Author: Hawk
Title: Arrin’s First
Copyright: May 2001


Rating: PG-13 (Language, Fight Scenes, Graphic Descriptions of Eating Hearts and Brains (With A Light Dab of A1, Perhaps))

Spoilers:
Buffy: Season 2 until Phases.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives and Season 6 does not take place.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander/ X-Files/ Forgotten Realms/ Bureau 13.

Summary: An ancient, forgotten enemy of the Immortals makes his return to Earth after centuries of exile. With the leaders and several other members of the team out of town, it's up to the Scooby Gang, with help from Methos and Robert McAllister, to track down and eliminate this threat. But, mysterious figures follow the demon, hot on his trail and with their own intentions regarding him.

Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.

The characters Borah (the elder), Borah (the younger), Arrin Parkin, Solace, Razor, Condor, Lark, Screw, Drake the Silerwor, Razor and Gath the sailor are mine. I can be contacted at hawk@wandererverse.com.
The characters Steve St. Wolf, Frank Iverson, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup, and Robert McAllister are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at steve711@concentric.net.
The character Robin Goodfellow is property of Mike Weyer.
The character Shaw Hunter is property of Tim Knight.

Author's Notes: This story takes place in February of 1999, just after the events in Faith's Story.

Here are the changes from normal shows that may play a part in this story:
Buffy:
1. Due to her drowning at the hands of the Master in Prophecy Girl, Buffy is Immortal.
2. Passion and Becoming never took place, so Jenny and Kendra are alive and well. Kendra has taken up residence at Buffy's and is attending UC Sunnydale.

Highander:
1. Richie Ryan is alive.

X-Files:
1. Mulder and Scully are Immortal, and married. Skinner's their Watcher. Anyone who doesn't like the relationship stories, you are warned.
)

***

Main road out of Sunnydale Ca

5 Feb 1999

Arrin calmly stepped out onto the shoulder of the road and headed down the street leaving the town of Sunnydale behind him. He would have liked to stay and see how things with Xander worked out, but the threat of Cordelia taking him shopping was a lot more than he wanted to deal with. He was not a person who cared much about what he looked like and he definitely did not want to fall into the trap of human girls dressing him.

There was a cool breeze blowing from the East carrying with it the sweet smell of the ocean. He had always liked the feel of a cool ocean breeze. It reminded him a lot of the days he spent with Gath and Blade on the Cross Claw and he briefly wondered if there were any ships like the Cross Claw in this world. Things were definitely different here in this world. Even with the short tour that Xander had given, he could only guess at what wonders this world would hold for him.

He still wore the brown shorts and muscle shirt that he had on when he talked to Lady Shaw for the last time. He knew that she wanted him to stay to close out the adventure with the group, a party or something. That was never his way. Once the adventure was done, it was time to go and find a new one. The group he fought along side of against the Silerwor would never have accepted the way he disposed of the creature, nor would they accept the way he dealt with a lot of other things. He felt it was best to leave now while they were still blind to his ways.

Just as he passed the sign that boldly stated an invitation to come back to Sunnydale, he actually felt the heavy air of death and decay being lifted from him. He could also feel something tug at his memories, some sort of mystical force that was slowly gaining in strength. For a second he was tempted to go back and find out what the hell it was about, but even as that thought entered his mind he remembered a group of kids in the town who had it all under control. Lifting his hands, he pointed two fingers back into the town while he whispered a few words so low that they didn’t even reach his own ears. As he finished, a pair of small focused beams of light left his fingers and rocketed back down the street. Nodding to himself he turned and started back down the road headed south.

*****

The twin beams tangled amongst each other as they shot down the street, headed back toward the heart of Sunnydale. As they passed through cars that lay in their way, the occupants felt an easiness they had never felt before. A man who happened to be in the path of the lights was suffering from the final stages of colon cancer. He nervously smoked a cigarette, knowing that he could die anytime. He didn’t notice the lights go through him on their journey; so quick did the rays travel that they were only in his body for a split second. A full three minutes after the lights passed thought his body; the man threw his cigarette away, appalled by the taste of the thing. As he tossed the cigarette down he felt better than he had in months, and wondered if it was his time. Quickly he hailed down a taxi and ordered the driver to take him to the nearest hospital. He would find out later that his cancer was not only cured, but his body was in the best physical shape it had ever been. It was as if the surgery that was performed on him only last month had never taken place.

When the twin lights made it to the center of town they separated, changed colors, and followed different paths. One turned a bright red and headed deeper into the business section of Sunnydale, while the other turned white and headed toward the residential area.

The bright red light shot through the wall of the City Hall and into the Mayor’s office where it expanded and took shape, interrupting a meeting that was being held by The Mayor, Mr. Trick and three other Vampires who had the appearance of gang members. The Mayor moved to his cabinet, the source of his power and put his hand on the door when words floated out from the shapeless form.

“Mr. Trick, you have danced with the lady known as Luck and now live to tell the tale, but be warned, the Lady is a fickle creature and if we dance again I will destroy you.”

After the statement the light vanished instantly, a small ivory emblem of a quarter moon floated in it’s place for a fraction of a second before it fell to the ground, the fraction of a second was enough for the emblem to radiate it’s poison to the vampires, causing the two younger ones to turn and the two older ones to be forced back, violently ill.

“What is this?” Mayor Wilkins asked as he picked up the emblem with the use of a hankie, wrapping the emblem up, he tossed it into the trash. He looked at Mr. Trick, amusement in his eyes. “Well, Mr. Trick. It appears you have an admirer.”

“I will have to eliminate him before the time.”

“Mr. Trick, the spell he cast to get his message to you was very powerful, he has obviously left town. Leave it, and him, alone.”

“As you wish,” Mr. Trick replied as he walked out the door.

*****

St. Wolf Residence

“Can’t you three go one hour without using magic?” Faith complained as she felt her spider sense go off warning her of the close proximity of magic.

“What ya talking about?” Willow asked as she looked over to the other magic users to check if any of them were casting spells. “No one is casting.”

“Magic is around, and it ain’t the protection spells laid on the house, this stuff is powerful.”

“Well it ain’t coming from in the house.”

“What’s that?” Brian asked from where he stood by the front window.

“What is it, Brian?” Randi asked as she moved over toward him. “What the hell is that?”

As the rest of the crew rushed to the window to see what ‘it’ was, Brian, who was pushed out of the way, walked unnoticed in a hypnotic state to the front door. He was just about to open the door when Steve grabbed him from behind stopping him.

“Hold on there, squirt,” Steve said gently as he reached over to turn on the small monitor that monitored the front yard. Seeing the light at the sidewalk he called back, “Does any of you know what it is or who it is from?”

“I come as a messenger, from a friend.” Brian stated his voice still a bit hollow.

“Willow? Amy? Anything?” Steve went on not hearing Brian’s statement.

While the rest of the group gathered around Steve and the monitor, Faith and Randi, having heard Brian’s statement and reading the meaning behind it, moved closer to him.

“Steve, I think we might have a problem.” Randi said as Faith knelt down in front of Brian.

“Who are you?” Faith asked her voice calm as she knelt down in front of the boy.

“I am naught but a message who comes to the Pack who works out of this Village. I come to give instructions on items delivered.”

“Oh do be quiet,” Giles asked, as the group, minus Kendra who was still watching the light at the sidewalk, gathered around Brian to find out what was going on.

“The trance is complete,” Willow said worriedly as she cast an identification spell. “I can’t break it.”

“Let it play through.”

“What’s the message?” from Faith who was still kneeling next to Brian.

“On the morning of the new moon, in a cave west of the village, two quarters of the way up on the southern side, you will find a small white rock on the left side of the opening, place the rock on the right side then enter; further instructions will be written there.”

As Brian finished, he dropped unconscious to the floor with Faith just barely catching him in time. She handed him to Randi who laid him comfortably on the couch.

“What is going on?” Kendra asked as she turned away from the window. “The form is gone.”

“Sounds like Arrin wants us to check out his gathering on the morning of the new moon,” Xander took a stab at it while the rest of the group looked around shocked at the method in which the message was delivered.

“Bastard left town without letting us take him shopping.”

“Can’t win them all babe,” Xander laughed at Cordelia.

“I’ll kill him if he hurt Brian.”

“He’ll be alright,” Shaw told the worried girl after checking the boy.

*****

As he walked, Arrin could not help but think of Solace, he was not worried about her nor was he too worried about her finding him. When she was ready to come back, she would do what she had done in the past and teleport to the bow. He missed her, but he was too curious about the world to wait for her any longer.

Arrin watched the cars that moved by him at breakneck speeds. They came in all shapes and sizes. He counted everything from two wheels to what seemed to be ten wheels if he counted five on each side. Watching the bigger cars go by, he wondered what was in the large containers in the back. Thinking about it, he assumed that one of these big cars could carry the entire contents of a caravan, plus more if they used magic. He would have to see in the back of one of those containers one day.

“Where you going, boy?” a man called out to him from a bright yellow convertible as the car pulled up to a stop next to him. The man wore a wildly decorated shirt with long blond hair pulled into a ponytail in the back; his chin was sparsely covered in what appeared to be a three-day growth for humans.

“Over the hill,” Arrin

“Well I am headed to Hollywood if you would like a ride.”

“How far is this Hollywood?” Arrin asked curiously.

“Where you from boy?” the man asked, his voice friendly.

“Back that way,” Arrin replied, his voice light as a smile came to his face, never getting tired of that joke as it always brought him back good memories of bygone days.

“Hop in boy,” the man invited while pushing open the door, “and I will give you a ride to the greatest little town on earth.”

Shrugging his shoulders Arrin slipped in the car, for a single rider to join a caravan was not an unknown thing. It was always safer to join a group traveling the same way than try to go it alone. As they drove, the driver droned on asking questions about his home and where he was coming from.

Arrin answered the questions according to the papers that Willow had given him, all the while trying to figure out why the man was asking them. Finally, the ride was over. They turned off the freeway and headed up a long double lane road. The man stopped at a light and Arrin went to step out of the car just as the man handed him a small square card. Looking at it, but not totally understanding the language, he put it in his pocket.

The street he stepped out on was in the business district. The street was paved with the same material all the roads seemed to be done in, and small shops were lined up on both sides of the streets. The walkway was filled with people both young and old in all types of outfits. It was easy to spot the working girls as they tried to show more of their wares than the normal shoppers. The working girls seemed to come in all ages and races; some were abrasive about it, others were shy and flighty.

As he walked down the boulevard, several unusual things caught his eye. First was that the name of this place was on a lot of cards with pictures, which people seemed to be buying in great quantities. They were also buying little items that also had the name somehow inscribed on it. In another shop he noticed a young man buying a couple of pictures of a man with some kind of hat on. Wondering why someone would buy things like that, he decided that they must have too much money and passed it off.

As the sun lowered, the traffic on the street seemed to change its décor. Now there were two separate groups; the first group, the one that seemed to be out in the open, dressed in the height of fashion, dresses that seemed to be painted on with brilliant colors and suits which were measured to the cut of its wearer. The second group was always just out of reach; they moved through the crowds easily yet stayed out of the center of attention. They tended to stay close to alleyways and once he even noticed a boy from this group take a cylinder from a table that was placed just outside of the shop. He also noticed that the owner of the shop watched the boy take it, as the boy was not very accomplished in stealing. As the boy ran down the alley, Arrin moved closer to the table where the cylinder was taken from.

“I place one can out there ever evening for him,” the owner of the store said, not really addressing anyone in particular. “For the past several days he has been the one to get it.”

“It is good to give a small donation to the less fortunate, but it is dangerous to do it thus.”

“They would not take it if we offered it, or worse, they would think they could take whatever they want.”

“Still, if he takes the cylinder, what stops him from grabbing the hat next to it, or the scarf beside that?”

“Wish he would,” the man replied with a slight chuckle. “I have left it there for about six weeks so far and no one has taken it yet.”

“You wish it to be taken?” Arrin asked puzzled.

“It’s why I placed it out there; the nights get cold this time of the year.”

Nodding his head Arrin walked away from the man, not bothering to say goodbye. As he moved away from the business district, following the boy who took the cylinder, Arrin took out his holy symbol and let it hang from the gold necklace around his neck.

He had not gone forty feet when a couple of young adult males blocked his path. They both stood a good four inches taller than his own 5’ 7”, but they appeared to be weak and one had a very deep cough.

“Where are you going?” the one with out the cough demanded as Arrin stepped closer to the pair.

“Why is it that people ask me that?”

“You’re in our turf,” the second one snapped just before he began a coughing fit.

*****

Steward Anderson was drunk, a state which he found himself more and more in since he had been discharged from the army. He did not spend much time thinking about his time in the service, having spent all of it in war. He was called on to kill people who would have killed him, if he had given them the chance, so he did not really think he was wrong in killing. However, when he came home from Vietnam, he found his presence was not wanted. The nation, as a whole, wanted to shove the men who served in Vietnam under a rug and forget about them.

He was too young to fight in either of the big wars, but he had never heard that the soldiers being shunned when they came home. The feeling hurt more than any of the six bullets he had taken while in the line of duty. Tired of fighting and ashamed of the way people looked at him, with nowhere to go, he dropped out of society, and out of life. First he started to drink and fell behind on his bills. Then, after losing his house, having no job and nowhere to live, he started drifting. Living first as a hobo riding the rails, he finally ended up in a box behind Fredrick’s of Hollywood. After all, it did seem to be the cleanest neighborhood.

Who ever coined the phrase ‘don’t be deceived by a person’s appearance’, must have known Steward at this minute, for he was neither overly tall nor memorable in any way. Standing about five foot nine inches, he had scraggly hair and about a month’s growth on his chin. His clothes were tattered and torn, barely enough to keep the cold out. He was not overbearing as he only weighted about one hundred and forty-five pounds soaking wet.

He knew that the kids on the street were leery of him and he liked it that way. More than a few children would have lost their lives to the various predators that seemed to comb the streets. The young not only had to worry about the pimps, pushers, and slavers; they also had to know how to pick out potential vampires or demons. He himself fell upon what seemed to be a secret society of vampires only recently, having almost been dinner for a pair. Only the years he spent in the jungle prevented him from being a late night snack.

So far he had attacked and moved in silent, not allowing the benefactors of his hunts see him; however, when he saw these two boys getting ready to beat the other child, he knew he had to do something, especially when the two boys were not really all that bad.

 “There a problem here, Mark?” Steward asked in a low growl as he rushed out of his box to come between the two forces, but kept himself positioned so he could see all three participants.

*****

Arrin was puzzled to see the two younger and apparently healthier boys, violently move back from the man who came out of the box. Watching the newcomer, Arrin noticed a few things right off. The first was how this man had positioned himself, and the second was the hilt of what looked to be an extremely large knife sticking out from his left hip.

“This don’t concern you old man,” the healthier of the two snapped at the old man, but was backing away as he did it.

“Move along both of you; there won’t be no fighting in my yard.”

Even as the boys moved back more, Arrin was not sure if they did it because of the man’s presence or if it was the man’s stench and breath. He himself was forced to step back a few paces.

“Get the hell out of here,” Steward yelled at the two boys making as if he was to charge them but he slipped on a pebble and fell hard, his head striking a can that was in the alley, knocking him out.

As he moved toward the man, both boys also advanced. Arrin did not pay any attention to the two boys as he checked the man’s wounds. He found a gash on the man’s head. He automatically slipped his hand over it calling up a cure light wounds spell as he did it.

After checking for more wounds, but not finding any, Arrin shook his head as he looked down at the man, his mind thrown back close to a thousand years ago when he was kneeling over another human, one who was in the same state as this man, a man who had more alcohol in his system than blood. He remembered how the imaginary demons came at that man. He was not able to help that man, as he was not fully aware of his own potential. Now he had time and experience behind him; instead of letting this man suffer as his friend had, Arrin reached out and placed his hand on the man’s forehead, while whispering, “Lainsion Sleaneg”

White liquid started to pour out of the man’s skin in several different places, as the man seemed to relax in his sleep. Only after he witnessed the white liquid coming out of the man’s pores did he turn toward the two boys who were now looking in the man’s box.

“You rob a man who is not yet dead?” Arrin asked as he stood up facing the two boys, “I think that you should leave now.”

“He is not here to protect you, boy,” the speaker snarled as he turned to face Arrin. “Maybe we should teach you why people mind their own business here on the streets.”

“I said leave now,” Arrin ordered his voice carrying a command. After watching the two boys run away following his command spell. Arrin nodded his head in approval before turning back to the man who now slept easily.

In a show of strength, Arrin easily picked up the man and stepped inside the box, looking around at the disarray in the box he mumbled to himself before laying the man down on the rat-chewed blanket, before taking his own blanket out of his bag and laying it down to put the man on. Stepping he placed his bag and bow down near him before squatting down, to sit on his own heels.

*****

Dream Land
(jungle explosion in background)

Sgt. Steward Anderson moved deeper into the growth of the jungle, pulled toward the sound of the thud that indicated the firing of mortars. His unit was pinned down back in no-man’s-land, in a spot where not much cover could be found. They were taking a beating from the anti-personnel mortars that came in at the rate of one every two minutes, which told him that there was only one mortar crew out there.

