Felicia Day as Vi, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Brad Dourif as Brell, Avril Lavigne as Janet and Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist
Victoria Pratt as Francesca and Michele Merkin as Saida
Watchers Council – Lobby – Day
“Well, what if we cut out the first part where the captain develops the slipstream engine?” Andrew said, leaning back in his chair at the front desk. He had a pen in his right hand, a legal pad in his left and the phone pinned between his ear and shoulder. A frown formed on his happy face. “You’re sure?”
Just then, Giles and Willow came through the front door. “That’s not the point, Giles!” Willow said, sounding a bit irritated. “You should have told me.”
“Well, first of all, I wasn’t aware they were yours.” Giles said, trying to calm her down. “And second, I thought I gave them back to Rowena.”
Andrew looked up and put his palm to the receiver. “Hey, do you two mind? This is an important call.”
“Is it Robson? I’ve been expecting to hear from him,” Giles inquired, doing his best to distance himself from Willow.
“No, it’s my agent.”
Willow raised an eyebrow. “Your agent? Since when do you have an agent?”
“Well, he’s more like my prospective agent. I sent him a script to look at, and we’re talking about getting it sent to a studio.”
Giles looked a bit perturbed. “Andrew, I don’t think you should be using the Council phones for your personal –”
Andrew held up a hand and shushed him. “Mr. Broden, are you there? Hello?” He sighed and put the phone down. “Darn, he’s the third one to hang up on me.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that, but you really should keep your calls to Council business,” Willow said. “I mean, you don’t see us gabbing on about what happened to Jack Bauer last night.”
Andrew hung his head a little. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to keep my calls to Council business. But just out of curiosity, what were you two discussing?”
Giles gulped. “Oh, it was nothing all that important. I just seem to have misplaced something of Willow’s.”
“I can help you look if you want,” Andrew offered.
Willow blushed. “No, that’s not necessary. It’s nothing to worry about.”
The two senior watchers moved to the door just as Rowena came in. She had a DVD box set in her hand. “Oh great, I’m glad I ran into you guys. Willow, I have those DVDs you’ve been looking for. I took them from Giles yesterday and forgot to give them to you.”
Andrew leaned back and put his feet on the desk. A smile appeared on his face. “Council business, eh?”
Rowena looked confused. “Council business? No, it’s the complete sixth season of Xena.”
Andrew’s smile widened. “So you finally came out?”
Giles looked mortified. “Oh, bloody hell! Can we just…drop this discussion, please?”
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a Xenite,” Andrew responded.
Within a few seconds, the four of them were immersed in a very audible, completely ridiculous debate regarding the merits of science fiction television.
A few feet away, Brell entered the front door unnoticed. He moved towards them.
“Hello?” Brell ventured. The four continued arguing. “Brell must speak with Red Witch.”
Faith descended the stairs. She caught Brell’s eye and walked over to him. Brell looked at her, and she nodded. Faith took in a deep breath and yelled, “Hey!”
The room immediately fell silent.
Brell gave everyone a friendly but awkward wave. “I have news.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Moments Later
The group filed into the Coven Room, which held a large object inside.
“I was sure this thing would take another few hours to settle,” Willow muttered, fussing around the polished stone slab in the center of the room.
Most of the balanced mirrors and prisms that had been surrounding it had gone, leaving space for Brell, Giles, Rowena, Andrew and Faith to stand. The stone, which had been propped up on an easel, was now free-floating a few inches above the floor.
“I was doing the synthesis rituals like you said,” Jeff told Willow. “Then three of the mirrors went black, one of the bits of glass caught fire – blue fire – and the easel dismantled itself.”
“No kidding?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah, screws unscrewed, nails un-nailed.” Jeff grinned. “It woulda been pretty cool, if it hadn’t scared the hell outta me.”
“It is Vor,” Brell explained. “They try to talk to us. I thought, find Red Witch.”
“Thanks,” Willow nodded. “Yeah, they probably want to talk to us, so they did something at their end to try to get our attention. I think this should…” She, and everyone else, jumped back as the stone vibrated and emitted a shrill whine, which faded down to a background hum after a few seconds.
“Do that again,” Andrew muttered, holding his ears like everyone else in the room. “I think I can still hear a little out of my left ear.”
“Brell,” the stone growled.
“I know that voice,” Willow said. “That’s the demon who came for you.”
“Creed,” Brell nodded. “Brell here,” he added to the stone.
