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.
“I won’t get into any trouble,” Dawn insisted. “I’m not a little kid any more, Buffy.”
“Nobody goes anywhere alone, remember?” Buffy gave Dawn a Mom Look. “That wizard might do another of those beam-me-down tricks like he did with Viconia.”
Dawn’s eye-roll was flawless and showed that Buffy’s position as champion of that art was definitely under serious threat. “And a paladin is going to start a fight with me exactly why?”
Buffy heaved a sigh and executed an eye-roll that made it clear to this arrogant young gunslinger that the old marshal was still the fastest gun in the West. “And who says that it has to be a paladin? It could be just a plain old-fashioned monster.”
“In the middle of the city in broad daylight? Why would it go for me and not just for some random guy?”
“It would go for you if he told it to,” Buffy said. “I’m not gonna change my mind, Dawn. Nobody goes anywhere alone except Yoshimo with his Cloak of Non-Detection. Not even me or Tani. And definitely not you.” Her voice softened. “Hey, I don’t know why we’re quarreling about this. Just give me a few minutes and I’ll come with you.”
Dawn’s eyes widened. “Uh, I don’t, I, I’d rather not,” she said. She saw suspicion flaring in Buffy’s eyes. “Look, I just want to do some shopping at my own pace, ‘kay? Without anyone having to wait around for anyone else, or having someone else hanging around tapping their fingers and looking up at the ceiling while I’m trying to make my mind up.”
“Tough,” said Buffy. “You’ll just have to put up with it.” Her eyes narrowed. “Hey, you’re not trying to sneak off to meet up with that bard, Alimar or whatever, are you?”
“You mean Ailmar? No way. He’s cute, I guess, but hey, we’ve hardly spoken. He’s more interested in Giles than in me. Uh, that’s the songs by Giles.”
“Or that Hair Dulles guy who’s been making eyes at you?”
“No way! The only boy I’ve met here that I’d like to meet up with again is Tar Windspear and I haven’t seen him for, like, ages.” Dawn’s nose wrinkled. “Haer’Dalis is totally too old for me. Hello, sixteen here.”
“No you’re not,” Buffy pointed out. “It might be late summer in Faerûn but you haven’t had your birthday. It was November in Sunnydale when we left and we’ve been here for, what, three months? It’s only February Sunnydale time. You’re still fifteen. If anyone should have had a birthday, it’s me. Oh.” Buffy’s mouth opened and closed. “Uh, right. Maybe one of the other guys could go with you.”
Dawn looked down at her boots. Crap. She could tell that Buffy had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Now she was going to have to buy Buffy a birthday present, which so wasn’t what she had planned, and there was no way that she could carry out her real plan with one of the others along any more than if it had been Buffy. The idea of shopping for porn in the company of Giles, for instance, totally made her squirm. “Uh, I guess.”
“I could go with Dawn,” Sorkatani offered.
Dawn raised her head. That wouldn’t be so bad. Tani would understand. “Hey, yeah, that would be cool.”
“I’ll just slip into some armor,” Sorkatani said, “and then we’ll, how do you say it? We’ll totally hit the mall.”
Warren scrolled through line after line of code. “Somewhere in here there must be something nVIDIA specific,” he said. “Finding it is gonna be a pain. This is so not the fun part of being a game designer.”
“Yeah, it’s tough, dude,” Jonathan commiserated, “and there’s not much that I can do to help. I’ll get you some coffee, ‘kay?”
“Great, thanks,” said Warren. “Are there any cookies?”
“I’ll see,” Jonathan said. A grin came to his face. “Hey, maybe Andrew could summon up some flying Code Monkeys.”
“He kissed me last night,” Sorkatani confided.
“Cool! So you guys are dating now?”
Sorkatani shook her head. “No, not as such. He still has this ‘not worthy of me’ thing and he backed off some afterwards. He was all with the ‘wait until after we rescue Imoen’. But we’re beginning to get somewhere.”
“I still don’t get why he isn’t just going for it,” Dawn said. “He’s totally into you. Uh, you don’t think that maybe he might have a wife back in Kara-Tur?”
