//Xander, would you be willing to watch over Scott, Alan and Andrew for a while? We have a situation developing and need every combat capable X-man in the hanger immediately.// The Professor sent to Xander telepathically.
//Uh... sure Professor. Is it something I can help with?// Xander responded, trying to get used to talking without talking.
//This is where you can help the most. Hank will remain in the building to attend to the children, if there are any problems you can call on his help.// The Professor sent with an undercurrent of impatience.
//I'll take care of them. Go do what you need to do.// Xander sent and felt the telepathic link go silent.
A moment later Warren got up and left the room, nearly at a run.
Xander looked over at the bed where the three men were sleeping soundly, both Scott and Alan resting their heads on Andrew's chest.
* * * * *
As Tara and Dawn were walking from the mansion, Dawn spotted a wooded area and said, "Let's go over there."
Tara followed and within a few moments they found themselves in a clearing among several large trees.
Dawn picked up a fallen leaf and it began to jiggle and shake in her hand, a moment later it hovered above her open palm. Dawn looked at Tara, then with a smile, she tilted her palm toward Tara and the leaf gently floated toward Tara and hovered before her.
"Put out your hand." Dawn said, still smiling.
Tara raised her hand, palm out and the leaf gently made its way down and came to rest.
Tara looked at the leaf, then at Dawn. She felt that she should be freaked out, or at least a little dubious about what she was experiencing, but somehow, she couldn't make herself feel anything but joy at the wonder of the new world opening up before her.
"Would you like to try something?" Dawn asked as she made a gesture and five leaves began to flutter and dance around them.
"Sure, you did say that nothing bad could happen, didn't you?" Tara asked in confirmation.
"Not exactly. It's magic, just like the elements that power it, it isn't good or evil... it just is. For example, fire is a good thing, without it our civilization would probably still be living in caves and eating raw foods. Fire by itself isn't evil, but it can be put to some evil uses... same thing with magic." Dawn finished with a shrug.
"Then why is Willow addicted to magick and you aren't?" Tara asked, truly interested.
"Because the type of magick that she uses needs the power of blood, pain, suffering and demons. It is flashy, it promises easy answers to your problems. The thing is that the solution that you get from magick is usually worse than the original problem. When the new problem emerges, it's just a little easier to call on magick to solve it, and so on, and so on, until you're addicted to the power and every problem has to be solved using magick." Dawn said with an introspective look.
"And how is your magic different?" Tara asked, and sat down under the largest tree at the edge of the clearing.
Dawn sat to join her and said, "First, it doesn't make life that much easier. There are little things that you can do, but all life's big problems are still there and you still have to deal with them. If you understand the basis of elemental magic, then you respect the natural order and use your magic when it will benefit the world around you. It's not like hunting vampires or demons, but it's important to me."
"I don't really understand." Tara said, looking Dawn straight in the eyes.
"Well, if a forest fire were heading this way, I could use my magic to divert the fire away from here and protect the mansion. It would be possible for me to stop the fire completely, but that would interfere with the cycle of growth, death, and rebirth in the area. Does that make any sense?" Dawn asked carefully.
"Yes, but how would you divert the fire? I mean, how would you do something big like that?" Tara asked, back to fascination.
"My strongest element is air, so I would probably use an air spell to change the wind direction away from the mansion in all directions. The surrounding area would experience the same thing that it would have if I weren't here but the mansion would be spared." Dawn said simply.
"Could I learn something?" Tara asked with excitement.
"Sure, but I have to warn you that what I'm going to show you won't be flashy, but it will be real, and the truth. Do you still want to learn?" Dawn asked in warning.
Tara nodded enthusiastically.
Dawn looked around and pointed to a place in the middle of the clearing. "Stand there and relax. I'm going to talk you through a very basic blessing that uses visualization. It will get you familiar with the basics before we try anything substantial.
Tara took her place and nodded to let Dawn know she was ready.
"Face toward the north." Dawn said, and noticed Tara looking around, obviously not knowing which way was north.
"Since the sun is setting, that would be west, turn so your left shoulder is toward the setting sun." Dawn said with a fond smile.
"Now put out your hand at arms length, palm up. Look at that point in the air and lower your hand. Still focusing on the point where it was, picture something that means home and growth, you don't have to tell me what it is, but do you have it?" Dawn asked professionally.
"I have it, I just don't understand it." Tara said in a nervous voice.
