“What is wrong, my love?” Zarbalan put his arm across Jeroneth’s shoulders and pulled her to him. “There is sadness in your eyes.”
“I miss my home,” Jeroneth revealed. “I do not like this world. The clothes are immodest, and the language is vulgar, and the music is too loud.”
“Sorry about that,” Bodhi said. “It won’t happen again. I’ve found out that if you turn the knob to the left it gets quieter.”
“Not just in the horseless chariot,” Jeroneth said. “The music in the tavern was too loud also, and the lights that flashed hurt my eyes, and the smells were strange. Even when we are outside the smell that the golems in the chariots make is unpleasant. There seem to be no horses in this place. I thought…” Her lower lip began to quiver. “I thought… I thought it would be like going to Baldur’s Gate or Waterdeep. I could come here, and not have to fight my friends, and live as before except that I would drink the blood of thieves and peasants whom no-one would care about. But everything is strange, and we are fighting a girl who would make a fine member of the Order, and I… I…” She burst into tears. “I… I want to… to go home.”
Zarbalan met Bodhi’s eyes. “It pains me to see Jeroneth unhappy,” he told her, “and also, while I am here, I am not getting my revenge upon my aunt. Return to Faerûn, jabbress, I implore you, or else permit us to depart from your service.”
Bodhi sighed. “I like this world. I love being able to walk in the sun. You have… well, you are a drow and have no love for the sun in any event, and Jeroneth has not been a vampire long enough to miss it. Yet I have a great fondness for the pair of you. I cannot spare you as yet, I fear, but as soon as we have slain Joan the Vampire Slayer I shall demand that Warren Mears and his colleagues send you back to Faerûn. In return for that service I will spare their lives. Is that satisfactory?”
Zarbalan and Jeroneth exchanged glances. “It is indeed, jabbress,” Zarbalan agreed. “We shall remain with you until Joan the Vampire Slayer is dead.”
“Oh, goody,” Bodhi said. She smiled and clapped her hands together. “I’m glad to hear it. We’ll get you back to Faerûn as soon as we find Joan and kill her. That’s a task for the future, however. This evening we shall devote ourselves to entertainment. Perhaps that will cheer you up.”
“There are things about this world which I find displeasing,” Tanova commented, “for instance those ill-mannered natives who dubbed me ‘Raghead’, a clearly derogatory term, until I set aside my veil. I will get used to not wearing it, I suppose, but I dislike having to change my customs to conform to the prejudices of the peasantry.”
“I know,” said Bodhi, “but there were too many offenders to rip out all of their throats. It would have attracted far too much attention.”
“And I ran out of Polymorph spells,” Tanova lamented, “after turning only a tithe of the ill-mannered ones into frogs. Still, it is enjoyable to face opponents who seem to completely lack wards against magic. Back home at least a couple of them would have resisted the spells and remained unchanged.”
“I wonder how resistant Joan is,” Bodhi mused. “She avoided your Fireball and Lightning Bolt but that might have been purely through her speed and agility. She might be vulnerable to Disintegrate, unlike Buffy, or to Polymorph or even Dire Charm. That would make things much simpler for us.”
“I’ll give them a try when we next fight,” Tanova agreed. She turned to Jeroneth. “You know, you didn’t need to agree to that hostage trade with Joan,” she remarked. “If she had staked Zarbalan it wouldn’t have killed him permanently. He’d have just returned to the coffin we prepared for him and regenerated.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Jeroneth said. “I am not yet accustomed to being a vampire. I shall know better if such a situation occurs again.” She lowered her eyes. “Although I would still wish to spare Zarbalan such pain.”
“Actually I think it was a good tactical decision, even if it was accidental,” Bodhi said. “The vampires of this world simply turn to dust if they are staked. Your action will make Joan think that the same applies to us. We’ll act as if it does. I can’t imagine that Joan or the Spike clone could ever immobilize me with a stake at my heart but, if it should happen, treat it as if it’s a deadly threat. I’ll do the same if it’s one of you. Then, if one of us does get staked or decapitated, it will be a horrible shock for them when we turn up as good as new.”
“Staking them isn’t enough,” Joan said to the assembled throng. Alex’s apartment, the chosen venue because of its size and because Joan’s house was still regarded as unsafe, was full to capacity. “They don’t dust. They turn into mist and drift back to their coffins. Once they’re there they regenerate. A few hours at most and they’re back at full strength.” The visitors from Los Angeles frowned in unison.
