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The Slayer of Harrowstone

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Summary: (Buffy/Pathfinder) Buffy wasn't fast enough and Willow was able to deconstruct Dawn before Buffy could save her. Now Buffy has been thrown into the world of Golarion, but her search for a way home is complicated by a sudden death...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Dungeons and DragonsbrokenmimirFR181882,202159016,37111 Sep 125 Nov 12Yes

Chapter Eleven

Disclaimer
I don't own anything. Buffy and Pathfinder are not owned by me. Nor are the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. They are owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.


Once More, With Stirges


Buffy ducked, dived and rolled with every bit of grace and agility her years of training and slayer abilities granted her, concentrating completely on staying away from the tongue of pure fire while still keeping the furnace occupied.

Even dodging, Buffy still shook her head in bewilderment. She was keeping a furnace occupied.

After eating their lunch the two women had opened the door and stepped through it, revealing a room with one wall that had collapsed completely, giving a view of the dark, still lake that they had sat next to for their meal in all of its eerie glory, with the only other features being another door and a large metal furnace. As they had crossed the room Buffy's keen eyes had noticed a soot encrusted copper plaque over the furnace engraved with the words 'Ember Maw'. As she had read the name the furnace had begun to glow with dark red flames, the grate taking the form of a leering skull, its burning eyes locking onto them. With a roar like a jet engine a tongue of red flame suddenly lashed forth from the mouth of the furnace and snaked towards Buffy, who had had to dive into a sideways roll to avoid the strike.

“What is it?!,” Buffy called as she ducked and wove, her movements ensuring that the furnace concentrated on her instead of attempting to hit her far more vulnerable friend.

“A haunt I should think, but a powerful one! Whatever death caused this must have been terrible to have left such a strong impact upon the world!”

Working her way closer Buffy lept high to avoid an attempt to burn her legs while she dug quickly within her bag of holding until she pulled out one of her three remaining haunt siphons. Diving forward until she was close enough to feel uncomfortable from the intense heat she twisted the metal cap on the end of the siphon, filling the air with a golden glow as green energies were pulled from the furnace into the device, making it glow a dull green. The flames dimmed and the metal face of the furnace twisted with a weary pain, until, with another angry bellow, it spewed cinders outward, blinding Buffy. Dodging and twirling on pure instinct she had to give significant ground before she was finally able to clear her tearing eyes enough to begin dodging normally again.

“Keep it busy!” Kendra shouted as she began chanting.

“Keep it busy she says,” Buffy grumbled as she stuffed the siphon back in her bag and began to work her way closer to the furnace once more. After a few moments Kendra finished her spell, her beam of white-gold light striking the face of the furnace and producing another pained roar and dimming the flames slightly. The furnace turned its malevolent gaze upon the wizard, until Buffy growled and picked up a heavy brick, throwing it at the face with a loud bang before it could attack her. “Over here, flame brain!”

Roaring it attacked Buffy once again, only to howl piteously as another beam struck it, this time killing the flames, the skull face reverting into the simple furnace grate it had once been.

“Okay, that was nasty,” Buffy said as she caught her breath. “And what is with the fire? Everywhere I go something tries to make me extra-crispy! Without any herbs and spices even.”

“I think if that happened to me I would take a long look at my life and see what prompts such a response.”

“Hey,” Buffy said with a glare. “Is it pick on Buffy day or something?”

“That would imply a one day thing.” Kendra rolled her eyes when Buffy pouted at her.

“I liked you better when you were polite.”

“I liked it better when we weren't in mortal danger, but we have to do something to keep our spirits up,” Kendra said sharing a smile with her friend, before giving the furnace a serious look. “That was no ordinary haunt. It was powerful enough to survive the haunt siphon, so perhaps it was even one of the five prisoners. I think we should see if we can put it to rest for good.”

“How?”

“We need to figure out what is keeping the spirit responsible for this haunt from resting in peace.” At Buffy's blank expression Kendra elaborated. “We can figure out how to lay it to rest if we use the spirit planchette to communicate with it.”

“You mean the ouija board,” Buffy said as she dug the wooden board and its brass triangle from her bag. Setting them up in front of the furnace the two women sat carefully, eyeing the still hot grate warily as they did so. “How does this work?”

