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Drabble Vomit Thread

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Celestin, Dec 15, 2012.

  1. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige DLP Supporter

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    "If you are sure, wizard, than lay your claim."

    These words echoed in the thoughts of Harry Dresden as he stood upon the risen mound of stone and moss, staring at the blade of immaculate white which hung before him unaided by any force but for magic itself. Gravity rippled around the tool as he laid his hands near, so close to grasping the pale hilt that seemed as if it were made out of transparent bone. He grit his teeth and withdrew, hesitant in flesh and mind.

    "How can I claim an artifact that has laid waste to the realms, Mab?" he spoke into the quiet night. Flakes drifted off of the sword as he gave her name, and within his heart a pulse of familiar ache began to pain him. "A Winter Knight without his Queen is no knight at all, but how can you ask me to do this?" He clutched his chest as veins of frost thickened momentarily, and his flesh grew pale as milk, pale as ice, thin, glossy. Harry ducked his head and closed his eyes.

    "How can I not, right?" he said. He breathed out and raised his hand with conviction, and the force which held back all those before him who had dared try to pick it from the air relented. Harry twined his fingers tight about the hilt and drew forth the Wellspring of Winter, and into him then as he beheld it flowed the entire lineage of Winter Knights. The power that surged sought for a Queen, a Mother, a Lady. But it found only a Knight, and so bestowed what it could.

    His ears pricked and Harry Dresden turned. Fire burned on the horizon. Demons. Worse, Denarians. He had run from them before, year after year, run from his course, his last trial given to him, before the Outer Gates broke.

    Ice cooled his fears. Steel melted into his broken spine and firmed, purging the infectious spike driven in ten years ago. Like a film of scum, a haze of delirium, the taint of Lasciel's half-accepted coin bled away from his awareness for the first time. He felt his body responding to his understanding of his duty.

    The demons charged on, lead by some new Denarian of who he had no name to place to the face. Harry raised the sword in his hand, gradually shortening as its strength flowed into his willing vessel, and a hundred voices whispered thoughts, suggestions, demeanor's into his innermost ears more seditiously than Lasciel's spirit ever could have. Cold enveloped his heart to clench tight. He looked down to the Wellspring of Winter, sighed, and strode forward, not away, allowing the advice of his predecessors to come forward and guide his motions. He had never been a good Knight. Mab had come too late into his life to truly claim him as her own, until now.

    He raised the sword high. In response, the deadened land erupted with snowflakes and dust. He gave shape to his subjects, drawn from distant memory of his own, and then much more hardened encounters by those who came before. He breathed a wisp of life into the dead fae lords and ladies, creatures of might and merry death incarnate. He locked eyes with the Erlking renewed, a proud salute in stare passing between them.

    The bleak hordes of hell gave pause at what he was doing. Harry gave them no chance to answer, to think, to warn the rest of the realms. He marched on with his powers at work and began the duty inherited from Mab at last.

    The Winter Knight became the Winter King.

    /end. Not wholly sure where I was going with this a few months ago but I still kind of like it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2016
  2. Puzzled

    Puzzled High Inquisitor

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    I thought this was going to be a Warcraft cross for a second with Frostmourne.
     
  3. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Unfortunately I'm not familiar enough with Warcraft to angle toward that as-is, but a bit of googling in my future might change that.
     
  4. Zeelthor

    Zeelthor Scissor Me Timbers

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    I'm not sure what I'm reading. All I am sure of is that it's pretty rad. ;)
     
  5. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    Good stuff, Zenzao. Your short forms usually come out good though, so this is just you being you.

    Hmm, maybe I should drop something into this thread sometime.
     
  6. vlad

    vlad Groundskeeper Prestige

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    I can't tell you how much I hate being summoned.

    Oh sure, being the Knight of Winter has its perks if you're the type that enjoys a never ending ride of murder, mayhem, and madness – but that wasn't really my thing. So far I'd been lucky, and Mab hadn't forced me into doing something I couldn't live with but every time she summoned me it was another 1D20 and hoping I didn't roll low.