"Do you mind telling me what it is?" Dawn asked, hoping she could help.
"When you said family and growing, the first thing that came to my mind was my sketchbook." Tara said, full of confusion.
"Don't worry about it. The subconscious has it's reasons and we may never understand why it chooses one thing over another, but since it did, go with it. Just visualize your sketchbook in front of you at arms length. When you have the picture firmly made, let me know." Dawn said in a quiet tone so as not to distract Tara from her visualization.
"Okay, I can see it." Tara said more calmly.
"Now you're going to turn to face the east, but when you do, the sketchbook is going to remain pointing toward the north, and even though you aren't looking at it, it is still there." Dawn said, trying to help Tara focus.
Tara stood still for a moment then haltingly turned herself to face the east. Dawn waited before saying, "Now we are going to do the same thing, at a point in front of you, an arms length away, visualize something that means love and hope.
Tara immediately had a flash of her old blue teddy bear when the words were spoken. A gentle smile fell across her face as she saw the blue teddy bear form before her mind's eye.
Dawn noticed the smile and could easily tell when Tara was finished.
"Now do like you did before, To the north you have Tara's Earth, to the East you have Tara's water, now it is time to find Tara's fire, turn and visualize safety and comfort." Dawn said, not needing to be so careful now that Tara was getting used to the practice.
Tara saw a plate of her grandmother's cookies appear before her and could even smell them just coming out of the oven.
Dawn gave Tara a moment to become comfortable with the image before saying, "Now you're going to turn to the west and find Tara's air, what makes your heart flutter with excitement, what is your passion?"
Before Tara's mind's eye, the sinewy form of Dawn stood; She was dressed in a brown and green diaphanous gown. There was a wreath of leaves in her hair and a dozen small leaves were swirling around her in a continuous whirlwind.
Tara was surprised by the image, but before she could give it any thought, Dawn said, "Now, remembering that the image to the north is still there; you can turn to face it again. Take a moment to be aware of all four of your elements then let me know when you're ready for the next step." Dawn said professionally, getting the sense that something very important was happening.
Tara did as instructed and without moving to look, could see each of her four elements around her. She nodded her head to let Dawn know she was ready.
"Now focus on a point at the souls of your feet. What you are creating is a representation, not the literal object. You need to come up with a representation of Tara's body. Something that expresses how you feel about your physical appearance and the image you believe other people hold of you."
Tara immediately thought of a pile of worms writhing in filth. She was about to try to make another image when she remembered what Dawn had said about the sketchbook, 'just go with it'.
"Now, drawing a line from north to south and from east to west will cause the lines to cross at one point, that point is Tara's heart. Her emotional center. Is her heart full or empty? Made of cold stone or warmth?
Tara saw the image form of a stone bowl, filled with water. She accepted the image and went back through the other five points to reestablish them once again.
"Now, at a point above the top of your head, visualize Tara's spirit,. The representation of mind, who you want to be, what you want to do, the hopes and dreams for the future." Dawn said fascinated at the emotions that had been crossing Tara's expressive face.
Tara saw a white wolf facing into the wind and looking with peaceful intensity into the distance. She held on to that image for a moment, then went back through the other six one more time to make sure all her visualizations were strong.
"Good, now you've finished the hard part, the next step is to invoke the power to create the sphere of protection. Are you ready for the spell?" Dawn asked carefully, noticing that Tara was completely open and unguarded. The sight was something that she had never seen before... and it was beautiful.
"I'm ready, what do I have to do?" Tara asked calmly.
"Normally, you would say the words of the spell, but it will work just as well if I say the words and you listen carefully to them. Picture as much as you can of the spell in your mind as I say the words. If you feel led to say anything, you can join in or take over, this isn't a strict ritual." Dawn said seriously.
"I'm ready." Tara said and went through the seven visualizations again.
"Facing the north, we call upon the archangel Michael to lend his power and will to nurture Tara's Earth. Send guidance to heal her wounds and strengthen her being."
"Facing the East, we call upon the archangel Uriel to lend his soothing voice to comfort Tara's Water. Lead her to the path that she may find contentment and know peace."
"Facing the South, we call upon the archangel Gabriel to lend his strength to defend Tara's Fire. Hold her close, shield her from harm and repel any attack in accordance with the natural laws."
"Facing the West, we call upon the archangel Rafael to lend his passion to inspire Tara's Air. Lift her up to see the possibilities and encourage her to reach for new heights."
