Disclaimer: See first chapter
Hail, hail. The gang's all here.
Only starlight lit the cemetery, the moon gone, hidden from view, as the Scoobies and Brotherhood gathered to cast the dampening spell. They formed a circle around a small fire, flame burning steadily courtesy of Pyro. The silver, gold, and copper cauldron floated above, a minor levitation spell maintaining its place. Tara had been a little leery about using so much magic, but Anya and Melly had insisted that the more power expended, the stronger their call to greater magic would be heard.
Given the two's larger body of knowledge in spellcasting, Tara had listened to their suggestion. Willow didn't particularly care, one way or another. Her only focus was on getting this spell done, finally. After practically a week's worth of preparation, Willow was ready to do just do it.
Slowly, she added the crushed rose hips, monkshood, and sage to the cauldron. Just add water, her slightly hyper mind bubbled, and your insta- spell will be complete! Willow shook herself, focus. Now was not the time to become HyperBabble Willow.
After taking a deep breathe, Willow started the preliminary chanting. If that was one thing she hated about complex, hugely powerful rituals, it was the amount of chanting that went with them. Blah blah blah, we invoke thee, blah blah blah, we invoke thee three times in a row, blah blah blah, we say that in Latin, blah blah blah...
Tara elbowed her gently - pay attention, honey! Willow blushed guiltily and focused on the chanting again.
Mystra, look upon our task with favor. Helm, look upon our task with favor. Tymora, look upon our task with favor. Sune, look upon our task with favor. We seek to bind. We seek to protect. We seek to preserve.
Mystra, look upon our task with favor ...
Magneto watched his cousin begin the spell. He didn't quite understand what it entailed (not that he would admit that) but he did have enough experience to know when there was a problem. And so far, there wasn't.
Feeling fairly certain on that front, he turned to survey the surrounding area. Personally, he didn't understand why they had to cast the spell out in the open the cemetery (something about the laws of magic, no doubt). They were far too vulnerable in this location, for his comfort.
His Brotherhood was prepared to the utmost, he knew. Avalanche wandered about, talking to the air. Hopefully, that was with Marcie. Otherwise, that young man needed psych evaluation. Toad was on the roof of a nearby crypt, serving as a lookout of sorts. Pyro hovered near the witches, helping them for the moment. Mystique was about as well, sulking at the edge of the group.
Magneto made a note to speak with her about the importance of the goal over the individual. That was one of the tenets of the Brotherhood, after all.
It was the 'Scoobies' that concerned him. They all had skills, there was no doubt, but did they have the discipline needed for a fight on this scale? Buffy was their leader, at least in military terms, but she struck him as a wild card fighter, the sort who worked best alone. Giles was intelligent, and possessed a core of ruthlessness that Magneto appreciated, but was still only human. Much the same went to Xander - brave, but lacked the strength to back himself up. Anya made no pretenses toward strength or bravery, but instead stood near the witches, gripping her crossbow tightly while muttering about foolish mortals and death wishes.
And then there were the two demons, Anya's friend Melly and the vampire Spike. When offered a weapon, Melly had simply laughed, "Dearie, do you really think I survived two millennia just because of my pretty face?". She stood next to Anya, chatting gaily about who knows what sort of nonsense, acting like she was at a coffee klatch and not a spellcasting. Spike, on the other hand, was prowling about, every inch the warrior waiting for battle to begin. If Magneto bothered to concentrate, he could sense that infamous chip that supposedly kept Spike from being a threat to humanity. An ingenious invention, really. Though not one he would like put into practice. Well, maybe on his enemies, perhaps.
A branch snapped. Everyone jumped to attention, focusing on the sound. A dog lumbered into view, sniffed a nearby grave stone, did his business on Dearly Departed Hortense, and lumbered away. Everyone relaxed. The chanting continued.
And continued. And continued. In fact, the witches' chanting seemed to drone on a bit. Next to him, Giles muttered, "Now I remember why I want to be late for the ritual. Nothing happens until after they complete the first round invocations."
Melly nodded, "You should never come until the chanting is finished. Magic doesn't start until later."
"You mean that this isn't the actual spell?" Magneto asked, jerking his head to indicate the chanting witches.
"By Poseidon's trident, no. This is just the preliminaries. Placations, invocations, et cetera. We've a ways to go before the real meat of the matter begins."
Magneto felt a strong urge to whine like a little boy when he heard that. They would be standing here doing nothing for how long?
"Don't worry, dearie, the demons will be out soon enough. Power like this calls us, you know."
He felt a little better.
"... She of Magic hear us and grant aid. He of Justice hear us and grant aid. She of Fortune hear us and grant aid. She of Passion hear us and grant aid..."
After what seemed to be an interminable amount of droning on the part of his cousin and her girlfriend, Toad finally called out to them, "Heads up, people. We've got company!"
