A/N: Sorry for the long delay. I had three and a half chapters in pre-beta when my USB drive failed. Having no backup the chapters were lost. It was really painful to go back and re-write the chapter. I almost dropped it but too many of you kept sending messages to get the new chapter out. Let that be a lesson to all of you: back-up frequently and review often!
Thank you as always to Dellacouer for beta-ing my stories!
Chapter 4 – Plots
I really hate know-it-all wizards.
Every one I've met seems to love the chance to show off their secret arcane knowledge in an effort to make the rest of us look stupid. My first teacher made me think he was the greatest wizard in the world with all of his knowledge. I believed that just up to the point he gave me the choice of joining him on the Dark side or dying. I took choice 'C'.
I'm glad I'm not like that.
"He's as bad as you, Dresden!" Murphy growled at me. I scowl back at her. I guess Murphy thinks I am that bad.
I notice Potter smirking at Murphy's back. I think my new out-of-town friend knows exactly how to get the good lieutenant's goat.
Murphy turned back to face the English wizard. The scowl on her face tells me she caught his smirk. Watching Murphy try to rein in her anger is amusing to watch when its not directed at me.
"A basilisk?" she finally managed to ask.
My estimate of Potter's bravery or stupidity goes up when he ignores her question and turns back to the drain. He pulled the grate back over the drain. His wand appears in his hand again and a bright light shot from the wand to the grate. Then the wand disappears again.
Potter turns back to face me and a fuming, petite CPD lieutenant. I am impressed with the calmness he accepts her glare. A charming smile appears on Potter's face. "Forgive me, lieutenant. I wanted to make sure our conversation would remain uninterrupted." I could swear his eyes are twinkling.
"A snake, a very large and deadly snake."
Karin looks doubtful. "You want me to believe a snake is responsible for turning these people to stone?"
"Are you sure about that?" I ask. "No one has seen one for over two thousand years. And even that sighting is considered questionable."
Potter shrugs. "Pretty sure." He held up the stick. A tough looking strip of snake skin hung from the end. "This is basilisk skin. Their gaze turns people and animals to stone. Based on the size of this pipe and the skin, I'd guess this one is ten to fifteen feet long."
"So, as long as we don't look it in the eye, we are safe? We can use mirrors to look at them?" I ask.
Potter walks over to the little girl. "No, the mirror trick is just a mug- er non-magical story. It does reduce the gaze's intensity making the effects reversible though. I think the girl saw the snake's reflection in the water. With the right potion, she should be okay."
Muphy rubbed her eyes. "So, if we don't meet its gaze in any way we are safe?"
Potter frowns at the question. I notice he is rubbing his bicep as he answers, "They are also very venomous. A non-magical person bitten would be killed instantly. A wizard would live a bit until their magic ran out unless they get a counter-agent quickly. The stronger the wizard the longer they have before dying."
"You seem to know a lot about these," Murphy comments in a suspicious voice.
Potter snorted. "I was bitten by one when I was twelve. It was a lot bigger than this one though. Only about sixty feet."
I had to ask, "How did you avoid looking at its eyes?"
Potter smiles, "A phoenix flew in and scratched out his eyes. Then I stabbed it through the roof of its mouth with a big sword."
Murphy glares at him in disbelief. I have to admit that I'm doubtful too. "Where did you get the sword from?"
Potter gives me an innocent look. "I pulled it out of a hat." The look on the Englishman's face turns serious. "Look, you have a real problem here. This basilisk is using your sewers to travel around. It could pop up anywhere."
"Do you think it will come back here?"
Potter shrugs his shoulders. "I placed a magical seal on the grate. No one is opening that for at least three months."
The conversation is interrupted when Muphy's phone starts to ring. She walked off a bit to take the call. She was off in ten seconds. "The deputy chief is upstairs and he wants some answers. You two stay here and look around."
As Potter turns back to look at the little girl, I notice a woman standing next to me.
"Hello, my host."
