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 similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum took place off-screen during the earlier chapters of this story.
Corgeig Axehand rolled up the scrolls that Anya had given to him. He handed them to a clerk and then turned cold eyes on Isaea Roenal. “You are suspended from your post pending further investigation. Nalia shall be released immediately. It appears that her distrust of you is hardly proof of mental incompetence. Very much the reverse, in fact.”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” Isaea protested. “I am the son of Lord Farthington Roenal. You can not treat me as if I were some mere peasant.”
“Were you not the son of Lord Roenal you would have been thrown into jail to await trial,” Corgeig growled. “Tempt me not.”
Isaea averted his eyes from his commander’s contemptuous gaze and turned towards Anya and Yoshimo. “You think you’ve won, peasant scum? Well, gloat over your petty triumph for now. This isn’t over.”
“You wouldn’t be threatening me, would you?” Anya’s eyebrows arched upwards. “I really don’t think that’s wise. Xander Dragonslayer wouldn’t like that at all.”
“Without your position you are nothing, lordling,” Yoshimo said, with a hint of a sneer. “Just another villain in armor for Sorkatani to cut down as easily as if you were a yuan-ti or a troll.”
Isaea flushed. “I object to your implications. I had nothing to do with the attack on the De’Arnise hold.”
Anya’s eyebrows quirked upwards. “Did we say that you had?”
“Ah, the prickles of a guilty conscience,” Yoshimo commented.
“Such insolence!” Isaea spluttered. “To imply that someone in my position would stoop to dealing with such trash is ridiculous.”
“You deal with smugglers,” Corgeig pointed out. “And take money from the Slavers to look the other way, or so it seems. Your position? You will never again hold any position of authority within this city. Even if you are not banished or jailed.” A cold smile flickered across his stern face. “As for your claim to the De’Arnise hold, there is an easy way that you could settle it. Challenge Sorkatani to single combat.” The cold smile grew broader as the veteran warrior detected fear in his corrupt subordinate’s eyes. “She is known throughout the Sword Coast as the Perfect Warrior, true, but that should not worry an Amnian noble. Should it?”
“I do not brawl like a common ruffian.” Isaea averted his gaze rather than face Corgeig’s contemptuous stare.
“And you do not duel like a nobleman either? Yet you claimed to carry out the duties of an officer in the army of Amn. Get out of my sight, Roenal.”
Isaea Roenal took a step backwards, turned, and walked away with as much dignity as he could muster. He cast one quick, hate-filled, glance over his shoulder at Anya and Yoshimo. Anya gave him a broad but tight-lipped smile and drew a finger across her throat. Isaea turned to stare straight ahead again and accelerated his pace.
“You have made an enemy today,” Corgeig Axehand warned Anya and Yoshimo. “He will not forget your part in this affair.”
“He was already Sorkatani’s enemy, and I stand at her side,” Yoshimo said.
“Me too,” Anya added. “I don’t think my part in breaking up the Slaver ring endeared me to him either. But now it’s all out in the open. Much better. We know where we stand. And, when it comes to vengeance, he’s playing on my turf.”
“Ah, the others have come to collect us,” Yoshimo commented. His forehead furrowed. “Strange. They wear expressions of sadness.”
“Xander!” Anya yelped, and spun around. Her face twisted with alarm, which cleared up as she saw her fiancé safe and apparently well in the midst of the group. “I have to go,” she told Corgeig Axehand. “Farewell.” She shot off to join Xander. Yoshimo followed at a more restrained pace.
“Hey,” Anya greeted her comrades. “What’s up?”
Xander came to a halt. “Uh, we had some kinda bad news, Ahn. Anomen’s sister is dead. She was murdered while he was off with us fighting the dragon.”
“Oh,” said Anya. On a scale of one to ten of importance this would rate about a two at most, but Buffy seemed fond of the annoying priest, and so some expression of sympathy or regret was probably appropriate. “That’s a shame. Uh, why does this mean everyone had to come here? Why doesn’t he, or Tara or Viconia, just raise her?”
Xander grimaced and glanced at Anomen, who had kept on walking, to check that the cleric had moved out of hearing range. “Because his father is an idiot and a jerk,” he explained. “You think that my dad’s bad? Lord Cor Delryn makes him look like, I don’t know, Mister Nice Guy. He’s had the girl cremated. No money to pay for a resurrection, he said. Well, that’s probably because he drank it all.”
