Willow woke up with a yawn. She frowned as she realized that she was not where she was supposed to be. She rolled over and looked at the girl she had ended up in bed with. “Ah shit.”
Kennedy snorted, “Well good morning to you too.”
Willow closed her eyes as she pulled Kennedy to her. Events of the previous day came rushing back. Buffy and her had spent the day updating Andrew and the council about what they knew about the giant tree in the Sunnydale crater. Then she had gotten a call from her parents because they were in L.A. on business and wondered if she wanted to have dinner with them. Buffy had metaphorically pushed her under a bus when she decided that there were more interesting things to do than go to dinner with people that still called her Bunny even after nearly ten years of being their daughter’s friend. The worst or the best part was that she had then suggested that she take Kennedy to the dinner to meet with her parents. Maybe Buffy was still pissed at her for the vanishing act or for sleeping with her sister or maybe it just sounded like a good idea in Buffy’s wacky head. After seeing the hopeful look on Kennedy’s face she hadn’t wanted to say no.
She loved her parents because they were her parents and you were supposed to but they also drove her nuts. Luckily or not, mostly not, her parents had talked more about the utter and complete destruction of Palestine as a Muslim country than they had about anything related to her or Kennedy. Finding out that Galina had massacred eighty percent of the males in the country over sixteen, torched every temple she could find and set herself up as the ruler and goddess of the country had made her food taste like ash in her mouth. Apparently she probably should have defined innocent better. Which had led to drinking more than she should because her father was almost deliriously happy about the destruction of Palestine being that he was Jewish. Luckily or not he hadn’t noticed her guilty expression though she was fairly sure that Kennedy did. “I think I had too much to drink.”
Kennedy let Willow hold her, “Same.”
Kennedy laughed, “Yeah… I missed this.”
Willow winced as she let go of Kennedy, “Same…”
“Can we?” Kennedy was really hoping that she could keep seeing Willow despite everything.
Willow sighed, “It’s complicated…”
“You have a girl over there don’t you?”
Willow gulped, “Several…”
“Dawn, Tara, Bodewhin, Eldrin, Elisara, Kari and Lara.”
“Seven girls?” Kennedy looked at Willow and playfully said, “Bad Willow.”
“That’s not the worst part…”
“Bodewhin and Eldrin are sisters, Elisara and Kari al’Thor are twins and… Lara al’Thor is the twins’ younger sister…”
Kennedy started laughing, “You should have told your father about that. His head might have exploded.”
Willow chuckled, “Probably.”
“Are they going to be mad?”
“Dawn might be sad that I didn’t get pictures. We should probably look at getting something to eat or at least drink.” She scrapped her tongue over her teeth.
Kennedy reached up and touched Willow’s nose, “I’ll get you a glass of water then we can figure out what we want to do for food.”
“That would be nice.” Willow enjoyed watching a naked Kennedy get out of bed and walk into the very nice bathroom of her fancy hotel room. “Very nice.”
Kennedy was just glad that Willow was back however temporally. She was hoping that they could get some type of portal network set up between the two worlds so that she could visit.
Willow’s gaze came to a stop on the nightstand when she noticed a comic book with sexy cover art, it wasn’t the art that froze her gaze so much as the name that was on the comic along with the realistic computer character rendering. “Kennedy, why do you have Amy Madison porn on your nightstand?” She opened the magazine and flipped through it in morbid curiosity.
Kennedy very quickly shouted, “Shit! Don’t look!”
Willow’s face went red as her brain realized what she was seeing.
Cordelia put the last of her empty no longer sparkling apples in her bag and looked down at the magical forest that covered where her home town used to be. She absently kicked her heels against the edge of the massive branch she was sitting on as she tried to get a handle on her upgraded senses. She could feel the magic flowing into the tree from other worlds. She suspected that it wouldn’t take all that much effort for a spell caster to open a portal to various other realms while standing on the tree’s branches. She briefly wondered if the Norse were prophets because the gem apple tree reminded her a lot of the world tree from some of their myths. She stretched out her senses so that she could feel the various magical creatures running around in the forest setting up defenses and trying to form into groups to keep themselves safe from the other magical creatures. She was hoping that having the monsters around would be enough to keep the gem apple tree safe but she didn’t think it would be enough on its own which was why she was planning on bringing in a couple of guardians to make it harder for people to get to the gem apple tree. “It’s almost like one of Xander’s video games.” She shook her head at that thought. She suspected that a lot of people would try to get to the tree even without knowing exactly what it did.
She glanced down toward the forest and jumped off the branch she had been sitting on. She let herself fall for a while before she slowed her descent with her levitation so that she could touch down lightly on the another branch. She turned and jumped off again and glided down to the next branch. She wanted to talk to several of the monster groups before heading off to talk to Angel. She suspected that it would be a busy day between organizing the tree’s monster defenses and arguing with various military or police groups. She was hoping that she could convince them that the forest was hers without having to resort to drastic measures but she suspected that she would have to do something drastic in order for the U.S. government to admit that she was the legal owner of the forest.
Buffy glanced at her phone’s caller id then answered her cell phone, “Soldier boy.”
Riley chuckled, “Hey Buffy, sorry for not calling lately but I’m hoping that you know something about the forests that have been popping up lately or the evil goddess in Palestine that destroyed over eighty percent of the men there.”
Buffy scowled at Andrew, “Evil goddess? Apparently Andrew was so excited to talk about the magical forests that he forgot to mention an evil goddess running around. When the hell did that happen?”
Andrew sighed, “We have people looking into the alleged evil goddess.”
“Apparently last week.” Riley had been hoping the council had some ideas because the government was more than a bit worried about how to deal with the latest threat.
“That’s news to me, apparently Andrew is looking into the problem. I’ll let you know once we find out more information. The forests might have been our fault… not that I’m admitting that on the record you understand.”
“Might have been?” Riley asked skeptically.
