Mitung’s Headquarters
East San Francisco

Mitung watched the sleeping form as he added another vial of the drug to the IV still attached to the girl. Checking the flow, he nodded to himself before turning to the man who was, for now, his only boss. “Two more days and she should be ready to go to stage two. I won’t know any more until she comes out from under the drip; however, she has not suffered any of the normal side effects, so I believe she would do as well as the first girl has.”

“What about the Lyons girl? Are her parents still looking for her?”

“Yes, they are,” Mitung replied exhaustedly. “They are bringing in one of the top PIs of their area, but don’t worry, I have someone meeting him at the airport.”

“Just make sure they can’t track it back here,” the man replied as he walked out of the room.

Watching the man leave the room, a sly sneer spread across his face. < Don’t worry; she won’t be tracked back to me. But once you have secured the sale, you will become expendable. >

Leaving the room by the other door, Mitung hit the play button on a reel-to-reel letting the program run which should convince the girl that she was nobody.

###

Halliwell Manor
7:00 pm

Parking the SUV in front of a large two story Victorian home, Steward wondered why he had driven the woman to this place. They had left the east side of San Francisco, for the richer north. In doing so, he was sure they moved farther away from Arrin and Solace. Exiting the vehicle, Steward ran around and helped the old woman out and then followed her up to the house.        

“Now, Steward, please keep a civil tongue in your mouth; and mind, these three women are very important to the world. They are probably the most powerful witches in the country; maybe even the world.”

“Again, why would they help me?” Steward asked as she pushed the doorbell, which was answered by a very pretty brunette. Sizing her up, Steward figured her to be in her early twenties with shoulder-length brown hair and a body that even a man his age could admire.

“Hello Grandmother,” the girl greeted as she took a minute to look him over. “Want to introduce me to your friend?”

“Good evening, Phoebe. May I introduce you to Steward Anderson? He is the one with the problem that I want to talk to you about.”

“What is the problem?” Phoebe asked as she stepped aside, allowing the pair to enter the house.

“My friends are missing,” Steward replied when the woman nodded her head for him to explain. “Grandmother here said that a group called the Golden Talon Tong has them.”

“The Golden Talon Tong has been growing in Chinatown for the last six months. Their leader is named Mitung. He is ruthless. He is into drugs, protection, prostitution and slavery,” Grandmother said, giving Phoebe all the information she knew. “Now they have one of his friends, and I fear for the girl.”

“How do you know so much of these people?” the question came from the kitchen area drawing both grandmother’s and Steward’s attention. Two more women stood in the doorway; the family resemblance was easily seen. As the two advanced, the oldest one’s eyes never left the old woman’s face as the younger one obviously sized him up. “Grandmother, have these people been harassing you?”

“Listen, I don’t wanna sound unconcerned about her predicament, but I have a couple of good friends out there who I need to find. The sooner the better for all concerned.”

“We will scry for them as soon as we are sure grandmother is ok,” the oldest woman replied without even glancing at him. “Piper, Phoebe; get things ready for a location spell.”

“I am well,” grandmother replied, blessing the oldest sister with a smile. “You need to find them as soon as possible.”

Watching the two younger sisters run around getting their spell components ready, Steward hoped that they would have better luck than the old woman had. He wasn’t sure what he could do to help, so he backed off and watched the proceeding, trying to stay out of the way.

“We interrupt your daily scheduled programming to bring you the latest breaking news,” Connie Chung’s voice sang out as the TV screen in the living room went blank for a couple of seconds, when the picture came back on it was focused on an overturned car which was on fire. People were running everywhere. Off to one side, in the background, two men attacked what appeared to be a young boy. Either unaware or uncaring of the news camera, the two men advanced on the boy who stood immobile in the middle of the street. The fight turned deadly serious as one of the men pulled a knife and waved it menacingly at the boy as he crouched into a knife-fighting stance. The boy produced what appeared to be a short sword from somewhere and quickly ended the fight. In the same motion of drawing the sword, the boy *gutted* his opponent! The man collapsed to the ground. Just then, the burning car exploded. The smoke from the explosion was dark and, for a few minutes, masked the boy and his opponents from view. When the smoke cleared, only one body lay on the ground. The other two were gone.

###

Old World Herb and Potion Shop

Arrin was not in a good mood as he stood in front of the herb shop looking at the empty space where his SUV was supposed to be parked. Turning to look at the shop, he noted that it was closed. His temper started to hit its boiling point just as two oriental men came up alongside him.

“Hey Dean, it’s him.” Arrin heard one of the men whisper as they separated, each one advancing on a different side of him. “Grab him.”

Arrin struck quickly as the two came within arm’s reach. He did not know why they wanted to grab him, but he did not feel like being grabbed at the moment. He welcomed the chance to let out his anger. He decided not to use magic unless these two proved to be an actual challenge.

Smoothly he ducked below the man who tried to grab him on his right. At the same time, he kicked back, using a trick that Helga had taught him. He placed his leg between the man’s legs then he twisted, using his leg as a lever. He knocked the man down before smoothly coming back to his feet, while punching the man in front of him, hitting just under the sternum, causing him to loose his lose his breath and balance, then stumble in the street.

As the man stumbled back into the street, a speeding car swerved sharply, trying to avoid the stumbling man. The swerve at that speed was too much for the car and it tilted up on two wheels then rolled over. The driver stumbled out of the car and shook his head several times before starting to charge the man who he just missed, slapping him across the face.

What started the riot would remain a mystery, but just as the car rolled over, it seemed that the streets immediately filled up with angry men, women and children. Arrin was not prepared for the senseless vandalism. The fighting he could understand. The two men who first attacked him were still in the fight, and he wanted to know why they wanted to attack him.

He tried to ignore the fighting that spread all around him. He noticed that a few of the police cars had tried to come down the street, but could not proceed into the mass of bodies. After a short while, a strange vehicle came slowly down the street with a large square shape on top with a man behind it. His first thought was that it was some type of ballista. Whatever it was, things were getting out of hand faster than he liked.

One of his attackers came at him with a knife. He held the knife, low crouched, moving it in small circles. The man come closer just as the overturned car blew up. Arrin wondered if the man was crazy. He did not stop to think, and his hand dove down to enclose the hilt of the short sword that hung from his hip. The sword came out in a smoothly drawn arc, its deadly point cutting through the man’s clothes as if they were butter. The man’s entrails started to pour out of the wound. Cautiously, Arrin turned to the other man who was trying to back away in a backward crawl.

Reaching out, Arrin grabbed the man and teleported them both away to a cave that he now used as a storage area for the things he would be taking back to his valley. Arrin let the man back himself into the wall without saying anything. By the way the man was acting; he knew that he had hit pay dirt. This man knew something. Now he would just have to get the answers.

“Mister, I am very tired and very angry,” Arrin started out as he looked that the man who was backing away from him. “You know where my mate is and you are going to tell me.”

“They will kill me,” the man cried out, looking around wildly.

“Then you’re a dead man,” Arrin replied calmly as he waved a hand while hissing out the truth spell. “If you do not tell me what I want to know, I will kill you.”

###

Connie Chung and her camera crew had been doing a story on the newest party drug, eXtasy. This drug gave the user a feeling of freedom, but the corresponding lack of judgment often let others take advantage of the user. It was easily mixed into drinks and left women powerless against advances. This year, it had been directly responsible for 31 deaths of men and women between the ages of twenty-one and thirty.

Connie had already found the site of the next underground party and hoped to find someone who could lead her to buy some of the drug and, hopefully, be able to blow the story open. The crew had just entered a Starbucks coffee house when the riot broke out. Leaving their table, the crew ran outside and started up the van with the cameraman standing in the roof hatch, trying to capture the scene as it grew.

###

Billy watched as the strange boy opened up Dean with the sword and knew what fear was. Dean had been the best knife fighter that he knew, and this boy just opened him up with a very easy swipe. Now his friend was dead and he was in a cave with the guy who had killed him. Backing up against the wall, Billy screamed, “Who the hell are you? What do you want?”

“I told you, I want my mate back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Tell me all you know, and I will allow you to leave here.”

“They will kill me,” Billy whispered again, his eyes never leaving the boy who just stood in the middle of the room. He watched, not comprehending as the boy moved his hands in some type of pattern as he spoke in a strange language for a few minutes.

“I will kill you right now if you do not tell me what I want to know,” the boy replied as he took a seat in the middle of the room and started a small fire as if nothing was strange about the whole situation. “Tell me where my mate is, or you will suffer.”

“I don’t know, AHHHHHHHH!” Billy started out but the ripping pain that flashed through his body caused him to stop. Bending over to ease the pain, it almost felt like a bowel movement. Billy held his side as he tried to catch his breath.

“Tell me where she is!” the boy barked out. This time he pulled out the sword he used to cut Dean open.

“I don’t, ARGGGGGGGG!” Billy started again but this time he was forced to his knees. As sweat poured from his head, the pain seemed to double.

“I am not going to ask you again, tell me and do not lie.”

“I can’t tell you, they will kill me,” Billy replied as he curled up in a ball hoping the pain would leave him.

“You will tell me,” the boy replied and something in his voice told Billy that if he didn’t tell, things were going to get serious. The boy’s voice seemed devoid of feelings as he went on, “From this point on, the more you lie, the worse the pain will get. The longer you avoid the question, the worse the pain will get. Have you ever wondered what it felt like to have your skin peeled off your body an inch at a time, but remain not only conscious but also feeling as every inch of skin as it was peeled away? If you do not tell me what you know, you will soon learn.”

Billy was not sure what the boy was talking about, but when he saw the boy put his sword over the fire, he figured he had better than a fair idea just what he meant and nothing in the boy’s body language belied his statement. Looking around, he realized that he had no choice but to tell this boy what he wanted to know. He also realized that if he told him, his own life was forfeit.

“Your woman is being held by my boss,” Billy replied breathing a sigh of defeat. “She will be sold to the highest bidder.”

“Where is this auction to be?”

“On the net, they probably already have a buyer lined up; a girl with those kind of eyes is rare.”

“How are they keeping her hostage?”

“She is unconscious.”

###

Old World Herb and Potion Shop

Inspector Andy Trudeau knelt down over the body of a man who was cut open from navel to neck and wondered how it could have happened in broad daylight. Using his pen, he pushed the shirt aside to show the cut was made by a very sharp, if wide, blade. Shaking his head, he let the shirt fall back in place as he noticed what looked like intestines were coming out. Standing back up, he looked over to his partner, who was asking a man if he had seen anything. “Looks like who ever did this had a very large and very sharp knife.”

“What ever happen to the common drive by?” Darryl Morris asked as he stepped away from the man who had no information. “At least with one of those, we can mark it down as gang related and move on.”

“I guess we can mark it down to gang related,” Andy replied standing up while looking around. “I just don’t see how it could be anything else.”

“Hey Trudeau, trying to improve your reputation in the department?” a strong voice asked from behind them causing both men to look around. “This is not your normal case.”

“Hello Nash, Dominguez,” Trudeau replied as he turned to face the two men. “Little off your beaten path, aren’t you?”

“Following a lead on our case,” the Hispanic man of the pair replied as he looked down at the body. “What happen to him?”

 “Appears like he got in a fight with a knife and lost,” Darryl Morris stated the obvious.

“So what case are you two working on?” Andy asked

“Designer drugs, eXtasy,” Dominguez replied looking around the area. “Any witnesses?”

“Are there ever?”

Andy knew the defeated attitude that his partner was showing all too well. He suspected that at one time or another, all police felt it. However, he did not spend time thinking about it. Most of his cases lately revolved around some type of demons. He just did not see things black and white since meeting Prue and her sisters.

###

“Hey Andy,” a surprised Prue called over to the last person she expected to see at the herb shop owned by the woman known as Grandmother. “What are you two doing here?”

“Or what are you doing here?” Darryl Morris asked accusingly as he turned to face the two girls. “How is it that you are always around when we find a murder?”

“There was a murder?” Phebe asked in surprise as she looked down at the body.

“What do you two know about this?”

“Hey Inspector Bridges, how are you?” Piper said as she joined her sisters with grandmother. “We haven’t seen you in forever.”

“It’s Nash to my friends, Piper, I though you knew that.”

“You all know each other?” Morris asked looking between the girls and Nash.

“We met up with Nash and Dominguez at a mutual friend’s house,” Prue replied looking at Piper with a glare that told her younger sister to be quiet. “What is going on here?”

“This is all supposed to be a crime scene,” Morris said looking at his partner. “You people need to clear out.”

“Calm down Morris, they can’t hurt anything.” Nash laughed.

“Says you,” Morris grumbled, moving back away from the girls.

“Why are you here Prue?” Andy asked again, now that Morris had moved away, “This is just a normal killing, right?”

“I don’t know. We came here to help grandmother,” Prue replied calmly. She knew that Morris was not happy about them being there, but she also knew that there was nothing she could do about that. So, she decided to ignore him for now and move on.

###

 Having driven behind the women in his SUV, Steward had missed the introductions, but as he walked into the tight circle, his eyes fell upon the body that lay there and stayed on it. It was easy to see that the body was cut open by a large knife, or a short sword, his eyes closed a bit as he realized that Arrin must now be loose. The cut on this man’s body must have come from the Elf’s short sword.

“Where do we start looking for him?” he asked Prue, who he realized was the woman in charge. “I really need to find him.”

###

“Still?” Arrin asked, astonished that anything could keep Solace under that long. “How is this being accomplished?”

“It’s a drug; they are trying to erase her memories.”

“Pray that they don’t,” Arrin replied, his voice taking on a harder note. “Now tell me, where is she being held?”

“The boss has her at his house on the north-east side of Chinatown.” He gave the address.

“I do not want to go to war,” Arrin said looking down at the scared man. “Tell your boss that if he returns Solace to me, unharmed; I will simply walk away. However, if just one strand of her hair is out of place, I will destroy his world.”

With that said, Arrin teleported them back to the street where he had abducted him. The riot was just being contained by a combination of the local police and a group of men in uniforms with the large guns that he had seen before at Steve’s house. The strange van with the man on top seemed to be in the thick of the action but it had a few of the uniformed men standing around it, guarding it. For a brief second, the woman’s eyes and his met then he stepped back, allowing a dozen people to separate them before he turned and walked into the crowd.

“Go now,” Arrin grunted, watching the man run for his life. With a wicked grin, he cast invisibility upon himself and followed the man. He had no intention of giving them any time to mount a defense against him or move his lover.

###

Billy did not know where the boy had gone, but he was not going to stick around long enough to find out. Mitung would want to know about Dean; and the sooner the better. He would also want to know more about this boy. Thinking about that, Billy thought better of mentioning the boy at all. Mitung would probably just kill him if he found out that he had been with him and hadn’t done anything. Pushing his way to Mitung’s home and headquarters, he tried to think up an acceptable explanation.

“Billy!” Mitung barked as Billy entered the main room of the fortress/house. “Where in hell have you been? Where is Dean? What the hell is going on?”

“Dean is dead,” Billy replied trying to remain calm, even though that is not how he felt. “We were walking down Ti Lung Street when a riot broke out. He was stabbed; no one saw who did it.”

“Damn it, did you accomplish the job?”

“We won’t have to worry about them any longer,” Billy replied evasively

“I hope not.”

###

Mitung was not sure if he believed Billy or not. It was common practice to gain standing by bumping off the competition. Since Dean had been in charge of Billy, it didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to connect the two dots and think that Billy had killed Dean, just as Dean killed Kim before him. Putting the inner struggles of the gang out of his mind, Mitung turned and headed back into the chamber where the four girls were now being readied for shipping. He had decided to keep the Lyons girl for himself, even though he knew it would be a dangerous move. The drug had worked beautifully on her and he considered her as his perfect specimen.

Taking out his cell phone, he dialed a number from memory and waited for someone to answer.

“You looking for me buddy?” came a strange hard voice.   

Mitung hung up the phone thinking he had dialed the number incorrectly he slowed down and made sure to dial the right number.

“Still me, boy,” the voice growled.

“Who is this? Where is Kim?”

“Oh he’s all tied up at the moment, and so is Dong, so don’t ask about him either,” the voice half laughed, half barked the reply.

“Who are you?”

“I want Kristen Lyons. Give her to me and I will go away.”

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” came Mitung’s reply as his face turned red with anger. “I will bury you.”

“You’re not the first who has tried. Do yourself a favor, boy; turn the girl loose.”

“If I don’t?” Mitung demanded, his voice showing the raw anger he was feeling. The man on the other end simply hung up the phone.

Hanging up the phone, Mitung was a bit nervous. He had sent two of his best men out to intercept the private detective. It appeared that they had failed in their duties. Realizing that he must do something quickly, he dialed another number. He hoped that the person who picked it up was in a good mood.

“What is it you want?” a raspy voice asked after the first ring.

“I want a man eliminated,” Mitung replied his voice stern, trying to take control of the interview.

“Who is this man?”

“Remington Steele, he is currently at the International Airport.”

“Remington Steele, the detective is from St. Louis? Why is he in San Francisco?” the voice asked after a few seconds of silence.

“I want him dead,” Mitung replied ignoring the questions.

“He has a name; the cost will be doubled, deposit in the normal account.”

“Done.”

###

San Francisco International Airport

Remington stepped down from the jetway that allowed the passengers to walk safely from the plane to the terminal and hurriedly stepped aside, so his wife and partner, Laura, could get off. She had not moved from her seat since they had taken off. She had always been afraid of flying. It surprised him that she agreed to Lyons offer. Watching her hurry to the restroom, he turned to the board to find out where their luggage would be.

