Author’s Note: This chapter is set about three months after the prologue. And, although Amy is involved in the dark magics, Tara’s influence has kept Willow from joining her.
Disclaimer: All Buffy the Vampire Slayer
characters, settings, and other situations belong to Whedon, and all Magic Kingdom of Landover
characters, settings, and other situations belong to Brooks.Chapter One
“Hey, Amy! You haven’t been around in a while.”
“Hi, Dawn.” Amy smiled at the younger girl as Dawn ushered her in. “I’ve been… busy.”
“Yeah, Willow said you went to see your dad a while ago,” Dawn said, nodding. “Bet you two have been having fun catching up.”
“Something like that,” Amy said evasively. “Is Willow here?”
“No, she and Tara went out,” Dawn said. “They should be back soon, though.”
“Ok. Do you mind if I wait for them in their room?” Amy asked casually.
“Nope, fine by me,” Dawn said. “Are you guys gonna do a spell?”
“We might,” Amy said, her voice strange for an instant. She shook her head a little, then smiled brightly. “Look, I’m gonna be setting up, so you probably don’t want to come in for a while. I’m not like Willow – I can’t have distractions. Gets me all messed up.”
“Sure,” Dawn said. “I get it. I’ll just be doing my oh-so-fascinating history studying. I’ll send Willow and Tara up when they get back.”
“All right.” Amy smiled sweetly, starting up the stairs. “But don’t worry too much about it. There’s no rush.”
Amy quite calmly reached the witches’ room, closed the door behind her, and locked it. She was completely undisturbed as she drew a pentagram on the carpet, and lit on e of Tara’s candles at each point. She didn’t even break a sweat as she set a sprig of agrimony to burn in each flame.
It wasn’t until she sat in the pentagram and pulled out the page she’d torn from the spellbook that she started trembling. The gestures, the smell of burning herbs, all of it was coming back to her. It was an easy pattern to fall into. Her hands remembered the motions.
Amy hadn’t done any magic for nearly three weeks. Nineteen days, seventeen hours, and twelve minutes, to be precise. Not that she was counting or anything. But it was hard. It hadn’t been so hard before, when she was still in high school. She’d been able to go weeks without even thinking about spells. Maybe the time she’d spent as a rat had done something to her, to make her need magic like this. Or maybe it was just her. She couldn’t tell.
She’d tried to stop, when she’d realized how bad it had gotten. Well, ok, she hadn’t tried very hard, but it had been such a good escape from this strange, changed world. For the first month she’d been human again she’d just gone along with it, using spells to make it easier. To help her forget.
And then her dad had stepped in. He wasn’t spending his hard-earned money to support another witch, he’d said. He’d thrown her out of his house, and told her not to come back till she was clean. So she’d tried, for real this time. But she knew deep down inside her it wasn’t working. She wasn’t like Willow. She didn’t have anyone like Tara to help her be strong.
The Scooby gang had tried to include her, of course. She couldn’t say they hadn’t been kind. But it had been a kindness born of pity, and she couldn’t bear that. Sitting with them, as they chatted amongst themselves, she’d had the constant reminder that she didn’t belong. She was of a world that was three years gone. This world held no place for her.
So she was going to leave it.
She’d found the spell in one of the books in the Magic Box, while the others researched some manner of beastie. She hadn’t realized what it was at first, but something about it had called to her. When no one was looking, she’d torn out the page and snuck it out in her pocket. Later on, when she’d read it through more closely, she’d understood. It was a suicide spell.
Oh, not directly, of course. It didn’t say “chant this to stop your heart” or anything, it wasn’t quite that obvious. But it was a transportation spell to the world between worlds. The Void. Then mists. No human could survive there without very strong protections. To cast the spell without protection would be suicide.
It wasn’t even a difficult spell. Normally, a transportations spell would be way beyond Amy’s abilities, but this one seemed to tap into the mists’ powers to bring the caster in. And once in the mists, the caster’s life force would be absorbed into the mists. From what Amy could tell, there would be very little pain, if any. That was good. She didn’t like pain.
Finally, the herbs in the candles had given off enough of their thick silvery smoke for Amy to begin. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and began chanting.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Ben Holiday, ex-lawyer and King of Landover, watched with a rather skeptical eye as his Court Wizard, the unfortunately inept Questor Thews, drew a large circle on the floor of the castle. “You remember what happened the last time you tried a major spell, right?”
“This is nothing like that spell,” Questor said. “This is a simple conjuration of a map of the mists. Besides,” he added huffily, “I have completed many successful spells since that unfortunate incident. I see no reason for you to bring that up again.”
