Author’s Note: more pulling stuff out of my butt for this one, especially as concerns Yinepu, who is more commonly known by the Grecianization of his name, Anubis.
Dedicated to all those authors who, despite receiving acclaim and praise, don’t take themselves too seriously and maintain a sense of the ridiculous. This ain’t brain surgery, folks. It’s just fanfic.
Without, Part 34
Buffy’s 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.
It wrapped its huge jaws around her shoulder and sank long fangs into her flesh, lifting her from the ground and grating over the flat of her shoulder blade, shaking her like a rag doll so that she had great trouble aiming her sword between its shoulder blades and stabbing downward, but she managed it. With a final agonized cry and rake of claws across her back, the lion collapsed and twitched a little before dying, teeth still buried in her. The wounds made pain flash like fire through her, and she experienced the usual narrowing of vision and dimming of hearing that accompanied a fatal wound.
At her cry of pain, Legolas glanced over; he’d already killed one of his lions and stood battling the second. “Go to her,” Haldir yelled, finishing off his second and moving to intercept Legolas’.
He ran to her and yanked the lion’s corpse away; the four puncture wounds were messily oozing blood but they were not too serious. What had him concerned were the ribbons of skin and muscle the creature had flayed from her back. “Elbereth,” he murmured as he gently leaned her forward against his arm and lifted her braid away, the better to inspect her injuries, and saw the gleam of bloody bone in the brilliant sunlight—ribs and spine. She would not survive this, he knew.
“Dying again,” she gasped, wincing at the agony that coursed through her.
“Yes,” he agreed unhappily, peering over her head at the others. Gimli had killed his lion and was trotting around offering assistance to the rest; Thranduil had made short work of his lion and was doing likewise, but shot the occasional concerned glance toward his son and daughter-in-law.
“If I come back and He’s still not dead, I’m gonna be pissed,” she warned weakly as Legolas clasped her carefully in his arms. Gimli joined them then, wringing his hands and making concerned clucking noises as he always did when Buffy died.
“If the look on Haldir’s face portends the future, I doubt there will be much left for you to worry over,” Legolas replied, pressing a kiss to her damp forehead. His fellow elf was certainly looking quite intent upon mayhem and destruction, as slaughtering three lions had not slaked his thirst for vengeance nor his fury at Corinne’s death, and he was methodically moving through the pack of beasts, giving assistance to the others whether they wished it or not.
With nothing much to do, Boromir and Dawn joined them, the latter leaning on her pikestaff and frowning at her sister for getting so grievously injured once more. The former merely watched as Haldir butchered another lion with Elessar’s help. A lion swiped at Radagast; he danced back in a whirl of rusty brown robes and smacked it hard in the head; immediately, it turned to stone. Another rap with the staff, and the stone crumbled to sand and blew away in the wind.
“ ‘Spose you’re right,” Buffy conceded, voice very faint, and passed away.
Legolas sighed, and settled back for a lengthy wait for her return to life. “Gimli, move. I cannot see with you in the way.”
The moment she opened her eyes, Buffy knew she wasn’t alive again, at least not yet. Squinting, she thanked the Powers for her enhanced Slayer-vision that allowed her to see in spite of the total darkness that surrounded her. This place was not the same as the last time she’d been in this circumstance: that had been cloudy, remote, indistinct, surreal. This place was like Giles’ wet-dream: rows upon endless torchlit rows of books, scrolls, and various interesting-looking gadgets.
Standing, she craned her head and looked around. There, about twenty rows away, was that a faint glow of light? Buffy jogged toward it and then turned into the aisle; at the very end was a familiar figure in a familiar stance: book open, nose pressed close, lips muttering to herself as she read.
“You’ve only been dead a half-hour,” Buffy commented to Corinne as she arrived beside the other woman, hugging her warmly. “Sure didn’t waste any time hitting the books, I see.”
