Chapter Seven: Settling In, Part 1
Standard Disclaimer: I do not own the copyrights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, or Stargate SG-1. All of the above belong to their respective copyright holders.
To all my reviewers: Thanks! I know all of you are impatient to see the SG-1 cross sections. I'm afraid it's going to take a while... this is supposed to be a really long story and I've only just gotten started. Please be patient.
The morning was quiet and beautiful.
She could see a shining sun from the balcony. (Her mother's 'chambers' had a balcony. A real balcony, with a view of half the plain around.)
It was peaceful. Relaxing.
No fear, no pain, no worrying about the inevitable confrontation.
Had it only been a day and a half since she'd fought Glory? It didn't seem that way.
The only fly in the ointment was... she didn't know what was happening with Dawn. Or whether they could bring her here .... or go back.
Though if they could go back, then Joyce Summers wouldn't have been here, new husband or not.
She felt her mother join her.
"Tea?" She held out a steaming cup. Buffy took it.
"It's so peaceful here," she said. "Is this heaven?"
"Not likely. I told you about the wars last night."
"Yeah, but I meant something else. Do all the good people who die get reincarnated here?"
"Not likely," Joyce shook her head. "As far as I know, I'm the only one who remembers anything about Earth. If the others are reincarnated humans, then they have no memories of the event. Besides, you and I arrived full-grown." She shrugged. "Everyone else arrives the normal way. You know, from babies and all that."
"Okay, makes sense." She frowned. "Do - our bodies - function like normal human bodies?"
"In all normal ways, yes. Although there are some side effects to the magical stuff we can do. For instance, I get headaches if I have to read too many minds."
"Ah." Buffy frowned. "So, with, you know, guys and stuff....."
Joyce snorted. "There's something weird about us having the birds and bees talk again, modified for Elfhome."
"Let's not have that talk, then. I mean, it is
the same as with humans, right?"
"So how about we do geography instead."
"You, volunteering to talk geography? That's new."
"Mom, come on. I need to know about this place. Is it safe to go out? Do they have malls? Do they have movies?"
"No on the malls, but yes, it is pretty safe to go around within the castle. Outside, though, you need an escort. There's no formal battle going on, but the Seelie and Unseelie sometimes clash. Random duels, skirmishes... Once in a while there's a goblin incursion from the Southlands."
Buffy turned. "Goblins?"
"They're a bunch of green-skinned horrors. I called them demons when I first saw one, and got a running lecture on the differences between the two from my dear husband."
"Wow, that must have been fun."
"We were running for our lives at the time, so not so much. Later I had a chat with him about proper timing."
"Huh. Can't imagine you in danger here. Was it bad?"
"Assassination attempt on him," Joyce shrugged. "Funny - I never thought I'd marry a politician, of all people."
"Well, he's actually a prince. So, does he have a white horse? And shining armor?"
Joyce's lips twitched. "Actually, yes. And you can ask him the remaining questions later. Meanwhile, you wanted to know about the geography?"
"This place is called Autumn Keep. It's a compromise... neither Light nor Shadow Courts really like it, but any one attacking it means the other will join in, and then you've got exactly the situation that both rulers have been trying to avoid - the aggressor loses all claim to the heir."
"Technically, Sien is heir to both the Courts, but that doesn't have any practical importance unless one of the undying, extremely powerful and immortal elven rulers dies."
"Wow, so not much of a practical problem."
"Too much politics. Anyway, the Court of Light is to the west, and the Court of Shadow is to the east. To the north are some very cold mountains where the free human settlements are located...."
"There are humans here?"
"Yes, they came through some kind of portal a long time ago. Or were brought. Anyway, they provide a - sort of - militia, though they're not much use against the local Elven guardsmen. Elves can outfight anything, apparently." She shrugged. "To the south are the Cursed Lands. They used to be pretty prosperous, but then something evil came out of the South Continent and cursed these lands. That's where you find goblin and demon lairs, and of course the vampires..."
"There are vampires here?"
"Yes, the same old fang-faced creatures with a tendency to drink a lot of blood. They can't turn elves, but that's where the humans come in. Vampires keep launching offensives to the north, or just try to sneak over and capture a fair number of humans from those territories." Her mouth turned down in a half-frown. "The elves do what they can to intercept, but it's hard work. They don't have enough helicopters...."
"Wait, did you say helicopters
? But this place is practically medieval!"
