A lot of people had let Harry Dresden down in his life. The White Council, the Wardens, his parents, his grandfather, Desmond and I. But the person who had most let Harry down had been himself. After shielding him from his own Death Curse, the Black Council had done what cults do best: they lied, they bent the truth, and they turned a good man into a monster.
With a cry of veritas servitas, Harry. . .no. . . Cowl sent a massive blast of air at Desmond and I, cascading us right over the top of HSBC tower and down towards our deaths. As I screamed out Desmond’s name my words were caught by the rushing wind and stolen from my lips. I looked down to see Desmond spread his arms and legs out to slow his fall, knowing me catching him was the only chance he had to live. I dove down through the air until I grabbed the back of his shirt. I twisted him around, caught him in a one armed hug, and with my fan in my right hand I screamed out VERAMOUS, sending a blast of air right at the ground below us. The force of the air cracked the street and buffeted us enough to cause us to land hard on the sidewalk, instead of dying on impact. The sudden spell had taken a lot out of me and the last thing I remember was purple clouds spitting green lightning, rifts in the Nevernever opening all around, and Desmond driving us away in a retreat to regroup.
- - -
Back home, as Desmond called every friend and ally we had I poured over my books and maps to find out exactly what Cowl had planned. Even as frustration began to build to a breaking point I felt a familiar presence over my shoulder as CoCo peeked at my notes.
“What are you doing?” she asked innocently.
“Trying to figure out what Harry Dresden is going to do with the nexus,” I said a slight bit annoyed, “I already know it’s something huge, and we’ve already found a lot of evidence that suggests the Black Council has been building up power from the Nexus for years, I just don’t know where or to what end.”
“Well, the Nexus already dumps a lot of power into the Conduit, maybe they’ve been charging that up for some reason?” CoCo said with a big smile and no worries.
“What is the Conduit, CoCo?”
“Oh, this thing,” she said placing a finger on Lake Erie.
My heart fell into my stomach as everything clicked into place. The Black Council had been storing the energy of the Nexus, mixed with their own, into the core of Lake Erie for over a decade. If that energy was released (like say when directed by a wizard of hate like Harry “Blofield’ Dresden) it would have enough power to literally eradicate the whole of North America, and then put enough water and seismic energy into the rest of the world that the ‘Apocalypse’ just wasn’t a big enough word to cover the destruction that would follow. And Harry would be the King of the Ashes.
Upstairs our phone began to ring, and I went up to answer it with fear in my heart.
- - -
Half of the Senior Council was dead, the rest of the Council was fighting for their lives, and Adam would not be coming to help us. Things appeared hopeless, and maybe they were, but I knew that I would rather die on my feet than huddling in fear. I told my friends and loved ones exactly that, and watched as all of the people I loved stood up to die with me, die while fighting for all things good and beautiful in life.
Desmond stood up first, covered in tactical gear and loaded down with more guns that most small nations. Jason stood next, Esperacchius at his side, as Sarah followed with him, a small gun Desmond had given her clutched in her hands. Trina and Rafe stood together, both wearing smiles of near mischief on their faces, even in the face of the apocalypse. Lopez stood in a corner, a gun that looked huge next to his smaller frame strapped around his neck and causing him no grief. Kyle and Hannah stood side by side, nodding their heads at me, their master, their sister, their friend. CoCo wore an innocent smile as she floated around the house in her care free way. Even John Noble, who had no business on any front line, stood up with determination on his face. There was only one person missing, I thought, as a knock came on the front door and I opened it to reveal Kevin Hart, one of our oldest and most loyal friends.
“You’re late,” I said with warmth in my eyes.
“A police officer is never late, nor is he early, he. . .well, you know the rest,” Kevin said as I let him in the door to get suited up.
