Author notes: Thanks to the reviewers and readers following this story. I hope you will enjoy this chapter. Please do not hesitate to review. I’m always interested in what all of you have to say. I supposed that Buffy left Sunnydale around mid-May 1998, at the time the final episode of Season 2 was aired. For those who would like more info on the subject, this page gives a lexicon of Sigil’s slang. NB: this contains spoilers for the scenarios ‘Hard Times’ from the Well of Worlds book and ‘The Deva Spark’ for Planescape.
Buffy looked at her reflection in the mirror with a satisfied smile. It was not that she didn’t like her sylvan elf clothes but the Storm Riders’ latest trip in Carceri had just put them beyond any hope of repair.
“I think this is just perfect.”
“I am pleased to hear it, Senorita,” replied the black-haired elf.
Miguel Castillo was a Glantrian exile who owned a tailor shop on the fringe of Sigil’s Great Bazaar. Mandor had given her the address, telling her that it was where he had his own clothes done.
She had been a little surprised when she had discovered a rather tanned, black-haired elf who spoke with a distinct Spanish accent. From what she knew, the elves from the world of Mystara had for the majority a culture that was very similar to the ‘standard’ of Arvandor. There were, however, rather blatant exceptions.
Chatting with Miguel and his wife, another black-haired elf called Isobel, she had learnt that the Glantrian House of Belcadiz was made of elven immigrants from the southern hemisphere of Mystara. Their culture, already different from the Arvandor-like of the northern elves, had drifted further apart when they started to mingle freely with humans and adopt a more urban lifestyle. She found them to be very similar to the Spaniards in the old Zorro episodes she watched when she was a child. Not surprisingly, had she learnt, the Belcadiz did not get along very well with elven traditionalists, like the Glantrian House of Ellerovyn. Guess we’re like humans when it comes to be morons…
Like Mandor, the Castillo family had left Glantri after that war that shook a good part of Mystara. The reasons were unclear and she had not been tactless enough to ask directly. What she knew was that they had managed to gain some reputation as being able to provide appropriate clothing for all circumstances.
One of their specialties, destined primarily to the fashion-conscious adventurer, was the relooking of magical items. Too many times, said their sales pitch on the matter, one found a pair of boots whose magic was certainly useful but that made the user look like a fool when worn with that Spider Cloak she was so fond of. Of course, one could wrap himself in illusions but imagine the shame if they are dispelled? Thankfully, Castillo’s transmutation process alters the style of the item once and for all without interfering with its enchantment.
Many of the high-ups of the nearby Lady’s Ward, Sigil’s rich neighborhood, used his services. The chant said that Shemeshka the Marauder, Sigil’s top information broker, also did. Miguel, of course, did not confirm anything and used encrypted records. Yes, I like it. I probably wouldn’t have dared to wear such an outfit back in Los Angeles but… now I find Earth clothes bland. I don’t care if I look like a Slytherin,
she thought, remembering that book Willow lent her.
Her shirt was white, in an ample fashion typical of the eighteenth century to which her garments owed some inspiration, even adding some lace at the end of the sleeves. One may have been surprised at the silver bracers she wore underneath, but any canny basher would have guessed that the items were not here for show, but for the magic they provided. Bracers of Armor were common on students of the arcane arts who could afford them, as their protection did not hinder spellslinging.
An emerald, silver-embroidered silk waistcoat came over the shirt, meeting tight black breeches that went down into black leather, knee-high boots. A black frock coat with emerald and silver embroidering completed her garb. She thought that it made her look as if she belonged on a painting of the time of the Declaration of Independence. Well… I have the regulation white, knee-high socks in my boots… It feels a little strange why… yes, Lady Useless is probably trying to make me feel bad for wearing men’s clothes she can actually relate to.
Lady Useless was… an echo in her memory coming from a rather distasteful experience during her last Halloween in Sunnydale. She had been possessed for a night by the spirit of an eighteenth century noblewoman who ‘knew her place’… as an ornament of her future husband’s house. She was barely a memory now, tough Buffy owed her a nice boost in French class… and maybe, just maybe, her current taste for clothes of the same era. What would Angel think, seeing me like this? I guess he would not find me vapid… Poor Angel, I hope he’s finally at peace… Should I… no! Bad Buffy, you won’t search the planes for his soul now! Just let him rest in peace and carry on. Besides… elves and undead… just incompatible.
