After returning to the dorm after the party/fighting, Drew was still pretty wired with the coolness of inhabiting the Slayer's body. By the next morning, though, he's brooding and sort of moody. In keeping with the nature of the body switch as an experiment, he tells Sam that he had one of her dreams and that, although he saw himself in her body in the dream, Kate immediately recognized that he wasn't really Sam.
Sam nods. "So you've seen it for yourself, then. The line of Slayers, with the future ones disappearing. Kate told me that they're disappearing because they're never Called to be Slayer. Now. But they're so far in the future, they haven't even been born yet. It's a puzzle."
"Yeah, it's pretty creepy. I mean, it's one thing to hear you describe it. It's another thing to actually see them all there and then watch them fade away. There was one girl, she couldn't have been more than 14 or 15. She was wearing jeans and an army jacket and these little square glasses. And she looked right at me. And then she was just gone. Just... gone."
"Fourteen, yeah. Hartsdale did say that I was older than average, when I was Called at sixteen. But gone from the Slayer Line doesn't necessarily mean gone from existence. If a girl isn't called to be Slayer, well, that could mean that she just has a normal life. Like Vivian helping her mother run a dry cleaner's in boring-normal Solomon. Or it could mean that something happens, and her parents never meet, so she never gets born in the first place." Sam shakes her head. "I don't think she was looking at you, Drew. I've tried to talk with them, and they never respond. In the dream, I'm like a ghost. Only Kate can speak to me." She looks at Drew sideways. "Did Kate say anything to you? I bet she was surprised when she saw you weren't me. The first-ever man to experience Slayerhood. That we know of."
He gives a small smile, "She said, 'This is awkward.' It was weird, actually—I was still in your body, but she knew right away that I wasn't you. As soon as I appeared, she said, 'you're not Sam.'" He shrugs, then looks away. "So, yeah, I told her who I was."
Sam knows Drew well—incredibly well, at this point. "Anything else? Something incredibly cryptic, and not at all helpful, I'm guessing. When I asked her what the vampire population was like in her time, she said 'scared.' Which is good, from one point of view. But scared of what? That's another question." Sam looks carefully at Drew, moving his chin to look in his eyes. "If it was about my death, you don't have to say, but I've seen this look on your face before."
He blushes. "I guess I already did. Yeah. And, no, it wasn't that cryptic. I asked how we could stop it and she said that it isn't us, it's just you. So, then we got into this whole argument about Slayers having friends and stuff—I guess they're back to not doing that sort of thing in her time, because I don't think she really understood. Anyway, we argued about that for a bit, but then I realized that wasn't exactly a good use of my one chance at dream time, so I caved and asked her how you stop it. And... and you know what she said." There are tears in his eyes.
Sam hugs him for a long time. "I know. And you know, that no one gets out of this gig alive. But we do the best with what we've got. Right?"
She looks in his face again. "You heard what the Grey Sisters said, too. I asked, 'Who or what is the threat that's removing the Slayers from the line of the future?' Answer: 'look in the mirror.' Me. I'm the threat to the status quo. Because I'm the Slayer in the present. I'm the one who makes the choices, who slays the vampires—with a lot of help from my friends—and sets the table for the one who comes next."
"I know. But it's one thing to know that this job is going to kill you. It's another for someone to tell me it's going to kill you now."
"I know. But not right this second. As long as I'm still breathing, there's time to make things right." Sam nods. "I'm also doing something about this vision of the future we've seen, Drew. Maybe it'll help ease your mind if I show you."
Sam takes his hand and drives up to the Monastery. There, at the forge that she and Erik re-built, Sam lifts a huge flagstone out of the floor, and removes a bundle of white silk. Wrapped inside is a steel blade, eighteen inches long, almost a foot wide, with substantial thickness. It's straight along the back edge, smooth arc along the front, and already quite sharp even though it hasn't been honed. "It's not finished yet, but getting there."
