The Emperor's Niece
Dawn finds a mysterious set of rings in a Council vault. (Dawn-centered FFA ficlets)PreludeDisclaimer
: The characters and ideas of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Magician's Nephew
belong to their respective owners. I am not one of these people.Note
: Future chapters will be ficlets crossing over multiple universes, all framed by the events set up here. A larger, over-arcing plot may or may not develop over time.
Giles had been ecstatic when he found the key to a Swiss bank account buried in the ruins of the old Council building. The account contained copies of documents ranging back for years, including notes from last six months of Council meetings before the explosion. Though he maintained his less-than-stellar opinion of Quentin Travers, Giles had to admit that the man's last major action as head of the Council was one that would probably save the world on more than one occasion.
Travers had caught wind of rumors concerning a major plot against the Council, and while there was nothing substantial enough to tell the Watchers to look out for Bringers with TNT, apparently he became concerned enough to begin moving as many artifacts as possible, along with the more priceless tomes, into impenetrable vaults scattered throughout Britain. Currently, the Scoobies were engaged in finding, opening, and cataloguing the contents of the vaults, some of which had apparently been used for one purpose or another by the Council for hundreds of years before Quentin filled them to the brim.
"This is a tremendous boon for the New Council," Giles had assured them. Dawn had even believed him at the time. What could be the downside of finding countless artifacts and books that were thought to be destroyed?
She soon found out about the downside. It was gray, four inches thick in places, and it was the mortal enemy of human noses.
"How," she remarked to no one in particular from the spot she had cleared on the second floor of the vault, which had seemed at first to be a remote cottage with no doors or windows, "can this much dust ever have accumulated in the history of the world? It's like an entire person's worth of skin decomposed in here." And, okay, that mental image made it so many levels of worse
, Dawn thought with a shudder.
She was currently sorting through what appeared to be completely unorganized stacks of books, having earned this glamorous duty because she had a much greater chance of actually being able to read and comprehend the titles. Many of them had been moved to the vault during World War II, probably due to safety concerns during the Blitz.
As she picked up another book, she sneezed for what had to be the 196,833rd time, and lost her grip. The book hit the floor and its cover opened, revealing a small box in the cut-out space where pages had once been.
Willow had warned her not to try to handle artifacts. She had confirmed magically that none of the tomes in the vault harbored any dangerous curses, but even then she had insisted that if Dawn found anything besides the average, everyday demonology treatise, she should under no circumstances interact with it. Curiosity, though, was a force not to be underestimated.
Dawn picked the box out of the book and attempted to open it, but there was a small keyhole and no key to be found. Except me
, she thought wryly. After a moment's thought, her brow furrowed in concentration as she jabbed the keyhole with her finger. Nothing observable happened, but she tried the lid again and this time found it to be unlocked.
She shrugged, but one odd occurrence was soon forgotten for another. There were two simple rings in the box, one green and one yellow, and she began to hear a humming noise in the air as soon as she moved her hand towards the yellow one. For some reason, this did not elicit any cautionary thoughts from her, and she continued to move her outstretched finger until it touched the yellow ring.
Dawn, and the box, vanished instantly. A few small whirls of dust settled where she had been sitting as air flowed in to fill the vacated space.
Dawn shook off the feeling of being trapped underwater and realized that she was standing in a small pool of water. Stepping out of it, she noticed that the water didn't appear to have gotten her wet. She also saw that a strip of red soil was visible next to the pool; it was almost as though some person had made a cut in the grass.
She wasn't quite sure why anyone would have done that. She tried to think of a reason, but her mind felt tired and sluggish. She raised her hand to cover her mouth as she yawned, and almost hit herself in the face with the box before she realized she was holding it.
Her awareness returned to her over the next few minutes and she realized what had happened. She tried touching the yellow ring again, but nothing happened, even when she stepped back into the pool. The green ring was still in the box, but she could not bring her finger close enough to the ring to touch it; she and the ring seemed to repel each other, like two similar poles on a magnet.
Dawn started to look around, beginning to believe she might never find a way out. All she could see were pools and trees in every direction. She wandered over to one and peered into it. She was startled to find that instead of showing her reflection, the pool shimmered and began to display a moving scene. Gradually, the sluggishness she had felt when she first arrived began to envelop her again. Her attention was absorbed in the pool she was watching, and she even thought she could hear several voices talking as the figures moved about...