Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT
NINE / TEN / ELEVEN / TWELVE / THIRTEEN / FOURTEEN / FIFTEEN
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 looked down at the body of a fallen Slaver mage and glared at Spike. “Did you bite him?”
“Well, yeah,” Spike admitted. “Sword got stuck in that other bloke, I’ve got a mouth full of perfectly good weapons, seemed bloody stupid not to use them.”
“Did you drink?” Buffy demanded.
Spike cocked his head to one side and ran his tongue over his teeth. “Bit of a personal question that, innit? ‘Do you spit or swallow?’ Want to answer the same question, Slayer?”
Buffy’s glare reached an intensity that seemed to require a vocal accompaniment of ‘No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die’. “That’s something you’re never going to find out, Spike.” She blushed deep pink as she heard a ripple of laughter from Willow, Tara, Anya, and Viconia, a suppressed snort from Giles, and a horrified squawk from Xander.
“What are you talking about, Buffy?” Dawn asked, assuming the most innocent voice that she could summon up. “Is it something about kissing?”
Buffy didn’t see the malicious gleam in Dawn’s eyes and her blush deepened to crimson. “Dawnie! Cover your ears!” she squeaked. “Spike, I am so going to kick your ass!”
“I too am confused,” Sorkatani said.
Spike lowered his head. “A vulgar joke, jabbress. It was inappropriate for the company. I am sorry.”
“I shall explain later, abbil,” Viconia offered.
“Such an explanation would be better from me,” Jaheira said.
“And could you explain it to me?” Dawn asked sweetly and innocently.
“Don’t you dare!” Buffy snapped.
“Not for your ears, Nibblet,” Spike said. “Shouldn’t have said it. Sorry.” His body language conveyed the distinct impression that he too would be blushing if his vampire physiology hadn’t made that reaction impossible.
Dawn decided that she’d taken her game of winding Buffy up about as far as was safe without risking triggering conflict between Buffy and Spike. “Like I’d be interested,” she drawled, and rolled her eyes. “Stupid vampire stuff.”
Buffy relaxed and she returned to her original point. “Well? Did you drink from him?”
“Yes I did, Slayer,” Spike said. “Not bloody ashamed of it either.”
“Spike killed him in defense of himself and his comrades,” Sorkatani said. “The man was evil beyond question, a trafficker in human misery, and you yourself spoke out urging that we mount this attack. What does it matter that he used fangs rather than a sword?”
“He’s a vampire,” Buffy said. “I can’t let him feed from people. Hey, I bet he let his sword get stuck so that he’d have an excuse.”
“Oh, yeah, that’d be sodding brilliant of me,” Spike said. “I’m in a cloud of poison gas fighting five blokes at once. Okay, yeah, they’re choking on it and I’m not, but nobody else can come in to help me. Your lot are at one exit, Tani’s at the other, so they can’t make a run for it, and they’re trying to take me down with them. Just the time when I’m going to toss away my weapon so I can carry out my evil plan.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you, Spike,” Buffy said.
“I do think that Spike deserves the benefit of the doubt in this case, Buffy,” Giles said.
“Okay. Fine.” Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared at everyone indiscriminately. “I’ll shut up. But if he goes on a rampage, and starts eating innocent people, don’t anyone dare blame me.”
“If such a thing happened the blame would be mine,” Sorkatani said. “Spike is in my party, not yours. But it will not happen. I trust Spike.”
“Then you’re an idiot,” Xander put in.
“Hey!” Willow snapped. “You keep out of this, Xander. And don’t you insult Sorkatani.”
“Vith’os!” Viconia growled, the venom in her voice leaving no doubt that the drow words were no compliment. “You are not worthy to touch the hem of Sorkatani’s robe, rivvil.”
Xander ignored the drow and stared at Willow. “You’re siding with them against your friends?”
“I’m siding with the friends who are being rational against the friends who are acting like assholes,” Willow said. “And hey, that’s just you and Buffy.”
“Xander, you’re not helping,” Buffy said. “Look, maybe I was out of line. You’re right, Sorkatani, it’s not my business. Maybe we should all kinda calm down. We worked together pretty good on this thing and it would make all kinds of sense to keep working together. Not going to happen if we can’t get together without fighting. If Sorkatani trusts Spike, well, that’s her business. I won’t interfere with her again.”
Spike opened his mouth, saw Sorkatani give him a hard stare, and shut it again with his intended retort unsaid.
“Thank you, Buffy,” Sorkatani said. “In that case we shall have no quarrel, you and I, and can work together. Sisters in arms. You will, then, come with me to the De’Arnise holding and then on to the Umar Hills?”
“Yeah, sure,” Buffy said. “No reason not to, now that the Slavers are finished.”
