The group walked toward what is called the Caverns of Darkness and stopped, staring wide-eyed at the scene before them. On the side of the mountain were thousands of men, women, and children imbedded into the rock. Only their backs were showing, and to the left was a thirty-foot tall spiraling tower made of water.
"Wow!" Tara said staring at the wall.
"Wh-What are those?" Xander asked frozen in place.
"These are...these are Fayth! A summoning!" Tara shouted feeling the energy flow "Someone is using these Fayth! Someone is drawing energy from all of them!"
"From this many?" Buffy asked surprised and horrified "There are thousands of them!"
"Who wields a power of this scale, and what could they be calling?" Anya asked confused looking at Tara who shrugged her shoulders.
Buffy turned to Giles and stared at him "You know something! So talk!"
"Do not look to other for knowledge, this is your journey, too."
"But...Tara might die!"
"No...Giles is right." Willow said and took a step toward the Fayth
"What are you saying?"
"This is our... This is my story." Willow told Buffy and touched the Fayth. Her hand went through the force field and she passed out. When Willow opened her eyes she found herself on the Zanarkand docks. "What the hell?" Turning she walks inside a boat, and sees the small hooded character.
"Welcome home" The boy says
"You..." Willow looked at the boy confused.
"Remember me? We met in Bevelle."
"Yeah, I remember. You're the Bahamut Fayth."
"Yes, but that wasn't the first time we met. I've known about you for a long time... A long, long time."
"I...I feel like I know you, too. Where are we?"
The boy laughs "Silly, don't you recognize your own home?"
"Hey, what's gotten into you?" Willow hears Xander say before an image of him appears.
"Wake up!" An image of Buffy appears
"Wait...this is a...dream." Willow says and watches the two images disappear.
"A dream? What are you crazy? I don't have the time to be dreaming!"
"You're wrong. It's not that you're dreaming... You are a dream." The Fayth says before running out the door.
"What? Wait a sec!" Willow says and follows the boy outside and up to the top of the boat.
"Long ago, there was a war."
"Yeah, with machina, right?"
"Yes. A war between Zanarkand and Bevelle. Bevelle's machina assured their victory from the start. Spira had never seen such power. The Summoners of Zanarkand didn't stand a chance. Zanarkand was doomed to oblivion. That's why we tried to save it...if only in a memory." The Fayth boy said sadly.
"What did you do?"
"The remaining Summoners and the townspeople that survived the war... They all became Fayth...Fayth for the summoning."
"The summoning? Do you mean Sin?"
"No. I mean this place. A Zanarkand that never sleeps."
"You see, the dreams of the Fayth summoned the memories of the city. They summoned all the buildings, all the people who lived there..."
"The people... What, they're all dreams? Me, too?"
"Yes, you're a dream of the Fayth. You, your father, your mother, everyone. And if the Fayth stop dreaming..." The boy said and the landscape turned ruins revealing the destruction of Zanarkand.
"No! So what if I'm a dream! I...I like being here."
"We've been dreaming so long...we're tired." The Fayth disappeared and reappeared to Willow's right. "Would you and your father... Would you let us rest? Both you and your father have been touched by Sin. Sin, the one around whom all Spira-the spiral-revolves."
"Just what are you trying to say?"
"You two are more than just dreams now."
"Wake up! Please, wake up!" An image of Tara appeared and was gone a second later.
"Just a little more, and maybe... Maybe you are the dream that will end our dreaming at last." The Fayth said and disappeared as Willow woke up.
"Are you okay?" Tara asked hugging her.
"Damn! We were so worried about you!" Buffy said holding on to Faith.
"You okay?" Anya asked kneeling down.
"What happened?" Tara asked looking Willow over and making sure she wasn't hurt.
"It...it was nothing. I just blacked out...I was dreaming, you called to me...and I woke up." Willow said rising and stretching "Nothing like good nap! Well, I'm ready. Let's get going!" Willow says a little too happily, as Tara watches her walk over to the caverns.
“Wait!” Tara said and took Willow’s hand turning her around. “Everyone go on ahead we’ll catch up in a few minutes.” The others walked by and into the caverns. “I want to know what happened?”
“Tara, it was nothing. It…it was…I was just dreaming. Like I said, I heard your voice, and I woke up.”
“Willow do you know how scared I was? I was so afraid that something bad had happened to you…” Tara said pushing a stray lock of red hair behind Willow’s ear. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, okay?”
Willow lowered her head “Okay, I’m sorry for scaring you.”
