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A/N This story was written for the Spuffy Haven, Art Before Fic Challenge, to a banner and criteria created by Liliaeth. My thanks as always to Just_Sue who as my Beta knows just what to say. To Spikes_heart for being so supportive and to Liliaeth for posting the challenge and lovely banner pic in the first place. By the way, I chose Spike’s outfit and first posted this chapter long before a certain series began releasing press shots. Spooky.
So this was it, the end of the war between Humans and Aurelians. Spike gazed at the battlefield in disgust. Soldiers from several worlds lay haphazardly on the ground, embracing the cold black mud and each other, countless miles from home, now all dead and beyond caring.
Such a tricky race these humans, in their own way they were just as deadly as his own people. What they lacked in physical strength they more than made up for in determination and sneakiness. And, whereas the Aurelians prided themselves on using their fists and fangs, as well as fine hand weapons forged from unbreakable metals, these humans had something called technology. They had devices that could shatter limbs at 500 paces and bombs that could wipe out a whole battalion, a whole planet even, without them having to show their cowardly faces. There could be no glory in that, no respect due to a worthy opponent, no looking your enemy in the eyes and having that connection - sharing a passion to stay alive or else to die well.
These humans were the scum of the Earth.
For millennia the Aurelians had waged war on the demon planets in their own solar system and beyond. They had conquered them all and made lasting peace treaties with their leaders. Bound them with blood to a great empire that stretched from their home planet, Aurelia, to the dustiest corner of their known universe.
And then they came. Fragile creatures who needed oxygen rich planets to survive, who only thrived at certain temperatures. A people who knew nothing of honour.
This arrogant species had arrived in their ships 18 years ago as bold as you please, thinking that they had a divine right to the most bountiful planets in the system, to breed on and plunder for wealth. One lone planet in particular had caught their eye and it was right in the heart of the Aurelian territories. Although there were small peaceful settlements already established there the humans regarded the settlers as savages to be bought off with cheap minerals, synthetic drugs and promises of ‘working partnerships’ - whatever those were. The first Ambassador from Earth to set foot on Aurelia to discuss 'arrangements' had high-handedly demanded to speak to whoever was in charge. The great Aurelian leader Feyyda had just laughed uproariously after hearing his terms before tearing out his throat. He allowed the other earthlings to return to their ships.
No deal was the message, and all out war was the reply.
And so Spike, the warrior, was now brought to this point. A witness to the stalemate of magics versus science. Where humans crowded into ships that could flicker around the stars, jumping through space over incredible distances, the Aurelians could open portals from one world to the next. If his leaders hadn’t been so complacent and had recognised them as the deadly threat that they were, then all this might have been avoided. An all out offensive right at the beginning might have worked but the Aurelians had underestimated the worth of this lone, fertile planet to the invaders. So more ships came, and then more still, and all the mages of Aurelia had had to work together to put barriers in place, shielding their home planet from the bombs that rained down on their heads. Tens of thousands were killed before they were protected enough to retaliate.
The planet Earth was shrouded in mystery. The old histories spoke of a portal that had been opened to reach the distant planet many years ago, long before humankind had lost their fur and tails and walked upright. A great casting out had taken place from Spike’s homeworld and the most dangerous, the most murderous demons - and even some Aurelians - had been banished there for all eternity, their crimes now long forgotten. A curse had been sent with them, that they should forever seek the dark places, away from the sun that ruled the day. A small gift to the animals whose home it was to give them a fighting chance should they ever evolve into intelligent beings. The portal had been sealed and bound with spells, and had never been reopened.
That the primitive humans had managed to survive despite the influx of demons was actually quite impressive, but Spike refused to see this return visit as the cosmic payback that it undoubtedly was.
Spike trudged his way back to the general’s tent to await further orders. The red and black banners affixed to each corner of the structure were listing badly and the white hide of the tent was decorated with the same mud that now caked his black leather boots. The row of buckles that ran up each side of them would be the very devil to polish up again and the rest of Spike’s outfit wasn’t in much better shape. His leather trousers were ripped and his precious military jacket had lost a good deal of the red piping from around the metal buttons. His loose shirt was now fit for nothing and the wound in his side throbbed mightily, turning the white fabric crimson as it continued to sluggishly seep.
Rubbing a filthy hand through his white hair, Spike sighed and tried to adjust his clothing before entering the tent.
He needn’t have bothered. Anjell lay on a pallet inside looking even paler than usual. Most of his own black uniform had been cut away to allow for the poultices and bandages that swaddled his chest and right thigh. His black hair glistened with sweat but his eyes were clear and sharp.
“Come in, Spike, and take some wine. You look as though you need it.”
Nodding in gratitude, Spike made his way to the low table and poured himself a generous measure of the fortifying drink. Gulping it down he went to stand in front of his commander.
“Spike, Feyyda is dead. I want you to deliver a message to the humans. Tell them that we are prepared to talk."
