Previous Chapters: ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX / SEVEN / EIGHT / NINE / TEN / ELEVEN / TWELVE
THIRTEEN / FOURTEEN / FIFTEEN / SIXTEEN / SEVENTEEN / EIGHTEEN / NINETEEN / TWENTY / TWENTY-ONE / TWENTY-TWO
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.
Xander gasped in horror as Anath became visible, writhing in her death throes, only a few feet from Anya. He didn’t know what had enabled Anya to survive but gave silent thanks as he threw Azuredge again. It rebounded harmlessly from the Stoneskin-protected mage.
Anya was facing the wrong way to see Anath but she could tell from the sounds that something bad had happened. She struck once more with her dagger, without effect, but she knew that Stoneskin could be broken by successive impacts and so she kept on trying.
“So, you are no amateur,” the wizard observed. “Even so, your survival will be brief. Enough of this crude knife-work. Shrivel and die, by the power of Abi-Dalzim!” Dirty yellow smoke began to billow from his hands.
One of the other two mages took aim at Xander with a small rod of amber. His spell-casting was interrupted by a terrific impact that lifted him from his feet and slammed him into the wall of the inn.
Sorkatani came into view as her invisibility was broken by her attack. Her face was contorted in an ugly snarl and her eyes were wide and staring. Her twin katanas flashed as she whirled them in berserk fury. The mage’s protective spells had prevented the blades from penetrating his skin but had been overwhelmed by the sheer force of the blows and he was obviously dazed as he rebounded from the wall. The amber rod flew from his hand and bounced away across the cobblestones.
The third mage, who had stumbled on landing from his teleport spell and had taken no part in events so far, was knocked from his feet by something invisible that landed on his shoulders and became a figure in black leather. Spike. The vampire’s fangs couldn’t penetrate the mage’s Stoneskin either, but he began to bang the wizard’s head against the cobbles hoping that he’d either break through the spell or else scramble the mage’s brains.
Buffy landed in similar fashion on the back of Anya’s opponent and made an energetic attempt to saw his head off with the Blade of Roses. The smoke rose around her and billowed out to envelop Anya, Spike, all three of the wizards, and then expanded outwards towards Xander and the other adventurers. It also swept over the three merchants who were manning the other stalls outside the inn and over a couple of locals who had been perusing the goods on the stalls until the fight had broken out. And to whoever it touched it brought agony.
Not to the three mages, who seemed immune to its effect, but to everyone else. It burned the skin, the mouth, the nose, and worst of all it burned the eyes of everyone within the cloud. Anya reeled back, choking. Sorkatani halted her all-out attack and staggered away. Buffy released her victim and fled. Xander retreated from the approaching cloud. Even Spike, who had ignored the approaching vapor as he had expected poison gas that couldn’t harm him, blistered in the toxic fumes and was forced to abandon his assault.
Sorkatani saw one of the merchants, an elegant red-headed woman of around thirty who sold weapons along with the tools that made up the bulk of her stock in trade, stagger against her stall clutching her throat. The trestle table collapsed, spilling saws, hammers, axes and swords onto the ground, and the woman fell to her knees. Sorkatani raced in that direction, sheathing Celestial Fury as she went but merely dropping her lesser sword, and snatched up the woman. She ran from the cloud and carried the merchant to safety. Buffy grabbed Anya, who was also being overcome by the fumes, and also made it out of the vapor.
Spike followed in Sorkatani’s wake. The two other merchants were managing to escape under their own steam but two of the villagers had fallen. Spike caught up both of them, one under each arm, and staggered out of the smoke bearing the two unconscious locals. He laid them down close to where Sorkatani had lowered the merchant woman to the ground.
Viconia was at Sorkatani’s side immediately, casting a healing spell. Sorkatani stared into the smoke. “They attack,” she yelled. “Willow!”
The Scoobies’ own mage projected a jet of searing flame into the smoke. It bounced straight back at her. Her own magical protections stopped it short and the flame flickered out. Five seconds later a triple volley of Melf’s Acid Arrows hit Willow, Xander, and Anya. Willow’s defenses absorbed that spell too but Anya and Xander cried out in pain. Anya, already suffering badly from the effects of the caustic vapor, dropped to her knees and blood began to pour from her nose. Viconia hastened to her side and began to chant a healing spell.
