Buffy, Willow, Oz, and Xander made their way through the school basement. Aurelia and Willow had the flashlights, leading the way. "It's around this corner, I think." Willow said.
"Man, I hope you're right this time." Xander said.
"We told you we weren't sure." Aurelia said.
"Are you gonna get sure anytime soon? This place is giving me a major wiggins."
"You're not the only one." Willow said.
They rounded a corner and found the door. "Hey!" Aurelia said. She rushed up to it and yanked it open. The place was lit with an unnatural light. The floor was made of dirt, but in the middle of the dirt floor was a large gold seal with a goat's head standing out of it.
"Whoa. Check out the goat-heady badness." Xander said.
"What does it do?"
Oz was investigating a large wheel over in the corner. "There's blood on this." He said. "Lots."
Aurelia walked over and touched the wheel. "This is sacrificial."
"Whoa…." Everyone but Aurelia backed away from it.
"I bet this is what the First needed Cassius for." She turned to look at the Seal. "Blood must…. Activate the seal. There's a bad energy coming off it."
"I can feel it, too." Oz said.
"Is that what that feeling is?" Willow asked. "I thought I was just hungry."
"We need to cover this thing up." Aurelia grabbed nearby shovels and handed them out. "Whatever it does, we can't leave it exposed like this." Everyone nodded and they all started shoveling dirt over the seal.
"So what next?" Willow asked as they walked out of the room, shutting the door behind them. "We found the room with a bad energy seal, but no Cassius."
"I don't know." Aurelia sighed. "The First was camped underground the last time I found him, but…."
Principal Snyder appeared in the basement hallway. "What are you four doing down here?" He eyed their shovels.
"Oh, we were down here for…. a school project." Aurelia said.
"For history class." Willow added. "Extra credit!"
"We buried a…. time capsule." Xander said. "Hello people of the future. Kids of today like Fight Club and, uh, Britney Spears."
"We better go." Aurelia said.
"You buried it in the basement?" Snyder asked.
"Oh…. No! We were…."
"Returning the shovels." Oz finished, smoothly taking the shovels from everyone. "We got a little lost down here trying to find where we got them."
"This place is a maze!" Xander said.
"Just put the shovels back. I'll be speaking with your history teacher about this…. Extra credit project."
"Oh…." Willow started, but Oz pushed her onward.
"Sure thing." Oz said. Aurelia and Xander followed quickly behind.
"What is that sniveling little rat doing here on a Sunday?" Aurelia asked once they'd made their way back to the library.
"He probably lives here." Xander said. "He doesn't seem to have a life."
"Aurelia…." Willow started.
Aurelia turned to look at Willow. "Yes?"
The red head was standing at the computer. "There's a spell on here I think I should try."
"Ok. What does the spell do?"
"It's a locater spell. I was looking at it earlier while you were asleep…. Maybe if we can find the First, we can find Cassius. I mean, that's probably where those Bringer guys took him…. You know, to the First."
"Will it work?"
"I don't know. You know I'm new at this and the whole magic thing is kinda….well, new…. But I think this locater spell should work. It's not a big spell like the restoration spell was."
"If you think it'll help, please. I'm willing to try anything at this point."
"Ok. I need to go get some supplies."
Aurelia nodded and looked at the clock. "Well, it's getting close to lunch time, anyway. I need to go see my mom off."
"Where's she going?"
"I don't know. I just wanted her to leave town before everything goes to hell." Everyone's eyes widened. "Not literally." Aurelia shook her head and walked into the office to get her coat.
Oz brought a candle over to Willow and set it on the table in front of her. Willow struck a match to light the various candles in front of her. Aurelia was standing at the end of the table watching the goings on. They had convened back here around five in the afternoon. It had taken Willow a little while longer to find the spell and get everything set up. It was now well after dark.
Xander walked up to her with two big bags of fast food. "How's it going?" He asked.
"Oz has been trying to find out anything he can about the Seal of Danzalthar. He found a description of it in one of the books. Will's about to do the locator spell." Aurelia yawned.
"Why don't you go get some rest? You haven't slept for like two days. We'll call you if we find anything."
"I couldn't sleep. With Cassius abducted and the First out there and the Bringers attacking potential Slayers and Giles and Faith missing…. There's just too much going on."
"It'll be ok, Auri. We've faced this kind of stuff before."