The polished surface shimmered and colored, patches of light and shade forming that resolved into the image of Creed, standing in front of a red-lit rocky wall.
“He looks almost human,” Giles mused quietly.
“Except for the ten foot tall part,” Willow said as an aside.
“I see you, Brell,” the demon said in a rumbling voice. Brell nodded, and gestured for Giles to step forward.
“Oh, uh…I’m Rupert Giles,” he began, “head of the Watchers Council. On behalf of us and the free people and demons of Earth, I’d like to –”
“I am not concerned with you,” Creed interrupted him. “Show me the slayer Faith.”
“Yo,” Faith said, shrugging and approaching the stone.
“Yo,” Creed said gruffly, copying her. “I will speak to you. We have spilt blood together.”
“Wish I could say I remember,” Faith admitted. “Everything after I got to the surface is a bit of a blur.”
“No doubt,” the demon nodded. “But you fought the hunters they sent after you nonetheless. Bravely. Your…comrades may listen while we talk, if you wish.”
“Okay,” Faith said. “What’s up?”
Creed frowned in confusion for a moment, then his expression cleared, as much as it ever did.
“We have taken a captive,” he said. “A bondsman of the Galt Water Clan. Our enemy uses them as couriers. It killed itself when taken, but our gifted pulled meaning from the remains of its mind as it cooled.”
“No kidding,” Faith said, eyes wide.
“Our enemy has sent warriors to your world,” Creed went on. “Thirty of the Night Cult at least, and a mage as well. Their portal used the mouth beneath your fortress and diverged, so they must have arrived within a day’s travel of you. They have made a base and have remained there many nights. This we know.”
“If they used the Hellmouth here to guide their portal,” Willow suggested quietly to Faith, “we can do a spell to locate them. It’d take the whole Coven, but I think we’ve got a good shot.”
“We can find them,” Faith relayed to Creed.
“Good,” he nodded. “We know one other thing. This force was sent to your world to test a weapon. What kind we do not know, but it is magic, we are sure, and powerful. This weapon does not work in your world. There are many such, powerful only in the place of their making. Our enemy seeks to perfect their weapon to use against you. Frustrate their plans, and we will both benefit from our enemy’s loss.”
“Will do,” Faith nodded.
“Be wary, Faith,” Creed warned. “The Night Cult are not like the thanati creature your kind slay. They will fight fiercely and will not surrender. Ever.” With that, the stone was suddenly opaque again.
“Well then,” Giles said. “Willow, how long to do the spell you mentioned?”
“Thirty minutes?” she guessed. “Jeff, round everyone up. I’ll get the circle started.” He nodded and left the room. “Give me another ten to look some stuff up?” Willow added to Giles.
“Of course,” he nodded. “Conference room, forty-five minutes then.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Fifty Minutes Later
“Sorry,” Willow said, rushing into the room with an armful of books and maps. “The spell took a while, plus research. I got some good stuff, though!”
“No need to apologize,” Giles, sitting at the head of the table, assured her, as she sat down next to Rowena. Faith, Kennedy and Mia sat opposite, with Robin, Xander and Brell further down the table. “Bonnie had nothing to offer, so she won’t be joining us. Willow?”
“Creed was right,” Willow said, unfurling a large map of Ohio. “There was a big portal cast through the Hellmouth, almost two months ago. Very well hidden. If we’d done this ritual normally and picked this up, I’d have thought it was just normal background magic. But it’s there, a big portal, at least thirty living beings and I think a lot more mass besides.”
“Mass means raw material,” Kennedy said. “Creed said they’d made a base. We could be looking at a fortress.”
“Whatever it is, they weren’t taking any chances of being found,” Willow went on, pointing to a spot on the map. “That’s where they are, roughly – pretty remote, dense forests. Assuming they were careful, there’s no reason to think they couldn’t have stayed there this long without being found.”
“Could you discover anything about this weapon?” Giles asked.
“Not from the portal,” Willow said with a glum look. “There’s just too much magic flying around. It was all I could do to get an idea of how many living presences there were. What they had with them, who knows? But what Creed told us is almost certainly accurate. Anything to do with magic will behave differently in different dimensions. The Mirror was like that, and most powerful spells need lots of adjustment just to work at all. If this thing the Presidium has is powerful enough, there’s a good chance even with their mages they’re still working on it.”
“Nothing in our library suggests the nature of the weapon?” Giles asked.
