Lacey Chabert as
Michelle Rodriquez as Kadin, Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Mia Kirshner as Cassandra and Gildart Jackson as Grey
Watchers Council – Hallway – Morning
Vi strode down the hallway, Xander beside her and a little bit behind. As a result, he didn’t see the tiny smile on her lips.
"What I’m saying is," Xander continued, "this kind of thing is an emotional minefield of misunderstandings just begging to happen."
"Like drugging your girlfriend and starting to cut her up with a knife?"
"No! This sort of thing can be worse—much, much worse! Vi, please, believe me. Somebody will say something. Something bad. He won’t mean to! He’ll think the words coming out of his mouth will somehow not mean what they do to every other single person on the planet. And he won’t realize that until its too late! Not until they’ve actually been said, like bullets fired at a target-shaped relationship!" Xander’s voice actually went up an octave as he said all this.
But Vi just stopped, turned to him without blinking, and spoke. "I want to play Andrew’s game."
"It’s just a game," Vi assured him.
With fear still in his eyes, Xander said, "Okay."
Kennedy walked up, headed the same way. "Like the new look, Vi."
With a smile, Vi said, "Thank you."
"Black is good on you." Kennedy went past.
Vi looked at Xander, who made an effort of will to smile. "You do look good in black," he offered. Then he actually looked at her outfit. "Uh…real good."
"Down boy. We’ve got a meeting."
He followed her into the briefing room.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Continuous
The usual suspects were all assembled in and around the table as Xander followed Vi inside. Kennedy had stopped next to Rowena and said something to her, voice low. Rowena in turn looked up from her file, gazed at Vi for a second, and blinked. Willow noticed Rowena’s reaction, looked to see what caused it. She blinked, too. Vi noticed and subtly preened.
Xander made great pains to pull out Vi’s chair for her before sitting down himself. He pretended not to notice Robin and Faith snickering a little bit at his discomfort.
"We have a local problem," Rowena said at last, "starting to make itself known." She punched a few buttons and images appeared on the wall screen as well as on individual displays for each person attending. "I’ve listed the incidents on the basis of probabilities, going back almost five months now. Magical items and ingredients stolen. At least one demonic mage rescued from his own people’s equivalent of a prison. There is also a dark witch who dropped out of sight, cutting off ties with former associates—in a few cases leaving said associates not breathing."
The picture on the screen changed. "Then, there was this." It showed a headline about a robbery at the Cleveland Museum. "On the face of it," continued Rowena, "a straightforward robbery. Antique jewelry mostly. But we have it from our contacts that a security guard was found transformed into granite."
"Yikes," breathed Xander. "That is not the kind of stoned anyone wants to be." He noticed everyone was looking at him. "You can not tell me I was the only one who thought that."
Faith shrugged. "Yeah, okay."
"Is there anything that can be done for him?" asked Vi.
Willow shook her head. "That kind of magic just kills. But the weird
thing is, it's...well, it's overkill."
Xander opened his mouth.
"Shush, Xander," said Kennedy.
"What I mean is," continued Willow, "there are a couple of way of turning someone into a rock. But they’re all kinda awesome-y when it comes to power level. Almost like if someone decided to put their dog to sleep… using a submachine gun."
"You know what this reminds me of?" said Robin. "The glamour used to hide Skye’s true nature."
"Maybe," said Willow, "but maybe not. Actually, not. If this is a submachine gun, well, the magic used to hide Skye from us was like…" She paused, searching for a good comparison.
"A Trident-class submarine?" offered Xander. "Chock full of thermonuclear rockets?"
"More like a fleet of Tridents."
Xander blinked. "Wow."
"Okay," said Kennedy, "a big problem but not ginormous."
"I called up Brell and Reteesk," said Rowena, "and they did say there’ve been rumors about a new dark coven of some kind. They’ve even heard a name. The Brotherhood of Shadows."
"Forthright," observed Robin with a nod. "Says ‘we are evil’ without much leeway."
"Actions speak louder than words," said Vi, gesturing to the screen.
Silence reigned for several dozen tiny moments, broken at last by Rowena. "This is clearly a threat best understood by the Coven. The watchers division will give you any help you require or do whatever research might best convey some idea as to what we are dealing with. But I’d like you in charge of operations, Will." Rowena caught her casual address to her former lover and tried to make up for it. "I mean Willow, Ms. Rosenberg."
"Will or Willow is fine. When you call me Ms. Rosenberg, I always expect to see my mom standing behind me," said Willow, eyes on her own folder. "Anyway, I’ll see if there’s any way to figure out what they might want."
