I do not own SG-1 or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A/N: Two years ago I switched computers from Apple to Window's base and I have regretted ever since. I have lost story updates, entire stories, chapters and pictures because of viruses, hard drives dying, and many, many times, the computer would simply freeze without saving my work. I hope that putting these stories on TTH is not against the rules. I need someplace to park them that will be virus free until I can afford another Apple.
A/N: Trucidora is the word I’m using for Amran for Slayer; it’s close to Latin for killer with a feminine ending. Khedebet is the Goa’uld I’m using for Slayer. It’s sort of means kill with a feminine ending. Both were supplied by potostfbeyeluvr who did the research and all the work in finding them. The words are there for any other author to use, as long as they credit potostfbeyeluvr in their author notes.
Strange words filtered into her awareness. Buffy could smell the fresh, damp earth under her cheek. She could feel the cool leaf covered ground leeching away what little body heat she had left. Something was wrong with this picture. For one thing it was mid-summer in Rome and even at night the heat was oppressive. For another thing the people talking around her weren’t speaking Italian. It sounded almost like the old Latin Giles had forced her to learn, it was close to Latin, but no cigar.
It didn’t matter, she was alive, the vamps that were trying to open the portal were slayed, and all she had to do was find a ride back to Rome. Or maybe not, she thought as she tried to sit-up only to become so dizzy she face planted back into the cool softness of the forest ground.
The people talking around her picked up in pitch at her movement and stopped again when she fell. Then she remembered that she was in the downtown warehouse district of Rome when she discovered the vampires already halfway through the ritual. She had no time to wait for back up; she had to rush right into the middle of the 30 odd vamps. Rome didn’t have a rich smelling forest in the warehouse district, did it?
She was pulled out of her thoughts by a pair of gentle hands stroking her cheek. Come to think of it, the coolness of the ground was beginning to feel good as the explosive fever of her slayer healing started. The grizzly old face of a woman came into focus and the woman asked her something in that strange language. When Buffy didn’t answer her, the woman looked up at one of the people standing around them. This meant that Buffy had to turn her head enough to follow the woman’s eyes. It was then that the Slayer started to figure out that she wasn’t in Kansas, or er, Rome anymore. Or if she was then there was one Hell of a power outage because the only light the people had were torches. Not the English version of torches, which were really flashlights, no her life could never be that easy, the people forming a small circle around her had sticks with fire on top.
Buffy groaned, “Am I in Hell, again?” She asked not really expecting an answer considering she hadn’t heard a single word of English or Italian since she’d woken up a good five minutes ago.
The old lady’s head snapped back around so fast that Buffy wondered if she was in the movie Exorcist. Then--despite the fact the Slayer was sure she had a concussion, knew by the way her arm didn’t want to work it was broken, and that the pain in her ankle could only mean it was broken too, in other words even with all her injuries--Buffy could see it in the woman’s eyes that she was safe.
“No Hell, child, you are on Amra.” The old lady said in heavily accented English. Buffy let out a relieve sigh, closed her eyes, and relaxed. She wasn’t in Hell; she was on Amra, what was an Amra? She’d figure out what Amra was later, right now her Slayer healing was demanding she sleep, so she did.
The scrape on Buffy’s cheek was being scratched by something. She tried to brush it away with her right hand only to discover that said hand and arm were tightly wrapped against her chest. She could feel her broken arm healing cleanly. Which was good because she didn’t want to have one of the mini’s break it again so that Giles’ could re-set it? Buffy’s head hurt, it hurt so badly that the simple act of her blood being forced by her heart through the vessels to it made it pound. She wanted to be sick and tried to push up so she wouldn’t choke. Only she couldn’t move, well she could move, she wasn’t paralyzed or anything or she didn’t think she was paralyzed? Buffy wiggled her toes and screamed! Yep, her ankle was still broken and nope, not paralyzed. She didn’t think being paralyzed would make her ankle hurt so much. She remembered that the vamps really did a number on her leg.
“Be still child,” the old woman from the forest said and the rim of a cup was pressed to Buffy’s dry lips. “Drink it all, its tea and it will help with the sickness and pain.” Buffy forced down the threatening nausea and took a tentative sip—then groaned in pleasure—the tea tasted wonderful. The woman held the cup as Buffy gulped it greedily. As she was promised the sickness began to recede, along with the pain.
As the pain was washed away Buffy could tell that she was lying on something soft and cool. And smelled like potpourri? She again tried to sit up on the strange smelling bed and couldn’t, though the bed did rustle as if it were made out of straw instead of whatever made mattresses. She remembered more of the fight in the warehouse in Rome. She had been on a routine patrol when her spidery sense went crazy. She had found at least thirty vamps performing a ritual and after calling it into Slayer Central she had rushed into the warehouse to stop whatever the vamps were doing.
Next thing she knew she was waking up in the forest with a bunch of people standing around her like they were taking in a show. People who took the idea of going “green” a little too seriously by the way they lacked electrical lighting.
As Buffy went from feeling no pain, to really ‘feeling no pain,’ she saw that she was in a small rustic looking room. The dim predawn light was coming in through the one windows and an oil lamp was burning brightly on the table next to the bed. The room looked more like a cabin with rough unfinished plank walls and old-fashioned cloth curtains in the window. There was no doubt about it; Green Peace had kidnapped her. Not that she had anything against Green Peace; they did try to save the whales! Those nice cuddly ten-ton animals that one swipe of their tails would kill you. Who was she to judge? They weren’t demons so she enjoyed watching Animal Planet and the people swimming next to them.
“Child, child, look at me,” the old lady said next to her and then gently grabbed her chin and turned Buffy’s head towards her. She felt drunk. Everything was fuzzing out one moment and then clear the next. The old woman next to her reminded her of Tara, if Tara had been old and grey. Though, she wasn't really that old, she was more like Giles' age, than old.
“Child,” the woman stroked her cheek, the non-cut cheek and it felt so nice, and motherly. “I am Arya, who are you?” She asked in broken English.
“Buffy,” she answered before she could stop herself. Not that she minded giving Arya her name. The woman had done nothing wrong and had only tried to help her.
“Buffy, I like,” Arya said approvingly, which was a first for the slayer; most people hated her name. “You heal like Goa’uld or Jaffa, yet you not? What are you?”
Goa’uld? Jaffa? What the Hell? The words echoed around in her head as she tried to concentrate. “Nope, doesn’t ring a bell,” she finally replied. She started to see double or she hoped it was double and there weren’t two lamps and two tables that were dancing.
“Buffy!” The woman shouted getting her attention. Arya was still slowly stroking the blonde’s face and it was so comforting… Despite being very drunk Buffy tried to focus on the woman’s words.
“Buffy what are you?” Arya repeated.
“The Slayer,” she blurted out without hesitation. It was as if her mouth bypassed her brain. So much for secret identity gal was the first thought she forced through the fog that had become her mind, the second was Arya had drugged her.
Regardless of the popular opinion among the Scooby’s, ever since all the slayers had been activated Buffy no longer told anyone about being a slayer. There were just too many lives at stake. She began to get very worried because it seemed like whatever Arya gave her was working and she was scared for the girls under her command.
“What is Slayer?” the woman asked, and again, before Buffy could stop herself she answered.
“A mystical warrior created to fight demons,” the slayer said. “No, no, no,” she cried shaking her head back and forth, trying to pull away from Arya. Why was she telling her this stuff? Where was her Slayer's resistance to drugs!
“You fight demons?” Arya demanded. Buffy gathered her will power to resist; it didn't work, as again she answered without pause.
“Yes, I fight against all evil,” she cried, frustrated tears began running down her face. Why was she telling her this stuff?
She grabbed onto wooden side of the bed with her left hand and pulled herself up so that she was almost sitting. The dizziness caused her vision to swim and she collapsed back onto the bed. “I shouldn’t be telling you about the slayers. Why am I telling you all this? Please I can’t betray them! It's my fault they were Called!”
“I know child, I know, what I did to you wrong,” Arya apologized. The old woman sounded so sincere until several people walked out from behind a curtain in what looked like a doorway to another room. Buffy couldn’t really tell if they were men or women her mind was so fogged and her eyes wouldn’t focus. Except for the one man who walked up to her peering down, the small man nearly sneered at Buffy.
"Are you Tau’ri?” A man demanded, it was one of the men Buffy recognized from the night before.
“A what?” Buffy was relieved, she didn’t answer right away. What was a Tau’ri?
“Are you a spy for the Goa’uld? Do you work with them?” Arya gently cajoled.
“No, I don’t know what they are,” Buffy answered immediately. “Stop this,” she begged. The way she was talking they could get any information they wanted from her. So far she didn’t think she’d said too much, but she could tell that the man was dangerous.
“Enough!” Arya said rising from the chair next to the bed. “You have all the answers, she is not Goa’uld nor a spy, leave and let her heal. I should never agreed to this questioning! Out! Out!” The woman pushed the man towards the door when it looked like he wanted to stay. “I say leave now.” And the man finally walked out.
“I am very sorry, Buffy. Please forgive me?” Arya begged. “Sleep now and we will talk about why they needed to know you weren’t a spy later.
As if Arya’s word were a command Buffy fell asleep with tears of her near betrayal to her sister slayers still in her eyes.
Arya was torn between anger at Byrne for swaying the Village Council into demanding that the toxin be used on the girl and anger with herself for agreeing to use it. It was clear that the girl wasn’t normal. It was also clear that she didn’t arrive on Amra through the portal of the stars. Both were good reasons to question her--just not to question her while she was still injured. Arya had broken her oath as a healer to do no harm. It didn’t matter if the Council would have just taken the girl by force had Arya refused; her actions were still wrong. ‘Harm ye none,’ her grandmother always, always said! And harm she had done.
The girl was now delirious with fever, and her leg was swelling with infection. All because she had used that blasted toxin! The girl had been healing so quickly that if Byrne had only delayed the questioning a day or two then Buffy would have been nearly healed and could have tolerated the toxin. It was almost like Byrne wanted the girl to die. The townspeople were nearly as strange in their habits as the Plainsmen of Amra, except the Plainsmen would never have insisted that she use the toxin on someone so grievously injured.
“Dawn!” The girl woke screaming and thrashing in her bed, nearly sitting up.
“Calm, child! It be hours ‘fore the dawn,” Arya soothed, supporting the girl's back as she lowered her back down onto the bed. Arya noted that she needed to change the girl’s shirt and bandages again because they were soaked through with her fever sweats.
Arya reach for the cup that held the medicine Buffy so sorely needed. “You need to drink this, child.” The girl just glared at the healer with half-lidded fevered eyes. “I am sorry for trick you. Please, if you do not begin to be better….” Arya cursed the strange language of the Tau’ri and her inability to learn it quickly. The girl was fading out of consciousness even as Arya searched for the unusual words. The healer set to work cleaning her wounds and changing her bandages while Buffy was unconscious.
The pain woke Buffy. Everything hurt, her legs, her arm, her ribs--everything was throbbing in time with her heartbeat. She could tell she had a fever because she was so cold her teeth were chattering. How could she be cold when she had a fever? Shouldn’t she be hot? Even worse than the pain was the smell; she knew something was badly infected because of the odor.
“My Lady Buffy, the Master Healer Arya left two draughts for you to drink upon waking,” a boy, standing next to her bed, said officiously. Buffy turned her head towards the boy and wished she hadn’t. She had forgotten about the concussion. The room tilted for a few moments as the slayer struggled to keep what little was in her stomach down.
“My Lady, if you will, this will help settle your stomach and help with the pain.” He held up a mug that even from two feet away Buffy could smell. She nearly gagged again, from the combination of odors drifting to her sensitive nose. For the first time she thanked the Gods that she didn’t have Oz’s sense of smell.
The boy tugged on her shirtsleeve to gain her attention. Buffy blinked her eyes clear so she could really look at the young boy. He could have been 10 or 16 years old, there was really no way to tell. He had dark curls flowing down to his shoulders, a cafe latte complexion, and the most brilliant green eyes Buffy had ever seen.
“Please, Lady Buffy, the Master Healer was very clear that you need this medicine to help with the pain and infection,” the boy was nearly begging her. She closed her eyes and gently lowered her head back to the pillow.
“So, she’s using children to trick me now,” she said, bitterly keeping her eyes closed against the brilliance of the morning sun. She was angry for letting herself be tricked so easily--was it the night before? Or longer? The woman reminded her so forcefully of Tara that she’d let her guard down.
“The Master Healer had to give you the Toxin of Truth.” The young man paused as if searching for words. Buffy opened one eye to see his face; he had a face that made you want to trust him. Just like Angelus had before he ripped your throat out. “The Master Healer was ordered to use the toxin by Councilman Byrne. If she had not used it, then Village elders would have taken you from her by force.” He finished speaking and then smiled, as if he had accomplished a great feat.
“Where is she now?” the slayer croaked, her throat raw.
“The Council did not believe that you were the Trucidora. That is an old legend. The Council believes that you are spy for the Goa’uld.” He paused and again, it seemed like he was searching for the words. So English was his second language, too. Buffy filed it away in her foggy mind.
“The Master healer sent for my father, Owen of the Plains, so that he could refuse the Council’s petition to use the Toxin of Truth again.”
That wasn’t good, at all. The Toxin of whatever wasted her yesterday; if they used it again, she would spill everything. Buffy had to get out of this place. Only she couldn’t move more than a few inches, and even that feeble attempt caused fire to shoot up her leg from her ankle. Buffy tried to stop the groan from escaping. She had no idea how many people were watching her at this very moment, just like before. She tried to breathe through the pain, except that made things worse, because she could now tell that the smell of infection was coming from her ankle.
“Look, all you have to do is phone my friends and they’ll send a rescue helicopter.” It sounded like she was pleading. She realized that, on top of feeling rotten from her injuries, she felt weak. Like the slayer was being suppressed, somehow. Add to that the fact that her injuries hadn’t healed, despite the late morning sun shining in the window meaning she’d been here for at least a day. Something was very wrong with her.
“Seriously, I don’t know where this place is, but there has to be a phone somewhere!” She felt hot tears roll down her face. “I have the money to pay you and your family.”
“You are on Amra,” the boy said, his dark brows drawn down in confusion. “Money? We have no use for money? And I live exactly how I want to: I am going to be Master Healer just like Arya!”
“Great, I’ve been sent to one place that doesn’t have capitalists!” ‘Willow, where are you?’