“We might be able to zap the mist with this,” Warren said, holding up Katrina’s memory stick device, “but I’m not sure. If it doesn’t work we’ll have to track the mist back to the coffin and zap the corpse.”
“I’m making more of these,” Katrina added. “We’ve got two now but I should have another four or five ready by tomorrow night.”
“It would work if they were unconscious, too, I think,” Warren went on, “but knocking Bhodi out? Probably pretty much impossible.”
The teenage boy who, impossibly, was supposed to be Angel’s son, shrugged. “So? They’re just vampires. We dust them, we go back to Los Angeles. What’s the big deal?”
“Just vampires? Yeah, and a hurricane is just a wind.” Joan’s eyes rolled briefly. “Bodhi is way stronger than any other vampire. Stronger than me, faster than me, maybe not quite as skillful at the bare hands stuff but that’s about the only bright spot. Everything else about her is bad news. And then there’s Tanova. The one-woman helicopter gunship.”
Angel had been sitting with his gaze fixed on Randy and suspicion written all over his face. He turned his head to face Joan. “Okay, they’re tough, and we’ll help you out,” he said, “but I would have thought the big problem was your loss of memory.”
“No, it really isn’t,” Joan said. “Bodhi, and Tanova, and their two sidekicks are the problem. They want me dead. Bodhi’s way tougher than I am, Tanova is a witch who makes Harry Potter look like a muggle, and the other two are no pushovers. And, just to really screw us up good, they can walk in the sun. Bloodsucking twenty-four seven, no waiting.”
“Of course we shall aid you, fair maiden,” said the big warrior who bore a distinct resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Terminator’ guise but whose speech patterns were more those of Conan. Joan had heard him referred to as ‘Groo’. “These vampires shall fall before our combined might, have no fear, for we are Champions.”
“That’s what I’m hoping,” Joan said. “Buffy beat her once, although that was a set-up and Bodhi threw the fight, but she fought Bodhi to a standstill later and made her run away twice. The thing is, Buffy has thirteen in her group, all pretty tough, with a whole load of magical swords and things. We only have me and Randy in that league and this,” she held up the dagger she had retrieved from Randy’s back, “is the only magic weapon we have.”
“I want to know more about the video game,” the Texan girl who was one of Angel’s crew said. She, and the African-American man who seemed to be her boyfriend, were soon involved in a discussion with Warren and Katrina.
Angel’s attention stayed on Joan. He shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why are you talking about Buffy like she’s somebody else? You’re Buffy. You might have lost your memory but you’re still the same person. And that’s Spike. And there has to be something really wrong with you to be associating with him.”
“I’m not Spike,” Randy said. The bandages were gone from his jaw, and his speech was clear, but his leg was still splinted. “From what I’ve seen of him, though, I’d be pretty damn proud if I was.”
“Look, I know this is difficult for you,” Joan said, “but I’m really, really, not Buffy. In fact I’m not even allowed to use that name now that I’ve changed it. I’m legally Joan Anne Summers and he’s legally Randolph William Giles. We’ve never met you before. I only know you from what I’ve read in Buffy’s diary and Rupert’s journal.”
“You don’t speak like Buffy,” Cordelia conceded, “and Xander doesn’t speak like Xander. Although that can only be an improvement.”
“That’s ‘Alex’,” Alex corrected her.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Whatever. So, what about the rest of you? Is Willow calling herself ‘Pillow’ or ‘Tree’ or something? Has Giles changed his name to ‘Tweedy Book Guy’? Inquiring minds want to know.”
“Willow’s still Willow, Tara’s still Tara, Dawn calls herself ‘Umad’ but it’s just a nickname and it’s no big deal if you call her Dawn,” Joan said. “Anya’s still Anya – did you actually know Anya? Giles goes by Rupert these days. Oh, and he’s engaged to Anya.”
“Engaged to Anya?” Cordelia’s eyes widened. “That’s… a surprise.”
“Where are the rest of your group, anyway?” Angel asked.
“Umad’s staying with her friend Janice, Willow’s still in the hospital, and the others are at the Espresso Pump,” Joan said. “Rupert’s playing a gig there tonight. We’d have all been there if it hadn’t been for this thing with the super-vamps. Tara would rather have been with Willow but, now Will’s out of danger, they won’t let Tara stay there outside of visiting hours. Randy should have stayed in the hospital, he’s still not fit to be walking around,” she digressed, “but hey, Mister Low Boredom Threshold couldn’t take it. Tara went along to the gig,” Joan continued, returning to the main topic. “We thought it might cheer her up a bit. It should be safe enough. I can’t see the Espresso Pump being the kind of place that would interest Bodhi.”