“Basically we had some extra magic in one realm and we used it to restore magic here. The forests growing wildly and out of control might be a side effect of introducing so much magic into the world. On the other hand it might not be our fault, it could be the work of this dark goddess…”
“Which is more likely?”
“Officially… totally the dark goddess’s fault. Off the record it’s probably our fault.” Buffy wasn’t all that happy with the side effects but hopefully there was enough magic floating around now that they could link the two worlds with a portal like Harry’s world.
“I don‘t suppose you can shift some people around to cover the forests until local militaries can mobilize to deal with the problem?”
Buffy sighed, “We don’t exactly have the people required to watch them all but we can try to shift some people around. I‘ll talk to some people about it.”
“Thanks, do you know anything about a group calling themselves the Daughters of the Red Tree?”
“They bought the land around Sunnydale less than a week ago.”
“Ah… I’ll have Willow do some poking around to see if she can come up with anything.”
“I can’t officially ask you to do anything illegal but thanks.” Riley was just hoping that the forests didn’t end up being as much of a problem as he thought they would be.
“No worries, you’ve bailed us out of enough issues. Anything else?”
“Let us know if you find anything in the forest. The higher ups are getting trigger happy.”
Buffy sighed, “I understand.” She ended the call and slipped her phone back in her pocket. “What do you know about the Daughters of the Red Tree?”
Andrew shrugged, “I didn’t know that Willow had children.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “She doesn’t, it’s the group that bought the ruins of Sunnydale.”
“Oh, I’ll get some people to look into it.”
“Thank you. Now what do you know about this evil goddess?”
“Not much, no prophecies or anything. They haven’t even managed to get a decent picture. We’ve gotten reports of strange supernatural events all over the world the last couple of weeks but it’s been a pain tracking them down. We’re not exactly raking in the cash these days which is why I‘m glad that my zompire hunting videos have been selling so well.”
Buffy frowned, “Videos?”
“Did I forget to mention that?”
He glanced at the door nervously then realized he would never make it before she grabbed him. “Ah… well you see it’s like this…” He went on to explain how he was making movies about the demons coming in and hunting the feral vampires and how he was using the money to help pay for running the Watcher’s Council.
Amy Madison glared at her reflection in the crappy bathroom mirror that wasn‘t hers, “Fun, yeah right.” Her see-through pink underwear had little red hearts on it. Her lips were a dark red, her skin a touch paler than it had been and her eyes seemed to catch the light like a cat’s, her nails were some type of dark red crystal but other than that and a slight upgrade to her breasts she still looked like herself. All of that would have been amusing if she hadn’t woken up in bed with half a troop of naked Girl Scouts with a very dead half demon sprawled on the floor that had been the girls’ evil Girl Scout leader. She only had vague memories of doing the ritual with the apples then teleporting somewhere to have a party. Bits and pieces of her wild night were flashing through her brain, she vaguely remembered looking at the Scout leader and being able to see the evil in his soul. Events after that were thankfully sort of fuzzy but she recalled burning the life out of the Scout leader with a kiss then something about dressing the Girl Scout troop in perverted fairy costumes with a wave of her hand then bits and pieces of something out of a porn flick. She muttered, “What the hell happened?”
The demon girl smirked as she appeared standing in the shower, “I’m glad you asked.”
Amy turned, raised her hands and summoned magic to blast the naked demon girl standing in her shower, “What do you want?”
The demon girl held her hands up, “Relax, you asked what happened, I’m going to do my best to explain.”
“Go ahead.” Amy scowled.
“You wanted power, we gave you power. As you know nothing comes for free.”
“What do you want?” Amy knew that nothing came for free she had just wanted her magic back badly enough to ignore common sense.
“We’re making a comic book, we need a dark hero looking to right the wrongs of a corrupt city along with her band of plucky sidekicks.” She gestured toward the other room where the Girl Scouts were still crashed out. “You’re the dark hero, they’re the sidekicks in case you didn’t understand.”
Amy stared at the demon in disbelief, “A comic book hero? You‘ve got the wrong girl for that. I‘m no hero.”
“Hero, villain, you could have went either way back in Sunnydale. If you hadn’t been trapped as a rat for so long or hadn’t been drinking in dark magic from Rack… maybe things would have been different. Look at this as a chance to do some good. As for the comic book part, we might even toss in a couple of animated films depending on how well you do.”
Personally the idea she plucked out of Andrew’s twisted dreams was a bit warped but she figured she could make it work. She might need to recruit a couple of gay Boy Scouts and give them superpowers as laughable foil characters to really fit Andrew’s dream. She might even make them look like Angel and Andrew if she was feeling like being accurate and even more perverted than normal. “Maybe a little but you’re already in the comic world.”
Amy’s magic crackled as her temper frayed, “You teleported me off Earth?”
“Technically this is an Earth like comic world but yeah basically.”
“What gives you the right?”
“Power.” The demon girl smirked at Amy, “Think of it this way, if you play the hero you get to live in a mansion, fight crime and steal from the wealthy evil people in a fictional city all for the enjoyment of demented fans.”
“What makes you think I won’t just turn villain?”
“Because then the comic would get canceled and the world would vanish with you inside of it.”
Amy glared at the demon, “Why? Why do this?”
“I thought we covered this, because I can. Isn’t that the reasoning you used for the crap you pulled with your magic over the years?”
Amy conjured a bolt of magic and tossed it at the demon. “Die.”
The demon girl smirked as she caught the crackling bolt of magic with her hand and played with it by tossing it back and forth between her hands, “No.” She leveled a glare at Amy, “Are we done playing yet?” She closed her hand around the energy and absorbed it. “The more time you waste, the less time I have to explain the basic idea of the comic.”
Amy scowled, “Fine.”
“Basically you’re a sexy demon goddess that grants her perverted minions the ability to change into wicked magical fairy girls to fight the forces of evil.”
“Forces of evil?”
