Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I'm not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn't be worth the hassle trust me.
Important note from the author:
This is the third story in the Compelled Series, reading parts one and two first will save you a great deal of confusion as to what's going on. Also this story will be appearing both here and on the Twisting the Hellmouth website in case you prefer the format there.
Castle of the Covenant – Pylea – January 2004
The second from last thing that went through the guards mind as he looked over the battlements into the night sky was that it looked like it was going to rain the reflected light from Pylea's moon shining dimly through the thick cloud, the very last thing that went through his mind however was a nine-millimetre bullet from a silenced pistol pressed against the back of his bucket-shaped iron helmet.
The Pylean guard, one of those loyal to Narwek and his puppet government, slumped to the floor, killed instantly by the shot which made a metallic "thunk" sound as it punched through the iron. The local demon clans might have their heart in their backside but their brains were ensconced firmly in their skulls as per most humanoid species.
Wesley lowered his pistol and signalled to the three slayers accompanying him to follow him towards the stone steps down into the castle itself. Like him they were wearing jet-black fatigues, tactical vests and balaclavas plus night-vision goggles which showed the world in shades of green, unlike him they had never been here previously and the plans of the building they had seen were no substitute for actually having done this before, which is why he went first despite having a fraction of their strength and slower reflexes.
Getting into the castle should have been much harder than this, especially since they hadn't even carried out a diversion in order to get a team in close enough to scale the walls, but both the occupation forces and their local allies had clearly relied too much on mystical protection and not enough on actual guards. Spells and wards designed to warn of an attacker were firmly in place but they weren't worth the demonic languages they were cast in, the black uniforms the infiltration team wore were merely the tip of the iceberg in making them hard to detect, the real work was being done by the glyphs they had painted on their bodies underneath. Early trials had shown the symbols they had learned from Lindsey MacDonald to be so effective at jamming both mystical and electronic surveillance that they even prevented them seeing each other through the night-vision gear so Willow had to tweak the magic slightly so they could.
Approaching the castle they did have to skirt around the newly constructed barracks buildings situated a quarter-mile to the north-east, which were home to perhaps half a legion of occupation troops, but being able to see in the dark had made avoiding the patchy patrols and disinterested demon guards scattered around far from tricky. Similar barracks were being set up in several locations as Sebassis strengthened his hold over the world, the demonic legions based there were the embodiment of his power, the symbol of his sovereignty over both Pylea itself and its puppet government. Through both Sebassis troops, and the newly re-empowered clergy that formed the backbone of the Covenant, Pylea was becoming once again a stronghold of power for the Wolf, Ram and Hart, or at least it would have been if the Slayers hadn't decided it was time to prove their supernatural-superpower credentials by getting into the business of power-projection.
The inside of the castle was lit by flaming torches so they turned off the goggles and lifted them up onto their foreheads as they silently made their way down the spiral stone steps into the living quarters. The next guard they ran into inside, this time one of Sebassis men, was grabbed by a slayer and had his head twisted around one-hundred and eighty degrees before he could make a sound, except that is of both his neck being snapped and subsequently his body dropping to the floor in a heap. The slayer which had killed him dragged him into a dark corner where his corpse wouldn't be immediately spotted by any other passing this way then the group moved on, silenced pistols raised and ready.
Using a hand signal Wesley indicated when they had arrived at their destination, the castle library, and with pistol raised he pushed open the door slowly and looked inside.
A priest sat down by a table, slumped asleep over a book was the only sign of life. Not wanting to risk getting blood on the possibly valuable tome Wesley pulled a length of piano wire out of one of the pockets on his tactical vest, tiptoed up to the priest and gently fed the wire under his neck before taking hold of both ends by their wooden toggles pulling it back hard and garrotting him pulling him backwards off the chair.
