Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Kingdom of Heaven belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Ridley Scott.
The sword was perhaps four feet long, three in the blade. The steel was still good after nine centuries, watery gray and silent, clean. The grip had been wrapped in leather and brass wire, and the hilt was plated in silver. In the pommel, a red cross shone dully in the weak light.
Buffy folded her legs up under her and curled into the wooden chair. The hall was dark and cold, the lights having been turned off and the heat redirected around midnight. She was alone in that part of the castle, with only empty, polished suits of armor, weapons and shields mounted on the wall, and covered paintings for company. It was raining again, and she was lulled by the noise of trickling water against the panes of the one huge window she'd pulled the drapes from.
She was looking at the sword.
The Watchers' Council owned a lot of stuff. A lot of it was in terms of money and property, not to mention investments, stock, and God knew what else. But over the years they'd also collected more than their fair share of artifacts, relics, weaponry, armor, books, and junk she couldn't begin to identify. The various Council heads had made it their business to bring into Watcher hands copies of things (if not the originals themselves) that would have sent the Vatican into seizures, and a whole lot of other bits and pieces that no one but uptight demonology experts would have cared to keep around. This meant that in the hundreds of years Watchers had been around with their sticky, sticky hands, they'd accumulated enough paraphernalia to make the British Museum look like a New England antique store.
Buffy had been seeing a lot of that paraphernalia lately. Giles and Dawn were having the time of their lives, sometimes descending so far into obscure historical discussions that she thought they'd stopped speaking English entirely. Being Buffy, she'd been more interested in the various sharp and pointy things they'd been taking inventory of, triggering her own case of the grabbies when Giles promised her that she could have whatever she wanted so long as it hadn't once belonged to Frederick Barbarossa or someone equally dead and historically important. Buffy had already tried to smuggle out a sword she was told had belonged to Charlemagne, and narrowly escaped getting stabbed with it when Dawn found her out.
She had seen this sword almost immediately after the three of them had first arrived. While Dawn and Giles and the caretaker in charge of this particular Watcher base were oohing and ahing over collapsing architecture, she'd taken her own tour of the place and come into this particular alcove almost by accident.
Buffy wasn't sure how to describe her reaction to seeing the sword. She'd stopped walking, stood looking at it with the strangest weight in her chest. There had been a tight, coiled feeling in her stomach, something dark and foreboding. If she had been asleep, she would have said she'd had a prophetic dream.
They had found her like that, Giles, Dawn, and the caretaker, and she'd asked them what sword this was.
“Crusader sword,” said Dawn. “Maybe twelfth century.”
“A style common to the First and Second Crusades,” said Giles.
“It once belonged to a knight who served King Baldwin IV in Jerusalem,” explained the caretaker in his accented English. “We have documented proof that it traveled from Jerusalem to France in 1187. Unfortunately, we do not know much else about it. The Council acquired it at auction in 1915, but we were unable to find any records of previous owners besides the one who sold it, the owner of a pawnshop. He could not give us any further information.”
Buffy first impulse was to grab the sword and hew the legs off of anyone who tried to take it from her. She hesitated only because she couldn't understand why
that was her first impulse, and in the end didn't say anything at all as they all moved on. She looked back at the sword a total of seven times before they reached the door.
All through the day, she was distracted. She barely heard anything Giles or Dawn said, and the caretaker might as well have not existed. (As if to support this sentiment, Buffy had completely blanked on his name, which was French anyway and thus impossible to remember.) She wandered the castle with the others in a stupor, fighting the urge to turn and rush back to the hall with the sword. She'd never felt this way about Mr. Pointy.
That night, Buffy couldn't sleep. Dawn went out like a light and she could hear Giles snoring in the next room, but she laid in bed wide awake, thinking about the sword. She felt tense, coiled, as if she waited for something. Finally, strained to the breaking point, Buffy got up, slipped out of the room without waking Dawn, and padded her way barefoot down to the sword in only a white nightgown that she'd been unable to resist buying in Paris.
