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Tabula Avatar Chapter 41

I’m behind on answering comments because I’ve been concentrating on writing. Here is the next chapter of the award-winning crossover fic ‘Tabula Avatar’. 5,975 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 Forty-One

“I did a bad thing,” Warren confessed. “It worked out okay,” he hastily added, as Jonathan’s forehead creased. “Nothing bad happened.”

“What did you do?” Jonathan’s eyes narrowed. “You tried to kill Viconia, didn’t you? Dude, how could you?”

“I’m sorry, okay?” Warren lowered his eyes. “Joan was putting pressure on me, and then I saw Viconia wandering around on her own, and she went up around the top end of Waukeen’s Promenade where that guy Belmin who hates drow hangs out, and I thought hey, there’s gonna be trouble, and I just had this sudden urge to make it worse. So I beamed in Keldorn.”

Jonathan screwed up his eyes and shook his head. “Oh, Warren, you total creep. That was just… mean.”

“I know, I know,” Warren said. “I felt bad about it, dude, but when she went that way it was like a sign. And, well, Joan had been coming down hard on me, and it’s kinda hard to say ‘no’ to her, and I just, like, went with the flow.”

“Oh, man,” Jonathan groaned. “You jerk.”

“I know,” Warren agreed. “You’re not saying anything I haven’t said about myself already. I knew I was doing wrong. And, yeah, once the fight started I changed my mind and tried to put it right. Only, nothing that I did worked.”

“But she’s all right now, yeah? What, did she beat Keldorn?”

“Not exactly,” Warren said. “Like, you know the way Holy Swords are nerfed in the game compared to the straight rules? Well, that doesn’t seem to apply any more. He had one hell of an edge over her. It was the townspeople who saved her. And Dawn.”

- - - - -

Giles had replaced the seventh string on the old ‘guitar’ and altered the tuning considerably. He was playing a heavy bass beat, flicking a finger across the higher strings at the end of each line, and Korgan was accompanying him on a set of hand drums. Dawn stood beside them with a sheet of paper in her hands.

Spike nodded approvingly as he emerged from the wings. “That ‘Guns of Brixton’ you’re doing? Bloody great. Can’t beat The Clash, right?”

Giles halted in mid riff. “Ah, I’m afraid not,” he confessed.

Spike frowned. “You’re kidding me. Can’t be wrong about that bassline. Classic Paul Simonon, innit? Dunno anything else that sounds… like…” His voice trailed away and his frown grew deeper. “Oh, no, you have to be joking. You’re not doing that sodding rip-off, are you? You can’t be.”

“Ah. Well. We are indeed doing ‘Dub Be Good To Me’, Spike.”

“Bloody hell, why?”

“You must admit that the subject matter of the original might be somewhat impenetrable to an audience made up of people who have never heard of Brixton, or indeed of guns, Spike,” Giles pointed out. “The ‘rip-off’, as you term it, at least deals with a universal theme.”

“’S a load of sodding rubbish,” Spike said. “Ought to have been bloody well banned on the grounds of being sacrilege. Would have ripped out the throats of the gits who did it if I’d got the chance.”

“It was Fatboy Slim,” Giles said in a reproachful tone. “That was rather unpatriotic of you, Spike.”

“Yeah, well, it was before he was famous,” Spike replied, “and it was crap anyway.”

“Well, I like it,” Dawn said. She stuck out her lips in a pout and glared at Spike. “Stop it. You’re spoiling my rehearsal.”

“Yours?” Spike’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh. Sorry, Nibblet. Go right ahead.” He turned back to Giles. “They don’t have harmonicas on this world, do they?”

“Hmm.” Giles raised a finger to the bridge of his glasses and pushed them higher up his nose. “They don’t, as far as I know, but perhaps that ingenious gnome might be able to construct one. A back-up instrument that would fit snugly in a pocket could be useful in certain circumstances.” He lowered his hand to the guitar strings again. “Were you volunteering to play the harmonica part? It’s not an integral part of the song, and I was simply going to dispense with it, but it would indeed add something. Yes. A remarkable turn-around on your part, Spike.”