"Wow. That's really amazing. What's it going to be? I mean, other than really sharp. Is it enchanted? It's cool, but I don't quite see how it relates to your vision unless you've got an idea for some kind of spell on it."
"It's not enchanted, yet. It has the potential to be enchanted, though. I had Erik help me with the initial forging, making the steel. And Michael was quite pleased to help smash genie lamps." Sam grins. "He destroyed the one that George wore as a necklace. It shattered, so was useless for this, but it must have felt good for him to do that. I took the ones that made it through the fire intact. And the teeth and claws from my dragon. That's what Prof. Malion meant when he asked you about changing the sculpture. I substituted chrome for the star-metal there, because there's none left. I think Erik used the last scraps to make Joshua's throwing knives, unless he's found another meteorite and hasn't told anyone about it."
"Anyway. I took the genie-lamp iron, and made it into steel, and the star-metal dragon claws, and folded them together. Over and over. All semester, whenever I had time and a clear head, I came up here and worked on the ingots." She hefts the blade in both hands, along the dull edge. "This has more folds in it than a five-body katana. The genie lamps for magic potential, and the star-metal for demon smiting. When it's finished, it'll have a handle long enough to wield either one- or two-handed, and a good wooden stake at the other end. A Slayer's weapon, made by and for the Slayer."
Sam places the blade back on the silk. "It relates to the vision, because it's in there. Maybe you noticed, or maybe not, but several future Slayers are holding a weapon, like a two-handed axe, or naginata. I drew pictures of it." Sam unfolds a piece of paper with a picture of the scythe, held by a dark-haired girl. "I sent pictures to Hartsdale, and gave one to Ada, and the head researcher at the Cloisters, whom Michael trusts. I thought they could help, too." Sam shakes her head. "But as far as anyone can find out, from Watcher records, or otherwise, no Slayer on record has ever used a weapon exactly like this before. I thought, 'why?' Why none in the past, but several in the future? I thought." Now, she blushes. "I thought maybe, it hadn't been made, yet. And I would make it."
"Okay, that's really, really cool. Wow, actually. I mean, I knew you were an artist and the dragon's really good, but I had no idea you could make anything like this. This is amazing. I'm not sure how it's supposed to make me feel better. But I can see why all the future Slayers want to use it."
"Well, as I said, it's not finished yet. But when it is, I plan to do the final cooling with water mixed with my blood. Sounds icky, but that's the best way I can think of to incorporate Slayer-ness into the metal. What I want to make is not just a weapon, but a safety net, and a spark. For me, and the ones to come.
"This part is kindof iffy. There are two big ifs in my dream—if there is no Slayer, but there are still vampires in need of slaying. Then, the world is in deep kimchee. That might happen if the bad guys find a way to stop the Slayer power from getting to where it needs to be. In that case, this weapon, tied to the Slayer power, could spark a Potential over and re-restart the line again.
"The second if... I almost can't say it aloud. But what if there were no Slayer," she takes a deep breath, "because there were no vampires? Don't ask me how that might happen. I don't know.
"Wow. No vampires. Actually winning. And walking away afterwards. Wonder what kind of retirement plan the Watchers offer?" He smiles for a moment, considering the possibilities, but then his face falls. He tries to catch himself but, of course, Sam sees his reaction before he can disguise it. "No. I'm sorry. I wish I'd thought of this when you weren't right here watching me. But it doesn't make sense. If the Slayers going away was a good outcome, then you wouldn't have Kate in your dream trying to warn you to stop it.
"I mean, I'm sure some Slayers get off on it—and after last night I understand why—but you've got to think lots, if not most, would prefer long, if mundane, lives, if they had the choice. Not to mention, any who took their duty seriously would want that outcome even if they personally would prefer the more adventurous life. Although, you said Kate's the only one who can talk to you. If she were rogue and was trying to manipulate you into helping the vampires... No, that doesn't work, either. She may be the spokeswoman, but the dreams are part of your Slayer nature. So, the Slayer Force itself would have to be Evil, fighting to perpetuate itself at the expense of its supposed mission. I can't accept that. A rogue Slayer, yes. We've seen that—Anna, Faith. I've read about plenty others. But the whole Slayer Force? No. The only way it would make sense is if whatever destroyed the vampires also destroyed so much else that keeping them alive was the greater good. In which case, we're back to square one—you have to stop it."
