Story by The Watchers Staff (outline by CN Winters)
Written by Dan Joslyn, CN Winters, Drew, Zahir al Daoud and Susan Carr
Additional writing by Gelfling21 and Robert Kidman
Produced by Susan Carr
Directed by CN Winters
Editing by DragonWriter17
Sounds by CN Winters
Art Direction by Robert Kidman and CN Winters
Artists – Robert Kidman, Zahir al Daoud, Isis, Mattxxx and CN Winters
Cover Art by Robert Kidman
African Plain – Resume
Althenea smiled and pulled back the Lala Palms before them.
"Us," Althenea said as she pointed.
Willow looked over, and her hand quickly shot to her mouth. She emitted a sound between a weep and a laugh. The noise was enough to make the two women she spied look up from the papers they were examining.
Rowena and Tara smiled at their former lover.
"Go on," Rowena told Tara. "You've been waiting longer."
Tara smiled her thanks and walked over. Upon her arrival, the two looked at each other for a moment, and Tara pulled Willow into a warm embrace.
"Hey Baby," Tara said softly.
Tears in her eyes, Willow seemed tongue-tied at first as she pulled away, but then she found her voice.
"I didn't know what to think when everyone was seeing everyone a-and I didn't see any of you guys a-and then I started to think the worst a-a-and –"
"You're babbling, Will," Tara told her playfully.
Willow opened her mouth, but no words came out. "This is babble worthy," she finally said.
Tara gave a light chuckle as Rowena walked up beside them. At first Rowena and Willow said nothing.
Eventually, Rowena asked, "How're the kids?"
The mention of the children broke what reserve Willow had left, and she began to cry. Rowena simply wrapped her arms around her. She just held Willow for several moments, with no one in the circle saying a word, although Althenea and Tara did share a small smile with each other.
Willow collected herself and cleared her throat. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I'm trying to be all stiff-upper lippy."
"Don't be," Rowena told her. "But really, how's everyone doing?"
"They're okay," Willow answered. "Everybody's okay. They haven't seen you, so they're worried too, but…Al said you guys were busy?"
"Yeah," Rowena said as she motioned to Althenea. "And silly Al. Here she thought her work was done years ago when she sacrificed her life."
"Still saving humanity," Althenea sighed with mock-boredom. "Guess it's my lot in life…and death. Should have bloody well known that I'd never totally get away from the Council."
The three ghosts shared a laugh while Willow continued to look dumbfounded by it all.
"What have you guys been doing?" Willow asked.
"Researching. You and Liz are on the right path," Tara told her. "By doing the ritual," she added to be clear. "But you need the combined power of love to give the last souls trapped within the Loathestone their escape. The more generations you have in one place, the stronger the power will be."
"Right," Althenea told her. "We've figured out that when that happens the Loathestone will lose all its power, like you and Liz assumed. It won't be anything more than an ugly rock then. The damned souls go back to their damnation, and the rewarded souls…well, we go back to our resting places."
"So I won't see you guys ever again, right?" Willow asked for clarification.
"Your fate is not our decision to make, Will," Rowena told her. "But if you keep fighting the good fight, then I'm sure we'll all see you again, somehow in some way. But on this plane," she said, motioning around them, "no, not in your lifetime. When our work here is done…so is our visit."
"Wait a second," Willow said as she turned to Tara. "I saw you decades ago, and you said you were moving on – to a new place, a new life."
"And that life ended rather abruptly too," Tara replied bashfully.
"This poor bird just can't catch a break," Althenea teased as she bumped shoulders with Tara.
"Oh, leave her alone, Al," Rowena defended.
Althenea prodded Tara. "Tell her what happened this last time."
Tara sighed. "Fine. I was killed by a burrito."
"Huh?" Willow asked as the three other woman chuckled. "You choked?"
"No, something far more ridiculous," Althenea replied.
Tara gave her a light push before continuing. "I was eating a burrito while I was driving. I dropped it, and then I reached down for it. Next thing I knew – blamo – right into a viaduct support beam on the highway. And well, here I am…again. Well not here here, like earth, but you know…here…You know what I mean?"
Willow grinned and nodded. "Yes. It's been a while, but I still speak Tara."
The blonde witch smiled timidly.
"Anyway," Rowena told the gathering. "This journey you're on won't be simple."
"I'm in Africa, so is there something I don't know?" Willow replied.
