Just Visiting Family

Disclaimer: See first chapter

***

Chapter Nine

Willow sat on Giles' couch, reading a text on chaos worshipping sects. Or trying to read, at least. Concern for Xander was sort of distracting, in that my best friend might be dying kind of way. Giles had refused to let her leave, saying they had to trust Magneto and the Brotherhood, because if they didn't, they were screwed. Or something like that, only more British.

        And wasn't it really bad that she was more worried that her cousin was killing people than evil demons? Though, technically, it would be the evil demon causing her cousin to kill people. Except that Erik had already killed people without any evil demons. Or at least that's what the magazines said. But maybe the media wasn't 100% trustworthy, 'cause they sure don't like mutants. Or maybe...

        Focus, Willow. Worry brain babble does not help with the research. Research is good. Research is a productive use of your time. Research is - Xander! Might be in trouble!

        Willow stopped even pretending to read the chaos text. Xander didn't have any super powers and Erik seemed awfully freaky about the non- empowered people of the world. And even if her cousin didn't get all kill!Xanderish, there was still all the other mutants and demons and regular people like the police lady with guns and -

        Thankfully, the answer was not in her book. Oddly enough, the necessary information was in Giles' book, as it always was.

        "Aha! Here it is. 'The Cult of Chaos, related to but not including worshippers of Eris, Loki', mm-hmm, yes that's very interesting, but 'contains various sects of the noted demon clan of the Yaogwkjh, who are numbered among the multitudes that pay homage to the Drinvksh, a greater Sl'kanith demon'."

        Willow shook herself from Worry! Mode.

        "What does that mean?"

        "It means that we will die shortly. Drinvksh isn't just a greater Sl'kanith demon, he is THE Sl'kanith. Their king," Anya explained. "Do you think Mexico's nice this time of year?"

        "I hear Mexico's lovely," Melly agreed. "But personally, I see a visit to Russia. Stop off, visit our old friend Baba, then take the sixty- third dimensional gate to Pylea. A bit primitive, but a decent enough vacation spot."

        "True, but don't the Pyleans have human issues?"

        "Don't worry dear, we'll think of something."

        While Anya and Melly continued to debate the merits of various escape plans, Willow and Giles discussed the new information.

        "Does this mean the dampener spell won't work?" Willow asked worriedly.

        "its effectiveness might be limited," Giles admitted, "but if it is performed correctly, we should gain a measure of protection. For the human population, at least."

        "But what about killing the Sl'kanith?"

        "My interpretations of the prophecy are somewhat vague, but I believe an option will make itself known. Any demon summoned to this dimension is given a specific set of weaknesses, since it possesses a tenuous grip on this reality. Attacking any such weakness should banish it, in theory."

        Willow worried her lip, concerned. "But how do we find the weaknesses?"

        "And there's the rub." Giles frowned and considered the possibilities. "Perhaps a reveal spell of some sort? Dracoiin's Compendium contains some excellent forms of divination magic."

        "Or maybe The Grimoire of the Unseen?"

        "Better check both."

        Willow hurried off to locate the appropriate text. At least this would get her somewhere. Even though Xander might be hurt or maimed or ...

        "I still say the Gramark dimension had the best cocktail sauce this side of Arashma'har!"

***

"According to the Grimoire, basic divination spells should work on a demon of the Sl'kanith's power, provided he doesn't have any previous protections," Willow said, scanning the text for any exceptions.

        "And if he's so powerful," Tara added thoughtfully, "the odds of the necessary protective spells being cast are low. And it would have to be divination specific protective spells; ordinary ones wouldn't affect the casting."

        "So maybe we can use this and figure out what Drinvksh's weakness is." Willow got up and started scanning for the necessary supplies.

        "Not now. Our odds of a clearer divination is after tonight," Tara chided, "when the demon's natural power has ebbed."

        "Provided the spell actually works," Anya sulked, in her corner next to Melly. The two had given up their escape plans - it been mostly talk, anyway. Anya knew her Xander wasn't going to leave, and she wasn't going to leave him. But why couldn't he have a safer hobby, like sky-diving?

        Speaking of Xander..

