You are viewing wolffan200

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Spirits in The Woods - Chapter 10

wolf howl
Title: Spirits in the Woods
Author: wolffan200 and 3hours (posting on archive sites under the joint account Hour of the Wolf)
Word count: about 55k total
Characters/Pairing: Spike/Buffy, Giles, Willow.
Rating: PG-13, chapters will be noted with individual warnings when appropriate
Betas: All4Spike
Setting: Summer between s3 and s4








Chapter 10

It was with great relief that the four of them stumbled into a chamber deep underground, stalactites and stalagmites surrounding the small space like rows of teeth. Despite the more open surroundings, the air was no easier to breathe, and there wasn’t even a single draft. Disappointed, Buffy examined the area.

It didn’t seem like there was anything in here besides more slimy rocks and foul smelling pools of water. She shone her flashlight around at the walls when something colorful caught her eye. Puzzled, she stepped closer to what looked like a smooth rock face, upon which several strange symbols and figures had been painted, the only spot of color they’d seen in a long time.

“What are these?” Buffy asked.

“Exactly what they look like, pet. They’re cave paintings. Just not human ones.”

Buffy had jumped at the sound of Spike’s voice so close to her, having expected Giles to be the one to answer. Instead, Giles was sitting on a rock with Willow crouched next to him while Spike examined the wall over her shoulder.

“Not human? What are they then, demonic?”

“Got it in one.” He reached up to touch the strange symbols while he illuminated them with his flashlight. “Looks like they’re covering a large part of this wall.”

He paused and chewed on his lip for a moment, as though he was struggling with himself. “Can you help me light it up?”

Okay, so she’d been nice to him and now he was nice to her. She could handle this.

“Of course.”

Behind her, Willow and Giles approached and added their flashlights to hers. Despite there being four of them, the beams of light still didn’t cover the whole thing. Spike muttered a curse and followed along the wall to the far right of it.

“It starts here. Light up this part first, and I’ll see if I can translate.”

“It’s written backwards?” Buffy asked, confused.

“Not everyone writes left to right, you know. It’s mostly a human thing.”

“Oh.”

They shone their flashlights at the wall following Spike’s directions and he slowly moved along it, mumbling to himself as he went. Once he reached the end on the far left, he darted back to where he’d started.

“Right, think I’ve got it,” he said and cleared his throat. “It talks about a demon that the demons themselves feared. Jaqta be’at na Uil.”

“What?”

“Sort of a name. It’s kinda hard to translate those, your average olden days demon didn’t go around being called Jack or Henry. It goes on to say he’s ‘the Corrupter of All Things’, though.”

Buffy made a face. Beside her, Willow raised a hand to rub at her temple.

“Headache?” she asked.

“Yeah, sorry. It’s getting pretty bad.”

“Don’t worry, my head’s complaining too. The air in here isn’t exactly fresh. You’ll feel better once we get back outside again.”

No one brought up the fact that the spirits were no doubt still waiting for them at the entrance.

“It’s strange, it’s like I can hear...” Willow trailed off.

“Hear what?”

“Voices... Voices whispering.”

“I hear them too,” Giles said.

Definitely not a good sign. Buffy couldn’t make out anything except for the noises they themselves made.

“Can you pick up what they’re saying?” she asked, looking between them anxiously.

“No,” Willow said, while Giles shook his head.

She wasn’t sure which was worse - being unaware of what the voices were saying or knowing exactly what they wanted with her friends.

“This Corrupter fella was very powerful,” Spike went on, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “He used his powers to place other demons under his will and they would do his bidding. Eventually the other demons were forced to work together and use their magic to imprison him.”

She sighed. “Let me guess. This is his jail cell.”

“’Fraid so. All of this is basically a warning. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here and so on.”

“Great.”

“Is there no helpful information at all?” Giles asked, his voice strained and sounding a bit raw.

“It says some stuff about opposites, but it’s not very clear.”

“Opposites?”

“Either the opposite or the enemy, it could be either.”

“Well, the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Buffy said, and had to bite her lip to prevent a smile. How very apt and at the same time, how very disturbing. She and Spike were not friends. They were just temporary allies, that’s all.

He chose to ignore her. “This part is really confusing.” He reached up to touch the symbols again, running his hand along one in particular. “It says that only the enemy, or the opposite, can break through some kind of protection he’s got and harm him.”

“Huh?”

