The night sky looked like an endless expanse of black satin sprinkled with silvery glitter. An owl screeched from a tree branch overhead and a chilly breeze whispered an ominous secret warning through the pines and firs. At least, that was how it sounded to Buffy Summers. Secretive and ominous things made up a great deal of her life.
Buffy and her friends had moved silently since they'd left the van on Rockway Road. The only sound they made was the crisp crackle of pine needles being crushed beneath their shoes. As they crept through the patch of woods, two other noises grew steadily louder: the rushing of ocean waves against the rocky shore, and the muffled throbbing of raucous heavy metal music playing indoors somewhere nearby.
Buffy spotted light up ahead and slowed her pace. The others came to a stop behind her. The cabin came into view through a thicket of wild grapevines. Buffy raised her crossbow and loaded it with a wooden stake that came to a deadly point. This stake was different from those she typically used; it ended in a sharp and shiny silver tip.
"This is it," Buffy whispered over her shoulder to the others.
Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, and Cordelia Chase stood close together with Rupert Giles behind them. All four carried silver-tipped wooden stakes.
They were looking at a small, run-down cabin in the center of a clearing. It probably had looked very cozy and welcoming at one time, before years of neglect. A single bare bulb cast a dull yellow glow over the covered porch. Behind the cabin, the woods thinned considerably and a narrow path disappeared into the night toward the rocky beach. In front, an old barbecue grill leaned crookedly near a picnic table.
They faced the southern side of the building, where vines had nearly consumed a small rowboat that lay upside-down on the ground. Five large motorcycles were parked side by side in the front. The music coming from inside the cabin was like thunder, and somewhere in all the noise, Buffy heard high, hysterical laughter.
The Slayer looked up at the moon in the ink-black sky. While it indeed appeared fat and round, this was the night after the full moon, so it was no longer truly full. But it was enough to keep Willow's boyfriend Oz locked up for the night.
"The Blood Moon," Willow whispered.
Buffy turned to her. "The what?"
"According to the Witch's Almanac, this is the month of the Blood Moon."
"Oh." Buffy looked up again as a bat darted back and forth overhead. "Well, let's just make sure we don't spill any of ours tonight, okay?"
"Good plan," Xander said.
"Now, remember," Giles said quietly, "it's not necessary to hit the heart as it is with vampires. Getting the silver anywhere into the flesh is what counts. That should make this a little easier. They'll be moving very fast, so -- "
"And they'll be hungry," Willow added quietly. When the others turned to her, she whispered, "Remember what the book said? About the hunger? That's what drives them. Even though they've already, um...you know...eaten."
"So when they look at us," Xander said, "they'll be seeing five double bacon cheeseburgers with a side of intestines."
"Speak for yourself," Cordelia hissed, slapping the back pocket of her Tommy Hilfiger khakis.
Buffy said in a firm whisper, "Hey, focus. The book also told us how well these things can hear, remember?"
They fell silent, but Cordy still threw an icy glare Xander's way.
Buffy said, "Giles and Willow, you stay on this side of the house. Xander and Cordelia, you go around back to the other side. Hang back until I kick that door open and get their attention. I'm gonna draw them outside, and then I wanna see some serious stakage. If they think I'm alone, they'll be less prepared for you guys."
"Approach from behind whenever possible," Giles whispered. "One bite, and..." He took a breath, cleared his throat softly. "Well, that's all it will take. To, uh...to become like...like them."
They moved into the clearing and spread out around the cabin. Willow and Giles stopped at the southern end of the rickety-looking covered porch while Buffy went to the three wooden steps in front of the house.
The music inside pounded on, reverberating like the stomping footsteps of a giant. The hysterical laughter continued, grew louder, and became higher in pitch. The laughs melted into a high keening wail, which became more rounded, throatier, until it was a cold, piercing howl.
Buffy went up the steps to the long porch, but before she could kick the cabin's door in, it was pulled open.
The open doorway framed a tall but slightly hunched figure wearing what was left of a white tank top. The tank top was covered with dark stains and hung from the figure in shreds. The broad, tall figure was backlit, and light shone through clumps of thick fur on the head, shoulders, and arms. It held something in its right hand, something that looked like a short club; unidentifiable threads dangled from the end of it. The figure stepped forward into the pool of yellow light.
