- Keystone – Chapter 1/21
- Keystone – 2/21
- Keystone – 3/21
- Keystone – 4/21
- Keystone – 5/21
- Keystone – 6/21
- Keystone – 7/21
- Keystone – 8/21
- Keystone – 9/21
- Keystone – 10/21
- Keystone – 11/21
- Keystone – 12/21
- Keystone – 13/21
- Keystone – 14/21
- Keystone – 15/21
- Keystone – 16/21
- Keystone – 17/21
- Keystone – 18/21
- Keystone – 19/21
- Keystone – 20/21
- Keystone chapter 21/21 and epilogue
Word Count: 46,252 Complete-21 chapters and epilogue
Warning: explicit exsanguination scene
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.
“I saw an enormous stone building sitting peaceful and still in the hot desert sun.”
Spike and Lyre glanced at each other. They were the only ones that had actually seen the vampire’s castle, although the others around the table recognized Imala’s description.
“Suddenly the stone building’s peace and solitude was shattered by a great blast.”
“Sounds like our idea is on the right track, Slayer,” Spike murmured in her ear.
“The blast was created by a bright shiny ball that flew through the air.”
“What? Wait a minute; we don’t have a shiny ball that flies, we don’t even have one that rolls.” Buffy was worried now. Until that point Imala’s vision had been yay-for-their-side, but now it had moved into the realm of a bad scifi movie. Not one that starred some A list actor like Keanu Reeves or Ron Perlman either, but some unknown with bad hair that you knew you couldn’t get invested in because with a simple twist of the plot, he’d get killed in some really gross way.
“Are you sure the majority of the destruction was caused by a shiny ball? Maybe it only looked like a shiny ball, maybe it was really a round clay jar painted gold with a lot of black powder in it.” Buffy asked, hopefully. Maybe Imala’s vision had bad vertical hold.
Her heart sunk when the Priestess shook her head adamantly. Rats.
“No, it wasn’t clay. I could see it distinctly. Somehow it is what causes most of the destruction, although there were several other, smaller blasts, that seemed to have been ignited by something. I do not know what. Then Buffy, you and the others engaged the false Gods that survived the initial blasts, vanquishing them easily. Still, it was a most propitious vision. However, I don’t understand how you will accomplish this task. Whatever could you build that would allow an object to fly through the air?”
“I have no freakin’ idea,” Buffy muttered.
Sitting straighter in his chair, Ian looked around the table at the group. He brightened at the thought of contributing something. “And after all of that discussion early today about Lord of the Rings, I can’t believe you haven’t thought of it.”
When Buffy and everyone turned to look at him curiously, his smile widened. “We could build a siege engine. I think a wooden catapult should do nicely.”
Willow bounced in her seat. “Oh! That would work! But wait, no, not a catapult, they’re too unwieldy and we don’t have any metal for the spring or the fulcrum. Oh, I’ve got it! We’ll build a trebuchet.” She looked at the amazed expressions. “What? A science nerd can’t know anything about medieval weaponry? I grew up around Xander, remember? He shot Barbie, her friend Midge and even his own G.I. Joe into our tree with a little homemade one all the time. From seeing their houses I’m sure the Abadi have the technology. They’re super simple to make.”
“They’d have to be if Xander did it.” Spike murmured.
Buffy shot him a look before saying matter of factly, “We could probably find some way to build a modern day cannon if we wanted to, but that’s not the problem here. We don’t have anything to shoot out of it, or from it. Whichever. We didn’t come through the portal equipped with our own special shiny ball like the one in Imala’s vision.”
Empress crooned loudly to get everyone’s attention before dropping the icons at Spike’s feet with a flourish.
Spike grinned at the furry Grundy. “You think we should melt the icons down.”
The Grundy wagged her tail.
Ian made a face. “Please tell me you don’t mean that. There’s way too much power locked inside. Remember that’s not ordinary gold that you could melt down into Krugerrands or something, those statues are portal keys. You’d need some way to bleed off the excess magical energy or you’re going to have an explosion the size of the one the Council is expecting.”
Lyre spoke up hesitantly. “I don’t understand a lot of this, but perhaps grandmother and I could help. We and the other acolytes could act as vessels and contain some of the power–we do have that ability– allowing it to drain harmlessly.”
“I have no idea if that would work…” Ian said in a weak voice. “I don’t know the first thing about how to go about transferring something like that.”
“It was your idea to build a catapult.” Willow reminded him. “Maybe there’s something we can use among all of that information the Council gave you, or maybe we can craft something from the components of a spell. Ian, you’re the foremost authority on magical objects in the world, surely you can think of something. I’ve got some magical background myself and I brought a few things with me–I like to be prepared– and I’ll try to assist you in any way that I can.”
He sighed. “I’ll look into it.”
