Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

Tabula Avatar Chapter 39

This probably isn’t the best time to post a fic update but, as I have work tonight and I may not get a chance to post between getting up and going out, it’s the only slot available. Here is the next chapter of ‘Tabula Avatar’. 7,180 words, rating R. Previous chapters are HERE.

Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken, but instead falls into the hands of The Trio who insert the trapped memories into the computer game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’. 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.

Tabula Avatar

Chapter Thirty-nine

Giles’ fingers danced over the frets of his new guitar. “Most satisfactory,” he pronounced. “There was the odd occasion, with the old one, where the extra width of the neck made certain chords just too much of a stretch. I had to cheat and use simpler chords. That won’t be necessary any more.”

“Cool,” said Willow, “as long as you can still do the magic. It’s not, uh, like in ‘Spellsinger’ where Jon-Tom had to have the duar, and when it broke he was in all kinds of trouble, is it?”

“Oh, no,” Giles assured her. “There was little magical about the previous instrument. Some cantrips to enhance volume and sustain, that’s all, and I’ve had more powerful versions of the same spells incorporated into this one. I have no worries on that score. I have performed some minor magics with unaccompanied vocals already. The instrument is an aid to concentration, and it greatly improves range and area of effect, but it’s not essential.”

“So, are you selling the old one, or keeping it as a spare?” Buffy asked.

“A spare, definitely,” Giles replied. “If this broke in battle I’d suddenly be in the position of a rifleman forced to resort to a pistol. A reserve instrument would be of great value.” He pursed his lips. “Although there are certain practical problems. A guitar is reasonably portable, but two would be rather an encumbrance. No problem when we’re on horseback but perhaps unfeasible on foot.”

“There may…” Viconia began, but then she shut her mouth and fell silent.

“Yes, Viconia?” Giles said.

“Nothing, zra’ha,” Viconia said. “I thought that I had an idea, but perhaps not. Another time.”

“You know, I get kinda envious watching you guys up there singing,” Buffy remarked. “Sometimes I’d kinda like to join in, you know? Only, I don’t know most of the songs you do. And, hey, I’m maybe not the world’s greatest singer.”

Giles looked at her over the rims of his glasses. “Viconia was not exactly familiar with my repertoire before I taught it to her,” he pointed out. “I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t join us in a song or two, if you would like, although you would probably regard the songs that I know as a little outdated.”

“Cool,” said Buffy. “Except I’m totally not as good a singer as Viconia. Or Tara. Maybe I could, like, rap. Uh, except that you’re not gonna know anything like that.”

Giles cocked his head to one side. “Ah. I might have something along those lines that would be suitable.”

Buffy’s eyebrows performed an impression of a condor soaring high above the Andes. “Rap? From Giles? You’re kidding, right?”

“White English rap, I’m afraid,” Giles confessed, “but it did go down rather well in America too at the time.

“Color me stunned,” said Buffy. “Okay, what is it?”

“Let me think about it for a while,” Giles said. “I’ll have to dredge the words up from the recesses of my memory. It’s not one that I actually owned.”

“Sure thing, take your time,” Buffy said. “And hey, I guess we’d better get back to business. So, how are we gonna split up to go after these liches?”

- - - - -

“That was pretty much boring,” Buffy complained. “I guess that’s a funny thing to say, seeing as how we were fighting one of the scariest Undead around in this world, but hey, it was boring.”

“For you, perhaps, jabbress,” Yoshimo commented, “but there were certainly moments of interest for me. That it could see me, even invisible and with my Cloak of Non-Detection, was disconcerting.”

“Well, yeah, it started off scary,” Buffy conceded. She noticed that Sorkatani had a pout on her lips and had lowered her eyebrows in a frown, and Buffy wondered whether the other warrior girl was annoyed that she had been able to make little contribution to the fight, or if it was Yoshimo’s use of the title ‘jabbress’ to Buffy that had upset Sorkatani. “But after we got the Protection scrolls working it was pretty much all me hitting it, the lich casting a spell that didn’t work, Xander hitting it, me hitting it again, and then the lich making with another of the useless spells. Lather, rinse, repeat until it fell to bits.”

“Our numbers were a hindrance,” Sorkatani put in. “Those of us who lacked weapons to seriously harm the lich might as well not have been there. We were vulnerable to its spells, and to its summoned monsters, yet made no positive contribution. Summoned creatures, or undead, would have served as well to distract the lich and be far more expendable.”

“So we trim the party down a lot for the next one,” said Buffy. “Just me and Xander to hit it, Willow to do the Protection spells and summon things, maybe a cleric, and Anya or Yoshimo in case of any traps or locks that need to be picked.”

The pout remained on Sorkatani’s lips. “It galls me that I am not needed,” she admitted, “but there is great sense in your words. I shall return to the library of the temple of Oghma, I think, and seek to learn as much as I can about the Planar Sphere. And search yet again for any references to Bodhi or Irenicus.”

