Last chapter, Harry wears a dumb outfit and the vampires get cartoonishly outraged.
This chapter, Harry’s remembering he has to complain about fucking everything, so the fact the outfit he chose to outrage vampires outraged them is now terrible.
Hell’s bells. I’d meant to give the vamps a little thumb of the nose with the costume, but wow. I didn’t think I’d get this much of a reaction.
Now, you might think I’m characterizing this unfairly. Surely it’s reasonable to be upset you misjudged the level of reaction?
No. No it is not. As ridiculously absurd as it is the vampires are literally hissing at Harry right now, that’s not an issue of how much they hate it, that’s an issue of the vampires somehow having no self-control. Bianca in the first book seemed to have a moral sense but third book’s vampires are just your typical petty murderers kept in check only by immediate consequences, and even then there’s a good chance they’ll try to bite you in the face anyway. They aren’t only going to kill you because your costume made them super ultra mad. They’re going to kill you if you do anything to slightly irritate them, or if you don’t irritate them at all but they think they can get away with it.
The issue was never precisely how mad this might make the vampires. It was just whether or not it was a good idea to get vampire attention when they’re trigger-happy giant bat monsters with really good memories. That’s why it’s stupid for Harry to act like their slightly different reaction to his dumbass joke matters. Either he’s willing hold up a neon arrow pointing to his jugular or he’s not.
“Steady, Harry,” Michael murmured. “They’re like mean dogs. Don’t flinch or run. It will only set them off.”
First it’s a wolf den, now they’re dogs. In either case, all this does is bring up yet another way this metaphor is bad: vampires are not pursuit predators. Given their reaction time, with Bianca nearly taking Harry’s head off even with him knowing she was a danger, they may be stalking or ambush predators, but the fact they have addictive spit, glamoured hotness, and seem to prefer keeping around a stockpile of humans implies they really are parasitic when it comes to dinner. What sudden movement does to a dog, a drunken grin should do to a vampire.
Now, perhaps this isn’t a food issue, but a territorial issue. In that case they might lunge at Harry when he shows weakness but making him leave is the point of it, so they wouldn’t do anything to actually get in the way of it. I guess they might tear him up a bit because a warning bite to a vampire might take off the arm of a mortal, but in that case the core issue is Harry’s somehow got them treating him as a fellow vampire. It also makes little sense that vampire on somebody else’s territory would be feeling hyper territorial rather than subdued – and if vampires did work that way where new place = increased aggression, then as soon as someone does an aggression display at Harry, it should set off their neighbors and the vampires should be tearing each other apart instead.
In conclusion running actually would be the best option. And there’s no reason not to say as much, either, because it’s not an option available to Harry.
The only way, or at least the only way that isn’t too much effort for Harry (given he evidently doesn’t tell us other options until he’s got no choice but to go to plan E), to deal with the nightmare now is to find whoever’s in cahoots with it. Furthermore, he just aggroed the nightmare but we know now that it may be a super ghost that can tear you to bits, it can’t cross thresholds after all, meaning while he’s safe inside the building, trying to walk out will be another thing (especially since whoever’s in cahoots with it has probably magic-dialed it to say to get over here).
This is the perfect time for “shit shit abort oh fuck can’t I’m trapped”.
I really think this is may well be a narrative rule – it works so much better to say, “There is a good solution to this but it isn’t available, oh noes!” than “The thing you were already doing, keep doing that, it is the ideal response to this new thing also. Tension? What’s tension?”
Anyway, sexy sex vampire saves the day again by laughing before anyone can shoot Harry to death. Dammit.
His head was thrown back, every lean line of muscle on him displayed with the casual disregard of skilled effort. The butterfly wings caught the light at the edges of the spots and threw them back in dazzling colors.
“I’ve always heard,” Thomas drawled, his voice loud enough to be heard by all, artfully projected, “that the Red Court gave its guests a warm welcome. I hadn’t thought I’d get such a picturesque demonstration, though.” He turned toward the dias and bowed. “Lady Bianca, I’ll be sure to tell my father all about this dizzying display of hospitality.”
I mean, it’s nice to see a character in any of the books I’m reading actually doing a bit of diplomancing. Just…ugh, it means Harry doesn’t die.
Also all of this feels like it was originally supposed to be a fae ball. The over the top reactions, the generally giving a shit in the first place about a party, and now the idea hospitality is a particularly big deal.
