Two Men, A Girl And A Dragon
Two Men, A Girl And A Dragon
Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor Liam Rhenford. Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon and Rhenford to Daniel Hood.
Liam Rhenford was resting on the divan in the library, bright sunshine falling through the glass domed roof on the noble brown bookcases lining the walls from celing to the floor, the fine Oriental carpet on the floor, a round brown table near the divan and some dark wooden chairs near the walls. Liam looked at a small black dragon who was sitting in one of the chairs and thought, projecting his thoughts to the dragon:
'Fanuilh, I am bored.'
'Indeed, Master?' the dragon answered calmly.
'Yes, Fanuilh, bored beyond all reason. Mistress Priscian's ships are all equipped and sent overseas, and Coeccias haven't turned any cases to me in ages. Southwark is terribly dull these days.'
'I am sorry, Master.'
'Don't be, it's not your fault. I suppose I'll just have to wait.'
'I believe so, Master.'
Just at this moment there was a blinding bright flash of white light, and two people appeared in the library - a tall, lean man in his forties, wearing glasses, and a small, dainty young girl with blonde hair.
'Where the hell are we, Giles?' the girl demanded.
'It's quite difficult to tell, Buffy,' the man answered wearily. 'Apparently somewhere rather far from home.'
'Well, duh!' the girl snorted.
Liam blinked. Meanwhile the man, Giles, addressed to him.
'Er, excuse me, sir, but can you please tell me what place is this?'
'Well, it's near the town of Southwark, in the Duchy of Southern Tier, that is in the Kingdom of Taralon.'
'So this is another dimension.' Giles sighed. 'Just wonderful.'
'Damn!' Buffy said.
'I am sorry, sir, but it appears we've had some sort of magical accident, and now it is rather hard for us to return to our home,' Giles said tentatively. 'Would you mind if we stay with you for some time?'
'Certainly not!' Liam said. 'Are you a wizard?'
'Approximately.' Giles smiled. 'And she is a sort of my apprentice.'
'Liam Rhenford.' Liam stood up and extended his hand to Giles.
'Rupert Giles, and this is Buffy Summers.' Giles took Liam's hand and smiled.
'And this dragon here is my familiar, Fanuilh,' Liam said.
Giles and Buffy looked at Fanuilh in amazement.
'Fanuilh is my closest friend and counsellor,' Liam explained.
'So, shall we go to the kitchen and have something to eat?' Liam asked. 'We can talk while we're at it.'
'That would be excellent,' Giles said.
Liam led Giles and Buffy to the kitchen, a small room with a wooden table, some wooden chairs and a glazed oven. Fanuilh followed them. Liam motioned Giles and Buffy to the chairs and asked when they were seated:
'So, what would you like to drink?'
'I don't know if you are aware what tea is?' Giles asked hesitantly.
Buffy rolled her eyes.
'Geez, Giles, you are in another dimension and first you ask is tea!'
Giles smiled apologetically.
'That's the way I am, Buffy.'
'Don't worry, I know what tea is, though I personally like coffee better,' Liam said immediately. 'I've tasted it in the places Alyecir and the Freeports trade with, far in the East.'
Giles exhaled a relieved sigh.
'You have travelled far, haven't you?'
'You could say that.' Liam smiled.
'Did you just say coffee?' Buffy asked.
'And look who teased me about tea just recently!' Giles said.
'Yes, I did say coffee. I had it in Alyecir and the countries in the nearer East, and I like it very much. Fanuilh here likes its aroma, but does not drink it - he thinks it's too bitter.'
'Buffy here is greatly attached to it.' Giles smiled.
Buffy glared at him.
Liam smiled and went to the oven. He pictured in his mind a tray with a cup of tea, three cups of coffee and a dish of cinnamon buns. Then he looked into the oven, and there the tray was. Liam reached into the oven, took the tray out and carried it to the table. Giles and Buffy were dumbfounded. Only Fanuilh, who was sitting on the table, looked absolutely calm.
