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Tabula Avatar Chapter 28

Belated happy birthday to tobywolf13

Thank you to those who have left comments expressing sympathy over the death of my aunt. The post was very cathartic and has helped me to cope, and your comments have been a great comfort to me. I’m afraid that I still don’t feel up to replying to each of you individually but I hope that you understand. Thanks again.

I have felt up to writing – it’s always my safety valve – and I’m hoping to come up with another chapter of ‘Dojo Hard’ in the next day or two, and then perhaps some ‘Sunnydale Passions’. Right now here is the next chapter of my BtVS/Baldur’s Gate 2 crossover ‘Tabula Avatar’. 6,830 words. Rating R. Lots of spoilers for ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’, of course.

Previous Chapters are HERE.

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 loose similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum are taking place simultaneously with this story, but off-screen.

Tabula Avatar

Chapter Twenty-eight

“It’s a pretty neat sword,” Willow said. “Not quite up to Lilarcor, I guess, but without that annoying talking feature.”

“Hey, I resent that,” Minsc’s sentient sword complained. “Where would he be without my advice?”

“All you ever do is tell him to hit things,” Willow pointed out, “and hey, he’d do that anyway most times. Not like you’re choosy. You tried to get him to hit the dryads, remember?”

“Only at first,” Lilarcor said. “Once I caught on to who they were I told him to ravish them, didn’t I? Hey, he’s a barbarian, if he just sticks to smiting and ravishing he can’t go wrong. Oh, and looting. Slay, pillage, plunder, ravish. Works for me.”

“Ravishing without an invitation is wrong,” Minsc told the sword. His cheeks had gone red. “Boo says you talk too much. Back in the scabbard for you.”

“Hey, the clothes they were wearing, or not wearing, were-” Lilarcor’s voice was silenced as Minsc thrust the sword into its sheath.

“Okay, where was I?” Willow went back to her description of Tazok’s sword. “Yeah, it’s not as good as Lilarcor. It’s got the same enchantment on the blade as the Sword of Chaos only it can’t do that neat healing trick. Another one to sell, I guess. Unless you want a two-handed sword, Spike?”

“Not for me, Red. Think I’ll stick to fighting sword and dagger style. I like this one that I’m using now.” He flourished his rapier in an extravagant salute.

Willow rolled her eyes. “That’s the one you picked up when we were at Nalia’s dad’s funeral, right? You’ve been carrying it around in your pack for, like, two weeks and you only just started using it now? Dumb vampire.”

“Well, we got a bit distracted,” Spike reminded her, “what with…” he glanced around to check that Viconia wasn’t within hearing distance. She was twenty paces away, going through the possessions of the female cleric she had slain, and Spike continued in a lower voice. “What with blokes that had been buried alive and all. Didn’t remember about it until I lost that other sword.”

“That sword was worth three hundred and seventy-five danter,” Anya pointed out. “Maybe we ought to start taking the cost out of your share.”

Spike pouted. “Not my fault if the bloke did a runner and fell into a chasm.”

“If you hadn’t let go of the sword so that you could bite the guy it wouldn’t have happened,” Willow reproved him. “And what about the times you just left a sword sticking in somebody and forgot about it? This was, what, the third one you’ve lost? I’m with Anya; maybe we oughta start charging you.”

“Okay, okay, keep your knickers on, Red. Second thoughts, feel free to take them off.” Spike leered at Willow and waggled his eyebrows. He received an eye-roll from Anya and a hard stare from Buffy, who was checking out the late Chief DigDag’s gear nearby and who was not amused by Spike’s innuendo, but Willow just grinned.

“If you’re gonna do bad Groucho Marx impressions you oughta draw on a moustache,” she advised. “Hey, why don’t I check that sword out now? I’m all charged up with the Identify mojo anyway. If it’s got any cool powers maybe you’ll take care of it for a change. Or at least we’ll know to be really annoyed with you if you lose it.”

Spike passed over the sword and Willow ran her hands over it. Her eyes widened. “This is seriously cool. Namarra, the Never Sleeping, the Sword of Silent Death.”

“Hear that, Slayer? Makes your poncy ‘Blade of Roses’ sound a bit wimpish, dunnit?”

Buffy pretended not to hear.

“Sorry to burst your bubble, Spike, but it’s not as heavy on the enchantment as the Blade of Roses,” Willow told him. “A step down from that, or Lilarcor, or Celestial Fury. A good match for the Sword of Chaos, maybe. It’s got a cool power. It can cast Silence spells, and that makes it pretty deadly to wizards, and I guess that’s how come it’s got the fancy name. You just be careful with the spells around me, ‘kay?”

