Have you ever been approached by a grim-looking man, carrying a naked sword with a blade about ten miles long in his hand, in the middle of the night, beneath the stars on the shores of Lake Michigan? If you have, seek professional help.
Preferably from a Freudian.
God look at this he’s even listing the scenery for his romantic night full of long naked swords.
I took in a quick breath, and had to work not to put it into a quasi-Latin phrase on the exhale, one that would set the man’s body on fire and reduce him to a mound of ashes.
For my sanity, we’re going to go with magic words mattering precisely to the degree you think they do. Okay? Okay.
I react badly to fear. I don’t usually have the good sense to run, or hide-I just try to smash whatever it is that is making me afraid.
This is why women don’t like being around you, Harry. It may also be why your pub owner friend doesn’t want to say more than four words to you.
This is obviously part of his big macho man thing, but as discussed in the comments about Mr. Tiger Soul, powerful + scared = disaster. Harry is coming at this from the perspective that anything that startles him is, in fact, a dangerous thing, because if it wasn’t dangerous he wouldn’t have been scared. Even today this argument can be used to justify murdering gay men and trans women. If it has a dick when you weren’t expecting one, or even if it had a dick at some previous point in its life, it’s an alien monster there to infect you with gay and you have to kill it before it gets you!
It’s a primitive sort of thing, and one I don’t question too much.
“Because as a white dude, this is considered acceptable, and the burden is on the rest of the world to tiptoe around me. Same as the eye contact thing.”
Anyway, giant naked “sword” dude is here about Harry violating Wizard Law #4. Harry corrects him to say that mindrape is totes legal on fairies, also he didn’t technically mindrape. But mostly it’s totes legal on fairies and he totally doesn’t but you will pry his right to mindrape fairies out of his cold, dead hands.
He had the choice whether to take my deal or not.”
Morgan’s sour, leathery face turned a bit more sour, the lines at the corners of his mouth stretching and becoming deeper. “That’s a technicality, Dresden. A pair of them.”
Morgan really seems a pretty stand-up guy. The fact the Wizarding Law folk are a bunch of bigots who only explicitly ban mindrape toward humans doesn’t change the fact that fairies are equally people. What Harry’s doing here is like arguing that he didn’t commit animal cruelty because technically the rabbits are considered livestock and not companion animals and animal cruelty only covers the later. That is absolutely a technicality. If you actually didn’t torture those rabbits, you;d focus on that aspect. Similarly, the fact the fairy had a “choice” of taking the deal or remaining locked inside until he reevaluated that choice is called coercion and it’s morally wrong.
Now, if Harry had lured the fairy out with the name but then refused to feed it until it agreed to help, then this scene would play out very differently – Harry actually was giving a choice, and he wasn’t using the name for anything significant.
His hands, broad and strong, resettled their grip upon the sword he held. His unevenly greying hair was tied into a ponytail in the back, like Sean Connery’s in some of his movies, except that Morgan’s face was too pinched and thin to pull off the look.
Harry goes on to say that Morgan spends all his time stalking Harry. But not in a gay way! See, this council of old men assigned Morgan to stalk Harry with his giant sword out to make sure Harry didn’t do anything naughty that needed punishment.
See how great Morgan is? Way more fun than Refrigerator Tiger.
Morgan was one of the deadliest evocators in the world. He wasn’t bright enough to question his loyalties to the Council, and he could do quick-and-dirty magic like few others could.
Bear in mind we know nothing about the Council but that they have laws about what you can’t do with magic and they’re keeping an eye on Harry after he broke one. Why would you have to stupid to be loyal?
Quick and dirty enough to rip the hearts out of Tommy Tomm and Jennifer Stanton’s chests, in fact, if he wanted to.
Uh, first off, you said it totally wasn’t evocation. Second, you also said you had no idea how to do it, so you have no idea if some other guy is strong enough to do it because you don’t know what it involves. Third, if all it takes it to be a talented evocator, then what was all that business about hate?
