Fic: I Ven Eden (A new road) FRT 2/9

Jan 18, 2012 21:12

Disclaimer in Part One
Giles hadn’t heard a thing, but he trusted Buffy’s slayer enhanced senses; if she said someone - or thing - was in the vicinity, then the odds of finally encountering the inhabitants of this desolate place had clearly increased exponentially. He trusted her instincts too. His own hand - still wearing that ridiculously ornate gauntlet so as to keep the chill from his fingers - reached back to check the weight and accessibility of the sword currently strapped between his shoulder blades. It - like the chainmail shirt, and the metal plating that decorated it - was impossibly pristine given that it had once been part of the hoard of grave goods the wight had gathered around itself, but he’d saved that particular conundrum for later consideration. Right now, the vague hum of ancient power that sang within it was decidedly reassuring. The first thing they’d met in this unidentified world had tried to kill them. There was no assurance that the next encounter they had would be any less threatening than the last.

Buffy headed down the gully at a brisk pace, and he followed her with more cautious strides. A mis-step now would be both inconvenient and embarrassing; falling flat on his face might hurt his pride, but wrenching his knee or a twisting his ankle on the uneven ground would hurt a lot more, and make their already difficult position even more challenging. At least the wretched armour was a lot lighter than it looked. Had it been solid steel and iron chain he’d have doffed it hours ago, but it sat across his shoulders with no more weight than a good warm tweed, and it had helped keep the bite of the wind at bay.

The fact that it might also defend him against blade, or claws, or even arrows, had not escaped his notice. If he’d had time - which the tumble of a disintegrating barrow had sadly denied them - he’d have scoured the hoard to find similar protection for his Slayer, although - knowing Buffy - she’d have probably scorned the idea even if he had been able to find something equivalent that might fit her. A good, warm shirt and some leather breeches might have been welcomed, but grave goods had never been designed to meet the practicalities of the living, so they’d had to be content with what they’d got. Buffy had clearly no idea why the wight might have chosen to drape them in the trappings it had, but he had his suspicions - and he wasn’t about to unsettle her by voicing them. Old, faded, and unasked for memories still whispered at the back of his mind - the imposition of someone else’s life echoing through his soul. The kiss of a barrow-wight wasn’t death as such, but a slow and subtle disintegration - the essence of the victim drawn into the creature’s clutches so that it could feed and sustain itself for long, and agonised centuries. The ritual replacement of its last meal probably included the transference of what little still remained - the echoes of each and every feast, including the lingering memories of the tomb’s original owner.

Araphor of Arthedain had died in battle, defending these lands from some unspecified horror. Hopefully his soul had found refuge in whatever afterlife his people believed in. But his body had been seized and corrupted by an evil appetite; it had only been the resilience of a remarkable Slayer - and possibly the intervention of some higher power, somewhere - that had saved Rupert Giles from a similar fate.

Which was one of the reasons why the said Rupert Giles was trying hard to worry too much about why he felt as if he’d been wearing Araphor’s amour for years …

When there was time - and if he could find a way to broach the question without Buffy staring at him as if he’d gone insane - Giles would enquire whether his Slayer had been gifted with any similar recollections concerning the woman who’d been buried in the beautiful silk gown she was currently wearing. He rather hoped not, since his memories of the Lord of Arthedain’s brutal death were decidedly unsettling ones.

Not to mention frustrating, since they were so fragmentary that they were offering little insight whatsoever concerning the world they had found themselves in, or what they were likely to encounter in it. The clearest memory he had - beyond the feel of broken bones and savage claws ripping through his throat - was of a somewhat mournful melody; a battle song voiced by determined warriors as they marched towards inevitable death. Beautiful, poignant, and utterly useless in their current situation.

Unlike Buffy’s current predatory stalk, which shouldn’t have suited that elegant gown at all, yet somehow managed to turn both it - and the young woman wearing it - into the epitome of deadly menace. Some of that could be attributed to the sword she carried, which - like his own recent acquisition - hummed with a hint of concealed power, but a lot of it was Buffy herself, moving with a natural and enviable grace. In the growing dusk the gleam of pale silk had surrounded her with a shimmering pool of light, as if she, and the blade, were lit from within.

Giles blinked, suddenly unsure of just how much of that was illusion, and how much a literal effect. The glint of gold in Buffy’s hair seemed much stronger than it had ever done in the darkened streets of Sunnydale. And there appeared to be a soft blue light flickering along her sword blade …

He half started to remark on it, but the distant echo of what sounded like hoof beats silenced any thought of words before they even took shape; he reached to draw his own sword instead, finding that that too held a whisper of soft blue along the edge of the steel. He filed the observation away, along with many of the others that were swirling in his brain and focused on more immediate issues. They’d reached the end of the gulley, and with it, the seeming edge of the moor. Ahead of them the land curved away in far more gentle undulations, hinting at more fertile grasslands and a few promises of trees. Between them and those promises lay what looked like a neglected trackway, its stone curbs echoing the same workmanship as the ruins that they’d passed earlier in the day. A parade of stone pillars marked its passage through the landscape, each some hundred yards or more apart.

And trotting along it, straight towards them, was what looked like a man on horseback, his face concealed beneath the hood of a dark and billowing cloak.


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