Ragnarok Part I

Act Four

Fade In:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Hub – Later

Vi and a handful of demon guards were at the entrance to the Hub when a portal formed in the middle of it and disgorged Rowena, still clad in a layer of icy armor. The other Undine wasn’t with her, apparently having been lost in the fight to get Rowena back.

The rebel demons regarded Rowena with a mixture of caution and curiosity, but Vi raced to her side at once.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "What happened, where’s Willow, and what’s with the ice?"

"Where’s Giles?" Rowena demanded, ignoring Vi’s questions. "And Faith, and the coven?"

"Faith’s in the command center, and Giles and the coven are in the prisoner chamber," Vi told her. "Giles and Ethan have got that assassin guy singing like a canary. What’s going on?" she asked as she followed Rowena out of the Hub.

"They’ve got Willow!" Rowena called back as she hurried away towards the Spire.

Vi’s eyes widened, then she doubled her pace to catch up to the watcher.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Prisoner Chamber – Moments Later

"What once was undone shall be made whole anew," Imbethit rasped. "With each conquest we grow stronger. All hells shall fall, then Earth will join them, and the gates of the high heavens will break. The Presidium will rule all of creation."

"Truth," Ethan said in a monotone before turning to Giles and smirking. "Ambitious sods, aren’t they?"

"You’re talking about restoring the hells to Earth?" Giles asked. "The Presidium wants to return to the old times? The demon era?"

"All shall be as it once was," Imbethit replied. "And more. The Powers who have long hidden in their fortresses beyond Earth, who have used both men and demons as their playthings and soldiers, will at last be brought to account. The Presidium, which rose from the darkest depths of the mortal hells, will overthrow those who stand above and will unite all creation in a single rule, under a single godhead."

"What exactly is the Presidium?" Giles persisted. "Who are they? Where do they come from?"

"The Presidium…" Imbethit hissed then trailed off.

"He doesn’t know," Ethan said.

"Someone must!" Giles insisted. "Are there servants more highly-ranked than you?"

"No," Imbethit replied.

"It makes sense," Ethan shrugged. "As a rule, most demons hate other breeds. It’s probably easier for the Presidium to keep control this way because no one knows what they are, exactly. Maybe they’re a breed you hate, maybe they’re not. It’s pretty easy to ignore a ‘maybe’, especially if there’s brute force helping convince you."

They both looked around as Faith and Rowena suddenly burst into the chamber, with Vi on their heels.

"We need to mount a rescue," Faith said. "Now."

"They’ve got Willow!" Rowena explained.

Giles and Ethan exchanged looks, then let their hands fall, dispelling the silent web of magic around Imbethit. Giles immediately herded the group out of the prisoner chamber and up the tunnel into the command center.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Moments Later

"How long ago?" Giles asked, once the entire group had emerged from the tunnel.

"Half an hour," Rowena said. "They ambushed us and bound Willow so that she couldn’t cast. She made me come back. I left her there, with those things getting closer…" She broke off, her voice choked with tears.

"You did the right thing," Giles told her firmly before turning to his head slayer. "Faith, whatever you need."

"Go alert the slayers," Faith quickly told Vi. "I’ll want to see you and Ken and the other team leaders when I get there. And send word to Mia and Xander in the armory."

"Will do," Vi promised, sprinting off.

"Where’s Creed?" Rowena asked. "We’ll need his help."

"Our prisoner revealed a planned attack," Giles explained. "Creed and his elite have gone to stage an ambush. He’s assured us that there’s no danger here, now that we’ve been warned."

"Your coven mistress is absent?" Brighid asked, approaching the group.

"Willow’s been captured," Ethan explained.

"She gave me this," Rowena said, holding up her hand, with the silver ring still on her finger. "She cast a tinkerbell on it right before they hit us with their magic. It’s her homing spell," she added, seeing blank expressions from several of the people there.

"This has a magical link to your Willow?" Brighid asked.

"Yes," Rowena nodded. "Willow thought they’d take her to the Citadel."

The fiery demon seemed to flicker for a moment, then glow with greater power. "I have summoned our most gifted," she said. "We must examine this item very closely." She reached out a hand. "Please give it to me."

Rowena hesitated, glancing at the others around her. Then she slowly slipped the ring off her finger. "Be careful. She gave me this…I don’t want to lose it."

"If what you say is true," Brighid said, "it is the most vital artifact that has ever come into our possession. We will defend it with our lives."