Assorted creatures appeared from the darkness, slowly and inexorably moving toward them, like moths to a flame. Magneto caught glimpses of the deformed visages of vampires, their yellow eyes gleaming. Beside them were beings he assumed were demons, scaled and clawed, baring rows of teeth in the starlight.
Well. He wanted something to do, didn't he?
With a wave of his hand, Magneto sent knives, conveniently located next to him, on a direct course for the throats of demons in his vicinity. Some cried out and collapsed, others kept moving, despite large gashes that would have been incapacitating in a human.
The battle was joined.
Toad launched himself from the roof, crushing the bodies of the creatures below him. One of the demons recovered, bones snapping back into place. Its claw raked Toad's side as the mutant bounded away, spitting green goo back into its face.
"That's a Mvrok demon!" Anya shouted. "You kill it by twisting its head off, it doesn't need to breathe!"
Toad ignored her, now battling a group of vampires. Buffy tossed him a stake before bringing her axe down to decapitate the Mvrok. As purple ichors spewed over the ground, she bounded over to help Xander fend off a Polgara.
On the other side, the ground shook and undulated, as Avalanche tried to off balance his opponents. Holes emerged, demons fell in, only to be squashed as he closed the ground back up again.
Unfortunately, this seemed to wake up the still-sleeping undead. Fledgling vampires scampered out of their graves and made a bee line toward their attacker. A few feet behind Avalanche, just out of the quake zone, Giles coolly took aim and fired, dusting each one.
One vampire quickly figured that it might be a good idea to take out the man with the crossbow. He crept behind Giles and sprang to bite, then fell away, screaming and on fire. Giles turned in time to see Pyro try his luck on a furred demon. That didn't work as well as it did on vampires, but from the demon's screams, still quite effective.
That end of the fight seemed under control.
Magneto looked for Marcie a moment, but didn't expect to find her. Marcie did her best work in when her enemies gathered in groups, where her actions could more easily go unnoticed. Out in the open, a more discerning attacker could occasionally spot where she should be. He saw that, true to form, little clumps broke apart as they were attacked from within.
Mystique was fighting alongside Spike;. She kicked and snapped necks while he ripped and tore, as hard a fighter as his opponents. Magneto noted that Mystique, however, was not taking the risks she usually did. Instead, she left the more dangerous foes to her vampiric ally.
It was decisions like that which reminded him why she was his right hand woman.
The Brotherhood and the Scoobies steadily overcame their attackers, until vampire dust and demon corpses littered the field of battle.
Melly, who had not yet budged from her spot near the fire, surveyed the scene calmly.
"Not bad for the first wave."
Everyone (except Willow and Tara, who were steadfastly ignoring the outside world) stared at the siren.
"The FIRST wave?" Buffy gasped, waving her hand to indicate the bodies. "You mean this wasn't our big battle?"
"Of course not. Sweetheart, did you really think the cultists would send such a disorganized rabble after you? These are just the bottom feeders who can't resist the fireworks. The cultists should be coming any minute that the expendables are gone." Melly nodded firmly. "Yes, any minute now."
Magneto looked over the troops. They were cut, bruised, and bleeding. Toad had a nasty gash on his side. Avalanche and Pyro had avoided most of the contact fighting but still looked weary. Of the Brotherhood, only Mystique looked ready for another big fight.
The three humans, Giles, Xander, and Anya, sported their own share of injuries (well, perhaps not Anya. She had quite handily avoided the more vicious parts of the battle, hanging back with Melly and shouting advice). Buffy and Spike didn't seem winded, but both had a minor injury or two.
He hoped the witches would finish soon. They might still have to fight the cultists, but at least that would be with some extra fire power.
Willow and Tara were vaguely aware of their surroundings as they finished the last preliminary chant. But until they were outright interrupted, they wouldn't stop until the spell was cast. The power they had called filled them and demanded release.
Tara held the focusing crystal over the cauldron and let go. It fell for a moment before hovering only a fraction above the cauldron's contents.
Blood from Willow's vial dripped onto the crystal, turning it scarlet.
Blood of innocence. Sacrifice of innocence. Death of innocence. To thee I call.
Out of the corner of her eye, Anya saw Willow pour the blood. The real magic was going to start now.
That's when she also noticed they were surrounded.
Black robed figures formed a circle around the Scoobies and Brotherhood. As Willow and Tara started the incantation, they began to close in.
Anya wished she had taken up Melly's advice and gone to Russia. There were at least a hundred cultists surrounding them.
And every single one was armed to the teeth, sometimes even literally.
Her Xander summed it up best.
Everyone stood still for a moment, frozen. Then an unheard, unseen
cue resounded amongst the cultists. They charged.
