Meetings and Reunions
I don't own Buffy or the Forgotten Realms or any of the other characters mentioned.
They held hands, took a breath, looked at each other, and began chanting.
Darkness surrounded them, and a chill wind blew, then light flashed.
The first sensation was one of cold. There was an icy wind and snow on the ground in patches. They stood on a hill with a vast mountain range behind them, looking over a valley. To their left, a great river emerged from the mountains, swift and grey and foaming white with rapids. A few rafts here and there and a small boat floated with the current.
Down stream, near the middle of the valley lay a great city, with high walls of stone and slender towers rising into a chilly blue sky. A forest surrounded the city and seemed to be part of it, with great trees among the towers. The river ran straight for the city and disappeared into it, evidently flowing through the town.
Beyond the valley, in the distance, great peaks could be seen of what looked to be an even greater mountain range.
Buffy shivered. “It’s too cold here,” she said.
“Tis early spring milady,” Sir Timias responded. “But this is a northern land to be sure.” Near them, a herd of deer was grazing on the thick grass. They looked up at the humans with interest.
“That must be Silverymoon!” Andrew exclaimed. He hugged himself. “We’re really here. Home at last.” He started skipping around, still hugging himself.
“Well at least somebody’s happy,” Kennedy said.
“If this is Master Andrew’s native land, perhaps he should lead us,” Sir Timias said.
“Yeah, lead the way Andrew,” Buffy said.
They headed over to the river and found a large and well maintained road alongside of it. They walked along it towards the city. Alongside the road, a large barge appeared on the river. It was of ornately carved wood with silver trim, made to look like a swan. Oarsmen danced along the sides, expertly paddling or poling as needed. Despite the roughness of the river, the barge coasted along smoothly.
The oarsmen were slender and graceful folk, with flowing hair. As they passed, Buffy noticed they had pointed ears.
Andrew stared, struck dumb, his mouth hanging open. Sir Timias raised his hand in greeting and got a wave from the barge. Then it swept past them in the current towards the city.
“Strange pennants on the barge,” Sir Timias said. “Some noble, but I know not the markings. It looked to be a person of rank, howbeit.”
Andrew squealed and began hopping up and down.
“Get a grip Andrew,” Buffy said. She began walking down the road towards the city and the others following her.
The road was broad and looked well traveled but they were the only ones on it until they overtook a farmer leading a cart horse towards the city. The farmer eyed them suspiciously beneath his straw hat. He looked human enough.
“Hi,” Willow smiled. “We just wanted to ask, that city up ahead is Silverymoon right?”
The farmer glared at her. “Of course it’s Silverymoon,” he snapped. “What should it be? Calimport? Why do you ask such daft questions?”
“Uh, well, thanks then,” Willow smiled again, a little uncertainly.
“What are you doing on this road?” the farmer said. “Don’t you know there’s a war on? Those hills aren’t safe. Or maybe you’re spies,” he studied them suspiciously.
“Be silent, peasant,” Sir Timias growled, fingering his sword.
“Ooo, a war?” Andrew said. “It’s that rage of dragons thing, isn’t it? That’s so cool.”
“Nay, cold, not cool,” the farmer continued. “The white dragons blast everything with their freezing breath. And I hear rumors of their frost giant allies moving from the north.”
”Oh boy,” Andrew said. “Oh wow,” he clutched himself and began his circular hopping dance again.
The farmer shook his head sadly. “Mad with fear, and who can blame him,” he said.
“So lots of these dragons hunh?” Buffy said. They were coming up on the gate. The wall was big, maybe forty feet high.
The farmer nodded. “Strange that you do not know this.” His suspicious look was back. “Where do you come from?”
“Oh, here and there,” Buffy said vaguely.
“Waterdeep,” Andrew said. “We’re from Waterdeep.” He gave an odd giggle.
The farmer glanced at him and shook his head. “That boy is touched you know,” he told Buffy softly. Buffy nodded. The guards approached them.
“Hold,” a guardsman called out. “State your names, and your business in the Gem of the North.”
“I am Andrew the mighty wizard,” Andrew said firmly, and in the deepest voice they had ever heard him use. These are my associates, Sir Timias, knight. Buffy and Kennedy, warrior maids, and Willow, the mighty witch. We are wandering adventurers, seeking evil to vanquish and fortunes to win.”
They all stared at him. All except Sir Timias who seemed to take the speech as a matter of course. As did the gate guards, who noted their names and ordered them to peace bond their weapons. This involved tying them to their sheath with intricate knots. They were read a long list of rules, mostly which banned dueling and offensive spell casting in the city.
