Forgotten Slayer

Prologue

Author: Malaskor <malaskor[at]t-online.de>

Disclaimer: All characters with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.

Summary:

Warning: Crossover(s) ahead
The following books, movies and TV series have been used in this story:
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer
*John Carpenter's Vampires
*Forgotten Realms Campaign setting and several source books and adventures

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

Author's Notes: Parts from Sword of Life were taken with permission.
Thanks to Tenhawk and Kyle for letting me play with their universe and ideas.


In a steely determined tone of voice, Buffy dismissed Xander's concerns with a simple, "You wait. I'm going to the library." Buffy marched through the wreckage of the Magic Box. On her way out she stooped down for a moment to pick up the Sunblade jutting out from between a few books and then disappeared into the night. As she left her friends behind she picked up speed, soon she was full out running. Within a few minutes she had reached the high school parking lot. Just as she turned from the lot towards the school entrance a car skidded with screeching tires onto the school grounds. Buffy whirled around and settled into a defensive stance, ready to pounce. As she saw that it was Jack Crow she relaxed her guard a bit. After exchanging a brief nod of greeting she turned again towards the school entrance and hastened towards the library, Crow following her closely an MP5 at the ready. As they neared the library doors an earthquake shook the building, announcing the opening of the Hellmouth. Inside the library pandemonium reigned, a veritable flood of demons spilled into the room from the opened portal as Buffy and Jack burst into the room.

She was frozen in agony. One moment she fought side by side with Jack Crow staking and slashing at everything that wasn't human. Then she lost her stake and had to rely solely on her sword and the strength of her punches and kicks as there was no lull in the stream of enemies that she could have used to draw a replacement. Soon the press of enemies was becoming too much and their fight turned from the offensive to a holding action and then a slow retreat. Throughout all this she fought with a dance like elegance, weaving dazzling patterns with her Sunblade, darting ahead to stab an enemy or parry a strike that might have cost her comrade's life. But it was inevitable suddenly a lightning quick demon jumped ahead and grabbed her. Long claws dug into her skin before she had a chance to defend herself. Slowly but inexorably she was dragged into the seething mass of demon bodies in front of her and all she could do was hold on to her weapons.

The demon that had gotten a hold on her dragged her towards the swirling nothingness all the demons poured forth from. After long seconds of being clawed at she entered the chaotic energies and it was as if time stood still.

The sight of her sister, strung up like a slaughter pig drove the Slayer into a rage. With this rage fueling her strength she tore herself free and hacked the demon that had her in his grasp just a moment ago to pieces. The target of her rage disappeared into the Hellmouth and with nothing else to loose Buffy dove in after the drow vampire. She felt how the contracting energies pulled on her body, her mind, and her very soul. It was agony like never before. Then there was an explosion of light and all went dark.


Buffy looked at Faith. "No matter what happens you watch Giles' back, got it?"

"Got it B," Faith gave her sister slayer a smile that no matter where Giles went or how everything ended she would be by his side. Buffy smiled back in acknowledgment that her trust was not misplaced in the once dark slayer.

That said she turned around and once again joined the others into the fray. She tried to fight her way towards Tiamat, but the hordes that the Hellmouth spewed forth were too much for her alone and slowly she was pushed away from the center of the fight towards the rear of the devastated library. Somewhere on the other side of the undulating mass of demons her closest friends were fighting for their survival and that of the world. With all her might she once again attacked the demons coming her way and this time she managed to move forward again before her advance was deflected to the left by the pressure of newly arriving demons.

Many killed demons later she was joined by Angel and his crew. And together they began to fight their way over towards the others. For one moment the flood of bodies parted and her gaze met her sister in destiny. They had barely enough time to acknowledge each other's presence before a huge Cyclops-like demon barred their view. It brought down a huge club to smash her to bloody pulp but with a grace that spoke of the experience of countless fights she rolled forward just at the right moment. Behind her the club smashed into the floor where it left a deep dent. With two quick slashes Buffy cut the huge demon's tendons causing it to come crashing down. The massive body had barely touched the ground as Gunn already moved in and buried his battleaxe deep in the Cyclops' cranium.

Another demon defeated they moved on. Buffy slashed and stabbed everything that came into her reach and wasn't human or a vampire with a soul. To a casual observer her fight was like a dance, albeit a deadly one. She twisted out of the reach of attacks that could have left her disemboweled with the grace of a dancer. She darted forward to strike foes with the speed and deadliness of an angry cobra. Her sword traced dazzling patterns in the air as she changed from attack to defense and back in the space of a second. Once and again she parried strikes aimed at the backs of her comrades just as they did for her. But even this fantastic team play they displayed even though fighting together for the first time wasn't enough.

Behind her Charles Gunn was surprised by a hellhound that had managed to sneak to his unprotected flank and jumped onto him, throwing both of them to the ground. Just as its jaws closed around the bald man's neck his axe bit deep into the hound's flank and into its spine, killing it a it took his life.

Nearly at the same moment a lightning quick demon jumped ahead and grabbed her shoulders with a viselike grip. Long claws dug into her skin before she had a chance to defend herself. The grip was so strong and painful that all she could do was hold on to her sword and stake and hope that she would get a chance to free herself. Slowly but inevitably she was pulled deeper into the masses of demons, nearer and nearer towards the Hellmouth. As she was nearly inside the swirling nothingness from which the demons emerged she felt its malevolence like never before.

Suddenly she saw something that elated her like few things ever had. Giles strode purposefully towards the Hellmouth with Faith protecting his back. The Sword of Life blazed with energy, its mere presence enough to incinerate the lesser demons that came close to him, grazing wounds enough to kill even the biggest demon that dared to stand in his way. Buffy could feel the Hellmouth recoil from the pure energy that was now contained in the weapon. And recoiling was only the beginning, soon the Hellmouth began to pull itself together drawing any demon that was too close in its wake. Unfortunately the one that held Buffy was one of those. The pull was unavoidable.

As her arms hit the retreating gateway it was as if time froze for everything but herself. She felt how the contracting energies pulled on her body, her mind, her very soul. It was agony like never before. Then there was an explosion of light and everything went dark.


Slowly the dark lifted from her eyes. Buffy looked around in confusion. Where there had previously been the battlefield of the Sunnydale High library there was now a large room hewn into the rock. Its walls encased with tiles that had fallen from the wall in some places. The floor was smooth as if the feet of hundreds of people had polished it smooth over a long time as they walked the room. Four torches provided a flickering illumination. Despite them the room looked as if it hadn't been used for a long time, cobwebs and dust had settled on every surface and the air was smelled of mold. Two wooden doors hung from rusty bands in front of openings, one each on opposing walls.

"Guys? Is there anyone here?" the Slayer called out, much more timidly than anyone who knew her would expect. Only the crackling of the torches answered her in the oppressing silence. "I have to get out of here, wherever here is. Maybe the others are somewhere around here," she told herself in a low voice then she set out check her gear and wounds.

Her first priority was the pain she felt in her shoulders where the demon's claws had gripped her. The Kevlar that protected her left shoulder was pretty much torn apart but it had done its job and taken the brunt of the damage while the trauma plates and Kevlar that encased her torso were left undamaged. Still there were three marks on the shoulder where the longest claws had penetrated her skin and left deep scratches that already were beginning to stop bleeding, while still painful they weren't life threatening and would soon heal without leaving a trace. Satisfied that the wound was more annoying than dangerous she looked into her pockets for something to provisionally repair the damage to her shoulder armor.

After digging through her pockets she found a small roll of duct tape that she used to fix the damaged part enough for her to continue wearing the Kevlar. Next she took an inventory of the weapons she still had left. Her sword was still there and in perfect fighting condition, if it wasn't for the traces of blood that still clung to it one wouldn't have guessed that it had been in a fight. In her belt were still two stakes that were in fighting condition and three others that were so twisted that they resembled more a piece of art than weapons so Buffy discarded these.

Now that she had resolved her immediate concerns she started to take a closer look around. Her first impression of the room had indeed been correct. It had been some time since someone had been in these rooms, cobwebs were spun between the doors and walls giving testimony of the long time of disuse.

