The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 17 & 18

Standard Disclaimer

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.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 15 & 16]

Chapter 17

It was late afternoon when they reached the crater. Everyone stared as they went off-road, onto the dry dirt, and circled around the outside.

“I haven’t seen it since the day we left,” said Xander. “It’s so…empty.”

“I haven’t seen it, ever,” said Spike. “Was kind of dead at the time. By the way, you’re welcome, everyone.”

For most of the crater’s circumference, it was a sheer drop to the interior. But in one area on the south side, the slope was gentle enough to drive on. They made their way there, and then to the center of ‘town.’

Buffy’s Slayers did their thing, scouting the area, creating a perimeter. Emily led the witches in casting one defense and trap after another, as Willow observed their magic and made the occasional correction. The main spell was a great invisible dome, covering the whole crater, which nothing evil could penetrate.

In theory.

Finally all preparations were complete, all strategies confirmed, everything as ready as it could be. The sinking sun painted the desert red and gold till their growing shadows faded into the general darkness and the first stars appeared. Willow shivered and put on a jacket.

Murmuring something in Latin, Emily started a fire over bare dirt, then pulled a dozen rocks into a circle around it. She sat on one, and Willow made herself comfortable on the rock beside her. Soon Xander, Spike, Dawn, Giles, and even Illyria were seated around the fire. Giles was pointing at the sky, seemingly drawing constellations with his finger.

“Well, isn’t this a cozy little pre-apocalyptic campfire,” said Dawn.

“Technically, all campfires are pre-apocalyptic,” said Xander. “The world has to end sometime.”

“Sure,” said Dawn, “with that attitude.”

Willow rubbed her hands together. “All of us together again, I’d be pretty disappointed if there wasn’t at least one Armageddon to look forward to.”

Xander opened a large travel bag and fished out marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. Spike watched him. “You’re seriously making S’mores?”

“Don’t want ‘em, don’t eat ‘em,” said Xander.

“Hey now, let’s not be hasty,” said Spike. “I never said that.”

Xander passed around the snacks and some metal skewers, as well as boxes of apple juice. Soon Willow found herself eating a S’more for the first time in ages.

“Um, Illyria,” she said, “I think your marshmallow’s done.” It was on fire, black as charcoal, oozing white goo.

“This food is revoltingly saccharine and lacks nutrients,” said Illyria. “I enjoy watching it burn.”

“I said that about Cathy’s sweet potatoes one time,” said Xander. “We still have ladle marks on the wall.”

A figure emerged from the shadows.

Buffy.

“New shift is starting,” she said. “I’m going to sleep now so I can be up by six. If anything happens, get me. I’ll be in that tent over there.”

She nodded once, hesitated, turned to go.

“Hey, Buff,” said Xander. “Stay, why don’t you? One way or another, this is all over tomorrow. We might not get another chance like this.”

“Yeah, come on, Buffy,” said Willow. “We have sugar.”

The Slayer looked around doubtfully, then glared at Spike.

“Oh, come off it, Goldilocks,” said Spike. “If it makes you feel any better, I won’t talk directly at you. Promise.”

After a moment, Buffy sat down between Giles and Emily. She declined an offer of marshmallows.

Awkward silence reigned. Willow began to wonder if inviting her had been a good idea. Come on, she thought, somebody say something.

“So. Illyria.” Xander casually unwrapped another chocolate bar. “You a virgin?”

Dawn spewed out her apple juice, either laughing or choking. Spike grinned. “Xander!” cried Willow, though she was smiling too.

“What?” said Xander. “She’s obviously not shy about, um, biology. Can’t a guy ask a simple question?”

They were all – except Giles – looking at her now. All, apparently, a little bit curious. Even Buffy.

Illyria did her head-tilt thing. “It depends on one’s precise definition of the term ‘virgin.’”

Silence.

“So…many…follow-up questions,” said Xander, pretending to gasp for air. “Can’t…choose…just one…”

“Well,” said Dawn, “I have a question for you, Willow.”

“For Gaia’s sake, Dawn,” Willow said. “I didn’t do it with Faith, and I didn’t do it with Illyria. Just because I’m a lesbian, doesn’t mean I’m some kind of sex-crazed lunatic.”