“Good,” Buffy said, pleased. “In the meantime, we’ll continue with our original plan and make several nice sized bombs while Lyre’s people construct the tray thingie. Willow, it’s up to you to sketch out what that looks like, exactly.”
“What about me luv?”
“Once Ian and Willow figure out the formula, you’re in charge of making the bombs with the bucket-y stuff. We’ll get Dar and some of the others to help you.”
Ian felt he had to say something. “No offense to Lyre’s grandmother here, but are you certain we should be following guidelines from a stranger’s vision?”
“I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I have to agree with Council Boy. Are you sure this isn’t taking on a little too much, pet? Our original idea seems like enough.”
“I know it looks like I’ve sort of embraced this out of left field, but it’s an instinct thing. This isn’t our world. These people live here, we don’t. Lyre’s grandmother has the pipeline to their powers-that-be and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned being the Slayer, it’s that if someone offers you help, grab it and find a way to turn it into an advantage. It sounds as if they want us to use those icons against the vamps.”
Her lips curved. “Besides, we’d already decided to destroy the icons, so it makes good sense to kill two vampires with the same bird, uh, ball.”
Spike acquiesced easily. After all he’d do whatever she asked, although right now he couldn’t stop a grin from forming. “Admit it, Slayer. You just want to blow up a castle, same as the rest of us.”
Her smile bloomed. “It does sound like a fun party.”
Imala sat in her chair with Lyre waiting for the door to close completely behind the group. Everyone was exhausted and they’d finally traipsed off to get some sleep making jokes about forgetting purposely to set something called an alarm clock.
“What did you wish to speak with me about?” Lyre looked curiously at her grandmother.
“I know how tired you are, but this won’t take long.” Imala patted her granddaughter’s hand. “It’s good to see you home again, Lyre. You must finish your training. I am not as adept at doing everything as I was when you left. It is time for you to take over as Priestess-Seer. ”
“Is this what you wished to speak about? My training?”
Her grandmother let out a long breath before smiling gently. “Yes and no. There is something else which I need to tell you about the vision, which is for your ears alone. It concerns Buffy and your other new companions.”
“Isn’t Buffy incredible? You saw it for yourself tonight as well as in your vision. Grandmother, you were correct about Cris and I was wrong. She was a good warrior and friend, but not the leader from the prophecy. I believe now that Buffy is that woman. She fights false Gods– they are actually known as vampires– every day in her world and saves people all the time. I know she will save us as well.”
“There is great strength and control in her aura and she is undoubtedly the one from the prophecy. My vision was clear. They will win this battle.”
Lyre smiled happily, satisfied that Imala had seen what she’d said. “I’m excited to play my part.”
“Yes, we will all play a part. But Lyre, there was more to the vision which I did not divulge.”
“What else was shown to you?” She asked worriedly. It was not like Imala to keep secrets from her or anyone else concerning her visions. The elderly Priestess was usually an open book.
Her grandmother sighed. “I saw ugly death, Lyre. In the vision, someone– maybe more than one– from within the group will die during the battle.”
“Who? Why would you choose to keep this a secret? If we know who or how, we can stop it from happening.”
The elderly Priestess shook her head. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible,” she said softly. “It was not made clear who would be the sacrifice, or how it was to occur, only that there would be death. For great good to happen sometimes we must offer up something in return, to balance the universe. This is one of those times, Lyre.”
“But they are helping us, making our world safe. It is not fair.” She started to cry.
Watching her tears fall, Imala felt terrible, but she had to prepare the girl for what was to come. “Do you believe that if they were told this, they would stop helping us win against the vampires?”
Lyre wiped her eyes. “No. They are warriors, like Cris was. It is an honor to die in battle against evil. They would sacrifice themselves to save innocent lives.”
Imala nodded, satisfied that her granddaughter understood the motivation of true heroes. “Which is why you must not say anything about this conversation. It will change nothing; only lend distraction, which may get even more killed. Now go to bed, child, you are weary and tomorrow brings much work.”
Once Lyre closed the door, the Priestess rested her elbow on the table and placed her chin in her hand. She’d done the right thing, swearing Lyre to secrecy. She did feel that it would be the wrong thing to tell them the remainder of her vision. It served no purpose.
But she still felt guilty. It wasn’t every day that she lied to her granddaughter. But she’d heard the way Lyre felt about Buffy and earlier had heard the story about the unusual vampire Spike. He’d treated Lyre so kindly after the death of her friend, protecting her until she could be returned safely back to her clan. Lyre thought them both nearly invincible and definitely larger than life.
So how could she tell Lyre that she’d witnessed Spike become dust while trying to save his blonde leader? And even worse, that it had been in vain. There had even been hints that their own lives were at risk, that this world might possibly end.
She spoke to the ceiling. “You want more than we can give without deep sorrow. As always, I accede to your wishes; however I beg that you reconsider what you’ve ask.”
Next chapter here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/304798.html