Great, just when I thought the day couldn't get any worse, my very own Fallen Angel decides to make an appearance.
After losing his war to gain power over Heaven, Lucifer was banished to Hell. The angels that sided with him were bound to silver denarius coins. That was the birth of the Order of the Blackened Denarius.
The Denarians are corruption incarnate. Any mortal holding a coin is granted access to the fallen angel. A weak-willed mortal with a coin could be completely possessed. A strong-willed person could resist but the power the Denarians offer is seductive. The demons vary in their approach. Some attempt to dominate, others manipulate.
Lasciel was definitely one of the latter. The demoness was known as the "Webweaver" for her ability to spin a web of deceit and trick her possessor into doing her will. I picked up her coin just before my young godson could grab it. The coin itself was now buried under a couple feet of concrete in my basement. However, a 'ghost' of the Fallen Angel, Lasciel, stayed in me.
My uninvited border claimed a lot of things. She claimed she can't control me, but I know she can create illusions only I can see, taste, smell and feel. If she wanted to make me think I was a flaming torch, I'd feel the burning. She can also overcharge my spells with Hellfire. That's saved me a time or two but each time it gets easier to justify using it again. Lasciel claims I am too strong for her to dominate, but I think she is just scared that if I die, no one will ever find the coin where the 'real' her sleeps.
"A basilisk, how interesting," she purrs
Lasciel decided this time to appear as I first 'met' her, a cute young woman working in a magical bookstore. She maneuvered it so I only 'saw' her at times I would be alone with her. It was not until a friend of mine crashed one of her scenes that I realized no one else could see or hear her.
'Go away,' I tell her in my thoughts.
She purses her lips in a disappointed way. "No need to my rude, my host. I was merely curious. I have not heard rumor of a basilisk sighting in centuries! Such fascinating creatures. Archilus supposedly released one in Greece once. Caused all kinds of chaos. I was in Asia at the time so I only heard about it much later."
I didn't want to ask but my curiosity won out. 'Where did it come from?'
A small shrug of her shoulders. "I never learned. One of the Knights caught up with his host and slew him." She walked over to where Potter squatted looking at the basilisk skin. "Such a fascinating man. He is very powerful but his aura is strongly tainted with Darkness."
"Much like yours is." A small smirk appeared on her face. "He fights for the Light, but treads that line. Much like you, my host."
Further conversation is cut short when Potter turns from where he was studying the girl's statue. Unaware of the image of Lasciel standing beside me, Potter walks over to join me.
"Do you know any Potion Masters that might have the restoration potion we need for the girl?"
I give him an odd look. "Potion Masters? I think we just ran into one of those differences here. Do we need eye of newt and the blood of a virgin chicken too?" I asked. Sarcasm is a natural gift.
Potter looks a bit surprised. "You do have potions here right?"
I shrug. "Yes, but we use more everyday materials. It is more about the magic and intent then the materials themselves. The materials just get you thinking along the right lines." I pull a vial from an inside pocket of my coat. "This is an energy potion. I made it with flat coke, coffee grounds, and chocolate. Mix it together and thrown in a dollop of magic. BAM! Instant energy. Feels like a good night's sleep for about six hours of normal activity."
"How's it taste?"
"Like crap. Coffee and flat coke never will be a big seller."
Potter grinned, "About like our Pepper-up Potion than, just without the magical materials." Potter glanced back at the statue. "So, what should we do about her?"
"Can you make the potion yourself?"
"Potions were never my strength," Potter grimaced. Then his face lightened. "Hermione will know how to make it once we get her back. Brightest witch I've ever met."
"I usually go to Bob."
"Wise-ass spirit of knowledge that lives in a skull in my lab. Addicted to bodice-ripping romances and porn"
Potter looks a bit stunned. Guess they don't have anything like Bob where he lives. Sometimes I wish we didn't have him here either.
Potter shrugs. "Well, once we get Hermione back, we can put her and Bob on it. Sounds like they will get on famously."