Giles looked at the delicate painted Chinese porcelain cup with the orange liquid, the three Arab-style porcelain cups with coffee and a porcelain dish with round cinnamon buns.
'Cinnamon buns are my favourite,' Liam explained. 'I made them like they do them in Torquay, our capital. I was at the University there. I hope you like them.'
'I'm sure we shall,' Giles said politely, delicately taking a sip of tea and tasting a bun. 'So, are you a wizard, Mr. Rhenford?'
'Gods, no!' Liam laughed. 'I can project my thoughts to Fanuilh and see with his eyes, but no more than that. Both Fanuilh and this house used to belong to a friend of mine, a really powerful wizard, Tarquin Tanaquil. You see, some time before I was staying in Southwark, trying to find some wealthy merchant who would buy the charts I've drawn. And, as I like to swim, I asked the local people if there were any good beaches in the neighbourhood, and they said there was one, but it was near the house of a very powerful wizard, who is better not to irritate. But I'm not much afraid of wizards - had some encounters with them alrady, you see, so I went there. The beach was indeed really good, and I asked the master of the house if I could swim there, and he agreed. I came to the beach often, and then the master of the house began to have talks with me. His name was Tarquin Tanaquil, and his house was the house we are in now. Then he began to invite me into the house, and we became rather good friends. Meanwhile I sold my charts to a merchant called Necquer, and once when I returned quite drunk from a party of Necquer's, I decided to visit Tarquin, and, well, I found Tarquin dead - stabbed by a dagger in his chest.'
'Oh dear me,' Giles said.
'You could say that.' Liam smiled. 'And then Fanuilh bit me on the leg. He had to, because it's a part of the master's soul that keeps the familiar alive, and when the master dies, the part of the soul departs, naturally, so Fanuilh had to take a part of my soul to keep himself alive, and so he became my familiar. I just happened to be the only man available, you see. No one else was in the house. Of course, I was most displeased, but Fanuilh promised to teach me magic if I see to it that Tarquin's murderer is found. Fanuilh told me to go to the Aedile Coeccias - he's the chief magistrate of Southwark, and Fanuilh also told me to say the Aedile that he brings the ghost witch along. At the time I had absolutely no idea what he was speaking about, but when I got to the Aedile, told him how Tarquin died and asked him to bring the ghost witch with him, he looked very strangely at me, and so did the ghost witch when she was called. And when we got to Tarquin's house, the ghost witch, Mother Japh, told that there were no ghosts of any kind in the house, vengeful ones or otherwise, and so there were no murderer among us. She smiled to me, and so did Coeccias, and then I realized that both of them thought previously that it was me who did Tarquin in! Of course, I was right furious and started my own inquest. And then Coeccias looked for Tarquin's will in the chancery and sarted to suspect me again, because it turned out that Tarquin bequeathed all his property to me!'
'Yes, quite,' Liam said. 'But I assured him that it was not me, and he suggested that we lead the inquest together, for he learned I've started my own inquest and knew full well I won't abandon my intent. So we joined our efforts, and somewhere along the way I found that Coeccias bade his men to call me Quaestor. It's a title for an officer of justice.'
'I know,' Giles said. 'It means 'investigator' in an ancient language.'
'So it does.' Liam smiled, impressed. 'Well, we found the one who murdered Tarquin - a nasty piece of work, that one was, absolutely mad - and Coeccias and I made friends along the way, and I felt Tarquin's house was a nice place to settle in, and here I am now. I help Coeccias, and Fanuilh is my fast friend now. He taught me some magic, and now I can even see the ethereal silver cord that connects us for life - if I die, he dies, and vice versa.'
'Vice versa?' Buffy frowned.
'The other way around,' Giles explained.
'If he dies, you die?' Buffy stared. 'So, then, I'll just have to defend him extra hard.'
'You? Defend me?' Liam blurted out.