< Now, where could the others be? > With this thought Buffy started for one of the doors. As she pulled on the grip the door refused to open, the hinges rusted fast and so she put a bit more power behind her pull. And finally the door opened, but not as she wished. It rather came down as the upper hinge came out of the wall and the door fell towards her. With a quick jump she got out of the way. As the door crashed on the floor she cringed at the noise it produced, if someone was near there was no doubt that she was heard and she couldn't be sure of the friendliness of those who might have heard her.

So she peeked into the doorway taking care not to be seen by a potential enemy behind the opening. But her care was unnecessary. The door opened into a small room that must have once been a pantry. Inside were the broken relics of wooden shelves and spoilt foodstuff that was overgrown with a thick layer of mold. From a small opening in the wall sounded the unmistakable chirps of mice but otherwise there was no sign of life. Just as Buffy turned to leave the room alone she noticed an interesting detail. The shelves hadn't fallen apart because they were so old but because of a fight, deep notches in the wood spoke of swords or axes that had missed their mark and instead were embedded in the wooden obstacles. < OK. Door A was a blank, so door B is the way to go, > she thought.

This door was thankfully more cooperative. With a low groan the door swung open and revealed a long hallway, sparsely illuminated by torches with several doors visible on each side before it vanished behind a bend several dozen meters ahead. As there was no one to see, the Slayer started to move forward. The corridor bore some signs of life. In the dust covering the floor were several smudged tracks of rats and a few of small feet that led to one of the doors. At first Buffy was elated to have found traces of life so quickly but then she took a closer look at the footprints and a chill ran down her spine. The footprints weren't human. While they were small enough to have fit maybe a ten year old they showed only four elongated toes. Toes long enough to make up for nearly half of the print.

Buffy took a deep breath and slowly crept up to the door. Once there the Slayer placed her ear to the door, listening for any sound from beyond the wooden obstacle. After trying for several minutes to catch some sound from behind the door and hearing nothing beside the torches in the corridor Buffy decided it was safe to assume that no one was in there. So she pushed the door experimentally and found it unlocked, swinging open easily and with a low groan of a badly oiled hinge. Inside the room was chaos, smashed chairs and tables, dishes and cutlery as well as spoilt food were strewn around the room and the sickly sweet smell of decaying flesh filled the air.

Cautiously Buffy entered the room. Now that she was inside Buffy could see the source of the smell, a bit further into the room to her left was a heap of corpses. Driven by a morbid curiosity she walked over to the dead. There were a total of twenty-four corpses. Four of them resembled Neanderthals as they were portrayed in schoolbooks but there were differences, the skin had a dark gray color and the face had more porcine features, especially the nose and tusks that jutted from their mouth as if they were boars. They had coarse, greasy, black hair that partially covered lupine ears. And even in death their small red eyes seemed to glitter with malevolence. Their blood red and black striped clothes were covered with dozens of small stab wounds, each more painful than threatening but in the end it was the amount of wounds that caused their end. The other corpses were even stranger, they were small, not much over one meter, and while roughly humanoid they couldn't be confused with humans. If it wasn't for their rust brown scaly skin the tail and doglike head with the little horns was a dead giveaway. These bodies seemed to mostly have fallen victim to slashes with large blades and a few had their heads crushed or turned to unnatural angles. Somehow the slayer part of her told Buffy what had most likely happened, the cavemen had been surprised and swarmed by those little dog-lizards as she had named them. The little ones must have won as their tracks were the only ones leaving the room again and carried off everything that was of value, leaving behind only some badly damaged leather jerkins.

< Where am I? A Hell dimension, wherever this creep wanted to be, Sunnydale long after the Hellmouth opened? - No, the Hellmouth couldn't stay open. Giles was closing it while I fought besides Angel and the others. - Wait a moment, Angel and the others weren't there. I was alone with Crow. - Oh my god, Dawn is dead. - No! She is in Canada with mom. We sent them to safety. - What is happening? Am I loosing my mind? > Buffy sat on the floor a few meters from the bodies with a suppressed sob. She rolled up into a fetal position and began to rock her body back and forth while she fought with the stream of conflicting memories. No matter what she couldn't make ends meet, for every memory of the last seven days there was one that seemed totally opposed to it.

Some time later the rocking motion of Buffy's body stopped. While the conflict in her mind wasn't resolved it had come to a decision. Finding out which memories were true was secondary, now it was time to concentrate on survival and finding a way out of here was paramount.


With new resolve Buffy stepped again into the corridor. Cautiously she advanced towards the bend and the three doors she hadn't reached yet. The first two led to the same room, a hall that wasn't lit by torches as every room she had been in before, only the light spilling in through the door providing a small patch of light in the room. She quickly turned back into the corridor and took one of the torches from the wall.

Armed with the light provided by the flaming pitch Buffy returned into the hall. Now Buff could see two holders with unlit torches a short distance from the doors. A few moments later the room was lit to about half of its extent, the rest was cast in deep shadows. The room was about ten meters squared, with ornately carved pillars carrying the roof. The walls were adorned with tapestries depicting deer, stags, boars and many other animals one could find in a forest but also fantastic ones like unicorns and pegasi.

Only one thing destroyed the idyllic pictures, in all these animals were either dead or a creature that looked like gigantic man with black fur, red eyes and a hole where nose and mouth should be and a huge rack of antlers on his head was busy rending them apart with his bare hands or pining them to the ground with a wicked, barbed spear.

As she got nearer to the end of the lit area Buffy saw something at the edge of illumination a dark unmoving bulk barely discernable from the shadows surrounding it. It was a spider, but a spider as large as a horse!

Buffy couldn't help but release a little shriek as she saw the spider looming up from the dark. Quickly she threw her torch after it in the hope of driving it away. While the torch was still flying through the air she had already drawn her sword and settled in a defensive stance. Then the torch hit the spider with a dull noise and fell to the floor without provoking any reaction. Slowly the Slayer approached the imposing beast. As she came closer to it Buffy could see that it wasn't a living spider but one out of stone. It was masterfully worked, one had the feeling that the spider could start moving in a moments notice, every detail was perfectly represented down to the smallest hair.

Behind the stone guardian were three steps leading to a stone altar. Above it hung another tapestry depicting the huge antler-headed man. This time he was standing upright, looking down on the onlookers with his red eyes, blood dripping from his black fur. Two white wolves stood on either side of him, all with the same malevolent red eyes as their obvious master. The altar itself was a simple slab of rock. The only adornment was a row of grooves on the upside. A dark, flaky substance was stuck to parts of the surface all under a fine layer of dust.

Buffy recognized it immediately. <Blood.> shot through her thoughts. <Really a nice neighborhood I got dumped in.> The Slayer thought with some of her humor finally returning to her.

After having decided that there wasn't anything else of interest to be found Buffy once again stepped into the corridor and went over to the last door before the bend. This door was decidedly different. It was crafted out of stone with a ring in the middle to pull it open and no visible hinges. Buffy gave the door an experimental tug and it easily and silently swung open. The door revealed nothing. The room behind it contained a filthy cot. Straw was falling out of the damaged mattress, a small dresser stood by the wall but seemed to be in no better shape. And above all things Buffy noticed here was that the whole room stank of urine and excrements. She wrinkled her nose in disgust and hurried to close the door again.

Around the corner the Slayer could see the corridor end in a T- intersection further on. A row of stone doors occupied the right hand side of the hallway. One by one Buffy looked into the rooms, all were furnished in a Spartan way with cots, a dresser and a small desk. All in all they reminded her of what a monk's cell looked like in the Middle Ages.

Ten minutes later Buffy had reached the intersection, on a whim she decided to take the left. As Buffy progressed in this direction the floor changed from being smooth to tiled with granite slabs and a simple frieze ran along the wall just below the ceiling. Slowly the amount of dust receded until not one speck could be seen.

Half an hour later the corridor still ran on and no door was to be seen. Slowly Buffy began to doubt her choice to walk this way. Then as she was about to turn around and try the other direction Buffy saw three doors ahead, one to the right, one to the left and one closing off the corridor a bit further on. Again all doors were made out of stone with no visible hinges.

