The dialogue was Falstaff. The creation, mood, and scenery was Falstaff. Basically, Falstaff thought it up and did all the hard stuff. All I did was write it. The title was Kael's suggestion, and comes from how even in Jihad -- a holy war-- Muslims would stop for dawn and sunset prayers.

still the sword


It has been seven nights since we were reborn into the world, from that cleansing light. Seven nights since I last saw the walls of Emerald City, and the prison, and the place that I called, with finality, home.

It would be strange for most of the others, this notion of prison being home. They believed that I was crazy to elect to stay there, to try and be what Allah intended me to be. No one really understood.

But prison was where I could help, could guide, could influence. Inshallah, God's will be done. Allah's will is always done, I am but a messenger of it. Not that the majority of prisoners understood this concept. It was not about drugs, or lies, or killing, and so it was beyond their grasp.

No one understands this transition, either. The physics of our journey, the scientific evidence that we have traveled to another dimension. They perceive this change. They perceive the world has changed around them.

And yet, they have not changed their own eyes. This, I don't understand.

In each of my companion's eyes, both the ones that have fled from McManus and the ones that chose to stay when I saw, I saw, the righteousness in the girl. I knew, and the others stayed for their own reasons. McManus, I can see he is afraid, it drips down every time he sees a black man walking the street.

I know that he believes Adebisi will stalk in one day and kill him.

He should be afraid that life will stalk in one day and find him.

Keller jumped out of the way, rolled to the ground, and then hid in the shadows beyond the girls. He has a sense of where it will be safe, who should be the sacrificial lambs put in front of the slaughter. I remember it well; the first thing he did after falling to the ground was put some space between him and everyone else, pausing only to pull Beecher out of the way.

He claims he has changed. I do not see it. I do not see it in anyone, despite the intensity of the vision of change all around us.

We are at a great and miraculous crossroads, here, and no matter what happens, nothing we see will be what we see, and nothing we say will really sound like what it is.

I remember that gateway, white and swirling, that we jumped through before it collapsed in on itself. It was a miracle, plain and simple, and even after the girl explained what had really transpired to cast us on these shores, I still believe it was a miracle.

Every day, every breath, each and every one of us has, is a miracle. That is as true in Sunnydale as it ever was in OZ. Too many inmates took this at face value, and threw away too much of their time, their days.

They will take these events for granted as well, and never look beyond them. And in this world, as I have seen in these seven short days, is nothing to be taken for granted. Things walk here that we have never seen, things that Allah never had a hand in creating. And I believe that the men who followed me through to this place will not understand this, and take it for granted like they do each day.

I am afraid for Beecher, in that respect. Things appear to walk here that he can't even dream up.

I will pray he never does.

And there are other things I will pray for, tonight, because I am afraid for so many people. And afraid of so many people. I do not fear death, but here, I have seen things far worse than passing beyond.

It has been six nights since Adebisi, the man I was planning to set up and take down, for the good and the right, was turned. I saw it with my own two eyes, as the monster bit down on his neck and threw him to the ground, sucked the soul right out of him. And later, when he attacked us with the same face, I knew, he was a thing of evil. There was no redemption left in his cup.

I am convinced that the gateway that brought us here gave us all a clean slate. Adebisi has now lost that.

I am afraid, I think, to be the next.

It was a sacred Friday that we passed, and so it is a Friday now. The sun is setting, burnt orange peel in the west. I can smell the ocean, feel the fire as it dies and hides behind those waves.

I never thought to see the ocean before.

I would not blame anything for hiding, in this monstrosity of a town.

I am praying, like I always do at sunset. In Islam, everyone pauses, even in war, to pray when it is time.

Giles, beside me, is worried tonight. He does not like the unknown factors our arrival has brought to a place already rife with tension and unpredictable elements. The weather can change here, he says, and a new demon will be born.

I do not think he understands that demons walk among those dead things, and have nothing strange or horrible about their appearance or souls. People are born without souls every day, and working hard to redeem them is laborious, often futile. We have just come through to meet his neighbors.

I pray, Inshallah, that we can find these people who used to be simply my neighbors, and put them in the ground. Allah's will be done, they will not see sun-up. And I will have Adebisi put away for good, ashes on this ground, before the sun burns it's way back into the sky. I swear it.

My eyes watch the sun sink, lower and lower, until it is but a glow above the ground, a halo and a mist to be blown away with the twilight breeze. Against the last vestige of orange paleness, I can see the gravestones outlined in stark black.

Prayer is over.

Giles finishes piling up our weapons. He is worried that not all of his friends, all of his comrades, are safe tonight. He has a multitude of people to care for here, and not enough time to find them all before that vessel of warmth is gone.

Once it dies, we all take that chance, accept that brush with eternal sleep.

The blond girl bangs into the room, with purpose. I admire her already. She is someone with righteousness behind her, the vision that rooted me to the spot when I first came through to this place. I remember falling to the ground, one of the last to come through, and watching anarchy. When I finally looked up to see her barge into the room... I knew.

I could see her purpose, her light, even before I knew her story; it radiates from her like sunshine and fire.

She was, as the stories go, forged in a flame unlike the rest of us.

She takes up her weapons, face set in determination like it has been each night I have watched this ritual. We are almost ready.

Five days ago, I explained to this girl, Buffy, why I chose to stay and fight on her side, instead of joining with the others when they scrambled and ran for cover. It was simple. When I saw her, I prayed, and Allah answered me. I saw in her this fire, and I knew that it was where I belonged. I explained to her the fundamental facets of Islam, the teachings, the prophesies. The wars. We talked long and well, and in our discourse, as well, I learned of what exactly she believed.

She is not a convert. But I am not a Vampire Slayer. We all burn in our own way.

I do not think I would have been able to learn this lesson, buried in the tomb of Oswald penitentiary. It might have been forever lost to me. The fact that vampires live among us is now a common fact, to be accepted with the idea that we are free to come and go as we please, that the sun rises and falls back to Earth each dawn and dusk.

It falls to Earth more quickly now than I remember. But it has been a long time since I have had the pleasure of seeing it, and many steps on the path of life.

The last traces of light are gone from the sky. She holds the door open for Giles and I. It is time. In seven days, I have learned, by Allah, I have learned. I whisper under my breath, but Buffy catches it and grins in understanding; this is something I have taught to her.

"Jihad. Let it begin."