The Buffalo Files

The Queen CIty's Last Stand
Because fuck titles being the same.

Harry Dresden….the man I’d watched die at the Fairgrounds under a horde of red court vampires, had just launched us from the building with a blast of air stronger than any hurricane. Hell, it was stronger than Nicodemus’ breath and packed double the punch. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so minty fresh. Harry was dead. And Cowl had quite likely just killed us.

I spread my arms, hoping to slow my fall. The pavement rushed up toward me at a frightening pace. All sorts of things ran through my head. All the things I’d never said. Mistakes I’d made. Moments I’d shared. It looked like that was it. I knew Connie was somewhere above me, but the chances of her being able to catch me were looking fairly slim. I took solace in the fact that at least her magic would give her a chance at saving herself, even if she couldn’t get to me. Still, I did all I could to slow myself. Maybe we’d get a miracle. I breathed deep as the street rushed closer and prepared for the worst.

And then Connie’s arm wrapped itself around me as she yelled VERAMOUS. A gust of air buffeted our fall like a jet engine. The concrete cracked, dust and debris encircling us as we crashed hard on the pavement. I was pretty sure I bruised a rib or two, but I was still in the fight. If I wasn’t dead yet, a fall from a skyscraper wasn’t going to kill me. Not if I had anything to do about it. Besides, the war wasn’t over. I helped Connie to her feet. Sweat poured off her and she looked as if she’d just ran 10 marathons. I snatched up her staff that had been blown to the side and we got out of dodge before Cowl had decided to come down and finish the job. As darker clouds gathered over the city, we knew it was only a matter of time before Cowl completed his spell, but we had no choice but to retreat. We were just two people. A wizard and a death dealing Devil-Dog, but still two people nonetheless. Against possibly the strongest evil wizardly duo to ever walk the earth. Penn and Teller these guys were not.

We regrouped at the house as we tried to piece together the plan. CoCo hovered over Connie’s shoulders as we mused about what Cowl’s plan might be. It was big. It was powerful. But what was it going to do? “Oh, it’s this thing.” CoCo giggled as she looked at the map. Lake Erie. A circle enveloping the most powerful magical nexus on the eastern seaboard. It would have enough power to level the entire country, and the resulting aftershocks would take the rest of the planet with it. Cowl had been serious with this plan.

Connie laid it out for everyone, telling them if they wanted to leave, that they were free to go and we wouldn’t think anything of them for leaving in the face of these odds. We were the ones fighting the darkness so they didn’t have to. I wasn’t all that surprised when all of our friends were standing around us, ready to give their lives to save the world.

As I slipped into my gear for what might be the last time, I looked around at all of my friends. People I’d fought alongside, people who’d pulled me up from darkness more times than I could count and people who’d pulled me out of worse places. Even John Noble had slipped on an extra kevlar vest and grabbed a 9MM from my gun closet. Lopez even showed up with a minigun. Where the man got these things, I’ll never know. There were no more civilians, not here. It hurt me to see my friends having to stand against this force, but I knew they wouldn’t have it anyway. Connie had laid out the deal and all of them stood up to fight. It was as simple as that. Most of the White Council was dead or fighting for their own lives elsewhere. No help was coming. We were that last line of defense.

And speaking of thin lines, Kevin walked in, a bit late to the party and suited up. Well, we may not have had a thin blue line, but it was a line alright. And we weren’t going down without a knockout fight to the last.

The convoy rolled into the city, much like a tornado tracking crew into the eye of an F5 tornado. The streets were literally crawling with the supernatural. Portals had popped up all over the city, spewing all sorts of evil into Buffalo. Ogres roamed along the streets, taking streetlamps as clubs. And behind miles of all of this, was our target. Harry’s throne with which to bring about his new world. We stopped the convoy and got ready to hoof our way into. “I need at least three minutes.” Connie said, preparing herself. I loaded the Thompson and prepared to make a snide remark. Jason beat me to it, confidently drawing his blade, the sword of hope, from its’ sheath. “We’ll give you four.” he said as he strode to meet the tide of monsters. I nodded to him as we met the enemy. Rafe changed, his body rippling with muscle as he took to his bear form, a roar shattering the glass along the streets as he began to battle a troll. Connie worked her literal magic and a tornado of fire bore down on the city, expertly keeping the buildings from being immolated. It cleared a massive path and let Cowl know we meant business. Two sorcerers, brainwashed by Cowl’s insane plan, began trying to ventilate my frontal lobe with whatever magic they could. Connie distracted them as I snuck off into the shadows. The headstrong mages never stood a chance, particularly with Connie’s capable wizarding skills keeping them occupied. A couple of quick shots from Sanya’s AK took care of that problem. We pushed on as I heard Lopez’ minigun spin up, the unmistakeable sound of bullets punching through metal ringing loudly through the cacophony. Unfortunately for the ogre behind his shield, armor piercing rounds are quite effective against pretty much anything. As we made our way through the city, the entire supernatural world seemed to crash down on us, trying to crush us to dust. Just when it seemed the most hopeless, I saw a fully crewed Sherman tank rolling down the street, Baron Wocjinski dressed in his finest battle mobster attire, was at the helm. Even Dizzy had brought his van (How can you miss it? It’s literally covered in aluminum foil to keep “Them” from listening in,) The boys from Sentinel filed out, professional and as effective as ever. No one was taking their city from them. Even Adam Kane and the magical army he’d raised through the Never-Never were fighting right along side SI and the rest of the BPD. Kyle and Hannah worked together in their weird psuedo-psychic harmony as they took on an Elder gruff, finally settling that score for themselves.

And of course, before all of that was finished, who stood before us but two of the most evil, tough bastards I could think of. Tessa, in all her creepy crawly horror literally writhed in front of us, itching to tear me apart. Hell, I’d gotten into a fist fight with her and shot half of her face off with a 12 guage. She had a right to be mad, even if she was an evil bitch. Magog, in all his beastly gorilla like monsterness loomed beside her. I was pretty sure he’d been keeping fit by bench pressing tectonic plates somewhere, but hey, gotta keep in shape somehow. He charged at Connie, for better or worse, and I simply had to have faith that she’d make it through.

The beast reared forward, eager for a shot at Tessa. And I let him in, controlled, but ready. I’d trained enough to know how this works. I wasn’t going to slip and Tessa wasn’t going to walk away from here. We harried each other a few times, tendrils of insects and blades slamming into me and the air carried the sharp scent of blood before long. I bit into her, taking mouthfuls of squirming roaches and locusts with me. As many times as I’d tangled with her, I still had to fight retching. Tessa was getting desperate as I kept pressing her. I dodged her whips as the flailed more and more madly. Hell, she even tried to drop what was left of a nearby skyscraper on me, taking out her own troops and some of Buffalo’s Finest trying to defend themselves.. I dove back in on her through the smoke, tearing right into her face with every bit of energy I had left. I let the beast out almost all the way. Trust me, there’s no other way to chew through live insects. You try it and tell me how you’re feeling. Eventually, I heard the unmistakable sound of the coin hitting the asphalt. I gave it only a fleeting glance. I’d been down that road before and wasn’t about to claw my way out again. Better to die as myself than live under their special breed of insanity again.

I turned on Magog, hoping to get into the fight before he became too much for Connie to handle. The dazed monster fought with more gusto than I’d expected after being pummeled by two or three parking garage’s worth of cars. So I harried him as best I could. I had speed to his brawn. But a good blow would probably flatten me like an eggshell. So I tore at him just enough to piss him off and then darted away. Behind him I could see Connie lining up her shot as she aimed her staff like a javelin. She screamed for me to get down, and believe me, I don’t think I’ve ever moved faster. Being on the receiving end of Connie’s spells is like standing in a building while it’s being demolished. Magog let out a roar as he fell, the coin hitting the ground beside him.

Walkers from beyond the outer gates. Two of them. Well, when you’re going through hell, keep going, right? Even if it’s a being that could shred you limb from limb like flicking a booger off your finger.

Luckily, we’re a pretty hard booger to flick.

Connie climbed on my back as I ran between them, focusing my attention on dodging them while Connie laid down the best magical beatdown I’d seen in a while. Well, Hannah could show her a thing or two about raw power, but the finesse she leveled against them was mind blowing. Gouts of flame peppered the two walkers, but barely left a dent. We needed more firepower or they were going to catch us one of these times and end it all. Connie hopped off my back and yelled for me to get the Knights and Dizzy out of the wrecked van. The guys had put up a good perimeter, but there was only so far that was going against a wave of red court vampires. They were good, but there is only so much guns would do. They needed me. I wove my way through the chaos as I fought over to them. A few of the red courts turned around just in time for jaws to set into their faces. The crew didn’t waste a second and fought their way out of their to regroup with the rest of us. Shiro climbed onto my back, sword swinging as we shredded our way back to Connie.

Connie had managed to take care of one of the walkers. How, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand… With Shiro’s help, we were able to take care of the second one, thanks to his swordfighting skills. Just when things seemed to get a tad bit brighter, it appeared.

Me and Connie shared a quick moment as he lumbered around the corner. This was probably the last the three of us would get. Hell, the little guy wasn’t even getting a chance. The more I thought about it, the more anger took hold and I turned to face it this monster. Fuck him. I mean really. He wasn’t taking this from me.

The creature that had killed one of my closest friends and my wife’s dear husband. A creature that had made a damn good pass at me, and put its’ hand in with Nicodemus. We entered a dance of death that we had no hope of winning, but I gave it everything I had. I let the beast completely off his leash. Growling and snarling, I dove on the thing and then ducked back, barely missing death each time. It was only a matter of time before I got clipped by one of his massive blows. Connie was able to come up with a plan, and at the right moment, she battered him into one of the magically charged buildings behind him. The resulting backlash made him unleash a cosmos shaking roar, that was finally silenced as the charged building fell.

Our friends held an opening for us as we moved up the stairs to finally end this.

Or, you know, face a gruesome death.

But hey, you gotta die sometime, eh?

As we stepped out into the thick air under Harry’s cataclysmic spell, Mi-Hyun turned to meet us.

“This ends now.” was all she said as she set on us. Connie pulled one of her swords and began dueling, alternating her blade with her magic. I set in, trying to pull Mi Hyun’s attention from the fight and give Connie an opening. I dodged, as best I could after climbing 50 flights of stairs, but took enough blows myself. I swear, “Concussion” is my middle name. Look it up. The roof was less about five air conditioners as I dove on her one more time, teeth bared. She overextended, trying desperately to keep me from tearing into her side. Her body spasmed a bit as the blade sunk into her chest and Connie took her in her arms. For all the evil she’d been involved in, in her last moments, she was Adam’s daughter. She’d loved her dad and wanted him to know that. And that was a message I was going to make sure got delivered.

But first, we had to take care of the world ending spell circling above us.

“It’s done. You’ve killed my apprentice, but my spell is complete. Soon I’ll rule from the ashes of this world. A new world of justice and honor.” Harry intoned as a madman is wont to do. Connie responded, acknowledging him and then ending him. Fire engulfed Harry, killing him almost instantly. The spell seemed to crack apart for a moment and for a split second, I thought we’d really done it. But then it coalesced into something stronger. The spell kept rolling and there was no stopping it. It had a life of its’ own now.

I took my wife in my arms and embraced her, as it seemed death had finally come. If there was any place I was going to die, it would be beside her. And then, she started to guide me to the ground. Through her, I felt a tiny pulse of energy. I’m no wizard. I’m not even close. Hell, turning on the lights in the living room is the most magic I can do. But that tiny little pulse begged to be let out. Connie expertly guided it, drawing on everything that had happened. Our hopes, fears, our friends and family below us in the streets. Love. All of that was poured into this…spell. It had a mind of its’ own though as if life itself were trying to survive. It barely touched the wall of Harry’s spell, and just like that, the lake exploded, contained by the magical energy that had stood the chance of reducing the entire world to ash.

