I'm still going to write, however. Here is Chapter Thirteen of my BtVS/Baldur’s Gate 2 crossover ‘Tabula Avatar’. I've corrected the error in the drow language that I was making in previous chapters, when I was using the plural form ‘rivvin’ for the singular instead of the correct singular form ‘rivvil’, and I'm proud to say that I spotted the error myself rather than having someone point it out to me. Not than anyone else is as obsessive about details like that as I am, of course.
Lots of spoilers for BG2. 4,300 words. This chapter definitely rated ‘R’.
Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT / NINE / TEN / ELEVEN / TWELVE
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.
“Hi, guys,” Willow greeted cheerily, as she walked into the Copper Coronet with Viconia at her side. “You’re looking at Athkatla’s newest licensed witch. Duly authorized to turn everybody into toads wherever I like. Not that I would, ‘cause hey, toads are kinda icky, and it would be bad, but all the Cowled Wizards care about is that they got the money.”
“Their corruption is an affront to my senses,” Viconia sneered. “Vile rivvin, grubbing for coins in the dirt.” She pulled off her headscarf and helmet, shook her head, and ran her fingers through her long white hair. “Perhaps some rivvin are not altogether vile,” she conceded. “The hats that you have sketched are appealing to me. It will be pleasant to walk under the sun without a cap of iron. If, that is, the female can school her clumsy fingers to do the sketches justice without a drow with a whip standing over her to punish her for errors.”
“Uh, you look pretty gloomy,” Willow said, as she saw the glum looks on the faces of Buffy, Sorkatani, and Giles, and noticed Jaheira’s wan and sickly appearance. “Bad day?”
“Pretty bad,” Buffy confirmed.
Viconia’s gaze fell on Jaheira. “Your face is lined, mongrel,” the drow taunted. “Without powder and paint you show your age. Did you spend the night rutting to exhaustion? Your legs are as quick to part as any, I see.”
“Vile harlot, close your ugly mouth,” Jaheira snapped back. “Poisonous words spew forth from your lips whenever they are not clamped around a male member. Or a -” She broke off and burst into a fit of coughing.
Viconia raised a nonchalant eyebrow. “And yours, elg’caress. Did you take it in too deep and choke, treehugger?”
Giles glared at her. “Shut up, you hateful woman,” he growled.
“You absolute bitch,” Buffy snarled. She clenched her fists.
“She’s been cursed, Viconia,” Sorkatani said quietly. “She’s dying.”
Viconia’s hand flew to her mouth and her eyes became huge circles. “Nau! Forgive me, abbil, I did not know.” She almost ran to Jaheira, ignoring the angry looks from Giles and Buffy, and reached out to touch the half-elf’s forehead with the tips of her fingers. “Bol alu!” she said in tones of command. “I bid this curse be gone and the tu'rilthiir female be healed.”
The air seemed to grow thin and the background noises faded for a moment. Willow’s skin prickled as she felt a flow of magical energy. Then the clatter of dishes from the inn’s kitchens resumed and the magic was gone. Viconia stepped back, her face grave. Willow had noticed that the drow’s ‘abbil’ had been addressed to Jaheira rather than to Sorkatani, and she wondered just how real the apparent enmity between the two women might be.
“Won’t – work,” Jaheira choked out.
“What rath’arg has done this thing?” Viconia asked.
“A Baron Ployer,” Giles said. His anger had cooled as he saw Viconia’s reaction to the revelation of Jaheira’s condition. “An old enemy of Jaheira’s, apparently. He hired three wizards to curse her. He claims that it can’t be reversed.”
“We shall see if he changes his mind when the lash strips the skin from his back,” Viconia said grimly.
“First we must find him,” Sorkatani said.
“Uh, three wizards, you said? Maybe they’re, like, licensed,” Willow suggested. “We could maybe see if we could track them down through the guys at City Hall.”
