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Thunder over Smallville: Book One

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Thunder over Smallville". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Sequel to An Echo of Thunder and Story #2 in the Thunder over Smallville series. Xander Harris arrives in Smallville to start his new life. How will the presence of a Thunder God affect life in this not-so-sleepy Kansas town?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Smallville > Xander-Centered
DC Universe > General
anotherlostsoulFR1551240,4331691325680,95214 Nov 0615 Feb 08No

Chapter 39 – In the Mind’s Eye I

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, the larger DC comics universe that I am drawing elements from, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…

Author’s Note: No, you’re not imagining things…this is, in fact, the new chapter. After some serious consideration, I decided that the original version of this arc just wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. So I ended up completely re-writing the arc (which is now shorter overall and better focused). This, unfortunately, set me back a bit on my schedule, but I think the outcome was well worth it. Please enjoy the new version of the chapter.

-== Chapter 39 – In the Mind’s Eye I ==-

Willow fidgeted as she stood alongside Chloe, staring out at the rapidly darkening sky above the distant City of Angels. The sight of the storm clouds appearing from nowhere brought on a simultaneous feeling of both relief and foreboding. Only Xander to be responsible for it, which meant he was alive still, but he was resorting to such an obvious display of power then things were probably not going well. The conflicting emotions and the feeling of useless inadequacy that had pervaded her spirit since Xander and the others left caused the power inside her to stir uneasily, leaving her even more restless and agitated.

Chloe, by contrast, seemed cool, calm and collected, waiting with an almost serene patients or at least appearing to. Undoubtedly, she too was worried about their friends, but without a charming well of uncontrolled power twisting inside her, she was hiding it better. The redhead shot a surreptitious glance at the blonde before sighing loudly and turning away from the vista before them. She saw the blonde smile at her sympathetically and frowned at her own actions, frustrated with herself and her overwhelming feeling of impatience.

Almost immediately, her eyes fell on the Metrion Codex, the gift Hermes had brought her that lay forgotten on the table. The Messenger God had told her that the book held the key to her powers, the total accumulated knowledge of a group that had studied someone with the same powers she possessed. She strode eagerly to the table, opened book and stared down at the writing within. An alien script stared back at her comprised of strange, looping hieroglyphics that she'd never seen before and had no idea how to read. The irony of having been given all the answers she needed about her abilities, yet been completely incapable of reading and understanding them was not lost on Willow. On the contrary, it filled her with a feeling of annoyed anger as she slammed the book shut with an exasperated huff.

"Only a God would give me all the answers in a book written in a language I can't read," Willow complained bitterly.

"Yeah, that sounds like something that Hermes would do," Chloe remarked sympathetically. "He's been pretty big on being cryptic about anything that seems important." The blonde moved over and put a reassuring hand on the redhead's shoulder. "Don't worry though, we'll figure it out. It'll just take time..."

"Time is the one thing that we don't exactly have a tremendous amount of though Chloe," the redhead countered frustratedly, ignoring the surging roil of power her emotions triggered. "How long am I going to have to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the League risks their necks? Even you are light-years ahead of me when it comes to controlling and using your abilities." She reigned in her outburst and let out an aggravated sigh. "I'm sorry, Chloe," she said, sounding tired and resigned. "They need to stand with you. It's not your fault... I just wish there was a faster way for both of us to master our powers..."

The instant that the words left her mouth, Willow knew she had made a terrible mistake. The power inside of her seemed to explode outward in an unstoppable rush. She turned quickly toward Chloe and the entire world seemed to lurch drunkenly. Her head spun in her vision grew dark, as though the light, no... as though the entire world, were receding from her. The last thing she saw before the darkness took her completely was a look of panic on Chloe's face.

* * * * *

"... I just wish there was a faster way for both of us to master our powers."