Buffy glared at him.
'Buffy is far more powerful than she seems, Mr. Rhenford,' Giles said. 'You should better not irritate her, or you might find one of your limbs broken.'
Liam was still sceptical, but then he heard Fanuilh think:
'Master, he is not joking. His aura is fairly large, but Maid Buffy's aura is enormous indeed.'
'What is it?' Giles asked gently.
'Fanuilh says that your aura is pretty large, but hers is enormous.'
'Ah, he is right,' Giles said. 'You see, Mr. Rhenford, Buffy's power is of special kind. It manifests as unusual strenghth and acute senses. She is given this power to fight demons, and I am appointed to be her guardian.'
'That's why your speech is different,' Liam exclaimed.
'Yes,' Giles said. 'I am from a different country. It was I who sought her, and not vice versa, and I am honoured to be the one who supervises her.'
'Thanks, Giles,' Buffy said.
'Not at all.' Giles smiled.
'And I've not heard about anything like this in all the world,' Liam said. 'Which means... What is a dimension?'
'Very good, Mr. Rhenford.' Giles smiled. 'A dimension is a world coexistent with others. And that is our difficulty in returning home.'
'Oh,' Liam said. 'Don't worry, Tarquin collected quite a good library, and I'll help you to search. Fanuilh too, he has a perfect memory. And this house is miles from the town, but if Coeccias comes, I'll tell him you're a friend of Tarquin's - a friend of his stayed with me some time ago. And you can have the the master bedroom.'
'You don't have to...' Giles started, but Liam insisted.
'I absolutely have to. Don't argue.'
'Oh well, if you are sure...' Giles said.
'I am. I'll sleep on the couch in the library,' Liam said.
Giles nodded a bit awkwardly.
'These cinnamon buns are delicious. You really know how to cook, Mr Rhenford.'
'Thank you.' Liam smiled.
'Such a wonderful house you have, Mr. Rhenford.'
'All Tarquin's work.' Liam smiled. 'He made it with magic, so that it is always warm and does not let anyone in if the master of the house did not invite them to come in, and the oven makes anything that the master of the house can imagine, and obeys only the master of the house - sorry, if you want to eat, you have to call me.'
'Don't be sorry, Mr. Rhenford, in any case you cook better than I ever could.' Giles smiled.
'You made me blush, Master Giles.'
'Just Giles, please.'
'Buffy. And here is another guy who likes his last name better.'
'Well, it's just that all my friends are my colleagues - Coeccias, Mother Japh, Captain Boult. Even my girl is a colleague of mine, Quaestor Casotte.'
'Does she work with you?' Buffy asked.
'No, there is only one Quaestor in each town,' Liam said. 'She serves in the town of Crossroads Fair, far from here.'
'So how did you meet? Were you there on a case?' Buffy asked.
'No, I was on a circuit court.' Liam smiled.
'How so??' Giles asked.
'Well, you see, the circuit court always departed from Southwark, because the president of the court lived here - Master Acrasius Saffian, a prominent legal and occult scholar. But then it so happened that Master Saffian died just before the departure - slipped on one of the steep streets of Southwark, they said. Well, one of the two other judges - Quaestors, they are also called - took his place, but they were now one Quaestor short. Master Saffian's successor wished to depart immediately, none the less, but the successor's friends were against it, because, well, Master Saffian's successor was also his widow.'
'Oh dear,' Giles said.
'Milia Saffian, a prominent scholar too.' Liam nodded. 'And she won't hear a word of it. When Coeccias told her that they lacked one Quaestor and thus couldn't depart, she just told him that if he finds another Quaestor before they depart, so be it, but if he doesn't, they shall depart regardless.'
'A remarkable woman,' Giles said.
'So she is,' Liam said. 'And, well, Coeccias didn't look hard when he heard this.'
'He asked you.' Giles smiled.