Walking over to where the restrooms were, he leaned up against the wall, waiting for his wife to finish her business so they could be on their way. He felt a dull bump in his side as an oriental man came closer than necessary.

“Be smart and come along peacefully,” the man said in a low voice.

“What is going on here?” Remington asked as he pushed himself away from the wall heading the way the man with the gun in his side indicated. < Are these guys really trying to rob me? > “I am afraid you have picked a very poor subject to rob.”

“Just shut up and keep moving. Try to warn someone and you can kiss your ass good bye.”

As they walked toward the main exit, Remington noticed a second man had joined them on the other side. He could not believe that this was happening in the middle of the day. He had seen movies, but found flaws in them all. Yet for all that, he was in that same ridiculous situation. Only this time he could not find any way out.

“You realize this is a capital offense, right, guy?” Remington said as he walked along with them, looking for a way out of the mess.

“Down here,” the man whispered, pushing him toward the stairway.

###

Kim Knore and Ling Sou watched the man step down from the jetway and Kim checked the description of the man he was supposed to intercept at the airport. He knew that it would be dangerous to snag someone out in the open like this, so instead of going in his regular clothes, he put on a dark suit with a tie. Standing up straight, he tried to give the impression of being a government agent.

Taking the man down the stairway instead of the elevator was a whim, but he thought it would be a good bet, since riding down the elevator might cause undue suspicion. Turning to his partner in this hit, Kim kept his voice low and spoke in Japanese. / With these new silencers we should just do it here between floors and leave the body, chances are he won’t be found for at least an hour. /

/ Alright, / Ling replied, also in Japanese, as they stopped between the main floor and the parking lot that was under the terminal. / I will do it. /

 / No, allow me, / came a very female voice from behind them, causing Ling to turn around just as the bottom part of a woman’s hand knifed into his throat, causing him to grab at his windpipe while gagging. The woman did not stop with him. Watching her as if stunned, Kim was too late to react as she used Ling’s bent over body to roll over, giving him a double kick to his face, each coming from high and going low. The three inch spikes, which were her heels, tore his facial skin, leaving twin cuts down his face and depositing him on the floor where a small pool of his own blood began to form under him.

 ###

Laura was just stepping out of the bathroom when she noticed her husband being escorted through the door marked stairway. Wondering what was going on, she decided to follow them and find out. On the surface, the two men who escorted her partner looked like they were from a government agency; however, something didn’t look right. Listening to them talk, she realized that this was a hit. She hoped they would say who was behind it but, hearing the man say he would do it, she knew she needed to act fast.

/ No, allow me, / Laura said, moving into the attack, guessing the man would turn and take a look at who had interfered. Her first attack was to incapacitate the opponent. She had no idea what these men wanted, but she was not going stand by and allow anyone to kill her husband. Watching the first man bend over, her years of training took over. Moving in a graceful kick she rolled over her first opponent and delivered double kicks to send the second man to the floor. Landing on her feet, she looked around, ready for more attackers, even though she was pretty sure there was no one else around.

“What the hell did you do now?”

“Don’t look at me,” Remington replied as he looked down at the men.

“What did they want?” she asked as she looked them over. Seeing a bit of coloring on one of their necks, she reached down and pulled down the man’s coat, finding what she hoped she wouldn’t. Muttering ‘Yakuza’ under her breath, she looked up at Remington. “We have to get out of here, fast.”

“Why?” Remington asked as they both heard a cell phone go off in one of two downed men’s pocket. Reaching down, he pulled it out looking at the screen which displayed the caller ID. He showed it to Laura before answering it. “You looking for me, buddy?”

“Knock it off,” Laura growled as she pushed the end button on the phone. She reached out to take it from him just as it started to ring again.

“Still me, boy,” Remington growled.

“Who is this? Where is Kim?”

“Oh, he’s all tied up at the moment, and so is Dong, so don’t ask about him either,” he half laughed, half barked the reply.

“Who are you?”

“I want Kristen Lyons. Give her to me and I will go away.”

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” came the angry reply. “I will bury you.”

“You’re not the first who has tried. Do yourself a favor, boy; turn the girl loose,” Remington replied as he hung up the phone, handing it to Laura.

      “What the hell are you trying to do, get us killed?” Laura snapped as she took the phone, jamming it into her pocket for future use. “What makes you think they have Kristen anyway?”

      “Why else would he send two goons for us?”

      “Are you sure he sent them?”

      “He asked for a guy name Kim,” Remington replied as he pointed down to the two men, “Wanna bet one of them is Kim?”

      “Still don’t mean they know why we are here.”

      “I am betting they do.”

      “So they know who we are, and now they know why were here, what should we do now?”

      “I found this out; it’s your turn to come up with something,” Remington replied smugly as they headed toward the rental car center.

###

City Park
Chinatown

Arrin had every intention of following Billy until he was led into the den of those who held Solace. However, as he followed Billy to the big mansion, his sensitive hearing picked up the sharp barking of dogs, just before he entered the grounds. He remembered the snow dogs that he used on his mountain and realized that his cloak of invisibility would not fool the dogs, so he stopped just outside the gate and looked up to the house.

Looking the house over, he realized that it was set up as a fort. The eight foot stone wall went three city blocks both ways before making a forty-five degree turn, surrounding the house by at least two city blocks. The next thing he noticed was the area inside the stone wall was clean of all debris. Anyone storming that house would have to travel a good distance across clear ground before they got anywhere near any kind of cover. Movement from the corner of the house attracted his eyes. Turning toward it, he saw a small box that looked a lot like the one he remembered in the Jewelry store he had visited. Remembering what was said about that box, he slowly scanned back. Now that he knew what to look for, he found no less than five more of the recording devices, each sweeping the grounds. As he looked at one of the devices, trying to figure out the timing on it, a movement near the upstairs balcony caused him to look that way. With the help of his infravision, he was able to see a man standing there. Deciding that he would not be able to slip in without being noticed, Arrin turned and walked away, still cloaked by invisibility.

Leaving the compound, a plan started to form in his mind. Once, when a band of nomads attacked his village, his father found a second group of nomads who worked the opposite side of the mountains and called them to aid them. Even though both groups wanted nothing more than to destroy the small village of Elves, his father somehow got the two groups to fight each other. The remnants of the nomads’ forces were small enough for his father’s forces to destroy them. As he walked away thinking about it, a smile came to his face. Now, he just had to find a group who rivaled this one.

Thinking about the last couple of days, he could only come up with one logical conclusion. In the area where it all started, the shopkeepers that they preyed upon did not fight back. He did not understand how these shopkeepers allowed someone to come in and take what was theirs. On Faerun, many shopkeepers were ex-adventures who had a special stash of personal weapons. How could it possibly be different here? With that thought in his mind, he teleported himself back to the spot it all started.

Standing outside of the Old World herb shop, he looked up and down the street and felt for the first time the undercurrent of mistrust and anger. Noticing that the herb shop was closed, he entered the next building. Walking into the room, he noticed the musky smell that often hung around books. As his eyes adjusted to the new darkness, he found much what he expected. The place was too small and dark to be a library, yet everywhere he looked were racks and racks of books.

Seeing the old man who sat behind the desk, Arrin somehow knew he would not get any help from the people who this group terrorized. If he were to get help, it would have to be from the group’s enemy, or create an enemy they did not know about. Putting on a smile he did not much feel like, Arrin picked up an exceptionally large book and thumbed though the pages, not really understanding the words which were arranged on the page. Looking over the book, he looked at the man. Sending mental apologies to the man, he took the liberty of reading the man’s mind, taking secrets the man would never have told him. At the same time, he allowed his karma to flow. At his best, he knew he could tempt a fairy out of a tree. It was this karma he projected which seemed to have a calming effect on the old man. Getting all the information he needed, learning just how the group who held Solace, kept these poor people under their thumb. Slipping out of the man’s mind, he left a small suggestion before whispering the command of sleep to him.

With the seed in the man’s mind, Arrin decided that it was time to get things rolling. With that in mind, he walked across the street to a small store that seemed to keep the neighborhood in fruits, as well as common household foods. Acting as if he was looking through the fruits, Arrin kept his eyes on the store he had just come from. While reading the man’s mind, Arrin learned that he was waiting for someone to come along and take the money for this month. At first, Arrin thought about taking the money before the group came, which would cause the messenger to look for him. After taking another look at the man, he knew he could not put him in danger, so decided to do it the hard way.

Walking across the street to a store that was much like the general stores from his city, Arrin paid for an apple with a dollar and sat on his haunches with his back against the wall. Biting into the apple, he got himself comfortable to wait for the messenger. As the time passed, he looked up and down the street. The streets were clear now. It was strange how one minute there was a war and then it was over. He knew he had to get another group to start this war; however, the only two groups he knew at this point had problems of their own.

As he tried to think of something to do, a young man walked into the store across the street. He was only there a few minutes before he walked back out; followed by the proprietor, who locked up. An evil grin appeared on Arrin’s face as he stood up and started to follow the man from across the street. The suggestion he had placed in the proprietor’s head, was to lock up as soon as the messenger had come.

For the next hour, Arrin followed the messenger though his route. The man stopped at 35 individual stores before he got back into the car occupied by three more men; then they started to drive away. Knowing he could never catch up to them, Arrin forced them to stop by placing a wall in front of the car. By the time he got to the car, the four men were out of it, inspecting the dark gray metal wall which had suddenly appeared from nowhere.

“You lost?” the messenger asked, as the group turned back to see Arrin sitting on the hood of their car.

“Not at all, I am just here to collect the taxes.”

“What taxes?” another man asked as the four started to walk toward Arrin who now jumped down from the car and waited for them.

“You boys have been collecting the taxes, and I am here to collect them from you.”

      “You’re buying yourself a whole lot of grief, boy,” the messenger, who was obviously the leader of this group, said as he signaled the others to fan out.

       “Is there really any other type?” Arrin asked as he pulled his sword, a cocky smile coming to his face.

      “There is something wrong with a knife at a gun fight,” one of the others said as Arrin sank the sword in the belly of the leader.

      In an simultaneous move, Arrin’s left hand pulled a small throwing dagger from behind his belt in the middle of his back and pitched it underhanded at the speaker, who was already making a move to the inside of his coat. The dagger slipped in between the third and fourth ribs, finding and piercing the heart, dropping the man. The thug never felt his head bounce off the ground when he dropped.

      “Don’t try it,” Arrin growled as he turned to the last of the three men, the third man was caught by surprise but was now jumping into action. Arrin’s words caught him just as he was bringing his gun in line. “You will never make it.”

      “So what now?”

      “Go back to your people; tell them it has become personal,” Arrin growled as he reached out and took the gun from the man and shoved it into his belt. “Tell them that the war is on.”

      “Who the hell are you?”

      “Boy, you should have asked that before you attacked,” Arrin replied as he turned around and disappeared from sight by pulling the hood of his cloak of invisibility up over his head. Retrieving his knife from the dead man, he walked away and didn’t turn back.

      ###

S.F. NBC News Room
45 minutes later

“What do you think Ms. Chung?” a young man asked as he put the pictures in front of the woman. “This is the third murder that we can trace to this guy.”

“These two also part of the tong?”

“Cops kept me away from the scene, but I took these shots with a telephoto lens.”

“I’ll call Lt. Bones, see what he can tell us,” Connie said as she turned away from the photographer to her editing chief who was standing near by listening to what was happening. “Could be a rival tong trying to move in.”

“Let’s hope not, that could be bloody,” the chief replied as he nodded his approval to continue with the story.

“What about the drugs, sir?”

“Leave it for now, this is more important.”

Nodding her head, Connie turned to her cameraman issuing orders. The cameraman and driver both were jumping to her orders even before she fully explained what she wanted done.

###

Mitung’s Headquarters

“What happened?” Mitung snapped as the man Arrin let go rushed into the house. “Where are the others who left with you?”

“They are dead; a crazy boy sliced them both open before we had time to pull our guns.”

“What the hell is going on out there?” Mitung growled as he turned toward the opposite door where four of his guards rushed in with drawn guns. “Get out!”

“What should we do?”

“Find him and kill him,” Mitung snapped as he turned back to the messenger. “I want his eyes on my desk by sunset or your eyes.”

      ###

Old World herb shop

“So what now?” Steward asked as they entered the shop. “How are we going to track him from here?”

“Steward,” Piper started in a calming voice, “Your friend has some very strong magic protecting him from our scrying. We can’t find him yet, but we will.”

“I am sure we will find him, too,” Steward replied as he looked out the front window in time to see Arrin appear apparently out of nowhere.

Following Steward’s glaze Piper noticed the young man in a ponytail come across the street. Taking a few minutes she studied him. A few inches under six foot, he wore a silk-looking robe, the pony tail on top of his head somehow looked in place for him but was still unusual enough to draw the eye. The staff he used to walk with looked ludicrous, since it was at least a foot taller than he was. As he came closer, she noticed there was a stiffness on his left side that ran down the side of his leg and she could barely make out the butt of a hand gun stuck in his belt.

“Is that your friend?” Piper asked as the front door was opened admitting the strange young man.

“Steward, I though you were with Solace?” the stranger asked his voice distraught with worry.

“No, I was taken to the same hospital you were taken to; when I got out, I came here to find the two of you.”

“Where is Solace?”

“The Golden Talon Tong has her,” Steward replied softly.

“I have heard a group has her under drugs. Now that I know the name of the group, things will become far more interesting,” Arrin replied as he looked over the three new women. “Who are your friends?”

“They have come to help us.”

“Magic users are always welcome, but I doubt if you will be able to find her by magical means,” Arrin said addressing the Charmed Ones.

“How did you know they were witches?” Steward asked in shock, feeling totally out of his league with the five others in the room.

“Magic has its own signature on a person. These three are very powerful; they have not come into their true power, but they are still very powerful.”

“If they can not find Solace, how are we supposed to?” Steward asked, his voice carrying a bit of defeat.

“I have already made arrangements,” Arrin replied with a grin that caused Steward to worry.

###

“What kind of arrangements?” Prue asked her voice thick with suspicion as she looked over the young man who just entered the shop. She was puzzled how this man knew they were witches, but that would have to wait for now.

“I have given them a choice,” the young man replied calmly.

“What kind of choice?” Prue asked, but when she saw the cold emotionless eyes the young man turned to her, she knew what the choices were, but she was not sure if the young man knew what he was getting himself into.

“Leo!” Piper and Phoebe called out at the same time as they both also realized what that face meant.

“We only help the innocent, and that is usually from some kind of demon,” Prue told the group firmly.

“I never asked for help.”

“Leo!” Piper called out as Phoebe turned to Arrin. “You can’t do it alone.”

“I have heard that before.”

“Leo!” Piper continued to call as the front door opened to admit a tall dark-headed man.

“What?” the man asked as he entered the store, causing all the occupants of the room except Prue to turn to him.

“Why didn’t you just orb in?” Piper asked as she moved to the man.

“I couldn’t, something was stopping me,” Leo replied as he took a look at the strange young man in the room before stepping between the charmed ones and the man. “What is going on here?”

“His girlfriend was taken by the Golden Talon Tong,” Prue replied, her cold eyes never leaving Arrin. “He decided to go to war with them.”

“Who is this Golden Talon Tong?” Leo asked confused.

“Let me put it in words you might understand Leo,” Prue said sarcastically. “Imagine the demon’s council with out the magic, but they have guns and fighters to go around.”

“So they are like a Mafia?”

“They are not like a Mafia; they are a Mafia, a very strong one,” Grandmother cut in. “They have been feeding off this community for the last three years; protection, drugs and prostitution. They are careful in the prostitution racket; they only have girls over legal age working the streets.”

“It does not matter how many people they have working for them,” the young man said, his voice as calm as death. “I will have Solace back with me no matter how many people I have to kill.”

Looking over the young man, Leo could feel the anger ‘buzz’ from him. He could also feel the magic that surrounded the young man. “Who and what are you?”

“I am Lord Arrin Parkin, anything beyond that is not important,” the young man replied as if he had said enough. “But you can be assured that you will learn more as the time goes on, if they don’t return Solace to me unharmed.”

“What are your plans?” Prue asked, still a bit worried about this young man.

“Now that I know who I am fighting, I plan on stepping up the action.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“The only way to kill a rat is to get into its home and lay a trap.”

“How will you find out where they are?” Steward asked a predator smile coming to his face.

“First I must rest. Now that I know you’re safe, I will find a place to sleep tonight and begin in the morning.”

###

“I have a room at the Hotel down the street ready for us,” Steward replied as he walked with Arrin to the door, leaving the charmed ones in the shop.

“That won’t be necessary, I am sure the community will put us up once we get there,” Arrin replied as they climbed into the SUV and headed west.

“The community?”

“Yes the Elven community, protocol dictates for us to present ourselves to the community’s ruler,” Arrin informed his new friend. “I still have his present and I am sure he or she will be glad to put us up for the night and offer us some refreshments.”

“I am not Elven,” Steward stated the obvious. “You sure they are going to let me in?”

“You are with me.” Arrin’s words came out flatly. “No elf is that rude.”

As he drove following Arrin’s instructions toward the area, he watched the sudden change that took place. It was easy to recognize when they left Chinatown, for the structure of the building became more modern and square. An hour later, he noticed as an after thought, how clean the streets became. It wasn’t the freshly swept look that comes from after a street cleaner; this was almost hauntingly clean. No spray paint on the buildings, no large papers floating down the street, nothing. It was almost as if this place had no litter at all. He noticed a young couple glance over to his car as he passed them by.

