Knight Hawkeye waved. "We're over here, guys." They came over to see what was going on. Castiel handed down the scroll to them after making sure which one it was.
General Stark looked at it, frowning. "They're doing what?"
"Exactly, they're doing what," Xander agreed dryly. "We only know a bit about machines. You're supposed to be the best at breaking them."
"Yeah, I can do that," he decided, frowning as he read. "This artifact?"
Castiel looked then groaned. "The damn idiot changed them?" Dean quipped, handing it down.
"Yes," Castiel said impatiently. "Some day soon I'll be beating him to death."
"More demons?" General Rogers asked.
"Well outside all the problems we had," Xander told him. "These are true ones, higher ones, and outside all those problems. They won't be causing any problems because there's special ways of killing them all, and Sam knows most of them. That artifact is handled," he said, taking it back.
"We saw someone of that description stomping around," Stark told him.
"Great. You have to hurt her enough to go back to her host body then kill it," Xander said.
"Charming. If we find her we can do that."
"She's killed at least sixty people so far," Genjo told him quietly.
"Even better reason for her to go," Stark said, looking over that chart. "I've seen that ring thing somewhere."
"We need to break it so they quit coming," Xander told him. "You break things for a living."
"I design for a living but part of that is breaking down others," he admitted. He looked up and around. "Any of them here?"
"Not that we've seen," Stella said. "If so we would've questioned them. We don't even have a peace treaty with them but according to some older scrolls the reason that Castiel's people used to be considered angels came from fighting them the first time."
"My people were setting up towers and doing magic back then," Xander quipped. "Way far back in history."
"Do we know the time period?" General Stark sneered.
Xander glared back. "History hasn't mattered to me that way. Ask Sam," he said with a point. "I had other things I had to study instead." The general backed down for now. Someone screamed and Xander stood up. "What was that?" he yelled.
"Zombie!" some girl shouted and ran.
Xander ran out to go check. "Healers!" he bellowed. "Not a zombie, just a really injured person, looks like a duel!" They came running to get their new patient. Xander walked back in, going to someone to stare at her. "Your younger son, the one with the floppy hair, apparently got into a duel. He's pretty cut up and he'll probably scar but we don't know with who yet." She got up and ran off sobbing. He looked at the father.
"No clue, Sire."
"Okay. Let us know. This is so you don't have to duel over people. There's plenty to go around." He went back to his seat, staring at the young girl cowering in the corner. "He wasn't a zombie, he was just really cut up. Next time, yell for healers, they can tell that stuff." She nodded, coming out to calm down. Xander sat back down, sighing as he ate a bite of chicken. "So stupid to duel."
Genjo nodded. "Especially over someone at these sort of events."
"Unless he was protecting himself," Jethro agreed. "Or someone who needed it."
"In that case, we like him," Xander agreed. "He did good. If he was fighting a duel over someone he wanted, that's stupid."
"It is," Jethro agreed. "I'm hoping he was protecting someone." He looked at Abby, who went to check for him. His two sons walked in and sat down. "What happened?" he asked.
Timothy looked at him. "That one, someone propositioned him and he got huffy."
"Not demonic," Tony agreed. "Just drunk. The kid overreacted and pulled a sword against a guy who teaches nobles how to fence." Jethro shook his head with a sigh. "We broke it up and sent him to the healers upstairs."
Xander grinned. "We had some girl scream 'zombie' and run off when she saw him."
Tony nodded. "We heard, we were only outside." Abby came back bouncing and happy. "We're pretty sure they'll both live."
"The healers say so too," she agreed. She sat down. "There's warriors outside," she said loudly enough to be heard. "King Elinius, I think they're yours."
"I hope they're peaceful," Alan said. He looked at the other end of the table. Xander waved a hand a bit before eating another piece of chicken. "Xander, something you wanted to share with the table?" he asked dryly.
"No, not right now. Though, can I have the green stuff that's not broccoli and even Genjo won't eat, Mac?" He held out a hand for the bowl. It got passed down to him. "Thanks. For some reason I'm craving salady stuff." He glared at Sam.
"Sorry, but that wasn't part of my hypnotism when you had the nightmare vision," Sam quipped. "I didn't do a thing about your bad eating habits, Xander."
"Fine." He dug in, eating a few spoonfuls of it. That took care of the craving and the need, plus he had something very vinegary in case someone burst in so he could throw it at them while pulling out bigger weapons.
King Elinius's guards did stomp in but went right to him to hiss in his ear. The king grimaced but nodded. The guard left. "Excuse me," King Elinius said. "My daughter just showed up." He got up to leave, glaring at his wife again.
"If she's here to join the event, that's fine with us," King Alan said. King Elinius glared but went out to deal with his offspring.
Danny kicked his mate. "Go help," he ordered. "They know you. If it's a problem, you can handle it like you're Xander's big brother."
Steve nodded, going to check on things. "Can I help?" he asked politely.
"My daughter is being uppity," King Elinius said with a grimace. "She thinks she can lead men."
"I've seen many fine queens who could. Including Queen Abby. She may seem sweet but she's hell if it's needed. Her military listens to her."
"Ours don't," he said bluntly. He walked outside. "What are you doing?" His daughter shot him in the head.
"Taking over," she said bluntly. "Because we find you not worthy." She stared at the other one. "Steven?"
"Yes," he agreed, smiling at her. "Catherine."
She smiled back. "Why are you here?"
"I escorted some of my people up here for this meet, greet, and hopefully marry event." He came closer. "We would like peace here. There's a truce. Your father brought us information about a problem."
"I've heard," she admitted. "We simply couldn't stand him being in charge any longer. We will be peaceful." The guards with her nodded. "Is my stepmother here?"
"And two of your brothers, though one's in the healers' wing. He got smart mouthed and challenged someone so King Xander took him nearly out."
"Did he do it properly?"
"He said he'd be a fine example and he wouldn't claim anyone to marry them off. He wasn't that sort of king. Unlike his stepfather."
"I've heard," she admitted, dismounting.
"Your mother is proving the superiority of your women in the morning against Queen Buffy."
"That's an odd name."
"I believe it's the shortened version of her name," he said, staring at her. "If you're here to cause problems, we will have to protest."
She smiled and patted his cheek. "I'm not going to cause any problems, Steven."
"Good. My consort's inside."
"Is she nice?"
"Danny? Sometimes he is. Mostly he's mouthy."
She smirked at him. "No proper wife?"
"Oh, I see."
"He has a daughter from his previous relationship."
"Ah. So that's good then." She walked in next to him. She stared at her stepmother. "Don't worry, he won't be a problem for you or my brothers any longer. The other wives are all at home safely stored until things settle down." She looked at her other brother, who stood up and pulled his sword. "We will meet in the morning on the field of combat. That way you can prove the superiority of the male blood." He sneered.
"There is no bloodshed in this event," King Alan ordered firmly. "She has properly challenged you and if you try her now I'm siccing Xander on you as well." The brother stepped back and nodded. "I'm sure she can be peaceful tonight and not bother others outside her family." He stared at her.
"Of course I will. I think this is a charming practice and should be included in some of ours instead of just combat. It's a sad fact that warrior wives aren't the best mothers." She sat down, staring at her brother. "Just past dawn?"
"Dawn here is at cock's crow," Stella said, glaring at her. "We have people practicing then but they can defer." She looked down at Mac, who nodded. Dean nodded too. "The warriors in for practice at that time will let you have it."
She nodded. "Thank you...."
"Thank you, Queen Stella. My mother's half-sister is from your people. They said your parents are quite wise."
"And stubborn," Mac agreed. "As are most of us."
"That can sometimes make the best rulers," Catherine said dryly, smiling at him. "I mean no onus against any of you but my father was unworthy with the way he treated his family. The other twenty-seven of his children agreed on how to handle things and I came out on top. Now I challenge the heir."
"You'll get your challenge," he sneered. He glared at Steve. "I know you were flirting with her before."
Steve stared at him. "I can whip your ass without breaking a sweat, boy. Sit down." The brother snarled. Xander's gun cocking was loud in the silent hall. "I have it, Xander."
"I'm sure you do but him baiting you won't make his challenge any easier with his future wounds," Xander said dryly. "This event is under a treaty of peace and it will stay that way," he noted to the future queen. "I don't rightly care who rules your people. I visited once and your father was a jackass. Then again, so were all his wives and most of you kids." She laughed but nodded. "Frankly, I don't care, we don't care, and you're just entertainment right now. I don't want to take you out like I did your little brother."
"If he lost, he wasn't worthy," she said bluntly. "Do you want to claim him now?"
"We don't go on that principle here, Princess," Gregory said dryly. She glared at him. He stared back. "Our princesses are stronger anyway. That's why there's a name curse."
"You are one hell of a princess," Tony agreed. "So am I."
"I was too," Xander agreed. "Now I'm nothing less than a splendid king." He stared at her. "Don't even think about using that to jump higher this way."
She waved a hand. "I don't have time for that."
"Ever," Xander assured her with an evil smirk. "I can easily send some of our problems your way. I'm sure you'd love the demons."
"Demons?" she snorted.
Xander looked at Castiel, who went to rub over one mark on a wall with a sigh. Yup, demons. "Don't touch a single Joined Kingdom person," he warned. "This wannabe queen thinks you're not real."
The demons stared at her, one drooling. "She's pretty. We can go visit them."
"Xander!" Steve complained.
Xander grinned. "If they're strong enough to handle them then they're probably going to be friendly enough." He stared at her.
"We thought them myths," she said. "Huh. I'll have to learn how to deal with them."
"Guns, blessed silver, some bullets," Genjo said. "Demons begone before I have to get up." They fled. "Castiel?" He redrew the figure. Genjo looked at the princess. "Don't give me more work."
"I would not. That is not why I'm here." He smirked and she nodded slightly back. They could have a truce for now. "I know some about that problem up north. They were handling the problem but they got overrun. They've used that ring device for many years and have mostly fought off the problems it brought. They have some very weird allies."
"We love allies," Jethro told her. "Even weird ones."
"Excellent. I'll have someone summon our diplomat to them." She looked at her guard, who nodded.
"He can use our fire calling systems," Steve said, leading him to one and tossing in the powder before stepping back. "Call out a name who'd be near a fireplace or a location."
The guard said the name of their palace, getting a scared guard. "Queen Catherine asks that the diplomat to those ring people show up where we are. They're having problems and the kings here are willing to help them." The guard nodded slowly. "She has properly taken out her father, though not in ritual combat. Her brother and she do ritual combat in the morning." He looked at Steve. Then at the fire. "We'll call back tomorrow."
"Granted," the higher guard walking up behind the scared one said. "How did she take him out?"
"He was causing stress anyway," Steve said. "And one of his sons is in the healers' wing for being an idiot."