- - - - -

Bernard shook his head. “Sorry, can’t help you there, Miss Viconia,” he said. “Maybe in a tenday or so. Hendak’s been in touch with an old mate up in the North and he’s shipping some good stuff down to us. Dunno if we’ll get what you’re after, though, I think it’ll be mainly barbarian swords and shields and so on.”

“We shall be on our way to Spellhold by then, I hope,” Viconia said. “I wished to have it before our departure.”

“Could try Ribald Barterman’s Adventurers’ Mart over at Waukeen’s Promenade,” Bernard suggested. “It’s more his sort of thing.”

“Your suggestion has merit,” Viconia acknowledged. “Thank you, Bernard.”

“Don’t mention it.” Bernard gestured towards the platform at the top of the stairs. “So, what do you think of our bard?”

Viconia turned her eyes towards the young man who stood strumming upon a yarting. “He has modeled his songs upon those of Giles, I think,” she observed. “I prefer the original, but perhaps he is not entirely without ability.”

“He ain’t bad,” Bernard agreed, “but Giles is the master. The Coronet’s not the same without him. Don’t suppose you could get him to come over here and play some night, could you? And you do some singing? You never sang here, but the word is that you’re bloody good.”

Viconia smiled. “Thank you. I have no objections, and I believe that Giles would be willing. I shall ask him, of course. Although, will your young bard not resent this?”

“Doubt it,” Bernard said. “Reckon he’d be only too glad to try to pick up some tips. Anyway, it’s what me and Hendak say that goes.”

“I shall pass your request on to Giles,” Viconia assured him, “and I shall tell Jaheira that you asked after her. Now I bid you farewell, for I must away to Waukeen’s Promenade.”

“Reckon you’ll have to drag young Dawn out of here by the hair,” Bernard remarked. “She seems to think that Ailmar there is, how would she put it, ‘way cool’.”

“Like, totally,” Viconia agreed. Her eyes twinkled. “I see no need to tear her away. She can stay here, for she is safe with you and Hendak, and I wish my quest to remain my own business for the time being.”

“For a present, is it?”

“Perhaps,” Viconia said. “I grow soft, living amongst surfacers. Such a thought would never have occurred to me in the old days.”

“Soft? Nah. Just more like Jaheira.”

“And I would have taken those words as an insult once, yet I know you mean them as praise,” Viconia said. “She is your friend, as she is mine. Farewell, then, Bernard.”

“Farewell, Miss Viconia.” Bernard’s brows creased briefly and he tossed in an afterthought. “If Ribald doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you could try the bloke who has a stall outside the Promenade walls on the north side. He sometimes has some decent gear.”

“I shall do that. Thank you, Bernard. Farewell.”

- - - - -

Warren saw Viconia emerging from the Copper Coronet and his eyes widened. “She’s alone,” he muttered. “It’s like fate, man.”

There was no-one around to hear his words. Jonathan was out on a date with Lisa. Andrew was meeting the mysterious ‘Doctor’ who had persuaded him to store dangerous demon eggs; two government agents were watching over the transaction, ready to step in if it became dangerous for the young man. Warren was alone in the basement.

“Where the hell are the rest of them?” Warren wondered. “Like, Buffy’s off to take on the Elemental Lich, and Sorkatani’s doing research, but what about the rest of the guys?” He scrolled down the characters and clicked on Spike’s icon. The scene changed. Spike and Yoshimo sat inside a house. Valygar, the ranger who was a descendant of the creator of the Planar Sphere, sat with them. “Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense. His house is pretty much next door to the library. They’re making plans,” Warren remarked. He returned to the character icons and clicked again.

Tara, Minsc, and Jaheira were in the Slums, to the north of the Copper Coronet, surveying the outside of the Planar Sphere. Giles was with Sorkatani in the library. Willow, Xander, Anya and Anomen were accompanying Buffy to the lich's lair in the Bridge District. Korgan was in the Five Flagons Inn. Haer’Dalis the tiefling bard shared a table with him and they were talking. Warren’s forehead wrinkled briefly; he wouldn’t have expected the loutish and violent dwarf and the debonair bard to have anything in common. Perhaps they were discussing music, Warren guessed, and he returned to Viconia.

“This is my chance,” he muttered. “I can’t pass it up.” He bit his lip. He wouldn’t have dared to go ahead if Jonathan had been there. Andrew’s absence was almost irrelevant, as his interest in the game had dwindled as the Trio’s ability to control events had eroded away, and he might not have even noticed Warren’s actions, but Jonathan would have objected strongly. In most circumstances Warren could get Jonathan to go along with anything, apart from in the matter of the obvious superiority of Sean Connery to Roger Moore where Jonathan stubbornly held to his own ridiculous opinion, but this was different. Warren knew that Jonathan would never go along with Joan’s plan, and no amount of argument would change his mind, because of course Jonathan had right on his side. Killing Viconia would be wrong.

