Journey to Chaos
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all characters belonging to the show are not my doing. Don’t blame me for your addictions!
Author’s Note: Much thanks to my beta, DreamsofSpike. Also, have to thank my absolutely wonderful reviewers. Your encouragement brought a half-assed idea to life.
This, she had not been expecting.
Buffy wasn’t sure exactly what she *had* been expecting when she had been told that they were approaching the gateway to the slave brothel – but she certainly hadn’t expected to find herself in the middle of the peaceful, moonlit park.
It was dark and quiet, and the Scoobies and the Thorshosh demon leading their quest were hushed and subdued as they stood there, making the last of their plans and farewells.
“Are you sure I shouldn’t go with you too, Buffy?” Willow urgently suggested – not for the first time. “I mean, I could…”
“The fewer people that go, the better, Wills,” Buffy repeated firmly. “Besides, we need you here in case something goes wrong with the gateway. If anyone will know how to get us back to this dimension, it’s you.”
A hint of guilt flashed across Willow’s face, but she tried to shrug it off with a grin, and nodded. “That’s me, good with the research, and…” Willow’s gaze shifted momentarily to Durrak, and she leaned in closer to Buffy to whisper into her ear, “…by the way, a Thorshosh demon can be killed by the standard decapitation, or by a massive blow to the head.”
Buffy gave a little half-smile, and she nodded. “Thanks. I’m kinda hoping it doesn’t come to that, though…”
“Now don’t you get stuck in that alternate dimension, Xander Harris.” Anya was scolding her husband-to-be. “Our wedding is in just a few short weeks – and that means I can’t have you there in that slave brothel giving orgasms to other demons.”
He stared at her with wide eyes, unable to even begin to think what part of that statement he found most wrong. “Not planning on it, Ahn,” he assured her.
She smiled, seemingly satisfied with his answer, and embraced him in a firm hug.
Dawn caught Buffy’s eye for just a moment, but almost immediately looked away. The Slayer made her way towards her sulky sister, trying to decide what to say, before finally just wrapping her arms around her in an awkward hug.
“It’ll be fine, Dawnie,” she tried to reassure her sister.
The younger Summers could only hug her back, and even then she pulled away as quickly as she could manage. “Yeah – sure it will.”
“What’s wrong?” Buffy gently pressed her.
She shook her head. “Nothing…it’s just…” Finally she looked up into her older sister’s eyes, searching for something. When she didn’t find what she was looking for, she gave another half-hearted shrug. “It’s nothing, really…just be careful.”
Before Buffy could argue further, there was an ear-splitting crack. A bright flash of light blinded them all, but faded away within seconds. They all immediately looked towards Durrak with expectation, but he was still standing serenely as if nothing had happened. The park looked exactly as it had seconds ago.
“We’re ready,” he told them. “The portal is open. Come, quickly!”
Sighing, Buffy looked at Xander, a question in her solemn gaze. “You sure about this?”
He simply nodded, hoisting his bag of weapons higher on his shoulder. And turning to give one last kiss goodbye to his future wife. Buffy led the way to Durrak’s side. He watched them calmly as they made their final preparations, and then motioned towards the empty space in front of them.
“We will not see the gateway,” he explained. “When we reach the other side, however, we will see several. We must take note of which doorway we’ve entered through. When it is time to leave, we must exit through the same gateway through which we came, or we could end up on the other side of the world.”
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Buffy stepped forward first. The air around her rippled, as if she were stepping into a pool of thick liquid. She took another brave step forward – and then disappeared entirely. Xander swallowed hard when he could no longer see his friend, turning around uncertainly to see the others watching him expectantly. He raised a hand to wave goodbye to all of them, before turning and disappearing into the rippling gateway.
Once Durrak had followed after them, and the park was still and silent once more, Dawn crumpled to her knees. Two tears trailed down her cheeks and she rocked herself back and forth, inconsolable. Tara was the first at her side, crouching down and wrapping an arm around her in an offer of comfort.
“It’ll be alright, sweetie. They’re going to be fine, you’ll see…”
When Dawn whispered her response, Tara couldn’t catch the words at first. “What?”
The young girl sniffed hard, then willed herself to speak. “I think they took Spike.”
