I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.
The Sword of Light
Buffy stood beside the pool of water, gripping the salmon fin in her hands as she focused on it. When just looking at the fin didn't do the job, she began to slow her breathing, concentrating all of her consciousness solely on the fin she held in her hands. She had never had much aptitude for magic, and while Giles had taught her how to meditate quite successfully many years before, she had never really been a fan of doing it. Her diligence eventually paid off though, as her efforts activated the token.
The first thing that she felt was a strange tickling sensation, like feathers were being rubbed all over her body. Warmth spread from her hands, until she was wrapped in an invisible cocoon of soothing energies. Like stretching her body into a new yoga position she felt herself contorting strangely, her muscles tensing and relaxing as she slowly shifted. Finally, the sensations faded, and Buffy realized that she couldn't breath.
She was lying flat on the ground, and she immediately noticed that she had no arms, or hands, or eyelids. Trying to breath revealed her lack of lungs, and trying to move showed her lack of legs. The only thing that she could do was flex her body, and as she did so she bounced up and down on the ground. Flopping towards the water, she saw her reflexion just before she broke the surface.
She had done it. The token had worked as advertised, and she had transformed into a salmon. Hitting the water, she no longer felt as though she needed to breath, although she still couldn't actually do so. Carefully she flexed her body, slowly relearning where her muscles were as instinct kicked in, allowing her to master swimming in a matter of moments.
She wasn't sure what to make of her transformation. Having control over the change was far better than the time she had spent as a rat in high school, but she still found it disconcerting to abandon her human form. The only good thing, she decided, was that as a fish she could go places she never could as a human. She hadn't been overly fond of swimming ever since she had drowned, but being a natural part of the water was a different experience entirely.
Finally getting back on task, Buffy began to search the bottom of the pool, looking for anything of interest. Unfortunately she found little save mud, hazelnuts, and branches. She was just beginning to wonder if she had taken the wrong course of action when one of the spotted salmon swam up to her.
"Hello, madam," the fish said with a refined accent. "How does this fine day greet you?"
If Buffy had been able to blink she would have. "Um... I'm trying to find the Sword of Light."
"Ah, then you have come to the correct place," the salmon answered with a look of fishy satisfaction. "You need to pass though the source of the spring. It will take you to an underground river, which you shall have to traverse, before reaching another pool similar to this one. From there you will be able to see a castle, wherein the Claiomh Solais rests, guarded at all times by the wary Fir Bolg."
"Thanks," Buffy said brightly. She still wasn't sure how she was communicating, since she certainly wasn't speaking out loud. She also wasn't sure she wanted to know how a fish knew all of that, but she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Buffy followed the other salmon until she reached a dark crack at the bottom of the pond. She thanked the other fish and then swam into it, barely able to move as it was only slightly larger than her own body, and her undulating swimming motion caused her tail to slap against the walls of the crack. Slowly she descended into the darkness, until the passage widened and she was able to move freely.
The open space she was in had a notable current, and Buffy began to swim upstream, slowly leaving the tiny amount of light streaming through the crack far behind. She swam in pitch darkness for a very long time, her Slayer enhanced fish muscles propelling her rapidly though the underground river until she saw a dim glow ahead. When she reached it she realized that she was seeing another small crack leading to the surface, and so she began to swim upwards into the light.
She emerged into another pond, and she quickly swam up and out of the water, jumping onto dry ground and flopping a bit until she was away from the pond. Concentrating, she realized that she could still feel the token, and that the more she focused on it the more she could feel it. Suddenly opening her eyes with a gasp, she looked down in surprise, realizing that she was lying on her side next to the pond, holding the fin in her hand.
Buffy jumped to her feet, taking in her surroundings, relaxing as she realized that she was in another empty hazel grove. It was almost identical to the one that she had started in, although the nine trees were arranged differently. Reassured that she was alone, she spent a couple of minutes carefully examining every inch of her body until she was convinced that she was completely human again. Putting away the token with a sigh of relief, she slowly began to explore the area.
Climbing a rise, Buffy soon saw a brown walled fortress standing on a hill in the distance. Unfortunately, between her and the castle was a large gorge, which sharply dropped off hundreds of feet to scattered, broken rocks with a small river running running along the bottom. Looking around, she realized that there was no obvious way to cross the gap. Sighing, she pulled out her eagle feather.
She hadn't enjoyed her experience flying with Willow, although doing so under her own power rather than simply dangling from her friend was likely to improve the experience. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Buffy repeated the process which she had used to turn into a fish, and soon she felt the power changing her form once more. When it was over she found her eyes were still closed, unlike her experience as a fish, and so she slowly opened them, bracing herself for what she might find.
