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.
Sorkatani came awake with Willow’s scream ringing in her ears. Her hand went to Celestial Fury and she leaped from the bed. She had thrown the door open and stepped out into the corridor before it dawned on her that she was in the sleeping quarters of the Playhouse and there were no enemies present.
Another door opened and Buffy charged out, stark naked, and with Daystar and the Blade of Roses raised ready for battle. She stopped in her tracks as she saw Sorkatani.
“A dream,” Sorkatani said. She lowered Celestial Fury.
Buffy made as if to sheath Daystar, found no scabbard at her side, and then realized that she was naked and held the sword down in front of her groin. “I guess,” she said. “You had the same one? Scary, huh?” She raised her left arm, holding the Blade of Roses, to cover her breasts.
“Scary and distressing,” said Sorkatani. “Tara… the vampire… so much blood.”
“We can’t let it happen,” Buffy declared. “We’re gonna have to make sure that she’s protected.”
“Indeed,” Sorkatani agreed, and then her brow furrowed. “Your gift to Yoshimo. You dreamed, then, of him perishing in like fashion?”
Buffy looked down at her bare feet. “Uh, not exactly, but yeah, you’re close. Too close for me to take the chance.”
“That is why you were so determined to seek out the liches and obtain the Ring of Gaxx? For Yoshimo, to protect him from the fate that you had foreseen?” Sorkatani smiled broadly. “I thank you, Buffy, for his death would be hard for me to bear.” The smile faded. “Yet so too would Tara’s death, for I am fond of her in a different way, as I think we all are. Willow would be… devastated. It must not happen.”
“Damn right,” Buffy agreed.
“Dearest?” A voice called out from the bedroom that Buffy had just vacated. “What is wrong?”
Buffy’s cheeks became tinged with pink. “Uh, it’s okay, I’m just talking to Tani,” she called back. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Sorkatani’s eyebrows twitched upwards. “I did not know that you were… uh… with Anomen,” she said.
“Uh, this is the first night,” Buffy revealed. “It just kinda happened.” She flicked a glance back towards the bedroom door. “I’d better get back. Somebody else might come out and I, uh, didn’t think to put on any clothes.”
“Good night, then, Buffy,” Sorkatani bade her. “We shall talk in the morning.”
Buffy rotated her wrist, displaying a flash of nipple in the process, and looked at her watch. “Which is in, like, just a couple of hours,” she said.
Across the corridor a door opened and Willow’s face appeared.
“Those miraculous timepieces still amaze me,” Sorkatani commented.
“Hey, it seems to gain, like, five minutes every month,” Buffy said. “Back home it’s not wrong by one minute in a whole year.”
“Dearest?” Anomen called again.
“Buffy? What’s up?” Willow asked. Further along the corridor yet another door began to open, this time the one leading to the room shared by Spike and Viconia.
“Meep!” Buffy yelped. “Uh, nothing, nothing. Back to bed now.” She scurried back into Anomen’s room and closed the door.
Spike emerged into the corridor, shirtless, just in time to catch a glimpse of Buffy’s butt as she fled. He grinned and raised an eyebrow. “What’s going on, Tani?”
“We both had dreams,” Sorkatani told him. “Prophetic, perhaps. I shall say no more at this time.”
The grin disappeared from Spike’s face. “Bugger. Slayer dreams never mean anything good.”
“But they give us a chance to fix things,” said Willow.
“Well, yeah,” Spike agreed, “but it’s the same as with prophecies. Never bloody mean what you think they mean.”
“I hope not,” said Sorkatani. She shuddered. “I would not wish this to come to pass. I shall dress now, and rise, and later I shall discuss this with Buffy.”
“And us, right?” Willow pressed.
“I think not.” Sorkatani shook her head. “And this is not the time or place for any discussion.” She spun on her heel and returned to her room.
Willow and Spike looked at each other and their eyebrows lifted in unison. They shared a half-smile and then followed the examples of Sorkatani and Buffy. Their doors closed and silence returned to the Playhouse.