Corinne didn’t say a word, just gave her a sad look and raised the book so Buffy could read the gold-embossed title on the spine: How to Return After Death.
“Ah,” Buffy said in comprehension, and the enormity of the whole thing hit. For her, dying was no big deal. She knew she was going back, as surely as most people knew they would wake up the next morning. But for Corinne… there was no going back. This was it, unless they could unearth something useful in one of these books. “Can I help?”
Corinne’s eyes lit on the other woman, an unreadable expression in them before she took another book and handed it to Buffy.
Buffy looked at her book. The words on its front were completely unrecognizable to her, but as she watched they seemed to scramble and morph into actual English, which she hadn’t seen since coming to Arda all those years ago, and which took her a moment to decipher. The book’s title was Necromancy for Dummies and it didn’t look very promising, what with its black snakeskin cover and poison-green lettering, but dutifully she cracked it open and began reading.
What you’ll need to raise the dead:
1. the dead.
2. the assistance of a being of immense supernatural power.
3. yolks of two eggs.
4. pinch of salt.
With an exasperated sigh and exaggerated eyeroll, she wished (not for the first time) that Giles or Willow were there to do the researchy stuff. They’d always been way better at it than she. Or Celeborn,” she thought. “He was good at this sort of thing too.” Sighing, she looked over at Corinne. “Hey, how come you’re alive here? And where is ‘here’, anyway?”
Corinne looked up slowly, and touched her fingertips to her forehead. Buffy frowned until she realized Corinne meant Seshat. “Seshat bought you back?” Corinne nodded, then pointed to her. “Oh, I died too. But I’m going back, I always do. Are you coming back with me?”
Corinne’s eyes shimmered with grief, and she shrugged dejectedly.
Buffy huffed out a breath in frustration. “Why aren’t you talking?” she demanded.
This time, Corinne touched her neck, pushing aside the ankh-shaped collar that Buffy recognized as having belonged to Heka; Buffy peered at her in the low light and saw the bruises like dark amethysts ringing her throat like a gruesome necklace. “Oh,” she said in comprehension. “Is it permanent?”
The other woman shrugged sadly, and her eyes filled with tears. Opening her mouth, Corinne struggled to speak, but all that came out was a hoarse croak, so she made a motion with her fingers to indicate pointed ears.
Buffy twigged immediately. “Haldir?” At Corinne’s vigorous nod, she replied, “He’s upset. Really, really upset. Been killing everything he can get his hands on.”
Corinne smiled through her tears, then bared her teeth and pointed to her canines, and nodded again when Buffy guessed she meant Spike.
“We didn’t kill him,” Buffy told her. “Just roughed him up a bit.” At Corinne’s worried look, she laughed. “Trust me, for him, that’s foreplay. Don’t worry, he explained everything. We’ve mostly forgiven him.”
Corinne laughed then, and gave Buffy’s arm a quick press of gratitude before motioning to the books. Sighing, Buffy plopped onto the floor and started to rifle through the pages once more in search of the right information to restore Corinne to life.
What seemed like years later, but was in actuality only about an hour, Corinne made another choking noise, and Buffy looked up swiftly to find her friend pointing excitedly. Leaning over, she read aloud from the page.
To win back a Sâhu from the land of the dead, one must persuade the all-powerful and sometimes out-of-sorts Yinepu to release it.
This is not as easy as it sounds.
“That doesn’t sound easy at all,” Buffy grumbled, but read on.
One needs to convince Him that the soul is more beneficial to Him in the land of the living, rather than His realm of the dead. However, He is very shrewd and quick to see the myriad ways in which a Sâhu can serve him, and so is reluctant to give up any Sâhu in case they might some day be of use to Him. Do not get your hopes up.
Failing this, one can always try to defeat Him in a contest, but this is not recommended as He is known for His extreme prowess in the arts of war and strategy.
Also, He cheats.
