When I finally escaped the main council chamber in Edinburgh, I was having trouble breathing, I felt suffocated, panicky and my vision was beginning to close in. I can’t remember ever feeling such rage before, I wanted to burn the council, tear them down and salt the earth. The girl had only been twelve years old, she had lashed out unknowing at her father, the man who should have protected her from harm, but had instead… hurt her. She hadn’t shown even the slightest hint of magical talent before she killed him, burned him alive in her bedroom after he… I shuddered and forced my mind away from that thought.
I had spoken on her behalf, immediately jumping to the aid of the damsel in distress and Langtry had used my defence of her as an excuse to have her executed. Morgan had swung the sword on Langtry’s order, while McCoy held me back. Langtry, McCoy and Morgan.
I don’t remember the rest of the council meeting, all I could hear were those three names repeating over and over in my head as I stared at the blood on the council room floor. Then I was out, gasping for breath like a runner after a particularly hard race and letting my rage control me.
Normally when I lose control my magic lashes out; I set things on fire, things like buildings and there doesn’t tend to be much left standing when I’m done. This time however, I was thinking and thinking clearly, the rage hadn’t blinded me, it seemed instead to have sharpened me, I had a plan.
I left the council and headed back to my city, as far as I was concerned I was no longer a wizard of the White Council, they had called the girl a warlock, as they had once accused me, some of the council still whispered it when they thought I couldn’t hear. They saw a warlock and I planned to give them one starting with Langtry, McCoy and Morgan.
The rage had dimmed somewhat by the time I arrived back on Chicago’s comfortingly familiar streets, enough to let loose my grief. The death of the child was bad enough but the betrayal of my mentor hurt. Knowing it was Ebenezar that had held me back, pinned me helpless to the spot with a harshly flung spell, forcing me to helplessly watch the murder of a little girl, was like a punch to the gut.
I trudged through the streets, working my way slowly towards my goal with clenched jaw, tears running freely down my face, strangers took one look at me and flinched away, either uncomfortable or scared.. When I marched into Executive Priority I didn’t bother to wipe my face or reign in my emotions, I blew every piece of electronic equipment as I passed it, it was definitely one of my more dramatic entrances, with showers of sparks following me through the building, leaping out from computer monitors and raining down from overhead lighting. I took the stairs to Marcone’s office but was stopped by Gard and Hendricks before I made it to his door.
They looked shocked at my appearance, they have seen me angry on any number of occasions but normally when I burst into Marcone’s lair I’m don’t do it in tears. They shared a quick look seemingly at a loss with how to deal with me.
“Is he in?” I asked quietly, this only seemed to unnerve them further, my usual behaviour tending towards yelling, barging and occasionally smashing.
Cujo recovered first, “He’s in a meeting.”
“I’ll wait.” I pronounced and retreated back along the corridor to a row of chairs, sinking down into one. It wasn’t very comfortable being too low to the ground for a man of my height and long legs but it would do. I ran my hands through my hair a few times then rested my head against them, elbows on my knees. I was still crying, I didn’t even try to stop myself but instead relaxed enough for a few muffled sobs to escape me.
Hendricks must have decided to interrupt the meeting because Marcone was standing in front of me less than two minutes later.
“Mr Dresden?” His voice was soft and he sounded a little unsure of himself. I raised my head and looked him in the eye, a luxury I was suddenly very grateful for.
“John.” I acknowledged, my voice breaking.
“Come into my office,” he suggested. I don’t know who was more surprised when I accepted the offered helping hand up from the too-low chair, Marcone or Hendricks.
When I was safely settled, much more comfortably, on the couch in his office with a stiff drink clutched in one hand and John’s own handkerchief in the other I finally felt a little more human.
“What happened Mr Dresden?” Marcone asked watching me carefully from behind his desk, fingers steepled in front of him in true Vetinari fashion.
“The White Council caught a warlock,” I replied trying to keep my voice emotionless with some degree of success, “I attended her execution this morning, her name was Sarah Edwards, a sweet girl, from North Carolina. She was twelve.”
I looked directly at John as I spoke and I saw all of my feelings reflected back at me in his face, he was angry, even though she wasn’t one of his people. His one hard and fast rule had been broken, no children.
I expected him to say something but he remained quiet for several minutes seemingly waiting on me, but I didn’t have anything else to say, after all I hadn’t come here to talk. Eventually he gave up on silence as an interrogation technique.
“Why are you here Mr Dresden? Can I assume that you wish my assistance in avenging the child? Do you expect me to declare war on the White Council?” The soft tone was gone, this was John as I expected him to be, relied on him to be, calm, calculating, quietly forceful. I can’t begin to describe how comforting I found it.
“No John,” my voice cracked again on his name, “You don’t need to declare war on the Council, I will take care of it. It may… no, it will, take me years but I will see them all burn. I’m not going to ask you to help me to do it John, though any advice you can give me on usurping thrones wouldn’t go amiss. I’m sure you picked up a fair few tactics when unseating Vargassi.”
“You did not come here for my help, and my advice is clearly a secondary objective, so I reiterate, why are you here?” He was aiming for weary resignation but I heard his curiosity, I had piqued his interest, he wanted to know what I had planned, was looking forward to seeing what I would do next.
“I came because I wanted to, because there is nowhere else I could think of going, because I knew you would understand. I didn’t get it, thought I understood when I saw Amanda but I didn’t, not until…” I choked again, “No children John.”
“No children, Mr Dresden.”
I stayed in Marcone’s office for the remainder of the day, he continued with his work, disappeared periodically for meetings attending meetings, whenever he returned he acknowledged me with a nod, but otherwise ignored me, he never once hinted that I should leave.
I found his presence soothing, it helped me to think, to plan. All of a sudden I needed to think ahead by years rather than by hours or days, there would be no more winging it, no more flying by the seat of my pants, I needed to think like John and being in John’s presence, in his space focussed me.
It was dark by the time had finally restored my mind to some semblance of order and got my emotions back under control, I waited for John to come back from his latest meeting and ambushed him as he walked through the door.
“I’ll be going now, I’ll probably be away from Chicago for a while, please keep my city safe while I’m gone.” I even managed to produce a slight smirk for old times’ sake.
“Of course Mr Dresden, I will keep my city safe.” The emphasis on the possessive pronoun was slight but there. My smirk widened.
“Call me Harry,” I insisted. He raised an eyebrow at me and I supressed a sarcastic comment at this second reminder of Vetinari. “Consider it an apology John, I was wrong.”
“Wrong about what, Harry?” He asked, putting that almost-not-there emphasis on my name.
I reached out and gripped the back of his neck, squeezing affectionately. “You,” I replied and briefly brought my forehead down to touch his, then I was out of the door and making for the stairs before he had chance to respond.