Act 2




Fade In:
Watchers Council – Lobby – Continuous

Alex turned to face the caseworker with a look of confusion, as Jeff and Andrew walked back over.

“We were informed you would be coming by later this week,” Alex said.

“No, today’s my day,” the worker replied cheerfully. “We’d like to look over your facility, if that’s okay with you, Mr. Giles? You are the school Director, are you not?”

“I-I am, but I was under the impression that Ms. Neel would be here first.”

“As was I,” Alex told her, slightly annoyed. “I’m here for my summary with my client, Mr. Lindquist.”

“Well, I see no reason that we both can’t take this tour, unless Mr. Giles has something to hide,” Ms. Manor replied half-jokingly. “Do you?”

Giles was looking to Alex, as if for her approval, when Jeff spoke up. “I’d like to speak with Mr. Giles for a moment, if that’s alright with you ladies?”

“Go ahead Jeff,” Alex told him.

“Nooo,” Andrew pleaded in a soft voice, but followed along as Jeff led Giles away from the circle.

Jeff rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “We, uh, we’ve got a slight problem at the moment,” Jeff began under his breath.

“Obviously,” Giles answered. “I didn’t expect them both here at once.”

“No. Something more serious,” Jeff told him. “Just promise to keep your voice and reaction down after I tell you.”

“Tell me what?” Giles asked impatiently.

Jeff and Andrew reluctantly looked at each other.

From the other side of the room Alex and Evelyn both heard Giles exclaim, “You did WHAT?” as Jeff and Andrew both motioned with their hands for him to lower his voice.

Fade In:
Chess Game – Same Time

Rowena looked at the scene before her. Instead of being in the Council library, as she expected, she was surrounded by a black sky, dotted with stars. She could see no floor, ceiling or doors, only the larger-than-life chessboard in front of her and Willow on the other side of it, looking as perplexed as she did.

“Maybe this is a dream,” Rowena suggested tentatively as she walked alongside the edge of the chessboard.

“Funny, but my dreams don’t usually involve gargantuan chess pieces hanging out in the middle of the universe,” Willow replied sarcastically.

“Well…it was a thought,” Rowena replied. She came to one corner of her side of the chessboard and tried to walk beyond it. Instead of moving off into the starry expanse, Rowena found herself at the other corner of her side of the chessboard. “Interesting,” Rowena mused.

Willow saw Rowena disappear from one end of the chessboard and appear on the other end.

“More like freaky,” Willow replied. She tried to step deeper onto the playing area of the chessboard itself. As soon as she set her foot down on the next tile of the board, she found herself back in the same position where she had started, as if she had never stepped forward at all. “Okay, I’m officially concerned now,” Willow said with a frown.

“Any clues on how we got here?” Rowena asked Willow across the expanse of board.

“How would I know? It was your idea to play chess,” Willow sniped back. She looked around, as if trying to find any possible way out of their situation. She sighed in frustration.

“Oh jeez…would you two stop bickering and play already? You know, Willow, you never could just make a decision,” one of the pawns said in a whiny voice.

“I know that voice,” Willow whispered. She turned around and saw that one of her middle pawns had transformed into the likeness of Cordelia Chase.

“Okay. Living chess set. Creepy…and one of the pawns looks and talks exactly like Cordy. That ups the creep factor,” Willow mumbled loudly.

Cordelia began to tap her foot impatiently on her white square.

“Umm, excuse me, but who is this person and why is she here?” Rowena asked Willow from across the board.

Before Willow could answer, Cordelia threw up her arms. “How should I know? I don’t even know what kind of a floor this is. Oh wait, I know! It’s like Saturday Night Fever, right? Disco?”

Willow and Rowena both rolled their eyes at the same time.

“She’s lovely. High school crush, Will?” Rowena said with a smirk.

“Oh yeah, that’s funny,” Willow glowered back, obviously not amused.

