Dresden Files Summer Knight Ch6

Last time, in a completely unforeseeable turn of events, it turns out that people starting a war over Harry’s actions want him dead.

“Me?” I said.

In fairness, the idea of Harry facing consequences for his actions, rather than the nearest woman, is somewhat unexpected, but that’s only if you expect those consequences to actually happen. Harry has an even longer history of “consequences” that he can just walk off.

you, Wizard Dresden, are considered a criminal by the Red Court. In order to end this conflict they wish to extradite you to an area of their designation for trial. A resolution that is, perhaps, distasteful, but may also be only just.”

This leads to a riot as dozens of wizards shout this is bullshit, and other wizards counter-shout something unspecified but what I personally will assume is “yeah obviously it’s bullshit but we’ll finally be able to get rid of Harry”.

The thing is…it isn’t bullshit. We know admittedly little about what the Red Court actually considers a crime, but Harry’s done enough that we can assume at least some of the things that are crimes to humans are considered crimes by the vampires as well. That means this is likely more a matter of “our people should be allowed to do what they want to those people” than “those people will not give him a fair trial”.

But that kind of attitude seems weird given how weak the WC seems.

Maybe this gets back to the issue of magic coming back. It’s seeming really likely now that the WC was top dog, because that’s how they’re acting. Its members were better integrated into human society and better adapted for low magic survival. If a wizard did something to harm a member of a different faction, those factions couldn’t actually do anything. And they didn’t particularly need things like safe passage through the Nevernever because they barely needed the place and the few times they did they were confident in their ability to just force their way through.

So the WC is a pack of people used to thinking they’re better than everyone else and the rules shouldn’t apply to them and never bothered with diplomacy and allies. And somehow, while they weren’t looking, everything changed. Magic came back and the people they were sneering at as weaklings beneath their notice became powerhouses, and meanwhile human society made its own massive advancements but it left them behind in the process, so they could no longer use broader humanity as a backup – and then worse, at least one other faction has turned out to be able to take advantage of the new technology as well as better work with human society in general.

All that would be tragic if we’d seen anything whatsoever to suggest there was any reason to mourn the WC’s imminent demise, but.

I mean they are right now throwing a fit about the idea the law should apply to a wizard who kills non-wizards. They banned willbinding unless it wasn’t a human. They banned using magic to kill unless it wasn’t a human. And the events of the past three books established they do not intervene when regular humans are in the crossfire either – heartsplosions only mattered because it was an excuse to go after Harry, Kim died trying to hold a cursed werewolf on her own because the closest thing she had to help was Harry and no one did anything about that werewolf or the spellwolves rampaging after, and of course, ghost rampages and vampire murder parties were also ignored by the WC. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the true rule was that you can’t willbind or kill a wizard (Harry does, after all, also get away with “accidentally” dosing someone with a love potion, which if not literally willbinding sure seems like it’s accomplishing the same thing). In practice, I’d bet you only get in trouble for harming non-wizard humans when it’s a situation like Harry’s and they’re just looking for an excuse to kill you, and even then, their slight care is probably just that wizards are about as vulnerable to willbinding and magic murder so it’s prudent to stamp that out before it happens to anyone who matters.

The Merlin tells everyone to shut up because they need to actually think about their options instead of just shouting at each other.

“What options?” Ebenezar demanded.

WOW HOW UNREASONABLE OF THE MERLIN TO NOT WANT THIS GUY ON THE COUNCIL. TRULY EVIL.

“We are wizards, not a herd of frightened sheep. Will we give one of our own to the vampires now and pretend that none of this has happened?”
LaFortier snapped, “You read Dresden’s report. By his own admission, what the Red Court accuses him of is true. They have a just grievance.”

I’m really starting to like LaFortier. He’s got a similar Lawful vibe as Morgan, I think. There’s definitely issues with Lawful characters being inflexible, but when everyone else is Chaotic Douchebag? When the rules are always being bent or broken for the worst reasons in favor of the worst people? Really reminds you of how great fairness and order are.

And we still don’t know quite what Harry actually says happened but now we know that at least some of it’s true because it agrees with Red’s claims. It’s actually interesting that no attempt was made to say that Red misrepresented or even massaged the data a bit. They accused him of doing things and Harry says he did those exact things.

Ebenezar claims that yeah, okay technically, but the vampires set Harry up. As discussed in the clusterfuck last book, not really in any coherent way or even ones that had much to do with Harry’s own crimes until the very end. Also, as LaFortier points out, other people are suffering because of how very badly Harry fucked up dealing with the vampires.

Now, I personally am not a big fan of retribution over past events but the future? That’s convincing. People are going to keep dying due to Harry. And on a practical level, if Harry’s this easy to manipulate into this big of a fuckup, you also have to keep in mind the odds of him doing this exact same thing again. Note that Harry has given every indication of not learning his lesson – hell, he’s currently fucking up etiquette left and right in his own faction!

So our issues are:
1) Will giving Harry to the vampires save anyone?
– Unclear. The fact the vampires are bothering to have legal justification means there’d be pushback from other factions if they lost that, but we don’t know if that pushback is enough the vampires would actually stop.
2) Will keeping Harry alive so he can keep doing things kill anyone?
– Absofuckinglutely.

