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Chapter 1: Auto Mire

‘Life is unfair,’ probably the single most imparted lesson in human history after ‘don’t touch that,’ and ‘your face will stick that way.’ It’s meant to explain to a five year old a mystery that has stumped theologians and philosophers for generations; the problem of why bad things happen to good people. Alternatively I suppose it could also be a way to shut kids up when they started trying to use logic to their advantage, not that I really have what one would call extensive experience with children. My dubious parenting skills aside, though, the message itself is a pretty accurate one. Life, in my experience, isn’t fair. It doesn’t care about good or evil, right or wrong, justice or corruption; in the end we’re all just playthings in its sick twisted game.

Of course, that’s not to imply life is equally unfair to everyone, after all that would defeat the point. No, when it comes to Life’s cruel fun some playthings are more favored than others. Me?

“So, Harry, when you insisted on driving because, and I quote, ‘no one knows how to make the Beetle run like me. There’s a special bond here that nothing could break,’ were you trying to be ironic for humor’s sake, or have you finally taken too many blows to the head?”

I’m like a treasured childhood teddy bear. You know, the kind missing an eye and half of its stuffing.

The obnoxious pain in the ass currently giving a long and detailed history of my past automotive indiscretions was Thomas, my older brother and member of the White Court of Vampires, meaning he had the body of a Greek god and the sexual restraint to match. Well, okay, as far as I knew he’d never turned into a bull to get with a girl, but probably only because he didn’t need to.

As for myself, my name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Warden of the White Council, slayer of evil, and the only wizard of the Chicago City Phone Book (Previously any phone book, before my ex decided to steal my gimmick). None of which happened to explain why I was standing in the middle of a rainstorm in the middle of Washington State being chewed out by my brother just because I happened to have some bad luck with cars. Bad luck that he was totally exaggerating might I add. I only jumped out of a moving car once.

I think.

Looking around, and tuning Thomas out, I stared out at the lush foliage all around us. Having pretty much stuck to Chicago for most of my adult life, I hadn’t had the chance to spend much time in forests, and while these particular woods might have been beautiful on a sunny day the fact that the weather right now could be generously described as disgusting was not doing much to convince me I was missing out. Sure the sound of water pattering against bright green leaves and the distant rumble of thunder might have been soothing to some, but I’m willing to bet my substandard paycheck those people had never been almost eaten by lions. And tigers. And demonic bears. Oh my.
Turning away from thoughts of whatever might be lurking in the woods, waiting for a nice wizardly snack, I returned my attention to Thomas, who was still going on about my luck with moving vehicles. Honestly, I should have known counting on him to get bored was a lost cause. Thomas never got bored of the sound of his own voice.

“Look,” I started, forestalling another retelling of that time with the fungus demon, “Which of us was the one who wanted to carpool because he didn’t want to pay for gas himself? Which of us said it would be good for us to have some family bonding time? Which of us insisted on taking my car to avoid getting his own wrecked?”

Thomas paused and glared, apparently as irritated by logic as the aforementioned parents. “Harry, you seem to be implying this is somehow all my fault, when we both know I’m far too handsome for anything to be my fault. You really need to stop saying such crazy things.”

Entertaining the thought of what my brother would look like as a toad, I decided to forgo any violations of the Laws of Magic today, and instead turned to contemplate the third member of our little journey. “Hey Mouse, whose fault do you think this is?”

Staring back at me, my Doggysarus Rex straightened from where he was laying across the back of the car, (not the back seat mind you, the entire back half of the car), and gave me a doggy grin. His opinion on which of us was to blame, if indeed he had one, remained unvoiced. A master of diplomacy, that was my Mouse.

“Well, either way,” I continued, running a hand through my hair and staring at my poor much abused car, its noble name ‘the Blue Beetle’ ever increasingly a misnomer as more of its body was replaced with different colored parts from other Volkswagens, “I think we’re walking from here. The last sign said the next town is only a few miles. We should be able to get someone to tow the Beetle there.” I didn’t want to leave my noble car behind, but it was getting dark and I was beginning to suspect that it never stopped raining in this state, so my options were limited.

