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.
“Okay, okay.” Riley sighed. “They’re not terrorists. I had that pretty much worked out after listening to them for a while. And Andrew Wells isn’t malicious, just an idiot.”
Andrew pouted but held back from saying anything.
“So you’re letting them go,” Joan said. It was a statement rather than a request.
“I guess,” Riley agreed. “I probably would have taken them in for questioning anyway but, seeing as how you back up their story, I think we can skip that. Even Andrew. We wouldn’t learn anything from him of any use. The real bad guys used him as a cut-out, and it worked. Oh, well, at least we retrieved the eggs. It’s just a shame that the lead to the Doctor is a dead end.”
“Uh, about that,” Warren spoke up, “what about if you make replicas of the eggs? And stick tracking bugs in them? You could, like, follow the bad guys to their hide-out, or whatever. I know this guy, kinda the star of the model-making club at Dutton, wants to work in movie effects, he could fake up the eggs, no problem.”
“Not a bad idea,” Riley said. “We have our own guys who could do the fakes. Although,” a frown appeared on his brow, “it would take time. Suppose the Doctor calls for the eggs tomorrow? Or even later tonight? We know that the clock was ticking on this one, that’s why we charged in rather than just doing surveillance, so I think we’ll have to give it a miss. Good thinking, though, Warren. Thanks.”
“We could use the real eggs,” Sam suggested. “We don’t want them for much apart from to make sure that they’re dead, do we? If we injected them with liquid nitrogen it would kill the larvae, ice crystals bursting the cells, and it would just look like the Prince of Dorkness here had put them in the freezer instead of the refrigerator.”
“Hey, yeah, maybe we’re in business,” Riley said.
“Heh, heh, Prince of Dorkness,” Jonathan chuckled. “Nice one.” Andrew glowered at him.
Warren grinned. “You’re pretty cool, you know that?” he said to Sam. “If I wasn’t so stuck on Katrina I’d totally be asking if you have a sister.”
“Seven years older than me, married to a CPA, two kids,” Sam said. “Sorry.”
Warren shrugged. “Like I said, I’d ask it if I wasn’t so stuck on Katrina, but I am.”
“So I hand the, uh, dead eggs over when the Doctor calls? Uh, can I keep the two thousand bucks?” Andrew asked.
“If you can act natural so the guy doesn’t suspect anything, sure,” Riley said.
Joan arched an eyebrow. “I’m not sure this is gonna work,” she said. “Andrew? Act natural?”
“I can too act natural,” Andrew insisted. “I’m a gifted actor.”
Jonathan snorted. Joan’s eyebrows climbed.
“I think he can do it,” Warren said. “Andrew never acts natural anyway. Nobody’s gonna be able to tell the difference even if he’s all nervous and stuff. But, uh, you won’t let anything happen to him, right? I mean, if he did blow everything and this Doctor character did get suspicious, you’d, like, step in and grab the guy before he could do anything to Andrew?”
“Well, we’re off on a mission to Nepal soon,” Riley said, “but there’d be somebody covering him, even if it wasn’t us.”
“Cool. ‘Cause I’d hate for anything bad to happen to him. Other than the wedgie that I’m gonna give him for getting us in the shit like that.”
“I could really use a drum accompaniment,” Giles remarked. “It’s a shame that Korgan isn’t here.”
“I have no special part to play in this plan. I could beat upon the drums for you, zra’ha,” Viconia volunteered. “I too take pleasure in hitting things.”
“Ah, yes, thank you, Viconia.” Giles turned to Sorkatani. “Are there any drums in this castle? I suppose an empty crate would do at a pinch, but I’d rather have something that would produce a sound that would carry a long way.”
Sorkatani turned to the major-domo. “Well? Have we drums?”
“Indeed we do, my lady. A great drum for use as an alarm signal. There are also some hand drums, I think.”