“Well, I do,” snapped Abernathy, Court Scribe and the victim of the ill effects of one of Questor’s spells. Years ago, long before Ben had met either of them, Questor had turned Abernathy into a dog, and was still unable to turn him back. At least Abernathy had retained his mind, as well as human-like hands and the ability to talk. “Or have you forgotten that that spell transported me to another world?”
“This spell is perfectly safe,” Questor said impatiently.
“You said that last time, too,” Abernathy said sourly.
Questor continued with his preparations, not even dignifying the scribe’s comment with a reply.
“Please calm down, Abernathy. We all agreed this had to be done.” Ben’s wife, Willow, laid a pale green hand on Abernathy’s arm. Willow was a sylph, born of fairy magic, but that wasn’t why her touch was so calming. That was just the personality that had drawn Ben to her from their first meeting.
“That’s true,” Ben said. “There’s something strange going on with the mists, we can all see that, and it’s affecting the entire kingdom. If Questor can get a picture of all the mists surrounding Landover, it could give us a much better idea of where the problem’s coming from.”
“Oh, I can,” Questor assured them, quickly lighting candles around the circle. “Don’t worry, High Lord. This spell will certainly succeed.”
“Oh, certainly,” Abernathy agreed with false cheer. “Especially if we define ‘succeed’ as failing spectacularly.”
Questor glared at Abernathy. “I will succeed this time. You will eat those words, scribe.”
Abernathy rolled his eyes. “We’ll see.”
“I just wish we knew what had happened.” Tara frowned down at the spellbook, and the place where a page had been torn out.
“Did you remove that spell?” Anya asked impatiently.
“What? No!” Tara said surprised.
“Then stop complaining. It’s annoying.” Anya put the book in Tara’s hands. “You take it. We can’t sell it now, not with a page missing. Besides, now I won’t have to buy you a gift at Christmas.”
“It doesn’t work that way, Ahn,” Xander said.
“I don’t see why not,” Anya said. “It’s a piece of merchandise, and she isn’t paying for it.”
“It’s ok,” Tara said quickly. “You can keep it. You could probably still sell it with a discount. These spells are a little too serious for me. I wouldn’t want to mess around with them.”
“Or leave them too close to me?” Willow quirked an eyebrow.
“That, too,” Tara admitted. “But I bet you could handle them now, if you had to.” She put the book back down on the counter, and the four of them began heading back to the Summers house to meet Buffy.
“You think I’ll have to?” Willow asked.
“Oh – no, no, I was just thinking,” Tara said. “I’m a little nervous about that page, I guess. That wasn’t a nice spell.”
“Most aren’t, from what I’ve seen,” Xander said.
“No, some spells are nice,” Willow protested.
“Not that ones in that book,” Tara said. “I wouldn’t like to see someone casting one of those spells.”
Amy finished the first set of chants, her voice a little unsteady. She told herself it was just the effect of all the smoke from the candles. Burning the herbs had caused them to produce a thick swirling mist that covered most of the floor. She couldn’t even see her pentagram anymore.
Amy hoped the smoke wouldn’t set off the fire alarms. She didn’t want to be interrupted partway through. The others wouldn’t give her a second chance at this, if they realized what she was doing.
She started the second of the three chants. She’d just have to hurry, that was all.
“Is this supposed to happen?”
Ben turned to see his daughter, Mistaya, sitting on the stairs looking down at the proceedings. “Didn’t I tell you to stay in your room until Questor finishes?”
“Yes,” Mistaya said calmly. “But I wanted to watch.” She looked around, interested. “So is there supposed to be mist all over the floor?”
“I’m sure that Questor knows exactly what he’s doing,” Ben said, with more confidence than he felt.
Mistaya looked at him thoughtfully for a long moment, then turned her attention back to Questor as the wizard began his chants. Ben sighed. He really hoped he’d been right about the wizard’s magical abilities. But he was afraid he hadn’t.
Tara, Willow, Xander, and Anya reached the Summers house just as Buffy was letting herself in, and they all entered together.
“Hey, guys,” Dawn said cheerfully. “I was wondering when you were going to get here. You made Amy wait ages.”
Willow frowned. “Amy? Is she here?”
“Well, yeah,” Dawn said, confused. “She said you three were gonna do a spell, and she went to your room to set it up.”
Suddenly, Tara had a very bad feeling about this. “Dawn, how long has Amy been setting up?”
