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Rendezvous - Prelude
by Faetan

Tannin burst into the bustling inn with a determined...and slightly peevish...stride. The day had not gone well. All she wanted to do now was wash the memory of it away in a thick pint o' lager.

Leanning over the bar, she glared at the innskeep with menace on her brow. "Pint o' the steamiest lager you got...and a box o' cigars to top it off," she stated blandly, steam practically rising from her head...

The innskeep looked startled, but went about his business accordingly.

Sucking on her lower lip she contemplated this day's events while scanning the crowded common room. All sorts milled about, and she spotted a likely seat just as the innskeep shoved her order into her wanting hands.

Picking her way through the mess, she was especially mindful of her hair....the last thing she wanted to happen was to get tangled up with some sweaty patron because of the unruly tresses...

Slamming the pint onto the table, Tannin grumbled incoherantly as she 'copped a squat' beside a similarly gruff-mannered female. Sighing momentarily, Tannin bit off the end of her cigar... Spat it onto the floor... And proceeded to light up.

The woman beside her turned her head, eyeing the long, shining crimson locks of hair that pooled long and low...then turned her eye to the cigar and the pint. "Evening," she grunted.

Tannin looked sidelong at the woman and smiled. Though, through her foul mood it was almost a grimace... "Yup." Tannin responded curtly. She drew long on the cigar and as she let out the bluish smoke...every muscle in her body seemed to relax. "Any good card games going on tonight?"

A pianist was madly pounding on the keys, hammering out "Johnny C. Bad" in the smoky tavern atmosphere. "Not sure...I don't generally play well myself. Haven't got the poker face," she shrugged.

Tannin's smile was more friendly this time around and she leaned on one arm, hand reaching out to grasp her pint lazily. "What's your name, friend?"

"Faetan Jarl," the woman grinned at her, straightening proudly. "Daughter of the great Himo Jarl!" And she waited expectantly for recognition and awe.

Tannin perked up instantly. "A Jarl, then." She waved down the barmaid impatiently and put in an order for a round of drinks on her. "I've heard tales of your father. No self respecting warrior doesn't know that name." She stuck out her hand, grasping the cigar in her teeth. "The name's Tannin. Tannin Lyon-Balsalm. It's an honor." She pushed one of the steins toward Faetan as the barmaid came back with the load.

Faetan grinned broadly, her jet black eyes twinkling as she accepted Tannin's hand and shook it fiercely. "At last, a warrior of repute! I was beginning to think perhaps my father had assumed some sort of one else seems to know a whit about him." She wrapped her fingers around the mug with a happy sigh. "New to these parts, or just passing through?"

Tannin's brow furrowed. "New." She puffed a bit on the sweet-smelling smoke pressed upon her lips before continuing on. "I come from the elven lands." Her eyebrow raised slightly. "Had a bit o' a falling out with my dad about a few things...namely politics and my gruff mannerisms..." She smiled. "And you?"

"The place grew on me," Faetan shrugged. "Elven lands, hm?" She gazed at Tannin's ears for a brief moment. "You don't look elven..."

"That's the wonder of it, eh?" She smiled obtusely...and sipped off her pint. Then, as if satisfied with the draught, she gulped down a second swig. "And what, pray tell, is a member of the illustrious Jarl family doing in such a ramshackle two-bit sideshow like this?" She grinned.

"Keeping the peace," she grinned maliciously. "This town seems to enjoy having crap dumped on it, so I took it on myself..." here she squared her shoulders, " protect it. As is the Jarl destiny."

Tannin nodded approvingly. "That's well and good. No one seems to be taking on that task, it seems." Tannin's amber eyes scanned the common room half-heartedly as she continued on. "Though, for a town full of miscreants, doesn't seem to be too lively. Seems the only alternative to death via boredom is getting smashed, eh?"

"It's in a dry spell at the moment." She gulped down her ale, then wiped the foam from her mouth. "But something is always going on."

Tannin winked and gulped down a swig.

"I'll introduce you to the boys later," Faetan promised, stretching her arms over her head. "They're entertaining enough."

