Many thanks to my beta SpikesKatMac for helping me iron out this chapter. All mistakes left are mine.
“I thought you had already told her,” came Aneirin’s voice from behind Dawn and Spike. Turning, Spike took in the scowl on the young king’s face. Tired of being reprimanded for not telling Dawn sooner, Spike snapped, “I was going to! I just…didn’t know how.”
“It was certainly something she needed to know.”
“Your Majesty,” Draco interrupted sensing that Spike’s temper was reaching its breaking point. “There is much we need to discuss now that the Father has been reunited with his Daughter-Key.”
“You are right Dragon Lord,” Aneirin said.
“Caius, please. Dragon Lord is a bit to formal in my opinion.”
“Of course,” Aneirin said with a slight smile and nod.
“Is there anywhere we can talk privately?” Draco asked.
“Dawn?” Spike said as he placed a tentative hand on her shoulder. “Bit?”
“Huh?” Looking around Dawn saw everyone staring at her and felt her face flush red.
“We need to go with Draco pet,” Spike said, his voice soft. “Got a lot we need to discuss.”
“I’ll say,” Dawn muttered, sarcasm lacing her words.
“Right,” Spike replied as he put his hands into his pockets. Seeming to withdraw into himself a bit, Spike turned back to Draco. “So, where are we doing this?”
“Right here, if no one else minds,” Aneirin said. “Once the area is cleared, Caius will be able to tell if we have any unwanted participants.”
“Makes sense,” Spike said with a nod.
Motioning for one of the soldiers, Aneirin passed on a few whispered words. Nodding the soldier ran off while Aneirin turned to face the small crowd that had gathered around them.
“For the next few hours this area will be off limits to anyone not participating in this meeting,” Aneirin spoke loudly, his voice carrying over the crowd. Giving the people a stern look, Aneirin added, “If anyone does not follow my orders, they will end up staying a few nights in jail.”
“I say if anyone is stupid enough to eavesdrop on a royal meeting that we should let Caius eat them,” Einarr said as he came up behind the group. Spike grinned at his friend’s suggestion and noticed Aneirin fighting a grin of his own. Frederic on the other hand was not amused.
“I think that’s a brilliant idea,” Spike added, a mischievous light entering his eyes.
“As tempting as that suggestion is, General Einarr,” Aneirin said, surprising everyone by keeping his voice steady. “I think it might be a bit extreme.”
“Besides, dragons don’t eat people,” Draco added, his tone haughty. “They taste too gamy.”
Shock filled several of the spectator’s faces at the dragon’s words. Spike roared with laughter.
Once the area had been cleared, after the people had been assured that Draco had in fact been joking, they gathered around the dragon, each taking a seat at in the chairs Aneirin had ordered one of the soldiers to bring.
“Okay,” Dawn said once everyone was settled. “This whole Father of the Key stuff, what does it mean?”
“Our legends say that the Father of the Key is the only one who can truly wield the power of the Key,” Aneirin said.
“That’s it?” Dawn asked. “Then why call Spike ‘Father’? Why not just say ‘Wielder of the Key’ or something like that?”
“Because it is not as simple as that, my dear,” Einarr said his words gentle. “The Key, we are told, was made to access great power and to travel across the dimensions. The Father of the Key, while being the one who can use it, is also said to be apart of the Key as well.”
“But that doesn‘t make any sense,” Dawn said, her confusion plain. “Spike was born in England.”
“The Father did not have to be born here to be a part of the Key,” Draco said. “The Key was created millennia ago after all.”
“Yeah, I’m an ancient ball of green energy,” Dawn interrupted. “We know this. Still not explaining Spike being a part of the Key.”
“Part of you is, yes,” Aneirin said. “The other half, the part that stabilizes the Key’s power, is a part of the Father.”
“What?!?” Dawn said, staring wide eyed at the young king.
“Bloody hell!” Spike said with a shake of his head. “I just realized something.”
“What?” Dawn asked as she turned to face Spike.
“Dru knew,” Spike answered. “All this bloody time and she knew.”
“And how would this Dru know?”
“She had visions,” Spike said. “When she turned me she said that I walked in worlds others couldn’t begin to imagine.”
“And that Skanky Ho couldn’t have dropped a few hints the last time she came through Sunnydale?”