The words seemed to ring with an inexplicable finality that sent a shiver racing uncontrollably up Chloe's spine. Suddenly, power seemed to permeate the air around them as she watched in unabashed panic as a great, black, shadowy bird seemed to erupt from Willow's body. Frozen in fear, Chloe let off speak of panic that might have sounded like "help" if her vocal chords hadn't been half paralyzed in fright. In the next instant, the Raven, for somehow Chloe just knew that was what the bird was, shifted and enveloped both of the girls in the embrace of its black wings. There was barely time for thought, let alone action, when with a sudden wrenching sensation, the world changed and the shadowy bird crashed back into Willow before vanishing.

Chloe staggered backward, her flitting suddenly unstable as she realized that the ground beneath her feet was no longer the perfectly flat and level concrete of the student center roof, but rather the slightly uneven surface of a cobblestone path. Even as her brain struggled to catch up with what had just happened and her senses attempted to come to grips with the unexpected transition she had just endured, she watched as Willow crumpled limply into unconsciousness. The blonde twisted abruptly, regaining her balance and reflexively reaching out with her powers to catch the fainting redhead and save her from a nasty bump where her head would have struck a paving tile. The surge of adrenaline washed away the fear that had dominated her senses and Chloe looked around, truly seeing her surroundings for the first time.

She stood on a path of white marble tile in what appeared to be the courtyard of an ancient Greek Palace, or possibly temple. The courtyard was carpeted in the lush green grass and dotted with several trees of types she did not readily recognize. The path split the courtyard into four quarters with an ornate marble fountain in the center. Beyond that, each of the paths ended at a stately archway into a large building, also crafted of white marble. Each of the archways was supported by a pair of great, fluted columns of classical Greek design.

Sitting on a stone bench and facing away from her, Chloe saw two young women involved in a rather intense kiss. One of the women had beautiful, shoulder length hair that was a rich mahogany brown in color and wore a loose, knee-length, tunic-style gown of white fabric. The gown rose up from a waist sash in two pleated strips that flowed up her back, over her shoulders and down over her breasts to the front of her waist. The kilt-like skirt was split down the side from the bottom of the sash to the bottom of the hem, revealing an almost indecent amount of the woman's very shapely legs. On her feet she wore a pair of golden sandals that lashed up to just past her mid-calf.

Her companion was garbed in far more modern attire: a pair of pale brown, almost skin tight, leather pants that flared slightly at the bottom over a pair of matching, sexy leather boots with a narrow two inch heel and a gauzy flare-sleeved top. The top was so transparent that it covered almost nothing, clearly displaying the pale, thin midriff tank top she wore beneath it. The combination of shirts seemed almost intended to attract attention and show off her very toned body, without quite being naked, rather than to cover or conceal. In fact, Chloe was almost certain she could see the small, dark circles surrounding the hard nubs of the woman's nipples poking against the fabric.

It was that thought that made Chloe realized she was gawking at the woman and caused her to force her eyes up toward the woman's face. The second woman had platinum blonde hair, cut in a short, almost masculine style. With her slight frame and smallish breasts, the woman might have been androgynous enough to pass as a teenage boy if she desired to do so, except for the distinctly feminine angles of her face.

With her attention focused on their faces once more, Chloe became acutely aware of just how deeply passionate kiss seemed. There was nothing tentative or furtive about it. It was the kiss of two people who are perfectly comfortable in their own skins and didn't care who might or might not see them. The team wondered idly what it would be like to be kissed like that... not necessarily by another woman, just in general. Suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable with her unintentional voyeurism, and the fact that neither her arrival nor her presence had been noticed, she cleared her throat softly and said "Uh, excuse me?"

Chloe almost winced as the two women abruptly broke off their kiss and stood, spinning to face her. There was a fluid, almost feline grace and their movements; a self-assured confidence that she had seen more than once in Xander's motions. Despite their appearance, these women were warriors. The instant that the women saw her, shock exploded on their faces, wiping away the anger that had started to form there.

