Author: steamfan PM
TV Verse. Anna has a little surprise for her mother.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 3 - Words: 20,097 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 05-29-09 - Published: 07-17-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4402710
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Chang was furious. 'How could those short sighted fools do this?! By binding Hrothbert of Bainbridge to his dead wife's skull, even if they told him it was his own, they also bound the lady to this plane and earth as well. They would say that it didn't matter as there was little they could do to release her in any case. Bird brained idiots! They should have used his skull. If the damned sorcerer didn't even know that it was his wife's skull there was no point!' The disguised dragon paced the confines of his workshop/cave. He could see the skull of Hrothbert sitting on his work table and the spirit of Winifred of Bainbridge hovering close by. 'There has to be some way to free the lady! She is innocent in all of this!'
Chang paced for the rest of the day before coming to the conclusion that he would have to ask his ancestors for help in this matter. The ritual wasn't one the dragon usually used, but this was a special case. While the dragon was well versed in the use of magic and had won himself a place on the High Council of Wizards in his adopted country, he was not so proud that he was unable to ask for help, especially in a case like this. The dragon knelt in front of a small altar and lit the incense that sat on a small plate. The plate sat in front of a carved figure of a dragon, one that to him represented his ancestors. Chang sent out his plea for guidance and waited. It didn't take long. In fact, it was as though his ancestors had only been waiting for him to ask. That was something that was entirely possible, he admitted to himself.
A voice rose from everywhere and nowhere at once.
When a tainted line brings forth a white knight,
The black soul shall repent,
And redeem himself for the sake of the knight,
Only then shall lovers be reunited in death.
From eldest daughter to eldest daughter,
This trust shall be given,
As one is guarded,
So must the other be.
Chang waited but the voice said nothing more and the incense burned out in a rush. He would have to meditate on his answer for some time to come, although for the ancestors this was a fairly straight forward command. /As one is guarded, So must the other be./ was the easiest part of the prophecy to understand. He would have to bind the lady to her love's skull as he was bound to hers. It was a good thing that he was there for the original binding. This was going to take a great deal of time and effort but it would have taken far longer if he hadn't been there for Bainbridge's sentencing.
For the High Council called the binding that they had done to Bainbridge's spirit to be guarding the sorcerer so that he could not be set free to loose his evil upon the world again. Stupid fools, all it meant was that all of his knowledge was accessible to those who would fight over it. Bainbridge was bound to serve those who owned his lady's skull. That meant that eventually, if not sooner, the sorcerer would fall into the hands of those not quite as evil as the sorcerer had been but who wished to be.
Two years later Chang handed over a rune scribed skull to a young woman. She was a witch, capable of little more than the modest magic of healing the villagers who tolerated her presence, but she was also his eldest daughter. In fact, Margaret, daughter of Mary, had been conceived only because to not bed the woman his host had given him to warm his bed would have meant a grievous insult, one that he could not have afforded to make at the time. Although she was half dragon, the only inheritance she had received from her father was her ability for magic.
Daughters, especially those born out of wedlock, had never mattered much to humans but Margaret was half dragon and had a special place in Chang's heart as his only daughter. He had demanded that she be turned over to him when she was five years old on his occasion of revisiting the lord's castle where her mother was one of the castle servants. When he left there, he had taken her with him. He had placed her with a foster family who had known better than to mistreat her. She had grown up in the nearby village and had eventually married a local woodsman, one who wasn't afraid of her and her magic or her father.
Margaret carefully checked over the skull. She had been instructed on what to expect but in truth, she had expected to feel far more intimidated by the curses etched onto the skull. But that wasn't the case, instead she felt warm and comfortable holding it. "Winifred of Bainbridge I summon thee," she called. Winifred's ghost came out of the skull in a flash of gold and black, and then transformed into her Human form in front of Margaret.
She was tall for a woman, well over five feet in height with long dark red hair braided all the way to her ankles. Right there and then Margaret knew that she must have been born to a fairly high station. There were few women who could afford to have hair that long and well kept. She herself was one of the few women in the area who even knew how to braid hair or how to fashion a comb to care for the length that such braids required.