The girls watched dispassionately, all were all graduates not only of his firearms training but also the advanced studies course in fighting unbelievably dirty he co-taught with Faith for slayers who were a little more "morally flexible" than most, the kind that could kill in cold blood without hesitation or later reflection and personal reproach. Given a large enough group to choose from you could always find a few such people, and there were plenty of slayers around now to select the ideal candidates for what was euphemistically referred to as "wet work". The wire biting in hard enough to draw blood the priest soon stopped trying to kick out and struggle as he fell into unconsciousness then death. Wesley left it another few seconds for safety then unwound the wire garrotte, coiled it back up and returned it to its pocket.
Wesley looked around, the Castle Library was exactly as be remembered it to be. The three most valuable works, the Trionic tomes with covers representing the Wolf, Ram and Hart were there along with so many others. It was another intelligence goldmine and well worth salvaging before the main event, with luck they wouldn't even realise they were missing.
The slayers took off the empty holdalls they had been carrying strapped to their backs and began stuffing books and manuscripts into them, quickly but quietly while Wesley watched the door. They could carry far more weight than him without being slowed down, and besides which he was a better shot than they were and could instantly drop anyone else that decided to drop by.
Once the books were gathered up they cautiously checked the corridor then seeing it was still clear headed back to the roof. The entire operation had only taken a fifteen minutes start to finish without a word being uttered just as planned, and had in fact gone even more smoothly than expected. One reason Wesley was unaware of for this situation at the time was that both Narwek and the Commander of the Legions on Pylea were off visiting one of the southern provinces which meant security was even more lax than normal.
Putting their night-vision gear back on they returned to the battlements, checked the coast was still clear below and then abseiled back down the walls, immediately started to run as Wesley switched on his radio headset. 'Let the heavens fall' he said sprinting away from the castle like his life depended on it, which it probably did.
Just over half a mile away, positioned with a clear view of the castle gates, Janko Perković looked through the high-powered night-vision scope mounted on his rifle. There were two guards at the gates and if their body language was remotely like that of a human they were bored stiff he decided. Having done much the same job himself on numerous occasions he sympathised as he sighted the rifle on them.
A distant sound, almost like a dull thump carried through the forest, causing the guards to start looking around curiously at the unfamiliar noise. We'll their lives were about to get much more interesting the Croatian Mercenary thought to himself as a strange whistling noise that almost seemed to be coming from above really had the guards looking confused as they stared into the night sky.
A deafening explosion, perhaps seventy-five yards in front of the castle gates, thundered in the darkness, and the sudden burst of light accompanying it lit up the surroundings for a split second. The mercenary spoke into his own radio headset in French correcting the mortars aim as his Canadian colleague situated two miles further distant from the castle adjusted the mortars trajectory in response before firing another aiming shot.
The second round landed only ten yards from the castle walls and rattled the windows in the building.
The third mortar bomb landed right on top of the castle and Perković requested ten rounds of rapid fire just as the townsfolk in the nearby dwellings had poured out of bed to see what was happening up at the castle.
Quite where Emil had managed to get hold of a British Army issue L16 81mm mortar and several crates of ammunition everyone had wisely opted not to ask, he had probably gotten hold of it in Africa via one of the various nations there which had purchased a number of the things, but regardless of its origins the effect it had on the building was more than impressive. Hitting the walls it would have caused a decent amount of damage but the rounds dropping right on top of the roof, which unlike the walls wasn't several feet thick, was simply catastrophic, it simply fell in on top of the next floor.
Loading and firing at a fast but steady rate the high-explosive mortar rounds dropped one after the other every five seconds or so, because of the relatively low muzzle velocity, and the long range it was being fired at, there were another two already in flight as each one exploded.
To the people of Pylea stood by their homes watching the castle get pounded it seemed as if an angry God was throwing thunderbolts at the building. They had never seen such a thing, there was not even gunpowder on this world, and they gaped at the sight and stood in awe at the thunderous sound.
