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Tabula Avatar Chapter 53

The whole month of October passed without any ‘Tabula Avatar’. It was the 28th of September when the previous chapter appeared. Originally I had planned to put up this chapter on ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day’ but, as things turned out, I was so far behind that I didn’t even make that date with the last one. However it’s here now, at long last, and I hope that you’ll like it. A very long chapter, centred on Giles. 9,130 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. They insert the trapped memories into the computer game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’ and the Scoobies join the Bhaalspawn and her companions on a quest that leads them into deadly peril.

Tabula Avatar

Chapter Fifty-Three

“Hey, wow! Plane tickets!” Warren beckoned the others over to his computer. “We’re going to Massachusetts, dudes.”

“Cool,” said Andrew. “At last we get something back for all this work.”

Jonathan pursed his lips. “Do we have to all go? I could stay here. We’re an actual company now. You could make the deal. I trust you, guys.”

Warren raised his eyes towards the heavens. “You just want to get out of flying, dude. Admit it.”

Jonathan looked down at his shoes. “I, uh, yeah, I don’t want to fly,” he confirmed. “But, well, somebody has to stay here anyway to keep an eye on the guys in the Baldur’s Gate game. They’ll be heading for the Underdark soon.”

“That’s a totally lame excuse,” Warren replied. “We can ask Willow to come over and take a look at them and save, or reload, if she thinks it’s best.”

“I don’t know,” Jonathan said, a frown creeping over his face. “Willow knows computers but she’s not a gamer. I can see her reloading if they even look like they’re gonna get into a fight. We might as well just pause the game for the whole time. Alex would be better.”

“Yeah, way better,” Warren agreed. “Katrina would be best of all, of course, but she’s not in Sunnydale. I’ll ask Alex.” He fixed his gaze on Jonathan. “So, it’s decided. You’re coming with us.”

“Why do you need me?” Jonathan whined. “You’re the one with all the chutzpah. I’d just sit and nod my head.”

“Hey, you’re the one with the most common sense out of the whole lot of us,” Warren told him. “I’d probably turn down a good deal. Andrew would sign anything if they showed him a lot of flashy cool stuff.”

“Hey!” Andrew protested. “I so would not.”

“Well, okay,” Jonathan conceded. “If you really need me. Just don’t blame me if I’m airsick the whole way there. And back. I’ll probably have the shakes the whole trip, too.”

“You’ll be fine,” Warren said. He stood up and stretched. “While I’m thinking about it, we’d better check on what’s going on with the gameworld. They should be out of Spellhold by now.”

Jonathan beat him to the other computer and turned on the monitor. “Not quite,” he said. “They’re still there. Having breakfast, it looks like. Viconia’s back. They must have Raised her.”

“That’s great,” Warren said. “Are they all okay?” He looked over Jonathan’s shoulder and started counting heads.

“No Yoshimo,” Jonathan reported, scrolling down the character icons at the side, “but we expected that. It looks like they’re all set to move out. Then, hey, on to the Underdark at last.”

“And we can get that part of the mod done,” Warren said. “We’d better make sure there’s plenty of free disk space. The file size is gonna shoot right up when they hit the Sahuagin city, if they take the sea route, and even more once they’re in the Underdark.

Jonathan minimized the game window and right-clicked on ‘My Computer’. His eyebrows descended low over his eyes. “That’s kinda strange,” he commented. “The free space has dropped by thirty-five gigs since we last checked. All they’ve done since then is go through the maze. I wouldn’t have thought that would take up more than a few hundred megabytes.”

“We’d better connect up another couple of hard drives to the RAID array,” Warren said. “Good thing we checked, dude.” His eyebrows lowered to match Jonathan’s. “I don’t get it. That much bigger in just one day? How come?”

“Maybe it’s because Galvarey has reached Tethyr,” Jonathan suggested. “Or, hey, Irenicus and Bodhi will be in the Underdark by now. They must have interacted with the guys enough to have become, like, carriers for the super-detailing.”

“Could be,” Warren said. “If it is on account of Buffy and company I’d sure like to know what they’ve been doing.”

- - - - -

The domestic staff of Spellhold had been almost unaffected by the reign of terror imposed by Irenicus. Even evil archmages need to eat, and prefer to sleep in clean bedding, and the cooks and maids had escaped being devoured by Bodhi or experimented upon by her brother. A payment of a few coins had sufficed to arrange a hearty breakfast for the adventurers.

Giles felt almost guilty as he tucked in. He had spent the night in the arms of a passionate and attractive woman, he was relishing a delicious meal of bacon and eggs with tea and toast to follow, and he would have been blissfully content had the circumstances been slightly different. Only the grief evident in Sorkatani’s clouded eyes and slumped posture, and the sight of Imoen sitting in the place at her right hand that would have been occupied by Yoshimo on previous days, functioned to dampen his spirits. Buffy seemed far less affected by the loss of Anomen. She was good at hiding her emotions, Giles knew, but he was inclined to believe that she had felt little more than affection for the young knight and that Sorkatani’s grief was far deeper.

Despite her obvious sorrow Sorkatani was devouring her breakfast with an undiminished appetite. Giles followed her example as he listened to Viconia relating her experiences in the City of Judgment, and the Palace of Loss, and her account of her interview with her goddess Shar.

“I confess that I trembled before her,” Viconia admitted. “I feared that I would be consigned to pits of torment. Yet she smiled upon me. I had found favor in her sight, for she is the Nightsinger, and the songs that you have taught me were pleasurable to her.”

“Good Lord,” said Giles. “Ah, not in this instance, I suppose.”

“I did not raise the subject of my desire to leave her service,” Viconia went on. “It would take one far braver than I to say such a thing to a goddess, in her own realm, when I was dead and dependent upon her favor for my Afterlife. Yet she was aware of this, and I trembled, but she did not wax wrathful as I would have expected. My death had come about because I spoke of her glory, and thereby I was martyred, and my words had gained me honor.”

“They were rather good famous last words,” Giles remarked.

