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Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover 
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Post Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
HARRY DRESDEN—WIZARD
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties,
Or Other Entertainment.


******************************

Introducing Lone Wolf, AKA, the crossover no one asked for but I decided to write anyway.

For the uninitiated, the Dresden Files series follows the exploits of Harry Dresden, a private investigator and professional wizard based in Chicago. Over the years he’s had to face down demigods, battle vampires to the death, and try really hard to pay his bills on time. Now he has to tackle what might become one of his most unusual cases, with the help of a couple of unexpected allies. I want this story to be accessible even to those of you out there who haven't read the series, so if I leave out some important piece of exposition just let me know.

Takes place several weeks after the events of Blood Rites and at the end of the Dog Days of Summer arc - Features canon characters, original characters, and canon characters that are basically original characters now.

This is chapter one an indeterminate number. I have at least half the story written and in some stage of proofreading and I already know how the rest is going to play out, so I swear with Dog as my witness I will finish this tale.

Comments, constructive criticism, and pointing out of my inevitable typos are all welcome and appreciated.


******************************

Lone Wolf - Chapter 1

“Twenty-seven missing dogs as of six thirty, and we were still getting new calls when I left the precinct this morning,” said Karrin Murphy, head of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations department. She was leafing through a file folder as we leaned against the hood of her patrol car. Well, she leaned. I loomed. Murphy was blonde, petit, five foot nothing, and wore a scowl that could dissuade the burliest street toughs. I stood a full head and a half taller than her, and had to bend down uncomfortably to read the reports.

I’ve dealt with some weird cases in my years as Chicago's only professional wizard. Deranged sorcerers, faerie queens, necromancers, just to name a few.

But I’ve never been called in to consult on a dognapping before.

Bolt, golden retriever, male, reported missing … Jasmine, husky-akita mix, female, reported missing … The list went on. Twenty-seven dogs, all reported missing this morning.

Murphy went on, flipping through the pages. “Police started getting calls around three a.m., reporting what sounded like a series of break-ins. Victims reported shouting, barking, glass breaking, all the usual. But when officers arrived, all they found missing was the family dog. Beat cops handled the first few, redirected some to animal control, but when the calls kept coming in …”

I nodded. “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.”

Murph nodded with a grimace. “And when the police commissioner woke up and found a broken window and a missing dog, they called me.”

Murph’s job as head of Special Investigations wasn’t glamorous. The whole department was the graveyard of police careers. The cases they got were impossible and unnatural, and it was their job to paint things in a light that the public found palatable. When their cases included the aforementioned deranged sorcerers, faerie queens, and necromancers, that became a tall order.

Which is why it helped they had a wizard on retainer. Me, Harry Dresden, private investigator, wizard of the White Council …

… Dog catcher, apparently.

“I’m guessing the chief wants this whole thing wrapped up a neat bow by lunchtime, huh?” I asked as I studied one of the more recent reports. This one was a little more violent; a woman had needed stitches.

“That’s the plan,” Karrin said, fishing a few plastic evidence bags out of her pocket. They were filled with small samples of dog fur - brown, red, and light grey.

Karrin and I had been working together for years, to the point when she knew my bag of tricks pretty well. One of my magical staples was a simple tracking spell. All I needed was a focus and an item linked to my target, and I could track down pretty much anything in the city.

“How fresh?” I asked, accepting a bag of fur. I pulled my mother’s silver pentacle amulet off my neck. That would be my focus.

“Very,” Karrin replied. “That one was stuck in the frame of a broken window.”

“Perfect. Any blood? That would work even better.” I met Karrin’s scowl with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry if that’s a little grim, but it’s true.”

I’ve always been more of a cat person, but I’m not a heartless monster. Something about this whole thing gave me the heebie-jeebies. The sooner we found those pups the better. I took a small clump of the dog fur and pressed it into the gaps in my pentacle amulet, then focused my will upon it, infusing it with energy, willing my amulet to follow the link between the fur and its owner. It was a spell I’d cast countless times before. With the link active, the amulet would swing in the direction of the spell’s target, allowing me to zero in on the object of my search.

The spell fizzled. The amulet didn’t even twitch.

I frowned, and tried again. No response. Scowling, I mutely reached out and took a second bag of fur, then a third, trying to activate my tracking spell on each.

Nothing.

A breeze took the silver totem, made it swing the tiniest bit. But there was no link, no trail of mystical energy to follow.

My spell had failed.

Murph waved a hand in front of my face “Everything alright, Dresden? You look … either deep in thought or constipated, it’s hard to tell with you sometimes.”

I grunted and shoved the amulet and fur into my sweatpants pocket. “Are you sure these are fresh? I can’t get anything.” Age tended to make the link between a sample of hair or blood and its owner grow tenuous and hard to track. Hair and fur had a pretty good shelf life, but blood was basically useless as soon as it was dry.

“Positive,” Murph said, brow knitted in concern. “What could make your spell fail like that?”

I started ticking items off on my fingers. “Distance is one. If they left the city I’d have a hard time tracking them. If it's only been a few hours, I can’t imagine the dogs have gone that far. Old components would do it, but that isn’t a factor. And …” I paused, letting my voice trail off.

Karrin folded her arms, looking up at me with that hard-edged scowl. “Dresden. Talk to me.”

“Option three is that this dog is inside an empowered magic circle. That would block my spell pretty effectively.” I picked up the folder and handed it back to Karrin.

She accepted it, and I could see the wheels turning in her head. “Are you saying they’ve been dognapped by a wizard or something?”

“A magic user of some kind. Figures. Looks like this is up my alley after all.” I snatched up the cup of coffee that Murph had brought me and took a long swig. It was barely dawn, and I’d had a long night. By the looks of things, she had too. I started walking back to the steps down to my basement apartment. “I need to get some expert advice real quick. Want to come inside for a minute?”

Murph pulled her phone out of her pocket, check it before replying. “I can’t stay long. Looks like we’ve got another one.” Twenty-eight now.

If we made it all the way to one hundred and one I was going to be annoyed.

Murph followed me down the stairs to the heavy steel security door at the entrance to my basement apartment. I shoved it open with a grunt and stepped inside, making a point to hold it open for Karrin.

My apartment was cool and dark year-round. Winters were unpleasant, but the cold was a godsend in the summer. It was a small one- bedroom affair, a living room and kitchenette with a small bedroom and bathroom adjacent. The concrete floors of the living room were covered in mismatched rugs and the walls were dominated by old, overstuffed bookshelves.

The only sources of light were the windows and an assortment of candles and oil lamps. My refrigerator was actually an icebox, and I didn’t have a hot water heater. Magic and modern technology don’t mix well.

My cat, Mister, was lounging on the threadbare couch, munching on a sandwich while he thumbed through a dog-eared paperback with a lion on the cover. He was grey, and big. Probably brawnier and heftier than any cat I'd ever seen outside of a zoo. I'd pulled him out of a dumpster when he was just a kitten, missing most of his tail and something like five of his lives. He'd recovered, and then some. He glanced up when we walked in and mumbled a greeting to Karrin around his mouthful.

I swigged down the last of the lukewarm coffee in my cup and tossed it into the overflowing trash can in the kitchen. Grumbling under my breath, I grabbed an old bathrobe off a hook near the door and started over to the trapdoor in the floor leading to my sub-basement laboratory.

“Murph, if you need anything I’ve got beer and …” I glanced back at Mister, indicating his sandwich. The cat shook his head “ … and beer,” I finished flatly. “You’re going to eat me out of house and home, flea hotel.”

“No beer for me, Harry,” Murph called from the kitchen. She was flipping through the police reports at the counter next to the sink. “Ask me again at noon.”

Mister flipped to the next page in his book without looking up. "What's got your tail in a twist, boss?"

I cinched up the bathrobe. "Working a new case with Murphy. Bunch of dogs went missing last night, and I can't track any of them. I'm going to see if Bob has any advice." I paused, knelt to the ground, and pulled aside the worn rug that covered the entrance to my lab. "Speaking of missing dogs, where's Mouse?"

"No idea," Mister said without looking up from his book, his face the very picture of feigned feline innocence.

I gave my cat a look. "You've got a bit of canary feather on the corner of your mouth there, Mister."

A tiny, muffled bark emanated from a couch cushion directly underneath Mister. The cat looked at me, looked down, and rolled his eyes dramatically. "Fine." He lifted up one leg, and a ball of grey fluff popped up with an excited bark.

"Hey they, Mouse," I said with a grin. The puppy perked up and let out a happy bark, looking none the worse for wear despite having been squashed under my domesticated mountain lion. Mouse was the newest addition to our household, much to Mister's chagrin. He was some kind of Tibetan temple dog I’d acquired after saving him and his siblings from a bunch of flame-flinging monkey demons. The monks who had hired me left the country before I had a chance to return him, so I'd had little choice but to take the pup in.

Early on, Mister had established his role as head of the household by effortlessly batting Mouse across my kitchen. Mouse respected the cat’s dominance, but never seemed particularly intimidated by him. Mister had returned his attention to the paperback and was holding his paw against Mouse’s head to fend off the dog’s efforts to cuddle up to his leg. “I asked him nicely to get out of my spot, and he didn’t. So we compromised.”

I shook my head and started down into the sub-basement. "Be nice! And get him some food, he looks hungry."

"I'll think about it," Mister called after me. I shut the trapdoor above me and started down the ladder.

My lab was an even smaller and colder concrete box than my apartment. That's typical of wizards' dwellings. We don't wear those robes just for the look, we do it because stone towers are drafty as all get-out. My bathrobe was just a more modern take on an age-old practice.

It was also five dollars at the thrift store, but that's neither here nor there.

I fished a Bic lighter out of my pocket and lit the candles on my workbench, one by one. The light illuminated my cramped workspace. A narrow wooden bench occupied most of the middle of the room, leaving enough space for me to walk around it on every side. Three of the four walls were covered in wire shelves that contained thaumaturgic and alchemical reagents of all kinds, from the common (rosemary, bone dust) to the more strange and obscure (depleted uranium dust, dew collected from a spider's web at dawn). One end of the narrow room was bare, save for a copper ring that sat bolted to the floor.

At the opposite end, on a shelf bare of the tins, bottle, and bags that occupied all the others, there sat a human skull surrounded by trashy romance novels. It was to this end of my lab that I went.

"Alright, Bob," I said. "It's time to go to work."

Bright orange lights sparkled to life in the skull's eye sockets. The eyelights rolled around listlessly before settling on me. "Oh, Harry," said Bob. "I don't suppose you have Tiffany Steele's latest?"

"No such luck, Bob." I dropped the folder on the workbench and started to spread the police reports out across the surface.

I don't know how he managed it, but Bob the skull pouted. "Harry," he whined. "It's been out for weeks now, you promised me."

Bob is a spirit of intellect, housed in a centuries-old skull. I'd acquired him from my old mentor, Justin DuMorne, after he'd tried to make me his mind-slave and sent a demon after me. Bob has been an assistant to countless wizards over the years, and his nearly limitless knowledge of magic and the spirit world has pulled my rear out of the fire more times than I can count.

He also loves trashy romance novels. There's no accounting for taste.

"I'll bring the book next time. This won't take long, for a being as wise and cunning as yourself," I said drily.

When I don't have a book offering, insincere flattery works almost as well.

"You've got me there, Harry," Bob replied, happily ignoring my sarcasm. "Pitch me a curveball every once in a while. Sometimes it feels like my talents are wasted here."

I explained the strange case of the disappearing dogs, and my total failure to track any of them. Bob looked thoughtful. "And you're sure you had fresh materials?"

“Positive. Murph collected the samples herself.”

“Then I’d say you’re right. Someone is definitely blocking your spell.”

Bob was confirming all my suspicions and more. There was definitely magic at work here. Someone was keeping the dogs prisoner and had actively set out to hinder my efforts to find them. That meant they were tuned in to the magical community, enough to know that a wizard could be helping the police in their investigation. That wasn’t great news.

I drummed my fingers thoughtfully on my workbench. “What I still don’t get is how they pulled this off. Dozens of dogs all snatched up, most of them around three in the morning. You’d need an army of dognappers to pull it off.”

"Or one Pied Piper."

I frowned at that. "Pied Piper?"

Bob nodded. Well, the skull rocked in a way that you could think of as nodding. "Leading all the snakes out of Ireland. Or all the dogs out of Chicago. Mesmerize them somehow, lead them to wherever you want to keep them and shield them from the wizard with a circle. He could be keeping them enthralled, or maybe just in a kennel. Either would work."

"How could you put a whammy on that many dogs at once?"

Bob cocked his skull to one side. "Hard to say. I'm sure you could pull it off easily if you had some blood or something from each dog. Borderline black magic, depending on how it was carried out. Sounds like they picked the witching hour to start the ritual, based on when the calls started coming in."

Alright. That could be bad. It was hard not to wonder just where all those pets had wound up. "What would anyone want with that many dogs?"

"They could be starting a cult," Bob said cheerfully. "Dogs are loyal enough. Or maybe they need souls of the innocent to offer to a demon. Or maybe they want to open a pet shop. Take your pick."

I'd been in this business long enough that I knew it never hurt to assume the worst. If Bob was right, I needed to work fast. "If I can find the caster, I find the dogs. Easy peasy." Right. I just had to find an unknown warlock with a strange fixation on dogs who already suspected I was on his trail “If I can’t use magic to track this guy down, I can at least get Murph pointed in the right direction.” I gave the skull a pat on the cheek, then scooped it up and tucked it under my arm as I made my way back to the ladder.

“Happy to be of service, boss … hey, where are we headed?”

“I’ve got a game plan,” I said as I clambered back into the living room. “Alright, gang, huddle up.” I plopped myself down on the couch next to Mouse and Mister, who folded a corner to mark his page and tossed the paperback onto the coffee table. Mouse climbed onto my thigh and took a seat, looking up with bright, curious eyes. He went back to gnawing on his bone-shaped dog treat. I ruffled the unruly patch of fur between his floppy ears. Murph brought over a chair and sat down across from me, elbows on her knees.

“What’s up, Dresden?”

“Someone’s definitely blocking my spell,” I said. “Probably our dognapper.”

“Dognapper, singular?” Murph asked.

“Nothing’s certain. Could have been a few minor talents working together or a single skilled practitioner. One Cruella de’Ville, hopefully no henchmen in the picture. No one broke into the houses, the dogs broke out under the influence of some kind of curse.” I nodded to Murph. “They would have needed something from each of the dogs to do it. Some fur, nail clippings, blood. Same as my tracking spell.”

Murph nodded back. “So whoever did this needed physical access to the dogs beforehand. If all the dogs went to the same vet or the same dog park or something, we could trace that back to our perp.”

“Exactly.” I turned to my cat. “Mister, you, me and Bob are going to head out and canvas a few of the neighborhoods where dogs went missing, see if we can’t find any magical traces that could point us in the right direction.”

Mister snapped a sloppy salute. “On the case.”

Murph nodded sharply, then collected her papers and started to rise. “I’ll get with my team, start making some calls. If we’re lucky, you should be able to lead us right to him.”
I opened my mouth to say something, hesitated. Murph’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

I grimaced. “Karrin, if this guy dominated the minds of these dogs, that’s some serious stuff. Laws of Magic breaking stuff. Stuff in my wheelhouse more than yours.”

Murphy crossed her arms in front of her and looked down at me with an expression I’d seen her wear in the interrogation room. “Dresden, we’ve been over this. This is my case. When we go in, I want you there, but I’m heading this up. End of discussion. We’ve been through too much for you to try and shut me out again.”

I paused before replying. Her tone brooked no argument. She had a point, of course, but there were a lot of unknowns. Namely, what had been done to the dogs.
The laws of magic apply to all mortals, human, cat, dog, and so on. The second and third laws stated "Thou Shalt Not Invade the Mind of Another" and "Thou Shalt Not Enthrall Another", respectively. When people break the laws of magic, the White Council of wizards gets involved, and heads roll. Literally. I broke the first law of magic by killing my mentor in self defense, and had almost been executed for my trouble. Where violations of the laws of magic were concerned, things tended to fall out of Murphy’s jurisdiction. That was something of a sore spot for her.

I was saved from having to continue the argument by a knock at my door.

