EDIT 7 Apr 2013: this old version will be taken down on Apr 13
Author notes: another plot bunny to exorcise and on which I will work if my inspiration problems for Traveller Chronicles continue. This is a crossover with my favorite Dungeon and Dragons setting (more about it at the end of the chapter) and starts during ‘Anne’ (beginning of season 3) for the Buffyverse timeline. The non-Buffyverse characters are either official NPC from that campaign setting or OC that will sometimes be recycled versions of some of my old PC. Disclaimer:
I own nothing regarding either the Buffyverse or the various D&D settings used in that story. Rating:
FR18. Might be adjusted later
Pain… pain had been her companion for so long now. She even welcomed it, sometimes, as it was the only thing able to stir her away from the darkness, away from the despair. Very rarely, she mused about escaping, knowing it was futile. The demons torturing her had cut the tendons in her ankles and shoulders since long, healing the wounds just enough to keep her alive. They were not about to let her die, not before she had sold her soul to them in exchange for some illusory succor.
She remembered how it had started, with that shelter called ‘Family Home’ that hid a slaver ring. She had tried to rebel, to free the others, thinking that her Slayer powers would be enough, that the demons would be no worse than the ones she had met in Sunnydale. It was then that she had learnt two things. The first was that the Baatezu were definitely not your average demons. Hell, they were not demons at all, resenting the word like a lethal insult. They were devils and she remembered quite well when the barbed whip of the irate horned devil running the operation had torn her flesh… to teach her how to address him properly. She was sure she would never forget the words Cornugon and Malebranche, the proper names of the devil caste it belonged to. This power… Sunnydale’s demons were pathetic half-breeds compared to it and it had taken great pleasure to tell her it was only ‘middle management’ in the Baatorian hierarchy, a hierarchy the devil assured her she would soon be a part of… when she had forfeited her soul.
That was the second important thing she had learnt. The mine and slave thing was only part of the problem. Once broken, the slaves usually didn’t take long to sign a pact with the devils, trying to ease their suffering. From what she had understood from her torturers, such souls were not worth much, but the quantity made them useful for a project needing a lot of them, some kind of artifact for a war the Baatezu were waging against another fiendish race called Tanar’ri.
She suddenly heard noise, battle noises cut with explosions and thunder. The wall of her cell shook, something or someone having probably impacted it at high speed. Light peeked through some cracks, hurting her eyes. Yet, she looked, seeing the devil guards, from a caste called Barbazu, fall before a group of… humans? One of them probably was, a redhead woman whose sophisticated beauty and slightly clueless air would not have been out of place on Rodeo Drive… except for the fact she was wearing pink full plate armor, a shield with a firehaired woman’s head as crest and swung her golden longsword with an ease the Slayer envied. An image immediately came to her mind, about a story Giles told her regarding Saint George and the dragon. Another looked more like the demons she was used to, a tailed and horned girl who fought seriously dirty, hitting vital spots as her twin daggers left wounds that burned with acid.
The last of the guards fell and she wondered why the Cornugon had not shown up when she remembered hearing something about a meeting it had to assist in a place called Dis. She wondered if the ‘humans’ had not taken advantage of that fact to storm the place.
“Anyone we can save?” asked the woman in pink armor to someone Buffy could not see.
“Afraid not, Viviane,” replied a male voice. “Even if we take them out of here, they forfeited their souls and the contract’s probably already in Baator.”
“At least the portal is destroyed and they cannot con any other clueless prime into it,” said the demon girl. “Wait a minute, there is someone in that cell. Mandor, I need help to disarm those runes!”
“Coming, Morgan,” replied the male voice.
Buffy tried to concentrate a little, classing things. She heard the male voice saying things in a strange tongue, something sounding like German or maybe Norwegian that remembered her of some of the spellcasting she had seen done by Giles. The girl called Morgan thanked him and then there was a mechanical noise.
“You have to love Baatezu… not like that Viviane! I mean, they create such deliciously twisted locks,” said Morgan. “Here, poisoned gas trap disarmed and door unlocked.”
Buffy looked at the door, seeing the rather sexy shape of the demon girl coming to her, a blonde man in a black and gold swashbuckler outfit that seemed disturbingly beautiful behind her. He looked at her through a black gem.
“Her soul is still hers,” said the man.
“Ouch,” said Morgan. “Don’t worry, we will help you. Let me get you out of these manacles first… Trapped of course, this will take a little longer. Mandor, can you check if Viviane or Neti can come examine her?”
“I’m here,” said the pink-armored woman. “I’m glad to see that you did not fall to the darkness. I am Viviane Ravenwood, of Eveningstar. And you?”
The woman laid her hands on her broken body. Buffy immediately felt a nice warmth radiating from them, making the pain go away and restoring a little of her strength.
“An… Buffy… Buffy Summers.”
“A nice name… I’m sorry I cannot do more but those icky Baatezu laid curses on your body to prevent you from healing and they’re too strong for me to go through. Mandor?”
“Maybe, once I have rested, Viviane.”
