The Emperor’s key
Buffy woke up and smiled, the tattoos were back. They only came once in a while, old shapes that she couldn't remember getting. They almost seemed to move across her naked body. Rippling into each other, glowing purple and pink as they made strange shapes over her bare skin.
As she looked at them they started to glow brighter folding into each other, as if they were making love. Almost like a dam braking very slowly Buffy felt a horrible feeling that something was wrong grow.
As the glowing pictures writhed their glow became sickly and wan Buffy fought to think again. It was difficult, as if her mind didn't want to work or something was blocking her. Suddenly everything came back into focus and Buffy knew that what was happening was wrong. Fighting to move, to react, it took all her strength to raise an arm. Like wrestling against quicksand all she wanted to do was lie there, but she couldn't give in.
She had to move, get dressed and run. Escape whatever had happened to her, but even now, with the pictures fading, they were still strong enough to hold her fast. Silently she struggled against whatever held her mind and body trapped but Buffy could tell she wasn't going to win. Traitorous thoughts that weren't her own whispered to Buffy to give in and just enjoy it.
Then he came back.
The Immortal's smile was almost predatory as he stalked to the bed side. He stalked up to her and sat besides her. "What..." Buffy fought to speak but he gently pressed his finger to her lips.
"Hush now." He said softly, tracing his finger down all the way to her left foot. Eyes following every line back up. "It's time to bring your sister to me, Slaanesh has such plans for her." In horror Buffy felt he strength flow out of her like a changing tide. Leaning in the Immortal kissed her, just above the heart. Gasping Buffy felt her back arch and it felt like a wild fire had been lit inside her. Pain and pleasure lanced through every nerve until she could hardly tell the difference.
Someone was moaning in ecstasy, It took her a second to realise it was her. Falling back onto the bed Buffy felt light headed as a fog clawed her awareness back into the depths. The tattoos pulsed, stronger than ever and she was lost for another day.
A couple of days had passed since Dawn had first seen the bird on the porch. Every night it returned, looked at her and flew off. If she had won herself a new pet she had no idea how to feed it or just what was up with it's eye.
Andrew had spent the last week or so at their place and was finally moving to his new home. Somehow the bird had known not to come when he was there. With Buffy spending pretty much all her time with Mr Fabulous Dawn was strangely looking forward to having the apartment all to herself.
Then, there was the whole thing in L.A. that happened last week. The world had lost contact with the entire city for almost a day. When it came out of the blackout the media swooped in and found nothing. No one in the city had noticed that they lost a day. Dawn guessed that it was something to do with Angel but Buffy refused to talk about it, she didn’t even phone anyone and just skipped out of the door into the Immortal's arms
Dawn was still worried about her sister, only even more so these days. She was home less and less and when Buffy did show up she hardly talked to her, just picked up something and left again. She almost never left the Immortals side. Only once had Dawn seen her alone, she looked lost and very worried like a pet that had lost its master. Then he appeared and it was the return of Fawning Buffy.
With Andrew out for the night again the remaining Summers girl sat down and wrote her homework, keeping one eye on the window.
Half way through her work she was stunned when Buffy swooped into the flat like a whirlwind of life with a thousand megawatt smile. "Dawn! Are you doing anything?" She was the same as ever and Dawn’s paranoia started to fade.
"Homework." Dawn admitted. Buffy just stopped and looked confused, as if this wasn't what she expected. Well it probably wasn't, just because Buffy flunked out didn't mean she was. "Its nothing I can’t leave until later, why?" Dawn finished lamely.
Another, almost too happy, smile ‘Want to come out with me, just us two sisters?’ It was like a switch had been flipped and she was back to normal. Dawn knew she must be feeling guilty about not having time for her. Still that probably meant spending spree and that was something Dawn jumped at the chance for. After wards they might even have time to go over what was going on with her older sister.
Throwing her best jacket on and pulling a brush through her hair for the first time in months Dawn had a night on the town of Rome with Buffy.
As they walked down a cobbled street, laughing and joking, Dawns paranoia started to fade. Well mostly. Dawn was telling all the jokes and laughing at them, Buffy was slower on the uptake than usual. Her laugher was always that little bit late and almost hollow. It was like someone had built a perfect Buffy copy and missed just a tiny piece out.
Something was terribly wrong with the Slayer and finally Dawn had enough with dodging the subject. Stopping in the middle of the empty street she confronted her sister. "What is the matter with you Buffy?" Dawn looked around, she'd never been this way before. She looked around for the first time and realised she didn't recognise any of the buildings. "And where the hell are we going?"
