The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 19 & 20

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 17 & 18]

Chapter 19

Illyria spoke up again. “Do you regret what you did?”

A weight settled in Willow’s stomach. Tell the story, get it out, and be done, that’s all she had wanted. “I’m sorry?”

“You destroyed a star,” said Illyria. “You committed the premeditated murder of multiple sentient beings. You drastically reduced your own abilities. You put twenty-one other witches at risk. And you toyed with Lilah’s soul. These are morally questionable activities. Do you regret what you did?”

“No,” said Willow. “I did what I had to do. It was the right decision.” All around, her friends nodded.

“I agree,” said Illyria.

“Oh. Well, um…good?”

“So why will you not perform the Almada spell?”

Wow. And she’d thought it was awkward before. Willow’s heart thumped as she searched for the words to respond.

“Someone help me out,” said Spike. “What’s this Almada business?”

“The Almada spell,” Giles chimed in. “A magical means of reversing certain types of otherwise incurable mental illness.”

“Wait,” said Spike. “There’s a spell that can cure him? What’s the catch? Why haven’t you done it?”

“Giles told us not to,” said Willow. “While he was still…himself. He thought it was wrong. Too much like cheating death, meddling in dangerous forces, intruding on the sanctity of the mind.”

Spike snorted. “Okay. And? People say stupid things all the time. Doesn’t mean you punish them by holding their sanity hostage. I don’t even like the guy, but what he’s got, I wouldn’t wish on a dung demon.”

“Spike!” Willow snapped.

“He’s right,” Buffy said quietly.

“I am?” Spike looked over in surprise. “I mean, damn right I’m right.”

“I never understood why you didn’t cure him,” Buffy said. “It wasn’t my decision, so I kept my mouth shut. But I always thought it was wrong to leave him that way.”

“That is my assessment as well,” said Illyria.

“Pretty much,” said Dawn.

“What, all of you?” Willow felt like her skin was getting tight. “Xander, come on, tell them.”

“Sorry, Will, but I vote with the majority. I get what you’re saying, but you’re overthinking it. There’s a disease, there’s a cure. He’s our friend. What else matters?”

She wanted to hide, to run away, but they were all waiting for an answer. She had to give them an answer.

“It’s not up for a vote,” she said roughly.

“Will – ”

“No, Xander, listen. All of you, listen! This has happened before. Don’t you get it? We had this same debate over resurrecting Buffy. Everyone told me to be careful, but what did I do? I ripped her out of heaven. I did that. Giles called me a rank, arrogant amateur, and you know what? He was right.”

“But here I am,” Buffy said quietly. “Because of you, Willow. I don’t wish I was back in the ground.”

“When Tara died,” Willow went on, “you all know what happened. I did what I wanted, whatever I wanted, because I could. This is about self-control. It’s about respecting the universe. You don’t just wave away the things you don’t like. That’s not a path you want to start on.”

“I get it,” said Dawn. “But we’re not talking about ripping anybody’s skin off, Willow. We’re trying to heal him. If one of our lab techs found a pill that would cure Giles, you’d give him that. How is magic any different?”

Willow was shaking her head. “No. No. I’m not explaining it right, I realize that, but none of you understands. None of you has carried the kind of power that I have. Not even you, Buffy.”

“I have,” said Illyria.

Willow blinked in surprise.

“I was a god among gods for longer than the age of the cosmos,” said Illyria. “I murdered trillions of innocents for pleasure. And when I took over this shell, I killed Winifred Burkle, an intelligent human being.”

Spike smiled sarcastically. “You’re, um, not really selling the argument, Blue.”

“I did these things because I lacked a conscience,” she continued. “But I acquired one from Wesley, and from the leftover fragments of Fred’s mind. When Charles Gunn was captured and made to suffer, I ripped a hole between dimensions and brought him back, even though it was the fate he chose for himself. I do not believe I was wrong.”

Head tilt.

“Do you?”

Willow sighed.

It was getting late. Her head hurt, and they faced a battle tomorrow. She wanted to go to bed. The issue had waited ten years. Surely it could wait till morning.

But there, sitting on a rock, alone among friends, squinting at the fire and whispering to himself, was all that remained of Rupert Giles.

She owed him a decision. That much, at least.

“Emily,” she said.

The younger woman jerked, startled. She’d been quiet all this time. “Ma’am?”

“You were there when we killed the Partners. You understand power. Now you’re stronger than me, and you’d be the one to cast the spell. Tell me. What do you think we should do?”

Willow thought Emily would hesitate, defer, try to wiggle out of answering. She should have known better. Emily’s reply came swift and certain.

“I’m game if you are,” she said.

The fire crackled quietly.

After so many years of self-restraint…could she really have been wrong the whole time?

Maybe, sometimes, using the power took more humility than rejecting it.

“All right,” she said. “Let’s bring him back.”

Chapter 20

They gathered in Buffy’s tent, the entire campfire group. Dawn seated Giles on a folding chair in the center. The rest of them stood before him in a semicircle, Emily at the middle, Willow beside her. Two lanterns provided an eerie light.

Emily produced a small tablet and tapped the screen a number of times till she found what she wanted. “Here it is,” she said. “Almada.”

She lowered the device. “Not going to lie,” she said, “this spell makes me pretty nervous. It’s really complicated, it could go wrong in a hundred ways. You’re all sure you want me to try? If it fails, it could do nothing, or we could even…lose him.”

It was Dawn who answered. “We’ve already lost him.”

“Do it,” said Buffy.

“You’ll be fine,” said Willow, wondering if the butterflies in her stomach were in everyone else’s too. “And I’ll be right here to help you.”

“Okay,” said Emily. “Here we go.”

She lifted the tablet and read from the screen, chanting in a low voice.

