Author’s Note: Her-Wer is the Kemetic name for Horus, son of Wesir (Osirus) and Aset (Isis). Yes, we’re getting to the point of mentioning Egyptian gods of whom you actually might have heard.
Without, Part 33
“Aker,” Buffy said, staring at him, eyes slitted. “You have no idea how much thrashing you is going to improve my day.”
“You may try,” He replied, springing lightly to his feet. “You may try.” There was a flash of light, and he was gone.
“Goddamit!” Buffy yelled. “Why didn’t anyone tell me he could just beam out of here? Corinne! You’re supposed to be the ex…pert,” she finished lamely when, after looking around for the woman, she found her: cradled in Spike’s arms, limp, and most definitely dead.
“I’m sorry,” the vampire said, his voice low. “I couldn’t get him to let go of her, it happened too fast.”
Haldir was there before Buffy could take a step, taking Corinne in one arm while the other sent Spike flying across the chamber. “You will not touch her,” he hissed. “You will not even look at her with your unclean eyes, foul thing, beast…” His words trailed off then as he gathered Corinne to him and looked down at her, his face anguished.
Buffy strode across the chamber to Spike, a stake appearing as if by magic in her hand, and hoisted him up to her eye level by means of grasping his throat in her tiny fist and hauling hard. “You piece of filth,” she said between gritted teeth. “Give me one reason I shouldn’t stake you right now.”
“Buffy!” Dawn cried, flying toward them. “Put him down! I’m sure he had a plan of some sort, which tragically misfired or something…”
Spike nodded in energetic agreement above Buffy’s fist. “Sure do, Slayer,” he said, voice raspy from her stranglehold.
Dropping him as if his touch polluted her, Buffy stepped back and crossed her arms. “Spill,” she commanded “And if I don’t believe you, you’re gonna fit in an ashtray in about two point eight seconds.”
“They tried to bribe me,” Spike explained roughly, rubbing his throat with his hand and shooting grateful looks at Dawn, who had taken place beside her sister and mimicked her pose if not her skeptical and threatening expression. “Said they’d give me anything I wanted, if I helped them. And,” he continued meaningfully, “I mean, anything.”
Buffy coloured faintly at that; she had an excellent idea of what he meant. With the perception of the in-love and married, she sensed Legolas tensing up. “And?”
“And, I saw an opportunity to get a bit of information out of them. Be an undercover operative, as it were,” he said, trying to reclothe himself in his cocky persona by altering his stance to that of the Big Bad he’d once been and pulling out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Lighting one with a flourish, he snapped the lighter closed and pocketed it before blowing out a cloud of smoke and continuing. “I told them all your battle secrets, or so they thought, the stupid sods.” He chuckled mirthlessly. “They believed whatever I said. Weren’t you surprised it was so easy to kill those minotaur blokes?”
Buffy nodded slowly, grudgingly. “It was like they were doing everything that was easiest for us to smackdown,” she admitted.
“Because they were,” Spike told her. “And I took Corinne because I thought she’d be safest on this side of the glass, with me and the gods. I never meant—“ He broke off and looked away, visibly struggling for composure. “I never meant for this to happen to her,” he finished at last. “If she hadn’t gotten all heroic and killed that one—“ he motioned to Tayet, whose head lay at a gruesome angle to her neck “—none of this would have happened!”
Elessar blinked. “Corinne killed a god? Without assistance?”
Spike beamed proudly. “Yep, wrung her neck, just like I told her. She was a fast study, this one.” He sobered then, his gaze resting on Corinne once more; a lock of Haldir’s hair had fallen over her throat like a pale silk ribbon, hiding the contusions that were evidence of her murder. “I’m sorry,” he told the elf. “I never raped her, or hurt her other than hitting her lightly a few times, so the gods would believe I was abusing her.” His gaze rested on her a moment before meeting Haldir’s. “I liked the schoolgirl.”
Gray eyes locked with blue, and after an endless moment, Haldir nodded shortly, accepting Spike’s apology.