“Anything from human corruption to giant monsters…”
“Wait, this is like a horrible kinky remake of various Japanese television shows isn‘t it?”
The demon girl shrugged, “Don’t worry, our special effects budget is larger and we have better plot designers. Anyways, your powers include a lust aura that only works on girls and evil men. Your kiss burns the evil out of men, if they have a lot of evil it kills them which tends to increase ratings. You also have a sort of don’t notice me field so that no one remarks on your sexy outfit unless you‘re luring them to their death. Your wicked girls have various magical weapons to fight the monsters as well as a grab bag of supernatural powers thanks to you empowering them. You can also temporarily grant them additional powers by having kinky sex with them, you might want to get a dog…”
As the demon girl continued explaining the basic plot of the perverted comic she would be living Amy Madison realized that she must have died somewhere along the way because this sure as hell felt like hell to her.
Willow looked away from the perverted comic book and over at a red faced Kennedy standing in the bathroom doorway with a glass of water, “Why do you even have this?”
Kennedy asked, “Would you believe research purposes?”
Willow glanced back at the comic where it had a mostly naked Amy was straddling a man in a suit while burning the evil out of him. “Try again.”
Kennedy muttered as she walked over to the bed with the glass of water, “It’s not like you didn’t keep porn on your computer…”
“Not of Amy.” She might have before she went evil if she had had a decent picture, especially if she had looked like she did in the comic.
“It was dropped outside my door yesterday with a note.”
Willow laughed, “Likely story, what did the note say?”
“Enjoy with love, hugs and inappropriate kisses. It was signed, ‘Everyone’s favorite demon girl.’”
Willow winced, “Shit.”
“I’m guessing you know who dropped it there?” She sat on the edge of the bed and handed Willow the glass of water.
“I’ve got a decent idea. If it is who I’m thinking then Amy is probably trapped in a comic somewhere.” Willow took a drink of the water then set it on the nightstand.
Kennedy smiled, “Really?”
“Wicked.” Kennedy couldn’t help snickering. As far as she was concerned it might do Amy some good to have to be a dark hero rather than a villain.
Willow laughed, “I guess it is a little funny but only because it’s Amy.”
Kennedy looked at the comic, “In that case maybe we should read it for research purposes.”
“You have a point. Besides, this way we don’t have to talk about us.”
“You’re not getting out of that conversation that easily.”
Willow muttered, “Rats.”
Kennedy grinned, “Now move over so we can both read the comic.”
Cordelia smiled as she walked into the Hyperion Hotel and saw Angel standing behind the counter reading a list. “You’re still fighting the good fight I see.”
Angel turned and stared at Cordelia, “You’re alive?”
“More or less yes.”
“I jumped to another world, then got a lift back.”
Angel frowned, “Why are you here?”
“I can’t just stop by to see an old friend?”
“You could but did you and aren‘t there rules about that?”
Cordelia smiled, “I was in the neighborhood and figured you might like to have dinner or something. As for rules, I‘m probably breaking a few just being down.” She really didn’t care about the Powers that Be anymore.
He grinned, “I could eat.”
“How does it feel to be human again?”
He scowled, “I still have most of the vampire perks so I can’t complain other than the whole being kidnapped bit. Being pumped full of drugs then experimented on wasn‘t much fun either. How did you know?”
“I’m a higher power, I can sense the difference.” She wasn’t going to mention that she had arranged his transformation or that she was actually a goddess now but she was a higher power so it wasn‘t technically lying.
“Ah right, what can you tell me about the magical forests?”
“They’re breeding grounds for non demonic monsters and magical creatures.”
“If you’re here does that mean that the Powers that Be are going to start meddling again?”
“It’s possible. I haven’t talked with them since I left their realm. I suspect that they’ll continue trying to work through champions. I’m not sure about Wolfram and Hart but I suspect that they’ll try to go back to business as usual.”
“Are we going to have to worry about the forests?”
“Maybe but probably not for a while, most of the monsters in the Sunnydale forest are content to stay there and fortify their areas. I suspect that it‘s the same for the other forests.”
“You talked with them?”
“Sure, I own the forest at least on paper.”
“Yeah well I can’t see the U.S. government allowing me to keep the forest now that it’s so interesting but we’ll see. I have a couple teams of lawyers on it. If worst comes to worst I’ll just scare the life out of the government until they leave my forest alone.”
He frowned, “Do you think that will work?”
“Protecting the tree is too important not to make it work. Let’s grab some food though and talk about it.”
“I could eat.” He was still getting used to the fact that he needed three meals a day. Being able to really taste stuff again was nice.
Xander finished carefully carving the last rune on his staff then put his engraver down on the work bench. “Hopefully this one works better than the last one.”
Richard laughed, “Your last summoning staff worked at least until Anya smashed it to bits…”
“She has a problem with rabbits.”
“I’m not sure problem quite covers it but the look on her face was well worth losing the staff.”
Xander snorted, “Says the person that didn’t spend three hours working on it.”
“It drained your whole mana pool to summon a random magical rabbit. I’m a little impressed with the insanity but I don’t think a random effect that takes that much mana is all that practical.”
“I have to admit that meeting Bugs Bunny was fun but the other rabbit…” Xander shivered as he remembered the evil rabbit ripping the throat out of the dream Trolloc they had summoned to test things on.
“It’s a shame that Anya burned the staff I would have loved to try to figure out how it worked.”
“As I said, magic and I have a weird relationship.” While most of the charms and talismans that Richard provided worked just fine a fair number of Xander’s various talismans tended to have strange effects. His ring of fire caused his fire to burn with purple flames. The earth he moved with his earth ring stank like wet farm mud. He was going to have to remake that ring eventually once he got some more practice. His air ring often made weird wind noises when it shouldn’t. His ring of water seemed normal enough which made him suspicious. Fred said the water checked out in the lab but he still wasn’t sure what was wrong with it because everything else that he had made had a quirk. His ring of jumping had been nicknamed the Gummi Bear ring by Dawn before she stole it and went bouncing around the pocket world.
