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Chapter Twenty-Two - Supernatural

'For the last time,' Buffy shouted at Bres, 'I don't know where this Cauldron is.'

'Pity,' Bres said coldly.

Willow strained against her bonds. She could feel them tearing away layers of skin as she writhed, but that was the least of her problems. If she could get her hands free, even just one hand, then maybe she could do something about her predicament. As it was, she hung in the air like a party balloon, with no greater ability to affect her fate.

Buffy, though unbound, looked equally helpless. She was desperate to do something to save her friend, but she had run out of options. Willow's heart went out to her friend and she wished she were not gagged so that she could say some final words of comfort. No, not final. She was not dead yet and while there was life, there was hope. And if ever there was a good time for hope to make itself known, I would say this was it.

Willow twisted her head searching for Tara, wanting to see her one last time.

No way. Uh uh. Not last. Absolutely not. Why do I keep saying that?

She glanced at the pit and tore her gaze away. She so did not want to know what was down there, but now that she had started down that road, she could not stop her imagination from conjuring up the possibilities.

Where was Tara? Please don't let her be…No, there she was. Relief washed over Willow, cleansing her of her fears for just one brief moment. But her relief was tinged with sorrow. Tara was lying on the floor, trussed up in a cocoon, gagged and blindfolded. Willow was going to be denied one final (again with that word) moment with her lover. Willow fought back the stinging tears inside her eyes. Maybe it was better this way. At least, Tara would be spared the pain of watching…whatever they had planned for her.

Hold on a minute. Tara was watching.

By scraping the side of her head against the rough stone floor of the cavern, she had managed to work the blindfold away from one eye. Her hair was filthy and mattered and, even from this distance, Willow could make out a nasty gash on Tara's temple. But she could see and she was looking up at Willow.

Except when she was not.

Tara kept looking away from Willow, her attention caught by something else. But what? Was Tara trying to tell her something? She wished that they were powerful enough to communicate with each other using only their thoughts.

Okay then, no magic. So, what was Tara looking at? Buffy? Buffy's feet? Buffy's right boot was an odd shape, like there was something tucked inside there, something other than Buffy's foot. But what could it be? Willow chewed her lower lip in thought. Knowing Buffy, it would have to be a weapon of some kind. A stake, maybe, or…a knife?

Telekinesis was one of the first skills Willow had learned. Even trussed up like this, she should still be able to float a small knife, but what was she supposed to do with it once it was airborne? It would be a simple matter to sever the rope holding her up, but then she would simply plummet into the pit, which was the one place she was trying to avoid.

However, there were other options.

Willow twisted her head slightly so that she could face Tara and waited until her girlfriend was looking at her again. Then she winked at her, praying that, by some miracle, Tara would get what she was planning.

Hold still, baby, Willow thought. Hold very, very still.

'Lower the witch into the pit,' Bres declared, breaking Willow's train of thought. 'Let her look upon the face of Balor.'

Balor? Willow recognised the name from her researches, but she could not quite place it.

This is so not the time, she scolded herself and, putting the thought from her mind, she concentrated on the knife in Buffy's boot. The knife shot upwards. Its flight path was erratic and unsteady and the blade nicked Buffy's calf as it flew by. Sorry, Willow thought, but she could not allow anything to distract her. The knife wove through the crowd of Fomorii like a silver dragonfly, dipping low as it approached Tara. Tara's body tensed and went rigid just as the knife swooped over her, the blade severing the strands of the cocoon that held her immobile.

And then Tara was free, gag and blindfold torn away, hair and skirt billowing around her, eyes flaring like some vengeful spirit. Willow blinked. She was not used to seeing her girlfriend's shy and quiet demeanour so completely submerged like this.

'Willow!' Tara's voice echoed through the cavern and Willow wished that her gag did not prevent her from responding. Then her eyes went wide as flames danced across Tara's skin, outlining her with a flickering halo. Now Willow understood the cause of Tara's transformation. It was a glamour, an illusion to make one appear to be something one was not. But it was only a minor magick. Tara just did not cast particularly powerful spells and when the Fomorii realised this…

One particularly brave creature scuttled forward, dozens of tentacles leading the way.

'Don't touch me!' Tara snapped at it, thrusting out her left hand in the creature's direction. The monster seemed to lose control of its tentacles and, in a spectacular display of poor co-ordination, ended up flat on its face at Tara's feet. Head held high, Tara stepped right over it. She was holding something in her left hand. Willow could not see what it was from where she was hanging, but she knew enough about that particular spell to deduce that thy must be black cat hairs. Or, more likely, black kitten hairs, shed by Miss Kitty Fantastico.

That's the second time you've saved our lives this week, Miss Kitty, Willow thought.

Tara strode imperiously towards the edge of the pit. Fomorri charged forward in an attempt to stop her, but, inexplicably, just before they could harm her, each Fomor would trip over its webbed-feet or fumble its weapon. Six Fomorrii surrounded the pit, one holding each of the ropes that held Willow aloft. As one, they turned to face the approaching Wiccan.

'Let her down,' Tara ordered them.

One of the Fomorii stepped towards her, clacking its distended jaws angrily. Tara cupped her hands and a blue glow began to form between them.

'Let her down,' Tara repeated, 'or else.'

Stumbling back, the formerly defiant Fomor began untying the rope it was in charge of. Its fellows followed suit, swinging Willow out over solid ground before starting to lower her.

Good thing none of these things knows that's just a tiny Tinkerbell light, Willow mused to herself, with about as much destructive power as a marshmallow.

As soon as Willow's feet touched the ground, Tara was at her side, tearing at her bonds. Then they collapsed into each other's arms, dropping to their knees. Willow found herself supporting almost all of her girlfriend's weight. Tara was shaking and very, very pale now. Sweat slid slowly down her face and, up close, that wound on her head looked even worse.

'Are you okay, Will?' Tara whispered.

'I am now,' Willow replied softly. 'Thanks to you.'

Tara nodded and closed her eyes. She was completely spent.

The clack-clack noise that was the Fomorii language filled the air, grating and hostile. Even with their limited intelligence, it had not taken long for them to realise that they had been tricked, that the scary and powerful magic-user was not quite so scary and powerful after all.

They closed in for the kill.

* * *

Buffy started forward, limping slightly because of the wound in her leg.

'Going somewhere, Slayer?' Bres asked.

He had not moved, but his voice alone stopped Buffy in her tracks. She had heard of someone having a magnetic personality, but this was ridiculous.

'My friends are in danger,' Buffy replied through gritted teeth. She refused to turn and face him. She had that much control left, at least.

'They are not the only ones.'

Buffy heard him step closer. No, not so much heard, she felt him. He had an aura that brushed against her skin, invading every pore. She clenched and unclenched her fists. She wanted to turn, to launch her self at him and then…and then?

'Who are you?' she heard someone say. Was that her voice?

'Why not see for yourself?' Bres suggested.

It seemed such a simple request, so reasonable. Buffy fought to stand her ground, but she was turning. Her feet dragged as she did so, but still she turned to face him.

Bres' hands hesitated at the edge of his hood.

'Among my people,' he explained, 'I was known as Bres the Beautiful.'

Then he threw back his hood.

'Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.'

Buffy could not breathe. She was looking into the face of Riley Finn. No, now it was Pike. And then she could see Angel and her heart skipped a beat. The features kept shifting, kept morphing. Sometimes she recognised something familiar, other times the face was completely new, but always it was perfect, calling to her, reeling her in with the hook that was caught in her heart. It drew her in as the Sirens snared the ancient mariners.

She was lost.

 

 
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