“We place our fingers lightly on the brass planchette, and then we wait for it to become attuned to the spirits here. When it begins to move on its own we can ask questions and we should receive answers from the board. Hopefully, it will be cooperative enough to let us lay it to rest.”

The two sat quietly for several minutes with their fingers resting on the cool brass until finally it began to drift across the board on its own. Swallowing, Buffy began. “Who are you?”

The planchette move briskly across the alphabet spelling out the name 'Benjen Ereska'.

“Hmm,” Kendra said quietly after it had finished. “Well, it isn't one of the five, but at least he is being cooperative. Tell us Benjen, how can we lay you to rest?”

Painstakingly the planchette moved, spelling out the sentence 'place my bones into water'.

“Your bones?” Buffy asked. “Are they in the furnace?”

The planchette pointed to 'yes'.

“You didn't die in the riot did you,” she said, causing Kendra to look at her in surprise.

The planchette pointed to 'no'.

“You mean to say that the guards executed you with the furnace,” Kendra asked, her voice full of horror.

The planchette pointed to 'yes'.

Buffy stood with a determined look on her face, pulling out spare cloth from her bags and wrapping it around her limbs. Taking a deep breath, she climbed into the furnace. She was small enough to fit inside of it, although even so it was a tight fit. Moving slowly with her sun rod clutched in one hand she gritted her teeth against the heat that still lingered in the metal until finally she reached the back where, in a pile of ash, she found a cracked skull and a small pile of broken bones. Sweeping them up she crawled swiftly backwards before standing and tossing them into the lake.

Kendra moved over with her as they watched the hot bones steam as they sank beneath the dark, still water, causing the furnace to groan loudly as the haunt was laid to rest. Kendra pulled out a handkerchief and her drinking water and began to help Buffy clean up. “You look like a chimney sweep.”'

Buffy glared back as she unwrapped her reddened limbs. “Whose idea was it to do that?”

“I never thought that you would simply dive into a furnace.”

Grumbling quietly Buffy led the way to the next chamber through the only other door from the furnace room. It was of moderate size, and was filled with the rusting frames of rotting cots standing like tombstones between trays of medical equipment. Across from them were doors leading to private treatment rooms which barely hung on their frames, and on the left side of the room was a set of double doors through which Buffy could see a hallway.

As they crossed the apparent prison infirmary they felt something in the air, a chilling presence seemingly watching them. Whatever the presence was, however, it did not make itself known, and they were able to push the sagging doors open unmolested.

The hallway beyond was immediately familiar to them, the already open double doors at its end leading to the entrance foyer. Buffy walked to one of the doors that they had never opened, a set of double doors next to the collapsed downward staircase, and opening it revealed stairs leading up.

“Should we take them?” Kendra asked, looking up at the double doors at the top of the steep stone stairs.

“Yeah, we can always do the thorough thing later if we have to, but I don't want to spend all year here. The only thing that'll grow on me about this place is the fungus.”

“Quite a bit of that, so let's minimize our risk and proceed.”

The upper floor was much like the lower, full of mold and fungus, with a rotten musty stench in the air. The hallway they stepped into opened into broad rooms at each end, with the left room having a guard station in it protected by an arc of iron bars, and the right room had a jumble of tables and chairs, obviously having once served as a cafeteria. After a moment of consultation, they walked down the hall to the left, examining the guard post briefly before looking around.

The guard post overlooked the cellblocks of the upper floor, which had once been the equivalent of minimum security. The cells were small square rooms ten feet on a side, with iron bars serving as their front face and narrow iron doors to allow entrance and exit. Within them they could see the skeletons of the former prisoners, filling nearly every cell that they could see.

“They must've died from the smoke,” Buffy said, horror in her voice. “Why didn't anyone try to get them out?”

“They were criminals,” Kendra answered, clearly uncomfortable. “I suppose that the guards didn't believe that they should be rescued.”

“They were people! Just because they were in prison doesn't mean they should be burned in furnaces, and... and just left to die! What else happened here!”

“Probably a great many things. You've said quite a bit about your homeland, and my father shared with me some of what you had told him, but this isn't your California. In Ustalav... life is often lost cheaply, and for little purpose. Few in these cells would have ever seen the light of day again, and most then only to be executed.”

“It's not right. No wonder they're pissed. I'd be pissed.”

“Even if they had cause for revenge, the people living today are innocent of any crime, and are simply convenient targets for their wrath...” Kendra trailed off as she saw Buffy turn pale.

