"Have you backtracked the email?" the man with the patch asked as he looked at the man with the long black hair who sat across from him. "More importantly, what have you found out about this Xander Harris? Could he be my son?"
"Blood work says it is a distinct possibility. Iíll know more when the DNA test returns," the man said as he opened the lid to the laptop computer. "You may find this interesting Nick; thereís a guy living in that town who goes by name of Steve St. Wolf."
"Why should that interest me, Reb?"
"Take a look at his picture," He replied as he turned the screen toward the man.
"Holy shit!" the large man exclaimed when he saw the picture.
"I got a bad feeling about this..." Nick whispered as he read the small information packet that was next to the picture. "I thought he was the Old manís Champion."
"Says here heís trying to retire," the big man said as he pointed at the last paragraph.
"Donít you believe it," Nick replied. "Why would he of all people retire in a small no-nothing town."
"I wouldnít call it a no-nothing town," Reb replied mysteriously, drawing the attention of everyone at the table.
"Spill it," Nick ordered.
"The name Sunnydale stuck out in my mind, so I did some quick research on it. The Spaniards called this place ĎBorca Del Infiernoí which loosely means Mouth of Hell."
"Mouth of Hell?" Nick repeated absently. A blanket of silence fell over the table at the words. "The Hellmouth?"
"Guyís what would an ex-demon hunter like him be doing trying to retire on the Hellmouth?" the largest man at the table asked no one in particular.
"This doesnít change why weíre here," Nick looked at each man around the table. "Dum Dum, I want you to take Izzey here and go check on the kid; check with the school and find out what heís into. Reb, see if you can locate something about who sent the message. Now I donít know if Steve knows any of you but I want to work this as covertly as possible."
"In the school system now," Reb stated as Dum Dum and Izzey got up to leave. "Heís not the smartest kid on the block and his files have been red flagged. Looks like heís a troublemaker. Itís also linked to five other files that are all kept on the principalís personal computer. Would you like me to check other places?"
"Get a complete background on him and a run down on the other five files," Nick ordered as he stood up. As he stood the back door was thrown open and two people stepped inside.
The appearance of two people would not normally have drawn the attention of this quartet. However this couple would stand out in anyoneís company. The male stood 5í 8" with long light brown hair, a lock of hair standing straight up at the top with a wide band around the base of it, but long enough to fall back down to join the rest. His almond-shaped green eyes jumped around, missing nothing and almost took the attention away from the long pointy ears that poked out from his hair. His tanned bare chest easily showed that he was in very good shape. What drew the eyes of the quartet was not so much his physical appearance as it was the modified long bow he held in his right hand and the modified long sword, which was strapped to his left hip.
Next to him stood a girl about the same age, which was the middle teens. She was a very attractive girl with long hair that had a tint of blue in the blackness of her hair. Her eyes were a clear blue which would melt the heart of the hardest battle tested warrior. One thing that they all noticed was that her dress was a very old style, almost medieval.
He sat motionless and watched as the sun slowly sank behind the mountains opposite of the valley from him. Its last rays changed the hues of the sky from a clear blue to a deep orange, then to a much softer red before darkness covered the land.
He had spent the day on the mountain alternating between prayer, study, and sleep, while Solace spent time with her new friends. Now it was time to return to his quest. He knew as soon as he saw Solaceís eyes upon their arrival here that he would have to sacrifice the time, for Solace needed to renew her bonds with her own kind. However, now that his strength and spells had been restored it was time to retrieve her.
He stood near the edge of the cliff and watched Solace as she landed near a pair of ancient dragons; he felt a powerful presence from behind before he felt the solid aura of good wash over him along with a solid white light. Without a look back he fell to one knee with his head tilted down.
"I am puzzled by your actions," The words although not spoken rushed over him.
"How so?" He asked in his native tongue.
"Raise and face me Arrin Parkin," The words came more softly this time but carried a command with it. "You have been my Chosen for far too long to still act as the learning devotee."
Corellon Larethian, the Father of all Elves waited for Arrin to rise and face Him before He continued. "Your friends have made it known to me that what you face now could possibly be the greatest challenge you have faced in a long time."
"It is a Silerwor. I have defeated them before."
"It is the Silerwor that concerns me."
A questionable look crossed Arrinís face for a moment as he thought of what his Deity had said. After a moment he asked, "What worries you?"
"This land that you are in right now will be strange to you. Many things in it that you would not suspect yet could easily kill you."
"The boy Xander has given me some information about his world," Arrin replied. "I do not think that it should be too hard to determine the rest."
"I will help where and when I am able, of course," Corellon replied as He pointed at the bow. "For now I will release my restrictions on the Bow. It should help you with your journey."
"Be careful in your actions, son, for they can make a difference in the world you travel."
With those words, Corellon Larethian left the area in a slight mist. Arrin stood their for a few moments before he turned back to where he could see Solace and saw that she was now on her way to him. He turned back to his camp, put out the small fire, and rolled his blanket as he prepared to leave the valley.
"When will Robin return for us?" Solace asked as she landed and changed into her human form. There was happiness in her voice that he had not heard in a long while.
"We are not waiting for him," Arrin replied as he turned back to face her. His face was set, a gleam in his eyes that told anyone who knew him that Arrin was ready for an adventure. "We will teleport to the bar. From there we will work our way around town and hunt for the Silerwor."
"Without the others?"
"I do not think they could help us."
Solace knew that when his eyes got that look into them, he was determined to do something crazy and she also knew she was going along for the ride. She stepped up and took his arm as he waved his, and they teleported to the alley behind the bar.
"Shall you ask the questions or should I ask them?" Arrin asked as he put his hand on the door.
"We shall play it by ear this time," Solace teased as Arrin pushed the door open and they stepped into the bar, drawing the attention of four men who were just standing up.
"What the hell are you doing back here?!!!" Willy demanded as he watched Arrin and Solace walk in through the back door. "You caused over four thousand dollars worth of damages and ran out some of my clientele."
"Willy," Solace replied as she walked up to the bar. "I thought we were going to be friends."
"I knew we could not trust him," Arrin said, falling into his Ďbad copí role. Waving his hand toward the four men who now stood around the table he went on "I am betting, three seconds after we walked out of here he was hiring those four to protect him."
"No, I didnít!" Willy protested from behind the bar, surprised that these two were so calm about what had happened earlier. "But you are going to have to pay for the damages."
"Of course we shall," Solace agreed as she threw a diamond down on the bar. "This should more than cover the cost."
Willy picked up the diamond and slipped it into his pocket. Still surprised at this turn of events, he turned back toward Arrin and offered information for the first time. "The two men you are looking for have both come in here separately; one of them I believe recognized the description I gave of you."
"When were they here?" Arrin demanded as he stepped toward Willy, dismissing the presence of the four men.
"One of them just left," Willy replied as he took a hurried step back.
Nick Fury and his Howlers watched as Arrin and Solace walked into the room and realized that this pair was unusual. None of them moved or said anything as the pair started to question Willy.
"Please tell me that is not what I think he is." Izzey exclaimed as he remembered a game one of his cousins tried to get him interested in almost 15 years ago.
"A Vulcan?" Dum Dum asked, his eyes on the very sharp ears.
"I believe he is an Elf," Izzey replied in a whisper.
"Come on," Nick exclaimed, as he looked over the man in question. "They only exist in imagination."
"Are you dreaming?" Izzey asked, "Cause I sure the hell ainít and there he is."
"Looks like they are going to question the bartender," Dum Dum observed. "Wonder why everyone wants to question the bartender?"
"Letís listen and learn," Nick whispered as the Willy was saying, "One of them just left."
"Will he return?" The Elf demanded as the girl looked over toward them.
"I donít know," Willy cried out as he took an uncontrollable step back.
"Back away from him, boy," Nick ordered as he stepped toward the two, followed by the other three men. As they advanced, Izzey, Dum Dum and Reb all stepped out so they would not be in a tight spot if the boy tried to attack them. Even as he advanced, Nick along with the rest of them wondered why Willy would cower before such a young man. He allowed himself only a brief look at the very pretty teenager who even now stood, watching them with a smile on her face.
Arrin slowly turned to face the four men. His eyes quickly scanned each one, and he recognized the telltale bulges of hidden swords; he also saw the handles of the type of weapon the boy Xander carried and wondered briefly what they were. He took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. Silently he called up the power word spell. He said the word as the last of the breath left his lungs. "Sleep."
The effects of the power word spell was instantaneous, however not to the Archerís satisfaction, as two of the rooms occupants fell asleep right where they were standing, which left Arrin, Solace, and the four men. For a minute Arrin stood and looked astounded at the lack of effects; it had been a very long time since his power words failed to have the desired effects. Although he had fought against people who were immune to his spells, he was somewhat surprised that it failed against four men in one group. Quickly he cast a detect magic spell on the chance they might have a charm that protected them, however the spell showed nothing unusual. He shook his head and dispelled the spell. His hand slowly shifted position on his bow as he mumbled. "Blade used to say that Magic was a chancy thing, but a weapon was always effective. I hate it when he is right."
"That wouldnít be something you could walk away from," The big man said as he reached into his jacket and wrapped his hand around the butt of his large handgun.
Arrin smiled as he remembered what had happened the last time one of those weapons was pointed at him. Without a change of facial expression he waved his hand in front of Solace and himself while he mumbled the spell, calling forth the invisible shield. "Sometimes even a fool can gamble with nothing to lose."
"I wouldnít call your life nothing," Reb said as his own hand wrapped around the butt of his weapon.
Arrin frowned as he watched the hands of the four men move toward their sides where their weapons hung. A frown crossed his face as he began to question the strength of his shield. A jokerís smile spread across his face as the seeds of an idea began to grow in the back of his mind. With the plan worked out in his mind, Arrin mumbled a few words as his eyes picked out the strange weapons that each man carried. As he finished the butts of each gun was changed into the stem of a rose, thorns and all.
"OWWWW!" Dum Dum screamed in surprise as his hands closed on what he believed to be the smooth walnut grips of his gun, but instead was a thorn-covered stem. "What the hell?!"
"Doesnít appear that their protection covers all aspects," Solace giggled as she witnessed the same reaction from all the men. "I believe that they have learned their lesson."
"Enough of this!" Nick ordered his Howlers, who were all looking at the rose stem that replaced their guns. He turned his now hard eyes to Arrin and demanded. "Who the hell are you?"
"I do not believe you will have heard of me, for I am not from this place," The Archer replied as he forced himself to calm down. "However it is only fair that you should know who you stand against. I am the Son of Shobin Parkin, he who was the ninth father of the Clan Parkin. I am a High Priest of Corellon Larethian and his Guardian of the Balance, a survivor of the Seven Seals campaign, and one of the Avenging Five. The Lord and sole ruler of the City in the Hidden Valley, first student of Tarack the Warrior, first student of Gath the Thief, first student of Hilda the Illusionist, first student of Condor the Major Magician, fifth and favored student of Baurabus High Priest of Corellon Larethian, the high Archer of the Spine and Master of the Rainbow Bow."
"A lot of titles racked up for one so young," Nick replied, surprise written on his face.
"Age or the passing of it is something that I donít pay much attention to," The Archer replied as Solace barked, a sharp note of laughter next to him at the shocked look on the four menís faces. Annoyed with the situation and realizing that Willy would not wake up any time soon, he turned to Solace and hissed in the Dragon tongue. "Letís go, we will have to get our answers elsewhere."
"Let them go," They heard Nick order as they started out the door. "I came here to find out about Xander and I do not want to get involved with anything else."
The mention of Xanderís name brought Arrin to a halt in the doorway, which caused Solace to walk into him and forced him a few steps further before he could stop. He turned around to head back into the room. He stopped a few feet from Nick and called up and cast the spell on Nick that he had planned to use on Willy to get his answers. His voice was cold as he stopped in front of Nick and said. "If you do not believe anything else, believe this; if you lie to me I will know and you will suffer for that folly."
Not sure what the boy meant, although he understood the words spoken, Nick waved him off and turned his back as if the boy was of no consequence. He looked to Dum Dum and said, "Go to the school as a guest speaker or something like that. Seems that between you and Izzey you may find something to get you into the school to look the kid over."
Arrin was not offended by the brush off that Nick tried to use, for many others had tried the same thing in the past. A wicked smile spread across his face as he thought, //Like the others you will learn.// In a voice that showed no emotion he asked as if Nick faced him instead of away from him. "Why do you seek the boy named Xander?"
"Reb, you have St. Wolfís, or whatever he is calling himself these days, address; go see him and find out what you can. Donít tell him Iím in town but donít lie to him. Bastard has a way toÖ.." Nick started to order as a wave of pain rolled over his intestines, which caused him to double over.
"Tell me why you want Xander."
"Go to hell!" Nick managed to gasp out as another more powerful attack over came him.
Dum Dum was probably the first one who put the threat of Arrinís words to the pain that racked Nick and the realization of this cause him react, his subconscious redirecting his grab for the gun, which was now a rose, to his sword. It came out in one fluid motion and dropped to the classic en garde position. His voice came out slow and easy as he said, "Boy, I donít care if youíre the King of bloody England. Undo what you did or Iíll have your head."
At this point Arrin was way beyond being annoyed; now he was angry. This was the third time this large man had threatened him. This time he would see how the waters ran in this big one. Slowly he pulled his own modified long sword, which caused Solace to move back a few steps. Although she had not been there when Arrin used the sword that almost cut Blade in two, she had heard the stories and figured the best thing to do was to get away from Arrin.
"You should feel honored," Arrin replied as he felt the balance of the sword Blade had given him just before he started this adventure. "I should just blast you with a bolt and be done with it, but your noble idea of protecting a friend has bought you, as slim as it may be, a chance."
Dum Dum looked over his opponent again; although he did not look "comfortable" with the blade in his hands, the words the "boy" used caused him to rethink his position. If this boy could in fact blast him, and Dum Dum had no doubt that he could but refused to do so, spelled trouble with a capital T in his mind. All of a sudden Arrin did not look like an easy mark, however he could not, would not, allow anyone to attack another member of the Howlers and especially not Nick. Without sounding weak Dum Dum said. "We donít have to do this, but I will not allow you to use magic on someone I consider my brother."
"Arrin," Solace intervened on Dum Dumís behalf, her tone showed that she could understand what Dum Dum was talking about.
Again the jokerís smile spread across Arrinís face as he used his left hand to wave, he started the wave at Nick and stopped at Dum Dum. The jokerís smile widened a bit as the pain left Nick. Immediately his eyes fixed on Dum Dum as he said. "Since you feel so strongly for your friend, you will bear the consequences of his follies."
"Pac no!" Solace cried out as she felt the shift of the spell but was too late to stop it.
It had been a very long time since Solace saw the "jokerís" smile that now played upon Arrinís face. At first she did not recognize the signs, but as he moved the spell from one person to the other she knew that the Arrin had moved into his "Pac" personality. That was not the personality that she felt they needed at this time, for Pac found a way to complicate matters ten fold although she had to admit that in the end it all wrapped up nicely.
"Tell me what you want with the boy Xander," Arrin asked again with no emotions.
"Thatís none of your business." Nick replied angrily, moments before Dum Dum grabbed at his side and bent over gritting his teeth against the pain.
"The pain will leave when you tell me." Arrin warned coldly. "It will get progressively worse if you refuse."
"Tell him, kind sir." Solace begged as she looked from Nick to Dum Dum "He does not mean you harm, but he will get his answers."
"Donít tell him shit, Nick! I can take it..." Dum Dum gritted through the pain
"Think about that, sir," Solace said cutting into the conversation, worry in her voice. "If you say anything except the truth it is going to get progressively worse. I have seen people die of it."
"He may be my son," Nick replied after he looked at Dum Dum, who was now on the floor holding his side. The results of his explanation were instantaneous; Dum Dum was now allowed to stand up without trouble. He looked over at Nick with relief plainly on his face.
Arrin nodded his head as he recognized the resemblances in the eyes of Xander and this man. He knew that the spell he used was over once the truth came out, but he felt that the pain his friend felt might keep this manís tongue loose enough that he may get another answer. "Why not go to him about it."
"The boy doesnít know yet," Nick replied. Something told him to trust the girl so he continued.. "Hell I didnít know about it till we received an email the other day."
From the floor Willy moved as the power word lost its effects. Ignoring the now moaning man, as the word sometimes gave the recipient a slight headache, Arrin informed the four men in a voice colder than ice, "This matter does not concern me, but know this; Xander helped me and if he falls due to any of you four, you will not survive our next encounter."
Solace hissed a spell in her native language and teleported them both to the cave where they had spent their first night here.
Dum Dum slowly got up from the floor, the pain totally gone. His eyes were glued to the place where just seconds before the boy and girl had stood. He then turned his eyes to Nick and in a lofty voice, said "Man, your kid has some very scary friends."
St Wolf residence
Same time frame
"Xander put her in the room youíre using. Oz, put him into the other spare room. The rest of you go home and get some rest, Giles, Dr. Greene, I want you to stay for a while longer," Steve ordered as they walked into the house and headed to his office. "I have a quick call to place."
"Hold on hot shot." Robin snapped, stopping everyone as they started to leave. "What the hell happened?"
"Iíll tell you about it later." Amy yawned as she took Robinís hand and again started out the door. "Right now I could use that back rub you promised me before we came home and found all this going on."
"Whereís the Elf?" Steve asked as he looked around.
"Dragon Valley," Robin replied as he walked out with Amy. "Iíll collect Ďem in a few hours."
New Moon Cafe
The sudden ring of the phone caused more than one patron to drop something, all turning as one to look at the device on the wall. Mara moved quickly to answer it so the noise would not wake Lady Harkness, who was finally sleeping for the first time since the Tabatha abduction, in the back room.
"What do you want?"
"Mara, is that you?" Steveís voice replied causing Mara to breath a sigh of relief. "Iíd like to talk to Mistress Harkness."
"Is everything all right Sir Steve?" Mara asked, her voice accented with worry as she moved toward the back room with the phone in hand. The rest of the patrons all started to stand up when they heard the name; she waved them to take their seats as she listened to Steveís reply.
"Everything is fine Mara," Steve replied
"Thank the Goddess," Mara replied as she handed the phone to Agatha who was now standing at the door, her eyes puffy from the worry and lack of sleep that had assaulted her since she received word of Tabathaís abduction.
"Sir Steve, have you any word?" Agatha Harkness asked as she took the phone from a now smiling but crying Mara. "Please tell me she has been found."
"She has been," Steve, replied softly, "She is in a private room here at my home, Iíve a couple of people here whoíll be tending to her wounds and sheíll be ready to travel by tomorrow at the latest."
"Iíll have her teleported here right now, and weíll look after her."
"I donít think that would be wise. Let her have one night of rest I promise I will ensure her safety and well being until I have her sent home."
"May I come to your home and spend that night with her?" Agatha asked as a tear slowly ran down her face, unashamedly starting to cry with relief now that she knew her favorite niece was safe.
"Lady Harkness, at any other time Iíd be honored to have you visit my home, but right now isn't a good time."
"My niece is safe, isnít she?" Agatha asked as she frowned at Steveís words her voice indicating that she would believe what ever he told her as truth.
"She is, and I will keep her that way until we can safely transport her to you."
"Fine, Iíll wait until noon tomorrow, but that is all," Agatha replied before she hung up the phone not allowing Steve to say any more. Her niece was safe and that was all that mattered. A thoughtful look spread across her face as she turned back to the room, her eyes searching for someone, and soon fell upon a heavyset man, "Joshua, I want you and Peter to be ready at on a moments notice to go retrieve Tabatha from Sir Steveís home."
Both men indicated nodded their heads as they stood up and left the room without finishing the rest of their meal. The sullenness had left the rest of the patrons at her words as they started to eat their forgotten food and talked welled up at the recovery of Tabatha Stevens.
After he hung up the phone Steve sat down with a sigh of relief. He had been afraid that Agatha would want to come, but was glad that she accepted his words that everything was going to be all right and would stay home. Right now was not a time for a visit from the old Witch, even though he did consider her a trusted ally. Now that that bit of drama had been played out, he walked back into the living room where Giles and Sydney sat waiting for him to return.
"Thank you for waiting, I believe this would be a good time to talk about what Xanderís choices are." Steve said as he walked into the living room and took a seat.
"Willow, Buffy, and I should be part of that discussion." Cordelia said from the door to the training room where she and the other two girls were waiting for Oz and Xander to come back downstairs. "After all Iím his girlfriend, and Willow had been with him since we were in diapers. Buffy.. well she is Buffy."
"Yeah," both Buffy and Willow added as they stepped into the room, staring daggers at Steve.
"Yeah what?" Xander asked as he came downstairs, followed by Oz, Randi, and Brian.
"I was hoping that we could do this in privacy." Steve stated as he sat down. "Letís all sit down and find out what we are going to do."
"What are we talking about?" Xander asked as he took a seat on the couch between Randi and Cordelia.
"First off we need to get you emancipated," Steve said as he looked at Xander, "then weíll need to talk about what you plan to do about living arrangements."
"Thereís always Majorís Ritterís offer." Xander joked as he thought about how Major Kevin 'Tex' Ritter and Walter 'Gunner' Sanchez had both offered him a place with the 5th SFG. "They do say Uncle Sam wants me."
"Donít think about it Dweeb boy." Cordelia snapped as she smacked him on the back of the head. "That isnít even beginning to be funny."
"Hey!" Xander screamed as he rubbed the back of his head, "I was only kidding."
"I hate to say this," Steve said as he looked around the room. "But itís a good offer, and he could do worse."
"No!" Cordelia barked, "I wonít have him go into the service, he has money and so do I."
"Relax Cordelia," Buffy jested. Her voice turned much colder as she looked at Steve and said. "Youíre just joking right."
"Yes I was." Steve replied, as he looked at all the very upset faces. "But I have to say in my behalf. He did bring up the idea."
"He wonít again." Cordelia growled as she looked at her boyfriend.
"Alright Xander, have you given any thought to what your going to do or where your going to live?"
"Not really," Xander replied as he shrugged his shoulders. "Been a little busy for that."
"I may regret this, but there is a condo in the complex where I live which is for sale. It has been empty for the better part of a year. He should get it for a reasonable price."
"Living near G-Man? I donít know if I could handle that."
"Theyíre nice," Willow replied as she looked over to Xander. "You wonít have to do any yard work."
"What do you think honey?" Xander asked Cordelia who was beaming.
"I think itíd be great!" Cordelia replied with excitement in her voice. "Iíd help."
"Weíll all help." Jenny smiled.
"Ok, Iíll call the woman who sold me this house." Steve said closing that point of business. "Now letís talk about your father."
"Steve there is nothing really to say." Xander said, his voice cold. "He doesnít want me at home. No big deal."
"It is not that simple." Steve said, as he stared into Xander eyes. "Mr. Harris isnít your natural father."
"Maybe," Xander blurted. He continued as nearly everyone's eyebrows nearly rose to the roof. "Hell, we don't look anything alike. Even so, he's the guy who raised me, so that's something to his credit."
"Good show," Giles whispered. Then he smiled at the young man. "A man would be proud to hear that from his son."
"What about your biological father?" Willow asked. "Don't you want to know about him?"
Xander sighs. "Gods, Will Iíve always wondered about who my real dad was.
"How!?" Willow demands in shock as it dawns on her that Xander knew that his 'Father' wasn't his real Father. She feels a little hurt that her best friend held this in for so long, from her.
"When I was younger, back when my dad first started drinking, they had an awful fight one night." A painful look flashed upon his face. "I could only make out a single sentence among the yelling and her tears, but it was more than I'd wanted to hear. I plainly remember him saying, I have no obligation to raise that bastard and from this point on he's your responsibility."
Willow's hands sprang to cover the halted gasp from her mouth. "Xander...I never knew. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I guess I just blocked it out. But now that I think about it, he never hugged me after that day."
After a pregnant pause, Steve said, "We may know who your real father is. And if he's your dad, it'd explain a lot about you."
"You don't say?" Xander drawled coldly. "Tell me, Steve. What kind of man could leave a woman who is pregnant with his child? Look at you. You took in both Randi and Brian even though they're not yours. At least my dad put a roof over my head. Ok, maybe he's not the best dad in the world, but he cared enough to do that."
"Xander, honey," Cordelia cooed. "What if your real father didn't know? I mean, your mother was a young girl when she had you. Maybe she didn't tell him 'cause she was afraid or something. We both know the world isn't all sweetness and light."
He sighed. "Maybe you're right, hon. my mom isn't the strongest person in the world." Then he turned to Cordelia, his eyes wide open with fear. "Cordy, are you trying to tell me something?"
She regarded him with a puzzled expression for a moment, then narrowed her eyes. Then she snorted. "Only in your dreams, Dweeb-boy," Cordelia noted with a smirk, causing the room's occupants to explode with laughter. After she wiped the tears from her eyes, she slapped the back of his head before she leaned over, kissed his cheek, and whispered, "In mine too."
A red-faced Xander rubbed the back of his head, turned to Steve, and asked. "Do you know this guy personally?"
"If the tests prove positive and this man turns out to be your father," Steve said in a solemn voice, "I think you'll find he's a good man, at least from what I've heard about him."
"Uummm," Willow said in a low voice, but it drew everyoneís attention to her.
"What is it Willow?" Xander sighed, as he knew something about Willow that not many of the others realized yet. Willow was somewhat of a busy body who could never leave something alone if it puzzled her. "Whatícha find out about him?"
"According to his blood work and DNA tests, the man in question is a 99.8 percent match." Willow replied with her head down, slowly she raised her head and everyone saw the tear rolling down them. "Xander the chances of this man being your father are almost 100 percent, but, his records are almost as highly classified as Steveís."
"What did you do Willow?" Xander asked as Steve looked over to Willow with a surprised look on his face.
"I ummm," Willow started but could not finish it.
"You got in touch with him right." Xander guessed.
"I sent him an email." Willow replied nervously. "But I did send it bouncing off so many servers that the person tracking it back would have to be better than me to find out who sent it."
"Donít worry about it Willow," Xander replied off handedly. "If he shows up, which I highly doubt, I will deal with it then. Until he does, we still have this other problem."
Dr Greene sat in a chair near the entrance of the kitchen and listened to the conversation in silence. He could easily feel the concern and love that was in the room; however he also felt the undertow that Willow must feel at this time. Xander was as much a mystery to him now as Jarod always had been. The numerous sessions that he had had with Xander showed that Xander was a strong willed young man who put the needs of others before his own, and in doing so found that he could easily escape his own inner turmoil. Now that the problem (his father and home life) was being brought to life in front of the others, he wondered how Xander would react. He knew that if a psychiatrist was to read a profile on Xander or any of this group they would want them all committed. Of them all Xander, like Jarod, was a constant source of amazement for him. He had never complained or questioned his role; he just played it.
"Xander do you fear meeting this man?"
Xanderís bleak eyes cut to Sydney as he asked, "Why should I?"
"I donít know, your actions show you may be."