“A great drum is what we would call a kettle drum, I believe,” Giles said. “That would be perfect. I’ll need it to be taken up onto the battlements. It won’t take long to teach you the rhythm, Viconia. The song is quite simple.”
“But bloody brilliant,” a grinning Spike put in. “Almost wish I could hang around to hear it.”
“I’ll play it in Athkatla on some future occasion,” Giles promised, “but you’ll have to content yourself with listening at a distance this time. Your task is rather important.”
“Yeah, right.” Spike took hold of Viconia and kissed her on the forehead. “The pair of you will be like sitting ducks up there if I bugger it up. Don’t worry, won’t let anything happen to you.” He released Viconia and turned to Willow. “Is it time to turn me into the Invisible Man yet?”
“Uh, way too early, Spike,” Willow said. “This spell isn’t like the ordinary Invisibility spells that you’re used to. It won’t last for much more than fifteen minutes. It’s gotta be about the last thing we do before Showtime.”
“Patience, Spike,” said Jaheira. “They are more than a league distant still, and their progress is slow indeed, for the siege towers hamper them. I would say that we have two hours at least before they come within a mile of the castle. That is the distance at which we are to attack, is it not?”
“That’s what the song specifies,” Giles confirmed. “Ah, yes, that reminds me. Warm clothing may be in order for everyone. The weather might turn rather cold.”
Joan fixed Warren with an accusing stare. “You haven’t done that thing for me yet, have you?”
Warren gulped, licked his lips, and glanced around. Jonathan was deep in conversation with Sam and Riley was briefing Andrew. “Uh, no,” he confessed. “I, uh, I haven’t, and, uh, I don’t want to do it. Jonathan found out and he was totally upset. They’re people, Joan. Killing them would be, like, murder.”
Joan rolled her eyes. “They’re just characters in a video game. They’re not real, Warren.”
“Yes they are,” Warren protested.
“Just get rid of them,” Joan went on, ignoring Warren’s statement. “You owe me, Warren. Even more now.”
“Riley said that he could tell that we aren’t terrorists,” Warren pointed out.
“And he said that he would still have taken you in for questioning if I hadn’t backed you up,” Joan riposted. “You think that would have been a fun time?”
Warren sighed. “I guess not. Okay, I’ll see what I can do. I agreed with Jonathan that if Viconia or Anomen gets killed, and the guys can’t Raise them, we won’t reload a save game.”
“That’s not good enough,” Joan insisted. “Do something constructive.”
Warren’s eyebrows descended and a deep crease appeared between them. “I suppose I could rig a meeting between Viconia and Keldorn,” he mused. “He often kills her in the game if you don’t watch out. Maybe, if I catch her alone, I could do something. Anomen will be harder. He doesn’t have as many enemies. Saerk, yeah, but he won’t make the first move. I don’t know if I could push him into anything.”
“Just do it,” Joan hissed, and then turned away to join Riley as the agent moved away from Andrew. Warren grimaced, shrugged, and then forced a smile onto his face and followed.
“Snow?” Lord Farthington Roenal stared incredulously up at the sky. “But it is not yet even Highharvesttide.”
“The work of Jaheira,” Galvarey deduced. “No doubt she seeks to hinder the advance of our siege towers. Well, this light flurry will achieve naught. Most is falling as rain anyway. She attempts a feat beyond her powers.”
Isaea Roenal snorted. “It’s not going to do anything except make us dashed uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ll have to pay her back for that. A flogging for a start, perhaps.”
“Be prepared for lightning strikes,” Galvarey advised. “I think that you would find one rather more than dashed uncomfortable.”
“Oh, I’m well shielded against such peasant magic,” Isaea assured him. “Baron Metrich, can you get your men moving a little faster?”
“I’ve already promised a flogging for anyone who dawdles,” Metrich replied. “I can do no more.”
“You could promise rewards for those who do well,” Galvarey suggested. “Or inspire the men to compete with one another. Bonuses for the team whose siege engine is in position first, for instance.”