“Woo-hoo!” Warren exclaimed. “Go me! We have full RAID 0+1 function. More than eighty gigs of free space and full coverage against disk failure. No new motherboard required and entirely with the disks we already had. Total expenditure zero and I did it all in one afternoon.”
“And we can always change it to just RAID 0 if we run short of space again,” Jonathan suggested.
“We could,” Warren agreed, “although that way we could lose everything if just one disk failed. Better to add more disks to the array. With any luck we should have plenty of money by the time these disks fill up and we won’t need to risk it.” He unfastened the anti-static strip from his wrist and tossed it into a toolbox. “Load up the last save, dude, let’s see it in action. Make it so.”
“Aye aye, Keptin,” said Jonathan. He restarted the game, clicked through the intro screens, and loaded the saved game. He leaned back in his chair and watched as Sorkatani and Buffy dashed out of their respective beds. “Hey, they remember the last thing that happened before we came out of the game and reloaded,” he commented. “That’s, like, weird.”
“The same thing happened the last time,” Warren reminded him. “Or something like, anyway.” He pursed his lips and rolled his eyes. “We rewound things three weeks on account of Anya dying, Buffy got it into her head that she could save Yoshimo, and they spent the next two months running around grabbing every magic item they could lay their hands on. If they do the same thing this time we’re never gonna get them past Spellhold.”
“They’d pretty much done all the sub-quests by that point,” Jonathan reminded him, “and Sorkatani was pushing for them to move out as soon as possible on account of the sahuagin attacking ships. This was just before the Planar Sphere, right? There isn’t anything left to delay them.” He bit on his lower lip. “Uh, dude, suppose we can’t get them past Spellhold at all? Like, last time it was a trap that squished Anya, which I guess is an acceptable hazard, but this time Bodhi killed Tara just to make a point. Suppose she does it again? There was nothing that the guys could do about it.”
“I’m not gonna let anything happen to Tara,” Warren said. “I don’t want to mess with things too much, in case we spoil the plot and they don’t go to the Underdark, but I will if I have to. Let’s see what happens this time around.”
“Yeah, okay. Hey, I wonder how come Buffy’s watch runs fast?” Jonathan wondered. “Joan wears a quartz digital, so Buffy’s will be the same watch, right?”
“I guess the day on Abeir-Toril must be just a little longer than on Earth,” Warren suggested. “A few seconds over twenty-four hours, maybe.” He glanced at his own watch. “Hey, it’s later than I thought. We’d better get a move on. I don’t want to keep the girls waiting.”
“So, you and Anomen are, uh, doing it?” Willow’s eyes were wide and the corners of her mouth were turned up in an impish little smile.
Buffy squirmed in her seat. “I guess there’s no point in denying it. Yeah, we are. After he got turned to stone I kinda thought, well, we could get killed any time, we might as well seize the day.”
Sorkatani sighed. “I would seize the day with Yoshimo, but he will not let himself be seized. He claims that he is not worthy of me. Yet should I not be the judge of that?”
“Well, yeah,” said Buffy, “although I guess it’s better than the other way around.”
“He’ll come around,” Willow assured Sorkatani. “He totally adores you.” Tara nodded agreement.
“I know,” Sorkatani said, “but perhaps only as a companion and leader.” She shook her head. “He has said things that lead me to believe that he might be more… receptive after we have rescued Imoen. I can but hope.” She frowned briefly, but then smiled and turned her attention to Buffy. “So, you and Anomen? Are you, then, in love?”
Buffy sucked in one side of her mouth and then the other. “I’m fond of him, but maybe it isn’t love,” she admitted. “But, well, I kinda missed sex. And everybody else is doing it, or pretty much. Xander and Anya, Willow and Tara, Spike and Viconia, Giles and Jaheira – even Minsc and that barmaid Oranna.”
“Not everyone,” said Sorkatani.
