Chapter Three

By the time Spike reached the open road, night had fallen, something for which he was very grateful. In the course of his trip through the forest, he had had to chase a wolf from a little girl (only because she looked like Dawn), try to give directions to a little boy and girl (he had no idea where he had sent them), and point a pretty dark haired young woman to a cottage he had passed by (it was already inhabited by seven dwarves, but whatever). None of this had taken long, but it had still been annoying.

Now that he was out in the open, he hoped to avoid any more interruptions. There wasn't anywhere to go when the sun rose, so he had better get somewhere safe soon.

With that thought in mind, Spike was pleased to finally find a town. Only problem was a high wall surrounded it.

He walked up to the gate and knocked. Nothing. He knocked louder. Nothing.

"Hello! Hey, poor lone traveler out here! Anybody home?"

Something peered over the top of the gate. It bounded down to stand in front of him. It was a sphinx. With the whole head of a woman, body of a lioness things going.

"Do you desire to enter?"

"Yes! Now be a luv and open the gate, would you?"

The sphinx licked her paws a moment. "No."

"No?" Spike opened his mouth to say something nasty. "Then - "

"I won't open the gate on your request alone. But I will open it if you prove yourself worthy."

Okay. That didn't sound too bad. "How do I do that?"

The sphinx smiled, a nice toothy one that Spike could appreciate. "Answer me my riddles three."

"Well then, ask away."

The sphinx stretched out, yawned moment, then said:

"I think you'll like this one.

As I went over London Bridge
I met my sister Jenny
I broke her neck and drank her blood
And left her standing empty."

Spike perked up. He knew this one! "Gin." Riddles like that made him long for the old days...

"Very good, vampire. How about this one?

With thieves I consort,
With the vilest, in short,
I'm quite at ease in depravity;
Yet all divines use me,
And savants can't lose me,
For I am the center of gravity."

Ugh. That was a bit harder sounding. For the unlife of him, Spike didn't have a clue what the riddle was saying, let alone what the answer was. 'With thieves I consort', so it had to be something bad. The next two lines suggested the same idea, 'With the vilest, in short, I'm quite at ease in depravity'. But just when he starts to figure out the clues, the next line is 'Yet all the divines use me'. Huh? How did we get from thieves to divines? Was it the god of thieves that was the answer? No, because ALL the divines use whatever the answer was.

Spike was starting to get frustrated. What the hell could the answer be? He tried to look at the last two lines. 'And savants can't lose me, For I am the center of gravity'. Those two sort of went together, but seemed to have nothing to do with the previous ones.

Spike thought he was fairly good at riddles. Back before daytime television and such, there really wasn't much else to do sitting around the crypt. Dru had even dragged him to a contest once. He'd lost, but had given a good accounting for himself. Of course, most of that had been in bloodshed.

Something about the contest. Dru had told him something, hadn't she? What was it? 'Tricks in tricks are the stories they tell. Look at the top before digging deep.'

Right then. Try to see if there is a connection. A surface connection. Spike considered the words again. He was starting to get a bit frantic. The sun was rising now, and out in the open like this it would hit him soon.

The sphinx watched him lazily, idly grooming herself. "Either answer or leave, vampire. Or," she said with a shrug, "be dusted."

Don't panic. You've got one more riddle to go, Spike. Just have to figure out this one. What do these have in common?

"V. The letter V," Spike said suddenly, positive that was the right answer. It had to be.

"Well done. One more answered and I'll open the gates for you. Better answer quickly, the sun will shine down soon.

Think of words ending in -GRY.
Angry and hungry are two of them.
There are only three words in the English language.
What is the third word?
The word is something that everyone uses every day.
If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is."

Spike's mind went blank. If the last one was bad, this one was worse! And he didn't have much time left. He couldn't go save Buffy if he was a pile of dust. There was only one thing to do.

"Guide, I need some help here. Send me, uh," who was best for the job? "Send me the Watcher."

"Done."

Giles appeared there, glasses askew and more than a little rumpled. "Spike. What an unpleasant surprise."

"Listen, Watcher, I need to get past this gate here. Sphinx won't let me in unless I answer her riddles, only there isn't enough time to think them through."

"So you need my help?"

Spike shrugged. "You're big with the book know-how. Figured you'd be good at riddles, too."

"Why should I help you?" Giles demanded coldly. This was a perfect opportunity to get rid of the obsessed vampire once and for all.

"Because if I turn to dust, Slayer stays all Sleeping Beauty. Remember that, Watcher?"

Giles really, really wanted to do nothing and let the vampire turn to dust. But Spike was right. If whatever spell had brought them here had cast Spike in role of Buffy's rescuer, then killing Spike trapped them all in this Enchanted Realm.

"What is this riddle?"

The sphinx repeated it. Giles thought a moment. It sounded familiar. Discard the first part, base it on the second - Spike fidgeted impatiently beside him. Giles flicked his eyes at him. He had a good idea what the answer was, but he wasn't going to say it anytime soon. Spike deserved to sweat a little.

Only when the sun was practically upon them did Giles finally speak.

"I believe the answer is language."

"Correct." The sphinx inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement. "The gates will open for the vampire."

Spike dashed through without giving the Watcher a thank you. He needed to get inside and fast, thank you very much.

Giles blinked out to return to the little cottage they were waiting in until this mess was solved. He couldn't say he was surprised Spike hadn't said thank you. The vampire was one of the rudest individuals he had ever met. Unfortunately, Spike was also in love with his Slayer. And it seemed that Buffy might not hate him as much as she had protested.

There was much to think about.

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