I took Connie in my arms, thankful to be alive and beside her after everything we’d been through. I have say, the prospect of “I saved the world” Grand Slam’s at Dennys sounded like the greatest thing ever. Before all that, there was work to be done. Losses to mourn. Shiro had been killed. The Pole had lost Sam and Carmine, amongst a host of his other troops. The city was a wreck. Rafe stood beside Mountainheart, who’d lost a fight with about fifty red court vampires. There’d be time for Grand Slam’s later.

Still, life went on.

The Three Amigo’s have a fantastic band now. They’ve even gotten some high profile gigs on TV. I’ll admit, the tape hasn’t found its’ way out of my cassette player in the GTO, and I wish I could blame Connie’s magic for it being stuck in there.

All in all, it makes you enjoy the little things all the more. Daniel and Mia have reminded me of that every day. Jason, Sarah and their little rugrat. Poker night with the three amigos. Our barbecues at the house. Late night fires. When you literally fight for your life for this stuff, it makes you cherish it all the more.

Me and Connie? Well, we kept on going through the years. We had a city to protect. The supernatural world had taken some hits, but we were still the sheriffs in this town. Being a helldog makes it pretty easy to stay in shape.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lady is looking for some neverending pancakes. I wish I could invite Big Money so they wouldn’t keep kicking us out for “stealing” food.

View
Queen City
All Great Stories Have Their Ends, Even This One

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.

VERAMOUS!

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.

View
Dark Days
When the man comes around

Nine dead bodies with Des and I’s names literally written all over them. A smoking gun that should have been in the Tonka Truck’s glove box. And now our dear friend Kevin Hart holding out handcuffs to take us in to the big house. The shadow that had been floating over our heads had finally decided to fall, and it had fallen hard.

I knew that in a jail cell Des and I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding out the truth behind these murders, and that we’d be far too easy targets for anyone looking to take us out of the game permanently. I sent Des a quick telepathic thought.

Close your eyes.

And then I triggered my flash-bang ring right in the faces of Kevin and the assembled members of S.I. People that Des and I knew. People we cared about. And now people that would be hunting us down. Desmond grabbed the .357 and I triggered my veil watch, instantly cloaking us in a shroud of invisibility the mundane police would have no chance to see through. As Des and I scrambled off into the night I could see Kevin’s face full of disappointment and fear. He was calling for his men to form a perimeter, but I could tell he knew he’d never catch us. We left our friend in the dark of the night, and I prayed he’d still be our friend when all of this settled. Hell, I prayed we’d all be alive.

- - -

“I’m pregnant, Desmond,” I said to my husband as we huddled in the burned out remains of the Need Want’s basement, the crushed .357 lying in a ball at my feet.

Desmond found himself in a situation that he normally never finds himself in, he was at a loss for words. His face was equal parts fear, disbelief, and worry. I wished he could have worn the happy face of joy that he would have, had Kevin not called us downtown to arrest us for a mass murder spree.

“Are you sure?” he asked, knowing full well I’d spent most of my life dealing with miscarriages and the pain of being unable to have children.

“Yeah, I’m about two months pregnant. I even have a tiny little bump going on. It’s for real. I can feel him, and he’s strong, Des,” I said with what must have been fear coating my face.

“Him?”

“Yeah.”

“How do you kn-” Desmond began to ask before I gave him a look that told him that I just knew.

Des came over and gave me a deep hug and I returned it to him. We stayed like that for awhile before he took my face in his hands and looked into me eyes.

“We are gonna get through this,” he said, putting a hand on my belly, “all three of us.”

- - -

We had no doubt that the Black Council had finally decided to make its move after we snuck into the Buffalo morgue to take a closer look at the night’s victims. Sam had been a bit reticent with helping two fleeing suspects in a mass murder case, but in the end he’d decided to trust us. Nine bodies, all killed with powerful magic, and all bearing the call signs that Desmond and I had been the murderers. The Black Council was moving in Buffalo, and its first target was Des and I. With the Sight I was able to see the dark cruelty that was done to those poor people, and it hardened my heart for what we had to do.

Ever since we discovered the powerful thaumaturgy circle in Winter I had had a fear of who or what could have done such powerful magic. As time kept creeping on after we’d saved the day I had always kept a worry in the back of my head. In one decade Buffalo had seen more supernatural craziness than most cities do in a century, and with the discovery of the Black Council I had a deep suspicion that there was indeed a guiding hand behind much of the adversity Des and I had faced in our time together.

We decided to start with the beginning, the case Des and I had worked on together right before I invited him to live with me. We focused on the question that had been burning inside me for more than a decade, who had introduced the Pole to Donald Evrose? To his credit, Baron Wojinski didn’t give us his usual run around and tough guy routine. He simply took out a large file from a cabinet in his office (right next to an entire draw labeled Wizard/Waters) and told us the truth. He’d been introduced to Evrose by a group calling themselves the Crowleys (yeah, I know) and that had been as far as he’d gotten involved with the group. We warned the Baron of the danger looming over his city, and said our farewells.

Snooping around led us to an atrocious Goth Club and one of its sniveling members, Black Templar 666 (yeah, I know). The fellow put on a tough guy act, but a pissed off Desmond slamming him into the wall and name dropping the Pole took the piss right out of him, literally. Turns out that something of a ‘Dark’ Paranet had been operating for over a decade, and it had been connecting people with a shadowy group of powerful figures all the while. Dizzy and Jason had alluded to as much when we’d asked them about the Crowleys, but Black Templar (sigh) had confirmed it.

That led us on to the conflict between the vampires that had culminated in the massacre at the HSBC arena (or whatever bank owns it now). Stopping by Trina’s mansion gave Des and I a chance to hide from the looming police search in style, and let me have a chance to talk to Trina about the movements of the Reds back then. Trin didn’t have anything concrete, but considering some of the choices the Reds had made over the years (including a full blown war with the White Council) the two of us agreed that the Black Council’s touch was likely.

Which led us to the first real suggestion of an overt action by the Black Council, the time spell in Winter. Des and I headed right for Kyle’s apartment in our second stolen car for the night and almost didn’t get let in the house. Reminding Kyle that his big sister/master/dear friend was likely not an actual murderer eventually got us in the house and got Kyle thinking about the vastly complex time spell I’d seen in Winter all those years ago. And it turns out the spell wasn’t all that complex. Sure, it wasn’t doing the dishes easy, but it certainly wasn’t a spell you’d need to be a Senior Council member to pull off. After Kyle drew up the blueprints for how he’d do the spell I realized that it probably wasn’t a few extremely powerful people that had made the spell, but that likely a lot of moderately powerful people had done it. Which meant the Black Council was a lot bigger than I had first thought. Des and I wished Kyle well, and I told him that I would be needing him and his sister before the end. The twins were young, but they were damn good wizards. It was time to stop codling them and start putting them to work.

The trail kept moving on, thready, full of guess work and cold evidence. Dizzy had suggested that Mavra’s involvement with teaching vampires magic was odd to say the least when questioned, and I agreed. But what could be said other than the Black Council may have been involved. Hell, I was getting the skin crawling feeling that the Black Council may have been a huge part of Des and I’s life for a long time.

The question of Mother Goose’s coming to town, and the nearing of dawn, led us deep into the forests of Clarence. Close to home, but not close enough. I rode on Desmond’s back as he effortlessly bounded through the dark forest, every so often letting out a fierce dog howl and waiting for the inevitable wolf howl to answer him. In this way we found Rafe, and he told us all he could about Mother Goose, which wasn’t much. He did however suggest we talk to someone at the source of the fae, and so after we bid Rafe farewell Des and I found a small pool in the woods, and we summoned up CoCo. She was as beautiful as she was the last time we saw her, and she was more than willing to give us info, for a price. Her father was teaching her quite well, and I knew that in only a few decades she’d be a much different ‘person’ than the CoCo Des and I knew. I knew that she’d always have a soft place for Des and I, we had given her the majority of the power she’d needed to become a Sidhe Lady, and we’d done it with respect and no small amount of love. That said, a fae is a fae.

All she asked for this time was a kiss. A kiss from Desmond. He gave it to her, and it looked as soft and sweet as Desmond’s kisses always were. It was actually kind of weird to see it as an observer. And yes, I busted his balls about it, but I wasn’t really jealous. First off, CoCo was like family. Second, if Desmond resisted the temptations of certain fallen angels of lust I knew that I would never have to worry about him being unfaithful to me. Third and final, I loved Desmond, he loved me, and that covered any worry I could have possibly had. CoCo told us of people stirring up trouble in the Nevernever around that time. A short asian woman and a tall man in a heavy hood. Cowl and Kumari, I was sure of it. It seemed that that was the first real sighting of the two of them together, and the first real connection to the people I knew in my heart were the ones doing this to Desmond and I. As dawn came Desmond and I curled up in a far away cave in the woods, him in grim form to keep me warm, and we slept.

The next day we met Jason and Desie at the park, and we talked about the Denarians. We had nothing but speculation as to what pointed Tess and Nicodemus into all of our lives, and maybe we were making more boogey men when we already had some, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Cowl and Kumari, or at least the Black council, had pointed those demons into our lives. The Denarians had almost ended Desmond and I. Almost. It all got me thinking about Cowl and Kumari more, and of the time Des and I had actually faced them.

Cowl had been the most powerful opponent I’d ever faced (this side of Nick). I had hit him with a monster of a spell, and he’d taken it like I’d tapped him lightly on the shoulder; then he’d hit me with a Mack Truck of power right back. At the ritual, as Cowl had tried to summon up the spirit of a monster in man’s flesh through the veil, I had pierced his body with his own ritual knife, and sent a massive conduit of power straight into his being. He should have died, but I don’t think he did. Those fears led me to researching the book Cowl had used in his ritual, and how similar magic could be used to funnel power directly into one’s being or into an object over time. Considering the pentagram layout of the murdered people the night before I knew that nothing good was in our future.

That’s when Adam called the house (which we had snuck into) and things went from horrific to earth shattering. Calculated attacks across the world in many of the world’s biggest and most important cities. The Council calling for Ebenezar’s head. Attacks on the White Council itself. Adam’s phone line getting cut, suddenly and abruptly. The Black Council was moving, and it looked like it was winning. I decided to get desperate. When Desmond had been ‘dead’ Belzor had come after me with a vengeance. When we killed him he’d told us that a hooded figure had been the one to give him power, and who had summoned He Who Walks in the first place. That screamed Cowl, and I was going to find out.

The creature I summoned in the basement was a terror of darkness, but that was bread and butter for Des and I. In exchange for one of Desmond’s True Names the demon more or less told us that Belzor’s biggest contacts were indeed shadowy figures that looked very much like Cowl and Kumari. He told us that Kumari had done the talking, and the more the demon spoke of the woman I knew as Kumari, the more my hair stood on end in fear. Fear about who she could have been, and what that would mean for me, and Adam. If Adam was even still alive. The Black Council had gotten close to tearing the White Council apart when Abigail Rosetta’s plan almost came to fruition. It looked like they may have succeeded on their second attempt.

We had one final stop, to find out just who had pushed Hamish McHale toward us, and to see if I could find anything else about Kumari. I wont bore you with the details. There were certain water towers. There were certain havens of Red Court vampires. There was the casting of powerful air magic to toss vampires out into the night air and drop them several hundred feet to the ground. There was Warden sword slaying. There was giant grim dog chomping. In the end we’d linked the Black Council to the Reds, and I was starting to believe that Kumari, Cowl’s apprentice in the dark arts, was actually Marie Kane, Adam’s long lost daughter.

Back home (I need to tell Kevin to train his men better, they are too easy to sneak by) I was digging through the box of things Adam had sent me when he’d asked me to get the fae courts on our side. In the box I found a very old photo album, and in it a very old photo of a twelve or thirteen year old Marie Kane. It was the very loosest of connections in magical terms, and drawing a magical connection with it would be nearly impossible for me.

But maybe not for Kyle.

