Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX/ SEVEN
Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken and something else happens to it instead. Events not dissimilar to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum are taking place simultaneously with this story, but off-screen.
“It’s not fair,” Willow complained. “Tara’s all with the ‘Don’t use magic for this, Willow. Don’t use magic for that, Willow’, and then suddenly she’s all ‘Oh, Willow, you should be using magic for that and you’re a wuss for not doing so.’ Okay, I did a bad thing. If she wants to walk out on me for it, okay, maybe I don’t blame her. I deserve it. But hey, where does she get off with the ‘Magic’s only okay when I say it is’ thing? It’s not like anybody ever said, ‘hey, Buffy, you mustn’t use your Slayer strength for that, put that heavy thing down’, or ‘hey, Buffy, don’t use your Slayer speed when we’re playing Dodgeball’, or whatever.”
They were walking across wide fields of grass interspersed with clumps of heather and small copses of trees. Spike scanned his surroundings constantly, looking from side to side and ahead, but he was not primarily occupied in watching out for danger. He was revelling in the sights and sounds that he had not experienced for well over a century, other than for one day that had ended ignominiously, and he was finding it enjoyable and diverting. Small animals rustled in the grass. Birds sang in the trees. A buzzard soared in the sky high overhead. Bees buzzed in the flowers. Willow’s ramblings were a distraction, but Spike found that he didn’t mind. The little witch was treating him as a confidant and it made a pleasant change from her attitude in the past.
“S’ppose she just wants you to think a little before you act, Red. You’ve gone off half-cocked a time or two, have to admit.”
“Like when I brought back Buffy, you mean?” Willow shook her head. “Yeah, I messed up. I never thought to check where she was. Hello, séance? Or thought to dig her up first. Yeah, you were right all the time, Spike. There are always consequences.”
“Yeah. Thing is, Red, you’ve got to balance it out. There’s always consequences, but they’re not gonna be worse than having some steaming great monster eat your face would be, are they? Think that might be all Tara was meaning.” He smiled at Willow. “Hope you birds get back together.”
She looked at him and smiled back. She would have described his smile as ‘fond’ had it come from anyone else and, when she thought about it, perhaps there was no reason to read it any differently just because it was Spike. “Thanks, Spike. Uh, look, I think I pretty much owe you an apology. I was pretty mean to you back around the time we brought Buffy back. You didn’t deserve it. I’m sorry, Spike.”
“’S alright, Red. Spoke up for me when Buffy was all for staking me, didn’t you? Don’t mind calling it quits if you don’t.”
“I was just saying what was right, Spike.” Willow shook her head. “I don’t get it with Buffy. I thought she was okay with you these days. Hey, I’d even gotten the impression that she’d been hanging out some with you lately. And then suddenly she’s all ‘hey, Spike’s dangerous and we have to kill him’.”
“Well, I am dangerous,” Spike said, smirking.
“Yeah, you’re the Big Bad, I won’t forget it,” Willow said, and she shot him a quirky little grin. “I don’t think you’re dangerous to us, though.” She fell silent for a little while, and they walked on across the fields, listening to Nalia delivering a long and tedious speech to Sorkatani about the duties of the upper classes to the lower.
“Spike,” Willow said after a few minutes, “if we ever get back to Sunnydale, what then? Uh, I mean ‘when we get back’, hey, got to think positive, right? I mean, hey, what if your chip doesn’t work when we get back? Like, if it’s not that it doesn’t work here because of them not having computers, but, say, that it got fried when you were zapped by that sorta electric shock machine, you know, the one just after we got out of the cage room?”
“If the chip’s dead? Buffy will stake me. End of story.”
“And you wouldn’t fight back?”
“Said once I’d rather die than live in a world without her in it. Makes it a bit bloody pointless fighting her, dunnit?”
“So we’d have to stop her,” Willow said. “We talked her out of it here, didn’t we?”
Spike stopped in his tracks. “You’d still speak up for me back in Sunnydale?”
“Well, yeah. You said it yourself, Spike. You worked with us all summer. We just brushed that off, and maybe we shouldn’t have done. I know you wouldn’t hurt Dawn. You’ve been okay all the time since we got to this place, Spike. I’m getting the feeling that you wouldn’t hurt me either, not just here but at all, and you wouldn’t hurt Tara either. And I think that if you promised to keep off the human diet altogether then we could trust you to keep your word. Right?”
