Dresden Files Grave Peril Ch32

Well, finally got another chapter of my fic done, so let’s go back to this terrible thing.

Last time, other people continue to suffer for Harry’s fuckups! Also Lydia is possessed.

Harry is flung across the room but Thomas saves him by breaking the impact with his own body, and hey we are getting some certified sexual creepiness here.

He’d wrapped a pink bath towel around his hips, but either the sheer speed of his movement or else the impact had knocked it mostly askew. His ribs jutted out on one side, oddly misshapen.

Harry first reports on the state of Thomas’ crotch with great interest and then adds absently that his ribs have been caved in.

So the important question is, can we attribute this to Thomas’ supernatural hotness? By all appearances Red just has to guess what people are into but Thomas is a sex vampire who sure seems able to read Harry, so it’s plausible his powers could tap into whatever is Harry’s thing with corpses and get it to apply to him even if Harry’s usually into murdered women. On the other hand, I seem to recall that back in the first book, Harry described both of the heartsploded corpses with attention to naked sexy detail before mentioning the part where they were dead and covered in gore, so possibly he’s so into mangled bodies that he doesn’t care about anything else. In that case, I guess I can see Harry/Thomas provided Thomas keeps getting pulped in front of him.

Michael threatens Lydia’s body, requiring Lydia’s body and Harry to explain that seriously, that’s Lydia’s body and she needs it to live. Even if we go with the idea he’s a cleric and not a paladin, you’d think if anything a cleric would be more familiar with how possession works.

So: pre-vampire party, he doesn’t know about anything and needs Harry to explain. Vampire party, he knows everything about everything and explains it to Harry. Post-vampire party, he doesn’t know about anything and needs Harry to explain.

I feel like there’s some mechanic that could explain this but my rpg knowledge isn’t extensive enough and all that comes to mind are abstracted systems that I don’t think would influence actual storymaking. Maybe he can call on his god for knowledge? He actually was pretty cool during the whole party, so perhaps some sort of semi-trance state where he acts partly in sync with God’s will. This could also explain why he keeps saying he won’t be able to just stand by and let people die yet doesn’t seem to actually have the slightest difficulty with it, it’d be another instance where he thinks his god is a better thing that it truly is. I think that also fits well with what I was saying earlier about how it seems he’s not capable of doubting his god – maybe that lets you give yourself over to very subtle nudges, so you can end up sort of sleepwalking your way through a situation. We know the god involved either doesn’t or can’t do anything high powered, so lowering your own threshold so it doesn’t have to exert much effort could be a solution.

Actually that’s a good way of thinking about a lot of religious miracles, isn’t it? There’s a lot about needing to be in a receptive state. Michael presumably spent the car ride getting into the right mindset – could even explain why he only asks why they’re doing this right before they get there, if he’d been meditating and only just finished.

Lydia’s body promptly feels itself up. It’s really important for plot reasons. Also important for plot reasons is that she’s still in her outfit from the party because at no point in the last two days hiding out at Harry’s apartment did she feel like putting actual clothing on. So yeah, sexy child groping up her sexy child boobies through her sexy outfit, it was important this was in the book. Very very important.

At least the nightmare identifies her as a child, so it’s one up on Harry.

Right, so it’s time for a spell. Harry gets his trick unextinguishable candles and a bag of salt while Michael struggles to restrain Lydia. Given we’ve seen a display of super strength but also her body still takes damage normally… Well, at this point Lydia would be lucky if her body is only permanently crippled and not outright dying by the time they’re done.

Harry throws everything together, shoves power into the circle….

“Azorthragal!” I shouted, bellowing out the demon’s name. “Azorthragal! Azorthragal!” I stretched out my right hand again, concentrating fiercely. “Begone!”
Energy rushed out of my body as I completed the spell, swept toward the Nightmare within Lydia like a wave lifting a sleeping seal off a rock-
-and passed over, leaving it untouched.

The superghost gloats a bit then goes for Harry. As it’s strangling him (which the book inaccurately describes as cutting off air and not blood) right before it frees us all from this horrible series, Harry invokes the power of cliche!

Sometimes, when you’re facing death, it feels like everything slows down.

God damn it Harry.

Anyway because apparently most of his braincells work on a strictly anerobic metabolism, suddenly he puts everything together. He realizes that back at the start of the book, Susan mentioned she was up to something, and because this is nominally still kind of a detective story, that was an important clue. Murphy was similarly preoccupied with something. I suspect the book is oblivious to the fact it’s implying Harry generally ignores everything about a woman but her appearance.

There’s a bunch of rambling because Harry’s just listing off elements and then saying he knows the answer but not telling the reader directly, then…

Lydia still crouched over me, up on her knees, straddling me-but she’d released my throat. Instead, she had arched her arms up and back, over her head, to caress Thomas’s naked shoulders.

We then spend two paragraphs on the topic of Thomas feeling up Lydia’s body and how super, super into it she and/or the nightmare are. For the one part that isn’t that:

His eyes weren’t blue-grey anymore. They were empty, white, no color to them at all. I felt cold coming off of him, something I sensed more than felt on my skin, a horrible and seductive cold.

So, I guess their court is named after their very special color changing eyes. I think I like the idea of “seductive cold”. Undead being cold-associated is pretty fitting and satisfying that way, while the contradiction of cold being tied to lust is satisfyingly unfitting, emphasizing that this is unnatural.

It also works to indicate that, although he is slobbering all over Lydia’s body, it’s not Red’s narcotic spit but an actual power. Anything that impacts the physical form shouldn’t matter to the superghost, especially since it didn’t flinch when flinging Lydia’s body around before. But a supernatural ability? Quite possible.

