Old Foundry – Near Dawn
Andrew opened his eyes. There was a bandage on his neck, and he was tied to a chair. “Déjà vu,” he mumbled. Nervously, he tested his teeth with his tongue. He relaxed slightly when he found they seemed to be normal length. Then he looked around.
The room was dark, with bare light bulbs offering illumination here and there amid widely-spaced columns. Still, the large metal cage was easily seen. It stood less than twenty feet away. Cassandra stood beside it, gazing inside.
Inside, paced and growled a figure out of nightmare, a werewolf nearly seven feet tall and covered in dark fur. Its long head, topped with pointed ears, suddenly turned in Andrew’s direction and sniffed. A low-pitched sound, half-way between a growl and a hiss, came from its fanged mouth.
Cassandra glanced behind her at Andrew. She had a curious lack of expression. Her reaction to Andrew was little more than what it might have been for a clock while she checked the time. Cassandra looked back at the werewolf. The creature crouched and met her gaze.
“Beautiful, isn’t he?” she said, with quiet passion. “So pure. Almost perfect. Think of all the useless garbage that simply isn’t part of his life. No lies. No conscience. No burden of memory or worries about the future. No politics. No money. No clothes. None of it. Just life – pure, unobstructed, unsullied.”
“Is he your pet?” Andrew asked, in what was probably an attempt at bravura. The squeak in his voice ruined the effect.
She looked back at him with disdain. Andrew opened his mouth to say something further, but didn’t.
From further away in the large room came footsteps. Cynthia walked into view, and with her was another young woman, presumably also a vampire. She wasn’t nearly as gothed-out as Cynthia, but had long red hair and an attitude to match Cynthia’s, at least from the look on her face.
“Almost dawn,” said Cynthia as she approached.
“I know,” said Cassandra, her eyes still on the beast in the cage.
“Should we have brought something for Troy?” asked the redhead. “He might be hungry.”
“Who’s Troy?” asked Andrew. Cynthia and her friend looked at him, then at the cage. The answer appeared obvious. “Oh.”
The redhead smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Well, it’s not like we haven’t got a snack for him here already.”
“Shut up,” was all Cassandra said. “It’s nearly time.”
The two other vampires fell silent. Inside the cage, the werewolf began to pace more furiously, swaying from side to side. He snarled and then yelped in pain. Then, he stood up to his full height and howled. As the howl echoed away, the fur withdrew into his flesh. His head and face changed shape, as did his hands and legs. Shuddering, his whole body altered. At last, a muscular man with a beard stood naked in the cage. He still retained the air of a wild animal, and, in fact, his stance remained that of the creature he had been but moments before.
Cassandra unlocked the cage and he strode out. Both Cynthia and the redhead openly gave him admiring, even lustful looks. He ignored them. He had eyes only for Cassandra, who gazed as deeply into his.
Without looking at her minions, Cassandra gave orders. “Get the digital camera and the bloom.” Neither Cynthia nor the redhead even hesitated. As the echoes of their footsteps faded, Cassandra and Troy went into a passionate embrace.
“Uh…guys? I’m still here,” said Andrew, obviously uncomfortable.
They ignored him.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Morning
Kennedy stopped en route to the dining room. There, next to the door, stood Jeff with Dawn and Skye. All three were clearly eavesdropping on something, their ears poised quietly over the crack of the open door.
“Ahem.” The three looked around to see Kennedy with her arms folded and eyebrows raised. She tapped her foot, then tilted her head, as if to ask what they were doing.
Dawn put a finger to her lips and pointed to the door.
Skye mouthed the words “Oz and his wife. And Willow.”
After a second, Kennedy took a step forward. She stood next to them and listened.
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Same Time
Seated at the dining room table were Oz and Camille, along with Willow and Rowena. All were eating bowls of oatmeal and drinking coffee.
“I don’t know much of anything about magic,” Camille was saying. “Honestly, half the time, I can’t even make the meditations and things Oz uses work.”
“Maybe you’re something like me,” offered Rowena. “I have the magical equivalent of being tone deaf or color blind.”
Camille shrugged. She looked at Willow. “But, what you found – it’s really a cure? A for-real and forever cure?”