Having been the scout for the unit, Steward called back with his intentions and then turned off his radio just in case someone tried to call him and give his location away. As he moved toward the mortar crew, his palms started to sweat, as his mind started to call up all the men he had killed and the men he was about to kill and the crying children of towns that they had moved through.

He now had the mortar crew in his sights, but now the area changed as his mouth became dry. He stood in a bar, and it was as if the bottles along the wall laughed at him, calling him to drink them; driving him mad with thirst.

*****

Real world
Inside Steward’s Box

Steward was sweating and shaking as the liquid escaped, he was talking but his words were not making sense. Arrin was just about to cast yet another spell on the man when his body went limp, he stopped sweating and his sleep became much easier. Somehow knowing that the man was going to be all right, Arrin set a few wards around and again squatted on his heels. He forced himself to go in a light trance to get some sleep.

*****

Dragon Valley

“It is time I go back to Arrin,” Solace told her new friends as they landed on the mountain that Arrin had laid on. “No telling what kind of trouble he has gotten himself into.”

“When will you be back this way?” a Golden Dragon about her own age asked.

“I don’t know, maybe in six seasons, but I will try to come and visit when I can.”

“Solace, you should inform the Council of your decision,” another of her new friends this one a Silver Dragon, informed her. “They would want to know your decision.

The custom of the Valley was that if any Dragon needed to talk to the council, be they young or old, all they would have to do is roar for them to convene. They also understood that if anyone called the council to order, they had better have something important to say. Once, around a hundred years ago, a young dragon called the council to order for a practical joke. What the council did to that young dragon made others think twice about being rash when it came to calling the Council to order.

Flying high over the Valley, Solace let out a roar that was reverberated on all sides of the valley calling the council to their seats. After her roar, she landed in front of where the council would convene, and waited for their arrival.

“Solace, you have called upon us,” Fragnar said as the last of the council landed in his spot. “What have you to tell us?”

Bowing low to the council Solace then raised her head as she informed them, “The time has come for me to return to my life with Arrin.”

“Is he still with Steve St. Wolf?” another dragon asked.

“This is something I do not know,” Solace answered honestly, “If he is not at St.Wolf’s, then I will return to his bow since he is never without it.”

“Be careful in the world of humans,” Fragnar told her accepting that she knew what she wanted. “Some of them are traitorous, although Steve is like a brother to us, and would be more than willing to help you out I am sure.”

“Thank you,” Solace answered as she changed into her human form before teleporting herself away from the council and out of Dragon Valley.

*****

Box behind Fredrick’s of Hollywood
05:47 PST - sunrise

Steward stirred as the morning rays sliced through the cracks in his box to waken him. As his consciousness took over, he realized three things right away; first, he was not thirsty; second, his senses were sharper than they had been in a long time, he could actually smell the awful smell in his box; and lastly, there was a boy squatting down in his box across from him.

Shooting up to his feet, his hand went to grab the combat knife that he normally carried near him, as things came clearer, he realized that he no longer wanted or needed a drink. He looked at the boy and demanded, “Who the hell are you?”

“It is good that you awaken, how do you feel?” the boy asked as he stood.

“I asked who you were,” Steward demanded, but still kept his distance from the stranger, and his hand on the hilt of his knife.

“I am no one that you need to worry about.”

“You’re real, right?” Steward asked questioning his own sanity

“I am.”

“What did you do to me?” Steward asked his own memories coming back clearer, memories he wished he could bury; memories of a man spitting on him as he stepped down off the plane returning from ‘Nam, of jobs he was qualified for but didn’t get because he was in that blasted war.

“You were poisoned. I purged it from your body.”

“You had no right,” he cried out before dropping to his knees as the memories of the war and the aftermath flooded over him. “I was happy,”

“You were surviving, barely.”

“I was happy.”

“You did not know what sad was.”

“Who are you?” Steward asked after he figured he would not get anyplace.

“I am Arrin Parkin.”

Hearing the pride in the boy’s voice, Steward nodded his head as they exited the box. “What brings you here, what are you running away from?”

“Running away?” Arrin asked

“Dreaming the big dream, huh?” Steward asked hearing the question and confusion in the boy’s voice.

“I do not run from anything, and I do not dream,” Arrin replied simply.

 Listening to the boy Steward was now more curious than ever, finally he asked, “Where are you from boy?”

“Netherlands.”

Studying the boy more closely Steward had to smile as he started to remember all the pictures he had seen of the Netherlands, his smile became a full laugh and it made him feel good. Finally getting controlled of his laughter he said, “Boy I just can imagine you in those high pants working on a windmill.”

“Are you hungry?” Arrin asked the tone of his voice showing he didn’t understand what Steward was laughing about.

The question and the seriousness of it only served to make Steward to laugh all the more, but even his laugh could not cover the growl his stomach emitted but it only served to make him laugh more. After finally getting his laughter under control Steward nodded his head, slipping back into his box he brought out a couple of small cups of soup saying, “Very hungry, now if we only had some hot water,”

Looking at the small packages Arrin shook his head, “No, I don’t think we should eat your supplies, is there not a tavern around here we can dine in?”

“None that will let me eat on my good looks, and what little money I have I need to conserve.” Steward informed the boy in a hard chipped voice. < What the hell does this boy think? >

“I could produce food, however I will not do it for only two of us,” Arrin replied as he pulled out his Visa check card, “I have this card, will the tavern take it?

“Of course it would,” Steward replied looking at the card in Arrin’s hand, wondering what he meant about the statement, after a minute he went on, “Maybe you should put that away, some people out here would kill you for that card.”

“Of course, thieves are everywhere,” Arrin replied a small grin on his face.

“Are you sure you want to take me someplace to eat?” Steward asked now that he was lucid he realized that he didn’t even know his exact age, he also knew that he could not take advantage of a boy who only seemed to be concerned about him. // Going to have to figure out how the boy pulled the cravings out of my body later. // “What is in it for you?”

“I may have a proposition for you,” Arrin replied with a smile.

“No harm in listening to it,” Steward replied as he got up to leave his box.

*****

St. Wolf Residence
317 Bryant Terrance
8 March 1999

It was close to 10:00 am when Solace appeared in front of Steve St. Wolf’s house. She hoped that Arrin would still be here, but what she knew about the elf told her he was probably long gone. However, she actually enjoyed the company of the young human children. They fought so bravely in the face of a war that would outlast any of their normal lives.

Looking around to see if anyone had noticed her sudden appearance, she didn’t see anyone and made her way toward the front door. Mentally tossing a hope to whatever deity who was listening, Solace steeled herself before reaching up and pressing the button which would ring the door bell in this strange land.

*****

Cordelia moved her way into the living room. It had been two days since she shot and killed the woman who had been hunting her believing she was the Slayer. Even though she had spent over 15 hours with Dr. Greene the girl was still troubled about taking a life and she knew her friends worried about her.

As she came into the living room, she was at first surprised to see it empty, but she knew that the group could not stay home and attend to her. But she was fairly sure that someone would always be around. She was just about to call out when she head a thud come the training room followed by the doorbell.

*****

Training room

“Gotcha!” Randi exclaimed as she tossed Steve over her shoulder for the first time in a perfectly executed hip throw.

Grumbling as he got up just in time to hear the doorbell, he said, “Good work, Randi. You are getting a lot better. Let’s call it for now and go see who is at the door shall we?”

“Sure, you wanna quit now that I am winning,” Randi joked good-naturedly but was the first person to set her practice sword down and move off the mat. “Expecting anyone?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean much.”

“You can say that again,” Randi replied as she thought about the visitors who had come calling unexpectedly since she and her brother came to stay with him.

As the sliding door slid open they were both surprised to see Cordelia out of the room she had been hiding in for two days, dressed in a black t-shirt that reached her knees. Her hair, although not disheveled, was far from perfect. Thinking fast, Steve grabbed Randi and pulled her back into the training room where they could watch with out being seen, “Shuuuuuu, this could be what gets her back on her feet.”

“Or kill her,” Randi hissed, not liking letting just one person answer the door in this town, especially after what they just had been through. Seeing that Steve already had a gun in his hand, she moved herself out of the way, allowing Steve clear access to the door as she slipped out the back to move around to come up behind the visitor if needed.

*****

“Solace? What are you doing here?” Cordelia asked her voice trembling as she tried to get control of herself.

“I came to see if Arrin was still here,” Solace replied as she looked Cordelia over, her voice was filled with concern as she went on, “What happened?”

 “I… I… I can’t,” Cordelia replied as she began to cry stumbling back on to the couch. “It hurts so much.”

Moving into the house, Solace moved next to the girl and put her arm around her shoulder as Cordelia cried, leaning on the girl who she had not known before five days ago. “It hurts so much,”

*****

“What is the matter, girl,” Solace asked as she petted Cordelia’s head somehow knowing that this girl was not crying because something bad happen to Arrin. It had been a long practice of Arrin’s not to meddle into others’ private affairs; however, as she watched Cordelia sob, she knew that she could not just walk away from the girl. “Cordelia, can I help?”

“I killed her.”

 “It is not an easy thing,” Solace replied, as she petted Cordelia’s head. “I too have killed a few people; it is not something you will ever forget.”

“Yeah, I know. It isn’t the first time… it’s just that I murdered her.”

 “Murdered her?” Solace asked evenly although she new that Cordelia could hear the doubt in her words, “Cordelia, to take another’s life is a heavy responsibility to bear, but think about it for a moment, did you want to kill this person?”

 “No,” the soft reply came.

“Did you do it out of anger?”

“No,” her voice almost a whisper

“Did you want her to die?”

“No.” Now even Solace had a problem hearing the girl.

“Cordelia, listen to this next question carefully,” Solace whispered into the girl’s ear, “If you were to do it again, under the same circumstances, would you change anything?”

For a long second there was no reply from the girl, Solace was just about to ask it again when the girl blurted out, “Hell, no! She shot Xander.”

“Do you believe that you were in danger?” Solace asked her voice a bit more forceful as she heard a bit of the girl she once knew in the voice. She still didn’t know what was going on, but apparently it had completely devastated Cordelia.

 “I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted.” Cordelia whispered her mind playing the scene over and over, “But now that I look back on it, I believe that woman would have shot us both to get at me.”

 “Then you have nothing to feel bad about. Now, you will just have to live with the decision. That could be very hard, Cordelia, but when you start to feel the weight of your choice, when the nightmares ride in bringing their guilt and doom, remember always that Xander and you would have been dead if it wasn’t for those reactions of yours.”

 For a long moment Cordelia was silent as what Solace told her sank in. Although there were still tears in her eyes, her face brightened up a bit. She hugged Solace as she said, “You’re right. I know this is going to be hard, but that helps a whole lot.”

Holding the girl at arm’s length, Solace looked over the girl as she said with pride, “Cordelia, I have met Queens and Kings, Knights and Maidens, but none of them have even a tenth of the spirit and class that you have in one breath of air.”

Pulling the woman close, Cordelia gave her new friend a hug as she laughed, “Solace, you are a nut.”

 “Oh, I might be that, but I am a pretty nut.” Solace replied mischievously bringing a new round of laughter from both girls as they leaned back on the couch.

*****

Steve watched the two girls talk. At first was going to step in when Solace started her questioning, but then he noticed the line of questions and wondered if this could be the best for Cordelia. When Solace asked the last question he was sure he knew what she was driving at and so stayed in the training room. He slowly closed the door, and then he realized Randi was no longer in the room. He took a guess that she would move around the house and come up to surprise the guest. His mind worked out the obvious conclusion of that surprise and moved to prevent it. Turning back he calmly walked out of the training room into the living room to notice a shocked Randi standing by the front door as Cordelia and Solace laughed on the couch.

“They say laughter is the best medicine, but isn’t this carrying things a bit far?” Randi asked as she looked over the two girls on the couch.

“Maybe, but it is good to see some of the old Cordelia again,” Steve replied announcing his own presence in the room.

*****

As the girls calmed down Solace rose to her feet to face Steve. She had learned a lot about this man in the Valley and her respect for him had intensified to where she placed him very close to Arrin in her respect. The others also deserved her respect, but this man led them into battle and should be given the proper respect. “Lord St. Wolf, I have come to rejoin Arrin, but I see he has moved on.”

“About four days ago, the day after you went to the Valley. I trust your visit went well,” Steve replied. He returned the bow she gave with a slight tilt of the head.

“Then I shall move on. It was good to see you again.” Solace replied as she gave Cordelia a smile. “I wish you well. If you ever need our help, please don’t hesitate to hang our names in the wind. We will return once it gets to us.”

Taking one last look around the room, she mentally fixed her next target. She made a slight bow, then Solace teleported from the room with a small puff of smoke.

When she arrived, the first thing she noticed was the smell of the area. It appeared that Arrin was in a box, or at least that was where his bow was. She knew he would never go anywhere with out that bow.

She was just about to enter the box when a man crawled out. He smelled worse than the alley they found themselves in, though that was barely possible. Stepping back from the awful smell she was surprised to see Arrin follow the man out. What shocked her was that he was not doing battle, or holding the man at knifepoint.

*****

Alley behind Fredrick’s of Hollywood

“Hiho Solace,” Arrin cried out happily excited to see his friend and lover again. “Did you enjoy your stay?”

“I did,” Solace replied easily stepping out of his reach as Arrin went to hug her. “You need a bath.”

“That’s my girl! She’s not afraid to tell ye when you stink worse than a bog,” Arrin replied with an understanding smile. He turned to Steward, “Is there a bath house near here? I believe although she pointed the comment to me, she was speaking to you as well.”

“There are no bath houses in Beverly Hills; if we want a bath we will have to go to a shelter or get a room at a motel.”

“Point the way to this motel, we will clean up and have something to eat.”

“Ummm, the nearest place that would consider putting us up would be the Motel 6 which is about 20 miles away.”

“There is no place closer?” Solace asked

“Sure, they just would not allow me or Arrin in.”

“Let us worry about that,” Arrin smiled. “Point us to the closest place.”

*****

“All right,” Steward mumbled darkly as he started out of the alley followed by the pair of strange kids. < They were right, > he realized as they walked out of the alley. < I do smell, but this is going to be worthless and degrading. >

Leading them to the Beverly Hill’s Wilshire hotel they were about to be stopped by the door man when Solace slightly waved her hand, instead of stopping them at the door the door man opened the door and bid them welcome.

Steward was not sure how that had happened but followed figuring that it had something to do with the girl’s appearance. He followed the pair in. As they moved to the registration desk he figured the jig was up when the girl at the desk picked up the phone. But as they got within five feet she placed the phone down. She addressed Solace as if the other two did not exist. “May I help you, madam?”

 “Solace, please,” Solace replied evenly, “Two rooms please, and if you can send up some suitable attire for my two companions.”

“Right away Miss Solace,” the girl replied writing her name in the book, handing Solace two sets of keys she went on, “Our house tailor will be up to your room within thirty minutes.

“Thank you, Diana,” Solace replied after looking at the girl’s nametag.

Steward was still stunned over the ease that Solace was able to get them rooms in what was one of the cities higher class hotels. He followed Arrin and Solace to an elevator where they took the first empty lift up to the fifth floor to their rooms. Solace handed him one of the keys. Entering the room, Steward could not contain his puzzlement any longer, “And just how the hell did you do that?”

“Never mind, go take a shower,” Solace replied as she and Arrin entered the other room. “Come over when you are presentable.”

He knew when to take a command. He thanked his luck and he decided not to push it. He nodded his head and walked into the room. He stripped and took a long hot shower. He washed several times to get out the imbedded grime. He was still standing under the hot shower when he heard the doorbell. Grabbing a towel he swung it around his waist and walked to the door.

As the door opened he noticed an elderly man and a middle aged man standing there both holding packages. Puzzled by their presences he asked, “May I help you?”

“House tailor,” the man replied as the pair pushed their way into the room tossing him a small package which contained a pack of boxers. “Please dry off and put them on.”

Doing as bid, he came out with a hotel robe on and took the spot indicated by the tailor. Half an hour later he found himself in a nice suit with a few more in his closet. Standing in front of a full length closet mirror he studied himself, < Not bad Steward, for 53 years old, you don’t look bad at all. >

*****

Arrin’s Room

“I had forgotten how good you look dressed in a gown,” Arrin told Solace as she stepped out of the bathroom; she wore a dress made of velvet. Its neckline dropped down to the middle of her breasts. The bottom of the dress stopped midway between her hips and knees. Around her neck was a plain slim leather band that made her neck seem more pronounced than usual.

“You also look well, my lord,” Solace returned the complement as she looked over Arrin. He wore a three-piece suit, which seemed to more show than hide his physique. Before she turned to the man and woman, “Please add the bill to our room, we will add a generous tip to the total, Thank You.”

As the man closed the door behind them with their thanks, Solace turned to Arrin and asked a question that had been bugging her since she had returned to him. “Who is that man, and why is he with us?”

“I just met him. I figured he would be a good person to teach us what we need to know about this world,” Arrin replied as he took a seat, “I didn’t get half of what I should have gotten from Xander, his mind was confusing. I believe that if we take our time and have a native along, we will learn much faster.”

“Reasonable. Have you decided how we will travel?”

“Leave it up to him, if he agrees to accompany us.”

“This will be interesting,” Solace replied as they stood up and walked to the door.

