The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: FIC: The Dark Rose
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:49 am 
Wow, what strange circumstances have conspired to allow me to actually get a comment in here, after hardly making it to Pens for over a week, before you post the next chapter?



The changes you made to that painful clothes-folding scene were excellent; Tara's teasing tone falling flat, Willow's fingers trailing over her hand, Tara trying for light when she feels only dark...really well done. I felt Tara's near-demand here--Willow, be all mine because I don't want to share you with the past or with magic--much more forcefully in this version, and the unspoken thread of Willow's response--I have done nothing with my life except what I've done for you--really hit me.



They are in a hard, hard place right now, but lucky me, I know what happens!:grin





"And I'm eating this banana. Lunchtime be damned!" -- Willow in "Doppelgangland



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 Post subject: Re: FIC: The Dark Rose
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 10:40 am 
Well now, to the Beta's out there who've actually read the upcoming updates, all I can say is ... :sob you are cruel, cruel people! :p (and jealously rears its ugly head :skull ).



While I'm hovering on the edge of my seat waiting for the next instalment, part of me does not want it to come too quickly. I see signs that the end is near, and I am conflicted. I want to finish the story, damn it, but on the other hand, I will surely miss the progressive style of this kind of literary presentation, the evolution of the story and the discussions surrounding it. It has become one of my favourite "books." While I shall enjoy reading it over and over again (as I do with stories I love) I do not want this story to end. So, having said all this, DMW, have you started writing the next one yet? (and, ah, no - I'm not kidding! :wink )



Cheers!!

Patches



You know I've heard about people like me. But I never made the connection. They walk one road to set them free, And find they've gone the wrong direction. But there's no need for turning back 'cause all roads lead to where I stand. And I believe I'll walk them all No matter what I may have planned



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 Post subject: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 12:35 pm 
Title: The Dark Rose - Chapter 21 (The Spectre of Buffy Summers)

Author: Dark Magic Willow

Email: darkmagickwillow@yahoo.com

Rating: R, mostly for violence, no explicit sex

Pairing: W/T

Spoilers: All episodes through the end of season 6 though this story takes place 18-19 years after the end of season 6.

Feedback: Yes! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary: Despair and hope in the darkness.

Magic Note: Magic, even dark magic, is not addictive in my universe, so there are no withdrawal symptoms and no dark magic dealers. Here Rack was a dark magic teacher who used his students, not a dealer. However, you can use too much magic and you can be corrupted by the power it gives you.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BtVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Amanda and Juli for insight, encouragement, and above all, the patience to make it this far with me.





The Dark Rose

Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers






Tara had been staring into the mirror in her dark room for hours. She was still hugging her pillow to her chest, her arms wrapped around herself in a futile attempt at comfort. The redness of crying faded from her eyes, but her heart was still desolate.



The world in the mirror was soft and indistinct, like her life had once been. It had been easy to be happy then, but now she knew too much. Then she had thought she'd been loved. Now she knew that that feeling had just been an illusion. In a way her whole life with Willow had been an illusion, a replay of what happened before, but now she saw reality. Wasn't that better?



It wasn't.



Reality sucked. The illusion had been so much better. But it would have been even better than that to have never loved at all. If she had been cautious and hadn't foolishly followed her dreams, she wouldn't be here sitting in the dark trying to piece together the shards of her broken heart.



She felt lost as she looked into the mirror. She was alone. Yet why should that matter? She'd spent most of her life without Willow beside her. Everything had seemed fine then. Why couldn't she return to the feeling now?



Her momentary flash of anger faded, dropping her once more into the icy embrace of despair. Anger could only warm her heart for so long before she fell back into this cold grey feeling of broken emptiness, but it was good to feel something. Anything was better than this growing void within her.



She had learned the truth of the legend of Icarus. Willow had inspired her to leave the ground of her life behind, and she had dared to learn to fly. But she had flown too high, too close to Willow's sun. Her wings had burned away and she had fallen so fast, so far, crashing into a pit so deep that no light could reach the bottom.



Despite all her fears, her instinct was still to go to Willow for comfort, to forget her pain in her gentle embrace. This time she couldn't though. She had no one to go to. Willow was the source of her pain. She desperately wanted Willow to call, but at the same time she didn't know if she could talk to her.



She had always been able to find a safe place inside of herself where she could hide from the pain before, but now every place inside her was filled with complicated, heartbreaking emotions. There wasn't anywhere she could go to be free of them.



Why couldn't her life be simpler? Why did they have to have this huge burden of history between them? Yet without that history, would she ever have found someone who fit her the way that Willow did?



Tara started at the sound of a knock on her door. She jumped up, dropping her pillow to the floor, and rushed to the door, hoping that it would be Willow. Yanking open the door, she saw Dawn instead. She couldn't stop her face from falling in disappointment.



"Dawn," she said in a dull voice.



"I've had brighter welcomes," Dawn said with a wry smile. "Are you okay, Tara?" she asked, concern entering her voice as she noticed Tara's disheveled appearance and the lost look in her eyes.



Tara shook her head wearily. "No, I'm definitely not okay," she said. Recalling that she was blocking the doorway, Tara stepped aside to let Dawn enter. "Come in."



Dawn entered the room and sat down on the wooden chair beside the bed. Tara closed the door behind her and sat back down on the bed. She stared down at her feet without speaking. Dawn couldn't help her. She was just another person who expected her to be the old Tara.



"What's wrong?" Dawn prompted, her gaze still full of concern.



"You wouldn't understand," Tara said, waving Dawn's concern off with her hands.



"Did you have a fight with Willow?" Dawn asked, thinking that she had seen this look on Tara's face before. That couldn't be good. She remembered what had happened the last time they had argued, but what did the two of them have to fight about? Surely Willow wouldn't break her promise again.



"How did you know?" Tara asked in surprise, looking up at Dawn's face for the first time.



"I've seen that look before," Dawn said with an unhappy half smile. "What was it about?"



"That!" Tara said more loudly than she had planned, jumping up and beginning to pace restlessly. "You've never seen that look on me before. You all know the old Tara, but I'm not her," she said. "I'm me."



"I see," Dawn said, nodding with understanding. She had thought about this potential problem already, wondering what issues Tara's knowledge of her past life might bring up. She had hoped that she could talk with Tara before any problems came up, but it looked like she was already too late. "All of us have expectations of you because of what we remember from our past with you. What exactly was the problem with Willow?"



"She loves the old Tara," Tara said, whirling to face Dawn.



"She did," Dawn said in a soft voice, subtly trying to sooth Tara. She knew that Tara couldn't help but compare herself with her past self and probably come up wanting if she saw her past self from Willow's idealized perspective. "She loved her very much, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't love you."



"She loves her," Tara said, stressing the last word harshly. "Not me." She sat back down her on the bed, the energy of her anger quickly deserting her in her despair. Her shoulders slumped in defeat.



"Did she tell you that?" Dawn asked, her eyes widening in surprise.



"No," Tara admitted. "I read it in her journal."



"Are you sure she feels that way now?" Dawn asked skeptically, finding it difficult to accept the idea of Willow not loving Tara in whatever form. Willow had changed, but not that much.



"She's never told me that she loves me," Tara said miserably, swallowing the lump in her throat. "Isn't that clear enough?"



"I don't know," Dawn said. "But I don't think so." Looking at the unhappy lines of Tara's face, Dawn realized again how young she was. Tara saw this one argument as the end of the world. But it didn't have to be the end of anything. Dawn tried to find the words that would give Tara some of her perspective. "Willow's led a lonely, dangerous life for a long time now," she said. "She's lost so much. I think saying those words could be very hard for her."