“It's okay, just don’t do it again.” Tara said and leaned in kissing Willow, and pushing her against the wall. Willow wrapped her arms around Tara’s waist and pulled her closer. Breaking the kiss Tara rested her forehead against Willow’s and looked into her eyes. “You promised to always be with me…and I’m holding you to that.”
“I don’t break my promises, I’ll always be with you.” Willow said and gently kissed her again, before taking her hand and walking into the caverns to catch up with the others.
A large purple bull like fiend with black horns and brown hair attacked the group causing them to scatter. "Damn! How many steaks could get from him?" Buffy asked throwing a Firestorm mix at the beast.
"This is a Behemoth, you can't eat them!" Faith said slicing its large right arm open. Anya cast a Flare spell on the fiend knocking it back, as Xander infused his ball with a Darkness spell, and threw it blinding the Behemoth. Giles swung his sword cutting off its left horn, as Willow dodged a clawed hand and jumped on its back. Grabbing a fist full of hair she held on tight, and thrust her sword into the fiends back and was thrown off. The fiend reared up on its hind legs and roared as it came down shaking the cavern, Willow rolled under the beast and thrust her sword into it heart and screamed when the beast fell on top of her. The fiend turned into souls and disappeared leaving Willow on the ground dazed and very confused.
"Remind me not to do that again." She said sitting up, and shaking her head to clear it. Standing up Tara grabbed her hand and gave her a worried look.
"Don't do that again, okay? I think you like scaring me."
"I'm sorry, Tara. I didn't mean too, and not I don’t." Willow said and kissed Tara's hand <Why not...I'm nothing but a damn dream anyway!>
Around the bend they came to a wall with a path leading to the left, following the path they reached a pool of deep water that led into an underground tunnel.
"This must be our job, ya?" Xander said and walked into the water with Buffy and Willow following. They swam into the tunnel and around a bend, getting attack by four purple piranhas. Xander bounced his ball off one to the other killing two of them, Buffy punched another and got it stuck on her spiked glove, Willow cut the other one in half and swam on. Willow and Xander tried not to laugh when they surfaced; Buffy was still trying to get the fish fiend off her glove. At the end of the pathway they came to a stop and looked at a glowing white ball in the middle of a turning shield.
"So, what're we supposed to do?" Buffy asked watching the shield rotate
"How would I know? I'm not from this place... Hey, Xander try hitting the glowing ball in the middle. Let's see what it does."
"Okay, but if we're attacked and eaten by some big ass fiend...it's your fault, ya?" Xander threw his ball and hit the shield. The ball bounced back, and he threw it again this time hitting the glowing ball in the middle. The walls shook causing dirt and rock to rain down on them, looking around they didn't see anything different, and decided to swim back to the others. When they rose out of the water they could hear the sounds of battle. Running up the path Xander got knocked back down when a Demi spell exploded in front of him. Willow looked forward as saw a twenty-foot tall black flan melt into the ground.
"What the hell was that!?" Willow asked running over to Tara who was on the ground and not moving. "Tara! Wake up!" She said wiping blood off of Tara's face. "Come on, baby. Wake up."
Tara slowly opened her eyes and winced when her head started pounding. "W-Willow?"
"Yeah, it's me, you okay? You hurt anywhere? Here drink this." Willow held a Potion to her lips and helped her drink it. Tara winced again, then relaxed as the pounding stopped and the wound on her head healed.
"Thank you. How is everyone else?"
"Giles is helping Xander stand up, Anya looks wore out, and Buffy is making Faith drink a Potion." Willow said and smiled down at Tara. "And you sweetheart, are looking just as tired as Anya. What happened?"
"The cavern started shaking, then this wall here..." Tara said and pointed to a path that wasn't there before "came sliding down. After that, a Dark Flan attacked us and I was hit when a spell exploded."
"Can you stand?" Giles asked walking over.
"Yes, I'm fine now." Tara said and stood with Willow's help.
The group walked up the new path and down an incline to another pool of water. "Come on." Xander said and pulled Willow after him, with Buffy pushing her from the front.
"No! Tara might get hurt again!"
"Don't worry, the others will take care of her, ya?"