“I thought they were cool,” said Dawn. “The pun was totally wicked.”

“Bloody missed them, didn’t I?” muttered Spike.

Viconia dipped her head in acknowledgment of the praise. “Therefore Shar was well disposed towards me, and was willing to grant my desire,” she continued. “If I was raised, of course, and at that time I had little hope that I would be returned to life. Even should it come to pass I believed that I would have deaths to avenge before I could think of aught else. Yet I listened to the words of my goddess, and took heed, for after all Sorkatani has prevailed against impossible odds before.”

Buffy sniffed audibly. Giles wasn’t sure if this was pure coincidence, perhaps an inhalation to savor the delicious scent of the bacon, or if Buffy was mildly annoyed that Viconia was failing to acknowledge that Buffy too had a habit of winning against the odds.

Viconia paused for a moment to eat and then resumed her account. “There were certain conditions. Firstly, that I must find one of a stature equivalent to my own and convert them to the cause of Shar.”

“Yoshimo,” Sorkatani said. Giles detected a hint of reproach in her tone.

“Indeed, jabbress,” Viconia confirmed. “It was not…”

Sorkatani cut her off. “I do not wish to discuss the matter.”

Viconia’s eyes widened slightly. “As you wish, jabbress. The next major condition is that I must carry out my promise to sacrifice Bodhi’s heart to Shar.”

“I’m good with that,” said Buffy.

“There are some minor conditions, of no importance to anyone else,” Viconia went on. Her gaze turned toward Giles. “She specified that you must teach me a song about shadows, zra’ha, for songs about sunshine, even on a rainy day, are not to her taste.”

“Of course, my dear,” Giles agreed. “Hmm. Ah, of course. Pat Benatar’s ‘Shadows of the Night’. That should do nicely.”

“Thank you, zra’ha, I knew that you would have something suitable in your repertoire,” Viconia said. “Lastly, she gave me a list of other gods to whom I am forbidden to turn without incurring her wrath.”

“If you are restricted only to the deities of Evil then you have gained nothing,” Jaheira said. “As well to stay with the goddess that you know than to be an unhappy servant of Talos or Loviatar.”

“Exactly,” said Viconia. “In fact I am forbidden to worship any other Evil god. That would be the very fickle behavior that would condemn me to the Wall of the Faithless. No, only the gods of Neutrality and Good are permissible. Of those, only enemies of Shar, such as Selûne and Sune, are forbidden to me.”

“That’s exceedingly decent of her,” Giles remarked. He had finished his bacon and eggs and had moved on to toast with butter and honey.

“It is… logical,” Viconia said. “Yet she forbids me to enter the priesthood of those deities. There are but two who I may serve as a priestess, if I was acceptable in their sight.”

“Eilistraee,” Jaheira guessed.

“A shrewd guess, abbil, and correct,” Viconia confirmed. “Shar holds her in no great regard but they are not foes. As a drow living in the surface world I come under Eilistraee’s portfolio and Shar would not stand in my way if I chose the Dark Maiden.”

“I can make no such guess at who the other might be,” Jaheira said.

“Liira?” Anya suggested.

Viconia snorted. “Indeed not. She is on the list of those forbidden to me. No, the other one is…” she stopped to sip from her teacup, stretching out the pause for dramatic effect, “Sorkatani.”

“What? But I am no deity,” Sorkatani protested.

“You are the daughter of a god,” Viconia pointed out. “Your divine essence may have been stolen but it can be regained. It would not be impossible for you to ascend to the status of a demigod. If you do, jabbress, I would serve in your church.”

The corners of Sorkatani’s lips turned down. “But I don’t want to be a god. I want to be a librarian.” Her lips turned up again in a weak facsimile of her normal smile. “That sounds silly, does it not? And in truth I now fear that being a librarian would bore me. But that does not mean that I should become a god. And god of what? Vampire Slayers?”

“Why not?” said Viconia. “Spike tells me that you are possessed by the avatar of such a being.”

“He doesn’t know the half of it,” Dawn put in. “She turned back into the pre-historic Slayer last night.”

“Oh?” Giles looked at Sorkatani over the rim of his spectacles. He raised a finger to adjust their position but stopped himself as he realized that the digit in question was smeared with honey.

“For a few minutes only,” Sorkatani said. “I rose from my bed, addressed the others in cryptic terms that I did not myself comprehend, and then was myself again.” She pushed away her empty plate. “It was… disconcerting. I dislike not being in control of myself.”

“It’s still a pretty cool power,” Dawn said.

“It was revealed to me that I can now change into that form at will,” Sorkatani disclosed. “I doubt that I shall use that gift, however. She seems not to understand the use of armor.” She rubbed her forearm and grimaced. “Perhaps her abilities might be of use when we face Bodhi again.”

There was a moment of silence as those who had been talking caught up with their eating. Viconia slapped away Spike’s hand as he stole a morsel of bacon from her plate. “Get your own, ussta ‘che, and leave mine to me,” she scolded him.

“More fun nicking yours,” Spike said.

“You do not even need food,” Viconia went on.

“Don’t need to shag either,” Spike pointed out, ignoring the cold glare from Buffy that resulted from his crudity in front of Dawn, “but you wouldn’t like it if I gave that up.”

“Huh. As if you could resist,” Viconia said.

“Probably right,” said Spike. “Got to admit you’re better than bacon.”

Viconia rolled her eyes. “If you can pay me no compliment better than that it shall be long before you get the chance to confirm my superiority to cooked pig meat once more,” she said.

Buffy pushed her empty plate aside. “I think we’d better start making some plans,” she declared. “I guess we’re all agreed that we chase after Irenicus and Bodhi and, uh, terminate them with extreme prejudice.” A chorus of assent greeted her words.

“They will be weaker without Lassal, Valen, and that Cowled Wizard,” Sorkatani said, “plus the loss of the weaker vampire minions and their assassins and thieves. Bodhi will create new vampires at the first opportunity, I would guess, and so we must follow them quickly.”