I’ve called my brother a prodigy before, but that boy (wrong word) that manly wizard fellow, pulled off a tracking spell with a sketch book and a wooden circle in only three hours. It took him three hours when damn near any other wizard in the world probably couldn’t have done it, period. With some graphite and Kyle’s age progression photo of Marie Kane he funneled magic into it and let the spell go. To my surprise the tracking spell linked on to someone. Someone who was in Buffalo at that very moment. My heart dropped into my stomach. Marie Kane was alive, and she was very likely Kumari.

So Desmond and I suited up. We got in our third stolen car of the past few days, and we followed the tracking spell downtown to the HSBC tower, the highest point in the city. We climbed every floor of the tower and found ourselves at the door that lead to the roof far above the city. We crashed out of the door to find the small form of Kumari, and the tall hooded form of Cowl. As I watched Kumari I could see it then, the line of her jaw, the set of her eyes. She was Adam and Mi-Hyun’s child, that much was obvious now. If that was a surprise it was nothing next to Cowl’s big reveal.

I was standing there, ready to be the Jedi to Cowl’s Sith Lord, when he started to speak in a raspy voice. To condemn Desmond and I. To try and break our confidence, to stir our fear. He told us we would see how our ‘greatest failure’ would become our undoing, and he took down his cowl, and turned around.

And he wasn’t Cowl anymore. His face was burned and deformed. His hair stringy and sparse. His voice raspy and cruel. But through it all was something else. Familiarity.

“It’s been far too long, Desmond and Constance,” Harry Dresden said into the hot summer night.

View
Dark Days Part 1 (Des)
If want peace, prepare for war.

Me and Connie were getting ready to settle in for an awesome night of relaxing in front of the TV. Sentinel had been pretty easy going lately and the “home front” had been doing well too. All in all, things had eased up a little bit. It was almost easy to forget that we had a potential time bomb waiting out there, somewhere.

It didn’t surprise me at all when the phone rang. Connie’s face told everything though. I knew it was Kevin from the moment she answered, but something was wrong. He gave us no information other than telling us to get down there.

We got to the scene and Kevin kept giving me and Connie sidelong glances. It was a gaze I’d seen him give folks when we were tracking down Shit Stain. It was distrust. The look he’d given hundreds of criminals.

When he showed us the bodies, I understood. Horrific shit. The one before us was burnt to nothing but charred meat and eschar. Even Kevin was scared. Hell, I was scared. When Kevin showed us the pictures of the bodies, I knew this was the move we’d been waiting for. Someone was calling us out.

“You know I love you both, but I have my duty to this city. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.” Kevin finally said after a moment of uneasy silence. He held up the .357 from the Tonka Truck’s glove box.

“Kev…” I began.

“I can’t just sweep this away!” he nearly yelled. “I’ve got 9 bodies on my hands and every finger points to you two.”

“Des, close your eyes.” Connie’s voice spoke in my head. I took a deep breath and did so.

Flashbangs aren’t fun, even with your eyes closed. As Connie tucked us under her veil watch, I observed one of my closest friends in all of his leadership, essentially setting the hounds on us.

Within an hour, we’d become fugitives, with nine murders on our hands. And not a fucking clue as to who was really to blame.

Of course, both of our full names were scrawled across the bodies.

And there was the fact of the gun that was stolen out of the truck.

They were close. They knew us. And that was fucking terrifying. We sat down in the burned out basement of the Need/Want to catch our breath.

“So, we’ve got nine bodies that we’ve both been framed for. Where the hell do we start? It’s obviously the Black Council’s move, right?”

“Yeah…” Connie replied. “There’s more too.”

“What the hell else could possibly go wrong?” I said, looking up at her with an exasperated laugh.

“I’m pregnant, Des.”

“You’re…” I said, feeling a strange mix of fear, happiness and anxiety.

“Just before Kevin called…yeah.”

I just looked at her for a moment. “Damnit, that’s supposed to be good news.”

“Are you going to be okay?” I asked.

Connie smiled, despite all the shit stacked against us.

“I’ve got my magic and I’ve got you. We’ve still got our friends too, Des.”

I closed my eyes for a second.

“Okay, so we’ve got bodies. Where would we start normally?”

We stood outside the back door to the morgue. A single camera and overhead light hung over the door. Luckily, working with a wizard, who inherently destroys technology, those were an easy fix. And of course, the high security standards meant the door was propped open with a chunk of cinder block, presumably for smoke breaks. We were able to slip inside, dodging technicians every so often. We slipped into Sam’s office with little worry.

Sam nearly seemed to jump out of his skin. I thought the bubblegum was going to choke him for a few seconds.

“Sam…”

“You guys….they’re….”

“Sam, just stop.” Connie said.

“We didn’t do it Sam. We were framed.”

He stammered for a second. “Okay. Okay. What can I do?”

“Get us a look at the bodies.”

Connie took a look at them with the Sight. No small feat considering the horrible pain from their last moments that would be forever etched into her mind. Whatever it was, it was powerful. Of course, whoever was doing this was no small time wizard, either.

They were ready to take us down and they weren’t going to be easy to find.

“Sam, just keep safe, okay?” Connie warned.

“Thanks Sam.” I added.

“What if they come asking? I can’t just…”

“Just tell them we threatened you.”

“Okay, I’ll try not to tell anything. You guys just, be safe too, okay? I know you’re going to catch these bastards.”

God I hope so. We could hear him popping his gum a bit more nervously as we slipped outside.

Next, we hit the scenes of the crime. That’s right, the “criminals” returning to the scene. There was no common thread, but the magic had lasted quite a while. I’m no wizard, but I know enough to know that were facing something huge here. Nothing else stuck out from all of the scenes. Nothing tied the folks together. They were just average folks, people who had friends, lives but nothing necessarily notable. People just trying to get by.

We stopped into a 7/11 to get some supplies, including a road atlas for Buffalo. Plotting all of the scenes out showed a pentagram across the entire city. The first thing I thought of was some horrible zombie apocalypse using all of the graveyards in the city.

Connie, ever the pragmatist, pointed out that it was likely something involving the whole city. What, we couldn’t be sure, but it was as huge as we noted.

We needed wheels. And the 1979 Yugo sitting in the parking lot was our only real option.
I think it was running better when it wasn’t running at all.

With no clues, we decided to head to someone who had a vested interest in the city. Someone who, quite literally, owned it. Mr. Wojchinski was down the Svedka House, as we walked in. Food was brought out at a snap of his fingers.

“I’m surprised to see the two of you here, given your recent situation.” Michael said, puffing on his cigar.

“We need everything you’ve got on Evrose, Michael.”

Michael was a criminal. Some might say he is a monster. But one thing is for sure, he is a man who can get things done. He lead us to his back office, which was kept immaculately. He had records on everything it seemed. Kept in meticulous order. He knew everything that happened in his city, and that’s why we had been so glad to have him as an acquaintance.

“Hey, Mike, how big are our files, out of curiousity?”

He pointed over to a separate cabinet. “They’re in there.”

I honestly was kind of flattered.

“Evrose was before I began this new enterprise but I have some information on him….” Michael said as he thumbed through a folder.

“I learned of Donald Evrose through a gang…called The Crowley’s. I didn’t really work with them too closely. They’ve stayed pretty far off the radar.”

“Thanks, Mike.” Connie said, not without gratitude. Still, this was getting more and more frustrating. Everything was tied together by the thinnest of threads.

“And Mike?” Connie added as we turned to leave.

“It’s going to happen soon. And when it does, I hope we can count on you. It’s not just going to be a tap on the nose. They’re going to try to take Buffalo down completely.”

Mike nodded with all the surety of a king.

We slipped out with few more answers and precious few leads to dig up.

We called to Jason and Dizzy. Both of our calls gave us little more. Dizzy seemed to take it hardest, and I wondered, with surprising seriousness, whether he was going to commit Seppuku. Both of them told us that The Crowley’s seemed to be something similar to our own ParaNet. Dizzy was able to dig up a contact they’d used at one point.

That happened to be about 10 years back, and the guy was only known as “Black Templar” but hey, I’ll take anything.

As we stood outside the club listening to The Cure’s likely 12th song of the night, I looked at Connie.

“Are you ready for this?”

Next to us, some kid began reciting his poetry about death being a fickle mistress of the night or something or other.

Let’s just get this over with.

We walked up to the bar and I motioned the bartender over.

“Ughhh?”

I blinked and resisted the urge to hit him.

Goths, man.

“Black Templar. We need to talk to him.”

The guy nodded towards a corner where some self important fuck stood perched on his chair like God himself.

Just fucking great.

“Thanks.” I muttered, hearing only “Ughhh.” in response.

“Black Templar.” I said as we approached. “We need to talk.”

“And just what are you two Normies doing in our club? You don’t belong here.” he said, looking down his nose at me.

I’ll admit, I’ve take a lot of shit from people. But these guys just struck a nerve tonight.

“Evrose. Donald Evrose. I need to know who sent him your way, who hired him. Everything about him.”

The self important fuck droned on.

“And why should I tell you anything.”

I don’t know what happened. I think it’s just some nervous tic.
But the next thing I knew, he was slammed up against the wall and I was yelling into his face.

“LISTEN YOU PATHETIC FUCK! TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW OR I’LL WIPE THAT FUCKING MAKEUP OFF YOUR FACE WITH MY FIST!”

He whimpered, pathetically, as expected and told me everything.

Which, in reality, was nothing much at all. He’d arranged for everything with a woman. He didn’t know much about her at all.

As we walked out, creepy goth folks tried to hit on both me and Connie.

I felt like I was escaping zombies.

Our hunt led us to Trina, who had little to offer us other than kindness and an offer of a safehouse.

We dropped by Kyle’s place to see what info he could have on the magic that was being used. Especially since he was our resident thaumaturgy expert, we needed him on the case. After a few moments of him being terrified of “aiding and abetting” and quoting NYS Penal code 212.4.c we got him to let us in.

The kid was good. He pulled some books down, glancing through some stuff. And it all came down to time. The time delay. All of it required a lot of power. And we had been thinking that it was one person of immense power. With enough average folks, though, this spell could have been pulled off fairly easily, he’d noted.

Great. So now instead of looking at one killer, we could be looking at twenty.

Fantastic. Kyle apologized for not having more. Seriously, this kid is a damn but genius, but man, is he humble. We slipped back out to go find Rafe, out in the Clarence woods. I literally sniffed around, Connie on my furred back as we wandered about. He’d been everywhere and it didn’t seem I was going to find him anytime soon.

“Connie, hop off for a second.” I said, sitting down as she hopped off.

“If you needed a rest, you could’ve just said so.”

“I’m trying something a little unorthodox, here.” I said and threw my head back, letting out a howl that was probably the loudest thing to come out of these woods in some time. I don’t fuck around, what can I say?

It’s kind of surprising to know how far a howl can be heard. It can honestly tell you a ton about the sitaution. Luckily, we were just playing Marco Polo.

In the distance, I heard the distinctive return of Rafe.

“That’s him. Let’s go.” I said as we beat feet over to him. Well, I beat feet. Connie just hung on.

Sure enough, he sat against an old foundation to some long forgotten cabin, arms crossed as he was waiting for us. I’d never been more happy to see a dirty guy living in the woods.

Don’t tell him I said that.

We talked about Mother Goose and the loup garou fight we’d had. Unsurprisingly, Rafe didn’t have much to give us. Outside of the fact that it was weird to have someone like her out here and the fact that they don’t just cross the Never with no good reason, Rafe had nothing. Someone had pointed another gun at our head, but the shadows weren’t being pushed back yet.

We even summoned Corlaconsidhe up to give us what information she could. Of course, a big fat nada was really what we got, outside of a few more clues pointing to Kumari. At lest the cost wasn’t too bad. Kissing a Fae wasn’t too bad, surprisingly. I’m still waiting for Connie to punch me for it. She can have a delayed fuse some days.

Same with Jason, who was able to let us know that Nic was in Asia around the time of the whole Weak Link debacle.

