Dresden Files Storm Front Ch23

So the reason this is so late is because it’s a terrible chapter, I wrote it up twice, lost it both times, and needed a good sulk at the world’s unfairness before I could get back to it.

When last we left Our Hero, he’d crushed a giant magic undead scorpion and I was explaining how crushed is still usable, go scrape up some scorpion chunks for your spell.Also, he’s been slimed.

stinking, colorless goo, the ectoplasm that magic called from somewhere else whenever generic mass was called for in a spell.

stinking, colorless

Now, it’s easy to see how “colorless” fits into what Harry’s talking about. It’s stuff that’s only partly real, getting pulled in to fill a crack in reality. But if that’s the idea, it’s completely contradicted by it being stinking. To be colorless is to lack the one of the attributes we use to sense reality. To be stinking is to have an extreme excess of another.

Why does it stink? Because ectoplasmic viscera is always stinky and unpleasant, and the author’s just coasting along on cliche.

It would be more interesting to say the substance really was nothing more than generic mass – visible only in how it bends light (if it even does) and the stuff that sticks to it, and Harry saying that it so lacks a smell that it’s almost a smell of its own (after all, ambient smells would be getting stuck in the mass while it’s producing nothing of its own), and that the stuff that’s gotten in his mouth tastes like empty spaces – but that, on a tactile level, it’s extremely there. It can’t be compressed, only spread around, and you find you’re hyper-sensitive to the weight on your body, because “mass” and its baby with gravity “weight” are the only components it’s actually made up of. All its reality is concentrated into those two attributes, with the result it feels more real than you do even as it’s virtually undetectable unless you’re actually touching it.

The goo wouldn’t last long-within a few more minutes, it would simply dissipate, vanish into thin air, return to wherever it had come from in the first place.

Because Harry’s a magic geek, not whatever the word is for weirdos who are interested in how magic actually functions. Who cares if the goo is being taken from somewhere else or spontaneously coming into being and what the mechanism for it all is? Some non-alpha-male loser whose head Harry itches to introduce to a toilet, that’s who.

I would like to also take a moment to say that god, I hate characters not being interested in things. If you’re writing for a hypothetical person who doesn’t want to hear your character’s thoughts on the mysterious workings of their amazing fantasy world, that hypothetical person was probably dozing off when you even mentioned the mysterious workings, so why did you bother?

For the moment, it was just a rather disgusting, slimy annoyance.
But maybe one that I could put to use.

It’s time to prove precisely how much Harry’s chivalry is worth.

My own hands were too broad, but Murphy had delicate little lady’s hands, except where practice with her gun and her martial arts staff routines had left calluses. If she had heard me thinking that, and had been conscious, she would have punched me in the mouth for being a chauvinist pig.
One of the EMTs was babbling into a handset, while the other was on Murphy’s other side, supporting her along with me. It was the only chance I was going to get. I hunched over beside Murphy’s diminutive form and tried to shroud what I was doing with the dark folds of my black duster. I worked at her hand, squeezing her limp, slimy fingers together and trying to slip the steel loop of the handcuffs over her hand. I took some skin off of her, and she groaned a lot, but I managed to get the cuffs off of her wrist

Nothing. It’s worth absolutely nothing. “Delicate little lady’s hands” matter precisely as much as they benefit Harry’s escape. Did he just skin her wrist? Absolutely. Did he just dislocate her thumb? Probably. He saw a way that would make his life easier, and he took it.

This is the one sole thing that chivalry has to justify itself, the idea that, in return for living your life certain you’re better than everyone else, you’re obligated to act to protect them. This doesn’t generally happen even in fiction, but it is pretty much the only possible way you can make a sexist character an antihero as opposed to just that awful guy you won’t stop writing a story about.

Am I saying I demand Harry injure himself and probably fail to get free?

Well, for starters, yes, yes I am, I just read more than twenty chapters of this horrible book and the only reason I’m not demanding Harry chew off his limb to appease my bloodlust is that it’d be implausible. But assuming I didn’t absolutely and utterly hate the character involved already, would I demand it? No, but I do require his supposed flaw actually act as a flaw and slow him down.

First, Harry’s thought process should not begin and end at “fuck yes I can jam Murphy’s hand through the handcuff and get free!” He should first try to pull himself loose, then cast about for another option, then realize he has a better chance of getting Murphy’s hand loose, then stop because her hand doesn’t really fit either, cast about again for another option, and only then realize he has none.

He can do all those fast – hell, working through options fast would be moving toward him coming off as intelligent, which would be a plus. He doesn’t have to lament about this for hours, I just want him to have a problem with it.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly, Harry’s unwillingness to harm the fragile flower that is Murphy should slow him down. It should be an instance where Harry is not acting in the way that benefits him most. (I suspect the author would say that happened with the scene where he refused to abandon Rodriguez, but Harry’s primary feature isn’t self-preservation, it’s self-aggrandizement, as illustrated by how he was not willing to actually try to talk the other guy out of killing Rodriguez.) Harry should just barely manage to get it off in time because he’s risking his escape by trying to ease it carefully over her hand without causing damage.