“Yeah,” said Buffy. “Where is this place Suldanelessar anyway?” Irenicus had left some notes behind him, containing cryptic references to his past and to his future plans, and everyone in the group had read at least some of them by now.

“Suldanesselar,” Jaheira corrected her. “It is within the Forest of Tethyr.”

“That’s just south of Amn, right? So, do we head that way?”

“These isles are closer to Tethyr than to Amn,” Sorkatani mused. “It might make sense to travel there directly.”

“If we go back to Amn first we can pick up our horses,” Xander suggested. “They’d be a big help if we’re traveling inland.”

“Anomen will want to go to Athkatla,” Buffy pointed out. “I don’t know how much notice Bodhi will take of him, though.”

“Strikes me she’d want to head for the big city,” said Spike. “Don’t see her as a forest type, even if she was an elf before she got vamped.”

“If we went to Athkatla first I could call on Cromwell,” Willow added. “I think I know how to add to the enchantment on Celestial Fury but I’d need help from an expert smith. The extra power would be a help once it comes to the showdown. There are a few tweaks that I could do to some of the other weapons too.”

“Those are good points,” Sorkatani conceded, “but my heart tells me that I should pursue them as directly as possible.”

“Our first priority must be to get off this island,” Giles put in, “and I think that we should take the first ship to the mainland, whether it is going to Amn or to Tethyr.”

“If Saemon Havarian is still here then we can sail straight back to Athkatla,” Anya said. “I have a feeling that he’s the kind of guy who would skedaddle from anywhere dangerous, though, and Sime isn’t around to keep tabs on him any longer. He’s probably long gone.”

“Pirates will not sail to cities where they would be hanged,” Jaheira said. “There are few honest sailors here. That leaves smugglers. What of our friend Calahan, jabbress?”

“He was sailing on the next tide,” Sorkatani said. “As was Golin. They will long since have departed.”

“We could see if we could get the portal working and follow Irenicus that way,” Willow suggested. “We’d only be one night behind them if we did that. We might catch them before they even get to the mainland.”

“That route lies through the Underdark,” Viconia said. “I would advise most strongly against following them. We would have to fight every step of the way.”

“Minsc would not shrink from applying his boot to the backside of evil,” the giant ranger said, “but it is the backsides of Irenicus and Bodhi to which the boot must be applied first. The spirit of Dynaheir cries out for vengeance.”

“I concur,” Giles said. “There is no point in following in their tracks if we can get to their ultimate destination by a safer route.”

“I say we try to find a ship first,” Buffy said. “We can always fall back on the portal if we can’t get a passage out of here.” Sorkatani nodded agreement. “So, let’s hit the town,” Buffy went on. “We need supplies anyway.”

“Yay, shopping,” said Dawn. “Although, hey, this hick town isn’t likely to have much good stuff.”

“I don’t know,” Anya mused. “Pirate plunder might include some valuable items and luxury goods.”

“Aargh, matey, thar be treasure in them thar shops,” mugged Xander. “Avast, me hearties.”

“They’re not likely to have a replacement for my disintegrated bra,” Buffy moaned. “It was my best. The one I was wearing when we arrived in Faerûn. The only one with elastic.”

“They don’t seem to have discovered the vulcanization of rubber in this world,” Giles remarked. “My knowledge of chemistry is quite insufficient to instruct alchemists in the art, alas. You’ll have to be content with cotton and silk.”

Imoen had been quiet throughout the meal so far. Now she spoke up. “I want one of those,” she announced. “They show off your titties much better than my underclothes.”

“Uh, I was thinking more in terms of it giving me support when I’m moving fast in combat,” Buffy said, giving Imoen a look that Giles would have described as ‘quizzical’.

“Well, yes,” said Imoen, “but I want to look good too. Especially here.”

Sorkatani’s head turned to face Imoen and her eyebrows rose. “Why especially here?”

Imoen’s eyes rolled upwards. “This is a pirate island, Sorkatani. Remember ‘The Adventures of Moniské’, that we read together in Candlekeep? I’ve been locked up in this place for three months, having all kinds of bad things done to me, and now I’m free I want to have some fun.” An impish smile came to her lips. “I don’t want to leave Brynnlaw without being ravished.”

- - - - -

“I don’t suppose that this establishment does pub lunches,” Giles muttered as they entered the Vulgar Monkey tavern.

“You are hungry again?” Jaheira raised her eyebrows. “You broke your fast most mightily this morning. I would have thought it sufficient to last you through the day.”

“I do seem to have rather a hearty appetite at the moment,” Giles said. “Perhaps because of all our exertions yesterday.” He heard Spike chuckle, glanced that way, and saw the vampire smirking at him. A similar expression appeared on Viconia’s face as she saw Jaheira’s head turn to follow Giles’ gaze. “In battle,” Giles added hastily.

Imoen pouted. “It’s all right for some,” she said. Her longing to be ravished by pirates was so far unfulfilled. Her closest physical contact with them so far had been during a brief skirmish with a press gang at the dockside. It had ended without bloodshed, after Buffy and Sorkatani had competed in seeing which of them could throw a pirate the furthest into the harbor, but there had been little opportunity for Imoen to engage in any romantic or sexual liaisons. That is, if she still so inclined; the unprepossessing reality of the surrounding pirates might well have quelled her desire.

“Ah,” Sorkatani, at the head of the group, exclaimed as she saw a figure sitting alone at a corner table. “Saemon Havarian. You have not yet sailed. That is good.”

The smuggler captain raised his head. He was clad in a silk shirt, a bandana around his head, and tight corduroy breeches. A scabbard for a two-handed sword hung at his back, although it appeared to be empty, and he wore a rapier at his hip. He was the very model of a dashing pirate, right down to the gold earrings, although in fact he was not a pirate as such. “Not from my point of view, Sorkatani. I have not sailed because I have no ship.”

“I would have thought a ship was a little big to lose,” Buffy said. “It’s, like, fifty feet tall.”

“What, you forgot where you parked it?” asked Xander.

