elisi: (Spike DD by ruuger (NOT sharable!))
[personal profile] elisi
LOOK WHO HAS GONE BACK TO WRITING AtS FIC!

*crickets*

In short: This is my big epic post-NFA WIP, where Spike, Angel & Illyria go on a big quest to undo the power of W&H. It has PLOT. And lots of character development and stuff. It is part of a 'verse but can easily be read on its own - if you go to the first chapter you can read a swift summary of what has gone before. And I swear, this time I am actually going to finish it! (It really helps that I always had the whole thing planned out properly. This might be the only fic where I have ever known the ending from the start and actually know what I'm doing. *g*)

Also, I now have not just gorgeous icons by [personal profile] ruuger, but also a banner. Isn't it amazing?

First chapter & notes here (on LJ), for DW just follow the tags, and Master post of whole 'verse here (also tagged on DW).

Can also be found on AO3.


Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Rating: Teen. (Same warnings as the show basically.)
Characters: Spike, Angel, Illyria, Buffy, Scoobies + cameos from more or less everyone in the 'verse.
Main Ships: Spike/Buffy, Angel/Nina
Feedback: Is bloody ambrosia! (The secret ingredient is otter...)
Word count (this chapter): 4700 words approx.
Setting and Summary: As before. (Post-NFA epic quest thing.)
Beta: The ever wonderful [personal profile] kathyh



Chapter 8

It rained and it rained and it rained.

Spike stared out into the wetness, slowly turning the fragment of Dead Key over and over in his hands. 3 days it had been now - 3 days by this world’s time at least. Felt like more, although he couldn’t be sure... his internal clock was irredeemably screwed up.

Tearing his eyes away from the window (a generous term for the small hole in the wall) he looked around the paltry stone hut again, as if by some miracle things would have improved. But it was no use. There was still nothing there except a primitive bed made up with straw and furs, and a stoic Angel, carefully inspecting the leather armour they had bartered their way to in the smithy down by the river.

Running his thumb along the small oddly shaped lump, Spike wondered if they’d ever actually need the armour now - unless of course their ‘hosts’ decided that they wanted to kill them after all...

Not being dead was the most surprising thing about the whole situation, actually. The battle had been vicious and they’d been so far outnumbered that Spike had been of more than half a mind to ask Illyria to get them the hell out of dodge, no matter what these creatures knew or guarded, so when he’d heard the familiar crackle of a portal opening he’d been more relieved than he dared admit.

Except... he’d turned to see Illyria step through by herself, a wide and fearsome smile on her bloodied face - and then the portal had closed.

For a long moment there had not been a sound or movement anywhere. Slowly he’d turned to Angel, and their eyes had met in silent resignation. This was it. She’d finally betrayed them for good and now their time was up.

But the onslaught didn’t continue. Their opponents began arguing - shouting and gesturing and waving weapons at each other - and after a long while Spike and Angel had been invited back to the local ‘town’... As far as they could tell the demons thought that Illyria had gone off to get reinforcements or invoke special powers or something. This was an idea they did their best to encourage, although the language barrier was quite formidable. The demons were obviously in some way related to Fyarl, although their horns were smaller and their brains quite clearly of a much superior quality. But the languages were so close that Spike could muddle through more or less...

So here they were. Lost. Stuck. Angel reckoned that there was probably a warlock somewhere that would be able to get them home, but it was a tenuous hope, and asking would mean admitting that their Hellgod had abandoned them for good - which might in turn mean swift meetings with pointy sticks. And even if they did get home, what could they do except sit around, waiting for W&H to find them? What about their quest - their mission - their war?

With a sigh Spike tucked the key fragment into his pocket again. Two pieces they had found, and that was all. How many dimensions had they been to already? 20? 30? Slowly, against his will, he took out his cellphone. As his fingers hovered over the surface, magical symbols swirled to life and faded away again, like the ebb and flow of the tide. How many spells was it protected with? And yet it made no difference here... Pressing the contact list Buffy’s name appeared, next to the pointless ‘no signal’.