Buffy turned to face her. "Nothings wrong with me, we’re just going somewhere to have some fun."
"Fun? What kind of fun?" Dawn frowned, Buffy had said the word “fun” like it was something holy.
"He wants to play with us, you want that too." Buffy said simply. She had the same thousand megawatt smile she had in the apartment only thins time it was like Dawn could see the strings. If this was really Buffy her sister wasn't in the divers seat.
"Sure he does." Dawn said carefully, trying not to let it show she was ready to run. Dawn had no idea where she would go, just as afar away as she could get and call Giles or someone. Buffy, if it was her, didn't give her the chance. At full Slayer speed she was just too fast for Dawn and grabbed her roughly by the arm. "Get away from me!" Dawn cried trying to fight back "What’s going on? Buffy, if that's you let go!"
The Immortal want's you Dawn. I can't let you go now" Squeezing Dawn's arm with all her strength Dawn screamed as her bones snapped. Whimpering Dawn looked into buffy's eyes, trying to tell just who or what she was.
For the briefest moment her sister was there. Concerned for her in that annoying over protective way then just as quickly she was gone. "You’ll like it Dawnie. It’s a fun game and there are so many different ways to play. I can help show you. All you have to do is let him do all the work."
Dawn knew exactly what her mind controlled sister was talking about, but with a broken arm there wasn't anything she could do.
Further down the same street three Adeptus Astartes stood shoulder to shoulder in deep shadow. The one known as the Old Wolf looked to his right, the aged Wolf Priest and old friend Ulrik held his Crozius Arcanum tightly. The micro-motors in his armour wined softly as he flexed his hand on the hilt of the plasma pistol strapped to his waist. On the Old Wolf’s left the Rune Priest known as Njal Stormcaller gripped his ancient oak runestaff with both hands while his cyber-raven, Nightwing, shuffled it's feet on his backpack.
The young woman approaching them didn't notice the three of them until she was a just few feet from them. The smaller dark haired child struggled weakly, obviously injured, against her.
With their eight foot tall frames encased in power armour the two Priests slowly advanced on the child. As she stopped and looked at them Logan growled in a voice that could be heard clear across a battlefield; "Go no further, disciple of Chaos!" For a moment the only sound was the whimpering of the brunette child.
Taken back the fair haired thrall dropped the child as she stood up to him. Their slight frame miniscule compared to the bulk of his Master crafted Terminator Armour. "Who are you?" she asked.
Ulrik drew himself to his full height, the ancient wolf-skull helmet glistening in the pale street lights. Surprising her the black armoured Wolf Priest picked her up with one hand and brought her face to face with the twin red optics. ‘I am Ulrik the Slayer!’ he said in a voce that made the very ground shake and would make the dead sit up and listen ‘Wolf Priest of the Space Wolves! Chooser of the Slain and champion of the First Armageddon War."
The pawn of Chaos was taken aback. Much like her captive was before with her she was no match to a power armoured Astartes. Struggling against his unbreakable grip she punched and kicked at his barrel like chest. The pawn had much greater strength than she should but Ulrik was unshakeable. Eventually even he grew tired and pulled back his hand with the Arcanum, a single blow would easily shatter the fair haired girl.
‘Stop Brother Ulrik,’ Njal said urgently as he placed a hand on the outstretched arm. ‘She is no Chaos disciple or convert. I sense that her her mind is controlled by powerful Chaos magic’s. She is an innocent in this.’ He looked down at the injured girl and frowned
For the first time Logan noticed she was shaking, terrified and nursing her arm carefully
Dawn realised that this was not going to be a normal day. Getting kidnapped by a brainwashed Buffy was par-for-the-course in her life, but two eight foot tall men wearing futuristic amour wasn’t.
One of them had a voice that made her ribs quake (a bad thing when you had a broken arm) and the other had the black bird on his back.
Then there was the third. He was bigger, very much bigger. His arms were about the same size as Dawn herself. Massive blue-grey armour that was different to the other two's. For one it looked bigger, bulkier and even meaner. If the black armoured guy could take Buffy pounding him like it was rain this guy would be almost invincible.
Unlike the other two he wore no helmet, letting her see his face surrounded by armour. His face was old and his skin looked like battered leather, a long mane of grey hair flowed down his sides and a frost white, braided, beard stretched from his face to his belt.
Dawn looked up in wonder ad he snarled showing perfect, long and fang like teeth. And then she saw his Axe.