Tara looked down for a long moment. "I didn't think of that," she said softly, her voice almost inaudible. "I was just so angry I walked out."



"Well, it's over now," Dawn said, trying to reassure Tara that she and Willow would make it through this argument.



"Over?" Tara asked frantically, her face a mask of fear. "How can it be over? I just found her!" Love and desperation mingled in her voice as she realized that she did want to try again with Willow. How could Dawn offer her hope one moment only to tear it away from her the next?



"The quarrel is over," Dawn reassured her quickly, upset to see how she had caused Tara such distress.



"Oh," Tara said. "Yeah." She looked down, feeling little embarrassed. Her heart was still beating rapidly from her momentary fright.



"You should talk to her when you're both more calm," Dawn continued encouragingly. "It's an unusual situation to say the least. It'll take time for both of you figure out what your new life means."



"How can we figure it out?" Tara asked, flinging her arms wide in confusion. She wanted to see Willow again, but what could she say to her? How could she explain how she felt when she wasn't even sure who she was? She couldn't be the old Tara, but she also couldn't go back to how she was before she had learned about her past.



"I think you're like a quantum particle," Dawn said. Catching Tara's puzzled look, she explained further "Sometimes it looks like a wave, other times it looks like a particle, but it's really something else entirely. Sometimes you're like the Tara we knew before and sometimes you're like who you were before learning about your past, but you're actually someone different from either of those people now. You're still yourself, but you have new memories and connections to the past that is changing you. It'll take time for both you and Willow to learn what this means for both of you."



Dawn's explanation made more sense to Tara than anything she'd come up with herself. Tara had constantly confronted what she now understood was an impossible choice between her past life and her current one. Now she realized that she didn't have to make that choice. She didn't have to force herself to be someone that she wasn't, but she also didn't have to give up everything that had come into her life with the knowledge of her past.



She looked over Dawn's shoulder into the mirror that she'd stared into for hours this afternoon, looking for answers, and saw herself in it for the first time. Simply herself. Nothing more. Nothing less. There was no past, no future, in the mirror, simply herself as she was in this moment. That's all she could be.



As she accepted herself, Tara also accepted that Willow did love her. Willow had come so close to saying that tonight. Tara had seen the fear in Willow's eyes as she had said that she was Tara's. Wasn't that love, belonging to each other? She could be patient about hearing those three small words as long as she kept that knowledge in her heart.



Her stomach tightened as she had another thought. "I walked out on Willow," she said in a stunned voice as if realizing what she had done for the first time. "What if she doesn't want anything more to do with me now?" she asked, looking to Dawn for hope.



"She'll understand," Dawn said, placing a reassuring hand on Tara's shoulder.



Tara stood up. "I should go see her now," she said, not reassured at all by Dawn's comment. She wanted to fix things between them while there was still time. She started towards the door.



"You don't even know if she's home," Dawn protested.



"Yes, I do," Tara said with a smile as she felt for Willow with her mind. Then as her tendril of thought touched Willow, her smile faded. She couldn't tell exactly what was happening, but she could feel that Willow was fighting for her life. And she wasn't there to help.



"Willow's in trouble," Tara said grimly as she ran towards the door.





* * * * * *






Willow had almost reached the Heart. She had descended into the depths of the darkness beneath Sunnydale, defeating demon after demon that the Master had set to guard himself. She'd kept her promise to Tara, destroying her opponents without recourse to dark magic. Tara would never know, but it felt right somehow.



She walked steadily down the narrow stone passageway, her only illumination the cold blue witchlight she directed in front of her. Cold water dripped on her from high above, making her look up. There was nothing on the ceiling this time, but there had been spidery demons lurking above earlier. She ignored the water and followed her sense of the Heart's corruption.



It was easy to follow the path to the Heart. With each step closer, the tunnels and caverns grew colder, and the sense of corruption tore more painfully at her senses. She knew that she was very near as the air was icy and her breath came in clouds of white.



The passageway emptied into an enormous cavern. Willow emerged from the tunnel on to a small ledge. The cavern stretched upwards and downwards out of sight into total darkness. She could hear the sounds of rushing water from below. She sent out her blue witchlight to see across the cavern and found another stone ledge opposite hers on the other side.



A slender span of stone blocks arched over the chasm, connecting the two ledges. It glistened with moisture. In the center of the bridge stood an indistinct figure shimmering with emerald energies. It was the Master's final guardian. Willow began crossing the narrow bridge, warily approaching the wraith.



As Willow neared the spectral figure, she saw that it was a slender woman, shorter than her. Despite its small stature and apparent inattention, it radiated a sense of menace. Finally, when she was close enough to almost touch the spectre, it turned to face her, grinning wickedly. "Welcome home, Willow," it said in a voice Willow knew well.



The spirit was Buffy, looking the same as she had the day of Tara's funeral. The dark resurrection performed by the Heart had erased the marks of age and disease. She was coldly beautiful, a dark shadow of the living Buffy, translucent and limned with an ill emerald radiance.



Willow's mouth dropped open in shock. "B-buffy?" Willow stammered.



It was a miracle. Her best friend returned to her in this moment of darkness. She had missed Buffy so much and had felt so guilty about not being here for her at the end. All the things that Willow had been afraid that she could never tell Buffy bubbled up inside. Forgetting for a moment where she was and why she had come here, Willow started forward to embrace her old friend.



"Surprised?" Buffy asked ironically, arching an eyebrow. "Well, you were the last time you tore me out of heaven too."



Buffy's words stopped Willow mid-motion. Why was Buffy saying this? She hadn't done anything to bring her back. "I didn't-" Willow began.



"Not directly," Buffy admitted. "But the Master brought me back just for you." She took a step towards Willow, her emerald eyes glinting dangerously. "And you brought Dawn here and put her in danger."



"Giles called Dawn, not me," Willow defended herself, but she looked away from her friend and started to bring up a hand to cover her mouth. She wanted to hold her breath as the spectre approached for despite Buffy's youthful appearance, she was rank with the scent of decay as if her spirit was rotting away under the dire influence of the Heart.



"Poor Willow," Buffy said, shaking her head in mock sympathy. "Always blaming someone else for your problems."



"What is that supposed to mean?" Willow asked hotly.



"You hurt and abandoned your friends," Buffy accused. "You left me to die alone, and you blamed it all on Tara." Buffy paused a moment to smile mockingly at Willow, her eyes sparkling with emerald malice. "Yet it's your fault that Tara died."



Willow staggered backwards under the force of Buffy accusations. She had abandoned her friends, even Buffy, who had died without any acknowledgement from her best friend. She shared guilt for Tara's death too. How many times had she asked herself what would have happened if they hadn't gotten together that day or if she had been standing in front of the window instead of Tara?



Buffy advanced menacingly on Willow, forcing her to step back towards the edge of the bridge. Willow gagged on the terrible stench of corruption Buffy brought with her as she continued hammering her accusations home. "You chose dark magic over love, driving Tara away," she said, taking another step forward. "Then you ignored Warren, having fun with your magic until you took Tara back at just the wrong time." She stepped forward again, forcing Willow to the brink.



Willow teetered on the edge for a moment, then Buffy lunged forward, pushing Willow into the abyss.



As Willow fell, she desperately grabbed for the edge of the bridge with both hands, still wanting to live despite all she had lost. Her fingers scrabbled for purchase on the slick stone. She managed to hold on with one hand, the rest of her body dangling above the abyss.



