Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
was created by Joss Whedon. Dragon Half
was created by Ryūsuke Mita. Not sure who owns the rights to these properties, but I don't, and I don't pretend that I do. I acknowledge all copyrights.
This chapter is a little bit more violent than previous ones; there's a bit of blood. I upped the rating to FR 15 just to be on the safe side.
Joyce groped desperately at the handbag that hung from her shoulder. She slipped her hand inside and yanked out a phial of purple liquid. With one quick motion, she smashed it against the floor.
"Spell shield!" she croaked.
Instantly, a wall of pink mist sprang up. Through it, she and Giles could see Amy's arms still thrust out at them, and the fog was swirling frantically right where she was pointing, but the pressure on their throats had stopped, and they managed to inhale.
Amy -- or rather, whoever or whatever had taken over her body -- waved her arms at the wall, causing it to ripple and deform.
"I can get through this, no problem," she said.
"Not before help comes," Giles gasped, rising to his feet. "You can hear them now."
Sure enough, the sound of running feet and shouting from down the hall was getting nearer.
"Damn," Amy said. "I guess I'll deal with you later. I'm not worried about you repeating your earlier success; this time I've left you nowhere to drive me back to. And if you're thinking of trying to rat me out, just remember -- everyone you tell is gonna be one more person I have to kill."
She stepped back toward the window.
"And your freak monster daughter is already the next one on the list," she added, before rising off her feet and flying backward, shattering the glass at the end of the hallway and disappearing into the night.
The pink mist faded and was gone. Giles struggled to his feet and dragged Joyce to hers.
"Hurry," he gasped, "we only have seconds before we're seen."
They ran into the room that had been Amy's. Curled up in the fetal position was the body of an auburn-haired woman. Giles hurriedly knelt beside her and tried to find a pulse.
"She's dead," he said. "At a guess, this is Amy's mother. Poor woman, she had no idea --"
"Oh yes she did," Joyce said.
Giles looked up and gasped when he saw Joyce's blue-glowing eyes. She closed them and let the light fade. Her expression when she turned to Giles was hard and cold.
"No place to drive her back to?" Joyce said. "That…thing
out there…that was
Willow repeated incredulously.
"She…she wanted to be a cheerleader again…She's crazy, Willow…she's crazy…"
Amy's, well, ghost, for lack of a better term, wavered in Willow's bedroom mirror. A moment later, it was gone, along with the sound of her voice, leaving Willow gazing fearfully at her own reflection.
"Amy? Amy! Can you hear me?"
There was no reply.
Willow grabbed up the phone and hit number two on the speed dial. The quick sequence of touch tones sounded, followed by a busy signal. She hit the disconnect button followed by redial, but got the same result.
In the mad scramble to rescue patients from the rooms in that section of the hospital, Giles and Joyce had managed to slip down a stairwell unnoticed. They stopped at a payphone on the ground level and watched the chaos around them while Joyce made a frantic call.
Buffy demanded from the other end of the line. "It was Mrs. Madison all along?"
"That's right," Joyce said. "Now Buffy, this is vital. Did you tell her your address at any time, even give a hint of it? Not just in the hospital, but earlier, when we thought she was Amy?"
Buffy was silent for a long moment. Then she said, "No, it never came up."
"We're too new in town to be listed," Joyce mused. "Mr. Giles, if you needed to find us, what would you do?"
"I would," Giles said. His eyes went wide. "I'd go to the school. Buffy's records are there -- including her address."
"Can she fly?" Joyce asked.
Giles tried to organize his thoughts amid the chaos.
"Well, let me see…for short bursts perhaps, but she'll want to conserve her energy. With a fast enough car, it should be possible to beat her…but we should stop by her house first, see if we can get a look at her sacred space, her apparatus. It may help us determine what her precise powers are."
"Do we have time?"
"It's on the way," Giles said, holding up Mrs. Madison's drivers' license. "It was in her wallet," he shrugged in response to Joyce's astonished look.
"Buffy," Joyce said, "she's probably going to the school. I want you to get over there as fast as you can -- and yes, I do
mean what you think I mean. She's extremely powerful; she can even do the Darth Vader choke, so don't fight her unless you absolutely have to. In fact, try not to let her even see you if you can avoid it. Mr. Giles and I will be there as soon as we can."
She hung up the phone. "Is there any way to bring Kendra in on this?" she demanded.
"Y-you're asking your daughter to, to go into frightful danger," Giles said.
"My daughter is extremely tough when she needs to be," Joyce said. "Besides, you should talk. You send yours out to fight vampires every night."
"I say, that's hardly the same --""Can you call her?"
"Ah, no, she'll be out on patrol now; we'd have to search the town."
"Two words, Mr. Giles. Cell phone. Your car or mine?"
"W-well, mine is right over there," he said, indicating the Citroen.
Joyce studied the vehicle for a few seconds. "We need one that can move faster than a slow trot," she said. "Mine's down this way."