It wouldn’t be a particularly good thing Harry was doing, objectively – he can stop this guy before further murders happen, and I imagine it’s incredibly dangerous to everyone involved if he stays attached to her and gets pulled along into the ambulance, and Murphy isn’t actually a delicate little lady and can suck up the skinned wrist and probably dislocated thumb. It would be a stupid thing to do, but that’s what flaws are supposed to be. And it would show that Harry’s sexism honestly does come from, or at least contains elements of, decency and a belief in doing what’s right, as opposed to existing solely to prop up his ego and justify mistreating people when he feels like it.

But back to the Harry we have, who may well also be the Harry we deserve if we were all very bad in our past lives. He informs the EMT that Murphy needs treatment for brown scorpion venom, thus avoiding even thinking for a split second about how running off after his enemy means not staying to try to help treat Murphy with magic. To explain why it’s such a bigger deal than actual brown scorpion venom, he specifically says for a massive dose of brown scorpion venom to which I say huh?

Because the scorpion was regular sized when Murphy found it and it stung her. Assuming it got extra refills because magic, and went on to sting her the hundred times it takes to make brown scorpion venom actually matter, that extra presumably was the same ectoplasm that we were just told is dissipates within a minute or two of the originating talisman being destroyed. Sure, it could be there’s two separate ectoplasm subspells on this thing, one to fill the poison sac that produces permanent venom and one to grow the entire rest of it that’s temporary, but if you’re doing all that, why are you even using the scorpion’s original super shitty venom and not, just throwing this out there, SOME SORT OF MAGIC VENOM THAT DOESN’T HAVE A READILY AVAILABLE ANTIVENIN AND ALSO WHICH DOESN’T TELL YOU WHAT THE TREATMENT IS JUST BY SEEING WHAT DID THE STINGING. There’s a reason real poisoning attempts generally try to not be blindingly obvious about which poison is involved.

Even if we assume wholly invented magic poison isn’t a thing, somehow (maybe the guy just doesn’t know how to make it), there are still more deadly poisons to put in the scorpion. Just pick a random Australian snake and call it a day, you don’t even really need to do research it’s statistically more likely to kill your enemy than the scorpion’s original venom. Or what about cyanide? You’re starting with a dried scorpion corpse here, you don’t even really need magic to fill the tail with cyanide, just a needle and a steady hand.

Obviously, the plot demands that Harry can’t stick around to treat a magic poison, and Harry’s dick demands Murphy live until he can see her legs in a dress, but having him take a minute to use his second sight, the passive magicy sense one, to check on what’s poisoning her and identify which antivenin is actually needed, would be nice. It’d again be Harry sacrificing what he needs to do by delaying to make sure someone else is okay, it’d involve more magic which is always good, and it’d show how big of a difference Harry’s magic (and Harry choosing to help someone else) can make.

You could also use it to drum up a bit more tension as Harry points out that delaying makes it more likely he’ll get killed, then drum it up again by Harry saying he feels it’s better to delay and do definite good, because even if he sacrificed Murphy for more time there’s no guarantee he’ll survive so he wants to do what definite good he can while he’s still alive. (Ooh, and instead of Harry being a creeper sneaking in to cuddle up on a murder scene for the night, Harry could respond to thinking he’s out of options by trying to run around setting up wards around the police station or something, in the hopes they’ll last long enough for the White Council to notice the heartsplosions are still going on and finally deal with this guy. He ends up passing out in an alley instead of on Randall’s gore-splattered carpet.)

The EMT, being a buddy, informs us Harry’s leg is clawed open. Sadly, Harry counters that it’s strictly a flesh wound that does not impede his ability to walk in any way.

It was my fault Murphy was there. It had been my decision to hold information away from her that had compelled her to take direct action, to search my office. If I’d just been more open, more honest, maybe she wouldn’t be lying there right now, dying. I didn’t want to walk away from her. I didn’t want to turn my back on her again and leave her behind me, alone.
But I did. Before the support units arrived, before police started asking questions, before the EMTs began looking around for me and giving my description to police officers, I turned on my heel and walked away.
I hated myself every step. I hated leaving before I knew if Murphy would survive the scorpion’s venomous sting. I hated that my apartment and my office building had been trashed, torn to pieces by demons and giant insects and my own clumsy power. I hated to close my eyes and see the twisted, mangled bodies of Jennifer Stanton and Tommy Tomm, and Linda Randall. I hated the sick twisting of fear in my guts when I imagined my own spare frame torn asunder by the same forces.
And, most of all, I hated the one responsible for all of it. Victor Sells.

This starts so well. So, so well.

But it immediately turns around to being about him, to how sad all this makes him, because Murphy doesn’t have inherent value as a person. What matters is Harry enjoys leering at her and speculating about what her legs look like and how nice it is she wears makeup but doesn’t look like she’s doing it, and if she’s dead, he doesn’t have that. In the space of a single paragraph, it goes from “this is my fault” to “I am the real victim by having to leave”.