“No Spike!” Dawn yelled. “If we had known then maybe…”
“Buffy wouldn’t have had to die,” Spike interrupted his tone harsh. “Already thought of that Dawn.”
“I do no know if this knowledge would have helped your Buffy live or not,” Draco cut in, his apology filling his words. “We just have to have faith that the Gods will reveal the answers when we need them most.”
“Oh this is just great!” Dawn sneered. “A talking dragon is lecturing me about having faith.”
“Lady Dawn!” Aneirin said his tone biting. “I know you are upset but I will not tolerate someone speaking to one of my guests in such a manner.”
“No,” Aneirin cut in as he raised his hand for silence. “Believe me, I understand your pain, but right now the best thing for you to do is leave. If you stay, you will say something you regret. The Father will fill you in on the rest of the meeting later.”
Not giving Dawn a chance to reply, Aneirin nodded towards Einarr. Gently taking her arm, Einarr steered Dawn back into the castle.
“Bloody hell. I knew she’d react badly,” Spike said, his eyes on Dawn’s retreating form, his heart sinking.
“Let go of me,” Dawn growled as she jerked her arm free of Einarr’s grip. “I’m not some kid that needs to be escorted to their room.”
“Well maybe when you stop acting like a spoiled brat then you won’t need an escort.”
“Excuse me?” Dawn said, stopping to glare at Einarr. “You have no right…”
“I have every right,” Einarr said, his tone unsympathetic. “Spike is my friend, Caius is my friend, and I will not have them treated badly because you choose to throw a temper tantrum.”
“I am not throwing a temper tantrum!” Dawn yelled. “My sister died because we didn’t know about this whole ‘Father’ business.”
“Is she not alive now?” Einarr asked, eyebrow raised and arms crossed over his chest.
“She had a hard time adjusting, I know. Spike told me,” Einarr interrupted. “But before you let your righteous anger fester, remember that you have your sister back. The rest of us will never have that. Your room, Lady Dawn.”
Gesturing towards her door, Einarr waited until Dawn entered and closed the door before turning to leave.
He knew she was upset. Hell, he even understood her pain. If there had been any information that would have saved King Edderon, he would have been more than angry to learn of it after his King’s death. However, there was no such information and his King would remain dead. It was only a little comforting to know that a paradise for the dead actually existed.
As he reached the front doors of the castle, Einarr paused briefly. Taking a deep breath, he shoved his turbulent emotions aside, squared his shoulders and headed back out into the bright sunlight. He had more important matters to worry over.
Hours later, Dawn was still pacing her room, her arms waving around as she ran through her thoughts. An untouched tray of food set on the coffee table.
“How dare they!” Dawn growled as she trod a path across the room. “They have no idea what I…we went through after Buffy died.”
Continuing her trek, her angry words filling the quiet of her room, it took Dawn a few minutes to notice the hesitant knocking. Pausing, Dawn turned and marched over to the door.
Pulling the door open, ready to give whoever was on the other side a piece of her mind, Dawn’s words stalled when she saw Spike standing before her. His eyes were anxious and full of fear, and suddenly Dawn realized that Spike thought she might reject him all over again. It caused a good portion of her anger to recede and a tiny spark of guilt crept in.
Sighing, Dawn pulled the door wider.
“Come in Spike.”
“So,” Dawn said as she sat across from Spike, her hands fiddling with the front of her dress. “Father of the Key huh?”
“Seems like,” Spike said with a shrug, his own hands wrapped tightly around themselves.
“Look,” Dawn said, her guilt over her earlier reaction causing her words to tumble out. “About earlier, I’m sorry! It’s just that, we could have saved her.”
“Maybe,” Spike said, his eyes reflecting his pain. “Maybe not. The problem is that we’ll never know.”
“But…” Dawn started but trailed off. Looking closely at Spike, Dawn sighed and slumped back into her chair.
“I know Spike,” Dawn said as she ran a shaky hand through her hair. “It’s just…I have some apologies to make later, don’t I?”
“They understand luv,” Spike replied as he moved to wrap his arm around her. “More than you realize.”
“Yeah,” Dawn sighed. Looking up at Spike through lowered lashes she said, “Things aren’t going to change, are they?”
“No!” Spike said as he pulled Dawn into a tight embrace. “Nothing could ever change how I feel about you. You’ll always be my Niblet.”
