Fight to the bones
Title: Vampire hunting can lead to adventures
Disclaimer: All characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon,
Greyhawk belongs to Wizards of the Coast, the characters Justicar, Cinders, Escalla, Enid, Polk, Henry and Morag belong to Paul Kidd and Wizards of the Coast
Summary: Xander starts to patrol alone. Then finds this interesting stone...
Setting: Season 4 after the Initiative was discovered by the Scoobies / AU Anya left during Graduation Day never to return. Xander has already his job in construction, but doesn't show any talent for carpentry so far
Pairings: B/R in the beginning, you won't be bothered with it too long. B/X in the end (I hope J - this was the plan when I started the story but currently I don't see how I'm going to do that, so I'll gurantee frindship for now, maybe more later), W/T mentioned
Rating: 13, 16 max. Due to some violence, horror and swearing
Feedback: Of course, after all I want to get better.
Author's notes: *....* denotes thoughts; //...\\\\ denotes telepathic communication;
further notes will be added as necessary
Thanks to Tenhawk for bouncing ideas back and forth with me
Feeling as if he was just a hair's width from tipping over dead Xander sank onto his bedroll. Before his head even hit the pillow he was asleep.
The others got ready for the night too, just not as worn down by exhaustion. Polk burrowed once again a small cave for himself among the gear and clothes they had on their cart, while Jus placed his bedroll a bit off the campfire towards the direction they came from. This night he didn't take off his armor, despite the loss in restfulness that would mean. He just felt antsy after passing the battleground and wanted to be prepared for trouble, the only concession to comfort was that he repositioned the way Cinders was settled around his shoulders. The mental grumblings of the sentient hellhound pelt died down quickly when Jus shoved a piece of burnt meat between his jaws to suckle on. After Jus had laid down, Escalla made herself comfortable in the crook of his arm, using the large human's biceps and Cinders as a pillow. Cinders' now content rumbling quickly carried the two to sleep, light as it may be.
Enid and Henry had the first watch and consequently prepared themselves for that. Henry moved the biggest, unburned logs from the fire to reduce the light it gave off. Then he readied his enchanted crossbow and rechecked the quarrel magazine, which contained several hands full of crossbow bolt, for any stuck bolt that could cause the crossbow to jam at the worst possible time. When he had done that he moved out of the camp and found a lookout place at one of the few, lone trees in the area. Enid on the other hand patrolled around the camp, her feline eyes well suited for detecting intruders early. The Sphinx made her circuits silently, only once in a while would she stop with Henry and exchange a few words with him, both to stave off sleep and boredom, for no animal or other being made its presence known.
The hours of their watch crawled by with an agonizing slowness, but finally their watch was over and it was time to wake the ranger and the faerie for their turn. After settling Cinders on top of his scull cap so that the hellhound pelt could watch and nearly more importantly gather the scent of the air in the direction that Jus was currently observing, and after fastening a few straps on his armor that had loosened a bit during his sleep, Jus was ready to take on his roving patrol around the perimeter of their campsite.
Escalla meanwhile made herself comfortable close to the glowing embers of the fireplace and lit a small ball of light that she dimmed down so that it was barely visible, but still giving off enough light for herself to read her spell book and refresh her memorized spells.
About two hours something had changed, though Jus couldn't point it out, so he stopped in place, his eyes and Cinder's senses roved through the dark of the night around him. Then he realized what it was, an unnatural chill had settled over the area and one by one the animals' cries were falling silent, and only the rustling of bigger animals moving quickly through the high grass and trees, off into the distance and away from whatever it was that caused this feeling of cold, could be heard.
Then a light mist began to form, slowly growing thicker but not enough to impair visibility, but enough to be noticeable. And the thickest patch of mist was in the direction they had come from. Jus absently loosened his sword in its scabbard while he peered into the moonlit mist.
For the longest time he didn't see anything else but the wavering of the mist as thicker and thinner patches swirled together and separated again. Then he heard Cinder in his mind, //I'm smelling wet bone and death. It's getting stronger, can I burn them?\\\\
In a low voice he answered, "We will see if that's needed." *At least that fog is dampening the grass a bit, wouldn't do well if he put the plain on fire - again…* Jus mused silently as he considered Cinder's eager tone when he asked about burning whatever was coming.
After he shook off this thought he quickly moved back to their camp to alert the others to the nearing danger. In the camp he firstly informed Escalla who was just finishing her perusal of her spells, then he went on to wake Enid and Henry, in his opinion they needed all the time to wake up they could get after just getting back to deep slumber. The badger Polk was ignored for now, unless the danger was imminent and just about to strike it would have been futile to try to rouse him from his dreams. So he went over to a peacefully sleeping Xander, whose face was graced with a wide smile.
"Come on boy, wake up," the ranger said, shaking Xander's shoulder.