Then we get to him saying he hates himself, but what he really hates is being powerless – he’s kind of upset Murphy might die, but mostly he’s upset he won’t get to know one way or the other. And then he’s thinking about his apartment, because Murphy dying is the same sort of thing, it’s all a matter of damage to objects he values.

And we end with him saying the real person to blame, the real person at fault for, and let’s quote here, “all of it”, is Victor Sells. We open the first paragraph with “It was my fault” and four paragraphs later, everything is someone else’s fault. Harry’s involvement is negligible, and it’s set up as if him pointing out that this is totally because of his own behavior, is just Harry being so nice and caring about what happened as opposed to being totally because of his own behavior. Victor Sells did not make Harry choose over and over to mislead and lie to Murphy. Victor Sells had no goddamn way of knowing any of that would happen nor did he do anything to make it more likely. It happened solely because that is Harry’s one way of interacting with people.

Victor, who was going to kill me as soon as this storm grew. I could be dead in another five minutes.

From “It was objectively my fault harm has come to another person” to “it’s sooooooooooo hard being me, think about me, my life is hardest!” in, again, four damn paragraphs.

But hey, at least he’ll die now, right?

No. I couldn’t. I got a little more excited as I thought about the problem and looked up at the clouds.
The storm had come in from the west, and was only now going over the city. It wasn’t moving fast; it was a ponderous roller of a thunderstorm that would hammer at the area for hours. The Sells’s lake house was to the east, around the shore of Lake Michigan, maybe thirty or forty miles away, as the crow flies. I could beat the storm to the lake house, if I was fast enough

I’m torn about this.

On the one hand, it sure is true that modern society allows us to move across large distances much faster, and that clouds are a local phenomenon. You can totally drive across the border of a rainstorm, for example.

On the other hand, clouds are up super high. Like wow.

As you can see on Wikipedia, thunderclouds are, on average, fifteen miles in diameter. Also, they can almost that tall. The bottom of them usually isn’t too far from the ground…but it’s the top that’s generating all the fun stormy stuff. Even if we limit ourselves to lightning alone, that’s forming throughout the thunderstorm, with the most common stuff on the bottom but the most power on the top.

So, if you’re able to sense all of this and tap it at will, then your magic tapping ability is great enough that several miles variation is irrelevant. If you can sense the whole of something fifteen miles around and ten miles tall and tap all of that, how likely is it that being an extra thirty miles away matters?

The problem is humans instinctively feel that a storm is just “above” them, like maybe ten or fifteen above the height of whatever the tallest tree or building around is.

Now, if we go on the idea that magic functions on different and often irrational rules, you could say that height doesn’t matter and possibly size doesn’t either – the storm has to be over your head or nothing. We can probably tie this to circles – the circle is drawn two-dimensionally but impacts in three. The force field Harry’s anti-demon circle generated was much higher than it was wide, and Harry didn’t mention anything about it being possible for the demon to drop something down on him or really there being an upper limit ever. So let’s say circles extend infinitely upward. And a circle’s power is broken when something against the rules begins to cross, not when it finishes. So maybe you can also make a small circle that connects to the whole of anything that breaches it, or something along those lines but not circle magic.

My rod and staff were gone, dropped when the scorpion attacked. I might have been able to call them down from my office with winds, but as worked up as I was, I might accidentally blow out the wall if I tried.

How not to write an underdog hero, part 1.

I still had my mother’s pentacle talisman at my throat, the symbol of order, of the controlled patterns of power that were at the heart of white magic. I still had the advantage of years of formal training. I still had the edge in experience, in sorcerous confrontations. I still had my faith.

How not to write an underdog hero, part 2

and I had already pulled more magic out of the hat in one day than most wizards could in a week.

How not to write an underdog hero, part 3.

Harry does say that after throwing around more magic than anyone else even could, he himself is pushing the edge but when you’re only nearing your limit after doing forty-nine times as much as anyone else can at all, and currently have enough to accidentally level a building, you aren’t actually disadvantaged at all. At best, you’re on equal terms. What percentage of his magic is left when he says he’s running out? If it’s 1/49th, he can meet most wizards on equal terms. 1/8th or better, he’s packing more than a half dozen average wizards working together.

We don’t know how strong his opponent is, but Harry’s just listed that the guy has no other advantages – the formal training, the general experience, and the specific practice in wizard duels are all solidly on Harry’s side. While this guy was first set up as a similarly superpowered guy, the storm reveal means that no, when he was throwing around power broadly in Harry’s weight class, it was only because he has a crutch – and one that Harry could duplicate fast enough to fry a charging demon. So, all evidence suggests that no, the guy doesn’t even have raw power on his side.

Right now the conflict hinges on Harry, being a magic geek, refusing to actually investigate ways of reacting to the spell he knows is coming, because if he did, his superior schooling, experience and strength would make him a certain winner. It’s only the fiat handicap of a storm time limit that gives poor Victor any possible edge.