Thomas arched one perfectly plucked eyebrow and rolled his eyes. “Fine, but I reserve the right to complain the whole way.”

“Do you really need to make this experience more miserable?” My brother’s vigorous nods confirmed that yes he did, which was about as surprising as my car breaking down. And Murphy thought I took comfort from routine.

“Alright,” I said with another sigh, opening the back door to let Mouse slip out with far too much grace for a dog his size. “Lets get going then.” Retrieving the massive rolling suitcase that held all our stuff from the back of the trunk one handed, Thomas nodded and fell into step with me.

Setting off at something less than a trot but more than a mosey, and rather far from a skip, our unusual trio set out along the highway, the dark and mysterious woods our only company. Looking around, I half expected to see the bright yellow eyes of an old Hanna Barbera cartoon looming out of the shadows at me. Reaching into my leather duster’s pocket I gripped the familiar weight of my blasting rod.

Hey, some people had security blankets; I had phenomenal cosmic powers. Linus, eat your heart out.

“So, what exactly is the name of this place we’re going to again?”

“Forks. Forks, Washington.”

“Huh, sounds nice.”

Chapter 2: Police Action

The walk into town was about as pleasant as could be expected from a grueling several mile hike through the drizzling woods accompanied by a man who had turned being obnoxious into an art form.

No, not me, Thomas.

Once we got into Forks, a sleepy little town of 3,113 people according to the very informative sign we passed on the way in, we set about finding a place to stay. Apparently they didn’t get visitors much judging by the stares that were fixed on us the instant we stepped into the town lines, or maybe they just didn’t get a lot of giants in black leather coats, personified cologne ads, or dogs who looked like they included Wooly Mammoths as part of a balanced breakfast. Oh well, their loss.

We managed to make it about halfway to the center of town before the local authorities decided to pay us a little welcome visit, which in the circumstances probably said more about the discretion of Fork’s police force than it did about our ability to look unsuspicious. The police cruiser was one of those four-wheel drive affairs, big enough to actually go off road while small enough to forestall accusations of compensation. It approached us slowly enough that we had plenty of time to see it coming even if we weren’t paying attention, before slowly coming to a stop next to the sidewalk. The officer inside, a rough solemn looking man with messy black hair and a bristly mustache, rolled down the window and leaned out to address Thomas and I.

“You folks alright?”

Thomas immediately took the lead in the talking, which was probably for the best. Authority figures and I didn’t really get along for the most part, even when we liked each other. “Aside from being a little damp we couldn’t be better officer,” he assured the lawman, who only raised an eyebrow in a expression of obvious doubt. Clearly this was a man who was used to letting his eyebrows do the talking.

If my brother was fazed by the officer calling his bluff, he gave no sign as he continued. “My friend’s car, on the other hand, is a very different story. I keep telling him that the 1950’s are over and he just needs to learn to let go, but he’s the sentimental sort. I mean,” and here Thomas leaned in as if the next words were to be a private exchange between the two of them, which would have worked better had he lowered his voice even slightly, “just look at him. That coat belongs on the set of El Dorado.” Pulling back, and ignoring the death glare I was shooting him for insulting my car and my coat in the same conversation with practiced ease, Thomas shrugged in helplessness. “We broke down several miles back, and had the walk the rest of the way. Is there someone we could possibly call to go collect it before it completely decays? Either a tow truck or a dump truck, it doesn’t matter-OW!”

That last ow was probably my fault, seeing as I was the one who smacked him upside the head, but hey, he was talking about junking the Blue Beetle! When a man’s car is threatened he has to take a stand.

For his part, the officer let his eyes wander from Thomas to, then back to Thomas, then down to Mouse, and over to the gigantic bag Thomas had remembered to start dragging behind him before we’d entered town.


Silence stretched on for another minute as he seemed to mull something over, then finally he continued, “I’ll call Fred Wilks to get his truck out there and give you a tow. He’ll bring it to the Timberly’s Bread and Breakfast right down that way. That’s the only real place to stay in town.” Done speaking, he leaned back into the cruiser, as if using so many words at once had worn him out, and he turned to the radio, likely to start the process of saving my car from its dreadful fate.