We even slipped into the house, with the ever-present unmarked car down the street. Out in Clarence, it’s pretty hard to stake someone out without them noticing. I mean, they did their best with it, but its’ hard not to notice a Crown Vic parked in front of a bunch of woods with two dudes waiting in it.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for Connie’s Veil watch though. It let us sneak through the back door like we owned the place. We grabbed the old book we’d bought from Pageturner’s on Asian ritual magic. Conveniently, there was a section on building power over time and reducing the sun’s erosion, which was exactly what this practitioner, or team, had done.

We stepped back down into the sanctum. We decided that we’d have to play with fire on this one and fired up the summoning circle. After Belezor, both of us had been leery of summoning any sort of demon creature.

Sure enough, we were able to find one of Connie’s contacts who was more than eager for a chance at another name. We wormed our way into a deal with him, finding that he’d dealt with a man and woman in his last days. In return, I gave him my middle name, and felt the tug on my essence as he spoke it aloud. It didn’t take long to come to some sort of a conclusion as to who the man and woman were, and I was even more pissed the more I let it sink in.

Cowl and Kumari had sold me to Nicodemus and Tessa. They’d sold me off to hell.

I was going to end these two if it was the last thing I did. If they threw me to Nic so easily, there’s no telling what they’d do with a whole city. Frankly, we had to act quick.

Reviewing the Red Courts involvement in all of this, we decided to pay a visit to one of their more notorious hang outs: a water tower on the edge of the city.

I thought about slipping around the back. I really did.

But I was getting frustrated, tired and fucking tired of this run-around bullshit. Maybe that’s what they were counting on.

As the door went splintering inward, about 20 Red-Court vampires charged at us. In a flurry of magic and teeth, me and Connie worked our way through them.

Before we knew it, we had the vamp leader on his back, of course, giving us the “I won’t tell shit” routine.Crushing his entire shoulder changed his opinion on the matter and he sang like a fucking canary. A quick blast of magic and his head exploded into so much of that foul smelling blood. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about getting that taste out of my mouth. Man, having a wizard as a partner is fucking awesome.

We swung back to Kyle’s getting a less combative young wizard this time around. He worked a tracking spell for us, drawing an exact replica of Marie Kane’s face from a picture that Adam had kept of her. It was tough, being many decades old, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be Kyle.

Sure enough, he pulled off the spell, leaving a line of graphite pointing straight into the city.

“How far does that spell even go?” Connie asked.

“Well, it’s old. Can’t be farther than 50 miles max. Probably closer to 25.”

“Which means she’s in the city…”

We booked it across town, breaking more traffic laws than I could count as we cut through side streets and alleyways, trying to make our way to the source of the spell.

The HSBC tower loomed against the needle like the bead of a gunsight.

We ran up the stairs, not wanting to trust the elevators this close to the end. I had my handgun ready as we poised at the door, ready to breach the rough. The needle pointed straight through it.

“You ready?” Connie said, her voice hardened to the multitude of fights we’d been in, but still the woman I loved. After all of this, still concerned about others.

“Yeah. Let’s go get the bastards.” I said as we burst through the door. The Buffalo skyline enveloped us as we burst onto the rough to see what could only be Kumari and Cowl standing there, waiting for us.

“I was wondering when you two would get here…” Cowl’s raspy voice spoke.

“Who the fuck are you?” I exclaimed. I was done with the bullshit. Done with the games. I wanted answers, god damnit. I wasn’t going to take being jerked around anymore.

As he pulled back his hood, for the first time, and likely the last time I’d ever see it, I felt a wave of sheer terror and revulsion flow through me as a brutalized and scarred beast of a man glared back at me.

“It’s been far too long, Desmond and Constance.” Harry spoke as he turned to face us.

View
Ghostbuster Squad
Are you sure it's not a poltergeist?

As I sat at my desk, finalizing a few contracts for concert security, I got so focused on the task at hand that I slammed my knee into the edge of the desk. Grumbling, I scooped up the phone and managed a completely normal tone of voice, despite my facial expression of rage and agony.

“Hey, uh, I know I called before, but I think I could use some security service.” a man said, the name briefly escaping me.

“Remember, I called about the insurance?”

Oh, right.

“Mr. Goldstein, of course I remember you.” I said, more than a bit flabbergasted at the man’s sudden need for security service.

“I think something is trying to kill me.” he said, his voice breaking badly as he stumbled over the words.

“If someone is trying to kill you, that might be more of a police issue….” I started.

“No, not someone, something…” he replied.

I blinked staring at the clock for a moment. We had a few other contracts floating around, but anything would keep the boys busy for awhile and morale had been shaky the first few months. So, I kept Mr. Goldstein on the phone.

“Ok, so ‘something’ is trying to kill you. What does it look like?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.”

Okay…well, this is going well.

To make a long story short, I signed Mr. Goldstein up for a contract and put Dizzy on as team lead.

I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I figured even putting his mind at ease couldn’t hurt. Frankly, the man seemed to be under a hell of a lot of stress. The man insisted it was a ghost. In all reality, it turned out to be rats that we discovered a few days into the security contract. He actually chose to keep a few of our guys on for another week, just to “make sure”. Sure enough, he was free and clear.

Just call us “Ghostbuster Squad”.

Me and Connie had sat down for dinner in one of the nicer Italian places around town. Nothing like a good Italian meal to fill you up after a long day’s work.

“Have I told you how much of a romantic you are, Des?” Connie said, her smile radiant in the low candlelight.

I couldn’t help but smile back but quickly composed myself.

“Miss Waters, may I remind you this is a business meeting. Let’s keep it professional.” I said, borrowing a tone I’d heard in a Burnside interview.

Connie punched me on the arm. That was the woman I married. She knew I loved her and that’s what mattered.

Still, God help me, I tried to keep up my little joke.

“I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you, Miss Waters.” I said, holding up a Sentinel badge with one of my favorite pictures of Connie I’d scanned into the computer. It was from a recent trip we’d done with Chip to check out the Eternal Flame.

“Des, I can’t do anything over there. I already shorted out one computer.” she said. She wasn’t down on herself, but she’d resigned herself to thinking Sentinel was my child. It was as much hers as mine, honestly.

“Yeah, well, this job doesn’t require you to come in. Unless you want to of course.” I said, setting the badge down in front of her.

“And of course, you’re always welcome. Think of it as a full time consulting expert position.”

“Des, you don’t…” she said, thinking I was doing it to patronize her.

“If anything, I want you to have the insurance at least.” I said, putting a hand up to stop her. “Wizard or not.”

I took a sip of my drink before continuing. The Italians know wine.

“Besides, I don’t think the supernatural world is going to leave us alone at Sentinel just because it’s a legitimate business.”

Connie’s gaze grew worried.

“You know I’ve made a…name for myself.”

“Yeah? So?”

“Well, it’ll probably look like I’m raising an army.”

Connie nodded, understanding, at least.

I looked into her eyes and added. “Besides, we’re going to need help when this all comes full circle with the Black Council.

I handed her my list of folks to bring into our “Special Operations” team. Most of them were older guys. They’d seen some shit. And most importantly, I knew them all pretty damn well. “I need your help. And I want your help putting together a group of guys we can count on. We might need some extra manpower when the time comes.”

As me and Connie drove back from dinner, I brought her in for my next plan. “I need your help getting the guys ready for this. I’m pretty sure they’re all in, but I want to have you come in and show some of your, uh, stuff.”

She raised an eyebrow at me.

“Your magic.”

She laughed warmly.

“Get us home, Des, and I’ll show you some of my magic.”

How can I argue with that? Chips’ doggy bag would have to wait.

I’d gone ahead and gathered most of the “Spec Ops” guys together. I’d selected them based on a myriad of things, but it turned out most of them had served with me or were damn close to me. Hell, I’d shared a few nights on the streets with a couple of them. The fact was, these guys were people I cared about. Everyone at Sentinel was. In this line of work, you can’t afford to not give a shit. And these guys had to know what they were signing on for.

I glanced around the room, as the folks filtered in, some taking seats, others preferring to stand. Connie was at my side, ready to provide a bit of a demonstration.

“So, I’m sure you’re all wondering what you’re doing here.” I began.

“I’ve hand picked you all for a special unit. I picked you both on pure tactical and expertise grounds, but also on the fact that you all have had quite a bit of experience packed into your lives. I know you’ve seen some shit, and some if has probably gone unexplained. I don’t know what those things were, but I know you wish you could have done something about it.”

“Bottom line is, there are things out there that are more dangerous than your average thief, or even some would-be assassin. Things slink in the dark and walk out of our darkest nightmares. There might come a time when we have to take them on.” I said, pausing to let all of this sink in. I saw most of the looking on a bit apprehensively. They weren’t out the door, but they weren’t quite buying my spiel.

“We’ve got some of our own supernatural weapons in this fight. Case in point…” I motioned to Connie, who’d set up a watermelon across the room. She gathered her power and pulverized it with a blade of air before everyone’s very eyes. Mouths dropped open, a few sly smiles broke out on some of the guys faces. I could tell they were more than along for the ride.

“Also, I’m a bit of a, well, ah, fuck it.” I said, shifting into my grim form right before them.

I stood at head level to a few of them, or at least close. Honestly, that sealed the deal for quite a few of them. I changed back just as quickly. I’d proved my point and I wanted to offer an out.

“If you’re not in for this, you guys can walk out now, and come back tomorrow for the regular deal. No hard feelings. No loss of status. But I want you to know that this fight could be coming to our doorstep. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But its’ coming. If you want to be on the line for it, you’re more than welcome with us here. If not, hell, I don’t blame you. You’ll have a home here regardless of your choice. If you are in, meet back here tomorrow at 6. We’ll be doing some training to get you guys ready for all this.”

The room slowly filtered out, hushed conversations flowing between friends, piecing together what they’d just seen.

One of them was a larger and stockier white guy. He was short, but packed a hell of a punch for his size. He was one of the vets I’d met right at the church’s homeless shelter just before moving in with Connie all those years ago. He made his way over and shook my hand.

“What’s on your mind Walt?” I asked.

“I, uh, know what you mean…about seeing unexplained stuff.”

I nodded. “Yeah?”

“I remember Manny. I want to make those bastards pay.”

I looked away for a brief second. That was a ghost I hadn’t intended on dredging up for myself.

“Well, I can’t say that we’ll make those particular bastards pay, because that guy’s been dead, twice over, for about a decade or so. But you can make a difference against the other creatures of the night. They prey on innocent folks, same as those fuckers did for Manny. We’ll need good men like you out there Walt.”

He nodded. “I plan on giving them a good dose of hell, Des.”

“Good.” I said as I clasped him on the shoulder. “Now go get some dinner, man. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Everyone showed up the next day and training started without a hitch.

We had some extra support on the field. I wondered if it would be enough, but as I walked into the house to see all of my friends and family gathered for a surprise 40th birthday, I remembered that it was all of this that I would be fighting for, and more.

It might not be enough to hold back the tide of supernatural vermin that would come after us.

But we were damn sure not going to just roll over and die. Every last one of these folks had been there for me, in one way or another. These were the people that needed my protection. Hell, some of them would even be at my side when the time came.

I just hoped I didn’t have to lose anyone else.

View
The Life and Times of a Girl Next Door Wizard (C) [Part 15]
It's been a hell of a decade.

“Happy fortieth birthday!” all of our many friends cheered at Desmond as he walked through the front door.

Party favors were buzzing, balloons were falling, and everyone was smiling and laughing. Desmond got a huge grin on his face and started shaking his head as he chuckled to himself. For being forty, Desmond looked good; I suspected because of the beast inside him as much as the daily four mile runs. Shapeshifters have much stronger bodies than most folks and they don’t get sick as much as normal folks. They also tend to live longer. I didn’t think Des would make it as long as I eventually would, but I bet he’d get a solid hundred years without slowing down too much until the last fifteen or so. It was no where near enough time for me to spend with him, but I would have to be happy with whatever time I did get with Desmond. Since he had come back to me from the Denarians every day was a gift, and I cherished each one more than the last.

“Happy birthday, old man,” I said as I kissed him on the cheek and gave him a big hug.

“Wizards and their scheming,” he smiled back as he kissed me on the lips and started to mingle with the entirety of our collected friends.