“This is ridiculous,” Buffy complained. “Where’s Seshat? Maybe She can shed some light on this stuff. My head’s all fuzzy from thinking about it.” Corinne quirked a brow at her, which she ignored. “Seshat!” Buffy called. “Hey, Seshat!”
Nothing happened. She opened her mouth to call again, but Corinne held up a hand to silence her. Buffy’s enhanced hearing easily picked up the sound of sandal-shod feet strolling toward them, and she stood to greet the goddess when she finally turned down their aisle.
“Greetings, Slayer,” Seshat said in Her melodious voice. “You have summoned me?”
Buffy had the grace to blush a little; it was a bit rude, after all, to expect gods to jump when you commanded. “Yeah, hi,” she replied, shifting from one foot to another in embarrassment. “Can you help us at all? Because this makes no sense to me, and Corinne can’t talk, so we’re kind of operating at a disadvantage here.”
Seshat studied her a long moment, making her squirm even more, and then she heard Corinne’s voice in her head. “God, I hope Haldir’s ok, he’s a good fighter but if he’s being reckless he could get hurt… will Buffy have to fight Yinepu? This is all so surreal, I feel like I’m in an Escher drawing… Hey, now she’s looking at me weird. What? I didn’t say a word! What?”
“I have allowed the Slayer to hear your thoughts, Scholar, so think wisely,” Seshat informed Corinne with a faint smile that grew wider when the woman sighed in relief.
“Finally! Being mute was really starting to piss me off.” Corinne exulted. “So, what do we do now? How do we contact Yinepu so we can talk him into letting me go?”
Seshat tilted her head to one side, making the shining curtain of her hair shift and glint in the ruddy torchlight. “Do you yet have my gift to you?”
“The palm frond? Yes,” Corinne replied.
“And Hapi’s gift as well?”
“Yes, I’ve got the lotus petals,” she thought, sharing a bewildered look with Buffy.
“And Her-Wer has bestowed upon you the kiss of victory, has He not?” At Corinne’s nod, She continued. “And you defeated Tayet by yourself, and the vampire gave you the collar of Heka, is this so?” Another nod. “Yinepu, my brother, she has sanction of three Netjeru, and has defeated two more. Do you not agree that this, then, is a Sâhu worthy of mercy?”
In the time it took Buffy and Corinne to blink, another person had appeared beside Seshat. He was tall and whipcord-lean, with skin the colour of ink. Around His narrow hips He wore an intricately pleated kilt of blindingly white linen, and wristbands of lapis and carnelian beads adorned His slender wrists. Rising from a wide golden collar, His head was that of a jackal, with a pointed snout and long, quivering ears.
“Mercy is not my purview, my sister,” He answered, and His voice was deep and pleasing. His eyes, a startlingly bright violet-blue, were piercing and speculative as they gazed at Corinne. “What you have described sounds very much like one I would prefer to keep with me.”
“Please,” Corinne ventured, “I have to go back. Haldir… I have to be with Haldir.”
“He is a strong one,” Yinepu said, brushing off her plea with a casual wave of his hand and making the beads of his bracelet tinkle and clatter. “And he has long to live... in a century, he will barely remember your name.” Obviously, He meant this to be comforting, for He bared His teeth in a smile, and consequently was greatly puzzled when the woman burst into tears.
“Perhaps it would be best if you refrained from trying to cheer her, my brother,” Seshat murmured while Buffy put an arm around Corinne’s shoulders and glared at Him. “Your strengths lie elsewhere.”
“True,” Yinepu conceded, and tried to erase the sheepish expression from His face, as He knew it wasn’t a good look for Him. “My apologies, Scholar,” He said to Corinne, who sniffled and nodded.
“Show how sorry you are by letting me go back,” she suggested hopefully, and His violet eyes took on a rather predatory gleam as He turned to look at Seshat.
“Ah, my sister, she is quick! How can you propose that I release her? For she would be a fine addition to my court.” Folding His arms over His chest and making His wide golden collar shift, He surveyed Corinne in an almost proprietary way. “Nay, she shall be one of mine.”
