Initial Meetings Part 1
The Lost; Book 1: Forgotten Realms, Part 1: Escape from Undermountain
Initial Meetings Part 1
Rooms 1 & 19
Disclaimer: All characters, names, settings etc belong to their respective copyright holders.
A/N1: From this point on there will be many crossovers. At the end of each chapter with new characters a note will be added listing the different ‘verses they are from. AD&D setting will incorporate the following editions: 1, 2 and 2.5. This story is inspired by Malaskor’s Story ‘Forgotten Slayer’.
A/N2: Sorry for the delay. First big chapter and needed to do a re-write I think it’s worth it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a beta reader. Please R/R, any constructive criticism or suggestions welcome, will try to incorporate them.
‘But he’s dead,’ her mind tells her, ‘I killed Him, sliced, diced and julienned.’ Without further hesitation she charges Him, running past all the others going for who she perceives to be the greatest threat even though her Slayer senses do not register Him as evil.
Just as she is about to reach Him, something seems off, in her mind’s eye Buffy subconsciously sees that, He’s not wearing his collar.
Nevertheless she pulls back the Scythe, with the full intention of cleaving Him in half, again. ‘How many lives does He have?’ she wondered to herself.
As she begins her forward swing, this time aiming for the top of His head, a hand reaches out and grabs her by the forearm and a firm voice saying, “Hold, warrior.”
* * * * * * * *
EARLIER – Arana’s POV
Arana awoke face down feeling slightly disoriented and nauseous from the event that brought her to this place. The last thing she remembered was donning her armor and weapons and walking down one of Voyagers corridors with Seven on the way to one of their Holo-Training sessions in preparation for their trip to Toril for an intelligence gathering mission on the god Bane when they were suddenly surrounded in a green light and now she found herself face down on a stone floor.
‘This looks suspiciously similar to dungeons on Toril’, she thought as she opened her eyes, quietly removing her helmet careful to make no sound, leaving her with only a chainmail coif on her head. She slowly looked around while trying not to attract any attention. Noticing that she could in fact see without her infravision, she realized that she was in a fifty by fifty foot stone worked room with four exits, two with closed doors, one with a lowered portcullis and the final one, an open archway with what appeared to be a young strangely dressed blonde girl standing in front of it looking in. She had on a white top that had a red stain on its back that looked suspiciously like blood, black leather pants and some type of healed shoes. Arana also noticed several lumps lying around the room on an octagonal pattern mosaic like her; they looked to be unconscious at this time.
Arana concentrated on using her paladin ability to sense evil. There was evil intent everywhere, but more of a low grade buzz than any immediate threat, except in the direction of the open archway with the young girl standing in front of it. There the evil was much stronger. She couldn’t tell if it was coming from the girl or beyond the archway. Before she could decide on a course of action the glowing light coming from inside the archway began to flicker several times as if something was passing in front of the light, several some things.
In the back of her mind she thought that this placed seemed familiar, she’d heard tales of a place like this from bards and drunken adventurers, but couldn’t quite remember what they called this place or where it was located. More important thoughts were currently on her mind though, so she push them to the side for now, there would be time enough later.
That done Arana began looking more intently into the room beyond the archway to see if she could spot the cause of the flickering light and hoping to locate the source of the evil. She didn’t have long to wait as she spotted three round ball like creatures moving about, passing in front of the open archway as the girl looked on.
Arana knew of these creatures, “By Torm,” she quietly breathed, “Beholders.” She quickly realized that the survival for herself and the others present had dramatically been reduced. As she looked closer she could indentify three different types; one was known as a ‘Death Kiss’ easily recognized by its long tentacles and its large size; the second she was easily able to identify as she noticed several eyestalks missing, a general state of decay as a ‘Death Tyrant’, an undead beholder. The third she could not immediately identify, however looking more closely and of the three it was mid-sized, smaller than the ‘Death Kisses’ and larger than the ‘Death Tyrant’, was also missing several of its eyestalks. All these things lead her to believe that she was looking at an ‘Elder Orb’. ‘Well that’s one mystery solved’, she thought to herself.
What had Arana curious though was that they weren’t attacking the girl, just floating about. That was strange indeed, beholders weren’t known to be complacent; ‘Could the girl be controlling them?’ With that thought she concentrated her senses on the girl.
She immediately noticed the shining pure nature of the girl’s soul, she was good. However there was a darkness that surrounded her soul threatening to take over. That darkness was being held at bay by the sheer will of her goodness. If she didn’t know better she would think she was looking at another paladin.
‘So why weren’t they attacking her’, she thought, ‘a being of such goodness should be an irresistible target. Yet they keep floating, orbiting as if they’re guarding something.’
A thought came to her then, like a lightning bolt striking her. Things, stories she’d heard from drunken adventurers in taverns, terrifying and horrific tales of a place deep below the City of Waterdeep, clicking into place. She felt all blood drain from her face; she suspected she knew where she was and whispered a small quiet prayer to her patron Gods, Torm and Ilmater, that she was wrong.
* * * * * * * *
On a crest that crowned a rocky spire in the remote Ice Mountains north of Citadel Adbar, in an isolated single-turreted tower of massive size, The Lonely Citadel, Torm the True was sitting on his throne listening to the myriad of constant prayers for this and that, when a faint yet fervent and vibrant prayer reached his ears, drowning out all others, surprised at the dedication and loyalty of the prayer from a true believer. Someone who deeply understood Duty, Loyalty and Bravery, but was over in a near instant as Torm began reaching out to find this person. He could not however locate the specific source of this fervent and vital prayer, only a general area, somewhere along the Sword Coast.
* * * * * * * *
In the domain of Martyrdomain on the plane known as Bytopia the God Ilmater was listening to the prayers of the suffering, when a faint yet fervent prayer reached his ears drowning out all others. The dedication and love of the prayer surprised him and filled him with a joy he had not felt in many centuries. This was a prayer from a true believer, fervent and vibrant, someone who understood completely suffering and endurance and most importantly compassion, not some mere aimless fop who joined his church out of boredom or lack of direction. He instantly tried to locate the source of this most wondrous prayer he had received, however the exact source could not be located, only a general area, somewhere along the Sword Coast, which confounded him immensely.
* * * * * * * * *
As Arana was coming to terms with her location she began hearing groans and the rustling of clothes around her as apparently the others surrounding her were regaining consciousness. Closest to her a few feet away a man with a head of dirty blonde hair, a handsome rugged face and a long light brown leather coat began standing.
Catching movement by the archway, Arana now saw the young girl is now facing in her direction, holding an impressive ax in her hands across her chest and was able to see that the red spot on her back was also on the front of her shirt, indicating that not only was she wounded but run through completely. She also noticed that what she thought was a young girl was not a girl at all, but a young woman. As Arana watched her she saw the woman’s eyes narrowing, looking in her direction but not at her she realized, but at the man standing to her right. Arana sees the woman’s eyes widen slightly in recognition and her body beginning to tense. As a warrior herself Arana immediately realizes that the woman is about to attack the man that she has recognized, apparently thinking him to be some enemy.
Arana now senses great strength and determination coming from her as the young woman prepares to enter battle. Having already sensed the area and feeling no great evil coming from the man, Arana quickly comes to the conclusion that though the young woman may recognize his face, but the man next to her is not the enemy the woman mistakenly believes him to be. Quickly making her decision, she cannot allow an innocent to be killed; she prepares herself to protect the man.
Quietly Arana says, “Tulca,” invoking the power of the spell for ‘Bull’s Strength’. As she completes the word she is immediately infused with magical strength. The young woman charges, her weapon held for an overhead strike, running faster than should be possible for a human.
As the woman nears her target, Arana watches as the young woman pulls the weapon back slightly and shifts her grip for greater power, she quickly realizes that this young woman is no novice to battle.
It’s at this moment that Arana chooses to rise from the floor and step over to protect the unknown man that the young woman seems so intent on killing. As the young woman begins her forward swing, Arana reaches out grabbing the woman’s wrist to stop the young woman, but is surprised by the amount of strength needed to halt this petite woman’s attack.
Speaking in a firm voice Arana says, “Hold, warrior.”
* * * * * * * *
Jack O’Neill’s POV
Jack O’Neill awoke with a groan and not for the first time. Slowly he opened his eyes to try and determine his whereabouts. His first thoughts were that he had been yet again captured by the Gou’ald and glancing around did little to dispel that assumption, he saw that he was in a stone worked room approximately fifty feet by fifty feet with four possible exits. Lying about the room in relative proximity to himself that initially looked like several mounds of clothes but at a second glance he saw them beginning to move.
Doing a quick three sixty he saw that two of the exits had closed doors a third had unbelievably a closed portcullis, but it was the fourth that captured his full attention. It was an open archway with a faint green light coming from it and in front of it stood a young girl wearing a white top with what appeared to be blood on the lower left side and black leather pants. She was looking into the open archway that had the strange green light coming from and she appeared to be unarmed.
Continuing to quickly look around Jack saw others starting to rise up slowly and began to automatically do a threat assessment. Beginning farthest to his right he saw a bald man in desert BDU’s that he didn’t recognize, though he should have because on his uniform he was wearing patches that belonged to the SGC. He had a P-90 assault rifle, a nine millimeter pistol and a Zat strapped to his thigh. As he stood he shook his head as if trying to clear it, doing so revealed three subdued stars on his collar and above his left breast pocket a trident, the symbol of a US Navy SEAL. He could be placed in a high threat level category as he could still be a member of the NID, but since he appeared to be in the US military he would defer judgment for now.
Next, very close to him was a middle-aged blonde man with a closely trimmed beard, wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots a button up collared shirt with a badge that read ‘Texas Ranger’. At first he thought that the ‘Ranger’ may have been abducted from the late 1800’s, but on closer inspection Jack saw that he had holstered what looked like a modern forty caliber semi-automatic pistol, standard law enforcement firearm, on his waist probably with at least two high capacity magazines. As he stood up the first thing he did was grab a black cowboy hat that was lying near him and put it on. He also placed this ‘Ranger’ in a possible high threat category.
About twenty feet almost directly behind the ‘cowboy’ was a small young man with bleach blonde hair lying on the ground that appeared to be unconscious, due mostly to the fact that he wasn’t moving, therefore not much of a threat and so he moved on.
Beyond the unconscious blonde guy there was a dark haired man just standing up holding his head. To his amazement, the man looked to be wearing a suit from the late 18th or early 19th century. The man had a sword at his side, a rapier if he wasn’t mistaken, so he didn’t consider him to be a high threat level either and perhaps a total loon.
Moving on the next person to the right was a man with a mop of dirty blonde hair just starting to stir. He had on a light brown leather duster, brown leather pants, a button up collared shirt and was wearing some type of pistol in a holster on his right hip that he couldn’t identify. For the moment he seemed to be confused and disoriented so not an immediate threat.
Directly behind him was a young woman with light brown should length hair that had just stood up looking fully alert and ready for any possible threat. She had on an off-white color t-shirt or tank top over which she wore a leather jacket with zippers on the sleeves, on her fore arms she wore what looked like some kind of bracers and what the ‘kids’ called ‘hip hugger’ blue jeans. On her belt she had some devices that he couldn’t identify but most importantly, slung low on her thighs, she wore two pistols of a type he had never seen before, although they bore a similar resemblance to a Heckler and Koch (H&K) ten millimeter. She looked ready for a fight and so was placed in the high threat category.
The next person he saw caused him to do a double take for two reasons, first he couldn’t readily identify the person as either male or female because of the second reason, the person was wearing a set of armor with a chainmail coif hiding most of his/her facial features and hair. Not simple armor but if he was correct, being a student of military history, a set of full plate armor, complete with a helmet that was lying on the ground next to the person, a kite shield, long sword and mace. He filed this person as a possible medium to high threat or a complete wacko.
About fifteen feet behind was a youngish looking oriental looking woman with slightly longer than shoulder length black hair wearing a collared pullover shirt and dark leather pants. She had a holstered a standard forty caliber semi-auto pistol on her right side belt and what looked like a badge from the LAPD if he wasn’t mistaken on her left side.
Looking further to the right he saw a short woman with short brunette hair standing. She was wearing a white shirt with a brown leather jacket, blue jean pants and sneakers. He noticed she was also wearing a dual shoulder holster carrying two large frame semi-automatic pistols that look to be H&K ten millimeters, an excellent pistol but large a weapon for such a small framed woman in his humble opinion. As soon as she stood she began looking around, taking in her situation. He classifies her as a moderate to high threat.
Jack then moves on to a blonde haired man wearing a khaki uniform. He looks less confused than the others and has a look of, unbelievably, exasperation. With the khaki uniform he’s wearing, the standard law enforcement pistol belt which he assumes to be holding the standard issue forty caliber semi-auto pistol, Jack makes an intuitive leap and assumes that the man is a law enforcement official. On his shoulder the patch he’s wearing reads ‘Sheriff Dept., Eureka, CA’, just seals the deal.
He thinks to himself that this is an eclectic little grouping. All of this takes him maybe a minute and a half to complete.
Finally returning to the person he started with, the blonde girl looking into the open archway. When he looks at her though she is no longer looking into the archway, but has in fact turned around and is now looking into the room he’s in. He can now see that the blood stain is not only on her back but is also on the front of her shirt, indicating to him that her wound went clean through her.
Jack brought his gaze up to the young woman’s face once again and immediately saw her eyes widen in what at first he thought was shock. Then realized what he saw was more of disbelief and incomprehension that very rapidly narrows to anger and a hot burning rage that he didn’t think was possible from someone so young. As her eyes narrowed he saw her reach behind her back as if to grab something even though there was nothing. For the first time in a long time Col. Jack O’Neill was stunned, because even though he had seen that there was nothing behind the young woman’s back, she had somehow pulled out of seemingly thin air a wicked looking red ax type weapon that ended in a wooden point at the far end. Then another shock as she gripped the weapon tightly in her hands it extended about a foot in length.
Jack turned his head to see what had affected the young woman so dramatically. What he saw was a tall, young dirty blond mop headed man wearing a brown leather duster with a pistol strapped to his thigh, but curiously wasn’t making any threatening moves. On the contrary he appeared to be confused and disoriented as he stood.
Turning back to the young woman he saw by her stance that she was preparing to attack the man and was mentally preparing himself to take action to either help the young woman or the man and started slowly moving towards the man so that he could intercede in either case. Jack glanced around noticing several other people apparently had the same idea, including the older bald admiral in desert camouflage.
Movement caught O’Neill’s eye as the young woman charged the man, moving faster than any human should be able to. He stepped up his pace drawing the Zat from its holster to take down the woman, which, due to her inhuman speed, he now suspected of being a host.
