A/N: We're deeply sorry this has taken so long to post. Yes, we know it's been over four months with nothing. Again, we're sorry. However, please don't expect another update any time soon. We haven't forgotten, we haven't given up, but we don't have time to write the way we used to. In the mean time, please enjoy.

The Nightrunners

A/N 2: For some reason the breaks to indicate scene shifts are not showing up. Sorry about this. We're trying to fix it, but we haven't had much luck so far.

Answers, the Great Beyond and Other Lies

Soundtrack: Saint Simon ( The Shines)

After all these implements and text designed by intellects
So vexed to find evidently there's just so much that hides
And though the saints of us divine in ancient feeding lines
Their sentiment is just as hard to pluck from the vine

I'm trying hard not to pretend
Allow myself no mock defense
Step into the night

Since I dont have the time nor mind to figure out
The nursery rhymes that helped us out and make a sense of our lives
The cruel uneventful state of apathy releases me
I value them but I won't cry if the time was wiped out

I'm trying hard not to give in
Battened down to fair the wind
Read my head, at least pretend
Allow myself no mock defense
Step into the night...

Mercy's eyes are blue
When she places them in front of you
Nothing holds a roman candle to
The solemn warmth you feel inside

There's no measuring of it
As nothing else is love

I'll try hard not to give in
Battened down to fair the wind
Read my head, at least pretend
Allow myslef no mock defense
Step into the night...

Mercy's eyes are blue
When she places them in front of you
Nothing really holds a candle to
The solemn warmth you feel inside of you

There was mass confusion, with Elves converging from all directions. I saw Barry charge down a flight of stairs with his gun hastily shoved into the waistband of his jeans, and I politely averted my eyes as Alice dropped down from the level above dressed only in a oversized rugby jersey. Adam followed behind Barry, shirtless and barefoot.

Even within the chaos, I saw Barry take a moment to smirk. "Nice shirt, Alice."

For a moment, it looked as though the witch might hit him. But she smiled and demurely folded her arms across her chest. "Thank you."

The crowd calmed as Galadriel strode down the hall. She glanced quickly through the door to Felix and Sam's rooms, then leaned back. "Legolas, come here and help me."

I followed her inside. The main room was slightly the worse for wear from the earlier fight. Mark was crouched on the floor beside Felix, who wasn't moving.

He looked up at us, eyes wide. "I came in and he was having some kind of seizure. Then he just stopped and he won't wake up!" Mark grabbed my arm. "I don't know what's wrong with him!"

I supported him as he took a few deep breaths. Then Galadriel moved past us and knelt on the carpet next to Felix. She covered his eyes with her hands and whispered a quiet Elven spell.

I looked out into the hall, where people were still milling around, and I narrowed my eyes. "Have Sam and Peter come back yet?" Mark's head shot up, his eyes wide again.

Then Galadriel sat back hard on her heels, shaking her head.

"Damn," she said quietly.

When Felix woke up, the shouting began in earnest.

He and Mark were doing most of it, assisted somewhat by Adam and Alice. We had adjourned to one of the nearby courtyards, and I could see that human and Elvish tempers were beginning to fray. Felix and Mark, flanked by the two cops, were yelling at Galadriel and Elrond. Erin, Finn, Barry and Eric Ryan were grouped together just to the side, conversing angrily amongst themselves. Glorfindel was looking pained, the Twins were looking upset, and I really didn't like the direction this was going. I turned and said as much to Gabe, who was leaning against the stone wall next to me.

He shook his head. "Neither do I, Elf. But either way, it looks like we're finally going to get some straight answers."

Galadriel then decided that she'd had enough. "Would everyone please stop?" Her voice washed over the room, the power behind the words, and the inherent threat was even enough to stop Mark and Felix in their tracks. They sat down, scowling.

"Thank you," said Galadriel in more normal tones. "We will accomplish nothing by fighting amongst ourselves. Now, Felix. Please tell everyone what you saw."

Felix sighed. "It was like the dreams I've been having, only it was-" he bit his lip. "I don't know. More immediacy, more like it was something happening just out of sight. I saw-" and his voice started to shake, just a little. Mark grabbed his shoulder and held on.

"Sam and Peter were on a pedway, and there were mages everywhere. They were fighting, but there were too many. Sam got hit, and then Peter tried to stop them, but they just-"

Felix stopped. No one said anything, so he continued in a voice that was getting steadier. "Then the mages dragged them both away and jumped off the pedway down into traffic. There was a black van down there, and they threw them in the back. That's all I saw."

