Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 11
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of record time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Shadowed eyes dancing with amusement, the old monk watched the Shakespearean play for a few moments longer before pulling his shabby brown robes closer against his aged frame, his shoulders bent against the cold winter wind as he shuffled past. How the time flies when you're immersed in a game of cat and mouse with a pair of Hell Gods, Sirius thought as he shuffled through the throngs of people that littered the crowded sidewalks, all braving the bitter January cold in order to see what had been labeled as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Personally, the disguised wizard couldn't help but think that the crashing falls, littered with large chunks of moving ice, were hardly wonderful and more dismal in the weak, gray afternoon light. Not that the other tourists seemed to mind as they oohed and ahhed over the roar of the falls that shoved 150,000 gallons of water over the edge of the cliff each second - or so proclaimed the many signs that littered the sidewalks - creating a cacophony of noise that drowned out all else except for the depressing thoughts that plagued him since the Christmas celebration weeks ago.
"Welcome to Niagara Falls! Would you care to buy a-"
"No thank you," Sirius murmured as he waved away the vendor and pushed through the crowd until he was leaning against one icy railing, his brown eyes drifting over the water that crashed to his right. Thanks to his Christmas gift to Harry, he was in almost continual contact with his beloved godson, which meant that he should have been more content in their little game - 'should have' being the key phrase. The two-way mirror that was a legacy from his and James' days at Hogwarts was very different from talking through fire in that either could do it whenever they so pleased and were not limited to fireplaces nor floo powder.
Not that Harry seemed very limited to fireplaces these days.
The fact remained that Sirius was seeing far more of his godson as of late, and instead of making him more content, it was more like the nightly talks were simply whetting his appetite for something he was unable to have. Harry could talk for hours about his latest adventures with Buffy and brush off any injuries he might have sustained, but with nothing more than a mirror connecting them, Sirius was unable to do more than listen to his godson - always listen and never touch or protect him in any way.
The entire situation reminded him far too closely of when he had been on the run during Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts. Then, like now, Sirius had been forced to correspond with his godson through mere letters, always hearing of the dangers, worries, and cares of James and Lily's son from a distance and never able to come forward to protect the boy as he was meant to; as he had failed to do for thirteen years. Sighing, Sirius wearily lifted one age-spotted hand and pressed it against his wrinkled brow, his thoughts miles away from the bustling tourist spot.
"Why Dahm, our monk seems troubled."
Gasping, Sirius tried to stumble away from the melodious voice that whispered in his ear, his blood freezing as a hand clamped down on his shoulder from his other side, easily holding him in place. Forcing himself to continue breathing, Sirius stared straight ahead, his gaze drifting over the water that crashed to the river so many hundreds of feet below. He didn't need to look to know that today, his inattention after months of this game had finally cost him as the two gods had joined him in his place against the railing, an invisible threat amidst hundreds of oblivious tourists. Sirius slowly lowered his hand towards his pocket, his fingers inches away from the comforting wood of his wand when the hand on his shoulder tightened so painfully that he was unable to stop his small cry of pain.
"Ah ah ah," Serantine's voice murmured as her slender hand slid past his own and pulled the wand away from his grasping finger tips.
Tears of pain burning his eyes, Sirius forced his gaze to slip to the tall goddess that stood beside him, cloaked in a down-filled coat that was the pristine white of Arctic snow, her long red hair cascading down her back and her gray eyes narrowed upon the dark wood that she held in her pale hands. "This is a wand," she murmured, a small frown pulling at her full, voluptuous red lips as she tilted her head to the side, her eyes sliding over Sirius and to the god standing behind him.
Turning his head slowly, Sirius watched as Dahmascus' violet-tinged eyes narrowed on the proffered wand, the wind pulling at his black curls. "The monks are wizards, then," he murmured, his voice a silky caress that caused a series of shudders to rip through Sirius' bent frame. "How interesting," he mused, his brows furrowing for the briefest of moments as his hand squeezed so hard that something shifted beneath Sirius' skin, a crack echoing from the broken bone as agony stole his very breath.