    Not including, of course, the massive migraine that resulted whenever Mab tugged me into the never-never. I was used to making portals between the real world and fae, and then navigating my way to where I needed to go, but Mab didn't like to be kept waiting.

    “Good evening, wizard knight,”

    Mab was smiling, a perfect mouth full of predatory sharpness. Perfect.

    “So I was thinking, maybe next time we could meet over drinks, keep it a little more casual. There's this great place I've heard about that just opened on Michigan -”

    Sit down, wizard,” Mab interrupted, and I felt my knees buckling at the command. Hell's Bells, not my Name, – not even my proper title – and her magic threatened to overwhelm me like I was nothing.

    You know when you have those moments when you really regret making decisions without knowing all the facts? I have those a lot nowadays.

    “What do you know about Fae?” Mab asks, and I pause at that – there's a hook here, somewhere, I just have to find it.

    “I know that there are two courts,” I reply with the obvious, trying to buy my brain time to work out the trap. “And that the Seelie and Unseelie Courts have to maintain a balance, but fluctuate with the solstices...”

    She's looking bored, which is never the look you're going for with a beautiful woman – murderous and nigh all-powerful or otherwise.

    “There are some fae, some quite powerful, that aren't attached to either Court, and that you, that is we, can be hurt by ir-”

    “Yes, yes,” Mab cuts me off from naming the dreaded metal. “What do you know about the creation of Fae.”

    No. No, no, no, no, no with a side order of no, and an ice-cold serving of nope to wash it all down.

    “Not much,” I say, doing my best to keep a straight face like I'm not thinking about my initiation into Mab's service, which mostly consisted of us having wild monkey sex after she healed my broken back and before I rescued my recently discovered daughter from a coven of vampires that planned to use her in a ritual that would see my daughter, her mother, myself, and my grandfather, dead. Not a great day.

    Mab sighs. “The strength, appearance, and characteristic of the Fae are intertwined with human lore and myth.” Mab explains slowly, like I'm somewhere between a child and an idiot.
    “Huh.” I reply, completely proving her wrong. “So... we made Santa Claus.”

    “You didn't make him, no – and you'll never even hint at that suggestion while in his presence unless I so order it, understood?”

    I nod.

    “But,” Mab concedes, waving one dainty hand in front of her as if speeding time along – which, given that literally time and space in Arctis Tor bend to her will, she probably is – “Humanity gave him the form, and allowed him to take the mantle.”

    “But we are losing focus, wizard. As of late a whole host of new Fae have appeared throughout the never-never. Some of winter, some of summer, many more in between.” She frowned at that. “The humans have been working very hard, as of late, creating new beasts and myths and childhood fantasy.”

    I shrug. Nothing I didn't already know.

    “But these are magnificent creatures,” Mab continues on, and I make sure I'm listening as I've got a nasty feeling I know where this is going and it might help to know what I have to kill next. If her look was predatory before now it's radiant, stunning psychopathy. “Titania has already begun in her attempts to sway them to her side. She is not weighted down with a Knight who wades in ignorance, nor is she so kind as to permit her Knight to spend most of his time outside the never-never, where he might take his time answering his Queen's summons.”

    That was a little unfair. Not that I said so – the idea that she was considering restricting me to the never-never was too horrible to think about, and arguing semantics with Mab was dumber than dancing with death.

    I was on thin ice, which is kinda impressive in the heart of Winter when you think about it.

    “You're very generous, my Queen.” She nodded imperiously at that, and I dared let out a breath.

    “Come,” she said, standing up. “I will show you some of the creatures that have appeared on the edge of Winter, and then it will be your job to ensure that the wildlings join my cause.” She gave me a narrow look, suggesting I wouldn't like the consequences if they didn't.

    I stood up, and before I had even reached my full height we were miles away, over frozen brooks and under white-topped groves of empty trees.

    “So when you say humans create new forms of Faerie, how come I haven't met anything more recent than... oh, I dunno – the Billy Goats Gruff?” I replied, thinking back on the Faerie I've encountered over the years. “I figure they go back to what, eighteen-hundreds? Seventeens, tops.”

    Mab doesn't reply as we glide through a snow swept field full of twinkling lights that I know to be the wee folk – pixies and brownies and all the other level two monsters you have to fight after you've cleared the tavern of ten giant rats.

