The Emperor’s Key
It hadn't been that hard to get Buffy home. The streets were mostly quiet around this time of night and once Dawn was able backtrack she knew where they were a bit better. The three Space Wolves, as they called themselves, stomped in creaking floorboards with every footstep. Not for the first, or last, time Dawn was shocked at the barbarity of them. They wouldn't have looked out of place in a Viking camp and at the same time they had what looked like magic and Logan had a great big gun strapped to his arm.
"Where shall I put her?" He asked.
Dawn blinked; "Oh, just in there. I'll show you." She took him into Buffys bedroom. "Can you put her down here? I've gotta do something about my arm."
Lowering Buffy carefully Logan gave her an evaluating look. "Should I see to the presence of a healer?" He sounded genuinely concerned for her but there was something about how he said it spooked her.
"No thanks. I'll manage, otherwise it will all be questions and then I'll have to explain why my own sister tried to kidnap me and just who you guys are. I don't know those things." Dawn said angrily before she gave him a sarcastic look. "Care to share?"
He just chuckled "You do have teeth don't you puppy." Why he called her that Dawn didn't know, she just wanted him to stop. It wasn't like she had a little tail she was wagging around. "See to yourself as best you can. Ulrik is well trained in the healing arts, I will have him administer aid when you believe you are ready." Smirking at her he mimed patting Dawn's head as he left the bedroom.
Finding a knife in Buffy's weapons chest Dawn carefully cut the sleeve off from her top. Her arm was red and swollen, but the good news was there were no bones poking out and it looked straight enough. Watcher training told her it was a good clean break. Wincing at the pain as she made a sling for her arm Dawn quickly found the industrial strength painkillers they had there just in case and took a couple.
Hoping they wouldn't leave her sleepy or any other sideeffects Dawn crept out of the bedroom and stopped just outside the living room, hoping the pills kicked in before her adrenaline ran out.
Dawn just poked her head around the corner and watched as Logan started talking into his collar "Old Wolf to pack. We have found The Key, Russ be praised. Track and report here. Now." he ordered.
She had been introduced to the three of them on the way home. So she knew that Bird-mans real name was Njal. He was stroking his beard, and waiting for a moment to speak. "My lord, I fear for the woman." he said gravely.
Ulrik whipped his head around, "What is it Njal, is the protection of Russ too late to hold back the Corrupter's influence?"
"Never." He took it as an insult, just like any Warlock worth a damn would Dawn smirked. They were an egotistical bunch wherever they came from, even this one. "I fear she is to weak to resist. I sense a great hole that echoes within her heart. She loves one who is lost to her" Dawn had a good idea who he was talking about.
Logan nodded sagely and turned his back to her. "Hmm. This would effect her?"
"Her world is love. Love for her sister, love for her friends and love for her family."
"Love is not always good, but it is pure. How can the Corrupter use this?" Ulrik spoke up.
"She loves a man who is now gone. This is a great danger, for her heart is not yet healed, it may never. There is more. Her dreams are haunted by her last memories of this man. Because of her actions he never accepted that she returned his own affection.
With a great shrug he sighed. "It is a great tale, one worthy of song and celebration, but for the death of her heart." Dawn's mind however was racing, she had thought it was Angel, but from the sounds of it Njal was describing Spike. Buffy didn't love Spike, he was available and she'd slept with him sure, but Buffy didn't love Spike. Did she?
"This is indeed dangerous." Ulrik said gravely pacing "With a dead heart within her the Corrupter can fill it with illusion. Is her desire to forget her love or seek a new one?"
"With two hooks you can catch twice as hard." As well as a hopeless romantic Njal also seemed to be a master of fortune cookie philosophy.
"Puppy, don't you think you should join in with the talk. My guard will be here shortly then we need to get moving." Dawn grumbled and stepped into the living room.
"I'm not a puppy, and if you want me to go anywhere I want some answers.' She gave everyone of them a black look. It had no effect what so ever on any of them.
"You are coming with us Key. But you deserve answers for your bravery." Logan nodded but then his face was serious. "Don't mistake kindness for acceptance Puppy. I like you, but that doesn't mean I'll let you question my orders.'
Ulrik sat The Key gently down on one of the chairs and took off the Great Wolf-Helm. "As Wolf Priest I am keeper of the stories and the legends of our people." he explained. "More than twenty-four thousand years into your future Holy Terra, or Earth as you know it, will be consumed in civil war. We know this time as the Age of Strife, it came after the Dark Age of Technology. That age which you now lay the ground works for." The Key gasped, she obviously had no idea of the scope of their quest for her.
Opening his medical pouch Ulrik took out his equipment. "In that time great Empires will rise and fall, wars beyond your imagination will be fought with all the degenerate races of this galaxy. In the end Holy Terra will be left devastated. From amongst the ruins and destruction arose the greatest human. The Emperor. Great wars and greater deeds followed. Within a few hundred years our ageless saviour united our homeworld and stood at the head of the great armies. No force could stand against him." Taking off the sling Ulrik examined the arm. In a Space Wolf the arm would already have healed, he had something to speed up the process but there was no telling how it would effect an unaltered human.