Looking over her new body, she saw that she was a large bird with a broad wingspan and powerful body. Looking back towards the castle in the distance, she was shocked at how well she was now able to see it, her vision seemingly zooming in to allow better observation. She could tell that it had three sets of brown walls, with a brown keep at the center. A number of extremely tall people stood guard on the walls, all of them garbed in animal furs and holding bows and arrows.
Buffy flexed her broad wings several times, trying to get a feel for them. Moving them was like moving her arms, although they behaved somewhat differently. While instinct taught her how to operate her wings, the differences from how her body had previously moved still left her disconcerted. Eventually she felt prepared, however, and with a great burst she took off into the air.
Flying, no matter how naturally the motions came to her, was still extremely difficult. She barely flew a few feet before finding herself landing again, unable to maintain her altitude. Trying again she did better, travelling some distance before landing once more. Finally, her heart pouding with a combination of fear and excitement, Buffy luanched herself into the air, circling above the pond until she was high up, and then slowly heading towards the castle.
From the air she could see that the space between the three walls was fairly narrow, small enough for her to jump from one to the next with her Slayer strength if she felt the need. She noticed that the guards that she had seen were spaced evenly along the outer wall, but otherwise there were few people. The only person outside of the walls was a bored looking shepherd guarding a large flock of sheep near a copse of trees.
Buffy slowly circled lower, deciding to start her search for the sword by flying through one of the large windows into an empty room of the keep. Before she got too close, however, she was forced to suddenly dodge as an arrow the size of a spear flew past her almost too fast to see. Her dodge cost her momentum, which brought her slightly lower as she used her Slayer enhanced wing muscles to regain her speed.
The next several minutes were completely frantic as Buffy did everything that she could to escape from the castle's immediate airspace. Having been shot at by the first guard, the others noticed her and began firing as well. The enormous arrows were fired with incredible power and accuracy, and she barely avoided being torn to pieces on many occasions before she made it to a safe distance.
Circling high overhead, Buffy considered her options. Approaching as an eagle was obviously out, and a frontal assault, if it were even possible, wasn't a possible tactic since she had promised Rua not to shed any blood here while taking the sword. She could try to negotiate, but he had said they would never willingly part with it, a positon which she could certainly understand; nothing could convince her to relinquish the Scythe, and the sword she sought sounded nearly as impressive.
Looking around the area, she saw the trail that Rua had mentioned, leading down almost two miles to the head of the gorge, where a river poured into it, forming a waterfall. From her position she could see no sign of the 'Bridge of Two Hairs', but since it was something no giant was supposed to be able to cross (and the inhabitants of the castle were large enough to be giants) she decided that it was still something to keep in mind. The only other thing that she saw in the area was the flock of sheep.
As she circled again inspiration suddenly struck. Winging away from the castle she then flew close to the ground, staying out of sight from the walls until she finally landed in the copse of trees near the sheep. Carefully staying hidden, she concentrated on the token in her hand again, until a moment later she opened her eyes and saw that she was once more in human form. She put away the feather and carefully checked herself over, before pulling out the handful of wool that Reithe had given her.
Buffy held the wool in her hand and concentrated, until she felt herself shift once again. Steeling herself, she slowly opened her eyes, taking in her new form. She stood on four legs, and her body was covered in fluffy white wool. She stood there for a long moment, just staring at what she could see of herself.
She was a sheep. On some intellectual level she had known that rams were male sheep... but to actually transform into a sheep was something else entirely. She was... fluffy. Borderline cuddly. And completely mortified. Being a sheep was even more humiliating than being turned into a rat, she decided vaguely as she brought herself back under control. She had never been so glad not to have her friends with her, as there was no way she would ever live this down if they knew. Which, she decided fiercely, they never ever would.
Buffy practiced her four legged gait while still among the trees, before cautiously moving to join the rest of the flock. None of the sheep seemed surprised to see her, or even particularly interested in her, and so she easily blended in. After a few minutes the shepherd began to drive them back towards the castle gates.
Looking up at the shepherd as they moved, she was amazed at how big he was. While much smaller than her sister's giant form had been, he still stood more than two stories tall, as did all of the guards that she could see on the walls. While she had known on some level that they were quite tall while she had been in eagle form, it was something else entirely to see them from her low to the ground, four legged perspective.
