Keystone – 18/21

This entry is part 18 of 21 in the series Keystone
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Keystone  

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.

Chapter 18

“’Lo, Sweetling.” Spike carefully avoided the slanting rays of late afternoon sun and walked beneath the tree’s broad canopy. He looked down at his girlfriend and smiled.

Buffy was sitting on the cool grass, her back against the enormous trunk. Her clothes were wrinkled and there was a smear of dirt on her forehead. She was utterly beautiful.

She smiled tiredly. “Lo yourself.”

“Scoot up a bit.” Angling himself behind her, he sat down and stretched his legs out on either side of hers. Pulling her back against his chest he wrapped his arms around her waist. “There, that’s better.”

She nestled her head back against his shoulder. “Mmmm, much better.”

Quietly, they watched the village children playing with Empress in the nearby field. The Grundy, a stick clamped tightly between her teeth, was running in a large circle, ears perked and tail streaming behind her like a bushy banner. The children would chase after her until they became dizzy, and then fall to the grass laughing hysterically.

Buffy watched Empress trot over and drop the stick at a child’s feet to begin the game again. “I don’t think any of them realize that’s a different stick. She ate the first one.”

Spike laughed and Buffy felt the sound rumble through his chest while he lazily stroked her bare arm, trailing his fingertips lightly up and down in long, smooth strokes.

She sighed.

“Tired?”

“A little. I spent the entire afternoon hefting huge rocks onto that contraption of Willow’s to test it. It’s sort of like a slingshot that uses weight to counterbalance and fling something forward. Naturally no one else could lift anything remotely heavy enough to make the darn thing work.”

“Naturally.”

“How’s the bomb making going?”

“It’s done. Dar and I mixed and filled ten nice gifts for the vamps. We never did decide on a length for the fuses, so I made an executive decision and went for ten seconds.”

She laced her fingers with his. “Ten seconds isn’t very long.”

In the distance the children were squealing and laughing. She felt Spike’s chest move as he shrugged.  “Long enough. Don’t want to give ‘em time to chuck the bloody things back at us.”

“Won’t they go off on impact?”

“That’s the plan. But I haven’t used black powder in nearly a hundred years and I’m the “expert.” It’s completely theoretical to everyone else. Homemade powder like this? I’d prefer to place them against the walls and then have Empress set ‘em off anyway, it’s safer for everyone.”

She watched the Grundy bank a curve, the children in hot pursuit. “So we’re going to have to sneak up to the wall without getting noticed. That’s not going to be easy. We’ll need a diversion. Plus I’d like to get a couple inside somehow for later in the fight.”

“There’s always the tunnel I used before, although that might tip ‘em off.”

“That might actually be workable. Lyre told me the vamps have another worship celebration set up for tonight. The village is fairly far away, so it won’t start until long after dark and they’ll be late getting back. Counting the walk there and back, you and I still have time to leave a couple inside the tunnel.”

“Since they finished off the warriors, I doubt they’ve been payin’ much attention to the tunnel and tonight they’ll be lax anyway with their leader gone.”

The Grundy trotted across Spike’s line of sight. She was carrying a different stick. Empress caught his look and winked. He grinned back at her.

“What’s goin’ on with the icons?”

“Willow and Ian are working up some type of incantation to bleed some of the power away. Lyre and Imala are with them. Willow told me that they don’t use magic here in the same way that we do. They don’t do incantations, nothing is actually verbal. It’s all instinctual. Imala says a Priestess is trained by learning to use her mind and body to channel nature’s power. Spike, were you aware that Lyre had almost completed training to take over as Priestess-Seer before she left to join Cris?”

“She told me on the walk to meet up with you lot that her parents died savin’ her from a vampire when she was young. When Cris came to recruit an Abadi so the resistance would have someone that could memorize maps and such, she joined up. Said it nearly broke her grandmother’s heart. I didn’t know about the mystical stuff, she never mentioned it.”

He moved her hair so he could nuzzle her neck. “So exactly how much time do we have before we leave?”

*****

Grange was excited. He’d been told that tonight he’d be allowed to accompany Calder and some of the others into a village. He hadn’t been outside headquarters since he’d been forced inside by Rayce.

When he thought of his Sire, he smirked to himself. Rayce had been ordered to remain behind tonight and was in his room sulking.

After that first meeting with Calder, Grange had spent more time with the leader and ingratiated himself by offering some ideas concerning security. Impressed with his vast store of military knowledge, the leader had implemented his ideas and offered him a position on his personal guard.

Now he was being given this chance and he’d jumped at it. Not only was it even more face time with Calder, but he planned to keep his eyes open for any chance to slip away from the group and head off to look for the icons. Surprisingly, Calder’s scouts had been unable to ascertain the location of the icons and Grange was getting antsy. He was moving rapidly up the ranks here, but he’d still prefer to be in London.

Calder entered the room and everyone bowed deeply. He motioned Grange to his side. “Tonight, you will be second-in-command and shadow the Captain of my security detail. When we return, I would hear suggestions you have for improvement.”

“Of course.” Proudly, he joined the Captain at the head of the line, licking his lips in anticipation. Calder had bestowed a great honor. As second in line, the ceremonial victims would still be alive and he would be able to feel all that rich, sweet blood pump through their veins as he drank. Vowing to live up to Calder’s expectations, he shifted slightly so he could observe the rest of the security detail as they walked out the door.

*****

Giles wound his way through the rowdy pub goers until he reached Lydia’s quiet corner table. He waited patiently while the waitress took his order and left.

In the pub lighting, the lines bracketing Lydia’s mouth were more pronounced than usual and Giles thought she appeared exhausted. Before he could ask if something was wrong, she slid a piece of paper across the scarred surface. “This memo found its way into my hands before I left for the day.”

Frowning, he scanned the missive. Placing it back down on the table, he tapped it thoughtfully. “Despite having attempted to hide the fact, obviously Quentin is aware that Professor Simms allowed the box to return to its own dimension. Someone else in the Mystical Objects department must have alerted him.”

Lydia replied soberly, “Apparently we aren’t as good at the clandestine cloak and dagger activities as we’d thought. We were so concerned with covering our tracks with the Professor that we never stopped to consider vetting the other employees. No one else was in the lab when we were, so I have no earthly idea who could have discovered the discrepancy.” She shook her head at the ironic turn of events. “Simms was terminated as of close of business today. I hired the professor, and if the Council felt it necessary, it should have been me that dismissed him. By going over my head, Quentin is making the point that he’s aware that I’m somehow involved and probably you as well.

We must do something to protect our position. The Slayer will be returning through the portal tomorrow evening and according to Emma, Quentin has already set up a meeting with the senior staff in conjunction with the portal opening. He is planning to force a vote in the conference room to sack us both for insubordination while we await the Slayer’s return in the subbasement. Of course he is not expecting Buffy to return, but when she does, the Slayer will discover that she is now assigned to another Watcher.”

“Buffy will never stand for that.”

“Then what we have tried so hard to avoid will happen anyway. He will remove her and call another–someone more malleable. You and I will both be persona non grata in less than twenty-four hours and will have absolutely no say in the matter. We are losing, Rupert.”

Giles pushed away from the table. “I have an idea, but we must move quickly.”

next chapter here

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/305067.html

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