Winifred waited patiently. She wasn't sure what to expect from the woman she stood in front of. At the moment she was still very tired and had a vague sense of ache that she knew was the result of her husband's resurrection spell that had pulled her back from the dead. That was the spell that they had both been sentenced to this half life for. For her the worst part of it was that she wasn't as innocent as everyone told her she was.
She had gleefully experimented with Hrothbert to discover new magics and she too had crossed the line into what she had told herself were merely slightly darker ones. Between their explorations and her murder, it was no wonder that her love had gone mad. She knew that time, now that death had her, was the only cure for her pain but only being reunited with Hrothbert would completely ease her broken heart. Chang had told her that it was possible for her to be reunited with her love once more but it would only happen if she remained in the custody of his eldest daughter's line. She had to be passed from eldest daughter to eldest daughter for her to have any chance. It was time to take that first step.
And so it began, from eldest daughter to eldest daughter Winifred of Bainbridge and her husband's skull was passed down through the centuries. At times Winifred despaired over her fate. At other times she had hope as the line of woman guardians had never been broken and she had wonderful children to watch over and teach. That is, until the time came that the newest first born girl child to be born had so little magic in her that it would never manifest in her life. She would only be able to pass the ability on to her own children. Winifred didn't care, it had to happen sooner or later and as long as the line of eldest daughters held true, she would one day be reunited with her Hrothbert. The child's mother on the other hand, was horrified. She was so horrified in fact, that eventually she left her husband and child, taking Winifred with her.
THE BEGINING OF HROTHBERT'S REDEMPTION
Hrothbert of Bainbridge had never had a student before Harry Dresden was given into his care by his uncle, Justin Morningway. His long line of former masters had wanted to hoard his knowledge and the power that went with it for themselves. Justin Morningway wasn't that much different but he had wanted to ensure that his nephew would follow the darker path to power rather than his parent's idealized path. That was his reason for turning Harry's magical education over to Hrothbert, the cursed ghost who had once been one of the most powerful black sorcerers ever known, that and he didn't have the time or patience to raise a child himself. However, because he only saw Hrothbert as a tool and nothing more, he forgot a basic principal of teaching; that the teacher learns as much as the student.
Hrothbert wasn't simply a tool or a library of magical information. He was a ghost, a spirit of a man, cursed with magical chains that bound him to his skull and to servitude to whoever owned it, and because he was fully aware of his fate, he had the capacity to learn, grow and change if he was given the opportunity. Harry gave him that opportunity. While Hrothbert taught Harry magic, Harry in return taught Hrothbert much of what he had never learned in his mortal life, such as friendship, compassion, the simple pleasure of having comfortable companionship and most importantly the love between a child and parent.
Hrothbert had known a love that was all consuming and the bitter agony of having that love wrenched away from him at the hands of others but he had never known what it was like to simply enjoy the presence of another person. He had never been a father, nor had he known any love for his own. Hrothbert had thrown such things away in his drive to gain more knowledge, more magic and his fall into the black. It was Harry who brought those things into his existence. It was Harry who taught him to see with the eyes of a child. It was no wonder that Hrothbert was far more loyal to Harry than to anyone he had ever served. Harry had returned to the ghost his soul.
Lt. Connie Murphy of the Chicago Police Department is a woman of contrasts. She is only a little taller than average but not by much with a sturdy physique that powers a terrific right hook. I should know. I've seen her deliver it often enough, but there are people out there who would call her delicate or feminine, with her flawless skin, dark eyes and jet black hair. As long as they don't say it to her face, they may survive.
Personally I think she is the most beautiful woman on this Earth and the fact that she's all cop only enhances it. I'm also far too chicken to ever say so. I'd heard her verbally flay her ex-husband alive over the phone once for saying something along those lines. Murphy yells at me often enough for the stupid chances I take when my sense of chivalry takes over. I don't need to add deliberately stupid moves to the list.