After the ten rounds of high-explosive Perković called for another three rounds of incendiary ammunition which duly fell into the smashed core of the castle and set it ablaze, the surviving demons inside pouring out through the gates, stunned and totally shaken by the situation. Many had already been killed as ceilings and floors collapsed into rubble and most of the rest were completely disorientated by both the relentless concussive booms and the sheer unexpectedness of it all.
Then the mercenary chambered a round in his sniper-rifle and started talking them out one at a time firing into the mob situated eight-hundred metres away. As soon as he started firing the slayer with him, Rika from South-Africa, joined in, the two of them taking it slow and steady, firing one aimed shot after another into the chaos. The girl was if anything a better shot than he was, which had been much to the mercenaries surprise when they were training on a range back home, but she hadn't done this for real before and he had, albeit shooting at humans before not demons, and he was pleased she hadn't hesitated but just gone on with the job. It was said that during the war on the Eastern Front female snipers of the Red Army had been much feared by the Germans for their ruthlessness, watching Rika dispassionately blowing holes in the opposition made Perković believe it.
The troops based in the Legion Barracks were also pouring out of their buildings though in a much better order, Sebassis armies were kept in check by harsh discipline and training as well as their loyalty for the Archduke himself, and they started to form up into their various commands ready for action just as the mortar was realigned and bombs started dropping right on top of them instead, this time it was one Xander Harris that was calling in the barrage, watching from his own concealed position and radioing the fall of shot to Ashton and his mortar crew.
A mixture of high-explosive, proximity-fused airburst shrapnel and white-phosphorus anti-personnel rounds fell onto the barracks buildings and the ground around them, setting timber and canvas ablaze and slaughtering the demons that had never before experienced anything like it. It might not be glamorous but the fact was that by the twentieth century the lethality of artillery had risen to the point that it caused more battlefield casualties than every other kind of weapon put together. Caught out in the open with no trenches to throw themselves in the soldiers of Sebassis Legions were simply butchered by the relentless steady pounding.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity but was in fact only a few minutes, the rounds stopped landing as the mortar ran out of ammunition and with ears ringing from the explosions the demons started to cautiously get up from the ground. Surviving officers started to belt out orders just as another sound, a dull roar that grew louder and louder began to approach their position.
A series of explosions, far smaller than those caused by the mortar rounds though still capable of serious damage rocked the remains of the barracks, exploding amongst the larger intact groups of demons and demolishing any structures that were still intact.
No sooner had the new round of explosions ended than a four wheeled machine appeared out of the night moving swiftly towards them. Angel had once driven a 1967 Plymouth through a portal to Pylea, this time they had come with a 2003 Landover four-wheel drive with the roof taken off and with a pintle-mounted light-machinegun added. Gunn sat in the drivers seat and took pleasure in watching the demons scatter as he tore around the area, running down a few of them. Xander manning the machinegun howled like a fury as he fired long bursts into the night, whilst three slayers, Vi in the passenger seat and two of her most experienced girls in the back, fired off their G-36K carbines. They were all wearing night-vision gear which made the fact they were firing a high percentage of tracer rounds for shock effect look even more surreal, almost like a science fiction film with broken beams of green light tearing through the alien hordes.
Streams of fully-automatic fire scythed through the demon ranks, already a rabble, and some began to flee just as the vehicle suddenly veered off and started heading towards the castle, leaving utter chaos in its wake Hundreds already killed or wounded the remaining demons were shaken to the core, reeling from the ferocity of the assault which was as much psychological as physical.
Then adding to the nightmare a line of figures started advancing from the treeline into the flickering light thrown from the burning barracks buildings. They moved steadily as one, almost mechanically, disciplined and clearly with a purpose.