Buffy had been making heavy use of the family sewing machine since the night of the Harvest. The result of all this Becky Home-Eccy activity was three outfits that had been fitted with Velcro seams, so she could convert them to what she called "dragon wear." She was wearing her toughest pair of heavy denims and a matching jacket as she stepped out of her bedroom window and launched herself into the air.
Behind her, just too late for her to hear it, her phone began to ring. After five rings, it fell silent as the answering machine kicked in.
"…I'm sorry, nobody can take your call right now," Buffy's recorded voice said, "but if you leave your name and number…"
Willow slammed the receiver of her phone down a bit harder than she meant to. Five busy signals, and now this.
She crossed to the mirror again. Mr. Wuffles hadn't moved from it since Amy had appeared in it. He hopped up, braced his front paws on the mirror frame and yipped.
The faint sound of Amy's voice started seeping into the room again. Her face faded into sight in the mirror.
"…Willow, ca……..ear me?"
"Yes! Yes, Amy, I can hear you! Where are you?"
"It's so hard…projecting myself this far…I couldn't before, I was in Mom's body, and her senses distracted me…but now I can pick up what Mom's seeing…thinking…she's using my brain to do it with, I can sort of share her thoughts…"
Amy faded again, nearly vanishing before coming back, but weaker than before.
"I can't hold on much longer…I'm slipping…This far from my body, it's so hard to hang on…"
"Amy…Amy, where is she? What's she doing?"
"She's…she's headed for the school…she wants to find a girl's address…Buffy something…she wants to kill her…"
Something ice-cold wrapped itself around Willow's heart.
"Okay," she said. "Okay, Amy, you've done enough. Go back to your body and hang on as long as you can. Conserve your strength. I know who to call."
"Hurry, Willow…please hurry…"
And Amy was gone.
Mr. Wuffles dropped back down to the floor and stared up at Willow. The redhead grabbed up her phone and hit the speed-dial again.
"Come on, come on…oh, pickles!"
she finished as the answering machine picked up again. She paced impatiently until she heard the beep.
After frantically summing up the situation, Willow hung up and grabbed her windbreaker.
"I've gotta go," she said. "I've gotta do something. I don't know if I can do anything,
but I've gotta do something."
Pulling on the jacket, she paused at the door and looked at Mr. Wuffles, who was sitting in the middle of the floor, watching her with his head tilted quizzically to one side.
"You stay here where it's safe," she said. She closed the door behind her and ran off.
Mr. Wuffles looked around the room. A discarded book lay on the floor near the desk. He walked around it, got some distance, and scurried frantically toward it. At the last moment, he transformed to a spherical puppy -- but a living one, not a plush toy.
He tucked his paws in and rolled the last two feet, hit the book and bounced into the air. Caroming off the edge of the chair, he bounced even higher and landed in normal puppy form on the desk. He stood there for a long moment, looking at the heart-shaped locket that Willow had left next to her computer.
Mr. Wuffles sighed, and in a clear, high-pitched, childlike voice, he said, "Oh brother. This
girl's gonna be a handful."
The Summers car was parked in the Madison driveway, and Giles had produced a keyring and was trying the keys on the front door.
"And I suppose that just happened to fall out of her purse and into your pocket?" Joyce asked him.
"Under the circumstances, it seemed morally acceptable," Giles replied. "Got it!" He shoved the door open.
"Her sacred space will either be in the basement, or in the attic," he added. He turned to Joyce and saw that she was holding a small crystal sphere. A floating needle inside it wavered briefly, then pointed up.
"Attic," Joyce said.
In the brick-walled room, they paused for a moment despite their hurry. The cauldron was bubbling away, the room smelled of unpleasant chemicals, and there were goop-stained dolls hanging from the ceiling on hooks.
Giles started rummaging around, looking for a grimoire, while Joyce examined the dolls. Her breath caught when she noticed one with straight red hair. It was wearing a modest skirt, colored stockings, hi-top sneakers and a pullover sweater. Willow had worn that exact outfit often enough for it to be nearly a trademark.
Fastened to it by a paper clip were a collar button and a playing card. The card was the ten of spades, but a hole had been punched through each spade symbol.
Giles had found a book and was turning around when Joyce pointed out the doll.
"Mr. Giles, what does that card mean?"
"Eh? Oh, in modern cartomancy, the ten of spades represents Judgement. Mutilating it in that fashion would mean, let me see --"
"Bad judgement," Joyce said grimly. "That's a 'make a terrible mistake' curse."
"Er, yes," Giles said, straightening his glasses as he studied the doll.
"Willow," Joyce said. "Is that the book you need?"
"Eh? Oh, yes." Giles opened the book and leafed quickly through the pages. "Yes, I recognize some of these. Most of them require significant preparation time, plus a personal effect of the intended victim…"
"Does she have anything she can use without all that?"
"Um, I'm not sure."
"Well, study it in the car. Let's go."
Catherine reached out with her hand, and the side door to the administration area of Sunnydale High started making a deep, metallic groan. The small square window cracked, then shattered as the door was wrenched off its hinges.
Catherine stepped over the door and strode down the hallway. Even at night, about half the ceiling lights were commonly left on, giving enough light to see clearly by.