“Yeah, right,” Spike agreed. He started walking again. “Don’t give a toss about humans that I don’t know, yeah, but I know you lot wouldn’t stand for me eating them. ‘S not worth the hassle.”
“And no hurting Xander,” Willow warned.
“Not gonna promise not to punch him on the nose if he gets on my wick too much,” Spike said. “Won’t do him any real damage. He’s okay, most of the time. Was pretty decent to me a time or two, like when I got my hands carved up by that sword. He’s all right. Don’t tell him I said so, mind.”
“I won’t,” Willow said. She breathed in deeply. “You know, this isn’t so bad, really. The air smells kinda fresh out here. No pollution. Must be all kinds of strange to you, walking out in the sun, right? First time in, like, more than a century?”
“Apart from that one day when I had the Gem of Amara, yeah, and that didn’t last long enough for me to get used to it.” Spike grinned at her. “Wonder if I’ll freckle?”
“Hey, interesting,” Warren remarked. “Giles is dead.”
Jonathan looked up from his own screen. “What happened?”
“Don’t know, dude. I didn’t see it happen. They’re doing the ‘free the slaves in the Copper Coronet’ bit. I think maybe a bear got him.”
“They didn’t rest before they started that bit,” Andrew said. “I think he was down on hit points anyway. Reload from the last save, dude?”
“I don’t know.” Warren ran his fingers through his hair. “That would mean Jonathan would have to go through a boring bit again. Unless you want to make Sorkatani take on the lich after all?”
“They’d get creamed, dude. They marked it down for the future. They can do it later and get Daystar – that is the right crypt, dudes, isn’t it? – but not now.” Jonathan looked across at the other monitor. “You think Buffy will work out that they can get Giles raised? Or can Tara do it?”
“She’s still a level or two too low, I think,” Warren said. “I think I’ll leave them to it. Jaheira can tell them about Raise Dead. If she doesn’t, well,” he shrugged his shoulders, “then it’s just Giles’ tough luck.”
Buffy walked slowly towards Giles’ body. Her eyes were wide and unblinking. Her arms were red to the elbows with the mingled blood of the Beastmaster and his pet leopardess; she gave no thought to wiping it off, and she paid no attention to the smears of blood that were spreading on to her clothes. She stepped over the dismembered bodies of the minotaur, of the leopards, and of the bears without giving them an instant’s thought.
The only thing that mattered was that Giles was dead.
Dawn crouched over the body and cried. Buffy arrived beside her and put a bloody hand on his shoulder. Xander limped to join them. A wound in his right thigh was oozing blood that was trickling down his leg and into his boot.
No-one spoke for several moments until Anya broke the silence. “He’s dead. Giles is really dead.”
Tara swallowed hard. “Uh, g-guys? I think, uh, w-we can g-g-get him back.”
Buffy turned a gimlet stare on her. Tara lowered her eyes. “They can bring p-people back from the dead here. I, I don’t think I can do it myself, not yet, but they can do it.”
“Don’t you think you’ve done enough damage?” Buffy said in a tone laced with venom. “He’s dead. Isn’t that enough?”
“Tara speaks true,” Jaheira said. “Khalid was beyond aid, but Giles is not. We must take him to a temple. They can restore him to this life that was taken from him before his time.”
“And if he’s happy?” Buffy swung her attention between Tara, Xander, and Anya. “I guess you’d still want to drag him back, huh?”
They quailed before her furious gaze and made no answer.
“I have lost the one who meant more than any to me,” Jaheira said. “I would not lose Giles too. He has made me feel that perhaps there might be some small joy in my life yet.” Jaheira met Buffy’s gaze squarely and unflinchingly. “The decision is not yours to make, Buffy.”
“Not mine to make?” Buffy gave a horrible mirthless laugh. “Oh, right, you don’t know about what they did to me. I was in Heaven and they dragged me back to a bright and cold and noisy hell. Nobody said to me ‘Should we resurrect you or leave you where you are, Buffy?’ Let Giles sleep in peace.”
“Did he, then, drag you from the Afterlife against your will?”
“No,” Buffy admitted, her tone softening. “Not Giles. Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya. Not Giles.”
“Then you have no cause for anger at him.”