With his Zat out Jack began tracking the young woman, trying to get a clear shot to take her down before she could do any damage, however he couldn’t get a clear shot due to her speed. He was also hampered by the fact that someone had stepped into his line of fire. Knowing who her target was however, allowed him to sidestep the person to get a clear bead on the young woman just as she slowed down and drew the red ax back to strike.
Bringing up the Zat and taking aim O’Neill fingered the trigger. Just as he applied pressure to the firing button the armored individual quickly stood up and grabbed the young woman by the forearm.
“Hold, warrior,” said a decidedly feminine voice. As this unknown female said this she appeared to stop the young woman’s attack cold, but with what looked to be a great deal of effort on her part. Jack O’Neill lowered his Zat a little to the guard position and began to quickly and cautiously approach the two women. Looking to his left he noticed the bald man remove what looked to be a Zat from his holster and approach the scene in a like manner, and to his right the bearded man sporting a Texas Ranger’s badge drew his pistol and also began to approach. From the opposite side of the two women another woman of oriental descent and wearing a badge of the LAPD drew her weapon and began cautiously approaching the two women.
* * * * * * * *
“Hold, Warrior,” Buffy heard a firm yet feminine voice say and felt a metal grasp her forearm momentarily stopping her attack on Caleb. She immediately tried forcing her attack using more of her Slayer strength but the object gripping her forearm was immovable. As Caleb seemed to be disoriented for the moment she relaxed her arm and shifted her attention to what had stopped her from attacking her mortal enemy, assuming it to be one of Caleb’s minions.
Buffy began turning her head to identify who or what specifically had interrupted her attack. As she eyes reached her forearm she saw that it was being grasped by a gauntleted hand, curious she continued until she saw that the gauntleted hand belonged to a fully armored person. Looking at the face which was framed by a chainmail coif covering the head, she easily determined that the figure was female with slightly angular yet soft features and slightly upturned eyebrows. Glancing down the body of the armored female she saw that the breastplate had a symbol on it, a gauntleted hand in a gold shield, and around her waist on her right side was what appeared to be a long in its scabbard and on her left was strapped a mace. She made no apparent move to draw either weapon and Buffy sensed no threat coming from her.
Looking directly into her eyes which looked to be green with gold flecks in them Buffy asked, “Why did you stop me? I have to kill him.”
“No,” the armored woman simply said releasing her grip of Buffy’s arm.
“What do mean, ‘No’? Caleb’s evil,” Buffy said tightening her grip on the Scythe while keeping an eye on Caleb.
The armored woman looked at Buffy with a curious yet determined gaze, “No he isn’t evil.”
Buffy looking into her eyes saw that determination and her willingness to apparently defend Caleb or possibly not Caleb, “But . . .”
“He may wear the face of your enemy”, the armored woman cut her off, “this Caleb, but he isn’t your enemy,” seeing the look of disbelief on Buffy’s face she added, “I do not believe you would wish to kill an innocent.” So saying the armored woman took a step away from the man, Caleb, allowing Buffy an easy kill.
Buffy brought up the Scythe readying a strike that would kill her most hated enemy. However the armored woman had raised some doubt in her mind and she hesitated, then taking a deep cleansing breath lower the Scythe and turned to the armored woman, “Alright I’ll do it your way, but if he kills us all I get to say ‘I told you so.’”
Arana smiled slightly and raised a questioning eyebrow in what she thought was an extremely Seven like manner ‘Maybe she’s rubbing off on me’, Arana thought happily.
Buffy seeing her look just shrugged, “You know what I mean.” She then turned her attention back to ‘Caleb’, saw that he was beginning to re-orient himself and advanced on him while keeping the Scythe lower in a non-threatening manner.
Jack O’Neill in the meantime was watching this entire exchange with guarded interest. The two women weren’t acting like Gou’ald at all; something else must be going on though the young woman ran faster than should be possible and both the young woman and the armored woman were exhibiting far more strength than a human should. Add to the fact that to his ears the young woman sounded like she had a Californian accent. Looking to the others that were closing in; he waved at them to stop their advance and hold their positions without taking action, for the time being, which they did lowering their weapons to the guard position while watching the three intently.
Buffy advanced on ‘Caleb’ reaching out and grabbing both sides of his open duster with one hand, bunching them up tightly and pulling him unceremoniously down to his knees. He was so tall that even on his knees he was almost eye to eye with Buffy.
“Oww, Gorammit woman take it easy,” he said slightly in an irritated southern drawl which caused Buffy to tilt her head to the right as if further re-evaluating her original assessment of ‘Caleb’. He sounded like Caleb but the tone was different, less threatening and ominous.
‘Maybe she’s right’ Buffy thought. “Who are you? And what’s your name?” Buffy questioned.
Looking at the young small blond woman who had just unceremoniously pulled him down to his knees, he thought better of giving the sarcastic reply which entered his mind, thinking that this girl may be very similar to River, “Reynolds, Malcolm Reynolds Captain of the Firefly class starship Serenity,” then as an afterthought, “Who are you? Are you with the Alliance?”
“Name’s Buffy Summers from Sunnydale, California.”
Jack O’Neill got a shocked look on his face upon his face from not only hearing the word ‘starship’ being bandied about but more importantly that the young woman was indeed from Earth. Thinking there was a security breach Jack O’Neill decided it was time to intercede. He stepped up to the group with his Zat extended, “Okay, hold right there, I’ll take it from here, if you all will just move away this has just become matter of National Security.” Buffy just rolled her eyes in irritation but didn’t move from her location.
“Ladies I need you to move away, you don’t need to know what’s going on.” Jack continued beginning to think that these two were not in fact Gou’ald hosts.
The young woman gave him a look of polite disbelief and promptly proceeded to ignore him and turn her full attention back to Malcolm; however a slight clearing of a throat next to Buffy caused her to shift her attention to the armored woman. Seeing the look on her face Buffy preempted her saying, “Don’t say it. Who . . .?” Buffy was cut off as someone grabbed her left shoulder.
The others that were moving in started to pay much closer attention to what was being said, while holstering their weapons and moving in closer yet, getting more curious by the minute. O’Neill on the other hand was starting to get extremely upset; he was not used to being ignored and certainly not by some civilian. He had just about had it and moved forward reaching out with his right arm and grabbing the young woman on her left shoulder with the intent of removing her from the area.
The next thing he knew he was on the ground face first with his right arm twisted painfully behind his back. “Don’t ever touch me Colonel,” the young woman stated in an angry voice. She then released O’Neill and stood up returning her attention to Captain Reynolds and the armored woman. O’Neill turned over and got up to a stand and was about to attack the young woman when a commanding voice behind him said, “Stand down Colonel O’Neill.” Turning he saw the bald admiral approaching and he didn’t look pleased.
* * * * * * * *
AJ Chegwidden was watching all this with intense interest while cautiously advancing on the young woman who was exhibiting extraordinary physical abilities, also the armored woman who stopped the young woman’s attack. An idea was starting to form in his mind, something about a mission report he was to about concerning Dr. Jackson and an alternate reality; he didn’t like the way this was shaping up. One moment he was in Stargate Command’s ‘Gate room and had just stepped thru the Stargate on his way to Abydos with President Bartlett and his staff. The next, he woke up here in this damp stone chamber with four exits, a chamber which didn’t match in the least with Dr. Jackson’s description of the Abydos chamber. Then there were the people in the chamber, the most significant of which was Colonel Jack O’Neill leader of SG-1. Watching O’Neill closely for the past few minutes he came to the distasteful conclusion that this was not the O’Neill that he knew. The differences were small and subtle, his hair, the way he carried himself and most significant of all though much less tangible was the way he was addressing the young woman, arrogantly and rudely speaking of about National Security when it was apparent they were all in the same situation and should be cooperating.
Seeing Colonel O’Neill reaching out and grabbing the young woman shook him out of his thoughts and he proceeded to move towards the two in hopes of avoiding conflict. Before he was able to do anything, however, Colonel O’Neill was face first on the ground with the young woman straddling O’Neill’s back twisting his right arm behind his back in what looked to be in a painful manner. The young woman moved faster and with more martial acumen than he had ever seen before.
“Don’t ever touch me Colonel,” the young woman said in an angry voice. So saying the young woman proceeded to release Colonel O’Neill, got up and returned her attention to Captain Reynolds and the armored woman. As soon as the young woman got up O’Neill stood and if he was any judge of character was about to attempt to assault to young woman again. AJ smirked slightly at the thought of O’Neill being put on the ground again but decide to intervene as he figured they may need a healthy Colonel O’Neill for the foreseeable future.
“Colonel O’Neill, stand down!” AJ said as he approached O’Neill’s position.
Jack turned to face the admiral waiting for him to approach wondering how this unknown admiral knew his name.
As the admiral approached, Jack O’Neill got the distinct impression he was about to receive a dressing down the like of which he hadn’t seen since he was a junior officer, if the look on the admirals face was any kind of indicator.
When the admiral got to within three feet of O’Neill he opened his mouth to speak, but before he could utter a single word he was distracted by a flash of soft green light followed immediately by a girly scream that was abruptly cutoff.
Both men turned towards the sound of the scream. What they saw stunned them for nearly a second. It appeared that six worm-like alien creatures with many tentacles at its presumed head had materialized in the octagon mosaic they were standing on at various locations and near several people that were also nearby. One such creature had appeared near the previously unconscious young blonde man who was now awake but had stopped moving or making any sound as the alien worm-like creature, the likes of which neither man had ever seen, was gripping the young man with its tentacle, holding him immobile while advancing towards and on top of him making soft clicking and smacking noises.
“Well, that can’t be good,” O’Neill quipped, pulling his Zat from its holster and aiming directly at the alien creature, glancing to his side he noticed the unknown admiral was doing the same and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. He tried again, again nothing happened.
“Damn,” O’Neill cursed discarding the Zat, seeing that the admiral was having similar problems, and bringing his P-90 to bear on one of the creatures that was attacking a young woman.
AJ seeing what O’Neill was about to do attempted to stop him. Before he could do anything O’Neill did the unthinkable, he opened fire, killing one of the creatures, and as if that wasn’t enough he shifted targets and fired again killing a second creature, his P-90 then clicked on an empty magazine. When O’Neill pulled the spent magazine off the P-90 and reached for a reload, he and a few others with the same apparent idea made their move.
Moving as fast as possible AJ, the Texas Ranger, the Asian LAPD officer and the short haired woman all tackled O’Neill, AJ wresting the weapon away from the struggling colonel.
* * * * * * * *
Turning her attention back to the armored woman looking her straight in her eyes, “Now, as I was about to ask before I was so rudely interrupted. Who are you?”
Arana was quite impressed with Buffy Summers’ hand to hand combat abilities and even more impressed the restraint that she exhibited in her attack on the now named Colonel O’Neill. Making her decision based on Buffy’s behavior and her belief in their currently location that would require her to make as many allies as possible if they wished to escape let alone survive this place.
“I am . . .” she began introducing herself in what she had indentified as Federation Standard, but was interrupted by a flash of soft green light followed immediately by a girly scream that was cut off.
Buffy turned in the direction of the scream, as she rotated her head to focus on where the scream came from she saw several worm-like creatures had appeared in the room. When she got to the locate of the scream and saw what was happening said one word, “Andrew,” and began turning to engaged the strange worm-like creature that was attacking a person she recognized as Andrew Wells.
Arana immediately recognized that creatures that had just appeared as Carrion Crawlers. This confirmed her suspicions the she was in fact back on Toril. Realizing she needed to aid those around her she reached out for the arm the Buffy Summers.
Buffy immediately assumed a combat stance and prepared to attack the creature that had attacked Andrew. Before she could take one step however the armored woman grabbed her arm. Thinking that she was being attacked turned to reciprocate.
As Buffy turned the armored woman released her grip on Buffy’s arm, “’Ware their tentacles, they secrete paralytic poisons.”
“Thanks,” Buffy replied grateful for the advice not bothering for the moment to consider how this woman knew about these things and ran off toward the worm-like creature that was attacking Andrew.
Arana, as soon as Buffy left, drew her sword and prepared to defend anyone who might require it. She knew that the creatures were not inherently evil, had only basic animal intelligence and acted mostly on instinct. Therefore to attack them without provocation would in and of itself be an evil act. However, if it turned out that these people couldn’t handle them she knew that she would quickly intercede. She needed to know, however, that these people could handle themselves in a fight because their very survival would most likely depend on it.
Arana felt a presence step up next to her. Glancing over she saw another young woman extremely athletic wearing a leather jacket of some kind and low riding breeches of bluish material around her waist was a thick leather belt with two holsters on her hips containing what Arana thought were weapons of some kind. The woman reached behind her back withdrawing something from the back of her breeches. Arana was going to say something when the woman pressed something and the thing expanded out and opened up into a type of bow that she had never seen before, the strangest thing was it had little wheels at the top and bottom.
The woman then reached back over her head and retrieved her first arrow from her quiver, an arrow straighter than any she’d seen before. Arana watched as this young woman notched and drew the arrow as if she has been doing it all her life. With but the briefest delays to aim she let the arrow loose, it flew unerringly to its target, striking it just behind the creatures head and surprisingly buried itself in the creatures’ tough hide all the way to the fletching killing it instantly.
Before the arrow had even found its mark the young woman was already knocking a second arrow, aiming and loosing. At this rate Arana calculated it would be a matter of seconds before all the Crawlers were dead.
Seeing that the woman was an ally Arana decided that questions could wait for the battle to be over, Arana then shifted her attention to the six creatures she had identified as Carrion Crawlers and the other people in the room to judge how they were fairing. Noticing while she so did that several others were also starting to attack the Crawlers, a young woman with almond colored skin, another woman with short cropped her had pulled some sort of hand weapon that loosely resembled a federation hand phaser, but had not yet fired.
A dark haired male wielding a sword and dressed like a nobleman drew his sword and quickly dispatched one of the creatures, moving on to another of the Crawlers while the Bow-woman had killed her third Crawler, leaving only two remaining alive.
An older man with a beard and a star made of metal on his left breast had drawn a similar weapon as the two women had. A gray haired man and a bald man both dressed in green clothes were pulling a strange looking weapon and aimed them at one of the creatures, they extended in a very snake-like way. When they gripped the weapons, however, nothing happened, they grey haired man dropped the weapon and cursed while reaching for a larger more deadly looking weapon and aimed it at the Crawler.