*****

Steward knew that no one did anything for free. He wondered what this boy would want from him. He met Arrin and Solace as he walked out of his own suite on their way to get him. He was mesmerized by Solace’s beauty for a second. Shaking the effect off, he followed the couple; deciding to allow them to lead this encounter and try to gather as much information without asking questions as he could.

“Where would you like to eat?” Arrin asked as they headed to the elevator.

“There is a great place on the boulevard called the Peach Pitt, the prices are reasonable and the cooks aren’t so bad.” Steward replied. He wondered how they were going to pay for the rooms and the clothes. The girl at the desk seemed to know Solace; otherwise they would have asked her for a credit card. Giving it a bit of thought, he realized that she must be either a model or someone famous.

“All right then, show us the way,” Solace replied as she stepped aside to allow Steward on the lift first.

The walk over to the Peach Pitt was uneventful and Steward began to wonder if this strange couple ever talked. They seemed to be content walking along in silence, and it was beginning to annoy him. As they arrived at a deserted corner, a car pulled up alongside of them. A man got out, and then briskly walked around to the passenger side, pulling out a young girl who appeared to be in her middle teens. She was crying and an ugly red spot on her face showed where she seemed to have been slapped, hard.

“Get out of the car, bitch and make some real money. If you come home again tonight without at least two hundred dollars, you’re sleeping with the damn dog,” the man yelled at the girl as he pushed out into the middle of the sidewalk.

Just as the man was getting back into the car, Arrin realized where he had seen the man before and started toward him. He was held back by Steward; who had a worried look on his face.

“Who was that man?” Solace demanded as she advanced on the girl.

“What’s it to you, bitch?” the crying girl snapped back, stunning Solace.

“Solace,” Steward called urgently. “Leave it alone.”

By now the man in the car had noticed the pair walking over to the girl, and decided to see what was going on. Getting out of the car he walked over to Solace and laughed as one of his girls called her a bitch.

“What kind of service are you looking for, lady?” the man growled, making his presence known to the three people. “She will do anything if the price is right, won’t you bitch!”

“Yes,” the girl hissed her answer, the hate easily recognized in her voice.

“Wait a minute. Are you a Sliane?” Solace asked, seeing the question on the man’s face she went on, “A master of a house of pleasure?”

“Only his house is the street,” Arrin added nodding his head, and making the connection.

“A pimp,” Steward said putting the word to English. “He controls a lot of girls.”

“The Sliane from our home treat their women and men with respect, and dignity. I guess they realize that the people they employ are their source of income,” Solace said, as she looked over the girl who stood there shaking, watching her pimp.

“Well do you wanna do her?” the pimp asked, cutting off Solace’s rambling.

“How much?”

“Two hundred for an hour,” the man replied as he eyed the dress Solace wore.

“No, I mean how much for her?”

“Huh?”

“How much for the girl?” Arrin asked. “We want a bill of sale.”

“Ummm, Arrin we don’t have slaves here,” Steward said as he realized what Arrin was saying.

“You don’t?” Arrin asked, puzzled. Then he turned to the man as he went on, “If you don’t own her, how can you force her to work for you?”

“Do you want her for the night or not?” the man demanded, getting tired of the questions.

“Do you want to stay with him?” Solace asked the girl, ignoring the man who was now becoming annoyed.

Ignoring the man, Solace waited for the girl to reply. This made Steward more nervous.

“You can’t just take her, she won’t go,” the man yelled as he started toward Solace. She calmly lifted her hand palm out toward the man as she hissed.

Calmly or not, the effect of her lifting her hand was nothing short of spectacular in Steward’s eyes, for the man was flung back five feet to slam on the side of the wall, nor were the man’s problems over there; for instead of sliding down the wall, the man stayed where he was, about three feet off the ground, as if someone was holding him. Steward noticed Solace’s eyes never left the girl as she waited for the reply.

“She won’t leave me,” the man yelled again, still held against the wall. “She knows better! Don’t you, slut?”

“What is your name, girl?” Solace asked drawing the girl’s eyes back to her from where they were on her pimp.

“Janice,” she replied. Her eyes were still on the man she most feared. She had tried to leave him earlier that year but he had hunted her down and had taken her little sister until she promised to come back to him. He had also told her that if she ever tried to run again he would make sure that she didn’t have a home to go back to. She believed that he would follow up on any threat he made; especially since she had seen what he did to the last girl who tried to leave him. She had kept her word and stayed with him. She had formed a plan that might get her out of the game. She would turn down tricks and bring home only a third of what she was capable. She realized that it was a risky plan; he would beat her for a while but she hoped he would get tired of it. However now these three people were here and one offered to pay for her, she was not sure what would happen next but she was going to jump at the chance. “I tried to leave him once already, but he grabbed me back.”

“How?” the younger man asked as he turned toward Tom, who was still against the wall. She wondered how he was being held there.

“He took my little sister and told me he would put her out if I didn’t come back to him.”

“Put her out?” the elegant woman asked.

“He would make her turn tricks in my place.”

Janice watched as the woman in the very elegant evening gown turn toward the older of the two rescuers with a questioning look on her face. The older man told her what she had meant.

Janice watched as the woman’s eyes lit up with an understanding before turning a darker color. Her whole face seemed to darken as she turned back to Tom. The younger man moved to the side, muttering something in a strange language as he grabbed the older man and pulled him back, too.

“You would threaten this young woman’s life; you dare use her younger sister in your plot to force her against her will?” the woman asked as she moved toward the man, each statement coming out somehow darker than the one before. Janice was not sure what this woman was capable of, but she somehow felt sorry for Tom.

The young man seemed to interject something in the strange language, which caused the woman to pause for a second, but then the woman went on, “My lord says I can not kill you, so I will do something that in your eyes will be a far worse fate.”

“What the hell ya doing to me, bitch?” Tom asked panic in his eyes as he tried to push himself away from the wall. “Let me go!”

“Be not afraid,” the woman replied in a soft voice, “for you will live.”

Janice wondered at the woman’s words and the softness in her tone. She wondered how a woman with such a soft exterior scared Tom so bad. If she had not seen it herself, she would have never believed it. She was stunned as the woman went on in a singsong voice:

“Ye have kept the woman in fear and threatened her kin, now the curse shall come to you. I curse thee, man on the wall, I curse thee by all the ancient dragon’s and elf’s alike, for one complete turn of the seasons you shall live as she has, taking her place in all matters, with a watcher who would be you.”

Janice wondered what the strange woman meant and was just about to ask when Tom let out a scream of the damned. A light mist began to form over his feet. The mist became thicker as it swallowed him whole. When the mist parted; there stood a girl in Tom’s place, dressed in Tom’s clothes. She had a shocked expression on her face. Looking closer at the girl’s eyes, Janice had to wonder if she was related to Tom, because her eyes looked identical. After a minute the girl seemed to come out of her trance and looked at the group, “What the fuck did you do to me, bitch?”

“Tom, is that you?” Janice asked, hardly believing she was asking that question.

“Who else would it be, you stupid little cunt?”

“Who you calling cunt?” Janice asked opening her purse and pulling out a compact. “Looks like you are going to have a pretty rough time at it, especially since your chest ain’t all that bad, either.”

*****

Being slammed against the wall without being touched had scared the shit out of Tom. He had been running girls and boys in Hollywood for the past 4 years, ever since the old pimp died of an unexpected heart attack; one that he himself induced with the right drugs. Now he was considered the man on the hill and he was not about to let one of the juiciest pieces of property leave his stable. When the mist came, it scared him; but he did not feel any different, so decided that it was all smoke and mirrors.

As the mist cleared away, he noticed the shock on Janice’s face and was not happy about it. Wondering why Janice was looking at him so strangely and feeling something was off about his body, he turned to the woman who had asked him the questions, “What the fuck did you do to me, bitch?” His voice sounded odd, way too high.

“Tom, is that you?” Janice asked

“Who else would it be you stupid little cunt?” he asked as he was dropped to the floor, turning up to see Janice walking toward him with a small mirror in her hand he stood up to face her.

“Who you calling cunt? Looks like you are going to have a pretty rough time at it, especially since your chest ain’t all that bad, either.”

Looking at himself in the mirror he noticed right away that his features were softer, his lashes longer and his hair somehow lighter. Finally he looked down his body as his eyes focused in on his chest he promptly fainted.

*****

“What did you do to him?” Janice asked as she watched him drop to the ground. “How did you do that?”

“It is not something you need worry about, he will not bother you again; this I promise.”

“What is going to stop him from coming after me when he wakes up?”

“He will not remember you, when he wakes up, a man will be in his life for the next turn of the seasons. This man will treat him as he treated you, he will know that he was a man, but he will not remember about his former employees.”

“She could not have hurt him worse. Hell, killing him would have been easier on him,” Janice heard the older man whisper to the other man.

“What would you like to do, Janice?”

“I want to go home,” Janice cried believing what the woman had told her. “But I don’t know how to get there, I don’t have any money.”

“I believe we can help you there,” the woman stated as she turned to the older man, “What would be the safest way to get her home?”

“Where do you live?” the man asked her stepping forward.

“I live in Tennessee,” Janice replied as she looked at Solace wondering why she was asking the other man for information that anyone should know.

“Plane would be the best way,” the older man replied. “She could be back home tomorrow, but it will cost.”

“Will it be safe for her to ride alone?”

“Sure we can ask the stewardess to watch over her and call ahead to her parents to make sure she has someone at the airport waiting for her.”

“Where do we take her?” the younger of the two men asked.

“Excuse me, but who are you?”

All three of her rescuers turned to look at her, each of them blushing a bit. Janice watched the three and wondered why the younger man blushes were a light blue instead of a rose. It was the younger of the two men who turned to her and introduced them all.

“I am Arrin Parkin from the Netherlands; this is my mate Solace, and our new friend Steward Anderson.”

“Hello,” the other two said in unison causing Janice to smile.

“Well, I don’t have any money, so a plane is out.”

“Don’t worry honey,” Solace replied as she looked at Arrin, “I am sure Arrin will take care of that.”

“What’s in it for you?” the girl asked, although she realized what ever they wanted her to do, she would do it. Looking the young couple over she thought, (and you wouldn’t have to pay for it.)

“We will say it is our good deed for the year,” Arrin replied as he turned to the older man, “Can you help us get what she will need to go home?”

*****

“Sure,” Steward replied as he watched the whole thing take place. He was not sure what this couple wanted from him, but after seeing this display of unselfishness he would gladly help them anyway he could. “Let’s go get something to eat first and then we can go and let her get her belongings.”

Receiving a nod from all three people, Steward led the rest of the way to the Peach Pitt. The Peach Pitt was a noted diner in the Beverly Hills district; even with its 3000 square foot dining area, a person would be hard pressed to get a table without calling ahead or eating between meal times. The clientele ranged from kids in their early teens to young adults, as it was next door to the very hip nightclub ‘Afterdark’.

Since it was just after three in the afternoon, the group was able to find a seat in a darker corner of the restaurant. Arrin positioned himself so he could easily watch the three entrances without craning his neck. Next to him, with her back also to a wall, sat Solace. Across from Arrin was Steward, and Janice took a seat with her back to the kitchen.

“How are you?” a man of about the same age as Steward asked as he came to the table, placing menus in front of everyone.

“We are well,” Steward replied taking the initiative and answering for his party.

“Well it is a nice day,” the man went on, “I will leave you to look at the menu and I will be back in a few minutes.”

“Sounds good.”

“Why don’t you order for Solace and I, for drink, please give us both milk.”

“What would you like, Janice?” Steward asked after nodding to Arrin.

“Cheeseburger and a coke are fine.”

Nodding his head and putting down the menu he called the man back over, after ordering everyone cheeseburgers and a drink he turned back to Janice. Curious about the girl he asked, “Why did you leave in the first place?”

“You know, after what I experienced here living on the street, it doesn’t really seem all that bad.”

 “Yea, some things that happen out here are pretty scary.”

“You can say that again.”

*****

After they finished eating the burgers, Arrin paid their bill with his card and they left. Soon they were stepping into an alley and following Janice toward the abandoned building that she and a few others were using as a home. Janice told the others that they should wait outside until she picked up her things. They agreed with her suggestion that the other people who lived here might not take it friendly at the invasion into their home.

“You just can’t seem to stay out of people’s business, can ya?” the words were snarled out from behind the group, who still had not turned around after Janice went into the house.

Turning around, Arrin saw what he thought he would see; Mark, along with about twelve of his friends, had come up behind them and they were now spread out so there was no escape for the trio. Slowly looking over each of the thirteen boys Arrin shook his head. “What do you mean?”

“You should just leave this area.”

“As soon as the girl comes out we will,” Solace told the boy as she looked him over.

“Janice is not going anywhere.”

“She is going home,” Solace replied her voice sounding threatening.

“She is home,” Mark replied his voice taking on a hard edge.

“Oh, does her mother live here?” Solace asked.

“What are you talking about?”

“Her parents, where are they?”

“She doesn’t have any, besides she has us.”

“She does, and I am sending her to them,” Solace told the boys her voice giving no room for argument.

“You’re not going to do shit, girl.”

“You would rather have her sell herself for the price of a dinner rather than have her home with someone who loves her?” Solace asked, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

“None of your business.”

“Very well,” Solace replied nodding her head. “This is the way I see it, you have three choices. First: you leave and allow us to go on our way. Second: Arrin here puts you all down and we go about our way. Third: you run and we go on our way. But make no mistake; we are going to do what we want. The choice you have is if we are going to walk over you or not.”

“Serious talk for a girl,” one of the boys laughed from the back of the group.

Solace eyes cut through the crowd now surrounding her group, locking on the speaker. As her eyes locked on the boy, she hissed, sending him back to slam into the wall fifteen feet behind him. Shifting her eyes she went on, “You still here?”

“Mark, I believe she is allowing you a second chance to run, please take it,” Steward informed the boy. “Before you make up your mind look around you, your friends are all gone.”

“Who the hell are you people?” Mark asked before he bolted out of the area.

“What do we do now?” Arrin asked as he turned back to Steward a note of laughter in his voice.

“Well we should probably call her parents before we put her on a plane to go home.”

“Call?”

“On the phone.”

“Oh yeah, phone,” Arrin replied as Janice walked out the door.

“I have to go to one more place, before I can go anywhere,” Janice told the group as she headed toward another empty building. “There are some people I would like to say good bye to.”

Following the girl, Arrin wondered what kind of people this girl wanted to say good-bye to. As they moved through the alleyways, Arrin noticed that there were more and more people living in the streets. The alleys were dirtier here and even the shops were beginning to look run down. Finally the girl walked into another abandoned building followed closely by her three escorts.

On the second floor she stopped at a door and rapped on it three times calling out, “Terri, it’s me, Janice, open up.”

Arrin heard the desperate plea in the girl’s voice and was just about to open the door for her when he saw the knob move just a bit. After a minute he was able to see just a slip of the face of a young girl who was behind the door.

“Is it safe?” the girl asked her voice timid.

“Yeah, sis. We’re going home.”

Pulling the door open all the way, the girl was crying as she asked, “Home?”

“Home,” Janice replied with a reassuring voice. “Get your stuff and come on.”

“Who is this?” Steward asked as the younger girl walked out of the room.

“She’s my sister. I had to hide her,” Janice told them. “I’m not going anywhere without her.”

“I would not expect anything else,” Solace said reaching out and petting the young girl’s face. “We will get you both home, and you will be safe.”

“Janice?” the young girl asked as she stepped back away from Solace. “Who are these people?”

“They’re friends.”

“All right, when are we going home?”

“What’s going on out here?” a man asked as he came out into the passageway, “Janice, these people bothering you?”

“We are going home, Mr. Myers,” Terri said happily as she hugged her older sister.

“That is nice, Terri,” the man said. “You girls should have never left.”

“Steve, I have been hoarding some food cans. You’re welcome to them,” Janice told the man as she started to walk into the room. “We are leaving tonight, I hope.”

“How many people are living in this place?” Solace asked as she saw a young boy run from one room to the next, her heart breaking at his appearance.

“About six families per floor, we have four floors,” Steve told the girl. “Mostly the rooms are filled with families who are down on their luck.”

“No jobs?” Arrin asked as he looked out the window.

“None that would hire us,” the man replied bitterly.

“Why?”

“No home address,” Steward answered.

Nodding his head, Arrin turned to leave. He had seen enough to know that if these people really didn’t like the position they were in, they had the opportunity to change it if they would only try.

“Do not judge them,” Solace warned Arrin before he could reach the stairway. “This place is different from home.”

< What would you have me do, pull them up by their pants and give them all they would need to do what they could do themselves? > Arrin asked using his native tongue.

< Feed them, at least this once. >

< If I do, they would expect it from every visitor that comes along. >

< Arrin, there are children here and it would not cost you anything. >

< It would turn into a crutch. >

< Do it! > Solace replied this time her voice carried a command.

< For you I will, but not because you command it, but because I could never not give you anything, > Arrin replied with a smile on his lips. Turning back to the man they had been talking to in English, he continued, “Gather everyone in this building, this floor will become a banquet hall for the day.”

“We have about thirty-five people on this floor alone. How are you going to feed us all?” the man asked confused.