The door on the left was locked. No matter how much strength she used the door wouldn't budge, so Buffy gave up on going that way. Her next try was the door on the right. This one proved to be much more cooperative. One sharp tug was enough to get the stone door to swing open. Behind the door lay a large room, filled with crates. Buffy was about to search the crates for something useful for finding her way out of there as she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. From between the crates came four shambling forms and with them came the smell of rotting flesh. Behind them came another three shapes, but these moved much smoother and faster than the others. The latest arrivals were clad in rusty chain mail armor with full helmets and carried short swords while the four shambling forms were clad in rotting rags and the only things even remotely resembling weapons were the impressively long nails their fingers sported.

Quickly Buffy raised her Sunblade into a ready position. Before the shambling creatures could come into her reach they were passed by the armored men who had started to run the short distance towards her. With short strokes the Slayer parried the short swords that were thrust towards her body. Buffy slashed at the nearest of the three, surprising him and hitting his arm that he lifted in a belated try to bring his sword up to parry her counterattack. With a screeching noise her sword cut through the chain mail and arm. Then it was Buffy's turn to be surprised. There was no yell of pain and where a gushing wound should be found there was only ripped chain mail and protruding bone fragments. Then there was no more time for surprise as the other two pressed their attack.

Thankfully they weren't very proficient with their weapons and Buffy could dispatch them quickly. Just as the last of the three went down the four lumbering creatures came to her side. The four mindlessly attacked her. There was no coordination between their attacks and more often than not they hindered each other in reaching her. But on the other hand their attacks were performed with high strength and when they hit a crate it was reduced to splinters. Luckily they were as slow as powerful so Buffy had no problem with avoiding them.

"Hey guys, what's up with the Freddy-Krueger-memorial-nails?" Buffy quipped between dodging and beheading zombie number two, but she received no reaction. "Not much of a conversationalist, eh?" Buffy commented and proceeded to dispatch the third one. With only one left, Buffy finally had the time to study her opponent a bit closer. It definitely was a zombie. The former human's flesh was putrid and the skin started to peel off in places. On his torso were several old blood caked wounds that had probably caused his first death. Quickly she went for the kill. A swift blow to the neck and he was decapitated. Without his head the body fell to the floor like a sack potatoes.

After catching her breath for a moment Buffy went over to the armored bodies to examine them closer. After one glance it was clear that those were something new. Under the chain mail, that was more rust than anything else, was nothing but the skeletons of humans, though one of them had thinner bones than usual for humans so it might be from something else. Never before did she have to fight against animated skeletons and part of her mind idly wondered how they could move without muscles and sinews to hold everything together.

Just to be sure that there were no further surprises began Buffy to search the room for other intruders but found nothing new besides a few crates she hadn't seen when she came into the room. Finally she could get to search the crates. With the exception of four crates they were all empty. Of the four that had something in them one contained dried herbs that were so old that they crumbled to dust as Buffy touched them. Another held the hide of a thick skinned animal, maybe some kind of rhino. The last two were filled with spools of thread and moth ridden cloth, all things that were of little use to her.

<Well that was a dud. Let's see what is behind door number three.>

This door had to be pushed to be opened, not pulled as all the doors before. Buffy had to put all her considerable strength into pushing the door open. As the door was about a quarter open a loud crash could be heard from the other side and suddenly the door could be opened easily. There just beside the door laid a fallen statue of a human woman, it was crafted so lifelike that one nearly expected it to move. Her face was distorted with fear and one arm was extended as if she wanted to gab for something. Her gown was chiseled in a way that every fold of the stony cloth reflected hasty motion.

The room itself was a cavernous, rectangular hall, three rows of columns kept up a ceiling that was so high that the light from the torches could barely reach its high arches. The walls were whitewashed and brightly colored frescos decorated the ceiling. The frescos showed mostly scenes of courtly life but also fantastic creatures the likes Buffy had never seen before. The other thing that Buffy noticed right away was the amount of statues standing around the hall. There were dozens of them. Near one pillar was a knight in full plate mail swinging a huge sword, a bit further down an archer kneeled on the floor taking aim and over there was a woman tending the wounds of a robed person. The statues stood alone and in groups. They fought, ran, searched, sat around or were eating. Those fighting were fighting together, against each other or protecting each other from an unseen enemy. They were human, humanoid or bestial. Garbed in expensive clothing, rags, armor or hide. The one thing they had in common was the amazing quality and attention to detail they were crafted with.

Buffy wove her way through the maze of statues that filled the room. Once in a while she stopped to study a particularly interesting figure. Suppressing a yawn she sat down at the feet of the statue of an elderly man leaning on his staff at one of the long walls. As she sat there fighting off the exhaustion of her long day the young woman felt a cool breeze caress her neck. Startled she jumped to her feet and turned around, but all she could see was the whitewashed wall. After a few moments she could make out a faint crack in the wall running from the floor up to a height of about two meters. As her eyes followed the crack Buffy realized that it wasn't simply a crack in the wall but the outline of a door.

<Cool a secret door. Wonder what's behind that.>

Buffy searched around for some time but she couldn't find a way to open the door.

<Maybe it is like in all those stupid movies…> Buffy thought and tried to turn the nearest torch holder to the side. With surprise clearly to be seen on her face she easily managed to turn the holder about 45 degrees to the left. With a low click the door unlocked and began to silently swing open.

What Buffy got to see behind the secret door was astonishing. A wide natural cavern was shown in its entire splendor by a ball of light hovering below the ceiling. A small forest of gigantic mushrooms and small trees grew inside and a small creek ran through the cavern. From a hole in roof it cascaded down in a waterfall and flowed into a miniature lake on the far side of the cave that spilled over into a small hole in the wall. Stalactites and stalagmites were everywhere in the cavern and sparkled in all colors in the brilliant light coming from overhead.

As Buffy saw the flowing water she noticed for the first time how thirsty she had become in her time in the underground complex. The Slayer hastened over to the creek and greedily drank of the cool wetness. With a content sigh she sat back and looked around. Amidst the plentiful vegetation was a strange creature. A repulsive mixture of cockerel and lizard with the wings of a bat. Its eyes were of the same glowing red as its wattles and comb, a sharp contrast to the gray body with scattered golden brown feathers and green tail. The creature was about as large as a really big turkey and with a strange mixture of a screech and craw it stormed towards the Slayer in a strange mixture of running and jumping, beating its wings furiously but never leaving the ground for long.

Buffy managed to roll out of the way just in time and the sharp claws of the beast dug into the ground where her stomach had been moments before. Before Buffy could rise fully she already had to duck again as it reptilian tail whipped towards her face. As it passed her prone form Buffy slashed upwards with her sword, cutting deep in the flesh. With a screech that was about as melodic as nails dragged over a blackboard the bird jumped back only to attack again a moment later. This time Buffy was ready for the attack and twisted out of the way while swinging her sword around at the same time. This movement caused the hybrid to miss the Slayer and at the same time to impale itself on her sword. Its momentum was enough to wrench the weapon out of Buffy's grip. And while it crashed to the floor Buffy had already drawn her backup stakes, but it was unnecessary. After a few feeble twitches the abomination was finally dead. Winded from the fight Buffy collected her sword. After sheathing it she started with a thorough search of the cave so that no further such surprise could happen.

Luckily there was no other such creature, just a skeleton that could have belonged to such one and the statue of a warrior that fit all the clich´┐Ż for a barbarian, from the furs over the muscles to the huge double-bladed axe. Now that she was sure that no further danger was present did she allow herself to think about resting. A quick check later Buffy knew that she could open the door from the cave without a problem, so she closed it to avoid another such creature maybe wandering around. That done Buffy went back to the stream and sat down to drink again.

Sitting there and resting Buffy felt sleep quickly approaching. As she thought about her conflicting memories of the last days her eyes fell closed and she sank into the deep sleep of exhaustion.


Some time later Buffy began stirring. She stretched with a low groan, her eyes still closed.