“Um.” Dawn thought back. “I don’t know. Maybe twenty minutes? I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Tara, is something wrong?” Willow asked. “Did you ask Amy over?”
“No,” Tara said. She kept thinking about that missing page of the spellbook. “I think – I think maybe we should go upstairs.”
Hearing something in Tara’s voice, Willow went right away. The others followed slowly. Tara ignored their questions, sticking close to Willow as they approached their room. Her bad feeling was getting worse.
“Hey.” Willow frowned, trying the door. “It’s all locked.” She knocked. “Amy? Are you in there?”
“She is,” Buffy said. “I can hear her chanting.”
“Amy?” Willow raised her voice. “Do you maybe want to come open the door? That is my room, you know.”
There was no answer. Tara’s bad feeling became a bad certainty. “Get the door open,” she said quietly.
“What, now? Do I need to kick it down?” Buffy asked. She didn’t sound too happy with that idea.
“No,” Willow said, putting out a hand. “I think I can do it.” She touched the doorknob and shivered. “She just used the lock. Not a spell.” Willow opened the door. The knob turned easily.
Inside, Amy was seated inside a pentagram, chanting.
“Ok, I’m gonna guess that this is not a good thing,” Xander said, looking worriedly at the smoke.
Tara recognized the set-up of the spell, and the words Amy was chanting. But then, she’d known she would. “Willow, you have to stop her!”
Willow looked dubious. “She’s gone awfully far. What about all that balance of power stuff you were saying? Wouldn’t it be safer to let her finish, then deal with it?”
“No! Trust me, Willow, you have to stop her now,” Tara said urgently. “You can’t let her finish.”
“Dawn, get out of here,” Buffy said sharply, as Willow began. “It’s too dangerous.”
“I’m not leaving,” Dawn said, scowling.
“I don’t want you in this room,” Buffy insisted, as winds began rushing through the room, circling Amy and Willow.
“Ok, fine,” Dawn said. She took a step back, past the doorframe. “I’m not in the room.”
Buffy’s response was cut off as Amy shrieked in pain. She and Willow were staring at each other, both with jet black eyes. The candles around Amy flared up, shooting jets of flame level with Amy’s head. The winds roared around, spreading to encircle the entire room, sweeping up the grey smoke from the floor.
“Let go of it, Amy,” Willow yelled, her voice whipped away in the winds. “You can’t control this. Let it go, and Tara and I will help!”
“I won’t let go,” Amy screamed back. “I can’t! It won’t let me!” She’d given up on the chant when Willow had entered the spell, but the spell just kept on getting worse regardless.
“This is wrong,” Tara said softly, her words lost in the winds. “This isn’t what the spell was meant to do. It’s going very wrong.”
Except for Questor’s chanting, the room was silent, so everyone could hear Mistaya’s words.
“What do you mean?” Ben turned to his daughter suspiciously. “What uh oh?”
Mistaya was pale. “It’s wrong,” she whispered, watching Questor. “It’s all gone wrong.”
“Ben, I think she’s right,” Willow said tensely. “I can feel something – ”
But Willow didn’t get to finish. A girl’s high-pitched scream echoed, disembodied and distant, and heavy winds sprang up, whirling the fog from the floor into a tornado. Questor disappeared from view.
“No!” Mistaya screamed, flinging up a hand. “Stop!”
The winds didn’t seem inclined to obey her. They spun harder and faster, in an expanding circle. Ben pulled Willow and Abernathy onto the stairs with Mistaya, further out of the way.
When he got a good look at his daughter, though, Ben went cold. Her hand was trembling, as if straining against a great weight, and her eyes had turned to black. He reached for her, but Willow stopped him.
“You could make it worse,” she whispered. Ben couldn’t see how it could get worse, but he let his hand drop, limiting himself to watching anxiously.
There was another scream, a woman’s voice, and Mistaya responded with one of her own. Her other hand flew up against whatever force she struggled with. The winds faltered, but didn’t stop.
Mistaya tightened her jaw, staring unseeing at the tornado for a moment. Then she clenched her hands and yanked in the opposite direction that the winds swirled.
There was a high-pitched screeching, like a speeding car trying to brake quickly, and for a brief, confused moment the winds tried to go back in the opposite direction. Then the tornado unraveled, like a spindle allowed to spin backwards, undoing its thread. The winds dissipated, and Mistaya let her hands drop in relief. Then she winced. “Oh.”
Questor Thews was no longer the only person in the circle. Now, he’d been joined by four young women and one young man. Judging by their clothes, they were from Earth, Ben’s native world. And judging from their expressions, they were quickly getting angry.