The guard looked at him. "I remember you." Steve smiled. "We will handle that and any diplomatic needs we will have. Thank you. Tell us how the combat went." Steve hung up and nodded, taking the guard back. The head guard on the other side went to tell others. It wasn't an honorable taking out but King Elinius had things on him that enhanced him.
Buffy looked at the queen the next morning. "If you'd like to postpone or cancel our sparring that's fine," she said quietly. "You've got to be under great stress with all this." The woman glared at her. Buffy shrugged. "I wouldn't want to make your life any harder than it already may be. I'm not that sort of queen." She sat down near her. "You have much to deal with for the next few months. A funeral, a coronation of someone, resettling the order of power in your kingdom. I remember when my mother died and I had to do all that. It took nearly a year for me to get everything settled and out of the traditional mourning rituals."
The other queen swallowed. "I can spar against you without doing that and it would be a great stress relief."
Buffy smiled and nodded. "If you want. This afternoon instead? Give people time to make sure they don't think I'm hitting on your daughter?"
"One of his other wives is her mother," she said. "But that would be fine, Queen Buffy."
She smiled and patted her on the wrist. "It'll be okay. We women are strong. That's why we're women instead of Xander." That queen smiled slightly but nodded. "Is that son yours?"
"Both sons with us are mine," she sighed. "I don't know where the one went wrong."
"He's too young," Buffy said. "He doesn't think about anything but what he already knows. I was like that once. He'll hopefully grow out of it." The other queen nodded. "Does she have to kill him?"
"If he gives up, it's cowardice," she sighed. She stiffened up when others joined them in the viewing box. "You don't have to."
Xander patted her on the shoulder. "My stepfather had been a warlord, that's why I came to your husband once to see if I should start a treaty with him." He looked at her. "I found him a huge asshole then. He didn't get much better but hopefully this one won't be as bad. Though, we did have to remove the artifacts from his body when he got up and tried to walk off as a zombie this morning," he said more quietly.
"He had things to keep him strong," she said quietly. Xander handed over a small wooden box. She looked then at him. "The one in his hair?"
"Broken. As was the necklace, though the pieces are in there," he said quietly. "The anklet he wore is still whole. The bracelet's still whole. The ring's still whole but the stone's loose." She nodded. "I hope however this ends brings peace to your people and more happiness. I remember you guys being all but miserable when I visited as a youth."
"Sometimes it was. Not always," she admitted. Her stepdaughter came out onto the field and bowed to her, getting nodded back at. She sighed.
"I challenge my half-brother for the throne," Catherine announced. "I have won against our father and his enhanced nature. Including when he tried to revive from the dead." She looked at her brother. "If you wish the throne, go through me." She pulled her sword.
"I will as you're female and therefore not a true heir," he noted, looking pissed off.
"Things change," Catherine reminded him. "Sometimes queens are better at being rulers. As some around here prove." She waved a hand. "They obviously care more for their people than our father did us." He sneered and came closer, pulling his sword. "Do you accept my challenge?"
"I am," he agreed, lunging at her as was proper. She ducked and kicked him, and the fight was on. Back and forth, a few injuries each. She finally got him down and hesitated. Then she sighed. "I would rather not kill you," she announced. "You could be useful and a good diplomat. You could be good in our ruling class doing things like training others. We have many siblings that could do so. I know showing mercy makes me look weak, but I won't kill you unless you demand."
"That means you have no honor," he spat, making himself stand up. "Real rulers have honor and you just lost yours."
"For not wanting to waste a resource?" she asked. "Does the one that spills water have no honor?" He glared but nodded. "If you so wish." She pulled her dagger out and put her sword up. "Charge me again and I will do as you request." He charged but they were stopped by a bright light.
"Where is my key!" the blonde woman demanded as she stomped into the arena. "I know it's here!"
"Aw fuck," Genjo muttered. "People, get her! She's a hell goddess possessing a body and you have to kill the host!" The guards and others fired on the goddess while Catherine got her brother free and shoved him out of the way to help take her on. She got swatted into a wall but got back up. He ran at her and she ripped off his head, making his mother wince but cry.
Catherine shot her with the same gun that got her father, making the goddess stare at her and advance. "My sister will follow and avenge me," she vowed. "So you still won't win, demon."
The knights showed up, it was a bit early for some of them, and dove in to help. Thor's hammer hit her a few times before her form wobbled and she ran off.
Xander hopped down, going to check the son then walk over to them. "Thank you, Knights." He looked at Catherine. "Healers?" he asked.
She nodded. "I need not more than bandages. If I cannot survive I have not truly won."
"Gregory, she wants bandages," he called. The healers ran in to gather the body and take her. Xander stopped one. "He showed honor, treat him with respect," he ordered. "He tried to help the problem that interrupted their honorable combat."
The healer nodded. "Of course we will, King Xander. He earned all due respect." They gathered him and his head, carrying him off with a shroud already in place. Catherine followed, limping along with help from the limping healer.
Xander looked at the knights. "The crazy hell goddess," he explained.
Knight Thor nodded. "She is a tough enemy. It will take much damage to make her change back. It is a good fight to win before she destroys us all."
"I'm wondering if we can send her up to that other problem and let her go through their ring device," General Stark said. "Let her try up there against their enemy."
Xander grinned. "I like that idea. It's appropriately mean and yet effective. Even better than the time I covered some people with flaming thrown shit." He walked off to follow the healers.
General Stark looked at the others. "That's mean of him." They nodded, leaving as well.
Buffy helped the crying queen up. "Come on, I know where the healers are. We can sit vigil. It's usual for our people to sit vigil and visit the body to mourn before the burial." She helped her out and up to the healer's room, getting pointed out. "We're sitting vigil."
"That's fine, Queen Buffy," one said. "It's honorable." They let her into that cold room and left them alone.
Buffy came out to get chairs and brought them back in, letting the queen sit while she stood with her. She nodded when Catherine came in.
Catherine walked over, touching his head that had been casually sewn on. "I wish it hadn't come to this, Brother," she said quietly. "There's no honor in wasting those who have futures that are good for their people. I will watch over your children to make sure they do not turn into Father." She kissed him on the forehead, looking at her stepmother. "We are going to make sure the evils of our father's reign are not copied," she said quietly. "You and all the mothers are free now and your children are still our siblings. We have all vowed that no matter who won we would make things equal again as it was in our earlier days, without the clauses of fealty and ownership." She leaned down to hug her. "You are still as my mother and I did not want to kill him."
"I know, Catherine. We will see how it goes now. I would hate to fight you for the crown."
Catherine smiled. "You were mighty at my age and still have much of that. I hope we don't have to have that fight either." She nodded at Buffy then left them to sit there and stare at the body. It was weird to her but she understood why people did that. She found Steve and his consort in the garden, nodding at Danny then at Steve. "We have pledged that things will go back to the better days, with changes for the bad parts."
"Good," he agreed, staring at her. "This is my consort Danny."
"Pleasure," she said, shaking his hand. "At one time I courted Steve as a proper warrior mate."
Danny nodded, smiling at her. "I'm sure it was hot with how strong he is." She laughed but nodded, sitting with them. "So now what?"
"Now, we go home soon to do the necessary things. I should leave tonight. Steve, will you have a noon meal with me?"
"Sure," he agreed, not looking at his consort. Who just waved a hand at them to go while rolling his eyes.
Danny went to find Stella and the others. "She's leaving soon to go home. She and Steve, her ex, are having lunch."
Stella smiled at him. "At least you're not the jealous sort."
"Nah. If he screws her without me knowing I'm gonna make his life a living hell." He smirked. "I learned how from Princess Aiden."
Mac burst out laughing but nodded. "She was very good at it, yes." They went in to eat, letting the others talk about how things went. The other queen had agreed she'd come spar with Buffy in a few months since they had to leave soon so they could get the bodies home for proper funerals before they decayed too far. Buffy gave her a map of where she lived. So it'd be all right, and the marriages made were going well so far. A few might be protested but the kids could justify themselves to their parents.
Now they only had to handle the problem up north.
Xander and Genjo made it back to the palace, Genjo dropping off a list to the new majordomo, who was the guy from the military with the bad leg. "Those ones snuck off and married," he said quietly.
"That's effective. Are they holding it again?" he asked, smiling at him.
"Every year. Next year Dawn can go if she survives."
The majordomo nodded. "She is young and perky, Sire."
Xander looked at him. "Problems?"
"No. She's settled in to defense lessons easily enough. She's still girlish but her people would be horrified if she turned into a true warrior."
"If her sister dies and she takes over, she'll have to take the same protection vows," Xander said dryly. "Including the Slayer Protector of the Kingdom parts."
"We're working on weapons," Goyjo said as he walked into the throne room. "She's pretty good with weapons but hits like Goku when he's got the flu." Xander nodded at that. "Anything good happen?"
"King Elinius got overthrown by a daughter," Xander said with a smile. "And half of his protection set was broken."
"Okay," Goyjo said. "Barely heard about him."
"Huge warrior assholes," Xander said bluntly. "All nineteen of his wives had to beat people for his hand. They used to hold yearly marriage contests for the top people in the kingdom to find a new wife, and if they didn't want who won they could pick none of them and make them go through it again the next year."
"Charming," the guard said.
"He had twenty-seven kids," Genjo said. "Over half were daughters. One of his sons, the elder one and heir, died when the goddess in question showed up to interrupt his ritual combat with his sister to try to overthrow her. She ripped off his head. It took a concentrated effort to get her to start to shift back to her male host body."
Goyjo winced but nodded. "Good to know about our enemy."
"Catherine's a bit stiff and formal," Xander said. "But she'll manage it. She nearly fought for King Steve's hand."
"He's hot and all but not my type," Goyjo said bluntly. "No breasts, Xander." Xander grinned, leaving them alone. "Dawn's resting. She wore herself out earlier complaining about her own weakness to the horses she was grooming."
"That's fine. We can talk to her in the morning after breakfast."
Genjo lit up a cigarette, looking at his friend and guard. "It's going to get nasty with that bitch," he said. "She's fully too strong for anything. My banishing gun, the scroll, all of it." He handed over the two scrolls. "The other problem, which was suggested that we send her up to take them out."
Goyjo looked over the one on Dawn, grimacing. "Wow, that's going to be nasty."
"Very," he agreed. "If so...."
"Goku and Dawn are going to visit and seek sanctuary." He looked up. "Those crazy ass knights as she called them? Tried to get us on the way here. Twice. They got stopped by her people's guards, barely. A lot of them had swords and bows but seemed even farther behind than we are. They apparently want to bleed her so the one after her can't get her blood."
"Interesting." They walked off together. "No gossiping and if you're possessed I'm going to take you out myself," he noted. "We've run into some semi-helpful higher demons." He looked at him.
The majordomo smiled. "He's safely in bed resting since his foot surgery got an infection. We know about Dawn. You're right, there's no good, safe way to beat that goddess but those people up north have stronger weapons than guns." He faded out.