Friends who we’d gained over nearly a decade together. Friends I would die for, and who would die for me. And maybe who would have to when the looming war came to a head. When the Black Council decided to make its move it wasn’t going to waste its years of secrecy on anything small. I knew that they could possibly threaten the entire world and that people I loved and cared for would be in danger. Maybe they would die, though I prayed to God that would not be so. Regardless, I would need all of their help before the end.

But at the celebration of a life, my favorite life, it wasn’t time for worry; it was time for love and fun and joy. Kevin was the first to start play punching Desmond while making ‘old people’ jokes, even as his ‘not so young anymore’ kids flitted around Sheron and him. Sheron gave me a warm smile even as she did her best to keep one eye on her daughter, Tina, who was over talking to Kyle. Tina was attending UB herself these days, and Kyle was chatting her up and down about classes (and maybe looking at her boobs here and there when he wasn’t looking at Trina’s).

Of course, Hannah made sure her own boobs were well in view of Desmond as much as they possibly could be. Hannah could have had any guy she wanted, but she would always have a soft spot for Des, and how could I blame her a tiny crush? I had a big one on Desmond myself.

Hannah and Kyle were doing well. Both college graduates and both full wizards, they could have gone and done anything in the world, but they’d decided to stay close to Des and I, and I couldn’t have been happier to have them around. Kyle was working part time at the Inkwell while doing his best to work on art commissions when he could. Trina had even helped a few of his more impressive pieces get some art gallery time. Trina helped Hannah out too by getting her a Physical Therapist job with the Buffalo Sabers. Turns out with her mother’s untimely death Trina had inherited (through a long list of shadow owners) full control of the Bills and Sabers. She insisted she was trying her best at championships, but one can only have so much hope. Either way, Hannah and Kyle were both happy, and that was enough for me.

Trina was doing well in her new position and she was keeping good tabs on the city when she could. Baron Wojchinski (I will never spell Mike’s name right as long as I live) was giving her and I the space we deserved, so things in Buffalo were as calm as they had ever been. Even old assholes can turn over a new leaf. Rafe was naturally enjoying free reign of the mansion and as much time with Trina as he could handle. As the two of them ribbed Desmond and handed him too many gifts I couldn’t help but smile at them. Rafe and Trina were ‘monsters’ in flesh, but they were anything but in mind and spirit. I loved both of them so much, and I knew we were blessed they were in our lives.

CoCo even made a short visit (making sure to let me know that Joransidhe would not approve and then smiling even wider when stating ‘what daddy doesn’t know won’t hurt him’). She stayed out of nearly everyone sight with her powerful glamors, but did end up wishing Desmond a happy birthday personally, and assured him that she hadn’t gotten him anything for his birthday, as he would owe her a favor if she had bought him something. Then she left, and we found three dozen boxes of Paula’s donuts that were most certainly not left as a gift by any fae ladies. I guess Des and I did right by the girl, and I hoped she’d remember us in all her infinite nights of life. I know I’d always have a warm spot for Corlaconsidhe, Sidhe Lady of the Autumn Court, my little CoCo.

Dizzy eventually made his way to the house with quite a few guys from Sentinel. Desmond instilled loyalty like no one I’d ever met. Sure, Sentinel was a good job for these guys, but Desmond cared about them and that made them care about him. Sentinel had about fifty guys on payroll and was expanding everyday in one way or another. Of those fifty Desmond and I had hand picked twelve of them to promote to ‘special field operations’, which was another way of saying we let them in on the supernatural world hiding behind the bed covers. Most of the guys were skeptical at first, but when your boss turns into a giant black dog and his wife conjures flame right in front of you it’s kind of hard to ignore the truth. Though some of the guys sure tried to. Neither Des nor I really wanted to involve more people in our world than necessary, but I knew that war was brewing, and it was a war I intended to win. So we taught, and trained, and had ourselves a small team of warriors we could count on when shit really hit the fan. Maybe the SFO guys wouldn’t make much of a difference when it came down to it, but maybe they’d be the straw that broke the Black Council’s back.

As Dizzy and Desmond got caught up in talking music with Ceasar, Lopez, and Raul I found myself chatting with John Noble and his expectant wife, Kate. The two had finally decided it was baby time, and it hadn’t taken them long to put one in the oven. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous, but my happiness for them won out. I couldn’t wait to have another little one in my life to call me Aunt Connie.

Speaking of, little Desie Ivory was getting not so little anymore at around two years old, and his parents swore he was a little monster at home. I didn’t believe it myself. At least once a week he spent a night with Des and I and he never acted up around us. Maybe it was because I made all kinds pretty lights and colors appear out of thin air, or because Uncle Desmond did the best doggie impression ever. Or maybe it was just all the junk food we let him eat (don’t tell Sarah). Whatever the reason, Desie was never trouble for the Waters, except that he was putting thoughts in Desmond’s head.

I knew the chances of me having a child were slim to none, but Desmond didn’t have such a realist look at the world. He truly believed that if we hoped enough, if we wanted it enough, and with only a little luck, that we could have a baby of our own. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the heartache of trying for a baby and not getting one all over again, especially at my age, but the gleam in his eyes when he talked about a baby of our own was too bright for me to tell him no. So we tried. A lot. So much so that I started to think that he had really concocted a secret plan for more ‘alone time’ with me. Except, things were different somehow. When Daniel and I had tried so long ago we faced pregnancy after pregnancy, all of which ended in a miscarriage shortly after they even began. Hell, the same had happened to Des and I a few times in the past, on accident. But recently there were no false pregnancies, no heartbreak, just a lot of. . .well, not nothing, but it seemed that way. Two months of trying and nothing physical, but every time we’d make love I’d find that little flame that had started burning during the blood moon grow a little bigger. In fact, it wasn’t so little anymore, especially after my feeding my magic with it over the past year or so. My period started to come regularly and not as powerfully, more subdued like your average woman would have. Bit by bit that fire inside me grew, and I hoped with all my heart that one day I’d awake to find the fire gone, and in its place a little person.

The future was a darkness to me, a great unknown. I didn’t know if a war would come that would consume all of the lives of my loved ones, and me with them. I didn’t know if a child was possible, or even smart, to try for. I didn’t know a lot of things, but I knew what mattered.

The people around me.

People who meant the world to me. People who were there for Desmond and I during good times, bad times, and every time in between. They were all far from normal. They were vampires and skin changers. They were Knights and psychics. They were faeries and wizards. Some were once the outcasts of society, and some of them still were in some ways. Some were normal people trying to fight against a world they barely understood, and live in another that would never believe them. They were all of them flawed to some degree or another. They were all scarred. They were all once lost on the path of life. Desmond and I very much included. But somehow, together, we had all found our own path, our own way. It wasn’t the path most people walked, but it was ours, and it was a much higher and harder path than most. I’d trade a thousand ‘normal’ people for even one of the wonderfully beautiful folks I called my friends. My family.

Whatever the future held, whatever came across our path, we would walk against it, together. Even if that meant we’d have to die to do it. I would fight til my last breath against the dying of the light, but if my flame had to go out there were no better people to find my end among. But for now, we would live, we would love, and we would fight no matter the odds, no matter the enemy.

The party went long into the night, filled with such laughter and joy. And I decided that for a group of misfits, we had all turned out pretty alright.

That somehow I had turned out alright. And that made me feel almost as good as snuggling up to my husband, and falling away into dreams of warmth, sunshine, and happiness.

View
Season's Greetings (Des)
Dr. Waters: The Love Specialist

I finally wandered my ass home. A man had kept me on the phone for the last 45 minutes about Sentinel, making me think we had another contract. Turns out he was looking for an insurance company. Nice enough guy though, I was kind of surprised his nasally voice wasn’t oozing through the phone after me.

Had an interview with some kid. Little bastard was chewing gum the whole time. I think his resume, which he unfolded from his pocket, had a ketchup stain on it. At least, I’m hoping it was ketchup. Fucks’ sake, who’s teaching kids manners anymore? I’m not perfect, but Jesus Christ, at least try to be professional.

So, I finally got home, ready to take a load off. Before I knew it, we were back out the door to find out exactly what the Autumn and Spring courts of the Fae were. A guy can’t catch a break I guess. I suppose I should be used to it by now. From what Connie was telling me, this was going to be big. Like, all-out supernatural war big.

We were going to need help. And that help was going to have to come from somewhere. The tactical advantage from quick traveling alone would be worth its’ weight in gold.

Of course, the potential gruesome death that came from trying to get that advantage was a bit more subjective.

We did some research. I got in touch with Dizzy. Of course, I had to be connected with the different departments. All of them were “run” by Dizzy, but hey, the guy was good. I’ll take a little eccentricity for someone who’s good at his job. The kid with the folded up resume, shit, I’d probably fire him for sneezing. He was able to dig up a little bit at least, after ensuring my line was secure and that the Grey’s hadn’t gotten through my tin foil hat, he spilled it. Spring and Autumn weren’t really mentioned anywhere, at least not for about, oh, say, 500 years or so.

The real information came from CoCo, or rather Corlaconsidhe. Turns that our Good Ol’ Pal Joransidhe is actually her father. While she wasn’t able to spill the beans, she was able to take us to him at the very least. Oh, and nevermind the fact that she’s fully grown at this point. I hadn’t seen her in so long that it surprised the hell out of me. She lead us through the Jello vortex (Connie’s tear into the Never. Shut up, I can have my nicknames for things.) The Never-Never is an interesting place. Beautiful scenery, castles and whatnot. Beings that could probably rend you in two with a thought. Trolls and Ogres aren’t really brush offs. They’re more likely to brush you off of their feet after they turn you into a puddle.

After a few minutes of shooting the shit with some of the lesser known lords, knights and kings of the Fae, we had our objective: release the Dukes of the Spring and Autumn court. They were somewhere out in the world and we had to go find them. Easy, right?

Sort of.

After we were able to free the Mantle, we had to go and get them back from Winter and Summer. Courts that were just as willing to kill us as release supernatural warriors.

Got it. Kill the monsters that are holding the Mantles. Retrieve the Mantles from the courts.

And don’t die.

Easy.

For our first little foray, me and Connie had headed out to China. CoCo worked her magic, quite well I might add, to make us blend right into the rural village landscape. It helped a bit, since we could both understand Mandarin thanks to her glammer. It made it a hell of a lot easier when we’d thought up our next plan of attack.

We spoke with an elder of the village. A nice old man really. Asked us not to go, but he was smart enough to know we were going anyway. Even offered us tea if we came back in one piece. CoCo, of course, was happily bouncing along next to us as if no terrible death awaited us. I guess, for a creature like her, that was far more difficult than it seemed, but hey. I still see her as the littlefolk I originally knew her as.

We entered a cave after a trek that was punctuated by bitter wind and that northern chill that comes from being on a mountainside. Connie and I looked at each other and slowly made our way in, drawing our weapons. The cave was dark and didn’t make the cold any more bearable. My eyes strained to peer into the darkness and I noticed mirrors placed in some sort of pattern on the floor. I flicked on my light, and there, right in front of me, stood what looked like a parade float, except instead of fabric and vibrant color, it was a breathing, vicious looking dragon. You know, the ancient Wyvern sort of creature that shows up on your box of tea? Yeah, that. Except with about a million teeth.

I wasted no time putting a shell right into those scales. Luckily, it wasn’t exactly what it had seemed, and the shell was a fairly solid hit. Connie began to cut into it with her swords as it turned to face me. And when it turned on her, I pumped some slugs into its’ back. It eventually decided that it had to do something different.

A few moments later, a woman stood in front of us, apparently some sort of zombie. A look of terror and disappointment on her face as she looked right at Connie. I could almost feel the fear sweep through her, her mind and body frozen by a fear I would never truly know. There was recognition on her face and I didn’t have time to soothe that hurt. I did however, have the time to dish out some hurt on the asshole hurting my wife. I sprang up, pumping shell after shell into the Fetch. It darted back out of sight.

And then, there was Nicodemus, right in front of you. He straightened his tie.

