Daniel tried not to be nervous as the door opened. Meeting a dragon was so far down the list of things he’d thought he’d ever get to do. And that was the list he’d made after he’d started dating a werewolf. The man on the other side of the door was…
Actually kind of a disappointment. He looked like an ordinary man. Maybe 5’3”, about Ted’s age, and some flavor of oriental. He thought Japanese. The name had sounded Japanese. Actually, he looked a little like George Takei, so Japanese was most likely. And he was rambling in his own head. He tried to focus.
The dragon, Ryuu, actually greeted Magda with a kiss on the cheek. And ignored Matthias entirely as he stepped back to let them all enter. Magda took off her shoes as soon as she entered, and the others all immediately followed suit. “Welcome, welcome.” Ryuu gave a small bow. “Let me start by assuring you, I have absolutely no interest in harming any of you lovely people.” He closed the door behind them. “Or Matthias.”
“Forgive me if I’m slightly relieved, Ryuu. It’s been rather eventful lately.” Magda offered him the wine Ted had picked out, and Ryuu made some appropriate noises of gratitude as he accepted it.
“Truly.” Ryuu nodded. “You know for all the fussing the Western division has been doing lately I expected something better than that tired old anti-christ thing.” He rolled his eyes. “Two thousand years. You’d think they’d get a new gimmick.” He gestured toward archway that led to what looked like a dining room. “But business can wait until after we’ve eaten.” He crouched a little to look Anna in the eye. “Milady, I won’t be offended if your condition prevents you from partaking. I arranged a fruit tray just in case, with extra bananas.”
She smiled. “I like bananas.”
“You are a woman of excellent taste.” He nodded to her before standing again and walking into the dining room.
“He’s being friendly…” Michaels gave Magda a concerned look.
“He says he’s not here to hurt us…” Magda smiled reassuringly. “Then he’s not here to hurt us. Right now we’re probably safer than we’ve been in the past year.”
She’d nearly forgotten what a wonderful table Ryuu could set. Then again, it had been a couple decades since the last time they’d dined together. Ryuu was playing the role of charming host, even flirting playfully with her and Laura. She took a drink of the tea, then smiled at him. “I must say…” Magda chuckled. “I am enjoying the little contest you and Tanit are having.” She inclined her head. “And you are definitely winning.”
“Why thank you, my dear.” Ryuu smiled. “She was dominating in the area of television but I think I am starting to catch up nicely.” He waved a hand.
“I had some concerns with the ‘Hulk’ thing, but I think Ruffalo salvaged it.” She nodded.
“I certainly agree. I’m becoming rather fond of that man.” Ryuu suddenly narrowed his eyes. “Are you working up to asking me if you can get his autograph?”
“Maybe a little.” She shrugged. “I’ve already got Stan Lee’s.”
“Wait, what are…” Daniel scratched his head. “What are you two talking about?”
“Oh, just a friendly little competition my mate and I’ve been having.” Ryuu waved a hand. He turned back toward Magda. “You know, she almost had me worried when she starting making noise about the Justice League after her trilogy with Bale, but…” He gave an amused shake of his head. “Wow did she miss the mark on that one.”
“You mean…” Daniel blinked and then rubbed his eyes. “The whole Marvel vs DC fandom war is…” He turned toward Matthias. “Seriously?”
“That’s uh…” Matthias sighed. “Look, Boss, you’ll sleep a lot better if you don’t know just how much of the world he influences.”
“Though I wish to point out, before the judgmental looks begin…” Ryuu shook his head. “I had absolutely nothing to do with any recent American elections. That one is not my fault.”
“Of course it’s not.” Magda immediately shook her head. “You have dignity.”
“See…” Ryuu raised his wine glass to her. “This is why you are my favorite werewolf.”
Dragons were real. He was sitting next to one. It was all Ted could do not to grab Gabriel’s hand under the table. Magda and Ryuu certainly seemed to be on friendly terms, and if nobody had told him the man was a dragon he’d be having an excellent time. He looked down at his plate, and wondered if there was any chance he could work up the nerve to ask a dragon for his dessert recipe. The little frozen shapes were reminiscent of ice cream but clearly something else. Anna had devoured hers before stealing one from Matthias’s plate, and almost immediately Ryuu had passed over his own share. Even Ash was starting to relax a little.
Ryuu led them out onto the deck overlooking the ocean. Ted glanced over his shoulder back at the dining room, and nearly stumbled when he realized in the few moments since they’d all left the table it had been completely cleared. There was no trace of the meal that had just taken place. He fought the urge to shiver, then felt Gabriel’s hand touch the small of his back. The momentary contact was enough for him to find his nerve again.
“Shall we too business, then?” Ryuu raised an eyebrow.
“I am curious.” Magda nodded. “Especially since you came here instead of asking me to come to you.”
