Halfway through the doors of Sunnydale's little airport, Giles took a deep breath. Here, on the Hellmouth, even the air smelled different - as if even the air he breathed was filled with evil.
Haldir walked up behind him, hoisting his carry-on bag over one shoulder. "This is foul land, indeed. Evil's presence here is strong."
Giles shrugged. "It's the Hellmouth." Sometimes, no further explanations were necessary. Spotting Anya waving the passenger seat of an approaching sedan, he headed out the door, with Haldir following
At the house on Revello Drive, preparations were already being made for the ritual to save Legolas.
Willow warded the house against evil, while Dawn gathered a few necessary herbs. Buffy cleared space in the living room, making sure there was plenty of room for the group to gather around while Legolas was healed. As she moved a lamp back out of the way, Buffy glanced up at the box holding the ring. It was evil. It shouldn't be here, not now. The damn thing had nearly led Legolas to his death - it shouldn't be present at his return to life.
She strode over to the mantel and grabbed the box. Buffy was struck by a wave of evil that nearly drove her to her knees. She struggled to her feet, mentally fighting against the power of the ring. "Oh no you don't," she told it.
Buffy took the Ephatra box into the kitchen and tucked it away in an upper cupboard. "There," she said, satisfied with the ring's new resting place. "Out of the way for the ceremony."
Ceremony. Giles had referred to the spell to cure Legolas as a ceremony. Pomp and circumstance and all that. Whatever 'pomp' was.
"Got the smelly herbs," Dawn entered the kitchen, a bounce in her step.
"Go Dawn," Buffy smiled proudly. Her little sis was getting to be quite the mini-Wicca.
The door opened with a bang. The Summers women hurried into the foyer. Xander and Anya entered the house, followed by Giles and an Elvish-looking blonde man that must be Haldir.
"Giles!" Dawn exclaimed, running forward and throwing herself into the Englishman's arms.
"Dawn." Giles smiled despite himself, momentarily ignoring the solemnity of the situation they were facing.
Dawn released him, stepping out of the way so he could see Buffy behind her. Giles' smile broadened as his slayer came into view. "Buffy."
When she saw Giles, she knew that everything would be okay. Silly, she knew. She was a grown woman, no longer the innocent girl who had learned at his side. But he was Giles. He was her father, in every way but biology...and she knew he would somehow make everything all right.
Giles stepped forward, reaching out to envelop Buffy in a hug. She looked so grave, so grown-up, but at the core, she was still his slayer... his surrogate daughter.
"Guys, I hate to break this up," Xander interjected, looking over into the living room. "But Legolas is starting to fade again."
The group turned to look at the unconscious elf. His skin had taken on a decidedly gray tone, and his breathing was quickening.
"Hurry," urged Haldir. "We haven't much time."
The seven stood in a circle around Legolas, who lay silent and still on the living room floor, surrounded by a ring of fragrant herbs. Haldir stood by his friend's head, a shiny orb in one hand, a candle in the other. At his right, Giles lit his candle, touching his candle to Anya's, then Dawn's, Xander's, Buffy's, Willow's, and finally Haldir's in sequence around the circle. Haldir began chanting, ancient words in a language none of the rest understood.
Wind began to rise, circling the group, whipping Willow's hair away from her face and nearly extinguishing her candle. She cupped one hand around the candle, protecting the flame. She closed her eyes, silently praying to any deity listening that they ritual would work. Legolas was fading fast. She felt his life essence ebbing, his spirit beginning to slip from his body. She felt it all thorough the mystic connection that bound them together. Live, she silently urged him, trying to compel him through her force of will to hold on long enough for the ceremony to save him.
The wind circled around Legolas's prone body, throwing the herbs into a whirling circle in the air. He began to shudder as the forces in the room grew stronger.
Then Willow spotted it. A dark shape, hovering over Legolas. The poison made visible in a cloud of evil.
Haldir's voice grew louder, more compelling, and the shadow begun to shake. Quivering, it tried to push its way back into Legolas's body, but was thwarted. The spell, once set in motion, could not be reversed.
The darkness grew larger until it could no longer resist the pull of the spell, was caught up in the wind. Helpless against the strength of the spell, it was sucked through the air and trapped in the orb Haldir held.
Once the shadow had been captured, Haldir's chant stopped and the wind died down to nothing. The elf blew out his candle, the others following suit. "It is done," he said, looking down at his old friend. Legolas's color had returned to normal, his breathing quiet and calm.
Willow broke the circle, kneeling down at Legolas's side. She gently stroked his face, leaning down to drop a soft kiss on his lips. "Return to me, my love," she whispered, and was rewarded by the opening of his bright blue eyes.
"Willow." His voice was husky, like it had been unused for months instead of mere days. "Meleth nin."
Legolas pulled her down on top of him, delighted to be feeling her in reality instead of simply in their shared dreams. He captured her lips, probing against them with his tongue.
Willow opened her mouth to his tender assault, moving closer to his body as his hands came up to cup her face. He was alive, he was whole, and he was in her arms. Despite the threats that lurked outside their walls, and the evil ring within, in that one moment all was right with the world.