Dresden Files Grave Peril Ch22

All hospital emergency rooms have the same feel to them. They’re all decorated in the same dull, muted tones and softened edges, which are meant to be comforting and aren’t. They all have the same smell too: one part tangy antiseptics, one part cool dispassion, one part anxiety, and one part naked fear.

This feels like one of those situations where the author’s flunking out on the whole “write what you know” thing and resorting to cliche.

I went to one once. It was over a dog bite and I’d already gotten through the fainting thing that happens when I get hand injuries, so I was pretty lucid. It was a waiting room, kinda cramped, the same hard edges all our hospital areas have, hard tile floor for easy cleaning, and no muted tones thing – they had a bunch of documents on the walls explaining people’s rights in various languages with black frames to stand out. The feel was more “overworked” and “cramped” than “cool dispassion”. Plus there was someone in a wheelchair with a head injury who kept talking about how she’d got the better of whoever she’d fought with to what I assume were the friends who’d brought her, and I suspect “people who’ve willfully made bad decisions” is a much more universal emergency room thing.

In this case, the only other people mentioned as sharing the room is the five-year-old girl holding a broken arm Harry’s bumped ahead of because they prioritize head injuries.

We learn Harry apparently is horrendously injured…

The doctor who examined me wore a nameplate that read SIMMONS. She was broadly built and tough-looking, hair going grey in sharp contrast to her rich, dark skin. She sat down on a stool in front of me and leaned over, putting her hands on either side of my head. They were large, warm, strong. I closed my eyes.

…because we have no idea what this woman’s breasts OR legs look like, just that he likes her skin. However, she goes on to say there’s no injury at all under the blood and then yell at him for this stupid and inconsiderate prank, so I guess it’s permanent brain damage. He may never be able to comment on how attractive he finds women’s body parts again.

I got up and made my bruised way into the bathroom. My face was a mess of faint, dried blood. It had settled mostly into the lines and creases, making me look older, a mask of blood and age.

This is a much better description than that lackluster emergency room.

There was a faint, pink line beginning about an inch below my hair and slashing up into it at an angle.
It felt very tender, and when I accidentally touched it with the rag, it hurt so much that I almost shouted. But the wound was closed, healed.

This actually sounds like it’s not really healed and there’s just some sort of super glamour holding him together. If she actually sped up the healing process so it was months ago, it shouldn’t still hurt at all.

Harry goes on to explain this is serious fucking business.

Working magic directly on a human body is difficult. It’s very difficult. Conjuring up forces, like my shield, or elemental manifestations like the fire or wind is a snap compared to the complexity and power required to change someone’s hair a different color-or to cause the cells on either side of an injury to fuse back together, closing it.

This is a pretty good idea – it also covers why Harry can’t work at the hospital or similar straightforwardly helpful things – but doesn’t fit particularly well with all the times we’ve seen Harry’s potions have no trouble interacting with human bodies, nor did it seem like a concern in calculating how much energy it’d take to heartsplode someone. There might be something there with the issue that conjured forces are temporary. Maybe magic can smush you back into shape just fine, but the moment you stop pouring power in you fall apart again. This would even give us an explanation for how Harry survives getting his skull smashed in at all.

The healing cut was a message for me. My godmother had power over me on earth now, too, as well as in the Nevernever. I’d made a bargain with one of the Fae and broken it. That gave her power over me, which she demonstrated aptly by the way she’d wrought such a powerful and complex working on me-and I’d never even felt it happening.

He broke his bargain with her twice already and nothing happened.

A real scary message would be if holding people together by magic was a thing, because then that’d suggest that Lea didn’t actually heal him but has an ongoing spell holding him together that she’s powerful enough to keep running indefinitely. That would further suggest she’s expending major energy keeping him alive, which means both that she’s very sure this will work out in her favor AND that if he does anything to convince her otherwise, he may die on the spot. And yet, so long as she keeps it going, he can’t even get medical treatment for it!

We can counterbalance this to keep it from getting too terrifying if we keep whatever super-healing Harry had going on back in Fool Moon. Magic being bad at healing doesn’t mean it’s totally useless, so he could still keep enhanced healing, plus even if you can’t cause the cells on either side of an injury to fuse back together magically, holding them perfectly in place to make fusing easier will still speed things up naturally – that’s half of why we sew people up! If Harry pisses off Lea too early, half his brain’s going to plop out onto the floor, but she’ll only have this hold on him for a few days.

But that is not this. This is Harry going on about how I’d always known that Lea had outclassed me-she was a creature with a thousand years or more of experience, knowledge, and she had been born to magic like I had been born to breathing. So long as I remained in the real world, though, she’d had no advantage over me. Our world was a foreign place to her, just as hers was to me. I’d had the home field advantage.

So, she’s got a thousand years of practice in something she’s born awesome at, but Harry thinks it’s natural that previously, he still had the upper hand in our world. This is the same sort of thing as how he always insists whatever’s happening is the worst ever. He just has no sense of scale. Every advantage he has is taken as a given, every advantage anyone else has is the most unfair and horrible thing to ever happen to him.

