AN: This is a fic written for an LJ Spookathon for Nycorson who asked for so little, leaving me a pretty open field – I hope my unfamiliarity with certain characters is forgivable.
Disclaimer: Not mine…
Description: Something is afoot, there is a mystery, but why and who is behind it?
Who, What, Where and Why the Hell?
by Marns Rowe AKA Bumpkin
Giles spun around at the sound and saw a dangerous looking man sprawled out on the floor of the castle room he had only recently arrived in himself. The younger man groaned and cursed softly as he pulled himself into a somewhat more comfortable position. Something about how the rough looking stranger moved and sounded made Giles take a closer look at the later arrival.
“Xander?” he identified incredulously. The changes the young man had apparently gone through were nothing short of startling, and it wasn’t just his appearance either. He was harder, and there was a feeling of implacableness about him now. You could tell just from looking at Xander, that if he accepted a job that he would finish it - no matter what he might have to do or what might be in his way.
The last time Giles had heard from the younger man he had been in the middle of the African savannah. How he had gone from there to here was quite the mystery. Bleeding Hell, how he had gone from the New Council’s Headquarters in the outskirts of London to here was a mystery too.
Xander tensed and looked up sharply at hearing his name. Seeing who had uttered it though had him relaxing a bit from his battle ready posture and saying with confusion, “G-man?”
Giles sighed and resisted the urge he had to pull off his glasses to polish them. “Xander please, I have repeatedly asked you not to call me that ridiculous name…”
Xander grinned, looking much more like the boy Giles had known and obviously feeling much less dislocated than he had only a moment before. Giles tsked, but he also felt less disoriented after the taste of something he associated with home. He guessed that had been the point and that he had to admit there was a saving grace to the boy’s humour now, but there was no way you could ever get him to admit it aloud. Thankfully it didn’t appear he was going to be asked to do so as Xander asked,
“Do you know where we are yet? Or what’s happening?”
“I had barely ascertained I had landed in what appeared to be a deserted castle, albeit one in fairly good repair, when you dropped in – literally. I suppose now that you are here you can help me look around and see just what we have landed in.”
The two men made quick work of the reconnaissance and found themselves rejoining each other’s company again near the door. The door itself had no handle, but they’d found a bit of a puzzle there. One they suspected would open the door if they could figure it out. Well Xander guessed it would open the door if they figured it out, since it reminded him rather strongly of a few video games he had played in the past. Giles, on the other hand, just went along with his companion’s supposition – it was something he had absolutely no experience with and so couldn’t ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ say it.
The puzzle was in two parts as far as they could see. A bunch of little stone tiles, rather like mahjongg pieces really, which were piled carelessly in a box that was placed on an occasional table beside the door. Each seemed to be inscribed with a single word in a different demon language, and although they were uniform in thickness they all were different shapes. Then there was the second part, what appeared to be the gameboard inset into the lintel and stoop of the doorframe, where there seemed to be the same phrase written in English twice.
Of course just like the video games, there were no clues at all as what they were supposed to do in order to solve the stupid thing. They were stuck fumbling around, hoping against hope that they weren’t messing things up beyond hope of escape – or any other dire circumstance befalling them depending on how they may or may not muck things up.
Xander, of course, was the one who figured out what they had to do. How could he not with all the time he’d spent playing video games that he had? He’d figured out that they needed to use the tiles to recreate what was said in the two places, but the difficultly of course was in fitting the tiles together so they would smoothly fit into the inset areas. A task that turned out to be more onerous than they expected, specially since half the demonic symbols had more than one meaning. But they finally succeeded, and working together they placed each tile in it’s place at the same time.
The door clicked and popped open.
“Yes!” Xander crowed. So far it looked good. Well, nothing was obviously out to kill them anyway. Giles smiled at his antics, reminded again of the past and better times.
Carefully they made their way out into the hallway. Giles indicated the direction he thought the center of the castle lay from what he had observed out their room’s window, and they started walking. They had only been walking for a few minutes before they slowed down again, they’d heard something they didn’t think belonged there and wanted to know just what they were walking into.
“C’mon Red,” Faith’s voice distinctly rang out, it sounded a bit strained. “What’s next?” Giles and Xander looked at each other, what on earth could cause a *Slayer* to sound that out of breath? They stretched to hear Willow’s reply.
“The one you’ve got can go one left, and then the one on the bottom can come up…” Grating noises sounded, a bit muffled but still clear enough, followed by a dull clang. Then the two women’s voices got a whole lot clearer as their door popped open.