Buffy for the first time in weeks found herself remembering the awful day that she had lost her sister. Her best friend, who had once argued passionately for the rights of undead Chumash to get revenge against the descendants of their oppressors, caring for nothing but vengeance herself, lashing out at 'convenient targets'. “I know. No matter how right your cause, you can't kill innocent people for it.”

Kendra looked confused for a moment, before her eyes widened in understanding. “I'm sorry... I did not mean to remind you...”

“It's okay,” Buffy said giving a smile that more closely resembled a grimace. “I know. Let's just do this thing.”

Buffy walked into the cellblock before Kendra could say anything further, looking at the skeletons around them. As they walked Buffy began to feel an eerie sensation crawling up her spine, her slayer senses twinging strongly as a sourceless dirge began, the music seemingly coming from a beautiful if eerie flute. Buffy began to feel lightheaded as some deep, instinctual fear filled her as a rattling noise echoed throughout the halls as every skeleton simultaneously rose from their piles and began to batter at the doors, seeking escape. All around them the unquiet dead within the closest cells began to reach out through their bars, straining to grab the women as they stood in the center of the hall.

Shaking off the unpleasant feelings that suddenly filled her, Buffy fumbled within her bag as she fruitlessly sought the source of the music. “Another haunt? Probably the Piper.” She paused. “Kendra?” Kendra stood stock still, her eyes glazed as she stared blankly ahead, unmoving. “Kendra!” Her friend did not respond, not even battling an eyelash as she shouted at her.

Buffy pulled a haunt siphon from her bag, frowning as she realized that with this one she would only have a single unused siphon left. Twisting it, the golden glow of the functioning siphon filled the air, thick bands of green energies swiftly pouring into the device, leaving it glowing faintly when it finished it's task. Unfortunately, while the music was slightly fainter, it still continued to steadily play, and Kendra remained entranced, unmoving.

Looking around, Buffy saw three stirges, the four winged black and red creatures flying down the hallway towards them, their long proboscises glistening faintly pink as they came. Looking at the object in her hand, she shrugged and hurled the expended haunt siphon at the group, striking the ceiling just above the central flyer and shattering the fragile glass. With a bright flash of green light the vortex within suddenly bloomed outward in a blast of wind that was felt with the soul rather than the flesh, the faintest chilling sensation passing through Buffy from where she stood some distance from the epicenter.

The stirges, however, were far less lucky. The closest creature simply shriveled like a grape drying on the vine, the glossy red body darkening and becoming dull as it died in mid air, its corpse plummeting to the ground with a splat. The other two were further from the impact, but even they were visibly hurt, staggering in midflap and barely staying aloft as they too withered slightly. However, despite their injuries, the survivors pressed on, their motions in perfect harmony with the flute music filling Buffy's ears.

Reaching into her bag once more Buffy pulled out the tarnished silver flute that she had taken from the evidence locker on the first floor. She had never played a flute before, but unsure how to inflict more harm to the Piper without using up her final haunt siphon, she decided to put it to her lips and play, hoping for the best. The moment the flute reached her mouth she found her fingers moving into position of their own accord, and without any idea how she was doing it she began to play an eerie counterpoint to the disembodied music played by the haunt.

Immediately the music began to have an effect, the skeletons near her moving more erratically in their attempts to attack her, and the stirges seemingly confused as they closed to attack. Sparing a glance down the hallway, Buffy furrowed her brow in concern as four skeletons, apparently having escaped their cells, began to shamble towards her, their bony fingers curled into claws as they approached. Behind them, an enormous, bloated stirge the size of a large dog sailed towards her, only to begin moving drunkenly as it closed.

Before she could act, Buffy felt a sudden prickling pain as blood began to pour from her eyes, ears, and fingertips. Manifesting slowly in midair she saw a spectral skeleton in a hooded cloak wearing a long gray scarf and holding a silver flute identical to her own in its hand. The figure swayed in time with the music, and all around it a flock of stirges, as ephemeral as the Piper, cavorted in elaborately choreographed aerobatics. However, as she continued to play her own flute she saw that the ghostly Piper was slowly fading away, the cellblock beyond becoming easier and easier to see through its body.