Giles nodded. “An excellent suggestion, Willow. They were rather distinctively garbed in robes of black and green, almost like a uniform. It may indeed be possible to identify them.” He grimaced. “Although I hold no great hopes that the authorities will be cooperative without some, ah, financial inducement to some low official.”
“Hi, honeys, I’m home,” Xander called out as he entered. Anya, Tara, and Dawn followed close behind. “Hey, what’s with the long faces?” Xander asked. “I don’t see Spike around, so you should be all full of the happy.”
“Not funny, Xander,” Willow said.
Buffy began to explain the situation to the new arrivals. Halfway through her explanation Minsc, Yoshimo, and Spike came in. Spike was resplendent in the Armor of Deep Night, and was grinning from ear to ear; an expression that quickly changed when he heard the latest unfortunate events.
“So we find the bloke and rip a cure out of his hide,” Spike growled.
“We could put up a reward,” Anya suggested. “Wanted posters.”
By this time Jaheira had recovered her breath and was able to speak. “Bernard,” she said the tavern manager, “you know many people and have many contacts. Do you know Ployer?”
“If I did I’d have spoke up already,” Bernard said. “Don’t know him, leastways not under that name, and the description don’t mean anything to me neither.”
“Ployer said he had put up with living in poverty so that he could pay the wizards,” Giles said. “One has to say that this appears to be one of the least salubrious parts of the city. It would be a logical district in which to find him.”
“I’ll keep my ears open,” Bernard promised. “I’ll spread the word about that reward the lady Anya mentioned, if you want.”
“Ployer also mentioned having crossed swords with an old colleague of mine from the Society of Harpers,” Jaheira added. “Belgrade. Have you heard anything of him? Do you know where I might find him?”
“Well, yeah, happens I do,” Bernard said, “but he can’t help you.” He shook his head slowly. “You’ll find him in the Graveyard District.”
“The Graveyard District? You mean …?”
“Afraid so. Couple of weeks ago he turned up about three streets away. He was about thirty-five, forty, right? He looked ninety. And he was as dead as cold mutton.”
“A thousand danter,” the mage called Terrece said. “That is our price.”
“We will happily pay you that much to lift the curse,” Giles said.
“That is, alas, impossible,” Terrece said. “The curse is keyed to Baron Ployer. While he lives only he can break it.”
“While he lives?” Anya was quick to seize on that point. “So, all we have to do to break the curse is to kill him?”
“I didn’t say that,” Terrence said. “And remember that he has hired the group that I represent to protect him. You cannot get to him without going through us. Unless, that is, you outbid him. A thousand danter for us to withdraw. Five thousand, and we will kill him for you.”
“You’re the kind of scum that gives pondweed a bad name,” Xander said. “Hey, not even loyal to the lowlife who’s paying you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just chop your head off right now.”
“Xander, desist,” Giles urged. “We are right in front of the Government buildings.”
“And they didn’t take any notice of the whole ‘burn the drow’ and ‘fight the lynch mob’ thing, did they?” Xander pointed out.
“I am a respected wizard duly licensed by the Council and the Cowled Wizards,” Terrece said, puffing out his chest. “Hardly in the same category as a non-human asylum seeker and a mob of Beshaban fanatics. You cannot lay hands upon me with impunity.”
“Oh?” Willow’s fingers twitched. “Hey, have you considered a career as a toad? ‘Cause I’m thinking it would be pretty much a step up for you.”
“You would dare to challenge me to a magical duel?” Terrece’s lip curled. “I would not demean myself with such a mismatch. Unless you threaten my group’s employer, that is, and to do so would be a grave mistake. You have turned down my generous offer; so be it. Pray that we never meet again.” He drew a circle in the air, stepped through it, and was gone.
“I so have to learn to do that,” Willow muttered.
Giles shook his head sadly. “Not a very productive trip, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Anya contradicted him. “We have learned something very useful. If we find this Baron Ployer and start twisting his arm, then a bunch of wizards will come rushing to save him. Now that we know, we can make sure that we’re ready for them.” She gave Giles one of the broad smiles that normally she reserved only for customers with platinum credit cards. “Don’t worry, Giles, we’ll save your girlfriend.”
