The Council wasn’t too happy with me for blacking out all of Downtown Minneapolis. They told me they really don’t need another Harry Dresden causing havoc. Who are they kidding though? When you’re in the trenches you don’t always have the luxury of deciding the best way to do nothing by committee. Maybe I really was becoming another Harry Dresden, I mean, damn it, I’ve started to monologue.
What I really had to do was get the answers I needed from the Archive, I had to know how to deal with the World Chair, and that meant talking to her directly. That’s how I found myself on a Greyhound bus racing through the dark of a winter morning. I knew better than anyone how easy it was to find someone who didn’t take the proper precautions, so I was travelling light, and by mortal means. Airplanes were out of the question at this point, we had made enough enemies who wouldn’t think twice about bringing down a jet in the last few months to make it a safe way to travel.
The bus was nearly empty, except for an elderly couple in the very front row and a teenage tough in the back, whose eyes were glued to a phone and ears plugged with music. The couple in the front had trapped the driver (overweight, dark skinned, unconcerned with speed limits) in a tangle of small talk and pleasantries. Nobody was paying attention to the wizard, and that’s just how I liked it.
I was on my way to St. Louis, following a brief conversation over the phone with one Jared Kincaid. Not the most pleasant fellow to deal with, but according to everything I’ve heard dedicated to protecting the Archive. I could respect a man like that, even if the council told me they didn’t like his methods one bit. The darkness lifted and black gave way to gray as the hours passed on our journey down slushed up highways, following the Mississippi. By noon we were driving through vast, white plains. I was thinking about my deal with the winter court, and how it would impact the weather. Someone was sure to call it evidence against global warming, but then again, if climate change is man-made, I’m surely the man who made it. A temporary imbalance was a small price to pay for the support of the Unseelie in the war with the Red Court. If only I could figure out a way to get the Seelie court on our side as well.
A few hazy hours later I arrived in the city, and made my way to a motel. I found myself secretly disappointed how inoffensively nice the place was, since it would have made for a much better story if it was gritty, run down, and serviced by someone with at least one limb missing. I would get my fill of questionable establishments later when Kincaid gave me a call and told me to meet him at a bar.
I took a cab out to the dive where I was meeting Jared, and made my way inside. The place was poorly lit, and seemed to compensate for lack of conversations with blaring music. Kincaid was sitting at the bar. I joined him, and he quickly ordered two beers. I was becoming tense, even though I wasn’t expecting any hostility. This just seemed too far out of my comfort zone. Conversation was sparse. Kincaid confirmed who I was and who I was here to meet. I guess he didn’t care much for Wizards. After confirming my identity he pulled out what looked like a bottle of eye drops and without the slightest effort to hide it squirted the contents into my glass. I wanted to protest, but he had already raised his own beer and started a draft that lasted just long enough to let me know he wasn’t going to explain himself.
I needed the information too badly to simply walk away, and against my better judgement I raised my glass. I toasted to him in a meek gesture of defiance, and downed the unsavory contents. Kincaid paid the tab and told me his car was outside. By the time we were in the parking lot my legs had already become rubbery, and my vision blurred. It takes strong drugs to knock out a wizard, but whatever he was using was certainly doing the trick. The passenger seat of what must have been a freezing car felt warm and inviting, and beckoned me to sleep.
I woke up the next day in my motel room, sprawled out on the bed, still in the clothes I wore the night before. My head was pounding. My vision blurred as I jumped up, followed by a stab of pain in my head. I was cursing under my breath. That bastard was supposed to bring me to the archive, not drug me and do who knows what. I calmed myself, sat down and began to take inventory of what I recalled from the night before. Slowly but surely as I stirred my brain the information I needed began to rise to the surface, like morsels in murky soup. Well done Kincaid, it seems my meeting with the Archive had taken place without me having any idea of where or how. As much as I lamented the splitting headache, it was an efficient way of keeping her hiding places secret.
On my way back to the twin cities I pondered what I had learned. The World Chair couldn’t be destroyed or neutralized. It became clear to me that very likely the only way to restore a somewhat peaceful status quo was to reform the wards. I needed to make allies not enemies to get this done, but something was telling me there was a whole lot of new trouble waiting for me back home.