The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2014 12:39 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...

Coming Home

Tara comes back to Willow. Not by wish or misunderstanding, but because she wants to. Badly enough to fight her way home. She brings herself back, and makes a few friends along the way.

Author notes:
This was an expiation of pain for me. My attempt to ‘fix’ ME’s god-awful screw-up.
It was also based on a role-playing game, or at least the prequel part is. The whole story was meant to be the prequel, with me writing of Tara’s adventures and her growth as a character.

I shortened the story a good deal, added a bunch of new things and kept writing about the Scoobies adventures after Tara got home.

If you notice random changes in writing quality, it’s because I didn’t write the whole thing in the correct order. I’m not nearly that logical.
I wrote Tara’s return first, to give myself a goal to meet.

I don’t own Willow and Tara or Buffy or any of the Scoobies. If I did, they would all be living next door to each other, some would be married, and they would still be having adventures to this day. Oh hey, they are.

I also don’t own the art for the banner. That was painted by the amazing Aleksi Briclot and used without permission. I saw that picture and thought "That looks a good bit like Tara" and thus the basis for this story was born.
Why does ‘Tara’ have a giant battle axe?
Read and find out.
I think you’ll be surprised.

Generally PG, with some smut, way way later. There are some descriptions of violence.

I wanna thank Matty-matt, who is largely responsible for almost the entire second story.
I wanna thank Heather, for offering words of encouragement, for helping me with the smut, and just generally being awesome.
I wanna thank Julie, my ray of sunshine in a dark time :)
I want to thank Tim Brannon for graciously allowing me to use some of his past-life ideas. I took them in a different direction than he did, i think, but the idea was his! :P
I want to thank Lisa Countryman for the use of her Guardians of the Flame idea. I also took this in a different direction than she did, but they're her people. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent :)
And lastly I wanna thank Jetwolf, for writing a REAL season 8 and 9.
If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be a kitten, and if I wasn’t a kitten, I don’t think I’d be here.
And lastly I want to thank the Kittens, who wrote such wonderful stories and gave me back my soul. They taught me to cry and made me laugh.
For the Kittens...
For Tara.

This story takes place post-Chosen. A couple of months after the battle, the Scoobies are training the next generation of Slayers, thought they haven’t gotten completely organized yet. Slayer Central is in a sleepy little town called Diamond Falls, a convenient distance from a number of smaller hell mouths.
Members of Angel’s crew show up from time to time, so this is set in Season (I don’t care) of Angel. Cordelia is one of the Powers That Be, though to her annoyance everyone refers to her as a Whitelighter. Angel is still around, whiney Connor is off with a foster family or something, Wes & Fred & Gunn are around, and no creepy incestuous stuff is happening with anyone.
Details about the Scooby gang you can get from reeeeding .
This is not a crossover with Charmed. Xander and Dawn just watch too much TV.
The story is broken up into two parts: Part one is told in flashback format, where Tara tells the Scoobies of her adventures, and how she made it home.
Part 2 is set just before she gets home to Willow, and their continuing adventures after.
This is AU from Chosen onwards. Because JW sucks at comics.

Pairings: the expected ones, nothing weirder than usual here.
W/T B/F X/? D/? G/?
None for Spike. In fact no Spike at all.
Also, apologies if I get stuff from late S6 or S7 wrong.

It’s a weird thing, but when I watched Buffy the first time round, I wasn’t super focused on Tara, but I knew I liked her. And then when she left, I just stopped watching. She was my favourite, and I didn’t even realize. I never realized how much I missed her, until I read Jetwolf’s series. Thanks JW!

Too many to count, but I’ll list a few that influenced the story or me significantly: Unexpected consequences by Lisa Countryman. The Wave by LonelyTara. Endless by Mike of the Nancy Tribe. Willow’s Child by boop-oop-ee-doo, Meant To Be by Hellmouthadmin/Hellmouthguy, and everything by Jetwolf, who kindly gave me permission to use her imaginary setting to base the Scoobies in. I imagine by the time you read this though, I’ll have changed the name. I didn’t want to break her place, so I made my own, but it’s based on hers. Yeah. That.
Oh, and ‘I Am What I Am’ by M McGregor, which has some of the most awesome stuff I have ever read, in it.
Tara’s not in it, and the story focuses on Xander. But it has the best Willow ever.
She removes her own soul, labours for seventy straight years, and bends time back on itself. For one thing, and one thing only: To. Save. Tara.
Now that’s love.

Book 1

“So you’re really gonna do like, some old-lady, story-time thing?” Faith said.
Tara nodded and smiled. “Mmm-hmm. I promised Dawn that I would.”
She sat down on the couch, tucking her skirts neatly under her. “Besides, there is so much to explain.”
Faith sprawled on the other couch, taking up most of it. “Fair enough. Makes a change from watching cheesy movies, I guess.”
She yawned. “B shouldn’t be too long, just finishing up a class.”
“What’s the class?”
“How to make pointy shit in an emergency. Y’know, improvised weapons and junk like that.”
“A valuable lesson.”
“Heh, the mini-me’s like it, ‘cos they get to spend the day breaking shit.”

Tara pulled out a floppy, leather-bound journal, and started quietly browsing through it.
Eventually she nodded and slipped a bookmark into place. “Where are the others?”
“Xan-man is showing contractors around the new building site, lil’D and the terrible two are workin’ a case, an’ G-man will be along in a bit.”
She grinned at Tara. “You and Red looked pretty cuddly earlier. Where is she?”
“She’s just finishing an introductory class. Demon identification for the new witches. She’ll be along shortly.”
She looked up from her book, meeting Faith’s gaze. “And yes, there were cuddles.”
A smile spread across her face. “You looked pretty cuddly yourself earlier.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “Yeah yeah, big bad Faith likes to get cuddly. Move on Blondie.”
“Willow’s coming,” Tara said with a soft smile.
Faith chuckled. “You look all kindsa cute when you do that.”
“Well, I have a very cute girl.”
“True dat. So, what’s with this story thing?”
“Well I mentioned that I was away-”
“Dead,” Faith interjected.

“I wasn’t dead long Faith. Mostly I was away. But anyway, other than saying ‘um, It sucked, but I learned stuff,’ there’s too much to tell in one sitting. So I thought I could tell it like a story, and it might be something nice to do together, like a family time.”
“Sure. Beats TV. So what do we get? You gonna tell us why you’re really-really blonde now?”
“Hmm, I guess. But there’s a lot I have to put into context, I mean I can’t just say ‘I jumped off a building and learned a lot about myself.’ That just doesn’t make any sense. But you have Angels and vampires to look forward to, flying ships and floating cities, dragons and towers that reach into the clouds.”
“Fighting and fucking?”
Tara looked a little embarrassed. “Um, yes. Lots of fighting, and some of my friends found love.”
“But not you huh? Rough.”
“I had something far more important to do.”
Faith was impressed. Tara was soft-spoken, and almost never raised her voice. But there was quiet steel in her voice now, and a look of silent determination in her eyes.
“I had to get home to Willow.”

And that was it. Faith knew without being told, she could see it in Tara’s eyes.
She could see that for a long time, Willow had been the driving force in Tara’s life. She knew that kind of focus from personal experience.
“Without her, without her memory to push me, I would never have made it. She made me get up when I was hurting. When I was too exhausted to move another step, Willow gave me the strength to walk another mile. The Goddess herself may have helped me Faith, but even she couldn’t give me the strength that I needed. Only Willow could do that.”
Tara smiled a little. “No, Willow. Say it with me Faith, Wi-llow.”
“Har de har.”

“Did someone call?” Willow said, scurrying into the room, looking a little flustered.
“Thought you were working?” Faith asked.
Willow grinned. “I have them all levitating ping-pong balls and studying for a demony quiz. You should see them, concentrating furiously as they float stuff about. They’re so cute. But those are two things that don’t actually require me to be present. So here I am.”

She flopped down on the couch and let out a huge huff. “Long day. Much witch-wrangling was done. I swear, trainee witches are every bit as wacky as trainee slayers.”
She leaned into Tara, snuggling slightly as Tara put her arm around her. “Suddenly I feel better.”
“So do I.”
Tara leaned her head against Willow’s with a content smile.
Willow sighed happily as Tara gently stroked her hair.
“Rest sweetie. The others will be here soon.”
“Mmm, I could drift away right here.”
“You’ll miss all the fun Red.”
“I’m patient, I can wait.”

Faith snorted. “Yeah right. I’d totally believe you. Except for the having met you part.”
Willow smirked. “Ok, you got me. I want to know everything. But can you blame me?”
She touched Tara’s cheek with a look of wonder. “My girl came back from the dead. How many can say they did that?”
“Don’t mean to rain on your parade Red, but around here, it ain't that rare.” She ticked off her fingers. “B, twice, Angel, Queen C, me.”
Willow pouted. “Ok, so it’s not exactly unique, but it means the world to me.”
“Then I’m in very good company,” Tara said with a smile.

The quiet sounds of complaining drifted up the corridor. “Stupid, weirdly shaped, chair.”
“If you’d just let me grab the other end of it Buffy, I’m sure things would go much more smoothly.”
More muttering was heard. “Stupid, helpful, watcher man.”
“And there’s B now,” Faith put in.
Buffy staggered in, carrying a large, overstuffed recliner.
While the weight of the chair was no issue to someone as strong as she was, it was extremely cumbersome and unevenly weighted for a small woman to deal with.

Giles strolled in sedately behind her and pointed to the floor. “Here, if you would be so kind?”
“Stupid, polite, English guy,” Buffy muttered.
She put the chair down awkwardly and overbalanced, ending up sprawled across it.
“Yep, there’s them Slayer reflexes. Good to know ya still got it B.”
Buffy squinted comically at Faith.

Her next comment was lost when an exhausted Dawn staggered into the room. Wordlessly she dumped a load of weapons, straps and gear and fell face-down onto the remaining couch with a groan.
“Sweetie, you look exhausted,” Tara said, her voice tinged with concern.
Dawn mumbled something inaudible into the cushion. Eventually she rolled over. “Oh god I’m so tired. This is why it sucks to have besties that are also Slayers. They forget that you can’t just go all day, and all night.”

Faith grinned evilly. Buffy glared at her and her grin widened, but she managed to say nothing. She patted the couch next to her. “C’mon B. I saved ya a spot.”
Buffy sat down primly next to Faith, only to yelp as she was poked in the ribs.
“Quit it!”
Buffy swatted Faith, only to be rewarded with another poke in the ribs, and a yelp.
“Stop poking me!”

“Zug Zug!” said Xander, wandering into the room. He had a pack, and a belt full of tools, which he cheerfully dumped on the floor.
Everyone looked at him blankly, save Willow. She at least grinned at him a little sheepishly.
“I need more guy friends. Or at least ones that play video games.”
He lifted Dawn’s feet, sat down and replaced them in his lap. “Who’re we waiting for?”
“Just you man.”
“Cool.” He reached into his pack and pulled out a big bottle of coke and a bag of corn chips. “I’m good, let’s do this.”

Tara nodded. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess…”
“Really?” Willow said, surprised and intrigued.
Tara smiled. “No, just teasing.”
Willow pouted, prompting Tara to lean forward and kiss her softly. Willow smiled radiantly.
“I think the best place to start, is probably when I got to Sharn, the city of light.”
She leafed through her journal to her bookmark.
And with a nod, she began.

The City
Dear Tara,
I have taught you all that I can that is compatible with your nature. As much as I would answer all your questions, I cannot. The kind of knowledge you seek cannot be found here in the wilds, nor is it found among the lore of the Gatekeepers. The beginning of your path will be found in the city of light, the greatest of all cities in the world. When you arrive in the city, seek out Lady Eleanor Deveraux at Morgrave university and give her the letter of introduction I have given you. She will be best placed to help you find the answers you seek, and perhaps work to sustain you.
Durant asked me to add this message to you, ‘watch out for Shadows. They move when you're not looking at them.' I know not the meaning of what he wrote, but his speech was solemn and his expression concerned, so I took heed.
My dreams have been dark of late. Terrible visions of darkness and death stalk my slumber. My dear, I fear that the visions I see somehow pertain to you and your situation.
Be careful Tara, I sense dark forces moving in our world, and fear they mean you no good at all.
May those who stand against darkness, walk by your side.
Signed: Elder Gann.

Tara sighed, she must have read that letter at least once a day since she set out.
“Come Tara. The inn is close. We rest there,” her companion rumbled.
Tiredly she put away her letter and shouldered her pack, its heavy canvas and leather sticking to her bare back in a manner she found most unpleasant.
What a pair they made, the barbarian woman and the feather-winged dragon-man.

“Sexy Amazon” sighed Willow, snuggling into Tara’s lap.
“Shhh... sweetie, let me tell the story, or we’ll be here all night,” Tara admonished.
“Mmm... that looks pretty good from here,” smiled Willow.
“That means less time for snuggles. Are you sure?” Tara said with a wry smile.
“Shutting up now.”

‘Barbarian apparently means both sticky and gross,’ she thought to herself. The sun blazed down from a sky of deep, rich blue. The heat it generated was impressive, not helped by the general humidity.
“I need to find clothes not made of leather or fur,” she grumbled. In truth she was not wearing a great deal of clothing, leaving plenty of tanned skin on display, but her halter top was made of soft leather, her short skirt of wolf pelt and her high boots of leather trimmed with rabbit fur.
As comfortable as they were, they were not the best suited to the weather. In an environment best described as ‘Mediterranean,’ the locals wore clothing to match, lightweight skirts and halters, togas and the like. Tara’s display of skin attracted no attention from the locals ‘local humans,’ she reminded herself, though her clothing marked her as an outsider.

“Were there sexy elves? Y’know, like lord of the rings,” asked Xander, a faraway look in his eye.
“Well, there were delicately built folk with a talent for magic and pointed ears, though most folk there had pointed ears. They weren’t quite the same, but ‘Elves’ will do for our story. Sexy? Well... I’ve always been drawn to women of a ‘willowy’ persuasion,” Tara replied. She smiled down at the fire-haired pixie beaming up from her lap.

The mismatched duo attracted a great deal of attention on the road, some friendly, some fearful. No one ever gave a second glance to Tara when Takarn was around. It was funny in a way, Takarn was humble, brave and oddly kind, for all that he was a powerful warrior. He never thought to stand out or attract the spotlight, he never sought applause or reward. Yet he attracted attention everywhere he went. This may have been due the rarity of Lizard-men (or Dragon-men as his people were generally called) or it could have been his huge size. Tara suspected it was more to do with the fact that he wore brightly polished armour and had acres of wingspan.

Tara grinned to herself. Small children found him absolutely fascinating, much to the taciturn Takarn’s discomfort. He was both shiny and brightly coloured, and thus a magnet for children in any town. It was not enough that he had 2 acres of wingspan, no, it was 2 acres of rainbow coloured wingspan. Takarn could not hide in a carnival, which may have been why he never bothered. It got so routine that they had developed the habit of grooming his wings for loose feathers whenever they approached a village. If they gave away a few huge rainbow feathers, it stopped little tykes trying to grab their own souvenirs, which was both painful and annoying.

A happy Tara handed Willow a huge blue feather, a smile lighting her features when Willow’s eyes lit up with child-like joy.
There were tears in Buffy’s eyes as she watched the pair.
She had her best friend back. At long last Willow was truly whole.
‘It’s ok B, they’re good,’ said Faith in her private whisper.
‘I know Faith, I’m just so glad to have my family back,’ Buffy whispered back.
‘Shhh, no more pain, remember?’
‘Tears of joy Faith, you seem to have some yourself’ Buffy gently teased.
‘I just got somethin’ in my eye is all. Quit tryin’ to bust my image,’ Faith grumbled.

‘I wish he could meet my friend, she’d like him' Tara thought. Then she stopped, puzzled. In her confusing life so far, she had few friends. Those she had were good friends to be sure, but sharply limited in number. Who was she thinking of?
Takarn noticed her puzzled expression, slowly drifting towards frustration and distress. He sighed, though it came from his massive chest as a rumble. He reached out a blunt-clawed hand and poked her in the upper body. “Leave it be Tara. It will come in time,” he growled.

Tara rubbed her boob “Delicate remember? Not convenient handles. Or buzzers.”
Takarn’s dragon-like visage became somewhat more threatening for a moment as his mouth dropped open slightly in a grin. “I forget. Don’t usually spend too much time with human females.”

Tara had become used to the scaled man’s expressions over their weeks of travel. “What are your females like Takarn?” she asked.
“Strong. Tough. Brown-er,” he said, parcelling out each carefully packaged word.
“Less colourful? She asked, gesturing at his rainbow-hued wings.
“Special, remember? Marked by the Flame. No wings for my people.” He explained.
Tara smiled a crooked smile.
Takarn pointed “See? Inn. As promised,” he said succinctly.
Tara saw the inn at the crest of the hill, a number of carts and wagons parked in a marshalling yard to the side of the blocky brick building.
“Paladin remember? No lying here,” he grinned.

“What’s a Paladin?” asked Xander.
“A holy knight, Xander. A warrior with a calling from a higher power, one that fights the forces of darkness. Much like Buffy. Though typically, somewhat better disciplined.” Giles said with a small smile.
“Hey! Offended Slayer gal here! I’m all with the discipline and restraint and other suchlike virtues,” Buffy protested.
“There’s a shoe sale in town tomorrow, Buffy. Wanna blow-off training and go shoe shopping?” asked Willow excitedly.
“Totally. I’m so there,” Buffy responded instantly.
“My point exactly, thank you Willow,” Giles replied with a sigh.
“Shhh!” Snow-white’s tellin’ the story,” said Faith, oddly facinated.

Tara adjusted the sitting of her pack, sticky against the bare skin of her back. The tiredness of her muscles reassuring in a way she could not quite fathom.
‘Bath, definitely’ she thought to herself.
The pair plodded towards the inn, and as they crested the rise they understood why was so precisely situated.
In the distance, some miles away yet, rose Sharn, the city of light. It was breath-taking, like the cities of heaven. Situated on a bluff overlooking a mighty river, the city’s huge spires of crystal and gold reached high into the sky, impossibly high.
“W-wow,” stammered Tara.
“Indeed,” her companion agreed.
The local folk on their wagons grinned and gestured to each other at the obvious new arrivals, enjoying the stunned expressions.
Takarn and Tara gazed for a moment, awestruck at the city called with reason ‘The Greatest City in the world’. Air ships and winged creatures came and went from the bustling city’s mile-high spires. They saw that some of those spires did not touch the ground, they simply rested in place quite sedately, without visible means of support.

“It’s huge!” she breathed.
“Indeed,” came the rumbled response.
“Merciful Goddess! how are we going to find anyone in there?” she gasped.
“Carefully. And without falling off anything. I have wings. You don’t,” he said, completely missing Tara’s fleeting expression of discomfort.
“Come. A soak in hot scented water awaits you,” he said.
“And you?” she prodded.
He grinned. “An obscenely large meal of roasted meat.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Of a named animal.”
Eagerly they both hurried to the large brick inn.

Tara entered the room first and was pleasantly surprised to find a clean, well-appointed inn that would not have looked out of place... somewhere else. She shook her head, ‘time enough to figure that out in a hot bath’ she thought.
Takarn eclipsed the daylight behind her, stopping all conversation immediately.
It was an effect she had grown used to, in fact it was quite useful I a way for working out what kind of establishment that had walked into. If the locals looked worried, but relaxed when they saw the emblem on Takarn’s armour, then it was a good sign. If they got more concerned when they recognized the bearer as a member of a holy order... well that was a bad sign. Luckily it had happened only once.

Tara winced internally at the thought of the violence and bloodshed that had been unleashed that night.
“Relax Tara. They’re relaxed. We are relaxed. You go... relax,” he said with a reptilian grin.
Tara smiled and squeezed his huge finger.
He patted her on the shoulder with surprising gentleness and left to order his obscene quantity of meat.
“Excuse me love, you look a bit lost,” said a helpful voice.
Tara turned to the smiling barmaid and recoiled. Something about her red lipstick and mass of wavy blonde hair shocked Tara. A ghost of terrible pain and fear passed over her, leaving exhaustion in their wake.

“Oh, baby. Did she look like you-know-who?” asked a concerned Willow.
“If you mean Glory, then yes, though she was a much um... bigger girl,” said Tara, gesturing vaguely at her chest with a touch of embarrassment.

The nice barmaid looked concerned. “Miss? Are you alright?”
‘What she must think of me,’
Tara thought.
“I’m fine,” she said tiredly. “Just the ghost of past pains.”
“Your face went as white as your hair, love. You should sit down, have a drink or some such, put some colour in them pretty cheeks,” she said patting Tara’s hand gently.
Tara smiled a wistful smile and said “What I would really like is a hot bath.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place then love. You have a seat here and I’ll go upstairs and run you a bath, alright?” she smiled at the shaken Tara. Bustling with efficiency, she moved briskly up the stairs to prepare Tara’s bath.

The floorboards creaked and Takarn sat down with a thump on the bench across from Tara. He laid a huge steaming platter of pork on the table between them and leaned his monstrous sword against the bench.
“Good cook your new friend. Have some,” he invited.
“Goodness! Did you get any actual vegetables?” she said, eyeing the enormous mound of crispy roast pork.
Wordlessly he pointed at 3 small roast potatoes hidden amongst the meat.
Tara stifled a giggle and swiped a crispy bit of crackling off the top of the pile. Takarn didn’t eat often, but when he did, he put away enough to feed a small army.
Watching him eat was an exercise in carnage, but one she had become accustomed to. She smiled, crunching her piece of yummy crackling, he could put... someone to shame. Her brow wrinkled in frustration.

“Xander! You were remembering Xander!” burst out Buffy, looking awfully pleased with herself.
Xander squinted comically at Buffy. He had a mean squint.

“Again?” he said noting the sudden change in her expression.
She nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s happening more often.” He stated.
Tara nodded. “It’s just so frustrating. I can feel memories, thoughts, feeling just out of reach. And they’re deep Takarn, flashes of people I really care for. I just feel so lost. A few scattered memories of my mother and a few skills, that’s all I have. How could I lose people that I care about so deeply? What could have happened?” she agonized.

“What set it off this time?” he said between heroic chewing forays.
Tara held up her hand and ticked off: “Thinking about how someone I know would like you, that nice blonde hostess, and watching you inhale half a pig. And that is just this afternoon.”
“This is not half a pig. I can eat half a pig. This is very good. Mmm... gravy.” He rumbled happily.
Tara hid a smile behind her hand, her eyes dancing.

Licking gravy off his chin with his long blue tongue, he postulated “You know a sun-crested female. Who can inhale half a pig. And would probably like me? A warrior perhaps?”
“You know that does sound familiar. Yes, I think so.” Tara said thoughtfully.

“Oo-oo-oo!” said Willow, waving her arms excitedly from Tara’s lap. “Buffy! That’s Buffy!”
Faith burst out laughing, the rest of the Scoobies had grins on their faces with the noticeable exception of Buffy, who was protesting.
“Half a pig!? I’m not liking this story much so far, everyone’s being mean to me,” she pouted.

“Is, is not. No ‘think’. Gann was right Tara. Your answers are here. And your frightening sun-crested friend.” He said pointing over her shoulder.
Tara saw the blonde hostess waving, she gestured upstairs. Tara waved back, relieved that no more flashes were coming.
“Enjoy your pig,” she said. She swiped a particularly succulent piece of pork from the visibly reduced mound and hurried away.
Happy chewing sounds were his only response.

“Do you want me to help you bathe?” said the friendly blonde hostess.
Tara blushed furiously. “Um, no th-thanks, I can handle it I think. Uh...”
“Meg, my name is Meg. Don’t feel embarrassed sweetie, different folks, different cultures, nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“I think she liked you baby,” grinned a cheeky Willow.

“Lots of high-born ladies come through here, or those that like to think they are. I often help them with awkward clothing or wash their hair,” Meg said gesturing to Tara’s long white braid and a shelf filled with numerous small bottles of a herbal nature.
“Th-thanks for the offer. Um... I might pass on the clothing thing, but I would like some help with my hair later on, I-if that’s ok?” she stammered gently.
“Of course sweetie. How about I knock on your door in half an hour?” she said.
“Thank you, you’re very kind.” Tara said shyly.

Meg smiled, handing her a batch of fresh fluffy towels and a bar of soap.
“See you in half an hour,” she said, turning over an hour glass by the window.
As soon as Meg left, Tara peeled off her clothes with obvious haste and delicately lowered herself into the steaming tub with the traditional “, hot, eep! Ahhhh!” as delicate parts made contact with the hot fragrant water.
She hummed a happy, sleepy tune to herself as she floated in the huge tub, a tub large enough for two she thought idly. The aches and pains of the journey drifted away, aided by the herbs in the bath water.
‘I almost makes it worth marching across the country for days, to feel like this,’
she thought to herself.
She lifted a leg out of the bathwater and pointed her toes, admiring the way the muscles rippled under her tanned skin, ‘there are other compensations though.’

“Oh yeah! Sexy Tara legs!” Willow said, grinning.

Tara managed to get thoroughly clean and have a gentle snooze floating in the soapy water before she was roused from her slumber by a gentle tap at the door.
“Hmm?” she summoned.
“Only Meg, sweetie,” came the voice and the sound of an opening door.
“Mmm...” Tara said dreamily.

“Feel good? I imagined some relaxing herbs would do you the world of good, especially if you’d been on the road for a while,” Meg said, setting up a stool and basin at the head of the bathtub.
Meg carefully unbound Tara’s lengthy braid and combed it out, before filling the basin with hot water and the contents of one of the little bottles. Tara sighed as the smell of honeysuckle filled the air, and felt the gentle tugging sensations of someone else washing her hair. After several minutes of gentle hair washing and scalp massage, Tara was in heaven. Meg hummed a happy little tune to herself as she washed Tara’s hair, which in due course was rinsed and conditioner was applied. Tara joined in with her own lazily hummed counterpoint to Megs tune.

“There you go sweetie, just rinse off and you’re all done... You sure you don’t want a hand with anything else?” she said with just a hint of suggestion.
“No-thank-you” said Tara in a lazy singsong voice.
Meg smiled slightly ruefully and bid her a good evening, along with the traditional admonishment not to turn into a prune.
Tara’s stomach growled and she sighed, ‘Time to get out of the bath and get something to eat’ she thought to herself.

Still humming her happy tune, she towelled off and dried her hair, wrapping it in a towel turban.
‘It was nice of Meg to leave me some extra towels’ she thought to herself, ‘nice to make a new...’ “eep!” she squeaked as realization dawned. ‘did she just... was she...’ Tara blushed furiously.

“I knew it!” a horizontal Willow, chirped triumphantly.
“Shush,” said Tara bopping a cheeky Willow on the nose.
Tara thought about Meg and her generous ‘attributes’. ‘Nice’ she thought, ‘but not for me’. She thought about some of the druids and rangers she had met while with Gann, and thought about the handsome men-folk below.
Her nose wrinkled slightly ‘No thanks.’ She thought about the female rangers she had met, there was one woman of partly elven ancestry... slim, athletic, hair like fire... still not right, but closer.

“You see sweetie? Even when I couldn’t remember my own name, I still remembered something about you,” she smiled down at her love.
“My poor baby, it must have been so hard,” Willow said, tears in her eyes.
“No more pain sweetie,” she said stoking Willow’s soft hair. “don’t be afraid, this story has a happy ending.”
“The happiest!” sang out Dawn, from the couch.

Tara wandered downstairs in a fresh set of travel clothes. They might be all leather and fur, but at least they were clean.
She found Takarn enjoying a huge drink of ale from his huge and oddly shaped tankard. He was essentially pouring ale down a spout into his mouth. There was a certain amount of splashing.
Tara sniffed. “Is that ginger beer? Any good?”
Takarn nodded, savouring his drink.
Tara returned from the bar with a far more modest platter of roast pork and vegetables.
“Look! Real vegetables!” she teased.
He rolled an eye at her and blew her a raspberry. When a giant lizard blows you a raspberry, you notice.

“Damn Glinda! I think I love this guy!” Faith said, attracting Buffy’s swat across the back of her head.
“Can you please settle on a knick-name already?” Willow grumped. Her fierce glare somewhat diminished by her fuzzy pink sweater and her horizontal lap-filling position.
“Hey you gotta work into these things properly Red. Gotta get it right. There’s a science to it, ‘s gotta be unique and short. See I only call Buffy ‘B’ ‘cos her name is so weird anyways. Seriously B, what was your mom thinking?” Faith exclaimed.

“Buffy is short for Elizabeth as you well know, ‘Beth’ just doesn’t bear thinking about. Yuck. Phooey to Beth I say” Elizabeth/Buffy complained.
“Um, Buffy? Your birth certificate says ‘Buffy’,” Willow said.
Buffy pouted. “I know. I was hoping no-one else did.”
Faith smiled, dimples showing. “Well, about Tara, Snow-White is pretty good, but it’s too long and ‘White’ just sounds bizarre. I like ‘Glinda the good witch’ but I want something crunchy. I can’t use ‘dead girl’ or ‘the littlest angel’ ‘cos they suck. I’ll keep working on it.” Faith explained.
Tara smiled at her friends good-natured bickering.
It was good to be home.

After Tara had finished watching his waggling tongue (with a sense of horrified fascination) she was able to polish off her roast pork dinner in a more sedate fashion than her ravenous companion. The ginger beer was indeed quite good.
Tara groaned around a stuffed tummy.

“Tomorrow we enter the city. It will take us a day to find suitable lodgings. And this ‘Lady Devereaux’ you’re to meet.” He said in his choppy manner.
“Thank you Takarn,” she said reaching out and taking his massive finger in her hand. “Y-you are a good friend, and I appreciate that you look out for me.”
“Bah. It is nothing. You are a good person. Evil seeks you out. I have never seen the like. Every damned and cursed thing that slithers or walks in darkness wants your blood. I can do my job just by standing near you. With my sword drawn.”
He grinned, patting his titanic sword. Truly the blade was terrifying, it was 8 feet long and too heavy for a normal sized person to swing. Even with his great strength, Takarn needed two hands to wield it. And it glowed when he got angry.
Only the suicidally over-confidant or plain suicidal went near a walking dragon that was holding a burning 8-foot sword and grinning. It largely ensured that the only problems they encountered were serious ones.

“Damn Snow, this guy overcompensating for something?” Faith said.
Tara raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Hey, I’m still working out the kinks, ok?” Faith complained.
“He told me he won the sword on a bet with another paladin,” Tara explained. “I think he was funning me.”

“To bed. We are tired and have a long day tomorrow,” he said, rising to his feet and clonking his way carefully up the narrow stairs.
Tara likewise hauled her sleepy self to her feet and up the stairs, her companion was right, tomorrow would be a big day.

Tara looked up at the rest of the Scoobies , each was clearly fascinated by her story.
“So much happened the next day that I’m going to have to take some time to gather my thoughts.”
“How about dinner?” suggested Xander.
“An excellent idea, I think we could all use something to eat,” said Giles.
And the Scoobies broke for dinner.


The next day Tara and Takarn were out of the inn early, a rich stew lining their stomachs and giving them warmth in the crisp dawn air. The caravans were likewise preparing to leave, though getting animals and wagons organized took considerably longer than it did the two pedestrians.
The mismatched pair trudged through the blue-grey pre-dawn night towards the blazing city in the distance. The gold and glass spires burned even in the night, lit from within by magic and industry, a beacon to drive back the night.

“It sounds really pretty,” said Willow.

“It is said that the city burns with such light, that it turns night into day,” Takarn rumbled. “It is also said that the towers are so tall that they turn day into night.”
“Well at least there’s a balance,” Tara said with a small smile.
“We will see soon enough.”
The lightening sky slowly robbed the city lights of their glory, until the brightest were scarcely visible.
Dawn came with surprising swiftness, almost blinding as it turned the highest spires into burning gold. As they walked, the sun spread down the towers with almost visible speed, cloaking them in glory.

“Could we not have my name and you-know-who in the same sentence please? It gives me the serious wiggins,” Dawn said with a shudder.
“Oops, sorry Dawnie, I didn’t think,” Tara said apologetically.
“I guess I should be over it by now.” Dawn said quietly.
Xander gave her a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, for which she seemed very grateful.
“I think there are some things you just don’t get over,” he said, looking significantly at Willow & Tara.
He paused for a beat and then turned to look at Buffy and Faith with a raised eyebrow.
“Hey!” complained Buffy in a squeaky voice. “No fair! There were extenuating circumstances and... stuff.”
“Getting good with the word-thing there Buff,” said Xander.
Buffy smiled cheerfully and leaned back into Faith. “I thank the magic that is television.”

The pair took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the moment, the city burning like fire in the still silent morning. They would be amid the hustle and bustle of the living city soon enough.
Slowly, so slowly that Tara did not realise it was happening, she felt something building inside her, a yearning, a pressure so gentle that it was easily missed. Only time would allow Tara to recognise it.

Willow looked up at her beloved, who seemed just a touch uncomfortable. “Was that the...” she trailed off.
“Mmm-hmm,” Tara murmured. “It took a long while to get used to sweetie. Discovering you are not who you thought you were is never easy.”
Willow gave Tara a comforting, if awkward squeeze.

After something like an hour of steady walking they finally arrived at the gates to the city.
Seated on a bluff overlooking a mighty river, the walls of the city rose into the sky like the edge of the world, many of the towers rose so high that they were lost in the clouds.
Tara craned her neck and looked into the indigo sky, stunned at the scale of the city. Los Angeles was impressive, this was something else altogether.

By comparison, the huge gates into the city seemed tiny by comparison. Tara and Takarn joined one of the queues of pedestrians entering the city. After a long wait they were taken into a small office and interviewed by a short, powerfully built man wearing spectacles. He gestured to the chairs in front of the desk and took his glasses of to polish them and took his own seat.

Tara felt a stab of recognition as the inspector polished his glasses, an action so reminiscent of someone dear to Tara. It was maddening, her inability to remember someone so dear to her, she put it aside until later, when she would have time to think about it.

“Giles!” everyone chimed in. They dissolved into giggles upon discovering that he already had his glasses off and was polishing them with his handkerchief.
With all the dignity the Watcher could muster. He replaced his glasses and primly waited for Tara to continue, over the sound of random giggles and sniggering.

The dwarfish fellow interviewed them as to their purpose in the city (work) and how long they were staying (indefinitely) and so on. It was all pretty routine, but there were a few things that gave Tara trouble, things that touched on parts of her that were still raw.
When he asked about her nationality she explained that she had been raised by druids in the wilds and forest reaches to the north. In the end they settled on ‘Druid’ for her nationality.
Likewise her place of birth and date gave him trouble, when he asked in his fussy way she answered quietly “I’m sorry, but I do not know where or when I was born.”

Willow made sad sounds at this revelation. And a moment was taken for reassuring snuggles.

He looked up from his paperwork with a sigh. Clearly mildly put-upon that two such highly irregular people should both land in his office.
“Miss ah, ‘Tara of the Woodland Realm’ I am not looking for exact details, but I do need to know approximately, for tax purposes, where you were born and your approximate age,” he said politely.
“Um, Mister Co-copperhall, I was told that I f-fell from the sky in the Year of the King 996. On the 20th of Olarune,” Tara said, stammering as her nervousness made itself apparent.

“Great Maker! The anniversary of the day of mourning?” he exclaimed.
Tara nodded glumly. She was born into this world the same day that an entire kingdom was destroyed some years ago. The day millions of souls perished, and no-one knew how or why.

More comforting snuggles were had, amidst looks of shock.

“This is most irregular, most irregular indeed,” he muttered to himself.
“Consider how she feels,” Takarn rumbled.
The short man fussed with his spectacles, clearly put out. “Well... yes, my apologies miss, it was not my intent to be insensitive, I was not expecting such an apparently simple question to cause such distress.”
He thought for a moment, tapping his pencil against his neatly trimmed beard. “I am not unsympathetic to your situation Miss Tara, and I appreciate your telling me the truth. However if we put what you have told me on any official documents, it will cause a great deal of interest in you, interest you may wish to avoid.”

Tara looked uncomfortable at this and Mr Copperhall continued. “It will also make property ownership and work difficult for you. The city takes into account the different standards each race and culture has for maturity and adulthood, however no known race known matures in less than 10 years. This would make official work impossible for you as you would still be legally a child for some time.”
He gave Tara a measuring look. “You don’t strike me as a child, and if I am any judge, you look about 20 years old. So I recommend we put that on your documentation. Though we shall use the same birthday to allow you to keep your story straight.”

“Th-thank you Mr Copperhall,” said a grateful Tara. “I don’t mean to be any trouble.”
“It is no trouble Miss Tara, if anything, I am avoiding trouble,” he said with a mischievous grin.
“I d-don’t mean to be ungrateful, but why are you helping me?” she asked nervously.
Mr Copperhall removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in a manner that made Tara’s heart lurch.

“She remembered you Giles,” Buffy said impishly.
“All the things I have done in my history, things good and bad, and what am I remembered for? Polishing glasses and pinching my nose,” he said with mock seriousness. With some theatricality he shook his head, pinched his nose and sighed. Many smiles spontaneously appeared and the Watcher gave a small smile.

“Miss Tara, my people have a somewhat deserved reputation for abiding by rules and laws. I prefer to think of myself as serving that which the laws are designed to enforce: Fairness and justice.”

At this Takarn nodded to him, the nod of one professional to another. Mr Copperhall returned the nod.
“I have been doing this job for some time Miss Tara, and doing it well. I trust my own judgement as to how best to do that job, and I can tell you that nothing good will be gained by telling the absolute letter of truth.”
“Now if that covers the ‘age’ question, there are still a few questions left, hopefully less complex ones. Are you two married?” he asked.
Tara burst out “What?!”

The Scooby lounge was awash with hilarity at this question, even the normally reserved Giles could not help but smile and attempt to hide a small laugh behind a slight cough. No-one was fooled.

Takarn for his part, opened his mouth and let out a rasping hiss of laughter.
“But-but he’s... and I’m... and we’re...” Tara sputtered.
Takarn found all this unspeakably hilarious and was doubled over with hissing laughter.
Eventually, blushing furiously, she managed to get out “N-no, we’re not married. I don’t think Takarn is married and I am certainly uh, single,” she said, feeling a stab of sadness at this last statement.

“Yes sweetie, I was remembering you,” Tara said with a crooked smile.
“Well, you’re not single anymore, and don’t you forget it missy!” Willow’s firm tone and folded arms were robbed of their force by her horizontal position in Tara’s lap.
Tara leaned over a planted small kiss on Willow’s nose.
Willow beamed.

Still unable to speak, Takarn simply shook his head and jiggled slightly with the aftershocks of his mirth.
“Don’t look so surprised, you two would not make the strangest couple I have seen. Not by a long shot. At least you are both organic and have the same number of limbs.” Mister Copperhall said with a smile.
“Um...” Tara hesitated.
“You’re going to ask about the most unusual couple I have encountered, aren’t you?” He sighed. “Everyone does.”
“Last month I interviewed a dwarven woman and a centaur man. They had been happily married for a number of years. And last year I spoke to an eleven woman who was married to a warforged.” He looked at Tara intently. “Love knows neither form nor colour,” he quoted. “You may wish to keep that in mind Miss Tara. here in the big city we are quite cosmopolitan and proud of it, unlike some of the more backward places of the world.”

“Holy shit! Glinda, did you just get schooled in tolerance? Damn, this day is going in my calendar,” Faith said, attracting another affectionate swat from Buffy.
Tara blushed and hung her head slightly.

The remaining questions were rather more routine, and produced neither shock or hilarity. In due time ‘Tara, Healer of the Forest Reaches’ was allowed to enter the city with her shiny new papers.
“Do I really look like that?” she said, turning her little passport book this way and that to examine it.
Takarn leaned over her shoulder and closely examined the picture imprinted onto the page. He shrugged “Yes. Don’t get too worried. These things never come out that well.”

She examined his picture. “Yours came out great! How come mine’s so... yuck?”
“Mama Takarn cracked a good one. Everyone can’t be as pretty as me,” he said with a grin.
Tara grinned back and elbowed him in the ribs, wincing as her elbow met hard steel.
“Don’t you ever take that off?” she grumbled.
“No need. Don’t sweat. Don’t tan. I stay clean,” he said.
“Don’t you get hot?” Tara asked.
He grinned. “Yes. Feels good. I like the heat. Cold sucks.”

“You must love it here then, I feel awash with sweat all the time,” she grumbled.
“Leather and fur. Not the best for this climate. You need to go shopping,” he said.
“Why Mister Paladin, did you just prescribe a shopping trip?” Tara teased.

Buffy opened her mouth, only to be pelted with pillows. She subsided with a small “Eeek!” and a grateful look from Giles.

Takarn made a grumbling sound deep in his massive chest, but made no other comment.
Once through the cities massive gates they found themselves in a huge open courtyard. Open by the cities standards, the towers rose like cliffs on all sides. Above they spread out, largely covering the sky. Leaving the task of providing illumination to a series of ornate streetlights.
“Watch your purse,” Takarn growled gently.
Tara nodded, already having taken the precaution of tucking her purse into her top, between her breasts. It sat there somewhat uncomfortably, and Tara was confident that she would notice if anyone made a grab for it.

She smiled as she saw a trio of boys playing with a football, one lost control of the football and fell backwards against the wall of polished steel that was Takarn’s abdomen.
“Whoa!” he yelped, and fled rapidly.

“Here is your first lesson,” he said holding up the cut strings of his old and tattered purse.
He grinned. “Any moment will come the second lesson.”
Sure enough, across the courtyard came a yelp and the vision of a young man dancing around in pain, a mousetrap attached to the tips of his delicate fingers.
“Better he be reminded of the penalty for thievery by me, than at the hands of some noble. With a sword.”
He grinned further. “Also. Funny.” He pulled another fake purse from his pack and loaded a mousetrap into it.
Tara rolled her eyes. “Let’s find Lady Deveraux and see about getting a place to stay.”
“I stay at the temple. We find you a place to stay. One nearby.”

After discovering that the 3 dimensional maze of the city was every bit as difficult to navigate as imagined, they went to a taxi stand. Eventually they were able to get a barge to take them to the university, as Takarn could not fit in any cab-like transportation.
Takarn handed the small green driver a few small coins and rumbled “No hurry. Scenic route.” The green man returned the grin with a manic one of his own and jumped into the small van-like cab at the front of the barge.

“Goblin?” asked Xander.
Tara nodded. “Not what they called themselves, but it fits what everyone else called them. They had a mighty empire once, but they have fallen on hard times and are generally considered to be an underclass now.”
Tara looked sad. “It’s sad and hopeful at the same time. Anything evil will eventually fall and hope can be born, but the same can be said of anything good.”

The floating barge soon proved its worth, by lifting off the ground and rapidly ascending towards a shaft of sunlight, marked with bright upward pointing arrows.
After several minutes of walls blurring past them, with occasional glimpses of indigo above them. They burst out into blazing sunlight, the city a vista of blazing spires below them. The goblin driver grinned at them and tapped his dark glasses. Tara looked across at her companion, seeing his intent gaze and the wheels almost visibly turning in his head as he calculated flight paths, escape routes and attack patterns.

She stood at the edge of the barge and looked down at the spires below, some still caught in streamers of cloud. She crouched down and grabbed the knee high cargo rail, looking over the side and seeing the clouds pass directly beneath them.
It was a magical, inspiring sight to be savoured in silence, a silence made all the more profound by the quiet of the barge and the faint whistling sounds of the cool wind.
Her hooded cloak flapped in the breeze and she smiled as she imagined herself the captain of a sky ship, off in search of adventure.