“Not that we’ve found,” Rowena offered. “I’ll check again later, but I’m thinking that’s a dead-end. It could be a spell, or a magical ability tied to a specific demon, or a magical artifact of some kind…the options go on and on.”
“Good work, regardless,” Giles said. “Well, suggestions?”
“Easy,” Faith said. “We go in, slay the bad guys, and take their toy away from them.”
“It’d be good to get a look at it,” Willow commented. “Even if it doesn’t work, it could still give us enough of an idea that we can work on some kind of counter-magic. That way, if the Presidium ever do perfect it, we’ll be able to defend ourselves against it. Or,” she added, as a thought struck her, “with some work, maybe a counter-spell could be modified to work on their turf. Creed’s demons have mages, right?” she asked Brell.
“Yes,” he nodded, “many mages. Brighid, who leads alongside Creed, is powerful witch, very old and wise.”
“What about the Presidium’s mage?” Rowena asked Willow. “If he or she is in charge of this force, we’re not talking about just a foot-soldier. They could know a lot about the Presidium’s plans and methods, beyond this one weapon. Is it possible to put a binding spell on a mage like that so that we could safely imprison them?”
“I can’t say without knowing what kind of demon it is,” Willow said, “but what I sensed during the portal spell didn’t suggest anything hugely powerful. Given that this is a research expedition, the mage is probably more like a scholar than a warrior, so if we can do a clean binding, it’s definitely a possibility.”
“The longer we wait, the longer they have to get their magic sword up and running,” Faith said. “My vote’s for an attack as soon as we’re ready.”
“Given the proper preparations, I agree,” Giles said. “Willow?”
“Well, we can’t very well do nothing,” she said. “The Coven votes yes.”
“I’ll lead,” Faith said. Robin glanced at her, concerned.
“Are you sure?” Giles asked. “You haven’t had long to recover from your ordeal in Vor.”
“I’m a slayer,” she replied. “I don’t need long to recover. And no offense, but I kick more ass than the rest of this table combined.”
“What do we know about the opposition we’ll be facing?” Giles asked Brell. “This Night Cult…do you know anything about them?”
“Many breeds of demon,” Brell said. “Do not know which. All kinds, made to serve Presidium. Night Cult are the strongest of all, and Presidium magic is put inside them, in their mind. Cannot disobey, cannot surrender. Very dangerous.”
“Thirty, huh?” Faith said. She turned to Giles. “Our best shot will be to take them by surprise and do it real quick, so they never get a chance to figure out what’s going on. Me, Slick, Mia and her team. Red, you coming to handle the mojo?”
“I think Jeff should come as well,” Willow said. “We can’t bring the whole Coven, but he’s powerful, and he’s been progressing well.”
“I realize he’d be frustrated to be left behind,” Giles noted, “but are you sure he’s ready for a task like this?”
“I am.” Willow nodded. “He’s strong, and he can defend himself if he has to…I know he’s young, but so were we when we patrolled Sunnydale after school. I think it’s time we let him have a chance to test himself. It’s best to do it now, when we’re there to back him up, rather than try and hold him back forever.”
“I’ll come, too,” Rowena offered. “You’ll need a watcher.”
“I’m a watcher!” Willow pointed out. “And it’ll be dangerous…”
“That’s what we’ll be there for,” Faith said.
“And I can defend myself,” Rowena added to Willow. “I won’t be any more vulnerable out there than you, seeing as you’ll be busy doing a binding spell.”
“Okay,” Willow allowed with a pout, “but one scratch on you…”
Rowena laughed. “Who was it who won nine bouts to two last time we fenced?” she chuckled. Willow’s pout increased, but was tempered by a hint of a smile.
“It’s settled then,” Giles said. “Choose your vehicles and prepare your equipment. I’ll go and tell Becca the bad news.”
“Whoa, what bad news?” Willow asked quickly.
“Well, we were planning a couple of days away,” he replied. “Not very far, just outside the city on the lakefront, but obviously with all of you being away from the headquarters, and this coinciding with Robin’s trip to Washington D.C. tonight –”
“Coinciding nothing,” Willow protested. “You get your wife and go relax, mister.”
“Seriously, it’s no biggie,” Faith put in. “You’ll still be only a phone call away, Robin too.”
“Granted, but the Council does need someone on site, just to attend to daily operations,” Giles argued. “Whom do we leave in charge?”