Giles colored. “She’s not my girlfriend,” he said. “Dear Lord, she lost her husband less than two weeks ago.”
“Not yet, perhaps,” Anya said, “but you can’t deny that there is an attraction. On both sides. We’ll get you to the altar yet, Giles.” The smile disappeared abruptly. “How are Xander and I going to get to the altar? If we don’t get back to Sunnydale we’ll miss our wedding!”
“Easy, Ahn, no need to panic,” Xander soothed. “It’s still, like, three, four, months away.”
“Yes,” said Anya, “but in ten days we’ve made precisely zero progress towards getting home. If we don’t start doing something about it then suddenly it will be our wedding day and we won’t be there to get married.” She looked sharply at Willow. “And I’m beginning to think that maybe some people aren’t all that keen to get home.”
“Uh, Ahn, you’re being kinda inconsistent,” Xander pointed out. “One minute you’re all with the ‘hey, let’s get Giles married off to a girl from this world’, and the next it’s ‘hey, we’ve got to get out of this place’.”
“If it’s the last thing we ever do,” Giles muttered. “Eureka!”
“Huh?” Xander turned and started at him.
“I may have come up with something,” Giles said. “There might be a way that I can get us home.” He sighed heavily. “Alas, I fear that it would not be possible to take Jaheira with me. Still, we have to return to Sunnydale, and the longer we leave it the greater the wrench will be.”
“That’s, uh, great,” Willow said. Her tone conveyed no great enthusiasm. “I guess we’ve got to get back. I mean, I’m missing college, and there’s, uh, probably all kinds of interesting stuff happening, and, uh, I, yeah, we’ve got to get back. Haven’t we?”
“We have to go,” Giles said. “I refuse to depart while Jaheira is in such dire straits, however. On with the quest.”
“Hey, look at that,” Jonathan said. “This is just amazing.”
Andrew ignored him. He was deep in the world of the Caribbean circa 1690, busy writing a scene in which the hero had to decide between attacking a treasure galleon, with an immediate payback in the form of loot, and protecting a convoy of ships carrying indigo and sugar from a French pirate, thereby gaining the favor of the Governor of Jamaica and a lead in to a major romance plot.
Warren paid more attention and wandered over to join Jonathan. “Yeah, that’s new,” he agreed. “Makes a whole lot more sense, dude. I remember Ployer gives this whole spiel about how he’s been sleeping under rags so as he can spend his cash on the wizards, but when you track him down it’s the standard template with carpets and tables and cabinets and shit. This fits much better. Straw on the floor, just the one table, and – hey! He’s wearing full plate armor!”
“Yeah,” Jonathan nodded. “The game’s adjusting for there being more of the good guys. I guess it makes sense, the guy’s a nobleman, used to be this rich slave trader dude, he’d have had the armor back then, so he could have kept it. He’s still gonna get creamed.”
Warren studied the still image on the paused screen. “Is Willow in Stoneskin?”
“Sure is. Minor Globe of Invulnerability too. They’ve got Chaotic Commands pretty much all round, Protection From Evil, all the standards. It’s not gonna be much of a fight, but the game’s doing its best.”
“I was thinking they were gonna lose out on experience ‘cause of splitting up to do some of the quests, but if it’s upgrading to match, maybe not. Unpause, man.”
Jonathan complied. The confrontation with Ployer began, with the vengeance-crazed noble trying to force Jaheira to beg for her life, and then erupted into inevitable violence. Swirling circles appeared on screen as the wizards gated in at their employer’s summons.
“Five?” Warren’s eyebrows climbed. “I thought there were three. Ah, I get it.”
“It’s adapting, sure enough,” Jonathan confirmed. “They’ve brought a couple of little friends. And not the Ogre Berserker from the basic encounter either.”
The three wizards in green and black materialized in Baron Ployer’s barren room accompanied by two monstrous servants. Stone golems.