Warren pressed Control and Space to activate the command console, hesitated, and then pressed the keys again to cancel the instruction. “I can’t do it,” he moaned. “She’s real. I don’t care what Joan says.” He leaned back in his chair and then his eyes widened again. “She’s turning left at the fountain. Belmin’s up that way. It’s, like, too good a chance to pass up. Like, it’s just too easy. She’s serving herself up on a plate, man.” He paused the game, minimized it with Alt-Tab, and opened ShadowKeeper. “Keldorn, Keldorn. KELDOR8, KELDOR9, 10, 12, and 14. I guess I’d better go with 14. Viconia’s pretty tough these days.” He closed ShadowKeeper, maximized the game, pressed Ctrl-Space again, and then began to type.

CLUAConsole:CreateCreature (“KELDOR14”)

He positioned the cursor and pressed Ctrl-Space once more. “The die is cast,” he muttered. He gritted his teeth and saved the game three times in succession. First a quick-save, although that was a misnomer these days as the Save Game files had grown so large that a save took a full five minutes or more, then a normal save overwriting the last back-up, and finally a save to the copy on the external hard disk. He bit his lip again. The bridges were burned. No turning back. There was nothing to do now but watch.

- - - - -

“Vile drow, your presence defiles this city.”

Viconia clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and rolled her eyes. She had not heard such abuse in the city for a while, and had thought that perhaps she was accepted, but it seemed that the rivvin did not change. “It is a shame that you do not have one,” she said to the stallholder, ignoring the shouts from behind her. “I would have paid well. I have no need of any of your other wares at present. Another time, perhaps. Farewell.”

“Farewell to you, my lady,” the stallholder bade her in civil tones. His voice sharpened as another tirade of insults came from the hostile bystander. “Bugger off, Belmin. She ain’t doin’ no harm. You’ve probably lost me a sale with your stupid yelling.”

“You would sell weapons to a drow? Traitor,” Belmin responded. “We should burn this black spawn of evil.”

“I tire of this,” Viconia drawled. She turned away from the stall and allowed her gaze to rest for a moment upon the unprepossessing form of Belmin. “Away from me, rivvil. Your words are like the chatter of a has’tras.” She turned away from the stall and began to walk towards the entrance to Waukeen’s Promenade.

Belmin followed. “Why is no-one doing anything?” he wailed. “The evil one walks among us and you just stand there and watch. She should be burned. Join with me and seize the bitch.”

A guardsman, leaning on his pike in the shadows near the promenade gateway, stood up straight. “Now you shut your trap, Belmin Gevras,” he ordered. “There’s no call for that kind of talk. Incitement to riot, that’s what it is, and I’ll clap you in irons if you don’t quit it.”

“Yeah, you knock it off, idiot,” a rivvil in peasant garb chimed in. “Touch the lady and I’ll punch your lights out. That’s the lass what sings ‘Sunshine on a Rainy Day’, that is.”

Viconia’s eyebrows rose. Some of the rivvin were supporting her. Surprising, and curiously pleasing. The customs of this place probably dictated that she should utter some words of thanks. She sought for a suitable phrase and then was distracted by an unusual occurrence ahead of her.

Out of nowhere a knight in full armor appeared. There was a soft ‘pop’ as air displaced by his arrival was forced away at great speed. The knight had apparently been sitting down and he materialized with his legs fully bent. He toppled backwards and landed on his backside. A nearby peasant burst into laughter, although the majority of the bystanders were too astounded to react in kind.

“Torm’s gauntlet!” the knight exclaimed. He clambered to his feet and opened his eyes very wide. “What sorcery is this? I was in the chambers of the Radiant Heart and now I am here.” He was a man of middle age, with graying hair and a neatly trimmed grey beard, and his gleaming armor bore the nicks and scratches of much hard use. He looked around and shook his head. “This is the alley next to Waukeen’s Promenade. How did I get here? Sorcery, indeed.”

Viconia had halted in her tracks on seeing the unexpected arrival but now she resumed her course without comment. Although the materialization had been surprising, and the subsequent pratfall mildly amusing, it was of no great import to her. Her quest for the gift that she intended to give to Jaheira, for her friend to then pass on to Giles, was all that concerned her.

The knight’s gaze fell upon Viconia. “What is this? A drow? I fall victim to some dark enchantment and, by the gods, here is a creature of evil sorcery. What have you done to me, witch?” He strode forward to bar her path.

“I have done nothing to you, foolish rivvil,” Viconia snapped. “And I am no witch. Stand aside and let me pass.”

“She lies,” Belmin cried. “The vile creature has doubtless summoned you here for some dark purpose. Smite her down, good sir knight.”