Buffy Anne Summers took a last glance in the mirror to make sure that she looked presentable for the Ambassador. As bodyguard to the small party of diplomats on Watcher 9 it was her job to keep everybody safe. And if she could look pretty at the same time then that was just a bonus. At twenty she knew that she had seen too much to ever look like one of the carefree women that played over the holoflics onboard but hey, a girl could dream. Right? It had absolutely nothing to do with one Riley Finn who, as the latest arrival from Earth, had already caught her eye with his refreshingly shy nature and appealingly muscular body. She didn’t feel quite so much the freak under his appraising gaze, although perhaps that would change when the others clued him in to her strangeness. She was a nobody, but a nobody with unusual power running through her veins.
She’d been just fifteen when her life had changed. She’d been practicing with the others in the gym on Watcher 5, the station which had been her home almost since birth. As a member of the cheer team and staunch supporter of the Sunnyhell Demons - the only basketball team to win the New Galaxy trophy three times in a row - she and her friends had been working on a new routine. The smallest girl in the group, Buffy had been chosen to be at the apex of a human triangle. Most of the station was set at nearly normal gravity so she couldn’t just float to where she wanted to be. Instead she had to run and jump onto the clasped hands of the bigger team members then flip herself up to the top of the formation. Although pretty limber by anyone’s standards, she was finding it hard to a) launch herself high enough, and b) not fall off the shoulders of the two topmost girls.
On this day, that wasn’t a problem.
Buffy had taken a run up to the waiting arms, jumped as instructed and ended up sailing over the heads of her astonished team mates to land gracefully on the floor twenty feet behind them. On the second attempt she had landed on target perfectly. And that would have been the end of it, a slight glitch in the gravity drive, but later they’d assembled for self defence classes and her world had changed forever.
All the students had to learn to fight in the event that the Aurelians ever found a way to open a portal in space - which was just stupid as everyone knew that portals could only work on planets. Not that anyone really knew how they worked but there hadn’t been a single instance of the alien monsters attacking them on one of the thirty space stations dotted above New Earth. Instead, all the battles had been fought on the planet’s surface where they had established heavily protected communities. Many soldiers guarded the brave souls whose task it was to grow crops and mine the ores needed to build further structures in the skies.
As she stood on the mat awaiting the signal to try and best her partner in unarmed combat, Buffy could feel a low buzz enter her bones, a surge of something powerful, something big. And the next thing she knew her opponent was staring at her in horror, clutching a broken wrist. The poor girl had been taken away crying and the instructor had assumed that it had been a careless accident. However, when he had later singled Buffy out to demonstrate a series of attack moves - and to perhaps punish her a little for not being more careful - he had ended up flat on his stomach in an unbreakable hold. Thoroughly embarrassed, he had ended the session and walked out, leaving the group of young people eyeing Buffy with a mixture of fear and suspicion.
The next day the tests had begun.
After a week it was determined that she had strength that surpassed that of the toughest soldier on board. She could lift weights that would make a grown man cry just to look at them, and do a thousand push-ups without breaking a sweat. After much painful prodding and probing, that lasted far longer than a week, it was also determined that she was human and not a demon in disguise. Only then had she been allowed out of quarantine. A normal girl in every other respect, Buffy had gone back to her lessons and to the few people who still wanted to be her friend.
Pretty soon Buffy was attending new classes; she was to become one of the select group of guards who would protect and serve the Ambassador and his entourage. Now, five years later, she was getting ready to join the shuttle down to New Earth, in the company of the delegation who would be negotiating a truce with the Aurelians.
Spike did as he was told; there was no point in arguing with Anjell. Now that Feyyda was dead the general was next in line to assume military leadership and, as one of his lieutenants, Spike had seen enough violence now to be thoroughly heartsick. Yes, it was time to talk.
In the end it had been surprisingly easy to give the message to the commander at the Earth camp. Spike gave a wry smile as he walked through the sentry lines without being challenged; the enemy was in complete disarray, pulling the dead bodies of their comrades aside to make room for the wounded. The great gates of the compound hung loosely against the broken fences that had once protected the huge enclosure. A group of non-combatants were huddled under a makeshift shelter and he couldn’t resist a snarl as he passed, baring his fangs a little to make them whimper.
Striding to the figure that he instinctively knew was their commander he stopped and gave a small salute. A man of perhaps 50 human years paused from the orders he was issuing to the group of men standing before him. He was bleeding from a cut on his temple but his blue eyes regarded Spike steadily.
“I have a message from General Anjell for the commander of this place.”
“I am Commander Giles, you can give it to me.”
Spike gave a small bow and presented a roll of parchment to the man, who accepted it and stepped to one side to examine the contents for a long few minutes.
“Tell General Anjell that we are prepared to enter discussions.”
Buffy stood just inside the doorway of the ornate tent. There was just enough of a breeze coming through the covered entrance for her to feel little puffs of air running up and down her body. It felt strange. The air was also making her a little light headed, heavy with the smell of sap from the woodland surrounding the clearing where this camp had been set up. Instead of the faint thrum of Watcher 9 she could hear water constantly gurgling around the rocks in a little stream outside and the incessant calling of birds.
