Belated Happy Birthdays to rhionnach, digopheliadug, and adriana_is
Here is Chapter Fourteen of my BtVS/Baldur’s Gate 2 crossover ‘Tabula Avatar’. Lots of spoilers for BG2. 6,000 words. This chapter was hard for me to write and you may find parts of it distressing. The rating had better be NC-17. The last section is based on a passage from the dialogue within the game itself and, although I have expanded and paraphrased it, some parts are direct quotes. That is the potentially distressing section, and I’ll put a warning note before it. If you skip that section it will not materially affect your ability to follow the plot.
Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT / NINE / TEN / ELEVEN / TWELVE / THIRTEEN
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.
Buffy turned wide eyes on Willow. “Don’t you want to go home?”
Willow’s mouth twisted. “I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, yeah, I don’t want to stay without you, and Xander, and Dawn, and Giles, but, well, I’ve got friends here too now.”
“I’d noticed,” Buffy said. “You’re all kinda tight with Sorkatani’s crew. You and Spike, which wigs me out anyway. You’ve got this whole private language thing going on between you. ‘Braless’ and ‘appeal’ and ‘ribbit’ and all that stuff.”
“That’s ‘jabbress’, which is ‘Mistress’ – uh, that’s the Boss kind, not the having an affair kind – and ‘abbil’, which means ‘trusted friend’, Buffy,” Willow explained. “And hey, I’d have thought you’d have worked out ‘rivvin’, ‘cause Viconia says it often enough. ‘Rivvil’, ‘a human’, and ‘rivvin’, ‘humans’ in the plural.”
“Whatever,” Buffy said. “I just don’t get how you’re all so friendly. Viconia is just a total bitch. I mean, she could give Cordelia lessons.”
“That’s not true, Buffy,” Willow objected. “She’s kinda snarky but that’s all. I like her.”
“Like her, or want to boink her?” Buffy challenged. “Hey, when you were saying you wouldn’t want to stay without us, you didn’t mention Tara!”
“Uh, I don’t know if Tara and me will ever get back together,” Willow said. “I did a bad thing, Buffy, and it didn’t really hit me how bad it was until I got to this place and started learning more about magic and stuff. Even if she does forgive me I don’t think that things will ever be the same between us.”
“So you’re moving on to that Viconia?”
“I don’t know. I mean, yeah, I kinda like Viconia that way, but it’s just like a, well, crush. It’s not like I think she’d be the long haul kind of girl. And hey, she’s maybe bi, and maybe straight and just teasing. But she’s not why I’d kinda like to stay. Maybe a piece of the reason, that’s all.”
“So what’s the rest? Sorkatani? Minsc? Yoshimo?”
“Well, yeah,” Willow said. “I like them all. A lot. Not more than you guys, no, but, it’s kinda the same way. And hey, you’ve got to admit we’d been sorta growing apart lately. Xander was all with the spending time with Anya, which is right, ‘cause hey, engaged, but it meant I wasn’t seeing as much of them. Giles, well, he’s going back to England and he’s not coming back, unless he’s changed his mind since we got here, but he hasn’t said anything. So that means pretty much just you and Dawnie, and you, well, you haven’t been yourself lately. And okay, we know why that is now, and it’s kinda my fault, and you were all with the pretending that you were all happy and stuff and then it all came out, and, uh, I was wondering if you’d even want to be my friend any more.”
“But of course I do!”
“The way I’d been behaving I’m kinda wondering why,” Willow said. “What I did to you – I was just so stupid. I’m so sorry, Buffy. I left you to dig yourself out of your grave. And then I expected you to be happy about being back and hey, even if you hadn’t been in Heaven, that, well, it must have been, uh, well, oh, Buffy, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, Will, it really is. Yeah, it was bad. It was my worst nightmare come true. But I’m pretty much over it. And I know you didn’t mean to do it.”