Murphy's arrival cuts short the conversation.
"Dresden, you two clear out of here. Someone called IA and for some reason they are taking over the investigation."
Those idiots in Internal Affairs always seem to be after Murph and her people. I'd love to see them handle a rogue troll or ghoul wandering the city. Probably try to bury'em in regulations and red tape. I wouldn't mind letting one of them loose in the IA offices.
"What about getting someone to seal up those grates and manholes?" I ask. I'm afraid I already know the answer.
"Fat chance," Murphy grunts. "Do you think I could tell them we have a large, venomous snake, that's gaze can turn people into stone, wandering around the city?"
"Maybe if we catch it we can let it loose in their offices." Potter offers. I knew I liked the man for some reason.
Murphy only frowns in response. Only a close friend could tell she was fighting a smile at the thought.
Saying our goodbyes, I lead Potter out of the basement and out the service door of the apartment building. Discretion it the better part of valor when dealing with the petty minded.
"Are we going to go meet your contact yet?" Potter asked as we walked through the alley.
"Fix isn't supposed to meet us for another two hours. I want to see if we can recruit some volunteers to seal up the grates in the area and keep an eye out."
"Where are you going to get the help?"
I grinned, "I know just the pack of kids to help us."
The Blue Beetle rattled its way over to the University of Chicago. Our destination was a small apartment building just off the campus.
This area used to be the favorite hunting grounds of a number of predators, natural and supernatural. Something about a large concentration of naïve students without the protections of home was a siren's call to the predators.
The number of predators dropped drastically a couple of years ago. The reason for that drop was our destination.
The Beetle rolled up in front of the apartment building.
"So, who are we meeting here?"
"They are a group of UC students that stumbled onto our world. They got together to protect the area. They've helped me a time or two when I couldn't be in two places at once."
Potter looked a bit uncomfortable. "You want to send non-wizards to hunt for a basilisk?"
"Hey, Billy and his gang are solid. And I don't want them to hunt anything. Hell, I don't want to go hunt the thing. But they can close off those grates quicker than we can alone."
Potter didn't look happy with the idea but nodded his agreement.
A small group of four students was walking down the sidewalk toward the building as Potter and I climbed out of my car. Billy was in the lead with a big smile on his face. His girlfriend and another couple were trailing behind him. I waved from across my car.
"Harry! Man, it's great to see you! You're just in time for game night. We just got the pizzas and beer. You can play as the barbarian again."
He must have caught the expression on my face. His expression changed to a more serious look. "Or is this a business visit?"
Billy had changed from when I first met him. Then he was a shy, plump innocent with grand ideas. Now he is a buff, confident man in a tight t-shirt and sweatpants. His pack of friends had all gone through a similar change in that time.
"Business tonight." I walk around the car to shake his hand. "This is Harry Potter. He is a wizard helping me out on a little problem for the CPD."
Billy turned with a smile to greet Potter. The smile melted off his face to be replaced with a look of fierce aggression.
"Who are you? What do you want here?"
Potter looked as surprised as I felt. "Billy, what's the problem?"
"Can't you smell him? He's one of them!"
I hate being confused. I look at Potter for an explanation. He looks confused to for a moment but then a look of understanding crosses his face. He makes an odd sniffing gesture.
I start calling up my magic just in case.
"You're werewolves," Potter says.
One of the girls, Mandy, turns and lets out a howl towards the building. A moment later ten wolves come tearing out of the apartment building. Fortunately, the apartment building boarders a mostly deserted industrial park so the danger of witnesses is low.
The pack arrays itself behind Billy.
Potter looks surprised. "But it's not night, or even a full moon."
"We are not cursed. We are werewolves, not lycanthropes or loup-garou," Billy answers in a growl.
"What? I thought you said they were non-magical."
"They change form because they learned to channel the little magic they have into a single spell to change their shape. Using the spell locks them from learning to use the magic for anything else," I answer.