“Willow and me? Oh, that’s just so eww! And a girl like Willow, are you kidding me?” Cordelia said with a look of disgust on her face. Then, for a fleeting moment, a thought appeared to enter and summarily exit her mind. “I have higher standards, thank you very much. Although, you do dress better than you did in high school, Will.”

Willow hid her face behind one hand and shook her head. “Oh for Pete’s sake, Pawn to King Four,” she said.

Cordelia just looked at Willow with a confused expression on her face.

Willow pointed at her. “You, move forward two spaces.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say that? I don’t speak geek like your loser friends,” Cordelia said. She ambled forward two spaces. Once she reached her destination, she turned back into a lifeless pawn.

“I’m not a geek,” Willow said, only to realize that she was talking to an immobile statue. She brought her hands up to her head and said with frustration, “I am a geek. I’m arguing with chess pieces for crying out loud! I’m beginning to see why Buffy once thought that this world was a delusion and she lived in a mental institution.”

“Well, this is a delusion, isn’t it?” Ro asked with a bit of concern. “I mean, we were just starting to play regular ol’ chess not more than ten minutes ago.”

Willow was taking deep breaths to calm herself down. “Yeah, okay, let’s think through this logically. We sat down…touched a chess piece…wound up in Chess Master in Space,” she mumbled as she paced back and forth.

“Okay, walking off the board didn’t help,” Rowena told her. “But what if we made an illegal move?”

“You think that might end the game?”

“Perhaps,” Rowena offered, and then announced, “Pawn to Queen Five.”

A shot of energy, like an electric bolt, struck Rowena and sent her to her knees, howling in pain.

“Rowena!” Willow yelled. She tried to run across the board past Cordelia’s pawn, but she hit an invisible barrier and fell to her backside.

Rowena struggled to her feet, breathing hard, as Willow also got up, rubbing her shoulder.

“I don’t recommend cheating,” the blonde watcher quipped, as she continued to take deeper breaths.

“Or running past our farthest piece…are you alright?” Willow asked, worried.

Rowena nodded. “Yeah, just give me a minute.” After a few more deep breaths Rowena squared her shoulders to continue.

“Okay, Pawn to Queen Three,” Rowena commanded her chess pieces. One of her middle pawns moved forward two steps, coming to rest directly in front of the pawn that had been Cordelia.

When nothing happened Rowena, cocked her head curiously. “Hmm, mine didn’t take on any sort of annoying visage,” Rowena informed Willow.

“Yeah. No fair,” Willow groused. Then she focused on the game in front of her. “Pawn to King’s Bishop Three,” Willow commanded.

When, again, nothing unusual happened, Rowena made her move. “Pawn to King Four.”

Willow began to chuckle. “Making a textbook defensive line,” the witch said, shaking her head.

“And?” Rowena answered indignantly.

“You always have to do everything perfectly, by the book. Gods forbid you throw caution to the wind.”

Suddenly Rowena’s pawn began to morph into an ash-blonde-haired girl, about fifteen years old. “She’s got your number, doesn’t she?” the pawn asked Rowena.

“Who’s that?” Willow asked.

“Who else?” Rowena’s pawn answered Willow, before looking back to scowl at Rowena. “Her underachieving sister.”

“I never had that opinion, Mary,” Rowena argued.

“Of course not. You’re perfect. Far be it from you to look down your nose at anyone.”

“I’m far from perfect,” Rowena answered, trying to stay calm.

“Hmm, not the way Mom and Dad see it. Why can’t you be more like Blanche? Blanche always got passing marks. Blanche always tried her best. Blanche got a scholarship. Yeah, a scholarship so she could go away, have a better life and leave me to rot in that smelly fish town. Thanks, Sis. I appreciate it.”

“I had to go to England,” Rowena said, growing angrier. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“Oh, and get this,” the pawn said, looking back at Willow. “Not only was she perfect, but pretty soon she got pretentious. She informs us all on her next visit home, she’s no longer Blanche. We have to call her Rowena from now on. I’m sure the next step would have been an unpronounceable symbol that meant ‘The watcher formerly known as Blanche’…we all make choices, Blanche. Lucky you. You always make the right ones, don’t you?”