“But my spell casting is never offensive,” Willow whispered to Kennedy. “I use deodorant and everything.” Kennedy giggled. The guards stepped aside and they passed into the city.
Cobblestone streets and wooden houses. Two to three story mostly, with balconies that jutted over the street. Carts and wagons moving in the streets. People of all different types, some well dressed, some in little better than rags, all moving up and down, jostling each other. It all stretched on, into the distance. Little shops and carts and people milling about in small clusters.
Andrew took a moment to orient himself and strode off down the main street. The girls followed, wide eyed at the strange sights. Sir Timias brought up the rear, watching about them suspiciously. He seemed to take the people in stride, though he remarked that the city was vast, perhaps as great as London.
Andrew led them down the main street for about a half mile, then turned and took a side street. They were heading around the river, or they thought they were. Andrew paused at several street intersections, frowning in concentration.
“Is aught amiss, Master Andrew?” Sir Timias asked.
“I’m looking for Slut Street,” Andrew said. “It’s supposed to cross Sword Street. We’re on Cheap Street now. I was hoping it would lead to Sword Street but so far it hasn’t.”
“Slut Street?” Sir Timias exclaimed. “We are guarding maidens sir. This is not the time for such sport.”
“Do Cheap Street and Slut Street intersect?” Kennedy asked. “It seems like they would.”
“I’m not sure,” Andrew admitted.
“Hey,” Buffy said, looking at Sir Timias. “What sort of sport are you talking about?”
Sir Timias blushed a deep red. “I know not, gentle lady. Pray forgive me.”
“You aren’t as innocent as you let on,” Buffy said suspiciously.
“Maybe Buffy can find Slut Street,” Kennedy suggested. Buffy glared at her.
“Yeah well if we were looking for Rich Bitch Boulevard we could ask you,” she replied.
“Why Buffy, I didn’t know you shopped on Rodeo Drive,” Kennedy said. “We should go together some time.”
“Knock it off, you two,” Willow sighed. “Oh hey,” she brightened. “I can do a spell.” She pulled out the book she’d borrowed from Lady Shea and studied it for a moment. Then she stretched out her hands and chanted softly. A small globe of light appeared in front of her and slowly moved off. They followed it.
No one on the street seemed to find the glowing ball at all unusual. Some even helped point the ball out to the group when it got a head of them.
“Friendly people,” Buffy said.
“Of course,” Andrew called over his shoulder. “It’s the Gem of the North. The people are the most–.” He bumped into a dwarf who glared at him. “Oops,” Andrew said. “Sorry about that, little fellow,” he patted the dwarf on his head.
The dwarf seemed to swell with rage and snatched out an axe. This was peacebonded but the angered dwarf simply wrenched the axe loose, strings trailing from the axehead. Andrew squealed and stepped back.
“Hey, it was an accident,” Buffy said. “It’s okay little guy, you’re fine.”
The next moments blurred in combat, with the two slayers fighting for their lives. The dwarf became a blur of axechops, rather like a buzz saw and Buffy found herself parrying desperately before Kennedy came up behind him and smacked him with her quarter staff. The dwarf staggered for a moment, and after a head kick from Buffy and a second staff blow, went down.
Willow checked him. “He’s okay, I think.” The dwarf stirred, looking about. He spotted them and his eyes blazed with rage.
“Uh, we should split,” Andrew said.
“Nay, we must answer his challenge fairly,” Sir Timias said. Buffy and Kennedy grabbed Sir Timias and the group fled down the street.
After a few turns they seemed to lose him. Now they were in a maze of small streets, meeting and crossing in a seemingly random manner.
“What a minute,” Willow said. She chanted again and the sphere of blue light appeared in front of her. It bobbed. “Dawn’s close,” Willow said. The ball moved off, floating in the air, and gaining speed as it traveled. They took off after it.
The ball led them through the center of a large market and then up a side street. There was some sort of a park or garden, with a fountain. Dawn was sitting on a blanket, off in a bower screened by flowers. The remains of a meal lay on the blanket near a picnic basket. A tall dark haired man held her in his arms and was kissing her passionately. Her eyes were closed as she focused on kissing back.
Buffy stopped in front of them and glared, her hands on her hips. Willow cleared her throat. Dawn’s eyes flew open and she looked at Buffy. She pulled away from the man, shock on her face.
“So,” Buffy said.
The dark haired man turned around, and it was Xander. He stared at them for a moment, and smiled. “Hey, Buffy, Willow.” He looked at Buffy. “Uhm,” he said.
“It is a rudeness,” Sir Timias began, “to interrupt a lady and her knight when they are…” Buffy glared him to silence.
“So!” Buffy said.
“Buffy, I can explain,” Dawn said.