“But Anomen could have done it for free,” Anya pointed out.
“Well, yeah, I know that, you know that, but Lord Cor either doesn’t know it or just got so damn drunk he forgot. Or he doesn’t believe that his son has that kind of power, which I guess would kinda serve Anomen right for the tall tales about the twenty giants and stuff, but it was, well…” Xander shook his head. “I still think he’s a jerk, but I can see how he got that way.”
“Yes,” Anya agreed. “But why come here?”
“The old guy wanted Anomen to kill the guy he thought had done the murder,” Xander began.
“Sounds fine to me,” Anya said.
“Well, yeah, Ahn, except there’s no proof. Lord Cor says it must have been this business rival guy who made him go bust. Just because. Well, I’m not seeing the logic there. The other guy won out. Why would he want to kill the girl? The other way round, maybe, but the winner’s not gonna be the one carrying a grudge. So Buffy told Anomen no way, he should go to the magistrate, and he could see the sense in that. It got him thrown out of the house and disinherited. Not that there’s anything to inherit, unless empty bottles are worth money here, but he’s kinda broke up about it.”
“I suppose this means that Buffy’s going to be depressed again?”
“Well, she didn’t know the girl, so I don’t think she’s gonna set any moping records, but she’s being all supportive girlfriend so I don’t think she’s gonna be doing any happy dances either.” Xander shrugged. “Hey, I just tagged along ‘cause I guessed you’d still be here. We might as well split. I’d say let’s go home, only we don’t really have one here. Just rooms at the inn.”
“Yes,” Anya agreed, “but at least they are rooms with double beds.”
“Will you sing tonight, zra’ha?” Viconia asked Giles. “I desire to perform the ‘Sunshine’ song. The rivvin lusted after Tara when she sang of Home Alabama. To cause the same effect would amuse me. Should it arouse Spike then the benefits might be more than mere momentary amusement.”
“Perhaps it would not be advisable for me to sing on this occasion,” Giles replied. “It might appear that I am making light of Anomen’s grief.”
Viconia’s upper lip curled. “Huh. You care no more about him than do I.”
“Buffy cares,” Giles said. “Anyway, it just wouldn’t be polite. I assure you, Viconia, I am eager to see you putting my lessons into practice. Tomorrow night, I promise, unless some adventure comes up to make that impossible.”
Several of the nearby tavern patrons, who had been listening in the hope that Giles would be swayed into giving a performance, turned back to their drinks.
“It is a shame that we have no drummer,” Giles mused. “The original song relies heavily upon a drum beat. It may seem somewhat, ah, insubstantial without it.”
Korgan the dwarf rose from his chair at the next table and came over to stand beside Giles. “Ye seek a drummer, ye said? That’d be me, ye ken.”
“You’re a drummer?” Giles raised his eyebrows. “I had no idea that you were a bard.”
“Ah’m nae a bard,” Korgan grinned. “Ah like hitting things, that’s aw’ there is tae it.”
“As long as you can hit them in the proper rhythm,” Giles said. “A drummer. Excellent. That would open up a great deal of possibilities. We would need a certain amount of rehearsal, of course. Hmm.” He drifted away into happy musings about songs that would become viable with the addition of a drummer to his acoustic guitar. ‘White Room’. ‘Pride of the Summer’. ‘Fireball’. The Gary Moore song called ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ rather than the Zeppelin number that shared the name. Yes, there were some intriguing possibilities.
“Ah’m nae sayin’ ah’d dae it for nothin’,” Korgan went on. “Ah want somethin’ in return.”
“Of course, of course,” Giles said. “An equitable share of the proceeds would be yours, certainly.”
“That’s nae it,” Korgan said. “Ah had this contract, ye ken. Ah was tae retrieve the Book o’ Kaza frae a crypt, guarded by fierce beasties o’ course, an’ ah’d get paid in gold. Ah gathered a team o’ tomb robbers, an’ the expedition was aw’ ready, an’ then the gutless bastards let me doon. Lost their bottle, the craven jessies.”
“Ah,” said Giles. “I take it that you propose an alliance.”
“Aye. We split the treasure frae the tomb, ye ken, but the book is aw’ mine. An’ then ah play the drums for ye.”
Giles looked at Korgan through narrowed eyes. A scarred face, a prominent hooked nose, and a ragged beard bound into ringlets. Heavy-lidded eyes that gave nothing away. Xander had detected that Korgan was evil, nothing in the dwarf’s appearance gave the lie to that assessment, and Giles pondered the question of whether Korgan could be trusted.