Spike looked at his feet. “Yeah, well, ’s different if it’s for the Bit, innit?”

“Thanks, Spike,” Dawn said. “Now, can we get on with this? I want to have at least one run through before Buffy gets back from lich hunt version 2.2.”

“Certainly, my dear,” Giles agreed. He poised his fingers over the strings again. “I’m skipping that abominable vocal introduction,” he told Spike.

Spike nodded approvingly. “Good thing too.” He saw Dawn fold her arms, stick out her bottom lip, and begin to tap a foot. “Better get on with it, Giles, Nibblet’s getting impatient.”

“An’ ah’ve better things tae dae than set here listenin’ tae yer blether,” Korgan added.

“Sorry,” Giles said. “One, two, three, four.” He began to play once more. Korgan came in with the drums on the second bar. Dawn unfolded her arms, held up the sheet of paper where she could see it, and counted off the bars until it was time for her to sing.

Tell me I am crazy
That I’m wasting time with you
You’ll never be mine…

Viconia emerged from the backstage area. She did not speak but moved quietly to join Spike, linked her arm with his, and raised her face to kiss him on the cheek. From that position she whispered into his ear. “Are all now singing with Giles? Buffy, and now Dawn – even Sorkatani is to perform a song. What next? Shall Minsc, then, sing of his hamster?”

- - - - -

“Okay, so it came out all right in the end,” Jonathan said. “But, hey, no thanks to you. Jerk. You promised me you wouldn’t do anything like that.”

“Yeah, I know, dude, and I’m sorry, but hey, you’re not as scary as Joan is.”

“Point,” agreed Jonathan, “but I’m your friend, so you should have gone with what I wanted anyway.” He shook his head. “I thought you could stand up for yourself, Warren. What’s gonna happen when we get the game done and take it to Ubisoft or Electronic Arts or whoever? They’ll have all these suits and lawyer types trying to make us take a bad deal, right, and if you’re gonna just roll over whenever anyone pushes you, well, it’ll end up that we’ve worked our asses off for months and all we get out of it is fourteen dollars and change.”

Warren sucked in his cheeks and twisted his lips. “Well, lawyers aren’t as scary as Joan, but, uh, yeah, I get what you mean. I’ll tell Joan that I’m not gonna do what she wants.”

“You said that before, man, but you just caved when she pushed you,” Jonathan reminded him.

“Well, we’ll both tell her,” Warren suggested. “You back me up.”

“Me?” Jonathan’s eyes went wide. “Uh, I dunno. I, well, I guess, uh, okay. I think I can do that.”

“Great,” said Warren. “The two of us can stand up to her, right?”

“What about Andrew?”

Warren rolled his eyes. “Moral support from Andrew? Get real. And he doesn’t care about the Baldur’s Gate characters any more. He’s totally into the pirates these days.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Jonathan agreed. “Okay, the two of us.” He sat down in front of the monitor and clicked on Viconia’s icon. The stage area of the Playhouse beneath the Five Flagons inn appeared on screen. Viconia stood, with Spike, listening to Giles playing a song with Dawn taking the vocals. “So, Viconia is, like, a superstar in Athkatla?”

“She sure is,” said Warren. “That 20 score in Reputation came good for something other than getting discounts at the stores. You should have seen it, dude. They were throwing cobblestones at Keldorn, even grabbing his legs, everything they could to try and stop him, and it was those guys who went and told Dawn what was happening.”

“So,” Jonathan mused, “they’re acting way outside anything scripted for them.”

“Totally, dude,” Warren agreed.

Jonathan closed one eye and tilted his head to one side. “The townspeople are making their own decisions. So, does that mean that they’ve come alive too? Like, everybody in the whole city?”

Warren’s eyes widened. “Self-determination, yeah. I guess you could pick any peasant in the street at random these days and he’d pass the Turing test. Wow. It’s a whole living world. What was it that Andrew said back when we realized that Sorkatani and Jaheira and Yoshimo were doing their own thing? ‘We are as gods’, right?”

