Willow awoke to find herself face down in water. Raising her head she notices that she's in a small oasis in a very hot desert. Sighing she swims over to the bank and climbs out, turning around she stares into the water.
"Where am I? I'll forgive you, this time. Be good for a while, okay?" Willow says to the water, and turns toward the desert. "Well, no time like the present." she began walking toward a sand dune, when Willow topped the dune she was knocked back down by a huge orange-clawed foot. Looking up she saw a giant black bird with a thirty-foot wingspan; its mouth opened showing long sharp teeth, and a long black tongue.
Willow pulled her sword and struck the birds' foot as it tried to pick her up. The bird swooped down again, and she jumped into the air flipping over it, and landing on its back. She thrust her sword into the right wing joint, before she was thrown off and hit the sand face down. Spitting sand out of her mouth Willow rose and looked over to the bird that was now standing on the ground ten foot away.
"Need some help?" Willow looked to her right seeing Giles standing beside her.
"Sure." She said and grinned. They rushed at the bird swinging their swords around and hitting the birds' chest. It squawked and tried to bite Giles, but was knocked back when electricity shocked it. Willow and Giles glanced back and saw Anya coming down a sand dune to the left.
"Another one of those damn birds!" Anya said angrily as she cast another Thundara spell on the Zu, causing it to explode into souls and disappear.
"Where're the others?" Willow asked when Anya stopped in front of her.
"I didn't see anyone on the way here. But we're supposed to stay in one place if we get split up."
"Wait here if you want." Willow points to Giles who is walking away "He isn't."
Anya sighs and follows Giles. "This is just great! First we end up at the bottom of Macalania Lake, then Sin comes, and then I wake up under the hot sun in some Yevon damned desert. And you know what else? One of those damn birds tries to eat me for lunch. This hasn't been a good day." Anya rants, as Willow tries to hold in her laughter.
"I feel your pain. I woke up face down in water...again!" Willow said looking ahead and spotting Xander. "Yo! Xander!" she hollers and Xander looked up. "You alone?" Willow asks looking around and not seeing anyone else.
"Yeah, is Tara with you?"
"No, we were hoping she was with you." Anya said looking at bits and pieces of machina.
"Dammit! First I can't find Tara, then I'm ambushed by machina! This has been one hell of day." Xander sighs and follows Giles. When the group rounds a dune they are attacked by blue and silver machina. One of the machina has a shield and the other has a machine gun equipped.
Name: Machina Guard
Name: Machina Gunner
Anya cast a Thundara spell on the Guard, and Willow followed up with a swing from her sword cutting the machina's head off. Xander threw his ball at the Gunner knocking it over to Giles, who sliced it open with a single swing from his samurai sword. Two more machina showed up on got a hit on Giles slicing his leg open, Willow threw him a Potion and twisted her body around to avoid the blow from the Guard machina. Xander threw his ball hitting the Gunner machina knocking it back and into Willow's downward slash. Anya cast two Thundara spells on the Guard machina knocking it back the first time, and destroying with the second.
"Hey Giles, you okay?" Willow asked as Giles tossed the empty Potion vile in the sand.
"I'm fine." Giles said then quickly turned when someone screamed. The group ran around the corner to see Faith finishing off two machina Gunners.
"Fucking machina!" Faith grumbled looking at her bleeding right shoulder.
"Faith!" Anya shouted and ran over with the others following. "You're hurt." Anya looked at the wound on Faith's shoulder.
"Those damn machina shot me!" Faith said and took the Potion from Willow's out stretched hand. "Thanks" she said and drank it down. The wounds healed and only left a small scar. "Dammit! Tara's gone!"
"Faith, it's not your fault! Don't worry we'll find her." Willow said sounding confident.
"You're right, we will find her." Giles said and began walking again.
The group followed Giles and ran into more of the machina Guards and Gunners quickly dispatching them, the group walked on. Topping another sand dune they saw and heard Buffy taking apart machina.
"Stupid...damned machina." Buffy grips "They're not strong enough she tells me. They have to be stronger, or the fiends will get them, she says. Ha! These damn things are just fine they attack anything that moves! Including me! Dawn I'll get you for this!" Buffy shouts and takes the last machina apart and turns around "Oh! Hey guys... Where's Tara?"
"We can't find her." Willow says and lowers her head.
"Some guardian I turned out to be." Anya says near tears.
"Umm... There's something I need to tell you, but you gotta promise not to say anything." Buffy says and gets a glare from Xander. "Do you be glaring at me either! I know where we are. This is Bikanel Island. Up ahead is a place we Al Bhed call Home. I'm sure Tara's there. The other Al Bhed must've come and rescued her!"
"Rescued? Don't you mean kidnapped?!"