"The damned souls will want that door to stay open to avoid their fate. So they'll be trying at every turn to stop you guys from reaching your destination."
"Right," Tara agreed. "And Rowena's done a great job of trying to get everything in place for a counter-strike should we need it. Rowena's discovered there are traps you'll find prior to getting to the ritual location. I've been looking for ways to perhaps counter them with magic, but so far no luck."
Willow smiled. "Never in all my days did I ever think I'd see my two gals working together – one doing magic and one doing the watcher researching."
Rowena grinned and pointed behind Willow. "Don't forget your slayer over there. She might not have the slayer strength, but she's got the slayer mindset we'll all need on the field."
Willow turned around to see Kennedy standing there. "Hey," she greeted.
"Hey," Willow said, "look who showed up." She motioned to the two witches and the watcher.
"I, uh, I didn't mean to interrupt the reunion," Kennedy said hesitantly.
"Don't be silly," Willow said as she waved her over. When Kennedy was close enough, Willow took her hand, which seemed to make Kennedy appear self-conscious.
"Kennedy, huh?" Rowena asked Willow and then looked over at the former slayer with a raised eyebrow. Kennedy seemed to tighten her hold on Willow's hand, but neither woman seemed to know what to say. "Are you making her happy?" Rowena asked Kennedy.
"I try," Kennedy replied. "Don't know if I always succeed."
Rowena finally grinned slightly. "Don't worry. You do," she replied. "And thank you."
"What? No comments like 'You stole my wife'?" Kennedy asked.
Rowena chuckled slightly. "Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to be standing right where you are, Kennedy. That wasn't my fate, though. And Willow's too wonderful to spend her life lonely. So I'm glad to see you finally grew up and turned into someone worthy of Willow's love."
"Thank you for the backhanded compliment," Kennedy replied.
"Anytime," Rowena retorted and then snickered. "And speaking of couples," she said, shifting the conversation, "I see that Alex and Liz just moved in together."
"Yeah after…well…after your funeral Alex realized how short life really was, and he pretty much told Maddie to hit the road. He finally got the guts to ask Liz out, and Jen talked her into saying yes, so…they've been together since then."
"See? This is proof that something good comes out of everything," Rowena said as she motioned to herself. "Liz and Alex are both good kids, and as for Maddie, well, you know how I felt. She was an utter bitch from day one."
Willow tried not to laugh. "Stop," she told her. She seemed to consider the comment. "No, actually you're right – she is a total bitch. I was so happy when she was gone for good."
Alex's mothers shared a brief laugh; then Willow asked, "You guys are all going to stick around, aren't you? See the kids, see Liz?"
"Oh absolutely," Althenea replied.
"Yes," Rowena answered. "I'd like you to introduce Tara to the kids, particularly Alex and Trisha."
"Trisha's not here," Willow said. "None of the grandkids are – we're in a soon-to-be war zone."
"Then we'll need to find a way to get them here," Althenea said.
"Dawn might be able to do that," Rowena offered.
Tara nodded as if it was a good idea.
"The more generations we have, the greater the power," Althenea explained to Willow.
"We'll need to get Sophie here too since she's officially your blood, Willow," Tara added.
"And Nathan too, Liz's boy," Rowena said to the witches. "Vanessa Calendar is already here, and so is Nikki Wood, so we're covered there, but maybe we can get Norman and his family. That would give us four generations. Faith's line would be extremely powerful –"
"Guys, hold up," Willow said, outstretching her hands. "I'm not about to bring all these kids here. Norman's grandbaby isn't a year old yet, and Nathan's not even a teenager. It's not going to happen."
"It's dangerous. We know," Tara agreed. "But I'm working on a way to have them arrive just prior to the spell. All they'll need to do is stay long enough to join hands, be part of the circle and…"
"If you can ensure their total safety, I'll agree," Willow answered. "Otherwise, no. We'll use who we have here."
"Well, do me one favor for now?" Rowena asked.
"I'll try," Willow replied.
"Bring the kids over to this area – the ones that are here." She pointed at the ground. "I don't want anyone saying I went to someone else first, okay? Bring them all together."
Willow nodded, and she and Kennedy started to walk away.
"Hey Ken," Rowena called out. "Why not stay? We can catch up."
Kennedy visibly swallowed, but then she nodded for Willow to go along without her.
End of Teaser
To Act One