“Huh?” Saemon’s brow furrowed as he looked at Xander. “No, my ship has been taken from me. Most unfairly seized by Desharik the Pirate King.”

“Oh, you poor man,” said Imoen. “You must be devastated.” She approached Havarian, put her hands on the table, and bent forward. She had purchased a rather low-cut gown during her morning’s shopping, of the style favored by sultry sorceresses rather than practical adventuring mages, and she had borrowed an Earth-style bra from Willow. “Why don’t you tell me all about it?”

Saemon’s eyes widened. He snatched his mug from the table and took a swig without removing his gaze from Imoen. “Ah, and who would you be, lass?” he asked, as he put down his beer.

“Imoen,” the young mage introduced herself. “Sorkatani’s sister.”

“I’m not seeing the resemblance,” the smuggler said. “But you’re a pretty young maid, sure enough, and I’d be more than happy to have you join me.”

“We’ll all join you,” Sorkatani said. Her gaze swung between Imoen and Saemon Havarian as she pulled out a chair and sat down. Sorkatani’s forehead was furrowed in a mild frown and Giles deduced that she was puzzled by Imoen’s forward behavior. It didn’t seem in accordance with what he had heard of the girl, described by Sorkatani as something of a tomboy, and he wondered if it might be a side-effect of the loss of Imoen’s soul. “We had intended to take passage with you to back to Athkatla, or to Tethyr,” Sorkatani went on. “Tell us more of the loss of your ship, Captain Havarian. Perhaps there is something that we can do to help you regain it.”

“I doubt it, lass,” said Saemon. “What can anyone do against the Pirate King? A law unto himself, he is, and ruler of this island. He can do what he likes to a poor innocent sailor-man.”

“You are no innocent, Havarian,” Jaheira said. “Be not fooled by him, Imoen.”

“You wound me, Jaheira,” Saemon replied. “I brought you here, at great risk, and as a result I have lost my ship.”

“Probably lost it playing cards,” Spike suggested.

Saemon’s eyes flickered away from Imoen’s cleavage briefly. “Not exactly, friend Spike. I was winning the card game. Desharik took exception to my skills and exacted a cruel and unfair revenge.”

“You mean he caught you cheating,” Anya deduced.

“He could prove nothing,” Saemon said. “Unfair, his action was, but there was nothing that I could do. Now I, and my crew, are stuck here. We have no ship, and we lack the force to seize one from the pirates.” He glanced around at the heavily-armed adventurers. “Whereas you, on the other hand, may have such force. If you can get a ship, I can sail her, and I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

Sorkatani pursed her lips. “A battle against the pirates in the midst of town would put many innocents at risk.”

“Take over a ship in the middle of the night, by stealth,” Saemon suggested.

“There may be a better solution,” Giles put in. “From what I have heard the custom is that Pirate Kings are reasonably benevolent. A leader of pirates who is merciless and bloodthirsty is termed a Dread Pirate. Is that not so?”

“Aye, in most cases,” Havarian agreed. “’Tis not a hard and fast rule, though, and I would say that Desharik is pretty dread as Pirate Kings go.”

“Even so,” Giles went on, “I think I might have a go at persuading him to return your ship without conflict. I have, as it were, a Cunning Plan.”

- - - - -

As I was going over,” Giles sang, “the Spine of the World mountains,
I came on Captain Farrell and his money he was counting
I first produced my crossbow, and then produced my rapier
I said, ‘Stand and deliver or a devil he may take yer’…

A group of pirates, who had been playing a game of horseshoes and placing small bets upon the outcome, abandoned their game and wandered toward Giles and his companions. A sleepy-eyed pirate leaned out of the upstairs window of a nearby house. The door of another house opened and a pirate emerged, tucking the tails of his shirt into his breeches, and with a busty and disheveled wench following in his wake. More pirates, and a few townsfolk, gathered. By the time that Giles was on the third verse the crowd numbered over thirty.

Being drunk and weary, I went to Molly’s chamber
Taking my money with me and I never knew the danger.
For about six, or maybe seven, in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, loosed off my crossbow, and I shot him with two quarrels…

Giles had made a few slight changes to the lyrics of the old song about an Irish highwayman, to reflect the absence of firearms from common usage in the Realms, and he blasted it out in the style of Thin Lizzy. It was well received, as he had expected, and the pirates were vociferous in their appreciation. Some gold coins were thrown.

Giles left it to Anya to retrieve the gold. He continued with another Thin Lizzy song, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, and it went down so well that he decided to continue the theme. ‘Jailbreak’ met with unanimous approval too. He decided against ‘Emerald’, which was too dark for the ‘feel-good’ mood that he wanted to inspire in the pirates, and ‘Black Rose’ had too many specifically Irish references. Instead he followed up with ‘Rosalie’, the Bob Seger song that Thin Lizzy had made their own, played the way that they used to perform it at live shows. The pirates would no doubt interpreted it as being about a rival bard, as radio stations were unknown to them, but that was a perfectly valid way of looking at it anyway. It certainly achieved the desired effect. By the second verse most of the pirates were jigging in the street.

And not only the pirates. Anya had abandoned her gold retrieval mission and was jiving with Xander, Willow and Tara and Minsc had linked arms and were whirling around, and – somewhat to his surprise – Sorkatani and Buffy were dancing together. Spike and Viconia swayed in each other’s arms, as did Imoen and Saemon Havarian, and Dawn was bopping with Jaheira.

Giles surveyed the crowd as he performed the extended final section.
My Ro-ro-ro-ro-ro-ro-ro-ro, Ro-ro-ro-ro Rosalie,
Just roll me over, and I will turn you around.
And I move my fingers,
Up and down, up and down…

Ah, yes. He could see Desharik, the Pirate King, making his way through the crowd and taking a prime position at the front by virtue of his station. Giles wanted to make sure that Desharik was fully infected by the mood and so, rather than bringing the song to an end, he moved on to a reprise of the second verse. This time he made a few tweaks to the lyrics to make them overtly piratical.