“No, not always,” she replied.

Rowena and Willow watched as the pawn turned to wood once more.

“Okay.” Rowena began to re-focus and pace while she talked. “What do these two pawns have in common?”

“Neither seemed to like us very much,” Willow observed casually.

“True, but both had an impact on our life, for better or worse. All right, for worse, not better…do you see what’s happening here?”

“Kinda,” Willow answered, “But I haven’t thought about how Cordy teased me in years. She was just a girl who tormented me throughout school until she hooked up with Xander. Actually…” Willow paused for a moment. “…on second thought not really much changed after that. But still, I’m beyond that.”

“Okay but…it hurt. It changed the way you saw yourself, didn’t it?”

Willow looked away guiltily. “I’m different now,” she said softly.

“I know that. But you still remember, don’t you? How it felt still haunts you on some level. Just like my sister who, to this day, still blames me for leaving home to go to the Council?”

“Okay, Ms. Freud,” Willow said. “Maybe the quicker we play, the less likely we’ll get the talking commentary. Or, how about this? We don’t play.”

“And what? Sit here forever?” Rowena countered.

“We don’t even know that if we finish we’ll get back home! The game could start all over again!” Willow snapped.

“Well, it’s better than doing nothing,” Rowena answered.

“I agree, so just keep playing!”

“Why are you yelling at me?” Rowena shot back. “This isn’t my fault, and I’m just as confused as you are. If we’re going to get out of here, we need to work together and not against each other.”

“Oh, now you want to work together,” Willow muttered.

You better clarify yourself right now, before I rip your head off,” Rowena growled.

“Now you want clarification? Okay Rowena! Let’s talk! Let’s find out why you left and didn’t say a damn thing to me the entire time you were gone! You want to work together now? Fine! Let’s work together. Let’s have a big ol’ workfest full of trust a-and reliability! Maybe if you made this decision say, ohhh I don’t know, four months earlier, we wouldn’t be stuck here right now!”

Rowena raised a finger and opened her mouth, but before she could speak she heard someone say, “Willow!” The voice was a bit muddled and echoed softly through the expanse above, yet it sounded urgent.

“What was that?” Rowena asked.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time

“I don’t think screaming is helping,” Andrew told Dawn. She and Skye stood on the opposite side of the table from Andrew.

Ignoring Andrew, Dawn again yelled the woman’s name, just inches from her face.

Cut To:
Chessboard – Same Time

“Willow!” the voice softly echoed again.

Rowena listened carefully. “Is that…?”

“Dawnie!” Willow shouted back. “Where are you?” In a softer voice she added, “Better question, where are we?”

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time

To Dawn, Willow showed no reaction, still sitting stock still in front of the chessboard.

“We need the four of us together again. Maybe we can break this,” she said. “Get Jeff.”

“Mr. Giles said to get you two and he’ll try to send Jeff along later, when he can do it without raising suspicion.”

“Fine,” Dawn said, frustrated. “Meet us down in the Coven Room and we’ll try to figure out a way to reverse this. And…it might not be a bad idea to find a little research help.”

Andrew nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Yeah,” Dawn said sarcastically. “You do that.”

Andrew rushed from the room and Dawn turned to Skye. “I knew this was a bad idea.”

“Then why did you agree to do it?” Skye asked.

Dawn released a heavy sigh. “Because I’m an idiot, obviously. Look, stay here and start pulling books down and putting them around the room. Try to do it as messy yet orderly as possible.” Skye looked confused, so Dawn explained. “If it’s messy, the nose pokers won’t stay long, if at all. But keep it ordered enough that clean-up won’t be too hard. We’ll tell Jeff’s investigators we’re reorganizing the room and Rowena and Willow are in an intense game. Follow me?”

