Obsidian Fate (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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9780671039295: Obsidian Fate (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
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Eternal Night On the outskirts of Sunnydale, recent rains have uncovered the remains of a five hundred-year-old Spanish expedition. But one of the artifacts, a smoky mirror with an ornately carved obsidian frame, goes missing, along with the history teacher who found it. And when Buffy narrowly escapes the attack of a black jaguar while on patrol, Giles puts the gang into research mode. An ancient volume identifies the missing mirror as a magical object formed by the Aztec god of darkness. A mortal who looks into the mirror will see his or her fate -- and can be manipulated by the evil god, who is scheming to regain his power. Taking their destinies into their own hands, the Slayer and her friends rush into a ferocious battle between light and darkness in the shadows of a massive Aztec temple, a battle against perpetual night -- and the evil that thrives in the dark hours.

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About the Author:

Diana G. Gallagher lives in Florida with her husband, Marty Burke, three dogs, three cats, and a cranky parrot. A Hugo Award-winning artist, she is best known for her series Woof: The House Dragon. Dedicated to the development of the solar system's resources, she has contributed to this effort by writing and recording songs that promote and encourage humanity's movement into space.

Her first adult novel, The Alien Dark, appeared in 1990. She and Marty coauthored The Chance Factor, a STARFLEET ACADEMY VOYAGER book. In addition to other STAR TREK novels for intermediate readers, Diana has written many books in other series published by Minstrel Books, including The Secret World of Alex Mack, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and The Journey of Allen Strange. She is currently working on original young adult novels for the Archway paperback series, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Silence stalked the midnight streets of Sunnydale, pervasive and absolute, chilling the dreams of those who slept, sedating those who walked the moonlit shadows.

Buffy Summers listened, wary and waiting.

A heartbeat thundered.

A breath rasped.

A twig snapped.

Buffy whirled, stake drawn back. The quiet was getting on her nerves and she was ready for a fight, anything to relieve the tension that had her poised on the brink of a systems overload and breakdown.

Sitting cross-legged on the grass, Willow tensed. The petals she had picked off a dead daisy from the grave beside her fell from her hand.

"What?" Xander jumped up from his perch on a crumbling headstone. He swallowed hard and anxiously scanned the cemetery, looking for whatever abomination the Hellmouth had finally unleashed. Nothing moved.

Relaxing her stance, Buffy shrugged. "I thought I heard something."

"I didn't hear anything." An uncertain frown skimmed Willow's pixie face. "Did you, Xander?"

"No. Although, I was keenly aware of my toenails growing." Shoving his hands in his pockets, Xander flopped on the ground by Willow. "I hate to say it, but -- I'm bored."

"It has been kind of dull around here lately." Palming her stake, Buffy peered into the night. Too dull for too long. The hypnotic effect was as dangerous as the vampires that had gone to ground. It bred complacency and smoothed the edges of vigilant readiness, an erosion of mental conditioning a Slayer could not afford. Buffy resisted the temptation to let down her guard. Her mom would never forgive her if she checked in at the morgue on her way home.

"I wonder why?" Willow drew up her legs, wrapped her arms around them, and rested her chin on her knees.

Buffy didn't know -- and that's what bothered her. "It's like someone posted those circle signs all over town. With slashes over twin fangs."

"No vampires allowed?" Willow nodded. "Works for me, only...I don't think the vamps would take them seriously."

"Probably not." Shaking her head, Buffy moved closer. If anything threatening lurked nearby, she'd know. All was quiet on the graveyard front.

"Okay, so maybe the local chapter of the Marauding Monsters and Despicable Demons Union went on strike for a shorter work week." Xander's dark eyes narrowed when no one cracked a smile. "It could happen."

Willow laughed softly. "Monsters don't have a union -- do they?"

"Do high school girls date werewolves?"

Point to Xander. Buffy absently followed the banter between her two best friends. Her enhanced Slayer senses were attuned to her surroundings, aware of every nuance. A soft rustle in the grass. A shadow shifting on a crypt. The musky scent of composting leaves. Nothing triggered the inexplicable sixth sense that warned a Slayer of imminent danger. Even so, Buffy could not dispel the feeling that something really bad was brewing underneath the calm.

"Only me. As far as I know," Willow said, answering Xander's question. "Except -- I don't go out with Oz when he's a werewolf. I, uh -- lock him in a cage."

"A technicality," Xander countered.

"Yeah, but -- " Willow's pensive frown deepened. "That doesn't explain what's been happening."

"Nothing's been happening. No fresh graves to stake out. No newbie vampires making their debut." Xander shifted nervously. "So why am I worried?"

"Because it's creepy." Willow glanced at Buffy. Her large eyes reflected a genuine innocence, astonishing in an age of millenium madness and social disintegration, unbelievable considering the damning evils she had encountered and survived. Most relinquished their souls without a second thought.

"Definitely creepy." Buffy frowned. "Whenever the demons and walking dead guys take a break, it usually means all hell is gonna break loose. For real."