    “I mean, shouldn't I have run into – I dunno... Peter Pan, by now? Or Mickey Mo-”

    “You will not name the Abomination!” Mab roars in a whisper and my mouth is frozen shut, literally.

    Oh stars and stones was she serious.

    “Its body lies scattered in a thousand pieces, buried across the Summer and Winter realms,” she continues. “You will not aid its greed by letting it hear its name come from your lips.”

    Right. That's Disney ruined forever.

    “Here we are,” Mab says a moment later, and we're standing on the shore of a lake that's so clear I can see the bottom, aided only by the moonlight.

    “What are we-” and then I hear a loud screech, and a trio of the largest birds I've ever seen take off from the far bank, letting out a warbling cry that pierces through the silent night.

    “Cuuuuuuuuuuu-no! Cuuuuuuuuuu-no!”

    Though their bellies were white the rest of their plumage was an ice-blue, and they were so large that if I hadn't actually met a dragon before, I might have guessed this is what one looked like.

    “It's beautiful, is it not?”

    Mab sounded like she was in love, and I turned to look at her. She was smiling like a small child – almost innocent and joyful, and her eyes shimmered with lust at the sight of them.

    “Yeah,” I replied. “What are they?”

    Mab looked at me then, clearly annoyed for breaking whatever fantasy she had been imagining – probably riding one of those birds into battle as she turned armies into shattered ice.

    “What they are not is mine. You shall fix this, wizard.”

    “It would help,” I say slowly, trying to pacify an all-powerful sociopath from going on a rampage with myself as victim-zero. “If I knew its name. Or for that matter, how you intend for me to bring it to your cause. Can I talk to it? Trap it in a circle? What are we talking here?”

    Mab sighed. “The humans, sadly, have already created a mythos for these creatures. We must use this.”

    Mab pulled an orb, smaller than my fist, out of who-knows-where. It glowed with an internal light, but I was lost on the details.

    “A gift or a weapon?” I asked, puzzled.

    “A weapon... of sorts. A cage, more like,” Mab replied.

    “The Winter Lady knew enough to explain the basic idea,” Mab continued, and the reminder that Molly too was entrapped by – and becoming increasingly a part of – Faerie was a slap in the face, so much that I missed the next few words.

    “... and then it will be forced to do my bidding. This particular creature, is called an Articuno.”

    Oh no. For the love of all things good that have not foresaken me.

    “You want me to catch, Pokemon.” I said, disbelieving.

    Mab nodded. “So you have heard of them too, good. I feared you might not be as familiar as my sweet child.”

    I wasn't, but I mean, you hang out with people who play D&D, you hear things.

    “My understanding is that, assuming the rules are the same, is that we have to fight them, first, before we catch them.”

    “Yes, that is correct.”

    “Right, so, maybe we should go and find some tamer, less powerful...” less terrifying than giant birds and hell's bells one of them just sent a giant bolt of ice crashing down to earth from its beak. “Something a little easier until we're ready to go toe to toe and I can... you know, catch them.”

    Mab let out a tinkling gale of laughter at that.

    “The pok-eh-mon obey the commands of whoever throw this ball,” Mab finally answered, holding the magical winter variant pokeball aloft. “It will be I who command them, Wizard, not you.”

    “Fine by me,” I rubbed my hands together.

    “Let us begin then – I want all three of them by sunrise, so we shall start with the largest one, that one there,” she pointed to the leftmost monster in the sky that is now creating snowstorms from its beating wings.

    “We still need something to fi-”

    Wizard,” Mab yells at me, visibly angry at my attempts to stall her. “I choose you.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  7. Lindsey

    Lindsey Death Eater

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    This is the best thing since sliced bread.

    I would love a series of oneshots about Harry vs random pokemon. It would be hilarious.
     
  8. Zeelthor

    Zeelthor Scissor Me Timbers

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    That's not quite how the Fae work, I think, and your Mab sounded a little bit out of character at times... That being said, I laughed my ass off. :D Great stuff, Vlad.
     