“I’ve seen people with stranger creations…”
“That makes me feel a touch better.”
“…but most of them had more than a couple of screws loose.”
Xander muttered, “Or not.”
Richard laughed, “I try. Are you going to test the staff out?”
Xander looked around the workshop, “To the testing range.”
Richard looked over at where several of the other students were working on various talismans. “If we hurry we should be back before anyone blows themselves up.”
“One can only hope.” Xander headed out the back door so that he could test his new staff.
Richard followed the young magic user out of the workshop. It had been years since he had found anyone with this much potential for wild magic. It was always amusing to see what Xander’s talismans did. He pointed to the target a hundred feet away. “Blast away.”
Xander chuckled as several of the people using the testing range decided to move back a couple of yards. He had gotten better at creating talismans the more he did it but everyone that used the shooting range/practice yard knew that talismans might not do what they were designed to. Which is why testing was required for each talisman before it was used in the field. Some of the first couple of talismans he had created had prompted them to post safety rules up on the wall and near every entrance. “Here goes.” He called up his magic and pushed it into the staff. At least calling up his magic was a lot easier than it used to be. He almost dropped the staff as dozens of multi colored shards of crystal flew out of the top of the staff. He stopped pouring magic into the staff as the first shards hit the stone statue and caused the area around where the shards hit to explode. “That didn’t work like I wanted.”
Richard laughed, “It looks like a nice non elemental combat staff. What were you trying to do?”
“I was trying for a size alteration staff.”
“Hmm, in that case I might know what happened.” He glared around at the other magic users testing talismans or practicing with them. “Okay, if anyone shoots me with anything you might live to regret it.” He waited a couple of seconds to make sure no one was shooting at the various targets then walked toward the target.
Xander followed after making sure that no one was going to shoot him in the back. He looked down and saw that there were perfectly formed marble sized chunks of stone on the ground around the target while other parts of the target were shattered. “What happened?”
“I’d have to look at the video to know for sure but it looks like some of the crystals shrink things and some of them expand things.”
“Considering the stuff that shrank separated from what was around it then expanded again after a brief moment. The other bits seemed to expand a great deal before returning to normal.”
Xander knew that that type of damage to a human would cause them to bleed to death fairly quickly even without some of the crystals causing flesh to expand rapidly. “I think I’ll need to do some more testing but this could be interesting. Horrifying but interesting.”
Richard stared at the destroyed statue, “We should probably run some more tests then see how it does against shields and a couple of different materials.”
“Agreed.” Xander started walking back toward the safety line.
Harry snickered as he listened to the Hall’s discussion coming out of the speaker that was sitting on the inn room‘s small desk near a roll of paper and a furiously scribbling enchanted quill. “It’s so much easier to place listening devices when they don’t know what to look for and don’t have anything that would interfere with the bug.”
Egwene watched the magic quill that was furiously recording everything coming out of the speaker. “It almost feels like cheating.”
“It’s only cheating if you get caught or if the other side has it and you don’t. Do you think they’ll be dumb enough to trust the modified binder we offered?” The ter’angreal girls had created a stripped down version of the binder that didn’t create rings. It had a ring indentation on the back and they planned to use their binder to give Siuan or more likely Leane a linked ring so that everyone would be bound to her and by extension Egwene. The other advantage of the modified binder at least to them was that it couldn’t overwrite their binder.
“While I’d like to say they’re smart enough to refuse I really don’t think they are. Moiraine was nice enough to lie about the negative parts for us. They might run a couple of tests but once they figure out that it does more or less what we told them it does they’ll run begging to be our happy slaves.” It wasn’t that she really wanted to bind the whole Tower to her but at the same time they had proved to be argumentative and whiny the last time around when she had been trying to organize things for the last battle. There was also the fact that it gave protection against compulsion and the turning ability of a circle of Fades and thirteen channelers.
“I’m still amazed that the first Aes Sedai were really stupid enough to use the Oath Rod, they must have known what it would do to their lifespan or at least that first group should have realized it when they started dying a few hundred years before their time. It would also explain why they have a social taboo against asking about a sister‘s age.”
Egwene sighed, “I used to think the Oaths were important but the more I think about it the more I realize that it was probably the Forsaken messing with my head that caused me to put so much store in them.”
Harry patted her on the head, “You have a rather cute head.”
“Thanks.” She glanced at Harry, “What should we do while we wait?”
“Cards?” He pulled out a set of exploding cards.
She chuckled as she pulled her engraving kit and a collection of wands out of her pack. “I was thinking something more entertaining.”
“Well I have a couple of talismans I could work on.” While he wasn’t sure there was a point in using wands as talismans for his hedge magic when he had a perfectly good wand for his normal magic already, he needed the practice before he started trying to create more complicated ring talismans. If nothing else the hedge magic gave him a couple options if his wand got knocked out of his hand. That and it was something he could practice with Egwene.
Dawn giggled as she looked over the collection of sparkly gem apples. They were all sorts of different colors. She picked out five Emerald colored sparkling apples from the large collection of sparkling apples, “Did Cordelia mention if the color mattered?”
Fred chuckled as she collected five Sapphire colored sparkling apples, “She said the color didn’t matter though she also said that we should grab an extra apple from the Malkier tree if we wanted the ability to alter the temperature around us. Apparently the abilities are slightly different depending on the manifestation the True Power was tied up in.”
Giles picked up five sparkling apples at random as he didn’t really care what color they were. “That could be interesting. It makes me wonder if there are other sources of magic that the trees could convert.”
“Shadar Logoth for example, it probably exists in at least a couple of mirror worlds. Every copy that we cleanse would be more apples that we could give to trusted slayers back in our old world. It might not make them goddess but it might make them harder to kill.”
Wesley collected his own five apples as he said, “That’s not a bad idea.”
Spike collected a couple of different colored Sparkly apples. “I’m just looking forward to rubbing the fact that I’m a god in Angel’s face.”