"Right, so your like from after this big war strife thing.' the girl said. from the change in her sent and body language Ulrik knew she wasn't convinced.
Mixing and diluting the healing paste he looked her dead in the eye, impressing the truth of his words. She was no warrior and the power of that look could turn the hardest cynic into a believer "Still the Emperor could do nothing for the rest of humanity. Terra was surrounded by a rift in space, cutting it off from the Empire of Man that stretched across the galaxy, no ship could pass through it. In his great wisdom the Emperor knew the rift would have to eventually end and contact could be made with the galaxy again. With ancient knowledge, now long lost to us, he created twelve children he named the Primarchs. True gods amongst men the Emperor used arcane arts and technology to improve on his own self."
Ulrik finally had the healing paste to the point where he thought he could use it on her. "Humanities greatest foes, the four Gods of Chaos saw the power that these twelve had and feared that one day their power would be enough to banish them forever. They called upon their many servants and raided the labs on Terra, spiriting the unborn Primarchs away. Even as the Emperor fought them back."
"Four evil Gods?" The Key said, trying to keep up with the story. "Are they important here? 'cause this is a little bit too much."
"They can control people here through perversion and sin. The one we call the Corruptor uses an excess of pleasure and pain to corrupt and control his minions. It is the Dark God of sated lust and it is that pleasure that has corrupted your sister" Gently Ulrik covered the girls lower arm with the paste. It took a lot of concentration to get it right, he did not want to hurt her any further and anymore than the slightest brush could be catastrophic.
With a deep breath he continued the story; "Knowing that the time of the great rift was near its end and that it would take too long to re-grow the Primarchs, if such a thing were possible, the great Emperor made what he called the gene-seed." The Key blinked, nodded and began rocking in place slightly.
"Sorry what was that?" She asked after a moment blinking again before her head drooped. "I'm listening m'kay, just gotta rest my eyes..." her voice trailed off and she fell asleep.
With a great sigh Ulrik shook his head, the pain killer had been a little too strong for her. He carefully piked her up and moved her to the large soft bench.
"Let her rest Ulrik." Logan said sagely. "We have a log trip ahead. The rest can wait for another time."
At that moment in time three friends had stowed away in the passenger section of an aircraft that was currently passing over the outskirts of Spain. Two of them argued with each other.
The shorter, thinner, one of them was apocalyptically insulted, and with her/it that wasn't' an exaggeration. "I am a God, I ruled this world while humanity was still the sludge at our feet and I will do so again!"
"Probably, that doesn't mean we're getting out of the hold" the taller ponce with the pint's worth of hair gel on his head disagreed. "We've had this argument, You can't bend time anymore we can't fly without a plane. End of discussion."
"After our victory these worms should prostrate themselves before me. Cowering in this unacceptable hold is insulting."
Spike just sat back and grinned. At least the in flight entertainment was good, if he was lucky the former Old One might just deck peaches, a great big black eye was just what was needed here. Hell if Illyria didn't do it Spike would have to on general principle.
It would make a distraction from Buffy.
Spike didn't want to think about her, He'd done a pretty good job of it in Hell-A and that demon-lawyer fun-house he'd been forced to haunt. Trapped there had been a good thing. It wasn't the easiest thing to throw one's self on the preverbal sword for love and Christmas and then turn up a few months later with a brand new body.
Spike was man enough to admit that Buffy didn't love him, she needed him. Might have even wanted to love him, but he wasn't the love of her life. He was just there when she needed to feel wretched about herself, but he'd be damned if that pillock of a demon The bleedin' Immortal was the man for her. Just thinking about him, what he was doing to Buffy Spike could feel himself getting angry. Kicking some unlucky travellers suitcase Spike got to his feet.
Damn the ponce and his mission! Damn the powers and the senior partners, whoever they were! Damn them all and damn him straight to hell for letting those sodding higher powers mess him around. He'd failed her, growling and pacing the hold as best he could Spike hadn't even noticed Angel and Illyria were watching him.
"Spike, calm down." Angel said very carefully. "We're nearly there, I know how angry you are, I'm the same but we have to be smart about this."
"Yes, Remember the creature Hamilton, if those secrets we found are true this Immortal is of his kin. He will be powerful."
Spike was moments before losing it completely and taking the aircraft apart with his teeth. They were right and he stopped. Deliberately slowing down and calming himself.
Closing his eyes he imagined her face. Blond hair breaking across her shoulders like a wave. A smile that rivalled the sun. Just a green shade in her eyes that pierced his heart. Using the image he created of her he calmed down, whispering to himself. "Sorry pet, I’m coming back to you. No force in this world or any other will stop me. This I swear."
End Chapter 2