuable. And I bet you learned the
“I did. God, I did.” Xander straightened, picked up a
pickle jar of nuts, and started running his fingers through it. “For maybe a
month my routine didn’t change. Sleep, eat, train, sit. Then it suddenly did.
It was Bud who first noticed Anthony watching us.”
“The vampire I’d met. Everyone was terrified of him.
There were… balconies over the arena. Once in a while I’d see people, demons
up there, but after a while I stopped looking. When Bud pointed him out, he
stepped out of the shadow and looked me straight in the eye before leaving the
balcony. The next day, I found myself alone in the ring. Then the vampire joined
The tall vampire appeared at the edge of the area with
two Fyarl demons flanking him. Xander gripped his dull-ended pike and met his
gaze levelly. Without a word, the vampire nodded, untied his belt and let his
flowing red caftan fall. He picked up a matching pike as he stepped into the
“What’s this? I thought auditions were last
week.” Xander taunted.
The vampire said nothing, but paused ten feet in front
of Xander and bowed.
“No need to be formal,” Xander muttered, but
returned the bow. Fortunately, he’d seen enough martial arts movies to expect
the attack that immediately followed.
He brought his staff up and blocked the blow. He let
the vampire feel him out before making a move of his own. His opponent easily
jumped aside of the jab at his chest, but did so with a twist of a smile. Five
more minutes of feints and attacks and Xander’s mystery guest backed off and
bowed again. Wearily, Xander did the same and allowed himself to relax a bit to
match the vampire’s stance.
“You fight with enthusiasm, human,” he said in his
“Thanks. It comes from not wanting to be killed.
I’ve found that to be a good motto to live by.”
The vampire chuckled. “I, too, have found that a good
idea. I invite you to my quarters this evening.”
“Let me check my schedule.” Xander looked upwards
for a second. “8 o’clock; eat slop. 8:30 to 9:00: stare at empty bowl. Yeah.
I can fit you in.”
“Good. You will be sent for. And I will see if I can
do better than… slop.”
Xander stood up and stretched. He wandered over to the
sleek sports car and ran a hand over its curved fender. “You’ll have to take
me for a ride some time.”
“Sure, sure. Anytime.”
“Hey! It’s Dawn’s birthday next week. I need to go shopping.”
“Xander! What happened?”
“Humm?” Xander asked as if he didn’t know why Spike
had been polishing the same clean piece for twenty minutes.
“With the meeting!”
“Oh, that.” Xander poked his head in the car’s window
and looked at the dashboard. “Will you let me drive? Of course, I’ve not
driven anything in five or six years. I’d be better off starting in something
“Xander! The story?”
“Well, I was sent for. I had a very good meal. We talked
about what I’d seen in my travels, American food, and he asked about my
“Did he offer you a fine cigar and a glass of wine after
that?” Spike asked, feeling Xander’s story was anti-climatic.
“No, even more dramatic.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “He didn’t hit on you did
Xander laughed at the surprisingly warm rush he got at the
glimpse of jealousy from Spike. “No. Not that night. He requested to me allow
him to personally train me.”
“Train… For the games?”
“Yeah.” Xander swallowed. “He told me his position was such he was allowed to… keep a human or two. He’d not had one in a while and said that if I could learn enough to keep myself alive I’d live in reasonable comfort.”
“Wait. Me? The Zeppo fight for my life? Mister, I can
barely keep from tripping over myself most mornings.”
“You have told me yourself you fought by the
Slayer’s side. You have watched the Scourge in action. You have…what word
did you use… dusted many of my kind and faced a myriad of demons.” Xander
started to protest, wondering how deep he’d gotten himself. “The war wound
you bear speaks of your courage. And you lasted a year in the roughest parts of
Africa with no ill befalling you until your capture.”
“It’s all true to some degree, yeah.” Xander
tiredly rubbed the scar over his empty eye socket.
The vampire steepled his long fingered hands with their
scarred prominent knuckles before him. “Consider the alternative, Xander.”
