When the young sorceress came to, the sun was setting on the horizon. She realized she must have been unconscious for many hours, because the moon had been replaced not by the blinding morning sunshine, but by the oranges and purples of late afternoon, and she knew at once she was immobilized... though she did seem to be moving.
Her vision, low to the ground, took in the view of desert sand and rocks; the occasional skull and...hooves. So she was slung upon something it appeared. She felt very uncomfortable, yet knew better than to complain, a small groan the only evidence of her discomfort.
"So it seems our sorceress has awakened."
She recognized the voice as the brown-haired one... the red-haired one's voice was much softer. She looked up to the direction of the voice, her neck straining; she saw the brown-haired one on a horse trotting softly and to her right was a blonde-haired one on a similar looking horse.
This was the red-haired one, she knew instantly. She felt the... horse?... No it wasn't a horse; she'd ridden horses before and those were most definetly not a horse's hooves. Well, anyway, she felt them come to a stop, and heard more than saw the others follows suit.
A second later she felt arms encircling her waist, and felt herself being carried to a sitting position on the ground; her ankles were bound together - it appeared to be by leather - as were her wrists; positioned at the small of her back.
She looked at them nervously as they went about setting camp, and wondered what they wanted with her.
She sensed rather than saw - her eyes permanently fixed on her bound ankles - the red-haired one take her seat next to her atop a thick, blood red blanket.
Willow looked to the girl... Tara, so obviously shaken, and reached up to brush her long hair away from the side of her face, and the girl looked sharply at her; her face looked startled... she was probably offended, Willow thought ruefully, though she continued to brush her hair away and slipped a golden hooped earring from her lobe.
Tara continued to look at the other girl, startled and confused, her mind could not wrap around the way she had touched her; so softly... with an infinite gentleness that should've been impossible for a killer. An assassin's hands were meant to be rough and calloused, not soft...an assassin's touch was meant to be deadly and hard, not gentle.
Willow turned to Buffy - who was currently laying on her blanket, hands folded behind her head, and staring wistfully towards the sky - and threw the golden earring at her, which the girl caught with her face, "What was that for?"
"I need you to ride out as far from our way as you can and throw that on the ground somewhere; a gift for our search troops."
"By myself?" Buffy asked tiredly, already beggining to refold her blanket.
Willow thought a moment, "Take Faith with you, I'll be fine with our sorceress."
"Yeah, I'm sure you will..." Faith muttered as she too began to refold her blanket.
The two of them mounted their horses and rode off, the earring hidden safely inside a pouch tied to Buffy's saddle.
Tara's gaze shifted, as she felt the assassin's eyes on her, her own vision falling anywhere but that of her kidnappers. Rock... skeleton... sand, repeat.
"What's the matter, my sorceress, do you think you'll find your King out here in the middle of nowhere, somewhere? Tell me, do you miss your beloved?"
Tara looked at her, her eyes flaring with anger for the first time since she'd been there, and spoke with as much pride as a woman bound by her wrists and ankles and quite possibly risking her death in a lonesome desert could afford, "Atticus is not my beloved, not my lover... I am a sorceress, not a harem girl."
Willow might have laughed at that had the girl not been so obviously indignantly sincere.
"A-apologize to me..." she demanded; if she were to be killed here by the soft, gentle hands of this assassin she might as well die with her dignity.
Willow looked at the sorceress, spraweld on the sand, disheveled but no less fetching in the golden light of sunset..she might have been an angel. "I am sorry..." she said softly, "truly I am."
Tara swallowed slowly, her eyes searching the assassins' face for any sign of sarcasm or insincerity but she found, surprisingly, neither, in the other girls sweet, open face. Such a contrast, she mused quietly to herself, when you considered what the girl did for a living.
They stayed staring at each other for a time- neither knew how long it had been but it seemed the golden light of sunset had turned to an ivory moonlight- and then without much preamble Willow layed back on her blanket; arms under her head staring straight up at the stars for a while before her eyes drifted closed.