“Any such agreement must be approved by Sorkatani,” Viconia said, pre-empting Giles’ reply. “I expect that she will be in favor.”
Korgan’s brows had started to lower as Viconia spoke but rose again at her concluding words. “Aye, the wee lassie should be. Ah’m a bonny fichter, ye ken.”
“I’m sure you are,” Giles agreed. “No doubt we can come to some arrangement. Subject to Buffy’s approval, of course.”
“Is it aw’ the lassies whae are in charge wi’ ye lot?” Korgan asked.
“Of course,” Viconia said. “As it should be.”
Korgan scowled. “Ah’m nae accustomed tae takin’ orders frae wee lassies. Aw weel, ah suppose yon Perfect Warrior’s a braw fichter, an’ the same wi’ the Slayer o’ the Vampires. Ah can put up wi’ it for a wee whiles.”
“Did you hear that? He called Buffy the Slayer of the Vampyres,” Andrew commented.
“Yeah? That makes two people out of the whole universe and one of them is a psycho dwarf in a computer game.” Warren raised his eyes towards the ceiling. “You can be one strange dude some of the time, Andrew, you know that? With the weird names for Buffy, and your thing for Spike, and especially with you being the only guy in the world who thinks that Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond.”
“Dalton was the most like the way Bond was in the books,” Andrew pointed out. “Ian Fleming would totally have voted for Dalton.”
“I am so not going to get involved in that all over again,” Warren said. “Anyway, we have work to do. This place kinda smells.”
“You never minded before,” Andrew said.
“Well, it’s not like anyone ever came over before,” Warren said. “When it was just us it didn’t matter all that much if everything smelled like socks and old pizza. Alex and Randy didn’t seem to mind, I guess, but there are girls coming this time and girls notice that kind of thing. I don’t want them thinking we’re a bunch of slobs. Even if we are.”
“It’s our hideout,” Andrew whined. “Why did you have to tell Alex and ask them to come here? And suppose they’re mad at us?”
“If there’s any heat I’ll take it,” Warren declared. “It was my idea. You weren’t even involved in the game thing, anyway. That was all me and Jonathan.”
“Hey, it was my imp that found the crystal,” Andrew reminded him. “And what about the rest? I summoned the demon to rob the bank, and we all worked on the freeze ray, and there was the whole test thing. If you’re gonna tell them everything they are so gonna be pissed.” Andrew cringed and his shoulders curved forwards and inwards. “I don’t want them to be pissed at me. Joan might hurt me.”
There wasn’t any way of looking higher than at the ceiling but if there had been Warren would have managed it. “What part of ‘I’ll take the heat’ didn’t you understand, dude? It was me who spilled to Alex. I didn’t ask you guys first so I don’t expect you to suffer any consequences. I just expect you to help me clean the place up and make nice when they come over.”
“Okay, okay,” Andrew agreed. “I guess I can do the vacuuming.”
“Yeah. Maybe I’d better move the furniture out. I got a feeling that some pizza went down behind something and is kinda rotting. We’d better hope that Jonathan brings back some pretty powerful air freshener to cover it up if I don’t get rid of the source.” Warren moved the couch away from the wall and then went to one of the computer stands. He took hold of it but paused and watched the screen for a minute.
“What’s so interesting?” Andrew asked. “It’s not like they’re fighting or boinking or anything. Just talking.”
“Bernard’s just suggested that Giles should try to get a gig at the Five Flagons Inn,” Warren explained. “That means that they’ll meet up with Raelis Shai and get the Haer’Dalis quest, and do the Planar Prison. That didn’t happen last time through.”
“Cool!” Andrew abandoned his search for the vacuum and scurried over to join Warren. “Maybe Haer’Dalis will make a play for Buffy. He is just so much cooler than Anomen.”
“Well, yeah, but who isn’t?” Warren reached for the chair and moved as if to sit down but then stopped himself. “Anyway, it’s not like it’s gonna happen right away. First things first.” He pushed the ‘off’ switch on the monitor. “We’d best not get distracted. Clean-up time. Work first, and then play.”
“I can’t work with a guy who’s evil,” Xander said. “Uh, no offense meant, Korgan, it’s just one of those Paladin rules.”
“Bunch ‘o jessies,” Korgan grunted, but his expression didn’t convey any particular animosity towards the young man.