Buffy leaned over the edge to observe her, an evil sense of humor evident in her eyes. "Still stubborn?" she asked with a short laugh. "Why are you hanging on? You've lost everything you ever cared for. Just let go and let your pain end."



As Willow looked up into the mocking face of what had once been her best friend, Buffy looked larger than ever. The shadow of her death loomed over Willow now as the shadow of her life had loomed over her teenage years. She felt tempted by the specter's suggestion as despair sank into her soul. Her hand and began to slowly slip away from the bridge. She had lost everything, hadn't she?



She deserved to die for all the things she'd done. She'd killed so many people. How could she expect forgiveness and love? Tara was better off without her. Let her find someone untainted by the darkness who could love her like she deserved to be loved.



Willow looked down into the abyss, trying to stare her fate directly in the face. She reeled with vertigo, clenching slipping fingers in a desperate attempt to hold on to the stones of the bridge. Her fingers dragged along the slippery surface until her little finger slipped off the bridge entirely, leaving her hanging by only three fingers.



Was there any reason she should not let go? Death would be a welcome release from too many years of grief and pain. She had every reason to die and had just lost her only one to live.



As she prepared to let go, an image of Tara's face flashed before her eyes. It wasn't just herself she was fighting for. Tara might not love her any more, but she deserved a chance to live. A chance that the Master would not give her. Willow could die, but not here, not now.



With grim determination, Willow reached up with her other hand and grabbed hold of the wet masonry, preparing to pull herself up. The spectre slowly stomped down on her hand, crushing it under its ghostly heel and forcing her to yank her hand away. She shook her hand to rid it of the numbness caused by the specter's icy touch and prepared to try again.



As Willow reached upwards again, it struck her that she was holding onto too much. Despair from Tara's death. The guilt for what she had done afterwards. The fear of losing Tara again.



All of these feelings had their place, but they weren't the whole story. There was love. She loved Tara more than ever. There was hope. Tara hadn't actually said that she was leaving Willow, had she? There was life.



And there was magic.



Willow released her hold on the bridge with a smile, letting her fears go as she opened her hands. She fell freely for an exhilarating moment, then rose on the wings of her magic until she was level with the bridge. She confronted the spectre who was at last without words.



"Buffy, I'm sorry," she said, her eyes full of compassion as she extended her arms and sent lances of pure blue flame at the spectre. Blue and green fire met with a crash as the elemental natures of dark and light magic were pitted against each other. The spectre recoiled and screamed horribly as the magical blue fire ate into its emerald aura.



Slowly but surely the purity of the blue magic prevailed over the unholy green fire until Buffy's translucent form was burned free of emerald ill. The stench of rot slowly faded from the air. Willow's face paled with the strain as she purged the last vestiges of corruption from the ghost. Buffy's diaphanous form was now haloed with the azure fire pouring from Willow's fingertips.



Buffy smiled at Willow, her face finally free of the malevolent contempt brought there by the hateful magic of her dark resurrection. "Thank you, Willow," she said.



"I'm sorry Buffy," Willow said hoarsely.



"It's okay," Buffy said, reaching out to touch Willow's face. Her spectral fingers passed through the mask as if it wasn't there and felt warm against the soft skin of Willow's cheek. "It hurt, but you freed me."



"I mean about everything," Willow said. Her hands began to shake from the strain of holding Buffy to this plane, but she had to say these things to Buffy while she had the chance. "I did abandon you," she continued. "And I'm so sorry." Tears threatened to fall as she looked at her friend who she had missed so much for so long.



There was an understanding in Buffy's eyes that Willow had never seen there before. Willow wished she had been there to know if it was the flowering of Buffy's experience with life or was the wisdom that came from beyond life. "Willow, I forgive you," she said. "I wish you could have shared those years with me as much for your sake as for mine, but you can't change the past." She looked deeply into Willow's eyes as she added, "You can change the future."



"I can't hold you much longer," Willow said, the shaking in her hands growing stronger.



"It's my time," Buffy said with calm acceptance in her voice. Her spectral form was evanescent as Willow's hold on her spirit weakened. As she faded, Buffy found the strength for three final words, "She loves you." Then death returned for Buffy Summers, taking her spirit back to the place from whence it was stolen.



Willow dropped ungently to the bridge, her hands still trembling. As she pulled off her mask, tears began to fall freely from her dark eyes. She knelt on the hard, damp stones of the bridge, her arms wrapped around herself, as she mourned her friend at last.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: FIC: The Dark Rose
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 1:28 pm 
oh oh... so NOT a good place to crash and cry :( Besides, where is Master jr ? No doubt he's close by holding his precious heart gem, unless he already passed away....awwww... heh.



Still, I would feel much better if Willow just got the heart gem and get the hell out of that complex. Sitting still on a stone bridge, looking down is just inviting trouble... of which there is plenty around.



Willow's thoughts when she was hanging on the cliff were pretty much what I was afraid of. It's merely pushed forward a bit though, she has a set goal to accomplish; killing Master jr. After that, there's nothing left to life for in Willows view. I can understand that, she's just plain tired of it all... whats the point ?



I didn't expect Willow to react this much to Buffy's ghost, surely she must have realized it was a ghost/spectre much like the one in the library ? Initial surprise only lasts so long after all. I had to wonder how a spectre can spread the stench of something rotting, whats there to rot ? Who says she was the final guardian anyway?



Kinda not nice of Master jr. (Amy really) to drag Buffy out of heaven again. I can't imagine how they ever expected to beat Willow just by resssurecting Buffy sort of. Which is why I do NOT want Willow to be on that bridge like she is. Waaaay to easy a target. Focus girl... just a little bit more, got to find the heart and destroy it.. get up and look around, be safe. Master jr. himself is irrelevant without the heart, Spirit can handle him just fine (greater humiliation too, bonus:) ).



If you ignore Willow absorbing all those books when Tara was killed, Amy could have become allmost as powerfull by really studying. Then again, Amy never had a goal besides being powerfull. Suprising that she lay low so long, incredible luck that Willow happens to be in town when Amy wants to do evil things.



Had to laugh at Dawn explaining stuff using quantum mechanics. Definitly strange to read, heh. Not only Tara thinks that their fight is the end of the world though, Willow indeed hasn't changed that much. Fun that Dawn of all people now consoles Tara a bit, how things can change :)



Now for the big question; can Tara actually find Willow in those damned caves ? Is it even a good idea for her to go after Willow ? Where is the heart and where is Amy ? Questions, questions...



Oh yeah, about my question concerned the arrow being immune to magic; I was wondering if it's direction could changed by using magic. A fireball hot enough should incenerate it just fine too. I don't get the true-name stuff much, mostly because it never came up in BtvS as far as I know. I only recall it from reading a story by the rainbow writers I think, long time ago though.



Who says Amy does know Willow's true name ? Amy thinks so, sure... that doesn't make it true :) Hey, I can dream can't I ?



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 2:26 pm 
YAY!!! an update....

and OMG....Buffy... that's... OMG..

This was really, really a great update..



The conversation between Dawn and Tara. I love your Dawn...



And then Willow, nearly loosing her will....meeting Buffy, SAVING Buffy at least.....



WOW!!!



But a cruel time to make a break.....



Insanity

"Nobody messes with my girl!"Tara, Bargaining



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 2:58 pm 


Woo hoo! An update! And what a lovely chapter it is. :)



Again, go Dawn! She's so sensible. Glad Tara listens to reason. Pity Dawn doesn't have an identical twin who could have gone to Willow's place and made *her* listen to reason as well. Then Willow wouldn't be in this mess.



