AN: Incase there is any confusion, "Caius" is Draco, since obviously "Draco" isn't his real name. It's just what Spike like's to call him. :P
For some reason I didn't think to add this when I wrote these parts so I've gone back and added in his name. Now on with the story. :)
For two days Einarr worked hard to close up his home. He sold off his livestock and horses to a family farm a few miles away. When questions were asked, he simply told them he had received word of a family emergency, and didn’t know when he would return. It wasn’t fair to keep the animals when there might not be anyone around to feed and care for them.
Einarr also gathered as much of his crops as he could, and set about drying and curing those he could. He also hunted, and emptied and dismantled the traps he had set around his land. What game Einarr had caught was soon skinned, the meat smoked, the fur cleaned and packed away. He could always use the pelts for trade or patches at a later date, and the bone meal was made into a thick paste. Einarr placed the paste into thick glass jars, heated it in boiling water and sealed the lids with a hard wax. This would keep for a while, or for however long the seal remained intact.
Once it was time to leave, Einarr packed his provisions and clothing in a large rucksack, and placed the bundle, along with his bedding, onto the back of the one horse he had kept, Aldwyn. The large black and brown horse had been a gift from the late King Edderon, and Einarr cherished the finicky but loyal beast.
Water canisters filled, Einarr took one last look at the cottage that had been his home for the past ten years. He would miss this place, he knew, and the Gods willing, once this whole terrible mess had been solved and the war finally over, maybe then Einarr would be able to return.
Shaking the morbid thoughts from his head, Einarr focused on the task at hand. Judging by the position of the sun in the clear sky, Einarr knew it was nearly noon. Putting his heels to his horses’ flank, the two rode away from the safety and security of their home and off into what could possibly be the last battle either of them would ever face.
Clouds of dirt flew up into the still air, creating a dense fog surrounding the area. The steady beat of large wings filled the silence as a large shadow covered the ground right before the massive figure of a sleek steel gray dragon alighted on the ground. Lowering his mighty head, the armor-covered dragon carefully searched the area before the gleaming white temple.
Thal had spotted the bloodied body of the temple’s guardian lying on the ground at the base of the stone steps. Her blood soaked the earth beneath her, creating a dark rust colored patch of mud. Dark eyes scanned the exterior of the temple, but could see not any clues suggesting the temple’s inner sanctum had been breached.
Heaving a sigh, Thal quietly made his way over to the guardian. Gently he hoisted her limp body onto his back, and settled her into the valley between where his neck met his back and wings. Confident in the knowledge his precious burden rested securely, Thal beat his wings once, then twice before lifting off of the ground. Turning his head towards the rotting body of the leviathan, Thal pulled in a generous amount of air. He then let forth a blast of heat, turning the body to ash, and searing the ground under it. The bloody patch the guardian had rested on was turned into charred black earth. Now Ktulu could not raise his dead minion, or use the Priestess’ blood in any of his dark magic.
Turning towards the east, Thal quickly flew towards home. Caius would need to hear of this latest development.
Feeling the presence of someone standing behind him King Aneirin turned, hand resting lightly on his sword, to level an inquisitive but highly irritated look at the Alliance’s Oracle. The small boorish old man had unnerved Aneirin for as long as he could remember. The way his voice cracked sent chills down Aneirin’s spine, and his cloudy sightless eyes seemed to always know where everything and everyone in a room was located. There were some days when the young King swore the tiny old man could actually see, even though everyone professed other wise.
But more than his appearance, it was what the man claimed to have ‘seen’ that really bothered Aneirin. The old man had known of his father’s death before Aneirin had, and for years after had prophesied the Dark One’s return. Despite the words of other Kings and advisers, Aneirin nurtured a very healthy distrust of the haggard seer.
“My Lord,” the Oracle greeted, a gruesome smile showing off his brown and yellow stained teeth. Holding in a grimace as the man bowed, letting his greasy white hair trail along the stone floor, Aneirin ruthlessly hid his desire to run from the room. He wanted nothing more than to order the servants to come and scrub it clean of the Oracle’s presence. Instead he stood his ground, knowing full well the devious old seer knew of his discomfort, and relished in it.
“What is it you wish to speak to me about?” King Aneirin said, a hint of steel sliding along his words. It made the request harsher than it would have been, had he been speaking to anyone but the Oracle.
“The Dark One’s minion grows stronger, perhaps too strong as the ‘Father’ grows accustomed to his new world,” the Oracle’s aged voice rasped out dry and brittle.
It reminded Aneirin of the old mummies located in the King’s burial chambers. That place had scared him as a child when his father had brought him there in order to view the resting place of his ancestors. The very thought of his body withering away, on display for all time, had caused Aneirin to have nightmares for years after. At the moment, the young man would have gladly walked into the underground chamber alone, and with no torch for light, just to be away from the walking mummy standing before him.
“I know this already Oracle,” King Aneirin snapped. Seeing the toothy grin widen, Aneirin knew he had been played once again. Stifling his rage, the King sent a glare towards the Oracle who acted oblivious to the chilling thoughts racing through Aneirin’s mind.
