Old Foundry – Later
Andrew, tied to the chair, fidgeted. He twitched when he heard two sets of footsteps in the dark, turning to try and see who was in the room with him.
Cassandra and Troy approached the little island of light where Andrew sat, bound.
Andrew tried to smile at the pair when he saw them. “Listen, I just wanted to thank you two. For, you know, not eating me.”
Neither the vampire nor the werewolf seemed to react.
“I’m working on a theory, actually,” Andrew continued, nervous but still undeterred. “Because, when you think about it, yours is probably a really extraordinary love story. Like Arwen and Strider, Princess Leia and Han Solo, Romeo and Juliet even! A cross-species romance set in the shadowy parts of the modern world where ancient feuds still inspire battle between immortal creatures of darkness.”
They looked at him intently. “We saw that movie,” Troy said at last.
“Really? Lord of the Rings?” Andrew asked, pleased. “What’d you think?”
“It was…useful,” Cassandra replied.
Andrew blinked. Of all the possible replies, this was one he clearly hadn’t expected.
“Useful?” he asked.
“Gave us an idea.”
“Oh.” Again, Andrew didn’t know how to take this. “Well, that’s good. Isn’t it? Or – not. ‘Cause you two aren’t good, right? You’re still evil? Or are you?” This last question had a hopeful note.
Troy snorted. He went to another chair and sat down.
“I doubt you can imagine how bored I am with good and evil,” murmured Cassandra.
“Probably not,” Andrew agreed hastily. “But then, if you’re bored with evil and all, why not let me go?” Andrew smiled.
“Not yet.” Cassandra pulled a cell phone from her pocket, then checked her watch. “I want you to answer a few questions first.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll invite Cynthia and Teela back in here to play with you. We only need you alive, not unharmed.”
“But…but you said you were bored with evil…”
“I am. They’re not.” She let that sink in for a moment. “Willow Rosenberg wanted a flower, the Diana’s Favor. It is very rare, very difficult to breed. And it has only one use, described in only one book, a book I know she possesses. First question, why is Willow Rosenberg so interested in werewolves?”
“Uh…” Andrew hesitated, but he looked between the two and saw neither one of them blinking. “I’m not sure…but…but I think her ex-boyfriend is a werewolf. Or that’s the rumor, anyway. Guess you and she have some stuff in common, huh? You know what? Maybe that’s something you can build on. Think about it! You try and force her to do things for you, then she’s always looking for a way out. But – bonds of friendship, of mutual trust, of common…” he glanced at Troy, who glowered at him, “…life experiences – that can lead to real cooperation! And…stuff.”
Eventually, after an eternal several seconds, Cassandra spoke again. “Are you through?”
“What is Willow Rosenberg’s private number?” She held up the cell phone.
Watchers Council – Library – Day
Faith and Kennedy came into the library together, finding Robin along with Willow, Giles and Rowena pouring over some books.
“Well, we got news,” proclaimed Faith. “Not a lot, but some.”
“Turns out there’s some really powerful vampire in town,” continued Kennedy, “and she’s been investigating herbalists and greenhouses and magical suppliers for months. More, she’s been looking into the Council. Only one person heard her name, though.”
“Cassandra,” Robin finished for her.
Both Faith and Kennedy did a take. Faith looked at her fellow slayer. “Told you he was good,” she said proudly.
“We’ve heard from her,” Giles explained, barely looking up from the tome before him. “She’s five hundred years old, very cunning, admits she stole the Diana’s Favor and now has kidnapped Andrew. She’ll be calling in about ten minutes.”
“She doesn’t waste time,” muttered Kennedy.
“It’s worse than that,” Rowena added.
Robin answered. “Turns out Cassandra, before she was a vampire, was a slayer.”
“Oh…” said Faith.
“..hell,” finished Kennedy. Then she asked, “So, why didn’t the Council send someone after her?”
“They did,” Giles replied. “It was the very first thing her successor tried to do.”
“And?” asked Faith.
“Cassandra killed her. Sent her head to the Council in a box,” Giles answered glibly.
Again, Faith and Kennedy looked at each other. “He’s so cheerful,” Kennedy said.
“Oz and Camille are upstairs, trying to get some rest. I think maybe when Cassandra calls we should see if we can get her to let us cure them as well. I mean, she evidently wants me to cure someone of werewolfism.”
“Really?” Faith was startled. “Why?”
“No idea,” Rowena said.
“Can you still do that? By yourself, I mean?” Kennedy asked Willow.
“Probably not,” said Willow. “Actually…no. I can’t. We’ll need the entire coven. Sans Andrew of course. I’ve got Dawn, Skye, and Jeff rounding up the regular supplies we’ll need.”
“What worries me,” Giles said, taking off his glasses, “is that un-deciphered passage about the ritual. Cassandra has had access to the Opus Obscurum far longer than we have, and it’s likely she knows what that passage says. I cannot help but believe that it is the key to what she really desires.”
“I have to agree,” said Rowena.
“Makes sense,” noted Faith. “Why else would she want to cure somebody of being a werewolf?”
Watchers Council – Guest Room – Same Time
Camille paced while Oz watched. She kept glancing at the window.
“Just a couple more hours,” she said, as if proclaiming the time of her execution.
“Yeah.” Oz managed to put a surprising amount of sympathy, companionship, fear, faith and personal strength into that one word.
She stopped pacing. “I’m so sorry.”
“No,” she shook her head. “It’s not. I lost control.”
“We’re not everyone.” Her eyes had begun to tear.
“Sometimes…sometimes I think hope is the cruelest thing in the world. You know? The cruelest thing in the whole world.”