“I meant well,” Willow said. “Yeah, like that isn’t written on one of the steps leading down to hell. I screwed up. All ‘cause I thought I knew best. I’d kinda hate me if I was you, Buffy.”
“I don’t hate you, Willow,” Buffy assured her. “You’re still my best friend.”
“And you’re still mine, Buffy, but I’ve been a bad friend to you. Like, stupid and selfish have been my middle names.”
“You’ve been pretty much on the ball lately, Will, it seems to me,” Buffy told her.
“Maybe,” Willow agreed. “I’ve got my act together more since I’ve been here, at least since we got out of Irenicus’ place anyway. I guess I’m learning to play by the rules, and to think things all the way through. I’m, well, I guess I like myself more now. And yeah, maybe I’m happier here. ‘Cause hey, it’s not like I made any real friends at college. I’ve made more friends here in, what, ten days than I have in the past two years back in Sunnydale. I don’t want to go back, Buffy.”
She looked Buffy straight in the eye. “Buffy, are you sure the same doesn’t apply to you? You’ve done some bitching about this place, yeah, but most of it has been about kinda trivial stuff like them not having hot showers. The rest of the time, well, you seem more, uh, alive than you did back home. At least than you have since, well, not just since I brought you back. Since way before then.”
“It hasn’t been all bad,” Buffy conceded. “It’s kinda nice to not have to hide anything. But there’s still a whole lot of badness about this place. I mean, it’s like human life doesn’t mean all that much here.”
“There are a lot of places on Earth where it doesn’t mean that much either, Buffy,” Willow pointed out.
“Well, yeah, but I don’t want to go there,” Buffy said. “I want to go home to Sunnydale, not to, like, the Sudan or wherever.”
“Well, I don’t,” Willow said. “I’d kinda like to stay here.”
“I have to go,” Buffy said. “What about Dawn’s education? College?”
The corners of Willow’s mouth turned down. “Oh. Yeah. That’s kinda unanswerable. Although, hey, they must have colleges here, ‘cause Sorkatani was training as a librarian, and you don’t get to be a wizard without studying, and there’s sculptors and artists and things, and architects.”
“And suppose Dawn wants to be a doctor? Or a lawyer? Or, hey, a website designer?”
“Okay, okay, I give in,” Willow said. “Kinda hitting below the belt there, but, yeah, you win. We go. If it works, that is.” She stood up. “I’d better get going. I’ve got a funeral to attend.”
“Oh, yeah. See you later, Will – hey, hang on a minute! You were going to explain something to me. Why did that Baron Ployer guy call Sorkatani a goddess?”
“Thank you all for coming.” Nalia gave a wan smile.
“I am glad that I can be of support to you,” Sorkatani said.
Spike bowed fractionally. “Least we could do.”
Viconia flared her nostrils. “It is not of my choice, jalil. It is the will of Sorkatani that we come, or I would not have stirred from my bed.”
“It is the duty of heroes to mark the fall of others who have fallen in battle,” Minsc declared.
“Uh, no problem,” Willow said. “Is there, uh, anything you want us to do?”
“Well, actually, yes,” Nalia revealed. “Lady Sorkatani, I want you to take over the De’Arnise keep and holdings.”
Sorkatani’s eyes widened. “Lady Nalia, I wear armor, and often breeches, but under them I assure you that I am a girl just as much as you are. If you can not hold title to the keep, then neither can I.”
“By the barbaric laws of this primitive and unenlightened land,” Viconia muttered.
“You said it, sister,” Willow agreed.
“If you’re going to suggest me, well, forget it,” Spike said. “Me being dead rules me right out.”
Nalia ignored him. “That turns out not to be true,” she told Sorkatani. “I’ve found an ancient legal clause that covers the situation and has never been revoked. If the sole heir to a manor is female and over the age of majority, and she has no betrothed, then she may sign over the manor to a hero who has done great deeds in defense of the lands. I’ve read that ruling and there is nothing in it that specifies that the hero has to be a man.”
