Author’s Note: written whilst under the influence of about 4 gallons of cold medicine; I can barely tell which way the gravity in my house is working at this point. Good for when you’re shooting for surreality, but not so good when aiming for clarity. Please let me know if it’s all disjointed and wacky.
Have taken immense licence with the Kemetic gods and assigned traits to them that have little to no basis in reality. Please, Her-Wer, don’t hit me with a bolt of lightning.
Without, Chapter 27
Thousands of years Satet had served The One, Netjer; thousands of years She had followed where Netjer led, and She was still amazed at Its startling idiocy where competent alliances were concerned.
When the fell creature, banished millennia before by the inhabitants of this Arda, had contacted Netjer pleading for a partnership, most of Its children, the Netjeru, had counseled against it. This Melkor was an unknown entity, and Heka, god of magic and of persuasive speech, had seen in him a kindred spirit, and so warned His ruler.
But Netjer fell prey to his sweet words, and would not be swayed. Melkor would have the assistance he needed.
What the Netjeru had not counted on was that the gods of this world would be sage beings themselves, well capable of making their own alliances. One with a group of deities called the Powers That Be was particularly fruitful. They arranged for champions of the light to be sent to Arda, to help the Valar’s own children battle Melkor and the Netjeru.
The Powers’ first champion, a Slayer, was sent when her time in her own world was finished. It had not been foretold for her to join with one of Arda’s finest warriors and befriend several more, but the Valar certainly weren’t going to complain—they were great believers in rewarding hard work.
Clever, too—as soon as they learned that the first champion’s sister was none other than the Key itself, they entreated the Powers to have her/it sent to Arda as well. Only too happy to get it/her out of their celestial hair, the Key was chivvied along accordingly. No one expected her/it to join with another of Arda’s finest warriors, let alone to produce a child from their union, but the Valar certainly weren’t going to complain, for the same reason listed above.
The second champion, another Slayer, was sent on after her death, but as this one had been somewhat problematic whilst alive, she’d been plunked right in the middle of the Valar themselves for “attitude readjustment”. Her time of confinement was coming to an end, and when the Valar were satisfied with her, there were plans to send her to Arda to meet up with the other champions. In her case, it was planned that she would form a connection with a warrior of Middle-Earth, but knowing this one, she’d fight it the whole way out of sheer perversity.
It was too late for the Netjeru to do anything about the first champion and the Key; what was done, was done. But the second champion, the volatile one… ah, that destiny was not yet set in stone.
A plan was hatched. The brainchild of Sehkmet, goddess of war, it involved a plot so complicated that the mere thinking of it caused Satet a splitting migraine—and in one of the Netjeru, a migraine could last a century or more. Satet shook Her gazelle’s head in dismay… Sehkmet was always full of devious plans, but She’d also been fooled into thinking that beer stained red with pomegranate juice was blood. Not the pointiest arrow in the quiver, was Sehkmet.
Said plot involved preventing the second champion from being able to pass from Aman to Arda, and when passages were to be blocked, Aker was your man. So to speak. Thrilled to be called into service, as for millennia all He’d been doing was granting wishes for those foolish enough to employ His Weshem-ib and thus funnel their life-energy to Him, Aker needed but one more sucker, and he’d have the power to rupture the One Path between Arda and Aman.
What He hadn’t counted on was the Powers sneaking another champion into the mix when the Netjeru weren’t looking, one whom none would have suspected to be a threat: a scholar whose knowledge of the Netjeru was daunting in its scope and magnitude. Blissfully ignorant that His latest victim was not merely a sad rube trying to obtain a distant dream, Aker had sent Corinne Williams to meet with the very people who she never should have been paired with, the very people who could be the downfall of the goal Aker was trying to procure. Never let it be said that the Powers didn’t enjoy a good joke every millennia or so.
Aker had tried to destroy the scholar when she’d had the cheek to destroy his Weshem-ib, but Seshat had rescued the woman and given her the choice of serving Her, and merely set her outside the haven of the library when she refused. Satet smirked; Seshat had always been so damned sentimental of Her followers. Her protection of the scholar had allowed the Powers to deposit the fourth champion, the vampire, in Aker’s realm itself and keep the woman alive.