“Look, I will show you.” The boy put the cup down on the table next to the bed and took a step over to a chest next to the wall. He opened the drawer and pulled out a tablet of rough brown paper. Buffy closed her eyes again to block out some of the blinding bright light coming through the window.
“Lady? Lady Buffy?” she heard the boy calling to her. In her fevered state she didn’t know if she was asleep or awake until she forced her gritty eyes open, in time to hear. “You need to drink this before you nap or your leg will become worse.” The kid held the cup out to her, his face so earnest, so young, and innocent.
“What’s your name?” She croaked, swallowing hard, to find enough the moisture to talk. Maybe if she could stay awake for a little while she could convince the boy to go find a phone and call Willow. Or better yet, why hadn’t Willow found her? Why else did she endure two hours of stinky herbs and chanting, if not for the super duper, colossal, “phone-home” magical tag the Devon Coven placed on all the slayers? Even if this was a different dimension, which the stunting lack of capitalists made her suspect it was, Willow should have been able to find her by now!
“Lady?” The boy placed his hand on her good one. Or it would have been her good one if she were strong enough to move it. “You really should dri…”
“Your name?” she interrupted. There was no way she was going drink that concoction and be tricked again. At her sharp words the boy took a step back and nearly came to attention. “I am Tomas Owen, son of Plainsman Owen of the Red Rock Tribe, second-year apprentice to Master Healer Arya of the North Owl Woods.” Buffy blinked. Was she still asleep? Was she dreaming? Nope, the boy still stood proudly by her bed.
Could she just say, huh?
“Um, ok, is there something a little shorter I could call you?”
A girl slammed into the room.
“Tomas!” was the only word Buffy understood as the girl berated the poor boy in that same strange version of Latin in what was clearly a Cordelia-ish way. And berated, and berated. Though, to be fair, the kid seemed to be keeping up with the pretty, blue-eyed blonde. Maybe Buffy should be happy that she was awake enough to notice small things about girl.
“Silence!” the male voice boomed. “This is the House of Healing, and I will not tolerate the noise.” Buffy very carefully moved her head so that she could see the man that was walking into the room. He had to be Tomas’ father. He had the same ageless face and eyes. Then she saw Arya following the man, and she tried to shut down. If they gave her that toxin drug now….
“Lady Buffy, I am Owen, second son of Connor, Sovereign of the Red Rock Tribe, Keepers and Protectors of the Gate to the Stars,” the man said formally. He was nearly standing at attention, or the mirror image of Tomas’ posture earlier. The girl looked so taken aback that, after she tried to blend into the wall, she quickly left the room.
“Yay, long intro, what do you want?” she answered him, wary. What was it with these people and their long intros? What was wrong with, ‘Hey, I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer?’
Buffy could tell that she faded out a little, because the next thing she knew, Tomas was nowhere to be seen, and his father was sitting in the chair next to her bed. Arya was on the other side of the bed, just standing in the corner.
He was studying her like she was a bug. “Arya sent a runner to me last night asking for my help. She has never asked anything of my Tribe, despite the many gifts she has given us, so I could not refuse her. We went before the Village Council to decline their petition to have you take the Toxin of Truth once again. Arya felt it would kill you to take it with such injuries.”
He paused in his monologue, and Buffy didn’t know if she was supposed to acknowledge him or not. As far as she was concerned he was lying.
“Yeah, your point? Cause I got some sleep to catch up on,” she could hear the words slur as she said them. It was getting harder and harder to stay awake, not to mention that she really didn’t want to wake up. Heaven was waiting for her, though Willow with a slayer made cavalry wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.
Owen seemed taken aback by her attitude. Well, la-de-da, if she were at full strength she’d show them some attitude.
“I give you my word that you will not be harmed or drugged until the time comes that you have recovered from your injuries,” Owen of the plains said formally.
“Bite me,” she made sure to say it clearly. She closed her eyes in dismissal.
“Very well,” Owen said. Then strong hands held her head steady as Arya forced something into her mouth to hold it open.
“I am sorry, child. The Tau’ri have a better way to do this.” Arya poured a cold liquid into her mouth. It tasted terrible, and she tried to spit out, but whatever it was holding her mouth open didn’t let her. Owen was nearly sitting on her to keep her still.
The coldness of the liquid soothed her throat, and she could tell that her fever was already going down slightly. Owen stood over her as Arya removed the thing that held her mouth open.
“This is how easy it would be to give you the Toxin had we wanted to.” He pointed at Arya. “Do not give her any more trouble taking your medicines. I do not know how long I can hold off the Council.” With that, he stalked out of the room and Buffy heard a door slamming.
“Drink this now.” Arya placed a mug to her lips, and what choice did the Slayer have except to drink it? Before she had finished the mug of tea she felt light-headed with relief as the pain began to ease. She relaxed into the bed, and her last thought before sleep claimed her was she sure hoped that Scoobies found her soon.
A/N: Many, many thanks to revdorothyl for wading through this and BETAing it. Any and all mistakes are mine.
A/N: Thanks to Tasha None for reading it and pointing out the flaws.
As Councilman Byrne droned on about whether or not to build a new settlement by the river, Arya squirmed on the hard wood of the stool next to the wall. She tried hard not to glance at the big Tau’ri clock—again—because if she did she would get frustrated, and that would lead to her getting angry. She didn’t want to get angry. She didn’t like herself when she was angry. Arya wished she could have just ignored this meeting, like she did most of them, but she couldn’t. She had been summoned. The Full Council requested an update on the health of her most unusual patient. She moved again, causing her stool to scrape loudly over the polished oak floor. She blushed with embarrassment when all the people in the Hall turned to stare at her. Thanks to the Tau’ri design and help in constructing the Hall, sound carried very well.
“And that leads to the next subject on the agenda,” Byrne glared at her. “Master Healer Arya, when can we take custody of the Goa'uld spy?"
Arya let out a sigh. She knew this meeting of the Full Council and town wasn’t going to be easy; however, she had hoped that Byrne would be reasonable. She pushed to her feet, her achy back protesting her straightening it after so long on the uncomfortable stool, so that she was at her full height. As petty and simple as it was, she was slightly taller than the Councilman, and that might give her an advantage.
“You were there yourself, Councilman Byrne, when my gravely injured patient was given the Toxin of Truth,” Arya spoke clearly to all the assembled. “You and the council insisted the injured young girl be given it against medical advice. You and the Council heard her reply: she does not know of the Goa’uld. She is not a spy for the Goa’uld.”
The murmuring in the crowd told her that she had scored some points. However, Byrne was by no means stupid and he wouldn’t give up easily. While Arya didn’t like him or his methods, she was still thankful for what he had done during the Rebellion.
“That is correct, Master Healer Arya. What is also correct is that the girl arrived by using the Rings of the Gods! Everyone in the town saw the bright light shoot down from the heavens!” Several people in the crowd jumped to their feet shouting, “I saw it, I saw it!”
A lot of people had been killed during the Rebellion against Cronus’s Jaffa two years ago, and Byrne always played on the fear that the System Lord might return. Playing on people’s fears was something Arya really didn’t like about Byrne.
Arya raised her hands signaling for the people to take their seats. She had to keep her temper and stay respectful. She hated keeping her temper and staying respectful.
“Of course, Councilman Byrne, you are mistaken in some of your facts. Yes, a bright light appeared in the western sky, and then a small young girl lay broken and bleeding on the cold ground. Still, there was no Ring Device to receive the signal and there was no wreckage of a Tel’tak,” Arya corrected him. “And why are you the rushing to question the horribly wounded girl? Let her heal from her injuries. In a month or two, if you still believe her to be a threat, then question her again.”
The crowd grew silent, not so much in agreement with Arya, as in confusion, about the girl’s appearance. Arya knew she hadn’t won, because for the past five days, during closed sessions, Byrne always asked the one question no one could answer.
“If not the rings, then how, Master Healer Arya, how? How did the strange woman arrive on Amra?” The Councilman needlessly raised his voice as he was concluding the sentence. Of course Arya had no answer to that question. She just knew the girl wasn’t Goa’uld or a spy. And, of course, at Byrne’s prompting the crowd exploded into angry shouts. She wished Owen could have made the Council meeting. If he had come, then the subject wouldn’t have come up. Byrne couldn’t risk cutting off the meat freely supplied to the town by the Plainsmen.
The man waited until the noise died down. “I ask again, when can the Council take custody of the spy?”
“She’s not a spy!” Arya snapped. “You were there when she took the Toxin; you know it has never failed!”
The man waved for the people to sit down. “She claimed she was the Trucidora! The killer of the debased ones. Clearly her injuries made her delirious.”
“No, her injuries and the Toxin nearly killed her, and I cannot allow questioning until she is strong enough,” Arya declared and then started for the aisle that led to the back door of the Hall. She had to get out of the building quickly, or she would say something she regretted. Something like, ‘I will not fail her for a second time! I will not break my oath again.’
“We can take her if you do not see reason,” Byrne yelled and was cheered by the people.
That froze Arya in mid-step. She heard the whispers of ‘Kill the spy’ and ‘Death to the Goa’uld.’ Arya had to figure out a way to stop this now, not only for the sake of the girl, but for the sake of the House’s independence. Right now the Plainsmen supplied the town with food for no return barter, other than free access to the House of Healing. Soon, the town would be able to rebuild the damage the Rebellion caused and would have no need of the Plainsmen’s generosity. When that happened the House would fall directly under the Council’s thumb. Unless she made it clear to them that they’ll lose their healer as well as their food from the plains, if the Council insisted on being ignorant bullies.
“The House of Healing is independent; the Master Healer’s word is law within its walls. Will you all break the Articles of Freedom so soon after they were written and signed with the blood of our friends and family? Would you…” She quickly searched the faces of the angry, frightened people for someone she had seen recently. She saw bright red hair and knew immediately who it was: “Would you, John? Would you break into the House three weeks after we set Bryan, your elder son’s broken arm? Or you Michael, after we cured Sofia of the River Fever?” Faces turned away from her as people slowly sat down, trying to hide from her in shame.
“I am only saying let the girl heal from her injuries. Then I will bring her to you, Councilman Byrne.” She gave the man her back in dismissal and started down the aisle once more.
“You have two weeks, Master Healer! And pray that we aren’t attacked before then!” The man shouted at her back as she left the Council Hall.
Two weeks. She had two weeks to figure out what to do, because there was no way Byrne was going to do to Buffy what he wanted to do. Byrne had been trained by the System Lord Cronus to ferret out all rebellion in his slaves and Jaffa, and he was very good at his job. Or he was until the woman he had fallen in love with was taken by the Goa’uld to be a host. From that day forward he worked against the System Lord. And that made him a hero of the rebellion and Head of the Council.
Arya shuddered at the thought of Buffy at the mercy of Byrne—at the thought of any young girl at the mercy of Byrne’s questioning. Oh, Byrne wouldn’t actually touch the girl: he would just use small doses of the toxin day after day to break down all the young woman’s defenses and learn all of her secrets—even the ones she kept from herself. Used that way, the toxin would warp her mind. And if she lived and she was a Goa’uld spy, she would be turned against the System Lords. If she wasn’t a spy, then it would simply break her will so that she would never become a threat to the town.
Buffy woke to the sound of Tomas and the blonde girl, Alyssa, bickering in that strange Latin again. It was funny that the more Buffy heard the language spoken the more she understood what was being said. Giles tried to explain once how language changed from one region to the next. Perhaps the difference between this local language and the Latin she knew was sort of like the difference between Americanized English and that spoken by Giles.
She blamed her scattered thoughts on the drugs they were making her take.
Tomas was the first to realize she was awake. He always could tell, somehow.
“Good morning, Lady Buffy. How did you sleep last night?” he said in his formal, broken English. What Buffy wanted to know was: if everyone in this Hell dimension spoke Latin, then why or how did they learn English? She must have zoned because next thing she knew the kid had his hand out, holding a mug to her lips.
“I don’t want it,” Buffy said. She was tired of being drugged; she was tired of needing the drugs. She was tired of being weak. And she was tired of acting like a petulant child!
Whatever that Toxin thing was, it had stopped her slayer healing cold. By her count, she had been in this little corner of Hell for over five days, and her arm and leg were still as broken as they were when the vampire hit her with the ax. She was steadfastly ignoring the fact that if Willow was going to rescue her, it would have happened by now.
“Lady Buffy, you must, or the infection in your leg will grow worse,” Tomas said patiently, his green eyes sparkling. His face was so open and innocent.
It was as if she was the child and he the adult. Buffy took a deep breath; she didn’t need to take out her mood on Tomas.
“If it helps, Arya cut back on the sleeping weed this time. She said we are to get you up into a chair with wheels and take you to the room with a bath.” His grin was huge, because he knew she’d wanted a bath for days.
‘A bath!’ Buffy thought, trying to keep her face the neutral mask she had perfected during the long hours of training the mini-slayers. It didn’t work. Tomas’ grin was just too infectious. Buffy’s depression began to lift at the thought of actually getting clean. She knew it would hurt like Hell, because, well hello, broken bones here, but it would be totally worth it.
Sure she couldn’t forget that she was stuck in Hell, with no way home, and that she was hurt and her slayer healing was taking a vacation, however, was it wrong for just a few moments to let her guard down and smile with Tomas?
“Ok, I’ll drink it under one condition,” she bargained. “You stop calling me ‘Lady’ and just call me Buffy!”
Arya stopped in the doorway of Buffy’s room and watched the girl--no she was a young woman--as she asked questions of Tomas’ life on the plains. As he spoke, Buffy would gently correct his Tau’ri or help him find the right words. The fact that girl was beginning to understand Amran was not lost on the Healer.
Arya stood quietly in the shadows with the cooling mug of Buffy’s nighttime medicine in her hand. She was glad that her instincts were right to pair her youngest and most talented Apprentice with Buffy. Despite the difference in age and gender, the girl seemed to react well to Tomas and to trust him.
It was Tomas’ idea to have Alyssa help Buffy take a bath, regardless of the extreme pain it must have caused to the woman’s many injuries. And it seemed that pain was the trigger her incredible healing abilities needed to kick back in after the Toxin had stopped them.
The infection in her ankle had almost cleared up, between the time when Arya checked it this morning before the Council meeting and this evening. Byrne had given the girl two weeks, and now it seemed like Buffy would be healed in one.