Anyway, Thomas’ ploy is hampered by the fact Harry likes to watch.

Quit gawking and do something. I’ll put on afternoon theater for you later, if you want to watch that bad.”

Just for emphasis, I want to remind everyone that Thomas has so far been great at reading Harry. I don’t know whether it’s great social skills or supernatural kink-o-vision, but he definitely knows.

Harry gets to work, although he does not actually stop enjoying the show, and I’m sorry but I’m just going to quote the actual things actually taking place in this fucking book:

I spread the salt in a circle around Lydia and Thomas, as Lydia drew the Lycra shorts down and reached back to grasp at Thomas, to urge him toward her.

Anyway Thomas at least is not enjoying this? But possibly it’s just the sex trope where he super wants to fuck and is so pained he can’t? Thomas let out a groan of pure anguish and said, “Dresden. Hurry.” I don’t know. I don’t know why any of this. I don’t know why, if Lydia’s entire storyline revolved around horrible sex stuff happening to her, she couldn’t at least have been an adult. I don’t know why we needed double sex vampires. I don’t even know why we needed the regular sex vampires we already had.

why any of this

Anyway finally Harry banishes the superghost and I guess Lydia wakes up to find herself half naked with a stranger’s dick in her hand and probably blind from the blood, unless she was aware this whole time because there are two distinct screams during the exorcism.

“Leonid Kravos!” I thundered. I repeated the name, and saw Lydia’s eyes fly open wide in shock. “Begone, Kravos! You second-rate firecaller! Begone! Begone!”

Oh yeah also so apparently it was this dude.

Anyway Lydia then faints or passes out, but then she sorta wakes up and continues to try to grind on Thomas. Anyway, Thomas is cool with this because he’s hungry (…so why wasn’t he nomming the superghost? Is it poison because it’s undead?) but this is where Harry draws the line as gross and wrong. The rest was totally cool. The rest was so totally cool Harry forgot what he was supposed to be doing to leer at it for a while. I feel like this is sorta like those weird film standards, where it’s okay so show a woman be violently raped but disgusting to show an orgasm. Of the various awful things that have happened to Lydia, this is the closest to consensual we’ve seen in that she is participating at all and it isn’t to prevent herself from dying horribly, and for what really feels like a related reason, this and only this disgusts Harry and he orders Thomas to stop.

Also apparently Thomas has regular non-fangy teeth. Did Black have fangs? If only Red has fangs I’m going to declare it canon that they’re werebats with a good public relations department.

Thomas leaves and Harry makes sure to put Lydia’s shorts on before putting a blanket over her, in what is obviously meant to show how much purerer and good he is and actually just makes me more creeped out. Just leave her be.

Let’s talk about Thomas instead. His ribs still looked dented, but not as much as before. See, that’s the thing about vampires, that balance of personal survival vs violating others. I know very little about Thomas, and a lot of his apparent decency could be a matter of playing to the crowd, but let’s assume he has a sense of morality. Let’s assume Justine’s belief in him is honest and he’s not just the lesser of two evils. You can very easily make the case that sex vampirism is going to be more traumatic to the average unwilling person than regular blood draining vampirism, but it’s also probably easier to find a willing person. So you work at being an ethical sex vampire, and then suddenly something goes wrong and you really need to eat. And he really needs to eat! He’s not only badly injured, but surrounded by people who are only keeping him alive because he’s useful, and also he’s about to dive into a deadly fight. And there’s been so many other people who were willing, and were fine with it afterward, and maybe she won’t remember even. Even in the short time we’ve known him, he’s already done something terrible he didn’t want to do because he felt he had no other option and he did it without hesitation. How often does Thomas do things like that? How often does he say, “This doesn’t count, though, because if I could I’d do it differently.”? And how often can you do things like that before you stop being a good person who sometimes does bad things and start being a bad person who sometimes does good things?

I’m not sure there’s much to mine here directly – sex pollen powers are at a really awkward intersection of a thing we do have in the world and a thing we don’t. But one step off as an ally? Maybe. It’s a more human-relevant setup than the standard demon doing obviously evil things. This is someone who often isn’t doing harm, but does do harm, and the harm they do is tied pretty closely to how much you want to use their powers to aid your own causes, and the justifications they give for why they’re a good person are the same justifications you can use for why it isn’t so bad you’re letting this happen. And yet, you can’t really say the alternative of using their powers but preventing them from feeding is moral, because unlike the average demon, this isn’t a payment for services rendered but something they need to function, and it’s not ethical to work someone to death either (and especially not to force them to do so at gunpoint, which is what it’d generally require). I think it could be an interesting way to have a human main character end up having to grapple with these issues by proxy. Vampires themselves tend to be considered easily ruled by hunger and not in control of themselves, which detracts from the point, but a person working with one wouldn’t have that excuse.

Anyway, Lydia’s virtue preserved probably in case Harry wants to “extract his own thanks” later, he goes to Michael and recounts what happened in terms as PG rated as possible God, I wish that’s what we’d got. Michael exposits that the sex vampires are sex vampires. Apparently they can feed on any emotion But they always use lust to seduce their victims. They can force them to feel it, indulge in sex. It’s how they feed.”

…but, if they can feed on any emotion, but they feed by making their victim feel lust and have sex, then how are they eating other emotions? Maybe they can’t feed on lust and are sucking out something else during the sex? Generally in order to eat an emotion the person’s supposed to feel it, but I guess maybe they’re swapping the person’s other emotions for lust, and somehow feeding from the exchange. Also the idea they actually feed through their dicks is a little too literal a take on sex vampires for me.

