"I don't understand," Andrew yelled over the howling wind. "Quortoth has bad winters?"
Connor shook his head. "Quortoth has no winters. It was always exactly the same... Barren, nothing. I was here for seventeen years and I never saw anything like this before."
"Are you sure it's Quortoth?" Dawn asked, shivering profusely in the cold winds. "I mean, I was supposed to be able to open all the dimensions. Maybe we ended up somewhere else."
Connor looked around, nodding. "I'm sure." He took a deep breath. "I can smell it. It's Quortoth. It smells like death."
Andrew wrapped an arm around Dawn, trying to keep each other warm. "But that doesn't explain this!"
Connor nodded. "Yes, it does."
Salome hugged herself tightly, trying to insulate herself against the cold. "I don't really care about the reason right now. I think we need to worry about freezing to death!"
Connor nodded, looking around, frantically looking for some sign of life. "You're right. We're not going to last long out here." He shivered. "Chain mail isn't the really made for this weather. We need to get somewhere." He continued to search the landscape. "There are caves all over the place. We need to get shelter, at least wait out the storm."
"Everything's covered in ice and snow!" Andrew yelled against the wind. "How are we supposed to find a cave?"
"I know this place," Connor insisted.
"It's been over a thousand years since you've been here," Salome pointed out. "And it's in an ice age now. You can't recognize it."
"But I do," Connor replied. He trudged through the deep snow. "Follow me. I know this place... This was..."
Connor crawled over the snowdrift. He took a deep breath. "Here." He pointed ahead. "Right there."
Andrew crawled up behind him. "What is that?"
Connor brushed his hand against a snow pile, pushing it aside. Underneath was black rock. "It's a volcanic rock formation," Connor explained. "Father-- Holtz-- said if we ever got separated, this was where I should come. He said it was the closest he had ever found to the cliffs of England."
He laughed bitterly. "They're white now, Father," He whispered under his breath. "You would have liked that."
Connor pushed aside the snow, digging a hole. "Help me," he asked his friends. They joined him, shoveling the snow with their hands.
After several minutes of digging, they uncovered a large boulder. Connor pushed it aside, grunting with the effort. Once it was pushed aside, the opening of a cavern was revealed.
"Ace..." Salome whispered.
He looked at her, giving her a weak smile. "Want to see my place?"
Connor led them into the cave. "We always blocked it off," Connor explained. "To keep out the beasts."
There was a mixture of revulsion and sadness on his friends' faces as Connor led them into the cave. His own face held a strange expression of nostalgia.
"This is where you lived?" Dawn said, looking around. Her voice was laced with sadness.
"We moved a lot," Connor replied. "But this... We always came back here. Eventually."
Andrew touched the rock wall. There was childlike writing etched into it. "This is..." He frowned. "This is scripture. This is..."
"How I learned to read," Connor finished brusquely. He looked to Salome. "I know you're probably drained, but can you create a fire?"
Salome held her hands out in front of her. Her eyes turned black as a fire appeared in the center of the cave. Once it was lit, illuminating the small space, she fell to the ground.
Connor knelt down beside her, pulling her close. "Are you all right, Baby?"
Salome nodded. "A little tired, but..." She looked over him, concerned. "What about you?"
"I don't understand," Andrew whispered. "Why has Quortoth turned to ice?"
Connor swallowed hard. "There were legends. About how Quortoth was created. The traders used to tell it. They said... The fires of creation burned so hot... It split into three parts. The Three-in-One."
Dawn nodded. "Glory, Magnimus and Grace."
Connor stared into the fire's light. "The creations took the ash they had emerged from and gave it shape. Used it to blacken the sky and form the earth. They were a part of Quortoth and Quortoth was a part of them."
Salome nodded, understanding. "Glory's dead and Magnimus and Grace are both on Earth."
Connor shivered. "When the fire's gone... Everything gets cold."
Special Guest Star
as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
James C. Leary
"What are supposed to do?" Dawn asked, warming her hands by the mystical fire Salome had conjured. "We can't survive here for long."
"The plan's the same." Connor kept his gaze on the flames. "We find everyone who's been trapped in Quortoth, we get them home and we close the fissures." He sighed. "It's just going to be a little colder than we thought it would be."
"Connor, we'll freeze to death," Andrew pointed out. "We just came from California straight into the arctic."
"It's not like we can go back for parkas," Connor snapped. He got to his feet and began to pace. "I just need to think... I wasn't expecting this."