For that matter, going by what you said about needing to hate to harm, that should mean evocation, or at least combat evocation, directly ties to ability to hate. So is every other member of the deadliest evocators club female? Because you said women hate best and then you’re telling us one of the best guys at what sounds like hating-best magic is a guy, Harry. Why don’t they just have a woman stalking you? Were there women stalking you and they all had to get shuffled off your case before they exploded your head and Morgan is the only remaining evocator who doesn’t quite hate you enough yet to accidentally kill you just by listening to your bullshit?
it is my assigned duty to monitor your use of your power, and to see to it that you do not abuse it.”
“I’m on a missing-persons case,” I said. “All I did was call up a dewdrop faery to get some information. Come on, Morgan. Everybody calls up faeries now and then.
You should probably stop, Harry.
There’s no harm in it.
Seriously. Stop now.
It’s not as though I’m mind-controlling the things. Just leaning on them a little.”
Okay so swap this for getting girls drunk and maybe you’ll see why Harry is really earning his decapitation.
But Harry is pissed off that anyone should question the ethics of a situation he can only defend with “but everyone else is equally terrible so it must be right to do”.
I could pick better people to antagonize, but he’d really gotten under my skin.
Because how dare someone think rules apply to him.
You can certainly see what the author is going for here. Harry is harassed by a cop over some non-crime and that’s unfair. But the author fumbles it by assuming that we’re already on Harry’s side and don’t care what crime the guy accuses him of, as well as that anything Harry does is automatically right and moral.
Really, all that had to happen is Harry could’ve asked what payment the fairy would’ve considered fair for the job. But he’s an alpha male, and alpha males don’t ask, they decide.
“A technicality I’m prepared to hide wildly behind. So, unless you want to convene a meeting of the Council to call me on it, we can just drop the discussion right here. I’m pretty sure it will only take them about two days to cancel all their plans, make travel arrangements, and then get here. I can put you up until then. I mean, you’d be dragging a bunch of really crotchety old men away from their experiments and things for nothing, but if you really think it’s necessary …”
This reads pretty okay – he’s calling the guy’s bluff.
Except…it turns out that having the sword out wasn’t the overt threat it seemed like, but “symbol of authority”. With it brandished, Morgan speaks as a delegate of the White Council, without it he’s just any other guy.
Now, bear in mind Harry is supposed to be under watch because they think either he’s currently evil and hiding it, or, and this is important, he’s infected with evil and if he’s not careful he’ll end up eating babies. When you realize that second part, what really seems to have happened here is Morgan is jumping in like someone seeing an alcoholic go into a bar. Maybe he only ordered water and he gets in a huff about how of course he didn’t order a beer, but he’s not supposed to be in the bar.
And indeed, the moment Morgan stops waving his naked sword around, Harry decides to fuck off. Morgan grabs his arm, saying they still need to talk.
He had scared the heck out of me and annoyed the heck out of me, in rapid succession. Now he was trying to bully me. I hate bullies.
Literally all he did was grab his arm.
We’re inside Harry’s head quite well here, so it’s easy to feel this is all reasonable. Harry is feeling scared and bullied, we’re told the fairies don’t mind getting caught much so it’s unfair to yell at him about it, etc. But perception is not reality. If you remove all the stuff Harry’s saying about feelings, we’re left with Harry scared and annoyed a cop stopped him to say he’s driving recklessly, then saying a hand on his arm is bullying.
This is something that happens all the time in books because it’s really easy to get away with. People sound presuasive from their point of view, and it’s easy to just let their version of events carry you along rather than examining each step and trying to see if their perspective is really true. But it’s not really good – it’s just habituating people to this sort of language and these sorts of excuses as being things heroic good people say. And do.
So I took a calculated risk, used my free hand, and hit him as hard as I could in the mouth.
How offended do you think Harry would be if he grabbed a woman’s arm and she punched him in the mouth?