Oh, also remember how I was saying I liked how the power was clearly supernatural? The book had to go and ruin that.

“Whatever he used, it worked on the Nightmare. Caught it up. That means that it’s either some kind of ambient magic, maybe that cold I felt, that works on everything around, or else it’s something chemical-like Red Court venom. Something that got to Lydia’s body and bypassed the Nightmare’s control of her mind, altogether. Pheromones, maybe.”

Thanks, Harry. “It could literally work by any mechanism at all. Could be magic that worked on the ghost! Could be pheromones that had no way to effect the ghost whatsoever, and which also should’ve worked on everyone in the room because that’s how smells work! There is absolutely no way to distinguish between these options or any other ones, and the fact Thomas was literally radiating a magic effect is not important when pondering if it was magic.”

Michael speaks up to cut off that stupid train of thought to remind Harry it’s time to inventory their manly injuries. He has broken ribs, Harry has throat bruises but nothing more sadly, and Thomas has no one gives a fuck. Is that because he’s going to betray them again later and Harry’s seen the script or because he’s not human?

Harry explains,
It was Kravos himself. Kravos is the Nightmare.”
Michael blinked at me. “But we didn’t kill Kravos. He’s still alive.”

More importantly, we spent the opening of this book laying out the rules on ghosts and Harry insisted they’re not actual people: Ghosts aren’t alive, not really – they’re a footprint in stone, a fossilized skeleton. They are shaped like the original, but they aren’t it.

But that’s for abused women, I guess. Apparently it’s self-evident that if a guy kills himself, he’s him but incorporeal, because the only thing they need to discuss is how Kravos managed so much extra power. Harry explains to Michael, then Thomas is all “buh?” so they repeat it again. Then Harry explains that the ghost issue is now solved because knowing it’s Kravos means he can kick the ghost’s ass, because I beat this punk when he was alive. Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can do it to his shade, too. which is to say no actual reason so I guess it’s suddenly true. So true, in fact, that he’s going to just smash his way through Bianca’s stronghold at the same time, no problem!

“Did you get hit on the head when I wasn’t looking?” Thomas asked. “Dresden, I told you about the guards. The machine guns. I did mention the machine guns, didn’t I?”

Oh, Thomas. How sad it is that a rapist vampire is one of the better characters here. Also, it occurs to me that this is probably an ALPHA MALE verse femme beta male issue. Thomas’ broader emotional range and ability to verbally express obvious problems are because he’s a tiny sissy-man, dwarfed by the clothing he borrowed from Dresden.

I waved a hand. “I’m already past the point where a sane man would be afraid. Guards and machine guns, whatever. Look, Bianca has Susan, plus Justine, and maybe twenty or thirty kids being held captive, or getting set to get turned into fresh vampires. The police’s hands are tied on this. Someone has to do something, and I’m the only one in a position to-”
“Get riddled with bullets,” Thomas interjected, his tone dry. “My, how very helpful that will be toward attaining our mutual goals.”

It is interesting that before and during the vampire party, Harry was making a similar argument to Michael. They couldn’t afford to try to save the kids. They couldn’t afford to challenge the vampires. They couldn’t afford to do anything at all. And this was justified by saying it would only get them killed without actually helping anyone.

Of course, Michael was not really in favor of that plan, so it makes perfect sense he’s completely in favor of plan Get Killed In Futile Gesture now.

Harry says that obviously Bianca will have security everywhere.

“Exactly,” Thomas said. “Dresden, I thought maybe we could pool our resources. Work something out with our contacts and spies. Perhaps disguise ourselves as caterers and sneak in.”

You’d think one of the perks of actually being a bunch of vampires is not having to worry about the disguised as caterers cliche because you don’t need catering.

Also, it’s hilarious how Thomas thinks Dresden has contacts and resources. Sues don’t need those!

Anyway instead Harry’s going to pop over the boundary into the Nevernever, sprint for the house, then pop out in the middle. Why Bianca a supernatural creature of the Nevernever who just made a power play against another similarly Nevernever-creature power block then got backstabbed by the extremely Nevernever fae she was trying the court would leave herself completely unprotected there is unclear, and it’s even more unclear how Harry would possibly know she’d made such a terrible decision.

Having established what an awful idea this actually is, Harry jumps into the Nevernever.

The Nevernever, near my apartment, looked like … my apartment. Only a bit cleaner and brighter. Deep philosophical statement about the spirituality of my little basement? Maybe.

If so, it’s a pretty odd one at first glance.

What we know’s happened in Harry’s apartment is pretty negative. Aside from all the awful stuff that just went down, Harry was also attacked earlier by the nightmare and then earlier still got hit by vampire spit. Back in the second book he summoned a demon here, and that demon went evil-crazy halfway in to establish that demons are now universally evil-crazy and actually bad news. It’s the abode of his pet rapist skull, listened in on his explanation that rape drugs are terrible because it’s cheating, and also a demon attacked shortly after then. This is before we even get into the fact Harry is just an awful, awful person in so many other ways.

But hey, our paladin has been an absolute champ at hammering in that light-is-not-good all book (indeed, we’re about to be told that his sword is glowing with holiness), and Harry himself has spent this book repeatedly lighting people gruesomely on fire.

What, then, might cleaner and brighter mean? Well, Harry may be capable of self-doubt, but it’s impressive for him to even make it to the next paragraph without coming around to how no actually he’s great. And what self-doubt he has tends to be if he’s awesome enough to singlehandedly do everything, not if what he did was right.