“I thought of that,” Sorkatani admitted, “but he says not. There won’t be anything to get in our way once we get Imoen back.” She surveyed the shops ahead of them. “So, where do you want to go, Dawn?”
“I, uh, a bookshop,” Dawn said. “I thought I’d get something to read on our sea voyage.”
“A good idea. I shall do the same.”
Dawn shuffled her feet. “I was thinking, maybe, I’d kinda like to read one of those books that you were talking about the other morning. Uh, what were they called? ‘The Lustful Man From Calimshan’, right? And the others. Maybe you could, uh, help me find something like that?”
Sorkatani raised her eyebrows. “I think that Buffy would not approve.” She broke into a smile. “She treats you as one younger than you are, I think. I was your age when I read them and I do not think that it has done me any harm. Very well. I have seen a shop that I think might have works of that ilk. Perhaps I shall purchase one myself. It would indeed help the time pass as we sail to Spellhold.”
“Cool.” Dawn flashed a brief smile at Sorkatani but then frowned. “And then I guess I have to buy a birthday present for Buffy.”
“Yes!” Warren punched the air. “We’re back in business.”
“That looks even better than it did on the GeForce, dude,” Jonathan observed. “Uh, I’ve just had a thought. We’d better check it out on the nVIDIA card again, just in case you’ve, uh…”
“Reversed the problem instead of fixing it?” Warren nodded. “I’m pretty sure that it’s good for both now, but yeah, we’d better check. I’ll change the cards round again.” He stood up and stretched. “Man, I’m feeling kinda burned out. I need a break.”
“When are you seeing Katrina next?” Jonathan asked.
“We don’t have anything arranged,” Warren said. “I might give her a call. I don’t think she’s doing much apart from play-testing the game.”
“You can give her the new version,” Jonathan said.
“I’ll do that,” Warren said. He glanced across at Jonathan’s computer. “How are the guys doing in Amn, dude?”
“They’re about ready to go to Spellhold,” Jonathan reported. He closed one eye and tilted his head to one side. “They’re gonna do one last gig before they go. I saw the show last time through, before we reloaded the save, and it was pretty good. How about we invite some of the guys over to watch it?”
“Tonight?” Warren shook his head. “Too short notice, dude, and I’m too much in need of a shower and a long sleep.”
“No, it will be tomorrow,” Jonathan told him. “They sail for Spellhold the morning after that. I can pause the game to make the timing come out right.”
“Okay, then.” Warren smiled. “We’ll make it our own little launch party to celebrate being ready to send out the demos.” He cracked his knuckles and then picked up his anti-static wrist strap. “But I’d better get the cards changed around again before I do anything else.”
“And so tomorrow we start sending out demo disks,” Warren concluded his announcement. He dipped his head. “I guess we’ll start getting rejections a few days after that.”
“No way!” Willow called. “It’s totally great.” A chorus of loyal assent came from the others.
“Thanks,” Warren said, smiling broadly. “But hey, guys, I have to be ready for disappointment. I don’t think making a sales pitch is part of my skill set. The game has to speak for itself and they might not want to listen. Anyway, we’ve done all that we can for now, and I’m totally burned out with work. It’s party time, dudes.”
Andrew and Jonathan scurried around the room making sure that everyone had a drink. Umad managed to acquire a glass of wine. Joan’s hand flashed out, removed the glass, and substituted a Mountain Dew Code Red. Umad rolled her eyes but made no other protest.
Jonathan set down an empty bottle and made his way to his computer. “Okay, guys,” he said, “it’s Showtime. There’s no point in asking you to give them a great big hand, ‘cause they can’t hear you, but anyway, here are Giles, Viconia, Korgan, and Spike with special guests Tara, Buffy, and Dawn.”
“Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world
She joined a caravan going anywhere
He came from a city state
Born and raised in Baldur’s Gate
He joined a caravan going anywhere…”
Katrina stared at Giles on the screen. She turned to look at Rupert, who was sitting across the room with Anya on his lap, and then looked back at the monitor. “That is totally incredible,” she said. “How did you do it? And why haven’t you put this version of the mod up on the boards?”
