Turning back towards the Wolfram and Hart building, Giles called out over the din, “Kennedy, get your slayers and help the soldiers look on the left side of the building.”
When Kennedy opened her mouth to argue, Giles glared and yelled, “Now Kennedy!”
Giles watched as Kennedy reluctantly followed his orders. Soon the slayers were picking through the rubble along side the soldiers. Close to twenty minutes in and a shout of excitement was heard. Once the soldiers had helped the Slayer free whatever they had found, Kennedy quickly made sure the items were brought to Giles. They may have been willing to accept the Initiative’s help, but that didn’t mean Giles trusted them completely.
“Don’t know what use this book is going to be, since it’s all blank,” Kennedy said as she handed the heavy tome to Giles. “But this scroll should keep you busy.”
“Hold the scroll for a minute Kennedy,” Giles said. Handing her the scroll, Giles turned the book over in his hands, wiping dust from its cover. Going on a hunch, Giles brought the book up towards his mouth and whispered, “Shanshu prophecy.” When he opened the book, the pages filled with text, some of which Giles couldn’t read.
Closing the book quickly, Giles gave a firm shake of his head, signaling for Kennedy to keep quiet.
Snapping her jaw shut, Kennedy nodded, though Giles could see that she would want an explanation later.
“Kennedy round up the girls. It’s time we left.”
“But we’re not through looking,” Kennedy said confused. “If we keep looking we might find something else.”
“We’re not going too,” Giles said. Before he could elaborate, a black van pulled up. “Kennedy, get the girls, we’re leaving now.”
“Wolfram and Hart’s cleaners.”
Back at the hotel, Giles had both the book and the scroll open on the coffee table. The empty tumbler in his hand rested on his bent knee. His eyes were focused on the page before him.
The creature in the drawing, Giles was fairly sure, would be massive if he were looking at it in person. Three heads, like those of a hydra, rested atop broad shoulders. The thing’s torso was covered with armor and it carried a sword in one clawed hand. Wings stretched out from its back and Giles could see the end of a tail resting over several dead bodies. The artist had drawn one clawed foot resting on a pile of human skulls.
It would have all seemed rather clichéd to Giles had he not been holding the pictures of the mutilated bodies Kennedy and Riley had found. It was a rather crude match for the detailed drawing in the book, the lizard demon had not added in the tail, armor, or sword. Giles figured that if Kennedy and Riley hadn’t found it when they had, the demon would have added in those extra touches as well.
Either way, Giles now knew who Ktulu was, and with a sinking feeling, he had realized that his Slayer and her friends were now in the same world as this monstrous beast.
A few hours later, Kennedy sat curled up in one corner of the couch. Her eyes were focused on Giles, and her fingers tapped against her thigh.
“Care to explain why we’re not telling the soldier guys about this new book of yours?” Kennedy’s voice was harsh and impatient. It was times like these that Giles wished he could throttle the girl.
“It’s one of Wolfram and Hart’s template books,” Giles said with more than a bit of his annoyance coloring his words. “All you have to do is hold the book, call for a specific text, and the book will bring it forward.”
“Great,” Kennedy said with a shrug. “A one book library. Again, I’m not seeing the importance.”
Rolling his eyes, Giles opened the book to the page he had been staring at all night. The creature’s picture immediately grabbed Kennedy’s attention.
“Similar to our demon’s grotesque art work, yes,” Giles said. “It’s called Ktulu and serves a being known only as the Dark One. It is currently waging war in Ærworuld, which I’m pretty sure is the dimension Buffy and the others have traveled too.”
“But they only went there to get Dawn back.”
Taking off his glasses, Giles sighed as he sat down across from Kennedy. “Well it seems that the success or failure of this creature’s plans depends on gaining control of the Key and the Father of the Key.”
“So they bring Dawn and this Father back here.” Kennedy shrugged. “No biggie.”
“Well, be as that may, “Giles said, his tone dry. “We both know that Buffy and the others won‘t leave, not if they can help save lives.”
“But if Dawn and this Father aren’t there, then this thing can’t win.”
“That doesn’t mean it will stop killing,” Giles said, his tone softer than before when he noticed the worry Kennedy couldn’t hide. “And since we know Wolfram and Hart are interested in this distant war that means what we do here can either help or hinder Buffy and the other’s cause.”
“Right,” Kennedy said as she shoved her fears aside. Willow would be all right, she just had to believe it. “So what can we do here to mess up their plans?”
Walking along the castle grounds, her borrowed gown brushing the ground at her feet, Buffy stifled a bored sigh. Spike and Dawn were with Einarr and Liana. They were teaching her baby sister how to fight. Buffy had objected; she wasn’t about to let Dawn fight in any battle. Her protest had gone unheeded though. Spike had simply given her a withering look and stormed away. Dawn had rolled her eyes at her sister, and then she too, followed after Spike. Before leaving Einarr had given her a kind smile and said, “There are some battles you can not fight for them, no matter how much you’d like to.”