Harry is trying to clean himself up in the bathroom when one of the Murphy-adjacent police, Stallings, comes in. He explains that Murphy is now also in the hospital, apparently in a coma because, as you may not recall, Harry earlier did a sleep spell. Part of why you might not recall it is that sleep is what makes you vulnerable to attack by this thing, but since apparently the sleep spell specifies dreamless sleep, it instead locks the creature out. Harry and the book at large don’t seem aware this is actually makes it all more boring – normally, stories where you get attacked if you fall asleep end up with people having to keep going until they solve the problem or drop, but here naptime is totally an option.

“My spell won’t hold her for long. Maybe a couple more days, at the most. Each time the sun comes up, it’s going to degrade it a little more.”

So Harry’s spells are weakened by sunrise, yet another point for them not being the every shiniest of white magics.

Also, Harry’s standard for “not long” is “days”, and this is after getting nommed on (and also, after he just explained that magic affecting the body is extra doubleplus hard). Given we also know Harry’s exceptional verging on unique for the amount of power he can chuck at things, this suggests a regular wizard’s maximum would be in the realm of hours at best.

Stallings then delivers Kravos’ spellbook!

a little journal, thick but not broad, bound in dark leather.

Kravos why are you such a disappointment. Shadowpants in the first book had a spine staff! You just know that guy’s black leather spellblook was embossed in red gold with, like, a skull in each corner. Why can’t you be more like Shadowpants, Kravos?

Stallings then tells Harry, If you touch this, if you open it up, you’re going to be leaving your prints on it. Skin cells. All sorts of things. Unless it disappears.” I like that he just accepts that, and in the middle of a hospital no less, that there’s no way Harry would just put on plastic gloves or take any other reasonable precaution.

Harry, for his part, does have a non-stupid reaction to this. He’s baffled because he doesn’t get why the book would even matter, and Stallings just mumbles ominously about stuff he can’t explain and therefore Harry has to burn the book if he touches it. You know, I’d actually say this goes beyond baffling to suspicious – why is he so insistent that the book be destroyed instead of just saying it’ll be a headache if anyone finds out he gave Harry stuff from the evidence locker? Why is he so sure that this already processed piece of evidence is going to be gone over with several fine toothed combs for evidence? …How sure is Harry that Stallings here didn’t take a nap before dawn as well?

Harry doesn’t think of this and instead goes to find Michael, who informs him there’s an issue with the baby.

“The labor was complicated. She was cold, and might have been getting sick with something. Her water did break, back at the graveyard. I guess it makes it a lot harder on the baby.”

I’m not quite sure which way to read this: that the mystery fluid gushing from Charity’s vagina was, in fact, amniotic fluid, and that’s apparently the very worst thing you have to worry about when pregnant? Or that Charity, as one of the easily confused ladyfolk, could have been wrong about the fact anything at all was coming out of her vagina and we need doctor confirmation that yes, a thing happened.

The bit about water breaking being hard on the baby makes it sound like the author may think that’s not supposed to happen at all – like maybe he interpreted the standard “oh no my water broke!!!” bit in TV as the women panicking about an objectively bad event, as opposed to just a signal that that labor was progressing faster than predicted and which you probably don’t want all over your pants. (It also means the baby no longer has a chance to inhale fluid if it tries to breathe before birth.)

The fact it’s about dawn and the baby’s already out means there really wasn’t time for any of this to be hard on the baby. Interestingly, extremely fast labor does have some medical concerns – for the mother, in both the obvious tearing way and also all sorts of other complications with stuff like the placenta not detaching right. In this case Charity didn’t even give birth naturally, they hacked her open a while ago, which given it’s only been a couple hours means either these guys are amoral butchers getting paid by the C-section or there was something else that was really, really wrong.

If the issue wasn’t “water” but blood, we’d have an easy answer – a ruptured placenta can so easily kill both. Attempting to stem the bleeding for the mother will starve the baby of oxygen even faster, but even if they have blood on hand to pour into Charity, the baby might still suffocate, so the easiest option is just to tell it to start breathing air instead of mooching around in the womb.

Michael adds, They don’t know if she’ll be able to have children again.” It’s interesting this is presented with exactly the same emphasis as that the baby itself may die. (It’s also odd that suddenly, the idea God will make it work out okay has disappeared. They didn’t actually yoink out her uterus, nothing about this is certain, it’s exactly the level of concern that many normal Christians who wasn’t getting personal miracles every day would be willing to pray and trust in God about instead of freaking out.)

Then it’s time for another trope that’s about as awful:
“The doctor thinks I beat her. That’s how she got the bruises. He never said anything, but …”
“That’s ridiculous,” I said, at once. “Stars and stones, Michael, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Michael isn’t upset that the doctor is going to report him, that he’s looking at legal issues and maybe losing his kids, and neither is Harry. Harry’s offended (how dare a person misjudge precious perfect Michael!) and Michael’s emoing about how really, doesn’t he deserve the doctor’s silent, definitely-not-actually-going-to-do-anything judgment because it is his fault Charity’s hurt, sorta!

His voice came out hard, bitter. He stared at his faint reflection in the glass. “It might as well have been me, Harry.