So yeah, I’m with LaFortier. The only possible downside to this is their faction looking weak by giving in to the vampires’ demand, and not only has that ship well and truly sailed by the fact they’re giving in only because the vampires kicked their asses already, but also, the different magic factions absolutely should have a system in place to hand people over who commit crimes against other people, rather than this tribal bullshit and if you assholes had thought of that then you’d be able to hand people over without losing face in the first place!

Injun Joe put a hand on Ebenezar’s arm and spoke quietly. “Peace cannot be bought, Aleron,” he murmured to LaFortier. “History teaches that lesson. I learned it. You should have, too.”
LaFortier sneered at Injun Joe. “I don’t know what you are babbling about, but—”
I rolled my eyes and stood up again. “He’s talking about the American tribes losing their land to white settlers, dolt.”

YES.

INJUN JOE.

JUST SAID THAT WHITEY MCWHITEWHITE FACING CONSEQUENCES IS JUST LIKE THE GENOCIDE OF HIS PEOPLE.

AND WHITEY MCWHITEWHITE, WHO AGAIN CALLS HIM INJUN JOE, RESPONDED BY SAYING “HE MEANS WHEN WHITE PEOPLE TRICKED THEM OUT OF THEIR LAND, WHICH WAS VERY SAD AND ALSO THE ONLY BAD THING WE DID TO THEM.”

Harry follows with up by saying for him personally to face a consequence is also exactly like appeasing Hitler.

The Merlin evilly points out that jesus fucking christ Harry we have rules about when to speak. His ability to keep to that and say nothing about fact Harry just honest to god brought up Hitler awes me.

I clenched my jaw and sat down. “Sorry. Here I was, figuring we had a responsibility to protect people. What was I thinking?”

“We” = “everybody else”, “people” = “me, personally”.

And don’t worry, we still have another minority to throw herself between Harry and any responsibility to protect people:

Martha Liberty shook her head. “Merlin, it seems clear that we cannot simply hand one of our own over to the Red Court because of their demands. Despite past differences with Council policy, Dresden is a fully ranked wizard—and given his performance in recent years, he seems well deserving of the title.”

I just can’t get over that the actual debate about this is not at all about if the vampires are right or not. You’d think “the vampires are evil and their punishments disproportionate” or “Harry did nothing wrong by non-monster standards” would be a factor here, but no! It’s solely that the WC is meant to close ranks and protect their own no matter what you did. I particularly like that she felt she needed to mention he’s a “fully ranked wizard”, so, one of those have-nots Harry’s been sneering at in past books? Yeah, they’d be vampire chow. Any of the apprentices currently listening in? Also vampire chow. Truly, what black woman who was probably formerly a slave would not happily support the idea that some are far more equal than others?

The bald man turned his bulging eyes to the wizards in the theater. “Wizard Harry Dresden. Apprentice to the Wizard Justin DuMorne. Apprentice to the Wizard Simon Pietrovich. I wonder how the Red Court learned enough of Pietrovich’s defenses to bypass them so completely, Dresden.”

So, I know this is supposed to be a random accusation, but. He told a dragon his true name last book. He wasn’t even tricked into it. By all appearances the dragon was actively embarrassed to be put in the situation. Before that, a demon learned most of his true name because he was too lazy to do basic research.

Yes, Harry did not compromise Pietrovich’s defenses, but let’s be real, that’s solely because he didn’t know anything about them.

Anyway, this gets us another tidbit of delicious lore!

Justin hadn’t exactly taken me around much. Before I’d been put on trial, I hadn’t even known that there was a White Council—or other wizards at all, for that matter.

Very interesting.

Is keeping your apprentices isolated actually an unusual thing? Because from an outside perspective that sure looks fishy but it doesn’t seem to have factored into Harry’s trial at all. Like they habitually keep their apprentices isolated and unable to turn to anyone else for help, like they habitually do things to their apprentices such that they need to keep those apprentices isolated and unable to turn to anyone else for help. And that would fit very well with how the wizard/apprentice ratio here at the meeting is so massively skewed.

Yet another point for the WC being a terrible institution.

It does mean we don’t technically know now that they wouldn’t have helped Harry if he had gone to them rather than sexy godmom…but. Well. We just had someone say there shouldn’t be consequences for Harry because he’s a “fully ranked wizard”.

So really, how do you think it would’ve gone if an apprentice asked for help against an actual person?

(Has there been fic for this? How much worse could things have gone once Justin’s peers informed him that his property had tried tattling on him? How much more desperate would Harry have been?)

(Ooh, also, I feel that it’d have really punched things up if our opening had Harry actually at odds with the WC, actually betrayed by the organization, instead of that they only somewhat took his side instead of entirely. A feral cat Harry actively dodging his parole officer and refusing to ask for help despite how increasingly incriminating that looks because yeah like Morgan would do anything about an actual black wizard, what black wizard if you’re in the white council you’re a white wizard right FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU. And you want a bitter noiry ending? Have Harry spit in Morgan’s face with his whole “I guess you’re okay and I will be vouching for you tomorrow” because of course Morgan wouldn’t give a fuck about what just happened, the other guy wasn’t a member of the WC! Of course they’re fine with whatever Harry did! Who cares if Harry actually did murder the guy, not any of you!

Morgan: Jesus christ Harry calm down and take a compliment.
Harry: HOW DARE YOU PULL ME FROM A BURNING BUILDING I WILL CLAW YOUR FACE OFF!)