Every eye in the room shot to the doorway. I glanced at Karrin, who nodded, hand lingering near her service weapon. I flexed my right hand. I wore three rings, each of which was enchanted to store a little kinetic energy every time I moved. I hadn’t used them for a few weeks now, so when I finally released all that stored energy, it would hit like a charging rhino.

Call me paranoid, but I didn’t like to take chances when I was on a case. I walked over to the door, mentally readying myself to blast what was on the other side. I nodded back to Murphy, and then wrenched the door open.

The tension in the room faded immediately. The knocker was an unassuming middle-aged man, thin and dark-skinned, and bespectacled. He flinched back in surprise, probably as much at my appearance as at racket the door made. I watched him look me up and down with obvious distaste. Couldn’t say I blamed him. I was still wearing the sweatpants and old t-shirt I’d thrown on when Murphy came by earlier, and I hadn’t had a chance to shave.

“Harry Dresden?” It was squeaky voice that seemed to be coming from somewhere around mid thigh.

I blinked. “Huh?”

The man in front of me sighed and pointed down.

There was a white and brown ferret in sunglasses standing in my doorway, holding out a paw for me to shake. “Keene Milton,” said the ferret. “Harry Dresden? I’ve got a job for you.”


Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Fri May 24, 2019 9:07 am, edited 2 times in total.



Thu May 16, 2019 11:50 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Okay, I'm int'rested…...


Thu May 16, 2019 1:50 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I really am looking forward to what happens next!


Thu May 16, 2019 2:37 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Oh! Another story from Coatl_Ruu? Sign me up! :D

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Thu May 16, 2019 7:20 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Thanks all! I'm trying to avoid front-loading with exposition too much, but it's a wrestling match between wanting to get to the action and not wanting to potentially turn off people who aren't familiar with the series.

A brief tangent on crossovers. The most interesting kind for me is variant where you say "these two settings now coexist in the same universe. What happens?" And the Dresden Files turns out to synthesize, like, shockingly well with Housepets in a way that it wouldn't with a lot of other settings. For example, I've seen a few Dresden Files/Harry Potter crossovers, which makes sense because it seems like the protagonists would have a lot to talk about ("You're a wizard named Harry, I'm a wizard named Harry ... your parents are dead, my parents are dead ..."). But in practice the author has to change tons of stuff and make a bunch of excuses because everyone at Hogwarts breaks the Dresden Files' Laws of Magic pretty much constantly. Hermione used the Time Turner? Capital crime. McGonagall turned Draco into a weasel? Beheading. Half the school would be getting taken out by the Wardens.

Housepets doesn't have the same issues. Dresden has a normal cat in the books? Cool, now the cat can talk. All proceeds more or less as usual.

I forgot to mention this in the OP, but I'm shooting for Tuesday/Thursday updates going forward. Should be manageable with the backlog I have.


Sat May 18, 2019 5:42 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
If that is the case then I can't wait until next Tuesday to see what you have planned next!


Sat May 18, 2019 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
There was a white and brown ferret in sunglasses standing in my doorway, holding out a paw for me to shake. “Keene Milton,” said the ferret. “Harry Dresden? I’ve got a job for you.”

Chapter 2

I looked back up the man standing in my doorway. “Very funny. Believe it or not, I’m busy.”

The man let out a long-suffering sigh. “As much as I wish it were, this is no joke, Mr. Dresden. My employer, Mr. Milton, was very insistent that we travel to Chicago and hire your services.” He paused. “Very. Insistent.”

Murphy had walked up to the door and stood at my side. She nodded at the man, then looked down at the ferret. Her eyebrows shot up. “Holy cow. Harry, you don’t know who that is?”

I looked down, nodding thoughtfully. Finally, I turned back to Murphy. “He sure does look like a ferret.”

Murphy grinned. “A Milton ferret. The Milton ferret.”

The ferret crossed his tiny arms and flashed me a glare. “Thank you.”

“The who-now ferrets?”

Keene’s scowl deepened.

“Henry Milton was the eccentric billionaire who left his fortune to his ferrets when he died. It was big news a while back.”

Billionaire? “I … don’t have a TV. Or get a newspaper”

“Or go out much,” Mister supplied.

“Thank you for helping,” I grumbled, pinching the bridge of my nose.

“Keene is sort of the head of the organization now,” Murph continued. “I saw him on Larry Fowler last week. It was … interesting.”

Larry Fowler was a loudmouth pundit with a talk show based in Chicago. Think Jerry Springer with less class. I’d been on his show a couple of times, most recently less than a month ago, and both had ended in disaster. Fowler was filing a lawsuit after the most recent debacle, which had culminated when I had fried all of his camera equipment with magic.

Allegedly. “Interesting?”

The man with the ferret grimaced. “Mr. Milton bit Mr. Fowler halfway through the interview.”

I perked up at that. “You don’t say?”

Keene had pushed up his sunglasses and was glaring daggers at me. “He seemed to think I was some kind of a joke.”

I grinned. “Did he freak out?”

“He sure did,” Murph said, glancing my way. “Trashed half the set trying to chase after him. They had to cut to commercial.”

The thought of Larry Fowler falling all over his own set on live TV filled me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I like to think I’m not a vengeful person, but indulging in a little bit of schadenfreude never hurt anyone. I bent down and held out my hand to the ferret, who looked like he was rapidly approaching a biting mood again. “Mr. Milton, please accept my sincerest apologies.”

He looked me up and down, then took the handshake. My hand sort of engulfed his paw.

Keene nodded, then snapped his fingers. “Right! On to business. Mr. Steward, come.” Then he marched past me and into my apartment.

“Um,” I blinked turning on my heel as the ferret slipped past me. “Of course you’re welcome to come in,” I mumbled belatedly. I stood aside for “Mr. Steward”, who gave me an apologetic look.

The ferret was in the process of getting himself situated on the couch, totally ignoring Mister, who looked mildly starstruck. “Holy cow, Harry. How does someone as lame as you get to meet Keene Milton?”

How did everyone know this ferret except me? “What can I say, maybe I’m cooler than you give me credit for.”

“Nah, that can’t be it.”

I scowled, watching as Mr. Steward popped open his briefcase and handed a sheaf of papers to Keene. “ … What did you want, again?” I asked, turning back to the ferret.

Keene leaned forward on the couch, paws clasped together. “Mr. Dresden, I have it on good authority that you’re a man who knows how to get things done.”

Ominous. “You could say that.”

“Tarot said I should come here and hire you, and I guess she’s a psychic or something, so it seemed like the right move.” The ferret spoke rapidly as he flipped through the papers.

“Psychic?” I asked, belatedly.

Keene barreled right past the question. “My dog went missing last night, and I hear from people who know people that you can track him down.”

I could feel a headache coming on. “Your dog?”

“Well he’s technically the legal property of the Equal Chance Program, which is a subsidiary of the Milton Estate, which makes him my dog by proxy.” Behind Keene’s back, Mr. Steward tilted his hand
back and forth in a ‘so-so’ gesture. The ferret was busy producing documents and pictures from the briefcase.

“His name’s King,” Keene continued. “Corgi, short, surly. His weird old Welsh owner disappeared yesterday so I put in the paperwork to adopt him, but then he went and vanished into thin air. Tarot said I should have this detective look for him in Chicago and here we are.” He handed a folder over to me and clasped his paws. “There’s some fur in there, Tarot said you would need it for something. I don’t judge. Now, on to the matter of your payment. Mr. Steward!”

I shook my head rapidly. It didn’t help the headache. I caught Murphy’s eye and I could tell she had made the same connection I had. Another missing dog. I started leafing through the folder. There was a picture of a grumpy-looking corgi paperclipped to a packet of vet records and adoption paperwork, along with a plastic baggie containing a clump of pale corgi fur.

Mr. Steward handed me some more paperwork and a check. “Standard stuff, Mr. Dresden,” Keene continued. “An advance, a retainer for the next few days, hourly payment for services rendered, blah blah blah. Mr. Steward can fill you in if you have any questions. Our contact information is in there somewhere. So you ‘ll take the job?”

“I -” I finally got around to looking at the amount written on the check and had to suppress a coughing fit. It was more than I’d made in the last two months, easily.

Keene apparently heard a ‘yes’ in there somewhere. “Great!” He clapped his paws together and stood. Mr. Steward handed me a pen, and I found myself signing and dating the contract.

“We’ll be in touch. Come, Steward!” Keene put on his sunglasses, snapped his fingers, and strode out the door. The beleaguered Mr. Steward collected his copy of the paperwork and tidied everything up into the briefcase before hurrying after the ferret.

I stared at the closing door in silence for a few moments.

Finally, Mister let out a snort of laughter. “That was amazing. You should see the look on your face right now, boss.

I rubbed my eyes. “If I never have to talk that ferret again it will be too soon.”

Murph shook her head, an amused twinkle in her eye. “I have to side with Mister here.”

“Thanks for having my back, Karrin.” I looked down at the folder in my hand.

Murph followed my gaze, her expression sobering. “Another missing dog.”

I nodded. “And this time the case came straight to me.”

“Weird coincidence.”

I shook my head. “Like I said before. Enemy action. Change in plans.” I stood and marched for the door, giving instructions as I walked. “Murph, like we discussed, we need to find a common denominator between all those dogs. We find where our warlock got his physical components, we find him.” I pulled my leather duster off a hook near the door. It was hot and humid out, but the duster was enchanted to stop everything from a knife to a rifle round and I didn’t want to take chances.

Karrin nodded and made to leave. I pulled the door open for her. “I’ll call your office if I find anything. And Harry? You turn something up, you tell me. You’re not making a move on this guy alone.”

I nodded tersely. Nothing more needed to be said. I’d have her back, she’d have mine. She nodded back and turned to walk up the stairs.
“Mister, Bob, you’re still canvassing. We need all the information we can get.” I paused for a moment. “Mister, how would you feel about letting Bob ride along? If we’re going up against a hostile magic-user, I don’t want to risk the skull falling into the wrong hands.”

Bob was a spirit of knowledge, entirely amoral and beholden to obey the orders of whoever physically possessed his skull. He had hundreds of years worth of magical knowledge, and in the wrong hands that would be a Bad Thing, capitalized.

Bob’s eyelights danced upward, and gave off the impression of waggling eyebrows. Mister glared down at him. “Don’t make it weird.” Then, with a practiced air, he intoned, “Bob, I give you permission to leave your skull and ride along in my head like a weird poltergeist, until such time as I tell you to get out.

“Duly noted,” Bob replied. Then, orange mist began to stream out of the skull’s eyeholes. It slowly snaked around the cat’s forearm, then zipped straight for the center of his forehead. Mister stumbled, blinked a few times, and shook himself.

Bob was a spirit without corporeal form. If he wanted to go out and about with his skull, he needed a host. And more often than not, that meant he got to share a head-space with my cat.

“Man, that always feels weird,” Mister grumbled.

Then he blinked, and his eyes flashed orange. Bob stretched out, arching Mister’s back and cracking his knuckles above his head. “I dunno, feels pretty good to me,” Bob said through my cat’s mouth.

Mister shook himself again, and his eyes were their normal blue-gray. “Also no taking over my body without asking,” he grumbled reproachfully, smoothing down his ruffled fur.

I slung my duffle back over my shoulder. It was full of tools of the wizardly trade - candles, chalk, Play-doh, matches, eldritch tomes. The usual. I also tucked in the identifying information and fur sample Mr. Steward had given me, then cast a sidelong glance at Mister. He was staring off into space, and I caught him muttering something under his breath. He went still, and an orange light flashed across his eyes.

“I get jittery when you two do the Vulcan mind-meld thing,” I grumbled, zipping up the duffel bag.

“And if I kill him, I can become the master? We would unstoppable,” rasped Mister, a malicious gleam in his eye. He blinked and looked at me with an unsettling smile. “Oops. Sorry, Harry. What were you saying?”

I reached down and scratched him behind the ears. “Very funny. You need bus fare?”

“Bus fare, hotdog fare, catnip fare, all of the above,” he said, ticking off the items on his fingers. I pulled out my wallet and opened it. I could imagine a little fly buzzing out of it. This job was going to be a godsend; I was dangerously low on funds.

“I have twenty-five dollars. Take it or leave it.”

Mister groaned. “But you just got paid by a billionaire.”

“I got a check, but right now I’m broke. You want the money or not?”

He rolled his eyes, but took the bills and tucked them into his collar, along with a list of addresses that Karrin had given me. “I’ll take a look around, see if Bob and I can find anything.”

“Oh!” I snapped my fingers and turned back to the couch. Mouse still sat there, panting happily, looking at us from under his head of shaggy fur. “You’re taking the dog. I don’t want to leave him here alone.”

Mister looked at me, aghast. “Harry, nooooo,” he whined. “What if someone sees me?”

I crossed my arms and gave Mister a look that I hoped was ‘stern’ rather than ‘tired and bewildered’. “Beat ‘em up if they make fun of you, I don’t really care. You want the money or not?”

Mister looked up at me. I stood there with my arms crossed, resolute. He looked at Mouse, who was panting happily. A drop of drool dripped from the puppy’s mouth and onto the couch. Mister looked back at me, pleading. I shook my head.

“Fiiine,” he groaned. “Come on, you little monster.” He pick up Mouse by the scruff of his neck and deposited the puppy on his shoulders to ride piggyback.

We made our way out the door. Mister glanced up at the sky and snatched an umbrella from the stand by the door, which currently contained three umbrellas, my staff, and a shotgun. I grabbed the staff, left the shotgun. The sky was growing dark and forbidding, but my coat would keep out the worst of the rain.

“We’ll meet at my office in a few hours. The first few addresses on the list are in that direction. You should be able to grab the bus. I’ll see if I can locate King.”

“On it, boss.” We walked up the steps. Before we parted ways I ruffled his ears again.

“Be safe. No dying.”

Mister grinned and elbowed me in the side. “No dying, Dresden. I’d never hear the end of it if the evil puppy-napper took you out.”

I rolled my eyes, and we went our separate ways.

Thunder rumbled, far off in the distance. That storm system was getting closer. Raindrops fell, few and sparse, but that was likely to change sooner rather than later. I cleared the space between my apartment and the Blue Beetle, my ancient Volkswagen Bug, in a few purposeful strides. The car was only nominally blue. I’d had to replace so many parts that it was impossible to tell what, if anything, was factory originally.

I yanked the door open on my second try and threw myself into the driver’s seat. Then I took off my mother's silver pentacle amulet and hung it from the rearview mirror. I reached into the plastic baggie and pulled out just a few wisps of fur.

I closed my eyes, breathing deep and slow. I’d hit a few dead ends this morning, and I couldn't doubt myself if I wanted the spell to work. Something about this was different. I could feel it. I took the wisp of fur, gently placed it in the center of the pentacle and closed my eyes again. Focusing on the image of King, I gathered my will. Then I released the energy through my silver necklace and out into the world.

I opened my eyes. As though an invisible hand was pulling on it, my amulet pointed due north. My relief that the spell had worked felt like a physical weight being lifted off my shoulders. I allowed myself a victorious fist-pump before I started the car and drove off in pursuit of the first real lead I'd had all day.

The tracking spell lead me north along Lake Shore Drive. As I drove past Soldierly Field, the amulet slowly began to pivot. By the time I had passed the Field Museum half a mile or so to the north, the amulet was pointing toward the back of the Beetle's cab, due south-west. I pulled off to the side of the road, took the amulet off my rear-view mirror, and sighted down along it. The stately museum of natural history and less stately football stadium filled most of my view, but my tracking spell seemed to be guiding me past them, out onto a wooded peninsula that jutted out into the lake. Unless King had decided to go for a swim in Lake Michigan, I was getting close.

I pulled back onto the road and turned off on the next right, toward the history museum. The garbage weather seemed to have driven all the usual patrons home, and I didn't see many other cars on the road. So I parked the Beetle illegally on the road across from the main entrance to the museum and went forward on foot.

By then the storm clouds loomed dangerous above me. Lightning flashed just off shore, and a cool wind was blowing in off the lake. Rain was falling steadily. I pulled my duster closer around my body and marched purposefully off in the direction my tracking spell indicated.

Well, I tried to march purposefully. "Trudged miserably" might have been more accurate. The rain was really picking up.

I had a feeling I was going to be doing a lot of trudging, especially if this dog didn't want to be seen. My tracking spell had a real limitation in that it only told me what direction my target was in, not how far away. Fortunately, the lake put a hard upper limit on distance. Unfortunately, there was still a good bit of ground to cover.