“SO!” Buffy shouted, glaring at Xander. “I trusted you!”
“Buffy,” Dawn said. “Don’t you hurt him!”
Xander rose. “Look Buffy. I’m sorry. Well, I’m not sorry. But I’m sorry to surprise you like this. You see–.”
Buffy tackled him and they went flying off into a rose bush.
“Buffy, damn it!” Dawn jumped to her feet. There was much thrashing in the rose bush.
“Are you okay?” Willow said.
“Hey Will,” Dawn flashed her a smile. “Never better. At least until Miss Overprotective showed up.”
From the rose bush came the sound of pots breaking, accompanied by swearing. Xander climbed out from the far end of the rose bush, stood and brushed himself off.
“Buffy, we should really talk about this,” he said. Buffy’s head emerged from the top of the rose bush. She looked around and glared at Xander.
“Running away isn’t going to help you,” she said. “You’re going to pay for hurting Dawn.”
“Hurting Dawn?” Dawn said. “Excuse me, I’m right here.” She waved her arms in the air. “Hello, this is me not being hurt.”
Buffy focused on Dawn. “You are so grounded,” she said. “I’ll deal with you after I finish with this creep.”
“You can’t ground me,” Dawn said. “I’m eighteen, and we don’t live together any more.”
“Don’t even start with me,” Buffy replied. “I left you with Giles, and that obviously didn’t work. So I am living with you and you are doing what I say and I say you are grounded. So there.”
“Mad parenting skills there, Buffy,” Kennedy said.
“Maybe we could all sit down and talk,” Willow said.
“That sounds like a great idea,” Xander said, nodding vigorously.
“Don’t you take his side, Willow,” Buffy warned. She gathered herself and jumped out of the bush, tearing part of her gown as she went. She landed near Xander and swung a roundhouse punch at him. He ducked it.
Willow and Dawn began chanting. Dawn finished first and Buffy floated into the air. She levitated up about six feet and turned slowly upside down.
“Hey,” Buffy shouted, swinging about her. “Willow knock that off.”
“It’s not me Buffy,” Willow said.
“What do you mean it isn’t you?” Buffy complained. “Who else could it be?”
Buffy floated, still upside down and thrashing about wildly, until she was suspended in front of Dawn. Dawn folded her arms and looked smug.
“Oh,” Buffy said.
“I’m super here,” Dawn said. “More super than you. What do you think of that?”
“You are in so much trouble,” Buffy said.
They’d settled into the Shining Scroll teahouse and bookstore, a large establishment that catered to what appeared to be a student crowd. It was quiet and given over to reading and study and conversation, giving off a calm feeling. Willow wondered if Dawn had picked it to keep Buffy from making a scene. She didn’t think it would work
They obviously knew Dawn well there and were very fond of her. She was waved to a cozy window table and brought food and drink without having to order.
The place was built near a large cluster of buildings done in marble and in a classical style that practically screamed university.
“Is that a school?” Willow asked.
“Lady College?” Dawn followed her gaze. “Yep. A magical school. Like Hogwarts but medivally. This is sort of a student hang out.”
“Do you go there?” Willow asked.
Dawn nodded. “I take some classes there, and even teach some. Alustriel says my technique needs polishing, but I can cast really advanced fire magic.”
“Alustriel,” Buffy frowned. “She’s the cause of all this.” Buffy shook her head. “You shouldn’t be here. You need to finish high school. That’s the school you should be going to.”
“I’ve sort of given up on it, Buffy.” Dawn said. “I think I’ll test out when I get back and just start college. Working with Giles all these years, I mean I speak Sumerian, I sort of think I’m wasting my time at high school.”
“No,” Buffy shook her head firmly. “It’s the social stuff that matters. Cheerleading, dances, dating, that’s what you need.”
“All the stuff you missed,” Dawn said, smiling at her.
“Dawn’s really put some thought into this,” Xander said.
Buffy shot him an icy glare. “So, when you decided to kidnap Dawn and drag her here and molest her, it all worked out for the best?”
“Buff that is so not what happened,” Xander said. “I was completely surprised by this, we both were.”
“I’m not,” Kennedy said. “It’s been building for awhile.”
“What?” Buffy said.
“You’ve been away for awhile, Buffy,” Willow said. “Things have been sort of moving in this direction.”
“Willow you knew about this and didn’t say anything?” Buffy demanded.
“Pretty much everybody knew about it,” Andrew said. “Except you ‘cause you were in Rome.”
“It was moving pretty slowly,” Willow shrugged, “so there wasn’t anything to tell.” She looked at Dawn. “Looks like in all the excitement things got speeded up.” Dawn grinned at her.
