Russia – Crashed Plane – Moments Later - Morning
Rowena opened her eyes slowly and turned her head to see a tree limb inches away from her chest. She turned her head in the opposite direction toward the pilot to see another limb embedded inside his chest and protruding through the backseat.
"Kennedy," Rowena called out weakly. Not getting an answer, she struggled with the seatbelt for a moment and lifted the chair arm to slide between the branch and her seat. She closed her eyes for a moment as she turned in Kennedy’s direction, as if readying herself for a sight she didn’t want to see. Quickly, she opened her eyes.
She released her breath when she saw that the branch that had killed the pilot had stopped short of impaling the slayer too.
"Kennedy," she called again as she crawled to the back on her hands and knees.
She reached up and felt Kennedy’s wrist. Releasing the slayer, she ran a hand over her face.
"Ken, can you hear me?" she asked as she tried to get to her feet. She then noticed that the side window was cracked and that there was a slight trail of blood on one side of Kennedy’s head.
Rowena went to her pack and pulled out two of her sweaters. Carefully she raised Kennedy’s head and began to tie the sweaters around her neck. "Not the best neck brace in the world, but it’ll have to do for now," she told her. She then examined the wound on her head more closely.
With Kennedy in place, she went back to the front of the plane and picked up the radio mic only to see it was no longer attached to the console.
"Beautiful," she sighed as she tossed it to the floor. She paused a moment as if contemplating her next move when she quirked an ear outside to an approaching noise.
She quickly pulled the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She then tried to kick it outward with no luck.
"Okay, fine…" she said, giving up. "Solvo," she added as she pushed her hands outward. The door ripped away, falling flat to the ground.
Russia – Crashed Plane – Seconds Later
She stepped out into the arctic temperatures to see three snowmobiles heading toward her. She began to wave her arms back and forth in the air, moving away from the plane.
The first snowmobile slowed and came to a stop as the driver and his companion on back stepped into the snow.
"Thank god," she said as she approached them. "My pilot’s dead, the radio is dead, and I’ve got an injured woman still unconscious on board inside," she said in English, her worry making her temporarily forget her location. Realizing her mistake, she apologized in Russian. "Я сожалею…"
The man pulled off his goggles and put down his parka hood. Rowena’s jaw instantly dropped and then tightened.
"Hello Rowena," Jordon Tyrell said sarcastically. "Small world."
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Same Time - Around Midnight
Willow walked into the kitchen to see Kadin at one of the tables.
"Can’t sleep either, huh?" Willow asked.
"I tried," Kadin replied. "Didn’t work out like I planned."
"You still haven’t heard anything either I take it?"
"No, not since this morning," Kadin replied. "Thought about going back to my place. Maybe I can sleep there but…one of them might call you here first so, guess I’ll stay put. Plus, I’m not sure how Marsha will do at my place. I don’t need dragon teeth marks all over what little furniture I have."
"How’s she doing? Marsha, I mean."
"She keeps looking out the window and at the door, like Kennedy’s going to appear."
"She misses her momma, huh?" Kadin nodded in response to Willow's question. "Well, if my calculations are right, then they’re probably at the arctic circle by now. Cell phone coverage might not be too keen up there," Willow offered as she finished pouring her coffee. She turned to leave but then looked back to the demon hunter. "Why don’t you and Marsha come stay with me, Kadin? We’ve got an extra bedroom, a-and this way if Ro does call me first, you’ll know then and there. Maybe you can relax more that way."
"I don’t want to cramp your space," Kadin answered.
Willow grinned and walked over to where Kadin was sitting. "Come on. Grab your bowl of soggy cereal and follow me," she said, pulling her from the barstool.
"Really, you don’t need to baby-sit me," Kadin replied. "I’m okay on my own."
"Well, I’m not. So come and keep me company, okay?" Willow asked. "Worrying about our girls together is better than doing it alone."
Kadin began to grin and picked up her bowl before motioning with her head to have Willow follow her.
Russia – Crashed Plane – Resume
Immediately Jordon’s partner swung the gun around from his back, but Jordon pushed it down before he could take aim.