“Sure thing, Red,” Spike promised.

“Why can’t you just say what plusses it’s got?” Xander put in. “All this ‘better than this, not as good as that’ stuff is kinda hard to follow.”

“Well, mainly ‘cause I don’t know what ‘plusses’ things have, okay? I don’t get a, like, technical brochure when I do this spell. Just feelings. And hey, I never played Dungeons and Dragons.”

“You could kinda improvise,” Xander suggested. “Just to help me keep things straight, yeah? It’s pretty simple. Like, the basic magic swords – like the ones that Spike keeps losing – are plus ones, Sword of Chaos plus two, Blade of Roses plus three, or whatever.”

“Hey, ease off on this whole nerdier-than-thou thing,” Willow complained. She screwed up her mouth and contemplated Xander’s idea. “I guess it would work, just for our reference, right? Hey, I could make a table! Not that I’ve got any colored marker pens here, kinda short on them in this world, but I could come up with something. Didn’t Viconia say something about pastels one time? Let me think. Okay. If we start with what you said then Namarra would be a plus two, so is this sword from that ogre guy – Tazok, right? – and that Dragonslayer sword. Celestial Fury and Lilacor would be plus threes. Dawn and Anya have both got plus twos. That staff with a spear point that Giles carries these days would rate plus two as well. Hey, that reminds me; didn’t Jon-Tom in ‘Spellsinger’ have that exact same sorta staff-spear thing?”

“Yeah,” Xander grinned. “Coincidence? I think not. Uh, what about Azuredge, Will?”

“I don’t know. Maybe plus two, maybe plus three? It’s hard to tell ‘cause it’s got different powers against the Undead, you know?” Her brow wrinkled as she ran through her mental catalogue of the group’s store of weaponry. “Viconia’s mace is a plus two and the Flail of Ages is plus three. Yoshimo and Jaheira don’t have anything better than plus one. No, wait, Yoshi’s bow would rate plus two, I think, and Jaheira’s spear the same. Her sling maybe rates a plus three.”

“Is plus three the best we’ve got?” Xander wondered.

“We’ve got one thing better,” Willow revealed. She raised her chin and adopted an expression of satisfied smugness. “My staff. On that scale it would be a plus four.”

- - - - -

“Tara!” Willow ran to the cage and pressed herself up against the bars. Tara stood back for a moment and then moved forward and took Willow’s hand. She was wearing a long silk dress that Willow had never seen before, cut low at the front to reveal a surprising amount of cleavage, and a valuable Laeral’s Tear necklace was clasped around her neck. “Oh, baby, are you all right? You’re, uh, looking surprisingly good. For a prisoner. Uh, not that you don’t always look good.”

Tara laughed. “I’m fine, sweetie. I knew you’d come. It hasn’t been all that bad.” She looked past Willow to the others. “Hi, guys.”

Willow released Tara’s hand and stepped back to take a look at the cage. She saw a folding table and chair, a cot covered by an embroidered counterpane, and two curtained alcoves. The curtains around one were drawn back to reveal a hip bath tub. A chessboard, a silver fruit bowl, a vase of flowers and a fine porcelain cup stood on the table. Willow raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, I guess it sure hasn’t been bad. It looks like you had pretty much a home from home here. And I’d been thinking you were in, like, a smelly dungeon with rats.”

Tara’s cheeks reddened and she lowered her gaze. “I think one of the guys, well monsters, guarding me sorta fell in love with me. He’s been treating me pretty well. He, uh, even brought me chocolate. I didn’t even know they had chocolate in this world.”

“You’ve been getting chocolate?” Willow’s eyebrows lowered and her lips protruded in a pout. “And hey, new necklace? Are you sure you want to be rescued?”

Tara laughed. “Of course I do, hon. A little chocolate didn’t make up for being locked up in this cage the whole time.”

“This comfy cage,” Willow commented. Her pout remained on her lips. “So who is this guy with the crush on you, and who I’m guessing came through with the jewels and the dress and things?”

“Kind of an ogre-human cross, I think, like the one we fought at the Slaver building who was tag-teaming with a minotaur. He knows Sorkatani. His name is Tazok.”

Sorkatani had gone to examine the bars and the construction of the formidable door while the thieves attempted to pick the lock. She looked up for a moment. “He’s dead. I cut his throat,” she told Tara, and then went back to her assessment of the strength of the cage.