This is supposed to be the part where the character resolutely continues despite the odds against them and the beating they took, and it’s the worst execution of that ever.

The pain in my leg didn’t make me weaker, didn’t discourage me, didn’t distract me as I walked. It was like a fire in my thoughts, my concentration, burning ever more brightly, more pure, refining my anger, my hate, into something steel-hard, steel-sharp. I could feel it burning, and reached for it eagerly, shoving the pain inside to fuel my incandescent anger.


Dammit all, I was not going out before I’d caught up to that man and shown him what a real wizard could do.

In conclusion, as it has every time before, this all comes back to Harry’s ego.

But fine, whatever. So, it’s time for climatic duel time. He can’t yank his weapons out, so he’s going to go walk….somewhere else rather than just taking the stairs and collecting his weapons. Where?


Harry’s priorities, forever and always.

The place was packed, people sitting at every one of the thirteen stools at the bar, at every one of the thirteen tables, leaning against most of the thirteen columns.

Oh hey, it’s all those people that never existed before.

Seriously, they didn’t. If they did, Harry would’ve contacted them about if they know anything about a rogue magic user. One of them would’ve figured out that three-eye(tm) was actually magic and told everyone else. Etc.

They were the have-nots of the magical community. Hedge magi without enough innate talent, motivation, or strength to be true wizards. Innately gifted people who knew what they were and tried to make as little of it as possible. Dabblers, herbalists, holistic healers, kitchen witches, troubled youngsters just touching their abilities and wondering what to do about it.

To not even touch what an asshole description this is, how exactly are troubled youngsters who no one knows the magic capacity of (in a world where magic is also powered by emotion) the have-nots and not, say, the nitroglycerin jars? Harry has illustrated you can fuck someone’s life up with very little magic.

I knew them all by sight, if not by name.

Harry, let’s be honest here, that tells us nothing. A) you know a sum total of zero by name or you’d, you know, say some names here. B) Between that and the fact you’re generally an asshole and you haven’t said any of them were MILFs, the sum total of the magical community could be like five people and it’d still be plausible you never bothered to learn their names.

I swept my gaze around the room. Every one of the people I looked at dropped their eyes



but I didn’t need to look deep to see what was happening. Word has a way of getting around between practitioners of magic, and the arcane party line was working as it usually did.

Either they’ve known about this the whole time and Harry is a fucking moron for not consulting them, or they’re fucking morons that only just worked this one out despite heartsplosions, demon summoning, and Morgan presumably telling everyone in the entire city that he called a council oh boy finally they’d kill Harry and maybe next time he’d get someone classy to stalk, someone who wouldn’t naked summon demons on him ergh he still doesn’t even know what the hell was with that but you know, he doesn’t need to, he’s just going to put that part of his life behind him and have a lot of drinks now.

Word was out. There was a mark on my head, and they all knew it. Trouble was brewing between two wizards, white and black

Okay, so when I said that bit about getting the entire city of Chicago as witnesses presumably not working? I didn’t remember that we’re actually shown that wouldn’t work.

All wizards there know there’s an impending fight between white and black wizards. They know of the two wizards is Harry. So unless Mr. Heartsplosion Drugdealer is coming off as white to anybody, the entire human magical community believes Harry is a white wizard. There’s no ambiguity. They’re not cowering because they know a black wizard is out there about to murder Harry, but specifically this is a white vs black as opposed to black vs black or black vs grey or black vs purple or whatever. That means the entire magical community could testify before the council that no, he’s white. And this is not a factor to Harry.

While I have no objection in this specific case, what’s more important is, how the fuck does their justice system work?

One option is that the council only accepts the testimony of their own members – and, by the fact that apparently no magical have-not matters, that would mean the council is a you-must-be-this-superpowered-to-enter thing. Since they apparently police all wizards, that means that a have can murder any have-not pretty easily, since generally under these setups they can’t even testify in their own defense.

Another is that there’s nothing like an actual justice system as we think of it. One person accuses another, the council’s judgement doom council decides the matter, and that’s all. So anyone can levy an accusation at anyone else, but only a couple people decide what happens after that.

The third is that Morgan and the other council enforcers are also something like cops and prosecutors, the only ones with the legal right to levy a charge in the first place. In the event of wrongdoing, you go to them to ask them to investigate/accuse someone, then they and only they investigate, then the council rules on their evidence without any research of their own. This actually fits perfectly with what we’ve been told from Morgan: it’s his job to stalk Harry for evidence and should he gather sufficient evidence he tells the council to show up for him to present it.