"Right. Back to step one: find the bad guys. Slay them. Keep the Slayer-spark flowing on after me. What I'm afraid of is if the bad guys find a way to strip the Slayer power out of me." Sam looks distant. "I don't know if I can survive that. Now that we know for sure that the power is in my body, flesh and blood. That would be like stripping out my DNA. The only weak point is the moment of transfer. The only instant when there is no Slayer on earth is when one is in the throes of dying, before the next one is Called. But that doesn't matter. What matters, is that this," Sam points to the blade nestled in white silk, "will have Slayer-power built into it. Not enough to make just anyone into a Slayer. But enough, if the Potential is there, to turn it on. If the power does falter, if the bad guys think they've won, this will tip the balance. Michael helped me form it, so he can call it to him, from anywhere. If I fall, he can get this key into the right hands, and re-start the line."
"Or they send you somewhere where the Slayer power can't find its way back. The past, or maybe the future so all those intervening Slayers get skipped. Or some other dimension where there are no humans for it to transfer to. We have to be careful about that, because that might be some place Michael's powers can't reach, either."
"True. We do have a tendency to go gallivanting off into the past, and alternate dimensions now and again." Sam smiles, but then goes serious again.
"But, if we do get it, we don't even know who the right hands are," Drew points out. "You've seen her, and now I have, too. We shouldn't go looking for her—whatever's after you might try to follow. But Michael needs to know what she looks like, since he's the one who will be able to get the, uh, transfer device. You'll probably be dead and I may be too, but we have to assume Michael's going to survive or the whole thing's going to fail, anyway. So, he's got to know who he's looking for, in case he ends up on his own as custodian of the Slayer power."
"That's right. I figured it takes a heckuva lot more to kill Michael than it would any of the rest of us. And, he's the most mobile also. I've drawn him a picture of the next Slayer, the next two actually. And we've all met Faith. We know where she is, approximately, but the very next one is less certain.
"I have the blade, and I have the stake. The last thing I have to do, is make a handle for it. But honestly, I've been putting that part off to the very end. Partly because I wanted to put my very best effort into the blade, and partly because I think the best way to form the handle will require a bit of a sacrifice. The handle of the weapon is kind of like its spine." Sam draws the Kessler sword and lays it alongside the new blade. "The spine is the foundation. Is history. And the runes on here tell two stories, both of my ancestor in the Crusades, and also our story, following his footsteps two summers ago, fighting to keep the Nazis from re-making the world." Last, she places the stake that Kevin made for her at the end. "And that'll be it."
"Wait. You're going to melt down your sword and work it into the handle of your new weapon? Wow. Yeah, no wonder you're putting it off."
"Yep. On the one hand, I'm reluctant to do it, because of all its been through, all the history there. But on the other hand, if I made the handle out of plain steel, or even wood, I'd be using this new weapon instead of the sword all the time, and I'd rather incorporate the sword, rather than retire it." Sam looks at Drew with a smile. "So, you want to help me finish it?"
"Sure. Wait. How? It's not like I've got any artistic talent or metalworking skill. I don't have to bleed on it or something do I?"
"No. Not that. I'll do all the metal working, if you'll help me keep the fire hot." Sam hands Drew a large set of blowers and gives him a kiss. "And love. Think of the line of Slayers. Love me. Love us. And together, we'll make a future to keep the world as safe as possible."
Drew smiles. "That I can do. Always."
