Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 12

Episode 12: No Other Troy

Yoln: You brought an army to stop me Slayer?
Buffy: No. I brought two.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 12 “No Other Troy”

Episode 12: No Other Troy by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

- William Butler Yeats, No Second Troy

Oh, I love you
God, I love you
I'd kill a dragon for you
I'll die
But I will rise
And I will return
The Phoenix from the flame
I have learned
I will rise
And you'll see me return
Being what I am
There is no other Troy
For me to burn
- Sinéad O'Connor, Troy

No time, no date (Cast returns on May 19, 2003. Monday)

The cast leads an army of demons and an army of angels to Leviathan’s plane, but they discover it may require the death of one of their own to seal the portal forever. Release the souls of all the Slayer’s Leviathan has been feeding on for years. Buffy must defeat Yoln, but Willow and Tara must find a way to stop a God on his home realm.

Story Arc Elements: Willow and Tara are shown their pasts and futures by the Mouth of Leviathan, how everything they have done was constructed to bring them to this point to allow Leviathan to enter this realm. Leviathan had meant for Willow to be his instrument to be powerful enough to allow him to enter this realm. Tara was the factor he did not count on, her influence was turning Willow away from the path she was on to one more in balance with magic. Without Tara, Leviathan will enter the realm through Willow at anytime he chooses.

Game Mechanics:
Stats for various Slayers from the past. Dragons.
Sinead O’Connor “Drink Before the War” and "Troy".  Megadeth “A Tout Le Monde”, Sarah Maclachlan “Elsewhere”

Notes and Comments:
This is the big one. The finale. Designed to be both the series finale for “Buffy” and the start of a new spin-off series “Willow & Tara” and there is a lot going on.

Let’s start with the big stuff. The Cast comes through Dawn’s rift using the Spear as a guide. It takes them to a cave in an outcropping overlooking a valley. A valley filled with demons (40,000 to be exact), when they see Buffy they all begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!” It was quite a visual.

The first act of course is to get a grip on this new demonic army. The leaders are the Mormo demons from before. The cast is also joined by a smaller, but no less effective, army of angels. Among them is Kara, who has taken Tara’s place in the armies of Heaven. In fact she has surpassed even Tara’s previous achievements. Once the cast can convince the demons and angels to fight together against the forces of Leviathan then the action begins.

For the battles I used the Army of Darkness mass combat rules with Buffy as the general, but I made sure everyone had a chance to shine.
Upon entering the realm of Leviathan the cast notices that their Con and Wills are being drained. So, we have a time limit here. Both Faith and Buffy know that the realm is draining the source of their power, though they can’t figure out why.

Dawn has to hold the portal open, so she is given a group of angels to protect her. Spike has the Hand of Yoln as a weapon and Buffy has the spear.
We spend some time battling the armies of Leviathan. His creatures combine the worse aspects of dragon, snake and demon, for lack of a better word I called them Draconians.

The cast enters Leviathan himself, anyone with a soul takes another hit to Will. Anyone without a soul is absorbed into the walls, floor, everything. Thus newly re-re-ensouled Anya and recently souled Spike are fine. Well, fine as can be. I struggled with this for a bit, do angels have souls? In the end I decided no, they have spirits like demons. So the angels that went in with the cast are lost. This is done for the obvious reasons; the cast needs to shine here, not the armies.

Buffy fights Yoln. Until next season she is the star and the big guy is going after her. Now I don’t know how many of you all use the Original Slayer in games, but she is one deadly character. I had to up Yoln to obscene levels just to deal with her. Faith and Spike are fighting at her sides (I am sure there is metaphor here, but I am not going there) and these three can quickly mow down (and did) most opponents. Spike gets his arm chopped of by Yoln (yeah I did that first too) and dumps the ash out of the glove and puts it back on.