Tara’s eyes widened, and she pulled back in alarm. She turned Dawn slightly around to face her. “What do you mean, Dawnie? You don’t think…?”
“The slavers!” The words brought fresh tears, but Dawn brushed them away. “I haven’t seen Spike in at least two weeks. and…I…” She looked down, determined to finish, and aware that she never would, if she let herself meet Tara’s compassionate gaze. “I went by his crypt…just for a visit, you know? I hadn’t seen him in a while. Well, when I got there, he was gone…he wasn’t there, I could tell he hadn’t just been there, either…but everything was out…even this old glass of blood that looked like it had been left out for a few days…”
Tara shook her head. “That doesn’t mean…”
“I’ve been visiting his crypt every other day ever since!” Dawn interrupted. “He hasn’t been back, Tara…not once. None of us have seen him -- not even Buffy could find him. Spike’s in love with her, he would want to help her…don’t you think it’s a strange coincidence that Spike goes missing just as these slavers, who only kidnap vampires, happen to show up in town?”
The blonde witch could not avoid the feeling of dread rising up inside of her. She peered up at Willow, as if hoping the red-head could say something more reassuring than the feeble attempts that she had managed.
Willow even looked worried, but she shook her head in denial. “Dawn, maybe…maybe Spike just…” she shrugged. “…left town, like Buffy said.”
Dawn’s sorrowful gaze turned into a steady glare, as she shook her head in stubborn denial.
“Spike doesn’t just leave.”
The cold air surrounding them felt as thick as water. Buffy watched her hand as it pushed through the strange atmosphere, creating ripples around her, before finally pushing through to form an opening. Her movements were slowed, and it was an effort just to take a single step. Finally the coolness faded, as she struggled through to the other side.
Again, it wasn’t quite what she expected.
A high stone ceiling towered above them, and through the square, glassless windows she could see a sky that was pitch black, lit only by frequent bursts of lightning. The room was lit by torches.
Durrak had been right -- the gateways on this side, were not just invisible spaces of thickened air, but actual gateways…round portals of crackling blue energy, each with a symbol above it. Across the room Buffy could see five corridors, each leading in a different direction.
“Nice place,” Xander commented. “If you’re going for the whole ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ look.”
The narrow passageway down which Durrak had led them gradually gave way to nothing but shadow. The scuttling of insects and the flickering of the torch flame were the only sounds in the darkness that surrounded them.
“Are you sure these tunnels are stable?” Xander asked their guide. “They look to me like they could crumble at any minute…”
“They’re stable enough,” Durrak replied. “Besides, if we traveled the same tunnels the guards used…well, your presence here is something we should keep a secret until we decide how best to strike.”
“I was thinking with my fists,” Buffy answered from behind them both. “And maybe a nice axe.”
“It is not wise to go rushing into such a dangerous situation without a well-thought-out plan.”
The two humans stopped when the sounds of screams suddenly reached their ears. Both of them looked shaken as they glanced around, trying to find the source of the horrible sounds. Buffy finally seemed to get her bearings, pressing her ear against the stone of the wall to her left, through which she could hear the terrible sounds of suffering more clearly. “What’s happening?”
“They must be transporting new slaves. The sound will fade. Now, come, we’ve almost reached the main hall.”
Fifteen more minutes passed in silence, as neither the Slayer nor the carpenter could find words for the horrors that they knew were going on not far from them. The tunnel twisted and turned, and seemed to go on forever. When Durrak finally halted, neither of them could see any real doorway. The tunnel just branched out in four different directions, each of them as dark as the others.
Durrak rummaged through a bag that he’d carried with him, and pulled out two matching cloaks of some dark, coarse material, tossing them to the two humans. “Put these on, and keep the hoods up at all times, and you’ll be well hidden. From a distance you might appear as slaves, but up close anyone here would know by looking that you were human.”
The two of them put the cloaks on without further instruction, pulling the hoods up to cover as much of their heads and faces as possible. When Durrak was satisfied with their appearance, he reached high above his head and gave the ceiling a hard shove, and the sound of grating stone filled the air.