Anya had been occupying herself rummaging through papers on a desk. She held one aloft. “I don’t want to rain on your parade, Buffy, but they’re not,” she announced. “This is just an outpost. Their HQ is somewhere else.”
The two combined parties would have resembled a small army if they had traveled through the Temple District as a single group, and no doubt would have attracted a great deal of attention, and therefore they made their separate ways to the Slaver headquarters and assembled outside. Their numerical strength was further disguised by four of them being invisible.
“Everybody sure this is the right place?” Buffy asked. The building was a large and opulent mansion that could easily have passed for the premises of one of the major churches. “If we’re wrong we are going to be in just so much trouble.”
“Absolutely positive,” Anya said confidently. Her voice came from an apparently empty space.
“There really can’t be any doubt, Buffy,” Giles confirmed.
“Okay, let’s do this.” Buffy looked at the door. “It feels kinda silly just knocking, but hey, what else can we do?” She thumped the door with the pommel of her sword. “Wilderness Girls,” she called. They waited for several minutes but no-one answered. “Think they’re out?” Buffy wondered.
Spike tried the handle. “Door’s open.” He wondered if this would count as a private house, and if he would hit an invisible barrier if he tried to enter, which would be bloody frustrating. He extended his hand and found that it passed the threshold without encountering any obstacle. The invite rule was not barring his entry on this occasion.
“I don’t think they’d mind if we wait inside,” Giles said, for the benefit of the few passers-by. No-one paid any attention and the whole body filed into the building.
The main hall of the building was floored with marble and laid with intricately patterned rugs. Tables and chairs decorated with intricate carving furnished the room and twin staircases rose from the other side of the hall.
The room wasn’t unoccupied after all. A slim man in the robes of a wizard stood beside one of the tables, and a woman clad in breeches and leather armor stood at his side. “I say, riffraff,” the man drawled, “did the fact that no-one answered the door not indicate to your slow minds that we did not wish to be disturbed?”
“We’re selling Wilderness Girl cookies,” Buffy said. “Special ten per cent discount to people involved in the slave trade. I hear you qualify.”
“Ridiculous,” the man sneered. “Cease this unwarranted invasion and depart before I take action to punish you for your insolence.”
“Perhaps an Ice Storm trap on the door next time, Sion?” the woman suggested.
“Less talk, more swords!” Minsc boomed out. “Evil Slavers, prepare to have your butts kicked most mightily!”
The man laughed. “Your idea has merit, Ketta, but I think that my existing precautions should suffice. You wish to kick butts, loud one? I shall provide you with some.” He waved his arm. Two arrows and the throwing axe Azuredge hurtled towards him only to pass harmlessly through empty space as the two figures vanished.
“I hate it when they do that,” Xander muttered. He caught Azuredge as it returned to his hand.
“Okay, people, slow advance,” Buffy ordered. “Check out every inch for traps. I don’t know what an Ice Storm is, but it doesn’t sound nice.”
The air in front of the party shimmered. A circle of fire formed and a mob of monstrous creatures spilled out into the room.
And began fighting amongst themselves.
“Hold your fire,” Buffy ordered.
“Let no-one loose shaft,” Sorkatani commanded her group. “Let these creatures destroy each other.”
“That Sion bloke must be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic,” Spike commented. “Unless he expects us to laugh ourselves to death.”
The adventurers stood patiently while the group of monsters raged in internecine conflict. Eventually only two remained, a genie and a winged and horned demon.
“Kinda like a balrog,” Buffy remarked, “only with four arms.”
“A glabrezu,” Sorkatani identified it, “I think. I have seen only pictures before. A denizen of the Lower Planes. Perhaps not as powerful as Aec’Letec, who we fought at Ulgoth’s Beard, but still very dangerous.”
“More dangerous than the genie?” Buffy asked.
The glabrezu answered that question for her quite emphatically by tearing the genie’s head from its shoulders. The victorious demon turned towards the adventurers and was immediately hit by a shower of missiles.
Buffy and Sorkatani leapt forward to engage the creature. Sorkatani’s blade glanced from its hide; Buffy rammed the Blade of Roses deep into its heart and it collapsed.
“I still lack a weapon with sufficient enchantment to slay such fell beasts,” Sorkatani muttered, looking at her katana with dissatisfaction evident in her expression.
“Well, maybe next time Willow takes you shopping, you should call in somewhere that sells swords instead of hats,” Buffy suggested.
Sorkatani was oblivious to the barb hidden in Buffy’s words. “I lacked funds for such a blade,” she said. “Yet there is surely treasure enough here, if we prevail. Let us press on.”