And then Arya would have to turn Buffy over to the Council--she simply wouldn’t have a choice. Unless she could find some way to have Owen’s people take care of her, or maybe they could contact the Tau’ri and ask them to help? She didn’t know what to do about it now, and it was too late to figure it out tonight.
“Tomas,” she called out, stepping into the room. “Isn’t it time for Lady--I mean Buffy--to sleep?”
The young woman silently glared at Arya as she handed her the mug.
“Good-night, Buffy. Tomorrow I will bring you, ‘real food,”’ the boy said with a grin and then left the room.
Arya watched as the girl drank her medicine in two huge gulps. The Healer could tell that Buffy was tired, because she was asleep within seconds. As the healer arranged the young woman into a position that wouldn’t put pressure on her injuries she thought about what she would do. And all her thoughts came back to asking Tomas to contact his father—again—for help.
“Buffy, here is some more ‘real food.’” Tomas said as he walked into her room. “Master Healer Arya is worried that you have lost more weight.”
“Just put it on the table,” Buffy replied. She was doing one-armed and one-legged push-ups and she didn’t want to lose count. The count really didn’t matter, other than as a gauge of how well her stamina was coming back. Her leg and ankle were still splinted. The dictator, A.K.A. Master Healer Arya, had made it clear to Buffy that she was not to put any weight on the leg yet. Arya had even had Tomas translate for her to make sure Buffy understood that if she so much as thought about using her leg--then Arya would start the icky potions again.
Buffy’s arm and ribs were almost healed and just that morning Arya had removed the splint and sling from her arm. Buffy heard Tomas grab an apple off her tray and sit down on her bed. It must be his lunch hour, because he loved to hide from Alyssa in her room.
“You are aware that if Master Healer Arya caught you exercising, then she would have the sleeping medicine in here in seconds?” The boy spoke between very loud bites of the apple.
“Yes, that’s why I do it during the morning, when she’s at the Council Meeting, and at night when she’s tending the others,” Buffy gasped out as she pushed up one last time. She let herself drop down to the floor to catch her breath before starting on the one-legged version of squats, Tomas had helped her figure out how to do without killing herself.
Buffy used the ladder-back chair to help her get off the floor without putting weight on her injured leg. That’s when she noticed that Tomas was just sitting on her bed, staring out the window. Even in profile she could tell from the boy’s face that he was homesick and lonely. Buffy didn’t want to think about her home. She was getting more worried every day that the reason her friends hadn’t come for her was because they weren’t able to.
To distract herself and to try to cheer up Tomas, Buffy thought of the one topic of conversation that always brought a smile to his face—his horse.
“So, I think I saw Thunder last night in the moonlight,” she said, using what passed for a towel on Amra to wipe the sweat off her face and arms. “He’s the big, brown one with the star on his face?”
Wham! Instant smile. Tomas’ smile was so infectious that Buffy smiled, too. She knew she was about to get an excited listing of the big bay’s virtues that would more than likely include his not-so-virtuous nature.
She just shook her head; she couldn’t wait to tell Dawn about Tomas. Suddenly Buffy's throat closed as all the thoughts she’d been pushing back rushed to the surface. Maybe the reason Willow and the coven hadn’t come was because there was an apocalypse. Maybe the reason she was still in Amra after eight days was because the world had ended and Dawn was dead. Her eyes blurry, she wiped at the tears, hoping Tomas wouldn’t notice.
A small hand took her hand, and she looked down into concerned green eyes. “You never talk about your family. You have a sister, yes?” Buffy nodded. “Please tell me about her?” There was no reason to keep Dawn a secret, she wasn’t the Key any more, and she missed her so much. She let Tomas help her to the bed, and when she was settled she began to tell him about her mom and Dawn.
The door opened and Buffy glanced up from her breakfast to see Tomas standing in the doorway with the biggest ‘cat who ate the canary’ smile she had ever seen.
“What have you done?” Buffy asked, thinking he’d put a mouse in Alyssa’s bed again. Talk about adolescent crushes! He just held up what appeared to be an aircast for her ankle. Of course, since this was Amra, you could forget about the air, and it had buckles instead of Velcro. Actually, it appeared to be no more than two hardened strips of leather held together with leather straps; however there was no way to deny that it was a brace for her leg.
“Arya said you have to use a cane, and not to overdo it.” The boy came further into the room to show her the brace. “I thought you might like to go outside for lunch and meet Thunder?”
“I would love to meet your horse,” Buffy said, as if someone had asked her every day of her life if she would like to meet their horse.
She held out her hand for the brace. After figuring it out she thought that it might actually offer more support than the modern aircast. She might even get in a Kata or two, if she could talk Tomas into helping her move the bed.
Arya watched as the young woman tossed and turned trying to find a comfortable position. She had only gotten the brace two days ago and it was quite clear to the Healer that she and Tomas had overdone it this afternoon. Even with Buffy’s amazing healing, the young woman was subject to the aches and pains of over-exercising a recently broken leg. Still, the healing was incredibly fast; already the muscles in her leg were becoming toned. If Buffy had any place to go, Arya would have released her today.
It had been a week since Byrne had delivered his ultimatum and Arya was no closer to a solution. Owen had spoken to the elders of his tribe and they had agreed to allow Buffy to join them if she would honor their traditions and way of life. The only problem was: if Buffy went with the Plainsmen it would anger the people of the town. All the good the Plainsmen had done in the past two years would be forgotten. Byrne had convinced most of the town that the young woman was a spy or some kind of threat. He had the town’s people believing that their very survival depended on their getting to question her. So far Owen showing up at every Council meeting had kept Byrne in check. However, it was also taking Owen away from his tribe during the time of year when they brought their herds down from the hills and into the Groan Plains for the winter.
If she could contact the Tau’ri, maybe they could help her. Buffy spoke their language as if she was born to it and Arya suspected that she could read and write it too. The young woman was smart, so maybe she would be able to make a living as a translator for some Tau’ri tradesman?
Arya shook her head and turned away from the door to go find her bed. Buffy would not ask for a dose of sleeping medicine, and she was healed past the point where Arya could insist she take it.
‘I so don’t need a Slayer dream! Not right now!’ Buffy thought as she walked down the empty halls of Sunnydale High. She reached Mrs. Calendar’s room on the way to the Library and noticed a familiar figure sitting at the desk.
“Willow!” Buffy shouted, and ran into the room grabbing her startled friend in a hug. “I’ve missed you so much! Are you okay? Is the gang okay?” It was after a few seconds that Buffy realized how thin Willow was and how fragile she felt. Buffy gently released her best friend. Holding her at arm's length, she was shocked to find an old woman instead of the young woman she remembered. Then Buffy was afraid that she could have hurt her. “I didn’t break you, did I?”
“No, what are a few broken ribs between old friends!” Willow waved her off with a grin and sat back down in what Buffy used to call her ‘teacher’s’ chair.
“Yeah, um, Will, speaking about the 'old' in old friend? What happened?” Buffy took another step back and glanced around the room. ‘Yep, same computers, same classroom Willow tutored me in after school.’
“Well, you see, Buffy, we um, we really don’t have time to catch up this visit, 'cause you have another world to save.” Willow babbled, averting her eyes. “At dawn, Amra time, these guys," she pointed down at her computer monitor and some strange medieval armor-wearing soldiers appeared. “Are going to attack through the Stargate.” The computer screen changed to the picture of a giant metallic ring in the middle of a field with high cliffs surrounding it.
“Great! Um, dawn? As in this morning? You couldn’t give me more warning?” Buffy couldn’t believe it. “How am I even going to be able to find this ring-gate-thingy?” She knew what Willow was telling her was the truth, the fact that this was the weirdest and most informative slayer dream she’d ever had not-withstanding
“No, I’m sorry Buffy, we really couldn’t give you any more warning. You would have tried to warn the people of Amra and they already think you're a spy for the bad guys.” Willow said regretfully. “The people of Amra are still quite traumatized and grieving from the last attack. They are trying to overcome their fear and lead normal lives, but everything is so new and frightening to them. They need someone to blame, someone they can direct their anger at. They needed a scapegoat, and a person in power gave them you.”
“So I’m alone and I have to save people that hate me? Nothing new there,” Buffy said, bitterly. “Can I come home after I save the day? Will you at least tell me if ‘home’ is still there?” Buffy tried to keep the pleading out of her voice and knew she had failed when Willow’s expression changed to one of sympathy.
“The world is still here, however Buffy, we really don’t have a lot of time. I have to prepare you for the Jaffa.” She clicked the mouse on the computer. The funky soldiers appeared again. “These foot soldiers are called Jaffa. They're slightly stronger than your run-of-the-mill vampire. The problem is they have energy weapons. The staff weapon will kill you if it hits you. It has one weakness in that it has horrible aim. Next is a zat’ni’katel, which are sort of like stun guns on steroids. Finally and most importantly, the Jaffa is well trained. They'll think nothing about giving up their lives to gain the advantage in a fight for their fellow warriors.”
Buffy was stunned; she leaned heavily against the desk. Energy weapons, ray guns, trained soldiers?
“Will, I can’t win against these guys.” Buffy wanted Willow to understand. “Not against range weapons. You know a slayer fights in close, hand to hand. The numbers will overwhelm me.”
‘And how can I save Tomas if I’m dead? Buffy thought. She really wouldn’t mind dying. Just a few days ago she had been praying for it. Heaven was waiting for her. She would mind if Tomas or Alyssa, or even Arya died.
“Hence the 'get there at dawn before the Jaffa start coming through the gate'. If you can catch them coming through the gate, then you might have a chance to hold them off until help gets there. Buffy, this is really the only chance the people of Amra have.”
“Willow, there has to be another way to beat these guys,” Buffy interrupted her. “Tell me how to beat these guys!”
Willow shook her head sadly. “You can’t beat them Buffy; the people of Amra, together, have to defeat them. We are all ultimately responsible for our own destiny. Your job is to delay the main attack until of the people of Amra can mobilize in their own defense.”
“Willow,” the dream world of the classroom started to fade. “Willow, wait! Just tell me, is Dawn okay? Willow?”
“Buffy, wake up! Buffy, wake up!” Tomas’ frightened voice pulled her from sleep. She saw Arya and Alyssa in the doorway of her room and felt other people in the hall.
She looked into Ayra's eyes and knew that she had been talking in her sleep. Well, that couldn’t be helped. She pushed the sheets and blankets off her and stood, testing her ankle.
“I need pants and my katana, now.” For some reason Arya didn’t argue. “Oh, and which way is it to the ring-gate-thingy? The Jaffa are coming.” Alyssa fainted and Tomas looked like he was about to go into shock.
Arya came all the way into the room, closing the door behind her. She knew that someone would already be on their way to the town to raise the alarm about the “spy.”
The young woman was a wreck. She was sweating and her face was pale. When she stood, Arya saw that her leg wouldn’t support her weight for long without the brace.
“Tomas,” Arya barked in Amran. The poor boy was about a heartbeat away from going into shock from fear, and she couldn’t let that happen. “Tomas, go get a pair of your pants and a warm shirt. The pants will be too short for her, but they will do. Then stop by my office and in the closet is her sword. And go saddle Red.”
The boy stood up to his full height. “We have to take Thunder: he’s the only horse fast enough to get to the Chappa’ai -- I mean, the Gate of the Stars -- before dawn.”
The young woman reacted then, and Arya was proven right that she understood the language. “We aren’t going anywhere. I am going, and I won’t risk Thunder!” Buffy said in Tau’ri. Understanding a language and speaking it were two different things, and it showed Buffy’s maturity to know the difference.
Tomas rounded on Buffy, his eyes bright with tears. “You won’t be able to find the Chappa’ai; it’s in a wash with only one way in. The guards don’t know you, and they will kill you.”
Arya stepped between them. “Go, Tomas; if I know Byrne, he’s already on his way.”
He slipped out the door without letting the people standing in the hallway see inside.
“He’s not going. I won’t let him or his horse go; it's not going to happen. I can run. I'm the Slayer, not him,” Buffy said firmly.
“You don’t have a choice, girl. He’s right, you won’t be able to find the Gate, and his people will kill you if you go near it without him,” Arya said in Amran. Buffy knew what she was saying was true, so why risk a misunderstanding? Arya took a step forward so that she was in the girl’s personal space, and stared down at her. “Are you really the Trucidora or Slayer?”
Buffy kept eye contact as she nodded. “Since I was fifteen,” she whispered. The pain Arya saw in Buffy’s eyes at that moment convinced her. Not that there had been any doubt who Buffy was when she first appeared in the forest with a sword clutched in the hand of her broken arm.
“I thought so,” Arya said. She saw the brace on the chest next to the door. “Sit down on the bed and let me put this on, so it won’t chafe or cut off the circulation.”
Buffy complied and sat staring off into space. She seemed so lost and so very young to Arya. She was too young to be going off to fight the Jaffa -- though even the women and children of the town had stood and died in its defense two years ago. Arya wished sometimes that the Tau’ri had never returned with their offer of freedom at such a high price.
“The Slayer in the legends had an unbreakable sword that would always stay sharp and even cut through Jaffa armor. Is this true?” Arya asked.
“It cut through the hide of a De’ned’le demon. I don’t know if it will cut through the armor a Jaffa wears—yet,” Buffy answered. Arya saw that she was distracted as she babbled on. “Willow put the whammy on it, so yes, one unbreakable and very sharp sword at your service. I just wish I had the Scythe, instead.”
By the way the different expressions were playing over Buffy’s face, Arya thought that she was trying to formulate a plan in her mind. Arya had the sudden insight that Buffy might not know what to expect from the Jaffa and that she needed to quickly explain everything she knew. As strange as it might seem, Buffy could be from a world without the System Lords.
“The Jaffa will come through the gate two to three at a time, ready to fire their staff weapons. You will have to kill them, or they will keep fighting to their last breath. You cut off an arm, the Jaffa will fight you with the remaining arm. You cut off their feet, they will fight you from their knees. The only true way to kill them with one blow is to kill the Prim’tah and mix its blood with that of the Jaffa.”
“The what?” Buffy asked, and Arya knew her instinct was right about Buffy needing basic information about the Jaffa.
“The Jaffa have a pouch where they keep an infant Goa’uld in their stomachs. If you can cut the stomach and the Prim'tah at the same time, then their blood will mix and the Jaffa will die. Though, not right away. However, the pain of the blood blending should disable the warrior quickly.” Arya explained. “Of course, the Jaffa know this, so they concentrate their armor around the Prim'tah.”