Rowena hesitated a moment longer, then extended her arm and dropped the ring into Brighid’s palm.

"Join me," the fire demon called, as others began emerging from the tunnel leading out of the chamber. "We have work to do."

She lifted her hand, and the ring floated up over the stone table, while the scattered bones on it began circling the ring in complicated patterns.

Cut to:

Int.

Earth – Council Room – Moments Later (evening)

Heli hurried into the room, taking her seat on one side of the table, which was much emptier than usual. Buffy sat at its head, Heli at her side, and beside her the detective, Stone, and Robson’s deputy, MacMillan. Opposite them were Major Krantz, from Riley’s command, and Dr. March, a serious-looking blonde woman in a lab coat. The seat beside her was vacant, waiting for Althenea; her associate, a tall black man named Rice, stood at the edge of the room, observing.

“Sorry,” Heli said. “I was just getting the evening patrol sorted out. It’s the first time in charge for a couple of the group leaders. Did I miss anything?”

“We were talking about the vamp nest, out on the east of the city,” Buffy said.

“We’ve found it?” Heli asked. Buffy nodded to Dr. March.

“Not yet,” the woman said carefully. “But I believe your supposition that such a nest exists is correct, based on the evidence I’ve seen – patterns of infection and propagation of the leech contagion, the apparent frequency of attacks versus estimated food requirements for a nest of this size…”

“Leech?” Heli asked Buffy.

“They don’t like saying ‘vampire’,” Buffy replied quietly. “Apparently, it’s a bit too Hammer Horror for the British government.”

“I’ve assigned two extra patrols to the city east,” Heli said. “They’ll track any vamps they locate and not intervene unless an attack seems likely. With luck, we’ll locate the nest and then go in during the day.”

“Sounds good to me,” Buffy nodded. “Dr. March has asked us to collect dust samples from the vamps we take out. We’ve got some sample tubes that’ll do the trick, apparently. Heli, can you brief the slayers on that? We’ll start with the nest tomorrow and continue for a couple of nights with the patrols. If anything useful turns up, we might keep the habit.”

“We can learn a lot about the leeches from their ether-genetics,” Dr. March explained. “Our sample bank in London is quite extensive, though the differences in species may require us to go through a period of alteration of our methods before we start seeing results…” She broke off as Althenea rushed into the room, bracing herself against the back of her chair and catching her breath.

“What is it?” Buffy asked, sensing Althenea’s immediacy was something more than just running late.

“Message from Vor,” she panted.

“What’s wrong?” Buffy asked, moving to her feet.

“They’ve got Willow…the Presidium. They’ve taken Willow.”

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Later

Giles, Ethan, Dawn, Jeff, and a cluster of demon mages led by Brighid worked busily around the stone table, suggesting and casting spells into a mass of magic that had formed around the floating ring. The workers’ stone tablets, rolls of parchment, ancient books, and slim laptops were strewn around the table and on the floor surrounding it. Hovering above the stone slab, the bones had again formed their map of the hell dimensions and were churning as the spell castings affected their structure.

In a corner out of the way, Rowena sat, watching the organized chaos with a dull stare. Nearby, Giles’s robed and hooded bodyguards, courtesy of Alex’s firm, waited patiently.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Council Quarters – Same Time

In their makeshift gym, three dozen slayers, plus a handful of their warrior allies, were exercising, warming up, practicing their moves with their weapons, donning their combat suits—all under the watchful eye of Kennedy and Vi.

Nearby, in the research area, Robin made rounds through a group of watchers who were busily studying laptop screens and printouts. Even Bonnie was assisting, seated next to a watcher who pointed out something in a book he was holding.

In the coven area, with spellbooks spread all around him, Andrew was preparing dozens of mixtures and runestones as well as bottles of oil and dust. On one corner of the table where he worked sat the package from India that Jeff had mentioned earlier, its top open. Inside, wrapped in a heavy cloth, was a dark, gleaming metal shape. Periodically, while waiting for a mixture to boil or settle, Andrew returned to it, lifting the cloth to gaze at it and comparing it to the descriptions in a thick manuscript densely written in some ancient, arcane language.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Armory – Same Time

Mia and her squad stood among dozens of demons as they prepared for battle. While Mia and her slayers donned their combat gear and filled their packs with ammunition, their demon allies put on their armor, slinging rifles over their shoulders alongside crossbows and axes.

