Chapter 4: In a Vast Army
How are things? It’s been nice to hear (well actually, read) from you.
Giles left for England a couple of days ago, and I think I’m still half-deaf from Anya’s celebrations afterwards. Honestly, it sounded more like she inherited a multi-billion dollar industry, not a small magic shop.
Willow has been fairly depressed, since she hasn’t been able to find a way to heal Tara without a direct attack on Glory. Since that wouldn’t work even if we knew where she was, Willow is worried that she won’t be able to cure her girlfriend.
She has, however, been effective against the few opponents we’ve faced. It seems that she’s becoming quite the powerful witch, even more so than I realized. She’s taken out quite a few vampires with flying stakes, and even a fireball. Then she collapsed afterwards, and I had to help her walk (read: stumble) home.
Good luck in your continued adventures. And if you see Batman, please get his signature for me. After all, he is practically a real-life superhero, at least costume-wise.
In a Vast Army
Buffy managed to pull her eyes from the Byzantine knight. She turned to Dawn and, ignoring the comment she was halfway through making, grabbed her arm.
“Run,” she said, as she began practically dragging her sister after her.
There was no doubt that the knight had seen her, and neither was there a chance that he hadn’t realized that Buffy had spotted him. While Buffy wasn’t sure if he had been spying on her, or if he had only just found her, but either way couldn’t be good.
Buffy still remembered the knight she had met saying, “If it takes a thousand men, we send a thousand.”
The Knights of Byzantium had sworn to destroy the Key, no matter the cost. It couldn’t be long before knights were crawling over the city, attempting to find her.
“What is it?” Dawn asked, attempting to keep up with Buffy. Just a moment ago Buffy had been laughing along with her, and the sudden change had been disconcerting.
“We’ve got to hide.” Buffy stated, deciding to leave complicated explanations for later. They went around a street corner, but not before Buffy took one last look behind her.
The knight was nowhere to be seen.
Buffy didn’t know how they communicated. It was unlikely that the Knights would send their men out individually, since her first confrontation with the military order had been three armoured and armed knights. It was far more likely that they were simply split up, and, in which case, they needed a method to talk to each other. And Buffy really doubted that they used walkie-talkies.
Buffy knew that she probably had several minutes. It was unlikely that the knight had been able to spy on them for long without Buffy noticing, and, anyway, their actions so far had shown a tendency to jump into action, rather than engage in prolonged reconnaissance. If he had seen them much earlier, it was likely that they would have already attempted to attack them.
On the more likely chance that the knight, who would have been looking for them, had found them at the same time Buffy saw him, then he was likely contacting his allies.
This meant that they had several minutes to get the heck away from here. Of course, the biggest worry was that they were running from one knight straight to another.
Of course, it would not be individual soldiers that would be a problem. Buffy was far more than a match for them, but supposing that they had not been lying, they could call upon extremely large numbers of troops. If they got overwhelmed, Buffy couldn’t guarantee their survival.
“What are we running from?” Dawn asked again, as they slowed to weave through a large group of people.
Buffy looked around them, searching for any enemies. “I saw somebody with a Knights of Byzantium tattoo.”
Dawn’s face dropped. “Just great.” She said bitterly.
“I’m sorry, Dawn,” Buffy said, “But we need to get out of here.”
“Well,” Dawn said, looking down at what she was carrying, “I guess I won’t be taking these library books back.”
Dawn began following Buffy, placing her books on a street chair as she went past. Now, with less to carry, she would be able to run faster.
Buffy began weaving through various back streets, stepping around other pedestrians. Ignoring the odd looks of those around her, Dawn followed her sister, doing her best to make sure she didn’t collide with anyone, or run into a car as she crossed the streets.
Buffy kept glancing around her, looking for any more knights. On more than one occasion, she quickly doubled back, and walked a different direction. Once, Dawn looked ahead, and thought she saw the man Buffy had turned away from, standing at the entrance to a building, staring over the pedestrians below.
It made Dawn wonder: how many knights had they passed without realizing who they were? The black tattoo wasn’t exactly easy to see.