  9. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige DLP Supporter

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    "Quiet!" the wizard ordered as they stormed the beaches of Normandy. He wore a slanted black hat drawn low over his face, the better to conceal the fury bubbling underneath his cold stare, and an enchanted black duster that wouldn't have looked out of place in the latest spaghetti western under development in Hollywood right now. Underneath that his plain black tee and faded blue jeans were slick with sea salt and spray from the ride over, and his military grade boots were the only common sense attribution to his ensemble. The defense and offense at his disposal he held in each hand, a long, dark oak staff topped with a ruby-red gem, and a narrow and battle-blackened blasting rod.

    "If I hear one more word of argument before this war is over with," he warned the surly lot marching along at his back, "than I'm turning you over to Kemmler myself and saying fuck this mission right to hell where it belongs!"

    "You wouldn't dare!" protested the once-and-future Winter Lady, Maeve, still bearing the scars of their adventure through the Hawaiian islands a year-gone and eighty years ahead. She wore his older duster cinched loosely about the waist and little more beneath, now enriched with subtle Winter charms to replace or enhance upon his own. In her wake, the wet sands frosted over in her footprints. "You would be just as crippled for defying Mother Winter the moment you rebelled."

    He planted his staff stolidly in the beach and turned around to face the motley group.

    Maeve, the Erlking, Fix, and Demonreach's golem stared back in varying states of defiance and exhaustion. He tilted back his hat and stared straight into Maeve's inhuman eyes and answered her with biting sarcasm, "You're forgetting whose interests are currently being represented, darling. Your grandmother would just as happily help me if it would preserve another agent of death and destruction for the future. Not one of us here is currently worth as much." The next beat he was entirely serious, "Imagine Kemmler as your Winter Knight instead of me and you can see how delighted she would be to have her talons in his eroded soul."

    The ancient woman, if still comparably young against her kin, displayed a contemplative expression, while a little behind her Fix adopted one of horror. The Summer Knight had grown, both physically and spiritually, in the time since mourning his Lady's end two years behind them. He stood on even footing with the wizard and much better suited for the battle ahead in varying shades of Summer-y glow, albeit made from the era's combat fatigues. The weapons arrayed around his person on the other hand were most certainly from their own period, elemental amplifiers and solar ray guns and blazing daggers.

    "You cannot be serious, Harry!" he exclaimed.

    "I am. Now shut up and put your damned differences aside before we get any closer to his base of defense--" as if on time, a dozen bullets zipped past them and blew up piles of sand. "Michael-dammit." Turning around he crouched and thrust his blasting rod ahead, muttering his way through the assortment of spells at his disposal.

    /end. May I present the original dream which evolved into the first draft of Island in the Sun II? Thankfully it underwent serious development but I still really like this version of the story.
     
  10. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige DLP Supporter

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    So remember when I posted that first piece of Here Lies a Primordial Force of Nature in here back in March of '16? I just found the rough continuation of that and the direction for the story that I'd had in mind before I heavily revised matters. I still think this is some good stuff though.

    "O' Death," cried Lucifer Morningstar. In that one moment I felt a shock of understanding, of just how important the event taking place around me mattered to the greater universe, if the archangels would reach down into the depths of the Pit and withdraw the metaphorical Devil from his cage to attend. A little thing called the Apocalypse tended to be hyped whenever man whispered of this action, of Michael and Lucifer standing in the presence of each other for the second time.

    What tumbled out of my mouth was as much a matter of awe as fear.

    "Holy shit."

    My unwitting exclamation into the terse silence shattered the scene. A veritable waterfall of attention cascaded through Dam Dresden as heads turned to stare with no short amount of mixed emotions, and my body felt too tiny, too ephemeral to stand there basking in the focus of dozens of grade-A wills. I've slugged it out with a couple over the years, but so many at once...

    "Language, Harry." It was Uriel who cast me a line. The Watcher stepped up to join his brethren in wing and redirected the limelight upon the natural stars of the funeral. "If I may interrupt, Allfather," he added to Odin. The Norse god of wisdom and foresight nodded, stepped aside for the nonce, and receded to a comfortable distance toward his own kin, chiefly Thor and a host of Valkyries.

