BtVS by Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Baum. The Land of Xanth created and populated by Piers Anthony; many puns like the statue and the hive and the market found there and re-purposed here.
'Amore' appeared for a paragraph or two in one of the more recent books... Either that, or I created him for this fic... Equally possible I'm accidentally borrowing him from someone else's story... I don't exactly know for sure... If anyone does, I'd appreciate the info :)
Early Buffy Season 6.
-Carrying on from 'Mechanic'
The moon hung low over the dark castle, like a rather large chunk of aged cheese being lowered into a fondue pot.
"Hey, Spike, you think this is the right place?" Xander asked, turning to his erstwhile vampire buddy for advice.
"Well, it's a bloody castle in the middle of nowhere, coincidentally right in the way of the 'magic path' we've been following. What do you think it is?"
"Hey, if it wasn't in the middle of the night, maybe I'd have a better picture."
"Stupid, shoddy excuse for a metaplane, not having a vamp-friendly sun."
"Heh, man, I hate ta remind you, but the 'vampires' living here are mainly bat/human hybrids. You're just an outdated model."
"Stinking place powered by powdered Demon thoughts. Can't even put your foot down without stepping on a pun," Spike yelled his disapproval as he brought his foot down very hard to demonstrate. A very odd look shot across his face, just before he was hefted and thrown across the clearing.
The vampire hit the ground at a good rate of speed, but he was able to get a fairly good grip and skid to a stop, his motion scattering some loose earth into the dark liquid below. Another foot or so and he'd have fallen in, head-first.
"Bloody hell!" Spike yelled, springing to his feet as the dirt clods burst into little puffs of smoke. "The thing must be filled with acid! Wait, what threw me?"
"Uh," said Xander, getting down on his hands and knees. "It looks like a tyrant with a Napoleon complex. See? You came this close to destroying its home and it got angry."
"What are you nattering on about? That's a little insect in a robe... standing next to an inch-high statue of le petit caporal... that the teeny wankers have hollowed out and turned into a building-"
"What did I just say?"
"You're enjoying 'Xanth', aren't you?" Spike said, glaring accusingly at Xander's smirk.
"Well, why not?"
"That's it. You just sodding go on this quest by yourself. No way I'm going to ask a Question if the price might be an entire year stuck here. What was I going to ask for anyway? Getting this chip removed would get me staked sooner or later. You're being all noble and spending your Question on the rest of us. What could I possibly want?"
"A listing of all the plays and wins that Manchester United is going to be making this season, so you can place the winning bets in advance."
"You're... Bloody stupid, that's what you are. What am I going to do with that if I can't make it back to Earth in time to use it? How's an old gnome supposed to know that anyway? Why are you grinning like a blooming idiot if the price of doing something right is a year spent away from your lady love?"
"Hey, Anya will understand - somewhat. You've seen how disconnected Buffy is, if we don't jumpstart the situation, someone's going to get hurt," Xander answered, before muttering under his breath: "The longer before we announce our engagement, the better I'll-"
"Vampire hearing, hello," Spike growled, pointing at his chest. Then the words sunk in. "You're getting married? You haven't told the gang, yet? This is too rich. Getting shanghaied here won't help anyway. Anya will just nag Red into portalling her over here - waste of magic if you ask me, what a wretched organic-only excuse for shortcut for that matter, couldn't even bring my lighter - if she senses the slightest hint of fear. Then she'll scream until Humfrey hosts the wedding ceremony and gives you weekend passes to the other side of that," he grimaced, waving at the moon. "Where it's a veritable land of milk and honey!"
"Yeah, according to the leafy brochure I pulled off the touristry at our last campsite. It also says here that any children you conceive while here will wind up with some sort of random Talent, so your money-obsessed darling will probably want to stay here for years playing baby roulette until one finally pops out with a 'useful' magical ability like manipulating the stock market-"
"Stop, seriously. You're scaring me. Let's just hope I can work something else out."
"Righty-o, then, you just go on, solve the puzzles like a brave boy who's not sweating bullets over a lifetime commitment. Maybe you'll get lucky and a misstep into that acid will just solve all your problems in one fell swoop," Spike said, grinning as he slinked off into the surrounding forest.
I can handle myself, Xander grumbled. Just try telling Willow that. As soon as she realized that there'd be dragons, she made me drag him along. Could've made better time if we'd walked day and night, but, no, cheap vampire skin isn't made tough enough... Now I'm stuck at a castle where the drawbridge is pulled up and the decorative path in front of where it should be... Is made up of bricks with no mortar.
Construction-guy Xander reached down, found some fingerholds around one of the small gray rectangles and lifted it out of place. Good weight for its size, he thought. Question is...