- - -
The caravan of cars, the GTO and Tonka Truck in the lead, made its way into Buffalo proper. As we approached the city I could see the mass of dark, terrible clouds shooting out lighting, even as all over the streets between us and Cowl writhed hundreds and hundreds of foul creatures from the dark corners of the Earth and beyond. As we all abandoned our cars we began to make our way through the barren streets on foot, the HSBC tower our destination.
As our small group of warriors made its way down the city streets we came face to face with a literal army of monsters. As everyone began pulling swords and guns I looked over at Desmond, as I knelt to the ground.
“Give me three minutes,” I said.
He racked the slide of his Tommy gun.
“We’ll give you four,” came Jason’s voice as he pulled Esperacchius free.
As my friends met an army of monsters in combat I closed my eyes and began focusing my will. The storm clashed violently overhead and I used it to fuel my own power. I began to swirl the thick air above us, turn it into a funnel, and pour power into it. Two minutes and fifty eight seconds later I opened my eyes, whispered veramous, and called down a tornado right on top of Cowl’s army.
The swirling vortex came down avoiding the city’s buildings while at the same time picking up and flinging monsters thousands of feet in every direction. As my tornado made its way down the street of monsters I held my right hand out, snapped my fingers, and lit the entire vortex of air on fire. The monstrous screams were music to my ears, even as I focused heavily on avoiding the innocent buildings all around them. The firenado didn’t last long, and it took a lot out of me, but it cleared a huge path for us and showed the enemy we weren’t messing around.
As we trudged ever onward we met a second wave of resistance, and the real war started. I could see my friends fighting for their lives all around me even as Des and I did the same. Rafe had turned into his monstrous bear form and was battling for his life against a massive troll in bronze armor. Not far from him, Trina worked her White Court magic on two Reds. I saw her snap one of the bat creature’s necks before moving on to its partner. I saw Kevin under fire (literally) from a dark wizard and thought I’d have to step in to save him, until he popped up and shot the warlock right in the head with Sanya’s borrowed AK-47 and then turned its sights on other targets. Jason was tearing an uberghoul apart with Esperacchius, dodging every blow the creature tried to land, as Lopez fired a minigun (that I still didn’t know where Des had found) all up and down an ogre’s body. Even Sarah and John were firing off shots here and there, Sarah doing so as if she knew where a creature was going to be before it appeared, which of course she did.
Other than Des and I our biggest guns were CoCo and the twins. CoCo was dancing around the battlefield, laughing like she was prancing around a family picnic. She’d clap her hands and bright red lightning would cast out to strike down enemies, or she’d twirl her hands and freeze enemies with frost and crush them with huge balls of hail. The twins on the other hand were trading blows with a gruff damn near the size of the one I’d had to take down outside the art gallery way back. Hannah was pounding the gruff with earth and fire magic as Kyle threw potions and his own brand of combat magic at it.
As Des and I pushed forward I heard Hannah scream out PURIFIS followed by a column of flame that put my firenado to shame. My heart stopped as I jumped up on top of a sedan to try and see Hannah through the battle. The blast she’d unleashed was so powerful it had to have been her death curse; at least it would have been so for your average wizard. Hannah stood, exhausted, still living after her masterful casting of one of the more powerful evocations I’d seen in a long time. The girl was a natural.
As Desmond brought my attention back to the problem at hand I looked down to see the raging battle-forms of two cursed Loup Garrous. As my mind raced to figure out how Cowl had brought the curse to bear without a full moon, the creatures parted and charged; one toward Desmond, the other at me. I jumped off the car I was standing on as the werewolf slammed into it, tearing it apart. I drew my warden sword (Desmond’s) into my hand and fumbled with a potion vial to coat it with magically infused silver I’d made from the rest of the silverware at the house (sorry Martha). The werewolf came roaring at me and only my Desdarius shielding spell kept it from tearing me apart. Every time it came at me I’d block its attack and then land one of my own. It wasn’t long before both wolves were once more human beings, lying dead on Buffalo’s war torn streets.
