Happy Birthday to psubrat
Here’s Chapter Eighteen of my BtVS/Baldur’s Gate 2 crossover ‘Tabula Avatar’. Lots of spoilers for BG2. 3,840 words. Rating R.
Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT / NINE / TEN
ELEVEN / TWELVE / THIRTEEN / FOURTEEN / FIFTEEN / SIXTEEN / SEVENTEEN
Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken and something else happens to it instead. Events bearing some similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum are taking place simultaneously with this story, but off-screen.
Tara rose from her bed and took a step towards where Willow lay sound asleep. Tara’s lips curled back from her teeth in a mirthless grin. She opened her hands and reached out towards Willow’s throat.
Jaheira stirred in her sleep. “Khalid,” she muttered. “I am sorry.”
Two beds away the Perfect Warrior shot bolt upright. She had Celestial Fury’s scabbard in her left hand, her thumb poised against the katana’s crossguard ready to push it forwards, and her right hand blurred across her body and took hold of the hilt.
Tara recoiled, hastily lowered her arms, and opened her mouth and eyes wide in an expression of shocked surprise. She sidestepped quickly away from Willow’s bed.
“Who goes there?” Sorkatani snapped, eyes still blurry with sleep, and then her vision cleared. “Tara? Did I alarm you? I am sorry. I sleep lightly and I seemed to sense danger.” She took her right hand away from the hilt of Celestial Fury.
“Uh, yeah, you did alarm me,” Tara said. “I was uh, just going to use the privy.”
“Of course,” Sorkatani said. She slid the katana back under her bedclothes. “You are learning our speech at last, Tara.”
Tara’s eyes opened wider. “Huh?”
“Privy rather than bathroom. No confusion,” Sorkatani said.
“Hey, keep it down,” Buffy grunted from under her blankets. “Trying to sleep here.”
“Uh, sorry,” Tara said. “Sorry I troubled you.” She walked quietly away towards the garderobe, where a privy projected out over the castle’s moat. There, out of sight, she allowed her face to return to its real almost featureless form and punched the wall in frustration.
Her knuckles left dents in the stone.
“You what?” Warren glared at Jonathan. “How could you be so dumb?”
“Hey, dude, it’s not my fault,” Jonathan defended himself, although he was uncomfortably aware that he had indeed been careless. “You kept going on about wanting the material for the mod as soon as possible. You need saves to get it. So I saved. I thought they were all okay. They were talking about getting horses. How was I to know she wasn’t there? There are too many of them to see all the pictures at once.”
“Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit.” Warren gritted his teeth. “Couldn’t you have renamed it? Then we’d still have the original. She might be dead, man. They can’t raise her without the body.”
“It’s not my fault,” Jonathan repeated.
“Hey, what about the Autosave?” Warren suggested. His worried expression faded slightly.
“No good, man,” Jonathan said. “The last Autosave was when they left the Copper Coronet. Whatever happened, it happened before that. Maybe when they were split up some time, maybe while they were sleeping.”
“What’s happening, dudes?” Andrew wandered in and joined them at the computer. “Why the long faces?”
“Tara’s been replaced by a doppelganger,” Warren explained, “and shit-for-brains here saved over the last good save. She’s gone and we can’t get her back.”
“There’s a save in Shared Docs,” Andrew reminded him. “Chill out, dude, all you’ve lost is what they did while we were bowling.”
“And overnight,” Jonathan said. “I left it running.”
“So? It’s not like we saw what happened.” Andrew shrugged. “Hey, dudes, I’ve managed to get a rough draft of the story done. Want to check it out?”
Warren’s mouth was still turned down. He stared at his feet. “I kinda used up the networked save,” he admitted. “I ripped the code out of it and then I deleted it.”
“Oh.” Jonathan frowned and then turned a glare on Warren. “So you deleted it. Who’s shit-for-brains now, Warren?”
“Cool it, dudes,” Andrew said. “What about the last Quick-Save?”
“Hey, yeah.” Warren smiled for the first time since they had seen the message about the doppelganger. “We’re okay. Nothing lost but time. When was the last Quick-Save?”
Jonathan bit his lip. “Way, way, back. I haven’t been doing them much. You need full saves for editing so that’s what I’ve been doing, mostly. Uh, the last Quick-Save will be back about the time that, well, it was when we were watching the girls in the bath.”