The party explored the ground floor and found no more occupants either human or demonic. They approached the staircases cautiously. Buffy’s group took the right hand stair, Sorkatani’s took the left, and they ascended.
Five figures awaited them in the upper main hall; the mage who had spoken to them downstairs, an armored man wielding a mace; an Oriental warrior who held two katanas; and two massive creatures in magnificent suits of armor that reminded Giles of the examples of Henry VIII’s armor on display at the Tower of London. One was a minotaur, who was swinging a mighty axe with nonchalant ease, and the other was an unfamiliar species of humanoid wielding an equally formidable two-handed sword.
“Showtime!” Buffy called.
“Traps!” Dawn, Anya, and Yoshimo yelled simultaneously.
“I see them,” Spike said. He leaped over a pressure pad, ducked under a chest-high tripwire, and sidestepped past a magical sigil. He charged at the mage but the minotaur strode to intercept him and blocked his progress with a swing of its axe.
Spells of Confusion were chanted and fizzled out as the countermeasures on each side neutralized them. Arrows and sling bullets hissed through the air. Viconia tossed a fragment of bone to the ground. “Valsharess zhah ulu z'hin doed lil!” she cried. The bone transformed into an animated skeleton, wielding a halberd, and she sent it forward to clear a path through the traps.
“I can see clearly now the rain has gone,” Giles sang. “I can see all obstacles in my way.” He saw the traps come into view, glowing red lines marking where a careless footstep would trigger dire consequences, and he saw where Dawn and Anya were working to deactivate them under the cover of Invisibility spells. He also saw someone else; the woman from downstairs, Ketta, was in their midst and had a short sword poised at Buffy’s back. “Buffy, behind you!” he yelled.
The Slayer spun around. The sword thrust sliced a shallow gash across her side instead of piercing a kidney. Ketta became visible as her attack broke an Invisibility spell and Buffy lashed out at her with the Blade of Roses. Xander caught Azuredge, as it returned to his hand after an unsuccessful throw at the mage, and hit Ketta across the back of the neck. The collar of her enchanted leather armor absorbed the blow and Ketta was only dazed instead of killed. Her combat reflexes were so finely honed that she was still able to bring up her short sword to block Buffy’s slash. Buffy kicked her over the balustrade and sent her tumbling down the stairs.
Willow’s Invisibility ended as she launched an offensive spell that sent a cloud of poisonous vapor billowing over the area of the room in which Spike was fighting. The armored man spoke a word of command and dispelled it before Spike could take advantage. Sion the mage retaliated with a similar cloud centered upon Willow. Jaheira summoned a breeze of sweet-smelling fresh air and the cloud dispersed.
Tara cast a spell of Doom upon the enemy priest, filling him with feelings of dread and of doubt in his own abilities. He retreated a few steps and cast down fragments of bone and dried skin. A pair of zombies rose up to serve as his protectors.
Spike was holding his own against the minotaur, using his superior speed and agility to offset its advantages in armor and sheer mass, but the Slavers’ samurai warrior joined the fight. The man from Kara-Tur raised a shining katana, its hilt richly decorated with red lacquer and gold, and brought it down in a deadly strike. Spike swung up his sword to block the blow. As the blades clashed the katana crackled with energy. An electrical shock ran through Spike’s sword and into his hand. He yelped and dropped the sword. The samurai grinned and brought his second katana around in a horizontal cut. Spike jumped back and almost ran into the minotaur’s swinging axe. The two fighters had him trapped between them and Spike was in a perilous position.
Xander hefted Azuredge and looked at Spike. The axe carried powerful enchantments against the Undead. Even a glancing blow could kill, return them to the dust that was their rightful form, and a solid hit would definitely do so. It would be so easy for a throw to go slightly astray. A friendly fire incident that no-one could ever suspect had been deliberate. He drew back his arm and threw with all the power his arm could muster and with his entire mind focused on the need for accuracy.
Ketta clambered to her feet at the bottom of the stairs, gulped down a potion of healing, and then swallowed another potion of Invisibility. She crept back up the stairs and was confronted by Giles. He could see her plainly, and he struck out at her with his quarterstaff, keeping her at bay.
Sion conjured up a pair of giant spiders. They advanced toward the invisible Anya and Dawn. Willow opened a bag and a swarm of knives rose into the air and hurtled towards the spiders. One of the giant arachnids was cut to pieces by the storm of blades and rolled onto its back in death; the other was injured but limped onwards. Anya drew a blade to defend herself and flickered into visibility as she struck out.
Viconia’s skeleton servant set off a trap and a shower of sticky liquid poured down upon it from the ceiling. In seconds the liquid set solid and froze the skeleton in its tracks. A few feet away Yoshimo snipped through a tripwire. “All clear, jabbress,” he announced.