Dawn laughed, “You’re horrible.”
Giles smirked, “I’m looking forward to snapping his neck a few times.”
Wesley said, “I can’t say I haven’t thought about cutting his throat once or twice…”
Fred leveled a glare at Giles and Wesley, “That’s mean.”
Giles shrugged, “He’ll heal.”
Fred laughed, “Just don’t hit him so much he stops trying to help the helpless.”
Wesley sighed dramatically, “Ruin all our fun.”
Dawn glanced at the piles of apples. “We should probably leave before we’re tempted to eat them all.”
Fred snickered, “They do look tasty.”
Spike was the first one to turn away from the collection of apples and head toward the exit arch. He wasn’t willing to tick Red off for a little extra power and without Cordelia around to tell them how many apples were safe he had no problems sticking to the six Willow was willing to share. Well that and he needed help to drain the apples unless he wanted to actually eat them, it might be possible with his supernaturally strong teeth and jaw but why bother when he had people that would help him drain the energy in a proper ritual if he behaved. That and there were less chances of Willow frying him with lightning for wasting the gemstone the apples were made of.
Giles followed Spike with his own collection.
Wesley smirked as he thought about how his father would feel about using what might be considered the essence of a god to steal divinity. He would have to go for a visit just to let his father know that he wasn’t dead if only because it would eat at the man for months.
Kennedy yawned as her and Willow walked into the conference room.
Andrew frowned as Kennedy and Willow as they walked in, “You’re late.”
Kennedy snorted, “Hello to you too asshole.” She might have been more pleasant if his repeated calling hadn’t interrupted her and Willow having fun after breakfast. “You don’t pay my salary so suck it up, we’re here.” She had been running her own business long enough that she really didn’t see a reason to put up with Andrew’s whining. He had sent her a lot of emails when she was first starting her bodyguard company about a slayer’s duty as if that would put food on the table or keep the girls out of prison during the give vampires rights craze that the country had gone through.
Buffy smiled, “Thanks for coming.”
Willow walked over and took a seat across from Angel and Cordelia and next to Satsu. “Why so early?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “It’s eleven o’clock.”
Kennedy took the empty seat by Willow. “Which is way too early to be up on a Tuesday.” She glanced at Willow, “Especially when I have better things to be doing. So what’s up?”
Andrew scowled at Kennedy, “We have monster filled forests all over the country and a dark goddess in Palestine.”
Kennedy shrugged, “Fighting dark goddesses isn’t really my idea of fun. I have a couple of slayers that would probably be interested in being guards for the forest as long as it’s a paying job.”
Andrew stared at Kennedy, “What?”
Kennedy rubbed her fingers and thumb together on her right hand, “You know, cash, money maybe gold or gems.”
He sputtered, “Sacred duty…”
Willow was still a bit angry over people choosing the vampires over them and starting a war with them so she could see where Kennedy was coming from. She was having enough issues not reaching out and setting Angel on fire because of the whole Twilight thing. “Do we have any clue what type of monsters are in the forests yet?”
Cordelia shrugged, “I saw witches, satyrs, giant flying eyeballs, weird werewolf like creatures and a strange group of blade wielding nymphs.”
Andrew gulped, “Blade wielding nymphs?”
Cordelia glanced at Willow, “I’m not really sure what is going on with those. Anyways, I talked to most of the monster groups at the Sunnydale forest. Most of them seem rather content to fortify their area and wait for the evil adventurers to come like their prophecies foretell. They believe that they have a sacred duty to protect the great tree which means I don’t think we’ll have to worry too much about the monsters leaving the forest in any great number or at least the monsters from Sunnydale.”
Willow frowned as she rolled the idea of blade wielding nymphs around in her head. She had mentioned them for a guard for the other tree as a joke which left her wondering if she had created the monsters in the forests. She was suddenly very worried about finding giant frogs or other horrible creatures out of her imagination. “That’s something I guess…”
“Hopefully the government accepts my ownership of the Sunnydale forest.”
Willow laughed, “That explains why you left a week ago.”
“Yeah, I had to arrange some things.”
Angel scowled as he looked around the group, “What are we going to do about the evil goddess over in Palestine?”
Willow sighed, “I’m not sure there is much we can do. My dad said that the Palestinian military tried killing her already, it didn’t go well. If they can’t kill her with missiles and bombs I don’t think we’ll have better luck. She seems to be content to set up shop and rule the country as a queen.”
Angel scowled, “She killed like eighty percent of the men.”
Satsu snorted, “It’s not like they were innocent.”
Andrew stared at her, “How can you say that?”
“I’m a lesbian, they’re Muslims. Personally I’m not all that concerned if they all die. You should understand.”
Andrew sighed, “We’re supposed to protect everyone.”
Willow sighed as she was once again reminded that she probably should have defined innocent a bit better when she was giving Galina her marching orders. The small part of her that she normally associated with the devil on her shoulder or her dark Willow side wondered if she had left things vague on purpose. On the plus side the fact that Galina hadn’t left the country yet hopefully meant that she couldn’t. She wondered how many people would try to enter the country to kill her before they realized that it wasn’t possible to kill a god with conventional weapons. She suspected a lot of people would die before things settled down especially once the rest of the Muslims realized that she was unlikely to let people practice Islam in her country. “I doubt that a slayer could kill her even with the scythe. I’m not terribly sure that Buffy could kill her if it came down to it.” She was actually fairly sure that Buffy could kill her if she could hit her with Valhalla but Galina was an evil magic using goddess and Buffy would have to get fairly close which would be extremely hard to do.
“I might be able to kill her with Valhalla but I would have to get closer than I would like.” Buffy really didn’t want to have to fight another goddess especially one that they didn’t have enough information on.
Satsu shrugged, “We should probably look into ways to kill her just in case she leaves the Middle East.”
Andrew frowned as he looked around the room, “I don’t believe you. What is wrong with you people?”