“Well, not you,” said Buffy, “but hey, you don’t miss what you haven’t had.”
“True,” Sorkatani said, “I have never made love. Yet I have read many books that make it seem a very… interesting experience.”
“Books? They have porn in this world?”
“I know not the word ‘porn’,” Sorkatani said. “These were works of entertainment about the relationships between men and women. They were kept locked away in Candlekeep, but that merely fueled our interest, and Imoen obtained them for us. ‘The Lustful Man from Calimshan’, ‘The Human Succubus’, ‘Memoirs of a Candlekeep Scholar’, ‘The Maiden and the Bard’, ‘Moniské and the Barbarians’, and ‘The Acolyte of Sharess’.”
“I bet they featured lots of heaving bosoms, and bodices getting ripped,” Buffy speculated. “There was probably tumescence, too.”
“There were certainly members in a tumescent state, and bodices were indeed ripped,” Sorkatani confirmed. “I do not recall the bosoms heaving. It seemed that mainly they were being splattered with…”
“Hello, Dawn,” Tara interrupted loudly.
Buffy whirled around in her seat. “Hi,” she greeted her sister. “How goes it?”
“Hi, Buffy, hi Tara, Willow, Tani,” Dawn said. “You talking about boys, huh?”
“No, we’re working out our plans for going into the Planar Sphere,” Buffy said, not meeting Dawn’s eyes. “Yoshimo says Tolgerias has been looking at the same books Giles and Tani found, so I’m thinking that he’s gonna try to follow us into the Sphere. We gotta be ready to deal with him as well as whatever is in there.”
“Sure thing,” said Dawn. “Just let me know what you want me to do.” She turned away. Buffy relaxed and breathed out. Dawn turned around again and grinned at her sister. “Uh, Buffy, trying to keep me from finding out that you’re boinking Anomen isn’t gonna work seeing as how we share a room. You didn’t come to bed last night, so either you had a major case of insomnia or you found somewhere else to sleep. I’m going with option two.”
She walked off quickly before her sister could reply. The corners of Dawn’s lips quirked upwards in secret amusement. She’d been within hearing range for quite a while before Tara had noticed her; using that Thief ability to sneak around, just like a ninja, for her own amusement. Those books sounded… interesting. Okay, that ‘splattering’ thing was just, eww, gross, but kinda hot too. Sorkatani was trained as a librarian, and librarians couldn’t resist talking about books, and so it shouldn’t be too hard for her to find out more about the works in question. Getting hold of them would be harder, probably, but she was sure that she would manage it.
It wasn’t like she had any real guys to think about; Taar Windspear was the only cute boy she’d met since she came to this place, and she’d only met him that one time and there’d never been any other chance to get together with him. That blue-haired Haer’Dalis guy seemed to be interested in her, maybe, but he was way too old and a little creepy. Some hot reading was going to be the closest she could get to any real action. If Buffy moved in with Anomen full time, which seemed probable, Dawn might spend a few of her future nights alone curled up with a good book; or at least a naughty one.
“So,” Buffy said. “Do we tell the others?”
“I don’t know,” Sorkatani said. “I usually feel that honesty is the best policy. Yet our vision would worry Willow greatly, I know, and she would watch over Tara like a mother bear with her cubs. In so doing she might miss something of importance affecting herself or another of us.”
“That’s pretty much what I thought,” Buffy agreed. “We tell Giles, yeah, but maybe nobody else.”
“We must make sure that she has as much protection as possible,” Sorkatani declared. “There are talismans and amulets that are efficacious against vampires, I have read, but they are rare and highly prized. As to what else we can do, well, you are the expert.”
Buffy shook her head. “Here, not so much. Your vamps aren’t quite the same as mine.”
“True.” Sorkatani nodded. “Spike is proof of that.”
