Oh, yeah, if you didn't pick up on it contextually last chapter, Erycina is our third Old One and the God-Queen to Illyria's God-King. Can't really think of anything other than that so… enjoy?
"Dealing with the Scoobies: the one thing that actually manages to be more uncomfortable than a trip to the gynecologist." Dawn emerged from her portal, closing it behind her, and let out a relieved sigh as she felt the warm sun beat down on her skin. Nothing like Pacific island atmosphere to chase her problems away. She didn't know exactly where she was, using the almost Hellmouth-like power signature of the Deeper Well to guide her portal to the uninhabited island, but wherever she was, it was a paradise. Exotic birds were singing, the surf was rolling in against a pristine beach, and waddling up and down the beach were… "Penguins!"
Illyria let out a groan at Dawn's enthusiastic cry, abandoning the spot she'd been occupying while waiting for her companion and stalking off towards the tree line. "I shall return for you when I have accomplished my objective." Pausing just at the edge of the woods, she called back to Dawn with an additional instruction. "Try to avoid provoking any large predators into attacking you this time."
Rolling her eyes, Dawn hissed softly and Boris slithered down off her body, curling up on the warm sand as she headed towards the edge of the water and the penguins. "You almost get eaten by one previous thought extinct Megalania and she never lets you forget it." Sloshing out into knee-high water, she slowly lowered herself to her knees and then flopped onto her stomach, lounging in the water as she watched the penguins waddle back and forth nearby.
One particularly brave penguin wandered right up to her and Dawn grinned before rubbing its stomach softly. This was the life, she decided. No people for miles, cute wild animals, a beautiful beach… even Boris was enjoying himself, chasing after some sort of rodent-like creature as it scuttled down the beach. No Scoobies having more issues than a magazine rack because she dared to do what they couldn't manage to: grow up. No stupid little Slayers to point and stare at her and Illyria. And best of all, no Kennedy. "I think I'm going to move in here. She's already got a pretty swanky hut going… I could probably manage a tree mansion worthy of Cribs. What do you think?"
The penguin opened its beak and Dawn was reminded of Illyria's story of giant fire-breathing penguin demons. Was it going to talk to her? But it only let out a squawk before waddling away from her and diving into the water, swimming out into the ocean. "Although the company could be better."
Planting her hands in the wet sand, Dawn pushed herself back up onto her hands and knees before rising to her feet. Looking down at herself, she scowled before quickly cycling to her armored form and back, getting rid of the wet sand clinging to her front. That accomplished, she headed towards a spot further down the tree line from where Illyria had disappeared, pausing only to collect Boris when he slithered across the beach to intercept her. § Let's go see if we can find our little pot princess, hmm? § § Yes, Mistress. §
Dawn entered the woods and began following the lightly traveled passage that wasn't quite a beaten path but was distinctive enough to guide her towards her destination. As she stepped on a branch, the crack made Dawn aware of how strangely silent the woods were and she instinctively shifted back into her armored form. Not that her attire mattered when it came to protection, but the more intimidating appearance could be handy sometimes. Then there was a clicking noise and Dawn found herself caught completely off guard as an axe head came whizzing through the foliage, slamming into her chest and shattering on impact. "Oh. So that's what you wanted a toaster for."
A dark-haired girl emerged from the woods a few yards away and Kit Holburn offered Dawn a sheepish smile. "Sorry. The demons have been pretty skittish since they tripped one of the landmines you brought me, but the mines only protect the Deeper Well. I figured they were getting smart and going for me first so they could loot my place and find out where my traps were."
"So you shot an axe head at me. And you wonder why I don't take you out in public with me." Kit stuck her tongue out at that, dumping the depleted weapon-formerly-known-as-a-toaster on the ground before bouncing over to throw her arms around Dawn and deliver a tight hug. "Hey hey hey. No touching. For I am Oriens, the Snake Goddess, and you are only Kit Holburn, mortal muck."
Kit allowed Dawn to push her back a step before reaching forward and poking Dawn's stomach. "Touch!" Rolling her eyes, Dawn shifted her armor away and Kit repeated the gesture before poking a few other spots on Dawn's ribs and abdomen. "That was pretty good, though. Can't decide… it's either your best Illyria impression yet, or a definite sign that we need to find you more mortal friends. I'm leaning towards Door #2, personally."
Snorting, Dawn wrapped an arm around Kit's back to guide the girl along as she resumed her trek, giving the shorter girl a pinch on the hip for her cheek. "Brat. Although if your crop starts getting much bigger, I may have to talk to Illyria about promoting you to Kit Holburn, the Cannabis Goddess…"
"Ooh, does that mean I get a pay raise?"
"I'll toss a few extra boxes of cherry Pop Tarts into the next crate of shit I drop off?"
Pondering that, Kit rubbed her chin. "Or… one of you could make me all demigodly and I could conjure up my own Pop Tarts whenever I wanted them?" Dawn shot her an odd look before shaking her head and Kit snapped her fingers. "Damn. Alright, fine, over-processed fruit stuffed into frosting smeared probably-not-really-grain envelopes it is."