The question that then comes to mind is, why hasn’t this changed? There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of a wizard breeding population, it’s all apprentices, and while maybe the fact the entire non-Harry-and-Morgan Chicago population are weaklings is just that most strong wizards don’t live in cities, there doesn’t seem to be a large group of stronger wizards outside the city proper, because if there was Harry would’ve thought to check them for heartsplode capability, and Harry’s also repeatedly said he’s way better than most wizards. That means the vast majority of wizards are not only raised in but keeping in contact with general society. How can all of them be fine with wizard law being at least a thousand years out of date and violating their civil liberties left and right? The only way this makes sense is if we double down on the council being evil so that they’re so evil they kill any dissidents who ask for even minor change.

Harry, of course, doesn’t care about any sort of legal framework and instead informs us that although the wizard pub is set up to mitigate magical harm, it doesn’t work on anything actually aimed at a person. I suspect that that if the other wizards are terrified of magical spillover when it’s happening elsewhere that means that by standing there and making the incoming heartsplosion aimed into the center, he’s probably ruining the protective effect for everybody. Even the metaphor fits that:

It was an umbrella, not a bomb shelter.

And if you stand under the umbrella when the bomb is coming down on your head, everybody else goes splat too.

He then mentions that actually he still has a bomb shelter – if he goes to the Nevernever, apparently heartsplosions can’t reach, which seems like a piece of info that ought to have been relevant in working out who the heartsplosioner was. Like, going on my mirroring system, someone with good timing might be able to heartsplode in a single burst then jump into fairyland before the backlash it. And then Harry the magic geek realizes that’s why the killings are showing spillover, the killer isn’t so strong they can heartsplode two people, they heartsploded one and then the dodged backlash hit the other a split second later.

Regardless, he can’t do that now because he states that it’s even more dangerous there for reasons he refuses to explain. I’m not sure if this is actual foreshadowing or if the author just knows it’s always good to say ominous stuff and you can figure out the details later, but it actually works pretty okay.

These people were associates, friends of a casual sort, but I couldn’t ask them to stand beside me.

In part because you don’t even know their names.

Whatever Victor thought he was, he had the power of a real wizard, and he could crush any of these people like a boot could a cockroach.

But it’s just the storm hack. Presumably these guys could do the same if they knew that was an option. Hell, if you guys grouped into thirteen and tried to use the storm power to make a protective ward…

Oh, right, that wouldn’t be you personally saving the day with murder, so it’s impossible.

Instead, he’s there to ask Mac for the guy’s car.

“Thanks, Mac.”
“Ungh,” Mac said. He glanced up at me, and then behind me.

If I may translate, I believe that was, “I’m only giving you the keys in the hopes it makes you leave before you kill all of us by being here when you heartsplode, you selfish fucker.”

The glancing is because some wet naked steel has shown up.

Morgan stood silhouetted in the doorway at the top of the little flight of stairs, his broad frame black against the grey sky. He came down the stairs toward me, and the thunder came in on his heels. Rain had made little difference in the lay of his dull brown and grey hair, except for changing the texture of curl in his warrior’s ponytail. I could see the hilt of the sword he wore, beneath his black overcoat. He had a muscular, scarred hand on it.

Little wizard-hatted hearts are floating above Harry’s head right now, I’m telling you. Guy is noting how the rain has altered “the texture of curl” in his hair.

Morgan is here to say that unlike some dumbfucks who get stuff told to them directly, HE has been actually figuring out things, like how the storms are used for murdering.

“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing at a table. The people sitting at it cleared away, fast. “We’re going to stay here, both of us. And I’m going to make sure that you don’t have the chance to use this storm to hurt anyone else.

See how my plan of telling Morgan to meet him at the lake house would’ve been such a great idea?

I would like to add that Morgan wins most moral for being totally sure Harry did it but not just executing the guy on the spot and in fact risking his life to sit and play guard dog so that he can prevent any further deaths.

Morgan! Best character! Would Harry do this? Fuck no, asshole couldn’t even be bothered to scrawl out a “as you may notice ive been heartsploded b/c i wasnt the killer, actual killer is the guy selling threeeye btw its magic” warning while he was emoing his ass off about how doomed he was.

I stared at him. I swallowed my anger, the words I wanted to throw back at him

Now, I do recognize that it’s pretty upsetting to have someone always assuming the worst of you, so this is understandable despite the fact that Morgan is the best character Harry shut up and take notes.

“Morgan, I know who the killer is. And he’s after me, next. If I don’t get to him and stop him, I’m as good as dead.”

…speaking of notes, remember that thing, where you didn’t explain anything to Murphy, so she wasn’t convinced, and then bad stuff happened? It was because humans aren’t convinced by statements that are in the general ballpark of the conversation. You want to use exact details and proper nouns and all that junk people use to convey actual information rather than general feelings. Here, I’ll do it for you today: “Morgan, the killer is Victor Sells. He hired a man to ambush me and steal my hair earlier, and I was too slow to get it back. I think he’s currently at this address and he’s using the location to cast his spells from. When the storm reaches there, he’ll use the power to kill me.” See? Just repeat that.

You might also consider adding, “If you know a spell to destroy my hair or break the link and prevent the spell from killing me, I’d be willing to stay here and wait for him to show himself by attacking, but otherwise I don’t have time so we need to get going. I’ll drive, you sit with the sword dangling over me.”