“Something like that,” agreed Jonathan. He stared at the screen. “With great power must come great responsibility.”

“Yeah, but I can’t watch over the game-world the whole time,” Warren said. “I have a life. You too. We’ll just have to leave it to the superheroes.”

- - - - -

“Hi, guys,” Buffy called. “Two down, one to go. It was pretty much a turkey-shoot.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Xander grumbled. “You weren’t the one who got Mazed.”

“Okay, it was mostly a turkey-shoot apart from one thing,” Buffy rephrased her announcement. “Xander’s sword isn’t quite as magic-proof as we thought. The lich got through with one of its spells. But hey, nothing permanent.”

“Yeah, living proof of that,” said Xander.

Giles put a finger to his glasses. “I trust that you are none the worse for the experience?”

“Yeah, no sweat,” Xander assured him. “It was one whole lot of no fun, but it only lasted maybe ten minutes.”

“Xander missed the best part,” Willow said. “The lich summoned up a demon. Big, scary, looked at least as tough as anything we’ve faced so far. Except Anomen had cast Protection From Evil on all of us and the demon couldn’t touch us. So it turned on the lich.”

“I could have done with that spell back in Sunnydale,” Buffy remarked.

“It is a certain ward only against beings summoned from their own plane by a conjuration,” Anomen pointed out. “Against those who reside here, or who travel to this world of their own volition, it is far less efficacious. And had we struck out at the fiend the power of the spell would have been broken.”

“Okay, so maybe not so useful back at Hellmouth Central,” Buffy conceded. “But it worked real good this time. We just stood back and watched the show.”

“We had an easy ride,” said Anya, “but we’re out seven thousand six hundred danter on scrolls. I just hope the ring that you’re after is worth all the outlay.”

“Hey, this staff is worth more than that just in itself,” Willow said. “We’re ahead of the game anyway.”

“You mean you’re ahead of the game.” Anya narrowed her eyes. “Who needs two quarterstaffs, anyway?”

“Well, that only makes a half staff,” Willow said, “but, yeah, you have a point. Suppose I pass the Staff of Rynn on to Giles? He’s the best of us with a staff.”

“I could certainly make good use of it,” Giles agreed. “The staff-spear does have a useful feature, in that I can stick it in the ground beside me while I play the guitar, but the Staff of Rynn’s much greater enchantments would more than make up for that slight inconvenience.”

“Yeah, good thinking,” Buffy said. “Only, maybe Anya should borrow it first, just for tomorrow, ‘cause if that ring does what your research says it does, and if the lich is wearing it, then it’s gonna heal majorly fast. We need to do one whole lot of damage to it in the shortest possible time, ‘cause if it’s still standing when the scrolls run out then we’re gonna be in a heap of trouble.”

“Not that I’m a staff expert,” said Anya, “but I guess I can whack the lich on the head with a big stick as well as anyone else can. It could be fun.”

Xander screwed up one eye and simultaneously raised the other eyebrow. “Whack-a-lich? This is some whole new definition of fun. But, yeah, no TV here, no movies, I guess we just have to make our own entertainment.”

“Talking of which,” Anya said, “why don’t you and I…”

Anya’s suggestion was interrupted by the entry of two men into the Playhouse. Knights in armor. “Sir Ryan,” Xander greeted one of them. “What brings you here?”

Viconia’s eyes locked on the other knight and she stiffened. Her hand went to the shaft of her mace. Jaheira’s fingers moved to the hilt of her scimitar. Dawn made no move towards a weapon but the hostility in the glare that she aimed at Sir Keldorn was almost palpable. Equal menace radiated from under Minsc’s heavy brows. Spike picked up on the signals and fixed a cold gaze upon Keldorn.

Sorkatani stood up. “I take it that this is Sir Keldorn Firecam?”

