I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me. Maddening Foe
“Not much to the place, is there?” Buffy said as she looked out the window of their tiny rental car.
“Not really,” Willow agreed. “Less than a thousand people. They do have a club football team, though.”
“I've never been much for football,” Buffy said, wrinkling her nose. “'Cept the cheerleading part.”
“How long have you been living in Europe now?” Willow asked, rolling her eyes. “They call soccer football here. So, you know, not like football back home.”
“Ugh. Soccer's even worse. I mean, at least in football you have cheerleaders, and Homecoming, and violence. The only good thing about soccer are the butts.”
“Always with the violence,” Willow said, shaking her head with fond exasperation.
“I don't always do violence,” Buffy objected. “I can be diplomatic and stuff too.” At Willows pointed silence she sighed. “Okay, usually I'm all about the violence. But violence? It works. People might say violence doesn't solve anything, but I really have to disagree. Maybe even with a fist.”
“All right, before you start beating up the locals, how about we try to find this burial mound.” Willow pulled over next to some trees. “Aradia, Goddess of the lost, the path is murky, the woods are dense, darkness pervades, I beseech thee, bring the light.”
A glowing mote appeared in front of Willow, who smiled at her friend, although her expression dropped when she saw Buffy's wary look. “You make fun of the violence making, but I'm not the only one that jumps right to the same answer to every problem,” the Slayer said pointedly.
Willow ignored her and spoke to the light. “Guide me to Sigurd's grave.” When the mote of light pointed the way, she put the car back into drive and they began to move again, although the playful atmosphere of before had become strained.
Buffy fidgeted, but was unable to figure out anything to say to Willow. They had been so close once, but their relationship had never been the same after her resurrection. It had only become worse when Buffy had found out that Willow blamed her for Tara's death. Add to that killing her in the future, and Buffy had no idea how to bridge the gap between her and her oldest female friend.
Finally, she pulled out her communicator and stuck it in her ear. “Hey, Xan, you there?”
“Of course, Buffster,” Xander said through the link. “I'm reading you loud and clear.”
“We made it to that town in Sweden...” Buffy said, trailing off.
“Gullringen,” Willow supplied.
“Right. That town,” Buffy said. “We're heading towards the tomb now. How'd the vamp army thingie go?”
“It went,” Xander answered. “Well, they
went when they saw all the Slayers. We spent more time trying to catch them than fighting.”
“So, all's quiet?”
“Sorta. Not dangerous anyway, but I'd lay low until Dawnie gets off the warpath,” Xander said, his voice amused.
“She didn't like him?” Buffy asked innocently.
“Actually, they seem to be getting along pretty well,” Xander conceded. “She just thought the whole thing was a bit fishy.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Did you use up all your good material on that giant? Anyway, I just wanted to check in, so let me know if anything comes up.”
“Sure thing, Buff. See you soon.”
“So,” Willow said. “What's the deal with fish boy? I mean, it's not like you to approve, you know, at all, anyone dating Dawnie. Why're you letting some fairy date her?”
Buffy shrugged. “He was friendly and awkward. Kinda like a puppy. Plus, the whole fish thing? Sorta funny. 'Sides, I'm pretty sure I scared him bad enough to keep his fins off my sister.”
“Ah,” Willow said, nodding. “Better the boy you know is terrified of you, than the one you can't slay?”
“Yup. I didn't even get to slay Kenny, and he was a demon who cursed her. That keeps up, her dates might start thinkin' they can live after hurting my little sis.”
“Wouldn't want that,” Willow agreed blandly.
Buffy tensed suddenly as her spidey-sense began to tingle. Everything grew dark, as out of nowhere storm clouds gathered. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, and rain began pouring down in buckets. “Willow! This isn't normal weather!”
“Noticed that,” Willow said, her voice tight as she kept a firm grip on the wheel. Lightning flashed again, this time blindingly close, as a tree next to the road was struck, exploding. The burning tree crashed down in front of their car, forcing Willow to slam on the breaks. It was too late, however, as the car plowed into the fallen tree, crushing its front end and throwing the two women into their seat belts with bruising force.
