Xander walked side by side with Cordelia and Tara flanking him and Prue and Hercules bringing up the rear. The group had split up into three units with a Charmed One in each. He doubted they would actually find Willow at this point in time. With an actual Goddess backing her up he doubted the red head would be easy to find. Hercules had decided to join his group as he was the primary target for Willow, a fact that still troubled him.
"You okay Xander?" Cordelia inquired as she noted his troubled gaze.
"I suppose," he responded as he glanced at her. "It's just hard to think of Willow as the enemy. Having been friends with since we were kids makes it so hard to fathom how it has come to this," he said, trying to explain his thought process.
"Don't think of her as the enemy Xander," Hercules suggested causing all three of his companions to turn and look at him. "See her for what she is, a victim of Hera and whoever it is who is helping her," he told them calmly.
Cordelia frowned a little at that as she still had a lot of hatred for the red head, but she supposed in this case what had happened had not all been Willow's fault. That did not however stop her for wanting to get some revenge on Willow for what she had done to Xander, and if she was honest with herself for helping to destroy her relationship with Xander way back then. Tara just nodded her head in agreement with Hercules's view as did Prue. Xander remained conflicted though as he couldn't help but wonder how much was left of the Willow he knew after Hera had made her insane.
"Just how bad will it become if Hera begins to act openly?" Prue inquired.
"You don't want to know," Hercules answered as he ran a hand through his hair. He doubted it would do any good to tell them just how bad an enemy Hera could be. They needed to be focused and they needed to have hope, they would win. Hera was his problem and that was why he was here. "Don't worry too much about her. I doubt she will show herself unless we capture your friend and manage to save her from herself," he told them.
"How can you be so sure?" Cordelia asked, still trying to deal with the fact an actually goddess was involved in all this and that she was standing beside a real life demigod. It seemed the more she saw of the world; the more it warped and changed from what she had thought it was.
"I know Hera and if she does show herself the other gods will detect her and show up to capture her," Hercules responded with a confident smile. "And they are pissed by her actions. Getting into a fight with them is not going to be high on Hera's list of things to do," he added.
"Let's hope your right because a battle between gods is not something I think this world would survive," Xander spoke up as he finally broke through his dark thoughts.
Willow let out an angered growl as Amy smeared some cream over the wound she had taken from an unknown's witch's powers. Whoever the bitch had been had been powerful, more powerful than she had seen ever and that included that Savita Khan bitch who had escaped her. She had noted the Indian Witch had been with the group who had attacked her group, but she was the only person she had recognized. So the question she had was who had been the other two people? Friends of the Indian witch or newcomers?
"Are you okay Willow?" Amy asked.
"I'm fine Amy," Willow replied, although her anger clearly came through in her tone. "I'm just annoyed the Indian Witch escaped me again. She is becoming as troublesome as Xander is," she spat.
"We'll get them, it will just take time," Sara told them both confidently, gaining their attention. "All we need is a few more witches like us and no more waste of spaces like the other three we've found so far," she pointed out.
"Agreed," Amy said with a nod of her head as she bandaged Willow's arm before getting up and sitting on the sofa beside her once she had finished.
Willow couldn't argue with Sara's point of view and she swore once they had rested they would go back out and get some more firepower. She ignored the cowering forms of Nikki, Gina and Marie who only watched and tried to stay out of her way.
Lara headed back to her hotel still contemplating the fight she had witnessed in the graveyard she had been in. It had been intense, that was for sure, but she had decided to stay out of it. She didn't know who the good guys were and who the bad guys were, so until she had some more information she would keep a low profile unless she got caught up in another fight between these two forces. She decided she would call Bryce when she got back and see what he could find out about Sunnydale and its residents.
‘Something I should have done before I got here,' she thought inwardly.
She had a feeling that this adventure wasn't going to be an easy one. If the gem was real then maybe there were actual vampires after it. In fact she would be shocked if they were not looking for such a useful item, as she neared her hotel she wondered just what Bryce would find.
Leo winced as he healed Piper's wounds, which had almost cut into her arteries. The red head was clearly far more gone than they had assumed. More to the point the boosts she was getting from this Rack was far more dangerous than they had believed, behind him Savita watched as the wounds healed thanks to the Whitelighter's gifts. It seemed from what she had witnessed that the red head had only managed to gain two real allies. The other three witches had spent the fight cowering in fear and had clearly not bent to her will. That was at least something she concluded. If all the witches she had found so far had been like her their fight would have been that much harder.
