"All seemed to be going well for Willow, she had outsmarted the greedy merchants again, and she, Miss Kitty, Makyrah and Tara were running along to Willow's "home". However..."
In a secret room of the palace, known only to Ethan and Amy, panting comes from a contraption in the middle of the floor. Amy the rat runs... on a gerbil exercise wheel? Meh. Pipes lead from the wheel to various pieces of machinery, it all leads to a funnel above a vice. Inside the funnel, a storm is brewing above an hourglass... "Parp."
"Amy! That could have waited."
"Well when the freakin Sultan keeps giving me crackers and cheese... sheesh what is it with that jerk?" Amy pants as she runs the wheel. "Pant... pant... could we not just wait for a real storm? No one else is getting that lamp anyway... "
"Just shut up and run faster Amy!"
"Yes sir." Ethan places the ring into the vice as the storm above it builds. Suddenly a bolt of lightning strikes the ring.
The lightning passes through the gem and into the hourglass making the sands swirl. Ethan looks on in anticipation, "Sands of time, show me the one who can enter the cave." The sands shift and an image begins to appear, the image shows the movements of a redheaded girl, climbing to her home. "Ah, there she is, My diamond in the rough."
Amy also sees the image, "That's her? That's the person we've been..." Unfortunately... speaking had caused Amy to slow down... the wheel hadn't. Amy whirls around the wheel like she is caught in a cyclone.
"Yes, that is the girl. Let's extend an invitation to the palace shall we?"
Amy exits the wheel and is thrown against a wall. "Ouchies."
"Almost there," Willow climbs onto the platform that leads towards her home and puts a hand down for Tara to help her. Miss Kitty has already scampered up to the top.
Another voice comes from below, "Hey, what do I look like? Chopped liver?" Makyrah waits just underneath Tara, "I'd appreciate a hand myself."
Willow grins down at her, "Come on, you're usually faster than me up this thing, quit messing about."
Makyrah flashes a smile and vaults up the remaining distance. "Easy when you know how."
Makyrah grabs a pole and vaults the gap. Tara stands up but trips, Willow catches her. Tara looks into Willow's emerald eyes, "I w-wanted to th-thank you for..."
Tara searches for the words but Willow shrugs it off, "It was nothing, just gotta know how to handle them. So, this your first time in the marketplace?"
Tara blushes, "I-Is it r-really that ob-obvious?"
Willow nods her head, "Just slightly," Willow grabs a pole and also vaults the gap, she takes hold of a plank to bridge the gap for Tara to walk across, "You just gotta be caref..." While Willow was talking, Tara had also vaulted the gap. Willow looks at her for a moment with a look of surprise in her eyes.
Tara smiles, "I-I'm a q-quick l-learner," <Damn this stutter, what's wrong with me?>
Willow raises an eyebrow, "I can see," Willow is about to say something else when...
"Hey, lovebirds! What's keeping you?"
Willow groans <This girl might not be gay for all I know> "Makyrah!"
Makyrah smiles as Willow and Tara approach... "Ooooh... wasn't I meant to tell her that you fancy the pants off... mmf!" Willow slaps her hand across Makyrah's mouth and blushes as Tara giggles.
Tara smiles as she sees how close Willow and Makyrah have become as they banter, <She does look kind of cute... ooook I didn't just think that... yeah I did... I wonder if she can see that I'm staring at her... Bad Tara!> "I-Is this w-where you l-live?"
Willow answered, "Yup, just me and Miss Kitty. And Makyrah when she's around right sis?"
"Yup, when Willow isn't... mmf!" Willow again slapped her hand across Makyrah's mouth, "What? I was gonna say "when Willow... erm... isn't running from Buffy"... yeah that's it." Willow raises an eyebrow and Makyrah quietens down and pouts as Willow glares at her, "I'll be good... honest."
Willow walks over to the curtained window as Makyrah grabs an apple from the window sill, "I know this place aint that much but... it's home. And..." Willow opens the curtain and Willow and Tara see the palace in all it's glory, Tara looks a bit sad but Willow doesn't seem to notice, "...You get a great view of the palace." Willow sits on the window sill looking out. "Y'know, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live there, all the servants, valets..."
Tara's tone is one of frustration, "Yeah, people who tell you what to wear and where to go."
Willow cuts in, "Better than living here, scraping for food, running from the guards."
Tara carried on speaking, "Y-You f-feel that y-you have no ch-choice in h-how you l-live."
"Sometimes you feel..."
"Trapped," both Willow and Tara had said "trapped" at the exact same time and they look into each other's eyes.
Makyrah quietly leaves the room figuring that Willow and the blonde could do with some alone time. "So, anyway, where are you from?"
Tara considers Willow's question, "I-It d-doesn't m-matter, I r-ran away a-and I'm never g-going back."
"Really?" Tara nods, feeling that Tara seems upset, Miss Kitty rubs herself against Tara's legs to comfort her and begins to purr.
Tara reaches down to stroke Miss Kitty, "I-I'm b-being forced to m-marry."
Willow moves closer to Tara and cups her cheek, "That's awful," Willow and Tara move closer to each other and are about to kiss when...
AAAHHMFF!!! Willow turns around, startled at the sudden cut off scream, then she hears a familiar voice, "There you are scoundrel... aww... did I come at a bad time?"
Buffy stands in the doorway, as she moves forward, Faith follows, holding the struggling form of Makyrah. Both Willow and Tara look panicked as they both shout "They've found me!" They look at each other, "They're after you?"
Tara edges away, "Giles m-must h-have s-sent them..."
Willow and Tara are at an edge, Willow looks around and gulps slightly, then she turns back and holds out her hand, "Do you trust me?"
Tara looks at Willow dumbfounded for a moment, "W-what?"
Willow holds out her hand. "I said do you trust me?"
Tara looks at Willow and grabs her hand, "Y-yes."
Willow holds onto Tara's hand and jumps, sending both of them into freefall. They crash through several sheets, slowing their fall a little, then they crash into a pile of salt. Willow scrambles up, Tara a bit slower, Willow looks towards the end of the alley but sees that it is blocked by Kendra, "I been waiting for you mon, I was getting a little bored."
With a screech, Miss Kitty jumps at Kendra but is thrown into a pot, which the just appearing Faith holds shut, "Gotcha kitty."
Willow tries to barge through Kendra, but she is no match for both Kendra and Buffy. Buffy looks smug, "No escape this time scoundrel, we gotcha." Tara runs up to Buffy but gets thrown away, "I'd stay out of this if I were you."
Tara hits the ground. She stands up, anger in her voice forcing away her stutter, "Unhand that woman," Tara removes her hood to reveal who she is, "By order of the Princess." Willow, the guards, and Makyrah hidden behind a corner (after stepping on Faith's toe and quickly sliding down the edges of the ladder) look dumbfounded at Tara. Buffy, Faith and Kendra bow, Buffy and Kendra forcing Willow to do likewise.
Buffy raises her head, "What are you doing outside the palace my Princess, and with... with this... scoundrel?"
Tara's voice is still as hard as steel as she replies, "That is none of your concern, do as I say. Release her!"
To give her credit, Buffy does look a little sheepish. "I'm sorry Tara, I can't. My orders straight from Ethan. You'll have to take it up with him."
Tara looks pissed off as she turns away, "Believe me, I will." Tara walks away.