“Being up here agrees with you,” her friend rumbled. “I like it too.”
He nudged her shoulder and pointed. “The homes of the wealthy and powerful.”
The spires he pointed at rose higher than all others, in truth they floated in the air far above the nose and filth of the lower city, as though disdaining it.
‘Some things never change,’ Tara thought to herself, wondering on another level where such thoughts came from. All her short life so far had been in the wilds, a place she felt constitutionally unsuited to, despite the relationships she had made there.
Tara felt a massive hand gently touch her shoulder.
“Again?” he asked.
Tara nodded.

“Soon you will have a crisis. Paladins and priests face such challenges. Soon something will break and you will break with it. Then you will fall into darkness. Or spread your wings and fly. All the stronger for your brush with the abyss.” He said bluntly.
A flash of unease passed through Tara as he said this.
His hand squeezed her shoulder gently. “And when that happens I will be there with you.”
She leaned against him, taking comfort in his presence. “Th-thank you Takarn. I don’t know what I would do without you, I really don’t.”

“Shhh... You are of the light, Tara. Defender of the innocent and abused. It is right that we stand together. I shed blood, you don’t. You heal, I don’t. Balance. Paladins defend the innocent and fight for the light in the world,” he squeezed her shoulder gently. “That would be you.”
He grinned. “All I need do is wander around with you. You get into the most interesting trouble. You have a good heart Tara. Good instincts. Trust them.” He tapped her on the head with his sausage-like finger. “Don’t think, do!”

She ducked her head and smiled ruefully back at him, unable to hide behind her hair and suddenly regretting the long braid.
“We’re here I think” she said pointing at the landing platform ahead of them.
“Good,” he said and promptly dove over the side.

His enormous wings beat the air, he flew heavily but with immense power. No one could fail to see him coming, the sun glinted off his polished armour and his vast rainbow wings looked distinctly dramatic. Frankly he broke a number of stereotypes, ‘I suppose there’s no need to be flamboyant when you have giant rainbow sails attached to you,’ she thought to herself.
Takarn slammed down on the courtyard, wings spread, blazing in the morning sunlight.
‘I may have been wrong about the ‘flamboyant’ thing’ she thought with a sigh.

When the barge docked, a much more sedate entrance was made by Tara. She thanked the driver for his time and was rewarded with a manic grin. He waved, Put his barge in gear and took off.
She looked around for her companion and found him buttonholing a passerby.
By the time she had hurried over, he had shooed the bystander away and was looking around. “This way,” he said, and lead the way.
It certainly was enlightening watching him work. He went at every task like a bolt from a crossbow, in a straight line until the task was complete.

“You know that reminds me off someone...” quipped a reclining Buffy. “All ‘bull at a gate’ like.” She yelped as she attracted a swat from Faith.

In short order they were standing outside Lady Deveraux’s office, a trail of frazzled secretaries, assistants and one janitor in their wake.
“Churches, universities. The same. Watch and learn,” he said with a grin.
He rapped sharply on the door and without waiting for a response he opened it and squeezed his bulk inside. Voices came from within: “Lady Deveraux?”
“Yes, what is this about?”

“My Lady, I present to you Tara of the Forest Reaches.”
Tara took that as her cue to enter.
The room she entered was clearly that of an unabashed academic, ancient scrolls and books were neatly stacked on a huge number of bookshelves and pigeon-holes. Tara had another flash... someone would be immensely pleased to spend long hours poring through this collection. She winced slightly and put the thought away for later examination.

“Hello Lady Deveraux, G-gann sends his greetings,” Tara managed with only a slight nervous stutter. She handed Lady Deveraux the letter of introduction Gann had given her.
Lady Deveraux narrowed her eyes slightly as Tara spoke and silently took the letter from her. She opened the fat envelope and sat down to read, gesturing absently for her visitors to sit.
She read several pages carefully and skimmed through the rest.

“Interesting. Elder Gann has given you his full recommendation, a rare thing to be sure. He has also asked that I assist you in any way possible.” She said, steepling her hands.
“So you fell from the Hellgate on the day of mourning, as helpless as a newborn babe,” she mused. “You seem to be doing very well for someone less than two years old,” she said.
“Gann tells me I am r-remembering rather than learning, which is why I can learn some things very quickly and others, um... not so much,” said a bashful Tara.
“You remember your name?” asked Lady Deveraux.
“No, Elder Gann and some of the others cast a divination for me. They did not recognize my name beyond the sound of it, but they were able to get a few of images: A goddess they did not recognize, an angel, the earth, a tree and a star.” Tara said, looking somewhat forlorn. “It’s all I have of me.”

“Oh baby, that’s all you had?” Willow asked, tears in her eyes.
“It wasn’t not so bad sweetie, my friends looked into my soul and found you there. ‘Willow’ was written on my soul. I never forgot you. Even in another world, with my soul in tattered pieces, born into a new body, I never forgot you.” Tara looked down into Willows watery green eyes. “You’re my Willow, my everything.”
Faith sniffled.
The Scoobies kept quiet to give the two their moment.
After that short break, Tara continued her story.

“And your magic?” the lady prodded.
Tara shook herself. “Light, healing and spiritual magic.”
“That is quite a range of talents for someone so young. No talent with the earth? Or the forest?” Lady Deveraux asked.
“No. I think Elder Gann and the others were quite, um... surprised by that, given what the divination revealed. They were even more surprised by what they didn’t get. No life-history, no birthplace, nothing.”

Her ladyship spoke in a thoughtful voice. “I think perhaps there is something new under the sun.”
“Umm...?” ventured Tara.
“Well, whatever is the case, nothing teaches like personal experience.” Lady Deveraux said, her voice turning brusque and businesslike.
“I have an associate who, ah, does some investigation work for me from time to time. He seems to have stepped into waters a little deeper than he was expecting... and could use some backup. I daresay he would be pleased to have the help of a spell caster and a Knight of the Holy Flame. And the pay is good.”

Lady Deveraux continued in a gentler tone. “Perhaps in the course of assisting him, you may knock loose some of those answers you seek.”

“In the meantime I shall begin my investigation of your case, as Gann has asked. Unfortunately, the day of mourning was so vast, so all encompassing, that it is less a case of finding something, and more a case of picking through the huge mass of ‘somethings’ to find a specific something that relates to you.”
“Please keep in mind that this is a long term undertaking. Many have tried to understand the day of mourning and the death of the nation of Cyre. Many theories have been advanced, none have yet been proven. It is doubtful that my meagre efforts will prove particularly fruitful, nonetheless I shall try.”

“Thank you Lady Deveraux, this means a lot to me,” Tara said, thankful that she had managed to avoid stuttering.
“That’s quite alright my dear, you will have ample opportunity to repay me.”
Lady Deveraux rummaged in her desk drawer and dug out a card with all the joy of an amateur archaeologist making their first find.
“Ha! I knew I had one here somewhere! Melchior the theurgist, that’s who you are looking for. The address is on the card, tell him that I sent you, it should help. After that it’s up to you to impress him.”

Takarn’s deep rumble reminded everyone of his presence. “Investigator you said.”
“Yes, well he does a little bit of everything, but he is a licensed inquisitive and he gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. I would imagine you two can have deep theological arguments long into the night.” She explained.
“He is wrong.” He said flatly.
“Or perhaps not,” she said with a sigh. “In any case you must excuse me, I have much work to do.”


Takarn & Tara gathered their packs and left the university building, stopping by an ornamental fountain to gather their thoughts.
“We should find this Melchior person first. Then find you living quarters.”
Tara suppressed a sudden jolt of fear. “Ok,” she said, trying to sound casual.
She had never really been alone for any length of time before. Always she had been with Elder Gann, one of the other Gatekeepers, or most recently Takarn. She had only been on her own for a few days on the road, and she had not enjoyed the experience.
There were some unpleasant customers on the roads.

Tara grimaced, Willow administered a full strength dose of Willow cuddles to perk her up.

And then Takarn had showed up. He had taken exception to the caravaners’ attitude towards Tara and had taken it upon himself to adjust the attitudes of the offenders.
They had not enjoyed the experience.
His only explanation had been “Evil must be fought. Large evils and small ones.” He paused for a moment. “Or spanked.” He said after some thought, grinning savagely.

“T? I gotta say again, I like this guy!” Faith interjected.

Afterwards it transpired that they were both travelling to the famed city of light, and Takarn offered to accompany her. Tara had readily agreed.
And now she was struck by a terrible fear that her new friend would leave her alone in this vast city.
She tried not to think about it as they trudged through the darkened alleyways and across the soaring bridges of the city, but it was not easy.

After an hour’s steady walking with occasional breaks to ask for directions in the maze of towers and bridges, they eventually found themselves in the ‘magic district’ of the city, the location of Melchior’s offices. It was everything Tara had imagined and more, small shops sold magical devices for the hardworking wizard, other shops sold herbs, potions and spell casting supplies of a less pleasant nature. There were even stalls selling small brightly coloured children’s toys of a magical nature.

Tara rummaged around in her pack and pulled out a small painted-paper dragonfly, sparkling with bright colours. She carefully unfolded its wings and whispered a word. The dragonfly took off and zoomed around the room, buzzing over the Scoobies heads, to squeals of delight.
“This is what I have missed. My family,” she whispered down to Willow.

And in the middle of all this, they found the offices of Melchior the Theurgist™: practicing inquisitive.
The gold lettering on the door had a little symbol next to the name that let everyone know that the name was trademarked, Takarn raised an eyebrow at this. Tara just raised her hands and shrugged in the universally recognized gesture of ‘who knows?’

Just as Tara was about to knock, the door drifted open and a voice called out. “You may enter.”
The voice carried faint metallic undertone.
Tara entered first, allowing Takarn the space to squeeze his impressive bulk through the door.
“Ah, there you are, right on time,” said a confident voice.

The pair took in the room, bookcases held books and scrolls by the dozen. A huge map of the city took up one entire wall and a large desk with neatly stacked papers sat squarely in the middle of the room. And with his feet propped up on the desk, they registered a reclining Melchior. They were not the only ones present.
While Melchior got to his feet, Tara took in his other guests: a woman dressed in adventuring gear of leather and chain, with a pair of pistols slung from holsters on her hips, and a powerfully built man wearing metal armour that looked as though it had been caught in a fire, or possibly an explosion.

“She sounds pretty badass, Snowy. What did she look like?”
Tara though for a moment. “Like that girl from the girl fight movie. A little butch, but fun too. She um, looked a lot like her I guess.”
Faith whistled appreciatively. “Mitch? As in Rodríguez? Damn. That girl was born to wear tank tops and wifebeaters.”
“She was very pretty.”
Faith gave her a knowing look.
Tara returned it, her expression clear. “She was attractive yes. So are you. But I had Willow. And I still do.”
Tara smiled softly. “No one else even gets a look in.”
“Ooo, I feel all tingly now,” Willow said.
‘Prettier than Faith, I swear,’ Tara sent on their secret channel.
‘Now I know you love me.’

The woman smiled politely, the man observed her as though mentally ticking a box on a form.
Melchior shook hands with Takarn and tipped his hat politely to Tara. “Welcome, we have been expecting you,” he said.
Tara took in his metallic form, that of a mechanical man crafted from wood and steel. He, like her druid friend Durant, had been manufactured as a soldier to fight in a war, a war that had ended the day she had been born, with a hole blasted into the middle of the continent. And like the rest of his kind, he had been abandoned afterwards to find his own way in the world.

“Cool! They had robots?” blurted Xander.
“No Xander,” Tara said, shaking her head. “They were real people with real minds and real souls. They just happened to be made from metal and wood, rather than flesh and blood.”
“They are every bit as advanced over there as we are here, they simply went in different directions.”

Melchior’s metallic form was dressed in a long leather coat with many pockets and leather tri-corn hat.
“I am Melchior the Theurgist, these are my companions Catherine and Rinaldo, lady and gentleman adventurers,” he said, gesturing to the gunslinger and bomb-scarred man respectively.
“Catherine, Rinaldo, I present Takarn, Paladin of the flame, and Tara of the Woodland Realm.” Everyone shook hands in turn.

“Lady Deveraux sent a note ahead about us,” Takarn stated flatly.
“Indeed,” Melchior said wryly, if such a thing could be said of a being with a metal face.
“In a few moments, we will be joined by the last member of our band, and I will explain in detail why you are here.” Melchior said, leaning against his desk with an air of confidence.

Tara felt the warm, rather sticky air become noticeably cooler, almost as though someone had opened a freezer door. The glass on the windows was quickly concealed beneath a misting of moisture as the humidity settled out on the chilled glass.

“Right on time.”
Melchior gestured and the door gently opened.

An attractive lady entered the room, her icy blue eyes gazed around the room from a pale face surrounded by white-trimmed black hair. Completing the icy mien was a crystal tiara and a dress of white and pale blue.

Melchior tipped his hat to the newcomer and said “Welcome, I am Melchior the Theurgist. Permit me to introduce my companions: Takarn, knight of the Flame, Tara the healer and Catherine & Rinaldo, Lady and gentleman adventurers. Ladies, Gentlemen, I present to you Izolda, of the frozen north."

At this, the pale newcomer bowed very slightly in acknowledgement.
Melchior gestured for everyone to take a seat and paced about his office, clearly gathering his thoughts. Izolda remained standing while everyone else sat.

“Cheating spouses and questionable business practices are the bread and butter of my profession. However every now and then a case lands in ones lap that is of a wholly different nature. The case I am currently investigating is one such, a simple missing persons case has now turned into something more deadly.”

He paced as he narrated to the group, looking for all the world like a professor in a lecture hall. “My initial investigations lead me to expect my quarry to be found in a drug den, as is often the case with rebellious scions of the extremely rich. It seems however, that he has fallen into the clutches of a cult. A cult that supplies the dens with their illicit goods and occasionally uses them as a recruiting ground.”

He stopped pacing and looked at the assembled group. “It is this cult that concerns me. My vocation is not without a degree of risk, but the level of danger is usually quite minimal. Not so with this cult. This is why I have called you all together. I cannot deal with this cult singlehandedly, I need reliable people with a diverse array of talents to assist me. Ideally we could solve this problem amicably and without violence. However we do not live in an ideal world, and we must be prepared to fight if need be.”

“Mr Takarn, my companions and I have worked together before and they accept the conditions of our profession. Yourself and your companion are new to us. We do not yet know each other, though you come highly recommended. Will you both join us in our attempt to rescue a wayward son, and bring the members of a dark cult to justice?” he asked politely.

“Just Takarn. No ‘Mister’,” he said. He looked to Tara. “Well?” he asked.
Tara had been pondering while the explanation was going on. To fight battles in the dark, against supernatural terrors and evil cults. Just the idea made her blood run cold and her stomach clench in terror. And yet it felt right somehow.
Had she been a cool monster-fighter in another life? She looked at Takarn and nodded.
“We’re in.”

“Heh! Cool monster-fighter. I remember that,” Willow said, miming Tara’s famous dog-paddle fighting style.
Tara blushed.

For the next half hour Melchior filled them in on the details of the cult, and the missing scion of the noble house. The cult looked to be meeting in one of the run-down lower areas of the city, hiding in plain sight among the poor and dispossessed. While the exact number of cult members was unknown, it was expected to be in excess of a dozen members in any one meeting. And while Melchior was not particularly expecting magical trouble, it was wise in the city of light to plan for such events, and thus the inclusion of two spell casters.
He pinned a picture of the missing scion ‘Jeren’ up on the wall for everyone to examine and afterwards suggested that they adjourn to an inn to find a more social atmosphere.


Sitting around the darkened inn sipping her ginger beer gave Tara the chance to examine her new companions in some detail.
Never one for social situations, Tara kept to herself. Unfortunately Rinaldo, Izolda and Takarn were downright taciturn, leaving Catherine and Melchior to do the talking.

Izolda fit the description of ‘Icy’ perfectly, as a motif and as a personality trait. Catherine seemed friendly enough, but was by her nature not a terribly talkative person, though she did profess a talent for hairstyling and offered to do both Tara and Izolda’s hair. Izolda refused coldly, and Tara accepted, eager to make a new friend. Throughout the whole meeting Rinaldo stared at her. It was a little alarming. Whenever she looked at him, she got a strange feeling, as though he was not truly present, almost a model of a man, rather than an actual person.

Tara tried desperately to break the ice with the strange man. “So um, R-Rinaldo, what b-brings you to the c-city?” she said, feeling terribly self-conscious.

He said simply. “You.”
“Me?!” she blurted, totally put on the spot.
He nodded. “My Lady has tasked me as your bodyguard.”
Tara found herself deeply uncomfortable, discovering that plans were being made involving her, about her, without any consultation from her.
She found her stutter encroaching and felt even worse about the whole situation. “I-is it L-Lady Devereaux you m-mean?”

Rinaldo shook his head, and said. “My Lady has arranged long-term quarters for us.”
Tara was rather frightened, who was this strange and slightly terrifying man in the blast-scarred armour? And what was his connection to her?
She shuddered.

“I can’t imagine that having an unexpected body guard would make you very comfortable,” Giles said softly.
Tara shook her head. “Not at all. It was a long time before I found out what his story was.”
Her expression became rather sad. “He never did find out.”

Eventually Catherine and Melchior ran out of things to chat about and Tara had lost all desire to speak, so they wrapped up.
Catherine nudged her arm. “I’ll show you the place.”
Tara gave her a worried smile but tagged along when she saw that Takarn was also coming. The ‘place’ was only one tower from Takarn’s church and two from Melchior’s office.

Though unfurnished, it was in reasonable condition, though the bare white walls cried out for some kind of decoration.
Once Takarn had inspected the place and assured himself of entrance through the balcony, he suggested that the girls go shopping while he went to the church.

“Cool! Girls-only shopping trip!” said Catherine.
Tara smiled a little, her new companion had come out of her shell somewhat once the number of strange people had gone down a bit.
Izolda simply turned and walked away from the two women and the idea of a shopping trip.
“Um, she... she doesn’t seem to be much of a people person,” said Tara.
“Yeah, I was thinking that... No, actually I was thinking she was kind of a bitch,” Catherine groused.
Tara couldn’t help but smile.


Two days of investigation had lead them to this: a balcony overlooking a closed-in courtyard.
What this place had been originally, Tara didn’t know, but now it was buried in the bowels of the city, and the cultists were using it as their meeting area.

She looked over the balcony to the cloaked and masked figures below. Of the forty or so, a few had daggers or rapiers prominently on display. They reminded her of young men at a party, posturing and being seen, rather than being particularly competent or military looking.
She sighed, it looked as though most of them joined a cult as a sort of men’s club.
She looked across at her friends readying their weapons and checking their gear in preparation for attack. Takarn waited patiently with his huge two-handed sword, Rinaldo had a mighty axe and Catherine was checking her guns.

Tara looked over the balcony again at the young men.
If it came to a fight, it was going to be a massacre.
At that moment, a pair of gurneys were wheeled in, a man strapped face down to each them.
Melchior held up his fist, signalling everyone to freeze.
The gurneys were lifted up to a small platform, allowing everyone to see.

The back of one man was heavily tattooed in bright blue. Disturbingly, the tattoo appeared to be moving as he struggled.
Tara heard his gag-muffled cries as he struggled and her anxiety spiked sharply.

A man stepped up to the platform, his robe and mask of a finer cut and more elaborate decoration.
“Brother and sisters!” said the apparent leader, speaking in a voice that reminded Tara of bad Shakespearean acting.
“We have done it!” he said gesturing to the gurneys behind him.
“I promised you success, and after many long delays we have it! No longer will the noble houses rule due to an accident of birth.”

Takarn caught Tara’s eye and rolled his eyes at the speaker’s overly dramatic delivery. Apparently both species had that bit of body language in common.

“In only a few minutes our helpful volunteer will be relieved of his un-earned powers, and they will be delivered to our brave member in good standing here.”
Tara knew she had to do something, and soon. Otherwise a large number of people were going to die.
She caught Takarn’s eye and put her fingers to her lips. He gave her a puzzled look.

Gathering her nerve, she stood up and walked down the staircase from the balcony, to the floor of the meeting hall.
Rinaldo tried to grab her, but his wrist was clamped in Takarn’s huge fist. The big draconian slowly shook his head.

As she descended the staircase, Tara murmured a spell under her breath, one of protection and another of clarity. The small sparkles of white and blue light announced her presence as she reached the bottom of the staircase. The man at the bottom of the stairs looked shocked, as if Tara had appeared from thin air.

Tara strode forward, her forest cloak billowing behind her. She desperately hoped her forest garb gave her an appearance of confidence, because she certainly didn’t feel confident. Her heart was in her throat as she strode through the ranks of cultists to the raised platform.
The cultists looked at her, amazed and unsure what to do with someone who walked unarmed through their ranks.
When Tara climbed the platform, she pointed back at the balcony, where her companions were waiting, ready to fight. She felt both scared out of her mind and strangely elated to be standing amongst the robed cultists.

She spoke as clearly as she could manage. “We mean you no harm.”
She looked around at the surprised and slightly worried cultists. “Please don’t fight us. My companions are paladins, knights, powerful warriors.”
She gestured to her friends and Takarn waved his massive blade significantly.

“Look at them, you don’t want to fight them, you won’t win. You all have mothers, sisters and daughters who will miss you, don’t leave them without you in their lives,” she pleaded.
Some of the cultists were quietly making for doorways leading away from the room, Tara realized that she was making headway.
She spoke directly to the leader. “No-one has to die today, you have a choice, choose to make today the day you walked away and reclaimed your life. G-go home. Go home to your families. G-go home to the people who love you. Go home to your lives.”

Between Tara and frequent glances at her friends, most of the cultists had quietly exited the room, leaving perhaps a dozen behind. She noticed that the remaining robed figures were all armed.
She looked at the leader closely, sensing something amiss, something mystical. He lunged for her and grabbed her, despite Tara’s attempt to avoid capture.
“Stupid, stupid woman,” he hissed.
He held a blade to her throat and dragged her around to face her companions.

That was as far as he got before he was wrenched away from her.
Tara gasped, all she had seen was a flash of light.

Bolts of fire and ice slammed into the cultists nearest her. Those hit by the fire screamed and thrashed as they tried to extinguish the flames in their flesh. Those hit by blasts of impossible cold simply fell over in shock.
She looked around frantically and saw her friends charging down the staircase. Takarn was leaping through the air toward her, his glowing, oversize sword nowhere to be seen.
One remaining robed figure held out his sword to impale the flying Takarn and was smashed to the floor by his armoured form. The big lizard-man rolled smoothly to his feet and stood on the groaning cultist’s chest. Nearby, the burned and frozen survivors whimpered and groaned over their injuries.
“Wha-what happened,” Tara gasped.
Takarn just pointed behind her.

She looked and drew in her breath. The leader was nailed to the stone wall by Takarn’s sword.
Incredibly he was still alive, and struggling against the burning blade. The blade was buried in his upper chest, just below the shoulder. Though the wound was terrible, it was not in a position to be immediately fatal, thought the dark smoke drifting from the wound was not a good sign.

Catherine tore the mask from his head, revealing pale angular features and angry yellow eyes.
Tara knew those features on an instinctive level, they filled her with dread.
“Vampire,” she whispered.
“Yes,” rumbled Takarn. “Many join the ranks of the undead willingly. Trading their souls for eternal life and everlasting youth.”

The creature gurgled a laugh.
“Hello Paladin. Have you come to send me back to hell?” he mocked.
Takarn grinned horribly, his face all teeth. “No demon. I have come to destroy you.”
The vampire looked rather surprised at this and turned to the others. “You would let him do this? Destroy me utterly?”

Tara opened her mouth to speak, when the creatures eyes widened. “You!” he whispered.
“Me?” She squeaked.
“Our mistress has been looking for you. She has been most vexed.”
Tara stared wide-eyed at Takarn.
He held up his hands and shrugged.
“Tell us what you know and I may only send you back to hell, creature,” he growled.
The vampire laughed, a horrible gurgling sound.
“You have forgotten something, holy one,” it almost spat the word.
With inhuman strength, the vampire wrenched itself sideways, the blade shearing through flesh and bone to pierce the monster’s un-beating heart.
It screamed horribly, it’s high pitched shrieks deafening at close range. As it thrashed and spasmed on the blade, its skin dried and cracked, centuries of decay catching up with it in a matter of seconds.

In moments it had crumbled to ash and dust.

Takarn and Tara stared at the small pool of ash that was all that remained of the vampire.
“Disappointing. I always wanted to kill a vampire. I finally get one. And it commits suicide on my sword,” he shook his head sadly.
He braced himself against the wall and wrenched his sword free.
“That’s a hell of a throw big guy,” Catherine said, holstering her pistols.
“I was in a hurry.”


“Ok, that was pretty cool, but what was the deal with the tattooed guy?” Dawn asked.
“I’m just blissing out at my girl walking into the lion’s den. All just to save those people from getting hurt in the fighting.” Willow wriggled a little in Tara’s lap, obviously proud and happy.

Tara blushed a little and smile with an awkward mixture of pride and embarrassment. “Well I couldn’t just let everybody get killed. It would be like standing around and watching people pick a fight with Buffy and Faith.”
“Nah, we’d have just beat everyone senseless.”
“So brave,” Willow whispered to Tara, love struck.

Tara thought for a moment before explaining. “The tattoos were called dragon marks. Some people were born with them.”
At the questioning expressions, she explained. “Some bloodlines carry power, like the Slayer potential, or magical potential, or even demon blood,” Willow grimaced at that last description.

“Over there, some blood lines carried specific magical potential. Each mark signified different powers, and with practice they could grow and strengthen.”

“I’m guessing that the ritual thing was to take the mark?” Buffy said.

Tara nodded. “And the power that goes with it.”
“Um, how powerful were they?” Dawn asked.
“Hmm… It varied based on training and natural ability. There was one that allowed a person to create food. So they would never starve, but without training they could only produce one good meals-worth each day. After years of practice and training, a person with that mark could feed a city.”

“Hell of a difference there Snowy,” Faith muttered.

“Is that more than the difference between your abilities, and those of the new slayers?”
“Good point. And yeah, I think so.”

Tara turned back to Dawn. “Some marks gave protection, others let you travel. There were quite a few really.”
“I never really studied them, but a lot of people were obsessed with the subject. Each noble family had one particular mark.”
She looked upset. “There was one particular mark, the Mark of Death. The family that carried that mark was wiped out long ago. So long ago that there were only rumours and whispers of it.”

“That definitely doesn’t sound all puppies and kittens,” Buffy said.

Xander got an annoyed look on his face. “It’s never the Mark of Balloon Animals is it? It’s always the symbol of Death, or the spell of Death or whatever.”

Tara smiled a little. “Well, the Mark of Making can be used to make balloon animals.”

“Really? Cool!”

“Not exactly a super power is it? Balloon animals I mean,” Buffy said.

Willow giggled softly. “This from the woman who listed ‘remarkable self-involvement’ as one of her Slayer powers.”

Giles cut quietly through the conversation. “What did the mark of death actually do? Do you know?”

Tara shook her head. “The last person to carry it was killed thousands of years ago. So no-one knew, um, beyond something death-related, obviously.”
She sighed sadly. “We did eventually find out. And it was pretty awful. Try and remember it, because it shows up later.”

“Ok, now I’m worried again,” Xander said.

“Perhaps this is a good place to stop for the night?” Giles said.

“Snuggle time?” Willow asked hopefully.
Tara bobbed her head cheerfully. “I definitely see something of a snuggly nature in your near future.”

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

Last edited by Azirahael on Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:00 pm, edited 13 times in total.

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:29 am 
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I have to say when I read the line 'Fight her way out of hell' in the synopsis I was a bit hesitant, but after reading book one and finding that hell is actually the Eberron campaign setting from dungeons and dragons I was both surprised and intrigued.

Correct me if I'm wrong but:

Tara: Cleric

Takarn: Paladin

Melchior: Rogue or Artificer? w/prestige class

Catherine: Gunslinger?

Izolda: Sorcerer (or a wizard who stuck to a really specific theme.)

Rinaldo: Fighter?

Kinda fuzzy on some of the obscure core and prestige classes, but if I'm right about Tara it was pretty ballsy of them to send the party's main healer in before they sent in the meat shields.

Also Takarn and Melchior seemed like pretty straight forward dragonborn and warforged descriptions but for some reason Rinaldo's characterization seemed like he was three gnomes in a man costume. I probably need to reread some bits.

Looking forward to more.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:26 pm 
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Hi Citanul!

Not too far off, actually.

In terms of the game, it was the Eberron setting, played with different rules.

Tara: Spell caster with a focus on healing. Had some effective combat spells, but was reluctant to use them.
Takarn: Paladin. Nailed it.
Melchior: Inquisitive. Think investigator/Indiana Jones with some magic
Catherine: Fighter, specialized in ranged combat with wands.
Izolda: a wizard who stuck to a really specific theme.
Rinaldo: Fighter.

Takarn had wings, which was unusual. They were rainbow coloured, partly for a laugh, and partly for holy reasons.
Rinaldo may have been 3 gnomes in a suit. He never took off his armour. But he was weird.

some of the story and happenings were because i edited/wrote the story that way, some were because the players wanted it that way.
Takarn and Catherine are noticeably more awesome here, than in person.

As to sending the healer in first, it was exhilarating. I really did try to talk them down from the fight. that was about the last time any attempt at diplomacy worked, sadly.
As the story evolves, less of it is based on the game, and more is based on what the story became.

Barring a bit of editing (PHPBB... grr!) all of Tara's adventures are written.
I hope the italics are enough to separate the story from the peanut gallery comments. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Book 2 is her and the scoobies adventures when she does get home. and it's 80% complete.
I can't promise it will be awesome (though i did try) but i can fairly well promise not to leave anyone hanging.

Book 2 is pretty well classic scooby adventures with a W/T focus, though some of the others occasionally get their own chapter. Xander does not get superpowers.

I should be able to manage a chapter a week, usually on a weekend. Will slow a bit when i get caught up.


“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:29 pm 
9. Gay Now
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As to Hell:

"This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their...their Hell. But in time, they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures..."

That description works for Eberron too. :)


“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:39 pm 
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Very well said. One of the qualities I have come to appreciate most about the Buffyverse is how it established the premise of deep time in the back story from the beginning. So many other series to come along since Buffy ended have tried to ape its success but fall into one of two cliché traps.

Either the entire series becomes about a vampire banging a high schooler or Lucifer and three archangels, whose names first popped up during the dark ages in some sexually repressed monks ramblings, come to earth and fight over the hidden meaning behind the seven deadly sins.

One of the high points of the Whedonverse is how he put more creativity into the world than just copying and pasting class notes from a first year theology major.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:24 pm 
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Well done, Richard! You posted! :flower

I'm honored to have played my part in your opus.

I can't wait until you post the rest!

Heather aka vampyregurl73 aka Riverwillows73
My stories:
"Dry Heat – In Progress (still)" "Penny Arcade - Completed"
My Fic Challenge entries:
"Fireworks" "Promise" "I Did What Last Night?"

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:26 am 
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Woo, really great to see this up on pens!

It's always nice seeing the characters happy.

I really liked Faith trying to find the right nickname for Tara, one of my favourite things in fanfic is them being friends.

Also Xander's 'Zug Zug' line made me laugh, it's been years since I heard that phrase.

Gotta agree with Citanul the class choices are interesting,

I wonder what classes the other Scoobies would be.

It's a really interesting crossover, most of what I know about DnD comes from video games, and until recently I didn't know about Eberron, but it seems like a really interesting world.

Matty- Lovers Dearest, Falling in love at christmas A trip through time thinking about the verse

Tara: I am, you know.
Willow: What?
Tara: Yours.
Who are You

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 6:36 pm 
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@Citanul: Yeah. I think they miss the deeper stuff, and only try to copy the superficial stuff. That's how you get cheap knock-offs.
I think that the strength of the shows mythology was that they didn't try to explain it much beyond 'horrible' and 'demons'. That kinda lets the viewers fill in the blanks. At least until it becomes plot relevant.
At which point, you better have i nailed down somewhere, otherwise you'll come a cropper.

@vampyregurl73: Thanks Heather, couldn't have done it without you :)
Especially the smut. that stuff is hard. Well, not hard exactly, more... soft :P
And strong women. I tried to work to that theme, while also having some fun. Especially later :)

@Mgraham93: Hey Matty!
Most of the plot of book 2 is at your prompting, I liked it, and i think anyone else reading it will too :)
I r-eally couldn't have done it without you. :P

I can't find it, but somewhere out there in the wilds of the internet is the perfect pic: it has Xander, Willow and Buffy side by side with helicopters in the background.
And it has the caption: Knight, Paladin, Mage.
Would have been perfect, but i can't find it :P

@Ariel: Also, i don't know if you're gonna read this, but you were definitely part of my inspiration, and i totally loved your story How I Met Your Mother.
Even though my story is nothing like yours, you were/are still my inspiration for making better, more loving characters.

Anyway, on with the story:

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 7:20 pm 
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Chapter2: Who am I?

Tara and Catherine spent most of the afternoon roaming the markets looking for bargains to furnish their new place with. In traditional fashion they rapidly acquired beds, bedding and furniture. The major tasks complete, they managed to spent the rest of the time quietly bickering about the decoration of the place and shopping for food.

By the end of the day they had decided on a decor of draped dark coloured cloth on the walls, giving the place a charming exotic feel.

But even better, Tara was now clad in light cottons and silks appropriate to the climate and had more in her wardrobe. She also had picked up a wardrobe, ‘Which is a nice change,’ she thought as she admired the light blue embroidery of her flowing cream dress.

“That sounds really pretty! Did you manage to bring it home with you?” asked Willow, smiling up from her chosen place in Tara’s lap.
“Sorry sweetie, I couldn’t carry that much with me, so I stuck to magical equipment for the journey home, and presents.”

“I say yes to presents!” said Buffy. “Thank you for bringing me the bestest present ever,” she said.
“Yeah Blondie, that magic clothes-fixing’ widget is pretty cool,” Faith said.
Buffy tenderly stroked Faith’s single blonde lock. “I meant you, doofus.”
Faith looked away, obviously uncomfortable, but trapped by a reclining Buffy.

“Omigod! Faith are you blushing?” squeaked Dawn. “Buffy, you made Faith blush!”

“Dammit lil’ D! Your turn will come!” Faith groused. “I swear, if it’s possible to pass out from blushing too hard, you’re gonna find out.” Faith waved her free hand at dawn, clenched in to a mock fist.
“One day, when I find you walking hand in hand with your honey, I am gonna jump out of the bushes and show them baby pictures, and tell them embarrassing stories about you as a child.”
Dawn poked her tongue out fearlessly, secure in the knowledge that any incriminating baby pictures were safe at the bottom of the miles-wide Sunnydale crater.
Buffy giggled, safe in Faith’s arms.

Xander caught Tara’s eye and mouthed ‘best present ever’ shooting significant looks at Buffy and Willow, their eyes sparkling with mischief.
Tara blushed slightly and mouthed back ‘you’re welcome’.

She and Catherine were sitting in their newly decorated lounge sipping fruit smoothies. It turned out that there was a stall over by Melchior’s office, manned by a northern gentleman who had a way with fruit, ice and dairy products that was near magical.
The pair were relaxing, taking a well-earned break from shopping and lifting furniture, and all that could be heard for some time were contented sighs and the sounds of slurping.
Their dwelling could best be described as ‘Arabian nights on a student budget,’ all the furniture was serviceable but second hand. Each currently had their feet up on a worn but comfortable couch they had struggled to get up the stairs. The smoothies were their reward for a job well done.

Best yet, they had acquired a huge hassock thing for Takarn to sit on. It looked like a giant green marshmallow and was the source of some amusement when they picked it up. The second-hand furniture dealer had no idea what it was originally for, but was happy to get rid of it cheaply to the two young women, along with a load of other household furniture.

Moving all of this in had taken the pair most of the afternoon.
Catherine had grumbled about the moving first.
“You know? This sucks.”
“Um, I didn’t think it was that bad,” Tara said, happy to be finally wearing clothing not made from fur and leather.
Catherine waved her hands. “Nope. I know we can move furniture, it’s not like we aren't up to the task. No, what I mean is... my buddy is built like a castle, we know a metal man who cannot get tired and your BFF could lift all of this stuff with one hand. Hell that sword has to weigh as much as this couch.”

She continued with her grousing session. “Anyway, come the day we actually need some manly heavy lifting done, where are they? Mysteriously absent, that’s where!”

Tara smiled, but let her new friend vent. In truth, Takarn had to arrange quarters at the church for himself, check in and do other paladin-y tasks. He had grumbled about paperwork, though she was not sure if he was serious about that. As to the others, she wasn’t sure where they were.

“See Buffy? Even holy knight guys in other dimensions have to do paperwork,” Willow chirped.
Buffy pouted as Giles let a small smirk cross his features.
“Phooey to paperwork I say,” she responded.

“I mean I’m all for girl power and whatever, but there’s a reason guys are bigger and have all that upper body strength. It’s so they can lift the heavy stuff, while we direct them. We get to get creative with colours and stuff dammit!”
Catherine said this last as they hauled the lightweight but cumbersome couch into their lounge.

They had wisely planned out and argued where everything should go before they started moving anything, they had also done the decorating first, while the place was empty, so once the furniture was in, they were done.
Tara suggested the fruit-smoothie stall just down the road for a treat, having heard good things about the place from Takarn.

And after a giant smoothie each, the pair were happily zonked out on the couch, suffering severe brain freeze.

“Wow. Takarn was right, that was good,” Tara sighed.
“Ah-huh,” was Catherine’s only response.
An appreciative silence reigned.
“Huh,” Catherine said, after a period of brain-defrosting. “I wouldn't have thought he would be into, y’know fruit and ice and such.”
Tara nodded. “That’s what I thought too, but the only thing he really eats other than meat, is fruit. I got a, um... lecture when I tried to get him to eat some vegetables. He said that he needs calorie-dense foods, and that vegetables are essentially wasted space to him.”
“And the smoothie?” Catherine prodded.
“He just likes it, same as us. He did apparently ask about a meat smoothie and was told no... A lot.” Tara replied.

“Eeew! Because... Yuck!” said Buffy, safely snuggled up in the arms of her honey.
“You gotta be more open to new experiences Buff,” chided Xander.
Faith sniggered, getting Buffy’s frowny face as punishment. To little effect.

Giles shuddered at some private thought, something that eagle-eyed Dawn spotted instantly. “Hey! Giles has a secret!”
Everyone looked at Giles with a mixture of surprise and glee. It wasn't often that they got to put the reserved Englishman on the spot, so a treat such as this was to be relished.
“C’mon G-man, spill. We know you’ve got a secret.”

“Xander, I have a great many secrets, most of which are not for public consumption,” Giles said, looking just a little pained.
Everyone just stared at him, he looked to Willow and Tara for support, and found none. Tara smiled serenely at him and Willow grinned at him from her chosen place in Tara’s lap.
He sighed. “Oh very well then.”

Everyone focussed on him with rapt attention, privately he wondered why they only focussed with this intensity when they were embarrassing him.
“As you know, when you lot were running around in nappies, I was involved with Ethan Rayne. More to the point, we lived together in London.”
“To say he was a horrible flatmate is something of an understatement,” he said with an expression of distaste.
“In addition to leaving appalling messes that make all of you seem like saints, he had a tendency to concoct snacks that make Dawn and Heather’s culinary experiments seem rather tame.”

“Hey! I object! Or something. There’s nothing wrong with peanut butter and banana milkshakes!” Dawn protested.

“Did they really need those little marshmallows on top?” Giles asked mildly.

“Yes. Definitely,” replied Dawn.

“And chocolate sauce?”


“But was the grated cheese really necessary?” he asked with a grimace.

“Hey! It added protein and dairy goodness and a much-needed saltiness.” Dawn protested.
Everyone looked faintly queasy.

“Hey! Either I’m like, 3 years old and need to be experimenting with stuff, or I’m like thousands of years old and don’t need to listen to you. Either way, you should be glad I don’t feed you anchovy and jelly sammiches, so thrrrrrrb!” as she blew a defiant raspberry at everyone.

There were more queasy looks.

“God I bet you were annoying even as a little ball of green light,” grumbled Buffy, radiating big-sister disapproval.

“Nope, I was very cute, all the other balls of light said so. Though there was this tiny, annoying ball of light that ran around telling me what to do all the time. That sucked.” Dawn said, poking her tongue out at Buffy.

From her resting place on Faith’s chest, Buffy poked her own tongue out at her sister. Faith absently stroked her hair.

Tara smiled at the casual intimacy of the gesture, mirrored by her own hand gently stroking Willow’s soft hair. She looked down into Willow’s glittering green gaze as they shared a fulfilled moment of purest contentment.

“Nice decoy British. You still have a story to tell though,” Faith pointed out.

“Yes, well. He used to make Bovril ice-lollies,” he said with a shudder.
Everyone stared at him blankly.

“Oh good lord. Bovril? Beef tea?”
More blank looks.

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Like marmite, only rather more beefy.
The blank looks continued.

“Salty meat popsicle?” he ventured.

And was finally rewarded with a round of “Eeew! Yuck! And other such sounds of grossness.”
“Yes, well. Now that we have had that charming moment of cultural disconnect, perhaps Tara could continue with her story?”

“Uh, y’know that sounds kinda disgusting,” Catherine said.

“I didn’t think it sounded very nice,” Tara agreed.

They sat quietly together for a time, the silence deepened until it was broken by gentle snores.


Tara was flying.
She felt so free, as though she were part of the world of air, as though she need never touch the crude earth again.
It was glorious.
She soared, one with the sun and the air.
After a time, a small note of disharmony interrupted her sense of joy.


And again.

For the first time she looked down, taking her eyes from the endless sky, seeing at last the earth.
She saw a town, not really large enough to call a city.
Somewhere in that town, someone was sad, someone was in pain.
That feeling pulled at her and she drifted lower.

She wondered if she could help.
No one should be in pain.
She was drawn to a grove in a wooded area just outside of town, perhaps a little less than a mile from a collection of buildings.

The grove radiated a sense of bittersweet tears, a sense of deepest love and deepest loss, of joy transcendent and losses felt soul-deep.

And in that grove was a small figure that radiated pain so deep it was beyond description. Not the dramatic raging of recent loss, but the silent pain of despair, of the death of hope and the nonexistence of joy. And on top of this pain was heaped fresh agony, a raw physical pain that helped to distract from deeper losses.
Tara could not believe that a person could feel such agony and still draw breath. How did someone keep moving against that kind of pain?

What could possibly have happened to such a beautiful soul to cause such bottomless despair?

And she saw.

She saw her.

And saw that she was not whole. There was a piece of her soul missing, a ragged scar where something should be, something... beautiful.
Tara did not know where she was, did not know who she was, but she did know that this was wrong.
Tara felt that this figure was injured, hurting; and she could bear the pain not a moment longer. She could no more stand idly by such terrible despair, than the sun could refuse its warmth.

She gave of herself to heal the pain of this lost soul. To heal her injury, and perhaps to fill the void of terrible despair that pulled at her so.

She reached out to this torn and hurting soul.
To heal.

When her hand touched the figure’s head, light flared.

Tara felt a connection to this person, she felt something flow from herself to the seated figure and felt something flow back in return.

She felt something inexpressible inside her shift, some change in her very being, weighed heavy with meaning.

Strength and compassion flowed from one form to another, and for a moment Tara felt a flash of... something, something inexpressible, something more familiar than her own hand or face, there for a moment and gone.