“The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart grow intrigued by the schemes of the ‘Father’ and his allies. They are rumored to say beware of the ‘Father’s’ loyalties, that his allegiance does not yet lie with this world but are still with his,” came the frail reply. Turning the Oracle glided from the room, leaving Aneirin seething. Leave it to the evasive old bugger to lay a hint of doubt into his thoughts.
Bringing Aldwyn to a stop, Einarr scowled at the royal messenger standing resolutely before him, a rolled up parchment bearing the royal seal of the majestic Griffin held out in his hand for Einarr to take. He would have been surprised that King Aneirin had been able to find him, even though he had told only Caius where he was going, but Einarr well remembered the greasy old Oracle the Alliance put some much of its faith into.
“Sir,” the messenger started, his voice taking on a high-pitched squeak that betrayed his nerves. “General Einarr, sir. The King requests your presence.”
“Does he now?” Einarr growled, an eyebrow lifting in distain.
“Of course sir,” the messenger stammered. “It’s all here in this letter.”
Thrusting the scroll into Einarr’s hands, the messenger turned, mounted his own horse, and quickly left the disgruntled former General waiting alone on the rarely used back road. Einarr was two days, a day if he rode Aldwyn hard enough, from his meeting place with Caius. Now he had the royal court to deal with. Einarr was tempted to toss the scroll into a near by creek, but with a weary sigh, he broke the seal instead and began to read.
Einarr was surprised to find it had been written in King Aneirin’s own hand. Usually Frederic, the King’s adviser, wrote the summons. Rolling the scroll up, Einarr placed the parchment inside one of his saddlebags. Once his meeting with Caius was finished, it looked like Einarr would be returning to the royal palace. He wondered what had made King Aneirin so desperate as to summon a disgraced General such as himself.
Sighing Buffy turned slightly irritated eyes onto her former love. Ever since he had turned up in London, with the expectation she would simply fall into his arms now that he was human, was starting to drive her mad.
Buffy was tired, sore, and suffering from sever lack of sleep, as was everyone else currently involved in Spike’s search and rescue mission, all but Angel it seemed.
“What?” Buffy said as she rubbed her tired eyes vigorously with her left hand. She could feel a headache coming on, and she had yet to eat anything that day. Now it looked like she was going to have to deal with the We-belong-together speech again. Buffy couldn’t remember how many time’s that she had had this conversation with Angel, but it had gotten old, even before the first time she had heard it.
“Buffy,” Angel sighed, his tone taking on a slight patronizing cadence. “Why are you allowing Spike to do this to you? He’s probably dead, and in some hell dimension, which is where he belongs. You shouldn’t worry yourself over something so trivial, it’s only what he deserves after all.”
“And what about you Angel?” Buffy asked, her voice calm and steady despite the fire lurking just below the surface. “What do you deserve? As a vampire you were ten times worse than he was.”
“How can you say that?” Angel asked, truly confused. “It was Angelus who committed all of those crimes and besides, the Powers forgave me and made me human so we could finally be together.”
“Angel, think for a minute please,” Buffy said, pleading with Angel to just listen for a moment. “If Angelus committed those crimes, then why would you need to be forgiven?”
“Buffy what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that maybe Angelus isn’t as separate from you as you’d like everyone to think.”
“It’s Spike isn’t it?” Angel growled his dark eyes flashing in anger. “He’s the one who’s made you believe these lies.”
“Angel would you listen to yourself for a minute!” Buffy yelled forgetting her anger. Luckily they were standing in Giles’ hotel room. Unluckily they had an audience.
“No! Buffy that little bastard poisoned you against me!” Angel hollered back. “Buffy, Spike’s a demon. He’s evil, trust me I know him better than anyone.”
“No you need to listen to me,” Angel interrupted. “Spike will always be a killer, and nothing will ever change that. Buffy, Spike’s beneath you.”
Silence greeted his words, and thinking she might finally be hearing him, Angel looked up and straight into devastated greens eyes. Tears streamed down Buffy’s cheeks as her face flushed a bright red.
Noticing their on lookers, Buffy furiously scrubbed the tears from her face. Giving Angel one last disgusted look, she turned on her heal and stalked out of the room slamming the door behind her. The force caused small bits of plaster to crack and sprinkle tiny white pebbles onto the carpet.
Looking around the room Angel couldn’t comprehend why everyone just didn’t understand. Spike wasn’t worth this kind of effort even if he had a soul.
“So that’s it huh?” Faith asked softly as she slowly came to stand before the former vampire. “Spike is a killer, will always be a killer, soul or no soul, and he doesn’t deserve our forgiveness or consideration.”
“Yes!” Angel cried out, relieved it looked like someone finally understood what he had been trying to tell everyone since day one. The very solid, very strong punch to his jaw sent Angel stumbling back a few steps to land painfully on his ass.
“Guess that means you wasted your time on me then huh Babe?” Faith asked, tears standing in her tortured brown eyes. Turning away from the one man she thought would always understand her, Faith quickly followed Buffy’s example and left the room.
“Angel,” Giles said as the former vampire made his way to his feet. “I think you should leave.”
For once Angel didn’t say anything and quietly left to head off to his room.