“Slow down a bit, the communities are very strict about night travel,” Arrin said as they passed the couple. “Turn on this block, they will be expecting us.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“It is the way things are done.”

“Are all communities the same?”

“Normally they are; I have not been in one that has not been the same.” Arrin smiled. “However, if I am wrong, the worst that will happen is we get blasted into hell.”

“They can do that?” Steward asked shocked.

“And much more.”

Coming to the end of the street, Steward followed Arrin’s instructions and turned off the engine and waited in the car. It was not long before three figures in robes with the cowls pulled up, appeared out of thin air in front of the car. The figure in the middle cast back her hood showing herself to be very charismatic, so beautiful she was that Steward found himself slipping from reality as his will slipped into a dream state. He could hear what was going on around him; however, he had no will to answer or join the conversation.

###

Arrin stepped out of the car as the three appeared in front and watched as the woman pulled down her hood. He knew that she was casting a charm spell, but also knew that she realized he would be immune to such a basic spells so did not take it as an attack against himself. Standing proudly in front of the three people, he knew this would not be the ruling body, but their ambassadors, sent out to greet strangers.

"I am Lord Arrin Parkin, Son of Shobin Parkin, High Priest of Corellon Larethian, 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 Blade 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 the Spine of the World, and Master of the Rainbow Bow."

“We have heard the wind talk of you, Lord Parkin,” the woman addressed him with a slight bow. “My lord would be honored if you and your companion would enter and break bread with him. We have heard much of her as well.”

“Solace is not with me at this time,” Arrin replied, not able to keep the growl out of his voice. “But that is a story I will tell your Lord, and you, if you are present. I do not wish to repeat it several times.”

“The man in the car is a friend?” the question came from a male voice on the woman’s left side; the cloak still covered both of their faces.

“He is.”

Hearing the words, the two figures also pulled back their hoods, exposing two males of adulthood. “We can never be too careful these days.”

“Are you having trouble?” Arrin asked, not sure if he did right by coming here.

“None that we can not handle, but the community is becoming a bit uneasy,” the woman replied coldly showing that that conversation was closed.

“I will speak to your liege.”

“This way please,” one of the men said as they turned as a group.

“Release my friend,” Arrin requested, as he moved to the back of the vehicle to retrieve his bag of holding. Seeing Steward’s shoulders slump a bit, he called up to him, “Get out of the car, but please, leave any weapon you have in it.”

Following the three ambassadors into a building, Arrin kept his eyes sharp, trying to find some kind of hint as to where these particular elves came from. So far he had not seen any family crest that he was aware of, nor had he seen any religious icon that would indicate they belonged to any set sect.

“Your search is in vain my friend,” an elderly voice floated from everywhere in the large room he found himself in. “Our linage is not in the common rooms.”

“You hide?” Arrin asked his voice echoing off the walls as the speakers had.

“Only from those who are not of our kind.”

Arrin nodded his head. He realized that letting humans know of the existence of an Elven community could be very bad. Many humans would not even accept people of different ethnicities or religions, so how much less would they accept people of a totally different race Dismissing the thought he tilted his head in respect to the community, "I am Lord Arrin Parkin, Son of Shobin Parkin, High Priest of Corellon Larethian, 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 Blade 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 the Spine of the World, and Master of the Rainbow Bow."

“Well met Lord Parkin,” An old elf replied as he stepped into the room helped along by a walking cane that appeared to be made of gnarled oak. “I am Dharinel, Regent Lord. Master Mage and Master Bard.”

“Well met Dharinel,” Arrin replied solemnly as he tilted his head to the elderly elf, then laying out the gifts of the goblets and the wine he added, “I have brought you a taste from everquist and a set of goblets,”

“You have also brought trouble,” Dharinel, replied his voice not unfriendly.

“It will not fall upon the village, elder Dharinel; however, we would welcome a night of peace as safety.”

“You will have it,” Dharinel ordered to the other Elf’s in the room. “However, we can not have our community involved in your personal fight at this time.”

“Are you having troubles of your own?” Arrin asked putting his own troubles aside as was his way. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“We can manage,” Dharinel replied a shade too quickly.

“Of course,” Arrin replied noncommittally. “If there is anything I can do I would gladly help.”

“Tell me Lord Parkin; are you really as old as they say?” Dharinel replied puzzlement plainly in his voice. . “Your mannerism is what I would expect from one closer to my age.”

“Years do not count against our race; you of all people should know that.”

“I heard a story when I was young about an elf that went by the name of ‘The Rainbow Archer’, Dharinel stated with a twinkle in his eye.

“That one has been dead for a very long time.” Arrin replied flatly.

“You are welcome to stay as long as you need Lord Arrin,” Dharinel replied as he bowed out of the room.

S.F. SIU Headquarters

“I don’t care what you have to do, Nash,” Capt. Hargrove yelled, “We can’t afford to have another serial killer out there, even if he is killing off the bad guys.”

“We are working on it,” Nash calmly stated as he looked over the captain. He had heard stories that Hargrove was looking for the commissioner’s position and wondered what his department would become if he got it. There was no feeling between the two men and Nash knew that Hargrove wanted to cut the SIU out of the budget. But, like most power-seekers Nash realized that would not stop Hargrove from using the SIU to make himself look good. “Right now no one is talking. Whoever is doing the killing is very careful not to allow anyone to see.” 

“Don’t give me that shit, Nash. Your team has been able to pull teeth from a lizard when you needed information, now get out there. I want to know the minute you find anything.”

“We are working on it,” Nash replied trying hard to keep the contempt he felt for this man out of his voice.

“Very well then,” Hargrove replied as he stormed out of the office.

Letting out a calming breath of air, Nash reached over and opened the only remaining door in the office and allowed the rest of his team to enter the room. “Any ideas, guys?”

“So far the deaths have been done by a large knife,” Evan Cortez answered implying the obvious. “Maybe we should ask Scarlet?”

“Could be they know something,” Joe Domingeuz put in his two cents.

“At this point I will try anything, Bubba.” Nick replied as he picked up the phone dialing a memorized number. Turning his attention to the phone he went on, “Hey lady, it’s Nash.”

“Hi Nash, how are you?” the cheery female voice came back to him. “What is going on?”

“Seen the papers?” Nash asked as he stared down at the headlines on the San Francisco daily which read ‘Murder in broad daylight.’

“Is there more to it than what it says?”

“The murders were done with a large knife, or sword.”

“I will call the rest of the group, if I find out anything I will let you know.”

“Thanks,” Nick replied hanging up the phone before he looked back at the others in his office. “She will find out what she can, but until then let’s get out there and find out what is going on.”

“Hey Nash,” Joe asked as the group started toward the door. “How many deaths is this person responsible for so far?”

“With the three this morning we are guessing at four, that is four in less than forty eight hours.”

“Do you have a pattern yet?”

“Yea, every one dead were enforcers for the Golden Talon tong.”

“Huh, should be easy to find who is responsible,” Joe replied sarcastically.

“Yea,” Nash agreed as they walked down the gangplank of the barge that SIU called used as headquarters.

###

Mitung’s headquarters

“Brick, take the Yong brothers and go collect from everyone on Chang Ave., we need the cash to ship the girls on the next boat,” Mitung ordered his second in command. The man immediately turned and left, taking two men, who could only be called muscle, with him. “Make sure they realize that we are still in charge of this area.”

“If I catch the guy who killed Li, I am going to take my time killing him,” one of the muscle was heard saying as they left the building causing Mitung to smile as he walked back into the room filled with the five girls he was preparing to ship east.

Brick left the mansion and headed down to the business district of Chinatown to collect any money they could get, in order to fulfill the contract that Mitung made with the men over in China. As they walked, he looked over the Yong brothers. They were twins who both looked like huge brick walls and would probably only shake a bit if a tank hit either of them. Normally, Mitung would have kept the brothers close to him for protection, for both men had been known to kill with their bare hands. With these two at his back, Brick intended to get all the money in one day’s work.

< Let this stranger try to show himself today, the brothers will turn him into a pretzel, > Brick thought to himself. One of the brothers opened the back door of the limo letting him out of the car. He ordered, “Keep your eyes open. If this man shows up, I want his head.”

Receiving a grunt from each of the brothers, Brick walked into the first stop on his route, the sole Laundromat in the area. The operation was run by a very wealthy second generation Chinese family, one who held the respect of all the older families in the neighborhood. As he walked in, he noticed that the oldest daughter of the family was the only one at the register. A sickening smile spread across his face as his eyes roamed down the girl’s body. He knew that he would never have this girl as long as her brothers were alive. One day he had plans to rid himself of them but, for today, he would satisfy himself with collecting the dues.

###

All day Brick and the two brothers collected the money they demanded from the local businesses, never once realizing that they were being followed. Arrin watched the group collect money each time they walked into a business. What really worried him was that not one group or person refused to pay. He knew that this group would probably kill to get what they wanted and he had no doubt that at least one of the three men wanted someone to refuse to pay. If it wasn’t for them having Solace, he probably would have walked away; however, they had her, and the only way to get her back, would be by force.

After watching the group the full day, Arrin realized that they would have to wait another day before striking back and taking Solace from her captors. Arrin went back to the herb shop to let Steward know. On the way back to the Old World Herb shop, he came along something he never thought he would be happy to see. In an alley three blocks away from the herb shop, three vampires were attempting to feed on a small family. At first he advanced with the only thought of saving the family but, as he got closer, a thought passed through his mind. A sadistic smile came to his face as he used glamour to change his outwardly appearance to look like the man in charge of the three who had collected the money that day.

“Have we not told you not to feed in our area,” Arrin asked in an accented voice trying to copy the leader of those he had followed. Pulling out his sword he went on, “I suppose I will have to show you that the Golden Talon Tong is not to be trifled with.”

Hoping he fooled the vampires and deciding not to give them time to think about it, Arrin moved in to attack. Pulling his cloak in tighter to keep his medallion hidden, he sliced high at the first vampire he came to, causing it to dust before he turned to the other two who were already running from the scene. With an evil smile, Arrin called to his bow which materialized in his hand and let loose an arrow, dusting a second vampire. Nodding his head toward the family, he let his glamour fade, showing the family his true appearance. “This is not a place you should be visiting at night; take your family and go, quickly.”

“You’re not part of the Golden Talon!” the man accused after he recovered from the shock. “None of that group would have helped us.”

“Yes, I realize that. However, I want them to believe that I am,” Arrin replied as he turned around and walked away. “Now go, while you have time.”

Arrin was whistling a happy tune as he entered the herb shop, feeling better about how things were going. After his encounter with the vampires, he realized that when the tong stopped feeding Solace the drugs, she was going to give the Golden Talon Tong a very ugly surprise.

“Did you find Solace?” Steward asked.

“No,” Arrin replied, noticing the hopeful tone in Steward’s voice, realizing it was there because he was whistling as he came in. “I just have a feeling that things are going to start get interesting real soon for our little playmates.”

“What do you mean?” Prue asked while rubbing her face.

“I did what any smart general would do when he found himself surrounded by enemies. I called in reinforcements.”

“Re-enforcements?” Steward asked, surprised. “You called in that group from Sunnydale?”

“Sunnydale?” Arrin asked as he remembered Steve and that brave group. He looked around the rest of the group and saw recognition in their eyes at the town’s name. He shook his head. “No, I did not call them; I got someone else to help.”

“Did you get help from the community you were talking about last night?” Piper asked, wonder in her voice.

“No,” Arrin replied enjoying the game. “I could not involve them with this.”

“Who than?” Phoebe asked exasperated.

“The local vampire nest.”

“What!!?” the group asked, all shocked at the information.

“How did you get them to help?” Phoebe asked

“Why did you get them to help?” Prue asked.

“I never asked them,” Arrin replied with a smile, “but I am betting they will be at each other’s throat by tomorrow night.”

###

North San Francisco
Underground Lair

“We have word from our informants, the Soulless breed intend to attack the Golden Talon Tong this night,” a messenger said as he walked into the conference room of the Kindred. “As of yet, it does not affect the Community. However, our spies say we might get drug into the middle of the war.”

“How will this be our fight?” Julian Luna asked from his seat at the head of the table.

“Two of the Soulless breed were destroyed last night by a member of the Golden Talon Tong; the one who got away was told that the Tong was going to go to war with Vampires. They did not specify what group of Vampire they would attack,” the messenger replied, knowing that the news he carried would cause alarm throughout the community.

“The nature of the Tong is criminal, what did the Soulless breed do to attract their attention?” Cameron of the Brujah clan asked, steeping his fingers together in front of him.

      “This we don’t know yet.”

      “Send out our spies find out what is going on,” Julian Luna ordered as he turned his attention to a female who sat at the end of the table. “Sonny, find out what the SIU will be doing about this. Lilly, you find out what you can about the Group in Sunnydale. Will they involve themselves in this?”

      “Section Seven will come if they are requested to do so by the SIU or by the Ninja clan.”

      “We must not let that happen,” Julian Luna commanded with worry deep in his voice.

“What should we do?” Gage, of the Gangrel clan asked, remembering what happen last time Section Seven was in the area.

      “We won’t let it happen,” Julian replied. Whether to convince himself or the others was anyone’s guess.

###

Old World Herb Shop

      “What are you going to do now?” Steward asked as Arrin belted on his short sword with the quiver on the left side. “Don’t tell me you’re going to war against the whole group with out help.”

      “Actually, I am going to make sure that the Vamps and this group tangle with each other.”

      “Why not just call the cops?” Prue asked, “We are not talking about demons here, and I don’t want to get tied up in a dispute where there is no clear helpless victim.”

      “Huh,” Arrin grunted as he slipped two small pouches in his pocket. “I never remember asking for your help.”

      “Arrin, they just want to protect innocents,” Steward said, his voice urgent. “They are also pretty powerful.”

      “Power is something very fleeting,” Arrin replied looking at the three sisters. “Also, like lady luck, it is very temperamental.”

      “Are you threatening us?” Prue demanded, her voice becoming tightly controlled, causing Steward to exhale while shaking his head.

      “Threats are for those who can not carry out their wishes,” Arrin replied as he walked out of the Magic shop, leaving five very confused and stunned people.

###

Mitung’s Headquarters
Hour after sundown

      “We made a good haul today,” Brick said as he walked into the main room of the house, dropping a bag full of money on the coffee table in front of Mitung. “No one even balked at giving us what we wanted.”

      “Any sign of the mysterious man?” Mitung asked before calling out for some food. “Do we even know anything about him yet?”

      “None,” Brick replied his face became a bit worried as he continued in a whisper. “I was able to learn that he has something to do with the small community just north of us.”

      “That community has been a thorn in our side for far too long. Take the brothers in there tomorrow and crush them.”

      “Ummm, you do realize that they have some kind of wizard working for them. Some of the guys are frightened.”

      “Then call in Nakamura; have him on hand. It is about time that old man earns some of the money we are paying him,” Mitung barked referring to the Master Mage they had working for the group. “This guy has killed what, three of our men? I want you to go in there and kill 10 of their people, and do it publicly; I want them to know who it was who has done it.”

      “It is a mistake,” Billy started to warn his boss.

      “Do what I tell you to do!” Mitung commanded in a voice that bordered on rage, sending those around him to scurry off in all directions.

###

Musky Cavern

South of Chinatown

      “Who killed two of my chide?” the oldest living soulless Vampire demanded from the two vampires who came in telling of that unwarranted attack.

      “It was a member of the Golden Talon Tong,” one of the pair rushed to the only conclusion he could come up with.

      “Send out the soldiers, I want you to kill 10 of them, turn one of them if he is worthy. But tell our soldiers to be careful not to go near the community.”

      “Yes sir,” the messenger replied as he bowed his way out of the room.

###

Warehouse

Headquarters of the Shadow Ninja Clan

      The clan had gathered this night, following a request from Det. Nash Bridges, who had asked if they would help track down a perp who had the markings of a serial killer. Ever since the two groups teamed up to fight the vampires of the city, they have been working on other cases, too; each one helping the other out, as long as they didn’t break any real law.

      “So this guy is eliminating the tong?” Jinx asked shrugging her shoulders. “Good for him.”

      “Jinx, you know it’s not that easy. This guy or girl is killing people and, although it appears he is doing society a favor, he is taking human life and that can not be accepted,” Scarlet said receiving an agreeing nod from her husband. “If we leave this person unchecked, he might end up killing someone innocent.”

      “Are all the deaths so far caused by swords?” Billy asked, worry in his voice.

      Looking over her clan, Scarlet knew what everyone was thinking when the Billy mentioned the fact that the killer was using a sword. She also knew that she had no easy answer. As far as she knew, there were no immortals that operated in San Francisco; however, this did not have the earmarks of a duel. None of the deaths so far, were caused by decapitation. After taking a final look around the room, she raised her hand for everyone’s attention. “I do not believe that Section Seven or their friends had anything to do with what is happening here. Nor do I believe that Steve or any of his friends know what is going on here, so we need to go out and find this guy or girl and do it soon.”

      Seeing that the group all agreed with her, Scarlet decided to let the other shoe drop. “Besides, if we let this one man get away with this, knowing we could have stopped him, we would be on the same level as him, and I, for one, do not want to be there.”