“That would make sense; if you have a known weakness, you protect it. If my sword works, then one strike and move on. Just like Giles always said.” When Buffy had no questions, Arya thought about what she would need to know about the Gate.
“Tomas’ people are in the middle of bringing their herds down from the mountains, so there will likely only be three to four men guarding the gate with the weapons of the Tau’ri. That’s probably why the Jaffa picked now to attack. Let Tomas do all the talking when you get there.” Arya paused. She reached out to hold Buffy’s chin in her hand, to make sure she could see the Slayer’s eyes. “Then please tell Tomas to take Thunder to warn and gather the others; please insist the boy leave.”
“You have my word,” the Slayer promised.
A knock on the window surprised both women. Tomas pushed it open.
“Hurry, Buffy! I can see the light of torches coming down the road from the town,” the boy said urgently. He threw the pants and shirt at her, and then turned his back so she could change. Arya had been right about the pants, they were a little short, but otherwise they fit. As Arya helped Buffy put on the strange shoes Buffy called ‘sneakers’, the healer wondered if she would ever see her alive again.
Buffy was changed and out the window in less than a minute. And as Arya stood at the window watching her leave she wished that she could stop both children from going into this fight.
Tomas motioned for Buffy to sit in the saddle. He handed her the sword and then he climbed up the on the big horse behind her. “Hang on to the saddle until you feel the rhythm of the canter, then try to lean forward into it.” The horse took one giant leap and they were off into the night.
“Please let them come back,” Arya asked her goddesses. Still, she knew that the chances of Buffy surviving were slim.
The clatter of Thunder’s hooves was already muffled in the far distance when the first of the townspeople arrived. Seeing Arya standing in the open window, they ran up to her.
“Where is the spy?” several shouted before Byrne could push his way to the front of the mob.
“There was no spy. She was the Slayer of legend, just like she told you, Councilman.” Arya couldn’t help the pride she felt at knowing the young woman. “She has gone off to fight the Jaffa until we can get there to help her.”
“It’s true that the Jaffa are coming?” someone shouted. “No! A trick! We need to catch the spy!” someone else shouted.
Arya raised her voice so she could be heard over the noise. “You all knew when the Tau’ri helped us move the Chappa’ai and set up the defenses that all of us--all the people of Amra—would someday have to fight to defend it. Now is the time. Now is the time that we can avenge our family and friends we lost two years ago.” The people of the town knew their responsibility, and Arya was confident that they would be marching towards the Gate within the hour.
Until Arya saw the expression on Byrne’s face.
“Or we could be headed into a trap set by the Jaffa,” he said, glaring at Arya. “The Jaffa probably knew that this was the time of year when the Plainsmen only keep watch over the Chappa’ai and not a guard. The Plainsmen are more than likely already dead and Jaffa are waiting for us.”
“You can’t do this, Councilman! The Trucidora said they would attack at dawn, if we gather our weapons and leave now we can get there before the sun is over the horizon. We can stop the attack before the all the Jaffa are through the Chapp—the Gate of the Stars!” Arya was incredulous. She wanted to fly through the window and rip Byrne’s head off.
“How did she know?” was yelled at Arya from in the mob.
The people were just standing around, shifting from foot to foot. They were frightened, of course. However, they knew what they had to do.
“She had a dream, just like the legend foretold. We have to go now,” Arya insisted.
“The Slayer was supposed to come when the need was the greatest. That would have been two years ago. Not now. This is a trick. If you disagree with my decision, then you can take it up at this morning’s council session when we decide if we kill the spy on sight, or try her for crimes against the people. Good night, Master Healer.” Byrne turned on his heel and started back towards, the town the grumbling mob behind him.
“My healers and I leave in fifteen minutes, any who are not cowards, get the weapons the Tau’ri gave you and meet us here,” Arya yelled at the Councilman’s back.
Tomas was right about the rhythm of the big horse. Once she felt it, Buffy was able to move with the horse, instead of bouncing up and down. She felt like she was in a rocking chair, rather than on top of a nearly two meter high animal. The stirrups were worthless, and bothered her leg more than they helped her, so she ignored them. She just squeezed the horse’s broad back with her knees and hoped she didn’t hurt Thunder.
She thanked God that the moon was at three quarters on a clear night because it shone off the light colored stone of the road. She could see as clearly as if it was noon on a cloudy day, and apparently Tomas‘night vision wasn’t that far behind her. After about an hour Tomas shouted a quick, “It’s a short cut" and "Hang on,” in her ear, then he turned the horse onto a small dirt trail. The horse barely slowed down to find his legs on the new surface. The trail was so small that even with the moon and her enhanced sight she could barely make it out.
A short time later they left the hills and the trees behind started straight across the open prairie. She watched as the mountains in the distance drew closer and closer as they raced the moon across the sky. The fact that she could feel the faint stirring of the sun in the west was mildly disturbing. Her Slayer senses told her it was west, while Buffy kept thinking east. She wondered if it hadn't caused some of her disorientation when she'd first ‘arrived’ on Amra.
They had just entered a narrow, dry wash, with the walls of the canyon extending thirty meters or more over their heads, when a man stepped out from behind a boulder. Thunder slid to a stop in front of the man, who had a small automatic gun that Buffy had never seen before. Not that Buffy knew guns, because she didn’t.
“I am Tomas, Son of Owen,” her guide shouted, as soon as Thunder came to a stop. Buffy could feel Tomas shaking. “I bring the Slayer with a warning of a Jaffa attack.” Even with the moon’s light blocked by the walls of the dry-wash, Buffy could plainly see the man’s face go pale, then he stumbled back a few steps as if he’d been slapped.
“I-I am—“ the man standing before them had to stop speaking to cough and change what he was about to say. “Are you sure? I had heard Owen of the Red Rock Tribe thought that strange visitor was the Slayer. Are you sure?” Buffy could tell by the way Tomas’ back stiffened that the man had broken some kind of rule by not identifying himself.
Thunder was stomping around, breathing heavily. Buffy knew that it wasn’t good for a person to just stop and stand still after a long run, so it couldn’t be great for the horse either.
“Tomas go warn the others,” Buffy said, lifting her leg over the neck of the horse, and she jumped off the big bay, landing lightly on her uninjured leg. Her sword shone in the waning moonlight.
“The sword!” the man in front of Buffy gasped. She was worried the man was going to faint or fall to his knees.
“Listen,” Tomas didn’t shout, he simply projected his voice. “I swear on my father’s name, she is the Slayer of the debased. She had one of the dreams from the legend, warning of a Jaffa attack at dawn. Let us pass and then spread the alarm!”
“No!” Buffy cried, and grabbed Thunder’s reins and pulled on them so that the boy was almost unseated. “You are the only one who can warn the others; go, now!”
When Tomas started to raise his head Buffy knew she had to cut him off before he stood at attention on the horse. “I need help; I can only hold them off for so long. Go, Tomas--find help.”
“Tomas, Son of Owen, tell the Tribes that Bran, Son of Cadman, will stand with this Slayer for as long as we can hold the Gate of the Stars. Thunder’s swiftness is well known among the Tribes. Do you wish us to die needlessly because help did not arrive in time?” The man stood at attention in a mirror of the way Tomas and Owen did when they said something formally.
“And I, Devin, Son of Deirdre, stand with the Slayer. Ride Tomas; ride sure, ride fast.” Another man stepped out from the wall of the canyon behind them.
“And Perth, Son of Shayla, will stand with the Slayer,” called another man from the other side of the canyon and again behind them. “Make sure a song is written about how we stood against the army of the Jaffa, young Tomas.”
Tomas sank down and eased forward into the saddle. She knew he was going to leave so she released the reins and started following Devin down the dry-wash.
“Buffy,” Tomas called to her, and it sounded like he was getting choked up. Buffy turned around to see the small boy sitting atop the huge horse. There were tears shining on his face as he proudly lifted his chin. “Buffy, Daughter of Joyce, Sister of Dawn, fight well, and thank you.” He reined Thunder around and rode off.
Buffy watched him until he disappeared into the darkness.
I would like to thanks Revdorothyl and potostfbeyeluvr for Beta reading.
“Where’s the gate thing?” Buffy said, in English. She really didn’t want to try her hand at speaking Amran. “We don’t have a lot of time and I need to figure things out.”
“This way,” Devin replied, in halting English. He motioned Buffy to follow the three men as they ran down the wash.
“Okay, I understand Amran; I just can’t speak it. Devin, how much of what I’m saying do you understand?” she asked, keeping pace with the men despite her leg protesting.
“I understand Tau’ri quite well, from the time when the famous Warriors of SG-1 were here helping us move the Chappa’ai,” Devin answered, in Amran. The wash opened into a cavern.
“As do Perth and I,” Bran said, also in Amran.
“Good, so language won’t be an issue,” Buffy stated, relieved that she didn’t have to contend with a language barrier during a fight. Sometimes, just simple communication was a real issue with the mini Slayers coming from all over the world.
Then they entered a cavern and the incredible beauty of it stole her breath away. The walls rose fifty meters high and instead of opening at the top, like the wash, they closed to form a cathedral ceiling. The rock of the walls had glowing striations of blue, green, and orange, which gave the cavern an almost stained glass window effect.
“Wonderful, isn’t it?” Devin mentioned, beside her. “This is the most sacred and beautiful place on all of Amra.”
He gave her a few seconds to gape at the cavern, and ‘gape’ was the right word…unless it was ‘ogle’. Buffy would be down with ‘ogle.’ She knew that water had caused the unique rock formations of the dry wash because she’d seen the same thing in Arizona on one of the family vacations her mother insisted on when she was a child.
While it was clear that at one time water had run through the chamber, it wasn’t water that caused the striations in the rock. The cuts were too even and precise. She walked closer to the nearest wall and ran her fingers over the cuts. She discovered the wall was made up of one big living crystal.
“The Tau’ri think the crystals in this cavern are used in the flying ships of the Goa’uld. We moved the Chappa’ai here because it was easy to defend and because the Jaffa can’t use some of their most destructive weapons without fear of hurting the delicate ‘crystals’,” Perth explained.
He walked up next to her, and even in the dim light she could now see the distinctive features of the Plainsmen. Her mind catalogued that on one level, and on another she wondered what dimension used crystal magic for their planes? Willow maintained that earth was at least ten years away from inventing a way to write data storage into crystals, much less use them for a control system. This dimension must have some serious magic users.
She shook her head to clear her mind. She could feel the sun rising, even if she couldn’t see it. Willow had said dawn. What Buffy didn’t know was if Willow had meant pre-dawn when the sun was rising or dawn when the rays of the sun actually hit the Gate.
And speaking of the Gate, she turned around to find it in the long cavern and wasn’t disappointed. The Gate was huge. Two or three men wearing armor could stand next to each other in the middle of it. She hoped that the Jaffa would send two at a time through.
“What do you think, Slayer? How should we defend it?” Devin anxiously questioned. Buffy glanced at his open, hopeful face, and then looked at the other two men who wore the same expressions. They knew the odds were against them, yet they needed to have something to believe in, and that was her. Buffy didn’t want it: she was so tired of being the general, she was so tired of people dying because of her mistakes.
She turned away from the men to face the Gate. The ground around the Gate was open; there were no obstacles between the cavern and the wash. No place to hide from the Jaffa weapons, and no place for the Jaffa to hide.
Buffy quickly surveyed the cavern for something to put up in front of the gate so that the Plainsmen would have some cover. There was nothing to use; it was as if the ground had been swept clear.
She walked towards the Gate with a vague idea forming in her mind. Willow had said that the staff weapons had terrible aim, and Buffy was willing to bet that the guns didn’t. The men would have to be positioned close enough to the Gate so that they would be able to hit the Jaffa as they came through, and far enough away so that Jaffa couldn’t hit them.
Buffy had no problem imagining the Gate as an anchor for a portal. There were plenty of doorways, gates, and windows as anchoring points for portals on earth. So the fact that it just looked like a big metal ring wasn’t a big deal to her. She was sure that when the fireworks started it would be impressive.
She heard more than felt the men following behind her. She could smell their fear in their sweat and could hear it with each quick, shallow breath they took. What did Giles say once? Courage wasn’t the absence of fear, it was the ability to set it aside. Or something like that--she could never remember those sayings correctly.
Her mind was racing around in circles. She wasn’t able to tie up all the loose ends to make a plan so the men behind her would be able to survive. The problem with her vague plan was that it stayed vague. She just didn’t know enough about the weapons or the Jaffa to formulate one.
She abruptly whipped around, and the three men nearly ran her over. This wasn’t Sunnydale; this wasn’t even Slayer Central, where she had people telling her what to kill and how to kill it. Well, maybe it was a little bit like it, with Dream Willow and Arya’s quick explanations. The issue at hand was that she’d never been in a firefight with weapons that shot at a range, other than crossbows. For all her experience, this was new.
“Okay, guys, I know you think I’m this huge, big, mythic Slayer and all, but I don’t have all the answers here,” she said, her head down. She was frightened about admitting that she was just as lost as they were. It was a tremendous relief to admit it, and at the same time she felt diminished.
And on top of everything else, she could feel the sun getting closer and closer with each passing second they waffled. Devin stepped up to her and took her hand, waiting for her to look up and catch his eyes.
“You were not sent to rescue us, you were sent to help us. We do not expect you to have the answers; only our ancestors know what the outcome of today will be. We just need to slow the Jaffa until the Tribes and the townsmen can get here.” He released her hand and pointed to places in front and to the side of the Gate.
“The Chappa’ai was in the town’s square when Cronus’ Jaffa attacked. After the attack the Plainsmen asked for it to be moved here, where we could defend it. Only a platoon of Jaffa came through the Chappa’ai two years ago, and they were able to slaughter nearly a quarter of the townspeople.” Devin said, his eyes clouded in pain. “The Plainsmen didn’t hear of the attack until nearly two days after it happened, while even more of the town’s people died needlessly of festering wounds. Children died without their mother’s milk to feed them.”
Devin swallowed hard, his head down, and he moved away from Buffy.
“Forgive his manners, Buffy, the Slayer: his tribe was the first to find the town.” Perth took over the story. “The Tau’ri offered aid in the form of medicines and food in exchange for some of these crystals,” he waved at the walls of the cavern. “They helped us move the Gate and set up defenses for when the Jaffa came back. They only gave us weapons after we gave them even more crystals.” He raised the gun to show it to her.