“He is,” Sir Ryan Trawl confirmed. “You would be Sorkatani Gorionsward, known as the Perfect Warrior, I presume?”

“I am,” Sorkatani answered, “although that title was given to me by an enemy in mockery, and I make no claim to perfection. I am merely better at slaying than have been those who sought to slay me, at least thus far, and much credit for that goes to my friends who stand by me.” Her eyes flickered towards Keldorn. “And with whom I stand against any who would threaten them.”

“There should have been no such threat,” Sir Ryan said. “It was a dreadful mistake by Sir Keldorn and he is here to make his apologies.”

Keldorn bowed his head. “Lady Viconia De’Vir, I humbly crave your pardon for my unprovoked attack upon you.”

“As well you should,” Viconia said. She lifted her head and looked down her nose at him. “Forgiveness is not in my nature, and my desire is to see you flogged until the blood runs down your back and forms puddles at your feet, yet Sorkatani forgives those of her enemies that repent and it seems to work well for her.”

“I offer recompense,” Keldorn told her. He unfastened a leather pouch from his belt, reached into it and pulled out a broad-brimmed hat decorated with flowers, and held both hat and bag out to Viconia. “A hat after the pattern of the one destroyed in our fight. Also a Bag of Holding, of three hundred pounds capacity, for the stall-holder told me of the item for which you were seeking when our paths crossed.”

Viconia’s eyes widened. “This is a form of apology that is acceptable to me. I would have shed my blood to obtain this, indeed, and the cost of repairs to my armor is far less than the price of such an item. Very well, sir knight, you have my forgiveness. Now depart, for your company is still less than pleasing to me.”

“Thank you, my lady,” Keldorn replied.

“I had planned on assigning you to a service for the Order this day,” Sir Ryan Trawl told Xander. “I shall, instead, insist upon Sir Keldorn performing the task as part of his penance.”

“That’s good,” said Xander, “’cause I’m a little busy right now hunting liches. I’ll drop by the Order building in a day or two, okay? See you around, Sir Ryan.”

Once the knights had departed Viconia took the bag and presented it to Giles. “This is for you, zra’ha. A gift in return for the gift of music that you have given to me – and which saved my life yesterday, it seems, for had the rivvin of the city not intervened on my behalf, and had some of them not ran for aid and brought Dawn and the others, I would have perished under the sword of that iblith Sir Keldorn.”

“Ah, thank you, my dear,” Giles said. He took the bag and looked at it. “What is it?”

“Mir’jatha’la,” Viconia said. “A Bag of Holding. It is far larger inside than outside, and items placed within it take up no space, nor can their weight be felt by she who carries the bag. For your spare guitar.”

Giles beamed at her. “Thank you, my dear. Most thoughtful of you.”

“Like a pocket TARDIS,” Spike commented. “Pretty neat.”

“Hey, that could be pretty handy all round,” Xander put in, “’cause hey, walking around loaded up with spare suits of armor, or rolls of dragon hide or whatever, carrying them back to the merchants, is the kind of fun that isn’t.”

“Indeed,” said Viconia, “yet care must be taken. The bag will burst if too much is placed inside and whatever was within is forever lost. Three hundred pounds capacity, he said, and that limit must be observed strictly.”

“I shall take good care of it,” Giles promised. “Thank you again.”

Sorkatani grinned at Viconia. “Your forgiveness seemed to lack a certain warmth, abbil, and I did not miss that you referred to Sir Keldorn as ‘iblith’. I sense that it was not from the heart that you accepted his apology.”

“There is some truth in what you say, jabbress,” Viconia admitted. “Yet if I should chance upon him in the Government District tomorrow, tied to a stake with faggots of wood at his feet, about to be set alight by Beshaban fanatics as was I not so long ago, I would dampen him against the flame – by spitting on him as I walk by.”

- - - - -

Joan glanced at Jonathan and raised an eyebrow. “I thought that you didn’t want your friends to know about the thing with Victoria and Amon Hen?”

