Keystone – 10/21

This entry is part 10 of 21 in the series Keystone
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Author: Winsomeone
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 46,252  Complete-21 chapters and epilogue
Warning: explicit exsanguination scene
Beta: EnigmaticBlues

Summary: Sent to retrieve artifacts from another dimension the Slayer and her team become deeply embroiled in a twisted plot that places them in dangerous opposition to the Watcher’s Council.

A/N: AU Adventure. Set within the Grundyverse this story stands alone, a separate endeavor for this community, and although there is humor and romance, the plot is darker than what I usually write to suit our community theme of obstacles. Our poor beloved characters- they’ve certainly got ‘em in spades.

Disclosure: These characters belong to Joss, ME, Fox and anyone affiliated with same. Only Empress and the plot are mine.

Story begins here

Chapter 10

Lyre looked up. “I hear something in the tunnels.”

Bollocks. Spike knew stealing those icons had been way too easy. “Vampires. They must have let me leave so they could follow.”

He watched Cris call her people. Gathering around, they quickly formed a line across the cavern, bows nocked and trained on the entrance.

Confusion crossed Lyre’s face as she lifted her bow. “There was no one following behind us. I’d swear to that fact.”

“I didn’t smell them either. Once they figured out where we were headin’, they must have known another tunnel.” And they never had a reason to try it until I showed up and nicked the icons.

“There is one other way– beneath the moat.”

“That would do it, they don’t need to breathe.” Spike surveyed the large cavern critically and shook his head. It was a wide open space with a few large boulders along one corner. “Tactically they couldn’t have chosen a better spot.”

Cris replied sourly, “That’s true. There is no high ground here and very little cover. However this has been anticipated and there are a few surprises awaiting them in the closer tunnels.” Assessing Spike’s fighting stance, she handed him a long knife. “You can use this.”

He ran an appreciative eye down the blade. “Very nice.Ta.”

She shrugged it off. “It would be unwise of a leader not to equip an able fighter.”

The words were barely out of her mouth before there was a loud crash.

“That was a trap set near one of the entrances to this cavern. They’ve arrived.” She hurried to join the other warriors. Lyre moved to stand next to Cris, her own bow aimed at the door.

Another tremendous crash and the door splintered and fell, allowing the snarling vampires to rush the cavern. Cris and her bowmen stood their ground shooting wave after wave of arrows into the vampires’ midst. Several dusted, but more streamed through.

Keeping one eye on the wooden arrows flying around the cavern, Spike lifted the borrowed knife and flung himself into the middle of the fray, beheading a vampire running through the line. He drove through the dust to find another.

Over his shoulder he could hear Cris ordering her people to barricade the door again.

He spun, slashing his knife in a wide arc before throwing the vamp he’d stopped against the wall.

All around the cavern the whirlwind raged as warriors and vampires tore at each other in a nightmarish melding of dust, dirt, blood and noise that formed a scene straight out of a renaissance painter’s vision of Hell.

Spike’s enhanced hearing automatically separated the kaleidoscope of sounds into their individual components. There were several deep, throaty growls from vampires that competed with warrior battle cries. Beneath it all like the riff from a bass guitar were harsh screams and moans from the wounded–all reverberating against the stone walls to form the hideous war-like cacophony.

He’d already surmised that it wasn’t going to end well for the warriors. Cris and her people were fighting hard but Spike could see that the tide was slowly shifting in favor of the vampires. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers, the warriors were being forced to abandon their bows in favor of hand to hand combat with opponents much faster and stronger than themselves.

It would only be a matter of time.

He staked another vampire and slid away from the thick of the battle, rapidly scanning the cavern. He’d tried to keep Lyre in sight but it had been impossible and he was growing increasingly worried over her safety. She’d confessed to him earlier that she was second in command because of her people’s capacity to memorize and retain vast stores of knowledge. Except for the compound bow her fighting skills were extremely limited.

