Sticks clattering, swords clashing, fire balls explosions and all sorts of battling strategies were taking place in front of her curious eyes. She wasn't much of a fighter herself but she liked to admire all those fine warriors confront each other in their trainings attires that is so to say, most frequently for the men, nude torsos. But most of all she was not shy about it, well Anya was never shy about anything, and that's why she ogled without any hesitation most of the men in the room, and to be honest some of the women too. But right now she was practicing one of her favorite occupations lately, spying on two of her friends currently engaged in a close combat session. Faith decided quite recently to teach Buffy some of her fighting moves so the young blonde would be able to defend herself other than with her magical abilities. To Faith it was a total non sense to rely only on magic, the best warriors should be able to fend off their enemies through a physical fight as much as through any magical casting.
So the two of them were exchanging blows and kicks in the left corner of the room not to go out of the knights‘ way. But something was greatly annoying the blonde, Faith was holding back her punches for she wasn't giving her best shots, obviously trying to spare Buffy.
"So what... that's all you've got F" shouted ironically the frustrated girl at the taller brunette.
"Stop taunting me B , or you'll regret it" she shot a sly grin in her direction.
"What are you going to do, hit me? Cause I've been wondering for a while now if you were actually teaching me a new dance move" she knew that provocation was the way to go with the short tempered girl, even though she knew the warrior would never hurt her in any way.
"Ok if that's what you want that's what you'll get" she said while smiling mischievously and launching herself faster than a cat at a shrieking blonde.
Buffy didn't even have the time to step aside as she was hit by a strong body pinning her immediately to the ground. She felt the air leave her lungs at the sudden squeeze of her ribcage, barely managing a "what the..." before the impact.
"What is it B, you can't find the words anymore ?" she looked triumphal at the younger girl who by now had regained her faculty to talk but was currently out of breath for a totally different reason ... Faith is on me, she's laying down on the top of me ... she realized with a shock... this feels...oh god this feels so good, sexy even...what the hell are you thinking girl!!...but her body is so warm and soft and curvy... she smirked in her head ...and look at those muscles, wow...I wish we could stay like this for ever... lost in her contemplation of the brunette body she missed the look of worry on the other girl's countenance. Faith had seen the blonde go from shock, to puzzlement, to wonder, to finally reach dreamy and was now anxious about the actual state Buffy could be in.
"Oh goddess I broke her, Buffy are you alright, answer to me, can you talk? Are you hurt?....Buffy please!" at first she had felt amused by the situation for she had successfully closed the blonde's mouth with flourish but then she had been surprised when not receiving any bashing comments in return. No instead the girl had stayed there looking at her with a myriad of expressions crossing her face. She was beginning to panic ...god oh god! What have I done...you stupid bully you used to much strength...and now you've hurt the one you wished to protect for the rest of your life...you fool!!... tears were building up in the warrior's eyes and for the first time since she was a kid she felt the need to cry.
"You called me Buffy?" inquired the blonde with a touch of bewilderment in her voice.
The brunette sighed of relief when she heard the words escape the other girl's lips and she answered laughing slightly with tears still building up in her eyes "that's because it's your name silly".
"But you never call me that, you always say B, or girlie !" she stated in a childlike voice looking fully at her friend's face for the first time realizing the amount of emotions unfolding there. And as a single tear broke free of its hazel prison to gently wave down on a rosy cheek, Buffy reached with a delicate finger to brush away the offending ornament.
"I-I-I..." she was at loss for words, the touch of the blonde's hand on her face felt like fire, so she pressed softly her visage into the velvety hand whispering words that resounded like an unspeakable admission "I was afraid I hurt you".
"So what brought you around Willow, oh sorry...can I call you Willow ?" The young farmer and the redhead were now more at ease with each other; they had properly exchange civilities while Willow had gathered her gear and they were now directing themselves toward the stream where Starlight was still shaking his thirst.
"Yeah no problem"
"Thank you, please do call me Xander" replied politely the dark haired man. He received a gentle smile and a nod in return. "So..." he trailed off with a shy but yet meaningful look.