Dawn laughed, giving Kit's hip a squeeze as they walked. Not really needing to watch where she was going, since Kit was taking care of that for them, Dawn watched her friend's face for a few moments before dropping to Kit's chest. Not for the same reason Willow or Kennedy would have, though; she was more interested in the green ouroboros tattoo just beneath Kit's collarbone than in 'the goods' her Qwa'ha Xahn's bikini displayed.
Unlike the idiot who'd summoned Illyria, Dawn had been able to choose her own Qwa'ha Xahn after discovering her heritage. Kit had been left parentless, homeless, and with only the clothes on her back after the destruction of Sunnydale. While she'd had absolutely nothing to do with Buffy's lunatic plan or the amulet Spike used, Dawn had felt bad for what had happened and used a little magic to track her friend down. And then, with Kit's consent, she'd burned her mark and a fraction of her power into the girl and declared Kit her high priestess, moving her to this little island to guard the less accessible of the portals to the Deeper Well.
And to grow pot for her, but that was an entirely different matter.
"Anyways, what's news… oh! The seeds did take and so I have an entire new field starting to sprout. Goddesshood will be mine. Um…" The duo entered a clearing and Kit paused, gesturing to the hut in front of them. "Well, there's the hut. I don't think you've been here since I got the entire thing put together, have you?"
No, she hadn't. And Dawn wasn't quite sure Kit's dwelling quite qualified as a 'hut' in any normal sense of the word. Assuming Kit's original blueprints had been followed, the structure in front of her was divided into four distinct rooms by interior walls: Kit's workroom, a combination living/dining/kitchen area, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The walls were a combination of light grey aerated concrete blocks, darker grey mortar, and concrete poured down into the walls for further stability, capped by a roof made of woven cycad fronds. Well, the actual roof was made of cycad fronds. Most of it wasn't visible, however, hidden behind angled solar panels that covered almost every square inch of the roof and fed the rather power-intensive structure's energy needs. And while she couldn't actually see them, the fact that the bundle of white PVC pipe had gone missing led Dawn to assume that the bathroom's plumping was now installed and properly working.
The fact that Kit smelled like vanilla instead of sea salt or an ungodly funk leant credence to that theory.
An almost giggle-worthy sight caught Dawn's attention as she finished her inspection of the 'hut' and after trying to stifle herself for a few seconds, she gave in and laughed. Mounted at one corner of Kit's new home, pointing northwest and up into the sky, was a familiar grey DirecTV dish. "Nice. Although we really need to do something about the walls. They're an eyesore."
"They resist fire, mold, and keep my cool when it's hot and warm when it's not. Don't diss the E-Crete." Grabbing Dawn by the hand, Kit led her forward and then into the house - Dawn just couldn't bring herself to think of it as a hut. As they passed through the living/dining/kitchen area, Kit detoured past a full-sized fridge and grabbed two cans of Coke, tossing one to Dawn before leading her into the next room. A glass and metal desk was set up along one wall, holding a laptop and several small black and white televisions that displayed different places on the island. On one, Dawn could watch as Illyria entered the cave that housed the entrance to the Deeper Well. "As you can see, I took the cameras out there and wired them up too. I had to do a bit of tree trimming, but each solar panel now has great northern exposure. Powers the camera and charges the battery by day, and the battery actually has enough power to go for three days or so in case we get a storm. Any longer and I can go out and rig up emergency power… although I'd be kicking on my own generator at that point."
Dawn nodded. She noted that Kit was no longer protesting her side occupation as a part-timer pot farmer; the benefits had probably become all too apparent when they put a roof over her head and a laptop on her desk. Strangely enough, Dawn had been genuinely shocked to find out how many demons partook in 'human' narcotics as opposed to something more… exotic… but had quickly spun the situation to her advantage. Kit grew and farmed it, Dawn packaged and sold it to the demons in Cleveland, and their profits were used to keep Kit well provisioned as well as providing nice thick bundles of cash for Dawn's visits to the assorted less than legal arms dealers in the greater Cleveland area. And while she knew the Scoobies would never understand, in Dawn's mind, everyone won: Kit got the things she needed, the demons were stoned out of their minds and too busy baking brownies and giggling to be evil, and… well, how could taking the supply out of the whole 'supply and demand' part of illegal weapons in the city be a bad thing?
As for some of the more… interesting… toys she either acquired for Kit or kept for herself? The world was definitely better off with those off of the street and in the hands of someone who'd use them for semi-noble purposes. Like turning demons into demon chunks with those landmines that. That was definitely a better use for them than… whatever that creepy Christian militia would have done with them. Speaking of the landmines… "Any problems since last time we talked?"
"Nope. Like I said, ever since one of them stepped in the wrong spot and got turned into a fine mist, the demons have been pretty wary of going near the Deeper Well. I've had a few landings but since none of them are smart enough to look for non-magical defenses, they get nervous and flee pretty quickly." Kit gave Dawn an odd look. "I'm still wondering where the hell you got those things from."
