By Darth Stitch
DISCLAIMER: See first post.
Interlude: Seven Stars and Seven Stones and One White Tree
They think that Grace is merely sleeping on the couch in Steve's office, tucked underneath a blanket.
Kono, Spooky or Chin would not have left her otherwise. Grace knows that Danny and Steve would not have wanted her to be alone and would have been happy to sit with her but they too have jobs to do and Grace knows that even now, they are doing everything that they can to bring her mother back safe and sound.
Grace doesn't really want to sleep – she simply wants to go home, to feel her Mommy hug her tight and tuck her into bed, to know that Danny and Steve are simply just a room away. She knows that with her ohana around her, the bad men can't come and get her and she knows that her Danno and Steve would guard her dreams if they could.
Grace still remembers the gentle touch of Spooky's hands, the sudden warmth and sense of light chasing the black, terrible sick feelings away. She hasn't said it out loud, but she's prepared to swear that she heard Spooky singing softly, sweetly, in a language that she almost, but not quite, understands. It makes her think of Mommy's hugs and the scent of her perfume, Danno's scratchy chin when he kisses her cheek, the way Uncle Steve smells of sunlight and the sea when he hoists her up to ride on his shoulders. The meanings are just the same – home, safety, comfort, the sense of being loved.
Grace drifts now, in that place between asleep and awake and she's vaguely aware of the voices of the adults outside Steve's office. She can distinguish Uncle Chin's low, relaxed island-accented tones and Aunt Kono's lighter voice. She can hear Danno and Uncle Steve deep in discussion, Danno obviously trying to keep his voice down for Grace's sake.
And then, she can hear Spooky's voice quite clearly.
Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three.
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.
For an endless moment, Grace stands in the courtyard of a castle straight out of a fairy tale, beneath the flowering branches of a white tree. And if she turns around, she will see him, her father the King, opening his arms so that she could run right to him and he would lift her up high, high enough to touch Earendil's star…
(but that isn't her father, that's Uncle Steve…)
…and always by his side and hers, the King's faithful Knight, laughing at them both. He will then pretend to scold and fuss, as always, watchful and protective over her, the littlest Princess, youngest of the King's children, favored and best beloved. But she and her father will simply look at him with their best innocent smiles and the Knight will raise his eyes heavenwards and sigh loudly, that he, poor, long-suffering soul, was forever at the mercy of his lord and his little lady…
(but this is not just her Knight, faithful and brave and true, this is her Danno, her father…)
And then, Grace sees Spooky in her long blue gown, long dark hair held back in a single thick braid, eternally young, her eyes wise and mysterious yet kind. But Spooky is unusually grave and grim today and she is gliding quietly down the stone steps of the castle, one hand occasionally drifting upwards to idly trace the stone walls.
Grace finds herself following.
They come to the dungeons beneath the Castle,
(this is the jail at the Police Department, where they keep the criminals Daddy and Uncle Steve catch)
that cold and dark place where those who have broken the laws of the land are kept far away from further harming the King's subjects.
(this where they are keeping the man, the bad man, who tried to kidnap Grace, the bad man whose friends have taken away her Mommy)
The prisoner snarls and lunges at Spooky, fangs bared, but ends up stopping dead a foot away from the young woman's outstretched hand. He snarls and tries to struggle against that invisible force holding him in place but he cannot – it is far too strong for him.
Spooky stares at him thoughtfully, the way Grace imagines a scientist would look at some really interesting bug under a microscope. "So. You're not a vampire, not a real one anyway."
The vampire snarls again, his fangs growing impossibly larger, openly defying her words.
The tiny detective gestures and the prisoner is hurled against the wall, where he slumps down, whimpering in pain. Spooky gestures again and Grace can see lines of light all over the prison, a barrier of sorts.
"I can't have you causing any trouble for my brothers and sisters in blue," Spooky says, her voice clear and cold. "So sleep for a while. When you wake, your borrowed power will be gone."
And the prisoner closes his eyes, jaw going slack, a thin line of drool dribbling down a corner of his mouth. It's a funny sight and Grace cannot help the soft, hysterical giggle that escapes her.