"Donít wanna get clinical on ya doc, but fear is a state of mind I canít afford to give into."
"Heís just a man," Sidney replied, fighting past Xanderís clown facade.
Cave above Sunnydale
Same time frame
"We start the hunt tonight."
Solace nodded her head in response as she watched Arrin open the Bag of Holding and start to pull out various items. They were now back in the cave where they spent the first night and she knew her lover was in rare form. She thought he would attack those four in the tavern until she recognized the jokester she lovingly called "Pac" showed itself in Arrinís attitude. Now he was all business.
Arrin put on a pair of leather pants and shirt along with knee high boots. Two fingers on each hand held rings while around his neck hung a simple necklace with an ugly stone. He slipped his holy symbol in a pocket in his shirt. The quiver which was built for his arrows was useless now, so he didnít bother putting it on, instead he tied the sword in its place. In a specially designed pouch that hung tightly to his belt were five vials of healing potion. Next he strapped on what looked like a bandolier that carried six throwing daggers. There was a coldness in his facial expression that she had never seen before, and though both Blade and Helga had told her about his years as the Rainbow archer she could never picture him as a vicious killer, but now, watching him dress for war she had to wonder.
"It is just one vampire and one Silerwor."
"I do not think so."
"You believe they joined with some of the local undead?"
"It is what I would have done."
"All the more reason we should join with the kids."
He did not reply as he walked out onto the plateau and looked over the town. After a few moments, he turned back to Solace. "We will end up asking for their assistance in finding the two we seek, only because this is a strange land, however, the actual fight is mine."
"Today I will walk the town, since I wish to learn more of their customs."
"I will be ready in a moment."
He stood on the plateau and looked over the town as he tried to put himself in the position of the Silerwor in a strange land where vampires were common. It seemed obvious to him that the Silerwor would recruit them to his cause, and then he would eradicate any threat. A pernicious smile crept upon his face as he realized that he was the biggest threat. After a few minutes of thought the joy left him as he remembered what Xander had told him about the Slayer. He realized the local undead would claim her as the biggest threat; therefore the Silerwor would go after her first. The Smile came back as he whispered. "Guess I will just have to convince them that I am the biggest threat."
"How will you do that?" Solace asked as she came back out, dressed in the same manner as Arrin, but minus the weapons.
"I believe we will think of something."
The pair joined hands as Arrin recited the words that would activate the Bowís power to teleport them back to the alley behind Willieís bar. Solace changed her appearance to a slightly older woman and calmly entered the bar to find out if the four men were still present, while Arrin waited in the alley.
"They are gone," Solace reported excitedly as she returned a few minutes later. "But there are five vampires in the room."
"Good," Arrin smiled as he walked in. "Let the games begin."
As they walked in, Arrin let his eyes fall into the infrared spectrum so he could pin point the vampires. A wicked smile crossed his face as he heard Willie say. "Oh Shit!"
"You two," Arrin snapped as he pointed out two vampires. "Go tell the others of your kind a new kind of threat is in town and they are here for the Silerwor."
Four of the vampires, new to the area and not aware of the rumors that had been circulating about the Slayer and her band, laughed at what appeared to be a young man just out of his teens dressed like a Conan wannabe. The largest vampire let his Demon face show as he stepped forward to put his hands on Arrin, whose hand had already dipped into his pocket.
The vampireís hands were just about to grab Arrinís arm when a cloud of dust appeared where the vampire once was. Arrinís hand was held out, his holy symbol in plain view. Although the other four did not know what the white object was, they were all repelled from it as if they faced a cross. Arrin was already in motion before the vampires could digest what was happening. His right hand palmed the holy symbol while his left hand brought up the bow. Even though it was not strung, Arrin acted as if it was. His right hand came up and pinched the air where one would assume the string was, and as he brought his hand straight back, the elbow bent and stayed parallel with the ground. The muscles in his upper arm bulged as a sting and arrow of energy appeared. When his hand brushed his cheek Arrin released. When the bolt struck one of the four remaining vampires it exploded, sending dust particles throughout the room. Even before the air partially cleared he had let loose a second and third energy bolt with identical results.
As the bow settled on the last vampire Arrin held his fire. He looked down the energy bolt and demanded, "Are you ready now to take my message to them?"
"Are you part of the Slayerís army?"
"Fear not the Slayer or her group," Arrin replied. "For they are as easy to avoid as the coming of the dawn, I however you shall not find so easy to evade."
"Who are you?" The vampire asked as he backed up toward the doorway to the back room and the sewer entrance beyond it.
"Tell the Silerwor that the Archer is now on his trail. Tell the rest of your kind that he brings death to all those who stand in his way."
Without another word the vampire jumped through the doorway and scrambled down the sewer hatch without benefit of the ladder. Arrin let him go as he turned back to face Willie. His voice was cold as he ordered. "A fine line you walk between the good and evil, so you shall pass the word of what took place here. Spread the news to them that as long as they hide or help the Silerwor, I shall consider them my enemy. For now they do not know what that means when it comes from one such as me, but they will."
"I donít want to be in the middle of your little personal war."
"Than I suggest you close your shop and leave the area," Solace replied with a heartfelt smile. "For when he gets like this, no one short of Blade will be able to stand in his way."
"Tell them Willie; from this minute forth, when I see a vampire I kill it," Arrin replied as he added his holy symbol to the necklace that was already there. He and Solace followed the vampire down the sewer entrance, with the hope that the vampire would lead them to the Silerwor.
He woke with a start; his eyes briefly scanned the area where he was. Something was different, he felt different; disorientated but powerful and more Ďaliveí until the hunger hit him. The demon that now animated his body and part of his mind came to the front and showed him just how different things were. After a moment, the demon who now controlled Billyís body stood up and moved out of the small room and into the main complex that was now Drakeís headquarters.
He stood up and walked around the room as he read into his host, who was obviously into computers, and not the legal kind. In his memories were phone numbers and passwords to various prestigious banks and companies, and one unfinished project that had him stumped. Since the unfinished project did not interest the demon he concentrated on the Swiss bank account that had four direct deposits, each around three thousand dollars. Three days after the deposits were transfers; the money was sent to various charities. A sneer came to his face as he thought of better ways to use the money. He filed that thought away for now and concentrated on his surroundings; the room was barely habitable, though he could see that there were a few beings who called this place home. He could wait, as he thought of an easy meal, there were others he would not mind if he could take a bite out of as well.
As he sat and contemplated what to do next he heard a slight noise, which indicated someone was headed this way. He leaned back and waited for whoever it was while he hoped it was a meal. Moments later the vampire who was his sire and a human (or was it; there was something defiantly different about him) came around the corner. He stood as he watched the pair move toward him.
"What am I doing here?" Billy asked his sire, pointedly ignoring the second man.
"Your host can retrieve information that we need to survive."
"We need a computer, I will go get it"
"Michael will go with you." Drake ordered. "I want you back as soon as possible."
Billy left the room as his mind created a list of people he was going to feed from.
"The tunnels here are much like the thiefís tunnels that run under Portsmouth, only they smell terrible."
"I believe that these tunnels are used to move waste." Solace replied as they walked north to follow the vampire. "Willow and Cordelia told me a bit about it. They also told me that the vampires use it as their passages through the town."
"Well if they know about it why donít they do anything about it?"
"They do care, I will give them that."
"It is one reason they question your appearance."
"They donít need to worry about me as long as they stay out of my way."
"I donít believe that they are worried about you." Solace replied as she turned down a passage that would lead them south toward the cemetery. "I believe that they are concerned that you will go to war with the Silerwor and that the war will harm innocents."
"They should not worry about that." Arrin replied as they stepped into a recently evacuated nest, where five human bodies were discarded after being drained. Arrin moved over to the first body and had to cover his mouth from the stench that floated off the body. It was not death that the body smelled of, for this was a fresh corpse, but the cloths on the body were ragged and old smelling of wine and dirt. Arrin dropped the body back to the ground as he realized that he could not help him. "They are not that far ahead of us."
Arrin followed Solace farther down the passage and passed through several more junctions with Solace always headed south. As they traveled for what must have been fifteen miles, they came upon a door that had recently been opened. As they came within three feet of the door a wave of nausea washed over Arrin. He felt a strong aura of magic on the door and stepped back away from it. Once his energy had returned he cast a spell on the door and found that it was warded against good. Puzzled, he turned to Solace and silently asked, "Why would someone do something like this?"
"An invitation?" Solace replied with an evil grin.
"Normally I would accept, however I have other things to get done today," Arrin replied as he pulled a small pouch from his belt and took out a cream colored powder. He started to sprinkle it on the ground in a half circle, which started about ten feet from the right of the door and bowed around but stayed with in ten feet of the door to the other side. "However letís make sure that no one else accepts the invitation either."
After the powder settled on the ground Arrin cast a spell which warded the area against evil outside of the ward against good. A sinister smile came to his face as the powder glowed for a few minutes before it faded away and disappeared.
"You realize that someone is going to be very upset with you."
"And I was hoping to make a few friends on this world." Arrin replied, matching the sarcasm in Solaceís voice. "Look at it this way, there is a better chance that a vampire will pass through that door than someone good. If I just dispelled it whoever is on the other side would notice and they would know we were down here. This way whoever is on the other side of that door will not be having visitors for a while."
"Is the line the trigger?"
"Yes, if any undead crosses this line the body will be released."
Without a second thought for the door, the pair moved deeper into the catacombs that made up the sewer system under Sunnydale. They traveled about a mile further when Solace noticed a familiar scent in the air; she turned her face down a passage and felt a cool ocean breeze brush her face.
"He did not go this way," Solace remarked as she turned back the way they came from. "A large body of water is less than a mile down this tunnel, which means daylight."
"Damn it, that means he probably went through that door." Arrin snarled at the though of loosing his prey. "Letís head back, see if we can find someone else to take the message out among their kind."
"There are still a few hours of daylight left." Solace advised as they headed back toward the bar. "We would have better luck if we waited until full dark."
"I am beginning to suspect the same thing."
"So where do you think we should go?"
"Back to talk to the kids," Arrin replied as they climbed up a ladder to a manhole cover. "Maybe their leaders are back by now."
St. Wolfís Resident
"Alright," Steve agreed and went about to give out patrol duties to the others. "Xander take your team and patrol the Bronze and the boardwalk tonight, Charlie, Spike and Drusilla can check out the cemeteries on the north end of town while Buffy and I will take the east end. Randi, Brian, Robin and Amy will act as back up here at the house."
"I still have to go get Arrin." Robin replied with a grin. "Well we can leave him in the Valley, Solace seemed to like it there."
"If we leave him there do you think he can find his way back alone?" Steve asked hoping for one more night.
"I donít see how, I teleported us there."
"Fine then leave him there for a few more hours," Steve replied his mind made up. "The last thing we need is someone looking for revenge."
"Fine then, leave him
With everyone in agreement, the groups went out on their nightly duties without giving another thought to Arrin. Already Cordelia and Xander were at each other with their constant badgering. A fact, which seemed to amuse the group and themselves if the truth were told.
"Do you think heíll be ok?" Buffy asked Steve as he watched the group leave the house; her own eyes went back to the figure lying on the couch.
"No way to tell." Steve replied as Methos came to the front door. "As far as the Watchers know, nothing like this has ever happen."
"I hope that Shaw can do something."
"Why donít you call in the Elf who helped me?" Methos asked as he took a beer from the refrigerator.
"I donít know if I want him here," Steve replied as he checked over his weapons for the nights patrol. "He seems a bit, ummm"
"Hard headed? Unstable? Risky? Unpredictable?" Robin helped by throwing out a few words that have been said about Arrin.
"How much do you know of him?" Steve asked as he took a seat, positive that Robin knew more than what heíd already said.
"Where to start," Robin muttered just as the phone rang.
"Itís not late enough for you to be in trouble already Xander." Steve quipped after a quick glance at the caller ID. "So whatís going on?"
"Arrin is down on Main Street, getting arrested."
"WHAT????" Steve asked after a pause.
"We stopped to have some ice cream and all of a sudden, there he is with his girl, being arrested
"I'll be right there."
The line that formed in front of the Bronze was a mixed crowd with people of all ages The two bouncers who stood at the door checked each ID with a bit of care and stamped the hands accordingly. As Nick and Dum Dum moved up to the front of the line they both wondered at the amount of kids who were in line and both wondered how many of them might know of Xander.
"Lot of kids in this line," Nick commented as one of the bouncers looked over his ID.
"Not many other places in this town for them to go safely," the bouncer replied with a note of sadness in his voice. "Iím hoping that will change soon."
Dum Dum watched the wishful expression on the manís face and wondered briefly if he knew something. After his hand was stamped he followed Nick into the building and they walked over to a corner that had not yet become occupied.
"You think Xander comes here?"
"I donít know," Nick replied, just as softly as Dum Dum spoke. "But I would like to talk to someone here who knows who Xander is before I approach him."
As they sat there they watched as more people filtered in the door, their eyes fell upon four overly developed boys with their girlfriends who had just walk in and took a table near the bar. The boys seemed to be more popular than the girls since they had more than a few others their age move up to the table, then after a few quickly exchanged words, they moved away. This was repeated several times within the next hour.
After a while as the three girls left the table to powder their noses, leaving the three jocks alone, Dum Dum left Nick and moved over to see who the boys were and to find out if they knew Xander.
"Hello boys," Dum Dum remarked as he looked down on the table, which caused the tallest of the three boys to stand up his 5í 11" height falling a foot and a half short of this manís 7í 5" powerful frame. "Iíd like to ask you a few questions and buy you a round if ya donít mind?"
"Whatích wanna know?" the boy who was standing asked, his voice squeaking with a bit of fear.
"No need to be nervous," Dum Dum replied with a genuine smile. "I have just heard of this boy named Xander and would like to know more about him."
"Xander Harris?" the boy asked his eyes looking over Dum Dum again. "Whatích want with that asshole?"
"Letís just say that Iím here to bring a little bit of reality to his life." Dum Dum replied with a smile, noting hostility in the boys voice and wondering about it.
"Yea we know him."
"Does he come here?"
"Are ya blind man?" one of the boys sitting down laughed as he pointed to a table near the center of the room "Thatís him right there, with his bitch girlfriend and two more of their outcast friends."
Moving slowly, so as not attract attention, Dum Dum turned his head to face the indicated location and noticed four teens at a table facing one another. Dum Dum noticed how they sat, each one able to watch another's back while their own was being watched and wondered briefly if they did so for a reason. Xanderís back was to Dum Dum but the other young man quickly looked him over without changing expression. Dum Dum didn't react to the boyís gaze but moved back to the table where Nick waited and sat down, his back to the table where Xander sat.
"Donít look directly Nick, but can you see the red-headed boy with the wild hair who I assume is still looking at me, he should be sitting behind me?"
"I see him," Nick replied with a grin as if Dum Dum just told a joke
"The boy sitting with his back to us is Xander."
"I guess that answers that question," Nick replied as he made a quick study of Xander. After a minute the kids around the table stood up as one and moved toward the door to leave, just before they stepped out the red-haired girl took one quick glace around the room her eyes briefly falling on him and Nick before resuming their study of the room.
"Wanna follow them?"
"Yeah, but let them get a headstart. Did you see how the girl looked at us before she walked out?" Nick asked as he drank the last of his beer. "I believe she made us."
"The red hair boy must have told her."
After a couple of minutes, the two stood as one and started out the door to follow the four teens. They kept far enough back to remain hidden from the kids but close enough to observe what they were doing.
"The Belfast stroll," Dum Dum remarked as he watched the red haired girl take her turn in looking behind them. "Modified for sure but that is the Belfast stroll."
"What are you mumbling about?"
"The kids are executing a form of the Belfast Stroll."
Nick watched as the two in the rear took turns in checking their back trail and understood what Dum Dum was saying, but still, the Belfast stroll was something used by special forces so he didnít think these kids would even know what it was, let alone perform it with any degree of accuracy. "I donít think they know what theyíre doing."
"Really? Then Iím guessing that you donít think the brunette knows how to use the gun she has tucked away behind her back, either."
"Looked like a .380 or something equally as small but as you know be it a .22 or a cannon when youíre dead youíre dead."
When three of the kids walked into the ice cream parlor Nick thought now would be the perfect time to get the boy alone and see what he was like. Just as he started to advance, the siren of the police car that just had passed blared, followed closely by the sound of screaming tires. The effects of this were immediate on the boy as he jumped up, the other three joined him and they moved down the street.
When they came to the scene, Nick watched their action of the kids as they saw a couple he thought might be their friend, being arrested. With a bit of confusion, he watched the boy first stop the red-haired girl and then makes a phone call before they backed off to watch from a few feet away.
The two stood in the now growing crowd and watched the situation play out to its conclusion. They were just about ready to advance toward the officer who had taken charge of the scene when they noticed a dark blue Tahoe turn the corner and come to a stop when Xander stepped out from the alley he was hiding in.
"Iíll be damned!" Nick snarled when he noticed who was in the Tahoe. He was tempted to bring this whole thing to an end, walk over and kick the manís ass when he noticed the passenger get out of the car and walk around to hug the red-headed girl.
"Who do you think she is?" Dum Dum asked as watched the disgust play over his friendís face.
"I donít know," Nick replied as he took out his own cell phone, "But Iím about to find out. Call the others and have them get here fast, Iím going to call the Knight General and find out what heíll tell me."
After leaving Steveís house, the four Slayerettes made their way to the Bronze, which would be their first stop. As they came into view of the place they all smiled when they saw the long line at the door. They all knew on a subconscious level that the long lines at the door were in part because of the job they were doing. Each of them felt a sense of accomplishment when they saw things like this.
"Hey guys, full night," The bouncer greeted them as they moved to the front of the line. He dropped the rope to allow them passage. "Have fun."
They walked through the Bronze, headed to their normal table. Each one took time out as they moved to check out the room but saw no sign of any undead visitors. They ordered drinks and some appetizers from a passing waitress before settling down to wait for darkness to head out on patrol.
As their drinks were placed in front of them, Oz noticed two distinguished gentlemen walking into the room. The first man stood close to 7 foot tall with red hair and built like a tank, the second man stood just over the six foot mark with a patch over his right eye, his black hair streaked with gray. Without being obvious, he watched them walk to a table and order drinks. Then the red headed one stood up and walked over to Percyís table.
"Huh," Oz grunted as he watched Percy point toward them.
"What?" Willow asked as she turned toward her boyfriend.
"Big guy just asked Percy who Xander was."
"What did Percy say?"
"Pointed Xander out to him, now the guy is moving to the table behind Xander"
"What is being said?" Xander asked, his voice low as he glanced down into the glass set in front of him trying to get a clear reflection of the two occupants at the table.
Oz tilted his head using his werewolf hearing ability he isolated the conversation that was being carried on at the table. He closed his eyes in concentration as he listened to what was being said when the conversation finally ended he turned to Xander and said. "The big guy just told the man that your Xander, I believe the guy who has his back to you is Nick Fury."
"What!" Xander exclaimed surprised at the name used, but just as quickly got a hold of himself as he made a show of looking at his watch before he went on. "Hey guys itís eight fifteen, we need to be going if we are going to make it to the show in time."
Without delay the four stood up and moved toward the door. Just as they left Willow turned to glance over the room. Her eyes briefly scanned over the man with the patch, then the larger man before she turned and followed the others out the door.
As they left the Bronze the four fell into a modified Belfast stroll with Xander and Cordelia walking in front while Willow and Oz followed a few feet behind, taking turns with quick looks back the way they had come from, to see if they were being followed.
"Weíll wait for them at the ice cream shop."
"Why do you think theyíre going to follow us?" Cordelia asked as she forced herself not to look back, trusting her friends to keep a good rear guard.
"I donít know."
"Here they come," Oz notified the others as the wind carried two distinct scents from behind them.
"You three go in and grab some ice cream, time to find out what these boys are."
"Bait?" Cordelia asked looking worried.
"Something like that."
"Weíll be right inside."
Xander watched the others go inside before he leaned back on a bench to wait and see what the two men would try. He had just gotten settled when a police car cruised by. The car had just passed when it was thrown into a slide accompanied by the cry of the siren. The siren drew the other three out of the parlor and made them all temporarily forget about the two men who followed them. As they moved toward the sound, Xander noticed Arrin who was now against the wall and took out his cell phone to make a phone call.
"Itís not late enough for you to be in trouble already Xander, so whatís going on?"
"Arrin is down on Main Street getting arrested."
"We stopped to have some ice cream and all of a sudden there he is with his girl, being arrested by two local cops."
"I'll be right there."
"Might want to hurry," Xander replied as he heard the click of Steveís phone being hung up.
Squad car (a few minutes earlier)
"Isnít that the Harrison kid?" Officer Wanda Carstairs asked her partner, Officer Daniel Patterson as they passed a bus stop at the end of Main Street. The two are on their way back to the station after a long day of patrol.
"I thoughtÖ" Daniel started but didnít finish as he slammed on his breaks. Turning the wheels sharply to the right, throwing the car in to a controlled tailspin, he yelled, "What the hell is that?"
When Wanda looked in the appropriate direction her eyes grew wide. She saw a the normal foot traffic on the sidewalk hurriedly moving out of the way of a couple who strolled along seemingly without a care. The male of the couple stood just about the 5í5" level with brown hair that was held in a ponytail on top of his head and wore what appeared to be some type of armor and carried a curved staff with a short sword hanging at his side. The girl although did not carry any visible weapons also had some type of armor on.
When the car came to a complete stop both doors flew open as the two jumped out of the car, making sure the door were between them and the Ďsubjectsí. They both had their guns trained on the couple with Daniel on the radio calling in back up.
"Stop right there!" Wanda ordered as she trained her gun on the male who carried the weapons. "Throw your weapons down and face the wall."
"I will place my weapons down." The male suspect said in a stern voice as he moved to comply. "But I will not throw them down as you suggest."
Wanda nodded her head in agreement as the male bent down at the knees and placed the staff on the sidewalk and then slowly unbuckled his belt, placing the sword on the ground next to it. Throughout these moves he never broke eye contact with Wanda.
"Both of you face the wall, reach your hands as high as possible and lean against it."
"Stein is on his way," Officer Patterson said with disgust as he hung up the mic. "Said we should detain them until he gets here."
"Why is he getting involved?"
"Only thing I can think of is heís hoping these two are with the Summers girl," Officer Patterson replied as he looked around the growing crowd and noticed Xander on a cell phone. //great if he finds them here heíll arrest them just to get at the Summers girl."
"Do not put shackles on her," Arrin growled.
"Sorry itís Standard operating procedures." Officer Patterson replied as he started to cuff Solace having already secured Arrin. "Just remain calm and this wonít hurt at all."
"You will take them off NOW!" Arrin demanded, his last word coming out stronger than the others.
"He most certainly will not!" A brown headed man in a suit countered as he came up on the situation, his eyes darted around as if he was looking for someone. "Have you read them their rights yet?"
"Well do it," Stein replied as he looked over the two weapons that lay on the ground. "Then put them in my car."
"Do not touch those weapons," Arrin said as he accompanied Carstairs to a car that was parked just behind the squad car "I do not believe you will like the results."
"Put these in my trunk," Stein ordered Patterson not liking the way the man put the empathies on the word you. "I have some questions to ask these two."
"What do you think heís up to?" Wanda asked Daniel as they watched Stein turn the corner with the odd couple in his car. Just as they were about to get into their own car a dark blue Tahoe turned the corner and Xander stepped out from behind a wall to advance on them. "Looks like Xander wants the same answers."
"No time to talk about it now!" Steve growled as he hung up the phone. "It seems that Arrin and his girl are downtown being arrested."
"I though you said they couldnít get back without your help." Steve demanded as they walked out the door. "I hope that he doesnít cause any problems."
"Hey itís been close to two thousand years since I saw him last, a person could learn a lot in that time."
"Hey buster!" Buffy yelled as Steve shut the door to his Tahoe. "Where do you think your going?"
"Seems that our visitors are being arrested downtown right now."
"Why ainít I in the car?"
"I was hoping to do this without giving Stein any ammo on you." Steve growled in reply.
"So I'm supposed to wait here?" Buffy asked angrily as she opened the passenger door and climbed in beside Robin, forcing him to get in the back seat.
"Of course not."
"Good, now drive old man."
"Finally got one of you this time," Stein snarled to himself as he sped away from the scene with Arrin and Solace in the back seat. "The Mayor can have you after I get enough to bust the Summerís girl once and for all."
/Arrin this man is not stable./ Solace hissed to keep the conversation private
/He wishes to harm who ever this Summerís girl is/
/Before we do anything we will see what he has in mind. I have no reason to see the Mayor yet, but I would like to find out what this man is up too./
As Stein left the city proper he pulled behind a deserted gas station just outside of town and climbed out of the car. Roughly he pulled Arrin out of the car and slammed him up against the trunk while he demanded. "Tell me what you know about the Summerís girl."
Arrin grunted as the air was forced out of him when his body hit the trunk of the car. "Summerís girl?"
"Buffy Summers, donít try to deny knowing her!"
"I know who you speak of, but I am not part of her group so I do not know what they are up to." Arrin replied, his voice calm despite the situation he now found himself in. "Our business here is neither her concern or yours."
Stein grabbed the collar of the robe Arrin wore and jerked him away from the car, only to slam him back into it leaving a dent in it as he said, "Tell me what I want to know or this will be a very rough interview."
/May thoughts of pain or revenge be mirrored back into your mind causing you that same pain./ Arrin hissed in dragon, then went on in English. "I do not work with that group, but you will do well to forget them."
"Buffy Summerís and her group are scrÖ. AHHHHHHH!!!" Stein screamed out in pain as he started to slander Buffyís name, instantly falling to the ground and curled into a fetal ball.
As he screamed Solace exited the car and broke the handcuffs that bound her hands before retrieving the keys from the squad car to take the now broken cuffs off before she moved to remove Arrinís.
"For three days you will feel this pain every time you think of revenge against Buffy or any in her group," Arrin warned in a whisper, as he cast a second spell that would cause Stein to forget their meeting before the pair disappeared.
"What happened?" Steve asked as Xander and the rest of the Slayerettes came to him.
"Donít know," Xander replied as he pointed toward the patrol car. "We got here just as they were putting cuffs on Arrin and Solace."
"Where are they now?" Buffy asked as she watched Officer Patterson get behind the wheel of the patrol car and drive away.
"Stein took them," Willow snarled the reply. "Why does he always have to get involved?"
"Letís go see what we can do."
Not wanting to chance another run-in with the police, Arrin and Solace teleported to a spot across the street from Steveís home and started toward the house. As they stepped onto into the yard and headed up the walk to the front door, it was thrown open by the boy Brian, "Hey there."
Solace smiled at the energetic youth, "Well met Brian, are the others here?"
"Just me, Shaw, and Adam, but Adam is asleep and Shaw is in the back room working. Youíre welcome to come in and wait. Steve hasnít gone shopping this week yet, but I can offer you something to drink."