“According to the Opus Obscurum, yes. This ritual worked before and should work again. Some of the details are a little vague,” Willow said, “because most of the passages were written in code. A lot of the book is like that. Ciphers, really, based on relationships between human and demon languages. There’s one part about the ritual I haven’t been able to crack yet, but it doesn’t seem that important. We know the essentials. A blue moon – that’s tonight and tomorrow night. Raw magical power – our coven should have enough for that. And the bloom of Diana’s Favor. That was the tricky one.”
“What if you can’t retrieve the bloom?” Camille asked, both her eyes and her voice showing fear.
Willow hesitated. “I’d have to find another one. And the next blue moon is in two and a half years.”
Oz reached over and took Camille’s hand. Camille herself stared at Willow with a haunted look on her face.
“How did you two meet?” Rowena asked, changing the subject to what she hoped was a lighter one.
Camille cleared her throat. “He came looking for me,” she said with something like a smile.
“There were these stories about a wolf-girl running around the Florida Everglades,” Oz explained. “Enough that I got interested.”
“I was trying to stay away from people during the…when I wasn’t me. When I realized someone was following me, I panicked. He didn’t. Fortunately.”
“There are werewolf hunters, I know,” said Rowena. “Did you think he was one of those?”
Camille hesitated. “No,” she said finally, in a low voice. “I thought he was one of my pack.”
Willow and Rowena exchanged a look, then gazed inquiringly at Oz.
“Some werewolves,” he said, “start hanging out. They gather during the full moon and run as a pack. Together.”
Willow’s eyes went huge. “Isn’t that much more dangerous?”
“Not so much for us,” Camille said, looking in her bowl.
“That would tend to discourage hunters,” said Rowena.
Camille shook her head.
“Just the opposite,” Oz replied.
“Think about how much damage one of us can do,” said Camille. “Now imagine how much more nine or ten could accomplish. Think of the Manson family, but without any restraints. We…my pack…we stopped thinking of ourselves as human anymore. But then, the hunters got together too, and they were more organized.” She fell silent.
“What happened?” asked Willow, whose tone indicated she wasn’t entirely certain she wanted to know.
“Some of us got away,” answered Camille. She said nothing more.
“And eventually, I found her,” Oz said, finishing the tale.
“Life is good that way sometimes,” Rowena said. She glanced at Willow, who looked a little choked up.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Jeff and Skye, Kennedy and Dawn were all listening intensely. Maybe because of this, they all turned at the same time. Behind them, wearing much the same expression Kennedy had worn earlier, was Giles.
He looked at them. He said not a word. He didn’t need to.
Slowly, all four eavesdroppers walked away from the door, down the hallway, and out of sight. They even managed to look embarrassed while doing so. Giles stared at them until they were gone.
When he got to the doorway, he hesitated. He started to listen, as the others had done, then shook his head and pushed the door open.
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Same Time
“Good morning, all,” Giles said as he swept into the room. “I trust everyone slept well?” He looked at the table and at the breakfast they were eating. “Andrew usually makes more sumptuous fare than oatmeal.”
“He wasn’t up yet,” explained Rowena, “so we just scrounged.”
“Oh,” Giles said.
Old Foundry – Later that Day
In a darkened room, Cassandra worked at her laptop. Behind her, now fully clothed, Troy paced. His body language remained pretty much the same as when he was a beast.
“Ready,” Cassandra said.
Troy stepped up behind her. She pressed “”ENTER,” then leaned against him, her head against his torso. Both his hands came to her shoulders, one then stroking her throat and the other tracing his fingers against her face.
“Soon,” he said, voice deep and low.
She closed her eyes, purring at his touch. “Soon,” she agreed.
Watchers Council – Andrew’s Quarters – Late Morning
There was no one in the room. Hence no one responded to the knocking. After a time, some voices became audible through the door.
“I don’t think he’s there,” Vi said.
“Maybe he really did have a hot date,” Xander replied.
“Andrew?” Vi asked incredulously.
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Like what? No, don’t answer that.”
After a moment, the door creaked open. Xander and Vi stepped inside, on tiptoes.
“Andrew?” called out Xander. “You here, buddy?”
Vi eased past Xander and said in a hopeful voice, “I taped the new teaser for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith! Wanna watch?” Only silence answered her. “He’s definitely not here.”