And it’s pretty fitting for how these books completely fail at being noir in the worst way for him to be saying the true nature of things is that they’re better than they look. Flaws are buffed away and everything glows.

Shapes moved in the shadows, scurrying like rats, or gliding over the floor like snakes-spirit-beings that fed on the crumbs of energy that spilled over from my place in the real world.

Even more interesting is the question of if there’s any connection here. These kinds of critters were prominent in the description of the house of Shadowpants, blessed be his industrious name. There was the implication the creepy stuff was because Shadowpants was doing even more creepy magic, but the only definite statement was that they were extra prominent because there was extra magic floating about.

Harry may not be doing shitty spells with tons of extra wasted magic going everywhere, but he’s also very definitely way more powerful than Shadowpants because terrible writing. And while he’s generally pretty lazy and won’t do things, what magic he does do he chooses to do here. Plus he usually leaves his magic stuff at home for no explicit reason but probably something to do with fragile masculinity. Perhaps Harry doesn’t usually throw out Shadowpants levels of magic unless under duress which mostly happens elsewhere, but we know he describes making the batches of potions as draining, we know he likes to make a full batch of potions if he’s making potions, and we know he makes potions a lot.

All that would suggest that while these guys may be nowhere near as prominent as back at the Shadowpants’ fuckfactory, they’re also probably way more active/visible/numerous than is normal. And since Harry didn’t finish his education and also was either getting a terrible one or paying remarkably little attention based on how many things he has no clue about, that “they feed on energy” is the only thing Harry knows about them can’t be taken to say that’s the only relevant fact.

Why are they in the shadows at all? Harry’s never mentioned any predators that eat the magic-eaters and he himself can’t normally see them regardless of their location. If there’s no evolutionary pressure, if they’re not sticking to shadows because those that don’t stick to shadows get removed from the population, then the other option is because this is in some way related to thought/belief/metaphor.

…how many of those can you think of that are positive, or even neutral? And for scurrying rats and gliding snakes, no less?

No, there’s either some reason why wizards should want to get rid of them that leads to them trying to stay hidden or there’s something bad enough it’s shaped their appearance.

I’m wondering if it’s related to the laziness thing I just mentioned. Either directly making Harry unwilling to do things or indirectly feeding on the emotion/magic connection and messing with his ability to want to do things. Does Harry behave slightly differently here than elsewhere? I can think of a lot of times he’s been astoundingly stupid at his house, but I’m not sure if it’s meaningfully more than he’s been stupid outside of his house.

Hey, what if similar critters live at Bianca’s place? That could explain his a lot about his behavior there.

Well, anyway. Way back before all that worldbuilding speculation, I mentioned that also, Michael’s holy sword is being all holy and glowing, and he looks better, and it he moved as though his bandaged ribs no longer pained him. I quote to point out that Harry does not explicitly state any healing happened. Michael is re-energized, and Michael is not in pain. And it’s not just my general distrust of the thing he possibly believes to be the Christian god here – consider that one of the motivations for continuing their fight is that Michael’s son is dying and his god does not seem able to do anything about it.

Now, Michael’s god does seem to protect its worshipers, so I assume he doesn’t have to worry about accidentally crippling or killing himself due to not feeling his wounds. So long as he remains the sword’s holder, he’s presumably okay. However…he’s already lost the sword once, and a big point was made that all their enemies know about the sword’s abilities (likely including this one) and have the capability to play keep-away with it.

Of course, that’s not something we likely need to worry about because it’d involve rising stakes – Michael is injured, then gets sword to be functionally uninjured, then loses sword and is even more injured – and the only thing we ever get is Harry claiming to be the most beat up he’s ever been before pulling the most magic anyone’s ever seen out of his ass.

Oh, and Thomas gets an aluminum bat that Harry had. Why did Harry have it? He doesn’t play baseball and buying a bat intending to use it as a weapon seems redundant when he’s got double fire-blasting dick substitutes AND a sword-cane for when he wants his penis to be classy.

Also, how does he have it? According to this, while the first aluminum bats are invented in the 1920s, they’re flimsy garbage until 1970s, well past Harry’s tech cutoff. And given vampires are more durable than humans, even the 1970 version that’s about as strong as wood wouldn’t be all that useful.

Now, it’s possible Harry doesn’t want the sex vampire to touch any of his long shafts, so he’s keeping his wand, staff and sword. And you can’t let another man touch your barrel, so the gun’s staying with him too. If Thomas can’t get outfitted here, then a baseball bat makes sense as something he has the best chance of grabbing on the way or finding at Bianca’s house. It just doesn’t make sense for him to be picking it up here. Also, it’d make more sense for Harry to just give him his precious sword, given one of them actually knows how to use a blade and it sure isn’t Harry, or, if the author is fumbling around this badly over him not having a weapon, just saying he still had his sword from the earlier fight.

Also, they’re taking the rapist skull.

Our party is now two rapists, one guy who gets off on telling people they’re not good enough to rape, and a paladin.

Time to go to fairyland!

Harry requests the “shortest route” and Bob as-you-know-Bobs back:

“There is no shortest path, Harry,” Bob said. “This is the spirit world. Things are linked together by
concepts and ideas and don’t necessarily adhere to physical distance like-”
“I know the basics, Bob,” I told him. “But the bottom line is that you know your way around here a lot
better than I do. Get us there.”