"Thank you, something to eat and drink would be great, but please allow Arrin to provide it."
The words stopped Brian who was headed toward the kitchen. He turned back to Arrin with a puzzled look on his face.
Arrin had his head bent down, his lips moving in a silent prayer, and as he opened his eyes an eight-foot picnic table laden with food and drink was laid out in front of him
"Please join us," Arrin smiled as he picked up a drink and something that looked like a chicken leg, but was considerably larger.
The three had just sat down to eat when a very exhausted Shaw came into the room and looked at the food that was laid out on the table. Her eyes fell upon Arrin, who was now standing there, waiting for her to join them. In her native language, the Common tongue of Faerun, she greeted him with a slight bow. /"Lord Parkin."/
/"It is I who should bow to you Lady Redstar."/ Arrin replied as he bowed back to her. /"I wish it were under better circumstances."/
/"Lady Redstar??"/ Shaw spitted out as the words as they sank in. /"The Redstars are not nobility."/
/"They are, a minor house to be sure but they are, and one of the three hundred bearers to carry a moonblade during the ceremony over ten millennia ago."/
/"That means you are entitled to be called Lady Redstar, as both of the houses in your family are nobility."/ Arrin replied just as Willow and Oz walked through the door.
Shawís face glowed a deep red as she noticed Willowís eyes enlarge to the size of saucers at Arrinís words. Willow had become a very good student in the Elvish dialect Shaw used, more than good enough Shaw knew, to understood what Arrin had just said.
/"Please Willow, donít say anything?"/
/"I wonít, My Lady,/ Willow replied with a twinkle in her eye that told Shaw she would be hearing more about it later.
"How did you get away from Stein?" Xander asked from the door.
"I was tired of his company."
At the quick intake of breath from Willow and Shaw, Arrin sighed, "Fear not, I allowed him to leave unharmed, physically."
"So Steve and Buffy didnít rescue you?" Willow asked with a sigh of relief.
"I have not seen those people."
"I got it," Xander said as he pulled out his cell phone and moved into the back room.
"This is getting complicated." Solace remarked, shaking her head.
"Ello?" Buffy answered her cell phone as Steve pulled to a stop in front of the Sunnydale Police station.
"Buffy have you reached the station yet?"
"We just got here Xander, give us a bit of time would you?"
"Thereís no need, Arrin was here when we got back to Steveís house."
"Youíre kidding me. How did he get away?" Buffy asked as she shut the door after hopping out to follow Steve into the station. "Honey heís back at your house."
"Thatís the Archer for ya."
"Shut up Robin!" Steve growled as he got back into the car. "Tell Xander to keep him there, I wanna talk to this idiot."
"Steve, the Archer is a lot of things, but an idiot isnít one of them. Donít underestimate him and donít try to second guess him."
"Robin I want you to tell me just one thing about him."
"What is it you want to know?"
"How powerful is he really? I mean on a scale between you at your max and me."
"When I knew him, and that was close to two thousand years ago he was not all that powerful, I really donít think he was ever truly interested in power. So, to answer your question, I would probably place him somewhere between you and Amy," As soon as he saw the stunned look on Steveís face he went on. "It isnít power that makes him so dangerous, itís the fact that heís so damn unpredictable. The spells he uses, arenít used like they are suppose to be." Robin finishes awkwardly.
"What does that mean?" Buffy asked
"One of his favorite spells back then was an enlarge or reduce spell. Not a powerful one at all, in fact itís actually a catnip, a low level spell for entertainment," Robin explained. "Only when he used it, he used it to reduce instead of enlarge or well what ever the occasion calls for. Can you imagine what would happen to a man six feet tall who, in less time than it takes to tell about it, is reduced to seven inches tall. The shock alone could kill the person and if that didnít his boot would."
"Sounds like heís more devious than dangerous."
"Yeah, and heís has had two thousand years to work on it since I knew him."
"So now, he might not only be devious, heís probably a lot more powerful as well," Steve mused aloud. "Unless you think that he stayed the same."
"Two thousand years ago he wasnít dating a dragon."
"Weíll soon find out," Steve comments as he pulls into the driveway.
So intent were the occupants of the car that none of them noticed the Nissan that had followed them since they left the police station.
"Itís about to become uncomplicated," Xander noted as he watched Steve and Buffy pull into the driveway. After a minute he also noticed the beige Nissan pull over to a stop but no one got out, as Steve, Buffy and Robin filed into the house he moved over to Cordelia and whispered something in her ear and they both started to walk out the back door just as Steve, Buffy and Robin entered the front door.
Izzy Cohen and Reb Ralston followed the dark blue Tahoe to the quiet street where it pulled up to a stop and the occupants climbed out and went inside. They watched as Steve St. Wolf walked around and opened the door for the young girl who climbed down from the passenger side followed by a short man in a forest green suit with a floppy pointed green hat.
"Who do you think the girl is?" Izzy asked Reb as they pulled over just down the street and watched as the three move into the house.
"Donít know," Reb replied as he reached back and pulled out what appeared to be a hand held satellite dish with a set of earphones attached, he pointed it to the house where the pair walked in and squeezed the handle which turned the machine on. "But lets see what they are talking about."
Izzy nodded his head in approval as Reb turned on the small tape recorder and sat back to listen to what was being said in the house. "Just get ready to leave at a moments notice."
"Oh I donít think you two will be going anywhere," A male voice floated to them, accompanied by the sound of a hammer being pulled back to full cock, from just behind Izzy which caused him to jump as the hissing of air rushing out of a tire was heard just before the cocking of a second gun could be heard as a cold medal cylinder was placed at the base of Rebís neck.
When they arrived home Steve climbed out of the car and walked over to Buffy, helping her down while Robin climbed out from the back seat. As a group they then moved toward the front door.
"Remember honey," Buffy was saying as she opened the door. "Heís a guest and we donít have a reason to mistrust him."
Steve only nodded his head as they walked in and saw the couple in question sitting at a table Steve never saw before, dining on exotic foods. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Xander shake his head, grab Cordelia and muttered something under his breath as the two of them walked out the back door with Xander pulling out his pistol. Not sure what the pair was up to Steve turned his full attention to the visiting couple and smiled. "Welcome to my home."
"Thank you Sir St. Wolf," Solace replied diplomatically, "I hope that our visit does not cause you no undue discomfort."
"I welcome all to my home," Steve replied with a genuine smile. "Until they prove themselves unworthy."
Willow watched the two leaders face off and knew this would have to be handled as diplomatically as possible so with a slight smile toward Solace she stepped up and introduced Steve in a way that would have been done in court. "Lord Arrin Parkin please allow me to introduce you to Steve St. Wolf, Knight Lieutenant of the Order of the Grail, Personal Champion of the Archmage Merlin and his lady, Niume, and Field commander of Section Seven, the army devoted to protecting our world from Vampires and demons from the Nine Hells
When Willow introduced him to the couple, Steve watched for some type of expression play on Arrinís face but his eyes never registered any emotion as he listened to the long, impressive list. When Willow finished, he slowly nodded his head in greeting while Willow moved on to introduce Buffy in the same manner. When she noted that Buffy defeated Tiamat, Arrinís eyes registered shock as he quickly re-evaluated the girl again.
"Knight St. Wolf," Solace started when Willow finished, bowing slightly to their host while she introduced Arrin. "Allow me to introduce you to my Liege and lover Lord Arrin Parkin, Son of Shobin Parkin, High Priest of Corellon, survivor of the Seven Seals campaign, Guardian of the Balance, One of the Avenging Five, Lord of the City in Hidden Valley, First Student of Tarack the Warrior, First student of Gath the Thief, First student of Hilda the Illusionist, First Student of Condor the Major Magician, Fifth and favored student of Baurabus High priest of Corellon, High Archer of Spine, and Master of the Rainbow Bow. Currently he hunts for the Silerwor who murdered two Manicore children in his escape from our world."
"Well met, Knight St. Wolf," Arrin spoke as he extended his hand in friendship.
"Well met," Steve replied as he accepted the offered hand. "Shall we sit down and talk things out?"
The group sat around the table and waited for someone to open the conversation. After a moment of silence Steve cleared his throat and began, "I have come to understand from Robin and the kids that youíre after a being called in our world a head hunter. You call him a Silerwor and his companion a Toralian Vampire."
"That is correct, and though we have run into yet another whom I feel may need my personal attention, Robin had warn me off of him."
"Is that so?" Steve replied. He was not told about the Mayorís involvement yet. "You realize though that the Torilian vampire has been vanquished right?"
"I was told that the girl known as Cordelia killed him."
"So now we just need to deal with the Silerwor," Steve went on after he nodded to Arrinís statement. "I donít suppose you would be willing to let us handle it."
The dead look in Arrinís eyes told Steve all that he needed to know, and the thought of a revenge minded person hunting in Sunnydale made him a bit uneasy. Yet he realized that Arrin would not leave so he offered the only olive branch he could and hoped Arrin would settle for it. "All right, then we will work together and hunt down this man with you. However my group is very goal oriented, we do not work with vengeance in minds."
"I am here to avenge, there is a difference."
"Difference between ice and water too," Faith smiled as she looked out the front window and watched Cordelia and Xander escort two men to the front door. "Looks like Xander and Cordelia found some playmates."
"Let them in," Steve ordered as he and Buffy stood up, leaving the rest of the group at the table. "Letís see what they have to say for themselves."
Faith opened the door but stayed out of arms reach just incase the two captives tried to grab her as Xander pushed the pair into the house with the muzzle of his gun.
"Someone followed Steve and Buffy," Xander informed Cordelia as they left the house by the back door. "I wanna know what they want."
"How do you know they followed?"
"Letís see they came around the corner about three minutes after Buffy and Steve and they parked in front of a house where no one is home, and they havenít gotten out of the car."
"Could they be visiting?" Cordelia asked as they hopped the back fence and headed out around the block to come up on the blind side of the car in question.
"Donít think so, the couple who lives there are at a convention in Las Vegas and wonít be back for another couple of days."
Cordelia only nodded her head as they moved up quietly on the car. She bent over and slashed the rear passenger tire open when she heard Xander say, "I donít think youíll be going anywhere."
"What," The driver sputtered as he started to turn toward the voice
"Donít move unless I tell ya to" Xander commanded. "And when I tell you to, move slowly and keep your hands in sight."
Cordelia watched as the two men nodded their heads and followed Xanderís, she also noticed that both driver and passenger seemed to be a bit nervous at being caught.
Both Izzy and Reb were familiar with the tone of voice that carried into the car from slightly behind Izzy and they were smart enough to do just what the voice told them to do.
"Good, first you slide out and keep the keys of your car in your hand. When you get out place both of your hands flat on the roof of the car," The voice said after both men nodded their heads. As he moved Izzy tried to get a look at one of their captors, but it was impossible to do so from the way he was being forced to move. After he reached the spot designated the voice went on, "Ok pretty boy, now your turn, slide over to this side of the car and get out just like your friend, and bring your toy with you."
"What is going on?" Reb asked as he and Izzy were corralled toward the house. "Is this some kind of car jacking?"
"Keep your mouth shut," A sharp female voice came to them from behind him just as they stopped at the front door to the house they saw St. Wolf enter. "Now open that door."
Just as the man put out his hand to open the door, it was jerked open and standing in front of them was an very sexy looking brunette haired girl. The Glock 21, which she held in her left hand, somehow added to the overall exotic look of the girl, however, the way her hand held it steady was a bit unsettling.
"Good evening gentlemen, please come in."
"Go on," The females voice from behind ordered, "Just be careful where you put your hands."
Izzy watched as the door was open by the brunette haired girl and wondered just how proficient someone at her age could be with the Glock 21 she held in her left hand. "What is going on here?"
"I said shut up!" The boy from behind snapped as he jabbed him in the middle of the back. "Now get in there."
Without another word he stepped into the house his eyes scanned the room and almost immediately recognized the Elf from the bar, he also recognized the man known as Steve St. Wolf. As his eyes scan the rest of the room, the one thing that stood out was the average age of the people in it, which looked to be around seventeen. However, the way they stood reminded him of soldiers, very self-assured. Even the youngest boy who could not be any older than thirteen had the unmistakable aura of a top-notch soldier. The way he stood so relaxed among the others was very unsettling. They were pushed up against the wall and quickly but professionally searched by their two captors under the watchful eyes of the rest of the room with Izzy demanding. "What the hell is going on here?"
"Iíd like to know that as well," Steve replied as he took the listening device from Rebís hands. "What is going on here Xander?"
"They followed you and were outside trying to listen in on our conversation. Figured theyíd hear a lot better if they were in the room."
"You going to tell us who youíre working for or do we do this the hard way?" Steve asked as his eyes locked on Izzy.
"I got nothing to say," Izzy stated as he tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore the stares.
"Guess we do it the hard way."
"I know these two," Arrin said as he looked them over. "They are working with two others and have interest in the boy, Xander."
"I am definitely getting too old for this shit," Izzy mumbled under his breath as the room turned suspicious eyes their way.
"Want to try this again? Or do we get the information the hard way?"
"What do ya wanna know?" Izzy asked as he looked at Arrin and remembered what the man done to Dum Dum in the bar. "But I would feel much better if we could call our superior and let him tell you what he wants you to know."
"Call him," Steve authorized as he pushed the cell phone toward Izzy from among the weapons and other personal gear that Cordelia and Xander put on the table after the search. Indicating the weapons pointed at the two men, "We donít want you to speak out of turn, do we."
"Status report!" he demanded as he picked up the phone after having just hung up with the Knight General of the Grail.
"We were spotted, right now we are in St. Wolfís custody," Izzy reported
"We are on our way," Nick replied as he hung up the phone and looked over to Dum Dum. "Looks like we are going to meet up with St. Wolf and Xander a lot sooner than I wanted to."
"Donít matter does it?"
"Not really, head to 317 Bryant Terrace that is where Steve St. Wolf lives."
"Heís on the way," Izzy told the room as he hung up the phone.
Steve sat down opposite the two men and looked them over for a minute
"What are your names?"
"Iím Sargent Izzy Cohen," Izzy replied his attitude taking on a military bearing. "This is Sergeant Reb Ralston."
"And thatís the best I am going to get from ya huh?" Steve asked having heard that resolve voice too many times not to know what it meant.
"You can also have my serial number."
"Oh Iím sure we can get more than that," Steve mused as he looked out the window. "But right now I just donít have time."
"Nothing like having everything come together at once," Arrin stated as he leaned back his eyes on Steve.
/Little bastard is loving this, / Steve thought as he looked at the smug look on Arrinís face. /Well the bastard has a long wait if he is waiting for me to fall apart./
//want me to bite him// Duke snickered from the corner where he watched the whole thing unfold.
//No, just watch him and her too. //
"Can I ask him a few questions?" Xander asked menacingly as he moved toward Izzy cracking his knuckles, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Wonít take long at all."
Steve looked over to Xander with a bit of concern, since Arrin had told them that Izzy and his friends were interested in him, Xander eyes had not left the two men. He then turned to the rest of the group and realized that they all had the same look on their faces. This was something he feared, his eyes then drifted to Izzy as he thought. /old son, youíre going to soon realize that where these kids are involved you cut one and they all bleed. /
The sound of car doors slamming from outside jerked Steve out of his pondering as Willow called from the front window. "We have visitors."
"Let them in, lets get the cards out in the open."
Faith moved over to the window next to Willow and looked out; when she got a look at the visitors she softly whistled then said. "He is a big one."
"I can fix that." Arrin replied half jokingly as he looked over to see the smirk on Izzyís face die a horrible death.
"Donít," Steve ordered as he also saw the smug look on Izzyís face fall. "At least not until he or they show some type of aggression. Willow please invite the visitors in."
Arrin turned cold eyes toward Steve as he heard the sharply spoken order. It had been a while since he had taken orders from anyone, human or not, and he was not sure he liked it. The fact that Steve felt comfortable giving the order was even more a surprise, since they had just met. Arrin studied Steve more closely and, for the first time he noticed the signs, the signs that separated Steve from other men. Signs that in his mind put Steve on a level with men like Blade and Condor; men who would walk through the gates of the Abyss to bring back a lost friend. Arrin had reason to believe that particular statement was more than just words for Blade and Condor, and something in Steveís tone held the same quality of command. /For now I will follow your orders Steve, but donít push it./
He turned his eyes toward the front door. It was opened to allow Nick Fury and Dum Dum to enter. The tension in the room shot higher than before when the man known as Nick walked into the room, and headed directly toward Steve. His movements showing a predatorís grace. Arrin watched as the two men stood about three feet apart, looking each other over. The big man stood near the door, his eyes on Willow and Faith, who now stood in front of him. Cordelia and Xander stood near Izzy and Reb, keeping them in their seats.
"Why are you detaining my men?" Nick demanded.
"They are not detained." Steve replied, knowing he had the upper hand. However, he was rightfully aware of Furyís reputation. "We just invited them in."
"Where is your team?" Nick asked as his eyes suspicion-filled scanned the room. As he looked around, a light of understanding filled them but was quickly replaced by rage when he saw Brian walk into the room.
The attack was so fast and unexpected, no one in the room with the possible exception of Arrin, saw it coming. He knew, as should everyone in the room, that when two Ultra Alpha males came together, no matter what species, chances were only one would walk away. More often than not, the winner limped away to lick his wounds while the looser stayed on the battlefield dead.
"Kids!? Youíre using kids!!! You fucking son of a bitch!" Nick growled as he turned on his left foot, bringing around his right fist, which landed squarely on Steveís jaw, sending him into the bar that separated the living room and the kitchen. Following up his attack, Nick moved forward toward his intended victim.
Steve bounced off the bar and came back in a low crouch, waiting for Nick even as the rest of the room busted into sudden action. Izzy and Reb both grabbed the edge of the table, ready to force themselves up to help their boss, but both were forced back down in their seats as Cordelia and Xander put strong hands on their shoulders. Dum Dum started to move forward. His hand reached out to push the Dark Slayer out of his way, but as his hand reached itís full extention, a sharp pain came to his knee, as the dark haired girl was no longer there. Faith had stepped aside even as Dum Dum came forward and kicked out with her left foot, which landed just behind Dum Dumís knee, causing him to fall forward. She didn't stop there; her next attack a clothesline move sent the shocked Dum Dum back into the corner, where Willow, working in perfect conjunction with Faith, put up a minor containment spell which would hopefully contain the large man since. While stuck in a corner his muscles would not be much use.
Steve moved into a classic boxers stance, jabbing with the right to set up a follow up with the left, but Nick easily blocked both. Steve, knowing that Nick would block both attacks quickly changes tatics and his next attack is so unexpected that even Fury did not expect it. Steve swung a loping right to Nickís jaw but at the same time brought his left foot up. It landed his steel toed shoes in Nickís neither regions, causing him to bend over in pain. Steve followed up the kick with a knee to the face, throwing Nick over the back of the couch, which tipped over, spilling both Nick and Solace to the floor. Nick preformed a classic roll over and stand move that took him further away from the now advancing St. Wolf. He was in a crouch and ready as Steve stalked forward.
Arrin watched from his seat and nodded with approval. This was not his fight and he had no intention of interfering with it. He looked for the dog and wondered what it would do, but as he found it he noticed that Duke, who had started to change, now stopped and reverted back to normal. Obviously someone had told him to stand down. Most of the room's occupants, it seemed, were willing to allow the two males to hash it out. That was when he felt the magical energy collect in the room. His eyes drifted to the focal point and noticed two women, each one with hands that glowed with mystical energy.
"Not in the house!" Jenny ordered as she lifted her hand, which lifted Nick to hover three feet off the ground, at the same time Amy did the same to Steve. "If you wish to finish this it will be done in the gym."
Brian watched as the man who had just entered the house attack Steve. Although it came as no surprise since he had seen the same reaction more than once over the past year, he was somewhat surprised when Steve retaliated with more aggression than he had in the past. As he watched the man fly backwards blood flowing out of his mouth and nose. Brian watched as the man fell back into the couch and continued to fall back wards depositing him and the woman Solace on the floor.
/Someone is going to get their ass kicked Duke./ Brian sent as he looked over to where Arrin pushed away from the table and calmly stood up.
/This fight is between Steve and this man, all others should stay out of it./
/A power thing?/
/The guy is still going to get his ass kicked./
"God damn it put me fucken down!" The man screamed as he was lifted off the ground.
"Looks like the women have stepped in," Brain said as he scratched Duke just behind the ear drawing wimpers of content from him.
"See now this is where you donít have a say in the matter," Jenny replied to the manís demand. "First you answer a few questions then we will see about putting you down."
"Damn it St. Wolf!" Nick exclaimed. "What the hell is going on here?"
"You seem to have us at a disadvantage," Jenny said clearly taking control of this encounter. "Who are you?"
"Iím Nick Fury," He barked still fuming.
"And what is the reason you attacked Steve?" Jenny asked sarcastically.
"That bastard should not be involving kids in his activities."
Brian listen to the conversation as the pieces started to fall into place in his mind. This was the man that Willow said was Xander's real father; he must have come here to investigate the email that Willow sent him.
"Put me the fuck down."
"Jenny put us down," Steve ordered
"What are you doing here?" Jenny asked as she allowed Steve down while Amy allowed Nick down.
"I came to investigate an email I received last week."
Xander watched the whole encounter without making a comment he knew that this was the man whom Willow said was his biological father. He was not sure what he felt about the whole thing, he did know that this man weather he be his father or not had no right to come into this house and demand or expect anything.
"That doesnít answer my question."
"My business here was with the boy, Xander. But now, I want to know what the fuck is going on here."
"That is none of your god damn business!" Xander barked tired of the entire dancing around routine. "Tell me what the fuck you want then move on."
"I came here to find out if you were my son."
"Biological maybe, outside that youíre nothing to me."
"I would like to talk to you in private," Nick replied as he looked around the room. "But first I want to know what the hell is going on here."
"Thatís none of your fucken business." Xander coldly replied.
"Boy, I wonítÖ"
"My name is Xander not boy," he barked out cutting off Nickís words.
"You children should not be involved in his activities," Nick said ignoring Xanderís sharp tongue. "There are too many organizations out there that can do this work."
"I get it, you want to bring in a group to fight the big nasties and protect us poor children right?" Xander asked sarcasm dripping from each word.
"I could have a team in here tonight."
"They would be dead by tomorrow," Xander quipped.
"Donít be flippant," Nick smirked. "Any team I brought in would be more than able to handle things here."
"Oh?" Xander asked, "Than tell me, where were these groups when Tiamat tried her invasion? Where were these groups when the Judge tried to drain the world of humanity? Or when the Queen Vampire tried to raise the demon in LA? They were not here thatís for damn sure. We were though and when the next big bad comes along we will deal with that one too. No Mr. Fury, make no mistake in this. We are not involved in Steveís activities, he is involved with ours."
"I will not allow you to continue this!" Nick demanded drawing laughs from all the occupants in the room.
"What do you want here Nick?" Steve asked as the laughter died down.
"I want to talk to the boy."
"Xander?" Steve asked as he turned to the boy.
"I will deal with him, but I really donít know what he can say that is going to change things," Xander replied as he looked Nick over with contempt. Starting toward the room he had been sharing with Brian he motioned Nick to follow. "Come with me."
As they entered the room Xander closed the door and pointed to the sole chair in the room while he sat on his bed. For several seconds neither one spoke then tired of the silence Xander asked. "Tell me why did you come here?"
"I came to find out if it was true."
"Yes, I want to find out if youíre really my son."
"And if I am?"
"If you are, I have a moral obligation toÖ"
"Moral obligation?" Xander barked in disbelief. "Listen you idiot Iím 17 years old. You donít have anything to do with me."
"Listen boy," Nick started his voice taking on an edge. "I just found out about you when I did I came to find out, to find you."
"Now that you found me?"
"I want to get to know you, to see what kind of a man you have grown up to be."
"Beyond that?" Xander asked
"We will see as time goes on."
"Alright I listened to you, now you listen to me," Xander replied with strength in his voice that even surprised him. "If you want to stay here and learn about me the first thing you have to do is learn that youíre not in control here. We are in a situation that needs our full attention; I canít give you the time that I probably should. If you stick around you do so with the knowledge that I will not be giving you too much time. On the other hand if you really want to get to know me this is the perfect time. Just donít try to interfere."
Small office under city hall
Mike Kampton The vampire who got away from Arrin was in a panic believing that the man who had dusted four of his cronies was still after him, he went to the one man he believed could help him. Finding the office empty he took a seat in a corner and waited for someone to show up. His nerves were just calming down and he was about to leave when an African American vampire who everyone knew worked for the Mayor walked into the room.
"Well hello there."
"Mr. Trick you have to help me."
"The Slayer has a new ally, and this one has power I have never seen before."
"Who is he?"
"He called himself the Archer," the vampire replied as nervous sweat rolled down his face. "I need to talk to the Mayor."
"Come with me," Mr. Trick replied as he turned and walked out the door he had entered which lead to a passageway with a slight bank going up. "When we get there you will wait to be recognized before you say a word."
Soon the pair entered a passageway and came to a door with the name Mayor Wilkins written on a nameplate fixed to the door. As they walked in the office Mike noticed looked over the sole other occupant in the room. He had heard a lot about the Mayor and figured that if anyone could help him out of his current jam this would be the one. Instead of listening to Mr. Tricks advice about being calm he rushed forward and leaned heavily on the desk. His eyes were wild as his demon showed itself his voice trembled a bit as he blurted out. "There is a new threat in town and he wants the Silerwor, I think that is Drake."
"Calm down," Wilkins said in a bored voice as he wiped desk where the vampire had his hands. He then sat and leaned back as he looked over the Mike with a bored expression on his face as he asked. "Are you that afraid of one man?"
"I donít know what he is, but he is not a man, well not like any I have ever met," Mike exclaimed fear in his voice. "He has power more power than anyone I have ever encountered."
"Your young," Wilkins replied as he leaned back in his plush chair playing with a pencil as he turned to Trick. "Well Trick what do you know about this visitor?"
"Only that he does indeed have a large about of power."
"I donít need this unknown running around this close to my ascension," Wilkins muttered as he swung his chair around so he was looking out the darken town. Swinging back he looked at Mike and Mr. Trick before he said. "Get word to our informants, I want any information we have on Drake especially his location to get into the hands of both the Slayer and this new guy, with any luck they all will fight and get rid of two problems at once."
"The man did say that he was only interested in the Silerwor, maybe he will leave when it is over," Mr. Trick said optimistically.
"Get it done."
With nothing left to say, Mike and Mr. Tricks walked left the office and headed back down to the sewers. As Mr. Trick put his hand upon the door he jerked it back quickly stepping back away from the door he turned toward Mike and lifting his hand invitingly he said. "After you."
"Talk about being paranoid," Mike said as he opened the door and stepped through feeling a bit weak but forced himself to go on. As he stepped away from the door the spell hit him full force and caused him to stumble falling through the spell Arrin had put in place. As he passed though the body in which the vampire had been housed gave up and turned to dust expelling the vampire from the mortal plain.
