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. The Same, and Yet Completely Different
Part of Buffy still worried that she found walking through graveyards and looking at the stars so relaxing. Before she was called she would have mercilessly teased anyone geeky enough to express an interest in astronomy, but after years of nighttime patrols she knew the stars of southern California as well as anyone. The sky above her was decidedly not the sky of southern California.
After rescuing the little girl and bringing her back to her mother, Buffy had found herself being briefly interviewed by the town guards. They had initially been highly suspicious, but after a few minutes of vague answers Buffy had been given a bag containing one hundred gold coins and was sent on her way. It had been a shock, but apparently someone had posted a reward for stopping whoever was behind the kidnappings, and slaying the leader of the cult of ghouls (as she was informed the gray creatures were called) was apparently good enough to receive it.
When she had returned to the inn, instead of a quiet dinner she had found herself being treated like a hero. It had been shocking for Buffy, but suddenly everyone who had simply ignored her before had been toasting her for having stopped the monsters. The townsfolk changed in their apparent regard for her so much that instead of the glares she had been receiving, everyone in town now gave her a smile and a nod. After years of being forgotten for her efforts in Sunnydale, Buffy was unsure how to take the attention. In the end, she had become so overwhelmed by it all that she had bought a nice longsword (at a discount) as well a few new daggers and had simply headed back underground to look for stragglers, since facing flesh eating undead monsters in a sewer was, to her mind, less wigsome than profuse gratitude. Especially since, while everyone was extremely kind to her face, she had noticed that many of them watched her very warily if they thought she wouldn't notice their scrutiny.
Several hours of hunting allowed her to kill two more ghouls, along with a rat of truly unusual size (more than three feet long before the tail), before Buffy had finally returned to the chamber where she had fought before. Nothing had been disturbed, and, although she had hemmed and hawed about it all night, in the end she had decided to take the super tough bracers the lead monster had been wearing. Several washing later she had finally decided to try them on, and she had found herself suitably impressed by them. They seemed to be nearly invulnerable, and when she wore them and wanted to avoid notice (the first time it had happened she had decided to slip away from a group of street kids that had been tailing her out of curiosity) shadows she was standing in would grow deeper to allow her to hide better.
Despite the more positive feelings the town held for her, in the end no one had been able to actually help her on her quest to find a way back home, so after another night in the inn she had decided to head north to Rozenport. Given the distance involved, and the new weight in her wallet, Buffy had decided to fulfill a childhood fantasy of every little girl in America by buying a horse. There was only one horse trader in Thrushmoor, and buying from him reminded her of watching her mom negotiate for a new car. Only with much more yelling. And inventive cursing. Eventually, with the help of some liberal use of her long practiced slayer glare, Buffy had purchased a somewhat chubby roan gelding that she had immediately named Mister Gordo. The horse dealer had stared at her like she was insane when she said it, but Mister Gordo seemed to like the name (or maybe the apple she gave him) so Buffy wasn't concerned.
Riding a horse had been both good and bad for her trip. In the plus column she owned a horse. Nothing more needed to be said for that advantage. It also cut travel time quite a bit, allowing her to reach Rozenport by sunset of the first day, and any day that ended with a hot meal and a soft bed beat out a night spent with cold rations sleeping on rocks. In the negative column, the only time Buffy had ever been on a horse was a pony ride when she was nine. Even with slayer healing and stamina, Buffy had barely been able to walk when she had reached the inn. She hadn't realized some of the muscles she had strained even existed, and even the ones that she knew about seemed to be angry with her on principle.
Her first full day in Rozenport had left her with a far more positive impression of the place than Illmarsh or Thrushmoor had. It was built on a series of cliffs overlooking a river, with all of the architecture having a strange, almost organic feel to it. The close together houses had high steeples, with several large flat roofed buildings breaking up the skyline, and at the center of town was a large dome roofed structure serving as a town hall. While the city looked strange, it was solidly constructed, and, despite its obvious age, the town didn't look, or smell, as though it was rotting away.
The people in the town were distant and impersonal, but compared to the active rudeness exhibited elsewhere Buffy found their attitude extremely encouraging. It had not taken long to be directed to the Sincomakti School of Sciences. Unfortunately, that was where her luck had ended. It had taken most of the day to charm her way through the red tape, and she had only had an hour to start examining the vast library (which to her relief was mostly composed of mystical books rather than chemistry and physics texts like she had first feared upon hearing the name) and had made little positive progress.