Anyway, Harry laughs at the idea he had anything to do with this, and LaFortier is infuriated by the idea this fucker is laughing. He reminds everyone that Harry is constantly spitting all over the idea of secrecy and goes on to say that Even if it was someone else who betrayed Pietrovich and his students to the Red Court, Dresden is as guilty of their murder as if he himself had cut their throats. Let the consequences of his decisions fall upon him.”

At this point Harry decides he’ll pretend to give a fuck about the rules and, in the process, we learn more rules! Sincere thanks, Harry.

“Impossible,” I said. “Or at least impractical. I have violated none of the Laws of Magic in this matter, which rules out a summary trial. I am a full wizard. By Council law, I am therefore entitled to an in-depth investigation and trial—neither of which would provide any kind of workable solution anytime soon.”

So in theory, they have some sort of system for this, but by all appearances, in practice their trials are toothless. Otherwise, the time wouldn’t matter – vampires aren’t impatient in lore, they visibly aren’t impatient in this universe given Bianca spent years setting this up, and it was commented on just last chapter that they move slowly so there’s been no retcon. If the trial would uphold the vampires’ accusations/if committing crimes against vampires is considered still a crime, why wouldn’t they agree to allow the wizards to do a trial to decide if he should be handed over? Also, we were just told that Harry’s admitted to doing what they accuse him of, which means they can effectively skip the investigation part as no one involved is disputing any of the facts.

And once again, despite all of Harry’s complaints about how very mean the WC is to him, the people are with him. And once again, it’s really a matter of the members of the WC being themselves privileged and above the rules:

If the Council jammed a trial down my throat and then threw me to the wolves, it would set a deadly precedent—one that could haunt any wizard in the room, and they knew it.

Oh no their governing body might get enough power to enforce their own rules. Rules are for muggles and apprentices, not fellow wizards!

And to really hammer this in, LaFortier snaps back that there’s a perfectly good loophole – they can vote on if Harry’s actually a wizard. Because it’s not like they give a fuck about humans, just actual people.

I remind the Council that his appointment to his stole was a de facto decision based upon circumstantial evidence. He has never stood Trial, never been judged worthy by his peers.”
“Like hell I haven’t,” I answered him. “I beat Justin DuMorne in a duel to the death. Is that not Trial enough for you?”
“Wizard DuMorne died, yes,” LaFortier said. “Whether he was defeated in an open duel or burned in his sleep is another matter entirely.

Given they kill people for killing people with magic, there is absolutely no way they have any tradition of dueling to the death. (Also the death curse thing means that those duels should almost always end without a victor.) This is bullshit made up on the spot to give Harry something to posture about.

Harry then goes on to confirm what I’ve been saying about how the WC is horrible and selectively enforces their rules solely to benefit themselves:

If I was stripped of my stole, it would be like a medieval noble having his title taken away.

“If I was stripped of my stole, I would no longer be afforded special treatment and privileges the likes of which others can barely dream.”

Harry goes on to say that there are actually accords (which is to say “Accords”, god fuck you fantasy capitalization) between the factions and those are that if one faction wants a criminal and they’re not a member of your faction, you hand them over.

Which would mean, if I was fortunate, a horrible death. If I wasn’t fortunate, it could be considerably worse.

I wonder how people can read this stuff and not register that this is what would happen to them. They’re not the wizard. They’re the everyone else. They’re the ones who’d be handed over to the vampires to be very slowly tortured to death.

Also, sadly? It still isn’t actually what would happen to Harry, because even with the official title stripped, he’s still got magic. Wizards are vulnerable to vampire spit. By all appearances, the vampires currently have no addict wizards. Therefore, the WC makes sure the vampires can’t get their hands on wizards. Harry would be killed humanely and his corpse delivered to the vampires.

It’s at this point Ebenezar jumps in to help Harry again.

“Wait,” Ebenezar interjected. “I invoke my right as a member of the Senior Council to reduce the vote to the Senior Council alone.”

Really wonder how everyone who just voted him in is feeling about this.

The Merlin glared at Ebenezar. “On what grounds?”
“On the grounds that there exists a great deal of information about this matter of which the Council at large is unaware. It would be impractical to attempt to explain it all.”
“Seconded,” Injun Joe murmured.
“Accord,” Martha Liberty added. “Three votes yea, honored Merlin. Let the Senior Council make this decision.”

…seriously, imagine being a regular member of the WC and watching this bullshit go down. “You guys can’t vote because secret info I (who you literally just voted into this position ten minutes ago) can’t tell you! Now for my allies to once again throw their weight around!”

Harry explains this is a great move because In a room full of frightened men and women, I wouldn’t have had a prayer of keeping my stole. Even though minutes ago they were opposing the Merlin throwing Harry to the wolves! While I could attribute this to more of the book’s constant claims that no really the whole world’s against Harry and also a hate of democracy, and that probably is the level of thought involved, it actually does make a great degree of sense by now. The WC so far has been characterized around the individual wizards being completely self-serving. They oppose any action that could in any way limit their own freedoms, even when it would appear to benefit them (the need to actually react in a timely manner to the vampires currently murdering them). They oppose consequences for Harry because it sets a precedent that could lead to consequences for themselves. As soon as someone brings up that Harry is a member through unusual circumstances and so can be turned into vampire chow through a loophole that can’t be used against them, well, then it’s okay.

