Disclaimer: See first chapter
Mystique watched dispassionately as the Scoobies and Brotherhood
tiredly gathered their resources for one last battle. She had been willing
to go along with this pathetic alliance with flatscans until it occurred to
her that the Sl'kanith was precisely what her people needed. For too long
mutants had fought fragmented battles, lacking the unity necessary to win.
Too many mutants believed they were safe in hiding; too many still gave
allegiance to the flatscans. While battling with the cultists, she had
figured this out. All her misgivings clicked and she had forced her
opponent to reveal how to break the binding spell those witches cast. The
rest had been easy.
Unfortunately, she had neglected to formulate a proper escape plan. Mystique gave a low growl of frustration. Magneto had entrapped her quite well with the discarded metal that covered the field. Even if she shape shifted, her bindings stayed secure. Damn the man.
No matter. Once this Drinvksh appeared, the situation should improve immensely.
They didn't have long to wait before Drinvksh found them. Buffy was surprised by how unintimidating he looked. Not that he was puny looking or anything. Drinvksh, king of the Sl'kanith, looked about seven feet tall, muscular, and only marginally scaly. He lacked a mouth in the traditional sense, instead having spiny protuberances where a mouth would be. His eyes glowed a sickly shade of green, and his scales were a deep dark brown. Compared to the average demon of the week he was something; compared to the Mayor he was positively uninspiring.
The demon's voice echoed in their heads, in a light, almost conversational tone.
Buffy stared the demon in the eye. In an equally conversational voice, she said, "We're going to kill you now." Without a single twitch betraying her, she flung her axe straight at Drinvksh's head. It passed through and struck the ground on the other side, as if the demon was no more than an illusion.
Uh-oh. As if on cue, each mutant still in the fight sent their own devastating attacks against Drinvksh. Fire past through him, shaking ground didn't unbalance him, and all the forces of magnetism did not even sense a creature there.
"Is this some kind of trick?" muttered Pyro as he sent another volley of flames.
"Nope. Didn't you catch the memo about the Sl'kanith having only ONE weakness?" snapped Anya. "Until we figure it out, he's invulnerable. Say your prayers, we're dying now."
Drinvksh shook his head in amusement at their attacks, spines twisting in a parody of a smile. Flames still danced harmlessly about him as he said,
"What?" Buffy challenged. "You look like Insubstantial Man. What are you going to do, taunt us to death?"
The demon drew himself up to his full height.
After that pronouncement, the collective group of current 'good guys' sort of stood there, mouths agape.
I knew I should have brought my helmet, Magneto thought to himself.
The Sl'kanith watched them, calmly. This was going to be so much fun. There's nothing better than making a bunch of heroes kill each other.
A minute ticked by. Then another.
"Oh, come on," Anya said suddenly. "Let's just go home. We can't kill him, and we look really stupid just standing here waiting to kill each other."
"Anya is correct," Giles agreed. "There is nothing to be gained from remaining here, and some of us require medical attention."
Buffy hated to leave a battle unfought, but knew they were right. She moved to help Xander with Willow.
"So you're just going to cut out?" Toad demanded. "Leave us to deal with the demon?"
"Just like a human, leaving the mutants to do the dirty work," sniped Pyro.
Xander turned around and snapped back, "Hey, this mess is our business. You guys are the guests here."
In response, Pyro sent a little gush of flame to flicker in front of Xander's face.
"Cease!" Giles ordered. "The demon has already begun to affect you, apparently. Simply ignore it. And for once Xander, act your age!"
Xander had stepped away from the flame and stuck his tongue out at Pyro.
Drinvksh, now comfortably ensconced on a nearby tomb, watched the proceedings with glee.
"Why should we listen to you, human?" demanded Avalanche, moving to stand behind Pyro. "You're not our leader."
"But I am," Magneto commanded, "and I say to stop this at once. Let's return to the mansion and determine a new course of action."
"To do what? Save a few more flatscans? Mystique was right, we don't need this."
"Looks like the mutants are going to be the first to give in," muttered Xander. "Not like they didn't do that before."
"I heard that!"
"Listen, 'Toad', you were supposed to. What kind of creature are you, anyway? With a name like that?"
