And we’re done!
So, I said at the beginning that I’d do the final novel of the first Exalted trilogy to punish you all for voting for it, and I think amply demonstrated why. But! New pokemon game’s coming out.
Instead, I think I’m going to just do comics and random things and maybe some Korra, then new game for a bit. Or maybe it’ll just be Reconstruction posts to finish that out, we’ll find out! January will be pokemon fanfic and rage, in accordance with the prophesy.
After all that, we’ll do what the poll says. Which is currently more Dresden, which I take to mean you guys really, really want to hear the ending of Exalted’s +1 sword saga.
Chapter Sixteen and Seventeen:
Harry gets assaulted again. This time, he curses himself for forgetting his shield charm due to being naked and then throwing clothes on in a rush.
Still don’t like the setup – there really needs to be sometime earlier the shield charm works, as it is we spend the first half with it totally useless and the second half with it stupidly overpowered. Maybe when he’s clubbed by his attacker the first time, he gets the shield up and the second hit bounces off. That’d help explain why he’s not generally roughed up but just hit once.
See, I like squishy wizards, but they really can’t be pure squish. If getting hit in the head totally shuts down magic, magicians are just too easy to take down. Harry should be able to defend himself after a surprise attack.
The guy cuts off Harry’s hair.
Wizards don’t really fight – they don’t gain much and there’s the
mutual defense coalition white council keeping people in line, so no one thinks to do stuff like shave their head. Harry loses several valuable moments trying to process this because it’s just so incredibly against the rules, time the other guy uses to start running for it. Harry tackles and so on, with something about how people expect wizards to just fireball everything but it’s wrong to use magic to kill, remember? And he doesn’t want to murder anyone, he just wants to stop this guy from murdering him.
Harry does not have his sudden and out of nowhere it’s-not-Marcone realization, though – he’s just been assaulted by a mobster for the second time and this time the guy’s doing magic. In this version, Harry didn’t get the chance to talk to Murphy about three eye ™, so he wasn’t told that the person running the magic drug empire is Marcone’s rival. He does his quick tracking spell minus the weird idea that dried blood doesn’t count, gets his wizard gear, and starts tracking the guy.
He ends up at Marcone’s club.
As I said at the time:
1) Attempt to enter.
1a) If refused, blow door off hinges. Sends message you’re not to be messed with, doesn’t confuse the message by exploding stuff even when not messed with.
2) Move toward the guy who stole your hair.
2a) Should he attempt to flee, blast something else to stop him.
2b) Should Marcone ask why you’re attacking his man, say this.
3) Retrieve hair from thug.
Harry more or less pulls this off. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” is old enough for Harry to have heard about it, and it’s a good model for how wizards should behave. Plus Harry’s often literally carrying a big stick, so there’s that. Unfortunately, in this version Harry is thinking his enemy is probably Marcone, so he’s going out of his way to “accidentally” trash stuff in pursuit of the guy. Midway through he realizes his error. (Without saying anything about of course it can’t be Marcone-chan he’d never do anything as mean as heartsploding.)
Harry considers that he may have made a terrible mistake here – Marcone thinks of himself as the lesser evil, and maybe he is, but he’s still a guy who solves his problems by hiding your body in cement foundations, and as he saw in their soulgaze, Marcone kills anything that scares him. He decides not to worry about it because he’s probably going to be dead before Marcone can get around to killing him.
Marcone, meanwhile, is not quite as intimidated as Harry thinks, as the soulgaze (which included Harry’s bone-deep conviction that killing with magic is the most horrible thing you can do) and Harry’s freaked out reaction to the guy being shot convince Marcone that Harry is too gutless to be a real threat. (At some point in a later book, Marcone will end up misjudging Harry based on this, thinking Harry’s a wuss rather than someone who’s made a moral choice in the matter.) This is partly why Marcone figures there’ll be no problem claiming Harry took out his opposition, since even if it annoys Harry, the guy’s not going to go heartsploding over it.