The creature's snout glistened with blood, and as its black lips pulled back into a sneering grin, they revealed long, sharp, bloody fangs with bits of meat stuck between them. The deep, dark eyes absorbed every bit of light around them and reflected it back in piercing pinpoints of silver.
Although the light was poor, the thing in the creature's hand was obviously not a club, but a human arm torn off at the elbow; the black, furry paw held the arm's pale, dead hand. Chunks of flesh had been gnawed from the arm, like meat from a drumstick.
A thick growl began to rise from deep inside the creature as it spread its arms expansively. The sound was not remotely human, but it formed a word. "Company!" It tossed the arm aside and hunched down even farther, preparing to pounce. "And just in time for dinner."
When they first began the investigation, it had looked as if they might be dealing with cattle mutilations. Again. But this time the cattle had not exactly been mutilated. They had been...eaten. Right to the bone. Bones were all that had been left of the cows in a pasture just outside Sunnydale. All muscle and flesh had been eaten away, and parts of the remaining skeletons had been gnawed on with some very sharp teeth in some very powerful jaws. A local radio newscaster speculated that wild animals -- perhaps coyotes or mountain lions -- were responsible, but Giles disagreed.
"Not even the hungriest mountain lion would clean a skeleton of every last bit of flesh like that," the Watcher told Buffy. "This is something else, something...unnatural."
"A hellhound?" Buffy suggested.
"The fact that ten head of cattle had been reduced to skeletons on the night before the full moon makes that very likely," Giles replied. "But why cattle? Why would a werewolf -- or even a pack of hellhound-like creatures -- feed on cattle in an area so populated with people?"
"Maybe they don't want to hurt anyone," Willow suggested.
"Uh-uh," Oz said. "As far as werewolves go, once the change has taken place, you can't control yourself."
They all paid attention. When it came to werewolves, Oz knew what he was talking about. He'd been bitten by his cousin Jordy, who was a werewolf. As a result, Oz became a werewolf on the nights before and after the full moon, as well as the night of the full moon itself. Not wanting to harm anyone, with the help of his friends, Oz took precautions each month. He was securely locked up on those three nights so he was unable to do any damage to property or people.
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.
"I mean, I'm a werewolf, right? And I don't wanna hurt anybody, right? Well...it's kinda like watching Jerry Springer. You know you shouldn't, but you just can't help yourself."
"Perhaps we're not dealing with werewolves at all," Giles said.
The next morning, a grisly, but unclear, story topped the local newscasts. Several people had been killed the night before in a biker bar called Hog Heaven on the southern edge of Sunnydale. Although there was no mention of gunfire, everyone assumed, at first, that it had been a shooting. Then more details came out as the day wore on: that no guns had been used...that the victims had been eaten.
According to three eyewitnesses, five men had come into the bar around dusk and rudely taken over the pool table, upsetting the regulars. A fight had broken out, which was not uncommon in Hog Heaven.
At that point in the story, the accounts of the eyewitnesses diverged.
One witness thought the strangers used knives, because blood was flying and the regulars involved in the brawl were wailing like animals caught in traps; then that eyewitness fled the bar. The second, who had not been far behind the first in fleeing, insisted that a wild animal of some sort had gotten into the bar and attacked the brawlers.
But the third, a young man who'd had more than a few drinks that evening, claimed that the strangers who'd entered the bar had changed...that they'd grown hair and fangs and had stopped punching with fists and had started tearing with claws. He said they'd driven away on five Harley-Davidsons, their thick fur blowing in the wind, and the one in the lead had lifted his head and howled at the night sky as they sped away. It was noted by newscasters that the third eyewitness, who left the bar in hysterics, was arrested a bit later for possession of certain controlled substances, a fact which was used to explain away the young man's bizarre account.
Authorities thought one of the quintet was Waldo Becker, an ex-con from a small Maryland town who, along with his four friends, was believed to be responsible for murders in three other states.
"Right the first time, traveling hellhounds," Buffy said to Giles when she and the others gathered in the library to talk about the mystery. "Or devil dogs. Or whatever."
"Not werewolves," Giles agreed. "Werewolves either are or aren't. This...this in-between existence is another creature entirely."