"Oh yes, that's right, sorry I zoned out" upon the questioning glance she received she quickly corrected her language, feeling that this was somehow the problem. This young man had been extremely polite and always expressed himself in a way that was definitely quite old fashioned ...he wouldn't survive one day in LA... she though amused. "Sorry I meant I was absentminded" seeing realization hitting home she went on "I was hiking in the forest yesterday when the storm surprised me, thankfully I found shelter in a cave and stayed there all night," she didn't feel like going into details about what had happened so she skipped that part. "In the morning I went back to the parking place only to find out that my car had disappeared along with the information cabin, can you believe that?" at that point Xander was lost but she went on not waiting for his answer and completely missing his puzzled expression "so I said to myself, 'self...' yeah I know I'm crazy sometimes, well not crazy crazy but a little strange on the edge, well anyway I said 'self you've got to find out what happened cause I'm sure the trolls are in no way responsible for all that'". His eyes went wide at the mention of the creatures and she took it for what it was not, a fear on his part that she was indeed insane, so she quickly added "no I didn't mean like real trolls, that's more of an expression or a least a funny conclusion I made for all this weird events, well more sarcastic-funny than funny-funny but you get it right?" visibly reassured he looked at her with wonder, how could she possibly manage to say so many words at a time without breathing and passing out for lack of oxygen.
"Well anyway I decided to follow the road that led to the highway and I finally ended up here to rest a little, but apparently I did more than rest for I fell asleep" she finished her babble fest with a big satisfied grin.
"What is a highway?"
"Why don't they see it ?" interjected a somewhat irritated dark blonde girl.
"Give them time An" concluded a patient blonde with a smile, she knew her friend so well. Somehow Tara had arrived in the middle of the combat session and joined Anya on a bench by the entrance. They both witnessed the interaction between the two "fighting" girls and of course Anya though that it was her duty to give her two cents about it.
"They are about to rip each other's clothes off, don't you see them Tare, I don't understand why they still don't realize the effect they have on one another!"
"Because every one doesn't have your clarity my friend" she giggled while mock humoring the other girl.
"Oh why thank you my Lady" she stated ironically "seriously Tara, are they blind or totally stupid?" she seemed honest in her query completely missing the reason why the two of them were still in apparent denial. So the princess tried to explain some of the complexity that is love.
"You know, it is never easy to tell when you are the one concerned . What I mean is that you might have strong feelings for someone but still be unaware of the one they have for you. You are too caught up in your own needs and wants to be objective enough. That is why generally you are the last one to know when everyone around is already aware of the depth of the interaction you share with the other person. It is a case of relativity, distance is necessary to be objective and those two are in no way being distant." a small grin escaped her lips ...definitely not distant...
"I still don't get it" Tara shook her head softly smirking at her friend's peculiarity ...some things never change... she concluded with a sigh. Somehow this thought was rather comforting, change was good but one needed some stability and for Tara it came from her family and friends.
But another sentiment was pulling at her heart upon looking at the two girls still tangled up on the floor, she was longing, longing for love, for a soul mate, someone who'd complete her. An uncharacteristic tinge of jealousy invaded her suddenly, and she felt immediately guilty for it ...I shouldn't react like that, I should be happy for them ...so why do I feel so lonely? a single drop fell down on her closed hands, one born of joy and melancholy.
"Well it's a, how to explain, uh..." the redhead was searching for the right words but at the same time she was wondering how on earth this man didn't know of the highways. When he first asked the question she originally thought that she misunderstood what he had said but when she asked him to repeat she felt confused to say the least at his identical response. So she had questioned this definitely bizarre guy about that fact and the conclusion was definitive .....he never saw one! ...This guy must be an hermit or something, could that day be anymore crazy?... Thus even though she was stunned by this incredible admission she decided not to pursue her grilling of this amazingly out of date boy to simply explain what it was! And that's where the problem laid, the simplest of things were always the hardest to clarify. ...Really it's exactly like if he was asking me what a chair was for...
"Uh...it's a big road where you can drive fast....faster than on a normal road, you see, it's quite common nowadays so....well...who knows maybe you'll get the chance to see one soon" she ended up quickly wanting to close that disturbing topic for good.
"Ok thank you Willow" he seemed satisfied and she let go of a breath she didn't know she had been holding.
During their conversation Starlight had wandered off to some green grass patches further in the field so Xander called him back with a single whistle. At this moment everything went in slow motion as Willow for the first time acknowledged the presence of the impressive animal. She saw him approaching from them shaking is mane as he increased his pace. A look of terror and wide eyes were the last thing the farmer could see on her face as she lost consciousness in his arms.