Upon seeing what the gray haired man was doing the older bald charge at him with what looked like her intent to grapple. The almond skinned woman and the woman with short cut hair were doing like-wise, before she could mentally decide what was going on an extremely load noise filled the room and a small flame emitted from the weapon and a Crawler died. The man stopped and shifted to another target oblivious to the people, whom Arana now saw as trying to prevent him from using the weapon, closing on him to try desperately stop him from using the weapon again. Now seeing what was happening, the man with the beard and the one Buffy had tried to kill earlier rushed the gray haired man in an attempt to stop him from using his weapon again.
Again the weapon issued forth a load noise and flame and another Crawler died; one to go. The gray haired man stopped firing and removed something from the weapon discarding it on the floor while withdrawing a similar looking item from a bag at his side. Before he could attach the item to the weapon four people leapt at him, dropping him to the ground while the older bald man pulled the weapon from the gray haired man’s hands.
Arana looking up from the scene saw that the young woman with the red ax along with the nobleman had killed the last Crawler and were approaching her position. The threat for now was over. Turning her attention back to the previous scene she saw that the gray haired man was being unceremoniously being brought to stand while both of his arms were being securely held. The bald man didn’t seem very pleased at the moment as he stood in front the man holding the weapon. To Arana it looked like a superior about to dress-down a subordinate for taking a particularly reckless action, something she was very familiar with. She along with the others involved in stopping the Crawlers approached to see what was going to happen. To Arana it looked though that the young woman with the red ax was approaching her directly with a very determined look on her face.
As they circled the group the bald man held out his hand and was given the gray haired man’s weapon, then began speaking in barely controlled rage, “Colonel O’Neill in your training and in your operations as a Special Forces and Black Ops operative do understand the concept of silence, stealth and of operating in a covert capacity in an unfamiliar and possibly hostile environment? How you ever became leader of your SG-1 I’ll never know!” AJ said as he reached out and removed Colonel O’Neill side arm.
O’Neill was momentarily stunned, at the moment though he didn’t know by what, the revelation that this unknown admiral knew he was the leader of SG-1 and more importantly that he apparently knew about the Stargate program or by the severe dressing down he was receiving, something that hadn’t happened since he was in the Academy or the questioning of his command and decision making abilities. All other priorities he had about defending his actions took a backseat compared to the security breech which at hand. ‘Was this admiral part of the NID?’ He knew he’d never seen him before.
“Of all the ill thought out actions you could have taken that has to be the worst.”
“Excuse me, I don’t think . . .”
“That’s the point Colonel, you didn’t think. What possessed you to fire your weapon in this room when all of the others with weapons thought better of it?”
O’Neill looked at him like he was insane and thrown on the defensive, “Well those ‘animals’ were attacking some people so I thought I’d help out.”
“So you thought that you should single handily alert every potential hostile in this unknown complex of unknown size that they have uninvited guests, and as for animals, just what type of animals were they colonel?”
“Well . . .,” O’Neill hesitated not only trying to come up with a believable answer but looking extremely abashed, he wasn’t thinking about their current situation and where they were.
“And another thing Colonel, why does this room not look like the ‘Gate chamber on Abydos that Dr. Jackson described?”
“Admiral . . .,” O’Neill tried to get out before this admiral that he had never seen before volunteered any more classified information with non-cleared civilian present.
“Oh and by the way how did we get to this planet with no Stargate on the receiving end?” the admiral said his face getting redder by the moment.
“The what?” Colonel O’Neill asked innocently. To the onlookers it was starting to resemble a tennis match as each man verbally volleyed back and forth.
“Don’t play dumb with me colonel, you briefed me about the SGC.” The others were beginning to find this conversation very intriguing.
To Buffy and Arana the admiral’s comments had solidified their theory that they were not only not on Earth but quite possibly they were even in their reality or dimension.
The rest however didn’t have a clue as to want was being said meant. They were just following the conversation in the hopes that eventually somebody would explain it to them in terms they could understand.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Admiral,” O’Neill replied with a blank look on his face and a voice devoid of any emotion.
“Colonel, I’ll break it down so that even you can understand. We were in the ‘Gate room in Cheyenne Mountain at the SGC, the President had just gone through to Abydos, My team, SG-18, had just crossed the event horizon. The next thing I know I wake up here, surrounded by people I don’t know, yet who are obviously from Earth, being attacked by some type of worm-like creature with tentacles and as the Stargate is no where to be seen and this doesn’t look anything like the ‘Gate chamber that Dr. Jackson described, I’m going to have to assume that we are in fact not on Abydos, but some other planet,” Admiral Chegwidden was saying, getting redder and more angry by the moment.
“Admiral . . .” a stunned Colonel Jack O’Neill tried to say, the President was using the Stargate.
“Colonel, General Hammond and SG-1 in briefed me and my staff on what you do at ‘Stargate Command’ in Cheyenne Mountain not more the four months ago when some of my officers accidentally found out some information concerning the Stargate while investigating a case they were working on.”
With every word the admiral was saying O’Neill was becoming more and more nervous, concerned and angry. They obviously had a leak, it was pretty big considering the amount and type of information this ‘admiral’ was speaking about and as long as this ‘admiral’ continued talking, all these civilians were hearing information they didn’t need to know. He decided to play along and gather as much information as possible while attempting to limit what these civilians heard and deal with the consequences later.
“I’m sorry admiral I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never seen you before today, let alone brief you into anything, but I’ll humor you and play along. You said that this SG-1 that I’m apparently in charge of, briefed you and your staff about four months ago.”
“That’s correct colonel.”
“Who’s on this mythical team?”
“Yourself as CO/2IC of the SGC; Major Samantha Carter as your 2IC/Astrophysist; Dr. Daniel Jackson as your civilian archeologist/anthropologist/linguist and finally Teal’c, former first prime of Apophis,” AJ respond without hesitation. Judging by the looks he was getting from Colonel O’Neill something was definitely wrong.
A brief look of pain and loss flashed across O’Neill’s face so quickly it was almost if it didn’t happen. He didn’t know how this admiral knew all this information let alone Murray’s real name, but he wanted answers.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you ‘admiral’, but news reports said that this Dr. Daniel Jackson you’ve mentioned has been dead for the last eight months, maybe you should go back to whatever desk you occupy at the Pentagon,” Jack said even though he realized that he was basically confirming the ‘admiral’s’ information about Daniel though not confirming anything specific about the SGC.
That knowledge confirmed for AJ what he had previously hoped was a radical theory, “Not on my world,” he said softly but loud enough for Colonel O’Neill, Buffy Summers and the armored woman to hear.
“What do you mean ‘not on your world’? Who the hell are you?” O’Neill asked bordering on insubordination.
“Vice Admiral AJ Chegwidden, Judge Advocate General of the United States Armed Forces and . . .”
O’Neill now looked and felt even more confused than ever. There was something he should be realizing he knew but just couldn’t put his finger on it. He was about to say something when the young blonde woman spoke up.
“I think I might know what’s going on here, at least partially.”
Meanwhile as most of the others were getting extremely confused by what was being said, Buffy and Arana had come to the same conclusions though for totally different reasons, Buffy because of her experiences to include vamp Willow and Arana because of some of Starfleet’s logs she had been able to read, had come to the very real conclusion that an alternate reality or realities and possibly dimensions were at play.
“By all means Ms. Summers,” AJ said turning to Buffy grateful for the distraction. The others were just watching in silence as they were having a hard enough time just trying to keep up with what was being said. They were however very interested to hear anything that might help explain the situation they all currently found themselves in.
“Let me ask you some questions first. Colonel, have you ever seen the admiral before today?”
Reluctantly, not knowing where this was going he answered, “No.”
“Admiral, have you ever seen the Colonel before today?”
“Yes, on many occasions.”
“He couldn’t have,” O’Neill said sure of his certainty.
“Because . . .” O’Neill hesitated. If said anything more he’d be fully confirming the admiral’s information.
Seeming to realized the colonel’s reason for hesitation and himself just beginning to come to terms with the events that placed these people and himself in an awkward circumstance and of where the small blonde going with her questions reinforcing that theory, AJ continued to elaborate on his answer, “Almost a year ago George called my office to ask me to reopen an investigation in the disposition of three members of a team at the SGC called ‘SG-13, they to be came known as The Suicide Squad’.” At the questioning looking coming from Colonel O’Neill AJ elaborated, “It was composed of five then four military felons convicted to death or long term prison sentences to be sent out on missions with little to no chance of success.”
“General Hammond would never do or approve something like that,” O’Neill blurted out, before he rein himself in, with surety and a shocked disgusted look on his face. He also belatedly realized he’d basically violated national security and confirmed all of the admiral’s information not only that but he did in front of un-cleared civilians.
“He didn’t,” AJ continued putting O’Neill’s worries to rest, “Colonel Kennedy managed to convince JCS and he was in charge, completely out of George’s chain of command. To make an extremely long and complicated story short, three of the four surviving members got retrials and were found completely innocent of all charges while the last member, though he was indeed guilty of the crimes he committed, was given a Presidential Pardon for his honorable service by the President personally, then they were reinstated in the military, promoted and now serve at the SGC.”
“Figures,” O’Neill was shocked by what he was hearing, but he wouldn’t put anything past Kennedy. He didn’t want to believe it but some very strange things had happened to him since joining the SGC. He was just now starting to get what was going on, something that had happened a few years ago that still left a foul taste in his mouth, though it ended up allowing them to remain open for business, something that had to do with Daniel, the same now dead Daniel that the admiral had said briefed him in four months ago.
“It’s not what in seems Colonel, Kennedy in the end turned out be a very loyal and patriotic officer who, even though he has unconventional ideas he’s a straight shooter and apologized profusely to SG-13 for what he’d done and for the way he treated them.”
During this exchange Arana moved toward a dead Crawler, the first to be killed and using her sword cut out the arrow the woman had used. After cutting away the dead flesh the first thing she noticed was that the reason the arrow was so straight was that was made of metal. The second was how light it was. Next she noticed that the fletching wasn’t made from feathers but some kind of substance that was both rigid yet flexible.
“It’s called plastic,” said the woman as she approached and stood next to Arana, “A man-made material.”
“I see,” Arana replied handing the arrow back to the woman, who took it and surprisingly gripped the arrowhead and turned it several times removing it completely from the shaft. She then reached into a pouch and retrieved another arrowhead and replaced it. Arana for her part even after seeing all the wonders of Voyager was impressed with this. For even though Voyager held technological wonders beyond imagining, this was a technology she could more readily identify with and appreciate.
“Colonel O’Neill,” the armored woman spoke moving to stand next to Buffy after retrieving her armored helmet, “perhaps I can help to prove the Buffy’s point.”
With that she removed her chainmail coif revealing a pair of pointed ears, “I am half-elven and I believe that we are on my home world of Toril.”
After taking all this in and realizing that they were not only not on Earth but in a different reality, Jack had a change of heart, they all needed to co-operate if they ever wanted to get back to their Earth or to merely survive. He also realized that he didn’t need to conceal any information from anyone anymore.
“I’m Sorry,” O’Neill ground out. He wasn’t used to apologizing for his actions to anyone, but the admiral was correct he did act without thinking.
“Colonel?” AJ questioned.
“I wasn’t thinking straight, it won’t happen again Admiral Chegwidden,” he elaborated and recognized the admiral as his superior officer. He held out his hand and the admiral accepted. The two moved off to the side a little and began to talk.
Seeing that things were for the time being somewhat relaxed Buffy turned her attention to the now revealed half-elf to get some answers. “Now before we were so rudely interrupted, I’d like to have my questions answered; how did you know those worm-like creatures’ tentacles secreted a paralytic poison? What were they? Why didn’t you attack them? And back to my original question; who are you?”
The others now that the tension level had been reduced markedly had begun to close the distance interested to get the full story.
In an authoritative voice the armored woman responded to a very attentive audience. “Those creatures are known as Carrion Crawlers they are native to my home world of Toril. As for my reason for not attacking them, they have only a basic animal intelligence and are not inherently evil, they survive on instinct only to feed and reproduce. To attack them in certain circumstances would be considered an evil act.”
“So would it have been too much of an imposition to lend a hand?”
“If you had become hard pressed I would have lent a hand without reservation, I was watching the battle with great interest.”
“I see. Something to remember for the future, now back to my original question.”
“I am Arana, Champion of Torm and Priestess of Ilmater . . .” and with that she disappeared in the flash of a bright light.
“Well there’s something you see every day,” commented to man wearing the clothes of an eighteenth century nobleman to no one in particular.
“Not so much if you’re me,” replied O’Neill.
“Asgard transporter?” questioned AJ of O’Neill.
“No, there wasn’t any noise accompanying the event,” respond O’Neill.
“What . . .” AJ began to ask, but was cut-off by a similar event and there stood Arana looking none the worse, accept there was something slightly different.
“Whoa,” she said looking around.
* * * * * * * *
“I am Arana, Champion of Torm and Priestess of Ilmater . . .” and with that and a flash of white light Arana found herself no longer in the fifty by fifty foot stone worked room with eleven other people, but alone in a place with a polished marble floor that appeared to extend in all directions infinitely and no walls. She knew this place, a place she had been to only once before. Suddenly Arana was pulled from her revelry by the sound of two voices speaking simultaneously.
“Who invokes my name?” Both voices said from opposite sides of her.
Looking around she saw two forms takes shape. One was a man armored in full plate armor the other was clad in blood red robes. She briefly wondered why he was appearing as two forms at the same time before dropping to one knee and bowing her head in supplication.
“Milord Torm, Milord Ilmater.”
“Who are you mortal . . .,” began Torm.
“. . . to declare allegiance and . . .,” continued Ilmater.
“. . . Worship of me,” finished Torm.
Arana’s neck was starting to ache moving back and forth as each spoke. She didn’t understand what was going on. The last time they all met it was revealed that Torm and Ilmater were two aspects of Tyr, a being known as ‘Q’. During that encounter when all three presented themselves they couldn’t independently move or speak. Now he/they were acting as individuals. Something in the back of her mind was telling her that these beings may not be ‘Q’.
“Milord I have been in your service for near a decade as Champion and Priest.”
The two gods looked at each other perplexed.
“I have never had any mortal by the name of Arana in my service and yet you wear a set of full plate armor, a kite shield and sword made of pure Mithral and have my symbol on your breast plate, also I have no rank of Champion amongst my paladins,” Torm said with more than a little doubt and some suspicion.
“Nor I; I can recall at no time a mortal by the name Arana ever entering my service and yet you claim to be my priest but wear the symbol of Torm, carry a sword and mace of pure Mithral,” said Ilmater, then facing Torm, “Do you believe she may be a traitor priest of the Black Lord?”
“Possibly, but if she is, she is the most convincing I have seen.”
Looking at both of them appalled, Arana responded, “Milord I have always been faithful and true to you.”
