Buffy wandered along the castle grounds. She had risen late that morning having spent most of her sleepless night thinking about what Faith had said to her. She knew in her heart that Faith was right, but it appeared as if changing her way of thinking was easer said than done.
Now she was on a search for her sister, wanting to spend some time with Dawn while she could.
Buffy soon found her, right where she hated to see Dawn most, on the training grounds. Surprisingly there was just Dawn and Aneirin present. Dawn was holding a short bow. The bowstring was pulled back, though Buffy could see the effort Dawn was putting forth to hold it in place. The arrow was pointed towards a stationary target. Aneirin was standing behind her, one hand on her waist, the other gesturing as he spoke softly in her ear.
Buffy could hear Dawn’s giggles and could see the smile on Aneirin’s face. As she watched, Aneirin stepped back right before Dawn let go of the arrow. To Buffy’s amazement, it hit the target dead center. The smile the two shared caused Buffy’s stomach to sink.
Turning, Buffy quickly left before they could see her. Today’s session seemed to be private after all.
Later that day, Buffy found herself, along with the others, sitting in Aneirin’s office. She didn’t speak much, but listened intently as they went over how they would remove the contents of the library before Ktulu’s army could reach it. A part of Buffy wondered if the Watcher’s Council had ever thought to move their archives before the First destroyed the building.
“The library is located beneath the temple.” Buffy heard Liana say as she pushed her wayward thoughts to the back of her mind.
“It will take us four weeks to reach the temple,” Aneirin said with a sigh. “And possibly longer than that to empty it and transport the contents to a safer location.”
“You do not think we have enough time to do so?” Liana asked, one eyebrow raised. Though she seemed more curious than skeptical to Buffy.
“Even with help from the dragons, I do not think we’ll have enough time.”
“Why not?” Dawn asked as she looked from Einarr to Frederic and Liana to Aneirin. “Ktulu’s army is farther away from the temple than we are.”
“Be that as it may,” Frederic said his face stern but voice gentle. “We have no way of tracking that beast’s movements.”
“How so?” Willow asked, her curiosity lacing her words.
“Our mages have tried to locate the Dark One’s minions, but all attempts have failed,” Frederic said. “All we have are the remains of their camps, and the gruesome surprises they like to leave behind.”
“Maybe I should try…” Willow said, her voice trailing off as an inkling of an idea formed in her head.
“No!” Dawn said, her shout startling everyone. “Let Willow try. I think she might be on to something.”
Looking at Dawn for a few seconds, Aneirin nodded. “Let Lady Willow try. It certainly won’t hurt. Is there anything you need to perform this spell?”
“Um…you wouldn’t happen to have something of this Ktulu’s would you?” Willow asked.
“No,” Aneirin said. “But would this drawing do?”
Picking a book up off one of the shelves behind his desk, Aneirin flipped the pages until he found what he was looking for.
Taking the book, Willow looked at the picture and her face screwed up in disgust.
“Oh boy!” Willow said. “I don’t think Buffy’s ever come across something this ugly.”
“Let me see,” Buffy and Xander said at the same time. Moving quickly the two came to stand at Willow’s side, each peering over her shoulder. Eyes scanning the picture, Buffy’s face contorted as well. “I think you’re right. Though Chaos demons come in a close second just because of all the slime.”
“I’d though you would have said Fyarls, Buffy,” Xander said.
“Because they shoot snot at you?”
“Oh right,” Buffy said. “That is gross.”
“Not as gross at that stink monster Spike killed that one summer,” Dawn added, her disgust lacing her voice.
“Oh yeah!” Willow replied. Turning to Buffy, “You were, well gone at the time, but seriously this thing stunk.”
“And it exploded,” Xander added with a nod.
“Don’t forget the lovely odor of fermented dead bodies that it reeked of,” Dawn said with a shudder.
“What are you people talking about?” Frederic asked, his eyes wide. “How can you even joke like this? This beast…”
“Relax Freddie,” Faith said, cutting in before Frederic could continue. “This is just standard operating procedure for when the shit hits the fan.”
“End of the world comes, we make with the merry,” Xander explained with a shrug.