Chapter Eighteen and Nineteen:
Harry wanders around sad and thinking about his childhood. There might be some counter to the hair thing, but he doesn’t know it, and if Bob knows it he won’t talk (brief digression regarding Bob’s alien nature and how he can’t really be placated – giving him anything just makes him demand more. Since Harry’s just given him a very big thing, Bob’s next request is automatically going to be significantly worse even before getting into the fact Harry’s obviously desperate.)
He instead puts up some wards around the police station, then Murphy’s house, thinking about how skulking around like this would look really bad if he were caught. The wards won’t stop a heartsplosion, but they might keep out another demon. He ends up taking a nap in an alley, wakes up in the pre-dawn glow, and decides to check out the scene of Randall’s death again, because it’s possible he’ll get some clue there.
He runs into the photographer (who he intimidates, but doesn’t just jerk the guy around for the sake of it) and finally puts the last pieces together – the guy he was told about at the very beginning? That’s his newbie murderer. He’s been barking up the wrong tree this whole time by looking for a witch. There’s a moment of wondering if wait, maybe the wife is evil, but the scorpion didn’t point to her. It pointed to the husband.
Chapter Twenty and Twenty-one
Don’t happen. Seriously, the only reason for showing up at poor Monica Sells’ house is so he can bully her and we can have a creepy not-child tell us how there are such big stakes. Everything she says is either irrelevant or something we could guess, mostly both at once. That she has children and this may be part of her motivation in wanting her crazy husband taken out can be shown by having kids’ voices in the background during calls. It doesn’t matter precisely how she’s related to the dead women, because Victor Sells already had perfectly good motivation to kill them just to keep them from talking once they got antsy about the murdering.
He just calls her instead, and she continues to talk about the package and how she’s happy to hear it’s almost delivered. “Is there anything you can tell me before I go?” he asks, and she says, “I’m so glad his present is almost here. He’s been so stressed and distracted recently. When he was here he’d completely stopped sleeping at night, but sometimes he’d had a nap around noon. He never sleeps through a storm, though.”
At this point, Harry decides his best bet is going to get the scorpion and hoping he can forge a link back to the wizard so that if he’s attacked, he takes the other guy down with him. Storm energy is so volatile there’s a good chance it’ll work even if he gets it wrong, because any foulup and this whole thing explodes in his face.
Harry tries to call the station to tell them what he knows in case he dies, only to be told that the higher-ups are really mad about the failure to solve this case and Murphy’s currently ransacking his office. Fuuuuuuuck. Harry rushes over there to find Murphy mid-ransack. The scorpion drawer is open.
He starts demanding Murphy give it back, and Murphy has no idea what he’s going on about. They start arguing over the fact Harry doesn’t respect the law and likes to do his own thing. (Remember the idea he sometimes decides it’s okay for parents to kidnap their own kids? They can tell he’s doing that and don’t appreciate it.) Then the now-huge scorpion drops out of the vent and stings her. Harry tries to fireball it to death and says that the magic just flows over it – it’s thoroughly transformed and as a magical construct (incidentally meaning that there’ll be nothing left upon destruction), it’s extremely difficult to harm with further magic. He manages to crush a claw by toppling a bookshelf on it (establishing it’s not supernaturally durable in general) and flees.
I think it’s okay to keep the whole elevator thing, since it’s actually a pretty good way of showing what magic can accomplish and exhausting him before the main fight. At the end, Harry’s wrecked his shield charm (something he says he didn’t know could happen, explaining why he doesn’t have more than one). He leaves Murphy with the EMT explaining that the poison should disappear with the colorless goo, so she’ll be fine as long as she can survive another few minutes. Of course, he has no idea what the poison is, so he waffles a bit about not wanting to leave. He writes a note telling her that the killer is Victor Sells, holed up at X address, using storms to kill, try to attack around noon when he might be asleep.
There’s no handcuff involved. We just drop that whole thing. It does amuse me to think of Murphy specifically going out to find old fashioned handcuffs, but that can happen in the next book or something.