The Buffy thing was certainly not what I was expecting, but it certainly gives Willow a sense of closure that I didn't really think she'd get. Also, loved the use of the conversation from Tough Love, even if "hearing" Dawn use the word "quarrel" is a little bizarre.



Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing with us. :)



Yana



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 Post subject: Replies for Chapters Past and Present
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 3:40 pm 
Tonight will be the first night I'm not watching Buffy. I know, I know, I should have given up on season 7 earlier, but there was that dreadful fascination that ongoing calamities often have like watching a car crash or reading the editorial page of a newspaper.



Maybe Tuesdays will become productive. Maybe I'll get some writing done.



Or I could just watch Gilmore Girls?





Tulipp: Your suggestions were wonderful, and I'm so happy the changes worked for you.



Am I going to have to put up a "Do not taunt the kittens" sign? (-;



Patches: Thanks so much. I haven't started writing, but I've started imaging and outlining future stories. After discarding sequel ideas for this story, I've got half a dozen or so ideas I'm playing with, but I'm really drawn to another, different dark Willow story set in season 6 right now. I'm still worrying whether it's a Kitten compatible idea, as I did with this one, though it is certainly a W/T story. Unfortunately, whatever it's going to be, it'll be months before I can have another novel sized story ready to begin posting.



Grimmy: Not all changes are logical; some are emotional, and build underneath for a while to unexpectedly appear in full flower. Look at Willow's feelings here and how they change.



The spectre itself doesn't have a stench, but the magicks that dragged it from its grave do. As JuskSkipIt and Patches have mentioned, smell is a very strong sense and I want to use that as well as sight and sound to make the magicks tangible.



Glad you enjoyed Dawn's quantum mechanical explanation. It's often how I think, using graphical, mathematical, or scientific concepts and images internally then laboriously translating them into words.



Insanity: Thanks. So glad you enjoyed the Buffy scene.



yana: Remember in the beginning when I promised closure? I had this in mind at the time. I'm glad it was a surprise though. Quarrel isn't really a Dawn word, is it? Perhaps she did a postdoc in England? Or just spent too much time with Giles over the years? (-;