He took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. What if he never made it home? What if he never saw her again? What if she never found out what had happened, and was just left waiting and waiting? What if...

There were too many bloody ‘what if’s’. And all the issues he’d done his best to avoid thinking too deeply about were now staring him in the face. Because this - this possible loss - was one reason why he’d never called. He had let go of her once, in the Hellmouth itself, when she’d been within reach for only a moment. But to have had her - for her to really, truly be his - and then lose her again... it terrified him more than he could say. And the flip side was even worse - he now had the power to hurt her.

Forcing his eyes open, he deliberately put the phone back. Thinking too deeply invariably made the word ‘hell’ become far too prominent - since he could find no other term for the notion of being stuck anywhere permanently with Angel.

Dear lord he needed to get out.

“Wanna go get something to eat?”

Angel looked up and nodded. There was no point in waiting until the rain let up, since, as far as they’d been able to understand, they had arrived in the middle of the monsoon season. At least food wasn’t a problem - the species they were living amongst were all blood drinkers, and there was a well stocked slaughter house across the town square at the bottom of the hill.

If it wasn’t for the fact that they were stuck, and the never-ending rain, it was a pleasant enough place - by far the most civilised they’d come across so far. The town stretched out for miles, endless stone huts clinging to the hills, except for what they presumed to be a temple on the tallest of the hills across the valley. It was the largest structure they'd seen and was built for the local deity, whose name was unpronounceable, but whose statue was situated at the top end of the town square. It was usually flanked by soldiers, members of the efficient and well-trained army they’d faced when they first arrived. Spike sincerely hoped they’d not run across any more organised types... presuming they got out of here.

Walking through the streets, they could feel curious eyes follow them. In the world of humans they were always hidden, shadows in the night. But here they were regarded with a mixture of fear and admiration that was strange - and oddly gratifying. It was nothing like Andrew’s hero worship, or the younger Slayers’ curiosity... it was respect from the nearest they might have to peers. Or mortal enemies. The jury was still out on that one. If - when - Illyria came back they’d find out which one for sure.

And yet... for all the ways in which this place appeared to be a demon heaven, it felt as alien to them as the world of humans. For vampires, family was the base for everything. Bonds of blood (and love) were stronger than allegiance to any outside person or god. And just the thought of actually building a house... Spike shook his head in wonder. Having never really contemplated the nature of what he was, he studied a team of demons busy laying the foundations for a new lot of huts with interest - quite an impressive feat in the rain. To settle down so thoroughly...

Spike was shaken out of his thoughts when a small child shyly ran up to them, pressing a charm into his hand and speaking quickly, almost stumbling over the words.

“From mine mother, through gratefulness for sparing mine father on warring fields.”

Before he could react the kid had vanished again. He blinked - not remembering much of the battle except desperately trying to stay alive - and studied the small metal disk more closely. Standard good luck enchantment as far as he could make out. Casting Angel a surprised look, he couldn’t help but smiling. Angel shrugged.

“It was like this in Pylea - all ‘Welcome Great Warrior’. Then suddenly they started slaughtering people for food. Watch out.”

Spike sighed, but still put the leather strap around his neck - it was much too long, since the demons had necks far wider than theirs, so he had to wind it round a few times. Couldn’t hurt though. And it was a nice charm.

If only he had an umbrella...

When they were halfway down the hill, there was a sudden bright blue light from down below and a loud cracking sound like thunder... And having a good view of the town square from their position, they saw a portal tear through the air and widen.

Relief soaked Spike more thoroughly than the rain, but then he frowned... because the portal kept growing. The street was suddenly full of demons, everyone obviously rushing down to find out what was happening. Following the crowds the two vampires hung back a little, climbing a wall on the side of the square to get a better overview of the situation. The surface of the portal was misty and obscure, and Spike and Angel looked at each other, worried... this could quite possibly be something different again.