“Pretty much,” he replied.

Willow moaned softly, still rubbing at her head.

“Hang in there, Wills.” She wished she could do something to help her. “But if these other demons didn’t like the Corrupter guy, why didn’t they just kill him? Why stick him down in this cave and paint some cryptic warning on the wall? They knew how to get through his protection and all, so what was stopping them?”

“I don’t know,” Spike admitted, frowning at the painted shapes. “Maybe they couldn’t, for some reason.”

“Could the opposite be referring to—” Giles cut himself off as an involuntary shudder ran through him. “Refer to the opposite of corruption itself?”

“Might be.” Spike turned around. He looked at Giles and Willow, then shot Buffy a worried glance.

“Perhaps—” Giles had to pause as his body shuddered again. “They could not, because the opposite of corruption is purity.”

Before Buffy could say ‘huh?’ again, Willow mumbled something about salt.

“Right, the spirits couldn’t cross the salt line,” Spike said slowly. “And salt is pure… maybe it’ll work against the Corrupter, too?”

Buffy shrugged. “Worth a shot, though I plan to throw everything else I’ve got at it, too.”

Spike dropped his flashlight and came over to her with quick steps, then proceeded to invade her personal space until they were almost cheek to cheek. “Really don’t like what’s happening to them,” he hissed.

“I know,” she whispered back, grabbing onto his shoulder with one hand both to keep him close and to prevent him from getting any closer. “But we can’t turn back now.”

“I don’t think that’s a normal headache. And I can’t hear any whispers.”

She pushed him away without comment, knowing all too well that he was most likely right but unable to do anything about it. If Spike with his vampire enhanced hearing couldn’t pick up any voices then there weren’t any.

They were inside her friends heads. Whispering things they couldn’t make out.

But for how long? How long until the whispers became clear? She’d been experiencing increasing pressure in her own head for a while now but figured it must be much worse for Willow and Giles who had no slayer strength to rely on.

If they didn’t hurry, it would get them all in the end.

“Let’s continue.” Buffy’s tone was firm. “We’ve got to be getting close now.”

___________



Oh, they were close all right. Buffy could feel the bad energy seeping into her pores as they located another tunnel at the opposite end of the chamber. Giles and Willow were dragging themselves forward, and Buffy threw worried glances at them every few seconds. She felt utterly powerless.

When Giles let out a grunt of pain before waving her away for the second time, Buffy caught Spike’s eye and read the warning in his eyes.

Not seeing any other option, she gave him a stern look and pushed on, ignoring the low growl emanating from the vampire. If she had any choice in the matter she’d send Giles and Willow back, or at least have them stop to rest, but she couldn’t risk it in a place like this. Not to mention that the spirits were waiting for them outside, even if they did somehow manage to make it back.

Luckily, the tunnel was a short one and it opened into a large cavern. There was a short drop at the end of the tunnel, and Buffy hopped down it, landing with a soft thud on the rock beneath. She turned to warn the others to watch their step and help them down.

“I say, this looks rather like the place we’re looking for,” Giles said breathlessly, before bending over to cough.

“Guys, I don’t feel—” Willow broke off mid-sentence to clutch at her head, falling sideways.

Spike caught her and lowered her down to the ground. He pointedly looked up at Buffy. She stared back helplessly before a noise in the cavern caught their attention. It sounded like a gush of air but they knew that was impossible. Giles and Willow moaned in pain while Buffy and Spike stayed silent and still. The faint sound of crumbling stone reached their ears and Spike stood, taking up a ready stance next to Buffy.

“It’s here,” he said, looking grim.

“I know.” Buffy put away her flashlight in favor of having both hands free to use the dagger.

Spike must be feeling the same thing she was. Besides the usual tingles that clued her in to something demonic in the area, something other than Spike that is, Buffy felt something dragging her down. It was like dead weight being added to her body as her strength was slowly sapped away. The chill was back too. It was odd to go from bizarre stifling heat to near freezing cold in an instant and she shivered violently. Behind them, Giles and Willow fell silent. Buffy chanced a glance at them to see them huddled on the ground, unmoving.

“Spike,” she said, panic for her friends rising.

“No time to worry about them now, Slayer. Got work to do.”

“But—”

A piercing shriek tore through the cavern, and both Buffy and Spike staggered back at the sudden noise. Just as they regained balance a skittering sound bounced around the cave walls before the place fell silent again.

