Willow watched as Giles yelled, "Buffy, put that book down!" When Buffy ignored him and touched whatever was inside that book, something HAPPENED.
The world became all glowy and goldeny. It started around Buffy first, turning a sickly greenish glow upon touching her. Willow could only watch as her best friend fainted with a gasp. The glow then quickly spun out to encompass the entire room. Willow wished for something to hold onto as the magic engulfed her.
There were bright colors dancing like fireworks in front of her eyes. Strange scents assailed her, from gingerbread to pumpkins. She heard bits and pieces of songs, vaguely familiar but too faint to recognize.
Finally, it all came to a stop.
Xander said what was on everyone's mind. "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
And indeed they weren't. They were - how to describe it? Xander's Wizard of Oz reference proved oddly apt. This world was done in the too bright colors of Munchkinland. They were standing in a meadow, the grass a more vibrant green than ever seen on Earth. The sky was the blue of a child's coloring book, and the flowers equally intense. Willow tilted her head up to feel the sunshine, noting the unnaturally symmetrical sun in the sky, joined by picture perfect fluffy white clouds.
Xander continued speaking. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that book was no ordinary book. What happened? And where'd Buffy go?"
Giles took in their surroundings a moment before answering. "I would have to agree about the book. It must have been some sort of portal. As for Buffy," he sighed here, "I have no idea. We'll have to start looking."
Willow frowned, remembering something. "When the portally thing started, Buffy got all green and glowy and then she fainted." She started panicking. "I hope she's okay!"
As if in answer to her prayers, a pretty white light started to coalesce in front of them.
"Here enters Glinda," whispered Xander.
The light shimmered for a few moments more, until, to Willow's surprise, it formed into Tara!
But Tara had a dentist's appointment. What was she doing here?
The glowy Tara being spoke.
"Greetings. I would offer you welcome, but fear it is in short supply. What I can do, honored guests, is offer answers to your questions. Speak and I shall aid."
Giles nodded respectfully to Tara. "Thank you. Can you tell us where we are, and where our friend is?"
"And why you look like my girlfriend?" Willow quickly chimed in. "Not that that's bad or anything, but still sort of ooky."
"The land has many names. If you desire to use one, consider it the Enchanted Realm. Old powers, long forgotten even by the wise, dwell here. As for your friend," she paused, "that is another tale to be told. When the right one asks, I will answer. And to you, red witch, I say, this is but a form I wear, to alleviate all fears. This one bears kin to my kind, and as such is an easy fit."
"What do you mean, you can't tell us what happened to Buffy," Xander demanded, "I thought you said you'd help us."
"Those present and those connected are here. And until the right one speaks, some questions cannot be answered." Tara scanned the area, searching. "But I thought him present."
Suddenly she gave rueful laugh. "But of course! I forgot." Now wearing an impish grin that Willow knew so well, Tara flitted over to the nearby wood. "Follow. I may be bound by rules, but there's none that say I can't move things along."
Xander looked at Willow. Willow looked at Giles. Anya just tightened her grip on Xander's hand and sighed. Giles followed Tara.
Tara didn't lead them that far in. Only a few yards, far enough for the patches of sunlight to become few and far between. In a clearing, unlit by sunlight, stood Spike.
Huh? How'd he get here?
Spike noticed them, too.
"What's going on?" he demanded. "Witch's spell went wrong? I'm just sitting around my crypt when I find myself in the middle of a bloody forest!"
"We're still unclear ourselves," Giles responded testily. "All we know is that Buffy activated a portal using some book and it brought us here. To the 'Enchanted Realm', apparently."
Spike cocked his head to the side, processing the information. "Where is the Slayer, anyway?"
"That would be part of the problem. And," Giles flicked his eyes over to the shimmering Tara, "our guide won't tell us."
"A good as title as any. Speak and I shall aid."
"Except when she doesn't," muttered Xander.
"Alright, then, guide. Mind telling me what the hell is going on?" Spike barked.
"No need for anger. Answers will be given,"
"Cough, yeah right, cough."
Tara continued speaking as if she hadn't been interrupted. "Now that all are present, the tale can be begun.
Every story is a portal to another world. So has it been since the beginning. A sorceress of great power once bound such portals known to her within a single book. For her, she merely wrote them down. But such was her power and theirs, it became something more. For within words there are truths. Finish the tale to learn the truth.
Your friend opened the book and began the tale. All parts are chosen. Rules are given. If you seek to return, the tale must be finished."
"And what tale would that be?" Giles asked.
"You call it Sleeping Beauty. A truth revealed, that. Before the spell, her eyes had already grown weary and longing for rest." Tara paused. "The task is simple - the prince must awake the sleeping princess. He can call on the rest for aid, but only he can break the curse."
Willow looked around the group. Prince? Um, neither Giles nor Xander were exactly Buffy's Prince Charming. More like her Dad and Brother Charming. And Angel hadn't been magically spirited here. Unlike Spike, on the other hand -
"Whoa, hold it. Please, please, please don't tell me that's why Spike is here. 'Cause he most definitely can't be the prince. I'll be the prince. OW!" Xander rubbed his sore shin and glared at Anya. "What was that for?"
"If you're anyone's prince," Anya retorted, "you're mine!"
"I'm the prince?" Spike felt like jumping for joy. He didn't of course, being a master vampire and all. "Spell chose ME to be the prince!"
How did this choosing work? Giles wondered. The guide had implied that it revealed true things. As much as he despised the vampire and worried about his obsession with Buffy, there were some disturbing implications with this.
Tara paid their reactions no mind, continuing with her instructions. An image appeared in front of them, of a path leading up to a castle.
"The prince must travel to the Forbidden Mountain. He must go alone, but if he needs aid, he may call on each of you once. However, when he reaches the gates of the castle, he can ask for aid no longer."
I must warn you, the dark fairy who rules the Forbidden Mountain will not lose her prize with grace. Maleficent will fight you at every turn."
Spike snorted, "Bring it on. I bet I won't need any help, be done by daybreak."
"Perhaps. Remember, all the strengths and weaknesses of your kind remain. Do not mock proffered aid." Tara looked each one of them in the eye. "That is all."
With a flash, she disappeared, taking Giles, Willow, Xander and Anya with her. Spike was once again alone in the middle of the forest.
Not that he cared. That crew would just slow him down. He started down the path, off to rescue his Slayer.