As our small group of heroes started to get pushed in towards each other Des and I came face to face with two warlocks. I did my best to confuse them with my flashbang ring as Desmond slipped off to flank them. As death spell after death spell hammered into my shield I began firing off rounds of ammunition back at them. It gave Des enough time to plant a hollow-point round in one of the wizard’s chests and for me to plant one in his skull. The remaining warlock blew away the floor Desmond was hiding on, only to reveal a massive black dog tearing his throat out. As the two warlocks went down Des and I found ourselves at the head of a small circle of all of our friends, totally surrounded by the enemy.
I’ve been in some bad situations, and I know a doomed one when I see it. Of course, I’d been in many a doomed position before only to come out on the other side alive. Still, an army of monsters versus a dozen or so people isn’t a promising venture. I thought us all dead for sure, until the Sherman tank came rolling around the corner with the Pole sticking out of the hatch and Carmine and Sam hanging off the sides. The tank’s main cannon sent a massive exploding shell into the enemy and then the Baron’s troops opened fire with all different variety of world war two era weaponry. That was only the beginning of the chaos.
Out of the Nevernever a portal spilled out Adam Kane, what was left of the Grey Council, and Joransidhe. All of them began flinging lightning and death into the ranks of the monsters. In Adam’s hand he held a long black staff, which I could only assume was the Black Staff, and as he waved it in front of him half of the city block went up in fire and earth. Morgan, Luccio, and the Wardens weren’t far behind; all of them were swinging their warden swords through the enemy lines. I could see Ivy and Kincaid not far behind them, raining magical and mechanical death before them.
Then the aluminum coated van came around a different corner with Dizzy at the wheel, coordinating the attack over an old CB radio. Behind him came a team of Sentinel finest warriors and a whole mess of S.I. police officers. Gunshots began firing in controlled bursts from the professionals, laying down supporting fire enough to break our group free from the enemy.
As we all came to a fighting stalemate I saw two blinding white lights come into being as Michael and Shiro came wading into battle, Swords of the Cross in hand. Jason quickly took up battle next to his brothers and started pushing us forward. When the wendigos came into view I figured that our forward momentum was about to halt; then Mountain Heart came swinging into the fray, knocking dozens of enemies away with every swing, and met them in battle. All of our combines reinforcements was enough to push us all the way to City Hall, where two familiar faces were waiting for us.
Tessa and Magog stood there like they owned the city. It did not take long for Tessa to degrade into rage and hate in Desmond’s presence, and as she cast magical death at my husband I had a MUCH bigger problem to deal with. As Magog came charging for blood I cast out my wind magic and picked him right off the ground in a little bubble of anti gravity. As he floated through the air screaming my name in anger, I kept picking up bigger and bigger cars with my magnetic bracelet and slamming them into his face. Tons of metal kept flattening like beer cans on Magog’s face, but he refused to die. As the big behemoth started to grasp out for objects to help keep him on the ground I pulled out a small glass vial and threw it his way.
The little bit of mind fog potion was enough of a distraction for the ape denarian that I was able to catch view of Desmond’s (grim form) killing blow on Tessa. As her coin came flying out of her dead body I saw Jason run by to snatch it up as Desmond turned to meet Magog in battle. As Desmond locked into combat with Magog I began running for them, charging my staff with my Will the whole way. Right at the last second I telepathically yelled for Des to get out of the way, and with a cry of LOTARE I threw my staff like a spear right at Magog’s heart. It tore right through his chest, sending his coin flying out into the gloved hand of one of the Knights. Then we were pushing forward once more.
I climbed on Desmond’s canine back as he took off through the war zone, only for us to run smack dab into the tentacled bodies of two outsiders from beyond the outer gates. I remembered how rough the fight Jason and I had been with the two outsiders near the outer gates after Desmond’s ‘death’, and I did not expect these two to be much easier opponents. Desmond began darting between the two of them as I started pouring gouts of flame and razor sharp air all over them. Even Desmond’s speed wasn’t enough to avoid all the hits directed at us. As I kept bringing the hurt on one of the them I was realizing that just two of us wouldn’t be able to stop them alone.