The knight scowled. He raised a hand and took hold of the hilt of the great two-handed sword that he wore slung across his back. “If you be not witch, drow, then what are you?”

“Hello, armor, mace, flail, ring any bells?” Viconia rolled her eyes after the fashion of Buffy and Dawn. “I am a priestess, oh sir knight. Now, as I requested before, will you step aside and let me pass?”

“A priestess?” The knight’s eyebrows descended low. “Of what god or goddess? Surely you serve the vile demon queen Lolth.”

Viconia hesitated for a mere second. She might be having something of a crisis of faith, and doubts about her affiliation had been afflicting her since Xander’s revelation that she was no longer truly evil, but she would not openly deny her goddess. The Wall of the Faithless was the least of the fates that awaited someone doubly apostate. “I am a Nightcloak of Shar,” she stated. “Do you question all travelers as to their religion, discourteous one? I ask you again to let me pass. Or must I walk around you?”

The sword rasped against its scabbard as the knight pulled it free. “Know this, evil one,” he growled. “I am Sir Keldorn Firecam, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart, and I shall suffer no evil priestess to mock me.”

“If you would not be mocked then I suggest that you do not act as a fool,” Viconia said. A snigger sounded from an onlooker. “I see that you are not going to move aside. Very well, so be it, kke jaluk.” She stepped to one side.

Keldorn’s sword extended to block her progress. “Hold, evil one,” he ordered. “Account for your presence.”

Viconia glared at him. “I have no need to account for my presence, jaluk. Magistrate Brylanna is well aware that I am in the city, and she rewarded me for my assistance in a case of kidnapping. Indeed, two members of your own Order are among my associates.”

“Hah!” Keldorn snorted. “You lie, foul creature, for no true paladin would mix with a being of the blackest evil.”

“I do not lie,” Viconia insisted. “Sir Xander and Sir Anomen travel with my party. Now, lower that great sword, the size of which is doubtless a compensation for a lack of size in other respects, and let me pass.”

Several onlookers sniggered. Keldorn flushed. He had been experiencing problems in his marriage recently. Nothing to do with ‘lack of size’, of course, but because he had been neglecting his wife and family to devote the greater part of his time to the service of the Order. There had even been rumors that his wife was seeing too much of another man. As a result he had taken time out from his duties recently to spend more time with her, and matters did seem to be improving, but his children still regarded him as a cold and distant figure. And was he now neglecting the Order in favor of his family?

“Your mouth vomits forth filth and falsehoods,” Keldorn accused. “Anomen Delryn would not tolerate your foul presence. As for this Xander, I do not know him well, but I came across him when he went to fight the Unseeing Eye. You were not among his party.”

“I said not that I spent every waking hour with him, waelen jaluk,” Viconia replied. “Anya would have much to say were that true. Go and ask him, if you doubt me, but go anyway. I grow tired of wasting time with a fool.” She raised a hand to his sword blade and pushed it aside.

“Uh, sir,” the guardsman put in, “Lady Viconia is doing no harm. She’s just going shopping.”

Keldorn swung his sword back into its blocking position. “Too often in this city the cause of justice is neglected in the interests of profit. I shall tolerate this no more. Torm decrees that I should ever stand alert against corruption.” A thought had struck him. He had to concede that the drow priestess could not have been the one to transport him to this place. Someone else had done so, therefore, and the likeliest candidate was a deity. Torm himself, perhaps, to remind Keldorn of the path of righteousness by revealing to him an evil that was at large in the city?

“Smite the evil one, sir paladin,” Belmin shouted out. “Your god demands it.”

“Shut your mouth, you steaming great idiot!” ordered the bystander who had mentioned Viconia’s signature song. Too late. The damage had been done.

Keldorn pulled back his sword but only to raise it into a striking position. “Defend yourself, drow,” he warned, “for I shall show you no mercy.”

Viconia’s eyes widened. The fool was serious. He was about to attack her without provocation. “Harm me and Sorkatani will see you dead,” she warned in her turn. She pulled the mace Mauler’s Arm from her belt. “And I shall indeed defend myself, and it may be you who pleads for mercy.” She felt the rush of power from the enchanted mace flow through her and with her other hand she drew forth the heavy Flail of Ages. “I seek not battle. I desire only to visit the Adventurers’ Mart. Yet if you are set upon this course I shall not back down. No I won’t back down.”

“Sir Keldorn, don’t do this,” the guard pleaded.

“Smite her!” Belmin shouted once more. There was a ‘thud’ of fist on flesh as another bystander took violent exception to his words.

Keldorn jabbed with his sword, more as a provocation than as a committed attack.

Viconia stepped back and raised her hands. “Waess del lorug!” she called out. Her skin became mottled and lined as a Barkskin spell took effect, granting her partial protection against weapons.