Skye nodded. “Organized mess. Intense game. Got it.”

Dawn sighed, running her fingers through her hair as she left the room. Skye began to pull armloads of books from the shelf.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Same Time

“So, why aren’t you telling me what you have planned for Friday?” Mia asked, thrusting forward with her wooden practice sword.

“Because, it’s a surprise. You know, where you’re not supposed to know in advance and stuff?” Kennedy answered. She parried Mia’s thrust and then swung her arms in an arc, attempting to cut Mia’s head off. Mia, however, ducked and then swung her faux sword in a circle at Kennedy’s feet. Kennedy jumped just in time and then attempted to bring her sword straight down. Mia countered in time, however, and blocked Kennedy’s thrust in mid-swing.

“You know what I think? I think you have no idea what we’re doing Friday,” Mia said, as she threw Kennedy off balance and resumed a striking stance.

“Yeah? Well, I think you’re impatient,” Kennedy said with an edge of anger to her voice. She started a series of overhead strikes, each of which Mia parried.

“Hasn’t anyone told you that it’s unhealthy to take out your lover’s squabbles with swords?” Faith shouted from the other side of the room, where she and Vi were kickboxing heavy bags.

“What class is this?” the slayers heard Alex say from the doorway.

Kennedy and Mia lowered their practice swords and looked toward the doorway, where they saw both Alex and Evelyn, pen and paper in hand, standing next to Giles, still furiously cleaning his glasses. Jeff peered around him, looking uncharacteristically nervous.

“Physical education,” Giles replied, smoothly replacing his glasses.

“Interesting. Never visited a school before that had bamboo kendo swords as part of their standard equipment,” Alex replied.

“Training with swords is part of our curriculum. It’s actually very popular at most European universities. In fact, I’m a fencer myself.”

“Right,” Faith added. “And our school feels our students should be able to defend themselves more than public schools, too – mind, spirit and body.”

“I see. And exactly what grade are you in, Ms…?” Alex questioned.

“That’s Faith and she’s an instructor, not a student,” Giles responded quickly.

Faith breathed on her nails and polished them against her shirt.

“Hear that ladies, you have to do what I say. Now drop and give me thirty!” Faith barked with glee.

Kennedy, Mia, and Vi all looked at each other uncertainty before looking back at Giles and Alex and deciding to drop to the ground to start their push-ups.

Seeing the annoyance on the slayers’ faces Giles quickly tried to get everyone’s attention. “Keep up the good work, Faith,” Giles said, as he put his arm around Alex’s shoulder to lead the group further down the hall. “Now, down here, we have the dormitories…”

“You sanction same-sex student affairs?” Evelyn, the social worker, asked as they walked on.

“Sorry?” Giles remarked in confusion.

“Your instructor said something about ‘lover’s squabbles,’” Evelyn said, pointing back toward Kennedy and Mia.

“All of our students are permitted to care for whomever they choose. And why on earth would I prohibit love?” Giles asked.

“No reason,” Evelyn said. She marked more notes on her yellow pad.

Jeff followed behind the pack and shook his head with a bleak expression.

“Jeff,” Alex called back, getting his attention. “Are you comfortable studying with students of different sexual orientations?”

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “One of my best friends here – Dawn, she’s got a girlfriend too, so I’m cool with that. Willow, too, but she doesn’t have a girlfriend right now.”

“Is your school for gay and lesbian students?” Evelyn asked Giles, as she started to search through her paperwork.

“No,” Giles answered quickly and then paused. “What I mean is, we don’t specialize based on orientation, but given our profess – um, program, we allow students and instructors a more free environment than most academic settings.”

Evelyn quirked an eyebrow.

“That’s not to say that the course work is easy,” Giles remarked in a rush. “We just feel that the more knowledge students have, the more well-rounded individuals they’ll become. With that said, sometimes their choices might seem, well, a bit unconventional, to the majority.”