Sorkatani’s brows descended in an expression similar to that of Angel at his broodiest. “I wish no such responsibility. In this land I have no renown as a hero. I doubt that I would be acceptable.”
“If the Perfect Warrior isn’t a renowned enough hero, then who is?” Nalia said.
“That name was bestowed upon me by Sarevok in mockery,” Sorkatani said. “It was taken up by bards against my will.”
“It seems perfectly apt to me,” Nalia said. “The hero of Nashkell, rescuer of the Duke of Baldur’s Gate, and liberator of the De’Arnise hold. I don’t see how anyone can object. Just give me half of the revenue after expenses. You’ll be a much better lord of the manor than Isaea Roenal. I know you will take good care of it and treat the commoners as more than just a resource to be exploited.”
“Very well,” Sorkatani agreed, her reluctance evident, “but only if I can pass it back on to you if you find a husband who is your own choice.”
“Of course. Thank you, Sorkatani. Now, come and meet the other guests at the funeral.”
“Willow doesn’t want to go home,” Buffy frowned. “She’s only going to come so that she doesn’t get left here without the rest of us. She’d rather we all stayed. I just don’t get it.”
“I must confess that if my plan doesn’t work I won’t be devastated,” Giles said. “This place may be primitive in many ways, and some of its customs are rather brutal, but there are compensations.”
“Jaheira? Yeah, I guess it’ll kinda suck for you, leaving her here. I’m sorry, Giles.”
“It will indeed ‘suck’, as you put it,” Giles agreed. “However we do not belong here, and I will try to get us home nonetheless. Does anyone else desire to stay here?”
“No way,” Dawn said emphatically. “There are, like, zero cute boys here. In fact I’ve seen pretty well nobody my own age, girls or boys. Some of you guys have made friends here, but not me.”
“Ah, yes,” Giles said. “The young ladies of the nobility at your age will be kept somewhat secluded, I believe, and the sons will be training for knighthood. Among the poor they will be already be working. I believe one or two of the staff here are your age or younger, in fact, Dawn.”
“That sucks,” Dawn said. “I want to go back to school, which is something that I never thought I’d say, but hey, I so have such a lot to tell Janice.”
“I want to go back,” Tara said. She didn’t elaborate.
“And of course Xander and I want to go back,” Anya said. Xander frowned briefly but didn’t contradict her.
“So, that’s unanimous,” Buffy said. “Apart from Willow being a bit wobbly, but she’ll come.”
“And Spike?” Giles asked.
“I didn’t ask,” Buffy said. “He doesn’t get a vote. He comes with us. I’m not going to risk him starting to snack on people once I’m not here to restrain him.”
“I think you’re probably doing him a disservice,” Giles said. “And not giving sufficient credit to Sorkatani either. However it’s probably a moot point. I don’t think I’ll be able to pick and choose. It will either work, and we will all be transported home, or not work.”
“You’re going to sing us home?” Xander pursed his lips. “Hey, when that guy - what was it? - Jon-Tom, yeah, tried it in the ‘Spellsinger’ books, it kinda didn’t work. Until he got to that sorta gate between the worlds, that is, in that mine or cave or whatever.”
“We are not in the ‘Spellsinger’ world,” Giles pointed out. “There are no talking animals here, for a start. There are certain parallels, yes, but it’s not the same. I’m not giving any guarantees, of course, but I believe that it is worth making the attempt.”
“Are you going to tell Jaheira?” Tara asked. “I’m thinking, just going without telling her would be, well, cowardly.”
“Yes, I will tell her,” Giles said. He bit his lip. “That is not an interview to which I look forward, but to desert her without a word would be cruel in the extreme. I’m not going to make the attempt until she has fully recovered from the curse.”
Dawn had been looking happy, even excited, but now her face fell. “It’s not such a big deal, going back to school,” she said. “I mean, I’ll make friends here eventually, and I’ve got you guys, and Spike, if Buffy lets me see him that is, and I’ll get by. There’s no need to give up on your girl just for me.”