Buffy had been left alone, and instead of storming off and fretting in her room; she had opted to explore the grounds. Now she found herself in a lush garden full of people. It was quiet, peaceful despite the crowd. She could feel her dark mood lifting a bit as she wandered. There was nothing she could do about the situation now, and barging in on their training session would only make Spike angrier. She wanted to talk to him, and maybe keep from getting angry herself.
“What is this place?” Buffy asked, her eyes scanning over colorful flowers, tall shade trees, and thick green shrubs. Pathways snaked through the lush garden with the occasional bench providing a place of rest. People ignored them though, seeming to prefer sitting on the cool grass at the base of a tree.
“It’s a Garden of Souls.”
Aneirin’s voice came from behind Buffy, startling her. Turning, she found the young king sitting under an old tree, its branches reaching far into the blue sky above them.
“Interesting…ah name,” Buffy nodded politely. A soft chuckle greeted her words. The simple action caused imagined years to fall from Aneirin’s appearance, leaving a young man, barely into his twenties. The light played off his long golden hair, and his green eyes sparkled with amusement. He was not much older than they were, despite her first impression. It all made Buffy think of how she appeared to others. Did she seem older than she really was, or maybe colder?
“You appear as a worried young woman, fearful for her sister and friends,” Aneirin answered, ignoring Buffy‘s blush when she realized she had spoken her thoughts aloud. “As long as one does not look too closely into your eyes.”
“Great way to boost a lady’s ego,” Buffy said as she sat down across from Aneirin.
“I must admit, I haven’t had much practice at it.” Aneirin shrugged his shoulders, an impish grin on his face.
“I can tell,” Buffy said, before slapping a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry! I didn’t…I mean, it’s not like you couldn’t get a women…I…shutting up now.”
Aneirin’s laughter filled the quiet of the garden, attracting the attention of people near by. Seeing a few disgruntled faces, Buffy ducked her head and fervently wished for a hole to open up and swallow her. Where was a good old-fashioned Hellmouth opening when she needed one?
“So,” Buffy spoke loudly, her voice carrying to anyone nearby. “About this Garden of Souls thingy, what is it?”
Chuckling, Aneirin answered, “It’s a garden.”
Seeing Buffy’s slightly exasperated look, his grin widened. “Sorry, Lady Buffy. I could not help myself. It’s not often I’m simply allowed to act my age.”
“Yeah,” Buffy mumbled. “This whole destiny thing sucks.”
“I have to agree with you there,” Aneirin sighed though his eyes sparkled with mischief. “Just don’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t.” Buffy smiled. “So garden?”
“It’s all in the name really,” Aneirin said, eyes scanning his surroundings. “Here when someone dies, a plant is placed. It is a symbol of that person and their continued existence in the realm of our Gods.”
“So it’s a very pretty cemetery,” Buffy replied, her confusion clear as she once again gazed around the lush environment.
“No,” Aneirin said. “A cemetery is for the dead, this is a place to remember their lives.”
“I like it. We should have these back home.”
“What does your world do to honor the dead?” Aneirin asked, head cocked to one side.
“We have funerals,” Buffy grumbled, remembering her own mother‘s funeral. “Then we either cremate or bury them in big depressing cemeteries while people tell you how sorry they are for your loss.”
A disgusted snort drew Buffy’s eyes back to Aneirin. “I remember having to put up with such sympathies when my father passed.”
Silence followed as the two continued to sit in the shade provided by the ancient tree. People came and went, a few even stopped to exchange pleasantries with King Aneirin, but for the most part they were left in peace.
“He does love you,” Aneirin said, startling Buffy from her thoughts.
“The Father,” Aneirin said. “He loves you.”
“The Father? Oh you mean Spike,” Buffy said with a slight nod. Then, quietly, her insecurities lacing her words, “How can you tell?”
“I see the way he watches you, and I hear it in his voice when he speaks of you. It reminds me of how my father spoke of my mother.”
“Is she…um,” Buffy tried to asked, hoping she wasn’t bringing up any painful memories.
“Yes,” Aneirin smiled. “During child birth. I learned to know her from my father’s stories. He often told me that I should never leave things unsaid, nor should I when I finally marry, go to bed angry.”
“We’ve only ever been angry,” Buffy sighed as she thought back over her relationship with Spike.
“Maybe you should ask yourself why that is,” Aneirin said with a kind smile. Standing, he casually dusted off his clothes, and then offered Buffy his hand, helping her to her feet. “And now I must return to my duties. I believe I’ve hidden myself away long enough. Good day Lady Buffy.”