So obviously Harry’s deeply impartial supporters vote to keep him.

I turned my eyes to Ancient Mai.
The tiny woman stood with her eyes closed for a moment, her head bowed. Then she murmured, “No wizard should so blatantly misuse his status as a member of this Council. Nor should he be as irresponsible as Harry Dresden has been with his use of the Art. I vote against his retention of wizard status.”

Interesting! Since I’m pretty sure Mai doesn’t have a personality independent of a stereotype, I’m thinking maybe the issue is Asia = traditional? Or just old Asian ladies in particular are strict and fussy. It’s a bit extra hard to parse because these sorts of stereotypes shift around over time and it’s hard to remember what the general feel was two decades back, plus these books are written by a man born ninety years old.

But so now Harry’s fate rests on the final vote: mystery robe dude who is very tall. ( Taller than me. Seven feet, and thin. Hm. Is Harry into that?) For those of you interested, that means Mai and Martha Liberty are the only two women.

The final guy doesn’t vote and instead mentions the toad rain.

That bears consideration. And for that, I must hear what word returns with the messenger.”

Nobody gets what he’s saying for a second, but apparently what’s going on is that Winter did return the messenger and somehow only this guy knows, because magic, and yes, please imbue that statement with the amount of disdainful sarcasm that it deserves for taking place at a wizard convention full of wizards.

a pair of grey-cloaked Wardens entered the theater. They each had a shoulder under one of the arms of a brown-robed young man. His face was puffy and swollen, and his hands looked like rotten sausages about to burst. Frost clung to his hair in a thick coating, and his robe looked like it had been dipped in water and then dragged behind a sled team from Anchorage to Nome. His lips were blue, and his eyes fluttered and rolled semicoherently.

Brown is what the apprentices wear.

So yeah. If Harry had gone to the council to tell them what Justin had done…if any human mistakes the White Council for the human faction… I don’t think it’d go very well.

“This is my courier to the Winter Queen,” Ancient Mai stated.
“He insisted,” one of the Wardens said. “We tried to take him for treatment, but he got so worked up
about it I was afraid he would hurt himself, so we brought him to you, Ancient.”

That said – the Wardens are the exception to this. Here and elsewhere they’ve acted like they sincerely believe in doing what’s right and good.

I wonder what would’ve happened if apprentice Harry went to Morgan? Because we know Morgan believed in the council only to be shocked when instead they shrugged and made Harry a full wizard. So he would absolutely believe that this should be brought to them, and they would probably tell him that Justin was a full wizard and this thing spitting accusations was not. What would Morgan do then? And if the answer is “obey and do nothing”, just like he’s abiding by their decision now…how would he feel that time around over Harry ending up dragged before the council for murder?

Someone drove up in a car and pushed him out of it. We didn’t see who it was.”
“You get the license number?” I asked. Both Wardens turned to eye me. Then they both turned back to the Merlin. Neither of them had gotten it. Maybe license plates were too new a concept. They weren’t yet a whole century old, after all.

Ah, and here we learn that the Wardens aren’t actually significantly younger than the average wizard. How very interesting. I wonder if the Wardens naturally attract the more social and friendly elements of the wizards. They’re doing something terribly important and which puts them in personal danger, but it doesn’t seem like they benefit much from their job – their subfaction had no control over what happened with Harry, there’s been no talk of them drawing an impressive salary, Morgan’s concerns were dismissed… And the fact they’re the ones who intercept and attempt to bring in for medical care someone injured suggests their roles go beyond just guarding.

…come to think of it, I think they’re the only ones who’ve given signs of interacting with each other? Here and at the entrance, they were acting in pairs and seeming familiar with each other. Maybe that’s most of it right there, you either enter the Wardens and have an actual peer group or you take off to your own isolated corner where you sit around smugly thinking about how this is YOUR wizard territory where YOU are the big fish.

The Wardens laid the boy on a cloak, and then four of them carried him out, moving quickly.

Yeah, I think they’re not wizard police but something more like all-purpose first responders. You probably get better results from “wizards” if something happens and the Wardens have to deal with the situation without time to consult anybody else. Given how very judgy Morgan was of Harry’s behavior in the first book toward people who weren’t technically protected by actual wizard law, I’m suspicious that the Wardens probably spend a lot of their time doing what Harry claims he’s doing, dealing with supernatural problems, and doing it without consulting the WC – the WC just doesn’t care, but that leaves the Wardens with the impression the broader group is a lot better than it actually is. There’s probably some setup where the WC accepts they’ll murder wizards they unquestionably catch doing evil shit but anyone they bring in for trial is going to turn out to have been innocent.

Especially because, well, look back at that exchange. Harry understood it, so these guys weren’t talking in Latin despite Harry thinking they’re older wizards. That and Morgan’s own rough Latin strongly suggest the Wardens have little to nothing to do with the actual Council stuff. These Wardens were outside – that means they weren’t voting or likely even following what’s been going on, because they felt doing their job was more important. (Quite possibly Wardens may not even have voting rights. We were told they’re one of the three subfactions and that may mean it’s assumed giving them a vote in the main council would be like letting them vote twice.)

But back to the poor kid Mai fed to Winter, he says that Mab is totally cool with people traveling her realm if they just do this one thing for her, no she will not be explaining further.

