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. Dreams That Came
The first thing that she noticed was that whatever she was lying on was hard. The air smelled strongly of unfinished pine, and everything was dark. Opening her eyes, Buffy saw only darkness, her sharp slayer eyes revealing nothing. Confused, Buffy frowned, her thoughts jumbled. The last thing that she could remember had been fighting the Piper of Illmarsh, and then her and Kendra had gone outside. They had fought a scythe and...
With a gasp Buffy reached upwards with stiff arms, terror filling her as she felt rough wood just above her head. Feeling around, Buffy immediately recognized where she was. She was in a coffin. SHE WAS IN A COFFIN.
Choking back a sob of sheer terror at waking up in her casket once more, Buffy pushed hard at the ceiling, immensely relieved when the top easily slid off, letting daylight and fresh air in. Shoving the wooden lid away, Buffy sat up, gasping, her eyes wild. She had only been awake in the coffin for a few seconds, but the experience wasn't one that improved with repeat exposure.
Taking in the room, Buffy was confused to realize that she was in a church, the large cross behind the altar telling her that it was of the Christian faith. Standing beside the coffin was an older man with receding red hair wearing the black outfit and white collar of a Catholic priest. “Ah, excellent child,” he said, smiling slightly. “It does me good to see you awake now. You were far less lively just a bit ago.”
“Don't strain yourself, child. You've had quite the nasty little shock to your system, and no mistake. Just calm yourself now. You're safe here.”
Looking down at herself, Buffy frowned when she saw that she was wearing the black funeral dress that she had had tailored for her in a small town in central Ustalav. “Where am I?”
“Lepidstadt. It was the closest town that had priests able to perform a resurrection for you.”
“Resurrection? You... resurrected me?” Buffy was very torn. She had so much she wanted to do, and she no longer wished to die. However, for as long as she would live, she would remember that calm, warm, place that she had been, and she would always crave it on some level. While she had been terrified that she had spontaneously come back from the dead (implying that she would continue doing so, even after she was ready to move on), she now was confused as to why she had been brought back.
“Yes, child. Your friend Ms. Lorrimor was most insistent.”
“Kendra? How... why?”
“Which question, child? If it is the how of it, that is quite simple to answer. While it is a difficult and rare feat, the wisest of priests are sometimes granted the ability to bring back the dead by our gods. It is not something done lightly, but a young warrior who died trying to save our nation? Who better to bring back? And as I said, Ms. Lorrimor was most insistent.”
Buffy frowned. “But why don't I remember it?”
“When I was dead before... before someone brought me back last time. I remembered being dead... I don't remember anything this time.”
“Of course not, child! That would be most dangerous. No, we would not be so cruel so as to let you remember that which is beyond mortal men to know! We healed you, not simply tore you from your final fate.”
“Oh,” Buffy said, overwhelmed. She had died again. And she was back. It all felt so strange, like nothing was real. Looking down at her hands Buffy frowned, unable to shake off the feeling that she was simply having a weird dream. “Where's Kendra?”
“It took some months after your accident before Ms. Lorrimor could arrange for you to be brought back. She had to return to Ravengro to take care of some personal business. You can see her when you are well enough to travel.”
With some effort Buffy began to stand, only to pause in confusion as she saw something at the end of her coffin. Leaning closer for a better look, she was surprised to see the fused cluster of holy symbols that they had found in the evidence locker at Harrowstone. Looking up at the priest in confusion, she reeled as her head felt as though it was splitting open. The kindly looking priest suddenly looked translucent, and for a moment she thought she saw something wrapped around him. The room seemed dim and hard to see, and she found herself unable to move as chains seemed to be wrapped around her tightly, all but digging into her flesh.
“Buffy!” A female voice, too distant to make out seemed to call to her. “Buffy... Buffy!”
Shaking her head, Buffy closed her eyes against the pain, and it slowly faded. Looking at the priest, she saw that everything had returned to normal again, although now he seemed to be looking at her with some concern. Looking down again, she saw that there was no sign of any chains, and the pile of holy symbols was absent as well.
“Are you alright, child? You seemed distressed for a moment.”
“I'm... fine. I thought... never mind.”
“Well, come on then. Let's get some food into you before you waste away.”
“Who are you?” Buffy asked as she slowly stood on shaky legs. She felt as though all of her strength was gone, and she could barely keep her balance.