Anyway then Bianca comes up and, like with Katniss, also goes with the idea that it’s intensely clever to just say “fuck it the clothing was fire”. Harry’s description of her is is standard creepiness, however: She had on a pair of real heels at least, adding several inches to her rather unimpressive height. I think this is him just being a dick but I really, really think it’s cool to think about how human populations vary across time. Vampires should be by and large unusually tiny people, with the occasional imposing six footer being some fragile newbie. Also, if they’re sensitive to their height then you could even get a situation where vampires keep getting shorter even as the average height grows larger.
Also in his noir creeping is this line: The curve of her smile promised things that were probably illegal, and bad for you, and would carry warnings from the Surgeon General, but that you’d still want to do over and over again.
And this isn’t just your typical sexy lady who’s threateningly sexy. The illegal things she wants to do to you involve eating you, and we know that even when she tries not to kill she can do it by accident. In that context, but that you’d still want to do over and over again is, I think, the mindwammy talking. This is not a femme fatale who metaphorically destroys you with lots of hot sex all the time. This is literally a lady who kills you, straight up, with her inhuman strength and various sharp bits. It’s like a con artist saying, “Okay you got me, man, you’re really clever…” She knows people know she’s dangerous and she leans into it, because it’s so easy to tweak it into “dangerous…at making you commit the sexiest sins!”
I wasn’t interested. I had seen what was underneath her mask, once before. I couldn’t forget what was there.
Anyway, in that light, I also think the problem is she’s misread Harry’s kinks. The only thing Harry loves more than refusing to have sex with women is refusing to have sex with fallen women. He’s probably getting off on this right now. If she switched tactics to “are you looking at my boobs? HOW DARE I THOUGHT YOU WERE A GENTLEMAN HERE ON IMPORTANT BUSINESS! SOMEONE FETCH ME MY WHIP!” or something Harry would melt at her feet.
She makes barely-even-innuendo about eating him, Harry says fuck off, she’s all well we’ll see, Harry flips out.
She had given her tacit permission for her people to try to get to me. They couldn’t just walk up and bite me, maybe, but yeesh. I’d have to be on my guard.
You could probably make a drinking game of how many times Harry announces that oh my god, this is serious, he’d better be on guard. Did the nightmare eat the part of his brain in charge of laying down memories?
I thought of Kelly Hamilton’s narcotic kisses on my throat, the glowing warmth that had surrounded me, infused me, and shivered. Some part of me wondered what it might be like to let the vamps catch me, and if it would be all that bad.
Yes because you deliberately and repeatedly burned your bridges with them. Even assuming your speculation that they’d like a pet druggie wizard is true, you’ve made it clear to them you’re not housebroken.
Look I realize this is just supposed to be more ~ooh sexy temptation mindwammy drugs~ but come on. There are actual facts in play. The whole seductive drug vampire thing only works if the vampires have not explicitly said they’re going to murder you. They’ve said it. Repeatedly.
He then tells us about how Bianca clearly had something in mind based on what he’s just seen, having evidently not worked this out before now.
My legs were shaking, making the trip down unsteady. I prayed that none of the vamps noticed it. Wouldn’t do to let them see weakness.
This is surprising. While Harry does often have the level of vulnerability involved in complaining this new thing is the worst ever and he’s screwed, actual frailty is a lot rarer.
I’m not sure I can read anything into the fact he’s hoping to conceal this – do the vampires not have super senses, or even the sort of attention and focus a regular mundane predator has? I mean, we’ve established they are wolves and also dogs, and I feel both of those animals would notice if some delicious num-nums was having trouble walking, let alone one who just hammered a squeaky toy in front of them to make sure it had their full attention. But Harry knows nothing about vampires and is also an idiot, so even if vampires have a specific power that does nothing but alert them to leg-trembles, Harry would still say this.
While we can’t get any information on general vampire abilities from this, we can know for certain that the vampires know Harry is one more hiss away from peeing himself, because Michael, without any prompting, reassures Harry that he’ll stick close right behind him. If the ordinary human with lots of other things to worry about easily noticed, so did everyone else.
Thomas was waiting for me with one hand on the hilt of his sword, his pale body on shameless display.
“Oh, my, that was marvelous, Harry. May I call you Harry?”
“No,” I said. I caught myself, though, and tried to soften the answer. “But thanks. For what you said, when you did. Things might have gotten ugly.”
Huh. This is surprisingly nice for Harry. I think it only reinforces my supposition he’s not into guys, though, because he’s generally such a creep to people he wants to fuck.
While they’re chattering sexy vamp’s drink rolled off and someone else is pondering picking it up and popping it open.