“Why do you address . . .,” Torm began more confused than before. This mortal was obviously the one whose vital and devote prayer he had heard earlier but he couldn’t get a feel from her mind, as if some greater power was shielding her.
“. . . us in the singular?” Ilmater finished more confused than before. This was obviously the mortal whose vital and devote prayer he had heard earlier, but curiously he couldn’t determine her intent. It was as if some greater power was shielding her.
“You are both an aspect of Milord Tyr are you not?”
No sooner had she finished her statement than a third being materialized in front of her. The being was also dress in full plate armor, but was missing a hand.
“Who are you mortal, to invoke my name in vain,” Tyr spoke in a loud booming voice that demanded attention, “blasphemer!” Both Torm and Ilmater dropped to one knee in deference to their superior, the leader of the Triad.
Arana now felt that something was definitely wrong, these beings were not ‘Q’ and was starting to believe that they were quite possibly in fact true deities, which would mean that she wasn’t on her Toril, but on another Toril in another reality. Her head began to swim with the repercussions of that. For now though she needed to somehow defuse the current situation before she became a pile of dust.
“Milord Tyr, I meant no disrespect,” Arana said trying to sound calm.
“Who are you mortal? I have searched the histories of Toril and can find no such mortal bearing that name, least of all a mortal who worships both Torm and Ilmater as paladin and priest.” Tyr was a little taken aback due to the fact he couldn’t read this mortal intentions, she was being shielded by some greater power than he. While he said this Torm and Ilmater rose and moved to stand on either of Tyr.
“Milord Tyr I was born on Toril in the year 1340DR in . . .”
“No Milord,” Arana pleaded, wondering why he couldn’t just sense the truth of her statement.
“You lie for it is not yet 1340DR.”
“No Milord I swear to you I speak the truth,” Arana responded getting very confused. If the brief discussion with Buffy, Colonel O’Neill and Admiral Chegwidden was true then they might be on another Toril in another dimension and if that were the case then these beings before her might be actual Gods and could it be possible that she was in the past of this Toril. With that thought she paled at the repercussions.
“She lies Milord, her thoughts are being kept from us to keep her true mission of subversion a secret,” Torm accused.
“Torm you speak out of turn, we have no proof of subversion or duplicity on her part, we should hear her out to determine where the truth lays,” Ilmater said reprovingly trying to prevent precipitous action.
“It matters not; she is being shielded by some greater power than I. Her intentions can not be determined,” Tyr stated.
Arana saw that this was not going in her favor; these deities were acting a lot less tolerant than hers. She didn’t understand why that was but she needed to do something to aid her cause before it was too late. Since if was true that it was before 1340DR the ‘Time of Troubles’ had not happened yet, she had heard stories of before the ‘Time of Troubles’, how the gods of her world had become petty and uncaring towards their worshippers. It was also noted by her that these deities didn’t appear until she called them by name. She could think of only one thing that might be able aid her. Hopefully it would have the desired affect.
“Milord Tyr,” she interrupted their discussion with a forceful voice, “perhaps if you contacted Lord Ao, He . . .”
“How do you a mere mortal know that name, you shall pay for daring to mention it,” Tyr bellowed cutting her off, while drawing his sword to strike her down.
Arana for her part just stood upright waiting for either salvation or the killing blow.
* * * * * * * *
On a higher plane of existence the Over God known as Lord Ao had been watching the entire encounter and frowned in disapproval at the actions of his creations waiting for his chance to intervene. The Creator and Metatron had made it perfectly clear that they couldn’t intervene without being named, so he waited.
That wait was not long in coming as he saw that she had figured out what was needed for him into intervene. “She really is quite smart that one,” he said to himself, then disappeared in a flash of bright light as he heard his name invoked.
* * * * * * * *
Tyr, along with a somewhat reluctant Torm and Ilmater, approached Arana prepared to strike, “Tell me who told you that name and I shall make your death painless.”
Arana remained silent looking Tyr in the eye unafraid.
“So be it.”
* * * * * * * *
A flash of light heralded the arrival of another deity.
‘Stay your hand Lord Tyr,’ the new deity spoke with quiet authority.
All three deities turn as one and dropped to one knee bowing their heads in supplication. Arana now standing behind her three deities as they had turned their backs on her and faced the new deity had a clear view of this new being. As soon as she realized who the new being was she too immediately dropped to one knee and bowed her head in supplication.
‘What is the meaning of this?’ Lord Ao questioned imperiously and sounding angry at what He beheld.
‘My Lord, this mortal . . .’ Tyr began, but was cut off by an angry Overgod.
‘I know what she has done and it does not warrant her death,’ Lord Ao said sounding annoyed and disappointed with his creations.
Once the three deities had gotten over their shock of Lord Ao actually appearing in front of a mortal, letting her know of his existence and most surprising of all was taking her side, they picked up on the tone his voice and began to get nervous. Tyr started to wonder why this mortal was held in such apparent high regard by Lord Ao.
‘Because Tyr, she has a right to a fair trial with all evidence presented and not a summary execution based on some perceived insult that you as God of Judgment and Balance should be defending,’ said to Tyr telepathically.
‘I crave your pardon Lord Ao I was in the wrong,’ apologized Tyr, taken aback not only by the accusation but by that fact that he had indeed violated his own precepts and ethos.
‘Yes you were, but I am not the one you need to crave pardon from. Now what are you going to do to rectify this situation and follow your own precepts and ethos?’
‘Lord Ao request permission . . .’
‘By all means you three may rise.’ The three deities rose from their kneeling position and stood facing Lord Ao who had a look of displeasure on his face. He nodded his head slightly giving them permission to proceed. The three then turned to face the mortal female with Lord Ao coming to stand between the two parties.
* * * * * * * *
Arana was watching all this with keen interest as her very life depended on the out come. She noted that nothing was being said aloud. They must be communicating telepathically between themselves; they apparently didn’t want her to hear their conversation. Soon the three of them rose and turned to face her and astonishingly Lord Ao didn’t leave but moved into a position off to the side but between her and her three deities. And true deities she now knew them to be, not the beings known a ‘Q’ that were the deities on her world, she could actually feel the power radiating off of them.
* * * * * * * *
All three of the Deities approached to within what for them was arms length, knelt bowing theirs heads in front of her. Arana was shocked beyond words by this sudden change of behavior. Tyr spoke for them all, “Lady Arana we crave your pardon for treating you in an ill manner and ask your forgiveness.”
“Milord’s it is not necessary you only acted with caution for I now have an idea of what has transpired and I believed you to be someone else entirely.”
“What is it you speak of, Arana?” Tyr questioned raising his head.
“It’s complicated and would take a very long time for me to explain, but I will try.”
“I have a suggestion that would be infinitely shorter and far more detailed,” Lord Ao spoke softly. All heads turned toward him, His Deities with a questioning look and Arana with a raised eyebrow.
“I could show them your life on your world from birth to now in great detail and it would take but the blink of an eye, if you give me your permission to do so, Arana.”
Tyr, Torm and Ilmater were more than a little surprised by the deference that their Overgod was showing to this mortal. Never had anything like this happened before, all three of them came to the same conclusion at the same time, something of great importance was happening.
“Agreed Milord,” Arana answered without hesitation.
Turn to his three Deities he spoke aloud, “There are things and events that you will learn shortly that must not be repeated to anyone for any reason, I will have your words of honor that what you see, hear and learn will not be spoken of to anyone for any reason.”
“I agree without reservation,” all three said simultaneously. For they all knew what He meant, they were not allowed to speak to any of their follow Deities.
“Very well, Arana step forward. Tyr, Torm and Ilmater take up position around Arana and place your hands over her head,” Lord Ao instructed. As they did this Lord Ao spoke to Arana, “Be calm Arana this won’t hurt a bit.” When everything was ready Lord Ao placed his hand on top of the others pressing down lightly until Tyr’s hand rested on top of Arana’s head and spoke an incantation.
In the blink of an eye they all saw Arana’s life, her trials and hardships, everything, but the most important and significant events happened most recently, the events which lead to her present situation and location.
* * * * * * * *
Torm saw her life and for the first time saw what absolute love, loyalty and devotion she had to this other ‘Torm’, this being know as ‘Q’. The prejudice she had to over come for being a slave and did. Finally her trading herself to Loviatar’s priests in exchange for the lives of ten innocent children without hesitation and what befell her at the hands of Loviatar’s priests her bravery and fortitude in accepting what happened and most incredibly all her response to the priests taunting after hours of torture, ‘I am a Champion of Torm and a Priest of Ilmater, I will not scream for the pleasure of you or your Goddess,’ saying this with absolute conviction and not expecting any rescue. Her surprising rescue into different realty with technology he’d never imagined existed and her victorious single combat with a high priest of Bane. A sense of pride swelled within him that a mortal could so absolutely follow his ethos without asking for any thing in return.
With those thoughts Torm then turned an eye inward to look at his recent behavior and actions. What he saw shamed him immensely. He saw that he was drifting from the very ethos that he was supposed to be upholding. He saw his followers harassing worshippers and followers of goodly aligned religions just because they didn’t worship Him but worse of all his priests and paladins didn’t truly aspire to live the very ethos they swore to uphold and he had done nothing to correct that behavior. He began to feel disgusted with himself and now saw why it was that the ‘Time of Troubles’ was allowed to happen on her world. He vowed that things would change that he would redouble his efforts and be far more accepting of other worshippers and followers of goodly religions and start a vetting process among his priests and paladins. He turned and looked at Ilmater.
* * * * * * * *
Ilmater saw her life and for the first time saw what absolute love, loyalty, compassion and devotion she had to this other ‘Ilmater’, this being know as ‘Q’. The prejudice she had to over come for being a slave and did. Finally her trading herself to Loviatar’s priests in exchange for the lives of ten innocent children without hesitation, something if he had to be honest most of his priests wouldn’t do, and what befell her at the hands of Loviatar’s priests her bravery and fortitude in accepting what happened and most incredibly all her response to the priests taunting after hours of torture, ‘I am a Champion of Torm and a Priest of Ilmater, I will not scream for the pleasure of you or your Goddess,’ saying this with absolute conviction and not expecting any rescue, a single tear fell from Ilmater’s eye. Her surprising rescue into different realty with technology he’d never imagined existed and her victorious single combat with a high priest of Bane. A sense of pride swelled within him that a mortal could so absolutely follow his ethos without asking for any thing in return.
With those thoughts Ilmater then turned an eye inward to look at his recent behavior and actions. What he saw shamed him immensely. He saw that he was drifting from the very ethos that he was supposed to be upholding. He saw his followers harassing worshippers and followers of goodly aligned religions just because they didn’t worship Him but worse of all his priests and followers didn’t truly believe in the very ethos they swore to uphold and he had done nothing to correct that behavior. He began to feel disgusted with himself and now saw why it was that the ‘Time of Troubles’ was allowed to happen on her world. He vowed that things would change that he would redouble his efforts and be far more accepting of other worshippers and followers of goodly religions and start a vetting process among his priests. He turned and looked at Torm.
* * * * * * * *
Tyr saw her life and for the first time saw what absolute love, loyalty, compassion and devotion Arana had for her chosen gods on her world, this being know as ‘Q’, was also apparently Tyr as well as Torm and Ilmater. So that was the reason for her believing we were all one being.
The prejudice she had to over come for being a slave and did; her unwavering belief in her gods. Finally her trading herself to Loviatar’s priests in exchange for the lives of ten innocent children without hesitation, something if he had to be honest most of his followers and the priests of both Torm and Ilmater would be hesitant to do, and what befell her at the hands of Loviatar’s priests her bravery and fortitude in accepting what happened and most incredibly all her response to the priests taunting after hours of torture, ‘I am a Champion of Torm and a Priest of Ilmater, I will not scream for the pleasure of you or your Goddess,’ saying this with absolute conviction and not expecting any rescue. Her surprising rescue into different realty with technology he’d never imagined existed and her victorious single combat with a high priest of Bane. A sense of pride swelled within him that a mortal could so absolutely uphold not only his ethos but other ethos’ of like minded gods without violating either ethos and without asking for any thing in return. A sense of renewed dedication and obligation filled Tyr. He would talk with both Torm and Ilmater and renew their alliance with new direction.
With those thoughts Tyr then turned an eye inward to look at his recent behavior and actions not the least of which was his treatment of the mortal Arana. What he saw shamed him immensely. He saw that he was drifting from the very ethos that he was supposed to be upholding. He saw his followers harassing worshippers and followers of goodly aligned religions just because they didn’t worship Him but worse of all his followers didn’t truly believe in the very ethos they swore to uphold and he had done nothing to correct that behavior. He began to feel disgusted with himself and now saw why it was that the ‘Time of Troubles’ was allowed to happen on her world. He vowed that things would change that he would redouble his efforts and be far more accepting of other worshippers and followers of goodly religions and start a vetting process and possibly begin a specialized priesthood. He turned and looked at Torm and Ilmater.
* * * * * * * *
For his part Lord Ao was immensely pleased by the reaction he saw from Tyr, Torm and Ilmater. Now that they had someone to compare themselves and their worshippers to, a ‘mere’ mortal at that, they saw the destructive direction they had been on and how far off the true path they had drifted. Seeing how someone who truly believed in their ethos, even if from another reality, had shown them the true nature of what they were here for, possibly for the betterment of all.
* * * * * * * *
All too soon it was over; all four Gods pulled back their hands and stood for a moment in silence, contemplating what they had learned. Lord Ao broke that silence.
“Good Torm and Ilmater what is to be your judgment of this mortal?”
All three of them looked at each other then turned back to the mortal, Arana, who stood before them.
“May I see your sword, Arana?” Torm spoke first.
Arana unhesitatingly drew her long sword and handed it to Torm pommel first.
Taking the sword Torm looked it over and seeing the engraving on the blade read ‘Sword of the Loyal Fury’ and realized immediately that it was the name given to his counterpart after his battle, and death, with the Avatar of the God Bane on her world. “I take it that this was a gift from your Torm?”
“I fine weapon and powerful indeed, pure Mithral if I’m not mistaken?”
Torm closed his eyes and appeared to be in deep thought as if trying to come to a decision. Soon his eyes opened and he appeared to have resolved an internal conflict.
All throughout the temples and places of worship of Tyr, Torm and Ilmater on Toril, all of their clergy and paladins heard and saw an image of what was now about to transpire.
“Lady Arana I have seen your life and I know that you are a true and dedicated opponent to evil,” he said taking a step toward her holding out a gauntleted hand.
Arana swallowed nervously. She had heard of this test being performed before, was he offering to her what she thought he was.
“Lady Arana, speak what is written on my gauntlet?”