“See, Buffy?” Dawn burbled. “I told you there was an explanation.”
But Buffy wasn’t completely appeased. “Don’t do anything like that again,” she told him crossly. “Your judgment has never been the best, and it usually ends up a disaster. This is just another example of that.” He hung his head, and she continued. “But I’m glad you stayed on our side.” His head came up again, and he offered her a tremulous smile, which she returned for a scant moment before getting back to business. “Haldir,” she said to her friend, her voice soft.
He was staring down at Corinne as if expecting her to wake up any moment. “She is dead.” He looked up at Buffy, silver gaze clouded with misery and disbelief.
Buffy came to him then, and wrapped her arms around him and Corinne, resting her forehead against his shoulder. “I know, Hal,” she replied. “I know, and I’m sorry. But we have to find Aker. We can’t let him get away.”
There was another flash, and everyone tensed to do battle, but before them stood not Aker, but a woman. She wore a leopard skin and not much else, but in the centre of her forehead blazed a lotus-shaped jewel. “I am Seshat,” the woman told them, looking with sorrow at Corinne. “This one was my daughter, and loath am I to see her death, for it bodes ill for your world and mine. Will you not give her to me?”
Buffy blinked. “Give her to you?”
“You do not wish to leave her here, I am sure,” said Seshat, “and the battle you will wage with Aker is no place for her.”
“So, this thing with Aker isn’t over yet?” Dawn asked, eyes round with apprehension.
“Indeed not,” Seshat answered. “Her-Wer will be here shortly to assist you in locating Aker, for his hawks have been watching since you came to this place.”
Thranduil arched a golden brow. “Did I not say there were far too many hawks than was reasonable, Greenleaf?”
“Yes, Ada,” Legolas replied tiredly. “And kindly do not call me that.”
“What about these fallen gods?” Elessar inquired, gesturing to Tayet and Heka. “Corinne killed one, and the vampire took down the other.”
Seshat turned to survey Spike; he returned her regard, quirking his scarred brow arrogantly. “You drank deeply of Satet, I understand,” she murmured, eyes dark and liquid as she studied him.
He nodded. “That I did.”
“Do you feel… differently, since then?” she asked lightly, but there was an intensity in her eyes that put him on alert.
“Now that you mention it, yeah,” he admitted. “Faster, and stronger. I punched that wanker right through the wall; couldn’t have done that before…”
“Before what?” Buffy asked, curious.
Spike blinked in surprise, as if just realizing something. “Before I drained Satet.” He turned to Seshat. “Is there some sort of powerful juju to god’s blood?”
She nodded slowly. “I am not sure of the effect if will have you on altogether, or how long it will last, but yes. For the time being at least, you are…for lack of another way to express it… a god yourself.”
Both of his eyebrows shot up this time. “You hear that, Nibblet?” he demanded of Dawn, grinning maniacally. “I’m a god.”
She rolled her eyes and punched his shoulder. “Ok, god-guy, then transport us to Aker so we can kick his ass.”
But he was eyeing Heka’s and Tayet’s corpses speculatively and paying no attention to her whatsoever. “If I eat them, will I be more god-like?” he asked Seshat. Buffy and Dawn exchanged an ‘oh, we’ve created a monster’ sort of look, whilst the others merely appeared queasy at the notion.
Seshat, however, had the gleam in scholarship in her eye that they recognized from spending time with Corinne. “I do not know,” she replied. “You should try it and see.” Spike approached the gods’ corpses and everyone else stepped away, not wanting to see or hear his delighted feasting.
Buffy opened her mouth to speak but at that precise moment a bird’s cry echoed through the huge room; it was as if the sound had come from her and the others began to laugh, more from a dire need to break the tension and sadness than from actual humour. Even Haldir was able to summon a credible, if tight, smile.
“Ah,” Seshat said, and beamed. “Her-Wer has come.”