“The Townspeople store most of the big guns the Tau’ri traded to us. The reason there are no places for cover up to the Gate is so the Jaffa can’t hide from the Tau’ri guns. Should the Jaffa make it through to the wash, then they still have more than a mile to run with the Tribes and townspeople firing down at them from atop the walls of the wash.”
“Like fish, in a barrel,” Buffy commented. “So we are only speed bumps for the Jaffa.”
“That is exactly what the great Tau’ri warrior Colonel O’Neill said. The town keeps the big guns and ammunition, because they can keep them dry and we can’t carry them around from camp to camp,” Perth said, showing her the weapon and the extra ‘clip’.
“Okay, so you three have guns right now and you know to aim for the stomach where the baby Goa’uld lives?” At their nods, she continued, “then the Tau’ri showed you how to use the guns and stuff?” They nodded again.
The ground started shaking, and Buffy being from Southern California immediately thought earthquake! and that she would meet her doom before the Jaffa came. Then the big ring’s symbols started lighting up around it. The Plainsmen were already running forward and spreading out, like Riley’s guys would do when they were going to shoot a demon instead of capture it.
The Gate looked like a giant toilet flushing sideways, and a stable portal was created.
Blasts from the staff weapons preceded the Jaffa through the ring, and they momentary stunned Buffy by their noise. The Jaffa came running through the Gate at full speed only to be cut down by the first shots of gunfire. The first two, then four, were shot before they were able to take two steps. Five and six fell on top of the pile. Jaffa number seven slipped and fell in the blood already coating the soft sand and was shot where he lay.
Eight was alive when he fell and it was just two quick steps for Buffy to swing her sword down on his helmeted head.
‘Yep, the sword cuts through armor,’ she thought.
Adrenaline rushed through her system and Buffy felt the familiar stirrings of the Slayer. She let the Slayer loose--there was no need to control it, no need to slow it down. She could feel the evil radiating off each of the tin men as they raced out of the Gate.
Then the next Jaffa got through the guns of the Plainsmen and ran directly into her sword. It went through his body like butter, and the Slayer purred. The Jaffa’s momentum slammed into Buffy, and she was pushed back as her feet fought for purchase in the already blood-soaked sand. Two more Jaffa were almost on top of her, so all she could do was abandon her sword and grab the staff weapon from the dead one as he fell.
As soon as she touched the weapon the knowledge of how to use it flooded her mind. Never had this happened to her before. Slayers had a natural ability to use weapons but it still took work and training. The staff weapon felt like she’d been using one for forever.
She easily found the trigger switch and killed the Jaffa on her right as he was raising his staff to fire at her. Then she swung the staff weapon in her hands so hard it broke over the helmet of the one running at her from the left. She threw the broken staff away and yanked another weapon out of the wounded Jaffa’s hand, his weird, bird-like helmet hopelessly dented. Buffy shot him without thinking about it, she was already moving on.
Buffy turned back to the Gate and had a fleeting moment of hope because the ground in front of it was littered with corpses. There were so many that it had to be close to a platoon of Jaffa already dead! Didn’t Perth say a platoon was all they sent the last time they attacked?
Except the tin men continued to pour through the Gate. On one level her mind was constantly counting and assessing the Jaffa, and on another level she realized that one of the Plainsmen’s guns had fallen silent, which left two. She couldn’t let herself look up to see if Devin was dead or wounded, or just simply out of bullets. She forced all emotion down deep inside, to the place she used during the battle with the First.
The Slayer knelt and began shooting the Jaffa with the staff weapon. Accuracy wasn’t a problem for her; what was a problem was that the staff weapon couldn’t fire fast enough to hit all the Jaffa coming through. She had to concentrate her fire on just the right side of the Gate, while the two remaining Plainsmen took care of the left side.
Another gun fell silent, and to her relief, she saw out of the corner of her eye Bran run up and grab a staff weapon from a fallen warrior. His aim wasn’t as good as Buffy’s, so more and more of the Jaffa were wounded and not killed. The wounded warriors were able to use the bodies of their fallen comrades as cover and return fire, causing the Slayer and the Plainsmen to back up.
The last of the Tau’ri guns fell silent and was replaced with energy blasts from the staff weapons. Buffy continued to kill the Jaffa as they left the Gate, while the two Plainsmen shot at the Jaffa taking cover. Buffy could see the number of Jaffa growing and knew that soon the warriors would rush her and the Plainsmen.
Buffy kept firing, kept killing, kept ignoring the stench of burning flesh and spilled guts. The Slayer was fully engaged in the slaughter. Buffy wasn’t. Buffy’s mind kept working, kept trying to find a way out. A way she could save the day.
She ran different scenarios of the battle through her mind and kept coming up with the fact that the tin men outnumbered them and would rush them sooner or later. The next best place to hold off the Jaffa would be the opening to the wash. Only she didn’t know how to get the remaining Plainsmen there in one piece. And while she was thinking about getting the Plainsmen to the wash, she continued to catalogue how many Jaffa made it through the Gate wounded and unwounded.
She prayed that the Plainsmen would see her signal and move back. Buffy, of course, would wait for the Jaffa to charge and hope that she could knock down enough of them so that Bran and Perth could make it to the wash.
Buffy steadied the staff weapon so she could shoot it with one hand and then waved at the men behind her to run. The weapons fire behind her didn’t stop the first time, so she waved at them again. This time the weapons fire from behind her died down and she could tell Bran and Perth were retreating.
The Jaffa noticed it too, and laid down such withering cover fire that even Buffy had to stop shooting and roll out of its way. Then the Jaffa were pouring through the Gate in what seemed to be an endless river.
Buffy was able to make it to her sword before the first part of the charge reached her. She just didn’t have time to reach down and pull it out of the dead warrior. Why the Jaffa weren’t firing at her as they closed in, she didn’t know. What she did know was if she didn’t slow them up they might overrun Bran and Perth in seconds.
The Jaffa lowered their helmets as they surged forward and Buffy could finally see the faces of her enemy. They all appeared to be young men. Buffy had to push that down too. She couldn’t let herself be distracted or to think of the Jaffa as human. They felt evil, and that was that mattered.
She waited until the first ones were almost on her then she stepped aside, dropped to one knee and swung the staff weapon as hard as she could at their legs. The ensuing pile-up would have been comedic, if the situation wasn’t so dire.
She stood, grabbing her sword, and in a one fluid motion slashed the next three Jaffa across their mid-section, so that they fell into the ones behind them.
She waded into the middle of the pack, because if she didn’t get in close they could just shoot her. Holding her blade with both hands, she swung it back and forth in front of her as hard as she could, and she was able to slice a path. The Jaffa were trained to use their staff weapons to block and parry, only there wasn’t enough room for them to do more than hold the staff front of them. Her sword, her beautiful Katana, was enspelled to stay sharp and deadly. The sword was a tool, and it didn’t care if it was cutting armor, flesh, or the staff of the weapon. Most of the men died with both parts of their staff weapon still in their hands.
Her arms began to burn from the strain, and her footing was unsure as she stepped over and around the bodies of dead and dying Jaffa. Maybe if she had been able to recover normally from the fight in Rome she wouldn’t have tired so easily. She’d never know.
She just kept moving forward, kept trying to make the Jaffa stop and focus on her long enough for the men to make it the few hundred yards to the wash entrance. Her chest felt like it was on fire as she forced the foul-smelling air into her lungs.
The first blow she felt had to be from a fist and was high on her right shoulder. It wasn’t disabling, so she just kept moving. Her only thought now was to kill as many as she could before they took her down.
The second blow had to be a staff weapon to her side and caused her to grunt in pain. She lost more air out of her straining lungs. The next one pushed her off balance, so that her would-be victim was able to block her blow. She went with the direction he shoved her because, hey, plenty of targets in the middle of a hundred bad guys. She just slashed and slashed. The Jaffa began to spread out so that more and more of them were able to hit her.
Then one of the warriors got lucky and hit her injured leg. Buffy didn’t know if she had been favoring it or if they had simply noticed the brace, all she knew was that the weakened bone folded. She fell screaming, a scream that was cut off as one of the Jaffa kicked her in the head.
She was shoved over onto her back and she looked up through bleary, watering eyes, into the enraged face of a Jaffa with a gold emblem on his forehead. His slow, satisfied smiled filled her vision as he raised his staff weapon.
A/N: I would like to thanks Revdorothyl and potostfbeyeluvr for Beta reading.
A/N: Sunstar for being a reader.
The horses slid to a stop at the entrance to the wash. There was a heavy gate blocking it, or Arya would have driven the wagon all the way to the cavern. Alyssa and two more apprentice healers jumped out of the wagon, snatched up the Tau’ri medical kits, and dashed down the path beside the gate. The Tau’ri had better medicine and bandages for staff weapon burns, plus their pain medicine was much better than Arya’s teas. So to conserve space in the wagon that’s all she had packed.
Two more townsmen pulled their cart with the extra weapons to a stop behind her and got out. They had the P-90 weapons the Tau’ri had trained them how to use. Instead of following her healers, as planned, they stood next to their wagon.
“Let’s go! Grab the extra weapons,” Arya shouted, as she too, pulled as many kits as she could carry from the wagon. She didn’t know what she would find when she got to the cavern, and she prayed to her Goddess that they wouldn’t be too late.
“No, our orders are to stay here,” Kaanan said, clutching his weapon close to his chest. “Byrne made it clear that when the girl shows we are to arrest her for trial.”
“Councilman Kaanan, you always were an idiot,” Arya yelled and started for the cavern.
She was so disheartened by the fools. Yes, she understood the town had been attacked; she had cared for most of the wounded after Owen found her on her rounds in the hills. Yes, the town had to be careful! She never thought they should go make friends with the Goa’uld; she just wanted them to show a little sense.
She stopped running when she heard horses approach. Arya stood still so she could count the hoofbeats. When she was sure, she turned back to the townsmen.
“There are ten horses: they will need at least ten P-90 weapons, and the things that make them fire.” Arya tried to say it politely, truly she did. When the fools didn’t move she swore.
“Kaanan, if you or your family ever want to be treated at the House of Healing again, then you will get those weapons ready to hand the Plainsmen!”
That got Kaanan and the other man moving, so that by the time Owen and the rest of the Plainsmen came to a stop next to the wagon the men simply handed them the extra weapons.
“We are sorry we are late; Tomas had to go all the way to Red River to find us,” Owen said, reining in his lathered horse. “Did the rest of the townsmen go ahead? Have the Jaffa been able to break out?”
Arya watched as Kaanan dropped his eyes to the ground and avoided answering. They had no time to avoid questions.
“The town withheld its help. We just got here, and my apprentices have already gone before us,” she said, trying to be concise. Owen wheeled his horse around and led the other men down the path and into the wash at a gallop.
“I hope you realize what damage you and Councilman Byrne have done to the Plainsmen this day,” Arya said, and then took off running as fast as her old legs could carry her.
As she rounded a bend in the wash she heard the agonized screams of men in pain echoing from the cavern. The pop-pop-pop of the Tau’ri guns firing so fast that each discharge blended into the next. Arya ran, her throat dry from panting, and her lungs on fire.
‘Please let the screams be from the Jaffa!’ was her first thought. ‘Where is Owens’s horse? Where are all the horses?’ were Arya’s second and third thoughts.
Alyssa was on the right side of the cavern entrance while the other two healers, Kevin and Odeila, were on the left. Odeila was standing, plastered against the wall of the wash. Her eyes were wide and bright with fear. They were all far enough away from the entrance so that no stray weapons fire could hit them.
Two Plainsmen stumbled away from the entrance with staff weapons, only to collapse on the soft sand of the wash.
“Stay back!” Arya shouted, at her apprentices. She hoped that they heard her over the noise. She ran up to the first one, lying on his back, and recognized him as Perth.
“I am well, Healer,” he yelled, trying to be heard. He swallowed hard. “Just tired. Water?” he asked, and Alyssa handed him her canteen. The girl was hard headed and never could follow orders!
“I said stay back!” Arya snapped, only to be furthered angered when the girl just shrugged her shoulders and pointed to the other man, lying on his stomach.
Arya left Perth with Alyssa, knowing the girl would help him get out of the way. She was worried that the other man had yet to move. She ran up to him and saw why. He had been hit in the back with a glancing blast of a staff weapon. How was it possible that he had stood, guarding the entrance?
He was shivering and was already in shock. Arya pulled the man’s hair back from his face, so she could tell if he was even conscious. It was Bran, she belatedly realized.
“Bran? Wake up!” She shook his shoulder, trying to get a response. His face was pale, and when she held his hand it was cold to the touch. She placed her ear against his back and could barely make out the weak heartbeat. Arya hated to move him, but he was directly in front of the cavern entrance. She quickly looked up and into the cavern, in time to see the light from the Gate wink out.
‘I can’t think about Owen or Buffy now.’ She shook her head to clear it.
Then she grasped Bran’s belt and started to drag him towards the other healers.
“Healer! Stop, by the Ancestors, it hurts!” Bran cried, when she was only a few feet away from the others. “Healer, please stop, please!” And Arya felt her own tears start, because she couldn’t stop.
Finally, she was able to stop dragging him, having brought him next to Kevin. He immediately used the Tau’ri’s pain medicine by injecting it directly into Bran’s arm.
Kevin then reached out and yanked Arya off her feet and on top Bran, as a riderless horse came thundering out of the cavern. Arya barely had time to glance at the beast as he disappeared around the bend of the wash.
‘Praise is it wasn’t Storm! Owen is still alive!’ Suddenly, she realized what she was thinking: she was happy that another Plainsmen was wounded or possibly dead, just because it wasn’t Owen.
‘What kind of healer am I?’ she thought, slowly pushing up off of poor Bran where she had fallen. Kevin had Bran’s wound covered with the Tau’ri special bandages that helped keep infection at bay.
Bran lifted up slightly on his elbows and pushed over onto his back. “Master Healer?” he whispered. She couldn’t actually hear him; she just saw his lips move. She leaned down to him so that she could.
“Master Healer, make sure there is a song….” he paused, for breath. Arya noticed that his lips were going grey. “So my son knows why I left him.” He gasped out the last word.
“Deidre herself will write it, Bran,” Arya promised, though she doubted that he heard her. She said a silent prayer to his ancestors. When she was done she gently placed his hand over his heart and closed his eyes. Her mother always told her the eyes of the dead needn’t see any more pain or suffering.
Odeila was still standing as if she wanted to climb into the wall and become a part of it. There would be no talking to her until she calmed down. No way to get her to help them, and right now there wasn’t a need.