"Willow, Willow come back, wake up!" Xander was panicking, what the hell had just happened. They were talking, well to be more precise he was listening and she was babbling, then suddenly she looked as if she saw a demon and passed out.
After gently calling her for one good minute he decided on a more physical solution shaking her lightly by the shoulders. A few moans finally escaped the redhead's mouth and he silently thanked the gods for that; she slowly opened her eyes and coughed a little while he fussed around her making sure she was alright "hey Willow nice to see you back, what happened, you frightened me there."
"Well I...I had this.. nightmare....there was this huge ‘can-easily-bite-your-arm-off' horse...running in my direction...and ..." she trailed off as she realized it was not a dream, it had just occurred and that was surely the reason why she had fainted. She scrambled away from Xander, getting up gingerly on her legs assessing with sheer horror the effective presence of the beast a few feet away.
"What is the matter?" he asked worried by her reaction but still a little amused by her definition of "biting-arms" horses.
"I...I...I'm afraid of horses and by that I mean utterly terrified" she answered with a small emotional voice looking at him anxiously.
A stray fighting stick clashed on the ground and the two girls broke apart quickly, getting up with a jolt, apparently just realizing the position they had been in for a few minutes now.
As Buffy blushed furiously and looked sharply at an invisible stain on the floor, Faith straightened up her rumpled clothes and looked smugly at the other girl before looking around at their surroundings. No one had stopped their occupations to give them a second look so with a satisfied smile she looked at the entrance for good measure. Her smile fell immediately upon spotting the two grinning girls sitting on a bench and sending meaningful looks in her direction. ...Oh goddess I'm never gonna be out of that loop, they are going to make my life a living hell... she sighed determined to face her impending 'penance' with dignity. The two scheming blondes went into a fit of laughter as they assessed the brunette realization, they had a new reason to tease the warrior and that was the key to a lot of fun.
After a few embarrassing comments and a good amount of giggles the four friends split up to go about their businesses. And as Anya went to coordinate the flowers disposition in the dinner hall, Tara, Buffy and Faith bustled about arranging the magical lights in the throne room.
One hour and a half later Tara went to search for her mother Viviane as she promised earlier. On her way to the ball room she thought again about the intense dream she experienced last night. She didn't remember much now as the images faded away slowly in her memory however she could still distinctly recall what she felt and this was obsessing her. Something extremely important had occurred or was about to happen and she needed to understand what it was. Reaching the room where her mothers were in great discussion with the Chamberlain she changed her mind ...I still have time to get dressed, I need to see uncle Giles now... and with a resolve she didn't have the occasion to show often she turned briskly to her left in the direction of the west wing.
Lord Giles when he was not occupied with military affairs was taking care of the magical patrimony of the kingdom in his quality of Great wizard. But what he loved among all things was taking care of the royal library full of arcane texts and parchments. Some of those writings were even older than the creation of this kingdom and anterior to any kind of civilization in a form that was acknowledged nowadays.
It wasn't a hard task for Tara to find him, she knew his habits well and at this time of the day whatever happened, apart from an impending war, he was surveying the precious book collection to find the rarity he hadn't read yet.
Upon entering the majestic room Tara smiled at the smell of the old volumes mixed with the one of the oil lamps, the vaulted ceiling that seemed to lose itself in the sky made her feel free more than impressed and the colored arched windows brought a soft yet generous light that gave to the ensemble a vision of warmth. She loved to come here, it was a passion that she got from her uncle; often as a child she spent time with him helping to classify some of the newest acquisitions. This was a time only for the two of them when they bonded through the discovery of magic and poetry.
After some time wandering in the shelving she found Lord Giles apparently captivated by some parchment and totally oblivious to his niece's presence. She approached quietly from the studious man with a mischievous glint in her eyes, she was a nice girl but she couldn't let this occasion pass!
"Uncle Giles?" she asked a tad louder than necessary. The wizard yelped while jumping a few inches from the ground and as he tried to regain his composure he turned to the source of his fright to find a very innocent looking blonde smiling amiably his way. A combination of reproach and mirth appeared in his eyes, he knew his niece well and as much as he considered her like the most gentle and respectful woman he ever met he knew she was also a good natured girl with a great sense of humor.