Metrich shook his head. “Competition? Bonuses? Why should I do that? My men will serve me as I command, or they shall suffer punishment.”
“Well I think that it’s a dashed good idea,” said Isaea. “A race between our men, Metrich. A wager on the result, perhaps? Shall we say…?”
“Ah, she comes out to face us,” his father interrupted him. “The engines may be of little relevance now, Isaea. We shall fight upon the open field.”
The others followed his gaze and looked towards the De’Arnise keep a mile ahead of their army. They could just make out a drum beat sounding from the castle, presumably in an alarm or a call to arms, and the drawbridge had descended. Riders appeared on the bridge and advanced across it. “The craven barbarian woman is probably running away,” Isaea suggested. “I knew that it was a bad idea to warn her that we were coming.”
“And how were we to hide this army?” Galvarey countered. “We have men in place within the castle. That is well worth the small amount of warning that we gave.” He watched as men on foot followed the riders. A dense column of men-at-arms marched out, filling the entire width of the drawbridge and pouring forth in a stream that showed no sign of coming to an end, and his brows began to descend. “Strange,” he commented. “I wouldn’t have thought that she had that many guards.”
“By the gods, there are scores upon scores of them,” Baron Metrich gasped. “You told me that she had but forty men at most.”
“She has,” Lord Roenal insisted. “She must have hired mercenaries.”
“With only a few hours notice? Impossible.” Isaea shook his head. “I don’t understand. They’re still coming out.”
Steel flashed in what few rays of sun were still breaking through the now heavily overcast sky. The men-at-arms were brandishing their swords above their heads. Five seconds later the sound of their battle cry reached the approaching army. “Hoorah hoorah hoorah yea!”
“How many of them are there?” Baron Metrich gasped. “For us to hear them so loudly at such at distance…”
“They are forming up in companies,” Galvarey said. “A hundred in each block, I would say. Three, four, a fifth is assembling, and they are still coming out.”
“And all in full mail coats,” Metrich observed. “I like this not. Our levies have but padded cloth and leather.”
“They’re going to have us outnumbered before much longer,” Isaea said. “This is crazy. The keep must have been bursting at the seams with warriors. How could they have known of our plans far enough ahead to accumulate such forces? At least two or three full companies of mercenaries.” He bit his lip. “There are too many of them for us to face. By the gods, yet more of them! There may be a full thousand.”
The sky had now turned completely grey. A crash of thunder sounded and Isaea glanced nervously upwards.
“This is stark impossibility,” his father announced. “A thousand men at arms! Where could she have raised so many? Has she brought an army from Baldur’s Gate?”
“She must have done,” Isaea said. “We’d better get the men into battle formation, I think, father. If that horde reaches us while we are still deployed for the march then we are done for.” He put spur to his horse and trotted forward to give the necessary orders.
“Hoorah hoorah hoorah yea!” Another roar from Sorkatani’s forces rang out. Galvarey looked around at the peasantry who made up the armies of the Roenals and Baron Metrich. He saw nothing to inspire him with confidence. By now even an innumerate peasant would be able to tell that the opposing force was at least as large as their own, and far better equipped, and there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm evident in the way that the men moved to obey Isaea’s orders.
“Something is wrong here, Nadinal,” he remarked to the mage who should have been at his side. “It would have taken a month to get an army this size here from Baldur’s Gate. More. And the Amnian army would never have let them cross the border.”
There was no reply. Galvarey swung his head around and saw that Nadinal’s horse stood a few paces behind, riderless, its reins trailing upon the ground. “Nadinal? Where are you? Blast, what a time to choose to relieve yourself!” He rode forward, noticed a rise in the ground that would provide a better view of the castle, and made his way to it. He raised himself in his stirrups and surveyed the opposition. Galvarey could see Sorkatani, astride a stocky little pony and holding a bow, and he recognized several of the others. Minsc, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the young girl who had killed Bessen, the deadly little red-haired witch, and Anomen Delryn. He had not met Xander but identified him from a description. There was no sign of Jaheira, of Spike, of Yoshimo, or of the drow girl. “Strange”, he thought aloud, “I thought that they were inseparable. And where is the bard of whom I have heard so much?”