Rupert struck the final chord of Dire Straits’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’, lowered his guitar, and raised his eyes to the crowd. His gaze passed across some people who had just come in and were taking seats at a table. Two policemen in uniform. A woman no taller than Joan, slim and elegantly dressed, dark haired and with extremely pale skin. A curvaceous brunette with an olive complexion and very full lips. A tall blonde with positively spectacular breasts; he resisted the natural male instinct to stare at them, whilst drooling and making inarticulate noises, and averted his eyes hastily before Anya could notice and become annoyed. A very short man whose skin was pitch black and whose hair was snow white. The hairs on the back of Rupert’s neck stood up and he felt a chill run through him.
It was the drow vampire who had shot Willow. The others, then, were Bodhi, Tanova, the paladin girl, and the two policemen who had fallen victim to the vampires. Bodhi’s full force, other than whatever minions had been driving for her assault on Joan’s house, here in the Espresso Pump when it was packed with innocent people.
Rupert gulped and looked around. Anya hadn’t noticed the vampires yet but her eyes followed his gaze and her jaw dropped open. Tara was biting her lip. Jonathan had moved in front of his girlfriend Lisa and his hand was inside his jacket, no doubt clutching a stake, but against these vampires any offensive action would be nothing but suicide. Andrew had a strange expression on his face; half smiling, half cringing, as if he wasn’t sure whether to flee in panic or to ask the vampires for their autographs.
Anya’s hand went into her purse and came out holding a cell-phone. Bodhi took three fast strides and reached her before she could react. Bodhi snatched the phone from Anya’s hand.
“A portable tel-e-phone,” Bodhi said, holding the phone in front of her face and examining it. “I’ve seen them on TV. An ingenious substitute for communication spells.” She crushed it in her hand and dropped the splintered fragments onto the table in front of Anya. “I’d rather you didn’t call anyone right now. Don’t look so worried. We’re only here to enjoy the music. We’ll behave ourselves.” She ruffled Anya’s hair, ignoring the glare that was directed at her, and returned to her seat.
Some of the crowd, unaware that anything out of the ordinary was happening, were growing restless at Rupert’s delay in starting his next song. Rupert began to swing his guitar back into position but then hesitated. Should he continue to play, relying on the ‘music hath charms to sooth a savage breast’ effect to keep Bodhi and her pals from wreaking havoc in the Espresso Pump, or should he try to get all the innocents to evacuate? Not that evacuation had much chance of success as, judging by what Tanova had done during the attack on Joan’s house, she could probably fill the whole place with poison gas before he could even get the clientele to realize that he was serious about the danger.
Before Rupert could come to a definite decision the well-endowed vampire girl rose from her seat and approached him. “Please, good sir, play for us,” she said. “I have been told of your great skill but have never heard you for myself. We will cause no trouble here, I promise.” She gave him a warm and apparently genuine smile.
Rupert studied the vampire. She had an odd air of innocence, despite her status as one of the evil undead, and something about her reminded him of Tara. She had probably been a good and noble example of a ‘knight in shining armor’ before being turned and, according to Joan, seemed to have retained some of her chivalry even as a vampire; Rupert mentally dubbed her ‘the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies’. He suppressed the chuckle that rose to his lips at that thought.
“Of course,” he said. “Tara, if you would join me for this one?”
The vampire dipped her head. “Thank you,” she said, and she returned to her seat as Tara made her way to join Rupert.
“This is a Pink Floyd number,” Rupert announced, as Tara took her place on a stool beside him, “now a regular feature of Roger Waters’ solo shows. With vocal accompaniment from Tara MacLay, here is ‘Mother’.” He ran through the opening chords and began to sing.
“Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?
Mother do you think they’ll like this song?
Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?
Mother should I build a wall?
Mother should I run for President?
Mother should I trust the Government?
Momma will they put me in the firing line?
Is it just a waste of time?”
He looked out at the crowd as Tara came in with her lines, sung by David Gilmour on the original album, performed by Katie Kissoon in most of Roger Waters’ stage shows. Tara might not be quite in Katie Kissoon’s league, not many singers were, but she was the best of the girls in their circle by a considerable margin.
“Hush now baby, baby, don’t you cry
Momma’s gonna make all your nightmares come true
Momma’s gonna put all her fears into you
Momma’s gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Momma's gonna keep Baby cosy and warm
Oooh Babe, of course Momma's gonna help build the wall”
Rupert noticed that the vampires were all smiling, swaying slightly in their seats, obviously well pleased with the performance. He relaxed and concentrated on playing the guitar solo. It seemed as if they might get through the evening without carnage and destruction. What might happen after the show was another matter; the fans waiting outside after the gig would be many times more dangerous than anything Roger Waters ever had to cope with.