Really, so damn much dialogue reads like it’s from two separate conversations. How does “physical distance isn’t 1:1 with the real world” = “no route is shorter than any other route”? Worse, there are plenty of situations where this is true! D&D has numerous places where distance gets weird, particularly the whole Great Wheel setup where you’ve got planes with rules like “all towns are two days travel apart” or “oh yeah, that town is three small good deeds away”.

Valid points might be that there is no shortest route because you technically have to cover X amount of ground no matter what so the real issue is finding the clearest route so you can travel faster, that there is no set path at all because it’s all wobbly jello, or just the traditional spirit-walking thing where you have to solve a puzzle or come to a realization to progress.

He also claims that Harry may not be able to even make a hole into Bianca’s place if they do get there before sundown, because the sun tends to diffuse magical energies that- Harry then interrupts him, interestingly not to say that he knows but Save the lecture for later. Leave the wizarding to me.” which I will take to mean he has no idea what’s going on. (…how did they punch a hole through in the first place? The sun is more up now than it will be later.)

BUT. So the sun is the enemy of magic, but storms and the natural world generate enormous amounts of energy?

This is really hammering in how shitty kitchen sink settings get. In fairness, the real nail in the coffin is a kitchen sink setting that’s pretending to have coherent rules – this would work if it wasn’t “magic” but Harry’s power in particular, or if it were tied coherently into what the Nevernever is. For example, if the issue is boundaries, transitions, and liminal space, midnight should be as firm as noon. The issue should be less “oh no, if you arrive five minutes before sundown you might have to wait five minutes!!!” and more “you’ll only be able to open the portal back within five minutes after sundown, past then you’re trapped!” (Especially when it makes intuitive sense that it both should be harder to get from the mundane to the magical and intuitive sense that it should be harder to leave your native area than enter it.)

Also apparently the plan was not to go through fairyland proper but just the other bits of Nevernever, but this is completely impossible so the rapist skull just sends them right into it to Harry’s shock, but despite the fact the rapist skull was trying to talk Harry out of this and insisting it was a bad plan and they were all going to get fairy-murdered, it didn’t occur to him to state outright that the only path through the Nevernever would be specifically through fairyland?

The rapist skull then continues, “Believe me, I don’t want to hang here, either. Either we get the Disney version of Faerie, with elves and tinkerbell pixies and who knows what sugary cuteness, or we get the wicked witch version, which is considerably more entertaining, but less healthy.”

This is like how Harry wouldn’t shut up about how the werewolves aren’t like the movies. Either you get the Disney version or you get the Disney version? Seriously?

Harry responds with “Even the Summer Court isn’t all sweetness and light. Is this setting up the next book or does the author just think it’s such an incredibly clever observation that actually both fairy courts are dicks?

“It’s like a park,” Thomas commented. “I mean, the grass should be over our knees. Or no, maybe like a good golf course.”

This would be in line with the idea your choices of fairyland are Tinkerbell or Maleficent – our modern concept of nature is such that people think a meadow looks like a lawn. That’s pretty recent, but so is Disney.

It does mean they really don’t have any claim to being “timeless” or anything when their world gets a complete overhaul every half-century.

Then hunting horns and doggy barking, so they begin to run.

I glanced at Michael, who had reversed his grip on the sword and held it pommel-first, the blade laying against his forearm as he ran. His face was twisted up in effort and pain, but he kept pace.

So he is in pain! Now, is that because the holy power just reduced pain, such that he was fine standing but not running, or is it because he’s on the wrong god’s turf right now?

Thomas whirled to look, running a few paces backward, before turning again. “I could have sworn they were miles away a moment ago.”
“It’s the Nevernever,” I panted. “Distance, time. It’s all fucked up here.”

We were told in no uncertain terms that vampires are native to the Nevernever. Is that now retconned or is it still true but the book has idiot balls massive enough people need their own reality explained to them by Harry?

The rapist skull is cartoonishly excited to see Lea and has to be informed that actually they’re enemies now, because somehow he knows Harry’s godmother and he knows she’s Harry’s godmother, but he has no idea that there’s any issue with Harry and his godmother.

Thomas reached the bridge first, his feet thumping out onto it. Michael got there a pace later. With a broken rib and twenty years on me, he still outran me to that damn bridge. I’ve got to work out more.

…the first book made it clear he spent a lot of time traveling by foot because his car is unreliable. Has that too been retconned? Does his techbane now solely exist to wreck other people’s stuff?

Right as Harry jumps onto the bridge that’ll take him out of fairyland, he’s lassoed and yanked backward. I guess that too is pretty Disney!

Heavy hooves sank into the turf on either side of my head. I gulped, and looked up at a night-black steed with black and silver tack. Its hooves were shod with bladed shoes of some silvery metal. It wasn’t iron or steel. There was blood on those shoes

Oh boy, it’s things that are like horses! Of course, Harry immediately ruins the joke by just calling it a horse. Still, I appreciate that the book is still remembering to keep track of metals, and I kinda appreciate the dodge of “silvery” over saying it was shod in silver and me having to complain that okay maybe you can magic silver into not being soft as shit but… although it’d have been better to go full magical and say it was shod with moonlight or something.

Also Lea is on the thing that’s like a horse but who cares? I can see what it’s going for with a recurring superpowered character, but Lea’s either gotten taken down like a sexualized chump or made up some excuse about how oh no I guess I’ll have to help you instead, curses. Just having a character show up repeatedly isn’t enough to make it feel more threatening each time. There was some sense of her closing in at the party, when she’d nerfed his ally and had him trapped among enemies, but then he remembered he’s a sue who can nuke people at will and also she saves his stupid sue ass. Not great for tension.

