We open with Harry complaining about how his rapist skull is being such a downer about this whole nightmare business.
“Harry, look at this thing. Look at what it’s done. It crossed a threshold.”
“So what?” I asked. “Lots of things can.
Indeedity. You can’t have thresholds be a non-issue for this long and expect me to care.
I’m willing to buy the argument about some things having an easier time with thresholds than others, even if thus far it’s solely exposition. If you were trying to narrow this down by ruling out entities that can’t handle thresholds, this would be an okay argument – maybe the specific cross-section of “no visible trace” + “crosses thresholds” is mostly full of nasty things. But you can’t just say only the most badassest of creatures can cross thresholds when we’ve seen them in action and they weren’t exactly unstoppable.
Indeed, Harry continues with exactly what I was thinking:
Remember that toad demon? It came over my threshold and trashed my whole place.”
“In the first place, Harry,” Bob said, “you’re a bachelor. You don’t have all that much of a threshold to begin with. This Malone, though-he was a family man.”
Good god this is bad plotting. Harry’s been lecturing about thresholds every time they come up, insulting others for not maintaining theirs, etc…but now that there’s a rapist skull for exposition duty, he’s the idiot.
(Also – a “family” man? There’s no mention of kids. I can believe a devoted couple could have a ward just as good as someone with kids, but it’s very weird to call someone devoted to a single person a family man.)
We then get another spatter of retcon:
Besides which-the toad demon came in and everything after that was pure physical interaction. It smashed things, it spat out acid saliva, that kind of thing. It didn’t try to wrench your soul apart or enchant you into a magical sleep.”
The toad demon’s very form was magic, and generating ultra-acid from presumably nowhere that couldn’t be spat at all until it had forced its way past the threshold while not being harmed by it and also it mostly damages distinct objects rather than just happily eating through the inorganic floor seems pretty magic.
“This is getting to be a pretty fine distinction, Bob.”
Yeah, it is pretty shitty, but I’m quite sure you guys can top it. Let’s see!
Did you ask for an invitation before you went into the Malone’s house?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess I did. It’s polite, and-”
“And it’s harder for you to work magic in a home you haven’t been invited into. You cross the threshold without an invitation, and you leave a big chunk of your power at the door. It doesn’t affect you as much because you’re a mortal, Harry, but it still gets you in smaller ways.”
That’s right, now apparently Harry had no idea thresholds were an issue and the reason he was emphasizing being invited in was just politeness that luckily meant he had magic when he needed it, nevermind that he narrated what was happening and why the whole time.
I’m not sure what the hell happened. Was this the first draft, but then he/his editor thought they needed to make Harry explain thresholds early and often, and then no one remembered this scene needed to be edited? It’d explain that weird emphasis on Harry supposedly respecting people’s boundaries if originally it had the typical fairy-tale logic where the hero is rewarded for existing virtues, even if, on the heels of the Morty thing, it’d still have looked like a total asspull.
Wouldn’t be that hard to fix it. Let’s say he ambushes Morty after the guy leaves his house, as would make perfect sense given the scene starts with Morty already outside the house – that’d even give his gust of wind slamming the door some actual point, if it was done because the guy tried to dart back in. Probably need to reduce the amount of time spent on being invited in to see Micky – without a very good reason, he’s delaying while a friend is suffering. Having several people at the door, including her, and him making sure to ask if she’s okay with him coming in would make more sense.
Harry then SUDDENLY REALIZES that ghosts and other pure magic critters have trouble with thresholds.
If this Nightmare is a ghost, like you say, then the threshold should have stopped it cold-and even if it had gone past it, then it shouldn’t have had the kind of power it takes to hurt a mortal that badly.”
So…then it’s not the ghost. Look, you have absolutely no evidence right now linking the nightmare and the barbed wire. Also, again, vampires running around. If you’re thinking about things that are heavy in the magical power, connected to death, and might be able to shenanigan their way around a threshold? Vampire. Hell, if spit apparently counts as nonmagic, one could knock on the door, spit in your face with their sweet narcotic saliva, then ask for an invite.
The rapist skull says the kind of power you need to do this after losing power from a strong threshold Maybe a god someone’s dug up. Hecate, Kali, or one of the Old Ones.”
Ah, and again we see the problem of combining this with One True God. I think we can all agree that the Christian god could do a fuckton more than just barb wire some guy. And it can’t be one of those where lack of belief can cap godly power! You’ll always see Hindu gods getting name-dropped in the same sentence as dead gods despite their enormous number of very living worshipers. Who the hell needs to dig up Kali? She’s right there!
Harry counters that he thinks a god is a bit more dignified than wrecking shit in a temper tantrum and hurting kitties…further confirming that we’re working off the standard of generic one true god, because if we’re going by numbers, the petty asshole gods throughout human history outnumber the chill ones. Even the Christian god, if you look at the different incarnations, is generally down with horrible things over minor infractions. I’m not sure even what the ballpark figure would be here – basically every god we invented was a temperamental monster, and we’re doing the all myths are real so all of those were legitimate gods, so really this comes down to the question of how many gods existed total, and so many of the oldest ones (who would also be the most ragey asshole ones) would be forgotten by now.