"Hmm." Tannin sounded doubtful. "I'm not one to parade about with menfolk. They tend to rub me the wrong way, it seems." She sighed. "But, if you say so..."

Faetan smiled. "You found a place yet?"

"A place?" Tannin puffed on the cigar and rolled her fingers over the table top. "You mean somewhere to sleep?" Tannin shrugged. "Been sleepin' in a stable outside o' town for the past two nights. Tends to get a bit old picking the straw out o' this mop o' hair! Why? You heard of any offers?" Tannin asked, genuinely interested.

"Mmmm, yes, I would imagine so..." Faetan said, glancing jealously at the wondrous wonderous mane. "You know, I'm looking for a roommate to help pay the rent..."

"Hmm.." Tannin smiled. "Well, I'd be more than happy to fill that position." She laughed. "Anywhere would be better than sleeping with livestock! My mother would roll over in her grave if she knew!"

"HAR! Excellent! It's no castle, least it's secure enough from the wandering rogue and whatnot!" Faetan looked pleased with herself.

"I should imagine so," Tannin began with a grin, puffing furiously on the cigar. "What with two warrior women abiding within it!"

"Warriors...YOU, perhaps, but not this sorry wanna-be," came a derisive snort from behind.

Faetan scowled, but didn't turn. "Meet Hades, the town jerk."

Tannin drew a long draw from the cigar and eyed the stranger dispassionately. Then, raising her head so that their eyes met, she puffed out the smoke right into his face. "I take it that manners are not his forte."

"Nor are they yours," he replied disdainfully, looking at her down his nose. "Speaking of others as though they are not present."

Tannin sniffed. "Well, if that 'other' were important enough to be properly addressed, I might waste my time on propriety. But..." She shrugged and turned her back to the man.

"Hm." He sniffed again, moving off to the bar to speak lowly with the barkeeper about some matter or another.

"That one is always causing trouble," Faetan growled. "Thinks he's King Poop of Turd Mountain, but he's really just Fart the Messenger Boy."

"Well, if he had bothered me with one more word, I would have left his entrails sprawled out all over town." She sniffed and turned to Faetan. "One more word and he'd be a dead man talking." She smiled. "More beer?"

"More beer sounds good," Faetan agreed. "My treat this time." She lifted her hand to signal one of the barmaids to place the order.

Tannin eyed Hades' back, practically burning a hole through it as she chewed on her cigar disapprovingly. "What exactly does that bloke DO?"

"Art critic," Faetan grunted. "Not bad as a as a human being."

"Art critic?" Tannin chortled. "Painter? I bet my artwork is better than his!" She snorted.

"You paint?" Faetan lifted her eyebrows in surprise. "Do you have any of your work with you?"

"I dabble in paiting. Sketching and pastels are more my calling. I think that painting is overrated. And expensive!" She dug through her satchel and withdrew a thick notebook. She handed it to Faetan and smiled. "That's some of it."

Faetan whistled low as she thumbed slowly through the pages, pausing to study each rendition with a pursing of the lips. "These are good. Real good."

"Thank you." Tannin puffed away as she studied Hades' back some more, brow furrowed. "What's he whispering about, I wonder.."

Just then, the door swung open wide, revealing a comely man with light blue hair. He had a slight sneering grin upon his lips, and he seemed to instantly pick out Faetan from the horde within the common room.

"Looks like you've got an admirer..." Tannin mumbled.

Faetan glanced up, and immediately regretted making eye contact. "Oh. Him. Not a worry, as long as we're in a public place he won't do anything stupid."

Tannin's eyebrow raised slightly. "If I know men...they take every opportunity given to be stupid. It's a genetic thing with them."

Faetan hunched over her mug as the barmaid brought it near. "Just ignore him."

The man cirled the common room slowly...a deliberate saunter bee-lining for Faetan's table.

Faetan rubbed a hand over her face with a heavy SIGH. "Don't encourage him, whatever you do..." she muttered to Tannin.

"Like they need encouragement," Tannin mumbled, chewing on the butt of her cigar.