“Hmm,” Buffy said. She glared at Xander. “I’m mad at you,” she told him.
“I get that, Buffy,” he said. “And I totally understand.”
“So what are your intentions anyway?” Buffy asked.
“Oh Buffy, don’t you dare!” Dawn said.
“Nay but she must,” Sir Timias put in. “If Sir Xander’s suit is honorable, he must seek your sister’s permission to court you.”
“Well, very honorable,” Xander said. “I guess. We really haven’t thought it out.”
“I thought so,” Buffy said.
“Maybe we should focus on getting everyone back home,” Willow suggested.
“We aren’t going,” Dawn said. “We told you that already. We’re staying here.”
“You’re going home,” Buffy told her. “Get used to it.”
“I can hex you again you know,” Dawn said.
“You think you’re too big for a spanking,” Buffy said. “But–.”
“Why do you guys want to stay?” Willow interrupted.
Dawn looked at Xander. Xander shrugged, “Well maybe I should start at the beginning.” He proceeded to give them an abbreviated version of events. When he had finished the sun was setting, golden in the windows of the Scroll.
“We should be getting back to the palace,” Dawn said. “They’ll be expecting us for dinner.”
“Wow,” Willow said. “That’s a lot to take in.”
“Giles doesn’t date,” Buffy said. “He never has. He’s dedicated to Jenny’s memory. He doesn’t date.”
“He sure seems intense with Alustriel,” Xander said. “He’s really happy with her.”
“That proves it’s a spell,” Buffy said. “Giles isn’t interested in that sort of thing. He wouldn’t be acting like that if he was himself.”
“Well you can see for yourself,” Xander said. “We’ll see him in a bit.” He stood to leave and fished out some gold coins from his belt pouch and tossed them on the table. Willow picked one up and studied it.
“Is this solid gold? It’s almost half an ounce.”
Xander shifted uneasily. “Uh yeah. There’s a lot of that stuff lying around. You get used to it.”
“A gold piece,” Andrew said, clutching at it. “A real gold piece.” He looked at Xander. “Have you guys been adventuring? With treasure and everything?”
“A little bit,” Xander smiled. “I’ll tell you more back at the palace.”
The teahouse had communicated with the palace in someway, so that there was a royal carriage waiting for them when they left. Xander and Timias helped the others in.
The carriage was all in white and silver, with metal work like delicate lace.
“Oh my,” Willow said. “It’s like something out of a fairy tale.”
Dawn shrugged. “It sort of is. But you get used to it.” Dawn had left a seat open next to her and Buffy sat in the spot. She and Dawn exchanged looks. Xander let Sir Timias sit opposite Buffy and went to sit with the coachman.
Evening was falling as they rolled through the cobblestone streets. The magical glow lights were winking on. Silverymoon was built to emphasize the natural landscape so the road curved among trees and glades, turning on hill tops to reveal new streets, seeming almost like traveling through a forest or garden. The streets were emptying as the people went in for dinner, the few remaining parting respectfully for a royal carriage.
“But they’ll be out later,” Dawn said. “This town is wild for parties. The dwarves don’t really get going until near midnight, and the elves can be worse.”
“Yeah,” Xander said from up front. “They act all respectable and dignified, but when they cut loose, watch out.”
“How nice,” Buffy said coldly.
They passed through a square dominated by a large fountain featuring a rearing unicorn when the castle came into view. Delicate spires of white joined by slender sky bridges and lit by winking lights. They all stared.
Another turn took it out of sight and sent them through a wooded dell with trees full of small houses and bridges interconnecting them. They crossed a stone bridge over a swift running stream and then climbed up to a boulevard leading to the castle.
Willow leaned towards Xander. “Rivendell,” she whispered.
He nodded. “I think so. One of the inspirations anyway.” The slender drawbridge was down and the gates opened for them. As they entered the castle courtyard, footmen arrived to help them dismount and whisk the carriage away.
Dawn pulled her cape about her, against the chill of the evening. Buffy watched her and frowned.
“Is that fur?” she asked.
“It’s mink,” Kennedy said.
“Well,” Dawn replied, “the minks around here grow very big. They’re a danger to people.”
“Fur is the best proof against the cold,” Sir Timias said. “Lady Dawn is wise to wear it.”
“You have a mink coat,” Buffy said.
“It’s a cape actually,” Kennedy said. “Is that hand made? Oh it’s nice.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Dawn said. “Xander bought it for me.”
“Xander bought you a mink coat?” Buffy asked.
“It’s important to dress warm here Buff,” Xander said. “I’ll buy you guys some tomorrow.”
“Did Xander just say he would buy us all mink coats?” Willow asked Kennedy.
“Capes,” Kennedy said, “and yeah.”
