Dark Night of the Soul: 7. The Darkness Never Sleeps

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7. The Darkness Never Sleeps

The next morning, the travelers began their journey once more. Conversation was at an all time low. Willow didn't say a word to the others; she merely kept a close eye on them. Buffy and Xander kept an eye on Willow, too. Her behavior this morning was unusually suspect, still, they didn't make mention of it. As Elenya predicted, she'd managed to sort out an alternate route. The five rode out of the mountains and into the valleys in mid-morning.

Elenya brought Aratar next to Buffy's horse. "Did you dream last evening?" she inquired, her gaze locked straight ahead as she spoke.

Buffy blinked then looked over to her. "Y-yes, I did," she quietly answered. She glanced over her shoulder. Xander and Giles were far enough away they wouldn't be able to hear her conversation with Elenya. For the first time in a long time, Buffy kept her Slayer dreams a secret from the others, especially from Giles. He had enough on his plate; he didn't need this creeping shadow dream as an extra side. "Do you have any idea what it is we're dreaming about yet?"

The elder Slayer's gaze briefly shifted in the direction of Mordor, then back to the land in front of them. "I have suspicions," she simply answered. In her dream, the figure had taken on a more distinctive form - humanoid and clad all in black. His face, however, was still a mystery to her. The Evil that emanated from him was unmistakable - a Darkness that only a select few carried.

Buffy waited for Elenya to continue then she said, "Well, did you plan on cluing me in to these 'suspicions' of yours, Sherlock?" The latest dream had terrified her. The Evil that dripped from the figure - it was unlike any Buffy had ever faced in her time as a Slayer. Sure, the Master was big and bad but not quite that scary. Not even the Mayor had anything on this character. She wished she could've seen his face then at least she'd know him when he finally showed up.

The distant whinny of horses caught their attention. All five reined their horses to a stop and turned towards the direction of the sound originated from. Buffy shielded her eyes then her face paled as her hand dropped down to her side. Elenya saw the same thing Buffy had. Both Slayers reached for their weapons - Elenya her bow and arrows, Buffy grabbed her sword.

"Oh man," Xander grumbled as he saw riders being trailed by a good number of Orcs on foot headed their way. "Not these guys again! What do they want from us already?" He slid out of his saddle, drawing his own sword at the same time. He glanced back at Giles as the Watcher, armed as well, joined him at his side. "We'll see how much of that sword stuff I've retained," he murmured.

Willow, also dismounted from her horse, stood behind the animal - it wasn't as though she hid from the oncoming attackers, more like she lay in wait. She glanced down at her ring. So the others wanted to take it from her? They'd see how valuable her magick was when it saved their lives.

Elenya brought up her bow taking aim on one of the mounted humans. She waited for him to draw closer before she fired. Before the arrow even made contact with its target, Elenya had drawn another arrow and took aim once more. Her next shot felled the lead rider. The Orcs, on the other hand, still charged towards them. She dropped her bow, drew her sword and with a yell, ran at oncoming enemy.

Buffy was about to follow Elenya into the fray but she froze in place when she saw another rider, one that Elenya obviously hadn't noticed, riding hard for them. She looked over to Giles and Xander - they were already engaged in battle, trying to save their own lives. Her gaze shifted back to the rider. He was headed for Elenya, drawing his own sword at the same time.

"Shit," she muttered. She threw her sword down, just for the time being, quickly grabbed her own bow and quiver of arrows from her horse. "Don't screw this up, Buffy. Don't screw this up," she whispered over and over to herself as she drew one of her arrows. As she took aim on the rider, two Orcs surprised her.

She ducked, barely escaping decapitation by one of them. [Dammit. Where did these guys come from?] She snagged her sword while she was near the ground, made a mad swipe at the legs of one of the Orcs. It screamed in agony as Buffy's blade slashed through its legs, essentially cutting them out from under him. She blinked as she looked at the blood-laden blade. "Holy crap. What did those Elves do to this stuff?"

"Ragh!" The other Orc brought its axe down on her but it was deflected by Buffy's blade. He delivered a vicious kick to her side, sending her rolling away from him.