"Not that it matters," Serantine added as she waited impassively for the monk's brown-eyed gaze to clear its haze of pain and then focus on her once more. Smiling, she then lifted the long wand and snapped it with the slightest of pressure, the dry cracking sound nearly lost beneath the roar of the nearby falls.
Gasping, the tears pooling unbidden in his brown eyes, Sirius desperately turned his head, searching for some means of escape - some means of aid even as a moan of pain begged to be released from his parched lips. He had to get away from them. Buffy was counting on him. Harry
was counting on him. He had to-
"My dear, dear Monk," Serantine whispered, understanding his panicked movements as she smiled silkily at him. "Do you really want someone to come to your aid? Look at who you have unwittingly surrounded yourself with," she murmured as Dahmascus forcibly spun him around so that his back was pressed against the icy rail, his brown eyes frantically scouring over the crowded walkway. "Mothers, fathers, children... innocents. Mistakenly you have brought us to places that were populated with such people as you followed the false thinking that we suffered from the curse of your morality. You thought that by bringing us here, you would gain extra protection."
"You were wrong," Dahmascus added as he slid his hand over the broken shoulder, ignoring the man's pained whimper as he eased his hand back around the base of the man's neck, all but hidden beneath the folds of Sirius' brown robes. "We care not about innocence. We care solely about the Key that you protect. Thus, your mistake has been your undoing for their attention will only bring their deaths. If you so wish that, then please, call for help. Beg for it," he whispered, a small smile lifting his lips as he swept his other arm before him, indicating the oblivious muggles that passed around them. Muggles that, Sirius realized, he had inadvertently endangered with his false assumptions.
The Hell Gods were right, and he, Sirius Black, was irrevocably and horribly wrong. And this one wrong move would likely mean his death.
"I didn't think so," Ser murmured with an indifferent shrug. "Your morality won't allow you," she added before turning to Dahm with a small smile. "Now, what say we bring our friend some place special - some place private?" she asked as she absently ran her fingers through the monk's balding hair.
Nodding slowly, Dahm draped a casual arm over the monk's broken shoulder and pulled him close, a large grin lighting up his handsome face as the man paled and slouched beneath the weight. "I was here sometime last century," he remarked as Ser hooked her own slender arm, draped in warm cloth, around the monk's thin waist. "And I know the perfect place," he added as the two gods forced Sirius forward, the crowds parting before the strange trio and then quickly filling in behind them, the roar of the falls crashing in their wake.O o O o O o O
"Well?" Buffy asked as she settled lightly on the soft, plaid-covered mattress, the smog-filtered moonlight drifting through the open windows and shining off of her golden hair.
"I still can't reach him," Harry sighed, his eyes dropping down to the small mirror that was propped on the antique desk before him. "Buffy, it's been three days-"
"Which doesn't mean anything," she interrupted as she slid from her seat and crouched behind him, her arms wrapping around the taller boy and pulling him back against her chest. "Sirius is probably just-"
"Just what?" Harry interrupted as he pulled away. "Just toying with a pair of Hell Gods? Of that, Buffy, I am deeply aware," he stated, his voice far cooler than he had intended as he climbed stiffly to his feet and lifted the small mirror into his hands. He slowly wrapped the precious object in the thick scarf he carried it in and then slid it into his duffel even as he turned his eyes to the pristine bedroom they occupied. The Hyperion Hotel. Los Angeles, California. Angel.
"Don't," Harry sighed, cutting off Buffy's whispered words as his eyes slid shut, his shoulders slumping as he breathed in the lemony smell of the wood polish. "Just... don't," he whispered, his thoughts going out to the man that was the closest thing to a father that he had ever known. Harry had grown up unwanted and unloved, a hated burden to his mother's sister and her husband. He had been mistreated and a virtual slave to his relatives for eleven years, and not even their deaths at the hand of Voldemort could help ease the pain of those lonely years. While it was true that not even his horrid relatives deserved such a fate, the fact remained that it was because of them that Harry had never known a family's love - not until Sirius escaped from Azkaban and revealed himself to Harry during his third year at Hogwarts. In that year Harry not only gained a godfather, but he also gained a guardian. A guardian that loved and cared about him, not because he was the Boy Who Lived, but because he was Harry Potter. James and Lily's son. Sirius Black's only godson.