“Well, for a start because it takes up 80 gigs of space so far and they haven’t even reached the Underdark,” Warren told her. “But there’s more to it than that. It’s kind of a long story. Uh, and it starts off with me doing a bad thing. But I’ll tell you all about it anyway. I’m not gonna keep any secrets from you any more.”
“I'm a bitch, I'm a tease,” Viconia sang.
“I'm a goddess on my knees
When you hurt, when you suffer
I'm your angel undercover
I've been numbed, I'm revived
Can't say I'm not alive
You know I wouldn't want it any other way…”
Giles played a final chord and Viconia bowed to the audience. In the wings Buffy gritted her teeth. She poked a finger through one of the holes in the lacy top that Dawn had bought her the day before, as an ‘approximate birthday’ present, and fiddled with the cloth. “You can do this,” she said to herself. “Just keep your head. You can do this.”
“Of course you can,” Anomen assured her. “You can do anything that you set your mind to. Your beauty alone shall captivate the audience, for they are not blind.”
“They might wish they were deaf,” Buffy said. She flashed him a smile. “Thanks. I’ll give it my best shot.” She waited for Giles to finish introducing her and then she walked out as Giles and Korgan struck up the tune. She forced herself to relax and allowed the music to take hold of her. She swayed her hips as she advanced to the front of the stage. Buffy saw Giles nod to give her a cue and she began to sing; or rather to chant, for her part in this song was spoken rather than sung.
“Something in the moonlight catches my eye
The shadow of a lover goes dancing by
Looking for a little bit of love to grow,
So give me love, give me heart and soul
You never let me cross to the other side now
I'm tied to the hope that you will somehow
Hard on the heels of something more
But I lost your love, heart and soul…”
She could not tell how the audience was reacting, for she was closing her mind to everything apart from the rhythm and her own voice. The hardest part of learning the song had been keeping to her own part when Viconia joined in and only by shutting out the externals could Buffy avoid being swept along by the drow girl’s powerful singing.
She began the next verse and was only vaguely aware that Viconia’s part had begun. Her own voice did not falter and she kept unwaveringly to her lines. This was the easy section, however, as the sung harmonies were fairly restrained during that verse; the true test would come in the following one.
“Tired eyes, tears that dried,” Buffy chanted, and then Viconia cut loose with everything she had.
“Leaving you ain't easy now” Viconia sang over Buffy’s chanting. The dark elf had remained near the back of the stage, so that she would be less likely to drown Buffy out, but it was still rather like being in the path of a hurricane.
“On the bed, on the pillow, where the love has died,” Buffy continued, undistracted.
“Loving you’s the harder part,” Viconia sang.
“A turn of the key, through the door you go,” Buffy ploughed on, still managing to keep to her own tune. She stuck to her guns all the way through that verse, through the chorus when they were both singing the same words with only minor differences in the tune, and onwards until at last she was delivering the final line; “A little bit of heart and soul.”
Almost before she knew it the music had finished and she was standing at the front of the stage, bowing to the audience, with Viconia beside her doing the same. The applause from the crowd was loud enough to bring a glow to her heart.
“Your performance was satisfactory,” Viconia commented as they left the stage together. “I am content.”
“Thanks,” Buffy said, knowing that this was as much praise as she could have expected from the drow. “You were amazing, as usual.”
Viconia nodded fractionally in acknowledgement. “I know this,” she said. “Let us now watch and see what they make of our sister.”
“Our sister?” Buffy frowned briefly but then her expression turned into a grin. “I thought my Dad went to Spain, not back in time a hundred and some years and to the city of Mezzo-soprano or whatever.” She cast a glance over her shoulder and saw Giles picking up the older of his pair of guitars. He was not yet ready to begin playing but merely held it as he announced Dawn’s impending arrival to the crowd.
“Menzoberranzan.” Viconia rolled her eyes. “I meant not that she is my sister by blood. Now hush, for she is soon to sing.”