This kind of thing is why people talk about manpain and fridging. The fact that husbands who beat their wives into miscarriages will face no consequences and their wives just go back home with them without help isn’t something Michael cares about. It’s not something the narration cares about. That’s why it can be presented as completely equivalent, and why there’s no extra horror to the fact the most the doctor does is give Michael a dirty look. And neither spare any thought for how Charity feels about this either, because that’s also not something worth caring about it. Why this happened is really irrelevant. Michael feels bad his property was damaged and that people think less of him for the damage. Whether it was him deliberately doing it to her or him failing at his manly role of family protector doesn’t matter in the least. That’s also why this current baby dying and him not being able to get other babies out of his wife are similarly completely equivalent – from the point of view of possessing an object, losing a new one and losing the ability to get another are pretty much the same.

I know the simple advice here is stop concentrating the bad things on women and the main character role on men, and that is an aspect of it, but the greater part is in treatment. I listened to a lot of podcasts over the summer, and one of them, Wolf 359, killed off a female character. It was a textbook fridging: a bunch of characters are in peril, she dies so people can be upset about it – except, as the episodes progress, they’re not upset about “it”. They’re upset about her. One character is left both mourning and raging, having been close friends with but also betrayed by her – the reaction is all to who she was and what she did, with the death just throwing all of that into sharper relief. Another character has a more straightforward reaction…but it’s the reaction you usually see when the female character loses her male mentor, where he turns on everyone using the skills she taught him rather than his own and burns all his bridges in the process because who cares now that she’s dead? (He also has a sweet rant about how it’s everyone else’s fault because she was a genius and the only way she could have gotten killed is the people fucking things up for her.)

Michael says he’s hurting so much because of what happened to Charity. But if someone really were, they wouldn’t even be bringing it up. If you want to show someone devastated by what happened to someone else, you’re better served with swearing up and down that they’re fine and all that matters is the other person rather than wallowing in self-pity.

But this book revolves around that. Michael goes on about that old cliche of “It should have come after me.” and Harry informs us that actually, it should’ve.

“Demons are tough, Michael. They’re dangerous and they’re scary, but they’re really kind of clueless in a lot of ways.”
“How so?”
“They just don’t get it, about people. They understand things like lust and greed and the desire for power, but they just don’t get things like sacrifice and love. It’s alien to most of them-doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Aside from yet another reveal that the reader really can’t figure out, there’s the problem that even with the specks of demon information we do have, this seems like bullshit.

Going after Michael’s wife and kid is covered just fine under greed – demon fucked up his property. And while it’s presumably using Harry’s form just because Harry’s the alpha sue, in theory it should be trying to go for a betrayal angle, where it mangles people and Harry gets blamed and turned on by his friends.

“Remember what I said, about how I knew the worst way to get to you would be through your family?”…”I know that because I’m human. I know what it’s like to care about someone other than myself.

Multiple serialkiller sociopaths have expressed the fact that they would be infuriated by other some other murderer harming their family. This isn’t some super special rare trait. And yet Harry, even going on to specify that yes, he means the ones who do the soul contracts with humans all the time, claims this is beyond the understanding of demons. Realizing the thing humans explicitly say would hurt them would hurt them is beyond the understanding of demons? How the fuck do they get souls, then? Why did that demon last book think Harry would give a flying fuck about finding out info on his mom?

Now, you might think Harry’s point here is that eating him made it more human, but no.

I don’t think it ever would have occurred to it to take a shot at someone that we care about-even if it did have my knowledge about you. There’s got to be something else going on here.”
Michael’s eyes widened a bit. “The Nightmare is a cat’s-paw,” he said. “Someone else is using it to hit at us.”
“Someone who can cast those barbed-wire torment spells,” I said. “And we’ve been chasing around after the tool instead of going after the hand that’s wielding it.”

Right! Someone like

“I don’t know.

Oh for fuck’s sake Harry.

Did the werewolf pileup just break you? You assume everything you encounter is completely unrelated?

If it’s not vampires, SAY IT CAN’T BE VAMPIRES before you go back to mumbling about how it could be literally anything, who knows, plot just does whatever and we’re all along for the ride.

Even more infuriatingly, Harry now begins to bring up completely random options, like, maybe it’s wizards who don’t like him? Because it’s not like wizards killing other wizards is heavily policed or anything. And then Michael suggests it’s fairies since one is actively showing up and fucking with them and Harry says nope because apparently They aren’t usually this methodical or organized.  So the things that live and die by excruciatingly complex legal bullshit can’t handle “be active two nights in a row attacking any one of a big set of people”, because fairies! So whimsical! And they aren’t impatient, either. This thing’s been active every night which is completely unlike how Sexy Cougar Godmum has appeared twice already, jumping on every chance to harass Harry. That’s not impatience at all.

At this point, the characters feel they’ve done enough pretending they’re trying to actually solve this problem and go right for talking about Harry’s manpain again. How did he end up with Sexy Cougar Godmum??? We desperately need this rehashed yet further!!! Harry explains that his mom presumably picked Sexy Cougar as Godmum, because, I assume, there were zero non-rapey fairies as an option. So, yeah, if you were really confused about if “godmother” required the parent to pick, or if kids can enter into the contract themselves, and you really needed that and not every other nonsense thing in this book clarified, congrats! We know now. Mostly. Because Harry’s just guessing that’s how it happened.