I made my way across the bridge to the peninsula, toward the planetarium. A couple of school buses were parked outside. I walked toward the lake, around the northern side of the building. The wind was really picking up, and I had to shield my face from the fishy freshwater spray.

By the time I had reached the northernmost point of the peninsula, my pendant was pointing due south.
With a grimace, I flipped up the mantle of my duster to try and shield my face from the lashing spray and rain, but I had a feeling I'd be going home wet.

My spell led me south. The northern half of the island was home to a few buildings, namely the planetarium, but the southern half was a park and wildlife preserve, devoid of human habitation. On this day in particular the island was totally deserted. The sounds of the city still echoed on the edge of my hearing, but they were almost totally drowned out by the sound of waves lashing the coast and the thunder.

I felt an eerie prickling at the back of my neck. I was no Peter Parker, but over the years I've developed a keen sense for danger. Some part of this was deeply suspicious. But it's not like I was going to go back now that I was sure the dog I was looking for was on the island.

I found him in a stand of trees right on the coast, huddled at the foot of a tall pine tree. I pulled the picture out of my pocket. It was of a wide-eyed corgi who was acting like the cameraman had just jumped out of a bush at him. The appearance was a perfect match.

That had been easy. I started to get suspicious when things were easy.

Nonetheless, I jogged over, eager to grab the dog before the storm began in earnest. I crouched down next to the dog. He had his back to the tree, head bowed, hugging his knees to his chest.

"King?" I asked. The dog mumbled something in response and rolled over, away from me.

No way. We were practically in the middle of a thunderstorm. The dog couldn't possibly be asleep. "Hey, King," I said, a little louder, and reached out to shake the corgi's shoulder. "Rise and shine, buddy." The dog shrugged off my hand. "Aunty 'Em, Auntie 'Em!" I raised my voice. "There's a twister a-comin'!" I shook his shoulder again. "Are you alright? We need to get inside. Come on, bud, it's nasty out here."

King sat up with a theatrical groan and rubbed at his eyes. Blinking, he looked around, confused. "Leave me alone, Fox," he mumbled under his breath. Until his eyes found the tall, lanky, duster-clad wizard crouched down next to him.

"Nope," I said. "Harry Dresden."

"Whatever," King grumbled, massaging his temple with one paw. "I feel like I have a ... hangover. That can't be right."

"Hitting the orange soda too hard?" I deadpanned.

"Something like ... exactly that." King looked around. I could see his ears slowly flatten back against his head as he took in his surroundings - tall trees, crashing waves. "Where am I?"

"Chicago." Another clap of thunder sounded off, close enough that I could almost feel it around me. We coth flinched, and I reached out to King's shoulder again. "Listen, you'll feel better if we get inside. Your owner sent me to-"

King slapped my hand away. "Pete can bite my tail, and so can you!" The corgi staggered to his feet with a defiant snarl and, before I could react, looked me right in the eyes. Almost before I realized it was happening, I could feel a soulgaze coming on.

I looked away in a hurry, and the moment passed. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was the last thing either of us needed right now. No one has ever told me what they see in me during a soulgaze, but I can’t imagine it’s pretty. I’ve had a rough life, done some bad things. My soul can’t be a pretty place to see.

I sat down cross-legged across from King, my duster squelching in the sodden earth. The corgi looked at me warily, eyes roving around like he was contemplating making a run for it. I took a deep breath and held up both hands, palm out. “I don’t know who Pete is. I got hired by some rich ferret to come find you. It sounds like you’re a long way from home.”

King seemed to relax just a hair. “Ferret? Not a creepy old guy in a suit and a bowler cap?”

I leaned forward, elbows on my knees. My legs were already starting to cramp up. “I hope it’s reassuring that I have no idea who you’re talking about,” I said with what I hoped was a winning smile but probably looked like an uncomfortable grimace. Man, I needed to shave.

“Huh,” the dog muttered. Then he finally got around to surveying his surroundings. “Wait, we’re where?”

“Chicago. Shore of Lake Michigan. Like I said. Long way from home.” There it was again; a feeling like an itch on the back of my neck, a sense of foreboding. There was another clap of thunder, closer this time. The wind was picking up.

King was still looking at me warily, like he couldn’t quite decide whether he should make a run for it. “How did you find me?”

“Magic."

King blinked some water out of his eyes, and his expression darkened. “I hate magic,” he grumbled.

That caught me a little off guard. “This is usually the part where you say ‘magic’s not real’.”

King rubbed his eyes and gave his head a vigorous shake. “Yeah, that ship has well and truly sailed.”

I started to get to my feet. “Put a pin in that thought. Let’s get going.”

As if on cue, something let out an echoing howl and slammed into me from behind.

******************************

Cliffhangers are fun, right? Hope there wasn't too much much exposition. Like I said, I wanted to get to the action without frontloading too much, and we've made it there.


Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Fri May 24, 2019 9:42 am, edited 3 times in total.



Mon May 20, 2019 9:24 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Oh just wait until you get to know King's circumstances. Then you will understand why he hates magic. XD


Mon May 20, 2019 10:32 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
As if on cue, something let out an echoing howl and slammed into me from behind.

Chapter 3

My duster is more than just an awesome coat. Over the years I've weaved enchantments into it to protect me from the various bad guys and nasties who try to kill me on a regular basis. It's immune to fire and, crucially, stabproof.

That's what saved my life. Instead of skewering me, my attacker bowled me over, knocking me down on top of King. And maybe breaking a few ribs in the process. Pain exploded through my back.

As soon as I hit the ground I rolled over, desperate to face my attacker. Half blinded by the wind and rain, I thrust out my left hand and shouted "Forzare!" A blast of pure force exploded out in a shockwave from my outstretched palm, catching my attacker in the stomach. It flew back over twenty feet, then landed deftly on all fours and skidded to a halt, digging deep furrows in the wet earth. With a low growl, it slowly rose back to its full height, towering a full head over me.

The creature looked like a wolf, or maybe a jackal, lean and jet black, with eyes that smoldered an angry red and a winged spear that had nearly skewered me.

It reminded an awful lot of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. That was probably a bad sign.

I scrambled to my feet and King did the same. "Oh my dog, what is that," he hissed from his hiding place behind my leg.

"Demon," I growled. "Stay behind me."

King gulped audibly. “Yes sir, will do."

The canine shape squared its shoulders and leveled its spear at me once again. It let out another howl, and I could see its legs tense for an attack.

I didn’t intend to give it the chance. "Ventas servitas!" I let loose a blast of gale-force wind, powerful enough to blast branches off trees in its wake. But the wolf-monster was ready for me. It leapt clear of my attack and plunged through the air at me and the dog.

With a high-pitched, manly shout I grabbed King by the collar and dove clear of the demon's attack. The head of the spear sliced through the air inches from my neck and plunged deep into the trunk of the tree.

The demon let out a fearsome growl and wheeled around on me and the dog. With a snarl, it yanked its weapon free of the tree trunk in a spray of wood chips and sawdust. It didn’t even look like it had tried that hard. Tall, dark, and toothy grabbed the shaft of the spear in both paws and turned toward me, murder in its eyes.

With a surge of panic I struggled to get back to my feet, but the creature sprang at us and I knew I had less than a second to act. With an effort of will I thrust out my right fist, unleashing the kinetic energy stored in one of the three silver rings I wore. The blast was low, and it swept the legs out from under the wolf-thing and made a crater in the ground behind it. The jackal tripped forward and lost its grip on the spear.

So instead of gutting me it only slammed me ten feet into the air and drove me into the mud. Whoopee. My head smacked against a tree root, sending stars swimming across my vision. I felt something grab me by the throat and force me to the ground. I gasped for air, but I could barely breathe. The demon was pinning me to the ground, one paw around my throat.

Then the monster's head snapped around, back toward King. And it spoke.

"Mortal.” Its voice was a low, echoing baritone with a strange, unplaceable accent. "Mortal. I know thy true name."

A chill ran down my spine. That was bad. Very, very bad.

Your Name, capital N, has Power, capital P. If a being knows the true name of a mortal, their name as they speak it, then that being has immense power over that mortal.

If the demon knew King's Name, there was no telling what it would do to him. If it was powerful enough, it could leverage his Name to make him do pretty much anything, lay a curse on him, make his heart explode, all kinds of nastiness. And this thing was no pushover. I raised my hand to summon up another blast of force but the jackal shoved me back into the soft ground. I drove my knee up into the thing’s stomach but it barely flinched.

I could see King, paralyzed with fear, standing by the tree. "King!" I gasped. "Run! You have to get away!" He looked down at me, then back at the monster, paralyzed.

"Joel," the monster hissed. "I bind thee. Thou art a servant to mine will."

I felt a chill run down my spine when I saw the look of horrified recognition on King’s face.

"Joel."

The dog stumbled, eyes wide with fright.

"Zachariah."

He turned to run, but he tripped over his feet, falling to the ground.

"Robinson."

King’s shoulders slumped, his head bowed. I let out a snarl and thrashed, trying to shift my body. My right had was pinned to the ground, but I still had two rings left, fully charged. If I could just get my hand free ...

"Yes," said the demon. "You are mine." The words echoed ominously. King kneeled, water dripping down his bowed face. His paws were balled up into fists, and his shoulders shook. I managed to suck in a lungful of air.

“King!” I rasped. “Fight it!”

“You cannot fight me, mortal,” came the monster’s response. King was was firmly rooted in place, seemingly unable to stand.

This wasn’t working. I needed to keep the demon’s attention off of King while I figured out a way to get us out of this.

“Hey ugly,” I growled.

The wolf looked down at me, red eyes blazing. “This does not concern you, wizard. Be silent and I may let you live.”

“Clearly we haven’t met. I don’t really do ‘silent’.”

“Clearly,” the jackal replied, unearthly voice dripping with contempt. It looked back to King.

So I spat in its face.

The jackal grabbed me by my coat, leapt to its feet, and hurled me fifteen feet away. My stomach lurched as I tumbled through the air, landing in a heap on the ground at the foot of a nearby tree.

The force of the impact knocked the breath out of my lungs, and black spots danced across my vision. I shook my head to clear my vision, and I could see the demon staring right at me as it rose to its full height.

So I definitely had its attention. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

“You are troublesome, wizard,” the demon growled. “I may kill you after all.”

I painfully gathered myself up and climbed to my feet. The jackal-demon stalked toward me, clenching and unclenching its hands. I just then noticed the stout, sharp claws that tipped each finger. I
steadied myself, ring-hand outstretched.

“Stay, Joel,” the jackal called over its shoulder.

The corgi’s shoulders shook, paws balled into fists.

Then, slowly, King raised his head, eyes narrowed in a defiant glare. He started to rise to his feet. “Eat my tail, flea hotel,” he spat. “You don’t tell me what to do.”

“What!?” The jackal wheeled on the corgi, turning its back to me. I saw the chance, and I took it, sprinting headlong at the monster.

It turned to look at me in time to see my fist connect with its chin. In that same instant I released all the energy in my remaining two rings. There was a sound like a crack of thunder, and the jackal was flung into the air, through the branches of the trees and out of sight.

A few moments later, there was a distant splash.

I stood there, breathing hard, waiting for the that ghostly howl to split the air, but it didn’t come. The storm still raged on as though nothing had happened, wind howling through the trees above us and rain falling in sheets. I was soaked, tired, and everything between my waist and my head ached horribly.

Pretty much an average day on the job.

I limped over to King. The dog was climbing shakily to his feet, blinking the water out of his eyes. “Who did you say you were again?

“Harry Dresden. Professional wizard. I held out a hand to steady King, and he took it, rising to his feet. “Keene Milton sent me to come find you. Want to get out of here?”

King shook himself, still trying to catch his breath. “Please.”

******************************

I pulled the door to the Beetle closed with a grunt. My back and head were still killing me. I shifted into neutral, put the keys in the ignition, and started my faithful old junker. The engine revved to life with all the grace and power of an old lawnmower, but it started. I cranked up the one cabin fan that still worked, tossed my dripping duster into the back seat, and leaned back. I reached next to the driver's seat and pulled out a slightly dingy towel to dry my face with.

King was sitting in the passenger's seat, dripping wet and still looking a little shell-shocked. He glanced down at one of his feet and gave a vaguely irritated kick, splashing water onto the dashboard.

I gave him a level look. "I swear to God, if you do the thing where you shake water all over my car, I'm pitching you in the lake." Before he could reply I pulled another old towel out of the back seat of the Beetle and tossed it at him. The corgi caught it with his face. Grumbling, he started to dry himself, starting with the ears and working his way down. I settled for toweling off my face and arms.

I closed my eyes and sat there, leaning back against my seat, while King groomed himself. I waited until the ruffling sounds coming from my passenger's seat quieted.

"So," I said, glancing over at the corgi. He was sitting there with arms crossed, looking at me like he wasn't sure if he should be thanking me or running for the hills. It's a specific look I've seen more than I'd like to admit. I flashed him a cheery grin. “What brings you to the Windy City?”

King blinked, opened his mouth, closed it again. Then he let out a weak, sputtering laugh. Even smiled a little bit, wonder of wonders. Sure, we were in a fairly high-stress situation, but he was probably the most high-strung dog I’d ever met. “Seriously, that’s the first question you ask?”

I shrugged. The rain was coming down hard outside, and the windshield was fogging up something fierce. The defroster couldn’t keep up. I reached out and idly doodled a smiley face in the fog. “It’s a valid question. When your weird ferret ‘owner’ came to me with the job, I thought maybe you just ran away, hopped a bus or something. But then he mentioned that some psychic dog named
Tarot knew where you were.” I paused, looked over at him. Our eyes locked again, and again I looked away before the soulgaze could begin. The name had definitely gotten a reaction, but the sodden corgi stayed silent.

“Then I track you down, and not five minutes after we meet a demon shows up, thinks it’s on a first name basis with you, and tries to claim your soul or something. Most people would be losing their minds right now, but it seems like you’ve seen this kind of thing before. Makes a guy wonder.” I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, staring out the front of the car. “A bunch of dogs went missing from their homes last night. Know anything about that?”

The corgi’s brow furrowed. “No.”

I nodded, thoughtful. “Any idea why a demon would be after you?”

King froze for a moment, then looked back down at his feet. “Nope.”

“Know someone named Tarot?”

King very studiously kept a straight face. “Yep.”

“She a wizard or something?”

“Or something.”

I wiped away the smiley face with a towel and started to clear off the windshield. The rain was coming down steadily, but the wind wasn’t gusting quite as hard. “Keene said you disappeared last night. What happened?”

King’s eyes went wide at that, mouth opened, then clamped shut. He again decided his feet were in urgent need of intense study. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he grumbled, kicking the underside of the dashboard.

I nodded. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Maybe we can talk about something else. Who’s Joel?”

At that King’s ears went flat against his head and he got a little red in the face. He wheeled to face me. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” he growled.

It was almost cute, but I was starting to get a little impatient. We had a brief staring contest, and again I broke eye contact first.

“Fine, whatever you want,” I said, shifting the car into gear. It chugged along gamely as I backed out of the spot. “Just saying, I don’t have all the details, but you’re in the company of a bona-fide wizard, who’s trying to understand whatever your odd and obviously supernatural problem is. Maybe don’t be so quick to shut me down.” It came out a little snippier than I’d intended, but I’d just saved the fleabag from a bloodthirsty demon. How about a little gratitude?

“I don’t think you …” King’s voice trailed off. I heard him take in a few deep breaths and slowly let them out. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I kept my eyes on the road. We drove north along the lake through the rain, the sound of waves crashing on the coast just barely audible in the damp cabin of the Blue Beetle.

I broke the silence first. “We’re heading back to my office. I’ll give Milton a call, they’ll come pick you up, we can get out of each other’s hair. I get paid, you go home. Easy peasy. Everyone’s happy.”

I glanced over at him, meeting his eyes just long enough to see him reluctantly nod.

“What is that you keep doing?”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You keep looking at me, and I get this weird vertigo feeling until you look away. The first time I thought I was having an anxiety attack or something.” King looked at me suspiciously. “You’re not trying to mind control me or something, are you?”