I was contemplating these and other things about my angel of law enforcement, (shut up, I know it's a cliché but that is what I see when I look at her with my Sight, besides, I'm not talking out loud here) as I was getting ready for the day when I heard someone enter the front door of my office/workshop/apartment. As I had just gotten out of the shower, this was not necessarily a good thing. I wasn't yet open for business which cut down on who had barged in.
Most evil things couldn't get past my wards and I had no appointments with clients wanting to hire the only wizard in the phone book this early in the morning. That left me with three possibilities, one of which was that something evil had breeched my wards, in which case I had better arm myself with something better than the towels around my waist and neck.
I stretched out my hand and called my wizard's staff to me. Alright it's a hockey stick but you try walking around downtown Chicago these days with any kind of wooden stick over five feet in length and see how far you get. Few people look twice at a guy lugging around a hockey stick for some reason and I am expected to try and keep a low profile. As far as the average person walking down the street is concerned, I'm a P.I. who calls himself a wizard.
Those who know the truth, that I really am a wizard, with magic, ghost mentor and all are the second possibility. Wardens, who are the cops for wizards and others of the magical community, regularly show up at my place threatening to cut my head off. Now why would they do such a thing? Well, first of all they aren't very up on the new invention called due process that governs most of the U.S. today. So, once you've been on trial, even if you get off, they tend to jump to the conclusion that you, or at least me, are behind every little thing that goes wrong in the area.
Oh what had I been on trial for? I self-defensed my late uncle to death, with black magic. He tried to kill me and I succeeded in killing him. I've lived with the guilt ever since. I hadn't meant to kill him, just get the truth out of him. He had already admitted that he had killed my father. I had wanted to know if he had killed my mother as well. I'm still pretty sure that he had.
Uncle Justin was the one who started using magic to do harm. I was just standing there with the evidence that he had killed my father when he began to throw things at me with his magic. If Bob hadn't warned me I would have probably been killed. In the ensuing fight I had eventually fallen on the Voodoo doll that he had used to kill my father as I tried to get out of the way of the table he had thrown at me and in the process crushed my uncle's heart. But Morgan, the head Warden, and his underlings don't take that into account. To them, once you've killed with the black it is only a matter of time before you do it again, even if the first time was by accident.
I had just reached the end of the hallway that led between my living quarters and my office when I heard, "Harry? I need your help!" To my relief, it was neither of the first two possibilities. It was the third, Murphy, and when Murphy barges into my place it generally means that she has a case that she needs my help with. Feeling much better about the situation I hurried into the front room, forgetting my attire or lack thereof. In the middle of my office stood the woman of my dreams and one of my two best friends, holding a little girl in front of her. "Harry!" Murphy scolded me as she hurriedly covered the little girl's eyes. Now I had never met Anna Murphy, Murphy's daughter and only child, but this girl was the very image of her mother and there was no mistaking who she was.
I looked down to see that not only was I dressed in just towels, one was slipping. "Oops! Sorry ladies, I didn't know it wasn't an emergency. Ah, stay right there and I'll be back in just a minute," I promised as I hurried back down the hall. I could hear the giggles following me but I wasn't too worried about it. I'm sure that having a nearly six foot four man wearing only towels and carrying a hockey stick burst into the room was a bit of a funny sight, especially when you're only nine.
Anna Murphy, daughter of Lt. Connie Murphy, looked around the wizard's office. Her mom had brought her here after her father had literally dumped her on her mom's doorstep that morning. She didn't want to think of why her father had done that, so she concentrated on snooping. She hadn't known that her mom knew a wizard. Her mom had told her that Mr. Dresden sometimes helped her solve her cases and catch the bad guys. Anna knew that meant that Mr. Dresden was a good wizard, but he sure had a lot of weird and spooky stuff in his office.
She could hear her mother talking to Mr. Dresden. "Harry please! I need a sitter. I can't take Anna down to the station." Anna was glad that her mom wasn't just dropping her off somewhere. She was fine with needing a babysitter, even if she thought that she was too old to have one. That meant that her mom would be coming back for her after work. After what had happened with her father this morning, it was a concern. Would her mom even want her when she found out what had happened?