"Would anyone be able to survive this?" Dawn asked, looking to the opening of the cave and seeing the storm raging outside."
"My dad's still alive," Connor insisted. He paused, looking around at the others. "... In that dead, vampire way."
"We should do a location spell," Salome said, looking around. "If there's anyone still alive, we'll know."
"All right. You guys get on that." Connor picked up the axe Dawn had brought with her.
Andrew frowned. "While you do... What?"
"I'm just..." He frowned deeply. "I'm going to go out and scout. See if I can't find anyone... At least maybe find something to use for warmth."
"Like... What?" Dawn asked nervously.
"Animal skin," Salome explained, hugging her legs. "Connor wants to go out and hunt, kill something we can use for warmth."
Connor kept his gaze on Salome. "You'd be able to dry it out, wouldn't you, Sal? I've seen you do that to your hair..."
Salome nodded. "Yeah... But..."
"Don't worry," Connor insisted. "I won't go for anything too dangerous."
"I'm going with you." Salome got up.
"Sal." Connor shook his head. "You used a lot of power opening the rift here. You should rest. You're going to have to do it again soon enough."
Salome scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. "You expect me to just stay here while you go play big game hunter?"
Connor nodded. "Yeah. I really do." He looked to Andrew and Dawn. "Watch over them. Do the spell. Find out what's still alive around here." He moved down the cave, hands against the wall, feeling it out. "Where is it..." He murmured. "It should be here."
Finally he smiled, brushing away some cold dirt. "Here." He uncovered an etching in rock. It was a crude map. "Father made this for me to study. Things have probably changed a bit since then, but... It's the best we've got. Use it for the locator spell."
Andrew frowned deeply. "I suppose I don't need to tell you to be careful, do I?"
Connor sighed deeply. "I know that better than anyone." He crouched down, giving Salome a quick kiss. "You guys be careful."
"Always are," Salome replied. "Go play hunter man."
"Before you go..." Andrew unzipped his hooded sweatshirt and held it out to Connor. "You need this more than I do."
Connor hesitated to take it. "Andrew..."
"Take it," Andrew insisted, pushing it into Connor's hands. "You've got to go out in a snowstorm and you don't want that chainmail sticking to your skin."
Connor accepted the red shirt with a smile. He slipped it on, zipping it up. "You know, of course, on a frozen tundra, this makes me an easy target."
Andrew smiled back. "Not to mention the bad Star Trek connotations. But I think you can overcome that."
"Thanks." Looking over his friends one last time, Connor smiled. "I'll be back soon. I promise."
Connor exited the cave, stepping out onto the snow-covered rocks. The wide wind whipped is hair in front of his face. The cold bit into his skin.
"I always knew I was going to come back here," he murmured to himself. He clutched his axe tighter. "Always knew this is where I belonged..."
He took a deep breath. "Where else is a demon spawn suppose to be?"
"You think these pathetic knights can take me out?" Magnimus shouted at Mandy, who stood in front of the Byzantium Knights. She held out her hands, creating lightning in her palms. "I could level this city in a breath."
"You're not going to," Mandy replied, her voice strong and unwavering. "It's not as satisfying, is it?"
She took a step towards Magnimus. "You don't want to take me out with the rest of the city. Sure, you could... But you'd miss the crunch... The feel of my neck cracking under your hands... Bathing your flesh in my blood."
Magnimus lowered her hands, the lightning subsiding. She smiled, nodding. "You do have a point there, Slayer. It would be incredibly satisfying to beat you to death." She looked to the sky, where the cracks seemed to grow more brilliant. "I think I might have the time."
Mandy turned her back to look at the Knights. "Fall back. Sweep the city. I'll take care of Hellbitch."
Lucius glared at Mandy. He kept his sword trained on Magnimus. "We do not follow your orders, Slayer."
"Connor gave me your command," Mandy yelled savagely, lip curled. "And right now, I'm the only thing standing in the way of your slaughter."
"Don't go far," Magnimus said with a smile. "Slayer will only take me a minute or two. I don't want to have to chase you down to butcher you."
Mandy's expression was fierce. "Even if you refuse my orders," her voice was fierce. "Your men can't win this fight."
Lucius kept a fierce gaze on Mandy. "Your chances are even less than ours. We are legion while you are one."
Mandy gripped the Pure Scythe tighter in her hand. "This is even better than a legion."