“I came clean to him,” Warren told her. “I tried to do what you wanted and it all went horribly wrong. And I’m not gonna try again. It’s just… wrong.”

“It’s more than wrong,” said Jonathan. “It’s, like, murder.”

“It’s killing off a character in a story,” Joan said. “They do it all the time on TV.”

“It’s not like that at all,” Jonathan insisted. “It would be like killing off the actor, not the character.”

“He’s right,” Warren said. “Look, I know I owe you, but hey, I don’t care any more. This is too much. You can call Katrina and tell her that I’m a jerk, tell Rupert that I’m not good for a loan, I don’t care. I’m not gonna do a thing to Viconia or Anomen.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Joan protested. “That would be totally mean. Like, blackmail. Only I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”

“Because they’re alive,” Warren said. “I don’t know how it happened, but they are. As alive as you or me. Look, you want to know why it didn’t work when I tried to kill off Viconia? Because the townspeople helped her out. And they don’t do that in the game. There isn’t any script for it. They decided it for themselves.”

Joan’s forehead creased up. “I don’t get what you mean.”

“I saw Viconia out in the town on her own,” Warren elaborated, “and I fixed it so that she bumped into this guy Sir Keldorn. He’s pretty much an automatic enemy of hers. So, I put him there, a fight started just like I planned, only the townspeople didn’t just stand and watch like they would have in the game. They tried to stop him. He’s all kinds of tough, so they couldn’t do jack to him, but then some of them went to get help. And the first one of the bunch they found was Dawn.”

“Dawn?” The creases on Joan’s forehead deepened. “She got mixed up in it?”

“She sure did,” Warren told her. “She stepped in to save the day. And that meant that she got into a sword-fight against a knight who is way tougher than her. She could have been killed. Would you have wanted that?”

“Of course not,” Joan said. “She’s my sister.”

“So she’s not just a computer game character?” Jonathan put in.

“Of course not,” Joan repeated. “I know she’s real, just like Buffy and Spike and Giles. Us, only with memories that we don’t have any more, and minus the ones we’ve made since the spell went wrong.”

“Yeah, well, as far as she’s concerned Viconia’s a real person,” Jonathan pointed out. “So how come you think that you know better than someone who is right there on the spot?”

“But how can they be real?” Joan shook her head. “They’ve never even had bodies. They don’t have souls. They’re just computer code.”

“So are the versions of you guys who are in the computer,” Warren said. “Computer code and a little bit of magic. And the magic is kinda catching. Everybody who spends any time with them comes alive. Really alive. They make their own decisions, do things that the designers of the game couldn’t have ever imagined, act just like real people. Hey, they are real people, not counting the bodies thing. And they do have souls. Sorkatani’s soul is an important part of the plot.”

“Just in the story,” Joan said. “Not for real. She can’t really have a soul.”

“Why not?” Warren asked. “You explain to me exactly what a soul is and how it works. You tell me how this squishy lump of gray stuff in our heads, and all the chemicals and electrical impulses in the nerves and stuff, can cause us to be having a discussion about what defines being alive. Or else give up and accept that there are other ways of being alive. And they are alive.” He squared his shoulders. “And I’m not gonna do anything to change it.”

“That’s right,” said Jonathan. “And I’ll make sure that he sticks to it.”

“But it’s all wrong,” Joan protested. “Buffy and Spike…”

“What have you been up to, pet?” Randy’s voice interrupted her. “Nothing good, sounds like.”

Joan turned around. “Oh. You weren’t supposed to hear this.”

“Vampire hearing, luv,” Randy reminded her. “And you weren’t keeping your voices down. You’ve been trying to bugger things up for the versions of us in the computer, right?”

“They should be together,” Joan insisted. “Buffy and Spike. I’m just trying to put things right.”

“They’re not the same as us, pet,” Randy said. “Got baggage that we didn’t have. Can see your point, yeah, but I think it’s a bloody stupid idea to try to fix things for them. ‘Specially by bumping off their significant others.”

