Episode 11: The Burning Times
April 30, 2005 (Beltane)
Willow and Tara are mad. They have spent the last month researching all things mage, “Awakening” and every prophecy they can find and there is nothing useful out there. Though lots of stories of mages going insane or accidently causing destruction wherever they go. Plus their Adourflame condition is getting steadily worse, now they can barely touch each other without setting something on fire. A quick kiss in the kitchen one night causes the microwave to explode. In fact they discover in their research that most fire-starting supernaturals are either evil or groomed by evil. Independently each discovers something that might help, the binding ritual they used on Amy and Beth to remove their own magic. They do not mention it to the other.
They do get a visitor in the form of Anya, who is here to represent Lilith. She tells them that they have learned that Witches’ Committee is pissed off and they will be sending operatives to come and get them soon. They change plans and instead look for a refuge since they figure out that the town will not be safe. They discover there is a coven of witches, The Daughters of the Flame, in Sacramento. Willow and Tara are certain they can teleport there on their own. Anya remains, not wanting to trust their new powers teleporting them to an unknown location.
Not a moment too soon either as Bob appears to tell them that there are Witches’ Committee operatives headed their way. Anya says she will try to stall them. The girls along with Bob and Cordy, teleport out.
Arriving at the covenstead Willow and Tara are surprised to see it is really a commune with a few score witches. As soon as Willow and Tara though arrive they are set upon. There is a scuffle but soon the leader of the coven, Mistress Brent, recognizes the two and kneeling she welcomes them “home”.
They all go to Brent’s office. Cordy and Bob are silent as Brent explains the history of this coven. Bob and Brent keep looking at each other, till finally Bob calls her “Cathy”. She gasps out loud and says “Robert?” Brent, like all the women here, takes a coven name that is some form of a Celtic Goddess’ name. She explains she has been expecting them for some time now. She knows they are the reincarnations of Bohdmal and Liath, the founders of this coven. She didn’t know that Liath/Tara was the daughter of Robert Mclay, a man she had known about, but never met. Tara’s mother had been raised by the coven and was sent out to work with a “Robert Mclay” many years ago. Brent blamed that man for Megan’s death. Though Brent is torn now that Megan’s own daughter is here, seeking aid and the reincarnation of Liath to boot. Cordelia asks her leave to report this situation to the Elders and find out what she needs to do.
The girls explain what their problem is, the magic and being followed by both the Witches Committee and Lilith. Brent doesn’t trust either side. Brent offers the coven’s library, but she has never heard of two witches that were becoming mages that were also Anamchara. Bohdmal and Liath were Anamchara, but they never became mages. Brent says it is an exciting time in their cycle of life to have become mages at this point and waxes on what their next life might be like. Willow doesn’t care about the next life, she wants this one, with Tara. Tara mentions the binding ritual. Brent says that would destroy their magic, all of it, and also remove them the witches’ cycle of life, death and rebirth. Plus there is the roll they have to play in the Awakening. Willow and Tara argue that a life that they can’t have each other is no life at all. Brent agrees that if they ask her to she will perform the binding. It also means that they will never see Cordy or Bob ever again, but it will stop the Witches Committee and Lilith from chasing them. But she asks for 24 hours so they can all research a better solution.
They all agree and set to work. Because of their position in the coven, Willow and Tara are given a “Guardian” by the name of Ceridwen and a research assistant named Brigh. Brigh is in awe over Willow and Tara, having studied Bohdmal and Liath all her life. She couldn’t help but notice that their auras were brighter than any she had ever seen and more strangely they were exactly the same. Brigh said that even married couples whose auras begin to blend still retain distinctive patterns. As an example she asks them to view her and Ceri. They had been handfasted a few years back (June 21, 1997) and legally married recently (in Cerri's home of Boston last year), though both agreed that their handfasting was the true date of their bond. Brigh mentions that her own aura had been disrupted due to exposure to Taint a few years ago and when she and Ceri fell in love and were married the interplay between their auras “smoothed out” the Taint. Willow and Tara are a little stunned to meet two married women and their thoughts turn to each other. Brigh notices this and studies their auras more carefully. She gasps and tells them the exchange spiked the power in their auras. She doubts that they have 24 hours. She doubts they have 2 hours in fact before their magical feedback blew a hole in reality.
With Brent involved now the girls begin to think very seriously about the binding ritual. Of course I had dropped a hint or two, but they asked not about a binding ritual, but a bonding one. They discovered that a handfast could do the same thing but also allow them to still use their magic as always. Taking that huge step they agreed. That evening they prepared. Robert stood for his daughter, Cordy for Willow and with Cerri and Brigh as witnesses. Brent performed the ceremony. The girls kissed for the first time in a month and their auras were visible to all.
The girls are given the night to consummate their marriage, but by morning the reality of their mission hits them again. The Witches Committee are at the coven’s doorstep demanding that they release Willow and Tara to them.
