The Strange State of Ohio
Disclaimer: I so wish. But, alas, Lord of the Rings belongs to JRR Tolkien and all his people, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and all his people. Me and my people have nothing but legos and pipe dreams.
Author's Notes: Okay, wasn't sure where to put this cause there end up being a few pairings. Please, don't laugh at this, I know it's been done. This will be based on both the movie and the book. The title is in Quenya (in theory) and (very loosely) translated means "We Will Be Free". I also attempt to put my (very limited and pathetic) Sindarin to use in this. I know it's not 100%, but give me a break, it's not that easy. Hope you guys like!
I swear to the Powers That Be, our lives don’t even resemble anything close to fair. We give and give and give and…guess what?…we give even more, and what do we get? Nothing!
Now, wait, I guess that’s not really completely honest. We do get things back. BIG HONKIN’ BUTTLOADS OF PAIN!!! Never a good moment in our lives, never an easy path. Everything has to be hard and painful for us. And I mean us. Not just me, but every last one of them, too.
You’d think the battle with the first was enough. Didn’t we suffer enough through that? Oh, no. Like I said, it’s never enough. So Xander lost an eye? So what? He lives, which was better than Spike. At the time.
I guess most people would count Spike’s miraculous resurrection as good. But was it really? No! Poor guy. He’d finally found the perfect redemption, a way to give of himself so selflessly to earn that salvation known as peace, and it had been torn from him so completely. He’d appeared in that damned white light from the Hellmouth, completely human, completely new, and he’d cried. Wept for the escape he had lost.
All alone were we, on that bus filled with those young girls. I believed then that that loneliness was the worst in the world. I was wrong. The loneliness that had come as one by one, those girls left us for their own Watchers the newly reformed Council had assigned them was much worse. It was just us. Just the gang, together and alone again. Loneliness that was welcomed.
Giles took over driving the old school bus after we dropped off Principal Wood at his cousin’s place in Los Angeles. I sat in the seat behind him, watching as the plane that (probably did not though I liked to pretend it did) carry the decidedly too-young-for-me Kennedy fly farther and farther away towards her Watcher. Xander was sprawled across two separate seats, taking in some much needed rest after all the chaos. Dawn was bopping giddily to whatever she was listening over her headphones, happily oblivious to the rest of the world. Buffy was more peaceful than I had seen her in years. She was discussing some type of legal working with Faith, who had been technically exonerated by the Council, although her eyes still held the haunted depths of an unforgiven soul. Spike was brooding in the back of the bus.
We were on our way to a small town in Connecticut by way of Ohio. Faith was dedicating her life to the cause, going to take the role of Head Slayer in Cleveland with three other girls who were recently Chosen. Buffy, armed with a glowing recommendation from Robin, was going to work in a small rural town where she could lose herself to a peaceful life and Dawn could grow up happy. Xander and I were going to stay with them for awhile, unsure of where to go with our freed lives. We weren’t sure what to do with Spike, though he would be going to Connecticut as well. Giles was retiring away back to Britain as soon as we were settled.
We were happy. That should have been my first tip that life was about to take a sucky turn. Not only were we happy, but we thought we were finally done. Free. Free to live the lives so long denied us. Of course things were too good to be true.
Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was another twist thrown at us by those evil beings that attest to fighting for the light. Whatever it was, whoever sent it, whatever the cause, it was just plain cruel. And had nothing to do with anything supernatural. It was human stupidity that started this.
Don’t get me wrong. I drive. I’ve been known to let loose when I really need it. But I’ve never been driving while I was loosed. Not even in a less-than-sober state am I that stupid. But, apparently, the guy in front of us was.
Giles, being the driver, had noticed it first. It had been a fairly deserted highway at that hour. The road had wound through the Ohio countryside for miles, devoid of all life except the beautiful farmland that rolled on at both sides of the road. It had just been our strange school bus and that beat-up Ford pickup.
“Willow,” Giles had called softly, mindful of the napping Xander.
Looking away from the small airplane that dotted the sky, I had turned my attention to him, smiling brightly. “What can I do you for, Giles?”
He had motioned with his head in front of us, towards the little truck. “What do you see?”
I had stared at the truck for several moments, unsure of what Giles had wanted from me. Then I had noticed the variation in speed the pickup seemed to travel at, seventy miles an hour one moment, twenty the next. Then I had seen the swerving. Great big swerves, left, right, left, right. The delayed reaction to the curves in the road, the potholes and breaks in pavement taken at too fast a speed.
I had sighed. “Drunk.”
Giles had nodded, shifting down as he slowed to turn off the road. “That’s what I thought. Have Buffy and Faith put up their windows, we’ll be stopping here for a few minutes.”
I had nodded back to him my understanding, rising from my seat to relay the message to the sister-Slayers. Then it happened.
Buffy had stopped talking with Faith to watch me approach them. Her expression had instantly gone into one of horror. She had jumped to her feet, reaching for me with wide panicked eyes. “Willow, watch out!”
Xander, who had been jolted from sleep by the frantic cry, shot up. He had blinked towards me sleepily, then had immediately sprung to full-awareness, his eyes also wide.
“Giles!” Faith had shouted the same time Buffy had reached for me.
