Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; SyFy owns "Riverworld" and all related characters; I own nothing.~*~*~
Perched on an outcropping of rocks, Buffy distantly watched yet another group of people pull themselves out of the never-ending river, scramble ashore and begin the mostly-futile process of trying to find their loved ones. There were some who had joyous reunions, clutching at their long-lost friend, lover, child like they were a rock in the storm. Buffy had yet to have that moment. In all of her years here, she hadn’t seen anybody from her former life, although not for lack of trying.
The sound of running footsteps interrupted her thoughts, and she grabbed the sword that had been laying next to her and leaped to her feet. One could never be too careful here on Riverworld. Even though she didn’t have one of those bands that allowed her to access a grail, it wouldn’t stop one of those slaving groups she was constantly breaking up from either capturing or killing her. Hell, she was hated enough by them to warrant a little torture before they sent her back to the river. Totally not of the good.
“Jessie?” a man called out, coming into view. He stopped and studied Buffy for a moment. She adjusted her grip on her weapon, never taking her eyes off of him. He was a taller than she was--which wasn’t hard-- with rugged good looks and a tweedy accent. She guessed that he was from the 19th century based on his clothes, most likely European. You became a good judge of these things once you had been here a while. His gaze was cool and calculating, and left Buffy with the distinct impression he was summing her up.
The last thing Sir Richard Francis Burton expected when he called out Jessie’s name to the blond woman was her to already be on her feet, sword in hand. She was shorter and more petite than Jessie, but her eyes were harder than Jessie’s, more experienced. He took in her worn-in clothing, from the scuffed leather boots to her sensible pants to the long-sleeved top underneath a worn leather jacket. There was nothing in excess, from her clothing to her lithe frame, something he found intriguing.
“Do you even know how to use that thing?” he asked after a moment’s pause.
“Why? Just because I’m a girl, I can’t handle a sword.” She paused for a second before making a face. “OK, that sounded way better in my head,” she complained. “And yes, I know how to use this thing.”
“I don’t just assume because you’re a woman, you don’t know how to use a sword, although it would be interesting to see your proficiency using it,” he answered with a smirk and putting a little innuendo into his words. A pale blush rose to her cheeks, but her eyes never left his face. “No, I was just asking because it’s rare to see a woman traveling alone, especially in this part of the world.” She shrugged, somehow making it look graceful.
“I like the quiet,” she answered with a hint of steel in her voice. “And I can protect myself.”
“Really?” he asked, crossing his arms. With his head, he gestured towards the river. “Who were you waiting for?” She lowered her sword slightly and gave another shrug.
“Nobody,” she answered, her face guarded. “When you’ve been here as long as I have, sometimes it’s nice to watch people when they first find out that they have a second shot at life.”
“And how long have you been here?” Richard asked cautiously. Her answer initially led him to believe that she would side with those damned second-chancers about keeping this farce of an existence going, but if she had been here long enough, seen some of the things that he had seen, perhaps she would see his point of view. She could prove to be a valuable asset.
“Long enough to know that some things about human nature never really change,” was her cryptic answer. “Now, are we done with this little Q and A?”
“Possibly,” Richard answered, taking a step closer to her. “Although I can think of ways to prolong it.”
“Be happy with those thoughts then, because not interested is me,” she shot back, taking a step backwards. Without sheathing her sword, she bent down and grabbed the pack that lay there. She walked past him as she slung the pack onto her back, and her sleeve slid back just enough to show a bare wrist.
Richard lunged and grabbed her arm, drawing her close to him. “Where is your grail band?” he asked her, his eyes going from her wrist to her face. “Which caretaker to you answer to?”
“Let go,” the woman growled, a dangerous look coming to her eyes. “Now.”
“Not until you answer my question, my dear,” Richard answered, tightening his grip on her wrist. “Which side are you on? Your life may well depend on it.” So quickly that it was over before he realized what had happened, the woman jerked her arm around, breaking his grip on her while allowing her to grab his arm and force it behind him. While doing this, she kicked the back of his knees, forcing him to the ground with a grunt of pain.
“I answer to no one, and I’m on no side,” she said, her voice as cold as ice. “And if you ever
touch me again, a few bumps and bruises will be the least of your worries. Have a nice nap.” The sharp pain of the pommel of her sword hitting his head was the last thing he knew for quite some time.
Buffy watched as the man crumpled to the ground, breathing slightly harder than usual and her mouth pressed into a thin line. Shrugging her pack off, she dug around until she found a length of rope that would serve her purpose. Dragging the unconscious man over to the nearest tree, she quickly tied him up. It would keep him occupied when he woke up while she traveled as far away from here as she could. Out of curiosity, she slid back the sleeve of his robe and stared at his bare wrist. So there were others out there like her, ones without the band. And what did he mean about the caretakers and sides?
“As if life on this stupid world wasn’t strange enough,” Buffy muttered under her breath, grabbing her pack and sheathing her sword in the scabbard that hung on her back. Making sure that her crossbow was loaded and that she had easy access to her knives--a girl could never be too armed in this place, in her opinion--she stalked away though the forest and away from the riverbank. Goddess watch over any grail slavers she ran into. She was in a take-no-prisoners sort of mood.