She arranged her tie and used a black silk strip to tie her emerald hair in a ponytail. She buckled the belt holding her sword or rather her spare one, as she still had one place to go before meeting the others at the Ubiquitous Wayfarer. She paid the tailor and got out, putting back her gloves, cloak and tricorn hat. Like this, she thought, she only lacked the white mask to be some kind of Venice Carnival escapee… or maybe a Dustman. Dustmen… now that’s a creepy faction.
The Dustmen, also known as the Dead, were the faction that took care of dead bodies in Sigil, which meant tossing them on convenient places on other planes as there wasn’t much space in the city. They were also… the best word she could think about was stoic. They didn’t show, or feel she wasn’t certain, any emotion, always going at the same dull pace. Their main belief was that the Multiverse was a kind of Purgatory, that everybody was already dead and that you had to work to become… well, deader. Cannot understand how they can think undead are important because they’re ‘nearer from true death’. Anyway, I’m too lively to be one of them, thank the Seldarine!
She thought about which Powers she had just thanked in her heart. She was still the girl she had been in Sunnydale for a lot of things, but for others… It was perhaps the fact her heart now pumped elven blood or that her soul had felt the touch of Sehanine Moonbow. She had therefore turned ‘pagan’, making thanks to both the Seldarine and Bast. Though… how did Neti say it? Yes, it’s different for planars because they don’t need to believe. Even if meeting your god in person is a rare event, a planar knows it’s real and may have been in his god’s realm… just as I had. There is also the little thing about how planars know that worship equals energy for the Powers, with the corollary that no worshippers means a dead god.
She took a sedan chair to cross the Lady’s Ward. She did not want to walk too much and the curtains would lessen the risk of a run-in with her favorite Hardheads. Jergen, Morgan’s ‘friend’, had put her on the troublemaker list and… the Harmonium had a problem with chaotically-inclined species, like the elves. She relaxed and took in some of the sights as the chair progressed through the streets. She closed the curtain tightly as they neared the Temple of the Lords of the Nine. How people could worship the Baatezu was just beyond her. Other temples followed. Her curtains stayed closed for the one of Gruumsh. Followers of the Orcish god would never forgive the elves, not after Corellon Larethian, chief of the Seldarine, took an eye out of their god.
She relaxed as the temples of Apollo and Pelor followed. She knew it wouldn’t last as her destination was near another nasty place: the Temple of the Abyss. This time, it wasn’t the Baatezu, but the demon-princes of the Tanar’ri that were worshipped here. I know that Sigil is a place of balance and that since the Lady destroyed Aoskar, the Powers know better than to try anything…
One of the things she had learnt about the City of Doors was that the gods could not enter the city, which made it a relatively safe place for mortals. Fiends could enter as individuals, but the portals had a habit to cease functioning when you tried to use them to invade the city. Three months since the Maze, almost four since the others got me out of Acheron… and no idea on how to contact Mom on Earth… It should be October there if both planes’ timestreams coincide… Maybe if Mandor manages to find that book on dream spells…
Sometimes, she had the impression that she had already spent years in the planes. She had lost almost all sense of time during her enslavement and the weeks spent there felt to her a lot longer. After that… she had just been too busy. And now my thoughts are rather scattered… Ah, here I am.
She got out of the chair and paid the bearers. She looked at the huge square structure she was facing and at the sculpted demonic bull skull that adorned the wall. This was Sigil’s Armory which also doubled as the headquarters of the Doomguard. She entered, feeling the buzz of the antimagic barriers that protected the place. She showed a letter to the guards and one of them escorted her through the halls. After all, she was a customer.
The Doomguards, often nicknamed Sinkers, were one of the chaotic factions. Its philosophy was built around the concept of Entropy. The Multiverse was falling apart and… it was just nature. There were different schools of thought within the faction of course. The difference came from the opinion of the members on one point: was the Entropy of the Multiverse running at a correct pace? Should it be helped or hindered?
What was sure to Buffy was that the Sinkers were also among the biggest arms makers and dealers in the Multiverse. They had helped her solve a little problem she had after a mission left her with enough ingots of a certain metal to forge a sword. The problem was that dwarves were usually the ones with the knowledge and skill on how to forge that metal… and that just wasn’t possible. No dwarf would accept to do the design she wanted and even if she compromised on that matter, finding one that would not overcharge or include voluntary defects just because she was an elf was… difficult at best.