The high ceiling of the structure where the meeting was taking place was covered in broad panels of purple, red and gold silk running from a central point in the middle, down the sides and to the ground, transferring the light outside into glowing stripes of colour. For someone who had grown up with neutral shades the effect was almost overwhelming.
Ambassador Rayne caught her eye from his position next to Commander Giles and he gave her a friendly wink. Buffy smiled then caught herself, standing a little straighter at her post.
A row of tables had been positioned along the far side of the tent and dishes filled with pastries and fresh fruit were being brought in from the furthest entrance. They were making her mouth water. Not so the platters of roasted flesh that the Aurelians had provided, Buffy knew that the animals on this planet provided valuable protein but the very thought of chewing on real meat made her queasy.
An Aurelian guard was standing nearby; he was clearly bored and barely managing to restrain himself from moving. Instead, he drummed his clawed fingers to a tune that only he could hear, leaving tiny tears in the fabric at his back. As Buffy regarded him in curiosity he slowly turned his head towards her. His golden eyes flicked insolently up and down her body then he looked back at the occupants of the room, dismissing her. Buffy felt a hot burst of anger flow through her - this was the enemy and every cell she possessed was itching to rip him apart.
Someone clapped their hands then and declared a short break to enjoy the refreshments and she tensed slightly as the twenty or so people and Aurelians surged as one towards the food. The alien next to her did not move, but his attention did not waver from the black clad figure of his general who was now speaking with Giles and the Ambassador. There were other human guards both within and without the tent, each paired up with an Aurelian counterpart. She patted the holstered ultratase at her side for reassurance and noticed that the figure next to her was stroking the hilt of his sword in a similarly possessive manner. It was going to be a long day.
Ambassador Rayne was heading towards her bearing a plate containing her favourite choklat cookies and a glass of juice, giving her a conspiratorial grin as he thrust them into her hands.
“Can’t have my prettiest guard wasting away, can I? Come on, Buffy, eat and keep your strength up, this is going to take a while.”
With a grateful smile she accepted the food and bit into the crumbly goodness, all the while keeping alert for any movement from the guard next to her. It wouldn’t do at all for her to be munching on a cookie while her silent companion ran his sword through the most important man in the solar system. Ethan Rayne was a slim, wiry man of indeterminate age; he had quite a reputation with the ladies but had always regarded Buffy as a delightful child. Rather than be repulsed by her strength he revelled in the fact that this little girl could hold her own among the burly men that usually surrounded him. The diplomats on his council team were far more wary of her, but she could live with that.
She stiffened as General Anjell also made his way to where they stood. To her surprise he handed a goblet of liquid to the guard.
“Here, Spike, you must be getting hungry by now.”
Spike took the proffered drink and took a long draught with a groan of satisfaction. A small drop of red bobbled on his lip and he licked it away through smiling fangs.
“Thanks, I needed that.”
‘Oh god, it's true what they say.’ The strong aroma of warm blood caught in Buffy’s nostrils and she nearly threw up the cookie she’d just eaten.
It took just one week to end the war. The initial excitement at being present for such a momentous event soon gave way to mind numbing boredom. Indeed the only way she could get through the endless discussions and carefully polite protocol was to imagine ever more creative ways to dispose of the creature next to her. The officer General Anjell had called Spike was a permanent presence and his barely contained irritation with the slowness of the proceedings was rivalling her own. He spent most of the time tugging at the high collar on his formal military jacket as if it were strangling him or playing with his sword (phallic much), or rocking on one foot and then the other as if ready to launch himself forwards. The only time that there was any change in his behaviour was when there was a mood-shift in the talks. Whenever voices were raised Spike became as still as a statue, all senses on alert, and a low growl would reach her ears. She in turn would react to him and her body would tighten in anticipation, only able to relax when he did. Boredom or nerve shredding tension, there wasn't much to be said for either one.
On the seventh day there was an air of excitement, almost of celebration. A treaty was being drawn up and, barring unforeseen glitches, the two sides would declare peace. The planet would be shared. 100,000 immigrants from Earth would be allowed to settle on the planet over a three year period, starting with the three thousand inhabitants of the Watcher Space stations. Conservation measures would be agreed whereby forests would be managed and aggressive strip mining forbidden. Any sign of the development of weapons and hostilities would recommence immediately. A percentage tithe of raw materials would be paid to the Aurelians annually; gold, seasoned wood, cane sugar and cereals were all high on the list of desirable commodities. Surprisingly there was little interest in acquiring the scientific know-how that the humans possessed. 25,000 Aurelians would also make the world their home and they would assist in the building of communal meeting houses where laws could be made and grievances aired. Documents were drawn up in readiness and they would be signed the following day.
General Anjell got to his feet and went over to Ambassador Rayne.
"Well, Ambassador, it seems as though we have an agreement. Tomorrow our greatest seer will be arriving here to make the final decision. She will know if this will succeed or fail. If she approves then we will sign. "
Rayne blanched. No-one had mentioned a seer. The thought of everything unravelling on the word of some mystic was ridiculous. Keeping his thoughts to himself he hastily plastered on a smile and shook the General's hand.
"I'm sure it will be delightful to meet this esteemed lady. May I ask her name?"
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