At the bar, Hades had turned in his seat to watch the proceedings with a smug little smile, waiting to be amused.

As if by supposed coincidence, the man sidled up to the table with a 'surprised' grin of pleasure.

"Beat it," Faetan growled, glaring up at him.

Tannin growled as she attempted to burn a hole through Hades with her eyes.

Hades looked at her placidly, seemingly unperturbed, then watched Hiryuu with mild interest flickering in his eyes.

"My, my..." The blue-tressed man stated plainly. "A touch feisty today, I see..." He took a seat across from Faetan and grinned.

"No, I'm a touch IRRITATED, and I want to drink in peace!" she growled.

"Who is this creature?" Tannin inquired blandly. Her eyes flitted to the stranger...who sat there uncouth.

"No one of interest." Faetan slammed down the contents of her mug.

"No one of interest, you say?" His grin deepened. "That can't be so."

She glared at him. "It is. Go away. Find a nice wench and raise fat babies."

Tannin grumbled under her breath and grabbed up her pint, emptying the contents.

Looking up at her friend, Faetan pushed her mug away. "Wanna go check out the place? The atmosphere is becoming more...unpleasant."

Something uncanny flashed in his eyes as he cast Faetan a charming smile. Then, he turned to face the approaching barmaid.

~Aw crap, I hate it when he gets that look in his eye...~ She pretended to ignore him, standing to her feet.

"Yes," Tannin grumbled. "I'm getting that nasty itch for violence." She stood abruptly....

Hades smiled, his eyes moving over Tannin's form for a moment before returning his gaze to the table as a whole.

"Going so soon, my dear?" Hiryuu inquired. "Pity. I had hoped we could discuss this proposition of yours in greater detail."

Tannin spat and rubbed the stub of her cigar upon the table top...just inches in front of Hiryuu.

"It wasn't a proposition!" Faetan snapped, then cursed herself for being so easily baited. "Forget it, I'm going home. Let's go, Tannin."

"Men..." she grumbled.

Hiryuu chuckled lightly, and came to his feet as well.

"That wasn't an invitation either." Faetan glared at him pointedly.

Then, bowing slightly, Hiryuu exited stage left....casting one last devilish grin at Faetan...and began mingling.

Tannin swooped up the previously untouched pint that rested beside the empty one. "For the road..."

"Aye-ha! It's not too far from here...well-lit area," Faetan nodded, slapping a coin on the table before picking up her cloak and draping it over her shoulders.

"What did I tell you about men?" she stated bluntly. "Any opportunity, I'm telling you..." And she hefted her satchel upon her shoulder. "Let's go."

"I'd rather not know just what he wanted from the barmaid," she shuddered, leading the way to the exit.

Tannin cast her eyes at Hades one last time...obviously disappointed that he wasn't six feet under and ghostly pale....and headed for the door. "Best not to think of such things."

Faetan chuckled. "True. It numbs the mind."

Taking a swill of the drought, Tannin chuckled. "So does this."

"Yes, but that leaves a pleasant aftertaste," she pointed out, stepping into the cold autumn air with a faint smile. "Ahhhh," Faetan sighed, inhaling the woodsmoke that lingered in the frost-ridden air.

Tannin sighed deeply. "Nothing like a change in atmosphere to clear the head, eh?" She cast a baleful look back at the inn. "Good riddance!" Glancing about, she added. "Where to now, friend?"

"Home," Faetan pointed. At the furthest end of the street where the town began to be enshrouded in the darkness of the forest rested a comfortable, one-story cottage. It was in need of repair, at least from the outside, but it was suitable for living.

"Ah! It IS better than living with livestock!" she laughed. "Is it just you? Or are there roommates?"

"Just me." As they walked, Faetan pointed out other various houses. "Merl lives there. Lun is across the street, and Zero's next to him."

Tannin nodded. "Good. Can't have too many people milling about." She grinned widely. "Besides, living with men is likened to raising cattle." Tannin sniffed.

