Mr. Blake’s Farm – Evening
As the drops of rain began to fall more and more, Willow and Rowena raised the umbrella. As they moved closer to the next barn, Willow looked back and squinted.
“Now, that’s funny,” she thought out loud.
“What is?” Ro asked, thinking that Willow was talking to her.
“Hm? Oh, sorry,” Willow replied, coming back down from whatever thought she was lost in. “See the land there? The mounds from the rows?” Rowena turned and looked where Willow was pointing. “They’re flat. If you look at the same rows, farther out, they’re intact.”
“Like something has worn it down in this area, but only to a certain point?” Rowena began to point too. “It just ends right over there for some reason. That is curious. We should investigate some more, see if there are distinguishable tracks.”
“Standing in an open field holding a metal rod during a thunderstorm? Not on my to do list today,” Willow said with a teasing grin. “Let’s look around the barn first. Some of the reports talked about dead animals, so let’s see if anything is still around that might clue us in to a ritual sacrifice.”
Moving into the barn, Willow lowered her umbrella and looked over at Ro. The blonde looked suddenly uncomfortable. Willow raised her eyebrows.
“Something I said?”
“Well…yes, actually,” Rowena said quietly. “Ritual sacrifices, gore, all that stuff, it’s the one part of magic that truly bothers me. I just don’t understand how someone can kill an innocent creature.”
“Some rituals call for…sacrifices,” Willow responded.
“Could you ever kill for a sacrifice?” Ro asked.
“I have…actually,” Willow answered reluctantly, quietly. “But, now, I have limits on what I’m willing to do in the name of magic.”
Willow continued on to where animals were still munching on hay in their stalls. It did not go unnoticed that Rowena hung back a little. Willow continued deeper into the barn and noticed two hoofed legs laying flat on the ground, partially sticking out of one of the stalls.
“That’s weird.” Willow muttered as she got a closer look. She glanced over her shoulder to Rowena.
“What is?” Ro asked, finally coming up behind Willow.
“The calf…” Willow replied. She pointed to the corpse of a dead animal. “It’s too much work for a sacrifice. I mean, a pig or a chicken would suffice…why kill such a big animal? Not to mention the fact that I am sensing zero mojo here. Nothing is adding up.”
“Well, what are you thinking then?” Rowena pressed on. “That whatever is going on here has nothing to do with magic?”
“No,” Willow shook her head, looking at the cow more closely. “It looks like it was killed in a ritualistic fashion. But whoever sacrificed the cow didn’t have any magical energy or enough power to complete what they were doing.” Willow chewed on the inside of her cheek before muttering, “Hmm…I’m thoroughly confused.”
Slowly, the pair crept closer to the carcass for a closer examination. The sharp, shrill ring of Willow’s phone made Rowena jump. She grabbed Willow’s arm instinctively, making the witch jump too as a result. But soon both women gave a half chuckle and smiled at each other.
“Nervous much?” Willow rhetorically asked Rowena, who began to blush. Willow then pulled the phone from her pocket. “Hello?” she said a little louder than normal. The wind was beginning to pick up, and she couldn’t hear anything on the line but static. “Hello?” Willow tried again, yelling this time.
With a shrug, she looked down at her phone before flipping it shut.
“No reception,” she explained. She stepped deeper into the barn and motioned for Ro to follow. “We should look around here some more.”
Mr. Blake’s House – Same Time
“Willow?” Giles shouted into his phone. “Willow? Can you…bloody technology!”
The lightning struck again, revealing the still-huddled family, but the teenager no longer had the shotgun. Giles now controlled the weapon.
“Listen to me,” Giles began slowly. “I’m not here to hurt you –”
A scoff from the boy interrupted Giles’s comment. He had a tissue shoved up his nostril, stopping the blood from pouring down his face.
“Too late for that,” he quipped.
Giles sighed and continued. “Well, I couldn’t let you bloody well shoot me. Please understand something. I heard of the passing of your father, or I’m assuming Mr. Blake was your father. And I have reason to believe his death might have been mystically related. Myself and two of my colleagues outside are investigating what happened. We came to help you.”
“Good luck,” the boy scoffed again. “There’s no way to help. Not with what’s been goin’ on around here.”
This comment sparked Giles’s interest. He lowered the gun slightly and leaned forward. “Can I please put this gun down so we can discuss this? I promise I won’t harm anyone here,” Giles repeated. “I’m a…parapsychologist of sorts and I’m here to help.”
