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The Hunters and the Prey

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Ianto watched as Phil hugged his daughter to him, whispering to her as she clung to him as if her very existence depended on it.  And, perhaps it did, after what had happened down in the cells.

They’d heard it all.  And Ianto was unbelievably angry with Grant Ward and his attempt to coerce Daisy into…well, there was no doubt that he’d wanted to get the young woman onside and to manipulate her into releasing him.  It had only been Daisy’s steadfast love of her father and the anger she held for her biological parents that had scuppered that plan. 

His eyes met the Widow’s.  She was standing next to Stephen, and she was looking as if what had just occurred hadn’t bothered her one bit.  Still – and Ianto didn’t know her, had barely only met her – there was fury in the way she held herself, arms crossed over her chest, the coldness in her green eyes chilling the Wizard even though he wasn’t to blame for anything.

Natasha Romanov nodded slightly.  Then, stepping forward, she said, “Let’s get both of you out of here.”

Phil pulled away from Daisy slightly, giving her his own nod.  “That is an excellent idea.”

“I can still go and speak to him,” Daisy said stoutly, her voice wavering only a little.

“He’ll only try to manipulate you again,” the Void Grand Master replied, giving her a fond smile.

“Your father’s right,” Natasha added.  “You’re not going to be able to get anything out of Grant Ward.”

“Why don’t you take Daisy back to my home?” Ianto suggested.  “We’ll make certain Ward is secured and then join you.”

“That is an excellent idea,” Stephen said.  “Get Daisy a cup of tea, and we’ll be there soon.”

Phil’s expression was one of gratitude.  Without saying another word, he tucked his arm around his daughter and led her back up toward the upper levels of the Quorum Hall, the Widow ghosting after them like a red-headed specter followed by their pair of concerned dragons.

“That…wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” Stephen murmured.

“You and me both,” Ianto agreed, “but we could have guessed Ward would attempt some sort of manipulation.”

“Do you think Hydra really knows who Daisy’s birth parents are?”

That was the question.  Ianto could certainly see Hydra wanting to get as much information on Phil’s daughter as possible, especially since they’d planned on using her as a bargaining chip against her father.  And yes, there was a part of the Wizard who wanted to know, just because someone as powerful as Daisy Coulson had to have come from somewhere, but in the long run that simply wasn’t as important as the young Wizard who’d come up from the cells so very shattered and who’d immediately accepted her father’s support.

Her real father.  Of that, there was no doubt.

Anyone who would have so easily abandoned such a remarkable child as Daisy didn’t deserve to have anything to do with her.

“Why don’t we go down and have our own little talk with Ward?” Stephen said.  “Not that I think he’ll say anything to us, but…”

“I, personally,” Ianto growled, “have met that boy before, and he’s rotten to the core.”  He could recall that tribunal they’d held when Grant Ward had been accused of nearly killing his supposed friends, and the evidence that the Cardinal Wizard had given at that trial.  It had been obvious that Ward had meant for Jemma and Leo to die, just from the intention behind the magic, and despite Ward’s denials he’d been found guilty and drummed out of the Wizard Guild.  He’d vanished afterward, and honestly Ianto should have checked on where he’d gone a lot sooner.  Perhaps, if he had…

Well, that was over and done with now.  It was too late to go back and fix things.

Stephen nodded sagely.  “It’s hard when one of us goes bad; but now we have an entire subset of Voids who thought they could just mess about with destiny and magic and that’s the hardest part of all.”

“I remember when I was the only Wizard,” Ianto said softly.  “That didn’t last long, because then there was Suzie and Dafydd and John…and don’t get me started with the whole Harold Saxon mess…but, even with Saxon, I never really gave any thought to what would happen if one of us really did go rogue.  It wasn’t until rumors of the Dark One started that I had to consider just that sort of thing occurring…” 

“And the Dark One turned out to be a young man who’d suffered a form of mental abuse by his parents that had him convinced he was evil, although he really wasn’t.”

Stephen had hit that on the head perfectly.  Suzie had seen it, in Novice Phillip, and had tried so very hard to help him…and had failed.  That had destroyed her, and while Ianto was certain it wasn’t the reason she’d finally died, he could see that the guilt would have haunted her for the rest of her life…what little bit of it had been left.  Suzie had been old when she’d taken on that damaged young Wizard, past the point of actual retirement, the Void the only thing keeping her going.  The magic extended a Wizard’s life a little, but not to the extent that himself – and now Phil Coulson – now had to accept.