Mr. Trick felt the power of the spell but did not understand it immediately; they should not have felt the spell that protected this door. However he felt it, and he could see that Mike felt it as well only being the trusting fool that Mike was he pushed himself on while Mr. Trick stayed on this side of the door. He gasped in shock when Mike was dispatched and involuntarily took another step back away from the door as he realized that something was defiantly wrong here. He turned back and rushed back up the passageway deciding not to take the risk of closing the door.
Mr. Trick was scare as he moved back toward the Mayor's office, scared for the first time in his very long life. He had always survived by aligning himself with beings more powerful than himself and allowed them to take the worst of the threats. Things started to go bad when he and his current boss, Kaikistos, wanted to destroy the current Slayer. That is when they find out there are more than just the one Slayer. Figuring it would be in his best interest to find out what these three Slayers were doing he followed them to the Hellmouth. Where he began to work with the Mayor who was even more powerful than his old boss. Now things were getting complicated, first he realized that this Slayer was not playing by the rules that the Watchers had laid down for them, she had went against tradition and formed an army after meeting her current lover "the Wanderer" who was probably one of the most feared Demon hunter in history, if that was not bad enough now there was this other threat. His thoughts became jumbled as he walked into the office seething //This is the Hellmouth, Vampires are suppose to be safe here.//
"Mr. Trick," The Mayor greeted in a clam voice that irked him. "What are you doing back so soon?"
"The passage is blocked by a very high powered spell. Must be the Slayer and her group again."
"Send the Mage down there to take care of it," The Mayor ordered as he leaned back in his chair. "Please make sure the word is passed to the Slayer and this new fellow. Iíll have second door added."
"She is getting too active for her own good ," Mayor Wilkins muttered as Mr. Trick walked out of the office headed for his duties. "Time to call in a clean up crew."
Wilkins had been around for close to three hundred years and in that time he had used the Order more than once to eliminate treats who had caused him irritations, he however was disgusted with the nature of the Order and so only used them as the last resort. //Seems this is the last resort.//
"What is it?" a voice hissed over the line after the first ring.
"I need to place an order," Wilkins replied his voice as calm as if he was ordering pizza.
"Who is the target?"
"Buffy Summers of Sunnydale California, an extra million if you can somehow get her boyfriend."
A long silence followed the request then a second voice came on this voice angry and defiant. "Mayor Wilkins, we know who you are and what you strive to become, but your request on this matter is denied. The Order does not take on suicide missions and if any of our order is found in Sunnydale that is exactly what it would become suicide."
"I donít understand, the Order has never been afraid of anything."
"We are not afraid, we are just very cautious around beings that for now are more powerful then us." The voice replied and the connection was abruptly cancelled.
"Rude," Wilkins muttered as he hung up the phone thinking of someone else he may call.
Willy knelt in front of the safe in his office, hastily throwing its contents into a large satchel on the floor. He had already been to the bank and cleared out his fast cash account; this was money he had put aside just in case something went wrong, and right now they could not get any worse. The Elf had told him that it was not safe to be a fence sitter right now, and he didnít know how to be anything but. That the Elf was now working with the Slayer made no difference. He didnít believe the Slayer could keep this guy in check for long. Already he had witnessed first hand how the Elf dealt with opposition and he had no reason to doubt that he would turn that trick on himÖ or do worse.
As he shoved the last small leather bag into the knapsack, the bag opened and a single diamond skidded across the floor. Willy turned to retrieve the stone and found that he was not alone in the room. The stone had come to a stop in front of Drake, who was watching Willy with interest.
Drake knelt down to pick it the stone by his foot. As the light caught it he hesitated only a minute, staring into its depths as he stood up. Time came to a standstill as memories washed over him. Memories of a fight, which had happened many years ago, rushed back to him. Only luck had gotten him out of that crater on the ocean floor and to a underground cavern which held enough air for him to live, and it took many years of exploring and digging before he had found a way to get to the world above; years of running into nightmarish things including a black Elf who was bald as a cue ball, only heíd been a mercenary that helped him survive that meeting. Close to fifteen hundred years after he returned to the outside world, he willingly avoided the Archer, in hopes that he would not have to deal with him again. Word of the elfís adventures had reached him from all parts of Faerun; he had no wish to meet him again. Now in a different world, it seemed that heíd drawn the elfís attention again. This time though, things would be different. He knew he had no chance in single combat against the elf, but if he could fool him into believing he was dead, the Archer would have no reason to stay.
"Where did you get this diamond?"
"A customer," Willy replied nervously, holding his hand out for the stone.
"Where is this customer? What did he look like?"
Fear was plainly evident in Willyís eyes as he looked at Drake. "He hasnít been around, and to be honest, I donít plan on being around when he comes back."
"Probably a smart move," Drake mumbled with a final look of disgust toward Willy. Drake turned on his heels and moved to the sewer exit. He did not blame Willy for leaving; he had seen and heard of larger and more powerful beings that ran when the Archer was on the hunt. Recalling all the things he had heard and witnessed about the Archer, it did seem the most prudent thing to do.
As he moved down the ladder that would take him to the sewers, he moved toward his old lair with only two thoughts on his mind. The first was to get to his old lair and destroy all evidence of his passing; the second was to find a way to get in touch with another black mage, one powerful enough to pull off the trick heíd been considering since seeing the diamond.
The vampire Richard was waiting for him as he reached the sewer. Richard had been with Billy and Mike, setting up a new nest a few miles outside of town and was now on his way back to take Drake to the lair.
"We have the new lair all set up," Mike said as he followed Drake to the old lair. "We found an empty warehouse on the beach, next to the wharf."
"Mike, do you know how to contact another Black Mage?"
"Well since the Council was destroyed, theyíre not as organized as before, but I think I can get word to one. Why?"
"Just do it."
When Drake entered the old lair, he quickly but thoroughly searched the room, looking for anything that would lead the Archer to him. His search was in vain for there was nothing left of the place that was recognizable. When he was satisfied that he could not be followed, he started a fire in the middle of the room and watched as it grew. When he was sure that the fire was well on its way he turned and started toward the new lair.
Two hours later, he arrived . Mike was waiting for him with a man who he introduced as Alistair King. King, it seemed, was a Black Mage with a deep grudge against the Wanderer and his bottle-blonde-bitch Slayer. Since the abandonment of the first Black Mage, Drake did not trust them. But for what he wanted, a long term working relationship was not necessary. Heíd use the Mage and then send him on his way.
"I want you to create something for me," Drake ordered. "It is something you probably have never created before, but I have the spell to do it. I just donít have the ability to do it. If you do this for me you will be able to keep the spell."
At the mention of a new spell, King kept his silence until he knew for certain this would be worth his time. He watched the man, introduced as Drake, move around the room with purpose, first digging in one bag for some type of old parchment, then in another bag for what looked like a block of candle wax. Even without the use of his magic sight he could tell the candle was magical, very powerful and very old. But he also knew that it was not from this world. He had never seen or felt anything like it.
Drake moved back toward him and handed him both items. "This is Wax of the Doppelganger, a wax that in itself is created from life. This parchment carries a spell that brings it to life. I need it to be rid of someone who is after me. You could use the same material to rid yourself of the constant hunt from this man they call the Wanderer."
King listened to what Drake had said and it seemed a bit far-fetched. But as he looked over the spell and noticed that it was protected in a way that it could be used more than once, he started to realize that Drakeís idea had merit. Besides, there was nothing for him to lose; he would not even lose any energy to cast the spell since all he had to do was read it from the scroll. It would also be interesting to see who this man, who obviously had more power than he let on, was afraid of if not the Wanderer and the Slayer.
"I will do as you ask," King replied, his voice showing he was clearly in control. After breaking the brick of wax in half, he put the second half in a small bag. "This is Blood magic; to make it work I need a small amount of your blood."
"I know what it takes," Drake said as he cut his arm with a silver dagger, allowing the blood to run freely onto the wax until his Immortality healed the wound. "Cast the spell, take your booty, and leave."
King was not thrilled with taking orders from anyone but decided this would not be a good time to voice his objections. He turned his full attention to the spell at hand, reading the scroll and making the gestures called for. He watched in amazement as the wax grew into an exact duplicate of the man who stood in front of him.
He was amazed at what he saw, although he knew that the spell said what should happen; he still could not believe it had actually worked. He looked back at the parchment and said. "It says you have toÖ."
"I know what I have to do," Drake growled, cutting King off as he violently yanked one of his own fingernails off his hand. He attached the fingernail to the doppelgangerís finger and recited from memory. "Into this world I give you life, to double my space until your death."
King watched in amazement as the doppelganger came to life and turned to its master and said something in an ancient dialect. He was not sure what the copy said, but he did know that this magic could help him avoid the Wanderer. With the parchment and wax safely tucked away, he hurriedly gathered his two vampire concubines and rushed out of the warehouse into the sewer. The three of them quickly left Sunnydale behind.
Drake ignored King and his two girls as they left the room; he had served his purpose and was no longer needed. He now needed to program the doppelganger for its role in the grand scheme of fooling the Archer into believing he was dead. An evil grin spread across his face as he realized that this plan would work if played right. Drake was someone who knew how to make things work the way he wanted.
Sunnydaleís Chief of Police sat behind his large oak desk as he looked at the new officer who had transferred from San Francisco. His service jacket laid open on his desk. In it were a number of minor infractions and more than a few major accusations of planting or removing evidence from a crime scene. The jacket should have been enough to drum any officer out of the force; however this particular officer obviously had something to hold over someoneís head in San Francisco. So instead of kicking him off the force they sent him to Sunnydale, which was the only force in the state that was short of officers.
The Chief tried to be professional as he looked over the jacket. It was easy to smell a dirty cop when the signs were as openly displayed as this one was. He was not against dirty cops, in this town they were the best kind to have. They kept their mouths shut and normally went along with the party line on most issues, wanting to stay out of the limelight, not like the obstinate three; Wanda Carstairs, Jason Hendricks; and Daniel Patterson. They were three of the biggest troublemakers in the department. They didnít go along with the party line; it seemed to him they were always trying to make a name for themselves. Last year he was so disgusted with the three that he actually put them on night duty, but they caused so much trouble with the local talent that the Mayor ordered him to put them back on the day shift.
Closing the service jacket, he looked back up to the man who stood in front of him. 6í 1" with blond hair and deep blue eyes, his broad muscular shoulders narrowed down to a lean powerful waist, the creases in his uniform appeared to be sharp enough to cut.
"Welcome to Sunnydale, Officer Smith," The Chief said as he looked up to at the officer.
"Thank you, Sir."
"We have a unique situation here in Sunnydale," He went on as he picked up a second folder, tossing it to the officer who stood in front of him he said. "This is our position on any unexplained deaths. Stick to it and you will not have any problems. Right now I have only one officer I can team you up with but I hesitate to do so."
"I work better alone," Waco said.
"In Sunnydale no one works alone," The Chief barked. The problem was that the only available officer was Jason Hendricks, and that was not an option he wanted to take. "Until I find out what to do with you, I want you to ride as third wheel with Officers Slate and Wonters."
Waco looked through the folder and could not believe what he was reading. Over sixty unexplained deaths this year, all attributed to street gangs on PCP? He briefly wondered how many people actually believed this, and why werenít these deaths making the news. Sheriff Douglas had told him not to trust anyone, but he was not sure he would be able to learn anymore if he could not find someone on the inside to trust.
He walked into the briefing room seconds before it was called to order and took a minute to look around the room. He wondered how many men here had actually accessed his service record. If the silence was any indication, he figured that most if not all had at least heard of him. He knew what the record contained and was disgusted by it; no police force should have accepted an officer with a service jacket like the one heíd been introduced with.
He dispassionately looked around the room and took a seat in the rear, alone. He listened to the Sergeant drone on about the nightís patrols. As he looked around the room the first thing he noticed was that every officer here had at least two weapons and more then a few had some kind of holy symbol present.
"What the hell?" he mumbled to himself as he listened to the briefing. His patrol would be the night one for the next month. Both Slate and Wonters looked over at him with interest when they were told. "Guess Iíll find out tonight."
Waco rode in the back seat of the patrol car as they patrolled the streets in the early evening hours. The sun had not gone down yet as they cruised down the residential streets. They rode in silence as the driver; Slate stole quick glances at him in the mirror.
"This is basically a slow suburb," Slate informed Waco as he turned down a second residential street. "We patrol each of the residential streets, grab something to eat, and then we go to the center of town and answer calls."
"Sounds reasonable," Waco replied nonchalantly, keeping his real thoughts to himself as he watched out the window, noting the number of houses that were up for sale.
The rest of the nightís shift was spent talking about the town and how it had actually been growing in the past three months. He was sure that the man called St. Wolf and his second in command had something to do with that, but he didnít mention it. His orders were to keep as low as profile with in the police force as possible, and try to find who was ordering the cover up in the small town.
As he leaned back in the squad car, parked outside a large church that was in the center of town, Waco thought. /This is going to be a fun assignment. /
Nick stared in amazement at the young man who had just told him basically to shut up and listen. He was not accustomed to anyone giving him orders and he damn sure did not accept them from a snot nosed kid. "Listen here, boy--"
"No," Xander snarled as he turned to face off with Nick. "You listen to me. I donít know what you think youíre here for, and maybe you think that youíre here to check out some punk kid who may or may not be your son. But what you really found is a situation that you have no control over. We have been here fighting the good fight for the past three years, two of which have been a stand off action. When Steve came we started to gain ground, and have been steadily gaining ground for the past 9 months. Now you can either sit in a corner and watch, or you can get ready and come with us out on patrol."
"You patrol the Hellmouth?"
"What have we been telling you for the past 3 hours?" Xander asked as he picked up a couple of extra clips.
"All Iím saying is that there are groups that were commissioned to do these things."
Xander stopped arming himself and turned toward Nick, his eyes showing the strength and sorrow he felt at Nickís words. As his eyes locked with Nickís he asked in a stone cold voice. "Where were these groups when I had to kill my best friend Jesse? Where were these groups when the vampires attacked the Bronze? They sure the hell werenít here. Seems to me every time we meet someone who is in the know they want us to stop fighting. Tell me something, how do you expect us to walk away when we know what is out there. You give me a good answer to that and Iíll set aside my guns. Until then, either get ready or get out of my way."
Nick stared at him for a moment before he sighed. "Iíll come with you, but someone better tell me exactly how you kids are holding off vampires with pistols."
"OK guys," Steve said as Nick and Xander left the living room. "We still have to patrol. Since we donít know how long those two will be in there, we are going to change areas of patrol tonight. Cordelia, your group will wait twenty minutes and go with or without Xander. There are enough of you that you should be able to handle the patrol without too many problems, but if you get in trouble give me a call. Faith, Buffy, and I will take the trouble spots and cover the Bronze and Boardwalk. You three cover the smaller cemeteries; donít worry if you donít make it to them all just get the hot spots."
"Alright," Cordelia, Faith, and Buffy agreed.
"We can go with them," Dum Dum stated for the rest of the Howlers, who all nodded in agreement.
"You will follow orders given you like the rest of MY team," Cordelia said, confirming that she would be in command of the patrol. She opened a panel in the wall and retrieved three Glock 19ís, along with three clips for each weapon. "Leave your weapons here; you will use these."
Taking the weapons in silence, the team still kept their own just to be on the safe side. Dum Dum looked over the pistol in his hand and then looked at one of the spare magazines taking out the top bullet he looked it over with interest. "What is this bullet made of?"
"Compressed wood," Cordelia replied as she and her team ate from the table that Arrin had provided, finding the taste of the food just a tad off but surprisingly good for magic food. "Lead rounds donít do much to vampires and silver bullets are overkill. But in one of the magazines youíll find Dutch loaded silver and wood. Place that magazine somewhere so you know where it is, just in case we run into something really nasty."
Steve watched the scene play out and knew that Cordelia had made the correct impression on the group of Howlers. Satisfied that she would have no trouble with him and trusting Xander enough to know that he would handle Nick, Steve turned back to Giles. "Giles I want you and Jenny to stay here for support should something come up that one of the groups canít handle."
With nothing else to be said or done, Steve started toward the front door, calling the Slayers to follow him. //Duke keep an eye on the house, make sure no one causes any trouble.//
"I would like to come along with you."
Steve looked back surprised at the offer from Arrin, a gut hunch told him that Arrin was a lone hunter and would not easily take orders from anyone. As he studied Arrin he was about to tell him that he could go with them, but only if he agreed to be a part of the team he himself would be in charge of. Some primitive instinct told Steve that Arrin would not agree to such demands.
"I will work as part of your team and will not do anything with out consulting you first," Arrin said before Steve could say anything. "I am here for the Silerwor and sitting here will not find him."
With such an argument, Steve could only nod his head in agreement. As the four walked out of the house, Arrin turned to Solace. "Stay with the children, if you should happen along the Silerwor let me know so I can come to you and help."
Solace nodded and took a seat next to Brian and Duke, rubbing the back of Dukeís head and bringing a whimper of contentment from the dog.
As they strode into Weatherly Park, Arrin watched and listened to the area around them. At first he did not hear anything strange or out of place, so he moved deeper into the park, following Steve and the girls. As they moved deeper into the wooded area of the park, a feeling of doom swept over him like he had never felt before. He was not a trained Druid, but he could still feel the cry of death from the trees, the ground, and the grass. There was no sign of any living creature that may have lived in this area and that in it self was disconcerting. He was just about to ask about this area when he noticed the change in the girls. Their steps were shorter, more relaxed; the aggression leaving their bodies to be replaced by an innocence which no one would have believed if they had witnessed them only seconds before. He was just about to ask about it when three vampires and one demon stepped into the clear from behind the trees.
"Well, well, well," the tallest of the Vampires taunted as they walked toward the girls. "Whereíre you little girls going?"
"Whatcha say, B; they new to the area or just stupid?"
"Iím guessing c, both of the above."
"Take the vamps, ladies," Steve ordered under his breath as he pulled out Demon Slayer and moved aside, his eyes locked on the demon. "I am Steven St. Wolf and this, if youíre interested, is Demon Slayer. Step forward and prepare to return to your home in Hell, demon."
Arrin watched as the situation unfolded before him; with only three opponents to contend with he stood in the back, wondering if his assistance would be required. But something told him that it was not only unneeded, but unwanted as well. He watched the group separate and felt the powerful magic that flowed from the blade that Steve slid from under his jacket. Where that blade came from he was not sure, as it came out bare. He knew that it was not in a bag of holding for the blade would tear the bag, leaving it useless and the sword lost for all time. His eyes turned to the girls who were also pulling out blades. The blond Slayer known as Buffy pulled out a blade that matched Steveís in power. It had also come from someplace well hidden within her jacket.
While Buffy drew her sword, the brunette drew a sword that emitted a power he was all too accustomed to, but Faith was not the girl he expected to be carrying it. The enchanted blade in Faithís hands, lit up with the same Faerie Fire spell Arrin used himself from time to time, carried the power of the Seldarine, including his Lord, Corellon Larethian! The swordís obvious age meant it could only have been forged in Myth Drannor. The Espruar writing inlaid on the crossguard translated into "Soulreaver." The swordís purpose was obvious; fighting the undead. He nodded in approval over the implications; this Slayer obviously meant a great deal to the Lady Redstar, at least emotionally. Shawukay must have loaned it to this girl for their patrols for vampires that night, as the sword was forged for just that purpose. His eyes were drawn back to Steve and his blade when he noticed that the demon Steve faced off with backed up in fear at the drawing of his blade. He wondered what type of magic the sword held, but could not find out without casting an Identify spell and he would not do that without permission. Nor could he do so without holding the blade itself.
"Demon Slayer," The demon hissed as he looked at the sword. The sword glowed a bright blue and getting brighter every second. If Arrin had not known better, he could have sworn that it was a moonblade like the one Shawukayís ancestors laid claim to. "So it is true the two swords have come together."
Steve was not someone who could let an opening like this get by, so while the demon elected to talk Steve attacked, striking out with Demon Slayer with a classic thrust. The blade vibrated in Steveís hands as it sank into the demonís chest cavity, killing it instantly. Having done this more times than he cared to remember, Steve pulled the sword from out of the demonís chest and wiped the blood on the now dead body as he muttered. "Why is it these creatures always talk before they strike?"
Seeing that the fight between Steve and the demon was over before it really started, Arrin shifted his eyes to Buffy, who was just finishing up with a wide sweep of her sword that just barely nicked the vampire she had faced off with. But the nick was enough as the wound glowed blue for a minute, before the body of the vampire was destroyed.
Faith held the blade forged by Arrinís fellow priests and a wooden dagger. Her fighting style was not new to him, but he only knew two people who could actually fight like this with any type of killing skill and he did not particularly care for either of them. One in fact he promised himself he would kill when they finally crossed paths. The other was someone who went against his own kind and was a constant source of amazement to Arrin, a dark elven ranger he did wish to meet someday. But both of these men were in Faerun and he could not believe that this girl would have had the opportunity to be trained by either one.
Faith moved with skill and purpose. Her body flowed as surely as if it was just an extension of the two weapons. She stuck out slowly with the blade, which the vampire easily avoided by stepping back. But when the vampire jumped back in he stepped into the path of the thrusting wooden dagger, which sunk deeply into his chest and his heart.
"That was very well done." Arrin replied. His comment was rewarded by a bright smile from Faith. /At least now I know her style. Not drow style, but that of rangers of the Dalelands./
"Just not well enough," a voice called from the shadows as twelve more vampires moved into the opening. "They were my brethren and now you are going to pay for their deaths."
As they watched the new group of vampires move out into the clearing, Buffy and Faith moved closer together. They stood side-by-side but tilted to broaden their range of vision, while Steve stepped in front of the two girls. A small smile came to Arrinís face as he moved up next to Steve, his soft voice easily carried to the vampires. "Would you allow me to assist?"
"Seems that there are enough here for all of us."
Twelve vampires were more than he could remember seeing at once and the sight of this many in one place worried him. He took a step forward, putting Steve and the two girls behind him. He was not sure if he could turn all of those present with a spell, but he did know that every one he did take out would leave one less for the main fight that would have to take place after he attacked. A smile creased his face as he realized this might be a good time to get a lead on the vampire. He looked at the vampire who appeared to be in charge and said. "I will only ask this once; if your reply is satisfactory I will be merciful. Where is the Silerwor?"
In the silence that followed his question, Arrin slowly rubbed his neck at the same time he pulled out the silver necklace that held his holy symbol out from under his shirt. The display of the symbol had an instant effect on two of the vampires closest to Arrin who turned and fled from the field without looking back.
There was no reply to Arrinís question so he decided to attack before they recovered. "Go demon I command thee in the name of Corellon Larethian, be gone from this place and leave the body to its final peace."
Almost immediately the spell took effect, as six of the remaining vampires exploded into dust, leaving four left to look around and wonder just what had happened to their brethren. Without pause Arrin raised his bow and pulled back on the imaginary string, sending the energy bolt into the largest of the four, knocking it back in a cloud of dust as it slammed into a tree. Without watching what happened, he turned his bow to the next and sent a second arrow off to crash into the next vampire, with the same results.
As he turned his bow toward the next vampire he held his fire as Faith, who was anxious to get into the fight, decided to help out with one of the two remaining vampires. Even as she moved to attack, Buffy also moved in on the other vampire. Not wanting to take the chance of hitting either of the girls, Arrin lowered his bow and let the girls take out the last two vampires.
The girls finished the two vampires without working up a sweat, however after the fight the girls acted totally different. While Faith was anxious and ready to go on for more excitement, Buffy moved to stand next to Steve, her eyes wide as she looked at Arrin in wonder. "How the hell did he do that?"
"I told you B, he has some serious mojo working for him."
"I call upon the power of my God to vanquish the demonic spirit that controls the body," Arrin explained as he looked around the area, wondering if there were anymore near by. "The one you call Shaw should be able to do this as well."
"Shawís been holding out on us, B."
"Yeah, no kidding."
Steve was also amazed at what had happen, he had never heard of anyone who could dust a vampire without fighting, and he had seen many priests fight vampires but none of them did this. "Youíre saying Shaw can just make vampires turn into dust like you did."
Sensing their mutual shock and disappointment, Arrin realized he might have inadvertently misled them. "Perhaps I should clarify my statement. Shaw has the ability to turn undead like this, but her youth and lower level of power means that her powers will only destroy lesser undead outright. Creatures such as zombies and ghouls. Vampires are more powerful."
"I be tellin' ya," Dum Dum was saying as Xander and Nick walked into the living room. "Vampires are like five times stronger than the normal man, if that little girl runs up against one she is going to get hurt."
Willowís face became almost as red as her hair as she looked over this giant Irishman who was calmly discounting her as a serious player in the group. Her eyes started to bleed black as her redheaded temper started to get the better of her.
"She does have the red hair of the Irish," he went on with a laugh. "At least she has that going for her."
"This is going to be SO good," Cordelia whispered to Oz who was standing near her watching the scene unfold. "The big Irishman is going to be sitting on his ass pretty soon."
Oz smiled as he watched the scene unfold in front of him. He knew his girlfriend well enough to know that when her face took on that shade of red, someone was going to have their head handed to them. He knew that she could take the big guy down in more ways than one, so he just stood by and watched. /Huh./
"Hey Reb, how Ďbout you? You ever seen a girl as dainty as this one?" Dum Dum went on, totally unaware of the dangerous ground he was walking on. He moved closer with his hand outstretched, meaning to ruffle her hair. "What theÖ."
His hand was just above her hair when he started to rise in the air. The rest of the Howlers all stared in amazement as a girl who could not weigh more than one hundred and ten pounds lifted Dum Dum, a two hundred and eighty pound man, in the air. They were further amazed when the "little girl" slammed him against the wall, her eyes now as black as space. Her voice was somehow a lot more aggressive then they would ever have given her credit for as she growled. "Believe me buddy, I keep my dainty appearance for my man, but when push comes to shove I can literally tear you apart in more ways than one."
To illustrate her claim she let him go and stepped away, leaving him still a good three feet off the ground. As she turned away, he was let go and dropped to the ground, just barely being able to catch himself from the small drop.
"What the hell is with you girls?" Dum Dum exclaimed, his thick Irish brogue clearly plain in his excitement. His eyes went from Willowís back then to Amy and Jenny. "Are ye all witches then???"
"Not all of us," Cordelia replied with a superior grin "Some of us are worse, much worse."
"Did Buffy and Steve pull out?" Xander asked as he entered the room, followed by a confused Nick.
"Yeah, we were to wait for twenty minutes then go with or without you," Cordelia replied as she pulled on her coat. "Arrin went with them, Shaw is going to stay here."
"Ok, letís mount up and get our areas done."