"Five more minutes of snuggles, Buffy. Then we can join Willow and Tara in bed," Xander mumbled still deep in his dream.
"If you don't get up now, you'll end up gutted or worse," Jus growled loudly, shaking Xander harder.
"Sure, Faith can join in too."
"If you don't get up right now you will never again get to snuggle with anyone," the broad shouldered man nearly shouted when he began to lose his patience over Xander's deep and seemingly unstoppable sleep full of dreams.
Some part of Xander's brain must have finally received what Jus was saying, for suddenly he was sitting half-way up and nearly collided with Jus' head. "I'm awake; I'm awake," Xander said, "What's going on?"
"We have company coming, most likely undeads. Get ready for a fight."
"Okay, I'm getting," Xander replied, then he continued to himself, "Couldn't they have decided to stay in their graves? I just had the best dream ever…"
After he had finished griping about the lost dream Xander quickly strapped on the belt that held his sword scabbard and the sling that was to hold his mace on the opposite side. Then he checked his gun as well as was possible in the near darkness of the camp where his bedroll was and then again after he had trudged over to the rekindled fire. He soon was joined by Henry who used the fire light to check his crossbow and to unload its magazine. He then replaced the quarrels with a different bunch, and while Xander couldn't recognize any differences between the two types of quarrels it seemed to be important. What struck Xander as odd was the sheer amount of bolts the young warrior packed into the top mounted magazine, if he estimated correctly then the magazine should have been full three times over already, and Henry still packed more into it. Finally he was satisfied with the amount of bolt ready to fire and after giving a nod to Xander he was off to find a sniper position that wasn't too far away from the place the others would make a stand in
Xander meanwhile placed more wood into the fire until it was really blazing, creating a backlight that for one would give them light to see and hopefully also dazzle or even blind the coming enemy.
Soon they could see the first dark shapes move out of the moonlit fog. As they came closer, Xander and the others could see the white of bleached bones shine in the moon light, soon it was obvious that the approaching creatures were skeletons with not one bit of flesh remaining on their bones. The foremost rank of enemies consisted of nearly two dozen skeletons mounted on horses just as skeletal. They charged towards the small group of living beings that hadn't fled from their approach, though charge may be a bit of an exaggeration as the horses weren't much faster than a jogging human and just as fast as the walking skeletons that followed close on their heels.
Upon seeing the notable lack of flesh to hit with his pistol, Xander quickly replaced it in its holster and pulled his mace out of the sling it hung in. While he did that Henry let fly a stream of bolts towards the approaching undead that would have made a machine gun envious. While a great part of the quarrels passed between the bones without doing much more than nicking a bone, the rest hit bones dead on. In some cases the quarrels were deflected after leaving some cracks in the hit bone, but more often the hit bones would shatter under the impact, brittle with age and weathering but mostly due to damages suffered while the owner of the bones was still alive. Here and there they would hit major bones with enormous effects, missing skulls resulted in skeletons falling apart and others lost the use of whole limbs, which was particularly effective when it took out a leg as it reduced them to crawling. And in case of one of the mounted skeletons, it caused the skeleton to learn flying, for a few meters, when its horse fell to the ground after losing a leg. Neither of the two moved again, the fall had separated their bones beyond any cohesion.
Next to Jus' head Escalla hovered in the air and gesticulated quickly but precisely, with a final wave of her arms she finished her incantation and threw a bead of bat guano and sulfur towards the skeletons. After a short way the bead stopped falling and instead it started to glow brightly and streaked straight towards the undead horde. When it was deep in the close ranks of their attackers it blossomed into a large ball of fire that blackened and burned the bones until they were unable to stand the heat anymore and crumbled to ashes.
Then melee was joined and Xander had no time to think further than where to strike and when to parry or dodge. His blows powdered bone easily wherever they hit his opponents. Splintered ribs flew through the air, followed by a part of a femur or part of a skull. Then he had to parry the strike from a sword so rusty that it crumbled into brown flakes when it hit the mace's head, before Xander could start his counter attack he was beset by another skeleton that came from the right towards him.
To Xander's left Jus fought with abandon, as he swung his brightly glowing sword at the skeletons it yelled battle cries and promised the skeletons eternal rest or damnation as appropriate for the skeleton in question, as not only human but also monstrous skeletons, like gnolls and even stranger ones, were among the attackers. The brilliantly bright blade was so sharp that it sheared through the skeletons without breaking a single bone, only the silent clatter of bone parts falling to the ground told of the damage each hit produced. From time to time Cinders would let loose a jet of flame out of his nostrils into a particularly thick concentration of skeletons with similar effect on the hit undead as Escalla's fireball had produced earlier.
