Title: Tales of the First - the City
Characters: The First Slayer
Warnings: Violence, mild.
Disclaimer: Based on the characters and world created by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No violation of copyright intended, and no profit made.
Notes: This fic is one of a series of connected stories under the heading Tales of the First. They are to a large extent stand alone stories and will not all need to be read in order, although the first should probably be read first. The series begins with Tales of the First - the Calling.
This fic follows after Tales of the First - the Desert.
Many thanks to whiskyinmind for the beta.
About a year after the Slayer was called Lesopho came to her at an oasis in the desert.
“You have fulfilled your duties well,” he said. “Tales of your deeds have travelled far and wide. The creatures of darkness fear you, and speak of you in hushed tones. As they are the nightmare that plagues the sleep of children, so are you theirs. Their numbers are kept in check, so also the spread of their evil.”
To this, the Slayer made no reply, rather stood mute in front of him, a slight snarl crossing her features.
“But now there are new battles that await you, new pastures to which your calling summons you. Evil is yet strong, and humanity’s need is great.”
Still she said nothing.
“You are to go far to the north, along the River, much further than you have gone before. You will pass the joining of two mighty rivers. After this, you will pass five great cataracts. Your destination lies beyond the fifth. It is a place called Uratu. You will go to the Chief of this place, the King, who has built it to be bigger than any other dwelling of mankind, who has gathered together many thousands of souls to live in this one place, each working together for the good of all. Uratu has need of you, for many vampires lurk within its walls.”
The Slayer listened intently, taking all this in. Finally, she rasped:
“Yes, more than you have seen, more than you can imagine,” replied Lesopho. “It is truly a wondrous place.”
She became anxious, hissing sharply and shielding her face with her arm.
Lesopho laughed. “Strange girl! You fear the people more than the vampires? Do not trouble yourself. It will be unfamiliar to you, but the King will provide for your every need.”
She nodded, uncertainly. Then she straightened and looked Lesopho firmly in the eye, then abruptly turned around, grabbed her small pack from by the tree, and ran off towards the north.
Her journey alongside the Great River took many weeks. She was amazed as it grew wider and wider, and at the creatures she saw in its streams and by its banks. To test herself, she fought with one of the fearsome scaled lizards with mouths full of sharp, ravening teeth and killed it, snapping its jaws. That night she built herself a fire and cooked and ate of its flesh.
She also fought many battles with vampires along the way, for the lands were well-peopled, and so the tales of her deeds spread.
At last, she drew near to her destination: for the habitations grew denser, and ever more fields were planted with crops or grazed by flocks. Then one night, she perceived in the distance the smoke of many thousands of hearths rising into the night air. She gasped: truly, Uratu was greater than she could possibly have imagined. Her wonder grew the following day as she came in sight of its walls, and saw some of the buildings within them, buildings of stone rising as tall as small hills, pointing up towards the heavens!
As she approached, through fields full of people at work, who turned to stare at her in wonder and fear, a group of seven men came towards her. Six were armed with spears, wearing garments of thick cow hide, boiled and hardened. In the middle was a tall man in fine red and green robes and a majestic purple hat, bedecked all over with gold and jewels. The Slayer stopped and stood firm, looking towards them.
“Greetings, Slayer!” said the tall man.
She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came, just a low growl.
“I am Uru, King of Uratu. I welcome you to my city. Your presence is a great gift from the gods! Come! We shall escort you into the city, and you shall behold its wonder and its majesty!”
He turned, beckoning for her to follow, and his men formed a pair of lines around the two of them, indicating for her to walk with them.
“I…..in?” rasped the Slayer. She was perplexed to be surrounded by so many people, and even more so to be invited into their village.
“Of course!” spoke Uru. “I shall take you to my Royal Palace. The whole of Uratu eagerly awaits your coming! For your unearthly power is sorely needed to destroy the forces of darkness that lurk my city’s streets!”
She nodded, and walked with the King and his men, gazing at everything around her. The people in turn stopped their work as they passed, and fell forward on their faces before their King – but many also stared and pointed at her, and she was greatly unsettled.
They came to the walls, great walls of stone twice the height of a man, and in the middle a wooden gate, guarded by four armed men. On either side of the gate was a lion’s head carved in stone. Many people passed through the gate, some on foot, some on camels, some in carts drawn by oxen. They carried all type of foods, pottery, hides, spices, dyes, finely-woven cloth the like of which the Slayer had never before seen, weapons, and much else besides. The Slayer stood agape as they passed through the throng, who parted to let them through, those on foot falling on their faces in reverence.