Cordelia shook her head, “We bled for the world, some of us died for the world Andrew. Quite a few of them tossed everything we did for them back in our faces. If it was a question of protecting the world we would be there but it’s not. She’s not leaving Palestine. You’re not going to be able to put her to sleep, she’s not going to die to conventional weapons, hell nuking her would only annoy her.”
Andrew gulped, “Really?”
“It’s something some of the various governments try in a future timeline. It’s not a very likely timeline but I can tell you that a nuke won’t stop her.”
He asked hopefully, “Magic?”
“You’re unlikely to find anyone with the ability and the inclination to take the fight to a goddess when all she’s doing is claiming one small corner of the world that most people think is a patch of worthless sand.”
Angel sighed, “I find myself agreeing with Andrew. I can’t believe I just said that. Why aren’t we going to do anything about this?”
“Because she isn’t going to destroy the world, she’s not going to open the gates of hell or anything like that. It’s too bad that so many people died but I can’t bring them back from the dead.”
Part of Willow wanted to say because she didn’t want to, she didn’t think anyone really wanted to hear it so she settled for, “Because anyone with the power to deal with it either doesn’t care or they’re waiting to see if they can use the development in some way. You’re talking about a creature that can shrug off nukes and can rain down fire and death from the heavens. I’m not risking my life to save people that would laugh as I burned for being a witch or a lesbian. Maybe not all of them would but you saw how many people turned against us because of vampire rights of all things.”
Angel asked, “So you’re saying they deserve to die?”
“No, I’m saying I am not risking my life or my girl’s happiness on a revenge kick. From what I heard the borders aren’t blocked, people are free to leave. Anyone that is still there is deeply stupid. If you want to be the hero then go throw your life away.”
Buffy frowned, “You sound out of sorts Willow.”
“I’m a bit angry that everyone expects me to fix their problems.”
Kennedy sighed, “Yeah, I think we’re done here.”
Cordelia glanced at the door, “Probably for the best, I’ve got to go deal with some more idiots that think blowing up my forest is a good idea.” She teleported out of the room.
Andrew watched as Kennedy and Willow left, “Was it something I said?”
Satsu snorted, “Yes.”
Buffy snickered as she hugged Satsu, “Not really. We should go make sure they don‘t leave without us.” She liked living in the other world and not having to fight for a public that hated her.
Andrew frowned, “There has to be something…”
Satsu was fairly sure that Willow knew more than she was saying about the dark goddess. She might have to ask when there weren’t so many other people around. She stood up and walked out with Buffy. “Let’s go.”
Egwene sighed as she listened to the final decision from the Hall that said they would allow the Ajah heads to keep track of every sister. “Yeah, they’re tradition bound idiots.”
Harry laughed. “At least they’re rebinding everyone which means that we’ll have an even better chance to catch any dark witches we missed. Do you think they’ll ever appreciate the changes we’ve made to their oath?” He loved the fact that the rules the binder bound into a person’s flesh were set when the binder was created so that tricks couldn’t be used to get out of it.
“Changing the rule to be ‘to speak no word that is not true except to darkfriends’ should give them a bit more freedom to screw with the shadow. Changing the next rule to be ‘To make no weapon for the purpose of men killing each other’ should allow them to make Power-wrought blades so that soldiers can kill shadowspawn.”
Harry said, “At least the ones with the talent.” He honestly didn’t see the problem with the sisters making Power-wrought blades. It wasn’t like they cut through a normal blade like butter or anything.
“True. Changing the last rule to be ‘Never use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends, Seanchan or Shadowspawn or in the defense of her life or freedom or the life or freedom of her Warder or another Aes Sedai.’ should help.”
“You really don’t like Seanchan do you?”
“I no longer think all of them should be boiled in oil until they die but I still don’t care for them.”
Harry wondered if therapy might be worth looking into then decided that her views on the slavers were probably at least partially legit. He wondered if that made him crazy then decided that he really didn’t care. “I think the changes to the wording are good. They’ll have the standard obedience binding so that they have to do what the Ajah heads and Leane, you and Willow say but they pretty much do that for the Ajah heads anyway. With any luck they won‘t realize that Leane can give them orders until it’s too late to stop the process.”
Egwene was looking forward to restructuring certain things after they got most of the Aes Sedai bound. She was planning to organize the novices into families like Sharina had the last time around as it was a better system. “I’m looking forward to this more than I should be.”
Harry decided not to make a joke about freewill being overrated. “I’m sure you’ll have the place running like well oiled clockwork in a couple of weeks.”
“Weeks might be pushing it but we’ll get everything sorted eventually.”
“We probably have less than an hour before their runner gets here.”
“I guess that means that I need to get into costume.” Egwene collected her tiara form her bag and slipped it on so that she changed into her adult form. “It would be nice if shape-changing came with the divine package.”
Harry laughed as he handed her a small mirror, “At least you can weave an illusion fairly easily.”
She embraced the Source and wove a feather light weave of air over her features then layered illusion over it just incase someone felt her face to see if she was using illusion. She didn’t expect them to because no one had told the Aes Sedai they could invert weaves so that they couldn’t be seen but she really didn’t want to get caught pretending to be someone else today. She took a last look to make sure she looked close to her queen image but not so close they would think it was her. She changed the color of the gemstone in the tiara then inverted the weaves and tied them off. “Let’s go have a drink.”
Harry chuckled, “You’re too young to drink.”
“Not today and I’m a goddess.” She stuck her tongue out at Harry.
“Promises, promises.” He was just glad that none of the sisters knew about apparition or had wards that would stop it. While he was hoping the mission went smoothly he wanted to have a fall back plan.
Ginny yawned as she woke up from her nap. The worst part about being a baby again was the sheer amount of sleep required. Luna was still happily snoozing with their sisters or at least faking it so she teleported out of the crib with as small a pop as she could manage. She could see Hermione over by the lab area. She walked over to see what her friend was working on, “Any progress?”
