Friday, November 5, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 11

Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain

Dark Willow/Nox: Are you going to kill me lover?
Tara: Not if I don’t have to.
Dark Willow/Nox: That’s why you are going to fail.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 11 “Shadows in the Rain”

Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

May 7, 2003. Wednesday

Willow becomes physically ill on the anniversary of Tara’s murder. Her magic has an effect on the weather. The Cast finds the weapon they need, but it is in the hands of the last person they expected. Tara, Willow and Dawn combine their power for the first time to retrieve it, but their attempt pulls the cast into a magically-dead (no magic for Willow or Tara) world where Dark Magic Willow (now called "Nox") was not defeated. Willow discovers the wages of her sins. Dawn gets a nasty surprise when she sees herself as a vampire.
Story Arc Elements: Show why the stupid “crayon speech” never could have worked. The cast finds the Spear of Destiny, the weapon they need to kill Yoln.
Game Mechanics: Push the “magic boost” rules to an illogical point and never use them again.
Note: This episode had an unintentional side effect in creating the prototype for my new Mutants & Masterminds villain, Nox.
Soundtrack: The Police “Shadows in the Rain”

Notes and Comments:
The basic idea of this episode, Dark Willow having to face Tara, is actually one from my WitchCraft based Willow & Tara game from the Summer of 2001. Yeah, I had Dark Willow two years before anyone else. But no magic-as-drugs metaphor here, this was pure desire to control the things around her. In Shadows in the Rain, I get my cake and eat it too by pulling the Cast into an alternate world were DMW went on unchecked, or as AU-Faith tells us, that after getting talked down by Xander, Willow just bides her time till she can power up again and this time control the world rather than destroy it. In the original it was Tara and Faith as the only survivors in a bleak future where Dark Willow (then called “The Queen of Darkness”) rules. Here in this adventure, Tara is replaced by Xander, who is nothing more than a puppet of “Nox” aka Dark Willow.

I sat this on the anniversary of Tara’s (though now Kara’s) murder for symbolic reasons and to make a point. You don’t get over something like your lover being killed and then hop into bed with the next person that looks at you. I worry about anyone that can honestly think that is true. Ok, sure, random sex I understand, but not “love” by any means. So on this day Willow is violently ill. Her grief, even though Tara is alive again, is causing her to be physically sick. In the AU the same thing is happening to Nox, only there Nox has enough power to make the whole world feel her pain. The other issue with this one is Willow needed to come to terms with what she had done. It’s like that old saying, “you can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you are only kidding.” Tara forgave Warren, now it was time for Willow to forgive herself.
The battle is complicated by the fact that no one can approach Nox’s fortress and AU Xander is actually working for Nox and not the cast. AU Faith is happy to see Buffy, whose death at the hands of Nox she took particularly hard (yeah AU Faith is bisexual). Matters are made worse when the Cast learns that the Government is going to nuke Sunnydale as a way to deal with Nox.

We also wanted to showcase Dawn’s power one more time. This episode takes us to Nox’s world which is magically dead. So Willow and Tara have no powers here. Their magic is gone (more symbolism since it was magic that brought them together). But Dawn’s powers do work. Speaking of Dawn, the cast gets a nasty surprise in the form of “Dusk”, the AU Dawn turned into a vampire by Nox. Dusk is still stuck in “whiny little kid” mode, the same place she was when she was killed. Dawn on the other hand gets to show her maturity and growth here. She is not the helpless kid sister anymore, she has a part to play.

The vampire Dawn pic was made by a guy named Zahir that used to hang out over at the Kitten Board and was into Willow and Tara based role-playing games of all sorts.

So. Why are they even here? Well the back in episode 5 we saw the spear fall into the same astral portal as Yoln, his sword and a bunch of other items. The spear ended up here. The cast tries to retrieve it with magic, but instead of pulling it to them, it pulls them to it. Why are they going for this weapon? Well the cast is convinced they need a weapon that can kill a god, the spear is one of four weapons in my myths that qualify.
In my other games this is also the Spear of Cú Ċulainn. He obtained it in the 1st Century and it was later lost after his death but before Fionn Macumhail was born.

The deal was at this point I less and less interested in what Buffy, Spike and Xander and all had to do or were doing, becoming primarily focused on the “stars” of the story, Willow and Tara.

The Cast fights the bad guys, and girls. My Spike player gets to kill Dusk because he really hated Dawn. And Willow and Tara have to face off against Nox. Willow finally gives Nox her Ankh charm from Isis. Since it’s job is to drain off dark magic it kills Nox, but she finds peace. She asks Tara if she could forgive her and then asks Willow if she can forgive herself.   All the magic in the world is gone though too and Willow and Tara are still powerless. Dawn opens a portal using the Spear and AU Faith comes with them since there is nothing left for her to do in this world.

The Cast walks out of the portal and not into Sunnydale, but a desolate landscape. In front of them in a valley below an outcropping of rock are thousands (40,000 in fact) demons. They notice the cast’s arrival and begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!”

There are other issues too.
Willow and Tara both independently discover passages referring to the death of “Returned One”, which they both interpret as Tara. Anya (an NPC) keeps throwing out that after this is all done Tara may have to go back to Heaven still. (side note, at one point we even considered this to be true and tried to figure out how we could do it).

Then there are the two important questions.

1. Why kill Faith only to bring her back?
Honestly I felt the character of Faith was broken beyond repair, nothing the writers had her doing made any sense. It’s part of the “bad girl fetish” as my writing partner Garner put it. They were so in love with Evil!Faith and could only keep upping the ante on her behavior. Now I happen to like bad girls and I liked Faith (once upon a time), but the only way to fix the character was to start over. Yes there was the added benefit of having a new Slayer that Yoln could kill, but that was an afterthought in the “Faith Dies” plot. This Faith is based on the WitchCraft version of her I did long ago. While the stats are the same as the Buffy book, this Faith is different. She has done some bad things sure, but she has atoned and feels guilt and remorse.

2. Why kill Dawn, I thought you liked her?
I do, but the rest of my writing team did not. Plus, and let’s face it, the show writers had no clue what to do with her. I gave her psychic powers to represent her new maturity while vampire Dawn (“Dusk”) was still stuck in the mentality of a whiny high-schooler. Now personally I would have rather had Dawn kill Dusk with a snappy quip of “will you shut the hell up!”, but my Spike player got to kill her instead. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes I guess.

In my original WitchCraft AU (and remember Buffy was still dead at this point) Faith had taken on the role of raising Dawn. It was hard for both of them, but it seemed to work well in the game.  In the original WitchCraft version of this game it was Faith and Tara alone fighing against Nox and Xander was the vampire. In the end Faith and Dawn lived and were still "sisters" 

The cover here is a fantastic bit of art by Div, the same artist that gave us Episode 5’s cover. I felt it was symbolic to feature only Willow instead of Willow and Tara. In the original series Episode 19 was always a Willow centric one, here we felt the second to the last one of our series would be the Willow centric one.  We did that again in "Season of the Witch".

Next time. Nothing left to burn…

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