“Bummer.” Warren frowned and stroked his chin. “Oh, well, at least we can watch them all over again. Hey, tell you what, short stuff. Load the Quick-Save, save it under a new name, and we’ll keep it as a back-up, and then carry on from here. Maybe they can get Tara back and everything will be okay, but if they can’t we’ll reload the other one and go through it all again. It means longer before they set off for Spellhold, and until they can give me the stuff I need for super-detailing the ships, but I can live with that. Make it so.”
“Sure thing,” Jonathan said cheerfully. He quit the current game, making use of the ‘Save before quitting’ option as he did so, and went to load the Quicksave.
“Okay, problem solved,” Warren said, and rubbed his hands together. “So, let’s take a look at your pirate storyline.” He went with Andrew back to the table, where the soggy remnants of his cereal formed a sad muddy mess at the bottom of his plate, and sat down.
“Uh-oh.” Jonathan stared in dismay at his screen. “Oh, shit!”
“What is it now?” Warren stood up again.
“I fucked up. Oh, shit, man, I’m sorry.” Jonathan had gone pale and seemed to be on the verge of crying.
“What is it?” Warren repeated. He rushed back over to the PC. “What dumbass thing have you done now?”
“I guess I was panicking too much to think straight,” Jonathan said. “I got kinda muddled. I’m sorry, okay?”
“Okay, you’re sorry, I get that. But what have you done, man? Just tell me!”
“When I quit the game I saved, right, pretty much by reflex. But I guess I was thinking too much about the Quick-Save. I overwrote it.”
“You total klutz!” Warren groaned. “How could you do that?”
“I got confused.” Jonathan hunched his shoulders and retracted his head between them like a turtle retreating into its shell. “Come on, man, everybody makes mistakes.”
Warren heaved a deep sigh. “Okay, okay, dude, I’m not going to eat you. You fucked up. It happens.” He shook his head slowly from side to side. “Man, I hope Tara’s okay.”
Andrew had found Warren’s graphic novel and had started to read it. “What’s the big deal? She’s just, like, a character in a game. The real Tara’s out thataway.” He waved his hand in what he believed was the direction of UC Sunnydale, although in fact his sense of direction was somewhat confused, and he was out by forty-five degrees. “Okay, so now she can’t get her memory back, but I don’t think she wants it anyway. They’re all kinda, well, settled the way they are.”
Warren speeded up his head-shaking. “It doesn’t seem that way, dude. The guys in the game, well, they’re real. It’s like they’re different people to the ones who have, well, bodies. But they’re still people. Hell, even the game characters are pretty much people now. If Tara’s dead in the game it feels like,” he stopped shaking his head and clenched his teeth tightly, “man, it really is like she’s dead. And if we could have saved her if we hadn’t fucked up, it’s like we’re responsible.”
“Chill, man,” Andrew said. “You didn’t do anything. It was the game, not you. And hey, dude, you’ve pretty much lost control of the characters anyway. I don’t know if reloading a save would even help. It might just happen exactly the same way all over again.”
“He’s right,” Jonathan said, seeing a way to lessen his guilt. “They’re on their own in there now, pretty much, and we can’t do a whole lot to help them out when it gets tough.”
Warren walked away from the computer and picked up his cup of coffee. He took a drink and grimaced as he realized that it was tepid. “When I came up with the plan to stick them in there,” he said, “it was pretty much just to mess with Buffy. Run them through the game for a while and then stick them back in their own bodies. Keep them out of the way while we did a few things, get Buffy really confused, you know? I never figured on getting this caught up in it. Or on getting to know the, uh, the versions who’ve got actual bodies.”
“Yeah. I, well, I like them better than the originals,” Jonathan agreed. “Although Joan’s pretty weird. But nice.”
“Randy the Vampyr with a Soul isn’t as cool as Spike,” Andrew commented, with a tinge of dissatisfaction in his tone.
“Hey, Randy not being as scary as Spike is a good thing,” Warren said. “I was thinking of asking him to do some of the voice acting for the pirate game. I’d never have dared ask Spike.”
Andrew’s face lit up. “Oh, yeah. That would be so cool. He’s got, like, two voices, you know, the ‘wotcher guv’ one and the ‘I say, my good chap’ one. That would be just so right for the hero and the, like, Royal Navy guy.”