With Kail’s assistance, Xander was handing out weapons and ammo. When he reached a lull in the demand, he glanced at Mia. Their expressions were tense and sober. Finally, Xander gave a little smile, and Mia returned it. Then the two of them went back to their work.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Catacombs – Same Time

Creed peered through the darkness, towards a spot where dull noises echoed through the tunnels. He turned to a demon by his side, a thin and eyeless creature.

"We have them," he growled quietly. "Tell the others to attack, now."

Cut To:

Ext.

Vor Hell Dimension – Infernus Surface – Same Time

The surface above the catacombs was a blasted desolation, marked only by the shattered ruins of what had once been buildings, now lying half-choked beneath shifting dust-storms that whirled through the tortured, fiery sky.

A vast tunnel had been bored into the solid rock, sloping down into darkness. Arrayed before it were ranks and ranks of demon soldiers slowly marching forward, armed with axes and swords, crossbows that gleamed with magic. Behind them came teams pulling heavy catapults and ballistae, whose shots burned with unearthly fire, waiting to be launched. In perfectly disciplined order, the army marched into the gaping maw of the dark tunnel.

Concealed by the storm and hidden behind a ridge of rock, Crom waited, with hundreds of renegade demons around him, the foremost peering over the top at their enemy. At his side, another eyeless demon, identical to the one with his kinsman Creed, spoke quietly.

"They are ready below," the creature said.

"For our blood," Crom said quietly to the demons around him, the whisper being taken up and spread throughout the whole force. "There shall be no chains around our necks."

Shaking off the light covering of dust that had settled on his back as he lay, Crom stood, in full view of the Presidium army below.

"Death! " he shouted at the top of his considerable lungs.

The cry was taken up by the others, and in the space of a few seconds, while the startled Presidium troops turned and looked to their leaders for guidance, hundreds of massive, fearless demons began charging down towards them.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Catacombs – Same Time

"Death! " Creed bellowed, as blasts of magic suddenly lit the darkened caverns, revealing the mouth of the huge tunnel sloping down from above and startling the force of demons guarding it.

Creed and his rebels charged forward, amid a hail of panicked bowfire and hurled axes, ignoring the cries of their wounded and the weapons-blasts which struck the rocks around them.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Prisoner Chamber – Same Time

In his chains, Imbethit stirred and then began to move.

His demon guards drew their curved swords and advanced.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

"We’ve got something!" Jeff called excitedly.

Rowena looked up, staring at the floating web of bones as it stirred.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Prisoner Chamber – Same Time

The chains securing Imbethit’s arms shattered, and the guards rushed forward to strike their captive down.

Imbethit lashed out at them, using the broken ends of his shackles to crunch into their faces and tear at their skin.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Catacombs – Same Time

Splattered with demon blood, Creed lunged forward, ignoring an axe that slashed at his shoulder, and grabbed his opponent with both hands, crushing the demon’s skull in an instant.

With an enraged roar, he lifted his victim high and threw him into a group of Presidium mages, who were casting spells about themselves in a panic.

The mass of bodies collapsed in confusion then erupted in screams as their aborted spell burst into flame, searing their flesh.

Cut To:

Ext.

Vor Hell Dimension – Infernus Surface – Same Time

The Presidium army had formed a wall of shields, but the sheer fury of the rebel’s surprise attack was pushing them back.

Demon soldiers began to break and run for the safety of the tunnel as Crom’s force tore into them.

In the wake of their retreat, Crom’s warriors quickly seized control of the Presidium’s abandoned war machines and turned them against the fleeing soldiers.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

"Is it the Citadel?" Rowena asked, hurrying to the edge of the stone table, staring up at the floating map.

"It is nowhere we have ever charted," Brighid said thoughtfully. "It may be."

A choked-off scream from the tunnel leading to Imbethit’s chamber silenced the chatter in the cavern.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Prisoner Chamber – Same Time

Gripping a jagged rib that was still dripping with blood, Imbethit straightened above the defeated and feebly struggling guards.

Then he opened his robes and used the broken bone to carve arcane patterns in the insubstantial darkness inside.

Cut To:

Ext.

Vor Hell Dimension – Infernus Surface – Same Time

"Drive them back!" Crom bellowed. "Into the tunnel!"