"Tex, you and Izzy head back to the motel. Dum Dum and I will patrol with the kids. I wanna see first hand just how good they are," Nick ordered as he, along with Dum Dum, followed the four kids out of the house. One of the first things that caught their attention was the way the kids moved. To an onlooker not in the know, the kids would appear to be a normal group of teenagers on their way to the movies or dancing. On closer examination, it was easy to see that each of them was alert and ready for any trouble that would come their way. Nick watched as Xander reached around his girlfriendís back to tap Willow in play. He also noticed how Xander took a quick look at his surroundings as he made the playful move.
"They are good," Dum Dum whispered
"No kidding, but are they good with the fighting?"
"You two stay back," Xander hissed as the groupís attitude changed from happy go lucky teenagers to predators. "We have company."
Nick watched as five people walked out of the cemetery and headed toward them. They all appeared to be in their late teens, wearing dark clothes; one of them was very dirty. The dirty one stepped ahead of the others and his face showed the attributes of the demon within.
"Just born," Nick whispered to Dum Dum as they stopped a few yards back. "Lets see how the kids handle it."
"Hello, sexy," The dusty vampire said as he moved forward and came to a stop in front of Cordelia, "What is a luscious girl like you doing with a dork like him?"
"Well I could be with a guy like you," Cordelia replied as she reached out to let her hand slowly travel down the front of his chest. As her hand fell away the other hand came up and, in one smooth move, staked the vampire. "But the whole undead thing would get in our way."
"Slayer," one of the surviving four hissed as the others changed to their demon faces.
"Why is it that I am always mistaken for that fashion victim?"
"Could be your wit," the redhead innocently replied, her witch green eyes twinkling.
Already the rest of the group had broken into action. Oz, who was at Willowís right side, decided to make the fight as short as possible and pulled out his Glock 19, shooting the vampire nearest him in the heart twice. The wooden tip bullets did their job and the vampire was reduced to dust. Willow attacked just seconds after Oz, casting a small fireball that took out the second vampire of the group. Xander chose to take it closer and pulled the katana that was strapped to his back as he went. The light Japanese sword, more concealable then his usual flamberge, cut through the air with minimal resistance, slicing up as it made its arc above Xanderís head. The sword was scalpel sharp and as he brought it up, it left a cut on the vampireís front starting from the top of his pants up to his neck. In one continuous move the blade moved around in a tight arc and came back, removing the vampireís head before it could do anything to stop it.
The fifth and final vampire had already seen enough to realize that this group of teenagers was too much for him to handle. He turned to run, fleeing for his undead life. Cordelia saw the vampire turn and guessed what it was about to do, so she took steps to stop it. Even as the vampire started to run, she pulled one of the wooden knives that Steve had introduced the guys too and whipped it underhanded. The blade turned completely, handle over blade before it sank in on target and caused the last of the vampires to turn to dust.
Dum Dum looked at his watch and a low whistle left his lips. "These kids are good, just over 10 seconds from the first sign of aggression."
"That was fun," a very bored Willow stated as she moved over to hug Oz, "Is it me or is the night life picking up lately?"
"Canít expect them to stay away from a place that calls to them and gives them power," Xander quipped as he looked back to where Dum Dum and Nick were standing. "Well, that was just a small rumble. We still have four more places to check out before we call it a night. You still want to go?" An evil grin creased Xanderís lips. "That is, if you old guys can keep up with us young folk."
"Yes, I would love to see more of this," Nick dryly replied as Xanderís phone rang
"Ello?" Xander greeted as he put his sword away.
St. Wolfís house
Same time frame
Solace sat on the couch as she watched Brian play with Duke; Randi sat at the kitchen table doing her homework. Even though she did not mind being left behind to guard the kids and the house, she could not help but think about Arrin and because of that, she missed the ding of the alarm as someone came up to the front door. Her first warning that something was going on was when the fur on Dukes shoulders lifted, his whole attitude changing as he got up and knocked Brian back as he moved closer to the door.
Solace stood up and moved toward the door as Randi joined her. As Solace reached out to answer the door, Randi opened a panel and took out a Glock 21. Keeping it behind her leg as Solace opened the door, Duke also stood near the door. His sense of smell told him that although the man behind the door was human he or she was nervous.
"Willy," Solace greeted as she looked the man over and wondered what would have brought him here. "What can I do for you?"
"I have some information that both your man and the Slayer would like to know."
"What kind of information could you have that we would possibly be interested in?"
Solace heard the bite in Randiís words and wondered at the aggression behind them. Her eyes first went to Randi, then back to Willy, waiting for an answer.
"I know where they might find the one that he calls the Silerwor, but the information came to me second hand, so I mightíve gotten the wrong location. But word on the street is that he and a few others are held up at the old drive-in just outside of town."
"That information may be useful to us," Randi replied as she turned to go back into the house thinking that the conversation was over.
"Iím leaving for the next few days."
"That would be a smart thing to do," Solace replied honestly. "If your information is correct we should be leaving by the end of the week."
"I wonít be coming back till I know for sure everything is over and done with," Willy replied as he turned and walked down the walk.
Solace watched Willy leave before she turned back to Randi, who was waiting in the kitchen. "Can you inform Sir Steven and Arrin what he just told us?"
"I can call them, but we should wait till they return."
"I believe it would be better if we informed them now. By the time they return the news of this visit could get back to the Silerwor, and he could vacate the premises and be gone from our reach."
"You might be right," Randi admitted as she picked up the phone and called Buffyís cell phone.
"It could be a trap," Brian said from the living room.
A mysterious smile played on Solaceís lips at Brianís words, as she thought of the last time someone tried to lure Arrin into a trap. "Do not fear for them little one. Arrin has a habit of blowing up traps before they can be sprung."
"Whassup?" Buffy answered, on her cell phone as they stood around talking about the effects of a clericís power on vampires.
"Buffy," a concerned Randi greeted anxiously, "We just had a visit from Willy."
"What did that weasel want?"
"He told us that the Silerworís held up at the old drive-in on the north side of town, but he ainít alone."
"Thanks," Buffy replied as she snapped the phone closed. She turned to face the others. "That was Randi. Seems Willy came by your house to let us know the Silerwor is using at the old drive-in on the north side of town."
"So where and what is this drive-in?" Arrin asked, a savage grin spreading across his face.
"First we go back to the house and gather the rest of the group," Steve ordered as Buffy got on the phone to call the others. "We try to do things covertly here."
"We do?" Faith asked with a grin.
"Come on," Steve growled as he headed home.
"Hello?" Xander asked as he put the sword back in its sheath.
"Xander," Buffy said from the other end. "We just got information where the Silerwor may be, meet us back at Steveís house."
"Weíre on our way," Xander replied before turning back to the others. "Lookís like the patrol is over, Buffy just said they have a lead on the Silerwor. Steve wants us to meet back at the house."
"Iíll call Reb and Izzy," Dum Dum said as he pulled out his cell phone and made the call as they headed back to Steveís house.
"Theyíre on the way," Randi informed Solace as she hung up the phone. "Robin is over at Amyís and Shaw is upstairs with the guy, trying to cure him from the drain."
"I think you should call the sprite," Solace advised as she thought about the situation. "Arrin believes that the Silerwor will recruit local vampires to work with him, and from what I have seen I would have to agree with that guess."
"Theyíd want Amy here anyway." Randi agreed as she picked up the phone to call the two in. "What should we do 'til they get here?"
"The hardest thing to do," Solace informed the teenager. "We wait."
Randi had just hung up the phone with Amy when a very weary Shaw came downstairs. "Hey Shaw, we just got a lead on the Silerwor, we are calling in the group."
Shaw plopped on the couch. "Wonderful," she moaned.
"Looks like they found the Silerwor," Robin told Amy he hung up the phone with Randi. "Which means that the Archer is going to want to go on the attack."
"Where are we meeting them?" Amy asked as she grabbed her small bag of components and stuffed them in her purse.
"At Steveís house which surprises me."
"Why is that?"
"Arrin is not the kind to wait for the cavalry, he usually IS the cavalry."
"Steve must have said they needed help with this."
"Could be," Robin replied, still not totally convinced as they left Amyís house.
Twenty minutes later the group was gathered in Steveís front room, loading up for an assault on what they believed was the Silerworís new headquarters. Willow sat behind the computer, calling up the plans for that part of the sewer system. She was puzzled for a few minutes after looking them over, but then her face relaxed as she brought up a new page.
"What is it?" Xander asked having seen the look of concentration on Willowís face.
"There is a large power station under the movie theater but it seems to have been sealed off about eight years ago, I had to go to the old blue prints to find it."
"Is that often done?" Arrin asked having heard the conversation. "Back in Portsville, we have tunnels under the city that thieves and assassin guilds use to get around. Sometimes they close off a section because they donít want someone snooping around or they feel that it has been compromised."
"I donít believe that this area should have ever been cut off," Willow replied, deep in thought. "Without a sewer the drive-in would be worthless and that would mean it could never be re-opened."
"Alright, bring it up on the display," Steve requested as he brought the cart with the display device on it. "Letís get a look at what we have."
When the display was brought up all of the Howlers gasped in surprise as Nick asked, "Where did you get this from?"
"Friends who know what I do and wanted to help out." Steve replied, his voice telling Nick that the subject was closed.
Nick nodded his head as he looked over the schematics but keeping his mouth shut.
Steve took a quick glance over at Nick to see if he could read anything on his face, but it was as blank as the surface of a cube of ice. //He is a good soldier at least, maybe we will be able to work together on this one.//
"Ok gang, we are going to need some hard Intel on what to expect here," Steve was saying as he looked over the layout. "Cordelia, call Charlie and have him go in and see about hostages, numbers of opponents, and what type of hardware they have. Xander, you call Spike and tell him to do the same thing. But make sure that they both know we want them out of there when we come in. I donít want any collateral damage on this one."
"'Scuse me," Dum Dum interrupted before he could say another word. "What makes you think that these vampires are going to let your two men in and out of there without some kind of fight?"
"Cause my men are vampires," Steve replied with a slight grin that drew surprised looks from the Howlers.
"Youíre working with vampires!!??" Nick exclaimed, just as surprised as the others.
"Long story and not the time to go through it," Steve said as he studied the display. "Letís just say that our group is made up from a melting pot of different people. We donít discriminate, we have people of different races, creeds, colors, nationalities, origins, religions and even universes."
"Youíre joking right? Nick, please tell me he is joking."
"Sure heís joking," Xander cracked from where he was standing over Willowís shoulders. "The guy with the ponytail and pointed ears ainít an elf, and the guy over there in the green suit ainít a sprite. Theyíre just dressed like that to go to a Halloween party about 9 months too soon."
Steve tried unsuccessfully to hide his grin at Xander's words. Bringing his hand up to cover his grin, he turned toward Buffy and Faith, who were sitting on the couch, pestering Shaw about the power to turn undead. "Gather round girls, letís draw up some preliminary plans to assault this place."
"When are we going to attack?" Arrin asked as he walked.
"Only after we get the information from our spies."
"Fine, just remember that the Silerwor is mine."
"No one is getting anyone until Iím satisfied that no innocents will be harmed."
"What are we gonna do if there are hostages?" Faith wanted to know.
"We get them out."
"Spike knows the place weíre talking about," Xander informed the group as he hung up the phone. "Heís on his way."
"Great," Steve replied as he turned toward Cordelia, "What about Charlie?"
"On his way."
"Alright guys, letís get things ready," Steve ordered the group. "Oz, you and Xander bust out the weapons for close quarters combat. Amy get enough components ready for you and Willow."
"How are we going to do this?" Nick asked as he looked over the floor plans.
"Looks like we do it on a two prong attack," Steve said as he turned back to the plans. "Weíll break up the teams evenly, you and I will be team leaders."
Nick nodded his head in agreement. "Your second in command will be Faith, I am not down playing Dum Dum, itís just that she has more experience in this area. Your team will consist of your Howlers, accompanied by Xander, Cordelia, Oz, and Willow. Shaw will go along with you as a medic, so keep her out of the fight."
"That doesnít leave many for your team," Nick replied as he looked around the room. His eyes falling upon Brian he asked. "You're not going to take him are you?"
A secret smile played upon Steveís face at Nickís question but answered, "No he will be staying here with his sister. I will be taking Buffy as my second in command. With me will be Giles, Amy, Jenny, Arrin and Robin."
"What about her?" Dum Dum asked looking at Solace.
"I will go with Arrin," She replied matter-of-factly.
"All right, now if we learn they have hostages, I will send Spike and Charlie back in to guard them," Steve said, bringing everyoneís attention back to him. "Once we attack, Amy and Solace will secure an escape route on my side, Shaw and Willow will secure one on your side. The rest of both groups will attack."
"Why leave only two girls to guard the exit?" Reb asked with a touch of concern. "I mean I know the red head could take care of herself, but wouldnít it be better if they had back up?"
"Wanna hold the door for us too?" Willow asked giving Reb an innocent expression, which brought giggles from the rest of the girls in the room. "Believe me, Steve is not putting us at the back because he thinks we will get hurt."
"No disrespect meant, maíam," Reb hastened to reply.
"None take, farm boy," Willow drawled.
"I am putting them in the back for two reasons," Steve butted in, more to get Reb off the hook than anything else. "First, Shaw will be able to heal any wounded. Second, they have spells that can be used as long range attacks, which will leave our fighters free to get up close when necessary."
"What if there are no hostages?" Dum Dum wanted to know.
"Then we go in shooting."
With the plan marked out, all the group could do was wait until Spike and Charlie called in to report what they have found.
Drake walked into the area that would soon become his new headquarters Already a group of vampires had gathered. He moved over to where Billy sat hunched over the computer. "Have you found out anything about the Slayer?"
"Havenít found out who she is, but there are two who match the profile you gave me."
"Who are they?"
"First one is Cordelia Chase," Billy replied and pulled up a picture of a gorgeous brunette with cat-like eyes. "Sheís a cheerleader, real ditz until about six months ago, then she dumps her friends and starts hanging out with a group she used to refer to as losers."
"Why would that point to her as the Slayer?"
"Itís just a guess. Sheís athletic and excels at gymnastics, though."
"Good. Who is the other?"
"Her name is Willow Rosenberg." He changed the picture to show a cute red head with a pixieís face. "Recently she was seen doing some pretty powerful magic. Since we donít really know the extent of the Slayerís powers are, we canít rule out a witch who has recently come into her power."
"Well there may be a few, but none that really stand out."
"Get me all the information you can on both of them."
"Hey, Spike!" A vampire called from the other side of the room as the blond vampire walked in, drawing the attention of several vampires. "What do you think about all this?"
"Donít know, mate," The blond vampire replied as he looked around the room. "Whatís it all about then?"
"Weíre going to finally get rid of the Slayer."
"Howís that, mate?" Spike asked, looking around the room to get a count of how many vampires were present.
"Drake will let us know when he finds out more about the Slayer and this army that she is supposed to have," The vampire replied. "Till then we keep a low profile."
"Whatcha doing for food, mate?"
"Some of us go into the city and grab some homeless kids, others go to the blood bank."
"So whoís in charge?"
"Iím in charge," Drake said as he moved over to meet this new vampire who the others obviously looked up to.
"Howíre ya gonna deal with the Slayer when she turns her attention to you, guvínor?"
"Iíll deal with her in my own time," Drake replied. "For now , Iíll stay out of her way and maybe she will do the same for me."
"Slayerís going to have you for breakfast, mate," Spike mumbled under his breath. Out loud he went on as he looked around. "So how many do you have in your army?"
"Weíve just started to grow; right now there are about twenty of us," Drake replied, not thinking anything about Spikeís question. "But Iím hoping to add another hundred or so before I have to fight the Slayer."
"Wait a minute, you only have twenty right now?"
"For now," Drake replied, now getting a bit nervous about the conversation.
"Hey, Charlie," The vampire who greeted Spike called. "Come over here, I wanna introduce you to someone."
"Whatís up?" Charlie replied as he walked over, sparing a quick glance toward Spike.
"Thisís Drake; heís the one whoís going to take care of the Slayer for us."
"Is he really?"
"He has plans, Charlie. Maybe you and him should talk them over."
Drake listened to the conversation between the two men and then took a quick glance back over to Spike. It was disconcerting to watch the play between the men. He could obviously see that they feared both men, however the fear over rode anything else when they talked with Spike. With this new man Charlie, the fear was tempered with respect and he wondered at it.
"Who is this man?" Drake asked the vampire who was talking to Charlie.
"Who, Charlie?" The vampire asked as he turned to Drake, "He is the only vampire who went head to head with the Slayer and made it out alive."
"Hey," Spike cut in, his British accent showing more sharply with the word. "I held my own with the bitch, too."
"Oh yeah we all know that Spike," The vampire said, cowering back and finding something else to do.
"Whereís the food?" Charlie asked as he looked around the room, ignoring both Spike and Drake for the moment.
"I donít allow live food here," Drake warned. Charlie nodded. "It is always a hassle and it draws attention."
"Iíll be back then," Charlie growled as his teeth began to grow. "I need something to eat, no offense but I like my blood pumping."
"Get on with ya then." Spike sneered, showing his obvious displeasure with Charlie. As Charlie left the room he turned to Drake and asked. "So what do you plan to do with the Slayer, mate?"
"First I need to find out who she is." Drake replied as walked over to where Billy was pulling up pictures of various people. "Once we find out, we are going to eliminate her friends. She will make a mistake. We just have to be there once she does."
"Where did I hear that plan before?" Spike mused with sarcasm dripping from each word. "Oh yeah; that was AngelusĎ play. This Slayer donít make many mistakes, guvínor, and you should know that going in."
Spike knew that he had to get Drakeís mind off of Charlie, which would give Charlie enough time to report back to the team about there being no hostages in the area. He was about to leave, when he followed Drake over to the Billy and his computer. On the screen were side by side pictures of Willow and Cordelia, the word Slayer under both pictures. When he saw that, he knew he had to find out what Drake had planned for them.
"I believe this one is the Slayer," Billy said as he turned from the computer to see Spike and Drake standing there. "Sheís the one who better fits the profile they gave me, but Spike here would know if she was the one for sure."
"Thatís her," Spike said as he pointed at Cordelia, hoping that he would be able to get out to warn the group before something happened. He knew he was taking a risk by pointing Cordelia out, but he had to give them something and since her empowerment from Artemis, Spike knew she could handle a few vampires by herself. Also this way they would not be keeping an eye on Buffy, who would be able to slip in behind and surprise the attacking force.
"Iíll print it out and get it circulated right away," Billy said as he turned back to the computer, giving it the command to print.
Watching the printing being done, Spike decided to get out before anything else happened. Reaching out he took a copy of the print and turned to face Drake. "Iím taking this lovely souvenir with me and put it up on my dart board. I might also be able to get you even more information about her friends."
Drake nodded and turned back to Billy as Spike left the area.
"Pack up your gear, take Michael with you, and go to warehouse 17 on Seabreeze Drive down at the docks." Drake ordered Billy once they were alone. "Set up your equipment there and wait for me."
Turning off the computer, Billy followed the orders without question. Calling Michael over, they both packed up their equipment and left the area shortly after Spike had gone.
"He doesnít allow any live prisoners in the headquarters," Charlie was telling the group that had gathered in Steveís living room. "I got out as soon as I got word, Spike was still in there when I left."
"How many exits?" Steve asked as he walked around the display.
"Three," Charlie replied as he though about it for a minute. He went on to point them out. "I wasnít able to go in the back room here though."
"Hopefully Spike can tell us more." Steve mused as he looked over the plans one more time; finally after a few minutes he turned to the group and readjusted his earlier attack plans. "Alright, since there are no hostages to deal with, Willow and Shaw will cover this manhole exit. Only hostiles will be exiting here, so anyone who leaves here you get to dust."
"Hello, doll," Spike greeted a very worried Dru as he came through the back door to Steveís place.
"What kind of information can you give us? Steve asked after waiting for Dru to untangle herself from Spikeís lips.
"Well, he only has twenty vampires in the area with him," Spike said. Moving over to the hologram, he noticed the three openings. "There is a fourth exit here, it leads south off toward the docks. Thatís what took me so long, that and this."
Along with his last words, Spike pulled out the printed picture of Cordelia and Willow with the word Slayer along the bottom of Cordelia picture. Steve accepted the picture as the others looked over his shoulder. A startled gasp came from nearly everyone in the room, except a growl from one and a shrug from the other.
"How the hell did they come up with this?" Xander growled as he snatched the picture out of Steveís hand. "Theyíre going to be coming after her."
"Weíll handle that," Steve replied, trying to calm Xander down. He turned back to Spike whose face was masked with a sudden fear.
"I had to give them something, too many people in there knew I know what the Slayer looks like." Spike hurriedly said.
"Donít worry about it." Steve replied as he turned to the group. "This is a problem, but not the way you are looking at it."
"What do you mean?" Xander growled, his eyes on Spike.
"Look at this picture," Steve said as he looked pointedly at Xander, "What does it tell you?"
"That Cordelia is in danger because of this peroxide idiot."
"Oh Goddess," Willow mumbled as she realized what Steve was getting at. "They have someone who can use a computer well enough to tap into the school records."
"How hard is that?" Steve asked.
"Well, not really that hard," Willow replied, as she thought about it. "Once you have the siteís address, that is. But if heís someone who knows what heís doing, it could lead to trouble."
"Assuming that he knows what heís doing," Steve replied after a minute of thought. "Can you block him?"
"I can try," Willow replied worriedly, as she looked over to the computer system. "Iíll get on it right away."
"No time. Four exits people, someone is going to get away unless we do this right. Giles you take Jenny, Robin, and Amy with you and cover the last exit. Alright people, remember no one gets out." Steve said as he looked around the room. "Letís load up, close quarter weapons only."
"The Slayer has gotten the information they wanted," Mr. Trick told the Mayor as he walked into the room. "It's not going to be safe for anyone who's in league with this Drake fellow."
"Very good," Wilkins replied from his desk, "Any word if this new threat has linked up with the Slayer?"
"Willy was so scared when he left the Wanderer's house, that I can only imagine that the elf was there at the time." Trick sneered.
"Get word to all those who work with us to keep their heads down tonight, Mr. Trick. Something tells me that this Drake fellow has a very short life expectancy. And I don't want to lose any of our boys; after all, good help is hard to find."
Trick nodded his head and quickly left the office. The Mayor turned toward the cabinet that held his altar to the god of the underworld. He opened the doors and knelt before it and bent his head.
"Who are the new players at St. Wolf's house?" Gordon asked his watch operator as he took a look at the console. "And how long have they been there?"
"Actually that's kind of strange; at first we had a level seven and a level eight. Of course there are other lower levels in the house but we really don't worry about them much. A level six at St. Wolf's house is like the summer showers in South West Florida, they come and go. But when anything higher than a six comes we make note of it. Anyway, it seems they left yesterday afternoon and just returned, only now the one who was a level seven is now a level eleven. We really don't know what is going on there."
"Get Steve on the phone," Gordon told Dimitri. He then yelled at the retreating centaur's back, "Also get my father. Something is going on and I want to know what it is."
"What the hell is going on at Steve's house?" Merlin demanded after he was informed that Nick Fury was on the Hellmouth. Not expecting a reply, the old wizard went on just as the phone rang. "Get a squad ready. I want to visit Steve before the sun comes up."
"Sir," a very nervous squire said as he entered the room. After swallowing he held a mobile phone and went on. "Dimitri is on the phone and would like to talk to Lord Merlin."
"What is it Dimitri?" Merlin demanded as he took the phone. After a minute, he shouted, "What? No tell him not to call Steve, I'm on my way to his house right now."
"Fine, we will swing by and pick him up on our way." Merlin finished the conversation hanging up the phone. Lightning bolts played across his eyes as he turned to a startled Knight General. "I don't know what the hell is going on down there but it is time we found out. I want a company of Knights, volunteers only, to move into the area by the end of the month."
"That won't really be necessary, we already have one Knight in the area, also the Cybertronics building is going to be a fortified base of operations.†† Gordon and his staff will be working it over from the inside out. Besides, you know as well as I do, that Steve won't allow that many to move into the area."
"Well it's about time something is done with the Hellmouth, we have been letting him play alone there for far too long." Merlin shook his head in disgust. After a few minutes he went on, "Seems that Nick is not the only one who is visiting the Hellmouth, there are three new players who may take some handling. Right now at Steve's house there are a level eight and eleven. There's a new level four but that might be one of his Immortal friends."
St. Wolf's home
"I suppose I get to stay here, huh?" Brian observed as he looked around the room, watching everyone gear up for the assault that would take place upon the Silerwor's headquarters.
"Sorry Brian, but I really need someone here at the house and you're my best man."
"Steve," a very exasperated Brian mumbled under his breath.† Straightening his shoulders, he looked Steve in the eye before going on. "You can't protect me forever."
"He has a point there," Xander replied as he pulled back the slide on his MP5.
Brian saw the hurt in Buffy's eyes before he turned to see the look in his sister's eyes. He realized that this was not the time to push the issue; he had won a minor victory and was willing to concede the rest to Steve's experience and his sister's concern. Moving over to where Duke sat with his head between his paws, he scratched the dog's head just behind the ears. "All right, I'll guard the house with Duke."
He watched the rest gather their weapons and noticed that even the four new men were now following Steve's orders, and not questioning the logic behind the different ammo that was being dealt out. His eyes then went to the new elf and the girl dragon with him. Xander was trying to put a gun in his hands but the elf steadfastly refused the weapon, saying something about his bow being all he would need.
Brian stood at the door and watched the four vehicles drive away, his sister in one of them, and wished them all good luck. As they turned the corner he closed the door and walked back to the couch were Duke lay. "Looks like we're alone again."
"Well now, I would not go that far," Marc Le Chevalier, The Knight General, said in a booming voice as he entered the room, startling Brian just a bit.
"Hey guys," Brian called happily as he rushed to the training room the group was coming out of. He looked around, which brought smiles to all the knights present.
"Who are you looking for, boy?" Merlin asked, a smile on his face as he took a seat in the room's sole recliner.
"Kat, where is she?"
"Sorry son," Merlin replied conjuring up a beer directly from Steve's kitchen. "She is working with Niume today; studying, which is something that you should be doing."
"Awww," Brian replied, dipping his head a bit to hide his smile. Merlin was always on him about his schoolwork.
"Well, where is Steve?" Merlin asked, abruptly changing the subject.
"They went on a hunt."
"Oh?" Marc looked sharply at Brian, "What are they hunting?"
"Something called a Silerwor, or a headhunter," he replied, recalling all he knew about what was going on. He gave Merlin and Marc a detailed update on what was happening on the Hellmouth. "Seems that this Silerwor, or headhunter came through some kind of gate from Faerun. On his way through he and a vampire killed a couple of Minotaur children. Not sure about that, but they did something to piss someone off Ďcause the people in charge got this elf named Arrin to hunt them down. Cordelia killed the vampire, but they're all on their way to kill this Silerwor right now."
Merlin sat back and listened to what Brian was saying. He could not believe that yet another wayward traveler had dropped in on Steve again. Shaking his head he looked over to Marc. "Does he have a neon sign that says Ďall time and dimension travelers please check in here' on his roof?"
"At this point it wouldn't surprise me."