The second and third doors on the right led to the outer office. The would-be cheerleader stopped at the nearest of them and held her hand still over the lock for a moment, and with a splintering of wood, the door swung open.
She made a quick visual scan of the office. There were a number of desks, and beyond them, a door with a sign on it that said Records.
"Too easy," she sneered. She threaded her way through the desks and headed for the door.
"Well, this is convenient," said a voice behind her. She spun around and glared at the intruder.
Standing in the doorway was a very attractive brunette just about Amy's age, dressed in a brown sleeveless turtleneck over a cream-colored skirt and matching go-go boots. Absurdly, Catherine couldn't help noticing that the girl's makeup was perfect. But she seemed familiar, too.
"Amy!" the girl said. "Nice to see you again."
Catherine started to shake her head, but then she recognized the girl. She'd passed herself off as Amy for several months; long enough to learn to recognize…
"Cordelia Chase," she said. "Didn't you disappear a couple of weeks ago?"
"Well, yeah," Cordelia said. "I met some people, it was a thing…so
not important now." She stepped into the room. "But just tonight I was thinking, why don't I pop by the old school, you know, walk the halls, remember old times, steal some student records, and here I find you doing the exact same thing!"
"If you think you can stop me…" Catherine snarled.
"Why would I do that?" the brunette said. "As long as I get what I'm looking for, I don't see any reason to fight. I mean, what are the odds we're both looking for Buffy Summers' folder?"
Willow had never ridden her bike to school. A lifetime at the bottom of the pecking order had taught her better than to leave personal property unattended where her classmates could get hold of it. But that wasn't an issue now, and even if it was, she wouldn't care about it.
She skidded her bike to a stop and shoved it behind some shrubbery. Hugging the wall, she turned a corner and entered the quad. The school office was just ahead, around that corner.
Suddenly, a window shattered and a body flew across the quad, hitting the lawn in a shower of glass and rolling across the walkway. Willow ducked and huddled against a locked classroom door.
The figure pulled herself up and brushed broken glass out of her hair. She looked up, and in the moonlight, Willow recognized her instantly.
Cordelia shifted to vampire face.
"Oh no you did not," she snarled. She ran back toward the window and dove through it with a deep, leonine roar. Willow heard more breaking glass and splintering wood, and asked herself what the frilly heck she thought she was doing there.
Buffy spiraled in from above, surveying the school for signs of trouble. The problem with doing that at night, of course, was that it was dark. There were small outdoor spotlights illuminating the school walls, of course, as well as small emergency lights along the walkways in the quad. Which was fine for showing where the lights were, but not so good for finding details.
When she heard a window break, though, she angled toward the sound. Something was moving in the quad -- no, it was gone. She reversed her orientation and descended feet first.
"There are, indeed, a number of, of attack spells," Giles said. "Some of them quite powerful."
He was examining the pages with a penlight, while Joyce drove as fast as she dared.
"Here's an invocation to Hecate, to turn someone into a rat. An appeal to Corsheth…that's a nasty one…another prayer to Hecate, to strip away your enemy's magic power…eugh, permanently. Likely to carry a heavy cost, that one."
"Any common weaknesses?"
"Er…the spontaneous spells all seem to be targeted visually. 'Before me let the unclean thing crawl,' and so on. The caster has to see
the target in order to fire off the spell. Oh, and she needs to recite the incantation aloud."
He closed the book and turned off the penlight. "Nearly there," he commented.
"About five minutes," Joyce replied.
"Just time to shed some light on a few details," Giles said. "For instance…'Freak monster daughter?' Have you any idea what Mrs. Madison meant by that?"
"I notice that I'm the one making all the revelations this weekend," Joyce said.
"Circumstances," Giles replied.
"We really are going to have to talk about Kendra some time. There are things you need to know. Or if you already do…we'll have to talk about that."
"Fair enough. In the meantime…?"
Joyce thought hard before speaking.
"You clearly know about vampires…and dark witches. Presumably other things as well."
"Are all of them necessarily evil?"
"No, not all. A great many of them are, but some can be…benign."
"What do you know about dragons?"
"Asian or European?"
"Is either of them benign?"
"Er, the Asian."
"There you go."
Cordelia grabbed one of several folding metal chairs that were set up in the hallway and threw it at Catherine's head. The ebon-eyed witch managed to duck. She pointed a hand at the vampire, who grunted with an unseen impact and slid backward down the hall for about ten feet, but didn't lose her footing.
Catherine followed up by stepping forward and reaching toward a fire axe in its glass-fronted case. It flew toward her hand, breaking out the glass as it came. But Cordelia took advantage of her distraction to close and punch Catherine in the face. The vampire caught the axe and started swinging, forcing the witch to float herself back in a retreating evasion.
Neither noticed Willow peering in through the broken door. She saw that they were distracted, and ducked down the hall in a low crouch. She shoved the office door open and slipped inside. One of the desks was overturned, and a window facing the quad had been smashed out.