Michael is not done being manpain exposition facilitator, and wants to know what precisely the deal was. Harry doesn’t even give us new info here. He gives Michael the cliffnotes version, meaning there’s no point in having this conversation on camera at all.

“She did take the sword though.”
I winced. “Yeah. I guess that was my fault. If I hadn’t have tried to use it to weasel out of the deal …”

“yeah I guess that was my fault” is these books in a nutshell. And indeed, Michael reassures Harry that it isn’t, because apparently the magic geek who knows all about fairies, well, “You couldn’t have known,”

Now it’s time for Micahel to transition to his own whining.

“The sword won’t stay in her hands forever. The Lord won’t allow that. But it may be that my time to wield it has passed.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Perhaps it was a sign. Perhaps that I am no longer worthy to serve Him in this way.

So, Charity and Baby being in dire medical states because of an outside force: oh no!!! what can be done??? oh it is my fault, it is my actions that have caused this!!!
Sword being lost explicitly because of Harry’s layered fuckups: This is probably, like, God’s plan, you know? God is in control of everything. Everything happens for a reason, man.

Harry, being a Good Person and Good Friend, reacts to this exactly as you’d expect:

Oh, great. All I needed, now, was a crisis of faith and bad case of career doubt from the Fist of God. I needed Michael. I needed someone to watch my back, someone who was used to dealing with the supernatural. Sword or no sword, he had a steady head, and his faith had a subtle power of its own. He could be the difference between me getting killed and defeating whoever was out there. Besides, he had wheels.

He explains to Michael that hey, it’s not like he can do anything to help his family (except pray, which pretty obviously does have power in this world), and since they’re just objects and not things where you might desperately want to be with them for their last night on Earth, well, let’s just ditch them!

Michael does make a tepid objection to leaving his family yet again. Harry brushes it off with, “No, not leave them. But we need to find the person behind the Nightmare and take care of them.” By leaving them! But the point isn’t leaving them, it’s just that’ll happen as an unimportant consequence of you doing other, more important things.

“Harry. What are we going to do? Kill someone?”
“If we have to. Hell’s bells, Michael, they might have murdered your son.”
His face hardened, and I knew then that I had him, that he’d follow me into Hell to get at whoever had hurt his wife and child. I had him all right-and I hated myself for it.

Seriously, this is a level of morality serialkiller sociopaths manage. Does Charity want him to go? Nobody cares Charity, we’re busy avenging you, shut up. Tiny dying baby, would you like to be held in your last moments? Too bad, Dad just left to stab somebody he blames for this instead!

And then they leave. For Harry’s lab, where Michael won’t actually be doing anything but waiting, but, as Harry said, he needs wheels and is too stingy to pay for a taxi and that’s way more important than being with your dying wife and baby.

49 Comments

  1. CrazyEd says:
     the fainting thing that happens when I get hand injuries

    … The what?

    It felt very tender, and when I accidentally touched it with the rag, it hurt so much that I almost shouted. 

    Out of all the wounds Harry has sustained, this is the one that (almost) makes him reveal the fact he has weakness? Maybe this head wound is for the better.

     it also covers why Harry can’t work at the hospital

    You mean besides the “breaking tech” thing, right? That, on its own, should be enough of a reason.

    Speaking of which, wasn’t Charity in premature labour right about now? And Harry’s bitching about a little cut on his forehead?

    (and also, after he just explained that magic affecting the body is extra doubleplus hard)

    My guess is that either this counts as mind magic, the body-affecting difficulty is difficulty in affecting the body’s form specifically (which would explain the date rape potion), or that Jim Butcher is a hack who just thought up this part right then and there.

    If you touch this, if you open it up, you’re going to be leaving your prints on it. 

    Even if his prints were found on it, why would it even matter? He was involved in the acquisition of it as evidence. It’s totally possible he might’ve picked it up before it was processed as evidence or something. But even if that explanation didn’t fly, because it was undoubtedly already processed and they found new prints on a reprocessing, so what? Is Kravos going to get out of jail on a technicality (not likely, considering I’m almost certain he’s dead) or is it going to implicate Harry as some kinda cultish serial killer or whatever the cops were going after Kravos for?

    Then it’s time for another trope that’s about as awful:

    Is “pregnant woman ends up injured due to some supernatural event they can’t explain to the doctor so he assumes that the husband beat her so hard it induced premature labour” really that common a trope?

    It might as well have been me, Harry.

    Aww, don’t be so hard on yourself, Mike. It’s not your fault. It’s Harry’s.

    I know what it’s like to care about someone other than myself.

    Has Harry shown the slightest care for the wellbeing of literally any other character, purely for the sake of that character, other than whatever drives him to feed Mister?

    I wonder how what’s-her-name who got kidnapped by vampires is doing right now.

    “Perhaps it was a sign. Perhaps that I am no longer worthy to serve Him in this way.

    Well, he has been hanging out and tolerating Harry a lot recently, so this isn’t so far-fetched…




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    1. illhousen says:

      Is “pregnant woman ends up injured due to some supernatural event they can’t explain to the doctor so he assumes that the husband beat her so hard it induced premature labour” really that common a trope?