Buffy sighed. “Ok, fine. We tried to be nice about it. Now it’s time for the pain.” When both gods frowned in confusion, she reached for the book and jabbed an impatient finger at it. “Look, says right there we can fight you and you have to give in.”
“It does not say that!” He protested, eyes widening with indignation.
“Does too!” she insisted.
“It does say that, my brother,” Seshat told Him gently. “I would concede with grace, were I you.”
“Oh, nice,” Yinepu snapped, turning His head away in a sulky flounce. “Just beautiful. ‘Tis a sad day when the actions of a god are dictated by the machinations of mortals and books.”
“Quit whining,” Buffy said, starting to get annoyed. “I’m the one who’s been through hell the past few days; what have you done? Sat in the Underworld and passed judgment on dead people. Ooh, tough. So exhausting.” She glared at Him. “Colour me completely unimpressed.”
He glared back and soon they were locked in a staring contest. Seshat and Corinne exchanged a look of exasperation, and the goddess said, “I tire of this. Name your contest, Slayer, so we can have done with this nonsense.”
“Nonsense!” Yinepu exclaimed. “You slight me, my sister.”
She ignored Him, watching Buffy with a steadfast, liquid gaze. “Slayer? What is your choice?”
Buffy watched Yinepu, saw Him flex His arms and clench His fists. “First, I want Him to take His collar off. No special mojo helping Him win; He has to beat me by His own merit.”
“My collar? Why?” He asked, puzzled.
“Because,” she replied impatiently, “it’s your magic thingy that keeps you immortal and gives you special powers.”
He glanced at Seshat, who covered a rather girlish giggle with Her hand. “Er, my talisman is not my collar, but my kilt,” he informed Buffy. “Do you truly wish me to engage you without it?”
She frowned fiercely and ignored Corinne’s silent convulsions of laughter. “Yeah,” she said through gritted teeth. “I’ve seen naked guys before, you won’t be any different.”
“Can the contest be jello wrestling?” Corinne asked merrily. “Cuz that would be worth the price of admission.”
Buffy shot a glare at her. “You want me to leave you here? Because I can do that. I can sit right down on my butt and just wait to come back to life, and you can spend the rest of your life with dog-boy here.”
Corinne bit her lip and sobered. “Sorry,” she thought as Yinepu scowled and muttered, “I am a jackal, not a dog. Jackals are noble beasts, no mere curs…”
Seshat smacked Him lightly on the arm. “Behave yourself, my brother,” She admonished. “It is unworthy of a god to mope.”
“I shall not be the one moping when this debacle is finished,” He said loftily. “For I shall defeat the Slayer, and have the Scholar for my court.” Managing to smirk in spite of His snout, Yinepu unfastened His kilt and pulled it from around His hips to drop it to the floor. Corinne dared a glance and made an impressed moue with her mouth at the sight, but Buffy kept her gaze on His face. “Name the contest,” He said, tone infinitely amused. “Swords? Axes? Or perhaps chess is more to your liking; I would certainly prefer a bout of that noble game to a physical challenge.” His tone dropped lower, became more sensual and caressing. “Unless you would rather a… physical challenge.”
Buffy’s face was a mixture of disbelief and distaste. “I’m married,” she said flatly. “But yeah, I do prefer a physical challenge over chess.” She turned to Seshat. “You got a table around here? And chairs?”
The goddess raised an elegantly arched brow. “A table?”
Corinne too was puzzled. “A table?” she demanded. “How the hell can a table help you defeat Him? What are you going to do, beat Him with it?”
Buffy bestowed a dazzling smile on Yinepu, a grin so smug He shifted uneasily in His gold-strapped sandals. “Arm-wrestling,” she announced. “I totally rule at arm-wrestling.”
Sâhu = the noble dead, souls of good people