In reply Arrin closed his eyes and whispered a few words, casting a create water and food four times in rapid succession. When opened them again, the hallway was lined with tables containing foods of every type, from simple breads to exotic meats. There were also water skins found throughout the table and some more lying on the floor.

Opening his eyes, Arrin looked at the man and replied, “This food will stay good for two days.”

Looking at all the food, the man was stunned speechless as kids started to slowly come out into the passageway when they smelled the food. Turning, the man made his way upstairs to tell everyone about the food that awaited them.

Seeing the children and their parents start to gather around the food, Arrin took hold of Solace's and Janice's hand. Janice turned, took hold of her sister's hand with her free one, and looked at Arrin gratefully. After Solace took hold of Steward's hand, the five of them disappeared leaving the food and the families behind.

*****

Steward’s box

“How did you do that?” Steward asked faltering in a step as they materialized standing just outside of his ‘home’. From a glance, he noticed that both Janice and Terri also had to catch their balance, and he guessed they too were feeling the slight case of nausea that he was experiencing.

“A trick I picked up along the way,” Arrin replied offhandedly, “Gather what you wish to keep, then we will go and book passage for the girls to return home.”

“We still need to call their parents; have to find out if they want them back.”

“Parents always want their children,” Solace told Steward.

“Sometimes,” Steward replied starting to wonder about this pair. “What is it you want from me?”

“We need a guide to show us as we travel here in your place,” Arrin replied evenly. “We will talk of this later; first, we get passage for the girls.”

“Well there’s nothing here that I really need,” Steward said as he kicked a shoebox spilling its contents on the floor.

“Can I have these?” Terri asked as she bent down to pick up two pieces of metal. One was a gold shaped heart with a deep red center with the outline of a bust pointing to the left hanging on a purple band of material. The second one was a large cross with a red, white, and blue ribbon.

“Sure, take them and maybe they will bring you more luck than they gave me,” Steward replied. He never abided by receiving awards for killing people; the wound he received in Nam was no more than a scratch.

“You can’t give those away,” Janice said as she took the Purple Heart from Terri, “This is a Purple Heart.”

“Just another piece of metal,” Steward said off-handedly, embarrassed.

“But…”

“It’s just another piece of metal. You go ahead and keep it, Terri.”

“Thanks,” Terri happily said then put it in her pocket.

*****

“Shall we call your mother now?” Solace asked, steering the conversation away from the medals that obviously were making Steward feel embarrassed for some reason.

“Please, let’s call Mama,” Terri cried out happily as she realized these people were going to get them safely home.

Giving in, Janice nodded her head as they made their way out of the alley and over to a phone booth. Janice was able to make a collect phone call and get assurances that someone would pick both her and her sister up at the airport.

Hanging up the phone, Janice had tears in her eyes as she turned back to the group. “Mom said she would be there with Dad, all we have to do is get to Chattanooga airport, and we should call them with the flight times.”

“Now we need to go and pick up the tickets from a travel agent,” Steward told the others. “There’s one around the corner.”

“Lead the way,” Arrin said, moving back allowing Steward and the girls to walk away.

Leaving the alley, the group walked down the street toward the nearest travel agency. As they walked, Arrin noticed that they received a few stares from the people who he believed were people who lived on the streets. But the people who were dressed in the height of fashion tried to put as much space between them as possible.

As they walked into the travel agency, Arrin pulled out his wallet taking out the card that Willow had given her he tossed it on the desk telling Steward, “Get what you need to get them home.”

“Where to?” a woman behind the counter asked as the five people stopped in front of her.

“Chattanooga, Tennessee; two tickets, please,” Steward asked taking control of the conversation.

“First class or coach?”

“Which one?” Steward asked turning to Arrin.

“Just make sure they are safe,”

“First class,” Steward said turning back to the travel agent.

“The cost will be two thousand, five hundred, forty-eight dollars and twenty-seven cents.”

“Ouch,” Steward replied as he looked over to Arrin who only nodded his head. Giving the woman Arrin’s credit card, “Can you ensure they are watched over?”

“You would have to talk to the flight attendants on the plane,” the woman replied. She ran the card and placed the tickets on the table after she obtained a signature.

“We have four hours before the plane leaves,” Steward said as he noticed the times for the tickets, “anything you wanna do?”

“They should be dressed better,” Solace replied as she looked at the revealing cloths Janice wore and the rags that Terri wore. “Something simple that will be presentable.”

“We can stop at a clothing store on the way.”

“Do you have a car?” Arrin asked Steward.

“No,” Steward replied confusingly “Can’t we just blink there or something?”

“Unfortunately no, it will only work when I have been there before.”

“Well, we can take a cab,” Steward said thinking about it. “We need to get some cash money first though.”

“I have a few green papers,” Arrin replied pulling out his wallet to show a wad of one hundred dollar bills. “Will this be enough?”

“Yeah, too much,” Steward said pushing Arrin’s hands down out of sight. “Let me have one of those, and put the rest away before someone mugs us.”

Leading them into a small shop, Steward picked out an outfit for each girl before they left and hailed a cab for a ride to the airport. Traffic was heavy, so it took the group all of two hours to arrive at the airport. But with Steward leading the way, they were able to make it to the gate on time. Giving a stewardess a hundred dollars, Steward made sure that the girls would not only get home OK, but received a promise from the stewardess that she would make sure they were delivered into their parents’ hands.

As the plane took off, taking their two charges with it, Steward turned to the young pair and asked, “Now what is it you want me to do?”

“We would like you to be our guide through your world,” Arrin replied putting emphasis on the last word.

“Well I guess I can show you around this state… wait a minute, what do you mean World?”

Taking a quick glance at Solace, and receiving a nod, Arrin turned to Steward and flipped back his hair showing his ears. He then explained everything starting from why he came to earth and ending with why he wanted to travel the earth.

Steward looked at the Arrin’s ears and his mouth fell open, so stunned that he could not find the words to accept what his eyes were telling him. The young man he was looking at must be telling the truth, the only other explanation he could think of was too ludicrous to even contemplate.

“So you’re not from earth?”

“No,”

“You can use magic for curing and attacking?”

“Yes.”

“Now you just want to travel around earth and learn things that will hopefully help your city?”

“Yes.”

“How are we supposed to travel?” Steward asked not sure if he wanted to do this, however on the other side it would be interesting to see how these two would view the world.

“How would you suggest we travel?”

“Best way to do this is travel in a van or one of those new SUV’s.”

“Then we go get one,” Solace stated the obvious.

“They are very expensive,” Steward replied wondering just how much this couple had.

“Willow said we would be able to afford something to drive with no problem,” Arrin replied. “We shall go and buy one now.”

“Well, I don’t have a license and I would need one of those to buy a car. I need a home address to get a license.”

“We can call a friend; he will help you with those things.”

“A friend?” Steward asked still a bit stunned.

“We met him a few weeks ago, he would help us.”

“All right, we can go back to the hotel call your friend; if he can help, we will go from there.”

“That is reasonable,” Arrin replied as he pulled the bow off his back, he then mentally activated the bow’s power and teleported the three of them back to the hotel room. Appearing in the room, Arrin pointed to the phone. “Call him.”

“What is his phone number?”

“Number?” Both Arrin and Solace asked at the same time.

“Maybe we can get the number from the directory; do you know what town they live in?”

“Sunnydale, it is about two or three hours north of here.”

“Do you know any names?”

“Steven St. Wolf, Buffy Summers, and Xander Harris, can you do it with those names?”

“We will see,” Steward replied as he picked up the phone and dialed information. He tried each of the names in sequence. None of them were listed.

“I am sorry, sir. None of those names are listed. However, we do have a Joyce Summers.”

“Could it be Joyce Summers?” Steward asked after asking the operator to hold for a moment. Receiving a nod from the elf, he went on, “That would do, please.”

Collecting the number, Steward took a deep breath and dialed the number but gave the receiver to Arrin so whoever answered the phone would know who they were talking to.

*****

 “Good afternoon,” a strange young woman’s voice answered after three rings. “Summers’ residence. May I help you?”

“I would speak with Buffy Summers please?” Arrin asked, not sure who he was talking to.

“She is not in at the moment; may I ask who is calling?”

“This is Arrin; I would like to speak to Knight St Wolf if I may.”

“Here is his phone number, you should call him. I am sure Buffy is there.”

“Thank you,” Arrin replied as he handed back the phone to Steward after writing down the number.

“He might not be able to do anything for us while he is at home and we are here,” Solace told the two, “Maybe we should just go there. I believe that would be the fastest way.”

Nodding his head in agreement Arrin took the receiver back from Steward and picking up the bow he again used the power of the bow to teleport them all to Steve’s back yard, a place where Steve had designated he should teleport to since it would be out of sight from anyone. Just as they started toward the kitchen door, there was a low growl emitted from their left. Looking over toward the growl both Arrin and Solace had to smile as Duke came out to investigate who was visiting.

Stooping down to pet Duke, Solace looked over to Steward who looked like he was about to laugh, “Do not fret, he can smell that you mean no harm.”

“Little dog like that? Why I have mixed it up with a lot bigger.” Steward laughed as he followed Arrin to the door.

“Dogs are a funny lot,” Arrin replied as he knocked on the door while sharing a wink with Solace. “Sometimes it’s the small ones you have to beware of.”

“Hey Arrin, Solace,” Brian cried out as he opened the door giving Solace a hug. “What brings you two back?”

“We need Steve’s help with a small matter,” Arrin replied as he walked into the house, followed by the others after Brian turned and walked back in the kitchen. Deliberately, Arrin noted, not inviting them in. Knowing the reason behind it, Arrin took no offense. Taking a seat at the table he asked, “When will he be back?”

“Steve went to pick up Buffy and the others. I believe we are having a party.”

“What will it be for this time?” Solace asked smiling.

“Don’t really know,”

“If you do not mind, we will wait for Steve,” Arrin requested accepting the can of apple juice Brian provided.

“Alright...” Brian started but was cut off as his sister came barging in the room.

“Is that Arrin? You’re a dead elf!” Randi screamed as she stormed into the kitchen but was stopped by what she saw. “Wow, talking about the Ugly Duckling syndrome.”

“Ugly Duckling?” Arrin asked not sure what Randi was talking about.

“I was just gonna say you’re beautiful,” Brian said looking at Solace.

“Thank you, Brian.”

“What is the Ugly Duckling syndrome?”

“It’s when a person starts out plain and then with some new clothes they become very beautiful,” Steward explained.

Nodding his head in understanding, he turned back to Randi and calmly asked, “Why would I be a dead elf?”

“A spell you cast inhabited my brother,” Randi snapped glaring at Arrin. “So help me if you ever endanger my brother again, I will kill you.”

“I meant your brother no harm. The message I sent was to just inform you of my cave,” Arrin replied apologetically, understanding the love one would have for family.

“Well nothing happened, so I will let it go this time; but don’t ever do it again.” Randi snapped but then softened her voice as she asked. “Who is your friend?”

“Randi Jessup, allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Steward Anderson,” Arrin formally introduced the couple. “Steward Anderson, this is Randi Jessup, head of the house of Jessup, this is her younger brother Brian.”

“What brings you back?” Randi asked after acknowledging the introduction.

“I come to ask that Steve help him out with a driver’s license.”

“Why would he need help?” Randi asked looking over the elderly man.

*****

“To get a Driver’s license I would need a home address, however I am homeless so I need some help.” Steward saved Arrin from answering not really understanding why they were explaining it all to this young woman.

“You’re homeless? Brian asked. At Steward’s nod, he went on, “You wear it well.”

“Thank you,” Steward said at the backward complement. “Arrin, are you sure this man will help me?”

“If anyone can help with this, Steve can.”

“This is a beautiful home,” Steward commented as he looked around the room. Seeing a chess set he asked, “Do either of you play?”

“I do,” Brian said quickly setting up the board, “Not as good as Steve or Oz, but I can beat both Buffy and Cordelia.”

Opening the game with a classic move of king’s pawn Steward was surprised to see Brian open with a move he would never have expected, a move that effectively put a stop to his quick win. As the game progressed Steward had to admit that the boy was a lot better than he would have thought. He took his mind off the game for a few seconds as he listened to Arrin and Randi talk.

“…then Cordelia shot, well by the time they got over there the shooter was dying,” Randi finished up.

“How is Cordelia faring?” Arrin asked with concern.

“She is coping; Solace and her had a talk yesterday. I would have though that she would have told you.”

“We have been pretty busy ourselves,” Arrin admitted, shrugging his shoulders.

“Well, right now there is not a whole lot going on, so I think we will have a few days to relax.”

Since they were talking about something he had no interest in, Steward turned his full attention back to the game and found out that it was over, he had lost his Queen and his King was in check with a rook being the fall guy. Shaking his head, disgusted with himself he laid his king down in defeat. “Boy, you are very good.”

“Hey, Steve’s back,” Brian calls out as he hears multiple car doors shut.

*****

“Well Honey, do you wanna have a barbeque tonight?” Steve asked Buffy as they got out of the Blazer and walked up to the front door that was opened by Brian.

“That would be nice since nothing is going on tonight.”

“Wouldn’t count on it,” Brian snickered as he watched Buffy kiss Steve.

“What are you talking…?” Steve began but stopped as he stepped into his front and noticed a strange man sitting on the couch. Seeing that the man was dressed in a suit, Steve guessed that he belonged to an agency, but decided against that when he noticed that the man had longer than normal hair. Since the man was in the house and still healthy Steve knew he did not mean any harm, so he asked, “May I help you?”

“He is with me.”

“Holy shit!” Buffy exclaimed as she turned to see a very sharp looking Arrin standing in the kitchen doorway with a very elegant Solace and Randi.

Looking Arrin over Steve was also taken a back by his dress, catching himself he asked. “Did you need something?”

“I have come back to get your assistance.”

“Are you in trouble already?” Buffy asked making a point to look at the calendar on the wall. “You have only been gone for a couple of days.”

“Actually, I would like for you to set my friend here up with a driver’s license.”

“Why does he need help with that?” Buffy asked cutting off Steve who was about to ask the same question.

“Who is your friend?” Steve asked.

“Steward Anderson, meet Steve St. Wolf, Steve, meet my new friend Steward Anderson.”

“Well Steward,” Steve began as the two shook hands, “why do you need help with something like that?”

“Our friend here wants me to travel with them and since I don’t have a home it is kind of hard to get a license.”

Looking the man over Steve nodded his head in understanding. He wondered who this man was. However, he realized Arrin had his own ways of checking up on a person. He just wanted to make sure that Arrin trusted someone who was trustworthy.

“Wow, Arrin sure cleans up good don’t he,” Xander joked as he, Cordelia, Oz and Willow walked into the house.

Ignoring Xander’s statement, Steve continued to address Arrin. “I will have to make a phone call; we will be back in a moment. Willow, will you come with me please?”

*****

“Are you sure he can help?” Steward asked feeling a bit uncomfortable around the teens in the room. But then he was reminded of some of the kids he had seen back in ‘Nam; teenagers who had that extra something that would make them stand out in the crowd. As he watched them take their seat he realized that each of these kids had some serious training. “Maybe we should just do this without the license.”

“Calm down,” the tall, dark-haired boy said as he sat beside the beautiful dark-haired girl. “This won’t take long at all.”

“Besides, you don’t wanna drive around without a license and insurance, that would not be a good thing,” the blonde girl added. “Willow just needs to do a bit of networking and she should have a license for you soon.”

“Well I guess it wouldn’t hurt.”

*****

“What’s up, Steve?” Willow asked as she followed Steve into the office.

“Get me everything you can on this man, if he is a crook I want to know about it.”

“On it,” Willow replied as she sat down behind the computer going to work, it took her only a few minutes to bring up a file quickly reading it she turned back to Steve. “Wow Steve, it’s a wonder you don’t know this guy, he was awarded the CMH and two Purple hearts, along with about a dozen other medals, including the Navy Cross, which is kind of weird since he was a Pathfinder during Nam. He was commended for bravery more than a few times, he took a bullet which forced him to go home, and from there he literally fell out of sight; no death, no life after his homecoming in ‘72”

 “Thank you, Willow,” Steve said making a decision, “Go ahead and make him a driver’s license. Use the office as his home address for now, once I get things settled we will change that.”

“Ok,” Willow replied to a retreating Steve.

*****

“Can you help?” Arrin asked as Steve walked into the room.

“Yes, Willow is fixing your license right now,” Steve replied, “Have you decided what you are going to use for transportation?”

“No, I really don’t know. Do you have a suggestion?”

“Well since there are three of you and you have clothes, I would suggest a large SUV like a Blazer or Suburban.”

“I agree,” Steward replied, “anything bigger would probably be too much.”

“Alright then, would you like me to go down and help you purchase one while Willow is making the arrangements?”

“That would be most helpful,” Arrin replied standing up.

“Buffy, why don’t you come with us,” Steve said as he gave Xander a credit card, “Xander, why don’t you and Oz head to the store and get what we need for a small barbeque, it’s just going to be us with three guests so don’t go wild, my frig is full as it is.”

“Right,” Xander replied as he and Oz walked out the door.

*****

“Hey, all he has to do is go to the DMV,” Willow called out from the office, “His records are all in, and I added a safe driving record from the year ‘72, all he has to do is go in and tell them that he lost his license.”

“That’s what we're waiting on,” Steve said as he opened the door. “Let’s go.”