In one man he had found a link to the parents that he had never known, and through him, he had finally experienced a father's unconditional love. Sirius would do anything for Harry - and unfortunately, that included playing a deadly game with a pair of Hell Gods. For him. And now? "What if something has happened to him?" he whispered, his hands clenched so tightly that the pain almost matched that of his heart. Almost. For nothing could truly match that torment as the pain in his chest seemed to twist and tighten until even breathing seemed difficult.
"Then if that time comes, we'll deal with it together," Buffy vowed as she slipped before him, her hand gently reaching forward to lift Harry's chin until she was staring into his troubled green eyes. "Harry, I'm the Slayer, and you're the Boy Who Lived. Nothing can stand in the way of us," she murmured. "Not even old Moldy Wart himself, the scourge of the wizarding world."
"And you're the Key," Harry whispered, his eyes softening as he gently cupped Buffy's cheek.
"And I will do everything in my power to keep them safe," Buffy returned, her eyes growing hard. "Everything."
"Well ain't this touching," a familiar voice cut in, interrupting the tender moment and sending Buffy scrambling for a weapon - which was actually much harder than it would have been considering that since she and Harry had been staying in the relative safety of AI's headquarters for the past few days, keeping a weapon inside their room with them had just seemed like overkill. It wasn't as though she had been expecting a visitor to climb through their fourth floor bedroom window.
"Malfoy?" Harry asked, deeply puzzled as he scanned the familiar shadowed figure that lounged against the open window, a cigarette dangling from hidden lips.
"Spike," Buffy corrected with a gusty sigh, finally giving up her hunt as she turned to acknowledge the vampire that had been a pain in her ass a few years back. The one that she had called a truce with, albeit temporarily, in order to finally end Angelus' rampage - and the one that was part of her reason for having to come to Los Angeles and all of the sticky situations that went along with that. "Have you decided to save me the effort of having to hunt you down?" she asked as the bleached-blonde vampire abandoned the dark shadows and stepped into the light, his blue eyes casually appraising her before scrutinizing Harry beside her. "Stake," she muttered, holding out her hand, palm up next to Harry.
Curious now, Harry tore his eyes away from the vampire that they had been hunting and focused on his magic, conjuring the stake with the slightest of efforts and placing it in Buffy's outstretched hand. "This is Spike, then?" he asked, his gaze darting back to the lean vampire.
"So the rumors were true," Spike muttered as he ground out his cigarette on the plush carpeting, ignoring Buffy's scowl as he adjusted his duster and moved further into the room.
"That you're about to go poof? Yeah, pretty accurate," Buffy stated as she lifted her stake and smiled sweetly at the vampire who paused mere feet from her and Harry, his head cocked to the side as he took in the tall, raven-haired teen beside her.
"That the Slayer was keeping strange company these days - a magician," he elaborated as he made to take a step closer, pausing only when Buffy openly brandished her stake before him.
"I prefer the term 'wizard,' thank you very much," Harry interrupted.
"Not that I care," Spike added as he scowled at the small blonde slayer and her dark-haired companion, taking a cautious step away from the couple. "I'm just liking the fact that it means the great bloody Poof is suffering even more than usual."
Sighing irritably, Buffy waved her hand impatiently before her. "Spike, is there a reason that you're stalking our hotel room? Are you here to try and torment Angel some more?" she added, a small frown pulling at her lips as her eyes hardened. While Angel had given her the brief run-down about Darla, Drusilla, and Spike at Christmas, she'd had no idea about the true havoc that the trio were wreaking upon Los Angeles, nor the cruel mind games that they were using on Angel. It was only when the Council called, saying that she was needed in the City of Angels, that she finally got the whole story. To have your Sire come back from the dead as a human was one thing, but then to go through the torment of having her re-turned by your Childe, and then to be on the receiving end of their torment - a torment that only ended when Angel finally torched them both... It was only then that everything started to get better for the LA crew, for some time after that Drusilla had disappeared long enough to pick up Spike from wherever he was hiding, and as Angel had stated at Christmas, Spike wasn't really one for mind games. Nor one who had ever been too excited about getting 'Daddy' back.
