A slew of arrows rained down on the advancing army. Spike could see hundreds of demons and beasts falling; unfortunately, they had several thousand to go.
More arrows soared across the sky, and more bodies fell. Angry roars filled the air and soon the archers from the Senior Partner’s army were in range. They quickly began to return fire.
“Draco! Drop the barrels!” Spike urged his friend. “Ivor, torch the bastards!”
Draco and the other dragons swooped down, dropping several barrels of oily blue liquid. It stuck to everything it touched, and gave off a bitter scent.
Once Draco’s unit was well away from the throng, Ivor let loose a stream of fire. There was a loud whoosh, and then bright orange flames. Several hundred died instantly, while hundreds more screamed in agony as the flames ate away their flesh. Rolling black smoke blotted out the sun in brief intervals, and the sickly scent of charred meat filled the air, reminding Spike of cooked brisket. Spike could have sworn Ivor was smiling.
“What manner of creature are they?” one solider asked, his eyes wide as a few of the more resilient demons withstood the heat of the flames.
“They’re demons,” Spike answered him quietly. “Those specifically are Morah demons. They can only be permanently killed by breaking the jewel on their foreheads.”
Spotting scaly hands coming over the edge of the wall, Spike let a gleeful grin spread across his face. Sword in hand, Spike rushed forward and the demon met with the sharp edge of his blade. Its head rolled towards Spike, and with a kick any soccer player would envy, lobbed it back into the mass below. It hit a Chaos demon in the head and stuck to its antlers. ‘Goal!’ Spike thought as he went back to hacking at various demons.
Hearing a distinctive roar, Spike called over his shoulder, tauntingly, “Hey Peaches! Looks like your good friend the dragon is back! Thought you said you killed it?”
“I did!” Angel yelled as he pulled his sword out of a demon’s chest. Spinning, he quickly decapitated a demon stupid enough to try to sneak up on him. “I can kill it again if I have too.”
“That is no proper dragon,” Ivor snarled in their minds. “That is an abomination, leave it to me.”
Ivor slammed into the demonic being. Claws and teeth dug into flesh, and wings beat furiously against massive bodies. Snarling, Ivor twisted, forcing the demonic dragon’s back towards the ground. Pulling his wings back, Ivor drove the other dragon towards the ground.
The impact echoed over the battle, and squashed a few demons too slow to get out of the way. The ground shook and dust flew into the air, hindering vision. When the dust clouds cleared, Spike found himself face to muzzle with a Worm. It was only his vampiric reflexes that saved him from being eaten.
Faster than Spike thought possible, it slithered forward, and then juked right at the last second, whipping its tail at Spike. Spike barely had time to roll to the left before the thing’s long muscled tail slammed down where he had been standing. Seconds later, a sword severed the Worm’s head from the rest of its serpentine body. A dirty, blood covered Angel stood behind it.
“I thought you could use some help.” Angel’s grin was smug.
“Would have had the bastard eventually,” Spike grumbled as he turned and beheaded an incoming demon.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Spike could see Ivor lifting his body a short distance into the air. His jaws were still clamped around the demonic dragon’s neck, and flexing his legs, Ivor raked his claws down the beast’s underbelly. An outraged roar greeted his action, and the demonic dragon arched its back, dislodging Ivor.
Surging upward, the other dragon not far behind, Ivor spun mid-air, lowered his head and plowed forward. His massive shoulders hit the other dragon mid-climb, causing it to tumble back towards the earth. A beastly roar of triumph echoed across the land as Ivor continued his pursuit of the demon.
A loud crackling sound caught Spike‘s attention. Turning, he saw that the demons had started using the trebuchets to fire boulders at the wall. Once the boulders struck, their much bigger allies used their hands or claws to tear sections down. The cave troll-like demons, luckily for Spike, were quite busy. After the barrels had been dropped, Draco and some of his kin had swarmed the giant demons, teeth and claws slashing at the demons’ tough skin.
Turning, Spike spotted three soldiers fighting off a Fyarl demon. It was obvious they didn’t know how to kill it, and to Spike’s annoyance, it was toying with them. Sheathing his sword, Spike charged, and taking a flying leap over several demons, landed in front of the Fyarl. It growled at him, angry that Spike had interrupted its game.
Grinning, Spike said, “I think its time we up the stakes of this little game, eh mate?”
Shocked at hearing it‘s language being used, the Fyarl stopped its advance. Taking advantage of the Fyarl’s momentary confusion, Spike grabbed the Fyarl’s horns and twisted. The Fyarl’s neck cracked and popped and Spike kept twisting until its head was facing the opposite direction.