Bouncing back from the grievous wound I had dealt him, Thomas smiled in a way that made his teeth ping in complete defiance of the overcast weather and said, “Ah, well thank you for everything Officer…?”

The policeman didn’t even look up. “Sheriff Swan.” As one Thomas and I stiffened, all of our self-control going towards making some crass remark that would likely land us both a free stay overnight at the police station. I’m not sure how Murphy would react to having to drive to Washington to bail us out of prison, but I somehow suspect it would not end well. Mouse, for his part, once again proved he was far more mature than my brother and I combined by just sitting there with a dignified doggy smile on his big face.

Fortunately Officer Swan seemed to miss our Herculean efforts of will and just kept flipping through his notepad, looking for something. We both realized that it was probably best for us to move on before we got ourselves into trouble.

“Well, thank you Sheriff, we’ll just be on our way.” Getting only a parting nod from Swan snerk, the three of us turned in the direction he had indicated, and once again set off down the main street.

So far we’d been in town about a half an hour, and managed to avoid any major disasters. This trip was already turning out a lot better than I though it would have.

And really, that should have been my first clue of how bad things were going to get. Personally, I blame Thomas.

Chapter 3

After our run in with Sheriff Swan and Deputy Mustache, we managed to get to the Timberly’s Bread and Breakfast without incident, passing an absurdly large school for a town of 3,000 in the process. Seriously, this thing resembled a major hospital more than a school; it had multiple buildings for crying out loud!

Anyway, the only tense moment occurred upon arrival, when the kindly middle aged owners of the Bed and Breakfast, presumably the Timberlys, expressed discomfort at the idea of my dog sharing a room with us, communicated their opinion through that good old small town tradition of constantly glancing at Mouse while asking the same question several different ways. Given I was wet, tired, aching, and irritable for any number of reasons, most of which were related to Thomas, I think I can be forgiven for not quite picking up on this folksy homespun bit of passive aggressiveness and merely thinking both Mr. and Mrs. Timberly had some sort of early onset senility, but apparently my brother is more in tune with people. I suppose growing up in a household that made the Medici look like gossiping high school girls has some benefits.

Of course, whatever points he’d won back he instantly squandered by making his cover story that Mouse was my helper dog, as I had, he whispered in just the right way to be sure I heard, special needs. Both owners promptly bought the story, nodding solemnly and flashing me pitying looks, which I took as further proof of either Thomas’s charm or my theory about senility. Seriously, who could possibly buy a stupid story like that? Of course, the only other option for why they so readily accepted that I needed a trained dog to function in basic society was not one I wanted to dwell too deeply on.

Our rooms secured and my ego bruised, I let Thomas deal with the customary exchange of currency for shelter and we made out way up to the room. It was a homey little set up full of knickknacks and paintings of birds and embroidered bed covers, the sort of place couples trying to bring the spark back into their relationship came to spend their time trying not to be overheard by the other five couples trying to do the exact same thing. To the place’s credit, though, most of the furniture and the bed did show the wear of a place that had been well lived in, with a faint smell of baked goods that had likely sunk into the creaky floorboards. The place might have been a little old, but it had aged gracefully and was proud of its wrinkles. That we could all be so graceful in our twilight years.

Once we’d arrived and settled in, I had immediately begun trying to pry information out of my brother about why we were here.

“Fresh northern air does a body good you know. Seriously Harry, when was the last time you got out of that personal dungeon of yours?”

It was going about as well as it usually did.

Rubbing my temples in a fashion that was disturbingly similar to what my mentor Ebenerzer McCoy had done whenever I had managed a stupider stunt than usual, I tried to remind myself that fratricide was in no way an option.