Minsc drew his bow and loosed a shaft. Dawn, Giles, Yoshimo, and Mazzy hadn’t expected to be needed for what should have been a simple arrest and were a little further away, without weapons at the ready, but now they followed Minsc’s example and arrows and crossbow bolts whizzed through the air. All missed or bounced from the Stoneskins. Sorkatani drew her own bow and began to draw and loose quickly, hardly seeming to aim, but every arrow hit its target. Xander had hardly used his bow since acquiring Azuredge but now its extra range was vital. He hastily bent the bowstave and slipped the string into place. Spike and Buffy, neither of whom currently was in possession of any missile weapons, could do nothing but watch.
A fireball burst near Minsc, who scrambled out of the flames with his skin blistered and his trews smoldering. He retreated a few paces and loosed another shaft. It went astray due to fire damage to the flights; he cursed, examined his arrows and discarded several that were suffering from similar damage, and then resumed his part in the bombardment.
Simultaneously with the fireball’s explosion a pair of magic missiles streaked for Anya and Viconia. One to stop Viconia from completing her healing spell, the other to kill the injured Anya. Both girls cried out in pain as the missiles hit, but it was too late; Viconia had already completed her healing spell and Anya survived.
“Our arrows outrange their spells,” Sorkatani cried. “Back! Let us use our advantage.” She began to back away, keeping up a hail of arrows as she retreated. The others followed her example. Once out of spell range Anya took up her own crossbow. Viconia joined in the bombardment with her sling, once she had attended to the immediate medical needs of the injured, crying out “For Shar!” each time she launched a missile.
Willow had started to fire off spells designed to strip away the magical protections from the enemy and in return had been the target of a spell that breached her own defenses. She saw the sense in Sorkatani’s order and moved back, unleashing one final spell as she went; a barrier spell to stop the enemy from following. It took the mages less than a minute to dispel the barrier but by then it was too late.
A rain of arrows and quarrels fell on the three wizards, overloading the Stoneskin spells with repeated impacts, and then piercing through flesh. One mage went down and stayed down. The others took shelter behind the overturned tables. Their obvious move would have been to teleport away but Giles modified a Moody Blues song to shut off that avenue of escape. The cloud of toxic smoke dissipated and the mages replaced it with another identical spell. It provided them with only a momentary respite.
Spike borrowed a crossbow from a local hunter and climbed onto the roof of the inn. Yoshimo followed suit, scaling the wall with some assistance from the vampire, and the two of them began to fire down upon the mages. The improvised barricade was no protection from that angle. In desperation one of the wizards stood and unleashed a lightning bolt at the two figures on the roof. Spike and Yoshimo simply stepped back away from the edge and the bolt crackled harmlessly into the upper atmosphere. Sorkatani took careful aim with an arrow and shot the mage through the back of the neck.
Buffy joined the two bowmen on the roof. She didn’t have a bow but she had brought a thirty pound boulder with her. The last surviving wizard was trying to use a chair as protection against the crossbow fire from the roof. She dropped the boulder on the chair, shattered it to pieces, and broke the wizard’s arm like a twig. He screamed, stood up, and made a desperate attempt to flee.
“Take him alive,” Sorkatani shouted. She dropped her bow and moved to intercept him. The hail of arrows stopped and the adventurers fanned out to block the mage’s escape. He turned and made for the side of the inn. Spike ran along the roof until he was clear of the yellow haze of poison and dropped to the ground. Buffy ran to cut off any possible escape at the other side of the building. The mage wavered and came to a halt. He turned his head from side to side, searching frantically for some opening, but could see no way out. He raised his one working hand, cast something to the ground, and called out a magical command. A fireball erupted with the mage as Ground Zero. When it had cleared his charred corpse lay on the cobbles. The body of Anath lay nearby. She had metamorphosed into wolf form as she died and smoke curled up from her smoldering fur.
“I am sorry, jabbress. I have failed you. I cannot bring her back.” Viconia’s tone was solemn.
Sorkatani’s sad eyes widened. “You have lost your powers?”
“I feared that, but no. I still have Shar’s favor, for now at least. The power was there; it just failed to work. Her life force is lost without trace. Whatever spell those Faeren used destroyed it absolutely. She is gone forever.” Viconia bowed her head and the corners of her mouth curled down. She cared little for Anath but hated to see Sorkatani upset.
Tears welled up in Sorkatani’s eyes. “She’s dead forever? Anath, Anath!”
“He said ‘Suffer eternal death’,” Anya remembered. “Poor girl.”