Arya was wondering about Perth when she heard her name shouted. It was then she realized the weapons had fallen silent.
“Arya!” Owen shouted, as he came flying out of the cavern on Storm’ back. They just barely missed hitting Alyssa where she was tending to Perth. Owen brought Storm to stop in front of Arya. The big horse was stomping and throwing head up and down, trying to dislodge the bit. Arya could see Owen straining to hold the huge animal still.
“We need you in the cavern. Devin is badly wounded, and I think Grayson broke his arm when he fell,” Owen quickly explained. Arya could see that normally calm Plainsman was shaking from the battle, tears forming in his eyes as the reaction to fight set in. Arya didn’t worry about him, because this was all natural for a person to feel. If he weren’t on the verge of hysterics she would be worried.
She made sure she still had the Tau’ri medical kits and dashed into the cavern. Arya knew it was safe for her to enter.
The odor of evacuated bowels hit her like a blow, and she skidded on her knees, retching. She had been a healer since she was ten years old, she had smelled every kind of wound and every kind of body-wasting disease, never in her life had she faced anything like this…mess.
When Arya could finally stand up, everywhere she looked there were dead or dying Jaffa. Piles of them. They appeared to be neatly stacked by the Gate; still more were piled in a straight line leading from the Gate. The rest were spread out in one or two, until they were nearly at the entrance to the wash.
“Get up, Master Healer! Devin is dying,” Alyssa said, pulling her to her feet. Arya was upset that she delayed in treating Devin and embarrassed that her apprentice saw her so weakened. She staggered in the direction Alyssa led until she got her bearings.
She saw five of the other dismounted Plainsmen herding unhurt Jaffa prisoners out of the cavern and into the wash. Two mounted Plainsmen were holding onto the five extra horses, the nervous animals dancing around them, as they, too, were lead out of the cavern. Arya was gradually able to take it in, and could plainly see that the Tau’ri weapons devastated the Jaffa.
The groans of the dying Jaffa were fading, and she was finally able to make out Devin sitting up, braced against the wall. As she rushed to him she wondered why he was sitting so stiffly. As she got close, she realized that he was trying to hold what was left of his arm still to stop the bleeding.
She knelt next to him and immediately started examining him. A staff weapon had hit the lower part of his arm and taken it neatly off, burning the wound so there was no major blood lost. The smaller bleeders only made it appear that he was bleeding to death. If she could control the infection and pain he would recover to tell the tale of Bran’s heroism.
Kevin came up to assist her. He appeared pale, and she could tell that he had lost his breakfast, too. She gave Devin the injection of Tau’ri medicine and watched as Kevin wrapped the wound.
She stood and searched for Alyssa, and saw that she had already set Grayson’s arm. Arya needed to ask Owen to have a Plainsman bring her wagon down so the wounded could be transferred to the House of Healing.
“Did the spy escape through the Chappa’ai?” Kaanan questioned, the anger and hate in his voice infuriated Arya. Couldn’t he see how horrible…. She couldn’t get her mouth to work.
“Don’t worry, Master Healer, no one blames you for your misguided defense of the girl,” Kaanan continued talking. “I hope you now see that Councilman Byrne’s the only person who can keep the town safe.”
“So, I see the Plainsmen didn’t need us after all,” Byrne said, leading a horse that the Plainsmen had given him last year. The poor animal’s eyes were showing white, and the man had to constantly yank on the double bit to keep him from bolting.
All Arya could see was Bran’s sightless staring eyes at her and Devin’s bloody stump.
‘Didn’t need the town? The utter fool!’ She thought.
And still Arya’s mouth just simply wouldn’t work. She walked away from the men, her eyes searching the cavern for any sign of bright blonde hair in all the muck. Her feet were slipping in the mud and loose sand, her mind trying not to think of how many Jaffa died to change the color from a light tan to a dark brown.
Byrne and Kaanan seemed intent on following Arya as she walked around in a daze.
Nothing that had happened in the town two years ago was comparable to this slaughter. It was the Goa’uld who were evil, not the Jaffa.
“Oh, Plainsman Owen,” Byrne called out. “My men will take care of the Jaffa prisoners.”
Owen looked as if he’d been struck. “Councilman Byrne, you know we have an agreement with the Tau’ri, and the Jaffa prisoners will be turned over to them.”
‘How can Owen keep his cool now, when not twenty minutes ago he was shaking and crying in the aftermath of the battle? How can he walk around in this obscenity, and think and talk like everything was normal? ’ Arya wondered.
‘And where is Buffy?’
“I’m sorry, Plainsman Owen, that is simply not acceptable.” Byrne wouldn’t give up. She knew why he wanted the Jaffa. He would have a show trial and then publicly execute the men. It would satisfy the town’s need for revenge and help them feel safer.
Two years ago Arya would have been in the front row cheering Byrne on; today she was sickened by him.
“No, Councilman Byrne, your actions are unacceptable. Now you and your men should leave.” Owen towered over the short man. Arya had never known Owen to hurt another living soul, but in that moment, as she watched the Plainsman fists open and close in an unconscious effort to control his temper, she was worried he would strike the man.
‘So he’s not calm.’ Arya was relieved. Then she remembered that Owen had hurt the Jaffa, and she gazed around the chamber.
“Arya!” the Healer whipped around at the sound of Tomas’ voice. “Arya! Daddy!” the boy screamed, and both the Healer and the Plainsman left the townsmen standing, so they could to try to intercept the young boy.
Owen got to him first and scooped the crying boy up in his arms. He held his son against his chest as the sensitive apprentice healer babbled, “Where’s Buffy? This smells so bad and all the Jaffa are dying! We have to help them!”
“Tomas, what are you doing here?” Arya uttered the question. “Tomas, you must leave now!” The boy was far too young to have this scene in his dreams.
“Buffy! Where is Buffy?” he cried, and Arya turned in a circle, hoping the girl would appear.
“She’s not here; we looked,” Arya said, patting the back of his head. “You should be proud, Tomas. You and Thunder helped save Amra!”
More of the Plainsmen had arrived with Tomas and stood staring at the scene before them. Odeila appeared, leading the horses with the wagon. Her eyes were bleak, and she had tied a piece of cloth torn from her skirt over her mouth.
Now the sad task of cleaning the cavern and calling the Tau’ri would begin.
The Healer and the Plainsmen slowly carried Tomas out of the cavern. Not for the first time since Arya was Called as a Healer did she wish she could claim Tomas as her son. The rules forbid a Healer to have a family.
Arya knew they would stack the dead bodies of the Jaffa in front of the Gate: when the Gate was dialed, the corpses would disappear in the vortex.
“Plainsman Owen, I must insist, the question about the Jaffa?” Byrne dogged their heels. “If you will release the Jaffa in our custody without incident, then I will not file a grievance with the Plainsmen elders about your protection of the spy.”
Arya watched as Owen hugged his son tighter. He put his face in Tomas’ hair and inhaled deeply. She always knew their son was loved.
Owen put Tomas down. “Tomas, go find Storm and make sure he is well,” Owen said, and then watched as he ran off.
Owen stood to his full height and turned fully to face the two Councilmen.
“Councilmans Byrne, and Kaanan, the people of Amra have an agreement with the Tau’ri. The Plainsmen of Amra take all agreements seriously.” He paused, gathering his thoughts or trying to calm his temper--Arya didn’t know which. “The Jaffa will be handed over to the Tau’ri. Furthermore, the Plainsmen now request that all the guns the Tau’ri supplied to the people of Amra be given to the Plainsmen.”
Arya watched as Byrne’s mouth opened and closed in shock, his face beginning to turn red with rage. All the while, Plainsman Owen stood still as a statue.
Before Byrne could answer, shouts and cheers came from inside the cavern.
“Master Healer! Master Healer! Come, run!” Alyssa yelled, as she ran up to the adults. “He found her! Tomas found Buffy! And she’s alive!”
Buffy was shoved over onto her back, and she looked up through bleary, watering eyes, into the enraged face of a Jaffa with a gold emblem on his forehead. His slow, satisfied smiled filled her vision as he raised his staff weapon.
Buffy knew it was the big-boss-guy, because he had a gold emblem instead a tattoo like all the other peon warriors. Another big hint that he was the general was the fact that he was arrogant enough to stand looking down at her, gloating, instead of just shooting her. Oh, and the dummy didn’t think to take her sword.
She whipped her katana into the throw so fast that Gold Emblem Guy died without the look of utter surprise on his face that Buffy cherished. The katana sliced through his mouth and his spinal cord before he could blink. He just slowly folded, falling to the floor in sections, like a puppet with his strings cut.
Then firecrackers started to go off, and Buffy wondered who was celebrating, until the Jaffa around her started falling on top of her. She threw up her arms to protect her face and her breathing space as the tin men fell like trees in a forest. And they were just as heavy as trees, as Buffy gave up trying to push them off her. She was too tired and just couldn’t get up the will to care.
Buffy finally figured it out the noise wasn’t firecrackers, but guns. What she couldn’t quite grasp was how she’d become part of a cowboy movie. She blinked her eyes several times and she still saw horses and men firing guns from the top of the horses. The horses were so fast and the guns fired so quickly that all the Jaffa were just falling over where they stood.
Maybe she was dreaming? She wanted the all-slayer-and-one-witch cavalry to come so badly that her subconscious made it all up? She’d figure it all out later. She felt sleep or unconsciousness creeping up on her, and she really didn’t care which: she just wanted the nightmare to be over.
“Buffy! Buffy, where are you!” Tomas’ voice echoed around her. It had a frightened edge to it that she’d never heard from the boy. She weakly shoved at her Jaffa blankets to try to dislodge enough of them so that she could see what was the matter.
“Buffy!” The boy was crying, she could hear it in his voice! She had to get up now, she had to help him! She gave the Jaffa on her chest a shove and was able to move him to the side slightly, and then all the Jaffa were being pulled off her.
A Plainsman helped her sit and supported her when she nearly fell back over. Then suddenly her arms were full of Tomas. He was crying and hugging her and babbling so fast in Amran’s strange version of Latin that she had no clue what he was saying. A terrible thought struck her.
“Tomas, Tomas….” She pried his arms from around her neck and noticed that he had streaks of blood on his face. She could tell it wasn’t his, so she ignored it. “Tomas, is Thunder OK? Please calm down and tell me Thunder didn’t get hurt!”
“Thunder is fine,” he sniffed. “The Sovereign of the Red Rock Tribe himself is caring for him, and he has many mares—“
“TMI, Tomas! TMI!” Buffy said, and then leaned back into the man behind her. She couldn’t hold her arms up, she was so tired, and she distinctly remembered her leg being broken again. She knew it was, so why didn’t it hurt? As Tomas calmed he climbed off her lap and she noticed she was covered in blood. It was like she had been swimming in it.
“Kevin, give her water, and Alyssa, go find Arya,” Tomas ordered the older apprentices around. “I am still Buffy’s healer until Arya orders otherwise!” He stood there with his hands on his hips, a picture perfect copy of Arya’s usual pose. Buffy looked around at all the strange smiling faces and didn’t know what to think. It was like they had a personal audience with the Pope, or something.
“Step aside, “ the Master Healer slash dictator said, barreling through the Plainsmen as if she owned the place. And hey, maybe she did? Buffy still couldn’t figure out Amra’s economy, given their lack of money. Tomas explained that they didn’t use it; they just bartered or traded for everything they needed.
“Buffy, focus,” Tomas said, shaking her shoulder. Arya was on her knees in front of the Slayer, and it seemed like the Healer was upset about something. “Buffy, follow Arya’s finger,” he was speaking English again. She dutifully watched the Healer’s finger as it did its concussion test. Arya’s frown didn’t seem to be good news, though.
“Why are you wasting time treating her? I want her arrested this second!” a man, pushing through the crowd, shouted. She knew that man! HE was the guy that stared at her the first night she was in Amra.
“Where’s my sword?” she whispered to Tomas. Not that she really wanted to use it, not on a human….and he was human. The man who followed him, though, was not of the human kind of people. The man following him had a gun and was holding it up to fire it.
Why couldn’t anyone else see him? He felt worse than even Gold Emblem Guy! Buffy tried to stand up, but nothing seemed to obey her, which would have worried her more if they all weren’t about to be blown away by Evil Guy. And on top of that, her vision was graying out so she couldn’t even see Evil Guy.
When her eye sight cleared, Perth was behind the Evil Guy. Yay, Perth! He took Evil Guy’s gun, and the Plainsmen were pushing both men away.
“Buffy, stay focused,” Tomas said, again.
He had worried face.
“Why do you have worried face?” she tried to ask, except it came out garbled. Even she couldn’t understand what she was saying, and she’d said it.
Arya stood and grabbed a hold of Tomas’ father, yanking him away from Buffy. Arya clearly had forgotten about slayer hearing, only it was a bummer, because like Tomas earlier, she couldn’t understand what Arya was saying. Well, except the words like Tau’ri and Healers. Why did everyone love the Tau’ri so much? Who were these mysterious Tau’ri?
Buffy’s vision grayed and turned black, and she really thought the idea of going back to sleep was a good one….
“Unscheduled off-world activation,” Sergeant Harriman’s voice sounded over the loud speaker as Teal’c entered the Gate Room. He was to accompany SG-1 on a scouting mission to P3X-4879 this morning. He stood with the other Tau’ri warriors until the iris closed and the base was safe.
In some ways the Tau’ri were very primitive, and in other ways they were far more advanced than the System Lords. Teal’c admired their way of attacking problems as if there was a solution to everything. He felt it was because the Tau’ri had never known the yoke of slavery that they retained their spirit of innovation.
And there was one important advantage they had over the System Lords: the Tau’ri knew how their devices worked. Teal’c looked up into the control room and saw the rest of SG-1 and General Hammond. He decided to check to see if SG-1’s mission had been changed and made his way up the stairs into the room.
“Say that again, Tomas of Amra?” General Hammond asked, into the microphone.
“Master Healer Arya says we need the help of the Tau’ri healers, and medicines,” the young boy’s voice sounded very stressed, yet he spoke in extremely good Tau’ri or ‘English’ as O’Neill called it.
“Tomas of Amra, I need to know the situation on the ground before I can have SG-1 and Doctor Janet Frasier come through the Gate,” General Hammond said, he signaled Sergeant Harriman to call for the medics so they would be ready if he approved the mission.