The boy still looked reluctant, but finally nodded. Getting the affirmation, Giles did as he promised and took a seat at the kitchen table, placing the gun beside himself. The woman of the house gingerly stood up and Giles gave her a suspicious look.
“Power went out,” she told him. “The oil lamp is over there.” She pointed.
Giles nodded his approval and she turned it up, bringing some light to the room.
“Again, I’m not going to hurt anyone. I just need some information,” he reminded them. The boy nodded again. “This question might seem bizarre, but…have any items around the farm been acting unusually –”
“That’s the understatement of the year,” the boy responded with a dry laugh.
“I need more specifics,” Giles pressed on. “What exactly have you experienced?”
“He shouldn’t have gotten that damned suit!” The boy exploded, loud enough to make Giles sit forward in his chair and reach toward the gun again. “Is that what you want to hear? Pa was foolish for bringin’ that kinda devil suit out here, and it cost him his life!”
Seeing the boy was no threat to him, Giles moved back in his seat again.
“I am deeply sorry for your loss,” Giles told the boy quietly. “But I believe we can stop this from happening again.”
“We?” he asked.
“As I said, my associates outside are investigating as we speak. So please tell me what you know. Start at the beginning.”
“He needed a new suit for the scarecrow,” the boy hesitantly began. “Something happened the day after, though. Everything just felt…it all felt bad. Weird stuff started happenin’.”
“Like what?” Giles prompted.
“Stuff was disappearin’ from the barn, then showin’ up somewhere in the crops. Animals were bein’ released with no explanation as to how, and then the real creepy stuff started happening.”
“Some animals started to die or…actually get ripped apart. Then, at night, something was knockin’ at the windows and the wind was howlin’, but not like the wind. It was kinda saying stuff.”
“Yeah like you couldn’t make out words but it was like…chantin’. Then the night before Pa died, the cow got killed. Up until then it was just a few smaller animals and we buried them. Thought maybe it was a fox, but a fox can’t kill no cow.”
“Did you actually see anything?” Giles asked.
The boy looked reluctant again and spared a glance to his mother. She nodded for him to continue.
“That’s when I saw it.” The boy paused, his eyes teared up and he looked past Giles and out the kitchen window. “I heard screamin’ and I get up and see Pa runnin’ out of the barn. He was bein’ chased…by the scarecrow with the suit on. At least, that’s what I thought I saw. When Pa fell, though, that was all I could focus on.”
Giles’s face dropped at the end of the boy’s story. “Dear lord,” he muttered almost inaudibly. “The suit brought the scarecrow to life.”
The Watchers Council – Media Room – Same Time
“Hey Andy,” Xander said, coming into the cozy room. “Where is everyone?”
Andrew turned from the wall of videotapes and DVDs he appeared to be organizing. “Well, Rona is with Marsha and some of the younger girls doing weapons training. Um…I think they’re working on the…oh yeah, the quarterstaff tonight. Tracey went home early because she has an exam tomorrow. Becca’s at her literary club meeting. Mrs. Lindquist took Jeffrey out to dinner at that Czech restaurant in Little Bohemia. Jeff just loves all kinds of weird foods and his mom promised to let him taste the beer, which is called…um, oh yeah! Pivo! And you know where the head watchers and Faith and Robin are.”
Xander looked as if he was about to fall asleep after Andrew’s speech. “What about Kennedy?” he yawned.
“Oh,” Andrew said uncomfortably, as turning back to his organizing. “Her and Vi took the new girl out for a short patrol around the block.” His words ran into each other and Xander tilted his head, as if trying to decipher them.
“What?” the tall man finally said. “I thought Kennedy was supposed to just get her settled in, not take her out to face the creatures of the night!”
“I know!” Andrew said miserably. “Do you think anyone listens to me around here? No, I’m just the chief cook and bottle washer. And then when they finally do send me on a mission, all I get is teased and ridiculed when I get back.”
“Hey,” Xander said softly, placing a gentle hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “Look Andy, you did do a good job. Hell, you outwitted Angel and believe me, that’s a big accomplishment. In fact…” Xander paused with a growing smile. “When Willow told me it actually made MY day. So you told a few of your stories in the process…no big deal.”
“Well, I just didn’t want them to know all our business, that’s all,” Andrew explained. “I mean, you should have seen that place, Xander. It was…evil, tainted a-and I couldn’t believe that good people like Wesley and Fred could stand to be there more than five minutes. It…it was upsetting.”