The others had come to Aker’s realm to save her, something few had expected. As far as the archery goddess could tell, there was little of significance about the woman, quite unlike that magnificent elf. Ah, now there was a minion worth having… his skill with the bow was impressive, but only a portion of his attraction for Her... he was so intense, so upright, so stalwart. It would have been delicious to continue their little game, to whittle away at him over and over until in desperation he accepted Her offer, if only to end the torment of seeing his companions killed time and again. As a token of her favour, Satet allowed him to remember what had gone before. She hoped he would appreciate it, as it would not come again. The Netjeru were not known for their mercy (aside from silly Seshat, that is).
And so, as the cycle repeated itself again, Satet found herself anticipating the upcoming confrontation a trifle breathlessly. It had been long since she’d been so challenged, and she was greatly invigorated by it.
It was time. In her formless state, she could see the determination writ large on the elf’s noble features as he used the Key to create a portal, summoning the others, and felt a illogical pang of hope for him. Foolish, yes, but gods were supposed to be impetuous. She squared her shoulders and prepared to reveal Herself.
Buffy tumbled through the portal, and Haldir deflected Satet’s arrow with his own, shattering it into a hundred pieces. Taking their cue from him, Elessar and Arwen began not to shoot at the goddess, but at the missiles she was aiming at them all.
“I remember too, elf,” the goddess hissed at Haldir, eyes alight with the rage of a scorned female as She fired at them, hands moving so quickly they were just blurs. “I remember, and my quiver never depletes,” Satet exulted. “What shall you do when yours are empty?”
“Then we’ll just have to kick your ass without benefit of artillery,” Buffy told her calmly, and launched into a series of back flips that allowed her to miss the back-and-forth flurries of arrows while bringing her ever-closer to the goddess. Thus were Legolas and Gimli able to exit the portal without undue danger, and Legolas joined his skills to that of the other archers, destroying Satet’s missiles before they could hit Buffy or anyone else.
“Haldir knows more than he’s letting on,” Dawn shouted from behind Boromir, peeping over his shoulder.
“Doesn’t he always?” Buffy quipped, and rolled out of a somersault with fist cocked, planting it right between Satet’s eyes. Reeling back, the goddess was hard-pressed to stay upright, but managed to gain her footing and spring away from the Slayer just before she could land another blow.
Then Spike jogged out onto the meadow, and finding a battle already engaged, dumped Corinne off his back. “Oi, short stuff!” he shouted at Gimli. “Come watch the schoolgirl.” Gimli glowered but trotted over to place himself between Corinne and the goddess.
Dawn’s head whipped around to him. “Spike?” she shrieked with joy.
“Hey, Nibblet,” he greeted her casually as he sped by, borrowed sword already in his hand. “Ready, Slayer?”
“Always,” she replied in that deadly-serious voice that always sent chills down his spine. The moment the others stopped shooting, they launched themselves at Satet in a classic pincer attack, joined shortly by Elessar with Andúril bared, Legolas with his daggers, and Boromir and Dawn coming forward at last.
Satet gave a high-pitched giggle and her legs altered to gazelle’s hindquarters; she sprang away with a laugh and came down on the other side of the portal. Thranduil pitched from it at that moment and, sensing something ominous nearby, twisted in mid-air to sink one of his knives hilt-deep into her belly before landing hard on the ground.
Furious, Satet jerked free the dagger and flung it at him; he dodged it neatly and instead plucked it from the air, slashing at her. Her gazelle-legs tensed, preparing to leap, but Radagast fell from the portal and slammed into her.
She staggered back a ways, ears twitching angrily, and reached for her bow only to find Thranduil had snatched it up as he’d regained his feet and now stood a good dozen paces away, examining it closely. “An exceptional instrument,” he commented, turning to his son. “What say you to the irony of attacking the creature with its own weapon, Greenleaf?”
Legolas caught the bow Thranduil threw to him. “Ever have I been fond of irony, Ada, as well you know,” he replied coolly, and sent an arrow right between her eyes.