A frown began to appear on Galvarey’s forehead as he scanned the area. Jaheira could be anywhere. In animal form, perhaps, or hidden in the bushes. As a druid she was highly skilled at such concealment. Spike and Yoshimo would make deadly scouts and could easily be close at hand. The bard, however, would have to announce his presence audibly if he were to achieve anything. Where was he?
Galvarey lifted his eyes to the battlements, from where the drum was still beating out, and the answer to his question presented itself. There was the bard, singing and playing, and there was the drow woman. She was the one beating the drum. It was hard to make out the song at this distance but Galvarey strained his ears and managed to distinguish the words. ‘Hear our drums, hear them sound, we’re gonna fight until we have won this town…’
A song to boost morale, Galvarey decided, and he was just about to turn away when he realized that the bard and the horde of men-at-arms were chanting the next line in unison. ‘Hoorah hoorah hoorah yea’, they roared, and then he heard Giles continue ‘Over the hills with the swords of a thousand men.’
Galvarey whirled his horse around and galloped to join the other nobles. “An illusion,” he announced. “There are no men-at-arms facing us. The army is an illusion conjured up by Giles the bard. No doubt he seeks to panic our men.”
“And he succeeds,” Isaea Roenal replied. “Already some are on the verge of flight, despite my threats.”
“We have to put an end to this menace,” Lord Farthington Roenal stated.
“Indeed. I must make contact with our men within the keep,” said Galvarey. “Nadinal! I have need of you. Blast it, where are you?” He stared at Nadinal’s horse and suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. “Find Nadinal,” he ordered. “And count your own wizards.”
“You cannot give us orders, Galvarey,” Isaea Roenal growled.
“Your own neck may depend on this,” Galvarey snapped. “Argue not. Just do as I say.” He rode in a circle around the riderless horse, saw a small clump of bushes, and approached it cautiously. He dismounted, drew his sword, and pushed aside the branches. He saw a booted foot, forced the branches further apart, and Nadinal’s body came into sight. Galvarey cursed, thrust his sword into the earth, and took hold of the body’s legs. He dragged Nadinal out from under the bush and into the sight of the others.
“Is he dead?” asked Lord Roenal.
Galvarey examined the body. “He is,” he confirmed. He saw something, stiffened, and drew Nadinal’s robe aside to expose the corpse’s neck. “Possibly worse than dead.”
“A vampire,” said Roenal. “We must bury him with a stake through his heart.”
“First we must ensure that we do not join him,” Galvarey warned. “Set your priests to casting what protections they can. I would recommend an Invisibility Purge, too. Spike cannot have walked amongst us in open view to do this.”
“They have a vampire among their number?” Baron Metrich’s nostrils flared. “Hah! I knew that Sir Xander was no true paladin.”
“Anver is dead too,” Isaea Roenal reported. “A wire noose was drawn about his neck.”
“Hoorah hoorah hoorah yea!” came another roar from Sorkatani’s forces. Closer now, and the Roenals’ men quailed and many of them took a step backwards. “Hoorah hoorah hoorah yea yea yea!”
“Stand, you cowards!” Lord Roenal bellowed. “It’s only an illusion.”
One of the siege towers lurched and swayed. A wheel came off and the structure tipped alarmingly. Boards came loose and several fell from the upper parts of the tower and tumbled to the ground. Men scattered to avoid them. Several kept on running once out of the danger zone. “Cowards!” Roenal shouted again. He rushed to one of his sergeants-at-arms. “There are no enemy men-at-arms,” he told the man. “It is all an illusion to make our men take fright. Attack now, ride through the illusion to prove this to all, and we shall yet win this day.”