Dawn and Spike had looked up, both going from peeved to confused to terrified in an instant.
I had turned to glance back at Giles at Buffy’s frightened look. But I had never seen Giles. I had just seen headlights, an explosion, and the fire. My brain had shutdown, only registering the fact that we’d never be able to slow down in time at the speed we were traveling.
I closed my eyes, bracing myself against one of the seats for the impact. This is what I think as I prepare for my death: it’s not fair.
The impact came with a vengeance.
My friends…well, my family, really… screamed around me. I hit hard, the light of the explosion nearly blinding me even though my eyes were closed. Pain flared up and down my left arm as the bones gave way with a sickening crunch. My head hit as well, though the intense burning at my skin caused me not to register the impact as much as I was my arm. I knew the heat was the flames, knew that I was burning alive, knew that the fire was licking at my skin. I screamed in pain at the feeling, dreading the painful death I knew was coming.
Then it faded. It was still there, but instead of the intense heat, all my skin did was tingle. Sort of like the little tingle I usually got when I did magic, only intensified a hundred fold. My arm still hurt, and badly, enough for me to fear passing out from the pain. And since I no longer had the burning alive thing to worry about, I noticed the pounding in my head.
I whimpered, burrowing my aching head deeper into the soft grass beneath me. Wait…grass?
My eyes fluttered open, my foggy vision clearing enough for me to get a good look around. I was no longer in the bus. I was in a clearing. In the woods. Without a flaming bus/pickup truck inferno in sight.
It occurred to me that it was a very pretty clearing. The trees around were old and tall, golden leaves hanging from their winding branches. The sun was shining softly, warming the air around, but not burning too brightly or too warm. The grass was like feathers, long, cool, and soft, pillowing around me, cradling me.
I shakily propped myself up on my right elbow, my strength teetering dangerously on failing. I was not alone.
Buffy was lying next to me, body bruised and battered. Faith was sprawled out at her feet, legs sticking out at sharp, unnatural angles, breath drawn in frighteningly shallow gasps. Giles was a few feet away, a bloody gash running down the right side of his face from forehead to jaw, arms clearly broken since I could see both bones poking out of his skin. Xander was at the opposite side of the clearing with the broken form of Spike, their injuries not visible to me from that distance. And Dawn, Little Dawny, the younger teen was a bloody mass a few yards away. Everyone, save me, was unconscious.
I knew I had to get help. It was my mission. I couldn’t let my friends die, not when we were so close to that normal life we had dreamed of for so long. But, goddess, my body would not work. It was too painful, too much. It was no good.
Gasping in pain, my working arm gave out. Whimpering ever so slightly, my eyes closing against the light, I rolled onto my back, willing myself to get up.
Then I felt the cold, sharp tip of something metal pressed against my throbbing forehead. I froze, biting my lip to keep from crying out at the sensation of the weapon.
“Man nalye?” a musical, but very masculine, voice asked (I could tell it was a question by the intonation of the voice).
I consider myself many things, among those things a gifted researcher, refined by years as a Scooby. To be a decent researcher, one has to be familiar, though not necessarily fluent, in several different languages. I had never heard anything like this one.
“Nalye edaino?” the voice asked, a bit more firmly.
I was shaking. I knew I was, but I was not ashamed. I was badly injured, fairly frightened, extremely shaken, and being accosted by some man, presumably some Buckeye, who spoke a very strange language. If not for the weapon, I would have considered the possibility of the man being Amish, but since I knew the Amish were opposed to weapons, I didn’t think so. This is why I decided to open my eyes.
I let my eyelids slide open very slowly, conscious of my hands and where they were. I cradled my injured left arm against my stomach, but made sure it was in plain sight, holding my right arm up in surrender. My captor acknowledged this act of surrender, letting up some, though no all, of the pressure against my forehead. Emboldened, I let my eyes open more quickly.
The man before me was the strangest man I had ever seen. Armed with a bow, arrow notched and aimed straight at my head, his dress was very old and very strange. His hair was long, much longer than was fashionable for men, falling past his shoulders. He wore a tunic of grey and green, weaved unlike any I had ever seen. He wore some kind of leggings or something and I think his shoulders were wrapped in a cloak. At that point, my vision was blurring, my thoughts beginning to jumble in my head.
“What…where…who?” I whimpered pathetically, feeling the last of my strength leaving me.
I got in one last good look before my vision blacked out. Several more of the strangely dressed guys, all armed to the teeth with bows and arrows, were milling about, kneeling next to my friends. I shook my head weakly as I sunk lower and lower into blessed unconsciousness. “No…they need…help…”
And then I was drifting, away from the strange men and the clearing. The little strength I had was gone and would not return until I was able to get many hours of rest. As I drifted off, I heard the strange man say one last thing.
“Toltho i hir a i híril. Avorno! I ardhon prestanneth!”
A/N: (Very loosely) Translated, the elvish reads:
Man nalye?--> Who art thou? (Quenya)
Nalye edaino?--> Art thou of men? (Quenya)
Toltho i hir a i híril. Avorno! I ardhon prestanneth!--> Fetch the lord and lady. Fast! The world is changing! (Sindarin)