She’s got the treasure,
Comes from all the cornerstones of the world.
She’s so fantastic,
She’s everybody’s favorite little Pirate girl,
She’s got the power
I got the power, Rosalie,

He struck a final flurry of chords and bowed. The pirates cheered.

“Thank you,” Giles called. “I see that we have been joined by your leader Desharik. The Pirate King!” He struck up a new tune.

For he is a Pirate King,
And it is, it is, a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King

For he is a Pirate King
He is!
Hurrah for the Pirate King,
And it is, it is, a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King

It is!
Hurrah for the Pirate King,
Hurrah for the Pirate King.

Spike had joined in on the lines that were sung by the Chorus of Pirates in the opera, Giles noticed, with the ease of someone who was totally familiar with the material. It was an interesting observation; Giles wondered if Spike had seen Richard Temple performing the role of the Pirate King in the original 1880 production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. That was speculation for another time, however, and Giles put it out of his mind and focused on Desharik.

The Pirate King was a suitably dashing figure. His shirt was silk, with wide puffed sleeves, and his breeches were tucked into traditional pirate sea-boots with turned-down tops. A rapier with a jeweled basket hilt hung at his hip rather than the cutlass favored by the common seamen. Pirates avoided plate armor, as falling overboard in such heavy gear would mean certain death, but he wore a light chainmail jerkin over his shirt. It gleamed with a subtle sheen that indicated that it was an alloy of mithral and not mere steel. Gold epaulettes decorated his shoulders. His head was crowned with a three-cornered hat that could have come straight from Earth’s buccaneer era. Gold earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight. His goatee beard and thin moustache were trimmed to precise perfection.

The woman at his side, presumably the Pirate King’s consort Caiya, was less impressive. Her gown was too tight over her hips and her full breasts, she wore two necklaces that clashed horribly, and her general demeanor was more that of a floozy than of a Pirate Queen. Giles decided that he would ignore her as much as possible and concentrate on the Pirate King.

“Yes, I am the Pirate King,” said Desharik. His eyes were narrowed. A shrewd operator, Giles deduced, who would not take flattery at face value easily.

“He is,” sang the pirates. “Hurrah for the Pirate King!”

Desharik waved them to silence. “Thank you. A fine performance, bard, and I compliment you. Yet I sense that you want something from me.”

“True,” Giles admitted. “You have commandeered the ship of my, ah, associate Saemon Havarian. We had planned to sail on that ship and I would like to return it to him. I will, of course, compensate you with gold.”

“Hmm.” Desharik frowned. “The vessel is worth some hundred thousand gulder, bard. Are you offering that much?”

“That equates to ninety thousand danter, or thereabouts,” Jaheira whispered to Giles. “We do not have that sum in coin, a’mael. It would mean selling weapons, that we may well need, or else those diamonds that Willow is so anxious that we should keep.”

Giles nodded in acknowledgement and then turned back to Desharik. “Surely your dispute with Havarian at the card table was over no such sum? I offer the amount that was at stake, some eight hundred danter according to him, plus an extra thousand as recompense for your, ah, inconvenience.”

Desharik shook his head. “Why should I agree to that, bard? I have the ship.”

“Surely you were motivated more by the desire to teach Havarian a lesson than by the lust for profit,” Giles said. “He has learned his lesson, or if not yet then certainly by the time that we take back our money from him in the form of hard labor, and you can well afford to be magnanimous.”

“I’m a pirate,” Desharik reminded him. “Magnanimity isn’t part of the Pirate Code.”

“Oh?” Giles raised his eyebrows. “Surely such a gesture, from a Pirate King such as yourself, would be very much in accordance with the Pirate Code.”

Desharik’s brow creased. He looked to be taken aback for a moment. He glanced from side to side, presumably seeking some excuse to turn aside and gain time to formulate an answer to Giles’ argument, and his gaze alighted upon a pirate who had an unusual animal sitting on his shoulder.

The creature was the size of a cat and resembled a cross between a monkey and a squirrel. It had a big bushy tail, a pointed muzzle not dissimilar to that of a raccoon, and incredibly long fingers on its hands. It looked back at Desharik with the big eyes of a nocturnal animal and its pointed ears stood erect.

“That’s an odd pet, sailor,” Desharik remarked. “It’s not a parrot, of course, and it’s not a proper pirate monkey. What is it?”

“Aye-aye, Cap’n,” replied the pirate.

Desharik waited for the pirate to continue but no more words came. The Pirate King's eyebrows descended in a frown. “I wasn’t giving you an order, ye swab, I just want you to tell me what sort of animal you have on your shoulder.”

The pirate seaman’s forehead acquired a puzzled crease to match that of the Pirate King. “Aye-aye, Cap’n,” he repeated, in a slightly aggrieved tone. The animal chattered and waved its long fingers in the air.

“Well?” demanded Desharik.

“Well what, Cap’n?” asked the sailor.

“Just tell me what sort of animal that is, blast you!” snapped Desharik.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n,” replied the pirate once again.

By now Desharik looked as if he were about to explode. Giles took pity on him.

“It’s a type of lemur called an aye-aye,” Giles explained. “They come from Madagascar in my world. In the Realms I’d expect them to come from Chult.”

“Aye, that be right,” said the pirate. “My aye-aye comes from Chult, right enough, matey.”

“Oh,” said Desharik. “We were talking at cross purposes. My apologies, sailor. Carry on.”

“Aye aye, Cap’n,” said the sailor.

Desharik grimaced. He turned back to Giles. “Where were we? Oh, yes, giving Saemon Havarian his ship back. Why should I forgive him for cheating at cards?”

“Not forgive him,” said Giles. “Merely lessen the penalty somewhat. A professional courtesy.”

“Perhaps I might, were he another pirate captain,” Desharik conceded, “but he is just a smuggler, and an extremely irritating smuggler at that. He must live with the consequences of his cheating. He can consider himself lucky that I didn’t have him keelhauled.”