Letting go, Spike planted one foot on the Fyarl’s ruined neck.
“Anybody got any thing sharp and silver?” Seeing that no one had heard him, Spike grabbed the nearest soldier. “Go find me something sharp and made of silver. Now!”
Wide-eyed the soldier ran off. Meanwhile Spike kept digging his foot into the Fyarl’s neck every time he swung his sword.
Moments later, the soldier returned and thrust something at Spike with a hurried, “Here!” It was a dinner fork. Shrugging, Spike spun the fork prong side down, and stabbed the Fyarl with it. The Fyarl went quiet. Pulling the fork out, Spike put it in his pocket. He might need it later.
Suddenly Spike’s feet flew from beneath him. Something cold, muscled, and very sharp had bit down tightly around his ankle. Spike could feel bones grinding together beneath the unbearable pressure. Looking up, Spike had just enough time to see the maw of the demonic dragon before the beast tugged sharply, causing Spike to skid across stone. There was nothing for him to grab onto and he had lost his sword when he lost his footing. Another sharp tug and Spike went up and over a crenel, head cracking painfully against the edge of the stone.
For a terrifying second, Spike felt nothing beneath him but air. Then something grabbed his shoulders and Spike felt as if the bones in his leg were being wrenched from their sockets. A hoarse cry forced its way from his throat, and with a quick blast of heat, the pressure around his ankle released.
Forcing open protesting eyes, Spike looked up into the bright sunlight to see the underside of Draco’s neck. He was holding Spike very gently with his front claws, though Spike could feel the sharp tips through his clothes.
A loud thunderous crack had Spike turning his sore head. A jolt of vicious satisfaction ripped through him as he watched the demonic dragon drop to the ground, dead. Then Spike blacked out.
Buffy was cold. She hated being cold. She wanted nothing more than to be back in sunny southern California, kicking demon butt with Spike by her side. After all, it was warm there. Not that Ærworuld was a bad place. Aneirin’s castle had indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water so Buffy wasn’t completely deprived of modern comforts. It was just really freaking cold in the mountains.
To Buffy, it seemed that winter had settled in rather comfortably, and wasn’t leaving anytime soon. This meant that while they hurried to reach the library before Ktulu did, Buffy got to freeze. The only plus was that she was riding a horse. The downside was that her butt was numb from sitting in a saddle for days at a time.
Buffy wished she could have just ridden on the back of one of the dragons, but they were off helping Spike. Worst of all, she didn’t really have anyone to talk to. Faith was up ahead sharing war stories with a soldier who had caught her eye, while Xander traded jokes with another. Willow was riding beside one of the mages, talking in hushed whispers. Dawn was riding next Aneirin; they were surrounded by a ring of solders, all of whom were pretending not to hear them. She didn’t think Dawn would appreciate her sister interrupting their conversation.
The only other person riding by themselves was Liana and Buffy would rather freeze before willingly seeking the other woman’s company. Buffy was fairly positive that Liana felt the same way.
Shivering, Buffy tried to pull her fur lined wrap tighter around her body while simultaneously holding onto the reins. When another shiver danced up her spine and the fine hair on the back of her neck stood at attention, Buffy knew something was wrong.
Scanning the landscape, all Buffy saw were mile long shadows. She also noticed that the other slayers were doing the same thing. Liana’s hand rested casually on the hilt of her sword, and the soldiers were still talking and laughing, but Buffy could tell that they too, had noticed a change in the atmosphere.
A shimmering ripple appeared before them. Soon, the figure of a small girl stood in the road, a polite smile on her face. Buffy’s slayer senses went into overdrive and she reached back to retrieve her scythe.
“Hello, Dawn,” the girl said. Her voice was surprisingly normal, which creeped Buffy out even more. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Dawn said in her snidest tone. “Can’t say the same for you.”
The girl only laughed, her eyes crinkling and her smile widening.
“Oh how funny!” the girl said. “The Father said almost exactly the same thing when we met a few days ago.”
“That’s nice,” Buffy said, a patently false smile on her face. She had maneuvered her horse until she was positioned next to Dawn. “So who are you? Wolf, Ram, or Hart? Cause I gotta say, you look about as threatening as Bambi.”
“Appearances can be deceiving, Slayer,” the girl replied, her smile gone, her eyes cold. “You should have learned that with Glorificus.”
“Glory‘s appearance wasn‘t deceiving,” Buffy said with a shrug. “Her bad home perm gave her away.”