“Ow,” Willow murmured as she called up magic to heal herself. Buffy simply grunted in agreement before climbing out of the car.
The rain was still falling impossibly heavily as Buffy scanned the area, her gaze searching for the source of the dangerous feelings that her senses were screaming at her. Slowly the rain let up, and as it receded she noticed a stench like rotting flesh. Casually walking out of the trees came the figure of a tall man with long, stringy hair, sunken black eyes, and bruised skin like a beaten, rotting corpse. The only clothing he was wearing was a loose, single piece garment made from matted fur that came off of one shoulder and hung low like a skirt, bound at the waist by a thick leather belt.
Buffy glanced back at Willow, and after assuring herself that her friend had survived the accident, she turned back to the draugr. “So, you're Ziggy then?”
“I hight Sigurd, mortal wench,” the creature rumbled with a sepulchral voice. “Who might thou be, that cometh to this place, ill knowing mine own name?”
“I'm Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'll be kicking your ass this evening.”
He rumbled with laughter. “Surely thou dost jest! Not e'en if I should reduce mine stature could thou oppose my might.”
“Are you calling me short?” Buffy asked dangerously. “Are you seriously going to make fun of me, Mr. Thinks-Dirty-Fur-Loincloths-Are-In-Fashion?”
“Then dare my reach, strumpet!” Sigurd bellowed.
Buffy charged forward, jumping into a flying kick at the last moment. Sigurd crossed his arms in front of himself and simply grunted as he took the blow, the forced causing him to slide slightly backwards, although he did not shift his posture. Buffy had expected more of a reaction, and was caught completely out of position as he grabbed her by the ankle.
Buffy reacted quickly despite her surprise, kicking out at him with her free leg and shifting her body weight to try and dislodge his grip. Unfortunately, he was incredibly strong, and even as he held her he grew larger and larger until he stood nearly ten feet tall, where he easily kept her out of his reach. She barely had time to even gulp before he swung her body around and slammed her into the ground.
Buffy grunted as the air was knocked out of her with the impact, her eyes widening as he simply lifted her again and once more slammed her into the ground. Her head spun, and everything grew blurry as she was lifted straight up once more and smashed down again. Her mind was still sluggishly trying to process everything that was happening, when a vibrant purple ball of coruscating energies struck the draugr from behind.
Willow had been shaken up by the accident, but compared to being lobotomized as Warren had done to her, repairing her injuries from the car accident had been nothing. Unfortunately, by the time she had completely recovered and had exited the vehicle, Sigurd had already gotten his hands on Buffy, and had begun to pound her into the dirt. Before she even had a chance to think about it her eyes turned black and a dark spell gathered on her hand.
The magic should have torn her enemy apart, the wild and barely contained destructive force more powerful than anything that she had thrown at Glory. However, instead of the torn and savaged back she had been expecting, the spell simply splashed against him as harmlessly as if she had been throwing water balloons. Willow could only stare in shock as the undead creature slowly turned its head to face her, a malevolent grin crossing its swollen lips.
“Didst thou thinketh that it would be so easy to deal with me, witch?” Sigurd snarled contemptuously.
“That's not possible,” Willow said as her eyes returned to normal. “That spell should hurt anything with a body. And, hello, body! Grabbing my friend with it and all. You should have felt that. Why didn't you feel that?”
The draugr chuckled darkly. “Fool. Thou truly believed that thy reckless acts would bring thee no consequence to thy door?”
“What do you mean?” Willow asked warily as she considered her options. Something had prevented one of her best attack spells from having any effect, and trying others without knowing why would simply be a waste of energy. Fortunately, talking kept Sigurd's attention away from Buffy, who she could see was already starting to recover from her beating.
“The doom of the gods is upon thee, witch. When thy delved deeply into arts long forbid all of mortal ken, thou trespassed into the realm of the dead to recover thine perished friend. This violation thou didst commit under the auspices of Osiris, and he allowed thy meddling as thy rituals were honest and done with proper respect.