“Thomas, if you are seriously telling me we walked through miles of mud soaked forest just to get some fresh air I am going to turn you into something small and unpleasant.” That was a bluff of course, and he knew it. Turning people into frogs was a major violation of the Second Law of magic, and prime head chopping justification. Not that it wasn’t looking more and more worth it by the second. “Now, you got me out here by saying you needed my help cleaning up vampire business, which I hate, to help your sister, who I hate, maintain stability, which I like enough to balance out the two prior hates. That’s gotten me this far, but if I’m going to get myself beaten half to death, I want more details.” Of course, there was another reason I had come, one far more important than keeping Lara Raith on her hidden throne. Thomas was family. For someone like me, who had spent most of his life without a family, that reason alone was enough to get me to go across the country. Letting some of the sarcasm out of my tone, I lowered my voice a little and added, “Thomas, we’re family. I’m not going to leave you high and dry. You can trust me.”

It was rare that my brother let anyone see through the mask of easy going obnoxious playboy that he broadcast for all the world to see. I didn’t know much about Thomas’s early years, but growing up as the only surviving son of the king of the White Court couldn’t have been easy, and it’s likely the only reason Thomas made it out of his childhood alive was because he convinced everyone around him he wasn’t a threat. The mask had become a survival instinct, something he pulled on so easily that he didn’t even have to think about it anymore. Still, there were depths underneath his carefully constructed armor that ran deeper than even I really understood, and in moments like this, when the amusement in his eyes softened and the sharpness of his smirk faded, that I got a glimpse of who my brother really was.

He was silent for a moment, his chiseled marble features showing a very human uncertainty, before he seemed to reach a decision. Looking me in the eye without fear of a soulgaze, he nodded to himself and opened his mouth to speak.

That exact moment was when one of the walls exploded inward in a frenzy of violence.


Chapter 4

Here’s the thing about explosions. You know how in action movies there’s always this one scene where the hero walks towards the camera while behind him something explodes dramatically without making him even flinch? Well, having been in more than my fair share of explosions, a leading contributor to why my health insurance requests are routinely returned to me after having been set on fire, I can safely say that Hollywood’s handing of explosions is about as accurate as their treatment of CPR, computers, and other cultures; not very. Not only do most real explosions not have the jaw-dropping fireball of their Hollywood counterparts, but the concussive force from them would floor any hero attempting to make a dramatic exit.

I’d know, I’ve tried.

Of course, then there were the explosions that didn’t have much concussive force, like, and I’m just pulling an example out of the air, something blew in the wall of a bed and breakfast where I and my far more obnoxious brother were staying. Well, the other major problem with explosions is they tend to throw up a lot of debris at extremely high velocities that tend to remind humans that in the grand scheme of things we are rather soft and squishy. Even those of us in stylish and heavily enchanted leather dusters.

In the heartbeat between the outer wall of our room blowing in and the wave of plaster, glass, and assorted knickknacks hitting us, my highly tuned reflexes allowed me just enough time to think, ‘wha-’ and raise the hand with my bracelet of interlocked shields about half an inch. Luckily Thomas’s reflexes were decidedly higher tuned than mine, and in that blink of an eye he’d crossed the space between us and proceeded to rip the massive antique oak bed off the floor and move it between us and the little bits of death slicing through the air, then with one hand managed to pull me to the floor like my whole extra head of height made all the difference of a single balloon. He did this all in the time it took my brain to formulate three letters.

Sometimes, my brother can be really scary.

Rubble hit the bed’s mattress with a series of chorus of shredded fabric, but it wasn’t moving with enough force to punch through solid oak that was probably older than Thomas and I combined. The impacts barely had time to trickle off, and my head to stop ringing from Thomas suddenly introducing it to the lovingly crafted hardwood flooring, when the sound of boots crunching over broken glass reached us. Mouse, who somewhere in midst of everything that was going on had proceeded to throw his own rather considerable bulk into bracing the bed alongside Thomas, let out a low rumble from deep in his chest that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. My dog might have been a canine of few words, but when he started making sounds like that it meant serious trouble.

“Foolish cousin, did you think we could not foresee your arrival?”

