Willow held the book from the Slayer's emergency kit in her lap. Oz, Cordelia, Kennedy, and Xander were gathered around her in the living room. "What's the book say?" Xander asked.
"Not much." Willow said. "Once Aurelia left, it got a little tougher to read." She held up the book to show the writing had changed. She sighed and got up, walking out of the room to the kitchen. The others followed her.
"It's ok." Oz said. "We'll just start with what we know, and take it from there."
"Great, so far we know Jack about squat." Xander said. "Let's go from there."
"You've got the magic, use it."
"I-I-I don't even know what magic to use." Willow said.
"Why not just try all 32 flavors?" Kennedy asked. "Worst thing that happens is you go brunette."
Willow grabbed the first-aid kit from a kitchen cabinet. "That's not the worst thing that can happen." She started to attend to Kennedy's wounded hand.
"She's right." Cordelia said. "And you know we have a choice. We can risk Willow's life and the rest of our lives to get Buffy back, or we leave her out there."
"If we play it safe back here, Aurelia could stay lost." Oz said.
"Cordelia, the First is already up and running. Every second that Aurelia's not here, is an opportunity for it to show up and rip us to pieces." Xander said.
"Willow, how would you get Aurelia back?" Oz asked.
"That's what I'm saying…. I don't even know." Willow said.
"Ok, but if another witch was to do it, where would she start?" Xander asked.
"Uh, physics, principles, basic laws…."
"Such as?" Oz asked.
"Uh, conservation of energies. You can't really create or destroy anything, only transfer. Magic works off physics."
"Not without a catalyst." Cassius said from the doorway. "If you're talking about transferring energies, you need some kind of conduit."
"Like a-a Kraken's tooth."
"Yeah, skin of Draconis, um, ground up Baltic stones, something…."
"Plus, we need an exchange, like you said." Kennedy said. "I'm thinking a Slayer for a demon."
"If we want Aurelia back, then we have to find that demon and send it through." Cassius said.
"It matter if it's dead or alive?"
"I vote dead. Aurelia's counting on you, Willow. Get cracking on that portal. The demon's mine."
"Hate to say it, but you look like you can barely stand. We're trained. And the only thing we know for sure about this demon is it kicked your ass."
"Not this time. Aurelia's counting on me." He turned and walked out of the kitchen, heading for the front door.
Aurelia walked up to a group of three men dressed in tribal fashion, each holding a tall staff and wearing different colored head-dresses. "Hello? I'm…. Buffy. I'm the slayer." When they spoke to her, it was in some unrecognizable language, but somehow, Aurelia understood them.
"We know who you are." The man in the red hat said.
"And we know why you're here." The man in the black hat said.
"We've been waiting." The man in the brown hat said.
"Good. That's good then." Aurelia said. "I know we have bigger issues to deal with, but how do I understand anything you three just said?" They looked at each other and stood, not answering. "Ancient magicks, right."
The three men started circling her. "We have been here since the beginning." Red Hat said.
"Now, we are almost at the end." Black Hat said.
"End of what?" Aurelia asked.
"You are the hellmouth's last guardian." Brown Hat said.
"Latest. You mean latest guardian."
"No." Red Hat said.
"I have a First to fight, so would you just tell me what I need to know. I came to learn."
"We cannot give you knowledge. Only power." Red Hat said.
"You know what I think? I'm not really here at all. None of this is actually happening. This is like a play. Like some shadow-play. Some non-reality re-enactment hologram…." One of the men hit Aurelia, knocking her to the ground.
Willow poured green sand from a bag, creating a circle on the floor. Oz, Kennedy, Cordelia, and Xander were standing around the room. "And this is gonna help us how?" Kennedy asked.
"The sand forms a circle." Oz said. "The circle acts as a barrier. The barrier contains the portal."
"Now what? We hold hands and chant kumbaya or something?"
Willow handed the bag of sand to Oz. "Maybe. 'Til we get the magicks up and running, I'm kinda working on my best guess here."
"Will, maybe we should wait." Xander said.
"For what?" Cordelia asked.
"Angel…. to see if he can bring back that demon."
"No, I don't think we should wait right now." Willow said. "Opening a portal this size could take days."
"Better get started." Oz said.
Willow held her hands in fists and shifted her weight from one foot to another. "I think I might pee my pants."
"You can do it." Oz said, gripping her hand. "Not the pants thing. The magic thing."