<What's wrong with the bed? I feel worse than the princess on the pea.>

This thought had barely flashed through her mind as she recognized the feel of the patch of moss that she had slept on. Then she finally opened her eyes and looked over to the carcass of the slain cockatrice and the events of the last days rushed back to her. She was somewhere underground, somewhere that wasn't the Sunnydale she knew, but where was she?

<Only one thing is certain. It is way less fun here than at home. That definitely wasn't the place I thought of those times I said I didn't want to be in Sunnydale but somewhere else.>

For a few moments Buffy simply sat there and looked around. Then she went over to the water and drank deeply. Her stomach called loudly for her attention with a rumble. So the young woman started off towards some of the small trees that stood in small groups all around between the giant mushrooms. Buffy was sure to have seen some with fruits that looked like apples before going to sleep the day before. And indeed there they were. A group of four trees all carrying small apples whose colors varied from yellow to orange to red. Buffy plucked a bright red apple hanging at shoulder height from one of the upper branches.

Tentatively she took a bite out of the ripe fruit. Taking this bite she was flooded with sweetness that had just a slightly tart note to it. While it felt like eating an apple the taste was more like a mixture of peach and apple, a bit strange but tasty. Buffy managed to hold off from eating more of them for some time, as she had once heard that if trying out unknown fruits in a situation where those are the only food available one should only try a little bit and then wait if there is a bodily reaction and keep a possible poisoning down to a safe level.

<That was long enough. Now it's eating time.> Buffy thought and started to stuff her mouth with apples. Within minutes she had eaten ten of them and packed another five as provisions for later on into the few empty pockets that had remained undamaged from the fight at the Hellmouth. After drinking a few last sips from the brook Buffy went to the secret door and opened it again.

She peered into the room, checking it for obvious dangers but besides the statues nothing was to be seen. So she took a deep breath and left her little sanctuary and entered the room again. From there she went back into the corridor she had used before her rest. A quick try revealed that the third door at this end was still locked and not moving.

Soon she was again at the T-intersection and now she continued straight onward, into the unknown parts of the underground complex. This corridor began to describe a wide left turn after several meters of going on straight. When she had followed it for a quarter circle it straightened out into a long hallway again. Here the torches were much more sparsely spaced and so much of the corridor was hidden in deep shadows with only the occasional isle of light.

As she went on Buffy came across an area about eighty meters long where the whole floor, walls and ceiling were blackened with soot. Several heaps of broken and burnt bones lay on the floor at the foot of the right wall, illuminated by torches hanging directly over each heap.

Buffy suppressed a shudder as she saw the fire damage and bones. <I hope whoever was caught in that died quickly.>

The Slayer quickened her steps to leave the charred area behind as quickly as possible. Within a few steps she had sped up to a short sprint and quickly left the burnt part of the hallway. Not far behind Buffy could see another door. This one was a bit wider and lower than the others she had seen before but also made of stone. Several blocky runes were inscribed on it around a silhouette of a mountain with a faceted gem carved inside it. The runes were inlayed with silver and sparkled brightly despite the flickering light provided.

This door wasn't locked but it was really heavy and so Buffy had to use all her strength to open it. The room behind the door was dimly lit by a green glow that emanated from the walls.

<Oh, spooky.> Buffy thought with a grin, as the glow reminded her of bad movies and the tunnel of horror at the fair, and entered the room.

The room had a low ceiling and if she wanted she could easily touch it without stretching. Scattered across the room were six low stone tables with polished surfaces. In the opposite corner was a stack of wooden planks and besides it was a larger table made of wood with many tools laying on it or hanging from the wall above it. Another door could also be seen on that wall. On the left there was a wooden table with metal and ceramic bowls of varying shapes placed on it. After her eyes had adapted to the dim lighting she spotted unlit oil lamps hanging over the stone tables.

<Something's wrong. It smells like a crypt in here.> While this thought ran through her mind the Slayer felt a presence in the room.

As Buffy looked around in search for the source of this presence she didn't see anything at first but then she spotted movement from under the stone tables. From beneath each table came one or two forms. The may have once been humans but now they were obviously members of the undead. Their mottled, decaying flesh was drawn tight over the clearly visible bones; any hair they once had was long fallen out. But in their eyes was still some form life. Their eyes glowed like red hot coals deep in their sunken sockets. Their teeth were more like the fangs of a predator than a human's as they bared them in vicious snarls.

"Foooood," growled one of them in a bestial, barely understandable voice.

"Oh great, another cartoon obsessed monster. So you like 'Two stupid dogs'?" Buffy asked in a honey-sweet voice. "That wouldn't have something to do with the fact that you are even stupider than them?"

Her opponents reacted to that with only a slight show of confusion and a growl from the speaker before they advanced as one towards her position. Buffy meanwhile had used this short stop in their advance to switch the torch to her left hand and ready her weapon for the fight. Her opponents came with their arms raised to strike and teeth bared. The one that had spoken carried a club in his right hand.

Then they were upon each other. Buffy killed the first one with a quick slash that laid him open from hip to his ribcage. Then she had to defend herself. She managed to deflect the bites and claws of the next two but that left her open to a bruising hit on the calf where the leader's club came down from a overhead swing. With a slight limp in her leg Buffy jumped back, but not before a claw raked its way across her chest with a grating noise as it was stopped by the trauma plates from wounding her.

Buffy quickly found her balance again and was ready for the next row of attacks. This time the leader was the first to attack her. As he brought down his club again in hopes of splattering her head across the room she swung her Sunblade up to meet the club. Both nearly lost their balance as the sword effortlessly cut through the club. Unfortunately Buffy had to drop her guard in an effort to keep her balance and was rewarded for that by a bite to her left arm that caused her to loose her grip on the torch. The wound in her arm burned like fire and heaviness started to settle over her, making it hard to move. Only with the utmost exertion of will did the Slayer manage to overcome that and bury her sword in the neck of the biter. Out of the corner of her eyes she noticed the last two starting to circle around her in hopes of catching her unguarded back.

Now aware of the danger she pressed her attack against the leader. With furious slashes and stabs raining down on him he started to stumble backwards until his feet got caught in the spilled guts of Buffy's first opponent. As it crashed down with flailing arms Buffy darted forward and ended its unlife with a stab that pierced its heart.

Quickly she whirled around, sword at the ready. And none too soon she did that as the last two were nearly upon her in an attempt to overbear her. Nimbly she spun out of the way and watched with slight amusement how the two creatures collided and went down in a tangle of legs and arms.

<Should I comment on that? Nah, isn't worth the effort, they probably won't get the joke anymore than the first one. Absolutely no pop culture in them.>

So she went over and without another word loped off their heads, sending them to their final judgment.

After she was finished with this unpleasant task Buffy examined her wound. It was a relatively small bite wound that had already stopped bleeding and could have been much worse considering the size of the undead's teeth. What worried her was the pain that was too intensive for this wound followed by the short feel of being paralyzed. Buffy hastily went through the pocket with the little still useable first aid gear she had. Among a few bandages and compresses was a little flask with disinfectant. She applied the disinfectant liberally, just to be sure that the wound would heal cleanly. Then she went over to the club.

<I wonder what that was made of. I've never managed to cut through something that easily.>

When Buffy examined the club horror washed over her only to leave as quickly as it had arrived. The club wasn't made of wood as one would expect, it wasn't made at all. The club had once been a human thigh bone. If it hadn't been weakened from the obvious gnawing and its old age Buffy wouldn't have been able to cut through it that easily, if at all, during the fight.

Her curiosity partially sated Buffy now turned towards the tables on the far side of the room and looked over the tools laying there. It were simple wood working tools, all covered with large amounts of rust. The bowls on the table on the left were empty, except for one that contained scalpels, scissors, hooks, needles and forceps.

<Now only Dr. Frankenstein is missing while he is trying to sew a new monster together.>

Then she went over to the lone door next to the wood pile. This door opened easily and gave way to a small room filled with large amphorae full with herbs, salt or incense. A bit more towards the rear were three caskets stacked on each other. After what she had encountered in the room before Buffy had to make sure that there were no surprises waiting in there for her to turn her back on them, so she went over to the caskets and cautiously she lifted the lid of the uppermost one and peered into it. Inside was nothing but dust and in one corner was a little hole through which a rat must have come in and out again considering the tracks left in the dust. Despite herself she let out a breath of relief she hadn't realized she had held.