“Absolutely not,” I said, my voice hard and flat. “No. No mind whammies. It’s … you ever have awkward eye contact with a stranger?”

“Most of my contact is awkward,” King grumbled.

I tried and failed to stifle a snort of laughter at that. It took King a second to catch on, but when he did his face flushed red again and he slapped a paw to his forehead.

“Ignore me,” he groaned.

“Sorry,” I grinned, shaking my head. “But yeah. You make eye contact with someone, and it feels kind of weirdly personal, and then you both look away and that’s it. For wizards, it’s different. If we
look someone in the eyes for too long, it starts something called a soulgaze.”

King seemed to be recovering his composure. “Meaning what?”

“Meaning I get a vision of the heart of that person’s being. Their spirit or soul or whatever you want to call it. And they get to look into me in return. Tends to be weird and intense. I try to avoid it.” I glanced over at King, waggling my eyebrows for emphasis. The corgi yelped and immediately looked back at his feet. I reached over and gave him a friendly scratch behind the ears.

“Relax, King. It’s not like I’m going to stare you down and make it happen.” I paused for effect, then lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper “Unless you have some kind of dark secret I might want to know.”

“How long until we get back to your office?” the corgi asked, a little more loudly than necessary.

“Just a few minutes.” I gave King a sidelong glance. He was looking out the window now, very pointedly not looking me in the eye.

That had struck a nerve. The disappearance, the demon, the name, and now this. Just how much was the little guy hiding?

******************************

Whoo, first action beat! Hope it was worth the buildup.

This is probably the section I did the most rewriting on, so if there's something in here that doesn't make sense, let me know. It might be orphaned from a previous version of the chapter. This was also where I toyed around with the overall layout of the story. In retrospect, it would work perfectly well to start the story as a whole with Dresden finding King (or, if I went from an entirely different POV, with King waking up to see Dresden). Food for thought.


Thu May 23, 2019 6:40 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I'll have to read this sometime. I like the dreadsen files, I wan tto say love but I havn't read them enough times for that. (I'm fairly certain my main introduction to them was in graphic novel, which is not one of the two ways people generaly get introduced to it.)

Dreadson Files fall into a special interest Genera for me, Contemporary Fantasy/Peranormal Fiction. So, sorry that I'm so late to this party, I can't wait to buckle down and actualy read this sometime.

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Thu May 23, 2019 9:47 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Well you won't be sorry when you do get around to reading this because it is indeed quite a treat! I really love how this chapter that came out was put together! Wonderful job!


Thu May 23, 2019 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
From reclamation to explanation - always a key transition. Looking forward to it!


Thu May 23, 2019 2:18 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
The positive feedback is much appreciated, everyone! I'm doing pretty well keeping a backlog, so maintaining this update schedule shouldn't be a problem. I have probably 3-4 major scenes left to write, so I'm guessing by the time it's done, Long Wolf will be about as long as one of the official DF shorts stories.

22xander, glad to hear there are more fans of the Dresden Files on here! Keep with it, pretty much every book is better than the last. As an aside, to anyone who's interested in the series based on what you've seen here, I would recommend starting with book 3. The first two aren't bad, exactly, they're just kind of amateurish by the standards of the books that follow. And you don't really miss much plot-wise.


Sat May 25, 2019 11:38 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
That had struck a nerve. The disappearance, the demon, the name, and now this. Just how much was the little guy hiding?

Chapter 4

By the time we pulled up outside the building where I rented my office space, the rain had slowed down to a light drizzle. Thunder still rumbled in the distance, but it was nothing compared to the storm that had been raging earlier. The sun was struggling to peek through the clouds, and I could already tell that it was going to be a hot and humid nightmare later. I stepped out of the Blue Beetle, slowly and painfully. I was going to have a pretty good-sized lump on my head, and my shoulder felt like one big bruise where the spear had hit me.

I closed my door on the third try and shrugged off my duster. Well, I peeled it off. Leather and humidity don’t mix.
King followed me into the lobby. When we marched right past the elevator and to the stairs, he gave me a plaintive look.

“Nope,” I said without looking back. I pushed open the door to the stairwell.

“Why not?” he grumbled.

“Scorpion demon.”

King stopped in his tracks. “Scorpion demon,” he said flatly.

I nodded sagely. “Scorpion demon. It tried to kill me and smashed the elevator, so I set it on fire. They never got around to fixing the elevator, though. Come on, fourth floor.”

King stared at me a for a long moment, then followed.

The corgi was huffing and puffing by the time we made it to my office. I wasn’t sure if it was the stubby legs, or if he just needed more exercise. Maybe both. I pushed open the door to my rented office space. It was made of old wood, with a frosted glass window emblazoned with my name and services:

HARRY DRESDEN—WIZARD
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties,
Or Other Entertainment.

Same as my business cards. King eyed it dubiously as we walked inside.

My office was nothing to write home about. A few filing cabinets pushed against one wall, a table with a coffee pot and a few informational fliers with titles like “Magic For Dummies”. In the center, a desk covered in a debris of papers and folders face the door. Mister was leaning back in my chair, his wet feet propped up on my desk, a mug in one hand and the morning news in the other.

I sniffed the air. “Did you make coffee?”

“Decaf for me, regular for you. Don’t say I never did anything for you, boss.” Mister glanced up over the paper, and when he saw King his nose wrinkled like he’d just found a cockroach in his Fancy Feast. “Oh, you found the dog. Great.” He turned his attention back to the paper.
I sighed and gestured toward the sodden corgi. “Mister, this is King. Be nice.” I gestured to my cat. “King, this is Mister. Ignore him.”

“You wound me, Harry,” Mister said without looking up from the paper. “Hey, the dognapping made page three. Looks like the final count was thirty-eight.”

King’s head snapped up. “Dognapping?” The corgi had been leaning against one of my ancient chairs, catching his breath. Now my cat had his full attention.

“Yep,” Mister continued. “Some crazy sorcerer has been snatching up dogs from all over the city to sacrifice in a dark ritual.” The cat waggled his fingers and adopted a quavering ‘spooky’ voice. “And you might be next.”

King was not amused when he turned from the cat to me. “Translation?”

I left my duster on a hook near the door and pulled the police reports Murph had left with me out of my duffel bag. “Well, some kind of sorcerer mesmerized a bunch of dogs and made them flee from their homes to some hidden secondary location. The dark ritual part is …” Plausible? “ … some creative speculation on the part of my cat.” I started for my desk, but took a moment to look around the office. Something was missing here.

From somewhere off in the corner of the room there was a muffled, metallic-sounding bark. I folded my arms across my chest. “Mister.”

The cat didn’t look up from his newspaper. “Yeah, boss?”

“Mister, if I open the bottom drawer of that filing cabinet will there be a dog in there?”

The cat shrugged. “I plead the fifth.”

I sighed. “King, could you please open the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet?”

The corgi trudged over and pulled open the drawer. A furball head exploded out to greet him, tiny tongue lolling happily out of his mouth. The corgi let out a surprised yelp and stumbled back, and the puppy was dragged along with him, letting out a happy bark before giving him a big wet lick across the face.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and took a swig. “King, Mouse. Mouse, King.”

King finally managed to extricate himself from the ball of friendly puppy and got to his feet, spluttering and wiping slobber off of his face. Mister glanced at him over the paper. “I thought dogs liked drooling all over each other.”

The corgi finished drying himself as best he could. “I’m not like most dogs.”

“Maybe I won’t hate you, then.” Mister glanced back at the paper.

“Thank you?”

“You still smell.”

I took that as my cue. “Alright kids, time to get to work. King, if you want to dry off there’s a bathroom down the hall. Mister, did you guys turn anything up?”

Mister put down the paper and let the front legs of the chair touch the ground. “Well, that depends. By ‘turn anything up’, do you mean did we find any evidence that could point us in the direction of our perp?” Mister paused to take a drink from his own mug, stifling a grimace. Did he even like coffee? “If that’s what you meant, then no, not really.”

Well, it had been a long shot. “Bob?”

Mister sighed. “Go ahead.” His eyes flashed orange.

“Thanks,” Bob said. He immediately leaned back in the chair again. It was a little precarious - Mister was big, but he could barely touch the ground with both feet. “Let’s talk magical residuals, Harry. I definitely got the impression that someone had been working a ritual, but it was diffuse. Vague. Probably wasn’t very strong to begin with, and then the sunrise wiped away whatever was left. Good news is, that means I was right on the money, as usual. The weak magical residue indicates that the ritual was distributed, like it would be if it had many different targets.”

Bad news and good news. We were no closer to finding our perp, but we knew we were looking in the right direction.

“Also, Murphy called earlier. She found a pet grooming salon that literally all of the dogs had been to in the past week. It’s called Fluff ‘n Suds, north end of Uptown.”

I stared at him. “Why didn’t you lead with that?”

Mister/Bob pouted. “Hey, we wanted to tell you our thing first.” The cat leaned in closer, orange light dancing in his eyes. “By the way Harry, Mister wouldn’t say it, but come on. Murphy. When are you two gonna, you know -”

“Alright Mister, that’s enough,” I said over the rest of Bob’s comment, rubbing the bridge of my nose. “Give me the address. We’ll drop off King and -” Mister was looking over my shoulder, waggling his eyebrows. I glanced back and saw King staring open mouthed at the cat as the orange light fled from his eyes. A
“Magic For Dummies” pamplet slipped out of the corgi’s hands and onto the floor.

“ … We thought you were in the bathroom,” I said.

“You alright over there, shorty?” Mister asked.

King shook himself, blinked a few times, and picked up the pamphlet. “Perfect. Never better.”

We got ready to head out. I checked the clock on the far wall - it was barely noon. We were making shockingly good time. I found one lost dog and now we were hot on the trail of the rest. I thought back to my earlier concerns - this all seemed too easy, demon attack notwithstanding. Now I just had to wait for the other shoe to drop. Call me a pessimist, but at least I’m never disappointed when things go bad.

Mister gathered up Mouse and some of the newer police reports into my duffle bag while I scribbled down some addresses and made a call to the pet salon. King stayed in the corner, studying the pamphlet and watching Mister out of the corner of his eye.

“Alright,” I clapped my hand against my thigh and stood. “Everyone to the Beetle. King, it’s been a pleasure, but I have some business to take care of. We’ll take you by the hotel that Weasel von Moneybags is staying at and you’ll be on your merry way.”

King still had the pamphlet in his hands as he stood, folding and unfolding the old paper. “Um. Dresden?”

“Harry. What’s up?”

“Before we leave, could I talk to you?”

He flashed a pointed look at Mister, who flashed the corgi a too-wide smile. “Alone?” King asked, stressing the word.

I pulled my keys out of my pocket and tossed them to my cat. “Mister, start the car. We’ll be down in a minute.”

“Or, or, or, I could set the car on fire so you could buy a new one.”

“Start the car,” I stressed. “We’ll be down in a minute.”

Mister let out an exaggerated, long-suffering groan, shouldered the duffel bag, and walked out. On his way he leaned over to King, and I saw a flash of orange in his eyes. “Boo!” Bob hissed. King yelped and flinched away. I pitched a pencil at the back of Mister’s head on his way out the door. “Keep walking!”

There was a chair outside the door to my office and another behind my desk. I pulled both of them into the center of the room so they faced each and indicated one to King. The corgi pulled himself up and took a seat, still fidgeting with the pamphlet. I sat down across from him, feeling as tall and gangly as every compared to the dog. “I apologize for my cat,” I said quietly. “He has all of my mouth and none of my charm.”

“It’s not that,” King shook his head. “I’ve dealt with worse.”

“Then what’s up?”

King stared at the floor, kicking his foot back and forth. I felt a pang of sympathy. The guy must have been processing a lot.

“Can you wait to drop me off with the Miltons?” he asked hesitantly.

I cocked an eyebrow at him. “I kind of thought you’d be running for the hills by now, honestly. Are you saying that you actually want to spend more around me than you absolutely have to?”

“Yes … well … sort of.” He gave me a wary look. “I mean, I still kind of think you’re a crazy person.”

Couldn’t blame him there.

“But at the same time I don’t think I’m ready to go home just yet,” he continued. “And …” He paused again, ears back, a look of frustration on his face. One leg bounced restlessly. King apparently wasn’t having an easy time opening up. Again, I could commiserate. Not like I was exactly open and honest about my feelings with everyone. I waited, trying to look as non-judgemental as I could.

King let out a shaky breath and looked up, meeting my eyes briefly. “I think you might be one of the only people I’ve met who can help me with my … problem. I just don’t know how to ask for that help yet. I need time to figure it out.”

I nodded slowly, and King took a deep breath, steeling himself. He looked up again, jaw set, even daring to meet my eyes for a just a moment. “And I want to help you get the dogs back.”

There were a lot of reasons to say no. Mister was my lab assistant and partner in crime. He was quick-thinking, light on his feet, and with Bob in his head he was a capable practitioner in his own right. I could count on him in a pinch. King was inexperienced and emotionally volatile. I couldn’t be sure that he would hold it together if things went south later today. We were just going to be visiting a pet salon, sure, but a few years ago a ghoul tried to shoot me in a park. Stranger things have happened.

But at the same time, I could tell something was off here, something that might tie into the missing dog case. I would have to win King’s trust to get the information, and that meant letting him ride along.

More than either of those two things, though, someone had just asked me for help, and I had a nearly pathological need to say yes. By the time he hit me with the puppy dog eyes it was practically a foregone conclusion. I let blew out a heavy sigh. “Okay.”

His head shot up. “Wait, really?”

“On one condition. You do what I say, when I say it. I say jump, you say how high. I say run?”

“Um,” he fumbled for the answer. “How fast?”

“Trick question. You just got eaten. I run, you run, no questions asked. You’re not fast enough, I’ll carry you by the scruff if I have to. You good with all that, shortstack?”

I could see him physically bite back a retort, but he swallowed his pride. “Yes,” he said, albeit through gritted teeth.

I held out my hand to King. “Then we’ve got a deal. Shake.”

He did. When we stood and walked for the door, the corgi was holding himself up just a little straighter.

*****************************

This chapter turned out a little shorter than the previous few, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. No high-stakes fights to the death (yet, mwahahaha), just some setup and fun character interactions.


Tue May 28, 2019 9:50 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
How did I not notice this sooner? You’ve done a great job combining the two worlds in a way that feels right. I will be following this story with great interest.

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Tue May 28, 2019 1:10 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I just came across this and really enjoy it so far. I haven't read Butcher in a while, but I read a lot of these books and you've got his style down really well. Looking forward to the rest.

Edited to add: It's almost too bad you have Mouse as a puppy. As an adult dog in the HP universe, he'd be the Andre the Giant of dogs!

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Tue May 28, 2019 2:05 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Like what I am reading so far! I do have to shamefully admit that for the first few chapters I thought Harry was an anthro pet. XD


Tue May 28, 2019 3:49 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Legotron123 Wrote:
How did I not notice this sooner? You’ve done a great job combining the two worlds in a way that feels right. I will be following this story with great interest.

Thanks! I set out to make it feel like these two settings were essentially part of the same world, rather than transplanting Dresden Files characters into Housepets or vice versa.
dr_eirik Wrote:
I just came across this and really enjoy it so far. I haven't read Butcher in a while, but I read a lot of these books and you've got his style down really well. Looking forward to the rest.

Edited to add: It's almost too bad you have Mouse as a puppy. As an adult dog in the HP universe, he'd be the Andre the Giant of dogs!

The Dresden Files has a really distinctive narrative voice, so I'm glad to be doing a decent job emulating it. As far as Mouse, I went back and forth on whether I wanted giant-Mouse or puppy-Mouse. Puppy-Mouse won out because Mister can't put giant-Mouse in a filing cabinet.
Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
Like what I am reading so far! I do have to shamefully admit that for the first few chapters I thought Harry was an anthro pet. XD

I meeeaaan. I guess I never specified one way or the other, so I'll have to let you off the hook. : P


Wed May 29, 2019 9:25 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Chapter 5

I pulled the Blue Beetle up to the curb and switched off the ignition. My ancient, much-abused car rattled to a stop and fell quiet. From his awkward perch on the wooden boards that made up the back seat of my car, King breathed an audible sigh of relief and released his death grip on the ‘emergency handle’. The Beetle’s seatbelts had fallen victim to mold demons, along with most of the interior.

Don’t ask.