“In other words,” Jeff began sarcastically, “It’s the narrow minded folks in the world you gotta look out for. Sexuality aside, everyone here treats me decently and makes sure I’m doing okay. Isn’t that the whole point of the inspection?” he said, tossing Evelyn a glance.

Evelyn gave Jeff an irritated look before scribbling something else on her notepad. Everyone else winced and Jeff gave a shrug of apology before starting down the hallway again.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Same time

Andrew walked in from the door opposite of the one that Giles had just left. He saw Faith smiling at the slayers, who were still on the ground doing push ups.

“What’s up? Do we have naughty slayers?” he asked.

Faith shushed him by putting a finger over her lips.

“Keep it down. The pain in our asses ‘we know better than you’ inspectors just left,” she told him.

Kennedy stopped at number sixteen and stood up. “Screw this,” she said, and Vi and Mia soon followed.

“Whatcha need, Andy?” Faith asked.

“We, uh…uh, we need research help,” he said.

“Where’s Ro and Willow?” she tossed back. “They’re the big brains. Get them to give you a hand.”

“They’re the ones in trouble, actually.”

“Trouble?” Kennedy asked, suddenly concerned. “What kind of trouble?”

“Just come to the library and I’ll explain,” he answered with a grimace.

Cut To:
Chess Game – Same Time

“Bishop to King’s Knight Five,” Willow said, biting her lip

With that move, Willow’s bishop invaded Rowena’s half of the chessboard. The board was now littered with chess pieces. Rowena and Willow’s pawns were facing off in the middle of the board, while each of their knights guarded the middle territory from wider out. Willow and Rowena had each castled, so that Willow’s king was to her right and Rowena’s king was to her left.

“Quite bold. Or impetuous,” Rowena said with a knowing grin. “Trying to trap my queen, as usual.”

“Hello? The Queen’s the key to a game,” Willow retorted. At that moment, the chess piece turned to Willow and the image of her father, Ira Rosenberg, appeared.

He gave a heavy sigh. “Following your impulses again and not your head. You’ll lose. You’ll have nothing if you don’t stop and look at where you’re going.”

“I know where I’m going,” Willow answered defiantly.

The piece then turned to Rowena. “So you’re the next one, I take it? This disturbed fantasy she lives out? Thinking with her heart instead of her head. You realize she just hasn’t met the right man, don’t you? You know when that happens, she’s going to leave you?”

“You don’t know anything,” Willow said, making the bishop turn back to her again.

“Willow, don’t argue,” Rowena interrupted. “It’s hard but this isn’t real. This isn’t happening.”

“Oh I’m very real. I can assure you of that fact, Ms. Allister,” Ira answered. “I’m what she’s afraid to say. Isn’t that right, Willow?”

“You’re wrong,” Willow answered.

“Willow, don’t,” Rowena begged.

“Tell me you’ve never had these thoughts,” he said, waving a finger at his daughter.

Willow paused for a moment  o and thought seriously about the question. She then began to grin. “I haven’t. But I believe that you have,” she told him.

With that the piece suddenly turned solid again, back to its true form.

Rowena slowly began to grin at Willow. “I think we’ve uncovered a link. What we’re seeing here is an illusion. It might not be what truly is, but rather, what we perceive.”

“So the trick is to not let it get to us,” Willow replied. “Once we own up, then they go back to normal?”

“Looks that way,” Rowena agreed. “But…”

“But what?” Willow asked.

“Why aren’t the pieces changing on every move? There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to who appears and why they appear.”

“Well, let’s just keep playing,” Willow told her. “We know they’re going to come up and we can’t stop it, so let’s just try to finish up as fast as we can to see if that gets us out of here.”

“But if we take the time to understand why it’s happening, that might lead to a solution to get us out of here sooner.”

“Jeez, Rowena, why waste time analyzing everything here? In the time it takes us to figure it out, we could have already finished the game and maybe be back home. It’s obvious we can’t leave a-and it’s obvious these pieces will change no matter what we do. Sometimes you just need to jump in with both feet, instead of tiptoeing around scared.”