“Oh,” Willow said. “That’s nice of him.”
“You can have a coat if you want Willow,” Xander said.
“Oh,” she said. “Goody.”
“That’s a nice emerald on your ring, Dawn,” Kennedy said. “Is that two carats?”
“I think so,” Dawn said, looking puzzled.
“Oh, then the sapphires on Xander’s sword must be about two carats too,” Kennedy said. She looked up at the palace. “You guys live here full time?”
“Well, yeah,” Xander said. “We’ve got some estates but we don’t get to see them. We’re always running with the war and all. We’ve been thinking about buying a place close to the university, but the palace is so convenient.”
Buffy swelled up. “What the hell is going on here? Coats, jewelry, estates, what is this?”
“It’s why they want to stay,” Kennedy said.
“That is so not true!” Dawn said.
“There’s more to it than that Ken,” Xander said. “Though that’s part of it.”
A footman bowed by the open door and they entered into a receiving hall.
“It isn’t true,” Dawn said. “We only want to help these people.” She caught a maid by the elbow and smiled at her. “Camille, my sister and friends have arrived. Please have the apartments adjoining mine prepared for them.”
Camille, a pretty blond girl curtsied deeply. “At once milady,” she said. She scurried off. Dawn handed her cape and muff to another maid, and turned back to the others.
“You’ve got it all wrong, Kennedy,” she said. “We don’t care about the other stuff at all.”
“Glad to hear it,” Kennedy said with a smile.
Moving into the castle, a pretty brown haired girl came running up to Dawn, with a panicked expression on her face.
“Dawn. Thank God your back. What am I going to do?”
“Wow, Beth. What’s wrong?” Dawn asked. The girl looked familiar to Buffy. She tried to place her.
“Alenon’s family is here! His mother wants to meet me! Tonight!”
“It’s okay,” Dawn soothed the girl. “We’ll get through this. Hey, remember, she’s probably scared to meet you too.”
The girl looked doubtfully at Dawn. Suddenly Buffy recalled a photograph from one the files in Cleveland.
“Hey,” she said. “You’re one of the kidnappers. You attacked my sister.” She stepped forward, glaring at the girl. The girl, Beth, froze, and then hid behind Dawn.
“It’s okay Buffy,” Dawn said. “It was a misunderstanding. Beth is with us now.”
“Yeah, Buff,” Xander said. “She’s been a big help. She’s really powerful.” Buffy frowned. The girl peeked at her from behind Dawn. She didn’t look sinister.
“Maybe,” Buffy said. “I don’t know. I’ll be watching her though.”
“Okay,” Dawn said. “But Beth, why aren’t you getting changed? You can’t meet his mother dressed like that.” She gestured towards Beth’s dress.
Beth was wearing a lovely gown of green silk, with gold bordering of flowers and birds With a bit more cleavage, she wouldn’t have looked out of place at an awards ceremony red carpet. Buffy glanced at Willow who shrugged. Kennedy smiled.
“I can’t go back to my rooms,” Beth said. “They might be waiting for me there!”
“What so you’re hiding?” Dawn sighed and took Beth by the hand. “Come on, you can get dressed with us. We’ll keep you safe.” She marched off down the hall with Beth, and the others followed in her wake.
Giles greeted them in Dawn’s apartments. He was dressed like an Elizabethan courtier, in black and silver with a silver chain about his throat. He embraced Buffy.
“Buffy! I’ve missed you so!” He pulled back and looked at her. “You look well. Are you well? I was so pleased to hear you’d arrived.” He smiled at her.
“Uhm, no Giles,” Buffy said. “I’m not well. You guys need to come home.”
Giles laughed. “We’ll talk of that later. I can’t wait for you to meet Alustriel. She’ll be so pleased to meet you.” He looked past her. “Willow. Kennedy. So glad to see you both. Willow you’re going to love it here.”
“Are we going to meet Alustriel?” Andrew asked. “Oh, I have so many questions!”
“Take a breath Andrew,” Xander smiled. “Take a little time to settle in. You don’t want to overwhelm her.”
“I rather think she can handle Andrew,” Giles said with a deep laugh.
“I’m not sure we’re staying Giles,” Willow said.
“Oh but you must,” Giles said taking Willow’s hands in his. “So much knowledge. I need your help to understand it all.”
“Hey,” Dawn said.
“Oh you’re invaluable Dawn,” Giles said, smiling broadly at her. “But three can do more than two after all.” He chuckled.
“Giles, why are you all smiley?” Buffy said. “It isn’t right. This must be a trick. Are you drugged or something?”
