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.
Castle of the Covenant – Pylea – May 24th 1999
By the time Constable Narwek arrived from the next village, having being summoned by a dispatch rider, the villagers had already surrounded the castle to prevent any escape by the rebel cows. Taking charge he sent other riders to seek out any Imperial Guard patrols that might be nearby, calling on their immediate return to the capital, and he then more reluctantly sent a messenger on one of the swiftest horses to the Scumpits of Ur ordering the half-breed Groosalug to come with all haste.
By the time the twin suns had risen high enough in the sky to glint off the stained glass windows of the castle the first unit of Imperial Guardsmen to be located had already arrived to reinforce the various village clans standing watch. Not long after one of the priests who had not been in the castle appeared on horseback himself and with the authority of the clergy took charge of the situation from Narwek, though keeping the constable to hand for counsel and advice.
Though initially horrified by the news passed on by Narwek that Silas and the others had apparently been killed it soon dawned on Barshon the Covenant Priest that by default he had therefore inherited the mantle of Chief Priest from Silas and had also become the de-facto ruler of Pylea.
Resolving not to let this priceless opportunity slip by Barshon knew he had to act decisively and entrench his position by crushing this insurrection. He ordered the Imperial Guard to begin making plans to storm the castle and then waited for enough reinforcements to get here in order to bring overwhelming force to bear. From the sounds of it these cows had powerful sorcery at their command, and losses to the Guard when they attacked would likely be severe, but the future of Pylean society was at stake after all.
Narwek stood beside Barshon and nodded his agreement when the priest rallied the people, telling them of what would happen if the cows were not defeated and crushed. All over this world the slaves would begin to rise-up seeking to slaughter their betters and overturn the natural order of things. It was self-evident truth that the demon clans of Pylea were superior to the humans in their midst, that the cows were nothing but a slave race, but today the future was in jeopardy and if the villagers and the guardsmen cared at all for their spawn and their spawn's spawn they must take back the castle regardless of casualties.
The warriors of the Deathwok Clan were always spoiling for a fight anyway so Barshon was unsurprised at their willingness to support the Imperial Guard in the attack once it was ordered but even the less aggressive but more industrious Gathwoks got caught up in the fervour and were starting to construct a large battering ram along with siege-ladders with which to scale the walls.
'The castle gates open' someone called out and Barshon and Narwek turned to look, finding it was true.
'I think they want to talk' Narwek suggested.
'Take two of the Imperial Guard and go find out what they want' Barshon ordered.
'Surely we aren't going to negotiate Sire' Narwek responded in surprise.
'Don't be stupid Constable, I merely want to know if they want to surrender' Barshon replied. 'If they do then we'll know if they are weaker than we thought.'
'What if they beg mercy and request clemency?' Narwek queried.
Barshon smirked. 'They need to be made an example of' he replied. 'There will be no clemency' he continued. 'The krebbil is too quick, I want them burned alive at the stake' he ordered. 'Just not so much that it ruins the victory feast' he added, thinking about it.
'Of course' Narwek responded, nodding his understanding. He preferred his meat medium-rare rather than well-done too.
Somewhat to Faith's surprise Wesley had trusted Fred with his rifle and it was now her that was up on the castle walls keeping an eye out for trouble. True the skinny chick seemed to know how to handle the rifle, with that skill probably being a Texas thing Faith reasoned since it was a state full of gun-nuts, but she wasn't exactly all-there.
While some of the castle slaves seemed still loyal to their masters others had celebrated their deaths convincingly enough for Wesley to release them and put them on watch. One in particular named Markallo had been one of the most trusted servants of the priesthood but he also claimed to have been a spy, passing information onto the human rebels hiding in the forests, and he sought to prove this by telling Wesley what he knew of the slave collars and the Covenant device that could be used to inflict pain or death on everyone wearing one.
Now carrying a crossbow taken from one of the fallen Imperial Guard, and with a sword hanging by his side, Markallo stood next to Wesley as Narwek and his escort approached the castle and hoped he didn't look nervous. 'Well that explains how the rebel slaves seemed to know so much' Narwek observed, sneering at Markallo.
'And I was right under your nose all the time Narwek' Markallo found himself with the courage to reply. 'Good work Constable' he said sarcastically.
'Silence cow-scum' Narwek snarled back.
'I think you hit a raw nerve there' Wesley observed with a chuckle. 'Regardless, we're not here to discuss your ineptitude as a policeman but rather to negotiate surrender terms' he told Narwek.