"Father, an other dimensional level eleven could really play havoc here."
"Only if we let it," Merlin replied hollowly before he turned back to Brian, "Boy, did they say how long they'll be gone?"
"Alright, we will wait here until he returns," Merlin growled, turning back to the others. "Nothing we can do but wait, when he returns we'll get our answers."
Waco sat in the back of the police car and watched a group of teenagers as they walked along the boardwalk headed toward the residential area of the town. By the way the group was dressed, Waco guessed that they were coming back from the local nightclub called the Bronze.† Considering what the nightlife was supposed to be like, he was not surprised that they traveled in a group.
"They're just heading home from the Bronze," Slate stated unnecessarily.
"No reason for one," Slate said off handedly.
"Hmm," Waco hummed but did so silently, his mind asking a string of new questions.
"Nothing to worry about," Walters added to the conversation. "This happens every night about the same time. Only time it's different is when that Summers girl is out with her friends."
"How is it different with them?"
"They're always pushing the limits," Slate informed him. "She's Stein's pet project, but we tend to leave her alone, mostly because of her boyfriend."
"What's so bad about her boyfriend?" //This should be good.//
"Well, from what WE know, he works in an antiques shop," Slate replied. A snicker came from his throat. "But according to the grapevine, St. Wolf made Stein all but shit his pants by flashing one of his friend's business cards."
Waco couldn't help but grin. "Another antiques dealer?"
"Nope." Walters shivered. "Deputy Director of the CIA."
//GreatÖ// Waco was just raising his coffee cup to take a drink when the buzz of several Immortals hit him as four vehicles cruised by, making him spill the hot liquid on his lap. As he watched the four cars go by, //I'm going to have to get even with the Chief for sending me here.//
"There they go," Slate was saying when Waco turned back to look at his partners for the night. "Looks like they're headed somewhere important."
"Are we going to follow them?" Waco asked, wondering briefly if St. Wolf was in one of the cars.
"No," both men in the front seat said simultaneously.
Waco looked at both men for a minute and began to wonder if these two were Officers or security guards. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of that thought then asked. "So, we just sit here and eat donuts all night?"
"Not all night," Slate replied as he pulled a cream filled donut out of the box. "Just till they're gone."
"And when they're gone?"
"We go get more." The other officer replied, like he was talking to a retarded child who didn't know anything.
"Did you feel that?" Randi asked the other two Immortals in the Tahoe as they raced down Main Street.
"Yes, but we don't have time to deal with it right now," Steve replied as he pressed down the accelerator, causing the Tahoe to reach greater speeds.
As Steve headed toward the Drive-in, Randi wondered about her life since meeting Steve and the others. It seemed to her that since she had joined up with them, something was always happening. Now here she was again, racing into another adventure where she could only hope that things would turn out for the best.
Randi looked over the Drive-In as they entered. Getting out of the car, she let her eyes scan the parking lot, looking for anything that could foretell danger. At first she did not see anything, but then it hit her; the windows were all boarded up, but the rest of the place was trashed. It looked like a three-year-old had run through the place, tearing up everything in sight. But the windows were boarded up.† She was about to mention it when Steve pulled his sword out from under his jacket, causing a chain reaction from the rest of the group. Forgetting her own observation, she moved closer to Buffy while she pulled out her own sword, the crosses on the blade glowing with a bright light. Its eerie aura lit her face up.
"Undead," Arrin hissed the unnecessary word as the others moved into defensive positions.
"They're close," Buffy said as she looked over to her sister Slayer, who was nodding in agreement. "They have us surrounded."
"Don't get nervous," Steve whispered as he watched a door on the side of the concession building. "We have all been in this position before, and we probably will again."
Randi watched the door open and counted the figures come out of it. When the count reached thirty she gave up counting and whispered. "Thirty plus."
"Three demons," Buffy warned from her side of Steve as she pointed out three very ugly beasts that were just coming out of the stand.
The demons had to be close to 14 feet tall, with three horns coming out the top of their heads. They moved away from the building, each taking approximately eleven vampires with them to surround the attacking party.
Randi watched them come and wondered just what everyone else was thinking.
Though this was not the most his group had faced at one time, Steve was a bit nervous. The last time he'd had an army with several Immortals; this time he had a more rounded group. In his mind the fastest way to take out vampires was with swords. He was just about to order Oz and Xander to open the dance with the shotguns, which were loaded with Dragon Breath shells, when he remembered something that had happened earlier in the night. "Arrin, if you don't mind, show them some of your God's power."
Arrin did not reply as he took a step forward to face the group that faced off with him.†† Xander and Cordelia were on his right, Solace, Shaw and Faith were to his left.†† His voice became more airy as he commanded, "Go demon. I command thee in the name of Corellon Larethian, be gone from this place and leave the body to its final peace."
The group who had not seen this action yet stared in amazement as six of the eleven vampires who were standing in front of him instantly turned to dust. The demon that stood directly in front of him faltered a step.
"How cool is that!" Xander exclaimed as he took the advantage of the puzzled look the other vampires wore and pulled the trigger of the Ithaca shotgun. The blast sent a column of flame out to consume three vampires. Without hesitating he shifted his aim and pumped a second shell in his shotgun and pulled the trigger again, this time taking out four vampires before all hell broke loose.
The sound of the blast from Xander's shotgun drove the rest of the group out of their surprise and into the fight. Oz followed Xander's lead and opened up on the group of vampires which stood in front of him, sending the Dragon breath flames out to strike four vampires in front of him, cutting the odds down to just over half. Willow, not wanting to be outdone by her boyfriend, threw a fireball that took out two more vamps.
Almost at the same instant Xander pulled the trigger, the Slayer sisters jumped into the fray with their swords leading the way. Buffy went low, slicing the vampire in front of her across the midsection, allowing the magic of the blade to finish the job. Faith went high, decapitating her opponent and moving on without a second thought.
Shaw was also fighting, the ancient sword and not so ancient dagger she carried working in tandem. They worked as a pair but independently, and her opponent was not expecting to fight anyone with a blade as skilled as the one he faced. He'd been told about the Slayer and her army but had dismissed it as rubbish. Now he was learning differently, but unfortunately for him he did not have time to think about it as Shaw's flaming sword sliced through his neck, the magic of the blade doing the rest as the vampire turned to dust.
Steve attacked the nearest demon, wanting to take out the leaders as quickly as possible and knowing that he was probably the only one capable of doing the job quickly. He moved in, his sword singing loudly as it felt the demon's close proximity. Steve attacked the first demon with a short jab of Demon Slayer, which just barely missed the demon, who jumped back while swinging his long left arm to connect lightly across Steve's chest. However the armor he wore kept the wicked claws away from his skin but badly ripped his shirt. Before the Demon could move back, Steve brought the sword around in a back handed slash, cutting opening the belly of the demon and causing him to scream in agony as it fell to his knees. Steve then moved on; he knew that no Demon could cure itself from a wound caused by Demon Slayer so he was pretty confident about moving on.
Nick Fury, not wanting to be left out, turned the Glock 21 that Xander had given him on the nearest demon, trusting the others to take out the vampires that were now in the melee. He unloaded the Glock with the Dutch loaded magazine. After emptying the first magazine he pushed the release and slapped in a second with little pause between rounds. With each bullet fired from the gun Nick was using, the demon took a step back, the silver bullets digging deep into his chest. The demon finally fell at the last round from Nick's gun, causing Nick to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
Dum Dum and Reb waded into the group of vampires that were left standing in front of them after Willow and Oz's initial attacks. Reb used the Glock 21 he was given while Dum Dum took a chance with his sword. Both men were making a fair showing of their skills, cutting the original eleven in front of them down to one in less than a few minutes.†
Reb worked alongside Giles, who was standing near Steve. By the time he was allowed to get in and strike, Reb found very slim pickings indeed. The one vampire who was left hesitated for a minute after seeing the once thirty-three vampires reduced to less than six vampires in less than three minutes. The slight hesitation cost him his undead life as Reb lifted his Glock and shot the creature in his heart, reducing it to a cloud of dust.
The whole attack was going smoothly until the unthinkable happened. Arrin had just shot a vampire who was moving up behind Randi, sending it back to the hell fires from which it came. The final demon had been watching the elf with caution, the minute Arrin focused in on the vampire, the demon teleported itself behind Arrin striking the instant it materialized behind Arrin.
The demon's claws raked across Arrin's back, cutting deeply into him. Blood spurted out, soaking the demon's hands and driving Arrin to his knees, screaming as he went.†† The demon smiled at his success against the Slayer and her army.
At the same time Arrin cried out in pain, Cordelia slipped on the blood that poured from Arrin's wounds. The vampire she was fighting at the time jumped on her, riding her down, repeatedly slamming her head on the ground, busting her head open on the third crack
"Cordelia!!!" Xander screamed as he watched his lover go to the ground. He shoved a vampire out of his way and into the waiting attack of Randi, who was already in battle with it. Getting to his girlfriend and the vampire on top of her, he kicked with all his might, connecting solidly against the vampire's midsection, knocking it over and off of her.† As the vampire fell back Xander pulled his gun and shot the vampire before he knelt down to see the extent of Cordelia's injuries. "Shaw! Cleric!"
Solace watched from across the courtyard as her lover fell to the ground. As he fell her body began to shiver and grow. By the time Xander reached his girlfriend the young Amethyst Dragon was taking up most of the area around the fight. Two vampires were crushed to death and Giles was pushed back when her tail came protruding out.†
Upon seeing the Dragon appear the remaining demon smiled, thinking this Dragon would surely kill all of the humans present. His smile died a horrible death when the Dragon opened its maw directly over him. As their eyes locked, the demon was overcome by a bone chilling, unconquerable feeling of terror. The demon could only stand there in stupefied fright as Solace's maw closed over him, taking half the demon's body in one gulp.
As the demon's legs fell to the ground in a quivering heap, Solace shifted back to her human form after taking revenge of the highest order on the creature that dared injure her lover. Still worried about Arrin, she took a look over at him, completely ignoring the looks she was getting from the group gathered around her. She let out a breath of relief as her sharp lavender eyes noticed the slight rise and fall of his chest as he took in a breath. She relaxed a bit more as she realized that he would survive; already the bow was back in his hands and a soft white cloudlike substance, the healing power of Corellon Larethian, started to encompass Arrin's body.†
As she calmed down, she realized the group who stood around her was giving her different looks than those that she was accustomed to from humans. Normally the humans would look at her with fear and distrust. But to her immense surprise, the group who now stood around her looked at her with acceptance. She knew fear was mixed in with the acceptance for even Arrin, who was immune to dragon fear, she knew, still felt a bit nervous when she was in her true form even though he tried to hide it.
"I'm sorry," she started, hoping not to tip the scales of their acceptance for the worse, "but that thing hurt Arrin."
The Slayer called Faith walked up to her and grinned. "It's not that, Dragon Lady.† We're just wondering why you didn't do that a lot sooner."
Solace blinked. "What?!?"
"Hey, it would've saved us all the work!" she giggled, letting Solace know she was joking with her.
The others apparently didn't enjoy her teasing as they all shouted, "FAITH!"
Steve watched as the spell took its effect on Arrin, the wounds on Arrin's back closing up faster they would have on an Immortal. Another astonishing thing about the spell was that when the glow left his body, Arrin's eyes opened and he was able to get up with no noticeable side effects. He had seen healing spells before, but never one, which worked so quickly and effectively.
"That is a serious spell," Steve commented as Arrin stood up and looked down at his ruined shirt. "What's its effect?"
"Total restoration for a body who is not dead."
Steve nodded his head at the simple reply and wondered who actually cast the spell in the first place. He was not sure how Arrin could have done it himself since he was unconscious. So that would mean that the bow would have done it, which would put the bow on the same level as one of the Swords of Destiny, and maybe more powerful in some ways since he did not know of a sword who could totally heal it's barer.
"Arrin I know this is a personal question," Steve started as he looked over to where Cordelia was just now standing up shaking off the slight dizziness that the healing spell Shaw cast upon her, turning back to Arrin he said. "Can you cast that spell? Or is it something the bow can do?"
"Corellon Larethian allows me to cast the spell three times a day."
"Is it something that Shaw will be able to do in time?" Steve asked trying to learn all he could about the practice of Clerics.
"Archer, they say you are a very bad Elf to cross," The digital voice floated to them from all around them it was being piped through the many speakers that rested on the stands all around them. "Is it because of you, or the company you keep?"
Arrin jumped at the sound of the voice, he had never heard of a magic that could surround a person, and he wondered how the Silerwor was doing it. Last he had heard the Silerwor's could not properly work magic, the process of their creation having fouled their connection to all normal magics. This power to hide behind a thousand voices could really be a powerful spell if used correctly.
"Control booth," Xander said as he started toward the building that the vampires had come out. "Shouldn't be any other way out."
"Now that I think about it, every story I have heard about you, at least one of the five was with you. Was it you or them who killed the five headed hydra what lived in the wasteland?"
"You killed a hydra?" Faith asked in amazement. "Isn't a Hydra in the Dragon family?"
"They are," Solace replied coolly. "They are the mistake of the line."
"You don't like them?" Faith asked.
"I would as soon cuddle up to a Ettin."
"Well Archer," The voice came again after a short pause. "Last time we met you teleported me to the bottom of a body of water. This time I will be different, this time we meet as equals on a field of honor."
"Field of honor, my ass," Arrin whispered, as he followed Xander to the control booth.
"You see, Archer, here my kind challenges each other, and we fight to the death honorably," The voice came tauntingly. "So, Archer, I challenge you to honorable combat. Empty your spell reservoir and meet me sword to sword."
"Come out and face me," Arrin called out feeling a bit foolish as he did so. "Come out and lets finish this."
"Here I am," The voice was true this time as Drake stepped out of the Concession stand, a sword in his hand. "A long time ago I went to see a seer, she told me I would defeat a hero in combat."
"She lied," Arrin replied as he called up his largest fireball, then sent it at Drake. When the fireball reached its target it was like a bomb went off. Drake's body was incinerated, leaving nothing but a spot on the ground to even mark that someone was there only a few seconds ago.
"Holy shit!!!" Faith dully whispered as the fireball did its work. "Ya couldn't do something like that before we got into the fight?"
"If I did that," Arrin replied as Solace called up a slight rain shower to contain the flames. "You would complain that you did not get any fun."
"He challenged you to an honorable fight," Buffy said, her voice kind of hollow.
"Yes he did."
"I thought you accepted it, so did he."
"Honor is only valid when both participants are honorable," Arrin replied coolly. "I do not consider anyone who would kill children honorable."
"Lets go home," Steve said as he turned and started home.
"What are we going to do now?" Solace asked Arrin as they walked over to the car that would take them back to Steve's house.
"I though you would like to spend a few days in Dragon Valley." Arrin replied with a smile as he saw her eyes light up at the thought of going back to see her new friends. "While you are doing that I will finish things here with Steve and his group. I would like to explore this world a bit more for ideas to take back home."
"Are you sure about me going to the valley while you stay here?"
"I will be fine, the threat is over and all I will be doing is finding out all that they can tell me about the area. I think four days should be enough time."
"I will take my leave now than."
"Have fun, dearheart, and be safe." Arrin closed the conversation with a deep soulful kiss, his eyes were still closed when she teleported herself to the valley.
"The Archer obliterated the doppelganger," The real Drake told Michael and Billy the only two vampires who knew of the scam. "He will stay around for a week, maybe a week and a half. Then we can enact our revenge on the Slayer and her army. Remember, no mention of me."
Drake watched as both men nodded their heads and walked away. He turned his attention back toward the group just as the girl disappeared and the Archer got into one of the cars and they all left the area.
"Soon it will be my turn." He whispered as he turned and started back toward the docks. "Soon this town will be mine."
Xander found himself alone in the rental car with Nick Fury on their way back to Steve's house. He was sure that Steve had had something to do with this arrangement and wondered what was left to be said between himself and the man who turned out to be his biological father. In the last twelve hours, he had made his feelings known; he did not consider this man to be his father, no matter what the blood tests said. His father, Mr. Harris, was the only man he could ever call dad, even though the man had just beaten him, landed him in the hospital, and kicked him out of his home.†† Watching the houses go by at a very slow pace, he could tell that Nick wanted to say something, but he was not sure if he wanted to hear it.
"Just say it, for Christ's sake," Xander said after a few miles of tense, uncomfortable silence.
"It'd be fruitless to ask you to join up with us, right?"
"Nick," Xander replied, a sad smile crossing his face as he remembered other offers made to him over the past nine months. "Bull, Ritter, and Tex all asked if I would join up, they said they would have a place for me in the 5th SFG. I turned them down; I like working with my friends, so I will stay here."
"You kids surprised me."
"We tend to do that to people who meet us for the first time."
"It still rubs me the wrong way that you're living and fighting on the Hellmouth."
"You still can't accept that I wanna stay here, can you?"
"Being on the Hellmouth is not a thing that is conducive to a healthy life."
"Sure," He answered easily, wondering what Nick was getting at.
"It's just that you children, and that is all any of you really are, deserve a better life."
"We have our children time," Xander answered, feeling the honest concern in Nick's words. "But sometimes a guy or a girl has to do more to make sure their friends can live a normal life."
"Who elected you?"
"We elected ourselves; fact is you had something to do with me getting involved."
"How the hell do you come up with that?" Nick almost screamed.
"Look at it this way," Xander replied, keeping his voice calm. "We know from Willow's investigation that you're my biological father, right?"
"Put yourself in my shoes; would you turn and run when you were faced with the threat that we know of? What goes on here in quiet, little Mayberry West?" Xander asked with a quirky grin; he knew he'd scored when Nick's face dropped a bit. "Tell you what, if you can honestly tell me that you would have ran the other way and not gotten involved, then I'll move out of Sunnydale tonight."
"That is a raw thing to tell me boy, you know I would never run."
"Than we won't talk about it again, right."
"About you being my son," Nick whispered, "you realize that I never knew, don't you?"
"Never was told about you one way or the other, so don't sweat it."
"So you thought that man was your father?"
"He is my dad," Xander replied coldly, warning Nick off the subject.
"Has your life been a good one?"
"I live on the Hellmouth," Xander lied defensively.
"Do you think I can become part of your life?"
"I can always use friends."
"Would it be okay to stop by and check up on you every once in a while?"
"Actually, I think I would like that."
"All right, going onto another matter."
"What do you plan on doing? Didn't I hear someone say that you were staying at Steve's house right now?" Nick asked.
"Sure, right now. But I'm looking into buying a condo," Xander replied. "Steve is going to take care of my emancipation."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Not really, Steve is arranging for me to buy the place."
"You have that kind of money?"
"I have a few dollars squirreled away for a rainy day," Xander replied mysteriously, which drew a questionable look from Nick.
"This is my private cell phone number," Nick said, pulling a card out of his wallet and handing it to Xander. "If you need anything, kid, just give me a call."
Xander took it, glossed over it, and quirked a grin. "Sure, Pops."
He was rewarded with a growl from Nick. "Don't call me that, squirt."
"Hey guys!" Brian called out as he stepped out on the front porch when Oz pulled up with Willow, Shaw, Faith and Arrin in his van. "Is everyone all right? Where are the others?"
"Calm down, Brian," Shaw told him the boy hugged her tightly, making her wince. "The others should be right behind us."
Just as Shaw was saying that, Cordelia pulled up with Amy, Randi, and Robin in her convertible. They all climbed out of the car and moved over to the rest of the group, the girls taking their turns giving Brian a hug. A grin came to Robin's face as he commented. "Gotta envy a boy who gets all those hugs from the best looking girls in town."
"I certainly will agree with that." Merlin said as he stepped out onto the porch.
"Hello old man, what brings you around?" Robin asked although he had a good idea.
"Some readings we have been getting," Gordon cut into the conversation, as he looked pointedy at Arrin. "It would appear that you have a couple high level threats visiting."
"Threats?" Willow asked.
"I would think an unknown level eight and an unknown level eleven would be considered a threat."
"What does that mean?" Brian asked.
"It's a scale we use to describe the level of power an individual or magical item has," Gordon said as they all entered the house. "Where's Steve?"
"They should be coming right behind us," Cordelia replied as she took a look out the window. "It's Xander I'm worried about."
"Do not worry about him," Arrin said as he moved over to a corner and squatted down. "The man Nick just wanted to talk, I am sure he just wants what i is best for the boy."
"Steve's back," Brian called from his unofficial post at the front window.
"How long have you four hell raisers been in town?"
"About three days. Nick wanted to find out all he could about the boy before he met him," Dum Dum replied with a laugh. "Your group sort of found us out when they busted Reb and Izzy staking out your house."
"Very stealthy of them," Buffy laughed as she lightly punched Izzy in the shoulder.
"Holy crap," Reb exclaimed from the front seat. He had been silent though the whole trip, looking at the console which was spread out in front of him. "What the hell is this? A tank??"
"Funny you should mention that," Buffy snickered. "Are you going to tell them?"
"Surprised that you haven't told them yet."
"When you say tank, you're not far off." Buffy began to explain to Reb. "It's bullet proof up to the fifty cal. Car has more tricks than a Lotus in a James Bond movie."
"Why would you need it?" Dum Dum asked.
"We don't need it very often, but when we do it's there."
"Where have I heard that one before," Izzy replied. "Are you sure you don't know Nick?"
The laughter that followed drowned out the music until they reached Steve's house.
"We got company," Buffy said as they pulled into Steve's driveway. "Brian is watching out the window."
"Wonder who it is this time?"
"My bet's on Merlin. Gabby and Sonya are in Europe, besides they would be coming outside to meet us." Buffy reasoned. "Marc would never allow Merlin to come outside in this town."
"Sounds reasonable," Steve replied as he opened the door. "Let's go in and find out shall we?"
Arrin watched as the group walked in the house to be greeted by the Wizard along with the leader of his guard. It seemed to him that no matter what world he traveled, there was always an old Wizard in the mix. He personally did not have anything against wizards, as Condor was one of his best friends, but it amused him how much like old women a wizard could be. They always seemed to be in the mix, no matter whether they belonged in it or not. Take that thousand-year-old man, Elminster for example; always butting his nose in where it wasn't needed or wanted. With that wry though, Arrin sat in the corner and watched the greetings, wondering if he would be able to talk to Steve about this world and learn the things he would need to know to get around in safety.
"So what are you going to do now?" Faith asked Arrin, breaking into his thoughts.
"I was thinking about traveling around, to see if I could come up with something that might help my city," Arrin replied as he looked over the girl. It seemed to him that she was the only one who accepted what he did to the Silerwor; the others, he assumed, were a bit wary of him because he did not meet the headhunter on the field of honor.
"How you going to do that? You don't have a car or anything to get around with."
Arrin grinned at the girl's concern; he had not put much thought into how he and Solace were going to get around. He figured they would either teleport or walk. He was smart enough to realize that he would never master these "cars" well enough to drive one safely. Shrugging his shoulders, he replied. "Guess we will get horses or something."
"How you going to live, ya know, food and stuff?"
"Foraging; it will not be the first time," Arrin replied while reaching in his pocket. Pulling out two diamonds he went on. "I also have a few of these, Willy was quiet helpful when I gave him one, so I assume that they are valuable here as well."
"Forage? You mean hunt?" Faith asked, accepting and looking at the diamond. "I don't think you will have to hunt while you have these things."
"You can't hunt here." Willow said, joining the conversation as she moved closer to the pair. Then her eyes drifted down to the rock that Faith held. "We have laws and seasons to keep people from killing too many animals and throwing nature out of whack. Or more out of whack."
"We will get by."
"I was just thinking, I may know someone who can help," Willow replied shyly.
"Who you know?" Faith asked
"My Uncle in LA," Willow replied, keeping her voice down. "He's a jeweler and you have diamonds."
"That would work," Faith agreed as she put her arm around Willow's shoulders. "Ya know Red, sometimes you surprise me."
"Jewels?" Cordelia asked as she joined the group. Accepting the diamond from Faith, she held it up to the light. Staring deep into the diamond she went on in a hollow voice. "Clarity, and color look great, the shape is nice too. I bet this will bring in a few grand."
"I was just saying that my uncle could set him up with a credit card or something against his diamonds, so he could travel around."
"Sounds good to me," Cordelia replied, still admiring the diamond.
"Maybe we should leave them alone," Faith snickered ,shoving a thumb toward Cordelia and the stone.
"Think Xander has something to worry about?" Willow joined in as she saw the glint in Faith's eyes.
"Huh?" Cordelia asked as she tore her glaze away from the diamond at the sound of her boyfriend's name. "What???"
Her startled looked drew giggles from the girls as Willow turned back to Arrin. "I'll get Oz to take us to see him if you want."
"Still going to have to clear it all with Steve." Faith said, her voice a bit hesitant. "I mean he is going to want to know, right?"
"Yeah," Willow said, the words dampening her excitement. "Let's go see what he is doing."
Arrin watched the girls hash it all out with an amused look on his face. It was a strange but somehow comfortable feeling, to see that the girls on this world were the same as the ones on Faerun. With a smile on his lips, he dutifully followed the girls over to where the men and women sat around talking.
"Maybe we should all sit down," Merlin said after Steve, along with Dum Dum, Reb, and Izzy walked into kitchen where Marc sat at the table having a beer.
"Well old fart, what are you doing here?"
"Come to see what kind of trouble you and the kids are up to." The words "this time" hung unsaid in the air.
"That and find out who or what the level eleven is," Gordon said, getting down to business.
"Level eleven?" Buffy asked looking strangely at Gordon. "Didn't you once tell us that a level eleven was someone like the Old Gods?"
"We have reason to believe that the level eleven was a level eight until about four days ago."
Merlin watched as Steve automatically glanced over to Arrin when Gordon gave the explanation and wondered what it was about. Looking over Arrin, Merlin decided that this would be the elven warrior that Brian had told him about. He was tempted, but only briefly, to read the elf's mind, but he knew that since Arrin was pure elf, it would be a hopeless matter.† A confusing thought pattern he had never been able to master.
"You believe it is him?" Merlin asked Steve, his voice low enough so only those near him could hear.
"He's powerful," Steve replied, his eyes still on Arrin and the girls. "I just didn't know how powerful, must be his bow. It's an artifact-level device."
Merlin glanced at the bow in question and quickly mumbled a detect magic spell on it. He squinted just in case the bow was as powerful as he believed it would be. Even with the precaution of having his eyes open only a slit, he had to quickly close them and disperse the spell in order to keep from being temporarily blinded by the brilliance of the light coming from the bow. Shaking his head, he turned back to Steve and asked, "Is he going to be going back home now that the threat is over?"
"Far as I know. He said something about having a city to run."
"Maybe we should ask him," Marc advised as he also looked over to where the elf in question stood.
"Might be a good idea," Steve replied hesitantly.
"Don't seem to sure about that," Marc commented.
"Well he's not forthcoming with the information as of yet."
"With the threat now over," Merlin said as he moved over toward the girls and the elf, followed by the others. "He might have a change of mind."