The Thorsosh demon was obviously struggling, but still managed to push the stone covering up, and then finally to the side. What remained where the heavy stone ceiling tile had been was a square hole that appeared just large enough for them to squeeze through.
Buffy was the first to climb through the small hole. She spared just a brief glance around her to be sure that there was no immediate danger, before hoisting Xander up by the hand he offered. She then took Durrak’s hand and pulled him up, before turning to inspect their surroundings a little more thoroughly.
They were outside.
The sight of the completely desolate area that surrounded them, spreading out on every side as far as the eye could see, took the Slayer’s breath away. Even Xander was speechless – and that was becoming a very strange habit for him.
The sky was pitch black, just as it had been before. Not a single storm cloud was visible in the smooth, clear darkness – and yet lightning rippled back and forth across the sky like constant sparks of static electricity. The ground beneath their feet was cracked and dry.
In all that expanse, Buffy could not see a single living thing besides the three of them.
Massive stone buildings stood all around, casting even deeper shadows. Where they stood just happened to be directly in front of one of the smaller and plainer ones.
It was the most depressing place Buffy had ever seen.
“Quickly!” Durrak assured them from around the side of the building they had just emerged behind. “We must get inside, and out of sight!”
He led them through the doorway, into a very large, brightly lit chamber – a sharp contrast to the darkness and gloom that had greeted them outside. Instead of a plain stone room to match the exterior of the building, the room they found themselves in more closely resembled a ballroom.
The floor was of polished jade, and every one of the demons gathered at the center of the room was dressed in its finest – even if its finest happened to be armor and leather and freaky necklaces made of teeth strung together.
Buffy was immediately worried about the danger of being spotted, but soon saw that there was no need to be. Everyone’s attention was focused on the center of the room, where there was a large stage, and a speaker calling everyone’s attention.
On the stage with the speaker were about a dozen slaves, all chained and naked.
Five were male vampires, and the rest were female. None of the heartbreakingly vulnerable creatures seemed able to look anyone in the eye, instead keeping their eyes focused on the ground in front of them, even as they were paraded across the stage to show off their assets. As the Slayer watched the speaker openly fondle one of the females as he opened the bidding, she could feel her blood begin to boil in rage. Her hands curled into fists, and it was only the insistent tugging of their guide towards one of the smaller corridors that kept her from leaping into action right then and there.
“There is time to play savior later.” Durrak insisted, unable to miss the Slayer’s fury.
“Man, that was sick.” Xander couldn’t keep the contempt from his voice as they made their way away from the disturbing display.
The corridor they were traveling down now was dimly lit. Doors lined the hallway, which was far enough from the auction room that the voices had already begun to fade.
“Where are we going?” Buffy asked once she could find her voice again.
“My office, close to the record room. It is the one room in this place where you can sleep in safety.”
The room he led them to was certainly large enough, but barely furnished. On one side of the room was a bed barely big enough for one. In the corner was a desk littered with various papers, and behind it, shelves upon shelves of files. Covering the center of the floor was a rug made of some sort of fur that Buffy couldn’t possibly recognize.
But what drew the most attention, of course, was the cage that took up the entire wall across from the bed. Several chains were scattered across the floor inside, while others were attached to the wall.
Xander was the first to speak up. “What…is that?” he asked in a low, heavy voice, as he pointed weakly toward the cage.
“That is for slave evaluation.” Durrak explained, as he closed and bolted the office door behind them. “Slaves are captured by independents…they capture them and bring them to the brothel owners to be sold. First, they are brought here, before a price is negotiated. Then, after they are broken, they’re brought here again. It is us, the keepers of records and payment, which decide whether a slave should be put to public use, or sold privately.”
Buffy couldn’t keep the sound of her disgust from her voice as she informed him coldly, “I think you want to stop talking now.”
Durrak wisely complied.
Buffy and Xander began opening their bags, rummaging through them and taking stock of the weapons they had brought. Axes, crossbows, stakes, and swords were soon piled in a rather impressive stack near the bed.
A knock at the door interrupted their progress. Without hesitation Buffy picked up a sword and whirled around to face Durrak. Xander chose an ax, as he looked at the demon skeptically.