Tara gulped. “That’s, uh, kind of a shame,” she said. “I mean, he was evil, yeah, but he was pretty nice to me. It would have been a bit, uh, awkward if he was still alive, ‘cause I kind of led him on, trying to get him to let me go or not fight you, but I still feel sad that he’s dead. Just a little.”

“Led him on?” Willow’s frown intensified and her gaze was focused on Tara’s display of cleavage.

“Well, yeah,” Tara said. “I let him think he might, you know, get somewhere with me. Like I said, there would have been, well, problems if he hadn’t died.”

“If he was good to you then we shall give him a proper burial,” Sorkatani said. “Perhaps in the tomb of King Strohm. After we get you out of this cage, of course. That will not be easy. Yoshimo, Dawn, Anya, can you do anything with the locks?”

“Alas, no, jabbress,” Yoshimo replied. “They are magically warded. Only one key can open them.”

Dawn tried out a key that had been recovered from Tazok’s body. “It’s not this one,” she reported. “We’ve seen a door that this would fit, I think, but it’s not here. Back in Athkatla. That one down in the sewers near where those guys went all ‘stand and deliver’ on us.” She moved aside to allow Willow access to the lock.

Willow closed her eyes and ran her fingers over the metal. “Did somebody cast a spell with the key in the lock?” she asked Tara.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Tara confirmed. “They’ve got this wizard called Conster. I think he’s pretty powerful.”

Willow bit her lip. “So am I, these days, but this is going to be hard to crack. He used the Law of Relevance to make the key and the lock into a single unit. No other key will work and it can’t be picked. I can’t even dispel it without having the key here, which would make dispelling it pretty pointless, so I guess we’re gonna have to force it open.”

“That will not be easy,” Sorkatani said. “The bars are of tremendous strength. Perhaps we could lever the door open.”

She selected a two-handed sword from their collection of looted weaponry. It was one of the run of the mill enchanted weapons that Xander would have described as ‘plus one’, and the thick blade, diamond-shaped in cross-section, was magically strengthened. She forced it into the gap between the door and the body of the cage and heaved. Nothing happened. Buffy joined in, as did Minsc, and the sword began to bend. When they abandoned their attempts the sword was bent into an ‘L’ shape.

“That’s three hundred and seventy five danter gone for a Burton,” Spike smirked. “Think we ought to deduct it from your share?”

“Five hundred for a two handed sword,” Anya corrected him.

Sorkatani scowled at Spike. “Think you that money matters where Tara’s freedom is concerned?”

“I was joking, okay?” Spike told her. There had been real venom in Sorkatani’s voice and he was rather taken aback. Buffy had glared at him as well, but that was par for the course, and it was only Sorkatani’s attitude that surprised him. “’Course I think Tara’s more important than any amount of dosh. It was just ’cos of that thing with Willow and Anya getting at me about losing swords, that’s all. Didn’t mean anything by it.” He fumbled for a cigarette, came up with a cigar, and put it back in his pouch.

“Such jests are unwelcome,” Sorkatani snapped, and she grabbed one of the bars and tugged at it in frustration.

Willow’s eyebrows climbed. Sorkatani’s little outburst had surprised her as well. “Spike really didn’t mean it, jabbress, he was just getting a little dig in at me and I don’t mind. Hey, maybe I could Dimension Door in, grab Tara, and Dimension Door out again,” she suggested. “Well, at least I could if I had two Dimension Door spells ready. I’ve only got one. It would take a few hours to swap something over.”

“A few hours in which anything may happen,” Sorkatani said. “And it would take many hours to saw through these bars. The cages in which we were imprisoned by Irenicus were nothing to this.” She slammed her gauntleted fist into a bar. “Better to slay this Conster and take the key from his corpse.”

“Uh, there’s a dragon,” Tara said. “Lord Firkraag. He’s a huge red dragon. Godzilla size. He’s in charge and he might have the key.”

“We know about the dragon,” Buffy said. She drew a sword with her left hand; not the Blade of Roses, but a more recently acquired weapon. “We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve for it. Like this sword. It’s a Dragonslayer. And we’ve killed a dragon since you were last with us anyway.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think this one is gonna stand there and let us build a ballista in front of it,” Xander cautioned. “The Shadow Dragon was one tough mother and if we hadn’t hurt it so bad before it knew what was happening it would have creamed us. Hell, it killed me!”

“Why fight the dragon if we don’t have to, jabbress?” Yoshimo said to Sorkatani. “Let us wait here until Willow changes her spell, and then take Tara and go.”