“Thanks. The gorgeous hunk here is Mandor von Schwanstein. He comes from a place called Glantri,” said Viviane. “We’re both ‘primes’ which means that we come from ‘normal’ worlds, contrarily to Morgan who was born here, among the Outer Planes.”
“He doesn’t… feel human.”
“I’m not,” said the man, “at least not completely. I’m an aasimar, meaning that… let’s say I have some angel blood to keep things simple. Before you start to wonder why we trust you, you have been chained and tortured by Baatezu and Viviane did not start to lecture you on your wicked ways, meaning you’re not evil and that we can give you some leeway.”
Her chains fell and she saw the man use a kind of pipette to let a drop of quicksilver fall on the ground. She made round eyes as the drop stopped a foot above said ground and expanded to form a five-foot diameter disk. The female knight and her rogue friend then gently lifted her on the floating disk and covered her naked body with a blanket.
“I’m sorry, but it’s too late for them,” said Viviane. “They don’t even want to be saved now. They’re more willing accomplices than slaves. Ki… killing them would not even be useful, because their souls will end up in Baator. You’re the only one who resisted.”
Viviane was almost sobbing now. Buffy wanted to move, to hug her, but she was totally crippled. Even talking was difficult.
Cold air with a metallic taste aggressed her weakened lungs as they exited the subterranean complex. If she had any doubt to be in some hell dimension, the floating iron cubes in the grey sky would have lifted it.
“We’re in Thuldanin, the second layer of Acheron,” said Mandor.
She looked as her three saviors met with two other people. One was a woman of… what she would have said African descent if they were still on Earth, wearing a golden chainmail with a design reminiscent of ancient Egypt. The other was definitely not human, but some kind of goat-centaur in leather armor with a big curved bow.
“Buffy, meet Netikerty, Neti for short,” said Viviane while designing the Egyptian woman, “and Ergyl Surearrow. He’s a bariaur.”
“I would rather hurry up,” said the ‘centaur’. “We don’t know how long we have before the Baatezu come back.”
The group walked quickly on the iron surface while Buffy tried to rest a little, safely tucked on the floating disk. What happened reminded her of a cartoon she watched as a child, something with a group of teenagers that got sucked in another world and battled a dark wizard called Vengar. How was it called… Dungeons and… Dragons. I’m with an adventurer group from Dungeons and Dragons.
She resisted the envy to laugh that was rising in her. Her lungs would hurt too much if she tried. Instead, she tried to remember the little she knew about what she had long considered like the ultimate nerdy game. Viviane is some kind of holy knight, Mandor is a wizard, but of the non-robey variety, Morgan a thief, Neti… perhaps some kind of priestess. The cat’s head pendant, there is an Egyptian goddess like that. Finally, Ergyl is their ranger, with the way he’s scouting before the rest…
She finally fell asleep, gently rocked by the motions of the floating disk.
Buffy awoke as someone was shaking her delicately. She recognized Neti, the Egyptian priestess who was now wearing a white dress of the likes she had seen in history manuals. She felt a little better, but was still incapable of moving.
“Hello,” said the priestess.
“You’re safe. We’re in a place called Arborea, far away from them.”
“Can I… have a mirror?”
“It’s better not. You have been atrociously tortured and your face is only scar tissue for now. I have bad news and good news.”
“The bad news is that we cannot break the curses laid on your body and they prevent us from healing most of the damage and will allow the one who laid them to trace you back. The good news is that we have found a way to bypass that. You will just need to… die for a little while, just the time to reincarnate you.”
Buffy tried to wrap her mind around the utterly outlandish statement. Her logical mind tried to make her acknowledge that it made sense: her body was toast, so she needed a new one. Her instinct of conservation, however…
“You… you’re kidding, right? I mean, that kind of magic…”
“Is perfectly possible though I cannot do it myself, as reincarnation is rather a druid spell. Listen, you’ve seen what the Baatezu can do.”
She nodded reluctantly, knowing that a lot of the torture she had gone through had involved rather powerful magic, like the regeneration thing that kept her barely alive no matter what she endured or how many times she had tried to end her own life.
“Okay, let’s admit that’s possible. What’s the catch?”
“Well, the ritual needs some rather costly components, but Viviane gladly gave her part of our last mission’s pay to cover for it. The other thing is that… you may not be reincarnated as a human.”
“You mean… I could end up as a… like your friend the goataur?”
“Bariaur,” corrected Neti, smiling. “That’s possible but… We cannot undo the cripple condition on your body. And if any Baatezu sees you with a tattoo that basically says ‘Devil’s toy’…”
She nodded wearily, trying to weigh her options, to decide if she wanted to trust those… adventurers. Minute… a new body means no Slayer. Free at last.
“Okay. Just breathe this, it will make you sleep,” she said while uncorking a vial under her nose.
The entity sometimes called the First Slayer felt her host die. This time, it was not a fluke as the soul departed the body. However, she looked with surprise as she saw that the soul was not going to the afterlife, but settling directly in a new body of the appropriate age. She was about to follow her host, thinking that she could still do great things with her when she saw someone blocking her road, someone the old entity knew and feared.