With nothing interesting left to find she left the two rooms and continued on along the corridor. On her way she examined another ten rooms that were all furnished in the same Spartan way like the rooms she had dubbed monk cells the day before. Then the corridor ended in a huge hall, it was brightly lit with hundreds of torches and oil lamps. Brilliantly white marble columns carried a ceiling that was so high that the light didn't fully reach it and it was more shadows than real substance to anyone standing on the floor. Three other corridors ended in this hall. In the center of the hall a set of plate armor was in a crumpled heap on the floor, surrounded by the skeletons of three thick boned, large humanoids and a pile of slag, but otherwise it was empty. As Buffy got nearer to the center of the room the traces of a battle became even more obvious. One of the pillars bore a blackened circle where something very hot had hit it, the floor carried scorch marks and some of the tiles were scratched or even broken from hits that missed their target an found the floor instead.

As Buffy got nearer to the skeletons the heap of plate armor began to move. It rose with a jerk and turned around to face Buffy. The Slayer was frozen in shock. In front of her stood what once had been a beautiful suit of full plate, its shiny surface was chiseled with swirls and knot work. But it was also covered with soot and deep slashes marred the beauty. Through the slashes and eye slits an eerie purple light flared as the apparition came towards her. As it was nearly in reach a sword of flames burst into existence in its hands. The sudden heat startled Buffy into action. With a yell she jumped nearly two meters backwards out of reach. Still shaken with the sudden animation of the armor Buffy retreated a few more step and drew her sword at the same time. The armor pressed on, its movements making no more noise than the faintest breeze. The crackling from its sword was loud as thunder in contrast. Then it attacked just as silently, only the whistling of displaced air announcing the sudden move. Buffy had barely enough time to deflect the flaming sword with her torch and then the follow-up attack with her Sunblade. Buffy barely comprehended what happened.

<That sword is out of fire. How can I parry that? Scratch that - how can I survive?> A moment later she gave herself a mental slap. <Don't think about that. You can parry or you would be burning already. Just hack it to pieces and get away before more of them come along.>

Her internal discussion had nearly cost her life. Only her instinct yelling at her to duck rescued it at the cost of a few burnt strands of hair.

"Ok, that's it. No one gets to ruin my hair and definitely no stupid, walking heap of metal."

With that Buffy went on the offensive. With her torch she managed to beat the fire sword out of the way, clearing the way for her enchanted blade. The Sunsword bit deeply in the left arm of her opponent. As she removed her weapon from the cut she could see light spilling from the nearly severed elbow and everything below simply dangled around, obviously rendered useless. But Buffy had no time to celebrate her little victory as the flaming weapon once again flashed forward for a taste of her life blood. Only a quick roll to the side and front brought her out of its way. As an added plus it brought her into the back of her opponent, an advantage she used to the fullest. With a scream that carried all her frustration and anger she brought her sword down in an overhead swing that bit deeply in the right shoulder of the armor suit removing any connection between the arm and the rest of the armor. As the arm fell down the flaming sword died out and left no trace of its existence save for the burnt hair on Buffy's head. While the armor was now disarmed it wasn't defeated.

With mindless purpose it turned around and swung its damaged arm like a bludgeon towards her head. Buffy brought up her torch as a defense but the damaged arm was too flexible due to the cut she had inflicted on it and so it wound itself around her wrist and torch. With a powerful tug the animated armor pulled the torch from her grip taking several layers of skin with it. While this maneuver had stolen her improvised secondary weapon it also left the creature open for Buffy's counter attack. The Slayer hacked away with a strength and fury that few had ever seen in her and with three strokes she had removed the already damaged arm, left a deep cut in the chest plate and finally removed the helmet from the remaining body. The armor remained standing for a few moments before it toppled to the ground with a loud crash. Once on the floor all parts of it, no matter where they had landed, turned into small heaps of slag.

Buffy sank to the ground breathing heavily. There she rested for nearly half an hour and ate one of the apples she had picked that morning. After eating something and resting for some time Buffy once again felt good enough to go on.

Now she selected the nearest tunnel to leave the hall. After she had followed it for about twenty meters she couldn't follow it any longer as it had collapsed and considering the strange skeletal hand looking out from beneath the stones the ceiling had come down as something not quite human had been under it.

<Now that is a dud. Hopefully this wasn't the way out. Ah well I'll try the others for now.> With that turn Buffy turned around and went back into the great hall.

As she approached the third corridor she heard the pitter-patter of dozens and dozens of small feet. With it came the sound of yapping voices talking in an absolutely alien language. As the sounds became louder Buffy decided to err on the side of caution and hastened to the next corridor and vanished in it. But she hadn't been quick enough, behind her one of the yapping voices cried out in alarm and the steps behind her sped up. In turn Buffy started to run closely followed by the small creatures. On her run she stepped on a loose tile that sank into the floor as her weight descended on it.

<Uh-oh. That can't be good.> Flashed through her mind but then her foot had already left the plate again and she was barreling on, speeding up even more. Suddenly there was a roar behind followed closely by screams of pain and anger. Buffy dared looking around and what she saw was something she never would have thought possible. Where just had been a corridor there was now a wall of fire closing it off with a few blackened husks lying on both sides and behind the flames, barely visible, were the shapes of her pursuers jumping around angrily.

Buffy turned away from the sight of the fire, her pursuers and the burnt corpses with a shudder and continued onward down the corridor.

The corridor was full with stone doors but most were locked and Buffy found no way to open them. And those that were open only had garbage and trashed furniture or nothing at all in them. Just as she was starting to despair she found something she hadn't expected in one of the rooms.

It was a wide long stairway that went up through an opening in the wall, curving slightly. Slowly she started her way up.


The stairs seemed to go on forever and ever. About every three hundred steps there was a wide landing. At each landing there were paintings depicting beardy miners procure ores and gems from the depths of the earth. About an hour later, though it seemed much longer to Buffy, she finally reached the final landing.

<Phew, that was a lot of stairs. No wonder they can't find a maid to dust the rooms off.> an exhausted Buffy thought to herself as she stepped from the last landing into the corridor that continued towards the right.

After a few meters the corridor doubled its width to about five meters. That was also the same place that doors could once again be found on the right and left. Once again all doors were made out of dull gray granite and while they weren't adorned the extraordinary mastery of the crafting masons was apparent even Buffy's untrained eyes. The nearest of these doors immediately came to Buffy's attention. In stark contrast to all doors she had found up till now it was partially open and a small trail of smoke crawled along the upper jamb. Immediately Buffy went on high alert.

Cautiously the Slayer crept forward towards the open door. Once there she peeked through the crack into the room. The first thing she saw was a chest that was placed in such a way as to prevent the door from opening much further. Further in the room was a small campfire that was nearly reduced to embers with a small stack of wood, formerly known as chairs, beside it. A skewer with a burnt mass hanging from it hung over the fire. Near the wall was a small sack just barely visible to her. As she saw nothing moving Buffy strained to hear something from behind the barricade. When there was nothing to be heard except for the faint crackling of the fire Buffy squeezed herself through the crack between door and frame.

As she did that she noticed scratches on the floor as if someone had tried to force the door more open but mostly failed against the weight of the chest blocking it. Upon noticing that Buffy started to get a bit nervous.

<Who tried to get in here? And who was here and where is he now?>

Three steps later at least part of her questions were answered. There, just behind the chest that obstructed her view just until now was the occupant's body. It was on its back and several small, black bolts could be seen sticking out of the upper torso and throat. A nearly dried pool of blood had spread around the unfortunate man and soaked through his clothing. From her position Buffy could see into the sack's opening. Inside was bread and something that looked like jerky and something rolled into a piece of linen. Upon seeing this, her stomach started to remind her of her less than fulfilling last meal of fruits several hours ago with a loud rumble.