Genjo looked at Goyjo. "Didn't set off my senses, Hakkai's senses, none of it," he admitted.
"Or mine. They're apparently Castiel's evil cousins."
"I saw that. Great." They went out to their house. Genjo paused to stare. "She fell asleep on Goku's book teaching him some history."
"If she doesn't mind I don't care," he admitted, going up to his own room.
Goyjo glanced in Goku's room. He was on the floor so Dawn could sprawl sideways across his bed. He went to his own room, going to rest for the busy day tomorrow. They hadn't had this much to do in a few years.
Xander was outside at midnight, staring up. "Crowley," he said dryly.
The demon appeared. "Usually it takes more work to summon me," he said sarcastically as he formed. "But this time it might be amusing."
"It will be if you don't get your people out of my palace," Xander warned, staring at him. "We've had enough problems and my people don't need to be paranoid."
"You can't enforce that."
Xander grinned, pulling something out of the case he held. "Sam found it in their archive," he said with a smirk, holding up the blade. "Get your people out of my kingdom. I'm thankful for the help and all, but I do not need paranoid people and we've had way too many problems with demons thanks to my stepfather and from John when he was alive."
"That's the Blade," he noted. "Where was that hidden?"
"In Sam's part of the archive. His mom left it for him."
Crowley nodded. "That's interesting."
"And Sam can use it. I had him check. He and Dean can both use it."
"It would taint them to do so."
"So can Adam probably and the last demonic power struggle got him possessed and marked."
"Oh, I hadn't heard about that one." He considered it. "We're trying to guard her."
"We're taking her with us to the north. They have stronger weapons."
"Actually not a bad plan," he agreed. "I can make it more subtle."
"I've had crying maids and housekeepers. I don't want to do that to my people."
"No, I wouldn't either. Where are your stepfather's remains?"
"Burned." He grinned. "The demons freed him and made him try to fight me. I beheaded him and then we burned the whole lot. The demon's remains? They're all enshrined somewhere pretty damn safe even from you guys. We didn't need more of their type either."
"That one was lower level than I am, boy."
Xander smirked. "So? Between mine and Dean's kingdoms we deal with demons all too often in all forms. Including the one that Sam and I screwed who was like you only a bit lesser."
"I heard that," he admitted, giving him a look.
"Neither one of us remember his name, he wasn't that good at it," Xander said dryly. "And hey, if I have to, we have a trapped genie here because I tripped into his jar when I was twelve."
Crowley shuddered but nodded. "That's nearly an evil thought."
"Thank you," Xander quipped with a smile. "I thought it might be fun as well."
"Which chaos god did you vow to?" Crowley asked casually. "I can't tell."
"I was born near the portal. Very near the portal. It loves me."
Crowley shuddered but nodded. This hunter had balls he had to admire so he'd let him do what he wanted to do and do what he needed to behind his back if the boy didn't handle it. "That makes much sense. I will withdraw my people so they don't upset anyone but we will be making sure that blonde bitch can't take over."
"If she tries, I'm going to have to step in and pull up some of my ancestors."
The ghost of Gabriel, Castiel's brother, appeared, shaking his head. "Sweetie, just don't." He smirked at Crowley. "Elizabeth said hi too."
He stared at him. "I remember her. She was sweet."
"She redid all the protections," Gabriel said with a smug look. Crowley rolled his eyes but nodded.
"And she set them to go on with her blood," Xander agreed. "With mine mixed in. So I guess I'll be helping protect this kingdom forever, huh?" Crowley stared at him. Xander looked smug. "I may not have excelled in any of the usual fields but I did have to do a lot of research about demon things thanks to John. He so nicely cursed us, but that was after my stepfather vowed. We can actually get into the old tower now. Should I go searching?"
"There's knowledge in there that's been lost forever on purpose," Gabriel warned. "It could be more dangerous or unleash a demonic virus since it's locked up in there."
"We saw," Xander assured him. "It's been resealed and put next to the portal so they *really* have to want to get to it."
"We can access that room," Crowley told him.
"Yes but not the bubble around it without multiple sacrifices. That's why my father tortured centaurs for nearly a decade, so he could have his chosen spawn born in there, then he forgot which mother was the sacrifice and which was his spawn." Crowley shuddered. "I, however, can get up close to the portal and pet the kraken tentacles that pop out now and then." He grinned. "The vessel's inside the portal but sealed in a way that nothing in there can open it. Even if it explodes."
Crowley stared at him. "You have many ideas."
"Yes I do. That makes me a great king and protector."
"Not all of them are useful," Gabriel warned. "You shouldn't bring her up there."
"The blonde bitch or the other one?"
"The other one. They've been overrun. They think they're gods and might try to take some of the queens for their own sort of queen. Poor Stella," Gabriel sighed. Xander winced but nodded. "Other than that, Dawn shouldn't go but that would solve Buffy dying for six months and coming back thanks to the ghost."
"Can we banish her?" Xander demanded.
"No. She's one of his now," he said with a point at the demon.
"The babbling, redheaded, idiot? Yes. Queen Buffy was missing her and wished she had her friend back. A minor wish demon heard so she's floating around causing problems there instead of for me. You can trap her too. That temple should hold her quite nicely."
Xander nodded once. "We can do that. Thanks."
"Can you put that up?" Gabriel said with a point at the blade.
Xander put it back into the box. "It's only half the blade. It was split width-wise and the other half is with Sam."
"Let me go hit on Sam," Gabriel said with a wink. He faded out.
Crowley looked at Xander. "That's interesting."
"He died trying to help us with the last demon power struggle."
"That was rather annoying," Crowley agreed. "I will withdraw my people to a less noted area so that one can be watched over more subtly. We'd hate for people to panic and start spreading curses at us. Castiel's too damn nice to handle things on his own." He faded out. His demons got recalled and moved to a new area that was farther away and not possessing anyone of note. One got banished almost immediately by a young witch who was mad about her father. The rest...they could handle it and that witch got noted to the local coven. Though the white witch up there nearly blinded him and she seemed to see him even though he was invisible. She looked right at him and it made his soul shake for some reason. He would be avoiding that one.
Xander jogged down the stairs, still holding onto the box. It'd go in his personal safe. He turned on the fire calling station and couldn't get Mac or Horatio but got one of Horatio's kids. "That problem up north we just got briefed about, they want some of the females for their own kind. I've heard they're going specifically after Stella. I got a feeling that they might go after Calleigh too. Not too many natural blondes up there."
"Shit," Eric said. "I'll warn 'em. They're nearly here and Stella's overnighting here with Mac. Thank you, Xander."
"Just let them know, Eric. If they get her, I'm not sure we can free her from the possession their type uses."
"No, little alien worms that take you over."
"That's so weird and if it was anyone but you," he muttered, hanging up. He went to meet the heads of both families as they rode in. He could see banners so they were only in town. He walked down to meet them at the courtyard as they rode in. "Xander called. Whatever those alien worm things are they want Stella as a queen and possibly Calleigh."
Mac looked at Horatio. "Your kids just bring such joy too," he said dryly.
"Better warned than kidnaped and having to be saved from an alien worm thing," Stella complained, pushing her hair back as she dismounted.
"He said he's not sure if they can save people from them," Eric said.
"No, we're not yet," she agreed. "I'll definitely resist more than I would've Xander's stepfather." They went inside to talk and rest. Stella and Mac would leave the next day. Stella did call to talk to Xander about how and what he knew. The source creeped her out but if even the demons didn't want her taken over she must be doing something right to be a threat to them, that would've made her a bigger threat to them.
Or maybe they just wanted her because she was pretty. Who knew with aliens and demons.
Sam blinked awake when someone sat on his bed, sitting up to stare at the former teasing boyfriend sort. "We never slept together," Gabriel said dryly.
"You were still a teasing boyfriend sort without the sex," he said blandly. "And too easy to fluster at times too." He stared at him. "Nice to see you too."
"Watch out for that blade, Sammy. It'll take you over and make you kill."
"That's why it was split."
"Might not help," he admitted with a grin. "Take it from me, okay?"
"I can do that. Did Xander set down some rules with Crowley?"
"Good." He shifted closer. "So why the visit? Just the warning?"
"Xander vowed he was going to get into the old towers and pull out something to beat that bitch."
"We went with Elizabeth right before they captured her the first time. There's things up there that could help."
"Wonderful. Still dangerous."
"Sometimes you gotta."
"Sam, too dangerous," he said bluntly.
Sam grinned. "I'll let him know. Anything else from on high?"
"Have Tara protected. The blonde bitch will try to take out that purity because she's sucking sanity and knowledge out of people. Getting Tara would be a huge problem."
"Got it. I'll call the witches in a minute."
"Thanks. Can you maybe try to be a bit safer?"
"I do what I can, you know that."
"I do." He patted him on the knee. "If I were alive I'd be suggesting a roll in the hay. Unfortunately we can't do that anymore." He faded out.
Sam got up and went to call the witches and the palace. "Is one of Genjo's guards up?" he asked. The guard went to get one. He looked at the witch. "Guard Tara from the blonde bitch. She's sucking sanity and knowledge and would come right for the source of purity and power she represents."
"What blonde bitch?" the witch demanded.
Genjo himself showed up. "I was meditating. New things?"
"The blade can warp Xander or I and make us kill." Genjo grimaced. "Even split. The blonde bitch is going to come right for Tara to suck her mind out. She's done it to others to get knowledge and sanity according to Gabriel. Also, he said the stuff in the tower's too damn dangerous for this problem."
"Okay," Genjo said. "Tara needs to go into hiding somewhere safe," he ordered the witch on the other portal. "Today." The witch grimaced. "She's a hell goddess."
"Oh!" She grimaced. "Is there a witch involved?"
"Has some power, can't use it," Genjo said bluntly. "Tell Tara?"
"I will. What hell goddess is this?"
"If you say her name, she shows up," Sam admitted. "Dawn's got a book."
"Great," the witch complained.
"It has to do with an artifact," Genjo said.
"Even better. Yes, dear Tara can go into hiding somewhere safer. I'll make sure of it." She hung up and changed back, smirking at the witches. "That's handy." Then she was blown out of the room by the bomb.
Tara looked then at the other witches. "I learned some things from Xander when I was there. Goku thought explosives were a good thing for women to learn." The witches nodded and bundled her up, taking her out of the country and somewhere safer with King Dean's people hopefully. A few of the coven packed up that house quickly and took it with them while she was stunned. She hadn't changed back to her host body though.
Genjo went up to tell Xander about that, getting a nod. "That blade can warp you," he reminded him.
"I don't have the urge to kill, Genjo, nor will it infect me. There's some of us that are protected by other things. Like our vows to the protection of the kingdom. The blood bindings are absolute." Genjo shuddered but nodded. "So some day I'll be the new castle ghost." He shrugged, staring at him. "It's in the grenade safe," he said quietly.
