A black tornado of necromantic energy swirled over the heart of Chicago. After charging into the eye of the storm on the back of a Tyrannosaurus, battling through swarms of skeletons and a body-snatching lunatic, Harry Dresden found himself halted by a few inches of steel held at his neck. His one-man-band coroner and the White Council's Rookie-of-the-Year were down, leaving him to take on two necromancers before one of them became the winner of a ghost-eating contest and ascended to godhood.
As Cowl raised the scull containing Bob, something flickered behind him. A hand appeared from what must have been a hell of a veil to close around the back of his neck. Cowl lost his hold on the intelligence spirit's scull. The grasp of the newcomer, some short stack whose black hair and feminine green eyes barely cleared his shoulder, seemed to freeze him, a man more powerful than Harry himself.
The girl locked eyes with Harry, who glanced away before the pull of a soulgaze. Her focus moved on to Kumori behind Harry, then back to Cowl. Assessment twisted to contempt. She tightened her hand. "You want to challenge Death?" she said. "You can play your game in the lands beyond."
The air stilled. The tornado stopped swirling, hanging in the air like a picture. Black spewed forth from Cowl's mouth and the girl's as she whispered something in his ear. He looked terrified, but she must have stopped him from doing anything to escape. The Black coated them like sentient oil and soon they were both statues carved out of onyx. Then they disappeared.
A pulse swept out from where they had been standing, unraveling the storm as it went. As it washed over Harry, instead of throwing him down, it seemed to lift the oppressive field of necromancy off him and cleanse the air. Kumori gasped, and Harry used her distraction to magically push the knife from his neck and knock her in the head. She brought her hands up for a fight, but then decided better of it and threw up a smoke screen. When Dresden used ventas sevitas to clear it away, he saw that she had fled.
"Yeah, you better run," Harry said. He would have run after her, but it seemed he had a date with the ground. His knees collapsed and he just kneeled there, panting, as he tried to figure out what had happened.
A few feet away, an airy voice called out, "Hey, sorry about that boss. I didn't mean to betray you for a madman, but you know how these things go. Think you can get me out of here before your team shows up?"
"Bob," Harry said, or more like groaned. "Glad to hear you're back. How's Ramirez. Where'd he end up?"
"Oh he's fine. Just got a little case of the knocked-outs. Maybe a concussion, but he'll heal right up."
"Not that I don't trust you, Bob, but where is he?"
"Jeez. You betray a guy one time—"
"Bob," Harry said.
"He's over by Sue. She's got him nicely shielded, even though that little wave took away all your hard worked necromancy."
"Poor Sue," Harry said dryly, as he pushed himself up to help Ramirez.
Bob said, "Ah, well now you know you have a dinosaur if you ever need one."
"She's going back to the museum, Bob… I'll work out how later."
"But think about the chicks you could get if you had a dinosaur to show them!"
"Who was that girl anyway? She kind of stole my thunder. Overdramatic lines are my thing. Unless she's a villain. Is she a villain?"
"Oh do you really expect me to answer that boss. I never know what's villainous with you humans. Your morals are so confusing."
Dresden sighed. "Yeah, alright forget that part. Seriously though, who—" He stopped as he moved around some broken concrete and saw that Sue was not the pile of bones he had been expecting. "Why is Sue still all never-fleshed? I thought you said the wave broke her enchantments."
"Broke the necromancy, not the body construction," Bob said. "Maybe you should get some rest, Boss. You seem slower on the uptake than usual."
Harry agreed, but first he had to get Ramirez to some kind of medic. He made it around Sue, and spotted the warden lying flat out among more rubble. Harry spoke louder to continue his conversation with Bob. "The aspects were joined. I didn't expect the ritual backlash to have enough finesse to separate them. Come to think of it, I expected more of a bang too."
"And you would have been right, if that had been ritual backlash," Bob said. "The girl unwound the ritual and captured all the necromantic energy. A much more elegant solution, but a bit of an anticlimax, I think."
Ramirez was breathing, and his pulse seemed strong. Harry said, "Unwound the ritual? You can do that?"
"Well you can't," Bob said.
The most Harry could do for Ramirez was sit by and wait for reinforcements. He didn't feel confident moving him was the best idea, even if he could. Harry sat down. "Who was she?"
Bob, even though Harry hadn't spoken directly to him, responded. "Didn't you listen to what she said? She's death."
For once, Harry didn't know how to respond.
A voice other than Bob's said, "You are lucky to have met her. My Lady is beautiful, is she not?"
Beside him was the King of the Hunt. Harry fell over trying to get into some kind of defensive position. He was tired, alright?
The huntsman said, "I have decided not to kill you today, Wizard Dresden." He looked past Harry, to where Sue lay. "You resurrected a great hunter, if only for a night. That earns you temporary amnesty, but if I ever see you again, I will kill you." He said it carelessly, seeming more focused on Sue than giving out death threats.
"Uh, thanks for that," Harry said, trying not to talk himself back into danger. "I'll keep it in mind."
"Did she speak of me?" The Huntsman asked, turning suddenly to Harry. "Did she see my hunt?"
Harry, unused to direct eye contact, could only reply, "She might have. She seemed more interested in talking to Cowl than me."
"Hmm," the Huntsman said. He still didn't leave.
Unsure of what to do, Harry asked, "So your Lady is Death? I didn't know you had a wife."
The Faerie looked at Harry from the corner of his eye. "She is not my wife."
Harry really had to stop sticking his foot in his mouth. "Ah, you said your – but definitely not wife, got it now. Just your Lady."
The Huntsman looked away, then looked down at Harry as bits of light peeked over the horizon behind him. "I must go, now. Remember what I said."
In a blink, he was gone too, and the sunrise blinded Harry.
"What a pleasant killer," Harry said.
Bob said, "Ah, you got him in a good mood. All the Wildfae love when Death decides to become active again."
"Well that sounds just great," Harry said. "And here I thought I could relax."
Bob gave a sharp laugh. "You might as well. There's nothing you can do about Death. You see what happens when you challenge her. Do you—oh your team's coming, Boss. Better hide me."
Harry looked down at Ramirez. As if he were talking to him, he said, "I need to talk to the council."
Author's Note: To clarify, in this one Alexandra is supposed to be a representative of the Most Deathly Power to the Dresden universe, but Bob and the Erlking/Huntsman mistake her for Death incarnate. I liked the idea, but then I realized that it can't go further until Jim Butcher reveals who Cowl is.