- 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.
Buffy surveyed the group. They all looked exhausted after working around the clock to finish up all the details for the castle assault. She was tired, too. She and Spike had spent the better part of the night walking through the tunnel system to the castle and back. They’d managed to plant two of Spike’s bombs beneath the center of the castle before the secret entrance. It appeared from the dust on the floor and the musty smell that no one had been down there since Spike had been there. Hopefully that meant the bombs would be safe from detection for twenty-four hours.Now there was only one thing left on her mental list, so she looked at Willow and Ian sitting across from her. “I need a progress report. What’s going on with the icons?”
Ian replied for both of them. “They’ve been drained as much as possible. We used a magical smelting incantation to separate the portal key from some of the power source.”
Spike scowled across the table at the two of them. God he hated magicks. It always sounded so…wrong. “Is it enough? I don’t fancy anyone gettin’ blown up.”
Willow bit her lip. She knew Spike wasn’t going to like this answer one single bit.
Staring at the vampire, Ian shrugged his shoulders. “Honestly, we just don’t know. They’re less powerful than before, but we don’t have a precise way to measure how much energy we actually bled away.”
Cringing at Spike’s thunderous expression, Willow glanced at Buffy. She wore a confused expression, so she hurried to elaborate. “Think about it this way, Buffy. You open the tap in the kitchen and water starts flowing out in a haphazard manner, sometimes it rushes out and sometimes it drips. You can see the water falling, but if there’s no stopper in the sink, it’s hard to measure how much water really came out. When we turned on the icon’s faucet, we didn’t have a stopper or even actually any sink. Our water went straight into the sewer system.”
Buffy nodded thoughtfully. “Okay.” In her mind’s eye she saw Giles murmur ‘dear lord’ and decided right then and there that it would be for the best if he never actually heard this part of the story.
Ian muttered, “We’d know precisely if I had my laboratory equipment.”
Spike’s mouth thinned. “Well you don’t. But now you two need to give it your best guess, so the Slayer can make an informed decision. How much damn water do you think flowed out? Did you leave enough to fill a teacup or the Grand Canyon? When we let the bloody thing fly are we all goin’ to be blasted back to the old sod or not?”
“Oh we’re definitely positive that the entire dimension won’t blow up any longer.” Willow cast Buffy an apologetic look and added, “But we’re not actually sure how much of the surrounding area will go boom when you hit the castle.”
“Then we’ll have to make sure we’re well back from it.” Knowing how her boyfriend felt about magicks in any way, shape or form, she cut her eyes to Spike and wasn’t surprised in the least to see him clenching his teeth. She appreciated the Herculean effort aimed at not throttling Ian or even Willow. A few months ago he wouldn’t have hesitated. A little voice inside whispered that at least he couldn’t stroke out or have a heart attack. But all that excess energy has to go somewhere… he looked up and caught her staring at him. Her lips curved.
His eyes widened briefly before a slow grin formed.
Ignoring the bolt of heat that shot through her, Buffy tried to get back on track. She turned back to Willow and asked, “So where are the icons now?”
Willow smiled cheerfully. Correctly interpreting the looks that had passed between the couple, she knew that she and Ian were safely out of the spotlight. Besides she was proud of this part of their work. “We placed the melted icons– with the rest of the power safely intact–in a homemade circular mold and right now our gold power ball is slowly cooling down inside one of the Abadi’s brick pottery ovens.”
“Sounds like a poncy name for some lottery,” Spike muttered.”We just better hope we hit the jackpot.”
Ignoring him, Ian read his watch. “The power ball will be cool enough to handle in another couple hours.”
“Okay. Sounds good. I know how hard everyone worked all night, so go take a long nap. We’re going to try to be in place before sunset, so meet here ready to move out in three hours. That should give us ample time to get there.” She spoke to Imala and Lyre for the first time. “Can you have several villagers ready at that time to help move the slingshot?”
“Great. Then in a few hours, we’ll see if we can’t kill a castle full of vamps.”
Reaching for Spike’s hand she pulled him toward the door. “I noticed what a great job you did with anger management back there.”
He leaned in close and murmured, “Don’t you think I deserve a reward for good behavior?”
“We’ve got three hours; we can probably come up with one.”
He shot her a wicked grin that curled her toes. “You’re underestimating us both. Three hours is plenty of time to come up with more than one.”
It was nearly dark and they were still navigating the trebuchet to the designated position at the top of the hill. Buffy had wanted everyone else in position first and then the trebuchet had taken longer to move than anyone had anticipated. They didn’t have any wheels, so they’d resorted to using logs. Several Abadi would run to the front and place another log as the siege engine moved forward. It was tedious and time consuming.
Buffy and Spike had used the excuse that they needed to scout ahead of everyone else so they could get away from an ongoing argument between Willow and Ian concerning whether the ancient Egyptians actually used this method to build the great pyramids.
“If I’d heard the word ‘dynasty’ in a sentence one more time I would’ve decked Council Boy,” Spike said. He was walking beside Buffy with Empress padding along in front of them. They were circling around the hill using the tunnel system.
“Yeah, I never did like that show. Although you gotta give credit to Alexis Carrington–she had a pretty good right hook considering she was hampered with those big old shoulder pads.”
Spike loved his girlfriend, so he usually flowed along with the conversational tide. It wasn’t any big deal, he’d gotten used to doing that with his ex. And there were perks to being with someone sane. At least he never had to pretend he saw twinkling stars on some bloody old building’s ceiling just to join in the conversation.
“I actually liked that show. It used to be on telly right after ‘Passions.’ I’d always order Indian takeaway on Friday night. Did you know Joan Collins, the bint that played Alexis, is a Brit?”
“Really? I’m surprised Ian didn’t mention that. But then, maybe he did. I zoned out when they starting arguing over middle earth.”
“I think that was middle kingdom, pet.”
With one word Buffy wiped out any differences between thousands of years of Egyptian history and a twentieth century fantasy novel. Spike grinned to himself. And she was the best fighter he’d ever met in his life, too.
“Lyre is probably in position by now.”
He nodded in agreement. “I’m sure they’re ready.”
Lyre, Dar, and the other three warriors– joined by Abadi volunteers– were circling around the castle from the outside. Armed with compound bows, they were stationing themselves on the ridge that ran along three sides of the valley. They had orders to shoot any stragglers that fled in their direction.
“I hope Red listened to your instructions. I don’t fancy bein’ inside when that ball lands.”
Willow and Ian, both armed with their own bows, waited with the trebuchet below the hill’s rise, where it was undetectable from the castle. They had orders to wait until the bombs softened up the castle’s defenses before lobbing the ball.
“She’ll wait,” Buffy said confidently.
“Well, I wouldn’t put it past Harker to go early. He looks the type.” Spike stopped. “We’re at the split. Which way do you want to go, Slayer?”
Buffy hefted her sword. “It’s bound to be dark by now. Let’s go start the light show.”
next chapter here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/305291.html