The sergeant gulped. “It’s a very good illusion, then, my lord.”
“It is indeed,” Roenal admitted, “but it is an illusion nonetheless. And you may have the honor of demonstrating that fact.” The sergeant wheeled his horse to face the enemy but hesitated before moving forward. “Or you could be disemboweled for disobedience and cowardice,” Roenal went on. The sergeant clapped spurs to his horse and set off.
Sorkatani and Xander galloped to intercept him.
“Aim for the other flank of their force,” Baron Metrich ordered one of his sergeants. He saw the lack of enthusiasm in the man’s expression and reluctantly conceded that Galvarey’s earlier suggestion might have some merit. “A hundred danter for you if you get there before Roenal’s man reaches his target. A flogging if you don’t.”
The man-at-arms smiled. “At your command, my lord.” He drew sword and charged.
“Jaheira’s work,” Galvarey told Lord Roenal, pointing at the crippled siege tower. “She will be close at hand. I would ask you to set your men to searching for a badger, or a fox, or some similar animal, for she will be in some such form as that. I fear, however, that we have more urgent tasks at hand.”
“The illusion should be dispelled shortly,” Lord Roenal said. “My man will…” He fell silent as Sorkatani brought the sergeant’s charge to a halt with two arrows that pierced the man’s chain mail and toppled him from his horse. The wounded man climbed to his feet only to be clubbed unconscious with the flat of Xander’s sword.
“It was a good thought,” said Galvarey, “but they were ready. Perhaps Metrich’s man may have more success.”
The Baron’s sergeant evaded Minsc’s attempted interception and reached the lines of marching men. A spear thrust up at him and his horse reared. A man in chain armor caught hold of his foot and heaved. The Baron’s man was pulled from his horse and disappeared in a mob of sword-wielding figures. One of the swords came back up red to the hilt with blood. A triumphant roar of ‘hoorah hoorah hoorah yea!’ came from the advancing ranks. A chorus of cries of dismay sounded from the army of Baron Metrich and the Roenals.
Roenal glared at Galvarey. “You swore that it was an illusion!”
“It is,” Galvarey insisted. “She has mixed her guards with the illusions. A score or two of real men in amongst the thousand false. Clever. Very clever.”
“And now our men are yet further disheartened,” groaned Roenal.
“We must attack Sorkatani directly,” Galvarey said. “Forget your army. Ignore the keep for now. We have twice, three times, her number of men-at-arms, and we see now that hers are scattered. Strike straight for her.”
“My sergeants are scattered too,” Roenal confessed. “They are divided up amongst the levies to act as commanders. I have a mere half dozen close at hand.”
There was a soft ‘whoomph’ and a cloud of greenish vapor billowed up in the midst of Roenal’s army. Men clutched their throats and gasped for breath, or fell unconscious, and those at the edge of the cloud turned and fled.
“Stand and fight, you cowards!” Roenal ordered. Most of the fleeing men took no notice.
Anomen Delryn charged towards Baron Metrich’s men. A few arrows were loosed in his direction but all missed or glanced from his shield. As he approached the ranks the peasant soldiers quailed, smitten with dread, and fell back. Some turned to run. Metrich’s chief priest advanced to cast a ‘Remove Fear’ spell upon the soldiers. His mouth opened but no words came forth. Instead he clutched at his throat and staggered backwards. Something invisible had hold of him from behind and was strangling him to death.
“Improved Invisibility,” grunted Galvarey. He raised his voice. “Somebody get that dispelled!”
The cleric who rushed to obey was seized in his turn. Another vapor cloud erupted in the ranks of Roenal’s men and more of them began to flee. The entire army was thoroughly demoralized by now. The trickle of men slipping away and running was in danger of becoming a flood.
“We’re losing,” Galvarey groaned. “We outnumber her by forty to one and we’re losing. I can’t believe it.”