A volley of fire from the captured siege weapons flew narrowly over his head, smashing a gaping hole in the Presidium ranks.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Prisoner Chamber – Same Time

More guards rushed into the chamber, which was now lit up by a savage and blood-red light streaming out of the gashes Imbethit had inflicted upon himself.

The curved swords of the guards rose and fell, striking ineffectually at the assassin master. The confused guards stepped back.

Their eyes widened as Imbethit’s body burned and twisted, becoming lost in a red maelstrom of power.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Catacombs – Same Time

"Now!" Creed roared at one of his mages when he saw the Presidium troops retreating into their tunnel.

The mage knelt and began to chant, placing his palms flat against the rock beneath him.

A tremor shook the cavern.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

A burst of crimson light streamed up out of the tunnel in the center of the command center’s floor, accompanied by a dull roar.

"What the devil—?" Giles started to say.

A colossal eruption cut him off as it blasted through the chamber, throwing everyone to the ground, tearing through the floor and bringing part of the ceiling crashing down.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Armory – Same Time

Xander and Mia reeled as one of the walls of the armory cavern suddenly collapsed.

Humans and demons alike were showered in debris as a huge cloud of dust obscured everything.

Cut To:

Ext.

Vor Hell Dimension – Infernus Surface – Same Time

"Back!" Crom warned as the tunnel shook and began to collapse.

His demons retreated quickly, while the Presidium troops scrambled, trying to avoid the huge chunks of rock falling in on them, crushing dozens at a time.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Council Quarters – Same Time

Faith frowned as a tremor shook the cavern. She looked at Kennedy and Vi. "What the hell was that?" she asked.

"Creed’s guys?" Vi suggested. "They did say they’d be collapsing a tunnel on the Presidium force."

Faith looked around warily as her team leaders drew closer. "Something doesn’t feel right," she decided. She thought for a moment then started barking out orders.

"Get everyone ready to move!" Faith yelled to the crowd over the noise of the continuing quakes. She turned her attention to two particular slayers. "I want the route between here and the portal hub checked and guarded, and stay in visual contact. Lexa, Haley, get your teams on it." Faith turned to two others. "Sasha, Nozomi, your teams are bodyguards for the non-fighters among us." Faith turned to those remaining. "Sabina, Liona, Vi, you’re with me. Slick, you take point."

Faith then addressed the non-slayers of the bunch. "You girls too," she added with an encompassing wave to Jhiera, Gwen, Kadin, and the handful of other fighters.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

"What the hell—?" Rowena said, crawling out of some debris from the collapsing ceiling.

Her icy armor was gone. Around her, shards of ice were melting, the last remains of the shattered Undine that had protected her. Her attention was drawn from the melting ice to Dawn and Giles a few feet away.

"Giles," Dawn coughed, shaking the old watcher’s shoulders. "Giles, come on!"

Dawn placed two fingers on his neck and then his wrist before putting her ear to his chest.

"What hit us?" Ethan said, staggering to his feet. "Ripper— Is he okay?"

"He’s not breathing, his heart’s not beating!" Dawn yelled before getting in place to begin CPR.

Ethan looked at Giles, a panicked expression on his face, then another blast threw him off his feet.

"It’s not working," Dawn told Rowena who was now crawling over to join her.

Rowena moved toward Giles’s head and pinched his nose. 

"You take compression," Rowena told Dawn as she began to blow in the watcher’s mouth.

Dawn rubbed her hands together quickly, and when Rowena rose, Dawn pressed down on Giles’s chest.

"Come on," she whispered. "Damn it, Giles!"

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash from Dawn’s hands, and Giles jerked and coughed. Rowena also fell back about five feet and held her hand that she had used to pinch Giles’s nose.

"Whu—?" Giles tried to speak.

"Here," Jeff said, scrambling over to help Dawn pull the watcher to a sitting position.

"What’s going on?" Giles finally managed to ask in a shaking voice.

"Good question," Rowena said, rubbing her sore hand. "How did you do that? Magic?" she added to Dawn.

Dawn shrugged. "I dunno."

There was a fiery blast from a pile of rubble a short distance from them, and Brighid stood up, apparently unharmed.

"Leave here!" the fire demon commanded.

"What’s going on?" Rowena demanded from Brighid as Jeff and Dawn helped Giles towards the two hooded and robed men, who took the watcher and easily carried him between them.

Ragged groups of demons began pouring into the command center, running around, looking for orders or for an enemy to fight.