"I can get it if I need to."
"It would taint you horribly, Genjo, and you are a priest. Your special scroll would disavow you." He got up to get a book off his desk, handing it over. "That's on the blade."
He glanced through it, grimacing. "It won't protect you, Xander. It can taint those vows."
"And the ones that happened when I was born?"
Genjo stared at him. "Fuck, I forgot about those."
Xander nodded. "Yup. At least I bypassed the ability to taint another generation because she wasn't born anywhere near here or vowed to anyone at birth." He sat down again, staring at his spouse. "You go have fun in your afterlife and I'll be watching over you when you come back around."
"You're not dying first, Xander. Stop it."
Xander smiled. "I know. I got that vision too. Can you maybe not take on the seven armed demon by yourself this time? I really hate that vision."
"Definitely not something I intend to do anyway."
"Yeah but you did. It nearly killed Goku so you stomped in to take it out. Goku broke his special limiter and all hell broke loose out by those old temples some year in a few from now."
Genjo swallowed but nodded. "Do you have that written down?"
"I gave it to Hakkai. He looked upset and nodded he'd put it up for you."
"Thanks for the warning," he said dryly.
"Warning you beforehand means that they can change things drastically, dear." He stared at him. "Which means they could move it up or back or change which one they send for defeating them."
Genjo Sanzo stared at his mate. "Everyone thinks you're a warrior, not a scholar."
Xander smiled. "I am. Warriors have to know as much as we can about certain subjects." He shrugged. "The visions are a value added bit of hell."
"I..." He cleared his throat. "Can it be defeated?"
"If I blood bind us to the protections, yup. It'd hold us steady enough for a few hours."
"All right," he decided. "I need to look into that."
"If you do that, you're going to be joining me in ghost duty, Genjo. Not going to that nice place where you rest before your recycle."
"That sounds boring anyway," he noted.
"It'd also mean yearly screwing on the wards here."
Genjo winced. "That could be bad."
"For all that're linked in."
"That would be really bad," he decided. "I'll look into that. If you see that demon, let us know first?"
"Thank you." He reached over to pat him on the head. "No more secrets like that, Xander."
"Go ask Hakkai, I give all those to him."
"I'm going to do that now." He took the book with him and went to wake Hakkai up by stomping into his room and slamming his room door. "You're hiding things from me."
"Yes I am," he agreed, staring at him. "Because it could get them killed if I don't."
"I don't care. If we know we can find a way around it beforehand."
"Fine." He got up and led him to their library, pulling down two books that looked normal but both had hidden areas. He pulled out three scrolls. "Two visions and one with how the blood binding would affect things since he knew you'd think about it." He handed them over.
"No other visions?"
"Two, both about Goku."
"Now." He held out a hand and got handed them. "Any others?"
"Thank you." He went to his room to read those over. It was painful, and it hurt his chest, but he had to handle that. They were his friends. He saved the blood binding one for last. He knew it'd be smutty at least in part. The Merciful Goddess would hate that knowledge getting out probably but if it saved his friends he may do just that when it was necessary.
Buffy and a few others walked into the kingdom up north's palace, nodding at the guards. It had been a long few weeks of figuring out who was going and how. "I'm Queen Buffy, this is Prince Don and Princess Samuel. We're in on a diplomatic visit." The guards went to tell someone. They had sent the traditional warning ahead of them but it had probably only gotten there last night. The others of their party stomped in, getting the snow off their boots. "General Stark," she said with a nod. He hadn't traveled with their party but Knight Thor was with him and so was General Rogers. They had agreed that this had to be stopped. Knight Widow was watching her people for her, at her command for her palace to behave. That way they could see what female knights were like.
A courtier walked out. "Queen Buffy?"
She smiled and held out a hand. "Yes. I am." He shook her hand properly. "We thought it was time to come introduce the Joined Kingdoms below you and to see if there were any treaties we wanted to form. This is Generals Stark and Rogers, plus Knight Thor from their people a bit south of us but we've been working with them a lot recently and they're good diplomats for the most part. Knight Thor is also a Prince."
"That's charming of you. We got your notice last night, ma'am. Our kings are avoiding doing heavy things right now if you'd like to introduce yourselves."
"Please." She followed him and the others followed her. She smiled at the very pretty boy on the throne, nodding at his queen. "I'm Queen Buffy. Greetings from the Joined Kingdoms."
The king sat up. "We've heard of you."
"We've seen more than a few of your people down there pretending to be bards so we came up to introduce ourselves. That way you knew more than bardic rumors."
He snorted. "We are Gods, Queen Buffy."
"I'm the Slayer Protector of the Kingdom of Sunnydale," she said with a small shrug. "This is Prince Thor and Princess Samuel. Prince Don and Knight Generals Rogers and Stark." She pointed at them. "We've been working with the knights on a few various treaties recently and they're very nice people so I thought I should introduce them at the same time before more rumors came up."
The king/God stared at her. "You are most odd."
She smiled. "It comes from being me and learning how to hunt demons."
"Demons aren't real," he told her.
She laughed but shook her head. "I'd have brought some to prove it but it's considered rude to have your new friend's people invaded by evil things."
Sam nodded. "My kingdom deals with many of them yearly, as do a few others."
Buffy nodded. "Unfortunately true."
The king/God stared at her. "So you came to introduce your little group?"
She smiled and nodded. "And see if there's anything we'd like to propose treaties for on either side. Sam's one of our group's main diplomats. Don's one of the senior princes."
"Interesting. We don't need much."
She smiled. "Including fruit?"
"We do grow some in greenhouses, young lady."
"We have contacts with some of the tropical islands," Steve Rogers said. "They're very nice people."
The god/king blinked but nodded. "That is interesting and we were wondering about your peoples." He looked at the knight general who was looking around. "It is a wondrous sight, yes."
Stark smirked at him, not mentioning the clearly newly applied gold leaf to nearly every single surface. "I was wondering if you beveled your mirrors to bring in the extra sunlight or if it was just positioning. We have one for that but ours are specially bevel cut instead of just plain mirrors."
The king/god blinked at him. "I haven't paid any attention to it. I'd have to ask."
General Stark smiled. "That'd be nice. It's always good to meet other engineers and creators."
"Interesting. We didn't know many down there did that."
"We have a whole school that's slowly updating us all," Buffy quipped. "Don's brother is one of them."
"Well. Very interesting." He looked at his queen, who nodded. He looked at them again. "Yes, we can probably talk about trade treaties later, over dinner?"
"Of course," Buffy said with a smile. "If that's how your people do it, we're not against that at all. Formal dinner or just eating?"
"Formal for now," he said.
She smiled. "Good thing I packed extra then." She smiled at Don, who smirked back. She smiled at him. "We're at an inn in the town. Let us know when you want us back up here." She curtseyed and they left together.
The king leaned back, considering things. "They are quite odd. Yet strong willed. We did not know that they had recaptured science."
His queen patted him on the wrist. "We will handle it, Amun."
"Yes, we shall." He went to look up what they knew about those sort.
Outside, General Rogers smiled at the groom holding his horse's nose. "Thank you, Soldier."
The guy looked at him. "General Rogers, will you be riding back singly later?"
"Probably," Buffy said. "We have a carriage but it's too big." She winked at him but rode off. "Let me go get official looking."
General Rogers looked at him. "Our people have some strange rumors about yours. I'd like to sit down and talk to people about some of the myths we've heard. Are there story tellers or bards in the local village?"
"Two or three," he said with a smile. "Things are a bit tense since we're in deep winter."
"A bit of a story eases those nerves," Steve agreed, patting him on the shoulder. Right over his rank insignia. He stared at him for a second then rode off.
Stark shook his head. "That man has got to get out more," he muttered as he rode off.
Prince Thor smiled and nodded at the guard. "I'm Prince Thor, Knight to General Rogers."
"Well met, Prince Thor. Are your people from the lands of Asgard?"
"I am." He smirked slightly. "It is quite the beautiful kingdom."
"I've heard of that. Perhaps our people can share stories with you as well?"
"I would adore that," he agreed. "Stories are a good way to get to know people." He rode off with Don and Sam. Don had clearly fostered under King Mac's people with the way he handled things. Princess Samuel was not only sneaky enough to get into a palace but tough enough to raid it with some help. It was an interesting mix in one person but he didn't need a male wife. His Jane would be his only wife.
The guard went to tell his commander. They were both hidden rebellion members and it was interesting who showed up there.
The note waiting on their team when they got back was worrying but they could handle it.
Stella woke up, looking around the room she was in. It wasn't her room. It wasn't a room in any palace she knew about, or any noble house, and she knew most of them in the nearby kingdoms. She looked at herself then sighed. She was redressed in flimsy, gauzy, annoying clothes. She looked at her breasts, no support. "Yeah, that's not going to work," she decided. She stood up, looking around her room. At least she found her bra and put it on, feeling more comfortable. Her neck quit hurting at least. Then guards came in. "What the hell do you think you're doing kidnaping me?" she demanded.
"You're wanted by the King."
"I don't give a damn!" she said. "I have a king in my life. Thanks anyway. Now, let me go!"
"No," the guard said, grabbing her by the arm. Thankfully Mac had taught her some skills. He wouldn't let his wife be vulnerable. She kicked them both around. Another guard came rushing in and she grabbed one's knife to stab that new one.
"No thank you," she sneered. "I already have a king and he's damn good at it." She looked around. The window led to somewhere very far down. The hallway had other guards. Then she heard a whistle and spotted Sam, who pointed at a nearby window. Underneath her window didn't have a place to land so she'd have to move rooms. She nodded and waved, sneaking out of the room and over to that one. It had a woman who was knocked out. She was pretty but young. She heard the grappling hook hit and made sure it caught.
"Sam," she hissed and pointed. He nodded and waved. She shook her head, making sleeping hand motions with her hands under her head. He nodded again and waved then looked around. Stella looked at the young woman, then tore the sheets to bind her to Stella's back. She was climbing down when guards found her. They tried to cut the rope but Sam shot them and they fell out the window. One knocked into Stella but she held on and slid down a tiny bit. Sam helped her when she was near enough, handing the woman off to the waiting helper. "She's knocked out heavily."
"We can make sure she's not infested," the guy said. "Take her with you, Princess Sam."
"I can do that." He helped her onto the back of his horse and rode them off, going to the local village. If the local king threw up a fit they had protection.
Buffy handed Stella a dress she had brought, getting a sigh of relief. "Might not fit, sorry. I don't have the boobs you do."
"It happens and you don't have to worry about men staring at you." She slid behind a screen to put on the dress, coming out to toss out the fancy clothes. They went into the fireplace. She sighed as she sat down. "When did he take me?"
"Apparently when we were traveling," Buffy said. "We just heard he had you earlier from one of the guards." She looked her over. "Do you have anything on your stomach?"