“No common mercenary is going to get the better of me,” Isaea Roenal declared. “You are right, Galvarey, we must strike straight for Sorkatani herself.” He gestured to a squire, who ran to hand a lance to his master. “Come, father, we can still slay that bitch.”
Lord Farthington Roenal followed his son’s example and the pair advanced with lances couched. A handful of men-at-arms rode with them. Baron Metrich called for a lance and set his sights on Xander.
Galvarey rode to the vicinity of the priest who was being garroted, dismounted, and struck out with his two-handed sword. The blow passed harmlessly through empty air but obviously had forced the invisible attacker to release his grip. The priest fell to the ground. Galvarey caught the shoulder of a man-at-arms. “Tend to him, man,” Galvarey ordered, and strode off towards the other struggling cleric. The soldier moved to obey, and bent over the fallen priest, but then was struck by an invisible foe and fell in a limp heap on top of the man whom he would have aided.
“Kai-yah!” Yoshimo exclaimed as he struck. “Heh, heh. The tourists love that stuff.” A soldier made for the source of the sound and lashed out blindly. He hit nothing and staggered, thrown off balance by the force of his blow, wide open to a return strike. Yoshimo took advantage of the opening and knocked the man unconscious. Several other men nearby cowered away from the invisible threat. A few broke and ran.
Galvarey advanced, sword poised, and squinted at the air behind the cleric. He could just make out a vague shimmering. “Spike,” he growled.
“Yeah, and I’m wearing the coat,” the invisible form replied. The cleric’s body was thrust away violently and crashed to the ground several yards away. “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”
“I will do just that,” Galvarey said. He jumped forward and swung the sword. He missed, not really to his surprise, but was prepared for that eventuality and continued round with the swing. If Spike advanced to take advantage of the miss he would walk straight into the sword.
The continuation stroke was wasted on empty air. Spike hadn’t fallen for the trick. Galvarey caught his balance and struck out again. Again he hit nothing. A whisper of sound warned him of a riposte and he jumped back hastily. The tip of Spike’s sword glanced from Galvarey’s breastplate.
“That spell can’t last for much longer,” Galvarey warned the vampire. He waved his sword from side to side to keep Spike back. “It will wear off and you’ll be stranded in the middle of a hostile army. You would be well advised to flee now.”
“Don’t think so, mate,” Spike replied. “Hostile army? Have you looked around you in the last minute or two?”
Galvarey did so. Taking his eyes from his opponent was no great matter when that opponent was invisible. His mouth dropped open in dismay. No longer was it a matter of a few men here and there running away. Complete companies were now openly fleeing the field. The army was in full rout.
“Not so bloody cocky now, are you?” Spike taunted.
“I can still slay you, at the least,” Galvarey said. “Revenge for Nadinal.” He struck out once more, with no more success than previously. His words were empty, and he knew it. When he had fought the vampire before he had been boosted by a Haste spell and a Potion of Fire Giant Strength and Spike had still held his own. Without those enhancements, and with Spike invisible, Galvarey had little hope against the vampire. He swung again, and yet again, but hit nothing. A chuckle came from behind his back. He spun around, saw Spike plainly visible, and lashed out with all his strength. Spike ducked under the blade and struck back.
A riderless war-horse came into Galvarey’s view, running hard and with its eyes rolling and nostrils flared, and with its caparison soaked in blood. It was Isaea Roenal’s horse. Galvarey looked about for his own horse. It was fifty feet away and Yoshimo was sitting in its saddle. Nadinal’s horse was nowhere to be seen. Probably it had been appropriated by one of the fleeing soldiers. There was no way for Galvarey to escape. He took a hand from his sword briefly, wiped sweat from his brow, and then returned to the attack. Spike parried and riposted. Galvarey winced as the point of Spike’s saber scored a bloody line across his cheek. He gritted his teeth and fought on.