“You think you came here to stop me and my lord. You can’t. Everything is in motion, everything had been planned before you were even born. This is not my defeat, this is my apotheosis. You are not heroes.
You are sacrifices.”
- Yoln, the Shadowreaper
Yoln becomes fully human again (or at least as human as he was before), he tells them it is a trap and the attack start anew. Yoln is stronger now, but can be killed. Buffy does kill him, which just starts the whole place to start exploding.

There is truth in Yoln’s quote since this was an adventure I had planned to do for AD&D 1st ed back in 1987. It took place during the same battle as the “flashback” from Episode 5. Then, as in now, the story focused on a battle with Yoln and his Master, then known only as “The Whispering God”, and two lovers; Morganne (the Slayer from episode 5) and a young swordsman. So this adventure had been in the works long before Buffy and crew were ever “born”. Yoln was then a demonic-human that became a death knight.

Anya and Xander meanwhile are off to discover the reason why their “souls” are being drained. They discover that the spirits all of the Slayers that have died before are stuck on Leviathan’s plane. Literally. They are stuck in the wall of the dead god’s flesh and are slowly being consumed. Anya and Xander work to free them while fighting lesser minions (giant white blood cell things). They manage to free some of the Slayers who can fight (but are still dead, but at least now they can move on) till Spike come running up telling them it is a trap.

Willow and Tara confront Leviathan “himself” in the form of The Mouth of Leviathan played by Malcolm McDowell at his evil best.

From the Mouth of Leviathan we learn Leviathan worked through Set and other gods and demons to get things done. He empowered Willow when she first gave Angel back his soul. Willow was supposed to be his instrument, a force strong enough to bring Leviathan into this world, then he would feed on Willow. In a way she was working like another one of my old AD&D influences (or rather my DM’s), Raven from the Teen Titans. Though Willow is not Leviathan’s daughter, he does need her to enter the world.

What Leviathan never worked into his plans was how much of an influence Tara was having. Tara was pulling Willow away from the self-destructive forms of witchcraft (Sorcery) and too the more “natural” Magic. At first he worked on Glory and her minions to redirect Glory to a vulnerable Tara, but that was short lived. The Mouth shows the girls thousands of alternate realities where they are together, but in each one Leviathan manages to kill Tara (or somehow turn Willow) and consume the world. So Leviathan through his agents stopped the bullet from hitting Willow and instead redirected to Tara. The various realities shown are all various fan-fictions of my playtesters and our friends on the Kitten Board. There are also scenes of various alternate versions of Willow and Tara. Lots of ones on their past lives, including one where they both die in Atlantis; a pair of Chinese sorceresses; Liath and Bodhmal from Episode 5 and “The Dark Druid” and others. There are also alternate versions of Tara, the Tara that really was part demon, the nature sprite Tara that Whedon talked about doing, vampire Tara, even the “original” plan for Tara to make her what the Amy character eventually became; the dark magic junkie. The outcome for any alternate though is the same, the destruction of the world.

The mouth offers Willow a choice now, they can leave together, all she needs to do is drain all of her’s and Tara’s magic into Dawn. Then Leviathan will enter the world via Dawn. They can then live on Faith’s old magic dead world. Of course everyone they know or love will die.
Now at this point we had planned to go in a bunch of different directions, but the winning one, the plan that made the most sense won out.

Standing on spires (really his spine) of Leviathan’s plane Willow and Tara see their friends running back to the portal, being perused by devilish, dragon monsters, the armies still fighting. They see torn and battered Slayers limping to attack Leviathan’s creatures, even though they stand no hope of even slowing them down. Meanwhile with Yoln’s death the conduit to the mortal realm is breaking up. Dawn is fighting to keep the portal open and the land (which is really Leviathan himself) is reacting violently with “earth quakes” and volcanoes. The Earth can be seen (blocking out the sun) and rising. The Mouth tells the girls that all Leviathan needs now is enter the world through the gate, either through Willow now or Dawn (since she is holding it open) and then drain his “hosts” magic to manifest fully.