"Xan-" Was all she got out before Xander dragged her under the water. With no fiends in sight they made their way to a dead end, with three glowing lights. A blue light was on the left, an orange one in the middle, and a green one on the right. Willow touched the green one and pulled her hand back as it shocked her, Buffy then touched it. Her hand went through the force field and touched the light inside; Xander tried the blue one, and got shocked. Willow's hand went through and touched the blue light, with only one left Xander carefully touched the orange one. The cavern shook again, and Willow's eyes widened <Tara! Shit, what if they're being attacked?> she thought and swam off as fast as she could with Xander and Buffy right behind her. When they surfaced the others were standing at the edge of the water waiting on them. Sighing Willow ran over to Tara and hugged her <I don't care what anyone says> "You okay? No attacks?"
"No we weren't attacked." Tara said and squeezed Willow closer to her.
"Let's go the path has been opened." Giles said and walked up a rock staircase.
Willow kissed Tara before they walked to the top of the stairs, Giles stopped and waited as the others went on to the exit.
"Willow, be prepared. The fiends she has sent will be upon us soon."
"What fiends? And why were they sent?" Willow asked drawing her sword, and glancing around.
"She sent them to test Tara's strength."
"Who is 'she'?" Tara asked squeezing Willow's hand.
"She awaits in Zanarkand, for the arrival of the strongest."
"She...she's still alive?"
"As much as Snyder and Glory."
"Have you lost your nerve?"
"No. Nothing can frighten me now."
"Mythe would be proud of you." Giles said with a smile.
"Then, I must not let her down." Tara said and walked forward with Willow beside her on alert. They walked out on to a large flat surface, and saw the others battle ready. Looking up they saw a large silver lion like fiend swooping down. When the fiend landed Anya cast a Flare spell on it as Xander blinded it. Buffy threw a Flash Flood mix at it, just as the water poured over the fiend Anya followed up with a Thundaga spell. Willow flipped over Faith, who had just brought her spear down across the fiends face; Willow swung her sword and cut off one of the horns on its head. Giles severed the left wing with his sword and was knocked back by the fiends’ large tail. Willow and Faith ducked under its clawed paw, as it passed over their heads. The beast glowed bright silver and breathed a damaging mist over them, Faith fell back blinded and poisoned, as Willow was burned, poisoned, and blinded. Tara summoned Bahamut in overdrive, when Giles and Xander pulled the two downed girls out of the way. "Bahamut came flying down and landed on all fours, the golden wheel on his back began to turn as it glowed, a beam of light shot out of the turning wheel and hit the fiend. Tara dismissed Bahamut as the large fiend disappeared in a shower of souls. Tara ran over to the others and saw the damage the breath had done. Faith was quickly turning green and covering her eyes. Willow's skin was dark red, and turning green she too, was covering her eyes in pain.
Buffy lifted Faith's head into her lap and poured some Eye Drops in her eyes, and an Antidote down her throat. Tara kneeled down and put Willow's head in her lap, Willow screamed out in pain, as her burnt skin broke open. Giles rushed over and poured Eye Drops in her eyes, and handed Tara the Antidote. Tara was crying as she raised Willow's head up "Will, sweetie, please drink this. I can't heal you until the poison is gone." She put the vile to Willow's cracked and peeling lips, and slowly poured in it her mouth. She watched the green color leave, only to see the red burnt skin, concentrating she cast a Curaga spell on Willow's body. The burns healed and left Willow's pale skin in its place, Willow slowly stood up with Tara hovering over her, and smiled.
"Damn! Talk about a bad sunburn!" Willow said jokingly.
"Willow! Don't say things like that! You could have been killed!" Tara shouted crying, Willow pulled her into a hug.
"Tara's right, what the hell has gotten into you?" Faith asked leaning against Buffy.
"Like you're one to talk!" Willow said and turned to Faith "You were right there beside me!"
"No! I was behind you! That's why I didn't get all the fucking burns you did!"
"Whoa! Okay, just calm down everyone. I'm sure Wills didn't mean for that to happen, did you?" Buffy said stepping between the two.
"Why would I want to get hurt like that?" <I'm just a dream so it shouldn't hurt...but it does.>
"See, now I think we should rest a little."
"No, we'll rest when we reach the summit." Giles said standing beside Xander.
"I know, that's why I want to stop for a bit. It means that...there's not much time left." Buffy said with her voice breaking.
"Buffy..." Tara said sadly
"Fine! I'll think on the way." Buffy said and walked off with everyone following. Willow stopped and stared at the path.
"Come on, Will." Xander said and stopped walking.
"We're almost there, aren't we?"
"Yeah, we've come a long way." Xander said causing Giles to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Willow asked angrily
"I was thinking...you remind me of myself. Before, the closer I got to Zanarkand, the more I would wonder... when we arrive, Mythe will call the Final Aeon... She will fight Sin, and die in doing so. I thought my mind was made up long before... But when I stood here, on this very spot, my resolve wavered."