She lost her sword but she still had her quiver of arrows with her. Her gaze fell on one of the loose arrows lying just within the reach of her hand. The cackling of the Orc, so sure of his victory, was lost on Buffy's ears - all of her attention was riveted to that arrow with the obsidian head. Waiting for her chance, she didn't move until the Orc raised both arms up over his head, hands clutching tightly to the handle of his weapon as he prepared to bring it down on her. In a flurry of action, she snatched up the arrow, launched it at the face of the Orc in javelin style. The squeal of pain let her know she'd hit him.

Staggering to her feet, she picked up her sword once more and then stood up straight. Gripping the handle of the sword tightly, she watched the Orc for a moment as it pawed at the arrow protruding from its left eye. The corner of Buffy's mouth quirked in a sly grin.

"It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye." She swung the blade around, the sound of the metal tearing through flesh could be heard and once the blade finished, the head of the Orc dropped to the ground. Not wasting any time to gloat, she slung the quiver back over her shoulder, snatched up her bow and headed towards Elenya. The rider still bore down on them from the north.

Xander's blade ripped through the flesh of the Orc's forearm. It wasn't much of a wound, not for this creature, but at least it rendered the sword arm useless. That gave him more of a chance to defeat this punk. He jumped back as the Orc swiped at him with an open hand. "Okay, I'm beginning to think we won't be able to talk this out," he said. He backed away from the advancing Orc and found himself backed up against a rather large boulder.

The Orc growled at him, baring its teeth and he charged the human. Xander sidestepped letting the Orc smash himself face first into the side of the boulder. He brought up his blade as the Orc stumbled back, swayed from side to side then finally fell flat onto its back. The stupid creature had knocked itself out.

"Ha." He nudged the Orc with his foot then laughed again. Putting on his best Scottish accent, he rested the blade on his shoulder and with a flourish of his free hand recited, "Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the skies."

Suddenly, the Orc sat bolt upright, screaming at him. Xander decapitating it silenced the Orc almost immediately. He sighed heavily as he stared at the dead Orc. "Sometimes the really sharp sword helps," he finished. He headed off to help Giles out of a tight spot with a few Orc foes of his own.

Willow drew up her hand to cast a spell at one of the advancing Orcs, but it skidded to a halt then backed away from her. A few others who'd charged at her with him did the same. None of them dared to get any closer to her, they only continued to back away, growling and hissing at her. Her brow furrowed. What made them stop? They didn't seem afraid of her.

The Orcs headed towards Giles and Xander, who were back to back, fighting off more than enough foes. Bringing up her other hand, Willow's eyes focused on the ground the retreating Orcs crossed.

"Nirga sachi elonye kalil," she began to chant. The tempo increased with each repeat of the phrase.

Soon, the ground quaked. The Orcs stopped, unable to keep their balance on the shuddering earth. The four of them glanced around, terrified of what was happening. Willow continued to repeat the words, nearly shouting them now, as she advanced towards Orcs. After raising her arms up, the earth tremored and a large fissure opened around the bewildered creatures. Willow brought her arms down and as they dropped to her sides, the earth ruptured and the four Orcs were swallowed into the steaming fissure and vanished from sight.

Buffy whirled around when she felt the earth rumble. "Willow!" she yelled. But her friend didn't hear her. [We should've taken that damn thing from her before we left!] No time to worry about Willow now, she was at the very least safe from the Orcs. She turned again to check on Elenya. The other Slayer finished off the Orc she'd been fighting then took a moment to regain her strength.

Rauko's horse came to a halt almost on top of Elenya. As he'd expected, the woman had been too involved in her battle with the Orcs to notice his coming. He prepared to plunge his sword into the woman's back but she turned around, visibly surprised to see him there. The smile on the horseman's face was the last thing Elenya expected to see - but destiny had other plans.

Buffy drew back the bow then closed her eyes. She didn't want to see the arrow go into the rider; she didn't want to witness herself killing a human being, no matter what the circumstances. Her fingers unleashed the arrow and it raced towards center mass on Rauko's body.