A raptor of immense size flew into the room, and as they watched it transformed into the figure of a man: tall, well-built, with the head of a hawk. His pupilless eyes were of solid color: one of silver, the other of gold. When He spoke, His voice held the echoes of the canyons and cliffs through which his brethren would soar in pursuit of prey.
“My sister,” he greeted the goddess.
She bowed to him, silken jetty tresses slipping forward over smooth caramel shoulders. “My brother.”
“I will assist them from this point, you may take your child and depart.” Her-Wer held out His arms to Haldir, who reluctantly relinquished Corinne’s body. “Nehktet,” the god murmured, then kissed Corinne’s forehead before passing her to Seshat.
The goddess smiled at Haldir. “She loved you greatly, elf, for she gave up her fondest dream to keep you safe. Be proud to have enjoyed such devotion from one who served me, for we are not known for our passions for anything but learning. It is notable indeed that she would give her heart to you.”
A rough sound, quickly choked back, emerged from Haldir; he nodded solemnly and turned away to study Spike, who was done with Heka and had moved on to Tayet. Seshat nodded to the others and vanished in a brilliant flash of light.
“I bring you now to Aker,” Her-Wer told them. “I regret I cannot help you in this battle, for it is not yet my time to make my support of you known. But be aware, I see now the truth of what befalls your world and how some of the Netjeru have come to serve the dark. You fight alone no longer.”
Spike stood then, grinning giddily. “That’s the stuff,” he burbled happily, staggering like a drunk over to Dawn and looping his arm around her neck, more for support than affection. Sighing, she grabbed his wrist to help keep him upright. “Let’s go, Bird-Boy,” he said to Her-Wer.
The god’s face, though covered in feathers and possessing a beak, yet managed to convey a sense of amusement and pique at the same time; He nodded and in the blink of an eye, they were no longer in a stone chamber deep within Mertsegur, but in the middle of a vast canyon. Steep dunes rose on all sides in the distance, shimmering in the piercing desert sun, and sand drifted in the wind and shifted under their feet.
But aside from their group, the canyon was vacant. “There is no one here,” Gimli complained. “No one but us.” He seemed greatly disappointed that there was no mayhem forthcoming.
Somehow, Her-Wer managed to make His beak smile. “Give it a minute,” He replied, and turned back into a hawk. With a cry that bounced off the dunes, He soared up into the sky of hard, bright blue, circled once over them, and departed.
Buffy watched until the god was merely a tiny black speck in the sky, and then He was gone, too far even for her exceptional sight. “Crap,” she sighed. “Now what?”
“Now,” Aker said, appearing behind her, golden sword in hand, “we fight.”
Buffy turned slowly, and all marveled at how her face, her pretty little face, could so swiftly and completely alter to that of a warrior. Her features settled into lines that were fierce, and determined, and very, very deadly.
“You took off before we could chat,” she scolded, and the sunlight flashed off her sword as she pounced on him, striking swiftly. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you it was rude to leave in the middle of a conversation?”
Aker deflected her blow with His own weapon and stepped back, surprisingly nimble on His big, pawlike feet, mane of golden hair dancing in the wind that moaned around them. “You have my sincerest apologies,” He replied, and thrust His sword at her.
“For some reason, I don’t completely believe you.” She pivoted on one foot, then curved sideways into a one-handed handstand, springing up and over His head to land behind Him. “Must be all the deception and manipulation we’ve enjoyed since you came into our lives.” She swung at Him, and connected with His shoulder, severing arm from torso.
Aker grunted in pain, but before Buffy could press her attack, His arm flew up from the ground and reaffixed itself. “There is no need for you to fight me,” He told her, consternation plain on his face. Was it just her, or was he beginning to look more like a lion? “You can join the Netjeru who align with Melkor. We shall rule all of Arda and Aman together. Battling against us is pointless.”