“Game?” Spike demanded. “This was just a game to him?”
Unacceptable,” Haldir demanded, and this time his blades drew thin lines of scarlet that stained the buff-coloured fur of Satet’s throat. “Help us; tell us how we can end this.”
Satet stared at him a long moment, elf and goddess locked in a battle of wills, before she slumped in defeat. “Each of you brings something unique,” she said at last, her raspy voice immeasurably sad. “The two newcomers must be first, and employ their strengths. Only then will you succeed against a god.”
She turned then toward Corinne. “You, scholar. I give you impetus to riddle my words… Defeat me, else there be no cure for your affliction. The vampire’s ministrations shall not stave off death for much longer.”
After this extraordinary statement, Satet turned once more to Haldir and gave a narrow smile. “And now, elf?”
A muscle flickered in Haldir’s jaw, and with a jerk, he decapitated her.
Corinne remembered. She remembered Satet’s words to her, and puzzled over them until she thought her head would split. Over and over the scene played out, in endless variations, and the increasing weariness in Haldir’s eyes as they failed time and again made her ache on his behalf. She had figured out that Spike was one of the newcomers, but who was the second? Thranduil, for joining the rescue mission at the eleventh hour? She’d finagled it several times so Spike and Thranduil were the first out of the portal, but that had ended just as badly as all the other times.
Maybe she was all wrong-headed about it, as Spike would say… whispering into his ear, she told him what she knew and asked for his opinion. In response, the eyes he turned to her were both gimlet and frustrated.
“You know, for someone who’s supposed to be a scholar, you’re about as perceptive as a bag of hammers,” he said sourly, dumping her off his back and glaring.
“What’s going on?” Buffy asked mildly, having become used to periodic squabbles between Spike and Corinne over the past day.
“Oh, nothing,” Spike said airily. “Miss Thick-as-a-Brick here just now decided to get some input from yours truly on an… academic matter. And it only took our horrible deaths repeating-- how many times, luv?”
“Thirty-seven,” Corinne answered sullenly. “That’s just counting how many since I’ve been able to remember it… I think it’s happened a lot more than that. Haldir was…”
“Ok, really wanting to jump on the clue-wagon, here,” Buffy interjected. “Splainy in simple terms even a blonde can understand?” Ignoring Thranduil’s expression of deep insult, she listened while Corinne tried to elaborate on what little she understood of the whole thing.
“It seems fairly obvious that the two newcomers to our world are Spike and Corinne,” Gimli said in his my-patience-is-running-out-when-can-I-kill-something tone. “We must identify their unique skills and formulate a plan around them.”
Everyone turned to him in suprise. The dwarf merely raised a brow so aloof even Thranduil would have been hard-pressed to out-snoot it. “Let us begin,” he told them magnanimously, and so they did.
An hour later
The others were still squabbling about their parts in the plan, most notably Radagast who felt he should go first instead of Spike, the sooner to do his earthen-prison move, but Legolas wasn’t paying attention to them; his focus was, instead, upon a pinpoint of light in the distance.
A green, glowing pinpoint, to be exact. “Dawn’s blood has been spilt,” he said quietly, eyes flying to his wife. In a heartbeat, she was racing through the swamp toward it, the others pelting after her. Spike tossed Corinne so she fell through in a baseball slide, and the arrow Satet sent her way zoomed harmlessly over her head.
“Hi!” she greeted the other group cheerfully. “Don’t mind me, just distract her, okay?” All but Haldir returned to their attack; his eyes burned like coals as they examined her.
“You are teal,” he accused.
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “Fight now, mocking of Corinne later.” With a brief nod, he turned away.
Scuttling low on the ground, she made her way behind them and began giving them directions. “We need to distract her from the portal, so the others can come through safely. Also, getting her back to the portal would be ideal.”
And so they continued, the goddess never realizing She was being herded in a particular direction. At one point, after Haldir scored an especially choice shot under Her jaw, She sighed and slapped one hand to Her hip while the other removed the arrow, waving it around as She gesticulated. “Have none of you yet learnt that arrows do not harm me?” Satet turned to Haldir. “I had thought you more canny than this.” Her tone was exasperated, that of a teacher to a student who continues to make stupid mistakes.
