"You need to rest. All of you," Giles told the dispirited AI gang as they sat in the lounge area of the Hyperion. Nobody bothered to acknowledge his statement. Lorne sat slumped in the sofa, looking ridiculous in his bright-yellow suit, clutching the files he had scavenged from Baylor House to his chest like a kid would've done.
Giles winced at the memory of Lorne's exuberant entrance just a few minutes ago.
"I think we've got something. Wonder boy here dug some of Wesley's old files that could shed some light to all this nonsense about him killing people," Lorne had thrown Connor a big smile, who had returned it in kind.
But their smiles faltered when they saw the expression on Angel and Gunn's face. And when Lorne saw Cordelia, he was about to break into another exuberant greeting when Cordelia smacked it flat.
"Wesley's dead, Lorne."
Connor's eyes widened and then he immediately shot Angel an accusing look. The vampire didn't bother to respond.
"You killed him," the boy spat. "I knew you would. I knew it!" With that, he ran away, nearly breaking the exit doors apart in his haste to leave them.
"But ..." Lorne was saying. "These ... files. They ..."
Finally despondent, Lorne had joined the rest of the gang on the seat, clutching the now-useless files to his chest.
"Rest," Giles repeated, "If we're to fight this ... threat we're going to need our energy. And Lorne, the files are not useless. Give them to me."
Mechanically, the demon handed the files to him. Giles leafed through them, not really reading the contents. He was still too shocked to concentrate properly. But among the rest, he was the one who was probably the most clear-headed right now. The only one, he mused, that had no emotional link to Wesley blinding his focus.
Currently, Angel Investigations was mired with guilt, grief and regret -- none of these emotions beneficial in getting to the thick of things. What they needed was to pull themselves together and refocus.
Believing that they would rest and see sense in what he said, Giles retreated to Wesley's former office, laying out the files and its contents on the desk. Methodically, as he was trained to do, he began cross correlating them in his mind. However, Wesley had made it ridiculously easy for him, peppering his notes with Watcher symbols that aided research immensely. He felt, rather than saw, Willow join him, silently opening one of the files.
"I can't believe he's gone," Willow said after a long while of pawing through the files.
"Things happen," Giles said, hoping he did not sound too cold.
Willow seemed to understand that this was his way of disconnecting from what happened to better focus on the situation at hand. She just nodded.
"They were used. Used to kill one of their own. It's difficult to live down," she murmured, drawing from first-hand experience -- only she wasn't used in any way.
"But they have to," he said shortly. Then gently added, "We have to help them do it. Starting with finding out about the Aman-yar."
Suddenly, a thick book landed on his pile of files. Surprised, Giles looked up to see Fred.
"I know who they are," she said, her voice flat.
"They're called the Soulless Ones. Not vampires," Giles murmured, as he went through the Aman-ot-ohp Chronicles. "Humans. Without souls."
"Is such a thing possible?" Willow asked incredulously from her seat, looking up from her notebook for a while.
"If you were spawned by a demon, yes," Giles answered.
His gaze shifted to Wesley's journal -- the last journal he wrote. One entry was dated shortly after Connor's kidnapping. In fact -- just a few days after he returned from the hospital.
**I see visions. That's strange. Is it the Powers That Be? Or am I finally going mad? Flashes of faces ... people ... strangers. Who are they? And a voice kept whispering something I cannot make out. Am I losing my mind?**
Wesley's voice seemed to echo pleadingly from the page. Giles could sense the despair in his words, the desperation .. He shook his head and sighed. A few weeks later, Wesley had written:
**I finally hear it. Aman-yar. Along with that understanding, came other visions. Visions of fire. And I can feel something else inside me as well. Something waiting to burst out of me. I don't understand what is going on ... and it did not help matters that Gunn came last night to seek my help after swearing never to have anything to do with me ever again. Life is full of ironies.
I did it only for Fred.**
Giles shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He hated going through these journals -- even if Wesley was now gone. Wesley's words were filled with too much pain -- the pain of a man wracked with guilt and fear. It wasn't something Wesley should be remembered for. He thumbed through some of Wesley's disjointed sketches hoping to distract himself. Faces of people, strange symbols, alien words were scrawled across the pages in a haphazard manner. Giles stopped when he came across the picture of Cindy. Ever the Watcher, Wesley had carefully noted down the date he received the vision.