I turned back to my table, leaned forward, and banged my head gently on the wooden surface. Several times.
“Dammit,” I muttered, in time with the thumps. “Dammit, dammit, dammit.”

Oh poor baby Harry, everybody telling him he’s so very important and gets special treatment.

Mr. Very Tall is suddenly there.

A hand touched my shoulder, and I looked up to see the shadowed cowl of the Gatekeeper, standing apart from the rest of the Senior Council. His hand was covered by a black leather glove. I couldn’t see any skin showing on him, anywhere.
“You know what the rain of toads means,” he said, his voice very quiet. His English had a gentle accent, something part British and part something else. Indian? Middle Eastern?
I nodded. “Trouble.”
“Trouble.” Though I could not see his face, I suspected a very slight smile had colored the word.

Yup.

Now, at first glance this seems a lot less aggressive than Harry’s previous love interests of Mob Boss and Dude Threatening Him With Government-Sanctioned Decapitation, but Marcone was an intensely chill and tolerant man and Morgan, well! That breakup was evidently a nasty one and quite possibly has soured Harry on the whole matter of men waving around big swords making dire promises that APPARENTLY THEY DIDN’T ACTUALLY MEAN WAS I REALLY JUST A JOB TO YOU I THOUGHT WE HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL.

Mr. Very Tall then does something to mess with sounds around them. “I understand you know how to Listen, too. I would rather no one else heard us.” The sound of his voice came to me warped, parts pitched high and others low, oddly reverberating.

There is no explanation for what Listening is. By all appearances Mr. Very Tall is making it so Harry can hear his words and other people can’t and Harry’s doing nothing on his end.

I could see the gleam of one dark eye and a rough, thin grey beard against bronzed skin. I couldn’t see his other eye. His face seemed to ripple and contort in the shadows, and I had an idea that he was disfigured, maybe burned. In the socket of the missing eye, I saw something silver and reflective.

Disappointed he’s apparently not a reanimated corpse, honestly. Look, the setup! You can’t go on about a cowl and then tell me they’re wearing gloves designed to cover every bit of exposed flesh and not make me think it’s to hide something more important that a bit of scarring. Plus, then we could wonder about if he was doing this to avoid creeping people out or because him being undead was a secret!

Harry whines more about how Mab did this to force him to do what she wanted. No, I’m pretty sure she did this to keep your stupid ass alive long enough to do what she wanted. As I exhaustively explained, the forcing is accomplished by the fact she can compel you to stab yourself any time she feels like it, and you’re you, so she’s going to feel like it all the time.

Mr. Very Tall begins rambling about balance and fate. I’m sure there’s a lot of very important foreshadowing. I am skipping over it all because it is a bunch of vague incredibly cliche bullshit. Dear fantasy authors: never mention the word balance ever again.

“Gatekeeper,” the Merlin said, “what is your vote?”
The silent figure of the Gatekeeper silently lifted one hand.

He silented, silently, into the silence.

Then he talks. The Gatekeeper is apparently the actual secret guy in charge because he proceeds to lecture each of them in turn about why they’re doing this. I actually think that’s legit – again going back to the idea that things get eldritch eventually, I would really like the dynamic of the apparent leader actually being something like the guy’s service dog, dealing with the stuff he doesn’t have the energy/focus to care about any longer, and that really puts into context how to Harry the WC is this big deal but to the oldest wizards 99% of it is just yapping between these things they feel a fondness toward but whose thoughts and values they struggle to understand, and on the other end you’ve got the Merlin and similar higher-up wizards who just have to take it on faith that when these elder things do act they know what they’re doing and are acting in your best interests.

Anyway, short version:

Ebenezar just loves Harry.
LaFortier thinks Harry’s disloyal because only a bad seed can grow from bad soil. There’s no clarification about what exactly the bad soil is in this metaphor given he seems to be on the side that Justin was a good person who Harry murdered for fun.
Mai is concerned by the fact Harry’s education came from a guy hopped up on black magic and he’s been nothing but erratic since.
Merlin’s got pattern recognition that says Harry’s the one who caused this mess. The Gatekeeper has been saying everyone else has a good point but now says that nope vampires won’t stop. Look, what’s the worst that could happen, Harry’s dead but there’s still attacks? That’s better than the current situation!
He doesn’t bother with the other two because they aren’t people, they’re just Harry cheerleaders obeying Ebenezar’s will. Again, can you imagine what this looks like to literally every other wizard.

Then he says the solution is to make Harry do a trial, but like, a Trial so you know it’s the fancy wizard kind.

“Let Dresden address Queen Mab’s request. Let him secure the assistance of Winter. If he does, that should lay to rest your concerns regarding his ability, LaFortier.”

This happens right after the guy confirmed from Harry that Harry already knows the request, so once again, it’s actually people bending over backward to protect Harry.

He turned next to Ancient Mai. “Should he accomplish this, it should show that he is willing to accept responsibility for his mistake and to work against his own best interests for the greater good of the Council. It should satisfy your concerns as to his judgement—to make the mistakes of youth is no crime, but not to learn from them is. Agreed?”