“Hey, he’s not exactly typical of the vamps in my world either,” Buffy said. “But yeah, if you don’t count the walking in the sunlight thing, which he could never do back home – except on that one day, and that was on account of a magic ring – and the whole not being evil thing, you can use him to spot the differences.”
“Spike does not drain the life energies from those he bites,” Sorkatani said, “and they do not become vampires.”
“Yeah, when he drinks blood it’s just the red stuff he’s taking,” Buffy confirmed. “He’d have to make the, uh, victim drink some of his blood for them to get vamped.”
“I did not even think of the possibility when we first met,” Sorkatani remembered. “Nor did it occur to me that healing spells have the reverse effect on vampires in this world.”
Buffy’s eyebrows shot upwards like a pair of fifteenth-century Chinese astrologers riding thrones propelled by forty-seven bamboo rockets. “Can I say, huh?”
“Spells to heal wounds inflict wounds on a vampire, or a wraith, or other such undead,” Sorkatani clarified. “It did not occur to me that you did not know this, but if vampires such as Spike are what you are used to, I suppose that it is not surprising. It is not a method of fighting them that is often used, for it means touching the flesh of the undead and that can be hazardous in itself, but it can be done. Had Spike been the same then, when Jaheira cured his injuries in the dungeon of Irenicus, she would have made them worse instead.”
“Weird,” said Buffy, and then her forehead creased into deep furrows. “Oh, crap. We saw Tara getting bitten. That means she’s gonna become a vampire if we don’t stop it happening. That would be even worse than her getting killed.”
Sorkatani sighed. “She may not become a vampire, for that happens only if the drain of life energy kills the victim rather than the blood loss, but it is a possibility. We must prevent it at all costs.”
“Yeah.” Buffy twiddled her fingers. “Uh, Tani, something’s just occurred to me. You’re pretty set on getting into this Planar Sphere thing, just the way I was on getting hold of the Ring of Gaxx, and I’m wondering if it’s for the same reason. I mean, I had the dream where it was Yoshimo who was killed, or at least he was the only one missing and you were all broke up and I figured that was probably the reason. Did you have one where somebody else died and you think there’s something in the Sphere that could save them?”
“No,” said Sorkatani. “There was only the one when you joined me at the fireside. I had woken with feelings of dread, and a sense of impending loss, but I knew not whom it related to. There have been no others since we met, until last night.”
“Then what’s the big deal about the Planar Sphere? Okay, that Valley-Girl guy has a tough deal, with Tolgerias wanting to use him as a key to open it up, dead or alive, but hey, he could have hid out in the wilderness a while longer.”
“If the Sphere can travel through the Planes,” Sorkatani explained, “then perhaps it can travel over the surface of Toril too. I hope that we can use it to transport ourselves to Spellhold. Arriving suddenly, with no warning, and catching Irenicus by surprise.”
“Hey, that’s not a bad plan,” Buffy agreed. “I hope it works out.”
“You wished to use the Sphere to travel to your own home world,” Sorkatani went on. “Is that still your desire?”
Buffy shook her head. “Not any more. If my mom had still been alive… but she isn’t. There isn’t anything for me to go back to. Everyone I care about is right here.”
“I have no great inclination to return to Baldur’s Gate either.” Sorkatani’s lips twitched into a half smile. “Not that it is an equivalent situation, as I could ride back to Baldur’s gate in a few days if I needed to, but in my case too it is my friends who matter and not the place.” She stood up. “But my roster of friends is one short, alas, and it seems that always there is one more thing that must be done before I can set off in search of Imoen. Let us make haste to settle this matter of the Planar Sphere.”
The two girls left the side room and walked out into the auditorium where most of their party was assembled. There was another person present; a soldier from the guard of the De’Arnise Keep. “Lady Sorkatani,” he greeted her. “I beg your pardon for this intrusion, but I bear an important message. Your presence is required at the Keep as a matter of urgency.”
Sorkatani grimaced. “What did I tell you? Always one more thing.”
