Tara and Willow looked at each other. Unsure where they could go, far from understanding what they had to do. "Isn't the sword just somewhere around here?" Willow asked, holding the bleeding wound with her left hand, and rising to a standing position swiftly. Tara shook her head and got up as well, wrapping her left arm around Willow's waist as she pulled her toward a trail in the woods. "I think the space was distorted when it was blown away, and it could be anywhere now." She looked back at the fight scene just one last time and then pushed herself to run as fast as she could. Willow was following, wincing at each and every step she took, but knowing that she would die if they couldn't get away.
Time and distance weren't of any help to the two girls, they couldn't feel safe anywhere. No matter how long they ran, how far they went, whenever they stopped to catch their breath, something felt wrong. It was obvious they couldn't go on like this forever. It was obvious that at one point, one of them would stumble and not be able to get up.
"Are you alright Tara?" Willow asked, bending down slightly while still holding her wound with one hand, and extending her other hand to the blonde girl. Tara looked up to Willow and then shook her head. The redhead furrowed her brow and then knelt down beside her. "I think we should stop, for today... take care of your w-wound." Tara brought herself to sit against a tree trunk and then motioned Willow to sit beside her. The girl obeyed, quietly, and then leant her head on Tara's shoulder. They both smiled, their closeness somehow erasing the uneasy feeling for a moment. Tara was already at work, channeling what little energy she had left towards Willow's wound to try to heal it. She soon collapsed into the red head's arms though, but not before the bleeding was stopped, and Willow's pained frown disappeared. She didn't have much time to be amazed at the girl's powers though, as tiredness overcome her quickly. She barely just had the time to wrap her arms around the one that would become her best friend for life in the days to come. And so much more.
Willow woke up a couple hours later, to what seemed like dark late night time. Someone was rummaging around and she noticed Tara wasn't in her arms anymore, what was left of her wound cleaned and wrapped up. A small fire was lit a couple feet away from her and it seemed something was cooking on it. She smiled at realizing a real camp site had been established. "Wow, Tara..." she said admiratively, slowly getting up to join with the blond girl. She was about to run up to her to hug her tightly when she realized it wasn't Tara. "Buffy!?!"
The small girl dropped the piece of meat she was holding, surprised, and when she regained her composure she turned towards Willow and smiled at her. "Where... where's Tara?" the redhead asked, suddenly worried about her. "Oh, that shy blonde? She walked away with some kind of pendant a moment ago." Willow ran up to her and took both her arms in her hands, shaking her. "Where?" Buffy released one of her arms from the princess' grasp and pointed towards a lit up trail. "I doubt she's far, princess." She tried to add, reassuringly, but being completely confused at the way Willow acted for a seemingly low life. Willow immediately ran in the direction Buffy had pointed her, but inevitably found herself lost in the dark after a couple minutes. She couldn't hear the fire cracking anymore, and she couldn't see more than two inches in front of herself. She kicked herself mentally for not taking a torch with her, and for running around so stupidly in a forest she didn't know. God, where am I? What's this place? I don't remember running for that long! She started to panick, tried to keep her calm butnothign would work. Some strange presence started to wrap itself around her, and she wanted to run and scream, but knew she would get even more lost. She couldn't remember which way she had come in by, she didn't know where she could go or where the others were. There was just no way out. Don't worry, I'm coming for you. A soft voice echoed in her mind. It sounded worried, and lovely. Tara? Willow didn't really have to ask, she knew who it was, and felt relieved in an instant. Yes, Willow. I'm coming okay? Don't worry you'll be alright.
That's what I want to convince myself of anyway. Tara thought to herself, hoping Willow didn't get that part. She kept searching the trail Buffy had pointed to her, a torch in one hand and a sword in the other. She could sense Willow's energy, but faintly, as if it was blocked by some kind of mystical power. She knew that the forest was known for nesting a lot of strange creatures, and she feared the worse for her friend. It made her walk more quickly, look more closely, and try to find any hint of Willow's passage on the ground or the trees. There was nothing. If anything, the redhead's energy was only growing fainter every minute. Tara finally stopped and focused on her feelings for her new friend, closing her eyes. I just wanna be with you right now... When she reopened them, she was standing in front of a curled up young girl, shivering and shaking in fear. "Willow!" She knelt down beside the form and hugged it tightly, tears welling up in her eyes at the feeling of the fear stricken body. Willow held onto her tightly, as if holding onto life itself.