The single room of Ployer’s derelict house was large and uncluttered by furniture, but with so many occupants it was still cramped. The combat was a straight slugging match, blows dealt and returned with brutal simplicity, with little scope for maneuver or tactics.
Spike had no weapon. He had sold his sword, and almost everything else he possessed, to go towards the Armor of Deep Night. Even with that, and with every penny of his share of the spoils from the adventures so far, he would still have come well short of the price had Sorkatani not given him most of her own share; freely, ungrudgingly, and asking nothing in return. In so doing she had gained Spike’s undying loyalty.
Baron Ployer parried Jaheira’s feeble attack with insolent ease and kicked her away. Spike growled deep in his throat and hurled himself on the Baron. Ployer’s triumphant sneer turned to alarm as the vampire seized his sword arm and wrenched with inhuman strength. The sword turned to point harmlessly at the floor. Spike swung up his knee to Ployer’s stomach, achieving little against the plate armor, but then he changed tactics and rammed the Baron backwards into the wall. The whole building shuddered with the impact and a section of plaster collapsed. Spike swung the Baron around again and slammed him against the wall once more. Ployer staggered, sagged in Spike’s iron grasp, and the sword clattered to the floor.
Viconia wielded two weapons, scorning a shield, as was customary among the drow. In her left she bore the Mauler’s Arm, a mace enchanted to bestow strength upon the wielder; in her right was the Flail of Ages, a mighty heirloom of the De’Arnise family, taken as her share of the wealth acquired in the liberation of Nalia’s keep. She struck at a golem, and struck again. Its return stroke knocked her from her feet. Minsc stepped in to shield her as she scrambled to regain her footing, striking powerfully, but his sword was ineffective against the stone. Tara helped Viconia to rise and the two girls moved forward together to resume the attack. Minsc stepped aside, leaving the golem to the blunt weapons of the clerics, and made for one of the wizards.
Buffy slashed at the other golem with the Blade of Roses. It glanced harmlessly from the stone figure. The Slayer pouted, dodged a granite fist, and switched over to her war hammer. She launched a frenzied attack, landing blow after blow, and cracks began to appear in the stone.
Terrece cast a spell of Confusion. It fizzled out, the spell thwarted by the countermeasures that the party had taken against such magics, and the treacherous wizard grimaced in frustration. Before he could rethink his combat strategy survival became his most pressing priority as Xander lashed out at him with the Sword of Chaos.
Terrece had protections of his own. His skin turned grey and hard as a Stoneskin spell, prepared in advance to be triggered by a physical attack, kicked in. The sword blade bounced off. Terrece grinned. “You cannot harm me, fool,” he declared.
“Oh, yeah?” Willow pointed a finger and spoke a mystic phrase. “You might want to rethink that, creep.”
Terrece’s skin turned pink once more as his magical protections were stripped away. His grin turned to open-mouthed terror as Xander’s sword swept down. Frantically Terrece raised his staff to parry the blow, gasped in relief as he was successful, and he backed away to gain space and time to cast another spell. He found himself up against the wall. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and Xander’s relentless attack gave him no chance to open up a portal.
Terrece had one more pre-programmed spell up his sleeve. Tenser’s Transformation. He lamented the overconfidence that had led him to choose that rather than a teleportation spell that would have sent him safely home, yet it was still comforting to feel the rush of physical power as his muscles bulged under the influence of the spell that transformed him into a mighty warrior. He had a Cloak of Protection, Bracers of Defense, and a magical quarterstaff; he would still be able to give a good account of himself against this brash young knight.
Sword clashed against quarterstaff. Quarterstaff clanged against armor. Stalemate. And then Terrece felt something brushing against his legs. A rope. He flicked brief glances downwards in the intervals between Xander’s sword strikes. Two girls, one blonde and one with long chestnut tresses, were crawling on the floor. They had surrounded his legs with rope. Each had one end of the coil and they were pulling on it, drawing it tighter, trapping him.