The Daughters of course refuse, but the Committee tells them that they are not capable of dealing with mages. If Willow and Tara were only “just witches” it would be fine, but the Committee was set up to deal with witches that become mages. Both sides agree to allow Willow and Tara to be seen by the Committee’s people (called The Keepers). To everyone, Willow and Tara’s auras no longer look like mages, but just really powerful witches. Though they still have their mage powers. The Keepers, seeing but not believing, challenge them both to a battle Arcane. If they are Mages then they will be fine, but have to go with the Keepers. If they are witches then they will loose, but can remain here. Before anyone can say anything though Willow is grabbed by the female Keeper and Tara by the male and they all phase. All four have been removed from the reality of the coven, though everyone can still see everyone else. Willow and Tara are also not in the same reality and can’t touch to get the benefit of being Anamchara. The battle progresses, and does so poorly for the girls. Willow is locked in a reality with her attacker and Tara is also locked with her own. Cordy and Bob both make different attempts to phase into either girl’s reality, only to run into a wall. Willow and Tara both try to exploit their own connections to somehow bring themselves together, but no luck there either.
Tara does notice that the aura’s of the Keepers are also strangely linked. She figured out (with some good rolls and a drama point) that these two must be sleeping together, but don’t want anyone else to know (she sees lust and guilt). She uses the binding ritual on the male keeper to pull him closer to his clandestine lover. They crash into each other, metaphysically speaking, a cancel the magics in place. Brent rules that since Tara defeated them both not with mage magic, but witch magic they don’t have to leave with them and they can stay here. The male Keeper, furious, knocks down Brent, pulls out a gun and fires on Tara. Willow throws up a barrier and the bullet ricochets off and hits the Keeper in his side. He lives, but will need surgery to repair is intestines.
Willow and Tara decide to remain with the Daughters as a “honeymoon” and as a way to be trained on their new mage powers.
Notes: Brigh was “played” as Lexa Doig, Ceri was Yancy Butler, Brent was played by Kate Jackson, I did not cast the Keepers, but any resemblance to certain Executive Producers or show runners I am sure is by coincidence only.
Ok what is going on here?
A few things. The Daughters of the Flame are a coven I had made for my 1999 AD&D Witch book. I had used the coven a number of times in my own works and games for years before that. Lisa, who had been helping write a bunch of these episodes and was my Tara had also, independent of me, used the Daughters in her own writing. Brigh, Ceri and Brent were her creations. I ran Brigh and Ceri through some WitchCraft adventures back in 2003-2004 (where Brigh picked up some Taint from a Mad God cult), so it was nice to have them back here. In my WitchCraft game at the time I specifically mentioned that Brigh can’t read auras. Ah well, I forgotten that. The Keepers were also her creation (though she only had one) and their job was to train Mages into assassins. I wanted them all here in Season of the Witch since their genesis was so related to the “witch culture” I had built in my own games (Mages were even Prestige Classes for witches in my later d20 book).
The Daughters also gave us the chance to poke a little fun at our selves, the Willow and Tara fan community. Often stereotyped as fanatical lesbians devoted to Willow and Tara above anything else, the daughters became (on the surface anyway) a group of fanatical lesbians who believe that Willow and Tara (or rather their past lives) were their reason for being. If the Wicce book had ever come out for the WitchCraft game you would have seen a more balanced view of the Daughters of the Flame. There were the “Eala” or swans that were more passive and the “Brenna” or ravens were more fanatical.
The date the girls were married is set in my world as April 30, 2005.
Marriage. If there is one thing that is debated more in W/T fan communities more than when they first had sex it is what sort of wedding the girls should have, if any at all. I forced the issue by well, forcing the issue. Since no situation would have appealed to all tastes I made it so they had to get married in order to preserve their magic. There is a nice little bit of parity there. To save their magic (which had been a metaphor for love) and likely the world they had to get married. The Keepers, who were having an illicit affair (the male Keeper was married), actually became their weakness. I don’t pretend to be subtle.
This is also the Gaelic Tree month of "Willow". Again. Not subtle.
Plus we wanted to talk about the whole same-sex marriage issue, it's not something a TV would do to be honest, at least not one at the time.
Originally there was going to more to this episode making a double episode really. Dawn was going to be there as well since she was taking college courses and still in town. Willow and Tara were going to “confront their Old Souls”, but we had kind of done that with The Dragon and the Phoenix. Cordy was mostly an NPC by now anyway, but I was happy she was at the wedding, someone from the Original Series there was nice. I had more political play between the Daughters and the Witches Committee but it never came out well in the game, so it was dropped. There was also more scenes with Willow/Tara and Brigh/Ceri. We did learn that Ceri’s birth name was Susan and she had played drums in an all girl KISS tribute band called LICK when she lived in Boston. Brigh had been born Amy Nakamura to a Japanese father and an Irish mother. She had lived in Toronto. Amy's transformation into Brigh was part of the background for my Witch Guardian post.
Next up: The Cast travels north to find the Veil between realities is torn and the witches holding it together are not in the mood to hear some new-comers' ideas on how they are supposed to do their jobs; fated or no.