The deathwok smirked. 'Who says we want to accept your surrender?' he responded.
Wesley looked puzzled for a moment. 'Our surrender?' he eventually replied, bemused. 'No I meant you surrendering to us' he informed Narwek seriously.
Narwek stared at the strangely-clad human for a moment. 'Are you mad?' he asked. 'We have the castle completely surrounded and more of the Imperial Guard arrive every hour' he noted.
'We have weapons and magicks that can defeat an army far greater in number than you possess' Wesley stated.
'I have heard of some sorcery that allows you to kill at a great distance but I doubt it powerful enough to defeat a force as large as we command, cow' Narwek responded dismissively.
'You're underestimating our firepower but in any case guns aren't the only weapon in our arsenal' Wesley replied. 'UNLEASH THE BOOMBOX' he thundered, trying heroically to keep a straight face.
A horrible cacophonous wail of deafening volume which caused excruciating pain suddenly assailed Narweks ears from inside the castle and caused him and the two guardsmen to collapse to the ground. It seemed to go on forever but when it eventually stopped Narwek looked up to see that the two cows were still standing there unharmed. 'What evil is this?' Narwek gasped.
'That was but merely a taste of the awesome power at our disposal' Wesley declared. 'Much longer and the spirit of the Boombox would have melted your brains and brought them gushing from your ears' he warned the demons. 'Be grateful we keep it under control for that was but only the fifth level of it's power and unlike it's normal brethren which merely achieve the tenth level our Boombox...' he paused for effect, 'goes up to eleven!' he exclaimed, throwing one hand into the air, fingers held claw-like they were holding something in the hammiest piece of acting he had performed since playing Richard III at school.
'The cows were not injured by the spirit' one of the Imperial Guardsmen realised, slowly getting up from the ground.
'They must have cast a protective spell upon themselves or else have the spirit so entirely under control so that it only attacks their enemies' the other guardsman decided, his own voice trembling in fear as he rose himself and aided Narwek in doing likewise.
Wesley crossed his arms. 'Any assault upon this castle will be repulsed in the same manner' he told Narwek. 'Also at the first sign of trouble we will start to execute the remaining priests' he added.
'Some of the priests yet live?' Narwek responded in surprise. 'I was told you had killed them all.'
'I lied to the Deathwok that approached the gates before' Wesley replied. 'We spared a few so we could gain information from them' he explained.
'You tortured those of the Holy Covenant?' Narwek said with a mixture of anger and dismay.
'Yes' Wesley confirmed, a vicious smile on his face. 'It yielded great knowledge and no small measure of enjoyment' he said.
'Animal' Narwek spat. 'You heretic scum will burn in the...'
'Shut up or I'll let the Boombox consume your soul' Wesley cut him off. 'I intend to send a lone rider to report to our leaders that we have taken the castle' he told Narwek. 'They'll be bringing an important hostage with them and will immediately kill him if they are molested in any way.'
'What hostage?' Narwek wanted to know.
Wesley turned back towards the castle. 'Bring him out' he commanded.
Narwek watched as a man in the robes of a covenant priest, arms bound in front of him and hood pulled down over his face stumbled out, half-dragged by a female cow. The beasts had added to their blasphemy by placing a slave collar around his neck, his robes were blood-stained and from the way he was moving he had been beaten severely.
'Show them Faith' Wesley ordered.
Still holding onto the priest with her free hand Faith pulled back the hood and revealed it to be Silas himself, gagged as well as bound. 'How dare you treat the High Priest so!' Narwek exclaimed.
'One of the other priests showed us how to fit the collar and how to work them' Wesley responded ignoring the question and producing one of the small techno-mystical remote-controls from a pocket to show Narwek. 'Each priest that remains alive is wearing a collar and we can cause them pain or death at a whim' he said. 'Drag that demon filth back inside' he told Faith who proceeded to grab hold of Silas roughly by his robes and do so.
'Your deaths will be painful beyond measure' Narwek vowed through gritted teeth, bright red eyes blazing. 'We will slaughter ten cows for every one of us you murder.'
'Most humans are nothing but obedient slaves broken to their master's bidding and would have died eventually under your tender mercies eventually anyway' Wesley replied dismissively. 'It's not like you're holding any rebels I might have cared about as bargaining chips' he continued. 'You've killed every one you've captured' he pointed out before contemptuously turning his back on the constable and the two guardsmen and re-entering the castle.