“So we split up again,” Buffy suggested. “It’s not like we’d all fit into a crypt anyway. We’re all one big happy family now, which is of the good, but the trouble is the ‘big’ part.”
“Indeed,” Giles agreed. “Dividing our forces could have certain advantages. Perhaps one group could investigate that mysterious doorway in the sewers whilst the other is, ah, looting crypts.”
“I’m good with that,” Buffy said. “And hey, Giles, I want you to be Research Guy again. I’ll talk with you later. It’s about that thing I mentioned at Nalia’s Keep.”
“That thing?” Giles gave her a look of blank incomprehension.
“You know. That thing about making sure that something doesn’t happen, right?”
“Ah, yes. I take it that you have a plan?”
“Yeah.” Buffy turned her head and saw that Sorkatani was approaching the table, accompanied by Yoshimo and Nalia. “We’ll talk about it later, ‘kay? For now, let’s just work out how we’re gonna work this split. At least it’s not so much like that old puzzle about getting the fox, the chicken, and the corn across the river. We can all work with each other these days. Xander goes in one team, Korgan goes in the other, and the rest is just making sure that we both have a good mix of skills.”
“You propose to divide our parties again?” Sorkatani asked. She pulled out a chair, spun it around, and sat down straddling it with her arms resting on the chair back. “Nalia has offered us her services on an occasional basis. I think that she craves a little adventure. She is a competent mage, although not as skilled as Willow, and has some ability with locks and traps. If we take up her offer she could fill in slots that otherwise we would lack in the two halves of our party.”
“Yeah, that could be useful,” Buffy said. “Maybe we’ll take her up on it. Tell Tani what we’re planning, Giles.”
Giles explained the situation clearly and concisely.
Sorkatani nodded. “In a mausoleum the most likely opposition would come from the Undead. Our most powerful weapons against them would be Buffy, Spike, Viconia, and, rather inconveniently, Xander.”
“There could be anything at all behind that door in the sewers,” Buffy said. “Maybe nothing, but I don’t think so. We’d have to be ready for anything. Including Undead. So, a good mix, like I said.” Her lips formed into a pout. “This is all book-worky stuff. I kinda suck at it.” She looked meaningfully at Giles. “More your scene, right?”
“Perhaps,” Giles agreed. “However I think that the person best suited for this organizational task is Anya. Perhaps with assistance from Xander. His Dungeons and Dragons experience may be of some relevance in this situation.”
“Bloody hell, mate, you’ve gone too far with the sodding air freshener,” Randy remarked, screwing up his nose. “Liked it better when the place smelled like a Turkish wrestler’s jock-strap.”
Rupert raised an eyebrow. “Ah, yes, Randy. Thank you for that fascinating glimpse into your activities during your pre-Sunnydale years.”
“We, uh, were a bit too caught up in our work to think about keeping the place clean,” Jonathan explained. “Sorry.”
“Well, I think it’s nice that you made an effort,” Tara told him. “Although, yeah, I’m with Randy on you overdoing it with the freshener. Maybe you should open a window.”
“I can do that,” Andrew volunteered.
“Whatever.” Joan ignored Andrew and fixed Warren with a hard stare. “Okay, let’s see the other versions of us. And you have some explaining to do.”
“I know.” Warren stared intently at the floor as if there was something fascinating about the shape of a pizza stain on the carpet. “I’m sorry.”
“Save the sorry until after you’ve made with the explainy,” Joan told him.
“Hey, you came clean, Warren. That’s like halfway there with the sorry already,” Alex said.
“Uh, right.” Warren managed to drag his gaze up from the floor. “I could put on some coffee. That would kinda cover the air freshener smell, I guess.”
“Coffee would be nice,” Tara said.
Umad bounced on the balls of her feet. “I just wanna see us in the video game. I think it sounds all kinds of cool.”
“I want to know how you did it,” said Willow.
“Uh, I’ll show you the game,” Jonathan offered, “only I think maybe you’ll understand better if you take a look at the vanilla version first.”
“I’ll get with the coffee,” Andrew said.
“Thanks,” Joan said. “Uh, sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
“I’m Andrew.” He sighed at the blank look on Joan’s face. “Uh, Tucker’s brother.”
Joan frowned. “Who’s Tucker?”
A beaming smile spread across Andrew’s face and he punched the air. “Yes!”
Buffy slammed the Blade of Roses through the abdomen of the last of the Sword Spiders and pinned it to the floor. The legs of the man-sized arachnid curled up as it died. “I hate these things,” she snarled.