“Yes, well, I preferred to avoid an awkward situation. I did, after all, inform your son that if he ever set food in Las Vegas again I’d turn him into a rug.” Ryuu shrugged. “And I’d hate to damage our own friendship by having to follow through on that.”
“Much appreciated.” She smiled.
He exchanged a confused look with Gabriel, then one with Michaels. Laura seemed to find the exchange amusing. The more he learned about the supernatural world, the less he understood it. And then there was still the part where this man had donated a million dollars to his center. He really didn’t want to learn what strings might be attached to that money. “Mr. Ishi…”
“Mr. Mullins.” Ryuu nodded in his direction. “There are no strings. Homelessness is a terrible problem in this country and it is refreshing to see someone attempting to treat the underlying causes rather than simply herding people from one section of a city to another.” He gestured at Laura. “Can you imagine? That sort of potential casually swept aside? Shameful. You’re doing good work. Keep it up.”
“I…” He blinked. “Thank you.”
“Now, as for why I have invited all of you…” Ryuu nodded. “At the moment, we have an overlap of interest. There is a young woman who has, abet unknowingly…” He shrugged. “Meddled in my affairs. And thus I am prepared to offer you the opportunity…” He inclined his head toward Magda. “To have me in your debt.”
From the looks on the faces of Magda and Matthias, not to mention the fact Laura’s eyes had started to glow to indicate the presence of Erilon, that was something. Magda had to take a couple deep breaths before nodding. “So this is important.”
Maybe it had been the mention of Vegas, but Michaels couldn’t quite stop mentally comparing this Ryuu guy to the Godfather. It’s not an unfair comparison. He’s kind of who the Godfather would be if De Niro or Pacino could make volcanoes erupt by the sheer force of will. Okay, that wasn’t comforting. That kind of favor owing could be a two-edged sword and… And how was she talking in his head when Stephan was present? Ryuu invited me. Try not to think about it too hard. Right. Dragons play by a different set of rules.
“You’ll owe us a favor…” Michaels took a deep breath. “And what’s that going to cost us?”
“It is my hope…” Ryuu twitched a shoulder. “That the price is paid by only a single party. However, the odds are not in favor of that outcome. My request will result in a slight increase to risks you already face and provide a complication to an already complicated matter.”
Gabriel frowned. “Get on with it.”
“Still blunt as a hammer.” Ryuu smiled. “A witch has acquired something she has no business possessing. Something she has already damaged badly, but it may not yet be beyond salvage. The reason it should interest you is that among other things, it is a weapon, and one that she is already turning upon you and your companions.” He leaned on the railing. “If you continue your current course…” He focused his eyes on Gabriel. “You will destroy this weapon.”
“And that’s…” Daniel looked slightly confused. “Not a good thing?”
“No…” Ryuu turned to look out at the sunset. “It is not. It would be…” He shook his head. “A tragedy.” He sighed before shaking his head again. “She is turning this weapon on you at the behest of a woman named Sima.” Ash made a whimpering sound and Magda immediately moved toward him as Stephan put his arm around the other man. “She has in her possession a talisman, one of strange power. I wish you to relieve her of it. Should you happen to relive her of her life at the same time, I will not object. What you do with the talisman after I…” He bowed his head. “I must trust your judgment on the matter, and hope that you realize the importance of what you hold in your hand.” He turned back toward them. “No one is to know of my interest in this matter.”
“Ryuu…” Magda narrowed her eyes. “I’ve known you for three hundred years. This isn’t…” She shook her head. “This isn’t like you.”
“Jehanne…” He sighed. “I made a terrible mistake, and what it has cost is…” He shook his head. “I cannot dwell on might have beens. The damage cannot be undone. It is already too late for me to make it right. I have known you for three hundred years. That is why I am asking this of you.” He took a deep breath. “I know enough to know that you will understand. The allies you have recently acquired should be sufficient to accomplish what I have asked but…” He met her eyes. “Jehanne, if you cannot retrieve the talisman, I ask that you destroy it. The outcome will be terrible, but…” He looked away again. “It is better than one alternative.”
Magda nodded. “I’ll talk to —”
“My boys are in.” Erilon’s voice came from Laura’s mouth.
“We are?” Michaels blinked at her.
“Yes.” She nodded. “You are.”
He exchanged a look with Gabriel before shrugging. “Okay. Guess we’re in.” Ryuu offered him a USB stick. He blinked, but took it. “What’s this?”
“Sima’s blood type, fingerprints, current aliases, bank accounts, maintained residences, shoe size, Netflix passwords, cell phone number, alarm codes, email addresses, list of active warrants, and dating website profiles.” He rolled his eyes. “And she is rather misleading in her bio. She most certainly does not have a PhD in French Literature and she’s a size six.”
Michaels looked down at the USB stick, then back up at Ryuu. “You know we need a warrant —”
“You’ll find those on your desk as soon as you get to work tomorrow, along with the chain of evidence logs.” Ryuu smiled. “And now, they are not forged. Judges are a high maintenance investment but well worth the effort.”