"Chloe?" The dark-haired woman's voice was soft, almost as if she was afraid if she spoke any louder that the subject of her attentions might vanish in a puff of smoke. "Is that really you?"

"Uh, the last time I checked," she replied lamely, stunned by the resemblance between herself and the dark-haired woman. They could almost have been twins, the similarities were that uncanny. "Who are you?"

Broad smiles broke out over both of the women's faces as the dark-haired woman answered quickly, "I am your mother's other daughter... your half-sister, Athena. This is my girlfriend, Nike, the Goddess of Victory." She seemed amused by the stunned look that Chloe knew was quite clear on her face. "Welcome to Olympus, little sister."

* * * * *

Willow's eyes snapped open as she became conscious of lying on a hard, unyielding surface. It took her several long moments to register what it was that she was seeing because it was so very different from what she'd expected. The sky above her was a pale red color dotted with ugly yellow-orange clouds. Clearly, she was nowhere near Los Angeles anymore.

“I was wondering when you’d wake up,” a strangely familiar female voice said from somewhere nearby. “You've been unconscious for several hours now, since you arrived.” The redhead tried to push herself upright but groaned as the movement caused her head to throb and the sudden pain left her nauseous. “Easy child, the journey that brought you here was not kind to you.”

“Where am I?” she asked the stranger as she relaxed before trying to move again, more slowly this time.

“You are in the ruins of the once great city of Metrion, in what remains of the paradise of Azerath,” the voice answered sadly as Willow gradually eased herself into a sitting position. “How did you come to travel to this forsaken place, child?”

Willow turned slightly, moving gingerly and learning that she could move without pain so long as she moved slowly and carefully. She ignored the question for a moment as she took in her surroundings. It was hardly like she knew the answer any way. She was sitting on a raised stone bench in front of a low stone building of somewhat primitive design. For as far as the eye could see around her the landscape was marked with the smashed and scorched remains of other, much larger buildings; buildings of stone and metal and glass that were not entirely unlike those she was familiar with from the cities of Earth. The world around them was utterly still and quiet, without any signs of life that could be seen anywhere: not a tree, not an animal, not even a single blade of grass.

Turning again, even more slowly this time, she looked toward the source of the voice she had heard and spoken with. To her surprise, a human woman stood there, clad in a skin tight black bodysuit and an ankle length black cloak with a hood. The cloak was drawn loosely about her and the hood shrouded her face, obscuring her features. The cloak was fastened at the left shoulder by a gold disc set with a flat, round, red stone in the center. Around her waist Willow could just make out a belt made of the same discs interconnected by golden chain links. The woman seemed slightly taller than Willow, though with an almost identical build. Or perhaps she was about the same height, Willow amended mentally as she noticed that the woman wasn’t standing, so much as floating several inches above the ground.

“Who are you?” Willow asked curiously, unable to shake off the feeling of familiarity.

“You didn’t answer my question,” the black-clad woman pointed out with a half-grin. “How did you come here?”

“I don’t know,” the redhead admitted with a frown. “The last thing I remember is talking to Chloe…and then waking up here.”

“You fell and landed on the ground, yet you didn’t die,” the strange woman said curiously. “His coming poisoned the ground so that everyone who touches it dies, except for me. Are you like me? Are you one of his children?”

“Huh?” Willow asked, not fully understanding what the woman was asking. “One of whose children?”

“Trigon’s,” she answered softly, as though the name frightened her. “The mystics here said that he was a God, one of the Ancient Ones, and that I was his daughter. It’s why I lived while everyone else died when he came.” Her voice was full of self-loathing and guilt, “Is that why you’re here? Are you one of his children?”

“I…I don’t know,” the redhead said quickly, hearing the steel in the other girl’s voice. “What’s your name?”

“They called me Raven,” she answered after a long pause, before snorting softly. “It’s been so long since I was called anything except ‘daughter’ that I nearly forgot it. He told me you would come, you know. I’ve been waiting for you since he left.”