Willow’s eyes were huge and sad as she looked up from where she was perusing the spell book of one of the dead mages. “Death Spell,” she read out. “It snuffs out the life forces of all enemy creatures within a radius of thirty feet. Powerful monsters, experienced warriors who have progressed in the martial arts to at least the ninth grade, paladins who have gained the ability to cast spells, wizards and priests who have mastered spells of the fifth level, and cunning and experienced thieves close to achieving the capability to control their own Guild, can resist this spell. Those of lesser power die instantly and irrevocably. They cannot be raised or resurrected.” She raised her eyebrows at Anya and Xander. “You two were both within the kill zone. You must be, like, pretty powerful or you’d be dead too.”
“Hey, I’m at least ninth level,” Xander grinned. His grin faded away. Sorkatani was cradling Anath’s body in her arms and weeping.
“I don’t get it,” Buffy muttered to Spike. “She hardly knew the werewolf girl but she’s just totally broken up about her being dead. I mean, it’s sad, yeah, but it’s not like she was that close a friend. They’d only just met.”
“Tani takes to people quick,” Spike said. “Took to me quick enough, didn’t she? Think she’s got a thing for people who’re supposed to be evil but aren’t. Like me and Vicky. Anath fitted right in.” He sighed. “Pretty upset about it myself. She was a good kid. We had some fun hunting that deer. Had a feeling we’d make a good team.”
Buffy made no verbal comment but her raised eyebrow spoke volumes.
“Not that sort of team, Slayer,” Spike hastened to put her right. “Liked her but didn’t fancy her. Like Tara.” He sighed again. “Seems a bloody shame, y’know?”
“Yeah.” Buffy cocked her head slightly to one side and half closed her left eye. “Spike? You saved a couple of the villagers from that poison gas stuff. How come? I mean, I thought you didn’t care about anyone who wasn’t actually a friend?”
“Don’t care,” Spike admitted, “but it sort of seemed the thing to do, y’know? It was like, Tani would have expected it of me.” He half grinned. “Would have gone for that red-headed lass Elence from the tools and weapons stall, right tasty piece she is, but Tani got there first. Had to make do with the plebs, didn’t I?”
“It was a good thing to do,” Buffy said.
“S’ppose so,” Spike muttered. “Bang goes my sodding vamp cred.”
Sorkatani managed to get her sobbing under control and lowered Anath gently to the ground.
“It’s my fault,” Anya said heavily. “I’m so sorry I got us into this.”
Sorkatani shook her head. “Evil such as that of the Hidesman and those behind him has to be fought. You could not have known the peril. Blame not yourself.”
Chief Minister Lloyd had been hovering, waiting for a suitable moment to approach without intruding too much on the party’s grief, and he came forward now. “If you wish, we shall bury her in our graveyard, my Lady, and she will be remembered with honor and gratitude.”
“Thank you,” said Sorkatani. She wiped away her tears. “I think that she would like that.”
“Our village has little gold,” the Chief Minister went on. “Therefore in some small payment for your great deeds I would like to present you with this set of armor that belonged to an ancestor of mine, a ranger who protected this village long ago. Leather, but woven about with mighty enchantments to make it as strong as plate and chain.” He swallowed as if suddenly nervous. “Uh, if it isn’t enough, we could perhaps come up with some gold.”
“I thank you, Minister Lloyd,” Sorkatani said. Buffy wasn’t comfortable with the formalities of this world and stayed quiet, letting Sorkatani act as spokeswoman. “The armor, and an honorable burial for Anath, is all that we could ask for. It is more than enough.”
“Thank you, my Lady. It is good to know that there are still honorable people left in Faerûn. Long shall you be remembered here as great heroes.”
“Ah, we follow the path that leads to glory,” Minsc remarked, a grin of satisfaction lighting up his face. “Boo is glad to be here, I can tell. We are all heroes.”
“It’s not worth a big fuss, Minsc,” Sorkatani said.
“Why not? We must inspire fear in Evil. Quiet tales of hamsters on the riverbank are boring, but a man and his hamster who tear Evil limb from limb? That’s scary! Shout it to the world.”
“Oh, Minsc,” Sorkatani said, shaking her head. A smile appeared on her tear-stained face. “Very well. Our deeds shall ring in the ears that we box and label ‘do not open ‘till the mid-winter fest’.”