"Buffy's records, Buffy's records," Willow muttered to herself. She examined the door of the records room. Naturally, it was locked. With a whimper of frustration, Willow started looking around for a key, or a crowbar. At this point she'd take either one.
Outside, Catherine let her feet drop to the floor as she finally gained enough distance. She reached out with a grabbing gesture, and Cordelia felt an invisible force close about her throat. She dropped the axe and made a choking sound, then fell silent. She faced Catherine, who continued to hold her hand out in a closed fist.
Cordelia tilted her head to one side, shrugged and spread her hands in a yes, and?
Puzzled, Catherine released her choking spell.
"Hello," Cordelia snapped, "vampire?"
"Oh, right," the witch replied.
They squared off and were preparing to attack again when Buffy came barreling around the corner and skidded to a halt. Witch and vampire turned to look at her.
"Damn it," said Cordelia. "Truce?"
"Why should I?" Catherine sneered.
"She may be a lousy fighter, but she's a lot
stronger than I am. Plus, she can breathe fire."
The SUV skidded to a halt in the parking lot. Joyce didn't bother to use a marked space; she just stopped the car and popped the door open. Giles scrambled out after her.
"So what you're telling me is that she's the granddaughter of a dragon?"
Giles asked as they hurried for the rear door of the library.
"She has a human soul, Mr. Giles," Joyce said. "One of the truest I've ever known."
Giles unlocked the door and they hurried in through the stacks.
"My friends and colleagues leave off the 'Mister'," he said, "and just call me Giles."
"Mine call me Joyce."
They emerged into the central area of the library, descending the short staircase.
"Given enough time," Giles said, "the right ingredients and the proper incantation, I could reverse the spell; all the spells, really…"
"Will we have time for that?" Joyce asked.
In the middle distance, they heard the sound of mayhem.
"Perhaps not," Giles said. They hurried out into the hall.
Cordelia stayed far enough back to keep out of Buffy's reach. The dragon girl was strong enough to trump any amount of fighting skill if she managed to grapple, but the vampire was well aware of this. Still, armed with the fire axe, she had the reach on Buffy and was able to harass her even as Catherine battered her with telekinetic blows.
It had been a fighting retreat so far, Buffy falling back with every exchange, but now they'd reached the school lobby, and she had plenty of chairs to grab up and throw. Lacking leverage from her flying ability or anything as heavy as a dumpster, though, she could not do anything like the damage she'd managed in the alley.
"This is working out well," Catherine remarked conversationally as she deflected a chair.
Cordelia took another swing with the axe.
"Oh, believe me," she said, "I know the value of allies." She smiled quietly to herself.
Willow had found the key cabinet, but unfortunately it was locked. The key to the cabinet would probably be in one of the desks. She was just rummaging in the middle drawer of the first one when she heard the door creak open. She looked up and froze.
Three vampires were grinning at her.
Buffy was finally hitting her stride, keeping her two opponents at bay with thrown chairs. When Cordelia closed for another swing of the axe, Buffy used the chair as a bludgeon instead of throwing it. It caught the axe and sent it spinning across the room. Before she could follow up, though, all three girls heard a scream echo down the hallway.
"Willow," Buffy gasped, and dropped the chair. It clattered to the floor, falling into the closed position. Buffy didn't notice; she took three steps and was flying down the hall.
Catherine and Cordelia stepped closer together and watched Buffy fly away. She touched down at the corner, skidded along the floor, and was gone.
"Wow," said Catherine, "that was easy."
Cordelia picked up the folding chair by the legs. "Sure was," she said as she swung it at Catherine's back.
Willow was struggling in the grip of one vampire, while the other two stood back and watched. They were all having a good laugh when a thrown jar full of water shattered on the back of one of the spectators' heads.
He screamed in pain as his head started to sizzle and smoke, and the other turned to the door just in time for Giles to thrust a cross in his face. When he recoiled, the Watcher took advantage of his distraction to kick him in the family jewels.
The big one sent Willow sprawling with a hard shove and charged into the fray. Giles quickly retreated to the hallway, still brandishing the cross. He stood between the vampires and Joyce as the two of them backed toward the shattered doorway that Catherine had come in by.
The three vampires came out into the hallway and stood facing their new quarry, Willow forgotten. They spread out and grinned, making playful feints and abortive lunges to keep Giles off-balance. He kept shifting the cross to face one, then another.
Finally, the big one rolled his eyes. "Screw this," he said, and knocked the cross aside with a backhanded blow. There was a little sizzle as his skin touched it, and then it was bouncing off the wall.
Joyce clutched her handbag close as the big vampire grabbed Giles by the throat. She frantically thought about every talisman and enchantment she had in her bag, and none of them would do any good. Another vampire stepped up and grabbed her wrists, holding them down and close together to make it harder for her to kick. The third vampire stood back and watched, enjoying the show. It was the last thing he saw.
There was a sudden FWOOSH,
as a sheet of flame engulfed the third vampire. His burning outline staggered back and then fell apart into ash. Buffy strode forward through the falling spray of embers, her eyes fixed on the creature that was attacking her mother.