“We are still talking about the chess match here, are we not?” Rowena asked.

“Hey,” Willow said, throwing her hands in the air. “If you want to read something further into that statement that’s your prerogative.”

Rowena ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. “Fine. Queen to King’s Bishop Two.”

“Okay.” Willow nodded, then took a breath to steady her nerves and examined the board. “Hah, got you now. Moving your Queen out of danger is still gonna cost you. Bishop takes Rook.”

After the piece moved, nothing happened. The two women looked at each other, confused.

“Not that I’m complaining about the lack of ridicule,” Rowena said, “but what just happened?”

“You mean what didn’t happen,” Willow teased.

“Yeah, nothing switched, even though you took my rook.”

“Maybe we figured it out. Since we know how it works, the game gave up taunting us.”

“Perhaps,” Rowena answered as she looked at the board.

“Just be ready,” Willow said. She walked up and down her side of the board, getting the lay of the chessboard. “Maybe it’s just taking a breather to get warmed up,” she commented with a grin.

“We’ll see…You know, despite the fact that we’re stuck in some bizarro dimension with a demanding chess set, it is kind of fun being able to boss around the chess pieces.”

Willow smiled as she continued to examine the pieces on the board.

Rowena’s grin faded and she swallowed as she looked down. “Will, how come we can get along so well playing a silly game, but we can’t even be in the room with each other for ten minutes to talk things out?” She asked the question without looking up.

Willow’s focus turned from the chessboard to Rowena, who still had her head down and her arms crossed in a defensive posture. “Because when it comes to being alone with you, with no games and no one else, I really don’t know what to say anymore,” Willow admitted.

Rowena looked up and her mouth began to widen as she saw the pieces starting to transform.

“Oh my God, Will,” Rowena said, her voice horrified.

Willow looked up sharply at the urgency in Rowena’s voice to find that her Bishop was transforming into a Bringer, while Rowena’s Rook in the diagonal space had transformed into a light brown-skinned girl with brunette hair, tied back in a ponytail. Willow watched in horror as her piece, brandishing a jagged, carved knife, crossed over into the square where the young girl was standing, and unceremoniously drove the knife deep into the girl’s stomach. The girl howled in pain.

“I can’t watch this,” Rowena whispered.

She closed her eyes, but could still hear the sounds of the girl being stabbed repeatedly. The girl in the square turned to look at Rowena, blood splattered on her face.

“You abandoned me!”

Rowena’s eyes shot open and her bottom lip trembled. “I didn’t,” she said softly. “I didn’t know they would come for you, Ipek.”

“Rowena!” Willow yelled. “Remember what you said! It’s an illusion!”

“You failed me! I bled for what seemed like hours before I died, unable to move. Did you know they cut the tendons in my legs so I couldn’t walk? Couldn’t find help. Couldn’t find you. Some great watcher you are. Planning on killing any more Slayers anytime soon?” the figure continued to taunt.

Rowena physically shook, while Willow looked on, infuriated.

Shut up!” the witch yelled.

Paying no attention to Willow, the bleeding figure continued. “You could never protect those you loved, could you? Not me, not the Council, not even yourself, from what you said. Better luck in the next life, I guess,” she said, before toppling to the ground. As soon as her body hit the ground, the young girl disappeared. To one side of the chessboard, Rowena’s Rook appeared as it had been before, wooden and inert.

“Tha-that was your potential, wasn’t it?” Willow asked, her face white and visibly shaken.

“Was…yes,” Rowena replied softly.

The blonde watcher rubbed her eyes and looked across the board, meeting Willow’s eyes. The witch looked as if she wanted to rush across the board to Rowena. but knew she couldn’t. Willow watched helplessly as Rowena put a fist over her mouth and cleared her throat.

“One thing is sure…It’s getting worse.”

Black Out


End of Act Two

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