When the first of the normal stirges arrived Buffy tried to drop the flute to fight them, but was shocked to discover that she was unable to do so, her body continuing to play no matter what she did to try and stop. When the first dived beak first towards Kendra, Buffy simply sidestepped into its path and kicked hard, her foot meeting it at head height and sending it bouncing off of the ceiling with a broken spine, the cat sized monster twitching uselessly as it hit the ground. Spinning and hopping upwards, she kicked the last one in the side and sent it into the tumbling into the wall, slaying it instantly.

Turning around, Buffy moved between Kendra and the approaching skeletons and the giant stirge, setting her feet into a savate stance to maximize her options for kicking. The first skeleton shattered with a straight kick it its spine, the pieces tumbling to the floor as two more pressed her at once. Unwilling to give ground since Kendra was unable to move, Buffy ducked to her right to avoid one skeleton, twisting her torso so that her left bracer took the raking strike of the other while she delivered an off balance round house kick with her left leg that pulverized her attacker.

Twisting away from the grasping skeleton hands reaching out of the cell she had dodged close to, Buffy smashed one skeleton with a crescent kick, before launching a quick double kick combo at the last one to escape its cell, slaying it before she hopped into the air to meet the erratic dive of the giant stirge. Twisting her torso at the last second Buffy trapped its proboscis under her right arm, twisting around to land with both feet smashing the bloated monster into the ground.

The impact broke the creature's wings, but it was far from defenseless, her position holding its beak preventing her from dodging as its four barbed legs lashed out at her, opening deep gashes in her calves. Before she could finish it she was surprised when the Piper's music suddenly stopped, her own playing transforming from highly skilled to a sudden painful squeak and then nothing as with a final wail the undead inmate simply faded away, destroyed by the music of his own cursed flute.

Dropping the instrument with a grunt of pain as the thrashing stirge continued to gouge at her with all four limbs, Buffy grasped the beak with both hands, and with a powerful flex of her entire body, she tore it from the creature's face, before reversing it and stabbing it through the torso where she guessed its heart to be. Jumping off as it thrashed madly, Buffy panted, her head spinning. Her arms and head were soaked in blood from playing the cursed flute for so long, her entire torso stained red, and her legs bled freely as well from her downed opponent who twitched weakly as it slowly died. All around her the skeletons clattered as they collapsed lifeless once more without the Piper's wrath to animate them.

“Buffy!” Kendra shouted, horrified as she pulled out her medical suplies, overwhelmed by how much her friend had bled while she had been unable to move.

“Don't worry. This looks way worse than it is.”

“Given that you look as though you were bathing it blood, I'm at a bit of a loss as to how it could not look much worse and you still be among the living.” Buffy resisted for only a moment before allowing Kendra to bandage her legs, drinking two of her disgusting, but useful, healing potions as she did so.

“I'm so sorry,” Kendra said quietly as she finished tying the last bandage. “I was useless. The music played, and I couldn't move...”

“Hey!” Buffy interrupted. “Don't worry about it. Ghosts? They do bad stuff. Sometime remind me to tell you about Xander's syphilis.”

“Syphilis? What is that?”

Buffy smirked. “Never mind. The point is, ghosts can do weird stuff, so it's not your fault. It just happens.”

“I will do better next time.” When Buffy nodded, Kendra began again, more hesitantly. “And I'm sorry to have reminded you of what happened. I want the woman who killed my father to pay for what she did. I cannot imagine how it must feel for a friend to be responsible for such a crime.”

“Its not the first time someone I cared about turned on me.”

“What will you do when you get home?”

“I don't know. But some things? Some things can't be forgiven,” Buffy answered, her voice hard.

“No. Some things can't be forgiven. But people who do not let go of anger, even when warranted, generally do not have good ends. There are a thousand stories in Ustalav about someone who sought vengeance, even many against someone who truly deserved it. Those stories never end at all well.”

Buffy said nothing, instead moving to the iron door to a room without the bars that would allow them to see what was within, and simply kicked it open with a full strength stomping kick, knocking the reinforced door out of its frame entirely.

The room beyond the door was several times larger than any of the other cells, but it was a cell all the same. Slumped against the wall, wrapped in chains from which weights marked with holy symbols dangled, was a human skeleton. Walking into the cell, Buffy saw that the room contained nothing besides the body, a rotten bed, and two buckets. “I'm thinking Father Charlatan,” Buffy said as she crouched next to the body, shivering from an oppressive presence in the room that her spidey-sense was blaring warnings about.