Anya hit him on the shoulder. "What are you saying? You are insulting people of non-human heritage. I'm an ex demon you know!"
"I didn't mean you, Ahn - "
"Then who did you mean?"
"I just don't get these crazy named freaks!"
"What about me, Xander? Have a problem with the Slayer?"
"No! Well, sometimes, when you get bitchy with your whole Chosen One issues - "
The building argument quickly erupted. Drinvksh couldn't have been happier. People have so many problem, so many issues. All they need is the right push to bring them out, and then the right push to act on them.
Melly and Spike were pushed to the side as they watched the mortals argue.
"Did something like this to them a few months ago," Spike told her, "but there was less punching involved."
"That would have been just words, then," Melly said wisely, "now it's got something powerful behind it."
"Why do you figure we're not affected?"
"Well, I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to take out the mortals first. For all their posturing, the lot of them are the same, both mutant and human."
"True." Spike watched as Xander, incensed by whatever was being said, threw a punch at Toad. Toad staggered a bit, then attacked back. A full fledged brawl started. Magneto and Giles made half hearted attempts to stop it, but soon found themselves swept away with the tide. He was mildly disappointed to see the killing blows hadn't started yet.
"Always telling me what to do - "
"Lousy human - "
"Bastard - "
Tara raised her head wearily from where she was lying on the ground.
"What's going on?"
"Our spell failed, the Sl'kanith is making everyone fight each other, and we're too tired to help fix things," Willow told her as she pulled herself to her feet, bending down to help up Tara.
Tara turned to see the ongoing brawl. It was pointless and full of anger, she sensed. It only needed a little more before it grew deadly. "I don't know any magic to combat the influence."
"Neither do I."
Tara wobbled a little on her feet before saying, "Maybe a spell for clear thought? Or something?"
Willow nodded. "Worth a shot."
The two witches joined hands to gather their remaining energy for the chant.
Out of the corner of his eye, Pyro saw the witches start their spell. "Look! They're doing some kind of magic."
"Might try to change us into rats," muttered Avalanche. "Dirty, smelly rats." He brought his foot crashing down to the ground, a stomp that reverberated all the way to where the two women stood, shaking the ground beneath them. They almost fell, but held steady. He did it again, only this time aimed badly. The shockwaves veered off course and struck Buffy instead.
"I can't say I'm surprised," she snapped, jumping over to punch him in the gut. "Turns out the papers were right in saying that mutants are two steps away from being demons."
Hearing that, the mutants zoomed in to attack her, with a little bit more force than before. Buffy dodged Pyro's flame while knocking the lighter out of his hand, only to feel a sharp kick from Toad on her back.
Mystique wriggled free of her restraints. With Magneto's attention away from her, the bindings had loosened. Now rid of them, she prowled about, debating her next course of action. She was tempted to leave now that she was free, but decided to linger a few moments more. There were a few loose ends left to be tied up.
Drinvksh was pleased about how things were going so far. The fight had escalated to the point where they were using their powers, very nice. Only one dark spot - the older mutant, the powerful one, hadn't really let loose yet.
Drinvksh probed that one's mind. Oh! The potential there was wonderful. So much anger towards to world. One good push would send him over the edge. That was the beautiful thing, Drinvksh felt, about using his power. These creatures wanted to kill and to hate, all he did was allow them to. Like this mutant. He was ready and waiting. Once he decided to let go, the carnage wouldn't stop. The blood would just keep flowing. Delicious.
Magneto defended himself from various attacks, while striking his own blows in return. He watched as Buffy began a full out battle with Avalanche, Pyro and Toad. She was doing quite well, for a human.
"Mutant, demon," she said as she blocked a blow from Toad and dodged a strike from Avalanche. "Can't say I've figured out the difference."
Magneto clenched his fists at that remark. That's what he hated about humans. Their unrelenting bigotry against mutant kind. Look at her. Full of her own righteousness, when really she was no better than the mutants she fought. Hypocrite. The world would be better off without her. And all the other humans who fought beside her.
Magneto let loose his power. Metal swirled, contracting and expanding into perfect weapons, snaking towards their targets.