Also good might be, “You can tie me up if you want! Knock me out as soon as you get there! Whatever makes you happy! Just please please please take your superior expertise and sword of +5 wizardslaying to the lakehouse, you’ve got a better chance of dealing with the guy who is going to cause me to explode,” because seriously Harry why do you even have macho pride? What is it doing for you?

His eyes hardened, a fanatic’s gleam. He spoke in two sharp little explosions of single syllables. “Sit. Down.”

Harry, while I am willing to believe this chain of event started with fanaticism, it’s not fanaticism to not believe something that sounds like a complete asspull you just made up on the spot. I mean, could you be any vaguer? It’s transparently obvious you don’t have a name in mind and knew that pausing to think of one would give the game away entirely, so you went with “I know who the killer is” and then no information about the killer.

Anyway, Harry responds by smacking Morgan with a chair.

In real life, the chair doesn’t break when you slug somebody with it, the way it does in the movies. The person you hit is the one who breaks.

“Unless it’s magic real life, in which case maybe you just smacked it into a shield or something and it does break. Or if the person you’re hitting isn’t actually a person, or isn’t actually there. Or if they’re a vampire or a fairy or a troll or something else weird, because in that case basically anything can happen.”

Since the chair doesn’t break, Harry keeps using it to beat Morgan unconscious, because shield charms have stopped existing again.

They knew who Morgan was, what his relationship to me was. They knew about the Council, and my precarious stance with it. They knew that I had just assaulted a duly appointed representative of the Council in pursuit of the execution of his duty. I’d rolled the stone over my own grave. There wasn’t a prayer that I could convince the Council that I wasn’t a rogue wizard fleeing justice, now.

“Simultaneously, of course, they knew I was a white wizard and also that there was another black wizard around trying to kill me. That they knew this somehow had no bearing on the fact the council was going to kill me for being the black wizard they knew I was fighting with, because wizarding law was written five millennia ago and there’s only been like three modifications to it in that time, let me tell you this one time I mentioned America has this trial by jury thing they laughed for ten minutes straight. One of them fell out of the chair. There’s a reason I try to stick next to the actual real cops when dealing with magic crime instead.”

Mac the bartender guy heads over to check that poor Morgan is at least still alive.

I nodded, feeling some slight relief. However much of an ass Morgan was, he had good intentions. He and I wanted the same thing, really. He just didn’t realize that. I didn’t want to kill him.

Harry, “slight relief” is not how halfway decent people feel about not accidentally killing someone who they even admit is not actually a bad person.

Mac, being less great than Morgan, then wishes him good luck.

The room was still silent. Fearful, worried eyes watched me.
I took the keys and walked up, out of the light and shelter of McAnally’s and into the storm, my bridges burning behind me.

Your melodrama fails to hide that you’re the one who keeps lighting them on fire for absolutely no reason.

A defender of the book might raise the point that Morgan doesn’t have to agree to go with Harry to the lakehouse. And this is actually valid – but Morgan also had no real reason to object, so it’s entirely plausible either way. Morgan only refuses in response to what sounds like the shittiest lie ever with no attempt to work with him and his concerns. Harry has no fucking clue if it’d have worked or not. Even more damningly, he had every reason to explain the details, because he’s made it clear he has no idea if he’ll get there in time or survive a direct confrontation if he does. Telling Morgan would mean getting his death avenged and preventing anyone else from dying.

Furthermore, had Harry made a good faith attempt, it wouldn’t really be a burned bridge even if it devolved into assault, since if Harry wins he’ll be able to point to the other guy as the actual killer and it’s looking like the rules go out the window if you’re acting in self-defence. Currently, he still looks suspicious as fuck – even if he gets the killer, the question of what he didn’t want Morgan to see in the process will remain, or if he was using this as an excuse to try to kill Morgan.


  1. Kaze says:
    197 ALPHA MALEs was hilarious, I laughed for nearly a minute straight. Inflating the “Alpha Male” to mary sue levels has always pissed me off really bad in media, so I appreciate this a lot.
    1. Farla says:
      He’s so badass he’s staring down an entire roomful of wizards! Despite the fact soulgazing is supposedly something he wants to avoid! He knows they won’t dare try anything because he is Most Badassest.
  2. illhousen says:
    “The third is that Morgan and the other council enforcers are also
    something like cops and prosecutors, the only ones with the legal right
    to levy a charge in the first place.”

    That seems to be the case.
    Remember: the White Men Council is the secret government. By which I mean, they are typically secret even from their subjects. As far as I can tell, they make no effort to establish contact with local magic users, they just appear when they have reason to suspect someone is breaking their seven laws to investigate and typically execute whoever’s responsible.

  3. Cat says:
    So the latest NaNoWriMo pep talk is from Jim Butcher. http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/jim-butcher

    There was also one recently from the Elantris guy. http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/brandon-sanderson-2014

    1. guestest ever says:
      Butcher sounds like a giant douchenozzle there. So no surprise. Even the photo he chose to use makes him seem like a douche.

