Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 04: Chapter 01
Transcribed by: James
Date: January 28, 2018
In Game date: November, 2011
Jack was worn out. The trip to Idaho following up on a lead on his missing child had been another dead end. He had been working through the documents David had helped him recover from Portland for months, and still nothing had panned out. He had managed to get some more pigments for Emerson Lake to work with. The enchanted picture frame that would give him more time to find a cure for his wife and the ritual-link portrait needed to use it were moving forward.
Aunt B was treating Fergus Mac Cormaic’s wounds sustained while defeating the demon, Sebassis and she was being none too gentle about it.
“Have you told her,” she demanded. “Have you told Anna what you have brought into her life?”
“Um. Not yet. I…uh…don’t want put any more strain on her in her…delicate condi….OW!” he cried out as Aunt B tightened one of the bandages on his damaged ribs with a quick tug.
“Hogswallow! There is nothing delicate about Anna Maria Avila and you know it! You have to tell her what is going on young man! You owe it to her to be honest about your heritage.”
“B-but…she is under such a strain. I don’t want to compromise her health with undue stre…” Fergus began, desperately seeking a way out of Aunt B’s bad side.
“Compromise her health?!” she all but growled. “You have to tell her what her child is. She has to prepare for a changeling’s special needs. What if she inadvertently exposes the child to iron? She could threaten her own baby’s health and not even understand why!”
“Oh, crap,” Fergus gulped realizing she was right. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I know,” Aunt B said quietly, her fierce scowl softening. “I know you are under a great deal of strain and you didn’t ask for this,” she said gently. “But you have to look at the big picture now. You are a father and soon to be a husband. It isn’t all about you anymore. You can’t keep hiding who you are. You have to be honest with her. She deserves no less from you.”
“You’re right,” Fergus said, his shoulders sagging, his heart swelling in fear. “I am just afraid that she will leave me as soon as I tell her the truth.”
“You have to trust her,” Aunt B said not unkindly. “You have to trust yourself.”
She patted him gently on the shoulder. “You are free to go.” She got up and quickly made her way out the room and gestured David Clay in after her. Fergus gave the golem a smile as he got dressed.
David had a blank expression on his face and Fergus realized that the golem likely heard a good deal of his argument with Aunt B. David said nothing though. He approached Fergus’s bed with a grave, constrained energy that made his movements robotic and jerky and somewhat…inhuman.
“David,” the Guardian asked tentatively. “Are you OK?”
“I am fine,” David ground out with some venom. Fergus jumped at his tone. He had seen David in action and knew how powerful he was. If he was in danger of losing control it could be disastrous.
“It is sometimes difficult to control the…rage within me. But I will be OK after some time in meditation.” He explained in a emotionless tone. He continued on in a brisk, business like manner. “I am going to take Lucy Einar to a safe house I know of. I expect her former employers are probably not very pleased with her after she helped us infiltrate The Radcliffe Interdisciplinary Research Center and stop Sebassis.”
“I will be gone for at least a week. Maybe longer. I have managed to delay the injunction against the Judd Creek Commune and will continue to work on the case while I am gone.”
“You will be pleased to know that Aunt B has agreed to hold the Un-Man here until they figure out how to help him.”
Fergus rubbed his tattoo still feeling somewhat drained by the mana stealing coma patient. “He scares the crap out of me.” he muttered as they walked down the clinic’s hallway. The Un-man looked like a common teenager but had drained a powerful demon for months keeping it in check. Fergus hated to think what would happen if he ever woke up. That kind of power was profoundly disturbing.
As if reading his mind David assured him as best he could as they left the building. “Aunt B has placed him in a heavily warded room complete with running water to diffuse any and all magics from him. She is also bringing in a mundane nurse to attend to his needs. She seems properly respectful of the danger.”
“Thank you, David,” Fergus said sincerly, holding out his hand. “For everything. Who knows what would have happened without your help.”
The golem grasped his hand and shook it gravely. “It was good to meet you Fergus Mac Cormaic. You are a good man. It was an honor to fight alongside you. I look forward to doing so again.”
“Geeze, man,” Fergus exclaimed, gently chiding his new friend, “Are you always so damn formal?”