“Whoohoo Red, let’s hear it for the brain trust you got socked away up in that skull of yours!”
“Faith,” Willow’s voice clearly expressed her embarrassment. “It was something you could have done just as easily if you could have been far back enough to see what you were doing – you are more than intelligent enough to figure out a sliding tile puzzle.”
“Yeah, but that would mean I would’ve had to have an idea of what the hell the end picture was supposed to be to start with – you just did that one blind. I never woulda figured it to have been that symbol, don’t even know how you saw it.” Faith replied.
“Well…” Willow started but then fell silent. Their voices had been moving steadily to the open door as they bantered and Willow had been about to answer Faith when they stepped into the hallway and saw Giles and Xander.
“G and X, yo!” Faith said with a grin. “You two got scooped up into this little todo too?” Faith wasn’t really worried, nothing overly dangerous seemed to be threatening them yet so she was treating it like an adventure. Willow was a bit more cautious.
Xander smiled reassuringly, “Hey Wills, how’s my witchy girl?” Then he held his arms open for a hug. The self-assured young woman was put at ease by his familiar manner and his standard greeting for her. She promptly regressed into the girl she had been back in high-school and rushed into Xander’s offered embrace, hmming happily as he cuddled her. Xander raised his head enough to look over her shoulder at Faith,
“You want in on this too?” he asked with a salacious wink. Faith laughed huskily and replied with a smirk, “Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you boy-toy, wouldn’t you?”
Xander just grinned his trademark lopsided grin back at her. Then Giles cleared his throat getting their attention. Seeing he had it, he said, “Well, now that we have the reunions out of the way, shall we carry on? Xander and I were headed for the central foyer of the castle when we paused due to hearing your voices. I don’t think the plan needs altering due to your inclusion so I would suggest we just keep moving on then.”
All three younger people rolled their eyes at Giles stuffiness, mostly because they knew how much of it was put on. They’d all met ‘Ripper’ more than once after all. His little speech did have the desired effect though and they got moving again. It wasn’t long before their ground eating strides had made short work of the remaining distance and they reached the end of the line, or hallway rather, and they were facing another handless door.
“Man, what a pain.” Xander grouched. No one disagreed with him. “I guess we have to figure out what the puzzle is here now too.” Heartfelt groans greeted his pronouncement, but they bent to the task of figuring out what exactly was expected of them this time readily enough.
Ironically, Giles was the one who figured it out. As someone more familiar with castles and other antiquities, he spotted the places where things didn’t quite match up. “It’s a pressure point release mechanism.” He exclaimed, then explained further. “I believe that we are going to have to depress all the points at the same time to open the door.”
Xander, of course couldn’t let Giles’ new savvy pass and mocked his mentor, “Well I guess I’m going to have to watch out for my video game king crown now that you’ve been brought up to speed eh G-man?”
Giles just huffed a bit after his usual pained “Xander…” and the three younger people laughed. Their hilarity was short lived and they soon sobered and started to work together like the teammates they were. Each taking the part of the pressure point puzzle they were most suited for without having to consult the others as to what they were doing. Willow using her magic took care of the one that had been warded and then needed to be depressed without using anything of a physical nature. Faith immediately moved to the point on the floor that needed someone of her strength to budge it. Giles went directly to a panel full of over twenty symbols and chose the one in the center of a ring that all said open in different languages. Xander’s spot was the most mundane and needed no real special abilities – except you couldn’t really see it unless you closed one eye. It was a combination optical illusion and perspective thing. Giles silently counted down, and as he hit the end they pressed their points as one.
They were rewarded with the audible sounds of tumblers falling, and then a click as the door opened.
As soon as the door opened, the four surviving Sunnydalers fell silent – they’d faintly heard voices on the other side. Voices they *weren’t* familiar with. Moving as quietly as they could in unfamiliar surroundings they went through the door and found places to secret themselves on the other side. As the strange voices got closer, tension ratcheted upwards until at last the speakers finally appeared.
There were four of them all clad oddly in robe type things. A dark-haired young man in glasses walked side by side with another young man whose hair was redder than Willow’s. Then following behind them were two young ladies, one with very thick and curly hair looked to be of age with the young men, and the other looked to be slightly younger and a sibling to the red-haired young man if the matching red of her hair was anything to go by.