Watchers Council – Armory – Minutes Later
“I can’t believe they left me in charge,” Vi said, as she leaned against the door to the armory. Xander smiled, but remained silent as he scurried about, collecting weapons. “I have all the power. I can make the slayers run laps!”
“Can’t you do that already?” Xander asked from behind a crate of stakes.
Vi frowned. “Oh yeah.” She perked up. “I can make Andrew run laps!” Xander remained silent. She continued, “You call this oatmeal? Give me fifty around the practice field.” She waited for him to laugh, but he didn’t. Now desperate, she said, “Or those watchers. Always reading. They could use some exercise…” She trailed off. “Xander?” Vi asked. “About the other night. I didn’t mean to…”
“Those watchers can be tricky,” Xander said, looking up from his boxes. “I remember a few years ago, Buffy tried to get Giles to run in a marathon with her. He agreed, but then got ‘called away’ on Council business.”
“Vi, I…I’m sorry, I should have…I want to tell you that…”
Before he could say another word, Rowena popped her head in the room and said, “Xander, we’re nearly ready in the garage. Can you get the equipment loaded as soon as possible?”
Vi stood up. “I should probably go.” She walked out, leaving Xander speechless.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Moments Later
In the middle of the room, Vi was standing patiently while Kennedy talked.
“…and don’t let her eat too much raw meat, her appetite’s bigger than her stomach, but you can give her a snack every now and then, she likes hot dogs, lots of mustard, no onion. I’ve left enough milk in the fridge to last you, just heat it up before you give it to her, three times a day. Oh, and for a treat, she likes vodka, straight, but no more than a cup.” The compact dragon in her arms poked its head up hopefully. “Not now, baby,” Kennedy said, “I’m just telling her.”
“It, uh, doesn’t get drunk, does it?” Vi asked warily.
“No,” Kennedy said, “she just likes it. And remember to take her for walks and let her stretch her wings in the open. The trees down by the lake are a good spot, she can fly around without anyone seeing. Oh, and don’t let her sit too close to the TV. And make sure she’s got her blanket when she goes to sleep, and put her basket where the sun will shine on her in the morning, she likes that. And –”
“Ken,” Vi said, “enough! It’ll be fine.”
“She,” Kennedy said. “She’s a she.”
“I thought she was a he?” Vi asked, confused. “How can you tell? I mean, does it – she – have…are there, like, little scales to look under, or what?”
“Of course she’s a she,” Kennedy said. “It’s obvious once you spend some time with her. You’ll take good care of her?”
“As if she was my own,” Vi promised. Kennedy stared at her warily, then looked down at the creature in her arms.
“You’ll be okay while mommy’s away,” she cooed. The dragon craned its neck to nuzzle against her chin, then glanced at Vi, mimicking Kennedy’s earlier cautious expression. “It’s okay baby, she’s all right. Now be good for Vi, okay?” The dragon snorted, then nodded. Kennedy hugged it, then slowly handed it over to Vi, who gingerly held it in her arms like a cat.
“Okay, I gotta get going,” Kennedy said. “Gear to pack and all that.”
“See you later,” Vi said, glancing down at the dragon, which was wriggling slightly.
“Later,” Kennedy nodded, giving her a pat on the shoulder as she passed on her way to the door. “Oh, also, don’t hold her like that if she looks hungry.”
“Why not?” Vi asked quickly.
“Apparently dragons breastfeed, or close enough that she gets the idea, so she might try to take a nip at you,” Kennedy replied, disappearing through the door.
“Uh-huh,” Vi said slowly, holding the dragon away from herself a little more. “Um, Ken…how do I know if she’s looking hungry? Ken?” She sighed and looked down at the dragon, which was staring up at her quizzically. It glanced at her chest and stirred.
“Don’t even think about it,” Vi warned. The dragon looked up at her again, then snorted and curled up in a ball.
Watchers Council – Garage – Minutes Later
Xander pushed a cartload of wooden crates toward three large vans. Once he was near enough, he began handing them to Mia, who was squatting in the back of the nearest van. Several other Black Ops slayers aided Xander in loading the vans.
Once the cart was empty, Xander nodded to Janet and she pushed it out of the garage. He slammed the doors for the first two vans and then moved to the third, carrying a weapons case.
Willow stood next to the van, with Jeff by her side. They leaned in, inspecting the contents of the back of the vehicle. Xander approached wordlessly, with his head down. He dropped the case in the back, causing Willow and Jeff to jump.