Oz waited a few moments, his eyes holding hers. “I know,” he said.
And they said nothing else.
Watchers Council – Library – Later
When Willow’s cell phone rang, everyone glanced at the clock. The hour hand was on the three. She answered.
“Miss Rosenberg,” said a cold female voice over the line, “I presume by now you know who this is.”
“Yeah. Can you hold on a moment? I want to put you on speaker phone.”
Hands shaking slightly, Willow connected her cell phone to the device on the table. “Can you hear me?” she asked.
From the speaker, the woman’s voice replied. “Yes, I can.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Am I to assume that the person speaking is indeed Cassandra of Bruges?”
An un-amused laugh was the first reply. “You can call me that. Although I haven’t been back to Belgium in over a century. You must be Rupert Giles?”
“Congratulations on your de facto promotion. Miss Rosenberg?”
Willow looked up from her laptop, which was now also attached to the cell phone via a wire. “Yes?”
“I’m re-routing this call through several different substations. Don’t even try to trace my location. The purpose of this call is to give instructions. Are you ready?”
“There’s something you need to know,” Robin interjected.
“Mr. Wood, I presume?”
“Willow endured something recently, a trauma that has cost her some measure of her magical powers. She still hasn’t recovered.”
The silence that followed seemed longer than it was. “I’m listening,” she said, an edge of danger now in her voice.
“I can’t perform the ritual by myself,” said Willow. “I need my Coven members. Otherwise, it just won’t work.”
Again, silence. “Well,” said the former slayer at last, “I can’t say I’m surprised by this tactic…”
“No! I’m telling the truth! Honest!”
“She is,” said Giles. “I give you my word.”
“And your word is your bond?”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“Even with innocent lives at stake? I don’t think so.”
“It doesn’t really matter, does it?” Rowena said suddenly. “No matter whether Willow shows up alone or with the Coven, you’re not going to let them out of your sight, correct? And you won’t let us have Andrew back until after the ritual is done?” She paused. “Well, am I right?”
For a few moments, no sound came from the speaker. Then, “You’re a clever girl, Miss Allister. Very well, you may bring three members of your Coven. That should be enough. Mr. Osbourne as well.”
Everyone gave each other a look. The voice continued, amused. “Oh yes, I now know why you were seeking the Diana’s Favor, Miss Rosenberg. Daniel Osbourne may come along, but he’ll need to be shackled. Hands and legs. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Willow said. “Oz…Mr. Osbourne…he has a wife. She’s a werewolf, too.”
The voice didn’t quite chuckle. “Birds – or wolves – of a feather? Very well, I’m willing to be generous. The same rules apply, however.”
“We understand,” said Giles.
“Mr. and Mrs. Osbourne, Miss Rosenberg, and the three Coven members need to be in a car at the corner of George and Martin at precisely five thirty tonight. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” said Willow.
“That will give you fifteen minutes before sunset, or should I say, moonrise. I will call you at that time to give directions. It might interest you to know I am already familiar with the members of your Coven, so I will be able to recognize them on sight. Any deception, any trickery at all, and your friend Andrew will lose his eyes. Get it?”
“Got it,” said Robin.
“Good. And just so you’ll know that I’m upholding my end of the bargain…” There was a pause. When a voice came again from the speaker, it was no longer a woman’s.
“Uh…guys?” Andrew said.
“Andrew,” Giles said immediately, “what’s my favorite brand of instant coffee?”
“What? Giles!” Andrew’s voice sounded equal parts terrified and indignant. “I’ve got other things on my mind than grocery shopping right now, thank you very much! Besides which, you don’t even like instant coffee! Okay? Now can we talk about something a little more in tune with…well…ME?” This last sentence was nearly, but not quite, a shriek.
“It’s okay, Andrew,” said Robin soothingly. “We just had to be sure that you were really you and that this wasn’t a recording.”
“Oh yeah?” A pause. “Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.”
Suddenly his voice was replaced by that of Cassandra. “A wise test, Mr. Giles. But that is all we have to say to one another for now. Miss Rosenberg, I’ll be speaking with you again at precisely five thirty.” There was a click and then a dial tone.
Willow reached over to disconnect the cell phone from the speaker.
Old Foundry – Same Time
Still tied to his chair, Andrew watched Cassandra put her cell phone away. From behind, he heard another set of footsteps. Within moments, Cynthia and Teela emerged from the shadows.
“How’d it go?” Cynthia asked.
“On target,” Cassandra answered. “The ritual takes place tonight. As it happens, there’ll be three werewolves instead of two, but that shouldn’t make any difference.” Her look to Cynthia was clearly an order. “You’ll need to finish your task as quickly as possible if you expect to take part.”
“Don’t worry. We know the plan.”
“Uh…” Andrew spoke up. “Plan?”
Cynthia and Teela looked at him and chuckled. “Oh yeah. It’s a great plan. Just great! Who knows, maybe if we’re in the mood you’ll even have a bigger part in it than you think!” Something about Cynthia’s grin was cruel.
Teela walked over and stroked one finger through Andrew’s hair. “I dunno. I mean, he hardly qualifies as a snack. You think we should make him one of us?”
“You…” Andrew gulped, “…you’re thinking of making me a vampire?”
Now Cynthia and Teela smiled at each other, exactly the way children do when they share a naughty secret.
“A vampire?” laughed Teela. “No. We’re not considering making you a vampire. But then, after tonight, we won’t be just vampires!”
Andrew gaped, while Cynthia and Teela cackled. A bit further away, Troy and Cassandra ignored them, gazing at each other with a fierce intensity.
End of Act Three