The storm hasn’t started yet – the scorpion was probably empowered during the last storm and told to lurk, and Harry had no idea because he hasn’t been in his office.
Harry limps away, planning to call a cab, when Morgan finds him. Storm’s coming, did Harry hear? And Morgan thought the two of them should sit together staring at each other for any sudden moves during that time. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Harry tries to explain that no, he’s not going to heartsplode anyone, he’s going to be heartsploded.
“By the same guy who summoned the demon,” says Morgan.
“And fed a ‘love potion’ to your girlfriend, and is the real owner of the evil spirit in your basement. Busy, busy guy, isn’t he.”
Harry assesses his various options and decides to punch him in the face on the basis it can’t make anything worse. This is something he’s never done before and so Morgan isn’t expecting it. Harry tells us that wizards tend to solve their problems with magic or at least magic objects, so this takes Morgan by surprise long enough for him to whack the guy again and temporarily knock him out. (Harry’s kind of surprised it worked given Morgan’s supposed to be, like, magic police, and should be way better at magic than someone he’s guarding, so shouldn’t he expect desperate wizards to try punching instead? This is because Morgan isn’t, like, magic police, there are no like magic police, the whole stalking thing Harry takes for granted as how things work is actually super rare and Morgan’s kind of just making it up as he goes along. Morgan and the other enforcers usually only show up when there’s something that needs immediate killing.)
Harry drags Morgan’s groaning body into an alley so that a driver won’t see this and refuse to pick him up, and then finds a taxi to drive him to the lake house.
They get most of the way there before the car spontaneously dies (showing technology fuck Harry over!), and Harry starts jogging the rest of the way.
Harry does the whole wizard vision thing, explaining he really doesn’t like to do it, but it does give wizards a huge edge in dealing with magical effects and if it’s see horrible things or die, he very reluctantly picks see horrible things. Maybe mention he hasn’t done anything like this since he killed his master.
Let’s cut the whole temporal aspect, since it doesn’t add much. Wizard sight just lets you see things as they “really” are, which includes things with no corresponding regular world form at all. Harry describes the creatures flitting about as like those things that live in the bottom of the ocean next to the vents: they’re weird, how they get there or if they’re formed and evolve on the spot is a matter of debate, and it’s very hard to study them, because they only feed on anomalous/misaligned magic, like the evil around this house.
Harry explains that most magic creatures wouldn’t be able to do much about this, because the act of entering the house would peel away so much power they’d inevitably lose any confrontation. Luckily, wizards are magic users in a squishy mortal container, and so are totally immune to those laws. You can make deliberate wards to keep out mortals, because you can make deliberate wards to keep out basically anything, but threshold magic isn’t going to do you any good.
Anyway, what he sees tells him he’s made some miscalculations. There’s lots of spell spillover here, so whoever’s been channeling it hasn’t been able to focus it properly, but somehow, they also haven’t been blown up, despite the fact everything there is storm and death aligned and should have exploded weeks ago. The ultimate answer here is that Sells is just naturally talented at storm magic – everyone has different skills and specialities, but those can only manifest during high-magic periods, so this part of the lore is pretty much forgotten. In a low-magic period, Sells would register as being a mundane. Again, good setup for a longer running series because it lets you have a huge wizard council with lots of knowledge without them knowing everything Harry will be facing already. The world’s changing.
Skip the whole temptation thing – Harry’s a powerhouse, he doesn’t need extra juice, and we’ve repurposed the rapist skull to do a better job of it, anyway.
Harry walks in the front door, figuring that if Dark Storm Crazypants is lucid enough to trap anything, it’d be the back door and windows. He figured he could just blow out the lock, but it isn’t even locked.
