"Do you think she's ok?" Willow tittered about the prone Slayer, "I mean that was quite a scream."
She'd moved Buffy to lay flat on her back, and her cat, Duchess, lazily walked over and sat on the prone woman's stomach. The slitted green eyes met with big, round green eyes and the feline yawned hugely before settling down. Despite herself, Willow smiled, this boded well for the so-called Assassin; Duchess didn't take to many people.
"The healing potion does its work well," Tara observed quietly, pulling Willow into a close embrace, calming herself by stoking her lover's back in endless circles, "Are you sure about this sweetie?"
"She didn't seem like she was about to go on a Sorceress-killing rampage any time soon," Willow shook loose from the tight embrace and picked up the still sealed, but slightly crumpled scroll, "She just had a message to deliver."
"A message?" Tara sounded puzzled, almost doing a double take between the scroll and the lithe blonde, "Have you read it?"
"Nope," Willow smoothed out the crinkles, tucking it into a pouch on her belt. She wrapped back up in her archer, letting Tara feel that she was indeed well and unharmed. "We were just getting to that part when the rampaging, vengeance, Amazon came barging through the trees."
"I thought she was going to kill you," Tara buried her face into the curve of Willow's neck, inhaling deeply, and she whispered softly, "Forgive me for being worried that an Assassin was heading over here"
"It's ok, baby," Willow let Tara snuggle deeply into the curve of her neck, feeling the rapid heartbeat under her palm, "I know you'll always be there if I need it"
"I'll always protect you," Tara said, beginning to nibble softly on Willow as she hugged her tightly.
"I know," Willow smiled at her insatiable Amazon, "I love you."
Tara tensed again as the prone blonde moved suddenly, shaking her head, and rolling. Tara let go of Willow and gently moved in front of her, still not certain about this woman's intentions. Even half dazed from the blast the potion knocked into her senses, the only noise she made was the stiff creak of the leather.
"Uuhhhgggh," Buffy rolled up with careless grace to a seated position looking numbly at Tara, who was shielding Willow behind her. Seemingly nonplussed by the fact that Tara just tried to kill her she smiled and tilted her head, "Hi"
"Hi," Tara looked at her levelly, "What are you doing here?"
"Ughh, I hate that stuff. It's tasty, but ick," Buffy twisted easily, examining the ruins of her shoulder. The metal plate was relatively undamaged, nothing a little polish wouldn't cover, but the leather underneath was demolished, charred and rent badly, "Dammnit, that's another set of armour I have to replace."
"Excuse me," Tara said more firmly, her tone demanding attention, "What the hell are you doing here, Assassin?"
"Well," Buffy tried to stand, but swayed as she reached her feet and decided to remain seated, she picked up the cat, who'd been displaced by her movements and petted her absently, the feline purring loudly at the attention, "That depends"
"On what?" Tara demanded, rapidly beginning to lose her patience.
"On the letter," Buffy used the rail of the stairwell to pull herself up, still cradling the purring familiar, "I don't usually see Sorceresses. Pure elementals cannot be corrupted and Buffy-no-killy. I have no clue why the council sent me here."
"They'd why'd you come?" Willow peeked out form behind Tara, and helped steady the lithe Slayer, "I mean it's a long way from the mainland and it's not like the Vizjerei to send someone a Slayer for a bit of mail. Assassination is kind of what the Viz-Jaq'taar is known for"
"I didn't know you were a Sorceress until I got here," Buffy stretched a little, raising one hand up to her head, and popping the vertebra in her neck. "And I'm not at the Vizjerei's beck and call. I kill mages; I don't take orders from them."
Tara was fixed on her hands, tensed to strike out if the Slayer even looked like she was going for a weapon. Her hands, however, stayed cradling Willow's cat, the animal rolled on her back, batting with Buffy's fingers as she teased. Willow noted, in a very detached, clinical manner, that being a professional assassin must not be too bad if it turned out muscles that looked quite that toned.