Taking the centre position in the line Faith chambered a round in her SPAS-12 shotgun with a satisfying "clack clack". 'Leave a few of the wounded alive to tell their friends what happened' she ordered, 'otherwise kill 'em all, we're making a statement here' she told the slayers with her, and the skirmish line of a dozen teenage girls armed with assault shotguns and short-swords, and wearing chain-mail armour in case things got up close and personal, began to clear up what was left of the demon soldiers. They wanted to make a serious impression in their first battle on Pylea and they were certainly achieving that objective so far, they were well armed, relentless, had overwhelming technological superiority and wanted their enemy to know it. Two other slayers followed the line some fifty yards back carrying the six-shot grenade launcher which they had used to bombard the camp shortly before the four-wheel-drive made its entrance. Now with launchers reloaded they would provide firepower support if needed, though it looked unlikely it would be, the demon forces were shattered.
As the slayers wandered about some of the demons tried to fight back but they were gunned down in short order. It was far from the old slayer way of doing things but these weren't the old days and for that matter they weren't even on the same planet. Faith and most of the others had gawped at Pylea's twin suns when they arrived earlier that day, before making the trek from where they'd arrived fifteen miles to the northwest in an uninhabited area of wilderness. It was a pity Buffy hadn't been there to see it but one of them had to remain on Earth to run the show and besides which the Chief-Slayer was, by her own admission, not gun-girl which is what this job really needed.
The four-wheel-drive roared its way towards the castle bumping over the dirt-track leading to it. It pulled up two hundred yards away and Xander started firing again, hosing a stream of fire from his machinegun towards the demons before suddenly stopping. The sniper-fire from Perković and Reka which had been harassing them ceased too moments before flares launched skywards, the brilliant magnesium lights slowly drifting back to earth on tiny parachutes illuminating the whole area.
Another Landover also mounting a machinegun rolled out from the darkness, driving over a ploughed field with ease to reach its destination, a figure jumped from the passenger seat and stood beside it. He lifted a microphone to his lips and started to speak, his words booming from speakers in the back of the vehicle, audible for miles around. 'I am the Groosalug' he began, 'undefeated champion of Pylea and loyal subject of the Princess Cordelia' he declared. 'This land belongs to its people not to an invader from another realm. I have returned to my home to free her from slavery and foreign rule, the Princess has called for aid from her allies and they have responded by dispatching warriors to help to rid us of the tyranny of the Archduke Sebassis and his fawning puppet Narwek' he announced, his words echoing from the castle walls. 'Their weapons are mighty beyond measure, their soldiers strong, skilled and brave, they offer to arm and train all to resist the invader' he continued, 'to our enemies I offer fair warning, you will die by the thousands if you stay, to the true sons and daughters of Pylea, be they of the clans or the humans I give a message, rally to the cause of freedom, throw off the yoke of oppression and join us.'
The Groosalug took a deep breath. 'Liberty for Pylea, death to her foes, and may the Gods restore the Princess to the Throne' he cried out.
A figure scrambled to its knees from it had been sheltering near the castle gates. 'You cannot win' the demon retorted. 'The Archduke will never give up Pylea.'
Xander leaned over to Vi and whispered something to her. She raised her carbine and fired a single shot which hit the demon right between the eyes killing it instantly. It fell backwards and hit the ground like a tree felled by a lumberjack.
'That was one bullet' Xander shouted out to the remaining demons by the castle gates. 'We've got a million more ready and waiting' he told them, 'You'll run out of soldiers a long time before we run out of bullets to kill them with' he declared.
'We'll give you one week to leave and if you're not all gone by then it's no more mister nice guy' Gunn called out. They wouldn't leave, the idea of being forced to retreat by humans was too abhorrent for them to contemplate, but it was only right to give them the option.
The Groosalug got back into his own Landrover and gave a nod to the driver, who put it into gear and headed for the town where he wanted to make a speech directly to the people before they left.
Xander flicked on his radio headset. 'Faith, you nearly done over there?' he asked.
'Another couple of minutes to mop up and we'll head back to rendezvous' Faith replied over the sound of intermittent gunfire and demon screams.
'Ashton you hear that?' Xander asked.
'Already on the way there' Ashton replied. 'Making good time now we're not hauling half a ton of mortar rounds with us' he continued. A girls voice could be heard muttering in the background pointing out it wasn't him that had been carrying most of it.
