Chapter 2 – For the Birds
The sky was blue. That was the first things she noticed. Ever since the hellmouth cracked open last year the sky over Sunnydale was somewhere between orange, red, and black. And the air here seemed so clear and clean. Not a trace of brimstone or sulfur. It smelled like the forest. Dawn turned to look at Connor but that small movement made her sway. Her vision seemed to blur. She blinked a few times but it didn't clear, in fact, it began to darken. The last thing she saw was Connor reaching for her as the world seemed to tilt and everything went black.
The first thing Dawn noticed when she began to regain consciousness were the birds. She could hear birds chirping. There hadn't been birds in Sunnydale for months. They sounded beautiful. She blinked a few times and tried to sit up. Even that simple motion made her groan out loud. Her body ached. She felt like she'd been hit by a bus. Or like that time she was shook by a P'len'stoch demon. That had sucked. It had just picked her up and shook her until her brain rattled before Connor stabbed it and it dropped her. After that she was sore for days. This feeling was definitely similar.
When she did manage to sit up and look around she was surprised to see it was dusk already. The forest they had landed in was starting to cool as the sun went down. Connor had obviously been hard at work. They were in a small clearing and Dawn was laid out on a sleeping bag. There was a small fire a few feet away with some small critter roasting over the flames.
Dawn looked up as Connor walked back into camp, his arms filled with more firewood. "You're awake," he said simply, setting his collection of branches down on the other side of the fire. "How do you feel?" he asked looking at her over the flames.
"Ugh. Like something really big sat on me. You've been hard at work," Dawn said looking appreciatively around the camp. "Did you find any water?" she asked.
Connor nodded. He crossed the campsite, crouched next to her, and handed her his canteen. Dawn kind of hated drinking out of Connor's canteen since it was made from the stomach of a Riveect demon but Connor refused to get rid of it since it stretched enough to hold a lot of water, was virtually indestructible, and when empty hardly took up any space in there packs. Practical or not, Dawn thought it was icky but she drank from it anyway.
"Thanks," she said handing it back to Connor. "Any idea where, when, or what we landed in?" she asked. As far as Dawn could tell they were in a wooded area that looked like any other untouched forest on her earth. Well, before the hellmouth opened.
"I didn't go far but I couldn't sense any people. Or people-like-things. No buildings or roads either. I found a clean river and plenty of small game." Connor told her. He pulled the small animal off the spit and began to rip it into manageable chunks. Dawn wrinkled her nose at him but accepted a hunch when he held it out to her.
Dawn looked around again. "It's pretty here but tomorrow we should start walking. I mean, I guess we could live here just the two of us for awhile but if this world has indoor plumbing I'd kinda like to find it." Dawn smiled sheepishly at Connor. He smiled back at her and they ate and discussed their plans for the next day.
"We should follow the river," Connor said. "It's probably our best chance of finding a settlement." He collected their left over dinner bones, walked to the edge of the clearing and threw them as far into the woods as he could.
When he was done cleaning up the meal Connor joined her on the sleeping bag. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her lightly. Dawn snuggled against him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Get some rest," he told her. Dawn sighed and closed her eyes. She was asleep almost instantly.
Dawn awoke for the second time in as many days to the sound of birds. For the first time in a long time she felt safe and, well, not happy exactly but not horrible either. She didn't know when, if ever, she would truly be happy again. She still ached with the loss of her family and doubted that would fade anytime soon. But right now, even laying in a sleeping bag on the ground surrounded by who knows what, she felt better than she had in months, maybe even years.
Objectively she knew that the ground could fall out from under her at any moment. Literally. She knew nothing about this dimension, maybe the ground collapsed every morning at 8:30am, if this dimension even had time an 8:30am. She signed again. She figured Connor's senses would warn them of anything scary and before she got more information she supposed she should stay on her guard and try not to think about the worst case scenario.
"Thinking deep thought?" Connor asked tightening his arms around her.
"Almost never," she responded smiling a little. "What do you think we should do now?" She asked looking up at him.
"We can rest here for a few days if you need to. Or we can look for people, or, you know, demons," Connor said with a yawn.
"Well," Dawn said, "I feel pretty good I think we should see what our new dimension has to offer." She stretched and sat up. "But first I need to find the little girl's tree." She wiggled out of the sleeping bag and went to take care of her morning business.
"Don't go too far," Connor called after her. She didn't turn around but raised an arm in acknowledgment. Connor watched Dawn until she was out of sight, thankfully for his peace of mind his advanced hearing allowed him to keep track of her. He knew if he told her that she would be annoyed and say it was gross but it made him feel better and he grew up in a dimension where privacy was a luxury that got you eaten by a Vrosloc.
By the time Dawn came back to camp Connor had packed up most of their belongings. He handed Dawn a blue hooded sweatshirt he left out for her. Dawn slipped it on with a murmured thanks. They both shouldered their packs and made their way to the river.
The river wasn't big, but it wasn't small. They picked a direction and started walking. And walking, and walking, and walking.
After walking for several days Dawn realized several things about this dimension. One, waking up to birds got annoying really fast, two, none of these trees could recharge her ipod, and three, there was way too much walking involved in this dimension.
By the fifth day Dawn was afraid that they were the only sentient beings here. Unless those damn birds were capable of a lot more than the birds of her world. Plus, the more annoyed she got at their circumstances the more Connor's cheerfulness irritated her. He tried to explain that compared to Quartoth, or even the months of Sunnydale, this was a vacation, but unsurprisingly that did not improve her mood.
After a week Dawn was ready to give up. She thought her magic was recharged enough by now to do the dimensional transportation spell again. At the very least she could try to conjure an elemental that should lead them to some civilization.
She was about to propose that to Connor when he grabbed her hand and squeezed gently three times. She tried not to stumble in shock. That was their someone's following us signal. She responded with two squeezes to let him know she got his message then dropped his hand. Dawn looked at him, her eyes full of questions. He nodded his head slightly in her direction, to the other side, and behind him, then blinked deliberately three times.
Great, Dawn thought, they were surrounded by three unknowns who had been following them for who knows how long. Dawn wrinkled her nose at Connor to show her displeasure at the situation. He shrugged lightly in response. They both tried to casually reach for their weapons.
Dawn looked at Connor again, he nodded. Since there wasn't really anyway out of this they might as well confront whoever was following them and see what was up. In situations like these Dawn always took the lead. When the situation devolved into violence Connor was in charge but until the point where someone needed to be stabbed they had both learned it was better for all parties if Dawn did the talking.
"Hello!" Dawn shouted into the woods. It was probably not her most thought out plan but what it lacked in elegance it made up for with simplicity. "We know you're following us," she yelled. "What do you want?" Her voice rang out into the forest.
Connor dropped his pack to the ground, grabbed Dawn and pushed her behind him a second before someone plunged out of the trees. He raised his sword as two more people followed. His head moved back and forth as he tried to track all three of the new comers. They were all men with long hair dressed in clothes out of Robin Hood.
"No way!" Dawn exclaimed from behind him. "Elves! Seriously? We're in a dimension with elves? Do they grant wishes? Oh my god, don't wish for anything!" Connor rolled his eyes but kept his sword up.
"Ya ier lle?" The one in front questioned in a harsh but somehow still musical tone. "Mankoi ier lle sinome?" The other two raised bows pointing their arrows at the two teenagers.
"Well crap," Dawn said. "This is probably not good."