“My apologies. My name is Sefick Corvin.”
“Sefick Corvin? I've heard that name before...”
“Oh? I'm not sure how. I am naught but a simple priest of the Lord.”
Buffy slowly followed him, taking in the small church as she went, the name nagging at her as she tried to remember where she had heard it before. She wasn't as bad with names as she often pretended, but she really wasn't the best at remembering them. As she passed a pew she was distracted by something sitting on the seat. It was the pile of holy symbols again.
Buffy staggered and nearly collapsed, her head feeling as though a hot poker was jabbed into her brain, and chains seemed to bite into her body as they constricted tightly around her. Everything became gray and blurry besides the holy symbols, and looking up she saw that Father Corvin was translucent again, although this time she could see that he was wrapped in chains too.
“Buffy!” the female voice called once more. “Wake up! Please...”
Reeling Buffy blinked, and everything snapped back into focus. There were no chains, around either herself or the now solid solid priest. Looking at the pew, she saw no holy symbols.
“Are you alright, child? Perhaps you should sit.” So saying, Father Corvin ushered Buffy onto a pew, frowning at her in concern.
“I don't know what's happening... I keep having these flashes...”
“Don't worry about a thing. You were just resurrected after all, you should expect some consequences from it. Why don't we sit here and rest for a bit and you can tell me anything.”
“What should I say?”
“Why don't you tell me about what's bothering you? Death is very traumatic, and you sound as though you've experienced it more than most.”
“Yeah. Fourth time wasn't the charm. Actually, it's starting to get old. I am so over dying.”
“What would you like to speak of then, child?”
“There is something that's bugging me. How are you here?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how are you here? In this world? Because Catholic priests? Not so big around here.”
“I don't know what you're talking about.”
Buffy looked down at the ground, frowning as she saw the pile of holy symbols sitting between her feet. Slowly picking it up, she felt the weight of the object in her hands as she examined them closely, the dozen metal symbols being different ones for the various gods commonly worshipped in Ustalav. None of them was the Christian cross. Nowhere had she seen or heard of any earth religion anywhere in Golarion.
“Buffy, listen...” the voice was distant, but familiar. A female voice. “You need to wake up, please. I can't do this by myself...”
Buffy kept a tight grip on the bundle of holy symbols as she slowly looked up at the priest sitting beside her. He was bound in chains from which dangled heavy weights decorated with the holy symbols which were represented in the cluster in her hands. Looking the now translucent priest dead in the eye Buffy gave him her best slayer glare. “Your name. I have heard it before. You're Father Charlatan.”
Glaring back, the priest responded, “foolish little girl. Just give up and give me your life!”
Snarling, Buffy strained, flexing her muscles to fight against the chains binding her. They dug into her skin, trickles of blood slowly dripping down from the wounds that her struggles opened. “Go to hell.”
“I will. And I will take you with me!”
Closing her eyes, Buffy pulled with all of her might, until finally, with a cry of mixed pain and triumph, the chains holding her shattered. A terrible wail rose up all around her as her blurry eyes opened and she found herself lying down on a stone floor staring up at dark clouds.
* * *
Buffy had been fighting the floating scythe with her usual inhuman grace and sublime skill. No matter how many times she saw her in action, Kendra could not help but be amazed by her. While forcing someone against their will to be the slayer was cruel, she could not argue with the effectiveness of the weapon forged by Buffy's 'Powers That Be'. Between her strength, which could rival even a giant, and the incredible skill with which she wielded it, Kendra felt no doubt that she was watching one of the finest warriors in all of Golarion.
Watching the scythe calculatingly, Kendra decided that it was simply a more powerful variation of the type of haunting entity that had animated the straightjacket and the manacles on the first floor of the prison. While hard to damage, being made of hardwood and metal, she concluded that physical attacks should end the threat posed by the executioner's weapon. Unfortunately, the scythe was proving to be made of far sturdier stuff than the earlier objects, and it seemed to be holding even Buffy at bay.
Watching the fast moving battle, Kendra felt disheartened at her chances of striking an effective blow with her magics. She had never been in a battle prior to the recent unpleasantness, and she was unsure how well she could handle herself. If she missed with her spells, she could potentially hit Buffy, which was certainly something she had to avoid. There was, however, one option which she could employ, and reaching into a pouch she produced the object that she needed to do so.