The Brotherhood and the Scoobies responded. Without a single order being shouted, Buffy, Spike and Mystique leaped to the forefront, allowing the wounded Xander and Toad to fall back. Magneto, Pyro and Avalanche formed a triangle about the witches, preparing to use their more long range skills.
"This is the most critical point in the casting!" Giles shouted. "We cannot allow them to be interrupted!"
In other words, thought Buffy as she parried a blow, the stakes are much higher this time around. Her attacker adjusted to her block by swinging his tails at her legs. She jumped like a girl skipping rope, bringing a leg up in a kick at its face. The demon staggered back, enabling Buffy to stab at its chest. Greenish pus spewed out. Buffy moved to finish it off, only to turn her blow into a block as yet another demon made an attack. Deciding the first one was out for the count, she focused her attention to the new threat.
As she fought, Buffy saw Spike take out two demons with one great swing of his double bladed axe. Unfortunately, another one behind him wrenched the blade away and brought it down to decapitate. Spike twisted out of the way and jumped on the creature's back, bringing his fangs down into its neck. He grimaced at the taste, but wounded it enough to regain his axe and disembowel the other demon. The ground beneath his feet was slick with blood and other fluids.
Buffy completed her kill. In the brief reprieve she experienced, she scanned the field of battle for Mystique. As chaotic as this was becoming, she didn't want to kill an ally instead of an enemy. But Mystique was nowhere to be seen. Buffy didn't have time to worry as another wave of demons hit her.
However, Mystique was quite well. She had hooked up with Marcie and the two slipped through the ranks of the cultists, one invisible and the other shape-shifted, making silent and quick attacks, leaving the scene before being noticed. Mystique had no intention of taking on five well- armed demons at once, like Buffy was, unless she had to. Leaving the Slayer to her battle, the mutant continued her silent assassinations.
The blood red crystal glowed between Willow and Tara. Their eyes shimmered, Willow's black as night; Tara's white as the moon. As one, they dipped their hands into the cauldron and drew them out, dripping with the potion.
Arcane gestures left faint tracings in the air.
"We deny you, demon. Blood is shed and Blood is spilled. Night to day and day to night. Dark cloud Of your making lies over this land. Let the sun rise and burn the fog away. We deny you, demon."
A cluster of cultists saw a weak spot in the defense and charged. The humans and the wounded Toad fired crossbows and some of them fell, but not enough. Giles and Xander readied their hand to hand weapons. Toad's tongue skipped in and out of his mouth as he prepared for the right moment.
Xander gripped his sword tightly. All of the more powerful allies were in the middle of life-or-death situations. Even if he shouted for help, it might not come in time. Years of Scoobiness and a Halloween night as a soldier had taught him how much a few seconds can change a battle.
One particularly gruesome specimen reached them first. With a snarl, he swung a fist four times the size of Xander's. Xander raised his blade to block, only to meet air.
A piercing melody filled the air. It sounded like flutes and pipes and wind and water; of whispered promises that will always be kept.
The cultists in the immediate area were in a daze. Xander looked about for the cause and saw - Melly? It had to be the siren, only the frumpy form was gone, replaced by a body models would kill for. The siren's full lips traced her words invitingly as she sang. Xander couldn't hear the words, he only heard a voice crooning, reminding him of some indefinable and distant memory.
Toad, the most practical fighter among the three, took a sword from one entranced demon and proceeded to decapitate it. He started to do the same thing to all the other cultists. With a grimace, Giles joined in, his innate pragmatism winning out over his honor. This was war.
When they were done, Melly gave them a wink and blew them a kiss before resuming her more familiar shape and walking away.
They were winning. Anya was rather surprised to see that, given how severely outnumbered they were. It was a bunch of mortals against of horde of demons, after all, regardless of what the mortals in question called themselves.
Buffy and Spike had crossed paths in their battles and now stood back to back, fighting side by side, twice as effective as a team. The ground beneath them squished with the fallen. Pyro manipulated flame with ease, preventing many demons from entering his sphere. However, those immune to fire crept closer to him. Recognizing this, Avalanche traded places with his fellow mutant, using his own skills to kill the survivors. And Magneto -
Magneto was a one man army.
No armored or armed demon was safe in his vicinity. Weapons attacked their owners, helmets wrenched and twisted off the heads they rested on, armor plating contracted and squeezed bodies like toothpaste. No marks marred him - no cultist had come close enough to hurt him. Crossbow bolts were turned away by invisible walls while he choked the life out of those who dared shoot.
Anya was very grateful he was on her side. The amount of multi tasking he was doing was frightening. Nothing happened in his zone that he didn't allow. Bodies of cultists piled up, and the Master of Magnetism was not even sweating from the effort.