He laughed at the golem’s sheepish expression and waved goodbye as he caught a bus to the ferry terminal to Vashon Island.
Fergus was nervous. He knew that he had no choice. He had to tell Anna about who he was and what he was doing. He had stopped by a flower shop after getting off the ferry and picked out some choice flowers that had been thrown out the night before. He artfully arranged them into a harmonious bouquet that he hoped would buy him some forgiveness. He had hoped he would get home before the members of the Judd Creek Commune had stirred for their day. But he hadn’t counted on how important their preparations for the upcoming Art Fair were to them. The whole household was bustling with activity and he entered tentatively. Gemtriax Theophania, the matriarch of the commune and a leader of the local Paranet chapter in Seattle.
“Is she up,” he asked timidly. The older woman looked Fergus up and down noting all the bandages and bruises he sported.
“Oh, my goddess,” she exclaimed coming to him with deep concern in her eyes. “Fergus are you OK?”
“I am fine, really,” he smiled holding up his hands. “You should see the other guy.”
“What about David?”
“He’s fine. Tough as a brick that one,” he smirked ironically. “He said he had managed to delay the injunctions on the property and that he would continue to work the case in the coming weeks. He thinks he can handle it and it will all be OK.”
“Anna is in my bathtub. When she woke she was upset that you had left without a word,” she said grimly. “I know you were dealing with whatever happened to the Wilkin’s.”
She busied herself with cleaning the kitchen counter with busy, almost frantic intensity. “But she knows I am not telling her something. Know’s that you are holding something back from her,” she looked up intently. “Fergus you have to tell her.”
“I know,” he replied quietly, his fear almost palpable. “I am going to do it after she has some breakfast. God help me I am going to come clean.”
“Good luck. You’re going to need it.” Gemtriax whispered under her breath.
As he made his way up the stairs to Gemtriax’s large master bathroom carrying a breakfast tray of eggs and toast (no bacon, it was making her queasy lately) the young man went over and over what he was going to say to his fiance. He knew she loved him but she was very passionate and if she felt like he had betrayed there was no doubt at all that she would walk away from him. He had to be careful and ease her into an understanding of the hidden world of magic and the fae. Otherwise he would scare her off. To that end he carefully used his magics to conceal the bouquet of flowers he had brought under a veil of faerie magic. He set the tray down in their bedroom and made his way to the bathroom and knocked.
“Baby, you all right in there?” he asked as he opened the door and slipped in. Anna was sitting contentedly in the large old iron, claw footed bathtub with her eyes half closed. She smiled at his voice and he bent down to kiss her on her forehead.
“Did you sleep OK?”
“Not as well when you are wi…BABY! What happened?!!?” Anna cried out in alarm as she saw the heavy bandages on Fergus’s chest, arm and leg.
“Shh. Don’t worry. I am fine. I will explain it all after you’ve had a proper breakfast,” Fergus dodged helping the very pregnant woman out of the tub. This was made more difficult by his fae nature. Touching iron burned him and he had to be very careful as he eased her out, dried her off with a towel and helped her into her bathrobe. Anna was fuming as he led her down the hallway to their room a thousand questions in her eyes.
After getting Anna situated with the food tray and other arrangements Fergus took a deep breath and began. “I have something to tell you and it’s…important. Please let me finish the whole thing without interruption. It is going to be hard to accept but I swear it is all true.”
“Baby, you’re scaring me,” Anna groused. "Are you selling drugs? Is this your “Breaking Bad” speech? Is that why you are covered in bandages?"
“No!” Fergus exclaimed holding up his hands. “No it’s nothing like that. David and I were helping people and things got…a little out of hand. We were protecting people fro…”
“Are you a secret agent in the FBI?” Anna demanded.
“No, not like th…,” Fergus began.
“DEA? CIA? What!?! What are you protecting people from?”
“MONSTERS! We were protecting people from monsters,” Fergus blurted.
“Oh,” Anna said in a small voice her eyes lit up in fear. Fergus knew she must think he was losing it. Perhaps going crazy. He rallied his thoughts and continued in as calm a voice as he could muster.