“Now you are talking the language of Minsc,” the giant ranger boomed approvingly. “Next we must get you a hamster! Or perhaps an ice weasel, whatever is to your taste.”
“May I?” Willow said, holding out her hands for the armor, and the Chief Minister passed it to her. It was so deep brown that it was almost black. Willow muttered an incantation and raised her eyebrows. “This is high class stuff,” she said approvingly. “Enchantments as strong as on Spike’s Armor of Deep Night.”
“It is called ‘The Night’s Gift’,” Minister Lloyd told her.
“I can see why,” Willow said.
“How are we going to work out who gets it?” Anya asked. “There are three of us who’d be wanting it. Me, of course, and Dawn, and Yoshimo, right?”
“Indeed,” Yoshimo agreed.
“Even me,” Sorkatani said. “I tire of wearing full plate – although not of packing steel, Minsc – especially after my experience when I lost my strength, and I would like to follow Buffy’s example and wear something lighter. I would not dispense with armor altogether, but this may serve. Although perhaps I shall wait and see how the dragon scale armor turns out.”
“Where is Dawn, anyway?” Buffy wondered.
“She got talking to some local kids about her own age,” Spike told her. “She’s not far off.”
The Chief Minister shuffled his feet. “Uh, there is something else,” he said to Sorkatani. “There was a messenger came while you were away and he left a letter for you.” He handed her a roll of parchment.
“Thank you, Chief Minister,” Sorkatani said. Minister Lloyd bowed and walked away.
“Big title for such a little place,” Spike remarked to Giles. “Don’t they call the top gadgy on the Isle of Man the Chief Minister?”
“They do indeed,” Giles confirmed. “That might be a small place by British standards, but it is vastly larger than this little village.”
“Yeah, seventy thousand alcoholics clinging to a rock, innit?” Spike grinned. His levity faded as he noticed Sorkatani’s face pale as she read.
“What is it?” Buffy asked.
“A message from Jaheira,” Sorkatani told her. “It – that – the –” She stumbled on her words, halted, and started again. “Tara is in danger,” she said. “Jaheira says that it was not Tara who followed her from Nalia’s castle. It was a doppelganger in Tara’s form. She believes that Tara is still alive,” she hastened to add, seeing Willow’s face go white, “but she has been abducted. The doppelganger talked before Jaheira killed it and said that we should ask someone called ‘Bodhi’ where Tara is. Jaheira has discovered that Bodhi is the person who wanted me to meet her in the Graveyard District after nightfall.”
“We have to get going!” Willow cried. “Right this minute!”
“No, we must first rest,” Sorkatani said. “We are in no shape for another fight. Viconia has no spells of healing remaining and some of us still have hurts unmended. Tara has been missing for days. A few extra hours will make things no worse.”
Willow was wide-eyed and obviously agitated. “It might make all the difference!”
“And us entering another fight in this shape might make all the difference between victory and defeat,” Sorkatani pointed out. “Bathe, rest, prepare spells, and then let us ride forth to seek for Tara in the knowledge that we can bring all our power to bear upon those who have taken her.”
Willow flexed her fingers experimentally. “I guess you’re right,” she said unhappily. “I could maybe do another Identify spell or two and that would be me flat busted. The ‘battery low’ light is flashing.”
“Yeah, she sure is right, Will,” Buffy agreed. “You look pretty wrecked and Viconia looks even worse. I know how you feel, but we need to get some rest before we can take on anything much. See if you can get some baths organized, ‘kay? I’ll go get Dawn.”
“’S okay, Slayer, you go take your bath, I’ll go round up the Nibblet,” Spike volunteered. “I know which way she went.”
“Thank you, Spike,” Buffy said, and flashed him a dazzling smile. “That’s really good of you.” Spike walked away, looking slightly dazed, and Buffy headed for the door of the inn oblivious to the glare that she was receiving from Viconia. The drow turned to watch Spike for a moment, rolled her eyes, and then followed Buffy into the inn.
“Tough luck on the werewolf girl,” Warren commented. “I would have thought she would have had enough hit dice to survive a Death Spell. She must have gotten some experience out of her part of killing the Shadow Dragon, right?”
“I guess not,” Jonathan said. He started up Shadowkeeper, opened the most recent Saved Game, selected Creature Browser, and scrolled down to Anath. “Funny,” he remarked. “I thought there were five versions. There’s six here.” He opened them one after the other. “Seven hit dice,” he observed as he checked out the first. “Same here, and here, and here. They’re all pretty much – no, wait, this last one’s different. Eight hit dice. And, yeah, alignment True Neutral. That must be the way she was when they got back to Imnesvale.”