At first Tara didn't think the girl was asleep, but as the time passed and the bright green eyes refused to open, it seemed that yes, the assassin was asleep.
In as bold a maneuver as Tara could think to perform she dragged her body; wriggling and sliding on the unforgiving sand as quietly as she could, and came to a stop at a large rock, not quite three feet, but it would do for her intentions. Turning to a seated position to the back of said rock she rubbed the thick leather of her wrist's binds against the rough and sharp edge of the rock.
Willow covered her mouth with both hands; she could barely contain her laughter at the scene that had unfolded before her very open eyes just a few moments ago. The truth was she was not asleep, merely lost in her own mind, plans and dreams playing out before her. She'd felt the sorceress' movement and opened first one eye then the other; that's when her laughter first started to build; there was the other girl's cute bum wriggling from side to side as she performed what looked to be some strange... worm-dance... either way it had gotten her all of fifteen feet from camp for her troubles. Willow's eyes twinkled at the sorceress now... resourceful girl... she liked it. But that didn't mean she'd be letting her escape though.
Tara didn't see the assassin approach, or hear her for that matter; she'd felt her though, and even though she gave a last few halfhearted attempts at breaking the binds she knew the gig was up, as they say. She slowly looked up to meet the green eyes, the assassin's expression unreadable.
"I am an assassin," Willow said slowly, "sent by King Rupert of the noble kingdom of Astoria to kill you... and yet now I find myself in a position where you are of more use to me alive than dead; try not to make me change my mind, my sorceress... it'd be quite unfortunate if I did, don't you think?"
Tara nodded her head slowly, thinking of what she could possibly have that this woman would want.
"Good then we agree... back to camp now."
Tara waited patiently for a few moments, for the assassin to offer some of assistance, "c-can you h-help me... um please?"
Willow smirked at her, "Well you didn't seem to have any trouble wiggling your way over here... I assume it won't be a problem for you to wiggle your way back."
Tara blinked up at the other girl for a few seconds...surely she was joking; but the assassin only stood there, still smirking, her arms folded at her chest, and Tara, poor Tara, began her wiggle all the way back to camp. She heard the other girl begin to walk slowly behind her, giggling softly at her predicament, and felt her eyes fixed lewdly on her bum - the skirt she'd been wearing by now torn to shreds to where it barely qualified as a rag in Tara's opinion - 'honestly what a rude and horrid woman' Tara thought, her cheeks burning hot with both her exertion and her embarrasment.
When they finally reached camp - a millenia later, it felt to Tara - the by now exhausted girl lay tiredly on her kidnapper's blanket, breathing heavily. She saw Willow smirk down at her again before sitting next to her, and gave her a fixed glare.
"C'mere Bella," Willow called softly, as her albino camel-she'd had it with her since she was a child, never having been a horse-person herself - awoke and trotted over slowly to her, she turned to Tara, "see - she knows how to behave," she turned to stroke her camels neck, "don't ya girl... yes you do.." she cooed softly before reaching into a pack in the saddle and pulling out bread and a goatskin pouch filled with water. She turned to Tara, "Dinner's ready."
So they ate in silence, splitting the bread and passing the water between them. When they were done, Willow again layed down on the blanket, eyes closed.
"Are you so eager, my sorceress, to return to your lord and master?" Willow asked softly, opening one eye to look at her.
"He is not my master... and if I never saw him again it'd be a millenia too soon." Her soft eyes narrowed and her chin crinkled in contempt.
Willow turned to look fully at the sorceress now, "Yes... it seems there are worse things out there than me, after all." With that she turned away from the sorceress and again closed both her eyes, truly asleep this time.
For a long time, Tara sat and studied her captor, wondering what kind of woman this was, after all. For all her visions and magic and intuitiveness, this woman was a mystery she doubted she had even begun to solve. She layed next to her and closed her own eyes, to enter into an uncomfortable dreamless sleep.