“Anna, you remember how confused you were about what happened across the street at the Wilkin’s and Chamberlain’s houses? How you remembered things differently?”
“Yes. It was the strangest thing. I had two different sets of memories about what happened.”
“That is because someone used magic on you and all the other witnesses,” Fergus began while scratching his tattooed arm absently. It was really itching all the sudden.
“Yes, magic,” he plunged ahead hurriedly despite her obvious skepticism, his arm becoming more and more uncomfortable. “They used magic to cover up the fact that something supernatural was causing people to go on killing rampages.”
“That’s right baby. It was a demon.”
“Yes, baby. A demon that David and I hunted down and sent back to Hell. It won’t be hurting anyone else.”
“You hunted down and killed a demon with…our lawyer?” she asked skeptically.
“David isn’t just a lawyer,” Fergus replied.
“But there is more,” he replied as matter-of-factly as he could. “You see I am a Changeling. Half Fae and half human…”
“The fae? Do you mean faeries?” tears were quietly streaming down Anna’s face as she questioned Fergus. He could tell that she thought he must have lost his mind.
“That’s right baby, faeries exist. My father was one of them. And Changelings like me have to make a decision. They can become mortal and live a normal life or they can become fully fae and give up that life.”
Fergus knelt down next to Anna and took her hand his forearm was burning but he ignored it. “When I met you and fell in love that choice was so easy to make. I wanted a normal life with you and our baby. I wanted it more than I have wanted anything in my life. So I gave up being a Leprechaun…”
“Wait. You’re a…Leprechaun?!!?”
“Sort of. Like I said I gave that life up. But when my grandfather came to see us and died a few months ago something happened,” he said. “Gramps passed on his power directly to me. I didn’t want it. I certainly never asked for it. And ever since I have been slowly sucked back into all the craziness and magic again.”
“I know it sounds crazy. I know you probably think I have had a psychotic event,” Fergus said looking Anna directly in the eyes. “But I swear this is all true,” he waved his hand at the tray and the flowers he had concealed with a glamour suddenly appeared. Anna gasped in surprise.
“What? But how did…? Baby? How?” she stammered examining the tray for mirrors or tricks. Neither of them noticed that Fergus’s tattoos were starting to glow and shed motes of energy like swirling snow.
“See, baby. Magic is real,” Fergus smiled. “Just don’t tell anyone else though. It could get us all in trouble.”
“Are you sure your not on dru…” Anna began. Her eyes widened in fear as she stared at something behind Fergus. She stood up out of bed with some speed and blurted out, “Um, baby what the Hell is that?!?”
Fergus wheeled around not knowing what to expect. He was puzzled when he saw a giant snowflake, shifting from a faint outline to a crisp shape radiating light and cold, floating near the far wall of their bedroom. He was startled when he noted that his tattoo was glowing in the same light as the phenomenon and snow drifted around in the room in a beautiful refreshing gust of wind.
“Anna, get behind me,” he cried over the swirling wind and put himself between the glowing snowflake and his pregnant wife. He steeled himself for battle, ready for anything.
The slim form that stepped through the glittering and glowing snowflake with a flare of light wasn’t exactly what he was expecting. She was clothed in an ankle length gown of shimmering, sparkling, white satin that hugged her curves. Her dark hair and eyes were lovely and Fergus found himself inextricably drawn to her. However, it wasn’t sexual. He felt an instinctive respect for her for some reason.
Anna asked “Honey, how did a Disney princess show up in our living room?”
Puzzled he exclaimed with shaky confidence, “Lady, I don’t know who you are but you need to get the Hell out of my bedroom!”
“Guardian you are lax in your duties,” she proclaimed ignoring his challenge.
“What? What duites? Who are you and what the hell are you talking about?”
“I am the The Watcher on the Wall, I will not give you my name,” she countered. Chill radiated from her. It was a strange kind of cold though. It wasn’t menacing at all. In fact it reminded him of winters in Boston having a hot chocolate after playing in the snow as a child. Or snuggling in warm blankets on a cold, winter’s eve.
“You bear the mantle of the Guardian of the Seventh Gate. It is your duty to prevent any breeches and to defend the Seventh Gate.”