And then her skin returned to its normal smooth and flawless condition. Her mouth gaped open. “Vel’bol zhah nindol?”

Keldorn grinned and brandished his Holy Sword aloft. “The spells of your dark goddess cannot aid you against Hallowed Redeemer,” he declared. “You shall perish. Have at thee!” He brought the blade down in earnest.

Viconia leaped backwards and avoided the blow. “Then, foolish knight, I shall just have to do this the hard way,” she said. She lashed out with the Flail of Ages and the battle was on.

- - - - -

Buffy scratched her head. “Two doors and they both fit the description. Which one do we pick? Bueller? Anyone?”

“Both lead into the same building,” said Anomen. “Does it matter?”

“Well, we don’t want to bust in on some family minding their own business,” Buffy said, “but the house looks kinda empty. I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“Both of them were trapped, but the door that faces the river is much more securely locked than the other one,” Anya pointed out. “That might indicate that it leads to the important stuff.”

“Like the tomb of the lich guy,” Xander said.

“Okay, let’s go with that,” said Buffy. “Open the lock, Anya. Start with the preparations, Will. Showtime in two minutes.”

- - - - -

Korgan wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “The ale wis welcome,” he said, “but ye can take yer offer o’ gold an’ shove it up yer arse. Ah’m nae interested.”

Haer’Dalis frowned. “Don’t try to tell me that you’re loyal to Giles, dwarf. You’re just holding out for more pay. Well, I could perhaps stretch to five hundred danter, but that’s my final offer.”

“Whit part o’ ‘take yer offer an’ shove it’ did ye nae understand, ye pointy-lugged scunner?” Korgan pushed back his chair and stood up. “Aye, ah ken fine whit ye’re after. Ye’re nae the top mannie nae mair, an’ ye’re nae ower fond o’ that. Weel, bluidy tough luck for ye. Ah’m likin’ things fine wi’ Giles. Guid songs, enough gold tae keep me in ale, beasties tae clobber noo an’ again, an’ lassies openin’ their legs for me every nicht. Ah’ll nae risk buggerin’ that up for a mangy few pieces o’ gold. Awa’ wi ye, mannie, or ye’ll feel the bite o’ mah axe.”

“Suit yourself.” Haer’Dalis stood up. “Perhaps Viconia might be more amenable.”

Korgan laughed. “Ye’re daft, tiefling. Yon dark elf will aye strip the flesh frae yer bones if ye dare say a word agin’ Giles. Awa’ an’ bile yer heid, afore ah skelp ye one wi’ mah axe.”

Haer’Dalis glared at him, spun on his heel, and walked out of the Five Flagons. Korgan raised his glass and drained the little that remained.

“Ah shud hae led the laddie on a wee while an’ screwed anither glass or twa oot o’ the bugger,” he lamented. “Ah weel, a free pint’s nae tae be sneered at.”

A foaming tankard of ale was set down on the table at his elbow. Korgan looked up in surprise and met the gaze of the voluptuous barmaid who had slept with Minsc. “On the house,” she said.

“Ah thank ye, lassie,” Korgan said. “Ah take it ye’re nae ower fond o’ that scunner?”

“He lied to me, bedded me, and left me,” she explained. “It was good to see him taken down a peg. Was he trying to get you to desert Giles?”

“Aye, he wis that,” Korgan confirmed. “He’s off his heid. Disnae he ken that Giles will be gaun awa’ in a tenday or twa?”

- - - - -

Viconia pulled out every fighting trick that she knew. Skills learned from Sorkatani, from Spike, and from Buffy. She parried with the mace and lashed out with the flail, spun on her heel and brought her other leg around in a high spinning kick that broke Keldorn’s nose, and struck once more with the flail.

Every time one of her blows landed a stab of pain shot through her. Keldorn was protected by some magic, of a form unknown to her, which inflicted damage upon any who harmed him. Her blows brought her almost as much pain as they caused to the paladin.

His sword swept aside her blocking mace and crashed against her side. It failed to pierce her armor of dragon scales but the impact bruised her severely. She gasped for breath and winced at the ensuing agony. A cracked rib, she thought, and she back-pedaled frantically to gain time to cast a healing spell.

Keldorn charged and struck out again with the spell incomplete. She was forced to dodge aside and the spell was lost. She growled and hit him over the head with the flail. Keldorn grunted in pain, and a trickle of blood appeared from under the rim of his helm, but again some magical energy brought an equivalent grunt of pain from Viconia.

“Leave her alone, you berk,” one of the peasantry yelled at Keldorn. He threw a cobblestone at the knight. It bounced from the paladin’s cuirass, doing little harm, and the peasant yelped as the protective magic took retribution. “Bastard!”

“Stop, Sir Keldorn,” the guardsman ordered. “You are in the wrong here.” He stepped forward and tried to interpose his pike between the combatants.