"I never would've figured. Legendary guardians choke sometimes, too, ya?"
"Legendary guardian? I was still just a boy, Xander. I wanted to change the world, too. But I changed nothing. That is my story." Giles moves on with Xander and Willow behind him. When they move out into the sunlight, Willow looks over to Zanarkand. The buildings, streets, paths, homes, everything is broken and falling down. What was once a great city is now a pile of rubble.
A city dead for a thousand years. A city I had to see with my own eyes. The end of Tara's journey... and the last chapter in my story. My thoughts, they kept floating up, and then slipping through my fingers. Slipping away before I could pin them down with words.
"Tara, I say no! If we go down there, then you'll..." Buffy said in tears.
"Buffy... you're a true friend, and I thank you... But you know...I must go down to Zanarkand."
"I'm not saying we shouldn't go... I'm saying that we should think about it some more. There's gotta be a way we can save you!"
"All my life, I knew this moment would come."
"Tara..." Buffy says as Tara embraces her, Tara didn't notice the sphere she dropped.
"Thank you, Buffy. Thank you for everything."
"Don't say that, Tara! It isn't over yet!" Buffy said laying her head on Tara's shoulder.
"Please tell aunt Joyce thank you."
"No... you can tell her yourself."
"No, don't say it...because we're gonna see each other again, okay?"
"Okay, now are you ready?"
"Yeah, I guess."
Tara nods and walks down the path leading to Zanarkand. Willow stops and picks up the sphere, pressing it to her ear she pressed the button to hear Tara's voice.
"Sir Giles. Faith told me...when my mother wanted me taken from Bevelle to Besaid... It was you who told Faith's mother, right? I had always wanted to meet you someday. And now that I have, I am truly glad I had the chance, and truly grateful that it was you who helped guard my mother. Having you, as my guardian was so great an honor, I don't know how to thank you. Perhaps when I defeat Sin, that will be my thanks to you. Yes, that is what I'll do. I will challenge Sin, and I will defeat Sin. If you are all there watching this, then I guess Sin is already gone. And so am I, I suppose. Anyway, I just wanted to say: Sir Giles, I thank you.
Faith... Do you remember the first day we met? I was only seven, and you were eight. My mother had defeated Sin, and all Bevelle was celebrating. Everyone was saying what a hero my mother was. I was so happy, but when night came...it occurred to me. My mother had defeated Sin, and she was dead. Now, I was all alone. I couldn't sleep, so I wandered into the town, away from the celebrating crowds. I stood on the bridge in Bevelle where my mother and I had parted. Standing there, alone, I could see the fields where she had fought Sin. Then, a little dark haired girl appeared wearing the Dragons clans’ armor. You said that you and your mother were looking for the daughter of Mythe, remember? At first, I was so scared. Until I realized what a nice girl you are. You weren't used to talking to other children outside of your clan. When I told you I was Mythe's daughter... you said you and your mother would take me as far from Bevelle as you could. That is was the wish of a man facing death. I think...I cried then. Because that... that was when I knew my mother wasn't coming back... and I would never see her again. You just held me, without saying a word. I cried after we got to Besaid, too. When you and your mother tried to go after leaving me in the care of the temple... I held on to you, crying 'Don't go, don't go!' you and your mother listened, and stayed. Faith I thank you so much.
Xander, Anya: I'll never forget my days spent with you, growing up in Besaid. We always played together, us and Hikari. That's why I was always so happy, I think. And when you refused to let me become a summoner and I did it anyway... I'm sorry. I've always wanted to apologize. You know, when you tried to stop me then... really, I was happy. I could tell you really cared about me. You were like my big brother and sister. No... I think you really were my big brother and sister. What else... Oh! I love watching you play Blitzball, Xander. I even love it when you scold me, Anya! Really!
I guess that leaves...the newest guardian. Star player of the Zanarkand Abes! You are... I am... Well, um...I'm glad... I'm glad that we met. We haven't even known each other that long, but... It's funny. So this is what it feels like. It's a much more wonderful feeling than anything I had ever imagined. Wonderful... but it hurts. When I... When I think about us never being together again at all... I'm afraid. No, I shouldn't say that. I'll do that part over. Um..."
"Hey, whatcha up to?" Willow heard her own voice before the recording stopped.
"I wonder..." Willow said out loud and ran to catch up with her group.