      “Alright,” Scarlet said after a moment to let the group settle down and start giving out assignments. Finally, she turned to Billy and Jinx. “I am going to ask something special from you two. I want more information about what the Golden Talon Tong is doing to attract this guy’s attention. Have a look around their compound on Confucius circle, you know the place, but don’t let them see you.”

      Watching the pair leave on the way to their duties, Scarlet whispered a good luck before turning back to the rest of the Clan. “The rest of us will continue on normal patrol. Keep both eyes and ears open. Let’s try to get something on this guy.”

      As the group broke up, Scarlet turned to her husband, the worry that she was feeling was mirrored in her eyes and words as she said, “What if it is an immortal gone bad?”

      The look on her husband’s face told her exactly what she herself felt; they will do what needs to be done.

###

Later that night

Outside Mitung’s home

      Arrin had been watching the home where he knew they were holding Solace. Problem was, without causing a huge battle in the open streets, he had no way of getting her out just yet. He was sure that the vampires would eventually hit this place, after getting them involved; now, he just had to wait his chance. He had watched as Billy and the twins returned from their duties and wondered what they had been up to while he was setting the stage. Climbing a tree, he made himself comfortable while he tried to put things together. Leaning back, he wondered where his plans would lead.

      As the time passed, the hours of constant activity had finally begun to wear him down. He silently set up a few wards of warning before he leaned back and closed his eyes. The warning spells would do their job and warn him if anyone came with in twenty feet of him, which is all he would need to react and protect himself from any danger.

###     

      Billy and Jinx moved quietly toward the back of the house they suspected to be the headquarters of the Golden Talon Tong. As they moved closer to the large fence that surrounded the back side of the compound, Jinx felt a tingle crawl up her back. All her life, Jinx had been trained to trust her instincts completely, quickly she raised her close fist however she knew she was too late when she saw Billy slip under a tree a few feet beyond the line.

      Her heart leaped into her throat as she watched Billy drop in a boneless manner against the tree he was leaning up against. Instincts took over and she dropped to her knee, slipping into the foliage of a leafy brush. Not sure if whoever attacked Billy was still around, she remained in position for a few minutes, fighting her natural instinct to go to Billy. Not being able to hold out any longer, she left the comfort of the bush and moved quickly toward him. Keeping her eyes moving, Jinx bent down, running her hands down Billy’s body checking for anything that would give a hint as to what happen to him. Moving her hands down his side she felt a bump. Tearing his shirt open, she found a small dart. Removing it, she brought it to her nose and smelled it. The scent was like none she had ever smelled before but, since he was still breathing, she felt it was some kind of sleeping potion.

###

      Arrin was warned seconds before the dart was released from his trap. Knowing that movement was the quickest way to be caught, he lay still in the tree where he had made himself a small perch that would be passed over in a quick search of the area. He watched the figure being hit by the dart go down, but knew that the potion was a harmless sleeping concoction he had developed. At first, he was going to swing down and find out who the figure was; however, before he moved, he let his eyes scan over the immediate area. A being out sneaking around in this area he figured would be a bad thing. If they did live here or were part of the house security system, there would be no reason that they would be dressed in the dark suits they were in. His concern was rewarded by a slight movement that he caught out of the corner of his eye. Slightly moving his head, he concentrated on that small movement. He studied the movement of the new stranger, how it filtered through the thicker brush, careful to avoid the common traps that he had set without disturbing them. Finally, the figure knelt down by the downed person and tenderly checked for wounds, carefully pulling out the dart that had embedded itself in the unconscious form’s side. He watched silently as the figure lifted the unconscious body to its shoulders and start away. The corner of Arrin’s lip pulled up in a half smirk as he watched the ass of the figure move. This was, as he had suspected all along, a girl, for no guy would consciously allow his ass to move like that. Still not sure where this pair stood on the line, and operating on the principle that everyone was against him, Arrin pulled out a small tube from one of his packs followed by a dart that looked similar to the one sticking in the Billy. Carefully he waited until the second figure knelt down to cradle the first downed figure’s head in her lap. When he knew his shot would be a good one, he let the dart fly, hitting the girl just in front of the right shoulder, far enough from the heart, but in a place that would cause the drug to act fast.

      When the girl’s head dropped, her chin resting on her chest, Arrin jumped down from the tree and quickly moved over to the pair. There was no way to tell when the sleeping potion would wear off of these two. Back in his reality, the drug would last anywhere from an hour to four hours, but most creatures there had some type of immunity to sleeping potions; here, it was anyone’s guess. So, quickly taking a bit of rawhide, Arrin bound his two guests securely before placing them in a spot where they would not be seen by the house, but he could watch them. He then climbed back up his tree and waited, hopefully for someone from the house to come look for them.   

      The eastern sky was just beginning to lighten up with the early morning rays when the first victim of his darts started to move. Knowing that they would need something to drink when they woke from the potion-induced sleep, he threw together a smokeless fire and made the broth that would soothe the ache in the pair’s heads. Once the fire was stoked up and the broth was bubbling, he took it off the fire then moved over to cut the bonds that held the two before he moved back over to lean up against a tree, giving him a clear view of these two and the house. When the male woke up, his first move was to feel the female’s neck then he turned hard eyes toward Arrin, who was leaning easily against the tree he spent the night in.

      “The broth that will ease the pain in your head is in that pot, your sword is at your side,” Arrin stated as he noticed the girl’s eyes open as the male placed her back against a tree to give her some support. “You choose which one you want.”

      “Go to the right, I will take the left,” the girl whispered so low that Arrin wondered if she was trying to keep what she said away from him. Already his quick temper was stretched thin and the words pulled it apart. In a fluid movement, his left hand dropped to his side. In a quick movement he whipped his hand up, throwing his dagger with pinpoint accuracy into the girl’s shoulder; stapling her shoulder to the tree she was leaning against. Already his right hand held another knife. Turning his now angry eyes to the male of the pair, he growled over the screams of the girl. “She will live, however you will not be so lucky if you choose the sword.”

      Arrin watched as the male slowly loosened the belt that held his sword and put it to the ground while keeping the opposite hand in the air, stepping back away from the sword with out breaking eye contact. Nodding his head to show the man that he understood his attentions were friendly, Arrin tossed a small vial to the man who caught in while saying. “Take the knife out of her arm and then force her to drink it. The taste is not sweet but will cure her wounds faster than her body ever could.”

      “You must think I’m crazy,” the man replied as he catching the bottle but putting it down. “First you poison us, and then you stab my partner, now you think I am going to force her to drink this stuff?”

      “Do what you think is best,” Arrin replied as he looked over the pair, as he walked away calling over his shoulder. “Just don’t get in my way again.”

      Shaking his head, Arrin walked away, out of sight from the pair before teleporting himself back to the manor of the charmed ones.

###     

      “Who the hell was that,” Billy asked as he tore open Jinx’ shirt. Opening his first aid kit, he set things up to fix up Jinx. Wrapping a bandana around the knife blade at the point of entry, he applied pressure before he removed the blade. Placing a compression bandage on the wound, he made her as comfortable as possible before taking out his cell phone. “Scarlet, this is Billy. Jinx is hurt. We need someone to pick us up. We’re on the south side of the Golden Talon headquarters.”

      “Stay calm, we are on our way,” Billy heard Scarlet’s welcoming voice just before she hung up.

      “Alright Jinx, let’s just stay calm,” Billy told his partner. Even though he knew in her state she could not hear him; he had heard that talking to a comatose patient helped them.

###

Shadow Clan Headquarters
Two hours earlier

      “Billy and Jinx have not reported in from their sweep of the Golden Talon territory,” a Ninja-dressed figure called from the computer bank that lined the west wall of the remodeled warehouse. “I lost connection with their trackers about an hour ago as they moved in behind the Golden Talon Headquarters.”

      “Were you in contact with them before that?” Scarlet asked as the group she was standing with moved over to the console. “Verbally I mean?”

      “Yes Ma’am,” the operator replied, his voice emitting a powerful respect to the woman he was addressing. “They said they were going to check the place out and they would be out of pocket for several hours.”

      “Did they say they were going to turn off their communicators?” Scarlet asked after looking over to her husband the concern in his eyes were easily readable.

      “No Ma’am,” he replied quickly.

      “You two,” Scarlet called out as she pointed toward a pair of men standing near the door of the warehouse. Looking the men over to make sure that she had the right pair she went on, “Grab your medical kit and work your way toward the area. Do not try to make contact with them unless they seek it. Just be ready if anything goes sour.”

       The men who Scarlet pointed out were twins, standing about five foot eight with reddish blond hair and dark brown eyes, even dressed in their ninja gis, they both held an air of honor and respect about them. The man on the right, the one Scarlet had indicated, was a doctor while the other was a Lawyer. They both had joined the clan when they were freshmen in high school and were sponsored by the Clan through college. Now, they repaid their host and family with their services.

      “On our way,” the one indicated replied as he picked up the medical kit and followed his brother outside.

      “If anything has happened to them…” Scarlet whispered as she turned to face her husband, her eyes filled with concern as she let her words drop off.

      ###

SIU Headquarters
01:00 am

      “That makes it four,” Nash was telling the group as they gathered in the meeting room. “Four murders all from this same guy.”

      “Well boss,” Domingo replied as he slowly turned his coffee cup in front of him slowly. “What’s the chances it’s a man who is collecting heads?”

      “With swords being involved that is a distinct possibility, but I somehow don’t think that, since whoever is doing the killing, is not decapitating his victims,” Nash told his partner as he tossed the pictures of the victims down in front of the group positioned around the table. “This killer is inflicting pain before he kills them.”

      “You sure?” the question was tossed out by one of the task force members.

      “Near enough. See this long slice on the right side? It was done before the killing thrust. We can see this by how much blood was spilt. This stab is a killing blow; it would have stopped the blood flow instantly.”

      “Fight doesn’t seem to be a struggle,” Domingo added in as he looked over the coroner’s report of the body. “Only one blood type was found.”

      “Coroner’s guess is that the same sword did all four of these men. The sword is double-edged and about four feet long. He comes to that conclusion by the length of the cut in victims two and four,” Nash continued the explanation, pulling out a folder that contained papers from the profiler who was working on the case. “Our profiler is a bit concerned. He believes that the person doing this is acting in cold blood. His exact words are, ‘This person has no emotion over what he is doing. It is a job to him, nothing more and nothing less. If he has a reason behind his killings, so far, he is keeping it to himself.’”

      “So far the deaths all belong to the Golden Talon Tong,” said Officer Ming, who was working as the resident expert on the Tongs for the task force. “Could it be that he is working for someone who has it in for them, maybe a second Tong?”

      “That would clear up a lot of unanswered questions,” Nash replied after thinking about it for a moment. “Why don’t you go investigate that angle of it? The rest of you, go out and find this guy before he kills another. Since he is targeting the Golden Talon, let’s put someone outside their headquarters. Hate to do it, but we do have to protect them.”

      “Protect them?” Domingo replied with a huff. “Nash, the Golden Talon is one of the most dangerous organizations in the area.”

      ###

Toronto, Canada

3:30 am

      “Peter,” Kwai Chang Caine whispered as he placed his hand over his son’s mouth in hopes not to startle his most recent love interest. Pulling away when he saw that his son was now fully alert, he stepped back from the bed and walked into the living room. Turning to face his son, he tilted his head in greeting. “Your friends in San Francisco may be in trouble; you and Griffin must go to them.”

      “Trouble? Who?” Peter asked pulling on a pair of pants.

      “I do not know,” Caine replied, his eyes coming together in thought. “I can only say that they are going to need more help than even they realize.”

      “I have a few friends in San Francisco, Pops,” Peter whispered as they left the bedroom. “Who is going to need my help?”

      “All of them,” Caine replied as he walked out of the room. “Make haste, for they may not have much time.”

      Letting his father leave, Peter picked up the phone and called the airport, booking passage for two on the afternoon flight to San Francisco. He was not sure what was going on, but he knew that his father would have never come if he did not feel the threat was real. After booking passage, he called Griffin telling him of his father’s midnight visitation and to make sure he had a clear schedule to leave town for a few days. Hanging up with Griffin, having made plans to pick him up at eight am, Peter then called into the precinct to get the requested leave from his adopted father. With everything set up, Peter went about packing a few bags for the trip as he had no idea how long they would be needed to stay.

###

Woods behind Golden Talon Tong Headquarters

4:00 am

      “Hang in there Jinx,” Billy whispered to his long time partner. “The cavalry is on the way.”

      Feeling her head, Billy knew that Jinx was deep in shock. Although the blade that sank deep into her shoulder was not poisoned, it did sink deeply and the blood flowed freely out of her wound. He had done all he safely could. Now, he just had to wait for those the clan would send to help them. Reaching over, he picked up the vial again, opening it to take a whiff of it. It smelled as bad as a raw egg, if that was at all possible. Taking off his top, he laid it over Jinx to keep her warm.

      He was going out of his mind with worry when the wind brought a hidden scent. Turning his head into the slight breeze, he took a deeper whiff and caught it again, the scent of antiseptic was stronger now and he picked up the sounds of running feet, two sets of them. Standing up and drawing his pistol, Billy thought he knew who was coming. But just to make sure, he was going to be ready for the odd chance that it was someone that he did not want to see.

      Seeing the pair he thought the clan would send, Billy stowed his gun and pointed to her while saying, “She’s hurt. I did what I could, but the knife sank in pretty deep.”

      “We’ll have her fixed up in a minute,” Sammy Wells said as he pulled out his medical supplies while his brother Danny took a guard position. “Wound looks a lot worse than it is.”

      “Who did it?” Danny growled as he watched his brother tear open the makeshift bandages that Billy had put on.

      “Some kid,” Billy replied, his voice getting stronger and his temper rose even higher, now that he knew that something could be done about it. “He threw that knife from a good twenty feet but it sunk in hilt deep.”

      “Twenty feet?” Danny asked as he looked around the area. “That would put him just about here right?”

      “Yeah, looked about 19 maybe 20, long, brown hair, looked like he had a rooster tail pushing up from the top of his head. Had a silver band around his forehead, looked like padded leather pants and shirt,” Billy said, describing what the man looked like, as he knew that soon, all of the clan would be out looking for the man. “He carried a great bow, ornate looking thing with a diamond embedded at the top and bottom of it and carried a short sword on his right hip and more throwing daggers than a carnie knife throwing act.”

      “Twenty feet?” Danny again asked, his voice showing that he was skeptical.

      “About twenty feet,” Billy replied with conviction. “Telling you Danny, he had the drop on us. Jinx decides we should split up and jump him. Since he didn’t have any arrows in his quiver, I didn’t see how he was going to use the bow, so I started. He must have heard her, cause he threw that knife from over there and pinned Jinx to this tree here.”

      “Where did he go?”

      “The guy was a puzzle,” Billy said, before he explained to them how he had knocked them both out, watched over them until they were awake, then attacked Jinx. Then, as a finish, he added, “After he stabs her, he gives me this bottle and tells me to force her to drink it.”

      Taking the potion from him, Sammy held it up to the sun, looking through it before he placed it in his medical kit. “I will run tests on it.”

      “I don’t know who he was,” Billy said with enough venom in his voice to drop a full grown bull elephant dead in its tracks, “but I want a piece of him.”

###

Lyons Residence
Upper East Side
7:45 a.m.

      “Thank god you’re here,” Sandy Lyons cried as she hugged her sorority sister of old. “She’s been gone for a month now. The cops said they put it in the bank file.”

      “Means that they put the file on the back burner,” Remington said as he took the picture that Reginald Lyons had handed to her. “Don’t worry; I believe that we have our own lead.”

      “Sandy, I have to know,” Laura asked, changing the happy meeting to a more serious tone. “Who did you tell that you hired us for this job?”

      “Only the staff, but we have had them for years,” Sandy replied, her voice tainted with concern. “Why?”

      After telling Sandy about the try at the airport, Laura turned to her husband. “Looks like our guess was correct, they have someone here.”

      “No one here would work with someone who stole Kristen away from us,” Reginald Lyons said with convection “My staff has been with me for years.”

      “By your own admission, they were the only ones you have told,” Remington said as he picked up the phone placing a small device on the hand set. The device had two lights on it, one was red, the other was green. When the red light turned on, he pointed at it, to allow his wife to see it. “So someone here has to be feeding information to whoever has your daughter.”

      “We will call you and let you know what we have found. But please, keep what we say among yourselves.” Laura smiled as she nodded her head to her husband; her face was deadly serious as she looked back to her college friend. “Sandy, I promise we will turn over every stone to find her.”

      “A bug?” Laura asked her husband as they walked out to the car. “Could it be the police?”

      “Could be,” Remington replied just as low, “but they would be very crooked ones. How do you think they knew when we would be coming in?”

      “There is that to it,” Laura mumbled, wondering why she never thought of something that simple. “You know we can’t leave that in there.”

      “We won’t, but first I want to set them up. Maybe we can use this to our advantage.”

      “How?”

      “Watch,” Remington replied with a smile as he pulled out his cell phone and called the Lyons. With a smile, he greeted the male servant voice that answered. “Hello Mr. Johnson, this is Remington Steele. Please notify Mr. Lyons that we will be staying at the Rounder Hotel on Fifth Avenue, room 202, if he needs us.”

      “We’re not staying at the Rounder,” Laura said as he hung up the phone, a question in her voice. “What the hell are you doing?”

      “You know that and we know that, even Sandy knows that, but whoever picked up the tap won’t know that. So, let’s go to the Rounder and see who comes to visit.”