      Not this specifically, but “my wife/child/loved one was injured in accident/attacked by someone else and people think I did it, which causes me (man)pain” is actually a pretty common thing.

      Urban fantasy in particular loves it due to the masquerade preventing characters from simply saying, “it was actually werewolves,” so it’s easier to construct a situation where injuries would be mistaken for abuse.

      More generally, framing everything from the position of how it affects male characters is really common.




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      1. Nerem says:
        In the urban fantasy story I’m writing, there’s no masquerade, just the supernatural threat of the story being a complete unknown, so when the protagonist gets put in the hospital with crippling injuries including loss of eye and arm, “a monster did it” is actually pretty believable.



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    2. Farla says:

      You mean besides the “breaking tech” thing, right? That, on its own, should be enough of a reason.

      Given he lives on the ground floor of a multi-family building without, presumably, wrecking everyone else’s wiring, they could keep him in a basement corner safely. He also doesn’t destroy computers until he actually walks into the room. Best would probably be to have some sort of dumbwaiter pulley setup to lower patients in, since anyone really sick might be attached to various machines to live. So, wheel them in over Harry’s head, yank everything out and drop them down before they finish dying.

      He’d go well next to the morgue, I think – could also be helpful for every murder victim who managed to get a scrap of hair.

      Is “pregnant woman ends up injured due to some supernatural event they can’t explain to the doctor so he assumes that the husband beat her so hard it induced premature labour” really that common a trope?

      It actually is! Seriously, any time a woman’s pregnant it’s so her pregnancy can be threatened by whatever the story’s about. It’s like a bonus multiplier. Natural disaster? By the way, pregnancy complications!!! Werewolves? By the way, pregnancy complications!!! Angered the mafia and now they’re gunning for you? By the way, pregnancy complications!!! And they’re never just straight up miscarrying, no. If they go that route, nothing goes wrong with the pregnancy, it’s just a pregnant woman gets killed killing the fetus in the process. Pregnancy complications are always early labor leading to a distressed infant that might die, because the pregnancy threat isn’t even about the woman. She’s playing the role of “failing incubator” in a scifi plot. She may or may not die in the process, but the point is that the baby, the most property sort of property you can get, has been compromised. Now…it’s PERSONAL. (It’s usually a boy, because losing a boy is more tragic. The exception is if it’ll be sticking around to be threatened again, in which case girl, because they’re more threatenable.)

      Come to think of it, I suspect you’d see less of this coming out of countries that were less into parents as unquestioned god-kings of their children’s existence.




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  2. Socordya says:

    That’s also why this current baby dying and him not being able to get other babies out of his wife are similarly completely equivalent – from the point of view of possessing an object, losing a new one and losing the ability to get another are pretty much the same.

    Well, children are a fungible commodity.




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    1. illhousen says:

      I’m glad to live in the day when there is an SMBC strip for absolutely everything.




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      1. CrazyEd says:
        But is there an SMBC about being glad to live in the day when there is an SMBC strip for absolutely everything?



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        1. Socordya says:

          Honestly? There probably is, I just can’t find it right now.




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          1. illhousen says:

            There was a joke to that effect under the button, though I don’t remember the actual strip. I think it features a chart.




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  3. Act says:

    Her water did break, back at the graveyard. I guess it makes it a lot harder on the baby.

    Mr. Act and I were trying to figure out some explanation for this that wasn’t, “Butcher doesn’t realize this is supposed to happen,” and the most generous thing we could come up with was that maybe he thinks that if they wait to long after the water breaks to get to a hospital it’s hard on the baby, but even that is a huge stretch.

    Butcher is obviously an ALPHA MALE fucking idiot, but I can’t believe an editor didn’t catch this.

    “The doctor thinks I beat her. That’s how she got the bruises. He never said anything, but …”

    This is stupid because making sure an injured women wasn’t a victim of abuse is standard procedure. Asking several times how the injuries happened, if she feels safe at home, talking to her alone, etc., are all just protocol. Michael is being a self-involved whiny baby here. They did it to me and Mr. Act when I went to the ER for a bad IBS attack for christssakes. And it’s a damn good thing it’s procedure, because it likely catches abusers.




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    1. Farla says:

      I’d say the most likely thing is people did ask, Charity gave whatever explanation she could, and Michael’s too self-absorbed to realize any of this is going on. It’s not clear how much, if any, time he’s actually spent with Charity at this point.

      And yeah, and it’s doubly important with pregnant women, because abuse rates spike for that. Pregnant woman, already has young kids, Catholic husband who likely doesn’t believe in birth control, suddenly gets brutalized right before she was supposed to give birth? Michael has plenty of room to be actually worried about losing his kids here. Especially if there’s any witnesses saying she was last seen with a guy matching the description of his tall burly friend, you know, the one who came in bloody from a fight with…someone.




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  4. illhousen says:

    This actually sounds like it’s not really healed and there’s just some sort of super glamour holding him together.

    Now, see, that would be an interesting take on fae magic similar to Raksha fantasies in nature: the healing spell is perfectly real for as long as nobody examines it too much and doesn’t call bullshit on it. The more attention you pay to it, the more fragile it becomes, until eventually it would collapse, reopening the injury.