Faetan laughed. "Men really aren't so bad...what kind of grudge are you holding against them?"

"I had four brothers," she added."Snotty elvish brats, if you ask me. I suppose humans aren't quite so bad." She laughed.

"Then I'd better not ask." Faetan paused at the door, entering in her security code. "Lunaris set that up for me," she explained with a wink as a series of beeps indicated they could enter.

Tannin's eyes boggled. "Witchcraft?"

"Technology. I know, it's foreign to me too." Stepping inside, she put her cloak on the hook and kept the door open for Tannin to step through.

Peering at the security system, Tannin's hand instantly strayed to her if she wanted to hack at the thing furiously. Cautiously, keeping her eye on the thing, she backed into the house.

Faetan shut the door after her, locking it securely before turning to light a fire in the hearth. "Feel free to look's not much at the moment."

Tannin smiled weakly...and peered about. "Technology..." the mumbled words slid off her lips as she shuffled about the house. "Hey! This place isn't so bad," she intoned. "Better than my last abode!"

"Yeah? What was it like?" Faetan asked, trying to fan the small flames...the fire went out, she cursed, and started striking her flint and steel again.

Coming round about back to the fireplace, Tannin settled herself into a seat and dug out another cigar. "Holes in the roof. Nasty smell of vinegar. And infested with mice." She shrugged. "Hey, it was better than staying at home. Sooo..." Her tone took on a slightly strained edge. "What was up with those guys back at the inn?"

Faetan sealed her mouth...not bothering to say that the house had been in a similar state only a month ago before she'd buddied up with the others. "Hades is a dork. Hiryuu do I put it..."

She chewed off the stub of the cigar and lit it. "A touch presupmtuous? I take it they're not friends of yours, then," Tannin added.

"Not really. Hiryuu thinks I'm madly in love with him or some other such rot," she sniffed, carefully feeding the flames until a fire began crackling. She held out her hands to warm them. "I'm surprised Jiharn wasn't with him. Must've been past his bedtime."

Tannin sniffed. "Unhealthy fascination, for him...I'd say."

"I was hoping he'd take to a barmaid," Faetan smiled wickedly.

She puffed casually before continuing on. "I wonder what that innskeep and the Dork, as you put it, were whispering about..."

"Whatever it was, I'm sure I don't want to know." She yawned, and blinked. "But I'm sure we'll find out in the morning."

"Personally, I hope we never find out," Tannin growled. "If I have to suffer that fool again, I'll snap his weasely neck in two!"

"Who, which?" she blinked again, stiffening as she caught herself from nodding off to sleep.

Tannin looked over to Faetan and smiled. "Well, I see you've had a full day." She puffed once more before returning her eyes to the flames. "Perhaps we should continue this discourse tomarrow. If you'll show me to my room.."

"Not a problem." Faetan got up to her feet, stretched, and led the way into a sparsely- decorated bedroom. All it contained was a mattress on a box-board (no headrest) and a water basin. "We'll get it decorated later," she promised.

"A warrior such as myself has little need for decoration," Tannin grinned. "A proper bed, yes..." She dropped her satchel to the floor. "Aside from that..not much else. Good night, Faetan Jarl."

"Night." Faetan hauled her sorry, tired carcass off to her own bed, dropping into it heavily. She was asleep before she could even bother with blankets.

Tannin stretched out on the bed and looked about. All in all, this was a far cry from the palace... But, she preferred it entirely. Soon, she too drifted into slumber.

* * * * *

Jiharn's toes wobbled as he slowly lowered himself down from the window. "Okay, they're asleep boss!"

Hiryuu's fingers tapped together lightly as he peered at the darkened house. "Wonderful." He smiled as he waved at the man to proceed.

Jiharn cackled...and cackled and cackled and cackled. "To protect the world from devastation!"

Hiryuu cast a look to his cohort.

Looking at Hiryuu expectantly, he gestured with his hand as though cueing for a line. "You know...we have to have a motto."

*Tap, tap tap* His fingers continued with their ceasless tapping. "Get on with it!"