“Do you see anything?” Her teeth chattered with the cold and her eyes darted around the dimly lit area. Spike vamped next to her before shaking his head.

“No, nothing.”

He tossed a somewhat concerned look at her shivering body, set his jaw and scanned the area again.

“Where is it?” She hated their serious disadvantage down here.

You could hear a pin drop in the quiet that followed Buffy’s question. Her breath came in short gasps, and she tried to clear her mind and use only her senses to locate the creature. Whatever it was, it was no spirit. It felt like a demon, something she could fight if it would only reveal itself.

Buffy closed her eyes to concentrate and calmed her body as much as possible, fighting to ignore the cold. She heard Spike’s boot scrape against the floor as he half turned. She focused harder. There! A wheezing noise right—

“Buffy!”

Spike’s warning came too late as she turned her head and opened her eyes, only to see the demon land next to her from where it had been hidden in the shadows of the ceiling. She barely had time to register the gaping holes where its eyes should be before a gnarled hand with three inch claws slashed at her and sent her flying through the air.

She landed in a heap on the ground and cried out as blood started to pour from the gashes in her side where its claws had caught her. She barely noticed the warmth of it over the glacial stab she’d felt when the demon had touched her skin. She raised her head and saw Spike blocking the demon’s attacks with the axe and mace, but being forced back to where it would have him cornered.

Buffy stood and glanced down at her torn clothes and the claw marks before she shoved the pain away and let her Slayer side take over. She had a better look at the demon now. It was all taut blue-grey skin and spines. It had a large mouth full of rows of nasty yellow fangs, two pointed ears like those of a bat, and was somewhat humanoid, standing on two feet and using its arms and teeth to attack.

Buffy ran over to assist Spike and slashed at the thing’s back just as it forced the vampire to trip and fall, his mace sent flying from his grasp. At least he still had the axe. The demon cried out and whirled to her, snapping its jaws in her face. She swiped the dagger at its head but missed as it hissed and tried to claw at her again. She backed away, drawing it away from Spike and into a more open area of the cavern where they’d have room to move.

The worst thing about it Buffy decided, was those eyes; great empty chasms, around which the sickly looking skin was wrinkled and dehydrated in appearance. No matter where you tried to look, your gaze was constantly pulled back to those empty sockets, inside which lay nothing. They said eyes were windows to the soul. This thing’s lack of eyes left you feeling empty at the mere sight of a soul’s absence.

“Spike,” she called as the demon advanced.

She took another swipe at the demon with her dagger, slashing its arm and leaving a trail of oozing navy goo in the blade’s wake.

“Ew. Spike!”

She chanced a glance over the demon’s shoulder towards Spike, and her hopes sank. The reason he wasn’t answering her was because he was busy fighting his own opponents; Willow and Giles.

“No,” she cried out when she saw her Watcher and her friend’s faces. She turned to the demon and hacked at it again, this time cutting into its chest. “You’re going to pay for this.”

___________



Spike had seen it coming from a mile away. Buffy probably had too, but she was loathe to acknowledge it out loud. Couldn’t really blame her for it, he supposed. They were her friends. Right now though, they were also the enemy.

Giles slashed at him with his axe. Spike dodged it easily, but it left his right side open for Willow. Sharp pain blossomed where the dagger embedded in his upper arm. Thank fuck for being left handed. He took a step back and yanked the dagger out with a grunt, placing it in his free hand.

Without a weapon to use, the witch threw herself at him fists first. He could have swatted her away easily if it weren’t for the need to fend off Giles as well, who was swinging the sharp little axe around with surprising skill. Either he’d clearly underestimated the watcher in combat or the corruption enhanced his abilities.

Not having much choice, he tilted his own axe and swung the broad side of it at Giles while using the dagger in his weak hand to keep Willow at bay. He smacked the Watcher’s arm but unfortunately it wasn’t hard enough to knock the axe out of his grip.

Before he could compose himself, they both attacked again. Willow grabbed for his arm and tried to wrestle the dagger back, clawing and biting at his fingers and wrist. It would have been laughable if she’d been herself. As she was not, it actually hurt pretty badly. Her little teeth were cutting deep into his hand and she seemed to have no problems ripping off small chunks of skin and flesh. Giles, on the other hand, appeared intent on decapitation. He danced around Spike, repeatedly swinging the axe towards his head or neck and keeping him fully occupied with blocking, so that he couldn’t shake Willow off.