About twenty minutes after they first began running, Buffy pulled Dawn into a small inset on the side of a large structure. “Stay here,” she said, before running to the corner, and, carefully, scanning the view.
Dawn sat down, and began to wait.
Dawn had hoped that, with a week of nothing happening, that nobody had managed to trail them. Evidently, the Knights were either much more technologically advanced than they thought, or they had access to magical means of tracing them.
Buffy returned to her, and joined her in the small enclosure. “Um, Buffy,” Dawn asked, “Didn’t Willow say that it was impossible for somebody to track the Key’s location, since my humanization blocks the signal.”
“Yes, but they can still track me.” Buffy said. “We hoped Glory didn’t think of it, and, to be honest, we weren’t even thinking about the knights.”
“So, are you sure they’re a threat?” Dawn asked, “I mean, we’ve only seen a couple of individuals.”
Buffy shook her head grimly, “Not anymore. There’s dozens of them, in plain clothes, out there. Hopefully they won’t find us here, but we need to move soon. Now that they’ve seen us, they’ll be crawling all over this place.”
“I might be able to face them alone,” Buffy said, “Maybe. But you, they’ll kill on sight. I can’t risk that.”
“So what do we do?” Dawn asked.
“We keep hiding, and, if we get the chance, we make a break for it.”
“You know they’ll find us here before long.” Dawn said.
“Yes, but it will take some time. If we can hold off until night, we’ll have an advantage, since they’ll have a harder time seeing us.”
“And then what? They found us once, what’s to stop them finding us again. Seriously, if they can just track you, how are we ever going to get away?”
“We split up.” Buffy said.
Dawn stared at her sister for a moment, trying to grasp what she had just said.
“I can’t stay with you.” Buffy continued, “So I need to set you up somehow, then I’ll distract them, and you get away.”
“So what? I just live by myself?”
Buffy turned to look at her sister. “Please, tell me you have a better idea.”
Dawn remained silent.
“That’s what I thought. I’m sorry, Dawn, but I can’t protect you if I’m constantly leading them to you. Willow said they can’t track the Key, so you should be safe.”
“You can’t protect me if you’re somewhere else.” Dawn countered. “What if they find me some other way?”
“They won’t” Buffy promised.
Buffy stood up again, and, tiptoeing forwards, peered around the corner.
“C’mon,” she whispered, “I think we’ve got a chance.”
Dawn crept up behind her sister, following her as she sidled along besides a slow-moving van, blocking them from the view of any potential enemies across the street.
“I thought you said there were dozens of them?” Dawn asked.
“They’re not unlimited.” Buffy said, “And I think they got a false alarm, so they’ve headed off for now. Hopefully, we should be safe.”
A shout could be heard behind them, and, turning, Dawn saw several men running towards them, pulling out knives as they ran.
“Scratch that,” Buffy said, “Let’s go.”
Buffy sat with her sister on a fire escape, looking down at the men below her.
“You know,” Dawn whispered, trying not to attract the attention of the knights, “We’ll only be able to run son long. These men just have to look up, and we’re done for.”
They had been running for several hours, and it had been getting steadily more difficult. If the first soldier’s boasts had been exaggerations, they weren’t far wrong. Buffy was not sure if they had a thousand men, but they sure had a lot.
And, judging by the violent actions of those they had gotten close to, their intentions hadn’t gotten any more pacifistic since the last time they had met.
“Well, let’s just hope they don’t look up.” Buffy said.
“Are you sure there’s not some way to distract them?” Dawn asked.
“Look, it’s basically sunset.” Buffy said, “Give us another half-hour, and we’ll start to see darkness. Once it’s really dark, they couldn’t see us up here even if they looked.”
“So we, what? Sit here all night, and hope they decide to go away by morning? These guys seem pretty determined.”
“I don’t know,” Buffy shrugged, “Maybe they’ll think we’re somewhere else.”
“Did you ever stop to consider the fact that they could just cast another tracking spell?”