“Oh Buffy,” Giles laughed, bending to kiss her on the forehead. “I’ve missed you so much.” Maids had arrived and begun laying out gowns. “Ah but we must leave you ladies to dress. We’ll see you at dinner.”
He bent and gave Buffy another hug, then left with a courtly bow. Xander and Sir Timias followed him, also bowing, and Andrew followed, after a nudge from Xander, and bowing awkwardly before leaving.
“It isn’t right,” Buffy said. “Giles shouldn’t smile like that. It could hurt his face.”
“He is in a good mood,” Willow said. The maids scurried about, helping Dawn change, and laying out gowns for the other girls to choose from.”
“You keep a large staff, Dawn,” Kennedy said. “Do you always dress for dinner?”
“I don’t keep any kind of staff.” Dawn replied. “And we’re on the road a lot. So we wear rough clothes, and don’t change, and get stabbed and shot with arrows. And we’re all very dirty. But in the palace we’re supposed to look nice, and I try to get along. That’s all.”
One of the maids was showing Dawn a box of jewelry. She looked at it, looked defiantly at Kennedy and deliberately nodded.
“Bring the pearls for my sister,” she said.
“I’m not judging you Dawn,” Kennedy said. “I’m just trying to figure things out.”
“I’m judging her,” Buffy said. “You’ve got a pretty cozy set up here missy. But there are more important things than this.” A maid showed Buffy another box of jewelry. “Oh,” Buffy said. “Oh, uhm, yes. Those will be fine.” The maid began draping Buffy in pearls.
“Well I wanted a luxury apartment in Rome with a fat expense account,” Dawn said. “But I couldn’t swing that.”
“Okay, well, that was wrong,” Buffy said.
“Buffy?” Dawn turned and faced her sister.
“I was wrong to leave,” Buffy said. “I should have stayed with you guys. You needed me, and I needed you and I’m sorry I left. I won’t do it again.”
“Oh Buffy,” Dawn jumped up and ran to her sister’s arms. They were hugging and crying and Willow was suddenly there. The three held each other, while Kennedy watched.
“Hey,” Buffy said, looking at Kennedy. “Come here you.” Kennedy hesitated.
“Kennedy, please?” Willow asked. Kennedy dove into the group hug. The hugging and crying continued for a bit, until they were all sitting on the bed.
“Well,” Buffy sniffed, smiling. “I guess we can all agree on what a big bitch I am.”
“We can all agree on loving you and wanting you back,” Dawn said.
Willow nodded. “No more distant Buffy,” she said. “We don’t like her. We want hugging loving Buffy. And we aren’t settling for anything less,” she adopted a mock severe face.
“’Kay,” Buffy smiled. “Well at least we can all go home now.”
“No,” Dawn said. “We can all stay here and live happily ever after.”
“No way,” Buffy said. “You can’t be serious.”
“Give it time,” Dawn replied.
Dinner was evidently some formal function that involved a great many people. They gathered in a large room, waiting to be seated. Xander, Timias and Andrew were there, but not Giles. Timias and Andrew were dressed in Elizabethan garb, while Xander wore a blue and white tunic that seemed oddly like a uniform. They all bowed as the girls approached.
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to be bowing every time I walk over?” she asked Xander.
He laughed. “It’s sort of a habit. This world kind of affects you after awhile. But no, I’ll keep the bowing to a minimum.”
A very handsome blond man came over dressed in an ornate tunic of grey and silver. Beth dove into his arms so Buffy guessed this must be Alenon. And yep, his ears were pointed.
They whispered together for a few moments and then Beth nodded.
“Good luck,” Dawn said. She and Xander took turns hugging Beth, who then went off with Alenon into the crowd, a determined look on her face.
“She’ll be fine,” Xander said. “Alenon won’t let anything happen to her.”
A server passed with a tray of small crystal glasses filled with a golden liquid. Dawn took two and handed one to Buffy.
“It’s elf wine. You have to try it.”
“Elverquist?” Andrew squealed. “Elverquist! I’ve got to have some. Wait, come back!” The server had disappeared into the crowd. Andrew charged off after him.
Buffy took a sip of her wine. It was rich and smooth, with a fruity flavor, and something else she couldn’t quite place. She looked about the room, seeing a bewildering variety of people, all shapes and sizes, and many nonhuman. It was quite a crowd. Her attention was drawn to a slender black man with delicately handsome features and flowing white hair. Something about him…intense eyes. He was talking to a pretty redhead.
“Ooo, Cattie-Brie!” Dawn said. “She didn’t say she was coming. I’ll be right back.” Dawn took off to talk to the redhead, apparently a friend of some sort.
“Is that guy human?” Buffy asked Xander.
“Nope,” he replied. “He’s an elf. A drow to be precise.”