“Very well, Lord Desharik,” said Giles. “I can see that your mind is made up.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Saemon Havarian opening his mouth to speak up. He cringed inwardly, fearing that the smuggler captain would antagonize Desharik still further and put the whole plan in jeopardy, but to his relief he saw Spike seize Havarian and clamp a hand firmly over his mouth. “I shall return to my performance,” Giles went on. “This is a song about what it means to be a pirate.”

When I was just a lad, looking for my true vocation
My father said ‘now son this choice deserves deliberation
Though you could be a doctor, or perhaps a financier,
My boy, why not consider a more challenging career?’…

Xander, Willow, Tara and Dawn joined in for the next lines, taking the place of the chorus of Muppet pirates from the movie.

Hey ho ho, you’ll cruise to foreign shores
And you’ll keep your mind and body sound by working out of doors,

True friendship and adventure are what we can’t live without,” Giles sang solo, and then was again joined by a chorus, this time including Buffy and – very much to Giles’ surprise – Spike.

And when you’re a professional pirate,
That’s what the job’s about!

Now take the pirate Rethnor, in Neverwinter they despise him” Giles sang, substituting a Faerûnian pirate for the original song’s reference to Sir Francis Drake.
But in Luskan he’s a hero, and they idolize him.
It’s how you look at buccaneers that makes them bad or good
And I see them as members of a noble brotherhood.

The pirates of Brynnlaw swayed to the rhythm as the song continued. Perhaps some of the words might have lacked resonance with them, such as when Xander came in with “And me… I coulda been… a contender!”, but their enjoyment of the song overall was evident.

They’d never stab you in the back, they’d never lie or cheat,” Giles went on.
They’re just about the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

“Well, Lord Desharik?” Giles appealed, as he continued to strum out the tune and the Scoobies hummed along in the background, “Surely you will reconsider. You’ll gain a nice sum in gold, and your reputation as the very model of a Pirate King will be enhanced. I’ll sing your praises throughout the Sword Coast, and all you have to do is allow Saemon Havarian to take back his ship. Say ‘yes’, Lord Desharik, and prove that you’re the finest of Pirate Kings.” He did not press for an immediate answer but went on to perform the song’s final verses.

Hey ho ho,
It’s one for all for one
We’ll share and share alike with you and love you like a son
We’re gentlemen of fortune and that’s what we’re proud to be
And when you’re a professional pirate
You’ll be honest brave and free
The soul of decency
You’ll be loyal and fair and on the square
And most importantly
When you’re a professional pirate
You’re always in the best of company!

The assembled pirates cheered, clapped their hands, and stamped their feet. Enough gold coins were thrown to make a substantial contribution towards the sum that Giles had offered to Desharik. Anya scurried to collect up the coins, dragooning Xander and Dawn into assisting her with the task, and Giles bowed to the audience.

Desharik screwed up his eyes. “Very well, bard, I shall grant your request,” he agreed. “Pay me two thousand Amnian danter and Havarian may have his ship back.”

“A wise and fair decision,” Giles said. “I thank you, Lord Desharik.” He began to unsling his guitar. A wail of dismay from the assembled pirates greeted his move.

“More! More!” they called.

Giles smiled. “Certainly, good pirates,” he assented. “Viconia, my dear, do you think that we could make an adequate stab at ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ without Korgan’s drumming?”

Viconia pursed her lips. “It would be less than perfect, zra’ha, but good enough, I deem,” she said. “I am ready when you are.”

“When do we sail, Saemon Havarian?” Sorkatani asked the smuggler captain.

“On the next tide,” Havarian replied. “It would be best not to rely for too long upon Desharik’s good will, I think. Three or four hours, I would say.”

“Good,” said Sorkatani. “That means that I will have time to get a tattoo.”

“Me too,” said Buffy. The two Slayers walked away together.

They were referring to magical tattoos, Giles knew, reputedly available from tattooists in the Pirate Isles. They offered a type of ward that could not be removed at the command of a captor, even one who had you under his mental control, and it was no surprise that the girls should want them after their recent experiences. In fact Giles would have liked one himself, if possible, but it seemed that he would not get the chance. The audience was waiting and the show had to go on. He nodded to Viconia and began to play once more.

- - - - -

“You have my deepest thanks,” Saemon Havarian said, as they stood upon the deck of his ship and watched the island of Brynnlaw recede into the distance. “I would like to present you with a gift as a token of my appreciation.” He unfastened a buckle and removed the strap that secured the empty scabbard across his back. He held it out to Giles.

“I’m not sure that we have any need for a spare scabbard,” Giles said.

“Oh, it is more than just a scabbard,” Saemon told him. “There is a sword blade inside. Take a look. Carefully, though, for it is exceedingly sharp.”

Giles tilted the scabbard and a gleaming blade emerged. He stopped when a foot of steel had appeared and returned the scabbard to a horizontal position. “It does look like a fine blade,” he conceded, “but it is hardly of any use in this condition.”

Sorkatani plucked a hair from her head and applied it to the blade. The hair split in two at a mere touch. “Sharp indeed,” she said. “It could make a fine weapon if re-forged. The base of the blade would have to be reformed to make a new tang, a task for a master smith, and it would lose some of its length in the process. A bastard sword instead of a greatsword, perhaps, or a longsword. Cromwell could do it.”

“Hmm. I’ll consult Bagpuss,” said Giles, and he took out the furry creature made out of pieces of carpet. A few chords from his guitar, a snatch of song, and Bagpuss was ready to give his verdict.

“It is the blade of a Githyanki silver sword,” Bagpuss announced. “The only weapon capable of severing the silver cord of an astral traveler. If it was re-forged it could be a deadly weapon, a match for Dawn’s short sword Cutthroat, and would make decapitating opponents easy. Be warned, though, that the Githyanki will seek to retrieve this weapon.”

“That explains why Havarian passes it on to us,” said Sorkatani. “Githyanki Sword Stalkers are merciless and relentless in their pursuit.”