Looking at that Axe you knew it deserved capital letters. Maybe even it's own name and that anyone holding it was not someone to mess with. He might as well have been carrying a telegraph pole for the shaft resting on one oversized shoulder pad.
The double head on the far end was both silver and gold. Carved to look like two wolves heads. This wolf-y theme continued throughout his own bulk, a strange cross surmounted with a wolf skull was on his right knee. A necklace of long wolf teeth and he also had a long cloak made from a whole wolf’s pelt. The giant wolf pelt stretched from its head on top of the armour to its back legs and tail almost reaching the ground.
The overall effect had Dawn wondering if she'd just been saved by a group of barbaric psychopaths .
The big wolf cloak Axe guy knelt down to look her in the eye. "I am Logan Grimnar," He looked at the Man with the visiting raven on his back who nodded back. "You are The Key." He finished, sending shivers up her spine.
She didn't want to guess how they knew that, but it had to have something to do with the guy who saved Buffy's life, as it was. Trying to gather the shreds of dignity she had left Dawn was defiant as she looked up. ‘Then have your friend put my sister down.’ She nestled her crushed arm to her side.
Logan chuckled mirthlessly. "The puppy's trying to grow some teeth" He said to his friends. The one in black armour that had called himself Ulrik tilted his head;
"This puppet of Chaos is the mystical warrior charged to protect you?" He asked, tilting the skull helmet at Buffy.
Dawn had to blink at that; "Puppet?" she asked, these guys knew a lot more than she did about what as going on.
Bird guy looked at her, shifting his staff from hand to hand. A sort of blue glowing thing danced from his helmet "Yes, puppet. Your sister has been seduced by chaos energies. Her mind and body is being controlled. As powerful as her shackles are I can sense some deep spark of purity straining against the corruption. She may yet be saved."
Logan stood up and looked at Buffy, his face a storm-cloud. Dawn was very glad she wasn't on the receiving end of that look. "Can you cut the puppets strings?" he asked plainly. Dawn gasped, they were going to help.
The same blue light spread across the bird guys hand as he held it out. ‘It will be difficult, but she is strong. Perhaps, if it is the will of Russ, she may yet be saved.’ He motioned for his friend to drop Buffy.
After a moment she was pinned to the floor by a solid black boot and bird man put the skull mounted top of his staff to her head. A thunder clap shattered some already sonically abused windows and the two men stepped back.
Dawn dived to her sisters side, checking for a pulse. She found one faintly and then like someone who'd been drowning Buffy gasped for air.
Seconds passed by and a thin howl was carried by the wind, Dawn couldn’t tell if it was natural or not but she was too busy worrying about her sister. Buffy’s face was twisted in a grotesque parody of joy that changed into one of terror and pain and back to joy. Like icebergs braking the expression on her face finally slackened and he head rolled limply. Stamped on her forehead,as if it had always been there, was a runic and very angler letter “R”.
Like some one switched on a light bulb Buffy’s face and eyes were back to normal. Very scared, angry and a little worried. She breathed out at last before mercifully falling unconscious. "The enchantment is strong and her will weakened by desire." Bird man sighed, Sagging against his staff "She must rest." Then he turned to her and removed his helmet. His long black hair and flowing beard matching the bird's feathers perfectly. He wasn't anywhere near as old as Logan but he was still older looking than Giles. "My power might not be enough to hold back the control for very long. For now it is up to her."
"She'll fight and she'll win." Dawn said instantly, hoping it sounded a little better, and more believable, than it did to her. "We have to get her home. Please." Dawn begged the one called Logan. She would do it herself but with her arm like this she didn't have a choice. The big man stood up towering over her, eyes flashing with some unknown emotion.
"You would presume to ask me to help?"’ He asked, long teeth flashed in the pale moonlight. "‘I am Adeptus Astartes child. Worlds worship me as if I was a god. And you believe I will even hear you pitiful plea. If I were any other Chapter Master you would be required to offer penance for even speaking in my presence." Dawn watched as he buried his massive axe in the cobbled street and pulled off one massive armoured glove. "But I am Chapter Master of the Space Wolves. I am not as kind as the others."
She looked at him like a deer trapped in a car's headlights.
With a bare hand that looked strong enough to make rocks bleed he jerked the axe from the ground. The pulverised pavement fell off the intact metal. "Of course we will help you, it is my oath to do so!’ He bellowed with a laugh.
Dawn could only look in shock as Logan picked Buffy up without an ounce of effort. "You wouldn't know the way, would you? He asked with a very broad smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
End Chapter 1