“Desmond, you’re not dumb enough to think you’d ever really be rid of me are you?” he said, dusting some debris off his pristine jacket.

“Aren’t you glad to see me, Des, old boy?” he said with a sneer.

I felt sick. I felt angry. I was scared.

I froze, completely helpless against a creature that would probably try to rend me in two the next chance it got. The thousand-yard stare. All of it.

I didn’t even notice when Connie launched a wave of fire up Nic’s body.

The fetch burned to ash as I stood, frozen in my own mind.

Was Nic out there somewhere? I’d watched him die, but could he really be there? Was Akariel just waiting in the back of my mind for the one chance to kill me, or worse, Connie? Was a coin going to be forced back into my hand, and would I be lost forever to hell?

Someone grabbed my gun. A soothing voice accompanied it as they lowered the gun. I complied, unable to do anything else. Fear had paralyzed me.
“Hey, can I take this?” Connie asked, her voice full of love and concern. Some of the fear began to trickle out into the stone around me. She slung the gun over her shoulder, reached over, and embraced me, bringing with it all of the love and hope that had brought me back from the hell that I’d been in with the Denarians.

Connie pulled me back in. I didn’t have to thank her, a simple glance in the eyes told much more than I would have been able to say.

We made our way back out of the mountains, the trek made a bit more perilous by the coming dark. For the first time in quite awhile, I felt that I was indestructible. CoCo reappeared, apparently enjoying the half-assed tour of China. We returned to the village and had some tea with the old man.

Best stuff I’ve had in awhile. (Don’t tell Amber, but it beat the shit out of her stock.) The look on his face was a mixture of astonishment and gratitude on his face

Before we knew it, were traveling to Bosnia. CoCo cast another glammer for us, but I was surprised that I was still able to bumble my way through some phrases in the native tongue. It didn’t help that there were three official languages nowadays, but hey, you can’t win them all I guess.

After haggling with some 1980’s misogynist, we were able to get the information we needed. Well, I was. Connie got sidelined, just like she’d gotten with the Fae. I hope she knew I was sorry about it. I guess even beings of illimitable power don’t get with the times all too quickly. A local gypsy tried to con us out of some cash, which we gave her, more out of pity than anything. Later, Connie told me the potion she’d given her would force her to tell the truth for at least 2 or 3 days. I’m impressed by her in so many ways.

The plan was easy. Set up shop on the edge of town and draw the big baddy to us with bait. Of course, the bait ended up being Connie, the oh-so-helpless woman that she was. I set up in one of the non-descript buildings amidst a field of rotting 1970’s VW’s and Yugo’s. I swear, all of these buildings look exactly the same and haven’t changed since ’93, except for looking more run down.

After about 3 hours of scanning the horizon, I was starting to lose my edge. At least I had CoCo to keep me company. Of course, we couldn’t really talk, but just having someone there was nice. Connie, on the other had, had to be going nuts. I imagined she’d already counted each blade of grass twice. I checked in with her anyway, as I had been making sure to do about every 5-10 minutes or so. Telepathy is nice.

“Des, the trees.” she responded in my head.

Sure enough, in the distance,.trees were falling.

“Help me. I am so alone and helpless.” her voice steeped in boredom. “Whatever will I do.”

The troll rushed out of the tree line at her. No, wait, he rushed through it.

My .308 round caught it square in the side. It grunted and stumbled, and then turned back towards Connie. Helpless Connie hefted a car in front of her with a burst of magic and tossed it at him. The troll pulled a home run and my scope quickly filled up with a VW Microbus. I dove out the window just as the car had obliterated my last hide.

The troll turned back onto Connie and I started pumping rounds into it. His club, or rather, tree, slammed into the dirt far closer to me than I ever wanted it to be. As I distracted it, Connie tossed another car, this time, throwing it into his kneecaps.

The troll fell to the ground with a thud and I wasted no time emptying the rest of my gun into his skull. The mantle snapped back and the easy part was done.

That’s me: Desmond Waters, Troll Hunter.

We got out of there before the sounds of gunfire from my past caught up with me.

We went and spoke to Summer first. Mainly because it was the group that was slightly less likely to slaughter us outright.

It turns out that the prospect of sex can rouse the passions of even the most violently abstinent Fae. After quite a good amount of back and forth and trying to sort through just what had caused the rift between Summer and the Autumn and Spring courts,(all however many HUNDREDS of years of drama), we were able to broker a deal.

I slipped the contract. That’s right, I said contract, into my gear as we headed out, with one down and one to go. Pending the signature, they’d have their duke back, and the Queen would have her sexy time.

Winter is a fucked up place. Mab would just as likely torture us for eternity as work with us

So we called in a favor.

I stood in the kitchen, relishing a day off after taking down a group of “vampires” who were really just cultists of some despicable vein. I was looking forward to spending the day with Sarah. She was still sleeping so I grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped outside to get the paper. The sun was shining, and the chill wasn’t enough to numb me completely. Across the street I saw a familiar yellow, white, red and blue truck.

Desmond waved as he and Connie finished loading something in the bed. It looked quite a bit like plate armor actually. Knowing the line of work we had all ended up in, it was better to just leave it at a smile and a wave. I knew they’d be back in time for poker next week anyway. Something just told me that much.

I took a sip of my coffee and stepped back inside to finish breakfast for Sarah and myself. Screw what the AHA says. Bacon and eggs are the best of things sometimes.

Plate armor is fucking heavy. I mean, man, I’m in shape, but fuck. How did the knights of old do this?

Still, it was better than Kevlar against the Fae. Connie had to give me a potion to enhance my endurance, which helped a ton. Heh, get it? The potion made it bearable and I was actually feeling pretty good by the time we got in position.

We ambled up to the gate with two ogres guarding it. The plan was to sneak in, portraying Connie as a prisoner.

“What are you doing?” one of the guards asked, blocking our path with his weapon.

“Prisoner for the pits.” I gruffly replied.

How it came out was slightly different. Hey, I was working under pressure.

“Hello, fellow ogres! I am Shrek, ruler of these realms!”

The two ogres looked at each other. “What do you think you’re doing, human?”

Connie replied for me as she tossed a grenade at their feet. Turns out fragmentation grenades sound the same in every language.

I quickly finished them off as we slipped inside the gate. As we approached, Connie started to hurry in, but I held her back, noticing a difference in the tracks around the tower in the center of the courtyard. Something big was around here, but there was a curious lack of defenses. Malks rushed out from behind us as I spun and opened up on them, Connie igniting a bunch of them as well. They’re nasty in a group, but we were able to take them down before they even really got to us. Fire and lead work pretty damn well together.

The trolls on the other hand…

They took a little more work. I let the shotgun do most of the work, and then got ballsy and decided that punching something with steel would have to hurt them more (It doesn’t. My hand is still sore.)

Connie buckled one of them with an air spell while I poured shotgun rounds into the other. As one went down, Connie yelled for me to curl into a ball.

Anyone else, and I would’ve hesitated. But it was Connie and I trusted her with every inch of my soul.

Next thing I knew, I was laying on the ground, my head spinning from a possible concussion. I’d just headbutted a troll, aided by Connie’s air magic.

“That. Was awesome.” I managed, looking blearily to Connie as she helped me to my feet. “Let’s never do that again.”

We made our way into the tower, hoping to get in and get out. As Connie broke the seal on the tower, I felt the room instantly chill.

Behind us, stood the Queen of Winter, Mab.

We were fucked. Absolutely, positively fucked.

Done.

That’s it. The end.

Turns out she wasn’t very happy with us breaking into her realm for some supernatural warriors whatnot. Killing her folks didn’t do much for our case either.

On a desperate attempt at saving our lives, we brought up how it was really about how Autumn and Spring wanted to make amends.

It helped when Faraday and the rest walked in behind them to back up our story.

And then came the fun of sorting through 500 years of familial drama and lover’s quarrels.

Fourteen hours later, me and Connie had worn our voices out and our minds by playing family therapists to eight of the most powerful creatures in the world. All was right in the world of the Fae and we had our allies for when the time came. Autumn and Spring were perturbed by our declining of the Duke positions.

Honestly, the only person I trusted in my head was myself.

And Connie, of course. Telepathy and all that.

When she read my mind and put on some Jerry Springer re-runs and we dove into 4 massive bags of Mcdonald’s I couldn’t have been happier.

The world might fall apart, but we were safe for today. Besides, I had to be at Sentinel in the morning.

Chip, of course, was enjoying his own double cheeseburger as well. We didn’t forget him.

Supernatural wars aside, life is actually pretty good.

View
Season's Greetings
DESMOND! DESMOND! DESMOND!

You would think that by now I would be used to having my concept of the world radically flipped on its head at a moment’s notice, but it’s not really something you ever get used to. Adam had been keeping his finger on the pulse of the movements of the Black Council as best as he could, and the simple fact was that time was running out. Sooner rather than later the Grey Council was going to be at war, and when that happened we’d need allies. So naturally I was the person he shoved the responsibility of finding said allies on to. And find some I did.

It turns out that (as my little brother and former apprentice always suspected) Summer and Winter are not the only Courts of Faerie; Spring and Autumn also exist as a part of the fae Courts. Though instead of Mothers, Queens, and Ladies these two courts consisted of Fathers, Kings, and Lords. The Spring King: Oberon. The Autumn King: Faraday. The Spring Lord: Puck. And the Autumn Lord: Joransidhe. Yes, that Joransidhe. Turns out that being an Emissary of the Winter Court doesn’t actually mean you have to be a member of said Court.

Research got me some of this info, but most of it I got from CoCo. Oh, wait, sorry, not CoCo. Corlaconsidhe, daughter to the Autumn Lord. Yes, that Autumn Lord. It was bad enough for Des and I when we summoned CoCo to instead find Lady Corlaconsidhe (CoCo to you guys!) standing at just under my height with gorgeous curves, beautiful red-jelly colored hair, and eyes of deepest orange. But to also find out that she was the daughter of Joransidhe ‘the great and powerful’ was icing on the cake. The twins are full wizards, Jason is a father, and CoCo is a Sidhe Lady; why does everyone have to go making me feel so gosh darn old all the time!?

After some general anti-feminist treatment from the Autumn and Spring Courts we came to a bargain. Autumn and Spring would grant the Grey Council passage through the Ways and support in conflict if, and only if, Des and I were able to hunt down and kill the Dukes of Spring and Autumn (think Knights of the other two Courts) and then return the power of the Dukes’ Mantles to their respective courts. Easy enough, right? Except that the once mortal Dukes had slowly fallen to their changeling lineages after thousands of years cut off from their Courts, and had turned into vicious monsters. Oh, and once the mantles were released they would both end up in the possessions of the Queens of Summer and Winter.

Great.

Which is what brought Des and I to an old creepy cave in northern China, on the boarder of Mongolia. As CoCo cutely stood bouncing up and down at the cave entrance Desmond and I entered, he shotgun raised, me with sword at the ready. As we strode further and further into the old cavern we eventually reached an opening of sorts that lead into a large circular chamber. All over its walls and ceiling were hundreds of shards of mirrors, carefully placed, all reflecting back a wizard and a grim. At that moment I knew exactly what the Duke had turned into, a Fetch.

No sooner did I think it than Desmond flipped on his tactical light to find the monster standing right in front of us. It looked like one of those cool dragon floats in Chinese parades, except that the creature wasn’t made out of paper mache, it was cold hard scales and claws. The dragon-fetch reared up with an ungodly roar and Desmond blasted it in the face with some steel balled double ought buck. Both of us dived to the side as the dragon-fetch began tearing around the cavern. The creature was definitely scary, but even more so for someone versed in ancient Chinese culture (like say the villagers at the bottom of the mountain). Desmond and I however were used to this sort of thing. Every time the fetch turned to try to face the bite of my steel warden swords Desmond would pepper its back with steel jacketed gunfire. Back and forth we torn into the fae with cold iron, until it realized it needed a new tactic.