Seething with rage Narwek watched the gates slam shut once more then led the way back towards the village.
'We could capture the cow rider when they come out with Silas' one of the Imperial Guardsmen suggested.
'Likely killing Silas in the process and how could we guarantee they'd be taken alive even if we were willing to sacrifice the High Priest?' Narwek responded, thinking it likely that Barshon would be willing to let Silas die. Another thought occurred to him however. 'If they are riding to the rebel base we could send a large force to follow them out-of-sight and try to take as many rebels alive as we can' he suggested. 'We'll soon test the limits of their resolve if the crebbil falls on a cow they care for in the village square every hour until they submit.'
'A good plan' the other guardsman praised Narwek sincerely.
'Only a cow would have been stupid enough to give us such an opportunity' Narwek replied, his anger turning to a feeling of smug satisfaction. The human likely thought that having Silas with the riders rendered them completely safe but that was only because the base-creatures had no understanding of politics or true strategy. It was far better after all to risk losing the High Priest than it was to risk losing control of this entire realm.
Inside the castle Wesley turned to Faith. 'Too much?' he asked with a chuckle.
'Jeez Wes, I know you said you were going to act all "Ming the Merciless" out there in front of the bad guys but I was trying not to bust a gut when you got into it' Faith replied, grinning.
Silas held out his hands and started to mumble loudly past the gag. 'Better cut her loose' Wesley advised.
'Yeah, I guess so' Faith agreed, taking out a knife and cutting the rope binding the priest's hands before untying the gag.
'Couldn't you have found a cleaner piece of cloth to put in my mouth?' Amy protested, waving her hand in front of her face to remove the glamour making her look like Silas. 'And these robes smell' she complained, starting to pull them over her head.
'They're clean apart from the blood, I washed them myself and laid them out fresh for Silas yesterday' Markallo informed the sorceress from the other world. 'His clan just smell that way' he told her.
'Your turn' Amy told Wesley, throwing the robes to him. 'I'll apply the glamour just before you leave' she said. 'I'm not sure how long it'll last' she admitted.
'Shouldn't be a problem as long as it lasts until we're past the village' Wesley replied. 'I'll make sure they get a good look before pulling up the hood so they think it's the priest' he said.
'Are you sure this is going to work Wes?' Faith asked.
Wesley shrugged. 'They should be smart enough to realise they'd be better off following us to where they think we're going rather than attack us right away' he replied. 'If not then I'll have my pump-action, my forty-fives and the element of surprise because they won't be expecting the chap in the robes to be the enemy.'
'And a witch' Amy added. 'You'll have a witch' she noted.
Markallo felt like he had been suddenly swept up in either a dream or perhaps a nightmare but he had long supported the cause of his people and if this were truly happening he had to help the strangers as best he could. 'Marelda is choosing two fine steeds from the castle stables' he told them. 'They will be fed and watered ready for a hard ride.'
'Just haul-ass back here okay' Faith requested as Wesley took off his jacket and began putting on the robes. 'They might not know how many of us there are in here but there ain't enough of us to hold the place' she noted.
'Just be ready for when we do' Wesley replied. 'All of you' he added to Markallo before handing him his jacket. 'I'll want that back later' he said. 'Just make sure they see you wearing it up on the battlements' he told him. 'Misdirection is as much the key to victory as firepower' he said.
'How can we be sure you'll return?' Markallo asked with reasonable suspicion under the circumstances.
'If I don't you can keep my slayer as well as the jacket' Wesley replied, winking at Faith. 'If it does look like they're going to attack make a show up on the wall that looks like you've executed a prisoner then pitch one of the dead priests over minus his head' he advised. 'That might give them pause for thought.'
Faith laughed. 'I still can't believe you're just making this up as you go along' she told her watcher.
'Best see if the plan actually works before you shower me with praise' Wesley advised.
Having concurred with Narwek's plan when the rebel cow had ridden out from the castle leading another horse with Silas tied to its back Barshon had given orders for them to be allowed to pass. Once they were almost out-of-sight the covenant priest then dispatched near two-thirds of his his force of Imperial Guardsmen on horseback to follow them, scouts leading and making sure not to be seen.
With the remaining cows besieged in the castle and unable to go anywhere Barshon was willing to split his forces for the chance to crush this rebellion entirely. If, as was likely, Silas was killed when the Imperial Guard attacked the rebel base where their leaders resided then that was surely his decreed fate and he would be publicly mourned when Barshon officially took his place, his power and authority confirmed by crushing the cow-scum.