"We’re not gonna kill her," he told the man. "We’ll just let Mother Nature do it for us. A nice harsh, painful death of having her freeze is much more appealing than a quick mercy killing."
"You son of bitch," Rowena hissed.
"And here I thought you always liked my mother," Jordon remarked dryly.
"I should have known you’d still be your daddy’s lap dog," Rowena spat back.
Jordon just grinned. "When we return with the Codex, I’ll swing by here again. I might have more of a heart by then and offer you that mercy killing…Just don’t count on it." He adjusted his hood and his goggles as he got back on the snowmobile. "Happy trails, Ro," he told her before speeding off.
Once he and his team were well on their way, Rowena fell to her knees and smacked the ground, screaming intelligibly.
"So he’s the ex-fiancé?" she heard Kennedy say from behind her. "Guess he didn’t take the breakup well."
Rowena’s rage was temporarily replaced by joy. "Oh thank god you’re awake." It quickly became one of concern. "You shouldn’t be up yet."
"Slayer healing will kick in soon. I know we don’t have a few hours, but that’s what it will take to get me fixed up," she replied.
"Your magics," Rowena said automatically but then said, "No. Sorry. I don't think that's a very good idea."
"What do you mean?" Kennedy asked.
"The coven gave you the same magics as they gave me. We can only use each skill once, but let’s not go with the healing magics unless it’s life threatening, okay? I’ll-I’ll set up camp here until you think you can move."
"With what?" Kennedy asked. "It’s freezing cold, and that wood is probably frozen or at least wet. You’re not gonna girl-scout your way to keeping us warm until then. And I—"
Rowena held up her finger and took off around to the other side of the plane.
"I thought I was talking, but obviously not," she said to herself. "Rowena?" she shouted.
"Sit tight," Rowena shouted back. "I’m going to get us a fire going until you’re well enough to travel."
"Good luck with that," she muttered to herself. "And then what?" she asked, shouting again. "They’re still going to be hours ahead of us."
Rowena returned with some kindling wood that she placed inside the plane.
"Not likely," she replied as she pulled the door several feet from the plane but still close enough to provide some cover.
"Why’s that?" Kennedy asked.
"One of the magics is teleportation," she said, sounding winded as she grabbed the kindling again.
"Wait a second," Kennedy said. "Why the hell didn’t we just teleport there to begin with?"
Rowena paused to catch her breath as she arranged the kindling on the door. "No."
"No? We could have zapped ourselves right there."
"And perhaps run into Tyrell’s goons with guns on our arrival? We didn’t know how much of a lead they had."
"Yeah, that could’ve been bad," Kennedy admitted.
"Right, but now we do know, and we can still get there before them. Plus, we never know when we might need that spell so it should be used only in a life-or-death situation or as a way home AFTER we have the Codex. Had I used my teleportation spell too soon the last time out here, it’s very possible that I’d be dead now…" Rowena began.
Flashback Nov. 2002:
Russia – Siberia Tundra – Late Afternoon
Three snowmobiles raced across the frozen plain. The one in the lead held two passengers on it.
"They’re gaining on us," Chris said as he hung on to Rowena for dear life as they tore across the snow. The sound of a machine gun made both of them duck. "And now, they’re shooting!" Chris yelled. "Do something!"
Rowena lunged her head forward and noticed that the trees in the far-off distance looked cut off. Her eyes widened, and she grinned.
"I’ve got an idea," she told him. "Hang on, and when I say jump, you jump left and roll."
"What are you—?"
"Just do it!" Rowena shouted. As the snowmobile raced along, Rowena’s nervous breathing could be seen from the rising of her shoulders and the mist from her lips. "Now jump!" she shouted to Chris.
Rowena let go, as did Chris, and the two of them tumbled off on the same side of the snow machine together and collided before hitting the ground. The men on the mobiles giving chase looked confused at each other until one of them looked up to see himself heading toward a ravine. Not having enough time to react, he ended up going over the edge.
His partner, with mere seconds to spare, let go and rolled to the edge of the ravine but managed to stop himself from falling over.
Rowena got to her feet, holding her shoulder, and shouted at Chris, "You’re other left, idiot! I was going right. You were going left! That way we wouldn’t collide!"