"There that should do it Piper," Leo said as he finished healing her. "We were lucky. She would have killed you had she managed to actually hit your arteries," he pointed out with a troubled look in his eyes.
"I wasn't faster enough in getting to cover," Piper growled out as she flexed her shoulder and arm and was relieved to find it caused her no more pain. "I'm going to skin that red head if I catch her," she added.
"Easy Piper," Leo cautioned her. "We are not at the stage yet where we can't save her from herself, remember that," he told her as gently as he could, as he knew she was pissed. "Although how we do that is beyond me. A god's power is even beyond the power of three," he said with a sigh while running a hand through his hair.
"There has to be a way Leo," Piper shot back. "From all I know about the ancient myths of the Greek gods they can be beaten or at least stopped for a time," she pointed out.
"True, but usually it was the Demigods who did that sort of thing, not normal mortals," Leo countered with a shrug of his shoulders.
"We are not normal mortals," Savita said, breaking into their discussion and reminding the two she was there as well. "We have a Demigod, multiple witches, a champion of chaos, two watchers, a Whitelighter, a souled vampire and a seer," she pointed out with a smile. "I think if anyone is going to be able to stop Hera, it is our group if we are lucky," she stated with as much belief as she could muster.
"Let us hope so," Leo responded as he was a bit more apprehensive than the young witch at their chances. "I suggest we head back to the shop and see how the others have done," he finally suggested after a brief silence had descended over them.
Piper and Savita both nodded in agreement and turned to head back to the Magic Box, both inwardly thinking that each confrontation with the red headed witch would only get worse.
Giles poured his small group a cup of tea as they waited for the others to return. They had managed to track down three of the witches who were living in Sunnydale and put them on alert to the danger that might find them. Out of the three witches they had visited only one had taken their warning seriously. One of them was completely offensive in her attitude. It was more than likely he surmised that she might actually join Willow of her own free will. Buffy sat next to Angel with Wesley and Jenny in silence, none of them seemed to be able to say much to one another right now. Phoebe, Tara and Paige were off in the corner talking quietly. ‘Probably still getting to know one another,' he thought.
"This is not going to be finished easily, is it Giles?" Buffy finally asked as he sat back down after he had handed out the cup of teas he had just made.
Giles let out a sigh before he removed his glasses and began to polish them; there was no easy answer for his charge. She had seen so much, done so much and yet it was still not finished and until she met her final end it would probably never end for her. That was the cruel curse of being called as the Slayer. Your fight was never over until you finally met the beast that would end you. It would have been the Master three years ago as was foretold had it not been for Xander. He could see why Janus had made the young man his champion. He had saved Jenny from certain death as well. It seemed the young man had a knack for making things happen that should not have happened.
"Giles?" Buffy's voice broke through his thoughts and made him realize he had gotten lost in thoughts that had no bearing on what she had asked him.
"No Buffy, I'm afraid this will not be over easily, but then when have any of our fights been so easily dealt with?" he finally responded as he put his glasses back on.
"Can we really save Willow?" Buffy asked a few seconds later. "I mean if a god has been messing with her head, is it possible for us to bring her back?" she added, amending her question.
"I really don't have an answer to that Buffy," Giles answered regretfully as he noted his answer did nothing to make Buffy feel any better. "Going up against an actual god from things I believed to be nothing more than myths is out of my league," he told her. "I have no idea just what kind of powers the old gods truly have. How strong they are and how far they can make their enchantments and curses go," he continued.
"So we might be screwed no matter how you look at it," Angel spoke up, his tone still showing he was bitter at been tricked into coming here to help someone he still didn't like.
"We aren't screwed dead boy until we are dead," Xander's voice answered him, making them all turn to see him enter with the rest of his team. "Try and keep a positive outlook, we've faced things we've had no right to survive before," he reminded him.
Angel sent him a sour look as Cordelia nodded her head in agreement. Jenny and Tara moved to join him as he sat down at the counter. He didn't like how close Cordelia was growing to her former boyfriend no matter that according to that spirit who had visited had said it saved her life coming back here.
"While you have a point Xander," Giles quickly responded before Angel, as he didn't want to see another argument between the two. "Even the mayor when he ascended could not hope to match a god, only a 1st circle demon could and even that is an assumption on my part," he informed them.