As the demons wised up and began seeking other points of attack, they learned that Magneto only restricted himself to one area because he felt like it. If he decided to attack a demon on the other side of the clearing, he was fully capable of doing so without letting his shields down.
The cultists began to retreat, their numbers seriously depleted. They fell back, but still made a ring about the Brotherhood and the Scoobies. In response, Buffy and Spike pulled back to their own circle about the witches. She was panting and favoring one leg by now; he was bruised and sporting a lovely gash on his chest. If he had been alive and still pumping blood, it would have been fatal.
"How're we doing?" Buffy asked, turning her head to take a head count of her allies.
"Alive," Xander answered. He had sidled up to Anya and was leaning on her, his own body responding to the stress with aches and pains.
"Good enough." Nodding to Willow and Tara, caught up in their dance for power, she asked, "How long?"
"I can't say," Giles answered, daubing at a cut on his forehead.
"Not long. If Drinvksh has anything left to throw at us, it will be about now," Melly remarked. Unlike the rest, she looked as if she had stepped outside her house for a nice spot of fresh air.
As if the cultists had heard her, they grouped together as one and charged.
They turned to meet the charge, all the forces gathered in one spot.
"Crystal, purity of soul," intoned Tara.
"Blood, purity of heart," responded Willow.
Together, they chanted, "White and red, red and white. Drops falling on snow. Let the wound be healed, let the blood flow cease. Dark powers enter us, reach into forgotten corners of the mind. Light of good, light of fallen lives, enter us and bind the darkness."
Tara held up the siren hair bag. "Charms of thought, charms of destruction, be bound. That which distorts, enter here and be bound."
The shimmering crystal floated into the bag. The now glowing bag floated into Willow's hand. She pulled the string shut. The light inside the bag went out. "Charms of thought, charms of destruction, be bound. We forbid you your darkness. We forbid your distortion."
As she dropped the bag into the cauldron, the two in unison said, "Do not fight. Powers great aid us. The binding is done. So mote it be!"
The cauldron bubbled. Power surged. Lights flashed. Willow felt a rush not unlike that first soul-curse casting. It was incredible. In that instant, she could do anything. Then she collapsed on wobbly legs.
On the other side of the fire, Tara was in a similar state. She weakly gave her a thumbs up. Willow returned it.
Magneto stood his ground as he watched the charge of cultists. They knew by now they were outclassed, why did they continue attacking? He alone could take them down where they stood.
Cultists. By definition, fools willing to die for their cause. Magneto should know; he had cultivated a few in his time. No matter. If they were willing to die, he was happy to help.
He momentarily considered leaving a few alive for his allies to fight. No, they were too wounded. With a thought, Magneto reached out with his power and proceeded to crush the attackers.
As the demons fell, he felt a rush of some force behind him. Light exploded all around and his senses registered a power of some sort flooding the air.
The spell must have worked.
From Willow's vantage point on the ground, she saw Buffy approach the fire. "We win?" she asked in a tired voice.
Buffy's lips quirked up a moment. "We'll see," she answered, before leaning down to study the steadily burning flames.
"'Kay. Um, some help with standing, please."
Buffy didn't answer.
Tara's eyes widened and she struggled to move. Before she could say anything, Buffy kicked over the cauldron, causing it to spill on the flames and over the ground. The fire sputtered out. A rancid odor filled the air.
Buffy stood up and smiled. No, not smiled. Smirked.
"Buffy?" Willow asked, agape. What had just happened? "Buffy, what did you do?"
Buffy turned to face her. "I realized some very important things."
Buffy surveyed the battle field. "I think we won this one, guys." There were murmurs of assent. She turned around to check on her best friend. Spell casting had probably left Willow totally wiped.
Buffy stared. Someone who looked exactly like her was standing over the smoking remains of the spell.
"Shit," whispered Anya. "There goes all that magic."
"Huh?" Xander asked. "What's going on?"
The Brotherhood was in shock, too. They knew exactly where the mirror Buffy had come from. But why?
The doppelBuffy smirked as she transformed into her natural form. The Scoobies exchanged looks of dismay. Since when was Mystique a shape shifter?
"What did this accomplish?" Giles wondered aloud.
"Once they put the ingredients together and said the words, the spell was cast," Anya explained. "But it won't stick until the fire burns out naturally."
The fire had obviously not burned out naturally.
Mystique coolly regarded them. "Magnus, did you really think you served our cause by siding with these humans? This demon could bring about exactly what we desire - the war with mutants as victors!"
"When the war comes, I wanted it to be on my terms!" he retorted. "Not as food for some other creature!"
The blue-skinned mutant shrugged. "Tell that to him when he arrives."
Mutant and Scooby both felt a surge of worry. They were going to face the Drinvksh himself, king of all Sl'kanith.
"I knew this was a bad idea," muttered Melly. "I just knew it."