“You were magnificent,” Anomen greeted Buffy when she joined him in the wings. “A vision of grace and beauty.”
“And my singing?”
“A strange style, but most effective,” Anomen judged. He opened his mouth to say more but was pre-empted by Spike’s voice from the stage.
The Big Bad, devoted fan of the Clash and scornful critic of those who would steal Clash riffs and bass-lines for ‘crap dance music’, had a soft centre where Dawn was concerned. “S’ppose if you’re set on doin’ the bloody thing anyway I might as well make sure it’s done right and proper,” he had said. Now he was lowering himself to do something that he would never have done for anyone else, nor would he have done even for Dawn had he been aware that a counterpart of himself was watching at that very moment.
“Tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty
You're listening to the boy from the big bad city,” Spike rapped to an uncomprehending, but still appreciative, audience.
“This is jam hot
This is jam hot.”
Giles began to blast out the deep, throbbing, rhythm on the re-tuned guitar. Korgan hit the drums. Dawn danced across the stage, moving in a slightly more coordinated fashion than Lindy Layton had done in the original video, and Spike drew a slow mournful note from Giles’ new gnome-made harmonica. Dawn appeared to be completely free of the apprehension that had afflicted Buffy and she grinned happily as she launched into the song.
“Friends tell me I am crazy
That I’m wasting time with you
You’ll never be mine.
That’s not the way I see it
‘Coz I feel you're glad you're mine
Whenever you're with me.
People always talk about reputation
I don't care about your other girls
Just be good to me
Just be good to me…”
“I must say that I’m a little, ah, surprised by your counterpart’s participation,” Rupert said to Randy. “I was under the impression that he, like yourself, was something of a Clash purist and would flatly refuse to take part in what he would no doubt describe as a rip-off and a travesty.”
“I’d do it,” Randy replied. “For the right person. Person I loved. I’d do it.”
Umad grinned wickedly. “So if I asked you to sing an ‘nSync song for my friends, you’d do it?”
Randy looked down his nose at her. “I’d tell you to sod off, Bit. You might be like a kid sister to me, yeah, but I have my limits.”
The past couple of songs had required Korgan to restrain himself somewhat but now he was released to attack the drums with as much fury as if they had been ‘muckle beasties’. He was enjoying himself immensely as he hammered out a thunderous wall of sound.
“They came for him one winter’s night,” Viconia wailed.
“Arrested, he was bound.
They said there’d been a robbery
His crossbow had been found.”
“I wonder how Korgan will cope while we’re away,” Buffy remarked.
“No doubt he will spend the entire time engaged in drunkenness and debauchery,” Jaheira gave her opinion. “If we spend long upon this mission, and he exhausts his store of gold, he will either turn to robbery or sell all that is within this playhouse that is not nailed down.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Buffy said. “So, we’d better not hang around, right?”
“That is the least of my reasons for desiring haste,” Sorkatani put in. “The past months have seemed like an eternity. I want Imoen back; and my revenge for the deaths of Dynaheir and of Khalid.”
“We sail in the morning, Tani,” Yoshimo said. Buffy opened her eyes very wide. It was the first time that she had ever heard Yoshimo use the affectionate abbreviation of Sorkatani’s name. Things obviously had progressed between the two of them. “It shall not be long before we can confront Irenicus.”
“At long last,” Sorkatani said. She sighed as she listened to Viconia’s voice from the stage.
“Each night within his prison cell,
He looks out through the bars.
He reads the letters that she wrote.
One day he'll know the taste of freedom.
Over the hills and far away,
She prays he will return one day.
As sure as the rivers reach the seas,
Back in his arms again she'll be. .”
Sorkatani’s eyes were trained towards the stage but Buffy doubted if she was focusing on Viconia or Giles. It was someone much further away who occupied the Perfect Warrior’s thoughts. “I shall be with you soon, Imoen,” Buffy heard Sorkatani whisper. “You shall indeed know the taste of freedom. Nothing shall stop me now.”