After a day filled with false smiles and then boring research, Buffy had felt extremely restless. Fortunately, a patrol through a town graveyard had already cleared her mind, almost enough to allow Buffy to forget her troubles completely by falling into the familiar routine. The only thing she had been missing was some action. It wouldn't take long for her to regret that particular regret.
Buffy had been about to wrap up her apparently pointless patrol when her spidey-sense finally began to tingle. Discretely looking around, Buffy saw no one, so she continued walking, her every timid motion proclaiming her status as prey. Finally, her patience was rewarded, as a tall, thin man wearing a fine tunic, tight trousers and a red cloak approached her.
“Hello, little girl,” the man purred. “You shouldn't walk around so late. Something could come along and just gobble you up.”
Buffy had been planning to take more time, but after that line she couldn't help herself. “Really? That's what your going with? I've heard bad, but thats just pathetic.”
The man hissed at her, revealing large fangs despite his face not transforming. “You'll regret that, little girl!”
Buffy smiled and pulled out a stake. “Nope,” she said, popping the 'p'. The vampire looked at the stake, seemingly amused. “What, no more banter? I've got a whole new world to introduce to my quipage, blood breath.” Growling again it locked its stare with Buffy. Its eyes were red embers in the dark, glowing faintly as they captured her gaze. For a brief moment everything became blurry, except for the vampire's eyes, which seemed to glow as brightly as the sun. From somewhere deep within Buffy felt her inner slayer snarl as she shook her head abruptly, breaking the thrall attempt. “If your done with the staring into my eyes portion of the evening, I'm really more of a fan of the physical stuff. With the fists and weapons. Not any other kind of physical stuff. Because eww. I do have standards.”
With a snarl the monster darted forward, growling audibly. It was fast and agile, but to Buffy's experienced eyes the vampire appeared to be little more than a fledgling. Smirking cockily, the slayer deflected its first blow wide and countered smoothly with a hard punch to its ribs. It grunted, before trying to swing again. Ducking under the hit Buffy launched a strong uppercut, sending the vampire reeling back as she stepped forward, landing hard blow after hard blow.
Buffy was unsure what to make of her opponent. Unlike her vampires this one seemed to all but ignore her hits, only barely reacting to blows that would have put down most vamps from her own dimension, forcing Buffy to shift into a wide boxing stance to maximize her striking power, blows strong enough to shatter concrete and powder bone only slowly telling. On the other hand, the vampire wasn't terribly fast or strong, and it lacked both the bestial aggression and the more intricate martial arts skills her own vampires seemed to naturally develop.
Knocking the vampire's arms wide with both hands Buffy spun low, sweeping its feet out from under it. Crouching instantly, Buffy smirked, slamming her stake home. The vampire grunted in shock, its eyes wide, before it collapsed to the ground, dead. But not dust. Buffy sat for a long moment, frowning. “Huh,” she said to herself, before shrugging and pulling out her stake. Just as she began to rise to figure out what to do with the body, it suddenly sat up and slammed its fist into her gut, sending her flying back several feet, the air driven from her lungs. A strange cold feeling flowed outward from the blow, and Buffy suddenly felt tired and weak. Looking up, she scrambled to her feet as the vampire towered over her, a leer on its face as its wounds healed before her eyes.
“I'm going to drink you dry then keep you around for that, little girl,” the vampire growled.
“I say again, eww. Is that the only way you can get a girlfriend?” Despite her bravado, Buffy was concerned. Whatever had happened when he punched her still left her feeling weak, and since staking didn't finish it off she wasn't sure what to do. Her opponent gave her little time to consider.
Charging forward the vampire swung its fist at her. Buffy managed to avoid it, but found to her dismay that whatever had happened had slowed her down. Not lethally, but enough to make the fight difficult. Stepping inside of its reach Buffy launched another powerful punch, seeking to soften up her foe again. Unfortunately, her strength seemed less as well, and while she began to once more make progress, it wasn't as fast as before.
The battle slowly stretched out between her and her enemy. Buffy had learned its entire repertoire of moves, limited as they were, and still held a significant edge in speed and strength. Unfortunately, the vampire was as difficult to inflict harm to as ever. While the fight was close, in the end the slayer should have handily won. However, in every battle, the vagaries of fate will always play a pivotal role, as they did that night. While Buffy gave ground to set up her next attack, she suddenly found herself slipping, the fresh earth of a recently dug grave unable to provide traction for her rapid movements. Normally she could have safely adjusted in a moment to the loss of balance, but for that moment she was vulnerable, and that was when the vampire struck. It had known it was outclassed from early in the fight, and so it had waited patiently for an opportunity.