Tanova stared at Rupert as he finished the song. “I want him,” she said.
Bodhi raised an eyebrow. “You’ve decided to move on from my brother?”
“We’re in another world, he’s occupied with trying to become a god, and I’ll probably never see him again,” Tanova said. “Yes, I think it’s time to move on. Rupert Giles is the best prospect I’ve seen.”
“He’s certainly cute,” Bodhi agreed. “I approve.” She ran her tongue over her lips. “I should have turned Giles instead of Anomen in the first place.” She fell silent, as Rupert began another song, and she and Tanova watched him intently. None of the vampires took any notice when Andrew slipped away to the bathroom.
“You say that if they get staked they regenerate back in their coffins,” Fred mused. “How’s that gonna work for them here? Their coffins are back where they came from. Kinda inaccessible.”
“I don’t think they’d have come here if they didn’t have a way to get round that,” Joan said. “Warren, you’re the expert. What do you think?”
“It’s not something D&D goes into in detail,” Warren said, “but it can’t mean just the coffins they were buried in. Bodhi wanders around Faerûn without ever worrying about it and I can’t see her having been buried in Athkatla in the first place. I’d take it that they can use any coffin but they probably have to do something to make it really theirs. Like, staking a claim. And I didn’t mean to make a pun there.”
“They’ll use blood,” Angel stated. “That’s how I’d do it. Take a coffin and mark it with my blood.”
“Good thinking, Angel. ‘S always about the blood,” Randy said. “Should have thought of that myself.”
Angel’s eyebrows climbed towards the impossibly remote reaches of his hairline. Halfway up they abandoned their attempt and returned to base camp to brood. “Uh, thanks,” he said. He hadn’t expected Spike to acknowledge his contribution, with all the bad blood that lay between them, and for a moment he was thrown off balance. Perhaps there really was something to the claims that these were different people from the ones he knew. He recovered his composure and completed his thought. “So, maybe we could sniff the coffins out.”
“Yeah, and leave them a little present,” Gunn suggested. “A couple of crosses in the coffins to keep them out. That would screw them good.”
Joan shook her head. “They ignore crosses,” she pointed out. “I guess they’re not holy symbols where they come from.”
“It’s not that,” Warren said. “In D&D only a priest or a paladin can make a vampire back off. It’s not the symbol that counts, it’s the guy wielding it. A normal guy can’t do jack with a cross, or Kelemvor’s scales, or Lathander’s rose sunrise. If we…” He broke off as his cell-phone chirped in his jacket pocket. “Sorry,” he said, and pulled out the phone. “Hi, Warren here,” he said.
“There are still things we could…” Fred began. She broke off as she saw Warren waving his hand in a frantic gesture and then holding his finger up to his lips. His face had visibly paled.
“Oh, crap,” Warren said into the phone. “Yeah. I’ll tell Joan and I guess we’ll be right over. Angel’s crew are here so maybe we’ll be able to kick ass instead of getting our asses kicked.” He raised his gaze to the others. “It’s Andrew,” he said. “Bodhi’s at the Espresso Pump.”
Joan clenched her teeth and rolled her eyes. “I guess I jinxed us, saying she wouldn’t go there,” she said. “Just Bodhi, or the whole bunch?”
Warren spoke into the phone, listened to the reply, and raised his head again. “All of them, except maybe for a minion or two,” he said. “They’re playing nice right now, just listening to Rupert playing, but Andrew’s worried what will happen when he finishes.”
“Feeding time, probably,” Joan groaned. “Okay, tell him we’ll be there as soon as we can. Saddle up, people. Not you, Randy.” Joan wagged a finger at her boyfriend. “You’re in no shape for a fight yet.”
Randy grimaced. “S’ppose not,” he conceded. “Doesn’t feel right, letting you go into a fight without me, but I wouldn’t be pulling my weight. Careful, though, pet. Won’t have me watching your back.”
“She doesn’t need you, Spike,” Angel said, deliberately choosing to use Randy’s old name and ignoring what he had been told about them being different personalities. “I’m here now.”
Joan opened her mouth to deliver a scathing retort, decided that it wouldn’t be advisable to antagonize her allies, and occupied herself with a series of full twisting Tsukahara eye-rolls while she came up with a watered-down version. “Look, I appreciate you coming here to help out,” she said, “but if you go up against Bodhi with that attitude she’ll break you apart. I just hope it gives me the chance to stake her while she’s doing it.”
