Dawn sat the airship down near the Zanarkand ruins, and kept a close eye on the ocean, ready to fly if she saw one of those fiends surface. Willow and Faith were the first ones off and looked around, seeing no fiends they motioned for Tara and Buffy to follow. Maechen was standing near the path to Gagazet and smiled as the girls approached him.
"Thank you for meeting me here, Lady Tara."
"Not a problem. So, what was it you needed?"
Maechen looked up at the darkening sky and nodded to himself. "Would you like to hear about Vegnagun?"
"Vegnagun was constructed during the Machina War, but there is no record of it ever being used. One could argue that the coming of Sin made war a secondary concern. But the real reason was that Vegnagun was nothing short of a titanic failure. You see, it was quick to respond to hostility but lacked the ability to discern friend from foe. A weapon that slaughtered indiscriminately would be far too dangerous for actual use in combat. And that was why Vegnagun was never considered as a measure to fight Sin. So, it was locked away and hidden under Bevelle."
"Damn gramps! You really know a lot!" Buffy said surprised.
Faith looked the man over for a moment. "Where'd you learn all that?"
"Hmm... That would be..."
"That would be?" Willow asked when he trailed off.
"Well... this should explain things." Maechen said as souls surrounded his body and he turned transparent.
Tara gasped as the others jumped, "Gramps! You're dead?" Buffy asked.
"Mortifying isn't it? Over the years I managed to completely forget that I am unsent. It was only when I shook your hand, Lady Tara, that I remembered."
"Huh? Why?" Tara asked confused.
"One thousand years ago here in Zanarkand I shook the hand of another young lady."
"One thousand years... you're the one on the spheres! I knew I'd heard that voice before, it's yours!" Willow said to the man and got a nod in response.
"It was Lenne." Tara said in understanding.
"Correct. It was quite a strange feeling shaking your hand two different people from two distant times with exactly the same handshake."
"A thousand years... you've met a lot of people then." Buffy said relaxing and leaned against a boulder.
"Yes, child, I have. Many meetings, and just as many partings. The many people I have known have all journeyed to the Farplane, leaving only me behind it is quite lonely." Maechen said as a bright light appeared.
"Gramps?" Buffy asked as a memory of Mythe, Ira, and Giles appeared.
"Mother!" Tara shouted surprised when she turned.
"Do forgive me. My memories seem to have a mind of their own." Maechen said as he disappeared.
"Thank you, Maechen. I hope we meet again." Tara smiled.
"As do I." He said as the memory vanished and the girls walked back to the ship.
With the cargo door closed Dawn raised the ship into the air and flew over Gagazet toward the Calm Lands, and waited for the girls. She turned in her seat when the door opened,
"Where now?" she asked.
"Mushroom Rock Road." Faith said leaning against the wall as the ship shot forward.
"You know I don't like this, right?" Willow sat down and rubbed her hands over her face.
"I know, sweetie, but we need to see what's in that cave." Tara said sitting in the chair next to her. "And if there isn't anything there, we leave as quick as possible, okay?"
"Yeah." Willow nodded, "I'll be right back." She said standing and headed for her and Tara's room.
When she stepped inside the room, Willow felt her stomach cramp up as a wave of pain washed over her body. "What...the...hell..." she muttered holding her stomach as she fell to her knees. The pain intensified when she tried to stand. The calves of her legs began to cramp at the same time as her biceps. Gritting her teeth against the pain, Willow stood and stumbled over to the bed. Her head began to pound as visions flashed in front of her eyes. Visions of death.
Faith was fighting against something unseen as blood ran down her face from a wound on her forehead. She back flipped swinging her spear around, and screamed in pain as a new wound opened on her stomach. Holding the wound with her left hand, she swung her spear with her right, and smiled as blood appeared out of thin air. The last thing she saw was a sword blade protruding from her chest as she fell to the floor dead.
Willow grabbed her head as it began to throb worse.
She saw a topless Buffy strapped to a wall with a look of pain on her face, as a man cut into her flesh with a dagger. He cut a two-inch wound at the top of each of her breasts, and then on the underside of her breasts. A woman appeared holding a cup under the wounds letting the blood fill the cup. Once the cup was full the man sliced Buffy's throat open, and grinned when she died.