Hoofbeats approached. Spike backed away, his sword raised in a defensive block, and Galvarey lacked the energy to pursue. He raised his eyes and met those of Sorkatani.
“So, Bhaalspawn, you have defeated me again,” Galvarey conceded. He looked to each side of the Perfect Warrior. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Minsc. Willow the Witch. Sir Xander. Anomen. A young woman unknown to him. Anya, who Isaea Roenal had sworn to slay. The girl who had slain Bessen trotted up and joined the group. Jaheira walked towards them from the direction of the wrecked siege tower. Galvarey tossed his sword to the ground. “I can see that it is useless for me to fight on. What has befallen Lord Roenal?”
“I cut off his head,” Sorkatani answered.
“Evil met my sword,” Minsc boomed out. “My sword met Evil. He will trade with the Slavers no more. Right, Boo?”
“And Baron Metrich?”
“He tried to get in a cheap shot at Xander,” said Buffy. She tapped the hilt of Daystar. “I stopped him. Kinda permanently.”
“Congratulations, then, Bhaalspawn. The victory is yours.” Galvarey drew himself up to his full height. “I trust that you will make my death clean and quick.”
Sorkatani threw her leg over the saddle and slid to the ground. “I’m not going to kill you, Galvarey.”
“You’re not?” Galvarey’s exclamation of surprise was echoed by several of Sorkatani’s comrades.
“I know that to do so would be wise,” Sorkatani explained, “but I cannot bring myself to kill a Harper.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike swore. “I held back from killing the bugger myself ‘cos I thought I’d save him for you. Shouldn’t have bleeding well bothered.”
Galvarey took off his helm and wiped blood from his cheek. “I don’t understand. You have the right to kill me. You spared me once and I attacked you yet again. In your place I would have myself executed.”
“Perhaps, then, I am better than you,” Sorkatani said. “Or perhaps I am being foolish. It matters not. I will not kill you in cold blood. Nor will I order that you be hanged. You may go free.”
Galvarey shook his head. “This – I – your mercy is beyond my understanding. To refrain from taking your rightful vengeance after such provocation…”
“Gorion might have been proud of your actions,” Jaheira told Sorkatani. “On the other hand he might have said that you are being bloody stupid.”
“Perhaps, abbil,” Sorkatani said. “I care not. I will not kill Harpers except in the heat of battle, and even then only if there is absolutely no other way.”
“By all the gods,” Galvarey said, “I have misjudged you terribly.”
Sorkatani raised an eyebrow. “Do not claim that you attacked me for the safety of Faerûn. I know your true motives.”
“I do not deny that I hoped to win advancement in the Harpers by defeating you, and that I acted more for my own benefit than for that of the Harpers,” Galvarey admitted. “Nor that I well know that you are no great evil. And yet I did in truth think that you would not be able to resist the pull of your blood, and that one day you would pose a threat to all in the Realms. But you spare me now, after all that I have done, and I see that you have taken great pains to slay as few as possible in the battle. Those choked by the gas are unconscious only, I see, and already some are recovering. Stinking Cloud rather than Cloudkill?”
“That’s right,” Willow confirmed.
“I have been wrong about you, Lady Sorkatani. I apologize most humbly.”
“Bloody right you were wrong,” Spike growled.
“No apology that you can make can be sufficient,” Jaheira put in. “You should fall upon your own sword, Galvarey.”
“Peace, Jaheira,” Sorkatani said. “I think that he will not come after us again.” Her eyes narrowed. “If you do, Galvarey, do not expect that I shall be so merciful a third time.”
“If I do then I will deserve death for sheer stupidity as much as for evil intent,” Galvarey said. “No, Lady Sorkatani, you are safe from me for ever. I am sorry for my attacks upon you.” He wiped his cheek again. “When you return to your keep you will be attacked by assassins. I sent them ahead of our assault, in the guise of travelers, to strike at you from the rear. I shall accompany you and order them to desist.”