“The drow has charmed you,” Keldorn deduced. “You will thank me for this later.” He released his sword hilt with one hand and punched the guardsman in the jaw with a mailed fist. The guard dropped unconscious to the ground.

Viconia took advantage of the distraction to heal herself. “That was ignobly done, knight,” she accused. “I did not charm the man. He acted only in the cause of justice, as you claim to.”

“Justice lies in making war upon evil without cessation,” Keldorn replied.

“This ain’t justice,” the stallholder pointed out. “She weren’t doing no harm.”

“By her very presence she corrupts the city,” Keldorn insisted. He took a two-handed grip on his sword again and advanced.

Viconia called down a Flame Strike upon him. It fizzled out harmlessly without making contact. “Vith’os!” she swore. She readied mace and flail again and met his advance. “Ultrinnan!”

- - - - -

“Go, Viconia,” Warren urged. Even though he had set up this fight in order to kill Viconia his sympathies still lay firmly with the dark elf. “You rock, girl.”

He smiled as he watched Viconia hit Keldorn three times in succession, taking damage from Hallowed Redeemer’s retributive powers in the process, but bringing Keldorn down from Barely Injured to Injured. Keldorn stepped in close, inside the arc of the Flail of Ages, and struck at Viconia with the pommel of his sword. Viconia brought her knee up hard between his legs and Warren winced in sympathy. Keldorn’s steel codpiece took the brunt of the impact, however, and he suffered less from it than did Viconia from the magical counter-strike. Then Keldorn brought his helmeted head forward and butted Viconia hard in the face. She staggered back, tripped, and fell to the ground.

“Oh, crap,” Warren muttered. “I so shouldn’t have done this. But too late to go back now.”

- - - - -

Keldorn raised his sword and strode forward. From the small crowd of onlookers a peasant rushed out and threw his arms around the paladin. “Leave off,” the peasant cried. “Get up, my lady.”

Viconia clambered to her feet. “Thank you,” she gasped out.

“Traitor!” Keldorn growled. He slammed an armored elbow into the ribs of the peasant and thrust the man away. He raised Hallowed Redeemer high and aimed a strike at the man who had intervened on behalf of the evil priestess.

“Bugger this,” said another bystander. “I’m going to get help. Lady Sorkatani won’t be having with this.” He turned away and ran off in the direction of the Slums District.

Viconia saw the sword stroke descending towards her rescuer. “No!” she cried, and leaped forward. She interposed her mace between the sword and the man. The blow landed on the shaft of the Mauler’s Arm and the peasant’s life was saved. At a cost. The force of the impact ripped the mace from Viconia’s hand and it fell to the ground.

The magical boost to Viconia’s strength was dissipated. Suddenly she was no longer filled with the power of a strong man, stronger than Xander and not much weaker than Minsc, but was reduced to the native musculature of her wiry but slim body. She had no strength spells such as Draw Upon Holy Might prepared, for the magic of the Mauler’s Arm would have made them superfluous, and even had she such spells the Dispel Magic aura from the paladin’s Holy Sword would probably have disrupted them. The weight of the triple-headed Flail of Ages, too heavy now for her to wield effectively, dragged down her right arm and her intended follow-up stroke was never delivered.

Keldorn roared in anger and swung his sword. He forced Viconia back, away from the fallen mace, and lashed out again. Viconia took a two-handed grip on the flail and did her best to parry. She side-stepped and made a desperate dive for the ground where the Mauler’s Arm lay. Her fingers closed on its shaft just as Keldorn’s sword swept down again.

It struck her on the ankle. Her boot protected her to some extent, and the blade did not cut through the resilient dragon-hide, but the force of the blow was sufficient to crack bone. And it did. When Viconia rolled away and came erect once more she was crippled. Unable to support her weight with that leg. And with no chance at all of running away.

- - - - -

“Oh, crap,” Warren groaned. “I wish I’d never started this thing. Shit. I can’t watch.” He scrolled down the character icons at the side of the screen, selected Buffy, and clicked. The view changed. Buffy, Xander, Willow, Anya and Anomen were in the Bridge District, outside a nondescript house, about to enter an open door.

“Huh?” Warren stared at the screen in horror. “Not that one, you dummies! The one on the other side. Not that one! It’ll take you to…” The screen went black for a moment. When it lit up again it showed a small circular chamber, lit with an eerie purple glow, which led to a much larger room dominated by a huge round table. Symbols decorated the table’s surface. The symbols of perhaps the most feared organization in all Faerûn.

“Hey, what the hell?” Buffy exclaimed. “We kinda jumped somewhere. This isn’t the crypt we were looking for. What is this place?”

