The Deathless, Part 3
When night fell again, Ilyria still hadn’t returned. They decided to split back up in the early hours of the morning, with sunrise still several hours away.
“I’m going to go see what I can find out from the men here in town. They’re employed by the Immortal, so they must know a little more about what he’s paying them to do. You guys should head to the island to see if you can intercept Koschei there,” Angel decided.
A bumpy Zodiac ride through icy waters and an uncomfortable hike across the ice later, they reached the shores of the nondescript-looking island. Buffy and Spike adjusted their packs as they climbed up the rocky, ice-free shore.
“How hard could it be to find something here? It’s just rocks.” Buffy panted up the steep incline, shedding outerwear as she hiked.
Spike was a few feet ahead and stopped as he reached the top. “Uh, you’ll see.”
“Oh.” The valley in front of them was vast and green in the moonlight. Small wooden villages dotted the landscape. Large birds circled overhead.
“Yeah, how long could it take to find a tree? No time at all, I’m sure.”
“Sarcasm noted.” Buffy stuck her tongue out at Spike, who grinned back at her. “We’ve got 5 hours until the sun comes up, so let’s get going.”
The path through the nearest village was deserted. They walked from house to house carefully, looking for signs of life. The dark morning was much more surreal in the greenery of this forest than back in the snowy city. The grass was soft under their feet as they crossed meadows to peer in the back windows of houses.
After the third village with no one stirring, they decided to enter a cottage. They went in the unlocked front door, and found an ordinary living space which looked recently occupied. Fresh vegetables were on the table and the beds had been recently slept in.
“Creepy,” Buffy said.
“I don’t like it,” Spike responded.
As the sun broke over the horizon, they chose one of the caves lining the rolling hills as a hiding place.
Buffy carefully unpacked her parka and layers from her bag. It was already warm enough for short sleeves, even inside the cave. She lined a corner with the fabric and continued on.
Spike turned from watching birds fly by in the dim light outside just in time to see her pants fall.
“Wh-what are you doing?” Something in her chest constricted at the stutter in his voice and the dilation in his pupils. “You only left the Immortal what, two days ago? It’s too soon.”
“This used to seem way more complicated, but it totally isn’t. I’m finding out what free will feels like.” She smiled at him and felt her heart expand again at the wonder in his wide eyes. “Come here.”
Kissing him felt like falling, but the touch of his skin sent her flying up again. How could I have forgotten, ran through her head again and again, but part of her knew that this particular feeling was brand new.
“I love you,” she whispered, as the sun rose high overhead.
“I love you too,” he responded, almost too quiet to hear.
It was quite some time before they fell into a blissful sleep.
They awakened to darkness and the sound of a helicopter overhead. They leapt up and hurriedly dressed and repacked, running after the sound as fast as they could.
Angel came to in a small dark room. His hands were bound behind the back of his wooden chair. The last thing he remembered was entering the warehouse where Illyria had left him the day before.
“Hello, anyone home?” he called. After a few minutes, three men entered the room. They surrounded him, carefully stroking their weapons.
“Am I supposed to be afraid of you? Because it’s not working,” Angel said. “I hope you aren’t waiting for a big reward from your boss. Am I wrong about that? Because I’m pretty sure the guy who’s paying you has bigger problems. Koschei, right? He paid all you guys to lock down the demon and supernatural presence around here so he could work. Yeah, he’s not doing so hot these days.”
The ringleader came over and peered into Angel’s face. “Ha! You not know. We already have much payment. It is in this box over here, where he left it.”
“In the prisoner room? That’s weird. You guys sure you got paid?” The stocky man glanced back, then motioned to his henchmen to come and check out the box with him.
When the men bent over the box to check the contents, Angel leapt up from his chair, hands freed long before. He knocked the men’s heads together soundly, and they crumpled to the ground.
“That works way more often than you’d think,” he muttered, taking the keys and weapons off the unconscious men.
In the next room, he found a shivering nondescript man. He was thin from apparent weeks of malnutrition. After wrapping him in his coat, Angel asked him his name.
“I don’t have a name anymore. My job took it away,” he said in broken English.
“Job? What kind of job is that?”
“I take care of the night. My boss will be so angry at me.”
Spike and Buffy reached the large clearing before the wind from the helicopter’s blades stopped whipping the surrounding trees. At the far side, an enormous tree grew. Its bark and leaves were a brilliant green, sparkling like emeralds under the light of the moon. Near the base, Koschei and Illyria were already locked in struggle.
Before they could start across the clearing, they realized they weren’t alone. Small, beady eyes glared out of them from the edges of the forest. Hundreds, if not thousands of beady eyes.
“I think we found the villagers,” Spike said.
Emerging from the forest, the people were slightly different than expected. They had the heads of birds, rabbits, squirrels and other woodland creatures. Their bodies were strong and wiry, but human in shape. They were armed with skewers fashioned out of trees and wooden blades carved to razor thin edges. They didn’t speak, only growled.
Spike tossed the extra sword to Buffy. “Save some for me,” he said.
They whirled across the clearing, slicing a clean path as they went. As they approached the dueling pair of Illyria and the Immortal, the fighting intensified. Koschei caught sight of them and shouted a command. A small whirlwind dropped down from the sky and whipped dirt into their eyes as fresh fighters arrived from the forest.
