[Prologue]
Another rainy day in London.
As someone who's spent most of their life in the city, you'd think I'd be used to it by now. But each day seems worse than the one that came before. And some days, well, some days it feels like it'll never stop.
Such is life I suppose.
I'm not always so glum, just the past few years. When you've spent the last decade fighting a war against demons who wish you dead for just being who you are, then you'd have a few dark patches in the emotions department too. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself though. Let me start from the beginning.
I'm a Wizard.
Or to be more accurate, I'm a Warden for the White Council of Wizards. For the last ten years we've been in a war for our very survival against the Vampires of the Red Court. Both sides have suffered heavy losses during the course of this sustained conflict and officially we're in what you might class as a time out period. Six years ago the Vampires came close to wiping out the majority of us. A year later we repaid their actions in kind. Ever since things have been small scale; attacks here and there. When that happens, I'm the one they call in.
Who am I?
I'm Gabriel Crane.

[1]

Alarm bells ring and I open my eyes. I roll my head to the side to see Donald Duck staring back at me, his arms pointing to numbers telling me it was ten o'clock. Reaching over I flick the little switch on the side to stop the ringing.
"Thanks Donald" I said as I push the bed covers off me in an effort to get up. As I sat up in bed I'm greeted in the mirror by the image of a man with dark, ruffled hair, stubble growing around his mouth and chin. Scars scattered across his torso and arms like battle trophies.
I never looked good the morning after.
I climbed out of bed and got dressed into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved top. As I slipped my feet into my socks and boots, a phone started ringing. I stepped out of my room into the rest of my flat.
It was a small place. A large bookcase covered the furthest wall from the bedroom. It was the resting place for my collection of arcane writings, lore of mystical creatures, road maps and other such scribblings one in my profession might need. To the right of the bedroom's doorway sat a long couch – big enough to sit three people – that ran against the wall under a window with a view of Liverpool Street station. A fire place rested at the centre of the wall to the left, embers still smoking from the night before. And next to that was my favourite lazy boy chair. Perfect resting place to have a beer after a long day. Or long series of days that can sometimes be the case. And opposite the fire place was the apartment's front door. Sitting next to the bookcase rested a small wooden table mostly decorated in finely carved elven script. On top of that was the source of the constant ringing.
An old fashioned rotary telephone that would be more at home in the nineteen seventies instead of this day and age. But it was simple and most importantly, it worked. You see technology and magic don't see eye to eye, the two forces fight constantly. But magic always wins and it always leaves technology broken.
Which would be great if I ever found myself in a fight against a robot.
The truth is that it's more of a hindrance. A Wizard can't stay in a hospital for more than five minutes before something would break down. So far I've been lucky. You don't want to be the real reason for someone dying because their life support machine failed.
You don't want that on your conscience.
I staggered across the apartment and over to the small table. I lifted the handset from the receiver and placed it next to my ear.
"Sol solis ortus?" spat a harsh male voice through the line.
"Do we really have to do this every time?" I said in reply, a touch of frustration lacing my words.
"Sol solis ortus?!" the voice said again, this time pouring a lot more authority into his tone.
"Fine." I sighed, "Luna cado." I replied giving the correct pass code response. For those who are not in the know, that was Latin, the chosen tongue of the White Council. It's the language we use to communicate with each other while conducting official Council business. And they wonder why people are starting to think the Council is out dated.
The line fell silent for a few seconds with the static filtering the line. Eventually the voice spoke once again in a sneering tone.
"Your recent lack of protocol is beginning to worry me Warden Crane. Anyone would think that you do not take your responsibilities seriously."
"That is far from the case Warden Glacier, I assure you." I answered.
Marcus Glacier is the Warden Commander for the United Kingdom. Now don't get me wrong, as far as the Wardens are concerned, Marcus has years of experience on his side and a lot of battles under his belt. As far as everything else is concerned, the man is a complete arse. He is a man who knows he has authority and isn't afraid to throw it in your face. He'll use it to put you in line and display that everything is beneath him, including you. And this is the man who forces me to report to him every damn day as a constant reminder of his position.
"You did not check in last night after your mission like I instructed you to." Marcus said, his tone carrying across his high and mighty attitude.
"It had been a long day, I was tired and it was something that could've waited till morning."
"You were told to inform me the second your orders were carried out."
Frustration began filling up inside me. I did my best to keep a lid on it but not before some of it escaped into my words.
"Fine, I fought some Vampires, I killed some Vampires. Mission accomplished. Happy now?"
Despite the rhetorical tone accompanying my irritated words, Marcus felt inclined to snap an answer back.
"Damn it Crane I am your Commander and you will show me some respect!"
For a second my mouth bypassed my brain and carried on without me.
"Well maybe if you weren't out there killing kids all day then maybe we'd be best fucking friends!"
My emotions had gotten the best of me. They took control of my words and didn't hold back.
As Wardens, we police the magic community, protecting people against those who would do them harm. But above all else we enforce the Seven Laws of Magic. Seven of the most unforgivable acts a practitioner could inflict on another living being. The past few years, Black magic had risen to very high levels and anyone found guilty of using Black magic, or violating any one of the Seven Laws were sentence to death. And it was the Wardens who are charged with delivering the final judgement. More often than not the offenders were kids, teenagers at the oldest, people who didn't know any better because they were never given a choice. Or even knew that they had one. Kids who had no idea there were Laws for magic, because nobody had told them that they even existed. Instead of taking these kids and teaching them, the Council condemned them to death.
This was something I had a big problem with.
But regardless of my feelings towards that, from Marcus' point of view, I had just crossed the line. Even though he was silent for a second or two, I could sense the anger building to its peak, about to erupt.
"That's the final straw Crane," he spat, "Your attitude will not be tolerated any longer. If it was not for the fact that a member of the Senior Council already wished to speak to you, I would be contacting them immediately about your actions."
"The Council wish to see me?" I said, voice full of surprise.
"Yes" he said sternly, "It was the initial reason for me contacting you in the first place. If you had followed orders and reported in after your mission like you were told, then maybe you would be a little more prepared for the meeting."
"Why do they wish to speak to me?"
"They did not say. They only said that they would meet you at the first appointed Council meeting place, midday. But rest assured, I will make sure that your blatant disrespect for your superiors will be amongst the things to be discussed."
With his last word said, he hung up. I placed the headset back on its cradle.
"Well that went well." I said to myself. I walked back into my room and looked at Donald. His arms told me that it was now ten to eleven.
The first Council meeting place. That sounds a lot more prestigious than it actually is. There is something that we, in the supernatural community, abide by known as the Unseelie Accords. It's basically a set of agreements (like the Geneva Conventions) that govern behaviour between its signatories, who are the major powers of the magical world. The Accords include protocols for etiquette, hospitality, formal duels, and neutral ground, among other things. There are some places referred to as Accorded Neutral Ground; basically places where all signatories of the Accords theoretically agree to refrain from violence, thus serving as a good place to meet and conduct negotiations.
I don't know what would happen to someone should they decided to break an agreement made under the Accords. Needless to say, I am not eager to find out.
What really worried me was the fact that a member of the Senior Council wanted to see me in person. The Senior Council is a collection of the most powerful Wizards in the world and when they make it a point to come and see you, then don't be surprised if something big is about to do down. Also, they don't like to be kept waiting. So I called for a cab, grabbed my black, hooded leather jacket from its resting place on the lazy boy chair and left for the meeting.