At the same time Dawn deactivated the last of the traps at Buffy’s side of the room. “Safe now, Buffy,” Dawn shouted.
The minotaur bellowed in agony as Azuredge bit deep into the back of its head, exactly where Xander had aimed it.
“Charge!” Sorkatani ordered.
“Go, go, go!” Buffy yelled.
“Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!” Minsc roared. He dropped his bow, pulled a two-handed sword from the scabbard on his back, and charged forward to the aid of Spike. The wounded minotaur quaffed a healing potion and moved to meet his rush.
Sorkatani rushed at Sion the mage. The mighty armored humanoid jumped to intercept her and whirled its two-handed sword like a baseball bat. Buffy charged in to attack the monster from the flank.
Viconia, Jaheira, and Yoshimo made for the enemy priest. The zombies lurched to his defense. The two girls dealt with them while Yoshimo slipped past and attacked the cleric. His katana glanced harmlessly from the armor and Yoshimo popped into visibility. The cleric struck back with his mace but the doubts from the Doom spell distracted him and his blow went wide as he allowed for a non-existent dodge.
Tara descended the stairs and joined Giles in battling Ketta. Dawn and Anya killed the remaining giant spider. Willow and Sion exchanged Magic Missiles and each cried out in pain as the bolts struck.
Spike caught hold of the samurai’s right wrist and immobilized the arm wielding the superior katana. A second later he repeated the move and pinioned the other arm. The samurai drove his head forward in a butt aimed at Spike’s face. Spike ducked down and took the blow on his forehead. The samurai came off worst and reeled. Spike went into game face, lunged, and his fangs sank home into the Oriental warrior’s throat.
Xander drew the Sword of Chaos and joined Minsc in fighting the minotaur.
The mighty creature fighting Buffy and Sorkatani was strong, fast, and skillful. Against the Slayer and the Perfect Warrior, however, it was overmatched. Sorkatani dropped low and thrust up with her katana at the monstrous being’s groin. Buffy jumped high into the air and brought the Blade of Roses down on its head. It staggered under their blows and they hit it again.
Tara stunned Ketta and Giles struck a finishing blow. The female assassin fell, rolled down the stairs, and lay with her eyes staring sightlessly up at the ceiling.
Dawn and Anya opened fire with their crossbows at Sion.
Jaheira and Viconia finished off the zombies and joined Yoshimo in his attack upon the Slaver priest.
Minsc and Xander slew the minotaur.
Willow fired off the last offensive spell in her repertoire and stripped Sion of all his magical protections. Two crossbow bolts hit him in the chest and he fell to his knees.
Buffy swept the legs out from under the mighty humanoid and brought it crashing to the floor. Its helm fell from its head and rolled away. It scrambled up to its hands and knees. Sorkatani brought down her katana in a two-handed executioner’s strike. The creature’s head came off and rolled after the helmet.
The priest was brought down by a blow from the Flail of Ages. Yoshimo cut his throat.
Spike tossed the limp body of the samurai aside and resumed his human face. He scooped up the beautiful katana and pulled its elaborately decorated scabbard from the samurai’s belt.
“Wow,” Xander grinned. “We won.”
“Looks like,” Dawn grinned back. “Yay us!”
Spike strode to where Sorkatani and Buffy were cleaning their blades. He knelt before Sorkatani and held up the katana. “A blade worthy of you, jabbress.”
Buffy stared open-mouthed. She felt a sudden flare of jealousy. It should be her that Spike was presenting with that trophy, not some wannabe Slayer who they’d only known for a couple of weeks. And hey, what was with Spike being all noble and unselfish anyway?
“I thank you, abbil, but you won the blade in fair fight,” Sorkatani said. “You have first claim upon it.”
“Thanks, but I owe you one already, Tani,” Spike said, shaking his head. “I’ve got this, thanks to you.” He took one of his hands away from the katana and tapped the Armor of Deep Night. “Anyway, this is part of your cultural heritage, innit?”
Sorkatani bowed to him and accepted the weapon. She held the scabbard up in front of her eyes and read the ideographs written there in letters of gold. “Celestial Fury”, she read. “I have heard of this blade. Once carried by the personal bodyguard of the Emperor. I hope I am worthy of such a weapon.”
“’Course you are, Tani,” Spike grinned. “Take it, and, like Minsc would say, give the butts of Evil a good kicking.”
“Hey, Evil Dead,” Xander said. “What do I get for saving your life back there?”
Spike stood up and looked at Xander. “Tell you what, Whelp,” he said. “When we’re back at the Copper Coronet I’ll buy you a pint.”
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. The extract from the lyrics of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ by Johnny Nash is used without permission and with no intent to profit from the use.