The hidden Sunnydalers didn’t have to listen for long to the conversation between the newcomers to realize they were all in the same straights. A quick burst of telepathic conversation via Willow had the hidden four moving back out into the open in order to offer, and ask, for assistance in getting out of the strange situation they’d all found themselves in. But as soon as they clapped eyes on each other, the floor fell out from beneath them – literally.
It happened so fast that all eight were totally caught off guard. All they could do was yell and scream as they tumbled willy-nilly through the air until they hit the new floor, a chorus of “Ooofs” and “Owws” was heard as they landed. Various sounds of discomfort were uttered by all of them as they righted themselves and took the chance to look around. Looks of dismay were exchanged as they realized exactly where, and what, they had landed in.
“Oh goodie,” Faith said sardonically. “A dungeon – just the type of place I’ve been wanting to hang in.”
The strangers eyed her oddly as Willow and Giles chuckled. Xander just snorted and said flippantly, “Heh Faith, you might want to be a bit more careful of what you say – that’s not too far outside the realm of possibility in a place like this y’know.”
“Xander!” Willow play smacked at her oldest friend as he ducked instinctively. He only grinned back at her cheekily and the mock stern expression she had been trying to use melted. She smiled back at him and then turned her attention back onto their surroundings. She mused aloud, “You know, this place looks unused and in relatively good repair – that should be slightly comforting, I guess. I mean yeah – Dungeon – but it could be worse, it could be well used and in poor repair. That it isn’t has to be a good sign, right? I guess any dungeon is bad, that goes without saying, but if you think about it – at least it’s not a fully functional and obviously in use dungeon with blood, guts and well, other various bodily fluids and substances covering and caked on all surfaces present…” Giles cut off whatever else Willow would have said during her babble by the now time honored and respected method of simply placing a hand over her mouth. Her eyes rolled over to look at him thankfully.
Xander meanwhile had creaked his way up to his feet already and was glaring at Faith who’d just bounced up like nothing had happened. “I hate you, you know that right?” He muttered at her and she blew him back an exaggerated kiss. He stuck his tongue out. She laughed. Willow and Giles had watched the exchange with fond smiles, the others in the room with them just looked more confused than ever.
“You yanks are bleeding weird.” The red-haired young man muttered loud enough for everyone to hear him clearly.
“Ron!” The bushy-haired young woman exclaimed as she whacked his arm. He winced as their two compatriots just rolled their eyes. Obviously, this was not a new routine between the two of them.
Giles cleared his throat to get their combined attention. “Perhaps,” he said. “Introductions are in order, I’ll do the honors for my companions and myself. ” He paused and when there was no dissention to his offer, continued. “The young man standing over there is Xander Harris, bantering with him is Faith LeHane, and by my side is Willow Rosenberg. I, myself, am Rupert Giles.”
“Rupert Giles…” The older of the two strange young women muttered as if trying to recall something. Then it seemed to come to her, her eyes opened wide and she asked, “former curator of the British Museum, Rupert Giles?”
Before Giles could answer, the dark-haired young man stepped forward. He tossed over his shoulder, “’Mione, not really the time to go on a tangent here.” He smiled a bit nervously and said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you all, although I think the circumstances could be better.” Everyone could wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, and made noises to that end. Bolstered, he continued, “Well, over there are Ron and Ginny Weasley – they’re brother and sister – and the young lady who was beating on Ron earlier is Hermione Granger, and I am Harry Potter.” He stopped speaking, and then he and his friends seemed to be waiting for something. Then as nobody there reacted to his name, he relaxed.
In fact other than to hold still long enough to be polite about the introductions, Xander, Willow and Giles paid them little mind at all. They were busy poking into things and staring intently around themselves, obviously looking for something. Faith though was another story, she was eyeing them in a way that made all four of them distinctly uncomfortable. Then she spoke.
“Pleased ta meet cha,” Faith drawled as she leaned indolently against one of the stone walls. Her manner made the wizardling folk more than a bit nervous and she grinned widely like a shark. Then she abruptly stood, making the four jump and asked, “So you four get stuck trying to figure out those stupid clue things too after getting zapped here without a by your leave?” Her shark grin gentled to a mere smirk as she motioned to her companions who it was obvious now were searching for clues on how to get out. “We’ve had to figure out three sets so far, mixing magic with the mundane – it’s been a real drag, I can tell you that much.”