Mr. Dresden had a ton of paper on his desk and the only one she read was the shopping list, which was a weird mix of normal and magic stuff. He had groceries and car stuff on it and he also had stuff like ant vomit and fish slime. She wasn't sure she wanted to know what else was written on the papers on his desk after that, so she looked at the rest of the things and ignored the papers. There was a bunch of necklaces all jumbled together, a wood drumstick (the kind you used on a drum), a bottle of something floating in green goo and a skull that was covered in symbols carved into the bone.
Anna Murphy was a cop's daughter and granddaughter; she wasn't scared of any old skull. She picked up the skull and began tracing the symbols. "I'm not going to take your money Murphy!" When Anna heard those words, she walked out of the office. She really didn't want to hear that her mom's friend didn't want to baby-sit her. All she had heard for the last few days from her father and step-mother was that she was possessed or worse, that she wasn't wanted and other things that made her want to cry. She wasn't going to cry though. She was going to investigate this old skull and figure out what had killed her.
She slipped out the front door and sat down on the steps that led to the sidewalk. She was close enough to the shop that she wasn't disobeying her mom by taking off but she wasn't able to hear her mom and Mr. Dresden argue either. Anna was running her fingers over the triangle hole in the skull when someone walked up to her. "Heh, this is too easy," the man said. Anna looked up to see a large white man with lots of tattoos covering what she could see of his skin, including two on his face. She screamed as he picked her up and carried her off. She tried to struggle without dropping the skull, (her mom had said that you should never drop evidence) but the man was far too big for her small feet to make much of an impression. This hadn't been on her to do list this morning.
"I'm not going to take your money Murphy!" I said firmly as I tugged on my shoes. The fact that she was the one responsible for my main source of income was completely different in this case. This was a personal request, not hiring me to work a case for the police department. There was no way I'd take money from one of my best friends to baby-sit her daughter for the day. "I do have a client right now but all I'm doing is mixing up some potions for her. I can have that done in about an hour and most of that is just watching to make sure the potions simmer or boil depending on which one I'm making and she isn't coming to pick them up until later on this week. Having Anna around won't be a problem."
"Why not?" Murphy asked. I knew that she knew that I was barely scraping by and didn't have enough money to feed myself some days, but I'm both proud and stubborn, something that Bob has chided me about frequently. I'm sure she was going to push when we heard Anna scream. Instantly we were both running down the hallway and out into my office. Anna wasn't there. We searched everywhere but found no trace of Murphy's only child.
Unfortunately I was out of ant vomit. I liked that particular spell as it made tracking easy when the trail was this fresh. While Murphy was on her cell phone reporting Anna as missing, probably kidnapped under the circumstances, I was looking around for Bob. I was sure that he could come up with a way to track Anna quickly enough that we could get her out of whatever trouble she was in, but I couldn't find his skull.
They had both been taken. It was a reasonable assumption that they had both been taken together as I had talked to Bob just before I had gotten into the shower this morning. I knew that his skull had been on my desk. In less than an hour both Anna and Bob had gone missing. I could feel the dark side of my nature starting to creep out of the box I normally had it nailed inside. It's only question was, which side of the fence did the creep who had taken our families come from, Murphy's or mine? I intended to find out, and with Bob missing too, I had a way to do so.
Anna Murphy didn't like the man who had taken her or his aco, ack, the man who was driving the car. The second man was as skinny as the first one was huge but didn't have any tattoos like the first one did. She decided to call the first man Mr. Tattoo and the second Mr. Skinny. Mr. Tattoo carried her over to where Mr. Skinny was waiting by a car.
It was a Ford and had four doors and was brown. Anna knew that she had to remember the details like that because her mother had always told her that it was the details that solved a case. She had also said that witnesses often made mistakes because they didn't take the time to really remember what was happening. She was going to be a good witness when her mom came and arrested Mr. Tattoo and Mr. Skinny.