Then Dizzy’s van got tipped over by about two dozen red courts, and I made a hard choice easy for my husband as I quickly slid off his canine form.
“Go get Dizzy, Desmond! And bring back a Knight or two,” I said turning my attention toward the two masses of tentacles trying to kill me.
I pulled my focusing fan to hand and started conjuring up a massive ball of razor sharp air, even as the two horrors kept creeping closer and closer. At the last second I let out a scream of VERAMOUS, and sent the ball of death right into the face of the closest monster; it shred apart into a million pieces. As its brother came charging at me I clicked the top of the veil watch sitting in my pocket, and disappeared from view.
No sooner had I disappeared than Shiro, in all his glory, came swinging Fidelacchius with all the power and strength of the lord on high. Every attack from the horror at the knight ended in grievous wounds for the horror, and more ground for Shiro. In one final flash of motion Shiro cut the creature in twain and then darted back into the fray. I reappeared and regrouped with Desmond just in time to hear the screams.
Around the end of the block, the HSBC tower in sight, came the massive shadowed form of He Who Walks the Shadowed Rills of Light. He cast death and hate before him, fully manifested at the height of his power, his Cheshire Cat grin of razors gleaming in the false night.
“Prepare to die once and for all, foolish magi,” came its hateful un-voice. I began to shake ever so slightly.
At the last second before I lost all composure Desmond turned to me and simply nodded his head. He didn’t say one word, he just let me know he was in it with me to the end, no matter what.
“Desmond,” I said to my husband, “I don’t know if we can even hurt him, but we have to. We may die right here, but we just have to hope we can stop him, and pray that will be enough.”
Then Desmond was racing toward the creature, barking and howling like the hound of hell of his namesake, and I was slinging every bit of magic I could find at the Walker. I threw spells that would level houses at him, but he barely seemed phased, and I knew that eventually Des and I’s luck would run out. Not far from the Walker was one of Buffalo’s many office buildings, but this one was changed. It was radiating out power and energy as if it was one of many foci for the spell Cowl was weaving above us. I closed my eyes and I gave it my all.
“My name is Constance Agatha Marvelo Carver-Richardson-Waters, and you will never trouble this world again!” I roared with all of my power, pulling on my own true name to empower my spell.
I roared, sending the spell directly at the magically charged building. The gust of wind was so powerful it snapped the building at its base and brought it down right on top of the Walker’s head. The creature howled one final scream of not-life, and then the magically infused building silenced it forever.
As He Who Walks faded to nothingness our collected friends began falling in all around us, falling back while pushing towards the tower. No words needed to be said, all of our friends were going to make a hole for us, and then hold the line. They were going to live or die by what Desmond and I could do at the top of that tower, and they weren’t going to have any second thoughts about it. When the hole opened Des and I burst through it, and began ascending the tower.
- - -
At the top we found ourselves in the eye of the magical storm as Cowl kept casting a spell of such complexity and genius I’m not ashamed to say I found myself in awe of him. As he cast his spell, his apprentice Kumari stood in our way. She radiated power, the kind of which I’d felt coming off much of the Senior Council. Desmond and I were all that stood before her. At her hip was a Chinese straight sword, her mother’s warden sword. As she looked up at us she said one thing.
“Now it ends.”
And then the battle was on. She cast such powerful water magic at me that it broke right through my most powerful shielding spell, poured over the protective energies of my counterspell ring, and still had enough force to bruise one of my ribs through my magically armored hoodie. I returned fire with a blast of CLEAVOS that cut through her own shield and would have removed her arm from her body had she not twisted with the attack. Even so, it seemed that whoever made the first mistake would be the one to die.