"Traveling hellhounds," Willow muttered. "It's like a bad movie."
Cordelia said, "Oh, like bad movie territory is new to you people?"
"These are hellhounds who are not at all concerned about their condition or the welfare of others," Giles said. "By all accounts, they seem to enjoy their altered state."
"We've got to stop them," Oz said.
"And we're gonna have to do it tonight," Xander said.
They were silent for a moment, contemplating the body count of another night if these hounds were free.
"This is gonna take some massive patrolling," Buffy said.
Staring intensely at one of her fingernails, Cordelia said, "Does anybody have an emery board? My nail broke." She looked up at a wall of impassive faces. "What?"
Willow accessed regional newspapers on the Internet and tracked the movement of Waldo Becker and his companions across the country. It took a couple hours, and there were a number of gaps in their trek, but she found that they focused on seedy bars on the outskirts of small towns, where they slaughtered, dined, and moved on, and sometimes they got takeout and took dinner with them. They were never in any one town for more than one full moon cycle.
They agreed to take Oz's van out to find Waldo Becker and his friends. Giles presented them with the silver-tipped stakes he'd made for just such an occasion. "We can only assume the silver will work on these...hellhounds, for lack of a better name."
"Um, I don't know about everybody else," Xander said, "but I'd be a lot happier with some silver bullets. I mean, these guys don't exactly sound like the up close and personal type, you know?"
"You've had no training in the handling of firearms," Giles said. "And we don't know what sort of situation we'll find ourselves in. I can't have you inadvertently shooting innocent bystanders. Or each other."
"Giles is right," Buffy said. "Besides, you guys have gotten good at using stakes. You seemed to do a pretty good job of using them to save the world from evil while I was out of town." She looked around at them with a grin. "You'll do fine with them tonight."
Buffy phoned home to beg off dinner yet again, promising her mom she'd be home tomorrow night for sure. An hour before dusk -- much earlier than usual -- they locked Oz in the library's cage, where Giles kept his rare books and manuscripts.
"Sorry for doing this so early," Willow said, pressing both hands to the steel mesh cage. "But we need to get a head start on these guys."
"I understand," Oz said, bobbing his head and stuffing four fingers of each hand into the back pockets of his jeans. "Hey, it's not like I don't have anything to read." He leaned forward and kissed Willow through the bars. "Be careful."
She nodded and smiled. "See you in the morning."
Oz wished them luck as they left the library to pursue their quarry.
They took Oz's van and drove slowly through town, paying special attention to the Fish Tank and Willy's Alibi Room as they drove by. The Fish Tank was where the first attack had taken place; Willy's Alibi Room was three blocks away and just as unsavory.
In the hour before sunset, they saw four motorcycles: two parked side by side and two others, each solo.
As the sun slowly disappeared, the streets were very quiet. In Sunnydale, on the Hellmouth -- an entryway for the undead and other supernatural creatures -- that usually meant something very bad was going on. But on this particular evening, the town was not just quiet and still...it actually seemed safe.
"Is this our town?" Xander asked. "Or did we take a wrong turn somewhere?"
"Well, I like it," Cordelia said. "Hanging out with you guys is never this quiet. It's kind of refreshing, if you ask me."
"Which, of course, no one did," Xander muttered.
"Okay, then," Cordelia said with a sigh, "even if you don't ask me, it's still refreshing."
Along with the Fish Tank and Willy's Alibi Room, they were surprised by how many run-down bars existed within the city limits of Sunnydale. They lurked on the edges of town, off the main roads, but they were there -- dark, usually small, and inviting to those whose tastes ran to that sort of thing: not much light, bowls of peanuts and pretzels on the bar, condom dispensers in the restrooms, pool tables, dart boards, a jukebox with plenty of country and western weepers on the menu, sports on the television, a pinball or video game or two to take your quarters, and a lot of thick cigarette smoke that violated California law.
On the western edge of town near the beach was the Hidey Hole, next to a rickety-looking pier and with a red-and-white Styrofoam life preserver on the door. To the east lay the Red Rooster, a red barn affair with a huge, weather-beaten rooster standing on the roof. But it wasn't until they got to the northern end of town that Giles parked the van at the curb.