The three young people behind Billy quickly and efficiently strip off all their clothes. Potter looks shocked for a moment then nods as they shift into wolf form.
"You are the alpha?" Potter asks.
In a careful voice, Potter says, "I am not here to fight you for dominance. I am just passing through. I am helping Dresden on something and he is helping me. I already have a mate. I am not looking to take one of yours."
"Are you one of the cursed ones?"
Potter shakes his head. "No, I am different. Closer to what you are, I think."
Potter smirks for a moment. In a blink a large grey wolf stands in his place. His clothes are gone. Not on the ground, just gone.
Billy looks shocked at the sudden change. He drops his sweats and peels off his t-shirt. He changes to his wolf form leaving me surrounded by fourteen wolves facing off against one larger wolf.
I feel like an extra from The Howling, again.
Billy and Potter start circling one another. The rest of the pack backs off.
I step away from the pack. I don't think they are going to attack each other. At least I hope they don't. I absently help myself to a slice and a Sammy Adams while I am watching. Not as good as Mac's stuff, but not bad.
After ten minutes to two alpha males seem to come to some type of agreement. They back away to a respectful distance. With no other signal, they resume their human forms, leaving a clothed Potter and a naked Billy.
Seeing Potter was instantly dressed after morphing, Billy whined, "Now that's just not fair!"
We arrived at Mac's with ten minutes to spare.
The revelations at Billy's place had led to a bit of showing off on both sides. Next thing I know we have a dozen wolves running around the apartment showing off. Potter and Billy played a few dominance games. I think they agreed to disagree. Potter wouldn't back down but the pack stayed with Billy. They settled on treating Potter as a wolf version of a visiting dignitary.
No, I'm not jealous. So, they can all turn into wolves. I can set Mouse on them. He'll take them all out.
Tom, one of Billy's pack, worked summers for the city's Public Works Department. He knew where they could get a couple of portable welding units. Billy's pack were going to go around the area starting in the morning and seal up as many sewer openings inside the buildings surrounding the attacks as possible.
Not a perfect plan, but it would have to do.
We walk into Mac's place and order dinner and beers. Potters getting excited at the chance of getting his friend back. Hopefully, Fix can help us out.
Mac's place is getting kind of crowded as we wait. I recognize several of the lesser practioners from the area. They don't have the power to be a full wizard, but enough to do things in small groups. They all recognize me but steer clear. I may be a Warden now, but parts of the old reputation cling to me.
The door opens with a twinkling. I turn to see if it is Fix. I almost end up spitting out my drink.
An absolutely gorgeous blonde woman walked in wearing a short, black mini-skirt and a red, skintight tube top shirt. She walked seductively on her high-heeled shoes in our direction. Every male (and several of the females) stopped to watch her progress through the pub.
It was only as she got closer that I realized we were in trouble.
The touch of exoticness to her features. The grace and sensuality of her movements. The hint of power in the air. It all spoke to one thing.
She sank gracefully into the open chair at our table. She smiled lazily at Potter before glancing at me. "Good evening, Mr. Dresden. I'm sorry but Knight Fix was unable to be here tonight. Titania had more important things to do. I insisted that I get to come in his stead."
That didn't sound good. Titania is the Summer Queen of the Fairie. I killed her daughter a couple of years ago. The Summer lady, Aurora, was trying to end the constant battle between the Winter and Summer Courts by throwing the fight in Winter's favor. My actions saved the Summer Court (and the human realm) but cost Aurora her life.
Then she turned back to Potter and says, "Hello Harry. How good to see you again," in a deep, sensual tone.
"I'm sorry," Potter says. "I don't believe we've met."
I have to admire his calm resistance to her aura. If not for Lasciel even I would have to be working to fight it.
Our guest gives out a delighted laugh. "Well, you were only a week old when last we met." She reached across the table to take Potter's hand.
"I am Thetis."
One exquisite eyebrow rose in humor.
"I am your fairy godmother."