"Here they come," Arrin told the girls, a smile on his face as his eyes turned back to Cordelia who was still occupied with the diamond.
"I would like to speak to you," Merlin addressed Arrin as the men moved over.
"Do I address you as Wizard? Or just, human?" Arrin asked as he looked over Merlin, a twinkle playing in his eyes, the Pac in him fighting to get free.
"You will address me as Lord Merlin."
Tilting his head, Arrin turned his eyes to the man who stood opposite of the Knight General from Merlin. Dropping the playful act he changed his attitude and looked at Gordon. "You would be?"
"My name's Horace Gordon, I lead the group that monitors the supernatural beings and activities for the government of this nation," Gordon introduced himself with a neutral nod. "I'm responsible for the safety of this nation against possible paranormal threats."
"Right now you're at the top of the list, yes." Gordon admitted.
"That must be a small list, for I am not really a threat except to those who threaten me or my friends."
"I understand that you came here to eliminate a threat to this world, someone or something called a Silerwor," Merlin stated, getting down to business.
"It has been eliminated."
"So you will be going back home?" Gordon asked, his voice carrying a friendly tone.
"I will end up there," Arrin replied evasively, not liking the way the question was posed.
"Let me state it this way," Merlin said, his voice a bit gruff at Arrin's implications. "You came to do a job, and did it admirably, by what Steve told me. However, the job is now over. So what are your plans?"
"The war is over now, I will go home," Arrin replied, the words carrying more feelings than he wanted to admit to. Shaking his head he went on, "Seems like our worlds have at least that in common."
"What'cha talkin' about?" Faith asked.
Turning to the dark Slayer, a sad smile came to Arrin's face before he explained his words. "Blade once told me that people were fickle creatures; they are the first to demand for help, especially when it comes to war, then when it is over, those same people they called out for were not wanted around. He told me that it shamed them for having to call out for the help and then wanted nothing around to remind them of the danger. Well, at least not until the next time the danger arose."
"Now see here," Giles cut in as he moved over to the group. "We never called for your help, and if we did, we most certainly would not run you off after the battle was done."
Arrin refused to reply to the outburst against the strangely accented man, but as he looked around the room, only to see an expression on each of the gathering faces that he would not have expected. Each person here showed they understood what Arrin had meant; he felt that not only did each of the people gathered know what he was talking about, but they all had experienced it for themselves. Faith and Willow had told him how their fight against evil was, on Earth at least, a secret one. One they would never gain acknowledgement for. It was at that moment that he accepted each of them as equals in the fight against the darkness.† He knew they were each fierce fighters, and that they carried a bond that no man or beast could ever break, but until that moment he was not sure just how committed they were to the cause.
"In answer to your question, Lord Merlin," Arrin said, changing the subject back to the original line of thought. "No, I do not plan on going home just yet. I plan on staying in the area for about five days. My lover, Solace is in the Valley of the Dragons visiting and I wish to help the kids here with their supplies, and hopefully get a bit of help from them. Then I plan to travel a bit in your world to see what I can learn to help my city on Faerun."
"You realize, of course, that I can't let you travel unmonitored," Merlin stated as he sadly shook his head, his voice showing he had a feeling that Arrin meant to stay for a while. And for an elf, a while could be a very, very long time.
"Are you related to an archmage named Elminster?" Arrin asked, half serious. He was confused by the snickers and chuckles that came from the younger ones.
His voice tight, Merlin growled, "Let's just say that we both have very important jobs."
"How are you going to monitor me?" Arrin asked, bringing an inexpedient groan from Steve. "Him?"
"You have a problem with that?"
"I do not plan on staying here in Sunnydale, how will he monitor me?"
"That is something I will leave the two of you to work out," Merlin replied with a grin as Steve again groaned while shaking his head.
Arrin looked to where Steve stood stone-faced as he stared back. He was not sure how Steve planned to watch him, but since he himself had a few people in his valley that he kept a close eye on, he knew that it was necessary. His eyes then went to the red headed witch and the adult brunette who was in the room, his mind working out the progression of the plan to keep him checked. Willow would be the one they would use the most; her power though as yet untapped, was raw and very powerful, probably more powerful than any of them, especially her, yet realized. Briefly wondering if her power would ever be truly explored, he then turned his eyes to the half-elf, Shawukay.† Of course she would be another one they could use to keep track of him, her connection with her Goddess might give her the power to track him as long as his own god didn't hide his presence from Mielikki's view.† After his thoughts were straight on the matter, he turned his eyes back to Merlin and replied.† "I will accept them to be my watch dogs. However, my journey through your world will not be diverted unless I personally deem it necessary."
"Just what does that mean?" asked Buffy.
"It means young lady," Arrin replied, as he turned to Buffy, his eyes trying to gain dominance of this discussion. "That I will not get involved with the fight against evil on this world, unless I personally deem that my involvement in the events will not effect your world's current events."
"Then why stay?"
"I would like to see if there is anything here that may help the development of my valley and the city which it contains. I want to help my people."
"Wouldn't that change the current affairs in your world?"
"That all depends on what I bring back. I do not plan to take back anything that we do not have the ability to develop ourselves, such as those Ďcars' of yours."
"We check everything before it goes back to your world." Steve added as a caveat.
"That is acceptable," Arrin replied, turning back to the group's leader. "I will use a place near here to house the items for two days before sending them home. You will be informed twenty-four hours before they are sent."
"Why are you so accepting of our terms?" Steve asked.
"You ask nothing that I would not ask for myself, were you visiting my world."
"Is their anything else to discuss or can we get this party started?" Faith asked impatiently, setting off another round of laughs countered by Steve's sigh of despair.
"There is one more thing I would like to know," Merlin asked Arrin. "How are you going to acquire the items which interest you?"
"Oh, I'll help him there," Willow answered for him. "He has some diamonds and I thought it'd be convenient to have him sell them to my uncle in LA. We can have Arrin carry a bank card issued through my uncle's shop."
A sly smile crossed Steve's face as he realized what Willow's statement meant. He briefly wondered if she had it planned to work out the way he meant it to. With Arrin carrying a credit card from a friendly source, it would be easy to track his movements on Earth without using any magic at all, especially if they could convince Arrin to use his home as the billing address. Nodding his head, he made up his mind while he told Willow, "Alright, all of you go home and get some rest. Willow you and Oz take Arrin to visit your uncle tomorrow and set it up; use my address for his billing address."
"Okay," Willow replied as she led Oz out the door and out to the van.
Turning to the rest of the group as the pair left he went on, "The rest of you go home and get some rest, we'll celebrate the completion of this adventure Friday night."
Fifteen minutes later the adults, along with Buffy and Cordelia, sat in the living room waiting for the return of Xander and Nick. Steve was a bit worried about the meeting between the two. He knew a bit more about Nick than he let on. Nick's profile suggested that he would want his son near him. Steve also knew that even though Xander's outward appearance showed that he really didn't care what others thought of him, he craved for a father figure in his life. A father who would love him just for being him. Steve himself could never be that type of figure for Xander.† He knew that Xander respected him as a leader, and possibly though of him as a big brother; but the father figure had to be someone who could understand what he went through without being too close to the situation.† Nick could easily become that man, and the thought worried him a bit. Because, although he craved the day where all the kids could go back to being kids, he knew that if Xander left the group to follow Nick, it would leave a very large hole in the group. Steve knew that Xander would not leave the group without some serious cause and briefly wondered if Nick could give him that cause.
"Earth to Steve, come in Steve."
"Huh?" Steve grunted as he shook himself out of his musing with the help of the blond Slayer. "What?"
"Well, first off Cordelia is worried about Xander," Buffy replied, then after a second she went on. "Plus we need to discuss how we are going to watch Arrin while he's out traveling."
"That won't be a problem," Steve smiled, addressing the second question first. "Willow unknowingly took care of that problem for us; we can track him from the use of his credit card. I'm not sure if Willow planned it that way, but it works for us. As for Xander, I have been thinking about that. We all have to accept the fact that Nick may talk Xander into going with him. Not to add to his force, but as a concerned father. Everything I know about Nick suggests that he would do just that."
"I agree with that, Sir Steve," Marc put his thoughts into the conversation. "Nick is very protective of his people."
"He didn't even know Xander existed until Willow emailed him." Cordelia snapped, putting all her raw emotions in the one name.
All eyes turned to Cordelia at the hurtful tone. Each person wanted to say something, but they all knew that whatever they said at this time would only make matters worse. Trying to calm down the situation, Steve leaned into Cordelia. "Cordelia, we all know what Xander means to you, but you have to look beyond the love you have for him. We are talking about Xander here, a boy who grew up with an abusive father, but now has the chance to see what a real father is like. Would you hold him back from that?"
"You're wrong, Steve," Cordelia replied with a finality in her voice that gave him pause. "Xander won't go with him, he belongs here with us."
"Damn right I do," Xander said as he walked into the room, surprising all of the occupants. "And it's going to be a cold day in hell when I leave."
"Xander!" Cordelia yelped as she jumped up and rushed into her boyfriend's arms.
"I'll be popping in every once in a while to check up on my boy." Nick explained. "We talked it out."
"Give us a call and we'll have a room set up for ya," Buffy invited, putting her arm around Steve's shoulders.
"I guess that leaves us with two items left to get done," Steve replied as he stood up with the rest of his guests. "The first is to get Xander emancipated, thenÖ."
"Ummm," Xander interjected, as he pulled out a shelf of papers. "Pop and I just went to a judge and got that done."
"Don't call me Pop."
"Well than, let's go get that condo," Steve went on with a laugh at Xander's barb at Nick as he picked up his phone. "I'll call Stacy and get the ball rolling."
"That would be great," Xander replied with a laugh. "Maybe we can buy it by the end of the week, your house is getting crowded."
Arrin watched the scene play out amongst the group and compared it to sitting around a fire, a scene that he and the others had played out many times. The adventure was over and now things had to be hashed out. On Faerun the group would be dividing up the treasure gathered during the adventure, but here it seemed that the group fought for a greater cause, one far more honorable than wealth. He knew from long experience that the group would need time to come down from that combat high and felt that his presence would only prolong it. So he quietly slipped out the door and teleported himself back to the cave which he and Solace used as a camp.††
Sitting on the plateau, he looked down into the valley and wondered; just how many people in the town below suspected that they had defenders that truly represented the good in all mankind. A group who did a job that needed to be done and asked nothing in return; that was something he could respect, and if he had to be honest about it, he himself had never met any group on Faerun who would risk their lives for nothing, save the Harpers. It surprised him that these young people did it, according to them, on an almost nightly basis.
"I have to do something to help them," Arrin said as he looked up into the sky as if he was looking for advice. "Something that will give them an edge, but something that they don't know about. Something that will allow me to leave this group without them knowing that I helped them."
"You can not interfere with their destiny, my son," The Voice rang out from all around him, but he knew he was the only one who could hear it.
"I do not wish to interfere, I would just like to give them a small edge."
"It is not for you to do this."
"If not me, then who?"
"They have support, more than you realize."
"Once a lifetime ago, Blade and I were in a fight. In the balance hung a small village in which Blade had family. The attackers told us that we could not stop them, that they had an army behind them," Arrin said to The Voice, his voice taking on a far away tone. "To which Blade responded: ĎAll the armies in the world will not save you, right here, right now.' We buried the lot of them that day before the sun set."
"That is a valid point, but I seem to remember that you buried more than just the enemy that day."
"They died defending their homes and family, I doubt that they regretted their choice."
"I know that they did not."
"These children do not need to make the choice that they did."
"They do not regret their choice."
"They already know about magic, could I just stack their deck a bit by enlarging upon something they already know about?"
"Son, the one restriction I will place on you is your own conscience. You know what is right and what is wrong."
A feathery touch laid upon Arrin's whole body, replenishing his spells. Then he was alone again, standing on the ledge looking over the small town of Sunnydale. A smile crept upon his face as he started to laugh at the restriction he was placed under. Turning back to the cave, he walked over to his bag of holding and pulled out a large book and the small wooden case that carried five vials of extra healing. Next he pulled out a three foot staff with a gold band, about eight inches from one end and what appeared to be diamond flecks embedded between the ring and the short end of the stick.
Picking up the items, he looked up at the sun that was by now at its zenith. Placing the rest of his items back in the bag, he placed it back in the corner and cast an invisibility spell upon it before walking back out onto the plateau and teleporting himself to Steve's front yard. The driveway was empty of cars, which meant little or nothing.† Walking to the front door he knocked and waited for someone to answer.†
After a few moments he knocked again. //Strange,// he thought to himself: //I am sure Steve said that someone would always be at his house//. Moving back out to the center of the yard he concentrated on the diamond that Cordelia still possessed. Locating it, he teleported himself to it.†
He materialized in a darkened room about two feet in front of a large dresser. A deep calm breathing caught his attention and he quickly turned to the source. His breath caught as he looked down upon a prone Cordelia, who lay sleeping in a bed. He was just about to teleport himself out of there when a feline growl caught his attention. Quickly he turned to the source of the sound and found himself facing a fully-grown saber tooth tiger.
His mind exploded with questions as the tiger moved toward him stalking him, but leaving the prone helpless girl alone. Without letting the useless thought get in his way, he instinctively raised his hand and said, "Fourbe," just as the cat jumped at him.
A glow encompassed the saber-tooth tiger as it flew through the air. Just as it reached its claws out, it transformed from a six foot, two hundred fifty pound monster to a miniature ball of fur. Which Arrin was able to catch in one hand without causing himself or the cat any harm.
"Well little one," Arrin asked as he looked at the small ball of fur, trying to find the cat's eyes but having a bit of difficulty, since the cat was no more than six inches in length. Not really expecting an answer he went on. "What would something as dangerous as you be in a young girl's room?"
"Arial is here to protect her." An airy female's voice floated to him. The hair on the back of his neck rose as he realized that his power was being drained from him, a thing that only happened when he was in the presence of a God or Demigod. Putting the cat down, he turned to face the direction of the voice. Noticing that the cat stayed exactly where he put it down, he also noticed that the rise and fall of the cover on Cordelia stopped as well.
"I suppose you are here to protect her as well." Arrin asked as he turned to face the woman. She stood close to six foot tall, with shoulder length reddish brown hair, dressed in leather deerskin armor, which showed more than it hid from view. In her left hand she carried a bow that, although it looked plain, gave Arrin the feeling that it was more powerful than his own. He knew she was some kind of deity, and since she was in Cordelia's room, Cordelia must mean something to her.
"I protect all my Amazons." The woman replied, her eyes roving over Arrin and giving him the distinct feeling that she was studying him.
"I mean her no harm," Arrin said off-handedly, not liking the feeling of being helpless in front of this woman.
"You must mean a lot to your deity," The woman said, a smile coming to her face as if she knew something about him. "He masks your presence masterfully, if I was not checking in on my subjects, I would never had known you were here."
Arrin nodded his head once in agreement. "I do not feel comfortable in your presence my lady, nor should I be in this room. I would have never come here if I knew she had a habit of sleeping in the middle of the day."
"Which brings me to my question." The woman said again, looking at the small fur ball on the bed. "How did you get here? Teleportation only works when you're going to a place, not to a person."
"I teleported to an object known to me," Arrin replied, indicating the large diamond which sat on the dresser.
"I will overlook this intrusion since you are obviously embarrassed," The woman said as she noticed the blush, which was evident on Arrin's face now that the life-threatening cat was contained. "But know this, Elf: I am Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Moon, patron Goddess of the Amazons, and Cordelia is one of my subjects.† If harm comes to her from you, retribution will come swiftly."
Arrin dismissed the implied threat since he had no intention of harming Cordelia or any of the other children. Knowing that the Goddess in front of him was only looking out for the well being of her subjects, Arrin slightly tilted his head in respect. A smile came to his face as he wondered, // How can the Gods be so fickle to take my offensive powers but leaving me my defensive ones. Do they not realize that even defensive powers can be destructive when used in the correct manner?//. How ever his words were more gentle and reasonable. "I will take my leave now, and I hope that our paths only cross in friendship."
Without waiting for her to answer his departing wishes, Arrin mentally summoned the bow's powers to teleport him to the ivory unicorn pendant he had seen Shawukay wearing. He materialized in a spacious room where the half elf and an elderly man sat talking. Instantly he realized that teleporting around to objects would not be the most advantageous idea he ever had, since the old man seemed to be in a religious discussion with Shaw. Disgustedly he raised his right hand with the thumb and the first two fingers pointed straight up, sharply commanding. "Letze!"
As the word rolled out of his mouth it appeared that time had stopped in the room, only the sharp eye would detect the slow tick of the second hand as it advanced around the face of the clock on the wall. Walking to the half-elf he touched her shoulder and whispered, "Tezza."
Released from the slow time spell Shaw jerked her eyes around the room as she felt the powerful magic at work in the room. As her eyes fell upon Arrin, he held up his finger to his lips while whispering. "Be not anxious of this visit my dear lady, your friends are all well. I would like to talk to you and the witches of your group, but fear that the others would misconstrue my intentions."
"Lord Parkin," Shaw replied, recovering from the shock of having him in the living room of her house. "HowÖÖ"
"Time is of importance here, My Lady. Please gather the witches and yourself and meet me half way up the tallest hill on the north side of the valley, where you will see a cave. I will be awaiting you there."
"Of course." Shaw replied just as Arrin disappeared and time went on as if it had never slowed down.
"ÖÖYour Goddess will be with you no matter what you choose to do." Father Ulric finished up his statement, as if nothing had happened. However Shaw noticed that his eyes did grow a bit wider when he saw that she was not sitting beside him any longer.
"I must go for a while," Shaw told Ulric as she donned her duster. Rushing out the door she called over her shoulder. "I will be back before dark."
Shaw left the house and was soon on her way to Willow's, that being the closest house to her own. She briefly wondered what Lord Parkin would want with them, since the threat of the Silerwor was over. She had thought he would take a few days to rest and study while Solace visited the Valley of Dragons. It never occurred to her to think this was some kind of trap, or that danger was waiting for them at the cave. She was still wondering what Arrin wanted when she knocked on Willow's door.
"Hello, Sharon," Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, her greeting to one of her daughter's closest friends but, as was often the case, forgetting the name of said friend. <Of course, at least I am not as bad off as Buffy.> Mrs. Rosenberg called her Bunny of all things. Stepping aside to allow the young girl into the house, she went on. "Willow is up in her room."
"Thank you Mrs. Rosenberg," Shaw smiled at the woman as she briskly took the stairs to Willow's room. Stopping at Willow's door, she knocked a few times before entering to find Willow asleep on her bed, her red hair sprayed around the pillow as she slept on her back. Despite the coolness of the room, her covers were thrown back to reveal that she chose to wear a pair of boxers and loose t-shirt to sleep in. The shirt rode up high on her stomach showing the bottom of her supple breasts, showing that she was not wearing a bra. Fighting to keep from blushing, Shaw moved closer to the bed and calmly shook the red headed girl as she whispered. "Willow, wake up,"
Willows eyes shot open the minute she heard the whispered voice, and looked around the room. She rolled away from the sound, coming up with a grin on her face but ready for action. When her eyes met those of the half-elf she visibly relaxed and greeted. "Hey what gives, Shaw? I was having a nice dream."
"Werewolves and wayward friends I suppose." Shaw smiled as she nodded toward where Willow's hard nipples poked at the dark t-shirt she wore. Causing Willow to cross her arms under her breasts and blush a bit.
"Well they are both sexy."
"We need to go, Willow. We have been summoned."
Shaw explained all she knew while Willow dressed in a pair of jeans and a new t-shirt. She added a pair of hiking shoes when Shaw told her where they were going.
"What do you think he wants us for?"
"He neglected to say. And one does not ask a High Elven Lord or High Priest things they do not want to reveal."
"Than why are we going?" Willow asked as she slipped a Walther P99 under the back of her pants, out of sight from prying eyes.
"He requested us to come," Shaw reiterated.
"What do you think he wants with us?"
"I really do not know," Shaw replied again as they left Willow's house. They jumped into Mrs. Rosenberg's car, on their way to Amy's who lived another two blocks away. "I guess it never occurred to me to ask him."
"How can you be so sure that it is not a trap?" Willow asked
"If he wanted to harm us, he could do that without getting us up there alone," Shaw replied. She related how he had appeared in her front room despite the fact that he had never been there before. Then she told him how he stopped time for the duration of the conversation. "We both know that only a very powerful mage could pull something like that off." She craned her neck in consideration. "As a cleric, he is about twice as powerful as me. As a Mage, he is easily in Jenny or Giles' class of power. That is a strong combination."
It only took the girls a few minutes to reach Amy's house and found that Robin was still with her. Shaw had told Willow that Arrin requested herself and the witches be there and wondered how they were going to get Amy away from Robin. She was about to come up with a king size lie when Willow beat her to it.
"Hey Amy, I found a great site to build the altar." Willow told Amy, letting Robin think that it was VAN business that brought the girls there. Even though Shaw was not part of the VAN organization, she was the best person to look at anything that had to do with nature since she was a trained ranger and nature priestess. "I'm gonna take Shaw up there to let her see it, and see if we would be endangering any forest dwellers if we build there."
"Cool, want me to come?"
"Well, that is why we came here," Willow joked as she pointedly looked at Robin.
"Alright I get it," Robin said, throwing up his arms before he took Amy into his arms and gave her a kiss that took her breath away. "Be good babe and I will see ya later."
Leaving the house with Amy in tow, the girls did not try to explain anything as they headed toward Giles' condo, where they knew Jenny would be.†† Pulling out her cell phone, Shaw called ahead to give Jenny a warning that they were coming to pick her up, but did not tell her why they were doing so.
"Why do you think he wants to see only the witches?"
"He really did not say," Shaw replied, her confidence not shaken a bit by not knowing. "And he did not give me the chance to ask either."
"I hope this isn't a trap." Jenny said suspiciously. "I don't want you girls hurt."
"Don't worry," Willow replied with confidence to Jenny's statement, pulling her gun out from the holster at the small of her back. She pulled the slide back, sending a round into the chamber. "I have the cure for any trap we could walk in to."
Nodding her approval, Jenny reached over and opened the glove box to reveal a SW686. The double action pistol was one of the biggest the group had in the armory and, depending on how hot the round was, could punch a hole through a quarter inch of steel. Taking the gun into a hand that made the hand seem much smaller than it was, she worked the opening lever and let the cylinder fall open, showing it was loaded with demon killing silver rounds. Snapping her hand to pop the cylinder back in place, Jenny placed the gun on her lap
"Robbing Seven-Eleven stores again, are we?" Amy asked causing the others in the car to groan.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, the girls vacated the car and started up the hill. A light enveloped them, causing each of them to feel light-headed. The feeling soon passed and they found themselves on the plateau just outside of the cave.
"Damn, I hate being teleported without warning." Amy moaned.
"Says someone who does not get teleport sickness," Shaw retorted with a grin.
"Excuse my impatience," Arrin greeted the girls from just inside the mouth of the cave. Stepping out, he looked down to what appeared to be a small rock in the road at the bottom of the hill, but actually was their car. "However, I believe you will agree with me that it would be better to be teleported up here, than to hike all the way up the mountain."
As one the girls all looked down the hill and nodded in agreement. Turning back to their host, Shaw asked the question that was on all of their minds. "What is it that you wanted with only us?"
"I thought you would bring your mage with you," Arrin replied, sidestepping the question. Shrugging his shoulders he went on, "No matter, this way ladies. I have a few items that I feel will benefit your group."
Following their host into the large cave, they all noticed the nine books on the ground, two of which were open. An ink and quill set lay next to one of them, showing that someone had been writing. Without letting the girls form their own opinion of what they looked at, Arrin droned out. "In front of you lies years of study and hard work.† Three of the books in front of you contain spells that exist only in these books, spells that I have compiled over the years. Four more contain the standard spells that you would find in just about any spell book owned by a master magician from Faerun. The last book is a book of alchemy; in it you will find directions to make potions and herbs that will do everything from slowing or stopping poison to potions of healing, from forgetfulness to clairvoyance.†† Before I leave you will have copies of each of these books, and I also would like to make a present to you of this wand. It has twenty-five charges of the spell Heal, as thrown by a high priest. Only a cleric can use this wand, which is why I am giving it to Shaw. Also I would like to give you these potions of healing that I carry with me. As long as the person is breathing it will help them enough to get them to a healer if one is not immediately available."
Looking down at the treasure in front of them the girls could only gasp in shock. Each of the witches showed more interest in the first three books than the last four, since it was these spells that they would not already have. Shaw, however, showed more interest in the book of alchemy for she knew that it was this book that was indeed the most valued of the lot, for it was this book that could do both damage as well as help the group.
"Thank you for these gifts," Jenny said solemnly. "But, are you sure you would like to part with such valuable knowledge?"
"Your group has shown me that you can be trusted to use the knowledge for good," Arrin replied as he looked over the oldest human woman in the room. "I believe that these things will be helpful in your pursuit to exterminate the evil that lies within your valley."
Willow picked up the quill and looked at it strangely before turning to Arrin while asking. "You plan to rewrite each of these books by hand?"
A sad smile came to Arrin's face at the question as he regretted for the first time his decision to put protection spells that would stop anyone from magically reproducing his spell books. He turned to Willow and explained to her, "A long time ago I put a spell on the books to be protected from magically being reproduced. Hence this is the only way I know to copy them."
"I think I know how we can copy them without having to write them all out."
"We can scan them."
"They can not be magically reproduced," Arrin explained again.
"The key word being magically," Willow said, putting a bit more empathies on the word magically than necessary. "We are going to do it by technology."
"It might be worth a try," Arrin shrugged at Shaw's agreeing nod. He started to pack the books into the bag of holding he planned on giving the girls. "Where do we do that?"
"Steve's house would be the best place."
Arrin nodded his head. He accepted that he could not keep his involvement a secret from Steve and the old Wizard. "I will teleport you back to your car along with the bag. The books will return to me in two days time. Will that give you enough time to reproduce them?"
"More than enough time," Jenny said as she picked up the biggest of the books. "If it works, plenty of time. If it doesn't, we have a lot of writing to do."
Before the girls could say their thanks they found themselves in front of Jenny's car, a medium sized black bag sitting on the ground in front of them. Picking up the bag, Shaw reached in, thought of the alchemy book, and nodded her head when it appeared in her hand. She closed the bag and picked it up and placed it in the back seat getting in with it.
"Some of these spells are simply amazing," Willow exclaimed as she looked through one of the spell books Shaw had retrieved from the bag of holding "Some of them appear to be two or three spells combined together for a unique outcome. Like this one: It's called ĎHell From Above.' It appears to be a mixture of a fireball spell with a meteor swarm. It produces a shower of fireballs that go from golf ball size to basketball size. Depending on the caster, this spell could last for an hour."
"That will be good once you gain enough power to actually cast that spell," Shaw replied, taking a quick glance over at the spell. "However you may want to take a look at some of the potions that you can make here. Do you realize that we can fly without wings?"