"Thanks for that reminder, Buff." Xander's sarcastic tone indicated that he was anything but grateful. "I almost forgot that the forces of evil lie low before a full-scale Armageddon assault."

"Maybe that's it and -- maybe not," Willow said hopefully. "I mean, I think I'm just getting, you know...anxious about M.I.T."

"M.I.T.?" Xander asked without the veneer of a joke to disguise his dismay. "You're going to M.I.T.?"

"You've been accepted?" Buffy tried not to show her distress, either. She had consciously not been thinking about life after graduation. It wasn't written in stone that all her friends would leave for distant universities and colleges, opting for higher education and a daily routine that didn't include actively trying to stay alive. They might decide to stay in the most dismal, dangerous town on the face of the Earth. And so what if that wish reeked of denial and delusion? It cushioned a reality she couldn't conveniently ignore. As long as evil threatened the world from the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, she wasn't going anywhere.

"Nothing! Uh-uh. No, I -- " Catching her lower lip in her teeth, Willow looked from Xander to Buffy and winced. "I, uh -- just sent a query letter. That's all. Honest."

"That's all?" Xander sputtered. "We're talking a major mileage differential here, Will. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology isn't just around the corner."

"But I haven't been accepted," Willow protested. "I, uh -- haven't even heard back!"

"Like there's any doubt?" Xander scoffed. "Every top university in the country is begging you to sign on the dotted line."

"Except M.I.T.," Willow clarified, pouting.

"Face it, Will. Unless you've been subjected to some irreversible brain drain, there is no question." Falling back on his elbows, Xander threw back his head and stared at the sky. "You'll be accepted."

"But that doesn't mean I have -- " The rest of Willow's sentence dangled unspoken, when Buffy looked up suddenly.

"Who hit the mute button?" Xander asked.

Buffy held up a hand, silencing further comment while she honed in on the barely perceptible sound she had heard this time. Someone was moving through the brush along the fence enclosing the cemetery...or something. Whatever it was, it wasn't concerned with stealth. A solid thud brought Willow and Xander to their feet.

"Okay." Dusting dry grass off the seat of his pants, Xander whispered, "Did I say bored? I didn't mean bored, I -- "

Willow nudged him and hissed at Buffy. "What is it?"

Buffy shrugged, and with a slight shake of her head adjusted her grip on the stake. She wasn't sensing anything that gave her a clue, which was a little disconcerting. Maybe there was nothing to be alarmed about, but that was no reason to toss caution aside. Especially given the recent lull in evil doings in and around town.

Motioning Willow and Xander to advance from the right, Buffy crept forward. Instinctively stepping over the flat stone grave markers hidden in the grass, she silently steered a course around the larger upright headstones, guided by a persistent rustling sound. She moved in, drawn to a park bench bathed in the glow of a nearby streetlight, nervously aware that no inexplicable rush of warning raised the fine hairs on the back of her neck. When she found and confronted the culprit, she realized that nothing in her Slayer experience could have prepared her.

A few seconds later, Xander and Willow paused just beyond the circle of light cast by the street lamp.

"Buffy?" Willow asked tentatively. "What's in there?"

Buffy stared at the captive in the metal trash container. "Well, it's got fangs and it's wearing a black mask."

"What?" Xander gasped. "Some creep turned the Lone Ranger into a vamp?"

"I don't think so, but I'm open to a second opinion." Suppressing a grin, Buffy stepped aside as Xander and Willow cautiously came forward.

"Hey!" Willow jumped when the trapped creature snarled.

"Oh, look. It's a warm fuzzy varmint vamp." Xander snarled back at the frightened raccoon.


Daniel Coltrane parked by a battery-powered camp light sitting on a sawhorse, doused the headlights, and turned off the engine. The motor in his old Dodge Colt hatchback sputtered, clunked, then rumbled before falling silent. Grabbing a flashlight and reference book off the passenger seat, he opened the door to slide out.

"Who's there!"

Through the windshield, Dan saw Lucille Frank at the top of the path leading to the dig site. Shielding her eyes with one hand, she held a camp lantern high with the other. "It's just me, Lucy! Dan Coltrane!"

"Kind of late to be dropping by, isn't it, Dan? Don't you have school tomorrow?"

"Yeah, but I'm the teacher!" Dan stepped out and slammed the car door. Bits of rust and flakes of red paint dislodged from the door panel and floated to the ground. "No one's gonna complain if I fall asleep in class. It'll just reinforce the teenage perception that history really is boring."

Lucy's laugh rippled through the stillness. "Well, can't say I'll mind the company. Get your butt on over here. I'll start another pot of coffee."

"Be right there!" As Lucy left for the large tent that served as dig headquarters, Dan reached through the back window of the Colt for his jacket. He had been warm in the heated car, but needed protection against the midnight chill at the archaeological site, especially since he intended to do a bit of digging on his own. If his theory proved correct, he had no intention of letting Lucy's boss, the pompous and much-published university professor Dr. Garret Baine, identify or remove it.