“You have to get back to school,” Buffy said in a determined tone. “That’s not negotiable.”
“Yeah, but if it’s taking away a chance for Giles to be happy, well, I’m not sure I want that,” Dawn said.
“I thank you, Dawn,” Giles said. “However it is not purely for your sake that I have resolved to attempt to return us to Earth. Buffy, Tara, Xander, and Anya all wish to go home.”
“This place isn’t all that bad,” Tara said. “I could get used to it.”
“It’s not a hell dimension,” Xander admitted. “I say go for it, Giles, but hey, if it doesn’t work it’s not the end of the world.”
“I think that we are all agreed on that, then,” Giles said. “Very well. Tomorrow night.”
“They’ve got a plan,” Jonathan reported. “They’re gonna try Spellsinging their way back to Earth.”
“It’ll never work,” Warren said. “Uh, it won’t work, will it? They can’t get out. Can they? Guide me on this, dude, you’re the expert on this magic stuff.”
“I don’t know,” Jonathan said. “I don’t see how it can work, but hey, Giles and Willow are way more up on the magic than me. It’s a million to one shot, but it just might work.”
“Shit,” Warren moaned. “Million to one chances crop up nine times out of ten when magic’s involved. Only, if they do get out, what happens? Is it, like, goodbye to Randy and Joan and Umad and Alex and the others, hello again to Spike, Buffy, Dawn, Xander and company?”
“I guess so,” Jonathan said. “They don’t have any other real bodies to go to. It’s that or else they just kinda, well, fizzle.”
Warren stuck out his lower jaw and scraped his upper lip with his teeth. “I could maybe make robot bodies for them, I guess. Only it would take me two, maybe three months, and cost a whole lot. Hell, getting some of the parts at all is going to be tough since I dropped out. Eight of them – shit, we’re looking at maybe two hundred thousand dollars. No way, man.”
“I don’t think they can get out,” Jonathan said, “but, if they do, it’s not that big a deal. As long as they don’t find out about what we did and take it out of our hide, that is.”
“Yeah.” Warren shook his head. “I must be going nuts. For a minute there I was feeling really bad for Jaheira.”
“The bloke’s a right twat,” Spike commented. The funeral was over. Sorkatani’s party were walking through the cemetery, familiarizing themselves with the environment in case Sorkatani decided to take up the mysterious invitation to a meeting there, so that they could be prepared in the event of the meeting being a trap.
“The arrogance of that jaluk disgusts me,” Viconia agreed. “He should be whipped until he learns respect.”
“Another distraction from our quest,” Sorkatani sighed. “Yet now that I have met the man I do not regret acceding to Nalia’s request.”
“So, are we going to go back out to the De’Arnise place?” Willow asked.
“We will have to, I fear,” Sorkatani said. “Perhaps we can call in on the way to Imnesvale.”
“Yes, for the villagers have called for our aid,” Minsc said. “The fame of Sorkatani, and Minsc, and Boo, and Spike, Willow, Yoshimo, and Viconia, has reached their ears and they have cried out unto us.”
“I think they’re just asking anybody they can,” Sorkatani said.
“Reminds me of the Mexican villagers looking for the Magnificent Seven,” Spike said to Willow. “There’s even seven of us, counting Boo.”
Willow giggled. “Minsc would be Chris, ‘cause hey, bald,” she said. “Only, that’s about as far as the analogy stretches.”
“Hush, abbin!” Viconia said sharply. “I hear something strange.”
The party halted. Hands moved to the hilts of weapons. Spike cocked his head to one side and listened. “That way,” he said, and pointed. He slipped off the path in ghostlike silence. Yoshimo and Minsc followed him, moving almost as stealthily despite Minsc’s bulk, and made their way to a recent grave.
“Bloody hell!” Spike exclaimed. “Come on over here!”
“Quickly, my lady,” Yoshimo called.