“I see. You make crude jokes because it helps keep you human,” Einarr said, understanding in his gaze. “I remember some of my men doing the same thing between battles.”
“I too, have seen warriors partake of this ritual,” Liana added.
“My father never let me listen to those stories,” Aneirin said, a slight smile on his face. “He told me they were not suitable for a would-be king to hear.”
“Your father told you that because if he had said you were too young, you would have thrown a fit,” Einarr remarked, a grin on his face.
“So did he scream ‘Get out!’ or is that just a Dawn thing?” Buffy asked, a twinkle in her eyes.
“Buffy!” Dawn cried, her face red. “Don’t make me tell stories about you as a teenager. I seem to remember a certain Dorothy Hamill phase you‘d rather forget.”
“You wouldn’t!” Buffy shouted, outraged.
Dawn’s eyes narrowed. “Try me.”
Looking at Aneirin, Einarr said, his voice steady and calm, “This is why I was glad you were someone else’s child.”
Almost everyone was shocked when Frederic burst out laughing. Aneirin glared at his General and Advisor before saying, “I think that’s enough joking for now. Unless someone wants to clean out the stables, for a month.”
Once everyone had calmed down, Willow concentrated on the picture, trying to focus her magic on finding where Ktulu was located. A small dot appeared on the map, a two-week journey away from the temple, and it was moving.
“How is that even possible?” Frederic asked. “We have tried for so long…”
“They were cloaked by dark magic from our world,” Willow answered, her brow furrowed.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Buffy asked, a grim look on her face.
“Senior Partners?” Dawn asked, her own expression cold.
“So how long until they arrive?” Spike asked, his eyes scanning the lay of the sprawling city before him. He was leaning against one of the merlons along the top of the castle wall. The gray stone was cold beneath his hand. The structure would offer little protection; far too many of their adversaries could easily cause the stone to crumble or simply fly over it.
“Our scouts have spotted their camps a few days travel from the city,” Gunnarr answered. “They number into the ten thousands.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike swore as he rubbed his face with his hands. “Right, how many fighters do we have?”
“I currently have around six hundred men at hand,” Gunnarr replied. “An additional six thousand are on the way, but it will take them at least a week to arrive. It took some negotiating to get that many.”
“And how many do you have, King Leof?” Angel asked as his own gaze took in the strength and weaknesses of Wygar’s strong hold.
“At present, my troop’s number five thousand three hundred strong,” Leof replied. “We have been stretched thin with this war and most of my army helps to protect the southern borders.”
“So we’ve got roughly six thousand trained fighters plus a few willing civilians,” Spike stated, a far off look in his eyes. “How is the evacuation going?”
“Surprisingly well, Father,” Gunnarr replied. “Most of the city’s inhabitants are already sequestered inside Dronham Fort. I was told there are a thousand soldiers located there. From there my men will guide them back to my homeland.”
“The oil casks?”
“They are placed along the outer wall of the castle,” Leof replied. “There are torches standing next to the barrels waiting to be lit.”
“Majesty, Father,” one young page called from the entrance to the inside of the guard‘s tower. “Several rooms have been set aside for the injured as well as weapons, food, and water.”
“Places to rest?” Spike asked.
“Good,” Leof answered. “Now go gather the rest of the servants and tell them they are to head to Dronham Fort immediately.”
“Your Majesty, Father,” The page spoke his voice soft but sure. “The servants and I wish to stay.”
“You’re leaving,” Spike stated, his voice leaving no room for arguments.
“With all due respect Father, this is our home,” the boy replied, head held high. “We would see it defended, with our lives if we have to.”
“Are you sure?” Leof asked. “War is an ugly business.”
“Some of us may not be able to fight, but we can help in other ways.”
A low rumbling growl had every head turning. Spike stood from his slumped position, his posture going rigid. His eyes were flashing from blue to amber, his hands clenched at his sides.
“Now is not the time for heroics, boy,” Spike growled.
“We are staying,” the young boy replied with a slight waver to his voice.
“If you lot don’t leave, I’ll drain every single one of you dry and toss your corpses to the enemy myself!”
Eyes wide, the young boy turned and ran, the sound of his footsteps fading fast.
“This is my Kingdom, Father,” King Leof bellowed. “You had no right to speak to my people in such a fashion.”