A circle of lights sprang up around the edge of the table. In the center of the table the air shimmered and a robed figure materialized out of nothingness. Warren groaned and completed his sentence, answering Buffy’s question in the process, although of course unheard by her; “…the meeting chamber of the Twisted Rune.”

- - - - -

“Now, creature of evil, you shall perish,” Keldorn declared.

“Oloth plynn dos!” Viconia spat defiantly. She raised both her weapons. At least now she had her strength back and could wield the flail. She swung it as Keldorn approached. She staggered off balance, hampered by her injured leg, but managed to strike home with a solid blow. Keldorn reeled back. Hastily Viconia began a healing incantation. Keldorn recovered quickly, before she could complete the spell, and he struck out to disrupt it. Viconia fell to the ground.

“Come on, lads,” a bystander urged. “We can’t let him kill her.”

“Don’t want him to kill us either,” another townsman commented pessimistically.

The first man ignored the warning and rushed out to tackle Keldorn around the legs. He received a blow to the head with the sword’s pommel for his pains and he fell unconscious. He had delayed Keldorn just long enough, however, and at last Viconia managed to complete a healing spell. Unfortunately too many of her spells had been wasted already and she had nothing left of sufficient power to mend the bone completely. She winced as she came to her feet and tried to stand erect. That leg would bear her weight now, but only barely, and she limped badly as she returned to the combat.

Keldorn miscalculated the effects of her injury and left himself open to a counter as he struck again. He took a blow from the flail full in the face and went down. Viconia cast another Cure Light Wounds on herself instead of following up. It did little more than heal the damage that the Holy Sword’s aura had inflicted on her as she struck Keldorn, and her limp improved only marginally, but a half-smile still came to her face. For the first time she was definitely in better condition than was the rather battered paladin.

“Torm, the True and the Brave, heal thy servant,” Keldorn intoned. The smile vanished from Viconia’s lips as the paladin, now fully restored to health, leaped lightly to his feet and attacked again.

- - - - -

“So, there are intruders in the sanctum,” the robed figure declared. “Strangers. I smell power on you. A strange power, not of this world, but it shall avail you naught. How did you get here? This portal is known only to my creatures and yet you had a key, a Rogue Stone.”

“Uh, we stepped through a door? Hey, this isn’t where we were aiming for,” said Buffy.

“Wait a minute,” said Anya. She hastily checked a pouch. “Damn it, it’s gone, and it was worth three thousand danter. There was a message on a note with the stone. ‘I am in the Bridge District’. If that’s something to do with you, then you’re linked with the Slavers. Buffy, I think this guy is an enemy.”

“I kinda guessed that,” said Buffy. “He looks pretty Undead to me, a lich maybe, even if he isn’t the lich we were after.”

“So that fool Koshi wrote it down,” the undead wizard remarked. “I suppose you destroyed him to get it. I would almost thank you. Disobedience and incompetence should be punished. As it is, however, I shall destroy you instead. Come, my friends, it seems that the Twisted Rune shall have some amusement today.”

Shangalar the Black, one of the six dread Lich Lords of the Twisted Rune, disappeared from the table even as Xander sent Azuredge hurtling through the air towards him. Four shimmering points of light appeared around the table and opened into portals. Through three of them enemies appeared. A Beholder, its immense size indicating that it was the ancient and powerful form known as an Elder Orb; a human, unremarkable except for being tall and muscular; and a vampire. An old one, and strong, Buffy could tell that straight away. The distortion of his face was not the ‘game face’ mask of a relatively young vampire but the bat-like countenance worn at all times by the Master. This vampire had existed for centuries enough to make Spike, or even Angel, seem young by comparison.

The fourth portal seemed to disgorge nothing. That was unlikely, however, and the adventurers guessed that whatever had stepped through was invisible. A tactic familiar to them, and in fact Willow was already shielded by Improved Invisibility, but disconcerting when they were on the receiving end.

Then Shangalar materialized behind them, the Beholder unleashed the first of its magical blasts, the vampire charged to the attack, and the battle was on.

- - - - -

“Oh, crap,” Warren muttered. “Only five of them against the Twisted Rune. They are so dead. What the hell can I do about it? Why did I have to be so friggin’ thorough about overwriting the saves? Joan will kill me even if Viconia dies.”

He clicked on Viconia again and returned to the scene of the battle behind Waukeen’s Promenade. Viconia was in dire straits now. Her white hair was heavily streaked with red from a gash on her scalp. Her right hand dripped blood in a steady stream, from where Keldorn had shattered a Potion of Healing in her grasp as she had tried to drink, and she gripped the Flail of Ages only with difficulty.

