FIC: Chosen Champions (5/?)
Faith rose out of the bushes as the Giles-led quintet hurried out of the village. “Thought you’d left us for the night, G?”
“Oh dear Faith, you know I couldn’t bear to be parted from you for that long.”
Faith raised an eyebrow. The Englishman was always cracking wise. “What did you learn?”
Faith glanced at the speaker, Bobby Singer might look and sound like a mid-west trucker, but if G respected the dude, the dude had to be somethin’ rather more.
Course she was willin’ to bet good money, not her money but good money, that Dean Winchester was little more than the smart-mouthed lech he acted like.
“That we’re in the Grom empire and the empire appears to have ambitions to conquer anybody and everybody who gets in their way,” Giles replied before diving into a long explanation of just what and where they were.
“Sounds like we’re in real shit and no mistake,” Faith muttered.
“Yes,” Giles nodded. “However there are rebels, including a group some two hundred miles to the north. I believe that they’re probably the ones behind the spell that brought us here.”
“How’s that?” challenged Blade.
“Simply this, they’re the nearest group with the motivation to bring us here, perhaps for assistance,” Giles replied.
“Why not drop us closer?” Dean demanded. “No-one’s mood is improved by a two hundred mile walk.”
“Any one of a number of reasons – the caster ran out of power, the spell was interrupted, or perhaps it was deliberate, an attempt to confuse anybody who might notice the spell,” Giles replied.
“Then we better get a move on ‘fore the bad guys notice us,” Faith commented.
“They already will have,” Willow put in.
“How’s that?” Blade queried.
“Magic as powerful as this spell will draw the attention of every mage worthy of his name,” Willow replied.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean cursed. “We’re massively out-numbered, unequipped, in an unfamiliar land, and we don’t even have the advantage of surprise? Son of a bitch!”
“Yes, it does seem daunting doesn’t it?” Giles sighed. “However one slightly encouraging note, our contact informed us that apparently all the major merchants are licenced by the Emperor, and he was kind enough to give us a map and mark the major trade routes on them. I propose we make for the nearest route, half a day away, and wait until the merchant train’s scheduled arrival the day after tomorrow, jump and rob them for clothes so that we can better blend in, and whatever weaponry they’re carrying so we can better protect ourselves.”
“It’s the beginnings of a plan anyway,” Jarod agreed. “But I know I can’t think until I’ve eaten.”
“Hasty plans made on empty stomach,” Shang-Chi agreed with a slight bow.
Angel looked around their heavily forested surroundings. “I smell a herd of goats near-by.”
“So?” Faith moaned as she realised what her mentor had been hinting at. “Goat? You wanna us to eat goat?”
“Now you know what it’s like to go without your preferred diet,” muttered Spike.
Giles peered down into the valley beneath, his lips pursed as he examined the spot before reluctantly nodding. The dirt track ran through a short, narrow canyon with sloping grass sides to it. He’d rather not be running an ambush at all, especially without weapons, but if they had to run an ambush, then this was about just as perfect place as you could get. “It’ll do in a pinch,” he decided in a mutter.
“Alright,” Blade let out a growl. “Spike,” the bleached-blond vampire looked towards the black dhampir, the blond’s eyes swollen when his smart mouth had gotten him a beating at the hands of the vampire hunter, Angel and Illyria having pulled Blade off before he staked him, “I want you to go 1,500 metres north of here and watch the track for any sign of a wagon train, then rush back and alert us. Angel,” Blade looked towards the Irish vampire, “I want you, Connor, Groo, and Illyria to the woods just north of the valley. Faith, you, Kennedy and I will be on the east side of the valley, Duncan, you Vi, and Rona to the west. When the caravan is in the canyon, I want you,” Willow paled when Blade looked towards her, “and Ms. Gard blocking the mouth.”
“What about the rest of us?” Xander looked at the group of him, Giles, Bo, Jarod, Amanda, Elektra, Shang-Chi, Singer, and the Winchesters.
Blade shook his head. “No offence, but while many of you are skilled in the martial arts, you don’t have exceptional physical abilities, it seems stupid to risk you when you’re without arms while there are more than enough of us metas to comfortably handle an ambush.”
Solitary eye hardening, Xander opened his mouth. “He’s right, boy,” Singer interrupted. “Given all these metas, we might as well let them do the heavy lifting. Only makes sense. At least until we’ve got weapons.”
Xander’s jaw clenched. “Fine,” he grated. “There better be weapons soon, I hate playing damsel in distress.”
“And yet you do it so well.” Faith grinned at Xander’s glare. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist, hon.”
“Are you and Xander okay?”
Faith looked at her fellow Slayer with eyebrow raised. “What’s the concern?”
“I just wondered with that jibe at Harris before, I kinda like him more than most men,” the rich Slayer replied. “After all, he did save my life.”
“Ah,” Faith returned her gaze to the valley beneath them, “that’s just me and Harris, takin’ digs at one another. Don’t mean nothin’, after all,” Faith’s smile widened, “we were on our one year anniversary when we got here.”
“Yeah, in mid-event.”
Faith’s scalding glare sizzled but failed to penetrate Kennedy’s rhino hide. “I’m really glad I picked you two to partner with,” Blade commented. “Any more of this gossiping and I’ll have to swap places with one of those vampires.”