      Arriving at the Rounder, the couple rented two rooms; the first one was 202, the second was the room across the hall from it, 204. They rented 202 in his name, but 204 they rented under Laura’s maiden name. Entering 204, the couple waited and watched the door across the hall for their unwelcome visitor.

###

Halliwell Manor

7:00 a.m.

      “I’m sure he doesn’t mean any harm,” Steward told the charmed ones at the breakfast table. Not wanting to take his fight to the community, Arrin had given him a few hundred dollars and made arrangements with him to meet at the manor at sunrise. “He will be here shortly.”

      “He has killed four men,” Prue snorted with disgust. “The SIU is looking for him. Give me a reason not to call them now.”

      “I can’t,” Steward replied honestly, “but, on the other hand from what I know about him, the SIU would lose a lot of men if they try to stop him from getting to her.”

      “Are you saying he would kill police officers?” Piper asked, concern edged in her voice.

      “No, I’m saying he would kill to get to her,” Steward replied with conviction.

      “Call the Wanderer,” Phoebe said as she realized just how dangerous this could get. Picking up the phone, she started to dial the number but Steward reached over and hung it up.

      “Let’s wait till he arrives,” Steward said as he hung up the phone. “I don’t think he wants help from the Sunnydale crowd.”

      “Listen to me, Steward,” Prue commanded just as there was a knock on the door, “we don’t go against the law, no matter what the stakes are.”

      Good morning Lady Phoebe.” The group’s attention turned toward the door where Arrin stood in his normal hunting clothes. He wore a light brown hunting tunic with matching leather pants. His bow was strapped to his back, the empty quiver hung from his left side balanced by an ornate short sword hanging in an ornately decorated sheath; a three-inch golden band was displayed on his forehead, which held his hair back, showing his Elvin features clearly.

      “What the hell are you doing here looking like that?” Phoebe demanded as she ushered him in the house, even though she was slightly taken back by his dress and the fact that he was an elf. “The SIU is out combing the streets for you.”

      “SIU?”

      “Special Investigations Unit; they are the dogs of the police force,” Phoebe explained. “They say you murdered four people.”

      “Four?” Arrin asked. “I have killed only three men, wounded two and dusted a vampire.”

      “Only three?” Piper barked out a harsh laugh, going on in criticism. “Let’s go set the record straight, he only killed three.”

      “See, he admits to killing three,” Prue said as she picked up the phone calling the SIU headquarters.

      “These ladies can not, or will not, help us and things are in motion. Let’s go,” Arrin told Steward as he turned toward the door, which was slammed shut as he started toward it.

      “Dominguez, your man is here at the manor. I will keep him here as long as possible,” Prue told the person on the other end of the line as she waved her hand slamming and locking the door.

      Reaching out, Arrin tried to open the door, but realized it was magically shut and locked. After the morning he just had, his temper was not the most stabilized in the world. Still, the ladies here were supposed to be on the good side. Without turning around, he said in a tempered voice, “Open this door or I shall.”

      Not realizing just how powerful this boy was, Prue replied with convection, “You’re not going anywhere.”

      ”I could just teleport out of here,” Arrin replied in that soft voice he used when he was about to teach a lesson to a younger, less experienced magic user, “but what would be the lesson in that?”

      “Conpiont espind.” Arrin whispered the two words as he lifted his hand, palm out. No visible sign or bolt left Arrin’s hand, but the door shattered outwardly; even the door frame was taken with it. Starting out the door, he called over his shoulder, “Steward, stay out of this. I will find you when it is over. Keep the car, there is money in it for you to use. Ladies, I’m sorry about your door.”

      The Charmed Ones, along with Steward, stood there in complete shock as Arrin demolished the door, which gave the Charmed Ones a small indication of his power.

      “What do you think he will do?” Prue asked in a hushed voice.

      “He will do what ever he has to do to get her back,” Steward replied as Nash and Dominguez came through the opening that once was a front door with guns out.

      “What the hell happened?” Nash asked as he entered the house, seeing the still shocked looks on the girls.

      “He left,” Piper stated the obvious, dumbly adding, “He said he only killed three, wounded two and dusted one vamp.”

      “Did he have a reason?” Nash asked, wondering why the perp was here in the first place.

      “They took his wife,” Steward told the two men, drawing their attention to him. “Believe it, gentlemen; if they don’t give her back, unharmed, the count will go up.”

      “Do you know him?”

      “His name is Arrin, he’s from the Netherlands and he knows how to get what he wants,” Steward replied noncommittally.

      “You’re coming with us,” Dominguez said, advancing forward pointing toward the wall. “Stand against the wall, hands shoulder high, legs back, supporting your weight on the wall.”

      “Assume the position?” Steward asked with a laugh as he did as instructed, knowing that they could not hold him on anything more serious then aiding and abetting, and even that was sketchy, because he had no idea the police were looking for him.

      “Ok, take out your wallet,” Dominguez ordered after he professionally searched the man and then stepped back to allow Steward to get at his back pocket. “Pull out your ID and hand it to me.”

      Taking the ID, Dominguez told the others he would be right back and walked out, going to the car to run a check on Steward. In the meantime, Nash looked Steward over while asking, “You don’t seem to be too worried about us running a check on you.”

      “Not worried about you taking me in,” Steward answered honestly as he took a seat, knowing they would not let him leave. “I didn’t know he was wanted for anything. I was in the hospital, then with the ladies here, and I have proof of it.”

      “Well, now that you do know, I don’t suppose you will tell us where he is?”

      “Been trying to tell you,” Steward replied, looking at the man. “He is out trying to get his wife back.”

      “What did he mean when he said things were in motion?” Piper said, thinking about what Arrin had said just before blowing up the door.

      “He meant that he has the stage set for the final battle, or the at least to the fight that will create the final battle for him,” Steward replied. “But which was the correct verse? Is it you can’t, or won’t?”

      “Are you telling me that the Golden Tong has his wife?” Nash asked, putting all the pieces together.

      “Yes, at least that was what the woman called grandmother told us.”

      “If she said it, it must be so,” Prue said with conviction. “She knows things we can only dream of knowing.”

      “Don’t make it sound so mystic, not everything is,” Steward laughed as he leaned back. “She was there when they took her.”

      “And now you assume that this friend of yours, this Arrin, is going after them by himself?” Nash asked in surprise.

      “No, I believe that he has somehow gotten the Vampires involved in this little duel,” Steward replied with a laugh. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did indicate something along those lines yesterday, didn’t he?”

      “Yes, he did,” Prue said in agreement to what Steward pointed out. “I just didn’t think he could do it. I mean, how can he get the vampires to fight for him?”

      “I don’t think they know they are fighting for him,” Steward replied. “The way he said it leads me to believe he has it that way.”

      “He’s clean,” Dominguez said as he walked back into the house. His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as he looked over Steward while handing his ID back to him. “Here you go sir.”

      “What is going on?” Nash asked his long time partner. “Your eyes are lit up like a small kid receiving a gift from his father.”

      “This man…” Dominguez started off, only to be shut down by Steward.

      “… has a perfect driving record since 72.” Steward smiled as he cut into Dominguez’s reply.

      “I guess there is that to it,” Dominguez added with a smile, realizing that Steward wanted to keep his past behind him.

###

Elvin community
San Francisco
9:45 AM

     “Good day Lord Dharinel, I believe I am the bearer of bad tidings,” Arrin greeted the elderly mage as he entered the room.

     “We have already picked up their intentions and have moved to prevent their moves against us.”

      “I ask you to place your people out of harm’s way, I will deal with them,” Arrin replied, noticing how Dharinel was looking him over. “This is the time for the Archer to play.”

      “Lord Parkin, we have heard much of you and the Archer both, I do not believe that he is a persona you wish to unleash again,” Dharinel said in a way that gave Arrin pause to think about his actions. “I will do as you request and send my people into hiding, but I and the chosen three will help you with this problem, as it would help us with ours.”

      “This group has been threatening the community?” Arrin growled as he realized why Dharinel was so eager to be part of this fight.

      “They have.”

      “Then let us make sure they understand the folly of that course of action. I will stand by you Lord Dharinel.”

      Nodding his head and showing a tight smile, Dharinel pulled on his mage’s robe before joining Arrin. “We make a interesting pair don’t we?”

      “How is that my lord?” Arrin asked, although he too was smiling a death’s head smile.

      “We both are much too old to be recklessly going out to meet men younger and stronger than us.”

      “I would not say stronger, my lord.” Arrin smiled which made Dharinel wonder if this young archer had something up his sleeves.

      They both heard the gun shots that rang out as they stepped out onto the landing of the civic center building to wait their unwanted company. Fearing for the chosen three Dharinel took a precautionary step by casting a shield spell in front of them.

 

Elvin community
San Francisco
8:30 pm

      Billy entered the communities with Nakamura and the brothers; he knew deep down that this was a mistake, that the community was just too powerful for them to easily take. However, Mitung wanted them out of his sand box and it was not a good thing to deprive Mitung of anything that he wanted. Entering the community, the four drove down the street looking for their first victim; however, the streets seemed to be barren. They had just turned down a side street when they were forced to stop at a brick wall.

       Billy was just about to slip the car in reverse, when three cloaked figures stepped through the wall, the one in the middle lifted his hand in the universal stop sign before advancing to the driver’s side. As the figure approached, both of the brothers and Billy some how felt at ease, all the tension in them quickly left their bodies. Nakamura, the mage, however, felt the magic flow and took steps to prevent it. Chanting in an old language, he negated the charm spell that the figure was casting, allowing the brothers to do their own thinking.

      All three of the Tong members snapped out of the effects caused by the spell at the same time. The first to react was Billy, who pulled out his Glock .45 and shot down the figure that stood over him without saying a word. At the same time, the brothers exited the car, one on either side, gunning down the other two cloaked figures before they had a chance to realize what happened. With all three visible threats down, Billy shoved the car in reverse and was about to back out to go look for someone else to complete their mission. The wall in front of them disappeared, letting them enter deeper into the community.

      As he drove through the community looking for someone to kill, Billy could help but feel the eeriness of the place. After driving about twenty minutes deeper into the community, they came upon what could only be a community center, in front of which stood two men. The first was an elderly man, standing close to the six foot mark, with long, flowing blond hair and crystal-blue eyes; the second was shorter by about two inches, with long, flowing brown hair, that had some kind of tail sticking out the top of it. Around his head was a thin golden band that seemed to keep his hair in place. Both men wore brown leather, button-up tunics and padded leather pants. Although the younger had a sword on his right hip, the taller, older man, only held a staff. Billy instantly recognized the smaller one and did not keep that information to himself.

      “That one on the right, he is the one who killed Dean,” Billy hissed as he threw open his door, exiting the car while pulling out his gun, closely followed by the brothers. “Kill him.”

      “The older one is a mage, he is the real threat here,” Nakamura hissed as he also left the car stepping off to the side so he would have free range of motion with his hands. “Concentrate your fire on him; keep them busy while I cast a spell.”

      As one, the three men started to fire, empting their magazines and were surprised to see that their bullets were bouncing off something before they even got close to their targets. Screaming in rage, Billy ejected his magazine and shoved a fresh clip into his gun; following suit, the brothers did the same thing. As they slapped home their new magazines, the three watched in surprise as the smaller of the two stepped forward while pulling out a very large knife.

###

      “Why you’re bringing a gun to a knife fight?” Arrin asked with a laugh as he waved his hand while mumbling a quick chant, causing the guns to become long stemmed roses with very sharp thorns. Seeing the mage starting to cast a spell, he called over his shoulder as he steadily advanced on the three men “Dharinel, please deal with that mage, while I explain to these men the errors of their ways.”

      “Catch,” Dharinel called out as he tossed a stone to the mage, counting on the mage’s instinctive reaction to deflect or catch the foreign object that sped toward him, which would interrupt his concentration of the spell. With out waiting, he sent three magic missiles behind the small rock. “Here is something else to catch.”

      “I hope that you have something to defend yourself with,” Arrin growled as he pulled out his sword. “You don’t wanna face me with bare hands.”

      As he advanced, Arrin looked over the twins, knowing that if they were able to lay their hands on him, he would be a goner. The fact that they dropped back in a stance he had noticed both Steve and Buffy use while in practice sessions, he realized that these two would be a bit hard to take hand to hand. Arrin decided to end this fight before he got hurt. Lifting his hand, he pointed two fingers at the men while saying, “Inferno derous”

      Two small fire balls left Arrin’s fingers to explode in front of his three opponents, flinging the three back against a wall six feet away. The three were slightly singed as they dropped down the wall, collapsing in a big heap.

      ###

      After putting up the shield and allowing the three goons to open fire, Dharinel was slightly stunned when he saw Arrin wave his hand and turn the three guns into roses. Of course he knew the spell existed, he just had no idea how Arrin was able to cast such a high level spell. The three miniature fireballs also came as a surprise, for all the tales that he had been told about the Rainbow Archer, or the man named Pac, were of his powers with a bow or how ruthless he was when dealing with his enemies. Nowhere had anyone made mention of his magic using abilities, or, if the stories did have magic use in them, it would always come from his female partner. The lovely Solace, who was always mentioned in the stories as a great mage, whose powers would rival anyone’s that he knew of on Earth.

      His mind was not allowed to wonder too far on the subject of Arrin’s magic abilities as he saw the older man dressed in a black robe start to wave his hands in a complex pattern. Producing a rock, he threw it at the mage, hoping to break his concentration. But, without waiting to see if it worked, he fired off a hand full of magic missiles that was sure to break any concentration and mess up the spell. Unfortunately the spell was over three quarters of the way through and the backwash was going to be serious. So, even as Arrin fired off his small fireballs, Dharinel had no choice but to reinforce his shield spell. Luckily, it went up after the balls hit their target. The spell the mage was casting was a death thrall spell, which caught his own allies instead of his opponents.

      Mentally dropping the shield, Dharinel fired a lightning bolt that was strong enough to lift the wizard off his feet and knock him back to join his friends on the ground. Walking over to the mage, he bent down and checked each of the bodies, finding them already stiffening while the mage’s cheeks started to hollow out while his body started to decay even as he watched. Stepping back from the bodies, he turned to where Arrin was walking back toward where the chosen ones should have been.

      “Lord Arrin, what is it?”

####

      “I just want to make sure there is nothing I can do,” Arrin replied as he walked around the wall where he came across the three bodies of the Elves who unselfishly stood guard over the entrance with their own lives. Feeling the neck for a pulse, he found a very slight one on all three of them. He squatted in the middle of them. The blood was the first thing that must be stopped. Even now it was not a sure thing that they would live. Reaching out with his hands, he cast a blessing on the three, hoping that it would stop their spirits from leaving their bodies; even though his first spell was cast, he kept on, next casting a high level cure spell, letting the spell hit each of the bodies and stop the bleeding.

      Sweat started to bead on Arrin’s forehead as he kept up with the cure spell, trying to get all three of them in one savings. It was something he had only tried one other time, but he was not strong enough at the time and only saved a small portion of those who needed him. This time, he swore, would be different. This time, he would save them all, or he would step down as one of Corellon’s chosen. His face started to turn a pasty white as he kept sending out his will and health in the spell he was casting. His mind started to drift, his own spirit leaving his body, circling around himself and the others who were even now starting to feel the effects of his prayers.

      Looking down at the bodies, he noticed Dharinel move to his subjects and help them along with their healing by cleaning their wounds and bandaging them up. Already, Arrin’s spells extracted the foreign objects in their bodies. Not until he was satisfied with the status of his subjects, did he move over to Arrin and check if there was anything he could do for the, now comatose, Elf. As he came closer to Arrin, he noticed a soft glow start to form around him. Even though Dharinel stopped several feet away from where Arrin sat, he felt a powerful spiritual presence. Wondering again about this young man, Lord Dharinel turned back to his subjects and watched as they each came to, totally healed. One after another, they stood up on woozy feet. At their feet were no fewer than three bullets. Motioning them over to his side, he waited until they were able to stand under their own power and noticed that the two fighters now had their guns in their hands, ready for anything that might come their way. “I want you three to watch over Lord Arrin until he is back to full strength. When he is conscious, you will bring him to me.”

      “What happened?” one of the fighters asked as he looked down at Arrin before looking at his liege.

      “I am not sure. Please, do not attempt to move him until he is awake, and then bring him to me.”

###

      Arrin was not sure what was happening to him. This had never happened to him before and, as far as he knew, a compass cure should not take this much out of him. As he drifted, a peace enveloped him causing him to drift farther away from his body, leaving the sight which had lain before him. While he drifted, he watched his surroundings change. His sight took on an overview of the world, focusing in on the town he was now working in. As he viewed the layout below him, six different colored lines appeared, each of them congregating in one place. Focusing in on one of the lines, he watched two people attack the fortress where Solace was being held. The attack was sloppy and would have died a sudden death, if not for a second line coming into the gala of battle. This line was a group of vampires that attacked anyone and anything possible. As the vampires fed, a third group walked in. This was a group of ladies known as the Charmed Ones being lead by Grandmother. Steward was also there, a big pistol in each hand. His face showed his contempt of the people he was dealing with as he shot down anyone who came in sights of his gun. The fourth group entered with military precision, their black suits allowing them to filter in with out being noticed as they too, started to attack the vampires and the group who lived in the house but leaving the women alone. The fifth line to enter the now, wild melee, was led by Dharinel, along with two score of Elvin fighters, who also joined the melee attacking anything that moved. Their anger was easily read in their aura. The last line to join the wild melee was the police. The men dressed in blue came in with guns blaring, shooting at anything that moved as they were mostly scared. Their shooting only proved to confuse the situation. The battle lasted for several minutes and ended with bodies all over the place. No war could have resulted in more mayhem than what took place before his eyes, where friend shot friend only because the attack was not correlated. If the battle was bad, the aftermath was worse as the bodies of five girls were pulled out of the house on stretchers, including his lover, who was shot in the head.