"No, Slayer, I'm actually here to see you," Spike stated, his voice growing serious as he settled back on the window ledge. "You know," he began, his voice turning thoughtful as his eyes seemed to focus on something that neither she nor Harry could see, "I went back to Sunnyhell a little over a year ago. Dru and me had a falling out and I went back to kill you once and for all. Thing was, you weren't there and Sunnyhell wasn't the place it used to be."
"Yeah, I was... detained, elsewhere," Buffy muttered as she crossed her arms across her chest. "And is that why you're here now? Because let me-"
"No," Spike interrupted, his eyes finally coming back into focus as he took measure of the small girl. "Me and you - we had an understanding once. You got help taking care of the Poof and I got Dru, free and clear. Even had a bit of drink with your Mum," he added, a small, strange smile pulling at his thin lips.
"Yeah, I remember," Buffy cut in, her words clipped as she unconsciously stepped closer to Harry, trying not to flinch at the mention of her mother. "What of it?"
"I'm thinking we might have cause to do business again," Spike continued as he reached for another fag, his lighter flashing light across his angular features before he took a deep drag. "Way I see it," he continued as he blew the acrid smoke in their direction, "me and mine must be causing quite a fuss if they sent Little Miss High and Mighty in. Thing is, instead of enjoying themselves as we was meant to, the crazy bints are all up in arms about getting the Poof back in the family."
"And you're not," Buffy guessed as she waved away the foul-smelling smoke.
"Why should I?" Spike retorted as he angrily tossed his half-smoked cigarette out the window, his eyes smoldering. "At least now the bloody Poof is a freaking nancy-boy that stays out of our way if we're out of his. Then, it's just me and my girls. But when Daddy's home, Spike is shoved to the side," he muttered, his features twisting in a deep scowl. "So I figure we got something in common: we both want the Poof-ster to stay as he is."
"So why don't you just take Darla and Drusilla and leave town before Angel gets truly sick of your games and dusts you all?" Buffy asked, arching a fine brow at the vampire as she leaned against the antique desk. "They should know by now that their mind games aren't working. Angel isn't going to-"
"I know that," Spike cut in, irritably interrupting the slayer as he glared at the small blonde. "And so do they," he added, his eyes narrowing. "Which is why Darla came up with a new plan - one that you're playing right into."
"Yes, you," Spike agreed, rolling his eyes as he surged to his feet and began to cross towards her - stopping only when he realized that his feet seemed frozen to the ground. Eyes narrowing, he scowled at the dark-haired young man that was watching his every movement, before turning back to the petite slayer. "Do you even have a brain in that thick skull of yours?" he muttered as he glared at the girl. "Who's the only person that has ever caused the poof to become Angelus?"
"Me," Buffy sighed as she sagged back against the polished wood, one hand lifting to fall on Harry's arm and quietly signaling him to release his hold on the vampire. A moment later Spike was free as he sulked back to the open window. "So you guys have been causing so much trouble in hopes that I would come here and-"
"Give him a moment of perfect happiness?" Harry added before snorting incredulously, all of his earlier frustration at Sirius' disappearance combining with the unavoidable tension that came with living
with his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. An ex-boyfriend that was obviously still in love with her and who would never stop loving her - not to mention the dark looks that were thrown his way whenever Harry allowed his frustration to lash out at those around him. One thing was for certain, and that was that he was certainly not
endearing himself to the ensouled vampire during their stay in Los Angeles. Not that Buffy was asking for any of it, for deep down, Harry knew that in her own way, his girlfriend would always love her first love - and that was something that he both understood and respected.