Dawn took a few steps along the jetty and then stopped. “It feels like the world is going up and down,” she said. “Kinda… disconcerting.”
“It will wear off before long,” Sorkatani informed her. “We were but three days and nights upon the sea.”
Buffy frowned. “I feel the same effect. You think maybe we should hole up for a while until we have our, uh, ground legs again? It might screw up my fighting.” She looked up at the port town of Brynnlaw that lay before them. The rising ground beyond the harbor was laid out in terraces with the buildings set into them. The effect was attractive and, to Buffy, rather exotic; somewhat Middle Eastern, she thought. This probably would be a nice place to stay if it wasn’t for all the pirates.
Sorkatani glanced back at the ship. “I think not,” she said in a low voice. “I do not trust Captain Havarian. He would sell the news of our arrival to Irenicus for a few coins. Even if he did not, someone else will doubtless do so, in time. The longer we are here the more likely it is that rumor will reach the ears of our enemy. We must strike quickly.”
“There must be no delay in planting the boot of Good in the backside of Evil,” Minsc rumbled agreement.
“So didn’t need that image,” Dawn muttered.
“I have a feeling that we won’t be able to just walk in and get to fighting,” Buffy said. “Prisons aren’t usually known for their Open Door policies.”
“We have the name of a contact,” Sorkatani said. “According to Sime,” she continued, referring to the representative of Aran Linvail who had accompanied them on the voyage, “he is likely to be at a tavern on one of the higher terraces. Let us make our way there at once.”
Sorkatani flicked blood from Celestial Fury and twirled it back into its scabbard. “Is there something about being a pirate that makes men particularly stupid?” she wondered. “Or is it merely that only those who are mentally challenged take up such a career.”
The pirate who had accosted her with lecherous intent made no direct reply. He stood, swaying slightly, with one hand clasped to the side of his head. “Ye cut off my ear!” he protested. “Ye cut off my bloody ear, ye swab!”
“Hey, you could wear a hook,” Xander suggested. “That would be something none of the other pirates have.”
The pirate glared at the young knight. “That be a stupid idea, ye lubber,” he snarled. He bent down, retrieved the severed organ, and then scurried off in the direction of the Temple of Umberlee in the hope that the priestesses there could replace it.
Dawn gazed at the departing pirate critically. The reality of pirates was failing to live up to their fictional portrayal in the book that she had been reading during the voyage. Rum-addled, dirty, and smelly enough to indicate that the only time that their skins touched water was if they fell overboard; being ravished by one of them was unlikely to be a thrilling and sensual experience. The book’s heroine, Moniské, had either encountered a completely different category of pirates or else was capable of extreme self-delusion in the interests of getting laid. Dawn shook her head and followed her sister and the others into the Vulgar Monkey tavern.
Buffy stepped back, avoiding the pool of blood on the floor, and left it to Anya to do the talking.
“You can’t be serious,” Anya snapped. She advanced until she was glaring directly into Sanik’s eyes from only inches away. “We saved your ass, buster. You owe us. You say that you’re not going to tell us how to get into the Asylum? If Sorkatani had been two seconds slower with her sword you would have had a dagger right in the middle of your back.” She shook her head. “Are you trying to set some sort of record for ingratitude?”
Sanik wilted under her stare. “I am sorry,” he said. “I shall tell you what you ask. You must go to Perth the Adept. His house stands immediately behind this tavern. He is the representative of the Cowled Wizards in Brynnlaw. It is he who arranges passage for the merchants who deliver provisions to the Asylum. He possesses a Wardstone that opens the barrier. I can give you no advice as to how you can persuade him to use it on your behalf.”
“The Cowled Wizards have a presence in the town? And yet they have permitted it to be taken over by pirates?” Sorkatani raised her eyebrows.
Sanik shrugged. “They care nothing for the town other than as a source of goods. Perhaps they even approve of the pirates, for they act as an additional layer of defense for the Asylum. Few ships other than pirate vessels make landfall here these days and those who might wish to rescue an incarcerated prisoner, as I presume is your intent, must first get past the pirates. Indeed, they have given a Wardstone to Desharik the Pirate King.”