The figure gasped and flexed her hand hesitantly.
She looked up from the ground, straight at Tara, with tears in her eyes. Her expression was radiant. “Thank you, baby”

Tara felt strangely comfortable with this woman, she tugged her collar and ruffled her hair affectionately, prompting a smile from the figure.
She began to drift away as the figure fell back blissfully onto the soft grass.

And as she began to wake Tara realized, ‘She called me baby.’
It had seemed so natural she had not questioned it.

“Goddess, I remember that day,” said Willow, starry-eyed. “That was the day I started to heal.”
Tara replied gently “And the day I started to remember who I really was.”

Tara sent her words to Willow privately, ‘I did not know who I was or where I was. I did not know you. And yet I loved you Willow. I loved you the moment I dreamt of you.’

Willow leant into Tara’s warm embrace ‘Tara. Dear Goddess I love you. So much it makes my heart ache. Every time I see you in a room or from the corner of my eye, my heart swells just a little bit more. What did I do to deserve you?’ She sent.

‘My heart was always yours baby, from the day I was born. I had to wait until I saw you at that first wannabe Wicca meeting to give it to you, but I gave it to you in that second. My Willow.’

“Giles, they’re doing it again,” Dawn muttered.

“Good,” said Giles. “I heartily endorse any and all secret, loving communication. Now do please stop trying to use me as some kind of teacher substitute, it’s undignified.”

‘I am so going to use that when he finds out about us,’ sent Buffy to Faith on their own secret line.
‘I’m pretty sure he knows B. I know you think of him as kinda ‘stuffy British guy’ and he kinda is, but he’s pretty sharp you know.’ Faith sent back.
‘Oh. Poop,’ sent a slightly put-out blonde Slayer.
‘Come on B, he figured out you and me before you did. Not that it’s much of a feat, you pretty much had a lock on denial.’
‘Hey! There were extenuating circumstances and... stuff.’
‘First step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.’
Buffy groaned. ‘I was having a crisis of ‘Faith’’ she sent, somehow mentally projecting air quotes around ‘Faith’.
Faith groaned at the horrible pun and bashed Buffy with a convenient cushion.

When Tara woke, she felt something slipping away, something wondrous, and she felt sadly diminished by its loss. She reached across the small bed for... someone who was not there.

Buffy sniffled. “That’s so sad.”
Faith hugged Buffy reassuringly.

Tara nodded sadly. “I was completely heartbroken, and had no idea why.”
Willow reached up her hand and cupped Tara’s cheek. “No more pain,” she whispered.
Tara smiled down at her beloved and nuzzled the hand.

Faith whispered in Buffy’s ear. “I’m pretty sure this story has a happy ending, y’know.”

She felt an inexpressible sense of loss.
She struggled in her confusion to remember her dream, knowing that her answers could be found within. All she could remember was that she felt... free. That somehow in her dream, everything had been... right. In balance.
As right as the dream felt, it put her strangely drained and off balance for the start of the day.

‘Pancakes. Whatever else happens in life, I know I can always make pancakes’

“Funny shaped pancakes!” yelled the assembled Scoobies, to Tara’s sheepish smile.


When Catherine came home from her morning run, she found a sobbing Tara in the midst of a minor kitchen disaster.

Flour and sticky batter was scattered around and there was the smell of burnt food in the air.

Catherine sighed to herself. Tara seemed driven by motivations unknown to her, and unknown to Tara herself. She smiled or wept at the most trivial and random of things. Having lived through similar things with Rinaldo, she suspected it was a function of a slowly recovering memory, when everyday objects and situations would trigger the sudden return of deep memories.

She shrugged to herself, ‘Nothing I can do to help with that.’[i]
So she started cleaning some of the mess and making a fresh batch of pancakes. the mix was pretty good.
When she had finished, she offered a small plate of pancakes to a shivering Tara.
“What happened?” she asked.

A stuttering and sniffling, Tara responded. “I’ve always been a g-good cook, ever since my m-mother showed me how as a little g-girl. S-so I thought I would make p-pancakes for breakfast.”

Catherine smeared fresh butter and sauce on the pancakes, nodding as she listened.

“I burnt the p-pancakes! I never burn p-pancakes! My w-whole l-life I have never burnt p-pancakes. I can’t even say p-pancakes without stuttering. Suddenly I’m p-pancake burning girl! There’s so much I s-should be able to remember,” Tara wailed.

Willow gave Tara a silent hug as she spoke, painting a scene of loss and terror springing from something as everyday as burned pancakes.

Catherine said nothing, feeling out of her depth.

“I feel like there’s something specific that I should know, something important, something SOO important,” Tara said, clutching her head with silent strain.
“I feel like I’m on the edge of something h-huge. Something I need to know, something I DO know and c-cannot face. Argh! This is maddening!”
Tara felt trapped, confined. She needed to be out, out in the open air. She fled from the room.

Catherine ate her pancakes, silently glad she did not have to live with that kind of emotional torment. She knew two people who had been personally affected by the day of mourning, and neither of them were quite whole.

Tara skidded back into the room. “I’ll clean up later, I promise,” she said before fleeing again.

Tara felt something inexpressible inside her, something huge, something terrifying. And the pressure was building. She had to get out, she had to get free, she had to... do something!
She fled. She did not know what she was fleeing, or where she was fleeing to.
She ran blindly, randomly.

And she was followed, by a large figure that kept to the plentiful shadows.

Tara found Takarn strolling towards the tower where she lived, a giant spicy sausage-in-a-bun clutched in one huge paw.
He spied Tara rushing toward him and got as far as “Sausage-” before Tara clenched him in a fierce hug.
He lowered his free hand to her back and gave her a huge but gentle pat.

“You have remembered more?” he rumbled gently.
Tara shook her head and did not release his warm, metal-clad chest.
After a minute or two’s comforting hug they separated and began to drift through the marketplace together.

Tara clutched the little finger of Takarn’s free hand in hers as they walked. The vast difference in size made the him seem like a parent walking beside a small child.
The pair walked in silence for a time, by mutual unspoken agreement they climbed the towers and rode lifts to a quiet garden on top of one of the taller towers in the area.

They leaned together against a railing by a taxi park, looking out over the city of light, a vision of silent contemplation.

“I feel like I’m going to burst, like I’m going to go out of my mind if I don’t do... something,” she said.
Takarn laid his huge steaming hotdog on the broad railing and gave his full attention to Tara.

“I thought I was getting to know who I was,” she said wearily. “I thought I was getting on top of it. Then I decided to make pancakes this morning.”

Takarn nodded slowly, he enjoyed pancakes. If they had lots of butter and fruit.

“I burnt the pancakes,” she said simply.

His crest raised partly, in confusion and he said “Err?”

“I have never burned pancakes Takarn, not since I was a small child. My mother taught me how to make them when I was little. It used to be our special time while father and the rest of the family were at church.”

Takarn kept silent, this was more than Tara had ever revealed or remembered of her past, he hoped that this was some kind of revelation.

“I used to cook funny shaped pancakes for my... other family a couple of times a week, and for special occasions.”
She paused for a moment, her brow lined with her thoughts.
“I never burn pancakes... Tara does not burn pancakes. I did.”
She looked up, a panicked expression on her face. “So who am I?”
“You think that you are not ‘Tara’ because she does not burn food and you do?”
She nodded.
“No. Thinking too much. Not sensible. You are Tara. You had a bad morning. You had a lot on your mind. You burned a meal and panicked.”

Willow tightened her grip, as though terrified that Tara would be swept away. It was pretty clear that if any such craziness occurred, Willow intended to be along for the ride.

He pulled her in for a tender hug. “You are Tara. You are a child of the light. You are my friend.”
Tara felt something change inside her, something powerful and inexpressible, a powerful need to do, to move. To soar above mundane concerns.
“Takarn? Do you trust me?” she said as she stepped back from him.
“Yes,” came the simple answer.

“You once said that I would have a crisis, that I would fall and perhaps rise to soar into the light. Free, like a bird.”
“Not quite so flowery. But yes.” He said.
“Do you trust me?”

Tara smiled at her trusted friend, radiant, bursting with anticipation, terror, joy.
And she stepped out into open space.
And fell.

Willow clenched her hand tight in an echo of panic. Tara squeezed it back, as the Scoobies listened intently to her crisis.

“Shit,” said Takarn. “It was a Metaphor!” he roared, and dove out into space after her.


Rinaldo sprinted from the shadows, for the gap in the safety rail that allowed the parking of air taxies. He looked over the railing at the two falling figures, vanishing as they punched into the cloud bank.
He could not follow, and his mistress would not be pleased if Tara was smeared all across the landscape. Hopefully Takarn would catch her before she went splat.

His nose detected the smell of spicy food nearby and he found Takarn’s huge uneaten snack. He took a bite as he walked away from the edge.

The area they had chosen to talk was a popular lookout, uncluttered with walkways and with a good view of the city. It also had an unobstructed drop to the bottom of the city and the lava that boiled there, more than a mile below.
Tara fell. The wind whistled past her, her hair and dress streamed out behind her and she felt the freedom of her dream once more.

Memories came. And such memories, all a jumble. Memories of swinging on a swing, pushed by her brother when she was small, afternoons in the woods with her mother, learning about the properties of plants. Flashes of faces she could almost name, faces she knew she loved. And then came darker visions, raised hands, raised voices, whippings with belts, a dark and foreboding staircase leading down into darkness and pain.

Takarn folded his wings tight to his body and dove, trusting to his greater weight to close the distance. The wind tore at him as he fell like a bolt from the heavens. They punched through a layer of drifting cloud, common in this humid city, and on the other side he caught up to her.

Grasping hold of her dress he looked down, they had covered nearly half the distance to the bottom.
Tara opened her eyes meeting Takarn’s in the howling wind and she mouthed the words ‘Trust. Me.’

Reluctantly he pulled back, keeping pace with her fall. He silently gave her 10 seconds, then he was going to grab her, trust or not.

Tara looked into her memories. ‘This is who I was.’
She had fallen into darkness, now it was time to soar.
She pushed in a direction she had always instinctively shied away from, needing what was locked away there with desperate intensity, she felt her magic flow with shocking strength. ‘This is who I am now.’

And she flew.

She spread her wings and flew.

The assembled Scoobies gasped as Tara described her flight. Even Willow was silent, though Tara’s talent with flight was less new to her.

Takarn was shocked, though not shocked enough to forget to spread his own wings. He righted himself and spread his massive canopy of feathers with a snap, braking his fall until he could claw his way back to the sky.


After substantial hard work he was at the same level of the city as Tara, in the open sun, some distance from their launching off point.

He slowly orbited the miles-wide open area, and watched as she revelled in the power of flight, swooping and diving, her snow white wings gracefully sculling through the air, flying with graceful strokes around glittering towers, until at last she spied him. She shot over to him with swallow-like speed, faster in the air than his own powerful, heavy flight.

She shot past him with a faint “Oops!” audible over the sound of wing beats.

After a couple more tries she was able to join her flight path to his, and they flew along in relative silence for a few minutes. After a time, Takarn pointed to a cafe near a large open plaza area and he lead the way there.

Tara paid attention to how he landed and was able to emulate his easy landing with some success, only skidding slightly.

“Nice landing for a beginner.” He said as they walked towards the cafe. Tara was used to the looks that her huge, rainbow-winged companion got whenever they went places. She was not used to attracting similar looks herself, though she supposed she would have to get used to it now.

She marvelled at the snow white canopy she could spread around herself and the strange ‘new-but-familiar’ feeling of having an extra set of limbs.

“Pretty,” said Takarn with his reptilian grin.

“You SOOO have to show us later,” Dawn gushed.

“Hey! No ogling my girl or making her feel uncomfortable ok?” Willow defended.

Tara spoke up. “It’s ok sweetie, I don’t mind. They are a gift. A gift given unwillingly, but a gift never the less.”

Dawn continued. “Besides, all of Slayer central knows that Tara is an angel, at least that’s what Heather and Jules told me.”

“I’m not an angel,” Tara protested.

“You’re my angel,” Willow responded, hugging Tara tight.

Buffy groaned. “How long have you been waiting to use that line in public Will?”

“Days Buffy. I have been waiting for days.”

“I’m not an angel,” repeated Tara.

“Yeah you are,” Faith interrupted. “You’re filled with love and compassion, you died, you can heal, you can bring back the dead,” she said pointing to herself. “And you can use your magic to grow wings and fly. Pretty much the definition of ‘Angel’.”

“Can we find some other term please? I’m not too comfortable hearing my ex-boyfriend’s name while I’m snuggled up in the arms of my honey. Even if he did have a thing with Cordelia. I mean Cordelia, really!” Buffy pouted as she said this last bit.

“Y’know if we all get in the same room together, I have this feeling that the awkwardness would be enough to blow out all the windows. Let’s all meet outside huh?” said Xander, only half-joking.

Tara continued her protestations. “I was always able to do healing magic, I just needed training to be any good at it.”

“Sorry Snow white, you’re stuck with the ‘angel’ thing, Heather’s entire squad saw your take-off, and they told the whole school in under 10 minutes. Don’t feel bad about it T, even before... in Sunnydale everyone pretty much thought you were an angel. Am I wrong?” Faith asked.

The assembled Scoobies slowly shook their heads.

“You were too good for that place hun, the Hellmouth messes with everyone. You were the only person who managed not to screw up royally.”

Tara looked resistant still, but did not protest.

“Perhaps it would be best if we tabled this discussion until later?” Giles suggested.

Tara nodded and continued with her tale.

Takarn had originally intended to give Tara a stern talking-to, but as he saw the dazed, near star-struck expression on her face, he realized that she had no more idea of what was occurring than he did.

“So. Wings then,” he prompted.

Tara stroked her wings wonderingly. “Like you,”

He shrugged, a gesture made all the more impressive by his rainbow wings. They duplicated the gesture in a far more demonstrative fashion.

Tara copied him with a smile.

“The fall was your crisis. Did you find what you were looking for?” he said.

She nodded. “Some of it. I can feel that there is more to come, and I can feel the shape of it now, if that makes any sense. I have memories of my childhood, learning magic with my mother, spending time in the kitchen. It was wonderful, I’m still processing it,” Tara said with a happy smile.
“There w-was other stuff t-too,” she said quietly, her stutter making a reappearance as the smile vanished from her face. “I... I didn’t have a happy childhood.”

Takarn growled threateningly. Anyone who would hurt someone like Tara deserved his uttermost hatred.

“They... they told me I was a d-demon.”

“Oh Goddess! Of all things, you had to remember THAT. I think I could live quite happily knowing you had forgotten that particular piece of stupidity,” said a visibly angry Willow.

“Shh darling, it’s alright,” Tara said soothingly. “It all came out for the best.”

The strange, slightly squeaky sound of metal being crumpled under terrible force was heard. Takarn’s side of the table had two giant handprints crushed into it.

He spoke, his intense emotions turning his normal bass speech into a sound of gravel and shattered rocks. “Irony. How?”

“When... when you are little, you don’t question what you are told. I was told from the time I was a child that I had d-demon blood in me. It became part of who I was. I was the girl who was g-going to turn into a d-demon,” she stuttered sadly.

“What proof?” he ground out.

After some thought Tara ventured. “Um... m-magic, I guess.”

Takarn looked surprised. “They detected it magically? Faked a divination?”

“Um... no. I could use magic. Th-that was the um... proof, I guess.”


“Most people couldn’t do magic... so they told me that the magic came from the demon in me.”

“Stupid. Stupid people,”

“Where I w-was, where I grew up, no-one knew about magic. W-where it came from, how it worked, anything. So it was mysterious, treated with fear and suspicion, treated as a foolish superstition or myth by most people.”

“How a myth? Point your hand. Summon lightning or fire. What else if not magic?” he asked, clearly puzzled.

“That kind of talent was rare, and kept hidden by most. I guess no-one felt that it would be helpful to just say ‘Hey look: Magic!’”

“Demons do not do good. Evil would have been evidence. Not magic.”

“Unless magic... was considered to be evil, as... as it was by most followers of my father’s religion.”

“Never introduce me to your family. I will upset you. By handing out richly deserved beatings.”

Tara looked conflicted.

“You are different. Like me.” He prodded.

Tara sighed. “I don’t think I was. I... I think maybe, that these are new,” she said, flourishing her wings slightly. “I only remember stories about demons and demon blood, nothing about, um, angels in my family tree.”
“I think on some level I knew. I’ve had dreams about flying and couldn’t stand to have anything cover my back. I thought that it was just the heat. I guess my mind was trying to tell me something when I jumped off that tower.”

“Get used to sleeping on your front. Lying on your back is not comfortable.” He rumbled, not unkindly.

“I think I can remember what it felt like when they came from wherever they were. I might be able to put them back, like reversing an enchantment.”

“Try. It would be useful for avoiding attention. I doubt you enjoy the stares.”
Tara closed her eyes, an expression of concentration on her face as she puzzled through the sensations that flooded through her during her recent epiphany.
She traced the magical connections back from her wings, into her body, into her life force, into her soul...
Tara gasped, her eyes snapping open in shock.

Takarn placed a steadying hand on her shoulder as she looked to panic. “Breathe. Calm. Steady.”
When Tara had calmed somewhat, he asked. “What did you see?”

“A face, a face I’ve seen before... maybe in my dreams, I don’t know. Green eyes, hair like fire... so beautiful,” she sighed.

Takarn gave her a moment of contemplation. He was not particularly adept at reading mammalian facial expressions, but he could tell that Tara was experiencing something wondrous.

“Who is she Takarn? Who is this woman I’ve never met, but who’s face is written on my soul? Who is she to me?” Tara said wonderingly.

“Never forget Willow, you are written on my heart and soul, now and always,” Tara said. She leaned forward to press a kiss of surpassing tenderness against Willows lips.

Dawn sighed, clearly yearning to have someone who loved her the same way. Xander put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed her in a companionable hug. “One day Dawnie. You’ll find someone just for you, give it time.”

She hugged him back fiercely. “They’ve set the bar pretty high Xander. How is anyone going to measure up?”

“You can’t measure love Dawn, it’s just for you.”

She looked at him appraisingly for a moment, before nudging him affectionately with her head. “Buffy was right about you Xander. You’ve gotten wise on us.”

Xander sighed and scrubbed his face with his free hand. “Guess It had to happen eventually huh?”

Takarn shrugged massively. “I am a warrior. Such things are beyond me. Darkness I fight. The light I protect. This is what I know.” He pondered for a moment and then announced “You need a priest. I think I know which one.”
He philosophized for a moment. “Now, try again. My wings came with the rest of me. Magic helps me fly. Yours came at need. Also magically. They may go the same way.”

Tara concentrated, feeling her way inside. Where did they come from? How did they arrive? As she explored her inner self carefully she realized that she had felt something like this before, when she came to the city. She realized that she had felt a sense of potential here, a potential that had burst into life when she fell.
She nodded to herself, Elder Gann was right, she would find her answers here.

Magic. Magic was the key to everything here, even the trains operated on magical principles. Likely magic was at the heart of this: her presence on this world, her memories, her new-found ability to fly. But magic was strangely similar to science in some ways, if you could find the right point and in the right way... Push...

Takarn watched with interest as Tara folded her wings away. He sighed. Being able to fly was an absolute, unparalleled gift, no question. But there were times that he wished he could take them off for a few hours. Swimming was difficult with two sails attached to one’s back. Still, lack of swimming prowess was a small price to pay to visit the clouds whenever it suited him.
He grinned.

“Right. Food. My priest friend. And later? Flying lessons.”

Tara smiled, what would she have thought this morning if someone had told her what her day was going to be like?
‘I would have wondered about their mental health most likely.’


“Burn me!” swore the priest.
Brother Marcion staggered back from Tara, his hand leaving her shoulder.
“Well, that’s hell of a surprise,” he said.

Takarn raised a scaled eyebrow. “What do you see brother?” he rumbled.

The bald-headed monk smoothed his simple grey robes absently as he thought. “I have never seen anything quite like it.”
He gestured for Tara to sit and took a seat on the stone bench facing her.
“I am not an expert in souls, I don’t think anyone is.” He hunkered forward as he explained himself to the pair. “But in our order I am among the most experienced at dealing with spirits, possession and related issues.”
He thought for a long moment before speaking again. “Your soul is pure. More pure than anything or anyone I have ever encountered in this life.”

“See, see! What did I tell you! Man, no-one ever listens to me,” Faith groused.
Buffy gave her a comforting pat, which mollified her somewhat.

“And my dear, as much as it pains me to say this, you are not whole.”
He sighed and scrubbed his shiny head. “If I had to hazard a guess as to why, I would say you were injured in some way. The, ah, damaged parts are, er, ‘healing’ to a degree, but if I had to put a value to it, I would say you have about, hmm, half the soul you should have.”

“Oh baby no!” cried Willow softly.
“Shhh... No more pain sweetie. It came out for the best remember?” Tara said softly, reassuring her beloved.
“I got it back

“I would imagine the healing process is why you can remember more of yourself over time. However, you are never going to get all of your memories, all of your feelings back, until you recover the other half of your soul.”

He sighed and rubbed his brow thoughtfully. “I know of powerful magic that can manipulate and heal the soul, powers similar to those which you evidently possess. I know of cruel magic that can tear the soul from a living being or extinguish it forever. I have never heard of any power that can tear a soul in half like this. Whoever or whatever has done this thing is very powerful, very skilled and possesses abilities that I have never heard of. You will need to be very careful.”

“H-how am I able to live with only h-half a soul?” asked Tara in a tiny voice.

“Power.” He looked at her and smiled comfortingly. “Sheer power. And need, and your particular heritage. You have the ability to use your magic to heal and to work with the spirit world. You are effectively healing yourself spiritually, constantly holding yourself together with healing energy.”

“Oh. That sounds um, kinda scary.”

“Don’t feel too scared, you have a purpose my dear, something that drives you onward even in your battered state. Something as obvious as the sun, to those who know how to look.”

Tara looked up at him with a despairing gaze.

The monk put his hand on her shoulder, a kindly gesture, and spoke softly. “Love, my dear. You keep going, for love.”

“You see sweetie, your love kept me going when I should have fallen over. And my love for you drove me forward even though I should have been dead.”
Willow looked up with a sad smile. Pride was there too. But sadness was present in equal measure, that her Tara had to suffer such things, however well it turned out in the end.

Takarn raised an eyebrow at this comment, looking to Brother Marcion for explanation.

The aging monk stood next to Tara. “Our order is a militant one, we are all to some degree soldiers. We are harsh, hardened in battle, to protect those who are not hard. We give of ourselves to protect others. What my brothers sometimes forget, is why we fight. We fight for love. Love of our brothers, love of or children and our wives. My dear, you are why we fight.”

He looked to Takarn. “Takarn, my brother. I hold no rank over you, I have no power to command you, yet I charge you in the name of the Flame to watch over this woman, and protect her to your last breath. Something huge is happening here, I can sense it. If she falls, we will have failed in our most sacred trust, to protect the light. We will have failed our entire reason for existing as an order. And something wondrous will have been lost to the world.”

Tara blushed and looked away as the two warriors shared a moment of understanding. She felt terrible that these good men would risk their lives for her, even though she was effectively a stranger, yet at the same time she was grateful beyond words that they would do so.
A silent tear ran down her cheek. They held her in such esteem, even though they did not know her.

The monk saw her tear and squeezed her shoulder.
“You are perhaps feeling a bit inadequate or undeserving of all this, ah... devotion?”

Tara nodded silently.

“I understand. I do. And the fact that you feel that way shows humility. But too much humility leads to a lack of self-worth, which is not a good thing.” He looked her in the eye. “Please my dear, if you can’t believe me, at least respect the judgement of those whose job it is to defend that which is light and good in this world. We both think you are worthy of protection. We have both sworn to defend the light and to fight evil to our last drop of blood. I do not know what the fates have in store for you, but vast forces are manoeuvring around you, and I will not allow you to come to harm while I still draw breath.”

Tara blushed again and clearly fought against lowering her eyes.

“Now I’ve embarrassed you enough for today I think. If you don’t have any other pressing concerns, perhaps you could give two old soldiers a moment to talk, man to man as it were?” he said, not unkindly.

Tara nodded, but as she reached the doorway, she turned to the two and said “B-brother Marcion? What is my um, ‘Particular H-heritage’ that you mentioned?”

“Oh!” he blinked in surprise. “I am sorry my dear, I imagined that you knew. I suppose I should know better by now.”
He smiled softly. “Tara, you are a child of the heavens, the blood of Syrania flows in your veins. In essence dear Tara, one of your parents was an angel.”

“W-what?!” blurted a stunned Tara.

“Whoa, Snow-White! Really?” Faith burst out.
Tara shook her head sadly. ”That’s not why, sadly.”

Brother Marcion sighed again and ran his hand over his polished head. “I’m not handling this very well am I? You’d better sit down.”

Tara sat, rendered numb. One too many shocks, in a day filled with revelations.

“You can imagine that the church doesn’t get me to do a lot of public speaking, I’m not very good at getting things out in the best order. Takarn didn’t tell me a great deal about your situation, I assumed you knew of your parentage, so I rather polished over it.”

He thought for a moment about the best way to explain, before shrugging and just talking. “Like you, I can call upon magical abilities to grant sight of such things as souls, auras and the like. This sight is granted to me by the Silver Flame. It allows me to detect and fight things like possession, spiritual control and the influences of dark magic.”

He looked up at Takarn. “Brother, could you get me the big silver mirror from the main hallway please? Just pick up the whole thing and bring it in here.”

The big draconian nodded and left to get the mirror.

He rubbed his head, looking obviously a little uncomfortable. “It is this ability that allows me a measure of familiarity of dealing with souls and some experience of repairing the damage of possession and spiritual injury. Over the years I have had the opportunity to examine many souls and their auras.”

“The aura of a human comes in many colours and shapes but is definably human by how it looks: glowing and slightly fuzzy. Elves have an aura that flickers and shifts like a mirage, dwarves have an aura like luminous crystal and so on.”

He got up and paced to help himself think. “Angels, the children of Syrania, have an aura that burns like fire, as do any that share their bloodline. Don’t feel too out of place my dear, just as there are those who have a trace of Elven or Infernal blood, so there are those with a trace of celestial blood in their ancestry. There is no precise science to this, but generally the stronger the celestial influence, the brighter the aura and the more flame-like rather than, er... fuzzy.”

Takarn shouldered his way into the room carrying a floor length antique mirror made of polished silver, rather than a more modern glass one.

“Solid silver. There’s no substitute for it in magic working.” Brother Marcion said lightly.
“I’ve used this mirror many times for self-examination, it takes the spell very well.” He prepared the mirror with a brief prayer and a splash of holy water.
“Stand by me brother,” he said to Takarn.

When he was eclipsed by Takarn’s bulk, he said in a ritual tone “See, as I see,” and laid his hand on Takarn’s arm.

Takarn looked in the mirror at himself and the priest, he waved his hand in front of his face, as though looking at an invisible streamer attached to his fingers. He glanced up at Tara and his eyes widened with shock. “Whoa!”

“I know why every evil thing on the face of the world wants to eat you,” he said.

“That doesn’t sound very puppies and kittens to me,” Willow groused.
“It’s a side effect of how I was, uh, resurrected,” Tara explained. “I will, explain a little better, um, later.”

Tara closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment on her magic, chanting under her breath to invoke the spell of seeing. When she opened her eyes, her two companions were lit from within by a luminous glow. Takarn was primarily red, lit from within by an ethereal white flame, Brother Marcion was a more peaceful green glow, a strong white light shining out from within.

Tara looked in the mirror and gasped.

She burned. Her whole body was outlined with white fire and shot with flecks of blue. Wings of flame swept outwards from her shoulders, and she burned with light enough to illuminate a stadium.

Brother Marcion spoke “This is the heritage that allows you to function with your spiritual injuries, allows you to love, even though half your soul is missing. As I said, it’s not an exact science, but with an aura like that, I would imagine you to have a parent who was a true child of Syrania.”

He moved to stand next to her as she stared dumbfounded into the mirror. “Angels are not much for hiding, I assumed that you knew already.”

Tara shook her head numbly and said in a small voice. “My father was a horrible man, he was no angel. My mother was a wonderful woman, who loved me and taught me magic. But nothing like this.”

“Odd. Anyone with a trace of the sight would be able to see this or at least sense something dramatically different about you. Angelic heritage typically comes with some obvious markers. Odd hair, eye or skin colour, power over light, healing, flight, um...”

He fell silent as the snow-manned Tara lifted her hand and lit the room with golden sunlight.

“Like that,” he finished.

“I don’t remember anything like this from my childhood,” Tara said, slowly gathering her wits.

“Have you tried talking to them about it? Perhaps your mother was ah, visited by a holy, ah... visitor?” Marcion probed awkwardly.

“I was born on another world, I can’t ask anyone until I get home...” Tara trailed off.
She looked up, her face drawn. “Home. I have to get home.”

Brother Marcion spoke. “Right, dimensional travel. Right at the top of the list of things I know little or nothing about. For that sort of thing, you need to talk to the Gatekeepers. They protect the world from other-dimensional threats, they would know best how to close or open a path to another world.”

Tara smiled and said. “I think I know someone.”


“Wow, so um, your mom had a secret romance?” Willow asked carefully.

Tara Smiled. “Very delicately put sweetie, but no. My mom was my mom and as far as I know, my dad was my dad.”

Tara sighed. “As cool as it sounds, Brother Marcion was wrong.”
“We did figure it out, but that’s a story for another day.” Tara ruffled Willows bright hair. “It’s time for me to get my sweetie to bed for some well-earned snuggle time.”

“I am way too new to the whole ‘Buffy has a girlfriend’ thing to say the same, but yeah... that.” Buffy said with a mixture of awkwardness and happiness.

“Aww, does Buffy want happy girl-snuggles?” Willow teased as she disentangled herself from Tara.

Buffy blushed furiously, but bravely said. “No. I want Faith snuggles. With my Faith, that I love very much. So there.”

“Well done Buffy! You’re getting better at this!” Willow said, finally upright. She rummaged around in her skirt pocket and pulled out a roll of stickers. She selected a rainbow star and stuck it to the front of Buffy’s sweater.

Buffy beamed proudly. “I got a star! Yay me!”

“And a cookie,” chirped Willow, handing over a chocolate chip cookie in a little plastic bag. “Collect 5 stars and you get an engraved toaster oven. It’s in the rulebook.”

Buffy looked thoughtful. “Wow, really? I could have cheese toasties in bed!”

Faith grumbled. “Not in my bed dammit. I hate crumbs.”

Giles smiled. “I look forward to hearing the rest of the story, but perhaps we should all turn in, it is rather late.”

“There’s always tomorrow,” said Willow. She exited the room, towing Tara by the hand. Tara smiled and waved as she was pulled towards their room. “Night-night.”

“Eat your cookie B, you’ve earned it. Also I don’t wanna have a bed full of crumbs.”

Buffy chuckled, and ate her extra-delicious victory cookie.

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

Last edited by Azirahael on Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:57 am 
6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 8:19 pm
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Topics: 2
Great read. I was expecting Rinaldo to do something screwy but wasn't expecting such a dramatic leap of faith scene.

So Tara gets the half-celestial template. Nice twist. I think my favorite part was Takarn looking over the ledge and screaming "It was a metaphor you dumb mammal!"

In your last batch of responses you mentioned a picture with the trio and helicopters. Google image search Buffy comics The Long Way Home. The picture you are thinking of is the primary cover art for the first volume of the season 8 comics. If you look closely at the background you'll also see an army of young women carrying weapons that are supposed to be the awakened slayer army.

Mgraham93 this may be just me rambling but the classes the Scoobies would have are fairly simple for some and a tad more convoluted for others.

Giles is a Rogue with just enough levels of Wizard to qualify for Loremaster. He has max Knowledge Religion, Arcana, and History skills as well as a few others. His Speak Language skill is also pretty high since he had to burn points on all those demon languages and dead human ones.

Buffy is a single class Fighter with the Slayer racial template. Basically Detect Evil and Detect Undead at will, fast healing, stat bonuses in all stats two points higher than vamps' bonuses, Evasion and extra Fighter feats, Rogue special abilities and skill points per hit dice. She has Slippery Mind sometime after season one but doesn't have sneak attack. Should they also get max hit points per hit dice and add their Charisma bonus to saving throws or is that too much? The idea is to pack as much into as few levels as possible because they won't live long enough to level up to the point where they get "too" powerful.

Faith is a single class Rogue with the same template.

Kendra was also probably a Fighter with the Slayer template but she took too many levels of Expert at her watcher's behest. That probably is what got her killed.

Xander was a Commoner that swapped all his levels out for Warrior levels during the Halloween episode and maybe he took a few levels of Expert once he became serious about his carpentry and construction career. He might have built up to a few Fighter levels by the shows end.

Willow probably has a few levels in Expert from before she switched over to Wizard or possibly a Witch core class from one of the ancillary source books or settings. Pathfinder had a decent Witch core class. She might have earned a few levels of Archmage during the comics.

Tara is a single class Witch of Wizard. Whichever Willow is stuck with.

Dawn is an Expert who got at least two levels of Fighter from watching Buffy.

Anya traded all her Commoner and Adept levels in for Demon hit dice when she became a demon. Once she became human again she got to swap out all her advanced demon hit dice for class levels. I want to say she's a multiclass Warrior / Expert. But single class Rogue wouldn't surprise me. She probably has a pretty high Use Magic Device skill.

Angel is a Rogue with the vampire template. Obviously he has the vampire template. He has max ranks in Bluff, Intimidate, Sense Motive and also has more than a few points in Use Magic Device. I'm pretty sure his Gather Information skill has fallen behind the rest.

Wesley is an Expert with one level in Adept who started taking levels in Fighter sometime after Angel season two ended.

Gunn is a single class Fighter. The Wolfram & Hart legal upgrade he got would have capped his skills in Profession Lawyer and Perform (Oratory).

Fred is a single class Expert. Max ranks in Knowledge Science, Engineering and Physics.

Doyle was a half-fiend Expert. He might have taken a few Rogue levels after he found out he was half demon.

Cordelia is a bit harder. I want to say Commoner that started taking Fighter levels in season 2 or 3 of Angel.

Lorne is a single class Bard. Maxed out Perform (Singing).

Spike is probably a single class fighter with the vampire template. Then ghost template. Then vampire template again. He has one rank in Perform (Poetry).

Riley and all the initiative troops are single class Fighters jacked up on a drug that boosts physical stats and penalizes wisdom and probably intelligence. The scientists are single class Experts.

Drusila is an Adept with a severe Wisdom penalty, and of course the vampire template.

Adam is a Flesh Golem. I don't know why I needed to add that. I just felt like saying Flesh Golem.

Basically I'm using the NPC Expert class as a stand in for basic modern education or career focused training and college with no combat training. College and combat training equals Rogue. Being "Street Smart" also equals Rogue.

Xander dressing as an army grunt for Halloween only got him Warrior levels but if he had dressed as special forces such as army rangers, green beret, marines, or the like then he would've gotten Fighter levels.

You can probably say Buffyverse vampires don't get the full Dracula bag of tricks listed in the monster manual unless they take a few levels in any spellcaster class. Or have human followers with spellcasters in the mix.

I also don't think the Buffyverse has divine spellcasters. Only arcane casters who may choose to call upon divine sources once they get the right training.

Wow that was really nerdy wasn't it?

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:25 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Holding hands across time and space

A gentle breeze ruffled Tara’s hair, bringing a sense of freshness and anticipation to the rooftop garden.
The garden was drenched in golden sunlight, more than a mile above the earth.

Tara sat under her favourite tree, smoothing her skirts. She felt safe when she meditated here, beneath the downward hanging greenery. The tree felt familiar to her, and in her confusing new life, anything familiar was welcome.

Today was especially bad. As far as she had come toward understanding herself and her strange situation, today she felt off-balance, as though something was missing.
Something from an unremembered dream last night nagged at her like a splinter, making her feel frustrated and irritable.

She really needed to sit down and centre herself.
She listened for a moment to the sound of the breeze across the rooftops, hearing the soft whisper of wind across the decorative stonework and the rustling sounds as it gusted gently through the leaves of the tree at her back.

Her huge companion crouched quietly nearby, patiently waiting. Takarn understood the need to meditate, to connect oneself with the stillness at the heart of things. He waited, clearly considering joining Tara in meditation.

Tara looked up at the smooth bark of the tree she had come to think of as ‘hers’. The tree felt like... home. As her thoughts dwelt on the tree, she could feel something welling up inside her, a sharpness, some huge emotion that she could not readily identify.

Tara spoke to the Scoobies scattered on the couches of the lounge, but mostly she spoke to the beautiful red-head who lay on the couch, her head pillowed in her lap.
“I knew something was about to happen, but I did not know what. I felt it building for days, and it scared me.”
Willow’s eye’s glittered with unspoken emotion, but she held her tongue. She knew how important this was to her beloved, and how much she needed to tell her story.

“Takarn?” she said softly, almost fearfully, as her hand felt the texture of the smooth bark.
“Mmm?” he rumbled.

She could feel something building inside her, a pressure; part fear, part anticipation. “What... what is this tree called?
“Hmm...” he rumbled, scratching his scaled head. “In common tongue it is called ‘Salica’ ”. He thought for a moment longer. “In the ancient druid tongue it is called... Willow.”

Tears spilled silently from the corner of Willow’s eyes as she heard the wonder in Tara’s voice.

The Scoobies fell extra quiet at this revelation, a sense of anticipation apparent.

Tara felt the name hit her like a fist, all but knocking the air from her lungs. “Willow,” she breathed.
She had given name to the immense feeling inside herself.

“Willow...” she said again, an expression of wonder lighting up her face. She felt the pressure that had been building inside her burst, filling her with a mountainous rush of raw emotion.

She saw flashes of a beautiful pixie-like face, flashes of fiery red hair and huge green eyes... and a smile... a smile that melted her heart, filling her with warmth. Tears fell as she found her love.

“Willow!” she called out her name like a prayer, a cleansing prayer, and her soul sang. She felt herself awakening, for the first time in more than a year she felt alive, not simply existing, but truly alive.

Love welled up in Tara, as she remembered Willow and their love. She knew who she was now. She loved Willow, with all her heart, with every fibre of her being. That was who she was.

Willow gazed up at Tara’s wonder-struck expression in absolute rapture. She knew Tara loved her, knew it with greater certainty than she knew that the sun would rise tomorrow. But the awe that transformed Tara’s expressive face at this moment was humbling.

There were no words capable of expressing how she felt at this moment, when the woman she loved more than the life of the world, showed her how she felt on that day.
The day she remembered her love, the day she remembered her.
The love and wonder she felt radiating from Tara was enough to steal the breath from her lungs.

It was matched only by her own love and wonder. she loved Tara so much she could barely comprehend it. And when Tara looked down at her and smiled her warm, slightly goofy smile, Willow’s breath was stolen again, by her own love welling up from inside.
She sent a silent prayer to the Goddess to watch over Tara as they shared that glittering moment together.

Takarn watched his friend’s bizarre reaction. Humans were weird, and his friend was weirder than most. He did not however expect this kind of reaction from naming of a common type of tree. Tara called out the name of the tree three times, first with shock, then with wonder and lastly with love.

He could only assume that an important memory had surfaced at last.
His gift allowed him to sense emotions to a degree, allowing him to determine the innocent in need of protection, and the wicked in need of punishment. But the emotions coming from Tara took his breath away.

He fell to his knees as the sensations of love; pure, true love, thundered through him. All his years he had dedicated his life to the service of the flame, he had done so with honour, dedication and devotion.

But the strength of love radiating from Tara was like nothing he had ever believed could come from a mortal being. It felt like a force of nature. It was the truest, purest thing in all the world. It was like honey and sunshine, it was like touching the face of god.

He looked on the misshapen face of the human woman and saw the love radiating from her, warming him like the sun. He finally understood what humans meant by beauty and he saw it now. Whosoever prompted this love was blessed.

He stared unabashed, awestruck, almost worshipful at the face of Tara, tears making bright tracks down her cheeks as she remembered her love.

And then he saw something that broke his battered heart. He saw her expressive face crumple in despair. It was as though the sun was suddenly snuffed out, and it made his blood run cold.

Tara remembered more. Friends, holding shy hands, kisses like fire, and nights of love... and she remembered pain.
Pain as it was all torn away with the sound of a shot, and inhuman screaming.

She remembered the sounds of chanting and waking up on this world, so far from home and the home of her heart. Despair filled her soul.

She heard a terrible keening sound, a sound of almost animal suffering, of utmost loss. She did not realize that the sound came from her own throat.

“Oh God baby! Oh no,” Willow wept in a tiny voice. “Nonononono,” she whispered desperately, curling in on herself. She was utterly lost to the pain of her memories, drowning in remembered despair.

Tara held Willow tight as she shook in silent anguish. She well understood Willow’s loss, having experienced the same feelings herself.

But for Willow to have endured that loss, not for moments, but days? Weeks? Years?
How did she hold onto her sanity? And to keep building a future in the midst of this bottomless pain? The strength revealed by Willow’s suffering left her speechless for a moment.

Tara recognized Willows agony for what it was: a purging, a scouring clean of another dark corner of Willows soul.

She leaned forward, whispering soothing noises as Willow confronted the pain she had spent so long avoiding, just to be able to live.

Tara laid a comforting hand on Willow’s bright hair, and a strong, warm hand laid itself on top.
She looked up into Xander’s deep brown eye, shimmering with unshed tears. He knelt silently next to Willow, and Tara had her answer.

Xander had saved Willow.

Another, smaller hand laid itself atop Xander’s.
Buffy was there, shoulder to shoulder with Xander as the Scoobies gathered around.

Willow’s family gathered, eyes brimming.
Her family now.

Willow was still shaking as the un-voiced agony of that cursed day poured through her, but Tara could sense that it was a cleansing pain, like corruption pouring from a wound. Slowly her shaking lessened.

Tara whispered to her trembling girl. “No more pain my sweet love, I promise you. No. More. Pain.”
At the sound of Tara’s soothing words, Willow’s rigid agony broke and she collapsed into racking sobs. Surrounded by her family, she purged some of the darkness from her soul.

How long they stayed together like that, no-one knew. In the end everyone ended up sitting on the cushions piled around the couches, sharing a moment of shared pain and release.

Willow felt exhausted, yet oddly buoyant. She sniffled as she opened her expressive eyes and found herself looking into Xander’s compassionate face.

“Hey Wills,” he said softly.
“Hey Xander,” she whispered back. She smiled gently at her best friend, her rock.
“I’m sorry Wills. I’m sorry I let you down,” he looked away, his good eye closed, his expression filled with shame. “I’m sorry I didn’t handle it... better.”

“Hey, no! Xander no!” she protested softly. “You’re my rock Xander. You were there for me, like you’re always there for me. You saved me Xander, you saved the world.”
Willow sat up and gave her best bud a serious look. “We all owe you Xander, but I owe you everything.”

Her face took on a flat expression, her mouth like a letterbox despite the tears. “See this? This is my resolve face. Can’t argue with this face. Nope. I want you to know that you did the best you could, ok? Buffy too, all of you,” she said as she looked around. “Dawnie, Giles, yes, even Faith, I wouldn’t have made it without you guys. So don’t you dare feel bad, you cared and did the best you could, ok?”

Buffy looked at Tara.
“Tara I... we...” said Buffy helplessly.

She slumped in defeat. She went on in a small shame-filled voice.
“No-one knew what to do Tara. When you... when we lost you... we hurt too. Not like Willow, god no. But-but no-one knew how to... and we just never talked about it... it hurt too much and no-one wanted to... to hurt anybody else, so no-one...” Buffy managed to get out haltingly.