Unfortunately, it never made contact. Her eyes opened and she fully expected to see the man at least wounded. He wasn't.

Rauko's gloved fingers clutched tightly to the shaft of the arrow Buffy had shot at him. The point was a mere half an inch away from his chest, the distance left between the obsidian tip and a mortal wound before Rauko managed to catch it. With one hand, he crushed the arrow's shaft and it showered onto the ground. Teeth clenched, he dismounted his horse.

"What the -" Buffy blinked once. Had he caught that thing? How in the hell did he know she'd shot at him? He was concentrated on Elenya. She drew another arrow as Rauko engaged Elenya in one-on-one combat.

"So ... you are the one," she snarled as she blocked a strike from Rauko's sword. Their weapons sparked upon contact with one another. Her eyes burned into his, a hatred for the Dark Lord and the Evil he sided with raged inside of her. "You'll not succeed in your task for your cursed master!" She shoved him back then advanced, delivering a blow with her sword that Rauko easily deflected.

Rauko backhanded Elenya with such force it spun her around. "All shall be slaves to him," he hissed. "You, however, will not live long enough to see him rise again to power." Before Elenya could recover, he kicked her fiercely in the side then rammed the bottom of his sword handle into the middle of her back. He laughed as the Slayer collapsed to the ground, breathing heavily and bleeding profusely from the mouth.

[Elenya!] Buffy hurried towards the man beating the crap out of the other Slayer. The yell of Orcs caught her attention. She drew an arrow from her quiver and without having time to aim, loosed an arrow at the oncoming creature. It squealed as the head penetrated its throat, just above the collarbone.

Buffy ducked down, letting another charging Orc flip itself over her body. It landed on the ground with a grunt. Pivoting around on one foot, she tossed away the bow to draw up sword. She rammed the blade deep into the chest of the Orc, successfully taking him out of the fight.

"Hey, Evil Guy!" Buffy yelled as she yanked her sword out of the dead Orc. When Rauko turned away from Elenya, who lay on the ground, Buffy swallowed hard. She'd fought humans before - but this guy had beaten the crap out of Elenya, a much tougher Slayer than she was. [You're going to have to kill him, Buffy. If you don't, you'll never get out of this place alive.]

Rauko, sword clutched in his hand, chuckled as the small blonde faced off with him. He glanced at the dead Orcs Buffy had left in her wake then met the girl's gaze. "You fight quite well," he complimented her. "Or, perhaps, you are merely very lucky."

"Hey, pal, who almost got wasted with the arrow?" Buffy shot back as she gripped her sword in her hands. Her brow arched, the sarcastic tone she was so famous for back in her voice now. "You really need to reevaluate who's the lucky one here."

Elenya raised her head. "Buffy," she groaned. "Don't." The dreams - didn't the girl see? This was the shadow from their nightmares - Rauko was the one who pursued them - the servant of Mordor and its Dark Lord.

Buffy charged Rauko. Unfortunately, before she could land a killing blow, the fact he was a living, breathing human being struck her once more. She hesitated. And her hesitation cost her. Rauko seized her by the wrist, squeezing until the girl's hand opened and her sword fell harmlessly to the ground. Her face twisted up in pain. She could do nothing but watch as he lifted his sword, preparing to shove the blade into her chest.

[We're Slayers, girlfriend, the Chosen Two.] Faith's voice echoed in Buffy's mind as gaze locked with Rauko's.

That was right. Buffy was still a Slayer, no matter what time period she was stuck in. Filled with a new strength, she wrenched her wrist loose from Rauko's grasp - to his surprise - took him by the arm instead then landed a fierce kick to his lower left side. Her free hand knocked the blade out of Rauko's sword hand, and following with the momentum, she spun fully around - her foot connected with the side of Rauko's head.

He staggered backwards and barely regained his balance. He placed a hand to his face, drew back his hand and his eyes narrowed when he found his own blood glistening on his glove. The girl had drawn blood - HIS blood. His gaze shifted over to the blonde who now helped the Dunedain woman to her feet.