"You didn't see the First. I did. I felt it. It was like…."
Willow poured a sandy mixture on the table in front of her and a magical explosion sent Oz flying back against the wall in the corner. The bowl in front of Willow glowed red. After another second, the red light surrounded Willow then entered her body through her nostrils. She threw her head back and a demonic apparition with two horns on its head and glowy red eyes escaped her mouth, lunging toward Aurelia.
"Willow!" Aurelia screamed.
The demon went back inside Willow and she stood, sending red lightning bolts from her mouth. The bolts were aimed at Aurelia, knocking her down and sending her across the floor on her back and almost out the doors. "You only make me stronger!" A deep, possessed voice said from Willow's mouth.
Oz grabbed the glowing bowl from the spell and threw it against the floor, shattering it. The light disappeared and Willow collapsed, crying and twitching. Xander went to check on Aurelia as Oz knelt at Willow's side, holding her head.
"Willow!" Aurelia scrambled over to her friend.
"It's still in me. I feel it!" Willow cried.
"No, it's not. It's gone. You're ok." Oz soothed.
"I don't want to hurt anybody. It wanted me to kill you! Please, Aurelia, don't let it make me. Oh, God!"
"We won't. I promise, ok?" Aurelia said. "I promise. We won't use magic to fight this thing until we know what we're doing."
"I can't. I can't. I'm sorry."
Aurelia and Oz exchanged worried glances.
"Let me come with you." Xander said, following Aurelia. She was moving around, getting weapons and her jacket in order.
"I'm going alone." Aurelia said.
"You said yourself, you don't know how to fight the First, or even where it is."
"It's out there. It's hurting my friends. I'll find it." She turned towards the doors and started to leave, but the doors opened and Giles walked in.
"Aurelia." He said, surprised to see her and the others in the library.
"Giles." Aurelia went to hug him, but was cut off when three girls she'd never met walked into the library.
The third girl looked at Aurelia. "This is a slayer?" She looked away and sighed on her way into the library.
Aurelia stared at the girls, then looked at Giles, confused. "I'm glad you're all here. We have a slight apocalypse."
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "Tell me about it." He looked at her strangely. "I'll explain it to you later. Are they…."
"What?" Xander asked. "What are they?"
"Potential slayers. Waiting for one to be called. There were many more like them all over the world, but, um, now there's just a handful, and they're all on their way to Sunnydale."
"The others were murdered." Aurelia said.
"In cold blood. As well as their Watchers. We always feared that this day would come, when there'd be an attack against not just an individual slayer, but against the whole line."
"The First. That's what it wants."
"Yes, to erase all the slayers in training and their watchers along with their methods."
"And then Faith, and then me. And with all the potentials gone and no way of making another, it's the end. No more Slayer. Ever."
"But we haven't found any information on the First. No documentation…." Willow said.
"That's because it predates any written history, and it rarely shows its true face. The only record I know was in the Council Library." Giles said.
"What about the Council? What do they say about this?" Aurelia asked.
"What?" Willow asked.
"Obliterated. They were in session, and, uh, there was an explosion."
"That means all the Council's records are-are destroyed?"
"Annabelle." One of the girls, Annabelle, unzipped her book bag, took two books and a stack of files from it, and laid them on the library table in front of Willow. "That's what's left." Willow, Oz, Xander, and Aurelia each took some of the new material. "The mystic secrets of the Watchers. And whatever I could find on the First. When I learned what was happening, I-I, um, I stole them."
"And you blew the Council up!" Xander said. "See, this is what happens when you're all stuffy and repressed. You overreact."
"No…. I didn't. Must've been an agent of the First, after my little burglary session. The knowledge contained in these files had to be protected, and there wasn't time for-for bureaucracy or debate. The Council knows no other way."
"But what do these records say about the First?" Aurelia asked.
"Uh, very little. It can change form. Uh, it only appears in the guise of someone who's passed away. Also it's not corporeal. It can't touch or fight on its own. It only works through those it manipulates. And its followers, the Bringers."
"Those freaks in the black robes." One girl said.
"Yeah, with the hoodies and the crazy alphabet eyes." The other girl said. "I never saw 'em, I just heard…."
"Shh!" Annabelle ordered. "Molly, Mr. Giles doesn't need us prattling on."