The look in the eyes of Xander and Dawn, even Giles, showed that she was speaking for all of them.

“It’s ok Buffy. I understand. I... I think I had the easier time of it. If Willow had... I don’t think I... could have kept living.” Tara choked out as she stroked Willows soft hair.

“I think you guys are the only reason we are both here, together and alive and in love,” she said, making eye contact with each of her gathered family. “I will always be grateful for that, for all of you saving Willow when I could not,” she said making eye contact last with Xander.

Her expression melted when she made eye contact with him. “Thank you Xander.”
He flashed her a sad smile.

Willow sniffled and said. “I’m declaring this to be official ‘we love Xander’ day.”
She threw her arms around her oldest friend and blew a soft raspberry on his cheek. Before he could move, Buffy pounced and did the same on the other side, before tickling him unmercifully.

After a few minutes the girls took pity on the blotchy-faced and gasping Xander and left him to recover his breath.
The atmosphere of the moment effectively broken, and the Scoobies took a moment to settle in more comfortably.

“Where was I? Oh yes: Takarn, my true friend, my ‘Xander’ in that world. He helped me, he, um, ‘Xandered’ me.”
Xander looked away, suddenly bashful, but pleased with the compliment.

This was wrong. Such beautiful light should not be extinguished.
Takarn did not give much thought to mysteries, philosophy or such things from books, but this he knew with absolute certainty: This. Should. Not. be.

He fought evil, it was his purpose, what he was for. He knew evil intimately, and anything that could bring such crushing despair to such a bright soul was evil in its truest form.

And so he did what he always did, he stood against it, and fought for the light.

Uncertain exactly what to do, he rested a comforting hand on Tara’s shoulder. He closed his eyes and called on the Flame that burned in his heart, trusting to it for guidance. He felt the power surge from some deep place inside him, some place where he kept hidden his hopes and dreams.

He reached out to her shattered soul, his hand squeezing her shoulder and said gently “Call to her.”

Lost blue eyes met his own fierce gold, from a pale face wracked by untold suffering.
“Call to her!” he said, his voice commanding.

Tara did not understand, her face was a mixture of confusion and despair.

The flame burned within him, called by deepest need, and it would not be denied. He gripped the symbol of the Flame around his neck.
“Call to her!” he roared, his voice filled with fire and steel.

Willow squeezed Tara’s hand, but said nothing as her love spoke.

Tara threw back her head and screamed out her despair.

Power flowed through her. A river of power, an ocean, the power of the earth itself; but it was erratic, raging, unfocused. No spells, no thinking, just raw screaming need. She hurled it out into the darkness, a cry in the night looking for solace.

As she gave voice to her loss, she recovered a measure of herself. Tara fought to channel the torrent of her power, to direct it into the endless dark. She drew on every breath of power she had, every trace of her strange ancestry, every fibre of the will that had faced demons, hell-gods and death.

Her soul was on fire, she blazed like a star in the limitless dark.

And it was not enough.

The darkness was endless, the silence unyielding, her will falling to despair again.

And then she was joined by another. Takarn.

His power joined her own. Living fury, the power of the Flame and his own raging soul. He gave of himself without reservation, completely. He commit his life to this task, with everything that the flame had given him.

This was the soul of a paladin in its purest form: fighting to hold back the darkness, giving voice to the light. His power lifted her, leaving no room for despair, driving back the darkness with raw fury and the power of the Flame. Deeper and deeper into the darkness the call drove, driven by utmost need, the power of the Goddess and the power of the Silver Flame.

Tara could sense something, some lost soul casting about in the deepest uttermost void, someone looking, searching with the same desperation that she sought. She fought to make contact with this far distant soul, to feel a connection.
The darkness was crushing, their power failing.

It was not enough.

“Willow!” Tara cried into the endless darkness.
The word gave voice to her love.
Here at the end of power, at the end of hope, at the end of fury, there was love.
And love was enough.

The connection was made.

In the depths of her despair, Tara reached out and gave all of herself to Willow, to heal that torn heart and heal her own.
Hope was kindled.

Tara felt Willow’s tentative hope reach for her. And take hold. Willows desperate aching love flooded into her.
‘Tara! Where are you baby?’

Hope blossomed, love swelled in Tara’s heart, despair turned to joy.
‘I got so lost’ said Willow’s tiny voice.
‘I found you. I will always find you,’ Tara cried, echoing words spoken in another life.
‘Don’t give up Willow! I’m coming home!’

Tara could feel the power fading, they did not have time for more than a few words. Sensing the need they both spoke, their words blending together into the simplest, most absolute declaration possible, before they were swallowed by darkness.
‘I love you.’
Darkness fell.


“I kinda felt you before that, but that was when I first found hope. Baby, that was when the sun rose for me. I didn’t care if I was crazy, I just wanted something, anything of you in my life.”

“Will? How come you didn’t say anything?” asked Buffy, beating Xander to the punch.

“We were all messed up about Tara. I couldn’t rub salt in your wounds, plus ‘talking to my dead girlfriend?’ youda thought I was nuts, so I talked to Faith. She really helped me Buffy.”

Faith was unsuccessfully trying to hide behind Buffy, eventually she gave up and said gently punched Willow in the shoulder, all macho-like “No worries Red, it was no big.”

Buffy evidently disagreed and smothered Faith in a world-class cuddle.
Dawn naturally responded with a gushy “Aww!”


Tara awoke as the sun was setting.
Everything felt different now. She was exhausted, yes. But calm, at peace. Like a beach after a terrible storm; fresh, clear, and with a sense of titanic energies having been recently expended.

She had a centre now, a solid core to herself that had been missing.
Her heart had a name.

She rested for a moment, savouring that name. Willow, the name of her love, of her soul. Just thinking it filled her with joy.

“That was when I discovered hope sweetie, that was when I first knew who and what I was, and that I had a mission: get home to you,” Tara explained.

Finally she sat up and opened her eyes, looking for her stoic friend.
“You... You... Oh!” she gasped.

He was changed, marked by the flame he had carried within himself. His green scales were now marked by an opalescent shimmer, similar to the holy metal of the symbol he wore.

His rainbow wings were white, though tipped with colour, like a winter rainbow.

Tara could scarcely breathe as she took in the changes wrought upon her friend. Her true friend, a friend who had willingly given all that he had, for her, without question or hesitation.

Grateful tears fell as she reached out and took his huge finger in her small hand, much as she did when they walked together. She choked out “Thank y...” before he held up his other hand, cutting her off.

“You don’t thank... for this,” he said in a halting voice. “This was... Holy. It was... right. It was... privilege”. He took a deep cleansing breath. “Never thank me for this. This was the will of the Flame... it was my honour,” he said bowing low.

He stood, lifting Tara to her feet. He pointed to the tree she had rested against “This is a sacred place now. It has been marked by the Flame. And your Goddess,” he rumbled in a reverential tone.

The tree was white, as pure as snow. It’s leaves were green and shining like glass. And it was in flower, each flower a beautiful ginger-red, a colour instantly recognizable to Tara. The Goddess had left her a reminder, a message of hope that brought tears to her eyes.

“Oh Willow... Oh baby” she said her name like a prayer, a prayer to the Goddess and the Flame both, a prayer of heartfelt thanks.

Willow closed her eyes and whispered a heartfelt prayer of thanks to the Goddess, who had watched over her beloved and allowed her to come home. Tara felt Willow’s prayer and closed her eyes to add her own thanks.
Unbeknownst to the pair, Buffy and Faith added their own heartfelt thanks, having received a similar gift.

It was only then that she noticed they were not alone. They were watched by roughly a dozen kneeling people, a dozen silent folk who had witnessed the hand of the Goddess in this world, a dozen people who had looked upon the face of the divine and been forever changed by it.

“This is a sacred place” growled Takarn to the kneeling folk. “Revere it. Guard it and profane it not.” Takarn words were greeted by a series of nods and bowed heads, none spoke, none could trust their voice in this hallowed moment.

Takarn turned to Tara, looking at her snow white hair and blue eyes. He gave her a measuring look, taking in her frail human frame, and the strength within that frame. Different from his own strength, but no less for it. He grunted, satisfied with what he saw.

“Come.” He said, holding out his hand. “We are blessed, and we have work to do.”

“I would have liked to have met him, your friend. I would like to thank him for all he did for you baby,” Willow said sincerely.

Tara nodded sadly. “I miss him. He gave everything. Always, and without question or hesitation. The only person like him I have ever met is Xander, or mister Giles.”

“I’m not sure your friend is benefiting by that comparison, but thank you Tara,” Giles said a little abashed.

“What he said, only with less words and britishness,” Xander added.

Tara smiled softly.

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 4:17 pm 
3. Flaming O
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I finally got a chance to sit down and read what you have posted so far. I will admit to only passing knowledge of D&D from my brothers playing more years ago than I am willing to admit. Even so, The story and the descriptions work well so I don't feel lost or like I am missing something. I am now thoroughly intrigued as to how Tara ended up in the other dimension and what her future adventures will be that lead her home.

I find the flash forward to the group listening to work in this format. It is not distracting and gives these nice consistent reminders that all will be well and all is well. I am super interested to find out how Tara got her wings. Wings like hers would be really nice to have.

I am looking forward to the next installment.


Sometimes it feels like we are running headlong through the woods on a dark cloudy night from monsters we can't see towards a destination we don't know.

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:06 am 
6. Sassy Eggs
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I like how Tara and Takarn are taking time getting Tara back up to speed before going deeper into vampire conspiracies, dungeon raids and whatever other big bads are waiting around the corner.

Great update.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:13 pm 
9. Gay Now
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@ loislane1: no D&D knowledge necessary :P
I was in the grip of Willow/Tara fever, and wanted to play a character with modern sensibilities, in the savage world of fantasy. Wasn't that awesome, but it made for a good story.

Yep, she has the wings for a reason, and not just because cool/died/angel. the explanation is a couple of chapters away, but it's there.

It's also moderately horrible, and needs many Willowhugs to put right.
They deal with the issues in the second story (80% complete) set when Tara gets home.
Glad you like the flash forward format. I got the Idea from Heather of How I Met Your Mother fame. Thanks Heather :)

@Citanul: Glad you're enjoying it. Mainly i wanted to balance out Tara's powers with Willow's.
Granted, i'm using an actual magic system, rather than BtVS's 'magic does what we want' non-system, but Willow is pretty apocalyptic when she wants to be. *cough* high level character *cough*

Later on you get to see the high level characters against vampires and such. The vamps don't fare well.
Vamps don't like Light, and they don't like Holy. when you have both in the same place, vamps go poof real easy.
Also Buffy has the frikking SCYTHE. it kills things real good.

Anyway, new chapter up tonight hopefully.


“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:11 am 
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Brave Tara

“I’m skipping over quite a lot here,” Tara said. “I’m just sort of sketching the outline, the parts that have a strong connection or that I learned something important. We had a number of adventures purely to learn to work well together, or as fundraising expeditions.”
“Like this world, the other world ran on money, and we needed plenty of it to do what we needed to do.”

Between cases for Melchior, Tara worked at a clinic for the ‘poor’ in the lower levels of the city.
Though enlightened in many ways, this society was positively Dickensian in its approach to social services.
Occasionally, wealthy socialites would sponsor some kind of soup kitchen or clinic for the ‘less fortunate’ as a way to score points in some upper class game of social standing.
Tara worked for one such clinic.

“Baby, I love how much you want to help people. I’ve got one of the good ones alright. Yup,” Willow said.
Tara smiled. “Well I was studying social work for a reason sweetie. French literature and fine arts is very interesting, but it doesn’t help people, or pay the bills. I just wanted to help people stuck in the same sort of awful situations as I was.”

Although the head of the facility, Chirurgeon Joseph, treated Tara as though she were of sharply below average wit, the rest of the staff were nice to work with, especially the shift managers.
As someone who was not a member of a guild, Tara could not charge full healer’s rates for magical healing, or be paid those rates for her services.
Which was a good thing in a way, because if she were paid the full value of her services, the clinic could not afford her.
So she was listed and paid as a ‘senior nurse’.
As someone made wealthy by the rewards of her casework with Melchior, the actual pay from the clinic did not matter particularly, much to the irritation of Dr Joseph.

The clinic itself acted as a training ground for surgeons (or ‘chirurgeons’ as they were locally called) to hone their skills on those considered unimportant by society.
Though dedicated and skilled, the chirurgeons could only heal to the limits of their skills with medicines and scalpels.
The shift managers considered Tara to be a godsend, as she could lay her hands upon a patient and by examining their aura, determine exactly what was wrong with them.
Though there was a slight issue with terminology, which the staff brought up if they wanted to tease Tara.
The phrase ‘sort of purple wobbly thing right there’ was sure to bring a blush of embarrassment from Tara and was now permanently ingrained in the nursing staff.
More to the point, she could heal all but the most savage wound or gravest illness. It was a matter of some pride to the nursing staff that if they could get someone to Tara while actually still alive, they would stay that way. Moreover they would usually walk away from the clinic hale and hearty the day after.

Faith burst out laughing. “Sort of purple wobbly thing right here?! Snow-White you are awesome!”

Tara blushed slightly and stared at the ceiling for a moment before continuing.

Xander was grinning wide enough that the top of his head was in danger of falling off. Wisely he said nothing.

The down side to the clinic, was that it acted as something of a poorhouse, in that the families of the patients would often have to stay in the lodging building attached to the clinic proper.
The lodgings had served as a barracks in previous decades and had a rather grim and militaristic feel.
To make things a bit more liveable, Tara brought paints and paper and string to work with her from the market.
By the end of the week, the terrible institutional decor was hidden by a rainbow of coloured streamers, paper stars and glitter.
While the matron was distinctly displeased with the lack of bare white walls, she grudgingly accepted that the families that Tara was working with were happier and permitted the decorations to remain.
Even the acerbic Dr Joseph had commented that she had a way with people, often calling Tara to help with particularly troublesome patients.

“All that bare institutional decor does not do good things to people exposed to it for a long time. I needed to make it a bit more homey for the people that lived there, even if they weren’t staying for all that long.”

The children particularly tended to flock to Tara, it was rare that Tara did not have one or two ‘assistants’ on her rounds.

Willow giggled. “So cute, Nurse Tara doing her rounds with cute kiddies in tow.”
Tara rolled her eyes with a smile.

Each day, at some point in the afternoon, Tara took the children for story time and play, giving the adults some much-needed grownup-time away from the little ones. The young ones particularly enjoyed the story of the Princess and the Dragon, laughing riotously when the dragon scared the annoying prince away and went to live happily ever after with the princess.
After a satisfying day healing injuries, dodging irritated chirurgeons and looking after little ones, Tara walked happily back from the market, carrying a picnic basket stuffed with yummy treats.
This would almost be a perfect day, perfect except for the missing person in her life.
‘Oh baby. I wish you were here, or that I was with you. Anywhere, as long as we are together.’

“Well we are together now baby, now and always,” said Willow fiercely.

“I know Willow, I know. Keep telling me that until it comes true.” Tara replied gently.

“I will Tara, I will,” said a more serene Willow.

Tara leaned forward to whisper in Willow’s ear. “You’re my... everything.”

Willow’s expression was a mix of goofy and beatific as she basked in Tara’s adoration.
When she looked up she was greeted with a wall of happy smiles, Dawn was almost rapturous.

Tara stopped walking and leaned against the railing at the edge of the walkway.
‘It won’t be long now honey. I have the spell for the gate, I’m nearly strong enough to use it Willow. I’m getting stronger every day. Every day brings me one step closer to you.’
Indeed, between her work at the clinic and the adventures with Melchior and associates, not a day went by without major league spell-casting. Tara’s mystical muscles were getting a serious workout, a workout sorely needed, given the trial she was going to have with her voyage home.
It gave her shivers if she stopped to think about it too much. She cast spells with no more thought than a whisper and a gesture, spells that once would have left her passed out cold with a nose bleed, and these were spells she cast routinely.
Several times on bad days.

‘It’s good in a way baby. When I get home I’ll have no more fears about being at your level or having a place in the group. A seer and healer is never a bad thing to have around.’

Giles was looking thoughtful as she said this. Tara had only been back for a short while, but his Watcher’s mind was already exploring the possibilities presented by Tara’s presence.
Buffy had already suggested that Tara give them a demonstration of ‘battle magic’ on the Slayer’s training course. And she had asked Xander about armour to match that which Tara brought home with her.

Many metres below her was a courtyard, formed by years of cramming new buildings anywhere they could be fit.
It was this sort of thing that made the city such a 3 dimensional nightmare. It was sufficiently difficult that folks could make reasonable living as guides to ‘their’ part of the city.
While staring over the side of the walkway, Tara became slowly aware of something wrong. Below her, two small figures ran out into the courtyard, their movements rapid and darting, suggesting desperation.
Behind them came two much larger figures, their movements suggesting both confidence and threat. Tara was starting to worry what she was about to witness.
The tenor of the scene was set when the two figures drew billy-clubs from their clothing and smacked them into their hands, a gesture that crossed all cultural boundaries. Behind them, another 4 thugs strolled into the courtyard.
The children cling to each other, clearly terrified.
The boy pushed his sister behind him and stood between his sister and harm. He was clearly terrified, but he was going to protect his sister or die trying. His expression was a terrible mix of fear and determination. A spike of mama-bear protectiveness flashed through Tara, as she recognized the expression.

Tara looked up at Dawn. “That was me remembering you Dawnie.”
Dawn looked up, surprised.

Tara smiled. “Your brave face is very intense sweetie. There’s no way I could forget something like that.”
Dawn smiled radiantly and giggled slightly.

“Goddess help whatever boy or girl you turn that smile on sweetie, they’ll be helpless before the power of the Summers smile.”
Dawn wriggled happily at the compliment. Buffy looked secretly pleased as well.

Tara knew that she could not stand by and allow two children to take a beating at the hands of armed adults, could not live with her rediscovered self if she did.
She let her magic flow and shouted into the ether, ‘Takarn!’
Before her courage deserted her, or she had time to think too hard, she vaulted over the railing, into open space.

“I swear baby, every time I think I can’t love you any more than I already do, you prove me wrong. I am so proud of you.” Willow said.
Tara smiled and continued her story.


In a warm, sunlit room walled by glass, unadorned by any decoration save a burning silver flame, a huge scaled figure opened his eyes.
With speed alarming in one of his mass, he grasped his huge sword and hurled himself through the glass windows with a shattering crash.
A shocked monk gaped in amazement, stunned at the way a scene of tranquillity had transformed into one of violence and movement without any kind of warning.
The sound of heavy wing beats could be heard fading into the distance.
An older monk, balding and perhaps more experienced, stopped on his way past. He sighed, and pulling a wand from his belt, he began to repair the shattered window.


Below, the pair of thugs advanced on the kids they had caught thieving in their territory.
The bosses orders were clear: anyone caught thieving on their territory left with a serious beating and at least one broken limb. Thugs of many years experience, neither had any qualms about the nature of their work.
Those years of experience had taught them the best way to herd frightened victims into position, and they knew that this courtyard looked good to fleeing victims, but was nearly impossible to escape from. They anticipated no problems dealing with the frightened pair in front of them.
Then their day went wrong, and an angel slammed down on the cobble stones between them and their prey.

Tara winced as she hit the cobblestones rather harder than she was anticipating. ‘note to self: buy better boots.’

She rose from her crouch and folded her delicate wings away, taking a moment to gather her wits and for the arches of her feet to stop aching.
The two thugs stopped for a moment.

“Nice,” said the smaller of the two. “I can do something similar,”
“Not quite so pretty,” he said. His hands grew claws and his face became bestial and fanged. “But more effective in a fight.”

Tara had flashbacks to Oz for a moment, but only for a moment.
Oz was a kind, sweet man, driven by urges he was only able to control with great difficulty.
This being in front of her was a deeply unpleasant man who revelled in his savagery.

“I don’t w-want to fight you, but I’m not going to let you hurt these children,” a defiant Tara said.

The green skinned thug on her other side took a step forward. “Bit of a p-problem there love, ‘cos now we are going to have to d-deal with you see?” the green skinned thug grinned, mocking Tara’s stutter.
He hefted his polished club. “Now if you’ll see sense and let us tie you up, you won’t get any nasty claw marks or bruises on your pretty skin, otherwise, well...” he shrugged.

Xander opened his mouth to say “Spike!” but was silenced by a sharp look from Willow and a helpful swat from Buffy.

“What makes you t-think I’ll let you do that?” Tara said, her stutter betraying her nervousness.

The other thugs came closer as the big guy chatted casually. “Unless you have a sword or wand hidden somewhere in that nice new dress, you aren’t going to be doing much fighting, so give it up before you get hurt. More than you already are going to be.”

“Quiesco” Tara said gesturing to the two thugs. They both yawned, looked at each other and laughed. The big one spoke. “A sleep spell? Ha! Sorry lady, you’re gonna hafta do better than that,” as his companion lifted an amulet up with the tip of a claw.

“Handy,” said the other thug. “Sleep spell is about the only thing healer types can do to fight. It’ll be handy to have a healer on tap. If you are good enough, you won’t have to work in... other ways,” he said in a suggestive tone.

Willow growled threateningly at this revelation. Tara soothed her gently, stroking her hair.

The spell had not worked, but it had given Tara enough of a distraction to quietly cast a spell of protection on herself and her two charges. The faint glow of the spell was invisible in the bright sunlight.

“Get over here you scruffy bastards!” yelled the beast-like one to his men.

His muscular friend growled under his breath. “Enough pissing around,” and took an experimental swing at Tara’s shoulder with his club. He was quite surprised when it bounced off harmlessly.
The bestial thug snarled and hurled himself at Tara.

Tara had been quietly readying herself for another spell. At the last moment, she shouted out the Latin words she used to focus her spell-casting.
“Murum Lucis!” she said, making a sweeping gesture around herself.

A light-filled glassy wall snapped into existence around her. Rippling and bubble-like, it enclosed Tara and the two frightened fugitives. The flying beast-man slammed into it and it flared with light. When the light faded, he was staggering to his feet, his fur largely missing and his clothes smoking, bad burns visible on his flesh.
“W-walk away now,” Tara said in her most commanding voice. “Before things get w-worse.”

Evidently her most commanding voice was anything but, the thugs remained unimpressed.
“It’s too late for that WITCH! Now? You’re gonna hafta die,” snarled the burned beast-man.

Tara looked at the sky and a relived smile lit her features. Her smile faded as she looked down. “I’m sorry, it’s-it’s too late.”

Before the thugs could respond, Takarn slammed down onto the stones behind the thugs, hitting with enough force to be felt through the ground beneath them.
He rose from his crouch, slowly and silently drawing his wings back behind his back, framing his enormous metal-clad form. With his huge blazing sword in one hand he raised himself to his full height and roared.

It was the roar of a predator, filled with heart stopping fury, it was the roar of a hunting beast that ate men, considered them meat. It was filled with such unfathomable rage that Tara’s blood ran cold.
This was what her taciturn friend kept hidden inside himself.

“THROW DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND LIVE!” he bellowed across the courtyard.

“Yes! I love this guy!” crowed Faith, punching the air in triumph.
“Shame we can’t get him here, he’d be awesome on patrol.”

“And parties. Though ‘rainbow’ is a very difficult colour to accessorize,” said Buffy, putting in her two cents.

Two of the thugs immediately dropped their weapons, knives and clubs clattering on the sunlit cobbles. They ran to the wall of the courtyard furthest from Takarn and tried to look as harmless as humanly possible.

“You think you could take us all rainbow man?” sneered the still smoking beast-man.

Takarn nodded. “I will. So will she, if need be,” he growled.
“Any who raise their weapons to her, or these children will answer to a higher power. I will deliver you to their judgement with my blade,” he growled menacingly.

He pointed at the beast-man and his muscular friend. “You two fight. You are tainted with evil. I will set you free of it. Die on your feet. Like honourable men.”

Tara could see what was coming and turned to face the children. “You might want to look away, this is going to be, um... messy.”

The young people, for in truth they were in their early teens, looked at her with owl-eyed expressions and turned to see the gleaming steel and rainbow tinged figure of Takarn closing on the four remaining thugs.
What followed afterwards was instructive to say the least.
It was also quick.
The four thugs spread out around the draconic Takarn, clearly intending to get him spinning, confused and dizzy.
They were long practiced at bringing down lone combatants, in approximately the same manner as a pack of jackals brought down wildebeest.

He did spin. He twirled his sword with deceptive ease, giving lie to its huge weight and size.
After a couple of seconds of apparently decorative twirling he twisted and spun, pirouetting on one clawed foot.
His powerful muscular tail counter-balanced his sword as he spun, slamming into two thugs and knocking them to the cobbles.
The other two thugs did not do so well. Takarn had truly deceptive reach with his sword and swept it without visible effort through both their mid sections, spinning around to face the two who had been knocked to the cobbles.
Behind him the two dying men fell to the ground, nearly bisected. He advanced on one of the men struggling to get to his feet, his sword licking out almost casually with a backhand stroke to remove the head of the other.
He pushed the tip of his sword against the last thug’s throat, forcing him back on the cobbles. “Yield. Or face judgement in the hereafter.”

Without any hesitation the man dropped his machete and said “Yeah alright, fair enough.”

Tara lowered the protective barrier and joined her companion.
She placed a gentle hand on his forearm. “Thank you Takarn, you saved the day again,” she said with a soft smile.

He shrugged impressively. “No worries. Being a hero is more fun than meditating.”
He looked over at the teenagers. “Hey you! Say thank you to Tara for risking her life to help you!”

“Seriously, I think I have a little Slayer-crush on this guy. Sorry B, but I just like the sound of him,” Faith said.
Buffy shrugged. “Eh, I’m not worried. What with him being in another dimension and all.”

The little girl stammered out “Th-thank you” and the boy nodded vigorously.

Tara and Takarn restrained their prisoners by the simple expedient of removing their outer clothes and using their pants and tops to tie them up.

Tara spoke to the young people. “Are you alright?”
They both nodded silently. Tara’s expression softened as she asked carefully “Why were they after you?”

“We, uh. We stole some stuff on their turf, and we’re not part of their gang,” the boy explained, glancing nervously.
Takarn was cleaning his huge sword with a shirt.
The shirt was taken from one of one of the dead thugs, and the blood lent a rather grim air to the otherwise mundane task. Once clean, he slung his sword and waited patiently at a distance, giving Tara room to talk to the children.

Tara gently asked. “Do you have parents to look after you?”

Both children slowly shook their heads.
Tara sighed and looked at her friend. Takarn shrugged and pointed up.
She nodded and turned back to the teenagers. “We aren’t going to make you go anywhere you don’t want to, no church or poor house or whatever. But we can’t leave you here to be hurt by others like these people,” Tara said gesturing around at the dead and restrained gang-members.

“I think we should give you a lift out of here, hand these people over to the watch, and get you two some dinner.”
She smiled reassuringly at the pair. “After that we can see what we can do to help you find a better place to be. Does that sound ok?”

The girl nodded vigorously, the boy asked “Why?”

“I have a good feeling about you two. I think you’re good people trapped in a sucky situation. Takarn and I help people, so we’ll help you. If you want us to.”
“Now if you are hungry, we can take you up and get you something to eat,” she said, unfolding her wings.

“Are you an angel?” asked the girl curiously.

“Um,” replied Tara, clearly not having worked out a quick answer to this rather obvious question.

“Yes. She is,” answered Takarn.

“I am?” said a clearly surprised Tara.

“Angel: we help the helpless. I think I still have some of Queen C’s cards around somewhere,” Faith said, patting her pockets.
Dawn giggled at the open-mouthed expression of shock on Buffy’s face. Faith’s hair was mussed by being bashed with a cushion, but her grin did not shift.

“You are. Time to go. Justice and food await.” He said, tucking a criminal under each arm. He stretched his wings up high, crouched and leapt powerfully into the air, bringing his wings down with a snap. He climbed laboriously through the air to the upper level, towing his trussed cargo.

Tara thought for a moment and prayed briefly to the Goddess to give her the strength to help these young people. Magic swirled about her as blue and white sparks. It flowed through her body, strengthening her, giving her the strength to carry another person.

“Wow!” said the boy.

“Pretty!” said the girl. “What was that?” she asked.

“I’m not as strong as Takarn. I need help from the Goddess to give me the strength to lift you up there. I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait around down here for their friends do you?” Tara asked, gesturing to the fallen thugs.

At the shaken heads and “Uh, no.” She smiled and extended her hands to the girl, the lighter of the two.

Tara held the girl tight and emulated Takarn’s dramatic takeoff, with only a little less poise.

In due time, everyone was extracted from the sunken courtyard.
Tara took the teenagers to get something to eat while Takarn dealt with the city watch.
Predictably they were displeased with the mess left by with Takarn’s vigilante justice, but after interviewing Tara and finding out the particulars, they eventually let the pair go with nothing more than a warning to be more careful.

“They stayed with the three of us for a few days until the neighbours offered to take them in. The Windsongs had a large and rambling family with a number of adoptees, so they said it was no trouble to have a couple of extra faces at the table. They called themselves the ‘Windsong tribe’, though I think 8 was a bit small for a tribe.” Tara explained.

“Ten now,” Willow pointed out. “They must not have been short of money to handle all those kids.”

“Well Mrs Windsong was a sort of magical technician at the airship yards and Mr Windsong was a stay-at-home dad, teacher and artist. We had some of his paintings in our place, he was quite good. They were doing alright for money, but I gave them a bit towards paying for Iris & Robert’s food and clothes. The kids were over at our place quite often. Takarn was a hit with kids, much to his annoyance.”

Willow was surprised. “Really? I would have thought he would be all with the scary and terrifying-ness I mean hello? Big winged dragon guy.”

“Red, kids that haven’t been beat down are pretty fearless,” Faith said.

“Yeah. Plus, rainbow: pretty!” chirped Buffy.

“Well, it’s pretty easy to tell he’s a good guy, especially after Iris and Robert told everyone how we rescued them. Plus he never yells at the kids except when they try to pull his feathers out, and he is the most brightly coloured thing for miles in any direction. He was like everyone’s favourite uncle or big brother. Besides, having him come over regularly was like having a policeman live next door. Or living next door to the Slayer.”

Willow smiled up at Tara “I’m not sure about that last example Baby. Do you know how often we had to explain away random house damage or demon attacks in Sunnydale?”

“You mean how often I had to explain away demon attacks?” interrupted Xander.

“So I say ‘Huh?’” said Willow.

“While you gals were off schooling and slaying and stuff, I was the one there all day putting new windows and doors in. And painting too, I got pretty good with a paint brush.” Xander zoned out as he reminisced, until Buffy poked him in the arm.
“Uh, yeah. So ‘Gang members on PCP’ only flies so far, even in Sunnydale, land of repression. After that it was ‘Gas explosion’ ‘teen tantrum’ ‘subsidence’ ‘crazy ex’ and a few other less believable stories. Having Spike around actually helped with some of that, though it did terrible things to property values.” Xander finished.

Everybody looked at him.

“What? I was dating Anya for ages, you pick things up after a while.”
“I miss Anya,” he said sadly.

“I do too. She was my best friend,” said a sad voiced Tara.

The Scoobies shared a moment of silence for their annoying but well-meaning friend, now departed.

Faith piped up. “So, G-man, that brings up something that I’ve been wondering about. Every now and then B an’ I take a couple of squads out to the actual hell mouths that give this place it’s mojo. We poke around and smoke out a few vampire nests and generally clean up a bit. We try to keep a lid on the crazy, but people still see vamps going poof an’ stuff. We never seem to get crap from the cops or whatever, or show up on morning talk shows. It’s not quite as good as ol’ Sunny D, but what’s up with that?”

Xander and Dawn both stared at Faith. “Wow, that’s more words in one go than I thought you knew. Are the gods of stoicism going to punish you?” Xander commented.

He got a cushion in the face with pinpoint accuracy.
Faith responded. “Since when did you know words like ‘Stoicism’ Xan?”

“Uh, I’ve been spending way too much time with Giles obviously. I must be stopped before I learn new words like ‘contrafibularities’ and ‘Scooones’,” he said.

“Ha! I knew it! You’ve been at Giles’ unspeakably British comedy collection,” Buffy crowed.

“A bit of ‘British’ as you put it, would do you lot a world of good. I’ve seen what passes for ‘comedy’ in this country.” Giles shuddered as he said this.

Buffy pounced. “Did you just air quote us? Welcome to the 20th century Giles!”

“Buff? It’s the twenty first century,” said Willow helpfully.

“I know. But you can’t expect Giles to be in this actual century. That would be an offence against god, and man and little fishies.” Buffy said.

Faith raised an eyebrow. “Little fishies?”

“It’s a thing,” Buffy responded.

“To go back to the very cogent point Faith brought up, the effect she was describing is referred to in most magical texts as ‘The Veil’.” Giles switched to full-on lecture mode, only spoiled slightly by the fact that he was buried in a squishy couch with both Dawn and Buffy effectively sitting on him.

“When non magically-inclined people are exposed to high levels of background magic for extended periods of time, it rather desensitizes them to magical goings-on. In effect it makes it easier rationalize away anything magical they see. It takes quite a shock to get through and break the effect, and even then, many people deliberately try to forget. This is why so many magical practitioners are drawn to Hellmouths and other points saturated with magical energy. In addition to the greater ease of spell casting, they can get away with more magical activity without drawing undue attention.”

Giles continued his monologue, every ear listening intently. “There are spells, usually geomantic spells, that can enhance these effects. The Mayor, Richard Wilkins, built Sunnydale to enhance this effect, in addition to placing chosen men in positions of power to keep a lid on things. Those who were shocked enough to have the effect broken had no one to tell, other than a few people in a similar position.” Giles took off his glasses to give them a polish on his tie.

“This is one of the reasons I stress caution when you go out on patrol this town and the local hell mouths. Magic has saturated the area, but not to the same degree as Sunnydale. At some point you are going to be dealing with some awkward questions from the police or concerned bystanders. I have sufficient contacts with the police and FBI to keep us from being declared terrorists and raided by the government, but for goodness sake, do be careful.”

“Terrorists?!” Dawn squeaked.

“Yes,” said Giles. “We are a paramilitary organization with an agenda that includes building and training a military force on American soil. For the sole purpose of doing violence to selected American and international citizens. From the outside, the Watchers Council is a terrorist organization. We have been saved by our lack of politics, the council’s contacts, magic and the fact that the Slayers are all young girls. The rest of the world is rather stupid in that regard, something I am extremely grateful for.”

“Wow. Terrorist. An’ I thought I left jail to be a good guy an all,” said Faith.

“You did. Faith-y you are one of the good guys, the goodest. The world does not like it when people look after themselves or others without a license. Stupid world,” Buffy grumped.

“Hey Giles! Here’s a wacky notion, can we get licences? Like double-oh Buffy and the Slayerettes or something?” asked Willow.

“I have been looking into long term strategies with Wesley and Robin, along with surviving members of the council, Giles said, rubbing his face tiredly.

“One Slayer had the advantage of limited exposure. Along with the dubious advantage of a limited lifespan. Any over-exposure she may have accrued would have ended with her death, so the problem was until recently, relatively self-contained. We may indeed have to come up with a better cover for our activities, especially as we start to deploy teams overseas.”
Giles rubbed his eyes. “I’ll let you know what we come up with, but it’s getting late. Perhaps we could continue this another time?”

A chorus of yawns and nods greeted his suggestion. He managed to disentangle himself from Buffy and Dawn and was helpfully shoved out of the couch.

“You know, that is a very comfortable couch, but it is rather difficult to escape,” he said with a small smile.
“Oh well, good night all. Oh and Xander? Don’t forget you have that meeting with Andrew and Robin in the morning.”

Xander nodded and waved, falling back on the couch and a pile of complaining Slayers.

“You know if Heather saw this, she’d spontaneously combust, right?” Dawn grinned down at Xander.

Xander’s relaxed expression changed. “Right. Not comfortable now. Going to bed.”

“Come on honey-bun, time for snuggles,” said Buffy to Faith.

Faith looked incredulous. “Seriously B? Honey is ok, but honey-bun? Just... no, ok?”

Buffy clambered out of the couch and turned to Faith, her hands held together in a look of mock contrition. “I’m sorry smooshy-poo, I don’t know what came over me, I must have had a brain-thing.”

She grinned and ran away squealing as Faith catapulted herself out of the couch in hot pursuit.

Dawn got up grinning and looked at Tara and Willow snuggling on the couch. “Uh, Willow? Tara?”

The two looked up at Dawn. “Yes sweetie?”

“I just wanna say thanks, you know? Not about the story, which is cool, but for helping Buffy. I... I guess I hadn’t realized how distant and cold she had gotten, until she found Faith and sorta changed. Like, back to how she was? I think she’s really happy now. And stuff. I guess now we know why she could never let Faith go, y’know?”

Dawn looked down at her hands and back up. “So thank you so much. I’m really glad you’re back home with us. Really really glad.”

Tara smiled. “Thank you Dawnie, that means a lot. And I am very, very glad to be back with my family. Not just Willow, but everybody. Especially you Dawn.”

Dawn smiled and yawned hugely, looking slightly embarrassed. “Yay. So um, bed then. ‘Night.”

“Night Dawnie!” Willow called from her snugly place on Tara’s lap.

The sleepy junior-Summers waved as she wandered off to her room.

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 4)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:27 pm 
6. Sassy Eggs
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Great update. I really enjoy the "Okay guys I have this whole long story but for now we'll cover just the good parts." aspect of Tara's story time. It's cool that they are acknowledging the dungeon delving aspect of the world but we really don't need to hear about every lone orc Takarn cuts in half because he's guarding a treasure chest in a ten foot by ten foot room.

Seeing Tara and her scaly body guard spring into action is also fun.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 4)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:48 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Heya Citanul.

Yeah, there's not much to be told by: got job, went place, killed monsters, got paid.

This whole thing (8-9 chapters) is essentially a prequal to 'The Continuing Adventures of Willow and Tara'
which i am still writing. though it's 80% finished.

And it's a little more fun :)
See how i work a Tardis into the plot, without it becoming a crossover :)
Yep, it is possible.

@Loislane1 There is an actual plot reason for Tara's wings beyond 'ooh, pretty!'
The explanation is coming up soon :bounce

Thank for watching gang!

New chapter in a couple of days.

R :flower

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 4)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:09 pm 
4. Extra Flamey
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As both a D&D geek and Willow/Tara forever fan, I absolutely adore this story and cannot wait for an update! :bow :bounce

If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Flaming is only allowed if you're being fabulously queer and campy <3

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 4)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:13 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Just formatting it now. should be along shortly :buried
Like, less than an hour :)

And thanks for tuning in :bounce

R :flower

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 4)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:50 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:45 pm
Posts: 985
Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
In search of answers

It was Scooby story hour once more.
Xander was firmly ensconced at one end of the big couch with a big bag of chips and a huge bottle of liquid-hyperactivity. Faith held fort at the other end of the couch, Buffy’s head resting in her lap.
Buffy propped her feet up on Xander and smiled up at Faith. Xander made use of Buffy’s feet by wedging his bottle of attention-deficit between her ankles. He cheerfully munched his chips.

“I’m starting to see why Willow likes this so much,” Buffy commented. “I feel so... safe, like this.”
Faith smiled tenderly, so different from her usual predatory grins or cheerful leers. “And loved B. don’t forget loved.”

Xander made mock chocking sounds from the other end of the couch and received a soft kick from a recumbent Buffy.
“Ack! Help! Slayer abuse!”

Willow and Tara were snuggled up on the smaller couch waiting for everyone to arrive for Tara’s story time.
Giles sat in the ‘Grandfather’ chair that Buffy had given him. It had previously lived in his suite, but he had brought it out into the Scooby-lounge when story time had been established as a new tradition.
He claimed it was more dignified than being wedged at the bottom of a couch-full of Summers girls.

“Hey Xan! Where’s lil’ D?” Faith asked.

“Patrol with the Jules and Heather. She wanted to try something out, so they went on an extra patrol after hours.”
His phone vibrated. “Yup, that’s her. She’ll be up in a sec. No way she’d miss ‘Tara story-time.’”

“Wait, she went on patrol with the terrible two? Patrol?!” Buffy said, her voice rising sharply .

The sound of pounding feet and the jingle of gear could be heard approaching at warp speed, and a breathless Dawn skidded into the room. “Did you start without me? Tell me you didn’t start without me!... What?”

Everyone stared at Dawn. Dawn for her part was dressed like a commando, all black gear, pouches and weapons.
Buffy sat bolt-upright. “Is that blood?!” she demanded.

Dawn looked down and spotted the dark red stain. “Oops. Not mine, I promise.”
She started shedding gear in the stunned silence, peeling off elbow pads, kneepads and weapons.
“Turns out, Vampires bleed quite a bit when you shoot them. Not as much as people I think, but yeah, vamps bleed. This is vamp blood,” she said wrinkling her nose as she peeled off her body armour.

“What the hell Dawn!” Buffy demanded.

“That body armour really makes you sweat,” Dawn said with a sigh. She sank down into the beanbag next to her pile of gear.
She cheerfully propped her feet up on Xander and stretched out with a smile, much relieved to be wearing only a black body suit and no icky, sweaty armour.

“Who are you?” demanded an incredulous Buffy.

“Dawn Summers, Vampire hunter. Pleased to meet you,” she said with a cheerful smile.
Buffy was... flabbergasted, there was no other word that quite fit.

“Go Lara! I’m liking the tomb-raider look D,” Faith said with a smirk.

Dawn wriggled and waggled her long braid. “You like? I got Heather to do it for me. I got the idea from Tara. You Slayers might like having your hair whip around your face when you’re fighting, but I don’t.”

“Faith, you’re so not helping,” Buffy groused.

“Sorry B, but D’s been training with the mini-me’s, Xan an’ me for months. What did you think she was gonna do?” Faith said.

“I thought that was for self-defence!” Buffy complained.

“It was! Not a mark on me! Dawn Summers: 3, yucky vampire menace: zero,” Dawn chirped.

Faith looked pleased, the very picture of a proud teacher. “Three? Nice work D!”

“Thanks Faith,” Dawn said with a huge smile.

“Faith, stop encouraging her!” Buffy complained.

“What? Three in one night is pretty good, especially for someone who’s not a Slayer. Come on, how long did it take you to get good enough to take down three in one go? Months?”

Buffy still looked upset. “That is so not the point. My sister should not be out slaying vampires.”

“Excuse me? Did you, Buffy Summers, just tell me what I should not be doing?” Dawn said with a gimlet stare.

Buffy protested. “Dawn, there’s no reason for you to slay vampires, there’s an army of Slayers for that, or there will be when they’re trained.”

“Buffy, my best friends are Slayers, my family are Slayers. There is no way I’m letting my friends and family go out there to risk themselves without me right alongside. You may have been chosen, they were chosen. But I chose this life, same as Willow, Xander and Tara. There’s evil crawling around in the night Buffy, hurting innocent people. There’s no way I’m going to stand around and let that happen, just because someone else could do it,” Dawn said.

“But you’re not a Slayer!” Buffy exclaimed.

“Which is why I don’t fight like one. Do you know how hard it is to shove a blunt piece of wood though a human ribcage? When you can’t bench-press a truck, it’s nearly impossible. You need like, a sledgehammer. And forget beheading someone with a sword. So I’ve been helping Xander with some science-y stuff.”

“Like what?” Buffy said, clearly suspicious.

“Basic stuff. Like ‘can bullets kill vampires?’” Dawn said, making air quotes.