Arana looked for only the briefest of moments before responding without hesitation, “Bravery, Loyalty, Duty, and Honor.”
Satisfied, Torm came to a decision, “Lady Arana would consent to enter my service as my Champion and Senior Knight in the newly formed order of the Golden Lions?”
“Of course Milord,” She replied instantly. He stepped aside still holding her sword and was replaced by Ilmater.
“Lady Arana I too have seen your life and your dedication and compassion you exhibited to others, your willingness to sacrifice your self to save innocents from suffering by taking that suffering upon yourself without expecting reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Arana was afraid to move this was more than she could have expected.
“Lady Arana would you consent to become my priestess?”
“Indeed Milord it would be an honor.”
Ilmater nodded and stepped away. From the side came the voice of Lord Ao though shielded from the mortals watching.
“And you good Tyr?”
Tyr thought for the briefest of seconds, and then stepped forward to a position in front of Arana. Arana for her part was more nervous than before. She didn’t know what to expect from this Tyr.
“Lady Arana I too have seen your life and know what is in your heart and in your actions; you uphold my precepts and ethos of balance and fair judgment as well as those of Torm and Ilmater without conflict. I have not seen a more dedicated opponent to evil or proponent of good in many long years. I admit freely that I did greatly misjudge you without evidence and for that I beg your pardon and forgiveness.”
“It is given Milord.”
“I have no doubt that my decision is just and right for I have for too long ignored my worshipper’s needs by denying them a clergy.”
On Toril a shocked gasp of disbelief went up from many places of worship. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Tyr admitting that he had erred, or maybe at the very least incorrect and that positive change was coming.
“Therefore I have decided to start a clergy and military arm to aid the forces of good in our world and I would ask that you Arana, Champion of Torm and Priestess of Ilmater become my Chosen as well to take the lead in establishing my church and military arm to battle to forces of Bane, Myrkul, Bhaal, their allies, priests and worshippers.”
Arana was shocked to her very core. Of all the things Tyr could have said she hadn’t even considered that this would remotely be one of them.
“Yes I agree Milord and hope I live up to your expectations.”
“I expect you will.”
With that new precepts for the renewed alliance known as the Triad were handed down. Precepts of tolerance and aid to all goodly aligned religions and as for Torm he informed his priests and paladins of his new tenants of the Penance of Duty, slightly modified as the Debt of Destruction was not yet applicable. A new era on Toril was beginning.
When all was finished the image to all clergy was cut off and Lord Ao turned his attention towards Tyr, Torm and Ilmater.
Looking at the three Lord Ao concentrated and smirked slightly at their shocked looks.
Torm and Ilmater were suddenly overcome with a wave of disorientation and dizziness both swaying slightly on the feet. Tyr grabbed both and held them upright.
After the brief disorientation they looked at each other stunned at what they realized had just occurred. Both looked to Lord Ao for confirmation.
Tyr smiling slightly said, “Let me be the first to congratulate you on your elevation.”
Lord Ao answered telepathically so that Arana wouldn’t be privy to certain information, ‘When you accepted Arana into your ranks without prejudice and granted status without qualification, her belief, love, loyalty and dedication that she had for her deities on her world was transferred to you and allowed you to be elevated to the next higher level. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for some time. We’ll see how it works out.’
‘On Arana’s world this didn’t happen until after . . .’ Tyr began.
‘Unfortunately,” Lord Ao interrupted, knowing what Tyr was going to ask, “events here have already begun along those same lines and will play out to the inevitable conclusion. I can’t change that however, so you see now why I told not to relate what you learned here today. Though . . .’ he left the idea hanging.
‘So our new status . . .’ Torm asked.
‘. . . Is totally dependent on the number and fervency of your worshippers, so far it’s only you three. That may change shortly though.’
That taken care of they turned their attention back to Arana who was just pushing herself back to a kneeling position.
“Arise Arana, Champion of Torm, Priestess of Ilmater and Chosen of Tyr,” Lord Ao said switching to verbal communication.
Arana rose to stand in front of her three Gods. Waiting expectantly for what was next. Lord Ao didn’t disappoint.
“You look as though you would like to ask questions of me Arana.”
“Yes Milord Ao, if that is permitted.”
Hesitating as if in communication Lord Ao responded, “Indeed it is, you may ask three questions of me.”
“Milord Tyr said it was before the year 1340DR,” at a nod she continued, “what is the current date Milord?’
“It is currently 15 Uktar in the year 1336 by Dale Reckoning and by the reckoning of your Starfleet companions you arrived at 0900.”
Arana was astonished almost thirty six years in the past and if this Toril was like hers there were some interesting times ahead. Thinking of her second question she was afraid to ask fearing what the answer was going to be, but if they were to have a chance to survive she needed to know.
“Where on Toril are . . .,” she began, but hesitated, rethinking her wording, “Where exactly on Toril did we arrive?”
“You and your companions have arrived on what is known as the ‘Lost Level’ deep within ‘Halaster’s Halls’.”
Arana shivered at the confirmation of one of her worst fears. Not only to be trapped within Undermountain but with strangers of unknown ability and allegiance.
“Your last question Arana?”
“Did . . . am . . .,” she struggled for the right words, not wanting to sound selfish. Seeing Lord Ao’s small grin, she realized that Lord Ao knew what she was trying to ask. At the same time and in equal parts she wanted and didn’t want Seven of Nine to be with her. Finally the words came, “Are we twelve the only ones to arrive in ‘Halaster’s Halls’?”
“A question most easily answered,” Lord Ao paused dramatically, but seeing her nervousness continued, “No You are not.”
Arana noticed the slight stressing of the word ‘You’ by Lord Ao and wondered exactly what that meant. Before she could get too lost in contemplation Lord Ilmater spoke.
“Arana,” Lord Ao spoke, “when you return to your companions I would appreciate it if you did not refer to me by name.”
“Of course Milord,” Arana responded understanding that he was as yet unknown on this world and would be so until the ‘Time of Troubles’.
Holding out his hand Ilmater said, “Arana may I see your mace?” Arana pulled the mace from her belt and handed it over.
“I fine weapon indeed, its head is pure Mithral,” Ilmater said looking over the mace.
“Arana I believe this belongs to you,” said Torm while handing back her sword pommel first while gripping the blade.
As soon as Arana grabbed the pommel a bluish glow radiated down the blade to the pommel and into her until she was surrounded in a glowing blue light which quickly dissipated, leaving her stunned.
Next Ilmater returned her mace pommel first causing the same affect, Arana swooned with the amount of power she felt coursing thru her.
Finally all three touched her armor, Torm on the right shoulder, Ilmater on the left and Tyr on her breast plate. As they did this the emblem of Torm on her breast plate morphed and changed into something new. It now showed not only the symbol of Torm but of Ilmater and Tyr as well, merged into a single coat-of-arms, signifying a new level of co-operation amongst the powers of the Triad and showing her to hold the favor of all three Deities.
Arana was overcome with the knowledge of want had just happened to her and the gifts that her Deities had bestowed upon her unsolicited. Before she could properly thank them however she was gone in a flash of light.
After she left them Tyr had a thoughtful look on his face.
“What thoughts are you thinking Tyr?” Lord Ao asked of him already knowing the answer.
“That if someday I would choose to be a father that I would be blessed indeed to have a daughter such as her.”
A small smile worked its way onto Lord Ao’s face and a twinkle in his eye, “Funny you should mention that.”
Looking at Lord Ao quizzically, Tyr asked, “Milord?”
“It’s just that on Arana’s world,” Lord Ao paused for affect, “She is her Tyr’s granddaughter.”
Before Tyr could respond to that Lord Ao left in a flash of light, leaving Tyr with a befuddled and confused look on his face as Torm and Ilmater congratulated him.
Looking at Torm and Ilmater he said, “Do not forget that in Arana’s reality the three of us are but one being.” Both stopped what they were doing and had a stunned look on their faces as the realization of what Tyr said dawned on them. They too were grandfathers of Arana in the same way that Tyr was.
Before more could be said the look of joy on Ilmater’s face was replaced by a look of despair.
“What is it?” a Concerned Torm asked.
“We have indeed been negligent in our duties,” at the looks of confusion from Tyr and Torm, Ilmater elaborated simply, “The Fugue Plain.”
All three immediately realized that they had woefully neglected their worshippers and set off to correct that inattention.
* * * * * * * *
“I am Arana, Champion of Torm and Priestess of Ilmater . . .” and with that she disappeared in the flash of a bright light.
“Well there’s something you see every day,” commented to man wearing the clothes of an eighteenth century nobleman to no one in particular.
“Not so much if you’re me,” replied O’Neill.
“Asgard transporter?” questioned AJ of O’Neill.
“No, there wasn’t any noise accompanying the event,” respond O’Neill.
“What . . .” AJ began to ask, but was cut-off by a similar event and there stood Arana looking none the worse, accept there was something slightly different.
“Whoa,” she said looking around.
The remaining eleven people in the room were just starting to overcome their collective shock when Arana was returned to them.
“Hey look the elf broad is back. Where you been toots?” the nobleman asked, seeing Arana return, quite rudely.
All heads turn toward her and they began closing around her intrigued to learn what happened to her.
Shooting the man a harsh look for his apparent insensitivity briefly, Buffy turned her full attention to Arana asking, “Arana can you tell us what happened, where you went?”
“I was taken to the Hall of the Gods and met my chosen Deities,” Arana said with a touch of awe.
O’Neill rolled his eyes at that statement, having dealt intimately with powerful alien beings claiming to be ‘gods’ themselves.
“You actually met gods?” this from the young woman with the strange bow. Arana just nodded her head slightly.
“Oh for cryin’ out loud,” O’Neill stated with total authority and belief, “they weren’t ‘gods’. There’s no such thing as ‘gods’, only powerful alien beings masquerading as gods.”
Arana felt the sudden need to defend her Deities, “Yes that was indeed the truth in my reality, however in this reality it does appear as though actual divine powers do exist.”
“In your reality,” Buffy questioned confused, “I thought that this was your world?”
“As did I, however I learned much from my encounter,” Arana said. This got everyone even more interested, it sounded like they were finally going to get some at least partial answers to their common situation that they all found themselves in.
They all look at her expectantly to continue.
“I was allowed to ask but three questions of the Deities that were present.” Arana didn’t mention Lord Ao by name at the request of Lord Ao himself.
“What questions did you ask?” Buffy asked, hoping that they were good questions along with equally good answers, much to the chagrin O’Neill who thought he was the one who should be asking all the questions, wanting to get some answers about their location and situation before asking about these ‘gods’.
“First I asked, ‘Where exactly on Toril were we?’”
“Good question and the answer is?”
“I was told that we are currently on the Lost Level deep within ‘Halaster’s Halls’, known by many as Undermountain.”
“I see,” that didn’t really give any real answer, then getting a confused look on her face Buffy asked, “I thought you said we weren’t on your world or your reality for that matter?”
“Indeed I did. It would seem that we are on another Toril in a different reality or plane of existence within the multi-verse.” O’Neill was starting to get a massive migraine.
“Oh, judging by the look on your face being on this Lost Level let alone Undermountain is not a good thing is it.”
“‘Halaster’s Halls’ or Undermountain as it’s commonly referred to, is known as the largest, deepest and deadliest dungeon on all Toril.”
“How big are we talking,” this from admiral Chegwidden.”
“It is my understanding that it has 6 main levels and 9 sub-levels of which this level we’re on is the most difficult to enter and even more difficult to leave.”
Letting out a low whistle the nobleman asked, “How do we exit this ‘Lost Level’ then, sister?”
Pointing at the archway Arana said, “Through that portal,” indicating the pillar of green flame.”
“How do you know that?” asked the man with the beard.
Pointing at the top of the arch to the writing there Arana said, “That is written in Thorass, and ancient dwarven language, basically it reads, ‘Exit’.”
“Hah, I knew it,” exclaimed Buffy extremely pleased with herself.
“Well what are we waiting for, lets go,” O’Neill suggested happily. Then looked at Arana not moving, “Is there a reason we just can’t walk over and leave this place?”
Before Arana could answer, Buffy sniped back, “Maybe you didn’t notice those big leathery beach ball looking things circling about that green pillar of flame due to your failing eyesight old guy.”
“Hey, I’m not old, I’m seasoned.”
“You just keep telling yourself that.”
Before anymore could be said Arana interrupted, “Indeed that is but one of several reasons we can not proceed right away, but the main reason for not leaving immediately is that we need to search this level.” Now she had everyone’s undivided attention.
“What, are you nuts? What possible reason could there be to search this place when our exit is right there?” O’Neill questioned with disbelief.
“You got that right brother,” said the nobleman. The others were nodding their heads in agreement; this was not a good place to linger for any amount of time.
“Two very important reasons really,” Arana said starting to loose a little patience with this Colonel O’Neill.
“What are the reasons Arana?” Buffy asked hoping to defuse a possible confrontation.
“First, as I have said my question of our location was confirmed by my Deities that this is in fact the Lost Level of Undermountain,” Arana said looking around for understanding which she saw on everyone’s faces, “What that means is that although our exit portal lies mere feet away beyond the southern archway, it is in fact inactive and can only be activated by a key.”
Groans emitted from the people surrounding her with much eye rolling, accept for Buffy who looked at her very suspiciously. Arana briefly wondered what was causing these feelings of suspiciousness and sudden distrust.
Buffy for her part narrowed her eyes, and asked in a tone that implied the wrong answer would carry dire consequences, “What type of key?” For Buffy, to say the words portal and key in the same sentence was tantamount to signing your death warrant.
Curious as to why the discussion of a key to activate a portal would cause such hostility Arana clarified, “Forgive me I misspoke, we in fact need a set of four keys to be inserted into these four slots at the edge of the octagon mosaic.” Arana then showed them the four slots. At this explanation Arana saw Buffy visibly relax and all hostility dissipate.
“So,” Buffy said as she began to look around the room they were in as looking at something. O’Neill and Chegwidden began to follow, looking where Buffy was. Rapidly a few of the others started doing the same thing when Buffy got a look total frustration. ‘Why can it never be easy?’ she thought to herself.
O’Neill caught on first, “Oh for cryin’ out loud,” O’Neill said sounding as frustrated as Buffy looked, “You have got to be kidding me!”
At first wondering at O’Neill’s exclamation, Chegwidden too caught on, “Oh no.”
Then the others as they put it all together, a groan of near despair rose from the group.
“Don’t say it,” O’Neill said almost pleading.
“So four keys and four doors,” Buffy summed it up.
“Indeed that is the case,” Arana stated, confirming everyone’s thoughts.
“I told you not to say it.”
“Can this possibly get any worse?” Chegwidden wondered.