"Hi, honey," said Joyce with a smile.
Catherine stepped back and took a deep breath. She'd managed to get the vampire off-balance enough to give her time to study the situation. But that time abruptly ran out as she heard vampire growls to her right and left.
"Like I said, allies," Cordelia grinned. "What kept you boys?"
"There was someone else snooping around in the school office," the vampire to Catherine's left said. "We left Jeff, Dan and Roy to deal with her."
"More for the rest of us," Cordelia replied. She and her two cronies slowly closed on Catherine.
"Okay, Gidget," said the brunette, "I've been watching you, and you need to focus your attention on your attacks. Since you only have two hands to point with, that means you can only make two attacks at a time. And since there are three of us…one of us is sure to get you."
Catherine looked back and forth between the three of them.
"So you want me to surrender?" she asked.
"No, I just wanted to get some taunting in before we kill you."
The three vampires charged. Catherine went down on one knee, closed her eyes and crossed her arms. Her hands were clenched into fists as she bowed her head. There was a deep, muffled thumping noise. The three vampires, as well as all the chairs, tables, banners, loose bits of paper and even floor dust in her vicinity, went flying away from her in all directions.
The force wave had taken a lot out of her, but Catherine smiled as she heard a clattering behind her. Among the things she'd just knocked over were several wooden chairs. Homing in on the sound, she reached a hand out and one of them flew to her. She gripped it and swung it up over her head and down, smashing it to shards on the floor.
The three vampires were on their feet again, but this time Catherine was ready. Two pointed shards of wood floated up at her gesture. As she pointed forcefully to either side, the shards flew straight into the minions' hearts. Cordelia backed up as they fell into dust.
Catherine rose to her feet and gestured again; three more pointed bits of wood floated up. They all spun around to point in Cordelia's direction.
"You know what?" said the vampire. "Take the records. I can look at 'em when you're done." She turned and fled.
Catherine pointed at the fleeing creature and sighted along one finger. But before she could launch her wooden missiles, she heard the continuing sound of battle
"Summers," she hissed. Dismissing Cordelia from her mind, she followed the noise. The floating stakes drifted along behind her, more as an afterthought than anything else.
Buffy had Joyce's attacker in a headlock. She grabbed the other by the collar and yanked, throwing him down the hall behind her.
Stunned, Giles stared at her as she met his eyes. He adjusted his glasses.
"Good heavens," he said. Buffy felt like she should say something, but her prisoner's struggles distracted her. She kept the headlock on and punched him in the gut.
"Allow me," Giles said as he held a stake out to her. She looked at it, startled, then gave him a smile of thanks as she took it and stabbed. The creature exploded into dust.
"That's really convenient," Buffy said, examining the stake. "A gal could get used to this."
Behind her, the remaining vampire had scrambled to his feet. As Buffy turned to face him, he began backing slowly away -- until, with a meaty thunk,
a makeshift stake hit him in the back and punched all the way through. He was dust a moment later.
About three yards beyond stood the menacing form of Amy's cheerleader-clad body, animated by the malevolence of black-eyed Catherine. She stepped forward.
"Speaking of convenient," she said.
Buffy stepped between Catherine and Joyce.
"Mom, get out," she said.
"Too late," Catherine sneered. She flicked her hand out, and the remaining two floating stakes arrowed over her shoulders toward Buffy. Realizing that they'd hit Joyce if she dodged, and unable to move quickly enough to deflect them, she stood firm when one struck her in the stomach, low and on the right, while the other one hit her shoulder just below her left collarbone.
With a cry of pain, she toppled backward. Joyce caught her and lowered her to the floor. The stake in her stomach fell free, having failed to penetrate deeply. But the other one was sticking into the wound while blood welled up around it.
Giles stood to one side, frantically trying to think of a gambit or a stratagem.
"Don't even think about it," Catherine told him.
Buffy was still conscious, but in too much pain to move. One hand was clutched to each of her wounds. She lay across Joyce's lap, her head against the older woman's chest. One of her horns was digging uncomfortably into Joyce's shoulder, but Joyce really didn't care at the moment.
"Now," said Catherine, "let's discuss people who poke their noses in where they don't belong."
In the office, huddled behind a desk, Willow heard everything through the open door. OhGodohGodohGod,
she thought, hugging herself tightly and trying desperately to suppress a whimper. By the sound of it, Buffy and Joyce were about to die horribly, and there was nobody to help them but Willow.
With no clue what else to do, she gathered her courage for a single act of desperation. She'd try a tackle; she'd probably get killed, but maybe it would give Mrs. Summers a chance to do something. She was starting to rise to her feet when something clattered to the floor right next to her.
Startled, she dropped back to the floor and frantically looked down. It was the heart-shaped locket she'd left home. Where had it come from? She looked up and saw Mr. Wuffles standing on the desk and looking down at her.
"You're not doing too well, are you?" he said quietly.
For a moment, Willow's brain simply refused to process it. Her jaw dropped and her eyes flew wide.