Tugging on the straps of her pack, Buffy carefully surveyed her new surroundings. The city of Andreas Bay gleamed in the waning sunlight. Bright colors full of gold and red spiraled across buildings adding to the rich colors in the stone. It was cleaner than she had expected. The streets were paved, and Buffy had spotted a few workers sweeping up small bits of litter.
Caius had dropped her and the Scoobies off just outside the city’s border, and flown away without a word. Gaelwine had quickly followed, after allowing Liana to dismount. Buffy knew she was to act as their tour guide, and guard, while they were in Ærworuld.
Once the dragons had gone, Liana had glanced over her shoulder, issued a brisk, “Follow me,” and started off onto the city’s winding streets. They had stood silent for a few brief moments, unsure of whether they should follow or not, before Angel had grumbled under his breath and set off after the female warrior.
Casting her gaze towards their reluctant guide, Buffy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Angel and Liana were deep in conversation. Angel had his gaze locked on her, his voice purposely pitched low so his words would not carry. It was his body language, however, that gave his agitation away. His jaw was clenched, his eyes narrowed, and his shoulders were bunched, as if waiting for an attack. Liana, by contrast, seemed calm, and slightly amused, if Buffy was reading the look in her eyes correctly.
It felt strange. Despite his constant nitpicking, it seemed out of the whole group Liana liked and tolerated Angel the most. His overbearing attitude and need to burden himself with guilt appeared to intrigue Liana. She actually answered his questions instead of just glaring, and this irritated Buffy. She was in charge of this rescue mission after all.
Pushing aside her irritation with the female warrior, Buffy concentrated on where Liana was leading them. After walking for what felt like hours, Liana ushered them up a paved driveway. Sitting on top a hill, overlooking Andreas Bay, was a luxurious castle. The walls were made of the same white stone Buffy had seen making up several buildings. Tall windows spread out across the structure. It looked to be at least three stories tall, though how many wings it contained Buffy could not tell.
Soldiers stood before an iron gate. Through the bars, she could see manicured lawns scattered with trees, bushes, and a large variety of flowers. People, all dressed in dark green uniforms, pants and tunics for the men, white blouse and green skirt and apron for the women, scurried about. Some carried baskets full of food; others held bundles of cloth. A few led livestock to what Buffy guessed to be the stables.
Greetings were called out and answered, children hurried after parents and a few of the soldiers were sparring off to the right. Swords clanged, bows were fired at stationary targets, and staffs clacked together in mock battle. She could just hear the soldiers’ friendly bantering, and an ache settled in her chest.
She missed Spike. He had been her sparring partner, lover, friend, second-in-command, and now, unknown to him, the love of her life. She had come to this strange world to find her sister, and hopefully along the way, she would find Spike as well. There was a battle going on, and a Big Bad in need of killing. Buffy would need him in the coming fight. She was sure that whenever she finally did find Spike, he would be right in the middle of things, possibly irritating everyone around him.
Pulling her thoughts away from Spike, Buffy watched as Liana marched up to the guards stationed at the gate. The guards seemed to recognize Liana, and after a few whispered words and a terse nod, the guards let them pass.
They were led through an elegant, and ornate, set of double doors and into the foyer of the castle.
“Oh my God.” Buffy heard Willow whisper. Well-lit and filled with people, Buffy couldn’t help but stand and gawk. She would have been ashamed at her blatant staring, but she was positive the others were wearing similar expressions.
The ceiling was domed and two hallways branched off to Buffy’s left and right. The stone floor was white with soft swirls of gray mixed in. Lanterns hung from walls, along with paintings, tapestries, and decorations, which were being strung up as they watched.
More servants hurried by carrying vases full of flowers. Buffy could smell food being cooked in a nearby kitchen. Laughter carried from one of the adjacent rooms and was soon followed by a group of women, all dressed in the finest of clothes. When they noticed the group standing with Liana in the foyer, their expressions changed to sneers and Buffy could hear one of them scoff, “Dragon lover.” Buffy wanted to slap the mocking smiles from their overdone faces.
Resting her hand on the pommel of her broadsword, Liana smiled at the noble women, though her eyes were cold.
“Lady Shir, elegantly spoken as always,” came a man’s voice behind the group.
“General Einarr,” Lady Shir greeted as she smiled, wide and patently fake, at Einarr before moving off. Her friends followed obediently behind her, their gossip filling the hallway.