"The less you know, the better. Let us scary people worry about where the illegal Claymores come from." Wandering back out into the social area, for lack of a better term, Dawn took a moment to admire the furniture. Most of them were Girl Scout Specials, made of lashed-together wood and homemade cushions, but instead of looking cheap, it just gave the place a rustic and native vibe. "You know, I was going to ask if you wanted more furniture in my next drop, but I really like what you've done with the place."
Following her into the living room, Kit brushed against Dawn's back as she made her way over to the other doorway in the room, leaning on the frame. "Yeah, who'da thunk Girl Scouts and home ec lessons would pay off some day? I just took them so I could have free cupcakes to munch when we were getting stoned out back during lunch." Nodding at what lay beyond the doorframe she was resting against, Kit grinned. "Wanna see what else I've been up to?"
It was almost - but not quite - as blatant a move as Kennedy's 'hog the covers' line, although Dawn was willing to tolerate it because the intent was completely platonic and they both knew it. Despite being able communicate with the outside world via a separate satellite dish for the Internet, even their digital interactions were limited because the time zone difference meant that Kit's free time generally coincided with the hours Dawn was patrolling with Illyria. And emails and instant messages were no substitute for a casual touch or… "It's time for you to go to sleep, isn't it? Or close enough?"
Kit's face lit up and she nodded eagerly before doing her best to collect the remains of her dignity. "Yeah. C'mon, you can check out my new bedroom while I change." That made Dawn raise an eyebrow; bikinis were pretty much underwear as far as coverage and stuff and she'd slept in her underwear plenty… or at least she had before her clothes had become part of her body and sleeping had become a non-issue. Why did Kit need to change before bed? Shrugging it off, she waved dismissively and Kit scampered into her bedroom, grabbing something out of a plastic bucket before disappearing into the attached bathroom and leaving Dawn to admire the girl's handiwork.
Much like her misuse of the word 'hut' to describe her dwelling, Dawn wasn't sure Kit's 'bedroom' actually qualified as such. Bedrooms, at least as far as she knew, had a bed. Kit had… some sort of funky wannabe spider-woman web hammock thing made out of hemp rope going. Well, hammocks were pretty comfortable, so maybe Kit was on to something. Either that, or Kit was sampling the goods. Probably the latter. But hey, it wasn't her 'bed', so whatever rocked Kit's casbah.
Dawn did her best to settle herself in the middle of the web-hammock-thing while listening to Kit putter around in the bathroom. A minute or so later, the girl reappeared and hopped up onto the edge of the hammock, letting gravity roll her to the depression in the center where Dawn was resting. Coming to a rest half-atop Dawn, Kit grinned down at the Old One. "You do know that you're stuck until I decide to get up, right?"
"You do remember that I can tear portals through four dimensions, not three, right? You can trap me here for sixteen hours and I can still get back to Cleveland two minutes from now." Dawn paused and thought about that. "Not that I want to go back there any sooner than I have to, but you know what I mean."
"Yes, well, for all us mere mortal muck stuck in a linear existence… your ass is trapped here for the next eight hours. Even if it's simultaneously existing in Cleveland because you want to be all godly. So nyah." Tucking her head in under Dawn's chin, Kit snuggled in a bit closer. "Now shush. Sleeping here."
Snorting, Dawn reached up to play with Kit's hair and began intentionally slowing her breathing and faux-heartbeat. Soon enough, she was doing a credible imitation of a human deeply asleep and Kit followed a few minutes after. And to ensure that the girl stayed under when Illyria returned - which would be any moment, according to her senses - Dawn intentionally let some of her power leak out of her body to buzz around them, wrapping around Kit and saturating her body. Her Qwa'ha Xahn had compared it to being hugged by a plasma globe… which didn't sound like something she'd personally find pleasing, but Kit did.
Letting her mind drift, Dawn thought back on the past two years. If anyone had told her that she'd turn out to be the same sort of being as Illyria, one of the feared Old Ones of mythology, or that she would have spent the time learning to use her powers while teaching Illyria to be more human as part of a bizarre supernatural lesbian matchmaking scheme? She would have had them committed. And most definitely drugged. Quite heavily.
Without even pausing, Illyria swept into the bedroom like she owned the place. Strangely enough, she was still in her bikini, Dawn noticed. She was sure the Older One would have reverted to normal once she got away from Dawn. Something to ponder later, she decided. "Two sarcophagi have been removed from the Deeper Well. Someone used a crude dimensional tear to access the Well from their reality, rather than one of the two stable portals, and made off with both Erycina's sarcophagus and the one that holds Galas." Illyria frowned, staring off into space. "The residue is… unusual. It leads to another place and dimension - which would be expected - but also to another time."
"So either it was amateur hour when the person opened their portal or… no, that's about all I can come up with. Anyone who can do it naturally has the control not to fuck that kind of thing up, and what's the point of messing with time when retrieving an Old One for your nefarious plans? It's not like they were going anywhere." Dawn nibbled her lower lip, pretty sure she knew where this was headed but wanting to be sure. "Road trip?"
"Yes. I do believe we will be partaking in one of these… 'road trips'… of yours. Soon."