“Eight hit dice? Just one short,” Warren said. “Man, that kinda sucks. She was so close to being safe.”
“How about if I reload and see if she makes it through?” Jonathan suggested.
Warren pursed his lips. “How much control do you have over Mazzy?”
“Not a whole lot,” Jonathan admitted. “I can override her choice of targets. That’s about it.”
“So there isn’t much you could do to change the way things work out,” Warren said. “I guess you could give Anath another hit dice with Shadowkeeper but hey, that seems kinda like, well, cheating.”
“I have a bad feeling about doing anything like that anyway,” Jonathan said. “Like it might mess up whatever’s happening that’s made even the NPCs come alive.”
Warren nodded. “Good thinking, Batman.” He looked more closely at the screen. “I think I’ll take a look at Buffy’s crew while you have that open, dude.”
“Sure thing,” Jonathan said. “There’s Anya right there below Anath. If I sort by ‘Resource’ it’ll put them all together and handy.” He clicked on the relevant column and moved over to give Warren equal access to the computer. They scanned through the detailed character information on Anya, Buffy, and Giles, for a minute; and then Warren suddenly frowned deeply.
“Anya, Buffy, then Giles?” he said. “That’s not right. They’re in alphabetical order within the Resource group. What’s happened to Dawn?”
The three local boys didn’t impress Dawn much but they were pretty much the first people of around her own age that she’d met since coming to this world. Hanging out with them for a little while made a nice change from being around adults the whole time. Plus, they were all big with the admiration and it was kinda flattering.
The aftermath of the fight had been kinda depressing and she’d been glad to get away for a while. Yeah, she could have used a bath, but she’d managed to duck out of doing the yucky dragon-skinning for Anya, and her part in the fight outside the inn had been at long range, and so she wasn’t in too bad a state. It wasn’t like the boys smelled of any roses anyway.
Well, two boys and a hobbit. Valsben was the size of a kid of eight and him coming on with flirty talk was kinda wiggy, but hey, different planet, different rules. He was probably way older than her, anyway, if hobbits – halflings – aged the same way here as they did in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. In his twenties, maybe; Dawn didn’t know whether that was more cause for wigging or less.
The two human boys were okay-looking, she thought, but kinda dumb. There wasn’t a whole lot of education available in a village like this, she guessed, where ‘peasant’ was pretty much the only career option. They were both fair haired but didn’t look much alike otherwise. The shorter of the two, Neler, was curly-haired and had red cheeks. The taller, Dirbert, had bristly hair, he had more of a tan, and he had a cute mouth that looked like it might be good to kiss. It was a shame about his name; she couldn’t stop herself from wondering if he had a Dogbert and a Catbert, maybe even a Ratbert, and if he wanted to be an engineer.
Actually he wanted to be an adventurer. All three of them did; and they were totally bowled over by Dawn in her leather armor, with her short sword hanging at her side and her crossbow slung on her back, and by her status as one of the band of adventurers who had defeated the evil that threatened their village. She was a fascinating and glamorous figure to them, and their eyes shone with admiration as they plied her with compliments. It almost seemed a shame to steal their purses but she did it anyway. Just for the practice, right, and she totally was going to give them back.
They escorted her slightly out of the village to a sunny spot that was sheltered from the wind by a great boulder that stuck up from the ground. There they bombarded her with questions about her adventures, and about the mighty heroes in whose company she traveled, and about the city of Athkatla. They also persuaded her to take off her armor to better enjoy the sunshine.
A couple of Dawn’s shirt buttons had come off during the fighting, unknown to her until then, and the Anya-designed bra that she was wearing under it made the most of assets that she had always previously regarded as fairly modest. This meant that the boys hardly lifted their gazes above the level of her collarbone once she had removed the leather jerkin. This was flattering, annoying, and embarrassing in pretty much equal measures and Dawn wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. She’d never been the object of anything like as much attention from any of the boys at school.
“If we had swords we could be adventurers,” Dirbert stated confidently. “Defeating monsters and protecting the village and winning treasure and all.”