Mister slowly looked at me from the passenger’s seat, eyebrow raised.

"What?" I snapped. "It still runs."

"Harry, this thing is held together with zip ties and bubblegum. I'm shocked every time we get to where we're going and it doesn't fall apart."

"What can I say. We're on a mission from God." I clapped my hands together. “Right. Pile out, gang.” We disembarked. Mister and I stepped out and closed the doors with the benefit of experience - Mister had to really lean into it, but he got the door to shut. King stepped out a little unsteadily and pushed the door closed. And pushed. And pushed. Finally, Mister stepped over and gave the door a solid thump with his paw. It latched, and King gave him a reproachful look, panting slightly as he stepped away.

The sun was a pale disk behind the heavy clouds. The heat and humidity were already almost stifling. My duster lay in the back seat of the Beetle, along with my staff and most of my magical tools. All I had with me were my mostly-depleted rings and my pentacle amulet. And a puppy. Mouse was riding on my shoulders, fast asleep against the back of my head. It would have been adorable if I weren’t sweating so much.

People were giving me looks as they passed on the street, and I couldn’t blame them. Tall gangly guy in a t-shirt and sweatpants, standing around outside a broken-down car with his bedraggled pets. As naked as I felt without the duster, in this neighborhood there was a ninety-percent chance some middle-aged housewife would have call the cops on me if I’d been wearing it. In any case, attention wasn’t what I wanted right now. I motioned to King and Mister, and they followed me up to salon’s doorstep.

The storefront was bright and inviting. A light-up sign in a cartoonish font displayed the name - “Fluff-’n-Suds” - alongside a sickeningly cute puppy in an old tin wash-tub. We paused outside the doorway, and I leaned down to give a speech to my troops, such as they were.

"Alright, kids, here's the deal. Our bad guy might be in there right now. It is hugely important that we don't spook him. So, while we're in there, I am your doting owner, and you are my loyal pets.Got it?"

“Got it.” King nodded, a hard look in his eyes.

Mister rolled his eyes so hard I was worried they would fall out of their sockets. Sometimes I wondered if my cat was turning out a little bit too much like me.

"Hey sourpuss. If we don't stop this guy more people are gonna get hurt. I need you to put on your game face."

The cat's dour look softened.

"And if you keep up the act the whole time we're in there I'll pick up salmon on the way home. And the new Pridelands book."

Mister's eyes immediately went wide and he flashed me a huge, sparkling smile. "Wow, thanks dad!" he exclaimed, and before I could stop him wrapped me in a tight hug.

A passing couple gave us an odd look, and I felt my face redden. "Alright, take it down a few notches, smart alec."

"You did specify 'loyal'," came a muffled, gleeful whisper from somewhere in the vicinity of my chest. Mister let go and looked up at me with a malicious sparkle in his eye. "But I appreciate the importance of the task at hand, and humbly accept your bribe."

“I'm glad we got that worked out." I pushed open the door with a tinkling of bells and stepped inside and was immediately greeted by a riot of sensations. A boombox behind the counter to our left played cheerful pop music through tinny speakers. A dozen different soapy scents assaulted my nose. Dogs barked, clippers buzzed, employees rushed to and fro.

"Hellooooo!" A young lady with bubblegum-pink hair and a smile wider than Mister's greeted us. She practically bounced. I'd never seen someone that enthused on the job. "Welcome to Fluff 'n Suds. My name is Sarah, do you have an appointment with us?"

"Indeed I do, Sarah," I replied with a subtle glance at Mister. My cat's Cheshire smile faltered. "Should be under 'Nick Christian'."

"Just one moment," the bubbly dog groomer said. She briefly consulted a notebook by the cash register. "There we are. Looks like you're my two o'clock!"
She came over and crouched down in front of my grey cat, whose smile was growing more strained by the second. "And you must be Mister! You're such a big kitty."

Mister snickered. "That's what the ladies-"

I coughed. Loudly.

"I mean, why yes," Mister said slowly and deliberately. "I am a big kitty."

The young lady blinked. "Okay." Then, to me: "So, what are we doing for Mister today?"

"Well," I said, tapping my chin thoughtfully. "He could use some brushing, a light trim around the bangs ... oh, you're the expert. What would you recommend?"

Sarah gave Mister an appraising look, poking and prodding at his fur. "How long has it been since Mister has had a good bath and conditioner treatment?"

"Forever, probably," I said. "But you know what, there's a first time for everything. How's that sound, boy?"

Mister's eye began to twitch. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me down toward his level. "This was not part of the deal."

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." I straightened myself back up and flashed the stylist a friendly smile. "Is there a bathroom around here?"

The stylist was busy collecting towels and combs from behind the counter. "Through the door on the back wall, all the way down the hall and on the left."

"Harry," Mister hissed, swiping at my sleeve as I turned and walked away. "Quoting Star Wars at me doesn't make this okay!"

"Have fun!" I sing-songed over my shoulder. “C’mon, King.” The corgi stuck his tongue out at my cat as he followed me.

"Judas!"

With that we made for the back of the shop, dodging uncooperative pets along the way. There was a set of double doors at the back. I pushed through, holding one door while I waited for King to catch up. The short dog hustled through and I let the doors swing closed.

The back end of the salon was significantly quieter and lacked the glitz and glam of the front end. We were in a storage room with cinder block walls and a concrete floor, and shelves stocked floor to ceiling with shampoos, conditioners, and other grooming supplies. The bathrooms were to our right, and a hallway was opposite us, leading to the back alley with doors along its length.

King looked a little on edge. “Now what?” he whispered.

“Now we search for clues,” I replied in a normal tone of voice. “If we can find a dog-fur stash then we might be able to link it back to our dognapper.”

King frowned. “What if they took it home?”

Well. “I can use my wizard’s Sight to examine the employees and see if any are practitioners of magic.”

King nodded, but the gesture seemed forced. “Wait, what if they’re not even here?”

I gritted my teeth. “Then we start asking the other employees if any of their coworkers are into the occult, or really, REALLY like dogs, or obsessively collect
dog fur, or just act weird in general. Can you just let me handle the detective stuff?”

“I just-”

“King,” I cut him off, crouching down. “I need you to zip it. Can you do that for me?”

The corgi glowered and opened his mouth to retort. I reached out with one hand and closed his muzzle. “Shh.”

Just then, Mouse stirred at the back of my head and began to growl. I looked up in time to see a some wide-eyed skinny guy duck back into the hall at the other end of the store room.

Mouse’s growling grew louder. I glanced at King and released his muzzle, silently making a shushing motion. He nodded mutely, eyes wide and locked on the hall.

In the short time I’d had the puppy, I’d grown to trust his instincts. He’d slept straight through the pandemonium that was the storefront of Fluff ’n Suds, and straight through my little spat with King. And now he was wide awake and growling, on edge. It was a sound that came out deeper and more threatening than I would have thought was possible for his little body.

I nodded toward the hallway and started walking. King scrambled to keep up with my long strides. The hall was narrow and dim, illuminated only by a few flickering fluorescent tubes. Mouse’s growls echoed off the hard concrete floor, along with my footsteps.

I went slowly, methodically. The door at the other end of the hall was a fire exit. An alarm would have sounded if our target had fled. Which meant he was behind one of the doors that branched off from this hallway.

We passed one after another, King practically hugging my legs every step of the way. We were approaching the fire exit, the end of the line, when Mouse let out a bark, sharp and clear, so loud I was afraid it would be audible clear from the street. King stifled a yelp, and looked up at me, eyes flicking back and forth between me and the last door. I nodded silently and reached out. I tried the knob.

Locked.

Mouse leaned forward over my head, growling, and I could tell his eyes were locked on the door.

If my puppy’s intuition was wrong, I was about to look really, really stupid. But sometimes you just had to go with your gut.

I reached out, laid my palm against the doorknob, and snarled a word. “Forzare!”

With a sharp crack, the doorknob shattered. I heard a shrill scream, and pushed the door open to reveal a skinny guy in a t-shirt and jeans cowering against the filing cabinets on the other end of the small room. I stepped inside, filling the doorway. King peered around my waist.

“He’s shorter than I expected,” the corgi whispered.

Mouse kept growling. “My dog doesn’t like you,” I said in a low, gravelly tone.

The man looked up, wide-eyed. “I-I-I don’t want any trouble-” he started.

“I don’t like you either.” I crossed my arms. “Why’d you run and hide when you saw me coming?”

The man licked his lips, fidgeting back and forth in place. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he managed.

Man, I was going to be in deep if he was telling the truth. But Mouse’s growling hadn’t relented, and he was acting more suspicious by the minute. “Really,” I said. “King, maybe we need to refresh this man’s memory.

I stepped into the small room, the corgi following in my wake. I waved a hand when King was clear of the door. “Ventas servitas.”

A strong gust of wind blew the door shut with a bang. King jumped back, but kept his mouth shut as instructed.

“Let’s try a different tactic. I’ve given you a small demonstration of my power. Do you know who I am?”

The man let out a slow, shaky breath. “You’re Harry Dresden. You’re the wizard.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” I stuck my hand. “Wallet.”

The man blinked. “What?”

“I don’t like repeating myself,” I growled. Mouse let out a sharp bark. King stood at my side with his arms crossed, making what he probably hoped was an intimidating face.

The man fumbled his wallet out of his pocket and handed it to me. “I wasn’t even supposed to be here today,” he moaned under his breath as I started to rifle through its contents.

Fifty dollars in cash. A Sandwich Palace rewards card. Driver’s license. “Daniel Hobart,” I read off the name. Social Security card. A single canadian five dollar bill. And then, tucked away in a little pocket …

“Hey, PETA hands out membership cards! Neat.” I tossed the wallet and its contents back at Daniel and watched him stammer as he fumbled to catch them. Things were starting to make sense.

“PETA?“ King said. His paws were clenched

“You’ve probably heard of them, King,” I continued, one eye on the seething corgi to my right. “Like to kidnap pets and call it liberation. But you thought you could do one better than that, didn’t you, Daniel? Use magic to give make them take their ‘freedom’? Bad idea. The White Council takes a very dim view on the subject of mind control.” My words came out hard and cold.

“I didn’t know that he was going to do it like this!” Daniel stammered out, face pale. I was having a hard time feeling much sympathy for him.
Interesting. “Who’s ‘he’?”

Daniel opened his mouth, jaw quivering, and clamped it shut again. “Talk,” King snarled, glaring hard.

Looked like our bad cop/bad cop routine was getting the job done. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you everything. Just don’t tell the Wardens. I didn’t do any black magic. I mean, I gave him the fur, but I didn’t do anything with it. I can barely do enough magic to give someone a nosebleed, I could never in a million years pull off something like this, you have to believe me, Mr. Dresden -“

The floodgates were well and truly opened, and the floodwaters were all nonsense and excuses. I was losing patience. “Shut up,” I said flatly. Daniel clamped his mouth shut. “Who. Is. ‘Him’?” I enunciated every word slowly and carefully. “Please answer slowly and concisely. Don’t you dare lie to me, I’ll know.” Which was itself a huge lie, but this guy seemed to think I was some kind of wizard Judge Dredd, so I figured it would rattle him.

It did. He gulped hard and took a few breaths before proceeding to spill his guts.

“I’ve been into magic and the occult and stuff since I was a kid. A few months ago I started going to meetings with a bunch of other minor practitioners and I started learning about the scene here in Chicago. That was where I first heard of you."

“Get to the point,” King snapped.

Daniel nodded frantically. “A few weeks ago I met him. He came and found me as I was walking home from one of the meetings, told me he knew all about me. He said he’d been listening in on the meetings, heard I was into animal liberation, said he had a plan to free pets from their owners, with magic, that it could be the start of something big and he needed my help. He knew I worked at the salon, knew I could get him a focus for his spell.”

“Details,” I said tersely. “Height, weight, hair color. Some way to contact him.”

“I don’t know!” Daniel cried. “It was dark out, he stayed in the shadows and wouldn’t let me get a good look at him. He didn’t give me any way to get in touch. I left the fur in the same alley where he met me. He left a note …”

I waited, but Daniel’s voice trailed off. “Danny boy, if you’re holding out on me and I can’t track this guy down, then I’m coming back and taking it out of your hide.”

Daniel gritted his teeth, then reached into his back pocket and pulled out what looked to be a small roll of white cloth, tightly bound with thick twine. A few beads dangled from the loose ends of the string. “This was with the note. He said it was a protection charm. For good luck.”

“And the note?”

Daniel withered under the force of my glare. “Nothing that could help you, I promise. And I destroyed it anyway.”

I held my hand out, palm up, expectant. “Gimme.” Daniel unhappily turned over the charm. I could feel something when it touched my hand, like static electricity, but deeper. There was magic there, alright. I nodded and pocketed the charm.

“Now you get the speech,” I said, folding my arms. “You can keep going to your Wiccan book clubs or whatever, but if I find out you’re dealing with warlocks or consorting with demons, I’m tracking you down. And if I find out that your pal hurt any of those dogs he kidnapped?” I glowered down at Daniel, who seemed to be willing himself to melt into the wall. “Well. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, yeah?”

The man nodded so hard I was worried he’d snap his neck. I flashed him a toothy smile. “Thanks for your cooperation.” I pulled the door open and gestured for him to go.

The young man hesitated, head pivoting back and forth between me and King. He didn’t delay long before bolting out of the supply closet and out into the back alley.

King watched him go, looking dissatisfied. “So that’s it? We just let him go?”

“Yep,” I said. “We got the information we needed, and the cops can’t exactly bust him for aiding and abetting a magical crime.”

The corgi still looked troubled. “Yeah, I guess.”

I clapped King on the shoulder and gave him an encouraging grin. “I think you scared him straight, what with that death glare of yours.”
King rolled his eyes as we left the room.

“Plus I took fifty bucks from his wallet.”

******************************

We made our way back to the salon proper, where Mister was waiting for us.

The sight was difficult to describe. Start by picturing the softest teddy bear you’ve ever seen. Now imagine the teddy bear wants to claw your eyes out. It was a bit like that. Mister had been treated to a bath, shampoo, conditioner, a neat fur trim, and, I assumed, a hot date with a blow dryer.

“Hey bud, your fur sure does have … volume.” I grinned and reached out to ruffle the poofy fur between his ears, but his paw snapped out and grabbed me by the wrist. Mister glared up at me with the fury of a thousand bathed cats.

“I will wreak vengeance upon you for this, Dresden,” he hissed. “Through fire and blood.”

“Such a pretty kitty!” cooed the pink-haired employee from earlier. “How will you be paying today?”

I tossed her the fifty I’d taken from Danny’s wallet. “Keep the change.”

Then I decided to risk putting myself in Mister’s claw-range and leaned down to fill him in on the situation. “We got the info. I should be able to track down our warlock. You can roll around in dirt on the way for all I care.”

Mister offered me a terse nod, and we got up to go. I saw that the rain had picked up outside, and thunder rumbled in the distance. Mouse shifted on my shoulders, letting out a soft growl in his sleep.

“What now?” King asked.

I started to respond, but Mister cut me off. “Foooood,” he said, drawing out the word as he stared up at me.

I started to protest, but my own stomach turned traitor at that precise moment and growled like a disgruntled bear waking up from hibernation. Mister crossed his fluffy arms and gave me a pointed look.

“Fine,” I grunted in reply. “We’ll stop at Mac’s to plan our next move. You like steak sandwiches, King?”

The corgi’s ears perked up at that. No surprise there. They say that the fastest way to get to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and in my experience that goes double for dogs.

We were making our way to the door when the lights in the salon flickered. The music died, cut off in the middle of a long, high-pitched autotuned note. There was silence for a brief moment, broken only by a few murmurs.

“Was that you, boss?” Mister asked. His ears were cocked back warily, and he was scanning the crowd in the salon.

Atop my shoulders, Mouse was again roused from his slumber and started to growl.

“Not me,” I murmured. “Probably just a brownout. Storm rolling back in.” Mister gave me a skeptical look.

The look was justified. I didn’t really believe it. I focused my will, consciously preparing myself to lash out with magic if I had to.

The lights flickered again, then died altogether. They didn’t come back on. The buzzing of clippers, the whine of blow dryers, even the chatter of the staff all fell silent.

From the back of the salon there came a chorus of unearthly howls.


