The Chosen - S8 Logo

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Wow. This is very exciting. I gotta say, you're just what I expected. More, even. The fire, the power, the rage ... Even after all this time. You just gotta respect longevity.

In the interrogation room, Giles leaned heavily against the closed door and stared at the demoralized and now impotent form occupying the chair in the center. Eyes closed and with drooping head, the Super Slayer's chin rested on her sternum. She was clearly broken and in wretched condition, but breath still remained in her body. Giles watched the rise and fall of her chest for a moment before turning and leaving the room.

Sorry, sorry. I forget the social stuff sometimes, I just get so damned wound up, you know? Allow me to introduce myself – I'm Madrigan. I head up this little group, The Shrouded Cir— Heh. You've heard of us, I see. That's cool, sorta brings the mutual respect up right to the forefront, you know? No need for lame-ass 'let me show you our power so you can fear me' crap. Intimate understanding is the key to any strong relationship.

It was with some reluctance that Willow and Tara disengaged themselves from the embrace that had been so long in coming. Still seated across from each other on the floor of Willow's Sanctum, their lips brushed tenderly before they finally pulled apart, both realizing that this was neither the time nor the place for reconciliation. Nonetheless, the pair exchanged a silent promise – an unspoken affirmation that such a reunion would be realized. Their eyes turned toward the door, having reached an agreement to leave the comfort of their newly found sanctuary and join the others.

Now you're probably wondering why I'm here. Why are any of us here? That's a pretty existential question. My friend could probably lecture you for hours on that very topic ... though you might get it spelled out in Alphabits or something. There's a reason smart cookies have spent entire lifetimes on it though, since it's pretty much the question for most people. Not me though. I figure I got the whole thing sussed.

Kennedy walked down one of the long hallways that led to the entrance foyer of Slayer Central. She moved slowly, inspecting the photographs that lined the walls – images of various Junior Slayers, almost like the pictures found in a high school yearbook. Her body tensed as she paused before one such photograph, depicting herself standing next to Judith. Both faces that regarded her from within the frame wore bright smiles. With narrowed eyes, Kennedy stared at the photograph for a moment and then drew back her fist. The punch that followed was forceful enough to shatter the glass but the Slayer was heedless of the jagged splinters that drew blood from her otherwise white knuckles.

We like to think we have free will, masters of our fate, whatever whatever. That's all hooey. It's a myth we tell ourselves so we can survive the day-to-day. You, me, every last one of us are slaves to one very important thing: choices.

At the Memorial clearing, Buffy paused to reflect. She had no time to stop and rest, but did spend a brief moment in contemplation. Lost in deep thought, she stared at the now almost fully-grown sapling before moving on.

Life's not a wide-open plain where you can go any which way your little feetsies feel like going. It's like a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book. You can do 'a' or you can do 'b'. If you're really lucky, you've got a 'c' and 'd' in the mix too, but life's still a multiple-choice exam.

Standing in front of a mirror in the private training room, Xander hefted a large broadsword, executing practice swings in an effort to loosen his tense muscles or perhaps make tiny corrections to his form. Glancing at the reflection, he was surprised to see Dawn suddenly appear behind him, toting a weapon almost identical to his own. Slowly, he turned to face her, beginning to shake his head. But before Xander could give voice to his concerns, he noted Dawn's expression of grim determination. He gave a small nod in her direction – an acknowledgement that they had found another point in common. Treating her to a tiny smile, the carpenter raised his challenging blade. Dawn quickly followed suit and with a clash of metal, they began to spar.

Not to worry though, cuz I got a system. Take a deck of cards. You've got 52 possible picks – which is really more than most people can handle, let's face it. Looks like it'd be hard to guess which one they'll take, right? Could be a seven of diamonds or a three of clubs ... Who needs that randomness? Way inefficient.

Faith's stride was deliberate as she made her way to Slayer Central. Her expression was unreadable and her eyes looked neither right nor left. Her demeanor was that of a woman on a mission. She apparently had no intention of being diverted and would obviously flout any attempt at restraint.

That's why you stack the deck. To make it really work, though, it takes a bit more than that. You've got to know your players. Know their loves and their fears and their passions and their weaknesses and then just ... offer them the deck. Pick a card, any card. So long as it's the one I want you to pick.

In the foyer of Slayer Central, the front door flew open at the violent push of Faith's hand. She stood on the threshold expectantly for a moment before moving to the center of the anteroom. From the doorway opposite the main entrance, Giles emerged, looking to his right as Dawn also quietly entered the area from another hall. Willow was the next to arrive, coming into view from a hallway to the left of the Watcher. Dawn briefly glanced behind to see Xander standing by her shoulder as Kennedy joined Giles while Tara appeared next to Willow. Finally, entering the building by the same door Faith had used, came Buffy. She quickly strode to the center of the area and took up position next to Faith. All was silence as the gathered group solemnly regarded each other.

Once you know them, they'll pick whatever damned card you want 'em to.

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