Tannim made his way to the edge of his bed in slow, painful increments. He loved
The Bed most of the time, but not today. Today it was nothing but another
obstacle to be overcome.
Once he'd reached the edge, he levered himself to his feet and made his awkward
way to the bathroom. He wanted to at least brush his teeth before Shar came back
from meeting her mother for tea.
The young mage washed up as best he could, but the pain in his chest prevented all
but the most cursory attention to his battered body. Tannim winced when he looked
down at his new scar, another wonderful addition to his collection. "I'm starting
to look like Frankenstein." He muttered to himself.
Tannim staggered out of the bathroom, even that short trip sapping the strength
from his slowly healing body. Leaning against the wall, he closed his eyes to
rest a moment before resuming his trek to his bed.
Tannim's eyes opened with a snap and he staggered at the sudden appearance of Fox in
the middle of the room. "Fox? What the Hell?"
"Shar! She's in trouble!" The four-tail blurted out.
Tannim grabbed his somewhat annoying friend and shook him, "What happened to Shar?"
Tannim's eyes rolled back in his head and he sagged to the floor, his grip on Fox the
only thing that kept him from falling on his face.
"Ah, shit." The kitsune muttered before he disappeared.
Keighvin slammed his head into the frame of the car he was under when the mage alarms
suddenly went off. Cursing loudly he slid out from under the car and glared at
the person whose arrival set of the alarms. "Fox...what are you doing here?" The
kitsune's agitation finally intruded on the Elf Lord's irritation and his already
milky skin turned a sickly white. "Did something happen to Tannim?"
Fox nodded miserably. "Shar...I went to tell Tannim and he passed out. I need help."
"Conal! Tannim needs us!"
Conal turned over the engine on the newly completed Victor, "Don't just stand
there, Keighvin. Get in the bloody car."
Lady SharMarali Halanyn stood with her head held high, refusing to bow before these
creatures. "I do not answer to the Unseleighe Court, why have you brought me here?"
The Lord of Air and Darkness smirked at the kitsune, "You made a bargain with Madoc
Skean, you gave your word and then betrayed him. His daughter, Varela Skean has
asked for vengeance, as is her right. We judge you and find you lacking, but as
you say, you are not bound by our laws. It will be sufficient revenge knowing that
all of Underhill will know of your lack of honor. I'm sure the Honorable Lady
Ako will recover from the disgrace in time. Tell me, what do the kitsune do to the
Shar stiffened in shock, a kitsune's honor was everything, her mother would rather
die than be disgraced. Steeling her expression she said, "What do you want of me?"
Varela Skean grinned at her, "You agree to reside in the prison of my choice for the
period of one year and all debts will be forgotten."
"Very well, I agree. Am I permitted to say goodbye to my loved ones?" Shar asked
Varela nodded, "Oh, I insist."
Keighvin slammed into Tannim's bedroom and found the young mage crumpled on the
floor. He gently rolled Tannim onto his back, relieved to see that he was breathing,
albeit shallowly. "Conal, help me get him back in bed."
Tannim regained consciousness just as Keighvin was checking the sealed wound on
his chest. "Keighvin? What happened?" The return of him memories was clear on
Tannim's face. He tried to sit up, "Fox! Shar! What happened to Shar!"
Keighvin gently pushed Tannim back down, "Calm yourself, Tannim. You'll do her no
good if you hurt yourself again." Lord Silverhair glared at the young kitsune,
"Tell us. And make it quick."
Fox paled under Keighvin's gaze and tucked all four of his tails tight against his
back. Conal patted him on the back, "Don't worry about himself. His bark is worse
than his bite. He's just a little over-protective where our young Tannim is
Keighvin turned his icy glare on Conal, but it didn't faze the other man. "Hush
now, Keighvin, we all know you dote on the boy. If you keep throwing those death
glares at Fox here, we'll never find out what happened."
Tannim tugged on Keighvin's sleeve, "Kev? Please?"
Keighvin shook back his long silver-white hair and sighed. "My apologies, Fox. I
dinna mean to scare you. Please, tell us what happened to Lady Shar."
Fox bristled for a moment but then sagged under Tannim's pleading gaze. "Shar
got snagged by Varela Skean, Madoc's daughter. She took Shar to the Unseleighe
High Court, nobody's seen Shar since."
"We have to save her." Tannim said as he tried to get out of bed.
Keighvin pushed him back down, "Hold on a moment, Tannim. Let us do some looking
first. We can't just go rushing into the Unseleighe High Court, we'd accomplish
nothing except to get ourselves killed. If we do this, we do it smart. Fox?
What does Lady Ako have to say about this?"
Fox looked miserable, "I can't get to her, she was called to stand before her
clan, and nobody's talking."
"Fox, can you get to Chinthliss? I'm not up to doing a summoning right now."