"Sorry about that, but I guess I'll need that more than you," Buffy told the corpse and quickly went to the provisions sack.

She tore a large chunk from the flat bread loaf and added to it a piece of the dried meat. She wolfed the crude sandwich down in no time. After this first one she unwrapped the linen and found a piece of hard cheese inside. Buffy delved a bit deeper into the sack and found a pack of nuts and dates as well as some cutlery. That she put to instant use and cut off a piece of the cheese. Together with some more bread and another piece of jerky that piece vanished just as quickly. Her worst hunger sated Buffy belched contently, only to wince as she remembered where she was.

After another mental apology to the dead man Buffy took stock of the provisions that were left now. In total there were one and a third loaves of bread, about a pound of jerky and cheese and a good dozen dates and half a pound of nuts. As she looked around the room Buffy noticed a water skin on the floor behind the wood. She picked it up and took a tentative sip. The water tasted fresh and had a slight lemony taste to it, so Buffy decided that it was fine and drank a few more sips before replacing the stopper again.

Refreshed Buffy went towards the door again.

<Good bye and rest in peace.> With that thought Buffy left the room and closed the door behind her.

The next three rooms were in shambles, from the wreckage and its amount it was obvious that these rooms had been something like dormitories. Then there was a big room with three fireplaces and six wood fired stoves as well as three ovens. Together with the rotting wooden and iron cooking utensils it was clear that this was once the kitchen that tended the dormitories next to it. From the kitchen a door opened into a common room that was filled with low benches and long tables. The tables were made of wood and many of those who once sat at them had left writings in blocky runes behind on the tabletops.

Through another door this room was again connected to the wide corridor Buffy had been in. Back in the corridor she continued on into the parts unknown to her.

Soon Buffy reached an intersection and had once again to choose in which direction to continue.

<If I had a coin with me I should toss it. That would make as much sense as wildly choosing a direction.> Buffy thought wryly and proceeded down the corridor to the right.

Ten minutes and two empty rooms later Buffy stood in front of a rippling of utter darkness. A wooden pole that was lying on the floor vanished into the darkness. Buffy gave the pole an experimental tug and it gave way easily. So she continued to pull and soon she had removed a nine-foot pike from the gloom. The wood was in perfect condition and the iron head had only slight traces of rust visible.

Cautiously she stuck the pole arm into the murk. As nothing seemed to happen she jabbed with it for the floor as she wondered if there was any floor behind the curtain or if there was a pit trap like in the movies. The pike struck the floor repeatedly, but then there was a click behind the darkness followed by a swooshing sound. As she pulled the pike back its tip was scorched. Whatever she had triggered it was dangerous and about two meters behind the beginning of the gloom.

<Hmm, that could be the right way. Or at least lead to someplace important, to be secured that way.>

Buffy then lightly touched the darkness, but except for a slight chill she felt nothing extraordinary, so she took a deep breath and took a step forward. After a chill as if she had stepped into a freezer she was on the other side. Here the corridor went on normally. Within moments she also saw what she had activated. With her jabbing she had depressed a plate in the floor that had caused a hole in the ceiling to open and flaming oil had poured down, most of which was now pooled in the depression of the trigger.

With a quick jump she crossed the burning area without singeing so much as a hair and continued on. The next four doors opened into a large storeroom that was partitioned with oaken walls. It was filled with a wide selection of crates, boxes, baskets, jars, pots and kegs.

In the first partition she found several cubic meters of cut, split and stacked oak ready to be used as firewood.

The second partition was dedicated to provender. There were jars of large black unpitted olives in oil, small wooden kegs of herring pickled in brine, wicker-jacketed green-glass flasks filled with a clear liquid - unfortunately the labels were unreadable as the lettering had been washed away by dampness - several metal-lined and pitch-sealed ship crates that revealed whole carcasses of smoked beef as Buffy forced two of them open. In another corner were tall baskets filled with a strange, fleshy white tuber the size of a man's fist. There were also pitch-sealed boxes containing waxed, orange cheese wheels and even a transparent keg that contained what looked like oysters.

The next compartment was filled with spherical containers that stood on one flat side and had two stoppered openings, one small for pouring the content out and a large one to fill them up. Each pot contained about a half- gallon of oil.

And then there was the final partition. That one contained over seventy warped, damp and rotting wooden poles of about five feet length that had been stripped of their bark leaning against the long wall, obviously forgotten by whomever had placed them here.

Beside the stuff that had been stored there Buffy found a multitude of spiders and beetles.

After several twists and turns Buffy once again happened upon an interesting door. It was a little wider than usual compared to the others in this corridor and fashioned out of wood. It had obviously been knocked down and repaired several times and now was reinforced with several cross brace-beams of heavy lumber and old shields nailed in place. But despite all efforts to fortify the door one important thing had been overlooked. The door wasn't locked and swung open easily after receiving a light push.

The room was roughly square with the walls being about 6 meters long. The wall opposite the door was covered with a floor to ceiling gray tapestry. A glimmer of silver peeked through the minuscule gap in its center. As Buffy got closer she saw that the tapestry was in fact not one huge one but two that hid something from view. The sliver of silver that she could see made her think of a weapon wielded by an enemy and so she silently crept forward and yanked the tapestry aside, revealing a mirror that covered the whole wall.

<Phew, only a mirror and not one of those skeleton creeps or something else.> shot through Buffy's mind as she saw what had been hidden behind the tapestry.

As she was looking around the rest of the room for some clue for the cause to keep the mirror covered up a chill ran up and down her spine. Quickly she whirled around. She hadn't completely turned around as her sword was already drawn and in a ready position. What she saw only increased the chills that she had felt. Out of the mirror stepped a two meter high skeleton carrying a two-handed sword. With mindless determination it turned its head towards the Slayer and then it started coming towards her, its sword raised high as if to split her apart from head to toe.

Without further thought Buffy went on the offensive. She sprinted ahead, closing the distance between them. As she came into the skeleton's reach it brought it's sword down but at the same time Buffy jumped ahead into a low roll and came up behind her opponent. A quick backhanded slash that would have hamstrung a normal enemy hit its target with almost surgical precession but it only managed to chip off a few bone splinters. Both whirled around quickly to face their enemy again.

Buffy was a bit faster and lunged ahead into its guard with a stab. Unfortunately it was a stab aimed for the heart and all she accomplished with that was to stick her sword into the skeleton's ribcage and shear a bit bone from one of the ribs. For that she was rewarded with skeletal fist rushing towards her face that smashed the sword pummel into her face. Dazed the Slayer staggered back and barely managed to evade the next sword blow. With a growl Buffy wipe the blood coming from her nose away and attacked once again. This time she managed to remove three fingers from the skeleton's left hand. The counterattack was now easier for her to deflect as its grip on the large sword was now notably weakened. But despite that the next blow came dangerously close to her face. Buffy jumped back to avoid getting hit and then, just as quickly, ahead while slashing down with a diagonal cut that smashed the skeleton's left collarbone and two ribs.

Buffy and the skeleton traded blows for several more minutes before she finally had smashed it so much that it fell to the floor in a clatter of bone fragments. Moments later the bone fragments crumbled to dust while the two-handed sword corroded like in quick motion. In less than a minute all that was left of it was a small heap of rust amidst the bone dust.

Having vanquished her opponent Buffy hastened over to the mirror and hit it with all her might but all she managed to do was put a dent into it. It was then that she noticed that the mirror wasn't made of glass but out of a highly reflective metal. After a moment of thought she pulled the tapestries closed again and then left the room as quickly as possible.

Once on the outside of the room she pulled the door closed and went on through the hallway.

As she went on Buffy got to see a few more rooms. All in varying states of disrepair. Then came a room that was blackened with soot. Besides ash there were a few human bones as well as several burnt and partially melted weapons lying around in the room. The next room was the privy. It had a wooden seat as one finds in an outhouse but none of the smell. In a comfortable height hung a wooden box filled with leaves.

<Ugh, I for one won't use THAT toilet.> Buffy thought as she saw several large centipedes crawling in and out among the leaves.