“A possible second avenue,” Sorkatani said. “First, though, we shall approach this Perth the Adept.” Her fingers toyed with the hilt of Celestial Fury. “And we shall rescue your lady from the brothel. I do not respond well to blackmail, but I always pay my debts.”
“So, which first?” asked Buffy.
“Unless the wizard’s house is a mansion,” Sorkatani replied, “we shall not all fit within. Let us, therefore, divide our forces. We girls shall call upon Perth the Adept and the men shall pay a visit to the brothel.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Buffy agreed.
“They’d attract less attention,” Anya agreed. She aimed a sharp gaze at Xander. “But strictly no sampling the merchandise while you are there.”
The two groups reunited at the spot where the path to Spellhold left the environs of the town. “Mission accomplished, jabbress,” Spike reported.
“As is ours,” Sorkatani replied. She held up the Wardstone. “We had to kill Perth the Adept. He was not open to negotiations.”
“He was a total whacko,” Anya added. “Like he was hearing voices in his head.”
“We were also unable to avoid bloodshed,” Anomen said. He grimaced. “I have no regrets. They were most unsavory characters.”
Xander stared along the path to where the roofs of a massive building could be seen in the distance. “So, do we go in now? Or take some time out first, take a look around, maybe get a meal or something?”
“Ah, so you yearn to taste something other than my cooking? I am hurt, my friend,” Yoshimo said. He had volunteered himself for the role of cook to the passengers during the voyage, as the fare produced by the ship’s cook had proved to be distinctly unappealing to those who were not seasoned sailors, and his spicy Kozakuran dishes had been well received by all except Spike. Some herb in the ingredients, a concentrated form of garlic perhaps, had caused the vampire’s tongue to swell and his lips to blister; after his first taste Spike had stuck strictly to a diet of pig’s blood for the remainder of the voyage.
Xander laughed. “You’re a good cook, Yoshi, but I wouldn’t say no to something a little plainer for a change.”
Sorkatani ignored the by-play. “I vote that we proceed at once. Our activities in town must have attracted attention. It is only a matter of time before Desharik sends word of our presence to those within Spellhold.”
“I agree, jabbress,” Viconia said. “If there is yet a chance that we have the advantage of surprise, let us not allow it to slip by.”
“I’m all stocked up with spells,” Willow put in. “I say we go now.”
There were no dissenting voices. Sorkatani and Buffy took a few moments to organize their forces. They would be in two groups, fifteen yards apart, so that no single trap or spell could affect them all but the rear group would be close enough to be able to respond immediately if the lead group needed reinforcement. Buffy ceded the lead position to Sorkatani without argument; it was her right to head the mission to rescue her friend.
“I shall remain here,” Sime told them. The girl from the Shadow Thieves had taken no part in any of their actions in Brynnlaw. She was an observer only. “If you do not return I shall inform Aran Linvail. I know not if he will be able to do anything to assist you. My task is only to report to him what I see.” She smiled briefly. “And to kill Saemon Havarian if he did not deliver you unharmed to Brynnlaw.”
Sorkatani nodded in acknowledgement. “You have already been of great help to us, Sime. Thank you. We shall see you again before long.”
This was, it seemed, a path rarely traveled. Grass grew up between the stone slabs. A small war party of lizard men tried to ambush the adventurers and met with bloody and terminal failure. The building that housed the Spellhold Asylum was on a small rocky island separated from the main island of Brynnlaw by a narrow channel. A stone bridge, its parapet marred by several missing stones, spanned the gap.
They crossed the bridge and were immediately attacked by insubstantial forms of vaguely humanoid shape. “Vampiric mists,” Sorkatani identified them. The creatures lasted only moments against the party. Closer to the main Asylum building more monsters lurked. True Undead this time, a Wraith and a pair of Shadow Fiends. Celestial Fury flashed, Yoshimo’s katana swung, and from the second group Xander hurled Azuredge. The Wraith shriveled up and blew away. The Shadow Fiends disintegrated. The path to the door of Spellhold lay open.
