After spending the day huddling in dank, nasty shed that made his crypt look comfortable, Spike wandered down the streets of the town. The moon was high on the sky, the painful sun having gone down some time ago.
Over the top of the wall, he could see the mountain, a dark and foreboding silhouette against the night sky. According to Tara, that was where Maleficent held Buffy, where he had to go.
If only he could figure out how to get there. Once he had entered the town, his sense of direction had gotten messed up. The streets twisted and turned, reminding him of all those little towns back in the Europe.
He had hated those towns. So easy to get lost in. You know what? He hated this town now.
Grumbling, Spike tried for the umpteenth time to find the exit. The right exit, that is. Not the one he had come through, but one on the other side. Only, at the moment, he could find neither.
Spike decided now was the time to try the roof top route. He stared at them warily. A bit more thatch and straw than he liked, but hopefully if he shimmied on up he could get his bearings.
One good jump, courtesy of his vampiric powers, sent Spike to the roof of the nearest house. Just barely keeping his balance, he scanned the area to see in what direction the gate was. Finally picking it out, he marked the location and started to climb down, then thought the better of it. Instead, he carefully picked his way across the rooftops towards the presumed exit.
Spike tumbled down the too slick slate of one house's rooftop, only to land in an undignified heap on the street.
A creaky old laugh mocked him as he stood up and dusted himself off. "Quite impressive, jester. Do you have any other tricks you do at the fair?"
Spike turned to see an old woman, sitting in a rocking chair under the eaves of the ill-fated slate roofed house. Her lips were curved up in a toothless old smile as she watched him from her post.
He gave her snarl, face flickering into its demonic form.
"And what a nice trick that is, jester. Though you'd be hard pressed to do that one in daylight."
"Sod off." Spike turned to stomp away.
"Now that's not a nice thing to say to an old lady. Especially one who might help you."
Spike paused and looked at her, interested. "What's that?"
The old woman leaned back into her chair. "You know, I think you're right. You should go on your way and pay no mind to little old me."
Spike was in her face in an instant. "What. Did. You. Say?"
"You should control that temper of yours a bit better, jester. It will only lead to you losing those you love," the old woman chided, not in the least bit threatened.
Spike pulled himself away from her. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"An old woman enjoying the night air. And who are you?"
"My name is Spike. Want to know how I got that name? I - "
"Got it by driving railroad spikes into your victims' heads. Yes, I know about you William the Bloody Awful Poet."
Spike gaped at her. He thought there wasn't anybody left alive who knew about that.
"This is the Enchanted Realm, William. You shouldn't be so surprised. All lot of things forgotten are known here."
"You said you can help me," he insisted. "How?"
"And why should I help a nasty tempered vampire like you? What are you doing that's so special?"
"You're the all-knowing one here, you figure it out."
The old woman said nothing. She merely watched him intently.
"Slayer's under some sort of spell. She's being held up into the castle in the mountains and I want to get her out of there." There. He'd said it. Now would she help?
"Why do you care about the fate of a Slayer, vampire?"
"Because I love her," he bit out.
"Do you? How do you know it's love, and not mere lust for the forbidden?"
"Because I care about her! I don't want to see her hurt, I don't want to see her friends hurt, even the ones I don't like very much. Because I'd rather her be happy than for me to be. Because if it was just some stupid crush like she keeps telling me, then I could leave her to her problems and go out and get myself a life!"
The old woman did not respond for a minute or two. Then she said, "I believe you, vampire. I believe you love the Slayer."
"So will you help me?" After a moment's thought, he added, "Please?"
"Now were those words so hard to say? I will help you, vampire. I have a map that will lead you to Maleficent's castle, and I will give it to you." The old woman reached into her sleeve and pulled out a tattered old scrap of paper, barely legible lines marking it.
Spike quickly snatched it from her hand and unrolled it.
The old woman sat back with a sigh. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were a vampire's manners.
Carefully reading the map, Spike was able to make his way to the correct gate. When he got there, however, he found it as solidly locked and barred as the one he had found before it.
"Hello? Anybody there? Gatekeeper? Sphinx? Innocent passerby here needs to get out!"
From an old wooden hut leaning against the wall, an old hunchbacked man wandered what. "Who's there? Somebody asking for the gatekeeper?"
"Yeah, me. I'd like to get out of this place, if you don't mind," Spike informed him.
"Can it wait until morning? Opening the gate takes an awful lot of work and I have other things to do," the old man complained.
By now Spike was getting an idea of how things worked in this realm. "What do you have to do?" he asked.
"Well," the old man began, "I'm a baker by trade. The gate's more of a side thing, if you get my meaning. I have to have all my baking done by morning if I'm going to have a good day. And if you keep bothering me about opening the gate, then I can't do that, y'see?"
"So if I did the baking, you'd open the gate?"
The old man thought about it a minute. "That would work. As long as you don't burn anything, folk would eat it happily enough. It's a deal. Bakery's back in the shed."
Spike went in and stared at the piles of ingredients and dough and who knows what else. He had no idea where to start. Thankfully, he had a plan.
If he remembered correctly, Red was a pretty decent chef when she had to be.
"Guide Girl - "
"Yes?" The Tara being or fairy or whatever she was now stood there, an eternally patient look on her face.
"I'd like to have Willow come and help me."
And in an instant, Willow was standing where Tara had been. She took one look at her surroundings, then turned to him and asked, "What is it that you need me for?" She'd obviously been filled in by the others how this worked.
Spike quickly explained the situation to her. Willow's lips quirked up as she listened to him. "So exactly what is your contribution going to be?"
"I'll stir," he offered helpfully.
Willow gave him an incredulous look. "Why don't you go see if the gate baker man opened it up yet?"
"You don't think I can cook?"
"I think this will go faster without explaining everything to you."
"And when this is over?"
"You owe me big time."
Spike nodded. Made sense. He headed for the door.
"If I find out that you hurt Buffy, I will burn you from the inside out."
"Thought that was if I even thought about Buffy," he pointed out.
Willow smiled. "Serious Scooby discussions have come to the conclusion that if Buffy's funky dream world has you as her prince, we will support her decision. And then gleefully torture you if you screw up."
"Fair enough." Spike gave her a wave. "Hopefully, it won't come to that."
He went out the gate, cheerily flipped the old gatekeeper the bird, checked his map, and started walking.
High up in the Forbidden Mountain, Maleficent watched the vampire go on his merry way.
"This is not going according to plan at all. The vampire is on good terms with his helpers, he's successfully completed all the obstacles he has confronted, and he will be here within the day!"
Angry purple lightening arced across the room and struck a cowering minion. Maleficent didn't notice.
"And the girl - those fairies are meddling with her sleep, I know they are. Making her dream that, that vampire is her Prince Charming! It's positively laughable!" She threw herself into her throne. Her lips curved up in a cruel smile. "What a pleasant turn of fortune it is that she agrees with me. I'll have to be very careful to keep her in that belief when that cursed vampire gets here!"
A thought occurred to the dark fairy. "My pet," she crooned to the crow perched on her throne. "My pet, fly down to the giant who guards the entrance to my fair castle. Tell that when the vampire comes, set him to an impossible task. One the vampire has no chance of completing. Do you understand?"
The crow cawed an answer and flew off to do her bidding.
"Things should be working out very nicely now. The vampire doesn't come, the girl remains asleep, and things turn out happily ever after - for me."
Maleficent stretched out in her throne, her gloating laugh echoing throughout the halls. All her minions cowered in their places, fearful of their mistress.