He walked a few steps forward and dropped the brick into the moat. It went 'Plunk'.
He pulled up another brick and - very carefully - dropped it in the same spot as the first one. 'Plunk'.
"Okay, I could stand here all day and do this, but there's no telling how deep the moat is and there's a limited number. Heck, it wouldn't even mater if it was three bricks deep, the crummy things could be dissolving as soon as they're out of sight!" Xander yelled in frustration. "What am I supposed to do here?"
"Walk around to the other side of the castle," Spike's voice sneered from the darkness. "It's Dungeons & Dragons time, but your party 'ported in without you and there's no key. Deal with it."
"Yeah, but if it was D&D I would so Great Leap over there and how the hell do you know that game?"
Silence echoed, in a quiet kind of way.
"Well, fine," Xander grimaced, and - taking the vampire's advice - began the medium-size trek to the far side of the castle.
Spike snorted in amusement, but before he could secretly follow the human (having nothing better to do) something caught his eye.
"Hullo, what's this? Kind of odd to have those rindy things growing out of sight behind a tree. You'd think the garden would be in the castle walls. They've all got holes punched in the top too, must be some sort of magic -" he said, bending down to look closer.
His words broke off suddenly, his body freezing in place.
One minute gone and he still hadn't moved a muscle.
A line of drool ran down the side of his face.
Well, whatever the hypnogourd had done with his mind, it had definitely cured his breathing 'habit'.
Xander trudged along, slightly annoyed at the walk, until the sight of his destination had him picking up the pace.
There appeared to be a brown-haired little boy on the side of the bank, skipping stones across the water. If anything, he looked bored.
"Watcha doing?" Xander asked, sidling up next to him.
"Trying to see how far they get before they either sink or melt," the boy replied without really looking up.
Xander asked for one. The boy nodded and passed over one of the stones, which actually turned out to be pieces of chocolate. Xander noticed that the boy wasn't actually picking anything off the ground or reaching into a pocket. The candies just appeared in his hand a second before he threw them into the moat.
"How are you doing that anyway?"
"My name's Amore. My Talent is summoning things for a romantic evening. Can you imagine anything more boring?"
"Well, yeah," Xander stated, which brought a snort of disgust from the boy. "I don't suppose you could summon a gondola or a nice shiny bridge?"
"Maybe if I was older," Amore admitted. "As it is, everything I create is colored by how I feel. I'm trying to summon milk chocolates, but I'm in a bad mood, so they come out dark. If I try to summon a bottle of red whine," he explained, uncorking the weakly moaning bottle. "I wind up with sour vinegar."
"If you don't feel that you're strong enough for a bridge, then you might summon one about to collapse. Gotcha. Now, why are you out here?"
"Mom's inside on business; she's in sales. I was out here playing with the cool moat monster until you triggered the Three Challenges and shifted the moat and the bridge out of reality. That gives me one really good reason not to like you."
"What are you talking about?"
"The guy built several castles on top of each other, he can shift them around with just a word... Just leave me alone, alright?"
"Hey, I'm doing this for a friend - a friend who saves worlds in her free time - and it makes more sense for you to help me. It'll get you inside faster, right?"
"Point. Lead the way," Amore said, grimacing as he chucked the sour whine bottle into the moat.
Xander watched as a mound of white, foamy bubbles broke the surface. Instincts well-honed by years on the Hellmouth had him throwing Amore to the ground and shielding him with his body as the whine bottle exploded. Xander's coat protected them from the few glass shards that flew their way.
"Right," Xander grimaced after they brushed themselves off. "It's not an acid-filled moat. It's the extreme opposite or a weak acid like vinegar would have had no effect. Let's go back to the front," he said as he walked away, grinning as if he'd solved the problem. Amore rolled his eyes and followed.
The Tin Man had returned from his trip around the Marvelous Land of Oz with the items necessary to breathe life back into the broken body of the Buffybot, with whom he had fallen in love at first sight. More important than the ingredients themselves was a special dispensation from Glinda the Good authorizing him to work a type of magic that had been illegal in Oz for over a decade. Unfortunately, the exact wording of the compact was so extensive that it came in the form of a heavy, leatherbound book that he needed to carry when performing the spell. Fortunately, it came with arm-straps.
In his absence, the retainers that came with his job as Emperor of the Winkies had moved the Buffybot to a bed, washed her clothes, redressed her in them and brushed her hair. Whistling a happy tune as he entered the room he lifted her down onto a decorative rug, her weight surprising him, and began to mark out a design using the ash that lines the walls of the tunnel home of the Original Dragon's firstborn son.