“Are you going to be ok to drive?” Buffy asked Steward as she noticed him getting in the back passenger seat.

“I believe I could do it, but it has been a while.”

“Would you like to drive over?” Buffy offered.

“No, I will be ok.”

“Alright then, let’s go,” Steve said getting in the passenger seat.

“Hey, I just wanna know something,” Steward asked as they made their way to the dealership, “How are we going to buy this car?”

“Arrin is going to buy it,” Buffy answered from the driver’s seat.

As they pulled into the Chevy dealership Arrin looked around and noticed that the bigger cars were parked over to the side, followed by the others he started toward them but was soon picked up by a salesman.

“Hello, how may I help you?” the man asked as he fell along side of Steve.

“Not me, him,” Steve replied with a laugh as he pointed toward Arrin.

“Sir, may I help you?” the man asked catching up with Arrin.

“I want this one,” Arrin replied taking a quick look over to Solace and seeing that she agreed with his choice.

“Nice choice a ‘97 Suburban 2500 Sport Utility, 4WD, Manual, A/C, Power Steering, door locks, CD stereo, ABS, roof rack, and winch,” the man replied, “asking forty-one thousand.”

“Ummm,” Steve started to interject on Arrin’s behalf but was cut off.

“What else?” Arrin asked looking bored at the man.

“What do you mean?” the man asked

“What else comes with it for the forty-one thousand?” Arrin asked, sure that the salesman was going high to start off with. “A year's supply of fuel?”

“Well sir, I could lower the cost by two thousand, but it would be pushing it,” the salesman offered.

“Fair enough,” Arrin replied as he took out his credit card but was stopped by Steward.

“Not trying to be pushy here,” Steward replied as he caught Arrin’s hand before it could pull out his wallet. “I am thinking we can do a bit better than just two thousand, right?”

“Well,”

“How are you paying for this Arrin?” Steward asked

“By my card,” Arrin replied looking over to Steve who was watching the whole thing.

“Cash.”

“Cash?” both the salesman and Steward asked in choked voices.

Steve only nodded his head as the salesman swallowed to get his thoughts in order, “I can go to thirty-seven thousand for cash.”

“Thirty-four is what we will pay,” Steward replied his voice stern.

“I will have to confer with the manager.”

“Do what you need to do.”

“Thank you for your assistance, Steward,” Arrin replied while looking at Steve.

“Hey, you three are going to be out there all alone, if I assist you this time you will expect me to assist on all decisions. This way you can begin to work as a team, what you decide to inform Steward of your affairs will be totally up to you.”

“That sounds fair,” Steward replied.

Steward climbed into the Suburban and sat behind the wheel allowing Arrin and Steve talk while Solace and Buffy looked over the other SUV’s on the lot.

“Steward has a good spirit,” Arrin told Steve as they walked away from the others.

“Well he is honorable,” Steve informed the elf then explained what Willow found and what it meant. “I believe he will look out for you, what he did here only confirms what Willow found.”

“I have already told him that I am an Elf, but he does not know what I have.”

“Your choice Arrin,” Steve told the elf, “just realize this one thing, Steward is a man who, I believe, has a code of honor much like my own. Give him trust and he will trust you, keep secrets and he will constantly question you.”

“A code that I myself live by.”

“Then you will act accordingly.”

*****

“I just checked with my supervisor,” the salesman said as he came back to the group, “He said that we could not possibly let it go for less than thirty-five thousand.”

“Alright, thirty-five it is,” Steward agreed nodding to Arrin.

Giving his visa check card to the salesman, Arrin walked over to Steward, “Will this one be good enough?”

“It will get us around,”

“Later we will talk more,” Arrin told the man as they waited for the salesman to come back.

*****

After the sale was finalized and the thirty day insurance form was filled out in Steward’s name, Steve told them to follow him to the local DMV to collect Steward’s license. On the drive over to the DMV, Steward’s memory sharpened on the basic rules of the road.

“So, how long are we going to stay here in this place?” Steward asked.

“Well it would be rude to leave before dinner, so I guess right after dinner, we still need to go back and pick up our clothes before continuing on the journey.”

“A good homemade dinner would be nice.”

“Only if someone knows how to cook it,” Arrin mumbled.

*****

After stopping at the DMV for Steward’s license, the group made its way back to Steve’s house where they found Xander and Oz slaving over the grill while the girls were inside slicing tomatoes, onion, and anything else that they could think of, to make a meal.

“Hey Arrin! Do you know where you’re headed?” Xander asked from where he was standing over the barbeque.

“Just follow the sun,” Arrin replied with a shrug, “I really don’t plan beyond that.”

 “Xander does ask a good question,” Steve stated from where he sat on a bar stool. “Where do you plan on going?”

“Really I don’t have any plans,” Arrin replied looking over to Steward who would be driving. “We will have to go back to the place called Hollywood to pick up our stuff but from there, what ever way the wind blows I guess.”

“What is it that you’re interested in seeing?” Steward asked as he moved closer to Arrin.

“Your cities mostly, but I am open to other things as well.”

“Scenic route it is, there are a lot of places I too would like to see here in America, maybe we can pass them as we travel.”

“You are the driver.”

“If we are counting on my sense of direction we could get in trouble.” Steward laughed along with the others in the room.

“So you lived in Hollywood?” Cordelia asked her voice carrying with it a dreamy quality.

“Her dream is to be an actress,” Xander kidded.

“Well I didn’t know any of them; my place was at the other end of the scale.”

“There is no scale in this house,” Steve said catching the note of shame in Steward’s voice. “Here, we are all equal and we accept people for who they are in their hearts and Steward, you’re accepted here.”

“Soup’s on,” Oz said as he entered the room bringing a plate full of burgers and hotdogs, breaking the slight uneasiness that lay in the room.

 As the dinner progressed, the group tried to get more information about where Arrin and the others would go, but no one hinted or asked about Steward’s past. They all knew by now that he was a Vet and they all knew of his medals, they also knew not to push for information about it. They learned from Steve that a good many people did not like to talk about their past in any type of conflict and they would not push for answers that was none of their business to begin with.

“We will probably end up taking the 405 first to Hollywood to settle our affairs there then take it to the Bay area, checking out the national parks and other areas of note on the way,” Steward answered Xander’s question of what route they would take.

“This was a great meal,” Arrin stated after the questions had died down. “I also would like to thank you for your help with Steward, now it is time for us to move on.”

“Oh, wait,” Willow told Arrin as she got up and rushed to the office. “I want you to take this, I am sure that with time you will learn how to use it, we can keep in touch with it.”

“Thank you, Willow,” Arrin replied taking the laptop computer. “I am sure that we will eventually learn how to use it but, until we do, if you cast the spell in the spell book called Hang A Name, it will get to us and we will come to you.”

Nodding her head in agreement Willow gave Arrin a brief hug while whispering in his ear. “Shaw will be ok.”

Stepping back from Willow, Arrin turned to Steve and slightly tilted his head in place of a bow, “Thank you for all that you have done for us. I hope that our paths will cross on less urgent times in the future.”

*****

“Bet they are going to have fun,” Xander said as the group stood on the porch and watched the Suburban pull away with Arrin, Solace and Steward in the car. Slipping his hand around Cordelia he added, “Almost wish I was going with them.”

“Maybe when you graduate you should take a trip up the coast,” Steve said to the group. “But first we’re going to have to get you all to graduate.”

*****

“I am not an Elf who will ever want for wealth,” Arrin said as they left Sunnydale behind, his statement opening a discussion that he knew that he would eventually end up having with Steward. “The city I already told you about belongs to me, the patrons of the city pay me to keep it free of worry and protected.”

“You are a king?”

“No, not the way you would describe it,” Arrin replied as he thought of his many lessons with Xander. “I am the man behind the curtain, I can walk down the streets and no one would recognize me as anything but an adventurer. I keep it that way so I will not be bothered. I am treated just as the other citizens of the city when I am there.”

“What are you interested in, I mean what are you looking for?”

“I don’t know, so far I have seen only one thing I really wish to understand more clearly, and that is your waste system, you do not use magic to rid yourself of the garbage, and this is something that I could get behind since the magic users in my city are very reluctant to use their own hard learned magic to make the garbage disappear.”

“Well if those are the type of things you are interested in all we have to do is go to the library, we have books on just about everything.” Steward explained easily wondering what else Arrin wanted.

“Yes and we will do that, however first I have to see what it is that I am looking for.”

“Ok, but first we have to go back to the Motel and get our things and check out,” Steward replied as more questions came to his mind. “Umm Arrin, how do you know when your going to run out of money?”

“I don’t understand what you mean,” Arrin replied watching the scenery go by the window.

“Well, even though you have a lot of money, your card has to have a limit,” Steward replied as the one thing that bothered him from the start came to life. “How do we know when you’re running out of cash?”

“I don’t know,” Arrin replied. “Maybe we should have asked Steve.”

“If we have to keep going back to them when we need something we won’t get any where,” Steward said thinking about the dilemma. “When we get to the motel I will see what I can find out.”

“How will you do that?” Solace asked opening the laptop to see what it was.

“Well first we will call the number on the back of your card, that will give us an amount that your card is worth,” Steward explained, “then we write that amount down and start subtracting everything we purchase, this will give us a balance of our accounts.”

“Well we know that,” Arrin said as he glanced over to Steward. “What I would like to know is how will the stores know how much this card is worth?”

“Well that is where computers come into play,” Steward replied and started to explain the workings of the computerized banking program as he saw it, by the time he had finished he was stopping in front of their hotel where a valet took the car to the parking lot. “So you see each store will be able to access the information through the little terminal when they slide your card through it.”

“Sounds like something that would be great to have, but I can’t see us using it, too many of our store keepers like the feel of hard cash.”

“So do ours,” Steward replied as they walked up to the desk.

“We are going to be checking out in two hours,” Solace told the girl who stood behind the desk. “I would like to close out our account at this time.”

“Your name, ma’am?” the girl asked looking down at the register.

“Solace Parkin.”

“The balance on your account is eighteen hundred dollars; this includes the outfits you have purchased.” the girl replied going on as she looked down at the book. “Will this be cash or charge?”

“Cash,” Steward replied nodding to Arrin who pulled out the card. “We will be out of the room in an hour or so.”

“I hope you stay here was pleasant,” the girl drolled on in a monotone voice as she took the card, handing the card back she went on. “Have a nice day.”

Two hours later, with their gear packed into a couple of Bags of Holding that Arrin always seemed to carry, and were on their way headed north on highway 405.

 

City by the Bay
Hilltop North of Golden Gate Bridge

 

The morning sun was just peeking over the hills casting its golden rays across the river as Steward pulled over to stop alongside the cliff side of I-80 to view a sight he had been told about but never had witnessed. Quietly, so not to disturb the pair in the back seat, Steward opened his door and stepped out on to the embankment at the tip of Point Bonita and watched across the Golden Gate Bridge as the fog rolled in.

As he sat there he wondered if he had missed it, now that he was sober he remembered tales about how the morning fog would roll over Alcatraz Island like the old movie the Blob, swallowing everything in its path until it got to the water and then it would as if by magic, stop at the water’s edge and disappear. He had argued with those who had told him about it that the fog would just float across the water and eventually disintegrate as the sun came up, however the people swore that it never crossed the water and he wanted to see that for himself.

   As he sat there he felt the eeriness creep down his back, it seemed that the feeling was always there just before he felt something strange would happen so he shrugged it off, his eyes fixed on the island. So intent was he on the island that he did not hear the door of the Suburban open and then close as Arrin walked up to sit next to him.

“Shuuuuu, wait for it,” Steward whispered as if his voice would scare the fog back into hiding as he saw the first part of it roll up onto the hill. “There it is.”

He watched in silence as the fog rolled over the hill, its body formed around then swallowed everything in its path. The beam from the lighthouse was the first to be swallowed as the fog thickened now as it rolled over the trees instead of forming around it first. Steward watched in amazement as the fog swallowed the landscape of Alcatraz island it was so thick he was sure that it would cross the bay and roll over the land in San Francisco and Oakland, however just as everyone had told him the fog seemed to stop at the waters edge, it seemed to back up as if frightened by the clam lapping of the bay. Then as the sun came up over the mountains the fog seemed to dissipate. It was truly a wonder to behold and now that he had seen it for himself he would never forget it.

“That was amazing,” Arrin whispered

“Truly a sight to remember,” Steward agreed as he stood up and began to turn around just as a fog horn cut through the land causing him to turn around to see yet another sight that neither he nor Arrin would ever forget. Coming around the bay as of yet hidden by the land was the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75), the US Navy’s newest Aircraft carrier. The deck was full of jet planes and along the outer edge of the flight deck, they could clearly see men and women, standing in their dress blues, as the ship left its port, obviously on its way to sea.

“That is huge,” Arrin exclaimed having never seen a ship so big, as Steward ran back to the car to get out the digital camera they had purchased just as they had left Hollywood on their way to San Francisco, having promised to take pictures of sights for the group in Sunnydale.

Returning with the D-100 Nikon along with a Super telephoto 1000mm f/11 Reflex manual Focus Lens and a tripod, quickly setting up the equipment he slipped in the 1GB IBM Micro drive card and started to take pictures as the largest and newest carrier in the fleet proudly came around the sound.

“Its majestic,” Steward said as he took a series of eight pictures catching the flags that were displayed on the left side of the ship being brought down.

“Looks like it would be a great bed,” Solace commented as she joined the other two on the point.

Looking over to Solace at the strange comment, Steward took it at face value asking, “Have you spent time on a ship, Solace?”

“Not really, just looks pretty comfortable.”

After taking a few more pictures as the ship slipped by them, the flags coming down as it left the sound, Steward packed away the equipment before joining the two back on the point. “I guess the next logical place to visit would be Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s known throughout America for the attractions on it.”

“You are driving,”

 “Well let’s go,” Steward said walking back the SUV closely followed by his passengers.

 “Stop!” Solace cried out as they reached the top of yet another of the series of down grades on the street they were now traveling on, as Steward pulled over she jumped out of the car her eyes the color of crystallized emerald her head never moved as she looked down into the valley. “Look there!”

Following her pointing both Steward and Arrin looked down into the valley, looking for something that might have caught her eye, Steward with his normal sight could not see anything that would cause the outburst from his female passenger. The same green that shinned in Solace’s eyes was now filming over Arrin’s as he slowly scanned the valley his eyes locking on the same area that Solace was seeing. His jaw slowly worked open and closed as his face paled a bit.

“What is it?” Steward asked again looking over the area. “What do you see?”

“We shall investigate,” Arrin replied as if he did not hear the question, getting back in the car he added. “I will give you directions as we go. This is something I did not expect.”

“What is it?” Steward asked as he felt a tingle rise up his back bone.

“It would appear that your world is not devoid of my kind as I first thought, Xander told me that there were communities here, but I was too busy with other things to think much of it.”

“Elves here? That’s crazy.”

“That may be. When we get there, please stay in the car until I can ascertain your safety.”

“Sure,”

“We should get the leaders something,” Solace put in as Arrin directed Steward.

Nodding his head Arrin sees a small shop on the corner, to Arrin’s eyes the building is built oddly with doors that don’t appear to be too study but a folding gate is pushed back hidden in a specially made grove.  The walls were not as flat as he was use to seeing since arriving here, the corners of the roof held odd curvatures lifting up to look like water drops upside down.

“Pull over here; let’s see what this place is,” Arrin asked as he pointed to the store in question.

“What do you plan on getting them?”

“We could offer them the flask of the Elverquisst that we received from Parisian in Evermeet.”

“A befitting gift.”

“What is Elverquisst?”

“It is a rare beverage that can only be found in Evermeet, an Elvin village,” Arrin informed Steward as they started toward the odd building.

####

Old World Herb and Potion shop

San Francisco

The woman known through the community as Grandmother was scared, as she looked at the three young men who were in her shop looking around, but it was the man in front of her that scared her the most. He stood close to six foot and his thousand dollar suit did little to hide his broad shoulders and muscular arms. His eyes were like ice as he looked the shop over before turning back to her.

< Well woman, do you have our money? >

< I don’t have that kind of money. >

< Get it! >

< I don’t have that kind of money even in the bank, if I gave you that whole payment I would not have enough to live on for myself. >

< That is not my problem, bitch. Give me what you have in your till right now, and I will give you till the end of the day to get your payment in full together, > the man growled as she got the money out of the register and stuck it in a bag for him. He just took the money when the bell announced someone entering the store.

###

Turning from the old woman the man studied the three people who entered with a keen eye, the first was an elderly man who stood just under his own six foot but was slight in built, considering the shop he was in his eyes next went to the girl, for this shop was long listed as a witches diamond mine, and he was not stupid enough to discount the girl. He had been running a protection and drug ring in this part of Chinatown San Francisco since he had turned eighteen and no one lived ten years in this racket without being smart and suspicious.

Turning back to the woman he kept his voice low and said in Chinese, < Remember what I said would happen if you betray us.>

Receiving a nod in confirmation from the old woman, Mitung Chun turned and headed out the door with his two goons following him. Stopping in front of the shop Mitung paused just out side of the window and glanced back in, making sure the old woman saw him one last time.

