Of Champions, Chosen Ones and Potentials
"So, Giles, what's with the big meeting and the long faces? Apocalypse? Demons? What?" Said Buffy as soon as she walked in the room.
"None of those, actually, more like long term planning."
"Long term planning? What happened to going from one crisis to the next? I mean, that approach has worked just fine so far so why change it? It's not like demons usually give us advance notice anyway. They are not all that considerate, in case you hadn't noticed."
"I'm with Buffy on this one." Chipped in Xander.
"Yes, well, it's not that type of crisis. More like planning what we are supposed to do about the Council."
"We won't be much help there. It's not like you've told us anything." Muttered Willow.
"And that's why we are here."
"So that you can continue not telling us?" Asked Dawn, feigning innocence.
"Funny. No, so that we can come up with a plan."
"Isn't the whole Council thing kind of your responsibility?" Insisted Buffy.
"No. I never meant it that way, I do need your input, though I do have some plans. I was just waiting for the right time to bring it up."
"So, start talking." Urged Buffy.
"Yes... well, first I think we should go over the Council's history so that you know where we stand."
"You know, you are not making this easy."
"Good, I think I speak for all of us when I say 'we are not trying to'. You've been stalling for months now, so don't you turn around and tell us to behave."
"Yes, well, as you can probably imagine the true origins of the Council were lost many centuries ago."
"That doesn't sound right. I mean what happened to the good old Council lore you used to drill into us? You know, stuff like: 'In every generation a Slayer is born... yadda yadda yadda'?"
"Well, the Council pretty much wrote the Slayer lore and the truth is that I'm not sure how reliable a source that's likely to be when it comes to analyzing the Council's own history."
"Okay, who are you and what did you do with Giles?"
"I can question my sources, Xander. I knew I could trust the Council when it came to how to kill which demon so there was no need for me to do that, but as far as their own history... that's a different story, especially now. Up until a few months ago I still believed that the Slayer had existed since the dawn of times, now I know she was created by men. If we want the new Council to be different from its predecessor we need to understand where things went wrong."
"Could 'from the very beginning' be an answer?" Asked Buffy.
"What I mean is that we need to determine what went right and what went wrong and build on that... and remember that this won't just have an impact on the Slayer Watchers. We will have to do something about the Immortal Watchers as well."
"Is that why you insisted on putting this off until Joe's visit?" Said Blair, taking pity on his father and trying to get the conversation back on track.
"That's a part of it, certainly, though not necessarily for the reasons you think. I believe Methos could have provided us with the answers we are likely to need in that regard --no offense, Joe-- but I don't think either one of us wants to go over this more than once if we can help it."
"Go over what, and exactly when did I agree to go over it once?" Said Methos.
"I mean the Council's history and you know it. I have a general idea as to how we ended up with two different Councils but I'm not entirely sure how the Immortal Watchers lost their way."
"And what makes you so sure we've lost our way in the first place? Our task is to record without interfering and while I won't deny that there have been a number of bad apples I'd say most watchers do a good job." Interrupted Joe.
"That they do... the only problem is that that was never meant to be their job, at least not their primary job."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that thousands of years ago, when the Immortal Watchers were first established they were not historians... or not just historians."
"I'm still not following you."
"Joe, if you were to describe what a watcher does --a slayer watcher-- what would you say his job is?"
"I don't know, that he trains the slayer, helps her fight... pretty much does anything but watch."
"And can you define a slayer? Forget about the one girl in all the world and so on... in your own words, what's a slayer?"
"A champion whose duty is to fight demons, I guess."
"And what does that remind you of?"
"I don't know."
"Do you know someone else that could be described by those exact same words?"
"MacLeod... and the battle against Ahriman."
"So are you saying that the Immortal Watchers were established to help the champion in the fight against Ahriman?"
"Among other things. They were supposed to identify and aid potential champions, just as slayer watchers identified and aided potential slayers, waiting for one of them to be called. I believe, however, that they soon realized that that was not an effective approach. Simply put, watchers could not compete with the more experienced Immortals when it came to training new Immortals and that forced them into a more passive role when it came to those 'potential champions' than the one we took with potential slayers. That passive role unfortunately did put them at a disadvantage when the time came to confront Ahriman. It is also interesting that you were the watcher who was put in a position of having no choice but to break the Watcher Oath and establish some sort of friendship with your charge."
"Are you suggesting that my friendship with MacLeod was not just a coincidence?"
"More like too much of a coincidence... unfortunately you did not have the tools necessary to identify it as such. You simply had no way of knowing what was coming so you failed to provide him with the support he needed at the time."
"Are you saying that Richie's death was my fault?" Asked Joe.
"Not at all. Both you and MacLeod were placed in an untenable position and you did remarkably well under the circumstances."