Letting down her disguise of innocence, Tara broke into a fit of giggles at the glance she received from the older man. He laughed good heartedly at this and put the paper he still had in his hand on a nearby shelf. After their amusement had subsided the two shared a hug and Lord Giles congratulated the blonde with eagerness "Happy birthday my dear!"
"Thank you uncle Giles" she looked at him with affection and squeezed his hands to convey of her gratitude.
"So tell me my child, what brought you here to see and old man surrounded by musty books, shouldn't you be preparing for today's event?" he wondered a bit surprised but nonetheless delighted by her presence.
"You are not old" she averted firmly with a smile "and you know very well you are the one who gave me the passion for musty books" she mock chastised him.
"Very well, very well" he surrendered with a chuckle.
"I am here for I have questions to ask you about a dream"
"You are scared of horses" he was astounded by this "but so how do you travel?" he was genuinely dumbfounded, walking was a very good way to travel but for rather short distances, and she obviously wasn't from this land so she must have walked for days. It was impressive but hardly imaginable for the young man.
"Well if I can't make it by foot I use my car, or buses or trains" she answered with assurance questioning his own choice of transportation while sending a worried glance at the wandering steed.
"Cars are dragged by horses!" he stated still not understanding and not wishing to ask about those other vehicles which had names he didn't recognize ...they must be specific from her land....
"Ah yes! Very funny!" she laughed softly at what she thought was an attempt at a joke "car are dragged by horses, mechanic horses, good one Xander"
"Mechanic horses?" he was more lost than ever.
"Yes you know in opposition to real horses, that's how people like to call them, well I think this is a great invention, for one no need of real horses plus imagine what it was like before, 6 to 8 horses was surely the maximum of traction a carriage could have muster, and now with the help of technology we can go so much faster. For example my car has 120 horses, all under that small hood" she winked at him to reinforce the joke "of course it's not the same, we talk in terms of mechanic here but..." she didn't have time to finish her long babble as she was briskly interrupted
"120 horses!!" the farmer exclaimed completely shaken, "you must be a very powerful mage" he affirmed with a bow.
"A powerful mage?" she repeated questioningly intrigued by his attitude ...is he bowing?...god! he is bowing!!...and he called me a mage?...what the heck is going on again...he must be part of a sect or something....
"Yes your magic must be exceptional" he still had his eyes firmly glued on the ground "I felt it earlier, but did only catch a glimpse of it" he was amazed and excited at the same time to have the opportunity to converse with her, maybe she could help him with his craft ...don't dream Xander, you are not from the same cast...but she seems really nice...forget it boy and come back to your senses....
"I don't have magical powers what are you talking about" she asked with a frown.
"What do you mean?" he was at loss once again "I can feel it coming in waves out of you"
My goodness this man has surely escaped an institution...I should be careful...don't excite the animal Willow!...who knows he's maybe dangerous...he doesn't look like though...never judge a book by it's cover you should know that Rosenberg... as she was trying to determine the nature of the danger he asked her a question trying to break the apparent tension around them.
"Where are you from ?" he asked curious about her response
Relieved by the change of topic ...I should still keep an eyes on him though... the redhead answered easily "San Francisco, well I'm native of Sunnydale, it's a small town further south not far from LA, but I've lived in SF for a while now"
"I don't know those places, I was kind of guessing you were from another land" he concluded satisfied with his earlier deductions.
"Another land?" she echoed frowning
"Yes," he didn't sense her surprise and took it for a confirmation "Is this the name of your kingdom, Sanfranco?" he wasn't sure he got the name right
"San Francisco" she corrected, too taken aback to say anything more
"Oh yes sorry" he amended "so is it your kingdom ?"
"A dream?" he was intrigued, he dedicated quite a big amount of time in his studies to the interpretation of dreams and their prophetic implications.
"Yes, it is one I had last night, I might say it was more of a nightmare at least for the first part" she shuddered at her sensations "what called out to me though was the intensity of it and the fact that even though the images of it are a bit of a blur by now I still recall the sensations and feelings I sensed in it with the same vivacity"
"Quite interesting my dear" he took his glasses off to clean them with a small tissue "can you tell me more about it" she answered by the positive and went on the description of her dream with as much precision she could muster. The wizard never interrupted her during her speech and knitted his brow in concentration. When she finally reported all she could remember she waited patiently for the older man to talk.
"Well, well, quite extraordinary indeed" he was surprised by what she had said but the faintest of light was starting to build in his grey blue eyes and she didn‘t miss it.