“We know about the assassins,” Buffy said. “They’re kinda neutralized. Locked up in a room with great big rocks piled up outside the door. Ones that it took both me and Tani to lift. They don’t get out until we let them out.”
“It seems that you were a step or more ahead of me all the way,” said Galvarey. “Still, if I am with you when you release them, it may be of some use.”
“It may ease the situation,” Sorkatani conceded. “Very well, Galvarey, return with us to the keep. You must leave before dark, however. I extend no invitation to stay.”
“Of course,” Galvarey said. “I shall return to Athkatla. Once there I shall turn my energies towards discovering the state of affairs in Spellhold. Perhaps I can find out something that might help you to rescue your friend Imoen.”
“If you can, Galvarey, then I shall consider your debt paid in full,” Sorkatani said. “You shall have earned true forgiveness rather than merely the withholding of punishment.”
“I shall do my best,” Galvarey said, “but I can make no promise of success. There are rumors that the Cowled Wizards themselves have lost touch with the island. I shall investigate further and let you know what I find.”
Yoshimo dismounted from Galvarey’s horse and led the beast forward. Galvarey mounted and rode with Sorkatani’s party towards the keep. The music had stopped now, and the army of a thousand men had vanished. “Tell me,” Galvarey enquired, “how is it that Giles was able to summon forth an illusionary army of such great size? What was that song? I have heard nothing like it before.”
Spike grinned at him. “Bloody brilliant, innit? Tenpole Tudor. ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’. Never have thought that old Giles would be able to pull that one out of his hat.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Galvarey.
“Me neither,” said Buffy. “I guess it’s a British thing.”
“Damn right,” said Spike. “Come on, let’s get a move on. I’ve got a hell of a thirst on me right now. Once this git has taken his assassins and buggered off I’m gonna do some serious drinking. Feel like drinking a whole sodding barrel of ale. Or much, much, more.”
“Man, that was totally awesome,” said Warren. “They beat a whole army.”
“Yeah,” said Jonathan. “Like, flawless victory, dude.”
“It was pretty cool,” Andrew agreed. He yawned. “Uh, I think I’m gonna call it a night, guys. It’s been a pretty tiring day for me.”
“Yeah, and whose fault is that?” said Warren. “But yeah, I’m gonna hit the sack too. They can have their post-match party in private.”
“Oh, my head,” Giles groaned. He rolled over in the bed and put a hand over his eyes. “I should have been more careful of the side effects. ‘We’ll probably drink a barrel and much, much, more.’ I think I did.”
“You suffer, a’mael?” Jaheira enquired from the bed beside him. She sat up, her breasts appearing as the bedclothes slid down her body, and put her hand to his brow. “A healing spell shall ease your discomfort.”
“Thank you, my dear,” Giles said. “Ah. Yes. That is much better.” He sat up beside her. “I must pay a visit to the privy now. I shall return.” He bent towards her and then pulled back. “It might be best if I wash my mouth out before I kiss you again.”
“I also,” said Jaheira. “Beer in great quantity does not make for the sweetest of breath in the morning.” She raised her eyebrows. “You are still in the mood for loving?”
“Now that you have cured my hangover I may well be,” Giles confirmed. “After I visit the privy and wash out my mouth, that is. As long as that is in accordance with your own desires, of course.”
“Oh, it is, it is,” said Jaheira. “You surprise me, that is all. We have made love many times through the night, and I feared that I might have worn you out, but instead you have almost worn me out. Yet still I desire more. You are a surprising man, Giles.”
“I’m glad that you think so,” Giles said. He rose from the bed, slipped a robe over his shoulders, and padded off towards the privy. He hummed a song to himself as he went.
“When your body’s had enough of me
And I’m laying flat out on the floor
And you think I’ve loved you all I can
I’m gonna love you a little bit more.”
Disclaimer: 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.
Lyrics from ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’ by Tenpole Tudor (see above) and ‘A Little Bit More’ by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show are used without permission.