"Ok." Willow breathed deeply and then sat down in the middle of the circle. "Via temporis, iam clamo ad te, via spatii te jubeo aperire. Aperi!" Nothing happened and Willow turned to Oz. "You'd better put on some coffee. This could take awhile…." Willow was interrupted by a flash of light. Energy radiated through the room, knocking everyone down and Willow's eyes turned black as she screamed like a banshee.
Aurelia was groggy and disoriented as she regained consciousness. She discovered that she was sitting on the ground. "What is this?" She stood up only to find she was shackled at the wrists and chained to the ground. She struggled against the chains as she realized the three men were standing in front of her in a circle.
"We are at the beginning." Brown Hat said. "The source of your strength. The well of the slayer's power."
"This is why we have brought you here." Red Hat said.
"I brought myself here. I'm already the slayer. I'm bursting with power." Aurelia insisted. "I really don't need any more."
"The First Slayer did not talk so much." Red Hat said. Aurelia pulled on her chains again as the men started tapping their staves against the ground, rhythmically. The man in the red hat fetched a box and brought it to the center of the circle, where he took off the box top. "Herein lies your truest strength."
"The energy of the demon. Its spirit." Black Hat said.
"Its heart." Brown Hat said.
Aurelia suddenly realized, "This is how you…."
"Created the slayer?" Red Hat nodded. "Yes." Black smoke came out of the box in long tentacles. It seemed sentient as it danced around the circle. The men kept tapping their staves rhythmically.
"It must become one with you." Brown Hat said.
"No!" Aurelia struggled against her chains.
"This will make you ready for the fight." Red Hat said.
"By making me less human?"
"This is how it was then. How it must be now."
"This is all there is." Black Hat said.
Aurelia struggled against her restraints in vain as the black smoke came toward her, entering her body through her nose and ears. She screamed as the black smoke tried to enter her body. The men just stood there, watching. The smoke couldn't get in through Aurelia's head while she was screaming, so it rose to the ceiling of the cave and came back down to her, encircling her hips. "Make this stop!" She growled.
"This is what you came for." Red Hat said.
"This isn't the way."
"Do not fight this."
The black smoke headed toward Aurelia again.
Willow sat in the circle of sand, black-eyed, and performing magic. The others behind her stood up from where they had fallen earlier. "Via, concursus, tempus, spatium, audi me ut imperio. Screw it!" Willow cried. "Mighty forces, I suck at Latin, ok? But that's not the issue. I'm the one in charge, and I'm telling you open up, portal, now!"
"It's not happening, Will." Xander said.
"Give her time. She's getting it." Oz said.
"Or something's getting her. Will, think you better back up a little."
"No!" Willow's arms thrust back behind her, sending magic toward Oz and Kennedy, who immediately froze. Enveloped in magic, they were lifted from the ground momentarily by Willow, who was pulling power from the two, through her, to create the portal. The portal opened up in front of her in the shape of a large window of light. Noticing that Willow's hair was turning black as she channeled Oz and Kennedy's energy, Xander entered the circle, lifting Willow up by her arms. As he carried her out of the circle, her hair went back to red.
Aurelia was still chained to the ground as she stood, addressing the three men who put her there. "You believe that I came all this way to get impregnated by some demon dust? I can't fight this. I know that now. But you three? You're just men." She ripped her chains out of the ground. "Just the men who did this…. to her. Whoever that girl was before she was the First Slayer."
"You don't understand." Red Hat said.
"No, you don't understand! You violated that girl, made her kill for you because you're weak, you're pathetic, and you obviously have nothing to show me." Aurelia used the chains that were still shackled to her hands as weapons. She swung the chains at the legs of one man and the staff of the other. She knocked them down, but they got up again. Aurelia rolled her eyes and knocked them both out with her chains. She walked up to the man in the red hat, holding the staff of one of the two defeated men. She broke it easily and the demon smoke disappeared. "It's always the staff."
"We offered you power." Red Hat said.
"Tell me something I don't know."
"As you wish." Red Hat held his hand to Aurelia's head.
Cassois opened the door to Aurelia's room and found her sitting on her bed, curled up, looking worried. "How are you doing?" He asked.
"I was hard on everyone today." Aurelia said.
"You needed to be. Are you ok?"
"I think I made a mistake."
"Those men that I met…. you know, the shadow men? They offered me more power, but I didn't like the loophole."
"It's ok, Aurelia. We'll get by. We always do."
"I don't know. They showed me…."
"Showed you what?"
"That the First Slayer was right…. it isn't enough."
"Why? What did you see? What did they show you?"
Aurelia saw the vision in her head again. A Turok-Han growled with a battle cry. All around it, there were many more jumping around with weapons. There were thousands upon thousands of Turok-Han forming an army underground.