    "Odin spoke true. We angels do not often agree over the subjects that dominate our Father's work. Ironic, one might say, given our own startling lack of individual choice, the Fallen excepted." A dry smile filled Uriel's expression, but nothing of it reached his eyes that I could see.

    "I have only ever wanted what He gave them, brother."

    "A debate for another time and place, Lucifer. I mean that in this one act, of raising you now, the sacrifice of it that has been made of Father's long patience and effort is divided into a duality. Had we kept to the plan you would still be frozen where you belong in that lake of permafrost. Had we deviated we would have joined you in short order amongst the Fallen." Uriel fell silent and spread his wings, and for a brief moment his halo shone pure and clear. Each of Raphael, and Gabriel, and Michael last of all followed suit. A smell of cool, immaculate order, a feeling of utmost right with the world, washed across my awareness and faded to a calm ebb of serenity brushing against my thoughts.

    Then Lucifer answered. Brimstone and ashes cut through the peace. His tattered wings dripping with cold dew spread the equal of his brethren, but where his halo should have been were instead two jagged peaks jutting from the corners of his brow, no longer golden, but scarred, broken, and red.

    "As is plain to see, we have not Fallen, Lucifer. The roles we have all been cast to play must indeed come about when the day is done, be it here, in Heaven, or the Earth below. And if the reaping should go to you than we will die for our decisions just as Azrael did."

    "Still acting out on a duty..." Lucifer's tone trembled, and in it there was bottled rage and ugly condemnation.

    "Duty is one word that gives us all a purpose, Lucifer. As to why, our disagreements can be resolved when the time is ready." He held up a hand and grasped the first shackle binding the Devil's wrists, and as the other archangels grew on alert, Uriel eased the coiled chain of fire loose.

    "Do you know what you are doing?" Raphael asked.

    Uriel nodded his head to Michael, and then toward a few others gathered around the chamber as he loosened and let fall the binds. "Our brother will hold himself in check on this occasion. There are those of us who will know if he does not."

    Lucifer offered a beatific smile edged in hard, dour lines. His wings and the brimstone stench that had come with their unveiling retreated. "Do not be so confident in your judgment of me, Uriel." Yet he walked forward without looking left or right, without assessing the other figures here to mourn, as if they were motes in the air unworthy of attention. He stopped next to Odin and stared at the bones of Death. "Leave us."

    Vadderung clenched his teeth. For a beat I saw him move his lips and thought, He wouldn't, would he?

    Apparently both of them believed that he would. Lucifer's skin erupted into dark, boiling fire, the horns atop his brow cracked with fresh ash, and his wings spread wide once more, throwing Odin across the room to crash into Thor and the host of Valkyries.

    All at once the room exploded into action.

    Raphael and Gabriel made to charge, yet it was Michael who held them back with a touch. A man with hawkish features and ebony and ivory feathers around his wrists, reclining against a wall, looked to Uriel with a tilt of his neck; Uriel shook his head minutely and strode over to speak with the recovering Nordic deities and calm their mood billowing up into a sparkling rage. Mother Winter cracked her walking stick against the tiled floor with a raucous laugh that sent shivers down my spine. Another man looking like an old Aztec snake in human skin slithered amidst the remaining, stunned crowd, worming his way closer to Lucifer and stopped to behold the unveiled figure. Only Ferrovax spoke, "Angels."

    Lucifer pressed his hands against the coffin, and smouldering ashes wafted away. His burning flesh dripped endlessly, renewing what was lost. His voice held itself with so much compressed hatred when he spoke next that I felt my body instinctively try to coil up into a tight ball and find shelter on the other side of existence.

    "You would stand there and tarnish the name of our brother, never knowing the sacrifices we have made since the dawn of creation." I dropped down to one knee and tried to breath through the emanating will. "You would presume to know what he felt, what he feared, what he loved."

    "Lucifer." Michael stalked up the center of the chamber and stopped behind his brother. "Do not say what cannot be revoked."

    The fallen archangel turned, and the fires froze in purplish-black ice. Tears that had been evaporated by the heat now crawled down his cheeks. "Azrael stood before the darkness at our side, filled with all that made this universe tick."