Morgan, for some reason, is shocked he’s been punched out of the blue, followed by being angry, at which point Harry again hides behind technicalities, specifically the technicality that there apparently aren’t rules for how to handle a wizard just punching you in the face. Harry then repeats to the reader that he’s stupid and law-abiding, and enjoys how angry he is. At the same time, he admits this was all stupid, presumably to hold onto the underdog thing that’s the only way he can claim he’s the one being bullied.
I may not like to run away from what scares me, but I try not to fight hopeless battles, either, and Morgan had me by years of experience and a hundred pounds, at least. There was no Law of Magic that protected me from him and his fists, either, and if that occurred to him, he might decide to do something about it.
Or maybe he has a basic grasp of ethics and doesn’t believe in punching people just because he’s mad.
Harry literally can’t conceive of someone angry knowing they could punch him and not doing it.
Morgan then finishes what he was trying to say before Harry punched him: Harry is the current prime wizard suspect.
Harry is shocked, although frankly I say he deserves it for not informing them. If he actually wanted to find the killer, or was concerned for the police’s safety should they run into the obviously-a-woman doing it, he’d have told them immediately. Even if he hates them, telling them means making it their problem, so he should still be motivated. The only reason for keeping it quiet is if he was the one doing the killings and didn’t want them tipped off any sooner than they had to be.
He then helpfully informs us that Morgan is stupid yet again, which means he must be acting on Council orders and that means it’s actually the Council that thinks Harry’s the killer, which makes it all the more wrong that Harry just punched the guy in the face. Then literally the next paragraph Harry forgets what he just said and explains that Morgan believes he’s the killer because Morgan is a cop and cops assume a new crime was committed by the same person who did it last time, and Harry did use magic to kill someone before which is close enough. This means that Morgan could absolutely be going off on nothing but his own feelings on the subject, something Harry never considered this whole chapter despite being the one to explain how incredibly likely it is.
And, as far as he was concerned, I was just one more dangerous con.
“You’re not serious,” I told him. “You think I did it?”
I’m also left with the sense the dialogue came first and the narration was backfilled here, because Harry just outlined precisely why of course Morgan thought he did it, which would mean this is him lying to seem extra innocent, and supposedly he’s also a terrible liar and avoids it whenever he can.
I’m sure you think you’re clever enough to come up with something innovative that we hidebound old men won’t be able to trace. But you’re wrong. We’ll determine how you did it, and we’ll follow it back to you.
I feel like this really isn’t explored very well. Harry just sort of sues his way to victory. We’re told he’s kind of a magic geek, but he doesn’t show that, and he doesn’t seem innovative at all. If nothing else, to be confident he could figure out a clever workaround, he’d have to have some clue of how it works normally.
And when we do, I’ll be there to make sure you never hurt anyone again.”
Another problem with hating Morgan is that he’s clearly not the retributive sort. He’s not mad Harry avoided punishment for killing a guy, he’s mad he thinks Harry is a bad egg who’s going to kill people. He’s not saying that the moment he gets the word, he’ll gleefully get back at Harry for that punch, he’s looking forward to preventing harm to others.
Harry then says that he’s working with the police, and Morgan points out this isn’t the police’s jurisdiction. And furthermore…
They won’t do you any good. Even if you do set someone up to take the fall for you under mortal law, the White Council will still see that justice is done.”
Which is actually a reasonable assumption.
Really, the moment you remove Harry’s initial statement that he’s being unfairly persecuted here, everything else flows fine. The police really can’t handle someone who can explode hearts and likely can’t make an arrest on the basis of heartsplosions anyway. If Harry actually wants to deal with this, there’s no reason to say he’s helping the police. It really makes more sense to assume he’s hoping to lead them away from himself.
“Whatever. Look, if you find something out about the killer, anything that could help the cops out, would you give me a call?”
This is really not something you say in this situation, and Morgan points out why:
Morgan looked at me with profound distaste. “You ask me to warn you when we are closing in on you, Dresden? You are young, but I never thought you stupid.”