"Well, I’m sorry," Chris said sarcastically. "People are trying to kill us, and I got a little confused. Sue me!"
The sound of gunfire made both of them drop to the ground. With nowhere immediate to hide in the barren landscape, Rowena reached out to Chris.
"Take my hand," she told him.
Once he had a firm hold, she began to chant quietly. She closed her eyes as the bullets crept closer in the snow the nearer the shooter got to them. Just as the gunman’s aim improved, the two of them vanished, leaving the assassin with a look of surprise.
Flashback Nov. 2002:
Russia – Deserted Cabin – Seconds Later
Chris took off his ski cap and looked around the cabin.
"Magic again?" he asked.
"Yeah, and our fast ticket home is now gone," she replied. "Damn it!"
"Why don’t you try looking at the positive here?" Chris retorted. "We’re still alive."
"No thanks to you," Rowena told him.
"I was freezing. I had to build a fire," he argued.
"For them to see the smoke?" Rowena asked rhetorically.
"You really need to get that stick out of your ass," he replied.
Rowena put her hands on her hips. "Look, it’s over and done with, and they can’t find us here anyway."
"And where is here exactly?" Chris asked.
"A safe haven of sorts – the last remains of a Buddhist camp that Althenea told me about. It’s enchanted and can’t be seen by the outside world. Plus, we’re only a mile’s walk from the temple at this point."
A few pieces of timber were sitting in the fireplace, and Rowena waved her hand in front of it.
"Aduro," she said. Nothing happened, and she looked at her hand and waved it a few times. "Aduro," she said again waving her hand, but still nothing happened. "Althenea said the fire element might not work. Guess I’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way," she replied as she walked over and unzipped her coat.
Russia – Crashed Plane – A Short Time Later - Morning
Rowena stood in front of the wood stacked on top of the airplane door, chewing on her lip. Kennedy sat behind her in the open doorframe watching.
"Not to be sore winner," Kennedy began, "but I told you the wood was probably frozen."
"I cut to the dry wood underneath and I have gasoline all over it," she said as she held the burning match up and dropped it only to have it go out. She gave a frustrated sigh. "Think Rowena," she told herself. "Why isn’t this working?" she muttered.
"Because it’s wet and cold as hell out here?" Kennedy offered.
Rowena’s eyes widened. "Cold! That’s it. Ha!" Rowena turned around and kissed Kennedy on the cheek. "You’re brilliant," she told her as she darted into the plane.
Kennedy looked confused and wiped her cheek. "You’ve officially lost your mind. The fire still isn’t lit, and we’re freezing to death," she said, pointing to the wood.
Rowena returned with a paper cup and showed it to Kennedy.
"Ha!" she said again as she walked over to the wood.
"A cup. Oh, yeah. Put some paper on it. That’ll help," Kennedy said, rolling her eyes.
Rowena tore the cup, making it look like a teepee, and placed it over the kindling wood.
"What are you doing?" Kennedy asked.
"Fumes," Rowena answered.
"You’re crazy because you’ve inhaled too many gas fumes?" Kennedy asked.
"No," Rowena chuckled. "Well, maybe. But it’s not actually the gas that makes a fire catch, it’s the fumes. And in weather this cold that’s not happening. The fumes are evaporating before I can light it so…" She poured a little bit more gas under the cup. "…this will stop them from evaporating if I enclose it…Watch," Rowena said, motioning her over.
Kennedy crept closer, and Rowena lit the match, placing it toward the cup when suddenly the entire wood stack caught fire, making both of them jump back.
"Hey!" Kennedy said, impressed. "You were a girl scout!"
"See?" Rowena told her as she proudly pointed to the fire. "Brilliant! If you hadn’t said it, I might not have thought about it, and we’d still be freezing…Here, let me take your coat off."
"Are you nuts?" Kennedy replied, leaning away.
"No, if you sweat out here, you’ll die. You don’t want to get too warm."
"’Kay," Kennedy answered and let Rowena help her with her coat. Rowena took the garment off, trying to move Kennedy’s neck as little as possible. She then draped the coat over Kennedy's shoulders.
"So," Kennedy began, "I heard about the death and destruction. What about the sex?" she asked, coming eye to eye with Rowena.