“Yep.” Hermione smiled as she poked the sleeping kitten with a bronze knife to show Ginny the progress they had made.
“Hey…” She trailed off as she realized that the sleeping kitten didn’t even wake up because the bronze passed right through it. “That was mean.”
Hermione smiled slightly as she put the bronze knife down then scratched the kitten‘s head softy, “But funny.”
“I’m glad that you managed to breed an immunity to weapons into the cats. How long until you start breeding large groups of them for the elves?”
“I want to give it a couple more weeks to make sure she’s stable then I’ll have Cordelia run a check on her to see if there are any flaws we need to correct. Provided all of that goes well we’ll start mass producing them in a month or two.”
“I’m looking forward to my group getting big enough to ride.” She thought it would be great having a battle cat to ride around on.
Hermione smiled at Ginny, “And I’m sure that Violet wants you big enough to ride as well.”
Ginny blushed, “I still can’t believe she owns leashes and collars…”
Hermione smiled slightly, “On the upside with your link to the cats you’ll have a legit reason to own your own leashes and collars. I’m going to have fun walking you around on a leash when you‘re older.”
“Just as long as you don’t give me to Violet to play with.”
“Give? Never, rent…” She smirked, “Don’t worry she wouldn’t do anything that would hurt you.”
“You’re horrible. How close are you to finishing your experiments for your body?”
“I’m getting closer, between the experiments and Dawn’s ritual to fuse people together I’m getting close to having all of the parts. Maybe a couple more weeks if I can get Dawn and Willow’s help on the last part of the project. I can’t do much more with that project until Willow gets back.”
Ginny asked, “Does that mean you’re done in the lab for a while?”
“Unless you want to help me check over the spell Illyria suggested to give the cats a human form.”
“I guess I could stand on the chair so I can reach the table.”
Hermione laughed, “I’ll grab the notes and we can sprawl out on the extra bed.”
“That sounds easier. I hate being short.”
“You’ll be plenty tall eventually.” She was fairly sure that Ginny would be close to six and a half feet when she finished growing so she would eventually be taller than most people.
“It’s the eventually that’s getting me.”
Hermione smiled at Ginny, “In a couple of months I’ll probably be bitching right there with you.” She was looking forward to upgrading her body but at the same time she wasn’t exactly looking forward to the first couple of years as a baby. Maybe she could talk Cordelia or better yet Tara into playing mom to take advantage of their faster growth rate. She bet Tara would make a really nice mother.
Ginny laughed, “Good.”
Hermione glanced over at the crib, “Are you enjoying being the older sister?”
“So far so good. We’ll see how I do when they’re running around playing with crayons on walls or running with scissors but at least for now it’s not so bad.”
“Good.” Hermione grinned as she stood up, reached over and picked Ginny up then carried her toward the extra bed to start research.
“If I ever have to do this again we need to look up a workable aging spell.”
“Agreed.” She set Ginny down on the bed then flopped down and grabbed her notes off the nightstand.
Ginny flopped down next to her and grabbed a page of notes, “Am I looking for anything particular?”
“Anything that stands out as weird.” Hermione handed her a cheat sheet with the formulas written out. “I know it’s not exactly our type of magic and they’ve already went through it a couple of times but sometimes a fresh set of eyes helps catch problems.”
“Might as well.” Ginny figured it kept her from being bored while she waited for Luna and her sisters to wake up.
Mat watched in amusement as Marisa dropped the two large males she was sparing with. “That’s just scary.”
Abell Cauthon chuckled, “The other Abell did a fantastic job training his granddaughter.”
“I think she honestly might be better than I was at her age.”
Abell laughed at his son, “There is no might about it.”
“Good.” Mat smiled.
“What’s going through your crazy mind?”
“What makes you think I’m planning something crazy?”
Abell looked at his son with amusement, “Do I really need to answer that?”
Mat chuckled, “I guess not. I’m trying to wrap my head around the tactical advantage of having a huge number of channelers as the core of the Band. I’m still not a large fan of Aes Sedai but our people are good.”
Abell laughed, “Considering your mother, sisters and daughter can channel that’s a good attitude to take.”
“I always knew Mom was way too good at finding me for it to be natural.” Mat shivered slightly as he remembered a couple of times that his mother had known where he was despite there being no reasonable way she should have been able to find him.
“Same.” Abell could remember a number of times when his wife had turned to look at the door when one of the children approached.
“It’s weird knowing that I have three hundred war trained channelers that are excited to serve in the Band and another two hundred decently trained channelers that are willing to go through the Band’s training so they can fight with us.” The idea of having half the White Tower’s full strength in channelers made him giddy. He wasn’t including the large group of reluctant channelers that he could draft thanks to the ring he wore or the hundred noncombatant channelers that had signed up as cooks, gateway witches or road construction crew. He was hoping that some of the reluctant channelers decided that the Band wasn’t a bad thing but he had enough people to get started with a couple of projects.
“We’re organizing weapon classes and archery contests for all of the children here. Hopefully if we can make it a tradition then the people we recruit from here won’t be quite as green as normal.”
Marisa smiled as she walked closer, “Not to interrupt but I have an idea about the contests that might help.”
Mat asked, “Oh?”
“Elisara has been spending a lot of time working on various types of Power-wrought weapons. We’re aiming to completely outfit the Band eventually. If we offer the winner a coin purse as well as the chance to use a ter’angreal weapon for a while we could wet their appetite for joining the band where they’ll get to use ter’angreal weapons.”
Abell laughed, “That’s actually a good idea.”
“I try.” Marisa grinned.
Mat grinned, “In that case I probably should talk to Elisara about what types of weapons we need.”
Abell glanced toward the section of the pocket world where his wife was taking advantage of the free classes the school offered. “Natti wants us to have dinner as a family tonight before we head back to Emond‘s Field.”
Mat smiled, “I’ll tell Bodewhin and Eldrin.”