"I don't know, Tannim, I'm not really welcome in the Dragon lands without an escort."
"I'll take him, Tannim." Keighvin said suddenly. "I'm not exactly the Dragons
favorite person, but they won't deny me access. We'll take the gate from Fairgrove,
that'll make it harder for the Unseleighe to trace."
A faint shimmer filled the air and a snide voice filled the air. "You are of no
concern to us, Silverhair." A strange Unseleighe woman stepped out of the gate
with Shar in tow.
Tannim struggled out of bed and reached for his girlfriend, cursing when he saw
the chains binding her hands. "Shar, are you okay?"
"I am fine, Tannim. I am being given this opportunity to say goodbye. For now.
I voluntarily agreed to spend a year in the prison of Varela Skean's choice in
payment for my breaking my word to her father." Shar shook her head when she
saw the expression on Tannim's face, "This is my choice, Tannim. I will not
dishonor my mother and my clan by denying her claim. I won't ask you to wait for
me, that wouldn't be fair to you."
Tannim gave her a sickly smile, "A year isn't so long, it'll probably take me that
long to heal."
Shar raised her bound hands and gently brushed them down Tannim's cheek, then
she and Varela Skean stepped back into the gate and disappeared.
Tannim sank back onto The Bed and buried his face in his hands, Keighvin awkwardly
patted his shoulder, trying to comfort him.
Conal looked everywhere but at the miserable young man sitting huddled on The Bed.
"Hey? Where'd Fox go?"
Fox huddled behind a huge stone pillar on the far side of the room, all four tails
dragging limply in exhaustion. Varela Skean had taken Shar on a walking tour of
what must have been every single Unseleighe realm, Underhill and mundane realm
alike. Keeping up with the two women while still keeping himself out of sight
was taking every bit of power and concentration he had. If they didn't stop soon...Fox
stumbled through the gate, hoping that this one would be the last. 'I really
need to learn to be careful what I wish for.' The kitsune thought to himself when
he realized just where Varela Skean heading. He'd been here before, and it was
definitely not a place he'd ever wanted to visit again.
Fox slipped back through the gate and took every shortcut he knew to get back
to Tannim, they were going to need help, even the Seleighe Lords didn't stand a
chance against the Hellmouth.
Keighvin was still coming up with various means of torture to inflict on the troublesome
kitsune when the object of his ranting suddenly appeared. Keighvin started to
berate the four-tail, but stopped when he realized that Fox had reached the very
end of his endurance.
Keighvin managed to get his hands under Fox's arms just before he collapsed. Panting
for air, he stared up at his audience, his eyes wide with remembered horror. "The
Hellmouth, she took Shar to the Hellmouth."
Tannim looked at the two elves, they obviously knew what Fox was talking about. "Okay...
what's the Hellmouth?" He asked.
"A very bad place." Chinthliss said as he stepped out of the gate. "I heard about
Shar, it's all over Underhill, and now I can see what that little Unseleighe bitch
is up to." The Dragon looked at his mortal son, "The Hellmouth is just what it
sounds like, the mouth of Hell. No one who goes there ever comes back intact. They
either go insane or die there."
"Not all. I made it out before, but I had help." Fox said quietly.
Chinthliss stared down at the little kitsune, wonder filling his eyes, "There were
rumors, but I never believed them. That was you?"
Fox pulled away from Keighvin and shrugged nonchalantly, "Depends on what you heard,
like I said, I had help." Fox looked up at Tannim, a worried expression on his
face, "If we're going to get Shar out of there, we have to do it and do it fast,
before she becomes corrupted. If that happens...it'd be better to kill her.
"Kill her? What the Hell are you talking about, Fox? Chinthliss? Can you explain
this to me?" Tannim asked in a panicked voice.
Tannim held up his hands, calling a halt to arguments raging amongst his friends.
Once it had grown quiet Tannim finally spoke, "Okay, let me see if I've got this
straight. The Hellmouth is a portal linking the mundane world to the dimensions
of Hell. But the Hellmouth itself is its own realm and composed of pure energy that
reflects back whatever is fed into it. Madoc's daughter, Varela, is going to
imprison Shar inside the Hellmouth as punishment for Shar breaking her word to
Madoc. Am I right so far?" Everyone nodded and Tannim continued. "Because
Shar agreed to Varela's demands, Varela is in control unless someone stronger than
her can take that control away from her."
Chinthliss nodded, "That is correct."
"So what's the big deal?" Tannim asked, "We go there, take control away from Varela
and free Shar. You can't tell me that Varela is stronger than all of us put together."
Tannim said matter of factly.