The Trap was a small bar with a gravel parking lot. There were no lights in the parking lot, and the bar itself was so dark, it would have looked abandoned were it not for the cars parked in the lot around it. It had two small windows with a glowing neon beer sign in each.
There were several cars and pickup trucks parked in the gravel lot...along with five Harley-Davidson motorcycles standing side by side beneath one of those two windows, metal gleaming in the glow of the flickering beer sign.
Giles let the van's engine idle as they all looked at the bar and the motorcycles parked in front of it.
"We aren't certain those are the ones we're looking for," he began quietly. There was a tense edge to his voice and he clutched the steering wheel tightly.
"Five parked in a row outside a bar that looks like some alcoholic's id?" Buffy asked. "I'd say chances are good these're the guys."
"Wait a second," Willow said. The others turned to her as her eyebrows curled downward over the bridge of her nose and her lips tightened and drew together without touching. She turned to Giles and said, "We've forgotten something. We're all too young to go in there."
Giles removed his glasses and nodded once, looking out at the bar again. "Yes, you're quite right."
"We can't wait out here," Xander said. "If our guys are in there, they could start making beer nuts and pretzels of everybody any minute now."
"Not to worry," Giles said, killing the engine. "I'm of age." He replaced his glasses and opened his door.
"You can't go in there alone."
"We don't seem to have much choice, Buffy."
"Reality check, Giles," she said. "You Watcher, me Slayer. There are five of those things in there. You could get killed."
"I'm quite capable of handling myself if need be, Buffy." He got out, then reached back inside and took two of the silver-tipped stakes from the middle of the seat. He tucked them beneath his belt, then closed his tweed sportscoat over them. "I'll stay near the door, and should anything happen, I'll signal you immediately. Once violence breaks out, I seriously doubt anyone will take the time to ask for your IDs. Pay attention and be prepared." He closed the door, walked around the van, and headed across the parking lot.
"I've got a bad feeling in my stomach," Buffy whispered as her eyes followed her Watcher.
"Let's hope it's something you ate," Xander quipped.
The sound of Giles's shoes crunching on the gravel faded as he neared the bar. He was less than three feet from the entrance when a guttural scream came from inside the bar.
Buffy's door was open in an instant and she jumped out of the van with her loaded crossbow in hand.
At the first noise Giles froze. Now as he looked back over his shoulder at the van, the door of the Trap burst outward and broke off its hinges beneath the force of a large, bloody man who shot through the air, a screaming human missile. Giles stumbled backward quickly enough to avoid being hit by the door, but the man slammed into him and both of them rolled over the gravel, coming to a halt about eight feet from where Giles had been standing.
Buffy ran across the gravel parking lot as more screams rose from inside the bar. Horrible, painful screams...wet screams. She glanced over her shoulder at the van and saw that no one was following her.
"Come on!" she cried. "What're you waiting for?"
She ran by Giles and shouted, "You okay?"
"Fine!" he said as he got to his feet, waving her on.
The closer Buffy got to the open doorway of the bar, the louder the screaming inside became. There were crashing sounds inside, as well. And something else, something beneath all the other sounds...
Low, animal growls, and sloppy, moist chewing.
Buffy entered the bar with her crossbow held ready to fire...and her feet went wild beneath her. She slipped on something wet and slick, and the floor slammed against her back, knocking the breath from her lungs.
She couldn't move for a moment as bodies rushed by her above, towering over her, shooting in and out of her field of vision with lightning speed. Behind her, she heard Willow cry, "No! No!" and Xander let fly a few choice curses as motorcycle engines roared to life.
Something howled as the engines revved...and then began to fade away.
Silence. It was deafening. The bar was completely silent...except for a gentle, thick dripping nearby. The coppery odor of blood slowly filled Buffy's nostrils...the blood in which she'd slipped and fallen.
She began to struggle to get to her feet, and hands gripped her arms, helping her up. Giles and Xander were with her, and Willow and Cordelia were standing just outside the door.
"C'mon," Buffy said urgently, dismissing the carnage inside the bar with a glance. "We've gotta follow them. Let's go!"
The five of them ran to the van and got inside.
"Which way did they go?" Giles asked as he started the engine.
"Straight ahead," Cordelia said. "I saw them."