Rowena continued, without looking at Willow. In fact, she wasn’t really looking at much of anything. "Very good. It occurs to me, we might also want to tap another source."
"I was going to call up Althenea," Willow replied.
"Actually," continued Rowena, her eyes finally looking up, "I was thinking about Skye."
Jeff’s Room – Morning
Jeff stumbled out of his bedroom into the front room. He was dressed only in his pajama bottoms, and his hair was corkscrewed up in the air. He pulled the door open to find an excited, but exhausted Dawn on the other side.
"Dawn!" he squeaked as she rushed past him into the apartment.
"You’ll never believe it!" she started and dropped a pile of notebooks on his dinette table.
"Uh…" Jeff said uncomfortably. He hurriedly grabbed a throw pillow from the couch while trying to inch closer to the bedroom.
Dawn looked over and saw what he was doing. "Oh please!" she said. "Nothing I haven’t seen before, including your little daybreak phenomenon. Body swap, remember?"
"Little!" he sputtered indignantly.
"Never mind that," she said, waving away his discomfort. "I found it!"
"Found it?" Jeff said. "Found what?"
"The way to get around the whole Gypsy curse thing," she said and opened one of the notebooks. "Look at this."
His morning predicament forgotten, Jeff moved over to the table and absently pulled out the other chair as he looked at the page.
"See, the whole ritual is based on three steps. Summon the soul, curse the soul, implant the soul."
"Right," Jeff said. "But the only way to summon and then curse the soul is if the demon inhabiting the soul’s body has spilled Gypsy blood."
"Exactly!" Dawn said. "So in order to get around that we must eliminate the first step, which makes the second step unnecessary so we can reach the third step, which is our goal – restore Skye’s soul to her body."
"Wait a minute," Jeff said holding up a hand. "What do you mean, eliminate the first step? How can you implant her soul if you don’t summon it?"
"I don’t summon it," Dawn said. "I go get it."
Jeff looked at her in shock, his face draining of color. "You…you can’t do that!"
"Why not?" Dawn asked, only her eyes showing a flicker of fear.
"Vamp Lore 101, Dawn," Jeff said in a dark voice. "When a person is turned by a vampire, their soul goes to Purgatory until the demon spirit animates the body. Only when the body is destroyed is the soul released from Purgatory. That’s why the slayers have a sacred duty…not only to protect the living from vampires, but to release the souls so that they can ascend."
"Right," Dawn said, waving away the common knowledge. "And there’s no way I’m letting Skye suffer while that thing in her body walks around chomping on happy meals with feet."
"Then dust her, Dawn," Jeff said. "Don’t attempt going to Purgatory."
"Dammit, Jeff!" Dawn cried. "Skye wasn’t meant to die yet."
"You don’t know that."
"I do know that! And I know I have to try," she replied. "If that means searching every inch of Purgatory for her, then I’m going to do it."
Jeff blinked and then looked at the notebook. He scanned the pages.
"You need an anchor," he said, finally looking up. "Getting there is the easy part, but you’ll need someone to help bring you back."
"Are you sure?" Dawn asked.
"Yes!" he said. "Didn’t you take Willow’s class on Inter-dimensional Travel? I think that was you I was sitting behind."
"Leave the sarcasm out of it, okay?" Dawn said. "Yes, I know that crossing into another dimension is child’s play compared with getting home, but I know I can do it. I did it before."
"That was a different dimension under way different circumstances," he argued. "And you barely made it back. This is Purgatory! I’m not saying you couldn’t get back, I’m just saying that your chances of getting back with your skin intact and with Skye’s soul are slim to none."
"But still a chance," Dawn said. "And that’s good enough for me." Dawn paused. "Will you be my anchor?"
Jeff said nothing for a few moments. "Yes," he said and then held up a hand before Dawn could say anything. "But…only with the Coven’s permission."
"What?" Dawn said. "You know that Willow would never…"
"You don’t know that for sure," he said. "And this is too big, Dawn. After what Andrew said last week, he's right. We shouldn’t take any action."
"No Dawn," Jeff said. "We can’t defy our high priest, even if he is one of our best friends."
"Technically, he’s not your high priest, you’re not initiated yet," Dawn pointed out.
"Only because Willow’s got that whole no skyclad thing with minors rule, and we haven’t had time since my birthday," Jeff said. "But you are initiated, and Andrew is your high priest, and he gave you a direct order. Defying him would be tantamount to treason against the Coven. I won’t do it."
Dawn firmed her expression. "Then I’ll go to Purgatory alone," she said.
"Not a good idea," Jeff said. "Look…I know you want to do this, Dawn. I get that, but why don’t you give Willow and Andrew a chance?"