"You must leave here!" Brighid repeated. "There are portals opening!"

"Where?" Rowena asked.

"Everywhere!" the demon witch yelled.

Rowena’s face dropped.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Ledge – Same Time

Faith and her team of slayers and fighters reached the ledge overlooking the Spire. The massive mountain of rock was dotted with plumes of smoke as fires blazed in its carved fortifications. As they watched, a huge tower shuddered and collapsed, its top falling free and smashing through one of the stone bridges stretching to the Spire from the cavern walls.

"Oh, that is so not good," Sabina muttered.

"Come on!" Faith said, sprinting down the ledge towards connecting bridge below them. "Our people are in there! Move!"

As she let her slayers move swiftly past her, Faith grabbed one. "You," she said, pulling her aside. "Go back and tell everyone to evacuate. Get everyone to the Hub, now! "

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

"Where’s the ring?" Rowena shouted to the demons standing near the rubble of the stone table. She pointed to one of her other rings. "This, big, silver – find it!"

Rowena swept her hands through the debris scattered over the floor, ignoring the scrapes and cuts as she pushed jagged fragments of rock out of the way.

Brighid neared the crater that had been blasted into the chamber’s floor, where the entrance to the tunnel leading to the prisoner chamber had once been. She stared down, peering into the dusty darkness. Then her blazing eyes widened in shock.

A massive axe whirled up out of the chasm and thudded into her chest, punching straight through her torso and emerging from her back. She looked down at it, in apparent confusion, then toppled forward into the crater, leaving a trail of fire as she fell.

Rowena looked up in horror as Presidium troops began to emerge from the crater.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Bridge – Same Time

As Faith and Vi and the others rushed across the bridge, they met Ethan, Jeff, and Dawn as they fled the Spire. Behind them was Giles, carried by the two hooded and robed men.

"What’s going on?" Faith demanded.

"They said there’re portals opening!" Dawn yelled.

"Xander’s still in there!" Vi exclaimed, sprinting towards the burning spire.

"Vi!" Faith called after the redhead in vain. Then she turned to Kennedy. "Go with her," she added quickly, and Kennedy shot away. "Where’s Ro?" Faith asked.

Jeff and Dawn looked back along the bridge, suddenly panicked.

"She was with us," Dawn said uncertainly.

"Where is she now?!" Faith demanded.

Dawn looked at Jeff, who appeared momentarily puzzled before snapping his fingers.

"The ring!" he answered.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

Rowena scrambled out of the way of Presidium troops and rebel demons as they clashed violently, tearing at each other with swords, axes, claws, and magic. A falling body hit her from behind, knocking her to the ground.

As she landed, however, she caught a glimmer of silver in the debris before her—beyond a pair of massive demons locked in combat. She looked around desperately for another way through, but the chamber was becoming increasingly packed with fighting demons as more and more poured in from the adjoining tunnels and the crater.

"God dammit," she growled, pushing herself to her feet.

As the two demons in front of her locked swords, she dove between them, directly beneath their blades, sliding painfully across the rubble-strewn floor.

Behind her, the Presidium demon was distracted by Rowena’s dive for a split-second and fell to a slash across the throat from his opponent.

Rowena scrambled forward, pushing her hand into the debris and closing her fingers around the silver ring Willow had given her.

With the ring in hand, she stood. She looked around for a way out, but could see nothing but fighting demons on all sides.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Same Time

Brighid lay among the rubble of her command center, her fires dwindling. Her eyes, glowing only faintly, opened when she sensed a figure standing over her. She looked up as the figure’s wings cast a shadow over her.

"Fallen," she growled, and the fire within her suddenly glowed savagely, uncontrollably.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Command Center – Seconds Later

A colossal fireball erupted from the crater, incinerating dozens of Presidium troops who had been packed in tight, pressing their enemies into retreat. In the ensuing confusion, the renegade demons forced the intruders back for a moment into the charred remains of their comrades.

Rowena glimpsed a space opening up behind the rebel demons as they advanced. She rushed through it, dodging and weaving as more emerged from the connecting tunnel to join the fight. From behind her, she heard screaming, more terrible than even the sounds of battle had been, but she kept her head down and ran.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Tunnel – Same Time

"Xander!" Vi yelled, trying to be heard above the sounds of shouting and fighting from all around. "Xander!"

A new sound caught her attention, a familiar but unexpected one: gunfire.