Melly stared at this display of power. Drinvksh's, that is, not Magneto's. Though the mortal was really quite impressive, this was all the work of the demon. Even her own admittedly strong powers of manipulation couldn't do this. She considered trying to use her song to calm then down, but decided against it. That would only bring the Sl'kanith's wrath upon her. And she wanted to see her third millennium.
Willow had collapsed on the ground, unable to stand on the continually shaking ground. Tara lay beside her, equally wiped. After the second shock, they hade given up all attempts to cast any spells. There just wasn't enough power left.
Mystique calmly walked over to where the young witch was lying. She had detested that girl from the first time she'd met her, filling Magneto's head with strange ideas. Before she left, Mystique was going to give her a little parting gift.
Strangulation would do nicely.
Tara watched, unable to help her lover as the blue skinned mutant began to choke Willow. There was nothing she could do, no spells to summon to fling Mystique away.
Wait. Maybe no spells of attack, but there was one she remembered that might help. Tara closed her eyes and focused her reserves of magic, reaching out.
Her mother had taught her this as a child. When all else fails, use the call of blood. Blood is the heart and soul. And it looks that's what is needed right now.
Magneto prepared to strike the killing blow in all his opponents. Blades hung, suspended in midair, ready to slice at a moment's thought. So easy.
As he moved in for the kill, out of the corner of his eye he saw Mystique kneel down and begin to strangle Willow. He ignored it. She was saving him from killing the human himself. Then he felt something ripple inside him. It wasn't very strong, barely noticeable in fact. Only the faintest hint, a vague reminder that something was wrong. That something else was controlling him.
Magneto was a proud man. Anyone who knew him would agree to that. Nothing, not telepathic mutants or emotion manipulating demons, was going to make him do something he didn't originally plan on doing. He prided himself on his free will, and here was a whisper saying that wasn't so.
Knives and swords and axes melted away, sinking back down to the ground. Force fields reached out and gripped combatants, preventing them from continuing this foolish battle. And Mystique found herself ripped away from her intended target. Sensing a change in circumstances, she made a break for it. Magneto ignored her.
Knowing the demon was still there, he bellowed, "Any crimes I commit, *I* commit. I won't be a pawn in your little games, Drinvksh."
At that pronouncement, Drinvksh felt a most unpleasant sensation. It was similar to being summoned to this dimension, but not as much fun. In fact, it was downright painful.
Magneto watched the Sl'kanith fade away, still feeling that incredible pull to just kill the cursed humans. But he ignored it. He wouldn't do that today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today.
They watched as Drinvksh, king of all Sl'kanith, was banished.
Once he had disappeared from sight, Buffy spoke up. "Okay, who's feeling really, really embarrassed right now?"
Murmurs of assent filled the air. Magneto released their bonds, allowing them to sheepishly collect themselves. Xander and Anya shared a hug while whispering apologies and forgiveness; Avalanche, Toad, and Pyro tried to do the same in a much less mushy fashion.
While they pulled themselves together, Magneto walked over to where his cousin was still lying, faint bruises on her throat.
"How are you?"
"Oh, hunky dory - if you give me a few years," Willow told him with a smile. He reached down to help her up. "Ooh, world spinning. At least this is better than the time I got to be coma girl."
Buffy ran over, having finished her apologies. "How're you doing, Wills?"
"The world is spinning like on those carnival rides and I think the monkeys are doing a conga line in my head. How about you?"
"Mostly beet red with embarrassment, with a side of deeply ashamed," Buffy answered as she gave Tara a hand up. The blonde witch looked even shakier than Willow. "I didn't think I'd get hit that hard by the Sl'kanith's whammy. If it wasn't for your cousin here, we'd have all been doing the homicidal tango."
"It was close," Magneto agreed. "I, however, wonder exactly what happened to the demon."
"He's banished," Melly announced, coming out of her hiding place now that the fighting was over. "You must have some how attacked his weakness, thereby banishing him from this dimension."
"That's nice," Willow said, trying to walk forward. She almost fell down, held up by Magneto. "Can we talk about it after we sleep?"
"Sure," Buffy agreed. "Let's go home."
Brotherhood and Scooby alike wearily gathered themselves for the walk back.