"If you are sure, wizard, than lay your claim." These words echoed in the thoughts of Harry Dresden as he stood upon the risen mound of stone and moss, staring at the blade of immaculate white which hung before him unaided by any force but for magic itself. Gravity rippled around the tool as he laid his hands near, so close to grasping the pale hilt that seemed as if it were made out of transparent bone. He grit his teeth and withdrew, hesitant in flesh and mind. "How can I claim an artifact that has laid waste to the realms, Mab?" he spoke into the quiet night. Flakes drifted off of the sword as he gave her name, and within his heart a pulse of familiar ache began to pain him. "A Winter Knight without his Queen is no knight at all, but how can you ask me to do this?" He clutched his chest as veins of frost thickened momentarily, and his flesh grew pale as milk, pale as ice, thin, glossy. Harry ducked his head and closed his eyes. "How can I not, right?" he said. He breathed out and raised his hand with conviction, and the force which held back all those before him who had dared try to pick it from the air relented. Harry twined his fingers tight about the hilt and drew forth the Wellspring of Winter, and into him then as he beheld it flowed the entire lineage of Winter Knights. The power that surged sought for a Queen, a Mother, a Lady. But it found only a Knight, and so bestowed what it could. His ears pricked and Harry Dresden turned. Fire burned on the horizon. Demons. Worse, Denarians. He had run from them before, year after year, run from his course, his last trial given to him, before the Outer Gates broke. Ice cooled his fears. Steel melted into his broken spine and firmed, purging the infectious spike driven in ten years ago. Like a film of scum, a haze of delirium, the taint of Lasciel's half-accepted coin bled away from his awareness for the first time. He felt his body responding to his understanding of his duty. The demons charged on, lead by some new Denarian of who he had no name to place to the face. Harry raised the sword in his hand, gradually shortening as its strength flowed into his willing vessel, and a hundred voices whispered thoughts, suggestions, demeanor's into his innermost ears more seditiously than Lasciel's spirit ever could have. Cold enveloped his heart to clench tight. He looked down to the Wellspring of Winter, sighed, and strode forward, not away, allowing the advice of his predecessors to come forward and guide his motions. He had never been a good Knight. Mab had come too late into his life to truly claim him as her own, until now. He raised the sword high. In response, the deadened land erupted with snowflakes and dust. He gave shape to his subjects, drawn from distant memory of his own, and then much more hardened encounters by those who came before. He breathed a wisp of life into the dead fae lords and ladies, creatures of might and merry death incarnate. He locked eyes with the Erlking renewed, a proud salute in stare passing between them. The bleak hordes of hell gave pause at what he was doing. Harry gave them no chance to answer, to think, to warn the rest of the realms. He marched on with his powers at work and began the duty inherited from Mab at last. The Winter Knight became the Winter King. /end. Not wholly sure where I was going with this a few months ago but I still kind of like it.