"Come on, Elenya," Buffy breathed as she shoved the sword back into the other Slayer's hand. "You have to do this because I can't. I can't kill somebody, I ... I just can't." She met the woman's gaze and it was all said with a look - Elenya understood. Buffy came from a different time and different place, yes. A place with different rules and the girl's moral compass couldn't allow her to do what Elenya could.

Elenya started to reply but Rauko appeared behind Buffy, and before she could warn her, the slave of Mordor took the other girl by the neck with both hands. Rauko lifted Buffy up from the ground and Buffy's hands grabbed onto Rauko's; she desperately fought to free herself before he strangled her.

Xander's blade ripped through the neck of the Orc then he saw Buffy's predicament. "Giles!" he yelled. The Watcher turned and he, too, saw what Xander had.

Willow skidded to a halt by the horses, her gaze affixed to Rauko with his hands around Buffy's neck. "Buffy," she whispered. Despite all of the paranoia, she felt the need to save the Slayer from certain death. Her hand rose up, gaze locking on Rauko as she thought of what spell to use.

Elenya slashed with her blade, cutting into Rauko's upper left arm, forcing him to let go of Buffy. The young Slayer landed on her hands and knees, taking in deep gulps of air as her hands went to her throat. It was just like the dreams - the dark Shadow choking her to death. She blinked a few times as it finally dawned on her that this guy was who the dreams tried to warn her about.

"Buffy," Giles breathed as he and Xander reached her. "Are you okay?" He offered a hand to her and pulled her up from the ground. He hugged her close with his free arm then looked up to see how Elenya fared. She and Rauko were engaged in another sword battle. "Who is he?"

"The bad guy, Giles." Xander turned around then his face paled. "Oh great. This is not good, you guys." He pointed to the oncoming force of Orcs and mounted Men. "No way we're going to get out of this alive. Let me take this moment to suggest the Xander Harris answer to surviving situations like these - run."

Willow rode up on her horse, the reins of the other three horses clutched in her hand. She dropped them down to the others. "We have to get out of here," she said then glanced over her shoulder. Arrows from the mounted archers began to rain down, one of which narrowly missed Willow's head.

Buffy slid her sword back into the saddle sheath then, with Giles's help, pulled herself up into the saddle. "Willow, toss me that bow, would you?" She caught the extra bow the Elves had packed onto Willow's horse, reached back, pulled out an arrow and fired back at the approaching forces. "Let's get Elenya and get out of here!"

Willow reined her horse around, uttered the words to a magick spell then gestured with her hand. A strong gust of air rammed into the army, knocking some down, but at the most it slowed their attack. She looked at the others. "That's not going to hold them for very long - we have to hurry."

Rauko punched Elenya in the face, throwing her off balance for a moment. "Destiny will not best me," he declared. "You and the strangers you protect - your deaths ensure my victory." His expression changed when he saw Buffy and the others riding away. "No." He shifted his gaze to the south - the other portion of his forces was stalled for some reason.

Aratar whinnied loudly. Elenya stepped back as her horse came between her and Rauko. She didn't want to leave this battle unfinished but the others had begun to flee. Muttering curses in Elvish, she leaped into the saddle. Aratar was already on the move so she didn't have to prod him. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, looking over her shoulder at Rauko.

"Elenya!" Buffy dropped back until she rode to Elenya's left. "Where can we go? We have to find someplace to hide." She saw the look on the woman's face. "Yes, I said 'hide'! We're completely outnumbered! Where can we hide?"

Elenya shoved her sword into the saddle sheath, her gaze shifting to the ground in front of them. Her lips pressed together as she stared at the rocky terrain ahead. "Come. Follow me. We can lose them there." She nodded towards the hilly area some distance away.

-

"Quickly! Quickly!" Elenya hissed, ducking and looking back down the winding trail. The Orcs were still close enough to let fly the occasional black arrow. On cue, an Orc arrow shot past Buffy and bounced off a rock just to her left.

They climbed higher and higher into the hills, slowly pulling ever further away from the Orcish hunters. But they could still hear their calls and the echoes of their hunting horns, rising and falling as the Orcs wandered around in search of them.