“Mitung, did you see the girl?” one of the goons asked in a hushed urgent voice. “Her eyes were lavender, and I didn’t see any sign of contact in them.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Mitung looked over the two men one more time, only this time he studied the way each of them moved trying to gauge their experience in fighting, he knew that the old men would pay dearly for a woman with eyes like that. However, since there were only three of them here, he had to be sure that the two men would not cause much trouble. Looking at the boy he felt that one strong backhand would take him out of it, while the older man was much too old to do anything damaging against three younger stronger men. The woman on the other hand could present a small problem. If she was a witch, and he had reason to know that Witches were a very real threat, then they would have to be very careful when dealing with her.

Lifting his hand he beckoned his driver to come up from down the block. Leaning in the car as if he was talking to the driver, he waited until the three shoppers came outside, while his two disciples stood on either side of the main door, trying to stay out of sight until the three came out.

###

Inside the shop, the old woman watched her current customers look through her store. None of them appeared overly interested in the more powerful ingredients. Instead, they all were engrossed in the ceremonial tea sets. While they all had exquisite taste in china, she did not believe that any of them would know about the ceremony that was a custom in Japan, where two young lovers would share a cup of tea to show their love for each other.

The girl looked though just about all of the standard cups and was now looking through the glass at the more expensive, hand-crafted cups. The girl had just raised her hand for help when she caught a glimpse of Mitung as he stood just out side the window. She knew he was there on purpose and slightly bent her head, showing that she knew what would happen if she said anything to these customers.

“Can I help you?” Grandmother asked as she moved over to the display case at the beckoning of the young girl.

“May I see these?” the young girl asked, pointing to a bone china tea set with pictures of dragons on the side of them.

“These are from the Rancie collection, young lady,” Grandmother explained before opening the case. “It is one of a kind; each dragon, hand-painted on the cup, saucers and pot. The place cloth that it sits on was embroiled by Duke Rancie himself and portrays a story of the history of the Golden dragons, as rumored to be told to him by an Ancient Golden dragon by the name of Karlem. It’s one of a kind, and is very expensive.”

“I would like to see it.”

“I will place it out for you to see but please do not touch it until they are paid for,” Grandmother replied thinking it was a waste of time as the complete set was priced at thirty thousand dollars. She would not even have them in her store but they were protected by a magic greater even than her own considerably strong magic. The owner had placed them here on consignment with a no fault clause; however, she still felt a bit responsible for them. Receiving a nod in agreement from the young girl, Grandmother took each piece out and carefully laid them out on the show table putting the table cloth next to them.

For a full minute the two younger of the customers studied the cloth which was laid out when something she had never seen before started to happen. The images on the cloth took on a life; the dragons started to move. Soon, a large war took place where Dragons carried human riders. The metallic colored dragons fought heroically against their colored counterparts. On the cloth, the days passed swiftly after what could have been counted three hundred days, the war ended. The dragons of all colors landed in a valley and then sealed themselves off from the rest of the world, somehow building an inner dimension, taking with them only their riders during the battle. When the dimension was built, the cloth ended its tale. For a full minute, Grandmother stared at the cloth, never seeing anything like it before. She had no idea how strong the magic was in the cloth; she knew it came from the cloth, for the young girl and boy just watched it without making any gestures or saying any words. Finally, after catching her wits Grandmother, turned to the two and asked, “What was that?”

“It was the story of the departure of Dragonkind from this dimension.”

Seeing the boy nod in agreement to the calmly put statement by the girl, Grandmother then looked toward the older man who was still mesmerized by the cloth. “How did you know it would do that?”

“I didn’t.”

“I must put it back,” Grandmother said as she started to take the box from the boy not sure how to react to this turn of events.

“We will take it,” the girl said her voice as calm as her action of picking up one of the cups. Turning it slowly in her hand she whispered a word that sounded like Fragnar before she handed it to the boy.

She watched as the boy took the cup and slowly turns the cup again in the same manner that the girl did only he just nodded his head before putting it down. Saying something in a language that sounded a lot like music the boy picked up the next cup and turned it like he turned the other. Saying something else in the strange language he handed it back to the girl who laughed softly and placed it down.

“Can you please put these in a box or something that they won’t be damaged?” the girl asked while she placed the last cup down.

Shaking off the effects of how the girl calmly picked up the cup and handed it to the boy, Grandmother though the girl was joking and asked. “How will you pay for it?”

“Here,” The boy said simply as he handed her a bank card. “If you don’t have a case for it I can produce one.”

Taking the card and walking over to the register she quickly placed the order in her register and ran the card expecting it to be declined but was mildly surprised when it was approved. Handing the card and the receipt back to the boy she said. “I have a beautifully design box for it in the back please wait.”

Walking into the back, Grandmother wondered who her customers were and decided to cast a identity spell on them before they left, but the spell was ineffective. Puzzled why such a fundamental spell would not work, she came back out with the box in her hand. The box was also beautifully designed, with what appeared to be a large table with about thirty empty, high-back chairs placed around it. The table itself was piled high with food that some how looked both fresh and hot. Looking at the exact design on the box, she wondered briefly if it had the same properties as the tablecloth. Not seeing any movement on it at first, she placed each of the cups, saucers and tea pot into its specifically designed spot before closing the lid. Just as she was about to pick up the box, she noticed movement on the front side. First one, then another person walked into the room taking a seat until all the seats were filled. Then, as if on cue, they started to eat. The movement on the box, she noted, continued to move as long as she looked directly at it, but appeared to stop when she no longer concentrated on it.

###

Walking into the small shop, all three heard the conversation going on between the man and old woman, even though none of them could understand what was being said they knew that the man was being abusive by the tone in his voice. Knowing that it was none of his business unless the woman asked for help, Steward directed them toward some cups he had noticed in the window. He watched as Solace looked through the ceramic cups with out any emotions one way or the other pushing them aside, not seeing what she was obviously looking for, until they came upon a display case which was locked and wired for alarm. In the case was a beautifully crafted tea set, with what appeared to be life-like flying dragons. The vibrant colors which were used in painting the cups, made him think they were machined made; however, a bold sign stated that they were hand crafted and painted. He watched as the woman came over and placed the items out on top of the display and was shocked into silence when he heard the cost of it. He was about to say something about it when he noticed the movements. Having never heard or seen anything like this, he watched with rapt attention as the scene unfolded in front of him. The story was simple to him, it showed how one group betrayed and attacked the other group, he watched as one human and one Dragon became friends during the war and started to repair the trust that was loss from both sides because one dragon mistakenly took a cow that belonged to someone else who went out to destroy the thief. He watched as factions on both sides secretly stirred up trouble, bringing up old hates and rivalries which almost destroyed Dragonkind for all time, but was eventually saved by the metallic dragons, who took with them certain colored dragons who were not tied up in the fight and their families, along with their riders, and slipped away into a alternate dimension where they built a stronghold and settled down living peacefully with each other. The events were told in such a way that it would have been very easy to believe, but he never believed in Dragons. His eyes then slid over to where the boy stood with his hand wrapped around the girl. Noticing the boy’s ears, he nodded to himself, < I never believed in Elves either. >

###

Picking up the box, Arrin looked it over more carefully than any of the others, his eyes filming over as he tried unsuccessfully to determine what kind of magic was used on it. Whatever it was, was older than himself; this magic was ancient and powerful. He knew the common spells that could give off the same illusion. Too many times he had seen his old traveling mate Helga call up the illusion of a Lizard man to be fooled by a low level spell. This was not a low-level illusion spell. The caster was someone he would dearly love to meet.

###

Solace stood shocked as she watched the scene play out. Like Arrin, she was not sure what kind of magic it was, but she knew it was old. She was amazed by the exactness of the story, as she watched it, she realized that the only way this story could have been told was from a Dragon’s point of view. Moreover, only a Dragon could have written such clarity of detail. During her stay in Dragon Valley, she had heard the older Dragons tell of their voluntary exile. Fragnar and Smaug had each told her the tale. They had also told her of a Dragon who was so against the departure that he had taken human form and remained; taking a human name, which had not been mentioned. Looking at this display of magic she felt she could make a better than fair guess as to the name. She realized that this story should not be told to the public, not that it would be believed, but it showed how to enter the dimension known as Dragon Valley, and that should remain a secret.

“I must put it back,” Grandmother said as she started to take the box from the boy not sure how to react to this turn of events.

“We will take it,” Solace told the woman stopping her from putting the card away. After the purchase was tucked away in her own bag of holding, she turned to Arrin before saying in her native tongue. “I just found a present for Fragnar and Smaug. You will have to get something else for the Prince.”

###

 Billy and Dale, the two goons, waited patiently for the three customers to come out. Dale had retrieved a syringe from the car in which Mitang awaited and was ready to do his part. Billy held a stout wooden club along the side of his leg, hidden from plain sight.

The plan would be simple: When the three came out he was to club down the first man that came out while his partner could inject the girl, and then together they would drop the other man. If the girl came out first she would she would be injected while the other man should shut the door until they had enough time to make their escape with the girl. Neither of the men expected anything out of the ordinary. Both of them were black belts in more than one fighting style.

When the door opened, it was the young boy. Raising his club, Billy waited until the boy was clear of the door before he brought the club down smashing onto the boy’s head bring him down like a wet noodle.

The girl opened her mouth to scream. Dale stuck her with the needle injecting her with enough tranquilizer to drop a full grown man. Acting quickly, Dale caught the girl before she could fall, even as Billy clubbed down the second man who had just started to reach in his jacket for something.

Taking the opportunity the two picked up the girl and rushed her to the waiting car and whisked her away from the scene.

###

The woman known as Grandmother stood immobile for a few moments as she watched the two thugs jump her three customers. Then she readied a protection spell as she started toward the door meaning to help out her customers, but arrived just a bit too late. She was just opening the door when the black limo raced away taking the girl with them. Quickly checking both men over she called for help then started to do what she could for the men.

The younger boy’s head was split open and blood was pouring freely from it. She knew this was not an indication of a serious head wound. All head injuries bled a lot. Kneeling down beside him, she knew she would have to stop the bleeding. Even if it was not a serious wound, losing the amount of blood that she saw on the ground could not be good for one body. Rushing back inside she grabbed a clean cloth and her phone. Back outside she dialed 911 and requested medical assistance. With a fire station just around the corner, she knew that the assistance would not be far away. Even still, she was happy to see the ambulance as it raced around the corner followed by a squad medical emergency truck and two police cars.

“What happened?” the first paramedic on the scene asked as the second one opened an EMT case pulling out bandages, starting to work on the boy’s head.

“Pulse and heart growing weak, loss of blood is becoming a issue here,” the other medic called out as he applied bandages to the head. “We are going to need to get him to the hospital.”

“This guy is going to need a lot of blood,” the medic from the ambulance said as he and his partner brought out the gurney. “Help me get him on here, and we will get him to the nearest hospital.”

“Alright ma’am,” one of the police officers asked as they watched the boy and man being put on gurneys, “What happened here?”

Shaking her head in fear, Grandmother looked around, scanning the sea of faces. She knew if she told the police anything her very life would be forfeit. Involuntarily her eyes went across the street to where a building stood empty because the owner of a bake shop tried to call in the police to help him against the crime organization. Looking at the building other things came to mind, like how the investigation into the death of the shopkeeper and the murder of his family was halted only two days after it began. She knew that only someone high in the force could do something like that, so she shook her head and retreated back into her store while saying, “I don’t know anything.”

###

“Take us to the house,” Mitang told the driver as the girl was shoved into the back seat that faced him. Looking her over he had half a mind to keep her for himself. However he still suspected that she was some type of witch and did not relish the idea of trying to tame one of them. Noticing her twitch, he pulled out a bottle of chloroform and doused his hankie with it before placing it under her nose. That would keep her under until he could find the right type of people to sell her to.

“She is very beautiful,” Billy said as he ran his hand up her leg moving it under her dress pushing it up starting to show her thighs.

“Get your hand away from her!” Mitang snarled while reaching across and slapping Billy across the face causing him to bleed. “I want her unused.”

“I just wanted to see,” Billy wined.

“What of the others, will they be back?” Mitang demanded dropping the first subject.

“There was a lot of blood from both of them,” Dale informed him picking up that the subject of getting anything from the girl was out. “I don’t think either will make it unless they got rapid medical attention.”

“Did he see either of you?”

“Only if he saw us in the store. I don’t believe he was paying attention.”

“Good, but keep your eyes open. I don’t want this guy to come back on us.”

“He won’t be back,” Billy said dismissing the warning, “and if he does, I will kill him next time.”

“Maybe we should go back and check it out,” Dale replied as he looked at the girl.

“Pull over,” Mitang called out to the driver as he looked back at Dale. “Take Billy here with you, and make sure they are dead.”

###

Oakland Bay Hospital
Emergency room

“Run a complete blood work up on this first victim,” a tall dark haired man called out as he pulled back the eyelids and shined a small penlight into the eye. “Pupils are unresponsive, get an IV running as soon as possible and get me his blood type.”

Leaving the first victim the doctor then did his preliminary examination on the second one, finding an egg size knot on the back of his head he called out. “Put this man on an EKG and monitor him, he should be all right. Maybe a concussion; we will have to monitor him carefully.”

Moving along with his two latest patients, Dr. A.Z. Spelling directed the flow of interns and nurses in the everyday events of saving a man’s life. He knew from experience that the blood work would only take five minutes, so the first patient would probably be on a drip by the time he got to the room. The second patient would just have to have x-rays and a CAT scan to determine if there was any serious harm done.

“What the hell is going on here?” Spelling demanded as he walked into the hospital room to find two obvious military types in the room and no life saving equipment on the boy.

“CDC sir,” one of the soldiers flashed his credentials so fast the doctor was not allow to view them, even as he went on two other soldiers were wheeling the boy out of the hospital room while he pulled all paper work that had been done on the patient. “We are taking this patient off your hands.”

“What the hell is going on here?” Dr. Spelling demanded again never having had a patient taken from him in this manner. “That boy needs blood if he is going to live.”

“He is no longer your concern,” the soldier replied as he followed the gurney that wheeled the boy out of the room.

“What the hell is going on?” Dr. Spelling asked again this time to a intern who was passing him.

“The blood work on the boy came back and something was very strange about it.” The intern replied, “These men showed up in less than five minutes and started shouting out orders to contain the room. They believe the boy is a carrier of something. They took the blood samples we had and anything about the case that was written. They moved so fast that no one really knew what was going on.”

“What about the man who came in with him?”

“They left him alone sir, we have him in room 129.”

“Check his clothes for blood. I want a sample of that boy’s blood work, and don’t take it to our lab, bring it straight to me and I will run the tests myself. But for Christ’s sake be careful when handling it. Oh, and call in the paramedics who brought them in, run complete blood work on them as well. If there is a possible epidemic starting I wanna know about it. Who the hell are you two?”

###

Billy and Dale walked into the ward just in time to hear the doctors’ speech and correctly reading the possibilities behind it. They both were splattered with a small amount of their victim’s blood and worse they both had touched the girl.

“What victims are you talking about?” Dale demanded as Billy’s face turned pale.

“What the hell business is that of yours?” The doctor barked back as he turned to the intern. “Get these two the hell out of my ward!”

“Hold on a minute, if the two victims you’re talking about are the old man and the boy, we might be able to help you out with their blood,” Dean said after looking over to Billy and seeing he would be no help.

“How would you do that?”

“Some of his blood splattered on me when he was knocked unconscious.”

“Get this man to the lab, make sure you don’t use any of the computers, get any blood fragments off his clothes,  run blood work on him as well,” the doctor barked out orders before turning back to Dean asking,  “What about your friend?”

“He was well clear of him, but he touched the girl,”

“What girl?”

“The other one traveling with him,” Billy said as if the doctor should know that. “What is going on?”

“Just go with the intern and answer all of his questions, where is this girl?”

“I don’t know,” Dean replied truthfully. “She is with my boss.”

“If you value your job, I would suggest you call your boss and have him come in for blood tests right away, and bring the girl with him.”

“Sir,” an intern interrupted the pair “here are the results on the man.”

Dale watched the doctors face as he looked over the sheet he was given, after a minute the doctor handed back the paper while saying, “This is inconclusive, do we have a sample of the boy’s blood yet?”

“Yes sir, we are running the tests right now.”

“Get them to me the minute you get them,” The doctor said then pointing at Billy and Dale he went on, “Get blood work on these two as well.”

Following the intern Dale was starting to get very worried about his own health, putting his hand on the intern’s shoulder he stopped and turned the man around to face him. “What did that say? Are we in danger?”

“I can not divulge the results of other patients’ results,” the intern replied with the pat answer his oath swore him to.

“Listen asshole,” Dale growled as he opened his jacket to show the butt of a gun. “Tell me the results of that man tests or I will take them from your dead body.”

Swallowing hard, the intern looked back into Dale’s eyes before replying, “He is not infected with anything.”

“So we aren’t either,” Dale rationalized.

“The doctor said that the results are not conclusive,”

“I believe they are,” Dale replied as he thought about how the boy acted in the store. “We will let you take the blood work but then we have to go.”

“The doctor would want me to quarantine you until we know.”

“How long will that take?” Billy asked knowing that the doctors only wanted to contain what ever it was that the boy had.

“We will know if you’re infected or not in about five minutes. If you’re not infected, you can go.”

“Alright let’s do it, but what happen to the boy?”

