Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
[Tracking down Harry Dresden isn't that easy, despite his distinctive height and clothing, being nearly 7 feet tall, wearing a black duster off the set of El Dorado and a chainmail shirt and greaves, with a battered silver pentacle roughly inset with an unidentifiable red gem. He carries a long wooden staff inscribed with strange runes, and carries a shorter stick which he refers to as a blasting rod. To round off his odd appearance, he wears a long sword at his hip and at least one M29 .44 Magnum Revolver, and has a very large dog of an unidentifiable breed which grins at me and cadges a few scratches. His face carries several faded scars and he looks worn, despite being no older than his early 40's. Despite this, he has been known to be sighted in Chicago, London and Cape Town all in the same day, with no explanation, and only by arranging a meeting through mutual acquaintances was I able to get this interview.
Rumours of the supernatural were common throughout the War, and according to all my contacts, Dresden is the answer. Before the War he was a P.I. and magical consultant, often working with the Special Investigations division of the CPD, with an astonishing 90% plus success rate. He also commanded one of the elusive sub-division of elite Alpha teams, known as the Wardens, and nicknamed by the soldiers who worked with them as 'the Grey Company', after the shade of their cloaks. Dresden's demeanour is superficially light hearted, but he avoids looking straight into my eyes for longer than a split second, and keeps an eye on his surroundings at all times.]
One thing you have to understand is that magic is force, part of life itself. It also plays merry hell with technology, which is why I'm wearing this [He lifts his right arm and shows off a simple leather bracelet with silver beads], a suppression amulet. It stops your little voice to text thingy from being zapped.Anyway, you can never cast a spell without truly believing it. Never. And while Necromancy wasn't exactly unheard of in the magical community, most magical zombies are closer to the Terminator than actual Zacks, and require mental control by their creator and a drummer to keep them in line. Zacks didn't, which caused an unholy terror in the White Council 1 and all over the Paranet2. No one knew what was responsible. Some thought they were an off shoot of the Black Court of Vampires, which sorta made sense, but they didn't have the brains and the Vampires sided with us early on.
[He chuckles bitterly, and a flash of pain crosses his face. Clearly Vampires are a sensitive subject.]
They didn't want to lose their food supply I guess. The White Court, psychic vampires mediated negotiations, and we agreed not to actively exterminate them, as long as they restricted who they turned and fed upon to the infected. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't nice, and I still wonder if it was the right thing to do. But it worked, God help me, it worked very well. Some of the infected even damn well volunteered! I suppose they thought eternity as a sentient walking corpse was better than eternity as a non-sentient walking corpse, or dying. Death and what comes after isn't that bad, but who am I to say that to a bunch of terrified people on the verge of zackification?
Other nasties came out of the shadows, including some big leaguers, the Knights of the Blackened Denarius, all willing to fight with us in a battle for survival. They were really controversial, especially since they were some of the chief suspects. On the one hand they had serious connections and lots of power and knowledge, but on the other hand they were genuine fallen angels, who glorified in death, destruction, mayhem and war. The Black Plague, the Wars of the Roses, countless famines and wars – not World War 1 or 2, that was a particularly dangerous Necromancer – but they were Evil with a capital E, and their leader Nicodemus… We had history, and this was just his style. In the end we cut a deal with them, similar to what we did with the Black Court which was a template for other agreements. They wouldn't make things worse or kill the Knights of the Cross, and we wouldn't interfere with them.
[Fallen Angels exist? Who were the Knights of the Cross and who else allied with you?]
A lot of questions. [He pauses for a moment, then continues.] The Fallen exist all right, and mostly they can't interfere only tempt a little. The Denarians, or Nickelheads as I call them, have rather more to offer. There are 30 of them, yeah, those 30 coins, and they offer power, knowledge, and no matter how good your intentions are, the Fallen will take your free will eventually, with at least one rather nasty exception, and they know just how to tempt you. Sometimes people break free, but it doesn't happen all that often.
[You speak like you know from personal experience]
I had one of the Fallen in my head for several years, or more accurately, the shadow of one, a photocopy of the real thing, and even then it was seriously dangerous. It tried to change me, and it made me angrier and gave me access to Hellfire, which basically used my soul as a battery to supercharge spells. But it turns put I changed it, or her, right back and she took a psychic bullet for me. But that was only a copy. You can't change the real thing, and that was my argument. I wanted nothing to do with them, and many supported me, especially those in poorer nations, ones where the Nickelheads handiwork hit hardest.
We were overruled, but forced a good deal, well, as good as we were gonna get. The Knights of the Cross are 3 people who each wield a sword with one of the nails of the crucifixion in it. Amoracchius, the sword of Love, a big broad sword and the only one never to have been reforged, Fidelacchius, the sword of Faith, a katana with a walking stick sheath and Esperacchius, the sword of Hope, a cavalry sabre. You would know them better as Excalibur, Kursangi and Durendal. Their job is to fight supernatural evil and protect the helpless, and they proved to be a vital weapon, tipping the balance in difficult engagements. Amoracchius still doesn't have a permanent bearer, although my…friend, Thomas Raith, one of the White Court, but actually decent unlike most of them, wielded it during the War, mostly to protect his girl and he was terrifyingly effective with it. In one engagement he dispatched 800 Zacks. 800. Which gives you an idea of how powerful the Swords are, and all 3 together are a force to be reckoned with. The other two are Karrin Murphy, my…girlfriend, for want of a better term, and she looks like a blonde high school cheerleader, 5 foot and change and Sanya, an enormous black Russian guy. All three of them stuck by me in particular, though sometimes they were called to help elsewhere by the head office [Dresden punctuates this statement by waving vaguely upwards, presumably meaning Heaven].