The words sent a spike of cold fear through Willow. “Why have you been waiting for me?” she asked hesitantly.

“To teach you of course,” Raven said sadly. “Before he came here, this is where all of his children came to learn. The mystics of the Order of Zinthos trained each of the nine to use the gifts Trigon gave them, but they never knew the truth of it, not until I came. I was the tenth, born right here in Metrion and they trained me too, proclaiming the High Priestess of Trigon.” She shuddered violently. “And he used me to destroy this world, just like he used the nine who came before me to destroy their worlds. He used me to destroy everything that I loved.” She laughed bitterly, a sound that was tinged with a kind of madness.

Willow shivered, fighting back a swell of panic. If she was indeed the one that this sad creature was waiting for…oh God, what was she going to do? “What do you want from me?” she asked, frightened of the answer.

“Father promised me that if taught the one who came, that he would let me go,” the strange woman explained after a long, painfully tense pause. “He’s kept me here alive and unharmed; tormenting me with the knowledge of what I did to everyone I loved as punishment for defying him. I tried to fight him, to send him back but once he was here it was too late. He was too powerful for me to stop.” She fixed Willow with a sad smile before continuing. “If I teach you the way the monks taught me, he’ll finally let me die when he claims your world the way he claimed mine.”

The implications sent Willow’s mind into a spin that was further fueled by her rising panic and the churning of the power inside her. If Raven was telling the truth, and willow could hardly doubt that she was given the situation, then by learning to use her powers, Willow would doom the Earth to share Azerath’s fate.

“This is your fate, child,” Raven said sadly. “You’re destined to see everything and everyone that you love destroyed and know that you were responsible for it. It is unavoidable, unless you can accomplish that which I could not.”

Instantly, her mind fastened on the hope in those words. “Unless I do what?” she asked quietly.

“Unless you can become strong enough to stop him, to prevent him from using you as a portal into your world at all,” Raven said with a grim smile. “He cannot be destroyed, but he also cannot enter a world without the assistance of one of his children born in that world. If you can train hard enough and become powerful enough you can save your reality and break his hold on all of his children. You can save us all and undo all of the evil our father has done…if you are strong enough.”

Again, there was that tinge of almost madness to her voice, a kind of fanatic belief in what she was saying that frightened Willow a little. Yet more than it frightened her, it planted within her a seed of hope. If Raven was right, if they were both daughters of Trigon, then there was a chance that she could stop him from destroying the Earth. “What if I don’t want to learn?” she asked, hoping that perhaps if she never learned to use her powers she could side-step this fate.

“Then in your moment of death, you will bring Trigon into your world and have no chance of stopping him,” the black cloaked woman said tiredly. “By awakening your gifts and coming to this place, your destiny was set into motion and it cannot be so easily avoided.”

“Why are you so sure I’m one of Trigon’s children?” Willow snarled back angrily, feeling defeated and trapped.

Raven lifted her black gloved hands and lowered her hood, eliciting a startled gasp from Willow. The woman’s face was virtually identical to her own, save that it was framed by ruler-straight black hair that hung to just below her chin rather than Willow’s longer red tresses. “Because there’s a strong familial resemblance among Trigon’s children,” she answered smugly. “At least among the more human children anyway…”

* * * * *

The next few minutes passed in an incomprehensible blur for Chloe. She knew that Athena had asked Nike to take Willow for her and had then showed her to the room where they currently sat, but beyond that she wasn’t certain of anything. In fact, her brain had yet to manage to digest the fact that she had a half-sister, let alone the fact that the half-sister in question was Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom and War. Words like shocked and stunned only barely began to describe the way that the sudden revelation left her feeling and yet it somehow felt right in a way that was equally indescribable. It was impossible, or at the very least highly improbable, though.