“Good day to you, Lady Sorkatani,” the merchant bade her. “I am sure that you are wondering what brings us to your hold.” He wore gold rings on his fingers and his robes were trimmed with ermine.
“I’m sure that you’re going to tell me,” Sorkatani replied.
“My colleague and I are moneylenders,” the merchant continued. “We have come to collect a debt owed to us by the late Lord De’Arnise.”
“A debt in the sum of ten thousand danter,” his companion chimed in.
“We are, of course, aware that Lord De’Arnise is dead,” the first moneylender went on, “but the debt is attached to his property. Therefore it falls upon you, Lady Sorkatani, to repay it.”
“That is preposterous!” the castle’s major-domo interjected. “There is no such debt. I would know of it.”
“My father had no debts,” Nalia confirmed. “There was always coin enough for any eventuality – until the keep was pillaged by the invaders.”
“And that coin was borrowed from us,” the second money-lender explained glibly. “In the circumstances we shall waive the interest due, but we really must insist on immediate repayment.”
“You have proof of this, of course,” said Sorkatani.
“Indeed we have. A scrip, signed and sealed by Lord De’Arnise.”
“Let me see that!” The major-domo reached out his hand for the document.
“There are copies on file in Athkatla,” the money-lender informed him as he handed over the scrip. He stood back and folded his arms.
“The signature does look like that of Lord De’Arnise, and the impression of the seal is undoubtedly genuine,” the major-domo confirmed. “But the seal went missing during the occupation of the keep. There is no way of knowing when it was applied to this parchment.”
“Viconia? Tara?” Sorkatani glanced at the clerics. “Anomen?”
“What do you require, my lady?” Anomen asked.
Viconia was more attuned to her leader’s thought processes. “I cannot tell, jabbress,” she said. “My abilities have been anticipated and a counter-spell is in operation.”
“They might be telling the truth, they might be lying,” Tara agreed. “Kinda suspicious that they were prepared, though.”
The money-lenders smiles did not waver. “We have professional secrets to protect,” one of them said. “Matters of client confidentiality, you understand.”
Viconia snorted. “How convenient.”
“Our business is in urgent need of an inflow of capital,” the moneylender continued. “We recently bought up debts owed by a dozen of your tenants, some one thousand danter in total. If you are slow in repaying Lord De’Arnise’s debt we will have no option but to foreclose on the other debts.”
“I’m sure that you would not wish to bring hardship upon your tenants,” the other one added. “Prompt repayment would be in everyone’s best interests.”
Buffy had watched the proceedings in silence up to that point but now she spoke. “This smells like a scam to me,” she declared.
“I agree,” Sorkatani said. “Captain Cernick, take these men out and have them executed.”
The money-lenders paled. One turned to his companion and hissed “You said this wouldn’t happen! You swore that she was an easy mark!”
“Silence!” the other one hissed. Too late.
“A rather incriminating remark,” Giles commented.
Dawn grinned. “Or, as we’d say, ‘Oops! Busted’.”
A smile of relief spread across Buffy’s face. “You kinda had me going there. I’m glad it was just a trick.”
“It is useful that they have condemned themselves out of their own mouths, yes,” Sorkatani said, “but it is no trick. They shall hang for this crime.”
“You’re gonna hang them? Sorkatani, you can’t mean it,” Buffy protested. “Don’t do it.”
“It is my right under the law,” Sorkatani told her. “Were I to let this pass I would be leaving myself, and my people, open to further such acts. I must send a message that cannot be misunderstood.”
“Can I eat them?” Spike asked. “Seeing as how they’re going to die anyway.”
“You can not!” Buffy snapped.
“I cannot grant your request, Spike,” Sorkatani told him. “I can only have them hanged.”
“Bloody waste,” Spike grumbled.
“Sorkatani, you just can’t do this,” Buffy said. “Hanging people for trying to pull a scam on you… it’s just wrong.” Her eyebrows descended low over the wide circles of her eyes.