      “This is what you have led the forces up to,” a voice floated to him from the space he found himself in. The voice was neither condemning nor condoning, but simply stating a fact.

      “How did she die?” Arrin asked, fevered emotion thick in his voice. Waving his hand over the groups, he asked, “Which one of these did this to her?”

      “What would you do if you knew?” the voice asked, but was only answered with silence. So, after a minute, he went on. “Is this all your capable of? Hate, mistrust, death, war?”

      Again Arrin chose not to answer the question, his eyes misting as he watched the humans in the white suits haul the husk of Solace’s human body away. His insides were twisting as he thought about what had taken place. The doubtful questions entered his mind; did he set this all up? If so, who were the first two? Then the group in the black suits? And how did the police get involved? Closing his eyes, he forced himself to re-enter his body. He knew that Corellon did this for a reason and when it was necessary, he would know what that reason was. As for now, he had to get back and watch for the signs that would lead up to this disaster.

      “I have no plans for this to happen,” he announced to the world in general, “and I will prevent it if I can, even if it means letting the men who has Solace live.”

      “Your path is before you, Arrin of the Parkin tribe,” the voice came to him again. “Follow your path.”

      Like a missile on a plotted course, his spirit flew back to his body, jerking it awake. Keeping his eyes closed, he let go the wave of tension underlined with the easiness that normally accompanied his prayer time. Slowly standing up, he looked at the three guards who stood over him. Without saying anything, he started toward the Civic Center, forcing himself to stand and walk on his own, even though it was the last thing he felt like doing.

      At the Civic Center, he stood for a moment before turning back to his guard. “This is going to be personal. Keep your guard up and don’t leave the community for the next few days, no matter what happens.”

      Watching them each nod their heads in understanding, Arrin then turned and walked into the Center, closing the door behind him for his one-on-one with the Lord of the community.

 ###

Rounder Hotel

      Richard Crest, a novice assassin, stepped off the elevator on the second landing. This would be his 99th hit and had already been told he would be accepted into the order of Teraka as long as he could get both of these people and get away. Feeling full of himself, he screwed a silencer on his mac10 and kicked open room 202 before spraying the room with a wild sweep of his machine pistol. A metallic glint played in his eyes as he sprayed the bed and the bathroom doors. He knew the silencer on the gun was one of the best made, so he was not too worried about a nosey neighbor. If one did show up, he would just shoot them down as well and add them to his resume.

      As the hammer clicked on a dry shell, he followed his training, pressing the button that would release the empty magazine while pulling out a fresh one from behind his back. He was just about ready to slide in a fresh clip, when a soft voice came from behind. “Looking for someone special, or will I do?”

      Turning around, the assassin knew he was in trouble. His mark was standing in the doorway across the hall. He had been told by his employer, that this mark was an easy one, but he had to kill everyone in the room to make sure he got a clean hit. Now he finds that his easy mark was something of a professional himself. He thought about trying to fire on a turn, but he remembered that his Uzi was now empty. The full clip was in his other hand, but to turn, load and pull back the loading rod would be too much, with his mark standing there with the big bore hand gun steady as a rock.

      Turning around slowly, the man kept his gun hanging at his side, knowing he was a dead man. “What do we do now?”

      “I should just blast you,” the man with the gun said offhandedly, “unless of course you can give me a reason why I shouldn’t.”

      “I guess I die then,” the assassin replied knowing the price for failure. “If I don’t kill you two, I will never get into the order.”

      “I would not be too heartbroken about that,” the woman said coldly,

      “Tell me, who paid for this hit?” the man ordered coldly.

      “I don’t know, it was done over the net.”

      “What site?”

      “I can’t tell you that,” the assassin said.

      “Well, since you don’t have any information we can use, I might as well dispose of you,” the man said coldly as he raised the gun. As the gun came level with the assassin’s eyes, a deadly smile spread across the man’s face. The gun traveled back down, stopping for a second at his belly, before dropping even lower, to his knee, before the trigger was pulled. Screaming out in pain, the assassin dropped to the ground, holding his now ruined knee. Looking back up at the man who had shot him, the assassin tried to reach his own gun, only to be kicked by the girl until he rolled into the room where he thought they were. The man with the gun was just about to pull the trigger again when the assassin cried out not to.

      “Who ordered the hit?” the man asked again, as the gun moved to the other knee.

      “I can’t,” the assassin cried out again. “They will kill me.”

      “Guessing you’re not understanding your predicament,” the man smiled as he coolly shot the assassin in the hand. “If you don’t tell me pretty soon, I am going to kill you, but hey, it’s going to take some time for me to do that.”

      “The man who hired me was Lamar Outer, but it is a common known fact that he is on retention by the Golden Talon Tong,” the man cried, realizing that he would never use his hand again.

      “So the Golden Talon Tong is behind this hit?” the man asked as he put the gun behind his back.

      “That would be my guess.”

      “How much?”

      “Thirty thousand for the both of you,” Richard replied pushing his hand against his pants.

      “How much did you get up front?” the woman asked.

      “Half,” Richard replied, knowing to lie now would be ludicrous.

      “Let’s have it,” the woman said reaching down running her hand in his jacket looking for the money. Finding it in his lapel, she took it from him while saying, “Where is their headquarters? We will return this to them.”

      “They are in the big house on Beacon Street, at the end of the block,” Richard cried. Even though he was in pain, he never tried to stop her from taking the envelope. To do so, he was sure, would be the end of him and he still had designs of killing this pair.

     

###

      Having taken the money from the assassin, and all the information they could get from him, Laura Steele turned to her husband and tilted her head as she started to walk away, indicating that he should follow her. As they walked toward the elevator, she kept her words low, so not to let them carry back to the assassin. “I say we go and look over the Golden Talon Tong. If they have Kristen, we call in the cops.”

      “We will have to be careful if we go there,” Remington replied while pressing the level one button, “otherwise we are the ones who are going to wind up in a pine box.”

      “Alright, let’s just go scope the place out; see what we can dig up.”

       “Just once I would like to find a case that is just a cheating husband,” Laura whispered as the pair moved out to their car before heading south to Beacon Street.

      “Then you would bitch about not having anything harder.”

      “Are you trying to imply that I am never satisfied?” Laura asked her husband with a smile.

###

Halliwell Manor

      “Do you think he would actually take them on himself?” Prue asked Stewart as they all took a seat in the living room. “I mean he is just one guy, right?”

      “I believe he will do what he has to do to get her back,” Richard replied, “How many times are you going to ask that question, or variations of it? Arrin is quite resourceful. Believe me; some of the things I have seen him accomplish are nothing short of amazing.”

      “This is all I need,” Nash said, rubbing his head, thinking about having a one man vigilante trying to take on the Golden Talon Tong. “Hargrove is going to have a shit fit over this one.”

      “Not so bad on the outlook of things,” Dominguez smiled, trying to look on the brighter side, “fact is, it’s pretty much a win-win for us. We should let them do each other.”

      “Tell you what, at the morgue tomorrow morning, why don’t you field the questions from Hargrove?” Nash said as he stood up. “Let’s go, maybe we can keep down the body count.”

      “Hello,” Prue said as she picked up the phone stopping its constant ringing. “Halliwell manor, Prue speaking.”

      “Wait. What happened?” she asked after a short pause where someone was yelling on the other end of the phone. “We will be right there.” Hanging up the phone, Prue looked at her sisters. “We’ve got to go. Scarlet wants to talk to us about a possible threat.”

      “What is going on with Scarlet?” Nash asked, groaning as he sat back down on the chair he had just gotten up from.

      “Seems that someone attacked Jinx and Billy last night, behind the Golden Talon headquarters. Stuck Jinx with a knife. They want us to come by to help do some break down on a potion given them,” Prue replied looking pointedly at Steward. “Anyone wanna take a guess who it was?”

      “It’s time to call Steve to get some information on this guy,” Phoebe said picking up the phone as Steward shrugged his shoulders. “If we are going to help in this mess, we are going to need some information on the guy.”

      “I’ll be up reading the book and making a potion,” Piper called out as she headed up the stairs to the attic. “I hope the book has something for us.”

      “Grab what you can out of the book, then we’ve got to go,” Prue called as Phoebe talked to a person on the other end of the phone.

###

      “Hello Xander, are Steve and Buffy around?” Phoebe asked as the phone was picked up on the other end.

      “Hello Phoebe?” the male voice asked and she could tell he was guessing at her name. “Naw, Steve and Buffy are out shopping. Anything I can do for you?”

      “Can you give us any information on a boy named Arrin Parkin?” Phoebe asked after thinking about it for a second.

      “So, Arrin turned up in San Francisco, huh?” Xander replied. “Well, what is it that you want to know about him?”

      “Anything you have,” she asked as she heard him moving to another part of the room, “his weakness and strengths to start off.”

      “Phoebe, you’re not going to be going up against him are you?” She could hear the worry in Xander’s voice. “Please tell me that he is not starting any wars up there.”

      “Is he that powerful?”

      “Depends on what you call powerful. When he was here we seen him pull off a lot of shit. Willow and Amy have a copy of one of his spell books and they are in heaven.”

      “So he is powerful…”

      “Not so much, it all depends on what your idea of power is. I mean yeah, he can get pretty powerful in the spell department, but he himself told me that he would rather use low level spells. He said it is all in the way you use them.” Xander said. “His girlfriend is just as powerful as him, if not more so, and that bow he carries is a relic in its own right.”

      “What is he?” Phoebe asked with concern

      “Elf, but not one from our world,” Xander replied. “What has he gotten himself into?”

      “Besides out here killing people, not a damn thing,”

      “Killing people? For what?” Xander asked, his voice now showing concern.

      “Apparently the local Tong took his wife,” Phoebe replied telling them the only thing she knew about it.

      “Pity the Tong,” Xander replied offhandedly. “Want a couple of us to come down for damage control?”

      “Nash is here. They are looking for him.”

      “Let me talk to him, this isn’t something he should go in to without some kind of warning.”

      “Hey Xander,” Nash Bridges greeted the boy over the phone after Phoebe told him what is going on.

      “Nash man, Arrin is not your run of the mill bad guy. To be honest, where he is from, he would be like Steve. One of the top guns for the good,” Xander said with out sugarcoating it. “Give me a few hours and I will have a team gathered and we will be down there.”

      “I have to do something about this guy, Xander,” Nash replied after a minute. “The sooner you get here, the better.”

      “Might take a day, have to put together a team,” Xander replied leaving Nash with a buzzing phone.

###

Main gate
Golden Talon Tong headquarters
Sunset

      “Remember our orders, ten dead and if we find someone worthy, we turn ‘em,” a large vampire ordered the group of twenty vampires with him. Letting his smile grow, he added, “Any more than that are extra credit.”

      A low rumble rolled through the ranks of the vampires at the thought of getting some fresh blood. Turning toward the gate just as the last of the sun’s rays left the sky, the group started as one toward the gate. The gate was barred close, but the first two vampires easily fixed that by ripping the gate off its hinges allowing the others to storm the grounds.

###

Inside the Mansion

      “Hello, Mr. and Miss Steele, what can I do for you on this glorious night?” Mitung asked as he looked at the watch on the wall. He had been waiting for word from the men he had sent to the community to find out what they did when word reached him that the Steeles were at the gate wanting to talk to him. Inviting them into his office, Mitung decided to measure them as a threat. Since he had sent an assassin after them; that they were here was an indication that the assassin had failed. Further confirmation of that came within the first few minutes of talking to the couple. “What can I do for you two?”

      “Actually it is something we can do for you,” the woman greeted as they took a seat around a table. Pulling out a familiar envelope, she took out a sheaf of one hundred dollar bills. Passing them to him, she went on, “I wish to pay you to find out the whereabouts of a young lady, her name is Kristen Lyons.”

      “I will see what I can do,” Mitung replied taking the cash keeping his eyes on the woman in front of him,

      “I am sure if you just pass the word, whoever is responsible will return the girl,” Laura commented as she put the envelope back into her pocket.

      “What is this word?”

      “Simple, if Kristen isn’t returned, unharmed with in forty-eight hours we, my husband and I, will start hunting for her. Oh, and Mr. Mitung, my husband is not a stranger to the hunt.”

      Nodding his head to acknowledge the thin threat, Mitung stood as if to say the meeting was over; waiving his hand toward the door, he smiled while saying, “I will do what I can.”

      As they moved toward the front door of the mansion, security bells started to ring in the hall. Men started screaming as they moved from their room to the armory to collect a weapon to fend off the invaders. As they walked down the main passage of the home, Mitung turned to his ‘guests’. “It would appear that you will need to stay as our guests for a while longer. I don’t know what is going on, but it might not be too safe for you to go out right now.”

      “This way ma’am, sir,” a man in a dark suit respectfully requested, indicating with his hand to enter a large room off the main hallway. With Mitung following, the man led them to the library, which was soundproofed. Stepping aside, he let the couple in and, stepped away, allowed Mitung to take care of the guests.

      “Can we help?” Laura asked as Mitung took the door to close it as the Steeles entered the library, “we are both strong fighters.”

      “No, we can’t risk our own security force sho-harming you by accident,” Mitung replied as he closed the door from the outside and locked it. Turning toward the butler he went on, “Make sure they stay in here. I might have to kill them myself.”

      Screams from the courtyard caused him to turn from the butler and head at a run toward the action. One member of the security force came up along side him as he reached the main door, yelling out the information he knew Mitung was waiting for, “They got through the front gate. They must have some kind of armor on, as they are not falling to our bullets.”

      “How many?” Mitung screamed back over the sound of guns being fired in an enclosed space. “What are they dressed like?”

      “Can’t identify a uniform, mostly a mishmash of clothing,” the man replied as he went to a window where he started to shoot out of it.

      Already, Mitung could count six dead bodies that belonged to his men. From where he stood, he could see that most of the bodies had their neck ripped out; there were others who were shot in the front and the back. Looking around, he noticed something in his men he had never seen before… fear. The thought that his men could show fear that easily, caused him to falter in giving a command that he knew he must give, before he lost it all.

      In the distance, over the shouting and the shooting, he heard the faint cry of a siren and knew that the cops were on their way. With a pitched gun battle this close to the town limits, the police would be out in force. Already he could see a dark van crashing through the main gate. The back of the van sprung open, letting out a group of ninja-clad men and women. They came out ready for action, armed with both sword and gun. Next came the cops, two of them were joined by three women, women he himself knew. He realized that if he didn’t do something quickly, it was all going to be over for him.

###

Halliwell Manor

      “That boy talks like a prophet,” Nash said as he also hung up the phone. Looking over to Dominguez, he went on, “Says that he will have to put a team together and would be down tomorrow, didn’t even say who the team would be.”

      “If he said they would be here, they will be here,” Piper said coming down from upstairs. “Xander might be young, but he is solid to his word.”

      “I get the same impression of him,” Nash replied, nodding his head. “When I first met him, I could have killed that damn St. Wolf for training kids to fight, but once he opened his mouth, I could see that he was doing what he was meant to do.”

      A sharp squawk from Nash’s handheld called his attention away from the conversation that he knew could drag on for hours. Both he and Dominguez had their own feelings about a bunch of teenagers fighting for the world, knowing that no one would ever know what happened.

      “Nash,” he barked sharply into the hand set, “What is it?”

      “Gun shots are being reported at 1325 Beacon Street.”

      “That’s where the Golden Talon Tong is headquartered,” Grandma said listening to the others talk and finally finding that her knowledge of the area was needed.

      “Shit!” Dominguez cursed under his breath as he looked over to Steward who was sitting down, listening to what the others were saying. “Wanna bet it’s your friend?”

      “No bet, and if guns are being used, I hope they are not firing at him,” Steward replied with a knowing smile.

      “Let’s go,” Nash ordered as he and Dominguez started out the door.

      “Want some company?” Prue asked in a voice that told them that they were coming along, whether Nash wanted said help or not.

###

1325 Beacon St.

      After leaving Lord Dharinel, Parkin used his bow’s teleportation abilities to take him to the back of the mansion that he had been watching. Appearing in a tree, it did not take him long to notice a group of darkly dressed men, moving in on the house from the back. These men were dressed very similarly to those who had attacked him the night before. The way they were moving, he was sure they were looking for him. Spotting another tree that stood about a hundred yards behind the moving group, Arrin popped himself there so as to keep from being detected, but still allowed him to watch the group as they moved toward the house.

      As the group closed to within twenty feet of the wall, they all knelt down as one, bringing out what looked to be grappling hooks and ropes. That they were preparing to assault the main yard from the back was obvious, but knowing what he did, Arrin could not and would not allow that to happen. Now, he just had to figure out a way to stop a force as large as this. Even as he thought about it, a plan formed in his mind that was definitely Pac all the way.

      Arrin teleported to a spot between the invading group and the mansion wall. Facing toward the invading force, he immediately dropped two stones in front of him only seconds before a burst of sparkles appeared in front of him. The force in front of him held their weapons waist high, pulling the trigger. Although he could see their mouths open and the flashing twinkles from the muzzles of the guns they carried, not a sound was made.