The castle gates opened without any fuss, and Buffy followed the flock as they were slowly driven past all three walls to the inner courtyard. Once inside they were put in a large holding pen in the corner of the area, and left to their own devices. Carefully scoping out the courtyard, Buffy was glad to see that there weren't many giants around, but unfortunately there was even less in the way of cover. With how wary the guards had been of even a bird circling them, she knew that she would need to wait a couple of more hours until nightfall to transform back into a human to try to sneak into the keep.
Eventually the sun set, and darkness descended, lit only by the stars twinkling above. Carefully, Buffy looked around the area, making sure that no one was looking, before easing into the middle of a cluster of sheep. Closing her eyes, she concentrated, and once more slipped into human form. Quickly stuffing the wool back into a pocket, she crouched low and moved swiftly towards the side door to the keep.
Slipping inside the partially open door, Buffy took in her surroundings. Everything was built at a grand scale, fitting for the keep's two story inhabitants. The room that she was in appeared to be some kind of kitchen, with a roaring fire and a huge stack of peat blocks sitting beside it. Poking around, she found huge barrels of whisky in a pantry, which gave her an idea for her escape.
She took one last look around the kitchen, before deciding that it was an unlikely hiding place for a magical sword. Moving without single sound, she began her search of the rest of the building. Exploring methodically, she paused only to hide behind tapestries and under furnishings whenever the bone rattling footsteps of the giants came close. Before long she had cleared the ground floor, after which she headed up to the second, where she finally found her objective.
Mounted on the wall was a longsword with a broad blade just over two and a half feet in length, and with a golden, cross shaped hilt. The wrapping of the grip was of black leather, and the pommel had a diamond which glowed white, illuminating the otherwise unlit chamber. Creeping across the room, Buffy scaled the enormous throne it hung above, before carefully reaching out a hand for the magical weapon.
Her fingers tingled when she touched it, the hair on her arms standing on end as though she were holding a large static charge. Gripping the hilt, she gasped as a cleansing heat seemed to flow from the sword and through her entire body. Shivering slightly, she pulled the weapon from the wall, before sliding it slightly from its sheathe.
The sword was perfectly balanced, and the blade glowed with a brilliant white radiance which brought tears to her eyes. Sliding it back fully into its sheathe, Buffy pulled a roll of bandages from her belt and carefully wrapped it around the pommel stone, blocking the light and returning the room to darkness. Gripping the weapon, she took one last look around before sneaking back to the kitchen.
Buffy got low behind the stack of peat and shoved it in front of the fire place, the bricks of fuel making a considerable racket as they scattered across much of the floor. Running to the pantry, she grabbed a barrel of whisky and threw it at the peat on the floor, the wooden container bursting and sending alcohol everywhere. She smashed two more barrels in the center of the room, before tossing the next so that it burst open just above the fireplace.
Alcohol met flame with a small explosion, and the fire quickly spread to the fuel on the floor. The room quickly heated up like a furnace, and by the time Buffy reached the exit the wooden tables and chairs had already caught fire. Billowing smoke and searing heat chased her outside, and she swiftly hid behind an oversize wheelbarrow as cries of alarm went up all around the castle.
With everyone distracted by the out of control blaze Buffy quickly climbed the innermost wall, crouching behind a crenelation for cover as she took in the position of the sentries. Pausing for a long moment, she waited until no one was looking before jumping with all of her might to the middle wall, running across its top before leaping to the outer wall and flipping to the ground. Landing in a three point stance, Buffy cursed as she heard a cry of alarm from one of the guards.
Buffy ran across the fields, weaving back and forth erratically as she followed the trail to avoid the spear sized arrows streaking towards her. She nearly lost her footing as the ground shook when one of the guards gave up on hitting the small, fast moving target in the dark and began to chase her. Buffy gripping the Sword of Light tightly as she pumped he arms, running as hard as she ever had.
While she could move her legs far faster than the giant could, the difference in stride length was enormous, and she could feel her pursuer closing the distance between them with every passing second. Running under the light of the moon, she saw the trail heading downhill as the roar of the waterfall grew ever louder. Her only hope to escape without having to kill any giants would be to take the Bridge of Two Hairs, but she had no idea what it even was, as she hadn't seen anything at the waterfall from the air.
Soon the waterfall was in sight, and she was impressed by its size. While it was slightly smaller than Niagara Falls, it was nearly as large, and the floor of the gorge was lost in the darkness far below. The water sparkled as it fell under the bright glow of the full moon, and as she approached she could see a white double moonbow stretching from one side to the other.