That mistake turned out to be not having an ungodly powerful shape-shifter as a husband. Desmond tore into her side with his massive jaws and then darted away just as quickly to avoid her death spells. We battled like that for some time, so much so that both Kumari and I were running low on our endurance. When her magical blade came into her hand Daniel’s Marine saber followed suit in mine, and I knew it was time to end it.
We struck back and forth at one another, magical swords hitting invisible shields, and rivaling any lightsaber duel in any movie you’ve ever seen. In the end my speed won out as I buffeted her shield away with a quick air spell, and then drove my blade up to the hilt through her heart. In those last seconds I could see Kumari’s face change, and remorse enter her features.
“Tell. . .tell my daddy I love him,” Marie Kane said to me as she died in my arms.
“He already knows,” I whispered to her as I gently set her body to the ground.
And then there was one. Harry ‘Cowl’ Dresden turned around to face us, and laughed a maniacal laugh I had only ever heard before in Bond flicks.
“It is done! You’ve killed my apprentice, but I’ve finished my ritual. The unraveling is complete, and shortly this world will end. The new world will become a place of justice, strength, and honor. . .under my rule,” our former ally spit out at us.
As he continued grandstanding I could feel the magical ‘time clock’ ticking down towards the end of the world, but I felt something else too. I felt my friends fighting, and in some cases dying, below me. I felt their hope, and faith, and love in Desmond and I. I felt that white hot surge of power lending us strength in the face of the apocalypse. Next to me I felt the burning unwavering love of my husband, the man who had always been by my side, even when he was miles away from me. I reached out and clasped Desmond’s hand, and then I set it on my left shoulder.
I took up a perfect casting stance for channeling energy outward and started collecting every inch of my inner Will. I began collecting Desmond’s, freely given to me, as well. Into that spell I had forming in my mind I added the roaring infernos of hope, faith, and love from all of my friends fighting below us. Then I looked up at Harry Dresden.
“You’re right, Harry. This world will go on with justice, strength, and honor. But you are dead wrong about on thing: you won’t be a part of it. I have just one last thing to say to you, Harry Dresden. FUEGO!”
Out of the end of my closed fan came a bright blue stream of flame traveling like a gunshot. It caught Harry right in the chest and sent him flying out towards the massive spell of death he’d prepared. As he hit the wall of his own magic it disintegrated him instantly, and then my counter spell hit right after him. At first the seams began to break apart under my spell, but shortly my spell faded, and Harry’s regained its strength; the clock kept ticking ever downward.
Harry ‘Cowl’ Dresden was dead, but his spell raged on, and there was nothing I could do. I looked at Desmond and gave him a sad final smile, which he returned with a kiss and a hug so pure and deep it started tears falling. We were going to die, but we were together, and that was something.
“I’m glad to be with you, Desmond Waters, here at the end of all things,” he simply nodded back at me, and squeezed my hand.
And then I felt it. A small thing, but with a power all its own. Like a guitar string being lightly plucked at the edge of hearing. It was Life, that little bit of wonder inside all of us that we never truly think about but that flows through everything we do. Baby Daniel was talking to me, and I decided to listen. I knelt down on the ground, bringing Desmond with me, and I reached out. I touched the faith, love, and hope of my friends once more, but this time I didn’t fan those emotions into infernos, I let them flow naturally through me. With them I mingled my will and a bit of that thrum of energy. Then I let it go.
I didn’t slam it out, or shoot it out, or even push it all that hard. I just let it go, and I hoped. The little bit of Life floated out and just barely grazed the wall of death right as the magical timer clicked on zero. The spell of death went off, but it had nowhere to go. The bit of Life had completed a magical circle the size of Lake Erie, and bound the spell inside of it, making it harmless to anything beyond the lake. As Lake Erie exploded into a huge geyser of water I felt as decades of the Black Council’s evil plots wasted away to nothing, and as the lake settled after many minutes I felt the release of energy as all magic around it and within it faded away and found peace.