The rapist skull replies with, “Harry, it went through the threshold,” Bob said. “Ghosts don’t do that. They can’t!”
So? There’s like a million things around! It isn’t just ghost or god!
We know it got stopped at a church threshold but went through a human threshold. Doesn’t that just mean demon? The fact the particular demon that went after Harry wouldn’t have been strong enough doesn’t matter, that guy was summoned by a complete newbie and we know there’s a range of demons, which presumably includes a range of power levels. Or, if there’s no holy bonus against demons, then we know power range now – more than this threshold, less than that threshold. I can’t see Kali getting stopped by consecrated ground.
I mean, we know holy water works on ghouls and vampires. Does it work on fairies? I’m almost certain it doesn’t work on angels. And iron doesn’t harm ghosts and probably doesn’t harm demons given Harry didn’t try that. And demons can’t cross running water but I can’t imagine fairies have trouble there. And if creatures can be weak to certain things, it follows they could be strong against others. At the moment, our barbed wire user has only been able to breech one threshold, that of a mundane house. The ghosts seem to have all been aggroed in public areas and also, presumably, on the Nevernever side, and this after Harry explicitly said monsters just don’t get thresholds.
So what you should do is check out what monsters are good at getting into houses, maybe narrow it down to say, childless couples, or else ones that can get into “unsecured” houses for free because who bothers sprinkling salt under windows or whatever. There’s a million monsters, I’m sure there’s a bunch for just that niche that you could research.
Then remember vampires are good at getting into houses, drop the research you weren’t going to do, and just call Bianca. If you’re pretty sure she and the others couldn’t have done it, pretend you don’t know that while demanding she solve your problem – she definitely knows more than you about stuff, and she also views this place as her territory so it shouldn’t be hard to get her to deal with it, and of things that’ll piss her off, “I have no idea what your powers are and assume you can do basically anything!” seems comparatively safe. And if she doesn’t, if she acts suspicious and won’t tell you anything, then that’s another data point that whatever it is is either working with her or scary enough she doesn’t want to go against it, at which point you call up the white council and say shit’s going down, haha suckers it’s your problem now!!! I mean, come on, you don’t even like them, why not use them to solve your problems? Worst case scenario, they recognize it and tell you what to do next, in which case you still avoided almost all of the work PLUS you get to look like a team player in the most obnoxious way.
Harry does none of this. All he does is continue to waffle on the gods vs ghost issue, saying that apparently the council has a cthulhu alarm and that obviously didn’t go off, ruling out the old one set of gods. It’s unclear from what he says if those gods can’t manifest in a small place and are always global or if they’re just such a big deal that a manifestation at any spot makes stuff ring on the other side of the planet – but whatever it means, he says this is a local issue.
I jabbed a finger at Bob. “If I’m right, then there’s a monster out there messing with my town, and I’m obliged to do something about it before someone else gets hurt.”
Yes, you are! I’m not even going to whine about how you never felt like this before. Fine, this is weirdly delayed character development, I don’t care, I’ll take it. Plus you’re trying to reason this out and even if the reasoning is weird that’s mostly the weight of the other books and their kitchen-sink magic system, in just this book where it’s a range of spirits it’d work. Well, almost…
“Maybe it had some other way to get around the threshold. What if it had an invitation?”
“How could it have gotten that?” Bob said. “Ding-dong, Soul Eater Home Delivery, may I come in?”
“Bite me,” I said.
VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE VAMPIRE HOW THE FUCK DID YOU FORGET VAMPIRES THEY EVEN SHOWED UP THIS VERY BOOK.
Instead, Harry’s theory is it possessed Lydia and jesus christ his reasoning is bad.
“Possible, I guess-but she was wearing your talisman.”
“If it could get around a threshold, maybe it could get around that too. She goes to Malone’s, looks helpless, and gets an invite in.”
“So it doesn’t need any special ability to shove through threshold if it could get an invite through possession, but it’d need some special ability to possess her, but it obviously has a special ability because it shoved through a threshold.”
The rapist skull’s only objection to this absolutely airtight reasoning is that it doesn’t explain mangling the animals. Yeah, but the main problem is we still don’t know if that does anything, and you guys should. Does that boost evil power, or was it just bored? One could mean it was struggling to keep a grip on Lydia and still have enough power left over for the barbed wire trick, the other just means it probably had to wait a while.