"Xander! As long as Tara's safe what the hell does it matter?"
"That's right! Anyway, I'll take you there, but only if you promise...that you won't tell anyone about it. And especially not the Yevonites, okay? You all know that they don't like the Al Bhed. So, who knows what they'd do if they knew about Home."
"Come one, gimme a break! What are you accusing Yevon of this time?" Xander asks angrily.
"Yevon did something really bad to us before."
"Well, you Al Bhed must have deserved it."
"Can't you two talk about this later?" Willow said getting frustrated.
"Xander, just promise me you won't tell, okay?"
"Come on Xander. We have to get to Tara!" Willow said
"Damn, all right, I promise!"
Okay, it's this way." Buffy said and lead them to the fourth sand dune to the right, "It's right over here.... Noooo!" Buffy screamed and ran off.
"Buffy!" Willow and Faith shouted and ran to the top of the sand dune and looked down on a war zone.
The Al Bhed Home had ten square red towers with pulleys circling a larger round silver, blue and red tower, and it was being attacked by a large amout of fiends, an explosion could be heard as a mushroom cloud rose into the sky. They could see and hear the gunfire coming from inside and outside of the large structure.
"Tara's down there?" Xander said in disbelief
"Of all the places." Anya said shaking her head. "Let's go"
The group catches up with Buffy outside the building, and sees an Al Bhed man get his throat ripped out by a canine fiend. The fiend turns and runs at Faith, who thrusts her spear into its head killing it. The bodies of fifty or more Al Bhed men and women are lying on the ground. They hear a machine gun go off and look up to see a young Al Bhed girl getting hit with the rain of bullets and fall to the ground. Buffy screams and runs over.
"Miki! Who? Who's attacking us? Fru tet drec du oui?" Buffy asked crying (Who did this to you?)
"Yevon... Guado..." The young girl says before she dies.
"Miki! Miki!" Buffy sobbed out.
"A war? Between Yevon and the Al Bhed?" Anya asked confused.
"Dryd ec fnuhk!" A pretty dark blond woman says approaching. "Guado ku vun dra Summoners." (That is wrong! Guado go for the Summoners.)
"Sudran!" Buffy said, standing up. (Mother!)
The woman kneels down and checks Miki's body and shakes her head. She kisses the girls forehead and stands.
"Are you Buffy's friends? Well, what are you standing there for, come on! Let's go kick those Guado out of our Home!" She says and runs off.
Willow watched the woman go then turned to Buffy "Who was that?"
"Joyce. Leader of the Al Bhed... She's my mom."
"Oh, okay. Well let's go!" Willow says and the group ran over to the door Joyce walked through.
"Yeah, we have to save Tara" Buffy says sadly
Willow smiles "Not just Tara, right?"
Willow and Buffy run through the door, and see that the group had stopped in the middle of the room, looking from one hallway to another.
"Tara! Where are you?" Xander hollers down the left hallway. The glass above them breaks and falls around them. When they look up the group sees three Bombs floating in front of them. The middle Bomb flies threw the air and hits Anya, causing her body to glow as she raised her hand. "Blizzaga!" she shouted freezing the Bomb in mid-air, when it hit the ground it shattered. Faith thrust her spear into the Bomb on the left and pulled it to the ground, and Giles cut the Bomb in half. Xander knocked the last Bomb to the ground with his ball, where Willow advanced and thrust her sword straight through it.
"What the hell are those Guado thinking?" Xander says and glances at Buffy sadly.
"This is terrible!" Buffy says and runs down the right hallway.
"Drec cilgc! Buffy! Tu oui nayt sa? E fyhd oui yht ouin vneahtc du ku ithan, duu! E's kueha du majam Home! Yht dra fiends fedr ed!" Joyce said over the intercom. (This sucks! Buffy! Do you read me? I want you and your friends to go under, too! I'm going to level Home! And the fiends with it!)
"Oh, no! This can't be happening!" Buffy say nearly in tears again.
"What? What'd she say?" Xander asks worriedly
"We have to go underground!"
"Where is Tara?" Giles asks from beside her.
"She's in the Summoners' Sanctum! This way!" Buffy said and ran down a flight of stairs.
The group runs into two Dual Horns, at the end of the steps. Buffy hits one on the head with her spiked glove, and twisted out of the way as Willow brought her sword down splitting it's head open. Faith stabbed the second in its side, and pushing her spear into its heart, as Giles severed its head.
"Come on, through this door!" Buffy said and lead them into a room with two flights of stairs going down. Red lights are flashing on and off, and the overhead lights are flickering, as alarms are going off.
"This place...is done for." Xander says and looks over to Buffy.