“I’m thinking I’m in the mood for some ‘I saved the world’ Grand Slams at Denny’s,” I told my husband with a smile as he covered his lips over mine.
- - -
Grand Slams would wait for several days as we mourned and the city cleaned up after the worst ‘tornado’ Buffalo had ever seen. Warden Morgan and much of the White Council had given their lives in the battle as well as countless members of Sentinel and S.I. The Pole had also lost many of his own men, including Sam and Carmine. I won’t lie and say I didn’t cry. The two were always at odds with me in one way or another, but I had known them for many years, and they were my friends in their own way. We found Mountain Heart under a pile of dozens of dead monsters, and Rafe gave him a true Native American send off not far from our house in Clarence.
In the end though, most of us lived, and thank God for every one of them.
Trina and Rafe are still together after many a long year, and even ended up with a son, Bart. He’s everything you’d expect from Trina and Rafe’s son. The kid has a lot stacked against him, but he has some pretty darn good people in his life. Trina and Rafe are over to visit Des and I often, though never often enough for my tastes.
Jason and Sarah had a couple more rugrats, and while Dad settled down to child rearing Mom went on to become a pretty prominent doctor in Buffalo. Those two are another couple who are always around the house, but that I never get enough of.
Kevin eventually found a promotion to Commissioner and he’s been making sure S.I. programs are going up all over western New York. They are so popular that they are spreading out around the rest of the country as well. Sheron still rules the house of course.
Lopez, Raul, and Ceasar ended up forming a real band (The Three Amigos) and have gotten pretty popular of late. Mostly in the latino circle, but with their appearances on the Tonight Show I know they’ll be mega stars before long.
The Twins are the great wizards I always knew they’d be. Kyle has been helping Adam out with his new work (Supernatural U.N., pretty cool stuff) and Hannah is well past me in the ass-kicking department these days. Those two I really don’t see as much as I’d like, but every once in a while they stop in to see their sister, usually when they are in a load of trouble. We buried Dad a few years back, but Mom and I talk weekly, and we have more than made up for those many years we spent apart.
CoCo has progressed far in faerie and every year she draws farther and farther away from the little pixie Des and I knew and still love. Though the girl hasn’t once forgotten to leave us ‘Queen Paula’s’ donuts for our birthdays in the last ten years, so ‘the more things change’ and all that.
John got re-elected mayor after the travesty Burnside made of the downtown clean up, and then eventually found himself a seat in the senate on Capital Hill. There are talks of the next stop being the White House, and he’s got at least two votes locked down.
The Pole softened up, and while still ruling as the iron clad Baron of Buffalo he slowly got out of his life of crime and even found himself over to our house from time to time, with full welcome of course. Des sang at his funeral. You know what song. We lost Shiro too, but his last words were of a good life well lived and how he’d be meeting the ‘King’ soon. Michael was there to see him off, and he still sends us family cards every holiday that crops up, and receives just as many back.
Chip is still going strong (which makes me wonder exactly where Daniel found him) and he’s stayed his regular old cute self ever since, except for the extensive time he spends in the hallway closet. God knows what that dog gets up to in there.
As for Desmond and I? Well, I don’t know if we have a story book ending, but we never really had a story book life either. We still battle the forces of darkness side by side. I still eat too much and make him laugh with my little insanities. He still makes quips at the best and worst of times and throws down in a fight with the best of them. We still love each other completely, now and always. Of course, now we also have little Daniel and Mia Waters in our lives, two children that taught me the meaning of love all over again. My children and my husband in a little house in the woods. Is it a story book ending? Maybe not for most people, but its the best damn ending I could have ever hoped for.
My name is Constance Agatha Marvelo Carver-Richardson-Waters, but you can call me Connie. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, my husband and I will be there, and you might just find yourself a part of the Buffalo Files.