“It’s unlikely we will see him again, the CDC came and took him away.”

“Get the blood you need run the tests,” Dale replied as he looked around. “I wanna get out of this place.”

“Come with me,” the intern replied walking into a room where he took the blood samples he would need. “Stay here until I return.”

###

Initiative lab room

Consciousness slowly returned to Arrin, however he kept his eyes closed as his awareness became shaper, there was a constant beep-beep rhythm just above his head, the air was cool and had a slight smell of lilacs tinted with a hint of something else he was not quiet sure of. He could feel thick bands holding his arms down as well as his legs; he also felt a strap that crossed his chest. Opening his eyes just a bit he felt the sharp bite of the white light in a white room. As his eyes grew accustomed to the light he opened them up and slowly looked around.

The room was about a twenty by twenty with a large piece of reflective glass on one wall. Near the door was one of the devices that Steve used to look out the wall, the word ‘camera’ came to his mind and the explanation that Willow had given him about their uses. Next he studied the devices that were set up around him. The rhythmic ‘beep-beep’ came from one of them that seemed to be connected to his chest by a wire. Above him were a circle of lights that were, thankfully at this time, off. Next to his bed was a table with some type of shiny items on it. He was not sure what was up here, but the fact that he was tied up seemingly helpless did not escape his notice. As his eyes went to the other tables in the room, he noticed the vials and tubes. He realized that it resembled one of his many alchemy labs, so he wondered if these idiots were going to try to experiment on him. His mind jumped ahead, reasoning if they planned to experiment on him, what would they have already done to Solace? He could not feel her presence, but whether that it was the distance between them was too great or that she was already dead he did not know. His heart started to race as the worst-case scenario came to mind. As his body started to race, jumping to conclusions, the ‘beep-beep’ of the machine quickened until it seemed that no sooner had one been started sooner than the last beep ended making the sound of one long beep. Sweat started to pour from his head as his vision blurred thinking what might have happen to the one woman in his life that meant more to him than his own life.

He was just about to explode and tear the room apart. He wanted to kill someone for what his mind told him that they did to Solace. He wanted to hurt anyone who was remotely involved in the assault on Solace.  Just as his panic started to take over, he forced himself to calm down and closed his eyes. His face, which was scowled in anxiety, was now relaxed. A strange smile covered his lips somehow changing his whole appearance. Jerking his arms together he broke the bonds that held his upper torso, as he sat up he ripped the band that crossed his chest. The ‘beep-beep’ was now gone, in its place sounded an alarm. He could hear people running around, while a voice called out to direct the traffic.

“H9 has broken its bonds. Be careful, this HST is totally unknown,” the voice ordered and seemed to be coming from all around. “We want him alive, but don’t take chances.”

“Well this is not fair.” Arrin grinned as he listened to the voices outside his room. He looked at the camera; then lifted his finger and shot a few magic missiles into the camera, putting it out of commission before he went on. “Now we both are blind.”

With the use of his magic, he knew he would be able to get away easily enough. However, Solace would be somewhere in this place and he was not leaving without her. Arrin did not think about how or who these people were. All he needed to know was they made the first play, and now he would finish it. Remembering the projectile weapons Xander called guns, he took a minute to cast shield on his amulet. Though it was a low level spell it would be more than enough for the projectile weapons. He was glad he had checked that fact while in Sunnydale.

“Well my Lord, into battle I go again. I never expected it to come to this, but there is no way I will leave Solace here. First things first.” Arrin whispered in prayer. Reaching out his hand, his bow materialized in his hand, with the bag of holding he always carried.

He was tempted to walk out the door and take care of the force that even now built outside of it; however his concern for Solace outweighed the possibility of a good fight. Concentrating on the ring he had given to her as the sole item she was never without, Arrin teleported to it.

###

Operations room
Initiative training grounds

“Dr. Walsh, HST 09 is coming out of it,” a uniformed man called from behind a bank of monitors, “his heart is beginning to race.”

“Muster the rapid response force outside his door just in case,” an elderly man called from his position behind another camera, which looked into the room itself. “If this boy turns out to be hostile, I want him contained.”

“His heart rate has come into a danger area for most humans. At this speed, sir, he should go into cardiac arrest.”

“Must I remind you this is an unknown HST?” The man snapped as he watched the boy break his bonds with ease. “He’s loose. Order the reaction force to lock and load, charge all weapons.”

“Captain, I am in charge here,” said the woman who stood behind the soldier who monitored the machines that read the HST’s support system.

“Only when there is no danger, Dr. Walsh. He just took out the camera, get someone to the observation room on the double,” the Captain barked out as he started from the room.

By the time he got to the observation room, the HST had disappeared. Looking over to the only other occupant in the room he demanded, “Where did he go?”

“He just disappeared, sir. First he held out his hand and his bow and bag appeared, then he was just gone,” a young private replied, still starring in the room.

“Did that door open at all?” the Captain demanded reading the shock and disbelief in the soldier’s eyes.

“No sir, he just disappeared.”

Picking up the phone that hung on the wall, the Captain’s voice came over the intercom system, “HST 9 has escaped. Enter the room carefully. Close and lock it once every one is in, this may be a trick.”     

“If it is a trick, it’s a damn good one, sir,” the private mumbled as he hit a switch to turn on the thermal viewer. “He has a heart beat and his body is warm yet we see nothing in thermal.”

“Are you telling me that this HST just teleported himself out of our complex?” the Captain screamed looking though the viewer, seeing the guard force enter. “How the hell can he do that?”

“I don’t know sir.”

“Find out now!!!” the Captain ordered as he stormed out of the room.

“What do you suppose happened, Riley?” the private asked a soldier who entered the room after the Captain left.

“I don’t know, but the Captain and Walsh won’t rest till we find out. Rewind the videos.”

###

East Coast pawnshop
South East corner of China town

Dropping into the crouch he always took when he was teleporting into a possible hostile area, Arrin was somewhat surprised to find himself in some kind of store. Ignoring the startled looks that were thrown his way, he stood upright and looked in front of him seeing the ring on a dish inside a glass container. He knew that ring: he also knew that Solace would never willingly part with it. Cold dead eyes left the ring to turn on the shopkeeper his face turned a deep red as his anger got the best of him. “Where did you get this ring?”

“Someone brought it in a few hours ago,” the man behind the counter replied as he moved to the center of the display case, his voice shaky. “Would you like to see it closer?”

“I want it.”

“Its three hundred and fifty nine dollars,” the man replied as he brought the ring out and placed it on top of the glass display case.

“You failed to understand me,” Arrin replied in an emotionless voice. “That ring is mine and I mean to have it back.”

“You will have to pay for it, sir.”

For a minute Arrin was tempted to just take the ring and going on however at the last moment he pulled out his card and presented it to the man. While he knew that it was his ring, he also realized that the shopkeeper must have paid out some money for that ring, probably not as much as he was going to get by selling it but still. Mentally adding another charge against those who had Solace he told the shopkeeper. “Take what it cost off that, and I would suggest that in the future you do not deal in stolen merchandise, it has a way of coming back on you.”

“Its just business,” the man said taking the card and running it through his machine.

Growing tired of the conversation, Arrin decided to try and find Solace again, only this time he would have to go in with some kind of knowledge about the group that was holding him, the best place to start he decided was to go back to the SUV and find something that would help him track Steward.

Appearing outside of the magic shop where the trouble had started, Arrin climbed into the back of the SUV and started to rummage around in hopes to find something which would lead him to Steward, hoping that he was with her. As he crawled out of the truck with a shirt in his hand he backed up right into the woman who had been in the shop where the attack took place.

“Are you all right, young man?” the woman asked her voice thick with concern.

Taking in a deep breath, Arrin slowly shook as he wiped his face. “No, I am most certainly not all right.”

“With the knocking you took, it is a wonder you’re alive,” the woman replied with motherly concern. “What of your friend, is he ok?”

“Solace?” Arrin asked, lost for a moment.

“The man you were with.”

“Solace!” Arrin replied coming back into the conversation. “What where is she?”

“You will never see her again. Mitung took her, best forget her.”

Looking at the old woman Arrin let what she said ferment in his mind. It was plain, those who had him worked for this Mitung, so it was obvious they had her, her and Steward. Now it was time for him to go back and talk to the people who had him tied up, a talk he believed they would not like very much.

###

 

Initiate headquarters
Operations room

“Are you absolutely sure he is not on this base?” Captain Randall asked Riley as they watched the video from the observation room one more time. “Could it be a trick?”

“Absolutely, sir, we searched every square inch of that room and even turned on the fire sprinklers in that room and still found nothing.”

“Then we have to assume that he is back on the streets. Fortunately, if he checks into a hospital we will be notified right away. Did we get any tests run on him? Do we know what it was?” 

“No sir, we have never encountered anything like him, we do know that his blood is not toxic, we also know that he is alive and maintains a normal body temperature, other than that we have no clue.” A young man in a lab coat replied as he walked up to the Captain. “Dr. Walsh would like to speak with you.”

“They should never have let a civilian run this operation,” Randall mumbled under his breath as he turned to face the technician. “What does she want now?”

“She didn’t tell me sir. She’s in the lab.”

Mumbling as he walked off Captain Randall was just getting ready to enter the lab when the intrusion alarms started to go off, causing people to rush down the corridors while the reaction force loaded weapons and took up their assigned positions.

###

Observation Lab

“Lt. Riley,” a lab technician asked as he picked up what was left of the leather straps that held HST09 down. “How the hell does something as small as he was break free of these bands?”

“I don’t know, but from what I have read so far, most of the things we will be studying and fighting are much stronger than men.”

“If that is true, how are you and the others going to be bringing them in?”

“We have a few weapons from Xantos Corp. that will should allow us to detain HST’s without killing them,” Riley told the scared technician, but was also wondering what they would do if they ran into the guy who did this again.

“Where is she!” a voice growled causing both men to turn to face the intruder. Although Riley could not see who it was he had a good idea of the person’s identity. Moving his hand to his hip, Riley pushed the panic button on the top of his radio. He locked the ‘Send’ button so that the radio would transmit continuously. Riley turned toward the HST and began lifting his taser. Riley was not sure how the boy was able to get into the room but he was not going to stand around and talk to a possible threat. Smoothly he lifted his taser, aiming it by instinctive alignment, he fired.

Riley was sure that the wires would hit the target, so received the shock of his life when they appeared to stop short of the target and fall to the ground. Instinctively he looked down at the wires to see if they were pulled taunt but found that there was plenty of wire to go past what they did. By then the alarm bells were blasting out. That however gave him little pleasure as he was now unarmed except for his baton. Pulling it out he started toward the boy meaning to take him on hand-to-hand.

“I will give you three hours to produce my friends, then I start tearing this place apart room by room,” the boy stated as he took a step back, literally becoming part of the wall he disappeared leaving his haunting voice and message behind. “Let my friends go, or I will infest this place like the spiders of the underworld.”

“How the hell did he do that?” the lab tech asked as he advanced to the wall feeling it and finding it solid. “Was he here at all?”

“He was here,” Riley replied with conviction as he looked at the taser pushing the button that recoiled the wire and reloaded the weapon. “I think what we should worry about is how he talks through walls.” He released the send lock on the radio.

“Riley, come in. This is Forrest”

“Riley here,” he replied answering the radio.

“What the hell is going on? I am in the control room and they said your radio set off the code red.”

“The boy was here,” Riley said while running his hand over the wall the lab technician standing close beside him. “He appeared to walk through the wall; I am in the observation room.”

“Code 4?” another voice asked after a minute.

“No sir, he is gone again. Walked right though the wall,” Riley replied giving the response to the code asking if he was under duress. “Who or what ever this thing is, he is a lot more dangerous than any of the other HSTs we have come across. This guy just walked in through a wall after he told us he wanted his friends and walked out. I shot at him with a taser but the prongs stopped short.”

“This is Captain Randall, I want every exit route closed and sealed. Deadly force is authorized when dealing with HST 9. From this point on, I want all security teams on station until this menace is captured or killed. Riley, take control of your teams.”

“Sir, I think we better talk before we go too far with this.”

“Get your teams out, then we will talk.”

“All sentries to your stations call out one challenge only. Roving patrol in threes; be sure to let the sentries know you are approaching. All teams check in every twenty minutes.” As he gave the orders, Riley was heading toward the lab to where Captain Randall and Doctor Walsh waited. Entering the room, he stood at attention until Captain Randall nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Sir, I must inform you that, while in the room, HST 9 gave us 4 hours to return his friends to him. The results of failure would be and I quote, he would ‘infest this base like the spiders do the underground’ and he would rip the base apart until he found them.”

“How viable is the threat?”

“The way he backed up into the wall, I would give it credibility.”

“Uhhhh sir,” the lab technician who followed Riley interjected.

“What is it?”

“I was thinking about the boy, how he stepped back into the wall.”

“Well?”

“Well sir, Riley can agree with me that he did not walk through the door, which means he did in fact walk through the wall,” the technician rambled.

“Get to it!” Riley barked out when he noticed that the Captain was getting ready to do the same thing.

“Well sir, this might sound strange, but when I was a kid we use to play a game called Dungeons and Dragons, in the game the spell ‘Walk through walls’ was sort of common.”

“Are you trying to tell me that this boy can cast spells from a game?”

“It does seem a bit far stretch,” Riley replied but still thinking about it.

“Well sir, some would say that the HST’s that we have seen here were pretty far fetched. Besides, you probably have never met Gary Gygaxx, the creator of D&D. That man was plain out weird.”

“So you’re saying that this creature can call upon any of the spells that the D and D game has?”

 “Well actually it all depends on how experienced he is, but walking through walls is one of the higher level spell.”

“What do you propose we do?”

“I think we might want to consider his demands.”

“That won’t work,” Riley said thinking about what was being said. “First off, we don’t know who his friends are.”

“Even if we did, I am not in the habit of dealing with terrorists.”

“I am just saying sir; in this case, we might not have a choice.”

Riley did not want to agree with the lab technician but he was smart enough to realize that what the Sam was saying partly was true, he also had played some Dungeons and Dragons while in high school. Even though he never liked the game, he remembered some of the spells that characters cast and none of them seemed promising. “Sir, I would advise that we at least take the HST’s into the observation room, maybe nine will accept them, we can always get them back.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“He said all he wants is his friends,” Riley replied shaking his head. “He could have done both of us in that room.”

“Are you sure he could have done that?”

“I agree with Riley, sir,” the technician agreed. “He could have done us both without a thought, he didn’t because he wants to do this peacefully.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Sir, he walked though that wall like it was an illusion, when we searched that wall was solid. That means he either walked though that wall or he removed it long enough for him to walk through it.”

“So?” Riley asked not understanding where the technician was going.

“Well what if he did it to us instead of himself, we would have been entombed in the floor.”

“Come on, how can he do that?” Riley asked almost laughing

 “Believe me Riley, if he can use the spells in that book he can do worse.”

“Alright, get the HSTs to the observation room, but set up a trap for him, I want this guy caught.”

“Yes sir,” Riley replied. Turning on his heels and pulling out his radio, he issued the required orders then listened as first the sentries then the roving teams reported in.

“All HST’s are now in the lab Riley,” a black man about Riley’s age reported as they came together outside the lab door. “I have Graham and Jones in the Observation room ready to use blasters to capture the boy.”

“Just hope it’s enough.”

“If it ain’t?”

“I don’t even wanna think about that.”

Walking into the lab room Riley looked around at the various HSTs, three of whom he knew were vampires, the other four were demons of some type but since they were all captured with in the last 40 hours they had not had time to do much research. Taking a chance on finding out who the boy was, Riley faced the group who were behind a quickly constructed caged wall he demanded, “Alright, who and what is the boy?”

###           

Mansion in Oak Ridge

“Do you know anything about her?” a man in a dark-colored business suit asked as he looked over the young woman’s body, which was strapped to a table. “Who will be looking for her?”

“After today, no one,” Mitung told the elderly man. “I had Billy and Dale go and take care of the only two who might have known.”

“What drug are you using to sedate her?”

“The formula X17, it suppresses the conscious memory part of the brain. She will be coherent but she won’t know who she is.” Mitung told the man handing him a small vial, “It is rumored that the government uses this drug to create what they call sleeper agents.”

“How long before we can bring her coherent?” the man asked taking the bottle and looking at the contents, “What are the long range effects?”

“You keep her under for about nine days, feeding the information you want her to remember by using tapes. It is a form of brain washing. Some people are unable to reconcile the implanted memories with the remaining subconscious, then the effects can include depression, disassociation, even suicidal tendencies.”

“Continue with the treatment, I will line up a buyer,” the man said as he turned and left the room. “I want her ready by the end of the month.”

Nodding his head, Mitung turned back to the girl, firmly running his hand down the girl’s body feeling her luscious breasts, then moving down to her well-formed thighs, curiously he pulled the girls dress back up wanting to see if this girl did anything to her pubic hairs. Running his hand up her thigh he placed his finger in her cleft and dragged it up separating the labia’s and finding the inner walls becoming lubricated from the attention. He was just about to insert his finger when the girl moaned causing him to stop and remember his duties. He took out the vial, and measured out a dose into a syringe. He then injected into the IV drip that they had set up.

