Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT / NINE / TEN / ELEVEN
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.
“Isometric?” Jonathan frowned at the monitor. “I thought you were going to make it full 3-D, dude.”
“Hey, it looks great,” Andrew enthused. “Who cares if it’s isometric if it looks this good?”
“Well, yeah, but the reviewers would still say it’s, like, kinda old-fashioned,” Jonathan pointed out. “And hey, if that’s the Infinity Engine, then we’d have to pay, uh, license fees and shit. Not cool.”
Warren raised an eyebrow. “Hey, what do you think I am, stupid? I took the Infinity Engine apart, same with the Dungeon Siege engine, a few others, and I used the bits that are common to them all. Then I added my own stuff and the special magic tweaks. It works and nobody can sue us. Okay, maybe I don’t know quite how some of it works – like, it has to have ‘#00FF00’ in a lot of the lines but it isn’t anything to do with the color, which doesn’t make sense – but it does work, and that’s the important thing. And man, how it works.”
“It’s totally awesome, dude,” Andrew praised.
“Yeah, it is,” Jonathan conceded. “Not that I’m not impressed, Warren, ‘cause really I am. The detail is just totally incredible. It’s just, well, you did say that it would be 3-D.”
“Watch this, R2,” Warren ordered. He clicked with the mouse, hit a key, and the perspective changed. Suddenly the screen display was in first person point of view, looking through the eyes of a single character, walking through the streets of the virtual Port Royal. A cutlass blade gleamed in the foreground, obviously held by the perspective character, and it flashed and twirled through a display of cuts and thrusts as Warren’s fingers danced across the keys.
“Fucking A!” Jonathan gasped. “I, like, grovel in your general direction, dude. Awesome to the max.”
“Isometric to control your whole crew of pirates,” Warren explained, “and switch to first person 3-D when you just want to be the PC. Do I rock, or do I rock?”
“You rock,” Jonathan said. “Oh man. This is just, like, totally fab.” He gazed in awe at the screen. “How much have you got done?”
“This is all there is so far. One section of Port Royal. A couple of taverns and shops, some guards to fight, a couple of tavern wenches who’ll do some flirting, that’s about it. No plot.” Warren swung his gaze on Andrew. “How are you getting on with the storyline, dude?”
“I’ve got some ideas down,” Andrew said. “I had to do some reading up on the historical stuff before I could really get going. You want it to be before the Port Royal earthquake, or after?”
“Whichever,” Warren said. “As long as there’s lots of boarding parties and muskets and cutlasses and shit. And tavern wenches with flashing eyes and plenty of cleavage.”
“During,” Jonathan suggested. “An earthquake right in the middle of the game.”
Andrew’s eyes glazed over. “Oh, yeah. That would be so cool.”
“How’s the naval combat going to work out?” Jonathan asked.
“I’ve been doing the same reverse engineering stuff with some naval games, but it’s not working out so good,” Warren admitted. “There’s no spark to it. I can get it to work, yeah, but it’s nothing special. The magic code isn’t changing anything about the ships.”
“Maybe that’ll change when Buffy’s guys set sail for Spellhold,” Jonathan suggested.
“That’s what I’m hoping,” Warren said. “The code changes keep getting bigger the further they go. Getting more complex, showing things in more detail, but speeding up the game at the same time. I’m hanging back on putting it out on the boards ‘cause it’s always like the next version would be better.”
“What happens when you go further in a patched game than I’ve got with Sorkatani?” Jonathan asked.
“It loses something,” Warren said. “The enhanced pathfinding carries over, the improved AI for the party members, some of the cool new avatar fight moves, being able to take eight in the party instead of six, that sort of thing, but outside the party things go pretty much back to how they are in the standard game.”
“I’ll press on, then,” Jonathan offered. “Want me to try to give them a nudge towards Spellhold as soon as possible?”
Warren considered the idea for a moment. “No, do all the quests you can,” he said. “Super-detail the whole place. What are they up to now?”
“Buffy’s planning on taking on the Slavers,” Jonathan reported. “Sorkatani’s thinking of going to the Umar Hills, maybe taking on the lich at the Crooked Crane tavern first.”
Warren cocked his head to one side and looked at Jonathan. “Sorkatani’s thinking of going to the Umar Hills?” he repeated. “Uh, Player Character, dude, remember? You control her. She does what you want.”
Jonathan lowered his eyes. “Uh, not so much,” he admitted. “She’s kinda gotten away from me. I never planned on her Raising those guys from the Den of Seven Vales. Hell, it never occurred to me that she even could get them raised. She’s getting to be the same as Buffy. I can watch but I can’t control. Viconia’s slipping away, too. Even Minsc. I’ve still got full control of Yoshimo, but that’s it.”
“Holy shit!” Warren exclaimed. “They’re coming to life. We’ve created a whole new life form.”
“That’s, like, totally awesome,” Andrew breathed in tones of reverence. “We are as gods.”
Patrons had swarmed into the Copper Coronet, drawn by the sound of Giles’ exotic and alien music, and there was little chance for the Scoobies and Sorkatani’s group to talk in anything approaching privacy. Only when Giles tired, and made it clear that there would be no more music from him that evening, did the crowds begin to disperse.
“Hey, Will,” Buffy said, when she at last had a chance to take Willow aside, “how’s it been?”