“There are no traps upon the door, jabbress,” Yoshimo reported. Spike nodded confirmation.
Sorkatani took hold of the door handle and turned it. She pulled and the door swung open. “It is not locked? Strange,” she commented. She allowed Yoshimo and Spike to enter first and then walked into the building. The rest of her group followed in her tracks.
Half a minute later Buffy’s section entered the Spellhold Asylum. Buffy’s eyes widened as she saw the décor. “This was in my dream,” she muttered. She drew both Daystar and the Blade of Roses.
“Dream?” Dawn asked. “What dream?”
Buffy did not answer directly. “Stay alert, Dawn,” she said. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
A door stood open ahead of them. They passed through it and found Sorkatani’s group standing in a corridor as if waiting for them. A figure in the robes of a Cowled Wizard was standing in front of Sorkatani.
“Ah, we are all here,” the wizard said. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, no doubt.”
“How do you know my name?” Buffy asked.
“Patience, child, all will be revealed in time,” the robed man said.
“Buffy,” Dawn whispered. “I recognize that voice. It’s the guy who we saw when we first came to this world. It’s Irenicus.”
“I know,” Buffy said. “I don’t get why Sorkatani is just standing there.” She sheathed both her swords and then stared at her hands. Her mouth dropped open. “Huh?”
“Time presses,” Irenicus declared. “Let us move on. There is much for you to see.” He gestured with one hand and a door in the corridor’s side swung open. “The Residence for the Magically Deviant houses many people,” he said. “All of whom can benefit from a structured environment. This is Lyri.” A girl, not yet even in her teens, stood within the room that had been revealed. “At a remarkably young age she learned to shape magical energy, allowing her to change her form as she wished. Soon she became a hazard to herself and to others. Here she is safe, and others have learned something of what she does. It is invaluable information.” He gestured again and the door closed.
“This is Wanev,” Irenicus announced, opening another door. “He used to be Asylum Coordinator before I took over. Too much exposure to magical energy, I fear.”
The grey-haired mage in the chamber glared at the crowd in the corridor. “Well? What are you staring at? I ordered that the corridors be cleaned. Get on with it!”
“His mind is completely gone,” Irenicus said. “A pity.”
“Enough of this charade, Irenicus,” Sorkatani snarled. “I am interested only in Imoen.”
“Oh? Then the rumors of your disinterested altruism in Amn are false?” Irenicus shook his head. “Ah, Bhaalspawn, your true nature becomes evident.”
“When I have freed Imoen I shall see what may be done for the other captives,” Sorkatani clarified.
Irenicus ignored her response. He turned and led the party along the corridor, acting as if he was the guide to a conducted tour, and everyone followed in his wake.
Spike shook his head. “Why aren’t you chopping the bugger’s head off, jabbress?”
“I... I…” Sorkatani stumbled over her words, swallowed hard, and started again. “He is leading us to Imoen.”
“More like he’s leading us to the bloody slaughterhouse,” Spike growled. “Snap out of it, jabbress.”
Sorkatani did not reply. She fixed her eyes on Irenicus and trotted after him as if she were one of a flock of sheep. Behind her the whole column did the same. Irenicus opened another door, read out a description in the manner of a museum curator describing an exhibit, and moved on to a fourth cell.
“Tiax rules all!” a shrill voice shouted from within. “You are but grease for the squeaking of his wheels! Silence those who protest. Tiax rules all!”
“We met this gnome in Baldur’s Gate,” Jaheira told Giles. “He was insane then and he remains so now. This one, at least, should be here.”
Giles shook his head. “This place seems to offer the very opposite of treatment and rehabilitation,” he said. “If they have done any good at all it must have been by accident.”
At the next cell Sorkatani cried out in horror. “Dradeel! Dradeel! What have they done to you?”
“Bad dog! Bad dog! Werewolves all!” an elven mage raved. “Back! Back with you!”