As she struggled to come to terms with it, her brain supplied an odd piece of trivia that she irrationally seized on as proof that she had to be dreaming. “Wait,” she heard herself say, “The myths say that you sprang fully-formed from Zeus’ head…after he swallowed your mother…”

The rich, warm sounds of Athena’s laughter seemed to roll through the room and soothe Chloe’s strained mind as her half-sister sat down beside her. “Our mother was, in fact, Metis, the Goddess of Thought,” she explained easily. “Her name also became the Greek word for thought and the whole myth became horribly muddled as a result. I was born when Zeus, my father, slept with Metis, our mother, just as you were born of mother’s liaison with your father.”

“So my mother…our mother, is a Goddess?” the teen repeated, finally beginning to accept the reality of the conversation that she was having.

“She was until her sister Hera, who happened to be Zeus’ wife, had her cast out of Olympus in a huff after Athena was born,” Nike supplied from where she’d perched beside Athena on the arm of the chair. “She was expelled from the pantheon, denied the worship of mortals, and forbidden to ever set foot in Olympus again so long as Zeus rules here, but since Zeus had quite a soft spot for your mother she remained a Goddess in all but name.”

“So she’s a goddess in exile then?” Chloe asked, not entirely certain of the subtle distinctions that the Olympians seemed to be drawing.

“More or less, yes,” Athena said with a smile. “It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the details aren’t all that important. What is important is that her banishment made her live on Earth, where she met Gabriel Sullivan a little more than two decades ago and later gave birth to you.”

“So what does that make me?” Chloe couldn’t help but ask the question despite the fact that she was fairly certain that she already knew the answer. Being the child of both a god and a mortal was sort of the definition of being a demigod after all.

“What it makes you, Chloe, is unique,” her sister answered with a reassuring smile. “Had you been able to be born here, in Olympus, you would have been born a full goddess and quite likely have ascended to occupy mother’s place in the pantheon. But instead you were born on Earth where the Powers that Be could interfere, so you were born a fully mortal child, and a mortal child you have remained.”

“Wait a minute,” the teen interrupted quickly. “I thought the child of a mortal and god was a demigod, how could I have been born a full blown goddess?”

“He didn’t tell you?” Athena’s face darkened ominously, her normally blue-gray eyes turning the color of a stormy sky. “Hermes didn’t tell you when I sent him back to Earth earlier?”

“He didn’t tell me what?” the mortal girl asked, a little confused by the sudden turn in the conversation.

Before anyone could say more, Zeus’ daughter leapt to her feet and shouted angrily, “Hermes!” Her voice rolled like thunder across the Olympian sky, leaving no one to doubt that she was the child of a God of Thunder.

An instant later, Hermes appeared behind Athena, his eyes falling immediately on Chloe and going wide in surprise. “What is she…” he began to ask, forgetting for just a moment who had summoned him.

The Goddess of War spun smoothly on her heel and swung her fist with righteous fury. Her hand crashed into the center of Hermes’ face with a sickening crack that smashed his nose. The blow lifted the Messenger off his feet and sent him sailing with surreal speed into the marble wall of the room some ten or twelve feet from where he started, where he slammed violently into the stone. The punch had been so powerful and so brutal that a measure of Hermes’ blood spattered across the otherwise pristine white wall and his broken nose began to bleed profusely.

He quickly reached up and pinched his nose to quell the flow of crimson, shooting an angry glare at his attacker as he did. “What in Zeus’ name was that for, Athena?”

“You lied to me, Hermes!” the goddess growled angrily, stalking toward the injured god like a predatory cat. “You stood here, in this very room and declared that you had told her…that she knew the truth! Stand up so I can hit you again!”

Hermes quailed visibly before the enraged goddess and Nike quickly leaned in close to Chloe and whispered an explanation. “Athena inherited Zeus’ temper and his strength, so she’s not allowed to keep hitting him as long as he stays down and doesn’t try to hit back.”