“Evil should get its butt kicked whenever the chance arises,” Minsc said.

“I am with Yoshimo on this,” Jaheira put in. “Why take the risk?”

“I think so also, jabbress,” Viconia backed Jaheira.

“A dragon is a terrible opponent,” Anomen said. “It would be only sensible to free your comrade by other means and to depart from this place without confronting the beast.” He clenched his jaw. “Yet it killed my comrades of the Order of the Radiant Heart. I cannot let that go unavenged and still call myself a man. I say we fight.”

Spike looked at Anomen with new respect. “I’d go for that. Not that I’m mad keen on taking the bugger on, inflammable vampire here, but the twat who had Tara kidnapped needs to get his head chopped off.”

“And his valuable hide removed carefully and taken to Cromwell,” Anya said.

“All my instincts tell me that it must be fought,” Sorkatani said, “but perhaps I cannot trust my instincts.” She sighed. “I am sorry that I spoke harshly to you, Spike. I am on edge. I know that you did but jest.”

“Don’t worry about it, Tani,” Spike said. “Only natural if you get ratty sometimes. Got a lot on your plate, I know.”

Giles had been deep in thought. “There is a lot to be said for attacking the dragon right away,” he declared. “We would be most vulnerable to its attack outdoors, where it can use its power of flight to the best advantage, and where it can pick its moment to strike. Better to take it out now so that we can go into the fight with all possible preparations ready in advance.”

“That is logical,” Jaheira agreed. “Perhaps my first thought was in error. I have a spell that could bring even a dragon to the brink of death with a mere touch of my hand, if its resistance to magic failed the creature, but if it was in flight I could never hope to strike it. Caution may betray us in this instance and an action seemingly rash might be the wiser course.”

“Rupert Giles speaks words of wisdom,” Sorkatani declared. “I will fight. I do not command any to follow me into a combat so perilous, and if any of you wish to stand back I will think no less of you, but I would be glad of assistance.”

“I would follow you into the Nine Hells, jabbress,” Viconia said immediately. “I stand with you always.”

“As do I,” Yoshimo declared.

“I’m in,” Buffy said. “Like I’d pass up on the chance to try out this Dragonslayer sword? I don’t think so.”

A chorus of assent came from the entire group with no abstentions. Sorkatani smiled. “I am well pleased, my friends. Let us make sure that we are well prepared. What Potions of Fire Resistance do we have? Spells to counter the aura of fear? Giles, you mentioned a song?”

- - - - -

They descended a long and wide staircase and passed through an enormous archway. Beyond it was a vast chamber hewn from the rock. The walls were carved in intricate patterns. Alcoves at the sides were inlaid with slabs of stone in the form of teeth so that they resembled enormous mouths. Pillars shaped like human femurs rose from the alcoves to the vaulted ceiling.

They paid little attention to the décor. Their eyes went to the figure in the centre of the chamber and their gazes stayed there. Mouths dropped open.

The dragon was immense. The Shadow Dragon had been almost as large as an adult Tyrannosaurus Rex. Firkraag was bigger by a full fifty per cent. Perhaps not Godzilla-sized, as Tara had described him, but colossal nonetheless. Minsc stared at the titanic beast, as it raised its head from its pillow of gold coins and opened its enormous eyes, and he gave voice to all their feelings.

“I need a bigger sword.”

- - - - -

There was nothing that Tara could do but wait. She sat at her table, munched on an apple, and tried to keep herself occupied by reading a book that had been brought to her by the late Tazok. ‘The History of the Drow’. She was finding it interesting but disturbing. If even a quarter of the material in the book was accurate then it was no wonder that Viconia was the focus of so much hatred simply because of her race.

She heard a sound close at hand. A clink of metal on metal. She looked up from the pages and alarm shot through her. Rascar was standing at the door of the cage.

“I knew that if I stayed hidden long enough I’d get you alone,” Rascar gloated. “Your friends are off to throw their lives away against Firkraag. He won’t have any further use for you, and Tazok’s dead, so you’re expendable.”

Tara laid down the book. “So, what, you’re going to stand outside the cage and make faces at me?”

Rascar grinned and held up a heavy brass key. “I picked Conster’s pocket. Oh, you can forget about playing tricks on me like you did last time. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I’m warded against every spell you could possibly throw at me.” He inserted the key into the lock and turned it. “Most of Firkraag’s people are dead now. I was just hired for this one job. Now that it’s over I’ll be heading back to Athkatla to work for Bodhi again. There are just a couple of loose ends to tie up first.” He pulled the door open, stepped into the cage, and leered at Tara. “Like paying you back for making a fool out of me. I’m going to make you scream.”