Xander shrugged. “Maybe he got lucky.”
She looked at him. “Oh? You think maybe it’s catching?”
“I…what? What do you mean?”
“I went looking for you last night.”
“Oh. I was…out.”
“Alone?” Vi asked.
“Not technically, no.”
Vi headed out the door. Xander followed. “There’s this new Italian place Brell mentioned, and Alex said she loved a good veal parmesan. It was in the way of a public service…” Xander said defensively.
“Yeah, right.” Vi didn’t stop.
Watchers Council – Library – Day
Willow was staring at the screen of her laptop at a table in the library, face pale. Beside her, Oz and Camille held hands. Behind them stood Giles.
Vi and Xander entered the room with Vi chiding her companion. “If Brell knew enough to recommend the place, what did you expect?”
“You’re right,” Xander said. “And the clientele we could handle. We even met this one nice guy, sounded more British than Giles even, but with tentacles and stuff. Real nice. But some of the food was…well, I don’t even wanna say…”
He and Vi both stopped short at seeing the expression on everyone else’s face. “What happened?” asked Xander.
“We’ve learned what’s become of Andrew,” said Giles, his voice grim. “Show him,” he said to Willow, who nodded and clicked on her screen.
A video file opened on Willow’s laptop. In a darkened room, Andrew sat tied up with a bandage on his neck. He looked frightened, and with good reason, as a dark-haired vampire woman stepped into view. In her hand was a potted plant, an odd-looking flower of some kind.
“You know what I am,” she said. “And what I’ve done to your friend. You also know that I haven’t done what I could have done. I’m also certain at least one of you knows what this is.” She held up the flower. “Diana’s Favor. Almost certainly the only one in existence at the moment.” She paused and then stared directly into the camera. “Here is what I want. The witch named Willow Rosenberg will perform a ritual for me tonight. She should know the one I mean. It is described on page thirty-three of the Opus Obscurum, which I know she has in her possession. At precisely three o’clock today I will call you with instructions. Be prepared to follow them. If not, I will destroy this flower. More, I will turn your friend Andrew into something you’ll feel honor-bound to destroy. And after that, I’ll see just how much trouble his inside knowledge of the Watchers Council can cause.”
She stepped forward, her face filling the frame as it shifted back to human form, her furrowed brow smoothing and her eyes going from gold to brown.
“There will be no negotiation. No second chances. Do what I demand or suffer the consequences.”
The image froze as the media file finished playing. No one said anything at first.
“Now we know what happened to Andrew,” said Xander. “Least it wasn’t me this time who had a date with a demon.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Vi said under her breath.
“Giles,” Willow said worriedly, “whatever it is she wants, I can’t do it. Not a ritual of that magnitude. Not by myself. Not anymore.”
“And she said no negotiations, I know.” Giles looked grim.
Rowena returned from farther inside the library. She had a large book in hand. “I thought I recognized that face.”
Everyone looked at her. “Recognized her?” asked Giles.
Rowena nodded. “Part of my research when looking for the Opus Obscurum. Here is the last known picture of her.” She put down the book and pointed to a daguerreotype from the 19th Century. The portrait was clearly of the same female vampire as in the media file. Underneath was a name: Cassandra of Bruges.
“Oh dear Lord,” breathed Giles.
“Why do I get the feeling this is worse news than I already think?” wondered Xander aloud.
“Because it is,” answered Rowena.
“Only too true, I’m afraid,” said Giles.
“Who is she?” asked Willow.
“Cassandra of Bruges was the daughter of two watchers born five hundred years ago,” Rowena explained. “She was the last known person to have the Opus Obscurum in her possession, at least the last person associated with the Council.”
“So,” suggested Oz, “she was turned and she stole it?”
“Exactly,” said Giles.
“That’s how she knew what the book contained, even the page number!” noted Willow.
“We’re up against a five-hundred-year-old ex-watcher vampire?” asked Vi.
“Unfortunately, no,” said Giles.
“But you just said…” began Xander.
“Cassandra’s parents were watchers,” interrupted Rowena. “She was not. She had been given all the training to become a watcher, but that turned out not to be her destiny.” She took a deep breath. “Before she was turned, Cassandra of Bruges was called as the Slayer.”
End of Act Two