Chapter Twenty-Seven

Giles sat back in his chair as he contemplated what he had just been told of Buffy and Willow's training. In the month that they had been with the Coven, his slayer called him faithfully once a week, telling him of the amazing things that she and her best friend were suddenly capable of. Bridget was kind enough to send him more detailed reports of their progress, and if he was to be completely honest with himself, he was dreadfully worried. He was worried about what this sudden evolution of power would do to the girls that he still considered daughters despite their problems, and Willow who was already questionable with the power that she previously had. He had convinced Sam and the others not to tell Buffy and Willow of the prophecy until they had complete control of their new powers.

Since the incident when Willow was taken, their powers had grown almost exponentially. Bridget had uneasily admitted that their power appeared virtually limitless. There was almost nothing it seemed that they could not do. Their shared specialty, however, seemed to be the manipulation of time and space. Discussions with the Old One called Illyria told him that almost all demons at her level and above developed that particular ability. Bridget had witnessed them cause a flower at full bloom to revert back into a seed. Keeping her and her aides protected, they had frozen time all over the estate and they walked through the grounds. People were frozen mid-step, they scattered unmoving rain outside, and smoke from casting inside. It was like nothing that Bridget had ever seen.

Lately, Bridget had focused their training on control. They had so much power that she was almost desperate to emphasize how important it was that they knew the limits of their control, so that they would not be consumed like they had been in Nevada. The Emissary said that their very humanity would keep them grounded despite their power, and she was aware that those had been more than extenuating circumstances, but Bridget wanted to be sure that they knew exactly what they were capable of if they lost control again.

Regardless of her new abilities, it quickly became obvious that Buffy still relied heavily on her physical strengths, despite the fact that, at least here on Earth, it was doubtful that there were many, if any, creatures that could match her for any length of time. Her physical strength and speed were such that sparring was useless. Bridget estimated that to give her even an adequate workout, Buffy would have to take on several military companies.

While Buffy still preferred to 'get her hands dirty', so to speak, Willow's magical abilities were more powerful than ever before. Bridget quickly discovered that Willow no longer needed to cast or use spell-books; she simply willed it to happen. As evidenced back at the bunker where she had been tortured, she could destroy or kill with a mere thought. Thank the Goddess, she also protected and created with equal ease.

In her report, Bridget admitted that she didn't know what the Slayer and the Witch would be facing, but she was truly and deeply frightened.

- - - BtVS - - SG-1 - - -

Karthila looked around the strangeness of the room as she considered her options. She allowed her captors to think her subdued as she listened to all that was spoken around her. She paid no attention to the 'tests' that they were attempting to perform. What would have been agonizingly painful to others did not even register to her.

So my brother's minions have risen to power, and were ejected from the world as we were, she mused. Now that they have gathered some meager power from other sources, they seek to claim a dominion that was never theirs.

Her face twitched in irritation as the fool standing over her broke yet another instrument on her shell.

They have obviously forgotten their place as much as the muck that they wear as shells, she thought angrily. If I recall correctly, my brother swallowed them whole to absorb their knowledge. It shall be a fitting tribute as they repay this indignity with their worthless lives.

She decided that she was done with this useless posturing. She had bided her time as she took in the initial information that she needed about the time that had passed since she had been imprisoned. Now, she could move forward, and return to the world that had somehow managed to defeat her. Effortlessly snapping her restraints, she sat up quickly and grabbed the 'scientist' before he even realized that he was in danger. With a mere clenching of her hand, she crushed his throat, watching dispassionately as he died. A moment later, she saw the parasitic minion peek out of the dead man's mouth, and she brought his face closer to her as it mindlessly sought a new host. Karthila felt it search desperately for something within her to attach and take over, and felt a cruel satisfaction at it's tortured screams as it died and was absorbed. She carefully studied her new knowledge even as she relished her freedom after an eternity of imprisonment.

Rising fluidly and soundlessly from the table, Karthila released her hold on her power. Everyone on the ship, from the human slaves to the Goa'uld Baba-Yaga, collapsed in terror as wave after wave of the darkest power imaginable washed over them. Ancient memories that they had deliberately forgotten resurfaced from the deepest depths of the subconscious of the Goa'uld on board.

"Master, I beg of you!" Baba-Yaga's screams echoed through the corridors. "Mercy!"

'Mercy?' The answering voice sounded in everyone's mind, making them shudder in terror. 'What need have I of 'mercy'?'

- - - BtVS - - SG-1 - - -

On the other side of the universe, in a solar system frozen due to a long dead sun, a lonely sound echoed on a relatively empty planet as a crack appeared in the thick ice wall blocking the opening of the last remaining source of warmth.

The surface hunters jerked to their feet as the loud sound scattered their prey. While the younger hunters took off after their escaping meat, the more experienced quickly turned their eyes to the mountains, hoping to the Spirits that the loudness did not cause a rain of ice to fall from the peaks.

- - - BtVS - - SG-1 - - -

In the Coven, Buffy and Willow awoke. Getting out of their bed, heedless of the English night chill, they walked through the halls, startling those who saw them, but speaking to no one.

"Mistress Bridget!" Alanna knocked frantically on the High Priestess' bedroom door. "You must come quickly!"

"Alanna, what is it?" Bridget grumbled sleepily after opening the door. "What could possibly be so important?"

"Buffy and Willow are in the courtyard." Alanna gasped. "They look as they did when we first found them."

Bridget quickly grabbed her robe and followed the younger woman. She found a small crowd in the courtyard surrounding the young women, including Sam and Janet, the young women, Dawn and Cassandra and the Old One, Illyria. "What has happened?"

"We don't know." Sam answered. "They haven't said anything."

Buffy and Willow stood staring at the heavens in opposite directions, even more changed than before. The amber of their eyes glowed brightly and their skin had taken on an almost burnished gold tint. Willow's hair had darkened to a deep burgundy. The sense of strength and will radiating from Buffy's petite form was almost overwhelming. They stared upwards, past the stars and suns and the empty expanse of space, to the next combatants of the Endless Battle.

"One comes." Buffy stated, looking to the North.

"The Other stirs." Willow immediately responded, looking to the South.

Samantha and the observers present looked at each other in bewilderment, before looking towards Illyria, the sole being there that showed any understanding of what had been said.

Illyria turned towards Sam, and answered the question she knew was on the tip of her tongue, "They are speaking in their primary tongue."

"That's not any language that I've ever heard." Janet denied.

The Old One curled her lip in disdain, "I do not mean your tongue, but their tongue, the language of the Nine. The language that all other demonic languages were derived from."

Bridget nervously cleared her throat, and looked at her oblivious students before asking, "What did they say, Old One?"

Illyria turned her attention back to the two young women that were now the essence of Neutrality even as she answered, "They can feel their counterparts. One is stirring in their slumber, and the other is already on the move."

Sam's eyes drifted up, unease slithering down her spine with icy fingers. They had followed Giles' advice and not told the girls about the prophecy. She didn't know what was happening to her daughter and her 'mate', but she knew that it couldn't be good. She was worried about what was coming, but she was worried about her girls more.

End of Book 1

Hey there, guys! Yes, this was supposed to be just one book, but we had so many good ideas to work with, that we decided to break it up. That's one thing both of us have in common, and why we are constantly barricading ourselves in our computer rooms! We'll see how much of the story, and in how many books, we can squeeze out before our brains hemorrhage.