Buffy sighed. “I disagree,” she contradicted. “It’s entirely pointy. You’ve mind-raped all of us, you killed Corinne. I’m not just going to say, ‘hey, water under the bridge, old buddy!’ and team up with you.” She turned her sword at him again in a flurry of blows, slashing and thrusting so quickly she was a mere blur, and connecting more often than not, but each injury swiftly healed itself. Her frustration communicated itself to her husband, who began to make his way behind their foe. Before he could get anywhere near Aker, however, the god’s head began to vibrate.
Buffy’s eyes rounded in surprise. “Huh?” Then, “Gah!” when Aker’s head split down the middle, and each half grew into a full head of its own.
“You see now my true nature,” He told her with the left head, while the right one turned to fix a beady golden eye on Legolas. “I see yesterday and tomorrow; I see east and west.” His lipless mouth curved into a sneer. “There is nothing you can do to surprise me.”
“Are you quite sure of that?” asked Radagast, smirking from under his drooping mustache as he aimed his staff at the god. Dawn stood beside him, a small portal open between them, and his free hand was thrust into it as energy surged up his arm, flowing into him. A bolt of pure green light streaked toward Aker and hit Him directly in the red disc medallion that adorned his neck. A spray of multicolored light shot from the ruptured disc and the air around them was filled with the sound of shattering glass. Aker fell to His knees, both mouths roaring in fury and pain.
“I bet that surprised you,” Dawn crowed, and His right head turned to glare at her.
“This is yet far from over,” it informed her coldly. In a single agile move, He was on His feet once more, and with a murmur had caused a second sword to form in his other hand just as Legolas came at him from one side, long white knives glinting, and Buffy rushed him from the other.
“We attack,” Elessar commanded softly, voice carrying on the wind. “He cannot defend against all of us at once.” And with that, the rest of them rushed at the god.
“Think you I cannot?” Aker said with a doglike bark of laughter. “Foolish, foolish.” With a mighty spring, he launched himself away from them; in mid air, his body began to split down the centre from his neck, forming into two enormous lions. As they skidded to a halt and watched in horror, the lions’ heads split and grew into two heads, and then their bodies divided again and again and again until there were sixteen lions, snarling and pawing, bodies tensed poised to strike.
“He’s like some sort of creepy evil amoeba,” Dawn complained, adjusting her grip on her pike.
“Everyone back to back,” Buffy called, advancing on the lions with grim determination. “Don’t let them get behind you.” Obediently, they paired up and began to fight the lions; spouses together and Gimli with Haldir. Radagast and Thranduil each heaved a sigh of resignation before taking battle stances beside each other.
“There are too many,” Haldir called after a few minutes of silent, intense fighting; the lions were bigger than cows and armed with not only sharp fangs but razor-like claws as well; already several of their company sported long slashes and Dawn was leaving little portals all over the place from where their lion had raked her arm.
“We’ll have to double up,” Buffy replied. “Dawn, stay close to Boromir and fight over his head. Gimli, Radagast, Arwen, Elessar, Thranduil: just concentrate on one lion each. Legolas, Spike, and Haldir: take two each. I’ll take the last three.”
With that, she launched herself into action, hacking at one of the lions she’d claimed for herself. It didn’t take long for her to fell her first: a handspring through the air and judicious bit of swordwork resulted in its swift beheading.
The second proved more troublesome: it knocked her to the ground and the sword from her hand, and only Buffy’s immense strength allowed her to hold its slavering head and sharp teeth away from her throat. She couldn’t see the third one, but from the growls that were coming closer she suspected it wasn’t far away.
She began a double-pronged attack on the lion sitting on her chest and trying to kill her: first, she gripped it around its muzzle with one hand, holding its mouth closed while she groped frantically for a knife; second, she started kicking it viciously in its belly and lower, hoping that divine lions were as susceptible as any other male creature to a boot in the nuts.
Her foot connected with the lion’s nether region at the same moment she found a dagger and jammed it into its throat; hot blood, red and sticky, coursed out over her and she had to heave mightily to dislodge the shuddering thing from her. There was barely a moment to even locate her sword, let alone grab it, before the second lion was on her, mouth stretched wide to rip out her throat.
nehktet = victory