She arrived at the center of the Armory, where a huge forge was lit and sent waves of heat through the open ceiling. Many people were working around it as new weapons came to life. The flames felt hotter the last time… yes, my magic is reshaping my body, preparing me for the rigors of outer space… Here he is.
The being she was about to see may have been mistaken for an elf… by some clueless berk. She knew that Ely Cromlich, the Doomguard’s weapon master, was a cambion, the result of the union of a mortal woman and a Tanar’ri. He had been amiable enough when she ordered a sword, saying he would take care of it himself, as he rarely had the occasion to work with adamantine.
“Ah… Miss Summers,” said Ely, a little smirk on his lips.
“Master Cromlich,” replied Buffy with a small bow.
The cambion invited her to come to a nearby table where a silvery sword rested on a black cloth. At first glance, one may have mistook it for a rapier, but the blade was a little too wide for that, putting it more in the katana area while remaining straight and two-edged. The blade had a complex pattern similar to Damascus steel as silver and pitch black adamantine mingled without really merging. The silvery swept hilt evoked dancing comets.
“I present you the Nightblade,” said the cambion.
“May I?” asked Buffy, feeling rather giddy.
“Of course, it is yours.”
She took it in hand; remembering how Cromlich had taken her hand’s measurements to make sure the hilt would fit her perfectly. The sword’s balance was also perfect and the blade appropriate for slashing and piercing. No wonder people line up for Doomguard-forged weapons… it’s not a tool. It’s a work of art.
“Thank you… Forging it was a pleasure. People who use adamantine usually ask for blades with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver. You, on the other hand, asked me to create a weapon which, like you, is at the same time elegant and deadly. The alloy itself… it has been a challenge and I hope many Baatezu will fall against that blade. Please do not hesitate to come again.”
Ely Cromlich looked at the elf called Buffy Summers as the guards escorted her back to the Armory’s entrance. The fact she had come to him to get her sword made had little to do with chance. Bhima had served him once again by putting them on the mission where she found the ingots and he had known she would contact the Doomguard. It is true that forging that blade was a pleasure… as was what I learnt about you, little girl. You are still naïve in many ways and the small chat you had with me while we discussed your order revealed much… The Earth… I wonder if you know the truth about your world, little girl… probably not. Should I reveal it to you? Tell you how near the Baatezu are to own your planet and why the Celestials cannot, or rather won’t do a thing about it?
“Yes… I think I will, if only to see you destroy those you call the Powers That Be, or die trying.”
The cambion laughed as he walked the Armory’s halls. He had other plots to cater to.
Funny… in Sunnydale it took me two years to gain a respectable level of know-how and here… I’m progressing faster. Probably the fact I’m facing more diverse stuff here. Even if I risked my life… patrol in Sunnydale was kind of routine. Also… my current ‘job’ pays, contrarily to Slayer stuff.
The jobs of the last months had taken her in several places of the Outer Planes and even in the Silvery Void of the Astral Plane. It had earned her rather decent loot, enough so that she had been able to have her sword forged and outfit herself correctly… from the point of view of a seasoned planewalker of course. But, more than all… I have seen things Primes cannot even believe, not without coming here themselves… the Palaces of the Greek Gods on Mount Olympus, walking among Yggdrasil’s branches and… Sigil, the City of Doors or the Cage to use the nickname given by its inhabitants. It has a way to grow on you… you forget the smog, the grey light and the razorvine, because it’s here that things happen, that the factions play their game of thrones, their kriegstanz.
Their last job, the one that ruined her clothing, had been indirectly related to that particular ‘game’. The factol Erin Darkflame Montgomery, head of the Society of Sensation, had convoked Viviane and Neti to give them a relatively simple mission which had finally involved the whole team. The factol wanted to have a chat with a graybeard that unfortunately died recently. So they had to fetch the petitioner he had become. Except that… Argh! Dwarves!
She had promised herself not to be some kind of base racist while they went to one of the Dwarven gods’ realms, despite the horror stories some of Sylvania’s elves had told her on the matter. An hour later, she was under the distinct impression that Dwarves actually managed to make Spike look cultured. It was maybe that the dwarves actually forced the trait because they did not see further than her pointed ears but still… Totally not a good experience… Drunken and gross… I’m maybe some kind of haughty elven bitch, but I have manners! To think I was actually happy to go to Carceri just to get out of that mountain!