“This is different,” he sighed, seeing the acknowledgement in his colleague’s eyes.  “From what we know, none of the Wizards involved with Hydra had the same sort of childhood that Phil had.  That might be a fallacy; we really don’t know much about the Novices involved, but the Master Wizards themselves…none of them have the excuse of being good men twisted by their upbringing.  Hells, I’ve met Gideon Mallick’s family, and they were about as normal as you could ask for.  His daughter, Stephanie, was a bright young woman, and it looks like his ideals have been passed along to her.  It…” he sighed again, “it’s heartbreaking, Stephen.”

The Great Wizard rested a hand on Ianto’s shoulder.  Whenever another Wizard touched him, the Cardinal Wizard could easily tell the difference, and this form of magic was almost like being doused in some sort of fizzy drink; tickly and effervescent and it made his nerves feel as if they were prickling pleasantly. 

“I understand. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do about Ward.  However, we can work to sow tolerance between the Orders, to make certain that what happened to Phil never happens again.”  He gave Ianto a small, encouraging, smile.  “Now, let’s go and see what Ward has to say for himself.”

Ianto agreed, heading down the steps toward the dungeon once more.  Myfanwy, sensing his anger and unease, chirped back at him and sent her support and love over their connection, and the Wizard would have reached out to give her a scratch if she wasn’t several steps ahead, as if scoping out the territory ahead.  It was a little amusing, and he let her know just that. 

Myfanwy sniffed at him, but didn’t stop what she was doing.

Grant Ward had taken a seat on the bunk in the cell, but he stood as soon as both Wizards came into view.  There was something, some sort of expression on his face that Ianto couldn’t identify, but it smoothed away under a small, sincere-seeming mask that conveyed worry that Ianto was fairly certain he wasn’t feeling.

“How’s Daisy?” Ward asked.  “Is she with you?”  He craned his head as if searching for the young woman.

“Daisy isn’t here any longer,” Ianto answered.  “We think you’ve upset her enough for today.”

“That wasn’t my intention.” 

If Ianto didn’t know any better, he would have believed the young man.

Stephen snorted quietly, which the Cardinal Wizard interpreted as the same level of disbelief that Ianto, himself, was feeling.

“You should know,” Ianto began, ignoring that obviously false platitude, “that you and your Hydra masters have been found guilty, in absentia,  of crimes against the Order.  You will be held here until such time as we find a permanent prison for you.”

“Usually, it’s the Head of Order who comes to pronounce sentence,” Ward rebutted calmly. “And, last I checked, you’re the Cardinal Grand Master and he,” the man jerked his head toward Stephen, “is the Great Grand Master.  So, why isn’t the Void Grand Master here?”

Ianto wanted to be angry at his tone, but for some reason he felt completely calm.  This young Wizard was being an insufferable bastard and trying to play the system, which wasn’t going to succeed.  After all, he was correct in what he was saying; only a Void Head could pronounce judgement on another Void.  It would have been Phil’s job to do so, but Ianto was perfectly willing to cover for his fellow Grand Master in this case.

“The Grand Master of Voids is occupied at the moment,” Stephen said. 

Another micro-expression flickered across Ward’s face at that, and this one Ianto could certainly identify.

“You mean,” he smirked, “your spy within Void Order hasn’t informed anyone yet that we have a new Void Grand Master?”  That did make sense; Hydra had obviously scattered, but there were many different ways someone could have kept in touch magically.  “Phil Coulson is the new Grand Master of Voids, Mr. Ward.”

He had the distinct pleasure at the surprise that was so very open on their prisoner’s face.

“Your Hydra masters made it abundantly clear that Grand Master Phil was the only Void Wizard we could trust,” the Cardinal Wizard went on.  “I’m sure that wasn’t their intention…especially when they brought Werner von Strucker into this.  His outburst during Quorum simply told us that there’s at least one more Hydra member within Void Order, and we intend on discovering who they are and put them in a cell just down from yours.”

