We enter a large dining hall with Londeyer. It is beautiful . . . and filled with a LOT of people. Yikes. I make a grab for Giles’ hand and I’m not letting go for anything. Okay maybe to eat but that’s it. Suddenly, there is silence as conversations stop and everyone turns to look at us. Oh, I hate this.
Londeyer sees my nervousness and leans down to whisper, “Do not worry, Willow. Everyone is just excited to finally meet the fire girl. They will not harm you.”
I whisper back, “I’m not afraid that they’ll harm me, I’m afraid that I’ll do something stupid like faint.” . . . or run I think to myself.
I feel Giles give me a reassuring squeeze on my hand. I look up into his calming eyes and begin to feel better. I feel Xander place his hand in my other hand and squeeze. I look over at him and smile. “Thanks guys.”
Aisling turns from the group of men he is with to come and greet us. Beside him is a tall man with dark hair like Aisling’s. “Willow, may I present Laoch. He is the one I’ve told you about that will help you in your training with the warriors.”
“It is an honor to meet you, Willow.” He brings his arm out for me to hold. I let go of Xander’s hand and grasp his forearm like I saw the others use in greeting.
“Thank you, Laoch. I look forward to spending time with your warriors.” Cripes that sounded lame, but he didn’t seem to notice. I hear Spike stifling a laugh and I turn a death glare on him.
People resume their conversations but they still watch us, it’s a bit unnerving. Aisling leads us through the crowd to a table where we are all seated. Spike and Angel are brought out mugs and the rest of us are served food.
Angel sniffs his mug and gets an odd look on his face and sets it down. “Is everything alright, Master Angel?” a girl asks.
He smiles, “Yes thank you.”
But I can tell something is wrong. I wait until she leaves and lean over to him, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s human blood, Willow.”
“It is alright, Angel. The people of Paralda have donated their blood for you during your stay.” Aisling answers him.
Spike drinks his down savoring every drop. I think if he weren’t here with everyone watching him he would have licked the mug clean.
“Aisling I have some questions if it is alright?” I ask.
“Certainly, Willow. I will try to answer anything that you want.”
“I was wondering, if the first evil is supposed to be this big bad guy why is he getting out from his imprisonment here?”
“The Powers of both Light and Dark saw him as a threat. They couldn’t defeat him but they could work together and imprison him here. The prison walls though magick cannot hold him forever for he is strong. There is no time limit on his imprisonment; it is just that now is the time that the Powers spoke of. They knew a time would come when one would be able to defeat him for all eternity. They made the walls stay only until the one foretold is ready to defeat the first evil. He thinks he is growing stronger and will defeat the Powers, but the Powers know it is just the timed release of the walls waiting for you.”
Oh crap. I am supposed to be some savior for both the Powers of Light and Dark that couldn’t defeat him. Sure, no pressure.
“And what happens if I can’t defeat him? Will the Powers imprison him again?” I ask hopefully, please have a fall back plan in case I get my ass kicked.
“I do not know, Willow. It was always foretold that you would come and defeat him. You are a combination of warrior and mystic. That has never happened in our world. We have always been separate from the warriors.”
No pressure. “Why is that? I mean why have the Magi and the Warriors been separate.”
“They do not trust us. Since we can shift and communicate telepathically they think that we keep great secrets from them. We don’t really trust them either. Years ago, the Magi were hunted by the Warriors.”
Oh sure. I should be able to unite the two with no problems. Shit, I could really use Faith about now. She could lead the warriors and I could lead the Magi no having to combine the two.
“So why is it that Laoch and his Warriors are here and also are willing to teach me to fight?”
“There is a saying in your world, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ The partnership is tenuous at best. They trust you because you have been foretold and are a warrior. We trust you for the same reason and because you use magick first and your strength second.”
Time to change the subject before I go screaming into the night. “So what are you going to teach me tomorrow?”
“I will teach you to shift, teleport and call the elements. Only a handful of Magi can call the elements for their use. That is very advanced and normally takes years of practice but I have seen the potential in you and I think you will be able to do it.”
“What do you mean call the elements? I can call fire already.”
“I know, Londeyer told me of your progress. I mean you will be able to call a thunderstorm and have a lightening bolt hit a target. You will also be able to call a snowstorm or hail if you want.”
Well that sounds pretty cool. I get to be a weather witch.
The hall gets quiet again and some music starts. Everyone seems to be looking at me expectantly and I have no clue as to what they want.
**Willow, you are expected to have the first dance.** Londeyer sends me the message.
Great. I can’t dance in my world, how am I supposed to dance in theirs? I look at Giles and whisper that I’m going to dance with Laoch. Since I’ve spent the night talking and eating with Aisling it is only fair that I have the first dance with Laoch.