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 2/4/03 2:41:06 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 3:44 pm 
Hey DMW - thanks. I'll add more to this later, right now I'm speechless.

~~~~~~~~



ETA - DMW, you slay me, you really do! I’m left with nothing but babblespeak – you pack so much into each scene, each word, thought and action is so real. I’ve been trying to think of something cogent to contribute, but what can one say in the face of brilliance – I am not worthy comes immediately to mind.



You toy with your reader so well. I can tell you that I almost leapt out of my chair when you moved from the scene where Tara came to her realization of identity – her “who am I” answered, into Willow chasing after the Heart Stone, alone. I wasn’t expecting Buffy here, although in retrospect I should have known. I did a double take – I read your words but my mind was anticipating Amy. Buffy’s appearance was quite a shock.



The Heart Stone’s power warps the resurrected soul; you handle this so well. I found Willow’s struggle both literal and symbolic, it was very moving. What a gift to find a single thread of light when all the world is dark. Buffy tells Willow the truth, or at least a twisted form of the truth. It’s interesting how words can hurt and deceive or heal and enlighten – it’s all in the telling. Three more words "She loves you."



Still a ways to go on this journey and I’m sure there are a few more twists and turns on this marvellous roller coaster of yours; ever and always, I’m looking forward to more.



p.s. After you conclude this story, as we all know you must, feel free to write some interstitial material, you know the odd little W/T short adventure. Yes, I know I’m jumping the gun, but hey ya gotta plant a seed if you want the flower to grow (or some such corny nonsense designed to butter you up so we can get what we want - more DMW magic! :) )



Cheers!!

Patches



You know I've heard about people like me. But I never made the connection. They walk one road to set them free, And find they've gone the wrong direction. But there's no need for turning back 'cause all roads lead to where I stand. And I believe I'll walk them all No matter what I may have planned

Edited by: Patches at: 2/4/03 9:16:59 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Replies for Chapters Past and Present
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 4:20 pm 
Silly me, I forgot that Willow hadn't seen Buffy for 18 years. They didn't exactly part as the best of friends, so yeah... that must have made it harder for Willow facing that spectre. Awfull way to say final goodbyes to a longtime friend.



I could have sworn I read at least the part about 'it is over now... the quarrel I mean' before but can't remember where. That was from _Tough Love_ itself ? No wonder I remembered it. (had a strong urge to slap some sense into Willow after the discussion in that ep.)



Smells is a powerfull sense indeed, I could easily imagine the rotting smell <>...



Still want Willow to get onto her two feet and be very much aware that there are still threats around, yes that may be expecting a bit much I know... I just prefer Willow in one piece and alive and such thank you very much :)



Funny, at the moment I'm far more concerned about Willow than about Tara. Wouldn't have expected that initially, I just hope Tara does keep herself out of danger... hostage situations are BAD.



I would have been helpfull if Willow and Tara had already talked about Tara's vision of the future. I think Willow would have recognized real danger if she were told about the arrow with runes on it. The arrow reminded me of Balthazar's dagger in Lisa's _Pure Heart_ story, the arrow seems to be primairly designed to penetrate the blood-magic shields though. That leaves us with lotsa of options to keep Willow alive... pfew.. :)



On re-reading I noticed Amy blaming Willow for killing her teacher Rack. Given that Rack was not Willow's dealer but merely a teacher, why did she kill him when she went on her revenge-tour ? Did he happen to come on to her at exactly the wrong time perhaps ?



Heh, here I am a couple of hours after reading nice long update and I hardly can't wait for the next update already :) On the other hand I don't want this story to finish ever since I find the premise so very unique and interesting... can't have it all I guess... can try though, just re-read it a lot :)



Thanks again for writing this, consider it time well spent.



Grimmy

"You hurt Tara," Willow said too calmly. "The last one who tried that was a god. I made her regret it." -- Unexpected Consequences by Lisa of Nine

Edited by: Grimlock72 at: 2/5/03 12:33:29 pm


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 Post subject: Nickole
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 5:15 pm 
I definitely must agree to the 'whoo and hoo' from above..



*applauds* :clap



wonderfully powerful update... loved the bit with W/B..



and yeah, I like this Dawn!! you write her well..





can't wait for more.. amazing work



~Nickole~

"All fear is the fear of loss. And only through that fear, can we truly love."



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 5:20 pm 
DMW - Oh crap! W meeting Buffy completely took me by surprise...and in retrospect you dropped tons of hints in previous chapters. (smacks hand upside of head). Too bad Buffy couldn't help W out with inside knowledge on Amy or The Master...at least give her some kind of warning.



Hey Grimmy/DMW - Grimmy made a point about the ensorceled bolt perhaps being able to be deflected or burned up by a spell from Willow. Would this not work b/c by having Willow's true name on it the bolt it would cut through any of Willow's spells?

Edited by: BytrSuite at: 2/4/03 4:30:20 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 6:44 pm 
DMW, masterful as usual. I feel like this part is about the past. Like maybe we are going to start to move into the present and future next. I could totally be wrong.



I love the way that Dawn & Tara have flip-flopped their roles. And the dialog between Dawn & Tara like Giles & Willow in Crossroads? I never can remember the s5 episode titles. The one where W&T fight and Glory brain-sucks Tara. Anyway, great reminder. And Tara realizing that she is holding on to the past too and ready to move forward.



Then Willow & Buffy. Beautiful. I was amazed at how open Willow was to allowing Buffy's words to hurt her. Why do people do that? When they know that they are faced with evil (not that I believe in evil) either in the form of a human or a demon, they accept what they say. Ok, I know the answer: because the demon only says what the listener knows to be true and judges about themselves. So Buffy pokes Willow with the same judgements that she holds herself. But at the end, I felt like Willow was able to let Buffy go and hopefully the past too.



Anyway, great and beautiful. Debra

---

"Love involves a peculiar, unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding." -- Diane Arbus

---

"War may be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary it is always evil." - President Jimmy Carter after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize





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 Post subject: Rock on, DMW!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 6:49 pm 
God, was I glad to see this!



You paint such an excruciating picture of that horrible time when we just want the pain to stop. I've been in those moments when all I can think is, "I want to be where my heart is not." And there's Tara, gripped alternately by despair and anger and just wanting not to feel any of it. Thank you (and I mean that) for breaking my heart...



...because I knew you would mend it so well. I found it very intriguing that it was the two Summers sisters who, in their separate ways, helped our girls hold on to hope. True, Willow did most of that work for herself, but it was nice to see the real Buffy confirm the rightness of Willow's initial self-forgiveness as well as the fact that Tara does love her. And Dawn...when did she grow up and get all wise and stuff? Again, I find your use of Dawn so interesting--she has her own tangled history of being/non-being to wrestle with, and can illuminate certain things for both of them (esp. Tara, it seems) in ways that no one else can.



I loved the symbolism of Willow literally hanging on by her fingertips...to life, to hope, to this realm of existence...And finally, it's her love for Tara--once again--that keeps her alive.



Excellent work, DMW. Thanks for this story.



Mary



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:19 pm 
Excellent update!



The ending moment with Buffy was so touching. Willow needed some sort of closure so she could finally grieve for the loss of her best friend and open herself up to love freely. And I enjoyed seeing Willow's thought process when she was hanging on for her life, both figuratively and literally.



Great use of the dialogue from Tough Love, and from Dawn of all people. Maybe there is some hope for me liking her.



I can't wait to see the big fight, Willow vs Amy.



And the yummy make up scene. That's the best part.

hermitstull

"I was feared and worshiped across the mortal globe. At now I'm stuck at Sunnydale High. Mortal. Child. And I'm failing Math." Anya in Dopplegangland

Edited by: hermitstull at: 2/4/03 8:20:43 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Rock on, DMW!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 10:08 pm 
Oh Goddess, that was soooo good! I should just give up trying to put in words how amazing your writing is, and how deep your story touches me.



Today, for the first time, I checked the Pens at work, because I just couldn't wait for your update. I usually check the Kitten and other boards at work, but the Pens requires more privacy and cozyness. ;) Besides the fact that I hate to be disturbed while reading fanfic...



I was so happy when I got home and found this chapter. Even if it didn't really eased my soul about what's going to happen to Willow, it helped a little bit. :) And Tara to the rescue, yay! Though how she's going to find Willow is beyond me. But hey, they do always find each other, right? :grin



The part with Buffy was very touching and I was glad to see Willow not giving up, even if not for the right reasons (she should want to live to love Tara, not to try to save her and the others facing alone something stronger than her... but that's our Willow... and after what Tara did...).



Now, here I am again. All happy with the update and all sad wanting more. Children... ;)





--------------------------
"She had tasted Willow on her tongue, and she had worn Willow on her skin. There wasn't a shower in the world that could have washed that away." (Terra Firma, by Tulipp)



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2003 7:20 pm 
DMW, first I hope you are feeling better :) , as for the update wonderful as ever! What this update illustrated beautifully is that sometimes we need a little help in order to "see" clearly (ie W&T are at the mercy of their inner-fears/doubts "blinding" them to the truth).