Mixing the rest of the ingredients into a pale pink paste, the Tin Man began to mark a tiger stripe pattern along the Buffybot's flesh, admiring as he did so the realistic quality of her 'skin'.
Standing on one foot, wearing the compact and holding the Blue Fairy's original parchment at arms length, he began to recite words of power. As he did so, a wetness began to spread from beneath the Buffybot's limp form until the entirety of the large circle sketched out on the rug was a rippling pool of liquid. With his final word, Buffybot's eyes snapped open, the liquid lost whatever magical surface tension had been supporting the robot's weight and she disappeared into the floor with a 'plop'. Suddenly the carpet was dry and the ground was intact, as if nothing had ever happened.
"No," the Tin Man cried, mourning over the shock of his would-be-beloved's disappearance. "Not like this!"
Having reached the short path of bricks, Amore in tow, Xander pried up and stacked a small pile. Then he turned to the boy and asked for some foundation.
"Oh, women put it on their face... Just summon some of those powderpuff things."
"Okay, here's three of them."
"Thanks... Why are they red, green and blue?"
"I'll blame it on Chemical X."
"Figures," answered Xander with a snort as he leaned out over the moat and dabbed one of the puffs along the liquid surface. "Just keep handing me bricks and we'll get across."
Sure enough, when the first brick was applied to the powdered streak it stuck there, firmly enough to support a grown man's weight.
"What?" grunted Amore. "How'd you know that would work?"
"As construction-guy I know that the main things you need when constructing a path across anything are a level base and a good foundation."
Spike blinked in shock as the new world around him swam into view. The land had been drained of color to the point of black-and-white and there was lightning storm in the distance. There was a graveyard behind him and a creepy rickety looking house in front of him, which looked like it might be home to every ghost in the 'verse. He gingerly set one foot on the front porch.
"I've seen this movie," Spike snorted and shifted into his vampire game face, before throwing open the front door and rushing inside.
Several ghosts and gibbering imps took one look at his glowing eyes and ridged skin and screamed before disappearing into the woodwork.
Spike had a bit of fun chasing the not-so-scary monsters throughout the house, before he came to a long hallway where a ghost in overalls and a blue cap was installing a door.
Spike walked up and touched the ghost on the shoulder, only to have it puff into invisibility. Nonplussed, Spike opened the door. "What the hell," he asked in shock, just before a large booted foot kicked him through and the door slammed shut behind him.
The vampire reappeared in a land of sugary goodness with red and white striped lollipops growing to the size of trees.
"Okay, I get it. I'm stuck in someone else's dream. Well, the B-Flick set didn't scare me and this saccharine sweet setting sure isn't going to either."
Spike spent a few minutes terrorizing the cotton candy denizens of the new place, until he was confident enough that no-one was watching him. Then he caught a ride on a passing petite pink unicorn.
He cried in purely masculine - as he would be sure to tell anyone that might ask - squeals of glee when he discovered that the little horsey - even though it didn't have wings - was able to fly...
As soon as Xander and Amore stepped off the bricks onto the far side of the moat, they noticed that even though the castle's door was wide open, it looked like it had been stuck like that for months, long enough for a bunch of bees to build a hive in the opening.
"Think that hive's our next Challenge?" Xander asked Amore.
"No, I mean, yes - but that's a Have," Amore corrected, pronouncing the word to rhyme with wave. "Much more dangerous and longer lasting."
Sure enough as they approached the doorway a loud buzzing erupted and their path was blocked by a swarm. One of the numerous swarm was a B-Speak and thus was able to translate for the rest.
"Stop! This is the home of our queen and you may go no further," a knighted bee buzzed.
"We need to get into the castle to help a friend," stated Xander, bravely stepping closer as he did so.
"No further, or I'll B-Smirch you and he'll B-Foul you!" one shouted.
"You are humans and we respect your government, but you will not be able to pass without a missive from your King," said a bee of good faith.
"But we'll never get there and back again today!" moaned Amore.
Xander opened his mouth to speak, closed it, then trudged back across the moat.
"Dark chocolate, please," Xander asked Amore, after they'd walked a bit in the direction by which he and Spike had approached the castle.
Shrugging, Amore summoned a bar and handed it to him. Boys 'n' Berry flavored.
Xander bent down, broke off a piece and stuck it in the open mouth of the Napoleon statue doubling as an anthill. The little ant in a robe noticed this and went inside. Xander picked up the statue carefully, so as to keep it upright and not to shake it too much, then walked back across the moat and presented it to the bees.
"I don't have a paper from the human king, but I'm traveling in the company of a tyrant."
"Close enough," a B-Queath said and waved the two humans through.
Just inside the castle courtyard were a bunch of bulls and bears on loan from the stock market. They kept charging back and forth so much and crashing into each other that it was much too dangerous for Xander and Amore to get through on their own.