Craning his neck he finally caught a glimpse of her. She was pinned against a boulder in the far corner by one of the arguing vampires Spike recognized from the castle hallway. He watched the demon rip Lyre’s stake from her hand as she struggled, holding it triumphantly above her head as he bent over her neck.

Rushing around the melee Spike grabbed the vampire by the shoulder, wrenching him from the woman. The stake clattered to the ground.

Growling angrily, the demon drew his fist back.

Spike deflected the punch with his forearm as Lyre grabbed the stake. “Spike!”  He glanced her way and she tossed it around the vampire’s back.

Catching it one handed, he rammed it home. The vampire exploded in a flurry of dust.

Keeping Lyre beside him, Spike surveyed the scene again. Although the fight still raged, it appeared to be winding down. Warriors lay dead or dying among drifts of dust. Surprisingly, most of the vampires had been destroyed, although several had escaped through the door that had been torn open once again. Scowling, he realized they were going for reinforcements.

On the opposite side of the cavern, Cris–a stake held in each hand– stood between two snarling vampires. Spike watched as she straightened her arms, efficiently driving both stakes home. The vampires exploded, raining dust everywhere.

Shaking the vamp dust from her hair, she caught Spike’s eye and motioned for him and Lyre to wait there for her.

Standing behind the boulder with the two of them, Cris took a moment to catch her breath. She motioned toward the fighting and said wryly, “Well vampire, I think this day was more exciting than either of us expected.”

“I think you’ve stopped them.” Their eyes locked and neither one said what they were both thinking. Until dark.

The corners of her lips curved. “I expected that you would kill far more than you did, Spike. After all I loaned you my best knife.”

Surprised at both the flash of humor and the use of his real name, he shot her a cocky grin. “Now I couldn’t be showin’ you up in front of your people, Cris.”

She arched an eyebrow to show him what she thought of that response before turning to Lyre. “There are still many more in the castle and it will be dark in an hour. I plan to stay and make another stand.”

Translation: We have too many wounded to move and we’d be so slow that they’d track us anyway.

“Spike, it’s past time for you to leave and locate your companions. You can use the escape tunnels until it grows completely dark. I want you to take Lyre and the others from her village with you. She can show you the way.”

He met her calm gaze. Right. The brave woman standing in front of him had a lot in common with his Slayer. He knew intuitively that Buffy would have liked her. Replying, he tried to keep his voice casual. “Yeah, I didn’t mean to get this involved, only supposed to do a recon. I really should go.”

Next to him, Lyre sucked in a breath. Spike cut his eyes over to her. Not fooled in the least, her eyes had grown large. “No, we need you to lead us, Cris. You go and I’ll stay here.”

Cris’ voice was firm. “You have everything including the tunnel system, ceremonies and fortifications memorized. Without your information there is no hope at all. Go with Spike. I will catch up.” Her mouth curved up again. “Besides I have to kill as many of the vampires as Spike. After all, I’m the leader here.”

“These boulders might come in useful tonight.” He placed the knife in palm of her hand. “They’ll keep the wounded protected.” Until the line falls, then it won’t matter anyway.

“That is my intention. Now Lyre must be protected as well. She is a valuable asset and it’s up to you to keep her safe.” She turned back to the brunette. “We’ll meet in the usual place tomorrow. If I’m late for any reason, you know what has to be done.”

Shoulders slumped, Lyre stared bleakly at Cris before finally nodding. “I know.”

Spike laid a hand gently on her shoulder. “Call your people Lyre. We need to move out.”

She took a shaky breath and whistled. Within the space of a couple moments three women and a man came around the boulder. They were all exhausted and bloodied. The man cradled one arm. It hung at an odd angle and Spike knew it was broken, but he couldn’t take the time to look at it. Right now he needed to get them away from the cavern and this portion of the tunnel system as quickly as possible.

Cris met each of their eyes briefly before walking back around the boulders.

“Your leader is quite a woman.” Pulling gently on her hand, he urged Lyre and the others toward the tunnel system. “Which one, pet?”

She pointed to the left. “This way.”

next chapter here

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