The vampire stepped into her defense, ignoring the off balance defensive blow she lashed out with, punching her hard in the sternum, the blow sending her falling backwards into a tomb stone, smashing the stone marker with her back. Grunting from a combination of familiar pain and the unusual draining sensation the vampire's blows caused her, Buffy rolled to her feet limping, feeling weaker than she had in years.
Cartwheeling away from the vampire's next charge pulled at the injured muscles in her back, but Buffy ignored the pain, concentrating on staying alive. Analyzing all that she had seen, the slayer found herself concerned. The vampire was far more cautious than it had been early in the fight, and its wounds were healing before her eyes. She, on the other hand, was now noticeably injured, and with the strange weakness she felt from the blows she had suffered, she knew that the fight was far more even than she would like. Part of her was excited by that. The conflict had become dangerous, and she thirsted to test her limits, to take down a dangerous foe with nothing more than a stake and her fists. However, Buffy was wise enough to know that part of that excitement was also at the prospect of losing. As Spike had said, every slayer had a death wish, and trapped alone in a strange dimension, Buffy felt her own keenly.
She probably could have won the fight then. But in the end, she didn't need to. The town wasn't that large, and with the distance between towns, even if the vampire didn't pursue her it would be stuck in the area for at least another day, giving her a chance to hunt it down later, once she had a chance to heal and do some research. While Buffy hated being research girl, the failure of her staking told her she would need to do so in the very near future if she wanted to beat the local vampires. She had been arrogant, she acknowledged, assuming that just because she was the slayer she would run into no opposition capable of beating her in this strange new dimension. What finally decided her next move, however, more even than her own injuries and the difficulty of harming her foe, was her promise to Dawn. Too much of the reason to finish this battle here and now was coming from the part of her that wanted to lay down and die, and that alone was reason enough to withdraw.
Throwing her stake to distract the vampire, Buffy turned and ran.
“Coward,” it roared, painfully pulling the stake from its shoulder before it followed her. Slowed as Buffy was by her injuries she was unable to take much of a lead, and its pursuit was truly tireless. The slayer was limping heavily by the time she reached the cobblestone streets of Rozenport, the vampire well behind her but still following implacably. It was obviously willing to keep up its pursuit, perhaps even going after others if she managed to shake it. With a resigned sigh, Buffy realized that she would have to engage it again, and this time end it.
Dashing down one deserted street after another, Buffy finally slipped into an alley. Looking up, she jumped and pulled herself onto the flat roof of one of the buildings, her back protesting the effort. Crouching low in the shadow of a chimney, Buffy pulled out a stake as the darkness thickened around her, her new magic bracers obscuring her from detection.
The vampire kept up its pace, running into the alley, its red eyes darting about as it searched for its prey. Just as it ran past Buffy suddenly dove down, a hard kick taking it off its feet before her stake slammed down into it once again. This time, however, the vampire was more prepared for what she could do as it twisted its body away from the blow, the stake missing the heart by inches. Roaring, the vampire twisted about again, its elbow smashing into Buffy's side, forcing a grunt from her and knocking her off her perch.
Rising quickly Buffy drew her last stake and sent it downwards, catching the vampire in the thigh as it scurried away. Kicking her back into a wall again, Buffy stared in disbelief as her enemy scuttled across the ground and up the wall like a spider, not even bothering to stand as it moved impossibly upwards. When it neared the top it kicked off, twisting in the air to fly towards Buffy, its hards contorted like claws, its face twisted, slavering mouth gaping to reveal long fangs.
Fortunately, Buffy had won thousands of battles since being called, and many of them were against demons with even more surprising abilities and tactics. Pushing off her own wall Buffy quickly set herself, reversing her grip on her stake, before stabbing upwards. Unfortunately, the vampire managed to interpose a hand, the stake piercing it through, deflecting its angle enough to cause the stab to take the vampire in the shoulder, the vampire's counter blow smoothly blocked with her left hand's new magic bracer.
The speed of its dive and the sheer difference in size had led the vampire to expect to take Buffy off her feet regardless of the outcome of its own attack. Instead, Buffy held the creature off the ground with her stake, its momentum completely cancelled, before, with a twist of her hips, Buffy sent the vampire crashing to the cobblestones. Pulling back her stake she prepared it bring it down one last time. Unfortunately, just as she began her stab its eyes widened and her opponent transformed into a cloud of mist, the stake harmlessly passing through, the end splintering against the stones of the street.
Panting, Buffy leaned back on her heels, staring incredulously at the cloud as it flew high into the night sky and away to the north. “Great,” she muttered under her breath. “It's Dracula all over again.”