"But if the Watchers hadn't forgotten their task it could have been prevented?"
"I believe so. I can't be sure but it doesn't really matter. You can't let might have beens control your life."
"So, what happened? How did things get to that point?"
"I can only speculate but I suspect that preparing for a battle that takes place only once every thousand years was not imminent enough to be the immediate objective of an organization that was made up of mortals. I suspect that their lack of an immediate purpose may have lead them to focus mostly on their secondary purpose and in the end they totally forgot their primary one."
"Yes, well, the fact is that up until a hundred years ago libraries were rare, swords were common and that tended to cause some problems between slayers and Immortals... and that's nothing compared to how things were thousands of years ago, before both Councils parted ways."
"Meaning that --at a time in which too many texts were literally carved in stone-- slayers and their watchers were seldom in a position to accurately identify the demons they were about to fight before confronting them so a more general approach was preferred. That usually meant that slayers were trained to first stake their opponents and those who failed to turn to dust would then be beheaded, chopped to pieces and burned. It was not the most refined method but it worked when it came to eliminating the vast majority of demons, unfortunately it also tended to lead to a terminal case of 'dead' for those Immortals who just happened to get caught in the crossfire. That's the origin of the non-interference rule that was in time somehow extended to mean 'no contact at all'. In its original form it was only meant to keep slayers --rather than watchers-- from interfering with the lives of Immortals. In order to keep slayers from accidentally killing Immortals it was necessary for those Immortals to be identified so that was the Immortal Watchers' second task and the origin of their current form... and it's also the reason why Immortal Watchers always had some sort of mark that allowed them to be identified or rather to identify themselves. It was a symbol that in the old days would have enabled them to indicate to a Slayer that she was dealing with an Immortal rather than a demon."
"That sounds all very nice but there's one thing that doesn't make sense. If there is supposed to be an Immortal who is the champion in the battle against Ahriman every thousand years, how does the Game fit into this? I mean, I've been wondering about it for years now. What will happen with the battle against Ahriman once the winner claims the prize? Will the winner then be forced to fight Ahriman time and time again every thousand years? It just doesn't make sense."
"That will never happen, Joe." Methos interrupted. He hated parting with his secrets but he owed Joe that much, and the others would need the knowledge if they were to succeed.
"What do you mean it will never happen? Someday the Game will be over, in fact a number of Immortals believe that the time of the Gathering is near."
"The Gathering isn't here, it will never be here. There won't be a Gathering because there is no Game, not really. It's a long story --and not really all that relevant for the time being-- but trust me when I say that the Game is not what most Immortals believe it to be. It's not inevitable, that's why some of us can afford not to play. On the other hand there may be something about Immortals that makes the statement 'There can be only one' resonate so deeply within our souls... maybe it is some sort of instinct that binds us to the quest for a Champion every thousand years, which could also account for the way in which the Game picks up speed whenever the millennium approaches. Anyway, right now that doesn't really matter."
"You are going to explain that one, Old Man."
"Later, right now it's not important. We have other concerns."
"Figuring out what to do about both Councils, trying to come up with some sort of plan to get them back on track... is any of this starting to sound familiar?"
"Yes. Remember, when the ties between both Councils were severed over one thousand years ago, the secondary purpose of the Immortal branch was also compromised. The Chronicles were kept but they were not shared with the Slayer Watchers. When there was a single girl in all the world that was a problem but not a huge one... now there are countless slayers running around so the chances for a less than friendly encounter between a slayer and an Immortal have skyrocketed. I suspect that's one of the reasons why Giles is so adamant about doing something to bring both Councils together again as soon as possible."
"Okay, but don't you dare think for even a moment that I'm going to forget about that little comment any time soon."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"So how did the Councils sever their ties... somehow I don't think it was as easy as a handshake with each branch going a different way."
"Errr... no... it was considerably more complex than that. There were a number of contributing factors and it was a rather long process." Explained Giles.
"It took a few centuries actually. I think it began even before the original library was destroyed and then the final connection was severed when the advent of Christianity forced the Watchers --both branches-- to go underground."
"The original library?" Asked Willow.
"What do you mean 'go underground'? Weren't the Watchers always a secret organization?" Asked Dawn.
"Maybe you should start by explaining what happened before the two branches split." Said Blair.
"One question at a time, and if you insist on doing this tonight I suggest you order your usual half a dozen pizzas. This will probably take a while." Muttered Giles as he cleaned his glasses. It seemed like the night was going to turn out to be as long as he had feared.
Author's Note: Methos's comment that the Gathering will never come is a reference to one of my earliest Highlander fics: True Immortal the issue won't be explained further in this series so I figured I might as well include a link.