ladycallie: (Buffy - W/T holding hands)
[personal profile] ladycallie
Title: Enchantment Passing Through Prologue
Rating: PG13
Setting: BtVS post series (very limited/no comic spoilers)
Word count: 1829
Characters: Willow, Tara, various Egyptian gods.


Larger cover | Alternative cover by [livejournal.com profile] teragramm


Summary: Following the fragments of a dream, Willow seeks forgiveness from Osiris, worried that her transgressions against the god may have compromised Tara's place in the afterworld. Osiris is humored by her humility and her power, and offers her a chance to descend to the underworld to meet with Anubis, who will weight her soul against a single ostrich feather. Hearts heavier or lighter than the feather of Ma'at are rejected and eaten by Ammit, the Devourer of Souls. If at the end of Willow's journey her soul fails, her life will be forfeit, and her spirit will be scattered across eternity. If she is judged worthy, she has a chance of being reunited with Tara.



Author's notes: This is the prologue to a much longer story which is still in the drafting stage. I began this epic as part of NaNoWriMo several years ago, and I just now working on crafting it into the saga it wants to be. I originally posted this on my journal in 2011. [livejournal.com profile] feedbackathon brought it back to life, and blessed me with [livejournal.com profile] valyssia's very helpful feedback and edits. Finally, the [livejournal.com profile] letsgetitdone challenge brought [livejournal.com profile] teragramm into the mix with her beautiful cover art. Please leave comments for her HERE (link pending). Many thanks to both [livejournal.com profile] valyssia and [livejournal.com profile] teragramm, who created both covers from only a summary, and to the organizers at both [livejournal.com profile] feedbackathon and [livejournal.com profile] letsgetitdone. Feedback is very appreciated. :)



~*~


Willow stood knee deep in tepid water, the long folds of her dress floating around her bare feet. She wasn’t alone. “Hello?” Her greeting cry rippled through the cavern. She stepped forward, lifting her gown partially out of the water. “Is someone there?”

The cavern swallowed her voice, sucking the sound into the shifting mist only to spit it out again, the sound echoing. She breathed shallowly, sulfur and mildew coating her throat. Voices drifted across the pool, the grey fog warping the acoustics, causing them to rise like ghostly spirits adrift in a watery graveyard.

“Hello?” She took a few cautious steps, her feet bare against the pebbled bottom of the lake. The mist shifted around her. A couple stood submerged further in the lake, mists rising around them like a cloak. She couldn’t see their faces. They both wore long draping tunics, the hems vanishing in the murky water. They stood shoulder to shoulder. In his arms the man held a crook and flail. A great, glowing disk shimmered above the woman’s head, flickering shadows across her face.

The figures faced Willow. The man’s deep voice rang out, “She does not belong here.”

The woman turned slowly towards him. A sound like rustling feathers accompanied her movement. “She is more than mortal. May she not stay?” Her words were whispered, yet they carried across the distance.

The man shook his head, “No. Her heart has not been weighed. She does not belong.”

“Who do you mean?” Willow called to them. The bizarre acoustics amplified her voice. It reverberated, crashing through the cavern, sounding sharp to her ear. She spoke again, this time softer. “Do you mean me? Why don’t I belong?” She took a few steps towards them. Her soaked dress slowed her. “Where is this? Hello?” Willow gathered her gown, raising the hem higher out of the water to cross to the couple. Every step seemed to move them an equal step further away.

“Please!” she cried, “Answer me!” She struggled to find purchase on the slippery lake floor, fighting her dress as the water held her back, reaching her waist now. She surged forward, unstable.

The couple seemed oblivious to her plight. Their heads turned towards her, but they seemed to look through her, behind her. Breathless, Willow stopped and turned, glancing backwards. Her dress made a heavy slapping sound as her hands involuntarily flexed, dark water splashing her face even as she blinked in shock.

“Tara...”

Backlit by a silvery glow, her lover appeared barefoot on a shallow strip of dry ground. Mists rose and wrapped around her, caressing the bare skin of her arms, trailing along long grey linens wrapped loosely around her body. Willow cried out a bright, high note of joy that bursting into white light behind her eyes. She blinked spots away from the vision she had dreamed of for so many nights. She rushed towards Tara, water splashing and churning as she slogged through the lake. A strand of her hair cut across her eyes, stinging as she stumbled, her foot trapped in her skirt. “Tara—” She cried out, slipped and went under. The weight of her dress pulled her down, dirty water choking her. She thrashed in the deepening water, caught in a net of hair and fabric.

Hands flailing, her skirt shifted, and her feet touched bottom. Willow rose, gasping and coughing. She scrambled half-blind and deaf from the water in her eyes and ears, finally touching the base of land that Tara stood upon. She rubbed her eyes, blinking hurriedly up at Tara. Her stomach dropped like a stone, the effervescent bubble of joy and love and hope and everything that was Tara bursting as she clearly saw her.

Gone was Tara’s golden hair, once soft and flowing down her back. Her tresses now were tangled in a messy knot, bits of bone and ash woven in the dark strands. Her skin, always petal soft and tanned with the glow of summer was tinged green and flaking, bare patches of mottled sinew showing under the wrappings. Tara’s hands were torn and blackened, her delicate fingers broken, bits of bone exposed where her fingertips had been chewed and rotted away. Her chest was bound with fraying bandages that didn’t completely cover the hole over her heart that was stained black with dried blood. Blue eyes bleached of color, sightless and white, stared into nothing.