'Janko, stay in place to cover us, Groo will pick you two up as planned' Xander told him.
'Right' the mercenary responded. Man of few words Xander thought to himself.
'Wesley?' Xander asked.
'En-route to rendezvous' Wesley replied. 'Making bad time now we're hauling half a ton of books with us'
'Well stop reading them then' Faith retorted over the open channel.
Xander pulled his headset off. 'I still think we should have rode in playing music' he told Gunn. 'Coming in out of the darkness, guns blazing, it would have looked awesome.'
'And the locals would have run away screaming or fell to the ground with their hands over their ears' Gunn replied putting the Landrover into gear ready to move off, 'we wanted them to stick around and watch us kick the shit out of these assholes' he reminded him.
Xander sighed. 'Okay but the next dimension we do this in, I definitely want music' he declared. 'Something hard rock with a beat to go with the gunfire, get the blood pumping.'
'The next dimension?' Vi asked as the four-wheel-drive started to move off.
'Oh come on you must have heard Illyria's master plan for galactic, sorry I mean "multiversal", conquest?' Xander asked her as they headed away from the castle.
'I try and tune it out' Vi admitted. 'It makes it harder to like her when she gets all… ambitious and imperialistic.'
'Surprised she's not here' one of the other slayers said looking around, 'explosions, fire, mayhem it's her idea of heaven right?'
'Needed her ready to portal us out if the plan went to shit' Gunn replied. 'She's around somewhere watching and I bet she was pissed she couldn't join in. She had a video camera though so we've got one hell of a home movie to watch when we get back.'
'So what now?' Vi asked.
'We give them a week to think about it like I said and then we go to war' Gunn replied evenly.
'We're not at war already?' the slayer who had asked about Illyria inquired.
'Nah' Xander replied, 'this was just an object lesson in not fucking around with people with superior weapons technology' he told her. 'Psychological warfare maybe.'
'We must have killed hundreds, thousands of them' the slayer responded switching the safety catch on her rifle back on.
Xander shrugged. 'Okay so it was a stern object lesson' he admitted. 'Take it from me, demons are slow learners' he told her. 'As for numbers they've got hundreds of thousands' he noted.
'We just bitch-slapped them some' Gunn remarked. 'Kicking their ass is going to take a good long while.'
The castle blazed, the fires visible for miles around casting a glow on the night sky as the slayer forces pulled back from the scene of the battle. Rumours and tales of what had happened spread rapidly, helped by the distribution of leaflets written up in all the major scripts of Pylea and which were scattered by the strange four-wheeled machines that raced along the roadways through towns and villages over the next few days. A new force had come to Pylea, a new power began to exert itself offworld. The ancient nightmare of demonkind was coming to pass, the humans were rewriting the rules of the game, no longer playing on the defensive they were ready and willing to take the war to the enemy wherever that enemy might be.
In another reality Angel was once willing to give his life to stop the gears of the Wolf, Ram and Hart grinding towards eventual, inevitable apocalypse even for just a moment, believing it was impossible to bring them down entirely and that it was the struggle, the fighting back no matter how futile it was that was worthwhile, that was what it meant to be a champion.
Watching the castle burn from a distance Illyria knew that was just a bunch of angsty, emo, loser crap. Total victory was possible, you just needed to stop being such a wimp, make them play by your rules… and whenever possible cheat.
They were rewriting history and prophecy, overturning the established order of things, and beyond that it was a portent of something far greater, the first stirrings of a new doctrine that would eventually shake the multiverse to its foundations, an idea that it was the Manifest Destiny of mankind not to be the pawn but the player.
Illyria switched off the video camera she had been recording the events with for posterity and turned to head for the rendezvous herself. 'Check' she said quietly to herself with a smile.
Note from the author:
This Fic runs on reviews, all other power sources have proved inadequate for the task ;-)