“Evidently, they can’t do it too easily.” Buffy countered, “Otherwise we wouldn’t have a chance. Either that or it’s too vague for them to locate us exactly.”
Dawn shifted her position slightly, and said, “Are you absolutely sure they can’t hear us from down there?”
“Yes.” Buffy said, staring at the men scattered throughout the alleyway below them.
The fact that the men were searching the alleyway thoroughly, including looking through garbage bins and peeking underneath piles of rubbish, made Buffy start to wonder if it was her second theory about their tracking spells that had been correct. Perhaps they had performed another spell, and were now sending people through the adjacent buildings trying to find their hiding place.
From their position, she could only see about a dozen men, but she suspected that, if the dropped to the alleyway below, their position would be swarming with knights within minutes.
Unfortunately, Fate seemed determined to test her theory. Buffy turned slightly, to get a close look at the men below, and a knife, forgotten in its hiding place up her sleeve, slipped out. Buffy watched, devastated, as it slowly fell towards the ground.
The clutter of the knife hitting the concrete was quite possibly the most painful sound she ever heard.
Instantly, a dozen Byzantine knights looked at the fallen knife, then straight up, staring at their hiding place.
“Damn,” Buffy said. “Follow me down, I’ll clear the area. And pray for good luck.”
Buffy vaulted the hand railing, and dropped several stories. As she hit the ground, she couldn’t help but think, ‘we’ll need it.’
Giving a shout, doubtless to attract more attention, the knights converged on her position, pulling knives and short swords out of their clothing.
Above them, Dawn gave a startled yell.
As she hit the ground, Buffy moved into action. She swung around, knocking the feet from under the first knight, before jumping and grabbing a man’s wrist, twisting it so that he dropped the knife. She then lunged sideways, attempting to knock another man before he could do anything with his sword.
Dawn began to slowly climb down the fire escape.
Buffy spun into a roundhouse kick, knocking two soldiers simultaneously, one of which knocked his head against the wall, and the other of which went flying into the large garbage bin. Instinctively, she ducked as a man swung a weapon over her head, before spinning around and punching him hard enough to knock him unconscious.
These men weren’t demons, and they were not wearing armor. Right now, they were rather easy to take out, at least in small numbers.
Buffy know, of course, that the real threat was that somebody killed Dawn while Buffy was preoccupied. With this thought, she glanced towards her sister.
Dawn jumped down another few stairs, and continued downwards.
Buffy flipped backwards, spinning as she came down to kick another opponent. He managed to weather the strike, and swung a dagger at her. Buffy tried to bend her body, and the knife came within millimeters of her skin, slicing through the front of her shirt. For his efforts, he was kicked into a crumpled heap against the building.
Another group of men came at her, some which hadn’t yet had the opportunity to be defeated, some of which she had knocked down, but not out. Throwing a flurry of kicks and punches, she began to make short work of them, as Dawn reached the lowest landing.
Buffy grabbed one of the soldiers, and threw him against the building, where he collapsed against the wall. She then spun, and simultaneously hit two men, knocking them to the ground simultaneously. Stooping, she picked two swords from the ground.
“Good work, Buffy,” Dawn called, as she climbed down the last stairway. Reaching the bottom, she stepped lightly onto the ground.
Besides her, one of the soldiers, who Buffy had just thrown against the side of the building, began to move. Grabbing his weapon, he lunged towards Dawn.
“Look out!” Buffy yelled. Seeing that Dawn did not have time to move, she threw one of her swords.
It thudded into the man’s head, burying itself in his skull. As blood poured through his hair, he collapsed to the ground.
Dawn gasped, looking at the dead man. Buffy stared for several seconds, before pulling the sword from his head.
“Nobody tries to kill my sister.”
Soldiers, some of them now armored, began to enter the alley. Buffy grabbed her sister’s arm, and pulled her towards the emptier entrance.
Buffy had long ago decided to stay away from humans. To only deal with the supernatural. But if humans were going to attack them, and try to kill her sister, their blood was on their own heads.
Night had fallen, and with it, quite a few more soldiers. Buffy herself now showed several scars, although they were not deep enough to be a serious concern.
