Chapter 18: Somewhere Between 'Now' and 'Not Now'
A few minutes after his disappearance Thor reappears and almost at the same time something activates a warning system. I'm not sure what's going on but Thor says that it should be the Nox and everyone relaxes almost immediately. The general gets up, followed by his people, and soon enough we are all in a room dominated by a huge metal ring, a ring I can only assume is the Chappa'ai. I can feel the energy surrounding it as it engages and then a lone figure emerges from its shimmering surface.
I can't help but stare at her.
Her aura is unlike anything I have ever encountered before and when she looks at me I can barely keep myself from looking away. I knew we were dealing with aliens here but up until now I hadn't given much thought to what that meant beyond the existence of yet another threat menacing our world, in fact I hadn't even realized that Thor's aura feels almost blurry. 'Blurry', however, is not a word I would ever use to describe this being's presence... and right now she's staring at me and at Willow.
I wonder what she sees... no, actually I know what she sees, or at least I have a general idea. I can feel that Willow is getting nervous and I can't really blame her so I reach for her hand in a silent attempt to reassure her. Auras may not be her thing but I know she has to be sensing the Nox's presence... and she feels tainted.
I know what Willow did and I know what she almost did, I also know why she did it and I know why it was necessary but it is a lot more complicated than that. I know that, even though Warren's life was the price that had to be paid to save the world, the circle of death that led Willow to that point was one she created herself. Yes, the death that weighs on her soul is that of a man but the one that started the whole thing was that of a fawn. The innocent she sacrificed to be able to bring Buffy back, the one that tipped the scales and allowed the First to manifest itself... and now Willow is being confronted by a being that is perfectly clean.
I'm still thinking about that while holding on to Willow's hand when the woman in question takes a step in our direction and then another and another. I'm not afraid, not really, and neither is Willow. We both know we have nothing to fear from her but that doesn't mean we are not overwhelmed.
She doesn't say anything for the longest time, she just looks at us, apparently feeling as confused as we are, and then she turns toward Colonel O'Neill, with an odd smile on her face.
"Anyone care to fill us in?" growls the colonel, obviously not happy at being left out.
"They understand... or at least they will someday," says the 'woman' I assume to be Lya.
"They understand what?"
"I once told you that your race had learned nothing but you had... they have merely learned a little more than you have, that's all," she explains and I feel Willow relax a bit at her words.
"Learned what? Thor, a little help here, please," all but begs the colonel, turning toward his Asgard friend.
"I am sorry, O'Neill, I do not understand what is happening myself," says the alien blinking at us.
"The Nox, they are connected to the universe in a way that... I don't know how to explain it, I'm sorry," I apologize.
"Try," insists the colonel.
"It's about energy..." Willow starts before trailing off.
"Energy?" asks Major Carter.
"Magical energy, to be accurate."
"Are you saying that the Nox actually use magic?"
"Of course... though I seriously doubt they'd call it that," says Willow. "For them it is probably the most natural thing in the world so chances are that our word for it makes no sense at all as far as they are concerned."
"Is real, I think we've pretty much established that point already, major," says Giles.
"I know, sort of, but even though I can accept the existence of magic, that doesn't mean I don't wish I had a better explanation of how and why it works," retorts the major.
"And that is precisely the problem. You are attempting an impossible translation here, that's the reason why you don't understand. You cannot understand magic based on scientific principles any more than you can understand science based on magic. Science and magic exist side by side and it is even possible to get them to work together but they follow different rules and require different perspectives. From what I've seen here you are just too reluctant to let go of the one you are familiar with."
"Think of it like this: science deals with the material world, with what you can see and touch, magic deals with the energy surrounding that world... well, not really surrounding it because that would seem to suggest that it is separate somehow and it's not but..." explains, or rather babbles, Willow.
"Can you show me?" interrupts Major Carter and I can feel Willow tense up almost immediately.
"I don't know. It's not so simple... it takes training and a certain natural affinity. Besides, it can be kind of dangerous," she says.
"In case you haven't figured it out, magic is a powerful thing... believe me, I know," she says, not meeting the major's eyes.
"Exactly how powerful are we talking here?"
"You don't want to know," she mumbles.
"I think we do," jumps in Colonel O'Neill, glaring at Willow. "How powerful?"
"It wouldn't be impossible for a magic user to burn this world to a cinder," I admit, trying to divert the attention away from her.
"WHAT?!" yell three voices almost simultaneously.
"I said 'it wouldn't be impossible', that doesn't mean it's something that is likely to happen. In fact that would require an almost unheard of amount of power," I say, fighting the urge to take a step back. I've always disliked confrontations --though my time with Cassandra definitely helped me learn how to deal with them a little better-- and I'd rather avoid them whenever possible but right now Willow needs me and I don't intend to let her down.
"Yes, well, it's that 'almost' part that's bugging me," grumbles the colonel, glaring at us.
This conversation is getting a little too close to some issues we'd really rather not share here so I just hope Lya won't say anything, even though I'm sure she already knows.
"You have nothing to fear from them, not now," volunteers Lya, the problem is that somehow I don't think these people are going to be particularly reassured by that comment.
"Not now? And what would it take for that 'not now' to become a 'now'?" asks Colonel O'Neill, voicing the question I can see on all their faces.