    Of course, we can’t have cool things here.

    Kravos why are you such a disappointment. Shadowpants in the first book had a spine staff! You just know that guy’s black leather spellblook was embossed in red gold with, like, a skull in each corner. Why can’t you be more like Shadowpants, Kravos?

    I don’t know, I generally like the idea of seemingly mundane things holding great importance and power. I’d even go farther and say the leather-bound journal is not mundane enough. Make it a worn-out notebook with, like, a pleasant neutral image on the cover (forest or a butterfly), spiral spine and lined paper. Add random doodles in the margins and such.

    “Remember what I said, about how I knew the worst way to get to you would be through your family?”…”I know that because I’m human. I know what it’s like to care about someone other than myself.

    Going by emotionally fucked Harry theory, I think he’s mostly projecting here. He has convinced himself that being upset about other people dying is something special, something meaningful, something that proves he’s not a monster but a human being because he still has it, and as long as he has it, he’s fine. Therefore, true monsters can’t have the same feelings or even be aware of them.




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    1. CrazyEd says:
      Make it a worn-out notebook with, like, a pleasant neutral image on the cover (forest or a butterfly), spiral spine and lined paper. Add random doodles in the margins and such.

      Well, we’ve seen what happens when Butcher tries this. Harry purchases an antique lunchbox for a TV show he never watched to carry around his magic shit. Butcher really can’t decide if he wants Harry to be some arcane throwback in the modern world, or a modern twist on the arcane world. So he can’t watch TV and has to use candles, but he knows about Scooby Doo and keeps his potions in Gatorade bottles.




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    2. K says:
      Is this that “you have to channel your emotions into your spells and potions and it fucks you up and leaves you numb” theory? Because you, even without that, Dresden seems to pretty much believe that in canon all on his own, no special emotion-eating magic necessary.



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      1. Roarke says:

        What’s really silly about that whole thing is that it’s such a cliche for evil people not to understand good motivations like – gasp – caring for others, yet… villains are constantly threatening families and loved ones because it’s also a cliche for them to hurt the hero emotionally like that, as shown here. It figures Butcher would get his wires crossed here.




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        1. Farla says:

          It’s some weird binary thinking.

          Like, let’s assume evil people can’t understand just how much good people care about others. There’s still the fact that you usually can’t kill dead people twice, so if you’re mad enough at somebody that just killing them won’t cut it, you might as well kill other people first. Worst case scenario, they don’t actually care about any of them but they stew in the knowledge you’ll come for them next and make themselves a bit more miserable that way, plus hey, fun bonus murders! You’re evil, why would you care about if this was the most effective way of causing suffering?




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          1. Roarke says:

            I mean I get that some evil characters are like that. Tarquin from OOTS comes to mind as a great example – he was a total sociopath who never actually loved anyone, but he knew how villains and heroes were ‘supposed’ to think due to his understanding of narrative structure.

            It just doesn’t fit for Harry to throw a blanket statement over the issue when, as you said, we have definite proof  that demons understand why humans care about family and loved ones.




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        2. CrazyEd says:
          I think the crux is that, usually, the villains can logically understand that good people care about other people, even if they can’t empathically understand why.



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          1. Nerem says:
            The Einst from Super Robot Wars are a REALLY good example of a villian type that is said to not understand emotions and the like, and actually follow that.  They show up without any real indications why and always leave just as mysteriously, and they never actually do understand humans, being Lovecraftian horrors.



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    3. Roarke says:

      I don’t know, I generally like the idea of seemingly mundane things holding great importance and power.

      So do I, but what I really like is when magic and other forms of power start off flashy at low levels, and slowly lose those trappings as one goes up the ladder.

      Good examples of such are frustratingly rare, and, weirdly, Harry Potter is one of the only examples I can think of off-hand. You still had some flashiness at the end, but nearly all of Voldemort’s souljars looked mundane, Apparition was no-nonsense compared to brooms, and the strongest wizards used non-verbal spells most of the time.




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    4. Farla says:

      I’d even go farther and say the leather-bound journal is not mundane enough. Make it a worn-out notebook 

      This would be valid in an interesting book but this one is boring and I have to get my entertainment somewhere.

      Also, it should totally be Harry-Hi-I’m-In-The-Phonebook’s thing, and contrast with the more flamboyant wizards who are running demon-summoning sex cults.

      Going by emotionally fucked Harry theory, I think he’s mostly projecting here.

      That’s actually really sad. Harry clawing for the few scraps of positiveish thoughts he has and telling himself that as long as he can still clear THIS bar, he’s normal. You can imagine how when he started off he’d have some sort of rule that actual human beings would think was reasonable, and then over time they just slipped from “killing people is horrible and a last resort, and that means I’m still me” to “killing people is horrible, but it needs to get done sometimes, I still think it’s bad though so I’m okay, I’m still me” to “killing people is bad, I still think that, I’m still me,” to “well I don’t WANT to kill people, I’m still normal and ethical and not all dark magic evil, I’m still me”. Then last book it became, “well, I don’t want to kill PEOPLE, these guys aren’t people, I’m right to want to hurt them…”




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      1. CrazyEd says:
        And then Bob tricked Harry to go from “killing people is wrong” to “killing people when its a tactically unsound decision is wrong”.