Willow groaned in pain as another vision assaulted her.
Willow saw herself in chains hanging from the ceiling screaming in pain as a whip was brought down across her back. She screamed again as her chest was cut open allowing a cup to fill with blood. The cup was taken away as the man who'd killed Buffy stepped in front of her holding a blood-covered dagger. The man raised his hand up and brought it down, burring the dagger in her chest, and laughed as a scream echoed across the room.
Her head pounded worse than before as another vision came to her, and grit her teeth as her nose began to bleed.
Tara was topless and strapped to a black altar fighting against the restraints, and screamed with tears filling her eyes. Her blond hair was now red from the blood seeping from the wounds on her forehead and cheek. A bloody dagger appeared in front of her face, as she tried to kick the holder. The man pressed the dagger to her throat, and softly trailed it down her body, in between her breasts and stopped at her stomach. She cried out in pain as her stomach was cut open.
Sweat was running down Willow's face as the vision ended and she let out a painful yet terrified sob. With her body relaxing she fell back on the bed breathing heavily, and stared at the ceiling. Slowly wiping the blood from her face she sat up and looked around.
The clock told her that only five minutes had passed causing her to sigh. Standing up she walked into the bathroom and washed the sweat and blood from her face, and slowly headed back to the bridge.
When she reached the bridge she picked Tara up and sat down placing Tara on her lap, and wrapped her arms around her waist. Faith saw the look on Willow's face, but pushed it aside thinking it was because of the Den of Woe. A small sad smile crossed Willow's face when Tara snuggled up to her and laid her head on her shoulder.
<What the hell was that? Our deaths? I can't believe this; I thought everything was going to be fine... How can I tell them I saw our deaths? Hell! I don't even know who was doing the killing! All I know is: it was a guy dressed in black. I know I could say- 'Oh by the way I saw our deaths at the hand of a man dressed in black.' Yeah right! It'd only worry them I can tell they're still worried about what happened with the spheres. So how can I tell them about this?>
Willow was shaken out of her thoughts when Tara moved to stand, knowing they were close to the Den of Woe she sighed. Standing up she pushed those thoughts away, took Tara's hand, and followed Faith and Buffy outside. They stood and watched as the ship rose into the air to wait at the entrance for their return.
Following the same path as before they made it to the cave and to the sealed door. Taking five spheres from her pouch, Buffy placed them into the slots. Faith took the other five she was carrying and placed them into the slots. Willow was gripping her sword with her right hand and holding Tara's hand with her left.
With the ten spheres in place the seal was broken and the door slid up revealing the dark cave. Following the path proved to be difficult with the purple fog rising from the walls, and the floor. After stumbling in the thick fog several times Buffy cursed as she stopped to peer into the fog, and took a step back.
"Something's coming!" she said as Nooj, Baralai, and Gippal appeared.
"What're you doing here?" Willow asked and watched as all three disappeared.
"What the hell!?" Faith said confused
"Are they... unsent? No. That can't be." Buffy shook her head.
Tara looked around the cave. "It's the pyreflies! Remember in the Zanarkand dome it happed there too."
Willow nodded. "That must have been their memories from then... Or maybe a two-year-old nightmare?"
"You!" Faith growled as Tsuki appeared.
"Older than that." She said to Willow and grinned. "I wanted to rest forever, but those damn pyreflies make me relive that moment... Time after time!" Tsuki said disappearing -taking Willow with her- and leaving behind three horrified women.
[Another part of the cave]
When Willow appeared she fell on the hard ground with a thud, and groaned as a rusted sword blade punctured her left shoulder. Standing she pulled the blade free, throwing it to the ground, and slowly turning in a circle. The room she was in -like the rest of the cave- had thick fog, but was black instead of purple.
Drawing her sword with her right hand she stepped forward, only to trip and land back on the ground. Turning over she could barely make out the remains of a long dead solider, and stood up with wide eyes as the fog cleared.
Once she could see the room clearly, she began wishing they had never come into that cave. There were more bodies than she could count, more than what was left from the Crimson Squad. Willow saw a pile of skulls in the corner, as tall as she was; skeletal remains littered the rest of the floor. She couldn't see the cave walls due to more skeletal remains with large jagged rocks protruding from the ribcage. Taking a step back she winced hearing bones break under her left foot.