“Lady, my only duty is to my family. To my fiance and unborn child. This “mantle” was thrust upon me without my consent. If I have a duty I have no knowledge of it or what I am supposed to do."
“How did you get past this home’s threshold without an invitation?” Fergus demanded. “I didn’t think that was possible.”
“I am the Watcher on the Wall. You are the Guardian of the Seventh Gate,” she replied forcefully as if that simple statement should answer all his questions. Fergus’s arm itched at that statement and he felt a kind of mystical connection to the Fae lady through his tattoo. That must have been how she made it past the threshold he realized.
“The breech is growing as we speak and is a threat to all existence. If you do not do your duty then your fiance, your child and perhaps the whole world will pay the price,” she pronounced gravely.
Fergus could feel the truth in the Watcher’s words. He knew that faeries were unable to lie. He knew that he had to heed her call and protect this world and that which he held most dear. His mind racing he turned to look his wife in the eyes. He held her gaze, her brown eyes filled with fear and wonder, and said over his shoulder, “Can you please give me five minutes with my fiance?”
“What will you give me in turn?” the Watcher sniffed.
“I will give you five minutes and listen without interruption,” Fergus said.
Fergus walked over to Anna and took her hands in his and led her to a chair helping her sit down. He sat facing her on the ottoman. Pausing to gather his thoughts he said, “I am sorry, baby. This didn’t go anything like I expected.”
“Does this happen all the time? Do scantily clad women just walk into your bedroom making demands of you?” Anna asked fiercely eyeing the beautiful fae.
“Scantily clad? But her dress comes down to her ankl…” Fergus backpedaled.
“I can see her boobs right through that gown!” Anna hissed. Behind them, unnoticed, the Fae crossed her arms over her chest self consciously. With a gesture her dress become somewhat thicker and more opaque.
“That doesn’t matter to me, baby,” Fergus declared squeezing her hands in his own. “It doesn’t!”
Her put a gentle hand on Anna’s cheek wiping a tear away and said quietly, “I love you. I don’t care if there are 20 faeries running around naked. It won’t change that. Nothing will.”
“You lied to me all this time. Since we met you have been lying to me,” Anna rebutted pain evident. “How can I trust you after that?”
“I thought it wouldn’t matter. That I was free. That I was just another person again,” Fergus replied his own eyes welling with tears. “I never meant to hurt you. I thought you wouldn’t believe me and so I kept silent. I was…afraid, baby. I can’t lose you.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t want this. I didn’t have a choice,” he said. “My grandfather showed up and passed this on to me when he died in my arms. I had no idea what had happened until after we decided to move to Seattle.”
He steeled himself and met his fiance’s eyes, “But I am a Guardian now. I have a duty to protect you. To protect the world. Until I figure out a way to get rid of it I have no choice.”
“I understand,” Anna replied. “But this isn’t over. You are going to tell me everything after you close this breech or whatever she is blabbing on about.”
Hope swelled Fergus’s heart, “Absolutely! Anythi…” he began.
“I mean EVERYTHING. If you leave one damn thing out it is over. If you can’t trust me with the Truth then there is no way I can trust you.”
“I…I understand,” Fergus said solemnly. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he hugged her tightly and kissed her before turning to the Fae. “I am ready.”
“Very well,” she said imperiously and with a gesture suddenly they were in a different place.
“Do not be afraid,” said the lady’s melodius voice. " I simply wanted this discussion to be free from further…distraction."
The features of the room and all of its contents had vanished, leaving 4 white walls, a white ceiling, and white floor, the two of them, and drifting snow in the air.
“Guardian, you may have not made the choice to bear this mantle,” she said gently. “But it has been thrust upon you. It comes with a duty. To seal the breach. It is your Responsibility.”
“Do you think it is mearly coincidence you ended up in Seattle,” she continued.
“What do you mean?!?” he demanded incredulously. “My moving here had nothing to do with this!”
“Didn’t it?” she opined. “Didn’t you decide to move to Seattle partially to escape the agents of The Fomor?”
“Well, yeah, but…we had already decided to move before I got the mantle. They didn’t show up until afte…”he stammered.