"Wh-what?" she whispered.
"What were you thinking?" Mr. Wuffles demanded, his serious demeanor clashing incongruously with his childlike voice. "Running off without your Power Amulet? Didn't the Master of Magic tell you never to go anywhere without it?"
"M-Master of Magic? What Master of Magic? Power Amulet? I don't know what any of that means and how the heck are you talking?"
"You don't know?"
demanded the puppy. He dropped to the floor, becoming a plush toy for a single instant to cushion the fall. "How can you not know?"
"Long story," Willow admitted. She grabbed up the locket.
"Just tell me how to use it," she said. She glanced in the direction of the doorway, where Catherine was still gloating. "We can discuss the meaning of life later."
"Fine," said Mr. Wuffles. "You say 'Silver Heart Magic, Awaken' and throw it in the air."
"You're kidding," Willow said.
"Do I look
like I'm kidding?"
"I honestly have no idea," Willow said. She rose to her feet, faced the door, and held up the locket.
"Silver Heart Magic," she called out, "Awaken!"
She threw the locket upward, and the world…went away.
In a vague, abstract place of shimmering alabaster mists, the heart locket spun into the air and popped open. The symbol inside gleamed and sparkled as Willow floated upward, her toes pointing down as her feet left the floor/ground/surface of whatever this place was. The locket gave off a trail of silver sparkles that drifted down around Willow's floating body in a glittery spiral. Tiny motes of silver-white light coalesced around her, sheathing her body in opaque light as her clothing disappeared.
Her arms rose up, elbows slightly bent and palms upward. As her hands rose over her head, the light around them flared up and vanished, leaving fingerless gloves made of white lace. A similar flareup on her feet revealed white ankle socks with lace trim.
The waves of light traveled up her arms and legs, leaving them bare. A small ball of light burst forth from the symbol in the locket, meandering down to lodge on Willow's breastbone, just over her heart. She lowered her arms in a circular motion, crossing them in front of her face and body before spreading them out again at about waist height. As she did so, the ball of light flared and became a heart-shaped cameo brooch, depicting a single white rose and banded with silver.
Willow's bare arms and shoulders were now showing, but as the light wave traveled down her body, it revealed a white satin bodice that merged into a close-fitting, corset-like top. The light reached her waist and flared out again, transforming into a pleated white miniskirt, with equally short petticoats underneath for added fullness.
Willow's hair suddenly flared out in a fiery corona. It waved in the air like seaweed under water, its color changing from red to white. Two locks of hair came together and started to braid themselves. In moments, she had a pair of braids that hung in front of her ears like sideburns, while the rest of her hair settled to hang down her back.
A line of light around her neck flashed, becoming the wide collar of a white blouse that took shape under the corset. Its puffy shoulders and belled sleeves formed next as she raised her arms again, palm down this time.
Now she started to float downward, her right foot stretching towards the ground while her left came up as she raised her leg and bent her knee. As she did so, a final flare of light enveloped each of her feet, transforming into clunky white-on-white saddle shoes.
Just as her foot touched the surface, the heart locket over her head burst into a spray of silver glitter. Spinning in the air where it had been was a tall, white, wide-brimmed and pointy witch hat. As Willow's left foot descended, the hat helicoptered down, its spin slowing, to settle gently on her head.
As her trance began to fade, Willow's final involuntary motion was to settle into a pose, feet apart, left hand resting on her cocked hip, right hand up in a sideways "V" sign that framed her eye, and a cheerful grin on her face.
Standing in the midst of the school office, Willow dropped the pose and looked down at herself.
"What the heck is this?"
"That's your magic vestments," the puppy told her. "It's resistant to hostile magic, and it'll help a little with physical attacks. It also keeps evil things from recognizing you. But you'll need more. You only have a few spells right now, but I guess they'll be better than nothing."
Willow looked down at Mr. Wuffles in astonishment.
"Spells? You're saying I have spells?"
"What? Of course you have spells, they're in your spellbook."
"I have a spellbook?"
"Where do they get 'em from? Yes, you have a spellbook. You summon it with your wand."
"I have a wand?"
"The best part," Catherine said, "is that after you're all gone, I'll be the girl whose mother just died, boo hoo, but isn't she plucky and brave, soldiering on as a cheerleader in her mother's name…The press will eat it up. I'll be a Laker Girl within three years, guaranteed."
"That's it," Buffy gasped. "Help me up, you guys."
Giles moved to do so, but Joyce hesitated.
"Buffy, no, you'll die," she said.
"Probably," Buffy said. "Gonna die anyway, so I wanna die on my feet."
Catherine shrugged and smiled. "Be my guest," she said.
"Well aren't we magnanimous," Joyce muttered angrily. She and Giles carefully levered Buffy upright. She was barely standing, but she was standing.
"On my feet, and not listening to that drivel," Buffy said. "That's how I wanna die."
Willow flicked her right hand, and suddenly there was a wand in it. It was a slender, foot-long rod of glittering silver, slightly tapered and with rounded tips.