      Sanderson however is a cool guy. And he even understands what pep talk means.

      1. Roarke says:
        Seriously, the guy starts his pep talk about how hard it is to be a best-selling novelist, but no really, his life is suffering, and… yeah, no wonder Dresden’s a Sue.
        1. EnviTheFool says:
          I thought that the style it was written in, content included, was supposed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek though. Kind of like what one would write on a dark, stormy opposite day.

          Not that I liked it all too much either when compared to the other ones. The fact that its broody doesn’t exactly help on keeping a positive attitude in the midst of being 30,000 words behind schedule on the final week of NaNo.

          1. Roarke says:
            Oh, it’s definitely tongue-in-cheek and whatever. It’s just not appropriately tongue-in-cheek for the context. It’s patronizing at 100% starting from his initial address to the sweet, innocent aspiring writers, and ending with his premonition that they’ll be writing alongside other “damned souls” like him. It’s too ridiculous to be worth anything.
            1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
              Yeah, it’s the worst sort of wannabe humorous; I found it painfully unfunny to the point where I was actually wincing. It’s like he wants to parody all the ‘always keep writing’ advice out there, only he has no clue how to do it, and can’t even think of anything to say about why writing is difficult, because it isn’t when you’re a hack. He doesn’t talk about any of the things I’ve heard writers say of, you know, actual psychological frustration and suffering. It’s just ‘There are deadlines! People ask me questions. Horrors! Demons!’ No wonder Harry dislikes explaining things properly. (And it’s hard to think of jobs that don’t have deadlines).

              And yeah, it’s also wildly inappropriate for the final section of the competition, in my opinion. There’s no actual advice there. Like, he’s literally just gone ‘don’t write,’ instead of ‘write’ because opposites, so clever, and then whined with a side of melodrama. At least the woman who wrote Divergent didn’t make herself sound like a dim jerkwad, even if I’m not inclined to see her as the one true font of writing advice.

              1. Roarke says:
                Correct. In the course of making fun of what he perceived to be the tired and trite modes of a pep talk, he ended up losing the original purpose of one when he tried to write his own. The result is completely hollow.

                This is actually something people do often when they try to make fun of something to make a point: they end up looking dumber than whatever they’re mocking.

                Real parody and satire are dreadfully difficult to do effectively, even for legitimately masterful writers. I’m not at all surprised this one fell flat.

              2. guestest ever says:
                It’s less tongue in cheek, more head up ass. His face probably fused with the colon by now, creating a stable loop of shit that occasionally spills from his keyboard.
              3. SoxyOutfoxing says:
                Yeah, hollow is the exact word for this.

                Probably a better way to approach satirising the Always Keep Writing advice would be to exaggerate it into something like “Literally never stop writing! Give up sleep forever! Tape a pen to your hand and write on any available surface! Hiss at people who tell you to stop and then write on their faces!” And try to actually make a point with the satire, something like how that, although it’s a good idea to make writing a habit, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure who will never achieve anything if you do take a day off occasionally. (Though you’re right about the difficulty level; you’d have to be a very particular kind of clever to pull it off.)

                I have no idea what point Butcher was trying to make with this, probably because he didn’t consider that beyond: “Opposites are jokes. Look at me being funny with jokes.”

              4. Farla says:
                See, what would’ve been funny might’ve been something like “Stop sleeping! Wordcount is calculated by letters, so falling on your keyboard headfirst still counts! Abuse amphentamines! So what if your writing pink the wall door boing three days no sleep.”

                And “no, look, get some sleep and don’t churn out pure nonsense just to win” is actually decent advice at this point.

              5. Farla says:
                I wonder if he originally wrote it intending for it to be at the beginning?

                But it’s still so smug and uninspiring, particularly because so much of it isn’t just about writing, but about avoiding being published, as if those are such incredibly easy things, so wow, you must be the worst writer ever if that’s hard for you.

                Makes it worse when apparently he got published by privileging his way into things he wasn’t actually invited to and networking from there.

    2. actonthat says:
      Oh my God that picture. It’s like something from Spinal Tap.
      1. guestest ever says:
        Hey, you’re alive. I’m gonna chalk your recent silence up to playing Dragon Age 3 so I can hate on Bioware some more. y/n?
        1. actonthat says:
          Between that and ORAS I didn’t really stand a chance, then I was on vacation for a week. DAI is so amazing though. omg.
          1. Roarke says:
            How much would I be losing to skip Dragon Age 2? I loved Origins, but didn’t really feel that motivated to play 2.
            1. actonthat says:
              It’s really not that bad. It’s not to much a sequel to Origins as it is a prequel to Inquisition, and it sets up the basis for the story. It’s short and enjoyable enough. IDK, I think people’s hatred of it is overblown.

              If you want, I can give you my Steam login so you don’t have to buy it.