"Like my collection?" Tsuki asked appearing fifteen-foot away. "You're going to be added to it."
"You're the one...you're the one from my dream! Why'd you bring me here? And just why in the hell did you attack me!?" Willow asked raising her sword. "What have I ever done to you?"
Smirking Tsuki kicked one of the skulls sending it flying toward Willow, the skull flew beside Willow's head and shattered against the far wall.
"Don't you know, guardian? Alright then I'll tell you. The Summoner is mine, not yours. She is my lover, not yours. And I will do anything to keep it that way!" Tsuki growled jumping at Willow, as a sword appeared in her hand.
Willow blocked the attack that would have severed her head, and twisted her body to stand behind the unsent. Quickly bringing her sword down Willow screamed in anger as it went straight through, not leaving a scratch on Tsuki.
"That won't work! Not here anyway!" Tsuki laughed bringing her own sword around, slicing Willow's right shoulder open. As Willow staggered back Tsuki turned in a full circle, catching Willow's stomach with her blade, bending her knees she kicked Willow to the ground. Standing and looking down on the one time guardian, she grinned.
"I tried to stop you from touching her, in that room on that fucking flying machina! I tried to kill the two guardians you left in that room, and get you away from her. But something was blocking me from killing them, and there was a barrier around the bathroom. Why'd you touch her? She is mine!"
"Tara is my wife! Not yours!" Willow growled trying to rise, only to be kicked in the head with enough force to knock her back down.
"Guardian, you should have NEVER touched her! And now. You. Are. Dead." Tsuki growled as her eyes glowed bright red and thrust her sword into Willow's chest straight through her heart. With her last breath Willow screamed. Her scream echoed, and reechoed throughout the whole cave, as the unsent laughed and vanished.
[Front of the cave]
Once Tsuki had disappeared the purple fog had lifted allowing the girls to get a good look around. The walls were stained with blood, and a large boulder blocked the path leading deeper into the cave. The three girls were trying to push the boulder away when Willow's scream echoed up to them. Tara's scream soon joined Willow's as she felt her bond with Willow weaken, and fell to the blood stained ground, as Tsuki appeared.
"You are next." Tsuki calmly said stepping into Buffy's body.
"No! Noooo!!" Buffy screamed, as Tsuki possessed her.
"Buffy!" Faith shouted and watched Buffy pull her daggers and get into a fighting stance.
Tsuki appeared beside Faith and laughed when she tried to strike her. "Like I told the other one, that won't work!" Tsuki said and possessed Faith.
"Go away!" Buffy screamed and lunged at Tara.
Tara rolled to the right and stood as Buffy slammed into the wall with enough force to knock the wind from her. Turning she saw Faith had readied her spear to attack, and jumped back just missing getting her throat cut. When Faith jumped toward her, Tara twisted and hit the back her Faith's head with the butt of her pistol.
"What's going on?" Tara asked stepping back again and felt Tsuki appear beside her.
"You will see." Tsuki said waving her hand in front of Tara's face.
Tsuki is sitting on top of Vegnagun's head playing the organ, making different bars light up, activating the giant machina. Her eyes widened when she heard footsteps, turning she saw Lenne standing in front of Vegnagun with her arms spread out to the sides.
"You must stop! That is enough!" Lenne shouted and watched as Tsuki jumped down. Soon they found themselves surrounded by Bevelle guards.
Tara pulled her pistols and aimed them at Tsuki. "Stay back!"
"This is our story, Lenne."
"I won't say this again! I'm. Not. Lenne! Now where's Willow?"
"The guardian? She's dead, I killed her myself."
"No!" Tara shouted firing and hitting Tsuki in the chest with Holy infused rounds.
Staggering back Tsuki fell to the ground in shock. "How? How can you hurt me?" She asked covering the wounds as she disappeared.
Once Tsuki was gone both Buffy and Faith shook their heads and looked around, before running to Tara.
"You okay?" Buffy asked as Faith checked her for wounds.
"Yes, now let's get that damn rock out of the way, and get to Will!"
Nodding Buffy searched through her pouch and pulled out three Pineapple mixes, and threw them at the boulder. A hole opened in the wall allowing all three to sprint through, halfway down the path they came to a four-way intersection, with several other halls leading off from them.