"The First is unlike anything we've faced before." Giles said. "I mean, there's evil and then there's the thing that created evil, the source."
"And that's what this thing claims to be." Aurelia said.
"That's what it is. It has eternities to act, endless resources. How to defeat it…. I-I…. honestly I don't know. But we have to find a way. If the Slayer line is eliminated, then the Hellmouth has no guardian. The balance is destroyed. I'm afraid it falls to you, Aurelia. Sorry. I mean, we'll do what we can, but you're the only one who has the strength to protect these girls…. and the world…. against what's coming."
"But no pressure." Oz said.
The third girl walked to the front of the three girls. "That's it? That's the plan? I don't see how one person, even a Slayer, could protect us. I saw what those Bringer guys can do. They tore apart my watcher."
"Of course we'll use all our resources…." Giles said.
"And if this thing is the root of all evil, isn't the Hellmouth it's number one vacation spot? I mean, don't you think we should be hiding our asses on the other side of the globe?"
"Kennedy!" Annabelle cried.
"No, she's not wrong." Aurelia said. "We need more strong bodies. That's why we need to find Cassius."
"Where is he?" Giles asked.
"This place you originally saw the First…. you say it was in a Christmas tree lot?" Giles asked.
"Under it." Aurelia said. They were walking down main street that night heading for the lot where Aurelia had fought the first Bringers. "There was a hidden cavern. Just happened to be under a tree lot. The Bringers were doing some kind of ritual." She looked up at him. "Giles, this is bad, isn't it? A new kind of bad."
"I'm not going to lie to you, Aurelia. Yes, it's very bad. They've captured Cassius. He's obviously not dead, because you're not, but he could be killed at any moment and you with him."
"Maybe that's the way the First plans to take this Slayer out of the game. I'll be the very last to go, of course. For all we know, the First has already gotten Faith."
"I'm sure she'll turn up. She's quite resourceful."
"I don't have as much faith in Faith as you do." Aurelia walked into the now empty lot. She looked around, trying to remember which way the dead trees had been.
"So the entrance to the cave was above ground here?"
"Yes, I'm sure it was around here somewhere."
"Well, we'll just keep…."
Aurelia didn't hear the rest of Giles's sentence. She had fallen through rotted wood into the cavern she'd discovered only weeks before. "Found it!" She called up.
Giles bent over the hole. "Good lord, are you all right?"
She stood and dusted herself off. "I'm all right, except my knees bend backwards now. Giles, stay up there. I'm going to check it out." She walked off further into the cave, looking around. A sound behind her startled her and she turned to look, but no one was behind her. When she turned back, the scariest looking monster hissed in her face. It was obviously some kind of vampire. The thing took the opportunity while Aurelia was startled to punch her so hard enough to make her fly across the room, landing against the wall and falling to the ground. He kicked and punched her with such force that her blocks were mostly ineffective.
Aurelia retreated, but he followed. Finally she got some good offensive moves in, but he was able to avoid or block more than half of them. He punched her again, sending her rolling into another room. She got to her feet before the thing could get to her and readied herself with a stake. When he finally came close enough, she staked him right through the heart. He looked at the stake, growling, and looked at Aurelia, taking out the stake. Her eyes grew wide as she stared in utter shock.
The thing attacked, punching Aurelia across the face. He went after her with her own stake. She barely avoided his attacks, but her back was literally against the wall. Her eyes were still wide as she watched him come after her. He punched her in the stomach and threw her against the wall. She threw a punch at him, but he caught her fist in his palm and squeezed until it made crunching sounds, then twisted her arm and pulled her body until he slammed her head into a stalagmite. He grabbed her throat, squeezing, and lifting her off the ground.
Aurelia winced and looked around desperately until she found a stalactite. She broke the stalactite off of the cave ceiling and bashed the thing's head with it. He dropped her and fell to the ground. While he was recovering, Aurelia made a run for it. She climbed the cave walls toward the hole where she'd fallen in. She was almost out, her hands were on the ground, when the thing grabbed her heel. She struggled against him, trying to get out of the hole, but the thing pulled her back in. There was nothing on the ground for her to grab on to. She kicked the thing in the head and tried again to crawl out of the hole. She barely got out of the hole and looked up at Giles, who was backlit by the rising sun. The thing started to crawl out of the hole, but saw the sunlight and retreated back into it.