“Is there a Governor of Jamaica in the game?” Jonathan asked. “Hey, Rupert would totally be great for that.”
“Yeah. We’d still have to pay them something but not, like, the same as we’d have to pay professionals. A hundred bucks each, maybe?”
“We can ask, anyway,” Jonathan agreed. “Hey, I know who else we could ask. Holden Webster. I saw him around over Thanksgiving and he’ll be back for the Holidays soon.”
“He did the lighting at the school play,” Andrew said. “He’s good with voices. Only, he might still be mad with me if he knows it was me that messed everything up with the flying monkeys.”
“Nobody knows it was you, dude,” Jonathan said. “Everyone thinks that it was Tucker.”
“Yeah.” Andrew pouted. “Hey, I could do some of the voices myself, dudes.”
“Well, yeah,” Warren said, “the more we do ourselves, the less cash we have to shell out to other guys. But stick to the minor guys like the pirate crew, dude. No messing up the important roles with dumb voices.”
Andrew pouted again. “I can do it.”
“You can be, like, third guy with cutlass, the parrot, that kind of shit. No way are you going to be the Governor’s daughter.”
“Okay, if you say so,” Andrew moaned. “Are you going to take a look at the story?”
“Yeah, sure,” Warren said, with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “I might as well. There’s nothing that we can do about Tara, I guess, so we’ll just have to leave it up to Buffy and Sorkatani. They’re bound to spot that there’s something wrong soon. Hey, didn’t Spike say that he could smell doppelgangers? Back when they were in Irenicus’ dungeon?”
“I think she’s been staying away from him,” Jonathan said. “Maybe I can use Yoshimo to steer him close to her. I think I can still get him to respond to the controls. Let’s see where they are now. Uh-oh. Oh shit.”
“I’m getting kinda sick of hearing you say ‘oh shit’ every time you look at the damn screen, Short Round,” Warren complained. “What’s gone wrong now?”
“Jaheira’s gone off on her Harper’s Hold thing,” Jonathan said. “Pretty much on schedule. Only, the doppelganger’s gone with her. And Jaheira thinks it’s Tara.”
“It seems that this place shall be a drain on my purse rather than a source of income,” Sorkatani moaned. “I am out of pocket by a thousand danter.”
“I have no sympathy for you, abbil,” Viconia said. “You chose to buy up the debts of the pathetic unwashed rivvin. You should have let the merchant evict them from their miserable hovels.”
“I promised Nalia that I would care for the people of this holding,” Sorkatani said, “and I shall do so. Money is nothing set against my word.”
Viconia rolled her eyes. “You have listened over much to the treehugger.”
“Jaheira’s words are full of wisdom, if a trifle overly cynical at times,” Sorkatani said, and smiled at Viconia. “You know this.”
“Hey, I think it was a real good thing that you did,” Buffy put in. “If the money’s a problem, hey, I don’t mind chipping in with some to help you out.”
“Me neither,” Spike added quickly. He gave Buffy a dirty look, and it was fairly obvious that he resented her making the suggestion ahead of him.
“My funds are yours, of course, my lady,” Yoshimo offered.
“A mere eighty danter from each of us would suffice to cover it,” Giles pointed out. “I doubt if anyone would mind making a contribution.”
“Seventy-six danter, ninety-two fandar,” Anya corrected him. “So, it’s closer to seventy-five than to eighty.”
Giles raised his eyes heavenwards. “Yes, quite, Anya. You are, as always, precisely correct.”
“There is no need,” Sorkatani assured them. “Thank you for the kind offers, but I give a tithe of my wealth to the poor anyway. I shall merely count this as my tithing for a little while.”
“Foolish one,” Viconia grumbled. “I shall keep all my money for myself. After all, hats do not grow on trees.”
“Uh, maybe they do,” Willow pointed out, “’cause hello, flowers. And feathers, which you get from birds, and they nest in trees, you know? And, I’ll just shut up now, ‘kay?”
“The morning is lost to us now,” Sorkatani said. “Let us eat our midday meal and then ride for Imnesvale.”
“My head says ‘good plan’,” Buffy agreed. “My butt, not so much.”
“You will get used to it,” Sorkatani said. “I shall have us served with food.” She summoned the butler, Metigo, and gave him orders.