“As a matter of fact…” Durrak held up a hand in an appeasing gesture as he approached the door, unlocking it and opening it just enough to peer outside. He then stepped aside, opening it wider and reassuring the Slayer and her companion. “It’s all right.”
“Says who?” Buffy tightened her grip on her sword.
Two figures stepped inside, both male demons, apparently of Durrak’s species. But when they turned to face Buffy, she was surprised to see far more human-looking features on their faces. The green scales that covered some parts of their bodies were the same shade of green as she saw on Durrak.
One of them was shaved bald, a line of very small horns going from his forehead to the back of his neck. His dark eyes danced with mirth as he watched the two humans, tense and ready for a fight. The other had long, silver hair, bunched together at the base of his neck in a leather band. He kept his eyes on Durrak, barely acknowledging the two humans in the room.
“These are my sons,” Durrak finally said. “Tymok” he motioned to the bald one. “And Slimosh” He pointed to the long-haired one. “They will be helping us.”
“Tim and Slim,” Xander nodded, visibly relaxing as the demons were identified as a non-threat. “Sounds easy enough to remember.”
He in no way acknowledged the twin glares sent his way by the demon brothers.
A giant map had taken the place of the scattered papers on the simple wooden desk, and everything else had been tossed aside to make room for it. The map itself was of the entire brothel, all six stone buildings and every tunnel underground that led to each.
“This,” Durrak pointed to the small, simple stone structure depicted in the center of the map, “houses the gateways, where we entered this dimension.” He pointed to a domed structure next. “This is the arena, where slaves are often brought to fight for entertainment. This is also where public punishments and executions take place.” He pointed to two identical buildings, on either side of the arena. “This one is where the slaves for public use are kept, and this is the one that houses the privately owned slaves. They are kept in much finer chambers, even when their Masters are away in other dimensions.
“We are here…” He pointed to a small building north of the others he had just pointed out. “This is the building where the auctions take place, and where the employees are housed. And this…” he finally pointed to the largest building with a stone tower in the center, to the north of the building they were housed in. “…is where the owners live, up in the tower. At the base is where the slaves are first taken after they’ve been bought…to be broken and trained. Underground is the obedience chamber, and where they’re taken for more private punishments, or for the degree of their punishments to be decided if their masters want nothing more to do with them.
“This is our main goal,” he explained. “If we can take care of the brothel’s owners, the rest should be simple enough. Now, we have followers, supporters in each of the brothel houses…”
The Slayer’s wide yawn stole everyone’s attention from Durrak’s long winded explanations. When she noticed that all eyes had come to rest on her, she quickly covered her mouth and gave a sheepish shrug. “Sorry…it’s just been a long…”
“How selfish of me,” Durrak apologized. He rolled up the map and pushed it aside. “You should both be resting, before we even think of beginning. I’m afraid I become over-zealous at times.”
“No, really, I didn’t mean…”
“You will rest,” the demon insisted. “I’m afraid the room doesn’t have much space, but at least it is safe.”
Skin against skin… rough and brutal motions…grunts and moans of pleasure, both female and male. A demon with red eyes dug her sharp claws into his perfect marble chest, scoring him deeply. The whip followed, flawless pale skin was torn open under its sharp lash.
Blood trickled slowly down the wall, and pooled on the floor, smearing across the pristine canvas of smooth, pale flesh that hadn’t seen the sun in so long…chains rattled as the body they held was ruthlessly used and broken.
He’d stopped trying to cry out.
The fight had left him completely. There was nothing, now, nothing but shadows and threats, brief glimpses of a stone stairwell that spiraled upwards to lead to some flickering light – but it only promised more pain.
Finally, there were those eyes…deep blue eyes that had once spoken of passion and devotion stared blankly up towards the far away light. But there was no longing for it, no light left inside those eyes…
Buffy heard her own words shouted, loud and clear…
You’re dead inside!
The Slayer sat up with a gasp and a barely contained scream. Even once she had fully awakened, she couldn’t get the images out of her mind, couldn’t banish the single thought circling around in her brain…
*Time is running out…*
Xander sat up beside her, awakened by her heavy, labored breathing.
She got up before he could answer, looking panicked. “I can’t let it happen…I have to stop it, I can’t let it happen!”