Illyria took advantage of his distraction to topple him to the ground. He writhed for a moment, and green fluid shot out of his wrists. Illyria staggered backwards, tearing at her eyes. She recovered, but he had already regained his footing.
At last Buffy and Spike had cleared through the wood warriors and reached the bottom of the tree. At the base, there was an enormous hole. Illyria had clearly worked through the night to reach the chest that lay uncovered at the bottom. Spike leapt down to it, followed closely by Buffy.
The chest was already cracked open, its contents gleaming.
“A rabbit, we’re looking for a rabbit,” Buffy said, searching frantically.
The near futility of their search soon became apparent. The chest was full of an enormous quantity of magical relics, ordinary treasure, and worthless-looking paraphernalia. Buffy winced at the feel of the sharp edges of countless crowns, scepters, and ridiculous jewelry.
“I’m not sure we’re going to be able to find anything in here,” she finally said. As she piled the stuff back into the center of the chest, they saw a flash of light and a pulsing moan started to sound.
“I think you found something,” Spike said, moving quickly to grab the glowing pendant. As soon as he touched it, the sound and light stopped.
A scream came from above, and Koschei leapt onto the chest. He lunged at Spike, who tossed the pendant back over to Buffy. She scrambled up the edges of the hole, with Spike hanging on to the legs of Koschei as he moved to catch her.
The moaning of the amulet intensified as Koschei kicked Spike free. A flock of ravens descended from the sky to pick at Spike and Buffy, pulling at the pendant in her hand. She gripped it tighter, slicing at the Immortal with her sword.
“Buffy! My darling, have you forgotten our love? You need to use the amulet, use it on me. All I need is for you to help me now.” The Immortal reached out to her.
In the meantime, Illyria had been digging through the chest. She triumphantly grabbed the small, silver rabbit. The metal wriggled in her hand even as she broke through the layers. She plucked the wings off the golden duck inside. With the egg free in her hand, she emerged from the pit to taunt Koschei. She tossed it from side to side in her hand.
Roaring, the Immortal was tossed from side to side with the motion of the egg. Spike ran to Buffy, helping her up from her off balance position. The ravens flocked to Illyria, pecking at the egg.
Spike looked at Buffy, and they both nodded.
Placing the amulet on the ground, Buffy hammered the butt of the sword straight into the heart of the amulet’s stone. A piercing howl rang out, and a bolt of light shot into the sky. Spike ground the remains of the amulet further into the dirt, and Buffy bent over to catch her breath.
On the ride out to Baba Yaga’s village, Angel finally managed to get Mikhail’s name out of him, as well as more information about his personal difficulties in finding work than he really wanted to know.
“Is it really that hard to find work? I’m just saying, I’ve been around quite a while, and I’ve always managed to find something or other to pay the bills.” Angel strapped on his snowshoes at the village pub.
“Yes, so my wife says, over and over and over again. She never stop. But I say, is this so bad? Sure, I give up name. Sure, the hours are not so good. And yes, the boss lady she is mean. But I am good with the horses and I never get up early in the mornings anyway.” Mikhail shrugged, obviously considering the subject closed.
The little hut in the woods was quiet and still. Baba Yaga was inside, working carefully on a little wood carving. She looked up with what seemed like exasperation and berated Mikhail in Russian for a few minutes before sending him out of the hut. She turned to face Angel.
“Ah! There is another. Tell me, do all vampires have souls now? I suppose that I cannot eat yours either, since you brought my Horseman of the Night back to me. I was hoping, though, that the new one would come back to me. He would be so much more entertaining than this old Horseman of mine.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.” Angel wasn’t very sorry, even though a Spike-free existence would have been an interesting change.
“You did it for her? She will not love you in that way again, you know.” Baba Yaga’s eyes were piercing, but there was a hint of kindness in them.
“No, I didn’t do it for her. I did it for him.” With that, Angel turned and left.
“Oh, crap! The sun’s coming up.” Buffy looked around in panic for a place for them to hide.
“What? It hasn’t been even close to 20 hours. More like 15, if that. We should’ve had plenty of time to get back,” Spike said. “But it’s worse than that. Look at the sky. Think this place is about to take off on holiday.”
The sky above them was whirling and swirling ominously. As they gazed upwards it intensified within moments.
“Time to run,” Spike said.
“What about Illyria?” Buffy asked. She was still gripped in an intense battle with the Immortal.
“She can take care of herself. She’d leave you, no questions asked. I strongly suggest we do the same.”
“Let’s go.” They took off at a rapid clip, running down the narrow dirt path to the wider road, through the villages they’d inspected the day before. At last they slipped down the rocky slope to the icy shore.
Once they were on the ice, they paused to pull out Buffy’s outerwear from their packs. Spike ended up with her parka bundled around his head to shield him from the rising sun as they made their way across the ice.
“What do you think happened with the sun? Was it the amulet? Guess we know why old Immy wanted you along for the ride,” Spike said after Buffy had radioed the Zodiac for pickup.
“I think it was Angel. I think he found a new Horseman of the Night.”
They grinned at each other in the sunlight, small tendrils of smoke rising off Spike’s head.
“Come home with me instead?” she asked hesitantly.
Spike moved the parka aside with care, grabbed her, and kissed her soundly.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/97320.html