As Buffy followed the now slowly rising corridor she saw something on the left wall that she hadn't seen before. There was a face sculpted in bas- relief on the wall, carved from the same gray granite as the whole surrounding. The visage was that of a hairless, hawk nosed male with patrician features. As Buffy studied the face it seemed to her as if the face was smiling at her as if amused by some unknown joke.

Buffy soon finished her examination of the face and continued on.

The corridor described several more turns and even split up once only to rejoin a few hundred meters further on.

Suddenly Buffy got a strange feeling in her stomach and vanished from the corridor.


With a queasy feeling in her stomach Buffy became aware that she wasn't in the corridor anymore, where she had been just one moment ago. She suddenly was in a circular room with three exits that were evenly spaced around the room. The whole room was damp and water dripped from the ceiling. The stone doors were streaked red where the water had started to leach iron from the granite.

Buffy went through the room towards the nearest door while doing her best to avoid the deepest puddles. As she pulled on the door knob a crunching noise could be heard. Bewildered she looked down into her hand, there laid the door knob. It had broken off cleanly.

<Whoa. Note to self: Don't pull too hard on doorknobs that might be rusty.>

The second door was more cooperative, while the hinges screeched like a stuck pig it opened after the use of only a minimal amount of strength. The corridor behind the door was in a much better condition than the room she was just leaving as it was absolutely dry and without even a hint of dust.

It ran straight ahead for about fifty meters before it turned to the left. A bit further down a corridor left to the right and even further away another went into the same direction. Buffy followed the first corridor. It described a wide half circle and rejoined the original corridor again at the junction she had already seen.

A bit further on there was a little alcove. In it laid a human skeleton, huddled under a riven brass shield. It was clad in the crumbling remnants of leather armor. A metal, visored helm sat upright on the flagstone floor nearby. Buffy took a closer look not to be surprised by an undead skeleton playing possum. All she found was that the skeleton was intact down to the last bone and joint-sinew. The shield was split in two and pitted here and there with weak, crumbling areas. The word Nimraith was etched into it in a script that resembled the old lettering in several of Giles' books. As she examined the skeleton she bumped against the helmet.

As soon as she disturbed the helmet a rat-sized, reddish-brown cross of bat and giant mosquito burst forth. It flew straight towards the startled Slayer and as if guided plunged its proboscis deep into her tight just beside the ceramic plate that protected most of her tight.

<What the heck? Oh, when I get my hands on that Dark Elf creep I'll ram a stake into him where the sun doesn't shine...!>

Buffy grunted from the sudden pain and gripped the creature's body to pull it off her. But it held fast with all its eight pincer-armed legs. In fact its hold was so strong that she had to stop pulling or risk to rip large chunks of flesh out of her leg, so she changed her tactics and pressed her thumb into the beastie's eye while bringing her other hand towards the small of her back to draw one of her remaining stakes.

The creature beat its wings at the offending hand in its face and emitted a high pitched screech but still it didn't let go or stopped sucking down her blood. As quickly as possible without running the risk of wounding herself even more Buffy jammed her stake into the bat-mosquito's back. Her attack was rewarded with a small jet of blood that squirted onto the floor. Then it went limp and loosened its hold so far that it fell off onto the ground.

Quivering from the adrenalin that still ran through her system Buffy limped away for a few meters before sitting down heavily. With practiced movements she disinfected the wound and applied her second-to-last wound dressing.

<That's much better. But I have to find a way out of here fast, my supplies are going down way too quick.>

Still slightly limping Buffy went on and with each passing minute he limp became less and less notable until she walked normally again. Buffy made quick progress through the corridors but despite the clean condition of the corridor she never saw another living soul except for a few rats that ran away as soon as Buffy could clearly see them.

As she advanced through empty and looted rooms Buffy finally saw something extraordinary. There on the floor were a few small, black crossbow bolts scattered around. A bit away was something that looked like a small pistol-crossbow though a bladed weapon had cut deeply into the wood and through the stringing rendering it useless. The weapon in itself wasn't that extraordinary but the fact that the cut's edges weren't older than a day or two was.

<Those bolts look like those in that poor guy.> Buffy thought as she remembered the barricaded room she had been in earlier.

After looking around for a few more minutes Buffy found a spot of dried blood but nothing else noteworthy and so she broke off her search and continued on.

Soon she came to another intersection. This time she could choose between two directions her left and straight on. For a change she didn't choose to leave the corridor for the one met and continued on, but not all that much later Buffy stood in front of a wall. This corridor had been a dead end, so she turned around and got back to the intersection.

<Whoever planned this overgrown cellar better hope that I don't get my hands on him or he will deeply regret not to have placed exit signs.>

Still grumbling inwardly the young woman went on through the corridor. Several minutes and a few uninteresting rooms later Buffy came upon an alcove in the corridor wall. In it stood an ornate, arch backed, impressive throne. Apparently it had been carved out of a single huge block of green marble. It faced outwards, looking towards the corridor.

The separated bones of a human skeleton drifted lazily in midair above the throne, shifting about in an endless jumble. The skull also moved around this chaos but it always remained facing outwards and turning to look at Buffy. The only bones that weren't part of this endless slow dance were the intact feet of the skeleton. These were on the floor, positioned as if the skeleton was sitting on the throne.

<Ok. No sitting on strange seats in the future.>

As she went on Buffy came upon a wondrous sight. The corridor between her and a door further down was brilliantly lit be two rows of flickering candles. Each row floated about six feet in the air down both sides of the corridor for nearly thirty meters. There was no sign of life and all was silent only a faint scent of honey lingered in the air.

The door opened into a small empty room with a double door on the opposite side. Through one of the not completely closed portal a faint voice could be heard. Cautiously she peered in.

A large chamber loomed before her, lit by an eerie, purplish-blue radiance emanating from the eyes of a huge black stone spider idol that seemed to merge with the center of the left wall. A darkly stained altar sat before the idol and two of the spider's legs arced outstretched in front of the altar. Another two were raised high above the altar, suspending an unlit brazier from each leg. The spider's other legs bended up and sat down close to its sides, forming large arches along the sides of the idol.

On the side closest to Buffy was an occupant under the large, obsidian legs. Chains ran from the legs to the unmoving form beneath the idol.

Two black-armored elves with skin of utter black stood guard on either side of the altar while a female knelt in front of it her voice carrying across the room as she chanted something and lifted her arms in supplication. After several minutes of chanting the woman rose and after bowing towards the idol went to the altar. From its surface she picked up a dagger.

Even under the bad lighting Buffy could recognize that it was not a common dagger but an ornately adorned ceremonial dagger.

Again the female began to chant; this time she accentuated her chant with stabbing motions as if she were ramming the dagger with both hands into someone lying on the altar. After four repetitions of the same phrases she placed the dagger in her belt and motioned to one of the guards. The guard must have been waiting for the sign as he barely nodded before he left his place beside the altar to go under the statue. As he neared the unmoving form it began to struggle with its bonds. Muffled gasps emitting from the shape spoke of a gag.

<Ok, that has gone on long enough. Time to stop the badness from happening.> Buffy thought with determination.

Without bothering for stealth Buffy pushed the door open. As it banged against he wall with a boom Buffy was already halfway to the altar. The two guards were nothing if not well trained. Without any sign of confusion or panic they drew their weapons and charged towards the interrupting Slayer.

While the men moved in to attack the woman drew a whip from her belt and began to chant.

With the unmistakable clang of metal on metal Buffy and the first guard met. Buffy with her Sunblade and torch faced off against the long sword short sword combination her chain mail clad opponent wielded. Absently Buffy noted how the metal the armor and weapons were made off seemed to absorb the light, like a sponge water. The drow twirled his weapons around in a dazzling pattern. It was as if he wanted to show off his weapon prowess to cow her into surrender.

But Buffy wasn't in the mood to play. She simply jabbed her torch forward. This simple move caught the warrior by surprise and it slipped through his defenses to strike his face just beside his left eye, burning his face and eyebrows as well as setting his long snow white hair on flame when a bit of the torch's pitch splattered over his head. Within moments his whole head and the flowing cape around his shoulders burned like tinder. The dark elf fell to the floor screaming. With a quick thrust from Buffy's blade his agony was cut mercifully short.