"I'll keep that in mind Giles," Xander replied after a few moments of thinking it over. "We put two more of the witches in Sunnydale on alert, thankfully they both seemed level headed and not the kind of people to go insane at a moment's notice," he told them with a relieved look.
"That's a relief to hear," Jenny said in response. "We found three others, but two of them seemed a little hostile," she added.
"Will they join Willow?" Cordelia inquired as she couldn't help but lean into Xander.
More and more she found herself wanting to get closer to her ex-lover, she couldn't explain why her feelings for him had suddenly come back so strong. But right now she didn't want to fight them, she felt safe around him. Ignoring Angel's scowl at her actions was easy, she knew him and Xander would never get on, but if she decided to try and rebuilt her relationship with Xander then he would just have to get used to it.
Janus laughed his head off as Cordelia Chase began to give into her newly awakened feelings for his chosen champion, he had a nasty feeling Jasmine the fallen power was helping Hera in her plans. He knew her goals as she had made no secret of them in the past; it was why she had been cast out of the powers all those years ago. That Cordelia had been her chosen vessel was something he intended to ensure never happened, hence sending her back to her former lover where the tweaks he had made to the hyena would once more awaken her love for Xander. Once they both gave into their love, Jasmine's hopes of using Cordelia would be destroyed.
"I see your champion continues to amuse you," Loki said from behind him with a smirk.
"But of course he does, it is why I chose him as my champion," Janus responded. "Although his natural talent of bending destiny to his will was a factor to it as well," he added thoughtfully.
"Why send the seer back to Sunnydale?" Loki inquired seriously.
"I believe Jasmine is the one helping Hera and we all know the dreams she has," Janus answered just as seriously. "I intend to close of that particular path as soon as possible, the seer is almost ready to give into her love for my champion once more," he continued.
"And then Jasmine can't use her as a vessel into the world," Loki concluded as he realized his fellow gods intention. "But won't she go after somebody else?" he asked.
"Possibly, although I hope to ensure she will not have time for that if we can find her and Hera's hiding place," Janus countered.
"We are still searching for Hera, but wherever she is hiding she has gone to great lengths to hide it even from us," Loki told him with a frustrated look, which Janus was certain was shared by their fellow gods.
"She can't hide forever Loki," Janus said before he faded out to continue his own search with Loki following soon after.
Xander was a little surprised by Cordelia's move, but managed to stop himself from pulling away. This almost made him feel like the old days when they were together.
"I don't know Cordelia, they might join Willow if they have her lust for power," Jenny said answering Cordelia's question. "We can only hope they have more sense," she added with a sigh.
"The more of them join Willow the more dangerous she becomes," Tara stated with a frown. "But if we are careful and work together we should be able to stop them," she added with confidence.
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Phoebe agreed with a smile. "Teamwork can overcome even terrible odds as we've seen before," she pointed out as Piper, Leo and Savita orbed into the shop.
"We found Willow," Savita told them as they all collapsed into chairs.
"What happened?" Cordelia asked as they all turned to look at them.
"She almost killed me," Piper growled out, causing Prue to narrow her eyes as she heard this. "A few inches to the left and I wouldn't be here as I would have bled out before Leo could get to me," she explained as Phoebe, Prue and Paige moved to her side.
"It was a close thing," Leo agreed with a nod of his head. "However we forced them to retreat and we did cause her a few injuries herself," he informed them. "However I believe these boosts she has been getting from this Rack are far more dangerous than we believed," he added.
"Then we have to find a way to take out Rack," Tara concluded.
"You are right about that Tara, but how?" Xander asked leaning forward a little until Cordelia pulled him back as she was getting comfy leaning against him. "Those wards around his place are deadly," he reminded her.
"Maybe Leo should go and see if the Elders might have any ideas on this," Prue suggested with a glance at her Whitelighter.
"I can try, but how much help they might be is going to be is debatable," Leo responded.
"You can try though Leo," Paige spoke up, drawing his attention as she was still getting used to being a witch and was a long way from being anywhere in terms of real ability and power. "I mean even they can see we have to do all we can to bring Willow and her friends down, before she can cause any real destruction or deaths," she went on. "Right?" she asked.
Leo and her sisters exchanged looks between themselves not really sure how to answer her. The Elders could be stubborn and troublesome if they wanted to be. It wouldn't be the first time, and they were sure it would not be the last. Still Leo believed Paige had made a good point and orbed out, hopefully the Elders would be in a helpful mood.