- - - - -

Sorkatani frowned up at Firkraag. “Then your grudge against me stems from something that Gorion did to you long ago? He is dead, dragon. Is your revenge not hollow?”

“I can torment his spirit by tormenting you,” Firkraag explained. “Yet I might have let it pass were it not for the other part of your heritage. It amused me to test you, godling. The game has proved less entertaining than I expected, alas. I had intended to rid you of some of your hangers-on and leave you weakened for when you confront Irenicus. They have proved more resilient than I expected, sadly, and robbed me of my triumph. Ah, well, my followers will be easy to replace. Go. The game is over. I shall let you live – for now. Your confrontation with Irenicus might be interesting.”

Conster was standing at Firkraag’s side. He visibly relaxed at the dragon’s words.

“You are releasing Tara?” Sorkatani frowned. It seemed too easy.

The dragon boomed out a great laugh. “I am not. I shall hold on to her for a while. She shall serve to compel you to return to me if you survive Irenicus. Until then, godling, I bid you farewell. Go. Before I change my mind.”

“I will not leave without Tara,” Sorkatani told him.

“Do what he says, Bhaalspawn,” Conster urged. “I will see that your friend is well treated.”

“Do not try my patience, foolish child,” Firkraag growled. “I could crush you like an insect. Leave while you have the chance.”

“First let us sing you a song that may persuade you otherwise,” Sorkatani said. “Giles, if you would?”

The dragon raised an eyebrow the size of a man’s arm. “If this bores me I will eat you, bard.”

“Oh, I very much doubt that you will be bored,” Giles said, and the corners of his mouth quirked up as he unslung his guitar. He blasted out the opening chords and then began to sing. It was a Georgia Satellites song, but with the lyrics subtly warped to suit his purposes, and hastily amended again on seeing the sheer size of the dragon.

I’ve got you tied down with battleship chains
Fifty foot long and a ten ton anchor
Tied down with battleship chains
Fifty foot long and a ten ton anchor

You can’t move your arms
To hold nobody
Hold nobody but you
You can’t move your legs
To chase nobody
To kick nobody but you…

The air around Firkraag formed itself into massive steel chains, each link the size of a truck tire, ending in an anchor that would have completely filled the front room of 1630 Revello Drive. The dragon roared in rage and tried to rear up. The chains hampered his movements and, although the anchor briefly rose from the ground, Firkraag could not support the weight for more than a couple of seconds before being forced to return to all fours. His wings were held close to his body and his legs were bound.

Willow hit Firkraag with a Lower Resistance spell. Viconia cast a Miscast Magic in an attempt to cripple the dragon’s ability to retaliate with spells. Anomen brought forth a pair of skeletons and sent them forward to engage the dragon. Jaheira held back her spells for the time being and contented herself with hurling a slingshot at the huge creature. Anya and Dawn took up sheltered positions in alcoves and began to fire their crossbows, as did Yoshimo with his short bow. Giles headed for an alcove too, strutting rather than walking, and belting out Southern Rock as he went. Sorkatani, Buffy, and Minsc charged with swords, heading for the hindquarters of the dragon, well away from the deadly jaws. Xander threw Azuredge and then ran forward; not to attack Firkraag but towards the mound of gold and jewels from which the beast had arisen.

Spike drew no weapon but instead hurled himself bodily at Conster. The wizard had already protected himself with a Stoneskin and other protective spells kicked in as the conflict began. Spike ignored them and seized the mage in his arms. He ran for the cavern wall and slammed Conster into the rock. “Try doing your mojo with this going on, sunshine,” Spike challenged. He began to bash the mage’s head against the wall over and over again. Conster struggled helplessly against the vampire’s overwhelming strength. The Stoneskin protected him from damage but, as Spike had predicted, casting spells in the circumstances was impossible. Eventually the Stoneskin would give way and Conster would be at Spike’s mercy. Spike grinned happily as he bashed away.