"Buffy," explained Joyce in a patient tone, "there are helicopters. Or what function like them enough for me to call them helicopters, anyway. There's a lot of magic involved, but it's not a particularly complicated design. And there's a lot here that isn't what we would expect of medieval tech." She smiled. "You might have noticed our rooms are nice and warm."
"Yeah." She hadn't thought of that.
"Air conditioning. Central, throughout the castle. Designed to keep places comfortable. And did you honestly think medieval castles had indoor plumbing?"
"Good point..." she frowned, "but they seem to all be using medieval weapons."
"So do you; I never saw you get a gun. Or get practice with one."
"That's different, vampires aren't hurt by guns..." She paused. "The elves aren't either, are they?"
"Not really. Slowed down, yes. Injured, sometimes. But enough magical power to turn a gun into the kind of kill-em-all weapon we had back home?" She shrugged. "The guns take a LOT of magical energy. Far more than a bow and arrow, and the crossbow loads up just as fast, which is why you see some elves using it. I don't know why crossbows work and guns don't."
"Huh," was the blonde's response. She leaned a bit further and could see what looked like a training ground. "Can I go there and train?"
"Don't see why not," replied Joyce. "It's free for anyone wanting to practice weapons training. So just take a stake along and you should be fine."
"Don't have one, but can carve up a tree real fast."
"I'll get you some seasoned wood." She paused. "It's a bit different from the stuff we had in California, don't know if it makes a difference...."
"Doesn't," replied Buffy. "Any wood will do. Stakes just got to be extra maneuverable and built to take an impact along the shaft."
"I'll take your word for it. Meanwhile, something you may find equally interesting: clothes."
"There's stores here?"
"Sadly, despite the technical innovations I have described to our fellow elves, they have not wholeheartedly embraced the concept of the mall."
"But it's an icon of American culture! We should get them to introduce one."
"Buffy, I'm an art gallery owner and you're a Vampire Slayer. Do either of us know how to run a mall?"
"Huh. Good point." She shrugged. "So, on the topic of vampires..."
"No hunting by yourself here," warned Joyce. "Take one of the more experienced rangers with you. Someone to show you the ropes, make sure you don't get attacked by Red Caps while you're out on a hunt."
"Redcaps, huh? Okay." She grinned evilly. "Can I take Frosty?"
"Oh, for heavens' sakes, call him Jack if you must, but 'Frosty' is pushing it too far. And if you're going hunting, you'll take at least two others with you. Just Jack isn't enough."
"But they're noisy! And they'll slow me down!"
"Buffy. Did they not sneak up on you when you first encountered them?"
"Well...." She paused. "He did break a twig."
"After tracking you for an hour. And they move fast, too. Not as fast as you, but way faster than any vampire probably could."
"Okay, then, two, but that's the limit. And I get to ditch them after the first trip."
"You get to ditch them when Jack says you're good enough on your own. And no arguing. That I'm letting you go is in itself a minor miracle. Now, if you're going to be traipsing through the snow, you need better clothes than those, and the right shoes."
"Okay." Buffy figured she'd won enough concessions for the day, and headed off to the practice field.
"She agreed to keep the bodyguards until they think she's good enough," she told her husband a half hour later.
"That's good." He checked the papers on his desk. "I'd pick Frost and Lancaster.... they're the best for this sort of stuff." He glanced back at her. "You didn't tell her anything about them, did you?"
"That each of them is a seasoned warrior who's cleared out at least one nest singlehandedly?" Joyce scoffed. "Of course not. She doesn't need to know that. Not yet, anyway."
"I know you're probably not happy about her hunting...."
Joyce reflected on the number of times she'd vented to Sien about her daughter's 'dangerous' profession, only to receive a calm lecture on how everything
was dangerous. "No, you were right. She's a Slayer, she will feel compelled to hunt. The only thing that I can do... that we can do.... is give her some backup." She sighed.
Sien nodded. "From what you told me of her, she's a solitary warrior. I'd send a regiment to back her up, but... we are fortunate she agreed to two." He paused, thinking. "I wonder how good her combat skills are right now...."
"I needed time to adjust to the new body myself," reminisced Joyce. "Not that it wasn't fun
Sien blushed. "Yes, er, the adjustment process was quite interesting for the both of us....."
They grinned, remembering.
"Anyway, she's down at the training grounds. So if you want to get a sense of how good she really is...."
"Now's the time, yes." Sien nodded.