“Wait,” Willow said. “Aren’t they bad?”
“Mostly,” Xander said. “But he’s a good guy. It’s complex.” He shrugged. “He’s a big noise hero, I forget his name. It’s hard to pronounce.”
“Does Dawn have any friends besides Beth and Cathy Bee?” Buffy asked.
“Oh yeah,” Xander said. “She’s popular at the court and the university and around the town. She has lots of friends actually.”
“But it isn’t real, Xan,” Buffy said. “You can see that.”
“It is real Buffy,” he replied. “As real as our world at least.” He paused, seeing a ripple in the crowd approaching them.
The crowd parted and Giles was there. On his arm was a tall and regal looking woman with long silver hair. She was…beautiful. But beyond beautiful, almost unearthly in some way. Buffy felt a small flicker of fear. But then the stranger caught Buffy’s eyes and gave her a welcoming smile, and the fear vanished.
“Well I suppose you’ve met,” Giles was saying, “But let met introduce you anyway.” He went around the others, finally pausing and saying, “and this is my slayer, Buffy.”
Alustriel took Buffy’s hands in hers and smiled a greeting. “Buffy. Rupert has told me so much about you. How wonderful to finally meet you in person. I know we shall be great friends.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot about you too,” Buffy said, trying to be civil.
“You must sit with Rupert and I,” Alustriel said. She turned and led the others in to the table. “It will give us a chance to become acquainted.”
Dinner seemed to consist of meat dishes and bread, with a side of more meat dishes. But there were some vegetables and considerable variety. Beyond the occasional lamb pie, there were none of the endless pastries that had dominated Faerie Queene cuisine. And the wines were excellent.
“You were called at 15?” Alustriel shook her head. “My life at 15 was boys and chores. I can’t imagine assuming responsibility at such a tender age.”
“But she did wonderfully,” Giles said proudly. “By the time she was 16 she was already a legend.”
Buffy smiled shyly at Giles. “I had lots of help,” she said. “And very good friends.”
“But,” Andrew said from further down the table, “you were called too, Lady Alustriel, and all your sisters.”
“I was older then Master Andrew,” Alustriel smiled at him. Andrew’s eyes grew wide and he seemed to stop breathing. Xander nudged him and he gasped.
“I was also called with my sisters,” Alustriel continued, ignoring Andrew’s breathing problems. “They were with me to help and lend companionship. It would have been terrible to be called alone.”
“Sisters are important,” Buffy said, looking challengingly at Alustriel. “You can’t ever give them up. At least I won’t.”
“Of course not,” Alustriel smiled.
Dinner wound on, with Buffy following the conversation with difficulty, trying to figure out what she should do.
Finally it concluded and the crowd moved into another room. Some musicians started playing and people were dancing. Xander and Dawn were trying to teach Willow and Andrew some of the steps. Giles and Alustriel left by one of the side doors and after a while, Giles returned, stopping to talk with a group of people, wizards by the look of them. Buffy headed out the door Alustriel had gone through.
It was a balcony and Alustriel stood looking out over Silverymoon. The light of a full moon displayed the city to advantage, lights and trees and a silver ribbon of river.
“Is it not lovely?” Alustriel said.
The balcony was empty except for the two of them. Buffy stepped forward, steeling her nerve.
Alustriel turned to face her and raised one elegant eyebrow. “Are you sure? You are deep in my city, surrounded by my people, and I am not entirely defenseless.”
“Oh you read minds now?” Buffy snapped.
“On occasion,” Alustriel smiled. “But you aren’t so difficult. You don’t like playing assassin do you? You think you’re used to it, but a small part of you still protests.”
“Ye olde shrink,” Buffy said grimly. “Don’t count on it. I do what I have to do.”
“To protect them, yes.” Alustriel nodded. She turned away from Buffy and looked back out over the city. “We will do anything to protect them, won’t we?”
“You’re trying to steal my family,” Buffy said. “I won’t let you.”
“Are you sure we should be enemies? Perhaps there is room in Rupert’s heart for both of us.”
“That’s not what this is about.” Buffy said.
“Oh? What then?” Alustriel asked. “Dawn loves you fiercely. And Xander’s devotion to you is a thing out of legend.”
“That’s not…” Buffy shook her head. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she said.
“I’m very relieved,” Alustriel smiled gently.
Buffy frowned. “You aren’t afraid of me, are you?”
“Darling! I’m sorry I was–.” Rupert Giles entered the balcony holding two of the glasses of the golden elf wine. He paused, seeing Buffy. “Oh, I’ll get another glass.”
“It’s okay, Giles. I’m leaving,” Buffy said quickly. Her face was flaming; she hoped the darkness hid it.