"A week after he returned from the hospital," he murmured. Perhaps it was his traumatic near-death that triggered the change in Wesley. Perhaps by almost dying, the Elemental was awakened. "Who knows?" Giles murmured.
At Willow's puzzled look, Giles cleared his throat self-consciously. "Wesley had visions before he even became an Elemental. He left detailed notes on them in these files. It's no wonder that Lorne and Connor ignored them at first. They looked like gibberish. Unless you knew what to look for."
"The first book he referred to were the Andulian Prophecies. An ancient tome where this symbol appears-" He took out a page with a strange symbol -- a circle filled with elaborate demonic language -- and showed it to her.
"The Andulian prophecies said that the Aman-yar were created from the union of a demon and human being. The demon was Amopholas, who was banished by Kas-kuv, a priestess of the order of Natanyah. Unfortunately, before she banished him ... he raped her. And she had a child -- a normal child. Kas-kuv couldn't bring herself to kill her child, so she let it live.
"But the seed of this demon emerges sporadically. So, when the first Aman-yar appeared, Kas-kuv was long dead. Basically, you don't get a soulless human all the time, only once in a few hundred years. They look completely human, but the Aman-yar are the most evil men and women you'd know. Hitler was Aman-yar. And he's one of the nicer versions," he said.
"But the Andulian prophecies also say that there will be a time where these spawnings will increase in frequency," explained Giles.
"And the time is now," Fred said. Giles and Willow jumped. Fred had sequestered herself at the corner of the room and had gone so quiet that they had all but forgotten about her.
"Wesley ..." Fred's voice wavered for a while, but she regained her resolve, "According to Wesley the Aman-yar has reached its zenith."
She came to the table and pawed through the files that were laid on the it. When she found what she was looking for, she gave it to Giles.
When he opened the file, he saw that Wesley had hastily scrawled the word 'Gathering' over the first page.
"It's a list of names," he murmured.
"I don't know how he came to identify these people, but I suspect it was the Elemental who helped him. When I looked at these names closely, and researched their backgrounds, I discovered that there were some unexplained deaths in their past," Fred said.
Shuffling sounds announced Angel's presence. As one, they turned to see the vampire leaning against the doorjamb, an unreadable look on his face.
"Any progress?" his voice was tired, dead.
"Enough," Fred said shortly, then lowered her head as if her bold statement was embarrassing.
Angel barely glanced her way. Giles explained as best as he could what he found in Wesley's files.
"I can't explain the demon mythology of the Aman-yar in full detail, but essentially the ancient demon Amopholas is living through its soulless spawn, using them to achieve whatever twisted purpose it wants. Perhaps to even reappear in this dimension. And now, it has enough numbers on Earth to wreck havoc," Giles murmured. "And number one on its agenda-"
"The Mother," Angel said. The pieces were falling together. "The Aman-yar wants to use the Mother to gain power."
"Wesley wrote 'Gathering' here," Fred murmured, her eyes still lowered. "I suspect that the Aman-yar will gather, and together, they will use the Mother. After all, they're essentially the channels of one demon."
"And that's why the Elemental of Green Fire was sent. To destroy the Aman-yar and its numbers before they could achieve whatever it is," Willow said in response.
"We'll stop them," Angel said quietly, his tone brooking no argument.
"Where are we going to find this gathering thingy anyway?" Gunn asked, suddenly appearing at the doorway. Fred gave Gunn a cold, sardonic smile. It made Gunn squirm in a painful way.
"You know, Wesley did everything with a reason and for a purpose. That's why he moved into Avarice. It wasn't to clean up vampires, it wasn't because the property market was deflated and he needed a new home," she said, her voice low.
"Because the Gathering will happen in Avarice," Angel murmured.
And he opened the file marked 'Vision' where, amidst the complex calculations and symbols, Wesley had scrawled this word: Avarice.
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