“The Witch and the Dragon” is Buffy fan fic, 28,000 words, over a quarter the length of a typical novel. I finished it in sixteen days. The story grabbed me, demanded to exist, and practically wrote itself. For those two weeks, I was obsessed, working on it every free moment, thinking about it every non-free moment. (Ask Betsy if you don’t believe me.) It was about the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything.
Finally, on February 12, came the moment of truth. Betsy sat down to read it.
When your wife says your story is good, you might wonder if she’s just being polite. But when she reads 28,000 words in a single sitting, without even getting up, you dare to hope that you’ve got a winner. (I later made some more revisions based on her feedback.)
So here it is. I’ll probably post it in two-chapter chunks, one every Monday. [Update: entire story now available online.]
The story’s set in the year 2035, thirty-two years after the end of the Buffy TV show. Why so far in the future?
I was inspired, in part, by the Babylon 5 series finale “Sleeping in Light,” which similarly takes place twenty years after the main arc has ended, gathering the divergent threads of the characters’ lives and weaving them back together one last time. I love the idea of looking ahead, seeing how time and circumstance have changed everyone. How have they matured, and how are they the same? What’s been broken, and what’s been fixed? What’s the fallout of the story you fell in love with? Who are these people, really?
Also I wanted to write a big-ass battle scene, because those are fun.
The story draws on Buffy as well as Angel, so ideally you’ve seen them both in their entirety before reading this. If you’ve only seen Buffy, you can probably get by okay. If you haven’t seen either, you’re welcome to read, but I can’t promise it will make sense. In any case, there are major-league spoilers for both shows, so consider yourself warned.
In terms of continuity, I have (mostly) ignored the comics. I did this for several reasons, not least because I (mostly) haven’t read them yet. Just pretend that only the TV shows are canon.
In terms of content, I’d call this PG-13 for language, violence, and some sexual references. Overall, a little tamer than the shows.
Table of Contents
[Chapters 1 & 2] [Chapters 3 & 4] [Chapters 5 & 6]
[Chapters 7 & 8] [Chapters 9 & 10] [Chapters 11 & 12]
[Chapters 13 & 14] [Chapters 15 & 16] [Chapters 17 & 18]
[Chapters 19 & 20] [Chapters 21 & 22] [Chapters 23 & 24]
[Chapters 25 & 26] [Chapters 27 & 28] [Chapters 29 & 30]
[Chapters 31 & 32]
This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.
The Witch and the Dragon
Willow strode into the high-walled grassy courtyard with a sigh of relief.
A two-hour personnel review, another hour of budget revisions with the Board, a telecon interview with the San Francisco Journal of Metaphysics, half an hour to scarf down lunch – and somehow it wasn’t even noon yet.
Running the San Jose College of Witchcraft left precious little time for witchcraft. But that was about to change.
She kicked off her shoes, savored the cool grass on her bare feet. A breeze played with her short hair, and the California sun warmed her face.
Hello, world. I’ve missed you.
The voice belonged to a lanky, blond-haired boy who barely looked old enough to drive – not that anyone drove much anymore. He got up from his wrought iron chair and crossed the grass to meet her, a gray backpack slung over one shoulder, textbook in hand.
“You must be Marcus,” she said with a smile. He shook her hand vigorously.
“It’s such an incredible honor to meet you, Doctor. Um – should I call you Doctor or President?”
The way he talked to her, like she’d stepped out of a myth, made her feel every bit of her fifty…great Gaia, was she really fifty-four?
She didn’t feel any different. Was it possible the students were getting younger?
“Willow is fine,” she said lightly, sitting down on the grass.
“Oh, uh. Yes, ma’am.” He hesitated, then sat down facing her, depositing his stuff to one side. “Should I take off my shoes, too?”
“Only if you want to.” Willow reached into a blouse pocket and fished out two acorns. “Marcus, I try my best to meet every freshman one-on-one. I want all my students to be excited about magic. But I want them to be careful, too.”
She handed him one acorn and held the other in her open palm. He mimicked her.
“To levitate this,” she continued, “I don’t have to lift it. I just have to weave a gap in the earth’s downward pull. Then, with the slightest push, the acorn will rise on its own.”
She demonstrated, letting it rise a few inches. He did the same, grinning at her.
“It’s a subtle difference, but important. I’m not imposing my will on the universe. I’m finding a way to align its will with my own.”
The acorns fell.
“So many students think magic is about controlling things. That’s absolutely wrong.” She locked eyes with him, gentle but firm. “Magic is about self-control. Do your part, and the universe will do its part. Fail to control yourself, and the results can be devastating. Understand?”
“Yes, yes.” He was nodding. “That makes sense. Um…do you think you could show me with something bigger?” He picked up the textbook. “Like this?”
More. Bigger. Faster. That’s what they all wanted from their magic.
But then, she’d been the same way, at their age.
“I’m afraid acorns are about as big as I can go, these days.” She smiled again, trying to put him at ease. “I hope you’re not disappointed.”
“Oh, no ma’am, not at all. Everyone knows you’re still the greatest witch in the world, even after your…” Suddenly his ears turned red, and he fell silent.
“After my burnout?” said Willow.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s all right,” she said honestly. “That was over fifteen years ago. I’ve moved on. Besides, you can do a lot, even with very little power. For instance – ”
Willow cut off as she noticed her secretary approaching. She frowned. “Margaret, can this wait till after the lesson?”
Margaret knelt beside her and whispered in her ear.
Her skin went cold.
“Please reschedule this young man for another day,” she mumbled, and sprinted back to her office, still in her bare feet.
Willow reclined in the chair, drumming her fingers on the armrest as she tried to think. “And you’re certain of all this?”
On the rectangle of light floating over her desk, a blue-eyed, blue-haired woman tilted her head. “I am not. It is possible my calculations are in error, or that I am misinterpreting the results.”
“But you’re pretty sure?”
“I estimate the likelihood at over ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine– ”
Willow chuckled. “Forgot who I was talking to.”
“I am Illyria Burkle. For a thousand aeons, my armies laid waste to gods and mortals. Now, I conduct physics research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”
Illyria claimed all remnants of the Fred persona had vanished decades ago. That she had taken up her surname and profession to honor a woman who no longer existed.
But Willow couldn’t believe that. She’d only met Fred twice, but she had seen too much humanity in Illyria to accept that Fred hadn’t made a mark.
“Was I correct,” said Illyria, “in assuming that this information would interest you?”
“Yes. Absolutely. Thank you.”
“Then may I ask if you have formulated a course of action?”
She glanced up at the framed diploma on her wall, which assured her that one Willow Danielle Rosenberg still had a PhD in computer science.
“I’m a doctor,” she said. “It’s time to make some house calls.”