And at that, Spooky turns and sees her, eyes widening in obvious surprise. She walks towards Grace and then pauses and considers their surroundings – the stone walls and the torches, the ancient costume she is wearing.
"Oh dear," Spooky sighs. And then smiles, ruefully. "It'll be all right, Grace. It's time to wake up."
And Grace does.
There are a number of Very Important Reasons why they're all at Club Denial right now.
Said Very Important Reasons also amazingly granted Steve "What-Is-This-Back-Up-You-Speak-Of" McGarrett a considerable measure of patience.
Grace, of course, is the most important reason. Normally, they would have left her in Kamekona's care or even Chin and Kono's cousins in the Honolulu PD because the big guy and the Kelly-Kalakaua clan are ohana and that's not something they'd even think to question. Grace is in Danny's arms now, like the baby she really isn't anymore, arms wrapped tight around his neck. She beamed when she got an absent kiss on the head from Steve but she's mostly quiet right now and while Grace isn't the chatterbox Danny is, it hurts that she's like this and if he could, he'd bring her mother right back to her this very second.
If this was their usual, typical cases, back in the relatively normal, non-magical world that Danny Williams lived in, they would all be hauling ass to where Rachel was being held with the might of the Honolulu Police Department behind them. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, was what Danny's training officer used to say all the time.
Of course, Steve would bring a huge-ass mother of a knife to a gun fight, but only as a back-up to the massive firepower he had to begin with.
In this case, Spooky pointed out that they were going to hare off against someone who had some sort of supernatural abilities and magical protections. It's not as if they can take the HPD aside and say, "Hey, we might be going up against some Bad Guy with Mad Black Magic Skills and Vampire Minions – you guys got any protective amulets or holy medals handy?"
And while Spooky finally admitted to possessing "certain gifts" of her own, she tartly remarked, "I don't do all-powerful omnipotence, thanks much."
And then Steve said, "If we have an akua on our side, why pass up the chance to get that kind of help?"
"You keep saying that word," Danny observes, finally putting Grace down as they walk into the still-empty Club. She doesn't wander far – just clinging to his hand. "And I have no idea what it means."
"Akua means 'god,'" Chin offers helpfully.
"In this case, one of the Valar," Steve explains. "Specifically, Morgoth Bauglir."
Chin, the Zen Master himself, actually does a double-take. "For serious? Morgoth Bauglir?" Evidently, this is important. The name is vaguely familiar but Danny's not exactly the uber-Middle-earth myths geek around here.
"Jesus," Kono says with feeling.
"Um. No. That's someone else," Morris Bauman calls out to them.
They all turn towards the small stage. Morrie, in old worn jeans and a plain t-shirt, looks nothing like Danny's idea of a god. He's sitting at the grand piano, one leg folded before him on the piano bench, regarding them all with obvious amusement.
"Don't mind him," Fred offers wryly, coming in from stage right. "He's got an overblown sense of drama – seems to be part and parcel of being a Dark Lord."
"Original Dark Lord here, thank you very much, Firesoul," Morrie growls.
"Of course, we all quiver with terror," Fred deadpans. "All shall love you and despair!"
Kono shares a bemused glance at Chin. "You know, this looks awfully familiar to me."
Chin's equally bemused. "Morrie doesn't have a Jersey accent though."
"Hey!" Danny is outraged. "If anybody's going to be a freakin' Dark Lord, shouldn't it be Commander Tall, Dark and Homicidal here?" And then, the last few minutes finally catch up with him and he finds that he has to sit down, because it's not as if he hangs around with supposedly legendary Dark Lords, not to mention the Baddest of Big Bads (saving Certain Fallen Angels Ruling a Certain Place Downstairs).
Grace of course, wants to sit on his lap and he obliges.
And Steve's there, sitting right next to him, warm hand on the back of his neck. The look on his face eloquently tells Danny that he'd figured it out about a couple of hours earlier and had his freakout then. Steve's not the best at words but those looks of his can say a whole lot to Danny. Their eyes meet and damn it, Danny can't even berate the idiot for not sitting him down and explaining the whole deal to him, because, yes, Steve was freaking out at the time and so it was Danny's turn.
