This story is dedicated to ZecoreZecron, who was great enough to put this fic up on the TvTropes(dot)Org Dresden Files Fanfic Rec page. This story has made the ten percent worth dying for because of him.

This is for you and all the readers, and the people ho wrote the 18 reviews it currently has. Thanks, guys.

LLS, 14 August 2011

Prologue: The Beginning of the End

It is said that there are forces beyond mere man's control. Some call it magic, some call it God, some call it luck, some call it fate. Few know what is really is. And they are the few who it, whatever 'it' may be, will never change.

Overcast clouds overhead cut off what little sunlight there was until the day resembled the night. As the streetlights lining the roads flickered into being, the shadows themselves by the streets and roads flickered from the indistinct to the clear, as if somewhere, a spark of sentience had been sparked within the umbra.

One said, the little master is missing.

It cannot be! Another cried. None escape the shadows' sight!

One said, It took place during the eclipse, when light and shadow was at the most indistinct. The little master was stolen from our eyes.

One said, it matters not. What matters is that the little master is not in our sight, not in our embrace, not within our senses.

Not here, not here, the shadows chorused as one. The little master, not here.

Not here, a shadow whispered with authority. Master will not be happy.

Neither are we, the shadows chorused as one. The little master...gone. Gone. Gone! Little light...where are you?

Creatures of shadow, let us seek him, the lead shadow whispered, as it coalesced into a solid, humanoid form. Hurry, before the master awakens again and realises that the little master is missing.

Find little master, keep little master safe, shadows chorused as they themselves percolated into the solid forms of the creatures of myth, of that which hid in the dark.

The lead shadow raised a staff, showing it's authority, the little light there was reflected off the staff in tiny silvers, as the shadows rapidly fell into the formation of a hundred demons of the night. Little master...find him!

Some screamed, Blood, blood... in a side street.

Some screamed, Little master's blood.

Little master, where are you? The shadows cried as one.

Little master, little light...where are you? Chorused the monsters of shadows and darkness.

As far as cryptic warnings went, monsters attacking you in the middle of a werewolf pack was an immediate fail.

Then again, it was monsters attacking you in the midst of a werewolf pack, with about zero regard for said werewolves around, which was pretty worrying, and therefore not in need of subtlety. Or cryptic, come to think of it.

I dodged one, aimed my blasting rod at another, letting loose fire with a curse as the Alphas got their furry faces on and leapt into the fray with things I had never seen before.

No, don't get me wrong. There are loads of nasty, face-eating things out there, and it's impossible unless you are a god or maybe an archangel or something like that to know every single critter and creature there. Not knowing what type of beastie was currently attacking was often a given where Chicago's only professional wizard was concerned. However, a lot of big beasties follow the rules of natural order, while the beasties in question didn't.

For example, I have yet to see a giant spider willingly work with a giant...bug-like thing and a tiger like this prior to being jumped by said arachnid-insect-feline team. And when I say bug, I mean the big man-eating kind with teeth and everything.

I dodged a silk line the arachnid spat at me, and watched as the asphalt in contact dissolved. Yelp.

"What the hell are these?" Billy screamed at me. In his human form, he was currently taking a baseball bat to the suspiciously black-widow-related arachnid, who just looked pissed off.

"No clue!" I yelled back, adrenaline prompting me to set the nearest things on fire, which was the arachnid and the tiger. The giant spider was still in one pissed-off package, as was its feline companion, which was pretty worrying. And scary. And kinda cool. In the scary kind of way. But still cool. "Don't know why is it attacking!"

This is a more sensible question than first thought. You see, Chicago, unlike most major cities, holds an annual anarchy-gasm courtesy of yours truly to get all the supernatural troubles of the year out in one big, fun-filled, adrenaline-rushed, panic-inducing, completely pain-full festival. I hardly get jumped by monsters until the patented Harry Dresden anarchy-gasm. And what does one pay monsters to jump me in anyway? Gold? Meat? A part of me was praying for the payment not to be the Harry Dresden Diet.

"That," a strange voice rose from the surrounding shadows, "is an excellent question."

Just like that, the monsters...froze. "What are you doing?" the quiet voice said again. Several of the wolves' hackles rose and somewhere in my head, a tiny voice screamed for me to run, jump, fly, crawl, do anything to get away right now. The tiger growled, and I swear that the big cat with teeth and claws sounded afraid.

"We are here to look for the little master, not to attack unsuspecting innocents!" The voice shouted, echoing from sheer volume. Several wolves winced. I certainly felt like it. "Do these wolves and the mage smell of us, or of the little master? Keep looking!"

Believe it or not, the powerful creatures that not even fire magic could dent or kill or even injure made a suspiciously 'eep' sound before running off.

It was cool. Also scary. But in a cool way.

"Apologies," the voice now spoke to us, back to its normal volume. Unless the cars could speak, I guess it was talking to us. "My colleagues and I are searching for our little master and they are understandably panicked, hence their attack upon you and your wolf-children who could have taken our little master."

"Er, I see..." I awkwardly replied.

"Thank you very much for your understanding," the voice replied, and I swear that its owner was amused. "Good evening."

As the presence faded back into the shadows, Billy found his voice back. "Harry?"


"Did a disembodied voice just apologise for jumping us?"

"Yeah, I think it did."

"Well..." Billy searched for something to say.

"At least it's a hell lot more polite than normal," I defended.

"Good point," he agreed. "We don't get many polite monsters apologising for jumping us nowadays."

Now, I can safely say that curiosity is a trait common to wizards. It's in our genetics; the root for the word 'wizard' is the same for the word 'wise'. Wizards are defined not by the magic they control, not by the power they carry, or the spells they throw, but by the knowledge they learn. Knowledge is power, and curiosity, no matter how many wizards it kills, is what defines us.

Plus, if monsters were running around jumping people due to one missing person, then it's time for the local Warden to step in.

I just wished that sometimes, it wasn't me.