"The hell! Now what!?" Faith asked worriedly. "If we don't get to Will soon, a Phoenix Down won't help!"
The girls jumped back as a light began to appear, and sighed when Ira appeared. "Go right, take the fifth hall to the left, and follow it to the end, destroy the rock blocking the room, my daughter is there. Hurry! You don't have much time left!" he said before disappearing.
<I'm coming baby, just hold on> Tara thought as they raced down the right hall.
After Tsuki had disappeared Mythe, Giles, and Valefor had appeared surrounding Willow's body, chanting. Mythe glowed white, Giles glowed red, and Valefor glowed blue, their energies surrounded and entered Willow, not allowing her to become a fiend, and helping to keep her somewhat alive. Knowing that was all they could do, they waited, and hoped that the others could take care of Tsuki.
"They will be here soon." Ira said as he appeared and added his own gray energy.
"Good, I don't know how long Tsuki can be held." Mythe said, as Carbuncle appeared looking worried.
"Tsuki is fighting against the bonds," Looking down at the still body the little girl sighed. "if they don't hurry, she'll become a fiend in no time." She said adding her pink energy into the mix.
"We know." Giles said and cursed. "How'd she get the power to cast a spell powerful enough to cause the newly dead to turn to fiends within a few minutes?"
"Remember, Giles, she's had a thousand years to gather power. Besides she can feed off the energy released at death." Valefor said and smiled when the wall exploded.
Phoenix Down in hand Tara rushed over, passing through Giles' transparent body, kneeled down and raised Willow's head, to pour the liquid in her mouth. Tara began glowing white as she cast a Curaga spell healing the still visible wound on Willow's chest.
"You must hurry and leave!" Carbuncle said with wide eyes.
"The other Aeons cannot hold her much longer." Valefor said and vanished with Carbuncle.
"Thank you, mother, everyone." Tara said watching them disappear.
Faith bent down, picked up Willow, and turned. "Come on, I don't wanna be around when that bitch gets back!"
With Faith carrying Willow, they retraced their steps back to the main room, and to the seal. Handing Willow over to Tara, Faith and Buffy went about taking the spheres from the door, and watched as it sealed again. Once outside they met the airship halfway and hurriedly boarded.
Willow groaned and opened her eyes only to see three worried faces staring down at her, and sat up. Glancing around she found herself back in her and Tara's bedroom, and sighed. "What happened?"
"Tsuki." Faith growled.
"Nevermind. I remember."
"I'm going to go out on a limb and say: Tsuki is no ordinary unsent." Buffy said as she sat back.
"Seems that way. Are you guys okay?" Willow asked worriedly.
"We're fine. But you...if it weren't for...you'd be dead." Tara said holding on to, and not letting go of Willow.
"I know, I could feel them, and I'm thankful they were there."
"All of us are. What happened?" Faith asked feeling fatigue creeping up on her.
"She said: 'The Summoner is mine. She is my lover.' Tara, baby, when did you ever date that bitch? She's worse than Glory!" Willow said trying to lighten the mood.
"Shut up, Will!" Tara laughed through her tears.
"Anyway, what'd ya find out?"
"Truthfully, nothing. All I can figure out is: her feelings must have intertwined with a bunch of pyreflies when she died." Faith said watching the sun begin to set.
"She must've had some serious regrets for her feelings to act on their own like that." Buffy said and shivered.
"She's the one who destroyed the Crimson Squad. And remember when our room looked like Djose Shore after Sin attacked? She caused that."
"What do you mean?" Tara asked pulling from Willow just a little.
"She said she was trying to keep me away from you. She also said she tried to kill the two guardians we left in here." Willow said looking from Buffy to Faith. "What did she mean?"
Buffy kept her eyes on the floor, as she remembered what had happened. Faith was still staring out the window, and shook her head.
"While you were showering everything went back to as it was when we came in. We got tossed around the room, then everything was calm and the room went back to normal."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Tara asked surprised.
"We didn't want to worry you." Buffy whispered.
"No, Tara. Look it's been one hellva day, lets just go to bed and get some sleep okay?" Faith stood taking Buffy's hand and left the room.