    -------unfinished segue into below----------​

    When the archangels had done, something of an Aztec deity shambled forward. His dark cocoa skin was mottled with swirls of white ink, and the stark black mask that hung off of his face twisted obscenely through a variety of awful expressions with eyes the shade of rippling crimson, perversions of the grim setting; joy, open delight, raucous laughter. Sable night cloaked his naked shoulders and rolled down to his calves like the pelt of a jaguar that hadn't quite been informed it was supposed to lay down and die after being skinned alive.

    A hush washed out the rest of the noise as the figure stalked up the row of guests and looked down upon Azrael. "If only you'd skin to wrinkle in horror; eyes to shrink; tongue to gape from that brittle jaw."

    "Hold your own, Quetzalcoatl, or be gone. You were never invited." Odin's voice left tremors in the air.

    "You cannot threaten me, Norseman." A string of... something vaguely alien, incomprehensible to my ears, until suddenly it wasn't. The language calling to a Walker. Speaking to the Outside.

    And something spoke back.

    The air cracked, folded back from itself, and Outer Night spilled into the emporium in which we stood. I had never before felt such an eldritch hatred of the things which poured from the void as in that moment, a binding tether channeled from Mother Winter and into my own will.

    I moved without thinking. My pentacle amulet glowed blue-white with first faith, then translucent sapphiric tones as Winter ice manifested over top.

    Quetzalcoatl turned like a bolt of lightning and leaped to intercede my arrival. He was in turn met by a bolt of actual lightning thrown forth by Mjolnir, and Thor crashed into the sacrificial deity to send them both tumbling through the thick gunk spreading across the floor and all along Azrael's bones.

    I stumbled through the sludge and felt my willpower shake for a beat. Then I pressed on. My amulet drove into the midst of the gap between our universe and that which dwells without.

    I have no recollection of what happened after that. Only a surge of... something... at once deep down inside of my body and then cascading through my being.

    When I woke up the event was in lock down. Quetzalcoatl was gone. So were a few others. My skull felt like the contents of Niagara Falls had been funneled through it.

    Mother Winter rapped me hard under the chin.

    "Rather slow, weren't you?" she commented dryly. "All these years, nurturing that Starborn talent, and for what? Mab has spoiled you, boy. A Winter Knight in my day would have caved in that petty brat's skull as soon as the first syllables had passed his rotted lips."

    I managed an unintelligible groan. She swatted me again with her walking stick, that, distantly, a part of me recognized to be my grandfather Ebenezar's blackstaff.

    "He did rather well, I'd think, all issues being equal." Uriel spoke for me.

    She scoffed. "Hardly. Cain would butcher this boy."

    "Cain is not the most well-rounded choice you could use for the comparison, my lady. I think that Harry's grandfather would work better."

    A wash of frigid pain numbed up my awareness for the moment. "That traitor?"

    /end.

    Zeelthor might recognize parts of this from the doc I showed him at the time. Other pieces made it into the first chapter of Here Lies. Given how slowly I'm making progress on the revised fic(the second chapter is giving me quite a bit of trouble even with the rough idea sketched out) I figured I'd post this original ending point for completion's sake.
     
  11. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige DLP Supporter

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    EDIT: Decided to axe the first one here since it really isn't that good and just post up a different take. I was trying out ways to get Dresden into the Potterverse for my main Q2 entry but... it never really manifested, even though looking back, this one might have had some merit to it.
    -

    McAnnally's pub never really changed. Descending the stairs to the basement, Harry Dresden felt a sense of ease and familiarity that was comforting. Thirteen fans rotated lazily around thirteen haphazardly allocated pillars, breaking up the flow of loose magic completely. It was damned hard to pull up an active spell or curse in a hurry, too. Next to the door was a poster declaring the site under the protection of the Unseelie Accords. It was the perfect place for hedgewitches-and-wizards to gather and whisper incantations over lunch, a sort of gathering hall for the lower-powered individuals of the magical spectrum.