“And you just happened to move to the city where the breach occurred?” she interrupted. “The existence of the breach in Seattle is what weakened your grandfather.”
“So the breach killed him?” Fergus asked, his thoughts racing. The Watcher nodded her head gravely.
“He was a powerful troll champion who had survived countless battles,” she stated. “But his power was no longer the strong bulwark it had been. It is hard to assign blame for complex things, but that could have been a major factor in his death. He was mortally wounded and you were the only vessel close enough to carry on the Mantle after he died.”
She looked him directly in the eye with a searching gaze,“The mantle passed on to you just before you decided to move to the city where the breach occurred. Doesn’t that seem beyond coincidence to you?”
“For fuck’s sake. Nothing is ever simple with you people,” he muttered. “OK. Fine. It was Fate then. Is that what you are saying?”
“Perhaps. Or mayhap the Mantle chose you and facilitated matters so you would carry its burden,” she answered. “There are mysteries involved that few mortals know. However, you appear well matched to it.”
“OK. So what the hell do you want me to do about this…rift?” he challenged.
“Your duty is to close it,” she said expectantly.
“OK? How? And what do I get in return for solving your problem?” he asked bitterly.
“What do you get?” she repeated, irritation flaring in her blue eyes. “Your duty will be accomplished. That should be enough for anyone!” she snapped.
She continued with vehemence. “Do you wish to continue living in the mortal world? For your family to be able to grow and thrive without fear? If the breach is not dealt with then your family will be at great risk, grave risk even. All you know, all you have ever seen, all of it at risk.”
“OK, OK. I understand,” Fergus replied holding up his hands in surrender. “What do I have to do?”
“I was asked by one who has put some study and thought into the matter to tell you there may be a way to heal the breach. Apparently using the living blood of the breach to enact the ritual of the Old Wizard of Seattle upon his anchor stone may displace the breach with the empty realm.”
“I was told that this is a transcript of the ritual of the Old Wizard enacted to connect to that realm,” she said as she handed him an old piece of parchment. Fergus felt a spark of energy from the paper. It was covered in strange runes and sigils with copious notes scribbled here and there in several different colors.
“But I know nothing of magic,” Fergus said.
“Then find a wizard who does,” she stated coldly.
“That’s all then? Find Gandalf and what? Throw the Ring in Mount Doom?” he sneered.
“Find a wizard,” she answered shortly. “Repair the breach.”
“Uh, thank you,” replied Furgus, confused at the volume of information he had been give.
The lady smiled, nodded her head in acknoledgement, as the room, and his watching fiance came back into view. When next he turned around, the lady and the snowflakes were gone.
“So what was that tramp doing here? If Faeries are real what about vampires? Werewolves? Dragons? Does Gemtriax know?” Anna had a notebook, and seemed to have already jotted down several pages of questions. She struggled to her feet and lumbered out of the room.
“Gemtriax, are there magic dragons here? Anyone? Did everyone except me know this?!?”
“What kind of Wizard wants to meet at an IHOP?” Fergus wondered as he walked up to the restaurant from the bus stop. He had managed to calm Anna down after asking Gemtriax to explain some things to her while he was gone. Gemtriax had suggested he speak to someone named Jack Youngblood. He called the number she gave him and set up a meeting with the Wizard at the IHOP on Capitol Hill in an hour. So here he was.
He entered the restaurant and looked around. It wasn’t very crowded with just a few patrons scattered throughout the booths and tables. Fergus tried to imagine what a Wizard looked like. He saw an eccentric looking older gentleman with long white hair and a beard drinking hot tea and reading a battered old book . That guy looked like a wizard if anyone did he supposed.
“Jack Youngblood?” he inquired tentatively. The older man looked up briefly and shook his head, a puzzled expression on his face. He then continued to read his book.
“Over here, genius,” said a voice from behind him. Fergus jumped and turned to see a young man with unruly hair wearing a black leather jacket covered in mystical sigils and runes. He could have sworn the booth was empty when he walked past it. Where the hell did this guy come from?