24 Comments

  1. Roarke says:

    Good lord, this chapter had it all. I find it almost hilarious that the character who is an actual rapist still comes off as less despicable than Harry. I think Thomas drags the book in an overall positive direction, and that’s saying something.

    Also Lea is on the thing that’s like a horse but who cares? I can see what it’s going for with a recurring superpowered character…

    But Butcher can’t really conceptualize powerful women all that well. At least, he doesn’t understand that the power is supposed to achieve results in the narrative or it’s just garnish.

    Our party is now two rapists, one guy who gets off on telling people they’re not good enough to rape, and a paladin.

    They fight crime! Except for sex crimes. They commit those. They commit them good and hard.

    These kinds of critters were prominent in the description of the house of Shadowpants, blessed be his industrious name.

    Wow, I had completely forgotten that Harry’s got the same magic feeding thingies around his own house. Bob would know about them, I’m sure, but Harry’s knowledge of them is vague so he’s not even curious enough to ask. Those creatures were also inside of Shadowpants’s house, but we don’t get a look inside Harry’s. There’s a ton of questions leftover after the poorly explained threshold issue that those things might have the answers to.

    You’d think one of the perks of actually being a bunch of vampires is not having to worry about the disguised as caterers cliche because you don’t need catering.

    I’d assume it’s for the mooks. I bet there’s a catering company specifically for villainous operations, dealing in filling but somewhat bland fare for those men who don’t have nametags.

    Also apparently Thomas has regular non-fangy teeth. Did Black have fangs? If only Red has fangs I’m going to declare it canon that they’re werebats with a good public relations department.

    Since Dracula was apparently straight-up a DIY for Black Court killing, I’d assume they have fangs too. Naturally Dracula was almost nothing like a Black Court vampire, but Butcher isn’t going for source accuracy.

    Just for emphasis, I want to remind everyone that Thomas has so far been great at reading Harry. I don’t know whether it’s great social skills or supernatural kink-o-vision, but he definitely knows.

    We’ve pretty much established that Thomas and Justine are about the only ones with social savvy, and I’m also pretty sure it doesn’t take supernatural vision to see Harry’s drool. Also, that’s the funniest line in the chapter. How dated is that phrase?

    1. Farla says:

      Since Dracula was apparently straight-up a DIY for Black Court killing, I’d assume they have fangs too. Naturally Dracula was almost nothing like a Black Court vampire, but Butcher isn’t going for source accuracy.

      Well, we don’t have any evidence it wasn’t originally an attempt to target both Red and Black. White seem to be mostly his kink original while Red and Black both seem to have elements common in fiction. If Black have more trouble reproducing and less mind-control powers, they could’ve ended up disproportionately hit by the vampire-hunting. Also, if White was known to be targetting Red as well, it makes more sense that Black would be willing to ally with them, while if only Black was targetted, there’d be suspicion Red helped out or at least resentment they kept out of it.

      1. Roarke says:

        Red and Black do seem to share some weaknesses and have more overlap with each other than White, so it makes a healthy amount of sense that the DIY manual targets both. Sunlight hits both, God hits both (Mavra doesn’t want to tussle with holy water and Michael is a land mine for hapless Reds). I don’t remember what the White Court weaknesses are. They might really be his kink a more original group.

        1. illhousen says:

          Though, of course, Dracula didn’t actually have a weakness to sunlight the way those vampires do. He just was a mortal under the sun.

          White Court has an… original weakness, alright. I’m not sure this book in particular reveals it, but it’s so stupid, it’s worth the wait for Farla to discover it on her own.

        2. AlphabetSoup says:
          White Court vampires are weak against the ‘true’ emotion that corresponds to their vice. So Thomas and the other Raiths, who feed on Lust, are weak to true Love–they can’t touch or use magic on anyone whose last sexual encounter was with someone they truly love, they can’t touch gifts given between two true lovers, etc. If their first sexual experience is with someone they truly love, their powers never manifest and they remain essentially a baseline human for their lives. And so on.

          Other White Court vamps have similar weaknesses. The Malvoras, who feed on fear, are weak to true Courage. The Skavis, who feed on Despair, are weak to true Hope. The RPG guides say there may also be a house that feeds on Wrath and would be weak to true Peace, but if so we haven’t seen them in the novels yet.

          White Court vampires are also weak to the standard stuff. Michael’s Sword  can hurt them, for instance, depending on the Knight’s motivations and God’s will. Thresholds attenuate their powers. Etc.

          —-

          On another note, to answer the question that’s been raised upthread, all three vampires courts are based on various existing interpretations.

          The Black court are based on the ‘walking corpse’ depictions in things like Dracula. The Red court are based on the ‘blooddrinkers, possibly beautiful ones’ that you see in things like Buffy. And the White Court, particularly the Raiths, are based on the ‘gorgeous sex gods’ that you see in vampire stories like Twilight and traditional stories about succubi and incubi. A Jade Court was also mentioned and is assumed by the fandom to be based on the ‘hopping vampires’ from Chinese myths, but we haven’t met any yet so it’s hard to say. 

          1. Act says:

            So Thomas and the other Raiths, who feed on Lust, are weak to true Love–they can’t touch or use magic on anyone whose last sexual encounter was with someone they truly love

            If I wrote a satire with Butcher as a character, I’d get told no one who hated women that much actually existed.

            1. Roarke says:

              This, by the by, is why most satire ends up preaching to the choir.

              Reply
  2. illhousen says:

    Yay! It’s alive and terrible!