While I watched, the man reached out and stroked his fingers over her shoulder. He made some comment that made the lovely girl laugh.
“Excuse me,” Thomas said with distaste. “I can’t abide poachers.
The nerve! It’s almost like everyone here is some sort of bad person.
The courtyard was full of people. Many of them were young, pretty folk, dressed in all manner of black, poster children for the Goth subculture. Leather, plastic, and fishnet seemed to be the major themes in display, complete with black domino masks, heavy hoods upon cloaks, and a variety of different kinds of face paint. They talked and laughed, drank and danced to the music. Some of them wore a band of scarlet cloth about their arm, or a bloodred choker around their throats.
They are also snorting drugs and taking pills, because goths, ugh, kids today, with their black and their pills and their wanting to be killed by vampires.
Anyway because vampires are completely into this kind of thing, the vampires have their own one-color outfit, red.
“The kids with the red bands are what? Junior vampires?”
You see why I said earlier that Harry hoping the vampires don’t notice he’s scared tells us nothing about if that’s possible. He’s a fucking idiot.
“Marked cattle, I’d say,” Michael rumbled. There was anger in it, steady and slow anger.
Now, you may recall that Michael said he was not going to sit quietly if something horrible went down in front of him.
“Easy, Michael. We need to move around a little. Make it harder for them to hem us in.”
The book’s already forgotten, though!
Also, what’s going on is the vampires are circling around them and Harry/the author have decided that if they keep moving in this enclosed location packed to the gills with vampires, they can keep from being surrounded, because I guess the vampire pathfinding AI was set to Very Easy when they started the game.
Kyle Hamilton wore a harlequin’s outfit, all in shades of scarlet. Kelly followed along with him, dressed in a scarlet body stocking that left nothing to the imagination
The pair continue to illustrate the gender divide.
Harry comments on the fact Kelly is showing signs of burns from their previous encounter.
I expected her to snarl or hiss or go for my throat.
And it’s not that he’s too stupid to realize this is a bad idea, he just seems to have forgotten that he’s scared of being attacked by vampires. He keeps whiplashing between provoking them and trembling in terror at the fact they’re provoked.
But yeah, she doesn’t do as expected.
she turned to the table, collected a silver goblet and a crystal wineglass from the attendant there, and offered them to us with a smile that mirrored her brother’s.
Now, obviously accepting food from
I accepted the goblet.
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST HARRY
Right, so she makes smalltalk wondering where his girlfriend is and continues to show mysterious self-control. I’m assuming the idea here is that it’s all sinister because she’d only be calm if she knew he was going to suffer later, except all previous interactions with her made it very clear she’s got the impulse control of a drunk toddler. In order to have this scene, the author needs to have throttled back the misogyny earlier.
Also, Harry’s excuse for his girlfiend not being their is having to wash her hair. Now, the non-joke version of that excuse stopped applying by the seventies at most, but it came up so often as an excuse that it stayed in as a trope for some time afterward. This book was published in 2001. If Harry is thirty, then he might’ve still been hearing it in sitcoms or something when he was growing up if we either ignore the techbane or assume it doesn’t kick in until you’re officially a wizard.
Which means, weirdly enough, this is one moment when this doesn’t seem to be written by a grounchy ninety year old – they’re the generation who would think this was a legitimate reason, and Harry is being nonstop antagonistic here so he’d only say it if he knew it’d sound like bullshit. Of course, the fact the vampires are of unknown age means they may well be from that earlier era and not get why he’s saying this with that weirdly sarcastic edge because like, yeah, that’s a reasonable answer.
She then assumes the guy with Harry is also somebody he dates and I officially cannot tell who is and isn’t being sarcastic at this point. She’s a sexy uninhibited vampire and I understand they’re contractually mandated to be bisexual, and wizards are powerhouse recluses who seem super unlikely to worry about what average people will say about who they’re dating, so “lol did you know this makes you look gaaaaaaaaaay” seems really pointless. I assume we’re to just understand that being called gay is so inherently an insult that the situation it’s happening in and people involved are irrelevant.
Harry is completely unflustered by this: “What can I say? They’re just so big and strong.” which I think is yet another point against bi Harry. It’s really, really a shame that he didn’t call up Morgan for backup because if my theory is correct he might’ve had more difficulty brushing that off.
“If I was surrounded by people who wanted to kill me as badly as I want to kill you, I’d want a bodyguard about, too.”
And so we drop the whole gay thing because it was always just a meaningless insult. Next Kelly starts hitting on Michael while Harry details precisely how she looks the whole time.
