The Emperor's Niece
Dawn finds a mysterious set of rings in a Council vault. (Dawn-centered FFA ficlets)Epilogue?Disclaimer
: The characters and ideas of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Magician's Nephew
, and any other copyrighted material belong to their respective owners. I am not one of these people.Note
: While it's now marked as completed, I will almost certainly revisit this at some time in the future. Keeping posting those Dawn FFAs, and one of them will surely tickle my muse. Anyone who can guess one of the four bonus crossover references gets triple-fudge brownie points.
Dawn felt a hand gently touch her shoulder, and craned her neck upwards to see who had appeared in... wherever she was now. She rubbed her eyes, her mind finally arriving at the conclusion that she was still in the strange forest when her vision cleared and she observed the trees and pools surrounding her.
Standing up from her kneeling position, she took a better look at the figure. It was an old man, with long gray-white hair and a beard. He wore a white robe, not immaculate but of similar character to his hair, and in his other hand he gripped a walking stick.
"How did you get here?" she asked. "I have these two rings, and one of them brought me here, but the other didn't bring me back." She rummaged in her pocket for the two rings and held them out to show him.
"I have always been here, and I have been many other places as well," he responded. His voice was kind, but at the same time possessed of a strength that might have frightened Dawn if she had been more aware. As it was, she found the British timber of it comforting; it reminded her, for some reason, of a father figure. "I am afraid, though, that you are under a small misconception; you hold only one ring in your hand."
She looked down at her palm, and indeed, she had just the yellow ring, and the green ring was nowhere to be found. "Where did it go?" she asked him.
"The green ring was a piece of you, just as the yellow ring is a piece of me." The man smiled, and reached out a finger to touch the ring. Dawn felt its weight vanish from her hand as it faded like an afterimage from a bright light.
As she thought more and more about what he had just said, she found herself remembering more clearly. "Tara said the Key was green," she remarked.
"That was your mother's idea," he said. "Thank your stars you didn't end up purple."
"Are you my father?" she asked. She knew that her father, Dawn's father, was Hank Summers, but she was beginning to understand that they weren't just talking about Dawn right now.
"No, I suppose you would best call me your uncle," he said. "Your mother was my sister, if you think of things that way."
"You look familiar to me," Dawn realized, "and not just in the sense that the word 'familiar' comes from 'family,' if you know what I mean. I can't quite place it." She closed her eyes and pressed a finger to her chin, trying to place the face and the voice.
"As I said," the man reminded her, "I have been many places. And so have you, as you have been finding out."
Dawn frowned; this seemed like some kind of existentialist philosophy, or something else in which she wasn't nearly well versed enough to carry on a conversation. "So... is this like our cosmic family reunion or something?" She might have found it troubling that the idea of having a cosmic family didn't trouble her, but then, that would defeat the point.
"This place has been most elegantly termed 'The Wood Between the Worlds.' As for your arrival, it is merely an event in a universe full of events. However, we have been waiting for you for a long time."
Dawn cocked her head at him, still puzzled, and out of coherent questions.
He sighed, but not unhappily. "'All the worlds, a stage.' Poor William; the people always project their ignorance onto him, and make it into a contraction." He paused for a moment, giving her time to ponder the quote and its meaning. "You, your mother, and I, and others like us, are the actors. We play many roles, but just as the everyday men and women, confined to one world and life, we know not under whose direction."
"So why don't I remember any of this?" she asked. "The monks made me from the Key, but if that means I'm like you, then shouldn't I know all of this already?"
"Sometimes, through accident or design, we fall into the trap of method acting," he replied. "We become so invested in one part that we forget the rest. It always rights itself, in time."
Dawn gestured to the pools at their feet. "So these are the curtains or something?"
The man grinned. "The metaphor is imperfect," he admitted. "So far, you've only seen your own roles, haven't you?" She nodded. "Part of you was trying to bring the knowledge of your full self to the surface. I've helped you along as much as I can; the rest you must discover for yourself. However, you may broaden your search to others' worlds, if you wish. Three down and two to the left, a very interesting tale is about to begin."
Hearing a different tone in his voice, she narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. "You're in it, aren't you?" she accused him.
"I merely provide some voice work," he said, chuckling. He turned and began walking the other way through the wood, to a part Dawn hadn't yet visited.
"Wait!" she called to him. "How do I go back home?"
He didn't stop walking, but nevertheless she heard him clearly through the trees. "X marks the spot."
She nodded slowly to herself, and decided to visit the man's recommended pool first. After all, she had all the time in the worlds.