"Do me a favor, Giles?" Buffy asked quietly.
"What's that?" he asked as he pulled away from the curb.
"Forget you're British and step on it."
He did, and the van shot forward. He turned his head and said over his shoulder, "Seatbelts, please? Everyone?"
Everyone in the van remained silent as Giles sped through the night, his foot pushing the accelerator to the floor, breaking the speed limit in a very non-
Englishman sort of way.
The road was curvy, but with their windows rolled down, it wasn't long before they heard the roar of the motorcycles up ahead. The sound of the motorcycles led them west. The area around them became more and more wooded, until they were driving between tall pines and firs, beyond which lay thick woods on both sides of the road.
And then the sound of the motorcycles stopped.
It didn't stop instantly, it faded. But it faded very quickly...and was gone.
Giles let up on the accelerator and the van slowed.
"Where did they go?" Giles asked. "I can't hear them anymore."
"Neither can I," Buffy said, leaning her head out the window.
"Maybe they outran us?" Willow said uncertainly.
"No, no, they didn't do that," Buffy said. "It sounded more like they...like they..." Buffy suddenly spun around and clutched Giles's shoulder. "Stop the van. Stop it, now."
Giles slowed down, his mouth moving nervously, but silently.
"No, no, Giles, pull over and stop! Now!"
He did as she said, parking the van on the slanted gravel shoulder.
"What do you have in mind, Buffy?" he asked.
"They went into the woods," she said, looking out the side window into the dark woods on the western side of the road. "On those motorcycles, they could drive right in there...and they did, I know it. Somewhere along this road, maybe a little ways behind us, they went right into the woods."
"You think they're hiding in there?" Xander asked.
Cordelia let out an annoyed huff of breath and said, "No, Xander, they're collecting frogs for a class biology project."
"We've got to go in there after them," Buffy said, ignoring the exchange in the backseat.
Giles pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands as he let out a long sigh. "All right, then," he said. "We're hardly equipped for it, but...we'll go into the woods."
There was a long, tense silence in the van.
"Into the woods?" Cordelia asked. Her voice was a quiet whimper. "At night?"
"What are you afraid of?" Xander asked.
"Well, aren't there...you know...snakes and spiders and -- "
"Cordy, we're going into the woods after hellhounds," Xander said with a chuckle. "Snakes and spiders should be the least of your worries."
Cordelia sighed and shook her head. "You people are so priority-impaired."
Buffy smiled faintly at Giles, then at the others in the backseat, then at Giles again. "So...what are we waiting for?"
Things on the porch went downhill almost immediately.
As the creature flung the severed arm over the porch railing, blood spattered in all directions. Buffy raised her crossbow, aimed, and fired. But the hellhound had already leapt from the porch and flew over her head with a loud growl. The stake sliced through empty air and disappeared into the open doorway.
Buffy reached beneath her jacket for another stake as she spun around on the porch. Through the old wood slats beneath her boots, she could feel the stomping rush of the four other hellhounds hurrying toward her from inside the cabin, while loud rock music continued to rumble.
She had the second stake in the crossbow before she had turned all the way around, but she never had a chance to fire it. The hellhound in the tattered, bloody tank top rose up out of the darkness less than two feet in front of her. With a flick of his black, furry hand, he knocked the crossbow from Buffy's grip and sent it tumbling into the night.
Buffy's hand was already beneath her jacket, reaching for another stake -- she had her fingers wrapped around it -- when the snarling creature slapped a hand on her shoulder and another on her hip and closed his grip. She felt his claws pierce her clothing as he lifted her off the ground. With no apparent effort, the hellhound turned and threw Buffy away from the house. The cold night air hissed past her ears and her hair blew in her face as she flew through the air, the hellhound in furious pursuit.
Buffy slammed into the trunk of a tree. She was unconscious before she hit the ground.
From the time the front door of the cabin opened, only seconds had passed.
As Buffy flew from the porch, Xander and Giles hopped over the railing and moved in from each side. They stopped beside the open door, stakes raised, listening to the snarls rushing toward them.
As if expecting them, the next hellhound out the door swung his arms open wide, knocking Xander and Giles in opposite directions.