“Uh, it’s not that easy,” Dawn said. “There’s, like, a whole lot of hard work. Buffy and Sorkatani practice for, like, hours every single day. And hey, you can get so tired after a fight that it’s like right down into your bones.” And she remembered the smell of blood so strong that it made the gorge rise in her throat, and being so scared that she thought that she was going to wet herself, and the sight of friends lying very still on the cold and blood-soaked earth; but she didn’t know how to word her thoughts so that she would cool the boys’ enthusiasm for an adventuring career without also cooling their enthusiasm for her.
“We could practice if we had swords,” Dirbert pointed out. “Only they won’t let us have any. It’s not fair. You could get swords for us. And beer.”
“Hey, I’m way too young to buy beer,” Dawn protested. She had no idea what the legal age for purchasing alcohol might be in Amn, if indeed there were any restrictions, and her protestation came out by reflex. The boys took no notice.
“Bastard swords,” Dirbert went on.
“Yeah, bastard swords,” Neler agreed enthusiastically.
“Yeah,” Valsben agreed. His voice held markedly less enthusiasm and he lowered his eyes as he spoke. Possibly he was thinking of the difficulties that he would have in wielding a hand-and-a-half grip sword, bigger in proportion to his size than a two-handed sword was to Minsc or even Xander, and was looking at the short sword that Dawn had lain aside when she took off her armor; or perhaps he was just staring at Dawn’s ass as a change from staring at her boobies.
“Why bastard swords?” Dawn asked, wondering if there was any logical reason or their choice was dictated only by the name of the weapon.
“Uh, well,” Dirbert said, his hesitation confirming Dawn’s suspicions, “they’re a real man’s weapon.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right, and a broadsword isn’t?”
Dirbert opened and closed his mouth a couple of times without saying anything and then regained his composure. “And beer,” he said. “You can get us a keg of De'tranion's Baalor Ale, ‘cos it’s got a real kick to it. It’s what the real men drink.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Dawn said. “But hey, even if they would serve me, there is just no way that I could carry a keg. Does it come in bottles?”
“We have the money,” Dirbert went on. “If you do the buying…” His hand went to his belt and came away empty. “Hey! Where’s my purse?”
Neler and Valsben’s hands went to their belts. “Where’s mine?” Neler cried. Valsben stared accusingly at Dawn.
“Oops!” she said. “Busted. Here they are. It was just for the practice. All part of being an adventurer, you know? I was totally going to give them back.”
Neler glared at her with fury in his eyes and his nostrils flaring wide. “Thief!” he growled. He glowered as he counted his coins to make sure that they were all there.
“Well, duh,” Dawn said. “It’s my job in the adventuring party. I so was going to give them back.”
“It took months to save up the money for the swords and ale,” Dirbert complained. “You come in here with your fancy armor and sword and jewels and you think that it’s funny to steal our hard-earned money. Well, it’s not.”
“It was just for the practice. Hey, I don’t want your money,” Dawn protested. “I get plenty from Buffy. It so was just for the practice,” she repeated.
“You owe us,” Dirbert said.
“Hey, I’ve given the money back!”
“That’s not good enough,” Neler said. “You’re going to have to kiss us all or we’ll go tell Minister Lloyd that you stole our money only we caught you.”
Dawn gulped. Her plan had been to toss the purses back casually as they parted, thereby making herself look even cleverer and more glamorous and exciting, but it had been totally spoiled when the boys had noticed their absence. If they made a complaint against her, with the truth on their side to put the ring of sincerity into their voices, they were going to be believed and her own protestations that she had been going to give the money back were going to sound pretty lame. Even getting Viconia to do a truth spell to back her up probably wouldn’t help; a drow’s word didn’t count for much in Amn, she’d learned. She was going to be in so much trouble. “Uh, okay,” she said reluctantly. “You can have the kisses.”
“And you have to show us your diddies,” Dirbert pushed his advantage.
“Diddies?” Dawn echoed blankly, and then she realized what he meant and blushed. “No way!”
“Okay, we’ll go tell Minister Lloyd,” Dirbert threatened.
Dawn gulped. It was a big step. No boy back in Sunnydale had ever seen her boobies. Justin had put his hand on them over her clothes while he was kissing her, a few minutes before she had dusted him, but that was the furthest that she’d ever gone. The same went for Janice. Her second-best friend Lisa had revealed to her once that she’d allowed a boy to put his hand under her bra, and there were persistent rumors at school that Kirsty had given Kevin a hand job, maybe even a (ewww!) blow job, so maybe going along with the request wouldn’t make her too much of a slut; not that anything she did here would ever get back to the girls at school anyway even if they did find a way of returning to California. “O-o-okay,” she conceded. “I g-guess that’s kinda fair.”