'Yes, he did,' Liam said. 'And I was incredibly bored at that time - incidentally, so I was before you two... arrived here.'
'Seems you had your wish, in both cases.' Giles smiled.
'Quite,' Liam said. 'When I got on the circuit court, I found that the second Quaestor was envious of me, the president was hard on me, or so I thought, I was given a lot of paperwork and assigned the capital cases. And to cap all this, when we arrived to the Duchy's capital, I was nearly hanged on the charge of summoning a demon who killed the Aedile Gratian!'
'I managed to clear my name - Fanuilh was of great help to me there - and Mistress Saffian apologised to me, said she was doing only what she thought her duty all along, but needless to say I resigned and returned to Southwark and am never letting anyone to talk me into sitting on a circuit court again! And Crossroads Fair was one of the towns in the circuit. They really hold a fair there, I danced with Quaestor Casotte on the fair.'
Giles and Buffy smiled.
'Is she beautiful?' Buffy asked.
'Beautiful and clever,' Liam said dreamily.
When they finished with the tea, Liam shoved the dishes back into the oven, and they headed into the library to do research. They circled the table and started to delve into Tarquin's magic books. Giles seemed to know even more languages than Liam did, and Tarquin's obscure books were no enigma to him as they were to Liam. Liam was very impressed and tried to help as best he could. Buffy laboured along with them. Fanuilh put in his share too.
'You know, I've got a feeling I have two Watchers now,' Buffy remarked.
Liam and Giles smiled.
'You know, you would make a good Watcher, Rhenford,' Giles said.
'At least, we're not researching any demons,' Buffy said.
'...Yet,' Giles added.
'Geez, Giles, always an optimist!' Buffy said.
'I try.' Giles smiled.
When they were deep into research, there came a knock on the door.
'I'll answer,' Liam said, rising. 'Coeccias, I think. But if it is, please assure him that you're not on the run from the Mages' Guild, Giles.'
'Why?' Giles asked.
'Because the friend of Tarquin, who stayed here before, was. Some disagreement with the authorities of the Guild.' Liam smiled.
'Lost, yes; on the run, no.' Giles smiled sadly.
Liam went to look who came.
'Who is it?' He asked.
'Did something happen?'
'That it did, Rhenford, and I need your help.'
'Come in,' Liam said, opening the door. 'Only I have guests.'
'What, is Mistress Grantaire back?' Coeccias asked mischievously, coming in.
'No, this wizard is male,' Liam said, blushing. 'Though he does have a female apprentice, but she is no more than fifteen years old.'
'Another friend of Tarquin's?' Coeccias asked.
'I'll introduce you.'
He led Coeccias into the library where the man and the girl were sitting at the table, surrounded by piles of books.
'Coeccias, this is Master Rupert Giles and Maid Buffy Summers,' Liam said. 'Giles, Buffy, this is the Aedile Coeccias.'
'Pleased to meet you, Aedile,' Giles said, rising and extending his hand to the short, stout man with wild black hair and beard.
'Hi,' Buffy said.
Coeccias shook Giles's hand firmly.
'I was helping Giles with some important research,' Liam explained.
'Rhenford, y'know, something very strange happened up there,' he said. 'Seems black magic was in it.'
'Giles, you croaker!' Buffy said, slapping Giles's arm.
'Well, it just seemed very possible,' Giles shrugged.
'What did?' Coeccias asked.
'Buffy said that at least we were not researching any demons,' Liam answered. 'And Giles added, 'Yet.'
'Seems Master Giles has foresight,' Coeccias said. 'I've asked Mistress Saffian already, and she is aghast too.'
'Saffian?' Giles asked eagerly. 'The head of the circuit court?'
'Areopage is the title.' Liam nodded and smiled.
'I could help,' Giles said. 'I do have quite an experience in these matters.'
'You do, Master Giles,' Coeccias said. 'I can use some help.'
'So, Coeccias, what exactly is the matter?' Liam asked.