“You joke now, but let’s see what happens when you meet our allies.”
With another shimmer, the girl vanished. In her place, seeming to step out of nowhere, stood a massive three-headed figure, an army of leviathans, worms, and demons behind him. Also, he was a lot taller than Buffy had envisioned.
‘Crap’ Buffy thought. ‘Mental note, next time do not make jokes comparing the Senior Partners to Disney characters.’
Spike stood, leaning against a merlon, chest rising and falling in unneeded breath. Dirt, blood, and grime covered his body. A steady mass of leviathans, worms, and dragonets pushed forward along with various demons crawling over the mass to reach the top of the wall.
They were all tired, aching, and filthy, though some were worse off than others. His leg ached with a steady pounding; the pain in his skull matched it. The battle had lasted almost four days, such a small amount of time in contrast to the destruction that had been caused. And the lives lost, so many gone in a blink. Spike preferred not to think of such matters but it couldn’t be helped with the dead resting on both sides of the wall.
Suddenly pain ripped through Spike’s skull causing him to drop his sword. Groaning he grabbed his head, hoping that by applying enough pressure he could keep his head from exploding.
He didn’t feel the bite of the stone along his back as he slid to the ground. Images flashed before his eyes, a mountain trail, a group of soldiers fighting valiantly against a horde of demons, and Dawn, his Niblet, laying dead, her throat slashed and her eyes vacant. Screaming, Spike tried to fight his way through the images. He had to get to Dawn.
Rough hands shook his frame, and Spike pried open protesting eyes. Everything was too bright and too loud, and if his heart had beat, Spike was positive the pounding in his skull would have matched the rapid beating of a terrified heart.
“What is wrong?” Spike heard Gunnarr ask, though his voice seemed distant for some reason.
“The Father has not been hurt, has he?” another voice asked, this one Spike did not recognize.
“No, I think he‘s had a vision,” Angel said as he gently shook Spike again. “Spike, look at me.”
Slowly, Spike raised half-open eyes to meet Angel’s worried gaze.
“Spike, did you see something?”
“See?” Leof asked. “What sort of question is that?”
“I told you,” Angel snapped. “I think he’s had a vision.”
“I did not know the Father carried the Sight,” Gunnarr said as he knelt down beside Angel.
“I didn’t either,” Angel said. “I thought it was just dreams.”
Placing a gentle hand on Spike’s, Gunnarr spoke in a soft voice, “Father, what is it that you have seen?”
“Dawn,” Spike said, his voice a harsh croak. “They’re in trouble.”
They had been lucky. Gaelwine and three other dragons had shown up before the fighting could begin. Buffy hadn’t realized exactly how fast the dragons could move. Gaelwine had blocked Ktulu’s advance, while the other two had reared back and torched a good portion of the army.
Ktulu had roared, long and loudly. An ear shattering roar that had caused many to clamp their hands over their ears. The flames were doing nothing but pissing him off. The dragons had done their best to keep Ktulu busy, but Buffy could see that nothing seemed to affect him. When Ktulu had swatted one of the dragons away as if it weighed nothing, Buffy’s stomach had dropped.
Then an arrow had hit Ktulu, sinking into his shoulder. It didn’t look like a debilitating wound to Buffy, but the smoke started to rise from the wound and Ktulu’s roar turned to one of pain. Looking over her shoulder, Buffy saw that the arrow had come from Dawn.
Dawn could hurt this beast when no one else could, and if Buffy was right, then so could Spike.
Ktulu had focused on Dawn then, all three heads writhing and hissing. Then Dawn, with shaking hands, had readied another arrow. Ktulu had shrieked again, and when they could all hear, the army and Ktulu were gone.
Now, Gaelwine and the other two dragons were sitting in a loose circle around the group, keeping watch. A few of the soldiers, along with Liana, Vi, and Rona were keeping watch as well.
Hearing a scuffle Buffy turned her gaze towards where Aneirin sat. His left leg was propped up on some saddlebags, his pant leg ripped open to his thigh. He was being fussed over by a group of people, and even through the pain she knew he was feeling, Buffy could tell he was getting irritated.
“I am just a king,” Aneirin said, his tone sharp. “Easily replaced. Dawn however isn’t.”
“But your Majesty…” one soldier said, his eyes wide and hands shaking as he wound the bandage around Aneirin’s leg. He was lucky the slice had missed any important arteries. As it was, muscle and tendon had been injured and it would take months for him to heal properly.