Suddenly the dragon was gone and in its place stood Mi-Hyun. Not Mi-Hyun as I remember her, but a rotted corpse Mi-Hyun, like I’d always feared Zhang-Yin had done to her body after her death. I stood frozen in fear and regret. Even as I locked up Des jumped into action, firing shell after shell at the fetch. As zombie Mi-Hyun whirled I could tell the Fetch knew who the largest danger to it wast. It took a long look at Desmond and then changed forms once more.

“Desmond, my boy, did you really think you’d get rid of me that easily?” Nicodemus Archleone spoke in the dark cavern, fixing his slightly askew noose tie.

Desmond’s eyes went wide in fear, his gun raised, and then he just froze in terror. I knew how he felt because I was shaking just as hard as he was. Nicodemus was perhaps the greatest enemy we’d ever faced, and we’d killed him against all odds. But here he was, alive and well, walking right for Desmond; To kill him, or perhaps to force him back into the hell he’d only barely escaped. That thought is what brought me to my senses. The thought that even if it was Nick, that I would die a thousand deaths before I let him take Desmond again.

If it was Nick.

“You know what, Fetch? I’m glad you chose that form,” I snarled at the fae, “because you’ve given me the chance to do something I always wanted to do. INCINERATUS!!!!!!!!”

With a snap of my fingers I reached deep down inside myself to the small flickering flame that burned there; the same flame that I’d called on during the Blood Moon to burn Hamish McHale. I took the small flame and I poured my will into it, let the flame roar bright white, and then released it all over the Fetch. Less than a second after my fingers snapped the fae was engulfed in flame and burned away to ash and dust. I felt the ‘rubber band’ release of power as the Duke’s Mantle snapped back into the Nevernever. Inside, the flame burned slightly brighter.

Desmond still stood stalk still with his gun pointed at nothing. Fear was locking his gaze into a thousand yard stare, and I could see that my husband was shaking in his boots. I slowly walked up to him, put my hand on the shotgun’s barrel, and pushed down until Des lowered it.

“Hey,” I said softly and with love, “can I take this?”

Slowly, Desmond let got of the gun and I slung it safely over my shoulder. I reached out and hugged him, gently kissing his neck, and pulling him into a warm embrace. I didn’t need to say anything, because Desmond knew I understood, or at least understood as well as anyone could have, not having gone through it myself. I held him and just let him know I was there. It didn’t take him long to kiss me on the head and part from me with a nod of thanks.

We left China shortly after with dreams of Rocky Road ice cream floating through our heads.

- - -

The Balkans suck. Oh, and Bosnia may be the suckiest of all suck. Old worn out buildings, remnants of wars long past, and gypsies running all around who couldn’t curse their way out of a wet paper bag. On the plus side, it was also really lame having to set on the edge of a village and wait for a monster Duke to come and eat me. The plan was simple: Desmond was going to set up in a sniper perch using me as bait, and when the Duke showed up he was going to shoot it.

Simple.

Of course, it didn’t end up that way. As I sat for hours getting cold and bored I watched as distant trees began to bend and sway. At first I thought the wind was picking up, but I quickly realized that I was being watched. No, I was being hunted. I began to peer into the woods when suddenly the foliage exploded, as the largest troll I had ever seen in my life came screaming right at me with a tree trunk in hand.

I immediately clicked my Veil Watch, disappearing from sight, and dove just far enough to avoid being crushed to death. I heard a shot ring out and a loud thump from the troll’s body. A solid hit. Then the troll spun around and buried his tree club into the house Desmond was in. As the rubble cleared I heard the gunfire of Des’ shotgun from inside the house. I decided to join in on the party. I shook out my magnetic bracelet, focused a ton of will on a nearby broken down car, and flung the massive steel projectile at the troll’s head. Turns out the troll was a baseball fan, because it whirled its tree-club back and slugged the vehicle right into the remains of Des’ sniper perch. I watched as Des dove from his building into the window of the building next door.

Still invisible, I reached out once more with my magnetic bracelet and launched a volkswagon at the troll’s head. Just as expected, the creature wound up to hit the car once more with its massive club, so at the last second I wrenched my arm down and sent the car sailing under the tree and into the Troll’s kneecap, causing the great creature to stumble to the earth. Des wasted no time leaping out and firing shell after shell into the creature’s skull.

It wasn’t long before I felt the thrum of the Duke’s mantle retuning to the Nevernever. Then it was time for the hard part of the crazy plan.

- - -

Getting Spring’s mantle back from Summer had been comparatively easy next to what we had planned for Autumn’s mantle in Winter. Titania was a terrifying ball of fae fury, but that didn’t make her completely unreasonable. I focused on her sense of forgiveness and fairness (and also sort of shoehorned Lord Puck into acting as Summer’s Emissary as a mirror to Joransidhe as Winter’s) and Desmond focused on touching my tits and reminding her what fun things men and women (even immortal fae) can do with one another. Ironically enough Desmond’s grab action worked the most on her, and after agreeing to have King Oberon come over and bang her senseless Titania released the Spring Mantle back to its court.

The Autumn mantle was something else entirely. Mab was keeping the mantle well guarded in a fortress that just so happened to lie in the middle of Winter in the Nevernever. Go figure, right? Assaulting anything owned by Queen Mab was near suicide, but I hoped that if we were quick enough we could get in and out with no trouble.

Well, little trouble.

Since trouble always finds us though, I decided on a back up plan. I won’t split hairs here, we went to Lopez and got a full suit of platemail for Desmond to wear (and ward off any angry fae) and then I gave him an endurance potion so he didn’t keel over in exhaustion after the first fifteen minutes of walking. I can’t say it was my most brilliant ‘ace in the sleeve’, but Desmond did look pretty darn cool in it, and any faerie trying to hurt Desmond would find themselves plenty hurt in the process from touching cold steel (read iron).

As Desmond and I made our way into Winter proper (him wearing what amounted to Plutonium for the fae, as armor) CoCo trailed quietly behind us with a faint smile on her face like she’d had during all of the near death experiences over the past few days. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the gates of the mantle’s fortress, which was guarded by two large ogres with large bronze spears.

Desmond, covered in steel with a shotgun in his hand, walked right up to them and said, “Ho there fellow ogres, I am the ogre known as Shrek, and I am bringing back prisoners.”

I face palmed on that one, but it did make me laugh.

“What do you think you are doing human?” one of the ogres asked as he brought his spear level with Desmond’s throat.

“He’s ducking!” I yelled as I threw the last of my high explosive fragmentation grenades at the ogres’ feet, and then hit the deck with Desmond.

The grenade exploded, sending metal shrapnel all over the ogres and the door they were guarding. The ogres howled in pain until Desmond put them down with buckshot. Behind them the faerie gate began to smolder as the pieces of cold iron bore into it. Desmond sped up the process by simply walking through the gate, melting it off of his steel armor. The gate opened to an empty courtyard, save a large tower that must of held the Autumn mantle.

I walked forward all front focused like I always do, but Desmond put a hand out to slow me, and pointed at the variety of tracks to be found all over the fortress’ snowy interior. Then Desmond spun around like a lightning bolt struck him and began firing his shotgun as fast as he could. I turned around to find a pack of malks not far behind us. Malks are pushovers alone, but in a pack they could take down prey much larger than themselves, and we were NOT much large than them. I focused my will, found that small spark inside me that had fueled my fire spells so well of late, and snapped my fingers.

INCINERATUS! I yelled as white hot flame leapt into life, incinerating nearly the whole pack of malks in one go. Once more, the little flame glowered brighter inside me, and not so little.

Which was good because from around the tower came two very large trolls swinging wooden clubs the size of Volkswagens. Desmond went full bore on one of them and even began punching the thing with his steel gauntlets. I saw Desmond causing mayhem just as I dodged out of the way of getting crushed to death myself. I pulled one of my warden swords and began swinging away at the troll’s legs and feet. Warden swords are items of power not to be underestimated, but they were still being swung by a relative amateur. I was getting better with them for sure, but another foot of height and a buck fifty extra in weight would have given me more benefit from the blades against the troll than any amount of training ever would.

I decided to play to my strengths, even if they didn’t play to the fae’s weaknesses. I pulled my focusing fan to hand and conjured up a monstrous blade of wind. CLEAVOS! I yelled as the impossibly sharp blade of air dug into the beast. He swung hard at my head, but my shielding spell turned the attack harmlessly off of me, if only just barely. I took the opportunity to dive under the troll and make an upwards blast of air with a cry of VERAMOUS! The gust of wind rocketed the troll’s club straight into its face, causing it to let out a howl of pain and fury. Trolls are very badly hurt by their own weapons, even when used on them in comical fashion.

One or two more shows of power felled my troll. That gave me enough time to see Desmond having his troll on the ropes, and gave me a stupid-awesome idea.

Stu – pid – awe – some
adjective
: Not intelligent, but expressive of awe :
: Not sensible or logical, but extremely good none the less :

I yelled out for Desmond to clench his body up into a ball (which he did with no question because our relationship and monster hunting team are both built on complete trust. Hell yeah kick ass relationships!) and then I yelled out VERAMOUS! as I turned Desmond into an oversized, steel billiard ball, and rammed him right into the troll’s head, snapping its neck. I immediately ran over to Desmond to find his bell rung, but his body mostly unharmed.

Stupid-awesome.

After a short minute of shaking out any concussions, Desmond and I entered the tower and walked up its stairs into a main chamber. The chamber was mostly barren, except for the man sized crystal of ice housing a glowing essence of power that could have only been the Autumn mantle. I pulled my warden sword once more (which was better at breaking enchantments than it was at killing things, which should say a lot about its enchantment breaking abilities) and I rested it on the top of the ice. I focused then, pouring my energy into my blade as well as my counter-magic ring, and I pushed down until the blade began cutting through the ice like a hot knife through butter. The second the Autumn mantle was exposed to the air it immediately snapped back to its rightful place in the Autumn court.

Then all hell broke loose.

As Desmond and I turned around to flee we found ourselves face to face with a being of unearthly beauty and grace. She was also sporting a look of unearthly rage and hate. Queen Mab had found us out, and we were going to die, eventually. Mab herself couldn’t kill us outright (due to our mortal status and her Queenliness) but that didn’t mean we were going to be any better off. Dead at Mab’s feet was a lot better than alive in her clutches.

Just as she was about to enact her fury the entirety of all the faerie courts (sans the Mothers and Fathers) appeared and started. . .bickering. Oberon and Titania. Faraday and Mab. Joranside, Puck, and the Ladies. All of them started acting out a drama of family dysfunction that rivaled anything Maury or Jerry Springer could come up with.

Just as I thought the whole thing was going to turn into a near-gods smack down I got a small telepathic message from Desmond.

Go with me on this Connie, I’ve watched a lot of day time television. I know what I’m doing.

“Would everyone just shut the fuck up, and calm down!” Desmond screamed, bringing the collective eyes and ire of the entirety of the fae courts on him. “I think we all need to sit down, and talk about the deep seated emotional issues we are dealing with here.”

And so Desmond and I (over a grueling fourteen hours that I was sure would have ended in our deaths) sat down, and played Dr. Phil and Oprah for eight of the most powerful beings in the universe. And I’ll be darned if it didn’t work like a charm. Things would never be perfect, but Autumn and Spring were getting their old power back, Des and I weren’t going to die, and the Grey Council had vast access across the Nevernever through Autumn and Spring.

Sure, Des and I sort of pissed off Oberon and Faraday by not taking up the mantles of Autumn Duke and Spring Duke (respectively). Sure, CoCo was a full Sidhe lady now, and while she’d always be my friend I’d never be able to trust her completely again. Sure, the victory I had won may not have been anywhere near enough to protect the people I loved from the war that was coming. But Des and I were alive, and for the time being we had our whole future before us.

We decided to kick back, open some beers, and watch the best of Jerry, Season 20. Can’t beat it.

Season’s Greetings from Buffalo,
Connie and Des <3

View
The Life and Times of a Girl Next Door Wizard (C) [Part 14]
The more things change. . .