The girls rushed to join them. The men were staring at the freshly-turned earth. “Either there’s some fledgling vampire who’s got his time of day well and truly screwed up,” Spike said, “or there’s someone buried alive in there.” He scanned the area for a spade.
“We’ve got to get them out!” Willow gasped.
“Nau!” Viconia wailed. “Save her!” She hurled herself onto the grave and began to claw at the soil with her hands.
“I see a shovel,” Yoshimo pointed. Spike raced to it at full vampire speed, tossed it to Minsc, and the big man began to dig.
“Stop, Viconia. You will injure yourself, and you are hampering Minsc,” Sorkatani ordered. Viconia took no notice. Sorkatani picked her up bodily and pulled her away.
Viconia struggled for a moment but then stood still, staring at the grave as Minsc shoveled out the dirt. The whites of her wide-open eyes stood out in sharp relief against the darkness of her skin. “Oloth,” she muttered. “I swim in memories. Most unpleasant memories.”
Willow took her hand. She could feel the drow girl trembling. She squeezed gently, reassuringly, and Viconia’s trembling eased slightly.
The shape of a coffin appeared in the hole. The lid shook under the impact of frantic blows from inside. A muffled voice screamed for help. The three men wrenched at the coffin lid with the spade and the blades of knives. The wood cracked, splintered, and came off. Inside was a living man.
Viconia retched, clawed her scarf away from her face, and doubled up. Willow and Sorkatani held back her hair as Viconia vomited. Eventually Viconia regained control of herself. Sorkatani gave her a skin of water and Viconia rinsed out her mouth. She stood, shaking, while Willow attempted to comfort her.
“Bloke’s a merchant called Tildir,” Spike reported back to Sorkatani a minute later. “Wealthy bloke. Got kidnapped. Managed to pull his blindfold off, saw the kidnappers, and then they knocked him out. Reckon they decided that they couldn’t let him go once he’d seen them.”
“This can not be borne,” Viconia said in a remote and icy voice. “We find them. We kill them.”
“Sounds good to me,” Spike said.
“And to me,” Sorkatani said. “We must see to this man first. Yoshimo, report this to the authorities. The law must be on our side for this hunt.”
“You are leaving, then?” Jaheira was still pale and weak. There were dark shadows under her eyes as she stared at Giles. Her lower lip drooped and her eyes seemed to hold a great sadness.
“I am going to attempt to return to my own world, yes,” Giles told her. “It’s not that I want to leave you. It’s just, well, this isn’t our world. It’s not where we belong. It’s not fair on Dawn, or on Buffy.”
“And this is fair on me?” Jaheira turned her face away from Giles. “Leave me. I would rather be alone than with someone who does not want me. When Sorkatani returns ask her to call upon me.”
“Jaheira, I –”
Giles stood up. “Very well, Jaheira.” He left the room.
Jaheira buried her face in her pillow and cried.
It took five hours to track down the kidnappers and two minutes to kill them. Two more hours to escort another rescued victim to her home, to take the dead kidnappers to the magistrate to be identified by Tildir, to collect the reward, and to return to the Copper Coronet. During that whole time Viconia spoke only in clipped sentences directly relevant to their mission.
Word had spread that Giles was not going to be performing that night and the tavern was not excessively crowded when they entered. Even so Viconia curled her lip in disdain. “The stink of the collected rivvin and of the flesh that they consume turns my stomach,” she said.
“I see sourpuss is in her usual cheerful mood,” Buffy commented. “Hey, Will, coming over?”
“Not now, Buffy,” Willow said sharply. “You’re out of line.” She turned to Viconia. “You should eat something anyway, abbil. You haven’t eaten since you, uh, were ill. Uh, maybe a little soup?”
Buffy exchanged glances with Xander and Anya. “Hey, what’s got into her? Kinda catching the bad Viconia vibes? PMS?”
“Shut it, Slayer,” Spike growled.
Buffy raised her eyebrows but restrained herself from further comment.