"Uncle Giles ?" she asked for his attention "uncle Giles" she repeated once again.
"Hmmm?" he answered absentmindedly
"You have an idea about it right?"
"What did you say?" he was lost in his thoughts
"I said that you seem to have an idea about that dream" she insisted
"Well I am not sure of anything yet but..." he saw the expectation in her eyes so he carried on "the paintings or such you mentioned remind me of a prophecy, I think it was a prophecy..." he rummaged though is memories "yes!" he exclaimed triumphal startling his niece in the process. He smiled apologetically and directed himself toward a shelving in the center of the room. "It's one of the first prophecies I came through while reviewing some of the oldest parchments 2 years ago. I still recall the story for it had seemed quite important at the time, let me find it back".
He started to search with an uncharacteristic agitation "it must be somewhere around under those boxes" he lifted a few boxes from the bottom shelves and after some effort he brandished an old leather folder that he opened with trepidation and care.
"Here it is" he concluded smiling at the astonished blonde.
"So what does it say" she was excited, her eyes trying to catch any information on the yellowed papers he was currently browsing. Never once taking his attention away from the precious text, the wizard stood up from his crouching position and directed himself toward a nearby table. He laid the documents one by one daintily, and as he took a sit he motioned for Tara to join him in his reading.
"You see, it's a dialect that is rather near from Gaelic" she nodded as she recognized most of the words, she had studied many ancient dialects, an even some demonic languages through her education. "It was used by the founders of our kingdom and very probably by quite a few generations before them" he turned the pages slowly to reach the part that talked about the prophecy.
"It is right here" she strained to examine the paragraph he had just designed "It says that some of the most powerful seers of the time experienced the same prophecy at the same time" he made a pose to clean his glasses awestruck by what he was reading, "so upset by this event" he interrupted once again to clarify something "I do not know if they meant upset, this word has many different significations, maybe it was more in the line of 'impressed' or 'amazed'" looking once at the young blonde to be sure she was following he went on "so 'upset' by this event they decided to create a provisory council to take care of this oddity. After discussing for a while about the relevance of this prophecy they decided that they should act upon it".
"What do you mean, act upon it?"
"They don't say in this part" he looked deflated for a moment, so he leafed through the pages "Oh! Here, it says more about the nature of the prophecy" trepidation was gaining on them "it's the part that I remembered" he added with no apparent necessity "the seers during the first council session were asked to write what they had witnessed and one by one their writings were read by a mage that took no part in this collective testimony" he turned his head to look at the young blonde "I think they did this in order to eliminate any possibly of influence, if they had asked the seers to express themselves orally they might have influenced each other involuntarily" as she nodded her understanding he came back to the parchment .
"When the mage had finished his lecture it was concluded that this prophecy was the most powerful that was ever experienced in this world. The actual description his below" he motioned with a slightly trembling finger.
"Look Xander, let me be honest here" she needed to understand a few things "you seem to be a great guy" he smiled at this comment "but I must admit I have truly no idea what you're talking about" his smiled faded slowly to give place to a frown "I have no magical powers and I am no mage, such things as magic, witches, demons....do not exist! Do you get me" leaving no time for an answer she went on "exactly like I'm not from any kingdom, I come from a city, one that is only about 40 miles from here, and frankly it's very hard for me to get how you don't know of highways and San Francisco. Maybe you're an hermit, maybe you went through an emotional shock that traumatized you and believe me I'm truly sorry if it's the case but I can't go on pretending I understand you".
She didn't want to hurt him or to enraged him, who knew his reaction, but she had to say all that was on her mind or it would surely implode in a minute.
Looking deflated and rather upset he counterattacked with some admissions of his own "Well Willow, I don't know why you said all this, you must have your reasons, and I respect that, but I personally have a hard time myself understanding you" he sighed before going on "I am Alexander Patrick Harris from the Kingdom of Hemera and I am a farmer, so I guess my education is in a way rather limited, but I know I am right about your magical abilities for I am able to sense them" he chose his next words with care "what I propose to you is simple, let me show you that what I say is true" she looked dubitative at him and a little worried too so he said "don't worry, I won't hurt you" he smiled gently to emphasize is point. "You will just have to follow me along this road" he showed the one that led to the valley "for about 30 minutes no more. And then when we arrive you will judge by yourself of the veracity of my tell" this seemed like an honest proposition to him so he waited patiently for her to answer.