“But then, that was not enough for one such as thee. In thy o'erweening pride at what thou didst accomplish, thou sought to once more reach into that place which no living being dare go. This time, thou didst not make ritual, nor the least obeisance to the god thy invoked. And, when thy unruly demand was denied, thou sought retribution against Osiris.”
“Tara...” Willow said quietly, her face pale. She remembered vaguely her attempt to resurrect her lover, and her lashing out at Osiris when he didn't allow it.
“For thine impertinence, Osiris has forbid thy magics to have any traffic with that which is dead, e'er again.”
“But-but vampires!” Willow countered. “I've cast lots of spells on vampires... and zombies! No problem at all. Just cast and BAM, bag guys gone. Or, you know, dancing.”
“Vampires are but demons that happen to make home within dead flesh,” Sigurd said. “Zombies are naught but corpses made animate by mortal arts. Neither lies truly within the realm of death. E'en ghosts transition fully into the mortal world, and thy spells can find purchase upon such them. But I? I am no simple spirit, nor corpse ridden beast. I am draugr! I am that which is restless yet truly dead, and so thy magics will avail thee naught!”
Willow pursed her lips in consideration. “Oh. Well, glad you cleared that up, then. 'Cause, you know, I would have looked really silly later if I had to do some spell on something that's really of the dead and then poof – no effect. Also, telling me that? Helps here too.”
Willow waved her hand, and with a creaking groan the trees bent and twisted, becoming as supple as ropes as they wrapped around the giant form of the draugr, before beginning to squeeze. “I can't cast a spell on you,
but my magic? Works just fine all around you.”
The trees pulled tighter and tighter, until Sigurd dropped Buffy to the ground before the wood snapped together like the jaws of a trap. From every gap and crevice in the wooden vice came wisps of black smoke, which drifted through the air to an open spot away from the trees, before reforming into a cloud. Slowly the smoke gained definition, until it eventually transformed into the figure of Sigurd, unharmed and returned to his original size. “Clever trick, witch. Yet still not enough.”
“I'm just getting started,” Willow answered as her eyes turned black. Incanting under her breath, she held out her arm with her palm to the sky and her fingers spread wide. Raising her arm, the ground began to shift, until a huge hand made of stone pushed its way out of the earth. It rose high into the air, and then, with a furious gesture, she sent it crashing down on top of the draugr.
Sigurd didn't move an inch, simply standing and waiting for the blow to fall. The ground shook and dirt flew into the air in all directions. Gesturing again, Willow raised the hand into the air, revealing her opponent still standing, completely unfazed by the attack.
“I can see many things, witch, and looking at thee, I see now that which has been wrought by thine petty arts. As flayed flesh is particularly to thy liking, then perchance this form may strike thy fancy.” So saying, the draugr's flesh began to bulge, before his skin tore to shreds. An enormous flayed bull burst forth from the remains of his body in a shower of thick, black blood, the horns still half covered with strips of torn skin.
The draugr pawed at the ground for a moment, before charging forward, blood dripping behind it with every step as its exposed muscles flexed and shifted, driving the monstrous creature forward. Willow gulped for a moment, before jumping into the air, her magics lifting her to safety as Sigurd crashed through the trees behind her, smashing them into kindling. It stopped quickly and spun, its dead eyes glaring up at her.
Willow shifted uncomfortably in the air as she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Looking up, she barely had time to open herself to the earth before a bolt of lightning crashed into her. Grunting with effort, she felt her entire body tingle and her hair stand on end as she channeled the untamed power through her body and into the core of her being. Glaring down at the bull with hair now streaked with white, Willow shouted a word of power and threw the lightning bolt at the draugr.
The bolt hit Sigurd squarely, but in response he simply shifted back into humanoid form, his staccato grunting transforming into mocking laughter. “Nay, witch. E'en the fury of mine own storm shall avail thee not, filtered as it it by thy magics. Nothing that thou canst do can stop me!”