She'd been sitting there for an hour, just looking at it, a sword that once belonged to a knight in Jerusalem. She wondered if it had a name, like Tizona or Colada. She briefly considered the possibility that it had something to do with one of her previous Slayer lives, which would explain why she felt that this sword belonged to her. The Scythe felt almost the same way when she held it, but this was somehow more personal, less to do with the Slayer and more to do with the Buffy. She'd gladly shared the Scythe with Faith and the other girls, but if any of them tried to so much as lay a finger on this sword, they were going to lose a limb.
The night was getting colder. Her feet were asleep and the rain had begun to really come down. A wind blew against the windows and rattled the glass all along the hall.
Buffy wanted to touch the sword. It was a physical need that made her fingers clench and unclench spasmodically. The simple, stark lines of the blade made her hands form a grip without conscious thought. She wanted to pick it up and wield it, take a stance, arms overhead, the sword flashing bright in the air, feel the balance and weight. The need had her on her feet and had propelled her right up to the sword before she realized it.
Breathless, Buffy reached out in the dark and touched the cold, leather-wrapped hilt and everything changed
There was no transition. Nothing was gradual—there was, and then there wasn't
The air was sharp and bitterly cold. Each breath steamed white from her nose and mouth. The trees were gray-green, winter trees in their frost-streaked scales and bare, clawing branches that scratched at the leaden sky. The light was pale and weak through the snow and black woods.
A horse reared in front of her, hooves kicking at her face, and a sword glimmered as it swept down at her head.
Sheer instinct made her move. Buffy avoided the sword-stroke with a lightening turn, side-stepping the horse. She grasped the ankle where it pressed against the horse's side and pulled a large, heavy man in armor and helmet from the saddle with a wrenching one-armed throw that nearly dislocated his knee. The man slammed into the ground, and his sword fell from his hand, but too far away for her to pick up quickly. The horse, dark-coated and white-eyed with terror, bolted.
Buffy turned, adrenaline forcing that first heartbeat of paralyzing shock from her brain, and saw him.
She saw short-cropped blonde hair, an older, tired face, and a hawkish nose. His eyes, blue as a clear sky, were wide. His mouth was half-open, as if he had been crying out and then cut off. His arms, lowering slowly, bore up a sword with a brass-wired hilt and a pommel engraved with a red cross.
Somewhere, in so deep and dark a place in her heart that she barely heard anything, something cried out.
Buffy shook her head, overwhelmed. Her eyes were on the sword he was holding, her
sword. What was he doing with it? Disoriented, Buffy jumped to a conclusion: he was stealing
She stepped forward, reaching out—and staggered as an arrow thumped into her shoulder.
Someone shouted hoarsely, but it wasn't her. Buffy tore the arrow from her flesh, her confusion focusing into pain and anger. She threw it aside, turned to face her attacker—and the man holding her sword fell to his knees.
Taken aback, Buffy hesitated. The man—his eyes were luminous and blue and fixed on her face. His expression was what she could only recognize as of rapture, full of light and passion. He was speaking now, in a low, intense whisper, and she thought she was hearing Latin. He was—was he praying? His arms were held wide, the sword pointing at the ground.
A noise made Buffy look around, and she saw that the other man, the one she had hurled from the saddle, was struggling up onto his good knee, and he was speaking Latin, too, louder and more fervently, face bloodless and eyes painfully wide and hot, as if with fever. Behind him, a black man in red and black had thrown himself onto his face, crying out in—was that Arabic?
She turned again, and there was another man kneeling, his long, braided blonde hair and bloodied sword nothing compared to the look in his eyes, and there was an armored man with a huge white cross on his chest, staring at her as his legs folded under him, and there were others, all on their knees, all speaking the same, loud Latin, all looking at her.
Except there, at the edge of it all, where a dark-haired, dark-eyed man, younger than the rest, stood very still, sword in hand.
Buffy looked again at the man holding her sword, and their eyes met.
The stone floor of the hall was achingly cold beneath her hands. Buffy gasped, panting for breath as she looked up at the sword hanging on the wall, and backed away on her hands and feet until her shoulder struck the foot of the wooden chair on the opposite side of the alcove. Then she folded her arms over her knees and sat, trembling, staring up at the sword, her eyes full of his face, her shoulder throbbing and bloody, and her feet and the hem of her white gown wet with snow and dirt.