“Anger? At Giles?” Buffy shook her head slowly. “You think – no. I want to spare him what I went through.”
Jaheira continued to look unwaveringly into Buffy’s eyes. “Then let Giles make the decision for himself. We must ask him.”
“You – you can do that?”
“Not I. I am a druid, and the human dead are outside my sphere. But I have seen Viconia talk to the dead, and others, and the temples in this city will have priests who can perform the ritual.”
“I think I can do that,” Tara said. “I’d need to rest first, and pray, b-but I can do it.”
“Fine,” Buffy said. “Fine. You do that. Ask Giles what he wants us to do. Like you didn’t ask me.” She raised her sword and looked at her bloody arms. “You rest, you pray. I’ve got slaves to free. And if anyone gets in my way, well, they can just get out again or take the consequences. I’m through pulling my punches.”
Hendak the gladiator pulled his sword free from the lifeless body of Lehtinan and brandished it over his head. “Lehtinan is dead,” he cried. “There shall be no more slavery in the Copper Coronet.”
“Fair enough,” commented Bernard the bartender, who had stood impassively watching as the escaped slaves fought and killed the tavern owner and his guards and bouncers. “Only how are you going to make sure it sticks?”
Hendak frowned. “There is only one way that I can.” He brandished the sword again. “Lehtinan stole from me five years of my life. I claim this tavern as repayment for the years I have spent here enslaved. My fellow slaves, you shall share the coin from Lehtinan’s coffers…”
“Not including the float and the money to pay the brewery and the butcher,” Bernard interjected.
“Although not the money needed for operating the business,” Hendak agreed, “or you may take employment here.”
“Yeah, seeing as how you lot have killed or chased off the bouncers, there’s plenty of jobs going,” Bernard agreed.
“And you shall be manager,” Hendak said.
“Fair enough,” Bernard said. “Had to do most of that stuff for Lehtinan anyway. As long as you pay me a manager’s wage.”
“Can he just do that?” Buffy wondered. “I mean, just take over this place like that?”
“He has been fighting in the pit for five years and he still lives,” Jaheira said. “Who would argue? If Lehtinan has heirs there may be trouble. We shall see.”
“Buffy, I own you a great debt,” Hendak said. “As for how I can reward you, I must first see to my fellow slaves. Then we shall see.”
“I didn’t do it for any reward,” Buffy told him.
“Yet you have earned one,” Hendak said. “For now, I order that you and your fellows shall always receive a discount – is that the right word, Bernard?”
“Yeah, a discount. What, ten per cent, you reckon, Hendak? Or, shall we say, twenty?”
Hendak nodded. “On all that they ever buy here.”
“We’ll have to take advantage of that,” Anya commented.
“You have brought danger upon yourself, Buffy,” Hendak went on. “Lehtinan was a good customer to the Slaver ring. They may seek revenge on you.”
“Let them. I’m ready and waiting,” Buffy said. “Or maybe I’ll take the fight to them. There are more slaves in this city?”
“Of course. Their stronghold is not far from here. A ship dry-docked upon the land and used as a building. It is well-guarded, or was when I was kept there, and that will not have changed.”
Buffy’s face held no expression. “I need to see to Giles first before I make any decisions.” She looked at her bloodstained arms and shuddered. “And I could really use a hot bath.”
Tara spoke the final phrase of the incantation, blew out a candle, and then and lit it once more. “It is done,” she said. “Rupert Giles, speak to me. I, Tara, implore that you answer.”
The corpse did not stir, not even its lips moved, but Giles’ voice sounded clearly to those gathered around. “What is your question, Tara?”
“Uh, how are you?” Tara asked, and blushed. “That was dumb. Sorry.”
“Actually, I feel quite well,” Giles responded, “apart from the death.”
“Are you in Heaven, Giles?” Buffy asked.
There was no answer until Tara repeated Buffy’s question.
“Well, no,” Giles told them. “I’m in a sort of waiting room, actually. Rather boring, to be honest. It’s like the waiting room at Bristol Temple Meads, in a way, only there isn’t anywhere that I can get a cup of tea and there are only terribly partisan religious tracts to read. And no sign whatsoever of any train coming.”
“What are you waiting for?” Tara asked.
“I don’t think they know what to do with me,” Giles revealed. “I’m not a worshipper of any of the gods of this world, you see. They don’t seem to have an Afterlife that is appropriate for me.”