I walk around the table and approach him, “May I have the honor of the first dance?” I ask on shaking legs.
He and his fellow warriors beam at me like I’ve just done something wondrous. He stands and takes my hand.
**You are very good at this diplomacy thing, Willow. I think the Powers have chosen well when they chose you.** Aisling says. I turn and smile at him as Laoch escorts me to the dance floor.
I whisper in his ear, “I’m a terrible dancer and I’m really sorry if I step on your toes.”
He laughs and twirls me into his arms, “I’m a terrible dancer, too. We’ll muddle through this together.”
I relax as he starts a dance that is a little like a waltz. For once, I’m not cursing my mother for sending me to ballroom dancing lessons when I was a kid.
The rest of the night was a blur with me being ‘the legend’ and passed around from partner to partner on the dance floor until I finally end up in Giles’ arms.
“Having a good time?”
I just glare. “My feet hurt and I’m tired,” I whine.
He leans down and kisses me, “I’m sorry, Willow. But the life of a legend is a hard one.”
I bring my hand from around his back over to his waist and pinch him. “Not funny.”
He just grins at me and pulls me closer. I lean my head on his chest and listen to the sound of his heartbeat for a minute. I look up into his eyes, “Giles, I want to tell you something before the fight with evil bad guy gets too involved and you think it is the heat of the moment.” I take a deep breath and reach up to caress his cheek, “I love you.”
He closes his eyes and leans in to my touch, “Oh Willow. I’ve loved you for a very long time.”
I beam and bring him closer for a kiss.
I wake to birds singing in the trees and Giles’ arms around me. I could get used to these peaceful mornings. I quietly disentangle myself from Rupert and walk softly to the balcony doors. It is a spectacular view high among the trees. I pull on my robe and walk outside.
**Good morning, Mistress Willow.**
I look around to see who sent me that message and see a bird on a branch above me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to animals talking to me in my mind.
I feel arms around my waist and Rupert kisses me on my neck. “Morning, Willow.”
I turn my head back and give him a quick kiss. “Morning. Ready for your lessons with Londeyer?”
“I’d rather spend the day here with you.”
“Me, too. How about a quick first lesson?” I look up at him and see him wiggle his eyebrows at me. “Not that kind of lesson, Rupert.”
“Alright. What do you want me to do?”
“I want to introduce you to someone.” I open a telepathic link with him, **Ready?**
I turn to the bird, **This is Rupert Giles**
**It is an honor to meet a friend of Mistress Willow **
I enjoy the look of shock on his face. I am sure it mirrored mine the first time I talked to an animal.
“Pretty neat, huh?” I ask.
“That was amazing. Are you able to communicate with animals at home?”
“No, I even tried it with Rat Amy but it wouldn’t work. I think it is particular to here.” I lead him back inside so we can dress and meet with Londeyer and Aisling.
“Hi everyone.” I greet as we walk into the main room where the food is. I see Angel and Spike sitting outside enjoying the sunshine while drinking their mugs.
Xander, Londeyer and Aisling are sitting at a table and enjoying the food. I grab some fruit I’ve never seen before and join them.
“Ready to play soldier, Xander?”
“Yeah, I feel like I’m ready to get back into practice. Do you think these skills will stay with me this time?”
“Sure, I mean soldier guy knowledge was always with you. You’re just tapping into it now. When do you go?”
“Laoch said to meet him in the clearing near where we were last night. It seems they train there all morning and we’ll just join them when we’re done here. You ready to be warrior girl tomorrow?”
I roll my eyes at him, “Oh yeah. That is something I am so looking forward to.”
“Are you ready for your training with me, Willow?” Aisling asks.
“Now that I’m looking forward to. I love to stretch my Wicca muscles.”
He smiles and takes my hand. “Okay, let’s go.” The air shimmers around us and the next thing I know we’re standing in a beautiful meadow.
“Your first lesson will be teleporting yourself and others. This is fairly easy. It is really just shifting time and space.”
Oh yeah, easy. Tell that to Einstein.
“Everything is connected, Earth, people, animals, buildings, time, even space. Let your mind feel the connection between them all.” He reaches down and grabs a tree limb that had fallen. “These two ends seem far away until you do this.” He brings the ends together in a circle.
“That is like Einstein’s theory of folding time and space.” Huh, magick is really just Quantum Physics. No wonder I get magick so much easier than I get being a Slayer.
I see the air around me start to shimmer and everything seems slowed down. Even the birds seem to be hovering in the air and not moving. I see Xander, Spike and Angel fighting among the warriors and they look like they are only a few feet away but I know that’s not possible. I step next to Xander who is walking away to get a drink. “Hey, Xander.”
He jumps and spins around. “Where did you come from?”