“I also,” Anomen agreed. His nose wrinkled in disgust as he cleaned green spider blood from the head of his mace.
Viconia shuddered. “Spiders are creatures of ill omen to me since I abandoned the goddess of my people.”
“Ah, if I still but had Spider’s Bane,” Minsc reminisced. “I slew giant spiders from one side of the Cloakwood to the other. Right, Boo?”
“Okay, guys, let’s make sure that there aren’t any more of them. That way.” Buffy pointed towards the web-shrouded archway through which the creatures had emerged.
“The crypt is the other way, lassie,” Korgan complained.
“We’ll get there, don’t worry,” Buffy said. “I just don’t want to come back out, maybe already hurting, and run into another bunch of spiders. Always cover your rear, that’s one thing I’ve learned in this place.”
“An’ a bonny rear it is,” Korgan said. “Aye, ye’ve a point there, lassie.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, great. Another evil guy with a thing about my ass.”
Korgan’s bushy eyebrows lowered and his forehead creased up. “Ye hae a donkey?”
“I like this not,” Sorkatani frowned.
“You said it,” Xander agreed. He stared at the corpses that lay on the stone steps. “I can sense evil up ahead. Major evil, I think, but pretty much at the edge of my range. It looks like this is gonna be a tough nut to crack. Maybe we ought to go back, link up with the Buffster again, and come back mob-handed.”
“Yet a single spell could have slain all these adventurers,” Sorkatani mused. “I shall not retreat until we know more.” She raised her eyes to Spike. “Scout ahead, if you would, abbil?”
“Usstan dosst.” Spike inclined his head towards Sorkatani and then turned to Willow. “Disappear me, Red.”
“Asanque,” Willow confirmed. She gestured, uttered an arcane phrase, and Spike vanished.
“I wish you’d stop with the creepy Drow words,” Xander grumbled. “It’s not like Viconia’s even here.”
“It’s just our thing, Xan,” Willow said. “Like we had our own Scooby words back in Sunnydale. You should try learning some. You know ‘abbil’, right? ‘Usstan dosst’ is ‘I am yours to command’, and ‘asanque’ means ‘as you wish’.”
“And ‘vith’os’ is ‘fuck you’,” Anya put in helpfully.
“Uh, language, Ahn,” Xander said, gesturing towards Dawn.
The teenager had been pouting in disappointment at not having been selected for the scouting duties. Now she gave Xander an eye roll. “I’ve heard the word before, Xander,” she said. “I’m not a kid.”
“Okay, okay,” Xander said. It really wasn’t a big deal, not without Buffy around anyway, and he turned back towards where Spike had been standing. “Okay, not-so-evil dead, go do your voodoo that you do so well.” There was no answer. Xander stood for a moment and toyed with Azuredge. “Uh, has he gone?”
The chamber was filled with spider webs. Dozens of the creatures scuttled over the silken curtains. Cat-sized tarantulas, rather than the massive Sword Spiders or Phase Spiders, but still potentially deadly. The web-encased human corpses in the center of the chamber were grim confirmations of that.
Although the spiders might not have been the primary cause of death. A drow woman stood over the bodies. She was looking down at them with an expression that might have been satisfaction but she looked up sharply as the adventurers entered. Her eyebrows shot up as she saw Viconia and she began to talk in a rapid stream of words. Her voice was high and shrill, in sharp contrast to Viconia’s deep and sultry tones, and none of Buffy’s party other than Viconia understood a word of it.
Viconia spoke briefly in reply. “Qu’ellar DeVir.”
“Dobluth!” the other drow spat out viciously. “Ulu z'hin maglust dal qu'ellar lueth valsharess zhah ulu z'hin wund lil phalar.”
Viconia smiled mirthlessly. “P’luin dos.” She flicked the Flail of Ages into an attacking position and the other drow screamed out a command to the spiders.