"You're right. You're right, Xander." Buffy says sadly with her head down. "We Al Bhed, we... we weren't always like this, you know? Sin came and destroyed the island where we all lived. After that, we...the Al Bhed were scattered to every corner of Spira. But then, my mom...she brought the Al Bhed together again. She told us that if we few that were left put our minds to it, and worked together...we could make a new home. Everyone...all of us, we worked hard, we had our Home back again... But now...just look at what's happened... Why did things have to turn out this way?"
"Buffy... Damn those Guado! What the hell are they thinking?" Xander said getting mad again.
Anya gently touched Buffy's arm "Buffy, what is this Summoners' Sanctum?"
"It's the place where we keep the Summoners...we keep them safe here."
"You kidnapped them." Xander said lightly
"I know it's against the teachings and all, but..."
"I get why you did it."
Willow walked down three of the steps and looked up "Well, I don't get it, Xander. What they might get hurt on the pilgrimage so you go and kidnap them? I mean, if the Summoners don't do their job, then who's gonna beat Sin? I know you want to protect them... But that's what the guardians are for. And if the guardians do their job, then the Summoners will be safe! Right? Right!?" Willow said and didn't get a reply except everyone turning their heads.
"It's quite, I'm going to go to the Sanctum." Faith said and walked off with Buffy by her side, followed by the others.
<What the hell?> Willow thought walking behind Giles.
"Tara! Please be here!" Buffy said running through the door.
"Tara!" Faith shouts
"She is not here." The group saw Cordelia approaching "Hello again. Please wait there until we have performed the sending." She turned and walked over to five bodies.
"They died protecting us." Jonathon said sadly "It's not much, but at least we can give them a proper sending." He then begins to send more bodies.
Warren runs over to Willow and looks up at her "What's sacrificed? The Al Bhed said that the Summoners were being 'sacrificed'... That Summoners shouldn't have to go on a pilgrimage."
"Why couldn't they trust the guardians to protect the Summoners? The Al Bhed had no right stopping their pilgrimage!" Willow shouted.
"The pilgrimages have to stop!" Buffy said angry and almost crying. "If they don't, and they get to Zanarkand... They might defeat Sin. Tara could...but she... Tara will die! You know, don't you? Summoners journey to get the Final Aeon. Tara told you, didn't she? With the Final Aeon, she can beat Sin. But then...but then... If she calls it, the Final Aeon's going to kill her! Even if she defeats Sin, it will kill Tara too, you know!" Buffy then breaks down crying.
Willow kneels down and grabs Buffy's shoulders and begins to shake her "Tell me why! Why were you all hiding it!? Why didn't you tell me?"
"We weren't hiding it..." Xander says sadly
"It was just...too hard to say." Anya says with tears running down her face.
Willow falls to the floor on her hands and knees, and pounds the floor with her right fist. "Anya! How could you? Isn't she like a sister to you? I thought you were family! Xander! Why didn't you do something!?" Willow shouted crying.
"Don't you think we tried to stop her? Tara, she follows...her heart." Anya says crying on Faith's shoulder.
"Tara knew. She knew what she was doing when she chose to become a Summoner. To face Sin, ya? Tara knew!" Xander said nearly in tears himself.
Buffy stands up and faces Xander "But that is just wrong! Summoners shouldn't have sacrifice themselves...just so the rest of Spira can be happy!"
An image of a Dual Horn appeared as Jonathon stepped through it "That is our choice..."
"We all live in fear of Sin, you know that." Cordelia said standing beside Jonathon.
"A world without Sin... That is the dream of all Yevon's children. And we will use that power, even if it means our lives!" Jonathon said as the Aeons appeared.
Willow run over to Valefor and began pounding on her chest. "I've been such a damned idiot! Here I've been telling Tara... Let's go to Zanarkand together! Let's beat Sin!" Valefor wrapped her wings around the crying Willow "I told her all the things that we could...we could... And all along...the whole fucking time, I didn't know anything! Nothing! But Tara, would...she'd...just smile." Willow fell to the floor, and remembered back to Luca.
"Watch." Tara said then whistled.
"Hey, you go pretty good."
"You sound sad."
"I don't think that'll help."
"You know what? It's embarrassing to say this myself... But Summoners and their guardians are kind of like Spira's ray of light. Everyone in Spira depends on us to defeat Sin... So, I learned to practice smiling when I'm sad, you know? I know it's hard, but smiling helps."
"Yeah... I understand...I think."
"Right, now let's see what you can do!"
Willow then remembers she and Tara laughing out loud. "I want my journey to be full of laughter" she hears Tara say.
"I can't let her die! I won't let her die! I'm going to find her." Willow said and runs out the back door and on to the airship with the group following.