“We should totally get him out of there,” Dawn said.
“Yeah. Hang on in there, G-man, we’ll have you back in no time,” Xander said.
“Do you wish us to raise you from the dead?” Tara asked.
“That would be rather a good idea.”
“There is one thing that I don’t understand,” Sorkatani said to Nalia.
“And Columbo turns back and solves the whole case,” Spike muttered to Willow. She giggled.
“You are a lady of position. Your family holds a keep and lands. They have been occupied by monsters. Why, then, did you not just go to the authorities? Surely they would have sent troops to drive the trolls from your holding. Why hire mercenaries?”
“I know what would have happened if I had taken my case to the Council of Six,” Nalia replied. “Lord Isaea Roenal would have been sent to clear the keep. He is, well, our fathers are friends and they had hoped that we would marry. There was talk of betrothal. The trouble is that Isaea is a, well, he’s a complete bastard, if you will excuse my vulgarity. Cruel, and greedy, and he treats the lower orders as chattels, and he has unpleasant personal habits. He consorts with prostitutes and there are tales that he, well, I’m not going to discuss such things. When I refused the betrothal he swore that he would force me into marriage and he told me what he would do to me on our wedding night.” Nalia’s mouth screwed up tightly. “I think I’d kill myself first.”
“Kill him instead,” Viconia said. “Much better.”
“Then I’d be executed,” Nalia said. “A wife in Amn is subservient to her husband. His property, even.”
Willow bridled. “That’s barbaric.”
“Indeed,” said Viconia. “The ridiculous customs and beliefs of the rivvin defy understanding. How can they not recognize the natural superiority of the female? Males are stupid. They compensate for their pitiful brains by gloating over their crude physical strength and bulging muscles. Not that bulging muscles are entirely unpleasant, in their place, but when they have served their purpose in the bedchamber the males should be dispatched back to the battlefield or to menial tasks of physical labor.”
“That’s not the way it is here,” Nalia said. “If Isaea led a force to free the keep then he could force the marriage upon me. There wouldn’t be anything that I could do about it. The only way that I can avoid that fate is to drive out the trolls and rescue my father myself.”
“And so we shall,” Minsc said. “We are all heroes. Trolls? Ptah! They shall fall before us and the butts of Evil will be kicked most mightily, yes indeed.”
“I do not wish to bring you pain,” Sorkatani said, “but have you considered that your father may already be dead?”
“He’s worth a fortune in ransom,” Nalia said. “It would make no sense for them to kill him.” Her composure cracked and she gulped deeply. “He has to still be alive. He just has to.”
“So you seek to have your companion returned to this life?” The priest cast a dispassionate gaze over Giles’ corpse. “What do you offer in return for this service?”
“Uh, money, I guess,” Buffy said.
“Helm the All-Seeing does not bestow his favors so lightly,” the priest told her. “You must speak with High Watcher Oisig. If he judges you worthy then we shall consider your request.”
“High Watcher?” Dawn exclaimed. “This is totally the right place!”
“So, this is, like, the Council of Watchers?”
“We serve Helm, who watches over all,” the priest intoned. “Come.”
Buffy’s party followed the priest into the temple. Buffy couldn’t help expecting to meet a clone of Quentin Travers but in fact High Watcher Oisig was a tall, balding, man of stern demeanor and with a large and aquiline nose. He wore plate armor under his robes even in the temple. A shield emblazoned with the ‘gauntlet and staring eye’ emblem of Helm was propped up against his massive chair of intricately carved wood.
“Before I agree to grant your request,” the High Watcher told Buffy, “you must tell me about he who is deceased. What god did he follow? What causes did he espouse?”
“Uh, I don’t know about the god thing,” Buffy said. “We’re not from your world. But he was my Watcher.”
“Watcher?” Oisig sat up very straight. “Then surely he served Helm.”
“I, well, maybe,” Buffy said. “We don’t have the same gods where I come from, okay? But he Watched over me. Taught me, researched demons so that I could, you know, Slay them, looked up prophecies, all that stuff. He is, he was, as good as they get. And he’s not happy where he is. Bring him back. Please?”
“Your case has merit,” Oisig agreed. “I shall do this.”
Buffy sighed with relief.