“You lot are the ones who put me in charge of fighting this bloody war!” Spike yelled back. “And I do not wage wars with children!”
Storming away from the group, Spike settled himself against the sill of a distant merlon. His hands were shaking, and he wished he had a cigarette to calm his nerves. In his mind’s eye, he could clearly see the battered remains of men, women, and children. He hadn’t been able to stop those slaughters, but if he could keep naive children from foolishly throwing their lives away, he would.
“Spike,” Angel called out as he approached.
“Go away, Angelus.”
“Don’t you think you were a bit harsh?” Angel reprimanded softly.
“I refuse to allow a child to fight this war,” Spike growled.
“Shouldn’t that be his decision?”
“Bloody hell, no!” Spike shouted. “The kid’s nothing but a wide eyed babe! He hasn’t got a clue as to how vicious this battle is going to be. Probably has a head full of romantic ideas about how he saves the day, or some such rot.”
“Spike,” Angel sighed. “We’re facing two to one odds in their favor, if our guesses are correct. We need all the able bodied fighters we can get.”
“Children should never be soldiers, Angel,” Spike snapped. “I’m leading this war, not you.”
“You’re only one person, Spike,” Angel said softly. Then with a weary sigh, “Let me help.”
“Nice offer Peaches, but I’ve got things under control.”
Grabbing Spike’s shoulder, Angel swung the haggard looking vampire around to face him.
“Spike, you’ve been up for days, you haven’t been feeding properly, and some of my past victims looked better than you do right now.” Taking a firm hold of Spike’s arms Angel looked him in the eyes and stated determinedly, “Just because I’m human doesn’t mean I’m incompetent.”
Seeing the lazy smirk gracing Spike’s face, Angel nearly groaned. He had certainly stumbled into this one.
“You’re right, mate. Being human doesn’t make you incompetent. Simply being you does.”
“I know, I know,” Spike said, holding his hands up in surrender. “You can help. You always were better at making plans than I was.”
“Not when it concerned something, or someone, you cared about,” Angel smiled as he slipped his arm around Spike’s shoulders. “Then you were damn near unstoppable.”
“Always did like a good fight,” Spike replied.
“I can’t remember how many towns and villages you caused us to be run out of,” Angel reminisced. “Darla would have staked you for it if it hadn’t been for Dru.”
“Well, I finally learned to guard my perimeter.”
“And I finally tired of fights I knew I was going to win.”
“So, William the Bloody and Angelus together again, huh?” Spike asked with a tired grin.
“Yeah, we are.”
“Good,” Spike said with a firm nod of his head. “I was getting tired of that whole ‘The Scourge of Europe’ thing. Now we get to be scourges of a completely different world.”
Laughing, Angel dragged Spike back over to their waiting allies, minor arguments forgiven and forgotten.
Over the next few days, Spike and the others hurried to finalize plans and put defenses into place. Thanks to Angel, they reached a compromise; only the older servants were allowed to stay while the young and elderly were to flee.
Still, Spike hardly slept except when one of the others forced him too, and even then, his dreams were full of nightmare visions of the coming battle. Once awakened, Spike would quietly make his way to the Great Hall. There he would pour over detailed maps of the castle and city, hoping every avenue was covered. It was an impossible task, he knew, but it didn‘t stop him from looking.
Eating was also a luxury Spike would often avoid indulging in. The smell and taste of blood frequently lingered after his dreams, and when handed a glass of the thick red liquid all of his memories would come rushing back. Bile would rise in his throat, and Spike would politely set the cup down, making excuses for his lack of appetite. It was only when the others threatened to force the blood down his throat did Spike finally feed.
One day while setting up a defense in the guard’s towers, Spike spotted rounds holes cut into the floor. He could see the ground outside of the gate and looking up at Leof and Krile, eyes bright, he exclaimed, “You’ve got murder holes! Good, we can put some of those barrels up here along with a couple of knights.”
“Murder holes?” King Leof asked as he glanced at the openings Spike had indicated.
“Yeah,” Spike shrugged. “These openings are called ‘murder holes’ in my old world. People used them to dump rocks and boiling water on the enemy attacking their castle.”