She sprinted down a tunnel towards it, nearly outpacing Kennedy, who was still racing after her.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Council Quarters – Same Time

Guarded by a cordon of slayers, the Council mission team was in full evacuation, guiding trolleys laden with equipment and weapons as fast as they could over the rough stone floor.

Carrying a heavy backpack and an armful of crossbows with some difficulty, Bonnie bumped into Andrew, who was hastily stuffing as many of the coven supplies as he could into a large bag.

"I didn’t expect it to all go to hell this fast," she muttered.

"Fine, you get an I-told-you-so," Andrew replied angrily.

He pulled the metal object he had been studying from its cloth; it was a wicked-looking gauntlet that made Bonnie grimace at the sight of it. He tucked it under his arm and hauled the heavy bag onto his back.

"What the heck is that?" Bonnie asked.

"If we’re real lucky, you won’t have to find out," Andrew answered with a frown before joining the hurrying line of evacuees streaming out of the cavern.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Tunnel – Same Time

Xander and Kail hurried along, glancing back at the Black Ops slayers behind them, who were guarding their retreat with guns blazing. Presidium shock troops were charging towards them from the ruins of the armory, heedless of their casualties as bullets tore them apart.

"Not much further!" Xander yelled to Mia.

"Good," she shouted back. "We’re running low on ammo quicker than these guys are running low on demons!"

"Xander!" Vi shouted from the next junction as she rounded the corner.

"Vi!" Xander shouted back in relief. "Boy am I glad— Get down!"

Vi whirled around and leapt out of the way as the ceiling bulged and collapsed, disgorging a cascade of armored creatures, curled up protectively in their thick shells. As they struck the ground, they unfurled, revealing dozens of legs and huge, powerful claws. Vi looked around in panic as they surrounded her, raising their claws to strike.

"Get the hell away from her!" Kennedy roared, leaping forward off a boulder that had fallen from the ceiling.

She spun in mid-air, almost running along the wall for a second before falling towards the pack of surprised demons. Once down, she grabbed one of them by the claws and hurled it over Vi’s head into two others. Vi kicked at the closest one to her, driving it back, while Kennedy grabbed another and swung it like an enormous club, hammering it into a third and smashing both of them against the tunnel wall.

Vi looked over her shoulder to see another demon poised to strike. She crouched down in a desperate attempt to avoid it, but before it could bring its claws down on her, a blast of fire screamed along the tunnel and blew the insectoid’s head off, leaving the body to topple awkwardly sideways. Xander raced to her side, pulling her to her feet.

"Did you do that?" she asked, glancing at the smoking mace in his hand.

"Just like hitting a home run," he said with a grin. "Come on!"

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Hub – Same Time

The center of the Hub chamber was alight with magic, the huge portal flickering and pulsing with energy. People and demons were moving through it as quickly as possible, carrying weapons and supplies, flinching as distant explosions sent showers of dust and small rocks down on them from the ceiling.

Robin was hastily organizing the evacuation, ticking off names on a list as fast as he could manage.

"Where are we going?" Bonnie asked as she and Andrew passed him. "Earth?"

"We can’t," Robin said, shaking his head. "Not without sending Dawn first and setting up a circle. We’re going somewhere safe, though. Creed’s people picked the spot."

"Great," Bonnie muttered.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Ledge – Same Time

"There they are!" Dawn called out.

She pointed down from the ledge in the cavern wall towards the stone bridge leading to the Spire. Through the plumes of smoke and haze from the magma lake, they could just make out Vi, Kennedy, Xander, Kail, Mia, and the Black Ops squad emerging from the spire, joining Faith and the two teams led by Sabina and Liona. A moment later Rowena appeared, sprinting as fast as she could towards the slayers.

"Come on," Jeff muttered as he watched the group race for the end of the bridge. "Oh, no," he added when he saw Presidium demons beginning to emerge from the Spire behind them.

"We will attend to this," one of the hooded men said in a deep, melodious voice.

The two robed men gently handed Giles to Dawn and Jeff, then walked towards the edge of the vast cliff beneath them. They cast off their cloaks, revealing gleaming armor and wings of pure light that unfurled behind them.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Bridge – Same Time

Faith and the others looked up in awe as they saw the two angels descending from above them, floating through the smoke towards the demons streaming across the bridge after them.

"Where the hell did they come from?" Kennedy demanded.