“I am Jack Youngblood,” the young man stated quietly and blew on his hot cup of coffee. “Have a seat,” he said gesturing to the other side of the booth. “So you know Gemtriax? She used to babysit my sister back in the day. She’s good people.”
“Yeah, I…um, live with her at the artist collective,” Fergus answered slowly, taking Jack’s measure. He seemed like just another kid in his mid-twenties. How could someone so young be as powerful and dangerous as Gemtriax had suggested? After a little small talk about Gemtriax and the fortunes of the Judd Creek Commune they got down to business. To help Jack understand what was going on Fergus explained how he had been a changeling and how the mantle of the Guardian of the Seventh Gate was passed on to him.
“Man, what a bad break,” Jack sympathized. “Just after getting out of the life you get sucked back in? That sucks.”
Jack was intrigued by Fergus’s tattoo and tried to figure it out. He attempted to draw the design of it on a napkin but it kept changing shape making that impossible. He did come to realize that it was an odd merger of Summer and Winter Fae magics. Something unheard of in the Wizard’s experience. Fergus explained how The Fomor had chased him from New York and how he was doing his best to stay under their radar. He noticed that Jack was extremely uncomfortable at their mention and wondered why. Jack wasn’t forthcoming.
“This is all fascinating but what is it you wanted to see me about,” Jack asked, changing the subject quickly. Fergus dug through his pockets and pulled out the parchment that the Watcher on the Wall had given him. Jack’s eyes lit up after a moment of looking it over. Fergus could tell he recognized it.
“Where did you get this?” Jack demanded.
“It was given to me by a Winter Fae who called herself the ‘Watcher on the Wall’. She said that I had to close a breach in the Gate and I needed a Wizard to do it,” Fergus replied. “Do you know what it is?”
“Yeah,” Jack said thoughtfully. “Yeah I think I do. It’s crazy though. This is the work of Artemis Miller. It has to be. These notes in the margin here are most definitely Zeb’s handwriting.”
“Artemis? Zeb? Who are they,” Fergus inquired.
“Oh, sorry. Zeb is my old teacher Zebidiah Einar. Artemis Miller is a crazy old hermit who spent all his time researching demesnes.” he noticed Fergus’s puzzled expression.
“Demesnes are pocket realities created within the Nevernever. But it is very tricky magic. Miller’s theories are incredibly brilliant, wildly flashy but almost incomprehensible. Something that that crazy old hermit was known for. And it looks like Zeb was doing his best to translate it into something that is workable. This is some really esoteric ritual magic.”
“Wait. Zebidiah Einar?” Fergus asked. “Is he related to Lucy Einar at all?”
“Yeah,” Jack replied. “He’s her father.”
“Wow. Small world,” Fergus mused. He went on to explain to Jack how he and David with help from Lucy had stopped the demon Sebassis the night before. Jack was impressed. He had heard of the demon and knew it was a big league threat.
“So you think you can help?” Fergus asked hopefully.
“Yeah. I think so,” Jack said slowly, calculating his options. “This is big though. Based on what your lady fae said it could be Outsiders. We are going to have to be careful. And we are going to need some help,” he said putting some money on the table to cover the coffee. “I know a few people who might have some answers. Come on.”
The changeling followed the Warden out to an old, lovingly restored Indian Motorcycle with a sidecar. He tossed Fergus a pink, Hello-Kitty helmet and told him to get in. Fergus sighed heavily and reluctantly put on the helmet. They roared out of the IHOP parking lot in search of answers.
Fergus and Jack spent the rest of the afternoon tracking down leads. First they went to Jack’s house. Jack tried to call Zebidiah Einar in Edinburgh but was unable to reach him nor his sister, Caroline Youngblood, who was his current apprentice. He left a message for them both. Fergus tried to reach David hoping they could speak to Lucy but only got his answering service. He left a cryptic message asking David to call him back as soon as he could.
Then they spoke to Jack’s wife, Abigail Youngblood, who apparently had deeper knowledge of magical theory than her husband. At fist she seemed small, almost fragile to Fergus. Jack had mentioned her cancer. But the more he spoke with her the more he realized just how strong willed, intelligent and passionate she was. He could imagine many people underestimating her to their detriment. Unfortunately, while she was impressed by the work on the parchment, she was unable to shed any more light on the matter other than to state definitively that it wasn’t a demonic ritual.