Magnimus strode to Mandy. "I'll take the time to beat you down, but I won't wait for you to argue with the future corpses."
The strike across Mandy's face sent her spinning to the ground. "Get out of here now!" Mandy yelled. "Be ready if she gets past me!"
"Fall back!" Lucius yelled, holding his sword up as he guided his horse to turn away.
The Knights of Byzantium rode off, leaving Mandy and Magnimus alone in the street.
"The Slayer is something of legend in this world," Magnimus whispered, looking down on Mandy. "The nightmare of nightmares. Spoken about in frightened whispers by the most horrible creatures this dimension has to offer."
Magnimus grabbed Mandy by the throat, hauling her to her feet. "Maybe it would have been more of a challenge if I faced off against Buffy or Faith. You're just the cast off. Along with the rest of your army." She cocked her head. "You know, I could kill them right now."
She looked to the sky. "I can feel it... The other hellmouths. Four of them, all around the world. All experiencing the same chaos and death. Cleveland, Oxford, Port Elizabeth, Mahendranagar." Her eyes turned repilitian once again. Magnimus stamped her foot on the ground. It created a ripple that went through the ground at an incredible speed. After a moment, she laughed, tossing Mandy aside.
"I just leveled the Slayer School in Ohio." Magnimus smirked. "How many do you think I killed? How many of your sisters were crushed? You know I will crush them all... But you... You get the honor of looking me in the eyes as you die."
Mandy remained silent, still clutching the Pure Scythe tightly.
"Are you afraid to die, Mandelina?" Magnimus asked. She knelt down. "You can be honest. I promise I won't hold it against you." She shrugged. "Of course, it won't stop me from killing you either."
Mandy nodded slowly. "Yes. I am."
Her expression turned fierce. "But I'm not going to let that stop me either." She brought down the Scythe savagely, slicing through Magnimus' arm.
Magnimus stumbled backwards, staring at the stump that used to be her right arm. "You.... Bitch!" She looked back at Mandy. "You cut off my arm!"
"Had to start somewhere," Mandy replied, getting to her feet. "Way I see it, this is the only thing that's ever made a dent on you. I shouldn't give that up." She laughed. "Of course, made a little more than a dent this time around."
"You think this matters to me?" Magnimus snapped. "Hardly." She held out her arm stump and black tendrils extended from the wound. Her arm reformed, the skin reptilian. "It is nothing to a god." She pointed a clawed finger at Mandy. "I'm going to make it hurt just a little bit more now."
"Mandy!" Grace shouted from the porch. "Fall back!" Her voice was desperate. "You have to fall back!"
Mandy rolled out of the way as Magnimus shot a bolt of lightning at her feet. She nodded. "All right then..." She raced to the house.
Once Mandy was inside the house, Grace's eyes turned reptilian. She held out a hand and a green glow surrounded the house. "Sorry, Maggie. You're not invited in."
"Are we sure this is going to work?" Andrew asked. He and Dawn sat on opposite sides of the map etched in stone by Holtz. "I mean, this is an Earth-spell. Do Earth-spells work in Qurototh?"
"Magic is pretty consistent in all worlds," Salome replied. She leaned against the wall of the cave, still looking exhausted. "The metaphysics is slightly different here, but... It should work all right, as long as there are Earth-born magic wielders performing the ceremony."
Andrew's brow knit. "You sure about that?"
Salome shrugged. "I dunno. I sounded pretty sure. Just give it a shot."
Dawn nodded. "That's the only thing we can do."
Andrew and Dawn both closed their eyes. Andrew took a deep breath. "Thespia, we walk in shadow. Walk in blindness. You are the protector of the night."
Dawn held up her hand. "Thespia, goddess, ruler of all darkness, we implore you... Open a window to the world of the underbeing."
Andrew brought up his hand and they both blew their powder onto the map. "With your knowledge may we go in safety. With your grace may we speak of your benevolence," Andrew finished.
"It's working," Salome whispered as colored lights appeared on the map. She pointed to the etching as Dawn and Andrew opened their eyes. "Look at it."
"All right." Dawn nodded. "So it's color-coded, right?"
Salome moved closer to the map. "The red spots are Quortoth-born demons. The white ones are humans."
Andrew marveled at the large sections of white. "Some of them survived... Humans have actually survived in Quortoth."
"What are the dark blue ones?" Dawn asked, looking to Salome.