Carceri… they had discovered a little problem: the petitioner had been ‘misplaced’. That had meant trailing him in a plane Primes often called Tartarus. It had not been easy, as could be expected from a trek on treacherous mountain paths under heavy rain. After some… events including the denizens of that plane, they had managed to find him, tough it had cost her. Her clothes had been ruined by a nasty bite from a hydra that also needed some serious healing from Neti. But… the beast is dead and her treasure is ours!
Seeing her goal, she entered in the inn whose sign indicated: “The Ubiquitous Wayfarer.”
The Ubiquitous Wayfarer owed its name to the high number of portals found in the building. Actually, the location of the tavern itself was uncertain. Some said they visited it entering from the Clerk’s Ward, others from the Lady’s Ward and Buffy had herself taken a door situated on the Lower Ward side of the Armory. In the end, it didn’t really matter. The spot was well-known in Sigil and catered mostly to planewalkers of one kind or another rather than to the ‘civilians’.
The tavern was quite lively that night, in a way that would probably have her worry a lot given the place’s regulars… before, when she was Clueless. Serving maids pushed through a rather dense… and diverse crowd, taking orders and delivering drinks. The mood was fair as she heard the maids laugh at some comments thrown at them, sometimes in languages she only barely recognized. Music rose, from a group of singing, pale, gaunt humanoids that she recognized from her trip in the Astral Planes: Githyanki. Hope they’re not out for blood… No, Sigil’s neutral and they will respect it. It’s a different matter when you go too near of their fortresses in the Astral. And with the imps dancing around them, they’re making a rather funny picture… ah, here they are.
She waved to her teammates and squeezed through the crowded tavern to reach their table, finally folding her cloak and sitting between Neti and Mandor. She removed her gloves and hat.
“Nice,” said Viviane, “I see that your shopping trip was successful.”
“Except that I don’t know what to think about you taking fashion tips from Mandor,” said Morgan.
Buffy scratched the back of her head. It was true that her black clothing was similar to the one of the wizard, only differing by the secondary colors, silver and emerald for her, gold and sapphire for him. It was also true that with all she had to learn to develop her sorcery, she spent a lot of time with him.
“Don’t listen to her, Buffy,” said Neti. “You are really pretty and it stays practical enough.”
“Thank you… Miguel is making me gowns with the same colors… in case I need something more formal.”
“You also got your sword?” asked Viviane.
“Yes but… well I guess you should be able to hold it by the scabbard without issue.”
She took the blade out of her belt and gave it to Viviane who winced once the sword came into contact with her hand. The chaotic power infused in the Nightblade was rather grating for the paladin.
“Cromlich may be a fiend… but he’s an artist when it comes to build instruments of destruction,” said Viviane, feeling better as she gave the sword back to Buffy.
“I know he’s evil and all but… well he’s not an enemy.”
“Speaking of shopping,” said Mandor, as a scroll materialized in his hand. “This is for you.”
Buffy started to read, taking great care not to trigger the magic in the scroll, her smile widening as she progressed through the text.
“Thank you!” she almost yelled as she jumped to sit on his knees, hugging him.
“Hem… Buffy,” said Mandor, obviously a little embarrassed.
She suddenly realized what she had just done. Sure, the scroll was excellent news. The Dream spell on it would allow her to enter her Mom’s dreams and talk with her. They just needed to do it elsewhere than in Sigil, because of the barrier preventing plane shifting to and from the city. The little issue was that she was snuggling to the wizard in a rather provocative way.
“Oops! Sorry, Mandor, I…”
She could feel the conflict in her heart. Could it be that she was considering… or was it still too early after Angel? Did she even want to consider the aasimar wizard as a potential boyfriend? She needed… to think about it. She got back to her chair, blushing as she noticed the amused, yet somehow approving, gaze of the female Storm Riders. Even Ergyl had slightly nodded.
“Sorry to disturb,” said a female voice, “but may I take your order?” Okay… Harmony has a half-elven cousin,
thought Buffy as she considered the blonde maid.
“Asgardian mead, please,” said the elven girl.
Her gaze followed the maid, seeing her get into an argument with a bariaur about a wrong drink. She vaguely heard her say something about a… frosted carrion cocktail? Buffy noticed three vulture-like fiends at a nearby table and nodded. They were Vrocks, more or less Tanar’ri commandos. An… exotic drink like this was probably for them.
She turned her attention back on their table, chatting with her teammates about bits of chant from around the town, like the fact the Mercykillers had a new factol, a tiefling girl called Alisohn Nilesia. Buffy came with her own gossip about the difficulties the Fated were facing with the sloppy construction of the vaults under the Hall of Records.