They managed to have that conversation without exchanging a single word.
God, they were so married.
Fred is handing him something to drink and Danny finds himself swallowing whatever the hell it is down without a single peep. It tastes amazing and clears his head better than the best coffee he's ever had. And of course, it helps with the fact that he's just noticed that Fred happens to have delicately pointed ears.
"Feanor of the Noldor. And as before, Daniel Williams, a star shines upon the hour of our meeting."
No, Danny did not "Meep!"
Fred is handing out the same exact magic drink to the rest of the gang ("It's miruvor," he explains) and Grace smiles when she drinks it down. She finally speaks for the first time since they left for Club Denial.
"Does that mean Morrie and Fred love each other like Danno and Steve do?"
Spooky starts giggling at that point.
Danny manages to smile at his very observant baby girl and decides to add his own two cents in. Payback was a bitch. "Okay. So the Original Dark Lord is married to an Elf now and probably another legendary figure who shouldn't even be around in our normal plane of existence and we need help of the decidedly magical nature. Have I got it about right?"
Both Fred and Morrie yelp: "Married?" And naturally, they blush and Danny is fairly familiar with the signs because he and Steve have been doing this for the better part of the past year.
"That," Steve points out with traces of his old humor, "would be a very interesting thing to bring up during family reunions in Eldamar."
Morrie regards Steve with a decided gleam in his eyes. "You sure you're not up for the post of my Second-In-Command? See, competent Evil Minions are really hard to find – I mean, honestly, look at who I ended up with!"
Somehow, they all look to Fred for an explanation. "One word – Sauron."
"Stupid git." Morrie grumbles. "Way too much into jewelry for my taste. If I said it once, I'll say it again – sparkly jewels are trouble!"
"You couldn't have figured that one out Ages ago?" Fred says tartly.
"Hey, I offered to help you out the last time we were in spitting distance of one of your precious babies!"
"You see what I have to put up with here, Your Majesty?" Spooky observes wryly to Steve.
Steve twitches. "Um. Spooky? Could you ditch the royal titles right now? Still freaking out about the whole reincarnation thing, thanks much."
Danny cringes as well. "Please tell me I wasn't a hobbit in my past life, not that there's anything wrong with being a hobbit, but I can live without more ammunition for short jokes from my sadistic Significant Other here…"
Spooky and Steve exchange looks and Steve actually blushes, trying vainly to hide it by running a hand over his face.
"No, Danny," Spooky deadpans. "Trust me, you were not a hobbit in your past life with Steve."
Grace starts giggling at that, as if she knew what Spooky and Steve are talking about and this raises all sorts of alarm bells in Danny's mind.
But Spooky's gone on to explain the situation to Morrie and Fred now. Naturally, the two of them were aware of what was going on and had been, in fact, taking steps to remedy it.
"Damn," Morrie swears. "Didn't think it would have gone all FUBAR so fast."
"We were actually trying to find the next bearer of that Ring," Fred explains. "We had hoped that after you had arrested the original bearer, we would be able to take care of things quietly. Without, of course, bringing further harm to that poor soul who'd made so much trouble here or involving you more than you already were."
"Stupid thing's worse than that trinket of Sauron's," Morrie sighs. "Gave us the slip, obviously and it probably got worse when it saw you, young Prince."
"Melkor!" Fred scolds.
"It's the truth," Morrie defends himself. And then he takes a good look at Steve and rolls his eyes. "It's not your fault, you overly heroic idiot. Just bad luck, that's all. We would've gotten trouble from that blasted thing, one way or the other, the minute it turned up like the bad penny it is."
"I'm sorry," Kono tells Chin. "And Danny was saying that Steve should've been the Dark Lord?"
"Hey!" Danny says, because it's time to remind them all of the reason why they're here. "Mother of my child in imminent peril. Need back-up of the mystical sort. What's the plan here, people?"
