Title: Broken SpellAuthor:
Right, I actually went and checked to be sure this time… Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and all associated characters belong to Fran and Kaz Kuzui. Because I'm drawing from elements of both the original Japanese and adapted American versions, I'm going to disclaim both Toei Company and BVS Entertainment for the collective blend of Mahou Sentai Magiranger
and Power Rangers Mystic Force
that I'm using here. Not mine, don't sue, et cetera.Summary:
After defeating the Senior Partners, Illyria moves to a small California town to adjust to her new existence. There she discovers a new evil and a new team - with a very familiar face among them - to fight beside.Joe's Note:
I've long toyed with the prospect of doing an expansion of Briarwood
from my Ten Women Illyria Never Built A Kingdom With
series. Here's something I cobbled together as a combination world builder and teaser. Let me know what you think.
The girl known as Winifred Wyndham to her peers picked up another stack of CDs. This was what the mighty God King of the Primordium had been reduced to. Working in a music store in a town along the edge of her former territory. Her Qwa'ha Xahn was gone. Her guide was gone. Those who had fought the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart with her were gone. She was all that was left.
Leaving behind the death and destruction she'd wrought in Los Angeles, Illyria had wandered up and down the coastline aimlessly for several weeks before eventually stumbling upon the city of Briarwood. While not a Hellmouth, it was home to a dimensional rift that positively oozed power. And while she could never regain the energy that had been stripped from her by either her resurrection or the Mutara Generator, she could gather the earth's ambient magic and bind it to her will, making her newfound home a pleasant enough place to wile away her days as she tried to figure out her next step.
In the interim, she passed her time shelving CDs and helping teenagers find whatever they wished to deafen themselves with on any given day. Looking around the inside of the Rock Porium, Illyria spotted most of her coworkers engaged in various acts of uselessness. Maybe she could prove herself to be a superior employee and be promoted? A small kingdom with a few minions was better than no kingdom at all… and could serve as the starting point for a greater empire.
Humans… really weren't as obnoxious as she'd used to find them. Much as Harmony had once predicted, they had become like the funguses that slowly spread over rocks and trees and… grown on her after a while. And as much as it pained her to admit it, they really weren't altogether different from her, at least as long as one didn't try to bring powers into the equation. Like her, they had thoughts, emotions, knowledge, and even dreams by which they tried to shape their futures. Just like demons, though, some were more useful than others.
Illyria was one of six minions of the current proprietor of the Rock Porium, and the only one actually doing work. Well, that wasn't quite correct. Vida Rocca was at her normal station in the back, surrounded by two laptops, all sorts of electronics that even the bluenette didn't recognize, and a stack of CDs. And so while Vida was currently performing her designated task by keeping a steady stream of music flowing in the store, some of which included her own compositions, her sister Madison had not been assigned to film Vida. She should have been assisting customers the way Illyria was, as a matter of fact.
Turning to look at her, Madison offered Illyria a wide smile and a wave before skipping across the store toward the back room. The bluenette rolled her eyes before sighing and shaking her head. Perhaps she wouldn't make that effective of a ruler of this domain. For a shy and unassuming girl, Madison was entirely too good at keeping Illyria wrapped around her finger. Perhaps if she ascended to the throne, she could fire Madison so that she wouldn't have to worry about her judgement being compromised… but that would likely cause more problems than it solved. Humans were rather complicated like that.
There was a shriek and then Madison came racing back out of the storage area, blushing fiercely. Illyria had a good idea of the cause of her girlfriend's discomfort, and her suspicions were confirmed when two flushed teenagers emerged behind her, hastily adjusting their clothes. Chip Thorn and Dawn Summers. Why Toby employed either of them, Illyria would never understand. Chip was prone to bizarre dramatics at the most inappropriate times, and Dawn was… actually, Dawn was a useful worker when she wasn't attempting to mate with Chip in the back room.
Why the Slayer's sister was living in Briarwood was a mystery to Illyria. Nobody that she recognized from Angel's dossiers on the Sunnydale group was living in town with her, and Dawn herself was an emancipated minor who supported herself between working at the Rock Porium and presumably some unknown second source. Toby was a fair but not generous master; Illyria herself relied on her slowly growing powers to take care of her physical needs. There was no conceivable way that Dawn was surviving on just the money she made from this job. But if she did in fact possess a second job, none of the others knew anything about it. It was a mystery that Illyria was quite eager to solve.
Illyria's head snapped up as something tingled against her senses. She could taste a new flavor of magic in the air… dark, like the Hellmouth. Closing her eyes, she focused her mystical senses, quickly discerning the source. Another dimensional rift was opening, creating a truly unusual triangular link between this realm, the realm beyond the one rift she was aware of, and yet another realm that was utterly unfamiliar to her.
Then the world started to shake and rumble around her, and the Rock Porium's customers began screaming in terror. While Illyria knew that the earthquake was no threat to her shell, she allowed Madison to pull her under one of the tables along the store's west wall. Wrapping her arms around her girlfriend, Illyria held the brunette close as the earth trembled.
Something was wrong. Gravely wrong.
Holding her prized Sony Handycam HDR-CX220 out in front of her, Madison raised her arm and then moved it a hair to the left so she was centered in the handy dandy little rotating screen that let her see what she was doing even when she was in front of the camera. Like everything else important in her life, this earthquake would get its own entry in her video diary. The footage would go onto her computer, get cleaned up in Final Cut Pro, and then eventually be burned off onto a Blu-ray to join other discs in the 100 CD holder she was slowly filling up with the story of her life.