“Spike!” the Slayer called again.

“Bit busy, love!” He was unable to even turn to check on how her battle was going. If he didn’t get on top of this fight and soon, he’d be minus one hand.

___________



Once Buffy had managed to wound the demon, her spirits rose. Her joy was short lived however, as the gash she’d caused quickly stopped oozing and seemed to patch itself up like Slayer healing on speed.

“Hey.” She pouted. “No fair!”

The demon grinned at her, if it could be called a grin. Its mouth widened, at any rate, showing off even more of its razor sharp teeth. The malodorous stench wafting from it was eye-watering; it reminded her of rotten eggs.

“Anyone ever suggest mouthwash?” she quipped, determined to test just how well the creature’s healing ability was. Would it recover from an amputated limb, for example? Or better yet, from losing its head?

“No?” She danced around its claws as it tried to strike her again. “’Cause I’m thinking it might improve your life by a lot. I bet it was your breath that caused everything up above to wither and die.”

She got in another slice with her dagger, but it retaliated lightning quick with another slash of claws. This time it was her shoulder that took the damage and there was a scream of pain. Wait a second, that wasn’t her screaming. That was Willow.

“Spike!” She yelled as loud as she could while she blocked the demon and swung herself out of reach. “What are you doing?!”

“She’s eating my hand!” came the indignant reply. “Might have to kill them.”

“No!”

Block. Dodge. Swipe at its arm and dodge again.

“Buffy, they’re not your friends anymore.”

The creature got in another hit, but only barely, one claw scraping against her arm. It wasn’t deep, thankfully. Her limbs felt numb from the lack of heat, both a blessing and a sacrifice. She couldn’t feel pain beyond the cold, but it was harder to keep moving and hold her weapon, and there was always the chance this would end with her catching hypothermia if it lasted much longer.

There were other things to focus on however. Her friends. She refused to think about all the hikers and campers that had suffered the same fate that now befell Willow and Giles. Refused to think about their vacant eyes and blank faces. Instead, she focused on Giles’ theory about purity.

Where were the rucksacks? One was behind her where she’d dropped it, but it was the one with weapons. She needed the other ones. Where had they gone?

________



“I can kill them for you,” Spike offered when Buffy didn’t reply for a while. He had to shout to be sure she heard him over the sound of their separate battles. “You wouldn’t have to do it yourself.”

Chances were slim to none that she’d okay it, of course, but if it came down to him or them he wouldn’t wait for her approval anyway. He’d managed to shake Willow off his hand finally, but she was still as ferocious as ever, snarling at him with blood – his blood – running down her chin. He’d never thought he’d see the day when the little redheaded chit actually frightened him, but here they were.

Giles had succeeded in getting a hit in with the axe, digging it deep into Spike’s thigh. He wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that the Watcher had been unable to yank it back out, leaving him weaponless, but at the same time making it very difficult for Spike to move, every single step sending sharp jolts of pain up and down his leg.

“The rucksack!” Buffy shouted.

He had no idea what she meant, having more than enough on his hands right then. Willow came at him again, and he saw no other choice but to reach out and grab her by the neck. She clawed at his arm, hissing and spitting. It didn’t take long before the latter stopped as she began to run out of air.

One down, one to go.

__________



“I need the rucksacks!” Buffy was desperately trying not to hear the sputtered, choking noises coming from above. This was not happening.

“Incoming!” There was a thud of something being kicked, then another, louder thud as it landed somewhere to her left. Moments later the other rucksack was kicked over the edge as well.

“Don’t kill them,” she pleaded, knowing all too well that there was nothing she could do if he decided it needed to be done. “Please, Spike, don’t kill them!”

__________



Once Willow was under control, it got considerably easier. After taking care of the rucksacks for the Slayer (he had no idea what she wanted them for, but knew better than to question it), he punched the Watcher in the stomach, and then took a firm hold of his neck while he was winded. Slamming both of them up against the cave wall, he let out a low growl of frustration.

She had begged him to spare their lives. She had actually begged.

He stared at the two faces in front of him, searching for any indication that there was still a remnant of the people they’d been in there. Empty, black eyes stared back at him.

He hung his head and sighed, but eased the pressure off their throats all the same. What a hopeless fool he was.

_______



Deep within Willow’s mind, the corruption searched through her memories.

There. A weakness.