So, they get to work. Drew blows air through the coals while Sam removes the hilt that Herr Doktor Professor Schmitt added to the Kessler Sword. She runs a finger down the side of the blade. "The Venetian lion, Malbork's castle, Dracula's castle, the Peloponnesian helmet, Map to Akra," She smiles, "And this one I added myself, after we got back from that trip." Down near the bottom of the tine, there's a light etching of a seal, balancing a ball on its nose. She wraps the blade in one smooth length of the silk and rubs soot over it, making a transfer of the runes on the cloth. "That's good, Drew. Just a little bit more." Sam adds more charcoal on top, watching the fire carefully. When the coals glow white-hot and sweat begins trickling down both their faces, Sam takes the Kessler blade between a pair of pinchers and thrusts it deep into the coal-bed.
There's a very faint whistling sound, almost like a distant scream. "That's steam. Any moisture, or oils, trapped in the metal are forced out." Sam puts her hands around Drew's on the bellows, and they feed the fire together. Flames leap up around the place where the blade lies, and the fire changes color. Blue, green. A lick of silver at the edges. "Almost there." At some signal Drew isn't aware of, Sam nods and releases the bellows. The fire immediately dies down a bit. She grips the pinchers one hand and a large hammer in the other. "Now, we see what it wants to do." She reaches into the coals with the pinchers and draws out the white-hot blade, and holds it up for a moment, turning it from side to side. "Okay, then." She places it on the anvil, edge-down, and lines up the hammer-blows. Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! from tine to tip, quickly. The edge is blunted. She turns it, side-down, and hits it again, from tip to tine. Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Then thrusts it back into the coals to re-heat.
Sam faces Drew across the bellows and puts her hands around his again. "It's a good piece of steel. Not katana-folded. The German blacksmiths didn't know about that particular innovation in the 1200s. But it didn't break, or even splinter, just now."
Three more times, Sam pulls the steel out of the fire and hits it, side-to-side, top and bottom. In the end, it is shaped into a squared pole, about three feet long: shorter than the sword, and not as wide, but thicker across. One end, she carefully splits into tines, which she bends into a gripping-socket. "For the stake. Now, we let it cool completely. Tomorrow, I'll attach them together." Sam places the pole on a rack and re-wraps the blade in silk, carefully so as not to smudge the rune-marks, and replaces it in its hiding spot under the floor. "Let's go get some lunch."
On December 23rd, Sam seeks out Erik. "It sounds weird, but I feel like I should ask your permission about something. After all, you made the throwing ring for me. We're out of star metal from the meteorite. I think you used the last of it for Joshua's throwing knives. So, would you be okay if I melted down the ring to help make my new weapon? I think adding star metal would be a good call, and if I can keep the "return to sender" enchantment you put on it, that would be awesome."
"Yeah, sure. What made can be unmade. That's the nature of things. And after seeing Drew nearly lose his fingers to that thing, I think I'm doubly fine with recycling it. Just note that I don't always have the best luck with returning charms. My hammer, for instance..."
"But the throwing ring always worked."
Sam and Erik go up to the monastery to do the work that results in an ingot, which still has an affinity for returning to the hand of whoever throws it. Which is kind of amusing, when it's in ingot form. Throw it across the room, and it zings right back! Sam pulls up the floor paving stone and shows Erik a half-moon shaped blade about eighteen inches long, and a metal pole about three feet long. The throwing-ring ingot will form bands that connect the blade to the handle.
On December 24th, Sam attends Christmas Mass at the Martense chapel led by Father Ian Murphy. She goes to confession, 'fesses up to trading bodies with Drew, and any sinful activities that occurred off-camera. And asks for a special blessing for herself and her friends, which the good chaplain is perfectly willing to give.
On the morning of the 25th, after breakfast, Sam invites everyone in Slayer Club, including Kevin, up to the Monastery to witness the final heating and cooling of the new weapon. Tori gets the task and honor of heating the fire. And Sam drips a good pint of her own blood into the trough of water she uses to cool the blade. When the blade emerges from the water, it has taken its final form and color: Silver edges, and a reddish blade. There's no blood left in the water. Viola! One Slayer-made super-vampire-killing weapon.
For the future.