Even as Warren watched two bystanders tried to impede Keldorn to give Viconia a respite. The stall-holder ran to her and held out a potion bottle. Keldorn swept the peasants aside and knocked the potion from the merchant’s hand. Viconia struck out with her flail as he did so, and drove him back, but the damage that she took from Hallowed Redeemer in the process was enough to drop her to her knees. She scrambled for the potion bottle, scooped it up, and managed to rescue enough of the liquid for a partial dose. She flung the empty bottle at Keldorn as he charged in once more, yelped in pain, and landed another solid hit with her mace. Keldorn staggered back, dazed; Viconia’s ankle gave way under her and she sprawled on the cobbles.

“Fuck this,” Warren growled. “I have to fix it.” He paused the game and opened the Cheats console. “I can’t bring in any of the party but maybe there’s somebody else who can help. Uh, how long was Mazzy with them? She knows Viconia ain’t evil, she’d stand up for her.” A quick check of the halfling warrior’s reference code and then Warren was typing furiously into the console. Ctrl-Space to activate the cheat. Nothing happened.

“Crap. Mazzy can’t be touched. Oh, yeah, I remember, we’d lost her by the time they fought the Rune wizards in Imnesvale. Right. Who else? Cernd? Nope, he never met her. Valygar fights her sometimes in the straight game, so I couldn’t bank on him helping her out. Haer’Dalis? He never joined the party, he might still be controllable, and she was part of the bunch that saved him. It’s worth a try.”

He typed in CLUAConsole:CreateCreature (“HAER11”) and used Ctrl-Space again. A shimmer of light and a ‘pop’ of displaced air revealed that the cheat had worked. He grinned as the tiefling bard was suddenly standing with the spectators to the combat. Warren raised his hand and high-fived an imaginary companion.

“A mystical transportation,” Haer’Dalis breathed. “I am amazed, stricken with confusion, and startled withal. This bird has flown without his wings. For what purpose have I been brought here?” He turned his head and looked around. His gaze fastened on the battered and bleeding Viconia, and on the armored knight who was bringing her closer and closer to death. “Ah, to watch the black carrion bird who wouldst take the very bread from the mouth of a starving performer suffering her well-deserved fate. Strike well, sir knight! Strike well!”

Warren’s mouth dropped open. “What the fuck? The ungrateful bastard. She should have left you in the friggin’ Planar Prison, creep.”

He clenched his fists hard enough for his nails to leave marks on his palms. “I’m running out of ideas here. Who the fuck else is there? Captain Cernick!” Another burst of frantic typing was met with no result. Warren groaned. “Everybody who’s interacted enough with them has gone friggin’ independent on me. Think, Warren, think. There has to be some… hey! Lateral thinking here. I’ll move Keldorn out of there. If I spawn him in the Rune chamber with Buffy I can help her out and save Viconia too.”

This time a confident grin was on his face as he typed. It didn’t last long. He stared blankly at the screen as Buffy’s battle against the Twisted Rune members continued with absolutely no sign of Keldorn appearing. Warren checked his input. Had he put a space in the wrong place, or missed a quote mark?

CLUAConsole:CreateCreature (“KELDOR14”)

No. Everything was as it should be. It just hadn’t worked. It seemed that Keldorn’s battle with Viconia had in itself constituted enough interaction to make the paladin an independent entity outside Warren’s control.

Warren clicked back to Viconia. She was bent over, clutching her stomach with her right hand, and blood was running out through her fingers. The Flail of Ages lay unheeded on the ground and she was attempting to defend herself only with the Mauler’s Arm. It seemed that another bystander had attempted to assist her; his unconscious body lay on the cobbles beside the trampled ruin of Viconia’s hat.

Keldorn raised Hallowed Redeemer high ready to deliver what might well be the final blow. Warren bit his lip hard enough to draw blood and looked away from the screen.

“Get away from her, you bastard!”

There was menace enough in the shout to make Keldorn pause. A female voice, high-pitched and young, but filled with grim determination. Warren turned his head back to the screen, his lips beginning to curl into a smile, but the smile vanished at once.

“Oh shit,” Warren groaned. “I am so dead.”

It wasn’t Buffy who had intervened; she was locked in deadly combat far away. It wasn’t Sorkatani who stood glaring at Keldorn, a sword gripped tight in one hand, and her jaw jutting out resolutely. Not Jaheira, not Tara, and not Nalia.

It was Dawn.

Continued in CHAPTER FORTY

Glossary of Drow Phrases

• ‘has’tras’ = ‘monkey’
• ‘kke jaluk’ = ‘rude man’
• ‘Waess del lorug!’ = ‘skin of a tree’
• ‘Vel’bol zhah nindol?’ = ‘What is this?’
• ‘Vith’os!’ = ‘Fuck you!’
• ‘Ultrinnan!’ = ‘Victory!’
• ‘Oloth plynn dos!’ = ‘Darkness take you!’

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’, what with all the changes that have taken place in the companies involved, but it isn’t me; and characters and dialogue extracts are used without permission and with no intent to profit from their use.

Tags: fic, tabula_avatar
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