By that time, Willow had climbed onto the railing at her end of the porch. She dove off the railing and over Giles, who had been knocked on his back, and onto the hellhound. Unprepared for the attack, the creature fell. Willow wasted no time.
She buried the stake in the hellhound's neck.
The creature immediately began to convulse and released a painful shriek that echoed through the woods around them. The hellhound's thrashing became so forceful, Willow was thrown down onto the porch. The creature stiffened after a moment and its back arched. It made a horrible gurgling sound in its throat as its dark, fanged muzzle began to shrink rapidly. Willow backed away on all fours, disgusted by the thick, wet sound of bones moving against bones, of muscle tissue shrinking, dissolving.
The body fell limp suddenly and released a harsh death rattle. It looked like nothing more than a vicious dog now. A dead one. His eyes were open and stared glassily up at the yellow porch light.
Willow released an explosive breath as she reached forward and pulled the stake from his neck.
While Willow had been diving for the unsuspecting hellhound, Xander and Giles had been getting to their feet. By then, three more hellhounds had rushed by them and off the porch. They were somewhere in the darkness, beyond the dull pool of yellow light cast by the bulb over the door.
"Where's Buffy?" Xander whispered.
"I-I-I don't...I don't know," Giles stammered.
In spite of the chilly air, perspiration glistened on their faces, and their hearts were trip-hammering in their chests.
Giles turned to see Willow backing away from the convulsing body on the porch.
Once she'd pulled the stake from the hellhound's neck, Giles leaned down, gripped her elbow, and helped her to her feet.
"Hey, somebody help me!" Cordelia cried. "I'm stuck!"
Xander, Giles, and Willow turned to the other end of the porch, where Cordelia was trying to climb over the railing. She had one leg over, stake in hand, but her khakis had gotten stuck on the end of a shard of splintered wood.
Xander rushed toward her.
A clawed, furry hand slapped the top of her head, closed on her hair, and jerked her off the railing. With a scream, Cordelia was swallowed by the darkness.
"Cordy!" Xander shouted.
She didn't hear him. The hellhound's snout was next to her ear and its hot, snarling breath, smelling coppery of blood, drowned out all other sounds. It still held her by the hair, pulling it hard, as it turned her around. Its black lips pulled back over its fangs, exposing its long black-mottled pink tongue.
Cordelia barely saw the thing's face. Her eyes were tearing from the pain of her hair being pulled so hard. All fear rushed out of her as anger welled up and made her clench her teeth.
"Don't...mess...with the hair!" she cried as she drove the stake into the creature's abdomen.
The hellhound released her hair and fell away, hitting the ground with a loud thud. It thrashed and kicked and made horrible choking sounds in the dark, but Cordelia turned away, and came face to face with Xander.
"Are you all right?" he asked, clutching her shoulders.
She winced as she patted her hair. "Yeah. I am now. No thanks to you."
Giles went down the front steps of the porch cautiously, with Willow a couple of steps behind him.
Although the moon was almost completely full and shone through the tall surrounding trees in needles of electric blue, the night was dark with black shadows that grew even blacker when they overlapped.
A low predatory growl came from the darkness and seemed to be everywhere...to the left and right, straight ahead, even above them.
"Buffy?" Giles called.
An instant after he called her name, Buffy regained consciousness. She had no idea how long she'd been out, but knew it couldn't have been long, because she was still alive. The stake was no longer in her hand. She sat up, leaned to her right, and began to grope for the stake on the ground. The tips of her fingers touched its smooth surface --
And she was knocked onto her back again as the hellhound suddenly straddled her waist and pressed her shoulders to the ground.
The creature's saliva dribbled onto Buffy's face, warm and thick and noxious.
Buffy reached out as far as she could with her right arm, her fingertips tickling the ground in search of the stake.
"A Slayer," the hellhound said. The words were nearly buried in the deep growl that came with them.
Her middle finger lightly brushed against the stake's silver tip. She reached farther, making her shoulder hurt. With the tip of her finger, she drew the stake a little closer to her...a little closer.
From the corner of her eye Buffy could see Xander and Cordelia join Willow and Giles, as the four of them moved away from the cabin, their eyes fanning out to look for trouble.
There was a low, quiet growl behind them.
All four of them spun around at once to see two sets of fangs and eyes glinting at them in the moonlight.