Buffy jumped forward. Her speed caught the drow off balance and a chanted spell was cut off short as the Blade of Roses slashed a bloody line across the dark skin. Nalia fired off a Cloudkill spell, aiming for the other side of the chamber, to wipe out as many of the tarantulas as possible without endangering the party. Viconia ran to join Buffy and began to rain blows down upon the wounded drow. Minsc stamped upon one spider and impaled another with his sword. Anomen smote one with his mace. The blow was far too hard for the purpose and pieces of spider splattered in all directions. Giles jabbed a tarantula with his staff. Another spider jumped onto the staff and began to run up the pole towards Giles’ hands. Nalia used her Cloudkill wand to knock the spider from his staff and onto the floor. Yoshimo stamped on it but was attacked by yet another spider as he did so. Its fangs failed to penetrate his dragon-skin boots and it started to climb up his leg. Anomen raised his mace but hesitated, unwilling to risk a blow that would probably injure the bounty hunter in the process of killing the spider, and then Korgan seized the tarantula in a mailed gauntlet and crushed it.
Within a couple of minutes all the spiders had been impaled, gassed, or squashed. The drow woman lay dead amongst her strange pets. Only one of the party had suffered any injury; Buffy, who had failed to notice a spider on her leg and who had been bitten on the thigh. The venom seemed to be having little effect on her, perhaps due to her Slayer constitution, but Anomen cast a neutralization spell and a minor cure just to be on the safe side.
“Ah, that was the first time that I have ever been glad to feel the hand of a bearded dwarf upon my leg,” Yoshimo commented.
“Ye’re nae mah type, laddie,” Korgan grunted. “Ah wonder if the drow lassie had any loot?”
“You know the drill, people. Check for traps, search the place, move out,” Buffy called. She was quite pleased with the way the fight had gone. Yeah, the opposition hadn’t been all that tough, but it was good that they’d all worked together smoothly, especially as she didn’t know some of this group all that well. Getting a work-out against small stuff before they came up against any heavy hitters was definitely of the good.
The way that Anya and Xander had divided them into two parties wasn’t the way that she would have done it, but then she had opted out of the discussion herself, and she couldn’t really object. It was kinda weird being away from Dawn, and she couldn’t help worrying about her sister, even though she knew that Spike would put Dawn’s safety above his own. Yoshimo probably felt a bit iffy about being away from Sorkatani, although he hadn’t said anything, and Viconia was no doubt feeling pretty wigged at being away from her Jabbress and her best friend. That thought reminded Buffy of something.
“Hey, Viconia,” she said. “What was all that talk about before the fight started? Anything important?”
Viconia looked up from the body that she was searching. “Drow politics,” she said. “It would be of no interest to rivvin.” She turned back to her task but then her forehead creased and she looked up once more. “Perhaps it would. I think that at first she took me for our leader, for it is hard for a drow jalil to take any lower station, but when I told her that I was of House DeVir she called me an outcast. That is true, for I was driven out even before the fall of House DeVir. But then she quoted the saying that ‘to walk apart from House and Queen is to walk into the grave’. My first thought had been that she was outcast too but, if that was the case, then her taunt made no sense. She must have been here at the behest of her Matron Mother. We must beware, for there may be other drow in the vicinity.”
“Ah’m quakin’ in mah boots,” Korgan sneered.
Viconia bridled. “Think not that all drow would fall so easily, hargluk. We were eight on one, remember. Things might have been different indeed on level terms.”
Buffy took a deep breath. Just when she’d been congratulating herself on everything going so well. “Drop it, both of you,” she said, trying to keep her tone light. “We have a tomb to raid.”
“It’s not going to help the performance if the drummer and the lead singer are at loggerheads,” Giles put in.
“True, zra’ha,” Viconia said. The intensity of her glare diminished slightly.
“Aye, there is that,” Korgan said. “If we’re aw’ finished here, let’s get on tae mah crypt.”
“Are we finished?” Buffy asked those members of the party who had been searching the chamber.
“I think so,” Yoshimo reported. “We have found some useful items.”
“Some scrolls that I can use,” Nalia expanded. “An obsidian spider figurine that can summon a monster to do the wielder’s will. And an Ioun Stone.”
“A what?” Buffy frowned.
Nalia held up a pale green gemstone. “A magical gem. It circles around its owner’s head and bestows protective or enhancing enchantments upon her. I will need to cast further spells to determine the exact nature of this one’s abilities.”
“It isn’t going to help anyone if it’s sitting in a pouch,” Buffy said. “Do the spell now, ‘kay?” She turned to Yoshimo. “One more sweep while Nalia’s doing that, and then we’re out of here.” She shot a quick glance towards Viconia and Korgan, who were still exchanging unfriendly glances, although at least they no longer seemed to be on the point of exchanging unfriendly blows. ‘I so don’t need this,’ she thought. ‘I bet Sorkatani’s doing better with her group.’