“No!” Terrece cried. He glanced around. Both golems were cracked, crumbling, breaking apart under a rain of blows from blunt weapons. His colleague Gracien was also pinned up against a wall, reeling under Minsc’s assault, his Stoneskin gone and blood pouring from a deep wound. Malacazar, the third wizard, was also wounded and was being driven back across the room by Sorkatani. Yoshimo had slipped behind him; Malacazar’s full attention was on the Perfect Warrior’s blades and he was oblivious to the katana at his back. As for the wizards’ employer, Baron Ployer, he was a helpless captive of Spike; and Giles now had a knife against the Baron’s throat.
The battle was lost. Terrece cast aside his staff and brought his arms round in the circle that would open a magical portal for escape. Xander’s blade intercepted the gesture. Terrece cried out in shock and horror as the sword cleaved through bone. He fell to his knees, blood gushing from the dreadful wound, and then Xander’s sword descended with remorseless finality.
The point of Yoshimo’s blade emerged from the centre of Malacazar’s chest. Minsc slew Gracien. The golems were mere rubble on the floor.
“And now, my dear Baron,” Giles said pointedly, “perhaps you would care to discuss the removal of the curse.”
“A lock of my hair,” Jaheira said. “This was cut from me during my captivity. Where did you get it, Ployer?”
“I purchased it from Jon Irenicus,” Ployer revealed. “He it was who crafted the curse. I hired those dead idiots to carry it out according to his instructions.”
“Then our escape was indeed anticipated,” Sorkatani said. “Irenicus planned it all.”
“He probably expected to get arrested by the Cowled Wizards, too,” Willow commented. “Hey, all you’ve got to do to get a license to use magic is to come up with five thousand danter. We picked up nearly that much on our way out of his place, so it’s not like he didn’t have the money. If he didn’t pay for the license, it has to mean that he wanted to get arrested.”
“And to take Imoen with him,” Sorkatani said. “There is much to think about. I think that I am right not to rush headlong in pursuit. I dance to his tune, it seems, and I must tread carefully.” She glared at Ployer. “And Irenicus sought to use this vengeful fool to rob me of Jaheira. It shall not be. Remove the curse.”
“I told you,” Ployer said, “the curse is tied to my life. It cannot be broken while I yet live.”
“That’s easy sorted,” Spike said. “Okay if I eat him? Seems a shame to waste all that blood.”
“Don’t you dare!” Buffy ordered. Her glare at Spike was as hostile as were the looks that Jaheira was giving to Baron Ployer.
“Hold, Spike,” Sorkatani said, her tone firm but friendly. “Merely slaying Ployer may not in itself be enough to break the spell.”
“So the wizard implied,” Giles said, glancing across at Terrece’s headless body. “What else must be done, Baron?”
“You must burn the lock of hair,” Ployer revealed. “If I am dead that will break the curse.”
“He’s lying,” Tara said. “I, uh, did a spell. I can tell if he’s telling the truth.”
“The rivvil lies,” Viconia declared simultaneously.
Ployer snarled in baffled frustration.
“I suspect that would have sealed the curse unbreakably,” Sorkatani said.
“Looks like we’ll have to persuade him the hard way,” Spike said. He took hold of one of Ployer’s fingers and wrenched it back. “This little piggy went to market …”
“Stop it!” Buffy commanded. “You can’t just torture someone.”
“The necessity sits ill with me too,” Sorkatani said. “I cannot let Jaheira perish, but I would seek another way if any can be found.”
“Got to kill him anyway,” Spike pointed out. “His choice whether he goes slow and painful or fast and easy.”
“I concur,” Giles said. “It is the only way to save Jaheira’s life, it appears.”
“Hey, I remember you dishing out the torture one time, Buff,” Xander reminded her. “When those vamps had Will, and Giles, and Cordy, and Ms Calendar. You were all gung-ho with the sticking crosses in the vamp’s mouth and stuff.”
“That was to a vampire,” Buffy said. “This guy might be scum, but he’s human scum.”
“Point,” Xander conceded.