Holding the tiny, circular wooden object in her hand, Kendra glanced at it briefly. It was an inch and a half across, and was a half inch thick circular piece of fire hardened oak, with concentric circles drawn on one side in red paint. Gripping it tightly, Kendra chanted a spell quietly as she watched Buffy flip over the attacker, her weapon biting deeply for the first time, nearly splitting the haft of the scythe in two. Finally, as she began to wonder if it would be necessary, Kendra finished casting the spell.
The magical spell true strike wasn't flashy, but it was powerful. With it cast, Kendra could suddenly see possibilities stretching out before her. She could tell from moment to moment where the scythe would be, and as she reached into a pouch for other spell components she concentrated on when her best moment to act would come. Before she could cast another spell though, she saw the scythe open a thin scratch from a glancing blow across Buffy's stomach. The injury had been minor, and Kendra had been preparing to launch her own attack when she paused in shock.
Buffy had only been slightly cut, the wound barely even bleeding, but instead of ignoring it and pressing her attack, she dropped her weapon, her face locked in a painful grimace. Reaching down as she collapsed to her knees, she groped at the air as though trying to catch something spilling from her body, her hands struggling, trying to hold herself together. Finally, the slayer's dull eyes sought out Kendra's own as she keeled over, unconscious. Chains slowly came into existence, wrapped around her body so tightly they all but cut into her skin as she lay still, her chest barely moving as she breathed shallowly.
“Buffy!” Kendra shouted, shock and horror filling her. She wanted to run to the blonde, to help her somehow. On some level she simply wanted to fall apart, her fear for her friend almost overwhelming. However, Kendra pulled herself together as she watched the scythe spin around, drifting towards her as it moved to attack once more.
Wrapping a rhubarb leaf and the dried stomach of an adder around a small wooden dart she held in her right hand, Kendra chanted quickly, preparing her most powerful combat spell. The dart began to glow green, the other items consumed by the magics as she stepped back, her face a mask of concentration as she gripped the dart in a position to throw it. The scythe spun and dodged, trying to avoid her attack, but her true strike spell told her when to make her move, and move she did, swinging her arm as though throwing the dart, the green glow leaving the wood and flying through the air even as it coalesced into an arrow, the spell striking the head of the scythe. The green spread quickly over the metal, and it stopped glowing as a hiss rose into the air, the weapon dissolving under the potent acid created by her magic.
Unfortunately, while acid arrow was a potent attack spell, it wasn't the fastest one, the scythe flying toward her even as it dissolved. Not taking any chances while she waited for it to be destroyed, Kendra raised her left hand in a stopping motion in front of her as she spoke a single complex phrase in the language of magic, an invisible disc of force coalescing in front of her as the weapon attacked, the blade only striking her defense once before snapping in half, the weakened metal unable to take the impact. The blade broken, it fell to the ground, the skeletal arms fading away as the magical acid finally finished its job and became inert.
Panting heavily from reaction, Kendra only hesitated a moment before running over to her friend. Buffy lay as still as death, only the nearly imperceptible rise and fall of her chest revealing she yet lived. Examining the chains, she frowned as she could find no way to remove them, her hand passing through them without any effect, but any attempts to move Buffy being stopped by the skin tight chains wrapped around her.
Running every option she could think of through her head, Kendra was forced to conclude that her friend was held by some form of haunt, quite possibly one of the five prisoners which were the center of their current troubles. Unfortunately, with no idea where the haunt actually was, she could not simply employ her disrupt undead cantrip, and so she was at something of a loss. Considering her options, she finally settled on a spell that she could employ. Even if it did not help, it certainly could not worsen the situation.
“Buffy, I don't know if you are able to hear me, but I will try my best to free you from this.” Pulling a small vial from one of her pouches, she unscrewed its lid, revealing the finely powdered silver within. Holding her breath so as not to inhale any, Kendra carefully marked a circle on the ground around her friend with the substance as she chanted quietly, finally crouching within the circle and touching Buffy's shoulder as her spell reached its conclusion. The silver dust glowed brightly for a moment, before being consumed as light flowed over the downed slayer, granting her arcane protection against mystical evils.
Buffy lay quiescent for only a moment, before the chains became fully translucent, and she began to writhe, fighting against them. “Buffy!” Kendra shouted, her hand shaking the slayer's shoulder as she tried to gain her attention. “Buffy, please wake up. Buffy!”