“On the contrary, it is my lawful right,” Sorkatani replied. She sighed. “I do not relish this grim responsibility but my lands and people must be protected.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to kill them.” Buffy turned to the others. “Giles, can you stop her?”
Giles raised his eyebrows. “I don’t have any authority over Sorkatani,” he pointed out. “I agree that the punishment seems excessive but there isn’t anything that I can do about it. If it really is legal then it’s her decision.”
“If I spare them then others will follow their example,” Sorkatani said. “I plan to leave Nalia as castellan here when we depart for Spellhold. It must be made clear that I will not tolerate hostile acts.”
“There has to be another way,” Buffy insisted. Willow and Tara chorused their agreement. Xander opened his mouth to speak but Anya whispered into his ear and Xander’s mouth closed again with the words unspoken.
“You didn’t hang Galvarey,” Buffy went on. “What happened to ‘Love, give, forgive’?”
“I forgave Galvarey because of his Harper membership,” Sorkatani said. “Perhaps I was wrong to do so. No doubt my leniency encouraged this pair to attempt their fraud, believing that there was little risk of repercussions. And ‘Love, give, forgive’ hardly applies to these… bloodsuckers. No offense meant, Spike.”
“None taken, jabbress,” Spike assured her.
Buffy ran a hand through her hair. “I just don’t believe this. It’s because you’re pissed at being dragged away just when we were going to hit the Planar Sphere, right? Or, hey, is it just that time of the month?”
Sorkatani shook her head. “It is logic that guides me in this matter, Buffy, not emotion. I take no pleasure in ordering their deaths but feel that it is necessary. Still, I would not jeopardize our friendship over such an issue. If you wish me to spare their lives then I will do so. Branding and flogging will suffice.”
“No branding!” Buffy insisted. “That’s barbaric.”
Sorkatani rolled her eyes. “Oh, very well. I shall merely have them flogged. Fifty lashes.”
The money-lenders had been staying silent during the exchange between Sorkatani and Buffy, fearing that they would antagonize their unexpected ally, but now their gasps of horror drew all eyes to them again. “I would rather hang,” one said.
“Fifty is way too many,” Buffy stated.
“For the sake of our friendship, then, I shall be lenient. Ten lashes each and they shall be fined a thousand danter. The fine shall be used to purchase the debts of my tenants.”
“I can live with that,” Buffy agreed.
“Very well. Captain Cernick, if you would have your men carry out the sentence?”
“Of course, my lady.” The captain signaled to a pair of burly guardsmen and the money-lenders were hustled away.
Once the guards and prisoners had left the room Sorkatani smiled broadly. “That all went very well. Thank you, Buffy.”
“Can I say, huh?” Buffy’s eyebrows went up and down. “Hey, was that a set-up?”
“In truth it was never my wish to have them executed,” Sorkatani told her. “Yet if I simply spared them then it would be an invitation to other such attempts. Now they will believe that I would have had them slain and that they owe their lives to your intervention.”
“Good cop, bad cop,” Anya remarked. “It seemed to work very well, especially as you had Buffy fooled.”
“I wondered,” Giles said. “It did seem somewhat out of character for Sorkatani, but the logic was undeniable.”
Buffy pouted. “You could have let me in on it.”
“I did not plan it in advance,” Sorkatani reminded her. “Yet had you been given prior warning your protestations may have lacked the necessary intensity.” She sat down and leaned back. “This interruption was tiresome. Perhaps we should now leave our investigation of the Planar Sphere for another time and, instead, set off for Spellhold at once.”
“And leave Valley-Girl hiding in his attic for, like, maybe weeks – I mean, more than a ten-day? That would be kinda mean, after we’ve promised that we’d be helping him out soon,” Buffy said. “And hey, maybe we will be able to use it to fly to Spellhold?”
Sorkatani grimaced. “I hold out no great hopes. More likely it will fly us all to Maztica, or to a realm of demons, or even to your world. But we shall see.”
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.