Stella looked then shook her head. "Why would I?"
"That's where they insert the baby snakes," Buffy said. "The adult ones nestle in your brain but change your voice."
"I hope I don't have one of those," she said, patting her neck. Sam looked at the back of her neck and shook his head. "Thank you, Genjo's Merciful Goddess," she muttered. "Can I sneak home so they don't find out?"
"It might be really hard," Sam said. "Unless we send someone with you and it'll still look odd. So you can hide here for a few days." She nodded. "The others know we rescued you." She patted him on the arm. "Want some water?"
"Please. Can we have the demons eat them?"
Sam grinned. "Don't tempt me." She laughed but relaxed.
Buffy hugged her. "If they ask I'm going to say you're my lady in waiting because I'm horrible at girl things."
Stella nodded. "You certainly are with your hair, dear." Buffy grinned but swatted her on the arm and they relaxed, talking about what had happened. Mac was going to be so livid. Stella looked at Sam. "Is Xander on his way?"
"No. We're being subtle," Sam said dryly, smiling at her.
"That'll work. If they come, hand me a sword, Sam."
"Or a gun," he offered, handing her one. She smiled, checking it over before tucking it into her pocket. Yeah, they could handle this.
Buffy smiled at the meeting the next morning. "Good morning," she said as she walked in. "I'm so amazed by the snow here. We only have tiny bits of snow, nothing that deep. I've never seen snow that cushy." She sat down, smiling at the queen staring at her. "I dressed warmly, did I make a faux pas?"
"No," the queen said. "You're just more lively than we're used to."
Buffy smiled. "I get it from my mother. She was perky too." The king came in looking grumpy. "I was telling your wife I've never seen snow so deep and cushy. We only get a foot of snow at the most in my kingdom."
"It's a pain," he admitted. "But handy for some things, like footprints. Someone tried to break into the palace last night."
Buffy nodded. "I'm sorry to hear that but it wasn't me or my people. Why would knights and princes break into anywhere? We're not thieves. I have plenty of jewels and statues. Actually I have way too many. A lot of them don't look good on me and just sit in the vault."
The queen blinked. "You don't wear your jewels?"
"For special events. Not every day. We have a ball for our founding anniversary coming up and I'll wear an outrageously heavy amount then because it's expected for me to wear the founder's set and it's hugely heavy. It also doesn't look that good on me with my coloring but it's expected. Most days I'm in usual clothes and I take time to learn with the guard unit around me plus get into things around the palace that I need to. I'm learning how to garden too. My mother had a good hand with it and I'm letting our gardens go to hell because I can barely keep plants alive."
The queen shook her head. "I have servants for that."
"So do I but it's still my job to oversee the gardens and the heritage plants. My grandmother planted roses that I need to learn how to make sure they don't die. My great-grandmother planted some around a fountain we have to keep up. It's my job, my family planted them. I let the gardeners do the rest, including the bushes that are cut into cute shapes."
"Huh," the queen said. "Your mother gardened?"
"Yes, and decorated. She helped a lot of royal families decorate their new houses and helped people pick artwork. She was really great at that stuff. I'm so-so at it but I don't have the artistic eye my mother did. My sister doesn't either. She's just started her training. Hopefully she'll find someone she wants to marry and not have kids with. I don't need nieces and nephews and they'd creep me out."
The king shook his head. "Your sister didn't come with you?"
"No. She's seventeen and resting with Xander's people right now."
"I trust him not to hurt her and to make sure she learns how to get guys off her. She's young but cute."
The king nodded. "That's a good age to find what you want in life to tie yourself to." He smiled at her. "None of the others with you?"
"I believe the knights were going to practice with yours. Knight General Rogers is a huge tactician and he's sparred with most of the soldiers in all the other kingdoms so he knows what they do best if something huge happens like another demon war. That one was really nasty. I was still in training. Xander got out of a sick bed to come help with his people. Most of us joined in that battle to stop the demons."
"There was a true battle?"
"Thousands of demons, a few militaries helping, some of us who were there fighting with Consort Genjo and his friends. Shitload of demons. My first battle," she admitted. "Not my last unfortunately since we have way too many problems from them." General Rogers walked in and hissed in her ear. She looked up at him. "Why?"
"I don't know." He looked at the king and queen. "Would you have any idea why her sister is being escorted up here?"
"What about Xander's people?" she demanded.
"Xander's people are fighting a real problem," he admitted. "They called. This king had his people try to attack them." The king looked smug. "You've already lost six hundred people and Xander's already on his way up here after her." He looked at Buffy, who stood up and walked off with him. "We don't know what's going on," he said quietly.
"I do and we need to break the asshole problem," she decided. "Can he?"
"Yes. He can and has." He smirked a tiny bit. "Let me introduce you."
"Please." She paused to grab her weapons and followed him. She nodded at the leaders. "Hi, how can I help?"
"Who're you?" the head of the rebellion asked.
"Queen Buffy, Slayer Protector of the Kingdom of Sunnydale. Trained to hunt demons by King John." She smirked slightly. "Not quite the airhead everyone thinks I am." General Stark looked at her. "I'm nice, not stupid," she reminded him. "Even if you do like to think I'm just sweet. Now, why my sister?"
"They really want her." The general over the rebellion looked at her. "They think they can use her to take over the other ones."
"Xander's called in treaties to get help from other militaries," Sam said from his seat in the corner. "They're going to pause and gather more on the way. Dawn should be fine. That other matter will stop whatever thing that they try to implant." Buffy relaxed but nodded. "And hey, if we must, she'll summon the bitch, Buffy."
Buffy looked at him. "I'd hate for the nice people here to have to face that, Sam."
"Me too, but it'd help."
"Point." She sighed. "We need to handle this. Rogers?"
"How big is he coming with?"
"There's a huge amount that could come," Sam said with a smile. "Every single treaty has a mutual aid pact. Between Xander and us is Alan's kingdom, Dean's kingdom, that tiny kingdom, the mountain tribes...." He paused for thought. "He could probably summon Mac's to get Stella and they'd be not that far behind. Xander's military is about half the country really if he calls up the reserves. Plus the nearby nobles that would be horrified and would want to take over new areas so they're away from Xander having higher expectations than his stepfather had."
"We'd like not to be taken over," the other general noted.
"Xander's not like that," Buffy said with a smile. "His nobles...because they're mad that Xander has higher standards than the drunken warlord." She looked over. "How soon for each?"
"Dawn will be here tonight. They're in a single carriage with two guards. The military...."
"Two days," Rogers said. "Maybe."
"Xander's military can have advanced troops from his castle to ours in a day and a half," Stella said. "Usual riding in a carriage is just under four days with overnight stops. The old warlord mentality made sure they're stunning in their speed and reaction time. Including breeding special, faster horses for forward troops to use. Otherwise DeMal would've used them as hunting training."
Buffy nodded, looking at Rogers. "At that time table, they'll be here by dawn," he said. "Are we sure?"
"Yeah," Sam said with a smile, waving the parchment he had. "Xander's advance teams lit out after Dawn as soon as they rode off. He defended the castle with half the troops and they're coming with them. It took them an hour to defeat the six hundred member troop he sent and burn them." He let Rogers have the parchment.
"That's neat," the rebellion's general said. "How do you do that?"
"Magic," Sam said with a smile. "It's secure between the two parchments."
"Huh," he said as he nodded. "We thought magic was a myth."
"No, not likely," Buffy said dryly. "It annoys some of us greatly though." They settled in to make plans. With that army coming, they had a lot of backup. It might even be enough.
Dawn was hauled out of the carriage kicking and screaming. "Let me the fuck go!" she shouted and kicked one of the guys when the other one hauled her off her feet. She bit the other guy and made him scream then hit her. She hit him back. "I may be a prince but I'll be damned!" A few more guards came out to grab her. "No!" She fought them off, trying to get back into the carriage to lock herself in. One of them grabbed her by the hair, another by the ankle. She kicked that one and some of her hair ripped out. "Oh, shit," she muttered. "That's going to be nasty." She ran off for the town.
Glorificus appeared. "I felt my Key bleed," she sneered. "Where is it?" The guards attacked her and she threw them aside like they were bugs. "Puny mortals. I'm a goddess. Don't get in my way." The king came out and attacked her and died for it. She sneered. "You," she sneered, stomping on the snake. "You're not worthy either." She stomped off after her key.
Dawn ran into a temple. "Go! Now!" she shouted. "The Goddess is coming!" She grabbed a priest. "Go now!" She was starting to glow thanks to Glory being too near. "Go now!" They ran off, gathering a few precious things on the way. She ran down to their safe area and locked herself in, praying to Genjo's Goddess. She seemed nice enough and might answer if she could. The door was ripped off and Dawn suddenly disappeared, staring at the witch helping her. "Tara! Go! You have to go! She'll take you out too!"
She smiled, patting Dawn on the cheek. "You're not up there."
"She can get here!"
"I know. Go." She pointed. "A holy circle. It'll mute your magical signature." Dawn ran that way and Tara went to go hide. She knew she might die if that goddess got hold of her. Dawn was in more danger and the holy circle should protect her. Tara sent up prayers to her own goddess for help. This was so bad.
Xander's army stomped into the town and he wasn't that far behind them since he was riding singly. They had the town locked down when he rode in. "People, there's civilians, protect them. There's Joined Kingdom rulers up here so work with them when you find them. The idiots in charge have things in them that are taking them over. They're tiny snakes. Kill any you see. Don't let them infect you because we can't save you."
The generals nodded and attacked the palace. Their ahead team of Sam and Buffy showed up to help. Stella came out when Mac's people arrived, taking control of them. Buffy's military was with the rest of Xander's and Mac's so she went to work with them. They took out the palace and found the ring device. A few of them went over to blow it up, including Buffy and two of her generals. They could handle it.
General Stark looked. "If I break it for good, they can't get back," he called.
"We know how to fix it," the general in charge of the locals said.
Xander looked at Sam. "Glorificus," he called. "We have your key, they took her across the realms." The goddess heard and stomped back, shoving mortals out of her way. She had lost track of the key thanks to shielding magic. It had to be here. "Now," he called. They broke it and cut the entry.
The general in charge looked at Xander. "What's she going to do?"
"Destroy things," Xander said with a smirk. "She's really good at it too. Plus she's an actual hell goddess. She won't put up with the 'I'm a god' crap they give. Plus, hey, saving Dawn."
The generals shared a look and the local one ordered the portal device unbroken. They managed it and the army rushed over to help. The main problems were already in ruins.
Xander looked at his military leaders. "Go search the town for any hidden ones. Don't be mean, don't upset the townspeople, don't be assholes," he ordered loudly. "Stella, take yours with them." She nodded, going to do that. He looked at Rogers. He smirked at his dirty look his way. "My stepfather basically trained every single military in the Joined Kingdoms when he had them hostage." The other generals all nodded. "Mine still cross train with all theirs in case mine need it to help theirs. Yours are welcome to join in when you want."
