The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: The Big Bad (Part Five)

Karkana Chronicles Eleven

March 29, 2013 (Midnight)

Brianna, Joey, and Regi watch as Sydney prepares to cast her divination. The rug in the apartment is pulled back to reveal her circle and the room smells heavily of incense. Sydney sits in the circle with an earthenware bowl before her, murmuring low chants and gazing into the water in the bowl. She places a small sample from the clump of hair that Regi procured into the bowl and her face is suddenly illuminated from below.

“I see the woods. He’s alone. He’s setting a circle. A ritual. He taking something out of a jar. A wing. I think he’s setting a ward. A trap.”

“How can a ward be a trap?” Brianna asks. “I thought they keep you out of things?”

“They can also keep you in.”

“What kind of wing? A bird wing? Or is this a pixie wing?”

“I think it’s a pixie wing.”

“That little shit,” Brianna exclaims. “Is this a trap to catch pixies?”

“Or a pixie.”

“That is not going to stand. Any landmarks. Is it near where we were yesterday?”

“There is a creek nearby,” Sydney says. “A large, cleft rock.”

“Are you going to be able to take that down?” Brianna asks.

“The ward?”

“Yes.”

“Probably.”

“Did he pull the jar out of his backpack or something?” Brianna asks.

“His pocket.”

“The question is whether he’s going to stick around,” Brianna says. “If we can’t find the ward, can you use the hair to find it?”

“No—I could use the hair to find him, but not the ward,” Sydney says.

“Has he been working on the ritual as we’ve been talking?”

“Yes.”

The light from the bowl fades away.

“Looks like it’s back to the park, then,” Brianna says.

Everyone loads up in Brianna’s car and leaves. They pack flashlights and Sydney brings a hand mirror. As Joey drives, Brianna asks Sydney, “He doesn’t have to stay with the ward? He could just leave it like a snare?”

“Yes.”

Brianna remembers seeing a cleft rock during their exploration of the park previously. When they get to Forest Park, Brianna leads the way toward that landmark, hoping that its the same cleft rock that Sydney saw in her divination. Regi rides on Sydney’s shoulder and everyone shines flashlights along Newton Creek. Sydney calls a halt, saying that the site where they’ve stopped looks familiar.

Regi starts to drift from Sydney’s shoulder. “Pretty…” he murmurs as he flies away. Brianna grabs him and turns around. The pixie struggles in her grasp. With her back turned, she hears Sydney utter some words in a language she doesn’t understand and feels a cold wind blow the back of her neck. Suddenly there’s a popping sound in the air and Regi renews his struggles saying “Let me go, lady!”

Brianna releases the indignant pixie and they all go over to where Sydney is standing. A circle has been traced in the earth and there, in the center, is a blackened wing.

Brianna, Joey, and Regi all turn as they hear movement behind the large, cleft rock. Brianna sprints around to the other side of the boulder and is brought up short by a figure dressed in black with a ski mask on. Brianna tackles the figure and knocks them down.

“Get off me, demon woman,” the figure says and hits Brianna. Brianna wrestles with the figure, trying to wrest its mask off.

“It’s easier to kill the Wee Folk, isn’t it, you little shit. It’s harder to kill someone your own size. Teaching murder at that prep school, are they?” Brianna taunts as she wrestles with the prone attacker.

By this time, the rest of the crew has gathered around. “Someone take off this fucking mask!” Brianna calls out, exasperated. Joey reaches down and pulls it off. Sure enough, the figure is Paul Whitlock.

“Paul Whitlock,” Brianna sneers and leans in close. “You’re really starting to get me really angry. I recommend you settle down.” Paul stops his struggling.

“What gives you leave to be killing and trapping the free fae folk?” Brianna demands. “At last count, you’ve murdered five people. That has consequences.”

Paul looks Brianna in the eye and says, “And I’ve seen the blood on your hands, demon woman.”

“Follow me around, have you?”

He shakes his head.

“You don’t know me,” Brianna says, slightly shaken.

“I’ve seen you. The demon within you. The blood on your hands. The rage.”

“Unfortunately for you, we’re not discussing my past sins. I’m trying to decide if you realize you’re a serial killer.”

Regi flies forward, chest out. “We saw what you did to Ariella. What about Corona, Higbee, Oona, and Shar?”

“Answer him,” Brianna says.

“The construct devoured them,” Paul says.

“Why in the hell would you do such a thing? Why are you doing this?” Brianna demands.

“To gather power. One at a time. Into the construct. To be released in my final spell.”

“Which is exactly what?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Paul shakes his head. “It’s over now.”

“It matters to me,” Brianna says.

“There’s this kid at school. He pushes me around,” He looks up at Brianna. “Like you. Sometimes the only way to react is to push back. Hard.”

“This is the way you thought you’d do that. By preying on those that were smaller than you. Sadly ironic don’t you think?” Brianna asks.

Regi flies by and spits on Paul.

“Any other questions we want to ask Paul?” Brianna inquires of the group.

“Are you aware of the Laws of Magic?” Sydney asks.

“No,” and the boy seems genuinely mystified.

“Then you have no idea the trouble you’re in,” Sydney says, and turns away.

Brianna asks Sydney, “Do I make a phone call at this point?”

“I don’t know what else to do.”

“I don’t either.”

Brianna turns to the still-prone Paul. “I’m getting up to make a phone call. I highly suggest you be good and sit here quietly. I’ve got someone here with much more magic than you do. I’ve got someone here who can knock your block off. I’ve got a pixie who’s already pissed at you. If you’ve seen my past you already know what I’m capable of. I suggest you don’t piss us off.” Brianna sits up and gets off the boy.

