The dry, thin scent of a draconic ossuary. Dragon’s blood resin with white sandalwood, dusty orris and crisp blondewood.
Death Valley shimmered in Buffy’s polarized lenses. Sand in rippling creamy dunes. Rocks in layers of reds and yellows and browns. And it was hot. April, and it was ninety. Giles had pulled the car to the side of the road to let her look at wildflowers. Water in the desert, green against the red, and flowers shockingly bright in the sunshine. They had a destination, though, and time pressure, and Buffy understood his reluctance.
The weapon that had killed the dragon was, according to Giles’ book, still to be found with its skeleton, tangled amongst its bones. And that weapon was, again according to legend, potent against hellgods as well as dragons. Dry Bone Canyon, hidden in the foothills. They’d been walking north and west through the dunes. Giles had a GPS in his hand, and a hand-drawn map. He looked as if he had been born to be here, in digger hat and sunglasses, weathered and dry and remote.
“Can you see it?” Giles pointed. Buffy followed along his finger. The air above the sand in that one spot glittered rather than shimmered. She gripped Giles’ arm. That had to be it, the place where the sorcerer had screened away the site of his lover’s last battle, the place where the dragon and the warrior had both fallen. Giles had cast the true-seeing spell on them both that morning, before they’d left the motel room, before dawn.
They passed through the rippling curtain of disguise, and it was revealed. Great bones, yellow, cracked dry, scoured by sand. Great bones, as tall as houses. Spine and ribcage and the frame of the wings, twisted across the sand. It had been a magnificent feat, to slay that dragon. Buffy saluted the memory of the brave man who had done it, on his own, to avenge what he had believed to be the death of his true love, the sorcerer. Only it had proved to be his own end, and the death of all life in the valley. The sorcerer had guarded the place where his lover fell with the curtain, and his lover’s sword with a geas. Only the heartsick lover, only the soul bitter and unrequited with its true love untouched, might take it.
Giles had tucked away the map and the gadget. Now it was a matter of finding where its heart had been, when it had crashed to the rock and crushed the warrior beneath it. Buffy found the skull, and traced the twisting line of the neck back, around. There. She thought she saw a flash where the sun reflected. A broad blade of bone jutted up from the sand, just a few feet left uncovered. And stuck in it was a black spike. Buffy took Giles’ hand and pulled him with her.
The sword was everything the legend had described: fierce, beautiful, black. Obsidian grip, roughened slightly to give the hand purchase. Rubies at the silver pommel and crossguard. The blackened steel of the blade was driven deep into what had been the breastbone, the dragon’s keel. Buffy sighed. It was beautiful. She longed to feel it in her hand and to take Glory’s head with it.
She touched the hilt cautiously, then looked to Giles. He nodded. They had agreed, when they’d discovered the legend, that she was the most likely of them to meet the requirements. Angel, forever untouchable. Buffy gripped, and pulled. She grunted with the effort, shifted her grip, and pulled again.
Giles groaned in sympathy. “I had thought—”
“So had I,” said Buffy, thinking of her demon lover. “But it’s not me.” She slumped to her knees on the hot sand, next to the spar of bone. All this way for nothing.
“Perhaps…” Giles laid his hand on the hilt, hesitating. Then he closed his hand and pulled. The sword groaned and scraped. Bone gave way, and collapsed to dust. Buffy, from her knees, reached up to brush his knuckles, clenched white over the stone.
Giles held the sword upright before his face, and brought his lips to the sun-gleaming blade.