"We can do that once we get home," Steve said.
Sam set up the portable fire calling station, calling Buffy's people first. "It's Princess Samuel," he said when they answered and the guy was sniffling. "Queen Buffy is not dead but she's leading her army against an enemy that thought they were gods." The minister nodded. "Dawn's being protected from a full hell goddess."
"Why didn't we know this before!" he demanded.
"Because some of you would've given Dawn to those crazy knights who're after her to kill her so the hell goddess can't get her blood," Xander said, leaning into view. "We have visions that were given over that Buffy would be gone, considered dead, for about six months. We're hoping that now that'll take less time and the hell goddess who's after Dawn is over there too." He smirked a tiny bit. "We told the ones who should know."
"Where is Princess Dawn?"
"Safe," Sam said. "With the covens we work with protecting her for now."
"The life candle went out."
"The ring device sends you to another realm," Xander said. "It's probably that. We'll know soon if she's still alive and we'll let you know but I'm pretty sure she is since the vision said she'd be coming back in six months."
The minister nodded. "I'll tell the others, King Xander. Bring back our queen when you can please."
"Of course." He let Sam hang up and sighed, looking at him. "They still treat her like an airhead."
"She likes some of that," Sam admitted. "It lets her have some free time you don't get to have."
"Point. Maybe I should be an airhead."
"We already know you're not," Rogers said with a smirk and a wave.
Xander nodded. "Could be but most people still don't see the warrior." He looked at the returning generals. "That all of them?"
"First batch, Sire." The local people took them to check and free if possible. "Are we leaving people here to guard them?"
"Until they're safe, yes. Check anyone coming in or out." They nodded and went to set up guards. He looked at Stella as she came back. "Mac's about a day behind us. Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I woke up and fought off the guards until Sam helped me get out with someone else." Xander held up a bag, making her smirk. "He sent me clothes?"
"No, I picked you up something when we heard you had been kidnaped. I know you're picky and the shirt might still be a bit skimpy for you." She nodded, taking it to change. She had been in the same dress for a day and a half. She came out in the ruffled, showy shirt that looked like a vest and riding pants plus her boots. She swatted him. He grinned. "I had Gloria, the head housekeeper, pick it out. But you look hot. I'd kidnap you for a concubine if you ever want to leave Mac."
She swatted him again but was smiling. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome, dear. Teach my daughter to be an ice princess please."
"I can." She let her generals see her and one swallowed hard. "I can stab you," she reminded him. "I'm not against that."
"Yes, Queen Stella. We're aware and have control," that general said. One of them gave over his spare cloak so she wouldn't get cold. "It's just that we don't see you being so girlish looking very often." She laughed but went to talk to the others. He looked at his fellow generals, one of whom patted him on the arm.
Xander pointed. "City patrol." They went to do that so they could quit staring at Stella.
General Stark looked. "The blonde bitch is coming back," he shouted.
"Shut the gate once she's in," the local geeks called back. "It'll atomize her." He waited and did that. When he reopened it she wasn't there any longer.
"Damn, we need to do that to certain demons," Xander quipped, looking at Sam.
Mac's team showed up sweaty, lathered, but madder than hell about their queen being taken. Xander pointed. "Stella, Mac's here," he yelled. She ran out to pounce him to calm him down. Their military guarded those two kissing. Xander smiled at a general. "She's okay. Buffy made sure."
"That's good," that general agreed. "We've spread people out on the roads to make sure they don't have people out there coming to avenge them."
"I layered ones around town," Xander told him. "So that'll work with ours."
"Good, King Xander. The rest?"
"Some are over there," Xander said with a point at the ring. "Some are here." He spotted something slithering. "Snake!" Sam found it and stomped on it until it squished.
Tara came out of the shadows with Dawn.
Sam stared at her. "That's not Tara," he noted.
"I noticed, she stinks," Dawn complained, getting free. "Thank you for the ride."
"If you touch one of those snakes, they'll mostly scream," she said. "I came in a non-threatening form so you wouldn't freak out."
"The crazy goddess got eaten by the ring," Sam said dryly. Dawn squealed and hugged him then found the prisoners. She touched one of the snakes that was being removed. It screamed, making her clap her hand over her ears. The others with them screamed and a few exploded. The few they hadn't caught yet were helped.
Dawn shrugged at one dirty look. "I was told it'd make them identify themselves, not that they'd explode. Sorry."
"It's okay," one of the soldiers agreed. "It happens. At least they're free."
Dawn went back to where Sam and Xander were. She looked at one of the soldiers. "Can one of you maybe hit on my sister? She really needs someone good and she likes them dangerous enough to spar with her. Anything's better than her last one but if you're nice and want to see her be pretty outside of sparring, *please* hit on my sister. And hey, we have less snow and warmer summers than you guys do up here."
"If we find one that likes her that way we'll gladly let them go with her," the general said.
"Thank you. Our people won't mind as long as they're not blood drinkers like the last one." Sam swatted her. "He was! And he was tough enough for her and all that but not good enough for the queen. If she was just a lady it probably would've been okay I guess."
"She's really a queen?" one of the soldiers asked.
Xander smirked and nodded. "She is. She's the queen of the Kingdom of Sunnydale."
"But she's cutesy."
"Yeah," Sam agreed with a smile. "It makes her happy."
"Wow. Ours are always grumpy."
"We try really hard not to be too grumpy," Xander quipped. "By the way I'm King Xander, this is Princess Samuel, that's Queen Stella and her husband King Mac. The generals can introduce themselves and work with your people to handle the safety of the people until you have it yourselves." He pointed. "That's Knight Generals Stark and Rogers with Knight Thor."
The local general stared at him. "We should be okay."
Xander smirked. "Feel lucky I'm not taking tribute and hostages thanks to them attacking my people. We were nice when we took them out and burned the remains so they weren't used by any demons. We kept any identifying marks on their armor and their armor to bring back. It'll be here tomorrow."
"Thank you," that general said. "How many?"
"Six hundred or so."
That local general winced, looking at his top people. They nodded back. The general looked at him. "They all fell?" Xander nodded once. "I understand."
"We treated them like the warriors they were," Xander said. "With honor and respect."
"Thank you." They shook hands. "You're not too bad for being so young."
"My stepfather was a warlord," he said dryly. "I do the things he wasn't so I'm better at it."
The general smiled a bit but nodded. "That makes sense." Dawn squealed and turned to slap someone then kicked him in the balls. "Don't touch the princess," he called.
"Prince," Sam said. "There's a naming curse on the Joined Kingdoms. Any first born princess will die."
"Ah! That explains that." Sam grinned but nodded. "So you're a princess."
"I am. My brother's the king now. His consort is nagging. Again."
"Cas likes to nag his Dean," Xander quipped, smirking at him. "We all enjoy watching that show."
Stella laughed as she nodded. "Yup, we do." Mac cuddled her. His horse was trying to move but Mac glared at it and it stopped. "Calm down, Mac. I'm okay. I was escaping when I saw Sam helping. I even burned the pretty, flimsy thing they put me into." He looked at her current outfit. "Xander's housekeeper picked me out something."
"That's sweet of her." He was trying not to stare at the very girlish shirt. She poked him but got hugged again so he calmed back down.
Xander grinned at Sam, who shrugged back. They could handle this. And Genjo would be a bitch when he got back.
Genjo walked into Buffy's kingdom a few days later, nodding at the staring nobles. "We have news. The generals up north sent back a preliminary report with a fast messenger. Your queen does live. She's still in that other realm fighting the things that tried to attack my palace." A few nodded. "She does live though." He handed over something. "That's one of those pictures that they took of a battle."
A few sighed. "So she is still fine and protecting us all." Genjo nodded. "That's good." The nobles council shared a look. Then looked at the life candle that wasn't lit. Dawn's was lit, the color of the wax was clear. Buffy's was cloudy wax and not lit. Genjo handed over a sketch. "What's this?"
"The thing that let her go to that realm with some of their people. You step through and you're there. Somehow they dial to another realm and go. They've been doing it for years but got overrun by the snake things possessing people." He felt the air changing and pulled something out of his bag, putting it down and taking off the lid. Willow's ghost screamed as it sucked her in. She fought but he just waved with an evil smirk. "You deserve a lot worse, Willow. You hurt way too many people this time." She was still fighting but it finished sucking her in. He put the lid on it and handed it to Hakkai, who sealed it as he walked off. "We know Queen Buffy liked to talk to her but hell no. She's dangerous. She was summoning demons to kill Prince Dawn."
"Speaking of, is she all right?" one of the nobles demanded. "We've only heard she was in hiding."
"She's with Lady Tara and the coven. They're sitting on a holy point to mask her presence until we can take out those knights," Goyjo said. "Even the highest of high demons can't get to her there, and a few came to tell us what was going on so we could help her. They didn't want that blonde bitch to get Dawn either."
"That's great news," one of the nobles agreed. "When will we be getting one of them back?"
Dawn walked in when Genjo pointed. "Me?" She looked at them. "We've arranged to have three new Sanzo guards in to help me and Goku's going to keep going over my training for a bit." They smiled and nodded. "I know my sister's fine. I saw over there. There's a whole bunch of military guys who have honor and she can flirt with. They were shocked she was actually a queen but a few are flirting back and their generals have agreed that if she finds one that's suitable to her life she can bring him back."
"After a few months with her, they might just send one anyway," Goku said with a grin for Dawn. "It'd make her less grumpy."
Dawn punched him on the arm with a grin. "Hopefully she won't try to bring one back for me."
"Some day you'll have to marry," one of the nobles told her.
"I'm kinda hoping I can flirt with and snare one of the knights from that one kingdom," she said with a smile. "Honorable, hot as hell, real men who can do smutty things, fun things, and help me if and when my sister dies for real."
Knight Widow came out of the throne room, nodding at her. "There's a few that are suitable but too old for you."
"Well, maybe if you find a suitable one, you can introduce us?" Dawn asked, smiling at her.
"If I find one suitable I'll definitely do that. The Joined Kingdoms need more warriors. That may also save your sister some work."
"Buffy knew you'd do good until I could come back," Dawn said. "Did you have many problems?" She looked from the knight to the nobles.
"Not many," Knight Widow admitted. "A few wondered why I was sitting in but it was explained why when Xander's kingdom was attacked."
Genjo grimaced. "I had to be protected but they were not happy with our military when they stomped them." Hakkai came back. "She gone?"
"Going to that one temple with the waiting priest," he agreed. "Even if she gets free she won't be going much of anywhere." The nobles sighed.
Genjo looked at them. "Buffy missed her friend to talk to."
"I think it was a disaster waiting to happen," Dawn said. "She kept summoning incubus to try to take me. That's not how I wanted to break myself in," she said sarcastically.