Paul says, “Can I sit up?”

“Yep.”

The boy sits up. Brianna gets out her phone an dials the Warden’s number.

“This is Capstone.”

“I called about a month ago about the lycanthrope problem.”

“Yes.”

“So we have a bit of a situation here. Me and a few of my friends have a young man. A sophomore in high school. He’s been killing the Wee Folk with magic. Says he doesn’t know the First Law of Magic. He seems to be sincere in that. We’re not sure what to do with him.”

“That’s a serious charge,” Capstone says, “Ignorance is not generally an excuse. Killing is killing, after all.”

“He sounds like he’s been pushed pretty hard. However, this is a situation that has nuances. Felt you should be aware of it.”

“Where are you?”

“Forest Park.” Brianna describes approximately where they are in the woods, giving landmarks and such.

“I’ll be there in forty minutes.” The Warden hangs up.

“She said she’d be here in forty,” Brianna announces.

“If I’m gone too long, my parents are going to get antsy,” Paul says.

“These little night trips of yours, you had their permission?” Brianna asks.

“No, but I’m smart about it.”

“Really? What does that mean exactly?”

“I’m out late, but not all night. I get back before I’m missed. Duh.”

Brianna turns to Sydney. “What’s the range on your hex? The area of effect?”

“It’s not that precise, but line of sight.”

They all settle in to wait for the Warden to arrive. Finally, a woman with longish brown hair, and stern features wearing a grey cloak and carrying a sword and a staff emerges from the nearby wood. Were it not for the grim determination in her gaze, she’d have the look of a reject from a Dungeons and Dragons movie.

Brianna steps forward. “This is Paul Whitlock.” She gives the Warden a summary of what’s been going on.

Capstone turns her stern gaze toward Paul and asks, “What were you gathering power for, boy?”

“Like she said,” Paul says, defiant. “Push back”.

“I am a Warden of the White Council. Do you know what that is?”

“No.”

“We enforce the Laws of Magic. Breaking those is a crime punishable by death.”

At this pronouncement, Paul looks swiftly up at the Warden. And at her sword.

“You will tell me what push back you had in mind. You will look me in the eye.”

Paul snorts in derision.

Brianna rushes up and gets in his face. “I don’t think you understand the gravity of the fucking situation, Paul. Answer the fucking question.”

“Fine.” He looks into Capstone’s eyes—and pales slightly in the moonlight. “I was gathering power to cast a ritual to kill Brad.”

Capstone nods. “I need you come with me, Paul. This can be hard or this can be easy. I’d prefer easy. But there are those to whom you need to answer.”

“You’re kidnapping me?”

“I’m apprehending you. As a warlock.”

“But I saw. You protect. The children. You protect them.”

Capstone’s gaze is implacable. “I am. Come with me.”

Paul goes to bolt. Brianna sweeps out a leg and knocks him prone again. Capstone utters a word and a wall of solid stone emerges from the earth to block his path, a split second after Brianna trips the boy. Capstone points her sword at the boy on the ground. “That was foolish. Don’t do that again.”

Paul raises his hands and Capstone lets him stand him. “Will you come with me willingly or do I subdue you?” she asks.

“Where are we going?”

“To visit with the White Council. They will deliver your fate.”

“I’ll go. Only because I’m curious,” Paul says.

“Then come along.” Capstone motions toward the trail with her sword. She turns to Brianna and says “Thank you”.

Brianna nods and says, “Needed to be done.”

“Ms. Benning,” Capstone says to Sydney, her tone flat.

“Warden,” Sydney says, her tone icy.

Capstone and Paul then exit the site down the trail.

Brianna picks up the burnt wing. “Regi, I’m sorry. This should probably go with you.” She offers the wing to him and he takes it. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready to get out of these woods.”

Everyone nods. They head out of the woods and get to the car. They take Regi to Mill Ends Park and drop him off. They then take Sydney home to her apartment. As they drive, Brianna talks to Sydney.

“Paul kept talking about seeing things. What the hell was that about?” Brianna asks.

“I think he was just trying to rattle you,” Sydney says.

“Well, it was unnerving.” Brianna looks at the sorceress through the rear-view mirror, but Sydney’s face is unreadable. “He did seem genuinely surprised that Capstone would do anything to him because she protects children…”

“Maybe he was trying to appeal to her feminine side,” Sydney says, evasive. Brianna gets the distinct impression that she’s hiding something, something she doesn’t want to talk about.

“You don’t want to talk about it. I get it. Some wizard thing I guess. Alright.” Brianna says.

Sydney sighs. “You have to promise not to freak out.”

“Alright. I promise.”

“Some practitioners have what is known as the Sight. A way of looking a people, places, and things. It gives you insights into the truth of things. If you can interpret it. He may have this Sight. So may Capstone. She may have soulgazed him. Those of us with training know better than to the use the Sight willy-nilly on everyone we meet. He obviously doesn’t know that kind of thing.”

“I suppose that’s good to know. It seems like an awfully personal thing, I suppose…”

“It is. It is intrusive and not done like he did.”

“I appreciate you telling me.”

They drop Sydney off at her apartment and head home.

Brianna says to Joey. “I hope that can bring some closure to Regi and the rest of the pixies. I’m hopeful that means no more stalking and killing Wee Folk in the forest.”

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