Throwing Buffy a sheepish glance for his undignified snort and for what he was about to do, Harry quickly continued, turning back to the vampire with a lopsided smile as he casually draped an arm over Buffy's shoulders. "Not bloody likely, I can tell you that," he added, shrugging slightly as something flashed behind Spike's eyes. For a moment, it almost looked like jealousy - which was disturbing on so many levels.
"So it would seem," Spike muttered as he gazed at the couple, his eyes narrowing before a bright grin lifted his lips. "Then it seems that I needn't have bothered as the crazy bints just sabotaged themselves. With the two of you prancing around you'll be making the Poof even more miserable than usual - and that's saying quite a lot."
Buffy felt her muscles tense beneath Harry's arm. While what Spike was saying was true, it didn't mean that she enjoyed
making Angel miserable. "And what's stopping us from staking you now and then going after Darla and Drusilla tomorrow?" she asked, even though the thought of actually dusting the annoying vampire was pretty far from her mind at the moment, what with worries over Sirius and the problems that they were causing Angel just by being there. And to think that they had wanted to help.
"If you dust me, then there's nothing to stop my girls from driving the Poofster mad before you can finish them off," Spike returned simply as he flicked his gaze at the dark-haired wizard. "And I don't need you. Either of you," he continued as he shrugged indifferently at the couple before turning and jumping from the ledge and beyond, his long leather duster flapping in the cool January air and leaving the room in silence.
"Is he always like that?" Harry finally asked as he made his way over to the open window, his eyes catching sight of the vampire's rather rough landing four stories below before the blonde hurried off into the dark night.
"Always," Buffy sighed as she crossed over to Harry and closed the window firmly before them. "Now come on - I think we have some packing to do."O o O o O o O
Gasping raggedly, Sirius could feel his broken ribs shift with every rattling breath that wheezed through his cracked and bleeding lips. He was cold. Colder than he had ever been in his life, and that included eleven years of unjust imprisonment in Azkaban where the very presence of a Dementor was enough to suck every warm thought from his body. But this? This was a whole new kind of cold as his body trembled and shook on the freezing, wet stone floor even as he burned with an unnatural heat. If his thoughts were a little clearer, perhaps he would have been able to recognize the fever that burned through his battered body, a direct result of the constant exposure to the cave's bitter cold and to the water that soaked his icy, cloaked form from the opening that looked straight into the falls that thundered as a curtain before it.
He had been here for days now, he knew, but time seemed to lose its meaning when his body was imprisoned in this icy hell. For days Dahmascus and Serantine had beaten his body and tortured his soul as they demonstrated their skill that had taken centuries to perfect. But with time, each new pain somehow seemed to blend in with the rest as their words pressed against deaf ears, their blurred images somehow merging together to create phantom images that plagued his every waking thought - and maybe his dreams as well. As he could no longer really differentiate between the waking and dreaming world anymore, Sirius couldn't really be certain. Both were filled with pain and neither promised an escape from this hell. Not anymore.
Yet no matter what hellish tactic the gods used upon Sirius' battered body, he knew that his secrets remained his own. For unlike dementors, the gods were unable to take his real strength from him: they couldn't take Harry away. Even as a ragged cough caused his battered body to slam against the unforgiving stone, Sirius forced his blurry eyes to focus on his godson's long form, lying beside him and his smile never wavering as he reached one hand towards his. Lips pulling back to reveal blood-stained teeth, Sirius returned his godson's grin as one hand reached towards the phantom, desperately trying to seize it and hold it close - and faltering as the image flickered away, leaving him alone with his pain.
"He's dying," Dahm remarked casually from his place against the cavern wall, his eyes drifting impassively over the monk's twisted, bleeding form.