“You aren’t surprised by magic?” Ginny asked the strange foursome she and her brother and his friends were trapped with. The other wizardling folk were just as curious and so they were listening for the answer while they followed suit in looking for any clues that might help them find their way out.
Xander chuckled. He said, “Well considering I am the most mundane person of the four of us and I have been possessed twice, used as the anchor for an enjoining spell, and been the original Dracula’s thrall… I don’t think magic alone is gonna make any of us bat an eye.”
Willow piped up from where she was poking into a dusty corner, “Umm, Wicca here.” Then she cussed under her breath and promptly muttered a word while sketching a symbol, gaining a little ball of light for her efforts that she tossed to hover over her shoulder. “Ah, much better,” she said with satisfaction.
“Oh my…” Hermione said with wide eyes. She was in shock, she’d never seen anyone perform a spell wandless with so little effort before, ever. She was even wider eyed as Giles absently followed Willow’s example as he said offhandedly,
“Capital idea Willow. You’re right, much better.” And then returned to his own survey of the area he was looking into.
Secrecy not needed, the four wand-using magic users drew out their wands and cast their own ‘Lumos’
spells and proceeded to use the resulting beams to search the area they were in. Then suddenly Hermione stopped and said, “Oh for… ‘Specialis Revelio’!
” She waved her wand around in a wide circle as she cast the spell. After, she said with some disgust, “Why on earth were we stumbling around looking for trips all this time when we could have just cast Scarpin’s revelaspell? It’s specifically designed to make hidden secrets and magical properties show themselves, after all.”
Ginny looked intrigued. Ron and Harry, well they looked sheepish. Ron shrugged as Harry said, “Because we didn’t remember we could?” And Hermione just shook her head. Sometimes she really had to wonder about her friends.
Giles drew their attention, “Thanks to your spell young lady, I think I have figured out what the trigger in this little conundrum is, I think if we find the right pattern to follow…” Ron looking over the man’s shoulder saw the line of glyphs that had caught the older man’s attention.
He started to ask, “Which ones – oof!” But tripped as a loose block in the floor shifted when he put his weight on it. He was propelled forcefully into the unprepared man’s back, sending Giles into close contact with the wall.
Unfortunately, when Giles hit the wall, he also hit the symbols he had been looking at – but without the care he would have taken. Needless to say the results were less than comforting. The reveal spell Hermione had cast and Willow and Giles’ glow balls all winked out leaving them in the unrelieved dimness they had started out in. Then the odd noises started up, things began to clunk, grind ominously, and there was an underlying whirr sound teasing at the edge of their hearing that filled them all with foreboding.
Of course just as they were about to jump out of their skins two things happened; the first being the quiet that fell as whatever they had triggered by accident was shut off, the second was the sounds of two overlapped ‘poofs’ of displaced air clearly heard in the resulting silence as two figures appeared. While one stayed back in the shadows, the other moved forward until they could clearly see who it was.
“Luna!” the four wizardling folk cried out in shock, and a little bit of anger. They weren’t all that impressed with the situation after all. Luna didn’t seem to pay any mind to their moods, she started blithely talking,
“Oh good, you’re all here. I really hope you liked my castle - I thought it was homey, don’t you? I mean it’s so hard to find a decent castle in this day and age that isn’t a huge fixer-upper, but this place was just perfect with barely any modifications at all. A real find.” She shifted tangents in a way her friends were used to but that was positively dizzying to the Sunnydalers, “Oh and I hope you all enjoyed the little puzzles I left for you. I tried to make them unique to everyone as needed – and well, I’m sure you all agree that an unused and idle brain is not a good thing, neither is a sluggish body, and since I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get here after you all arrived I thought I should provide something in the lines of entertainment. Wasn’t that thoughtful of me?”
Harry broke in speaking fast, knowing that if he didn’t she would just keep rambling. He said, “Luna, yes, this is an absolutely lovely castle and of course your little puzzles were delightful, and yes it was very gracious of you to provide entertainment for when you weren’t here – but please, why did you bring us here?”
Luna blinked, looking a bit confused as she exclaimed, “Botheration, haven’t I already told you why you’re all here yet?”
Andrew Wells, the former native of Sunnydale, stepped forward out of the shadows he had been lurking in and took Luna’s hand with a shy smile. She returned it just as shyly. Then she turned back to them and said brightly, “We’ve gotten engaged and wanted you all at our party – everyone else is already in the main ballroom.”
That said she and Andrew apparated out again, leaving eight dumbfounded people in their wake.