Tucking the book under his arm, Dan snapped on the flashlight to guide him up the path, around equipment, and along the edge of a deep gully. Baine wasn't the only one who'd fly into a rage if he slipped and fell into the dig area, crushing a rusted metal shield or splintering a brittle bone. Lucy would send him packing with no arguments and no hope of return.

The existence of the buried Spanish expedition on the outskirts of Sunnydale had remained the earth's secret for almost five hundred years. A recent extended period of heavy rain had eroded the gorge through a level stretch of terrain at the base of Coyote Rock Hill. Hikers had discovered the protruding tip of a sword scabbard at the bottom of the wash. They had reported the find when they realized the scabbard was belted around a human skeleton. Dr. Baine had immediately been appointed to supervise the excavation.

Dan glanced up the incline on his left. Standing three quarters of the way up the gradual slope, Coyote Rock stood in solitary vigil. The towering rock formation had been spared when a natural disaster, presumed to be a flash flood, had taken the Spanish soldiers by surprise. The sedimentary nature of their tomb had preserved everything that was not subject to deterioration from rot. Baine's crew of university students and Sunnydale Historical Society volunteers like himself had only begun to uncover the artifacts that had lain undisturbed for centuries. Most of them were Spanish in origin -- swords, shields, buckles, coins, field kits, and armor. However, despite Lucy's opinion to the contrary, the piece that had attracted his attention that afternoon was not Spanish.

It was Aztec.

And tonight he was going to prove it to her.

Slim, with dark brown eyes and dark hair blunt-cut just below her ears, Lucy Frank had a confident, fiery nature that was in direct opposition to his quiet, easygoing personality. Which was probably why he found her so fascinating. Dan grinned, feeling foolish about his infatuation with a graduate student ten years younger than his thirty-five. But not so foolish he would pass up an opportunity to take her out to dinner, if such an opportunity ever presented itself. So far, none had. Although Lucy hadn't said or done anything to make him think she might be interested beyond their mutual love of the past, she hadn't done anything to discourage his hope for a more personal relationship, either.

A low rumbling sound impacted the primal centers of Dan's brain, jarring him from his thoughts. A jolt of instinctive fear brought him up short. The flashlight beam shimmied in his shaking hand as he targeted the rock shelf that undercut the slope. The light glinted off boulder and brush and a stand of scrub trees where the stone shelf burrowed back into the ground. Nothing stirred -- except the tent flap Lucy flipped aside.

"Just because I have all night doesn't mean you have to keep me waiting."

Dan's uneasiness dissolved in the warmth of Lucy's impish smile and teasing demeanor. Shrugging off the ominous sound, he ducked into the warm tent and pulled up a folding chair. He set the flashlight and pre-Columbian reference book aside. They had another matter to settle before he confronted Lucy with his incredible theory and findings.

"Okay, I give." Letting the flap fall closed, Lucy picked up two mugs from a metal shelving unit and eased past Dan to the propane camp stove. "What brings you all the way out here in the middle of the night?"

"I suddenly had this uncontrollable craving for a cup of camp coffee." Dan took the mug she held out and inhaled deeply. "Perfect."

"Right." Eyeing him curiously, Lucy swung a long leg over another folding chair and sat with a heavy sigh. "Actually, I don't care why you came, Dan. I'm glad to see you."

"You are?" Dan looked up too quickly, startled by the sincerity in her low, husky voice. Cursing himself for acting like a love-sick teenager, he raised an eyebrow to cover his pleased discomfort.

"Absolutely." Lucy leaned forward, gripping her coffee mug in both hands. "Do you have any idea how boring all-night guard duty is?"

"Let me guess." Dan frowned thoughtfully. Fearing theft and vandalism, Baine had delegated the overnight watch responsibility to Lucy and two undergraduates on a rotating basis. Occasionally, the professor took a turn, but not with any regularity. "It's so tedious you don't mind having coffee with a short, stocky, hopelessly dull guy, huh?"

I didn't just say that. Yes, I did. Inwardly, Dan groaned. He would have rolled his blue eyes if Lucy hadn't been staring directly into them.

"Who said you were dull?" Lucy asked indignantly, not expecting an answer. "I wish I had had high school teachers as enthusiastic about their subjects as you are, Dan. My American history teacher, Mr. Chapman? He was so dull he collected cobwebs in his beard during class, time slowed to such a crawl."

"I can't imagine."

"I know." Sitting back, Lucy blew on her steaming coffee. "So what's so important it couldn't wait until tomorrow?"

Dan hesitated, smoothing back his blond hair and shifting into a more serious tone and manner. "For one thing, the History Club field trip is on for this weekend. I'll be here with my students and their gear Friday after school."

"Oh, boy." Lucy sagged and shook her head. "You know how Dr. Baine feels about that. He'll be furious."

"How the good professor feels about it isn't a factor, Lucy -- unless he makes trouble. If Baine refuses to cooperate ...

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