“They can’t possibly know that I had it,” Havarian said. “I took it as payment for a deal. I wasn’t even sure what it was myself.”

“But you suspected, did you not?” Sorkatani challenged him.

“Oh, leave him alone, Sorkatani,” Imoen said. “It’s just a broken sword. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want it. Although I’d like it, if it was cut down short enough for me to use.”

“It might make a good replacement for Daystar,” Buffy said. “We’ll see what Cromwell makes of it, ‘kay?” She turned to look out over the bow. “A sword that makes chopping heads off easy could be real useful when we catch up with Bodhi.”

- - - - -

“Ship ahoy,” a look-out announced from the masthead. “It’s closing on us, Cap’n.”

Saemon Havarian ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Thank you, Thonas,” he called up to the look-out. Keep me informed.”

Imoen stepped out onto the deck. Her hair was even more disheveled than that of the captain, her lips were slightly swollen, and she was still making adjustments to her clothing. “Heya,” she greeted her companions. “Is something going on? Are we nearly there yet?”

Sorkatani’s eyes rolled skywards. “You have been cavorting with our captain again, I see,” she said. “This isn’t like you, Imoen. I don’t know what’s got into you lately.”

“Mainly Saemon,” said Imoen. “What harm does it do? I’m taking the nararoot. If I want a little fun it’s nobody’s business but mine.”

“As long as you are still of the same opinion when you regain your soul,” said Sorkatani. “You are not yourself.” She shook her head. “Perhaps we should tie your knees together.”

“Oh, you can still do it with your knees fastened together,” Imoen informed her half-sister. “You stand up and bend over, with…”

“Meep! TMI, Imoen, TMI!” Sorkatani squealed, putting her hands over her ears.

Imoen frowned. “You talk about me not being myself? I can hardly understand anything that you say these days. You have spent much too long with these foreigners. And why so prudish? Such matters are dealt with in great detail in the books that we used to read.”

“It’s not the same when it’s somebody I know,” Sorkatani said.

“Cap’n!” the lookout called again. “That ship is still closing. It’s traveling faster than the wind! It will be on us in a few minutes. Don’t see any way that we can outrun it, Cap’n. There must be magic involved.”

“Blast,” said Havarian. “Helmsman, turn three points to starboard. We’ll run with the wind, for what good it will do. To arms, men! Get ready to repel boarders.” He turned to address Sorkatani. “You and your friends had best do the same, miss.”

“Of course,” Sorkatani agreed. “I shall don my armor at once.” She scurried off below decks.

Giles shrugged on his chain-mail jerkin. He doubted if he could swim far in it, if he went overboard or the ship sank, but it was relatively easy to remove the garment at need. The dragon-scale armor that most of the others wore was relatively light. Only Minsc, who adamantly refused to be parted from his full plate, was in armor that carried a high risk of drowning. Getting the giant warrior overboard would be no easy task for anyone, however, and there was no great cause for alarm on that score.

The strange ship drew steadily closer. In almost no time at all it was plainly visible to those on deck. By the time that everyone was fully armed and armored the approaching vessel was within arrow shot.

Willow scrutinized the other ship with a Clairvoyance spell. “It’s full of warriors,” she reported. “They’re not pirates. I don’t think they’re even human. They’re kinda pale green and their noses are funny. Like, uh, skeleton noses. Maybe they’re Undead.”

Sorkatani shook her head. “Githyanki,” she said. “I have never seen them but they are described in volumes that I read in Candlekeep. Or they could be Githzerai, of course, but I doubt that. There is no reason for Githzerai to be chasing us and there is good reason why the Githyanki should pursue.” She glared at Saemon Havarian. “We should have thrown that sword overboard.”

“Too late,” said Havarian. “They’ve found us now and they won’t be pleased.”

“Couldn’t we, uh, just give the sword back?” suggested Tara. “We don’t want it all that much, do we?”

“I would do so at once,” said Sorkatani, “but it would serve no purpose. Merely by being in its vicinity we have committed sacrilege in their eyes.” She nocked an arrow to her bowstring. “We must fight.”

Arrows did not deter the Githyanki. Neither did a fireball from Willow, which briefly set the other ship’s sails ablaze, but then went out with a suddenness that implied that a magical means had been used to extinguish the conflagration. The Gith ship didn’t even slow down, despite no longer having much canvas to catch the wind, and in minutes it was alongside.

Boarding ramps, hooked at the ends to catch and lock on to an enemy ship, swung down. Minsc tore one free and threw it over the side, as did Buffy a moment later, but there were too many such ramps and the Gith began to swarm onto Havarian’s ship.

The sailors ran to meet them but almost at once cowered back. One began to sob, wailed ‘I can’t go on, it’s useless,’ and cut his own throat. Even Minsc turned to flee.

Giles had the answer to that. “Well we won’t back down” he sang.
No we won’t back down.
You can stand us up at the gates of hell but we
Won’t back down…

The Tom Petty song worked as well against the psychic powers of the Githyanki as it had done against the Fear aura of dragons. The sailors rallied, as did Minsc and the others of the party who were wavering, and the Githyanki were forced to resort to hand-to-hand combat. They were skilled warriors, wielding two-handed swords, but they weren’t quite good enough to cope with Sorkatani and Buffy and their comrades.

Sorkatani slew a Gith commander with a double blow from Celestial Fury and Malakar. Buffy hit another with the Hammer of Thunderbolts and sent him flying over the edge of the ship. He disappeared beneath the surface and was gone instantly.

“They can’t swim,” Sorkatani remarked, kicking another Gith overboard.

“Crap,” said Buffy. “I don’t really want to kill them. Hey, getting their sacred sword back, I can kinda see their point.” Despite her words she did not hold back from delivering blows that killed one Gith outright and knocked another over the side to drown.

“At ‘em, lads,” Saemon Havarian cried. “We’re driving them back. We’re winning.” He delivered those words from a position at the rear, shielded from the Gith by both Slayers as well as by the swords of Minsc and Xander and the spear of Jaheira, and Imoen turned to look at him reproachfully.