“Did you think that outing Grand Master Phil in Quorum was going to get him into the same bucket of hot water you and yours are in?” Stephen queried.  “If anything, it just hammered home to everyone in Void Order that he could be trusted, since it brought to light the events of Buda-Pest and it showed the Dark One as the hero that he truly was.”

Well, that wasn’t exactly the case, Ianto knew, but he could certainly get behind Stephen’s need to rub that sort of salt into the wound, so to speak.  Because, it was apparent that Hydra hadn’t known the true events behind the Dark One and his friends’ razing of the city, and had only hoped that it would destroy whatever reputation Phil had had.  Ianto was also fairly certain it was a form of revenge on Phil’s kicking Hydra’s collective arses back at their base.

Which also lent itself to the idea that there was some form of open communication between Hydra and whoever their mole was in Void Order.

And also, Ianto could infer, that that link hadn’t involved Grant Ward.

“So you see,” he pushed it home, “the Grand Master of Voids is currently unavailable…since you’ve decided it would be a really good idea to upset his daughter.”

“Not so much a good idea,” Stephen added. “Although I get the impression you hadn’t expected to see our newest Grand Master at all, and was surprised when he showed up with us.”

Ianto mentally cursed himself for missing that, but at the same time he was glad that Stephen had noticed.  He had to wonder if Phil had, as well. 

Ward shrugged a little, but he didn’t say anything.

The Hive dragons kicking up a fuss had Ianto turning toward the cell where their cage had been placed.  They were really perturbed, and he wondered if they were exposing Ward’s inner turmoil or if they were just upset at being separated from their Wizard.

Most likely a combination of both.

“We’ll need to rework some of the spells on the cell so we can put your dragons in with you,” Ianto told Ward, “so hopefully you won’t be apart for too long.”

“In the meantime,” Stephen said, “you might want to be thinking about what you want to do.  You’ve been found guilty of treason against Void Order; anything you might want to share with the Quorum about your masters could possibly mitigate things a bit.”

“You still kidnapped Daisy Coulson,” Ianto pointed out, “and that, in itself, rates being imprisoned.  It will be up to her if she wants to include in those charges the attempt to manipulate her with this so-called knowledge you have of her birth parents.”

“That wasn’t my intention,” Ward murmured.

“Yes, it was.  That was exactly your intention.  You most likely thought that you’d give her this, and she’d do something to break you out of this cell in order to get to the truth.”  Ianto favored him with a slight, pitying, smile.  “As you’ve seen, she’s not interested.  I’m also pretty certain you weren’t expecting her to be so against finding her biological parents, to be honest.”  He didn’t blame her, not one bit.  She now had a father who loved her, and was proud of her.  Why should she go looking for parents who’d abandoned her?

“You’ll be brought in front of the Quorum to face the formal charges,” the Great Grand Master continued, “although you’ve already been found guilty so there’s just the punishment to consider.  That will be at the hands of your former Order.  And don’t think anyone will come to your rescue, Mr. Ward, because anyone Hydra has within Void Order will most likely want to lie low, in order to avoid being taken into custody.”

Ianto noticed he didn’t mention that the wards on the cell area were going to be attuned to just a few others, to avoid anyone coming down there who wasn’t authorized.  They’d leave that up to the wardens for the dungeon; they were trained for that sort of thing.

And it occurred to him that they’d most likely have to vet the wardens. 

Damn.

So, it seemed as if he and Stephen had their work cut out for them.  They’d get Phil in on the spell adaptation as well.  Ianto had seen a bit of his ward work, and had been impressed with what he’d managed to teach Daisy.

“Oh,” Ianto added, “you won’t be alone…Werner von Strucker is in a cell down the way.  I’m sure you’d both enjoy trading Hydra stories.”  Yes, he was petty.  Yes, he needed a parting shot.

Without either Grand Master saying anything else, they both turned and left the area, their dragons accompanying them.  Ianto’s head was buzzing with thoughts on what had happened, already making plans on warding the cells, to adapting the spells on Ward’s cell in order for him to be able to keep the Hive dragons in with him…

And how they were going to find out just who was Hydra within the Wizard’s Guild. 

It wasn’t something he was looking forward to, mainly because he hated the idea of traitors in their midst.  However, it needed to be done.  They needed to know what other wolves they had in their midst, and to discover a way to keep it from happening ever again.