Giles moved to intercept the group. “Ah, Sorkatani, Jaheira would like you to, ah, pay a call upon her. You were away considerably longer than we expected.”
“I shall do so at once,” Sorkatani said.
“She may be somewhat, ah, unhappy,” Giles confessed.
“And you left her alone?” Spike glared at Giles. “Tosser. Thought you were better than that.”
“She would have it no other way,” Giles protested.
Spike ignored his words. “I’ll get some soup organized,” he volunteered.
“I will not eat before the stares of the rivvin,” Viconia said. “They strip me with their eyes.”
“No problem,” Willow said. “We’ll get Bernard to open up one of the back rooms. Or, hey, get it sent it up to our bedroom.” She gestured to Spike, who scurried off towards the manager. Sorkatani squeezed Viconia’s shoulder gently and then departed at a fast walk to see Jaheira. Willow and Minsc escorted Viconia more slowly up the tavern stairs.
“Willow’s acting really strange these days,” Buffy complained.
Xander nodded. “I get what you mean. She’s all with spending time with her new friends and it’s like she doesn’t have time for her real friends any more. And she’s all friendly with Spike, which is just wrong.”
“No it isn’t,” Dawn said. “I think it’s great. You guys should totally be friendly with Spike too.”
Buffy opened her mouth but Xander spoke first. Buffy closed her mouth and whatever she would have said was lost.
“He’s a vampire, Dawn,” Xander said. “Vampires equal badness. That’s all there is to it. With the chip working he can be tolerable sometimes but that’s all. Without the chip he just can’t be trusted. Being friends with him is just stupid.”
Dawn gave a classic eye-roll and pout combination. “You were okay with letting Spike look after me all summer whenever you wanted to do something else,” she reminded Xander.
“He had the chip,” Xander said. “Anyway, enough about Spike. We were talking about Willow. She’s acting kinda weird, you’re right, Buff. Once we’re back home, though, she’s gonna come to her senses, I bet. She’ll be back to being the old Willow right away once she’s away from those guys.”
“You think that’s a good thing?” Tara spoke up. “Willow was losing it, Xander. She was so full of her own importance that she was getting to be a menace. She was, Xander,” she insisted, as she saw him gathering himself to make an angry retort. “Okay, she hasn’t been spending much time with us lately, but from what I’ve seen she’s really pulled her act together. She’s much more like the Willow that I fell in love with. Those guys have been good for her. Really. And that includes Spike.”
“And Viconia?” Buffy asked. “Are you saying that you’re happy about the way those two are getting so close?”
“I’d rather Willow found happiness with someone else than that she made me and her both miserable by acting the way she’d been acting,” Tara said.
Xander scratched his nose and frowned at Tara for a moment. “Well, anyway, if Giles can get us home, everything will sort itself out,” he said, relaxing into a smile. “Willow’s gotten over being a little power-trippy and she’ll be back with us and away from those other guys. You two can get back together, we can send Spike back to his crypt, and everything will be back to the way that it used to be.”
“And that’s a good thing?” Anya put in her two cents. “In case you’ve forgotten, Xander, the last thing that Buffy said before we got transported to this place was that she felt as if she was dying all the time. Things weren’t all sunshine and puppies. I was even wondering sometimes if you had doubts about our wedding.”
“Don’t be silly, Ahn,” Xander said. “You know I’m really looking forward to being married to you. Maybe not to some things about the wedding, but hey, what guy doesn’t want to get out of wedding planning? And hey, Buffy’s certainly acting much more like herself. She’s bitching some of the time but it’s, like, normal bitching. You’re feeling a lot better, Buff, am I right there?”
“You are,” Buffy admitted. “I’ve been so busy dealing with this world that I think I’ve kinda dealt with the whole ‘back from Heaven’ thing along the way without even noticing.”
“So everything’s of the good,” Xander beamed. “As long as Giles’ plan works out then maybe everything will be all sunshine and puppies after all. Hey, where did Giles go? He was here a minute ago.”