The words echoed through the trashed room, presumably spoken by whoever or whatever had just reduced the outer wall of the second story of a building to kindling. Yet, despite the fact that whatever had trashed the room obviously had plenty of power behind it, and the fact that its dialogue came straight out of the menacing villain handbook, the voice that spoke them somehow failed to live up to the image its entrance had created. There was an odd stuttering quality to it, like the speaker was trying to remember his lines. Still, intimidating voice or not, Understudy here was clearly not playing around.
“Foreseeing I expected,” Thomas sighed, somehow managing to sound completely relaxed even as he braced the bed with his body, like this whole situation was as bothersome as a waiter bringing him the wrong order. “I just didn’t think even you hicks were dumb enough to want a war.”

Diplomacy must run in the family.

Ignoring for the moment the fact that my brother apparently knew there were going to be people with the ability to smash through second story walls like they were tissue waiting for us, I started getting my mind in gear for whatever came next. Battles, especially battles with Things That Go Bump In the Night, were decided in seconds, and if you weren’t ready for them you were just another smear on the sidewalk.

Thomas’s barbs apparently found their mark, because about a second later a hand burst out of the bottom of the bed he was still holding up, the fingers attached to it curled like claws as they reached for my brother’s face. It was a good five or so steps from the outer wall of the building to where Thomas and I were, and the space between had to have been absolutely covered in rubble, but whatever was after us had crossed that distance without making a sound and put its hand through at least a half a foot of solid oak in the time it would take me to lift my foot. Thomas and Mouse let out matching grunts as the force of the blow shoved them back with enough power that I could hear Mouse’s nails tear rivets in the wood floor. This time, though, I was ready for our enemy’s speed, and as dramatic as it’s attack had been, it also happened to leave it stuck in place while giving me the perfect idea of where the rest of it was standing.

What can I say? Sometimes life is good to me.

With the mysterious hand busy grasping for Thomas, I had a nice good long three seconds to put my staff against the bottom of the bedframe right above where the room crasher was standing and put the finishing touches on the spell I’d already started, before growling out ‘The sign said Do Not Disturb! Forzare!.’

There are lots of heavy hitters in the supernatural world, things that can snap the strongest human in half with their pinkies, but 99.9% still have to obey my old pal Physics, and that meant that when I released the wave of magical force down through my staff with enough power to snap what was left of the bed in two as it barreled right on through and into Understudy’s chest, it didn’t matter if he bench-pressed cars every day. Once that amount of force hit an average human level of mass, Understudy found himself on a one-way flight back through the entrance he’d made. There was the sound similar to a car hitting a brick wall followed by an unholy shriek, and through the cloud of wood chips, snapped springs, and torn sheets, I was just able to catch a glimpse of a designer men’s shoe passing beyond the edge of the jagged gap in the wall before it vanished into the air. About two or three heartbeats after that the dwindling scream of rage was cut off by a profoundly satisfying, if rather muted, thud as whatever I’d blasted met the roof of the building across the street.

I glanced to one side at Thomas, perhaps hoping for a shared moment of brotherly banter, only to find he wasn’t where I had left him. Jerking my head back around I found him standing by our room’s new emergency exit, staring intently in the direction I’d blasted Understudy. Quickly I hurried to join him, my boots crunching over broken wood and plaster as I stepped up to where floor met sky, my eyes trying to track whatever it was Thomas was looking at.

Now, I have seen a lot of weird things in my life, and I don’t mean odd coincidences or random street performers weird, I mean weird weird. In the course of one particularly eventful week I watched a Jinn get eaten by the Scarecrow of ‘The Harvest,’ fame, was almost sold in e-bay, party crashed the court of the Fairy Queen Mab herself, and wound up with my friend’s teenage daughter as an apprentice. That was also not the strangest week I’ve ever had. Therefore, when I say something is weird, I like to think I know what I’m talking about.

On the surface, watching a pale man in absurdly fashionable, and now rather damaged, clothing leap from rooftop to rooftop as if he was hooked up to an invisible harness was not really enough to qualify him as notably odd by my standards. Even his ability to do so after being hit with a mystical wrecking ball off the second story of a building into a rather study looking roof wasn’t totally surprising. The fact that he was honest to god sparkling, and not like he needed a shower or was sweating a lot sparkling, but rather full on I’ve met fairies who would tell him to tone it down shimmering on the other hand?