“I’ll give you canny,” Spike said from behind, and leapt onto Her back. Changing to game-face in mid-leap, he sank his fangs past Her fur into Her throat and clung limpet-like as She strove to free Herself of him.
“Spike!” cried Dawn joyfully, and he somehow managed to grin at her around his mouthful of goddess, freeing his grip round Her neck for a moment to wave. She sprang away in a fury, and Spike found himself actually riding Her around the meadow as She bucked and twisted in an attempt to dislodge him. At one point he let out a classic bronco-buster whoop, bringing some much-needed laughter to the serious bunch.
Then came Radagast, staff already upraised, and muttering in a low voice. The ground under Satet’s feet began to rumble, and then in a rush surged upward to encase her in what looked like brown cement. She tried to change to human form and then back to a gazelle but the meadow’s thick grasses seemed to come alive, undulating and creeping around her until her arms were firmly trapped against her sides.
“Step brightly!” Spike called, and as Buffy, Legolas, and Gimli emerged from the portal the entire group ran over to where Satet was pinioned in place. Spike jumped off the goddess, staggering a bit from his wild ride. “Bloody hell, that girl’s got the juice,” he gasped, and fell over. Dawn immediately ran to him, pulling his head on her lap and babbling nonsense as she cried all over him.
“You do not know what you do,” Satet panted when they surrounded Her. “We but try to secure a home for ourselves!”
“At the expense of those who already call it home!” Elessar exclaimed as Haldir reached for the quiver-strap that lay between her breasts. With a wrench of his hand, the strap was broken and the quiver, dangling from his hand. “Hear me, Aker!” the king called out, addressing the vacant air but knowing he was heard. “End this now, else your servant be slain.”
Haldir tossed the quiver to Corinne, and in a heartbeat had his daggers at Satet’s throat. “Your answer, Aker!” he roared.
Satet closed her eyes a moment, and Radagast’s face sharpened. “She speaks to Him,” he muttered.
When She opened her eyes again, there was misery in them. “Aker says He does not bargain with lower beings; He feels this is great sport, watching you die time and again.”
“I don’t get it,” Buffy said grouchily, slapping the flat of her sword into her palm.. “Why all the fuss and bother to set us up to die over and over? It makes no sense, especially from a time management standpoint.”
“It is not sport,” Arwen said slowly. “Aker tries to divide us, so we shall not rally to aid when we are needed.” Her eyes raked over her husband and the others in their group. “He has already weakened us, and broken bonds of trust that we shall need if we are to conquer these gods.”
Elessar turned to Satet and smiled at her, eyes glacial. “A brilliant maneuver; one I might have to deploy myself, once your corpses lie scattered at our feet.” The king seemed utterly confident of this outcome. “Tell us, Aker, how will your reputation with your king fare when it comes to pass that a group of lower beings have managed to defeat one of your illustrious folk?”
Satet’s eyes became dreamy once more. “He says He will spare you, if you leave me alive.”
“And we believe him because we’ve all spontaneously suffered major lobotomies?” Buffy demanded. “I’m thinking not.”
Thranduil picked up Satet’s bow and now stood examining it closely. “An exceptional instrument,” he commented, turning to his son. “What say you to the irony of killing a creature with its own weapon, Greenleaf?”
Legolas tossed his bow to Corinne at the same time Thranduil threw Satet’s to him. “Ever have I been fond of irony, Ada, as well you know,” he replied coolly, and sent an arrow right between her eyes.
Weakened by near-total blood loss and the lack of her quiver, Satet’s form went rigid with agony. She turned her gazelle’s head toward Haldir, her expression of reproachment and loss. “Remember me?” she rasped.
“No,” he replied coldly. “There is no mercy in me for you or any of your ilk.” And he walked away from her as she died, striding over to Corinne. “Glad I am to see that you live,” he told her, gaze fixated somewhere around her chin. “But what took you so long to discern a winning strategy? And why are you teal?”
Arda = Middle-Earth
Aman = Valinor
Ada = Father