“This maybe the stupid question, but since we pretty much know that behind each door there’s going to be key right?” the man in the sheriff’s uniform from Eureka asked. At a nod from Arana and Buffy he continued, “Couldn’t we just go into the room with the green flame and get the first key?” he finished hopefully.
“In fact,” Arana replied, “that should be the last key we retrieve.”
“Of course it is.”
“Do we even want to know why?” this from the Texas Ranger. The others waited for Arana to answer but it was Buffy who responded.
“Let me guess. If we try to get the key those leathery beach ball things will attack us relentlessly until we’re all dead, right.”
“Indeed you are correct Milady. Those creatures are known as Beholders. I have been able to identify three different types; two Death Kiss, the ones with the long tentacles, an Elder Orb, the medium sized one and a Death Tyrant, an undead beholder. Each one by itself would be a deadly foe to a party as ill equipment and experienced as ours is, but with the four of them none would survive.”
“Oh come on, how fearsome could they possibly be. I mean look at them. What can they do?” the O’Neill asked sarcastically.
“You know you’ve just jinxed us right?” Buffy said rolling her eyes.
“Do not mock what you don’t know Colonel O’Neill,” Arana said reprovingly, “Do you see those eye stalks?” at O’Neill’s nod, “Those eye stalks carry a wide variety of deadly weapons, including disintegrate, petrifaction, charm person and hold person as well as others. As for the reason for retrieving that key last, the stories I have heard say that these creatures are controlled by Halaster, himself, and have orders to prevent any living being from approaching the key. They will attack until either we are dead and the key retrieved or until they are dead and that after they are dead more will be teleported in to replace them.”
“As for the other reason, it would be best to wait until we have fully searched this level as we will most likely be in a better position to deal with any enemy.”
“Why’s that Arana, what haven’t you told us yet?”
“As I said I was allowed to ask three questions of my Deities What I spoke of was the information I was able to determine from the first question.”
“Go on,” Buffy said a little wary.
“My second question was of small consequence to our situation, what was today’s date?”
“Today is 15 Uktar 1336DR or Dale Reckoning and was told that according to my Federation friends we arrived at 0900 hours.”
“Why would you waste one of your three questions for an answer like that? What does this date 15 Uktar 1336DR actually refers to?” as they all looked at their watches seeing that it was now 0925. Only twenty five minutes had passed.
“Because Colonel, it showed that we, or should I say I, have arrived over thirty five years in the past of this world called Toril, and even though this is not my world it is similar enough that I know most of what will be going to happen in the future of this world and become better prepared to handle them. As to what the date refers to, the 15th day Uktar in the 1336DR let me explain. On Toril the Calendar is broken down into twelve months of thirty days each plus five days that fall in between of the calendar months of Harptos. Those months being, Hammer, Alturiak, Ches, Tarsakh, Mirtul, Kythorn, Flamerule, Eleasias, Eleint, Marpenoth, Uktar and Nightal, with the special days being; Midwinter, Greengrass, Midsummer, Higharvestide and the Feast of the Moon.”
“Math was never my strong suit but I count three hundred and sixty-five days total and twelve months, by my calculation then your month of Uktar would equate to Earth’s month of November. So for us Earthlings it’s the 15th of November, late fall, early winter, cool, hey guys its almost Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Buffy stated looking around to see that all were in agreement, “and the year.”
“The history of that is a little more lengthy and complicated and has changed with whatever empire or dynasty happened to be about. Suffice it to say it has been thirteen hundred and thirty-six years since Dale Reckoning was instituted by the people of the Dales when they came to power. Dale Reckoning is presently the most common way of counting the years West of Shou Lung. All years are given names, for instance this year; 1336DR is known as ‘The Year of the Highmantle’.”
“Okay I guess that’s alright then,” O’Neill quipped back sounding uninterested, but marveling at the amount of Intel a simply date provided everyone.
“Colonel,” Chegwidden said in a terse voice, “Please continue Arana, What was your third question? Why do you think we’ll be in a better position after we search this level?”
“Because for my third question I asked if we twelve were the only ones to arrive here.” Now she had everybody’s undivided attention.
“And the answer was?” asked Buffy not sure what she wanted the answer to be. Everyone tensed up waiting for the answer.
“I was told that we were not the only ones to arrive.” That answer stunned everyone to silence as they each contemplated what that would mean to themselves personally.
“Well since it looks as though we’re going to be here awhile we should probably introduce ourselves,” the Texas Ranger said.
“And what makes you think that cowboy,” quipped the nobleman.
“Logic,” he replied simply. That answer confused almost all the others except for Buffy, Arana, AJ and O’Neill.
“Care to explain that reasoning cowboy?”
“Simply put, I was at my retirement party with my wife, some close friends and fellow Rangers. If there is even the slightest chance that due to their proximity to me they’re here, I won’t leave this place without searching every square inch to make sure they aren’t,” pausing a second, Walker continued, “I’ll start the ball rolling, my name’s Cordell Walker and I’ve been a Texas Ranger for twenty five years.”
Buffy was thinking about how this could’ve happened, ‘how could this many people from different . . .’ She stopped, suddenly it came to there was only one way that this could’ve happened, “Dawn,” she said quietly. Only Dawn’s blood could do this, then moving on to more morbid conclusions, didn’t what looked like a drop of blood land on Spike’s amulet, Dawn was probably hurt, or worse dead or most terrible of all she was likely here.
“I agree with Ranger Walker. My name is Buffy Anne Summers, on my world I’m known as The Vampire Slayer. I was with my little sister and some friends when this happened and I won’t leave without them.”
“Ranger Walker,” the oriental woman said moving towards Ranger Walker holding out her hand, “it’s good to see you again though not in these particular circumstances.”
“Detective Chen, it’s always a pleasure.”
“You two know each other?” Buffy questioned.
“Yes we met briefly when I followed a suspect to Los Angeles. Detective Chen, her partner Sammo Law and her captain were instrumental in the arrest of a very dangerous terrorist.”
“So you two must be from the same reality then,” Buffy surmised.
“Most likely, my name is Detective Grace Chen; I’m with the LAPD Major Crimes Unit or MCU. I was in a meeting with my captain Amy Dylan and partner Sammo Law, when all of a sudden I find myself here. I won’t leave either.
“What a minute,” said the short haired brunette,” I work in LA and have never heard of the MCU.”
“Where do you work?” asked Detective Chen.
“My name’s Nikki Franco and I work for VIP, the Valerie Irons Protection Agency. We offer protection to high profile celebrities.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“You must be from yet another reality then,” reasoned Buffy again.
“As I said I’m Vice Admiral AJ Chegwidden and I’m the Judge Advocate General of the United States Armed Forces and also a US Navy SEAL. I and my staff, designated SG-18, were heading to the planet Abydos with the President. I stepped into the event horizon and then I was here. I also won’t leave until I’m sure they aren’t here.”
“Which President were you accompanying?” asked O’Neill.
“Josiah Bartlett,” looking at Colonel O’Neill.
“Never heard of him,” O’Neill answered. Admiral Chegwidden continued to look at Colonel O’Neill.
“Fine, I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill, two l’s, and I’m attached to the SGC as SG-1’s Commanding Officer. My team and I were in the SGC getting ready for a mission when an off world alarm sounded, then I was here and I never leave anyone behind.”
“I’m Andrew Wells, I’m with Buffy.”
“As I said before I’m Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the starship Serenity, my crew and I were headed to the planet Miranda when I woke up here. Same goes for me I won’t leave any of my crew behind.” Mostly he was thinking of one crewmember in particular, Inara.
“You really aren’t Caleb are you?” Buffy commented.
“Never heard of him.”
“Then I’m sorry I attacked you. It was a case of mistaken identity.” Malcolm nodded his head in acceptance of Buffy’s apology.
“I’m Jack Carter, former US Marshal, now sheriff of Eureka, CA. I was in the process of apprehending a suspect who had created a device which I was told opened a doorway to heaven so that she could be with her dead husband. It suddenly flashed and pulsed. The next thing I knew I was here and if there’s even the slightest chance that my daughter is here I won’t be leaving until I’m satisfied she isn’t here or I find her.”
“Name’s Jack Stiles and I work for the United States government, directly for the President on a matter of supreme interest to the United States. If Em’s anywhere in this dungeon I won’t leave period.
“Who’s this M?” AJ asked.
“She’s my assigned partner, Emelia Smythe Rothschild; she’s a British agent working directly for the King.”
“Which President and King?” AJ asked, getting an odd feeling in his gut.
“Thomas Jefferson and George III of course,” Stiles replied. Everyone did a double take at that. AJ just covered his face in his hands.
“My name’s Abigail Whistler and I’m a Vampire Hunter.” Buffy and Arana looked at her with renewed interest.
“Really, how is it you got here?” Buffy asked.
“I and my partners, Hannibal King and Blade were fighting the vampire Drake in a LA high-rise when there was a glowing green light, and then I was here. If they are here I will find them.”
“Drake?” Buffy asked never hearing the name before.
“He’s was known and worshipped by the ancient Sumerians as Dagon, the First Vampire,” at seeing no recognition she continued, “Later before he assumed the identity Drake he was known as Dracula.”
“No Way, I fought Dracula too; he was actually Vlad Tepes from Transylvania, not the First Vampire on my world.”
“Well actually Blade fought Drake, Hannibal and I fought his minions.”
“Who’s this Blade? He sounds interesting.”
“He’s was born a half-vampire,” Abigail stated.
Buffy was shocked; she’d never heard of such a thing or even that it was possible, “I just want to make sure I heard you correctly. You said he was a born vampire? Not sired?” at Abigail nod, “Wow, your world is really different. We should talk.”
Finally all eyes were on Arana, “As I have said I am Arana Champion of Torm, Priestess of Ilmater and now Chosen of Tyr. I was born on Toril though not this one and the last thing I remember was walking through the corridors of the Federation Starship USS Voyager with a close friend, and then waking up here. If any of my friends from the Voyager are here I will find them before I consider leaving.”
“Now that that’s settled and everybody knows everybody, how are we going to go about this?” Buffy asked no one in particular.
“Well obviously we leave this key for last as we know where it is and split up and go after the other three,” O’Neill stated with authority.
“How do you suggest we split up Colonel?” AJ queried, interested in this O’Neill’s thought process.
“There are twelve of us and three doors so we split up into teams of four and search for the remaining keys,” O’Neill replied as if speaking to a complete novice. AJ, Buffy, Arana, Walker, Grace, Nikki, Malcolm and even Jack Stiles on the other hand started slowly shaking their heads.
“And you’ve managed to actually stay alive in your fight with aliens with that kind of planning?”
“Yes, our SG teams are made up of four personnel and we’ve done alright.”
“Guess these alien bad guys of yours aren’t much of a threat,” Buffy quipped.
“Same for your so-called vampires, if only one girl is needed to fight them.”
“So these four man teams are regularly made up of complete strangers with absolutely no idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are?” Buffy questioned sarcastically.
“Ms Summers has a good point Colonel. Not only are we, for the most part, complete strangers but we have no idea what we’re up against and we number only twelve with limited effective weapons and unknown skill sets,” Admiral Chegwidden said making his displeasure with Colonel O’Neill’s cavalier attitude known.
“So now we’re going to be getting tactical advice from teeny bopper Barbie?” O’Neill fired off.
“Watch it GI Old Joe,” Buffy fired back.
“That’s enough Colonel. Since you seem to be having a problem adapting to this particular situation, one more outburst and I’ll relieve of any further responsibility for the time being.”
“You can’t do that!” O’Neill nearly shouted.
“Excuse me Colonel, but even though we’re from different realities we’re still in the US Armed Forces and I do believe that three stars out ranks your bird.”
“Fine, how do you suggest we precede Ms Summers?” O’Neill asked slightly angered that he was being so easily being dismissed by the Admiral for the advice of a civilian girl.
“I think that splitting up at this time would be a very bad idea as not everyone has the type of hand to hand combat skills or knowledge of the weapons that we are going to need,” Buffy paused looking around and seeing a nod of agreement from everyone except O’Neill.
“I can fight,” protested O’Neill.
“I don’t think firing your machine gun counts as fighting,” at O’Neill’s look of protestation she continued, “How many clips do you have left Colonel?”
Taking a quick inventory he saw that he had only the one clip that was loaded and it was only half full. “Half a clip,” he said. Seeing his look Buffy continued.
“Are you going to be able to resupply anytime soon?”
“Alright you win this round for now; I’ll play along until we get to the surface. Then I’m going to re-evaluate the leadership situation,” he said to both Admiral Chegwidden and Ms Summers.
“Whatever, in the mean time to the question of where do we go, I say we take the North door.”
“Why that one?” AJ asked curious to her reason.
“I also would like to know why,” asked Arana.
“No reason other than it’s opposite the archway that we know has one of the keys we need.”
“Can’t argue with that kind of logic,” reasoned AJ.
“Indeed,” agreed Arana dubiously.
“Who do you intend to leave here to guard this room?” asked Walker.
“No one,” at everyone looks she explained her reasoning further, “We can’t afford to. Say we leave four here and something more powerful arrives that they can’t handle and end up being killed. We wouldn’t know about it until we walk into it. As much as I absolutely hate leaving an area undefended that we might have to retake again later, we can’t risk dividing our forces yet. We simply don’t have enough people to support that option at this time.”
“Well then miss military genius, how do not get attacked from the rear?” already knowing the answer but wanting to see if this child had a clue.
“Simple, we block the door after we go thru, duh,” she said as if speaking to a petulant child who hasn’t gotten his way. O’Neill for his part was being to become impressed with this Buffy Summers. Even though she had had no military training or experience she was making excellent tactical decisions so he began to raise his estimation of her, however slightly.
“That’s all well and fine but as you’ve already pointed out we don’t have the weapons we need, plus even though I am a SEAL I don’t relish having to carry this backpack all over creation.”
“Easily remedied on both counts AJ, give me your pack; take out what you think you might need in the short term.”
After removing his pack and taking out a few small necessities AJ handed his one hundred ten pound pack to Buffy, wondering what she was going to do, while Buffy proceeded to unzip and open her fanny-pack. They were all very surprised that she not only grabbed his pack without effort but that she then lifted the pack and placing at the opening of her fanny-pack where it then shrank down and Buffy easily put into her fanny-pack. Not stopping there Buffy continued to reach into her fanny-pack all the way up to her elbow and appeared to be rummaging around looking for something.
All present except for Arana were totally stunned by this, it looked as though her pack was somehow larger inside than out. O’Neill was the first to find his voice, “I’m not that smart but even I know that violates the laws of physics.”