“I would say so,” Kendra answered, looking around. “Although I do not see any signs of restless spirits.”

“I feel one,” Buffy said. “But no, not much with the seeing.” Buffy considered for a moment, before shrugging and, after pulling on leather gloves, searched the body. Unfortunately, she found nothing, other than a sensation like someone walking over her grave as she did so. “I'm finding a whole lotta nothin'. He must not be at home.”

Since Kendra had no other ideas they simply left the cell and continued exploring the upper level of the prison, changing sunrods as they did so as the first, which they had started that morning, finally stopped glowing. Despite their thoroughness they found little of interest in the upper level of the prison, as it was simply rows of cellblocks and a small kitchen and cafeteria. Eventually they found the only door which they had not checked, a solid wooden one which was still locked and in fairly good condition. “Do you want me to get kicky or do you want to get it?” Buffy asked once she had tried its handle.

Kendra shrugged and pulled an amulet from under her dress, gripping it for a moment, before she spoke the single, impossible word once more causing the lock to click. Opening it revealed the gray sky of a cloudy late afternoon, as the door opened onto an enormous flat balcony larger than most houses. On the far side of the balcony was a large stone block, and facing it were long wooden benches.

When they moved out onto the stone balcony they saw a large scythe that had been hidden behind the stone slowly float off of the ground, skeletal arms slowly fading into being as they bodilessly held the weapon aloft. “Why is there a scythe here?” Buffy asked, bewildered as she raised her silver short sword once more.

“Harrowstone Prison was notorious for using a scythe rather than an axe for beheadings.”

“Seriously? Why would they...” Buffy's response was cut off as the weapon flew towards her with impressive speed. Skipping back out of range she countered, but the spectral arms wielded the weapon with impressive skill, blocking her probing attacks, her hits sending sparks from the contacts as she fought. Feinting left, Buffy flipped over her opponent before swinging her weapon hard, her attack passing through the arms as though they didn't even exist before cracking the wooden shaft of the weapon.

Unfortunately, just as she seemed to be gaining the upper hand, everything suddenly went wrong. The scythe, despite the damage that she had inflicted upon it, moved as smoothly as ever, and without a body it was able to spin itself in an impossible arc, reacting faster to her having gotten behind it than any living opponent could have. While she was fast and experienced enough to dodge backwards, avoiding most of the hit, the keen edge of the executioner's weapon slashed her belly as she did so.

She had received minor injuries before, and she had expected her new wound to be such, but to her shock she suddenly realized that she must have woefully misjudged her distance, as terrible pain swept through her. Dropping her sword, Buffy reached down as she collapsed to her knees, her hands struggling to hold her insides where they belonged, as the long cut across her stomach threatened to spill her ropy innards across the roof. Looking up in terrified shock at Kendra, Buffy slowly collapsed, her life bleeding out all around her.

Her heart slowed, and she knew, for the fourth time in her life, that she was dying. A single tear trickled down her face. She had failed. The people of Ravengro would die. Kendra was still in danger. She hadn't lived for Dawn. She would never see Xander or Giles again. She would never figure out what had happened between her and Spike. She would never look Willow in the eyes, never get a chance to yell at her, never get a chance to stop hating her...

She would never get to go home...

Everything slowly faded to black...

Author's Notes
Let me just begin with some maniacal laughter. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Sorry, couldn't help myself. I was planning that cliffhanger since my initial outline for this story.

This chapter continued the dungeon crawl through the prison within the pathfinder module, the Haunting of Harrowstone. The chilling presence in the infirmary was a poltergeist, which only appears if three people enter its room. I thought about having it attack anyway, but the chapter was long enough, and there have been enough little encounters without adding more unnecessarily.

The spirit board and brass planchette do not follow the rules for them provided by Pathfinder – I didn't like them, so I simply made it operate like a cinematic ouija board. I think it was more dramatically appropriate.

Kendra used disrupt undead in this chapter, a cantrip that is truly showing its worth in this situation. She also used her arcane bond amulet to spontaneously cast another knock spell.

This weekend my muse was very kind, and I wrote more than 15000 words, finishing this story. It has sixteen chapters, plus an epilogue and a prologue. While each chapter gets another edit before posting, I'm basically finished, so expect me to have no trouble getting this all online, following my standard monday-friday schedule. I hope you enjoy the rest!
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