Buffy looked smug. “That’s easy: No.”

Dawn mimed pressing a buzzer and made a matching “aaaank!” noise. “Wrong, your blonde-ness. Regular bullets only annoy vamps, but if you put two or three through their skull, they get so distracted, that they just lie there while you hammer a stake in, or you can get your crazy-strong Slayer pals to skewer them afterwards.”

Dawn continued her enthusiastic lecture. “And if you use hollow points filled with holy water, it really really distracts them. Also if you use hollow points with a hardwood core, you can dust them at range. It takes two or three shots to the heart, but vamps are so stupid-arrogant that they usually just stand there and let you shoot them.”

“This ends today’s lesson, on why we should verify our facts before telling people stuff,” she said, poking out her tongue at her sister.

“Dawn, you were running around with guns!? In town!? What if someone saw you? Or came looking for the sound of gunfire?”

Dawn held up a matt black pair of pistols. “Hence the commando gear and silencers. Silencers are awesome! And so badass.”

Buffy glared at Xander. “Xander, I hold you personally responsible for turning my sister into a gun wielding maniac.”

"That's it, no more Boondock Saints for you young lady!” Xander said waggling his finger sternly. “Sorry Buffy, I call this badness minimization. Dawnie is going to get involved regardless, I just levelled the playing field and encouraged her to keep her distance. And hey, she’s better protected than you ever were.”

Dawn jumped in as Buffy opened her mouth. “Plus the high collar on my badass armour means that any vamp is going to have to get me out of my clothes before any suckage occurs...”
She paused and blushed. “You know, that sounded less dirty in my head. I’m starting to see why you guys say that so much.”

Tara weighed in. “Buffy, Dawnie is quite responsible, maybe you two should talk about the best way to lower the risk to her?”

“Uh-uh, sorry Tara,” Dawn piped up. “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t want to die or get hurt, so I’m careful. I provide communications and fire support for my team. I wear body armour, which is no fun I can tell you. The only way I could be more careful is to stay home. And even when I did that, half the time someone would show up and kidnap me.”

Buffy opened her mouth to protest, but was cut off by Dawn’s raised hand.
“I’m serious Buffy, I’m in this now. Next time some idiot vamp or would-be demon lord tries to kidnap me, he’s going to get a hell of a fight. And the only way to get better at fighting is practice, so look at my demon hunting as training against my next kidnapping... can we have story time now pleeease?” Dawn pleaded.

Tara nodded. “That might be a good idea. Hmm where were we?” she leafed through her diary for a moment.

Buffy looked distinctly grumpy, but was willing to let the issue of ‘Commando Dawn’ slide.
‘For now’ her expression promised.

“Ahhhh yes, we had been going round all the churches and guild halls, trying to gather information about any groups, that would have the motive or capability to resurrect someone. We thought that my newfound capability with flight might be a clue, so we focussed on organized churches.”
Tara looked around the Scoobies, a serious look on her face. “Overturning death is a serious thing, the gods would only do something like that with good cause, if... if the person was really, really needed alive, to serve some higher purpose. Takarn and I figured that a purpose like that, would be well known to the servants of the deity responsible, and that I should know that purpose. So we asked them..."

“Well that was, um... not very helpful,” Tara said as she and Takarn staggered into the house and fell into various couches.

It had been a long and fruitless day talking to clerics and priests, at the end of a longer and equally fruitless week of talking to clerics and priests.

“Strangely tiring. More tiring than marching all day.” He grumbled as he stretched out his shoulders and wings. His wings brushed the collection of knickknacks on the mantle-piece. When he glanced guiltily over his shoulder, he was surprised to find the various figures and pictures still firmly attached, and not scattered on the floor.

He waggled his fingers at Tara. “Magic?”

Tara smiled and shook her head “Glue.”

“Ha! Nice.”

The pair sat in silence for a time.

“This is not right.” Takarn said finally.

Tara raised a questioning eyebrow.

“I’m saying it wrong. Your resurrection went wrong. Yes, that,” he said, tapping the tip of his blunt snout, a sure sign that he was thinking hard.

“It makes no sense for any of the gods to bring you forth and not tell you why, or for their servants to do so. You are damaged. Only love and raw power allows you to survive. All of this suggests that something went wrong during your resurrection.”

Tara frowned, what he was saying made sense, though it brought her no closer to an answer and was alarming all on its own.

“This casts things in a different light.”

Tara nodded. In a way it was a happy thought, that her current condition was not intended, that her existence may have a higher purpose, even if she did not yet know what.

“The one good bit of news is this: there are very few people in the world capable of overturning death. People with that kind of power are well known. It is not a case of ‘a wizard did it.’ Only a handful of people in all the world could do this. All we have to do is figure out who.”

Tara gave Takarn a sad smile. “It’s good to know.”

He shrugged. “I am meeting with Melchior later. He has another job for us. Overseas. Adventurous. A favour to Lady Devereaux.”
“While I am there, I shall ask him to use his contacts to help us find someone capable of resurrection. He has strong contacts in the magical community and has considerable years of experience as a diviner. If there is anyone out there who could have attempted your resurrection without the aid of the gods, he will find them.”

Tara’s expression was puzzled. “I would not have thought he would have cared.”

“Do not think him uncaring from his demeanour. That is simply his way. He well understands the pain of having your fate determined without your consent. He understands your pain, truly. It is no effort for him. His contacts are well paid and used to finding strange bits of information.”

“You know, we need something like this, a network of folks that can find stuff for us, kinda Scooby spies or something.” Xander said.

“It’s called a network of contacts, or sometimes a Pinkerton network, Xander. And we have one, made up of witches, families of Slayers and council contacts. Only the headquarters of the Council was destroyed, the personnel and resources of the council were too widely distributed for Caleb to do any damage to, however powerful he himself may have been.”

“You know what I miss? Being able to just beat Spike until he told me what was happening in the demonic underworld, that was both fun and simple. Need to know something Demony? Pound on Spike until he fesses up to knowing everything all along. Problem solved and you feel better as well.”

There was total silence. A metaphorical tumbleweed drifted past. Metaphorical crickets chirped as everyone stared at Buffy.

“Ok... my spidey senses are telling me I just made a booboo. Sorry gang, I was broken-Buffy there for a moment.”

“Yes well, the old council took a rather hard-line when it came to demons and vampires, if it wasn’t human, it was to be destroyed. That rather limited the old council’s interactions with the ‘underworld’ as you call it. The new council is taking a more, ah... Spike-friendly approach to demons and vampires. That is to say, not harming the likes of Clem and Spike, as long as the, ah, ‘Spike’ types prove more use than trouble.”

“And may I just say thank you Giles for that wonderful segue into some other subject. Oh look, Tara is speaking again, shhh.” Xander said quickly, giving Tara a pleading look.

“Ah, yes. Where was I? Oh yes...”

“I hope he can find something. Every time we uncover something about this, we seem to uncover more mystery and confusion. I really want to know what’s going on, why I’m here, how I got hurt... It’s just so frustrating,” Tara said unhappily.

Takarn nodded. “I know. Consider how much you have learned in only a few weeks. Consider what you will know in a few more.”

Tara sat silently for a moment. When she looked up, she was visibly frightened. “Takarn? I’m really scared. All this is becoming so big. It feels like my very existence has huge forces orbiting around it, just waiting to fall on me.”

He rumbled. “It does. In that way you are like me. My very existence grants me enemies that want me dead. It is not a pleasant thought, but you will get used to it.”

“I hope Melchior can find something out for us.”

“Patience Tara. Answers are coming. Come with me tonight and we can find out together.”

Tara nodded to herself and gathered her things to follow her friend from the house.

Willow clearly did not like hearing the distress in Tara’s voice, even if it was past-Tara who was feeling the hurt.
She pulled Tara’s warm hand down to her face and kissed the palm tenderly.
Tara smiled as Willow held her hand close, smiling and hugging it with no intention of letting it go.

“It’s ok sweetie, there are only a matter of weeks before I had my answers, and a few short months left before I made it home. Results finally started to show for all the um, ‘off camera’ work we had done.”

Tara kissed Willow’s palm tenderly. “Not long now sweetie, soon ‘story Tara’ will be reunited with her one true love.”

“Aww...” Dawn said.

“You do that sooo often,” Buffy grumbled.

Dawn’s response was to poke out her tongue. Buffy responded in kind.

“Just wait till you have kids, I’ll be going ‘Aww’ nonstop. I’ll be embarrassing auntie Dawn. I’ll say things like ‘who’s the cutest snoogie-woogams den?’ and other mentally scarring things.”

“Ack! It is way too soon to be thinking about stuff like that! We only just got together ok? Kids are nice, but they can wait a while.” Buffy said.

“That is ok, isn’t it?” she said, turning to Faith. “you don’t want to start having kids right away do you?”

“Jesus B! Quit scaring me. Let’s just... not have this conversation ok?” Faith said, looking seriously wigged out.

Tara was walking home at night from Melchior’s preliminary expedition briefing. She was thinking about the upcoming overseas expedition, when her concentration was broken by a sharp voice.

“Hey you! Yes you, with the white hair!”

The words rang out clearly across the courtyard. Tara instinctively stopped and looked around, seeing no-one who was trying to get her attention, in fact no-one at all.

“Up here!” came the voice again.

Tara looked up and saw a small person perched on top of a tall pillar, some 12 metres from the ground. The small woman was visible due to the lantern she had sitting by her side.

“Are you stuck? Did you need help?” Tara called back.

“No! I don’t need help, you do!” came the reply.

Tara walked over to the pillar and looked up. “I do?”

“Yes, you do!” the small woman called.

“Um, ok,” Tara said. “Er, how?”

The small woman explained. “You are looking in the wrong place, your answers are not found in the light. Seek your answers in dark places.”

“Um... Thank you? I’m Tara… of the Woodland realm, who might you be?” asked a slightly wigged out Tara.

“I am called the Saint. I dispense advice and information granted by the gods,” said the Saint.

Faith piped up. “Which gods would these be then Snow? I only ask ‘cos there’s a whole mess of gods that I’ve heard of, and only some of them are, uh, good guys.”

Tara raised an eyebrow and carried on with the story.

Tara looked thoughtful and asked cautiously. “Which gods?”

The miniature woman smiled. “Whichever gods find me convenient. I’m impressed, few people think to ask that question.”

“I am surprised that no one asks, given the number of gods in the world,” Tara said.

“Check out the big brain on my girl. Go Faith!” Buffy said, giving Faith an awkward high five from her place in her lap.

Faith hammed it up, but was unsure how to ham up ‘Big Brain’ and just struck a ‘Big Muscles’ pose instead. “Booyah! Check me out, my brain is hung like a horse.”

“Ok, have you two been drinking the special kool-aid?” Xander asked.

“Sorry Xan-dude, not really up on witty ‘Faith is smart’ comebacks, just reacted instinctively. You ok there lil’ buddy.”

“I’ll be fine once I can get that disturbing mental image out. Someone pass me the brain bleach, I have need. Dire need,” he said.

Willow piped up from Tara’s lap. “Did you just say ‘Dire?’ Xander, keep this up and we’ll have to start fitting you for tweed.”

“With my colouring? God forbid, I’m a winter!” he said.

“Omigod Buffy! You’ve corrupted Xander!” Dawn squeaked.

“You do realize tweed is a material, not a colour?” Giles interjected. “I’ll have you know that my blue suit is made of tweed.”

Dawn interrupted. “And you look fabulous in it. Now can we get back to the story please?”

“Most do not question their assumptions, Tara of the Earth. I do not just dispense information, I often ask questions, and I have a question for you. A simple question, but one which is important to you: Why are you desperately struggling to get home? Why not build a life here with your friends? A good life?”

Tara thought about this for a moment before looking up and answering. “Willow. Love is waiting for me there, Willow is waiting for me. My family misses me, and I miss them.”

The Saint’s voice took on a sharper, more penetrating tone. “You died. They have moved on. What right have you to reinsert yourself into their lives again?”

Tara looked defeated. “None. They could tell me that they’ve moved on and don’t want to see me...”

Then she looked up with a smile. “If they had been replaced by pod-people.”

“Fuckin’ A!” Faith crowed, before being shushed by Buffy.

She stood up straighter. “The Scoobies are my family, and Willow is my... my everything. She is written on my soul. We belong together. I never have to ask if my love wants me in her life, because I know the answer: Always.”

More confidant now, she continued. “The attempt is my right. Their acceptance of my return? That is theirs to choose.”

The Saint nodded. “There will be a price to pay little star, such quests always have a price, will you pay it?”

“Yes,” Tara said confidently.

“And will you kill to get home to your love?” the Saint asked in a razor edged voice.

Her voice filled with determination and hard-won clarity, Tara said. “No!”
Tara spoke clearly, willing the small woman to understand. “I will kill to protect myself, to protect my friends and the innocent, if there is no other way. But if the return to my Willow requires that another person lose their life, then the price is too high, even for this.”

The Saint smiled at last. “Good. Then your love will get you back. And not some terrible broken thing wearing the form of her one true love.”

Tara spoke as if reciting a prayer. “If I am broken, she will heal me. If I am lost, she will find me. And if I am dead, she will call me home.”

“Goddess yes, I will.” Willow whispered.

The Saint shook her head. “No my dear, you have it wrong. If you are broken, you will heal yourself. If you are lost, you will find her. And if you are dead, you must find your way home.”

“By all means cling to her love, but remember, she is not here. You must help yourself, Tara of the Earth.”

The Saint sighed. “I spoke of a price, Little Star. The price of your quest is knowledge. Some secrets carry a terrible burden, and once learned cannot be unlearned. I hope that the knowledge you gain does not break you Tara. Many lives depend on you, more than you know.”

Tara looked worried and confused. “Um, what?”

“I don’t know everything, Little Star. I can only fish in the river of dreams for bits and pieces of truth, but know this: many share your fate with you. If you fall, they fall; if you rise, they rise with you. There are forces moving now which have not stirred since the earliest days of creation. Things so ancient that even the gods think of them as myths.”

The saint continued her explanation. “You were fated to die Little Star, it was written by the highest powers. But they are not the only great powers, even in their world. And someone loves you Tara, loves you so much that they will overturn the world to have you back. And sometimes, just sometimes, the universe will listen to love like that.”

“You better believe it missy!” Willow whispered fiercely.

“So you have a chance, a change longed for by all, the chance to overturn fate. But you will need to fight for it, Tara of the Earth. You will need to walk through the fire, learn to fly and all those ‘overcoming’ metaphors. You will have to keep on fighting when all else is telling you to stop. You will have fight on through pain, exhaustion and despair, though things that would break a lesser person. But if you can do this, then maybe you have a chance, and perhaps the rest of creation can take hope from your struggle, and we will have a chance to change our own fates.”
The Saint smiled sadly. “Good luck Little Star.”

“Why do you call me ‘Little Star?’” Tara asked.

“That is your name. ‘Tara’ means little star in the ancient language of your people. Your mother saw your light, even before you were born, and named you for it. You are also named for the earth and thus I have called you. But when you were most beloved, most precious, you were named for a star, for a star you shall be, a shining light to lead those lost in darkness.”

“Oh baby, oh my Tara. She was right about you. You are a star.”
Willow looked bashful for a moment. “You light my way.”
Dawn gazed off into space, utterly gooey-fied and star struck.

The Saint watched Tara leave, a silent tear working its slow way down her cheek.

She whispered to herself. “And there shall come a time when all is darkness and the heartless shall rule. And into this time shall be born a love so strong that it cannot be extinguished. And that love shall lead the lost from darkness, rejoin father to mother, mother to daughter. And that love shall bear witness to a new beginning, and a child shall lead them to it. A child born of love from death. The dead shall be her mother, and the fallen also, and her name shall be Hope.”

‘It begins.’ A voice said, echoing on the ether.

The saint nodded. “It is going to be so hard for her. She is going to see so much and suffer so much. I wish there was another way. I wish we could tell her, could let her know that those who love her, are watching over her.”

I wish it too. But if we tell her, the others will know when she returns. And they will stop this before it even starts. I beg your forgiveness, I swear there was no other way, in all creation, there is no other chance for us.’

“I know. I know, and forgive you, but Goddess I wish there was another way.”

‘Soon she will be home, and whole, and loved. So very loved. Then perhaps we will have our chance.’

“Perhaps. I hope so with all my heart.”

‘And their children will change the world.’


“So we set out on our expedition. I wish you guys could have seen it, you would have loved it. There was something for all of you, high adventure for Buffy and Faith, Romance and wonder for Dawn, the age of sail taken to its highest expression in the skies for Mr Giles, and swashbuckling heroes for Xander.”

“And what was there for me?” Willow asked.

Tara smiled. “Me.”

Willow grinned. “The best bit!”

“And this also was when I learned something that let me understand Willow better.” She looked down at her beautiful pixie. “This next part has some of, um, ‘our stuff’ in it. Are you ok with me sharing baby?”

Willow looked thoughtful for a moment, then looked up into Tara’s blue eyes. “It’s ok Tara. No more secrets from my family, ok?”

She nodded and squeezed Willows hand. “Ok baby.”

She looked up and saw that the Scoobies were waiting intently, but patiently.
“Well this expedition we went on was a bit different from our usual investigation work. Lady Devereaux from the university was sending an archaeological team to the lost lands to do work on the ruins there. She wanted us to investigate beforehand and deal with any potential hazards: unstable ceilings, traps, dangerous creatures and the like.”

“Very ‘Tomb Raider’,” Dawn piped up, clearly still going through her ‘Lara Croft is awesome’ phase.

“Yes, well the idea was for the, um, ‘Tomb Raiders’ to deal with the nasty stuff so that real archaeologists could do actual archaeology. There was a nasty habit of people charging in, grabbing ancient artefacts and peddling them on the black market. The university wanted to put a stop to that, so they got a bit more organized, and hired us to let the real archaeologists work in peace.”

“So we were in the jungles, poking through ancient ruins, filled with danger and spiders. Really big spiders...”

Tara felt useless.

She had warded her companions against harm, invoked the blessing of the Goddess for the fight, and healed numerous injuries received in battle.

And she was exhausted. Her personal store of energy was totally gone. She was swaying like a leaf in the breeze.
Tara had definitely contributed to the wellbeing of the group. Without her help, someone surely would have died.
But that did not change the fact that right at this moment, without any remaining magical strength, she felt like a dead weight.

She couldn’t fight, couldn’t heal, and knew little about ancient ruins.

Tara sighed, somehow she didn’t think the beasts that had been attacking the party would be impressed with her knowledge of French literature, or her understanding of societal power structures and social justice.

Takarn had tried teaching her to use a sword or small axe, but she was so terrified of hurting someone with a wild swing, that she all but froze with it in her hands. He had tried with near infinite patience to try and pound the most basic of combat skills into her head. Without any noticeable success.
He had considerably more success teaching her evasive techniques. Or more accurately Melchior had taught her, drilling her until she became proficient.

When the fists and blades were flying, Tara’s most successful strategy was to either hide, or scurry around trying not to get hit. Unfortunately, while her generally harmless appearance encouraged others to ignore her, with animals or monsters it was a wasted effort. Worse, anything with a hint of magic homed in on her first.
Worse still, Rinaldo had taken to picking her up like luggage and putting her into places he deemed safe when fighting broke out.

‘I definitely need armour’ she thought to herself as she rubbed her shoulder. Earlier one of the ape-like beast men had smashed her shoulder with a spiky club, tearing her clothing and gouging and crushing the flesh beneath.

Willow looked slightly sick at Tara’s description of her injury. Tara squeezed her hand reassuringly.

Other than some dried blood, there was no evidence of any injury. If there was one talent Tara possessed in abundance it was the capacity to heal, and her healing spells worked as well on her own body as they did on any other. Unfortunately any magic has a finite source, and however strong her magic may have been, it had hit that limit. If anyone got hurt now, they were going to stay hurt.

In the months that Tara had been with the party, she had noticed a change in her companions. With constant access to Tara’s healing, they had gained confidence in battle, moreover they had become somewhat blasé about injuries. She could understand that. Knowing that even terrible injuries were only temporary, made them noticeably less terrible. She had felt the same herself.

Most injuries didn’t hurt as much as people thought. Much of the agony was body-horror, the sense of having ones flesh violated by another and the knowledge that such injuries were permanent. But Tara’s healing changed all that. Now such injuries were gone as soon as she laid her gentle hands upon them.
It made her friends somewhat cocky.
And now she was worried.

She had expended the last of her strength healing her friends. And now, feeling whole and vigorous, they had regained much of their confidence.

“Look, I’m not saying go crazy here, but we’re in good shape. Let’s press on just a little before we crash for the night.” Rinaldo said. “We have a few healing potions and plenty of steel. We might not be in as good a shape as we would with our spell-casters on their feet, but we can still do a good deal of exploring in relative safety.”

Tara sighed. “Um, that might be ok. But if anyone gets seriously hurt they are going to stay hurt, I won’t be able to heal anyone until tomorrow at the earliest.”

The others looked at each other and shrugged.

Catherine eventually said. “I guess we’ll be careful then. Let’s do this.”

Tara sighed, feeling rather helpless in the face of their determination to continue.

The party gathered their equipment, buckling on weapons and checking the straps on their armour, readying themselves for potential conflict. Seeing this, Tara was gripped by a terrible sense of foreboding. Until she had rested and regained her strength, she would be unable to scry, or call upon the spirit world for warnings, leaving her without any way to confirm her fears.

For the first couple of hours it seemed that Tara’s sense of foreboding was nothing more than groundless fear. The team of explorers probed deeper into the ruins, Melchior mapping and Tara taking notes as they went.

Slightly after the 2 hour mark everything went wrong. They were ambushed by the walking dead.

Rinaldo signalled with his hand that he had heard movement down a side corridor, and as the team moved cautiously to investigate, Takarn came face to face with a mummified visage, lit erratically by the team’s portable light sources. As Takarn lit his burning blade, hordes of animated corpses were revealed.

With a roar, he charged, swinging his blade with brutal force. While the companions had all their attentions on the fight, more of the dead fell on them from the rear.

“Zombies?” Xander asked.

Tara nodded. “And some kind of manufactured super zombie things. They were really tough, like the undead version of the terminator. I was told later that creatures like this were used in the war.”

Xander shivered. “I just gotta say, I hate zombies worse than Vampires. I mean vamps are pretty bad but they react, you know? You can scare them off or something. Zombies, not so much. Also the yuck factor is an issue.”

Battle was joined with furious intensity, swords swinging, wands blazing. And in a matter of moments it became obvious that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

“They won’t go down!” yelled Catherine from the middle of the mess, her pistol-like wands flaming blue and gold.

And indeed, the battle was not going well for the brave explorers.
With an almighty clang, Takarn’s huge blade swept through one mummified body and impacted on the next.
“This one is different!” he bellowed.

Powering a brutal overhand stroke down on the creatures head, he was surprised when the bandage-wrapped mummy deflected most of the power of the blow with its axe, leaving Takarn’s massive blade to strike sparks from metal hidden beneath the bandages.

Melchior analysed the battle with the dispassion that his people were made for. The situation was not yet desperate, but it was serious. They needed to be somewhere else. Badly.
“Concentrate on the weak ones! And fall back!” he bellowed into the din of battle, forcing himself to be heard over the ring of steel and howls of fury.

The team, well-practised at such manoeuvres, concentrated on hacking their way out of the trap, back the way they came. While there were more of the walking dead to the rear, there were none of the armoured and skilled corpses, and they were able to make better account of themselves.

At the ‘front’ of the assault, Takarn was holding the line. Barely. Living beings could be counted on to hesitate in fear or flee when wounded or when their companions fell. The dead did neither.
This did not concern him greatly, he was used to such things and his armour was thick enough to shrug off their feeble blows.

What did concern him was that they seemed to be mobbing him and keeping him from dealing with the armoured dead. He had managed to bring an armoured one down with a mighty blow to the head, revealing gleaming metal among the dried flesh of the dead thing.

Something was nagging him about how the battle was being fought, the dead were passing up chances to strike, were taking extra damage in order to achieve some objective. He processed this with a small part of his mind that was not committed to battle. And then he saw it, two of the leaders of the dead army both locked eyes on... Tara. They were manoeuvring him to allow them past to her.

Willow’s eyes were worried as Tara described this last part.

“Tara! Run!” he roared.
An axe slammed into his arm with agonizing force as one of the leaders took advantage of his momentary distraction. Bone snapped under the impact and his hand went numb. Such was the force of the blow that his arm would surely have been severed from his body, were it not for his heavy armour and Tara’s spell of protection.

Shrugging off the pain, he swept his blade around in a one-handed arc and smashed back the closest walking corpses, giving himself a precious moment of breathing room.

‘So, this is how it ends,’ he thought.

He looked at the retreating team and Tara’s shocked gaze met his. “A worthy end,” he mouthed to her.
He grinned and turned to the undead. With his remaining sword hand wrapped around the hilt of his mighty blade, he made a beckoning gesture.
He planted himself in the middle of the corridor and growled. “Bring. It.”

Faith pumped her fist in the air. “Yes! Now this guy has got stones. And style. I swear, I ever go down, that’s how I wanna go. Bodies piled three deep all around me, screaming defiance all the way.”

“No,” Buffy said. “As your girlfriend, I am exercising my newly acquired girlfriend powers, and banning you from dying until your age is in the triple digits. You get to die white haired, surrounded by your loving family, your hordes of grandkids and with me holding your hand.”

“Uh-huh. Do I still get to be screaming defiance to the very end?” Faith asked.

“I would expect nothing less,” Buffy said chirpily.

Faith looked a little put out. “How come I’m going first in this story?” she asked.

“You’re not. I said I would be holding your hand honey. Where you go, I go remember?” Buffy said, squeezing Faith’s hand. “When I said together always, I meant it. Always.”

Dawn sighed dreamily as she watched the two Slayers. Watching them talk about being old and grey together was a dream come true for Dawn.

She looked at Willow & Tara, taking a moment to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.

At that moment, stretched out on the beanbag, coming down from a successful patrol, with her family happy and loving all around her, life was perfect.

She smiled radiantly and stretched out, she took Xander and Giles each by the hand and squeezed them tight.
“I love you guys,” she sighed.

While Takarn distracting the walking dead, the rest of the team were able to fight through the rear of the trap and make for the exit.

Tara turned to Melchior in desperation. “You can’t just leave him!” she sobbed.

“He has made his choice,” came the calm response.

“Please Melchior, no one has to die today,” Tara said laying her hand on his metal arm.

Melchior calculated the odds of escape. They were significantly better if Takarn held back the hordes for precious moments.
He hummed, the machine equivalent of a sigh. “Perhaps you are right,”
He extracted one of the many wands on his belt and levelled it at Takarn.
“Korta” he commanded.

There was a watery ripple in the air and Takarn was yanked from the middle of the boiling mob and catapulted up the corridor toward the pair. Sparks struck from his armour as he skidded along the dry stone, stopping at Tara’s feet with another gesture from Melchior’s wand.

“We have to leave, now!” Tara cried as she attempted to help the battered Takarn to his feet. Sadly, he was as heavy as a tractor and her help was limited, but he managed to get to his feet.
“I’m not leaving you, but we really have to go,” she said with determination.

The rest of the team had already made off up the stone corridor to the exit, she and Takarn were in the rear. Behind them the undead horde were shambling closer.
“We’re not out of the swamp yet,” he growled, shoving Tara ahead of him down the tunnel.
They ran towards the light, they ran for their lives.

Without the impediment of the surrounding undead, they outdistanced the shambling horde and burst into the steamy jungle, after what seemed an eternity in darkness and chill.

“Up here!” Catherine shouted down to the group.

Tara looked around and saw the rest of the team climbing toward the summit of the stepped pyramid, the ruin that they had been exploring beneath. She steered Takarn in the same direction and they began to climb. They made it halfway up the pyramid when the undead horde burst from the pyramid behind them, all the more horrifying for their total silence.
By the time the horde had made it to the bottom of the pyramid, the two friends had made it, gasping, to the summit.

As Tara tried to catch her breath from her desperate run, Melchior spoke “This is a place of ancient magic, there is power here.”
Tara panted and reached out with her senses to feel the magic, like a mighty river flowing through the air. She stretched out with a part of herself and felt it flow into her.

It was the magic of the sky and the sun, it was familiar to her and it slammed into her with a force that took her breath away. It felt as though she stood at the bottom of a waterfall, with the river thundering down on her. She was filled with power, power far beyond anything she had ever imagined, the burning heat of the sun and the endless depths of the eternal sky.
She was useless no longer, she glowed, she burned.
She was filled with the power of the sun.
And she was angry.

With her hand held out as if to catch rain, sunlight poured from the sky into her hand. In moments she held a barely restrained star. She held out her hand, and released it almost gently towards the shambling horde.

The white burning star exploded amongst them, incinerating dry flesh and bone with terrible ease. For a long span of seconds the terrible sun burned, annihilating the mindless corpses that marched into its consuming embrace.

“Wow! You can do that?” Dawn blurted.
Tara nodded, but quickly returned to her story, clearly not relishing a discussion about the subject.

When the spell faded, the stone at the base of the pyramid was glowing orange and molten. The walking dead were reduced to smoking ruin, turned to cinder and ash by the fury of the naked sun. Only the leaders remained, much of their dried flesh burned away, revealing a nightmarish skeleton of metal, glowing and smoking. They marched on through the molten stone, their remaining scraps of flesh smoking horridly in the heat.

“Whoa, creepy! It’s like terminator only... worse,” Xander said.

“Izolda, can you hold them in place?” Tara asked calmly, the power singing in her blood.

“Yes,” she said simply. The icy witch called upon the power of the deepest winter and summoned into being a thick wall of burning-cold ice around the walking dead things.

As fiercely hot as they were, they could not climb the ice, made slippery by their heated bones.

And that was all the time Tara needed.

She reached into the sky and called upon the full power of the sun. “In the name of the Goddess, in the name of Brighid, the burning arrow, burn these foul things from the earth, let all be cleansed with fire.”

She hurled her hands towards the earth, and the sun came down.

A burning column of light speared down from the sky into the area described by the ice ring and the ice began to hiss.
Tara held her concentration and the light grew in intensity until no one could bear to look at it.

After nearly a minute of concentration, Tara released the spell and everyone was plunged into the comparative darkness of the noonday sunlight.

Where the dead had once walked was a deep glowing pit, bored into the earth. At the bottom, molten rock bubbled and smoked. The walking dead were gone as if they had never been.

This time it was Faith that yelled out. “Holy shit! You can do that?!”

Tara nodded.

Tara was exultant, she filled with power! She could contribute again! She could do anything! ‘This must have been how Willow felt!’ she exulted.

She mentally crashed to earth with the realization.
This must have been how Willow felt.
Unable to help, her friends hurting, helpless, powerless, marginalized. Until she found the magic.

The magic may have been a gift from the Goddess, but it made her powerful, it made her matter, it allowed her to help. And it brought her to Tara.
And how could Willow go back after that? How could she give up the only thing that made her special in a world of vampires and demons? How could she give up the thing that brought them together? That let her save the ones she loved?

A silent tear rolled down Willow’s cheek.

Tara understood. She truly understood the pain and helplessness that drove her love, towards darker and more powerful magic, as they faced greater and darker foes. She understood the desperate need to protect loved ones, and the terrible helplessness that came with the inability to do so. A sense of helplessness that could drive you to do anything to change it.

Tears streamed down her face as she connected with Willow on this primal level, as she understood the desperate terror her love had felt as her family was threatened.

“Oh Willow, I thought I knew, I really did. I was wrong, so very wrong. I understand now. The Goddess showed me, she showed me your path, and how you were driven to walk down it.”

Willow whispered in a hollow voice. “It didn’t matter, how strong I was. I was never strong enough to protect everyone! Everything just got darker and darker, the bad guys got worse, and no-one ever came to help! It was just us against the darkness, all alone.”

Giles spoke. “I... I owe you... the most sincere apology Willow. I was blind. I had no idea how you felt, I just kept piling responsibilities on you without thought, allowing you to dig deeper and deeper into magical power without proper training. And I listened to my own fears that I was standing in the way. I failed you Willow and I am truly, truly sorry.”

Willow looked at the shame-faced Englishman with compassion. “Giles, no. You did the best you could with a bunch of avoid-y teenagers. You were always supporto-guy when we needed you, and you still are. Don’t feel bad Giles, I was never exactly honest about how I felt, I don’t think any of us were. We weren’t exactly the poster children for coping. You can’t know if we don’t tell you, ok?”

Gilles nodded gratefully.

Tara knelt and gave thanks. She gave thanks that she had been given this terrible lesson, this chance for true understanding of the most important person in her life.

And as she knelt in silent contemplation of her beloved Willow, Tara felt her heart swell. Everything she learned about her fire-haired soul-mate gave Tara cause to love her more. She thought back to the tree on her rooftop, a sign from the Goddess. A sign that she was not forgotten, a sign of hope.

A sign of love.

‘Oh Willow, I’m coming home. Baby, I’m coming home.’

Willow whispered. “And you did baby, you came home. To me. To us. And I am so, so grateful.”

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 5)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:16 pm 
6. Sassy Eggs
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I really like the the issues tackled in this chapter. From Dawn dressing for war to Tara getting an eye opener on what Willow went through. Very nicely done.

Dawn going out with full riot gear, silencers and "special" hollow points. Nice to see a route for her to join the fight without just saying "Oh, Dawn is also a Slayer now."

Another great point was Tara coming to terms with what Willow was going through that led up to the magic taking over. No one can really deny that season six Willow screwed up big time but to be completely fair season four Tara saw signs and could have put a stop to it before it got out of hand.

One of the impressions I always got from the show that seemed to be glossed over as they wound down was that all the Earth magic, one with the Goddess, inner peace stuff Willow learned in England between seasons six and seven was stuff that Tara's mother taught her way back when she was seven.

At some point in season five after "Family" or maybe after "Triangle" but before the second sex robot showed up Tara should have sat Willow down and showed her how to avoid drawing power from the hellmouth.

All in all great chapter.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 5)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2014 3:39 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Hey Citanul.

Yeah, i agree about Tara training Willow.
Although after a bit of thought, it makes sense.

Don't forget, Tara is/was painfully shy, convinced she was going to turn into a demon, unsure of her place in the Scoobies for the longest time, and (at least it looks that way) in the first real relationship of her life.

With all that, it would make sense that she was too scared to speak up about stuff for fear of rejection/not feeling like it was her place to say.

She could well have been worried that any criticism could have ended the one good thing in her life: her relationship with Willow.

But yes, she should have spoken up.

They deal with this in the Continuing Adventures of Willow and Tara :)

for your entertainment, please find below a new chapter.

R :flower

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 5)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2014 4:00 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
This episode has some music associated with it. I have added the links behind a spoiler tag to keep them out of the way. They’re youtube links, so I suggest opening them in the background. Often the pictures don’t match with the mood/story, but the music is nice.

Directions to hell

It was Scooby story time once again. And the gang was sprawled around the lounge in various states of disarray.

Giles was seated in his favourite chair sipping hot tea from a fine china cup. This evening he had forgone his usual tweed and 3 piece suit in favour of jeans, a leather jacket and an earring, which begged an explanation he had yet to give.

Buffy was dressed in a different, if similarly inexplicable fashion. She was wearing bib-front overalls that looked as though they could have been salvaged from Willow’s least-cool bottom drawer, and her blond hair was in pig-tails.

Dawn was sprawled on one of the couches, her head resting on Buffy’s knee and her feet stretching across Xander’s lap to the arm of the couch. She was a bit longer than her sister.

Xander had forgone his semi-traditional bottle of caffeine-frenzy for a big mug of coffee.

Buffy looked around, pig-tails waggling. She was tapping her foot impatiently and jiggling Dawns head up and down.

“Hey!” Dawn grumbled.

Buffy ignored her. “Where is everybody?”

Xander waved with his oversized coffee mug. “Foody goodness. They should be here soon.”

“I love having a chef on tap, I swear it has to be the best thing ever,” Buffy said.

Giles spoke up. “I should probably say something about Mary not being here solely for our benefit. But yes, it is wonderful. Not to disparage your ah, Mac & cheese Xander, but the standard of cooking has improved immensely.”

“Hey, I’m just looking forward to trying pizza made by an expert, instead of from the pizza place in town.”

Buffy sniffed the air experimentally. “Pizza! And uh, lasagne I think?”

“Who needs a bloodhound when we have Buffy,” Dawn said from Buffy’s lap.

“Hey beanpole, you’re stealing my spot,” Faith said, wandering in with a stack of covered trays.

“Aww! I just got comfy,” she grumbled.

Faith shrugged. “You don’t have to move, but if you don’t, I’m gonna sit on your head.”

Dawn grumbled a bit, but she shifted to the floor by Xander’s feet.
She grinned cheekily. “You know if you did that, Jules would never speak to me again.”

Tara and Willow strolled in just in time to hear Buffy say. “Ok, enough with the face sitting, I wanna eat.”

“Oh, uh, should I ask about the face sitting?” Willow said.

Buffy face-palmed. “Really no,” she mumbled into her hand.

They added their trays to the ones Faith put on the table. Everyone dove in, grabbing pizza, garlic bread or lasagne seemingly at random.

Dawn made almost embarrassing sounds of delight as she ate her first slice of pizza. “Uuuhh! Oh. My. God. This is the best pizza in the world.”

Giles sighed, a quiet sound of gastronomic delight. “Oh my. I don’t know what you are paying Mary, Willow. But I don’t think that it’s enough.”

“I am so going to get fat. I’m going to look like one of those round Russian dolls,” Willow sighed. “I won’t be Tiny Jewish Santa anymore, I’ll just be Jewish Santa.”

“Which is why you are joining us for a morning run,” Tara said with a smile.
Willow looked grumpy.

For the next half hour, there were only happy eating sounds.
Afterwards, cheerfully stuffed Scoobies stared into space as they processed their gastronomic wonders, and their tummies processed the food.

Faith spoke up first. “Whoa, that was good. Like, lighting up a cigarette good.”
Happy sighs greeted her comment.

“Hey, no to the cigarette lighting. I thought you quit?” Buffy complained.

Faith held up her hands defensively. “I was being metaphorical. I did quit. I mean I never really wanted to start, but there’s not a whole hell of a lot to do in prison if you’re not a fan of bull-dykes, which I ain’t.”

She smiled. “I like my girls small and sunny. And Xan? Quit looking surprised that I know what the word ‘metaphorical’ means.”

The little family sprawled in satiated silence for a time, before eventually Dawn spoke up. “Tara? You might wanna start story hour, before everyone falls asleep.”

“Good thinking Dawnie, just give me a moment to read my journal...” Tara said, trailing off as she read. She winced and looked embarrassed.

“This next bit was a little later after some, um, bad things had happened. There’s a small amount of drunken singing and just a little dancing on tabletops.”

Faith look pleased. “For real? Go Blondie, get down with your bad ass self!”

The Scoobies tried quite hard to not look as though they were suddenly paying attention.

Tara sat down and Willow assumed ‘Tara story-time position’, sprawled out on the smaller couch with her head resting on Tara’s lap. Faith relaxed into Buffy’s embrace.

Dawn saw all the cuddling and pouted. “Xander, I need some snuggles.”

Xander lifted his arm in invitation and Dawn snuggled up to him.

Tara started. “Well...”

“We’re going to need another sword-arm,” Melchior said evenly.
“We are under strength, and we will need to fill the hole that Rinaldo has left in our ranks,” he said as he took off his tricorn hat and scratched at his metal head.
“I do not say this to cause hurt, simply to address his loss.”

Tara was conflicted.
One the one hand, Rinaldo was a deeply disturbing man, distant and highhanded, invading her personal space and manhandling her whenever he though she was likely to get into danger.
On the other hand, he never failed to protect her, and in truth had died doing so.

Willow looked puzzled, Tara had mentioned Rinaldo in passing, but had not really spoken of him.
Tara pressed a finger to Willow’s lips.

Dawn piped up. “That sounds kinda creepy. I mean I’d feel pretty wigged out if people manhandled me all the time.”

Tara nodded sadly and returned to her story.

Catherine also seemed to be conflicted. She once told Tara that she had never been particularly close to Rinaldo, but that they had been working partners for a number of years. Over those years she had come to rely on him.
Tara imagined that she was grieving for the loss of her partner, in her own way.

Melchior continued. “I have made contact with a person, a warrior, known to possess a number of skills useful to us. I will interview him later today. If he seems to be a good match, I will introduce him to you at some point afterward.”

Various grunts and nods greeted this proclamation.

“I will contact you all after I have interviewed him, then you can have a look at him and see what you think.”
The group stood and filed out the door, happy enough to leave the grunt-work to their putative leader.

“Time to get thoroughly rat-arsed,” Catherine said, as she and Tara stood in the hallway.

Tara raised an eyebrow at this and gave Catherine a look.

“Look, we were never what you’d call close, but he was my friend. I think it appropriate to get totally nozzled in his honour,” Catherine said.

“I like how this chick thinks! Shame she’s not around, we could really tie one on,” Faith said.

“Nope,” Buffy said, swatting her leg. “No drunken hooliganism for you.”

“Hooliganism?” Faith said, eyebrows raised.

Buffy shrugged. “Blame Giles.”

“Um, I’ve never really been one for drinking, but I’ll keep you company if you like,” Tara replied.

Catherine nodded. “Sweet, you can get me home when I’m useless.”

They stood in silence for a time.

“I’m guessing you’re feeling a bit weird about this?” Tara asked.

“Oh yeah. Big time. I mean I feel bad that he’s gone, but not as bad as I figure I should. So I feel bad about that, which means I do feel bad, just not in the way I expected. And then I start to get worried, ‘cos we had a great setup. I kept him out of trouble with actual people, he covered my arse in a fight. It was great. Plus he didn’t care about money beyond the basics, so he usually gave a good chunk of his share to me. And now I feel bad that I’m shallow.”

Tara goggled at the monologue that streamed from Catherine. Not quite a stream-of-conscious babble, but pretty close. Catherine actually took breaths and used sentences, albeit highly compressed ones.

“I really need a drink. Time to drown my confusion in a comforting fog of strange alcoholic beverages, in many unusual shades,” Catherine said as she left.

Takarn raised his eyebrow at Tara.

Tara shook her head and followed Catherine.


Two hours later, Catherine was standing on a tavern table belting out the fourth verse of the ‘Hedgehog song.’ She was accompanied by the rest of the Tavern, who were understandably friendly towards anyone providing free booze and entertainment.
Tara was hiding her head and pretending not to know her.

She shot the barkeeper a pleading look, and was terribly disappointed when he just grinned at her and held up a fat silver coin.
The band played on.

“The spines on his back are so awful thick,
you'll end up with naught but a painful prick.
He has an impregnable hole when curled up in a ball,
Hence the hedgehog can never be buggered at all!”

Catherine howled and stomped on the table in time to the rhythm. “C’mon Tara! Live a little!” she said as she shoved a cup of something suspicious and blue into Tara’s hand.

“No way! Uh-uh. I am not joining you d-dancing on the tables!” Tara protested.

Still bopping to the beat that had yet to die down, Catherine encouraged Tara. “I’m not saying get completely pissed, just have a couple cups of this weird fruit punch stuff, and relax a bit!”

“It’s blue! And glowing! I don’t think it meant to be drunk by humans!” Tara protested, eyeing the wooden cup and its contents suspiciously.

“Perfectly safe! I’ve been knocking them back for, ooo... several minutes at least, an’ I haven’t exploded once!” Catherine laughed.

“Seriously Blondie, you meet the most interesting people, I mean this Cathy chick sounds like a blast,” Faith said.
Tara smiled. “You remind me of her a bit, I think you’d get on pretty well.”

Tara sipped the faintly glowing drink with infinite suspicion. It was... fruity. Sort of Pineapple-y and a bit coconut-y. And a bit alcoholic of course.

It seemed safe enough.

Half an hour later...
“With one lusty lunge you can stick it to a sponge
Promiscuous porifera will swallow all your gunge
You can hang up their corpses on your bathroom wall
But the hedgehog can never be buggered at aaaall!”

The whole tavern joined in for the last line, the musicians thumping out a solid rhythm for everyone to stomp to.
Both women were stood on the table in the middle of the tavern as they finished off the last line in grand style.

Tara blushed furiously as she read what she had written. Faith howled with laughter, the image of Tara dancing on a table top just tickled her funny bone.

Xander had an ear-to-ear grin, but Buffy and Dawn looked shocked. The image of a drunken Tara dancing on tavern table just did not fit into either head.

Faith shook her head. “Damn girl! I knew there was a fire under that innocent exterior! You gotta give us a demo sometime!”

Giles looked at her over his glasses and tut-tutted sadly. He tried to look terribly disappointed, though his disapproving glower was spoiled by his surprisingly cheerful chuckle.
If anything Tara looked more embarrassed.

The real prize winner in the shocked expression competition was Willow. Her face attempted to convey shock, amusement, pride and incredulity all in one go. She was in serious danger of spraining her face.

They collapsed laughing on the table, swinging their feet over the edge of the table like kids, to the sounds of applause and whistles from the patrons.

“That song is awful!” Tara complained, laughing.

“You still sang it!” came the reply from somewhere in the tavern.

“Gunge! Yuck! Brrrr!” Tara said, shivering theatrically.

“Poor Hedgehog, none for him,” Catherine said sadly.

“Well, maybe he can find a like-minded boy-hedgehog to take care of his... needs?” Tara suggested.

Catherine looked deep in thought. “There must be a way, otherwise there’d be no more little hedgehogs.

“I’m not sure that’s how you get little hedgehogs,” Tara said uncertainly.

“Yeah yeah, I know, but... Butt! Ha! Where was I? Oh yeah, not that different, so little boy hedgehogs and little girl hedgehogs... how does that work?” Catherine said unsteadily.

“Ouch?” Tara said. “I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that question anyway”

“Heh, who is?” Catherine said with a shrug. “I’m not sure I’d want to meet anyone who was an expert on hedgehog reproduction. You’d have to be a bit creepy to spend that much time figuring it out... and watching. Eeew!”

“Red? Your girlfriend is a weird drunk. We really have to go party sometime,” Faith said, grinning at Tara.

“Well, there’s that dress up night at the Peach this Friday,” Willow said.

“That was a very weird situation,” Tara protested. “A-a one-time thing that I am in no hurry to repeat.”
She looked into her lap to discover Willow had settled her expression on ‘Impish Grin’.
“I promise you sweetie, no drunken dancing on tables.”

Willow pouted. “Aww, I was sort of looking forward to seeing that, I mean it’s not every day you discover your girlfriend has this hidden wild streak.”

Tara sighed. “I was really tempted to add this to the list of boring stuff that no one wants to hear-” she was immediately cut off by sounds of protest from everyone.

“-but I realized I’d be missing out on the best bits of the story. Even if they are horribly embarrassing for me.”

“Mind if I join you ladies?” said a warm male voice.

Both women looked up to see a well-dressed, dark haired man.

“My boyfriend has a crossbow. And a licence that says he’s allowed to shoot anyone he wants with it,” Catherine said, while making cheerful ‘shoo’ gestures with both hands.
The man bowed with relatively good grace and left.

“So you two are serious then?” Tara asked.

Catherine shrugged. “Nope. He’s a nice guy though, we have fun, it’s good.”

Catherine looked at Tara with mock suspicion. “So, how long have you been hiding your angelic singing voice under a bush? ‘scuse the confused metaphor.”

“I used to sing when I was little, and with my mother, but I was never confident enough to sing as a grownup. Well, except for Willow,” Tara said.

Catherine looked a little cross-eyed. “You should sing us a song. And who or what is Willow?”

Tara looked away for a moment blushing.

“Your special guy I imagine?” Catherine said with a growing smile.

“Um, no. Willow... Willow is my girl,” Tara said nervously.

“Darn tootin!”Willow said, kissing Tara’s hand.

“Aha! I knew there was fire in there somewhere girl! So tell me about her, I imagine she’s back home? ‘cos that’s the only personal stuff you ever mention, that you are trying to work your way back there.”

Emboldened by the fruity blue drink, or perhaps just a need to tell someone other than Takarn, she opened up to Catherine a little.
“I’m not from around here,” she said.

“Duh. I’m drunk, not stupid.”

Tara blinked in surprise, prompting Catherine to explain. “You have an accent that sounds Brelish, except you’re not from here. Aaaand you act like a foreigner, all amazed by the littlest of things,” Catherine responded.

An attractive man approached the pair, but before he could open his mouth, Catherine thumped one of her pistol-shaped weapons down on the table. He turned and walked away without word.

Before Dawn could open her mouth, Buffy jumped in.
“No guns on tables. I would have thought you’d have learned with the crossbow incident.”

Willow winced.
Tara spoke up. “Crossbow incident?”

“Dawn Summers, here named miss ‘left the crossbow loaded, Southern California’ forgot to unload the crossbow after she’d been practicing. A curious kitty found it, and there was a thing involving shooty-ness.”

Tara looked devastated. “Miss Kitty was cross-bowed?”

Dawn squeaked. “God no! That would be awful! She, um, slayed my breakfast, and the back window.”

“Slew,” corrected Giles absently, clearly not over his stint as a teacher. Dawn shrugged.

“And nearly gave me a heart attack,” Xander said. “Guess who was in the back yard working?”

“After that we kinda realized that it was too dangerous for her to be around us. I mean if a demon had squished her or she’d had some kind of accident, we’d have been devastated.”

“Or if Xander got shish-kabobbed. We have a strict ‘no killing Xander’ policy,” Buffy said.

“Page 2 of the new rulebook. ‘No killing Xander,’” he said with a grin.

Willow stroked Tara’s hair with a soft smile. “We found her a nice home on a ranch outside of town.”

Tara smiled. “I’m glad Miss Kitty is ok.”

Willow’s expression was sad. “I just couldn’t let anything happen to her. She was almost all I had left of you baby.”

“I’m really, really not from around here. I’m... I’m from another world Catherine,” Tara said hesitantly.

“Huh. Cool. Never met a dimension traveller before,” Catherine said.

“You believe me?”

“She believed you?” Xander chimed in.

Tara spoke. “Yes. Mind you, we were a lot like the Scoobies in terms of the strange things we had seen. So a revelation like that? No big deal for her.”

“Sure, stuff like that happens all the time. Plus you are stranger than a bag of chocolate spoons. You being from another world fits pretty well.”

“It does?” Tara said, clearly surprized.

“Yeah. I mean you are fairly clever, and good with people. But you don’t know an-y-thing,” Catherine said, spelling out the last word for emphasis.

“Like, you are a powerful spell caster, but you know less about magical theory than I do, and I’m no caster. You talk about a Goddess, but she’s not part of any pantheon that I know of. You are really good with people, especially foreigners, but you know nothing about any culture we have ever encountered. Even if you had never stepped outside the great Forest, you’d know more than you currently seem to.”

Tara looked slightly nervous as Catherine rolled out her observations.

“Hey, don’t feel bad, it just says ‘I’m a foreigner’ is all,” she said a little unsteadily. “This is the city of light, everyone here is from somewhere else. Mostly.”

Catherine drummed her fingers impatiently. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I have a powerful desire to move around and to breathe actual air, rather than beer fumes.”

Outside, the pair wandered side by side toward the market. Even in the middle of the night the market never closed. In the lower part of the city, concepts like day and night were optional.

“So. You were telling me about this Willow person, and where you come from,” Catherine said. “Is it all like, clouds and stuff?”

Tara looked puzzled at this. “Um, no. Why clouds and stuff?”

Catherine shrugged. “I dunno. I figure when people say stuff like ‘I’m from another plane’ I think either heaven or hell.”
She eyed Tara. “And you don’t strike me as particularly hellish. Actually I have no idea what a demon would be really like, but if you are hell-spawn, I’m really thinking that we need to rethink our attitude towards demons.”

Tara looked a little embarrassed. “Um, right. So, no to the clouds and such. I lived in a place called Sunnydale, in a country called America, on a world called earth.”

The noise and bustle of the market was making itself felt as they approached. Tara and Catherine stopped and leant on a stone railing, overlooking the lower market.

“Cool, so tell me about the place, ‘cos it’s not every day I get to talk to a person from another world.”

“Um, ok. Well, in many ways it’s like this place, mountains and trees and oceans, all just like here. The sky is blue and clouds are white and the sun is yellow. The difference is in the people and what they do.”

“Whoa! It’s like déjà vu or something,” Xander said. “This is just like when you told us about the other world, and now you’re in the other world telling them about the other-other world, which would be us... I think.”

Dawn patted him reassuringly on the knee.

Catherine made encouraging gestures.

“Well, almost everyone there is human. The humans think that they are alone on the planet.”

“Are they?”

Tara shook her head. “No. There are vampires and many other types of demons, but there are so few of them that people overlook their presence. I mean, there seem to be too many of them at times, but not enough of them for an entire nation or even a tribe particularly.”

“Wow. And the humans don’t know they exist? It sounds like a feeding frenzy to me.”

Tara grimaced. “It’s not quite that bad. There are some who know. Demon hunters, the Watchers Council and there’s the Slayer.”

“Why did I just hear a capital ‘S’ on there? What is The Slayer?” Catherine said, with exaggerated effect.

Buffy groaned. “Oh no, I think I know what’s coming.”

“One girl in all the world, chosen to stand against the darkness, she is the Slayer,” Tara recited.

Buffy nodded. “Yup, exactly what I was afraid of.”

“Whooo! I got the shivers when you said that! Sounds like one of them ‘Chosen of the gods’ types you get in all those cheesy comic-books.”

Tara nodded. “I don’t know who chose her, but yes, she is the chosen one.”

“What’s she like?”

“Exactly like one of those comic-book heroes. Noble, courageous, utterly unstoppable. Absolutely anyone who goes up against the Slayer loses.”

Faith grinned horribly. Buffy flushed pink, unsure whether to preen or hide. In the end she hid her furious blush behind a pillow.

“Wow, scary. Wouldn’t mind meeting her, y’know in a brightly lit room with plenty of witnesses.”

“She’s not what you expect, really. She’s tiny, and sooo cute and perky, like a little bouncy ball of sunshine.”

Tara blushed furiously and ducked her head as she read this out. Dawn giggled hysterically and Faith threw back her head and laughed hard enough that she was in danger of falling over, despite being seated on a couch.

Buffy glowered at the top of Tara’s head. The tips of Tara’s ears were pink with her blush.

Xander and Giles swapped a look of mirth amidst the hilarity.

“Little bouncy ball!” Xander mouthed silently, miming bouncing a basketball.

Giles looked away in a totally unsuccessful attempt to conceal his mirth.

“You’re not helping here B, I mean you are dressed like pippi longstocking,” Faith said.

“Hey, no fair! Don’t mock my overalls, I was cleaning out the basement with Xander,” Buffy protested.

“It’s true,” Xander said. “She protected me from all the spiders.”

“I am the spider Slayer,” Buffy said, waggling her braids cheerfully as her head bobbed.

“And the oh-so-cute pigtails?” Faith asked, tugging gently on one. “What caused that?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Little sister, who do you think?”

Dawn glowered. “I am your sister, not your ‘little’ sister,” she said, making air quotes.

“Pigtails,” was all that Buffy said.

Tara held out her hand at around chin-height to demonstrate the height of the fearsome ‘Slayer’.

“Damn, that’s pretty short. You sure she’s a human and not a Dwarf or a Halfling?”

“Don’t say it! Don’t say it!” Buffy protested, pointing her finger.

“I’m five foot four!” Dawn and Faith said in near perfect harmony.

Buffy battled with Tara for the ‘most furious blush’ award.

Tara shook her head, making her hair swish. “Just short. But when she gets her game face on, whoo watch out! Hurricane Buffy!”

“Heh heh.”

“I’m serious. She’s been killed twice and got back up both times, she’s destroyed Master vampires, Demon Lords and a God. There isn’t anything that she can’t bring down.”

Buffy perked up a little. “Go me,” she said with a happy smile.

“Not bad for a bouncy, perky ball of sunshine. So, this Slayer, she your girl?”

Faith burst out laughing again. Buffy tried to cut her off with poke in the ribs. Faith only stopped laughing long enough to say “Ow,” and kept on going.

Tara jerked, looking quite surprised.
“Um, no. Willow is my girl, Buffy is friends with Willow.”

“Oh yeah, I remember now. Hey, seriously drunk chick here, cut me some slack!”

Tara laughed softly.

“So, that’s the Slayer, and your girl is friends with her. Ok, tell me about your girl.”

Tara’s face took on a dreamy expression. “Red. She has red hair, like fire in autumn leaves. And her eyes are green, with little brown stars in them, and her smile is so cute, like a cheeky little pixie.”

Willow lit up at this description, and gave a demonstration of her ‘cheeky pixie’ grin. Tara smiled and pinched her cheek, granny style.

Tara stared off into space as she painted a picture of her love. “When something makes her happy, her whole face lights up, and when she loves, she loves with all her heart and soul. It takes my breath away.”

Catherine looked at Tara’s dreamy expression. “Damn Tara, you fell for this girl pretty hard.”

Tara sighed. “Oh yes. I am hers and she’s mine. Always.”

Tara leaned forward to place a tender kiss on Willow’s lips, Dawn looked melty and sighed.

“Uh, so this might be a dumb question, but if she’s in another world, what are you doing here? Because it would have to be the mother of all fights, for you to run off to a whole other world.”

Tara looked sad. “I have no idea. I can sense her out there, I have made contact with her, and I can feel her inside,” Tara said touching her chest above her heart.
“But I have no idea what I am doing here in this world, or even how I got here. Elder Gann told me I fell from the sky over a Hellmouth, um, a Dimensional Gateway. So I guess I was travelling dimensions and ended up here, I think by mistake.”
She turned to look at the slightly dizzy-looking Catherine. “I was damaged by whatever it was that happened, that’s why I can’t remember a lot of things. But love? I can remember love.”

“I hafta say, that sounds familiar,” Catherine said.

Tara raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Rinaldo was the same in some ways. Big gaps in his memories, chunks of stuff coming back with a rush, sudden emotional reactions as some random thing reminded him of something important. That sort of thing.”

There was silence between them, threatening to become a long, awkward silence. Sounds of the market drifted through the night air.

“I never liked him, he was weird and awful to me,” Tara blurted.
She covered her mouth with her hand and looked mortified.

Catherine looked surprised for a moment. She laughed softly. “Yes he was.”

She patted Tara comfortingly on the hand. “Don’t feel bad about your honesty. You’re allowed to dislike the guy and still feel bad that he died.”

Words poured forth from Tara. “He followed me everywhere, it was like being stalked! And he manhandled me! I don’t like being picked up and carried places when I tell people that I don’t want to go! And he told me he’d kill me if he got a note telling him to! I don’t know about you, but I find that sort of thing very frightening, especially in a man as big and skilled at killing people as he was!”

Catherine looked on with mild amusement as Tara gasped for breath, before processing what she had said.

“Uh, yeah. Look, I’m not gonna excuse the guy, he always did what he thought was right, and damn everybody else,” Catherine said seriously.

“But he was like you in a lotta ways, lost and alone in a world he didn’t remember or understand. And whatever happened to you? He got it worse. He never remembered anything except the vaguest flashes.”

Catherine paused for a moment, thinking.

“When he staggered out of the shattered ruins that had claimed millions of lives, he found a care parcel and a note from some woman. It was all very mysterious, but the note told him what to do, and that was what he needed right then. Ever since then, he got a note, regular as clockwork every Friday, giving him orders. He came to rely on them.”

Catherine blew out her breath, making a horsey noise. “All this happened before I even met the guy. By the time we buddied up, he was fixed on those little notes like they were truth handed down from the heavens.”

“Yeah, that right there Snow-white? That’s pretty screwed up,” Faith said.

Tara nodded. “It was. It wasn’t long till we found out why. Don’t worry, the explanation isn’t too far away.”

“Whoever wrote those notes, they knew something about what had happened to him. They knew and never told him, dangling hints of the truth like a carrot on a stick.”
She looked irritated. “I hope that one day that I can find them, and do painful stabby things to them.”

Tara though for a moment before speaking. “I’m sorry that you lost your friend.”

Catherine pulled her into a one armed hug. “Thanks Tara.”

“I feel so bad, I didn’t like him, and he died to protect me. All because someone wrote him a note telling him to do it,” Tara said.

“It’s kind of my fault, I mean, tentacle-face was getting ready to do something when I shot him in the face. That distracted him a bit. Then he exploded. I think the two events are linked somehow,” Catherine grumbled.

“And then Rinaldo stood up, and took the blast for me,” Tara said sadly.

Catherine nodded. “Yes he did.”

“And now I’m glad to be alive... so thank you Rinaldo,” Tara said, raising her wooden cup.

Willow whispered as she stroked the side of Tara’s face. “Thank you Rinaldo.”

“Right, that’s enough fresh air. I’m feeling altogether too sensible, and that means I need booze therapy to cure my ills. Also some food. Come on, let’s head back to the tavern.”

The pair turned and walked back the way they came.

“So tell me a little more about Willow,” Catherine said.


“...and we were finding bits of oatmeal in the strangest places for the next week!” Tara finished.

Willow was blushing furiously at the reminder of their failed experiment in transmutation.

“Hey, I remember that,” Dawn said. “That stuff was everywhere!”

Tara’s face was perfectly innocent as she added. “You have no idea.”

Willow hid her face in her hands.

Catherine was all but falling off her stool laughing, reduced to helpless wheezes due to lack of air, a tankard of blue punch spilling down her arm.
“Oh god!” she gasped. “Oh god! Just don’t speak for a second, I need air!”

“I’m just glad it was oats we were practicing on, and not something like chilli-peppers,” Tara said, wincing. “That would have really stung!”

“Ow, ow, ouch, Dammit! Stop woman, you’re killing me!” Catherine gasped out as she sprawled helpless and red-faced across the table.
She gasped for breath, making a convincing impersonation of a landed fish. Groaning, she regained her seat and made a valiant attempt at staying upright.
After a number of deep breaths and a small amount of complaining, Catherine piped up. “Hey! You owe us a song.”

“What? Where did that come from? I’m confident that I don’t. No owing of songs is occurring. None of that here.”

“Yes! I distinctly remember talking about you and singing earlier. And you have a great voice. It’s a shame to keep something like that locked away.”

Tara shook her head. “I’m not drunk enough to try something like that. Really.”

“Perfectly understandable. I know it’s scary, getting up there in front of all of those people and singing a song, one not involving hedgehogs,” Catherine said wisely.

Tara smiled sheepishly.

“So instead, stay down here with me and have another drink. I mean that HAS to be safer than singing a song doesn’t it?”

Tara thought for a moment. “No, it really doesn’t. I don’t know how many of these fruity blue things I’ve had now. If I drink any more of them, I’m likely to wake up somewhere strange... er, wearing clothes that aren’t mine.”

Dawn’s face was the picture of mischief and her eyes were huge as she hid her smile behind her hand.

Willow raised one eyebrow in a passable imitation of Tara’s ‘raised eyebrow of mild disapproval.’

Buffy just giggled.

“Holy crap Snow-White, we are just seeing a whole ‘nother side to you,” Faith added.

“Yes, well, might I just say that your attitude towards drink and getting into trouble is very mature,” Giles said with a mild smile. The smile did nothing to hide the mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Tara’s blush had not had a chance to fade, if anything it intensified. Unsteadily she returned to her story.

She stood and drained the last of her blue drink. “If it’s all the same to you, I’m going home to bed.”

“Aww come on Tara, don’t be like that. You have a beautiful voice, it’s a shame to waste something like that.”

She turned to the tavern population, who were moderately well behaved while the musicians took a break. “Hey guys! You’d like to hear Tara sing again wouldn’t you?”

The response was uproarious, possibly because the crowd liked her singing, possibly because they associated her with free drinks.

Tara blushed furiously and hid her face in her hands.

Catherine lead a chant. “Tara! Tara! Tara! Tara!” the rest of the tavern got involved and chanted along with her, hoping that something entertaining would happen.

Eventually Tara waved her hand in acquiescence and Catherine waved both hands in the air excitedly. “Woohoo! Victory!”

The crowd cheered, perhaps in the hope of getting more free drinks.

Tara spoke to the musicians, spending a couple of minutes making musical suggestions and listening, before nodding and turning to the small stage.
She stared at the stage as though it were some kind of large predatory animal.
She clenched the microphone-like wand in both hands and looked around the bar at all the cheerful and cheerfully drunk faces.
And relaxed.
Really this wasn’t so scary.
So she stepped up onto the small stage, closed her eyes and picturing her beautiful Willow, she sang.


Lost in the darkness
Hoping for a sign
Instead there's only silence
Can't you hear my screams?

Never stop hoping
Need to know where you are
But one thing's for sure
You're always in my heart

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul

Lost in the darkness
Tried to find your way home
I want to embrace you
And never let you go

Almost hope you're in heaven
So no one can hurt your soul
Living in agony
Cause I just do not know
Where you are

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul

Wherever you are
I won't stop searching
Whatever it takes me to know

I'll find you somewhere
I'll keep on trying
Until my dying day
I just need to know
Whatever has happened
The truth will free my soul.

Faith spoke up. “Hey I know that song, isn’t that one of the ones you always listen to lil’ D? You know them Norwegians?”

“Dutch, they’re from Holland. The other guys I listen to are Finnish. But yep, I’ve heard it before.”

Tara smiled an off-centre smile. “I’m not a bad singer, but I’m no songwriter, so I just sang a song I remembered, that fitted how I felt.”

Faith tossed a cushion at Tara. “Open mike night at the Peach. You should go, give G-man a run for his money.”

Tara caught the cushion and poked out her tongue at Faith. “I might just do that. I think I have a couple of other songs in me.”

“I’d love to hear you sing baby,” Willow said. “It’s been so long since you sang to me.”

“Every night, my Willow, I sang to you every night.”

Willow smiled up sadly at Tara. “But I wasn’t around to hear.”

“Then I will sing you a song when you can hear me,” Tara said.

‘Got a song for my girl too,’ Faith sent to Buffy.

Buffy’s eyes widened, ‘You’d do that for me?’

Faith planted a soft kiss in Buffy’s hair, ‘Sure B. I love you, ‘course I’ll sing you a song.’

‘No one has ever sung for me before. I feel so special.’

‘Wait till you hear what I have to sing, it’ll blow your socks off.’

Dawn watched the pair carefully. Something about the way they were acting was familiar.

Buffy saw Dawn staring at them with a calculating expression, ‘Oops. Busted, Dawn’s spotted us.’

Faith looked up and found Dawn beaming at her with a radiant smile. She tapped her nose conspiratorially and winked.

When she finished, the bar was silent.
She stepped down from the stage and gave the wand to one of the musicians, drifting over to her seat almost as if floating.
She felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her.
Catherine just stared for a while.
Signs of life slowly filtered back into the bar.

She said thickly. “Whoa. Just whoa. I had no idea you had that inside you.”

Tara sat down, still buzzing slightly.

“I’m guessing that song was pretty close to home for you,” Catherine said, handing Tara another cup of blue punch. Tara waved her away. “I think I’ll stick to juice for the rest of the evening, I have work tomorrow.”

Catherine frowned. “Can’t you just,” she wiggled her fingers. “y’know, magic it away?”

Tara nodded cheerfully. “Yep. There’s an even easier way though. Just stop drinking. No spells, no hangover.”

“A very wise idea. You have wisdom beyond your years Tara,” Giles commented lightly.

“Geez British, live a little,” Faith said rolling her eyes.

“I assure you Faith I have lived. In my youth I made enough mistakes for three lifetimes,” he said completely straight faced. And then he winked.

Catherine snorted. “Bah! I like not this crazy plan! Common sense has no place at this table tonight!”

Tara rolled her eyes at Catherine’s barbaric phrasing. “How about I walk you over to the Citadel, and you get Gerald to look after you? Snuggles don’t usually leave you with a hangover, you know.”

“Though a small amount of soreness is good,” Catherine responded, waggling her eyebrows. “Lets you know you had a good time.”

Tara laughed. “Come on, let’s get to over to the citadel. The walk will do you good.”

“Urgh. No cab ride?”

Tara shook her head. “You need the walk and I don’t think the cabby would be impressed if you threw up in his cab.”

“Nope, no throwing up here.”

“That’s what they all say. Come on, snuggles await you.”

“Awesome. Snuggles are good. Especially after a bout of dirty, sweaty sex!” Catherine laughed.

Tara didn’t know where to look. “Yes, well... um, good.”

They left the bar amid a sea of disappointed looks.

“Oh man! She’s like the sister I never had!” Faith laughed.

She bounced a pillow off Dawn’s head.

“Hey! Quit it!” Dawn complained.

“You lil’ D, are the sister I do have,” Faith said.

“Aww, you’re just a big softie aren’t you?”

Faith squirmed a little.

“... and that’s why ribbons are better than platemail,” Catherine finished, her voice echoing down the poorly lit street.

“Hmm. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Still, I’m not very acrobatic, so I think I might stick with leather and metal, when I go shopping at least,” Tara said.

“I suppose. Well at least you’ll match Takarn, and have you noticed we are being followed?”

Tara sighed. “Yes. Two in front, one in the rear. They must be pretty confidant to try to grab us with only 3.”

“Two drunk women, how much trouble could they be?” Catherine grinned evilly. “Wanna be bad?”

“Goddess help me... yes.” Tara frowned. “What was in that drink?”

Catherine shrugged. “It’s just fruit punch.”

Tara bashed her heavy bracelet against the wall, activating the protective spell contained within.

She stood up straight and squared her shoulders. “When I was a girl, I was always told to hide my power, to avoid frightening people,” Tara said.
Her eyes started to glow. “I think sometimes a little fear is a good thing.”
She let loose the bonds of her power, feeling the magic pour through her body like living fire. White flames licked across her body, spreading out from her chest

Catherine turned to Tara. “What did you... never mind.”

Tara was wreathed in white fire from head to toe, wings of flame surrounding her, the light growing until it lit the alleyway with stark intensity.

Catherine winced at the bright light and looked behind them. The trailing man was transfixed, illuminated by the blazing light. She drew a wand and gestured with it for him to drop his weapon.
The man looked down at his dagger and looked at the weapon pointed at him. He dropped his knife and backed away with his hands up.

Tara fixed her burning eyes on the two would-be robbers. Her voice crackled with power. “You should be running.”

“Woo-hoo, go Tara! Check out your badass self!” said Faith, making like a cheerleader.

Tara ducked her head reflexively, though it did her no good, her braided hair resolutely refused to fall in front of her face.

Willow said nothing, her huge grin said it all.

They turned and ran without a second thought.
In moments they were alone except for the sound of running feet, fading into the distance.
Tara’s burning halo faded to a less blinding intensity.
Catherine wove her way unsteadily over to the dropped dagger and picked it up.

“Well, that was different,” she said as she wandered back to Tara, still obviously quite drunk.

Tara chuckled. “I think I know why they call it liquid courage,”

“Very impressive, and not what I was expecting. I was expecting you to talk them into going away, or maybe wave your hand and put them to sleep.”

Tara looked embarrassed. “Um well, I really didn’t want to spend all night explaining myself to the watch, and I have nothing to tie them up with. And... it felt good to just cut loose.”

“Uh Tara? You’re still on fire. What is that anyway?”

“Nothing,” she said.

Catherine gave her a look.

Tara protested. “Really, nothing. I let some of my power bleed into my aura, to make it visible. It wasn’t even a spell, just a bit of a light show.”

“Well it was very impressive. And you’re still on fire.”

Tara grimaced. “The energy takes time to bleed out of my aura, it’ll last about an hour or so. It should keep us from being bothered while we walk home, um, and light the way.”

“Must be handy for reading in bed,” Catherine said with a grin.

“Not really. The flames make it hard to read.”

Catherine poked her experimentally in the shoulder, waggling her finger cheerfully when it didn’t burn.

“Hooray for not burning. Come on then, let’s get home. Suddenly I’m in the mood to sleep, not so much get sweaty.”



Tara leaned against the wall, gasping for breath. She looked up to see the tentacle-mouthed creature staring at her, gathering himself for something. In slow motion, she saw him lift his hand toward her, some form of energy rippling in his hand like water.

And his head was engulfed in a blast of fire from Catherine’s weapon.

A scream echoed in her mind, and he exploded, a watery sphere of energy expanded out from his head, tearing his body apart.

Dreamlike, the expanding sphere of force filled the area, ready to tear apart her defenceless body.

And at the last moment, her view was eclipsed by Rinaldo’s armoured form.
Battered, bleeding from many wounds, he placed himself between the blast and Tara.
He opened his arms, almost accepting annihilation.

The wall of force hit him.

And blood sprayed as he was driven back.

“Ahhhh!” Tara cried.

She sat bolt upright in her bed, sticky with sweat and profoundly dizzy from her sudden change in position.
She panted as though she had been sprinting.

Swearing and muttering accompanied a muffled crash from outside her room. The door opened softly and a croaky voiced Catherine asked “Uh, hey Tara, you ok?”

Tara nodded, not trusting her voice at the moment.
Faint light spilled into the room from the lounge.

Catherine wobbled unsteadily over and flopped on the bed with a groan. “Uh, ‘cos I always scream when everything is hunky-dory.”

“You look slightly green,” Tara said in a similarly croaky voice.

Catherine nodded carefully. “With that in mind, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t scream with me in the room. Unless you want to see me bleed out of my ears. Ugh.”
She patted Tara comfortingly on the shoulder. “So, um, why the screaming?”

Tara sat silently.
Eventually she spoke. “Rinaldo, I had a nightmare about Rinaldo.”

Catherine sat in silence for a while, eventually breaking the silence. “I can guess what the nightmare was, I’ll bet.”

Tara nodded sadly. “It was w-when he...” she trailed off.

“It’s ok honey, I know,” Catherine said.

“I was so scared. I was sure I was going to die. I would have if he hadn’t got in the way,” she said unsteadily.

“Yup. I’m sure of it. Rin was one tough dude. Guy was like a rubber ball, you pound him down and he just bounced right back. If the blast killed him in that armour of his, it woulda pasted you.”

Tara looked at Catherine with a look of horror.

“Uh, right. So I’m no good at this stuff. This is normally the sort of thing we leave to you. For a good reason.”
She groaned and flopped on her back, trapping Tara’s feet.

“Look, all I’m trying to say is that, yeah it sucks that he’s dead, but he knew what he was doing when he stood up in front of you. And he didn’t do it for no reason, you would have gone smoosh if he hadn’t. And now that I think of it, there was nowhere for him to go, he’d have gotten blasted anyway. So, yeah, uh, he died, but for a good reason. Yeah that’s what I meant. So I’ll shut up now, before I make it worse.”

“It’s alright. I feel a bit better now,” Tara said.

“Hooray. I’m normally pretty bad at this sort of thing,” Catherine said, lying on her back with a sigh.

“Well you did great tonight Catherine,” Tara said.

Catherine murmured indistinctly.
And was asleep.

“Wow, that’s pretty rough baby, I’m glad you had someone to, y’know, give you a hug and stuff,” Willow said sadly.

Tara smiled a little. “Catherine wasn’t much for hugs. She tended to show her affection by beating up people that upset you, or busting you out of jail.”
She looked up into Faith’s grinning face. “Sound familiar?”

“Hey, your honey is in jail, you bust em out!”

Buffy’s face fell, and an awkward silence fell with it.

Faith’s grin vanished as she twigged as to what she had just said.
She turned to Buffy, stricken. “Shit B, I’m sorry. I’m an ass. I didn’t mean...”

“I’m sorry Faith, I... I was so bad to you and I...” she trailed off, her eyes glittering with unshed tears.

“Hey! No B! Don’t feel bad. Don’t you frikkin dare! B, I was broken and twisted and well, evil. I needed to be away from real people to get my head together ok? It wasn’t fun, but I needed it. I needed to be surrounded by people who had screwed up their lives like I had, so I could see myself, and what I had done clearly.”

“I know, I just feel so bad about you being there all that time.”

“Hey, for a Slayer, that place was like a holiday park. Exercise, free food, time to think. Real assholes to make you think ‘I don’t wanna be like that’. Babe it’s all good. Now stop it or you’ll make me cry, an’ no one wants to deal with that,” she said with a smirk.

Buffy smiled slightly. “Sorry Tara, I slightly broke your story,” she said with a sniffle.

“It’s ok Buffy. It’s just a story, take your time.”

“I know, I just feel like a bad girlfriend.”

“B, we were busy hating on each other. I screwed everyone over and shot your honey, you stabbed me ‘cos I had it coming. I shoulda been in jail. So no bad girlfriend ok?”
Her face lit up with a goofy, almost star-struck smile.
“Buffy Summers is my girl. I am never going to get tired of that.”

“And Faith Lehane is my girl,” she said with a shiver. “Wow, that still gives me goose bumps.”

“You two are very cute,” said Dawn, grinning.

Buffy poked out her tongue and Faith gave her the fingers, English-style.

Dawn returned both gestures with a grin.

Buffy scowled. “I can’t believe mom brought you home from the hospital. How hard could it have been, to grab the kid one bassinette to the left?”

Dawn blew a cheerful raspberry.

Tara sighed and carefully extracted her feet from beneath her sleeping friend.
She knew she had little chance of getting to sleep tonight.

Still not quite resolved on the whole Rinaldo issue, she carefully clambered out of bed and pulled on some clothes.
The night-time of the city of light was only slightly cooler and slightly darker than the daytime.

‘They call it the city of light for a reason,’ Tara mused.

Without thinking where she was going, or what she was doing, she found herself climbing the stairs toward the rooftop garden.
She stopped and shook her head ruefully, ‘I still forget sometimes,’ she thought.
Glancing around, she unfurled her wings, ‘and it feels so good to fly.’
She leapt into the night sky, barely restraining a Xena-esque cry of joy.


Geoff was standing watch in The Garden.

He could not help but mentally add the capital letters to ‘The Garden.’

He had been present weeks ago when The Miracle had occurred. That was another thing that had capital letters.
He had been eating his lunch on the rooftop, a city watchman having a lunch break, waiting for his girl to arrive. It looked like she was going to stand him up again, so he had tucked in to his lunch. As much as he enjoyed his lunch, he was rather glum. Being stood up did that to him.

And then The Goddess had touched the earth.

He had been eating a particularly nice herb-bread with cheese and tomato paste and just a little olive and garlic, when the hand of the divine had touched his soul.

Later he had eaten his bread, and wondered afterwards if his bread was a holy relic. He felt vaguely sacrilegious after he thought of it.

He had been only vaguely aware of the girl and her huge, winged companion. Until he had roared, and she had screamed a name.


The naked longing and desperation in that cry had harrowed his soul.

While the column of white light reaching down from the heavens was very impressive, and the Salica tree turning white was a permanent reminder of what had happened, it was the presence of the divine that he remembered.
A feeling that had changed him forever.

He had knelt in the presence of a Goddess, he had felt her power, her love, her purity wash over him, and been cleansed. He and a handful of others had been touched, blessed, changed. So they had gathered together, pooled their funds, and bought the whole garden. None of them could bear the thought of some careless idiot or malicious soul profaning something so holy.

And so they locked the gates and stood watch over the holy place, day and night.

Tonight was his watch, and he was glad of it. The peace of the garden and the sanctity of this place filled him with serenity, something he sorely needed after his recent breakup. His girl just had not understood his change. If she hadn’t been late, she would have seen the Goddess and it would have been so clear to her. He shook his head ruefully, in truth they were separated by a vast gulf of experience. No man could see what he had seen, and remain unchanged by it.

So intent he was on soaking up the peace of the garden that he did not hear the sound of approaching wing beats until they were almost upon him.

Worried, he drew his service wand and picked up his sturdy shield, lifting it into a well-practiced cover position.

The sound of powerful wing beats grew, and then She arrived.

She rose over the edge of the tower, like the dawn of a new day. She reminded him why he guarded this holy place. He had known she was special, though they had barely spoken. And now he knew why, for she landed in front of him, her wings spread, and she was an angel.

Willow smiled up at Tara. “I get that feeling every time I look at you.”

Tara smiled and tweaked her nose. “No kneeling.”

‘Except for, you know, special occasions’ she sent with a naughty wink.

The image and accompanying emotion made Willow feel all warm and tingly. ‘Mmm, Tara-worship. I think I know what I’ll be doing tonight’ she sent back.

He knelt, awestruck, and lowered his eyes respectfully. Her form was illuminated in the faint blue and purple light of the sentinel lanterns strung about the garden.
And She spoke to him. “Um. Hey. Um, P-please don’t kneel.”

He stood, putting his weapon away. “I’m sorry my lady, I meant only to show respect.”

She winced when he said ‘my lady.’

“Just Tara, please. I’m no ladyship.”

“Sorry, uh, again. I only intended to show respect.”

She breathed deeply, as though gathering herself for something, and stuck out her hand. “Hello, I’m Tara.”

Geoff cautiously took her hand, raised it and softly kissed her knuckles. “Geoff, my lady... Tara.”

Tara blushed.
Geoff looked horribly embarrassed.

Dawn sighed. “They still do that in parts of Europe. I think it’s very romantic, um, elegant.”

Tara smiled. “It wasn’t the weirdness of it that made me blush. In that part of the world a kiss on the knuckles was the equivalent of a handshake between men and women.”

“What made me blush was the naked adoration and worship in his eyes.”

She looked away or a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I have never been comfortable in the spotlight, and to suddenly become an object of worship? It’s a very strange feeling.”

“I, um, couldn’t sleep, so I came to do some meditating. I didn’t realize anyone would be here.”

“Of course my... ah, Tara,” he corrected himself. “This place is holy. We guard it day and night from those who might accidentally or deliberately profane it.”

Geoff withdrew. “I will be outside while you meditate. Please let me know when you are ready to leave, so can resume my post, or if you need anything.”

“Th-thank you Geoff,” she said, a little overwhelmed.
He smiled awkwardly and bowed slightly as he left.

‘Everything is so strange now,’ she thought.

This place was sacred to her, it was where she had made contact with Willow. But it was more than that, it was sacred to others too, it was the place where the Goddess had touched the earth.
The Goddess had many names, Mother Earth, Gaia or simply THE Goddess. Many called her the unnamed goddess, believing her true name was too sacred to be sullied by the tongues of mortals.

Faith spoke up. “You know, I’ve been meaning to ask about the whole ‘Goddess’ business. What’s with you always saying ‘Goddess’ when you get a surprise? Or Red here, when she remembers to.”

Tara thought for a moment. “There are many gods or goddesses in pagan mythology and the more recent Wicca movement. Some favour a specific deity, some send their prayers to whichever deity favours their particular need. My mother and I honoured the Mother Goddess.”

“Like Brigit?”

Tara nodded. “Mm-hmm. As Willow has already told you, there is no patron goddess of Slayers, but if there were, it would be Brighid.”
She closed her eyes.
“Wisdom, excellence, craftsmanship, druidic knowledge and skill in battle. All these things are hers,” she recited.
“I venerate The Mother as THE Goddess, adding in prayers to other gods or goddesses as needed. Willow is a bit more cosmopolitan.”

“I tend to stick close to Brighid these days, she’s closer to what we’re doing and, um, safer than some of the others,” Willow said.

Faith thumped herself on the chest. “Check it out, I'm all enlightened and shit.”

And the Goddess never intervened in the affairs of mortals. Many prayers paid homage to her, many spells referenced her. But only tangentially, for she did not answer.

Here she had answered.

In this place she had answered the desperate plea of a mortal woman.

Tara sat cross legged, reverentially beneath the tree.
She meditated upon what it meant, upon why The Goddess herself had touched the world here, and for her.
She opened herself to the world and simply listened.
Her mind drifted.

Drifted to thoughts of Willow.
Such thoughts filled her with a bittersweet mix of joy and loss. The joy was simple, she loved Willow and knew she was loved in return. The loss was equally simple. She was not with her beloved.

And the sense of loss felt strange. As she meditated on it, she realized that she felt that sense of loss to one side of her. It was a strange feeling, emotion with direction, almost as though the pain of loss were not inside her, but outside her, like a physical injury.
Her eyes opened.

She had a direction.


Tara and Takarn were staring fixedly at a pair of maps. One map was of the city, a thick black line drawn from ‘their’ garden tower to a convenient landmark, giving them a bearing.
The other was a small scale map of the surrounding countries, also with a thick black line drawn on it.

That line passed out of the city, through two small villages, a small lake and through the heart of the mourn-lands. The former capital city of the kingdom of Cyre: Metrol.

Takarn glanced sideways at Tara. “You know where we are headed. There is no chance that we will be looking in either of these villages.”

Tara nodded. She did not know a great deal about this world she had found herself in, but she knew about the Mourn lands. Everyone knew about the Day of Mourning. The day when a nation had died.
The Mourn Lands were the shattered remnants of a once vibrant and culturally sophisticated nation, destroyed by the cataclysm now simply called the Day of Mourning.
Some kind of dark magic caused the staggering devastation, though no one knew how or why.

No-one knew who was responsible, though theories abounded. Even years later, no one had claimed responsibility, and the subject was still likely to lead to raised tempers and fights.
Now the centre of culture and technological advancement for the world was a blasted and shattered wasteland, home only to the dead and the damned. The lands were permanently shrouded in shadow and mist, home to dangerous unpredictable magic and the restless dead. Many adventurous souls ventured into those ruined lands. Noticeably less, returned whole and intact.

Those that did return, told tales of death and carnage on a scale unimaginable. Of the angry dead, of magic turned unreliable, even hostile to its wielders.
And nothing grew in the whole country. Nothing was born, no injury would heal, no food found would sustain. The very air and water was tainted.

This was where it seemed their answers lay.
Tara’s heart fell. The horror of this place was legend. There was little chance she would survive a trip across this land by herself, and no way she could ask her friends to enter a place so hostile, so dangerous, just to help her find her answers.

Xander interrupted. “I gotta say Tara, I don’t like the sound of this place. It sounds like Hiroshima after its big day.”

Tara gave him a hollow look. “It’s worse. It’s almost indescribably bad.”

Giles spoke in a distant voice, looking off into the distance. “The blasted steppes.”
All heads turned to face him.

“Ok Giles, make with the ‘splainin,’” Xander said.

Giles gaze lost its distant quality. “Hmm? Oh, terribly sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Everyone continued to look at him.

“Oh er, right. Ah, there is as you might imagine, a shortage of information about the goings-on of other planes. However, in the demon world, most have heard of Alkeir, now known as the blasted steppes.”

Xander made a ‘go on’ gesture.

“It is said that Alkeir was once a paradise, but like Earth, it’s dimensional proximity made it a common byway for dimension travelling armies.”

Giles sipped his tea, before continuing his explanation.
“Over millennia it was ravaged by invaders who wanted access to other dimensions, or to occupy Alkeir in order to control access to those dimensions.”
“However, the final battle of Alkeir included an event of such cataclysmic violence that it laid waste to the entire world. It is a shadowy wasteland where nothing grows or even truly dies. Not even the demonic inhabitants of the other realms can survive there for long, though armies still use the realm as a thoroughfare or battleground.”