A sudden blast nearly made them lose their footing.

Out from the rift stepped Illyria... a tiny figure in the crowded square, and yet it was impossible to look elsewhere. Her head was crowned with a wreath, like a Roman emperor, and around her neck hung necklaces made from skulls and bones. Through her and around her power crackled like electricity - her hair fanning out and her eyes shining like blue torches. Silently she held her right hand aloft, and in it a sudden green-white light ignited, so bright that it almost burned. It lit up the entire square, illuminating the thousands of demon faces and making the rain appear like falling drops of pure light.

“Listen! You who fought against me, you who profaned my name. I have found true followers, a people who honour me still. Forswear your blasphemous ways or I shall unleash terror upon you!”

She passed her left hand across the surface of the portal, and they could see through into the other side. Thousands upon thousands of demon soldiers underneath a black sky, weapons held aloft and screaming Illyria’s name, met their eyes.

Spike swallowed. Fuck it, but that head priest had been right. He could see him now, right at the front on the throng, face twisted with worry. So what would it be... bloodbath or submission?

Illyria at least tried to make their choice easier. Smiling cruelly, eyes flashing, with a single gesture of her hand she made the huge statue of ‘God-with-the-unpronounceable-name’ at the opposite end of the square collapse into ruins.

“And God smote the fake idols of the unbelievers...” Angel muttered, eyes fixed on the creature contained in the body of what had once been their sweetest friend.

Spike’s hand tightened around the hilt of his sword.

Illyria’s eyes passed over the crowd in front of her.

“I. Am. Illyria. I am the ruler of all that I behold. Bow before me!”

There was a sudden flash of lightning in the sky and a moment later the entire world seemed to shake with the force of the thunder that followed.

Then the head priest cried out, lifting his staff - and in a silent wave the entire crowd fell down.

Spike and Angel watched as Illyria with a tiny nod accepted the surrender, her expression haughty, but gratified.

The rain was still pouring down; but where everyone else was soaked and bedraggled-looking, the water made Illyria gleam all over, the power that illuminated her causing sparks to dance around her slender frame. She - for the first time Spike could remember - appeared truly otherworldly, like she could at any moment change into a different shape or possibly become pure energy. She looked... like a god. They forgot, no matter how often she harped on, what she really was.

Then, finally, her eyes sought them out. Spike wondered what she’d do... smite them for not bowing down like the rest? It was entirely possible - she was obviously on a serious power trip.

And then - she winked.

Spike nearly fell off the wall in surprise. Jaw dropping he stared at her, but her attention was again elsewhere. With a wave of her hand she closed the portal and let the light in her other hand go out, then walked up to the head priest.

“Arise, Priest, and take me to my temple.”

Then turning, she sent a supercilious glance at the crowd.

“You may return to your work. But remember to whom you owe your allegiance.”

Then, fixing Spike and Angel with a piercing glance, she added. “My champions - follow me.”

Unsure, yet seeing no choice, they both jumped off the wall and made their way to where their goddess was waiting. Sighing, Spike really wished that they’d managed to get a meal before she’d showed up. He felt hollow. And soggy.

The priest led the way, and Angel and Spike automatically fell into step a little behind Illyria - they must look rather like bodyguards, Spike thought wryly, as they made their way up to the top of the hill.

As they walked, Angel - probably fed up with the wet and the cold - moved forwards so he was almost level with Illyria.

“Excuse me your Highness -” Angel’s voice packed as much sarcasm into the title as was possible, “- but do you feel like explaining why you abandoned us?”

She answered without turning her head. “They summoned me. And do not dare to suggest that I would steer away from our chosen path.”

Spike caught up. “They - what? Who summoned?”

“The inhabitants of the dimension of The Never Ending Black Night... as you saw, they still revere me in the way that is fitting. They held their yearly tribute, slaughtering beasts and enemies in my honour, calling upon my name. So I came.”

Spike was stunned. “You could... hear it? Or sense it or what?”