After that they visited Odianna of Winter. Her henchman, Squire, a powerful ogre according to Jack, escorted them into her nightclub. He took Fergus’s hat and coat politely but insistantly, subtly hinting to the visitors to be on their best behavior. It was quiet during the day, business hours for the popular night spot weren’t for some time now, and he led them to the third floor of the two story building through a huge arched doorway to another world.
Her demesne was a cold, wild place with rows of tress that formed a sort of chapel of pines that towered over their heads. A row of rune covered pikes were planted into the ground on both sides of a path all of them with a head impaled on them. Fergus was weirded out because he could have sworn a couple of the heads watched him with pleading eyes. Jack jostled him to get his attention back on track and they made their way to Odianna’s throne. It was magnificent, made up of ice and wrapped with white rose bushes. On it sat a fae whose beauty took Fergus’s breathe away as a light snow fell around them. She exuded languid danger and a raw sensuality that was so intense that Fergus found himself glad for the biting cold. Good thing Anna wasn’t here, he thought.
“Welcome, Jack Youngblood,” she purred. “Who is this you bring into my home?”
Jack knelt before her like some knight of old and said respectfully, “Greetings to you Lady Odianna, Guardian of the Winterrose. I bring before you Fergus Mac Cormaic, my friend. We seek your wisdom and guidance if you would give it to us.”
She turned her gaze to Fergus and regarded him for a moment, dark hunger in her impossibly blue eyes. Following Jack’s lead Fergus bowed deeply before her.
“A leprechaun? I did not know there were any still living,” she said lazily. “Ah,” she exclaimed intrigued. “And there is a bit of something else more interesting I see.”
“Uh, um. I am not exactly sure what you mean,” Fergus stammered, uncomfortable under her gaze. He rubbed his tattooed arm self consciously.
“Really? We have only just met and you are lying to me already?” she pouted. But Fergus knew he was in danger despite her playful tone.
“Come now sir. You cannot hide your power from me here,” she chided her eyes dangerously intent. “I do not appreciate those who deceive me after I have so graciously welcomed them into my house.”
“I…I do not lie, m-milady. I just don’t have all the facts,” he proclaimed in a faltering voice.
“I suspect you know enough,” Odianna whispered in rebuke. Fergus would have felt safer if she had screamed it. Squire moved quietly up behind him and the changeling knew the ogre was going to rip his arms off and beat him to death with them at his lady’s order.
“Show me your arm,” she demanded causing the Changeling to wince slightly. Fergus looked to Jack but he just shook his head quietly urging the Guardian to comply. He rolled up his sleeve and dropped the minor glamour he used to keep his tattoos from being noticed. The strange designs almost glowed in the presence of the Fae Lady. Odianna’s eyes lit up with understanding after she saw the tattoos and felt their power. She remained silent for a moment.
“A Guardian of the Gates, here?” she murmured.
“Milady, we meant no disrespect,” Jack stepped in clearly trying to mediate the situation. “We all have secrets. Not to mention a duty to protect them.”
“Agreed, Jack Youngblood,” Odianna replied, apparently mollified. “And what has this to do with me?”
Fergus stood tall and declared, “A rift has formed at the Gate and I have some sort of obligation to fix it. We hoped you would be able to help us understand what the Gates are and how to effect repairs.”
Odianna was silent for a moment gathering her thoughts.
“Because of my…circumstances,” she began, her eyes flashing with some old pain, “that is not something I personally can discuss with mortals such as you. But there exists others who might be of aid. If you can find them. Now begone. I have nothing more to say.”
“You know, Adrian?” Jack asked, surprised, after Fergus suggested they go see him.
“Yeah, man. He practically saved my life,” Fergus replied.
“Hunh. That doesn’t sound like him at all,” Jack quipped with a crooked smile.
“Right?” Fergus laughed.