He just said he thinks you’re going to massage the information to make someone else take the blame, and your response is “tell me, specifically me, about anything the police might need to know”.
If I’d realized how rabid he was to catch me slipping, I wouldn’t have added more fuel to his fire by hitting him in the mouth.
Okay. I probably still would have hit him in the mouth. But I wouldn’t have done it quite so hard.
In other words, Harry’s only real concept of ethics is self-interest.
Then Morgan punches him in the face. I’m disappointed you lowered yourself to his level, Morgan, but I’m happy we’re finally transitioning into the part of the noir adventure where the detective gets punched a lot.
Harry poor-mes a whole bunch, then does say something of interest:
Part of the problem was that seeing Morgan always brought up too many memories of my angsty teenage days. That was when I’d started to learn magic, when my mentor had tried to seduce me into Black wizardry, and when he had attempted to kill me when he failed. I killed him instead, mostly by luck-but he was just as dead, and I’d done it with sorcery. I broke the First Law of Magic: Thou Shalt Not Kill. There is only one sentence, if someone is found guilty, and one sword that they use to carry it out.
The White Council commuted the death sentence, because tradition demands that a wizard can resort to the use of deadly force if he is defending his own life, or the lives of the defenseless, and my claim that I had been attacked first could not be contested by my master’s corpse. So instead, they’d stuck me on a kind of accelerated probation: One strike and I was out.
People so often aren’t rational, and a lot of his behavior becomes more reasonable if you look at it through the lens of regressing to who he was at the time when presented with people from that time.
If Harry had spent the book so far being level-headed and agreeable, even in the face of people’s disbelief, then suddenly turned belligerent and aggressive with this guy, it’d have shown that what he went to has left a scar to the point he lashes out at peripherally related elements.
Unfortunately, what we actually see is him being an asshole all the time, so there’s really nothing that stands out here. He talks to the cops like he talks to thugs like he talks to Morgan.
Harry does inform us that the wizards were far from united on the ruling. There were those like Morgan who thought he should be killed on the spot, others felt like he was totally in the right and didn’t deserve any punishment. It’s not clear if there’s any third side that thought naked sword stalking was precisely the right punishment or if his current situation is just a mutually unsatisfying compromise.
Harry then adds that also, some people might hate him so much they’d be willing to kill him just for flying in the face of tradition by practicing my art openly. I do not think we’ll ever be getting an explanation for why they’re secretive.
He then says that, since he’s a suspect, that means it’s extra important to find the real killer, but to do that requires figuring out the spell which is illegal and will get him killed. (Incidentally, I’m pretty sure working it out doesn’t actually matter.)
Catch twenty-two. If I had any respect at all for Morgan’s intelligence, I would have suspected him of pulling off the killings himself and setting me up to take the blame.
But that just didn’t track. Morgan might twist and bend the rules, to get what he saw as justice, but he’d never blatantly violate them.
Harry does not even consider that Morgan, who repeatedly expressed his concern as a matter of the people Harry would hurt and criticized Harry for something that’s immortal but apparently okay by the rules might just not be the sort of person to harm others without reason, laws or no laws.
But if not Morgan, then who could have done it? There just weren’t all that many people who could get enough power into that kind of spell to make it work
I believe I mentioned in the comments already that despite the apparent heartsploding bonus they have, female magic users are basically nonexistent. Harry said just a few chapters ago that it was a witch, then he either can’t think of a single witch who’s halfway powerful in the area or there are no witches in the area at all.
So he’s left to investigate the “vampiress”
Murphy was not going to be thrilled that I was thrusting myself into her side of this investigation. And, better and better, because White Council business was all hush-hush to nonwizards, I wouldn’t be able to explain to her why I was doing it.
“I can’t explain the details because wizard secrets I’d die if I told, but because I’m one of the only known wizards in the area I’ll die if I can’t find out who really did it.”
“It really does.”