Firkraag inhaled. He couldn’t turn enough to get a clear shot at the Bhaalspawn and the other irritating humans who were hacking at him with swords. They were doing him no immediate harm, as a Contingency spell had activated as soon as he was attacked and a Stoneskin now backed up his natural armor, and he planned on removing some of their allies before he turned his attention to them. He had only three viable targets for his flames; the skeletons who were advancing with maces, who posed little threat to him; the armored man who had run to his treasure hoard, obviously overcome by greed, could be ignored for the time being; and the inhumanly strong and fast human, probably the vampire he had heard about, who had neutralized Conster. The decision was a no-brainer. Firkraag took aim at Spike and exhaled a gout of incandescent flame.

- - - - -

Tara stood up. For a moment she had been scared that Rascar would stand outside the cage and shoot her with a crossbow. She had experimented during her captivity with an attempt to improvise a sling from her bra, with the chess pieces as ammunition, but it had been a dismal failure. If he was really warded against spells he could have shot her with impunity and her only option would have been to take shelter in the bathtub. Now that he was in the cage, however…

“Mielikki, kimmoisuus we kesto - lta esitaistelija,” she chanted, and picked up the fruit bowl.

“That’s not the ‘pear’ I’m interested in,” Rascar leered. He put his arm up to block as she swung the bowl at him.

His arm was swept aside and the silver dish smashed into his face with force enough to break his nose. He reeled back with blood pouring down his face. “Bitch!” he grunted, and swung a punch. Tara moved the bowl into the path of his blow. He knocked it from her grasp but snatched his hand back and yelped. The impact had broken two of his fingers.

“What? How?” Rascar gasped. His uninjured hand left went to the hilt of his short sword and he began to draw it; awkwardly, as the scabbard was positioned to place the hilt for a right hand draw.

“Champion’s Strength,” Tara informed him. “I’m stronger than you are now.” She turned to take hold of the chair. Rascar abandoned his attempt to draw the sword and jumped forward to throw his arms around her. She drove her elbow back hard into his stomach and he released her. Tara snatched up the chair, whirled around, and brought it down upon his head. He didn’t go down and so she hit him again and again until he fell. She hit him once more for luck and tossed the chair, now cracked and splintered, aside.

She knelt beside him. He was unconscious. She seized his left hand and pulled a ring from his finger, and then repeated the process with his injured right. He yelped and moved as she did so; she made sure that he wasn’t going to return to consciousness by bouncing his head off the stone floor. She slipped the rings onto her own fingers and tugged his leather jerkin off over his head. His body lifted up as she pulled and then flopped down as the jerkin came free. His head thudded down onto the flagstones yet again. Blood began to trickle from his ears. Tara ignored it. She was more interested in the amulet at his neck that had been revealed once the leather armor was out of the way. She found the clasp, removed it from Rascar, and fastened it around her own neck. She pulled on the leather jerkin over her silk dress and left the cage.

Tara turned the key in the lock, pulled it free, and tossed it to the other side of the room. She chanted a phrase and a war hammer materialized in her hand. She grasped it firmly, ran out of the room, and set off down the stairs to help her friends.

- - - - -

Dawn screamed out a warning to Spike with all the power that her lungs could provide. Other warnings rang out from Jaheira, from Yoshimo, and from Anomen. Viconia’s gaze swung to Spike as she heard the shouts and her eyes opened wide in horror. Giles began a new verse of his song but knew that he would be too late to have any influence on the dragon’s attack:

Can’t use your fire
To burn nobody
To burn nobody but you.

Xander snatched up a sword from the middle of the pile of gold. A two handed weapon with an ornate gilded crossguard, a hilt bound with gold wire, and a pommel of solid gold set with a ruby the size of a pigeon’s egg. He pulled it free of its richly decorated scabbard with desperate speed.

Spike heard the warnings and spun around. He flattened himself against the wall and held up Conster as a shield against the jet of fire. It splashed against the mage, set his clothes and hair ablaze, and burned through flesh to the bone. Tongues of flame licked around Conster and played over Spike. His jeans caught fire. Viconia emitted a shrill wail of anguish.

Xander swung the shining sword and connected solidly with the dragon’s jaw. The Stoneskin vanished and a three-foot gash opened up in the scaly hide. Firkraag’s head was knocked aside and the rest of the flaming blast played out harmlessly against the stone wall.

Buffy drove the sword Dragonslayer through the middle of one of the chain links and pierced deep into Firkraag’s leg.

Sorkatani replicated the move at the other side, weakening Firkraag further, although Celestial Fury did not penetrate as deeply as did the sword specially forged to be the bane of dragons.

Minsc, whose native strength was augmented by a Frost Giant Strength potion, drove Lilarcor all the way through Firkraag’s tail and into the stone floor, pinning the appendage in place.