It felt good to her. It wasn’t that she hadn’t liked the evenings in the Bronze with her friends, but she never had the impression to be among people who could fully understand her. Here, among the planes, she was… an ordinary planewalker, if such a thing could exist.
Harmony’s ‘cousin’ had come back and put a bottle of wine near her. Before she had even the time to complain, the maid had already gone, answering the call of another table. Buffy considered the wine. It was a very nice wine from Arborea but… I believe that wine is ours,
said a voice in her head.
She turned, feeling a heavy gaze on her neck. A woman from a nearby table was looking at her. Well, woman was… a liberal interpretation. The being was obviously female and quite beautiful by human standards if you only looked at the head and torso. The little issue was that she had six arms and had not bothered with a chair, rather resting on the green-scaled snake coils that made her lower body. Buffy had read about this kind of Tanar’ri: Marilith, the generals of the Abyss. If you’d be so kind to bring it over?
continued the telepathic voice.
The being she was drinking wine with… it was something you saw only in Sigil. She wondered briefly what some people on Earth would think if they saw a greater demon sit at the same table as… an angel, a Planetar Aasimon if she remembered well.
“Sure,” she said, rising.
After all, the demon had been polite and given the empty bottle of the same brand on their table, it was probably for them. So it was just the right thing to do. The nature of the people who ordered that wine, did not matter, not here.
“Thank you,” said the angel as she deposited the bottle on the table.
What surprised her a little was that the Marilith did the same, though it seemed to strain her to be diplomatic. Buffy wondered what the two Planeborne could be discussing telepathically. Realizing that her initial way was cut by drunken Githyanki she did not want to discuss with, she squeezed through the room, soon nearing another table where a group of varied races was discussing on the nature of good and evil.
“Hey, cutter,” said to Buffy a human male with a mismatched outfit, “what do you think? I say everything changes, while this berk claims that you can’t alter something’s basic nature.”
Remembering that cutter was a rather complimentary address in Sigil’s cant, she quickly scanned the group, noticing faction symbols. Just as she thought, the ‘berk’ was a Guvner while the guy in the mismatched outfit was a Xaositect, a Chaosman. The members of the two factions did not like each other, but like many in Sigil, they liked to discuss philosophy. When you traveled in planes where belief could affect reality, ideas became a lot more important.
“It goes against natural order,” said the ‘berk’, a female human with an impeccably matched armor. “According to your point of view, a Balor could decide to shed his evil nature and become a proxy on Mount Celestia!”
Buffy was about to smile at the idea of the most terrible fiends in the Abyss, demon princes excepted, serving one of the gods of Good and Order, when the aura of flame of the demon that sat at the bar rose a little.
“Hey, berk,” said the Tanar’ri, who was effectively of the Balor kind, though currently human-sized “rattle yer bone-box someplace else!”
“Balor, aha! That’s too easy,” said the Chaosman, obviously ignoring the demon. “I say anything can change. A mane, a shadow fiend, even a bebilith. What do you say, blood?” They had to drag me into it… hope I will merit being called a blood… Thankfully, I know that subject well.
“I have to agree,” said Buffy, “but only to a point. Anything can change, but you have to consider the amount of force needed to make the change. In some cases, the amount of force necessary is so high that one can say it’s immutable.”
“Yes, interesting is that,” said another Chaosman. “Incomplete though. Even if is probability the low, event can happen.” And here goes the Yodaspeak… Xaositects really put the chaos thing to the extreme.
She commented a little more, quietly escaping the debate that would probably still go on for hours. She finally reached the bar.
“What can I give you?” asked the barman.
“Give the lass a skull of Kreshtort,” said the Balor.
“Hem… thank you.”
“You wear a blade that just screams ‘I want to put Baatezu in the dead-book’, lass, that’s why.”
She sat on the stool next to the Balor, the kind of demon that had more than enough power to level Sunnydale. She knew that if given a chance, the Tanar’ri would probably slaughter her former town’s population to open the Hellmouth and let the hordes of the Abyss invade the Earth. But, tonight, here in Sigil, he was just someone she was about to drink with.
She toasted with him, their drinking skulls clashing together.
Game rule point (you can skip if you’re not interested): Buffy’s blade is, mechanically speaking an adamantine katana (as per Ultimate Combat) +1, Chaotic. Its special alloy makes it also count as silver for bypassing damage reduction. Buffy possess the necessary exotic weapon feat.