Giving Lady Shir’s retreating form a tight smile, Einarr brought his gaze towards the strangers standing with Liana. Their clothes were odd, and looked very much like what Spike had told him of fashion in his old world. These must be the people he left behind. They certainly match the descriptions, Einarr thought as images from Spike’s stories filled his mind.
“Liana,” Einarr greeted formally and with a slight bow. “It is a pleasure to see you again.”
“General once more, Einarr?” Liana smirked as her eyes raked over his uniform. His shirt was a deep forest green, and he wore black fitted pants, sword hanging from his waist. It was all new, with straight lines and shiny buttons. His boots however were old, worn, and looked to be scrubbed with polish. Trust Einarr to conform only so far. “Whatever would Caius say?”
“Congratulations, I believe,” Einarr replied. “Anyway, what brings you and your ‘friends’ to King Aneirin’s home?”
“These people,” Liana said her tone brusque. “Were brought here to see the Girl-Key.”
“I see. And how was your journey?” Einarr paused then, “And Gaelwine? He is doing well I hope.”
“He’s cranky.” Liana’s smile was tight, her eyes cold as they shifted towards the group under her watch. So they had managed to annoy her as well, Einarr thought gleefully.
Seeing the mischievous twinkle in the man’s gray eyes allowed Buffy to let go of some of her anxiety. She would have rushed forward, and demanded to be taken to Dawn, but Liana still stood between Buffy and the General. Buffy didn’t think it would be polite to start tossing the female warrior around.
“Well he never was very personable. However, we’ve dallied long enough. Molly will bring the group to Lady Dawn. King Aneirin and the Father are waiting for us.”
Nodding to the young serving girl, Einarr extended his arm for Liana to take. She did, grudgingly. With a nod towards the Father’s ‘friends’, Einarr led Liana off down the opposite hallway.
Following Molly, Buffy couldn’t help but stare. Her long held beliefs of castles being cold, dark and dreary was quickly being proven wrong.
Paintings and tapestries hung on the walls with vibrant colors covering their surfaces. Some of the tapestries depicted scenes with dragons and knights fighting beastly figures, while most of the paintings were simple portraits of people Buffy figured where past Kings and Queens from all of the finery they wore. Small niches were carved into the walls between paintings holding vases, figurines and decorative weapons. Large windows allowed in plenty of sunlight.
Occasionally they would pass finely carved wooden chairs and benches. If they had held cushions Buffy would have thought they were resting places for people who had gotten lost trying to maneuver the castle’s winding hallways, but they were simply decorations to be admired and nothing more.
“Man, you could buy a small country with some of this stuff,” Buffy heard Xander mutter to Willow. Noticing the quick glance their guide sent their way, Buffy knew Xander hadn’t been as quiet as he had hoped.
Finally the young servant stopped, motioning towards the door on her left.
“Lady Dawn is waiting for you inside.”
With no other words, the young girl left Buffy and her friends standing in the hallway. Taking a deep breath, Buffy placed one hand on the doorknob. It turned easily in her hand, and then nothing else mattered.
Standing in the middle of the room was Dawn. She was dressed in a similar fashion as the noble women, a deep blue dress, with long sleeves, and matching shoes. Dawn’s grin was spread out across her face and when the two sisters hugged, Dawn’s grip was nearly as rib crushingly tight as Buffy’s.
Draco flew through the air, clouds passing by in a blur of white. The sun glinted off his scales, warming his body. The ground below was a lush green, full of life. Animals scurried for food.
The nest was easy to find; Draco knew where all of the female dragons laid their eggs. All around him, tiny pieces of eggs, mixed with dirt, twigs, and half formed baby dragons littered the ground. Another generation lost. At the rate the nests were being destroyed, the dragons would have no new lives to fill in for those who died. Their numbers were slowly dwindling. A female dragon only nested three times in their long lives, usually laying between two to three eggs. The scent of humans still lingered in the air, and their foot prints still marred the earth.
“The humans have struck again, I see.” Ivor’s voice came from behind Draco as the old dragon landed, careful to avoid the egg’s remains.
“The others will not be happy,” Ivor said, his anger lacing his words. “They will question our role in this war.”
“Come,” Draco said as he took to the air. “We must speak with the others.”
Nodding, Ivor soon followed, keeping his own questions to himself, for now.