“Are you aware of what you‘re asking of me?”
I nodded., my expression calm. “I‘m fully aware, Mr. Vadderung, that this would break one of Laws of mortal magic.” I tilted my head, “But you‘re not a mortal. The Laws do not apply to you.”
Donar Vadderung, CEO of Monoc Securities had once gone by the name of Odin. He was no more mortal than I was a god.
“Mr. Marcone, the price you would pay for what you ask, would be your life.”
“Since the rise of the Dark God last year, I‘ve seen my city become nothing but a town full of corpses,” I said, staring at him coldly. “I‘ve seen the population of the planet go from over six billion to less than thirty million. And of those survivors, all but a handful are slaves to monsters, kept alive only as a source for food.” I stared at him. “Three days ago, I lost the only man I trusted to stand at my side. The price that you ask of me is a pittance compared to what I‘d pay to restore the world.”
Vadderung nodded. “And if I helped you, what would you do, mortal? What would you change to alter the fate of the world?”
“I need to change a choice I made,” I said. A choice I regretted every day, and I wasn’t the sort of man who regretted the past. This death had weighed heavily on me for the last year. If he had lived…
“Free will is the gift of mortals. It allows you a freedom to act that even a god does not have,” Vadderung rumbled. He gave me a knowing look. “It is your right to change destiny.”
I wasn’t surprised that he knew exactly what I intended.
“Very well. You will owe me a debt, Mr. Marcone, and don‘t think that I won‘t be aware of it,” he warned.
“I hardly thought differently,” I said dryly.
He gave me a wolfish smile. “Then brace yourself, mortal, and accept the lightning.”
Vadderung raised his broad hand and intoned words that rolled out like thunder.
Blinding blue lightning struck me. I stiffened, my jaw locked, and I back arched back as all my muscles seized. I was unable to scream as the flesh was flayed from my bones.
Everything went black.
I opened my eyes and inhaled sharply, stifling the scream in my throat.
Hendricks looked over, his brow furrowed in concern. “Boss?”
I stared at him for a moment, taking him in sitting inside one of the sedans. Alive. Then I blinked and regained a measure of my composure. “I‘m fine, Mr. Hendricks.” I gave him a slight smile. “More than fine.”
He eyed me for a beat before nodding and turning back to look out the car window. Ms. Gard gave me an assessing look; I nodded at her before following Hendricks’ gaze. I let my eyes rest on the sight of Chicago. A restored Chicago, teeming with people. As it should be. As it hadn’t been for the year only I remembered.
And that was when I saw the tall form of Harry Dresden, trying to survive a fight with a ghoul.
This was it.
I ordered the car to stop. “Ms. Gard, if you would, please.” I inclined my head towards the alley, where, in another reality Harry Dresden had died. Where in another reality I had made the choice to drive by.
She frowned at me, flickering her eyes towards the alley. “It is his destiny to die today.”
“Then let’s change destiny,” I said dryly. “Consider it a direct order.”
Her frowned deepened, but she nodded sharply. She grabbed her axe from the case at her feet and strode out of the car and down the alley, very inch the Norse warrior.
Hendricks was back to frowning at me.
“I‘ve seen the alternative of not letting him live,” I explained quietly.
“He‘ll kill you one day,” he said somberly.
“Or I’ll kill him.”
I watched through the window as Ms. Gard saved Harry Dresden, and changed the whole world.