Married life was treating me well. Probably because married life wasn’t any different than life before Des and I got married. Des and I had been through so much in our time together, built so much trust, loyalty, and love that even though the marriage certificate and change of name had made everything official, it hadn’t changed anything about our relationship. We’d made vows of loyalty and love to one another long before the wedding, and those vows would last long after. Though I gotta say, it was pretty hot when he called me Mrs. Waters during our more intimate moments. It was good that things at home were going well too, because we had more than enough work to do down at Sentinel.

Well, Desmond had a lot of work to do at Sentinel at least. I tried to help out where I could, but I honestly just kept making things harder around the office instead of easier. I was going to work in HR for Des first, but it turns out not having any sort of formal education and instantly frying out all of the record keeping computers made that a poor choice for me. Then I tried working as the receptionist, but the static over the new phone line was atrocious, and I may not exactly be a people person. I know, crazy right? Then I tried helping out with the SUVs and armaments, but the vehicles kept losing power to their fancy new on-board computers (why the hell do they put computers in everything!?) and the thermal/night-vision scopes kept burning out when I walked past. In the end I decided to just leave it alone and let Desmond handle Sentinel, and he did a great job of it too.

With Trina and John’s help (and John on retainer) Des was able to blow through all the remaining paperwork and get things rolling while Dizzy worked out all the crazy paranoid war vet concerns, like armory security and vehicle armor, which were actually legitimate concerns in that line of business. Getting staff together was even easier for them. Sure, Des got discouraged from all the nos he got, but he got so many yeses that it didn’t matter. Nearly half of Paladin’s old staff ended up at Sentinel, and the remainder of positions got filled out by fresh faces and old veterans. By Spring Des had the whole operation launching out of the gate. He even decided on a logo that Kyle drew, and paid him pretty darn well for it.

It was baby steps at first, but with contracts for security at the Bills and Sabers stadiums, as well as personal security for many of the VIPs in the area right at the get go, Sentinel was at least starting with a chance to get out of the red. I knew Trina had a lot of pull around the city since her mom had met her untimely end and it seemed she was using it to help Des and I. God love her.

Angelica’s death wasn’t a happy memory for me, but it did free Trina from her life of ‘imprisonment in luxury’ at the mansion. With mommy dearest gone Trina was queen of the castle, and free to do as she pleased. That meant her coming over to my house more, going shopping with me more, and just generally being able to be a part of my life again. It wasn’t quite as good as having Des around, but Trina was a pretty damn good second place.

Sure, Desmond was busy with work a lot, but it did at least give me a lot more free time to tinker around in my sanctum. Since I had turned Daniel’s engagement ring into a powerful magical tool I decided that I could do no less with the sapphire and diamond ring Desmond had gotten me. Besides, I wore both on my right hand anyway, why let one of the rings slack off? Sapphire and diamond are both very powerful magical conduits, but unlike my ruby ring they don’t excel at large expulsions of power. Instead, they were much more adept at protection and the draining away of power. It took me near a month of study and patience (and a few conversations with Hannah and Kyle about magical theory) but I eventually turned the ring into a ‘counter spell’ ring of sorts. It didn’t actually completely negate magic, but it could be used to drain significant amounts of power out of a cast spell and disperse it into the air and ground harmlessly. I practiced with Hannah and Kyle, and the ring was able to nullify the vast majority of what they could throw at me. If a bigger and scarier wizard came along the best the ring could do was drain their spells a bit, but even that can be considerable in the middle of combat. With a shield up and the ring at the ready I’d hopefully be able to nullify the vast majority of spells of deadly intent cast at my head. The knowledge that a Black Council of evil Wizards and Warlocks could be out there plotting my death was the first of many inspirations for the ring, and I’d need all the help I could if that day ever came. I was glad to have the ring on my finger, and not just because Desmond had given it to me.

Des being so busy also gave me the time I needed to finish something I had never wanted to end, but that I knew had to: the twins’ training. For two solid years plus I’d trained Hannah and Kyle in the magical arts. A normal person takes anywhere from four to eight years to truly reach the level of a White Council Wizard, but my apprentices were special. Hannah and Kyle were prodigies in every sense of the word, and I finally sat them down and told them that the week before I planned to take them to Edinburgh for their final tests. I’d done well to keep pride out of them while they were in training, but they weren’t going to be apprentices for much longer, and a wizard should be wise enough to know their gifts as well as their limits.

There isn’t much to say about the wizard initiation tests except that they can be gruelingly. There’s an Evocation segment, a Thaumaturgy segment, a written exam, a philosophy and morality test, and countless others. Kyle passed them all nearly without flaw and Hannah wasn’t much behind her brother. I have never been more proud in my life than the day the Senior Council assigned the title of Wizards of the White Council to my brother and sister. I cried like Mom was going to cry in a few short months when the two graduated from college. I have a lot of regrets in my life, and I’ve definitely made some mistakes and poor decisions, but my training of Hannah and Kyle was certainly none of those things. They were my blood, my apprentices, my friends, two of my most loyal allies, and now my peers. I finally got to feel what a parent feels when their children succeed, and it felt good.

“Connie, Kyle and I are gonna hit up the main concourse a bit, mingle and all that, we just wanted you to know,” Hannah said to me, her brother grinning like an idiot next to her.

“Wizard Carver,” I said to Hannah, “Wizard Carver,” I said to Kyle, “You two don’t need to ask my permission for anything anymore. If you want my advice I assure you I’ll give it, but you two are adults now in every sense. Go, and enjoy.”

They just smiled, bid farewell to ‘Wizard Waters’, and went off on their own. It hurt to know I wouldn’t be seeing them as much, and that truly I had no business in telling them what to do as one professional to another, but that’s life ain’t it? People growing up, growing apart, moving on, but never forgetting where their strength came from, or who and what made them the people they turn into. I couldn’t help but smile myself. I was lost in such thought I didn’t even hear Listens-to-Wind come up behind me until he spoke in his Native American accent.

“Wizard Richardson, you did well with those two. As much as the Merlin and Mai bicker and grumble, even they know you did better with two apprentices than most do with one.”

“Thank you, Listens-to-Wind,” I said smiling, “I just wanted to do my master proud. Oh, and its Wizard Waters now.”

“I’d forgotten,” Listens-to-Wind said with a smile, “You certainly did do Wizard Kane proud, though even he thinks you already had too many names.”

“Hey, makes it harder to get my whole True Name right?” I said half joking.

“That may be more important than you think in the times to come,” he said deadly serious. I didn’t know who the other members of the Grey Council were besides Adam, but I think in his own way old Injun Joe was letting me know he was in the loop too.

“Perhaps,” I said simply.

“Talk is that Wizard McCoy may be stepping down voluntarily from his council seat, for obvious reasons, and there is more talk of who is like to replace him. When the time comes I hope your old master can count on your support,” he said shifting tracks.

There was a bombshell. In hindsight, after the incident with Ebeneezer it wasn’t all that surprising there was pressure to force him to step down from the Senior Council seat, but it’s not something that happens often. If someone from a ‘darker’ part of the White Council got in that seat then all kinds of bad would go down. We all had to hope and pray that Adam was indeed the one to fill it.

“He can count on me,” I said with a firm nod.

“I figured. You are a very unique woman, Mrs. Waters, even among wizards. I can see why my cousin respects you so,” Listens-to-Wind said with a smile.

“Do I know your cousin?” I asked confused, “I didn’t even know you had a cousin in the White Council.”

“He isn’t in the White Council, and he isn’t my blood, but all of the peoples of the many Tribes are cousins. And Walks-the-Land has proven himself time and again to be a good judge of character. It is not often a Shaman of the Earth and Winds blesses the union of someone not in the Tribes, you should feel honored.”

“You’re talking about Rafe aren’t you,” I said slightly flabbergasted.

“He goes by many names,” Listens-to-Wind smiled, “I chanced to meet him once more when I was in your neck of the world, meeting with the new Countess Haight to strengthen our relations with the White Court now that the war with the Reds has ended. Strange coincidence I would find him so near, and that he would know you so well.”

“Well, I’m full of surprises,” I said with a nervous chuckle.

“And secrets. Countess Haight made sure to let me know how wonderfully professional our local Warden was, and how she deserved several pay raises,” Listens-to-Wind said with a warm smile on his face as he slowly walked away, “it is good you can even make allies out of a vampire, we may need many allies before the end, Warden Waters.”

When I got home I found a plush black dog and an invitation to a romantic dinner put together by Che Desmond. The silly jerk thought he’d been spending too much time working and tried to make up for it with a stuffed animal, some delicious food, and his big stupid sexy muscles. It worked perfectly. The more things change the more they stay the same I guess. I was happy with Desmond, and no matter what the future held for us it didn’t matter, because it was us.

View
Blood Moon Inbetween (Des)
When you're going through writer's block, keep going.

I’d been working hard as hell on Sentinel lately. Things with me and Connie had easily slipped back into normalcy after the wedding and honeymoon. Sure, it might sound bad and unromantic, but there wasn’t much more we could do to prove our love to each other. Besides, I had to get this security service up and running so that we could keep eating. Insurance money doesn’t last forever, particularly when you’re making large purchases from the black market in weaponry to keep yourself alive.

Dizzy had been busy finalizing plans for the building and I’d been busy hiring contractors to finish the work up and doing what I could myself. I was working my ass off, and surprisingly, loving every minute of it.

I’d been busy fighting with the ATF over licensing. Apparently they didn’t receive my application. It took almost a month to sort out. Eventually, I’d had to get some help with it. Trina had some connections that I was able to pull, and John gave his support as well, stating that the city of Buffalo could use the jobs. I even worked with the VA Office to try and set up a jobs program for soldiers coming back from the war.

Of course, they never returned my call. As they say, you want anything done, you have to do it yourself.

I reached out to Dizzy’s network of informants. They seemed to have quite the histories. I went around and made myself known to them, even as the business hadn’t started. Most of the guys were excited at the prospect of work. Some told me to fuck off, but a select few were up for it. I told them I’d be in touch and had Dizzy get me their files. Apparently he had mine as well. I resisted the urge to look into it. The future was what mattered anyway.

Besides, I’m sure a good portion of it is redacted.

Of course, around this time was when I got to really play with the fun stuff.

Gun porn.

I ordered catalogs from Blackhawk, Remington, Federal Arms and a ton of other weapons manufacturers for research purposes. Connie got pretty sick of my drooling over the equipment that she made me go camping with Jason for a weekend to get me the hell out of her hair.

Of course, I brought the catalogs. Even Jason was getting into it a bit when I showed him the specialty decorative sabers. He’s even considered picking up some extra armor.

Of course, I had to look into vehicles too, since the loans were secured. I was thinking black Chevy Suburbans. One step at a time though I guess.

I also took some time to get used to some of the supernatural folks in that neighborhood. Not too much around, surprisingly. Or at least too much that wanted to talk. Still, it gave me the lay of the land a bit. Hell, I’d slept in a few of the doorways at some point.

I had Kyle draw up a logo for me. Of course, in true Kyle fashion, he came back with several and I still haven’t made up my mind. He gave me the copies out of his sketchbook and told me he’d finish up whichever one I wanted. What a bro. He’d definitely have to get a free t-shirt some time.

Marketing, baby.

What? Don’t look at me like that.

Fine, I’ll buy him a beer too. Sheesh.

Amidst all of this, I felt Connie had been feeling left out, so I decided to make a romantic dinner. You know, with meat and stuff.

Get your head out of your ass.

She was out and I came back early to start work on a roast. I set up everything perfectly. In the middle of the floor, I set a little stuffed black dog with a red ribbon around its’ neck, complete with an invitation to our dinner. Of course, I was just finishing up dinner when she arrived home from her errands.

Of course, she came in, first confused, and then proclaiming how adorable the little black plush was. When she read the invitation, I had her hook line and sinker.

Who says I can’t be a romantic? House Husbandry is a skill you’ll use forever.

The roast was awesome, and the sex was even better.

I even used my Aragorn voice. Connie loves the Aragorn voice.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.