"What do you mean?" Dawn asked warily.
"Ask them," Jeff said. "Willow knows more about this kind of thing than all of us put together. Maybe she can figure a way to get Skye’s soul out of Purgatory without anyone having to go there. Maybe at least she can anchor you."
"And if she won’t?" Dawn asked bitterly. "What if she says no?"
"Then you've got two choices - you keep searching or you stake Skye and move on with your life," he said firmly.
"I just…" Dawn rested her face in both of her hands and leaned forward on to the table. "I just want my Skye back. I mean yeah, I knew we were in for some tough times when she left for medical school, but I knew in my heart we’d survive that."
Jeff said nothing and simply watched her, a sorrowful expression on his face at Dawn’s loss.
"And she was going to be a doctor, and together we were going to help people, and none of that’s gonna happen now," Dawn sobbed. "All that’s left is a demon with a weird obsession for me."
"I’m sorry, Dawn," Jeff said. "Will you at least ask the Coven?"
Dawn sighed and then nodded.
"Great," he said. "Look, why don’t I make an appointment for later today?"
"Okay," she said. "I’ll get the proposal ready." She started to gather up her notebooks.
"I’ll do it," Jeff said as he pulled the books toward him. "You need to get some rest. And don’t even think of ‘butting’ me. If they see how exhausted you are just from research, they’ll never agree to letting you go gallivanting off to another dimension."
Dawn opened her mouth as if to protest and then closed it again with a nod. "Okay, if I can trust you to get me back from the beyond, then I can trust you to get my notes organized. Thanks Jeff."
She stood up and headed for the door.
"You’re welcome," Jeff said and watched as she left. He sighed and looked at the pile on his table.
"Oh boy," he whispered.
Cleveland Mansion Library – Later
"Waste!" Ethan said. "Not only the waste but the inefficiency of it."
A bearded man in long black robes brought him a glass. "Guinness?"
"Thank you," Ethan took it. "But it really was a terribly unprofessional way to do a bit of burglary."
The robed man made a little gesture. "Everyone wants to show off now and then. Don’t tell you haven’t done the same."
"Yeah, that’s a fair cop," said Ethan, taking a swallow. "Got me into trouble more often than not."
"I’ll have a word with Cyrano. Meanwhile, a few questions."
"Lead on, McDuff."
"You mentioned waste," the robed man said. "My understanding is that you wasted little time in deriving a profit from last night’s little mission."
"I nicked some jewels if that’s what you mean."
"That is precisely what I mean, Ethan."
Ethan put down his drink. "Look, Mr. Grey…"
"Just Grey. No ‘mister.’ Simply Grey."
"Fine." Ethan shrugged. "Far be it from me to tell you how to put together an all-powerful coven of dark sorcerers, but if power and wealth and all the other perks of the evil lifestyle are the goal here, a bit of larceny doesn’t seem too out of place. I mean, it wasn’t like I nicked any of your stuff, am I right?"
"Very true," agreed Grey, "very true indeed. The only problem is that your actions might—I say might—have some unforeseen consequences. But probably not. Should they come up, we’ll deal with them."
"All right. Oh, and thanks for the Porsche."
"More than welcome." Grey stood up and began to pace. "One more mission, and the pieces will be in place."
"Don’t suppose you feel like telling me what all these odds and ends are leading up to?"
"Why not? Suffice to say, that after tonight we’ll have everything needed to recruit our final member. The Fellowship of Shadows will be complete. Nine dark wielders of magic, united in purpose and our power ever-expanding." He noticed Ethan’s raised eyebrow. "What?"
"It’s just the name. Fellowship. Nine members. Led by a Grey wizard, no less. Seems all rather Tolkien-esque to me."
"Coincidence, I assure you," said Grey. "Nothing but coincidence." His smile was worthy of a very successful used-car salesman.
Ethan did not smile back.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Later
Kennedy walked along the stone corridor to the brig, bottle in hand. She stopped suddenly, just before opening the door, and looked behind her.
For several seconds she said and did nothing. At last, she turned back to the door and opened it, stepping through the threshold.
Behind her, Lorinda stepped out of the shadows, eyes bright. Silent.
Watchers Council – Detention Block – Continuous
As Kennedy passed the various cells, her footsteps made a tiny echo on the concrete. In one cell, a hairy creature with one red eye trembled a little bit as she passed. It made a sound halfway between a gurgle and a growl.
But paying no attention, Kennedy walked on until she reached the end of the block. "Supper," she said, then caught herself short.