Willow gagged as the mist drifting over Tara carried the unmistakable stench of death. She stumbled back, stomach lurching.

The man spoke before Willow could recover, gesturing with his flail, “Spirit, return to Anubis and let the jackal judge your soul. You will find no rest here.” He waved again.

Tara’s corpse moved, raising its hands pleadingly, palms up, head shaking. Her lips parted as she moaned, her rotted tongue unable to form words.

The man began a chant in a language Willow did not know, his voice filling the cavern with its sound until Willow’s ears ached, the pressure building all around her. Tara’s body thrashed like it was being beaten by the sound, bandages ripping off, bits of flesh and hair tearing.

Willow screamed. Her voice ricocheted through the cavern, shattering the bubble of pressure caused by the man’s word. Her cry grew. The mist over the lake rippled and rose. A wave of fog crested and fell around Willow. A second wave rose, lightning crackling within. It swelled again, absorbing Willow’s voice.

And then it broke over Tara. Her body shattered with a sharp crack into fragments of glass. A sudden wind flung the shards into the air, slicing Willow’s face. The bloody pieces fell into the water as the air stilled. Willow shook, sobs catching in her chest. Her eyes blurred, black with rage. She turned to the couple who stood undisturbed by wind or water

“What did you do to her?” She slogged towards them. “Where did you send her?” She yelled at the couple. Her steps drew her no closer to them. “Who are you?”

The man ignored her, but the woman bowed her head. The moon above it glowed, shadowing her eyes. She waved a hand towards her companion. “My husband cannot speak to you here, witch.” She reached for the man, linking her arm in his.

“Osiris is the guardian of the dead, but not the gatekeeper. He would accept all souls into Duat, however the decision is not his.”

“Where did she go?” Willow’s voice caught.

The goddess moved a few steps deeper into the water. “Where they all go. To the jackal and his scales. To judgment.” The water reached the woman’s waist as the man led her.

“How will I know she’s alright? What are the scales?” Willow called to her, “Please! I have to know she’s safe!”

The gods were shoulder deep now. Mist surrounded them. The woman’s voice was hollow and drifted across the water, “That is something you have to discover alone.” With a wet sigh, they slipped into the dark water and were gone.


Willow jerked awake. The book she’d been reading fell to the floor. Her neck was stiff from the awkward position she’d drifted to sleep in, the bitter aftertaste of the tea she’d brought to bed made her mouth feel thick and dry. She took a few deep breaths, adrenalin making her hands itch with magic, ‘fight or flight’ curling tight in her stomach. She sat up, focusing on the open window of her room. The gauzy curtains billowed in the breeze. She brushed her hair from her face and shook the tingle of magic from her hands.

‘Just a dream,’ she told herself, ‘Another dream where I couldn’t save her.’ Willow used to believe that dreams of departed loved ones were comforting. Kabbalist Jews believe that while you sleep, your soul is free to wander with the souls of those who have died. Her rabbi often spoke of dreams as heavenly guidance. Her favorite uncle died when Willow was seven. She’d dreamed of him after the funeral. They’d had a picnic and shared an apple. She’d interpreted that to be a sign she needed to eat more fruit.

She’d dreamed about Miss Calendar a few times, after her murder. Those dreams were a colorful swirl of Pagan symbols and Latin words, and they left her filled with questions about magic. She began bringing home more of Giles’ books, and spent her weekly allowance on chicken feet and eye of newt.

Years later—after there was an after—in the muddled grey of her first few weeks in England—the women of the coven taught her deep meditations to help her keep the nightmares at bay. Afterward, her dreams had been beautiful. White weddings, sacred circles, floating roses. The smell of funny shaped pancakes made on lazy Saturdays. Kisses pressed against her skin, soft, warm liquid sliding along her thighs. Dreams that made her hate to have to wake up.

She didn’t have those dreams anymore.

Tara always died now. Sometimes she was sick, but they were okay for a little while. They had a few moments of bliss before disease crept in. Sometimes it was sudden, a perfect replica of that day. Willow could even taste the remnants of Tara’s last kiss, minty from her toothpaste, before the copper of blood splashed on her lips.

Those dreams weren’t uncommon, but she’d been having them more frequently. Willow closed her eyes, willing the tears to stay behind her eyelids.

Wicca didn’t have such exacting laws as Judaism, at least as far as beliefs about dreams went. Interpretation was left to the dreamer. In Wicca, the most important element in a dream was the dreamer themself.

Willow worried at her lower lip. In time she’d come to an uncomfortable understanding. Tara and Warren’s deaths were unforgettable and unforgivable, and she accepted that. Their blood was on her hands. Warren had chosen to pull the trigger. But she had violated the natural order months before. She had damned her own soul when she brought Buffy back from the grave. She’d unthinkingly invoked the darker aspect of the three fold rule, and Tara had paid the ultimate price for her ignorance.

Because of this, Willow had no hope of a happy afterlife herself. It was a macabre belief, although she didn’t think that she deserved anything better.

But the nightmare has raised another question…an unthinkable one. Were her sins so grievous to jeopardize Tara’s afterlife well?

Willow shivered, drawing the blanket around her legs. ‘No. No, that isn’t possible. That couldn’t be possible.’ She bent to reach for her book on the floor.

‘That was a dream. Just a dream.’

It had fallen with its spine against the floor. In the fold between the pages rested a long splinter of glass, stained with a drop of blood.


~fin for now~


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