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        1. Cosmogone says:
          Is it bad I want to steal this theoretical plot tread to use it in my own book? Butcher doesn’t deserve this kind of cool “fan” theories ade about his garbage books.



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  5. Roarke says:

    Harry and the book at large don’t seem aware this is actually makes it all more boring – normally, stories where you get attacked if you fall asleep end up with people having to keep going until they solve the problem or drop, but here naptime is totally an option.

    More video game pacing. Murphy is going to sleep until Harry finishes the next part of the story, at which point she’ll trigger a cutscene.

    They aren’t usually this methodical or organized.  So the things that live and die by excruciatingly complex legal bullshit can’t handle “be active two nights in a row attacking any one of a big set of people”

    I don’t know a whole lot about the original myths surrounding fae, but they are basically trickster types, right? They’re super impulsive and those laws are the only things holding them in check. Butcher doesn’t seem to recognize how conflicting urges work. Things can only be one-dimensional in his mind. If there’s no immediate law holding Godmom back, obviously she’s going to go on impulse. There’s no paradox or contradiction there.

    A real scary message would be if holding people together by magic was a thing, because then that’d suggest that Lea didn’t actually heal him but has an ongoing spell holding him together that she’s powerful enough to keep running indefinitely. That would further suggest she’s expending major energy keeping him alive, which means both that she’s very sure this will work out in her favor AND that if he does anything to convince her otherwise, he may die on the spot. And yet, so long as she keeps it going, he can’t even get medical treatment for it!

    Dang, you’re good at being evil.




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    1. CrazyEd says:
      Dang, you’re good at being evil.

      In a previous post in this very series, Farla describes what it’s like to eat a heart just because you happened to have one on hand. This is not a remotely surprising fact at all.




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      1. Roarke says:

        Eh. Heart-eating is morally neutral, or at least morally equivalent to eating any other part of a living thing.




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        1. CrazyEd says:
          Here, the heart-eating is more an indicator of villainy than actual villainy, like wearing spiked armour or a cape or living in a voclano doom fort.



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          1. Roarke says:

            Sounds like prejudice to me. I’d love me some spicy spiked armor, or a cape, or a volcano doom fort, or all of those things at once.




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            1. CrazyEd says:
              Prejudice against evil people, maybe. It should come as no surprise that Farla’s horde of evil minions is as evil as she is.



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        2. illhousen says:

          It’s actually morally good. Waste is a sin.




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          1. Roarke says:

            Well, there are other valid ways to not waste it aside from eating it, like pulping it for fertilizer or preserving it for educational purposes. That’s why I think it’s morally neutral.




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            1. Farla says:

              It’d already been educationally hacked apart, and as a composter, I assure you it’s wasteful to throw still-edible food into the pile to rot.




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      2. Farla says:

        Who’s the real evil, me or the monster who just throws away a perfectly good heart?




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        1. CrazyEd says:
          Who’d have a perfectly good heart just lying around in the first place but someone perfectly evil?

          Checkmate, Farla.




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    2. Farla says:

      I don’t know a whole lot about the original myths surrounding fae, but they are basically trickster types, right? They’re super impulsive and those laws are the only things holding them in check. 

      Not exactly. They can be pranksters when bored, but mostly they’re unpredictable because they’re alien.

      A story my mother told me, to get across the underlying issue:

      A fairy comes across a hunter out in the middle of winter. He’s blowing on his hands. “Why are you doing that?” asks the fairy, and the man explains it’s to warm them up. The fairy invites the man to his home for some nice hot soup. When the man takes the soup, he blows on it. The fairy asks him why. “To cool it off.”

      The fairy murders him. Because there’s nothing fairies hate like being lied to.

      Fairies follow rules scrupulously but we don’t know their rules, and they have no other sense of right or wrong to slow them down when you accidentally break one. That’s also why the pranking isn’t really as chaotic as it seems – lacking our morality, there isn’t any implied “you shouldn’t fuck up people’s cows, they need milk to live” rule they need to follow in the first place.

      That’s why there’s all these rules for avoiding fairies or weaseling out of further interactions with them as soon as possible. If you don’t interact, you won’t inevitably screw up a different rule, and if you memorize the correct refuse-further-interaction scripts, they won’t bug you further.

      Also, I think the idea about magic and medical help came in a roundabout way from the Miracleman comics, where there’s a point where the main character’s normal body is horribly injured, then he shifts to his superhero form, then a while later he turns back…




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      1. Act says:

        Tangentially related: everyone on the planet should read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.




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        1. illhousen says:

          I did. It’s probably the most British thing in existence.




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          1. Act says:

            It’s like if you crossed Oscar Wilde with Roald Dahl and I loved every second of it.




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            1. illhousen says:

              Yeah, I liked how it paid homages to classics while creating its own mythology and scientific/folkloric tradition. A lot of work clearly went into making the world and giving it a certain feel.




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              Reply
        2. SpoonyViking says:

          Eh, I found it to be a bit lacklustre, to be honest.