Unfortunately, after a moment the haunt overcame the protection that she had given to Buffy, the chains becoming more solid, although her discerning eyes could tell that they were somewhat less tangible than they had been before. After another moment Buffy settled back into place, unmoving once again. Frowning, Kendra considered her options. Unfortunately, they were few. She had used up most of her prepared magics, leaving her with nothing useful but her cantrips, none of which seemed likely to be valuable under the current circumstances.
A thought struck her, and she reached into a pouch and pulled out her small collection of scrolls. Magical scrolls were not simply directions for spells, but were in fact fully prepared magics themselves, requiring only a small effort to perform the spells preserved within them. Her protection from evil spell seemed to have had some effect on the chains, and she had two scrolls of that spell, one she had made for herself as an exercise when she was learning to make scrolls, and the other having come from the cache of scrolls that Buffy had liberated from the false crypt.
Pulling out the first scroll, she carefully unfurled it before chanting the final part of the magics, the silvery glow streaming from the scroll down her arm and into Buffy as she held her shoulder, causing her to thrash and moan, the chains becoming faint once more.
“Buffy!” Kendra said as she discarded the now blank sheet of vellum that had once contained the spell. “Wake up! Please wake up. You're stronger than this! If a vampire could not keep you dominated, then you cannot let some haunt hold you!”
Unfortunately, after long seconds the chains became more real again, although now they appeared truly weak. Considering the rate at which they were fading, Kendra felt a certain degree of confidence as she pulled out her final scroll of the protection from evil spell. Unrolling it carefully, she chanted one last time, the glow flowing from the page and into her friend as Buffy began to strain against the chains once again.
“Buffy, listen to me,” she said firmly to her straining friend. “You need to wake up, please. I can't do this by myself, but together, I know we can save Ravengro...” her voice trailed off as she saw her stop moving once again, the barely perceptible chains still visible. “No! Buffy!”
Before Kendra could panic, Buffy suddenly moved, her entire body tensing as she strained against the chains, until with a cry of triumph and anguish she forced her arms and legs apart, blood flowing for a moment from a dozen abrasions before the chains burst into blue wisps of smoke as her eyes flew open. All around them a sourceless wail arose before fading into nothing.
* * *
“Buffy!” Kendra said, her face creased with worry from where she crouched over the slayer.
Buffy winced as she felt pain all over her body from where she had fought against the chains that had held her. Taking a deep breath to bring herself under control, she finally gave Kendra a somewhat strained smile as she shakily sat up. “Hey.”
“I was so worried!” Kendra said as she threw her arms around her friend, before pulling back as Buffy winced in pain from her numerous shallow wounds. “I'm so sorry! Are you alright? Of course you're not alright! Here, just give me a moment...”
Buffy smiled at her friend, cutting her off fondly. “Don't worry. I'll be A-Okay before you know it. Slayer healing.”
“Still, it would be best if we bandaged you. Are you sure that you will be alright?”
“Yeah. Sorry for making you all worried.” Buffy smirked at her as she pulled out one of her healing potions. “And see, I told you not to apologize earlier. Ghosts just do ghosty stuff like this.”
“You're right,” Kendra said smiling slightly as Buffy drank her potion and scrunched her face up in a silly manner. “Are you really alright, though? I was worried.”
“Hey,” Buffy said grinning as her wounds closed, her slayer healing combining with the healing magic to quickly fix the shallow but painful injuries. “I'm fine. No biggee. Plus, scratch one more ghost.”
Reaching into her bag of holding, Buffy pulled out the cluster of holy symbols from the evidence locker, which no longer felt cold and creepy, and weren't fused together anymore either. “Yup. No more con artist ghost. I hope I never run into something like that again. I mean, a creepy priest? Wiggy.”
“So that was Father Charlatan then?”
“Yup. Next time I plan on touching a creepy dead body... smack me. Anyway, two down, three to go. So, ready to hit the basement?”
“Honestly?” Kendra asked hesitantly. “Not really. I've expended almost all of my magics, and it is beginning to grow dark. I would rather head into the lower level with the sun well over our heads, even if we are unable to see it.”
Buffy frowned as she looked in the direction of the setting sun. “I'd rather just finish this.”
