After a bit of running, the two friends ended up on the edge of a cliff. Trying to catch her breath, Tara rapidly scouted the surroundings and listened to the sounds of the approaching monster. Willow was looking down the cliff, not too sure about what was next. "We don't have much of a choice." The surprise of hearing Tara's voice threw Willow off balance and she had to shift her weight drastically to avoid falling down. "What do you mean?" She asked after making sure both her feet were safely anchored to the ground. "We can't go any further, and we've lost a lot of ground here, that thing will catch up on us eventually. We have to face it."
Fear crept up on Willow's face at a very noticeable pace. "I know, this sounds like s-suicide." Tara took Willow's hand in hers and looked her in the eyes. "But know that I'll die for you if I have to." The conviction in those words suddenly reassured the young princess. Not to a point where she didn't care about the fear anymore, but enough so that she could fight it. "And I'd do the same for you, Tara." she heard herself answer, the best part of her lost in the deep blue of her friend's eyes. Despite the tension of the situation, she felt comfort there, a comfort she wasn't near understanding yet, but that pushed her to inch closer to Tara's lips. Tara gave no sign of wanting to avoid what was coming, instead she brought her hand up to Willow's face to cup her cheek and finally their lips met in a gentle, short kiss. They both pulled away at the same time, not too sure what to think of what had just happened, forgetting for a moment about what was about to happen. They were trying to ask questions but couldn't find any words to form them, confusion meeting with the feeling of comfort into a bundle of emotions neither of the girls had really delt with before.
Finally, Willow spoke up with a shaken voice. "Is this... right?" Before Tara could even process the question, a desperate growl came from just a couple feet from where the friends were standing. They turned just in time to see Xander escaping the gigantic hand of a moreso gigantic beast. Bigger than Vladawain. With a meaner look than Don Macklay. It's eyes were a bright red, it's face a mask of bone, its right arm a huge chunk of sparkling metal terminated by two huge black metallic claws. His other arm was smaller, covered with scales of different colors that formed a tribal pattern covering most of his large, powerful body. Both his foot were apparently made of the same material than his right arm, giving him a deadly grip on the ground, and whatever else would come in his reach. His whole form was surrounded by a blue wave of energy, one that sparked at irregular intervals as if the power was held back by something.
Recognizing his master, Xander jumped in Willow's arms, who's fear-stricken body did manage to get a hold on him. She absentedly kissed the top of the cat's head while her brain matched the thing in front of them with what she saw in the forest the night before. And that wasn't a pleasant memory. "W-what do you w-want from us?" a surge of courage - or Idocy - suddenly shot through Tara as she took a step forward and held her sword pointed at the beast.
It stopped in its track, and swung its arm close to the girls, but not quite at them. The two friends shrieked, and Xander jumped off Willow's arms. Some painful moan was heard as a man stumbled over to the two girls, severly wounded, probably from the swept of the creature. "Help me." The voice was weak, and had too familiar a ring to Tara. "Donnie?" Her sword fell to the ground in a thump as she hurried to her brother's side. Just at that moment a hand tried to stop her: one from a man who wasn't on the scene just a second ago. Willow's jaw seemingly dropped to the ground at the sight she had in front of her. A tall dark haired man was standing right where she had last seen her cat Xander. How was that possible? How was that man wearing the royal emblem on the sleeve of his tunic? Why was he picking up Tara's sword? So many questions raced through her brain as she tried to figure out just what in the world was happening on the edge of that cliff.
The big metallic beast had taken a couple more steps forward and was about to sweept at both Tara and her brother when the man jumped in front of them both and blocked the gigantic arm with his strength and the sword alone. The blue aura around the creature then slowly receeded, its size diminishing as well, until what was standing before the stranger was another man, with a presence a lot less threatening than his other form. He wore parts of an armor over his right arm and his feet, and everything else was just normal peasant clothing. His hair was spiky, his face clean, yet manly, and as he regained control of his own self, a sheepish smile crept up on his face and his eyes opened up on electric blue irises. He reached behind his neck with his left hand to scratch an unexistant itch as Xander stared at him with a steely glare.
"I believe you are Xander, the one they used to call "Slayer of a thousand Beasts". It is both an honor and a surprise to meet you here!" Willow, who had covered the distance between them and her former standing point, just couldn't believe what she was seeing, or hearing. "Xander?!?" she said outloud, blinking a couple times, looking the man up and down and then realizing the feeling of his presence was indeed familiar. Tara looked up from her brother, first to Xander, then to the mysterious man who had attacked them. Her heart jumped a beat when she saw how his face was familiar, how his whole being reminded her of... she couldn't put the finger on it. But despite whatever he looked like, he had tried to kill all the family that was left to her, and she couldn't let that go.
"You son of a bitch!" she said, getting up and throwing herself on him, trying to place a right hook to his face. She never hit, instead the man applied his hand to her chest and held her in place with just that. "Calm down, Lady Macklay." The man simply stated, keeping his grip on her for a moment, until the expression on her face suddenly changed. "Allow me to introduce myself." he said as he finally let her go. Tara backed away from him as soon as she could, and was happy to find Willow's arms not too far behind. "My name is Dagdan Bagnale."