“Okay, one, our bedrooms used to share a wall,” said Dawn, “so I know exactly what kind of lunatic you are. And, two, not the question I was going to ask.”

She leaned toward Willow from across the fire. “It seems like a good night for a story, and like Xander said, this could be our last chance for a lot of things. I was wondering…well, I guess I’ve always wondered. How did you kill the Senior Partners?”

“Oh.” Willow pulled her jacket a little tighter. “That was so long ago. I doubt anyone’s interested.”

Xander’s hand shot up. “Ooh! I am.”

“Yeah, Will,” said Buffy, “all you ever told me was that you did some kind of spell. I could never get you to spill the details.”

“Maybe that’s a clue, children,” Spike said sourly. “Some things you don’t feel like talkin’ about. Why don’t we leave her be?”

Willow sighed. Spike was right – some memories you would rather forget. And yet, in a way, it might be good to finally tell the story.

She looked at Emily, who gave her a small nod.

“Okay,” said Willow. “Here’s what happened.”

Chapter 18

“To do the spell, we needed space, and we needed privacy. One of our students had a big barn on her property, so we gathered in there. I still remember the smell of hay. The air was chilly. Just before 3 AM. The witching hour.

“We didn’t have any spellbooks or artifacts or anything like that. You don’t need the relics so much for the really professional-grade stuff. We only brought one little thing. I’ll get to that in a second.

“I stood in the center. Seven witches, including Emily, in a circle around me. Fourteen witches in a circle around them. Their job was to stabilize the magic, keep it contained and controlled. My job was to do the spell.

“The plan was simple. Find the Senior Partners, and destroy them.

“Finding them was actually the more complicated part. See, their fortress shifted dimensions every forty-eight minutes or so, and of course it was well-hidden from locator spells. We had to find another way.

“So we used Lilah.”

Buffy frowned. “Time out. Lilah Morgan, the Wolfram & Hart lawyer? I thought she died way before this.”

“She was dead, but still under contract. We needed to summon her, which meant we needed something that had belonged to her. We found a copy of Dante’s Inferno she had given Wesley. Quite lovely, in fact. Sixteenth century. Wesley kept it until his death, then it passed to Charles, who gave it to me.”

Illyria listened. Firelight leaped in her eyes.

“So we summoned her,” Willow continued. “Right into the barn with us. A simple binding spell kept her in place. She started talking, and then shouting, but none of us paid any attention. We were deep in the magic by then.

“She had come from the Senior Partners’ home base, so I just followed her summoning line back to its source. And there they were.

“Once we found them, the rest was simple. I destroyed them, and their fortress, with a basic fireball spell.”

Willow sipped her juice.

“That’s it?” said Xander. “What do you mean, a fireball?”

“A ball,” Emily clarified. “Of fire.”

“Must’ve been a big one,” said Dawn.

Willow smiled.

She pointed at the sky. Giles paused his own calculations to watch her.

“You see that big triangle of bright stars?” she said. “That one’s called Altair. Right beside it, a little to the south, you can see a dimmer star by the name of Alshain. It’s a yellow giant. About ten billion years old. Part of the constellation Aquila.”

She lowered her hand.

“It doesn’t exist,” she said. “It’s gone. Alshain was forty-five light-years away, which means that in another…let’s see…twenty-seven years, it will vanish from the sky. Astronomers will go wild trying to figure out what happened, but they’ll never guess the truth. I channeled its entire energy into the home dimension of the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart.”

They all stared at her in astonishment, except for Illyria, who was unfazed. She said, “The star Gamma Ursae Majoris has certain properties that might have rendered it a more suitable candidate.”

“I thought about that,” said Willow, “but I would’ve felt bad messing up the Big Dipper.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “once the Senior Partners were gone, their contract with Lilah expired. Her body crumbled to dust on the floor. And we all drove home and went to bed.”

“Bloody hell,” muttered Spike.

“So that’s why you…” Xander gestured. “You know.”

Willow nodded. “Apparently, relocating a sun isn’t something the human body is really designed to handle. I burned out as soon as I released the spell. Lucky to have any magic left at all, really.”

Her eyes rested on Dawn once again.

“And that, as they say, is that.”

[Go on to chapters 19 & 20]

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