"We have to find some place to lay low," Buffy said when they nearly stumbled into a group of a dozen Orcs.

"There!" Giles pointed at a cave, half-hidden behind a pair of gray birch trees, just off to their left. "Hurry!"

The five of them managed to make it into the cave without being seen or heard, but just barely. No sooner had Elenya, their rear guard, ducked inside then the heavy footsteps of Orc boots rang on the stone ledge just above the cave entrance.

She slowly crept back away from the mouth of the cave, one hand on Aratar's neck to keep him quiet, and hoped the other horses wouldn't give them away. Long dark minutes went by without so much as a hint of Orcs nearby and finally Elenya relaxed.

Slightly, anyway. Despite the lack of Orcs, she still felt ill at ease. This cave had an ill feel to it.

"Stay back from the entrance," Elenya whispered. Blindly, or nearly so, she took a torch out of her saddlebag and lit it on the third try. Even with the torch, she could only see ten or so feet. Beyond that, absolute darkness and maybe something more.

"Buffy, come here," the older Slayer said, hoping she didn't sound too nervous.

"What's up?" Buffy asked as she tip-toed over to Elenya. "Is - "

"Shh." Elenya glanced around, then lowered her voice to a level that only another Slayer - or an Elf - would hear. A trick she rarely used, but here it seemed appropriate. "This place feels wrong. Do you sense it, too?"

Buffy stared at Elenya. Her fellow Slayer's voice sounded funky, almost like she was whispering directly into Buffy's ear even though she was a good three feet away. Then Buffy nodded. She *did* feel something unpleasant down in the darkness, maybe that was what Giles was talking about - sensing vampires.

"Vampires?" she asked, trying to imitate Elenya's super-whisper.

"Perhaps. Or worse. Come with me," Elenya replied, the last sentence in a normal tone of voice. She drew her sword and held her torch aloft. "The rest of you, stay here."

"Why? What's going on?" Willow wondered.

"It's nothing. Stay there," Elenya insisted. She turned to Buffy. "Here. Light your torch, draw your sword and follow me." With that said, she cautiously headed deeper into the cave with her torch as a guide. With only a bit of hesitation, Buffy followed. As did Willow who tried hard not to be noticed.

The cave widened the farther in one went, and soon both edges were lost in the darkness beyond the torch. After they had gone a few yards, Elenya realized the floor was sloping downwards. She stopped and lowered her torch to the ground, peering intently forward into the gloom.

"Stairs."

Buffy's face was a pale oval, her wide eyes and frown exaggerated by the strange shadows. "Stairs? Down here? What is this place?"

Elenya shook her head. "I don't know."

"Maybe we should go. Make a break for it or something," Buffy suggested. This place was giving her the wiggins big time. "We could give the Orcs the slip again and find somewhere else to hide out."

"No. We have to see what it is."

"What?" Buffy frantically shook her head. "Whatever's buried down there, let sleeping dogs lie, okay?"

"We're Slayers, Buffy. We have to see what it is," Elenya insisted. "Now, come."

Buffy sighed, but she followed Elenya down the wide, even stairway. It came to a sudden stop at a black doorway that lay slightly ajar. There was writing, silver and delicate, upon the door. Elenya knelt down and, torch held up close, began reading the graceful inscription.

"Anadûnê zîrân hikallaba. It's Adûnaic," she whispered. "The language of Númenor. I cannot read it. But here - " Before she could finish the thought, the doors swung open as if from a sudden breeze.

Elenya sprang back, sword raised high, but nothing leapt out of the room beyond. But there was something there. She could feel it like a shadow on her mind, darkness she had seldom before felt.

"Buffy, come with me," she said, but there was no sound from the younger Slayer. Elenya turned. "Buffy?"

After a second, Buffy snapped out of her near panic. "Coming," she said with a dry mouth, and somehow found the will to keep going. Maybe it was simple fear of looking like a coward compared to Elenya, or maybe it was something nobler within her, but whatever it was, it got her feet moving.