“If you think for even one second that I will let you screw with her free will,” said a rather angry cat-headed woman, “think again,” she continued as her nails became claws.
“Bast… she Chosen One.”
“Not anymore. Her destiny as the Slayer ended when she died facing the Master. If she chooses to do so, she will fight evil again but neither you nor I will force her. Go away.”
“Can I make gift?”
“Only one of your powers.”
“Then science of weapons. Other gifts too wild for her new gifts.”
The Slayer took a red gem out of her body and gave it to the goddess, before disappearing in the darkness, in search for the host Buffy’s first death had awakened. Bast turned and looked as an ethereal woman dressed in moonbeams guided the soul of the former Slayer to her new body.
Buffy woke up again. She was still in the same room, in a place that seemed to be carved in a giant block of wood rather than constructed. She lifted her hand, marveling at the simple fact she was able to do that. She felt tears running on her cheeks as she saw her unblemished pale skin. Her… new arm was a little thinner than before, with a more delicate hand, but it was not a bloated mass of scar tissue.
She looked at herself, noticing that she thankfully had only two legs. Noticing something, she took a strand of her hair in her hand and held it before her.
“Green. Nice emerald shade, but green.”
Seeing a mirror on a nearby cupboard, she got up. She immediately stopped as she felt some vertigo, but it soon passed. She got to the mirror and looked at her face. Her traits were still mostly the same, perhaps a little finer and with almond-shaped eyes. She let one of her fingers run on the thing that was giving away what she had become, sensing the curves of her now pointed ears.
“An elf… I can live with that.”
“I hope so,” said Viviane’s voice.
“I…” Buffy ran to hug the human woman. “Thank you… oh thank you!”
“Hem… not that I don’t like to be hugged by a pretty elven girl but… some boys may get ideas, given that… you are naked.”
“Eep! So… sorry,” said Buffy running to the bed and covering herself with the blanket.
“You will find a tunic and breeches on the stool. They should be more or less your size, at least until we can get you better.”
Buffy nodded and dressed up. The wool fabric was rather coarse but after months spent naked chained in a cell, she was not about to argue.
“So… I was lucky?”
“Partially. Mandor had us make the ritual here, in Arvandor. He deduced that as this is the place where the elven gods live, it stacked the odds of the reincarnation process. The counterpoint was that if the elven gods had not judged you worthy…”
“It would not have worked. Mandor is…”
“A wizard from a place where wizards rule, which usually means very tricky politics and backstabbing games. He knows the tricks but he’s a nice guy. I would not work with him if that wasn’t the case because… paladin of Sune and all that.”
“You… Neti told me you paid for the ritual.”
“I did. You’re beautiful and not only physically, Buffy and I am sworn to protect love and beauty.” I wonder if she wears a Sailor Moon costume…
“So, I’m supposed to start over. I know nothing about this world. I’m already lucky that you speak English.”
“Except we rather call it Planar Trade. It’s a relatively simple language to learn, but not the only one used… Do you understand me when I speak like this?
Buffy startled. The last sentence said by Viviane had been in a singing language that made English sound coarse… a language she had perfectly understood.
“Is that… elvish?”
“It is. The Seldarine, the elven gods, saw fit to gift you with that knowledge.
Buffy took a bronze hairpin, trying to bend it. Just as she thought, her Slayer strength was gone. But that’s what I wanted.
“So we spend the next few days to see what else you can do now. If you’re fighting as well as Neti thinks you can, then you’re welcome to join our merry band.”
“I… I think I would like that. Thank you Viviane.”
As some of you may have guessed, the setting is Planescape (that does not exist as a game setting in the Buffyverse Earth as far as this story is concerned) and this story supposes that the hell dimensions of the Buffyverse are layers of the Lower Planes. For example, I think my fellow RPG’ers can guess which fiendish race is behind Wolfram and Hart in this story. To finish situating things regarding to the Planescape timeline, this is pre-Faction War and I will have adventuress Buffy go through some of the adventure modules of that setting, so this may contain spoilers regarding said modules. I will have warnings in the notes of the chapter if that’s the case. For those not familiar with Planescape, it is in my opinion one of the best settings ever designed for Dungeon and Dragons. Basically, it proposed to adventure in the planes even at the lowest character levels. What I really liked about it was that it promoted subtlety and philosophical thinking over simple hack’n’slash and made some creatures like devils and demons a lot more complex than simple mobs and/or bosses, among other things by giving them lives. The computer game Planescape: Torment did actually a pretty good job to convey the weirdness of the setting. On a last point, I will rather refer to Pathfinder rules rather than 2nd edition AD&D in terms of what’s possible for magic and how some classes and powers function. Typical Planescape adjustments like how magic is warped on a given plane will stay. Disclaimer addendum:
As Planescape links all 2nd edition settings, elements of other settings will appear, mostly Mystara and the Forgotten Realms.