“I am a God. I know when my name is invoked in the proper manner.” She shot him a look so dry he was surprised the rain didn’t stop.

“Right...” Spike glanced at Angel. This was new. Angel appeared to turn it over in his head, then spoke.

“Still... you left us.”

“It was only three days for you! I am not your nurse, that I need to tend to your every need, vampire.”

She’d learned sarcasm as though born to it, Spike thought. Although... wait...

“How did you know that it was three days for us?”

She smiled, superior as always. “Time once bent to my will. Its ebbs and flows in all the worlds are as clear to me as the hands upon a clock.”

The whole abandonment issue vanished as Spike took in the implications. “So you always know how much time passes back home when we’re elsewhere?”

Illyria nodded, and Angel shook his head in disbelief. “So - what day is it on Earth?”

Without hesitation she replied. “Today - by human reckoning - is Wednesday 15th of December 2004. Two days have passed there since we left. And the three days that passed here are the equivalent of five days and thirteen hours by your world’s reckoning.”

Spike’s head was spinning. “So... how long have we been travelling altogether? I mean since we set off from The Raven’s cave.”

“One hundred and eighty three days and twenty hours.”

“Riiiight. So like... around six months? Bloody hell.”

Spike was going to continue, but they now found themselves in front of the temple, and without another word Illyria scaled the steps and entered, the vampires and the priest slowly following.

Walking down the central aisle, flanked by intricately carved columns, Illyria for once looked at home. The roof was high and domed and the tall, narrow windows let in thin slits of light, illuminating statues along the walls. At the apex there was yet another tall statue of the God that had until so very recently been the favourite. Illyria with great relish toppled it of its dais, then took its place, slowly surveying the entire room.

“This will do.”

She tilted her head and stared unblinkingly at the priest. “Have your craftsmen carve a statue of my image. I will return and see that it is done in a satisfactory fashion.”

The priest bowed, praising her superior beauty in many ostentatious words. Illyria smiled coldly and cut him off.

“Now show me your treasures and holy items.”

There was the slightest hesitation, and her eyes flashed angrily. “I spared your sorry world from my wrath! Give me my due!”

Obviously unwilling, but having no choice, the priest showed the way to a side door - protected by heavily armed guards as well as spells, behind which was a small room packed with shelves and chests.

Spike muttered a long curse, taking in the untold riches in front of them. It was a great shame that they couldn’t just pillage the whole place. There were some very pretty things...

“D’you think I could nab a few necklaces for Buffy?” he asked, but Angel silently shook his head as Illyria stood still, concentrating so hard that the power made her shine brighter than the torches on the wall, giving everything a faint blue hue.

Sighing, Spike picked up a dagger, the blade gleaming ghostly white and the handle inlaid with some unknown substance that shimmered green and orange. “But just look at this - she’d love it. It’s like a handbag version of a knife. And I’ve still got to work out what to get her for Christmas. Troll heads are right out.”

He turned the dagger over admiringly, but Angel suddenly frowned. “Get her a collapsible sword. Wesley used to have one - they’re very handy. Of course we took out his old supplier last year, but I’m sure we can track someone down who still makes them.”

Spike looked up in surprise. Was Angel being actually, genuinely helpful? It was probably just a fluke...

“So... um... have you decided what to get Nina?” He almost added something about squeaky bones, but it would seem kinda petty after Angel being all decent - he’d just have to save it for another time. Because it had potential...

But Angel just smiled mysteriously. “Oh that’s all sorted.”

Before Spike could ask, however, Illyria shook her head.

“All useless. There are only trinkets and baubles here.” Then her eyes narrowed and she strode across the room, before tearing down a tall elaborately embroidered wall hanging.

The priest yelped, but Illyria smiled happily as she surveyed the featureless wall in front of her.

“Strong... very strong... but it matters not!”

She fixed the wall with a hard stare and for just a fraction of a second the image of the god she so very recently de-throned flickered onto the stones. Then it transformed into three animals.