Buffy met Sorkatani’s eyes and flushed. “I don’t care what you say, vampires aren’t the same as humans,” she defended her stance. “Evil. Unredeemable. Yeah, even Spike, although, okay, he has changed some, and torturing him would be wrong, but …” Buffy’s voice trailed away.
“His vengeance technique was pretty good,” Anya piped up, her tone that of a manager doing a performance appraisal on an employee. “Trying to set it up so that we’d make things worse not better was clever. But he isn’t getting revenge for being betrayed himself, or anything like that; he’s getting his own back on a witness who gave evidence against him. I say we hurt him until he talks. Hurt him a lot.”
“I’m good with that,” said Dawn.
“Stay out of this, Dawnie,” Buffy said absently. “We don’t torture him. That’s flat. Willow, can you work out how to break the curse?”
“Eventually, yeah,” Willow said. “I just can’t say how long it will take. Maybe too long.”
“I can get divine guidance,” Tara volunteered. “I don’t know how clear it will be, though, and it will take time too.”
“That is the case for me also,” Viconia said, “and Shar will not be forthcoming with clear answers when the reason is to save a worshipper of Silvanus. There will be ambiguities that might lead us astray.”
“Tell us the answer, evil one,” Minsc boomed at Ployer. “Feel the burning stare of my hamster and talk!”
“Why should I?” Baron Ployer sneered. “You’ve got to kill me anyway. If I take Jaheira with me at least I’ll die happy.”
“The death need not be permanent,” Sorkatani offered.
“What? You would have this vermin Raised?” Jaheira’s face contorted in astonishment and then in pain as another stage of the curse’s effects struck her.
“You are becoming soft, jabbress,” Viconia said. “And yet, if it is the only way to save the mongrel from her well-deserved fate, I shall perform the ritual.”
“Or, I could do it,” Tara volunteered.
Baron Ployer curled his lip in a disdainful sneer. “Spare me your loathsome charity. To live at your whim would choke me. Kill me, as you must. The curse will be broken. The despicable druid will recover if she rests for a full day and night with the lock of hair on her person.”
“That’s the truth,” Tara said, a smile coming to her lips.
“He speaks true,” Viconia confirmed. “We can slay this miserable rivvil now. The mongrel needs only to sleep in her own bed, alone for once, and she shall live. I am not yet free of her annoying presence.”
“I would have returned from the grave to haunt you, drow harlot,” Jaheira croaked out.
“How touching,” Ployer said disdainfully. He turned his eyes to meet Sorkatani’s stare. “Now, send me from this world, goddess. I would rather die by my own choice than live by your mercy. You will not survive me long.”
“What do you mean?” Sorkatani demanded. “Do you know aught of Irenicus’ plans?”
“Goddess?” Buffy’s eyebrows readied their crampons and ice axes.
“I’ll tell you later,” Willow murmured. “As long as it’s okay with her.”
“A small amount, perhaps,” Ployer said. “I shall not tell you. Gloating over your impending doom will console me somewhat in the Underworld. Unless you would stoop to torture? No, I thought not. Now kill me.”
“Very well,” Sorkatani said. Her hand went to the hilt of her katana.
“Let me do it, jabbress,” Spike offered. “Know you’re not keen on that stuff, and it doesn’t bother me.”
“It is my right,” Jaheira spoke up.
“You are too weak with the curse, Jaheira,” Sorkatani said. “You could not make it quick and clean.” She met Spike’s eyes. “I thank you, abbil. Yet I am loath to ask another to perform a task from which I shrink myself.”
“Doesn’t bother me, honest, Tani,” Spike said.
“Don’t you dare bite him!” Buffy repeated.
“Oh, please one of you just kill me,” Ployer drawled. “Am I to die of boredom while I listen to you bicker? Just do it.”
“Okay,” Anya said. She put her crossbow just below Ployer’s ear and pulled the trigger.
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.
Happy Birthday to fauvistfly and collinwood
and humble apologies to audela for missing her birthday on the 19th.