“Yeah, magic will do that sometimes,” Buffy quipped off-handedly. Then withdrew her arm along with what looked like several swords, a crossbow, a couple of bows with quivers, some daggers and a quarter staff. “Well choose what you think you can handle the most proficiently.”
The first two to step up were Cordell Walker and Grace Chen and started looking at the available weapons for their use. Soon everyone had a weapon and was trying them out to try and get comfortable with them and their use.
“Sorry I don’t have better weapons or any armor but hopefully we’ll be able to pick some up as we go,” Buffy said sounding apologetic. While almost everyone began picking out a weapon that they felt suited their abilities. Jack Stiles, Buffy, Abigail and Arana didn’t bother. Jack Stiles had his rapier and a dagger, Arana Had her long sword and mace, Abigail had her re-curve compound long bow amongst other miscellaneous weapons, while Buffy had the Scythe and some stakes along with whatever was left in her fanny-pack.
Nikki picked up a short sword, Grace chose a long sword, AJ chose a short bow and quiver, O’Neill chose a crossbow and dagger, Jack Carter chose a dagger and short sword, Walker picked up the quarter staff, Malcolm Reynolds picked up a dagger and long sword and finally Andrew got a dagger.
“Fear not Milady this dungeon is said to be rife with equipment from fallen adventurers,” Arana said trying to alleviate Buffy’s false guilt, “if you did but notice that thru the archway are numerous pieces of armor and many weapons belonging to adventurers the Beholders have killed.”
“Yeah I did notice but they’ll have to wait until we’re ready to leave, before we start though I have to ask you about these beach ball things. Why again did you say we couldn’t just go and kill them?”
“They are extremely dangerous and intelligent opponents,” Buffy’s polite look of disbelief she continued to make her point, “Did you also, while you were looking into the room, notice those statues?” Buffy nodded her head that yes she had. The others were listening carefully for they too didn’t really see the floating ‘beach balls’ as Buffy called them as a serious threat, especially Jack O’Neill.
“Those aren’t statues,” Arana said simply to see if this girl was intelligent enough to understand her meaning.
“Oh,” Buffy said quietly as what Arana had said sank in, “you mean . . .”
“Yes those were people turned to stone by the Beholders.” No one knew quite what to say about that.
“Right then, the North door it is,” Stiles commented lazily as he was trying unsuccessfully to put the image of being turned to stone out of his mind. He turned and reached out to grab the door handle and turned.
“Wait!” Buffy and Arana yelled at the same time as they moved to stop him.
He was grabbed on the left and right arms and unceremoniously pulled away, “What?” at their looks he snipped off before they could say anything, “Don’t get your panties in a bunch sisters, the door’s locked.”
“If you’ll stand aside and let a professional work,” Nikki said.
“Professional what?” which earned him a sharp look from Nikki who then kneeled down to examine the lock.
After a few moments she turned her head over her right shoulder, “This shouldn’t take long,” as she pulled a small case from her belt line.
“You are a thief,” Arana said with a disapproving and accusatory tone when she saw the set of lock picks. Yet she was curious as she could sense no evil intent coming from the woman. In her experiences thieves though not always of evil intent were always untrustworthy and as a Paladin of Torm did not feel comfortable in the presence of a person who not an outlaw probably skirted the law.
“Yes and no,” Nikki said while determining which tool to best use for this extremely primitive and ancient looking lock, “I’m no criminal though I do have many skill sets of a thief. I never steal from honest people. I’ve only used my acquired skills to protect our clients, sometimes that means breaking in to some secure building to provide evidence to the law enforcement agencies of my clients innocence. Now if you want to talk criminals we’ll talk about my family.” Arana relaxed somewhat upon hearing Nikki’s explanation. She believed every word she was saying. Maybe things worked differently on her world.
“Your family?” Ranger Walker asked. The rest of the law enforcement people present had also picked up on the terminology Nikki has used.
“Yes. And it’s exactly what you think. My grandfather is head of the family in LA, though we had I falling out about a decade ago and didn’t speak again until recently,” all the law enforcement officers present just nodded their heads in understanding. They couldn’t really arrest her and they my just need her skills to survive.
“So a guild of sorts?” Arana asked.
“Guess you could call it that.”
“And you broke with them?”
“Then I admire you for it must have taken great courage and moral fortitude to do so.”
Nikki had begun working on the lock as she was talking and as she finished her explanation a soft audible ‘thunk’ was heard, grinning she turned her head with removing her hands, “That was . . .,” before she finished another sound was heard a soft audible ‘clink’. “Oww,” she said as she quickly stood up shaking her hand, “That hurt. What was . . .,” as she suddenly fainted.
Arana and Buffy caught her as she fell and lowered her to the ground, “What happened?” Buffy asked.
As Buffy asked this Arana examined the hand Nikki was shaking and saw a small needle which she removed from Nikki’s hand. “The lock was trapped,” she explained simply, showing Buffy the small needle she had removed.
Confused Buffy asked, “That little thing did this?”
“It’s poisoned; I have to act fast its killing her.” Arana said as Nikki’s breathing became shallow and erratic. Everyone was shocked by this admission. What kind of hellish place were they to have poisoned locks?
“Do you have an antidote?” this from Abigail concerned for the woman’s life.
“In a way,” Arana said removing her gauntlets and placing one hand on Nikki’s forehead and one on her heart while closing her eyes and taking a deep cleansing breath.
“What’s she doing?” O’Neill said with disbelief as he moved to remove Arana and to try and render first aid, “We need to be doing something not some ‘hocus pocus’ mumbo jumbo.”
Buffy moved in and intercepted O’Neill before he could interfere, “We’ll give her a chance,” Buffy said, more familiar with magic than he was.
“Colonel O’Neill that’s the last straw, stand-down.”
In the meantime Arana had centered herself then uttered a single word, “Avasagwa,” in her native language, Elven. As she did this she felt the power of her Deity coursing through her as her prayer was answered and knew then that Nikki was not evil as her Deity would not deign to heal someone evil. A soft bluish glow began emanating from her hands and moved into Nikki’s Head and heart. Within seconds the glow had ended and Nikki took a deep breath.
“Next time Colonel let the people who know what they’re doing make the decisions. You may be top of the heap where you’re from, but here you’re an amateur.”
“That won’t be necessary Ms Summers, Colonel O’Neill you were warned to hold yourself in check. You’re becoming a liability to our chances of getting out of here in one piece. You’re with me. You don’t make a move unless I give you the word. Do you understand me Colonel?”
“Yes sir, Admiral,” O’Neill snapped of in a professional yet slightly angered way. He was now suddenly made to look the undisciplined and unprofessional one in lieu of a mere teenaged girl.
“How is she Arana?” AJ asked.
“I’m fine,” Nikki answered, “What happened?”
“The lock you picked was trapped with this,” Arana told her holding up a small needle.”
“Guess I need to be move attentive in the future, but I guess it couldn’t of been that . . .,” she trialed off at the looks she was getting, “. . . what?”
“You were dying, Arana cured you,” Buffy informed her. Nikki sat there stunned for a moment.
“Thank you,” she said to Arana.
“‘Twas but my duty, Milady.”
“Maybe so but thanks anyway,” Nikki said as she stood up. She then moved to the door and reached out to open it cautiously.
“The door is safe now.”
“Are we ready?” Nikki asked as Buffy, Arana and Abigail moved to stand next to her.
“I would like to know something before we begin,” Buffy said directing her look towards Arana.
“What would you like to know Milady?”
“You said that these Beholder things,” Buffy said gesturing towards the archway, “were being controlled by this Halaster?”
“That is correct.”
“So I take it he’s given them instructions and is not personally directing their actions as I don’t see him anywhere?”
“Also correct,” Arana said seeing what Buffy was getting at, “As I said he has given them the instructions to, ‘Allow no living being near the key’.”
“No living being huh,” Buffy said smiling for the first time in what seemed forever, “problem solved then. If my friend’s here that is.”
“Who?” Arana asked, briefly wondering why this person would solve the problem of getting near the key. As she thought about it more closely she began to frown as it started to become clear what Buffy was implying, “Your friend, he’s undead?”
“Yes, a vampire actually,” deciding to be upfront from the start. Then seeing Arana’s frown deepened and eyes narrow accusingly, further clarified, “He’s got a soul now, he’s not evil anymore.”
“A vampire with soul, I have never heard of such a thing being done, vampires are irredeemably evil. Whoever has done this must be a powerful mage or priest indeed?”
“A friend of mine, who’s a very powerful witch, cast a spell and restored his human soul.”
“A Witch? She gains her power from Fiends?” Arana said with more than a little anger thinking she had misjudged Buffy badly, her hand reaching for her sword.
“No, no, no,” Buffy replied quickly holding up her hands trying to defuse Arana growing anger, “Willow’s a Wicca, on my world ‘witches’ draw their power from the earth itself. On my world all women who are able to use magic are called a ‘witch’,” at seeing Arana’s hand halt at her pommel she continued, “I guess being a witch here has a different meaning?”
“Indeed it does. To be a witch on my world is to supplicate herself before a Fiend of the Lower Planes, who then grants the witch part of his power for her to be able to cast spells. All witches are eventually consumed by the demon and their soul ends up in the Abyss suffering eternal torment.”
“Wow, important tidbit of information to keep from being killed by an angry mob. So if Willow’s not considered to be a witch here, what would she be called?”
“If she draws power from the environment around her as you say then she would tap in the ‘Weave’ and most likely be known as a wizard or sorceress.”
“So we’re good then and no killing Spike, my vampire friend on sight?”
“Indeed we are and I will withhold dispatching this ‘Spike’ until I have met him and seen for myself the truth of your words,” Arana said in a very business-like manner some doubt still evident in her voice.
“That’s all I can ask. Now on to more important matters,” Buffy said as she swung the ax she was carrying behind her back, where it promptly disappeared and Admiral Chegwidden took over.
“Marching order as follows; Buffy, Arana, Nikki and Abigail will take point,” Admiral Chegwidden began and at Buffy’s nod continued, “Myself, Colonel O’Neill, Ranger Walker and Detective Chen will guard our rear, while the rest will be in the middle,” at the looks of protest Admiral Chegwidden pressed on, “to be able to respond in which ever direction they’re needed most.” Nods of approval met this statement all around as they all moved to the north and off of the mosaic floor design.
“I still think we should leave someone behind,” said O’Neill, “I just don’t like the idea of leaving some place unguarded.”
“Colonel I thought we already went over why that was a bad idea,” replied Buffy.
“I know but what are the odds of something appearing again so soon?” O’Neill asked as Buffy and a few others looked on in shock.
“What?” O’Neill asked confused.
“Wait for it,” Buffy said as she and a couple of the others brought weapons up to a guarded position.
AJ opened his mouth to say something to O’Neill when once again a flash of green light illuminated the room. Everyone shielded their eyes to protect them. When they opened their eyes before them stood not one or two but what looked to be twenty dog headed creatures in some type of leather armor and each of them carrying a weapon. They were all tall, taller than everyone present though two of them were shorter and had what looked like better armor and weapons.
Before Buffy could even come up with a snarky comment for O’Neill she caught movement next her. Turning her head she saw that Arana had donned of chainmail coif and drew her sword. In next instant she charged forward with a battle cry attacking the creatures. The decision made Buffy too charged to the attack followed rapidly by the others.
The battle was on.
Buffy followed Arana into battle with these dog-headed creatures. Apparently her hesitation in attacking the Crawlers didn’t apply now. Following them into battle was Jack Stiles, Grace Chen, and Ranger Walker attacking with their newly acquired weapons. Malcolm Reynolds hesitated only a second then he, Nikki Franco and Jack Carter joined the melee.
Jack O’Neill, AJ Chegwidden and Abigail Whistler all hung back and drew their bows and crossbow, preparing to attack at range and lend support to those being hard pressed by these creatures.
Buffy and Arana seemed to be doing quite well, even though had put away her Scythe and was using a plain long sword the power behind the sword more than made up for not using the weapon. In AJ’s mind this just cemented his decision to support Buffy. As he thought this Buffy round house kicked one of the creatures so hard he flew backward past the southern archway and into the room beyond. What happened next horrified the three of them. As soon as the creature stood up it was attacked by two of the beholders. One of them fired a beam from one of its eyestalks and the creature turned to stone the other fired its beam and the creature now turned statue was disintegrated.
Jack Stiles on the other hand was being very hard pressed by two of the creatures and in short order had his sword knocked from his hand and one creature gave him a vicious right cross to his face knocking him down, leaving four two inch claw marks across his left cheek. As both creatures prepared to run him through AJ and O’Neill aimed and fired at the two creatures. For amateurs both missiles flew true and struck both creatures allowing Stiles to draw his dagger and finish them off.
* * * * * * * *
When Jack Stiles entered the fight with the dog-headed creatures he thought that it was going to be easy. How hard could it be? They’re not even human. He soon found out that these creatures were very good at what they did and found himself hard pressed by two of them in a coordinated effort. ‘These guys are way better than Captain Brogard’ he thought. Soon one had knocked his sword away while the other struck him across the face knocking him to the ground. Luckily someone was watching out for him and both were struck by arrows throwing them off balance enough for him to draw his dagger and finish them off.
* * * * * * * *
It was then as they were repositioning their weapons that AJ noticed that the two smaller creatures were standing in the back barking, literally, what appeared to be orders or commands to the others. Leaning over to Abigail he mentioned this at suggested they take them out. Abigail was in full agreement and shifted her aim. They both fired at the same time. AJ hitting one creature in the throat and Abigail’s missiles striking her creature through its mouth penetrating the back of its neck.
From that point the creatures became disorganized and easy prey. The fight lasted for a few minutes more. Most of the party was injured to some degree but nothing life threatening, accept for Grace’s wound and that was already taken care of.
* * * * * * * *
Cordell Walker and Grace Chen were doing quite well in the hand to hand combat with these creatures that were more than a foot taller than both of them and weighed at least two hundred more pounds. They attributed this to their training in martial arts and discipline. As law enforcement officers they immediately began working together to defeat their opponents. Unfortunately for them their law enforcement training and experiences didn’t prepare them for a fight like this and it showed in the numerous wounds they were receiving.
They were fighting to subdue rather than kill while their opponents were going for the kill. After Walker had knock down his third creature he turned to see if Grace could use some help. He was shocked to see the creature bat away her defenses, grab her by both arms lifting her up to eye level. Then with a snarling growl open its mouth dip its head down and viciously bite Grace on the left side of her head at the base of her neck.