* * *
After her encounter Buffy had returned to the inn and slept deeply, her slayer healing taking care of her sore muscles, although her back was still a mass of fading bruises when she awoke. Groaning, Buffy slowly stretched out her injured body, before slipping into her Tai Chi forms. By the time she had finished, and eaten a hearty breakfast to help fuel her healing, Buffy felt like herself again. Unfortunately, being Buffy meant that she had to do research.
Buffy spent most of the day wandering between the stacks in one of the Sincomakti libraries. The books were filled with parchment or vellum and bound in leather, filling the room with a nostalgic odor from years of flipping through tomes of demonology with her friends. Pushing past the pang of sorrow, Buffy focused on finding out all that she could about the local vampires.
Buffy had never worked very hard in the past during research time, and she found that she knew the languages used for less than a third of the books in the library, but eventually she made some progress. Apparently, the vampires of Golarion, as the world she found herself in was named, were nearly impossible to harm without silver or magic weapons, and even blows from those weapons couldn't kill one, as any injury that should slay one only caused it to turn into a cloud of mist to flee back to its coffin. Buffy snorted in disdain when she read that. She had always felt that vampires spent far to much time in graveyards, but to actually sleep in coffins was just a walking cliché.
A stake to the heart of the local vampires would incapacitate them, but if removed they would simply rise again unharmed. To actually kill one, Buffy would need to stake and then behead it before applying holy water to the head. However, sunlight was also lethal, and so apparently was running water. The thought of giving a vampire a shower to kill it made Buffy giggle for a moment, before she stopped in shock, as it was the first time she had done so since her sister's... discorporation, and doing so felt wrong to her.
The attacks of a vampire apparently could drain the life energy from those they hit, which explained the strange weakness that was only then slowly going away. Like her own vampires they also drank blood, and they apparently could turn a victim simply by draining them of blood or life energy, without having to suck the vampire's blood to be turned. Vampires could also dominate the minds of victims, as her attacker had tried to do, as well as climb walls as she had seen. The more powerful vampires could also summon packs of rats, bats or wolves, as well as transform into a wolf or bat. Fortunately, they were repelled by holy symbols and mirrors, could not enter homes uninvited, strangely had no shadow to go with no reflection, and could not leave their coffins during the day. Unfortunately, Buffy only discovered that particular weakness too late in the afternoon to really begin a search for the vampire's nest.
Near the end of the day Buffy finally realized she had spent the last thirty minutes trying to read the same page over and over again before deciding to take a break. The first thing that she did was slip out to a blacksmith's shop and look for a silver weapon. She was surprised at first at the selection available, as she had never even imagined a silver bladed halberd before, but in the end she could only afford a single silver dagger. So armed, Buffy returned to the college and found a cafeteria still serving food.
Buffy had only been eating for a few minutes when an older man dressed in ink stained but finely tailored gray robes with gold rimmed spectacles on his face smiled and sat down with his own tray across from her. “Good evening, Miss. I am Doctor Henri Meirtmane, Dean of Expeditions. I don't believe I've seen you here before.”
“Nope. I'm Buffy Summers. Just got here yesterday.”
“I see. I noticed you were making your rounds through our bestiary section. Are you doing research on a creature in particular?”
“Well... I didn't come here to research monsters, but I encountered one last night, so...”
“Ah, yes. Good show. The best sword is a well prepared mind, and knowledge is the best whetstone, if I do say so myself. Tell me, what did you run into? The fabric of planar lucidity runs thin in this region of Ustalav, so you can encounter many strange things here.”
“Well,” Buffy hesitated for a second, a lifetime of keeping vampires a secret being difficult to ignore. “I was attacked by a vampire.”
“Truly? There hasn't been a confirmed vampire sighting in centuries in Ustalav!”
“Um, yeah. Definitely with the vampirism.”
“Hmm,” the professor said, examining Buffy closely. “You don't appear to be bitten, and apparently you overcame the vampire's domination abilities. Most impressive.”
“How could you tell?” Buffy asked.
“Those who have been dominated are driven to fulfill their orders to the exclusion of all else. Now, I suppose its possible you weren't given any commands, but it would be rather odd not to at least be told not to speak of your attacker.”
“That makes sense.”
“If you find where the vampire is nesting, I would be most interested in examining its lair. If necessary, I can bring in enough mercenaries to clear the place. I have several students that would be interested in the research opportunity as well.”
“Err... I'll keep that in mind.”
“Indeed. Since it would be of aid to me, perhaps I can help you? What did you come here to learn, before you found yourself sidetracked?”