Rowena blushed and looked away.
"No way," Kennedy replied with realization. "You slept with Chris? Okay, this I gotta hear."
Rowena looked reluctant. "Fine," she finally answered. "But you have to promise you won’t tell Willow, or anyone for that matter. I don’t even count him as a lover because…well because. But yes, I did end up sleeping with him…in the Buddhist cabin. Not my most outstanding decision."
"Nothing gets me hornier than Buddhist décor. How could you resist?" Kennedy poked fun.
"I can’t say much for the décor, but the wine that was there…well…"
"Ro gets drunk and gets horny. Do I see a pattern here?" Kennedy teased.
"Oh god," Rowena said, burying her face in her hands as she took a seat next to Kennedy. She looked over to Kennedy, who was still waiting.
"If I could turn my head," Kennedy began, "I’d give you the look for you to continue."
Rowena grinned. "All right," she relented.
Flashback Nov. 2002:
Russia – Deserted Cabin – Later - Night
Rowena and Chris reclined on the floor under a blanket as Rowena handed him a picture.
"This is Ipek," she replied as she took a drink of her wine. "My potential."
"Pretty girl," he remarked.
"Yeah, she is. She can be a handful sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade her for any other girl. It’s one of the reasons I want the Opus. Travers thinks some of the girls might be in danger."
"From who?" Chris asked.
"We don’t know," she answered. "We’re hoping the Opus will contain information that might give us a few more clues of what’s coming and how to stop it."
Chris nodded. "So what other photos do you have in there?" he asked as he motioned to her ID holder.
"Just Al – Althenea," Rowena answered as she showed him a picture. "She’s the high priestess whose coven instilled me with borrowed magics."
"It’s not permanent. I can do everything that anyone in their coven can do but only once – hence my explosion over the teleportation spell, which I apologized for earlier," she said.
"It’s okay," he replied softly. "Really. I know how tough this mission is. I know people have talked about this Opus for decades, centuries even, but no one’s been able to find it. So yeah, stress. I get it. Faced with the fact this might be our last night alive, it’s not easy." Chris reached out and stroked Rowena’s face, and she grinned. "You should smile more because you have a beautiful smile."
"Like you said, stress. I’m not in a very smiley mood at the moment."
"So if you had only one night left…what would you do?" he asked.
"If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were propositioning me," Rowena replied.
"Maybe I am," he answered. "Would you consider it if I were?"
Rowena chuckled and almost spilled her wine. "Maybe it’s the stress talking, but I just might. Lord knows I wouldn’t want Jordon to be the last man I was with."
"Jordon?" he asked.
"Ex-fiancé," she replied. "Ancient history."
"So what’s stopping you?" Chris asked.
Rowena gave him a shrug, and he carefully took her glass, placing his and hers behind him before leaning over and giving her a gentle kiss on the lips.
"I’m an excellent lover," he told her. "And if tomorrow is the day we fail in the mission, at least we can say we spent one last night living life to the fullest."
Rowena smiled and pulled him into a kiss that grew more passionate until he eased her back to the floor.
Crashed Plane – Moments Later - Morning
"So?" Kennedy asked.
"So what?" Rowena replied.
"Was he excellent?" Kennedy asked. Rowena chuckled. "I guess that means no," the slayer added.
"Well, he was a guy - very goal oriented - but I will say he was better than Jordon."
"Never been with a guy so…ya lost me there," Kennedy remarked. "But no big rockets or bombs I take it?"
Rowena blushed and tried to hide her face behind her hand for a moment. "No, I didn’t know rockets until..." She trailed off.
"Until Willow?" Kennedy finished.
Rowena looked tense. "Yeah…and let me say how incredibly uncomfortable this makes me."
"Talking about Willow with me?" Kennedy asked. Rowena just nodded. "Look," she began, "I’m happy with my life now, and the only complaint I have with Kadin is that she’s always on the road since she doesn’t like to stay in one place for long. I’ve got my duties, so it’s not like I can globetrot with her. Other than that, I wouldn’t trade her, not even for Willow."