By then the second guard had arrived. Upon seeing his comrade's quick demise he proceeded much more carefully. His two short swords traced lazy lines through the air as he searched for an opening in Buffy's guard.

Behind them the chanting ended.

The dark elf took that as a sign to take the offensive. Quick like an angered cobra his swords shot forward in a scissor like movement towards Buffy's neck. She danced back and brought the torch up as an additional defense. With a deep chunk the swords buried themselves in the torch shaft, nearly cutting through it thus rendering it useless for further use as a weapon. With a snarl the dark elf wrenched them free just in time to parry the Slayer's counterattack, but he wasn't quite fast enough and received a slash across the wrist that severed some of the tendons. As his sword fell to the floor and he was once again armed with the same amount of weapons as his opponent his face twisted more and more into a gruesome mask of hate and anger.

"Lloth take you!" he snarled as he launched a flurry of blows against Buffy.

Buffy was so hard pressed to parry and evade his attacks that she nearly missed a new source of danger. There a few meters behind her opponent two large, about dog sized, spiders faded into existence. The spiders flitted forward as fast as their legs could carry them. When they were in jumping distance they flexed their strong legs and took off.

One firmly landed on the elf's back and sank its mandibles deep into his neck. Within seconds the elf succumbed to the spider's poison and stopped struggling against the weight on his back. His struggles had barely stopped as the spider already started to spin a cocoon around him and as she was finished she picked up her package and skittered off towards the furthest, darkest corner the room provided.

The second spider flew towards Buffy's face. She crouched low and swatted after it with the flat of her sword and managed to alter its trajectory enough that it landed harmlessly to her right. Still keeping close to the floor she whipped her sword around in a low sweeping cut that cut through two of the spider's legs. The creature let out a horrible screech.

The screech was echoed by an angry bellow from the altar.

With another strike from Buffy the spider was killed. As it sank down to the floor it began to loose coherency and had vanished before the last part of it even touched the ground.

Buffy had just risen and turned towards the idol ands already she was confronted with the furious female striding towards her. She held a short, dark metal rod that trailed two thick ropes ready to strike.

"Sacrilege! For your deeds your death will be slow and painful!" the female shrieked. "For Lloth's glory!" and with that final exclamation she brought her whip down towards the Slayer.

Buffy brought her sword up to parry but the whip didn't behave like a normal whip ever could. The two ropes twisted and writhed through the air as if living. Without so much as a touch to the blade did they shoot through her defenses and bit into her left arm. Immediately her arm became numb and a muscle-knotting pain shot through her. Buffy screamed in pain like she nearly never had. Through eyes filled with tears of pain she saw what a horrific weapon was used against her. What she had thought of as ropes were in fact coiling, hissing snakes with long fangs that were just retracted from her arm.

As the weapon receded from her arm Buffy hacked with what remained of her strength after the snake heads. Despite her weakness did she manage to nearly cut through one of the snake necks. As the whip came around again the wounded part hung limply down. Now that Buffy knew what she had to expect from the whip she managed to evade the snapping jaws with a few centimeters to spare. While the drow was still in the progress of bringing the whip to bear again Buffy went on the offensive. With short strokes she drove the dark elf back and kept her off balance even though she didn't manage to land an effective hit.

Slowly her retreat brought the drow dangerously close to the fallen warrior. As she noticed the danger of stumbling over her dead guard she glanced behind herself. In doing that she left herself open for a powerful thrust.

Buffy's couldn't believe the opening she was granted, without further thinking she just acted like on automatic and thrust her sword forward. So powerful was her stroke that she pierced the chain mail, without feeling any real resistance, just below her ribcage. The blade sank deeply into the female's body, destroying part of the lungs and cutting into her heart.

With a face full of surprise and indignation as well as pain the drow sank to the floor. There she feebly tried to reach for the ceremonial dagger that hung from her belt but before her hand could close around its hilt all strength had left her and with a final rattling breath she died.

After making sure that all the drow were dead and seeing that the final big spider had vanished just like its dead comrade Buffy hastened towards the chained shape under the idol's legs.

There among dozens of small and tiny spiders and their nets laid a young woman, barely old enough to be called adult. She had pale, nearly blue skin and pointed ears as well as long straight, brown hair. She was clad in a thin silken shit.

<Is that Star Trek-Central or what? One of these black, pointy-eared bastards was really enough. And now I'm stumbling over a whole group of them and their pale cousin too. Ah, well at least they weren't as bad as that creep.> Buffy thought to herself. Out loud she said, "Hello I'm Buffy. I'm your rescue today. I hope you are satisfied with the service."

This said Buffy proceeded to open the locks with the key the drow had left behind when he had moved to attack her. Next she helped the young woman in removing the webs that had been used to gag her.

"Thank you. My name is Maith Slenderbow and I am very satisfied with the service. You have rescued me after all from what could only have been a long and painful death. The drow have not much love for anyone and even less for the Tel'Quessir."

Buffy face screwed up in a grimace. "Sorry didn't mean it that way. It has just been a long hard week and my humor isn't as good as it used to be. Say you don't happen to know a way out of here?"

This earned her an easy laugh from the elf. "In fact I happen to know a way. When they brought me down here we passed the well of the Yawning Portal. Against payment the proprietor of the Portal lets people down and draws them back up when they want out again."

"Ah I see," the look on Buffy's face made it clear that she didn't see. "And where would we be that someone would pay to get down to?"

"Why we are in Undermountain below the city of Waterdeep. Didn't you know?"

"Nope. In fact I have never heard of either."

"I see. Well I shouldn't be so surprised, your clothing is very strange and you speak Common with a really foreign accent. Let me hazard a guess you cam here by magic."

"And here I wanted to say that your English has a curious accent…" Buffy trailed off a bit, then she addressed Maith's guess. "Yeah, I came here because of magic, but I don't know for sure how there was so much cast."

Maith nodded sagely. "I see. Then it would be a good idea to look up a mage when we get out of here. There should be one that can help you."

That said she went over to the dead drow and began to loot their bodies. She took a dagger from the warrior and removed the money pouches from all of them. Maith counted the money and came up with a total of thirty five gold pieces, ten silvers and a few coppers. Of these she kept ten of the gold, two silver and the coppers and gave the rest to Buffy.

"You have more than earned them with my rescue," the young elf said as she saw that Buffy was about to protest. Then she added slyly, "And considering that you are from far away you will need some money to live, not to mention the ten gold per person that have to be paid if we want to leave through the Yawning Portal. And we will have to leave there unless you want to search for another exit. And I for one want out of here as soon as possible and get to my parents again."

"Ok, ok. I get your point. But when we are already looting those drow why didn't you take some other weapon than that dagger?"

"The dagger was mine, all the other weapons are of Drow make and will crumble to dust if they are exposed to sunlight."

"Oh."

On that note the two women left the room and after one last look back that sent chills down Maith's spine they continued on. Luckily Maith had a good memory and sense of direction and after only one dead end and about one hour later they stood in a square room whose ceiling was the lower edge of a well shaft.

A thin line hung down the shaft and a small sign hanging from its end depicted a bell and ten coins that were painted golden. From the shaft emanated the sounds of a busy tavern, laughter and pieces of conversation wafted down as well as the faint smells of food and smoke.

Buffy gave the line a small tug and was rewarded with the ringing of a bell upstairs. Immediately the noise upstairs stopped only to continue a bit louder a few moments later. From what they managed to understand the patrons began to bet on which group of explorers were coming back and how many of them had survived.

<Now they will be in for a surprise. I wonder who gets the jackpot if no one is right.> Buffy thought with a wry grin.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the decent of two buckets, one small and one large enough to hoist eight full grown men up.

A loud voice called down, "Throw ten gold in the small bucket per person wanting up. If you can't pay we'll throw you right back down."

Quickly the women threw the demanded amount into the small bucket and then climbed into the large one. With a jolt the bucket began its ascent into the City of Splendors.

End Prologue

To be continued in Forgotten Slayer: City of Splendors

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