"Were there any distinctive markings on the van or the mages?" asked Adam. "Anything that you'd be able to identify?"

Felix stopped, and I could see him mentally going through the entire encounter again. He'd been relatively calm through this entire exchange, and I was beginning to wonder if he was in shock. "No. Nothing. All the mages were wearing black, and-" he stopped. "And they were all really normal-looking, and that's so weird for mages-"

"-like someone didn't want to be traced." finished Alice grimly. She turned towards Elrond and Galadriel. "Do we have any idea who might have taken them?"

It was Finn who spoke up. "White City Enterprises."

Elrond turned towards him. "Do you have any solid evidence?"

He shook his head. "Only what Eric brought back."

" Which was nothing"

"We can't chase our missing Hobbits across the city on the strength of assumptions and guesswork," said Galadriel. "Our intelligence network is combing the city as we speak, but it may be some time before we dredge up any valuable information."

"Unfortunately," I said, straightening, "that's time Sam and Peter may not have. We need to find out who took them and why they want them."

"I know why they took them." Felix's voice was so quiet that I barely heard him. He was resting his forehead on his hand. When he looked up his face was bleak.

"The seer." he said. "They wanted the seer."

"I think this would be a good time to give Galadriel and Elrond your report," Barry told Eric after the group had broken up. The senior Elves had left to coordinate fact-finding operations, the remaining hobbits, Gabe, and Legolas trailing behind.

"What report?" Adam asked sharply.

Eric shook his head. "Just some information we've been picking up in London," he said, grimacing. "Inconclusive. A lot of assumptions." He spoke as if every word hurt.

"All the same, go talk to them. We're running out of time and options."

"...and we first became suspicious after the death of Calvin Nakashima, a top advisor to the Board of Executives of SummerTech, one of White City's direct competitors in London."

Eric stood in front of an assembled group of high-ranking Elves, as well as several Ithillien Intelligence agents, and the fellowship. He paused, and Celeborn held up one hand.

"What were the circumstances of his death, precisely?"

"That was the strange thing. It was a flight overdose. But from our information, Nakashima wasn't a substance abuser and the timing of his death also provides suggests White City's involvement. White City and SummerTech were in negotiations for White City to buy it out."

"Let me guess," Adam interjected, "Negotiations were not going well for White City?"

"The business section of any major newspaper would have told you that." Eric shook his head. "This was about three weeks ago. White City was actually publically considering pulling out of the talks, and SummerTech drives a hard bargain. Then came Nakashima's 'drug overdose'. "

"Still," Elrond pointed out, "This could all be coincidental."

"That's what we thought too," Eric admitted. "At the time. But we watch White City very closely, and within the space of the week there were two more deaths. They were kept quiet, but both were relatives of executive board members. We managed to track down the sealed coroner's reports. Both apparently overdosed on flight, and as such the families were keeping it quiet."

Barry whistled softly. "That's clever."

Galadriel frowned. "What do you mean?"

Barry glanced at Eric, who nodded for him to continue. "It's a scare tactic," he explained. "You can't go after the executives themselves. Too obvious, too blatant, there's no finesse. You aim at the foundation: trusted advisors, family, friends."

"Thirty-six hours after the last death, SummerTech sold out to White City for far below the projected price," Eric finished.

Barry shook his head angrily. "It was considered quite the coup by the business world."

"Which," Finn said dryly, "it was, in a way."

Elrond raised an eyebrow. "As fascinating as this speculation into Darryl Stuart's business morality is, I fail to see how this links White City Enterprises to the Dark Lord."

Eric opened his mouth, but hesitated as Barry's business phone rang. Barry waved him to continue as he left the room.

Barry stood in the hall outside the conference room and flipped the phone open. "Barry Stuart," he said briskly.

"Hey, it's Bergenson."

"Brent? What is it? Why didn't you contact me through normal channels?"

Brent Bergenson was Barry's man on Darryl's personal security detail, and he kept Barry well informed about the less-than-savoury odd jobs that Darryl sometimes required.

He was meticulous and utterly professional.

The fact that he had called Barry on a potentially tapped or traceable cell phone sent chills down Barry's spine. "What's wrong?"

"One of Darryl's secretaries died yesterday. Madeline Ste. Baptiste. We were asked to dispose of the body."

"Christ! What happened?"