    I feel like there’s some mechanic that could explain this but my rpg knowledge isn’t extensive enough and all that comes to mind are abstracted systems that I don’t think would influence actual storymaking.

    One possibility is some kind of meta-game resource akin to Fate points that allows you to establish facts about the fictional universe. I can see an inexperienced player going, “Don’t be stupid, don’t you know about the thing I just made up that was a part of the setting all along?”

    It also allows for players to take turns expositing, depending on how gaining that resource works.

    The tapping into God thing is cool as well, though. Could be it only really activates in specific circumstances (such as being surrounded by enemies) and indiscriminately boosts your skills.

    Oh yeah also so apparently it was this dude.

    I’m still peeved the book didn’t just bring back Victor. He was cool. Probably would have come up with a way to, I don’t know, possess multiple people at once through number stations or something.

    (Actually, if we go with ghosts being echoes of people and not real people, it stands to reason that you should be able to craft ghosts out of ectoplasm and memories. And if anyone would be able to figure out how on their own, it’s Victor von Onewizardindustrialrevolution.)

    Apparently they can feed on any emotion But they always use lust to seduce their victims. They can force them to feel it, indulge in sex. It’s how they feed.”

    Yeah, that was retconned later. White Court now has a number of houses within it, each only able to feed on specific emotion.

    Though their feeding method is still kinda weird in that they can induce an emotion in a person and then feed on that induced emotion, which strikes me as entropy-breaking. I think they also take some of the life force through the medium of emotion? But they also eat up the emotion in question, so people don’t feel it anymore? Not sure, though it makes sense given that emotions are linked to magic and magic is linked to life. (Which would mean they’re actually natural enemies of wizards since they cut the bullshit “I use my emotions to power up my spells” short by eating them.)

    More importantly, we spent the opening of this book laying out the rules on ghosts and Harry insisted they’re not actual people: Ghosts aren’t alive, not really – they’re a footprint in stone, a fossilized skeleton. They are shaped like the original, but they aren’t it.

    Honestly, I’d just go with “‘ghosts aren’t people’ is what the White Council tells its members because they love using ghosts for shady shit and don’t want to stop. Actually, ghosts are straight up souls of the dead, except they often come across as mentally damaged because they don’t have the physical medium of the brain to express themselves. The barbed wire spell torments ghosts but it also binds their psyche together and over time makes them more aware.”

    The Nevernever, near my apartment, looked like … my apartment. Only a bit cleaner and brighter. Deep philosophical statement about the spirituality of my little basement? Maybe.

    For the meaning, I’d go with “it’s lesser than it looks.” The clutter in Harry’s basement is from the place being lived in. Harry works here, he spends time here brewing potions and studying magic in unspecified ways, performing his rituals, etc. The clutter symbolizes his life and accomplishments.

    Except we’ve established that Harry is constantly lessened by his magic as he pours more and more of himself into it, so it makes sense that his apartment in the spirit world would be cleaner. Which is to say, emptier.

    Shapes moved in the shadows, scurrying like rats, or gliding over the floor like snakes-spirit-beings that fed on the crumbs of energy that spilled over from my place in the real world.

    So sad the book doesn’t spend more time on the critters. They imply an ecosystem, and spiritual ecology is always cool.

    Anyway, I’d go with them being a by-product of emotional casting. I don’t think you can carefully pour, say, anger or fear into your spells without some kinda bleeding into surroundings, and from those outbursts those critter emerge. They’re Harry’s (and before him, Victor’s) emotions and magic given flesh, and they feed on their own brethren that are born constantly out of Harry’s spells.

    1. Socordya says:

      Though their feeding method is still kinda weird in that they can induce an emotion in a person and then feed on that induced emotion, which strikes me as entropy-breaking. I think they also take some of the life force through the medium of emotion? But they also eat up the emotion in question, so people don’t feel it anymore?

      It’d be simpler (and more interesting) if they had to induce the emotion naturally (ie the lust vampire has to actually seduce people, the fear vampire has to scare them, the anger one worked hard to become the biggest douche imaginable) and then absorb it to feed.

      You could also have a mechanism where the victim whose fear (for example) has been drained would have its mind create fear more easily for a while afterward as a compensation mechanism(1), which would make them an easier target fot the vampire, creating a positive feedback loop till their mind snap from constant terror. Then vampire has to choose between the difficult but ethical method of picking a different victim each time, or the cheap and evil method of keeping the same person until they’re used up.

      (1)Is this how emotions work?

      1. illhousen says:

        Hm, yes, inducing an emotion via mundane means works well. I’d go with an emotion acting as a medium here: by making people feel in certain way, vampires create a metaphysical connection between them and their victims, their psyche touching together, which allows them to nom on your soul.

        Either way, what’s interesting with lust vampires specifically is that the more moral people among them go for an endless series of one night stands, while more ruthless and monstrous ones are the ones in steady monogamous relationships. Getting someone to truly fall in love with them is an act of utmost cruelty in this context since when you love a vampire, it makes you completely open to their predations.

      2. Farla says:

        You could also have a mechanism where the victim whose fear (for example) has been drained would have its mind create fear more easily for a while afterward as a compensation mechanism(1), which would make them an easier target fot the vampire, creating a positive feedback loop till their mind snap from constant terror.

        Hm. I think it could make sense that not having to resolve the emotion on your own would erode that mechanism, so the emotion generator still works but it doesn’t fade properly. Plus, if they eat the emotion and not the memories of what induced the emotion, the person’s going to feel something again when they remember what happened. 