Spike swore for the second time as he recognised the wolf, ram and hart. How had she known? They had not seen a hint of the Senior Partners anywhere.

The priest was now wailing - something about how they’d all be killed and the Masters would not leave a stone standing... But Illyria ignored him completely as the image began bleeding together, until they showed Illyria in her original form.

Satisfied, she then proceeded to walk through the wall.

“What the-?” Angel was staring after her and then tried to follow, but the stones were just as hard and cold and solid as they looked.

***

On the other side, Illyria looked around with great pleasure. As she had thought, the spell protecting the most precious objects had been fashioned in such a way that only the rightful owner could enter. And that was now her.

The Wolf, Ram and Hart had been sneaky indeed. Just like in the realm of humans they were operating from underneath, and here they had let the population keep their religion - knowing that the god in question was safely locked away in the Deeper Well. The thought that someone like Illyria could ever come and challenge his position had obviously never entered their thoughts. And yet here she was...

Only much to her chagrin she could already sense that there was no key-fragment hidden here. But maybe there was something else...

Searching though the dusty shelves she found nothing to interest her, until she saw a small, faintly gleaming globe. Could it be? To find what she had given up looking for - a creature nearly as ancient as herself...

Reverently she picked up the globe and carefully peered inside. And indeed there it was... a child of He Who Came Forth From the Earth.

Days she had spent in His ancient home world, trying to discover if any of His progeny remained that could help them on their Quest, whilst her vampires had complained and sulked and wished for such trivialities as nourishment.

And yet here, serendipitously, she had found what would truly aid them. The Key that she had absorbed could open portals, but in her current form she was muted, her power and vision stunted... and the worlds had moved and shifted while she had been sleeping in The Deeper Well. Besides, The Home Office was a problem. A Higher Realm out of her knowledge where they would have to go once The Dead Key was complete.

But now they would be able to find it.

Smiling at the true treasure in her hand, she blew on it gently before speaking the ancient words that unbound the Scarab. The globe popped, like a golden bubble - and the glistening beetle on her hand fluttered to life, looking stunned and unsettled. She knew how it felt - it must have been resting as long as her. And for the first time since she had risen, she felt kinship with another living thing.

***

Being stuck in a treasure chest, but unable to take anything, was very boring. The priest glared whenever Spike as much as looked at anything, and in the end he just sat down on the floor and examined his new little charm. It was made out of a metal that he wasn’t familiar with, and inlaid with the standard ‘good luck’ runes that obviously didn’t change much from dimension to dimension. And right on the edges of his perception he could feel a tiny buzz of magic, proving that it truly was enchanted. Whether it did anything other than buzz was of course a different question, but Illyria had turned up just moments after he had got it...

Then finally Illyria reappeared, only without any Key fragment or treasure as far as they could tell. But her hand was closed in a fist, so she might have found something valuable after all.

Ignoring the vampires she turned to the priest who still looked shell shocked at how she’d penetrated the inner sanctum. But, clearly trying his best to please his new deity, he bowed.

“Your Highness, I hope you found something fitting for your stature?”

She nodded, but didn’t - as he had obviously hoped - elaborate. Instead she studied him silently, before speaking.

“You will build me statues and observe my Holy Days. One year from now I expect a grand tribute, worthy of my splendour. If you win my favour your nation will indeed prosper.”

The priest uttered a long and flowery confirmation, but Illyria silenced him with a wave of her hand.

“I believe we are done. Vampires - are you ready?”

They looked at each other, then remembered. “Um... we got some armour, it’s still in our hut...”

“Very well. Fetch it. I will wait.”

***

Not much later, they were once again back in The Hyperion. Spike looked round at the familiar surroundings, feeling relieved and wishing nothing more than to get some food and then sleep for a week.

“So - what did you find?” Angel asked, and Illyria’s face started glowing with pleasure. Slowly she unfurled her hand and held it forth so they could see.