Whether in a helpful ("sounding board" way) seen through the Dawn/Tara interaction or Buffy as a Spectre trying to "hurt" Willow with her words, both are giving W&T the chance to truly "voice" their fears (the burden) they carry underneath. I loved Dawn's insights (trying to make it more tangible) by comparing Tara's identity conundrum to a "quantum particle", which has Tara again going back to "see" her reflection in the mirror where at once her pain/doubts caused her to see an "illusion", (the sense of being utterly alone), now what is reflected back is "simply herself" (ie "Nothing more. Nothing less. There was no past, no future, in the mirror, simply herself as she was in this moment. That's all she could be."). Thus with Tara "accepting herself", she can now hear Willow's love, which was hard to directly communicate due to Willow's own fears (ie Tara thinking, "Wasn't that love, belonging to each other? She could be patient about hearing those three words as long as she kept that knowledge in her heart.").



Just as Tara thought (before her interaction with Dawn), Willow too felt that "light" (hope) have been extinguished, which gave her inner-fears too much power over herself (ie stopping her from "seeing"). I really loved the symbolism here, and what truly resonated with me was Willow realizing she has been holding on "too much" (ie "Despair from Tara's death. The guilt for what she had done afterwards. The fear of losing Tara again. All of these feelings had their place, but they weren't the whole story. There was love. She loved Tara more than ever. There was hope. Tara hadn't actually said she was leaving Willow, had she? There was life). Really Willow's "protective shield" might of served a purpose in the past, but "clinging" to fears of the past has become a barrier (ie stopping her from truly "living"). However, "teetering on the edge" (literally and figuratively) has taken the "cloud" from her view, and now can "see" that she still has a choice, where darkness hasn't won (ie she hasn't reached the "point of no return"), but rather there is still "light" (hope) she can cling to. Glad Willow found some needed closure at the end, and I found Buffy saying, (...."but you can't change the past... You can change the future.") quite profound. Willow in a sense has used the past to "punish" herself (ie feeling "tainted" not worthy of Tara's love), but maybe she is realizing it's time to leave the past where it belongs in the past, and let love lead the way (ie focus on what she can to do to define herself in the now, the moments and memories yet to come). Can't wait for the next part!



Vicki

Edited by: VampNo12  at: 2/5/03 11:31:56 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Rock on, DMW!
PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2003 10:16 pm 
Ah, another of my favorite chapters. That ending with Buffy is marvelous. Willow needed this moment with her long-lost friend for so many reasons.



I love this story. And I have truly enjoyed its evolution over the past 8 months. :)





------------------
"I like to say 'quark'! Quark, quark, quark, quark!" Hobbes



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2003 10:23 pm 
Oh boy … *sniff* … that was sad at the end, but I’m glad Buffy got to say the good things to Willow and vice versa.
Quote:
“…you can't change the past … You can change the future."


Gulp.



And Dawn is so grown up, it's almost hard to reconcile the fact that Tara is like fifteen years younger than Dawn. I like how Dawn didn’t try to sugar coat the obvious expectations of everyone, including herself, to compare this Tara to the old Tara. I love the twist on the “it’s over” dialogue. It’s a good thing we’re not following that fight :)



--celia



---------------------------------

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2003 4:34 am 
Yeah, Willow can change the future and she will....

Buffy telling her that Tara loves her made Willow finally believing it!!!!



Stef :p



Willow: Hey, clothes!

Tara: Better not get used to 'em.

Willow: Yes ma'm



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 Post subject: Re: Rock on, DMW!
PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2003 4:45 am 
I've been away from the Board for a while, and had so many updates of this wonderful story to catch up on.



The presence of Dawn was a nice touch, yet another reminder of Willow's past, but one that was easily reconciled, which gives hope.



As always I adore the parallels you create. Our girls are aware of the depth of connection they share, but still have doubts and worries. They each chastise themselves for daring to hope. Both look in the mirror for answers when they should really have been looking to the other.



The scene with the spectre of Buffy was so well done; Willow at the brink of giving in and then the image of Tara helping her find her resolve, and the absolution from Buffy was lovely.



Thanks.

I could paint you in the dark, 'cause I've studied you with hunger like a work of art
Indigo Girls



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 21: The Spectre of Buffy Summers
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 9:02 am 
DMW, sincere apologies for missing so many wonderful updates of your story.



I have been entirely caught up in my own little world and have shamefully been neglecting all things of the Pens variety. It's meant I've had a ton of updates to catch up on, although that in itself has been great in terms of The Dark Rose.



What struck me so much about the last couple of updates is that the more Tara questions which version of herself Willow really loves, the more she shows the elements of her personality that she shares so much with the old Tara. In particular, the ducking of her head so she can hide behind her hair. I really loved how that worked.



I'm enjoying this so much. Thanks DMW, this just gets better and better.

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song



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 Post subject: Re: Rock on, DMW!
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 4:31 pm 
Pandora, now Icarus. Perhaps Tara would do better emulating a more-than-one-shot mythical figure. Open a box, fly too close to the sun, and it’s thank you, Cleveland, you’ve been great! Perhaps Sisyphus would be a better model. On second thought, screw that – go with one of the gods!



With all their ups and downs (now I'm on a roll...), quests are not so simple:
Quote:
Why couldn’t her life be simpler? Why did they have to have this huge burden of history between them? Yet without that history, would she ever have found someone who fit her the way that Willow did?
and self-knowledge is very, very expensive (even more so when your/self is also someone’s else self. Who was you). Dawn sums up Tara’s process/progress perfectly, moving to the real “heart” of that “particular matter” (are all the Kittens scientists?):
Quote:
"Sometimes you’re like the Tara we knew before and sometimes you’re like who you were before learning about your past, but you’re actually someone different from either of those people now. You’re still yourself, but you have new memories and connections to the past that is changing you. It’ll take time for both you and Willow to learn what this means for both of you.”
So complicated it’s simple!



Nice to know that even when she’s evil, Buffy still cares about her little sister (maybe because little sisters are evil!) And it suddenly came to me after reading this chapter – I want to be the middle of a Dawn-Amy sandwich!



"Rock" on is right :) ,



SB



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 Post subject: Chapter 21 replies
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 5:58 pm 
Chapter 22, "Alone in the Dark" will be up early next week.



Patches: Thanks. As you suggest, some of the most difficult struggles aren't simply physical. Buffy's words, and the fears they evoke in Willow, are much more dangerous than the spectre itself.



Grimmy: Don't worry. Willow will be up and about quite soon. Rack may have been a teacher, instead of a "dealer," whatever that would mean for magic, but he did steal power from his students, draining some of them to death so Willow had no compunctions about killing him and taking his power.



Silver: Thanks, and I'm glad you like Dawn.



frumpycat: Willow got something more important than that from Buffy. As for your other question, you'll just have to see what happens.



JustSkipIt: Your feedback's insightful as always, and you're right, this chapter is about letting go of the past. It would've been nice if it could've happened more safely, but it's happened ... for Willow and Tara at least. Someone else is still quite attached to the past, and we'll see if that does her any good.



AntigoneUnbound: You capture Tara's feelings so well in that one sentence:

"I want to be where my heart is not."
That's it precisely, and I think all of us have been there at least once. You know, I hadn't planned to parallel their scenes, originally only focusing on Willow in this chapter, but it felt natural to me to do that when I realized that Tara's feelings needed to be seen here too.



I'm finding that as I'm outlining future stories, I'm trying to plan all of this type of thing ahead of time and I'm wondering if that's a good idea or not. What I've learned from programming is that you shouldn't try to plan too far ahead as you can't predict how the world will change; instead, you should be ready to refactor your work when you realize that change is needed. Of course, there's always the question of what's "too much." I'd be very interested in hearing from other writers about this.



hermistull: I'm glad the Buffy scene was so touching. Yummy makeup scene? Darn, I knew I was forgetting something!



sheila wt: They always find each other, don't worry. You're right to still be uneasy about Willow though; she hasn't made it past all her inner demons yet.



VampNo12: You go right to the heart of the story with your first comment. You do need help to see yourself as the mirror won't do it for you unless you'ver very clear minded indeed. You see everything so well from Tara's mirror image changing from illusion to reality to Willow's protections clouding her view and keeping Tara from her as she clung to the past until she learned to let go and live with the future as a possibility.



LeatherQueen: Thank you, both for your compliments and for sticking with me for all this time. You're wonderful!



tiredsoul: I'm glad you liked and accepted Dawn's honesty with Tara. I'm having the opposite reconciliation problem as I outline my next stories--how do I write a Dawn who's still an immature teenager?



deixs: It's true. Love can change the future.



mollyig: It's good to see you back. I find that a lot of people, not excepting myself, look in the mirror for answers instead of looking outwards.



BoredNow99: Welcome back. That's an insighful point: in doubting her own connection to her past and Willow, Tara's being very like her old self.



SB: Good point. Hmmm...Tara as a Greek goddess. I'd go with Hestia or perhaps Psyche. But I could also see her as the siren Aglaophonos, couldn't you?