Chloe nodded mutely, transfixed by the ongoing exchange between her sister and Hermes. It was like watching a train wreck, no matter how much she wanted to look away, she just couldn’t. “Why doesn’t he run away?” she finally asked as Hermes scrambled away from Athena on his hands and knees while the Olympian Princess cajoled him angrily, demanding that he stand up.

“The last time he tried that, she started hurling thunderbolts and nearly killed him,” the Goddess of Victory said conversationally. “He learned the hard way that running just pisses her off worse.”

“Is she like this with everyone?” the teen asked, appalled by the thought.

“No, only Hermes, Ares and Hera earn her wrath with any regularity and even Athena treads lightly around our bitchy ass Queen,” the blonde Olympian replied with a shrug. “Hermes does seem to go out of his way to provoke her though…”

Athena had finally cornered the bleeding god and if looks could kill, Hermes would have been quite dead. “If you’re not going to stand and fight,” she ground out harshly, “the crawl your cowardly ass over there and tell my sister the truth or I will smite you and Zeus’ rules can be damned!”

“Athena!” Hermes shouted back angrily, clearly having been pushed as far as he would tolerate. “What I do or don’t choose to tell my daughter is none of your damn business! You have no right to interfere!”

The words hit Chloe like a thunderbolt. Hermes had just admitted, intentionally or not, that he was her father. Athena spun toward her with a wide-eyed almost horrified expression on her face before turning back to Hermes with a death-glare that even Zeus himself would have been wary of. “If you value your life, Hermes,” she said in a cold tone that promised violence, “you would do well to depart Olympus for a while. If I see you again this century, I might forget that even cowardly snakes like you have their purposes…”

The Messenger God blanched, turning a truly ghastly shade of gray, and quickly vanished.

When Athena turned back to Chloe all traces of her anger were gone and her face wore a deeply saddened expression. “I beg your forgiveness for this, Chloe. It was not how I wanted you to find out, but as a member of this pantheon, only Hermes could reveal to you that he was your father,” she sighed loudly. “It is one of Zeus’ many laws regarding the mortal children of Olympians.”

“No,” Chloe said abruptly. “No, it can’t be true. He’s lying…”

“I’m afraid he’s not,” Nike countered with a sorrowful grimace. “While Olympian men can father children with mortal women, mortal men cannot impregnate Olympian women, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.”

“But, my dad…” the teen began, still trying to deal with this latest revelation.

“Is still your father in every way that really matters,” Athena consoled her softly, sitting back down beside Chloe and pulling her into a supportive, sisterly hug. “Gabriel wanted a child so much that mother couldn’t bear not being able to give him one. So, she Hermes and got pregnant with you. It was the only way she knew to give him what he wanted most from their marriage.”

“Is that…is that why she left?” Chloe asked, feeling heartsick suddenly. “Did she leave because he found out about the affair?”

“No, to this day he doesn’t know you are not his child by blood,” the Goddess of Wisdom assured her gently. “She left because it wasn’t possible to stay. She wasn’t aging and unlike the Aesir, only one Olympian can drastically alter her appearance with just a thought, and that’s Aphrodite. The rest of us require very specific magic to accomplish such things, and it is magic that mother is not overly well versed in. Since she could not reveal her true nature to Gabriel and she could not disguise her immortality, she had no choice but to leave.”

“She didn’t just leave,” Chloe complained a little bitterly, “she vanished without a trace.”

“Maureen Sullivan never really existed to begin with,” Nike explained gently. “So she left that identity behind, knowing that it would make it difficult for Gabriel to find her. She asked Athena and I to watch over you and send word to her if your unique heritage began to manifest. She felt it would be less painful to cut you out of her life altogether than to be forced to watch from a distance.”

“Well, she did a good job of it,” the teen’s voice was still angry, but less so. “Where did she go, anyway?”

“To a place outside of the world you know,” Athena replied. “An island nation which is inhabited solely by a race of women warriors called the Amazons. There they still worship the Olympian Goddesses and her immortality was of no consequence, since the Amazons do not age.”