“Yeah!” Neler leered. “Show us your diddies.”
Dawn unfastened the remaining buttons of her shirt, hooked her hands under the bottom of her bra, and lifted it to reveal her breasts. She then tugged it back down hastily.
“Oh, wow,” Valsben moaned. “Pretty diddies.” Neler groaned wordlessly and brought up his hand to wipe drool from his lips.
Dirbert was less impressed. “That’s not enough,” he said. “Give us a proper look. Take that thing right off.”
“Yeah, we want more than just a little peek,” Neler added, following his friend’s lead.
Dawn gulped again. But hey, she’d already showed them her boobies, so the bridge had been crossed anyway. She undid the buttons at her sleeves, took off the shirt, and then reached behind her back to unhook the bra. ‘Why couldn’t Anya have made them front-fastening when she was pretty much starting from scratch?’ she thought briefly. Then the garment fell away and her breasts were exposed to three pairs of lecherous eyes.
Lecherous, but also somehow reverent. “So beautiful,” Dirbert breathed. Dawn fought back the impulse to cover her breasts with her arms and allowed the boys to feast their eyes on the sight.
Of course after half a minute of viewing they were no longer satisfied with just looking. “Now the kisses,” Dirbert said.
“I guess so,” Dawn said, and bent to pick up her bra. This put her boobs into a position that brought renewed moans from Neler and Valsben.
“Hey, that stays off!” Dirbert demanded. “We get to kiss you with your diddies showing.”
“Hey, that so wasn’t part of the deal,” Dawn protested.
“Yes it was,” Dirbert insisted. “That’s why the diddies came out first.”
“Yeah, we get to kiss you with your diddies out,” Neler backed him.
“You have to or we tell Minister Lloyd,” Valsben chimed in.
There was a flaw in Dirbert’s logic but Dawn didn’t want to get into an argument about it. It wasn’t such a huge deal, now that they’d seen her with her top off and she’d already agreed to kiss them, was it? “Oh, all right,” she said, heaving a sigh. “Okay, get on with it.”
Valsben went first. Dawn had to bend over a long way to kiss him, and his hands came up and cupped her breasts. She broke the kiss and pulled back. “That’s enough,” she declared very firmly, and the hobbit boy obeyed and stepped away. He stood staring at the palms of his hands, giving the distinct impression that he was never going to wash them again.
Neler was next. He groped her boobies during the kiss as well, but also accepted it when Dawn called a halt.
Dirbert went last. His kiss was much more forceful, his tongue invaded her mouth, and his hands wandered over her breasts and caressed her nipples. He put one arm around her and pulled her close, just when Dawn had been about to break the kiss, and for a second she felt alarmed; but then his other hand left her breasts and she relaxed and allowed the kiss to continue. It didn’t occur to her that his hand had moved down to the fastenings of his breeches.
“If that comes out, it comes off.” The voice wasn’t making a threat; it was a flat statement of fact.
Dirbert yelped in alarm, released Dawn, and jumped back. Dawn yelped too and crossed her arms over her breasts. “Spike!”
“What the sodding hell are you playing at, Nibblet? Get some bloody clothes on. Now.”
“It’s not my fault,” Dawn blurted out. “I picked their pockets for practice but they noticed and they wouldn’t listen when I said I was going to give the purses back and they made me show them my boobies and kiss them or they said they’d tell that Chief Minister guy and get me into trouble.”
“Bloody hell, Dawn, didn’t you learn anything from that sodding shambles at Halloween?”
“That’s not fair. It’s totally not the same. I didn’t have to kill these guys, did I?”
“You wandered off with three kids you’d just met. Okay, this time you let me know where you were going. S’ppose you’ve learned that much. Still bloody stupid.” He glared at her. “Buffy was going to come looking for you. If she’d seen you like that she’d have gone absolutely bloody spare.”
Dawn cringed at the thought. Not that she knew what ‘gone spare’ meant, but it didn’t sound good, and her own visualization of Buffy’s likely reaction was scary enough. “You’re not going to tell her, are you?”