"Oh yes, sorry." He turned around...paused...and glanced back at Hiryuu. "Er...what were we gonna use again?"

He sighed deeply, and rummaged through a bag. With an arching motion, he revealed a small metallic card. It glistened in the moonlight and Hiryuu chuckled lightly...

Jiharn reached for it. "Ooooo...lemmee see."

A sharp smacking sound could be heard as Hiryuu batted the man's hands away. He threw him a reproachful glance before continuing on. "This should be sufficient to disarm the security..."

"But I can't SEE what it is!" Jiharn protested, his lip quivering. "Is it a credit card? Are you gonna hire some muscle?"

Eyes rolling in exasperation, Hiryuu tucked the shiny card into his pocket. "No, you dolt!" He snapped. "That tiny golden gem will send Mrs. Jarl's home security device reeling into chaos!" His eyes gleamed. "KWOH-hahahaha! I love it when I'm BRILLIANT!" He smiled darkly and motioned for Jiharn to proceed.

Puzzled, Jiharn looked at him blankly. "Did you say Mrs. Jarl, boss?"

"Eh!" Hiryuu raised an eyebrow, and hurried to the door. "Never you mind."

Jiharn's eyes sparkled with hero worship. "I didn't know we were breaking into her mom's house! How potently clever!"

If it were physically possible for a body to actually turn could definitely say that Hiryuu had succeded in that endeavor. He turned about face, arm shooting out sharply...and thumped the simple man upon the back of the head.

Tears filled Jiharn's large, watery eyes. " hit me! Why're you so MEAN to me?!"

Pausing a moment, Hiryuu's lip actually quivered slightly. Could it be he was actually sympathizing with Jiharn? Shaking his head, Hiryuu waved the man to his side. "Come now. We've a task to be about!"

"But you HIT me!" Jiharn sobbed loudly. "I can't break in with a big goose egg on the back of my head! What if there are security cameras? NOOOOOOOOOO!"

"It was just a tap..." Hiryuu felt that annoying quiver coming upon him again. And, as if by second thought, he withdrew the shiny card. "I'll even let you hold the card.."

"Boss, you're the best!" he squealed, throwing his arms around Hiryuu and squeezing tightly.

Hiryuu sighed and headed for the door.

Jiharn was dragged along with him.

* * * * *

Eyes snapping open, Tannin looked about. What the heck was going on....

A large rattle of snores came from Faetan's room as she slept obliviously.

Coming to her feet, she shuffled over to the front door and cracked it open...

Outside the house, she could see Hiryuu being tightly embraced by a squealing and happy sidekick.

"What the HELL?!" Tannin rubbed her eyes and peered outside once more.

They were still there, and there was something shining in the moonlight held in Hiryuu's hands as he staggered forward, carrying his sidekick's weight with him.

Adjusting her belt and grabbing her sword, she headed for Faetan's room...

Flopped onto her stomach with one leg hanging off of the edge of the bed, Faetan snored blissfully away.

Tannin came alongside the door and paused with her fist in the air. ~Heck!~ she thought... ~I can handle those buffoons!~

Turning about face, Tannin stormed down the stairs...waiting to hear the alarm click off.

* * * * *

The door slowly swung open with a faint creak, casting two muted shadows across the floor.

Hiryuu's hand pushed at Jiharn forceably...trying to pry the man off of him. "Now that we're in..." He began, a slight cackle to his voice...

"We'll kidnap HER MOM!" Jiharn finished gleefully.

Hiryuu sighed. He had no comment for that. Best to just leave it alone. "Keep your voice down. We don't want to wake the woman." He peered about as he moved into the darkness slowly.

"No, old people need beauty sleep," he agreed, nodding sagely.

"If you know what's good for you, dearies..." Tannin intoned, her voice tipped with deadliness. "You'll turn around and leave 'fore I do you the kind service of removing your uncomly heads."

Hiryuu stopped short. He hadn't expected this.

Jiharn squeaked, terrified. "Oh no boss! Her mom is SCARY!"