Harry goes into the bit about incautious vs old wizards yet again, and how dark magic is way stronger but you don’t live long because you lose the ability to think about what you’re doing. Dark Storm Crazypants is apparently so far gone he’s forgotten doors lock. On the one hand, crazy people are easier to outsmart. On the other, the fact he’s this far gone means he’s probably been doing a ton of dark magic, which means he’s supercharged, while Harry just ran a mile on an injured leg after tossing around an elevator.
Harry looks around and is impressed and horrified by the storm ritual. Crazypants has thrown basically every modifier he can get at the problem – there’s a old fashioned record player, there’s incense, there’s some weird bubbling fog thing (dry ice – remember, Harry spent his teenage years being a wizard apprentice, not going to middle school!). Also everything stinks of rubbing alcohol. (Sure, absinthe supposedly makes you hallucinate, but rubbing alcohol actually does make your regular eyes blind, and blindness = magic vision is a known association.) Normal rituals are really carefully assembled to be stable, but this stuff all resonates with storms but doesn’t fit with each other. Harry takes a minute to think that it’s a shame this guy figured out how to heartsplode people, because looking at this, the guy would probably have offed himself making a few more batches of the drug. Might even blow up right after killing Harry.
Morgan would probably still assume it’s his fault, thinks Harry bitterly.
He sees the three-eye all over the place.
Depending on where this should go, either Harry just thinks oh, he’s desperate for energy because it’s a potion and it only lasts a few days, making it hard to keep in supply, OR Harry realizes that whoa, he’s made inert, stable potions, that’s so cool.
(Going with magic fluctuating, you don’t have to explain much about why no one’s worked this out before – someone probably has, and it was lost in the centuries of low-magic.)
Harry then throws up, because wizard vision + terrible place + he’s still concussed and just got jolted around again = sad Harry. He decides he’s done enough wizard vision for the day and also he can hear Crazypants chanting above and he does not want to get a wizardvision look at him. He’s seen a dark wizard once before and that was enough.
From the chanting, he assumes there’s a spell circle above him, and he uses the simplest solution – he fireballs and now the wood the circle was carved or drawn on is on fire. The boards of the upper story split apart, sending everyone crashing down in a fiery heap. A white rabbit wiggles loose from the rubble and bolts out the door, Harry’s hair still taped to its back.
(Harry spares a moment to tell us that you could just use hamsters or rats or any other cheap pet-store animal, and it gets you fewer weird looks than buying a half dozen rabbits at once, but hey, points for style.)
Now it’s Crazypants’ time to begin monologue. I really think Prachett had the right of it with his bit about how it’s evil men who gloat and good men who just kill what needs killing. (I mean, just look at how the book had Harry prioritize gloating.) Crazypants lays out the basics now – his eyes are open to the truth of reality, he’s found the “dead magic” people have forgotten – that is, he’s found old artifacts, there’s actually a lot around and they’re easy to find if you have wizard vision up because almost no one else is looking. Since it’s America, maybe he’s been digging up Native American stuff and communing with it, although he should probably state in that case that most of it wasn’t murder and drug related. It would definitely give Harry reason to not recognize any of the magic he’s doing. (Since both his houses seem to be new developments, he might have found some stuff in the churned-up ground that no one else could see.)
He also does his whole strong/weak thing and how now Harry will die for not understanding how the world works, and how he was hoping to form a partnership but he can see Harry is inferior and has already rejected true power blah blah he’s crazy.
Maybe he’s also got a staff that’s wood carved to look like a spine, given that.
It’s at this point the Beckitts come with the guns, because this guy is not an experienced wizard. One tries to fire at Harry, the gun jams, the other manages to shoot Harry somewhere survivable (shoulder?) and as Harry goes down from the bullet (survivable being different than shrugging off) attempts to fire again only for the gun to explode.
Harry takes this chance to run for it. Crazypants throws dried scorpions after him. Harry manages to fry some of them, but misses them and then they’ve grown and are fireproof. He goes for the stairs and fireballs those behind him. The scorpions just climb through the rubble. Harry does the cleaning spell without ranting about how horrible it was to learn, and thinks about how at least he has the advantage in total number of spells known.