Nodding, Buffy stood and watched Aneirin head back towards the castle. He seemed to age before her eyes as he once again assumed the role of King. It was a destiny he could no more get away from than she could stop being the Slayer. It made her heart ache and her determination to make things right with Spike grew. Aneirin was right, people should never leave things left unsaid.
Unfortunately, despite Buffy’s best efforts, Spike seemed to elude her. She just missed him at the training grounds, and when she arrived at the dinning hall, he had already retired. Miffed, and more than slightly hurt, Buffy retired to her room, promising that tomorrow she would track down her vampire for a long over due heart to heart.
The next morning, sun shining brightly through the gauzy curtains covering her window, Buffy meticulously dressed, hoping to impress Spike. Her hair was clean, and she let it fall in soft waves around her shoulders. She knew Spike loved her hair long, and Buffy hoped he recognized the effort she was making.
To complete her look, Buffy chose to wear a long black and red dress. Delicate patterns were embroidered along the hem, cuffs, and neckline of her dress. A hasty knock at her door pulled Buffy from her fantasies, and when she opened it, she knew her plans for reconciliation were bust.
“What is it?”
“I don‘t know,” Dawn said her voice strained. Grabbing her sister’s arm, Dawn dragged Buffy from her room. “But something bad happened, and everyone is meeting in King Aneirin’s office.”
“So here’s what we do know,” Aneirin stated as he unfurled the map. “See these lands here? This is the area surrounding Wygar. As you can see, there isn’t much that can get in their way.”
“Your Majesty, do we know how many Ktulu is leading the city’s way?” Liana asked quietly.
“The dragons have reported close to ten to fifteen thousand marching towards Wygar. From what the Father has said, Ktulu is suspiciously absent.”
“Draco said he and the others believe the bugger is planning another attack on some sacred temple,” Spike offered, his eyes focused inward, as if listening to something only he could hear. “I have to say, I agree with him. Ktulu is being quiet for a reason.”
“Then it is likely Ktulu is making plans to head for these lands here,” Aneirin said, pointing southwest of his kingdom. “It is said this is where the Gods created the Key.”
A harshly drawn in breath precluded Liana’s words. “That is the site of the ancient library. Millennia’s worth of information is stored there. Information most have thought to be lost.”
“So the library does exist,” Einarr said, his voice carrying a note of hope.
“With help, we might be able to reach it before Ktulu,” Aneirin said, mind already at work on figuring out how to keep Ktulu away from the library.
“What I don’t get is, why send an attack on Wygar?” Willow asked. “Why not just, you know, go for the gold so to speak?”
“Bugger is probably hoping to catch us with our pants down Red,” Spike answered. “Send out an army to slaughter one city, and nobody sees the second until it’s too late.”
“What do we need to do?” Dawn asked as she leaned forward to get a better view.
“Nothing,” Buffy said as a determined look settled on her face. “I want you somewhere safe.”
“Buffy!” Dawn cried. “I‘m the Key. I’m supposed to fight.”
“She is passable with a sword, but has a natural talent for the bow my King,” Liana offered.
“How good is she?” Aneirin asked, finally lifting his eyes.
“Given more time she could surpass Greyam,” Einarr stated from his place beside Spike.
“Then we’ll put Dawn with Greyam and his men,” King Aneirin stated. “What can the rest of you do?”
“No, no, no!” Buffy said, shaking her head. “Dawn is not fighting.”
“I‘m sorry my dear, but as Lady Dawn has already said, it is her destiny to fight this war,” Frederic said, speaking up for the first time. His eyes were soft but his was tone firm.
“Look, we don‘t need Dawn,” Buffy declared. “We’ve got this huge army, a couple of dragons, a powerful witch, Spike, and four slayers.”
“Since it is obvious you are simply worried for your sister, I will only ask you to choose your words with more care next time,” Aneirin admonished, a scowl settling over his face.
“We need all the able bodied fighters we can get,” Einarr said not unkindly.
“Hey! Buffy knows what she’s taking about. Besides if this Ktulu guy is as bad as you say, shouldn’t Dawn be, you know, in the land of Far-Far-Away?” Xander offered as he tried to defend his friend.
“I am not some helpless Fairy Princess Xander!” Dawn growled as she smacked him hard on his shoulder.
“Dawnie, if anyone is going to beat this Ktulu and Dark One, its Buffy,” Willow chimed in.
“Father,” Liana said, her voice soft, cold. “I believe your friends are missing the point.”
“Oh and what is that?” Buffy asked, her own voice icy.
“That Lady Dawn and Spike, as you call him, are the ones prophesied to fight this battle, not you.”
“Hey!” Willow interrupted. “Buffy can so kick this Ktulu’s butt. Right Spike?”