“Evil, tainted and Angel’s a part of it. I’m shocked,” Xander said sarcastically, his eyes dark. “You were right not to trust Angel…hell, I never trusted him from day one. But don’t let the gang here bother you. They know you did a good job and that poor girl is getting the help she needs, all because of you. Besides, anyone that can pull one over on tall, dark and brooding is tops in my book. Okay?”
Andrew pouted a moment more, but then his face cracked into a slow smile. “Okay…hey! Do you want to join me for an evening of fantasy and musical entertainment with The Wizard of Oz?”
Xander sighed. “Sure, why not?” he said. “It’ll help pass the time waiting for the girls to get back.”
Andrew happily pranced over to the big screen television.
Mr. Blake’s Farm – Evening
Willow and Rowena dashed through the torrential rain, their umbrella useless in the increasing wind as they reached the final barn. Looking around, Willow breathed a sigh of relief.
“Good,” she said to her fellow watcher. “No dead animals in here. That last building was giving me the creeps.”
“How can you tell?” Rowena asked. “I mean, about the animals. It’s dark in here.”
“I feel dead things,” Willow said, then chuckled at her poor attempt at humor. When Rowena just raised a suspicious eyebrow, Willow went on. “I guess it’s something I picked up fighting vamps over the years…Or maybe just residuals from the black magic bender weekend from hell,” she muttered. She moved away and began looking around the barn.
Rowena joined in the search and found an oil lamp hanging on a peg pounded into a support beam. “Great,” she said, pulling it down. She pulled her lighter out and tried lighting the wick. The small device only gave off a weak spark in the darkness.
“You smoke?” Willow asked, spotting the gold lighter’s reflection.
“Uh? Oh,” Rowena said, looking at her hand and flashing the lighter, “No, not anymore. Tyrell Sr. gave this to me as a gift…It’s silly, really, but it’s, well, it’s my good luck charm. When I go out on assignment I still carry it. Superstitious and bizarre, I know.”
“Giles used to smoke too, years ago.” Willow told her, before pausing in thought. “Is that like a watcher requirement, because I might be having second thoughts about this whole destiny thing?”
“No, it most certainly is not a requirement, and it’s not an addiction I’d like to see you start,” Rowena answered.
“You really did read my file didn’t you?” Willow said with a slight grin.
Rowena look up from trying the lighter again, with apology in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean –”
“No, it’s okay,” Willow told her. “I wasn’t trying to put you on the spot. It’s good to know you understand what you’re dealing with here. I mean, I’m not a model citizen… and I’ve done horrible things.”
“You have,” Rowena nodded, “but unlike most people I think you’ve faced them and you’ve learned from them. It takes a strong person to walk through hell and still be walking once they make it to the other side.”
Willow blushed slightly and turned away. “Well, at least you knew what you were getting into when you signed on,” she offered.
“I knew, and I don’t regret it in the least,” Rowena added. After a few more flicks of the lighter, Willow reached over and stopped Rowena’s hands from trying again.
“You must be wet,” the witch said. “Here, let me.” She took the lamp from Rowena and, with a mumbled word, waved her hand over the wick.
Rowena breathed deeply as if feeling the magic flowing and then smiled as the lamp finally cast its warm light. “Thanks,” she said, taking the lamp back and replacing the globe. “You’re handy to have around. Would have been great in the Girl Guides,” she jibed.
“Not me!” Willow laughed. “My mother didn’t believe in Scouting. She thought they were simply organizations which perpetuated the patriarchal hierarchy and reinforced skewed gender roles.”
“After meeting your mother, I can believe that. And don’t you dare say I told you so,” Rowena laughed as she hung the lamp back on its peg. Willow lit a second lamp and held it up to light as much of the room as possible. She peered into the darkness.
“Anything…mystical?” Rowena asked, joining Willow.
“Not a thing,” Willow said. “Animal-free, living or dead, but it’s still creepy.” She shone the lamp into several empty stalls, but found nothing.
“I spoke to Althenea the other day,” Rowena remarked as Willow led the way towards the rear of the barn.
“Oh yeah?” Willow said with a smile. “And how is our illustrious Miss Dimmons?”
“She’s fine,” Rowena said. “The Coven is raising her to third degree at the next full moon.”
“Really?” Willow said. “Oh that’s wonderful! I’m so proud of her. We’ll have to send her something nice as a congratulations gift. Want to go in with me?”
“I’d like that,” Rowena said. “We’ll think of something special when we get back.”
“Will she be remaining with the Coven, or forming her own?” Willow asked, opening up a cabinet to find various farming tools.