Chinthliss shook his head, "It's not that easy, Tannim. We have limits, Varela
doesn't. And because of its proximity to Hell, the Hellmouth reacts stronger to
negative emotions. And is also the fact that Shar agreed to this. Kitsune's take
matters of honor very seriously, she may not be willing to leave."
Tannim gaped at his mentor, "You're telling me that she'd stay there and die because
Fox gave him a sad smile, "That's exactly what he's saying. If she leaves before
retribution has been fulfilled she'll disgrace her entire clan. The only way
she could save face would be to commit ritual suicide. If she didn't, Lady Ako
would be obligated to her kill Shar herself."
Tannim saw the truth of Fox's words on his friend's faces, "That's the dumbest
thing I've ever heard! Honor doesn't mean a whole Hell of a lot when you're dead!"
Keighvin had noticed the increased tremors wracking his young friends body, and
decided it was time to call a halt to this discussion for now. "Tannim, you need
to rest. You won't be able to do Shar any good if you have a relapse. I'll go
back to Fairgrove and see what I can find out about...what did you say the name
of the town was again, Fox?"
"Sunnydale." Fox said, quietly.
"Ah, yes. Sunnydale. Odd to have a joyful name for such a horrid place, but
that's beside the point. I will find out all I can about Sunnydale, I believe
there is a small grove not far from there. Conal, if you would?"
Conal knew his lord well enough to know what he was asking without him actually
having to put it in words. "Of course, Keighvin. I'll keep an eye on the lad.
Here, the keys to the Victor. And mind you don't be putting any scratches on her
Keighvin took the keys with a scowl on his handsome face. "That's not really
Conal just grinned, "I thought it was."
Lord Keighvin Silverhair looked over the information he'd gathered about Sunnydale.
The small town had more than its own fair share of troubles. Mysterious deaths,
unexplained disappearances, and a Slayer. Wonderful. Bloody bitches. Always
killing first and asking questions later. He'd had his own run in with one
of the Chosen Ones, many, many years ago, back in Ireland. He'd tried to reason
with her, but reasoning with a Slayer just didn't seem to work. After a long
drawn out battle, he'd finally been forced to kill her. Her Watcher had done just
that, watched. Once the girl was lying dead on the ground, the man had finished
writing in his book, closed it and started to walk away.
Keighvin could still remember the rage that had come over him that day. When asked why,
the bastard had shrugged and said that if she couldn't defend herself, then she
deserved to die. No matter, another would be called.
looked at the young girl he'd been forced to kill and then at the man that had
ordered her to fight in the first place. The surprise on the Watcher's face as
Keighvin had gutted him had gone a long way to cooling the Seleighe's rage. He'd
buried the girl and left her Watcher for the crows, the Watcher's journal, he
kept for himself as a reminder of a girl who died too young, and for no good reason.
And now, they would most likely have to deal with another Slayer, hopefully this
one had a little more sense. If not...
Chinthliss held onto his frustration and anger by the skin of his teeth. His human
teeth, although, the urge to shift into his dragon form was intense. Maybe if I
bite his ass, he'll be willing to listen to reason. "Tannim, you aren't well
"Give it up, I'm going." The young mage said resolutely. "Shar would come after
me, in fact, Shar has come after me." Tannim through another pair of jeans into
his bag and zipped it. Turning to look at his mentor, his adopted father, he raised
on brow in question, "Are you going to help me or not?"
Chinthliss' eye's glowed red for a second, but Tannim didn't back down. "Of course
I'm going with you. Don't be ridiculous. But you, you aren't physically ready for
this. Tannim, that claw, it...it tore out a piece of your left lung. It pierced
your heart. You died! More than once! It was only through sheer luck, and the
fact that Lady Ako is such a strong healer, that you are still alive at all. You
aren't ready for this, your heart is still weak, too much exertion could kill you.
All I'm asking is that you allow Keighvin and I to handle the physical part. As
well as the magical."
Chinthliss put his hand over Tannim's mouth before he could say anything. "You know
that when you are tired, your control leaves much to be desired."
Tannim glared at him, but couldn't argue with the truth. "All right, all right,
I'll behave. But not even try to leave me behind, because I'll follow you."
Keighvin arrived in time to hear Tannim's announcement. "We may have another problem."
Tannim groaned and rolled his eyes, "What is it now?"
"Sunnydale is the home of the Slayer, one Miss Buffy Ann Summers. And before you
start asking questions, Tannim, the Slayer is a human that is stronger, faster and
infinitely meaner than the average human. They hunt and kill non-humans. Any
non-human, but this Slayer seems different than the others. For one thing, she's
survived a lot longer, and she no longer answers to the Watcher's Council. We
may be able to convince her to help us."
"Having her on our side would be a great boon." Chinthliss said thoughtfully. "Fox,
will you be able to guide us in?"
Fox let out a slightly hysterical laugh, "Getting in isn't the problem. Getting