Leaving the girl, he went to the next room, where five more young women were chained against the wall. One at a time he asked what their name was. He was pleased when each of them could not answer the question. Four of these women would never be missed; he picked each of them up from living on the street. He knew that, in a way, the life he was sending them to was better than the one he took them from. It was the fifth girl that had him worried. He had found her in a derelict station wagon, her clothes all but ripped off her. After taking his pleasure from the unconscious girl, he took her and placed her on the drug, two days later the drug broke though her resistance and she was everything he would hope for. At first he thought to keep her for himself, but then he had seen her picture on the evening news.

Her name was Kristen Lyons, the only daughter of a local businessman. Her father had offered a great deal of money for her return, however not enough for Mitung to let her go. He was tempted to collect the reward on the girl, but his boss was too nervous to let the girl go alive. With this in mind, he was going to wait two more days before deciding what to do.

“Mitung,” Dale huffed as he burst into the room, “something weird is going on with that young boy.”

“What is it,” Mitung asked as he turned and let the two men out of the room. “Did you kill him?”

“No, he was not there, the CDC came and took him, his friend is under close observation.”

“What?  CDC?” Mitung asked not understanding what CDC stood for.

“Center for Disease Control. It’s an organization that deals with disease outbreaks. They said that the boy had some kind of disease.”

“So the boy is going to die anyway, that is good.”

Watching both of the hoods nod their head, he waived his hand in dismissal and started back to his living quarters. < Soon I will have enough to buy my father out of prison, and then this state will be ours to rule together. >

###

A Field
Across from the Initiative

Arrin leaned against a tree as he watched the building that he believed held Solace, the one constant in his life. So far he realized he had acted recklessly, now he had to start playing it smart. He could not contact her by telepathy. Wherever she was, who ever had her was powerful, powerful enough to keep him from contacting her, and he realized that if he was up against someone that powerful he would have to keep all his wits about him.

Concentrating, he shifted his sight over so he could see any traits of magic. He did not see any. He wondered if Solace could really be held in the place. Looking up at the sun he decided that there was only one way to find out, but he had given them three hours to return her to him. He would wait.

He stepped back deeper into the timber, away from the sight of prying eyes. He placed a few wards of warning around him then knelt down, placing his bow in front of him so that one end faced the south and the other faced the north, he fixed his sight on a rock and began to pray.

“Father, I know that I have never been the one to walk the peaceful path, my anger still directs my path most of the time. You have been patient with me and I hope that you will be patient again. They have Solace, and although I know she is not an Elf, she is my mate, for her I would move a mountain. A long time ago, I asked you if I could step into the plains of the dead to rescue Blade and Gath, what I ask now is not so drastic, but just as important. Please watch over your follower as I go into the den of something that could only be evil. Bless me now for I am in need of your gifts.” As it had always happen in the past his prayers left him exhausted, leading him into the opening arms of Morpheus.

###

Hospital room
8 hours after attack

Steward groaned as he reached to the back of his head to rub the baseball sized bump he found there. His eyes slowly opened and he took in his environment. That he was in a hospital was plainly evident from the ‘beep-beep-beep’ of the heart monitor to the slight smell of antiseptic that seemed to creep in such places.

Groaning out the pain as he lifted his head, he immediately regretted his decision to do so. He let his head fall back onto the welcoming pillow. Slowly reaching out, he grabbed the button that lay next to his bed and pushed it trying to get the nurses attention.  

< What the hell happened? > Steward wondered as the first wave of nausea over swept him causing him to forget the dizziness as he rushed to the adjacent bathroom. < Where are the kids? >

“Well how are you feeling today?” A doctor asked as Steward walked back into the room finding the Doctor and a nurse.

“Was dizzy and sick; much better now,” he replied to what he assumed was a standard question from the doctor. “Where are my friends?”

“When you came in you were only with one boy,” the doctor replied directing Steward to take a seat so he could look him over. “He was taken away from us by the CDC; I was hoping that you could help us with that.”

“How could I help?”

“You see, I called the CDC headquarters for this area, and they don’t know anything,” the doctor replied stepping back after checking his pupils. “Something was in his blood, something that at first looked like some kind of disease but on further examination this boy’s blood was normal, for him.”

“What do you mean ‘for him’?” 

“I am not sure yet, but he’s got genetic anomalies,” the doctor replied too casually. “Almost like he was another species.”

“And you’re hoping to cash in on the find of the century,” Steward growled hitting the proverbial nail on the head. “What about the girl?”

“It was just the two of you. But a couple of guys came in and said their boss had the girl.”

“Do you have any idea who took him?” Steward demanded

“No, but they had to have connections with the CDC. They would be the only ones who would get the reports,” the doctor replied. “Why don’t you lay back and relax? You took a nasty blow to the head and have a concussion.”

“Sorry doc, I don’t have time to relax. Arrin is going to need my help.”

“You’re in no shape to go; you need to stay for observation.”

Nodding his head as if to accept the answer Steward walked out of the room, back in Nam he had taken more than one concussion, and though he knew that they could be dangerous, he would feel a lot better if he could find his friends. With this in mind, he walked out of the room. “I don’t have time. If I feel sick I will come back, but now I have to go look for my friends.”

Knowing the doctor could not stop him; Steward walked out of the ward and checked himself out of the hospital. When he walked outside, the heat of the day caused him to stumble for a second but he quickly caught his balance and looked around. Reaching in his pocket he found that he still had the keys to the car. He walked down to the nearest bus stop that lead to the east and waited for the bus.

Sitting down at the stop, he tried to remember what had happened, but was clueless. All he remembered was walking out of the store and then waking up in the hospital. For a second he wondered if it was Karma playing with the Fates who led him to meet with the Elf. He thought about giving up and just taking care of himself. Then he remembered what the elf and his mate did for the girl. He knew that he could not allow that kind of selfless act go unrewarded. He decided to for once do the right thing and find them. < First, I need to find the car. >

Initiative operations room

“Everything is set up, Captain. I have two men with blasters in the observation room. I also put both vampires and the demon we brought in last week in there,” Riley replied, answering the Captain’s question if things were ready. “He should be here any time; we will be ready for him.”

“Make sure that it is; I want this guy captured,” the Captain replied as he turned around and left the room. “You’re in charge Riley.”

“Yes Sir,” Riley said as he also left the room heading toward the observation room where he would wait with the two soldiers he’d left there with the blasters, waiting for the boy to come back.

“Nothing so far,” one of the soldiers said without turning around to see who came in,  “Do you think he will come back?”

“I just don’t know if we have anything to stop him,” Riley replied as he closed the door. “He walked through that wall like it wasn’t even there.”

“I don’t like letting one of those things loose, even if he is someone’s friend,” the other soldier said with enough venom in his voice to kill every one in the room.

Looking at the soldier Riley remembered reading his file: John Polaski; orphaned at the age of 15 when his family was found murdered with their bodies drained of every drop of blood. For three years John had told people that vampires had murdered them but was sent to shrinks and, when his story didn’t change, one doctor actually accused him of killing his family. After that, he quit talking about it and joined the service. He had been picked out by Walsh as a strong candidate for the Initiative. “We won’t be letting them go, don’t even worry about that. Those three are nothing more than honey to suck in the fly.”

“I will kill those things before I allow them to leave,” John growled holding his blaster tightly. “If this boy is a vampire I will kill him too.”

“Don’t worry Johnny, no vamps are leaving here alive,” the other guard said as he too tightened his own grip on his blaster.

“Steady yourself, both of you,” Riley ordered as he watched the vampires shift uncomfortably in the room, “He should be here any minute.”

Just as the words left Riley’s mouth, a flurry of activity erupted in the room. First as if by magic both vampires disintegrated, then the demon charged the window causing both soldiers to turn their blasters on him to keep him away from them as he crashed though the window.

 

###

Field

Arrin slowly came out of his rest period his senses returning to normal as he fully came out of the Elven equivalent of sleep. Springing to his feet, he tightened then loosened the muscles in his body before quickly stretching out. He picked up his holy symbol and hung it around his neck before picking up the bow and bag. Ensuring everything was in its proper place; Arrin looked over to the building and noticed that there were now three guards outside the front door. “Well guys, I guess the front door is closed.”

Moving back out of sight he circled the building until he was at the same point of entry he was earlier and slipped back into the building by casting walk through walls. He was about to step into the other side when he felt a wave of warning the feeling he normally got when he was in the presence of undead. He cast sanctuary on himself. Then stepped into the room. He smiled when he saw the two vampires turn to dust and the demon burst though the glass on the other side of the room.

His amusement quickly turned to anger as the demon was propelled back toward him accompanied by two steady streams of electricity. Stepping out of the way he quickly erected a force field between himself and the two soldiers who held the blasters, as the currents were blocked off, the demon fell unconscious to the floor. Anger clouded his eyes as he looked at the three men standing behind the now broken glass.

“Sleep,” Arrin commanded after quickly taking in the space that stood between them. Watching the three fall to the ground, he calmly killed the demon and walked over to where the three humans now lay sleeping. In a show of strength, he bent down and picked up the one soldier who did not have a weapon, ignoring the camera that followed his every move he walked out of the room and through the wall. He was not sure what the hell had happened back there, but he was sure that he would get the answers before tearing the place apart looking for Solace.

###

Old World Herb and Potion shop

Having remembered the name of the Herb shop as the last place they stopped together, Steward hailed down a taxi and told the driver to take him there. Problem was, now that he was here; he had no idea how to proceed. Stepping into the shop he moved his way back to the old woman. Figuring that she must have seen something, he decided to question her about it.

“Excuse me miss,” Steward addressed the woman as he moved toward the woman who was standing behind the register. Seeing the recognition in the woman’s eyes he went on. “We were in here earlier today, or maybe yesterday, do you know what happened?”

“I…I…” the woman started as beads of perspiration beaded on her forehead.

“Alright lady,” Steward growled realizing that the woman knew what he was talking about. “What happened here? Did you get the money from the boy and decided you wanted it all? So you got some of your friends to jump us?”

“I did not!” the woman replied in a voice so strong with indignation that Steward believed her. “You were attacked by the Golden Talon tong.”

“Did they take the boy and the girl?” Steward asked as he thought for a minute. “What would they want of them?”

“They only took the girl. They left you and the boy. I called the ambulance.”

“Well he was not in the hospital I woke up in, so where did they take him?”

“I am not sure where he is,” the woman replied after a moment then repeated the whole conversation she had with Arrin verbatim. “Seems to me that he must have gone back to the place he was held in search for you and her.”

“CDC,” Steward mumbled remembering the conversation he had with the doctor. Leaving the woman he walked outside and grabbed the car phone and dialed 411 requesting the CDC in Oakland California. He called them. Finding out that there was no one being held in the CDC headquarters Steward became worried about his friends. While he was just sitting there in the driver’s seat, he decided to go back to the hospital and try to find out anything he could. The old woman came back out and knocked on the glass of the driver’s side.

“I think maybe I can help you find your friends,” the woman said as he rolled down the window. “If you have anything of theirs I can do a location spell on them.”

Steward looked at the woman like she was crazy. Steward was about to say something until he remembered that he was traveling with an elf. “Aw, hell it’s worth a try. How do we do it?”

“I have everything set up; I just need a personal article of his to find him.”    

“Maybe you can find something of his in the back,” Steward replied as he opened the back on the SUV. “To be honest with you though, I don’t know what is personal.”

“This shirt is his right?” The woman asked pulling out a dirty shirt that was too large for Steward. They walked back into the store, then entered the back room. An aerial map of San Francisco and the Bay area was spread out on the floor, held down by four small, lit candles. In one corner was a small bowl with some type of powder and a crystal on a silver chain lay next to it. “It’s basically a simple spell, and should tell us exactly where he is.”

“Don’t have anything to lose,” Steward replied shaking his head. < This is going to be a waste of time. >

“Sit down, I will need complete focus,” the woman said as she took her seat, holding the crystal above the center of the map with a flip of the wrist to start the crystal in a circular pattern she started to cast the spell. "Goddess Hecate, I beseech thee to work thy will, find he who we seek and show his place unto me.”

Hearing the words, Steward looked strangely at the woman as the crystal started to glow and spin. At first he thought the spell would work as it narrowed down on a spot that was not directly under the woman’s hand; but then the light went out, and the crystal dropped from her limp hand. At the same time the woman started to fall back. Steward acted quicker than he had in a long time. He reached over and caught her before her head slammed on the wooden floor.

“Hey, lady. You OK?” Steward asked as whipped the sweat off her forehead.

“Wow, long time since I experienced anything like that,” the woman said groggily sitting up, “Your young man must be pretty powerful to be hidden from the gods.”

“You don’t know the half of it. If half of the things he has told me are true…” Steward mumbled as he helped her up.

“I have some associates who might be able to find him,” the woman said picking up the phone. “This is the kind of work they thrive on.”

Steward wondered she picked up the phone and dialed seven digits.

###

“Halliwell manor, this is Phoebe.”

“Hello Phoebe? You and your sisters busy with anything?” Grandmother asked recognizing the voice.

“Not really. It’s a slow week. What can we do for you?”

“I believe there is someone in need of your specialized help.”

“Prue is at her office and Piper is at the club, do you want the three of us to come to you tonight?”

“This might not be able to wait that long, but I can’t talk about it over the phone. Can I come see you with my friend?”

“Well, OK. I will be at the manor waiting for you.”

“Thank you, Phoebe,” Grandmother replied as she hung up the phone. “They will help, but we must go to them.”

“How are they going to help?”

“It’s what they do.”

###

Field across from initiative headquarters

“Come on, come on. Wake up,” Arrin growled growing impatient as he slapped the man’s face trying to wake him up. He had the man tied spread-eagled, stretched out by four trees suspended about three feet above the ground by ropes.

Hearing the man groan, Arrin took out his water flask and poured some water on his face. Letting the man sputter to consciousness, he sat down and to waited for the man to regain full consciousness.

###

Riley was awake and fully conscious a full minute before the man who held him captive poured the water on his face. He could feel the manila ropes cut into his arms and since he could not feel the ground beneath him he knew he was suspended. He knew he was in trouble, he had no idea where he was but he knew that he was a helpless captive to the boy who stood over him.

“Listen I do not have a lot of time to waste with you, either wake up or I will kill you now and go back for someone else,” the boy was telling him, and from the tone in his voice, he knew that the boy would do exactly what he threatened.

“Who are you? What’s going on?” Riley asked trying to get answers to some basic questions to stall for time; his team had to be looking for him by now.

“Who I am is not important. What I want however, is very important.”

“What do you want?” Riley asked as he tested the bonds, finding them tight and unbreakable.

“At first I just wanted my friends but you changed all that when you set that trap for me, now I am going to ask you a few questions. If you lie, I will know.”

“I didn’t set any trap AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” Riley screamed as a searing pain ripped through his body. “What the hell is going on?”

“I told you I would know if you lie, next time will be stronger; and it will continue to get stronger every time you lie. I have never heard of anyone die of this, but then most people break and tell the truth.”

“What do you want?” he screamed again still feeling the lingering pain.

“Where are my friends?”

“I don’t know,” Riley said expecting to feel more pain and was surprised when it didn’t come.

“Why did you set the trap?” the boy asked cautiously.

“I don’t know what AHHHHH,” Riley replied then was hit with the knifing pain.

“Tell me!” the boy barked his anger rising.

“I was told to capture you. What are you?”

“I am asking the questions, and your time is getting short,” the boy snapped. “If you don’t have my friends why did you put the vampires in the room?”

“We thought those were your friends,” Riley replied confused.

“So you do not know where Solace and Steward are?”

“No, who are they?” Riley was unsure what the boy would do. The boy turned his back and walked a few feet away. Riley wondered what the boy was thinking. “What are you going to do?”

###

 < They do not have Solace, > Arrin puzzled ignoring the question the man just asked. Turning back he looked the man over a plan coming to him. “It’s obvious you don’t know where she is, so I will be kind and leave you. Your friends are on their way here. Just know this one thing before I go. Do not look for me. Do not hunt me or my friends. If I have to come back here, I will not be here to ask simple questions. Next time I tear your world apart.”

“I don’t know what you mean; we only want to eliminate the undead.”

“Really?” Arrin asked sarcastically as he tried to determine if the man was lying. He knew that the spell was faulty: sometimes it allowed for half-truths. Taking a gamble to bring the truth out, he turned on the man while demanding. “Why do you capture them then? There are other forces in this world that deal with the undead. They just kill them, not capture them.”

###

Riley was stunned as he watched the boy walk away into the dark after he had said the last statement. His mind was scrambling for answers. < Another group? Who were they? Who was this boy and who was he seeking. > Through the whole interrogation the boy kept his face in the shadows, almost as if the shadow followed him not allowing Riley to see anything distinguishing.

“HELP!” Riley screamed when he heard a twig break and figured it was his team looking for him.

“Hey boss you alone?” Graham called back from the opposite way the boy had left. “What is the code?”

“Blue,” Riley called back just as his team burst into the clearing with their guns sweeping the area.

“Cut me down! Damn it, he is long gone!” Riley ordered as two men cut the rope. “I don’t know what or who the hell this guy is, but he is dangerous.”

“Do we track him?” one of the men asked looking off into the dark forest.

“Sun should be up in an hour or so. Let’s wait till then.”

###

 

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