“Don’t know about that Red,” Spike replied. “Prophesies are tricky things. But none of this matters at the moment since I won’t be here.”
“What?” Buffy shouted, eyes wide. “Of course you’ll be here.”
“No, Slayer I won’t,” Spike answered firmly. “I’m needed elsewhere.”
“What did your dreams show you?” Einarr asked quietly.
“A bloody massacre.”
“Then you shall go my friend,” Einarr nodded, indicating the decision to be final. “I’m sure Caius would be willing to fly you to Wygar.”
Spike was silent for a brief moment, then, “Can’t, mate. He’s got some business to take care of. Besides, I need to speak with the barbarians first.”
“I’ll ask if Gaelwine can fly you to wherever you need,” Liana promised.
“Can he carry more than one person?” Spike asked head tilted to the side.
“If he wants too, he will.”
“If he’s willing, we’ll need to leave just after dawn. Also, pet, let him know I appreciate the help.”
“No!” Buffy protested. “Spike can’t leave. There’s an army headed towards a temple full of people. I need him here.”
“The Father goes were the Gods need him to,” Liana spoke quietly, her narrowed gaze focused on Buffy once more.
“Enough with this Father crap!” Buffy shouted, fury lighting up her eyes. “I’m the Slayer, and if I say he needs to stay, then Spike stays!”
Soft snickering from the doorway had the group turning to see the Alliance’s Oracle. The greasy old man wore a rictus grin, his yellow teeth showing as his sightless eyes roamed over the room.
“Someone thinks too highly of themselves,” the Oracle whispered. “The Key and the Father, made of each other, but not from blood. Together they will either banish evil or cause it to reign free, but only the Father and the Key can decide which.”
Laughing softly, the Oracle left. His words seemed to echo inside the quiet room.
“Sadly enough, the crazy old sod has a point,” Spike said, breaking through everyone’s thoughts. “Buffy, luv, this fight is mine and Dawn’s. No, hush for a minute. In your world you’re the Chosen One. Well here, Dawn and I are.”
Silent, all Buffy could do was stare. She knew he was speaking the truth; she just didn’t want to believe it. She also hadn’t missed how easily Spike had referred to their home as ‘her world’. Her stomach tried to purge itself, and her heart sank down to her toes; Spike felt he was home. She would make sure to change that.
“Who’s going with you?” She asked quietly, her arms crossed over her chest.
“Peaches,” Spike called out, a smirk spreading out over his face. “You up for taking a ride on a dragon?”
Late that night after everyone had long since retired, Spike’s eyes jerked open. Gasping for breath and trying to choke back a scream, he sat up, and swung his legs over the side of the bed. If he’d had a heartbeat, it would have been trying to pound its way out of his chest. As it was, his head ached, his throat was raw, and his body seemed to have forgotten he didn’t need to breathe.
Before he could pull himself together his bedroom door was flung open.
The dim light of her lantern allowed Spike enough light to see. Buffy stood in his doorway, hand gripping the doorknob. Her hair was a tangled mess, her bedclothes rumpled, and her feet were bare.
“You’re not wearing any shoes,” Spike whispered, his eyes focused on her dainty feet.
“I heard you scream,” came Buffy’s breathless reply.
A deep chuckle worked its way from Spike’s throat. The sound caused Buffy’s concern to deepen. Closing the door, she walked closer to his bed.
“Spike?” Buffy asked, her voice soft and filled with concern. “Are you alright?”
Meeting her eyes, Spike let a small smile spread across his face. “Luv, you’re not wearing any shoes.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“It’s bloody freezing in here, and you came running to my room wearing a thin nightgown and no shoes.”
Upon seeing her still confused look, Spike reached forward, and grabbed her free hand. Pulling her down next to him, he quietly laced their fingers together before looking her in the eyes and repeating, “You’re not wearing any shoes.”
“So you’re having your own version of Slayer dreams huh?” Buffy asked. She was lying on the bed besides Spike, her head propped up and resting in her hand. Spike mirrored her position.
“Yeah,” Spike sighed. “Bloody useless things. I usually never get to see what will happen, except for this last one. At least now I’ve got a chance at preventing the dream from occurring.”
Buffy’s disgusted snort had Spike arching an eyebrow in question.
“My dreams,” Buffy explained. “They were so cryptic that I only ever understood them after the crisis had started.”
“Yep,” Buffy said with a nod. “Around the time you were still evil and with Dru, I had a dream that Dru staked Angel.”
Spike merely raised his eyebrow, waiting for her to elaborate.
“He lost his soul pretty soon after.”
“Ah…” Spike said with a nod. “And the bloody Powers couldn’t have said ‘Don’t shag the Poof or his soul will go ‘poof!’.”
“Spike!” Buffy giggled as she shoved him. “That was awful!”
Spike’s grin told her all she needed to know.