What had happened there wouldn't be explained, not soon anyway. Willow was just in a state of shock, unable to say a word, barely able to walk being supported by Tara. They got back to the camp safe and sound. But the young princess would keep the memories, as blurry as they were, of that night somewhere deep inside her mind. Tara didn't ask any questions, and when Buffy was about to ask, she told her not to mention it ever again. She just held Willow to herself, stroking her back and her hair, whispering a comforting word here and there, singing softly when she became more agitated. It broke Tara's heart to see her Willow into such a state. All she could do about it was to comfort her, and that didn't sound like it was enough.
When Willow finally fell asleep, Tara let her go for a moment. Buffy brought them a blanket, and then sat beside them, still curious about what was going on, and what Tara was playing with. "What's that, some kind of evil charm?" she asked, with as low a voice as she could manage. Tara just nodded and kept staring at Odiluke's pendant. It now had a very faint glow, when earlier it was just plainly green. "So, who are you and what are you doing here, with the princess?" Buffy was now staring at Tara, examining her from head to foot, with uncertainty drawn on her traits. She ducked her head and stared at the ground, unable to meet Buffy's gaze. "I j-just... chain of e-events y-you know?" Buffy frowned and then put her hand on Tara's reassuringly. "Don't worry. Seeing how the princess cares about you, I couldn't begin to imagine you were one of the bad guys." Tara nodded and looked up, still not meeting Buffy's eyes. "I... my father was... he nearly got us to k-kill each other, near the l-lake. W-we ran away together, and have to find a sword, to s-save the kingdom."
Buffy's jaw dropped. She then shook her head slightly to recover from the shock and then reached out for Tara's chin to lift her head up. The blonde was now obliged to look into Buffy's eyes, and saw something she didn't expect in them. There was this assured glint in her eyes, as if she had suddenly fallen into her domain, her thing. As if, all of a sudden, no obstacle was big enough to stop her. Question marks formed themselves in Tara's eyes as she stared at the maid. Buffy just laughed at her puzzled expression before explaining: "See, I'm no ordinary maid. I'm some kind of... amazon protector. I was engaged to protect the Princess not that long ago. Richard told me that if she wasn't back by dusk I had to go find her, and bring her back to the castle."
Buffy's expression suddenly darkened as she started fumbling with the stick she was stiring the fire with. Tara frowned and her mouth formed a question, but the other girl talked before the words would get out. "It was under attack when I left. Escaped even." Tara nodded and patted Willow's head softly, looking down for a second and then back up. "We will save it... T-the kingdom." she stated, certainty and doubt mixed up in her brain. She thought of the first time she had met Willow, and how much they both had changed since then. How the life had been almost nice with Vlad and Odi, how the perspective of a life with Willow was so bright and shiny. And how right now all of that was threatened by not only the fearful magic of Vlad and Odiluke, but also the army opposing the kingdom.
Buffy got up from her spot and picked up the pendant from Tara's hands while she was in her thoughtful state, effectively startling her. "I think this works as a... how do you say it?" Tara took the pendant back from Buffy's hand and looked at it once again. "It's like a compass, only it tells us if we're getting c-closer to the sword. That's my guess." Buffy nodded and then looked Tara in the eyes. The blond girl had concern written all over her face, fear was evident in her eyes, yet resolve shaped her jaw, as if no matter what was before them, she was ready to fight it all. With no exception.