Kelly’s hand touched Michael’s steel-clad arm-and erupted into sudden, white flame, as brief and violent as a stroke of lightning. She screamed, a piercing wail, and fell back from him to the ground. She lay there, curled helplessly around her blackened hand, struggling to get enough breath back to scream. Kyle flew to her side.
I looked at Michael and blinked. “Wow,” I said. “Color me impressed.”
Michael looked vaguely embarrassed. “It happens like that sometimes,” he said, apologetically.
Ah, so close to being decent.
There really do not appear to be any non-torturous deterrents in this world. We’ve now repeatedly seen that, at least in the case of female monsters, anything that harms or repels them does so by searing apart their flesh while they scream in agony. It’s honestly rather fetishistic how strictly we keep to this formula.
In most situations, what’d have happened here is, at most, a stinging shield. She’d have yanked her hand back, maybe gone so far as to hiss and shake it like touching a hot pot handle on a stove, and maybe there’d have been some extra force shoving her hand back at the same moment to emphasize that the point is blocking her from touching him. Because that is supposed to be the point, under normal circumstances.
With that sort of flashy overkill of a shield, you can then go on to have the contrast of the humble paladin who didn’t actually mean for something so dramatic to trigger.
Instead, we have the twin questions of “why does holy power focus on causing agony?” and “why does Michael not even register that someone’s in pain here?”
This all suggests that whatever god Michael follows, it is not the Christian one, or at least not a version compatible with most notions of Christian morality in our world.
And…that’s really not out of the question. There are plenty of stories about cults using churches of an established religion as cover, and a good argument to be made that’s in fact what’s going on with some of the nastier branches of current-day Christianity. And there’s also stories of demons using false miracles to convince people they’re angelic messengers. It would fit with the fact none of Michael’s behavior has mapped well onto existing Christian belief, the way their church either has a single priest or none of the other priests know about Michael, and the fact there doesn’t seem to be any wider network of Christians Michael can go to for aid.
What god is really behind this? Perhaps…
Anyway, once against boy vampire is mad girl vampire got hurt.
“Go ahead, Kyle,” I dared him. “Start something. Break the truce your own leader set up. Violate the laws of hospitality. The White Council will burn this place down so fast, people will call it Little Pompeii.”
Except Harry’s guest just made an unprovoked attack on her.
Even if we assume accidental holysplosions aren’t technically a violation, there would absolutely be a debate on this point first. And honestly…I really can’t see how you could make accidental holysplosions not count. If you can cover yourself in tiny mines because technically the other person is the one triggering it, everyone here would have done so. People would be wearing spikes covered in instakill poison while shaking caltops loose with every step. At absolute most, Michael might not be at fault if we assume he has no control over it – but Harry chose to take a live mine into the party in the first place, and the vampires absolutely hate him so even if it’s a situation that could be judged either way, it should probably be assumed the judgment doesn’t go in his favor.
For this reason, even if we put aside the moral issue, or the fact it’s creepy how women seem to keep going through the same sequence of pain and helplessness, having Michael’s protection be an actually protective flashbang rather than an offensive one would help keep this from being a massive plot hole.
But that would get in the way of the power trip, so instead the two run off and when Harry remembers to check out how this went over with everyone else, naturally, Some of the vampires in scarlet looked at Michael, swallowed, and took a couple of steps back.
I grinned, as cocky and as confident as I could appear, and lifted my glass. “A toast,” I said. “To hospitality.”
And the dumbfuck, in the middle of a vampire party hosted by a vampire who hates him who was just handed food by someone else who hates him, drinks, because it’s not like there aren’t a million ways taking food and drink from malicious magic creatures ever ends badly. Doesn’t just sip, either, he chugs the entire thing, which brings up another issue – there is a super good chance that was spiked with human blood. I mean, of the different options, blood drinking is the least disturbing way to accidentally commit cannibalism, but still, don’t chug mystery red drinks from vampires.
Incidentally, Michael just politely raises the glass to his mouth and then lowers it, because he has goddamn standards, Harry. Stop drinking murdered people’s fluids.
Oh also Harry mentions that Kyle’s aura wasn’t the one they want. Does not bring up Kelly presumably because sexism means she’s too incompetent to do anything like this.
Then chatty sexy vampire comes over to say that by the way, the drinks are poisoned so don’t touch them. Oh, chatty sexy vampire, you are trying way too hard to keep Harry alive! I know the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all, but at a certain point you need to recognize some of those people are actually dead weight and the most they’re good for is tiring out your enemy by being used as a chew toy.