It looked around with Willow’s eyes, then with its own, and located what it needed.

On the cave floor behind Buffy, her battered stake lay where it had fallen out of her pocket when the demon had drawn first blood. It stirred, then began to rise.

__________



Buffy could see the rucksacks lying on the ground, so close and yet so far. As long as she had the demon to contend with she couldn’t reach them. She dared not think about Spike and the others. It had been a while since she had heard any shouts of pain but there were scuffling sounds and occasional grunts coming from above. If only she had a better weapon.

As luck would have it, she did. A blow from its elbow sent her reeling back and her foot knocked against something hard and pointy. A quick look down revealed the mace Spike had lost. Feeling a burst of joy, Buffy switched her dagger to her left hand and grabbed the handle of the mace, giving it a practice twirl as she faced her opponent. Now she just needed an opening.

Able to fend it off a little better now, Buffy focused on trying to beat the thing’s brain in with her new weapon, but it wasn’t making things easy. It was being more careful not to get caught with a hit from the solid, spiked object by keeping its claws high and lashing out at her with its legs. At one point, it kicked the dagger out of her hand. Buffy managed to strike a blow against its back, sending it crashing to its knees, but had to duck a sudden swipe from its arm as she moved in to take the advantage, staggering back to regain her balance.

The demon seemed distracted momentarily, as though searching for something, and Buffy used the opportunity to dash in front of it and kick at its chest full force. The creature fell backwards, its razor sharp claws coming dangerously close to Buffy’s legs as it lashed out. She wasted no time in twirling the mace, building up momentum and bringing it down against the thing’s skull... if it had one, that was.

There was a loud crack and a large amount of the foul smelling gunk that served as blood for this monster began to pour from the new hole in its head. It gurgled and scratched at the ground, apparently unable to get up or move much, at least for a while. More ooze dripped from the wound and the smell made Buffy want to heave. When it suddenly shrieked and started writhing on the ground more intensely, she dropped the handle of the mace and raced to the rucksacks, sliding down on her knees next them, ignoring the continuous stabs of pain in her freezing limbs. Once she had one open, she tipped it upside down, shaking out the contents.

“Got it!” She held up the half empty bag of salt triumphantly.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Spike called down.

Buffy shot to her feet and spun only to see her stake hovering in mid air where she’d dropped it. Momentarily stunned, she watched as it turned and pointed upwards. She lifted her head, eyes opening wide once she spotted its target.

“No!”

Buffy had two choices… the demon or Spike. Almost as though in slow motion, she watched the stake line itself up, watched it start to move forward while the demon continued to shriek and scramble against the ground ineffectively. She only had one shot at this.

Buffy ran full tilt towards the demon, ducking low mid sprint to grab the silver dagger she’d dropped earlier. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the stake shoot forward. Refusing to think about it, Buffy concentrated on the demon, clutching the bag of salt in one hand. Skidding to a halt next to the thing’s head, she upended the bag and watched the white powder spill down, landing on the demon’s face and inside its empty eye sockets.

The scream that came from its throat was something that would lodge itself in Buffy’s memory, a sound so unnatural and tortured that she doubted she’d hear the likes of it again. Just as she brought the silver dagger down against the monster’s throat she heard a sharp cry come from behind her. Spike.

__________



Spike heard the Slayer’s shout but was too busy restraining her squirming pals to check and see what was wrong. When the demon unleashed the mother of all death screams, he felt his grudging respect for the girl skyrocket along with a flood of relief that it was over at last.

Giles and Willow’s struggles eased and he was able to relinquish his hold a little more, allowing them to start to slip towards the ground. The Watcher’s eyes cleared, and he lost consciousness. Spike released him. He turned to inspect Willow when something sharp pierced his back and he cried out in surprise.

He dropped the witch just as her eyes cleared, and she gasped. Spike felt the last of his energy fade and his eyes drift closed. Rest. Yeah, that’s what he needed.

Rest.


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
slaymesoftly
Dec. 26th, 2012 02:52 pm (UTC)
Wonderful action! And evil cliffhanger! (as if you didn't know) *peers around for next chapter* What do you mean, it's the holiday? Pffft! More time to work on story. Hop to it!!!!
wolffan200
Dec. 26th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
I love good action. You'd swear we planned to cliffhanger you all over the holidays :) Heh, going through the editing of the next chapter one last time now so it will be up soon. Poor Spike.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )