ATTENTION READERS: The previous entry I submitted for this chapter was a rougher draft and not my updated one. I made two versions that differed and got them mixed up. Below is the correct one. Sorry for the confusion.
Majin Gojira: I did encounter problems with "cliché-ness", but after careful thinking I'm not sure it could be avoided. Trust me, the next story (and subsequent stories) will be taken in some interesting directions. I hope you'll keep following. Not only that, but your constructive criticisms make sure I try and make a good story. Hope you're happy so far. Thanks.
Bob-From-Accounting: Thanks for sticking around with my story so far. I thought about whether or not to have Illyria help them and I settled on having her do so, but only for something in return. It seemed the most plausible (as she is almost fully narcissistic) and would create some more tension within the group. And always glad for reviews. As to your question of other TC characters making it into this story: it's a possibility, but I wouldn't bet anything on it. I've loaded this thing up with a lot of people so far and too many cooks spoil the broth. However, there is always a chance...
To my other readers: Thanks very much for taking the time to read this stuff. It's not easy trying to make a halfway decent story, but you guys are making it worth it.
Enjoy, friendly readers. Reviews are quite welcomed.
11:13 pm, Saturday - Sara Pezzini's Apartment
"Sara? It's Giles. I just… you know… I wanted to talk, about what happened. Please give me a call as soon as you get this."
"Sara, it's Giles again. I know you're upset, but I know we can work things out. Please call me."
"Um… Sara? It's Giles again. Please, I just… I just want to talk."
Those were just a few of the messages that Giles had left on her voice mail. It had been a day since she left the Slayer base and that was also the amount of time that passed between she and Giles speaking. He had left the messages hoping she would talk to him. But she wasn't going to, at least for awhile. She needed some alone time, to contemplate whether or not her new relationship was going to be worth the uncertainty and hassle of unexpected, and unwanted, challenges to it. She had drowned herself in work for part of the day, and spent the rest of it milling about and watching old movies. She also spent some time deleting every message that came from her contending-to-be-ex boyfriend. As it began to get late, her form once again adorned her couch for the night, she turned off the lights and drifted to a peaceful sleep.
She awoke to find herself in an underground shelter of some sort. Brick surrounded the room and there was no discernible entrance to it. She hadn't realized she drifted so far into sleep. Looking at the gritty area she knew immediately what was happening. It had happened before a few times and she was hoping it would happen again soon, as she needed the help. Of course, sometimes the former Bladewielders weren't always as obliging as she wanted them to be.
Sara saw a figure materialize in the room. As the figure became clearer and clearer and its features became finer she saw it was a woman in an outfit dated from the 1940's. It was her grandmother, Elizabeth. Elizabeth walked up to her and stopped about a foot away from Sara, looking at her granddaughter with stern eyes.
"I've been meaning to talk to you," Sara said. "I need your help."
"Our help?" Elizabeth replied questioningly. "You already have help."
"No, things are getting out of control. I'm trying as hard as I can, but it seems more and more like everything's slipping away."
"You possess all of the tools necessary to defeat this enemy. And yet, you do not utilize them."
"What do you mean?" Sara asked defensively. "I've been doing all I can to stop her."
"Have you? You are the Bladewielder and yet you shrink in fear of the power it presents you. You've restrained yourself and now the consequences are evident."
"Are you saying… this is all my fault?" Sara asked, fearful of Elizabeth's response.
"The Usurper has done everything to insult the Blade and commits grievous acts of evil wherever she sets foot," Elizabeth said, the anger in her voice creeping out. "You've not done what is necessary to oppose her. You quibble about the responsibilities and hold yourself back from being what you are truly capable of being."
"Are you saying I should have killed her in cold blood, like a murderer?"
"We're not saying anything, only that you lack the will to do what is necessary to carry out your duties, to defeat her."
"And what will I need to stop her?" Sara asked.
"You'll understand… soon," Elizabeth replied. "But that is another matter. There is something else that you must see."
"What is it?"
"We will show you," Elizabeth said.
Their surroundings had started to change. The brick of the walls shifted and blurred until they were no more, the innards replaced by the emptiness of black night. Slowly, the floor changed into small bits and pieces of rock, the pieces little bigger than pebbles. Out of the darkness shapes and things started to form, people and structures. Sara saw a blurry figure on the ground. As the surroundings came into focus, she realized who it was: it was herself, bloodied and beaten by Amy, who was nearby coursing deadly energy through Michelle. Buffy, Willow, and the Slayers were battled the cadre of vampires that were there. All was still, like a snapshot had been taken of the moment.
"Now you will see," Elizabeth said.
The scene started, like someone had pressed 'Play'. Sara saw her nearly broken form pick herself up and launch into a double leg kick into Amy, thus saving Michelle. Amy, enraged, picked herself off of the ground and was ready to attack until Buffy, Willow, and the Slayers confronted her. The scene stopped.
"Do you see it?" Elizabeth asked.
"What?" Sara asked in return, not sure of what her grandmother was talking about. "What am I supposed to see?"
"In the Usurper's eyes," Elizabeth replied. "What do you see?"
The scene rewound and played again slowly from the moment Amy had gotten off of the ground. As soon as Buffy, Willow, and the Slayers confronted her, Sara noticed something in Amy's eyes.
"I see it," Sara whispered in an astonished voice.
Sara had looked at Willow's hands. They were covered in flames, ready to do damage to those opposing them. Buffy herself held her scythe at the ready. Amy's eyes had flashed in fear for a moment before they returned to the cold, dark look that she showed everyone, from her own lackeys to her enemies.
"Why?" Sara asked. "Why is she afraid?"
"The Usurper forged a copy through her deception, but she did not count on one thing: its own limitations. Her forgery cannot sustain itself,
since it is not the true Witchblade. She sacrifices her own power to keep it from dying out. Otherwise, its strength would diminish."
"And if she uses that power against us, she'll drain herself and her copy is worthless," Sara reasoned. "Why do you show me this now? Why not months ago? What was the point in keeping this from me?"
"Because it is necessary for you to understand what is needed to stop her and others like her," Elizabeth replied. "You believe this information gives you an advantage. But we both know what the desperate do when they're desperate."
"They'll do anything to keep their power," Sara answered. "Is this what I needed to learn to stop her?"
"This is but part of it. You must seek out the rest."
"How?" Sara asked, her voice full with anxiety. "How can I seek it out?"
"Through us. The time will come when you will know when to do so, when there is no other choice. You must be strong, Sara, or you will fail and the world will suffer. It is up to you to stem the swelling tide and beat back the darkness. That is why the Witchblade came to you and that is what you are tasked with." Elizabeth began to fade and once again Sara's surroundings started to blur.
"Wait!" Sara yelled. "Please, don't leave! I have to know! Please!"
"The fate of the world rests on your shoulders, Sara," Elizabeth voice echoed. "Your strength and your courage will determine this outcome. Your friends have been invaluable, but your actions will be the deciding factor. Do not fail."
"Please, tell me what I need to know! I have to know!"
As her grandmother disappeared Sara's surroundings became red, like a cloud of blood enveloped her. The cloud began to coalesce into what looked to be a hand. The hand itself was menacing, the fingers coming to sharp points at each end. Sara heard a loud growl and turned around slowly, her heart racing faster and faster. What she saw filled her with a fear unlike any she had ever felt before. It was a figure that covered head-to-toe in imposing armor. Its eyes stared at her murderously, as if it had already made up its mind on what to do with her. The figure's hand wrapped around Sara and lifted her up. It drew her closer and closer to its face and its metallic jaws opened. Sara's breathing became labored as she tried to wrest herself from its grip. Seeing the futility of her efforts she yelled out, "Help! Help!"
No one came.
Closer and closer she came to its gaping, sharp maw, furiously trying to pry herself from its ominous grip. So wrapped up in freeing herself she didn't notice how close she was to its mouth. She looked up and did the only thing she could do at the moment: she screamed.
"Ahhhhhhhhh!" Sara yelled as she woke up screaming her head off and sweating profusely. She ungracefully fell off of the couch, wrapped in her thin blanket and among a heap of pillows. Crawling frantically out of the tangled mess she crawled over and sat up against the wall, her eyes wide open. Seeing she was still in her apartment, she began to calm down considerably and wiped the sweat from her beleaguered face. She got up and walked over to the table where her cell phone was charging, grabbed it, and dialed.
"Hello?" the woman on the other end said.
"Buffy? It's Sara. I'm coming over. Get the committee together; it's urgent."
"Is everything alright? Buffy asked.
"I'll discuss it when I get there," Sara replied.
Sara had thrown on some clothes and raced over to the Slayer building. Though she wasn't told much, it was enough to warrant a meeting. She thought that maybe together, she and the others could come up with a solution for what was coming.
She rode up to the building, her heart racing as she jumped off her bike and ran around the back to the secret entrance. At night, the reinforced steel doors went into place automatically, in case someone was bold enough to try a frontal assault. The door to the small alcove that held the steel door was a plain-looking one, metal and intricately designed. It was designed that way to be as subtle as possible to anyone passing by; it's other function was to lure any ne'er-do-wells to be viewed through the video camera peeking outside of the steel door. Of course, to view any suspicious people outside your door using a video camera required an actual video camera. Unfortunately, budget issues and such had stalled that particular portion.
Sara went through the secret entrance in the basement and walked upstairs. She was just about to walk into the lobby when she saw Giles coming from the kitchen. Slightly startled by her appearance he looked at her, hoping there was something in her that would forgive his thoughtless deed the day before. He slowly approached her.
"Sara," he started apologetically, "I… I... I'm sorry."
"So you told me..." she replied, "a lot, actually. You know, I've had a day to think about what happened yesterday. And having your dead grandmother talk to you puts things in perspective." Giles furrowed his brow in confusion at that. Walking up to him she continued. "Giles, I want this thing to work."
"Me too," he replied.
"But to do that, we need to start communicating. Not just talking… communicating. We can't take on Amy if we aren't even on the same page. And we can't be together if we don't trust each other."
"I know," he said. Walking over to her with his oxygen tank in tow, he asked, "So... does that mean I'm forgiven?"
Sara smiled and moved up closer to him. Standing face to face, she replied, "You're forgiven." She then kissed him slowly and softly. Pulling away, she added, "I'll just borrow your Velvet Underground album for awhile."
"What?" Giles asked in surprise.
"I'll just grab it from your room after the meeting."
"But… but…" he stuttered.
"Well, normally I'd ask you to cook a nice dinner to make up, but since it'll be few weeks before you're all healed, and I'll probably forget by then, I'll just borrow your album. My dad had one back when I was a kid, but I kind of broke it when I was running in the house. Did I ever get it that day. I mean, who knew it could fly that far?"
Giles whimpered at the thought of his precious album spinning through the air and crashing into a wall, its pieces flying about.
"Thanks, Giles," she said sweetly.
The things I do for love, he thought as he Sara made her way toward the lobby. Shaking his head, he followed her in.
"Hey, Pez," Monica said as Sara entered. Sara saw everyone who was supposed to attend waiting for her to arrive. Unfortunately, she also saw the one person she'd hoped wouldn't be coming: Illyria. She walked over to the Ancient One and said, "This goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: If you ever, ever hurt Giles…" She brought out her short blade and held it up. "This'll be the last thing you ever see. Understand?"
Illyria just looked at Sara, seemingly unfazed by the gesture. Then she tilted her head and said, "You care for him greatly." It wasn't a question.
"Yes," Sara replied, "I do."
"Just like the shell Fred cared for Wesley," Illyria muttered, her features saddened again. Gathering herself, she said, "No harm will come to him."
As the other Slayers started to gather around, Kennedy said, "Alright, Pez, you got us together here for a reason. What's going on?"
Illyria stepped closer to hear the cop, to which Sara sighed and asked, "Does she have to be here?"
"Well, she is part of the group now," Giles replied.
"My presence offends you," Illyria said.
"To say the least," Sara replied whimsically. "Is that one of your superpowers... a knack for understatement?"
"Sara!" Buffy interjected, tiring of the barbs. "Can we get to the reason why we're all here?"
"I was visited," the cop replied.
"By who?" Monica asked.
"Your grandmother? Wait, I thought your grandmother was dead," said Willow. "I mean, how could she… oh."
"Yeah, it's like that," Sara replied as Willow caught on.
"What did she say?" Rona asked.
"Basically that the world would be over if I didn't stop Amy," she replied.
"Wow... such insight," Buffy quipped. "She showed up just to tell you something we all knew months ago? Talk about Captain Obvious."
"It's what she showed me, Buffy," Sara replied pointedly.
"And that is…?"
"She took me back to the night I went after Amy. She replayed some of it for me, and I saw something none of us noticed the first time around."
"What did you see?" Willow asked.
"I saw fear in her eyes, hesitation. She was scared."
"Of what?" Kennedy asked.
"Elizabeth told me that Amy's Witchblade can't sustain itself. She's been using her own power to keep it intact and functioning. But if she uses her power and drains herself…"
"Her Witchblade is nothing but a new paperweight," Buffy interjected.
"Exactly," said Sara.
"Well… that's some good news," Monica said.
"Yeah, it is," Rona said. "The only problem is we'll never get close enough to Amy to get her to drain herself. With her money, bodyguards, and access to anywhere she wants to go, we can't touch her."
"But we've at least got something to work with," Buffy said. "That maybe enough to get started on a plan. Though, I'm confused about why we weren't told this earlier. I mean, what is it with good guys and communication of the need-to-know stuff?"
"Wait…" Giles said as if he was starting to realize something. "Why was Amy so bent on killing us the night of the ambush?"
"She wanted us out of the way," replied Monica, putting the answer in the simplest possible terms.
"Yes, but why then? Why didn't she do it earlier? Our informant told Sara that he was forced to feed us info for a few months to build up our confidence."
"Sean said that Amy knew you guys had a tendency to mess up well-laid plans at the last minute," Sara said.
"And Takagi mentioned Amy must be planning something since her little empire is crumbling," Buffy said.
"And from Sara's account of the night of her confrontation with Amy, she acquired what looked to be a small round object from Devlin Post," Giles said. "Now we find out her copy of the Witchblade is slowly degrading without her as a power source. So the question is: why try and kill us the day before the stone was acquired?"
"She needs it," Buffy reasoned. "It's connected to all of this."
"Exactly," Giles replied.
"Okay, but Amy has a Witchblade she can barely use because it needs juice," Kennedy said. "What good is some chunk of rock?"
"That depends," he replied. "Sara, did you get a good look at the stone Post delivered?"
"Not really. All I know is that it was small and round, but I only got a moment's look from my binoculars."
"Are you thinking what I think you're thinking, Giles?" Willow asked.
"The stones of Valtorek," Giles replied.
"Huh?" a confused Sara asked.
"There's an old legend of three small, perfectly cut stones, created by a mage in ancient times," Giles began to explain. "It was written that he journeyed to nearby volcano and used the lava and his own blood to create these stones. Together, they were capable of drawing the earth's energies and channeling them into the user."
"And you think Amy's looking for these stones to get a boost?" Buffy asked.
"It would make some sense," Giles replied, "except that these stones are mostly relegated to folklore and myth. And even if they were real, it was said that they produced painful physical side effects after prolonged use. Some sources even say the mage went mad because of crippling headaches after he scattered the stones across the world. But why on earth would Amy even think of subjecting herself to that kind of experience?"
"When she's got a nice, shiny Witchblade to counter those effects," Buffy replied.
"You don't think…?" Giles asked Buffy.
"Think about it for a second: the Witchblade is capable of accelerated healing, right? So, what if it can counter those negative side effects, or at least minimize them? Amy would have an unlimited power resource. And considering our luck with objects that supposedly don't exist, we might not want to throw out the possibility."
"If she gets these things," Sara said, "and if they do what you say they do, Giles, we won't be able to stop her."
"Then we'd better figure out something quick," Rona said. "Does the Council know where the other stones are kept?"
"No," replied Giles. "And that's assuming she didn't have the other two before she acquired the one from Post."
"What's worse is it's said you can find the other two with just one stone," Willow said.
"Oh, that's just great…" Rona muttered cynically.
"Guess we better shore up the defenses," Buffy said.
"Hold on…" Sara interjected, "you're telling me the only thing we can do for the time being is beef up our defenses and wait to see if Amy's got all the stones?"
"Um, unfortunately… that may be the case," Giles replied sheepishly.
"What about Willow?" Sara asked. "I mean, can't she just sense the other stones and find them?"
"Alone, they're not much better than museum pieces," Willow said. "If they were together I could get a bead on them. But if they're together, finding them is the least of our problems."
"I can't believe there's nothing we can do," Sara said dejectedly. She then perked up. "Or maybe there is..."
"What do you mean?" Giles asked.
"Elizabeth told me that I wasn't doing everything necessary to stop Amy. She told me I had to seek out what was needed to stop her and that my actions would decide if we succeed or fail."
"Got any clue what she meant?" Buffy inquired. Deep down inside, though, the Slayer knew the answer. The fate of the world is in Sara's hands? she thought. So much for that trip back to Italy.
"Good guys and communication, Buffy," Sara quipped.
"Why am I not surprised?"
The group stood in silence at their circumstances. The situation looked bleak. It would require more than a few sleepless nights to put together a contingency plan in case Amy got what she wanted. And it would take even more sleepless nights to try and find the stones before she did. It was only a couple of moments after the awkward silence that Buffy said, "Alright, I'm calling it a night. We can try and figure out strategies for this thing tomorrow. We've been in hopeless situations before and we've come out on top. For now, we should all get some rest."
Taking her suggestion, the group began to disperse, Illyria included. Curiosity on her face, she asked Monica brusquely, "Why do you not simply attack her now that you know she is vulnerable?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Monica replied.
"Complicated?" Illyria replied. "Before our battle against the Circle I told Angel that to rule his kingdom he had to serve no ambition but his own, that he had to be willing to do anything to achieve his goal. And it seems he listened to my counsel." She looked at Sara directly and asked, "Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to do anything, even jeopardize those you have befriended, to annihilate your enemy?"
"I'll do what I need to do," Sara replied, in an irritated tone.
Pausing for a moment and staring at Sara, she said, "That remains to be seen."
As the group started to disperse, Giles went over to Sara and asked, "Are you alright?"
Taking a deep breath and sighing, she replied, "I'm just on edge." Looking at him with tired eyes and an upset demeanor, she said, "Giles, I have no clue what I need to stop Amy. All Elizabeth said is that I'd have to seek it out and that I'd know when. I mean, talk about cryptic."
"You'll figure it out; we'll figure it out, together."
"Hopefully," Sara said. There's that word again, she thought. God, I'm really starting to hate it.
"Sara, I promise you that as long as I draw breath I will help you in any way I can."
With that, Sara smiled and moved closer to Giles, who wrapped her in his tender embrace. It was funny; possessing the Witchblade and being one of the most fearless and dedicated detectives of the NYPD and she never felt safer or more comfortable than when she was with him. She only wanted that feeling to last as long as possible, until the end of time if it she could. In her harsh, cold, and dark world, it was the only thing that felt warm and sure.
"You know, Birdie, I've spent the last few years trying to make a way for myself, to forge a future for myself. And in one single night, that almost went down in flames. I paid you a good sum of money and, despite that, you told that cop about what I was doing. You nearly messed up a very carefully laid plan. I could've have been killed that night, and years of work would've gone to waste."
Birdie tried in futility to look for some way out of his situation, his hands bound with rope and hanging from a hook.
"Look at me... look at me!" Amy shouted as she smacked him.
"You know what it was like to explain to the cops that some intruders assaulted me on my lot? That was tough… a bruise to the ego. But you know what was tougher?" She brought out her short blade and stuck it in his leg. Birdie screamed out in pain.
"Having to watch that Slayer and her groupies look at me with their smug faces, like they've always done, like they were better than me! You know how that feels? It's insulting and degrading. It stung, Birdie, stung a hell of a lot… kind of like this!" She stuck the blade into his other leg.
"But it doesn't matter," she said after she pulled the blade out. "Soon, I'll have enough power to wipe them out. Then this city… this world… will be mine for the taking. I'll create something that'll stand up to anything and anyone. And it'll make Buffy, Willow, and Sara wish they were never born. It's just a matter of time." Amy let out a loud sigh after her tirade and looked at a bleeding Birdie. "Such a shame you won't be around to see it."
"Please, please..." he cried.
"You're begging for you life, " she replied at his pleas. "Good... at least I'll have one nice memory of you years from now."
Amy approached him, her metal-covered hand imposing itself upon his forehead. Gripping it, she sent streams of red-hued electricity through his body. Birdie started to scream and violently convulse, as if his hold body was threatening to explode. A few seconds later his body sank and he ceased to move, blood oozing from his nose and eyes.
Sean had seen the whole thing and winced. His mistress could be truly sadistic and merciless once she put her mind to it. She had promised him, along with others who had supported her, human or otherwise, that once she gained enough power they would be greatly rewarded. While some were dismayed that Tarchannen was just a mere human female, they saw what she was able to accomplish and hung around, hoping for a good piece of the action of whatever she was planning. And that was worth sticking around for.
"What's the word on Devlin?" Amy asked.
"He's searching for it even as we speak, Mistress," Sean replied. "Do you really think he'll find it? And if so, can we trust him?"
"Post doesn't have a clue what I'm planning," she said. "He's money-hungry and bent on revenge against Giles and the others. Still, I've got things in place, just in case he does decide to play hardball with my merchandise."
"Very good, ma'am," Sean replied.
"Get rid of the body," she ordered. "And move tomorrow's meeting to ten o'clock; I want to make sure we're all set up. The Triads have been making some moves into my territory and I want to send a clear message that such things won't be tolerated."
"It'll be done," he replied. As he went to aid the disposing of Birdie's body, Amy stopped him.
"And Sean… make sure the spa has sparkling water tomorrow in my room. Understood?"
"Of course," he replied.
Amy smiled and went over to her limo, away from the empty building. Sitting down inside, she smiled to herself. "Just a few more things," she said, "and I'll wipe those smug faces off personally." Rolling down the privacy window, she ordered her driver to take her back home, assured as the car rode away that the fate that came upon Birdie awaited everyone who stood against her. Like she had said before, it was only a matter of time. She wore a vicious smile at the thought of Sara, Buffy, and Willow dying at her hands, their faces and bodies contorted in terror and grief, not only because of their fate, but the fact that all of their training and preparing would be for naught.. Such thoughts, as well as the idea of a relaxing afternoon at the spa, always brought a smile to her face. As the car sped off into the darkness, she was confident that the days ahead were going to be rewarding, that only though her rapacious ambition and ruthless drive would she secure her prize: bringing the world to its knees.
End Urbs Spei
To the readers: Hey, everyone. You've stuck around so far, so why not go the distance? I'm about to start penning portions of part III in the story. However, since there is a time gap between 'Urbs Sanguinis' and 'Urbs Spei' and there are some short stories I want to do for that time period, it might be a while before anything definitive gets put down. Hopefully, you'll like the short in-betweeners. Stay tuned.