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Seeking the Rhymer's gift

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Rhymer's Gifts". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: See you not that bonny road that winds about the fernie brae?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Miscellaneous > Myths & LegendspythiaFR711,1932370428 Jul 1028 Jul 10Yes
Timeline: Post Chosen

Notes:  I was playing with images for my Summer of Giles postings over on Live Journal, and I managed to create a picture that was pretty and fun but didn't make much sense unless there was a story behind it.  This is that story (and you can find the picture at the end of it, where it belongs.)

Disclaimer: Giles and Buffy and all things in the Vampire Slayer's world belong to Joss and not to me. Thomas' story has long been in the public domain - long enough to pass into folklore and myth. Thomas Rimor de Ercildoun was a real person back in the 1260s. I don't make any claim to owning him, either.



“I don’t like it. It’s just too risky. What if …?”

“We have no alternative, Buffy. If we want to get agreement to this treaty, we have to be able to demonstrate our sincerity – and you know perfectly well that the Adarax will pick up on any hint of deception or intent to mislead. Their ability to see through illusions, identify fakery and recognise the spoken truth is one of the reasons we want the treaty in the first place.”

“Yeah, I know – but isn’t there any other way of doing this? A spell, a potion – something temporary? And why you? Couldn’t we have sent … oh, I dunno – Andrew, or someone else expendable?”

“Well, I’m – somewhat ... flattered that you think I’m not, but – really, Buffy. Andrew? Can you imagine it?”“Of course I can. It would cure him of all his fantasies, for a start.”

“It would drive him insane. And that’s on the premise that he’d be able to complete the task in the first place. He doesn’t fulfil the conditions – and in this particular case, those conditions are vital to the success of the undertaking. The Adarax aren’t going to be convinced by a temporary spell, or a potion – from their perspective using either would simply evidence an attempt to deceive. We’ve tried to negotiate – and it’s a tribute to the skills and integrity of the team involved that we’ve got as far as we have. But for that final signature on the dotted line, we have to have some who will speak for us with a tongue that cannot lie.”

“The Rhymer’s gift.”“Exactly.”

“Even though it’s more like a curse than a gift? And it means you risking everything – even your soul to get it? Willow said … people don’t come back from this sort of quest, Giles. This isn’t dealing with demons, or even the Powers – this is … this is trying to bargain with nightmares and impossibilities. You can’t trust them. And even if you could, they’re not going to trust you.”

“Which is precisely why sending Andrew would prove disastrous. Of course you can’t trust them. They are what they are, and one of those things is unpredictable. But they do have rules – and if you follow them … pay attention to the details, and remember that to them, everything is a game … then it is possible to win their favour and escape relatively unscathed.”

“Relatively.”

“Well, it’s – it’s dealing with riddles wrapped up in conundrums in a world where even reality can be questioned … but that’s the whole point. They see no value in material things – in treasures or trophies or even the possession of power. There are only two things they admire about mankind – two things they adore and cannot do for themselves. One is true creativity, and the other is unconditional love. I’ll be counting on one to get me in – and the other to get me out again.”

“Music and memory, huh? Willow says you’re crazy. Crazy even to want the damn gift in the first place. It’s a curse, Giles. Once you have it, you can never tell a lie. How are you going to run the council … you do need a little diplomacy for that, don’t you?”

“A little, yes. But diplomacy is often more about what you don’t say than what you do. A wise man learns when to say nothing at all.”

“And the everyday things?   I can’t believe I’m saying this, but … I tell lies all the time. Little ones. White ones. Whiter than white ones, but still lies. What happens to compliments and encouragements and all that sort of stuff?”

“I’ll mean them.”

Giles …”

“No, Buffy. My mind is made up. This treaty is too important – and if I succeed, the benefits of an alliance with the Adarax will be well worth any personal price I may have to pay. If the worst comes to the worst, I can always retire from the council and serve as a consultant or something. Maybe even to the Adarax themselves. Some people value the truth. And to be honest – while I would never seek them out for personal benefit, the opportunity to meet them and … visit their lands … If I can keep my head, it will be a unique and unparalleled experience.”

“They’ll enthral you. Enchant you. Keep you. I would … Giles, if you do win them over with your music – which is totally wiggy thought, by the way - they will never give you back. And this whole ‘year and a day thing?’ I looked up the poem – the Rhymer was away for seven years. Seven years. The Adarax aren’t going to wait that long.”

“Then I will do my utmost to avoid being tied to their world and their time in any way. There are no guarantees in this. But I have to try. Besides – if I fail, the only thing the world will lose is a war weary man who’s made too many mistakes in his life. Hardly a great loss.”

“Don’t say that. You have to practice the truth thing, and – you know that’s not true.”

“Do I? You don’t need me anymore, Buffy. Dawn’s all grown up, Willow has found her own path, and Xander is a fine, upstanding and independent young man these days. I contribute where I can, but I’m not entirely convinced of the value of that contribution anymore. I’m little more than a figurehead for the new Council, and there are any number of people who could do my job as well – if not better – than I can. But this … this is something … call it the final legacy of my misspent youth, or an inevitable step on the path my life has taken, but … I know what I’m doing. I have a little talent in music, slightly more skill in magic, and – hopefully – the wit and the wisdom to this thing through to its necessary end. Speaking of which …”

“You’re there, aren’t you. You didn’t wait for Willow, like you promised. Giles, you promised.

“No I didn’t. I said I’d see her later. I didn’t specify how much later. Buffy – the mere thought of Willow, with her power, and her history, being brought to the attention of the Lordly Ones? Not a situation I want to engineer. Besides – this has to be done at the right time of the day, at precisely the right time of the year, and I couldn’t wait. Thrice widdershins round the stones, in a weaving step, before the sun dips below the arch … and there it is, caught in the branches of the tree … did you hear that?”

“Hear what? I didn’t hear -”

“Music. Pipes, I think. On the other side of the arch … There’s a mist … Oh, good lord …”

“Giles? Giles, don’t do this. Turn back. We’ll find another way. There has to be another way. Don’t walk under that arch …”

She didn’t know if he heard her or not. There was a soft thump, as if the phone had fallen from his hand. Distantly, at the bare edge of Slayer hearing, she caught a whisper of laughter, a sound like tiny bells – and then the line went dead.



Illustration

The End

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