Neither points out that a “family man”, seeing a sick, starving girl show up on his doorstep, would probably call for his wife to help while inviting her in. I wonder if it’s that there’s this unspoken assumption by the both of them that any man would take advantage of something like that. It seems weird on Harry’s part when he’s spent so much time on how other people have these beautiful relationships, but then again he’s spent time on how much he loves Rodriguez and that wouldn’t have stopped him from fucking the girl himself. Maybe he doesn’t see any contradiction between “loving husband Micky” and “raped a homeless kid Micky”.
Speaking of, the rapist skull thinks Harry’s wrong and goes on to list a couple other times he was sure he was right. None of them involve the numerous times he got women killed, something you’d think would be relevant when discussing Lydia. No, just joke things about magic dynamite and flying brooms.
I pushed my hands against either side of my head to keep it from exploding with theories, and whittled them down to the ones that fit the facts. “There are only a couple of possibilities. A, we’re dealing with some kind of godlike being in which case we’re screwed.”
B, this thing is a spirit, something we’ve seen before, and it’s using smoke and mirrors within the rules we already know.
This is not how reasoning works.
He then, because he is a piece of shit, concludes with, Either way, I think Lydia knows more than she’s admitting.” You fucker. “more than she said”, maybe, and only because you refused to actually talk to her in favor of browbeating and assumptions.
Lydia told you:
1) A ghost was going to tear her soul apart.
2) You are important in what’s to come.
We know #1 is completely true because it’s precisely what happened. We know #2 is completely true because we’re three books into this shitshow.
Moreover, let’s consider what Harry said to her. He made it clear he didn’t believe in her because she didn’t have details. Now, it’s possible the workaround for Cassandra’s Tears is supposed to be not giving details, except she directly said she has visions, so she obviously wasn’t trying to hide the fact and we can assume that the curse actually affects any attempt to communicate the information she has from it. It’s possible the more information she gives the worse it gets, but she volunteered the bit about how special Harry was – unless we’re to assume that wasn’t a legitimate vision (maybe the real workaround with Cassandra’s Tears is to make up visions that say the same thing for completely different reasons?), but Harry’s response is precisely as dismissive.
“Gee, a woman taking advantage of Captain Chivalry. What are the odds.”
That she’s already dead from his refusal to help? That’s a good point, Rapist Skull! Lydia is not in a very good place narratively.
Then he makes a second point that’s actually good in-universe:
“You’re forgetting the third possibility,” Bob said amiably. “C, it’s something new that neither of us understand
Although we again get a bit of show/tell difficulty, the rapist skull is supposed to be pretty knowledgeable and he did show that last book, so maybe we’re meant to take it as given that the reason it’s split between ghost vs god is that everything else has some obvious tell that rules it out. That makes the whole conversation a lot more reasonable.
Harry repeats that he gave that lying, manipulative bitch of a homeless child his protective talisman, and the rapist skull laments that “I still can’t believe after all the work we did, you gave it to the first girl to wiggle by.” and we’re reminded that, as horrible as it is Harry looked at her and saw a piece of meat that needed tenderizing, if she didn’t have tits for him to judge then she’d be dead already. After all, he doesn’t tell her about the church until after he gives her the talisman.
I scowled at Bob. “If she’s still got it, I should be able to work up a spell to home in on it, like when I find people’s wedding rings.”
You could’ve done that any time?
The rapist skull says yeah, right, do the thing. He replies with welllllllllllll she might have taken it off, so he wants his pet rapist skull to go run around to see if there’s any sign of her.
We’ve only got a couple of hours.”
Yes, because you still haven’t done the fucking spell!
You had to go see Morty because he was about to skip town…but you didn’t know that, it was just a coincidence. And once you had the notes, you were planning to spend the time until dusk studying those so you could possibly handle this thing, with no mention of the talisman. By all appearances, you remembered it seconds ago as part of defending yourself against the rapist skull’s accusation giving her it was stupid.
Now, remember that as of this book the rapist skull can’t handle daytime well, so Harry says he can possess Mister.
And he could use the exercise.
Tomcats don’t need exercise, Harry. Do you just never touch your cat so you don’t realize he’s made of layers upon layers of muscle? Do you, and he’s an abscess-riddled mess, and you’re just “lol fatty” when you touch the masses of pus under his skin because you’re the worst cat owner ever? Even my knowledge that he isn’t actually a cat can’t help this because Rodriguez doesn’t immediately identify him as not a cat, so he must be cat-shaped and he must feel cat-like when she touches him and she probably just thinks the giant size is some magic thing you did.
God I hate Harry.
Also, Mister-Bob is just going to run off and have sex with the local ladycats. What the fuck do you expect sticking a rapist skull in a tomcat. Neuter your goddamn pet, Harry.
And don’t waste time prowling around in women’s locker rooms again.”
I’m assuming after a long day of catfucking they were like “shit, can’t let Harry know, quick, run into the locker room and he’ll think that’s what we were doing!”
And then Harry was all, “Oh, peeping on naked ladies, that is CHEATING Bob my buddy friend, just like your roofie potions are CHEATING and for this and only this reason I object to this.”