She was apprehensive but at the same time her curious nature was tickled ...he seems nice, I know I should be extra careful after all the craziness he told me but something deep inside tells me to trust him...not that I believe him in anyway but I don't know...I have this strange certainty that he is no threat to me...he might even lead me to civilization which is a definitive plus... after what felt like an eternity to both of them she finally said "alright, I'll come with but to one condition" he nodded her way pleased by her reaction "keep that 'beast' away from me !" she looked pointedly at the unknowing but completely replete horse.
He laughed lightly and said "deal"
The two of them walked in silence, a few feet away from each other for the redhead wanted to be as far as possible from the "dangerous" animal.
"We are approaching, you can see the woods becoming clear we are nearly at the edge" she did not give him a reply and he wasn't surprised ...she 's so tensed...
Some 5 minutes later the trees were so scarce that any definition of forest was quickly forgotten and as they reached the final range of this green barrier the redhead let a muffled cry escape her lips.
"It is established that this day by the fifth full moon of the 100th light season we, provisory council of seers from Hemera, declare being witnesses of the prophecy that follows."
"By a storm night a being by all nature human will cross a veil of pure light to reach their full condition in our world. Drawings of the hurtful times will be the key to that passage and the cries of the heart will lead the chosen one" feeling confused the blonde stopped the older man.
"I see some relation with my dream but I don't understand everything"
"Well the way they expressed themselves was rather cryptic" he confirmed "but I am sure that this text needs to be studied with care and most certainly should be cross referenced with contemporary ones"
"Indeed you must be right, thank you" she smiled, she knew he would help her until they finally found the meaning of all this.
"You're welcome dear" turning his gaze back to the parchment he resumed the tale "A powerful union shall ensue to protect the soul of our family. For the chosen one will show a magic that long forgotten will be hard to tame, the heart shall be giving its light to restore the might."
"Well could they be more complicated" snorted the blonde.
"I think they could" he look so serious that she had to laugh at this. Blushing slightly he closed the folder and picked it up from the table. "Let me check this Tara, it will take some time but at least now we know where to look" glancing at the windows he added "plus the time is passing by you should go an prepare, your mother might be looking out for you by now".
Getting up in a hurry she exclaimed "Goddess, you are right, I am late" she panicked a little so he reached for her arm.
"Don't worry dear, you still have some time but you should go" he reassured.
"Thank you Uncle Giles, thank you so much for all this" she gestured toward the parchments and gave him a fierce hug before leaving in a hurry "see you later at the ceremony" she shouted from afar still running to the exit. He shook his head at the departing blonde and smiled affectionately to himself.
Finally joining her parents, Tara greeted Jenny with a kiss and a tender hug and followed Viviane to her bedroom were her dress had been brought earlier by a maid. The young blonde didn't talk about her dream for she didn't want to cause her mother any kind of concern. She wanted to learn more about it before, it was no use retelling a mysterious prophecy, that for now, had no precise meaning. Today was dedicated to celebration and that was all she would focus on. Well at least she would try.
"This, this is....what the hell is that?" she sputtered breathlessly her head spinning fast.
"This is Hemera" announced the dark haired man with pride as he gestured to the valley before them.
"But....but it's impossible" she sat down on a rock, her legs trembling so much she wasn‘t sure she could have managed to stand up any longer. The sight taking place in front of her unbelieving eyes was leaving her speechless.
They were at the edge of the forest and a few feet below a road was meandering into a verdant glen. Along that path, farms of different sizes were scattered in little hamlets as villages, forming bigger structures, appeared progressively in the scenery.
At the top of a round shaped hill a castle was standing with majesty, surrounded by trees and colorful gardens. All in all it looked like a middle age setting exactly the one you could have found in an history book, except for one teeny tiny detail thought the redhead ... there are huge freaking flying dragons hovering about that damned castle!!!...tell me it's a dream please...tell me I'm gonna wake up like nothing ever happened...I'm insane, that's it...I knew one day I'll blow a fuse...well here we are...
"So what do you think" he asked pleased with himself "isn't it wonderful". He turned to face the redhead who was currently under a state of shock staring transfixed at the vision below them, silent and furiously pale.