        Of course, that’s hardly the only way to harm someone when you’re eating emotions…

         

    2. Roarke says:

      I’m still peeved the book didn’t just bring back Victor. He was cool. Probably would have come up with a way to, I don’t know, possess multiple people at once through number stations or something.

      Since ghosts don’t seem to have to be tied to a specific place, rather than a confluence of events (delicate babies who need to breathe in a hospital), I think it’d be hilarious if Victor came back every single time there was a thunderstorm, and still at basically full power because there’s not much difference between a noob thunder prodigy riding the lightning and a ghost. 

      You know what’s also annoying? Agatha Hagglethorn or whatever the biddy’s name was should also have been drawn to abusive households for the much more direct and personal method of murder she committed. Of course, the book knows her targeting babies is more dramatic, but I’m guessing Butcher didn’t even think about the alternative because why would it even matter?

      1. Farla says:

         abusive households for the much more direct and personal method of murder she committed. Of course, the book knows her targeting babies is more dramatic, but I’m guessing Butcher didn’t even think about the alternative because why would it even matter?

        There’s often a lot underlying such decisions. I think it’s close to not-in-my-backyard reasoning, where an unspoken and perhaps unadmitted part of the tragedy is that the abuse in Agatha’s household is spilling over into the households of other, unabused people who have greater value.

        Especially when this is the same Harry who spent all of the first book holding his nose at the idea of a wife having relationship troubles and couldn’t look at the abused daughter when she briefly appeared.

        1. Roarke says:

          Yeah, that’s true. It also lines up with Harry’s reaction in Book 1 when Monica Sells said she finally ran away ‘for her kids’ because that’s the only motivation she’s allowed to have for escaping the abuse. Agatha H.’s situation is only tragic because it caused her to kill her baby which has more inherent worth. 

  3. Act says:

    So wait, do we know whether:

    a) Thomas rapes people straight up

    b) He exudes like, an unintentional sexy aura and then feeds on the lust it creates without actually raping people

    b2) He exudes like, an unintentional sexy aura and then rapes the victim willingly

    b3) He exudes like, an unintentional sexy aura and then is like, countermindraped into feeding on it, so it’s like a weird two-way rape

    b4 He exudes like, an intentional sexy aura and then rapes the victim

    c) He just has consensual sex with Justine or whoever in order to feed and Butcher doesn’t bother to distinguish because something something what a whore

    I feel like these are wildly different options that leave a lot of room for Tom to be a perfectly good person or a really horrific one and you kind of have to specify???

    THE VAMPIRES IN THIS ARE SO DAMNED CONFUSING WHAT ARE THEY AND WHAT IS EVEN THE GODDAMN DIFFERENCE

    1
    1. illhousen says:

      I’m not sure how well this particular book explains it (judging by the quoted explanations, not very well. Retcons were involved), but the definitive lore is as follows:

      – Thomas exudes a directed aura that makes people super-horny to the point of overriding their free will, as we see here with the superghost.

      – He feeds on lust, the sexual act is incidental. In principle, he’s capable of just going to a porn theater and feeding on masturbating people there. Probably wouldn’t even damage them since the feeding would be dispersed among a crowd.

      – Normally, the aura is under his control, but can flare up when he’s particularly hungry or hurt.

      – Normally, he has control over his feeding, unless, again, he’s particularly hungry or hurt, in which case it becomes difficult.

      That’s about it, as far as I remember.

      1. AlphabetSoup says:
        Yeah, this is all correct. The only thing I’d add is that ‘difficult’ is probably understating it depending on how hungry or hurt Thomas is; if he’s badly enough injured–as in, on death’s door–or starving, it can be virtually uncontrollable. 
      2. Act says:

        So he’s actually a complex character then. Interesting! Why is it sue stories always have great side characters. I remember finding Tera really interesting too.

        1. illhousen says:

          Well, a part of it is that side characters are not written with one hand, so they’re allowed to have, like, actual flaws they struggle with and shit.

          Another part is that they’re often defined by contrast with the protagonist, and when you find the protagonist irritating, well…

          Mind, I have my issues with Thomas and the portrayal of his relationship with Justine, so I wouldn’t exactly cite him as a well-realized character, but we’ll get to it.

    2. Farla says:

      I think it’s d) whatever it is violates Harry’s CHEATING guideline that tells him roofies are wrong. Exactly how much actual consent is going on doesn’t matter, it’s unfair because it’s a thing Harry doesn’t use and no further thought will ever go into it.

  4. illhousen says:

    BTW, since I have to suffer, so do you. Have an image of Harry/Thomas/Superghost:

    1. Act says:

      Am I insane or does she look pregnant? (Wait, is she supposed to be pregnant? I don’t remember…)

      1. illhousen says:

        I don’t think so.

        I think the issue is shading. It emphasizes the belly and makes it look bigger than was probably intended.

  5. Nerem says:
    I’m late to the party, I know. But the talk about GHOSTS AREN’T THE GHOSTS OF PEOPLE made me remember a far superior Urban Fantasy story. Modern Day Magic Made Easy (It’s a Japanese story), about a girl who finds an advertisement for a magic school and decides she wants to learn magic!

    Anyways, what made me think about it is that it has the concept of Ghostscripts. Which are, well, ghosts. They’re vaguely in line with the Dresden Files idea of them being ‘fossils’, except for the fact that they are actually perfectly aware, because they ARE copies of people. In fact, there can be Ghostscripts of living people! The magic school’s teacher ends up showing why she’s so terrifying to deal with at one point because she was so ready for things that she actually made a ghostscript of herself to deal with a lethal situation so she could safely ambush and kill a villain without endangering herself.

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