“That is strange,” General Krile said with a smirk. “We use them for the same thing.”
They were giants compared to well, almost everyone, but here he was, with some of these enormous creatures looking at him like he was the giant. Of course not all were looking at him this way. Some of the looks he was getting made him feel two inches tall. Other looks made him feel that being two inches tall was a bit too tall for him to be.
He wanted to sink into the earth, hide from their wise gazes. He could handle the slightly disgusted looks; he had made a habit out of annoying anyone who looked at him that way. It was the ones who looked to him for leadership, like he was a champion and not a silly man playing pretend, that he could not handle.
“All right,” Spike said as he cleared his throat and tried to push his insecurities aside. Feelings of two inches in height or not, he was still considered the champion of this world.
“I have King Leof’s word that his lot will play nice. Of course this doesn’t mean there won’t be rude comments, but humans are just finicky like that so ignore them.”
“And why should we?” Eald asked, his voice a low growl to match the anger in his eyes. “They want to drive us out and yet we are told to help them. I say we should leave them to the Dark One.”
“And then they would be right about you, you stupid git,” Spike answered with his own growl, eyes flashing yellow.
“They hate us,” Cyne said, her tone sad. Spike noted she had a wistful look in her eyes.
“They just need someone to blame,” Spike said, this time his tone gentle and filled with understanding. “Doesn’t make it right, but it explains things.”
“But why blame us?” Eald asked. “We are not the ones responsible for the Dark One’s destruction, nor are we the reason half of our brethren joined his army.”
“I don’t bloody know!” Spike said, his frustration clear. With growing disappointment, Spike noted that even with all of their wisdom, the dragons shared a common theme with the humans. Both were blaming the other for some long ago event that only a select few dragons had been around to witness.
In Spike’s mind they should have let the grudge die ages ago, but he knew what it was like to carry one. It had been years before Spike had finally let go of his anger towards Angel, and even now he could still get mightily annoyed by the over gelled git.
“The Father is doing the best he can,” Draco said with an edge of warning to his voice. “It is up to us to try and make things easier.”
“But the humans…”
“I know, Eald,” Draco said, his voice still full of authority but now carrying a hint of sympathy. “I remember it well, but it is time we let such old hurts go my friend. These humans are not the ones who hurt us so.”
“Hallvaror died protecting these humans,” Ivor growled. “And because of this, the Wyvern grow weary of aiding us. Do you wish to see his sacrifice cheapened?”
Eald did not respond vocally, but simply nodded and turned his gaze towards Spike.
“Do you think, if we help,” Cyne asked. “The humans will like us again?”
Her tone was so hopeful it tugged at Spike’s heart. He knew all too well how she felt.
“Don’t know,” Spike answered and he felt even worse when she nodded her head with a slight dejected air. “I can’t say, but I do know that there are those who are working on changing their kin’s attitude. It won’t happen overnight, but it might happen.”
“I understand Father,” she said, and Spike could tell that she did. “How shall I be of help then?”
The others had long since gone, all having kin to look after. Ivor stayed behind though, watching as the Father spoke some final words to Caius before climbing onto Gaelwine’s back. Once they had lifted off, Ivor walked over to Caius’ side.
“Am I doing the right thing, my friend?” Caius said, his gaze still locked in the direction the Father had gone. “Sending our kin and allies out to help fight this war?”
“And be honest Ivor,” Caius said, interrupting. “You are nearly as old as I.”
“Nearly, Caius?” Ivor asked, amusement clear in his tone. “I believe you have that backwards, young one.”
“You should have been made Dragon Lord. You are the eldest, after all.”
“You are more diplomatic than I,” Ivor said with a snort. “I would have lost my patience with the humans long ago and simply eaten them.”
“I think you have been listening to Gaelwine for too long.”
“Well, his idea does have merit.” Seeing the look Caius was giving him, Ivor sighed. “No one can tell you if what you are doing is right. Only time will reveal if we have been fools or heroes.”
“Then I suppose I must await time’s answer and hope that she agrees.”