“If we do, I will be little better than a liability without my more powerful spells ready,” Kendra said seriously. “The ghosts cannot escape until Vesorianna's name is fully writ, and with Gibs being held by Father Grimburrow, that won't be a concern for a time. It would be wiser to recover before we continue this, as we don't have any firm deadline hanging over our heads.”
“The longer we wait, the more ghosts mess with Ravengro.”
“It is my home, so I am of course concerned about its fate. But if we fail, who will be able to save it?”
Sighing, Buffy finally nodded. “I can't argue with that. But if we're going to stop, you're going to cook a good meal! I'm hungry.”
“Deal,” Kendra said, smiling as they stood. Buffy hadn't wanted to admit it, but she was fairly tired, although more emotionally after her experience than physically.
They made the trip in silence back to the Lorrimor home, Kendra only starting to speak as they entered Ravengro. “So, what did happen?”
“You were unconscious for a time, and you seemed to have experienced something while you were down. And even before, you behaved very erratically from the moment the scythe scratched you.”
“I thought it was just a scratch at first, you know?” Buffy answered, her eyes distant. “But it didn't feel like it. It was like I was gutted, and I was trying to hold it together, but... I thought I died. Then I woke up, in a coffin...”
Kendra gasped. “Are you truly well?”
“Yeah,” Buffy said, giving her her best attempt at a smile, although it was far from reassuring. “It just brought up some issues. I've been in my coffin way too often.”
“I would think a single time is enough for any lifetime,” Kendra answered quietly.
“Anyway, when I woke up, this priest gave me this big spiel about you having me brought back to life. I freaked a bit, but I knew something was off. Then I kept finding those holy symbols, and when I saw them I heard your voice. It took me a bit, but I figured out it was all a trick and woke up.”
“You were wrapped up in these spectral chains. I used my magics to try and help you, but I'm not certain how much good it did.” They were quiet for a bit as they neared Kendra's home. “Are you truly alright? Thinking that you died, and were brought back again...”
“I'm fine,” Buffy said, not looking at her.
“If you would like to talk...”
“Don't worry about me. Just get with the cooking! I need to take care of Mr. Gordo anyway, then I'll be in.” Buffy jogged to the small fenced area where her horse was kept. She knew she was avoiding the issues that her experience had brought up, but she had no interest in facing them. Too much had happened that day for her to face her past on top of it, and so she settled into the soothing rhythm of caring for her horse. He was as chubby as when she had bought him, and she still had doubts about whether he would be so friendly without her bringing him so many apples, but after so long on the road with just the two of them she knew she would miss him terribly when she found a way home.
When she went inside she was happy to see Kendra was willing to let things lie, only offering her a compassionate look before returning to cooking. She prepared a rich meat pie with a crust on top made from mashed potatoes, with a side of parsnips and carrots. The two women chatted quietly while they ate, ignoring the larger issues pressing upon them while they relaxed as though they had no cares in the world.
Buffy was enjoying her second slice of berry pie when they froze as a heavy knock sounded from the front door. Frowning, Kendra rose, walking quickly to answer it. Buffy simply ate for a moment, before something tickled slightly at her spidey-sense. Concentrating for a moment, her eyes widened as she leapt to her feet, rushing to stop her friend. “Kendra, wait!”
It was too late. Kendra had already opened to the door, revealing the rotting corpse standing on the doorstep. It wore nothing but a complex funeral shroud, and was obviously an older man, although the face of the zombie was so smashed as to be all but unrecognizable. Despite the damage, Kendra realized who he had been first, staggering back in panic as the undead creature entered the house, its broken maw emitting a hungry moan as it reached for the woman.
Kendra screamed, and screamed, and screamed
as the zombie of Petros attacked his daughter. Author's Notes
That was the first time I've really tried to change perspective character, but I thought that I should show what was really happening while Buffy was unconscious. Kendra used quite a bit of magic in this chapter, casting true strike, acid arrow, shield, protection from evil, and then using two scrolls of protection from evil. She is, at this moment, a level 4 diviner, although after a night of rest she will be hitting level 5.
I expanded the Father Charlatan business some, the limitations of a group role playing experience necessarily limiting what could occur at the table. Still, I kept it pretty close. This also finishes the upper levels of Harrowstone, leaving only the main cell blocks in the basement.
Finally, this was another cliffhanger I had planned long it advance. Yeah, I am that mean. This isn't the last one like this either.