“Can’t let what happen?” He struggled to untangle himself from the furs they had covered with to sleep.
“I…” There was a tear trailing down her cheek as she shook her head, searching her mind for the words to describe what she had seen. “Almost out of time…Xander, it’s going to be too late!” She turned suddenly, yanking open the door to the office and running full-tilt down the hall.
She didn’t remember the map, or the instructions. She didn’t remember to bring her cloak and keep her hood up to keep from being seen. All Buffy knew was that she had to follow the signs, follow her feelings – and she had to hurry.
Buffy ran across the dead field outside, not leaving even a footprint behind in the cracked ground. She didn’t let the sight of the few demons still going about their business at this hour stop her. She had no doubt that to them, she probably looked like a run away slave – except that she was running straight toward the source of any slave’s night-terror.
She burst into the largest of the stone buildings – only to find that the main hall was deserted.
She didn’t know why there was no question in her mind as to the direction she was going. She went down a narrow corridor, dark except for the vague light ahead. When a demon passing in the opposite direction tried to grab her and stop her progress, she snapped its neck without a thought.
She easily killed three more along her way.
Finally, her destination was in sight. She ran down a set of narrow stone stairs, almost tripping several times. Finally, she came to the massive underground chamber Durrak had earlier described…and the suffering she saw there almost took her breath away.
There was no question that this was the ‘obedience chamber’. The screams and gurgling cries of the poor creatures being tortured surrounded her, overwhelming as the heat from the fires that held pokers and other instruments of torture. She was noticed immediately by a few of the demons that stood near the vampires that were bound and waiting for their turn.
It didn’t matter.
Buffy wasn’t paying attention to any of them, wasn’t even sparing them a glance.
Her eyes were scanning the room, paying no attention to the danger she was putting herself and her entire mission in.
All she knew was that she had to find…
At the far side of the room, a male vampire was tied to a post, his wrists bound tightly above his head. His lean, muscular body was bare, exposed for all to see – but the Slayer could only catch a small glimpse of him, around the heavily armored, thick skinned demon standing in the way, a whip raised over his head. As she watched, he brought it down swiftly, the sound of it as it hit his flesh audible, even amidst the constant screams that filled the torture chamber…
But no scream followed that blow.
The prisoner hung limply, his legs barely supporting him. When he was struck, his back arched against the pain and his head flung back as if to cry out, but Buffy could hear no voice.
Her heart raced with a sudden indescribable fear. Her feet led her in the direction of the bound slave without pause. When she felt a demon’s clawed hand grasp her arm, she calmly reached back and broke the wrist with a hard twist. She did not take her eyes away from her goal, all the while a litany of denial racing through her mind.
*No….no....no…no, no, no, no…*
She brushed past a demon that had been headed in her direction. This time, she did look back. An elegant female face with sharply defined features stared back at her from under a heavy hooded cloak. Delicate forest green scales lined the high cheek bones, and the forehead and chin. Her dark eyes were knowing as she stared evenly back at the Slayer. Her gaze then shifted to the prisoner being whipped on the other side of the room, before returning to Buffy again.
A chill of dread went down the Slayer’s spine, but she turned, determined not to let it stop her. The female did not pursue her, and she picked up her pace. Soon, she was running.
Before she could reach the demon and its captive, the ground suddenly began to shake beneath her. Silence reigned for a moment in the massive chamber, even from the screaming victims. Then, a sudden explosion rocked the room, and the screams began again, this time from the torturers as well, as fires began to spring up at various places across the chamber, engulfing half of the vampires and demons inside it.
Buffy was flung hard to the ground. She rose to her elbows and gasped in horror as she watched some of the vampires crumble into dust, some of them still strapped into devices of torture. Some demons caught fire and flailed for their lives, while others hurried to free the slaves from their bonds and lead them out so that they wouldn’t be destroyed.
Cracks spread across the ceiling, and large chunks of stone fell, as the Slayer tried to scramble out of the way, while also trying to keep from being trampled under the feet of the fleeing demons.
Buffy took her attention away just long enough to search for the slave that had caught her eye before – and it turned out to be just long enough. A booted foot belonging to a retreating demon guard slammed into her face, disorienting her and sending her down amidst the panic.
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