“I’m doing my first lesson in teleporting. Want to come back with me for a little show and tell?”
“Sure. I could use a break, my muscles aren’t used to this kind of workout.”
I grab his hand and concentrate. The air starts to shimmer again and I see Aisling in the meadow. I walk what seems like a few feet and we appear next to him.
“Very good, Willow. I see you brought your friend back with you.”
“Yeah, I thought I would try bringing someone back with me.”
“What!? That was the first time you tried it with another person? What if it hadn’t worked? I could have my atoms splattered all through the air or something.”
“Yeah, but think how cool it was. I beamed you over instead of beaming you up.” I say with a smile.
Xander sits over by a tree and relaxes while drinking some water while I practice teleporting some more. I go to a mountaintop, back to Londeyer’s house and see Giles and then I take Xander back to the practice area.
“You’re picking up these skills very quickly. A person studying to be an accomplished Mage takes years to learn what I am teaching you.”
His compliment makes me blush. “All the lessons that Londeyer and you have taught me seem very natural to do. I think and it happens. My training with Spike, Angel and Xander is very hard for me. Until recently I wasn’t action girl. I did the research and found the solution to the problem. I wasn’t the one that took care of the problem.”
“That is why I think you are the right person for this task that the Powers have given you. You are used to thinking first and action second. It will take a clever person to defeat the first evil. If it had just taken strength or just magick, the first evil would have been defeated long ago. Ready to try shifting?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve been looking forward to shifting to an animal since I learned I would be able to do it.”
“Since I am of the brotherhood of the wolf I can only shift into being a wolf. You on the other hand can shift into any animal that you want. The molecules are there you just shift them around to what you want to be.”
Hmm, I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to fly. I concentrate and visualize the molecules in my body. My breathing and heartbeat slows way down. I morph the picture of me in my mind to that of a hawk. I see lights swirling around my face like Amy had before she turned into a rat. Hope this works out better for me than it has with her.
My eyesight is keener and Aisling is taller. I look around and notice claws where my feet used to be.
**You have done very well, Willow**
**Am I really a hawk?**
He smiles and holds his arm out. I instinctively know what to do and fly and land on his arm. **Oh my god. This is so cool. I can’t believe I’m actually a bird and still have my thoughts. Will I be able to do this when I return home?**
**Most definitely. This is a power within you and not just attached to my world. Want to take the body for a spin?**
I flap and take off over the meadow. This is so freeing, I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop being a bird. I look down and see that Aisling has shifted into a black wolf form. I try to communicate to see if animal to animal we can talk. **This is very liberating to just play among the wind currents.**
**I was that way when I first shifted. It took my parents days to convince me to shift back into my human form.**
I land next to him and picture myself as morphing into a wolf. I feel the feathers turning to hair and myself getting taller. I run over to Aisling and nip him on his heels. **Oh, I am liking this power.**
We run around and explore the meadow for a little bit and then Aisling morphs back to human shape. Oh well, I guess playtime is over. Okay, I have visions of rat Amy dancing in my head. But at least if I’m stuck being an animal I’m stuck being any kind of animal I want. I visualize myself back as a human and feel my hair getting shorter and I’m getting taller.
Yes. I am back to being a human. “Aisling, I have a friend back home that called on Hecate to change her into a rat but I have been unable to change her back. Do you think I have the ability now to change her back to human form?”
“Yes, you have much power in you that you have tapped into. You should be able to change her back with no problem when you return. We’ll rest awhile before I show you how to call the elements. I think with what I have seen and depending on how your training goes with Laoch you should be ready to fight the first evil very soon.”
Well, there went my relaxation right out the window. I had noticed a small stream in among the trees when I was flying overhead and I walk in that direction. I close my eyes and concentrate on Dawn.
**Dawn, are you okay?**
**Yeah, I’m taking a break and wanted to check in with you to make sure everything is alright.**
**Everything is fine. I’m sitting here in English class bored to death so I’m glad you interrupted my nap.**
I tell her everything that we’ve done since we’ve been here and let her know the time to fight is getting closer. I see Aisling rise and walk towards me.
**Gotta go, Dawnie. Seems my lessons are to begin again. Miss you!**
**Miss you too, Willow. Tell everyone hi for me.**
“Are you alright, Willow?”
“Yeah, just talking to Dawn back home.”
“Ready to call the elements?”
“If you think I’m ready.”
“This is a great power and must be used wisely. It is easy to get carried away and play goddess. For example if an area is suffering from wildfires and your first instinct is to call rain. You think you are doing a good deed but what if the wildfires were needed to help a certain plant grow and by interfering you destroy the chance for that plant to grow and that causes a ripple effect throughout the area.”
“Okay, raise your arms and feel the power of the elements around you. It is like how you call fire but on a grander scale.”