There was a pause, and Brent lowered his voice. "After a little bit of persuasion, one of the surveillance guys told me that some business associates of Darryl's just killed her as they walked through the outer office."

Barry ran a hand through his hair, jumbled thoughts and half-formed plans running through his mind. "Surveillance tapes?"

"Vanished under mysterious circumstances, I'm given to understand, along with the security guy I talked to."

"Shit." Barry released an explosive breath. "What happened to the body?"

"We took her to some of the cops on Darryl's payroll and fed them some story about a mugging. I pulled their report, and she's down in the morgue on Rue St-Just."

"Okay," Barry said, thoughts spinning through his head. "Send me the report now. Then you're on personal leave, make up a story, anything. Don't go back to work, your surveillance guy might have talked. Get the hell out of the White City. If I don't call you within a week, just don't come back."

"I understand," Brent replied. And he did. There were no guarantees in their business. "Good luck, Barry."

"You too."

Barry flipped the phone shut and took a deep breath. He opened the door of the conference room. "Sorry to interrupt," he said. "Alice and Adam, can I see you outside?"

Alice stood beside the body on the operating table, glad for the weight of Adam's hand on her shoulder. This particular spell was flirting the borders of necromancy, and god, how she hated death magic. She'd done it twice before, back in the department, when the Jane Does had literally dropped out of nowhere, with no leads or killers in sight, but that didn't make it any easier.

She took a deep breath, and laid her hands of the corpse's stiffened face.

Pain and terror jolted through her, paralysing her body. She opened her mouth to scream, but couldn't even force a whimper. Blond hair was waving in front of her face as she began to fall, so slowly, papers tumbling down around her, her hands clawing at the air, and there! There! Just a flash, the quickest glance- black hair and a child with dead eyes. And darkness rushing in around her and blossoming warmth-

She felt herself yanked back, then Adam was holding her. She gagged, trying to breathe, trying to clear away the decaying memories, and then she wheeled away and retched into the garbage can.

She spat the last of the taste away, and then she was herself again. The room gradually stopped turning and Adam was holding on to her, keeping her from falling forward.

"Dead man's eyes," said Alice, digging her fingernails into her palm. She tasted blood and realized she'd bitten her lip while casting. "I saw the Witch Queen."

"...and what was significant about the three deaths was in the flight itself."

"What do you mean?"

Eric spoke to the group, now missing Adam, Alice, and Barry, but the Elves were looking thoughtful about his report and asking questions, so he felt hopeful. "We gained access to the crime scenes and obtained samples of the flight taken by the victims. Biochemical analysis suggests a new crystalline structure, making it even more potent than previous varieties. This is important as this type of flight is recent and very rare. In fact, as far as we know, it's only been found in two locations: London, and-"

"-New York," Legolas finished.

Eric flashed him a smile. "Exactly", he said. "The NYPD seized almost a ton of it about two weeks ago, around the time of the last of the subway kidnappings, what we now know to be the return of the Nazgul. In addition to this, White City Enterprises isn't supplying the flight, so they're getting it from an outside source, but one close enough and deep enough to be part of their darker activities. We suspect that the shadow organization that's distributing this powerful flight and supplying it to Darryl Stuart is a front for Sauron's organization."

"So who has Sam and Peter?" Felix asked sharply. "White City or Sauron or some fucked-up combination of the two?"

Galadriel glanced at Felix. "Patience. Eric's theory, while disturbing, still doesn't give us any concrete evidence, which we most certainly need before we move against such a man as powerful as Darryl Stuart."

Felix snapped. "So when will you have the evidence you need?" he shouted, slamming his fists on the table. "When they rip Goldenwood down around you? When they send Sam and Peter home in boxes? Goddammit!" He stormed from the room, and Mark took a moment to glare at the rest of the Elves before he stalked out after Felix.

Gabe sighed. "Their best friends have disappeared, my lady. That wasn't the most diplomatic way to deal with it."

Galadriel looked at him. "Nor will they be the last to disappear, son of Gloin, if we do not find our answers, but haste and ill preparation will not help our cause."

"I understand that, but right now, Sam and Peter may be dying for our cause, and while haste won't help, neither will overcaution." He met her electric gaze without flinching.

The tense silence that followed was broken by the ring of Elrond's cell phone. He picked it up. "Yes?"

The others watched as the worry on his face shifted into a reptilian smile. He turned off the phone.

"That was Arwen. We have our proof."