And indeed we move on to straight up lying. Mab already cornered and threatened him, and also, he’s only doing this because the WC is threatening him. Nothing about this is actually him working against his best interests. It could be if, as the Gatekeeper is trying to pretend, nobody has any idea what Mab wants and Harry trying to solve this problem would be an enormous risk he’s taking as well as having no guarantee of working – and that last bit I think is a key element, because then there’s the possibility that Harry fails and dies but him dying trying to accomplish it means they didn’t send someone else to die instead. That’s the only way to inject any elements of real responsibility into this given his life is already on the line.

Proving that, after all, Ebenezar really does love Harry, the guy tries to go to bat over this. (Which, I think, is actually a very strong point for Ebenezar is fae-tainted or something, because the available evidence is he completely fucked up on Harry’s education and yet it seems like he also did his best at taking care of Harry, which leaves some secret factor preventing him from doing a better job. Hm… I wonder if not teaching him Latin could actually have been in the hopes Harry wouldn’t show up for WC meetings because if he did there were good odds he’d antagonize people for no reason? Given that antagonizing people for no reason is easily half of every interaction Harry has, it’s actually a pretty good plan.)

“All or nothing?” Ebenezar demanded. “Is that it? You expect the youngest wizard in the Council to get the best of Queen Mab somehow? (Also – this sure seems to be confirming that either Harry’s apprenticeship should absolutely have gone on for at least several more decades or there’s supposed to be an intermediate step with more learning that Harry missed out on entirely.) Mab? That’s not a Trial. It’s a goddamned execution. How is he even supposed to know what her request was to begin with?”

And this would be so good if it was what was happening! Harry is at the center of something that has killed people and will kill more. Making up for that should absolutely be a heroic feat in both the moral and effort senses, and a perfect start for that is to take on a task that may not even be possible.

Harry, instead, explains that actually he’s already got this halfway in the bag. More than, really – Mab wants him to do this and she wants him to succeed. And then, because he’s Harry, he throws a pity party while reminding us that he’s doing this for himself but no really he’s very sad and feel bad for him.

I swallowed and tried to remind myself that there wasn’t much choice. If I didn’t play with the faeries and come out on top, the Council would serve me up to the vampires on a silver platter. The former might get me really, really killed. The latter would certainly kill me as well—and probably more than that.
As deals went, it blew. But some little part of me that hadn’t let me forget all the destruction, maybe even the deaths I’d caused last year, danced gleefully at my apparent comeuppance. Besides, it was the only game in town.

Yeah, his horrible comeuppance of getting a task handed to him that not only makes him super important but will let him avoid any actual comeuppance.

13 Comments

  1. CrazyEd says:

    In order to end this conflict they wish to extradite you to an area of their designation for trial. A resolution that is, perhaps, distasteful, but may also be only just.

    I love how literally the only reason the wizards have a problem with this is that they don’t want to give the vampires shit. If only the vampires had given the White Council a way to save face and pretend like this was their decision, they might’ve had what they wanted.

    All that would be tragic if we’d seen anything whatsoever to suggest there was any reason to mourn the WC’s imminent demise, but.

    Also, if that was actually the setting that Jim Butcher wrote, and not just your vastly more interesting AU. We all know that Butcher’s comment about magic changing was just an excuse to justify the anti-technology thing he wrote in so that Harry couldn’t use computers and cell phones that’d shatter his noir aesthetic.

    And the events of the past three books established they do not intervene when regular humans are in the crossfire either

    They don’t intervene to protect the Masquerade, they don’t teach new wizards, and they don’t even seem to work as an organization to advance magical knowledge. What do they actually do, anyway? The Mages Association of Fate is more proactive than these guys. Hell, at least you can not be part of the Mages Association. These guys are worst than the Camarilla.

    Will we give one of our own to the vampires now and pretend that none of this has happened?

    Literally the best argument he could come up with. “We can’t give up a homie or we’ll look like punks.”

    When the rules are always being bent or broken for the worst reasons in favor of the worst people?

    Does it really count as being bent or broken when the rules were written in such a way to facilitate the worst people being the worst? Morgan’s biggest flaw was that he was Lawful instead of Good. Good would’ve sworded Harry long ago.

    Ebenezar claims that yeah, okay technically, but the vampires set Harry up.

    Offering someone the opportunity to commit a crime doesn’t count as entrapment. Even if I lead you into a locked room with your worst enemy tied to a chair, placed a gun in your hand, and left; if you shot him, you’d still be on the hook for murder. And that’s way further than what the vampires did. At best, they told Harry where his worst enemy was tied to a chair. He did the rest by himself.

    Note that Harry has given every indication of not learning his lesson – hell, he’s currently fucking up etiquette left and right in his own faction!

    Does it count as “fucking up” if you’re doing it on purpose? Harry isn’t making any mistakes, he is acting totally as he has intended.

    Harry follows with up by saying for him personally to face a consequence is also exactly like appeasing Hitler.

    While I can kinda see why the wizards would be skeptical of the vampires ending their aggression just because they got Harry (considering that they apparently used this as an excuse to launch a worldwide assault across several continents in a dramatically disproportionate response to what Harry did), that really doesn’t answer why that skepticism should stop Harry from seeing consequences for his actions. The tribal weakness thing does, of course, but I don’t think the argument put forth is about whether or not that consequence if faced. Appeasing the vampires won’t end the war, even if (unlike Hitler) appeasing their demands is the right thing to do.

    Here I was, figuring we had a responsibility to protect people.