"Demons from Earth." She pointed. "See, that's me." She moved her finger slightly to one that was a very pale blue. She smiled. "That's Connor."
Andrew's eyes widened. "Is it just me... Or is that red light moving really fast towards him?"
Connor looked over his shoulder, glancing behind him. His body was taut, tense from both the cold and paranoia. There was nothing behind him. He relaxed slightly, pulling up the hood of his borrowed sweatshirt to shield himself from the cold.
"Maybe Dawn was right," he muttered. "Maybe nothing can survive here." He looked over the vast tundra. "Maybe that's why they're trying to get to--"
Something suddenly appeared out of the storm, hidden by the whipping snow only a moment earlier. Before Connor could react, it grabbed him by the legs and jerked him upside down. Connor lost hold of his axe in the process and it fell into a snowdrift. Connor looked at the beast upside down. His eyes widened. "A... Cryal?"
But this was not a Cryal as Connor remembered. It had been the creature he fought last in Quortoth and first on Earth, it was etched in his memory. But gone was the ruddy grey skin. It was covered in a thick coat of pure white fur.
Connor struggled to escape from the creature's hold. "Where's a lightsaber when you need one?"
The Cryal then let out a cry of distress. Something flashed in front of Connor's eyes. Fire. The beast let him go and Connor tumbled to the ground, skidding through the snow. There was someone one on of the banks, clad in a dark cloak. He held a torch in his hand, waving at the Cryal, drawing its attention away from Connor.
Connor used the distraction to get a hold of his axe once again. He raced back to the flailing beast and buried the head into its throat. The creature made a gurgling noise and fell to the ground. Its blood began to stain the snow.
The cloaked person who had distracted the creature removed his hood. Connor smiled broadly. "Matty!"
Matty skidded down the snowbank to stand beside Connor. He hugged him tightly. "I knew you heroes would come to get me! I could kiss you!"
"Save it for Andrew," Connor replied with a smile.
"Andrew's here?" Matty's eyes grew wide. "But..."
Connor eyed Matty's cloak. "You look pretty well set. How long have you been here?"
"Only a few hours," Matty replied. "I caught a lucky break. Come on."
Matty led Connor to a cave. "I fell out of the fissure around here." He gestured vaguely to the snow. "Storm's been so bad, you can't even see it anymore. Anyway, I saw light and... Well, I figured any port in a storm."
Connor grimaced as he and Matty entered the cave. He knelt down beside the corpse. The blood from their wounds was already frozen. "Not really the best place for you to hide out." He looked back at Matty and studied his cloak closer. It was stained with dried blood.
"I took what I could find to keep warm," Matty replied. "Took some fire."
Connor nodded grimly. "It's not like they need it anymore." He looked over the bodies carefully. "It wasn't the Cryal that did this."
"That the Wampa-thing we just killed?"
Connor nodded. "It would have eaten them whole. But these..." His eyes widened. "It's only the blood that's been drained." He shook his head. "It was almost surgical. Most beasts from Quortoth destroy everything. They were just focused on the blood."
Connor shook off the thought and began to strip the corpses of the cloaks and furs they wore. "Help me get anything warm they've got. We need it for the others." He looked around the cave. "These are settlers. They've been here a while. Maybe they were unlucky... But others might have survived."
As he took off the other layers of clothing the corpses wore, he studied their faces carefully.
"Connor?" Matty asked hesitantly. "What are you doing?"
"I just--" Connor swallowed hard. "I want to know if Gord was one of them."
"It's not your fault he ended up here," Matty insisted.
"Then who's fault is it?" Connor asked.
Matty shrugged. "I dunno. Glory for using the Key. Grace for making it. Magnimus for taking advantage of it. Buffy for not letting Dawn die to close the rifts properly?" He went to Connor, putting a cloak around his shoulders. "The way Andrew tells it, you've got enough you feel guilty about. Don't add this to it. Any way I slice it, you're just a bystander."
Connor didn't meet Matty's gaze. "Let's just get back to the others. See if we can't find anyone still alive out here." He placed a hand over the wound on one of the corpses' necks, his expression dark.
Mandy panted as she collapsed onto the stairs. She gingerly rubbed her neck. "Okay, that really sucked." She looked up at Grace as she re-entered the house. "Why'd you call me off? We've got to subdue Magnimus..."