The eyes that stared at the screen were wide with alarm. “What’s going on?” Joan demanded. “How come Dawn’s attacking everybody? And hey, how come she’s kicking their asses?”
“She’s been confused by an Umber Hulk,” Jonathan explained. Alex gave a grunt of understanding, but the rest of the Scoobies merely turned their baffled stares on Jonathan. “Uh, it had a kinda magical weapon in its eyes,” Jonathan continued. “Dawn got hit and she’s gone kinda crazy. She’s attacking the guys now but in a minute she might suddenly run away. Or just stand doing nothing. Don’t worry, it’ll wear off in a few minutes. All the Umber Hulks are dead now. At least those in that part of the complex.”
“So why doesn’t somebody just grab her and hold her until she snaps out of it?” Joan asked. “It’s not like she could stop them.”
“Hey!” Umad protested. “I can too kick ass.”
“It’s not that easy,” Jonathan said. “She’s wearing a Girdle of Hill Giant Strength. They gave it to her because she’s the weakest, except maybe for Tara and she can do spells to make herself strong, only that’s kinda backfiring on them now. Dawn’s stronger than anybody except Sorkatani and Spike, and Spike’s kinda busy right now.”
“What’s that ugly bugger that I’m fighting?” Randy asked.
“A Mind Flayer,” Jonathan said. “They have psionic powers. They can do sorta psychic blasts, knock people out, take control of them, you know? And they eat brains. But their powers don’t seem to work on the undead.”
“Why am I just standing doing nothing?” Anya asked. “Am I confused too?”
“You, well the other you, got mind-blasted,” Jonathan told her.
Anya frowned. “Well, un-mind-blast me,” she ordered. “Her.”
“I can’t,” Jonathan admitted. “I can’t control any of them. It’s like Warren said. Your memories, your personalities, are in control. I can reload from a save and hope things work out differently the next time but that’s all.”
“They look to be losing,” Alex observed. He gave Warren a hard stare. “I thought you said you’d gotten them past this point before.”
“Well, last time they didn’t split into two groups,” Warren said. “They had plenty in reserve. And the way to fight Mind Flayers is with the Undead. Viconia’s the best at that. Tara doesn’t seem to have thought of it this time.”
All eyes turned to the Tara who sat in the room. “It’s n-n-not my f-fault,” she said. “I can’t d-do anything. She’s not m-m-me.”
“A little help here,” the Spike in the computer yelled. He was now fighting three Mind Flayers and getting the worst of it. “Red, can’t you do any bloody spells?”
“I’m trying,” Willow shouted back. “But they’re kinda resistant, Spike.” She jumped away as the berserk Dawn charged towards her. “And I daren’t come any closer. They’re kinda better at the mind stuff than I am. Hang on in there. I’ll work something out.”
“Fascinating,” Rupert muttered. “So unlike the picture of our relationships that I’d deduced from my diaries.”
Sorkatani rushed Dawn from behind, seized her sword arm, and applied a lock. Her other arm went around Dawn’s throat and squeezed.
“That girl is hurting Dawn,” Joan protested. “Make her stop.”
“No, no, Sorkatani would never hurt Dawn,” Jonathan assured her. “She’s just trying to stop Dawn from hurting anyone else. They’re good friends.”
“It’s kinda wigging me out,” the flesh and blood Willow muttered. “But it’s all kinds of fascinating. I so have to know what hardware you’re running.”
“Well, I’ve just upgraded the processor to an AMD Athlon XP1900+ running at 1.6 gigahertz,” Warren began.
Randy held up a hand and frowned. “Not now, mate,” he said. “Shush. Want to hear this. Looks like the other me’s in deep shit.”
Two giant bears appeared in the monitor, summoned by Jaheira, and lumbered towards Spike’s opponents. One froze rigid in mid-stride as a psychic blast paralyzed it. The other struck out with a mighty paw and carved a bloody gash through a Mind Flayer’s robes. The octopoid-headed creature turned away from Spike and began to battle the bear. “You made a bear!” Spike shouted. It was hard to make out expressions on the tiny avatars, but he seemed to be grinning widely. “Bloody brilliant. Ta, Jaheira.”
The Tara on the screen was chanting. Two dead bodies, slaves of the Mind Flayers who had been slain by Sorkatani’s party earlier in the battle, rose to their feet and shambled towards their former masters.
“I w-worked it out,” the other Tara smiled. The smile faltered. “I, uh, I made zombies.”