Grace, of course, looks up to Morrie and says very simply, "Please help us get my Mommy back."
Not even an ex-Dark Lord and Valar could stand up to that. "You don't even have to ask, little Princess. That's what we're trying to figure out right now."
"We've still got enough time," Fred reassures them. "Steven's presence means that Gaunt's plans have changed significantly. The attempt on the little one here was an obvious ploy to draw Steven out but the Lady Rachel would serve the purpose just as well."
"Not to mention more reasons to keep the woman around…" Morrie mutters and would have obviously said more if Fred's glare and meaningful glance towards Grace didn't shut him up. Akua, Valar or Big Bad, Danny wouldn't have hesitated to introduce Morrie to his right hook if he had to. Grace was already frightened enough as it was.
Steve wasn't happy with that as well, having his patented Aneurysm Face on. "Gaunt's got my attention. If he wants me, he'll get me."
"Not without us right behind you, babe," Danny reminds him sternly. "Do not even think about pulling out the Self-Sacrificing Idiot Martyr card here."
"Lost cause on that one," Morrie sighs. "He's from a very long line of Heroic Idiot Martyrs, right up to Beren One-Hand himself. It's encoded into his DNA."
Steve growls and raises his hand for attention. "Can we just focus, here, people? Okay? Thanks. We know where Rachel's being held already. This Gaunt has thugs displaying vampiric abilities and we need to get past those. Then, get that Ring away from him somehow and get rid of it."
"If this means we have to get to Mordor afterwards and throw the thing into Mount Doom, we're SOL," Danny remarks. "It's not as if we can find these places on modern maps, y'know what I'm getting at here?"
"I don't think we'll have to be that drastic," Spooky says and it drives Danny up the wall how reasonable she sounds. "We don't know everything about that Ring and I'll grant you that it's incredibly dangerous. Still, it's not exactly the original One Ring of Power. It can be destroyed."
"My relief, let me show you it," Danny mutters. Steve rolls his eyes and gestures to Spooky to continue.
"Gaunt's also using some sort of spell that's a variant of the Black Breath," Spooky adds. "The spellcraft involved in having his 'fake' vampires was pretty good too. You get all the fun parts of working with the Undead without worrying about it spreading like a disease."
Morrie nods. "We have a few folks here in the Club who can back you up and clear the way for your police people without worrying about getting them hurt by arcane means."
And right on cue, the Japanese guys Danny had spotted working the Club's security walk in, led by the little redhead, who, this time, is wearing dark blue instead of pink. The redhead bows to them in typical Japanese fashion, the end of his high ponytail sliding over one shoulder. His two companions, the orange-haired kid with the oversized sword and the tattooed redhead follow suit.
"Konban wa, minna. Hajimemashite Himura Kenshin, de gozaru."
"…Kurosaki Ichigo." This from the orange-haired kid.
"…Abarai Renji." And this from the tattooed redhead.
Interlude: One Ring to Rule Them All…
It started, as it always does, with a thirst for immortality and power and no regard for the consequences and responsibilities.
It's an age-old lure – Numenor sank beneath the waves of the sea just because its last King yearned for the gift given to the Eldar. The Nazgul too were caught, once proud Kings of Numenorean descent, turned into Sauron's slaves with the Nine Rings of Power he had "gifted" them.
Simon Gaunt had studied the Ring of Ar-Zimraphel for a very long time. He was fascinated by this interesting postscript to the already tragic tale of Numenor's last Queen. There were times when he would simply hold the Ring in his hands, being wise enough not to put it on himself. He would touch it so that he would be granted the blissful vision of Her, so fair and beautiful and filled with that boundless rage.
Blood was such an important component for immortality but Simon Gaunt did not wish to simply take the traditional vampire's path. He'd known of the existence of the different vampire societies for a very long time. There were the Camarilla and the Sabbat with their clans, locked in the Masquerade. There were the other bloodlines who took no part in the Masquerade but were involved in their own petty power games. It bored Gaunt and he had no intention to simply submit himself to any one of these arrogant fools, many of whom did not even walk the earth as human when She lived in lost Numenor.