"She'll grind you a fine powder," Grace pointed out. "Without even blinking. Even with your shiny axe, she'll destroy you."
"Well, what the hell are we supposed to do?" Mandy demanded. "Connor and Salome are gone, the Knights of Byzantium will get massacred by her, you can't fight... I'm the only one left!"
"I can fight." Grace strode into the living room. Mandy followed close behind her. "But she and I will fight until Judgment Day without a winner emerging."
"If you haven't noticed..." Jamie stood up, arms crossed over his chest. "Judgment Day is pretty damn close."
"I know," Grace sighed, looking down. "But that doesn't change the fact that Magnimus and I are equally matched. I'll never be able to get her back to Qurototh on my own."
"Then I'll help you!" Mandy cried, raising the Scythe. "I can handle it! Especially if you're there helping."
"It's not enough," Grace sighed. She ran a hand through her hair, which hair fallen out of her bun and was in a disarray. "The only time one of us has been defeated is when we ganged up against her..."
"Well--" Oni started. She was cut off when the house began to shake. "What is occurring?"
"You wanted a fight, Slayer!" Magnimus screamed from the street. "You said you wanted to go hand to hand... But you ran away!" She laughed. "Maybe I can't come in... But I can huff and puff and blow your house down!"
"Earthquake!" Jamie shouted as the foundation trembled and the walls began to crack.
"Can she truly destroy this domicile?" Oni asked Grace, panicked.
Grace nodded. "Oh yeah. She could sink this house into the Hellmouth if she wanted to."
"Oh." Oni's eyes were wide as she began to collect her books. "Then I suggest we embark on the ancient tradition of fleeing for our lives."
"Where are we going to go?" Mandy asked.
"I know just the place," Jamie said. He looked to Grace. "But we're going to need a plan once we get there."
"Got one cooking," Grace replied. "I'm sure we can pick up what we need on the way."
Sophie held Lee to her chest, looking up at the ceiling as there was another crashing noise outside of the club. "We're not going to get through this," she whispered fearfully. "How could we bring Lee into the world when it's about to end?"
Clem put an arm around his wife. "It's going to be all right, Sophie. I'm sure it is."
"Yeah." Lorne nodded, sitting down in front of her and taking her hand. "Those heroes are all out there working their booties off to make sure there's still a world for your boy."
He looked away briefly, his red eyes filled with fear. "I just wish I was able to get in contact with some of them."
"But we're safe here," Clem said to Sophie. He then looked to Lorne. "We are safe here, aren't we?"
"Huh?" Lorne looked back. "Of course we are. Furies spelled this place up good this time. Not a safer place in Palo Alto. Even a Hellgod couldn't start trouble in here."
"We might have to test that theory." Grace commented as she strode in. "You should really check the locks on this place."
Lorne jumped to his feet. "Who the hell are you?"
"She's with us," Jamie explained, he, Mandy and Oni close behind Grace. "She's... Well, she's Magnimus' sister."
"You brought a hellgod to my club?" Lorne shouted angrily. "My club that I only recently rebuilt after my former bartender tore it to..." He looked around. "Where are Connor, Salome and Andrew?"
"Quortoth," Oni replied. "Along with Dawn and Matthew."
"Quor--" Lorne's eyes widened. "Please tell me you're kidding."
"Not even slightly," Grace deadpanned. She cleared the bar of glasses with a sweep of her arm. "Put her here."
Jamie and Mandy carried in the body, placing it down on the bar.
"Oh my God!" Clem jumped up. "Is she all right?"
Grace nodded. "Yeah. She's dead."
"What?" Lorne went over to examine the corpse that had been placed on the bar. "Why the hell are you bringing a dead body into my club?"
"Because we need it," Grace said simply. She looked over the body critically. "Whatever killed her only broke her neck. This will work perfectly."
"What are our purposes?" Oni asked. "You have not explained why we needed to retrieve a deceased body."
"I don't really care," Mandy insisted, looking towards the door. "I need to get back out there. The whole world is going to hell, I'm at the very least going to go out fighting."
"Mandy." Jamie gripped her shoulder. "You are the only warrior in Palo Alto. Do you really think you can do any good just going to out fight at random? We need a plan."
"Perhaps what you need is another warrior."
All eyes turned to the door. Head held high, Illyria stepped forward. Her leather catsuit was stained with blood.
Wesley stepped out from behind her. He smiled at Oni. "What? Did you think I was really going to abandon you?"