Anomen ran to Spike and beat out the flames that were threatening to engulf the vampire. Viconia had also started to run towards Spike but she had started from much further away. She halted when she saw that Anomen had beaten her to Spike and she turned back to face Firkraag once more. Her face was distorted by a snarl as she uttered an incantation.

Willow sent a volley of Magic Missiles hissing through the air. They fizzled out against what remained of the dragon’s resistance to magic.

Viconia brought down a Holy Smite upon Firkraag. This penetrated the resistance and the dragon shuddered under the impact.

Jaheira had been waiting for evidence that Firkraag was not protected by Spell Turning; her spell was so devastating that to have it reflected back upon her would mean almost certain death. Now she rushed forward, pressed her hand to Firkraag’s tail, and spoke a word of command. The dragon screamed in agony.

Another Stoneskin flashed into existence. An arrow from Yoshimo and a crossbow bolt from Anya bounced off the magical protection only seconds later. The Blade of Roses glanced harmlessly from Firkraag’s leg and Buffy grimaced in frustration.

Xander swung again with the sword from the dragon’s hoard. This time the blade did not penetrate.

Firkraag gasped in a huge breath of air. He could not turn towards the priest who had injured him so direly and so he focused on the man who had laid open his face; no greedy fool, the dragon now realized, but someone who had somehow spotted and recognized the sword of awesome power, and who had the necessary qualifications to wield the dread blade. A paladin. Fear filled the dragon for the first time in decades. He was badly injured, bound in place, and the Holy Sword could destroy him at a stroke. He managed to cast a spell of healing upon himself, undoing most of the damage that he had suffered, and his panic eased. He flared his huge nostrils and opened his mouth to exhale another blast of flame.

Nothing happened.

Firkraag roared with frustration. It was the bard’s song, he realized. ‘Can’t use your fire to burn nobody, to burn nobody but you’. He swung his head around and breathed out fiercely at the chains that entangled him. The metal began to glow cherry red.

Anomen’s skeletons, ignored by the dragon, began to batter on Firkraag’s front limbs with their morning stars. Their blows were feeble compared to those from the mighty warriors at the rear, and they could not understand that they needed to avoid the chain links that entangled the dragon’s legs and so many of their strikes were wasted, but each successful hit stripped away a layer from the dragon’s second Stoneskin. So did each arrow impact, each crossbow bolt, each blow from the swords of Buffy and Sorkatani, each of the magical sling bullets that Viconia was now bombarding him with, and a Melf’s Acid Arrow spell from Willow.

Minsc was leaning on Lilarcor, embedding the point even more firmly into the floor, rather than withdrawing it and striking again. Neither the Stoneskin nor the healing spell had affected that wound, held open by the sword blade, and blood was pouring out. More importantly, perhaps, Firkraag could not use his tail as a weapon without inflicting even more serious injury upon himself.

Jaheira laid her hand upon the dragon once more and cast a lesser variant of the spell that had affected him so catastrophically earlier. The Stoneskin did nothing to impede the spell and pain seared through him. It injured him as badly as if it had been a blow with a two-handed sword.

Firkraag’s eyes were wide and rolling like those of a panicked horse. His flame breath was a natural ability and required no concentration; he cast a spell of Fireball even as he tried to burn himself free of the chains, which were by now glowing brilliant orange. It was centered on himself; he was immune to the effects and he hoped to drive back the attackers who were imperiling his life so gravely.

The spell failed. Viconia’s Miscast Magic spell had frustrated Firkraag’s intent.

The chains parted. Firkraag roared in triumph and crushed the miserable skeletons under one mighty claw. His head swung around towards Xander and his mouth gaped wide. Fangs like scimitars gleamed in his maw. He struck out with a wing and knocked Sorkatani from her feet. The Perfect Warrior was thrown through the air and landed heavily on the stone floor. Her helmet fell from her head and she lay still. Viconia dropped her sling and raced for her fallen leader.

Xander thrust the sword into Firkraag’s mouth and hit the massive tongue. The Stoneskin failed and Firkraag recoiled.

Buffy struck upwards at Firkraag’s belly in a double blow with Dragonslayer and the Blade of Roses. The two weapons sank in deep.

Firkraag tried to rise into the air. Minsc kept tight hold of Lilarcor and the blade ripped through the flesh of the dragon’s tail as the mighty creature moved. Blood gushed from the dreadful wound.

Firkraag howled. He dropped back onto all fours and swung his head towards the warriors who were cutting his rear quarters to ribbons.