"More likely heaven than hell," Faith corrected. "But who cares? Looks like they’re on our side," she added as the pair landed and drew burning swords, smashing the Presidium troops off the bridge with powerful sweeps.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Hub – Moments Later

By the time Dawn and Jeff reached the chamber, Giles was moving on his own. As they hurried toward the Hub, a nearby blast rocked the catacombs, nearly tossing everyone off their feet. From high above, a chunk of ceiling dislodged itself and plummeted towards the crowd below.

"Look out!" Bonnie yelled, pushing Andrew aside as the rock fell towards him. She barely escaped being hit by it, falling and rolling out of the way as it crashed into the smooth floor.

Beyond them, the great portal flickered and began to close.

"What’s wrong?" Giles and Robin yelled at once to the demon mage who was operating the Hub, standing between two stone pillars with his claws flat against them.

"The structure is damaged," he shouted back. "It cannot sustain a portal!"

From outside, another blast rocked the chamber, and the sounds of fighting echoed through the tunnels.

"Where’s the portal?" Faith demanded as she led her group into the chamber.

"They can’t keep it open," Robin told her.

"There’s no other way out!" Faith insisted. "There’re bad guys on every level. We had to fight just to get through to here!"

"Where’s Creed?" Ethan asked.

"Don’t know," Faith said, shaking her head. "If they’re back from their ambush, they’re probably neck deep in Presidium troops by now!"

"They’ve got a Fallen!" the demon mage Tephros said, flickering into view.

"A what?" Ethan asked.

"A Fallen, a warmistress!" Tephros explained desperately. "The Flayer’s handmaidens, they’re invincible!"

"Ethan, prepare a circle," Giles said grimly.

"What for—? No," Ethan interrupted himself. "No, Ripper, you absolutely cannot survive doing a portal spell right now!"

"Well, we can’t bloody well survive here, now can we?" Giles responded testily.

"It’ll kill you!" Ethan insisted.

"Better me than all of us!" Giles shouted back.

"No!" Dawn yelled at both of them. "I’ll do it!" She headed towards the demon mage and shoved him out of the way.

"What do you think you’re doing?" Jeff shouted after her.

"I have no idea!" she yelled back, placing her hands on the pillars as the mage had done. "Now shut up and let me do it!" Closing her eyes, she concentrated, beads of sweat forming on her brow. "Come on, damn you," she whispered to herself. "Less complex version of me, are you? Come on, you stupid rock! I’ll show you how it’s meant to be done!"

A glow formed on her hands, an eerie green that spread along her arms. With a rush, she extended both arms, sinking them to the elbow into the stone on either side of her.

"Dawn!" Jeff shouted.

"Get the hell out of here!" she shouted back.

Far above them, green light was filling in the damaged gaps in the ceiling, making the chamber whole again. A flicker began in its center, quickly growing to a glittering portal.

"How are you doing that?" Giles asked.

"I have no idea," Dawn said through gritted teeth, "but it is really uncomfortable, so I’d appreciate it if you’d get moving now."

"Okay go!" Robin shouted. "Come on, move! Through the portal, go!"

The crowd began surging through the opening, vanishing one by one.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Spire Bridge – Same Time

The ranks of demons pulled back from the two angels and parted to allow a slim figure to pass between them. She was human in size and appearance, clad in painfully tight black leather, and she carried two thin, jagged swords. Metal sprouted from her shoulders, forming two sweeping armatures behind her, and the skin from her back had been stretched out over them, mimicking wings. Blood flowed ceaselessly down her flayed back, over the bare muscles and spine, coating the backs of her legs.

"Who are you to challenge the Presidium?" she demanded of the two angels standing grimly before her. "Who are you to raise a hand to the likes of me?!"

"Some things we do not allow," the angels said in unison, raising their swords. The Fallen snarled and charged the pair, and great gouts of light and flame blasted around them as their blades met.

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – The Hub – Same Time

"That’s it!" Robin shouted over the distant sounds of battle and destruction. "Just us and the two hooded fellows."

"They’re covering our retreat," Giles said. "So, go."

"You’re going too!" Robin insisted.

"This is a direct order. Get through that portal!" Giles shouted.

"Go," Faith added. "I’ll make sure we get through!"

Robin gave an exasperated sigh, then picked up as many bags as he could from the supplies scattered around and joined the last of the slayers going through the portal, leaving only Faith, Giles, Jeff, Dawn, Ethan, and Rupert the dog in the chamber.