“Soon we’ll be sailors, sailing on the salty sea
Where the waves of the world would be the one and only company
Come up and see the world it’s like a ship going down
It’s running aground, it’s all over,
But those flying fishes are going to jump up and smile
Every league, every mile, to tell a nova…”
Rupert sang the last of the lyrics to the late Duncan Browne’s ‘Journey’, a song that he’d always loved but which he’d never understood, and then concentrated on playing the long instrumental passage that made up the rest of the song. He raised his eyes to look at the crowd, as his fingers danced on the guitar strings, and checked out the vampires.
Bodhi and Tanova were smiling broadly. The paladin girl had her eyes closed, the smile on her face could only be described as beatific, and she was swaying and clapping her hands. The two vampire cops were grinning and one raised a glass of beer in salute as he saw Rupert looking in his direction. Only the drow vampire didn’t look happy. He met Rupert’s gaze with a cold glare. Whether he didn’t like the music, or he was annoyed by his girlfriend’s obvious approval, he looked as if he’d kill Rupert the moment he got a chance. At the moment it didn’t look as if Bodhi, who was obviously enjoying the songs, would allow it but the performance was going to have to end eventually. What would happen then was something Rupert didn’t want to think about.
He saw some newcomers wandering into the bar to join the audience and groaned inwardly. Even more innocents at risk. He concentrated on his playing for a moment, picked out the final notes, and then looked up again. A couple of the new arrivals looked vaguely familiar.
Ah, yes. He remembered having seen photos of one; Angel, the vampire with a soul. The rest of the group would, no doubt, be his crew from Los Angeles; that would make the other semi-familiar face Cordelia Chase, former school-mate of Buffy and her friends, someone else Rupert had seen in photographs. She had changed her hair-style since that time, and very much not for the better, which is why he had not recognized her earlier; she looked as if she had aged ten years since the photos were taken rather than the three years or so that it had really been.
Rupert bit on his lip. This was good, because if there was going to be trouble they now had far more fighting power than before Angel’s arrival, but it was also bad because it increased the probability of such trouble occurring. Probably more good than bad, he decided, as the whims of an insanely powerful vampire were hardly to be depended upon.
There was no sign of Joan. Presumably she was waiting outside, as her presence would almost certainly trigger an immediate attack from Bodhi, and delaying the fighting until they’d had a chance to get the innocent bystanders away would be highly desirable. Now, if only he could come up with a song that would drive away the usual Espresso Pump crowd but would fascinate the vampires… Rupert shook his head. Impossible, of course, and trying to do the reverse would just get Bodhi angry. He’d just have to stick with his original set list.
“Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
As she came riding through the dark
No moon to keep her armor bright
No man to get her through this dark and smoky night…”
“Home at last,” Buffy sighed, as they trudged up the path to the gates of Athkatla. It was after dark, and the gates were closed, but as residents the party would be admitted without question. “Hey, that’s a thought, when did I start thinking of this place as home? It is, though.”
“Yeah, I don’t think any of us would want to go back to Earth now,” Willow agreed.
“Damn right,” said Spike.
“I too think of this rivvin city as home,” Viconia admitted, “even though when first I came here they sought to burn me at the stake.”
Sorkatani smiled. “They will not seek to do that again,” she said. She knocked on the door beside the main gates and called out to the guards. “Open, please. We are the party of Sorkatani and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, returning to the city after long absence.”
The delay before the gate was opened was longer than they expected. Willow was beginning to consider zapping them all directly to the Five Flagons when, at last, the gates swung open.
A platoon of Amnish guards stood in the street. Their spears were leveled and facing the party. Three Cowled Wizards and a War Priest of Helm backed them up and a knight in full armor, his shield emblazoned with the emblem of the Radiant Heart, stood at the front.
“Sorkatani Gorion’s Ward,” the knight called, “Buffy Summers the Vampire Slayer, and Viconia De’Vir, you are under arrest for the crime of murder. Lay down your weapons and surrender.”
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, the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows, the author of the books, and the game designers and copyright holders. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. ANGEL ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The ANGEL trademark is used without express permission from Fox. All Rights Reserved. ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’ belongs to Bioware and Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Lyrics from ‘Mother’, by Pink Floyd, written by Roger Waters, ‘Journey’, by Duncan Browne, and ‘Joan of Arc’, by Leonard Cohen, are used without permission and for non-commercial purposes only.