Looking forward to executing the captured rebels one-by-one until the ones holding the castle surrendered and pleaded for mercy Barshon sipped at a mug of best flip-liquor and entertained himself with thoughts of the hard-line reforms he would make in order to prevent any recurrence of this situation. The cow slaves had clearly been treated with too much leniency before now, Silas was too soft by far and deserved his fate as a result, but under the new administration none of the beasts would dare to even look their betters in the eye let alone make plots, conjure dark magicks or take up weapons against their masters.
As a whole the Imperial Guard weren't the elite fighting force their exaggerated reputation purported them to be, but some of their number were highly skilled at what they did. That select group included the lead scouts who were trailing and tracking the mounted rebel cow and her prisoner.
For over six leagues of hard riding the guardsmen managed to pursue their quarry without being seen. Making sure through regular reports that the main body of troops following behind them kept up as well, even once the renegade led her hostage off the track and into the forest, the scouts were confident that when they eventually reached the enemy camp the full force would not be far behind ready to descend upon the foe like a horde of rampaging burr beasts. Vengeance would be swift and bloody with only the most important looking rebels kept alive... at least for now.
The area was only thinly forested with large gaps between the trees allowing the fast pace to continue as the horses made their way deeper into the wilderness. The Great Northern Forest stretched almost right across the continent and much remained neither properly mapped or even explored but the lead scout felt more at home out here than he ever did in the hustle and bustle of a village.
Reaching a small glade the Imperial Guard scout found himself looking at the two horses he had been tracking, both now without a rider and grazing free. The cow must have decided to walk from here he decided, though quite why was a mystery as the trees and undergrowth were still nowhere near dense enough to warrant such a decision. Still on the plus side the human on foot dragging an undoubtedly uncooperative Silas would be even easier to follow he knew.
A sound he had never heard before, one almost like the growl of a great angry beast, suddenly roared in the clearing, spooking the two untethered horses into bolting away and causing the scout's own to rear up and nearly buck him off.
On the other side of the clearing the air itself seemed to shimmer and then as if an invisible cloak had been suddenly lifted that had been keeping it from sight a monster appeared from seemingly nowhere.
Inside the SUV Wesley and Amy looked out through the windshield at the Imperial Guardsman and his horse, looked at each other for a moment then Wesley grinned and put the Ford Explorer into gear. 'Get ready to turn up the CD Player would you Amy' he requested. 'We're about to ride to the rescue and we're trying to make an impression.'
Half a mile behind the scouts the Captain leading the rest of the Imperial Guard heard something in the distance shortly before one of the scouts came galloping back towards him apparently with no intention of stopping to make a report.
'Halt' the Captain ordered ineffectually as the scout passed him.
'Flee for your lives!' the scout responded, ignoring the order.
'What in the name of the Lord of the Covenant is going on?' the captain asked rhetorically before he saw what it was the scout was trying to get away from 'HOLY DROKKEN SHIT!' he cried out as something huge came hurtling out of the forest towards them with an angry roar.
Amy likely wouldn't have even needed to start playing Living la Vida Locaby Ricky Martin as loudly as the speakers in the SUV could manage, the mere sight and sound of the Ford Explorer was enough to terrify the guardsmen and send their horses into panic, but the song certainly added something to the experience for all concerned as Wesley weaved in and out of the trees at high speed. 'I get to choose the next song' the watcher yelled out as dozens of Imperial Guardsmen scattered in all directions, many thrown from their horses.
'They'll never catch up' Amy shouted as Wesley turned to head in the direction of the dirt track back to the village. It wasn't much of a road but it was wide enough for the SUV and they could get up to a speed no horse could match for long.
'It doesn't pay to mess with superior technology' Wesley replied, grinning as they left chaos and terror as well as the bulk of the enemies best soldiers in their wake. He quickly turned the damn CD Player off again though.
Note from the Author:
Narwek of the Deathwok Clan was the local constable and Barshon one of the senior priests. Silas executed his slave Markallo for passing information to the rebels in AtS episode 2:22 so it's clear where the slave's loyalties lie (his people's not his masters).
Fred always seemed comfortable with firearms so I had Wesley give her the rifle rather than Faith or Amy, the latter have effective means of defending themselves already of course.
Oh and of all the hit songs of early 1999 I could have chosen as a sound weapon that just seemed the funniest!