“There will not be thirteen, Lady Sorkatani,” Metigo told her. “Your, ah, comrade, the Lady Jaheira, has departed.”
“What?” Sorkatani frowned. “Jaheira gone? When?”
“A messenger came seeking her in the early morn,” the butler explained. “He took her aside as you were speaking to the Major-Domo, your Ladyship, and she departed not long afterwards. She left this note with me to pass on to you.”
“And you just give it to me now?” Sorkatani glared at him.
“My apologies, Lady Sorkatani,” Metigo said, “but she was most insistent that I delay as long as possible before I passed on the note.”
“Uh, your Ladyship,” a maid piped up, and raised her hand. “May I speak, your Ladyship?”
“Of course you may,” Sorkatani said. “There is no need to ask permission, girl. I do not stand on ceremony.”
“Sorkatani stands only on the shattered skulls of Evil,” Minsc proclaimed.
Sorkatani winced. “Speak up anyway, girl. Tell me your name first.”
“I am Talia,” the maid said. “I have a message too, your Ladyship, from the Lady Tara. She said to tell you that she’d gone with the Lady Jaheira and not to worry about her.”
“What? Tara wouldn’t go without telling me!” Willow’s forehead creased. “Uh, she wouldn’t, would she?” She turned to Sorkatani. “So, what does the note say?”
“Wait, please, give me time to read it.” Sorkatani’s brow furrowed as she read. “Jaheira has been summoned to attend a meeting at the Harper Hold. She bids me continue without her and says that, with luck, she will be free by the time that we have rescued the villagers from their oppressors and we can then meet her there. The meeting itself is only for Harpers, and we would be excluded, therefore there is no point in us going with her.”
“Harpers?” Giles asked. “Who are they?”
“A society of those who work for the Balance,” Sorkatani explained. “They strive for justice, but not so much that there is tyranny, and freedom, but not so much that all dissolves into chaos. A worthy cause, I deem. Jaheira is a Harper, as was Khalid. It is not a secret society as such, but not public either, and those who are members do not lightly discuss their doings. Although, the head of the Harper Hold in Athkatla is more ostentatious than is their custom.”
“So what’s Tara doing going too?” Willow asked. “That kinda doesn’t make sense.”
“She said there was somebody in the city she wanted to see, your Ladyship,” Talia the maid said. “Someone who had sent her flowers.”
“And she told me there was no sparkage!” Buffy exclaimed. “Huh. I thought Tara was kinda more up-front about things than that. Well, at least since she thought she was a demon and did that spell to lie to us, anyway.”
“Tara wouldn’t do that,” Willow said again. Her lips quivered. “She wouldn’t.”
“How long have they been gone?” Sorkatani asked Metigo.
“An hour and, perhaps, half of an hour, your Ladyship,” he replied.
Sorkatani’s lips tightened. “With that start we could not catch them before they reached Athkatla. Not unless I, or Spike or Giles, rode out alone.”
“I guess Tara’s got a right to do what she wants,” Willow said miserably. “We’re on a break anyway. It just doesn’t seem like her. Unless, well, I guess she wanted to see Jaheira back to town safely. And maybe, uh, I guess I can see what she might have been doing. Only, I think it’s kinda dumb of her.”
“So, do we go after them?”
“I would say not,” Sorkatani said. “Buffy may say otherwise, but I shall go on to the Umar Hills and seek out Jaheira and Tara on our return.”
“I’d go along with that,” Buffy said. “Only, are you sure Tara will be all right?”
“Jaheira is a druid, truly at home in the wilderness,” Sorkatani assured her. “Tara shall come to no harm in her company.”
The weather was not as sunny and pleasant as it had been the previous day. A light drizzle was falling and a strong breeze blew it into the faces of the riders.
“Your company is not welcome, Tara,” Jaheira said, not for the first time. “Go back. Rejoin your friends. If you desire to join the Harpers then you can do so another time. And at another Hold, I would say, for I have no liking for Galvarey who is in charge in Athkatla.”
“I don’t care,” Tara said. “I wish to be away from Willow and I shall return to Athkatla whether you will have it so or not.”
“As you wish, then,” Jaheira said. She fell silent and rode onwards. Tara guided her horse gradually closer to the druid as they rode.