Xander had a perfect shot at the side of the dragon’s neck and took it. The gleaming blade sliced through hide, through flesh, and into bone. Firkraag’s legs buckled under him and twelve tons of reptilian monster crashed to the ground. One final gout of flame spewed forth from his nostrils, passing just over Sorkatani’s head as she lay stunned, and washed over Viconia. The flames were feeble and Viconia was well protected. She emerged from the fire virtually unscathed.

The dragon’s body twitched once and was still. His eyes glazed over and stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Firkraag the Great, the ancient terror, was dead.

Tara raced through the archway, hammer held high, and came to a halt. She stood still, surveyed the scene, and panted for breath after her sprint down the stairs. “I guess … you didn’t need … my help after … all.”

- - - - -

“They took Firkraag like Grant took Richmond,” Jonathan reported. “No sweat at all. Spike was the only one who even got hurt.”

“Spike got hurt?” Andrew turned around in his seat.

“Not bad hurt,” Jonathan reassured him. “He got flamed some, but he was buffed up with a Fire Resistance potion. Nothing a Cure Serious won’t fix.”

“That’s great, dude.” Andrew turned away again and went back to reading Jonathan’s revisions to his draft script for the pirate game. He had to concede, reluctantly, that they had improved things a lot. Jonathan had tightened up the plot, sharpened the dialog, and his new alternate scenario with a female player character read very well. Andrew would have liked to find fault with it but so far he hadn’t succeeded in spotting more than an occasional typo.

“They took out Firkraag without losing anybody? I’m impressed,” Warren said. “I wouldn’t have thought they could pull it off. I mean, it’s not hard with the Setting Traps cheat, but there’s no way the game would let them get away with that under Firkraag’s nose now that it’s being all logical.”

“Giles did a song that tied Firkraag up in fifty feet of battleship chain,” Jonathan told him. “Then basically they just beat the crap out of him. Jaheira did a Harm spell on him and had him down to ‘near death’ for a while but they couldn’t finish him off that time. He healed himself back up – it’s always kinda rankled with me when he does that ‘cause when you check him out in Shadowkeeper he doesn’t have any Heal spells, so he shouldn’t be able to do it – but they just blitzed him again. Man, the damage Buffy was doing with that Dragonslayer sword was just totally awesome. And Xander pulled Carsomyr out of the heap of gold and totally whacked the hell out of Firkraag with it.”

“Heap of gold?” Warren was intrigued enough to go over and look for himself. “Wow. A real dragon hoard. Neat. That will look good in the mod. And you can pull Carsomyr out of it before Firkraag’s dead? Cool.”

“It was just great, dude. They’re all working together like a real team.” Jonathan smiled. “Like us, dude.”

Warren smiled back at him. “Yeah, we’re doing pretty good, short stuff. The script’s pretty much ready, unless Andrew spots anything that I’ve missed, and we can start getting some voice acting done pretty much any time. We’re still missing some of the sailing stuff but I’ve come up with a neat algorithm for cannon fire. All my own work too. Want to help me do some playtesting?”

“Yeah, that’d be cool,” Jonathan agreed eagerly. “I’ll just leave these guys to it for a while. It’s all going to be, like, skinning the dragon and sharing out the treasure and stuff for a while now. It’s not like they’re going to get into any more fights that tough until they start mixing it with Bodhi. We won’t miss anything.”

- - - - -

“Oh, baby, I’ve missed you so much,” Willow murmured. “Are we, you know, good now?”

“We’re good,” Tara confirmed. “I’ve missed you a whole lot, sweetie. And you’ve come on so much. You’re what I always knew you could be.” She touched her lips lightly to Willow’s cheek. “If you want to get back together, well, so do I. I love you.”

“Oh, Tara, I love you too,” Willow gasped. Her mouth sought Tara’s and the two girls clung together. Arms wrapped around bodies, hands explored, and clothes began to come off. The two girls sank down onto the bed together. The last pieces of underwear were tossed aside and their naked bodies were revealed. Willow kissed her way down from Tara’s throat to her breasts, down her belly, and onwards. Gasps, moans, and whispered words of love were uttered, growing louder as their pleasure and excitement grew.

They didn’t bother to get under the bedclothes; after all, nobody was watching.


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 use of an amended version of the lyrics of ‘Battleship Chains’, written by Terry Anderson and recorded by The Georgia Satellites, is completely unauthorized but without any claim to ownership or intent to profit.

Tags: birthday wishes, birthdays, fic, tabula_avatar
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