“Oh, so just because you’re not some mystical Key that means you’re allowed to get killed?” Dawn said, her hands on her hips. Buffy could she that she was shaking.
“Do not Lady Dawn me!” Dawn yelled, cutting Aneirin off. Various soldiers all looked on, shocked as Dawn marched forward and came to kneel beside Aneirin. She promptly slapped him across the face. “You are not allowed to die!”
Then she kissed him and almost everyone found something more interesting to look at.
“I didn’t know Dawn knew how to kiss like that,” Xander said, his eyes averted as the kiss went from desperate to heated.
“I didn’t either,” Buffy growled. It was well past time she had a talk with her sister.
“Just imagine how Spike’s going to react,” Willow muttered beside them. She, too, had her eyes averted.
“He’ll be ripping people’s arms off,” Xander said with a nod.
“Not if I get there first,” Buffy growled, again. Her hands were clenched at her sides, and she had just started forward when a firm hand wrapped itself around her arm. Turning, Buffy saw Faith standing behind her, a scowl on her face.
“No, you don’t B,” Faith said, her grip tightening. “Let Dawn have her moment. Her boyfriend almost got killed protecting her. She needs to reassure herself that he’s in one piece.”
“Do I have to hit you over the head with the scythe?” Faith threatened. “Cause I will.”
“She’s my sister!” Buffy hissed through clenched teeth, all the while trying to free her arm from Faith’s grip.
“And she’s old enough to kiss a guy!” Faith hissed back. “Though I have to hand it to her, at least he’s not centuries older than she is.”
Buffy quit struggling after that. A sulky expression settled across her face as she watched Dawn and Aneirin hold a private conversation. At least the kissing had stopped, but the gentle tear filled looks were almost as bad.
‘Spike will agree with me,’ Buffy thought as she turned her back on her sister. ‘After all, he’s the one who said she wasn’t allowed to date until she was forty.’
Time seemed to still. The sounds of battle muted. His eyes lost focus of everything, but the sight before him. A Turok-Han stood grinning, its sword buried in Angel’s side. A deep red stain spread out over Angel’s shirt and with it the unmistakable scent of his Grandsire. Spike’s demon howled. His eyes turned yellow. Ridges formed on along his forehead and nose. His fangs elongated and jagged teeth appeared. With a furious roar, Spike ripped and tore his way through any being standing between him and Angel. A flying leap had his hands wrapped around the prehistoric vampire’s head. A vicious twist removed the thing’s head from its body. Dust exploded around them.
Lunging forward, Spike wrapped his arms around Angel’s body, catching him before he could fall. Blood was pooling in his mouth and slowly creeping over his chin. Spike could hear his heart fluttering weakly in his chest.
“Angel, Sire, wake up.”
“Father, give him to me.”
Holding Angel’s body close, Spike pressed his tear, blood, and dirt encrusted face against Angel’s neck. He could feel Angel’s frail pulse, his heart struggling to pump blood through his veins. Spike’s demon howled once more, anguished at the loss of its sire. He wanted to sink his fangs into the soft flesh of his wrist and force Angel to live.
“Angelus, you arrogant bastard! Don‘t you dare leave me again.”
Insistent hands dragged Angel from his tight grip. Snarling, Spike looked to find Gunnarr staring at him, eyes kind, arms holding Angel’s bulky frame easily.
“Let the healers care for your friend now, Father,” Gunnarr said as he passed Angel to Draco. “Take your vengeance on those who caused your grief.”
“He’s not my friend,” Spike bellowed as he lunged to his feet. “He is my Sire!”
“He is but one person!” Gunnarr yelled back. “There are thousands here who need you now. Would you let them down simply because you grieve?”
Snarling, Spike lifted his battleaxe and charged. He was a whirl of destruction. Heads flew; body parts fell to the ground. Soon he had a pile of dead bodies littering the ground around him. When the pile got too high, Spike merely leapt over and went on to the next mass of demons.
A loud ululating wail caused heads to turn. Standing before the advancing army, but well away from the charred mass of dead demons, was a tall, broad shouldered leviathan, inky black wings spread wide. He stood well above the others, and carried a heavy broadsword in one hand. It was the grin Spike recognized.
Letting loose a rolling thunderous growl of his own, Spike charged forward.
The leviathan turned its head at Spike’s answering roar, and its grin widened.