Past the black doors lay a round chamber, some fifteen yards across, dominated by a single stone casket with a broken lid. Six brass pillars ran around the edge of the room, all of which were covered with more writing in the ancient Adûnaic script. And on the floor lay four pale, crumbling skeletons in rusting chainmail, clutching their shattered weapons even in death. They had clearly died in battle, as their armor was rent and their bones broken, and one's skull laid a small space away from his body.

Away from the four warriors in chainmail there was another corpse. This one lay at the base of the stone casket, and indeed one arm was draped over the edge. The other held a broken sword untouched by rot or rust. She - it was clearly a woman, long black hair still spilled over her shoulders - too wore armor bright as the full moon, and unbroken save for one dark hole over her breast. A trick of the light made it seem as the dead woman stared at the doorway. Next to her was a strange rusting object.

"A steel bow. The Númenóreans used them in their wars. Few others had the strength," Elenya murmured. But no Númenórean woman had ever gone to battle, at least in any tale she had heard.

"She was one of us, wasn't she?" Buffy asked in a sad voice. "A Slayer."

Elenya nodded in confirmation. Things were becoming clearer now. This
Slayer and her companions had fought a mighty foe and were bested, and they rested uneasily here for thousands of years. Elenya wondered if their lingering spirits were what had made her feel so ill at ease.

"We should give her and her fellows a proper burial," she murmured.

"Right." Buffy tore her eyes away from the black circle where some ancient weapon had pierced the Slayer's breast.

Elenya and Buffy headed to the remains of their ancient sister, while Willow found herself drawn to the stone coffin. It practically tingled with magickal power. She wondered who the dead person inside was and what had happened to him. Maybe he was a sorcerer like she was. Maybe the people here had killed him like the people of Sunnydale had tried to do to her not long ago. It did not cross Willow's mind that the angry mob that had nearly burnt her alive had itself been under a spell.

As she wondered about the buried man's fate, Willow laid her hand upon the cold stone and brushed some of the dust off. Hidden under the thick layer of dust was the broken shaft of an arrow. Willow flinched when she touched the rotting wood, which felt too much like flesh, and knocked the arrow to the ground. It landed with a dull thud.

Elenya spun with her sword raised, and caught herself just in time to avoid decapitating the redhead. "Willow! What are you doing?"

"I just wanted to see what the big deal was," Willow mumbled defensively as she licked a small cut on her finger. The tiny, yet still sharp, remnant of the arrowhead had scraped her skin a little. "No harm done," she added with a sheepish grin.

"This is no place for games. You should have - " Elenya broke off and suddenly grabbed Willow's shoulder, pulling her out of the way just before a clawed hand tore open her throat. The corpse had risen to its feet, unnoticed by all owing to the unnatural silence of its movements.

The ancient thing, imprisoned for unknown centuries, had been stirred in its slumber by the light and whispers and brought fully awake by the smell of blood in the air. Now it hungered for the one thing that could sustain it and make it strong again.

Howling as best it could with lungs that had been dry as dust for three thousand years the ancient vampire lunged at Willow. It could not see her, for its eyes had been cut out long ago, but it could smell her blood and that was all it needed. It shrieked and spread wide its wings, leathery and brown like a bat, but stretching twenty feet from end to end.

"Back! Back to the light!" Elenya cried, shoving Willow in the direction of the doors. She swung her torch at the vampire, hoping that would drive it back. But as soon as the flame hit the beast's crumbling black armor, it went out with a hiss. Buffy's torch was the only light now, and Elenya was between it and the blood-drinker.

Elenya thrust the useless torch, trying to pierce the armor, but it was still too strong for wood to penetrate. The tip of the torch shattered and Elenya tossed it aside.

"Run, Willow!" Buffy yelled. She slashed at the vampire, succeeding only in denting that black armor. "Now!"

Willow shook her head. She tried to make a break for it, but stumbled and fell flat on her back. She was about to invoke a fire spell when Buffy screamed "RUN!", grabbed her by the shoulder and hurled her towards the door. Willow landed hard against the cold steel and sat there in a daze as the fight went on.