Yeah, that was definitely weird.

“Thomas,” I asked my brother in my best ‘I’m trying to be patient’ tone.

“Yes Harry?”

“Did we almost just get murdered by an escaped extra from Labyrinth?”

“It would seem so.”

“Are you going to tell me why we almost got killed by an escaped extra from Labyrinth?”

The indulgent sigh I got by way of answer sorely tempted me to find out just how high my brother would bounce if I gave him a push.

“Right after we finish explaining this to the police Harry.”

Oh, right, that’s what those sirens were.

Chapter 5

Frankly, as chats with police who had arrived to find me standing in the middle of what looked like a warzone went, the three hours we spent down at the station with Sheriff Swan were actually rather pleasant. The Timberly’s seemed perfectly willing to buy that the explosion that had redecorated their Bed and Breakfast had been the result of a gas leak, a explanation Thomas had helpfully supplied. The fact that the explosion had been directed inwards, and that there was no actual gas source to speak of, didn’t really seem to occur to them. The sheriff seemed less inclined to buy that story, but he was pulled from the interrogation room by a phone call from his daughter before he could ask too many questions. With our hosts unwilling to press charges and no real reason to book us Thomas and I were quickly released with a warning not to leave town before the sheriff’s office had a chance to finish their investigation.

The fact that the officer Swan had left with us had been a rather attractive blonde had probably helped too, though to her credit she made us fill out every single sheet of paperwork before slipping Thomas her phone number. We were then promptly reunited with Mouse, who as a consummate professional had spent his time in the station happily wolfing down the treats he had charmed out of every officer in the station. Meanwhile I got a bill for the tow truck they’d called for my car.

Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Leaving the station, we had then backtracked to the Timberly’s Bed and Breakfast, where we were resettled in a much smaller room on the first floor, which also happened to have a far smaller bed, and no couch to speak of. For the moment, however, our sleeping arraignments were the furthest thing from my mind.

“Okay, the police have been dealt with, now,” I paused for a moment, looking to the wall just to make sure no one was planning on coming through it before continuing. “Now, what the hell is really going on here?”

Thomas, who had also glanced at the wall suspiciously, turned back to me with a sigh, running his fingers through hair that had managed to stay perfectly coiffed through our battle and interrogation.

“Harry, how much do you know about the White Court?”

“Enough to advise against being related to one.”

That earned me a dirty look.

“I know enough about the basics. That they’re one of the major supernatural powers and probably the most human seeming of the four species of vampire, they feed on a range of different emotions to sustain their power, which stems from a demonic parasite, and they’re entire culture is based around making sure everyone knows how clever they are.”

Despite my somewhat flippant attitude, the White Court really were a seriously terrifying bunch. Not as physically powerful as the Red or Black Courts, at least not without expending a lot of power, in many ways they were even more threatening. While the Black Court had been nearly wiped out, and the Red Court preferred to control and dominate through raw power and conversion, the White Court was far subtler in their infiltration of mortal society. Want to get an idea of what I mean? The Red Court took over most of Latin America through helping to encourage numerous brushfire wars and counterrevolutions to throw the entire region into chaos while securing dominance over every power that really mattered. The White Court? They took over the porno industry. Not exactly impressive sounding, until you realize that one of their biggest weaknesses is the inverse emotion of what they feed on. Wrath, peace. Fear, courage. Lust, love. By flooding the market with pornographic movies custom designed to specifically cheapen the act of sex into a base carnal act, they’ve been working to systematically undermine and degrade their major weakness, all while staying completely under the supernatural community’s radar. Black Court vampires will rip your head off, Red Court will blow up your neighborhood and systematically murder everyone you love, but the White Court will stab you in the back and make you thank them and ask for another.

Given my personal connection with several key members of the court I’d worked to amass as much knowledge about them as I could, but given that the White Court was built a web of deceit that made the CIA and MI6 look like high school cheerleader gossip, there was a better than average chance that most to all of what I knew was exactly what they wanted me to know.