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          1. Act says:

            Mr. Act did as well — he found it dry and quite slow. I love comedies of manners and British people being sarcastic at each other in my fiction so I was smitten from the get-go and maintain that the writing itself was some of the best I’ve ever encountered.




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            1. SpoonyViking says:

              Dry and slow, yes, that’s a very apt description. But indeed, credit where it’s due, the writing in itself was good.

              Oh, if you love British sarcasm, I strongly recommend the “Blackadder” TV series. Rowan Atkinson’s finest work, of that I have no doubt.




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      2. illhousen says:

        I’d say dealing with fae is roughly comparable to extreme version of how it feels to be stuck in another country where you don’t know any local customs and barely speak the language. So you say something you think is perfectly reasonable and polite, and everyone looks at you cross because actually, what you say is a grave insult in the context, except you don’t know context.

        The rules of fae is less the Grand Book of Law and more like perfectly intuitive and consistent rules they not so much learn as absorb growing up, it’s just that you utterly lack the same frame of reference as them and have to deliberately memorize them and stick with the lettter over spirit because you don’t have a chance to learn the spirit.

        It’s like, in Russia, you should never give anyone an even number of flowers because you only bring an even number to funerals, except the rule ceases to apply if you give over two dozens or so flowers. I was told a few times it’s a weird rule, but to me it’s of the same order as to not spit on people and is something that’s done for much the same reasons.




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  6. illhousen says:

    Also, speaking of Victor von Onewizardindustrialrevolution, I do think he would be a better antagonist than the current one because he’s actually established. The book’s theme is about the past catching up with Harry, with ghosts and his godmother being directly tied to it symbolism-wise… except the main antagonist, the embodiment of that theme is just some random warlock who appeared and was defeated entirely off-screen and didn’t leave any lasting impact on Harry.

    By contrast, Victor actually had screen time, we’ve seen Harry fighting him, he was the first villain in the series, which gives him more narrative weight. Plus, you just know he has developed a spell to turn into a demonic ghost in-between animating perpetual motion scorpions and learning what music is the best for orgy magic (the answer is The Doors).

    An alternative to that is Harry’s old mentor coming back to live. Their relationship was defining to Harry’s character and consistently referenced throughout the books, affecting his life both psychologically and by making the Council hate him. Him haunting Harry would be narratively satisfying.

    It would also tie into the femdom cougar plot. Just modify it a bit so the first time Harry has escaped her on technicality rather than outright breaking his oath. Now she came back to lend her help once again against Harry’s mentor, as per their agreement, with the old oath hanging over Harry’s head once again.

    But no, instead we’ve got that random guy whose greatest evil to date was introducing Michael to Harry, so we have to endure Butcher’s take on paladins and God.




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    1. Farla says:

      except the main antagonist, the embodiment of that theme is just some random warlock who appeared and was defeated entirely off-screen and didn’t leave any lasting impact on Harry.

      It really feels like he heard about it being important to have off-screen events and them completely fucked up on everything about how that’s supposed to work.

      It would also tie into the femdom cougar plot. Just modify it a bit so the first time Harry has escaped her on technicality rather than outright breaking his oath. Now she came back to lend her help once again against Harry’s mentor, as per their agreement, with the old oath hanging over Harry’s head once again.

      Or actually, maybe not even a technicality! Harry made a point that she’s supposed to be pretty much powerless and stuck on the other side except in service of a deal. If his deal suddenly flipped to active again, maybe that could also let her get across the barrier easily too. That’d also give fairies motivation to solve problems in the slow, piecemeal ways that fairy tales often use – if you can set it up so that the deal’s “finished” but still “ongoing”, you have a short window to drag the mortal to the other side. Lea figures even that won’t be enough so she needs to keep the deal active as long as possible, but without actually letting Harry die either.




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      1. illhousen says:

        So, her goal is to keep Harry alive but allow him to be damaged as much as possible so he won’t be able to escape the second time?




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  7. K says:
    Okay, but if Dresden has always been so worried about Lea popping out of Faerie to come and snatch him away, why the fuck doesn’t he always carry cold iron on him at all times? Why doesn’t he have magic foci items made out of cold iron, to give his spells an anti-Faerie boost? Why doesn’t he try his damndest to make sure he’s always got a cold iron weapon on him, like a dagger or bullets or SOMETHING?! You can sneak cold iron rings or necklaces past security! Why the hell doesn’t he start thinking about making some of those now, now that Lea’s actually consistently showing up to come after him? Hell, why didn’t his mentor after Justin teach him to always carry cold iron on him, to help Dresden keep Lea away?!



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    1. Farla says:

      “ring”? “necklace”? Look, Harry only even wears his shield bracelet when he will absolutely definitely die otherwise He’s not going to be wearing any other filthy womanly jewelry just because he might die if he doesn’t.




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  8. depizan says:
    “All hospital emergency rooms have the same feel to them. “

    Not to detract from everything else that’s wrong here, but how can Harry Dresden, Techbane, be a connoisseur of hospital emergency rooms? He shouldn’t be able to be in one without stuff breaking around him, from the computers at the admitting desk to important medical equipment!

    (And, yes, I fixate on his on again off again Techbane because everything else about him makes me want to throw things.)




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