“You must perform a service in return, however,” Oisig went on.
“Figures,” Buffy muttered. “Yeah, this is the Council of Watchers.”
“There is a strange new cult in the city,” Oisig explained. “They follow a god they call the Unseeing Eye. To reach rank in the cult believers must pluck out their own eyes.”
“That’s insane!” Buffy exclaimed. “How could anyone be that stupid?”
“Well, some people are dumb enough to join the Scientologists,” Xander reminded her.
“Point,” Buffy said. “Okay, new religion with really dumb ideas. Go on.”
“They preach blasphemy. Not the worship of a new god, but the idea that all other gods are false. Only the credulous and the gullible are swayed, but they are condemning themselves to eternal limbo, and Helm would not see them suffer so merely for being fools.”
“It’s not just because they’re following a different god, then?”
“The Unseeing Eye is no true god. No new deity could arise without the knowledge of Helm the All-Seeing. We have no quarrel with the followers of other true gods, unless their aims conflict directly with the precepts of Helm.” He fixed his stare on Tara. “What god do you serve, priestess?”
“Goddess,” Tara said. She hesitated for a moment, lowering her eyes, and then raised her head with a proud tilt to her chin. “Mielikki.”
The High Watcher nodded. “A worthy goddess indeed. There is no temple to Mielikki in this city but you would receive a warm welcome at the temple of Lathander. It lies close at hand.” He turned his gaze back to Buffy. “I ask you to investigate the cult of the Unseeing Eye. Seek out the leaders and expose them if they are frauds. If they are evil, or are indeed demons, slay them.”
Buffy bit her lip. “And your guys can’t do this investigation for yourselves exactly why?”
“The lair of the cult is screened against our divinations,” Oisig told her. “Our priests are well known in this city. The cultists would not believe that a priest of Helm would turn away from his deity. You are strangers here and they would have no immediate reason to suspect you of spying.”
“Makes sense, I guess.” Buffy looked around her group. “What do you say, people?”
“We could, uh, try the temple of Lathander,” Tara suggested.
“If this cult is a foe to all gods, then whatever temple we went to might well make a similar request.” Jaheira said.
The High Watcher nodded. “I spoke to Arval the High Mornmaster at a banquet three days ago. We discussed the Unseeing Eye and his misgivings match my own.” He shifted in his seat as if uncomfortable. “Also, we watch the doings of the temple of Talos, for Talos is a foe to Helm, and I know that the Stormherald Nallabir sent forth a party to investigate the Unseeing Eye. They did not return.”
“Great,” Buffy muttered. “Why do I have this feeling that I’m going to end up fighting a hell god again? Okay. We’ll do it. But bring back Giles first, okay?”
“Tell me, vampire,” Viconia said, “What charm it is that allows you to walk in the sun?”
“Will you drop the ‘vampire’ stuff?” Spike grumbled. “Name’s Spike. Want me to go round calling you ‘drow’?”
“I am not ashamed of my noble race, vampire. Call me ‘drow’ if you so desire, as long as it is not in a place where the mention would bring a mob of idiotic rivvin howling for my blood,” Viconia said. “Again, what enchantment protects you from the sun? It hurts my eyes, and makes my head ache, and I would fain make use of such protection for myself.” She brought her index finger to her mouth and ran her tongue over it slowly. “My gratitude would be most pleasurable.”
Willow turned crimson. “Uh, maybe you could just get a hat?” she suggested.
“A hat?” Viconia frowned. “Of what use would that be? A shawl over my head did serve as some protection, but a hat would not shield my eyes. All that it would do would be to make me look like a stalagmite.”
“You mean those kinda ice-cream cone things are the only hats that women wear here?” Willow’s brow creased as she searched her memory. She had seen working women wearing small bonnets tied down with a scarf, and she had seen those who appeared to be noblewomen wearing the ridiculous conical hennin. Other than that she had noticed only wimples and headscarves that gave little shade to the face. Some men, however, had worn more practical headgear. “Uh, maybe you’ve got a point. Hey, when we passed those guys plowing in the fields, some of them had hats with brims, right? You could wear that kind of hat.”
Viconia shuddered. “Adopt the garb of a human male? And a mere laborer at that? I would rather endure the headache.”
“Suit yourself,” Willow sniffed.
“Again, vampire, tell me your secret.”