There were two cells at the end of the corridor, facing each other. Each was the perfect mirror image of the other, when empty. And now, they were perfect mirror images even when occupied. Skye, arms folded, gazed through the bars of the cell on the right directly at Kennedy. Another Skye, arms folded exactly the same, gazed through the bars of the cell on the left, also directly at Kennedy.
"About time," they said together. They looked at each other. "Stop that!"
"Just once," Kennedy muttered, "can’t something be halfway normal around here?"
"Look," said the right-hand Skye, "you guys are the ones who stuck a metamorph in the cell directly across from me."
"No," insisted the left-hand Skye, "directly across from me."
"I haven’t got time for this," Kennedy said between clenched teeth.
The two Skyes raised their eyebrows. "We do."
With a sigh, Kennedy paused. "Last time I was here," she said after a moment, "Skye was in this cell." She pointed to the one on the right with the bottle in her hand.
"Everything got shifted around," said the Skye on her left, "three days ago. Didn’t they tell you?"
"They did not!" protested the other Skye.
"Shut up, the pair of you!" yelled Kennedy. They did. And then no one said anything else for several seconds.
"Why are you here?" asked the right-hand Skye. "Headmistress of the Slayer Academy for Girls and all that? Seems beneath your dignity to be a caterer. What’s matter, you and Faith have another tiff? Or did Ro catch you going through Willow’s underwear?"
Kennedy smiled. She handed the bottle to the Skye on the right. "Your bitchiness has a particular style."
"Thank you," she said, taking the bottle.
"Hey," said the other Skye, suddenly shaking off its form like a tree losing leaves. It was blue, with pointed ears and fangs as well as glowing yellow eyes. "What do you want from us? It’s boring in here."
"Boring," snorted Skye as she sat on her cot, leaning her back against the concrete wall. "You’ve only been here a few days and you think you’re bored." She yanked the cork from the bottle with her teeth and took a sniff. "Hmmmm…piglet au jus."
"We’ve got a question for you," Kennedy began.
Skye took a swig from the bottle and grimaced. "There has got to be some way of making this taste better," she muttered. Then she grinned. "Marshmallows might work."
Kennedy looked vaguely sick.
"Couldn’t hurt," said Skye with a shrug.
"I used to date a vampire once," offered the shape-shifter. "She swore by a blend of five parts blood with one part California Merlot, preferably 1989."
"What do you say, Kennedy?" asked Skye. "Got any Merlots in the house? No? Not sure? Jeez, I got the impression your dad was the type to be a wine snob. Or was that a whining snob? No? No, you’re right. The whining snob, that was you." She took another swig while the blue shape shifter giggled.
"The Fellowship of Shadows," said Kennedy. "Ever hear of it?"
"Do I get some Merlot if I have?"
"Then definitely, I have."
"What have you heard about them?"
"Oh, they’re this…Fellowship, you know. A group. Have a thing for shadows. Hence the name."
With a roll of her eyes, Kennedy turned on her heel and started to walk away. Skye shrugged, all expression leaving her face. But the shape-shifter spoke up. "Hey! Just a moment!"
Kennedy stopped and turned. "What?" She managed to put an impressive amount of impatience in that one word.
"I’ve heard of the Fellowship of Shadows. Rumors about them, anyway."
"Some powerful human magic-workers, a dark coven, basically. Only this one’s more ambitious than most. Decided to recruit the best of the best. And not just humans either, but demons. Some magi got plenty annoyed at not being invited, I can tell you."
Kennedy seemed to consider this. "Anything else?"
"Leader is supposed to be named White. Or Black. Something like that."
Now Kennedy looked at Skye. "Is that true?"
"Honestly? I have no idea." She looked bored again.
"So," said Kennedy, "what do you want in return? Not to be let out I hope?"
"Oh," he said, waving that aside, "I know you won’t do that. Besides, my clanmates are coming to pick me up in a few days anyway. A few picked pockets, and I’m looking at ten years of food tasting for the High Pontiffs. All they eat is gruel, and everyone is always trying to poison them…"
"Yeah, yeah, life’s hard. What do you want?"
The demon hesitated. "Bring some Merlot for my friend here." He didn’t quite bat his eyes.
"All right," Kennedy sighed and began to leave.
"Five parts blood and one part Merlot," he called after her.
The door slammed shut with an echo, leaving the two demons practically alone together. "Not that I’m complaining," said Skye, "but what was all that about? Grins and giggles ’cause you could see that steamed her a little?"
He shrugged and smiled shyly. "Let’s just say I like a girl with fangs."
She shook her head. "You are so barking up the wrong tree."