Mr. Skinny had long brown hair and eyes and his skin looked funny like he was almost yellow. Mr. Tattoo had a spider web on his neck and climbing roses with barbed wire running up and down his arms. While she was busy making sure she could remember what the car and the two perps looked like, Mr. Skinny opened the trunk and Mr. Tattoo shoved her inside. Mr. Skinny slammed the lid shut and Anna could feel the car dip and sway as the two men go into the car. She heard the engine start and rolled a bit in the dark of the trunk as the car began to drive away.
Anna hugged the ancient skull to her chest, wrapping herself around it. She had to make sure that it wasn't crushed and the evidence destroyed. She rubbed the surface of the skull with one hand. For some reason holding it so tightly gave her a slightly warmer feeling around her middle where a jumble of ice had gathered. She told herself that the ice was anger. She refused to admit that she was scared or that she was sniffling. Her mom was going to find her and then when that happened, Mr. Tattoo and Mr. Skinny were going to go 'SPLAT!' like the villains did in the comic books before she arrested them.
HROTHBERT OF BAINBRIDGE
Bob, (he had considered it his name now for years) had long ago learned how to pull in every nuance of his limited perception while he was confined to his Winifred's skull. Thus he had been aware for some time that he was being held by a small person, most likely a child, in much the same way that Harry had done when he had first come to live with his uncle. The child was frightened because he or she, Bob wasn't sure which, had been screaming, although he could now only hear a barely perceived sniffle.
Once, back when Bob had been Hrothbert of Bainbridge and still among the living, he had inured himself to such sounds. Now after nearly a thousand years as a ghost and becoming Bob through Harry's teaching, he could no longer ignore them. They broke his no longer beating heart. He projected comfort and warmth as hard as he could. If he could project the menace and darkness of his curse then he could project the opposite as well.
The slam of two doors and the rocking motion they were subjected to told Bob that they were in a car. 'A frightened child plus a car plus the fact that my love's skull has not been removed from the child's arms equals some sort of kidnapping,' Bob reasoned. If the child had been throwing a tantrum he knew that Harry at least would have removed his lady's skull from the child's clutches. He could not hear anything aside from the child's faint sniffles and what he thought perhaps might be the vehicles motor. He should have heard at least one adult by now.
Suspicious of the lack of other noises, Bob carefully eased himself out of the cursed skull, only to confront a smaller space than he had expected. He had ridden in various vehicles before but he had not expected to emerge in a trunk. However, it simply confirmed his original thoughts, that the child was being kidnapped. At least he knew that Harry would soon find the child, all he had to do was follow the tracking spell that he had conveniently forgotten to return to the Wardens. Until then, well he would do what little he could to watch over the poor girl who he could now see holding onto his lady's skull.
WINIFRED OF BAINBRIDGE
Winifred of Bainbridge stood looking out the window of Maria Sanchez's office. Maria was the latest in the long line of eldest daughters who had watched over her and her love's skull. She was also one of the most stubborn and at the moment that was the problem. Maria worked hard for her community, working as an assistant to one of the community leaders. She also allowed Winifred to openly operate as her assistant, something that Winifred was grateful for. However, she was not grateful enough to allow her only hope to for reuniting with her lost love to be lost because of Maria's stubbornness.
Maria completely refused to acknowledge that she had ever been married before her current husband or that she had a child, more importantly a daughter, with that first husband. She had completely erased their existence from her mind and had forbidden Winifred to ever speak of them again. It wasn't because she felt that divorce was wrong or shameful. It was because neither her first husband nor her eldest daughter could wield magic.
That didn't matter to Winifred; in fact she had been rather grateful that she would have had a break from being a teacher for the first time in nearly a thousand years. Maria had not allowed her that option. She had divorced Joe Murphy and had gone on to remarry a wizard of middling ability within six months. While Enrique Sanchez was a better husband to Maria, he wasn't the father of her eldest daughter. Maria's announcement that morning to her daughter Eva that one day she would inherit Winifred and the skull had resulted in a dreadful fight once the child had left the room.