“Can you tell me if you expect another attack from the Jaffa? Or who the Jaffa served?” General Hammond asked the boy.
“I cannot….” Teal’c heard an older man in the background interrupting the boy and clearly talking to Tomas in their native language. DanielJackson then interrupted the man, and started speaking the same language to him over the radio.
Everything was garbled, and Teal’c zoned out until the word ‘Trucidora’ came through the speakers. Teal’c couldn’t believe he’d actually heard the word, and knew the meaning until Daniel Jackson said Slayer in English in reply.
Teal’c’s blood ran cold at the mention of the Slayer or the Khedebet. She was only supposed to return at a time when the fate of the very universe hung in the balance. She was the killer of the debased. The System Lords all assumed she was an assassin that would come in the night to kill them. The legend told of a great warrior with a magical sword that would cut through even the metal of a Ha’tak.
The System Lords did their best to erase the legend from all living memory on the worlds they conquered, because it gave the people the hope of freedom. Bra’tac was the only Jaffa alive whom Teal’c ever heard speak of her.
Teal’c felt a ringing in his ears, his breath left his body, and he forced himself to remain standing. Years of training at keeping his face passive, his emotions and thoughts private, was the only thing that kept him upright. The implications of her appearance hit Teal’c with the force of a staff weapon.
He forced himself to stand tall. He was a warrior, and the mere mention of the mythic Khedebet had him in a faint? Master Bra’tac would be so ashamed of him.
O’Neill was the only one of the Tau’ri in the room who noticed his reaction.
“I am fine, O’Neill.” He reached forward and placed his hand on his friend’s and fellow warrior’s shoulder to prove it.
O’Neill smiled at him, and then quickly turned to face DanielJackson.
Teal’c would have wait and see if, indeed, the people of Amra are correct. Waiting was something Teal’c was used to doing.
DanielJackson ended the conversation at the same time as Doctor Frasier and her team appeared in the Gate room.
They left the Gate connected while General Hammond decided if he would risk his warriors to help the other world. Teal’c already knew that the General would authorize the mission if O’Neill thought it was worth the risk.
Everyone looked to Doctor Jackson for an explanation. “Alright, short version: they were attacked by many Jaffa, they couldn’t tell from which System Lord. The Trucidora or Slayer and three Plainsmen fought them off until help arrived. The Slayer was injured, along with two Plainsmen, and they need medical assistance.”
“Dr. Jackson, I need to know if it’s safe to send my people through the Gate,” General Hammond prompted.
“Alright, the long version: that was Owen, Son of Connor of the Red Rock Tribe. Anyway, this morning many Jaffa came through the Gate to attack Amra. I couldn’t get him to give me a number; he just kept saying ‘many’.”
“The Slayer, and three Plainsmen held them off until help arrived,” he said, then held up his hand to stop O’Neill from asking questions until he had finished.
“The help, in the form of ten more Plainsmen armed with P-90s killed most of the Jaffa, except for a few who surrendered because The Slayer killed their First Prime, with her ‘magical sword’. Jack, so help me, do not say a word about Xena,” DanielJackson threatened. “The Slayer was gravely injured in the battle, along with two other Plainsmen.”
“What do you mean, Dr. Jackson?” General Hammond asked.
Even to Teal’c it was an unbelievable story. However, if the Slayer was involved, then it was all true. Teal’c thought that his Tau’ri allies were going to need that wonderful imagination they possessed.
“Look, sir,” O’Neill stepped forward, interrupting DanielJackson. “It sounds like a Jaffa scouting party came through the Gate. SG-1 would be happy to go with Frasier as guards.”
Major Carter glanced up from her computer. “General, Amra is the only planet where we’ve found the Hyperdrive Control Crystals for the X-302s. We really do have a strategic interest in the planet.”
“Alright, you have a go,” General Hammond said, and Teal’c could see the weight of command settle on Hammond from Texas’ shoulders. “Sergeant, have SG-19 deploy as back-up when they are ready.”
“Yes, sir!” Sergeant Harriman answered, then left the control room to call down to the ready room.
This was the real reason Teal’c was prepared to wait: given enough time, the Tau’ri would defeat the System Lords simply because the Tau’ri generals saw the value in their men. The System Lords would never know the true heart of the Jaffa, nor could they even begin to understand the weight a man as great as General Hammond had to carry.
Jack O’Neill with two Ls stepped out of the Gate into the Little Butcher Shop of Horrors. He had meant it when he told General Hammond it was probably a scouting party of Jaffa who had come to Amra. One of the first things Teal’c had done when he swore his loyalty to Earth was teach the SGC about Jaffa tactics. The Jaffa always used between a squad and platoon-sized to check out the rarely used Gate addresses.
It was a platoon-size scouting party that had devastated the town on this planet, two years ago. O’Neill had been to so many planets by now that some of the details were running together. However, he clearly remembered what the town had looked like after the death and destruction the Jaffa weapons unleashed on the poor townspeople. While Jaffa chain-mail and armor was no match for a high-velocity armor-piercing round, it worked just fine against farmers with pitchforks and knives.
Well, it looked like the farmers got their revenge today. He took out a bandana he normally used to dry his hands with while in the field and tied it around the lower half of his face like he was an outlaw. It was the only way to keep the flies away from his mouth, and he hated inhaling in flies.
“Amra was divided between the Plainsmen (upper case P) who claimed they originated on Amra and the townsmen, lower case T, who were moved here about 500 years ago by Cronus,” Daniel whispered in his ear. Jack had to love Danny! He could keep all the planets and people straight. Without him, Jack would be reduced to giving every world a silly name like Thor’s world, ‘Ernest’s Planet’, Getting-Old-Fast Planet, or Cave-Girl Carter Planet. Nope, Jack was definitely better off not letting his memory go there!
“The Jaffa attack two years ago pulled the two peoples together for the first time towards a common purpose, and they agreed to several joint ventures, including protection of the Gate and establishing a Hospital,” Daniel continued his quick briefing. “When you meet for the first time or after a separation you always identify your name, title, and affiliation. Colonel O’Neill, SG-1, Earth. Got it?”
“Got it, Danny,” he said glancing back to his friend. He wanted to say something snarky to release some of the tension he was feeling, but he didn’t have time as a man approached them.
The Amran was formidable: tall and lean, with his long dark hair tied away from his face. His clothing reminded Jack of the Native American tribes, with soft leather pants and shirt.
“Colonel O’Neill, Leader of SG-1, and from Earth, welcome to Amra,” the man said, in passable English. “I am Owen, second son of Conner, of the Red Rock Tribe.”
“Since he named you first he’s ascribed you as the one with the higher status,” Danny leaned forward and told him under his breath.
“Thanks,” Jack said softy, hoping Owen didn’t hear their exchange.
“Howdy,” Jack then replied to Owen, as he got closer. Not sure if he’d blown the intro or not, he pulled down the bandana and smiled, and hoped that helped.
“Introduce us, Jack,” Daniel mumbled in his ear.
“Oh, yeah, and this Daniel Jackson, Doctor, SG-1, Earth, Major Carter, SG-1 and also of Earth. Finally, Teal’c team member, SG-1, of Chulak.”
‘What a mouth full! Jack thought, hoping they could now get down to work, because he had questions--lots and lots of questions.
Starting with why Owen didn’t have any blood on him. From just glancing at the wounds on the Jaffa, there had very clearly been hand-to-hand fighting, and Danny said there were only a total of 13 men from the Amran side and Owen was one of them, so….
It wasn’t adding up in O’Neill’s head, and when things didn’t add up stuff tended to hit the fan. He glanced behind him at his teammates, and they appeared to be coming to the same conclusions.
An older woman rushed up to the Doc, causing all of SG-1 to rotate in her direction.
“Master Healer Frasier, please come, the Slayer cannot stay awake,” the woman pleaded.
“This is Master Healer Arya, of our new House of Healing,” the Plainsman introduced he woman.
‘Oops, nener, nener! The woman broke the intro rule! And Mr. Owen’s not happy about it.’
“Sir?” Frasier questioned, and as soon as he nodded his permission, she was pulled off in the direction of the greatest number of dead Jaffa. Jack had to wave away a few flies that were stirred up when the doctor passed.
“Owen, on the radio you said many Jaffa attacked, can you tell me more about the attack?” Jacked asked, while he turned around while trying to see everything, and take it all in. As soon as he came through the Gate he always assessed risk level; now he was trying to see the battle in his mind.
“Perth was here when the Jaffa came through the Gate,” Owen replied, and then pointed at a man sitting down next another wounded man. Owen’s hands were still shaking slightly and he was talking to fast. Just like someone who had been in a firefight.
“I’d like to talk to him too, only later. Tell me what happened?” Jack calmly asked. Owen was still wired from the fight, and until he settled some more Jack would take things slowly.
Jack knew from his own experience that it took some time for the hyper-awareness he had during a fight to wear off. Until it did, then the simplest of moves could seem like threat to Owen and cause an extreme reaction from the man.
‘Thank God, Owen was smart enough not keep his gun or any other weapon with him! I’ve known soldiers to be so wired after a fight that when a friend touched them they whirled and fired.’
“Yes, this is the time of year the Tribes bring our herds down from the mountains to the Goran Plains for winter. We only leave three men with Tau’ri weapons guarding the Gate, because it only takes a few days to get the first herd down…” He paused.
“So, out of the entire year, the Jaffa pick today to attack, or one of three days you would have a short guard?” Jack inquired. “How well known is this, outside of Amra?”
Jack could feel SG-1 spreading out behind him. He didn’t need to look at them, because he would guarantee they were as suspicious about the situation as he. His team stayed close enough to easily hear the conversation, yet far enough away that they could cover his six.
“It’s not well known--the town didn’t know about it until this year,” an officious man said, his English perfect. He came striding up to group as if he was used to dominating people. The only incongruity was he kept tugging on the reins of a very reluctant horse.
“Councilman Byrne, how nice to see you again,” Daniel said, letting Jack know who the man was despite the lack of introduction.
The lack of the intro really seemed to bother the Plainsman, because Owen clearly turned his back on the councilman.
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson, I wish it were under different circumstances,” the Councilman sniffed, glanced at the Plainsman and then ignored him. If Jack understood the rules of introduction correctly, the townsman just claimed he had the highest status of everyone here. Which was just plain wrong in Jack’s eyes.
The man wore a grim facial expression--fitting for a defeat, not a tremendous victory over a hated enemy.
Jack motioned for Teal’c to come forward, without taking his eyes off of the Councilman.
“Teal’c, what do you think?” Jack fell back on Teal’c’s opinion because he could tell by the way Owen’s back went rigid he wouldn’t get any more from the Plainsman. Or at least he wouldn’t until the townie left them alone.
“No doubt, the Goa’uld who ordered the attack knew beforehand what the guard on the Gate would be--that is why he used only a company of Jaffa. The first through were young and inexperienced, while the later warriors would be his elite.” The former Jaffa First Prime ran it through exactly the way Jack saw it in his mind.
The first Jaffa through Gate would have been mowed down; any defenders they took out would have been a bonus. The next wave of warriors would then use the bodies as cover to return fire, until they had enough survivors through the Gate to rush the defenders.
‘Three men held them off, and then ten more did this?’ he thought. ‘How?
“Colonel, it is simply unacceptable that the spy has not been placed in custody! Furthermore, the Plainsmen have no way to keep her contained until trial, nor do they have the ability to imprison the Jaffa who surrendered!” Byrne said, earnestly. “The Plainsmen won’t release either into town’s custody…”
“Spy?” Jack’s head whipped around so fast that he was sure Frasier heard it crack.
“The Trucidora,” Owen started in his native language, and then, after a quick glance at Daniel, switched to his broken English. “The Slayer saved all Amra and should be honored as hero!”
Byrne rounded on the much bigger man. “The spy nearly cost us Amra! And needs to be punished! I know you Plainsmen are naïve and don’t understand the way things work. Just let me handle it, because I know what it takes to keep Amra safe!” Jack rubbed his nose: he could tell he was going to be giving Hammond a huge headache, because he felt one of his own coming on.
A boy came running up to Owen. “Arya needs you and the Colonel,” the cute kid said, and O’Neill wondered what he was doing here. There were no other children on the battlefield, and none were helping with the gruesome task of stacking the Jaffa dead in front of the Gate.
“Daniel, see what this spy stuff is about.” Jack knew that his much more patient friend was better suited to take to care of Amra’s version of a ‘suit.’ Not only did the Councilman speak perfect English on planet that normally spoke weirdo Latin, he was also attired in a cloth business suit, if the businessman were an 18th century British noble.
When they were a few steps away from Daniel, Jack motioned Carter up next to him. “Carter, go secure the prisoners for transport and make sure they stay away from any other townies,” Jack whispered, making sure that Owen heard him and no one else could.
“Yes, sir,” Carter replied, also keeping her voice lowered. She didn’t let the surprise show that he would assign the job to her instead of Teal’c show. The only way O’Neill knew she was thrown was because they were so close from years of working together as teammates.
Jack felt he wanted Teal’c with him for his insight on how the battle was fought. Teal’c also might know something about this Trcidora stuff.
“Perth,” Owen waved the Plainsmen sitting with the wounded man over. Jack saw another Plainsman take his place. “Please help Warrior Carter in her task.”
Carter and the Plainsman walked off at a fast pace.
O’Neill noticed that Teal’c wasn’t near him, so he quickly glanced around the cavern, searching for him. Teal’c stood from behind a pile of bodies almost next to where Jack could make out the Doc kneeling in the sand, treating someone. It was what Teal’c held up in his hand that caught O’Neill’s attention.
A blood-encrusted katana. Then the expression on Teal’c’s face stopped Jack cold. The man was staring at the filthy weapon as if it was the most important and beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. Normally, it was an occasion when Teal’c raised an eyebrow to show emotion; to actually have an expression was an once-in-a-lifetime event! To have Teal’c showing that particular expression froze Jack in his tracks.
All the Plainsmen had stopped what they were doing and were watching the former Jaffa intently. The young boy walked up to Teal’c, holding his head high, as if he were the most important person on the planet.
Teal’c knelt so that he could talk with the boy.
To say Jack was confused and startled when Teal’c, very carefully and almost formally, handed the bladed weapon to the kid was an understatement. Jack swore under his breath and started over to his friend, who had obviously lost his ever lovin’ mind!