    So whenever a full wizard of the White Council turned up, heads tended to turn in that direction. Harry pushed down his hat a little further to prevent any accidental soul gazes and flashed a winsome smile as his staff clacked to the floor. He brushed his duster back from his hip to display both the fully loaded colt .45 stationed there and, more importantly for wizarding matters, the gleaming silver Warden's sword.

    His left hand loosened and his duster settled back into place. The ambient energy that hadn't been dispersed by Mac's precautions stiffened. Everyone else knew Harry by name, if not reputation. He did not brandish his position or his authority unduly. If he was showing off, it meant one of two things, that there was another of his kind present beneath their noses, or something worse.

    Most of them chose to carefully skirt back until he had passed, and then fled out of the door after Harry had stepped up to the bar and sat down next to a hooded stranger. Once they were practically alone, he said conversationally, "I'm here. Start talking."

    The late Duke Paulo Ortega's wife, Duchess Ariana, reclined her head as she turned, looking him over. She was just as fetching a woman now as she had been the first time they had met, when the Red Court subsequently betrayed the Code Duello to try and kill him. Needless to say they had failed and her husband had eventually paid the price.

    Inside of those cruel eyes there was unbridled hatred matched only by a sort of passion that had toppled kingdoms and dethroned rulers for centuries. Her features could have stunned lesser men, and no doubt many of them have perished under her throes of passion and blood-thirst.

    Harry managed to keep a tight smile plastered to his face.

    She gave a short, disdainful sigh, not unlike most of the inhuman beauties that he interacted with after a regular enough basis. "One of our kind has fled beyond our reach. He stole magic he had no right to hold and escaped deeper into the Nevernever than we dare retreat even in our most dire of circumstances." She paused a beat, and said, "Track him down and kill him. I will give your Council one more year of peace."

    "And what if I kill you here instead?" Dresden inquired evenly.

    Before Ariana could so much as stiffen, the harsh clack of a foaming mug landed before him, and Dresden turned to see Mac standing there with a sour grimace. "No trouble," Mac uttered firmly, and he gave a nod to the sign by the doorway that had been installed since this war began.

    Dresden sighed beneath his breath and nodded back. The barman stared at him a moment longer before turning to Ariana. She hadn't ordered a thing so far, and he looked at her until her nerve broke and she returned her attention to Dresden, and only then did Mac press on to one of the tables nearby.

    "So I guess it would be in our best interests to work together right now," Dresden continued drily. "I don't suppose you're going to offer me anything more ironclad than meeting me here on neutral grounds."

    "No," she enunciated slowly. She drew a scroll out of her cloak and laid it down before him. "That is everything that is relevant. The magic and power which he stole is no matter at this point, so long as you kill him." She rose and paced toward the door, but he reached out and caught her by the wrist, and they were suddenly face to face with the light of her eyes practically glowing, the hint of fangs behind those vibrant lips.

    "One more year," he repeated. "And leave my family alone." Ariana hissed. Dresden did not flinch, and in the end, she flicked her head in one might be taken for a nod. But he wanted more. "Say it. Word can be broken, but I'll take verbal testimony regardless."

    "So be it, wizard. I shall do all in my power to ensure your White Council receives one more year of peace, and no harm to you and yours." He released her wrist then and her stare was never full of my fury and hunger. When she had gone, he sighed much louder and reached for the ale. It washed his fears down into his gullet where they belonged. He hadn't meant just his grandfather with her oath, but his ex, and the child she was concealing.

    From a table at the far end of the bar, a mousy looking hedgewizard who hadn't yet fled stood up and made their way over to the recently vacated seat. The man sat down timidly. "Mister Dresden?" he squeaked.

    Dresden turned. "How can I help you?" He offered what was meant as a more genuine, reassuring smile, but it lacked the kindness he reserved for women and children and lower powered individuals on most occasions. He was still focused on his new job and what was at stake.

    "You may not recognize me in this form, but I have a few things to suggest," the newcomer said.

    "I'll be your vehicle into the Ways you need to travel. Please read what the Duchess wrote and then we can get underway. I'll be waiting just by the door." He rose and crept over toward the door and stopped beside the sign declaring Mac's pub under the protections of the Unseelie Accords.
    /end.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
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