For the first time Winifred had fought the compulsion to obey the orders of those who owned Hrothbert's skull. She had shouted Constantia's name and reminded Maria that she had an older daughter. The agony had been worth it. Not even knowing the agony that Winifred was going through had been enough to persuade Maria to acknowledge the truth and that had shown Winifred that she had to act to save herself. If she did not, then Maria's stubborn denial would doom her and her love for all eternity, exactly as the Council had wanted. That was something that she would not allow to happen.
WINIFRED OF BAINBRIDGE
"Carlos, I need you to do something for me," Winifred said. She was standing in Maria's office where she taught Maria's children the art of magic.
Carlos, the youngest boy at thirteen, looked at her worriedly. "You're not going to have me do something nice, are you? Not that I wouldn't do something nice for you, ma'am, it's just that,"
Winifred smiled. She understood how difficult it was for the boy, growing up where he was. He had to maintain an aura of macho manliness or risk becoming a target of the local gangs. "Actually I want you to steal something for me."
"You want me," he pointed at his chest, "to steal something," he pointed at her, "for you? That don't make sense!"
"Actually Carlos, what I want you to steal, is me," she answered calmly. "Your family has been given a legacy, a duty to uphold and your mother refuses to do so. She is going to break the chain of custody," (Winifred used the term because Carlos loved to read the CSI Miami books, Eric Delko was his favorite character) and give me to Eva. I cannot tell you why this breaks the line of guardians because your mother has forbidden me to speak of the matter. You do know however that I must be given to the eldest daughter of each generation. For a thousand years your family has guarded me and upheld this duty." She looked at the boy and waited for him to connect the dots. It didn't take long. Carlos wasn't a stupid boy with no thoughts in his head but TV, video games and girls. Of course, part of the reason was that neither of the electronic devices would work around him for long but he did have a good head on his shoulders.
"Do you know where my oldest sister is?" he asked quietly. He didn't know if the girl had been given away or if she was with her father but that didn't matter. Winifred had to be given to whoever she was. A thousand years of doing the right thing in guarding Winifred's ghost should not, COULD not, be thrown away simply because of his mother's shame.
"You must send me to the Chicago Police Department, District 27, care of Officer Murphy," Winifred could say the name as long as she didn't say which Officer Murphy she was referring to. "Write a note and explain that the skull is the inheritance of your mother's eldest daughter. The officers will take care of the matter. They take care of their own."
There was one thing that I'd learned working for the Chicago Police Department and that was no matter how an officer was viewed by his or her fellow officers, whether they were thought of as the ultimate cop or the worst dregs of the department, when that officer needed help, they got the backing of every cop out there. When a family member of a cop went missing, especially a child; well, the crook who had taken that family member had a better chance of walking on air than he did of getting away with it, at least he did if he wasn't using magic. That was one thing that I didn't have any experience with.
When it came to mixing Murphy's world and mine, usually there were no family members involved. I just hoped to God that it remained that way. I had no wish for Anna to become a victim of someone who wanted to steal Bob's skull. A kidnapper of little girls I could handle, in fact I had cheerful plans of making the oaf's life misery, (boils, body rot and intestinal difficulties came to mind), and that is if the cops left anything of him. Anna being taken because of me, I couldn't.
I had used the tracking spell that the Wardens had given me once before when Bob had been stolen while Murphy drove my jeep over to the precinct. The Wardens and the Council didn't like it when just anyone had ownership of Bob, but they couldn't take him away from me as I was the legal owner of his skull. That didn't mean that they hadn't tried to while I was on trial. If I hadn't gotten off, I shudder to think what would have become of my oldest friend. All that I had seen with my Sight when I had used the tracking spell was that Anna was the one now in possession of Bob's skull. She had been clutching Bob in a small, dark space. From what Murphy and I had figured out at the shop, that meant that they were in the trunk of a car. No one had breached my wards and I had only heard the shop bell ring once. Anna had left the building on her own, taking Bob with her. Actually, that was the one thing that comforted me. Bob may be completely insubstantial, unable to affect the material world, but there was no one that I trusted more. He would look after Anna.