Her keen slayer eyes revealed no sign of a bridge, and the ground beneath her feet now shook with every lengthy stride the giant took. She had mere seconds to find a way across, with the gap being too far to jump, the river too fast to swim, and a transformation with her tokens taking far to long to perform. Her heart pounded in her ears, and she felt something like panic for just a moment before terrified inspiration struck.
Buffy ran out onto the moonbow. It was completely impossible, the phenomena of moonlight and water was even less solid than a cloud, and yet it supported her weight as she sprinted across the graceful arch. Buffy was only half way across when the giant roared in outrage, the force of his cry nearly sending her tumbling as he expressed his anger at her escape. While it should have been impossible for even her to travel on the ephemeral surface, Rua had told her that no giant could take the path, which meant that she had made it. It had taken stealth, a humiliating transformation, and a fire, but she had stolen the Sword of Light without shedding a drop of blood.
Now to save Xander, she thought with a grin as she ran across the grass away from the angry giants.
Xander spent the day contemplating his options. He had managed to make Balor and Clionadh wary of each other, and had in fact pushed the banshee into attacking Balor at his cue. While she called herself a goddess, she had needed the help of a number of allies to subdue Buffy, and in the end had had to take him hostage to get away from her. Balor was large and powerful seeming, but Buffy now knew his weakness, and should be back soon ready to kick giant ass.
It took him several hours of debating his options before finally deciding to warn Balor. While he would be happy with mutual destruction, he didn't want Clionadh to win a fight between them, as that would leave an opponent that Buffy wasn't ready for for her to fight. Better the enemy they had prepared for than the enemy they hadn't, after all.
When Balor arrived for his evening entertainment, Xander spoke to him quietly. "Hey! Remember the stuff I said about the Banshee Queen?"
"Yes," Balor rumbled. "She would never dare attack me."
"Well, the thing about that is, that she is now totally planning to attack you. Tonight. When you're distracted."
Balor glared with his single, lidded eye. "She would not dare."
"She thinks that you lost a bit of pep in your old age. You haven't exactly been doin' the death glare thing, so she thinks you don't have it. And in case you do, she's gonna attack you while I'm putting on a show tonight."
"This may be true. You will be rewarded if she attacks." He paused. "You will get jester clothes."
"Oh. Yay. Just what I always wanted." Xander said with a sickly smile. "Anyway, when I do this," he said gesturing with an arm, "that means she's about to attack."
"Good," he rumbled. "Now. Entertain me."
Xander began to run through his remaining repertoire of bad jokes, hoping against hope that Buffy wouldn't take much longer to rescue him. He had thought his supply of puns and lowbrow humor was almost endless, but putting on several shows a day for a capricious demon king had begun to strain even his limits. Fortunately, Clionadh soon arrived.
She and her entourage of banshees exchanged brief greetings with Balor, before they began watching his perfromance. As they did so they slowly began to shift their positions, until at last they were sitting in Balor's blindspot. When they appeared to be in place, he subtly waved one arm.
Instantly Clionadh and her three banshees turned to face Balor and began to keen. The mixed sounds were deafening, and even some distance away, with his ears covered and not the target, Xander found himself staggering backwards, barely able to maintain consciousness. The attack that the four had launched was even more potent than the one that had subdued him and Buffy, and if he hadn't warned the giant it would have taken him completely by surprise.
Balor was not surprised, however. He had been waiting for the same signal from Xander that the banshees had been awaiting, and when they began to keen he had simply turned his head and looked at them. He had already begun to reel from the sonic assault, but as he did his eye had opened fully, and his gaze had locked onto the four women.
One after another the three normal banshees simply keeled over, dying one by one and turning into mist which slowly dispersed. Clionadh increased the power of her voice even as she slowly collapsed onto her knees. Her eyes rolled back into her head as the sound slowly died away, and then she too perished, reduced to vapor.
Xander gulped. He was very glad that the Sword of Light would stop that attack, or his rescue would be the shortest in history.
The Fir Bolg were an ancient group of people that supposedly inhabited Ireland without ever encountering the Fomori, before the arrival of the Tuatha de Danann. Not much has been recorded about them, but many sources assume that they were giants, which is what I went with.
The Bridge of Two Hairs I took from the story Maol a Chilobain, from Scotland. Its a Scottish tale about the Sword of Light, and one of the few such stories with a female protagonist. Folklore expert J.F. Campbell believed that the Bridge of Two Hairs may have been a double rainbow, which is what I went with.
Banshees aren't generally attacked in actual myths, although Balor's eye should be able to kill them. Like most Buffyverse creatures I decided that they shouldn't leave a body, and so I made up the way that they died. Next chapter is the final full chapter of this story, so stay tuned!