    Wasn’t this problem caused by Harry killing a lot of people? Or was it the result of Harry’s inaction getting a lot of people killed? I forget.

    He reminds everyone that Harry is constantly spitting all over the idea of secrecy

    He forgot to remind them that Harry apparently only turned up to this meeting to spit all over the idea of their traditions, culture, and procedures.

    By Council law, I am therefore entitled to an in-depth investigation and trial—”

    “And that, lady and gentlemen, is why you can’t hand me over to the vampires to stand trial for my crimes!”

    “Wait,” Ebenezar interjected. “I invoke my right as a member of the Senior Council to reduce the vote to the Senior Council alone.”

    His right as a member of the privileged few of the privileged many to exclude the privileged many from the vote. Forget normal humans, even most wizards don’t have rights in this system.

    On the grounds that there exists a great deal of information about this matter of which the Council at large is unaware.

    Isn’t that literally the purpose of a trial?

    His face was puffy and swollen, and his hands looked like rotten sausages about to burst. Frost clung to his hair in a thick coating, and his robe looked like it had been dipped in water and then dragged behind a sled team from Anchorage to Nome. His lips were blue, and his eyes fluttered and rolled semicoherently.

    I wonder if Butcher is going to see the irony of the White Council increasing aggression with the White Court over this while defending Harry’s actions from the Red Court. Apprentice or not, even a half-wizard is worth more than a fae.

    “We tried to take him for treatment, but he got so worked up
    about it I was afraid he would hurt himself, so we brought him to you, Ancient.”

    I wonder how hard they tried to take him for treatment. Like, natural human reaction would be to get him to a doctor, but natural wizard reaction seems to just let him do what he wants because it’s really no skin off their back if he loses all his fingers. You’d think the people most likely to get in magic fights would have more magical healing, but maybe that’s just not a thing in this setting?

    By all appearances Mr. Very Tall is making it so Harry can hear his words and other people can’t and Harry’s doing nothing on his end.

    You’d really think that the wizards would set up something so people can’t mentally DM each other in their council meetings, but okay!

    You can’t go on about a cowl and then tell me they’re wearing gloves designed to cover every bit of exposed flesh and not make me think it’s to hide something more important that a bit of scarring

    I thought he was so he could have a vague middle eastern or possibly Indian character without actually having Crazy Hassan of Hassan’s Discount Camel Rentals showing up as well.

    Let Dresden address Queen Mab’s request. Let him secure the assistance of Winter.

    Imagine how much closer you’d be to being done with this book if Harry had just done the job he’d agreed to do in Chapter 1 the first place. Hell, if you cut out all the parts of the last three books that were nothing but getting Harry to do the job he’d agreed to do in Chapter 1 in the first place, you’d probably be on Book 7 by now.

    You expect the youngest wizard in the Council to get the best of Queen Mab somehow?

    Wait, isn’t the Council like their word for the Wizard Association? Does that mean that literally no one younger than Harry has been recognized as someone that matters?

    How is he even supposed to know what her request was to begin with?

    So, do you think this is also part of Eb’s game, or do you think he actually isn’t aware Mab requested Harry do something for her?

    Harry, instead, explains that actually he’s already got this halfway in the bag. 

    God, is it a bad thing that I’ve already forgotten what Mab wanted from Harry besides making him hurt himself for shits and giggles?

    But some little part of me that hadn’t let me forget all the destruction, maybe even the deaths I’d caused last year, danced gleefully at my apparent comeuppance.

    Notice how Harry doesn’t realize the name for that little part of him is “his fucking conscience”. No, Harry, it’s not maybe. It’s all the death and destruction you’d caused last year.

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  2. Roarke says:

    They oppose consequences for Harry because it sets a precedent that could lead to consequences for themselves.

    Recent real life example of this would be the Houston Astros. They got caught cheating in a previous season up to and including their first World Series victory, but ended up with a slap on the wrist because player unions and franchise managers didn’t want to give whatever authority the ability to mete out harsher punishments. So that’s a joke. 

    So the WC is a pack of people used to thinking they’re better than everyone else and the rules shouldn’t apply to them and never bothered with diplomacy and allies.  And somehow, while they weren’t looking, everything changed.

    A main character reached protagonist age and needed level-appropriate challenges. It happens to the best of institutions as well as the worst. Seriously, the setting is pretty thin at the best of times, but the WC is just threadbare.

    When the rules are always being bent or broken for the worst reasons in favor of the worst people? Really reminds you of how great fairness and order are.

    Later in the post it’ll turn out the rules were written by the worst to favor themselves, but yeah. Good stories can get lots of mileage out of the whole Lawful vs. Good question, but Dresdenverse has nowhere near established a good track record at anything but warping the world around Harry.

    Yeah, I think they’re not wizard police but something more like all-purpose first responders.

    Huh, yeah, the Wardens are actually behaving decently when they don’t have names. Reminds me of the anonymous cops being good dudes, even heroes, in the previous books. Heck, the battered apprentice clearly has some iron in him, too. I wonder if there’s this issue where, once Butcher has to assign a name to someone, he also has to give them a character trait or two, and he’s just awful at dealing with them once he’s forced to put in that much work.

    Harry follows with up by saying for him personally to face a consequence is also exactly like appeasing Hitler.