“Bloody ought to.” Spike shook his head. “Nah, I’ll keep my mouth shut, Bit. Now get a move on. Get dressed. We’re moving out soon.” He turned his attention to the boys, putting his back to Dawn to give her a chance to dress out of his sight. “Ought to bloody strangle you lot.”
“But she stole our money!” Dirbert protested.
“And you sodding well blackmailed her into giving you a show and a grope,” Spike growled. “Don’t push it, kid. I’m this close to ripping your throats out. And you breathe one word of this to anyone else and I bloody will kill you. Got it?”
“You don’t even have a sword,” Dirbert said defiantly.
Spike frowned and put his hand to his hip. “Bugger. Must have left it sticking in one of those wizards. Doesn’t matter. Don’t need a sword for the likes of you.” His frown transformed into brow ridges and his fangs came out. “Just you bugger off and keep your mouths shut. Got it?”
“Y-y-yes sir!” Dirbert stammered. Neler and Valsben were already fleeing. Dirbert stumbled backwards, torn between terror and his desire to see as much as possible of Dawn as she dressed, and then terror won and he turned round and ran away.
“There she is,” Jonathan announced, as he perused the Shadowkeeper Creature Browser. “Panic over, dude, Dawn’s there after all. Hey, that’s sorta weird. All the rest of them have resource codes that are like ‘BV’ and then their initials and a number. Dawn’s is totally different.”
“Let me see, dude.” Warren peered at the screen. “Holy shit! ‘#00FF00’. That’s the code that I have to keep putting into everything to get it to come out all super-detailed. Even in places where hexadecimal doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t even work. It’s Dawn. She’s the one who’s making everything happen. That piece of code is, like, the key.”
Spike stood with his back to Dawn until she called out to say that she had finished dressing. She was buckling on her sword belt when he turned around. “Bloody idiot!” he growled. He saw her lip tremble and his expression softened. “Oh, Nibblet, you daft muggins,” he said, shaking his head. “What were you playing at? Never mind, I’ll drop it and I won’t say anything to the Slayer. But you bloody well be more careful in future, right?”
“Okay, Spike, I will,” Dawn promised. “Thank you so much.”
“’S okay,” Spike mumbled. “Not like I did much. Like I said, Buffy was going to come looking for you anyway.”
“What’s the hurry?” Dawn wondered. “I thought we were going to take some time getting in some rest and recuperation. How come we’re heading out so quick?”
“Had a message from Jaheira,” Spike explained. “Tara’s vanished. Kidnapped.”
“Tara’s vanished?” Dawn’s mouth opened very wide. “In Athkatla?”
“Yeah, probably, but not just now,” Spike explained. “Wasn’t Tara who left Nalia’s place with Jaheira at all. Sodding doppelganger pretending to be Tara. She probably got snatched back when we were all in town. Red reckons Tara was acting a bit funny just as we were setting out on this jaunt. Said she couldn’t ride, when she’d told Red before that she spent half her time as a kid on horseback. That’ll have been the doppelganger.”
“Doppelganger? Like that thing that Sorkatani and Minsc stuck with Jaheira’s spear back when we were getting out of that prison place?” Dawn asked.
“Yeah, just like that,” Spike confirmed. “Looks like they’re a bit cleverer and more dangerous than she led us to believe.” He frowned at Dawn. “Another reason not to go buggering off by yourself, Bit. Don’t want to have to kill something that looks like you.”
“Yeah. Right, I’ll be careful,” Dawn said. “But hey, if I can’t date on this world that just totally sucks.”
“Forget dating for the time being,” Spike told her. “Bloody hell, Bit, you were thinking of dating those berks? You can do better than that.”
“Hey, they were like the first kids my age I’ve even met here,” Dawn protested, giving Spike a brief eye-roll. “But okay, I’ll give dating a miss. For now.” She sighed. “I so suck. I shouldn’t be complaining after what’s just happened, and while Tara’s missing. She’s, like, probably stuck in some horrible damp smelly dungeon somewhere. I hope she’s all right and she isn’t getting treated too bad.”
Tazok pushed a covered tray through the hatch in Tara’s cell. Tara took the tray and sniffed as a familiar and delicious aroma reached her nostrils. “Thank you, Tazok,” she said, and set the tray down. She removed the cover. “Is that – coffee?”
“Coffee from Ulgarth,” Tazok confirmed. “Also cakes of oatmeal and honey made to a recipe of the dwarfs, and chocolate from Maztica.” He thrust something else through the hatch. “And I brought you some flowers.”
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.