I raise my arms as I see Aisling do. I feel the power crackling through the air. It is amazing. I can see how people can get drunk on power. I see the clouds getting darker and the wind blows my hair. But it is only my hair that is blowing.
Aisling smiles. “You are drawing the power of the Earth. I knew you had this power in you.”
I see a patch of ground that has already been burnt and I imagine a lightening bolt hitting there. BAM . . . it happens. That is amazing. I hold my hand out and visualize fire and I feel a fireball in my hand. I feel the warmth but it doesn’t burn. I throw it at the same dead area. I try wind next. I feel the wind pick up around me, I let it get so strong that it lifts me off the ground and takes me over to Aisling.
“You have done far more than I expected. I think you are a natural born Mage with an innate ability to call upon the magick of the Earth. You have been able to do everything that I’ve taught you, you just need time to develop and control your power. What has taken you weeks took me over 200 years to learn. One day you will surpass me in power and talent.”
The time has come for me to do what I have dreaded doing almost as much as I dread fighting ‘Ralph’. I have to train with Laoch and the others. Even with my newfound Slayer abilities and confidence in my newly acquired fighting skills I am still not a warrior and probably never will be.
I reach for my sais and open the door. “As I’ll ever be, Xan.”
I marvel at the change that has come over Xander. He is still my goofy Xander but his confidence in himself and his fighting abilities shows through. He moves with a more graceful stride, like a predator. Actually he reminds me of Angel and Spike when they are in vamp mode. Somehow, I don’t think Xander would take kindly to the comparison.
I walk with Xander, Spike and Angel to the training field. I don’t think my teleporting abilities would go over so well with the warriors my first day there.
Laoch approaches us as we enter the field. “Welcome, Willow. Are you ready for your training?”
“I hope so.”
“You’ll do fine, little one.” Angel whispers to me.
As Laoch turns he draws his sword and swings towards me. I lift my sais and block his move. I turn my body and lift my arms, which knocks the sword out of his hand.
The warriors on the field laugh and Laoch smiles at me. “You are very good and quick. I think you will do fine in the training exercises.”
Whew, one test passed.
Laoch watches as I beat his warriors one by one in the exercises. “Enough” Wow, he’s got Giles’ Watcher voice down pat. “Your abilities far exceed all my expectations of what you could do. Why don’t we rest and then you and I will fight with each other.”
I walk over to a shady tree on wobbly legs and Xander brings me some water to drink.
“You okay, Willow.”
“Yeah, just not used to using these muscles. I’ve been exercising my Wicca muscles but not my Slaying muscles.”
“I know what you mean. Last night I took a LONG soak in the hot springs that Londeyer showed us. It has been too long since I did any kind of real fighting. It is starting to feel more natural for me though. Like I’m supposed to be doing this. I think when we get back home I’ll go patrolling with you more. No more just research/food run guy for me.”
“That would be great, Xander. I’d like to have you along as I patrol through Sunnydale. I miss the times that we used to spend together with just us.”
“Yeah I miss those too. Sooo, you and Giles, huh?”
“Yeah me and Giles. You okay with that?”
“I always knew you had a crush on him in high school. I’m glad it evolved into something bigger and better between you two. I think he liked you too. Oh not in a Lolita kind of way. I think he recognized the woman that you were going to be long before anyone knew that you would become her.”
How did I get so lucky as to have such great guys in my life? I lean over and rest my head on his shoulder. I see Spike and Angel lying in the sun. “Hey you guys don’t get a sunburn. You’re not used to being out in the sun so much.”
Spike lifts his arm and flashes me the two fingers. I hope he burns a bright red but with his vampire healing it’ll probably turn into a nice tan.
After a nice rest I walk over to Laoch and his men. “Ready for some sparring?”
His men smile at me and I can tell they are hoping this little girl can kick their commander’s ass.
“Since my men seem to not be able to defeat you I’ll see what I can do.” He teases.
“Just remember that she knocked the sword out of your hand earlier.” One of his men says.
I don’t want him to feel bad if I defeat him so I whisper in his ear, “just remember that my abilities come from the Powers so that I can defeat the forces of darkness. It is not that I am skilled but that I have unique abilities.”
He smiles down at me and whispers, “don’t worry, Saetha. My ego can take it if a girl defeats me in front of my men.” Louder he says, “let’s go hand to hand without weapons.”
I feel relieved. I am much better at hand to hand combat than I am with using weapons. The others form a circle around us and watch us begin.
We circle each other both waiting for an opportunity to take. I tune out the sounds all around me and listen to his movements. I thank my Slaying ability to heighten my awareness of things. I can hear him shift his weight in the dirt and remember one of the lessens that Angel taught me. Never take your eyes off your opponent for the eyes give nothing away.