The vampire, having momentarily lost the scent of fresh blood, turned towards its attackers. They reeked of fresh air and sunshine, things it had grown to hate in all the long centuries of its imprisonment, and above all else, their spirits blazed with the blinding, burning light of the Sun-bitch. Screeching, it came at them with dizzying speed and was only barely turned aside by Elenya's blade. Claws flashed in the darkness and were met by steel, again and again, until sparks rained down on the stone floor.

While Elenya and the vampire whirled about, faster than Buffy's eye could really follow, the younger Slayer hadn't been idle. She grabbed Elenya's torch and frantically whittled it to a sharp point with her sword. When it was sharp, or sharp enough, she yelled a warning cry and jumped onto the vampire's back. Gripping its neck with one arm and with her legs wrapped around its stomach for balance, she plunged her other arm down with all her might. But it was for naught - the stake broke in her hand with a jolt so hard it knocked Buffy clean off the vampire.

"Owww." Buffy shook her head a few times to clear it, then jumped to her feet. Elenya was right. Vampires here were beyond nightmares. The Master had nothing on this guy. And Elenya had moves like she could only imagine. But she had to do *something*.

Buffy looked around quickly. Nothing to use as a weapon - wait, no! She smiled grimly and scrambled across the room.

While Buffy carried out her task, Elenya did her best to avoid being disemboweled by the vampire. It was all she could do to stay away from those claws. There was no chance of going to the offense. And Elenya knew that she would get tired long before it did.

She had just about resigned herself to defeat and a painful death when there was a sudden "Hey, suck-face!" from off to the side. Both combatants turned. Elenya laughed, the vampire got a face full of chain. Buffy laughed and whipped the chain back, then swung it out again. "Catch!"

Elenya nodded and grabbed the loose end of the chain when it came near. She pulled it taut, pinning the vampire's arms and wings to its chest. For a moment, it stood there, trapped and howling impotently then it snarled and pushed its arms outward. The chain snapped and both Slayers stumbled away.

"Aw, come on," Buffy muttered. She rubbed away the blood from a small cut on her forehead then gasped as the vampire's hand closed around her throat. Cold claws pricked her skin and it became hard to breathe.

"Elbereth! Arien!"

Elenya tackled the vampire like she was a linebacker and somehow managed to pull it away from Buffy. Slayer and vampire both slammed into the back wall of the chamber, but before the ancient beast could regain its footing, Elenya cried "Arien!" again and thrust her sword at it. The blade, which was glowing softly with an inner fire, cut through armor and dead flesh alike as if through butter, and sank several inches into the stone wall. Impaled and stuck fast, the vampire howled as its innards began to burn from the purifying fire of the gleaming blade.

"Die, you worm," Elenya snarled, pushing her sword in until the handguard was pressing into the vampire's armor. It shrieked and flailed, nearly taking Elenya's head off before she had the sense to duck back, but after a few seconds, it relaxed and grabbed the hilt and began to pull it out.

Elenya staggered back. All that and it was STILL alive.

"Close your eyes," Buffy whispered. "Beddy-bye time." She laughed at the puzzled look on the vampire's face just before she split it in two with a solid slash of her sword. Then she ended its existence with a quick follow-up stroke that neatly separated the vampire's head from its neck. It let out one last unearthly howl then crumbled into dust. The armor remained, holding up a set of black, twisted bones - for a moment, anyway, until armor and bones alike faded into dust and blew away in a sudden breeze.

"Are all vampires like that around here?" Buffy asked after a respectful silence.

Elenya shrugged. "I've only met two. Who can say? It's dead, at any rate," she said. [And you are avenged, sister,] she thought, looking over at the skeleton of the dead Slayer.

"Yeah. That was a cool spell you did," Willow said, slowly coming back to coherence after her nasty encounter with the door.

"It wasn't a spell, it was a prayer," Elenya muttered scornfully as she tried to pry her sword out of the wall. No luck - it was stuck in the stone. After a few tries, she gave up with a disgusted grunt. "And next time, listen when someone tells you to stay behind." She glared at Willow then brushed past her. Buffy followed a moment later, and thus missed the look of pure anger that Willow gave the two Slayers.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Net Girl and Sibyl

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/24/02

Original Post: 08/05/02

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