One thing that tipped the balance in our favour was the ability to use the Nevernever, a parallel dimension of sorts that makes up for not being able to fly on planes, by providing the Ways. I can get from here to Chicago in 30 minutes on foot. I'll give you a lift when the interview is over. Anyway, the only problem with the Ways is the Fae. Think about every story you were told as a kid about deals with strange and beautiful inhuman beings, monsters, changelings, the real thing is the offspring of one of the Fae and a mortal, and of Mab and Titania, Queens of the Winter and Summer courts of the Fae respectively, the former being my boss and someone who probably gave every evil fairy-tale sorceress, queen etc lessons. She'd granted us use of the ways during the war between the White Council and the Red Court, but that agreement effectively ended with the war. I'm the current Winter Knight, Winter's mortal emissary, which meant I was the schmuck sent to deal with her. Mind you the ice powers were useful.
[He chuckles dryly]
It certainly made Winter Campaigns one hell of a lot easier. That and being able to freeze an entire swarm if it's small enough, then one-shot them. They just fragment into tiny pieces for some reason, but I don't complain when luck goes my way for once.
Anyway, the Fae can't tell lies, but they rarely outright state the truth, which makes them a pain in the ass to deal with, they can be totally polite, answer all your questions, and tell you absolutely nothing concrete. And making bargains with them is a bad idea. I know from personal experience, believe me.
Once we impressed on the Fae the threat they facing – it helps that I know both the Summer Knight and the youngest of the Queens, the Summer Lady, who power wise is off the chart compared to me. The Winter and Summer Mothers could kill me with a thought, and the Queens… well I saw them prepare for battle once, and it was incredible. Not as strong as the Mothers, but if one of them went loopy, like the previous Summer Lady did, Zack would have been the least of our problems.
Once we got the Ways open, we started training the Warden Alpha teams. Really it was just retraining them to destroy their target entirely, or aim for the head with a concentrated blast. We had teams of 5-30 wardens, depending on the size of the swarm, and saved the Senior Council, the most powerful wizards in the world, as a hammer for the massive swarms, the ones of hundreds of thousands and millions. As my teacher, Ebenezar McCoy was one of them, and he once pulled a satellite out of orbit to assassinate a Red Court Duke, you can guess how strong they were. The retreat North over here was without a doubt their finest hour, when 20 senior wardens and Ebenezar held off a massive swarm composed of most reanimated London and Northern France, to cover the evacuation, and racking up 400,000 kills in doing so. Only he and 5 wardens came out of it alive, the others were either eaten alive or bitten and then mercy killed, but they saved most of the army, which regrouped at the big castles along the spine of Britain: Lincoln, Warwick, Durham and Edinburgh, and one hell of a lot of civilians.
We still lost a lot of people, when they were overwhelmed by numbers or just unlucky, and we already had a shortage of experienced Wardens after the Vampire war. After the Black Court started accruing a large amount of ex wizards, we offered a suicide pill, like the regular armies3 to cut down on their recruitment drive. Black Court are bad enough without sorcery, and wizards live for centuries so think in the long term. The Black Court didn't like it, but the panic was over and everything had stabilized, so I and my faction…Hells Bells! I sound like a politician! Anyway, we managed to boot them off the home team with a non-aggression pact in place, unless they stepped out of line. Then we would slaughter them. The Nickelheads and other dark creatures were booted off the roster under the same terms. We then led the clean-up, taking back the world and restoring the human spirit, as the President put it. Sometimes we didn't get much thanks for it, people feared and hated us for what we were and represented, and some still do. The odd religious fundamentalist who's been reading too much Exodus4 Most were thankful for what we did, even if our very presence unnerved them.
[Were you one of the 5 wardens outside London?]
[He evades my question] I fought my fair share of battles, and saved a lot of people… but we lost far too many. I saw young and old wardens, my friends, die horrible and painful deaths, some dying in my arms. Too many. I wouldn't change any choices if I had to refight the battles. [He sighs again] We saved a lot of people, but lost an entire generation of wizards, young people just coming into their powers. Some went bad and set up their own little fiefdoms, some got zackified and some just died. Many creatures have tried to wipe Wizards off the face of the planet, and for all the good we did, the Zacks nearly succeeded.
[He stands and opens a gateway to the parallel dimension Wizards refer to as 'the Nevernever', taking off his bracelet as he does so]
Your lift's here. You might want to turn that off while we travel through here, it does odd things to technology.
[Later, by going through the battle records of the White Council and other interviews, I find out that he was one of the 5 who survived and he had personally trained the rest of the 20 Wardens, leading me to assume survivors guilt]
1 According to Dresden and various rumours, the ruling body of Wizards, led by a Senior council of 7 wizards. Membership was previously restricted to only those in the 99th percentile of magical ability. Membership became more flexible during the war due to manpower constraints.
2 A support network for lesser talents set up and maintained by Dresden and Elaine Mallory, allowing smaller talents to identify magically talented individuals and call on assistance from White Council level wizards when faced with a serious threat. Formerly the Wizarding equivalent of a charity and confined to the continental United States, it was incorporated into the official White Council structure and globalised during the Great Panic.
3 Most regular armies followed the example of the United States Military and offered arsenic pills as standard kit for infected soldiers later on in the war.
4 Exodus 22:18 "Thou shalt not suffer the witch to live".