Story by Zahir al-Daoud
Written by Zahir al-Daoud
Produced by Susan Carr and CN Winters
Directed by Zahir al-Daoud and CN Winters
Edited by DragonWriter17
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Zahir al-Daoud
Artist – Zahir al-Daoud
Herbalist Shop – Afternoon
The old woman looked out the window of her shop at the street. Rain poured down, and the few people braving the deluge walked huddled in their trench coats below well-beaten umbrellas. The old woman shuddered a little bit. She walked over to the thermostat controls.
"Oh!" she cried out in alarm as she turned.
Behind her stood a single man of maybe thirty-five or forty. He was tall and slender, but powerfully built. He wore a long black coat beaded with water. His beard and collar-length hair were wet also, but his eyes – they seemed intense enough to almost burn.
"Oh, you startled me," the old woman said. "You hardly made any noise coming in," she finished with a laugh.
"We do move pretty quiet, don’t we?" said a voice coming from behind the dark young man. A woman’s voice. She stepped out as she spoke, and the old woman did a take. The newcomer had short, blonde hair and a ring piercing her lip. Her clothes – what clothes she wore – were leather. "Or maybe you just can’t hear too good?" the blonde added snidely.
"I…I am getting up there in years," the old woman admitted.
The young woman didn’t say anything, but sneered instead. The man didn’t even do that much; he merely continued the same burning stare.
"And what can I do for you?" continued the old woman, stepping away from the pair and towards the counter. "We’ve a wide variety, as you can see," she gestured to the bottles and small bags that dotted the room. "There’s a greenhouse upstairs where I grow the more exotic herbs," she went on. By now she was at the counter, beside the cash register. Her hand appeared casually positioned. "Was there something specific you wanted?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, there is," said the sneering young woman.
The blonde approached the counter now, her body language halfway between a strut and a stalk, or some combination of the two. Quietly, the dark young man followed. The old woman reached under the cash register as quietly as she could.
"There’s a flower we’re looking for. Diana’s Favor," the young woman said.
The old woman blinked. "Oh, that is very rare. Very rare indeed."
"It’s a hybrid, very difficult to create, and even then, most of the seeds fail before they finish sprouting. The requirements are extremely precise."
"And even when you succeed," finished the leather-clad blonde, "it blooms only once every few years, right?" For the first time, she looked back at her bearded companion. "Right?"
He nodded, still saying nothing.
"Very true," said the old woman, her voice cracking ever so slightly. "I might undertake a commission to breed such a bloom – it would be quite a challenge, actually. One I’d enjoy." She tried to smile.
Now the young woman turned back to her, smiling exactly the way a spider might at a moth landing on her web. It was a cruel smile and a confident one. The old woman grabbed something under the register.
"You oughta know," said the blonde, "since there’s one upstairs right now. I think we’ll just take that one."
The blonde’s face shifted. Her brow furrowed, eyes flashed gold, and her teeth extended into fangs. She headed directly for the old woman, but then stopped suddenly.
A cross. The old woman held aloft a cross in trembling hands. "Begone," she said. "The both of you!"
The vampire hissed.
But the dark young man simply moved forward with all the grace and strength of a wild animal. He didn’t even slow down, but just grabbed the cross from the old woman’s fingers, looked at it for a moment, then crushed it in his grip. The old woman gasped.
And the vampire laughed.
Car – Afternoon
The windshield wipers beat a rhythm in the downpour.
"So," asked Mia while driving, "what is a Diana’s Favor anyway? Something to do with magic?"
Willow, sitting in the passenger seat, nodded. "That’s right. I found an herbalist willing to try and crossbreed one over a year ago. Got a call yesterday that it had bloomed. Which, when you think about it, is just too lucky for words."
"Yeah, but what does it do?"
"Do you know what a blue moon is?"
"It’s the second full moon in a calendar month. They only happen like once every three years."
"Hence the ‘Once in a blue moon’ thing?" Mia said.
"And that has something to do with this flower?"
Willow nodded. "On the night of a blue moon, you can use Diana’s Favor to cure lycanthropy." Mia raised a confused eyebrow. "Werewolf," Willow explained. "You can cure a werewolf."
"Oh, so it won’t be a werewolf anymore?"
"I take it you know a werewolf then?"
"A friend," said Willow, softly. "A very old, very good friend. Well, not literally old. He’s actually only a year older than me, and I’m certainly not old. On the other hand, he has always seemed to be pretty old, like an old soul maybe? Does that make any sense?"
"Kinda," said Mia with a laugh. "So you’re going to cure him?"
"I hope so," Willow replied in a less than confident tone.
"What? You think you can’t do it anymore? But you’ve got Andrew and Jeff and Dawn and Skye to help, right? Or do you think you’ll need some more people to do the spell or whatever?"
"No, we should be enough," was Willow’s answer. "I think." Her voice was low against the steady drumming of rain against the car roof.
Herbalist Shop – Later
Willow entered the shop, followed by Mia. They held their heads down against the downpour, so they didn’t look up and see the shop’s interior until the door behind them had actually closed.
Both women took off their coats, shaking them out as they scanned around the store. They found several items, glass bottles mostly, lying smashed on the floor. The old woman who ran the shop was also on the floor, and she wasn’t moving.
"Mrs. Corman!" Willow cried out as she ran to her. Mia followed, and they both knelt beside the old woman.
The shopkeeper was as white as a sheet. Dead eyes stared up, and upon her throat were the telltale bite marks of a vampire. Mia checked her pulse.
"Dead," the Slayer said.
Willow stared at the body, looking as if she might cry. Then her eyes narrowed in a mixture of anger and suspicion. "This is a mighty big coincidence," she said in a quiet and dangerous voice. "The Diana’s Favor!" she exclaimed as she stood up and headed for the spiral staircase in the corner.
"You know where to find it?"
"She has a greenhouse upstairs," Willow said as she rushed up the stairs. "I’ve been here before and she showed me where she was growing it."
"Probably just a coincidence," Mia stated. "Hopefully," she muttered in a knock-on-wood tone of voice.
Then Mia’s eye caught something on the floor next to Mrs. Corman. She reached over and picked it up. It was a cross – or rather, the remains of one. It was broken, as if someone with very powerful fingers had simply crushed it in his or her fingers.
"No vampire did that," said Mia to herself. Then, she considered the body before her, and the way she had obviously died. "Can’t take chances," she said. She reached into the inside pocket of her coat and brought out a wooden stake. She braced herself and lifted the stake.
"Oh no!" Willow’s voice echoed from above, making Mia freeze mid-strike.
Willow emerged from the upstairs greenhouse and called down the staircase. "It’s gone!" she cried out. "Somebody stole the Diana’s Favor!"
End of Teaser
Onto Act One