From the moment he'd taken possession of the Ring and learned its secrets, whispered in his ear by Her sweet voice, Gaunt had wanted no other person to show him the way to immortality and power but Her. He wanted to be the one to walk by Her side, the man worthy to be Her consort at long last.
That poor soul was meant to be a trial run, really – a man so tired of his simple, ordinary life that it would be easy to convince him to yearn for just a little bit of spice, a bit of excitement on Halloween. The Ring would do the rest and once its possession of the man was complete, Gaunt would be closer to finding where the Queen had been hidden.
But the presence of the reborn Prince Eldarion, son of the legendary High King Elessar, was an unexpected bonus and something that made Gaunt inwardly seethe in jealous possessive rage. That part of the Ring's will that was intrinsically tied to the Queen's very essence was awakened at the sight of Eldarion and Gaunt could see how it was affecting the current bearer.
The one before him, the man who was formerly an EMT for the Queen's Medical Center, was already a dried-out husk, left behind in his store.
Gaunt knew that the Ring-bearers should have lasted far longer than that.
The Ring-bearer now was one of his own hirelings – one of those petty, desperate fools willing to do anything for money. This one was formerly one of the so-called Kapu, outcast and disgraced from his former brethren for his so called "dishonorable deeds." He was a massively built man, very strong and very healthy, enjoying the rush he got from the be-spelled vampire blood Gaunt provided him.
He didn't look so healthy now.
Too fast – the Ring was using him up too fast, too soon and at this rate, Gaunt would run out of willing bearers.
This would be very inconvenient.
Gaunt regarded the woman who was bound and gagged to that battered chair – it was terribly amusing how convenient these things were in warehouses. He actually owned this one and it was far from being abandoned – it was used to store his inventory. Then again, it wasn't as if he expected to evade the police – he wanted them to come here. Preferably with Steve McGarrett leading the pack.
The woman glared at him and of course, struggled with the ropes binding her. It would have been better to have the child – the blood of young children would be pleasing to the Queen once he found her, especially that particular child, with her connection to Steve McGarrett, not just in this current life, but in her past ones. Still, the child's mother would do just as nicely and quite possibly be even preferable at this stage.
Already, Gaunt could see the current bearer of the Ring drawn to the woman, reaching out to touch a strand of long brown hair. She flinched.
"If you wish to choose another bearer, it can be arranged quite easily," Gaunt offered.
"No," said the Ring Bearer, his voice now a soft, feminine contralto. How very interesting. The Ring's power and the possession was stronger than before. "Not yet. I wish to see his face before I take my new host."
"But my lady, you need only lead us to where you are and return for him at a later time. Wouldn't it be better to face him then, possessed of all your power?" Well, that was the original plan. Gaunt had to try, of course. It would be ever so much simpler but it was hard to refuse her. Still, he had a back-up plan in place if things did not go according to Her will and She would be pleased at his foresight.
The Ring Bearer smiled oddly. "Oh, my dear man, there is much about me that you do not understand." Again, the Ring Bearer gently touched the bound woman's cheek in a parody of a caress and the woman made a strangled, angry sound. "His was the face I first saw when I was awakened the very first time. He was so very beautiful…" The Ring Bearer laughed softly, chillingly sweet, an odd sound coming from such a decidedly masculine frame.
"He awakened me once. He shall do it again."
Uh…. Yeah, please not to mind the presence of the ex-hitokiri and Shinigami. They're sneaky bastards and I had no hope once Kenshin decided to pitch in.
About Gracie – Think about Danny and Grace having identified Steve as a "Prince" and Danny as a "Knight" in their made-up fairy tales. O hai, Irony, I love you so.
Next post will be the end and give me some time to wrap up this whole cracktastic mess. I hope. (gulps)
The "Seven Stars" poem is, of course, by J.R.R. Tolkien, taken from The Lord of the Rings and referring to the palantirs and other treasures brought by Elendil and his sons from the wreck of Numenor. :)