"Well, here I am, Zann Esu and everything, so what's with the expensive messenger service?" Willow took the wrinkled scroll out of her belt and frowned at it, "C'mon let's crack it open and see"
She took the stairs two at a time, up to the topmost level of the mage 'tower'. Behind her Buffy climbed more slowly encumbered with the cat and the final vestiges of the healing potion. Tara grabbed the Slayer's backpack, eyes widening in surprise at its weight, but she hefted it a few times and climbed up.
When they got there Willow had laid out the scroll on one of the larger tables in her private workroom, with the special jade scroll weights that Tara bought her for a birthday present several years ago.
She was reading intently, toying with an Arreat Ice Crystal hung as a pendant around her neck. She'd found it in, surprise, surprise, Harrogath, where they were much more common than anywhere else. Tara thought it was adorable and Willow didn't have the heart to resist. Useful too, if she ever got caught in a bind...
"Hmmmmm," she was studying the pages intently. There were two pieces of the message. A letter written in a close, even hand was the top sheet. The second was an elegant copy of an ancient prophecy that Willow vaguely remembered from libraries past.
"What's it say?" Buffy peered over the top of the paper, crossing her eyes as she tried to read upside down, "Do I have to kill you?"
"You can try," Tara said from the doorway, "I hope you've left contact to your next of kin"
"Hush," Willow admonished, "Both of you. Honestly. It's a letter. Buffy do you know someone named Rupert Giles?"
"Do I?" Buffy asked incredulously, "He is, well, he was, my Watcher. My uh... teacher"
"It says 'Council of Watchers' I assume that's your governing body?" Willow asked absently, mind fixed on the message. "Most Eminent Lady Willow... mmm... sorceress of great renown... Chosen One?"
"Um... that's me," Buffy blushed a little, "Giles gets a little dramatic when he's on his dignity."
"Sacred duty..." Willow skimmed over the exaggerated language that most people felt that mage-types thought was absolutely necessary when communicating, "Ancient prophecy... oh not again!"
"What?" Tara asked, sliding behind peering over her shoulder as she wrapped her arms around her waist from behind. Buffy looked startled, and Tara dared her silently to say anything.
"Why is it that every time an ancient demon gets ready to be summoned they call me?" Willow whined, "Am I that demon-y? Do people look at me and say 'I bet she'd like to deal with my pet demon' is that it?"
"Willow..." Tara laughed appreciatively at her lover, "I'm sure that's not it, they just know how positively brilliant you are and think 'she knows better than I what to do', that's all"
"So what's getting the happy?" Buffy slouched down into a leather chair that whuffed softly as she threw her weight into it, the cat protested with an annoyed yowl, but a few more vigorous scratches behind the ear and she settled into Buffy's lap, "Anyone I know?"
"It... doesn't say, that's interesting," Willow kept reading, "I'm supposed to ask... you?"
Buffy frowned at that, "I haven't summoned any demons lately, if that's what you're asking, can you be a little more specific?"
"Acathula?" Willow pronounced slowly, "Do you know that name?"
"You mean the big, nasty, hell-portal-y, demon named Acathula?" Buffy asked in a small voice.
"Apparently," Tara was amused at the description, then thought for a moment about what Buffy said, "Hell portal, there are hell portals?"
"Yeah, I remember reading that when the Mephisto, Lord of Hatred, took over the temple of Zakarum in Kurast, he had a hell portal deep in his Durance of Hatred. He could bring new demons directly from hell if he needed too. It was part of what eventually won the Reckoning, though. When he was defeated they used his portal to enter hell and eventually defeat Diablo." Willow began pacing rapidly behind the table, her emerald green skirts swishing silkily with her movements, "Summoning Acathula isn't an easy task and unless you're one of the prime evils controlling a hell portal is practically impossible. But if it happened..."
"Bad things, huh?"
"That's an understatement,"