An heavy silence fell on the small group. Xander swallowed. Donnie groaned. The wind blew through the high grass, and rustled the leaves. It felt like a thousand heartbeats had passed when Xander finally spoke up. "I thought I had killed you, many years ago." The tone in his voice was uneven, a mix of respect and fear, disdain and disbelief. Dagdan nodded and lifted his armored arm. "Oh you nearly did. I lost an arm and both my feet in that fight. I guess you underestimated the Bagnale legacy is all. Oh but not all was lost from that fight. The curse is higly effective. I can't do harm to innocents anymore." Tara bolted out of Willow's arms and pointed at her brother. "Then what's that??" she shouted, hardly controlling herself. Xander put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and pointed his sword at the man. "Do explain."
"Simple: He's not innocent." A loud gasp was heard, and everyone turned to see Donnie holding Willow up with an iron grip on her throat. The girl seemed in more psychological pain than physical at that moment, and the grin on Tara's brother's face let them know he was enjoying it, despite the huge gash in his side. "Donnie!" Tara shouted in disbelief. "I'm finishing father's work!" Was his excited reply. Tara shook her arm out of Xander's grip and walked to her brother, facing him with teeth clenched. "Let her go. You... " Donnie's free hand had trapped her throat as well. Holding both friends in that deadlock, he smirked and finally added to an invisible audience that "He wished that you both die out of horrible pain.". Xander and Dagdan glanced at each other, the Bagnale brother shook his head powerlessly and then Xander gripped the sword with two hands and crashed himself into the evil man, but the blade barely bounced off on his skin. Dagdan took a step forward and sighed loudly. "We kill him, the girls might lose any mind they have. We do nothing, they'll die shells without any spirit. My power's too strong to hit just him, your sword won't even scratch him. We're in what seems like a dead end." Xander stared at both the girls, the ones that had always cared about him while he was under the curse, the one that had made him human again. The look of unbearable pain on their silent faces, and the blood slowly dripping from their noses. He had to do something.
The world had seemingly fallen appart. All she could see was blood, violence, pain. All she could hear were screams of despair, war cries and sobbing. And she was on top of it all, tied to a cross, unable to move, or to make a sound. Condemned to watch as needles found their way through her skin slowly, plunging her into an abyss of pain she never expected could exist. Tara tried to fight the sorrow rapidly flooding her, her shallow heartbeat barely audible to her own body. She was loosing her grip on reality and falling into a numbness she couldn't describe. And Willow was nowhere to be seen. Willow! Will where are you, I need you... the desperate voice in her mind kept calling to her friend. Perhaps she could try and stay anchored to the single thought of her for a while, hoping someone would manage to stop this nightmare.
"Lend me your power then. Channel it into me when I strike." Dagdan's eyes grew wide at Xander's request. "That might just as well kill you." His warning resounded throught the field. "So be it" Was Xander's determined answer. Dagdan nodded as the man got ready for the decisive blow. Donnie seemed totally unaware of what was going to happen, so delighted as he was of his wrath over the two young girls.
Willow was locked in a cage, things, bugs, spiders, it was all crawling around her. Climbing on her slowly, biting off her skin, sucking her blood. The noise of a distant chaos echoing in the back of her head. She couldn't move, she couldn't scream. Her whole body was a mass of distress, panic making her heart beat so fast it blinded her. She wanted to leave this hell, but she had nothing to hold onto. All she could do was slip into a state of semi-consciousness, watching it all happen to her without feeling a thing. A soft ringing, something that sounded like her name, far, far away, echoed into her head, waking her senses up just the slightest bit, enough so she could understand the words. ...where are you, I need you... Willow jerked. The pain made its way back to her brain as she called out to her friend. Tara! Help me... The cry was desperate, but hearing her own thoughts again made Willow regain a bit of control over the chaos. Will, hold on sweetie, keep talking to me.
A blue surge of energy went through Xander as he jumped, the sword right over Donnie's skull, ready to bring it down with all the might he could muster. As he felt the power run within him, he did his best to direct it toward his hands, through the sword, down the insane man's body. The slice was perfect, unnatural even. First the hands released their grip on the girls, and as they fell in slow motion, the severed body split into two. Xander landed on his feet, the sword in his left hand, his right arm apparently gone limp. He planted the weapon in the ground, leant on it, fell to his knees, coughed out some blood and then rested his forehead on the pummel of the sword. Dagdan was already by the girls' sides, checking on their vital signs and making them as comfortable as he could. "They're alive." He simply stated, at Xander's attention. The one they used to call Slayer of a thousand beast collapsed to the ground as he heard the good news. Everything else was left to higher powers he couldn't control, or fight. He had done his part, and landed on his side with an accomplished smile on his face. He was never to get up again, and maybe that was the best for him. Without even looking back to check on him, Dagdan shut his eyes, mouthed a prayer and then went back to attending the two girls. He placed their bodies closer to each other and their hands barely an inch apart, not too sure what effect he was expecting this to have, but surely feeling like it was the right thing to do. He then noticed the pendant at Tara's neck and touched it with his left hand, noting how glowy it was. "Odiluke and Vladawain are alive..." he said softly as he caressed the young girl's chin. Something similar to relief appeared on his face, as he sat by a rock and watched over the two girls. All that was left to do was waiting for them to wake up. And hoping his younger brothers hadn't put themselves in too bad a mess.