“None know the cause of that event either.”

Tara looked surprised. “That sounds awfully similar Mr Giles.”

He nodded.

Takarn rumbled thoughtfully. “This will take a good deal of preparation and planning. This will be a difficult journey for us,” he said, putting emphasis on the last word.

Tara closed her eyes. She was eternally grateful for his unswerving support and endless courage, but she could not ask this of him.
“Takarn...” she choked out, dreading the conversation to come.

He held up his massive hand.
“You are about to say ‘I cannot ask you to come with me.’”

She nodded silently.

“You are right. It would be terribly unfair of you to ask that of someone. Which is why I am volunteering. You don’t ask. You go, I go.”

She looked at him amid tears.
“You would go by yourself,” he stated.

She nodded. “I... I have to. My soul is pulled in that direction, I can f-feel a link to something or someone there. Sooner or later I must go there.”

“And you will die,” he stated. “Entire expeditions go missing in that hell hole. You are strong. But no one is strong enough to go through there alone.”

He locked eyes with her. “You remember Brother Marcion?”

Tara nodded.

“He said big things were happening around you. I feel that he is right. And. I’ve always wanted to go there.”
He grinned. “It has been said, that if you owned Metrol and hell, you should live in hell and rent out Metrol. If you can survive in there, you can survive anywhere.”
He eyed her seriously. “How much harm will you do Willow if you die now?”

Tara shuddered silently.

“Tara. There is something in the waters. I can taste it. I am with you until the end. Come hell or high water.”

He grinned again. “Hell I can fight. Water I can swim thorough.”

Tara knew her friend. Once he had made up his mind, he was implacable. It was like trying to reason with a rockslide. In the end she said the only thing she could.

“Thank you.”

Willow looked up at her love with glittering eyes. “Thank you Takarn.”

Tara smiled wistfully.

His grin widened, which for him was saying something. “Let us take destiny by the throat. And squeeze until it delivers what we desire.”


“You wanna go where?! Are you nuts?!” Catherine said, her voice raised almost to shouting.

“I d-don’t want to go there, I h-have to!” Tara said, her stutter returning with her stress.

“Again with the nuts comment,” she replied.

The rest of Melchior’s team of on-call heroes were standing or lounging around his meeting room. They were watching the two women converse or fight. Whatever it was they were doing, they wisely kept quiet.

“I am missing, Catherine! Big pieces of me are gone!” she said, an overtone of desperation in her voice.
“And I need to get them back,” she said softly.

Catherine glared at her.

Tara slumped in defeat. “I don’t know if there is a way h-home there, or just some answers. There may even be more questions. All I know is that I can sense pain there. Deep pain, and a connection to me.”
She looked up into her friend’s blue eyes. “I have to go.”

Catherine took a deep breath and let it out with a huff.

“Fuck it. I’m in,” she said, flopping down on the couch next to her.

“What? B-but-” Tara sputtered as Catherine held up a forestalling hand.

“My best friend lost part of his soul in that place. Since that day, someone has been controlling him, playing him like a puppet.”
Her voice hardened. “And it cost him his life.”
“In that place are the answers my friend never got in life. I owe it to him to find them, and I owe whoever is responsible some pain, for their lack of concern.”

“I will accompany you also,” Melchior interjected.

“Ya know Snow White? This guy kinda reminds me of the G-man over there. Kinda bookish and brainy, but badass as well,” Faith said.

“Giles? Bad. Ass?” Buffy said disbelievingly.

“C’mon B, look at him. You’ve seen him fight, you’ve seen him chasing Xandude around the track. Pushing 50, looks 30, and still kicks more ass than anyone who isn’t a Slayer.”

Giles looked everywhere but at Faith, and even seemed to have developed a slight pink tinge. “You have never been any good at lying, Faith,” he muttered.

Faith just grinned at him, until he was forced to return a small smile.

Tara stared at the mechanical man in shock.

“I have questions as well. In that lost and fallen city is the place where my people were first made, as is a faction of rebel warforged. I have many reasons to go, but mainly because my friends are going too.”

Tara kept staring blankly.

“You are friends of mine,” he said simply to the three on or near the couch.

“Damn, this is a hell of a first day!” said the unnamed man.

Melchior’s face made what can only be described as a grimace. “Forgive me, in the excitement I neglected to introduce the newest member of our party. Everyone, meet Govakri.”

The newly introduced Govakri flashed everyone a quick grin, his white teeth flashing against the dark background of his coffee-coloured skin. Everything about him was quick, even standing still he seemed poised to burst into furious activity at any moment.
Melchior took him around the room, introducing him to each person in turn. “Govakri? This is Takarn, Paladin of the Flame; Tara of the Woodland Realm, healer and seer; Catherine, lady adventurer; and lastly Izolda of the north, sorceress.”

Tara examined him as intently as politeness allowed.

He was a densely packed man, wrapped in tight clothing in dark shades of blue and green. Much of his clothing was literally wrapped, almost bandage-like around his body.
He was armed with a short sword and dagger, lightly armed in comparison to the others of the party.

“What do you do?” Takarn rumbled.

“Climb, fight, get into places that are not made for getting into, find things that are not meant to be found. That sort of thing.”

Takarn growled. “A thief then.”

“I am no thief! I am a fighter! I just do my fighting in different circumstances from you. And I do it without half a ton of clanking shiny plate strapped to me!”

Takarn grinned. “Touchy.”

“Hey, how would you feel if someone told you that between the polished metal and rainbow wings, you look like a big gay hood-ornament.”

Tara hid a smile behind her hand, Catherine grinned unabashedly.

Takarn’s brow wrinkled in thought. “I don’t know. Is it something someone is likely to say?”

Govakri stared at him for a moment, before bursting out laughing. “I like you big man. You can be on my team.”
He turned to Melchior. “So, the Mourn-lands then?”

Melchior shook his head. “Not just yet. We have a number of smaller cases to complete first. The bread and butter of our work.”
He looked at Tara intently, his green jewel-like eyes glowing faintly. “We will need a few smaller cases to work, together. To find a new balance for our efforts. However spectacular your abilities may be, we still need to learn to work with you.”

Tara met his gaze and nodded. They were going to the Mourn-lands. They would not be going for a few weeks, and they had cases to work beforehand as practice for Govakri. But they were going.
She turned to look at Izolda, the self-styled ‘White Witch.’ While Tara had always thought of herself in those terms, the other woman clearly had a different take on the term.

Everyone else turned to look as well. If Izolda was discomfited in any way, she hid it well.

Since they met, Tara had become more comfortable with the term ‘healer.’ Few people objected to healers, and referring to yourself as a ‘White Witch,’ was unwise in the presence of people who had actually met Izolda.

Izolda gazed back coolly.

“Our next case?” she said.

It seemed that Izolda was not coming with them. Tara wasn’t sure whether to be relieved at the revelation. Her icy magic could be invaluable in many situations, not just in battle. That having been said, the witch herself was emotionally cold and unpleasant, as well as physically cold and unpleasant.
This was a woman who had devoted herself to a particular element of magic so thoroughly, as to have been changed by it as deeply as any dark mage.

In her more snarky private moments, Tara often thought that Izolda could do a wonderful public service, touring schools and academies. Demonstrating in person the effects of magical obsession.

More compassionately, Tara wondered what had happened to Izolda, that she would desire to separate herself from others behind walls of ice, both figurative and literal.

Melchior eventually broke the awkward silence. “Our next case is relatively straightforward, a favour to our friends in the watch,” he said with a polite nod toward Catherine.

Catherine grinned a little, a good chunk of these cases came from her boyfriend in the citadel. Often Gerald would send cases their way that were too political or tricky for the watch, or even the citadel elite to handle easily. Melchior’s cunning and his wide array of friends with special talents, had improved Gerald’s prospects at the citadel immensely. In return they had been well rewarded with bounties, reward money, and the gratitude of the citadel.

Later in the day, they were going to spend some of that reward on Tara. As much as she had disliked the idea, Tara had been persuaded to purchase some armour for their adventures.

Her first instinct in battle had always been to head off fights with calm words, or stay out of the way and cast defensive spells in the event of a fight.

Recent events however had highlighted the fact that not all of their enemies discriminated in who they attacked. And many of their enemies had a nasty habit of attacking from stealth. And after Tara had staggered home from the clinic battered and bruised with 3 crossbow bolts sticking out of her body, he had been insistent.

Truth be told he was incandescent with fury. After that, he had flat-out ordered her to go and get armour

“We will be looking for a wayward husband, the bread and butter of our caseload. Half an hour’s quiet poking-about has turned up suggestions of drug involvement and illegal magic, along with hints that he may have married only to gain access to the government buildings.”

He took off his hat and scratched his shiny head. “I doubt our client is going to be pleased with what we are likely to turn up. Luckily our fee has been agreed upon beforehand, and if we end up where I think we will end up, we are likely to get a reward from the citadel. As well as putting a feather in the cap of a certain up and coming young officer.”

Catherine smiled happily.

Melchior sat on the edge of the desk facing the assembled investigators. “We are likely to be in some rough parts of town, a good chance for our more subtle members to shine.”

He looked at Tara and Catherine as he said this.
“If things go wrong, there will be a chance for the less subtle members of our group to show their mettle.”
His emerald gaze shifted to Takarn as he said this. Takarn grinned back.

Catherine chuckled and poked Takarn in the shoulder. “You realize he’s only including me in the subtle group in comparison to you, right?”

His grin widened. It was a terrifying sight.

“I think our usual approach should be fine: Tara and Catherine doing the talking, me dealing with my contacts and the two of you,” he pointed to Takarn and Govakri. “Waiting quietly in the wings, in case of disaster.”

Govakri grinned. “Never been the backup before, I’m usually on point.”

“All in good time. We play it safe for now.”

Melchior turned to Tara. “You, young lady, have some shopping to do if I recall.”

Tara grimaced.

“That’s twice in this story that someone has prescribed a shopping trip for Tara,” Buffy said. “I hope you are taking notes Giles.”

Giles sighed. “Buffy, there is no shortage of money in your account. If you wish to go shopping, then by all means do so.”

Buffy pouted. “Giiiles! You are missing the point! It’s like the difference between getting presents and buying your own stuff. It’s two completely different things.”

Giles though for a moment. “Very well. Buffy? We need large quantities of clothing to make outfits for the junior Slayers. For the good of our organization and for my own mental health, I need you to go shopping. Buy things. Buy many things.”

Buffy smiled charmingly. “That wasn’t so hard was it?”

“Please check with Xander and Dawn for the requirements of what you have to buy.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Only you could make shopping into work Giles.”

“Well hey, it’s got to be dark and fit under armour,” Xander said. “Remember when you complained that Tara had armour and the Slayers didn’t? Well we fixed that problem, and are expecting our first delivery in a day or two. You get to pick out what goes under them.”

“Yay me! Buffy Summers: fashion… chooser… person!”

“I know you think armour will make you a target, but you are getting hit anyway. You have come a long way in terms of battlefield survival Tara, but you need protection for when spells and acrobatics are impossible,” Melchior said.

Tara nodded. His training and Takarn’s help had taught her valuable skills for avoiding injury, but he was right, she could not evade expert swordsmen, or attacks she was unaware of.

Admittedly, the most damaging injuries had occurred when she would not have been wearing armour anyway, but the principle was valid.

Takarn held out his huge hand to help her up. “Shopping time.”


The foundry was filled with noise and activity, the roar of furnaces, the grinding of machinery and the general cursing and swearing of the workers. It was a masculine haven.

So it came as a surprise to Tara, that the forge master, was in fact a forge mistress.

Takarn and Catherine poked and prodded at weapons, armour and less identifiable items with the thoughtful nod of the seasoned professional.
Tara was completely lost.

The forge mistress was a powerfully built woman of medium height and braided dark hair. She wore faded blue pants and tunic under a heavy leather apron.

She eyed the group speculatively as she approached.
“You again! I told you before, adamantium is too heavy for you to fly in.”

Takarn grinned and cheerfully bumped fists with the woman.
She kept walking toward an empty workshop, gesturing over her shoulder for everyone to follow.

“Not me. Her,” he said, gesturing to Tara when they gathered in the much quieter space.

She raised one eyebrow. “Huh. You’re friends with this walking advertisement of the smith’s art?”

Tara mirrored the expression.

The woman smiled warmly. “You must be Tara. I’m Sondra. Truth be told, I was expecting someone bigger, the way he talks about you.”

“Um, sorry?” Tara responded.

“Armour. She needs armour,” he said, thumping his breastplate with his mailed fist. “Good armour.”

“How good?” Sondra asked.

Takarn pulled out a heavy bag of jingling coins. “This good.”

Sondra hefted the bag experimentally and whistled. “That buys you a lot of ‘good’ my friend.”
He looked at her seriously, turning his head to catch her with both of his eyes.
“She matters.”

She nodded, all professional now.
“Evidently,” she said, tucking the heavy pouch into her leather apron.

She turned to Tara and held her arms out to the side like a scarecrow. “Go like this please.”
Tara complied and the smith measured her upper body, massaging and probing the muscles of her shoulders and upper arms.

“No warrior you. Why do you need armour?”

“We go into dark places. There is a good deal of, um, fighting. I try really hard, but I can’t get out of the way of it all,” Tara said.

“We also have special requirements,” Takarn rumbled.

Sondra gave him the questioning eyebrow again.

Takarn shoved the heavy sliding door shut. “Show her, Tara. She is a friend I promise you.”

Tara looked worriedly at Catherine.

“She will find out sooner or later. Better now,” he rumbled.

She nodded, and looking terribly self-conscious, she unfurled her wings.

“Fire and Fury!” Sondra blurted.

Catherine just whistled, clearly impressed.
“Now there is a sight you don’t see every day,” Sondra said.
Catherine shook her head. “It’s always the quiet ones. Damn girl, you been holding out on us!”

Tara blushed furiously.

Dawn went dreamy-eyed at the memory of Tara’s landing in the back courtyard. “Your wings are so pretty,” she sighed.

Tara smiled bashfully. “Thank you Dawn. I think so too.”

“You know, you still haven’t given us a demonstration,” Xander said. “I mean I’m all with the ‘let’s not embarrass Tara’ thing, but I have to say that I'm as curious as a... a very curious animal of some kind.”

“I got a look, but it wasn’t under the best of circumstances, being kinda dying at the time,” Faith said. “I remember them being pretty.”

“Very cool entrance though, very X-men-y,” Buffy said squeezing Faith tight.

“Well, it’s a nice night, and Willow wanted to test her latest flight spell. Perhaps you could join us on the roof for the take off?”

“Now with no nakedness, or exploding things. Guaranteed!” Willow said.

“There was nakedness? You told me naked witches was a made up thing,” Xander complained.

“Mostly it is. Only a very few rituals involved being, um, sky clad. Usually initiations and some serious cleansing rituals,” Willow said. “Stupid Gardener and his obsession with naked women,” she muttered.

“Uh, what?” said Xander.

Willow blushed and squirmed slightly. “Um, Hey! My first spells exploded stuff because I hadn’t tuned them properly. I pulled the focus in close for the last version and ended up exploding my clothes.”

“I was worried she had exploded herself,” Tara said. “Instead she launched herself into the sky as naked as the day she was born.”

Willow’s blush intensified and Xander laughed softly.

“Sounds like fun,” he said.

“Hey! No laughing mister! It was fun in a totally, you know, completely terrifying way. Finding yourself out of control, miles in the sky, without a stitch on, is a whole new experience.”

“I did wonder what that big ‘flash’ was in the sky a little while back,” Xander said.

“Yeah? I thought it was a ‘full moon’ that night,” Faith said grinning unrepentantly.

They were both punished for the awful puns with pillows and vigorous pillow bashings.

“Um, that was me. The flash, not the moon,” Tara said. “Willow needed a navigation aid and I was in a serious hurry. I panicked and I pushed a bit too hard.”

“I’m sure I don’t need to remind you to be careful. That light was visible for a number of miles,” Giles said quietly.

Tara met his gaze steadily. “I’m sorry mister Giles, I know we don’t want to expose ourselves to the outside world.”

Tara winced as she said ‘expose’. Dawn giggled.

She continued. “But Willow was in trouble and I had to act fast.”

“I know, and I’m not criticising you my dear. I just want you to be careful.”

“That was a hell of a flare Blondie, it lit up the clouds. Just how much light can you make?” Faith asked.

“Light is part of me now. Spells of light are far easier for me to work with, both metaphorical light and lightbulb light.”
She thought for a while. “If I pushed hard... I could make the sun rise.”

“Wow. Really?” Buffy asked.

Tara nodded. “I was named for a star. And what do stars do?”

She held out her hand, summoning warm sunlight to her. “They shine.”
The sunlight lit the room with warm gold.
The little family watched in wonder.

“Plus: no trolls,” Willow said quietly.

Dawn said in a dreamy voice. “Can you teach me to do that? The light, not the um, trolls?”

Tara smiled, illuminated by the sunlight she had called. “Yes Dawnie, I can teach you. As spells go it’s fairly simple. It won’t be quite as easy for you to do, but it’s doable.”

“I don’t know, she used to be a big ball of light, maybe it’ll be easy for her,” Buffy said with a smirk.

Dawn poked out her tongue at Buffy.

“It takes a lot of practice to be able to just wave your hand and cast a spell. You’ll have to work your way up to that level of skill, but it can happen.”

“Is that like, real sunlight?” Buffy asked.

Tara nodded.

“So vamps and demons won’t like it much?”

Tara shook her head.

“Good. Dawn? I know you don’t like it when I tell you not to do stuff, so I’m going to try something different.”

Dawn met her eyes.

“I want you to study magic with Tara and Willow. I want you to learn how to defend yourself with magic. I want you to learn how to fight with your Slayer buddies, and I want you to learn about demons with Giles and Xander.”

Dawn smiled. “Thanks Buffy. I’m already doing all of that stuff, but it’s nice to hear you say it.”

“Maybe that’s your way. Not Slayer, not Watcher, not Witch, but all three,” Tara said softly.

“We’re using the term ‘Hunter’ for non-Slayer, demon-killing types. Not everyone can go toe-to-toe with evil like a Slayer does you know.”

Buffy smiled. “Dawn Summers: Vampire Hunter. It has a nice ring to it.”
Her face took on a more serious expression. “Just remember Scooby rule two: Don’t die.”

Dawn looked puzzled. “I thought that was rule one.”

Buffy shook her head. “Nope. New rule one: Listen to Tara. Rule two: Don’t die.”

She turned to Tara. “You can skip rule one, but I want you paying extra attention to rule two.”

Tara nodded cheerfully.

Willow joined in, also bobbing her head. “Uh-huh, no to the dying missy. This is an official dying free zone. Everyone is banned from dying, and you, Tara Maclay are double banned.”

Willow felt the sudden change in Tara, ‘What’s wrong Baby?’ she sent on their private line.

‘Nothing bad Willow, but there’s something I want to talk about later,’ she sent back.

“Where were we?” she said out loud. “Oh yes, well I had just done my big reveal, and my friends were still dealing...”

“This explains a few things. I always wondered how you keep ending up in strange places,” Catherine said.

The smith eyed her with a calculating look. “You’re in luck lovey, you may have come to the only armourer in the city who knows how to fit armour to angels.”

Tara laughed, a little dizzy from the tension and relief thrumming through her. “This sort of thing h-happens a lot does it?”

Sondra grinned and pointed at Takarn. “Took me ages to get him right, got lots of practice.”
She prodded Tara experimentally in the shoulder. “Not much in the shoulders. That’ll change,” she said.
She hefted the bag of coins thoughtfully.
“Yep. I can do it for this.”

Takarn spoke. “The same as this?” he said, thumping his chest.

Sondra nodded. “Flame-Touched and Mithril? Yeah. It’ll need to be, in order to keep the weight down.”
“Two things lovey. I hope you like pretty things, because you’ll be wearing a queen’s ransom in jewellery. And secondly, beings of darkness will not be able to abide the touch of it. The forging of such metal is known only to the priestesses of the forge Goddess, and to make it is an act of worship.”

She counted off her fingers. “Strawberry, Vanilla, lemon. Pick one.”

“Um, vanilla?” Tara said, confused by the sudden subject change.

“Damn, no one ever takes lemon,” Sondra groused.

Takarn hissed his version of a chuckle. “No one likes roaming round smelling like dishwashing liquid.”

“Hey! Lemon’s ok,” Buffy interjected.

“Just because you like smelling like sherbet,” Dawn responded.

“Like blueberries are so special,” Buffy protested.

“It’s the only thing that covers the smell of exploded apples!”

“You’re still exploding apples?”

"You can thank me for last week’s entire supply of apple crumble. And it has to be apples. Oranges are worse and more sting-y.”

Willow piped up. “It could be worse. When Tara and me were experimenting, we were going to use fresh chillipeppers. Thank the goddess we switched to oats. I can’t imagine how much it would have stung to get fresh chill salsa jammed in your… um.”
She blushed furiously, and went silent.

Buffy just gave her a disbelieving look.

Tara hesitantly put her hand up. “Um, excuse me? What are we talking about?”

Takarn held out his arm. “Enchanted gambeson, stays clean and stink free. The padded suit under the metal.”

Tara sniffed cautiously and smelled the faint cloves scent she’d always associated with his presence.

“Oh! Definitely vanilla please.”

“Right. I’ve got your basic measurements. Come back in two days for your first fitting, after that I’ll probably need you to visit daily.”
Sondra patted Tara on the shoulder. “Scoot. I’ve got work to do.”

“See you in two days,” Takarn said.

“Thank you,” Tara added.


Several hours later, the workshop had been laboriously cleaned by the smith’s own hand. A sleeping pallet had been moved into the room, as had a large supply of food and drink. While she was working on this armour, she would work on no other project, see no other people, and none but she and the one the armour was made for, would enter this cleansed place.
She blessed her tools, ritually cleaned and polished.
She intoned the prayer to begin her work.

‘Blessed be Brighid,
Maiden, Bright One
Goddess of the forge.
Teach me to bear the fires
of transformation,
The furnace that tempers my blade
and makes me strong.
Be with me as I blaze my trail.”

She sprinkled the tools and forge with holy water.
The forge lit when the blessed drops splashed against it, burning with a blue flame.

She gazed at the forge levelly, thinking.
“Yeah. I had a feeling about this job.”

The smith goddess was watching.

Something whispered in the light of the forge, a voice almost beyond the edge of hearing.
“For her. For the child.”
The voice carried with it near infinite sorrow and loss, and perhaps if Sondra let herself belief, a tiny sliver of hope.

Sondra took a deep breath and cleared her mind of everything but the work. Time to show her goddess what she had learned.

She went to work.

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:00 pm 
3. Flaming O

Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:35 am
Posts: 59
Location: Baltimore, MD
I just sat down to read this today, and wanted to let you know I absolutely love it. can't wait for the next update. I like the story telling format of this first part.

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:20 pm 
9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:45 pm
Posts: 985
Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Heya Mysticrain!

Glad you're enjoying this :)

In all honesty, this is one looong prequal for part 2, which is the Continuing Adventures of Willow & Tara.
(I don't have a title for it yet)

There are smoochies and Scooby fun :)
And much gay-ness :bounce

There are 4 more chapters to go before Tara makes it home.
And they are written, so don't worry, she will get home :)
Things speed up a little towards the end.

And thanks for joining in :flower

R :kiss1

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:21 pm 
6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 8:19 pm
Posts: 428
Topics: 2
Wait a minute. You mean to tell me they've been dungeon crawling for how many months and in all that time they never came across a spare +1 mythril shirt in the loot pile that the warforged detective could have tossed Tara's way?

Okay now you've completely lost me. That would never happen.

For that matter what's the party's average level? By this point they should be tripping over bracelets, headbands and tubes of paste that all give a higher bonus to armor class than full plate mail.

What happened to the days when Tara could walk into the garment district of any sword and sorcery fantasy world and walk out with a bikini top that renders her nearly invincible?

All joking aside, great update. Can't wait to see if you equip the Slayers with chain mail, plate mail or modern tactical combat armor. Whatever the case it should take their enhanced reflexes and mobility into account.

Looking forward to more.

Time and Time Again

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:21 pm 
2. Floating Rose

Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:21 pm
Posts: 42
Location: Southwest
I really love this story and premise! I can't wait to read more and see how the story continues. Thanks for writing (and for posting).

Under Your Spell: A Willow/Tara Fanfiction Podcast

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:00 am 
9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Heya SRMarx!

Welcome to the story :)

there's another 3 or so episodes of this, and many more episodes after :)

@Citanul: Well, we were playing in Eberron, but we had a fairly restrained approach to magic items.
Takarn's player had a suit of armour and a sword, and didn't care about anything else. they were eventually upgraded to be magical.
Izolda's player made a few magic items, but was real secretive about it.
Melchior's player had a ton of magic items, but then he is sort of a tool-wizard.

Tara ended up with the armour, an axe (as a gift, she couldn't use it worth a damn), a cleaning wand, a fixing wand, a bracelet holding a one-shot reloadable protection spell, an amulet of protection from annoying weather, and a pretty magical dress :)

All of which show up in the second story at some point.

It took to level 10 to get all that junk, and most of it was bought with the idea of the trip home :)

Almost all the money went on the armour, it was insanely expensive. The Goddess bit is pure story. The stats were impressive, but not Goddess-powered. Although stat-wise, it was unaffected by anything less than an anti-tank weapon.

Tara made it to about 10th level before the game fell apart.

The game was not D&D, and a 10th level character had significantly more power, especially in spell-casting terms.
And the magic system worked better at enhancing existing features, so magic armour was always better at protecting than a magic bracelet.

And i don't see Tara volunteering for the chainmail bikini, outside the bedroom :P
Though, you can expect Willow to ask about that at some point.

and yes, the Slayers get black body suits and kevlar plates, like this.

Next ep should be up tomorrow. I would have had it up today, but i went job-hunting. And got 7.
I'm really not sure how that is gonna work out.

R :flower

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 3:36 am 
9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:45 pm
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Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Finding Darkness

The Scoobies were joined for story hour this time by the other members of the Terrible Three, AKA Heather and Jules, Dawn’s best friends.

Or as Faith had coined them, ‘Scoobies: the Next Generation.’

An extra couch had been carried in, Slayer strength being particularly handy in the field of furniture moving, and the three friends were piled on the new couch, all higgledy-piggledy under a big fluffy comforter.

Given the alarming shade of pink, it was almost certainly Heather’s comforter.

The three were squirming around and giggling from time to time, each seemed to be trying to poke the other two in the ribs, while fending off similar attempts.
Poor Heather was stuck in the middle and getting hit from both sides.

Giles and Xander were sharing cups of tea, carefully brewed by the Englishman.

Xander smiled at the squirmy friends as he carefully sipped his hot tea.
Things were so… complicated these days, it was good to see simple fun.

Squeals and giggling could be heard coming up the hallway, prompting another smile from Xander.
That was something that very definitely an improvement.
Something about having Faith around, just peeled off the weight of Buffy’s burden and let her just be… Buffy.
She had gotten so hard and cold over the last year or so. So many pains, so many burdens dropped on her small shoulders.
It showed in many small ways, laughter and giggles, once so much a part of her personality, simply faded away.
A part now returned to her by Faith, and the fun she just seemed to get out of life now.

And the slaying… wow.
In the past she had been forced to fight past whatever trauma existed in her life in order to deal with the big bad.
But now Buffy the girl, and Buffy the Slayer were in agreement. Her head was really in the game now, and it showed. When she fought side by side with Faith they were death incarnate. They pulled out all the stops right from the get go, and they smashed into the local vampire population like the wrath of god.
Slaying energised Buffy, rather than being a reminder of her terrible burden.
Between her and Faith, the training regimen for the new Slayers had intensified, and intensified again. They were driving the new girls beyond human limits, and the girls were thriving, greeting each new impossible challenge hungrily.

As if summoned, the chosen two scrambled into the room, tugging and pushing, each trying to reach the couch first.
Buffy made excellent use of her size and nimbleness and squirmed out of Faith’s clutches, making it to the couch first.

“Yes! Go me!” Buffy said, triumphantly pumping her fists in the air.
She patted her lap. “Come on snookums, lay down your weary head and get all snuggley with Buffy.”
Faith scowled. “One: snookums? Was that even on the list… and no. Two: I don’t mind you laying your head in my lap, but laying mine in yours is just not good for my tough-girl image-”

Buffy interrupted. “I think the ball gown put the final nail in that coffin, but hey, if it helps, all the mini-me’s are appropriately terrified of you.”
“Or worship the ground you walk on,” Dawn added.
“It’s true,” Heather added. “Fear plus respect, equals awe. I think the ball-gown actually helped with that one.”
“Hey, so not-true!” Jules protested.
“This from the woman who seriously tried to talk the Valkyries into getting tribal tattoos last week. Y’know, matching ones on the upper arm?” Heather said, pointing to Faith’s right arm significantly.

“You’re wrong!… because… shut up!” Jules protested at her friends amused looks.

By this stage Faith had quit protesting and sprawled across the couch. In the end, her head was resting peacefully in Buffy’s lap and Buffy was gently stroking her hair, occasionally stopping to fiddle with Faith’s one blonde lock.
If she looked any more content she would be purring.

“May I ask, where are Willow and Tara?” Giles said.
“Flying. I think,” Dawn said.
“I’ll buzz Will,” Xander said, reaching for the phone.

“No!” Dawn yelped, throwing her hands out.
Xander froze at Dawn’s sharp tone.
“I have this vision of them coming in for a landing when the phone goes off. And-and Willow gets distracted because, well, you know how she is. And suddenly ‘Splat!’ she’s smacked up against the window looking surprised.”

Faith sniggered, attracting a few looks. “What? It was funny. Tell me you don’t see that happening, and laughing.”

Giles covered his laugh with a cough.
“Quite right Dawn. I’m sure they’ll be along shortly.”

A muffled bang was heard from the corridor, and the faint sounds of Willow’s idiosyncratic cursing drifted through the air. A ‘poop!’ was heard, along with a ‘frilly heck!’ and randomly ‘pineapple!’
The Scoobies exchanged puzzled looks and the sound of erratic footsteps approached.

Willow rushed wildly through the doorway headed for the couch. She was moving somewhat uncomfortably and her hair and clothes were in disarray.
Tara entered briskly behind her, looking only slightly less disorganized.

“Well, no need to ask what you two have been doing, ya both have JBF hair,” Faith said.
Willow struck a defiant pose, her fists on her slim hips. “I’ll have you know that this is ‘Windswept’ hair, from flying,” she said in a ‘just so’ voice. “Much more classy. So there missy.”
She pointed at Faith’s somewhat untidy locks. “That is JBF hair.”

Buffy awkwardly looked everywhere but at Willow, flushing slightly pink while she did so.
Faith just smiled lazily. “Oh yeah. Definitely.” There was more than a hint of ‘cat got the canary’ in her smile.

Dawn giggled, her giggle changing to a yelp as one of the girls poked her in the ribs.
Buffy made an attempt to smooth down her own hair, raising a chuckle from Faith.

“Willow? Ah, you have twigs in your, um, windswept hair,” Dawn said.
Tara thoughtfully removed the offending twig. And a few leaves.
“Um,” Willow said. “There was a tree…”
“Flying not as easy as it looks Will?” Xander asked, grinning somewhat.

Willow shook her head vigorously, dislodging a few more leaves and bits of tree. “Definitely not. There are turning circles and vectors and crosswinds to account for. Starting to see now why pilots have the whole ‘years of training’ thing going on.”

Tara sat down and pulled her leather-bound journal from her satchel.
“Story time sweetie,” she said, patting her lap. “Come sit.”

Willow winced as she moved. “Ow. I’m kinda ouchie and sore.”

“How hard did you hit the tree, Will?” Buffy asked.

“I didn’t actually, y’know hit it, more sort of… zinged it, but it was all whippy and sting-y.”
She moved stiffly over to Tara.
“Ouch. There are some places I am just not comfortable being grappled. Certainly not by overly familiar trees.”
Willow lay back carefully on the couch and rested her head in Tara’s lap with a happy sigh.
“Mmm. Tarasnuggles make everything better.”

“Everything’s better with snuggles,” Tara said with a ‘just so’ expression.

She smiled as she looked around. Faith had taken the opportunity to snuggle into Buffy’s lap, though if Buffy’s expression was anything to go by, she didn’t mind in the slightest.

Dawn, Heather and Jules certainly looked nice and snuggly, though when she turned her eyes to Xander and Giles they looked a little alarmed.

Tara chuckled at their suddenly worried expressions.

Xander settled for giving Giles a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Giles looked somewhat relieved.

Tara looked down at her love, resting relatively peacefully across the couch with her beautiful red hair splayed over her lap like a soft red waterfall.
Gently she began to sing:

An bhail an tsolais a bheith ort
éadrom agus gan solas taobh istigh.
Bealtaine an Shine solas na gréine beannaithe ar tú
agus te do chroí
till glows sé cosúil le tine móna mór.

May the blessing of light be on you,
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire.

As she sang, small sparkles of light moved slowly about Willow’s form, gentling pain and healing small hurts.
Willow’s frame relaxed a little more as her hurts melted away.
“Oh, that feels so much better.”
Her expression was apprehensive. “Um, baby is it ok to use magic for such a small thing?”

Tara smiled softly. “To take away the pain of a loved one? Magic could have no higher purpose.”
Tara leaned forward and kissed Willow tenderly.
“If we use our talents to bring joy, we are serving the Goddess in the holiest way. Remember when we floated the rose?”
Willow smiled goofily.
“We only did that for practice and for the joy of it. And she was not angered.”

"Ohmigod, that is the most adorable thing ever!" Buffy said. “I'm gonna get all goofy now, and cry goofy-friend tears."

Tara giggled softly and smiled at Buffy. “You know Buffy, you say that you and Dawn are so different, but you are really quite alike in many ways.”

“Don’t say that!” Dawn and Buffy protested simultaneously.
They both blinked and looked somewhat sheepish.

“At least when the monks made me out of Buffy, they left out the part that makes you short!”

“Hey! Again with the short jokes!”

“It’s not a joke, it’s a statement. Besides, Slayers are short. It’s a thing.”

“I’m not short! I’m the right size. It’s not my fault all of you are freakishly huge,” she muttered.

“I don’t feel short,” Faith said. “And what about Pinky over there? She’s pretty tall.”
She pointed at Heather, whose long legs could be seen sticking out of the fuzzy pink comforter.

“Faith, you’re in the top few percent of height for Slayers. Heather is the tallest Slayer ever. Her height was only equalled by the legendary ‘Maud of the Flaming hair’, y’know Tara’s ancestor.”

“I’m a giant Slayer?” Heather asked.

Dawn bobbed her head cheerfully. “Yup. If you weren’t a Slayer, you’d probably be in the record books.”

“Damn, Faith said. “Does that mean the shorter ones are more Slayer-ish or somethin’?”

Dawn shook her head, her braided ponytail waggling. She was pleased to be the one with all the info for a change.
“Uh-uh! Remember, Flaming Maud was a legend, and she was my height. She fought the monsters of ancient Ireland for five years without the Watchers help.”

“And we all know how well that turned out, don’t we?” Buffy said with some venom.

“Chill B. Ancient history, like: literally.”

“I know, I know,” Buffy said. “I just wonder how it would have gone, if I got somebody like that Post woman instead of Giles. As a Watcher, y’know?”

“Not good B. Ya barely got out of it alive as it was. And that was with the G-man helpin’ ya out. He turned on everyone he knew and trusted his whole life to help ya.”
Giles looked away, unable to meet anyone’s gaze at that moment.

Faith swallowed. “I just wish I’d been there for ya B.”

Buffy hugged Faith reassuringly, her position made it awkward, but the intent was clear.
“I know. It’s ok, you’re here now, that’s what matters.”

Faith nodded sadly. “It just tears me up that I wasn’t…”

“Hey,” Buffy said softly, attracting Faith’s attention by poking her nose with a finger.
“No more pain, remember?” she said softly.

Faith nodded silently.

Giles cleared his throat. “Perhaps if we were to make a start? There is much to do tomorrow.”

Tara nodded and began looking through her journal. “Ah, right. This next bit deals with me getting my um, ‘Joan of Arc getup’ and finding out a few things important to getting home. I also found out a few things about myself.”
She looked up and smiled at Xander. “Sorry Xander, no thrilling heroics in this part. There were some fights, but they went to plan, which meant that they were over before they even really started.”

“The way a well-planned operation should go,” he replied.

Tara nodded. “Ok. So the Joan suit…”

About a week later, Tara was presented with her new armour.
She had been in for several fittings, though she had yet to see the finished product.
Sondra had fitted each piece to her individually but she had yet to actually wear the armour as a suit.
Now she was faced with her first time wearing the full suit and it was taking a long while.
Sondra had her standing inside a sort of scaffold. She was somewhat supported and had a place to rest her arms, but she had been standing what seemed like forever. Sondra was diligently fitting pieces and adjusting straps smoothly and with great skill, but for the first time Tara wore the full suit there were so many adjustments to make that it just seemed to drag on forever.

Takarn had told her earlier, some of what Sondra had to do when she forged the armour, so she bit back her sigh of impatience.

Sondra fiddled with the straps on her breastplate and thumped her on both shoulders. Tara’s knees threatened to buckle, though she managed to stay upright.
“Try that, go stroll around the room a bit. I want to see how your arms and legs move before I put the pauldrons on.”

Obediently, Tara climbed out of the frame and clonked around the room.
“Feels really clumsy, doesn’t it?” Sondra said.

Tara staggered around awkwardly. “Just a little,” she said with a hint of sarcasm.

“You’ll get used to it, and it will get easier as you get stronger. Lean forward a bit,” she said as Tara stumbled.
After several minutes of practice and advice. “Stride with confidence woman!” Tara was moving a lot more easily and naturally.

“Just be glad your buddy convinced you to shell out for the good stuff. If this was steel it would weight four or five times as much.”

“Me too, I can barely stand as it is,” Tara said with a grimace.

Sondra rolled her eyes. “Oh please, that armour weighs about as much as a heavy winter coat. Sure you need to put on some muscle, but mainly it’s the unfamiliarity of it and your natural reticence that’s making you feel that way. You’ll barely notice it in a couple of weeks.”

Tara gave her a disbelieving look.

Sondra grinned. “Also it’s new and stiff, like a new leather jacket. It’ll loosen as it settles in, now come here, I want to adjust some of these straps and put your shoulders on.

Tara strode to the armour frame, noticing that walking was a lot easier when she strode deliberately.

“Aha! You’re getting the hang of it!” she said as Tara strode confidently.

As she fit the layered shoulder pads she explained. “Something about the tension in your knees and your behind changes when you stride, as opposed to walking. Makes it easier to walk with a load on, whatever it is.”

“I noticed,” Tara said. “It feels a bit strange to have this bucket around my neck.”

Sondra grinned. “It’s called a gorget, and it protects your neck without stopping you from moving your head. The only down side is that it acts like a rain gutter, so if it starts to rain, put your helmet on, or you’ll fill up with water. The aventail, the skirt-y thing on the back of your helmet, will keep most of the rain out.

"I have visions of you filling up with water when it rains," Dawn said.

Tara smiled. “It does a little bit. Luckily the enchantment that keeps the lining clean and smelling nice keeps it from getting too bad."

She stepped back to admire her handy work. “Nice, looks good.”
She gestured to the mirror. “Go have a look.”

Tara stood in front of the mirror and examined her new appearance.

Extreme makeover didn’t really cover it.
Her armour shone. While the base metal was brushed to make it not particularly shiny, the detailing was picked out in mirror polished mithril.
The breast plate was chased with vines, as were her shoulder pads. The tummy plate or whatever it was officially called, had a beautifully wrought winged sword picked out in shining mithril. Although Tara thought it was a touch militaristic for her taste, it was beautiful work.
A short skirt of chain wrapped around her waist, adding protection to the groin, and was covered by a dark skirt of fabric, trimmed with feathers.

Sondra had told her she would be wearing a queen’s ransom in jewellery, and Tara believed it. She felt like a child wearing grownup clothing, but she had to admit, she looked very heroic. Also heavy.

“Believe it or not, you’ll be able to fly in that, which is something you are going to have to practice. For now, let's just check that you have full freedom of movement.”

The smith pulled out a piece of pink chalk. “Let’s see those pretty wings lovey, I’ve got to make sure that I got the window in the back right.”

Tara extended her wings, gingerly pushing them out through the gap. Over the next few minutes she moved her wings up and down, in and out, in an attempt to ensure that she had full range of movement.

“Looks good,” Sondra said. “You’ll need to practice flying, along with running and climbing with the armour on, but this generally looks good.”

Tara spent some time hopping around the room and stomping about with her wings folded across her back, or flung out behind her, getting the hang of her new balance.
She also spent many minutes listening to an explanation about how to care for her armour and how to adjust it, before it was time to go.

As she was leaving, the smith handed her a mighty axe.
She goggled at it. “Goddess! What am I supposed to do with this?” she said.

Sondra shrugged. “I have no idea. All I know is that the Goddess moved me to make this.”
She looked Tara in the eye, conveying her seriousness. “When Brighid tells you something, you listen.”
She tapped the blade. “All my art, all my power, went into this blade. The power of the Goddess is in that axe, and It has no equal in all the world.”
“She also gave me a message: It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield.”

"I have heard that phrase before," Buffy said.

"You have?" Tara said, sounding a little surprised.

Buffy nodded slowly. “Carved into a stone wall."

"Um, where?" Dawn said, a little irked by Buffy's lack of communication.

Buffy had a faraway look as she dug into her memory. “Above a big rock. A big rock that had an axe buried in it, all king Arthur style."
She looked at Tara. “The Scythe.”

Tara held Buffy’s gaze for a moment before confusion won out. “I feel awfully silly saying this, um, given the dramatic way you said that but… Buffy, what is ‘The Scythe?’”

“B’s disco-style, magic axe of doom. Y’know, Axcaliber, the chosen axe or whatever,” Faith put in.


“Sorry B, it’s badass and all, but seriously? It’s frikkin’ painted metallic red. It looks like it came from the 70’s!”

Buffy gasped in mock-outrage. “No! You did not just call the legacy of the Slayer line, the symbol of our power, ‘Disco!’”

“Heh heh. Yeah. I so did.”

“Someone’s getting a spanked bottom after this, I can tell you!”

“Promises promises,” Faith said with a smirk.

Giles cleared his throat, an expression of profound discomfort on his face.

Buffy looked terribly embarrassed. “Sorry Giles.”

Tara shook her head. “I am no fighter. I can’t use that axe, it's huge!”

Sondra rolled her eyes. “It’s a long axe. And it’s made of the same stuff as your armour, so it’s light, even though it’s big.”
Her serious expression wavered not a jot. “For whatever reason, the Goddess of Fire and Water wanted you to have this.”
She pushed the handle of the weapon into Tara’s hands. “So take it.”

Tara took the weapon with great reluctance. As weapons went it was beautiful, a mix of brushed metal and mirror polished inlay that matched her armour, though with a different pattern. The inlay was laid out in a in a beautiful knot pattern that tugged at Tara’s memory.
Tara was confused. Why would the Goddess of the Forge want her to have an axe?
She was still finding herself, new fragments of memory came almost daily. But one thing she had no illusions about: she was no warrior.
She could defend herself, she could even fight using her magic if need be. But the thought of battle held no allure for her.

“Go on, shoo,” Sondra said. “I am really tired. I want to de-stinkify myself and go to sleep.”