“Hey, you’re not fighting,” she complained.

“Ah, yes, well,” Saemon said. “I’m more of a leader, you see, directing the battle.”

“You’re a coward,” Imoen accused. “I thought you were a dashing sea captain, a hero, and you’re just a coward. Well, that’s the last time you’ll be getting between my legs.”

“Ah, that’s a shame,” Havarian said, “but at least I’ll be alive.” He raised his voice to his men once more. “Push them back, my brave lads. Victory is at hand!”

Suddenly the whole ship shuddered as if it had struck something in the water. One of the boarding ramps snapped in two. The Githyanki wavered, as did the human sailors, and the fight came to a brief halt.

A figure clambered over the ship’s rail. At first Giles thought that it was one of the fallen Githyanki, having escaped drowning and returning to the fray, for this new figure was also green in hue. It was a more silvery shade, however, and it was soon evident that it was no Gith. It had a sharklike maw in its pointed face, its hands were webbed and bore claws, and it had a triangular fin jutting from its back. More of the same creatures appeared, climbing up the sides of the ship, and scores of similar fins could be seen in the water.

“The sahuagin!” shouted a Githyanki leader. “They will sink our ship! Retreat, retreat!” The Githyanki horde fled back to their own ship in frantic haste. Such behavior seemed strange for members of a proud warrior race, Giles thought, and then it occurred to him that a species that drowned immediately in water would be more prone to panic in a naval battle than were humans. Perhaps it was the shape of their noses that made them vulnerable to drowning, Giles speculated, then such thoughts were driven from his mind by a realization that he and the others were in dire peril.

The sahuagin boarding party survived for mere seconds. Out of the water they were no match for Buffy and the others. They had a more insidious way of attack, however, and they had already used it. The ship heeled over.

“Cap’n!” a sailor called urgently. “We’re taking in water. They’ve holed us, Cap’n.”

The ship quickly developed an acute list to port. It was clear that the sahuagin had done major damage to the vessel. Havarian went below to determine the state of the leaks and reappeared shaking his head. “At least six holes, and they’re big ones,” he said. “Beyond repair. We’re sinking. Abandon ship, lads, man the lifeboats.”

“But, Cap’n, the fish-men will attack us there,” a sailor pointed out.

“It can’t be helped, lad, there’s nothing else for it,” said Havarian. “Luckily I have my own way out. ‘Tis a shame that I can’t take anyone with me.” He clapped his hands together. A pale circle of distortion formed in the air around him.

“Hey!” Imoen protested. “Are you running out on us?”

“Afraid so, lass,” said Saemon. He flashed her a rueful smile. “I could take one person with me – but you’ve already said that I won’t be getting any more, and so, Imoen, I bid you farewell. It was fun while it lasted.” He vanished. There was a ‘pop’ of air rushing into the vacated space and then no further trace of the smuggler captain.

“He is no great loss,” said Sorkatani, “but our situation is perilous.”

“I could get myself back to Brynnlaw,” Willow said, “or four of us over to the Githyanki ship.” Even as she said those words the ship in question rose from the surface of the waves, climbed into the air, and then streaked away vertically until it was lost to sight. “Uh, cancel that idea,” said Willow. “It looks like I can save just me, or nobody.”

“What about the coast over there?” Buffy asked. The Dragon’s Neck Peninsula, stretching out into the ocean from the mainland of Tethyr, could just be made out on the southern horizon.

Willow swayed on her feet as the ship lurched. “Sorry, Buffy, it’s out of my range. Maybe if I had a whole lot of time to study it with Clairvoyance but, hey, time’s something we don’t have.”

“Then we’re gonna have to swim to shore,” said Buffy, “fighting off Creatures from the Black Lagoon the whole time. Not good.” The sahuagin had already overturned one of the lifeboats, tipping the sailors into the sea, and it was obvious that escape by boat was problematical at best.

“I don’t have to breathe,” said Spike. “Get in a boat and I’ll go down and stop those buggers sinking it.”

“Alone against a horde of them? Even you would be overmatched, ussta ‘che,” Viconia warned him.

“Well, a bloke’s got to try,” said Spike.

“Perhaps I can do something,” Giles said. He was struggling to think of a suitable song for the occasion. Unfortunately the first one that had come into his mind had been ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’, and a succession of similarly doom-laden nautical songs followed it into his mind. ‘Sloop John B’, with its refrain of ‘this is the worst trip, I’ve ever been on’, and ‘Sailing’, containing the ominous line ‘I am sailing stormy waters’, were the most innocuous that he was able to come up with. Apart, perhaps, from ‘Frigging in the Rigging’ – but that was very much a desperate option of last resort.

“Uh, yeah, but you’d better hurry, Giles,” Buffy said. The ship was going down rapidly. Already the waves were lapping over the sides and onto the deck.

“Ah!” Giles exclaimed. “I have it.” He breathed a sigh of relief and broke into song.

In the town where I was born
There lived a man who sailed the sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines…

The deck tilted further and further. Giles felt himself sliding towards the water as he strummed his guitar.

So we sailed up to the sun
‘Til we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

We all live in a yellow submarine
A yellow submarine
Yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine…

The sailors in the last surviving longboat, paddling away from the sinking ship as fast as they could, heard the song cut off and saw the ship slip beneath the waves. They rowed with all their strength towards the coast of Tethyr, giving thanks to the gods for their escape, cursing their cowardly captain and lamenting the heroes who had gone down to a watery grave.


Disclaimer: the lyrics from "Whiskey in the Jar" (traditional, arranged Thin Lizzy), "Rosalie" (Bob Seger), "Pirate King" (W S Gilbert), "Professional Pirate" ('Muppet Treasure Island' soundtrack), "Won't Back Down" (Tom Petty), and "Yellow Submarine" (Lennon/McCartney) are all used without permission, amendments are unauthorised, and no intention to claim ownership is made. All rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Tags: birthday wishes, birthdays, fic, tabula_avatar

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