Both Slayers turned their gazes on Blade, but took the hint and shut up. The next two hours passed in more or less silence, but then they received an alert from Spike. “Here it comes.”
Faith nodded at Blade’s mutter, her eyes joining the others fixed on the valley below. In a few minutes they began to feel the rumble of the approaching trade caravan through the ground. A couple of minutes after that, and the train entered the narrow canyon.
The caravan was made up of ten canvas-covered wagons, and there was a very heavy escort with them, four heavily-armed foot soldiers marching on either side, and two horse-backed warriors to the train’s vanguard and rear. “Lots of nice gleaming swords,” Faith muttered, dark eyes narrowing.
Blade let out an amused growl. “Yeah, but do they know which end to stab you with?”
Faith was saved from answering when Angel dropped out of a tree at the valley’s far end alongside the last horse that he promptly slugged full in the jaw, the horse rearing up onto its hind legs, flinging its unprepared rider from its saddle before itself crashing to the ground.
Before the horse had hit the ground Faith and her two companions were charging down the shallow slope, the soldiers on their side turning to meet them. Military discipline was no match for a surprise attack by a pair of Slayers and a dhampir. Blade was first to reach the quartet, taking a pair of the guards for himself.
By the time Faith reached the soldier nearest her, his leather gauntleted hand was on his hilt and his blade half-way out of the scabbard. Faith made sure he didn’t complete his drawing by driving her head full into the bearded warrior’s face.
Blood burst out of the man’s nose and mouth, his head snapping back as Faith propelled a knee up between his legs. The unfortunate man greyed as he doubled up, Faith snatching a hold of his belt and collar then in a single effortless movement lifting him over head then driving him head-first into the ground, his head snapping fatally to the side, neck shattering with a sickening crack.
And just like that the fight was over, the enemy soldiers no match for a group of metas who caught them by surprise, the Hordsemen lying crumpled throughout the valley. “You can’t do this!” Faith turned to see an irritated-looking Illyria being harangued by a jowly, oil-haired merchant dressed in an eye-bleeding purple robe, the man clearly having a hell of a lot more self-importance than good sense or fashion sense for that matter. “I am a good friend of the emperor!” The man jabbed a chubby finger in the hell-goddess’ face. “He will not stand for this.”
Faith chuckled and shook her head. “This is gonna be fun.”
“Your emperor is less than a gnat to me!” Illyria hissed before catching the merchant with a casual-looking backhand to the face that lifted the heftily-built businessman off his feet and flung into a tree some fifteen feet away, the man sliding down the tree to crumple at its base in a motionless heap.
“Yep,” Faith nodded sagely. “That ended ‘bout how I figured.”
“What have we got exactly?” Angel hungrily demanded as the last of the guards was dealt with.
“This first wagon appears to be crockery,” Connor declared.
”Hey!” Faith looked up to see her man climbing out of the second wagon, his face excited. “We’ve hit the jackpot! This wagon’s stuffed full of clothes!”
“Finally,” Faith sniffed. “Proper clothes.”
“And the other wagons?” Giles queried.
“The third and fourth appear to be clothing also,” Illyria stiffly reported.
“Huh,” Giles peered into the back of the fifth before looking out, “this appears to be alchemy ingredients, potions, and the like.”
“Wagon six is filled with tools for gardening, wood-carving, and the like,” Duncan reported.
“Wagon seven and eight are furniture,” Jarod reported.
“Jackpot!” Dean declared. “This ninth wagon’s weaponry.”
“And the tenth’s armour and the like,” Sam added.
“There’s a red dress here that’s just you, Faith,” Angel commented from one of the clothes wagon.
Faith rolled her eyes as she rummaged through the rear of another of the clothing wagons. So not funny. ”Only if you try it on first.” Faith grabbed a pair of leather breeches and a woollen tunic, raced off to find a bush to change behind, stripped off and pulled the new clothes on and hurried back to the others congregating behind the weapons wagon. Faith let out a whistle as she peered into the wagon’s interior. As well as the weapons of the now disabled guards, there was a veritable treasury inside.
Double-bladed axes hung alongside throwing axes and tomahawks on the wagon’s left wall, while upon its right hung a selection of short swords, cavalry sabres, and broadswords on its right side. In addition a selection of both long and crossbows were laid down at the rear of the wagon’s floor, while nearer the front there laid a collection of studded maces, morning stars, dirks, and stilettos, while under them laid a collection of metal bucklers and beaters.
“It’s not the best weaponry I’ve ever seen,” Duncan declared as he took a short sword, gave it a few experimental swings before sliding into a scabbard he’d gotten from the back of one of the clothing wagons, “but it’ll do.”
“Tomahawks!” Kennedy lunged into the wagon’s rear and came out brandishing a pair of ivory-handled axes. “So cool, always wanted a pair.”
“Oh yes,” sniffed Giles as he took hold of a cavalry sabre, “very practical.”
For her part, Faith grabbed a pair of daggers, rolled up her breeches and attached them to a pair of ankle sheaths, before diving back in, scabbarding a short sword, and selecting a buckler.
“Remember,” Giles looked around their group, “it’s not just about clothes, it’s about everything. We’re vastly out-numbered and in what appears to be a very dangerous and hostile land, we have to blend in, at least until we have some allies.”
“Blend in,” Xander snorted. “That means no hair-gel, Deadboy.”