Thu May 30, 2019 12:25 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Great job on this chapter by the way! I love how it came out!

Also if I'm being let off the hook, I'm imagining Harry as a Rottweiler anthro now. XD


Thu May 30, 2019 1:37 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
From the back of the salon there came a chorus of unearthly howls.

Chapter 6

In an instant the salon was plunged into chaos. There was a bang from the back of the store that I could only assume was the sound of a door being broken down, and the howling surged in volume. Between the dark, overcast sky and the power failure, Fluff ‘n Suds had gone from bright and cheery to a grey twilight. All around, I could see the outline of staff, pets and owners alike scrambling to get toward the windows at the front, toward the relative light and away from the phantom wolf-pack that seemed to be making its way through the stockroom.

There was a sound of breaking glass, and bubble-gum haired stylist let out a shriek.

“King, Mister, stay close,” I said as I pulled my pentacle amulet off my neck. “Be ready to move.”

There was another bang, and the murmuring among the patrons reached a fever pitch. Customers were fumbling in the dark with their rain ponchos and umbrellas. The bell above the door dingled as a steady stream started to make their way out into the storm, deciding they’d rather take a chance with mother nature than whatever awaited them in the back room.

Slowly, I raised my amulet and infused it with an effort of will. A soft blue-white glow began to emanate from it. The light grew intensity as my concentration focused. King and Mister huddled close to me, and together we cast as shadow that blanketed most of the storefront.

The rear of the salon was a mess of light and shadows that swayed in disorienting ways as my amulet moved on its chain. But the door at the rear of the room was illuminated in stark contrast. I felt my heart rate picking up speed as the howls and crashing noises drew closer.

At my back, many of the staff and patrons were huddled together, frozen in place, faces drawn and pale as they stared at the closed double doors directly across from us. I was suddenly and painfully aware that I had put myself, Mister, Bob, and King between the people at the front of the store and whatever was coming our way. The howls sounded again, and I immediately thought back to the demon I’d faced down with King just a few hours earlier. King’s wide eyes and flattened ears told me he was having the same idea.

“Everyone out!” I roared over my shoulder. The last thing I wanted was for a fight to break out with this many people in the crossfire.

No one moved. A few flinched at the sound of something breaking in the rear.

“Now!” I shouted. And in that same instant the doors burst open.

They weren’t like the demon I’d fought earlier. These were less distinct, without definite form. They were wolf-shaped shadows, hunched and inky black, at least half a dozen of them. They went on all fours as easily as two legs, seeming to ooze between tall, gangly forms and low, stooping brutes as they came through the doorway.

As one they let out a howl, and the spell was broken. People rushed for the exits. I saw one old woman throw her chihuahua over her shoulder and elbow her way past a young couple and their doberman.

In front of me, the wolf-things fanned out and started to prowl toward us.

“Harry?” King asked, his voice high and tense. The corgi stood with his paws balled into fists, ears flattened against his head.

“What’s the plan, boss?” Mister asked. He was dropping into a fighting stance, claws at the ready, eyes wide. His tone projected confidence, but fear crept into his body language, ears back, fur flattened.

Mouse let out a bark, sharp and clear. The shades paused for a moment, before continuing their forward prowl.

I needed to buy us some breathing room. Gritting my teeth, I stretched out my free hand, gathering my will. “Fuego!” I roared, and a brilliant orange cone of flame exploded forth, filling the space between us and the wolf-things. The howl turned to yelps, and the monsters shrank back against the walls.

“Hah!” Mister called out. “How ‘bout a little fire, scarecrow?”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve already used that one,” I quipped back almost by reflex. As the flames faded, the canine forms stayed back, wary.

Fire wasn’t going to solve this for us. I could just torch these things, but then I ran the risk of burning down the whole building, and I had no idea who was left in here or if there were people on the floors above us. Luring them out into the street was an option, but that would put the lives of the bystanders in danger.

A plan was forming in my head. It might be risky, but it was our best bet.

I crouched down to get on the level of the animals at my side, keeping a wary eye on the shadow wolves across the room. If they all worked up the nerve to charge me at once, we were in trouble.

“Mister, go grab that bottle of talcum powder,” I hissed, indicating a brightly colored bottle at one of the grooming stations. “I’ve got an idea.” The cat sidled over to pick it up, never taking his eyes off the creatures we faced.

“What about me?” King asked. I turned my attention to the corgi. He looked caught between “fight” and “flight”, like every rational part of his brain was screaming for him to bolt and yet he stayed right where he was anyway.

It’s a feeling I’ve had too many times to count.

“King, take Mouse back to the car. Be ready to make a fast exit.”

Kings pause were balled up into fists, and the look on his face hardened. I felt a sudden flare of frustration. "King, we talked about this. I said 'run'. You're still here." The dog was picking a bad time to be a hero. The shades crept ever closer, just barely held at bay by my light and the threat of fire.

I grabbed King by both shoulders and glared down at him. "King, go. I've got this."

King looked up and glared right back at me, staring right into my eyes. "Maybe I'm sick of people fighting my battles for me! I'm sick of being a pawn, of - '

He didn’t get a chance to finish.

That was when the Soulgaze began.

******************************

I tumbled through space. The emptiness was oppressive, stifling. There was no air, no movement, no life. I caught a glimpse of a few stars, shining bright and cold millions of miles away.

Suddenly, there was a rush of wind in my ears, cold air on my face. After the sensory deprivation of the void it was almost overwhelming.

I fell face-first into a snowbank.

I shook myself off and stood. It was a clearing in the middle of a dark forest. A slab of asphalt filled the center of the clearing, illuminated by a single streetlight. Snow fell in fat, lazy flakes, settling on the dark and foreboding trees that stood sentry all around.

In the middle of the clearing was King. He knelt on the asphalt, face lowered into his paws. His shoulders trembled. Was it the cold, or was he crying? I started to walk closer to the dog, then stopped.

In the middle of the clearing was a man. He knelt on the asphalt, face lowered into his hands. His shoulders trembled.

Was it the cold?

Or was he …

I closed my eyes, then looked again.

In the middle of the clearing was a phantom image. The dog and the man faded in and out, one growing sharper and clearer while the other grew less distinct, more ghostly and transparent. And the image was surrounded by a sea of specters, fading in and out of existence, too many for me to properly see.

A man glowered down at King.

A dog placed an arm around his shoulders, while another drove a knee into his stomach. A third stood by, laughing and laughing.

The shades multiplied into a crowd, until I couldn’t even distinguish one from the other.

Then the ground started to fall away.

There was a rumbling, so deep I could feel it long before I could hear it. Trees cracked and fell, dropping off into space. The hard earth crumbled beneath me and fell into the void, but I was left there, suspended in midair, unable to move, watching as the ground crumbled, until King knelt alone on a tiny patch of
asphalt in an empty void.

The void opened its eyes.

A pair malevolent orbs, glowing yellow and narrowed in rage, stretched to the horizon, and they were fixed right on me.

A voice shook the universe to its foundations.

Get.

Out!

******************************

We were in the salon. My back was bathed in cold sweat, my heart pounding. My light had gone out, and we had been plunged into gloom and darkness.
King was staring at me, eyes wide, tears beading at the corners.

“King,” I managed between shaky breaths. “I’m so, so - “

“Harry!” Mister screamed.

Mouse was barking, holding on tight to my shoulders.

I wheeled around to see the pack of wolf-shades lunge at us. In a blind panic I swept out with my arm.

“Fuego!” An arc of flame lashed out at the monsters, driving them back, all save one, which lunged for Mister. My cat let out a strangled shout and leapt back, but the wolf snagged his ankle and they both crashed the floor. Mister tried desperately to get back to his feet, kicking at the shadowy paw which held him in a vice-like grip.

A sudden fury took hold of me.

“Fuego!” I snarled again, and I blasted the shadow with a jet of fire right in its midsection. I kept up the jet of flame, burning and burning until the creature evaporated into a puddle of ectoplasm. The paw finally released its grip on my cat, and Mister jumped to his feet, wincing as he put weight on his ankle. I
rushed over and dropped to a knee next to him. “You okay?”

“Peachy.” Mister stood with claws bared, ears flat against his head. “What’s the plan?”

I told him.

My cat nodded. "Whenever you're ready."

I held out my pendant, and with an effort of will I summoned light once again. The remaining five wolf-things shrank back with echoing hisses and snarls. I looked at Mister, and he nodded once. Then I wheeled on our opponents and thrust out my free hand in the direction of the back of the room. Flame blossomed forth, and the wolves ducked out the way, dodging to the sides of the room.

Mister bolted for the door to the stockroom, and I was hot on his trail. He burst through the double doors, and I skidded to a halt just a few yards away, turning to face the monsters.

They were prowling closer, two to my left, three on my right, hugging the walls as they crept closer.

Well, crap. They were trying to flank me.

My head snapped from left to right as the shadow wolves slowly closed in. With a snarled word, I flicked my hands out, summoning spurts of flame on either side of my body. The wolves flinched back, but they were growing bolder. It only took a few seconds before they were prowling toward me again.
"Ready, Mister?" I called out. One the wolves snapped its shadowy jaws at me and I flinched back, a bead of sweat trickling down my brow.

"Just a second!" my cat replied, his voice high and tense.

He would get one, maybe two. The shadow wolves lunged for me.

My eyes bugged out of my head cartoon-style as I spun on my heel and flung myself through the double doors. “Mister, now!” I yelled as I barreled into the middle of the storage room, where my cat had carefully poured the talcum powder in a neat circle, filling the center of the room. I took a wide step over the pile of powder and sprinted through the room, barks and howls following right on my heels.

A pair of sharp claws swept out and snagged the back of my pant leg. A burst of adrenaline shot through me, and I practically threw myself into the hall across the room. The remaining shades burst in, knocking the double doors off their hinges in their zeal.

I was almost halfway down the hall when the howls abruptly ceased. I let myself skid to a halt.

“All clear,” Mister called after me.

“Guh,” I wheezed. Slowly I turned and marched my way back to the storage room. Stars and stones, I felt like I just ran a marathon.

In the storage room, Mister still knelt by the circle with one pawpad pressed into the powder. As I walked in, he raised his paw and got shakily to his feet. A drop of blood welled up from his thumb, which he casually brushed off on his leg.

Inside the circle, the shadow wolves were melting into ectoplasm. My hunch had been correct after all. The wolves were phantoms summoned from the Nevernever, the spirit world that exists parallel to ours. Mister had poured the talcum powder out in a circle, and used his will and a drop of blood to infuse it with energy. The circle cut off the link between those creatures and the spirit world - and their master. Without that link, their physical forms would simply disappear.

I pulled the charm Daniel had given me out of my pocket and looked at it with a sour frown. 'Good luck charm', sure. More than likely our mystery warlock used it to send those creatures my way.

Good luck for him, maybe.

We watched as the wolves melted into colorless goo and eventually evaporated into nothing. I finally let Mouse down off my shoulders, and he stood between my feet, growling at the remains.

“Man,” I said, my heart rate finally subsiding below that of a caffeine-addicted squirrel. “I’m glad that worked. This would have been a lame place to die.”

“‘Local crazy hobo man Harry Dresden died of a heart attack in a pet grooming salon yesterday evening’,” Mister intoned in his best news-anchor impression.

“Survived by his devilishly handsome cat and dimwitted dog.”

Happy to be included, Mister let out a bark from his place by my feet.

I let out a wheezing laugh. Then I started to look around. My grin slowly faded.

“Hey, Mister.”

“Yeah, Harry?”

My cat and I locked eyes, and I could tell he had just noticed too.

My voice came out quieter than I would have expected. “Where’s King?”

******************************

Whoops! Apologies for the late update, I started moving over the weekend. Next chapter should be up on Friday, and I think I'll be able to get back to the regular schedule as we bring this tale to its conclusion.

Speaking of updates, having a buffer of at least two chapters past the most recent published one has been a huge benefit. Last time I tried something like this, I wrote a chapter and then published it immediately. I wound up falling behind and giving up on the story. Having a buffer give you more time to edit and, crucially, lets you skip ahead to a future scene if you don't know yet how you want to write the very next chapter.

Lastly, I wrote two or three different variants of the scene where Dresden Soulgazes King. I've been building up to that moment for a while now, so I'm curious if it had the impact I was going for.


Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:15 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I would guess that Pete is not a fan of interlopers.

Nice bit. Love the story.

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Wed Jun 05, 2019 12:54 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I like how this part of the story has came out when it comes to the chapter! Awesome job!


Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:23 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Interlude

“CHICAGO!?”

Fox paced furiously back and forth, mind racing, teeth bared. “What - why - how did King get to Chicago?

“Beats me,” Miles said.

Fox stopped in place and spun to look at the wolf patriarch. His mouth worked open and closed, paws clenched and unclenched as he gesticulated, frustrated and impotent. “Pete,” Fox growled through his teeth. That would have been just like King’s owner. Skip town and dump the inconvenient dog in a metropolis hundreds of miles away.

It was late in the morning, gloomy and humid. They stood near the road, where a few of the Milton wolves were loading up a a big fifteen-seater van for the cross-country trip to join their owner, or employer, or whatever Keene Milton was calling himself these days. Miles, the father of the family of wolves adopted by the Milton estate, was carrying a heavy suitcase over one shoulder. The van’s hired driver stood warily by, trying to watch all of the wolves at once and looking like he was going to give himself whiplash in the process.

Fox had been having a rough day. When King had disappeared at the party last night, he’d been concerned, but eventually convinced himself that the dog had stumbled his way home.

Then he woke the next morning, only to be told by the K9 squad that King’s owner had vanished in the night and King was nowhere to be found. The concern had metastasized into a gnawing dread. There were dozens of possible explanations, but Fox’s mind fixated on the worst ones possible. He’d spent the morning so worried about his friend that it had given him a stomach ache. And now he’d learned that, somehow, the Miltons had found out that King was in a city hundreds of miles away. Not found him, no. They’d only learned enough to give form and clarity to the husky’s fears.

King was abandoned in a big city alley, hungry and afraid.

King was in a dirty pound, surrounded by mean, tough street dogs with something to prove.

King was …

Fox’s breath caught. His stomach churned, and he stood there, eyes clenched shut, jaw set. Stop it, stop it, stop it. He took in a long, deep breath, forcing down the ugly thoughts and feelings.

“You alright?” Miles asked. Fox gave himself a shake, forced his paws to unclench, and looked back at the other canine with a deliberately neutral face. “Yep.”

“Uh-huh.” The wolf’s eyes were focused on a spot just about Fox’s eye-line.

Sure enough, his ears had betrayed him, laying flat against his head. Fox felt his face flush, and he shook himself, forcing his ears to stand normally. One was still cocked to the side. He forced a smile that felt strained, and probably looked it too.

Miles gave Fox a sympathetic look, and the husky’s frustration mounted. That was the last thing he needed right now. Pity. ‘Calm down, Fox. Let’s all sit down and talk about our feelings, Fox.’ His feelings didn't matter. King was in trouble.

Fox made up his mind the second the wolf started to speak. Over Miles’ protests, he pushed his way through the open door of the van sat down heavily on one of the seats, arms crossed. He glared at the wolf, and Miles trailed off. “I’m coming with you,” Fox said, his voice hard.

The husky and wolf locked eyes. Fox did his best to stare down the wolf, acutely aware of just how much bigger Miles was than him. This carried on for what felt like half an hour.

The wolf opened and closed his mouth a few times, before clamping his jaw shut in a thoughtful frown.

Finally, Miles let out a heavy sigh. “I’ll get you a suitcase.”

******************************

In case you were wondering what was going on back in Babylon Gardens in this alternate timeline.

As I'm sure you've noticed, this 'chapter' turned out a lot shorter than the rest. I wrote a full-length chapter that I was planning on putting out around now. Then I woke up the next morning, thought of a different direction the story could go, and though something like 'aaaagh that works so much better'. So some re-writes are happening. Stay tuned!


Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:30 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Now we get to see Fox being a worrier since nobody knows where in the heck King is. I hope he finds out soon and I wouldn't mind seeing him and Harry go at it in a fight do to a misunderstanding. 8-)


Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:56 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Chapter 7

“White Fang.”

Mister sat and closed the Beetle’s door with a heavy clunk. He sat heavily as he looked up at me.

So we had a name.

We knew who had taken King.