“Don’t tell me that you’re not wigged at seeing those other versions of us paired up with other people,” Joan said, “because you are. I know it.”

“Yeah, it freaks me out a bit,” Randy admitted, “but they’re not us. Other versions, you said, and that’s the important thing. Anyway, look at it from the other way round. S’ppose this was the computer world, right, and there was a different you out there who was, I dunno, shagging that Riley Finn bloke. And she looked in on us, yeah, and decided to bump off me and that Sam bird so that you and Riley Finn would get together. You’d be bloody pissed off at that, wouldn’t you?”

Joan squirmed. “Yeah, I guess I would,” she admitted. “But this is the real world.”

“Principle’s the same, though, innit? Just leave it, luv. Let Buffy and Spike shag who they want to shag.”

Joan’s shoulders slumped. “Oh, all right. I’ll leave them alone. Just don’t ask me to watch.”

Warren heaved a deep sigh. “I’m glad. They so don’t need anyone messing with them. ‘Cause they’re coming to this really dangerous part and it’s gonna be hard just keeping them alive. They’re gonna need everybody they have.”

“How come?” Joan wondered. “It’s not the end of the game, is it? I thought they weren’t anywhere near that.”

“It’s only half-way through,” Jonathan confirmed, “and there’s the expansion pack after that anyway. They’re all supposed to make it through alive, well, all but one anyway, and I never found it too hard when I was playing it as a game. The trouble is that it isn’t just the peasants in the street who are starting to do their own thing.”

“What do you mean?” Joan asked.

“The villains,” Warren said. “They’ve gotten smarter too. We’ve already had to wind the game back three weeks because the good guys were in such a tough spot and Anya kept on getting killed. It’s taken them a lot more than three weeks to get back to the same point, ‘cause this time around Buffy is making sure that they’re super well prepared and so they’re doing a whole lot more of the side-quests, but they’re still gonna walk right into an ambush. And then they get dumped into a dungeon without any of their fancy equipment. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get them all through it alive.”

- - - - -

“A café is a drinking establishment that serves mainly coffee, is that right?” Sorkatani queried. “There are none such in this world, not that I know of, and the word will mean nothing to most people. There is a tavern in Baldur’s Gate called the Blushing Mermaid, however, and most people call it simply the Mermaid. Imoen and I would sometimes spend an evening there during that quiet period after we had defeated Sarevok . Substituting ‘tavern’ for ‘café’ would make it more understandable to us.”

“It would indeed,” Giles said. “Very well, then. ‘Come on down to the Mermaid tavern and I will buy you a bottle of wine’. An excellent suggestion, my dear. Does everything else make sense now?”

“It does,” Sorkatani confirmed. “Although, perhaps there is still one more thing. ‘And smash our empty glasses down’. That makes it sound as if the glasses are being broken. Glass is expensive and we take care of it.”

“They are being broken in the song,” Giles told her. “It is part of the culture in that place in our world. Ah, if we perhaps make it ‘slam our empty glasses down’?”

“That would be better,” Sorkatani agreed. She smiled. “Shall we try the song now?”

Giles picked up his guitar and then laid it down again as he saw Buffy and her party entering the room. “Ah, Buffy. I see that you are all present and correct. You were successful, I take it?”

“We got it,” Buffy confirmed. She raised her hand and displayed a ring. “It went off without a hitch. Nobody was Mazed, nobody got Stoned, it was just a lot of hard work beating on the lich. We have the ring.”

“Long as this doesn’t mean there’ll be a Dark Lord chasing us all over the bloody place until somebody loses a finger and someone else ends up in a volcano,” Spike muttered.

“There was even enough gold in the crypt to cover our expenditure on scrolls,” Anya said. “And a valuable pearl necklace. This one was all profit.”

“Where’s Yoshimo?” Buffy asked.

“I sent him on a mission to learn more about Tolgerias the Cowled Wizard,” Sorkatani replied, “for I distrust Tolgerias greatly.” She grinned. “Although in truth I do not expect him to learn much. It was an excuse to get Yoshi out of the way so that I could rehearse my song without his knowledge.”