The day of the battle came all too quickly. A scout had notified everyone in the early morning hours. The enemy, judging by the remains of their campsite, was only a few hours away. Finally, with last minute preparations hastily put into place, the waiting began. Soldiers said silent prayers along with Billard, a local priest, who called on the Gods and Goddess’ to watch over those fighting in the battle to come. Spike and Angel shared a long look. With past grievances forgiven, old bonds were renewed. The time to be heroes had come.
In the clearing before the castle wall, air began to shimmer, reminding Spike of the horizon during a heat wave. Steadily a figure began to form and soon, standing calmly before the castle and its army, was a small dark haired girl. A slight smirk graced her round face as she raised her hand to give a quick wave.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Angel growled his eyes narrowing in disgust.
“You know little Miss Muffet here?” Spike asked eyebrow raised.
“Did you ever see the panther in Wolfram and Hart’s white room?” Angel asked while his gaze remained focused on the girl before them.
“No,” Spike answered. “But Charlie-boy told me about it one night.”
“Well, she came first.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Father,” the little girl smiled.
“Sorry, pet,” Spike shrugged. “Can’t say the same for you.”
“What do you want?” Angel interrupted.
“Angel, you ruined our plans,” the little girl said, disapproval filling her voice. “I told you once before, we don’t like chaos.”
“Yeah, well too bad, cause that’s what you’re about to get.”
“We’ll see,” the little girl grinned. “So long Angel, Father.”
When she vanished the army they had only heard about from brief reports given by the scouts, was finally seen marching over the horizon.
“Bloody hell! They’ve got siege towers…”
“And trebuchets,” Angel added. Then in a falsely cheerful voice, “Oh and look! The Senior Partners took a page from Tolkien and summoned what looks like a couple of cave trolls.”
“Angel?” Spike said, drawing his attention from the advancing army. “Shut up.”
Turning, Spike quickly made his way over to the nearest archer. “Be sure to aim for the chest and head area. The arrows might not kill the buggers, but it could slow them down long enough for someone else to finish the job. Got it?”
“Good,” Spike nodded. Moving his gaze, Spike found General Krile. “Go warn your men that some of these bastards are pretty hard to kill. If decapitation doesn’t work, keep hacking until it stops moving.”
Nodding Krile hurried off to spread the message. This was not something they had planned for.
‘They warned me about the Dark One’s army. Why in the bloody hell couldn’t they have done the same for the Senior Partners,’ Spike thought as he ran over to King Leof’s side and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“We’re bloody screwed,” Spike hurriedly explained. “The Senior Partners have entered the fray and joined their army with the Dark One’s.”
“Who are these Senior Partners you speak of?”
“They’re the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart.” Angel’s winded answer came from behind Spike. “And they’re almost here.”
“Then we change our plans,” Gunnarr stated. “Hopefully we can hold them off long enough to evacuate the rest of the city. The Dark One and Wolf, Ram, and Hart can not use what is no longer there.”
“I will not let that beast take my city!” King Leof growled, frustrated and fearful for his people. “Where would we go?”
“Most of my people are already willing help,” Gunnarr said. “And I’m sure the dragons can take some to young King Aneirin.”
“There are maybe forty five thousand bearing down on us,” Angel interrupted. “We don’t have time to argue.”
“Let Wygar go, King Leof, son of Aitor,” Draco softly whispered in his mind. “The Father saw it fall in a massacre; let us at least prevent that.”
Standing in front of the assembled Watchers and Slayers, Kennedy and Riley at his side, Giles let his eyes roam over the crowd. They were haggard, bruised and bloodied. They were all that stood between evil and its plans on destroying their world. Giles knew that many of them would willingly die in order to defend it.
‘We few, we happy few. We band of buggered,’ Giles thought, remembering another long ago battle with seemingly impossible odds.
Taking a deep breath, and gathering every bit of courage left in his tired body, Giles began to speak.
“As you know, we are facing a crisis. All of you know about the attack Angel and his associates perpetrated against Wolfram and Hart. Now it seems that the Senior Partners have decided to unleash an apocalypse in retaliation. Several of our Champions are absent, having journeyed to another world to rescue two of our own. Wolfram and Hart know of this and it looks as if they have decided to take advantage of our situation. If we do not succeed in stopping this apocalypse, then I fear for what type of world our friends will be returning to.”