The hellhound on top of Buffy leaned forward until his cold, wet nose almost touched the tip of hers. Its lips pulled back and its long fangs dripped tepid saliva onto her chin. The creature's foul-smelling breath washed over her face, hot and rank with the smell of decaying meat.
Buffy placed a second fingertip on the stake...then a third. She curled her fingers, pulling it a little closer. Then a fourth finger...and her thumb...until she was able to close her fist around the stake.
The creature pulled back a few inches and opened its snout wide, ready to plunge forward and sink its fangs into her throat.
Through clenched teeth, Buffy snarled, "Eat this!" She slammed the stake into its throat. The hellhound sat up with a startled growl. The stake remained in Buffy's hand...with the silver pointed tip pointing at her. She'd stabbed the hellhound in the throat with the wrong end of the stake.
The hellhound grinned to reveal all its fangs as it grabbed Buffy's right wrist and began to squeeze, trying to get her to release the stake.
Closer to the cabin, Xander tackled a hellhound without hesitation. As the two of them rolled, Xander shoved the stake in without even knowing where.
Meantime, the other hellhound pounced at Giles, who dropped to his knees immediately and thrust his stake upward.
Buffy swung her left fist around and punched her hellhound in the face once, twice, a third time. The second the creature was off balance, she rolled her body to the left and heaved it off of her.
The hellhound was on all fours in an instant, lunging for Buffy.
Buffy swung her right leg out and kicked the creature in the face. It tumbled away from her with a pained grunt, landing a few feet away. But it didn't stay there long.
She was up on her knees as the hellhound rushed toward her again. She flipped the stake in her hand, so the silver tip pointed outward, then stabbed it upward as the hellhound pounced on her.
The stake went in deep, and the creature landed heavily on Buffy, making a horrible gurgling sound in its throat. It was immediately still as it lay pinning Buffy to the ground.
"C'mon, c'mon," Buffy muttered as she rolled the dead weight off of her, "I don't know you well enough, big guy." She got up and brushed herself off, then looked down at the hellhound.
Blood was caked on his lips and chin, and his eyes stared flatly up at the moon.
Footsteps hurried toward her in the dark.
"Buffy!" Giles said with relief. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, but reached around and gingerly touched the back of her head. There was a large knot, but no blood. Her back hurt, and her legs felt stiff. She popped her shoulder back into joint. "I'll live...it just won't be fun. Not for a little while, anyway."
"We're going to have to leave quickly," Giles said, "or we'll have a great deal of explaining to do...and most likely to people who will laugh in our faces as they apply handcuffs to our wrists." He turned and looked grimly down at the hellhound on the ground.
Buffy turned to the group and asked, "We got 'em all?"
The others said yes, all at once.
"Unless, um, there are more in the cabin," Willow said.
"There are only five motorcycles," Xander said. "I doubt they'd ride double."
"Yeah, there's only five, let's go," Cordelia said with a hint of an impatient whine in her voice.
"No, Willow's right," Giles said. "We need to be sure."
Buffy leaned down and jerked the stake out of the dead creature on the ground. "I'll check the cabin," she said.
She limped a little at first, but recovered quickly, and covered the rest of the distance at a jog. Up the steps, across the porch...she stopped at the open door.
Inside, the cabin was a mess, and had a smell to go with it. Apparently, hellhounds had the same bathroom habits as regular hounds...none at all. They didn't use the refrigerator, either, because their leftovers were scattered all over the place. A foot here, a head there...it wasn't a pretty sight. She went through the entire cabin, careful not to step in anything. The place was empty.
Buffy got out of the cabin as quickly as possible, went down the steps, and joined her friends.
"It's empty," she said. "Let's motor."
and copyright © 2000 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.abin was a mess, and had a smell to go with it. Apparently, hellhounds had the same bathroom habits as regular hounds...none at all. They didn't use the refrigerator, either, because their leftovers were scattered all over the place. A foot here, a head there...it wasn't a pretty sight. She went through the entire cabin, careful not to step in anything. The place was empty.
Buffy got out of the cabin as quickly as possible, went down the steps, and joined her friends.
"It's empty," she said. "Let's motor."
and copyright © 2000 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.