Madison took a deep breath as she composed her thoughts, fingering the little remote for her camera in her right hand. Twisting her hand upward, she pointed the remote at the camera and pressed record. "Today, Briarwood was struck by its first earthquake in nearly seventy years. Lucky for us, nobody was hurt and the store wasn't even damaged. Also lucky for us, we got it cleaned up before Toby could freak out. As for picking up the pieces of the minds of us humans who went through the earthquake… after narrowly escaping death, different members of the human species cope with it in very different ways."
Using the remote to pause the recording, Madison spun the camera around to point at where Fred was going through one of her odd martial arts routines. Hitting the record button again, she resumed her narration. "Some indulge in physical activity." Fred showed no signs of even acknowledging her girlfriend's presence, much less doing anything interesting for Madison's ever-present camera, so the brunette quickly moved on to where Xander was gliding past on his skateboard. Nothing spectacularly interesting there, either.
"Some listen to music." Vida seemed to sense the camera's attention even with her giant old-fashioned headphones on and looked up, rolling her eyes before waving to Madison. Vida wasn't exactly a favorite video subject of hers, since not being too thrilled with her own looks meant Madison didn't find her identical twin sister very camera-worthy either. And so again she found herself moving quickly onward.
Vida, Xander, and Fred were half of the not-her staff of the Rock Porium, and the other half was sitting on a stone wall with a pizza box between them. "And some like to eat." Madison leaned over the box and frowned, zooming in and out as she tried and failed to figure out what the two had atop their pizza. When in doubt? Ask. Adopting her best hostess voice, she slowly panned up to the faces of the pizza's owners. "Tell me, Chip and Dawn, what kind of pizza are you eating?"
Dawn rolled her eyes at the question, but Chip was used to her antics and smiled tolerantly for the camera before holding out the slice he was currently working on, pointing out each topping as he identified it. "Jalapeños, chicken, pepperoni, cheese, and…" He held up one of the white and brown objects that had been the biggest mystery to Madison. "Chocolate-covered marshmallows."
"Ew. A fine example of the non-human species." Dawn started at the insult to her boyfriend but Chip just stuck his tongue out at Madison in response, and the two shared a laugh as Madison ended her recording and turned off the camera. Her, Chip, Xander, and Vida. They were like the Three Musketeers… well, four if one wanted to get all technical and stuff. Together since they were kids. Of course they had all kinds of inside jokes and stuff. Fred understood that. Dawn, not so much.
Speaking of Fred… with the others all occupied and therefore unable to poke fun at her, Madison took advantage of her chance to wander over and watch as her girlfriend continued to exercise. Even to Madison, Fred was a mystery. While she wasn't too much older than the rest of them - thankfully, since introducing her parents to her girlfriend had been an awkward enough experience as it was - she just seemed too… wise, maybe? Dawn and Chip were both really smart people, but Fred just seemed to have this worldly wisdom to her that should have belonged to someone two or three times her age. It was a mystery… as were most things about Fred.
Madison actually knew relatively little about her girlfriend of six months, a fact that should have disturbed her greatly but for some reason didn't. Fred had a fondness for all things blue - to the point of having added a handful of blue streaks to her medium brown hair - was two years older than most of them, which in turn made her three years older than Dawn, and lived in a small but comfortable apartment two blocks south of the Rock Porium. She also had every Sunday morning off for church. Other than that and assorted useless little factoids about her favorite foods - tacos - and where she'd lived before Briarwood - Los Angeles - Fred seldom offered personal information and Madison had learned not to dig.
"Please, somebody help me!" A rather odd-looking old man was attracting a crowd, loudly repeating the phrase over and over while… looking straight her? That was kinda creepy. For some reason, though, Madison found herself approaching him. The rest of her friends quickly fell in behind her, curious about what was going on. "My brother and I were walking along the road at the edge of town when some creature came out of nowhere and grabbed him. I came back for help as fast as I could. I think it dragged him into the woods."
The crowd was already starting to get sorta twitchy the first time the word dropped, but a mass exodus occurred the second time the old man mentioned the infamous woods that bordered Briarwood. Madison couldn't really blame them. The woods were creepy beyond all belief. A few guys from her high school had gone camping in there to prove how tough they were the previous summer… and had never been the same. "Please, won't somebody help me?" Weird creature dragged your brother into the equally weird forest? Not likely.
"I will." Madison turned to stare at her girlfriend in disbelief. They'd told her all the creepy stories and weird rumors about the forest, and she wanted to go in there? "As enjoyable as spending my time watching Dawn and Chip consume food I wouldn't feed to a beast is, I believe this would be a better use of my time. I will enter the woods, locate his brother, and then return."
As Fred moved to join the old man, Dawn shrugged out from under Chip's arm. "I grew up around weird stuff. It wouldn't be my life if it wasn't weird. Count me in."
And then it was two versus four. Madison sighed. Fred and Dawn were both fairly stubborn individuals, especially Fred when she actually decided to up and make a decision about something. They were going into the woods, whether or not Chip and Madison liked it. "All right, fine. If you're going, Fred, then I'm coming along."
Chip perked up. "I've always wanted to go on a dangerous quest." Everyone looked at him oddly. "This is a dangerous quest, right?"
"Perilous." Dawn laughed a bit at her boyfriend's oddness before holding out one arm to him. "Vida? Xander?"
The last members of the Rock Porium staff exchanged looks, and then Vida sighed and rolled her eyes. "You're all a bunch of idiots." She looked rather put out with all of them. "But you're my idiots and so I guess I'd better come along and make sure you don't get killed. Count me in."
"If the entire Rock Porium staff gets killed, who am I going to boss around?" Xander shrugged. "Besides, you're not running off and leaving me to mind the shop on my own. I'm in too."