We Three

From the Story Arc: Hunting High And Low

Previous Story in the Arc: Enemy Mine by Victoria Victrix (Thursday, January 22, 2009)

Next Story in the Arc: Lovers Meetings by Victoria Victrix (Thursday, January 22, 2009)

(posted Thursday, January 22, 2009)

Hosteen Stormdance didn’t much care for Red Djinni. He didn’t actively dislike the man, but he didn’t trust him either. His background with Jesters’ Fury, his association with that fellow calling himself Rancor…it was all very dubious. Granted, he had been a model hero since joining Alliance of Champions….but he had been very much off the radar for a good long time, and when he came back…he was still off the radar. And why had Vickie walked out on him?

If Alexie’d had his way, Moira would have hit Red Djinni with one of her sleeping spells and they’d have gone on without him. Only the fact that Grey had insisted had won his grudging approval.

But they had barely given the man enough to time gulp down some aspirin, dry, before leaving at the run for the Elven Gate under the Atlas Park bridge. There were no witnesses to what they did there; strangely, the Hellions that usually populated the area were all gone.

Or perhaps not so strangely. Whoever had taken Vickie had not wanted witnesses either.

Moira, who was the Ally of Silverthorn of the three of them, began to look for the seal to unlock the Gate, when Djinni stumbled up to a rock and pressed his hand on it and the Gate phased into being.

Well. He might be of some use after all.

With an increasing sense of urgency that would not permit time for asking irrelevant questions, all four of them passed through the Gate, which vanished behind them. They found themselves, not at a particular destination as Hosteen had expected, but in a mist-wreathed clearing centered by what looked like a gazebo built by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. If Mad King Ludwig had possessed an endless supply of fire-opal, silver, and moonstone, that is.

Djinni blinked. “That’s—not the same as last time.”

“It’s a Transit Port,” Moira said, flatly. “Most Gates can only hold a set number of destinations. This thing is the equivalent of a hundred Gates. I’d heard they were going to upgrade, now that there were two mortal Knight-Guardians in the city and one going between the city and Silverthorn.”

“This might be the answer to the question of why now,” Hosteen observed, as Djinni blanched. “Whoever took her was waiting not only for a moment when her guard was down, but also for a chance to use this.”

Alexie’s head snapped around. “Let’s hear it.”

Hosteen was, among other things, a profiler. “This wasn’t spur-of-the-moment, and Vickie wasn’t taken at random. This was a highly organized individual who, if he is not from Underhill is certainly accustomed to coming and going here. He had to have been watching Vickie for some time, stalking her, waiting for exactly the right moment.” He snapped his gaze to Djinni. But his question was for Grey. “Her state?”

“Drag-ass exhausted, physical and emotional, before she even got to the door. Then they had a big fight, and she walked out. She was thinking of going to CCCP HQ. Her shields were at minimal, and whoever took her hit her fast enough that I didn’t get an alarm from her, or know she was gone until she passed the Gate.”

Hosteen nodded to Alexie. “Even at minimal. Her shields would have been good enough to hold off anything magical, and even exhausted, her reflexes good enough to catch any attacker that came into her range. She might not have held off attack for long, but at such a close proximity, Grey would have gotten a call for help, and he would have passed it to Djinni. So whoever it was struck from a distance as well, and knocked her unconscious immediately. This was long planned and well-executed.”

Alexie said something unprintable. Moira’s lips went white.

“The good thing is that I doubt that anyone else will have come through here yet. This upgrade is too recent. So.” Hosteen cracked his knuckles. “Your turn, Grey. And Moira’s”

The Familiar dashed for the Port on all fours, sniffing every inch of it, tail quivering. Finally he stopped. “Freshest scent is here,” he said, pointing with an elongated paw to a set of gemstones just above his head.

Moira ran to Grey’s side and peered at them. “The first destination is the Bazaar, the next six are Seleighe Sidhe. After that, four Unseleighe holdings, and a long string of neutral zones.”

“It’ll be neutral,” Alexie said. “He’d want any pursuit to waste time fighting through Unseleighe only to find out she wasn’t there.”

Hosteen nodded. “I agree.” He closed his eyes a moment. “He made one mistake. He used a very new Transit Port. Moira, can you read the neutral codes and find any that have been used by Unseleighe?”

She nodded, and bent her head over the gemstones, muttering and making little motions with her fingers. Colors flickered over the gemstones, and what looked to Red like fleeting ghosts of glyphs. Finally Moira lifted her head, wearing a grim smile. “Only one. And it was the last one that was keyed here; it’s very fresh.”

The three of them exchanged glances. They were a solid team that had worked together for decades. They knew each other better than most siblings. Hosteen knew what they were all thinking. They were prepared…to an extent; they’d come loaded for the proverbial bear when Moira’s motherly/magical alert went off and they couldn’t reach Vickie. But they had come prepared for more earthly trouble, not for this. None of them but Moira had been Underhill more than a handful of times, and Moira was only an ally, not, like Vickie, someone schooled by elves, and considered almost one of their own.

But time was not in their favor. Vickie had always been their expert for Underhill and everything that lived there. By the time they went back found another expert, and brought him down here, Vickie might well be dead.

With an almost imperceptible nod, Moira turned back to the Port, and touched the gemstones for the last destination.