They met in a field of burned bodies. Pieces snapped off like charcoal. Soot floated in the air, coating both skin and filling lungs. Battleaxe and broadsword clashed with a deafening ring. The rest of the fighters seemed to give them a wide berth. Neither combatant seemed to notice. All Spike could see was the monster from his dreams, the one who slaughtered entire towns with malicious pleasure, all because Ktulu had wished it.
Spike could feel the vibrations from his axe in his arms, the ringing echoed in his head. The leviathan was bigger than Spike, his arms longer. His clawed feet gave him better traction, and Spike regularly found himself fumbling over the uneven ground. It was like fighting an immovable wall.
Spike could see that the leviathan was simply letting him tire out. Growing frustrated, Spike swung his battleaxe, and again he was met with the blade of a broadsword, only this time the leviathan flinched.
Spike’s eyes narrowed, focusing on the beast’s movements. He was favoring his right shoulder ever so slightly. Diving forward, Spike aimed for the leviathan‘s legs. It was a move Spike had seen Buffy perform on countless patrols. Spike’s luck held and his strike was true. The leviathan howled. A silver fork was now buried in the leviathan’s leg. Following through on the attack, Spike rolled to his feet behind the leviathan, axe already arching towards his target.
The blade struck his opponent’s shoulder, denting armor. The leviathan let out a bestial roar. Turning, he ripped the axe from Spike’s hands, adjusted his grip, and swung the blade at Spike. Jumping back, Spike barely missed being chopped in half. The next swing caught Spike on the side of his head and caused stars to dance before his eyes.
A ululating wail stalled the leviathan’s next attack. A dark shadow fell over the two fighters, and Spike was lifted into the air. Cursing, Spike struggled to break free, but the grip on his shoulders tightened.
“I will not let you get killed over your foolish need for vengeance!” Draco’s voice growled inside Spike’s head, causing the pain from his concussion to double. “You are meant for more than that.”
Sore, tired, and covered in dirt and gore, Spike limped through the narrow halls of Dronham Fort. There was very little room to maneuver, the fort’s primary use being a military lookout, not a temporary refuge. Most of the fort’s space was being used for the sick and injured; everyone else slept where they could. The soldiers dolled out small rations of food and water to those in the fort, the only exception being those few who were gravely ill. They received whatever they needed.
The place reeked of blood, waste, and death, all of which caused Spike’s demon to stir restlessly. In his soulless days with Drusilla, the scent of fear, despair, and utter hopelessness would have been a temptation he would never have ignored. Spike would have relished these people’s misery, and gleefully caused more.
Now he just felt sick, the scent of blood making him nauseous. Walking into one of the packed sick rooms, Spike slowly made his way over to Angel’s side. His skin was a deathly gray color, and heat radiated off him even as Angel shivered from the cold gripping his insides.
Spike could smell the rot filling his veins. He wanted to run, to ignore what was right in front of him. Angel, his sire, his master, the bane of his existence, and the only true family Spike had left, was dying a mortal death. The thought alone caused another surge of bile to rise in his throat. His eyes watered as he forcefully swallowed, refusing to give in to his desire to fall apart.
As Buffy had done in Sunnydale, it was now Spike’s turn to do the same. He would remain strong, keeping his emotions under lock and key. Here he was a champion, the Father of the Key, and would-be savior of Ærworuld. Spike couldn’t afford to break; there was no one to help pick up what pieces would remain.
“How much longer?” Spike croaked out, his eyes resting on Angel.
“Not long,” the healer answered quietly. “I’ll leave you to say your goodbyes.”
Standing, the Gods’ Priest hurried away, though Spike paid him no mind. When he reached the door, he cast a quick glance over his shoulder. Seeing the Father looking fragile and lost caused an unsettling feeling in his chest. Billard had heard his whole life of the great heroes who would come and save his people from evil. He had thought these heroes would be glorious, fighting back the enemy and ultimately saving the day. No one had left any room in their legends about the trials and heartbreak their saviors would have to endure.
Sighing, Billard turned and quietly closed the door. It would at least give the Father some semblance of privacy while he grieved for his friend. Eyes straying towards the ceiling, Billard didn’t know if he wanted to pray to the Gods for divine intervention, or curse them for their cruelty.
It was only an hour later when Spike returned from the sick room, this time with Angel’s lifeless body held in his arms. His face was a stoic mask as he walked past his allies and headed for the tiny room he was sharing with Gunnarr.
“Father,” Gunnarr called out. “Let the others take care of his burial.”
Turning a cold gaze onto the Barbarian King, Spike spoke softly, but with steel lacing his words.
“I’ve already done what is necessary. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I wish to be alone.”