Buffy looked around for a moment. “This might sound strange, but... well...”
“Don't worry, my dear. Nothing you say can shock me.”
“I'm not from this world.”
The doctor's eyes bulged for a moment. “I see. How unusual. There are many accounts of course of visitations from the Great Beyond, but aside from the occasional fiend or monster I've never met someone or something from another world.”
“Well, I'm really not from around here. This witch cast a spell... there was an explosion, and then I was falling through... somewhere. Then I fell out of a hole in the air into that huge lake.”
“Extraordinary. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on such matters, though I will make some discrete inquiries for you. However, you may be in luck. I received correspondence from a colleague recently, a Petros Lorrimor from Ravengro who is supposed to be visiting soon. Actually, I expected him a few days ago, so he should arrive anytime. If anyone can help you find a way home, it would be him.”
Buffy flashed Dr. Meirtmane a blinding grin. “Thank you! I'll be sure to talk to him.”
Buffy stayed in the library researching until closing time, and once again after it closed she strolled through the nearly deserted streets back to her room at the inn. Somewhat stiff from a combination of injury and a day sitting in wooden chairs staring at heavy books, Buffy asked for a bath. The workers brought a large wooden tub into her room, and then took a number of trips to bring buckets of steaming hot water. Thanking them with a smile, Buffy locked her door and luxuriated in the hot water.
Ustalav, she decided, was apparently some kind of Golarian Hellmouth, which made sense as it was probably easier for her to arrive there than elsewhere. The numerous monsters that apparently prowled the region made her strangely nostalgic, and resting in the hot water Buffy allowed herself to really think back to her home for the first time since she had arrived.
Xander and Buffy had made peace over the Spike situation shortly before everything fell apart, and she missed her old friend's solid presence in her life. Spike had disappeared, which was partially a relief, as her last encounter with him had gone so terribly, but at the same time she found herself missing him. He had been a soulless vampire, but no matter how ugly and abusive, with distance she could admit to herself that however freaksome and unhealthy it had been, what she and Spike had had was a relationship.
Tara had comforted her when she had needed it, helping her when she had finally broken down over her loss of heaven and her messed up relationship with Spike. The gentle Wiccan had been a good friend to her, and the thought of her death hurt her terribly. She shouldn't have died so young, especially from a bullet meant for Buffy.
Dawn shouldn't have... died... so young either. Other than her father, who hadn't even bothered to show up to her mother's funeral, Dawn had been the only blood family Buffy had left. She had known for years that she would die young, but Dawn shouldn't have. Buffy had thought of her as her legacy, the part of her that would live on, and for that to end was devastating. And for Willow to have done it. Buffy had always forgiven her friends for what they had done, but destroying Dawn... Buffy couldn't. She couldn't move past that, she thought, as she quietly cried salty tears into her hot bath. Her best friend had killed her sister, the person she loved more than anyone in the world. She cried for a long time.
Finally she dried off and dressed, before asking for the cooling bath to be removed and a small meal to be brought up. Unlike her previous inn in Thrushmoor, the food was merely adequate, but it was hot and plentiful. Digging into a thick, chowder-like fish stew, Buffy lost herself once more in thought.
Slowly she ate, putting the spoon mechanically into her mouth over and over again. Her eyes unfocused as her hearing slowly grew as vague as her blurry vision. Her body became numb, and she felt strangely seperated from herself. Thoughts were difficult to come by, and those she had came slowly.
Minutes passed before Buffy realized that she felt something with her slayer senses. Staggering unsteadily to her feet, Buffy drew a stake and stumbled to the door of her room. Flinging it open, she saw a tall, beautiful woman with dark hair and extremely pale skin, dressed in a finely tailored floor length gown and exquisite jewelry. Locking her blurry gaze with the vampire's glowing red eyes, Buffy found herself lost in the red glow, until nothing else existed but the crimson radiance.
“Come,” the vampire said, before gliding imperiously down the hallway.
Drugged and thralled, Buffy followed. Author's Notes
That's another chapter down. Pathfinder vampires are very different from Buffy vampires, although they have a strong resemblance to Dracula. Beating one in physical combat without a magical or silver weapon is almost impossible, but Buffy hasn't survived as a slayer for so long for nothing.
Readers may notice that the name of the College is in fact an anagram. I rolled my eyes when I saw that in my copy of Rule of Fear.
Buffy also acquired her first magic item in this chapter. She now has Bracer's of Armor with the Shadow property. It just wouldn't be a D&D derivative without a plethora of wondrous items.