Jaheira cocked her head to one side. “Horses,” she commented. She turned in the saddle and stared behind her. “Riders, following us. Perhaps your comrades are not as willing to let you leave as you would have had me believe.”
Tara glanced behind her, kicked her feet from her stirrups, and launched herself from her horse in a dive at Jaheira. She caught the druid across the body and knocked her from her horse. Jaheira barely managed to free her own feet from the stirrups as she fell.
The two women landed on the ground and rolled. Jaheira freed herself from the other girl and rolled further away to gain some space before coming to a halt and standing up. “What are you doing, fool?” she demanded. Her hand went to her scimitar.
Tara stood up too. Or rather another Jaheira stood up. “Your time has come, anthropoid,” she hissed.
“Doppelganger!” Jaheira exclaimed. “What have you done with the real Tara?” She drew her scimitar. Before it was all the way out of the scabbard the doppelganger charged forward and kicked out. The scimitar flew from Jaheira’s hand.
“You are helpless, simian,” the doppelganger taunted as Jaheira backed away hastily.
“Hardly,” Jaheira said. She gestured with her hand, drawing a line downwards through the air, and spoke commandingly. “Russe tuulo' moriloomir!”
Nothing seemed to happen. “Your spell has failed, druid,” the doppelganger sneered mockingly. “Now you die.”
“No,” Jaheira said. “Now you die.” A bolt of lightning seared down from the sky and struck the doppelganger. It screamed and writhed in agony. A potion bottle in a belt pouch exploded. The doppelganger fell to the ground and lay twitching.
Jaheira ran to her fallen scimitar and scooped it from the ground. “Now, vile creature, tell me what you have done to Tara,” she demanded. She lowered the point of the scimitar to the doppelganger’s throat.
The doppelganger sucked in a deep and labored breath. “Ask Bodhi,” it croaked out. “Perhaps she can tell you, if it amuses her.”
“Bodhi?” Jaheira frowned. “Who is she? Tell me!”
“To betray my master would cost me more pain than you could give, anthropoid,” the doppelganger said. “I shall tell you no more.” It lunged forward without warning and impaled its own throat upon the blade. Jaheira was expecting quite a different move and did not react in time. The doppelganger spasmed in death and slumped to the damp earth.
Jaheira cursed. She kicked the body in frustration and then began stripping it of the Mail of the Dead that belonged to the real Tara. With that grim task finished she caught the horses, loaded Tara’s with the chain mail and other personal possessions, and then mounted up and turned her horse back towards the De’Arnise hold.
The pair of approaching riders, a man and a woman, intercepted her before she had gone a mile. “Hold, Jaheira,” the man addressed her. “You were summoned to the Harper Hold. Galvarey has commanded your presence. You go the wrong way. Turn around.”
“I have no time for this, Kail,” Jaheira snapped. “A friend is in deadly peril. I shall attend the Harpers when she is safe. Tell Galvarey that.”
“You fail to understand, Jaheira,” Kail said. He leveled a crossbow at the druid. “Attendance is not merely required, it is mandatory. Turn around or I shall place you under arrest.”
Jaheira turned an accusing gaze on the other Harper. “What say you, Meronia? Do you back Kail in his blind and stupid obedience to orders?”
“Galvarey has given us specific instructions,” Meronia said. There was no enthusiasm in her voice and she avoided meeting Jaheira’s eyes. “You have to come or you will be expelled from the Harpers and posted as outlaw. I’m sure he will send someone to aid your friend once he knows the situation.”
“He had better,” Jaheira growled. “Very well, it seems that I have no choice. But I warn you that if Tara is dead it will go hard upon you, I shall see to that.”
Tara opened her eyes. Her mouth tasted foul, her vision was blurred, and her bladder was full to the point of pain. “Where am I?” she groaned.
“Ah, you are awake,” a voice boomed out. It was loud, so loud that it almost hurt her ears, and held a distinct mocking tone. “You are a captive. I grew tired of waiting for the Bhaalspawn to deign to notice me and decided to force her hand. Fear not, I won’t eat you. Probably. Or at least not in the immediate future.”
Tara sat up. She turned her head towards the source of the voice. Her mouth dropped open. She tilted her head up. And up, and up. She looked into the speaker’s cold yellow eyes and her mouth gaped even wider.
She was looking at a colossal red dragon.
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.