I see Laoch quickly glance to my left and down and I know that is where he’s going to strike first. He brings his foot up to strike and I leap and twirl over him.
I have tunnel vision with everything blocked out but Laoch and me. From behind I hit his knees and he goes down into a tuck roll but comes back up facing me. We are both grinning at each other. It feels good to stretch my muscles and not have to hold back as much as I did with his men.
We trade hits and kicks for a little while but I can tell Laoch is getting tired so I put an end to it. I try a move I’ve always wanted to do since I saw it on Xena. I leap up and kick him in the stomach and then head and flip over backwards. Woohoo it worked and he’s down. I go to his side. “Are you alright?”
He sits up laughing, “That was great. You’ll have to show me that move sometime. But after I get the feeling back in my legs.”
One of his men approach, “May I ask you a question, Willow?”
“The others and I would like to see you spar with the two vampires. We would like to see your full potential if that is alright.”
I look at Spike and Angel “Okay?”
I turn to the other warriors, “Now I have a question for you. Do you want to just see my fighting abilities or my magick as well? Since you said my full abilities I wasn’t sure which you meant.”
I could tell by the way they looked at each other that they had forgotten or tried to forget that I use magick as well. It was Laoch that answered me, “The use of all your skills would be very fascinating to watch.”
I turned back to Angel and Spike, “Ready?”
For an answer Spike did a roundhouse kick to my head. After shaking it off I say, “I take that as a yes.”
Spike, Angel and I go at each other with no holds barred. They morph into vamp face and kick it up a notch. Well, if they can vamp I can witch. I look around and see the soldiers’ armor-like outfits sitting in a heap. Perfect.
I sweep my hand and some of the armor stands. I hear a gasp from the soldiers but I just smile at them and wink. I teleport the armor behind Angel and then I put a barrier up between them and me.
Spike attacks first and bounces off my barrier. I lift my arm and give him the two fingers. He smirks back at me. About this time, one of the armored suits has grabbed Angel around the chest. Angel flips it over his head and it lands in a heap at his feet. He just stands there with his mouth hanging open. I sweep my hand again and the suits lay crumpled where they were.
Spike and Angel get on either side of me and I release the barrier. I raise my arms again and the wind picks up. Just when they both attack I lift up on the wind currents and they hit each other in the head like the Three Stooges.
The wind gently sets me back down and I hear the soldiers laughing. Good I haven’t freaked them out too much with my wicked mojo.
After my display of fighting and magick skills I walk over to where Laoch is resting. “Are you alright?”
He smiled, “Yes, I’m just enjoying my friends laughing at your friends.”
“Can I talk to you privately?”
“Sure, let’s walk over there.” He says pointing to a group of trees.
“Well, actually I wanted to try a telepathic link with you if that’s alright?” I hold my breath not sure of his reaction.
He looks into my eyes for a minute and then nods his head. I let out the breath I was holding and smile.
**Thank you Laoch. I know this takes a lot of faith and courage on your part. What we don’t understand can be very alarming.**
**It is hard for me but only because of centuries of mistrust is hard to overcome.**
**That’s kinda what I wanted to talk to you about. Why have the Magi and the Warriors always been separate?** I wanted to get his take on why they didn’t work together.
**The mistrust goes back a very long time. There had been a Mage who was an advisor to one of our Warrior societies but he abused his power and because of that innocent people were killed. There has been mistrust ever since. I will be honest, that really is the only incident that I know of but it is very hard to overcome years of mistrust. They are a secret society which I understand since we do not share our secrets either.**
**I think the Warrior societies and the Magick societies have a lot they could learn from each other. I know I can’t bring you together for a lasting partnership because you’re right centuries of mistrust is very hard to overcome quickly. But I think you and Aisling are the right people to take the first step. My abilities against Angel and Spike would not have been as accomplished if I had only my fighting skills. In my world there is what is called a Slayer. She is one girl that the Powers gave the skills to fight the forces of darkness. They generally die very young but I feel if they had been given the combined skills like what I have, they would be able to fight a long time against those forces. When we go against the first evil I will use both the Warrior societies and the Magick societies to accomplish this. I know I can trust you both to watch my back and the others. I just hope you and Aisling feel the same way about your brethren. Do you think there will be a problem with the Magi or your Warriors not being able to trust the others?**
**No, I think everyone will do whatever is necessary to defeat the first evil. What you have said is true. We can use each other to defeat our enemies and I think enough time has passed that the first steps should and will be taken but gradually.**
**That is all anyone can ask and I thank you for letting me establish a telepathic link. I think the coming battle if your men permit I will have the Magi and myself communicate telepathically with everyone. That way we won’t be verbally or by signal giving our position or ideas away.**
**I think that is a very good strategy and will work well. I will let my men know to expect it.**
“Thanks, Laoch. You’ve helped me a lot.”