"Really?" Amy asked as she turned around reaching for the book. "Flying?"
"There is also a potion that can make a person invisible."
"That can be really useful," Willow said, putting the book she was looking at aside.
"You're all set," Steve told Xander as he hung up the phone. "We can go look at the place right now and if you like it, we can get the key by Wednesday."
"Let's go look at it then." Xander replied, coming out of the room.
"Cool," Faith said as she and Buffy grabbed their coats.
"Ummm, sorry girls I wanna be the first one to look at it," Xander explained as he walked out the door, calling over his shoulders. "I want to make sure that I like it before you girls start to decorate it."
"Spoil sport," Xander heard Buffy call out as the door shut behind him.
As he rode in the passenger's seat of the Tahoe, Xander thought about the events that led him being thrown out of his parents' house. Briefly he thought it was something horrible that he had done, but then he just dismissed it as one of his father's drunken rages and vowed never to think about it again. He was ready to start his new life when Steve finally pulled up into a parking lot that was about three condos down from Giles.
The realtor was waiting just outside the front door; as she opened the door she greeted. "Good afternoon Mr. St. Wolf, I believe your friend will like this condo, it is a split level; two bedroom, two baths, dining room adjacent to the kitchen. The master bedroom is on the second floor with a private bathroom, total living space is fourteen hundred square foot with plenty of closet space. It comes with two covered parking spaces."
As they walked through the house, Xander noticed that it was already furnished. Walking up the stairs to the master bedroom, he stepped out onto the window's walk way and looked out across the town. From where he stood he could see the high school and the Bronze. The soldier in him recognized the tactical advantage of this spot. After a second more of looking around he nodded his head and turned back to go back to where Steve and the realtor waited for him downstairs.
"Place looks great," He told the pair. "When can I move in?"
"Normally we would have to wait for closing, but since your one of Mr. St. Wolf's employees, I am sure we can shorten the length and get you in by the end of the week."
"Great," Xander said, wanting to get out from under Steve's roof as soon as possible. "Just contact Steve when you need me to sign the final papers."
The ride back to Steve's house was almost as silent as it was going to the condo. Finally Steve could not take the silence from the normally talkative boy any longer. "What's on your mind, Xander?"
"Not much," Xander sighed, leaning back in the seat. His voice was distant and uncaring as he went on.†† "Just thinking about all the changes that have happened in the past four days. You know I still want to go and talk to my daddy, but I guess it's not his fault that he is the way he is. He told me once in his drunken stupors that his father use to drink more than he himself did, and that his father use to beat him weekly for no reason."
"Xander you realize that is a bunch of shit right?" Steve asked in a sharper voice than he normally used when addressing the kids. "That is the kind of silly shit we hear from lawyers who want to get their clients off some charge. There comes a time, Xander, when a man has to stand up and take accountability for his own actions.† While I agree that the past has a part in building what a person becomes, I also feel that a person needs to be held responsible for his or her own actions."
"I know what you're saying Steve," Xander choked out as tears began to run down his face. "But can you answer the question that I have already asked? Why didn't he just love me for who I am?"
"I don't know Xander," Steve replied solemnly. "I can tell you this though. Giles looks upon you as a son, so does Joyce. All the girls with one exception think of you as a brother who they would kill for, and the exception is deeply in love with you. As for me, well you and I are two of a kind."
Accepting Steve's words and understanding them, he nodded his head and quickly rubbed the saltiness off his face. Clearing his throat, he looked back out the window and in a clear attempt to change the subject he asked, "Tell me Steve, what do you think about having the Archer traveling around?"
"I don't know," Steve replied with disgust. "He's a bit too old for a babysitter and I think he is going to resent the fact that we will be watching over him."††††††††
"I don't think it's gonna be that bad," Xander replied remembering what Arrin had said about staying here. "I think that he will just observe and try to stay out of any kind of trouble."
"Maybe." A second later, he added, "You really think that?"
Arrin was unaware of the conversation that took place about him as he moved toward St. Wolf's house. It aggravated him that he could not just pop into the house but he let it go, since he had something very similar to cover his own place in Faerun. He wondered how long it would take the others to arrive as he stepped up and knocked on the door, which was answered by the slim brunette girl named Faith.
"Well look at what the winds blew in?" Faith stated as she opened the door as she looked over Arrin.
"Well met Faith," Arrin gave the age-old greeting as he waited to be asked to enter the domain. "I have come before the witches could get here, to talk to the fighters group."
"Our fighters group?" Faith asked, her voice showing that she did not understand what he meant. "What is that?"
"The boys called Oz and Xander, and the girl called Cordelia." Arrin explained patiently. "I have something that they may find useful in your battle for the light."
"What could that be?" Buffy asked, suddenly suspicious as she pressed past Faith, the concern in her voice coming out as clear as the night's sky.
"Fear not Lady Buffy," Arrin replied as he pulled his left hand out of the bag of holding he held in his right hand. His hand came out holding three small objects that he held out to the girls for inspection.††
"Magic," Faith hissed the word as she stepped back from the devices, still a bit concerned around practiced magic. "What are they for?"
"The round pendant protects its user from aggressive magic, lightning bolts, fireballs, things of that nature. The diamond pendant collects aggressive magic and stores it for later use. Finally, the ring of regeneration increases the speed of the wearer's natural healing ability, given time it could re-grow a digit that has been amputated."
"Shaw's got one of those," Faith noted.
Buffy kept the subject on track. "Why would you give up something that is obviously very valuable?"
"I don't really need any of them and since your team works with threats of that type, I feel that they would be more useful to you."
"Generous to a fault." Faith said sarcastically.
"I assure you young lady, I am said to be a lot of things, but generous is generally not one of them." Arrin laughed out his reply. "I just believe that those items will serve you in your fight more than they will serve me. Although I do not expect or want anything in return, do not misconstrue my gifts as a sign of weakness."
"We accept your gifts," Buffy said as she walked into the kitchen, coming out quickly with two sodas and a grape juice. "Would you like a drink and wait with us till Steve and Xander gets back?"
"That is something that I would enjoy."
"Great, I'll call Steve and get him back here in a hurry."
Steve and Xander were just leaving the realtor's office when his cell phone vibrated on his hip. "Hello?"
"Hey honey, Arrin is here. He has brought us some gifts."
"Oh?" Steve asked as he took a quick look over to Xander, "We will be there in a few minutes. Make him comfortable till we get there."
Steve and Xander reached his house seconds before the girls, who had dropped by to pick up Cordelia and Oz on their way to the house. As they all piled out of the cars and van the girls were anxious to get into the scanner as Jenny told Steve what had happened in the cave and showed him the staff they were given.
"He didn't ask for anything in return?"
"No, but he seemed to have something on his mind, something more than the gifts."
"Seems that he has brought some more gifts here."
"Oh? He didn't say anything about that."
"Let's go in and see what is going on."
Arrin sat back on the couch and watched as Buffy and Faith looked over the articles that he had given them. None of them looked overly valuable; in fact compared to some of the costume jewelry the girls had seen they looked kind of plain. He smiled as he noticed Faith pick up the diamond; it was an odd cut with no real defined shape to it, almost as if it was just picked up out of a mine. He watched as she twisted her wrist to look at all the sides before she put it back down and turned to look at him again.
"You said this thing stores aggressive magic right?"
"That is correct," Arrin replied as he nodded his head.
"So if someone threw a fireball at us this stone would capture it and it could send it back toward the attacker?"
"That is correct."
"How cool is that?" Faith exclaimed, and then she frowned a bit as something came to her. "But we really don't go up against all that many Witches."
Buffy came over to look at the stone next having heard the exchange between the Dark Slayer and the Elf she commented. "Next time we run into a black mage this can make things a bit more interesting."
"Yeah I bet," Faith chimed, liking the image. Taking a peek out the front window, she turned back to them, a grin on her face. "They're here! Looks like they stopped off and picked up the rest of the guys."
Steve walked in and waited for everyone to get situated. "Arrin what can we do for you?"
"I want to explore your world more, and I would like to get started on that quest before too long," Arrin replied. "I have given my word to Blade that I would be gone no longer than two years, and two years is really not a long time. Willow has told me that she could help me with exchanging my diamonds into your monetary script, so that I can buy things that I would need. I would like to ask her if she is still interested in doing this for me, and if so, if she could do it tonight."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Buffy replied, looking over to Willow, who grinned back at her from the computer room with gleaming witch-green eyes. "Is that all?"
"Really, my needs are very simple, once she does this I can move on."
"How are you going to travel?" Xander asked from his seat next to Cordelia.
"As I have stated before, I am not a stranger to walking, and neither is Solace."
"Ya know we should get him a laptop," Willow said from where she and Amy were working on setting up the scanner. "These books are pretty heavy and he could keep his spells on the laptop, plus it would be an easy way for him to get a hold of us."
"Willow, I have though about going to your type of book and have decided against it," Arrin replied with a sigh he explained. "It would take me years to understand your language enough to learn how to use your laptop for it to do me any good. The books are heavy but, while they are in the bag they have no weight so I will be fine."
"What are you going to do if you run into trouble?" Faith asked, "How will you get help?"
A sly smile came to Arrin's face that made Faith blush of embarrassment. Stammering, she quickly tried to explain what she meant. "I mean there is some trouble you can get into that you can not magically get yourself out of with out causing a lot of trouble. Like with bad guys who use lawyers to get out of getting punished. They could make life hard for you, you know?"
"Yes I do understand what you mean, and because of that I will figure out a way that I can contact your group in a pinch. But let me make something perfectly clear, I will only try to contact your group after all other avenues are blocked."
"Why travel?" Cordelia asked. "I mean we can teach you everything you wanna learn."
"But how will I know what I want to learn unless I see it first hand?"
"Well if you're set on doing this, maybe there is another way we can help you along," Xander put in as he stood up and moved toward Arrin. "Not many people here carry a weapon so obvious and the range is not all that great, maybe you should carry a gun."
"The bow is who I am, and like the computer Willow brought up, the gun is something I would have to learn how to handle and work. The bow however does not have to appear as such and it is great company."
"Well if you want, I guess we can take you to Uncle John's place right now." Willow offered.
Standing up, Arrin nodded his head, "If there is nothing more I can do for you, I would like to go and attend to this as soon as possible."
"Huh!" Oz said as he opened the front door just as a man in a purple suit was getting ready to knock. "UhÖ.."
"Hello young man," Joshua said, his eyes looking deeply at Oz for a moment, he was told by Agatha not to be concerned by who he met at Steve's house but he was unsure if even Agatha knew just who and what was at Steve's house. "I'm here to speak to Sir Steve."
"Sure," Oz replied his voice as emotional as a piece of stick. Without taking his eyes off the man he yelled over his shoulder. "Steve."
"Hello Joshua," Steve said, having come up behind Oz when he heard the first grunt. "Are you here for Tabitha?"
"Miss Agatha thought it would be best if the two of us came to pick her up."
"I really would prefer if you allowed her another night of rest."
"Is she that bad off?"
"We won't know until she awakens." Steve replied as he led the two men in to the front room. "We have done all that we could do for her."
"That is not entirely true," Shaw spoke from where she sat holding the wand of healing. "I just thought of something else; we could use this, it would make her very close to being perfectly healthy."
"Who?" Arrin asked from where he waited for Willow to get ready.
The one word question captured Joshua's attention as he turned to face the man who spoke. Quickly looking him over, his eyes raised a bit as he asked in a slightly accented Elvish tongue. "Do you belong to the Holt in the city?"
"I do not," Arrin replied so all could understand him. "I am just visiting."
"Arrin would you help the two unconscious people upstairs?" Shaw asked giving Joshua a sharp look.
Before Arrin replied he looked over to Steve almost as if to ask a question.
"If you can, it would be very helpful," Steve said, mentally kicking himself for not thinking of it sooner. "Sorry, but with all that has been going on I forgot all about her."
"Show me the room and tell me what happened." Arrin replied as he followed Shaw upstairs. "Then we can go."
"This one was drained of blood and was being used as a sacrifice," Shaw told Arrin as they, along with Amy, entered the room. "The one over there was a victim of the Vampire, but he will not die easily."
"This one will take more time to heal, so let's start with the woman."
Arrin removed the holy symbol from around his neck as he moved over to where Tabitha laid in the bed. Removing the silver chain he placed the symbol between her breasts and began to chant.
Amy and Shaw both watched as the now familiar white glow encompassed Tabitha's prone body. All the while Arrin chanted, his words were so softly spoken that neither Amy or Shaw could hear them. The girls watched closely as something happened that they had never seen before. The glow did not stop when it finished encompassing the prone body of Tabitha, but grew until it encompassed the spell caster as well. Arrin was swaying now, physically showing signs of strain and illness, however his words were getting stronger and even the girls who were standing across the room could feel the power in them, even though they did not understand what was being said.
Amy gasped as after several minutes the glow dissipated, dropping Arrin to the ground. His breathing was deep and even, but even as he dropped Tabitha bolted upright in bed, an ear piercing scream coming out of her mouth as she lifted her left arm where the Black mage had cut her with the ceremonial dagger. The scar was gone, no longer marring the silky smooth skin that made up the rest of her body.
Amy was just about to rush to Arrin's side to see if she could do anything for him when Shaw reached out and grabbed her by her arm. "No! Don't approach him until he awakens."
"Shaw!" Amy almost screamed out, causing the rest of the group to come upstairs.
"What is going on?" Buffy demanded being the first one into the room, her eyes first went to Tabitha who was now sitting up on the bed her eyes wide, frighteningly darting from one person in the room. In a soothing voice Buffy tried to calm the young woman. "Calm down Miss Stevens, we're here to help you."
"What's wrong with the Lord Spock?" Faith asked, following Buffy into the room a wooden stake in her left hand.
"Huh?" Buffy asked as she finally looked down at Arrin's prone body. "He was down there when I came in."
"Leave him," Shaw ordered the Slayers from where she and Amy stood just behind the door.
"What's wrong with him, Redeye?" Faith asked, her whole body tense at the amount of magic she felt in the room.
"He cured her, by taking the evil that the ceremony put into her."
"Where did it go?" Faith whispered in awe.
"The only place it could go."
"Why would he do that?"
"It was the only way he could have saved her, now his spirit has to fight the evil."
"Who are you people?" Tabitha cut, in not able to follow the conversation.
"Oh," Buffy replied turning her attention back to Tabitha. Stepping toward the young lady she reached out her hand for Tabitha to take while saying. "We are friends of your grandmother, please come with me."
"Grandmama?" Tabatha asked confusingly.
"Come on," Faith said wanting to get out of the room as soon as possible.
Tabatha nervously followed the two girls down the flight of stairs, wondering where she was and who had brought her here. Her last conscious memory was of putting bags in her trunk, then a dream about a man who cut her, but since she had no bandages it must have been a dream. Now these people told her that they were friends of her grandmother.
"Joshua!" She exclaimed as she saw the familiar purple suit in the middle of the room. Pushing past both Slayers, she accepted his arms around her, encompassing her in a hug that could only be given to her by someone who loved her.
"It's over," Joshua murmured into her ears as he held her tightly. "We'll be home very soon."
"What's going on?" She asked still a bit confused.
"She seems to be okay, so we will take her home now," Joshua told Steve flatly, to which Steve nodded. "Thank you very much for your assistance. If there is anything we can do for you or your group in the future just ask."
"No, thank you," Tabitha said, understanding that these people did save her life. Turning to Joshua she said. "Let's go home."
As Tabitha talked, the two visitors each took one of her hands and when she said home they all disappeared
"That was interesting." Faith commented as she watched the three people leave. <Note sarcasm.>
"Why did Amy scream upstairs?" Steve asked as Buffy slipped her hand around his waist.
"Arrin cured Tabatha, but it seems that whatever was wrong with her was transferred to him." Buffy replied worriedly.
"Is he going to be alright?"
"Shaw is with him."
"Sounds like Transference," Willow replied, heading upstairs. "I have read about it but never thought I would be able to see it."
"Is it dangerous?" Buffy asked as she followed.
"Could be; depends on what was transferred and if the targeted host is healthy."
"Why couldn't he just heal her like he did with Methos?" Steve wanted to know.
"I don't know," Willow shrugged. "It could be that whatever it was in her was not something that could be healed magically."
"I hope he knows what he's doing."
"I do Steve," Arrin replied as he walked down the stairs. "Thank you for your concern, but I am alright and your other visitor just needs rest. Shaw did all that could be done for him."
"Thank you for your help with her," Buffy said moving to the stairs and escorting Arrin to a chair. "How long will it take you to recoup?"
"As I have already indicated, I am fine, I just wish to go see this uncle of Willow's and arrange things so I may travel."
"I have a better idea if you don't mind," Xander said as he and Oz moved toward where Arrin now sat. "Why don't we go take care of the deal for you so you can get some rest?"
"That is an excellent idea," Giles reasoned as Steve nodded his head.
"I do need rest," Arrin admitted sheepishly.
"Settled than," Cordelia said, joining in the conversation. "I will go with them to make sure they get a good price. No offense to your uncle."
"Wait for me, I have to put together a package for him so he can open the credit card," Willow told the group as she moved toward the office.
"Use this address as his billing address," Steve whispered to Willow as she passed him.
"Well, I guess they will be taking care of that, why don't we sit down and discuss how we can make it easy for you to follow my movements while I am here."
"I believe I have already taken care of that," Steve smiled as Buffy took a seat next to him.
Arrin nodded in acceptance to Steve's statement without bothering to ask how that would be done. "Well than I guess if there is nothing else for us to discuss, I will return to my cave and spend the next few days preparing for my trip."
"Can we house you here?" Buffy asked as Arrin stood. "I mean, that way you will be here when the guys get back from LA, and we can show you a bit about what you need to know."
"I would rather not be in this house," Arrin stated. "You see I have a feeling that things happen fast here and well, I am on vacation."
Barking out a laugh, Faith shook her head as she put in her two cents. "You don't know the half of it."
Smiling at the irreverent girl's statement, he looked back to Steve. "I will be back tomorrow for the card."
"Sounds like a plan." Buffy replied as she watched Arrin walk out.
Oz drove silently to LA, knowing the way to Willow's uncle's house without needing a road map or navigator. His mind however was in somewhat of a quandary, only last week he made arrangements to pick up a ring for his witch, a ring he has planned to give to her on Valentines Day, now the trick would be to pick it up without her seeing it.
"These stones are really sweet." Cordelia said as she looked at the stone that she had had with her since he showed them the stones that morning. "I bet they go as high as 3 carats each with the value of about sixty-five k."
"Sixty-five thousand each?" Willow asked in shock, "and we have ten of them???"
"He won't be needing money anytime soon, that's for sure," Xander whispered.
The group rode the rest of the way in silence, looking at the diamonds that they had laid out in front of them. Cordelia had still not let the original stone out of her hand as her eyes seemed to look deeper into the stone, seeing something that none of the others could see.
Her mind left her body and the prime material plain behind, being lured deeper into the stone.††† The space she entered filled her with a peace she had never felt before, peace and tranquility, along with which came a better understanding of the world. Answers floated around her to questions she hadn't even thought of. As she came out of the crystal her body felt more relaxed than if she had slept eight hours, however it could have only been an hour since Oz had just pulled into a parking spot in front of Rosenberg Jewelry. Slipping the diamond in her pocket, she followed the rest of the group into the store.
"Good afternoon MrÖ." The armed guard who stood his post just outside the door of the Jewelry shop. Seeing the quick shake of the boy's head, he quickly changed his manner of speech. "How can I help you children today?"
"I would like to see my Uncle John."
"Let me ring him," The guard replied as he picked up the phone and mumbled into the receiver. Seconds later a loud buzzing announced that the door was now unlocked, allowing the teenagers to enter.
"Hello Willow," a middle aged man greeted from where he stood next to a brunette teenage girl who was obviously his daughter. "Have you brought the stones and the information we spoke about?"
"Yes we have," Willow answered as she placed a black silk bag and a large manila envelope on the table.
"Let's go look at what you have." John said as he picked up the two items and escorted Willow in the back room, giving his daughter a sharp look then looking over to Oz with a nod.
Samantha waited until the her father and Willow were behind closed doors before she excitedly grabbed a box from under the counter and ran around to the sales floor, throwing herself in Oz's arms and giving him a huge hug. At the same time she slipped the small box into his jacket pocket, while she whispered. "Keep her happy and safe Oz."
Accepting the hug, Oz closed his eyes and whispered back. "I will."
Stepping back from Oz, she then turned to the surprised couple who'd watched the hug. "Hello, you must be Cordelia and Oz."
"Yeah," Cordelia growled looking the girl over. "What is the meaning of that?"
"Don't worry," Samantha replied, knowing what Cordelia was thinking. "Willow is my cousin, I am just happy for them both."
"So happy you give him a hug when she leaves the room?" Cordelia asked suspiciously.
"Cordelia leave it alone." Oz growled as he pulled out the box Samantha had slipped into his pocket. "I didn't want anyone to see this but keep it a secret will you two."
Cordelia could only nod as Oz opened the box to allow them both to see the ring within. It was a small golden wolf head with two half-carat rubies set in the eyes. Although the surface of the ring was smaller in diameter of a dime the design of the head was very detailed.
"Oz," Xander asked as he looked over Cordelia's shoulder. "Is that for what I think it's for?"
Closing the box, Cordelia handed it back to Oz before she turned to Xander with a tear in her eye and said. "It ain't nothing and you never saw it."
Nodding his head in agreement, he walked around the store, looking at the different jewelry and wondering briefly who could have made such beautiful pieces. He'd have to come back when he decided to buy jewelry.
Seconds later Willow and her uncle came back into the main room. After Willow gave both her uncle and her cousin a hug, she headed out the door with the others in tow. Samantha just grinned and said, "She is so lucky!"
The sound of an alarm going off just above her head was the first sound Buffy heard. As she slowly started to push herself out of bed, she remembered where she was and rolled over to look at her lover. Swallowing, she pushed herself out of bed and snuck into the bathroom thinking, /Morning breath how nice./
"Hope you left me some hot water." Steve told Buffy as she came out of the bathroom some time later.
"Honey, you have two eighty gallon water heaters placed in this house, there is no way one person could use all that water." She replied sweetly.
"I have two teenaged girls and a child living here along with all the guests." Steve replied in way of an explanation.
"Well honey, let's get up," she told him as she walked out of the room. "The others should be here soon."
"Meet you downstairs in a bit."
An hour later, Steve entered to find his living room a war zone, Xander had both of his boxes packed and ready to be taken over to the new condo. Oz, Robin, and Larry were all helping him move the boxes out to the van parked in the driveway. The girls were in the kitchen, cooking breakfast and talking about the move.
"Anyone see Arrin this morning?" Steve asked as he picked up a box and started for the door.
"Nah, I figure he knew work was being done here, so he's waiting till later to come over," Xander replied with a laugh.
"Is that the trick?" Larry asked as he moved to the door carrying two big boxes. "I would think the girls should be doing this."
A half hour later with the van all loaded up, the group was all setting down for breakfast when a knock sounded at the front door, causing them to groan collectively. Opening the door at this house was never a mundane experience.
Walking to the front door, Steve opened up to find Arrin dressed in a pair of shorts with a muscle shirt and flip-flops. He almost coughed up the orange juice he was drinking when he saw how utterly ridiculous the elf looked in those clothes.
"Where did you get those clothes?"
"Not right?" He asked as he made a show of looking himself over. "They are comfortable."
"Well just a bit out of touch, I think." Steve replied. "Those are summer clothes and it's winter here."
"Oh," Arrin replied as he waved that off. Getting down to business he asked. "Is that card here for me?"
"Come in," Steve invited as he stepped aside and let him in. "I'm sure the others would like to see you."
"B, if I didn't know better I would Slay him."
"Carbon dated for sure."
"I think he looks cute," Willow replied as she squeezed Oz's hand to show him she was just going along with the Slayers.
"Just here to pick up the card and then go." Arrin said straight-faced.
"He ain't leaving town till we get him to a mall." Cordelia giggled as she looked at the 70's look he was sporting. "Fast."
"Here is the card and three forms of ID, Arrin." Willow said as she handed him a small envelope. "We will need to take you to the mall to get you a wallet or something to carry it in, though. Your card has just under three million dollars on it, that is more than enough to last a few years but I still have three more stones if you run out."
"Thank you, Willow."
"Well we have to move Xander after breakfast. But after that we will help you at the mall, ok?"
"All right," Arrin replied nodding his head as he looked over the group at the table. He wondered why Shawukay was giving him a look of sympathy but decided it wasn't important.
Arrin agreed with the red headed witch, but he knew that he would be long gone before the group returned. He was not the kind to stay when it was time to move on, and right now it was time to move on. He let out a sigh as he turned away from the kitchen and moved into the front room. He would wait until they all left before he began his journey.
He had just made himself comfortable when Shawukay walked into the room and asked if she could speak with him outside. She turned and walked outside with him following behind her.
"Yes Lady Redstar, what is it that I can do for you?"
"I have been remembering things my grandparents had told me about you, about the way you traveled on your missions."
"You see, my grandfather told me that they all ended the same way. No matter who you traveled with, no matter where your adventure took you, it was always the same; you would leave while the others slept." Shaw kept her voice low so only the two of them could hear, even though they were outside and it was unlikely that anyone would hear her damning words. She paused for a minute to allow him to rebut but when he didn't, she went on. "So you will probably leave tomorrow morning, since today will be the day you normally divide things up, yes?"
Again Arrin did not answer her statement, allowing her to form her own conclusions. After a minute she went on.
"Arrin, my friends and cousin are nice people. I do not want you to leave them the way you have left groups in the past. Tell them good bye and let them see you leave, so that they know their friend is well when he leaves." Shaw had a slight crack in her voice from addressing a man with his noble and religious rank this way. "Can you do that for me?"
"I have something to tell you before I give you my answer." Arrin replied as he watched Shaw for any sign of emotion. "Something I should have told you the night I came back from Dragon Valley, but I was side tracked in my duties."
"What?" Shaw asked in confusion, not understanding what Arrin was talking about.
"It is a message from your Mother." Arrin replied, which shocked Shaw into silence. "The Lord Corellon told me to say this, to you, for her: She is very proud of you, and she loves you beyond the distance to the stars."
Arrin watched as a tear come to Shaw's eye and noticed a splash of red as the curtain just to the left of the door moved. He also noticed that the window was open just a bit. Figuring that her friends could help her deal with his message more than he could, Arrin escorted the young, stunned half-elf into the house and sat her on the couch. Then he looked over to where Willow stood, near the passageway into the kitchen, locking eyes with her. He then gave Shawukay a brief glance before looking back at her in time to receive a brief nod, indicating she would be the one to help out.
Looking the group over as they all sat at the table eating, he decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to go. With a smile on his lips, he looked to Willow and nodded his head as he walked out the door after watching the witch silently mouth, "Good bye."
Once he reached the main sidewalk, he headed down the street, strolling toward the south end of town.