Anne’s hand darted to the butt of her Glock as she stared up into the smiling face of Arem. Anne couldn’t understand how the dark elf was here. She was sure that when she unraveled the spell Arem cast to drag her back to Avalon had killed him. Of course, Erik thought he had killed Arem before, and he showed back up.

“Please relax, Detective,” Arem said, with a soothing tone in his melodious voice, “I am not here to try and take you back across the gate. Unless, of course, you want to return with me?”

“Not a chance in hell,” Anne growled.

“I thought not, but it never hurts to ask,” Arem said, shrugging his shoulders, “By the way, it’s your turn to order.” Anne studied his face for a long moment before turning around to place her order with the annoyed counterperson. Of course, she didn’t see Arem as a twisted dark elf bent on abducting Anne back to the Dark Towers. Anne hit the panic button on her phone as she paid for her food. She grabbed the bag and walked outside. If something was going down, it would be better for Anne to have a bit more room to work.

“Well, since you’ve summoned Jaegar and his team, we’ll have to make this quick. Meliandre sent me here to warn you about the outsiders working in your city. I think you’ve already come across their handiwork. Be careful dealing with them.” Arem actually looked put out. Anne focused on the wild magic around her. Maybe she could put Arem down on her own.

“I see you’ve become much stronger since the last time we talked,” Arem said, approvingly. “Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be faster if you’re going to try and take me down. Especially with magic.” In an instant, there were bands of magic surrounding Anne. The bindings were more intricate than anything she could do, but Anne could see their deadly purpose. If she even grazed one of the bands, the magic would dump into her and burn her from the inside out.

“I thought your boss wanted me alive,” Anne observed.

“She does, but honestly, if you can’t figure your way out of that little trap, you would be of no use to her,” Arem said. “Besides, you need to learn this little trick if you’re going to deal with the outsiders. They don’t interact with this world properly.”

“Who are these outsiders?” Anne asked.

“Entities that live beyond our universe,” Arem explained. He seemed pleased that Anne wasn’t trying to fight him. “They come from a universe that works very different from ours.”

“So why are they here?” Anne asked. Arem shrugged.

“We don’t know,” Arem answered, “There’s something in our universe that they want. More to the point, something on this world that they want. The outsiders invaded our world ten thousand years ago. They nearly destroyed every sentient being on the planet before they were pushed back out. That’s about all we know.”

“How is that all you know?” Anne asked, “There’s got to be more than that.”

“All of the writings from that are impossible to make sense from. It was like the entire planet when insane. Even the most coherent of the writings read like they were the ramblings of a madman,” Arem said. He looked up and frowned. “We will have to discuss this later.” He walked back into the cafe. Anne found out the reason for his abrupt departure a moment later. Anne felt Samantha connect her to their telepathic link. Anne could feel Samantha, Veronica, and Kurt, and assumed that Erik was with them as well.

Was that Arem? Samantha asked over the telepathic link.

Yeah, and he put in some kind of magic trap. Veronica, can you give me a hand? Anne asked as she focused on the bands of magic.

Damn, but that elf can do good work, Veronica said, examining the bands of magic, I can’t see anything from the outside. Samantha, can you help me see what she’s seeing from her side? Anne felt the odd sensation of Samantha probing further into her mind. It was like having cold water poured into her mind and out through her eyes.

“Kurt, stay with them,” Erik said as he joined them. “I’m going after Arem.”

“Erik,” Samantha said, the caution clear in her tone.

“No, if he’s back, I’m going to deal with him sooner than later,” Erik said. He pushed his way into the cafe.


Erik ignored the angry glares from the other cafe patrons as he shouldered his way in. He suspected Arem had survived being sucked back to the Dark Towers. Part of him was glad, because Erik wanted to be the one to finally put paid to that elf’s life. Erik scanned the cafe, but couldn’t find the elf among the crowd. Well, Erik had more tools in his toolbox.

Erik reached out with his senses and found Arem’s psi-scent. Erik pushed through the crowd to a side entrance. He followed Arem’s psi-trail down the street and around a corner. It seemed to stop cold in front of a three-story brick office building. Erik looked around the crowded street. No, Arem wouldn’t have gated in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day. Erik looked up. Arem stood on the roof of the building, that infuriating smile on his face. Erik walked back to the alley behind the office building.

A quick thrust of power shot him up to the roof. Erik rolled as his feet his the concrete. He came up with his suppressed pistol in his hands. Arem hadn’t moved. Erik fired two quick shots. As expected, the bullets were knocked aside by a shimmering shield. Erik stood and holstered his pistol. There were ways of dealing with a shield.

“As much as I would love to continue our running fight, Jaegar, Meliandre specifically told me not to on this trip,” Arem said. Erik read Arem’s emotions. The elf was telling the truth.

“Why?” Erik asked.

“The things Anne and you are dealing with are dangerous to everyone, including Meliandre and her kin,” Arem answered. “Far better for you to defeat them here, then let them come across the gate.” Erik felt the well-hidden streak of fear in Arem.

“What are we dealing with, Arem?” Erik asked.

“The outsiders,” Arem answered. Erik so wanted to call Arem a liar to his face, but Arem wasn’t lying.

“How does Meliandre know the outsiders are here?” Erik asked. “Maybe she’s mistaken.”

“She wouldn’t have known if they hadn’t come to this city,” Arem said, “Their activities here gave her enough to figure out their presence on this world. So, she sent me back here to protect Anne.”

“Why does Meliandre think the outsiders are after Anne?” Erik asked, “They could be after something else entirely.”

“Honestly, Jaegar, does that thought make you feel any better?” Arem shot back.

“No,” Erik answered flatly. “Do your cousins know?”

“Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t give a damn,” Arem said, “You can tell them if you want. It’s not like they are going to do anything without spending a month trying to read the stars. We don’t have that kind of time.” Erik chuckled at the dig.

“So, we put aside our fight to deal with the outsiders?” Erik asked, “Is that why you let me catch up with you?”

“A very limited truce,” Arem said, “We will share information on the outsiders’ activities here and make sure that they do not get their hands on Anne.”

“You stop trying to steal her across the gate until the outsiders’ activities are stopped in the city,” Erik said. Arem frowned.

“I won’t stop asking her if she wants to come with me, but I won’t resort to manipulating her,” Arem said.

“Hell, no, Arem,” Erik replied. “I’m willing to work with the Dark Towers, but I’m not about to violate my primary mission. You even think about asking her, and one of my team will end you.” Arem looked like he was pondering Erik’s words. It might have worked better if Erik couldn’t read his emotions.

“Fine. Bring all of your information and we’ll meet in Conrad Park at midnight,” Arem said. Then, he gated away. Erik waited a minute to make sure it wasn’t a trick of glamour so Arem could ambush him. Satisfied that the elf was gone, Erik spent the next ten minutes stomping around the roof cursing.