“Wha… what is it?”
“I throw you back into the pool of captives and you
fight your own way up, or die in the trying. The luxury you enjoy of a cell to
yourself is by my request.”
Thanks.” Xander bit his lip and toyed with an apple
core. Really, this guy didn’t seem so bad. He was intelligent and well placed.
“What?” the vampire asked, amused.
“When Spike would talk of keeping a human, he always
sneered and implied it was normally for… um….”
Spike burst out laughing. “The birds, maybe.”
“You said I was a nummy treat!”
“To eat! If I said anything else it was to watch you
Xander sighed and rolled his eyes. “Anyway.”
“Am I that unbecoming?”
Xander couldn’t look at his host. Truth be told he was
intrigued by his tall, lean build, strong features, and graceful way of moving.
But he knew it was probably something all old vampires had in common. “No.
It’s that… How old are you?”
“Seventy five man and vampire. I’ve been here forty
“Oh, well. That’s respectable.”
“Too big an age difference?” he asked dryly with
what Xander was coming to recognize as amusement.
“No. It’s just that I like women.”
“I see. Well, to put you off the hook, it would not be
a requirement. However, being under my care would protect you from the
attentions of others.”
“You put it that way…” Xander looked him in the
eye, meeting the deep brown steadily with his own one good eye. “Yeah. I want
to live. I’ll learn to fight and I’ll be what I need to be a winner. I want
to someday get out of here and kill the son of a bitch who runs this place.”
The vampire laughed and leaned forward. “My dear
human, how do you know I’m not the son of a bitch who runs this place?”
Xander froze, his blood running cold. “Um. You said
you were allowed to keep a human?” he said tentatively, hoping to save his
“I could have been lying.”
“Cause, yeah, vampires are evil and they do that.”
The vampire sighed. “Alas, I am not the son of a bitch
who runs this place. If I were, my accommodations would be much more roomy than
this.” Abruptly, he stood. “Is there any small boon I can grant you to show
my good will?”
“Maybe… something to read?”
The vampire nodded and went to a chest that sat to one
side. “Romance? Mystery? Adventure?”
Xander couldn’t help it and allowed himself to be
drawn to the trove. A stack of well-worn paperbacks lay within. Most were
modern. “Um… I’ve heard of Clive Cussler.”
The vampire picked up the silver paperback with a sunken
ship on the cover and handed it to Xander. “I am allowed first choice of
Xander looked for a full minute at the treasure before
the meaning of the vampire’s words sunk in. “Pickings. From the captives’
belongings.” he said quietly.
“From the captives,” the vampire nodded.
“Many of those who get first pick go for the gems and clothing. I like
Xander held the book respectfully, knowing it once
belonged to a hapless traveler like himself. “Yeah. Thanks.”
The vampire closed the chest and stood. “I will have
you escorted back to your bed. We will start training tomorrow.”
Xander sagged, not knowing exactly where life was taking
him, and followed the vampire to the door. “Thanks.”
The vampire paused with his hand on the knob and looked
over his shoulder. “Thank you, for
tonight’s company if nothing else. I live a dull existence, Xander,” he said
softly, then straightened. “Just remember, you are now my property.” He
moved to open the door.
“Excuse me, who do I belong to?”
“Forgive my seldom-used manners. You are property
of…” he spoke a series of clicks and glottal sounds Xander recognized as
some African dialect. “Also known as Anthony, sired by Lord Markus DeAmeron.”
“Xander, are you sure you said DeAmeron?”
Spike gave a low whistle. “He was older than Angel by a
bit. British aristocrat by all accounts. Your new pal is of royal blood.”
Xander hung his head. “Was, Spike. Was.”
“I’m sorry, mate.”
“It’s okay.” Xander ran a hand over his face. “Anyway, he kept his promise. Starting the next day he trained me. I was provided with some luxuries including more books to read and better food. I knew I had it lucky. Well, as lucky as a captive slave could be.”
On to Chapter 15
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