“Oh, sorry, you get right on with that,” Buffy said. “When he gets back I’ll give him the ring.”

“It’s for him?” Sorkatani’s eyebrows rose. “I thought that you sought it for yourself.”

“Hey, I heal pretty quick anyway,” Buffy said. “I don’t need its main feature. No, this one’s for Yoshi. He got Daystar for me, remember?”

Sorkatani opened her mouth to reply and then her eyebrows creased as she saw a newcomer entering the theatre. “Galvarey,” she said in a carefully neutral tone.

Everyone looked towards the armored man who was walking down the playhouse aisle. “This is kinda a replay of yesterday,” Xander commented. “Only he’s already apologized. So what does he want?”

“Greetings, Sorkatani,” Galvarey said. “And the others of your company. I bring news.” He ascended the stairs at the side of the stage and stood in front of Sorkatani and Giles. Jaheira glowered at him from behind Sorkatani.

“Go on,” Sorkatani said.

“I have been investigating the situation at Spellhold, as you requested,” Galvarey continued. “I have learned little, I am afraid, and I will be able to learn no more. The Harper Heralds have responded to my report in which I confessed to my error regarding you. I have been reassigned away from Athkatla. My new post is to be in Tethyr.”

“Tethyr?” Jaheira’s eyes widened. “That is a death sentence.”

“Perhaps not,” Galvarey said. “The new Queen, Zaranda Star, is more favorably disposed towards the Harpers than is the populace at large. I am to be among her retinue and under her protection.”

“Tethyr has a new Queen?” Giles’ eyes lit up. “Perfect. ‘Tethyr’s got a new Queen’.” He took out a notebook from a pocket and wrote quickly. “Now, what else rhymes with ‘queen’ apart from the original, and inappropriate, ‘vaccine’?”

“Obscene,” Spike suggested. “Machine, clean, keen, been, lean. You rewriting what I think you’re rewriting?”

“I do have a local version of ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ in mind, yes, Spike,” Giles confirmed. “I would be happy to accept assistance if you feel able to contribute.”

“Zaranda’s position is hardly secure,” Jaheira advised Galvarey. “The Interregnum has lasted through over twenty years of constant bloodshed and mistrust. She has gained power, yes, but can she hold it?”

“We shall see,” Galvarey said. “It is my duty to ensure that she does.” He focused once more on Sorkatani. “It is as I suspected. The Cowled Wizards no longer control Spellhold. The last few groups who went there escorting prisoners did not return. They cannot communicate with the Asylum and their scrying has revealed nothing. They continue to send their captives to Spellhold, those that they term ‘deviants’, but they do not know what fate awaits them there.”

“And yet they still consign their prisoners to an unknown fate?” Sorkatani’s eyes were wide circles. “That is barbaric.”

“And stupid,” agreed Galvarey, “for who is to say that the force that has taken over Spellhold might not make use of the captives as an army with which to attack the Cowled Wizards? I doubt if such is the case, actually, but in their place I certainly would have taken the possibility into consideration. The Cowled Wizards are fools and knaves.”

“The whole magic license thing is just a racket,” Willow chimed in. “Just a way of screwing money out of wizards and witches.”

“Have you learned aught of Irenicus?” Sorkatani asked.

“Very little,” Galvarey replied. “He came to this city some months ago but kept himself to himself. Other than purchasing the property on Waukeen’s Promenade he did nothing that was worthy of note. At least openly. It was only at the time of your own arrival in this city that it became known that Irenicus was one of the powers behind the new Thieves’ Guild that seeks to challenge the Shadow Thieves.”

“And Bodhi?”

“Even less is known about her. Few see her and live to tell of it. It is clear that she is also associated with the new Guild, and thus with Irenicus, but none know the nature of the link. Some say that she is his lover, some that she is his sister, and others that he was in her thrall.”