“Cool,” Willow said. “Uh, not that I haven’t missed you, Buff, ‘cause I have, but Sorkatani’s real nice, and Viconia, well, she’s all kinds of snarky and takes some getting used to but I’m kinda taking to her and, well, she’s pretty hot, and Minsc is, uh, really sweet, and he wants me to be his witch, not in the, you know, boy and girl way, but like he’d be my bodyguard. Spike said it’s like I’d be his fyunch click, which is a pretty good way of putting it, I guess.”
Buffy’s eyebrows shot up. “Hey, slow down, Will, you’re kinda overwhelming me. Really not following you. Fiancée chick? Huh? You’re going to marry Minsc?”
“Oh, yeah, right, you won’t have read ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’,” Willow said. “No, it’s, uh, like Minsc would be sorta assigned to me. He’d put me first even over Sorkatani. It’s what he did for Dyanaheir, who got killed when they got captured, and I’d kinda be taking over from her. And, hey, I feel kinda honored, you know?”
“So you’ve been having a good time?”
“Well, yeah. Apart from all the fighting and the trying to snatch sleep barricaded in a basement and the horrible trolls and stuff, but otherwise it’s been, well, pretty great. I mean, not the same as being with you and Xander and Dawn and Giles and, well, Tara’s a touchy subject right now, but well, not the same but good anyway.”
“And you’re managing to put up with Spike? He’s not spoiling things too badly?”
Willow raised her eyebrows. “Spoiling things? Spike? He’s a friend, Buff.”
“Friend? Spike?” Buffy’s eyebrows fought Willow’s for the altitude record and won handily. “When did this happen?”
“Uh, I’m thinking maybe when we took the Winnebago and ran from Glory?”
Buffy’s eyebrows left base camp, recruited a Sherpa guide, and completed their ascent of the highest peak. “I’d say, ‘huh?’ but I’m kinda speechless here.”
“Spike’s not evil any longer, Buffy. I mean, really. He still talks the talk, all the ‘hey, I’m bad, evil vampire here’, but he doesn’t walk the walk any more. He’s even getting less with the talk these days, like he was saying to Sorkatani ‘hey, that’s like me when I was evil’, and I don’t think he even thought about it.”
“You’re not, you can’t be, getting interested in Spike?” Buffy asked.
“Hello, gay now, remember? Nothing like that. Not one bit.” Willow bit her lip. “I might be, uh, kinda getting interested in Viconia.”
Buffy’s eyebrows donned an oxygen mask and set off for the summit of Everest. “But what about Tara?”
“If Tara’s willing to take me back, well, I’m here waiting,” Willow said. “I love her. But it gets kinda lonely at night and, hey, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life waiting and hoping.” Willow’s eyes narrowed. “And, hey, Buff, a word of warning, ‘cause I sometimes get this feeling that maybe what you feel isn’t the same as what you say? Neither is Spike. Going to wait forever, that is. Think about it.”
“Everybody’s always wanting me to do, like, all sorts of crappy stuff,” Buffy complained. “It’s like I can’t walk down the street without somebody saying ‘excuse me, lady, demons have kidnapped my cat, can you get him back?’ and that sorta thing.”
“It is the lot of a hero,” Sorkatani said. “And what can we do but agree?”
“I guess so. But hey, it always turns into something more, you know? Like, the temple of Helm asked us to go persuade this sculptor guy to do a statue for their temple, and we said okay, fine, and it turned into this whole big thing with an escaped murderer and ghosts and things. We got a reward for him, and Anya was really pleased, only now the Cowled Wizards want us to track down this guy who murdered two of them. They say that if I take the job they’ll look into Imoen’s case, only, I think they’re kinda weasels.”
“I trust them not,” Sorkatani agreed. “Still, perhaps they may keep their word. I can but hope. Did they say where this murderer may be found?”
“Some place called the Umar Hills,” Buffy said. “Jaheira says she knows where it is.”
“That is where I plan to go, too. A village is under attack by some dark force, perhaps a witch of legend returned from the grave, and they seek heroes to oppose the evil. I must attend Nalia’s father’s funeral first, and then I shall set off for the village of Imnesvale. Shall we travel together?”
“That might be kinda cool,” Buffy agreed. She paused to wave a greeting to Giles and Jaheira, who had just re-entered the inn on their return from a visit to a weaponsmith. “I kinda want to get rid of the Slavers first, though. Hendak says there are two ways into their place; the front door and a tunnel through the sewers. What say we work together on that one too? You take the low road and I’ll take the high road, or whatever, hit them from both sides at once?”
“A fine plan, Buffy,” Sorkatani agreed. “Let us not delay. If we launch our assault today then it can be done before I must go to the funeral.”
“I’m afraid that I’ll have to ask you to hold back on that plan, Buffy, Sorkatani,” Giles put in. The two girls looked up and they saw that Giles was standing with his arm around Jaheira; not in a gesture of affection, as had been their first thought when the couple had walked in, but to hold her up. She was pale, sweating profusely, and looked hardly capable of standing unaided. “Jaheira is ill. She has been cursed.”
“I’ll call Viconia,” Sorkatani offered.
Jaheira shook her head and winced at the pain that the gesture brought to her. “I fear that it will be of no use, Sorkatani. If Baron Ployer told the truth then he is the only one who can lift it.”
“An old enemy,” Jaheira explained. “I crossed him years before I met you. He has plotted this revenge ever since.” She shivered. “He claims I shall be dead in three days. Dead without the possibility of resurrection. Only he can lift the curse. He fled, with magical aid, before we could seize him. And it seems that none know where he has gone.”
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.