        "We're back!"

        Xander pushed the door open, awkwardly helping Toad carry an unconscious Mystique. The rest of the mutants filed in, cut and bruised and bleeding.

        "What happened? Is everyone okay?" Willow asked worriedly. She and Tara stood up, leaving the couch open for the blue mutant. Despite her dislike for the woman, Willow couldn't let her be dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Actually, she could. But Tara wouldn't approve.

        "Stupid flatscans," Avalanche grunted, "went all mob on us." He gave the more mainstream humans in the room a hate-filled glare, as if he considered them members of that same mob.

        "Are, are they okay?" Tara asked timidly, afraid to use the more aggressive turn of phrase everyone was thinking.

        "You mean, did we kill them?" Magneto answered rhetorically. "No. The humans will live to hate another day."

        Unfortunately, he added mentally. If it happened again without some demon interfering, Magneto would crush those humans like the insects they were. Until then, he would suffer them to live.

        "Was the incident Sl'kanith inspired or merely a result of current mutant/human tensions?" Giles queried. "And did you feel the demon's effects?"

        Magneto's face tightened. "They were incited by the Sl'kanith."

        "And you and your team?"

        "Temporarily experienced the effects," Magneto answered, his expression growing more unyielding.

        "Could you describe them?"

        Magneto didn't respond. Giles wisely let the matter drop until a more opportune moment.

        "All right then. Do you think that the violence is - "

        "Where's the bastard who shot me? Where is he?" Mystique woke with a start, jumping off the couch and making a bee line to Xander. "I almost had the little straight genes!"

        "Whoa, just trying to keep the peace here," Xander said defensively, backing away and positioning himself behind Willow. The witch gave him a reassuring smile and made a minute gesture, little trails of magic sparkling about her fingers.

        "Don't hide behind the witch, human. You stopped me!"

        "With my authority, Mystique. It was necessary."

        "My lord, I was - "

        "You were in a killing rage. Any further deaths would hamper our mission. We cannot allow ourselves to be manipulated by this demon, no matter how tempting that may be. Do you understand?"

        Mystique glared at her leader, yellow eyes burning with the fire of a zealot. "Yes," she answered curtly. She moved to a back corner in the room, giving Xander one more hateful look. The boy would pay for this indignity. When the time was ripe.

        "Ahem," Giles spoke, ending the tense silence, "while you have been good enough to patrol, we here have assembled some data necessary for the ritual tonight and any further conflicts with the Sl'kanith.

        The Sl'kanith we are dealing with is called Drinvksh. Thanks to Anya, we know that he is not only a greater demon, but considered the king of all Sl'kanith. That means he is quite powerful, but there is no reason to believe the dampening spell will not be successful.

        Once we have performed the ritual, we will have to determine his weakness. All summoned creatures to this plane possess some sort of vulnerability. Willow and Tara have found a divination spell that will hopefully show us Drinvksh's personal weakness. From there, banishing it from this plane would be to exploit that weakness."

        "So that's the master plan?" asked Pyro. "Hope to hell we can figure out what makes this guy tick and then kill him?"

        "Saying we kill him is the wrong term," Giles corrected. "It is more accurate to say we banish Drinvksh. Killing a demon of Drinvksh's power is far more difficult."

        "Whatever. Either way, it goes poof."

        "Yes." Giles and Magneto shared an understanding look over the lackadaisical views of the young.

        "Exactly how is the ritual going to work?"

        Giles signaled to Willow to speak up.

        "Tara and I will cast the spell. That shouldn't be too hard on our part. We've gone over the chants lots of times. But the odds of us being to do the casting without the demons coming out to play is kinda bad. That's where you guys come in. While we do the casting, you'll watch our backs. Once we start, any interruption could seriously screw us up. So that's your job."

        Pyro nodded, understanding what Willow was saying.

        "That will be all, until tonight," finished Giles.

        Everyone got ready to rest and prepare.

        Willow reached out and grabbed Tara's hand, squeezing it tight.

        By the end of this night, they would be well on their way of stopping the chaos. Provided, of course, that the Brotherhood didn't go all postal again.

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