The nobles stared at her then nodded as a group. The lead one looked at the knight. "If you do find someone, please do introduce them. We know there's not many in the kingdoms that are worthy of Dawn. Or our queen."
"Buffy was at that marriage event but she was more taken up with the problems the convergence had to deal with," Genjo said. "First that warlord king, then the problems we had to deal with. Then the warlord king's daughter taking him out to take over because he was a jackass."
"I got to leave early to bring Dawn back to our castle," Goyjo said happily. "I was barely getting any play from anyone but a few maids, who thankfully weren't marriage minded."
"Buffy basically opened up a window and rested beside the breeze," Dawn agreed. "A few of the lower Sanzo courtiers brought people to talk to her."
"She was the goal of the event," Genjo agreed. "Her and Timothy. The rest were a nice thing for everyone."
"They're holding it again next year?" Dawn asked. Genjo nodded. "That's nice then. If Buffy can't hook a nice military guy maybe she'll meet someone next year. Especially since she's demanded I remain pure and without kids even if I do find someone to marry."
"Sucks to be you," Genjo said dryly, shooting her a look.
She smirked back. "I'm going to teach your stepdaughter to squeal and pounce you."
Genjo shuddered. "Don't remind me she's going to reach that age in a few years. Please don't."
"Thankfully, she likes to go to Abby and Stella to talk about bras and stuff." She grinned. "I can just imagine her asking you about bras."
"I've never worn one. She'd have to ask Goyjo since he's taken so many off," he shot back, giving her a dirty look. She just smiled. He groaned. "Now I remember why they told us to give up women. You're all slightly evil."
"Thanks. That's the sweetest thing anyone's said to me in weeks," Dawn quipped. "I'd hug but I don't want hit with the fan again." Goyjo turned around to cough so he didn't burst out laughing.
"Prince Dawn, please don't ruin our peace treaties," one of the nobles begged.
"He's not the pouty princess," Dawn said dryly, staring at him. "He can shoot back. He's a big boy. He can take some picking on from me. Really."
"It's fine," Genjo said dryly. "You can marry her off to one of my celibate cousins."
"I'd so pounce and make them give that shit up," Dawn said, staring at him. "Because I'll need the dick once I start getting it and since your people have viewed wedding nights I'd get some then."
"There's ways around that," he said smugly. "Plenty have used theatrics."
"Hello, virgin. It'd be noticeable."
"Oh." He grimaced. "Point."
"So yeah, starting that motor would mean *huge* amounts would be wanted as I figured that stuff out." She patted him on the arm. "It's okay. Some of your uptight cousins are pretty but not worthy of a real woman. Personally, some of them seem to only worship the holy dildo they had to give up. It's sitting on their altars staring at them, daring them to break and take it back."
Genjo burst out laughing and nodding. "That one traditional statue does look like a dildo, yes. I wouldn't doubt some had tried that. Or the ritual candles."
"Eww, wax residue," she said.
"True," he agreed. "Or so I've heard." He stared at her. She smiled back. "Fine. You should ask Stella about how to be a strong queen for when your sister dies from dating."
"Did you get to see the nice outfit Xander picked up for Stella to change into?" she asked. "It's pretty girlish. Ruffles, nice neckline. Made Mac jealous as hell so he was hoarding her." Genjo shivered. "Xander quipped it was his anniversary present to them since they've been together for nearly thirty years. Even the generals were staring at Stella in awe of being girlish."
Genjo shook his head with a sigh. "Now I see her in Abby's favorite dress." He rubbed his forehead. "You give bad mental images, Dawn."
"You're welcome." She smiled at him. "Xander bribed me with a new tiara if I made you blushy." He was definitely blushing.
Goyjo nodded. "You got him good," he agreed. "Nice job, Dawn." She hugged him and went to talk to the knight so she learned how to be a stronger queen when it was her turn. Because her sister was probably going to die from dating sometime soon.
Genjo looked at his helper. "Don't help her."
He grinned. "She's cute and mouthy. She's like a kid between me and Hakkai."
Genjo sighed and walked off. "I'm going back to the inn to get drunk," he noted as he walked off shaking his head. "Don't get us up too early in the morning."
"Of course not," one of the nobles said, giving Goyjo an odd look. "How did you do that?"
"I've known him for years," he said dryly. "He needed time to break the control again." He strolled off. "We'll be here for another day."
"That's fine. I'll send for you if Prince Dawn needs you."
Goku smirked and waved. "No, I'm staying with her guards. She needs the self defense work. I'll be working with her guards and her."
"That's fine," one of the guards in the room said. "Once they're headed home we can move you up here."
"Thanks," Goku said happily. "It'll be nice to not have to smell Goyjo farting all night. That guy really needs gut help." He walked off. "Let me go taunt Genjo. It'll help Xander when he gets home and is stressed from the battles."
The guard shared a look with the knight in residence. She was smiling. "He's young and perky like the prince," Knight Widow said dryly. Dawn giggled but nodded.
The nobles went to figure out how to deal with this. It was very odd and Dawn was considered too perky to stand most of the time already. They thought everyone in the Sanzo kingdom was uptight and straightlaced. Those guards and the consort proved that stereotype very wrong.
Xander sighed as he dismounted finally, stretching his back before removing his saddle to hand off. "He deserves some treatment. He's been a good boy this trip."
"Yes, Sire," the stable master said, leading his horse off. "The others are inside waiting."
"Thanks." He went into Jethro's castle, nodding at the courtiers staring at him. "Yeah, we're on our way back," he noted, heading for the meeting room. He leaned in. "Want me before my bath or after?" he asked dryly.
"Before," Alan ordered. Xander came in and sat down, leaving the door open. One of the pages closed it. Alan opened a window because Xander was a sweaty, dusty mess. "You injured, Xander?"
"No. I'm good. The minor one from the assault at the castle has already healed." He shifted to cross his feet, accepting a hug from Abby. "I gave Stella that outfit you helped me pick out for their anniversary," he said with a smile for her. "Mac really enjoyed it and her generals stared so hard at her for looking girlish again." She giggled. He looked at Alan again. "We're all on our way back. Their rightful ruling council is back in charge, and it's much like that one kingdom's," he said with a nod for Knight Widow since she was there. "Your prince and generals are heading home via Mac's kingdom. They're traveling with them." He looked at Alan again, tossing down a thick bunch of scrolls. "From Sam."
Alan took it to look over. "This is interesting." He looked up. "That problem they had?"
"We managed to use the hell goddess after Prince Dawn to help their military take down their enemies with the snakes in them. She thought they were worthless posers basically and destroyed a lot of them. Queen Buffy and the military people she went with did the rest and she came back already." Alan nodded, looking happier. "We had six injures and one death. They had infected a guard without anyone realizing. Probably when Sam was off helping rescue Stella. When the snake things died, he went with his but we didn't know he was infected so we didn't know to treat him until he suddenly keeled over with a scream."
"Why did it scream?" Jethro asked.
"Something about the reason the hellgoddess wanted Dawnie made all the snakes scream and die after she touched one at the suggestion of the demon that got her back up to us from her hiding spot. All she has to worry about now is those knights."
"Is Buffy well?" King Alan asked.
"Yes. She's limping a bit but is complaining about the knots in her hair again." Alan smothered a smile, nodding once. "King Mac's troops are already on their way home with their rulers. Your's is probably nearly home by now. I rode this way alone but mine is on the way home. We paused on the way out to talk to those mountain tribes about what had happened and they know to come to us if they hear of another takeover attempt up there. Their lead general, O'Neill, said that they have three other enemies they're working on.
"Two through that ring thing to other realms that they were learning from and trading with. Apparently one's a religious sect that's trying to make everyone convert to survive them visiting and the other's a slightly demonic or something species that eats people." Alan grimaced, huffing a tiny little sound. "So they've been fighting them and they told us how to figure out if we have one of them here. Last page of the notes. O'Neill told all the generals at once so it's well spread and we all took notes."
"Good," Jethro agreed, taking that to look over. His military was second to Xander's in strength and size. "That's gross."
"Yeah, it is," Xander agreed. "They nearly let General Stark stay up there for a bit since he's machine happy in the same way my daughter's horse happy. He and their geeks were all babbling happily about all sorts of things that even Charlie wouldn't understand. Two of the engineers with my people right now traveled with us just in case they had done something to General Stark. They said they had no idea what they were talking about." He grinned. "They're applying to go study up there."
"That might be nice," Alan decided. "Anything good come of it?"
"Buffy looted a pretty necklace. There's over two hundred military guys up there she's flirting with, and they're all *decent* ones for the most part." He smiled. "And she thinks she really likes one or two of them to possibly bring home as their ambassador until she can knock them into bed. Though she probably won't get the second-in-command guy she was crushing hard on."
Alan stared at him. "She's seriously picking up a war-bride husband?" he asked dryly.
"Quite likely she's just picking up a war-bride bed warmer to give her heirs. I'm not sure though. She might be able to be trapped into marriage. She really *adored* their general. He's about Jethro's age, not as growly, cracks bad jokes, and is like what I'd be at eighty without Genjo."
Alan smiled. "Is he single?"
"Huh. Well, if she manages it...."
"She was talking up our lack of snow. They have compacted snow so deep they can use it to forge roads. They built on top of the packed snow layers in their capitol city like we do the rock layer beneath the dirt." Alan smiled but nodded. "Buffy and a few of the junior officers were out throwing snowballs for target practice and to relieve stress."
"Wow," Jethro said dryly. "So she may have found a source of men she could actually stand? That we'd all stand?"
"Yes," Xander said with a smile. "I can even stand them and they listen when you talk about stuff you know. We debated, politely even, about a possible method of protecting the new palace when they get it built. I had some ideas about entryways and they had others but agreed some of mine were pretty darn good, especially during the rebuilding."
"We destroyed their palace?" Alan asked.
"Their ring was in the basement part."
"My team got there first and raided it for anything special then they tore it down when I and the rest got there with the other militaries. Then Mac got there about six hours after me."
Alan nodded once. "Were you mean?"
"No, and they agreed I had no choice but to not take prisoners when they attacked my castle, and that it was nice I saved anything identifying so they could make notes to their families."
Alan nodded. "They attacked your palace?"
"To get Dawn." He smiled at Abby. "She managed to get herself free of the idiots pulling her from the carriage but one pulled some hair out and that's when that hell goddess got up there to hunt for her. Then the coven had her moved specially onto a holy spot that would hide her from the idiot hell goddess. She showed back up later with one of those higher level demons who told her she could destroy those snake things."
"That's good," Abby agreed. "Did they redress her? Stella fire called that first night and complained about them redressing her."
"Yeah, their queen wore flimsy, pretty things and a lot of makeup and jewelry," he said dryly. "Stella complained that they had redressed her at all and had removed her bra so she woke up with a backache." Abby giggled. "Seriously, really flimsy, almost see-through stuff and sandals. Their home realm is like a jungle."