Stephan looked up at Magda. “He’s your friend, and you want to help him.”
“He’s my friend.” Magda nodded. “But I’m not under illusions about what else he is. The last time Ryuu got personally involved in a matter that took place in Washington State was on May 18th, 1980.”
Ted blinked. “That was the day…” He swallowed. “Mount St. Helens erupted.”
“A witch is a person with gift.” Magda nodded. “A dragon is a force of nature. We can turn him down, and the consequence to that will be we simply become beneath his notice. He won’t hurt us, but he also won’t help us. And given Anna’s…”
“We could use his help.” Stephan nodded. “Alright, I’m in…” He turned to the man next to him. “Ash?”
Ash nodded. “Woof.” Then he shrugged. “Woof.”
“That’s a little petty, don’t you —”
“Woof.” Ash rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, if anyone does deserve it…” Stephan nodded before looking up at Michaels. “Soon as we get to a computer Ash wants Laura to redo all Sima’s dating profile stuff.” Laura made a cackling noise. “And he’s in.”
Daniel glanced at Anna before looking up at Matthias, then he turned back to Magda. “We’re in.”
“Matthias?” Magda raised her eyebrow at him.
“He’s the boss.” Matthias nodded to Daniel.
“And we’re already in…” Michaels looked down at the USB stick before looking over at Gabriel. “We’re going to have talk with her later, right?”
“Yep.” Gabriel nodded.
From the look on Ryuu’s face when Magda informed him they’d all agreed, it was clear the man was relieved. That just raised even more questions about what it was they’d just agreed to do. Ryuu approached them again. “I thank you all for your assistance in this matter. And I wish you luck in your…” He tilted his head, then smiled before leaning forward to whisper something in Laura’s ear.
She blinked. “Really?”
He nodded. “Really.”
“Heh.” She grinned. “I can work with that.”
Ryuu laughed. “As I was saying, I wish you luck in your future endeavors.” He went to the door, and opened it so they could make their exit. “Matthias, stay out of my city.” He nodded. “Magda, a pleasure seeing you again. Gabriel, you as well.”
Gabriel blinked. “We’ve never met before.”
“Haven’t we?” Ryuu raised an eyebrow. “Hmmm…” He shrugged. “Do have a lovely evening.” He closed the door behind them.
“You…” Ted turned to look at Gabriel. “You know him?”
“I really don’t.” Gabriel shook his head. “What did…” Gabriel opened the door again and stopped short.
The apartment on the other side of the door was clearly in the process of being remodeled. The walls had been stripped, and there was lumber and wiring visible everywhere. Stephan stared, then shook his head. “So that…” He swallowed. “That was a dragon.” He frowned, then turned to look at Magda. “Out of curiosity, how do you know him?”
Magda shrugged. “We used to date.”
“I…” Stephan blinked. “What?”
“Gotta say, Mom…” Matthias patted Ash’s head. “Your taste in men has improved in the last two hundred years.”
“Woof.” Ash grinned.
Magda tried not to growl in frustration. Anna was, by the doctor’s estimate, two days overdue. They were supposed to be meeting a doctor to discuss the scheduling a C-section, but trying to use Ryuu’s information to locate Sima had been distracting them. They’d gotten halfway to town before they realized they’d forgotten the box of samples in the refrigerator. Despite Erilon’s assurances that Anna was fine, she didn’t want to take the risk. Fortunately, they were early enough to simply turn around and go back for them.
“It’s a good name.” Anna had folded her arms and had her belligerent face on.
“Okay, yeah, maybe for a middle name but…” Daniel ran a hand down his face. “You really can’t name a baby Celestia.”
“I think we should just all be grateful she doesn’t want to name it Pinkie Pie.” Matthias shrugged.
“That’s just silly.” She shook her head. “I can’t get her Pinkie Pie blankets if her name is also Pinkie Pie.”
“I can’t follow the logic but I’m really happy its there.” Matthias sighed.
“Magda…” Anna shifted a little in her seat.
“Yes, Anna?” She glanced at the girl in the review mirror.
“Would you, uh…” She shifted a little again. “Would you be okay if I named her ‘Jehanne’? I mean, I know it was yours but…”
Her throat swelled a little. “I’d be honored, Anna.”
“And it’s got Anne in it and that’s…” She tilted her head. “Is that why you named your daughter Anna?”
“It is.” She nodded. “I —”
The windshield shattered and Matthias grunted before bending forward. Blood splattered on his chest, and there was a thudding sound. The rifle crack echoed, and she realized a bullet had just gone through her son and into the car door behind him. “Matthias.” Daniel leaned forward as Magda jerked the car to the side of the road.
“Silver…” Matthias managed to cough out the word. There was blood on his lips.