              1. Roarke says:
                That’d be chill. And it reminds me: my copies of Wasteland 2 came in (2 digital, one physical). Since I’m the one that recc’d it, I feel obligated to put a copy in your hands.
              2. actonthat says:
                Shoot me an email at act319(at)nyu(Dot)edu!
              3. Roarke says:
                Yar. After work though; they strenuously discourage personal emails.
  4. GeniusLemur says:
    “how the fuck does their justice system work?”
    I thought that was clear already. They turn up from time to time to show how POOR INNOCENT HARRY IS THE MOST PERSECUTEDEST GUY EVER and then disappear.
    1. illhousen says:
      Harry: Why the hell are you following me? Don’t you have other crim- I mean, actual criminals to catch or something?
      Morgan: Well, you know how the existence of the Council is secret?
      Harry: Yes.
      Morgan: And you know how our policy is to kill anyone who learns about the Council?
      Harry: Yes?
      Morgan: Well, as it happened, you are the only one who knows about us while not being in the Council yourself.
      Harry: So, you are saying…
      Morgan: Yes. You are our only subject, so we are pretty much just governing you now.
      1. sliz225 says:
        Harry: But you always vanish and reappear when it’s convenient to the plot. You’re pretty shit at your job even when you don’t take into account that you’ve got nothing else going on in your life. How come my super-oppressive surveillance is so spotty?
        Morgan: . . . budget cutbacks.
        Harry: But you’re a group of wizards–
        Morgan: it’s budget cuts okay just shut up jesus Harry
  5. Roarke says:
    “Have a seat,” he said, gesturing at a table. The people sitting at
    it cleared away, fast.

    On the one hand I don’t want to see Morgan being impolite to anyone other than Harry. On the other hand, Morgan is clearly the real alpha here.
    edit: On second thought, maybe it’s just that nobody but Morgan is willing to share a table with Harry.

    1. Farla says:
      I’m guessing everyone else is picturing Harry immediately assaulting Morgan (as he does) and wants to get out of the way.

      Morgan seems smart, so he was probably expecting that too, it’s just he was expecting magic and not chair to the head.

  6. GeniusLemur says:
    “In real life, the chair doesn’t break when you slug somebody with it, the way it does in the movies.”
    WHAT! You mean MOVIES ARE NOT EXACTLY LIKE REAL LIFE?!? Thanks, Harry, I never would have known that it you hadn’t told me. I’m so glad I read enough of this to get some of Harry’s amazing wisdom.
    BTW, please don’t tell me that you can’t actually fire 873 rounds from a six-gun without reloading. If the movies have lied to me again about that sacred notion, I don’t want to know.
    1. Roarke says:
      It’s sort of painfully obvious that Butcher’s intended audience is fourteen-year-olds who learned everything they know about action through Hollywood.
      He probably imagines that Storm Front was forced into their hands by well-meaning parents trying to encourage them to read.
      1. illhousen says:
        Psh, what sort of teenager doesn’t know how chairs behave in a fight from personal experience?
        1. Roarke says:
          A deprived sort, clearly.
  7. Roarke says:
    Morgan! Best character! Would Harry do this? Fuck no, asshole couldn’t
    even be bothered to scrawl out a “as you may notice ive been
    heartsploded b/c i wasnt the killer, actual killer is the guy selling
    threeeye btw its magic” warning while he was emoing his ass off about
    how doomed he was.

    This feels like one of those things where the author knows the character is going to prevail and everything will work out, so he doesn’t even pay lip service to contingency plans for loss. Harry might have a throwaway line or two in which he says “oh how woeful is the world should I perish”, but he doesn’t do anything about that.

    1. Farla says:
      Harry does emo a bit about how supposedly the fight is still in the air and all these disadvantages. I think he and the author just don’t give a shit about non-Harry life. I mean, Harry will defend his toys, but if he’s dead, what does he care what happens to them?
      1. Roarke says:
        Morality: Protagonist-Centered.
  8. sliz225 says:
    “You want to use exact details and proper nouns and all that junk people use to convey actual information rather than general feelings.”
    Ah, but you’ve forgot that Dresden is an alpha male. He’s physically incapable of explaining himself to lesser people. It’s far easier to simply fight everyone and do everything himself than to just use his words. Besides, all those lesser people should just intuit what’s going on, anyway.

    “My own hands were too broad, but Morgan had delicate little wizard’s hands, except where practice with his staff had left calluses. If he had heard me thinking that, and had been conscious, he would have punched me in the mouth for saying his hands weren’t as manly as mine. I worked at his hand, squeezing his limp, slimy fingers together and trying to slip the steel loop of the handcuffs over his hand. I took some skin off of him, and he groaned a lot, but I managed to get the cuffs off of his wrist. In the future, we were definitely setting up better safe words before this sort of embarrassing thing happened again.”

  9. Savanah says:
    My theory for the have-nots doing absolutely nothing for Harry is that they are simply hopping that he dies horrifically and them they wouldn’t need to deal with him anymore.

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