“Dradeel,” Sorkatani called. “Don’t you know me? It’s Sorkatani.” The mage continued to babble nonsense. The Perfect Warrior fixed Irenicus with a cold stare. “He is my friend,” she declared. “For this alone I would kill you, Irenicus.”
“Obviously he had some sort of traumatic experience in the past. He cannot be allowed to roam free with the power that he possesses.” Irenicus closed the cell door.
“Power that he has used only to help those in need,” Sorkatani said, but she still did not raise Celestial Fury against her enemy.
“And lastly,” Irenicus announced, leading them into a larger room, “the one you seek.”
Buffy’s eyes rolled like those of a frightened horse. She sucked in a rasping breath. Her fingers trembled over Daystar’s hilt but did not take hold. “This is the room,” she said. “We’re here. Tara, take care.”
Willow flickered into invisibility for a mere fraction of a second and then the Staff of the Magi slipped from her fingers and clattered on the floor. The red-haired witch was fully visible once more. Her eyes were huge circles and her skin was pale.
Imoen stood within the room, motionless, staring straight ahead. She did not react as Sorkatani entered her field of view. “Imoen,” Sorkatani gasped out. “Imoen.”
“I have quite finished with her now,” Irenicus said. “She has served her purpose. Purposes, rather, for she has also acted as bait to lure you here. It is your turn to experience our… hospitality.” He raised his hands to his head and folded back his cowl. “This disguise was always transparent,” he said, “and it is of no further use.”
“What have you done to me?” Sorkatani cried. “Why can’t I just kill you?”
The smile that appeared on the face of Irenicus lacked any hint of humor or true enjoyment. “A simple domination spell,” Irenicus revealed. “You cannot raise a finger unless I will it. Oh, you have amulets, and talismans, and wards aplenty, I am sure, but they’re all quite useless in these circumstances. You’ve all been eating spell components in your marinaded pork for the past three days. You have done well, Yoshimo.”
The bounty hunter bowed low. “Thank you, master. It was my duty to serve.”
Sorkatani stared at the man she loved. “No,” she croaked. “Please, no.”
Spike growled low in his throat. His features rippled and distorted. His fangs came out. “You treacherous cunt,” he spat at Yoshimo. Spike’s leg blurred as it swung up and around. Yoshimo took the kick full in the face and was knocked back across the room. He hit the ground and lay still. “I didn’t eat the fucking marinade,” Spike snarled. He hurled himself upon Irenicus. The mage raised his hands to cast a spell but Spike seized them and spun the mage around. His fangs plunged towards Irenicus’ throat.
A side door burst open with such violence that the hinges broke. A pale figure in black leather streaked into the room at eye-baffling speed. A slender hand closed upon the back of Spike’s neck and plucked him away from Irenicus. Spike was lifted from his feet, twisted until he lost his grip upon the mage’s arms, and then tossed away as if he had been a rag doll.
Spike hit the ground rolling, picked himself up, and faced his new opponent. His eyes widened. “You? But you’re dead.”
Bodhi laughed. “And so are you.”
“Dunno how you escaped,” Spike grunted, “but it’s not gonna matter. You’re going down, bitch.” He leaped forward; but not towards Bodhi. She could wait. The first priority had to be to break the hold that Irenicus had over the others. Once the mage was dead…
He didn’t reach his target. Bodhi intercepted him, caught Spike’s arm, and squeezed. Bones cracked. “Surprised?” Bodhi taunted. She picked up Spike again and slammed him down upon the stone flags of the floor. “A little stronger than when we last met, aren’t I?” She stamped on Spike’s chest and shattered three of his ribs. “I’m not just a vampire any more,” Bodhi continued, kicking Spike again with such force that he was lifted from the floor and sent flying across the room. He crashed into the wall with an impact that shook a cascade of plaster loose from the ceiling. “I’m a god.”
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.
Song lyrics used – and sometimes modified to fit the Forgotten Realms setting – are from Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Bitch by Meredith Brooks, Heart and Soul by T’Pau, Dub Be Good To Me by Beats International, and Over The Hills And Far Away by Gary Moore. All are used without permission and with no claims to ownership or intent to profit from their use.