After a bit of trial and error, Xander asked his new friend to summon two romantic rows of rose hedges.
Amore, for once, was in a very good mood, so the hedges summoned were beautiful examples of their type, complete with vicious thorns.
Unwilling to ford the hedges, the animals let the humans pass through unmolested.
Once inside the castle proper, they were warmly greeted by a snake-haired woman with a veil across her face, who took the Napoleon complex from them, set it upon the sweet metallic crust of a freshly baked key lime pie and escorted them deeper into the castle.
The Buffybot awakened to the sense of falling into water and a vision of a handsome metallic man, who abruptly disappeared, leaving her sinking to the wooden bottom of a large vat. Startled, she swam to the surface and coughed the water out of her internal servos.
"Huh," came a voice and a warm hand reached in to help the robot out of the vat. The Buffybot barely registered the young woman's presence, the low-power recording devices that passed for her unconscious mind had kicked in and were updating her on everything that had happened while she had been 'asleep'.
"You just appeared inside one of my father-in-law's vats of healing elixir, so you're probably soaked," the brown-haired woman said as she handed over a large, fluffy and freshly-picked towel. "My name's Wira."
"My name is Buffy Summers of Sunnydale," the robot said, frowning as she took in her new surroundings. Immediately her sensors detected something off about how the living young woman had been moving around the room. "You're blind. I have been instructed to call you differently abled as a mark of kindness. I had been somewhere nice and I wish to go back there."
"I know what's it's like to be torn from one place to another, maybe the Good Magician can help you - if he's not too gruff at the moment. So tell me, you don't feel like a zombie," Wira said, having registered the barely audible non-human sounds of the robot's workings. "Are you a golem or something more metallic?"
Xander entered the study of the Good Magician Humfrey alone, Amore having been returned to the loving arms of his mom. The gnome-like and Ancient native of Xanth, looked up at the black-haired native of an alternate Mundania, grunted and returned to his book.
"Hey, I've come to ask you a question and beat your Three Challenges and wait," Xander said, taking in the fact that the book was a paperback novel called 'Out of the Madhouse' the first book of the 'Gatekeeper Trilogy', a 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' novel. "What the-" Xander grunted incoherently as Humfrey marked his place in the book and set it on the desk in front of him.
"An adventure that you've never been through, but a good one nonetheless," Humfrey said with a gleam in his eye. "Your Question please."
"Ah... I want Buffy to be happy and get the help she needs to resolve a lot of the issues in her life. I mean Healthy-Happy, not Dementia-Happy. I've read Mark Twain... How should I go about helping her?"
"Knowing all that your group has done, this would be a good time to pay back a debt I personally owe... Consider your year's Service waived. Your Answer is, help the next being to enter my study to the next place it wants to go."
"Huh. Figures. How long do I have to wait?" Xander asked. As the words left his lips the Buffybot entered the room, Wira a step behind her.
Buffy, Xander thought. No, wait, that's the robot, I guess Dawn was right about her disappearing. Yeah, I recognize the clothes she was dismembered in. Wait, that means I - "#&$#" Xander shouted, having connected the dots. His harsh word was so strong it made the piece of pie Wira was carrying burst into flame.
"Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books," the Buffybot said as she helped put the fire out. "What I have I missed?"
Spike was leading his organized pony troops against a green balloon dragon, armed with a mystic sword and a lemon drop shield, when Xander was suddenly in front of him, waving a hand in front of his face.
"I wasn't riding a pretty pony," Spike yelled. "I mean, I wasn't doing anything like moving funny, right?"
"No, you were paralyzed, I just saved you by moving in front of you. Don't look down and those hypnogourds won't pull you in again... Let's get out of here. You're lucky that they knew where you," Xander said, then changed subjects with a wide grin on his face. "Wait, did you just say pretty-"
"Thanks, mate," Spike interrupted, working some moisture back into his mouth as they reached the edge of the path. "The place was fun and all, but not somewhere I'd like to live. Wait, is that Buffy," he asked, his nostrils flaring to take in her scent. "No... No. Don't tell me."
The Buffybot moved in for a quick hug before he could step away. "Spike," she cried. "I missed you. I was lucky enough to find someone else. Can you help me make him happy? It'll somehow help Buffy be happy. The one I'm not."
"Yep," Xander said, picking up Spike's plea for help. "Good news is that I'm not stuck here for a year. Our Answer is that we've got to escort her to this castle and this guy who's made it the new one true place she belongs."
"Seems about right," Spike sighed. "Where are we going anyway?"
"To Oz," the Buffybot said with a dreamy half-smile on her face. "We're going to Oz, my home."