"Willow? Are you alright?" he felt his concern for the girl grow progressively as she stayed prostrated in the same position. Waving is hand in front of her face to shake her out of it he called again "Willow?"
"What?" she exclaimed all of sudden, her voice on the verge of panic.
"I said, are you alright, you seem a little...pale" he remarked softly.
She stood up briskly, gesticulating wildly in the direction of the castle "Well I have many reasons to be pale you see, first I can't believe it's there, I mean last time I checked there was no castle, no farms around here and more importantly no dragons....and if you tell me the forest guards decided to introduce a new specie in danger in this natural haven....I'll tell you they could have tried with pumas first...I concede it would have been less exotic but at least I wouldn't feel like loosing my mind right now!" she was so agitated that when the young farmer touched her arm to calm her, she jumped of the ground at the contact.
"Hey, hey, don't panic here, take a deep breath and sit down" he instructed gently.
She followed his advice and a few minutes later she opened her mouth again to speak but this time with a more composed attitude "I can't believe it... so all you said to me earlier was true" she glanced at him to find confirmation in his eyes "I am currently in a magical kingdom" he nodded again "and you are a farmer" her voice was tiny and weak barely acknowledging her own words "how in the world did I land here ?" she was desperate, all her day had been going awry and this was the apotheosis.
Digging in her recollections of the past two days she tried to reassemble the puzzle in her mind. First Oz betrayal, it had been harsh but strangely liberating, the walk through the storm, nothing out of the ordinary. The cave episode had been more intriguing in itself, and especially her discovery of the night. Focusing on that moment something came back to her ... these paintings...on that wall... scrunching up her nose she wondered what was titillating her. Realization hitting hard she stood again staring intently at the valley and squeaked out "it's the same, it's the exact same picture".
"What is the same?" she was a real whirlwind and Xander was again startled by her piercing outburst.
"The valley, the villages, the castle and even the dragons" she was excited "they were on the wall, this is the kingdom I saw on those paintings the other night" it still didn't make any sense to her but at least there was something that she could hang up to!
"Well I must admit that I am the lost one this time"
"Oh yes! Of course, sorry" she blushed a little "you couldn't know about all this considering that you weren't there"
Taking a small pose she cleared her throat and decided it was only fair that she countered him her recent misadventures. During all the story the young man listened carefully, eyes wide open, like a little boy that was told a fairy tale.
"And that's when we met" finally ending the long narrative the redhead took a much needed gulp of air.
"Incredible!" was all he could manage.
"Yeah, I second that."
"Well I am no wizard, but I would say that something definitely happened in that cave, something magical. What with that halo of light for one, you should check this out with someone who actually could explain all this" this was way out of his proficiency.
"I don't know but I would suggest to go to the castle, all the best witches and mages are there, they are the only one that could help you with that" he was definitive on that point.
"Alright then" she had to know and if it meant brave her fears and enter this magical craziness she would do it ...but I don't have to like it... she pouted with resolve.
"Good, but we can't go now"
"First of all I have to go back home or my parents would worry, second because accepting them or not you have magical powers and by now there are going crazy" at the anxious look she gave him he corrected "not crazy crazy" he winked retelling one of her expressions, she smiled at this. "What I meant his that your aura is disturbed you send off waves of magic in all directions, so we can't possibly wander through the streets with you like that. We should wait for the night, it won't serve as a shield but at least people would be asleep for the most part and as your energy is in no way evil they won't be surprise by the surge of power; for those who could sense it of course."
"So what now? I come with you to your place"
"No, you can't" she looked surprise and a little bit hurt "it's not that I don't want you to, but you have to stay here in the forest boundaries. It will mask your magic for now. I will come back to fetch you by night fall and we will go together to the castle." reaching for a leather bag attached to Starlight saddle he took out an apple and what looked like gourd.
"Here take this" he handed the two items to the girl and turn back to close the saddlebag "I know it's not much but it's already something" turning again to the redhead he gave her a dark green blanket "if your getting cold" he commented.
"Thank you Xander" she was grateful for his thoughtfulness.
"You're welcome" he grinned with flourish, she laughed lightly at his goofy ways and in an impulsive gesture she hugged him shortly. The boy blushed brightly at this and smiled again before straddling his steed. "I'll be coming back for you in a few hours, the woods are safe so don't worry." she nodded at him and followed with her shimmering green eyes the departing cavalier. ...and now what?...