Self-knowledge is very expensive, and unfortunately not just in this story. Little sisters evil? Perhaps, but anyone who puns like you do is beyond evil!

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Chapter 22: Alone in the Dark
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 5:50 pm 
Title: The Dark Rose - Chapter 22 (Alone in the Dark)

Author: Dark Magic Willow

Email: darkmagickwillow@yahoo.com

Rating: R, mostly for violence, no explicit sex

Pairing: W/T

Spoilers: All episodes through the end of season 6 though this story takes place 18-19 years after the end of season 6.

Feedback: Yes! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary: Willow faces the Master.

Magic Note: Magic, even dark magic, is not addictive in my universe, so there are no withdrawal symptoms and no dark magic dealers. Here Rack was a dark magic teacher who used his students, not a dealer. However, you can use too much magic and you can be corrupted by the power it gives you.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the copyrights or anything else associated with BtVS. All rights lie with the production company, writers etc.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Amanda and Juli for perspicacious reading as always.



The Dark Rose

Chapter 22: Alone in the Dark






Willow strode confidently into the throne hall of the Master. Her head was held high and her eyes were alert and perceptive without being overly cautious. Her gaze narrowed as she found the Master on his throne, alone in the darkness. He was illuminated only by the throbbing glow of the Heart of Corruption hanging on its chain about his neck.



The huge emerald seethed with ill power, throwing off gouts of icy green fire like the active corona of a miniature star. Deep beneath the surface of the world, its evil strength rivalled that of the Hellmouth itself. Yet for all its fury, it provided little illumination for the Master's subterranean domain. Willow's bones ached in the frigid cold of the tenebrous cavern, and the noisome stench of corruption exuded by the gem almost made her gag.



The Master had been horribly marked in his fight with Willow. Terrible burns scarred his face and one eye was gone entirely. His other eye was sunk deep in its socket and was luminous with emerald fury as he regarded her. His withered hands caressed the Heart unconsciously.



The stone of the cavern around them was perfectly smooth. There were no cracks or rough edges. It was clearly shaped by magic. Yet the marble of his throne was heavily pitted all over and cracks were beginning to form at its base. The corruption of the Heart was destroying the stone around it with its malice as surely as it was eating away at the aged vampire.



The Master attempted to smile at her, but nerves and muscles destroyed beyond even the power of vampiric regeneration turned the smile into a terrible grimace. "You passed my tests," he said, blackened tendons visibly moving in his jaw where the skin had melted away. "But you can't take me, girl."



"We'll see," Willow said without giving away anything on her expressionless face. She wasn't here to banter. She had no real hatred for the Master. He was just an obstacle. She just wanted to eliminate him so she could return to Tara and say those three small words to her.



He stood up slowly, wincing with pain as he did so. "You were a fool to come down here," he said. "Up there you were lucky. Down here I am the power." He clenched his bony fist around the Heart and a coruscation of emerald might erupted from it to surround him in a halo of magical fire.



Willow waved a hand and was immediately surrounded by a pearlescent bubble of force. The Master hammered at her with blasts of emerald fire, but the shield simply shimmered with the blows and reflected them all. This time Willow was ready to face the power of the Heart.



In response, Willow blasted at the stone floor of the cavern by the Master's feet in an attempt to bypass his defenses as she had above. This time flares of green fire met her blue flame to form a terrible storm as they strove against each other. Blue and green flames swirled and clashed in a brilliant display of power. The stone walls of the cavern rang with the sounds of their conflict, but eventually Willow had to give up her attack, as the Heart's might was simply too great to be opposed directly.



Before Willow could mount another attack, the Master struck, hurling a tremendous gout of magical fire at her. It struck her shield and clung there, eating into her defenses like vitriol. Willow panicked for a moment as she watched the fiery liquid flow over magical shield, rapidly pitting its pearlescent outer layers. Then she had an idea. She drew her shield in, then rapidly bounced it away from her just a short distance. The clinging fire was hurled away to be reabsorbed into the gale of emerald flames whirling around the Master. His form was obscured by the violence of the power surrounding him.



Lightning crackled from Willow's fingertips to detonate on the ceiling above the Master. Great chunks of the cavern's stones tore away and fell down towards the Master. The Master saw the attack and erupted with a gyre of wild green fire that consumed the stones, turning them first into red hot slag, then vaporizing them entirely. The tempest of emerald flames surrounding him grew as it consumed the rock until Willow almost could not look into the brightness of its rage.



Then he brought the full vehemence of the firestorm down upon Willow, battering savagely at her shield. The whirlwind of flame howled as it circled her and ate away at her protections. Willow desperately poured more power into her shields, but the rage of the storm was destroying her defenses faster than she could rebuild them. As she strove with all her strength against the dark force of the Heart, she realized that she had reached the limits of what she could do with light magic alone.



It pained her to make this decision, but she couldn't defeat the Master without help. Now was the time to call on dark magicks. However, once she opened her senses to feel the familiar flows of darkness, all she could feel was the dark force of the Heart. It shone to her magical senses like a supernova, obliterating any traces of the lesser darknesses around it. Even the Hellmouth was invisible and intangible this close to the Heart of Corruption. Here in its home, the Heart permitted no rivals to its power.



As Willow began to feel the full force of despair, knowing that she was going to die alone in the darkness without accomplishing her purpose, the Heart offered itself to her. Somehow millennia of pouring malice and fury into the emerald had awakened the stone, bringing to it a dim sentience that wanted to fulfill its dark purpose. It had no loyalty to its owner, only to power, and Willow's native power was far greater than that of the Master. It knew it could do great things as Willow's Heart.



The Heart offered itself with feelings and images, having no capacity for words. It promised all its power to her if only she would reach out and take it. With its help, she could destroy the Master with ease. It would become her heart. The effluvium of its corruption filled her nostrils with the sweet, gagging scent of putrescent flesh as it reached deeper into her mind, showing her a vision of the power it would give her, the world it would create for her.



Willow found herself looking down on the ruins of a city from a high precipice. As she looked closer, the ruins became familiar and she realized that the city was Sunnydale. She knew that she had destroyed it, vampires, demons, and all, finally freeing herself from its evil forever. From the ruins came a stream of people, coming forward to worship the beautiful, dark goddess who had saved them.



The crowd included everyone she had ever known, the living and even the dead who were limned with the cold emerald light of the Heart. She saw the kids who had teased her in school, their heads bowed worshipfully as they approached her. Even her family was there, led by the parents who had always ignored her, their expressions now vacant of anything but a slavish devotion to her.



Above the scene, a transformed emerald sun shone brightly. The green star was furiously active, constantly sending out flares of fire, but no warmth came from its odious radiance. Instead, the light turned the clouds a noxious green color as they hurried across the sky, seemingly eager to avoid the baleful glare of the new sun.



As the procession of people from the city grew closer, winding its way up the steep hills to where she stood, she saw her friends in the vanguard. Even Oz was there, his sad eyes showing his contrition for betraying her. Buffy's face was full of respect, finally seeing that Willow was the hero, not a sidekick any longer. Xander looked up at her as he approached, finally seeing her for who she was and loving her for it, but his eyes were also full of a sick sense of despair as he knew that he was not worthy of her. Only one person was worthy, and she led the group.



Tara was more gorgeous than Willow had ever seen her before, swathed in revealing robes of emerald green. Her smiling face was lost in ecstasy as she gazed at Willow. She neared Willow and knelt worshipfully before her, illuminated by a shaft of green effulgence from the active sun above. Her luminous emerald eyes were vacant of anything but mindless adoration as she looked up into Willow's face, completely under her spell. She was everything that Willow had made her, just a shell of the woman she had once been.



Willow mentally screamed with revulsion, violently hurling the Heart out of her mind. She would never want that empty devotion directed at her. Love was more than mere adoration. You couldn't create love with a spell; you had to make it anew every day with your heart. Love was worth fighting for. Once, she had put Tara under her spell and come so close to making Tara what the Heart had shown her, but never again. She would not even take the first step down that road even if it cost her her life.



And it would, she realized as she found herself back in the real world, her shields rocking from the concussion of the ferocious tempest of magical fire raging outside them. She could feel her life's energy pouring into her defenses to shield her from the conflagration, keeping her safe but draining her nonetheless. It was only a matter of time before she ran out of energy and her shields collapsed.



Then she knew how to defeat the Master. The magicks of blood and death weren't always evil. There was great power in willing self sacrifice. By giving her life in a final strike, she could destroy him and bring this cavern down around their remains, burying the Heart under tons of molten rock and rubble.



It was a simple spell, but it required a purity of essence that she didn't have. The dark magicks providing her with strength and endurance, protecting her from time and wounds, precluded her from making such a sacrifice. They were the last ties holding her to the darkness.