Walker immediately jumped on the creatures back and reaching over with his left arm around its throat , his right hand reach the bottom of its jaw in a shape of a claw. He then proceeded to place his hand at base of its jaw and squeeze as hard as he could. Several times in the past that technique had worked on dogs that had bitten into people. As expected the creature released its grip on Grace and howled in pain. Walker then kicked the creature in the back on the knee. It promptly collapsed to its knees were Walker applied a more secure head lock to it. He looked to see what condition Grace was in. She was lying on the ground and bleeding profusely from her neck, he knew she wouldn’t last much longer.
During this moment of distraction the creature broke free of Walker’s hold, shrugging him off. IT stood and turned toward the helpless Ranger and lunged for his throat. Walker brought his hands up and was able to stop the attack, but the creature had the leverage and was too heavy for him to throw off. As his strength was giving out a quick flash of steel across the creature’s throat covered Walker in blood and he felt the creature’s attack lessen.
In short order the creature was pulled for on top of him. He looked up and saw Buffy standing there, her sword bloodied. “Ranger Walker, we’re not trying to subdue these creatures or arrest them. They’re not human and I can sense that they’re evil. Do you understand?”
“I’m beginning to,” replied Walker reluctantly. He then sat up with the intention of rendering aid to Grace. What he saw shocked him to the core of his being. Arana was kneeling over Grace muttering in some language he couldn’t understand with one hand placed on her forehead and on over her wound. Her hands started glowing and while he watched he saw her wound close up without even leaving a scar.
Arana rose and held out her hand which was grabbed by Grace and help to her feet. Walker got up and walked over to her, looking at the battle which it now appeared to be rapidly waning.
When the last of the creatures was finally killed Buffy walked up to Jack, “Anymore questions?”
“Nope, none,” replied O’Neill still horrified by the power of the beholders that he had witnessed.
Meanwhile Arana began inspecting the bodies. Nikki, Andrew and Malcolm joined her, “What are doing?” asked Nikki with a look of disgust.
“I’m attempting to see if they carry anything of use.” With that short explanation the three of them joined her.
They finished rapidly as the creatures had very little of use. When they met up with the others they produced their treasures. Fourteen silver pieces, thirty two copper pieces, two spears, two bows with two quivers of fifteen arrows each and eight suits of reasonably serviceable leather armor, two of which seemed to be of better quality than the others.
“We should distribute this to whoever needs it the most,” Arana suggested.
“Fine but I have just one question,” Jack Carter stated as the others look at him expectantly, “What the hell were those things?”
“Yeah, you didn’t seem to mind attacking them at all,” observed Buffy.
Everyone then turned to Arana for answers, “They are known as Gnolls, they are vicious and evil. They are also sentient, so can choose between good or evil, but choose evil as they worship the Demon Lord of Gnolls.”
“Does this Demon Lord have a name?” Buffy questioned.
“Yes, but it is not a very good practice to invoke the name of demons.”
“Two of them were smaller than the others and when we killed them their coordination fell apart,” AJ observed.
“The smaller ones are known as Flinds, usually a raiding party’s leader.”
“After what just happened, does anyone have any reservations about Ms Summers’ plans?” AJ questioned. Everyone shook their heads no.”
With that settled Buffy approached and cautiously opened the door looking around for any kind of threat. Seeing none Buffy and Arana cautiously entered the northern corridor; taking note that the corridor was approximately ten feet wide and fifteen feet in height arching slightly in the center followed closely by Nikki and Abigail.
They were able to see that the corridor extended for about thirty feet before coming to a portcullis that was raised about ten feet allowing passage a another thirty feet beyond. They were able to do this easily due to the fact a flickering light was coming from about ten feet beyond the portcullis from a right hand of an intersection. They were also able to take note due to the light that the corridor extended another thirty feet beyond the right hand intersection and that it looked to be a left hand turn beyond that was anybody’s guess. When they reached the gate Buffy held up her hand to stop all movement behind her as she waved Nikki forward to check for possible tripwires or traps. When she indicated she hadn’t found any they began advancing cautiously toward the intersection.
Colonel O’Neill was extremely put out by all of this. Was he not a Colonel in Special Forces attached to Stargate Command risking his life on a daily basis, now suddenly relegated to a supporting role, and to a civilian at that, one with absolutely no military training at all. As far as he was concerned all this was going to end badly. However, he had to admit that he did act precipitously like a boot lieutenant with no experience at all. Making an ass of himself in the process and the Admiral had been quite clear in his orders. He noticed that the others apparently had no such qualms about this Buffy. After her performance earlier they were more than willing to follow her lead. As O’Neill looked around he had to reluctantly admit she seemed to know what she was doing. Looking around he saw that the others were spread out in two foot intervals, alternating along the east and west walls, it was as good a dispersion plan as could be afforded in such restricted environs.
As he and the admiral passed the door, the admiral signaled him. He closed the door snugly and jammed some pieces of junk into the door frame to prevent it from being opened and them being attacked from the rear.
As Buffy, Arana, Nikki and Abigail began passing by the portcullis; they noted indentations on the floor where the portcullis had been dropped in the past. However, it looked that from the age of the marks, that this particular portcullis hadn’t been used in a very long time. Seeing no signs of any traps just past the portcullis Nikki nodded her head to Buffy that it was safe for them to continue. The four of them then began slowly advancing towards the intersection, Buffy and Abigail along the west wall because of her bow, Arana and Nikki along the east, with Nikki in the lead. When they reached the intersection Buffy and Nikki very slowly poked her head past the corner to take a look at what was around it, Buffy taking high and Nikki low with Abigail covering them with her bow.
The first thing they both saw was another portcullis, ‘This is really starting to get old’ Buffy thought. Beyond the portcullis they saw a very long corridor lit by torches along the walls and six doors, three along the north wall, two along the south wall and one double door at the very end of the eighty foot long ten foot wide corridor. It also looked like there was a door lying on the floor. The one thing they however did not see was movement of any kind. That being the case Buffy turn slightly and pointed to the closet four behind her, those being the Jack Stiles, Sheriff Jack Carter and Malcolm Reynolds and motioned for them to take up position on the other side of the intersection. They immediately nodded their understanding and swiftly moved across the intersection, brandishing their new weapons that Buffy had given them, and into position Beyond the portcullis to the left turning corridor ten feet ahead. The others left quickly moved up into the position vacated by the three.
Still seeing no movement Buffy signaled those behind her and slowly with Arana moved around the corner to stand in front of the portcullis. As they all approached the portcullis they saw something on the ground, something that made them all do a double take.
“What the hell is that?” O’Neill asked.
“I know what it looks like,” A.J. said in response.
“But that’s impossible, they don’t exist,” retorted Grace.
“After what you’ve already seen,” said an exasperated sounding Buffy.
“How do we even know its real?” asked an extremely skeptical Jack O’Neil, “It could be made of plaster or something as a practical joke.”
“Get real old guy,” responded Buffy in an extremely sarcastic and annoyed tone.
“Hey!” said O’Neill in a very offended tone, while the others just snickered, including VADM Chegwidden while slightly shaking his head. “Again I ask. How do you know it’s real? Have you ever seen one?” O’Neill asked supremely confident that the argument was over.
“As a matter of fact, yes I have,” A very smug sounding Buffy replied, “I was even in its Labyrinth.*” The look of surprised shock on O’Neill’s face caused some minor chuckling. He was about to respond when a noise and movement in the corridor beyond the portcullis caught their attention.
Looking, they saw a man with glasses and wearing a suit stagger out of the open doorway on the south side of the corridor, his right foot catching on the door lying on the floor, falling and hitting his head hard, causing a cloud of dust to erupt around him.
Buffy immediately recognized the man. For an instant she was shocked into inaction, so surprising was it to see him here. He was nowhere near Sunnydale during the final battle.
“Wesley!!!” Buffy shouted as he fell and hit his head.
She reached behind her back and to O’Neill’s surprise pulled that wicked looking ax weapon out of thin air.
Before O’Neill could say anything Buffy began swinging at the portcullis with that wicked looking weapon that she had produced from thin air. To his surprise when the ax struck there was a tearing rending sound of metal cutting through wood and metal.
Actor Character S D C I W Ch AL Height Hair Eyes
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy Anne Summers 23 21 23 16 16 20 LG 5’ 3” Blonde Hazel
Chuck Norris Cordell Walker 14 16 16 10 10 16 LG 5’ 10” Blonde Brown
Richard Dean Anderson Col. Jack O’Neill 12 10 10 10 10 16 LG 6’ 1 ½” Gray Brown
Kelly Hu Grace Chen 10 14 12 11 10 12 LG 5’ 5” Black Brown
Tom Lenk Andrew Wells 6 7 7 16 12 8 N 5’ 7 ½” Blonde Blue
Natalie Raitano Nikki Franco 10 16 12 14 12 12 NG 5’ 3” Brown Brown
Jessica Biel Abigail Whistler 14 16 16 12 10 14 NG 5’ 8” Blonde Blue
John M. Jackson VADM A.J. Chegwidden 10 12 14 12 12 16 LG 6’ 3” Bald Brown
Colin Ferguson Sheriff Jack Carter 10 14 12 10 12 12 LG 6’ 2” Blonde Brown
Nathan Fillion Malcolm Reynolds 12 15 14 12 12 15 N 6’ 1 ½” Blonde Brown
Bruce Campbell Jack Stiles 10 16 14 10 8 12 NG 6’ 1” Brown Brown
Alicia Silverstone Arana 12 13 12 10 14 17 LG 5’ 9” Black Green
Alicia Silverstone Arana 16 17 16 14 19 18 LG 5’ 9” Black Green
Actor Character Profession Class EXP LVL HP Misc
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy Anne Summers Oldest Slayer Fighter 5,552,392 30 217
Chuck Norris Cordell Walker Texas Ranger Fighter 56,923 6 46
Richard Dean Anderson Col. Jack O’Neill USAF/SG-1 Fighter 7,822 3 12
Kelly Hu Grace Chen Police Detective/MCU Fighter 3,288 2 12
Tom Lenk Andrew Wells Geek -500 0 2
Natalie Raitano Nikki Franco Protection Agency F/T 2,431/2,431 2/2 7
Jessica Biel Abigail Whistler Vampire Hunter F/T 15,992 / 15,992 4/5 22
John M. Jackson VADM A.J. Chegwidden USN/SEAL/JAG Fighter 7,895 3 20
Colin Ferguson Sheriff Jack Carter Sheriff Fighter 1,985 1 7
Nathan Fillion Malcolm Reynolds Captain Serenity F/T 2,490/2,490 2/2 10
Bruce Campbell Jack Stiles Spy F/T 1,236/1,236 1/1 6
Alicia Silverstone Arana Champion of Torm / Pal/Pr 195,651 / 195,651 8/8 44
Priestess of Ilmater
Alicia Silverstone Arana Champion of Torm / Pal/Pr 1,800,000 / 1,800,000 14/16 111
Priestess of Ilmater/
Chosen of Tyr
Buffy Summers & Andrew Wells: Canon BtVS until the end of ‘Chosen’ with some references to novels thrown in. Also thrown in some novels as part of canon.
Cordell Walker: Canon Walker, Texas Ranger just before series finale.
Col. Jack O’Neill: Canon Stargate: SG-1 season 6 before ‘Frozen’ and after ‘Descent’.
Grace Chen: Canon Martial Law finale.
Nikki Franco: Canon V.I.P. season one. Only have season one on DVD.
Abigail Whistler: Canon Blade-Trinity.
VADM A.J. Chegwidden: JAG/SG-1 X-over, SG-13 Suicide Squad by Cesar A., as he steps thru the Stargate going to Abydos.
Sheriff Jack Carter: Canon Eureka, season two. Episode: The Hand of God
Malcolm Reynolds: Canon Firefly/Serenity prior to going to Miranda.
Jack Stiles: Canon Jack of all Trades prior to finale.
Arana: Arana Book 1 by Kudara up to chapter 18 posted on Fanfiction.net. Please read this up to chapter 18 for background on Arana. Character is used with permission of Kudara. Second set of stats is after the meeting with Torm, Ilmater, Tyr and Lord Ao.
Spell memorized on arrival:
As 8/8 level Paladin/Priest – 0/3, 3, 3, 2
1st level – NA / Bull’s Strength, Orison, Cure Light Wounds
2nd level – NA / Hold Person, Aid, Draw Upon Holy Might
3rd level – NA / Remove Paralysis, Repair Injury, Glyph of Warding
4th level – NA / Neutralize Poison, Free Action
Spells memorized after encounter:
As 14/16 level Paladin/Priest – 6, 3, 2, 1/7(10), 7(9), 7(8), 6(8), 4, 3, 1
1st level – Bless, Orison (Light), Command, Purify Food and Drink, Cure Light Wounds x2/ Remove Fear x2, Sense Direction, Create Water x2, Purify Water x2, Dispel Fatigue, Invisibility to Undead, Faerie Fire
2nd level – Aid, Cure Moderate Wounds x2/ Hold Person x2, Aid, Create Food & Water x2, Fire Trap, Restore Strength x2, Draw Upon Holy Might
3rd level – Repair Injury, Cure Disease / Remove Curse x2, Zone of Sweet Air, Protection from Fire, Continual Light, Remove Paralysis x2, Warmth
4th level – Neutralize Poison / Free Action, Unfailing Endurance, Neutralize Poison, Protection from Evil 10’ Radius, Uplift, Suspended Animation, Spell immunity, Protection from Undead 5’ Radius
5th level – NA / Protection from Petrifaction 5’, Raise Dead, Dispel Evil, True Seeing
6th level – NA / Blade Barrier, Remove Major Curse, Feeble Mind
7th level – NA / Resurrection
Arana’s sword: Pure Mithral Blade
Type: Long sword; Holy Avenger +6, attuned to Arana’s life force (only she can wield the blade as long as she remains Lawful/Good). Has permanent ‘Home Plane’ cast on it.
Name: Sword of the Loyal Fury
Primary Abilities: Detect rooms/walls 10’ radius, Detect evil 10’ radius, Detect Invisible Objects 10’ radius
Extraordinary Powers: Heal once/day, Fly 120’/turn one hour/day
Special Purpose: Defeat Evil Other Planar Beings
Special Purpose Power: Disintegrate
Communicates: Speech, Telepathy, Read Languages/Maps non-magical, Read Languages/Magical Writings
Arana’s Mace: Pure Mithral Head, Adamantine Shaft
Mace of Disruption +5 vs. Undead, +3 against all others. Has permanent ‘Home Plane’ cast on it.
Arana’s Armor and Shield: Pure Mithral, has permanent ‘Home Plane’ Cast on them.
Full Plate +5, Kite Shield +5
A/N 4: * Refer to ‘The Gatekeeper Trilogy’ by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder; Part 3 ‘The Sons of Entropy’.