“He went to try to talk to Jaheira again,” Buffy told him. “Hey, I see him now. He’s on his way back and, going by the look on his face, I’m kinda figuring that she didn’t want to see him.” She grimaced. “Telling someone you’re leaving them is so not the way to win friends and influence people. Looks like Giles is learning that lesson.”
If you think that you might be offended or upset please stop reading this chapter here.
“You pity me,” Viconia said. “This demeans me. You know not what happened to me and still you pity me.”
“I know something bad happened,” Willow said. “I want to help. That’s all. I, well, I don’t know about pity. I just thought maybe talking about it might help. Okay, if you want to keep it to yourself, well, not gonna push you. If you want to talk, I’ll listen.”
“I also,” Sorkatani said.
“And I,” Jaheira said, her voice far softer than the tone that she habitually used when speaking to the drow girl.
“You are yet weak,” Viconia said. “I would not cause you distress, abbil. I mean elg’caress. A slip of the tongue.”
“I am bored of lying abed,” Jaheira said. “I know that you have some deep pain. If talk would ease your mind, then talk, my friend. I mean vile harlot. A slip of the tongue.”
“I guess you’ll want us blokes to bugger off,” Spike said.
“I did not say so,” Viconia replied. “We are all abbin, after all. You may listen. Yet it may be hard for me to feel my eyes upon you as I tell my tale.”
Spike moved to sit where he was not in her direct line of sight. Minsc and Yoshimo did the same.
Viconia directed her gaze towards Sorkatani and began to speak. “After we parted in Baldur’s Gate I returned to Beregost. I wore headscarf and gloves always, and if any questioned me of my origins I said that I was from Rashemen, for Dynaheir was dark of skin although browner of shade than was I. I have no doubt that some saw through my deception, but none made an issue of it. It was known that I had been of your Company, and thus the Flaming Fist bothered me not, for our campaign against the bandits had gained their favor.
“I purchased a small homestead near the town. I was no farmer, of course, but I did not wish to live in the town among the rivvin, and I thought that on a little farm I could live in peace. I grew fruit, that I could harvest without grubbing in the dirt, and for a little time I was content.
“I had a neighbor, one Ronan Midfallow. He was a burly male of ruddy countenance, a widower, who seemed cheerful and friendly in the crude manner of the rivvin. We spoke sometimes. There was labor on the farm that was too heavy for me, and I paid him in gold for assistance, and he smiled and was willing. I relaxed in his presence, and was careless with my scarf, and it seemed that he took no notice. One warm day I took off the headscarf altogether, and openly revealed myself as drow, and he did but smile. I saw in his eyes that he thought me comely and I thought little of it.
“His oldest son Jiscanan, he told me, was making a small feast and he invited me to attend. I walked with him to his farmhouse. We spoke briefly to his younger son, a surly young male named Funnard, and went on to the door. As I entered something smote me on the head and all went black.
“I awoke to pain. I was tied by my wrists and ankles, tied to a bed, and Ronan grunted and heaved above me. There was cloth crammed into my mouth. I could not scream, could cast no spells, and could only endure. He finished, and then Jiscanan took his turn, and then Funnard, while I struggled and prayed and tried to plead; but I could make no sound.”
Willow sat in horrified silence. She could think of nothing to say that would not be pitifully inadequate for the situation. All that she could do was to take hold of Viconia’s hand and hold it, trying to impart some measure of comfort through her touch, and she noticed that Jaheira was doing the same thing. Sorkatani had put her arm around Viconia’s shoulders.
“And they laughed, and gloated, rejoicing that I had been such an easy catch. I had trusted, forgetting the saying of my people ‘Trust is for the foolish’, and now I was suffering for it.
“At last they were spent and that part of my ordeal was over. Then Ronan knelt upon my arms. ‘With her gone we can gain a second farm for a song’, he said, and he closed his strong hands around my throat and squeezed.