“Ante leves ergo pascentur in aethere cervi…”

A sudden wind tugged at the tent canvas, shaking the structure. Giles’ mouth fell open. He looked around, startled.

“…et freta destituent nudos in litore pisces…”

A cloud of glowing specks gathered and swirled over his head. He gazed up, eyes widening with terror. Panting. Hyperventilating. “The text is corrupted,” he gasped. “The volumes are misnumbered. Out of order. Out of order. I cannot…I cannot locate the original…”

Dawn bit her lip in worry. Willow set a hand on Emily’s shoulder, watching the spell’s invisible lines, offering what support she could.

“…ante pererratis amborum finibus exsul…”

Wind howled and whirled in the tent now, blowing at their clothes, their hair. The cloud of light over Giles grew brighter. He tried to stand, but some hidden force seemed to push him down. He screamed. Dawn was shouting something, drowned out by the wind. Xander had his arm around her.

Still Emily’s chanting continued, deep and clear somehow despite the whirlwind.

“…aut Ararim Parthus bibet aut Germania Tigrim…”

The glowing nebula filled all the air above, nearly blinding them. The lines of magic, which only Willow and Emily could see, curled and twisted around each other, pirouetted and dived.

The air shrieked. A wide gash ripped across the top of the tent. Giles screamed again and again, his gaunt face resembling a skull in the ghostly light. Dawn tried to run toward Emily, but Xander held her back. Buffy just watched, still as a rock, hair flying in the gale.

“…quam nostro illius labatur pectore vultus!”

The wind died instantly.

Quick as a blink, the cloud of light rushed into Giles’ mouth. His eyes flashed yellow and dimmed. His screaming stopped. Silence. He hunched over, quiet and limp.

Dawn leaped forward and knelt beside him. “Giles,” she whispered. “Giles, are you okay? It’s me. It’s Dawn. Do you know me? Giles, please. Are you okay? How do you feel?”

“No one…” he mumbled.

“What? What are you saying?”

“No one offered me a marshmallow.”

Dawn shook her head. “I don’t…”

“I should have liked a marshmallow,” he said quietly. “Nobody offered me one. Even a madman likes a candy.”

Buffy crowed with sudden laughter. “Giles,” she said. “You’re back? Are you back?”

He looked up now. All around the tent, seeing each one of them. “I feel I might be,” he said, “only I’m not sure where I’ve been.” His gaze turned to the Slayer. “Buffy, what’s going on? What’s happened to me?”

“Oh, Giles,” she whispered, and they all rushed together then, laughing and crying and talking all at once, hugging each other, hugging him.

Finally Dawn shooed them away. “Give him some room,” she said. “Everybody, just give him a second.”

Giles was frowning. “I’m not sure anyone has answered my question.”

“You were…sick,” said Dawn. “A kind of dementia. It’s gradually been getting worse for the last ten years. You were sort of, well, in your own world. We felt like we’d lost you. Do you remember any of it?”

“Well, yes,” said Giles. “More or less. A bit patchy. But, uh, well then, how did I…recover?”

Dawn opened her mouth to answer, but closed it again.

“We sort of, um…” Xander trailed off.

“I did it,” said Emily. “I cast the Almada spell on you. I know it goes against your wishes, and I’m sorry, but – ”

“No,” said Willow, “it was me. I mean, Emily did cast the spell, and she did a fine job, but I take full responsibility. It was my decision.”

“Like hell,” said Xander. “We all chose this. We all decided together.”

“Even me,” said Spike.

Giles got a pained expression. “You let Spike vote?”

“Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do,” said Spike.

Giles glanced at him, did a double-take. “You’re human.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Which means you lot can’t just off me whenever you feel the urge. You’d have, eh…” He searched for the word, then snapped his fingers. “Qualms.”

“You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do,” said Buffy.

Spike leered at her. “No, I have a pretty good idea.”

“One more word – ”

Giles looked wearily at Willow and Emily. “I don’t suppose you could bring the dementia back?”

Just then a tall, red-haired Slayer entered and found Buffy. “Commander, I have news.”

“Not now,” Buffy snapped.

“But Commander, we’ve captured a vampire.”

“Lieutenant, I told you – !” Buffy paused as her brain caught up to her mouth. “A vampire? Here? In the middle of the desert?”

“It approached us with a white flag, ma’am. It wanted to be captured. It’s asking to speak to you. We can kill it if you like, but I thought you should know.”

Buffy nodded slowly. “All right, thank you, Lieutenant. Sit tight for now. I’ll be out in a little while to examine it.”

“Ma’am.” The Slayer left.

“You’re needed,” said Giles. “You ought to go now.”

“We just got you back, Giles. I can’t leave you already.”

“You don’t have to.” He stood up. “We shall go together.”

“Giles!” said Buffy. “It could be dangerous. Besides, you’re…”

“I’m what?” said Giles. “Too old? Too feeble? Rubbish. You are my Slayer, and I am your Watcher, and we shall investigate this matter together. Xander, Willow, you’re with us. The rest of you, stay here and try to keep out of trouble. Come on, everyone, I’m not getting any younger!”

He walked out of the tent.

“Well, you heard the man,” said Buffy, and followed him out. Willow and Xander looked at each other.

“Screw that!” said Dawn. “I had to wipe drool off his chin, I’m not taking his orders now. I’m going to go see a freakin’ vampire!”

“If she’s going, I’m bloody well not staying here,” said Spike.

“I also wish to observe,” said Illyria.

“Fine,” said Willow. “Less talking, more walking.” They all followed Giles together.

Emily brought up the rear. “So, yeah, you’re welcome, everybody! Difficult spell, very dangerous, healed a beloved friend? No problem. Happy to do it. Your gratitude is my reward! Anyone?”

[Go on to chapters 21 & 22]


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