“Your welcome, Willow and I’m glad I could help you.”
“I feel Ralph is getting stronger and I think the battle will be approaching quickly.”
“My men are prepared and from what I’ve seen of you and your friends I think you are prepared as well. Do not fear, Saetha we all have confidence that you will win this and defeat the first evil for all eternity. It has been written that you will.”
“I hope so”, I mumble.
I turn to Xander, “You ready to go soak these muscles?”
Giles and I walk to the hot springs that Londeyer showed us that is near his home. It is a beautiful area with flowering bushes surrounding it. The full moon reflects off the water and the heat from the springs seems to make the flowers even more fragrant.
I relax into Giles’ arms, “Oh Rupert, this is breathtaking. I may never want to leave.”
He pulls me further into his embrace. “This spot or this world?”
“This spot. Maybe I can get a landscape artist to put something like this in the backyard.”
“Mmmm. Midnight skinny dipping in hot water with you. I think I like that idea.”
I smile and give him a soft kiss. “It’s not midnight, but how about night skinny dipping with me, now? I put up some wards as we were walking so we should have plenty of notice when someone comes near.”
He just smiles and starts to take off his shirt. I take that as a yes and begin undressing. I walk down into the water and as I go to sit I wave my hand and some flowers from the bushes fall into the water. Much better.
I smile softly as Rupert comes to sit next to me and tells me to turn my back to him. He massages my shoulders. God it feels great, I love the feel of his hands on me whether his touch is romantic, casual or erotic.
“No, just a little sore and probably some tension. It’s been awhile since I’ve flat out battled some Master Vampires. Spike and Angel got in some really good hits in training today.”
His hands begin to move over my shoulder and stray lower. “Rupert, I don’t think those got a workout today.” I say with a smirk as I lean further back to give him better access.
“Maybe not, but I think they need extra attention now.” Who am I to argue? I let my hand begin to stray behind me as well.
“Willow, I don’t think that got a workout today either.”
I laugh and turn around to straddle his hips. “Maybe not, but I think it needs extra attention now.”
He caresses my back and pulls me closer. I can’t seem to get close enough to him. If I could meld our two bodies together so we were one being, I would. Soon I can’t tell where he ends and I begin.
I must have fallen asleep because the sounds of my screaming and Rupert shaking me brought me out of a nightmare/vision.
“God, Willow. I couldn’t wake you. You were staring straight ahead with a terrified look on your face. Then you started screaming. What did you see?”
“We were sitting in this hot spring and the water started boiling and then turned an inky blackness. It was like oil, really slick and greasy. It felt evil. It rose up like a wave and covered you and brought you under its depths. I couldn’t find you or sense you. God, it was terrifying. Then the inky blackness said that the time was close and that it would take great pleasure in giving me a slow and painful death. It would keep me alive just long enough so that I could watch all that I’ve worked for and all the people that I care about be destroyed. God, Rupert I think it was the first evil mocking me and letting me know it was getting closer.”
“You’re probably right. I think it was trying to scare you off. It must think that you are a threat otherwise it wouldn’t bother to try to get you to give up before you even started.”
“But, Rupert it picked you to be in my vision. It must know how much I care for you. I don’t think I could survive if anything happened to you.”
“I’m not leaving you here. We all knew the danger going in and of course it’ll attack your weak spots, which are those you care about. I won’t say that we’ll all come out of it all right ‘cause I don’t know that. But if I am to die I will die fighting at your side.”
I had spent the night with Rupert like it might be my last with him. It was gentle and loving and I’ll carry the memory of what we shared last night with me forever. I just hope that forever lasts longer than today only. I know Ralph would be free today and the battle would take a lot out of me. I set up a link with Dawn to let her know not to go to school today and be prepared for my using some of her energy.
I had talked strategy over with Angel and Xander. Laoch had told us that all of the warrior societies would fight along side us and that they were prepared to fight with the Magi as well. Spike, Angel and Xander will be staying with the soldiers even though I will be leading both soldier and Magi.
Aisling let us know that all the Magi societies would be joining in on the fight. My fellow brother and sisters of magick had joined forces, which is a first and will fight alongside the soldiers. I am proud of them both for all taking the tiny step to reconciliation. Rupert and I will be staying with the Magi.
I have asked everyone if they know what the first evil looks like so I can be prepared. Thankfully he has a human form ‘cause I didn’t want to be fighting something that looked like it came out of a horror movie like “Alien”.
I feel darkness begin to press in on me and I opened my telepathic link with everyone.