"Yeah, but still. Talking about, you know, when it comes to you know who, it’s—"
Kennedy began to laugh. "You’re starting to talk more like Willow than ever before. She’s rubbing off on you."
"Can we just change the subject?" Rowena begged.
"Okay, sure," Kennedy replied. "What happened to Chris?"
Rowena paused a moment. "He misinterpreted a prophecy," she replied.
"Huh?" Kennedy asked.
Flashback Nov. 2002:
Russia – Temple – Day
"This place looks like it’s guarded better than Ft. Knox," Chris said as they looked at the temple from their hiding space among the tree line. "How are we going to get around them?" he asked.
"By walking in," Rowena replied. "Take my hand again," she added.
Rowena mumbled under her breath and began to walk forward. As they moved closer hand-in-hand, she told Chris, "If this doesn’t work, we’re dead, but if it holds, we’ll be invisible," she answered. "Cross your fingers and don’t let go of my hand for any reason."
The two guards at the door continued to look in various directions as Rowena and Chris cleared the temple entrance. The sound of their shoes clicking on the stone floor inside made one of the guards look over his shoulder, but he didn’t see anything. The two began to tip-toe deeper into the temple. Not hearing the noise any longer, the guard turned back.
Rowena held a piece of paper in her hand as she came to a fork inside the temple.
"This way," she said softly as she pointed toward the hallway to the left.
They walked along in silence and turned three more corners until coming to a room at the end of the hall.
"In there?" Chris asked.
"So it says," Rowena replied, looking at her paper. "Let’s go."
Flashback Nov. 2002:
Russia – Temple Chamber – Moments Later
Rowena and Chris walked inside at the same time to see a book on a pedestal and an old woman with white hair sitting nearby.
"You can drop your veil," she told them.
Chris and Rowena looked at each other and let go of each other’s hand, making themselves visible.
"How could you see us?" Rowena asked.
"Because I watch the watchers," she replied. "You’ve both come in search of something," she said as her eyes indicated the book.
"We have," Rowena answered.
"Very well," she replied. Rowena and Chris began to take a step forward. "But know this…Only a person who is destined to have the love of a powerful woman is able to lift the book from its holding place. Many have tried, and many have failed. I’ll leave you to your task," she said as she started to step away.
"Hold it right there," Chris told her. "You’re not gonna bring those guards back here, lady," he told her.
"If I wanted to summon the guards, they would be here already," the woman replied. "The guards are not your concern – what is your concern is the final steps of the journey." At that, she simply vanished.
"Thanks a lot, Miss Cryptic," Chris muttered before he turned to Rowena. "Well, I guess it’s my move."
"Why yours?" Rowena asked.
"You’re not a lesbian, are you?"
"Well, no," Rowena answered.
"She said it was someone who’ll love a powerful woman, so that means I have to be the one."
"No," Rowena countered. "What she said was the person who can get the book has or will have the love of a powerful woman. That doesn’t mean I have to love this woman, just that she’ll love me. Plus she didn't mention it had to be romantic love. I’m willing to give it a shot that maybe it’s Al she’s talking about."
Rowena walked toward the podium but heard the sound of a gun cocking.
"You’re not getting that book," Chris said flatly. "I have my orders. I’m the only one who’ll have it."
Rowena took a step back and slowly turned around. "I know I should have kept you in front of me at all times," she replied.
"Hindsight is 20/20," he replied. "Now if you don’t mind," he said, waving his gun to make her step away.
"So James set me up by sending you, huh?" she asked. "Nice."
Chris scoffed. "Tyrell? Please. I take my orders from a higher power or…you might say a lower one."
"From below," Rowena muttered to herself. "You’re a harbinger too," she replied.
"No, I’m a businessman, and I made a deal. Work my way into the Council, gain the trust of the members, and get this book."
"Why? I’m assuming it’s got something in there your boss doesn’t want us to have."
"I really don’t know or care. What does concern me is fulfilling my mission. I couldn’t kill you immediately because I didn’t know how to find the book, but since you led me here…all I can say is thanks…And see ya in the next life."
Chris opened fire, sending three shots into Rowena’s chest. She stumbled back, falling face first to the floor.
"Be careful who you trust, sweetheart," he replied.
End of Act Three
On to Act Four