After the the blast of Pazuzu's last stand I was hacking up crud. The big P was gone with a capital 'Guh' and all that was left was some serious rearranging of the landscape and a whole lot of glass.
I looked over at Joe who had hauled me clear, "Help me stand," like a gentleman he did. It felt like one leg was broken, but I had only dislocated my knee. I could hobble on it at least.
"Now what?" Joe asked.
Something clicked in my Buffy-brain. A certain chaos sorcerer had far too much smug showing to be healthy, "Ethan, what did you do??"
"Well, I thought I should even the playing field my dear," the smug intensified. Then I felt a very feminine presence.
"I can feel her waiting. Get me over to the canyon wall Joe. Ethan, you're coming too," I ordered.
Another increase in smug, "Oh I wouldn't miss this for the world."
The three of us limped our way over. The undead troops that had showed up had absolutely demolished Gault's walkers and were now organizing in a parade formation ahead of the new opening in the canyon wall. I was starting to get a serious suspicion on what Rayne had done.
"Ethan," I asked sweetly, "Gault didn't know all the rules did he?"
"Rules? What rules would you be talking about my dear?"
"The one that says that if you access a realm's power you have to abide by its limitations as well?"
"Oh that one! I may have not mentioned it in passing. Terrible oversight on my part."
"And who planted the idea for Gault to use a fraction of Pazuzu's power to possess a child and attack Joe in Maryland?"
"I may have suggested that a test was required."
"And that Sergeant Albrecht would go looking for reinforcements to help? Who did you suggest that to?"
"I believe we are about to meet her actually," I really don't think Ethan could have been any smugger.
"You played Gault so hard Ethan! Aren't you even a little ashamed?" I started laughing.
"The man is an idiot and a buffoon. Quite frankly I was embarrassed that he managed to gain control over me. Revenge had to be accomplished," some of his smug vanished. Then another smile appeared, "I am so glad persons as intelligent as the pair of you were sent. Stopping this would have been so terribly difficult without your excellent and able assistance."
Joe interrupted, "You mean he planned..."
"...for us to shut this down? Oh yes. Ethan loves his complex plots and manipulation, don't you?"
"I must admit they do have a certain charm. Plus remember, there was the fact that I was to be able to take no direct action myself." He turned to face Joe, "I am truly sorry about the deaths of your men Captain Ledger. Believe me when I said I did as much as I could to minimize them."
Joe looked down at me leaning on his arm, "He telling the truth?"
"Ethan's a bastard and a sneak, but like I said before. He really isn't a killer," I shrugged. "He burned a lot of his personal power to do what I think he did and that has a price too."
"So what did he do?" Joe asked again.
"I think he dialed interdimensional 911."
By this time we had reached the formation of the dead. The rotten guy wearing the SF patch and the Master Sergeant rank at the head of it saluted, "Ma'am," he rasped.
"Master Sergeant," I replied and returned his salute. "Tell your troops I am very proud of them and this battle will never be forgotten and neither will they."
"Thank you ma'am. It was an honor to fight with you."
"Truthfully, the honor was mine. You may dismiss your men at your leisure."
"Thank you ma'am!" he saluted and did an about face, "Legion! By Sections!Lleft Face! Forward March!" the army began to return into the grayish hole in the canyon wall. I held my salute until they had all passed by and disappeared into the shadows. I noticed Joe was saluting as well.
"Did that just really happen?" he whispered. All I could do was nod in agreement.
"Which one of you called me?" A creaky voice came from within the gloom.
I looked over at Ethan and surprisingly enough he stepped forward, "That would have been I, Lord Nergal." He dropped to one knee and bowed his head as he spoke.
"You are not one of my followers. How did you know and why would you care?" the creaky voice continued.
"I am an expert on rules and the breaking of them, Lord. It matters not to me who created them. The individual who coupled the essence of a divine being from your group to his mortal science broke the strongest rule of Irkulla. Once someone dies, they may never return. Even I would not commit such an affront," Ethan was on a roll.
"And vengeance was in your heart as well? That explains how you could contact me. How did you know that She would assist?"
"Because one of her blessed was involved," Ethan pointed back at me.
"I see. I could not have done it without the Lady Inanna's help I do admit. Her sphere of war enabled the temporary laxing of the primary rule, and as all that had ventured forth have returned, the balance is restored."
"You restored balance?" I stage whispered to Ethan, "That's gotta be annoying."
"Needs must, my dear," he stage whispered back.
"So mortal, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of owing you a boon. What is your wish?"
"Nothing for me. I have gained all I wish by the events of this day. An organized to a fault individual is in complete disarray. What could be sweeter?"
"I see...Very well. I trust you will not call upon me again?" Noogie sounded a little irritated.
"I have no desire or intention to oh great Lord."
"See that that desire or intention never crosses your mind in the future, sorcerer. You will not live to regret it."
"Of course," Ethan still sounded smuggish.
"And you, woman in the garb of a warrior, the Lady Inanna was pleased with your actions. She is normally no boon companion of mine, but for this period we were allies. She is watching our conversation but as she was not implicitly called she can not appear. Know though that you and your sister warrior have gained her attention and her favor. Now I must be departing, the power that holds me here is ending," with that the cavern of gloom disappeared and we were looking at sun blasted sandstone again.
Ethan stood up and we were soon joined by Giles, Faith, and Regan as well as the rest of Joe's team.
"Ethan, what the bloody hell did you do?"
"Easy Watcher mine. Ethan is a good guy today. I'll fill you in on the trip back to Baghdad. Oh yeah can I borrow your phone? I need to cancel a delivery order of Rangers. And then convince a General that two days after reporting to him, I have to go on medical leave."a/n
Wheeee that was fun! Ethan never gets enough credit for being as smart as he must be. I mean he impressed Giles when they were students.
Nergal -- God of the Sumerian Underworld. A job he kind of stole from his wife Erishkagel.
Inanna -- Sumarian Goddess of Women, Passion, Fertility, and War. Only individual to ever visit Irkulla and return. Not one of Nergal's favorite people. Sister to Erishkagel.
Irkulla -- Sumerian Land of the Dead.