“Buffy, is something wrong?” he asked, open concern on his face.
“No. I’m fine.” She bolted past him.
In the hall, the party was underway. Xander was dancing with some golden woman, golden hair, golden skin, gold jewelry. She was gorgeous of course. He said something and she laughed. Kennedy had picked up the dance quickly, as a slayer would, and was leading Willow through the steps. Dawn was dancing with the drow, the one with the eyes and funny name.
Buffy took a breath, trying to be calm. She walked over to where Andrew was standing, fussing with his cloak and dress sword. On her way she bumped into Deety Carter coming off the dance floor with a handsome elf.
“Hi Buffy,” Deety smiled.
“Hi Deety,” Buffy replied. “Oh wait. I left you in the last universe. What are you doing here?”
“I followed you guys to make sure you were okay. Alustriel is really into the whole multiverse government thing. She might be willing to sign a treaty. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“I guess,” Buffy said absently. The music changed and Willow and Kennedy came over.
“Buffy are you okay?” Willow asked. She stepped up and slipped her arms around Buffy.
Buffy hugged hard. “Oh Willow, I’m not sure what to do?”
“But it’s all settled silly,” Willow smiled. “Xander and Dawn are coming back with you.”
“Oh yeah, we talked it all out,” Willow explained. “They fell in love in a fairy tale, but can it last in the real world? They need to find out. Plus, Dawn has to start college.”
“Willow and I are staying,” Kennedy said.
“What?” Buffy said.
“Yeah, Giles needs my help with all the magical library stuff,” Willow explained. “And I need Kennedy to keep me safe.”
“Oh. But what about Giles?” Buffy asked.
“Oh he’s staying,” Willow said. “But he’ll be visiting lots, just like Dawn and Xander and you will be here lots.”
“I will be?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, ‘cause you want to visit me and Giles,” Willow said. “Actually now that we’ve got the formulas worked out, it’s easier to get here than say…London.”
“Plus, Dawn and Xander are likely to settle here so you should get comfy,” Kennedy said. “Besides, you’ve always wanted a chance to play princess, admit it Buff.”
“Maybe,” Buffy said slowly. The music changed again.
“Oh, it’s a tango!” Deety said. She looked around. “Andrew, do you tango?”
“Uh, no,” Andrew said quickly. “I sort of just watch the dancing.”
“Nonsense, I’ll teach you,” Deety said. She grabbed Andrew and dragged him onto the dance floor.
Xander came up with Dawn. “Hey you guys, this is sort turning into a party.” He grinned at them. “We haven’t done this since…hey…since the Bronze at least. Wow. We need to do this more often.”
“Yes we should.” Willow said firmly. “’Cause buds hang together, and we’re all best buds,” she smiled at Buffy.
“Yeah,” Buffy smiled. She winked at Dawn and turned to Xander. “Xander,” she said softly, “I’d really love to dance.”
“Sure Buffy,” he smiled and offered her his arm. “It’s this way.”
Andrew came stumbling up, red faced and Deety-less.
“What’s wrong, Andrew?” Kennedy asked.
“I’m…” Andrew hesitated. “I’m very confused.”
Xander twirled Buffy about the dance floor. She laughed. “Are you sure Xan? College is a long time.”
He smiled. “Dawn and I have waited a long time. A little longer won’t hurt.”
“Waiting,” she smiled. “Why Xander, are you telling me you’re being a gentleman?”
“It’s this world,” he shrugged. “It’s corrupting me.”
Horns sounded, faint in the distance. Xander frowned and a hush fell over the company. After a moment everyone began moving, talking in a buzz and heading for the exits.
“Well that was too good to last.” Xander said.
“What is it?” Buffy asked.
“Trouble,” he said. “Dragons, coming in from the north, it sounds like. Get your sword and stay close to Dawn.” They’d rejoined the others.
“No,” Dawn said at this last. “I’ll take Willow and Andrew and join the circle. Kennedy can watch all of us. Buffy should be with you.”
“No, I want Buffy with you,” Xander said. Dawn’s eyes flashed.
“Where will Xander be?” Buffy asked.
“In the air fighting the dragons,” Dawn replied.
“Cool,” Buffy said. “But he’ll need a sidekick. Heroes are lost without ‘em. So that’ll be me. Lead the way Xander.”
Xander stared at the two women, who stared back at him levelly. “Wow,” he said. “I just flashed on this long life of you two ganging up on me.” They laughed.
“Well, it’s not like you can take care of yourself,” Dawn said.
The horns sounded again and they hurried off.
For now at least. I’m actually a slow writer and need some time to recharge. I hope you all enjoyed it.