After the fight at the salon I’d dashed out into the street and tried to use my tracking spell on King. And I’d gotten nothing. He was behind the same veil that covered all the other lost dogs. And he’d been taken right out from under my nose.

“What else?” I said, a little more sharply than I’d meant to. Mister didn’t snark back. We were both tense, on edge. Things had gone bad, and they’d gone bad fast. We’d had to scramble, dropping off Mouse and Bob, calling Murphy, and reaching out to Mister’s contacts on the street in a desperate bid to get more information.

I mentally cursed myself, gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles went white. I should have sent King back with the weird ferret and been done with it. Now he was gone, swept up in something he never should have been a part of. Stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Not much,” Mister replied after a moment. “None of the alley cats saw White Fang in person. He kept to the shadows, just like with Daniel.” The cat took a breath. “But we do know where we can look for him.”

“Well?”

Mister grimaced, like he’d just taken a bite out of something rotten. “He has a lair he told one of my contacts about. A secret place.”

My cat trailed off, and I looked at him expectantly. He met my eyes for a moment. “It’s in Undertown,” Mister said quietly. “He sent the dogs to Undertown.”

Well, didn’t that just figure.

Chicago had been built on a swamp, and was perpetually sinking into the marshy mud on the shores of Lake Michigan. Every time a building had sunk too low, a new one was simply built atop the old. Repeat for several hundred years, and eventually you had Undertown. It was a maze of ancient buildings, old sewers, and abandoned subway tunnels that snaked beneath the city like the Paris catacombs, and it was about as friendly to outsiders. Cold, damp, and dark as the grave. For that matter, there was probably at least one graveyard down there.

Lots of nasty things lived down there in the shadows. I’d tangled with more than a few of them.

We drove on. My amulet dangled from the rearview mirror, along with old Fangie’s ‘good luck charm’. My tracking spell tipped the amulet just every so slightly to the north. Right after I’d failed to track King, I’d tried to see if I could track down our warlock, and I’d had luck. Whatever was keeping the dogs hidden from me, it didn’t quite work the same way on the charm. The magical connection was too strong.

Rain came down in a miserable drizzle. The streets were sparsely populated, and some of the streetlights were starting to come on. It was still early in the evening, but the sun had made itself scarce hours ago.

Mister and I sat in tense silence as we drove. My cat had my duffle bag in his lap, and he was going through the contents, as if to reassure himself that everything was still there. I didn’t say anything to him. Not much left to say that needed saying. I followed the tracking spell through the streets of Chicago.

When we arrived at our destination, we got out of the car without speaking and walked around to the trunk. I wish I could say I smoothly popped it open, but the Blue Beetle’s trunk was held on by wire and string. I had to awkwardly fumble around to unhook and wrench open the dented lid.

Mister and I geared up and made for the abandoned building we’d stopped outside. We ducked into the alley, through the unlocked door, past lines of police tape and signs reading things like “CONDEMNED” and “EXTREME DANGER”, and down flight after flight of steps to the deep, ruined basement, until I found what I’d come here for.

We stood at the mouth of the ancient subway tunnel. Mister clicked on a powerful flashlight, sweeping the beam across the mildewed rubble that covered the cracked and broken concrete floor. The darkness was thick and heavy - the flashlight’s beam couldn’t penetrate the deepest shadows. He had my duffle bag slung over one shoulder, all of my wizardly tools at the ready. I wore my heavy leather duster, and for the first time today I was comfortable wearing it. The air down here was cold and clammy. This deep underground, the temperature was almost the same year round.

In my left hand I held my staff, a versatile tool for channeling magic. My amulet was in my right hand. Briefly, I dropped that hand to my duster pocket, where I felt the reassuring weight of my .44 magnum revolver. I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it today, but it was always better to have a Dirty Harry gun and not need it than to need a Dirty Harry gun and not have it.

Inventory complete, I held up my amulet and infused it with an effort of will. The tracking spell tilted my amulet down the cramped tunnel ahead of us.

“We’re fifty feet under Chicago,” Mister grunted. “We’ve got a bag full of junk, a half-baked wizard, it’s dark, and I’m wearing bat droppings.”

I clicked my tongue, shaking my head. “That was weak, Mister. The Blues Brothers would be ashamed.”

Mister let out a sigh. “Hit it.”

We started off down the tunnel. It felt like a grave down here, alright - cold, damp, and oppressively quiet. The echoes of our footsteps crashed in my ears as we walked, my staff held at the ready, ready to blast anything nasty that jumped out at us.

We passed a hole in the old subway tunnel wall that looked like it had been smashed open by the Incredible Hulk. The hole led into an ancient basement. Bits of rotted wood and shattered brick littered the ground. My amulet twitched as we passed, now pointing ever so slightly off the centerline of the subway tunnel. I stopped and waited for Mister to pull a glow stick out of the duffle bag. He cracked it and tossed it over his shoulder as we stepped into the dark.

The pale green light was invisible in moments. We pressed on.

Strange sounds followed us as we worked our way through the ruined basement. More than once I stopped to duck under a sagging wooden beam, only to hear the sound of footsteps follow just a few beats too long.

It was probably just an echo.

Probably.

The back of my neck itched in anticipation - deep in my gut I was sure that at any moment a pair of claws would snake out the darkness and sink into my jugular, and that would be the end of Harry Dresden. I glanced down at Mister, barely visible in the back-glow of the flashlight. I reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, half to reassure him and half to reassure myself that he was still there. Mister flinched, choking back a yelp of surprise, and almost dropped the flashlight.

He stopped and glared up at me, shining the light at his chin for added emphasis.

“Sorry,” I whispered. We moved on, Mister grumbling under his breath.

We made it through the basement and into some kind of wide, low-ceilinged concrete service tunnel. My amulet twitched, pulling more strongly down the long, straight corridor. Mister flashed the light down the length of the hall. Near the end it started to curve away to the right, and then was swallowed in shadow.

As we were walking, Mister slowed his pace, head cocked to the side, ear twitching. “Harry,” he murmured. “Do you hear that?”

I strained. Aside from our own footsteps, there was little. Maybe a faint scraping or the moan of the distant wind.

Or was it a howl?

I licked my dry lips, fingers tightening around my staff. The shadows behind me seemed unnaturally oppressive.

We trudged down that dark hall, Mister’s flashlight chasing away shadows, until we finally came to an intersection. The tunnel carried on straight undamaged to our right and directly ahead. To our left, the floor was cracked and cocked at strange angles. The walls and ceiling were cracked, and tree roots were forcing their way through the concrete. Water was seeping through the walls, and puddles formed at the bottom of the floor’s slope. We stopped so Mister could leave a glowstick.

That was when I heard a bark from our left.

It was distant, echoing and distorted, but when I heard it I felt a jolt of excitement and terror. Mister and I locked eyes.

In an instant we were off, down that broken and waterlogged hall, my amulet guiding us as we went. Mister’s flashlight bounced as he jogged along, making the shadows bend and jump. Where a cave-in had blocked the tunnel, a side passage had been excavated into a low, cramped building. We ducked through and moved on, the tracking spell growing more and more powerful as we homed in on our quarry.

Up ahead, around a vend in a passage on the other side of the dark and cramped room we found ourselves in, I could see light. It was faint and flickering, but it was there all the same. Mister and I skidded to a halt. The amulet was aimed directly at the room beyond. My heart thudded hard and fast, as much from the jogging I’d just done as from the impending confrontation. I stopped to listen. Frantic murmurs. The shuffling of feet on concrete. A low, throaty growl that seemed to shake the very walls.

Then silence.

The light died.

Mister looked up at me, flashlight trained at the floor. I nodded. We started to creep slowly forward. I stashed my amulet in my pocket and let my hand close around the butt of the heavy revolver.

On the count of three we rounded the corner. I held my staff at the ready as Mister swept the room with his flashlight.

There were the missing dogs. They sat huddled in the center of an ancient stone-walled room, with broken furniture and rubble piled at the edges. A single torch stood in the room’s center, still smoking. The dogs blinked in the bright light of the flashlight, squinting and flinching away. They had been down here for the better part of a day by now, and the flashlight probably felt nearly as bright as the sun.

“Where’s White Fang?” I called out. “Show yourself.”

Silence. The dogs looked up at me, their expressions unreadable. “Where’s the man who brought you here?” Mister asked.

Nothing.

Then I saw King. The corgi was sitting near the center of the room, his fur wet and matted, heavy shadows under his eyes. He looked somehow wearier than the rest of the dogs, but out of any of them his expression seemed easier to read. It looked … strained. Like he was trying to open his mouth to speak, but couldn’t. My blood ran cold.

“Everyone, up,” I called out. “Come on. We’re getting out of here.” To my relief, the dogs started to get to their feet, though they were unsteady and eerily silent. Mister kept the flashlight aimed toward the rough center of the room and gestured for the dogs to come toward him, through the door and back the way we came. He handed glowsticks to the dogs as they passed, shuffling by like sleepwalkers.

I pushed my way past the zombie-like dogs and made my way to King. I held out a hand and helped him struggle to his feet. He blinked a few times, shaking his head like he had water stuck in his ear.

I knelt down next to him, a knot of worry in my gut. “King, I’m sorry I got you into this mess,” I whispered. “I’m getting you all out of here. We’ll talk about what happened earlier. Or not. Whatever works for you. You can run for the hills and never talk to me again if you need to.” I was going to continue, but stopped. King was swaying on his feet, struggling to keep his eyes open, but he seemed to register what I was saying, even make eye contact with me. He wasn’t as zonked-out as the other dogs.

“What is it?” I asked quietly. My Spidey-Senses were tingling. White Fang had to be near, but I hadn’t seen any sign of him yet. Mister had hustled about half the dogs out of this chamber, and still the warlock hadn’t shown himself, hadn’t tried to get back his hostages.

King looked like he was about to burst, his jaw quivering as he tried to open it to speak. My mind raced as I worked through my options. If this was some kind of mind control, black magic, I wouldn’t know how to undo it. Counter-curses weren’t my specialty.

But breaking things was. I could overpower the spell. Shock King to his senses. Maybe literally. I held out a finger and laid it on the corgi’s forehead. “Sorry buddy,” I said with a grimace. “It’s for your own good. Hexus.”

A blue spark leapt from my finger to King’s head. His whole body jolted, fur standing on end, and he let out a curse so loud it was like a sailor had just dropped an anchor on his toe. I caught him before he could crumple to the floor.

King steadied himself, breathing hard. The mood of the room had changed. The shadows seemed darker, more oppressive, like they were closing in us. I glanced behind me, and noticed that the dogs had stopped where they were and turned to look at me.

“King,” I whispered. “Talk to me.”

King’s body was still tense, to the point that he was almost shaking. I couldn’t tell if it was fear, or anger, or both. He opened his mouth to speak, but then I saw him look at something over my shoulder. His eyes narrowed in rage, and lunged past me. I jumped to my feet in time to see him crash into the legs of one of the dogs leaving the room. They hit the ground hard and started to struggle with a chorus of grunts and snarls that echoed through the room.

“It’s him, Harry!” King managed. “He’s -” The other dog kicked him in the face a few times, and the corgi’s words were cut off in fit of spluttered growls as he lost his grip. King’s wrestling partner leaped to his feet, breathing hard.

The dog was skinny, unassuming, with long white fur that was matted against his body and stained black and grey with dirt. His stance looked wary, beaten-down, like a stray that had been kicked by a cruel passer-by one too many times. Our eyes met. His were blue, bright, narrowed in rage.

Suddenly, everything clicked into place, from my quarry's secrecy to his strange motives. The name was the last piece of the puzzle. The title of an old Jack London novel about a feral wolf dog.

It's him.

White Fang tried to kick King’s feet out from under him, stumbling away as the corgi stood. ”Traitor!” His shout echoed, and the air crackled with energy.

The bulb in Mister’s flashlight popped and died. The room was plunged into darkness.


Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:41 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Good section with the right mood for the setting.

I am curious if White Fang is supposed to be one of Joels old pets? I was just looking at the comic and there is a white, fuzzy one that might be one of his two dogs.

Or do I just need to wait for a future part? :D

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Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:36 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I am really enjoying how this chapter has come out! Will also be really awesome if this is indeed a min-family reunion! :D


Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
I am really enjoying how this chapter has come out! Will also be really awesome if this is indeed a min-family reunion! :D
dr_eirik Wrote:
Good section with the right mood for the setting.

I am curious if White Fang is supposed to be one of Joels old pets? I was just looking at the comic and there is a white, fuzzy one that might be one of his two dogs.

Or do I just need to wait for a future part? :D

Thanks! As far as the identity of White Fang, [INSERT NON-SPOILER RESPONSE.]

As an aside, next chapter may be slightly delayed. There's a lot going on and it will probably need editing for general logic and clarity.


Thu Jun 13, 2019 10:04 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Well you have us all hooked and don't worry as we will be able to wait patiently for the next chapter! :mrgreen:


Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:26 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Amazee Dayzee Wrote:
Well you have us all hooked and don't worry as we will be able to wait patiently for the next chapter! :mrgreen:


To be fair, we have to wait. You just can't go around kidnapping fanfic writers and forcing them to write for you.

At least, not since the court order.

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Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:11 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Wasn't the court order two toasted American cheese sandwiches and a bowl of tomato soup?


Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:04 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
NHWestoN Wrote:
Wasn't the court order two toasted American cheese sandwiches and a bowl of tomato soup?


You forgot the chocolate milkshake and a Diet Coke.

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Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:34 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I had the court order invalidated. Might have involved a few bribes and blackmail. Maybe lacing drinks with laxatives but its not in effect at least for me anyway.

Good thing I am somewhat (sorta) sane. 8-)


Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:19 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
This took an ... interesting turn while I was away :P

Aaanyway.

Chapter 8a

When the lightbulb burst, whatever hold White Fang had over the dogs was broken. The darkness was filled with fearful murmurs, angry growls, cries for help, all echoing off the damp stone walls. My eyes weren’t adjusted to the dark, and the pale green light of the glowsticks didn’t help. This wasn’t going to do. I thrust my amulet aloft and infused it with my will. A blazing blue-white light filled the room, and I had a chance to assess the situation.

Mister was in the process of hustling the remaining dogs out of harm's way. King stood unsteadily on the rough stone floor, facing off with our puppy warlock foe.

White Fang stood in the corner of the room, eyes narrowed, teeth bared. And he wasn’t alone.

He had too many shadows.

Three hulking canine forms filled the corner of the room with inky darkness, utterly swallowing the light my amulet was putting out. As one they let out a low, throaty growl that reverberated through the stone chamber.

“Wizard Dresden!” Fang called out. “Leave us! I will not warn you again.” I could tell the dog was trying to sound powerful and intimidating, but it came out sort of thin and reedy. He couldn’t quite pull off “imperious”, but the growling shadows behind him helped the effect he was going for.

“Yeah, we both know I can’t do that.” I glanced at Mister out of the corner of my eye. The last dog was out of the room, but my cat was loitering by the doorway, looking ready for a fight. He looked from me, to Fang, and back to me, extending his claws. I shook my head ever so slightly. This could turn ugly fast. My mind raced as I tried to plan out my next move.

“Fang!” King’s voice echoed, loud and clear. “Give it up. You’ve done enough already.” The corgi seemed to have mostly recovered from whatever mind-fog the other dog had put on him. His jaw was set, expression hard. I took a few steps toward him, and closer to White Fang, but one of the shadows loomed out from its place by the wall with a feral snarl, swiping a set of impossibly long claws at me. One clipped the sleeve of my duster, wrenching at my arm and practically pulling my shoulder out of its socket. I staggered forward and just barely arrested my fall with my staff.

I steadied myself, heart pounding. The wolf-shadows were more powerful down here, of that there was no doubt. Maybe they were weakened by light. If that was the case, Undertown was probably the best place in the city for White Fang to confront me.

“Hey!” Mister’s voice echoed. “Is that eyeshadow or are you just really tired?” I could hear the sneer in my cat’s voice.

“What?” Then I looked back at White Fang, who was positively fuming. Sure enough, there were dark circles in the white fur under his eyes.

“And is that white fur-paint?” Mister went on.

“Shut up,” Fang growled.

“Did you do yourself up to look like a big bad wolf shaman?” Mister mocked. “Well you should have done something about those big ol’ floppy ears. You’re, what, a border collie? Lab? Some kind of mutt?”