“Why do you call Spike ‘vampire’?” Nalia asked. “He is disrespectful, and mildly annoying, but hardly a ravening monster of the blackest evil.”
“Because he is a vampire, rivvil,” Viconia said.
“But he’s out in the sunshine!”
Viconia rolled her eyes. “Exactly. That is the secret I seek.”
“Spike is a vile monster?” Nalia’s hand moved towards the hilt of her sword.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Spike moaned. “Not all that again.”
“A monster, perhaps, but hardly vile,” Viconia said. “His form is pleasing to my eye. I sense that he could be entertaining in the bedchamber.”
“Count on it, pet,” Spike said almost by reflex.
“Call me not ‘pet’!” Viconia snapped. Her tone of lazy banter dissipated completely and was replaced by an edge that hinted of real anger, or perhaps even of pain. “I am the pet of no mere male. None shall own me.”
“Didn’t mean anything by it. Too bloody touchy by half, you are. Tell you what, suppose I call you ‘Vicky’?”
Nalia looked from one to the other, her brow furrowed, and her hand no longer near her sword hilt. “I don’t…” she began. The rest of her sentence was lost as Viconia spoke over her words.
“Do not presume to patronize me, vampire,” the drow snapped. “Your diminutives diminish me.”
Sorkatani had been listening to Yoshimo relate tales of his homeland Kara-Tur, where she had been born but of which she had no memories, but now she turned her attention to the other conversation. “He calls me ‘Tani’,” she reminded Viconia. “I do not feel diminished by it.”
“That is your choice, Bhaalspawn,” Viconia said. “I do feel so diminished, and I will not permit it.”
“And yet I have heard you call Jaheira ‘mongrel’,” Sorkatani pointed out. “You insult others and yet will not tolerate insults to yourself. That is hardly fair. I will not tolerate discord, for it puts us all at risk.”
“Jaheira and I understand one another better than you might think,” Viconia said.
“Perhaps.” Sorkatani fixed Viconia with a stern stare. “I will have this matter resolved. Call him ‘Spike’ and he will call you ‘Viconia’. Agreed?”
“Fine by me, Tani,” Spike said.
“Oh, very well,” Viconia sighed, with a roll of her eyes. “Tell me of your charm to resist the sun, Spike.”
“Not going to drop it, are you, Viconia? There is no charm. It’s just the wrong sort of sun. Not the same as in my world. Doesn’t do me any harm, for some reason, and that’s it. No trick that I can pass on to you.”
“That is unfortunate,” Viconia lamented. “So I must continue to endure this discomfort? Tell me, Bhaalspawn, why do we not march by night and camp by day?”
“By day we can see what lies ahead,” Sorkatani told her. “Not at night, at least not for any great distance.”
“Who knows what mousetraps we might blunder upon in the dark?” Yoshimo chimed in.
“Exactly. If we camp at dusk then, should we be attacked in the night time, at least we will have seen the ground on which we are to fight. Nalia, how far is it to your keep?”
“Not far. Three, perhaps four, miles.”
“Then we shall camp now. In the morning we shall come fresh to the keep and survey it to make our plan of attack. Minsc, gather firewood.”
“Should I hunt for our supper?” he suggested.
“If you see game close at hand, yes,” Sorkatani said.
“I’ll go with you, okay, Minsc?” Spike volunteered. “Spot of fresh blood would do me a power of good.”
“Yoshimo, once Minsc and Spike return, lay traps around our encampment,” Sorkatani went on.
Yoshimo bowed “It shall be as you desire, my lady.”
“Viconia,” Sorkatani said to the drow as the others began to disperse to their tasks, “you addressed me by a name that was ill-advised.”
“Forgive me, oh Child of Prophecy, Mistress of Thrones and Crowns,” Viconia said. Her tone was unrepentant.
“This is no mere matter of pride,” Sorkatani said sharply. “The trouble that it could bring upon us would be far worse than any mob of peasantry seeking to burn the drow, or to stake the vampire. Call me not ‘Bhaalspawn’. Do not call me ‘Child of Prophecy’ either.”
“I am sorry, jabbress,” Viconia said with more sincerity. “I did not think. Your point is well made.”
“You are forgiven,” Sorkatani said. She had been standing stiffly erect, her posture that of an officer, but now she relaxed her stance. “You are my friend, and I do not wish us to quarrel. Come, let us work together to make camp.”