So she let them all go, severing the connections that bound the spells to her flesh, freeing herself from the last taints of darkness. She felt almost giddy, as if she had shrugged a tremendous weight off her shoulders. Her heart felt lighter too as she knew that she was finally living up to her promise as Tara would have wanted her to. She made no more distinctions among dark spells. The darkness was completely behind her at last.



She looked no different as the last remnants of the dark spells left her, but the loss of the dark sources sustaining her left her trembling with exhaustion. The constant drain of power to keep her shields up felt like the rapid loss of blood from a mortal wound. She shook her head, willing herself to stay upright. The spell would only require a few moments more.



As Willow reached inside herself for all the internal sources of power that could only be released with death, readying herself for the completion of her spell, she thought about Tara. She wanted her last thoughts to be of her love. She wished so strongly that they hadn't parted on such bad terms, that she had told Tara that she loved her. It would've been so easy to do then and now she would never have the chance.



She felt like she was about to cry, to open the floodgates of tears that she had held back for so long, but she couldn't. She had to be strong for a few minutes more as she completed the spell. Then it would all be over.



The firestorm outside faded from her mind as she thought about Tara, the fury of the storm inconsequential compared to the passion of her feelings for her love. If only there was another way, but she still could not pierce the veil of darkness shed by the Heart even if she wanted to and her life was not worth the price it required for its power. The Heart had chosen badly in its choice of a temptation for her, but she could feel that it was being truthful. Using its corrupt power would ineluctably lead her to create the world it had shown her.



She wished she could just have a few minutes alone with Tara to let her know that she loved her, to let her know that she was doing this to keep her safe and that she had kept her promise. Perhaps this sacrifice would expiate her sins though she dared not hope for such a gift. But more than anything, she wanted to say those three small words to Tara.



A familiar voice from behind startled Willow out of her reverie. "Do you trust me?" Tara asked.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Chapter 22 Alone in the Dark
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 6:44 pm 
Wow. What a wonderful read to come home to! DMW, I am mostly speechless or maybe somewhat incoherent is a better description.



I loved your description of the magical battle between Willow and the Master. I liked how the corruption of the Heart is slowly destroying not only the Master but also the throne and the stone it sits on.



Which means I get to bring up a book or rather a double trilogy which I had forgotten about and didn't mention while we were chatting. It's all about corruption: the books of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson - six of the most thoroughly depressing fantasy novels ever written, the hero of which is a leper. This chapter and the description of the fight and the Master was very reminiscent of the fight in which TC faces off against Lord Foul. Lord Foul's mission statement is to ensure that "truth and beauty pass utterly from the Land" - essentially the Master's goal. Foul tempts TC very much in the same way that the Heart tempts Willow. Whether you intended it or not, this chapter transported me back to the Land and the various trials of TC.



It's interesting that it ends with the phrase "Do you trust me?" presumably spoken by Tara. Because that is how the final book in the TC saga ends - with trust. Trust saves the Land.



Anyway - I loved this chapter. :clap



Ciao, Melissa











**********************




I brought marshmallows!



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 22: Alone in the Dark
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 7:13 pm 
DMW: OK, so please read these words in a spluttering kind of way:



But...Willow, she's...and the sacrifice, and, and the strength...and now Tara, with the, the "Do you trust me?" and...ohmyGodgetyourassbackinthatseatrightnowandwritetherestofthischapter.



Yes. Well, then.



So, a slightly more articulate version: DMW, you never fail to create a mood, whether it's tenderness, horror, the fury of battle, the anguish of loss, or some incredible combination of them all. This chapter, I think, reflects the combination mode. You truly took us over the full span of Willow's journey, and the nuances of her promises to Tara and what those promises mean to her. God, the vision that the Heart showed her was simply stunning, and I found myself recoiling at the image of Tara in mindless adoration. One of the themes that keeps coming back to me when I read this is: Let go to hang on. If Willow (or any of us) tries to cling desperately, reactively, to something, we guarantee its loss. As Willow literally lets go of the darkness (and again, you paint that so well), she comes closest to having the purity of what she most wants.



Let me also commend you on depicting yet another horrific creature: the Master, all burned and melted and glowing eye sockets...I found the following sentence particularly horrifying, for reasons I have difficulty articulating: "His withered hands caressed the Heart unconsciously." I think it's the very juxtaposition of the words "withered" (as it applies to the Master), "caress," and "Heart." Whatever the total cause, I was just filled with revulsion.



So, once again, DMW, you've captured our hearts and imaginations. God, I love this story! Thanks for such an epic love story.



Mary



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 Post subject: Influences
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 7:31 pm 
Thanks. Donaldson's ideas about dark magic being corruption and illness have definitely influenced my mental image of the Heart and its powers, though it's been too long since I read him to recall the final confrontations clearly. By the way, the final confrontation has just begun; this chapter is just the opening note. There are two more redemptions to accomplish. Here the Master's goals are much less clear than Lord Foul's, and he's definitely not Willow's alter ego, though there is someone in this story who is. In any case, I'll try to treat Willow more kindly than he treats TC.



While I like Donaldson's (and Patricia McKillip's) concepts of earth law, the books that have most influenced my picture of magic for this story are Glen Cook's Black Company books, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, and of course BtVS itself to some extent. I draw some of my imagery from science, particularly astronomy, as well. You see that here in small, but it will be more clear later. I like Valdemar enough that I've thought of doing a Willow/Tara story in that setting; it's a world that reminds me of early Buffy where the heroines would go through severe travails but emerge strong and unbowed by them. It's a gay friendly place for the most part too.



Sometimes it really does seem like every idea has been used to some extent or another in fantasy; science fiction at least has new science ideas every once in a while to work into its fabric, even if television and movie SF doesn't seem to realize it, but fantasy draws from a fixed store of myths from the past. I think the best attempts to escape this trap are by Neil Gaiman who modernizes mythology so well, completely recasting old, old ideas like the incarnation of Death so wonderfully.



In any case, I'm going to be doing magic very differently in my next story. There are a lot of cool ideas in myth, ancient and modern, and being a scientist at heart, I'm trying to build a GUT (grand unified theory; it's physics talk) that will explain all the magic in the Buffyverse.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."

Edited by: darkmagicwillow at: 2/10/03 6:58:09 pm


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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 22: Alone in the Dark
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 7:37 pm 
Quote:
So she let them all go, severing the connections that bound the spells to her flesh, freeing herself from the last taints of darkness. She felt almost giddy, as if she had shrugged a tremendous weight off her shoulders. Her heart felt lighter too as she knew that she was finally living up to her promise as Tara would have wanted her to. She made no more distinctions among dark spells. The darkness was completely behind her at last.




OMG. A chapter full of action and emotion. This particular quote made my day.



Great story and amazing update.





Sea (with tatoo)



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 Post subject: Chapter 22 replies
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 7:57 pm 
AntigoneUnbound: This is the whole chapter. *G* Don't worry though; the next chapter is written and off to the betas already for a final check so there should be an update later this week.



Thanks so much. "Let go to hang on" says what I'm trying to do so pithily. Why couldn't I have said it that succinctly? It's a lesson Willow desperately needed to learn, but who could blame her for not feeling that way after Oz and especially Tough Love and The Gift?



Sea: Thanks. Willow's journey approaches its completion ... only a few more steps to go.

--

"Omnia mutantur, nihil interit." -- "Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost."



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 Post subject: Re: Chapter 22: Alone in the Dark
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 8:15 pm 
Hey. Totally awesome. I mean this as a compliment: I was nauseated by Willow's vision of what the heart could do for/to her. Truly literally nauseated. To think of her with that devotion. Particularly because I have to believe that the heart read her wrong in its choice. I don't believe that her actions (past s6) were based in power or wanting to dominate. It seems clear to me from the last 21 chapters that her only motivation has been to have Tara back. So it seems to me that the heart read her wrong. Or maybe the heart is only capable of reading what it already wants (power and addoration?). Either way, very sickening.



But now, totally fantastic. I'm very very excited about her giving up the dark magic, not just to use it now but the old protections and spells. Of course, I've been worried for a while about her belief that she could use the dark magic at the end and just not let Tara know and she would kind of consider that keeping her promise. But now even better. Of course Tara showed up and will help. How perfect!!!



And I assume that Willow will age the 20 years now? Awesome and powerful and passionate. :clap :clap :clap



PS: you used probably 7 words here that I've never heard of. That's never happened before so good job! Debra

---

"War may be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary it is always evil." - President Jimmy Carter after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize



Edited by: JustSkipIt at: 2/10/03 7:25:42 pm


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