**It has begun. I feel him getting closer. Everyone please be prepared.**
I see dark clouds on the horizon and I hear thunder rolling. I feel the negative magickal energy in the air. I turn to Rupert and pull him into a kiss. “I love you.” Hoping this isn’t the last time I’ll get to say that.
“I love you, too. Let’s do it.”
I see demons of every shape and size coming towards us.
**Laoch, you and your soldiers will be fighting demons. Be very careful.**
**We see them, Willow. Have no fear all of us have prepared for this battle for years.**
**Enough talking, let’s kick their ass.**
I smile at Spike’s impatience. **Spike, Angel and Xander please take care and let’s kick some demon ass.**
The Magi and I animate some soldier clothing and the clothes pick up weapons and join in the fight. While the demons attack the soldiers and the Magi I look around the area. I know this is a diversionary tactic and I want to be prepared for anything. A demon comes closer and I pull out my sais and attack. I kick to the head and I stab its stomach. I guess the battle has begun.
I feel magick building in the air and see a force strike Giles and lift him off his feet. His body is slammed into the ground and I rush to his side, “Are you alright?”
He blinks a few times and I see Ripper coming to the surface. “Yeah, just fine. Now I really owe that bastard one.”
Oh I don’t think Ralph knew what he was doing when he chose to pick on Rupert. He just pissed him off and made Ripper come out to play and not in a good way, either.
I return to the fighting. This battle is for everything. It won’t be so easy to harm those I love, I will protect them and I am determined to win. ‘Resolve Face.’
Some of the Magi had changed into their animal forms and are attacking the demons. I see Angel using his sword and creating a bloody path through the enemy. I look over at Spike and he is in his glory. His demon face is to the fore and he is killing everything in sight. I think he misses the days of being the big bad. I check on Xander and there he is holding his own alongside the warriors. Someone had handed him a battle axe and I notice him swing it and decapitate a demon nearby. Blood spattered but he is smiling.
I decide to change into a bird and scout the area. I know Ralph is silently watching nearby but I don’t know where. I concentrate and feel myself begin to morph. I fly high in the sky and notice something among the trees to the side. I feel the evil surrounding me and know that this is the first evil. I get closer knowing I am doing the right thing. This is my fight with Ralph.
**Rupert, I’m going after Ralph.**
I ignore him and see Ralph send a lightening bolt my way. I dodge it and land nearby. I quickly morph back into human form before he can attack again.
“I will enjoy watching you suffer as all you love die and then I will kill you slowly, maybe days.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just get to the fighting and quit yammering.”
He smiles and flicks a fireball at me and I roll to dodge it. I stand and send a lightening bolt out of the sky and scorch the earth at his feet. He steps back and I feel better.
I feel Rupert and the others getting closer. “Looks like your demons are losing.”
“Maybe, but your friends won’t be here in time to save you.”
I notice what looks like an old rusted pole in the grass. I make it appear in my hand. As soon as I feel its weight I hurl it through Ralph’s stomach.
He just smiles at me as the hole it made closes. Oh this can’t be good. No one said anything about self-healing. Crap, now what?
He flicks his hand at me and I go flying back. As soon as the stars clear out of my eyes I am seriously going to kick his ass.
I see Rupert and everyone approaching and I know it is time to end this either way.
I concentrate, **Ready, Dawnie?**
**Go for it, Willow**
Dawn throws her energy toward me and the rush of energy that streams into me is like the warmth of love. I wrap it close and shield it with my own power. I gather all the love that is around me and take that energy and pour it into a fireball.
Ralph just looks at me and shakes his head. “Do you think that little fireball will do anything to me?”
I just smirk and hurtle the love made fire into Ralph. I wish I could capture the look of surprise when he realizes the magick was full of pure love. He screams NO! and explodes into a million black pieces.
Such a simple saying but true nonetheless, love conquers all.
Rupert runs up to me, “Don’t ever scare me like that again!”
I throw myself into his arms and just tremble. He strokes my hair and whispers to me until I’m calm again.
I draw back and see Xander blood splattered but fine and walking towards me. I see Angel and Spike coming toward me and they look tired but all right. I hear cheering and see everyone hugging, backslapping and generally congratulating each other. It’s a wonderful sight.
Xander joins Rupert and me in a hug. Next I feel Angel’s arms around me and Spike just stands to the side. He rolls his eyes and says, “Bloody hell.” Then he joins us in a group hug. I smile and let Dawn know that her power combined with mine help us defeat Ralph.
The celebration was glorious. Magi and Warriors together in a hall celebrating the victory that their combined efforts helped to bring about. I am proud of all of them. I know it is a small step but it is a step in the right direction.
Aisling and Laoch approach me and Aisling says, “Willow, the Powers of both Light and Dark were correct in choosing you to be the one that defeated the evil.”
I smile, “Thank you. But I didn’t do it alone and you all should enjoy the victory that you helped with.”