Crazypants manages to get up there by the opposite stairs and pin him, and Harry starts playing mind games so they’ll burn together. Crazypants decides nah let’s summon a demon instead, what with me having like infinite power while the storm’s going!
Harry wonders if it’s the same name or if he’s got a whole rolodex of demons, and wonders if it’s actually the same demon as the one he thought he killed or what, because he doesn’t know how demons work. If you kill a fairy, the name becomes useless, but fairies are real creatures and demons are something else.
He does know how names universally work, so he uses the name to break the control but not take it because will-binding is evil. That was a cool idea. And having Harry actually be outmatched and win through luck and knowledge is great too.
Harry says that it should die/return to its plane upon killing Crazypants or the both of them. They’ll know the answer soon! Well, Harry will, the demon’s going to eat the guy who summoned it first.
Crazypants then decides that now he’d rather they burn together and starts lighting everything on fire. Harry manages to pull together a bit of a shield to avoid the direct blasts, but that just splashes it around even more. Then the demon eats him and pops out of existence. At least Harry found something out before dying, he thinks, and collapses into sweet, smoke-filled unconsciousness.
Harry wakes up to find Morgan has saved his life. He isn’t grateful because he thinks Morgan is just being a dick who really wants to kill him personally in front of the council.
Morgan says no, he was planning to just let Harry die. He showed up while Harry was shouting about how they’d both burn and figured it was two dark wizards self-destructing and he should let nature take its course. Then Harry didn’t willbind the summoned demon, which could’ve saved him from the flames, and even admitted the possibility it’d eat him second. So if he’s a dark wizard, he’s an incredibly dumb one.
Still don’t believe he’s behind feeding your date a rape potion, Morgan adds.
No, Harry admits, I made it but I wasn’t going to use it.
No it’s this thing with the evil skull where he said he wouldn’t tell me how to make the escape potion otherwise and I forgot anyone was coming over and I really needed the escape potion because I had to talk to Bianca but funny story-
You violated a vampire’s territory and put the ceasefire in jeopardy?!
Morgan walks off making furious sounds while the ambulances arrive. He’s also left the unconscious Beckitts, because it’s wrong to let muggles burn to death rather than letting their justice system handle it.
Murphy is mostly uninjured and furious. She doesn’t believe his claims he only just figured out the Victor Sells thing at the last second and thinks he was keeping them away from it on purpose. She points out he could’ve called the rest of the force for backup if this wasn’t about feeding a rival wizard to some sort of giant lizard thing (they’re going by the tooth marks on the corpse) and/or making friends with mobsters and Harry realizes that aw fuck, he could’ve, then wait, what?
Aw fuck Marcone’s saying Harry works for him now. See, it’s right next to his bed. There’s the gift basket and the card and the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars of cash Murphy can’t legally prove is drug money paid to a hitman, yet. By the way, she’s impounded the gun that was mysteriously found in the rubble of the office building.
There’s also the six hour continual sex “party” Bob the rapist skull pulled off, and the at least one fatality Harry doesn’t want to think about. He thinks about Morgan deciding he wasn’t evil because he didn’t bind a demon, and how he let someone/thing else bind people for its own purposes.
Harry’s in a cast because he’s refused to use the x-ray machine, since it’s not safe for anyone involved and it’ll just wreck it so other people can’t use it.
On the brighter side, Rodriguez is willing to have a second date and they end up going back to her place which doesn’t have any rapist skulls and dubious potions they’ll talk you into drinking.
And Morgan still hates him, but he no longer thinks Harry’s actually evil.
He sends the fairies lots of pizza and wakes up one morning to find his cat sparkling and dusted blue despite being covered in motor oil the night before, and mushrooms are growing all over the lawn. He takes that to mean the fairies are pleased with the transaction and he’s not forcing them into doing his bidding like an evil wizard, and harvests the mushrooms for potions.
Murphy calls about a lost kid and he heads out to do his job.