“She’ll stay with the Coven for now,” Rowena said, poking through another storage cabinet. “I think she likes working with the Council, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if she became our official liaison.”
“That would make sense,” Willow said. “She’s young, and she already has connections with you and I. A-and Giles, too of course.” Willow sighed as they finally reached the rear of the barn. “Nothing. Of course, it might help if we knew what we were looking for, other than a suit of old clothes.”
“No magical traces?” Rowena asked.
“Not a thing,” Willow said. They headed for the front of the barn again.
“Willow?” Rowena asked softly. “From talking with Althenea, I kind of got the idea that she was…well, fond of you.”
Willow blushed. “Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that.”
Rowena was silent and finally Willow sighed as if making a decision. “Althenea was interested in me while I was in England. We…we even went out one night…well, sorta. But it was way too soon after Tara. She did help me with one thing, though.”
“What was that?” Rowena asked.
“Helped me realize that I really am gay…that it wasn’t just Tara,” Willow admitted. “I think maybe in another life, Al and I could be together, but not this one. I’m just glad she was there, and I’ll cherish her friendship the rest of my life.”
“She’s been a good friend for me, too,” Rowena said. “After Istanbul and everything, I was a wreck. Somehow I stumbled my way to Devon and ended up on her doorstep. I was so incoherent, I couldn’t even tell her what had happened. She just bundled me into her guest bed and let me sleep for three days. Then she sat me down, made some tea and listened as everything came out. I think that’s when I started on the road to healing.”
“I’m glad the Coven is recognizing her skills,” Willow said. “Not only her magical ability, but her wisdom as well. She’ll make a good high priestess.”
“It’s funny, isn’t it?” Rowena asked after a short silence.
“How both of us were helped by the same person in one of the darkest periods of our lives?” Rowena replied.
Willow thought for a moment. “Giles goes on sometimes about destiny and fate, but I do believe that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. Sometimes we might not recognize that reason until much later, but we do eventually. Everyone is here to learn certain lessons. We just have to open our eyes to what the universe is telling us.”
Rowena chuckled. “I’m glad one of us on the Council is not an old cynic.”
“Ha,” Willow countered. “I’m just the youngest…give me a few years and I’ll be more crotchety than you and Giles put together.”
“Hey!” Rowena protested, smiling as if glad the mood was lightened. “Who are you calling crotchety?”
“If the shoe fits…” Willow joked and laughed as she jumped away from Rowena’s playful slap.
Cleveland Alley – Night
After receiving a quick, hard kick to the stomach, Kennedy spun around and slammed into the brick wall of the alley. A tall, muscular vampire growled in her face. It didn’t faze her, however. She took the stake from inside her jacket, getting a good grip on the handle, and plunged it into the heart of the vampire. A big smile spread across her face and she looked over to Lori.
The tall, shy redhead looked on with wide, scared eyes. She clutched a small stake to her chest.
“Did you see that?” Kennedy asked her, switching into teacher mode. “I didn’t waste any time. I went for the kill, for the heart, and that’s what you have to do. Can you fight?”
The girl nodded quickly as Kennedy saw another vampire from the pack at the far end of the alley look their way.
“Good,” Kennedy said. “Give it a go. If it gets too heavy, I’m here. Nothing’s gonna happen to you.”
Kennedy took a step back as Lori began engaging in combat with the charging vampire. To her surprise, the new slayer was holding up pretty well. “Shy ones you gotta look out for,” Kennedy said to Vi. Then she turned to her left in time to meet the vamp that was just about to tackle her.
Kennedy shifted her weight so that when the vampire hit her, she was able to flip him over. Just as she had told Lori, she didn’t waste any time and dusted the vampire immediately. Before she had a chance to admire her work, two vampires surprised Kennedy from behind.
By accident, one of the vampires leaned against her outstretched stake and dusted itself, but the other was able to push Kennedy to the pavement and deliver several blows to her face. She felt her nose break at the same time that she heard the snapping noise that accompanied the last blow.
Kennedy hadn’t realized the vampire had stopped hitting her and was slowly making his way down towards her neck. His hands forced her to look over to the right. Kennedy could see Lori fighting her vampire, but in that moment Lori was flipped over by her attacker and landed with a thud on her back.
In desperation, Kennedy began to struggle against the vampire that held her down. But then another vampire arrived and pinned her to back to the ground. Kennedy cried out, completely helpless, as she watched a vampire sink its teeth into Lori’s neck.
End of Act Two