Of course, my brother knew all this already, what with it being the reason why he had a perfect six pack after never working out a day in his life, and a life that was, if possible, even more screwed up than mine.

For a minute Thomas got that look that said he was having a rather serious conversation with himself, and I was forced to wait with my usual patience and restraint as I rubbed Mouse behind the ears.

Okay, so maybe I started humming the Jeopardy theme 30 seconds in.

Okay, so it was 10 seconds.

An entirely undeserved pillow to the face later, and Thomas seemed to come to a decision. “We’re visiting my cousins.”
I stared at him for a good long minute.

“Your…cousins.” I knew Thomas had Cousins. I’d personally killed a few, and shed about zero tears over it. None of them had, to my knowledge, sparkled.

“You know, after all the long rambling explanations I’ve had to endure from you I feel like I should draw this out more. How surprised would you be if I said the White Court didn’t always look the way we do now?”

Not very was the honest answer. Much as the various supernatural powers liked to make out as if they’d always been around, in truth they were just as prone to fluctuations as the mortal community. The White Council of wizards was formed in the aftermath of the Roman Empire, the Black Court of vampires had nearly been whipped out less than 200 years ago, and that wasn’t even getting into the Spring and Autumn Fairy Courts. It figured that the White Court in its current form hadn’t always been around, and for a group as big on appearances as them, this would be a big deal.

I indicated as much, and he shrugged, “Well then, there you have it. My own personal Clampett Cousins are getting into a bit of trouble and Lara sent me to check it out, and I brought you along for backup.”

Okay, that was about the most useless bit of exposition I’d ever been given, and trust me, I’ve received some pretty useless exposition. Surging to my feet, I began to pace across the rather well worn carpet covered in swirling designs and flowers in faded pastel. “So you’re telling me that there’s a primitive offshoot of the White Court living in the Northwestern United States?”


“And this offshoot, that I’ve never heard of before, and which sparkles by the way, is having some sort of trouble?”

“Pretty much.”

“And this trouble, which you have yet to describe by the way, is something that Lara, your Lara, the Lara who never does anything ever up to and including the delivery boy unless it plays into some grand master scheme that will likely result in her looking unbearably smug, the two of us beaten to hell, and a lot of innocent people dead, that Lara is so concerned about her extended family she’s previously tried her best to murder that she sent her rogue brother and the wizard whose sworn to stop her to try and help them.”

Thomas sat there on the soft comfy bed with the most enragingly enigmatic expression on his face. Bastard probably practiced in front of the mirror. “Yep. Also, you don’t want to know how Lara tips the Pizza boy.”

Suddenly the urge to set something on fire was very near and temptingly lifting its dress to show off a lot of leg. “Okay man, you need to give me something to go on here, either an explanation that actually makes some damn sense or a very very good reason why I shouldn’t walk out that door and hitch the first ride back to Chicago.”

Then Thomas, who had been doing his level best impression of a marble statue looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Because I need you to understand I can’t tell you more right now, I need you to know that I have a good reason for not, I need you to trust me, and most of all,” here he hesitated, and something broke through the ultra cool vampire mask for a moment, “Because I need your help man.”

Well damn. There it was. It didn’t matter that I was walking into a situation nearly blind, not a great place for a wizard to be. Didn’t matter that I’d barely been in this town a few hours and already something insanely fast and deadly had tried to off me. Didn’t even matter that by being here I was probably working right into the hands of one of the most deadly enemies I’d ever gone up against. No, none of that mattered, because Thomas was family. Whatever our differences, whatever our arguments, none of that mattered in the face of that single, inescapable fact, more solid than stone or steel. He was family, and I don’t walk away when family needs me.

Not ever.

Sighing, I sat back down on the bed, taking a moment to tug my jacket out of the way so it didn’t get caught. “Okay, where do we start?”

“The representative of my cousins in the area, a guy named Carlisle. Carlisle Cullen.”

I’m pretty sure somewhere thunder was booming dramatically.


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December 2012


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