King Uru laughed. “It is a wonder, is it not? Indeed, it is the wonder and envy of the world! From the ends of the earth people come to see the prodigy I have built, and to exchange their goods and their crops with one another! Well may you gaze in awe! But wait until you see what lies within the gates!”
She felt a strange shiver pass through her as she passed through the gate, as if she were crossing from one world into another. And so indeed it seemed. All the ground inside was covered in stone slabs, along which people, beasts and carts milled around. Amongst the mud and wood huts were strong, sturdy, stone buildings decorated with ornate carvings, sometimes even inlaid with glistening jewels and a bright, yellow stone that shone like the sun.
But most magnificent of all was the palace, to which Uru brought her, ushering her in with glowing pride. Of all the buildings it was the tallest and the most lavishly decorated; ornate stone carvings creatied elaborate patterns in the walls, with images of fearsome and magical creatures jutting out over the threshold. Guards and courtiers prostrated themselves on the floor as Uru walked through, the Slayer at his side.
The floor inside was draped with fabulously-dyed rugs, while the walls were made of finely polished marble. The Slayer could only stare at the marvels of beauty and majesty that Uru showed her.
Finally, he took her upstairs to a sumptuous bedchamber, decked with fine down quilts, coverings and rugs. Two finely-dressed young maidens prostrated themselves as they entered. Uru gestured extravagantly.
“This is for you! This is where you will stay!”
She stared in incomprehension, and looked up at him. He laughed.
”But of course! Only the best will do for the Chosen One, the Protector of the City! Come, let my maidservants attend to you, then you may rest, for you must be tired from your long journey.”
She shook her head.
“Of course. The Slayer’s strength! Still, you should take your ease, let your mind rest at least. Then you shall join me for the banquet that is to be held in your honour tonight. And then – we will turn to why I have summoned you here! But for now, Chosen One, I leave you in the hands of my servants. Farewell!”
With that, he turned to leave, his guards and man-servants along with him.
The maids got to their feet, and cautiously approached the Slayer. They were dressed in comely white gowns, sewn with threads of green and red. She backed away, staring at them suspiciously.
“Come, Slayer. Your clothes are torn and soiled from your journey. We shall remove them and then bathe and dress you as befits your station.”
She growled as one of the maids reached out to her, and the girl backed off with a start. The other said, “Do not fear, Chosen One. It is the King’s will that we should wait on you. You are in good hands.”
The Slayer relaxed slightly, and allowed the maids to approach her, lead her to a neighbouring room, in the middle of which stood a marble tub full of hot water, and carefully strip the muddy rags from her body. She gazed around uneasily at her surroundings. They encouraged her into the tub. She cried out in shock as her leg touched the steaming water – for she was accustomed to bathing in the rivers, and turned to snarl at the girls, who again jumped back in fright, but they reassured her, and she stepped back into the tub, and settled into it. The girls smiled, and gradually her look of fear and pain turned into one of pleasure, as the hot, perfumed water seeped into her skin. The Slayer smiled.
After she had bathed, the girls rubbed her down with fragrant perfumes of sandalwood and lavender, carefully combed and rebraided her matted hair, and dressed her in a dark blue gown. The supple touch of the cloth upon her body was strange but pleasing. She looked up, smiled and nodded.
“It… good,” she rasped. “You kind.”
They giggled and smiled broadly, and cooed over how beautiful she looked, and made a big fuss over her.
“I am Maina,” said the elder of the two, “and this is Zeela. What is your name, Chosen One?”
Her face fell. She slowly shook her head, and looked down at her feet.
“It’s all right,” said Zeela, and she put her hand gently beneath the Slayer’s chin, raising her face. “We will talk more later. For now, let us take you down to the banquet.”
They led her through the palace, to curious and wondering stares, until they reached an imposing wooden door, where they left her with two male servants. Presently, King Uru arrived, flanked by his retinue, including several musicians playing pipes and drums. He came up to her and greeted her exuberantly.
”Slayer! By the gods, you are beautiful! A creature of such power and such beauty too! You will strike fear into the hearts of the undead, and awe and lust into those of the living!”
He laughed out loud as she looked up at him uncertainly. Then he turned to his servants and held up a hand. Abruptly, the music stopped. Then a great bass drum sounded from beyond the door, which opened to reveal a long hall with a table running from one end to the other, around which sat dozens of richly-dressed men and a few women, who all stood and gazed expectantly at the King and the Slayer at his side, while the servants who had been busying themselves all around the room also stopped what they were doing, and prostrated themselves before their king.
“My people!” boomed Uru. “My kinsmen, mages, counsellors, wives and servants! I present to you this night the lady Sineya, the Vampire Slayer, the Chosen One, Protector of the City!”
Continues in Chapter 2.