She shook her head. "Poor Stella."
"Yup. Thankfully Sam helped her get out before they could infect her. She burned the flimsy clothes before even Mac could see them."
"I'm sure he's got something like that for her at home," Abby said, patting his hand. "I'd hug you again but you're nasty."
"I rode most of the night since I was up anyway," he said dryly. "Alan told me to do this before bathing. I'm going to go dirty up one of the bathrooms before I go home."
"Good. The housekeeper has been complaining she doesn't have anything to do with Timmy down south and Tony in Alan's kingdom with Don." She looked at Alan. "So can we agree to make a treaty with these new ones?"
"Already handled," Alan said, handing it to her. "They apparently did it since Sam and everyone was up there."
Xander nodded with a grin. "Sam suggested that so he didn't have to find that heavy of a cloak again for a while. The general laughed and said it was easier down south on his knees too. He's an old warrior general."
"Huh," Jethro said with a nod, taking the treaty to look over. "They don't want you to come help them again?"
"My boys were being bad so I made them strip in the middle of the town and run six laps around the city square for being drunkenly stupid while on duty. The general was *amused* but not happy. He told me that was mean with how much snow and ice they had."
Jethro shook his head but he was smiling. "I'd have done that and then told Buffy to spank 'em." He handed the treaty to Horatio, who was standing in for Mac. "We can work out who'd go up to help if they wanted it."
Horatio nodded. "Mac's people might be ideal with Dean and Alan's," he agreed. "They're all used to colder climates." He read it over, nodding at the points. "That's very nice. Did they contract with the knights?" he asked, handing it to their knight in residence.
"They did. They took home one for fruit and trading geeks," Xander said with a nod for Knight Widow.
"Stark would like that," she agreed blandly, reading it over. "Hmm. Nice terms, nothing drastic, just a 'we'll come if you need us to' and a clause saying they don't have to send pretend bards anymore."
"We had a few of those," Horatio told her. "They'd show up with stories of noble warriors with some ice dragons."
"Saw three," Xander said. "They are bulletproof by the way." He smiled at Horatio and the knight, who moaned. "One tried to nest in the remains of the palace. The other two were smaller and coming to see what was going on. One tried to pick up Buffy but she slugged it on the nose and Mac got her free with a few of those military guys. Stella tried to shoot it, which woke me up, and it bounced. Sam called up a bit of fire and they sent a ball of flaming pitch at it so it fled."
Alan stared at him. "You were asleep?"
"I had been up for three days, Alan. Even I need a rest sometimes."
"Point. Are you all right? You look pale under the road dirt."
"No, it's been almost a week since I had any *fun*." He stared at him. "I'm going to do that once I get home."
"Genjo's in Buffy's kingdom," Knight Widow noted.
"Thank you. I'll meet him on the road. He's like most Sanzo priests, celibate, so he'll complain about someone's noise."
She shook her head. "Then why did you marry him?"
"It was proposed after my coronation. It was really him or John offered me Sam. I knew I'd end up in a political one and we could stand each other. Sometimes political marriages are more fun. Mac and Stella's is. Steve and Danny's is. Mine's...he's a bit uptight but we get along well and we understand each other. We can work together. He's nice enough when he's not got the fan out. I wouldn't mind if he pounced me now and then but I'm realistic about most things. Otherwise I'd be blowing through concubines while being at the same 'please marry them' events Timmy and Buffy have to go to."
She shook her head. "That's a sad fate."
"Nah, it's like we're friends instead of married. Even if we were married in the passionate sense I'd still have to have concubines thanks to those poisonings. It's great he doesn't mind that."
"He just picks on how loud they get," Abby agreed happily. "So do we when we hear it."
"It's them or an incubus again," Xander said dryly, staring at her. "Because they can suck some of the poison's remains out."
"That's bad though," she said.
"And kinda kinky," she added.
He grinned. "Yes it can be if they do more than touch your hand." She swatted him on the hand again but was smiling. He grinned at the knight. "It works for us."
"It clearly does." She looked at the treaty, handing it on to the others. "Now what?"
"Now we go home, we clean up, we make sure no one ruined the castle on us," Xander said. "Because some of my nobles might've tried to. Or tried to get the crown jewels I've hidden in a crypt." Abby laughed. "They don't want to dig someone up to get them either." He looked at her, smiling some. "Did you enjoy that trip?"
"No," she admitted. "I did not. Though your woods with the beasts was very odd."
"Yeah but that's a good thing. It keeps down some other problems."
"Hopefully." She frowned. "Have you made peace with the centaurs?"
"They don't bother us a lot. If there's a huge problem they send a messenger, usually one of the maidens they have with them to help them with things they can't do with their hooves. I gave them the reason they were mad at the kingdom and they enjoyed him for a few years to get back for all the bad things he did to them. I'm hoping we're at a neutral truce state."
"That's nice of you," she agreed. "They have maidens?"
"Can't push a plow and plant seedlings with hooves," Abby said with a smile. "They're nice to them."
"That's nice. Do they...." Knight Widow waved a hand.
Xander shrugged. "Never asked. If so that's their business until something happens. I've only had to go rescue one princess from them," he said, looking down the table at Pelgar's seat then at her again. "And she went back to them of her own free will because they were nice, gentle souls who appreciated her more than her father and wouldn't try to marry her off." Alan moaned, rubbing his head. "Her choice and I made her fire call her people before she went back there. 'Cause I wasn't dealing with that. I've only seen her once and she was pregnant but I didn't ask by who."
Horatio shook his head. "Please keep those things in your kingdom, Xander."
"Mine and Buffy's. She's got a herd down there by the former Rosenburg border."
"I heard about them," Knight Widow asked. "And dragons."
"A few," Xander said. "Mostly they're going to be nesting and stuff. They're almost extinct." He shrugged a bit. "Most of us only shoo them off unless they're attacking things. My kingdom has a form to fill out for reimbursement if a dragon or a troll steals a farm animal."
She squeezed her eyes shut then sighed but nodded and reopened them to look at him. "Your kingdom is very weird."
"You're more than welcome to come to our palace for a long visit to see how we handle things," he said with a smile. "It'd give me someone new to talk to since Tony moved up to Alan's kingdom. We have a nice group of princesses that sought sanctuary there. Including Healer Gregory."
She smiled. "I find him fascinating but childish at times."
"He does that so no one gets close to him," Abby said. "He was hurt before. That's why he no longer dates, he just hires an inn girl every now and then."
Knight Widow nodded. "I can see how useful that was in keeping him single." She looked at the door then at them. "Who's out there?"
Xander sniffed. "I smell incense so probably Genjo. Dear, you can join us. We're down to the chatty part of the talk," he called.
Goyjo leaned in. "He'll be right back. We're keeping him from the maid that threw coffee at him on purpose and stomped off screaming about his nastiness."
"I'm the one that needs the bath," Xander complained. "Was she all right?"
"I'm not so sure she's not demon born," Goyjo admitted. "She's got the draw of a succuba but she's not setting off anyone's senses."
"Well, an incubus can knock up a human woman," Xander said. Goyjo nodded once and closed the door. "Let me go check on my cranky princess. Need me for more?" They all shook their heads. "Then I'll see you later." He got up and went up to the room the housekeeper had for him and his spouse, going to the bathroom. "I need it more so you're sharing," he said, stripping off his shirt.
"You are filthy," Genjo said, getting out of his way. Xander climbed in once he was naked, moaning in pleasure. "Thank you for that noise."
"Warm, soft things." He smiled. "How was your trip?"
"I captured the ghost."
"Just back by less than an hour. I rode all night."
"Ah." He handed over the sponge, letting Xander clean off all the dirt. "We should talk about those wards."
"The only way it can be changed is if someone of the blood takes over."
"What happens if they die out?"
"I'll still be floating around there," Xander said dryly. "Or they will when they take the vows. That's one problem that I foresaw so I came up with the idea to link me in."
"Ah." He stared at him. "That was brave yet stupid and I would've liked to have known that before, Xander," he said quietly.
"It was necessary."
"If Elizabeth was still here, is she one that would've had to rejoin you each year?"
"No. She was the power that cast that spell."
"That's fine. I'd worry about her sanity if she was." Xander splashed him and went back to his bathing. "Here, let me," he said, shifting to get Xander's back for him. "How long since you've had a bath?"
"Probably four days."
"Hmm." He scrubbed harder. "I saw your mount when we got in. He was getting the same bathing."
"He could probably use it. He probably sweated under his wraps for warmth and to protect him from the snow and ice."
"Probably," Genjo agreed, finishing up. "I'm not doing your ass."
Xander grinned. "That's fine. I can do that when you go to get clean water."
Genjo reached around Xander to let the water out and turned on the overhead faucet, letting it drench them to rinse them off and rinse the dirt out of the tub. "You have fun with that." He got out to dry off and put on clean clothes. Thankfully Hakkai had thought to bring Xander a change of clothes with them. Xander came out much cleaner and dripping so he handed over the towel. Xander dried himself off then pinned his mate against the bedpost. "What are you doing?" he asked quietly.
He kissed him. "The yearly kiss." He smirked a tiny bit. "You looked upset." He went back to getting redressed.
Someone knocked and a maid came in. "The meeting adjourned, King Xander and Consort Genjo. Are you staying tonight?"
"We should get home," Xander admitted. "If we leave soon we can reach that nice inn that does that roast lamb dish." He looked at his mate.
Who stared at him. "It might be a good idea," he agreed quietly, knowing why his mate was suggesting it. He needed some rutting badly.
The maid touched Xander's arm, sucking some of it from him. She smiled. "Queen Abby said you have to appear at dinner since you're clean, King Xander." She strolled off.
"I like that Abby used to be from Dean's kingdom so she knows about demons," he said dryly. Genjo swatted him but looked amused. "It helped. It's been a week."
Genjo looked at him, shivering some. "You need to release that before someone dies in your bed."
"I will later. So staying?"
"I wouldn't upset Abby, she'll try to kick my ass," Genjo said. The maid came back with tea for him, coffee for Xander, and a note from Jethro. "We rinsed out the tub."
She went to look then smiled at them. "The housekeeper will be pleased to actually clean something dirty instead of things she's cleaned every day for no reason." She skipped off to tell her. The housekeeper complained but was happier.
Xander read the letter, smiling at the note from Jethro about working on a military trade agreement. "We can stay." He let Genjo read it.
"That's fine." They walked out with their drinks, going back downstairs to talk to the others who were staying. Which was nearly everyone. Genjo smiled at Abby. "Thank you for sending those special ones at him," he said quietly. "It did help."
"I figured it would." She bounced off to check on dinner's preparations.
Xander grinned at him then at Horatio, settling in to tease him about becoming a father at his age. Horatio picked back about them needing a few more kids. It was a good meeting and dinner.
Princesses of War and Pieces.