      < Now comes the fun part, > Arrin thought as his grin became larger. From his side of the silence shield, Arrin whispered the spell he had chosen for this encounter. One by one, the attackers laid down their weapons and grabbed the closest co-ed to him/her in a passionate hug. His smile grew wider as he finished his spell which caused the men and women lay down for a nap. < Can’t have you having an orgy out here, but tomorrow you won’t know you didn’t have one. >

       He had already heard the fight start in the front. He knew that he needed to get up there to stop the assault as soon as possible.

###

San Francisco Airport

      Stepping down off the plane, Peter Caine and his partner Kermit looked around, hoping to find someone who might pick them up. Seeing no one they immediately recognized, they started toward the main entrance and for the Taxis beyond. As they made their way through the large terminal, they noticed two teenagers, also heading toward the gate in front of them. The teenagers were dressed in black coats that hung to their knees. Since the temperature outside was in the low 60’s, the coats were called for. One of the teenagers was a female. This was ascertained by the long hair and the shapely way her ass moved under the coat. The second was a male and, by the way he wrapped his arm around the woman’s waist, he was her boyfriend.

      Caine watched the two teenagers walk and noticed something about each of them that sent the short hairs on the back of his head to standing. The way they walked was some how very familiar. Falling in behind the pair, Peter followed at a respectful distance; however, they didn’t travel far, when he felt for sure they knew they were being followed. The pair was good; if it wasn’t for the boy’s slight pause while passing a waiting room, Peter would not have known they knew he was following them.

      The boy leaned into the girl, pushing her into a door marked stairs instead of taking the escalator down. Still not believing the boy would be trying to lead them in a trap, Peter and Kermit followed the pair through the stairway door. Entering the door, they both expected to see the pair walking either up or down the stairs; however, the couple was gone and neither of them could hear the sound of someone walking in a hollow stairway. Stepping onto the landing, they let the door close and started down the stairway, when they heard a snicker from behind.

      Spinning around, the pair each reached for their guns, but froze at the sight that was facing them.

Steve St. Wolf’s Residence
Sunnydale, CA

      After hanging up the phone with Prue and Nash, Xander placed a phone call to Iverson Air, making arrangements for him and Cordelia to fly to San Francisco. He knew she was in a bad way and he thought this was a way that would put her back in the saddle, a promise of a full day of shopping in San Francisco. If shopping would not snap her out of it, the knowledge that Solace was in trouble definitely would.

      “Hey Mac, Xander here,” Xander greeted the operations officer of the Sunnydale branch of Iverson Air. “How soon can you get Cordelia and me to San Francisco?”

      “What’s going on in San Fran?” Mac asked.

      “Just wanna get away from the Hellmouth for a day,” Xander lied, hearing the sound of some paper rustling in the background. “Can you help me out?”

      “As luck would have it, I have a paying customer going to San Fran in an hour. If you don’t mind sitting in the cockpit with us, you two can ride along,” Mac said after a few minutes of paper rustling.

      “Great, we’ll be there,” Xander replied, hanging up before going into the gym where the group was practicing. Motioning Steve over, he decided to make sure what he planned was ok with the boss, before he took Cordelia on a help mission.

      “What’s up Xander,” Steve asked calmly as they heard Randi toss Faith to the mats.

      “Ever wonder what our visitors do when they leave here?” Xander joked.

      “No, actually I don’t.”

      “Well, we all knew that we should have kept a better track on that Elf when he said he was going to travel around,” Xander went on, keeping his voice low enough so no one in the room could hear him. “That was Prue with Nash on the phone. Seems our wayward elf is in the city by the bay, mixing it up with a local Chinese tong.”

      “Pity the tong,” Steve replied boringly as he started to turn go back into the gym. His hand was on the knob when he stopped and turned back to face Xander. “Why is Arrin messing with a tong?”

      “They have Solace,” Xander replied.

      “Oh shit,” Steve replied after a minute, his eyes growing wide as he realized what the Elf would do. “How many dead?”

      “Three as of today, but Steward told them that the body count would grow, and I have to agree with him,” Xander said before making his pitch. “That is why I wanna take Cordelia shopping in San Francisco. While we’re there, we might have time to look into it.”

      “Good thinking. Have you already made arrangements?”

      “Yea, Mac has a plane going to San Fran in an hour. Said we could ride in the cockpit since it is a chartered flight,” Xander said easily. “Just wanted to get your permission to take her out of town so soon after the shooting.”

      “I think it would be a great idea,” Steve replied as he looked over to where Cordelia was sitting on a bench. “Besides, the talk she had with Solace helped her out a lot. I am sure she wouldn’t mind returning the favor.”

      “Ok then, we’ll be back tomorrow at the latest.”

      “If you need any help, you have the number.”

###

San Francisco Airport

      Xander and Cordelia stepped down off the Lear jet and entered the main air terminal. Cordelia still didn’t know anything more than that they were here to do a bit of shopping and get away from the Hellmouth and she was ecstatic about it. As they walked down the main corridor, she looked into the windows, seeing the different small nick knacks that were properly placed in plain view for the visitors.

      “You know, these jackets are heavy as hell, but they are also very warm,” Cordelia said as she pulled her jacket tighter around her. “Tell me dweeb boy, where are we going first?”

      “Since were in a strange town, I was thinking we should pop in and check in with Scarlet,” Xander replied slyly. “We can do it on the phone.”

      “Could,” Cordelia replied as they walked with her looking in the different shops, “but since we are being followed, we might as well find out what is going on.”

      “Followed?” Xander asked as he slowed down to look in the display window to see if he could find the tail, seeing the two men and not recognizing them right off, he steered Cordelia into the stairway.

      “This is not a broom closet, Honey,” Cordelia stated as she melted into Xander’s arms for a quick kiss. Pushing away, she stepped behind the door saying, “besides I don’t particularly like company when we are there.”

      “Let’s see what they want,” Xander said while he jumped up into a window sill and hugged against the wall nearest the door.

      Cordelia didn’t even breathe when the two men stepped through the door. She couldn’t see either one yet for the door had her pinned in a small alcove. She realized the reason neither said anything was in hopes they would hear something. So, when she started to breathe, she kept it as normal as possible. At first she thought they would turn around and go back in but, at the last moment, both men started down. She already had her pistol in her hand so, as the door closed, she brought it up to aim between them. To the right, she heard the soft landing that Xander made when he jumped down from the deep window sill, so she was ready when the two came around, reaching for something under their jackets.

      “Could never get the both of us,” Xander grinned as he put his gun away. “So don’t even try.”

      “Damn Canadian’s shouldn’t even be carrying a gun,” Cordelia added, also putting her gun away at the shocked looks on their faces. “How you boys doing?”

      “Would be fine if we weren’t always being surprised by a bunch of teenagers,” Kermit growled, standing up straight. The grin of friendship coming to his face as he added, “My former associates would never live this one down.”

      “Don’t worry, Kermit,” Peter replied advancing to Cordelia with his hand out. “Who would have thought someone would pull such an old trick as to stand behind the door, and up on a window sill?”

      “We did,” Cordelia replied with a slight smile. “And if we thought of it, chances are others would too.”

###

      “What are you two hellions doing here?” Peter asked, wondering if they were here for the same reason he was.

      “Xander brought me up here to do some shopping,” Cordelia said with a smile. “It’s just in our nature to keep an eye out for possible trouble.”    

      “Figured Scarlet would have called you all in if there was trouble,” Kermit commented.

      “Trouble?” Cordelia asked concern and annoyance written all over her face, causing Xander’s face to turn a shade of pink. Turning toward her mate, she went on, “What’s it all about?”

      “Well…”

      “Damn it! I should have known you wouldn’t take me shopping just for the sake of shopping,” Cordelia snapped in a disgusted voice. “Alright, we’re here, now tell it.”

      “A tong has Solace captive, Arrin is searching for her, three dead as of last night,” Xander said keeping it down to the basics.

      “Wait a minute,” Cordelia said in a suspicious voice. “How are they keeping her captive?”

      “A Chinese Tong is a very powerful organization,” Peter said from past experiences. “Before you say ‘so is Section seven’, please realize that they too have magics and other powerful forces working for them.”

      “How are they keeping her,” Cordelia asked, turning toward Xander, seemingly ignoring Peter’s statement before she turned back to him. “Solace shouldn’t have any trouble against a thousand men. Believe me, she is her own army.”

      “Come on, I’ll tell you on the way,” Xander said. Turning toward Peter, he added, “Guess you’re here for the same reason.”

      “Dad told me that the group here in San Francisco is in deeper than they realized and they would need my help,” Peter said. “When you said a Tong was involved, I just assumed that was the reason.”

      “Might be, but I kind of doubt it, from what you told us about your father,” Cordelia grinned.

      “Something tells me that those two are hiding something,” Kermit growled as they started as a group out the door.

      “Lot’s were not telling,” Xander said dryly. “Don’t worry though. If you’re in the need to know, we will tell.”

      “Where are you two going?” Peter asked as they stepped out on to the roadway that ran in front of the terminal.

      “Some one will put us up if we stay that long,” Xander replied as he looked down the road looking for the car that Iverson air had loaned him. “What about you two?”

      “We just hopped on the first plane when dad told us to get down here as soon as possible,” Peter fielded the question by Xander. As a black Explorer pulled up to a stop in front of them, the driver jumped down and threw the keys to the car to Xander before entering the building.

      “Might as well stay with us,” Cordelia invited. “How did you get your guns this far?”

      “Police. What about you?”

      “We came in a private plane,” Xander smiled as they all got into the Explorer. “Come on, we will go to see Scarlet first.”

###

Golden Talon Tong
Basement Rooms

      Solace lay on the table, all but forgotten about as the drip ran dry. The last of the drug-laced saline had emptied into her system over an hour ago, and already she was coming out of its effects. Her eyes slowly came open as she listened and looked throughout the room, wondering where everyone was. The ringing of bells screamed in the background and every once in a while she could hear the sounds of someone running down the hallway.

      Slowly she mentally inspected her body. Finding all parts there, she began to go about freeing herself. She felt the different bands holding her in the bed; one stretched across the legs, the next one on her waist, the next just below her breasts, one on each arm and another one on her wrists. With almost childlike glee, she lifted her right hand, breaking both bonds that held it down. From here, it would have been easy to reach over and unfasten the others but, as she thought about it, she figured that they had used this device on others, so she ripped the two bands off her left arm with almost the same glee. Then using her free hands, she sat up, ripping two of the four bands that were left without so much as a strain to get herself free. Jerking her legs up, now that the pleasure of breaking things was sort of gone, she stood up. Reaching out she grabbed the bed, denting the frame of it while she used it to steady herself for a few seconds.

      In the back of her mind, she remembered there were other girls in this place; girls that would need her help if they were to get away. Walking over to the door, she listened for anyone who might be standing outside the door. Not hearing anyone, she calmly opened the door and walked out, her eyes flashing their warning to anyone who decided to get in her way. Slowly, she made her way down the hall, kicking open every door she came to, looking for the girls. Getting to the end of the long hallway, she still hadn’t found anyone, so she started to work the other way. Passing her room, she went down three doors before she came across the girls; all of them were still nude, balled up in a corner crying.

      “Stand up all of you,” Solace growled, not having time to deal with crying girls. She worked out in her mind that the bells that they heard were an alarm, which could only mean that Arrin was attacking the house and, if she was going to get these girls to safety, she had to move fast. After they all stood up, she used Glamour to clean and dress the girls, wishing all along that she could let them have a bath instead. The Glamour didn’t take the smell away. “Now, come with me. My mate is attacking this place and if we don’t get to safety, they will use us against him.”

###

      Kristen Lyons was not as far gone as the man Mitung thought she was. All along, she kept to herself and watched to see what happened. She had found that if she rolled with what ever he wanted, sooner or later, he would stop paying attention to her and she would be able to make her escape. The other girls were slowly succumbing to the drug and she could not risk letting them know what she was doing.

      When the bells of alarm started ringing, she thought it was the police and her spirits went up a few notches. However, as the screaming and the shooting grew louder, she had a sinking feeling that her hopes of being rescued were out of the question. She was just about ready to go check the door when it burst open and the new girl was standing at the door, fully dressed.

      “Stand up all of you,” she ordered. As she mumbled a few words, Kristen was surprised that she was now wearing jeans and shirt and the other girls were likewise dressed. After she looked over the girls in Kristen’s group, the woman ordered, “Now, come with me. My mate is attacking this place and if we don’t get to safety, they will use us against him.”

      “Who is your man?” Kristen asked as the gunshots rang out from both inside and outside the house.

      “Silence with your foolish questions, girl. Each of you join hands, we are leaving now.”

      Having never come across a woman who could order in the way this one could, Kristen joined hands with two girls who stood next to her as they grabbed two others. Soon, the new girl broke the chain and added herself into it, Kristen watched in amazement as this strange girl’s eye glinted and the surrounding area changed. Now, instead of being inside a dank and musky dungeon, they were outside in front of a store. She noticed that the other girls were frightened and started to ease their fears by showing them that they were safe by pointing out the different landmarks that she knew, having grown up in the area.

      “Can I call my parents?” a girl asked shyly through her tears.

      “First let’s call my parents,” Kristen said as she picked up the public phone. “I live less then three miles from here. My parents will pick us up so we will be safe.”

      “Call them,” Solace ordered in an impatient voice, scaring the girls who stood around her.

      “Who are you?” Kristen asked Solace, punching the numbers for a collect call to her parent’s house. “Where are you from?”

      Her questions only seemed to make this girl withdraw even more, and it seemed the woman was getting impatient about being here. After a few more seconds without getting a reply from this strange woman, she turned her attention to the phone. “Hello Markus? This is Kristen; can you put dad or mom on the phone?”

      “Kristen,” the male voice came over the phone full of anguish and Kristen could feel the emotion was real. As the feeling of love washed over her, Kristen began to cry. “Are you ok?”

      “I am fine now. We are on the corner of King and Fucius, right across the street from the Chinatown Wal-mart, there are four others with me.”

      “I will be on my way to retrieve you right away, Kristen,” the man said as he handed the phone to someone else in the room.

      “Kristen, is that really you?” Sandy Lyons asked, not daring to hope that she was going to speak to her daughter after so long a time. “Did Laura and Remington find you?”

      “I don’t know the girl’s name who rescued us, but she just told us that she had to go back for her husband,” Kristen said as she watched her rescuer look off into the distance, her back was stiff and it was easy for Kristen to see that she was worried about her husband. “Has Markus left to pick us up yet?”

      “Yes, Honey, he should be there within minutes,” Sandy replied as she went over the various questions about her heath and wellbeing that a mother would ask after so long a captive time. She was still asking questions, not allowing her daughter to answer, when Kristen looked down the street to see a white limousine turn the corner heading toward them.

      “Mom,” Kristen cried out as she recognized the car that was pulling up to a stop in front of them, “I have to go; Markus is here.”

###

      Solace saw the car turn the corner, the tires squealing as the back slid into line with the front coming around the corner; she turned to see the happy look on Kristen’s face and knew that this was the ride she expected. As the car came to a stop, she looked at the driver who was jumping out of it.

      “Will you take custody of these women? They all show signs of being abused.” Looking the man over one last time, she went on in a deadlier voce, “Realize that if anyone does any more harm to these girls, I will not be very social next time we talk.”

      “Thank you for returning, Kristen to us,” the man replied, not even paying attention to what this young girl was saying. “Let me look at you. Are you ok?”

      Solace didn’t wait for the man to acknowledge her. As soon as she saw that Kristen would not allow the other girls to be left back, she returned to the place where she was being held captive. As she stood in the room, long ago memories flashed back in her mind. Once before she was held captive, only then it was in her true form, now she was held in her human form. For a second she wondered if there was any form she was safe in. The longer she thought about it, the angrier she got. Finally, her temper went past the safe zone. She could still hear the screams and the shooting from outside, so she rationalized that Arrin was out there, somewhere, against all these men. Shaking her head, she closed her eyes and transformed herself into her true self. The fact that the room was about fifty times too small for her meant little or nothing to her. As her body grew, the rooms in the basement of the house were slowly being replaced by her. After reaching her full size, she bowed her back, knocking holes in the floor of the first level. Arriving at her full size, she forced her head up through the floor, coming up in the middle of the living room.

      “Hello,” Solace said as she spotted one of her tormentors who promptly voided his bladder and fainted at the sight of the Dragon’s face in front of him. Looking around the room, Solace noticed two others; one of them was the leader of this group. “Mitung, I presume.”

      “I am,” he replied in a shaken voice with a bit of bravado mixed in. “What is it you want?”

      “Surrender to the forces that are attacking your house, or I will wreck your house and all those who live in it,” Solace ordered as she lifted off, wrecking even more of the house as she took flight over the house, scaring those both in and out of the house. She looked down and noticed several humans looking up at her; some were running, others were standing in complete shock. As she circled around the back, she saw a group of bodies lying on the ground, but their body heat was still with them, so she was sure they were not dead. Drifting to the front again, she scanned the area, looking for her man, knowing that he was either standing in front of or opposing the attacking party.