Spike looked, and he felt that of all the bizarre things she had done that day, this took the prize.

“It’s a beetle,” he said, superfluously, and shot Angel a disbelieving look. Angel was obviously trying to think of something more intelligent as he appeared to struggle with himself.

“A - a Scarab beetle... they’re supposed to bring good luck.”

“So’s this!” Spike replied, tugging at the charm around his neck, “But you won’t see any of these locked up in Swiss bank vaults!” He leaned forward and studied the thing more closely.

“Is it made of something rare and valuable or - bloody hell it’s alive!”

Illyria shot him a withering glance. “Of course it is alive. Beware your attitude half-breed, this is a child of Khepri - The Selfcreated One - and it is so far above you that you ought to fall down and pay homage!”

Spike’s eyes widened. “Did you just say that that thing is above me? It’s a bleedin’ dung beetle!”

Illyria’s eyes flashed dangerously. “This is the offspring of a God who once rolled suns across the sky. As different from its lowly namesakes in this world as I am from you!”

“So... what does it do?” Angel asked, and Illyria regarded him with a slightly less disapproving look.

“The children of Khepri possessed their Sire’s knowledge, if not His power, and were once greatly prized as guides for those travelling between worlds, knowing every realm and dimension and nether world there has ever been.”

Spike frowned. “So... it’s like an inter-dimensional sat-nav?”

Illyria’s eyes narrowed. “Your analogy is clumsy, but not incorrect.”

Angel however sat himself down on the central sofa, suddenly looking rather shrewd and with a glint in his eye. “So tell me Illyria - just how have we been steering so far? By whatever millennia old out-of-date map is in your head? We trusted you to lead us, and apparently it’s all been stabs in the dark.”

Illyria was bristling now. “I have found us a great aid, and you question me?”

“Like I would question any member of my team who’s not been entirely honest!”

They stared at each other silently, and Spike was rather amused by the fact that for once it wasn’t him their anger was aimed at.

Then a yawn overwhelmed him. “Look, I’m just gonna leave you two to it, okay? I’m too tired-”

But Illyria ignored him completely, coldly staring down Angel. “I have with great skill taken us from world to world, to every dimension the Wolf, Ram and Hart influenced back in the ancient times. Do not doubt me again!”

Angel looked somewhat mollified, but as Spike turned to go a thought suddenly occurred to him.

“Hey - why did you wink?”

Illyria finally took notice of him.

“I am Illyria. I do not wink!” And she walked off, head held high.

Spike met Angel’s eyes and shook his head. No, they’d never understand her.

***

Half an hour later, after two cups of blood and a warm shower, Spike was sitting on his bed, naked except for a towel wrapped around his middle and the amulet around his neck, studying his cellphone. Buffy’s name and number were displayed on the screen, her voice only a push of a button away. But he put the cell down on the blanket in front of him, knowing that he needed to collect his thoughts a little more. Because there were new facts to take into consideration.

Illyria could tell time from anywhere.

A slow smile crept over his face. He would be able to arrange to meet Buffy, could plan times and places, not just turn up unannounced... they could even spend Christmas together! Happiness spread through him, making him tingle all over.

There was also of course the fact that Illyria was contactable... after a fashion. Not really something he needed to bother Buffy with, since he couldn’t see her attempting a ritual sacrifice, but it was certainly food for thought. Maybe he should have some new cards made? His old ones were woefully boring, and he had obviously been unable to put any contact details on them. Yes - that was a good idea. Something more... interesting. He grinned widely as he finally pressed the button and held the phone up to his ear.

On the roof Illyria smiled a not dissimilar smile. She now had two worlds who worshipped her - and a companion.

The wings of the tiny creature shimmered in the lights from the street below, as it softly landed on her outstretched palm. As beautiful and self contained as she herself. And - best of all - it didn’t talk.



Chapter 9 on DW

Chapter 9 on LJ
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

elisi: (Default)elisi
October 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 2017