Watchers Council – Rec Room – Evening
Tracey and Faith sat on either side of Robin on one of the sofas. When Vi and Xander walked in, it was Robin who did a tiny take. "Nice outfit, Vi." Faith slapped his arm. "Ow!"
"Don’t be a baby, that didn’t hurt."
"Yes it did!"
"Well, you deserved it."
"Okay, maybe. But wasn’t I right?"
Faith looked at Vi, who wore slacks and a turtleneck and a simple jacket, all of them midnight black. Faith nodded her approval. "Get you in leather, you’ll be ready to paint the town."
"Maybe later," said Vi.
"Excuse me," said Xander, "not that I’m objecting to Vi in black leather in any way whatsoever…"
"Because you’d better not," Vi said.
"That stupid, I am not," Xander assured her. "Just the opposite. But the ogling could be a little more discreet? Don’t you think?" He looked to everyone for support. They looked at each other and shook their heads.
"Don’t think so."
"Thank you," finished up Vi, walking over and taking a seat.
Xander followed. "Outvoted by hormones and the great female conspiracy," he said barely under his breath. "At least," he continued a little louder, "we can’t play this game without an Emcee. Am I right about that?"
Now everyone looked at Tracey. "Well, yeah, that is true."
"Has he found anyone?"
"As of half an hour ago, not yet, but…"
"Okay!" Xander leaved back. "Life is good. The ticking time bomb of mistakes that can wreak havoc on all relationships far and wide remains unarmed. And there was much rejoicing."
"You’re just afraid you’re going to lose," accused Tracey.
"Damn right I am," was his answer. "And I’m not talking about the game."
Silence followed for several seconds, while Vi caught Xander’s eye. He looked back at her, and for a moment nobody else existed. Then Xander did a take. "Oh no. Oh. No!"
The door to the rec room burst open as a grinning Andrew entered. "Ladies and gentleman, couples of all ages—we have an Emcee!"
Behind him, carrying the Newlywed game in her arms, was Rowena.
"Where do I set things up?" she asked.
Xander groaned. "You’re the evil twin, aren’t you? You’ve got the good Rowena held up somewhere."
"Hey," Vi said, indignant. "Not all twins sets have to have an evil one thankyouverymuch."
"I didn’t say you were evil," Xander replied.
"Oh, so my sister is the evil one then?" Vi accused.
Xander simply shook his head.
"See?" he told Rowena. "It’s starting already, and you don’t even have the damn game out of the box."
Rowena grinned. "Hey, I just figured since I’m gloomy why shouldn’t some of you guys be just as depressed. So here I am. After all, misery loves company."
"Then you’ll be glad to know you’re already in good company," Xander sighed and hung his head as Rowena and Andrew set up the game.
"Sorry I’m late," Willow said as she walked in. "Did I miss anything?"
"Nothing," Faith replied. "Just Xander whining on behalf of all of us."
"Not that I don’t like your company," Xander said, accenting the word. "But what are you doing here, Will?"
"I got roped into being score keeper," she sighed.
"Are we ready?" Andrew asked excitedly.
Tracey quickly nodded but a murmur, far from excitement, went through the group.
Cleveland Zoo – Night
Ethan turned and waited impatiently. The tall figure with a pattern of ridges along his hairless head followed very deliberately. In its arms was a large handbag, one capable of carrying a small child or anything smaller.
"I realize," said Ethan, "this is a zoo and not a fortress of wizards who have laced every stone with protective wards. It’s not even a moderately well off jeweler’s that you could expect to have reasonably high-tech surveillance and alarms. But they do have security here, and it borders on professional to avoid them."
"You can carry the bag if you think you can carry it faster," said the ridged demon as he caught up. He handed it to Ethan, who tried to pick it up. Instead, it fell to the ground instantly.
"What’s inside this thing?"
"A dead she-wolf."
Ethan stared. "We’re breaking into a zoo to put a wolf inside? A dead one no less? I am less than impressed with the master plan by the nanosecond."
"But," said the demon, "we bring in dead she-wolf. Leave it. Then we leave with different she-wolf." He sounded triumphant.
"Dead or alive?"
"Just has to be this particular wolf then?"
"Yes. This one. No other."
"Special breed? Half-hellhound? Born on a Friday the thirteenth that was also a full moon? What?"
"This wolf," whispered the demon, leaning in conspiratorially, "was not always a wolf. Soon, she will be a wolf no longer. Our final member."
Nodding, Ethan considered this. "Better pick that up then," he said, as he turned and walked into the zoo. With a grunt, the ridge-faced demon picked up the bag and followed.
End of Act
Onto Act Two