Seeing the death and destruction they realize there is only one way to keep it from getting worse. Grabbing hands, they jump into the gapping maw of Leviathan’s plane. Yup. I went for the “Thelma and Louise” ending.
Now everything goes berserk. Demons are running amok, trying to get out of the place. Angels find they are fighting the hordes of Leviathan AND retreating demons, the land is throwing fits more than ever, and then silence.
From the maw that Willow and Tara threw themselves in comes the reborn Leviathan. He was “force feed” all of Willow’s and Tara’s combined magic. Given the Anamchara rules that is quite a bit. He now stands over 200 feet tall and getting taller by the second, seven heads and full of anger. There is no way he can go through the portal now, so he is going to settle for killing everyone and everything on his plane. Time for the cast to run.

Of course I gave them the chance to get to the portal. Leviathan is chasing them down, roaring in anger. Then I need to decide what I should do with the characters. Leviathan is not a stated out monster, he is pure plot device. But I want the surviving characters to well, survive. Yeah I really, really wanted to off Spike. I felt he was representative of everything that I considered wrong with the show. The plan was that he was going to take the remote detonator for his chip and wait till the armies got on top of him then he was going to blow his own head off. But Garner convinced me otherwise. Plus I was already working on “Season of the Witch” at this point and he never showed there, but I figured I’d need him later. I did in fact for a Ghosts of Albion/Buffy crossover. I wanted to make him into a ghost and said as much very early on, but he ended up being a ghost in Angel, so I figured I could do better than that. So his player and I agreed that Spike was going to buy the rest of the cast time. He stood and fought the on coming demons and draconians to keep them a little bit at bay. That way if I needed him back I could, or if I needed him evil again then I can say Leviathan had been whispering in his ear all this time, the same thing he did to Yoln. At this point anyway I was borrowing heavily from Charmed so Leviathan’s plan was the same as the Demonic Wasteland. There were plenty of powers laying around there for someone with the will to use them. Spike could have come back (and still might who knows) like Cole did in Charmed.

The remaining cast get through the portal. Beaten, broken, but alive. They leave the ruins of the High School (they are shot out of the Hellmouth) and Dawn says the mouth is closed completely.

Cut back to a grey void where Willow and Tara are. Luna, the Seraphim, returns and offers them a choice. They can go to Heaven together as their reward, or the Summerlands if they prefer, or they can be sent back to Earth. Tara will loose some of her divine power she had before (the aura around her that induced fear in demons), but they will let her keep the ability to heal by touch.

They come back and we wrap up the game. Scenes of Xander’s and Anya’s wedding (this time a small private ceremony), Giles ends up catching the bouquet. Buffy’s martial arts class is still a big hit, we see her going on dates with Tony, the cop from Episodes 6 and 7. There are a few demons left in town, but most have cleared off. The last scene is Willow and Tara enjoying themselves (not like that!) at home. I don’t have it my notes, but they talked about how their lives are theirs to do with as they please. At that point Dawn comes in to tell Tara the phone is for her, it is her brother.

This may be one of my most favorite cover of the series. The idea was to only going to get Willow and Tara fans to write the episodes, play test and do the covers, and in particular only members of the Kitten Board. This one was done by Chris Cook who runs a website devoted to Willow and Tara in every universe. Called “Through the Looking Glass” it has tons of art, stories, and even games for the Willow and Tara fan base. The premise really mirrors that of this episode. I showed the multiverse where Willow and Tara are together in every reality. I also showed that in realities that they are not together are doomed to destruction. Chris shows us the realities where they are together. Have a look, there is even some Dragon and the Phoenix art there as well. The various realities are all from various W/T fan fiction.  The sources for them were stories from the Kitten Board, Different Color Pens fiction board and the old Willow and Tara fiction site, Extra Flamey.

And of note. This is my 100th post tagged "witch".

Next time, DS al Coda.

1 comment:

Tim Knight said...

Simply incredible! Very envious of your games ;) And that's the best cover as well!