“Maybe not,” Willow said calmly. “But see, we already know how to stop a draugr. I was just along for backup. And, well, backup done.”
“Thanks Will,” Buffy said as she stalked towards the undead monster. “You're the best backup, ever. Have I mentioned the gratefulness lately? 'Cause I am. Totally. Also: round two.”
Buffy ran forward, her steps sure and full of confidence and purpose. She was ready for anything he could throw at her, as she rushed in close to grapple him before he could use any of his many powers to stop her. Unfortunately, he chose the one tactic that she did not expect.
Before she could reach him, the still laughing draugr simply sank into the earth, disappearing completely. The storm overhead quickly dissipated, and in moments she felt his presence withdraw entirely. “No fair!” Buffy objected with a pout.
Willow landed next to Buffy. “That was no fun at all!” the witch complained. “Since when are the baddies immune to my magic? That's so cheating.”
“That's not the only cheatin' goin' on. I don't think he did anything but cheat. Total cheater.”
“Yeah!” Willow agreed with a nod. “He should be renamed Chester, 'cause of all the cheating. And whatever happened to the days of just vampires? I mean, stake to the heart – poof – no problem. Now its all weird powers, and not being beaten like they should.” She glanced over at her friend and noticed Buffy was standing stiffly. “Oh! Are you hurt? 'Cause he was hitting you really hard there for a bit.”
“I'm fine,” Buffy answered flatly. At Willows doubtful look she sighed. “Nothing serious. Few bumps, coupla bruises, some scratches. Maybe a tiny little contusion. Just need a hot shower and a few hours sleepy time and I'll be healthy Buffy again. What about you? Not everyday you get struck by lightning. Plus: car wreck.”
“I'm fine. Fit as a fiddle. Why do they say that, anyway? I mean, what's so fit about a violin?”
Buffy smirked and grabbed their luggage from the car, listening with half an ear to her friend's babble as she led the way towards the main part of town in search of a hotel room. While she wasn't lying about only needing a single night's sleep to recover, that didn't mean her beating hadn't left her sore and looking forward to a soothing shower.
Gullringen was very small, but eventually they did find a tiny hotel which rented a room with two beds to them for the night. Buffy showered first, taking her time with the water on its highest setting to sooth sore muscles before changing into boxers and a tank top and claiming a bed. While Willow took her shower the Slayer grabbed her cell phone and laid down on the bed.
“Hey Dawnie,” Buffy said when her sister picked up.
“I'm mad at you,” Dawn said ominously, although with little heat.
“In my defense, you were being all mean to me at the time. And a fish dating you sounded funny.”
“Hilarious,” Dawn sad flatly.
“Ah, come on,” Buffy cajoled. “You have to admit, he wasn't bad looking in human form. And he seemed to be all gentlemanly. When he wasn't trying to buy you.”
Buffy chuckled, and smiled. It felt good to bicker with her sister again, without the real anger that had been between them over the last several months. Eyeing the bathroom door, she sighed as she considered other relationships that had been strained of late.
By the time Willow was ready for bed Buffy had already hung up on her sister, and had settled on her front on the surprisingly comfortable mattress, unwilling to lay on her back as it had suffered most of the bruising. While things didn't seem awkward between them, she knew that they had many unresolved issues, but she didn't know how to bridge the gap that separated them. Even though they were sharing the same room, Buffy had rarely felt further away from Willow. Author's Notes
The spell Willow used to find Sigurd's grave is from the Season 4 episode Fear Itself.
Nothing but whimsy drove me to use a quasi-Shakespearian dialect for Sigurd. I got the idea from the use of similar language in Marvel Comics for the Norse gods, although this is not actually a crossover with those works.
Draugr are nasty customers, which appear in many stories and have a host of abilities attributed to them. I've decided to use a little bit of just about everything for my portrayal. As a note, the hand of dirt did nothing because he could pass through dirt and stone, as he did when he left.