Willow stood alone. She had been given no orders, knew very little about the business of camping in the wilderness, and felt rather useless. She trailed along after Nalia, who seemed to know exactly what she was doing despite her being a noblewoman who might have been expected to be no more knowledgeable than was Willow, and tried to be of help by doing what the other girl was doing. Her mind was only partially on her tasks, however.
‘Bhaalspawn’? The wizard Irenicus had called Sorkatani by that name back when they had first seen the warrior girl. It sounded kinda, well, ominous. Willow resolved to discuss the matter with Spike later.
And also to talk about hats. Anya had introduced the bra to this world, Willow thought; maybe she could do the same with women’s headwear. Those kinda flowery bonnets like in ‘My Fair Lady’ would keep off the sun and still look feminine. Spike had been around in those days, he might have some pointers, and hey, fashion revolution! Or those sorta Fifties hats with that little veil, like Sophia Loren in some old movies, or hey, Audrey Hepburn sometimes. Spike had been around for those too. He could be a lot of help; that is, if he didn’t think that discussing hats wasn’t too girly for the Big Bad.
Willow wished that Buffy was there. Or Dawn. Even Anya. And, of course, she missed Tara most of all. Willow glanced at Viconia. ‘Looks like I was wrong when I thought that she was gay’, she thought, and then mentally kicked herself. Had she been considering being unfaithful to Tara? Bad Willow, no biscuit. Even if she and Tara were kinda on a break it would still be wrong. Wouldn’t it? ‘Yes it would’, she told herself sternly, and put Viconia out of her mind.
Even so, as Willow lay uncomfortably on the hard ground near the camp fire later that night, she found herself thinking that it might be kinda nice to have warm arms wrapped around her, and smooth black skin sliding against her own. And her last thoughts before she fell asleep were speculations about the color of Viconia’s nipples.
“Watchers? How extraordinary,” Giles said. “It does seem extremely, ah, appropriate.”
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked. “I mean, no ill effects from being, well, dead?”
“I’m fine, Buffy,” Giles assured her. “The whole business was boring in the extreme, but that’s all.” He looked around at the interior of the temple. “I must say I’m intrigued by the concept of a God of Watchers. Perhaps I should look into this religion. Having somewhere to go after death would be preferable to what I in fact experienced.”
Buffy’s smile lost its warmth. “Yeah. No Heaven for me this time round, huh?”
“Oh, Buffy, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up, ah, unpleasant memories.”
“Pleasant ones, Giles. That’s the whole point.”
“I’m kinda interested in this Helm character myself,” Xander remarked. “I don’t know why, but I get the feeling this place would be sorta right for me too.”
“I would be happy to give you instruction in the worship of Helm the All-Seeing,” Oisig said. “Or, rather, allocate priests to that duty. Once you have completed your mission, that is.”
“Yeah. Right. Okay, guys. Let’s not hang around. On with the show. Maybe we can get it over with quick. I mean, bunch of blind guys? How tough can they be?”
Everybody looked at her.
“Oops! I so shouldn’t have said that.”
“They’re doing the ‘Unseeing Eye’ quest? Already? They are so going to get their asses kicked,” Andrew opined.
“I don’t know, dude, Buffy is pretty high level, and she’s got that whole Regeneration thing going,” Warren said. “Xander’s got a hell of a lot of hit points too. Hard to kill that guy.”
“Giles is high enough level but his Constitution score lets him down,” Jonathan mused. “He still should have gotten through the Copper Coronet fight okay if he’d thought to get properly healed up before he started. I hope they’ve learned better by now. Anya’s tougher than I would have thought, and sneaky. Has anyone seen her take any damage at all since the game started? No? Thought as much.”
“Anyone want to bet on who’s gonna get killed down there?” Warren suggested.
Jonathan shook his head. “Tara and Dawn. No question.”
“Yeah,” Andrew agreed. “But they’ll get them raised, right?”
“Unless the Beholders disintegrate them,” Warren pointed out. “No coming back from that one, dudes. One blast, one failed save, and poof! Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Sayonara and goodnight.”
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. I don’t know who currently owns the copyright to Bioware’s game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’, but it isn’t me, and characters and dialogue extracts are used without permission and with no intent to profit from their use.