Fergus went on to fill Jack in on surviving the Entropy Curse and their encounter with Nôž Hladu – The Knife of Hunger. Adrian Huggins had proved to be an invaluable source of information helping him and David defeat them both. Again Jack was impressed. He had heard of the Knife and knew his reputation as one of the deadliest assassins in the world. To survive an encounter with him and an Entropy Curse took great courage. Perhaps there was more to Fergus than Jack realized. The two of them rode Jack’s motorcycle to the nearby Radcliffe Clinic where Adrian was still being treated for his wounds.
Jack made his way to the lobby stopping at the desk to speak to Emmie Mercer. The two were obviously well acquainted and after some small talk and some harmless teasing back and forth Jack asked her for Adrian’s room number. As they were walking the hallway to Adrian’s room they came across Lief Wotensen.
“Hey, Doc,” Jack called out giving the big man a brotherly embrace. “How’s it going?”
“A little tired,” Lief replied brightly. “I had to work a double shift and haven’t slept since yesterday. Hey, Fergus, you look pretty tired yourself. Can I get you some coffee?”
“I am fine,” Fergus muttered, remembering how taken Anna was with the handsome doctor. He didn’t even have the decency to look tired he groused mentally. Jack caught Ferguson’s dark look and smiled. He could see the jealousy in his eyes.
“You and Emmie should come over some time next week for dinner,” Jack responded. “I’ll make my famous shepherd’s pie. You’ll love it.”
“Sounds great. Well I have to make my rounds. See you guys later,” Leif called out cheerfully.
“Asshole,” Fergus ground out under his breathe. Jack laughed and pushed Fergus into motion leading him to Adrian’s room.
Adrian was quite cheerful and happy to have visitors. He happily told Jack about how they had hidden in the Clinic to avoid the Entropy Curse that had been cast at them until they could track down the spell caster and deal with him. Jack managed to calm the excitable Scion of Odin’s Ravens down enough to get Fergus to tell him about his encounter that morning with the Watcher.
“Did you take notes?” Adrian demanded, exasperated. “You have a mysterious Fae lady appear in your bedroom. Why didn’t you take notes?!? Even with a sympathetic link crossing the threshold like she did would take godlike power. Only a handful of Fae possess that power.”
“I didn’t take notes but I do have this,” Fergus replied handing Adrian the parchment.
“It appears to be the work of Artemis Miller with some annotations by my old master,” Jack said. “It is a bit beyond me. I was hoping you might have a better grasp on it.”
“Miller? That crazy old coot was out of his mind. Brilliant though,” Adrian replied wrinkling his brow in concentration as he studied the parchment. “Based on what she said it sounds like the Wall this lady Watches has been drained of power causing a breach. Now the only thing that I know of that can do that is that kid we brought back from the Radcliffe Interdisciplinary Research Center. You know? The one who ate Jack’s power.”
“Wait. Just hold on a second,” Jack interrupted in surprise. " The Un-man is here?!?!"
“Uh, yeah,” Adrian answered. “He’s in the safe room with all the wards. Aunt B said they had to keep him constantly grounded out with running water or otherwise he would begin draining the mana from everyone and everything around him. They had been using him to drain the demon Sebassis’s power to keep him weak enough so they could control him.”
“That’s crazy!” Jack exclaimed. “If the Un-man drains enough power he could open a passage to the Outer Gates….Oh.”
“Exactly. Nice analysis. You know, Jack, you really aren’t just another pretty face after all,” Adrian said sardonically.
“Um. Thanks?” Jack replied to the back handed compliment. “Look, Adrian, we need to plan our next move. Do you have any suggestions?”
“Yeah. I can think of a few books that might help.”
Adrian went on to suggest some tomes for Jack to pick up from the Rare Books section at the University of Washington library. They made their goodbyes and checked out the books. After some reading Jack deduced that they might be able to seal the breach by using Miller’s notes. They would need to create an empty demesne of nothingness/imaginary potential where they could displace the magic from the breach. The ritual would force feed the Un-man power that he can’t consume (an illusion of power) to get the energy he had consumed to be released in its stead. If this was true then Jack would not only seal the breach but, theoretically, could restore his own magics stolen by the Un-man. At full strength he might be able save Abby from her cancer and find his missing child. For the first time in a long time hope swelled the young Wizard’s heart.