"And he'll take his information about the Key with him," Ser agreed, frowning as she stalked forward and knelt over the piteous man. Sighing, she eyed his broken form in disgust as she reached forward and seized the man's thin, brown hair in her hand and yanked his head back until she was staring into his pain-glazed blue eyes. Frowning, she slowly knelt closer as she traced one sharp nail beneath each blue orb, a trail of blood marring the man's face. "Dahm, didn't our monk have brown eyes earlier this morning?" she asked, her confusion mounting as the hand that was holding the man's hair began to tingle. Turning, she watched as the thin brown strands multiplied and shifted until her fingers were tangled in a head of thick, glossy black hair. "Dahm?" she asked again as she forcibly rolled the delirious man onto his back and then stepped away, her eyes never leaving the form that lengthened before her. Eyes narrowing into thin slits, she watched in furious silence as the monk's familiar face stretched into the much younger and handsome, battered face of a stranger.
"It would seem, dear Serantine," Dahm whispered, his voice choked with rage, "that someone has deceived us." Hands clenching into fists, the god angrily stalked towards the battered man, his normal, fluid movements lost beneath his rage as he seized the man around his monk's robes and bodily lifted him to his feet. As the man's pained moans fell from split lips, Dahmascus felt his anger grow as he backhanded the imposter, the man's face cracking to the side and ricocheting off of the stone wall behind him. "Who are you?" the god demanded, his violet-tinged eyes sparkling as the man's head slowly lolled back forward. "Who are you? Where's my monk? Where's my key?!
" he roared, as he reached back to strike at the man once more - and freezing as the man's crystal blue eyes cleared for the first time in days.
"You'll... never find it," Sirius wheezed, his eyes locking on Dahmascus as the god's face darkened, a vein throbbing in his forehead as he released his grip on Sirius' robes and dropped him unceremoniously to the ground. Gasping for a breath that his aching lungs could never seem to find, the broken wizard watched as the god stormed a little ways down the passageway that had been carved from stone, his roars echoing back upon them as the goddess turned angrily towards him. "You'll never... find them," he whispered again, thinking only of the godson that he so treasured, and called on the strength that remained within him, focusing everything he had on the ancient magic that he had learned as a boy... and then slowly shifted into his animagus form.
Unnoticed, the weak, battered black dog slowly staggered to his feet and then limped towards the barrier of water that marked the outside world. The heavy crash of the water on the rocks was deafening to the canine's sensitive ears, and hesitating for the briefest of seconds, he turned his shaggy black head back in the direction he had come, his soulful blue eyes locked on the arguing gods. And then, as though sensing his gaze the two beings turned as one, their eyes locking on his emaciated frame. Woofing softly, the dog edged closer to the water, his legs trembling even as his eyes began to glaze once more. Too many days of pain and torture with no rest nor food had taken their toll, and as the two gods began to advance on the hurting dog he did the only thing that he could do - and that was to allow the cold water to wash over his battered form and pull him into darkness.O o O o O o O
Cursing profusely as Dahmascus drained the cop of the last of his sanity, Serantine turned her glittering gray eyes away from the blood-splattered ground and cast her gaze over the quiet city. "We were tricked," she murmured, her voice a silky web of anger as her deceptively slender hands clenched into fists so tight that her nails drew four, blood-red crescent moons in the soft flesh of her palms. "For months we followed a martyr while our monk rested in death in this quiet town," she hissed as the wounds healed themselves, her eyes falling on the blood that remained.
"So it would seem," Dahmascus agreed as he dropped the babbling officer to the dried and yellowed grass beneath him, oblivious to the mortal wounds that had been delivered upon his weak frame in exchange for the information that they had been seeking.
Becoming increasingly furious at her partner's indifferent tone, Serantine whirled about, her eyes flashing. "How can you be so passé?!" she hissed, her beautifully sculpted nostrils flaring angrily. "After five centuries of living in this hell we are this close to going home! This close to teaching that bitch, Glorificus, a lesson she's long earned," she continued, angrily pinching her fingers together. "Our time is running out and that
," she continued as she waved down at the quivering man, thrashing in the final throes of his pitifully short human life, "was our only lead!"
Smiling softly, Dahmascus' gaze drifted over the quiet town that sat in the valley before them, lit by the bright stars above. Sunnydale. Small, quaint, and the home to the Mouth of Hell. Nodding slowly, Dahm's smile grew as it lifted the corners of his sculpted lips. "Not quite."