A rustle of dry leaves came from behind them, and in a second Buffy was up a tree ready to jump down on the assailant if it was one. Tara didn't move, she was too exhausted, and something was telling her no evil presence was near. She just turned her head toward the noise, just in time to catch a glimpse of a black cat-like creature moving towards the place where Willow was sleeping. A bit of doubt made its way in Tara's brain and she was about to get up to run to Willow's side when Buffy reappeared just beside her. "It's her cat, Xander." Tara frowned at the name, as some blurry memory made its way through her brain. "Xander?" she repeated, barely loud enough to be heard by Buffy. But the cat heard her and immediately jumped on her lap, looking up at her with big curious eyes. Tara patted its head softly, and then proceeded to scratching the back of its ears and under its chin, making the small animal purr appreciatively.
Buffy just stood there, her mouth agape and her eyes wandering the empty space between Willow and Tara, occasionally looking directly at the cat. Tara noticed after a few moments and raised an eyebrow at her, and when she didn't get an answer, she just said Buffy's name out loud. The maid shook herself out of her daze and sat beside Tara, tentatively approaching her hand from the cat, getting a negative response from the animal who ducked. "It's just... usually Xander doesn't like to hang out with anyone but her master: Willow. He won't let anyone approach him but her... So it's just weird that he came to you, like that..." Tara looked down at the cat and nodded. "Yes but... that cat was mine when I was younger..." She brushed her finger on a small bump on the cat's shoulder and pushed the fur to reveal a scar. "He received that scar protectin me from an angry dog." She said hugging the cat tightly. Buffy now looked completely bewildered. "You... who are you?" she finally managed, her stare suddenly making Tara blush.
"Maclay... Tara Maclay, daughter of Lord Don Maclay. My family used to be head of the army of the kingdom. My dad was first general..." "...until he tried to kill the princess..." Buffy put her hand on Tara's shoulder and looked at her with understanding. Tara responded to her kindness by yawning soundly and stretching her arms, she was tired, completely exhausted, even. Buffy gave her a nudge in the ribs and pointed to the sleeping Willow. "Just go sleep, I'll stay up and keep an eye open. Nothing should try to attack you tonight, anyway." Tara nodded and dragged herself to Willow's side. She just had the time to wrap her arms around the sleeping form before her own mind slipped into dreamland. Xander followed them and nuzzled against Willow's belly before he joined them.
It was an eventless night, a dreamless sleep, and a very needed rest for the team. Willow was the first to wake up, to an extraodinary feeling of safety, the memories from the night before still hanging around her subconscious, but not letting her remember what had happened in details. She just knew that this was where she wanted to be: in Tara's arms. She then realized she had her own arm around Xander and slightly jumped in surprise. The movement disturbed Tara's quiet state and as Willow settled hoping she could still spend some time like that, the blonde slowly stirred awake. "Sorry" Willow said in a sleepy voice.
"Hmm?" Tara blinked a few times, and then looked at the sheepish expression on Willow's face with a lopsided grin. "What?" Willow asked, a chuckle escaping from her mouth. "Best morning ever..." Tara answered, still staring at the red-head in front of her. They stayed like this for a moment, until Xander jumped off of Willow's belly and growled at a bush. "I think Xander doesn't agree with you." Willow said, suppressing a giggle. Tara suddenly sat up and looked around, something was wrong. "Where's Buffy?!"
Willow sat up as well, took a look at the fire that was still burning and laid back down. "She's probably just hunting breakfast..." Tara frowned, then shook her head. "I hope you're right, Will." The black cat hissed once more at the bush and then froze in place as a loud howl was heard, echoing through the forest. Tara immediately got up and gathered her things. "I don't know about you, but I'm not staying here to be the breakfast for a forest beast." Willow picked her things up as well, trembling with fear. Tara had a quick thought and guessed that the monster out there was probably the same they had met the night before and that had scared her friend so bad. If it had done something to Buffy as well, they had only one option left. "Let's run out of here!" The blonde said, sword in hand, swinging her backpack over her shoulder and grabbing Willow on the way. "Do you know where were going at least?" Willow huffed through a scarce breath. "Wherever we can go where that thing can't follow us."