“Are you leaving soon?”
“Yes, as much as we’ve enjoyed Paralda I am anxious to get home.” I turn to Londeyer, “Thank you so much for seeking me out and showing me all that my magick could do.”
“You always had the magick in you, Willow. Aisling and I just helped you unlock it.”
I take the amulet off and return it to him but he shakes his head. “Please keep it as a reminder of the time that you spent with us.”
I smile my thanks and turn to Rupert and the others, “Ready?”
They nod their heads and I hold my arms up. The lights begin to swirl and the doorway between worlds open. I see my living room and Dawn is sitting on the couch. I turn to wave goodbye to all the people of Paralda and step through the opening.
“Willow! Spike!” Dawn yells and jumps up. She rushes over and gives each of us a hug.
Xander turns and looks for Anya. She steps out of the kitchen and runs towards him. “Xander!”
“Dawn, did my using your power harm you in anyway?” I ask.
She smiles, “Nope, everything was fine. I felt you pulling some of my energy and I let go and let you take what you wanted. It was kinda weird, I felt your presence as you took it.”
“You did good. When I felt your power enter me I could feel your presence as well. It felt warm and loving. That is what defeated Ralph.”
I walk over to Xander and Anya and give them each a hug. “Thank you guys for everything that you did. It helped me a lot, Anya to know that you were here taking care of Dawn and that you would be the first line of defense if we failed.”
I see Dawn and Spike leave to go down to the basement. They need some bonding alone time. I know that they both were worried about the other while we were gone.
I turn to Angel and throw myself into his arms. “You were right. Look for the weakness and strike. I knew that he was evil and filled with hatred so his weakness would be love. I don’t know if you’ve felt it but since my magick has enhanced I’ve felt our bond get much stronger. When I was fighting Ralph I felt your strength pour into me through that bond. I know I can block it, if you want I can make it so it isn’t as intense.”
He caresses my hair and whispers, “I’m happy that our bond is now much stronger. I like the feel of your presence in the back of my mind. It gives me a kind of peace.”
I hug him tighter. “Staying tonight?”
“No but thanks, I need to get back and make sure everything is alright. I can’t believe I actually miss Cordy and Gunn, even Wesley.”
Rupert and I walk Xander, Anya and Angel out to their cars. With a last wave goodbye we go back inside.
Rupert leads me up the stairs and into the room I’m using. We lay on the bed with my head on his chest and my arm across his stomach. He caresses my back and arm, “I thought I almost lost you.”
“I’m sorry I worried you. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew that it was my destiny to fight Ralph on my own. As soon as I knew what would defeat him and gathered all the love, yours especially, I had no doubt that we’d win.”
“Just don’t ever do that again. I think you took a few years off my life and I’m already far ahead of you.
I rise up to look at him, “Does the differences in our ages bother you?”
He smiles, “No, besides when I’m with you, you make me feel younger than I am.”
“It’s not like you’re 200 years older than me like Buffy and Angel.”
He pinches me, “Smart ass”.
I laugh and roll over so I’m laying on him, “That’s me, smart all over.”
I wake early in the morning and I can’t go back to sleep. I keep thinking about Amy. I gently lift Rupert’s arm and quietly get out of bed. He wakes briefly. “Go back to sleep I’m just going into the other room for a minute.”
I walk quietly into the room where Rat Amy is and take her out of her cage. “Amy, I hope this works.”
I put my candles in a circle around Amy and myself and wave my hand for them to light. I still can’t get over doing magick without incantations and herbs. I concentrate and feel the earth’s energy. I visualize Amy morphing from a rat into human form like I do when I morph into animals. Dancing white light surrounds us and I see Rat Amy getting taller and going back into human form.
I breathe a sigh of relief. I am so happy my magick is strong enough now that I can bring her back. “Amy are you alright?”
“Willow? What am I doing here?”
“What’s the last thing that you remember?”
“The mob was going to burn us at the stake and I called on Hecate and I turned into a rat.”
“I’m so sorry. That happened about 4 years ago. I kept trying to bring you back but it wasn’t until now that my magick was strong enough. Can I get you anything?”
“Well, clothes would be nice.” She wrinkles her nose like a mouse and I try not to laugh, “I’ve also got a craving for pancakes. I don’t know why but pancakes sound really good.”
“I think they both can be arranged, wait here.” I return with some clothes. “Come on downstairs and I’ll make you some pancakes.”
As I’m making pancakes I hear Rupert come down the stairs and I smile thinking about his reaction to Amy.
I walk over and give him a hug and kiss. “It worked. I was able to bring her back.”
I see Amy just staring, “ I guess a lot has changed in the four years since I was a rat.”
I laugh, “You have no idea.”
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