"So far, so good," she said. She flicked the wand, and a small book appeared in midair with a muffled paf
sound, dropping into her outstretched left hand.
"Now wave your wand over the book and call forth -- let's see -- I guess the deflection spell. That's all you'll have time for."
Willow waved the wand, and the book opened. The pages quickly riffled to the correct one by themselves; on it were several circular symbols, similar to the one in the locket.
"I can't read this," Willow started to say, but suddenly realized that she could. The meaning of the symbols seemed to slide through her eyes and right into her brain.
"It'll take time to really learn it," Mr. Wuffles said, "but you should be able to fake it once or twice. Now get out there and save the day."
"Okay," Willow said, still looking at the page, "but do I really have to say that?"
Buffy's left hand was pressed against her wounded abdomen. She reached up with her right hand and yanked out the stake in her shoulder, crying out wordlessly in pain. It hadn't been in very deep, but it was very splintery. Shifting her grip on the bloody instrument, she started to lurch forward.
"Let's do this," she said.
"Let's," Catherine replied as she raised one hand.
Willow had left the office by the other door and come out behind Catherine. She was standing in a defiant pose, left hand on her hip, right arm outstretched to point the wand straight at the witch. Her white hat was tilted back on her head, the brim adjusted to a jaunty angle.
"You've gotta be kidding," Catherine said, taking in the outfit.
Buffy dropped her stake and swayed on her feet. Joyce and Giles quickly moved to support her. They started walking her toward the exit. On the way out, Giles glanced back at Willow, then gave Joyce a puzzled look.
"Don't ask me," Joyce said, "that's new."
"Who the hell are you?" Catherine demanded.
Trying to come up with an alias on the spur of the moment, Willow jumped on the first thing to enter her mind. She crossed her forearms, making an X shape, with the wand gripped in her right hand and her left making a mystic gesture.
"Silver Heart Witch: Satin Rose!" she exclaimed.
to be kidding," Catherine said.
Willow lowered her arms and shifted uncomfortably.
"W-well," she said, "at least I'm not selling my soul to the Dark Ones so I can be a cheerleader again. How lame is that?"
"It doesn't really matter," Catherine said. "If you know about me, I have to get rid of you, too."
She stood straighter and drew a deep breath. "I shall look upon my enemy," she said. "I shall look upon her, and the dark place will have her soul!"
Willow held her wand ready as little motes of red light began to swirl around Catherine.
"Corsheth, take her!" the Dark Witch shouted, aiming her hands at Willow.
"Rainbow Deflection Spiral!" Willow shouted, sweeping her wand in a circle. A spiraling pinwheel of multicolored sparks formed between the two, scattering the stream of red lights as they struck it.
As the spiral faded, Willow brought the tip of her wand to her lips and blew lightly across it.
"That all you got?"
Staggered by the effort of releasing the spell, Catherine held steady by sheer force of will.
"That was a pretty effective counterspell," she said. "You have a lot of power…and clearly, no sense of shame."
Willow self-consciously tugged down on the hem of her skirt. It didn't help.
"All right," said Catherine, "let's try this."
Outside, Giles was applying first aid to Buffy, while Joyce was digging in her purse. Giles gave Buffy a folded cloth and had her press it to her shoulder wound. Joyce handed her a small clay tablet and told her to hold it under her tongue.
They both started in surprise when the metal door Catherine had torn off its hinges floated up and flew in the doorway. Giles took a quick glance at Buffy, who nodded back reassuringly. The librarian sped back to the entrance to see what was going on.
Willow saw the door flying at her and waved her wand again, knowing that she didn't need to repeat the words so soon after the last time. The spiral formed, and the magic that was flinging the door at her dissipated…but by that time, it had built up a lot of momentum.
Willow crouched low as the huge missile flew over her head. It clanged to the floor behind her. The white-clad girl rose to her feet again, ready to deflect the next attack, but when Catherine gestured, nothing seemed to happen -- until the door struck her from behind.
Willow went sprawling, her wand flying off and rolling across the floor. She pushed herself up and summoned it again; it teleported to her hand in an instant. But that was long enough for Catherine to bring the door around and slam it into her from the side, pinning her against the wall with one edge while the other slammed down against the floor.
Willow's arms were free, but that was it. While she struggled to free herself, Catherine walked toward her and smirked.
"That all you
got?" she asked. She flicked a hand out, and red lightning shot at Willow, who deflected it.
"Defensive only," Catherine said. "Kind of a stalemate. As long as you have your power, we can keep this up all night. Lucky for me I know what to do about that."
She stood up straighter, and raised her voice.
"Hecate, I call thee to sit in judgment," she said. "In my sight lies one who is unworthy of her power."
In the doorway, Giles prepared to charge, but Catherine held up her hand toward him, palm out. He ran into a wall of force and stopped short.
"I call thee to see through my eyes," Catherine went on, "and strip away the power she claims."
Giles pressed his hands against the invisible barrier looking wildly about for some idea what to do -- and then he saw it. Near the ceiling, directly over Willow's head, was a concave mirror, placed so people inside the office could look out and see what was going on further down the hallway. The school was full of them, and he'd long ago stopped even noticing they were there.