Stepping forward, Tannin came into the light. Her crimson hair rustled about as if caught in a mild wind...her amber eyes glowing with a violent fire. She looked down at the men with cool disdain. "I believe you are trespassing..."

"Oh no, no no no," Jiharn shook his head quickly. "We just wanted to...uh...boss?"

Hiryuu locked eyes with the woman, his hand reaching out and clasping Jiharn's arm. "I believe this is our cue, Jiharn."

Jiharn blinked. "Right boss." He started to tap dance.

Hiryuu's head snapped around and he gawked at his cohort. "WHAT are you DOING?!?" He began shoving the man out the door. "That was our cue to LEAVE, fool!" He pushed and pushed...hoping to avoid being attacked by the monstrous woman. "Cue to LEAVE!"

"Oh, I thought it was for the--ACK!" he tripped over the porch steps, sprawling onto his face.

Tannin shook her head and watched with mild amusement.

Hand still gripping Jiharn's arm, Hiryuu didn't pause to pick the man up. Instead, he proceeded to haul the man along with him as he fled the house POSTE HASTE.

"You know...either Faetan is real young or her mom is some sort of demon, 'cause they look about the same age..." Jiharn pondered aloud.

"I don't think that was her mother, you dolt!" Hiryuu snapped. "That woman was with her earlier this evening at the inn." Hiryuu's brow furrowed. "This complicates matters considerably."

Tannin smiled. That was mildly entertaining. Yet..not entertaining enough. Darting through the doorway, she headed after the retreating men at top speed.

Jiharn jogged along. "How so, boss? I mean, she's just a fema--OH MY SWEET CHICKENS!!!!" he screamed as he turned and saw Tannin bearing down at them. "WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!"

Hiryuu reeled about. Only to see the 6'2" woman giving pursuit....a streak of crimson hair. "Good LORD!" He twisted about...shoving Jiharn before him. "Move. Move! Movemovemove!!"

"I like to move it!" Jiharn shrieked, tears of fear streaming from his eyes as he fled.

"What?" Tannin called after them. "No..'that's not the last of us' comments, gentlemen?"

Hiryuu was just seconds behind. "Doesn't she know when to QUIT?!"

"I'm skeered sarge!" Jiharn clung to Hiryuu.

Shaking his arm furiously, but unable to free his limb...Hiryuu in turn clung to Jiharn. "Oh sweet merciful lord above...!" He dug in his feet and proceeded to shove the henchman along. "Let go of me!"

"Protect me!"

"Aaaah!" Hiryuu cried out in frustration, getting swept up in Jiharn's horror. "I'm too wonderful to die!" His feet scrambled against the dirt road beneath them.

All the while, Tannin approached.

"Boss...I thought I should let you know...I LOVE YOU!!!" Jiharn bawled.

Hiryuu's lip quivered and he hugged the idiot man to him. Hefting him off his feet, he proceeded to hike up his heels and run!

Just then, there was a stirring in the evil ominous stirring that whispered of arrogance and boasts.

And as the fleeing men disappeared around a corner, Tannin felt the hairs on her arm stand on end. Slowing her pursuit, she tightened her grip on her sword and looked about.

A cloak of darkness suddenly fell on top of her like a net, shortly before two thick arms wrapped tightly around her and tackled her to the ground.

Hands shooting out beneath the cloak, Tannin yelled out. "What the HELL!?!" she struggled against the grasping arms...trying to break free.

"Sleeeeeeeeeep..." purred a familiar arrogant voice as a gas capsule popped within the cloak, filling it with knock-out gas.

Choking on the gas, Tannin tried to fight it. Yet, ultimately, she failed, and succumbed to the hazy sleepiness.

"Only *I* will be the greatest artist in all the hm hm hm hm hm!" laughed an all-too-familiar arrogant voice...

* * * * *

Faetan awoke with a start. "DONUTS!" she exclaimed, sitting boltright up in bed. She paused, glancing around. No donuts. "Dangit." She felt a draft, shivered, and plodded out of bed to see where it was coming from.