“Sir! I need you now,” the Doc interrupted the moment. ‘
“Coming, Doc!” Jack turned away from the scene. The boy was handling the weapon as if it were something dangerous, no, as if the biggest prize on the planet was something that was going to bite him. It was clear to Jack that the boy was afraid of the sword, yet considered it his duty to care for it.
‘I’ll have to ask Teal’c what the heck the big deal is about the sword. Just not right now,’ O’Neill thought, and he then double-timed it the rest of the way to the Doc.
The Plainsmen parted to let him pass. Lying on the ground, soaked with blood, was a small girl. No, not a girl; she was a small woman. She might have been smaller than even Frasier.
Where the blood had been wiped off the side of her face Jack could plainly see the imprint of a Jaffa boot. No wonder she appeared to be unconscious. It was a miracle she was even still alive.
“Sir, I need to transport this patient immediately,” Frasier said, still working on pumping up an air splint on the woman’s lower leg. As Jack thought about what General Hammond would say he continued to take in her condition. The woman was one massive bruise.
“OK, Frasier, let me get the go-ahead from Hammond.” Jack turned to go back to the Gate. Only then noticing the DHD was nowhere to be seen. He let out a relieved sigh, because Owen was a step ahead of him and said something in Amran to another Plainsman. Jack understood just enough of the strange Latin to know they were dialing Earth.
The man ran away from the circle to what appeared to be a cutback in the rear of the cavern. Owen walked with Jack towards the Gate as he left Frasier to ready the girl for transport. O’Neill knew he didn’t need to be directly in front of the Gate for his radio to work; there were just more flies buzzing around the bodies where the Doc was working.
“She’s unconscious, but she speaks your language. Arya thinks she could become a clerk for one of your traders,” Owen said, softly. “It might be best if she stayed with the Tau’ri.”
“Jack!” Daniel ran up to him with Councilman Byrne behind him. At least the man had lost the poor horse. “Councilman Byrne has agreed to allow the Slayer to be paroled for medical attention if someone takes her place.”
‘And my day just got a lot worse! The Plainsmen think she’s The Second Coming and the townies think she’s a spy.
“Jack…,” Daniel said, in that frustrated tone he tended to take when he knew Jack wasn’t listening.
“Colonel,” the Councilman interjected slyly. “I was thinking one of the Plainsmen would like to take her place in custody, since they are so convinced of her innocence. It would have to be a Plainsman of value, to insure she would return,” the man pretended not to notice all the faces of the Plainsmen that were suddenly paying quite a bit of attention to him. It was the kind of attention that a cat pays a mouse.
“I think Tomas should be held in her place, since…” Jack had to catch Owen before he could hit the Councilman. The sudden silence in the cavern unnerved even Jack. He saw Teal’c pushing his way closer to the Councilman. If this were on some other planet then Jack was sure there would have been angry shouts from the Plainsmen.
“Oh, father, you are so delusional,” a young pretty blonde girl said in English, before Jack could object to the idea of using a child.
As she spoke, she stood up from where she was helping take care of the injured man. She stepped in front of Councilman Byrne with her hands on her hips. “Tomas will not be your tool, I won’t allow it.”
“Alyssa, stay out of this--you made your choice when you ran off to that House with those people!” Byrne was spitting in outrage.
“Father, you know that after the attack I wanted to be healer. I never want to feel so helpless while my friends die again!” the girl said with quiet emotion and dignity. “And that’s not the point, father. You want someone to arrest in the Slayer’s place, maybe even put on trial should she not return? At the last gathering you claimed I’ve become as bad a Plainsman. Well, I volunteer to be held in the Slayer’s place. I would be proud to stand in her place!” The blonde stood tall and proud in front of her father as the man did a great imitation of a fish.
“Alyssa, please, those people have brainwashed you into believing that she is the Slayer, and she cannot be!” Byrne pleaded.
“No, father, they have not brainwashed me. They have taught me that I have to live my ideals, not preach or judge how other people live. The Plainsmen live their life, quietly, and humbly. While you talk about your ideals and try to destroy anyone who doesn’t agree with you!” the pretty blonde firmly said back at the man. He lifted his hand as if to slap the girl, and Teal’c grabbed it. The man glared at the former Jaffa warrior. However, Teal’c refused to release him.
“Father, Tomas is Buffy’s healer, and he needs to go with her, at least until she is well.” Alyssa raised her voice, for all the Plainsmen to hear.
“It’s settled then,” proclaimed Daniel. As if to punctuate it, the Gate activated.
And even though it was quite an emotional scene, all Jack could think about was—Buffy? The slayer, the Khedebet, the Killer, was named Buffy?
“Buffy, wake up.” The Slayer opened her eyes to see Willow standing over her with her hands on her hips. Tomas was using a walkie-talkie, facing the bright Gate.
“Have you come to take me home?” Buffy asked, suddenly able to stand up as if she wasn’t injured. That was what she thought, until she looked down and saw her body, still on the ground. Arya seemed to be in a tizzy over something, because she was franticly cleaning the blood off Buffy’s face.
“Wow, freaky, seeing yourself like this,” incorporeal Buffy commented. She scratched her nose and noticed that she had dried blood flaking off into her hands, which were also covered in dried blood.
None of the Plainsmen or healers seemed to be able to see either Willow or Buffy standing there.
“Will, what’s the deal? Is this Halloween, am I the ghost of Christmas past, or am I dead or what? ‘Cause, no offense, if I’m dead I’d rather be in heaven,” Buffy said, smiling. She was relieved that the nightmare was nearly over. She’d killed the bad guys; Tomas was safe, for now.
If she was going to die, again, then this was a good time to do it. The other idea was to just have Willow zap her back to her own dimension.
“No, you aren’t dead or even dying, though you are close enough for us to have this little chat without the others interfering,” Willow replied, walking around the cavern as if she were walking through the library in Sunnydale.
“You really did make a mess, didn’t you?” the Wiccan observed, which was strange because Willow should have known that it would be a mess. When swords were involved it was always a mess. Though the redhead might have been trying to delay the questions she knew Buffy was going to ask.
Buffy couldn’t tell which the case was; it was hard to read Ghost-Willow’s body language.
There was more wrong about the way the witch was acting than simply being a ghost; the Slayer just couldn’t put her finger on it. And seeing the slaughter cavern for the first time Buffy had to agree with her. This was one of her messier pieces of work.
“Well, Slayer plus a bunch of Slayees equals a big bloody mess.” Buffy suddenly felt she had to justify killing the bad guys, and that, too, didn’t make any sense. To cover up her confusion she put her hands on her hips and grinned ferally. Or at least that’s what Dawn said the grin looked like while they were in Rome.
“It’s really these Jaffa guys’ fault--they should be self-cleaning, like vampires,” Buffy commented.
That caused Willow to spin around with her eyes wide, as if Buffy said something strange.
‘OK, now Willow’s reactions are just…”off” is the best word for it,” Buffy thought. ‘First she comments about the mess and then she gets all weird about normal post-slayage banter. I’m beginning to feel guilty for doing my job.’
The Slayer shook her head to try to clear her thoughts. All she really wanted now was to get home to Dawn. Her second choice would be to know if Dawn was OK before she was able to go back to Heaven.
Not knowing about the fate of her little sister was becoming physically painful. It wasn’t painful because of some stupid spell by the monks when Dawn was created; it hurt because she loved her sister dearly.
“Willow, what about Dawn?”
The Wiccan glanced up at the Slayer and then turned her back and plowed on with her own agenda.
“You killed nearly one hundred and fifty Jaffa warriors, Buffy. Well, you and the Plainsmen, but it was mostly you,” Willow claimed, turning around in awe. It appeared to the Slayer that she was trying to pretend that she hadn’t heard Buffy’s question.
“You’ve turned the tide for Amra--you’ve saved it,” the Wiccan declared, and Buffy hoped that she was right. The Slayer hoped that Tomas would now be safe and could grow up to date Alyssa. That he would be able to become a Master Healer like his hero Arya, and ride Thunder until the horse dropped from exhaustion because of the bay’s amorous nature.
“Cool, Willow. What. About. Dawn. And. The gang?” Buffy said the words slowly, forcefully, completely aware that she was trying to force the witch into a corner. She missed her friends so much, even though they were still finding their footing with each other after Sunnydale. She felt like she was missing a piece of her soul.
‘Which Willow knows, considering she is one of the friends,’ Buffy thought, rubbing her suddenly very clean arms. ‘And hey, Willow was an old woman, last time and this time she’s the Willow I remember?’
“Buffy, I’m sorry. I can’t answer that question,” the witch replied, looking anywhere except directly at Buffy. “I’m sorry.” The redhead shrugged her shoulders as if she really wanted to tell Buffy something, only someone was preventing her.
Buffy turned back to where Tomas was still talking on the radio…or no, now Owen was holding it like it was a snake about to strike.
‘Think Buffy,’ she thought. ‘Will is clearly here to give you some information. Think about, what she’s said and how she said it, and then keep asking questions until she gives the answers.’
“What do you mean, Willow, about Amra? The Jaffa evil guys won’t bother with it anymore?” Buffy questioned. She really wanted to be clear on the facts, before she moved on to the next topic. She had a bad feeling that the fine print to would come back and bite her.
“Not exactly,” Willow hedged and again wouldn’t look Buffy in the eyes. This really wasn’t like Willow. Oh, sure, she would try to avoid answering the hard questions. Just never like this…. And when she was cornered Willow always spilled her guts.
Buffy just couldn’t figure it out. Though, she was getting a bad feeling about it.
‘Focus! She first said the Jaffa were gone, and now she says not exactly. In the dream, she avoided the subject of Dawn, too. Only in the dream she acted like Willow, she spoke like Willow--if it’s possible, she even smelled like Willow. She was more Willow-like as an old woman than she is now, looking like herself. Something is wrong.’
“Well, what then, exactly? What do you mean? And if you aren’t here to take me back to our world or let me know if my little sister is even alive…” Buffy had to stop speaking, her throat closed with tears. She swallowed hard, trying to stop crying before it became a total meltdown.
“Why! Why can’t you tell me if my baby sister is alive? Did those vamps in Rome start the apocalypse? Please tell me! I have to know!” Buffy begged. Willow just gave her a damn serene smile and turned away. Buffy’s hands closed into fists as her fear over Dawn and her world transformed into anger.
“This is cruel, Willow! And you’ve never been mean! Now tell me why are you here, exactly?” If Buffy could grab onto the incorporeal being and shake her, then she would.
“You’ve struck a big blow against a very powerful System Lord’s plan to build a fleet of new, extremely advanced ships. You’ve caused him to rethink his plans and to actually push them back a year.” Willow walked away from Buffy. “You’ve given the Tau’ri time to catch up, if you will.”
‘There are those magical Tau’ri again. And what’s the deal with Willow using a term like “catch-up, if you will?” Somebody turn her into a Grammar Goddess? She’s acting strange and has been since she got here!’
“Wait!” Buffy stopped; she was tired of following the witch all over the cavern. The redhead needed to stay still for a second. Plus, she couldn’t believe what Willow was telling her.
“Ships? What’s a System Lord? Willow, just stop and say something that makes sense to me! Now!” she demanded. “Is this a dream? Am I dreaming all this because I have a concussion?”
“No, I’m sorry Buffy, you aren’t dreaming,” Willow said, and the compassion in her green eyes told the blonde all she needed to know. The Wiccan was telling the truth; she just wouldn’t tell Buffy all of the truth.
The blonde stood still.
‘This isn’t my Willow. I don’t know what or who she is, I just know she isn’t my Willow.’
By stopping Buffy forced the Willow-lite-ghost-person to circle back around a pile of Jaffa bodies to talk to her. This couldn’t be the ‘real’ Willow, because the real Willow never withheld information needed for survival.
“Where am I?” Buffy asked the simplest question she could think of at the moment.
“On Amra,” false-Willow replied, with that irritating smile.
“Is this like Pylea? The place where Angel visited? Or like the Hell dimension I fell into during that summer I ran away?” The Slayer needed to be clear.
“I don’t know what you mean about those places. You were on earth and now you are on Amra,” Fake-Willow oh-so-helpfully explained, telling Buffy…nothing.
“Who are you, the First?” Why didn’t she think of the First from the beginning? Willow smiled, and then she changed forms into that of a middle-aged lady with brown hair.
“No, I’m not the First Evil, and your senses would have told you if I were. You were always the most intuitive Slayer in history,” metamorph-not-Willow complimented her.
Despite the fact that she just morphed from one shape to the next Buffy couldn’t feel evil coming from the woman. She didn’t feel like an angel, either. She felt neutral, like most people were.
Neutral-feeling-Willow glanced behind her as the Gate winked out.
“And here comes your ride home,” she said. “It’s just not exactly your home.” Then she took a step closer to the Slayer.
“What do I call you? What’s your name?” Buffy demanded.
“That’s not important. Saving Amra from slavery at the hands of Anubis was important. Getting the Tau’ri to trust you and let you help them is going to be important,” ghost-girl said, her eyes burning with the desire to have Buffy understand. Buffy could nearly feel her wish to protect the people of Amra at all costs.
“Oh, so now you’re Delenn in ‘Babylon5’? And oh, God! I have been watching too much TV with Andrew!” Buffy cried, and turned her back on the Fake-Non-Willow. It was just too painful to see the face of her best friend and not know if she was even still alive. “Next thing I know, you’ll be talking about how everything is done in threes!" Buffy continued with her rant. "Amra being the beginning of the story, the mythic Tau’ri will be the middle of the story, and then defeating Aneurysm—“
“Anubis,” Willow interrupted.
“Hey! Ranting here Ghost-Girl!” Buffy spun around and took a threatening step toward the woman.
“You must understand!” and for the first time the Ghost seemed frustrated. “Anubis cannot control Amra, so you must do everything possible to keep him from trying to invade the planet. You must fight him out there,” she pointed in the general direction of the dry wash, “and stop him before he comes back here. There are things who are much worse than Anubis, should they be awakened…”
“Fine! Let me guess, death, destruction, and really bad hair days!” Buffy said, she could feel her anger rising to surface. “Once I slay…Amway, I get to go home to my sister and friends? Right?”
Before Willow could answer, the Gate whooshed open, and Buffy got her first look at the Mythic Tau’ri….
“You have got to be ki--,” she was cut off in mid-word as she was suddenly back in her beaten and broken body, “--ddingme!” She mumbled and couldn’t understand it. All she knew was that someone, somewhere, was laughing at her…
Then she let herself fall into blessed unconsciousness.