    Wow, we’ve moved on from Harry appropriating harm done to women (that ‘pillar of salt’ crack and whatever else) to Harry appropriating harm done by white people to minorities. Yeah, if this is the price of diversity, just make everyone white.

    Yeah, his horrible comeuppance of getting a task handed to him that not only makes him super important but will let him avoid any actual comeuppance.

    We’re approaching peak levels of Sue bullshit here. Mab’s deal is letting Harry get out of his White Council political crisis (that he seemed to have better-than-even odds of Sueing his way out of anyway) as well as relieving him of his obligations to her. I’m guessing the personal convenience won’t end there.

  3. CrazyEd says:

    Good stories can get lots of mileage out of the whole Lawful vs. Good question, but Dresdenverse has nowhere near established a good track record at anything but warping the world around Harry.

    That’s because Lawful is considered evil for opposing Harry (a lawbreaker) and Good is apparently Chaotic Neutral according to Harry and Lawful Catholic according to Michael.

    … Are there any other characters the series considers good?

    1. Roarke says:

      Murphy seems to be a genuinely Good character, showing a sense of selflessness and duty that would make her the hero of a better work. We’ve also seen Murphy engage in completely justified Lawfulness that even Harry occasionally admits is in the right, like when she kicks his ass and handcuffs him in the first book for holding out on her about Linda Randall.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        I suppose, but she doesn’t typically get protagonist-tier roles to play, because she’s not in a better work. In that regard, she’s more like those selfless, and nameless, police officers who selflessly, and namelessly, play out their predefined NPC roles. Of course Murphy has these traits, they’re the traits of the supporting role the book has for her, unlike proactiveness.

  4. illhousen says:

    The central conflict of this chapter is Butcher desire to portray Harry as an underdog sticking it to the Man colliding with his love for the trappings of power. Harry is presented as an unjustly persecuted outsider to the corrupt system, but he is also a noble (possibly a head of House Dresden, to go full fanfiction cliche) enjoying privileges few are afforded.

    This also accounts for the weirdness with the presentation of the WC. It comes across as tribalistic, cynical and seemingly existing to perpetuate itself, but I don’t think that’s the intended reading here. The Council is presented to us as a collection of people who may be antagonistic to Harry (because he needs to face an unjust opposition) but also aren’t all bad, and there are people in his corner as well. This is because the book cannot afford to commit to the WC being straight-up evil because then Harry wouldn’t be able to enjoy being a part of this elite group. Since Harry is one of them, they must be alright, on balance.

    This, I think, accounts for the book dancing around the moral issues of killing vampires. The WC can’t take any stance on it because that would put them firmly into a villainous or heroic role, which will destroy the Schrodinger’s underdog of Harry. The book constrains itself to talk only in realpolitic terms because it makes it easy to conceal the moral character of people involved and bend it as the narrative demands.

    Like, imagine an exchange along the following lines:

    Harry: But what about all the people vampires have killed and continue to kill even now?

    The Merlin: And what about them?

    You wouldn’t be able to turn away from something like that and say, oh, well, the WC isn’t all that bad, really, it’s fine Harry is one of them (and will go on to become a Warden and enforce their rules).

    In the process, of course, it creates blind spots that, when exposed, turn the WC into an organization that is at best useless and at worst monstrous.

    Case in point:

     I particularly like that she felt she needed to mention he’s a “fully ranked wizard”, so, one of those have-nots Harry’s been sneering at in past books? Yeah, they’d be vampire chow.

    This is canon. Or, to be more precise, vampires wouldn’t have the need to petition the WC in the first place to get them. Random people outside of the WC, be they ordinary people or various magic users, have no rights in the magic society. Vampires can just take them, and I’m pretty sure the WC would just have to suck it up if they even cared in the first place.

    Not sure about wizard apprentices, but I’d assume they’re considered legal property of their masters or something along those lines (maybe more of an extension of their masters in spirit, but with more leeway in their treatment), so killing them is a slight agaist a wizard, but obviously less bad than murdering a person.

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    1. CrazyEd says:

      Which makes it all the weirder, considering that would be the perfect way to portray the White Council if you wanted to make them the analogue to the police of a noir story. Having Harry be in favour of the idea of the WC, and working towards that end, but not necessarily a fan of what they are, and stymieing that when needed, is pretty much what a noir detective is supposed to be doing to law enforcement.

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  5. ZMiles says:
    Heads up: the next update of my Dresden Files 15 “Skin Game” liveried is online at dresdenlinebyline dot blogspot dot com.
    1. Act says:

      I was fine with one as an FYI, but we’re not a place for you to advertise. I’m going to start marking these as spam if you keep doing this.

      wtf is it with dresden fans and doing this

      1. illhousen says:

        We’re talking about DF a lot, therefore we must be fans.

        TBF, we did write a number of fics about DF, so I guess we count as DF-adjacent.

        1. Roarke says:

          I think what she means is more like, why do the DF fans spam advertisements for the new books or for other, more positive forms of engagement. Like, other works that we hate-read don’t attract the sort of folks that advertise.

          1. Actislazyandwontlogin says:
            Yeah, we’ve never had people like, linking to Hunger Games jewelry or whatever.

            Though now that I think about it, DF fans having weird problems with boundaries does kind of make sense…

  6. Seed of Bismuth says:
    I know you said this was the last Dresden book you doing. But like I’d literally pay you to do Blood Rites. Cause this is too good to lose.
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