Chloe shook her head, pushing aside thoughts of her mother and her mother’s betrayals. There were other things, more important things, to deal with. “So how did I end up here anyway?”

* * * * *

Willow gritted her teeth hard and twisted in mid-flight, throwing her hand out and focusing her powers into a shield of shadow-black energy that deflected the massive stone Raven had hurled at her. So far, she had been trapped in Azerath for just over a month, during which time Raven had been a truly merciless taskmaster. She pushed Willow to the absolute limits of her developing abilities, expecting more of the redhead than anyone had every expected before. Their training began with the sunrise each morning and ended only when Raven deemed it finished or when Willow collapsed bodily from exhaustion.

The training had covered an unbelievably wide array of things: physical conditioning, meditation, reading and writing the language of Azerath, magic…all of that and more. Despite the speed and intensity of the training, Raven set high standards and did not tolerate failure. Where success was rewarded with food and rest, each failure resulted in being pushed that much harder. Still yet, the results spoke for themselves: she had not only gained a fundamental understanding of her powers and their limitations, she was also well on the way to mastering them. In fact, she had come far enough already that Raven was beginning to teach her how to apply her abilities both offensively and defensively in combat situations.

The redhead shifted her body, sliding through a narrow gap amongst a trio of smaller, faster moving projectiles and demonstrating great improvement in her control while flying. Abruptly, the situation changed as the ground itself reached up to grab at her, surprising the teen. Suddenly entombed in solid stone, she fought down the sudden panic that threatened to overwhelm her. Emotional control was the key to controlling her abilities and Willow’s control was rapidly slipping away. The fear and surprise proved too much for her and she lashed out at her stony prison without the requisite restraint and the result was both satisfyingly immediate and nearly catastrophic. Her power exploded outward with tremendous force, devastating the area around her. Great chunks of stone were hurled away with rocket force by the energy.

For a moment, Willow was left standing in the large, crater like depression left by the blast before she collapsed to her knees in exhaustion. Her head spun wildly from the outburst and she teetered on the edge of unconsciousness. Raven, however, wasted no time on niceties as she approached.

“Do you listen to nothing that I tell you?” she asked without anger or rancor in her voice. “Do you think that I teach you these things for my own good?” She knelt down in front of Willow and lifted Willow’s chin in her hand, forcing the teen to meet her eyes. “You must never lose control, child. Everything that you do with your powers weakens you, tearing away a bit of the very thing that lets you resist Trigon. You can restore your strength and repair your resistance through meditation and rest but you must keep control.” She shook her head sadly, “If you lose control and overreach yourself, Trigon will claim you and your world will die. Is that what you want?”

“No!” Willow protested quickly, “Of course not!”

“Then you must learn self-control!” Raven’s words carried the force of a command. “A will of iron and unassailable self-control are the keys to defying your fate, Willow. You can settle for nothing less. Now, rest and meditate. You’re too weak to continue the exercise now.”

“Raven,” Willow ventured tentatively, as she moved into a proper meditative position. “What is it that lets us resist Trigon and contain his presence?” It was a question she had never dared to ask before.

“It’s your soul,” she answered flatly. “Your soul-self is the source of your powers and the bond that lets your will prevent Trigon from controlling you. When you use your powers cautiously with the control and discipline that I am trying to teach you, you draw energy from your soul-self, but safely, without danger of freeing him. Outbursts like this one, however, tear your soul-self into pieces and that damage is dangerous. If you weaken your soul too much… you could lose it altogether and throw open the gates for Trigon.” She smiled, seeming suitably satisfied with the look of horror on Willow’s face. “Do not look so afraid, the damage will heal quickly enough, so long as some piece of your soul-self remains and meditation will speed the process greatly.”

Without another word, the black-clad woman turned and strode away leaving Willow alone to contemplate the lesson.
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