"Facing the north and feeling beneath, We call upon Freyja, Norse Goddess of beauty, to lend your wisdom to the aid of Tara's body. Let nothing unreal remain in the image she carries, and help her recognize the beauty before her."
"Facing the North and feeling within, we call upon Astarte, the Phoenician Goddess of Love to lend your caring to the aid of Tara's heart. Help her to embrace her desires and embrace her passions. Lead her to make wise decisions that will benefit her heart."
"Facing the North and feeling above, we call upon Saint Brigid of Ireland, patron of dedication to lend your will to the aid of Tara's spirit. Please stir the hopes and dreams within her, give her the wisdom to know which dreams to follow and the dedication to follow them."
"So let it be."
"So let it be."
"So let it be."
Dawn finally went silent and closed her eyes, needing a quiet moment to collect herself.
Tara could feel all kinds of new sensations, all of them pleasurable and making her feel more alive than she could ever remember being. She seemed aware of every cell in her body, every molecule of air touching her skin. She could feel the energy and life in the world around her.
Slowly Tara opened her eyes and was mystified. "Dawn." She whispered in awe.
Dawn opened her eyes and saw Tara looking around in wonder. The action seemed strange until she remembered the third or fourth time she performed a spell and was able to see the magic. She closed her eyes again and willed herself to be able to see the magic around her. When she opened her eyes again, she was in awe of Tara. She had a perfect sphere around her body, six of the points she had created were a part of the sphere and the remaining point, her heart, was the sphere's exact center.
Dawn followed Tara's gaze to the trees before them and was astonished at the beauty as the life and magic trickled through the trees.
"Tara, close your eyes and remember what the world looked like before the spell. You'll be able to see the world of magic again anytime you want, just remember this feeling and it will come back to you again." Dawn said reassuringly.
Tara did as she was told and looked around herself to see the mundane world that she was so familiar with.
"That was incredible. Can we do something else, or is it too late?" Tara asked brimming over with energy.
"Which of your elemental points was the strongest, there should have been one that was brighter and clearer than any of the others." Dawn asked, needing to know which element they would be working with.
"The East, Water." Tara said confidently.
"Good, then do you know of any water around here that we can use to try another spell?" Dawn asked; amazed by the transformation that had come over Tara in the short time that they had been acquainted.
"Right this way. There is a pond not too far from here, I can see it from my bedroom window." Tara said with a smile, leading the way.
* * * * *
Scott awoke and put on his glasses.
"Where did our caretaker go?" he asked in a sleepy voice.
"He got called away... they all did." Xander said seriously.
"What's going on?" Scott asked, now fully awake.
"The Professor didn't tell me anything except that every combat capable X-man was being called into action... which leaves us out." Xander said sourly.
"How long ago did this happen?" Scott asked as he pulled himself up to a sitting position.
"About three hours. Hank stopped by once to check on you three, he's watching over the children while the others are gone."
There was a gentle knock on the door and Xander groaned as he got off the chair to go answer it.
"Can we come in?" Artie asked shyly.
"Alan and Andrew are sleeping. You can come visit later." Xander said softly.
"We won't be noisy. Clarissa was kinda scared with everyone being gone and wanted to be with Mr. Summers." Artie said timidly. Xander had no doubt that Artie was also scared by the tone of pleading in his voice.
"Come in, but remember that you promised to be quiet." Xander said and moved back from the door.
* * * * *
Dawn followed Tara and eventually they ended up at a small pond.
"Before we can do an actual spell, you will need to focus on the water. It may seem strange at first, but it will get easier. Just look into the water, then see it through magical eyes like you were doing before." Dawn said and stepped back a little.
Tara thought about what Dawn said and knelt at the edge of the pond and looked into the water. She closed her eyes briefly and remembered the feeling of seeing with magic. When she opened her eyes again she gasped at the beauty before her.
"Can you see it?" Dawn asked in a near whisper.
"Yes." Tara said in wonder.
"Now look at your own hand and see the power that is in you." Dawn said, looking at the scene with her own magical vision.
Tara looked at her hand and could see a yellow glow coming about an inch out from it.
"Now reach out and join your aura with that of the pond. Just imagine it happening and will it to be so." Dawn said with a smile at Tara's look of wonder.