Tara seemed reluctant to face the world dressed in armour.

“Takarn is out there annoying my assistants, go rescue them would you?”

That brought a small smile to Tara’s face. Though still obviously reluctant, she made for the door when Sondra called out.
“Stride proudly dammit! Not only does it make walking easier, you are wearing some of my best work! So show it off a little, eh?”
Tara nodded nervously and opened the heavy sliding door. She stepped forward into the larger work room looking for her friend.

She found him playing cards with 3 other smiths.
“I see your ‘sweeping the yard’. I raise you this tin of armour polish.”

One of the smiths protested. “This is an armoury, the last thing we need is more bloody metal polish. How about an afternoon’s weapon training?”

Takarn shrugged. “Sure. Quiet at the moment. I will gladly pay that forfeit.”
He laid his cards on the table. “Read them and weep mammals.”

Two of the smiths let out a low whistle of admiration.
The third grinned triumphantly and laid his cards on the table.
“Saturday work for you?”

Takarn inspected the cards carefully. “Hmm. This is why I’m a paladin and not a gambler.”
He looked up and grinned, an action that caused his companions to lean back in their seats. “Saturday is good. I will bring Tara. She will need the practice and can heal us if we have an accident.”
He looked up. “Saturday?”

Tara nodded and blushed as the men let out a low whistle of admiration.

“Damn, girl!”
“Holy shit!

Tara’s blush intensified as the admiring glances of the men travelled all over her form.

“Grr!” Willow said, not happy with even stories of hairy men ogling Tara.

“Shh,” Tara said, pressing a finger to Willow’s lips.

“The boss does nice work!”
Another nodded. “This is why we work for her boys, and not the other way around.”

Tara was both relieved and annoyed to discover that the admiring glances of the smiths were for her accoutrement, and not herself.

“Ok, that is frikkin’ hilarious,” Faith said, deadpan.

Dawn’s eyes danced as she giggled at Willow’s conflicted expression.

Willow’s conflict was written on her face.
One the one hand she was obviously displeased with the idea of a bunch of large hairy men ogling Tara.
And on the other hand she was miffed that they didn’t feel that she was ogle-worthy.

Faith sniggered. “Were they all like, gay or somethin’?”

Tara chuckled. “I don’t think so. I just think they took their work very, very seriously.”

Takarn got up and prodded her armour with a professional eye. “This will be stiff until you break it in. You will need the workout on Saturday.”

The third smith had remained silent up until this point. “Uh, are you two related or something?”

Tara and Takarn both turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

Takarn pointed to Tara and then himself. “Humankind. Dragonkind. Not related... Why?”

The smith squirmed, pinned by Takarn’s gimlet gaze and Tara’s mild questioning expression. “Well, you look a little similar is all. In that armour I mean, and with the wings.”

Tara’s blush deepened and she moved her wings self-consciously. So thrown had she been by all she had taken in, and the new weight of her armour, that she had almost forgotten the change in her balance from having her wings out.

Takarn rumbled. “My wings are a gift of the Silver Flame. Her wings are a symbol of her Goddess. We are both marked by higher powers for great things.”

Tara ducked her head and Takarn placed his hand on her shoulder. “Do not disrespect the gift you have been given, by being ashamed of it. Stand proud little sister. Stand proud for your Goddess, and for your love.”

Tara straightened herself, with a little difficulty and looked him in the eye. “Little sister?”

He shrugged. “I could do no better. Come, we have places to be.”

“See ya Saturday,” one of the smiths said. “Don’t worry about sweeping the yard, I’ll take care of it.”

Takarn nodded as he lead Tara from the room. “Saturday then.”


They stood in the courtyard, soaking up the warm sunlight for a moment before making for home.

“Why do you have an axe?” he asked, pointing at the long axe Tara was using as a walking stick.

Tara shrugged expressively, resettling her new armour and folding her wings away. “I’m not sure. Sondra told me the Goddess moved her to make it.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Your Goddess?”

She handed him the mighty blade, shaking her head. “Brighid, Goddess of the Forge, of War and of high places. Not the Mother Goddess.”

He weighed the axe thoughtfully. “This weapon is weighted for someone of your size.”
He paused, staring at the blade intently. “This weapon is not for me,” he whispered.
His eyes widened. “Great Flame! There is power in that blade.”
He let go of the axe as if burned.

Tara grabbed it before it could fall and examined it with a careful eye. “I’m not feeling anything from it.”

Takarn scrubbed his hand against his metal-clad thigh. “There is a desperate purpose to that weapon. And it does not like me.”

Tara could not have been more surprised.

“The power in that axe is of the light. But it does not like me one bit.”

“I’m surprised that a weapon of light would be hostile to you Takarn. Have you offended any Goddess’s recently?” she asked.

He raised his eyebrow. “Not to my knowledge.”

Tara looked puzzled. “Then...”

“It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield,” Buffy said in a faraway voice.

She blinked and looked around excitedly as all eyes focused on her.
“Faith!” Buffy said, sitting up suddenly.

Faith complained as her comfy headrest bounced. “Right here B, no need to yell.”

“The axe! It was meant for you!”

“How’d ya figure that?”

“That’s the exact same wording that I found over the Scythe. That can’t be a coincidence!” she said.
She bounced in her seat excitedly, making Faith slightly dizzy.
“If the Brigit Goddess lady sent that message to Sondra the smith lady, she must have known about the Scythe!”

“Uh, ok. Not sure where you’re going with this hun.”

“I can’t use two axes at once. And she had to have known about the Scythe, so it must have been meant for you!”
Faith said nothing, and Buffy stared at her, wonderstruck.
“I always knew you were important Faith. And now a goddess in another world knows it. She sent Tara home with the axe, just to get it to you.”

Tara nodded thoughtfully. “It was a message for me, not about me,” she said softly.

“A goddess is watching over me?” Faith said with a disbelieving expression.
Buffy nodded slowly.

She shook her head reluctantly. “That makes no damn sense. I’m nothing special.”

“No,” Buffy said flatly. “You are special, and this is proof.”

Faith protested. “But-”

“You. Are. Special,” she said, enunciating each word with special emphasis.
Faith locked eyes with Buffy and could not look away. Eventually she nodded her acceptance in the face of Buffy’s unwavering conviction.

Tara returned to her tale.

Takarn scratched his eyebrow thoughtfully. “The side of light is not uniform. Have you never known good people to argue? Each convinced that they have the right of it? Even if the person they are arguing with is similarly a force for good?”

She nodded, this scenario striking a chord within her.

“See, Tara’s friend was talking about you and me. We’re both good and we both fought.”

“Uh, right,” Faith acknowledged reluctantly, unwilling to get another face-full of Buffy conviction.

Tara whispered. “It is not for you. It is for her alone to wield.”

Takarn rumbled, an interrogatory note to his noises.

Tara explained. “That’s what the Goddess Brighid told Sondra.”

“Then it is for you.”

Tara protested. “What use is that axe to me? I am no fighter, the only person at risk from me swinging that thing around is me!”

Takarn scratched his chin thoughtfully. “True. Weapons are not your way.”
He eyed his companion with one eye as they marched toward home. “You have mentioned a mighty warrior that you knew from your home. Was she not also female? Perhaps the Goddess’s message was for you.”

“It is not for you. It is for her alone to wield,” Tara said with a whisper.

“Your every thought is bent on getting home. Could this be part of why?”

Tara looked at the axe, still lost. “Maybe?”

“See? Special delivery, Tara express,” Buffy said, doing a little dance in her seat.
Faith looked annoyed as her head was bounced around in Buffy’s lap.


The night air flowed over Tara’s face as they flew, lending a spot of much needed cooling. She was breathing hard as she laboured to stay in the sky. Flying was hard work at the best of times, but doing so while wearing armour was a new lesson in exhaustion.

Several days after Takarn had declared her armour broken-in, he had started her flight training in earnest. And when a dragon-man teaches you to fly, he teaches you seriously.

Takarn had admonished her not to use her magic to bolster her strength, or her ability to fly. This was not an emergency situation, this was exercise.

She groaned, her muscles burned in protest at what she was doing, muscles that up until recently she didn’t even know she had.

Dawn giggled. “You know when other people say that, they don’t usually mean it literally.”

Tara nodded. “I can’t tell you how strange it is to feel muscle strain in your muscles, muscles that you didn’t exist until very recently, and sometimes still don’t,” she said gesturing to her obviously wingless back.

“How does that even work anyway?” Buffy asked.

Tara put on a knowledgeable expression. “Magical transformation, the same as a vampire but less bumpy.”

“Uh…” Buffy said uncertainly.

Tara ducked her head and smiled sheepishly. “That was me saying ‘I don’t know, but probably magic.’ Um, in a complicated way.”

Willow reached up and poked Tara on the end of the nose with her finger. “Big knowledge woman,” she said with a smirk.

Tara blushed for a moment. “Um, Catherine was really curious about it. Though she said it gave her a headache to look too closely at my back when I was changing.”

“Now I’m curious,” Willow said.

“Later sweetie. Story-time now.”

“Come on Tara! Nearly there!” Takarn bellowed, pointing to a copse of trees just ahead of them.

She groaned again and set her jaw, determined to succeed. Every wing beat drove her one step closer to Willow, and she swore that nothing in all creation would stop her getting home to her. Certainly not a little exhaustion and pain.

The muscles in her shoulders and wings were on fire, and were starting to fail as she closed on the tree covered hill. Though her companion flew heavily, sweeping the air with massive wing beats, he was all but flitting around the sky in comparison to her laboured flight.

With a groan, she stretched out her wings and glided down to the trees.
Too exhausted to control her landing properly, she skidded, tumbling as she hit the grass with too great a speed.

She squawked as she landed in an undignified heap a few metres from the trees.

Takarn landed somewhat more gracefully nearby, touching the ground as lightly as a feather.

Tara groaned as she lay full stretch on the ground, gasping for breath like some strange feathered fish, washed up on the beach.

Takarn prodded her as he assured himself she was uninjured. Tara hissed in pain as he gently but firmly stretched her wings out.

“Wing cramp is not a thing you want. Take it from me. ”

“Ow, ow. Ouch!” she protested, subsiding into a groan as he satisfied himself that they were sufficiently stretched out.
"You make it... look so... easy," she protested, breathing heavily between words.

Takarn grinned and thumped his metallic chest. “Ha! My kind are built for endurance and strength. Not speed."

He patted her gently on the shoulder. “Remember your first flight. You moved through in the air as if born to it. It will be that way again. And surprisingly soon."

Tara groaned, still breathing hard. “Tell me we are walking home... please?"

He rumbled his amusement. “You could not get off the ground at sword point. Yes. We will be walking home. In a few minutes. When you have caught your wind.

Tara slowly hauled herself to her feet, using her friend as a convenient handhold to clamber upright.
She leant against her monolithic friend as she caught her breath.

He patted her on the shoulder. “Come. It will be light soon. Time to go."
He held out his hand to her and she took hold of one of his huge warm fingers. With a deep breath she gathered her strength and began the long march back to the city.

"You do realize that we are going to have to do this again later today?" he said, not unkindly.

Tara groaned, but she nodded her acquiescence.

"If you want to get strong, fast, we must drive you to exhaustion. Every flight will feel like this one, but you will go further with each flight."

“I think I know how that feels,” Willow grumbled.

“Just because Tara made you join the morning run,” Dawn said.

“I was hoping to be like an amazon in other ways, y’know, the non-sweaty ways, that don’t involve me being exhausted… um, that sentence didn’t end the way I intended it to.”

Dawn giggled.

‘Plus if you do well, I promise you some sweaty exhaustion you will like, afterwards,’ Tara sent on their private link.

‘This sweatiness I like,’ Willow sent back.

Takarn was as good as his word. In the weeks that followed he drove Tara until she dropped. Every day he drove her further, harder and more often. Her days were a barely remembered blur of exhaustion, naps and snatched meals.

In between bouts of endurance flying, they played games of pursuit and climbing around the towers.
He explained that it not only helped with her strength and agility, but it was a useful skill to have, even for those gifted with wings.
And whenever it got to be too much, he would look her in the eye and whisper one word. One word and she would grit her teeth and claw her way back into the sky.

Tara leaned forward and whispered in Willow’s ear. “One word sweetie.”

Willow looked up from Tara’s lap as she leaned further forward, curtaining her face with her hair.
Tara whispered a word, so filled with hope and longing and desperate need, that it was practically a holy word.

Willow’s eyes were wide as she felt the need and desire wrapped up in that one word.
“Wowie,” she breathed dazedly, a tear slowly working its way from the corner of her eye unheeded.

And it worked. Less than a month after he had begun his punishing training routine, she was flitting around the sky with grace and ease, despite her armour.
And then one day she felt a change.

Tara realized she had been feeling something for some time. A subtle sensation when she was in the air, something that was usually buried behind her pain and exhaustion, something akin to the sense of potential she had felt before she had jumped.

Her first flight felt like a lifetime ago, though in truth it had been only a few weeks.

It was hard to grasp, like a seldom felt current, flowing through the air. It teased her, like a barely visible light in a dark room. To look directly at it was to lose it.
But the more she flew, the stronger she felt it, until one day, tired but not exhausted, she reached for that feeling, almost instinctively.

She felt something change inside her, almost clicking into place. With that, her tiredness and pain faded away.

She became one with the sky.
The sky opened up to her, she understood it.

It was her home, it was part of her, and she could sense it's currents, it's moods. The endless sky lifted her up, filled her, nourished her.

She felt almost as though she had come home, as though a veil had been lifted from her eyes.
She felt as though she could fly forever and never come down.
Reaching out with her feelings, she could feel the other travellers in the sky, by the disturbances they made in the flow of the air.

She smiled as she felt one particular traveller, flying heavily but with great power, almost stomping his way through the air.
Banking, she cut through the air toward him with an ease and speed she had never felt before, the very sky itself an extension of her, and easing her way.

Takarn seemed almost stationary in the air, as she flitted past him with no more disturbance than a passing shadow.

She pulled up in front of him and hovered, lifted up by the very air itself, her wings rippling almost as if she were under water.

“You can do that?” Willow asked, wide eyed.

Tara bobbed her head. “Yes baby. I fly as much by magic as I do by muscle power. One allows the other. With a bit of concentration I can hover. Um, it helps if I’m up a good way when I do that though. It’s harder near the ground. Earth magic conflicts with air magic.”

He waved at her and gestured to a nearby tower with an empty rooftop.

Tara landed gracefully, almost reluctant to touch solid ground. Her companion braked heavily and landed on the rooftop in a huge fan of white and rainbow.

"That was different," he said, raising one spiky eyebrow.

Tara smiled radiantly.

"More than the joy of flight. yes?"

She breathed deeply, happily. “It feels good. I feel like I could fly forever and not come down."

"You are one with the sky," he rumbled. “That will be your angelic heritage showing through. I am surprised it showed this quickly."

Tara frowned. “So one of my parents..."

"Was a child of heaven, as you are," he said.

“Hey, Snowball, I thought you said it weren’t ya parents that were angels?” Faith asked from Buffy’s lap.

Tara made a ‘yucky’ face.
“Snowball? I don’t think I like that one Faith.”

Faith rolled her eyes, but said nothing.

“It makes me feel… rolly-polly, and I don’t feel particularly tubby.”

“Nope, no tubby here, my Tara is all Amazon-y and sleek, with curves in all the right places.”

“Heh, not bad,” Faith said with a cheerful leer.

“Hey!” Buffy protested, closely followed by Willow. “Hey also!”

“Just callin’ it how I see it,” Faith said.

“How ‘bout T-bone?”


Faith threw up her hands. “Never mind then.”
She raised an eyebrow. “About that last bit o story. Didn’t ya say a couple of days ago how ya folks weren’t big on haloes and such?”

“We didn’t find out for a couple of weeks how I ended up with wings, but you were right, it wasn’t angelic blood in my family that gave them to me.”

She looked down at the content beauty snuggled into her lap. “It’s not long now until story-Tara has her happy ending sweetie.”
“Though I have to warn you, there’re some not-fun parts coming up.”

Willow’s face took on a determined expression. “I’ll be strong.”

“Like an Amazon?” Tara said with a soft smile.

Willow nodded determinedly.

Tara sighed and sat down on the edge of the roof, her wings hanging over the edge. “This is so confusing. I love the flying, um, now that I'm getting better at it. Even more now that... this has happened, whatever it is."

She was thoughtful for a while, gazing deep into the sky.

"I know my memory is not the best, but none of my memories of my parents include anything like this,” she said, ruffling her feathers for emphasis.
She nibbled her lip thoughtfully.
"I don't think there was anything Angelic about either of them. I mean, my mom was really nice, and had strong magical talent, but I really don't think she was an Angel."

Tara slowly shook her head. “Some of the spells we did together would have given it away."

"And your father?" Takarn asked, as gently as he was able.

Tara snorted. “There were times when I thought he might be demonic, but no. No Angel, no demon, just an unpleasant human being.”

Takarn nodded thoughtfully.
After a time he said. “Are you sure they’re your parents? I know humans don’t nest. But such things do happen.”

She blushed. “Um, ah. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that my m-mom would have told me if she had… um.”

She looked embarrassed, but she thought silently for a moment.
“Well… eventually I think she would have. Especially after things started to go bad with dad and Donny.”

Tara watched the clouds go by, her huge friend waiting with the patience of a stone.
“I don’t think my mom ever had an affair, or anything like that.”
She thought for a moment before her expression solidified, gaining confidence.

“No. If my true father was an angel, my mom would have told me. I don’t think she would have stayed as long as she did if my father wasn’t my… father.”

Takarn scratched his scaly nose. “I thought humans mated for life? What do you mean ‘stayed as long as she did?’”

Tara was silent for a long time.
“Father was a big believer in ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Takarn stared blankly at her.

She looked away. “My father was a hard man. ‘Stern but fair’ he liked to say.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” he said carefully.

Tara shrugged. “And before mom died, it probably wasn’t. A few spankings, and being sent to bed with no supper, normal parent stuff.”

Her expression changed, becoming more lost.
“But afterwards, it changed. It was almost like he blamed the magic for taking her away, and blamed me for having magic.”
“He would punish us by locking us in the basement for days. Sometimes when we had done something he considered particularly wrong he would beat us with a cane. Donny didn’t like it at all and he blamed me, so he would take his frustrations out… on me.”
“He got the idea from daddy that it was somehow my fault. He missed mom as much as I did, and with daddy blaming me, well he slowly did too.”

Takarn looked at her, clearly puzzled. “I don’t understand. You were family. Why would he hit you? Were you in warrior training?”

Tara shook her head. “No training, though daddy would probably disagree.”
She sighed. “I guess Donny felt powerless when daddy punished him, so he made himself feel powerful by pushing me around.”

Takarn growled. “Again. Do not introduce me to your family. They will not enjoy the experience.”

Faith growled. “Say the word Blondie, and I’ll take a trip to buttfuck, North Carolina and tear these fuckers apart.”

“That would be, um, Utah. And thank you Faith. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t think that will be necessary. Let them think I’m dead. I have forgotten them, and they me.”

They sat in contemplative silence for a while.
“Why did your mother allow this?” he eventually asked.

Tara sighed sadly. “I don’t know. I know that it happens, to a lot of people.”

“Fear is a powerful thing,” her companion rumbled. “Often more powerful than those creating the fear.”

Tara continued. “My father was a respected man in our town, close friends with the mayor, and the Sherriff. People looked up to him.”
“Maybe that’s why mom stayed, why she didn’t just pack up and leave with me and Donny.”

“Perhaps she thought there was nowhere to go. Nowhere to turn to.”
He eyed Tara with one golden eye. “I know what small towns are like. Insular. Strange. If your father was respected and had powerful friends, your mother may have felt that she could not escape.”

Tara frowned at his words and nodded slowly. “Then she got sick and she didn’t have the strength, so I guess she was relying on daddy’s strength then.”
“He couldn’t control the situation he was in. He couldn’t control my mom’s illness, so he controlled us.”

Takarn said nothing as Tara unburdened herself. He was no healer, but even he knew the value of a friendly ear.
“I practiced every healing spell in my mother’s books, trying to find a way to save her, to save myself from life without her.”

She looked down at her hands. ‘Healer’s hands’ her mother had said.
“But all she had were basic spells. Home stuff, beginner’s spells. Spells to promote healing speed or heal minor injuries, not spells to cure cancer.”

“Cancer?” he asked, unfamiliar with the term.

“Growths within the body that slowly kill you.”

He nodded. “I have heard of this. Unpleasant.”

Tara nodded sadly.

“I have never heard of a child of heaven succumbing to such things.”
He looked at her, and said carefully. “Nor does it sound likely that you father was blessed as such.”

“This is all so confusing. Especially as it’s one of the only parts of my life that I actually remember at all.”

Sensing her frustration, Takarn stood. “We won’t dwell on it. This has been a good day. Much has been uncovered. Gifts have been received. We should celebrate.”

He grinned horribly. “Also there is work to do.”

Tara chuckled. “That should definitely take my mind off things.”

“Violence has a way of putting things in focus,” he said.

Tara poked out her tongue.

Takarn did the same, much more dramatically, given that his tongue was nearly two feet long and sky blue.

Faith just grinned.

“Don’t say it!” Buffy protested glaring at Faith.

Faith shrugged, but didn’t lose her grin. “Just think of the possibilities, that’s all I’m sayin’”

“Argh! You said it! Your words: they hurt my brain. Now I have that picture in my head. And it won’t leave.”

“Now who’s got a dirty mind?”


Tara communed with the Great Rat Spirit, conveying her desires to it in subtle gestures and the ebb and flow of power.
The cunning spirit conveyed that there dwelt within those that the living feared, and that they had been there for some time.

“Wait, you can talk to rats?” Dawn asked.

Tara smiled impishly. “Anyone can talk to rats. The trick is getting them to answer back.”

Dawn rolled her eyes.

“But yes I can communicate with animals in a very basic sense. It’s sort of… one soul communicating with another. It will work with almost anything, but it’s quite limited with animals. Rats are surprisingly good at it though.”

“Rats have souls?” Jules piped up for the first time.
She immediately looked worried that she’d done something wrong.

Tara smiled reassuringly. “It’s ok Jules, you’re not going to get tossed out for speaking. And to answer your question: yes, rats have souls.”

“Uh, I thought having a soul was a big deal? Like we kill vamps and demons because they don’t have souls, and we don’t kill humans because they do? How can it be a big deal if even rats have souls?”

Tara thought for a moment. “I don’t know about the demon killing philosophy, but rats do have souls. Smaller and simpler than human souls, but they have them. Some call them ‘Spirits’ to distinguish such simple souls from the sort of thing a human would have.”

“So do they go to like, rat heaven or something?” Heather asked, emboldened by Jules’s comments.

Tara chuckled. “After a fashion.”

“Wow. Imagine rat heaven, it would be wall-to-wall cheese.”

That comment earned Heather a giggle from Dawn.

“Most small spirits just evaporate when the animals die, returning their energies to the earth. Some exceptional souls join with the Great Spirit, enriching the essence of their species. Um, like the great Rat spirit just now.”

“What about demons and Vampires and stuff?” Dawn asked thoughtfully.

“Well, I did have to do a lot of study to learn about souls, and how they interact with magic, but I’m not suddenly big knowledge woman about vampires and demons.”

“Well, you studied, that puts you ahead of anyone here,” Buffy said.

“Ahem,” Giles said.

“Except Giles,” Buffy added.


“And Dawn.”


“And Xander, incredibly enough.”

“Hey to that…” Xander scratched his head. “y’know what? that’s fair, ignore my feeble protests,” Xander said. “I have always had trouble using the brain part of my head.”

Buffy turned to the others. “So, any of you clever book people know anything about demons, vampires and their souls?”

“Sadly most of the books the council possessed were of a practical bent: habits of demons, their strengths and how to fight or avoid them. Sadly there is little interest in the inner nature of such things.”

The others shook their heads.

She turned back to Tara. “You were saying, Tara?”

Tara smiled. “Well, the souls of demons and vampires are as different from ours, as their bodies are from ours. To my understanding, vampires and demons do not have human souls, their drives and motivations, the thing that makes them, them, is quite different.”

“But they have something?” Dawn asked.

Tara nodded. “They lack human souls, our potential for compassion, forgiveness, empathy and so on. But they do have something, a life force, and energy. The only truly soulless monsters are those kept animated by dark magic.”

“And we don’t kill everything without a soul,” Buffy said, attracting everyone’s attention.
“We fight evil. Soul, no soul, if it’s evil, we destroy it,” Buffy said grimly.

“Destroy all that is evil, so that which is good may flourish?” Xander said with a tiny smile.

Buffy nodded seriously. “Yes! Exactly that!”

Faith snorted attracting a grin from Xander and a small, barely concealed smile from Giles.

“Damn B, ya don’t watch a lotta movies do ya?”


“Even G-man got that quote,” Faith said.

“I’ll have you know that I do watch movies from time to time. I do however try to ensure that the movies I watch, are good ones.”

“I say again, with infinite wit and wisdom: Huh‽”

“I’ll educate ya later B.”

“So, um, there was a rat?” Dawn prompted.

Tara pushed for a little more information, risking the anger of the notoriously touchy spirit.

Her gifts of dried bread and meat had been well received, as had the ritual she had performed, and the Rat Spirit grudgingly conveyed that there were no signs of what it considered magic.
She completed the ritual, bidding the spirit farewell. The spirit vanished, taking Tara’s small gift of energy, as a pair of very large, and very real rats scampered away with their prize of bread and meat.

Reassured by the spirit’s inability to sense any magical energies coming for the inhabitants, beyond their inherent nature, Tara felt it was safe to gather a little more information.
Remaining crosslegged, she began a spell of scrying, conjuring an image of the interior of the tower across the alley from them.
As she quietly chanted her well-practiced scrying spell, a vision of the interior of the building began to appear in her mind.

She saw 4 men, their spirits swirled around with shadows, their auras betraying their anger and fear of the fifth man in the room.

‘No, not a man,’ Tara thought, ‘a monster in human guise.’

His aura was black. It was not shadowed with darkness, it was nothing but darkness. There was none of the light of a human soul about him anywhere.
It was an aura Tara had seen many times before.

Dark shapes were visible behind the ornate drapes curtaining off the room. Skeletal shapes with wisps of dark sorcery wafting from them.
Terrifying foot-soldiers of evil, but no threat to this group.

After a couple of minutes-worth of intense searching, she satisfied herself that there were no nasty magical surprises.
Letting go of the spell she opened her eyes and told her friends what was waiting for them in the tower across the alley.

“Four people, 6 skeletons and a vampire. None of them seem to have any magical ability that I can see.”

Tara rose from her crosslegged pose, helped up by her friend.

“The undead don’t like fire,” Catherine said. “this is gonna be fun!” she said, cheerfully fiddling with her weapons.

“This must be some new definition of fun. Normally, angry people with weapons and the walking dead are not considered ‘fun’,” Tara said.

“All part of our glamorous, exciting life,” she said cheerfully. “some people would kill to do what we do.”

Tara smiled. “Some people need their heads examined.”

“And yet here you are.”

“Apparently I need my head examined.”

Catherine poked her playfully in the head. “Yep, still there, all hairy and round-ish.”

Tara rolled her eyes, unable to stop a small smile from escaping. She took a piece of chalk and sketched on the floor a rough layout of the tower and the likely location of the bad guys.

“Alrighty then. Wanna do your protection spell thingy?”

Tara nodded. “Gather round, everyone.”
Everyone gathered close as she cast the spell, almost a prayer to The Goddess to protect her friends, and herself in their endeavours to fight evil, and make a pay check.

Sparks of blue and white light swirled out from her hands to surround her friends, slowly fading to a soft, almost imperceptible shimmer.

Catherine sighed happily as she felt the tingle of the spell taking effect. “Cheers Tara, I really hate getting shot full of holes.”
Tara gave her a wan smile.

“Are we ready?” Melchior said with a sense of anticipation.

Various nods greeted his comment.

“Then as we planned: Govakri will make his way around to the rear to cut off any escape, as shall I. Takarn will attack from the front with Catherine proving covering fire. And Tara will stay back and prove support as needed.”

He eyed the group one by one, his green eyes gleaming. “Remember, the vampire is the real threat here, so kill it first. Skeletons next, and try not to injure the humans unnecessarily.”

“Define ‘unnecessarily,’” Gokvakri asked thoughtfully.

“Kill them if they look like they are going kill one of us. Try to disable them if you can. Don’t let them escape, but don’t kill anyone to stop them. Is that clear enough for you?” the mechanical man asked mildly.

“See, G-man, ya should take notes: that’s how you do orders,” Faith said.

“Noted,” Giles said dryly.

Govakri flashed a quick grin. “Sure. I just wanted to know how we’re playing this. It’s all good chief, you can relax, I’m not going to make a bloodbath.”

“Restraint good, bloodbath bad,” Catherine said deadpan.

Govakri’s grin flashed again in his coffee-coloured face, and he took off for the rear of the tower. He moved silently, but with great speed.

“So… you think he’s gonna go crazy and kill a bunch of folks?” Catherine asked.

Takarn rumbled. “I really hope not. I like him. I do not want to kill him.”

“Well I’m glad. I don’t want you to kill him either,” She said.

He stretched out his arms and wings with a series of popping sounds and a happy groan. He unclipped the huge blade from the harness tucked between his wings.
He met Tara’s eyes. “Time to go fight evil,” he said.

Tara nodded silently.

“Your armour is good. Not invulnerable. Be careful.”
She nodded.

“Nor are you weak,” he growled. “Don’t be timid.”

She gave him a half smile and thumped him on his chest plate, her gauntlet making a muffled ‘bong’ noise.
“Grr! Argh!” she said playfully.

Takarn grinned in a manner sure to terrorize anyone who didn’t know his mannerisms, and strode confidently to the door, while Tara and Catherine took up positions overlooking the door.

Without slowing in the slightest, he smashed his way through the door, entering with a window-rattling roar.

“That’s some entrance,” Xander said.

“I dunno. I’ve seen some kickers in my time,” Faith said, grinning up at Buffy.

Buffy wasn’t sure whether to look pleased or embarrassed.

“Not sure which was the most dramatic: B smashing through a warehouse door with my axe and slaughtering 25 demons in as many seconds, or having a beautiful angel crash through the roof to save my ass… and fall on her butt.”

Tara laughed. “I was in a hurry! And I was trying not to get caught on the roof.”

“Still fell on ya butt.”

Cries of alarm came from inside the room as the two women approached.

Three terrified men burst from the front door, intent on putting as much distance between themselves and the avatar of holy fury, roaring and smashing things within.

The first man fell as Catherine’s lighting-fast shot hit him in the leg with stunning force. Pain and impact from the freezing blast of ice collapsed his leg instantly.

The second was somewhat more fortunate. He face-planted into the stones as Tara’s whispered spell of sleep took him.

The third man’s bid for freedom ended when a dagger spun through the air with a whirr like frantic bird’s wings, and buried itself in his leg.
He fell to the cobbles with a cry of pain, clutching his leg in agony until Tara’s spell of sleep found him. His frostbitten colleague likewise succumbing.

Catherine was enthusiastically blasting away with her weapon around the edge of the door, shooting bolts of fire at the vampire.

By the time Tara was in a position to see, the skeletons were inanimate piles of bones scattered across the floor and the remaining human being was lying across the floor. Whether he was injured or dead, Tara could not tell at this point.

The vampire on the other hand was very much alive, though rather scorched and battered.
He glanced toward the door as he dodged another fusillade of firebolts from Catherine’s wand with inhuman agility. His reactions were so fast and smooth that he looked almost casual as he avoided the blasts.

As he set eyes on Tara, haloed by the light, his eyes widened in recognition. “You-”
Unfortunately, whatever he might have been about to say next was cut off by a blast of fire. The distraction of Tara was enough for Catherine to finally draw a bead on him and shoot him in the face.

The vampire screamed as the fire ate into his flesh hungrily, acting far more dangerously toward his undead flesh than it would to a living being.
He fell to the floor and thrashed horribly, his face burned down to the bone, until Takarn took pity on him and eased his passing with a sword-thrust to the heart.

The screaming stopped abruptly as his body crumbled to ashes and dust.

Oddly, though his clothes crumbled with him, the dagger on his belt did not, along with a letter he had been carrying in his pocket.

Govakri entered through the back door, grinning manically.
“Well, that was refreshingly brief.”

Takarn grunted. “Nice throw.”

Looking around the room Tara saw that he had thrown a dagger across a room filled with her brawling friends and combatants, and hit a running man in the lower leg.

It was a very impressive throw.

Tara wondered if even… Buffy could pull it off.
She smiled to herself as she remembered Buffy’s name.
Buffy, best friend to her love. Champion, friend… family.
She leaned against the door frame as a wall broke in her mind and memories flooded through her.

“Go ahead and take her. You just have to go through me.”
“And me.”
“How is it that you always know how to say the right thing?”

“Oh wow Tara. That had to feel so good,” Dawn said.

Tara smiled tearily and nodded, not trusting her voice at this point.

“And we are, you know?” Buffy said.

“Family,” Willow whispered, reaching up to cup the side of Tara’s face tenderly.

“Uh Tara? Not sure how to tell you this, but you’re crying… and floating.”

Her eyes popped open in surprise and she dropped about a foot to the floor.
Catherine grabbed her and stopped her falling over. “Whoa, steady on there girl.”

“I remember,” she said dreamily.

“Err, right. Because I always cry and float when I remember things. Why just last week I had to deal with a bump on the head from the ceiling, when I remembered to get bacon from the market.”

Tara smiled at her friend. “I remember my family, Catherine.”

“Ah, not meaning to be rude, but weren’t they kinda… assholes? You look kinda happy for someone remembering that.”

“My true family: Buffy and Dawn, Xander and Anya, Mister Giles and… Willow,” Tara said, breathing the last name with such longing that Catherine was struck speechless.

“I like that you put Anya in the family category,” Xander said, looking more than a touch wistful.

“Of course Xander. Outside of Willow, she’s my best friend,” Tara said.

A voice with slightly metallic overtones intruded. “Ahem? Perhaps if you ladies could focus on the task at hand? There will be plenty of time to catch up later.”

Catherine looked slightly annoyed. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist Mel.”

Melchior fiddled around with his eye socket and popped out his gleaming green eye, replacing it with a faintly luminous blue one.

“Eeew! Don’t do that man. Seriously creepy watching you play with your eyeball.”

For his part, the metal man ignored her, quickly scanning the room with his glowing blue eye.

Tara turned her attention to the injured man on the floor. A series of blows to the head had rendered him unconscious, and other than a bloody gash above his eye and heavy bruising, there was little seriously wrong with him.

“Catherine, would you?” she asked, pointing to his feet.

Her friend nodded and grabbed his feet.
Between them they carried the battered man outside, laying him alongside the others.

Tara checked their wounds, carefully removing and cleaning the dagger embedded in the man’s calf muscle.

Gathered together in a group, Tara was able to cast one healing spell across the group of them. She chanted her spell and watched in satisfaction as the blue and white sparkles of her magic danced across the assembled bodies. Wounds closed and battered flesh healed as she watched, directing the magic towards any injuries she sensed.

“I don’t know why you do that,” Catherine grumbled.

“Because it’s right,” Tara said mildly. “These people are not monsters. They may have made bad choices, but they are not irretrievably lost. It costs me little to heal them, and so I do. I show them a little kindness in the hopes that they will remember it.”

Catherine looked at her oddly.
“They’re unconscious.”

Tara slumped.
“Well I don’t like violence either, so I’m doing what I can to mitigate it.”

Catherine patted her on the shoulder.

Tara looked up, slightly embarrassed.
“Well, I’m not completely selfless. If there’s any issues with the Watch, it will go a lot easier on us if there are no huge bleeding wounds on those we have had dealings with.”

Catherine grinned at her. “Sell it that way. The other stuff would just confuse them, but enlightened self-interest? That, they can deal with.”

Tara rolled her eyes, prompting laughter.

“Tara? We could use your talents inside,” Melchior said.

“Go. Do witchy stuff, I’ll make sure nothing happens to our friends here.”

Inside Tara found Takarn and their new companion poking around the room, while Melchior was crouching, staring intently at the pile of ash.

“Um, did you need something?”

“A second opinion if you would. I suspect the letter of being trapped. Have a look and see what you think.”

Tara nodded, rummaging through her equipment pouch for a clear quartz crystal.

She chanted her spell of seeing, letting the Latin words roll off her tongue as her magic filled her eyes, opening her to the spiritual plane.
When she opened her eyes again the room was filled with streamers of light in numerous colours, streams of energy poured from her companions, Takarn in red lit with white, Catherine a cheerful but dimmer yellow and Melchior lit with yellow tinged with bright blue.

The real surprise was Govakri, he was a veritable rainbow, each of his Chakras clearly delineated in a way that only careful examination could normally reveal.

“What’s a Chakra?” Heather asked.

“An energy centre. Kind of like… a muscle for a soul,” Tara said, struggling for an analogy.
“Being able to see his Chakras without looking really closely, was a little like seeing a body-builder’s muscles. Everyone has muscles, but they’re not usually as obvious.”

She shook off her curiosity, feeling slightly guilty about her inadvertent prying and focussed on the items in the drift of ash and dust.

The knife was wreathed in faint streamers of mist in red, typical of enchantments designed to cause harm. She looked closely, checking carefully for traces of magic with evil intent, before nodding to herself. Other than being a weapon designed to kill, there was nothing inimical to the dagger’s magic.

The letter revealed a faint halo of blue, typical of protective magic. Close examination revealed nothing more terrifying than a spell designed to protect the letter from harm.
The aura had a uniformity to it that told of mass-produced magic, likely the letter was simply written on protected paper.

“It looks pretty harmless. Um, the dagger has been enchanted to make it more dangerous in some way, but I don’t see anything like a trap. The letter looks to just be spelled to keep away dirt and water and the like.”

Melchior nodded and picked up both items.
“That matches my analysis, thank you.”

The sheathed dagger he tossed to Govakri, who cheerfully examined his new prize.
The letter he opened and read.

“Interesting. This is going to be a feather in the cap of a certain you officer of the Citadel Guard.”

Catherine perked up. “Yeah?”

“Oh yes, I can only think of one reason for a vampire to be interested in a shipment of flowers,” he said, holding up the letter.

Catherine grinned. “Oh man! I could kiss you!”

The metal man raised an eyebrow. “How odd.”

Catherine did a little victory dance. “Someone’s getting smoochies tonight!”

“Um, why would a vampire be interested in a shipment of flowers?” Tara asked.

“Dream-lily,” Catherine said triumphantly.

Tara was a little lost at her friend’s celebration. “Um…”

“Aaand you don’t know what dream-lily is do you?”

Tara shook her head. “Sorry, no. I mean, I’ve heard the name. I think it must be bad, just from the way people act when they did say it.”

“It’s a drug,” Takarn growled.

“The perfect drug,” Catherine added. “No side effects, no after effects, makes you feel really good, and kinda fearless. The only downside is it’s insanely addictive. I’m serious. Like even looking at it is a little addictive. The stuff’s sort of opalescent and it moves as you watch it. It’s pretty.”

“And the reason it is so illegal, is that those addicted to it will go to ridiculous lengths to get it,” Melchior said. “It’s a drug almost tailor-made for creating minions.”

“Thus the grubby hands of organized crime all over it,” Govakri added, wandering over, now that he and Takarn had finished searching the place.

They were extremely thorough in their searching, and they searched with axes and crowbars. They looked almost disappointed when they found nothing in the way of secret stashes or hidden exits.

“What’s worse, your common-or-garden criminals are starting to give way to the crazy-evil-cultist element,” Catherine said, brushing dust from her outfit. “So if we can bring in a big shipment and shut down a pipeline into the city? Well, we look awesome. And my guy looks awesome for hiring us to help. All sortsa forward-thinking and initiative and stuff that big-wigs love,”

“The letter?” Tara said to Melchior, gesturing to the letter in his hand.

“It tells of a large shipment coming in via the airship docks. Today.”

Catherine could not keep the smile off her face. “How large?”

Melchior shared her sense of glee, chuckling metallically. “Large enough that it would keep these people supplied for months. If Gerard does not get a promotion out of this I will be surprised.”

Catherine made a strange sight as she waved her fists in the air in triumph. “Woohoo! Rewards all around. We are going to get some serious reward money out of this!”

“Indeed. Enough to finance our next venture in style,”

“To the airship docks then?” Takarn growled.

“Aye, we will have to move quickly. Luckily, we are not harmed, nor have we expended significant energies that we need recover. I recommend we go to the docks at once.”

“Sweet. Let’s rock. You up for a little more, dude?” Catherine said to their new companion.

“Yup. Nothing much happening here. Also vampires are a little less impressive than I had heard,” Govakri said.

“Vampires are plenty dangerous,” Catherine said. “It just helps if you have a holy siege weapon disguised as an actual person.”

“It is a pretty bad disguise isn’t it?” he said grinning as his massive companion.

“I am an actual person,” Takarn protested mildly.

Catherine patted him on the shoulder. “No one said you couldn’t be both.”

“I think this is our missing man,” Melchior said, rolling a sleeping man on his back.

“Yeah, he looks very runaway-husband like,” Catherine said, coming over for a look. “Right, lets drop off sleeping beauty to the watch house and get ourselves over to the docks. There’s ridiculously dangerous expeditions to fund. Also a night of debauchery with my guy.”

Melchior sighed. “Well far be it from me to get in the way of debauchery. So let’s get a move on.”

“Right, I have a new favourite word: debauchery. It brings a whole new level of class to like, drinkin’ dancin’ an’ getting sweaty.”

Buffy smiled. “I’m all in favour of class.”

“You up for some debauchery later?”

“Actually, I was thinking about the classage. I was thinking ballroom dancing.”

“Whoa B, steady on there girl. I didn’t know you were inta the formal stuff?”

Buffy nodded cheerfully. “Halloween a few years back. Xander got a bunch of military skills, Willow got a bunch of skills that Tara won’t let her talk about, and I got ballroom dancing and needlepoint.”

“Being an undead prostitute is even less fun than it sounds,” Willow added.

“Though some of the skills are nice,” Tara said, a completely innocent expression on her open face.

“What I don’t get, is how she does that,” Faith murmured to Buffy. “Sez something so obviously wicked, as though she has no idea what she just said.”

“It’s a gift,” Willow added, giggling slightly.

“That’s all for tonight,” Tara said. “I’ll fill in the rest tomorrow night.”

“Time for debauchery?” Faith asked as innocently as she could manage.

Tara grinned a little. “Something like that.”

“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel

My Story: Coming Home

 Post subject: Re: Coming home (Ch 6)
PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:58 pm 
6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 8:19 pm
Posts: 428
Topics: 2
I loved this last chapter once I finally had a chance to sit down and read it. Faith getting her own axe from the smithy was a great setup for your later story.

A part of me imagined armored Tara going through a Rocky style training montage. Only with Takarn eating one of the cows hung up in the meat locker scene with one hand while bracing the one Tara punched with his other.

I especially enjoy the detail on the groups new rogue having a rainbow soul. Definitely nice to see hidden depth to a character even if we won't get to see much more of him given the time left in that world.

And for some reason the mention of undead monsters trafficking dream lily reminds me of the old Thundercats episode where Mumm-Ra got Tigra hooked on smack. "Don't do drugs kids. You'll end up turning tricks for a lizard, monkey and jackal."

Can't wait for the explanation on why every undead thing in the city recognizes Tara instantly. Should be fun.

Time and Time Again

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