Xander meanwhile was hard-pushed to defend himself against the mass of skeletons that was eager to rend him apart, already he had suffered several superficial wounds and it seemed only a matter of time until a serious wound incapacitated him. Then a swarm of large, golden hornets flew past his head and struck several of the attackers where they vanished with a flash of light, leaving large holes behind in the skeleton's skulls, upon which they collapsed and stopped moving. Xander used the added breathing space Escalla's spell had given him to secure his footing again and even lash out and disable a couple of close undead.
A bit off Enid fought with all the might a sphinx can produce with her paws. She battered the skeletons around, often destroying them, but sometimes her strikes would bowl the target over and send it flying into the advancing horde that still was growing. By this time Henry had joined her and was now defending her flank on the far side of the group.
For a long time it seemed as if the flood of undead would never find an end. More and more of the animated skeletons converged out of the night onto Xander and his companions. In between the waves of enemies Xander and the others had to retreat more and more towards their campsite as the ground became treacherous with more or less shattered skeletons and bones that always threatened to make one stumble, but finally it looked as if the end was near. The reinforcements, that had been steadily strengthening the number of skeletons, had begun to dwindle until finally only a small group of them was left approaching them.
But small was relative in this case as most of these skeletons were by far the biggest of the whole lot Xander had seen this night. Their height averaged well above two meters with a good part of them obviously being the skeletons of giants that had reached around three and a half meter when they were alive.
Henry had received a bad wound to the leg, so he stayed behind with Enid who stood guard over him, while Xander and Jus surged forward to take these last opponents out as soon as possible. Escalla whirred of into the night sky to offer what supporting fire her, by now, strongly depleted magics could still provide. As soon as she was close enough she started her spell to soften the opposition up before the two humans reached the enemy. In answer to her spell a storm of fist sized hail battered down on part of the undead where it smashed most of the human sized skeletons to pieces, while also damaging a good portion of the giant sized specimens.
While their comrades were pummeled with ice some of the bony creatures had noticed Jus' and Xander's charge and moved now to counterattack the duo. They were about to become embroiled in melee when half of them flew up in the sky as if someone had changed the meaning of up and down for them. They rose and rose into the dark sky until their forms had vanished in the murky darkness and probably even longer.
Then the two groups clashed together. With trouble did the humans manage to avoid the giants' strikes, which made the ground shudder under the impact of the stone clubs aimed to turn the duo into a red paste. While they were dancing the dance of death between the giant skeletons' legs, cutting and crushing bone Xander noticed something strange. His mace had started to flash with a warm glow that would at once die away again.
His next turn took Xander away from the giant undead whose knee he had just smashed and he found himself face to skull with a human sized skeleton. But this skeleton was different from all he had ever seen. Its ribcage was filled with writhing viscera that sometimes uncoiled enough to rest on its femur. Just like the ribcage was filled with a horrid version of a human's intestines, its head wasn't empty either, from between the skull's eternally grinning teeth a long, cartilaginous and clawed tongue moved towards the startled Xander.
"Whoa! Heloooo, Giger! Keep that thing in your mouth, I don't kiss bony things like you," Xander exclaimed, and then he was too busy for banter.
The undead creature's strikes were powered by an unnatural might that easily compared to, if not surpassed, that of the oldest vampires he had fought. And every parried strike sent vibrations through his arms that made it difficult to keep hold of his weapon. But still Xander fought back valiantly and with each strike he landed a chip of bone burst off the unnaturally hard skeleton or some viscera was bruised and squashed together. Also the glow his mace emitted on the recent hits started to grow stronger and brighter as if something in the weapon was slowly gathering power and giving some of it off on each hit.
But Xander not only had to contend with fighting off the fists, on top of it came that dangerous looking tongue that time and time again stabbed at him. All too often the misses were way too close for comfort and Xander could feel the air movement caused by its passage as he dodged to the side. Then one of the claws on the tongue's end scratched Xander's cheek and he felt as if someone had dumped him in arctic waters and he was about to freeze solid. Only with the utmost exertion of willpower did he manage to keep moving, albeit at a much reduced speed.
A few seconds later his own strike hit his opponent and an absolutely white, yet warm, flash was to be seen and something happened. The skeletal being suddenly fell to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been cut.
Xander let out a breath of relief and turned around with agonizing slowness towards where he suspected more enemies to be. But except for the heavy breathing Justicar nothing was left standing. Practically in slow motion Xander walked towards Jus, the warmth and flexibility only very slowly returning to his body.
Suddenly there was a loud clatter that had both of them jump with surprise. The giant skeletons that had fallen into the sky had finally decided to recognize the law of gravity again and had returned in the most direct manner. Upon their sudden stop on the ground the magic that animated them had been overwhelmed and they shattered into thousands of pieces that scattered over a large area.
End Part 7
Hope you enjoyed the action I tried to present here. I know I had fun with writing the combat here.
And remember feedback is the coin of the realm...