Tara reached out and her yellow glow seemed to stretch out to touch the glow of the water. When her glowing tendril touched the water's aura, Tara could feel energy, calmness, coolness, serenity and peace flowing into her as her aura became lighter and lighter.
"Now separate yourself from the pond. Resist the urge to take power from it and just leave it as you found it." Dawn said in warning.
Tara heeded the words. She closed her eyes and looked back to Dawn with her regular vision.
"It was wonderful. I feel lighter." Tara said happily.
"Good, that's exactly what was supposed to happen. There's one more spell I would like to show you but it might be difficult.." Dawn said as she made her way back to Tara's side.
"Let's try it, I feel like I could do anything tonight." Tara said with a confident smile.
"Good. Look into the water with your magical sight and look into the patterns. If anything looks familiar, just say what comes into your mind." Dawn said and sat on the ground, making herself comfortable.
Tara did as she was told and looked at the ever-changing patterns, then she saw something that looked familiar.
"Andrew." She said, trying to concentrate on that image in the pool.
"Don't try to capture one frozen image, you are going to see thought, movement, emotion, as well as literal images." Dawn said and waited for Tara to put the pieces together.
"How do I recognize what a thought or feeling looks like?" Tara asked honestly.
"Just the same way you saw Andrew. You will look at the images and say the first thing that comes into your mind. If you stop to think about them, you will lose the thread of what's happening and have to start over again.
Tara nodded and looked back into the water.
"Grief... loss... oh God." Tara said and looked away in horror.
"Tara, when were you looking at?" Dawn asked carefully.
"What do you mean?" Tara asked shakily.
"What you were doing is called scrying, or remote viewing. You have the ability to see what is happening or what may happen." Dawn said with caution.
Tara looked back into the water and focused her mind on the shifting patterns. A moment later she turned back to Dawn with tears in her eyes and said, "Later tonight, Oh God Dawn, we've got to stop it."
"Think about what you're saying." Dawn said with warning.
"I'm saying that we've got to stop Scott from betraying Andrew." Tara said, not understanding Dawn's reluctance.
"Scott is the forest, his betrayal is the fire and Andrew is the mansion. If we try to put out the fire, or stop the betrayal, we interfere with the natural order. The best thing we can do is protect Andrew." Dawn said with certainty.
"How?" Tara asked in confusion.
"When a person is hurt, they need to be comforted. Let's provide some comfort for Andrew. Let's make him feel special. Let him know that we care for him. I know that I owe him at least that much after what I put him through the past year." Dawn said from a dark place of memory.
"But we can't do it right away, we'll give him a few hours to digest what's happened, or will happen. In fact, it will probably be best if we don't approach him till tomorrow. Then we'll surprise him. If we try to distract him too soon, he won't be able to deal with the trauma. The trick is to be there when he's been able to deal with what he can but before he starts to brood and become depressed." Dawn said, back to her cheerful self.
Tara thought about Dawn's words and finally asked, "Do you happen to know what kinds of things Andrew like's?"
* * * * *
Alan awoke and put on his glasses. When he looked around he noticed that there were eight children in the room. Four of them were on the spare bed, three of them were sitting together on the floor whispering and the last was sitting on Xander's lap, asleep.
"What's going on?" Alan asked in a whisper as he pulled himself into a sitting position.
"The X-men got called into action. Some of the children were worried and wanted to stay up here with us." Scott said quietly.
"What are they fighting?" Alan asked with worry.
"I don't know. Xander and Hank weren't told anything except that every combat capable X-man was needed. They've been gone for about five hours." Scott said with a voice filled with worry.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Andrew awoke at the sound as two more children were admitted. A young girl, Rachel, had obviously been crying. Andrew saw this and motioned for her to come to the bed. She climbed up and he hugged her.
"What's going on?" He asked with worry at the sight of all the children in the room.
"The X-men were mobilized about five hours ago, the children are worried." Alan said as another child climbed onto the bed.
Within minutes there were six children in the bed with Scott, Andrew and Alan. All that could be heard was the sound of breathing as each of the children was being soothed.
* * * * *
An hour later found all the adults awake and all the children asleep.
Andrew finally asked, "Do you think we can get Hank to check on them? I'm really starting to get worried."
Then they heard movement in the hall as the Professor's voice was saying, "You can't go in there."
The door flew open with a crack and every one in the room was jolted awake.
A moment later the only sound that could be heard was Scott's shaking voice.