“When I awoke again all was blackness. I was in a box. A crate, I think. I hammered at it with my hands and made no impression. Fear filled me. Yet I kept my head, for to be in darkness holds no terrors for the drow, and I spat the cloth from my mouth and cast a spell. ‘Warp Wood’. The box twisted and broke, and soil spilled down upon me, and I realized that I was buried beneath the earth. I clawed, and pushed, and dug with my hands, and at last I was free and lay gasping upon the ground.”
She ceased her tale for a moment, disengaged her hands from Jaheira and from Willow, and reached towards a goblet that held water. Sorkatani passed it to Viconia, who took a sip and then passed it back, and then Sorkatani embraced Viconia once again.
Spike spoke in a deceptively casual tone. “Where is this place Beregost, then?” Willow tore her gaze away from Viconia and saw that Spike was in game face.
“I read your intent, abbil,” Viconia said. “Know that you are too late.” Her hand went back to her side and Willow took hold of it again.
“I had no weapon," Viconia continued, “and the only spells that I had were those of healing or those that could be used to ease menial tasks, yet I was far from helpless. I watched the house of the men who had violated me. It grew dark. We were no longer in the realm of the sun-loving rivvin, but in the dark realm of the drow. I had been their prey, but now they would be mine. I would have my revenge.
“They ate, and drank, and laughed, and after a time Jiscanan emerged to use the outhouse. I wedged the door shut with a stake and then jammed a balk of wood against the door, trapping him inside, and then I set the building ablaze. His screams were sweet in my ears as I slipped aside to lurk in the shadows.
“The others ran from the house. Ronan shouted to Funnard to draw water from the well. He pulled free the wooden beam and tugged at the door, but it was still wedged, and he achieved nothing but to burn his hands. As he drew back, baffled, I came up behind him and slipped a garrote of wire around his throat. He struggled mightily, but his hands were burned, and I had my knee in his back, and he could not escape. I did not make the mistake that he had made. I pulled until there could be no doubt that he was dead.
“When Funnard returned with buckets it was to find his father dead and the outhouse collapsing in fiery ruin upon the corpse of his brother. He knelt sobbing by his father’s body. I had found a mallet, such as was used for fencing, and it was the perfect weapon with which to cave in his skull.
“I pushed the bodies as close against the outhouse as I could without burning myself and then laid more wood beside and upon the bodies, and laid burning brands upon them too. The next day I left Beregost for ever and traveled south. The rest you know.”
Willow tried to think of something to say, and failed. All she could do was to hold Viconia’s hand. It seemed that the others were equally at a loss.
It was Minsc who broke the silence. “You suffered greatly, my comrade, but endured and struck back like the hero that you are. I do not know what to say to ease your pain, but would it help if you had Boo to hold? Stroking his soft fur is calming to the troubled mind.”
Viconia gave a short and shrill laugh. “Is your answer to all problems found in that scuttling rodent? Foolish one, I am not a child to be so soothed. I – I – thank you. It was well meant.”
“Uh, you look kinda like you need to go to sleep,” Willow said. “If you, uh, I could,” she began, her intention being to offer herself as the equivalent of a living teddy bear, but then she thought that Viconia might misinterpret her offer as a sexual advance rather than as an attempt to give comfort, and the total inappropriateness of that possible interpretation brought her to a halt and caused her to flush pink. “If you, like, need anything, I’d be here,” she rephrased her offer.
“I also, abbil,” Sorkatani said.
“And I,” Jaheira added.
“Think we’d better be going,” Spike said. “This is no place for us blokes.” He shook himself and managed to return his face to its human guise.
“Indeed,” Yoshimo agreed. “Come, Minsc.”
The menfolk departed and left the women alone in the room. Viconia allowed herself to relax into Sorkatani’s embrace and returned the squeezes that Willow and Jaheira were giving to her hands.
“If he had but asked,” Viconia said, in a hollow voice. “If he had been freshly bathed, and had he smiled, and had he but asked – I would have said ‘yes’.” She slumped against Sorkatani and wept.
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.