Xander looked up, realizing he had startled them, and said, “Oh, sorry guys, I didn’t see you there.”
Willow frowned. “Jeff, could you go see if we have any more wolfsbane in the storage room?”
Jeff nodded and left the garage, giving Xander a disgruntled eye as he left.
Willow laid down her clipboard. “Is there something on your mind, Xander?”
Xander leaned against the back of the van. “I think I screwed things up with Vi.”
Willow took up a position beside him on the van’s bumper. “What happened?”
Xander looked down at his shoes. “Last night I kind of told her that I can’t decide between her and Alex.”
“You said that to a slayer, and you’re still standing?” Willow exclaimed. “If someone I liked said that to me, I’d kick her in the…”
“Not helping, Will.”
“Sorry,” she said. “But why would you say that?”
Xander quickly moved off the van. “She caught me off guard. No warning at all. Plus, I was asleep until you two came in. I can’t be expected to think clearly, mere seconds after waking up.”
“Have you talked to her at all?”
“Yeah, I tried a little while ago. She came to tell me about being left in charge. The worst part is, she didn’t seem mad about what happened. Just…disappointed.” Xander lowered his head. “It’s horrible. I’d rather she be mad at me.”
Willow frowned. “It’s going to take her some time. But she’ll get over it. I mean, I got over you, right? All you can do now is be a good friend and –”
“But see, that’s the thing. I don’t want to be friends with her. I want to be more than friends. I just can’t seem to tell her that.”
“Willow!” Giles called from across the garage. He jogged over. “Are you all set?”
Willow nodded. “I’ve got everything I need, enough to do full protective spells on two vans – one for the weapon, one for the mage, assuming we get both. I sent Jeff for some extra wolfsbane, but other than that, I’m set.”
“Weapons are all loaded,” Xander added.
“Excellent,” Giles said. “Robin!” he yelled, rushing off in the former principal’s direction.
Willow moved towards the van’s driver-side door and got in. “Sure you’re not coming?” she asked Xander.
He bent down to face her. “I think I’m gonna stay here.”
“Why? Everything will be fine with Vi in…Oh.” Willow smiled as Xander backed away from the van. Xander shut Willow’s door and left the garage just as Jeff came in carrying a package of wolfsbane. He trotted over to Willow’s van and secured the bottle in the back. Then he climbed into the van’s back seat.
Faith walked up to Willow’s window and knocked. When Willow lowered it, Faith said, “Change of seating plans, got room for one more?” Willow nodded, and Faith circled the van and climbed into the passenger seat.
“Thanks,” Faith said, “Janet and Saida are going over the finer points of computerized sights. Didn’t think I could last till we got to…where are we going?”
“Twin Peaks,” Willow answered.
Faith laughed. “Are the Presidium going after Laura Palmer? ‘Cause I think they’re too late.”
Willow grinned. “Twin Peaks, Ohio. Well, actually a remote area just south of it. A couple of hours from here.” Willow put the van in drive and followed the other two vans out the garage door.
Interstate 77 – Minutes Later
The Council’s caravan of vehicles motored south toward Twin Peaks. Willow’s van led the pack, followed by two vans driven by Mia and Francesca.
Willow’s Van – Same Time
Willow tapped the wheel rhythmically to the beat of the music on the radio, while Faith just looked forward, seemingly zoned out. Jeff sat behind Willow, watching the scenery pass by.
“Huh,” Willow said abruptly.
Faith looked over. “What is it?”
“Jeff, did we pack the lunis root?” Willow asked, without looking back.
Jeff pulled his eyes from the window. “Yeah, I put it under the essence of toad.”
“Damn.” Willow sighed.
“Not a fan of toad essence?” Faith asked.
“No, I love toad. Well, actually that’s not true. They look too much like frogs.” Willow flinched. “Ick…frogs. Anyway, I can’t shake this feeling that we forgot something.”
“Well, I double-checked all of our supplies,” Jeff said. “Could it have been something for the slayers?”
“I don’t think so,” Willow replied. “Xander was in charge of all the weapons.” Willow sighed again. “This is going to bother me the whole trip. I’m positive we left something behind.”
Watchers Council – Garage – Same Time
Rowena, Kennedy and Brell stood in the now-empty parking garage.
Kennedy shook her head. “I can’t believe they left us behind.”
End of Act One