“He is in no-one’s thrall,” Sorkatani declared. “Never have I seen a wizard of such power, other than Elminster of Shadowdale, and yet Irenicus went meekly with the Cowled Wizards to Spellhold. And lo, Spellhold is now lost to the Cowled Wizards.”

“It cannot be coincidence,” Galvarey said. “What was their prison is now the stronghold of Irenicus. When you go there you will be walking into a trap.”

“I know,” Sorkatani admitted, “but while he holds Imoen I have no choice. I can only hope that I will have force enough to spring his trap and turn it upon him.”

“I would counsel against it, but I do not see any alternative, if you are to rescue your companion,” Galvarey said. “You had best move swiftly, Sorkatani. There is news of trouble on the Sea of Swords. The sahuagin are active. They have attacked ships and have even raided Baldur’s Gate.”

“I heard the Town Criers say so, but so much of the news that they call out is mere rumor and falsehood that I took no notice,” Sorkatani said. “It is true, then? Were many hurt?”

“Some forty dead,” Galvarey told her. “The Flaming Fist drove them back before they penetrated far into the city and slew many.”

“Sahuagin?” A furrow appeared between Buffy’s eyebrows.

“The shark men,” Sorkatani explained. “Their realm is beneath the sea. If they are raiding then our sea voyage may be perilous, for they strike at ships from below, and attack without warning.” The corners of her mouth turned down. “We must move swiftly indeed. We may even have to give up on the farewell concert.”

- - - - -

“Galvarey’s going to Tethyr?” Warren frowned. “That’s not supposed to happen.”

“He’s supposed to be dead well before this point,” Jonathan pointed out. “I guess he has to do something, and the Harpers sending him off somewhere else is pretty logical.”

“There must be a whole lot happening that’s right outside the game story,” Warren mused. “I guess that explains why it keeps needing more and more disk space.” He raised a hand to his head and ran it through his hair. “Crap. Galvarey might spread the super-detailing into Tethyr way ahead of when the characters get there in ‘Throne of Bhaal’.”

“So, a bigger hard disk again?” Jonathan cocked his head to one side. “It’s already about as big as they make.”

“We need a RAID set-up,” Warren decided. “Two disks running as one.” He groaned. “That means a new motherboard.”

- - - - -

“Galvarey told us little that we had not guessed,” said Sorkatani, “yet it was useful confirmation.” She bit on her lower lip. “We walk into a trap, as I had feared, and I see no way around it. I have given Irenicus ample time to prepare and that might have been a mistake.”

Jaheira leaned towards her. “I wonder about Viconia’s confrontation with Sir Keldorn. It was no accident. He was transported to that spot by some enemy, no doubt a wizard, and I know of no such foe of Viconia.”

“Nor do I,” Viconia confirmed, “other than a certain deity, and she would not use a paladin to strike at me.”

“I suspect, then, that the intent was to weaken our party,” Jaheira went on. “The obvious suspect is Irenicus.”

“You believe that he is scrying us?” Sorkatani grimaced. “Then we cannot hope to surprise him.”

“And he may strike again,” Jaheira warned. “We should make sure that none of us goes out alone.”

“Hey, Yoshimo’s out on his own, right? Will he be okay?” Buffy wondered.

“He has the Cloak of Non-Detection,” Sorkatani said. “It shields him against scrying. He should be safe from Irenicus.”

- - - - -

The heavy double doors swung open and Yoshimo walked into the crypt. A vampire emerged from a side door and bared its fangs. It scurried towards Yoshimo and he drew his katana. The vampire hesitated. Another vampire appeared at the other side of the chamber, behind Yoshimo, and the first vampire raised its hands like claws and advanced again.

“Stop!” the second vampire commanded. “This one is not to be touched. Harm him and the mistress will have you impaled over the pool of boiling blood.”

“I need no protection against such trash, Lassal,” Yoshimo said.

“Perhaps not,” Lassal admitted, “but there is no time for pointless fights. The mistress awaits you below.”

“Very well,” said Yoshimo. “Take me to Bodhi.”


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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