The door was wide open, and she frowned, moving to shut it again. Checking on Tannin, she was somewhat surprised to see that the woman was gone. Rushing back to the door, she opened it again and peered outside. No sign of her.

"Weird..." she muttered to herself.

She started to close the door, then noticed something...shiny. Stooping down, she picked up a small, silvery card and turned it over. She scratched her head, not knowing what the heck it was.

* * * * *

Never underestimate the speed of two frightened men chased by a scary Scottish-like woman. Hiryuu and Jiharn came tearing across town in a blur of motion, howling for sanctuary.

Hiryuu's feet slowly came to a jagged halt. He couldn't run any longer. If the infernal woman was so put upon destroying him, then so be it! He just couldn't move another inch.

Jiharn collapsed against Hiryuu with a whimper. "Can't...go on..."

"This was not how I would have chosen my demise, my simple companion..." Hiryuu wheezed.

"Me either...boss...death by Fae's mom..." Jiharn shuddered.

Looking about, he steeled himself for the woman's appearence. He raised his head proudly...waiting. Watching the street like a hawk... Watching for sign of her approach.

The only sound was that of crickets and one panting Jiharn that lay curled at his boss's feet.

His body began to relax as he slowly realised that Tannin no longer pursued them. There would be no grizzly death. He would continue on to reach even greater levels of evilness. His grand master plans had not been foiled by one rather moody and demonic female.

"Are we dead, boss?" Jiharn asked in a quavering voice, glancing around. "'Cause we're right back where we started."

The sounds of his laughter surprised even him.

Jiharn flinched, visibly jumping.

"No, my dear Jiharn!" He laughed and laughed. "We have prevailed!" He smiled wickedly. "Our plans have not been compromised!"

"Yay!" Jiharn sprang back to his feet, completely re-energized. "Now we can eat breakfast!"

"I imagine that that woman met with an accident." He smiled merrily. "Else we WOULD be dead right now." He nearly giggled in glee. "We must re-group and continue on as if that woman had not been in the house. Mrs. Jarl will finally be mine!" He was revitalized once more. "She will no longer be able to deny her true feelings for me any longer." He came to his feet. "Once she is within my grasp, she will realize! Oh yes!"

Again with the Mrs. Jarl... Jiharn was severely confused. "You like the mom AND Faetan? Whoa, boss..."

Hiryuu, wrapped up in his glee, did not notice the comment. He stood within the street...hands on hips...cackling into the wind. "Come, Jiharn. Let us feast! We have a long night ahead of us!"

His sidekick stood uncertainly only for a moment. "I want DUBL FUJJ CHOKLIT CAAAAIIIIIKKKKK!"

Patting his cohort on the shoulder lightly, Hiryuu smiled. Everything would work out according to the plan. "Yes, yes. Whatever you wish."

"A duck..."

"Yes, yes."

"Because ducks are cute," he added, trailing along after Hiryuu.

"What you doing?" Standing just down the street stood a medium-sized man in a bright yellow jacket. A wild mop of silver hair that flowed down his back marked the sure signs of did the two-meter plasma cannon mounted on his shoulder.

Hiryuu's eyes boggled. "Not again..." He mumbled, preparing to turn tail and run.

Lunaris frowned, seeing the bulging eyes on the two men. "You not much up to no good," he stated suspiciously.

Jiharn quivered. "No sir...I mean yes sir...whatever! We were out your new security system!"

"Well, ah...You see..." Hiryuu began. He didn't want to die. He'd been through this already. He just couldn't handle another bout. "What he means, is..."

"Go home. Or elses you can targets practice!" he added in a suddenly cheerful tone.

Hiryuu didn't need any further prompting. He turned tail and sprinted away...dragging Jiharn with him.

"But boss! Breakfast! DUCKS!"

"LAAATER!" Hiryuu hissed. "We can't eat if we're DEAD!"

Jiharn whimpered again. This wasn't his best day.

Hiryuu cursed as they headed off for safety. Later...during the night...they'd return. Oh, yes! Vengance shall be had! And Faetan would soon be his!

Chapter 1

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