Abell shook his head, “Thanks. I should get back to teaching.”
Marisa grinned, “Speaking of teaching, do you want to go a round?”
Mat laughed, “I want to see this before I go.”
Abell laughed, “I’ll grab a staff.”
Mat was going to have to ask Faith or Buffy to spar with him so that he didn’t get out of practice.
Dawn smiled at Willow, Satsu, Kennedy and Buffy as they walked into her house. “My house is your house, well not really but feel free to relax and enjoy yourself.
Kennedy smiled at a naked green haired Dawn, “You’re looking more green than I remember.”
“I’m shorter and younger and my hair color is what you’re commenting on?”
Kennedy shrugged, “It’s cute.”
Dawn sniffed the air as she brushed her green hair out of her face with her right hand, “You smell like Willow.”
“She was nice enough to rock my world a couple of times and then Andrew called before we could get a shower.”
Willow grumbled, “I should have turned him into a newt or something for interrupting.”
Buffy shook her head, “I so didn’t need to know that.”
Kennedy asked, “Clothes?”
Dawn shrugged, “I don’t really bother unless I leave the pocket world. Are you saying you like what you see?”
Kennedy laughed, “Maybe in a couple of years.”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
Buffy scowled, “Yeah… I think we should go find something else to do.”
Satsu snickered, “I don’t know, it might be sort of fun to watch Willow have sex with both of them.”
Buffy put her fingers in her ears as she headed for the door, “I so didn’t need that mental image.”
Dawn grinned, “That sounds fun.”
Kennedy looked at Willow, “I’m game if you are.”
Willow blushed slightly as she thought about Satsu watching.
Egwene was glad that she had weaves of air over her face that kept the amount of emotion she could show down to a reasonable level as she channeled into her binder to bind Leane Sedai to her service. “Painless enough isn’t it?”
Leane said, “So far.”
“You can take your arm out of the ter’angreal.”
Leane pulled her arm out of the binder then looked at the tattoo of a green and brown Tree of Life with the old black and white Aes Sedai symbol carved into the trunk of the tree. “It’s purple.” She frowned at Moiraine, “You said it would break the Oaths I swore on the Oath Rod but I thought you said that it would rebind me from lying.”
Moiraine sighed, “I lied.”
Egwene said, “Don’t scream, don’t call for help, don’t try to attack us and don’t try to get out of your seat until we tell you to.”
Leane gulped as she realized that she couldn‘t call for help or even force her body to stand, “You can’t be Black…“
Moiraine snorted, “I’m not, I just took advantage of the extra Oath Rod that Egwene’s group has to unbind myself. An inverted and tied off weave of illusion means I get to keep looking like a proper Aes Sedai.”
“Other than the fact that the Oath Rod was originally used on criminals and shortens the lives of the people it binds, the Oaths make it hard to defend ourselves. If someone says that they are just going to lock you up and you believe them then you can’t use the Power as a weapon to defend yourself with the standard Oath. Sure you can wall them off or try to convince yourself that they actually mean to kill you or your warder but technically you shouldn’t be able to by the Oath. There are also other threats than the shadow that would like nothing more than to wipe Aes Sedai off the face of the world. That and I wasn‘t lying about the protection from compulsion and turning to the shadow the binding gives you.”
It took Leane a few moments for her to get her breathing under control so she could ask. “What does it do other than apparently make me obey you?”
Egwene smiled, “I can use the ring to find you which isn‘t any different from what I said. I could if I wanted use the connection to learn your emotional state. Not that I actually need to right now. The binding gives you the benefits of a warder bond without most of the negatives. Yes I can issue you commands but considering I could use compulsion on you to melt your brain and give you orders that way I think my being able to command you is a small price to pay for being immune to compulsion and turning.”
Leane frowned, “And the binder you’re selling us?”
“Same basic idea only it actually does enforce the three Oaths, more or less at least. I’ll cover that in a minute.”
“Why the difference?”
“Because my binder can create the rings that allow you to control the others. I don‘t want that many floating around.”
“That explains why you led the others to believe that they were ter’angreal on their own.”
“Basically yes. I don’t need people making more rings. This way you‘re in control of the Ajah heads and they’re in control of their Ajah.”
Leane asked, “You’re giving me control of the Ajah heads?”
“The rings are chained, mine controls your ring, your ring controls the rings of the Ajah heads which means that you control who they do. We’re also binding them to you which means that you control the heads of the various Ajah.”
Moiraine chuckled, “Because I know you aren’t power hungry. You’re also not a control freak like Siuan.”
Leane gulped as she thought about Siuan having the ring and how much she would bully the Hall. “That wouldn’t end well.”
“This plan is crazy.”
Moiraine nodded, “True enough but it also offers us a chance to gut the corruption in the heart of the Tower and make sure that we’re working together when the Forsaken get free.”
Leane sighed, “If I don’t help then you’ll likely just order me to help.”
Egwene sighed, “I’d rather not order you to help… in another time we were if not friends then at least allies with a common goal.”
Leane frowned, “What do you mean?”
“How much time do we have?”
“Not enough, I’m supposed to head to each Ajah quarters so that I can bind the heads of the Ajah in such a way that no one else knows who they are. I also have to swear not to reveal the information.”
Moiraine nodded, “Bind them and then bring them back here for their rings then we can get started cleaning up the Tower.”
Leane sighed, “You should probably order me not to reveal anything I shouldn’t just to keep me from doing something stupid.”
Egwene chuckled, “I can do that. Don‘t mention the downsides of the rings or warn any one about what we‘re trying to do.” She looked over at Moiraine, “Anything to add?”
Moiraine knew of a couple of loopholes to close then she figured Egwene could order her not to lie to them then they would just ask her if they had gotten all of the loopholes she could think of. She wasn’t real happy about placing so much power in the Ajah heads but it wasn’t like they didn’t have a great deal of power already. Hopefully Leane could keep them in check.