What worried Buffy most is that she was sure that they were being herded. When surrounded by opponents, it is normal to head for the weakest position. Indeed, Buffy was fairly certain that she could not have gotten through the heavier groups while still protecting Dawn. But, now that the knights knew where they were, they were positioning their knights accordingly, so that, if they did manage to break through the thinner groups, they only found themselves in deeper trouble.
Buffy wasn’t sure where they were heading, but she was sure it was someplace she didn’t want to be. She kept looking for side paths, places that were not either inaccessible to Dawn, or blocked by the knight’s actions. But so far, the knights had taken everything into consideration.
And, what was worse, Buffy began to see that their troop numbers had not been exaggerated. She could see dozens of opponents, with dozens more coming into view with every corner. Each of them slowly bearing down on her position. She knew they had to keep moving, to avoid being crushed under their numbers.
Unfortunately, this led them right back to the issue of being herded. Sooner or later, they would find themselves in the middle of an inescapable ambush. And, with Dawn to protect, Buffy would be unable to go all-out and attack.
What’s more, the enemies she was facing were, more and more often, armored. While the chain mail might slow them down, they knew how to use it, along with heavier weapons that didn’t need to be concealed beneath casual clothing. The knights no longer cared about fitting in among the population. In fact, for the last ten minutes, Buffy hadn’t seen anyone who wasn’t a knight.
“There is one small chance,” Dawn pointed out, as they got a small breather. “We can try to hold on until the police realize that all these knights aren’t a flash mob, and arrest them all.”
“Yes,” Buffy said, “Because the police are so well-equipped to deal with a thousand armed fanatics.”
“They’d bring in riot squad.” Dawn pointed out. “Honestly, I doubt it would help anyone caught in the middle, a.k.a. us. But it would disperse them fairly quickly.”
They continued fighting, Buffy attempting to use nay advantage she could gain against the large numbers of armored soldiers. Fortunately, they did not have the strength and skill of demons, but they weren’t ineffective at swarm tactics.
Additionally, they had begun to come upon lamps sitting at periodic spaces down the road, providing too much illumination to hide in the darkness. Clearly, they had been prepared for the darkness.
“Dawn,” Buffy said, as a group of about two dozen men, armed with swords, came into view. “These groups are getting bigger. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold up.”
Glancing behind them, an even larger number was blocking their retreat. Buffy would need to defeat another small army, likely only to discover more opponents once she defeated them.
One of the knights, evidently the leader, stepped forward, and called out, “Give up the Key, and we will spare your life. We cannot let the Key escape, but we harbor no ill-will against you.”
“Nuh-uh.” Buffy said, “I like my little sister-key. She’s annoying, sure, but she’s also funny and, y’know, she hates being killed.”
“Buffy, seriously,” Dawn said, “You really are falling apart if that’s your best comment.”
“Hey, I was on the spot.” Buffy protested.
“Very well,” the knight called out, “You shall die protecting her. But we will destroy the will of the beast.”
“Fine,” Buffy mumbled, “Here’s for another long, annoying fight.”
“Umm, Buffy,” Dawn called out. “What’s that?”
A dark shadow dropped behind the group of soldiers, and several knights were knocked to the ground. Several cylinders, thrown by the man during his descent, crashed to the ground and began to spew out gray smoke. Batman, having caught the Byzantine knights by surprise, quickly dealt with them all, their swords bouncing harmlessly off his body armor.
“Ooh,” Buffy said, “Backup.”
Author's Note: I attempted to show the knights in a slightly more competent light, since their main part in the plot is to fail. (Firstly by a failed attack, then by drawing in Glory. By attempting to stop her plan, they actually helped it) In this, I attempted to use their numbers to pull off a strong attack. I'm not particularly enthused about how well I did.
Interesting fact, though: In Spiral, Buffy actually kills at least one knight, and yet they never make a big deal out of it. While on top of the van, she threw an axe, which imbedded itself within a soldier.
Feel free to tell me what you think. If I know people's opinions, I can better write the story.