“Yeah, go you,” Willow applauded. “I knew you could do it.”
“Uh, but zombies aren’t good,” Tara said. “It’s not, uh, natural.”
“The other you is as good as they come,” Warren assured her. “But she’ll do what it takes to save her friends.”
“See? You’re a hero,” Willow said.
Spike killed one of the Mind Flayers. The bear fell dead and Spike was again facing two of the hideous creatures but then the zombies entered the fray. They attacked the injured Mind Flayer, who seemed to be at a loss as to how to cope with the undead opponents, and battered it to the ground. Spike rammed his sword through the remaining Mind Flayer and it collapsed.
“Is that it?” Alex asked. “Have they won?”
“Uh, not exactly,” Jonathan said. “There’s another chamber and it’s where the toughest of the Mind Flayers are. But they should be okay.”
“I don’t get how come I wasn’t there,” Joan remarked. “Why would I go off somewhere else and leave Dawn?”
“I missed the part where they split up,” Jonathan confessed. “I don’t know how it happened.”
“Xander and Anya organized the division,” Warren explained.
Anya squirmed in her seat and squeezed Rupert’s hand. “That sounds just weird,” she muttered.
“They tried to balance it up so that both groups had a good mix of everything and that’s the way it came out,” Warren went on. “It’s not a big deal to them. They’re all good friends by now. I mean, really. It’s not like there’s a Sunnydale gang and a local gang. Except that most of the guys don’t like Anomen and Buffy’s kinda dating him.”
“With Spike right there?” Joan’s eyebrows made an ascent that would have done credit to a hot air balloon crewed by a duck, a sheep, and a rooster and appearing in front of an audience including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. “I don’t get it.”
“Looks like the other version of you missed out on the good taste,” Randy smirked.
“We know you weren’t together before I did that spell,” Willow pointed out. “I guess whatever issues were keeping you apart here ended up there. But hey, me and Tara are a couple there, and I think we were splitting up here back then, so they must have worked it out. So, still hope for the other you, I guess, Randy.”
“It’s so strange seeing the other me with Alex – I mean Xander,” Anya said. “Oh, I know we were engaged here, but it was almost like reading about something that had happened to someone else. This makes it more real somehow. How does the other Rupert cope?”
“I suppose that he doesn’t realize what he’s missing,” Rupert said.
“Uh, that Giles is interested in Jaheira,” Warren told them. “It went kinda wrong when she took it bad that he was trying to get back to this world, but I think they’re getting back together. Taking it slow, ‘cause she lost her husband not long ago, but it seems pretty serious.”
Rupert took off his glasses and began to polish the lenses. “Remarkable. They are us, or at least our memories and personalities? Are you sure? I must confess that I don’t understand how a computer could possibly deal with something as complex as a human mind.”
“Yeah, it shouldn’t be able to, but the magic makes the difference,” Warren said. “It turns out that there’s a lot more magic involved than we thought when we started this thing off.” He swallowed hard. “It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve given you the basics, and you’ve seen where they, that’s you, are. So I guess you’ll want your memories back now.”
There was a long moment of silence in which heads turned and each Scooby looked at every other one. Joan was the first to speak. “Uh, it’s gonna take a lot of talking before we make any decision,” she said. “Can we take a look at the other me now?”
Isaea Roenal scowled at his visitor. “What do you want? I no longer hold a position with the City Guard. You will have to seek out someone else to grant whatever favor it is that you seek.”
“I am well aware of your dismissal,” the other man said. His clothes were as well-cut as Isaea’s own and his voice held the same cultured drawl. “Let me be frank, Roenal. You were a disgrace to your office and in other circumstances I would be only too pleased to see you cashiered and even imprisoned. Slavery is an abomination in the eyes of my organization.”
“There is no proof,” Isaea spluttered. “Sheer malicious lies. Calumnies. Slanders.” He drew in a deep breath.
“Enough,” the visitor said. “I care not. I have more important business. We have a mutual enemy.”
Isaea released the air that he had drawn in and he sagged slightly in his chair. “A mutual enemy? You speak, perhaps, of that despicable barbarian Sorkatani?”
“I do indeed,” the other man confirmed. “You want to be rid of her. I want her dead. You have money and men-at-arms. I have other resources available to me. Can we do business?”
Isaea smiled. “I think that we can. Let’s talk. Over a drink, perhaps, Galvarey?”
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.