"Dawn," Giles said, "pull back. We’ll hold the portal open while you go."

"It’ll kill you," she shook her head, tears streaking her face.

"We are not leaving you here!" Giles insisted. "This is a direct— Ooof! " He broke off as Ethan shoved him backwards through the portal.

"He’s getting too fond of his direct orders, if you ask me," he said grimly before turning to Jeff. "You, go."

"Not without Dawn!" the young man insisted. "You go. I’ll hold the portal open!"

"Oh for god’s sake, what is it with you people?" Ethan yelled. "Right, have you ever opened and maintained a transdimensional portal?"

"No, but—" Jeff began to say.

"Well, I have," Ethan interrupted, "so bugger off!"

"Go, Jeff," Faith said. "We won’t leave her here."

With a tortured look, Jeff turned and disappeared through the portal.

"Don’t think you’re getting me to go first," Faith warned Ethan.

"Perish the thought," he said. "Come on, give me a hand." He walked over to Dawn and bodily pulled her out from between the pillars.

"What—? Hey! " she protested as Ethan put her over his shoulder.

"Go!" Ethan yelled, handing her to Faith.

The slayer turned and ran for the portal, which was closing rapidly, while Ethan gripped the pillars and gritted his teeth. The portal’s closure slowed, just long enough for Faith and Dawn to get through, then Ethan fell back from the pillars, and it closed at last.

"Oh bugger," he muttered, staring at the empty space where the portal had been.

Cut to:

Int.

Earth – Giles’s Apartment – Same Time

“Becca?” Buffy said hesitantly from the doorway. Becca looked up from her crossword, smiling at first, then frowning as she saw Buffy’s expression.

“Come here,” she said, holding out an arm. Buffy sat beside her with Becca’s arm around her shoulders.

“Becca…” she began again.

“She’ll be all right,” Becca said quietly. “You’ve known her much longer than I have, and even I know that Willow never gives up. And we both know just what a bloodhound Rupert can be when he has to be. I wouldn’t put money on the Presidium right now-”

“Becca, that’s not it,” Buffy said at last. Becca looked at her intently, then bit her lip in worry.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

“We’ve lost contact,” Buffy said. “The Mirror just…stopped, went dead. Al thinks something’s happened to the other one. She and Skye are trying to get a spell going to contact Vor, to find out, but…I’m sorry,” she finished, sniffing back tears.

“Rupert?” Becca asked, her voice tiny. She stiffened, took a deep breath, and murmured, “Oh, god…”

“Actually, we don’t know what’s happening…” Buffy said hopefully. “This could be nothing, just a downed transmitter like Andrew would say, so…” Buffy trailed off for a moment as she watched Becca taking slow, deep breaths. “Are you okay?” the slayer asked. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but I wanted you to know what’s…”

“Buffy…” Becca said, still taking slow, deep breaths. “I think my water broke,” Becca said.

Buffy frowned in confusion and looked over her shoulder at the apartment’s kitchen. Becca grabbed her hand and put it on top of her rounded stomach.

“We’re not talking about the water in your sink, are we?” Buffy asked rhetorically.

“No, not that water,” Becca replied, nodding toward the kitchen.

“Okay! Okay!” Buffy darted from the sofa and began to pace. “A bag, right? We need to pack a bag and boil some water a-and-.”

“And calm down,” Becca said gently. “That’s number one on the list.” Becca reached out and gripped Buffy’s hand. “This is gonna take some time, so just go ask Skye if she can come up here, okay? When it gets closer, she can take me to the hospital.”

“How long?” Buffy asked.

“I probably have quite a few hours before anything major happens, so just ask Skye to come up right now.”

“Skye. Hospital. Okay,” Buffy said quickly and nodded. “I can do that.”

Without looking back, Buffy darted from the room. Becca struggled to her feet and went over to the wedding picture that sat on the mantel. She picked it up and looked at it a moment before wrapping her arms around it and holding it to her chest.

 

Cut To:

Int.

Vor Hell Dimension – Presidium Citadel – Panopticon – Same Time

The Lover had her back to the entrance when two of her servants appeared with a prisoner held securely between them.

She turned, studying the newcomer in great detail before she spoke.

"Hello, Willow," she said finally. "I have waited a long time to meet you."

Fade Out.

 

 

To be continued in Ragnarok, Part Two

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