Willow pushed frantically against the door, but it wouldn't budge. She glanced over at Giles, and he pointed urgently at something above her. She looked up and saw the mirror.
Catherine tilted her head back and closed her eyes.
"When I look upon her," she said, "look upon her through my eyes."
Willow looked past Catherine at the door to the school office. It stood ajar. She threw her wand across the hall; it bounced through the doorway.Please,
Willow thought, oh please…
Mr. Wuffles came to the door and looked out, puzzled as to why Willow had thrown her wand. As soon as they saw each other, Willow beckoned frantically."See
her through my eyes," Catherine intoned.
The puppy scrambled across the hall and up the sloping metal into Willow's waiting arms. She held him close and whispered "I need to throw you" into his ear.
"Do it," Mr. Wuffles whispered back. He turned into a plush puppy-ball for easy throwing.
"See her and judge her as I judge her!"
Willow extended her arm as far out to the right as she dared, took aim, and threw the toy at the mirror. It arced up toward the hollow metal armature that was bolted to the wall and supported the rounded glass…
Suddenly, the toy was a puppy again, and he landed on the armature and hung over it, front legs hooked over the topmost strut and rear legs bicycling madly for something to step on. The armature was strong enough to hold the weight of the mirror, and a puppy didn't weigh that much more, but the bolts were only set in cinderblock, and a mirror didn't squirm
"Judge her and strip away all her power, all her spells and all her works!!"
With a groaning of metal and a shower of concrete dust, the bolts tore loose from the wall and the mirror came plummeting down. It hit the door and shattered, bits of glass, bits of metal and a spherical plush toy all scattering. Catherine heard the din, of course, but the spell was almost finished; interrupting it would be dangerous.
"Judge her NOW!!"
Catherine opened her eyes and practically thrust her gaze at Willow…but she saw only the largest fragment of the mirror, held up by a trembling white-haired girl. Her own black-eyed face was the only one she could see. Even as she watched, her eyes faded from solid black to Amy's natural blue. There was a crash of thunder, and flashing light filled the hallway.
"No!" Catherine cried. "No, not me! Her, take her!"
Willow lowered the mirror shard and peered over it. Catherine was backing up; she fetched up against the wall next to the office doorway.
Another flash of light, and the barrier Giles was pushing against vanished. At the same time, Willow managed to throw off the broken door.
"NO!" Catherine howled.
Another thunder-flash, and a vortex of red light descended on her. As the glowing lines swept over her, the translucent form of Catherine's now-deceased body rose from Amy's living one and was sucked screaming into the vortex. As the red light faded, the last echoes of the scream dissipated. Amy's body slid down the wall like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
In the silence that followed, Giles came over and helped Willow to her feet. Joyce appeared in the doorway to see what was happening.
"A-are you all right?" Giles asked.
"Ah, yeah," Willow said, sounding surprised. "You'd think that flying glass woulda cut me a little, but…I guess the clothes really do armor me up some."
"I must say, you astonish me," Giles said. "I-I'd heard that you were one of Buffy's friends, but I never expected this."
"Right there with you, Mr. Giles."
Next to Joyce, Buffy limped into view. Her shirt had been partially opened and tied into a halter-top so Joyce could work on her wounds. Each of them now had a crude bandage taped over it, and her left arm was in a makeshift sling. Despite the pain, she was smiling.
"Knew you can't keep a good Willow down," she said.
"Should you be walking?" Giles asked.
Buffy smiled. "Dragons are tough, Mr. Giles," she said. "I'll be fine."
They all stood gazing down at Amy's still form.
"Do you think she's at peace?" Joyce asked.
Giles leaned forward and looked more intently.
"She may be one day," he said, "but I rather think that's going to be up to her."
Amy's eyelids flickered. She stirred, raised her head and looked at her hands. She turned them this way and that, then slowly brought them up to her face. A smile played about her lips as tears began to stream from her eyes.
"I'm back," she whispered. "She's gone forever, and I'm back."
Willow moved in first, helping Amy to her feet and hugging her.
"I'm back," Amy sobbed. "I'm back. I'm back."
Mr. Wuffles ran back and forth, circled their feet once, chased his tail, and yipped joyfully.
TO BE CONCLUDED
(For now, anyway).
One more chapter to go on this story, though I'm pretty sure I'll continue the series. I'm enjoying it too much not to. Although that may have to wait until after I find a job.
Yes, I know the mirror thing is the same solution as before, but I hope it was different enough that it was still interesting. I especially wanted to make them work harder to get rid of Catherine, and I think I succeeded there.
The original challenge said I could either have Willow become an existing MG, or make up my own. I chose to invent one. So, no need to go searching for obscure anime. Sorry everyone!
I originally made Cordelia a vampire on a whim, but with every scene I give her, that whim looks more and more to me like a stroke of genius.
As always, reviews are welcome, even unfavorable ones (as long as they are polite, and respect what I tried to do, even if you think I didn't succeed).