###

      Not realizing what was happening in the house, Arrin was sure that his foresight would come true if he didn’t do something quickly. Appearing in a place between the warring men and the house, Arrin ripped off his cloak showing his battle armor, his religious icon displayed prominently on his chest. Within a few seconds, more dust was flying through the air as the lesser of the vampires came within a fifty foot radius of him. His Elvin chain mail was like a beacon of light in an otherwise dark night. Casting a shield spell around him, he advanced toward where he knew the police line was slowly advancing on the protectors of the house.

      “Stop firing!” Arrin screamed out as the last of the vampires turned to dust. When he reached the police line, the firing sound slowly died down as those in front of him saw that their bullets had no effect on him. “Leave this place, you have no idea what your doing!”

      “Toss your weapon aside and get down on the ground!” someone in the darkness called out.

      Shaking his head at the audacity of the challenger, Arrin was just about to cast another spell when two voices came floating back to him from the darkness.

###

Main Street
Chinatown

      “Let’s call Scarlet,” Cordelia said, as they drove down the main street of Chinatown. “Might as well wrap this thing up and get to our shopping.”

      “Go ahead and call her,” Peter replied with the same attitude.

      Taking out her cell phone Cordelia hit a speed dial, it was picked up after the first ring. “Hello, Danny here.”

      “Danny this is Cordelia, Section Seven,” Cordelia replied wondering why Scarlet didn’t answer the phone, “Where is Scarlet?”

      “She and most of the SIU are assaulting the Golden Talon Tong headquarters at this moment,” Danny quickly replied. “If you have a military radio you can reach them on 14.5”

      “Thanks,” Cordelia replied hanging up the phone while turning on the military radio and turning toward Xander. “Step on it Dweeb Boy, they are already attacking the house.”

      “Forces attacking 1325 Beacon Street, this is S7 please come in.”

      “This is Nash Bridges,” Nash replied answering the call. “S7 what is your 20?”

      “We are about ten minutes from your location,” Cordelia replied. “What is the situation?”

      “We are following the attacking group, we believe them to be the big V,” Nash replied shortly.

      “Copy big V,” Cordelia replied as they turned onto the street. “We can hear the gunfire. Be informed that we are in a black Explorer that is now coming up behind you, and please don’t shoot.”

      “Copy that,” Nash replied. “Holy shit!”

      “He is a wonder ain’t he?” Cordelia said also seeing the vampires turn to dust when Arrin tossed off his jacket, the bullets flying toward him bouncing harmlessly off something that could not be seen.

      “How the hell did he do that?” Nash asked in wonder as Xander and Cordelia joined his side.

      “Stop firing!” the figure standing out in the open yelled out. “Leave this place, you have no idea what your doing!”

      “Toss your weapon aside and get down on the ground!” someone in the darkness called out

      “Hey Arrin, I thought you said you were not going to get into any trouble,” Cordelia called out just as a piercing cry came from over head. The cry drew the attention of everyone present to the sky, not one person could stop his or her jaw from dropping as they all witnessed what appeared to be a hundred foot purple dragon drifting on the wind about thirty feet above them. Picking up her voice she called out, “Solace you come down here girl, you have them all spellbound now.”

      The group watched as what they all thought was a dragon landed in front of them; none of them so much as batted an eye as the Dragon spoke to the man who opposed more then a hundred guns with a bow. “I am free now Arrin, we can continue our travels.”

      “What about the men inside?” Xander asked indicating what was left of the mansion.

      “The spell of my being will drop once I change back into human form,” Solace replied, as she looked around at the packed faces that were still looking up in the sky. “Most of these here will only think of me as a dream.”

      “Those inside?” Xander asked again when Solace bypassed his question.

      “They will surrender to the force that is attacking the house, just make sure the group you wish them to surrender to, attacks the house first,” Solace told Xander with distaste thick in her voice. “They will confess to their sins without being told to.

      “Reasonable. Any dead?”

      “No Xander, and those who they had captive are now back in the care of their family,” Solace said as she turned back into her human form. “Do not try to find the girls this group took. I did what I could for them and I am certain they will be all right, as the only things that happened to them were being drugged. For now, the police will have to do with the group in the house.”

      “Here,” Solace stepped forward handing Cordelia a box, “This is for Fragnar, ask Lord St. Wolf if he would deliver it to him on his next birthday and tell him that Arrin and I send it with our respect and admiration.”

      Accepting the box, Cordelia watched as the pair walked up the path to where the Charmed Ones stood with Steward and an old woman. As they reached them, all seven of them disappeared, which released the rest of the people standing around. Cordelia slowly glanced around, seeing Nash stand scratching his head. Stepping forward followed by Xander, Peter, and Kermit, she called attention to herself before their attention could be put on something else.

      “Take cover,” Cordelia screamed out as she jumped behind a car, unexpectedly shooting at the house but knowing she would not hit anything. Just as her shot rang out, a scream of surrender came from the house, stopping the others from taking up the shooting match.

      “Come out with your hands empty,” Nash, the most senior officer on scene, called out after his men had taken adequate cover. “This is the San Francisco SIU.”

####

      Nash was not sure how this was happening, but he was not going to argue with it either. The biggest crime organization in his city was giving up; who was he to turn it down. Calling out to his force, he ordered, “Check each one thoroughly, and make sure you read each one of them their rights. Bring the leader of this group to me.”

      It took the better part of the afternoon for the police to properly book the men in the house and take down their statements. The idea of a dragon in the mansion was a bit far fetched, but when they heard of the kidnappings and the selling of women to men overseas, the police decided to pull out all the stops and started taping the confessions.

      Three police busses had pulled up at the scene to transport the members of the tong to the local jail, when Captain Hargrove pulled up. Nash, seeing the man getting out of his car, cursed for a few minutes before he walked up to the man.

      “Nice little bust here,” Nash told the Captain as they walked up to where Mitung was handing over his book on the many sales he had over seen on the net. “We have enough evidence to put them all away for a few years.”

      “Why are you here?” Hargrove asked, his face slightly red when he saw the book in Nash’s hands. “Do you have a proper search warrant?”

      “We actually didn’t need one,” Nash replied with a smile. “We came in to rescue them as they were being attacked by a small force that ran away when we arrived. We didn’t fire one shot on the house then they came out surrendering, telling us all about their activities.”

      “I will take that book,” Captain Hargrove said as he reached out for the book.

      “You will have it on your desk in the morning, along with the rest of my report, Captain.” Nash replied as he put the book in his pocket. “This bust is going by the book; I don’t want one of these men walking over a technicality.”

      “What about the killer?” the captain asked, his voice tinged with worry, his eyes never leaving the book in Nash’s pocket.

      “I believe he was part of the group who attacked the place, and we will have them in custody with in twenty-four hours.”

      “Very good,” Hargrove replied as he walked back to his car. “I will see you in the morning.”

###

      “What the hell is going on?” Laura Steele asked as she walked up to where Hargrove was just walking away from Nash. “Why are we being accosted?”

      “Who are you?” Nash asked looking over the man and woman seeing they obviously didn’t belong to the tong.

      “My name is Remington Steele; I am a PI from St. Louis,” Remington replied stepping between his wife and the officer.

      “Why are you here?”

      “We were looking for Kristen Lyons,” Remington replied, keeping a civil tone in his words even though anyone could tell he was becoming agitated.

      Pulling the book out of his pocket, Nash thumbed through it quickly finding what he was looking for. “Here is her name; she was going to be shipped out with the next shipment.”

      “Where is she?” Laura asked jumping forward.

      “We are getting ready to search the house right now,” Nash said as he headed down toward the house while Laura pulled out her phone.

      “Wait till we find her,” Remington told his wife taking the phone from her. “We need something solid to tell her.”

      “You’re right,” Laura replied as the phone rang, excitement was in her voice as she answered the phone, “Laura Steele,”

      “Laura, thank god you are ok,” Sandy Lyons’ voice could be heard over the phone even though Laura had it to her ear, “Thank you so much for returning our Kristen to us.”

      “Huh?” Laura asked confused. “We are just getting ready to go into the house.”

      “Kristen is here Laura,” Sandy cried as someone took the phone from her.

      “Laura, this is Reginald,” the male voice came over the phone with more control over his emotions, although even his voice was cracking. “Kristen told us how you rescued her and the rest of the girls. When you’re done, please come by. We would love to thank you both personally.”

      Still confused by the phone call, Laura was just about to ask another question when the phone went dead.

###

Halliwell Manor

      “Guessing you’ll want to leave right away,” Steward asked the young couple after he found his feet again from the teleportation spell.

      “Still a lot of things to see here in this place,” Arrin countered as he looked out the master window. “I think this place would be nice to explore.”

      “It would be an honor if you would stay with us,” Prue invited the trio. “While you’re here, we can teach you about our customs and laws.”

      “That would be agreeable,” Solace replied in a friendly voice, before Arrin could answer it. “I would love to find out more about this place.”

      “Looks like someone followed us,” Steward said.   

      “My bet is Xander and Cordelia,” Arrin replied, wondering how they ended up down here, while looking at the three women.

      “Sometimes you need friends, even though you don’t want them,” Grandmother replied mystically. “There is an old proverb that goes like this, ‘True friends are like gold, precious and rare, false friends are like autumn leaves, found everywhere’. Ask yourself, young elf, what kind of friends are these who would travel so far to pull you out of danger.”

      “Point taken,” Arrin replied, his cheeks blushing a light blue.

      “Come in Xander, Cordelia,” Piper greeted the two with a hug at the door. “Who are these with you?”

###

      “This is Peter Caine and Kermit, from Canada,” Cordelia introduced the two men, pushing Kermit closer to Piper, after seeing the look in Piper’s eyes while she looked at Kermit.

      “That’s my woman,” Xander laughed. “Get an innocent single man and a single woman, and off she goes being a match maker.

      “How come it’s the guy who is innocent?” Piper asked, looking puzzlingly at Xander.

      “My dear Piper,” Xander replied in his best Giles voice, “when it comes to women, all men are innocent.”

      “Shut up, Xander,” Cordelia growled with a smile, knowing her man was harmless.

      “So is everything ok with you?” Peter asked in a sobering voice.

      “Things are good,” Arrin replied in a calm voice as his hand wrapped around Solace who was sitting beside him. “How long are you here for?”

      “Dweeb Boy promised me a day of shopping in San Francisco and I am not going home till we get something for everyone,” Cordelia replied with an evil grin.

      “We just came up here to make sure you’re ok,” Peter Caine said offhandedly. “Just need to get a flight back.”

      “You can’t stay for a day or so?” Piper asked and everyone in the room knew the question was directed to Kermit.

      “A day or so,” Kermit replied with a smile, taking the cigarette out of his mouth.

      “Are you ever going to take those glasses off?” Prue asked looking pointedly at Kermit.

      “Rarely ma’am,” Kermit replied with a smile. “Once I took them off in the shower and almost went blind.”

      The room rocked with laughter as Phoebe brought in coffee for everyone in the room. “Let’s all take seats; there are no problems that can’t be answered over a cup of coffee.”

      “Ok Solace,” Cordelia said while giving her a hug. “If you’re definitely ok, I am going to take Dweeb Boy out shopping.”

      “When you’re ready to go home, come back and I will make sure you both get home safely.” Solace replied while the hug continued. “We will be staying here for a few days.”

      Grabbing Xander’s hand, Cordelia drug him out of the house for their day of shopping.

###

      Over the next couple of days, Arrin and Solace learned much of how things worked on earth and the Charmed Ones were pleased to learn a few spells that they found useful in their combat against the evils of San Francisco. Steward too, spent his time learning how to use the computer that Willow had given Solace. He also learned where the card drew its money from and how much Arrin was really worth.

      Steward would never betray the boy who was giving him a new lease on life, but he was shocked to find out just how old the boy was. Going over the things he decided he needed to know to make things easier on them, Steward spent a few hours with both Solace and Arrin each day, to accustom him to their beliefs. Only two things really gave him pause and he was pretty proud of that. The first was Arrin’s age; it was unconceivable to him that a being could live over twenty-five hundred years; the second was the fact that Solace was a dragon. At first he thought they were pulling his leg, then, with a blessing of dragon sight cast upon him to keep him from forgetting what he was about to see, Solace changed to her true form and took him for a ride thought the mountains. When she brought him back, he was more than convinced.

      A few days turned into a month; then, on one clear morning, Arrin rolled out of bed to find Solace standing by a window watching the sun rise. Moving over next to her, he nuzzled his chin in her neck while asking, “What is on your mind, my lady?”

      “It is the morning of the full moon,” Solace said as she leaned back into him. “Your cave will be empty today. Shouldn’t we be moving on soon?”

      “I was thinking the same thing. In the month we stayed here we learned a lot, but it is time we have to go out and find more,” Arrin replied as he turned around and entered the bathroom to take a shower.

      “Good, I will let Steward know.”

###

Mountain Cave
Outside Sunnydale

      “This has to be the cave,” Xander said needlessly as he remembered the cave from a few weeks ago. Steve stood next to him as they stepped out of the car. “What do we do if we find ordinance in there?”

      “No ordinance at all,” Steve replied with a frown. “Arrin promised and I told him I would keep any that got here.”

      “How do you think it will be transported?” Xander asked as he walked into the cave followed by Steve. Both were stunned by the sight that greeted their eyes as they entered the main cave. Working like it was no one’s business but their own, were ten mountain dwarves, easily distinguishable by their long beards and bulging muscles. Half sitting on a rock, watching the dwarfs work, was a man who stood easily 7 feet tall, his arms had to be 60 inches if an inch, while his legs were twice that. Xander realized there was not an ounce of fat on this man. Hanging from a sheath on his left side was a two-handed broadsword which he figured the man could easily wield with one hand. On his belt hung four throwing knives that looked more like short swords. On each arm, between the elbow and the wrist, was another knife. Looking at the man a name jumped into Xander’s mind as he looked over all the knives on this man. The name came out as a whisper as Xander stood in awe of someone who probably was the closest he would ever come to a giant. “Blade.”

      Steve also looked at the man who watched the Dwarves at work. Only where Xander was looking at him as a compare and contrast, Steve was looking at him as a possible opponent. This man was large, and with size normally came slowness, but he knew a few people who put lie to that kind of thought. This man was bigger than Marc and stood just as easily as he did. All the knives on him had seen use and he did not give the impression that he was shy about using them.

      Even as the pair walked into the main cavern, the man whom they were each studying stood and faced them, his eyes took them both in that all-seeing glace that professionals honed over years of fighting. A slight smile came to his face when he heard the slimmer of the two men whisper his name. “Aye, I am Blade, who be ye?”

###

      “I am Steve St Wolf, Leader,” Steve started but saw the smirk growing on the fighter’s face and knew that a proper introduction with this man was not needed or wanted. “This is Xander.”

      “Never did understand that proper way of greeting,” Blade said as he advanced with his hand out to shake the hands of the two men. “My way of thinking is this, if we are meeting in battle why do I wanna know your name, and if we are meeting in friendship we could have guzzled a few beers by the time some of you were done with your introduction.”

      “This is my kind of man,” Xander laughed. “If you come to fight, swing; if you come to party, open the beer.”

      “Aye you and I run the same thought wave,” Blade smiled down at Xander.

      “We came to look over the things Arrin is sending back,” Steve said looking at the items that were being stacked up by the wall. They were mostly books, but some basic tools were there, too. “Mind if I look them over?”

      “Not at all,” Blade replied giving Steve permission to go through the books. Slapping Xander’s shoulder, he stated, “Arrin said someone would be coming up here, but he never mentioned it would be a boy like this.”

      “Ain’t but one like me,” Xander said as he had to step forward to catch his balance. “I hear Cordelia say that they broke the mold when they made me.”

      “Some say they even shot the mold makers,” Steve finished the joke for Xander.

      “Xander is it?” Blade asked looking the man over. “Yes, you will do grandly.”

      “Huh?” Xander asked watching the man as he reached behind him and pulled out a sword. It was a magnificently made bastard sword in a titanium sheath. At the end of the handle, in what appeared to be the claws of a large bird, was a clearly cut Diamond. Putting his hand on the pommel, he pulled what he thought at first would be a heavy blade, one that would be too heavy for the quick action in battle. His thoughts were shattered as he pulled out a blade that was lighter than his normal katana; it was also just as balanced as his katana. Slipping the blade back into its sheath, he made to hand the sword back to Blade while saying, “I can’t accept this. It’s a great blade, but why?”

      “Arrin told me about you and your battle against the evil of your world,” Blade replied as he looked to Steve. Seeing the bland look on his face, he turned back to Xander as he went on. “I carried that blade for years while I traveled with the Rainbow Archer. It would be a shame to know that it was just hanging in a treasure room when it was built to battle evil.”

      “Steve?” Xander asked, not sure if he should accept this gift.

      “Your call, Xander,” Steve said as he looked at the blade and knowing just how grand of a gift it was without having to feel it. Smiling as a thought struck him, Steve added, “Besides, I am sure he will collect on it in the future.”

      “If your ok with these things, I will take them and my leave,” Blade said as he moved to follow the Dwarfs through the gate.

      “Looks ok by me,” Steve said as they watched him leave the cave through the gate.

      “Was that a giant?” Xander asked after Blade was gone and the gate was closed.

      “Honestly I don’t know,” Steve replied in the same hushed voice, “But he was close enough for me.”

      The two had a good laugh as they walked out of the cave, Xander replaced the stone and the two drove down the mountain on their way home. Xander smiled as he pulled the blade out of its sheath and wondered at the craftsmanship that must have gone into it. “Let’s just hope that it isn’t haunted,”

THE END

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