Spike walked down the forest path, with a little cocky swagger in his step. Sunlight trickled down through the tree branches, but not in a particularly fatal way. A few patches hit the path, but were easily avoidable.
Spike was in an excellent mood.
All this time, the Slayer had insisted that she hated him, he was sick and twisted, and any feelings he thought they shared were all in his head. Toss in a bit of magic, and it turns out that she's been telling lies.
As best as Spike understood it, Buffy accidentally sucked them all into a fairy tale. Spell casts her as Sleeping Beauty and him as Prince Charming. Spike debated whether or not that made him a ponce. Nope, it didn't. It was going to get him the girl, wasn't it?
He strolled through the woods a bit, confident that he could find this Forsaken or Forbidden Mountain or something, find Buffy, give her a good wake up kiss (he smiled at that) and go home, victorious.
Full of such thoughts, Spike walked down the wooded path, absently avoiding sunny patches. This was going to be so easy.
"OW!" Spike tripped back and rubbed his throbbing nose. He had crashed headlong into a - troll?
He noticed that the path had ended as a big river suddenly cut through the forest. A sturdy well built bridge made a graceful arch over the rushing water. And at the bridge's opening was guarded by a ten-foot creature that could only be a troll.
You have got to be kidding me, Spike thought.
"Where do you thinks you a-going, puny hewmon?" demanded the troll in a gurgley, gravelly voice.
"Well, I thinks I'm going to cross that bridge," Spike answered.
"Then you gots to pay a toll."
"Yes, well," Spike wracked his brain. This sounded vaguely familiar to him. Dru had a phase once where she was obsessed with children's stories. There was one with a troll and a bridge, come to think of it. "I don't think I can pay the toll. But there's someone coming behind me, my, uh," Spike thought back to the story, "my brother, now he can pay your toll. So if you'll just get out of the way and I can be on my way and he'll come along and give you the money."
The troll didn't buy it. "You thinks I'm stupid? I hears that one before. Tasty goats tell it." The troll loomed over him. "No more goats, now. Pay toll or leave!"
"Right, then. If that's how you want to play it." Spike snarled, bringing forth his game face. "Then let's have a go at it."
"Ho ho ho, puny hewmon. You thinks you can fight me?"
"Yeah, yeah I think I do." Spike charged the troll. The troll laughed and batted him away. Hard.
Spike hit the ground rolling and just barely managed to twist away from a spot of sunlight. Even so, his back felt a little singed. He jumped to his feet.
The troll watched impassively.
Spike reconsidered his plan of attack. He stalked forward slowly, this time. When the troll moved to swing, he stepped to the side and jumped onto the troll's back, bringing his fangs into its neck.
The troll howled, grabbed him like an irritating insect, and threw him to the ground.
Spike hit with a thud. He staggered to his feet. This was going to hurt. Even now, he felt bruised forming. Spike stepped forward, wincing a little as he put weight on his left leg. Fell a little too hard on that one.
"Puny hewmon still thinks he's a-gonna win? I no hurt, you lots of hurt." The troll laughed a big belly laugh. "You going nowhere, puny hewmon."
Spike growled. He was a vampire. A master vampire, dammit! He had killed two Slayers, fought and loved another, and no dirty troll was going to stop him from going where he wanted.
This time, he made a better accounting for himself. The troll sported a cut or two, along with a good lump on the head, by the time Spike was flung to the ground again.
"Puny hewmon, I always wins. That's the rules."
Rules. Rules! The guide girl, the one who looked like Glinda, talked about rules. And about aid. Spike gritted his teeth. He might be able to defeat the troll, but it would take more time than he felt like taking. He wanted to get to Buffy as soon as possible. Spike eyed the troll. The troll eyed him back, smirking faintly.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," he muttered. "Hey! Guide Girl! You said I could call up the Scoobies to lend a hand. Guide Girl, where are - "
The being who chose to look like Tara appeared before him.
" - you?"
"You called and I answered. Who do you desire to come to your aid?"
"Anya," Spike said without hesitation. Demon Girl's the only one who wouldn't lord it over him. She understood what it was like to be the odd demon out.
Tara vanished, leaving Anya in her place.
"Spike, what am I doing here? What is that overly large monster doing leering at me? What's going on?" she demanded.
Spike pulled her aside. "I need to cross this bridge and that pillock of a troll won't let me. I can't swim because the current's too fast and I can't beat the bastard up."
"I thought you didn't need any help," she sniped irritably. "Xander and I were about to have sex in this lovely house we got transported to - "
"Uh-huh, that's just great. Can't you just, you know, talk to it? Make it move?"
Spike rolled his eyes. "Would you please help me by dealing with this troll?"
"Much better." Mollified, Anya marched over to the troll. "Excuse me."
"Can my friend cross your bridge?"
"No. You have to pays the toll to cross me bridge."
Anya's eyes lit up. "Oh! Reasonable exchange of services and goods! Spike, I can't believe you were going to cheat this troll out of his desired remuneration. What is the toll?"
The troll considered for a moment. No one had ever actually tried to pay the toll before. They either tried to trick him, fight him, or leave. After some serious thought, he said, "Shiny things."
Anya turned to Spike. "Have any shiny things?"
Spike checked his pockets. He pulled out his lighter. "This work?" He flicked the lighter on and off. The troll watched with a greedy expression on his face.
"Nice shiny thing. Good toll."
"See, Spike? The flow of trade and commerce are infinitely superior to fighting. Our troll friend gets his shiny thing and you cross his bridge." She sniffed a little. "Oh, I love capitalism."
Spike gave the troll his lighter. The troll stepped away from the bridge opening and proceeded to play with it. Spike strode onto the bridge and gave Anya a wave before continuing on his way. She winked out, presumably to return to the whelp.
Spike continued on his way. He would have preferred to beat the crap out of that snotty little troll, but this way didn't hurt as much. With any luck, this would be the last time he'd have to actually, shudder, ask for help.