Well, if Mister was trying to keep the dog distracted, it was working. But alarm bells started to go off in my head when I saw the shadows slowly growing, swallowing up more and more of my magelight. “Uh, Mister,” I began, but King cut me off.

“Mister, do me a favor and shut it,” the corgi said, his voice tense. “Fang, listen.”

“No!” the dog snapped. The shadows surged around him, wolf-shapes growling and snapping. From the hall outside there was howl, and suddenly a fourth shadow surged through the doorway, knocking Mister to the ground. I spun on my heel and thrust out my staff with a shout of “Forzare!” The wolf was slammed into the rock wall with a bang that sent pebbles and dust raining down from the ceiling. It slumped to the ground in a formless pool of shadow.

The shape of a fifth shadow-wolf filled the doorway, blocking the path of the abducted dogs. They shrank back, trying to stay as close to my light as they could. I did my best to assess the situation. I wanted desperately to put an end to this, but if I started a fight there were too many bystanders who were going to get hurt.

“Fang!” King shouted. “What’s your plan? What are you trying to do here? What do you want?” By the end the corgi sounded almost desperate, pleading.

I’d settled on a plan of attack. Fangie was a strong practitioner, but I was stronger. With enough effort, I could shut down his ability to use magic entirely. Without his servants and powers of manipulation, he was just a scrawny dog. Mister could probably pin him without breaking a sweat.

I slowly closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, in and out, nice and slow. I didn’t give any kind of signal to Mister - I couldn’t risk Fang figuring out what I was trying to do.

“I want to free slaves,” White Fang said, his voice practically shaking with anger. “Humans keep us in cages and treat us like trash. I’m doing something about it. You should be helping me!”

“Hey, now you’re speaking my language.” Mister. He sounded a little shaky, probably still recovering from his tumble. “Rise up, baby.”

“I won’t be mocked.” Fang’s voice had dropped in volume. It was quiet. Dangerous. I forced down my sudden apprehension, focused on my breathing as I reached out with my mind, feeling around for White Fang’s power. I found it. His aura was tumultuous, a ball of emotion, knotted and roiling together. I set my will against it and went about the work of closing his power off from the world.

“Who’s mocking?” Mister called back. “Humans suck. Well, most humans.”

“You make an exception for the wizard?” Fang snapped.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Mister replied. “The White Council are a bunch of backwards human chauvinists, but Harry’s fine. I guess.”

What a ringing endorsement. I focused harder, locking down Fang’s power bit by bit. I could only hope he was too distracted to notice his control wavering.

“Fang.” King’s voice cut in. “This isn’t going how you planned, is it?”

The dog growled and started to respond, but King pressed on. “You got the dogs away from their owners and down here. Now what? Even if you beat Dresden, what then?”

“We’ll …” Fang’s voice faltered. I could feel his focus on his shadow-wolf minions falter, and I pressed the advantage, working my countermagic like a wall between him and his power. “We’ll run. Leave the city behind.” There was a tremor to his voice.

“Do you really think they’ll follow you?” King shot back. “You abducted them, Fang. You forced them - forced us - to come here against our will. And you want them to thank you?”

Footsteps, soft and echoing. Fang was pacing, prowling back and forth. “They. Don’t. Understand,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah. No kidding. You think you’re doing them a favor, but you’re not. They don’t see it that way. Open your eyes, Fang. They’re afraid of you.”

“Or mad,” Mister chimed in. “Some of them look pretty mad. Not a lot of gratitude here.”

Fang’s plan was falling to pieces. I almost felt bad for him. Almost. Fang’s retorts had devolved into incoherent spluttering. I wanted to call out a warning to Mister and King, but my counterspell was almost complete. Now wasn’t the time to lose focus. I sensed the whole of Fang’s aura, and I was on the verge of locking him down.

“I don’t know what happened to you, but what you’re doing here won’t make it better.” King again. I couldn’t help feeling a little surprised. We were facing down a dangerous warlock and this was the most talkative he’d been all day. “Let them go,” King finished. His voice was, but sharp, insistent.

“I’m done talking,” Fang said. His voice shook dangerously, and the air around us suddenly felt close, heavy, charged with energy.

Now.

My eyes shot open, and I took in the scene. The dogs, huddled together, furtive and vulnerable. Mister, hackles raised, claws out. They stood side by side, facing White Fang.

White Fang’s thin arms snapped up, palms out, teeth bared in a feral snarl. The shadow wolves lunged at me with a chorus of howls and snarls, and my gut twisted in sudden, primal terror.

But it was in that moment that my counterspell was completed. The wolves stumbled and collapsed to the stony floor, melting into ectoplasm like so many Wicked Witches doused with water. The howls and cries subsided into gurgles and died with a soft, pathetic plop. White Fang stood motionless, staring in shock at the remains of his soldiers. The darkness seemed a little bit less oppressive.

I let out a slow sigh and relief poured through me. I had to keep my focus to maintain the counterspell, but there were few things that gave me a rush like escaping my own impending demise. I turned my attention to Fang.

“So. We were negotiating your surrender,” I said flatly. The counterspell had left me drained. “Want to reconsider?”

White Fang let his arms drop limply to his sides. He looked suddenly tired, vulnerable. Without his army of darkness, he was just a stray dog.

I took a step toward him, and his head shot up. Before I could say another word, White Fang turned on his heel and bolted for the doorway. Mister let out a hiss and swiped at him, but the shaggy dog dodged out of the way, pushing past the crowd and sprinting off into the dark.

Well, crap.

If White Fang got far enough away from me, my counterspell would fail and he would regain full use of his magic. But if I went after him, I would have to risk leaving Mister, King, and the dogs down here in the dark with whatever creatures dwelt in Undertown.

I waffled for a second, but the decision was made for me in no time flat. King sprinted after White Fang and was out of sight before I could do so much as yell after him.

“Oh, son of a …” I spat out a curse and exchanged a look with Mister, who had just managed to get his flashlight working again.

The cat’s eyes went wide. “Harry, if you leave me with this pack of stinking dogs -”

“Sorry, Mister!” I called over my shoulder. I took off at a run, ducked through the low stone doorway, and barreled off after White Fang and King.

Into the bowels of Undertown.

******************************

Eyy, new chapter. It came out a little on the short side, but the ending seemed like a reasonable stopping point. Standoffs are fun to write.


Last edited by Coatl_Ruu on Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I do like how you made this chapter come together! Great job!


Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:11 pm
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Nice series of turns, so glad to get back into your story. ;)


Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:47 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I've never read the Dresden Files, but he's quite the engaging character. The action has been really tight and tense, and the interactions are so much fun :lol:

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Wed Jun 19, 2019 8:12 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
Chapter 8b

I dashed through the dark halls, cursing between gulps of air. My glowing amulet bounced and swung, causing shadows to leapt and shift all around me. My footsteps echoed and my heartbeat pounded in my ears. All together, it felt like I was sprinting through a fever dream. I glanced back, and caught one last glimpse of the light from Mister’s flashlight before it was swallowed up by the dark.

“King!” I yelled. The echo threw the name back at me, mocking. I couldn’t let anything happen to the dog.

“Dresden!” King. Relief flooded me. I knew they couldn’t have gone far. The shout sounded strained, hollow, but it was close. Where, exactly, it was coming from was harder to ascertain.

“Fool!” came another voice from somewhere to my right. Fang. He sounded out of breath. I slowed my pace, amulet held aloft in front of me, and stopped to get my bearings. I was in the long service tunnel leading to Fang’s hideout. Off in the distance I spotted a green glowstick that Mister had left behind. There were holes and passages off of the tunnel; we had passed all of them by on the way, but now that I had a chance to look around, I could see there were a whole lot of them. Dozens, probably, from two-foot holes to full-blown intersections.

My skin crawled. It would be almost trivially easy for something to sneak up behind me.

“King, talk to me!” I called again, and stopped to listen, straining for even the tiniest sound.

Neither voice called back, but there was a grunt and thump of fur on fur that echoed down the hall. My head snapped to face a low doorway just ahead. I dashed over and practically dove through, amulet held before me like I was trying to drive back a vampire with a cross.

I came to a halt. The scene in front of me would have been almost comical if we hadn’t been in a nightmarish labrinth. King had latched on to White Fang’s leg and refused to let go. White Fang, for his part, had grabbed hold of a broken section of the stone wall and was trying to drag himself to his feet while at the same time shoving his foot against King’s head in an effort to pry the corgi off of him. Both dogs growled and grimaced as they struggled on the wet stone floor.

I cleared the space between them and the door with a few long strides and grabbed Fang by the scruff of his neck, hauling him to his feet. King finally let go and sat back on the ground, huffing indignantly, the fur on one side of his face mashed down. “You alright, short stuff?” I asked without looking away from Fang. The mutt was light and scrawny. He grabbed at my arm, trying to wrench my hand away, but I held firm. Then he drove a knee at a spot a little below the belt. I twisted to the side and let out a grunt as he kneed me in the thigh.

“Oh, perfect,” King grumbled. He brushed himself off and gave his head a shake in a vain attempt to fluff out his fur again. “Just got done doing your job, no need to thank me.”

“Yeah, you look like you had the situation under control,” I deadpanned. Fang had stopped struggling, but now he just looked like he was looking for a chance to escape the second I let my guard down. “Hey!” I snapped. “Would you stop trying things already? It’s over.”

The dog’s head was bowed, jaw tense. There was a moment of silence as we all caught our breath.

Fang was the first to break it. “What now, wizard?” he asked. His voice was low and hoarse.

I opened my mouth to reply, but the dog spoke over me. “Have you decided I’m a warlock, Wizard Dresden?”

Warlock. It was a loaded word. A breaker of the laws of magic. Unpredictable. Dangerous. It was a charge that had been leveled at me, a long time ago.

I opened my mouth to break the silence, but Fang raised his head and spoke over me. “Have you decided I have to die?” The dog’s voice echoed, cold and contemptuous, but he couldn’t keep the quaver out his tone.

Stars and stones, he was terrified.

Of me.

I blinked, my grip on Fang’s scruff loosening. I looked around. King watched, tense and uncomfortable. I tried to imagine what I would have looked like from White Fang’s perspective. I loomed over him, draped in a heavy black coat, my staff held at the ready. I’d been on the job all day, and I could only guess that my face was looking pretty rough. And there he was, drained of his magic, totally at my mercy.

For a lot of minor practitioners of magic, the White Council of Wizards was an abstract idea at best, and a boogeyman at worst. People lived in fear that they would be found in violation of one of the Laws of Magic and a Warden would come by to sentence them to death, Judge Dredd-style. And that had to go double for animals, viewed by the Council as second-class mortals.

It sank in. White Fang thought I was there to kill him.

My stomach churned, and I had to close my eyes for a moment to get my emotions back under control, lest I lose control of the counterspell I held over Fang. With an effort, I released my grip on my staff and let it fall against the wall nearby. It hit with a heavy, echoing thud.

“I’m not a Warden,” I said once I’d regained my composure. “I don’t deal out beheadings left and right. That’s not my thing.”

“Then what do you want?” Fang said. He still looked ready to bolt the second I let my guard down.

“Those dogs. What did you do to them?” I wasn’t a Warden, but I had to know if he’d used magic to dominate the minds of the dogs we’d found down here. Mental manipulation could have serious consequences.

Fang grimaced. “It wasn’t mind control, if that’s what you’re asking. I know the Laws.” The scraggly dog paused for a moment, like he was trying for the first time to explain in words something he had only every felt. “I reached out to them and touched them with the … the spirit of the wild within me.” The dog thrashed suddenly and pulled away from my grasp. He stood, shoulders tensed, caught between fight and flight. “I showed them what it meant to be free.”

A little dramatic, but that seemed to be par for the course.

“Do you feel free, Fang?” King asked, quietly.

The dog fell silent. The question hung in the air. It seemed to weigh heavily on the scrawny stray. It seemed like King had finally gotten through to him. Could anyone be free if they had to hide in a place like this? “What happens now?” Fang's voice was flat, lifeless.

That was a good question. What could I do with Fang? I could turn him over to Murphy, but it wasn’t like there was a crime she could have him charged with. Best case scenario, she threw him in the pound, which could have … unforeseen consequences. Something told me Fang didn’t care for being locked up.

Fang stood in front of me. The air was thick with tension. I could feel him straining to use his power, reaching desperately for his shadow-wolves. I pushed back with my will, and his attempts fizzled and died.

Oh, who was I kidding. I knew what I had to do. I had for a while now. I just had to make the pitch. With deliberate slowness, I took a deep breath, all the while trying to maintain my focus on the counterspell. “You’ve got power, Fang,” I said. “I could teach you to control it.”

Fang’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t need your help, wizard. I got this far on my own.”

“Yeah,” King said. “You got trapped in a sewer.”

“Hey, sarcasm,” I called over to the corgi. “I must be rubbing off on you.”

Fang let out a snarl. “Is this all you have to offer, Dresden? Tricks and mockery? I’m not interested.”

I spread my hands wide. The light from my amulet bounced crazily around the walls, and for a heart-stopping second it looked like Fang’s shadows had returned. King let out a strangled yelp. “No tricks. You’re going down a dark path. I’ve been where you are. Something tells me my associate here has too.” I nodded to King, who blinked in surprise. I felt momentarily vindicated. I returned my attention to Fang. “You could use a mentor.” I reached out a hand. “Join me, Fang.”

No Darth Vader voice. It wasn’t the time.

Fang stared at my outstretched hand like it was about to sprout legs and attack him. “I can’t,” he said finally.

I pulled back my hand. It was disappointing, to be sure, but I wasn’t exactly surprised. “Alright. Well, you’re free to go.”

“What?” said Fang.

“What?” said King.

“Seriously, boss?” said Mister.

I turned on my heel to see my cat standing in the doorway behind me. In the glare of his flashlight I could make out the vague shape of a crowd of dogs standing behind him. He must have led them there through the dark to find me. I felt a flash of annoyance, but in retrospect I hadn’t told him to stay put. And if I had he probably wouldn’t have listened.

“Hold this.” Mister thrust the flashlight into the hands of a short terrier to his right, who fumbled for a second before he got hold of it. The beam settled, trembling, on Mister as he prowled forward, eyes locked on Fang. The dog bared his teeth, but Mister’s claws weren’t out. Wordlessly, he marched up to the dog and grabbed him by the chin, forcing him to make eye contact.

I’d never seen a Soulgaze from the outside before.

From the point of view of a participant, a Soulgaze was shocking, emotional, maybe overwhelming. Everything I saw during the course of the gaze would be etched into my memory for the rest of my life. From the perspective of a bystander, it wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic. For a few seconds, they stood there, bodies motionless, eyes glazed.

Then, without warning, the spell was broken. As if they were responding to the crack of a starting gun that only they could hear, Mister and Fang recoiled from each other. Mister sucked in a deep breath with a hissing sound, claws snapping out. Fang stumbled back, eyes narrowed warily.

They considered each other. Slowly, Mister retracted his claws and started to brush down his bristling fur. Fang stared him down, wary and confused.

Mister caught his breath and cleared his throat. “Let him go.” His voice was quiet. He didn’t look away from the scrawny dog that stood across from him.

After just a moment’s hesitation, White Fang turned and ran, disappearing into the darkness of Undertown. Once he was out of sight, I let my concentration lapse, and the counterspell faded. Fang would have access to his powers again. For a second, I held my breath, expecting howls to come echoing from the darkness. But there was nothing.

I turned my light on the crowd of dogs and felt, if not relief, then at least a sense of satisfaction. The dogs were safe, and so was King.

I’d done my job.

As we lead the dogs from the room and back the way we came, I spared one last troubled glance over my shoulder, toward the darkness where White Fang had fled.

******************************

Thanks for the positive feedback, everyone! I'm glad to see even some non-Dresden Files readers are getting into my weird crossover.

This section was tough to write, at least in part because I wasn't sure how it was going to end until I was almost done. Also moving sucks and is taking up a good chunk of my time. xP Nevertheless, the conclusion is currently a work in progress. Stay tuned!


Fri Jun 21, 2019 11:43 am
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Post Re: Lone Wolf - A Housepets/Dresden Files Crossover
I do really find myself enjoying the crossover even if it is very weird and I like the way you are writing things too! Awesome job!


Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:15 pm
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