?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
11 May 2009 @ 08:38 am
The Dresden Files: "The Most Dangerous Thing" by Gehayi (Conclusion)  
Title: The Most Dangerous Thing
Author: gehayi
Fandom: The Dresden Files bookverse
Pairing/characters: Harry Dresden/John Marcone, Karrin Murphy, Anastasia Luccio, Bob the Skull, Charity Carpenter, Molly Carpenter, Waldo Butters, Hendricks, Sigrun Gard and the Archive. And mention of...well, practically everyone else.
Word Count: 27,440 (Understandably, I had to break this up in multiple parts.)
Rating: PG for swearing.
Disclaimer: I most emphatically do not own The Dresden Files. They belong to Jim Butcher, ROC Books and—regrettably, for the next three years--Lionsgate Productions. No profit is being made and no copyright or trademark infringed upon.
Prompt: #1356 The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden, People have been kidding Harry Dresden about being gay for a while. Now Harry's come to terms with his bisexuality and fallen for a man, and while some of his family and friends can deal with this, others are having a plethora of problems--and causing a number of them as well.
Summary: Falling in lust. Falling in love. Becoming aware of both, and deciding to come out to family and friends. Mix in a case involving supernatural politics, warlocks, conspiracies, faeries, Knights, gods and mortal enemies, and it's a typical day for Harry Dresden.
Warnings: (if any) Takes place after the most recent book, Turn Coat. So yeah, there are a lot of spoilers—not only for that book but for the ten previous ones, the novella Backup and the short stories.
Author's Notes: (if any) Thanks to my betas, beachkid, erastes and shiplizard.

The title is from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The most dangerous thing is illusion."

***

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

"So how are we getting there?" I asked as she strode ahead of me into the dojo's parking lot.

She didn't answer, at least not in words. Instead she walked up to a coal-black security car, stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled.

The car dissolved. A second later, a coal-black winged horse was standing beside Gard. We're not talking delicate and thin-legged thoroughbred either, by the way. We're talking Clydesdale. Suddenly, I had no trouble imagining how this horse could handle the weight of an armed and armored Valkyrie and several dead warriors simultaneously.

"This is Alfhild," Gard said, patting the horse's mane. "She has been my friend for centuries."

I bowed to the mare, taking care to stay away from her feet. "Pleased to meet you. Uh, ma'am."

Gard nodded, then, without warning, mounted Alfhild so easily that I don't know how she managed it. "Unless you can think of anything else, get on behind me."

I swear that my subconscious hijacked my mouth at this point. "Can Mouse come?"

Gard smiled. "The Guardian? Yes, of course. That is an excellent idea." She cupped her hands and let out a cry. It sounded like the cawing of crows or ravens.

And a second later, Mouse was out of the pickup truck and bounding into the parking lot so fast that I expected to hear a sonic boom.

I'm still not sure how I mounted Alfhild. Hell's bells, I'm not sure how Mouse got on behind me. Or how he balanced. I don't even remember a portal opening. All I recall is Gard telling Alfhild to fly. And as quickly as that, we were sailing through the skies of the Nevernever.

It's a bit hard to describe what I saw on that flight. Most of it can't be put into human words. And the parts of it that can be described make me sound as if I were stoned on acid.

At one point, Alfhild was swimming through earth, which was filled with pools of magic that shimmered like stars and water. At another time, we plunged through a piece of darkness that had come alive, and its heart was filled with enough fire and heat to kindle a sun.

I remember feeling sounds brushing against my skin, and tasting colors and smells with my fingers. I recall our going around and over and through entire worlds, some tiny bits of matter most like islands, and others like enormous clockwork planets. I heard oceans howling for our blood as we flew past, and felt entities vast and distant as galaxy-sized mountains watching us. I know I changed shape a few times—into what, I don't know; I was just trying to accept the situation and go with it so that involuntary transformation wouldn't cost me my sanity—as did Gard, Mouse and the horse.

On three occasions, Gard warned me to close my eyes and stopper my ears, and not to look at or listen to or answer anything until she touched me and told me it was safe. I obeyed.

When at last we landed , we alit in a grassy plain. A log had been tossed across a gorge as a kind of improvised bridge, and in the center of the plain was an unfinished—or perhaps tumbledown—wall of stone. It seemed woefully anticlimactic after all of the events of the trip, and I said so.

Gard sniffed as she dismounted Alfhild who, flying horse or not, was less interested in Asgard than in chowing down on the plain's grass. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that what you see is real. What you see is what your mind can tolerate. Now. Follow me. There is no time to waste."

And with that, she strolled across the log as if the gorge weren't even there. Mouse followed, then glanced back at me with a "well, come on" snuffle.

"I thought we were operating in eternity here," I replied, sticking out both arms as I carefully picked my way across the log that was—had to be--Bifrost. It had been a long time since I'd walked on balance beams.

"We are," she said dryly. "But the trip was not instantaneous. It took time to get here, and it will take time to get back. And I cannot take the swifter routes, because a human could not survive them. Even the Guardian would have some difficulty."

Mouse made a huffing noise that sounded like reluctant agreement.

Gard walked over to a portion of the stone wall—which, now I was closer to it, didn't seem so much unfinished as impossibly, unclimbably high--and touched it. Instantly, a stockade gate appeared. She said something—a password of some kind, maybe—and the gate swung open. She strode through, and I followed with Mouse pacing beside me.

The place began to change as soon as we walked in. Gardens, forests and orchards grew from seedlings to blossoms to fruit in a matter of seconds. Houses sprang up like mushrooms after rain. Though I could hear children playing, the clang of a blacksmith's anvil and the solid kerchunk of a dozen or so hammers against wood, I saw no people. Taking my cue from Mouse, who seemed to be taking this very much in stride, I remained silent.

I honestly don't know where the castle came from. One minute we were striding along a broad open road, and the next we were walking up to its main door.

I don't know how to describe exactly what I saw at that moment. It was sort of...reality times five. It was a strong, squat, sturdy castle constructed to withstand the most vicious of physical and magical attacks; it was a delicate and graceful palace spun of ivory and gold and lapis lazuli. It was a roiling sea of power that stung and tantalized my senses at the same time, a vast library containing more wisdom than any one mind could possibly absorb, a fiercely contested battleground stinking of death and blood...and, just for a moment, a block-like monolith of steel and glass with a sign in front of it reading MONOC INDUSTRIES.

And then Mouse leaned against me and huffed, and it was just a castle. And a door was opening before us once more.

It didn't take long—or at least, it didn't seem to take long—before we reached a huge hall. Not a hallway. A king's hall. And it almost blinded me, because the walls and pillars and roof were all crafted of what looked like the purest silver. At the far end of the hall was a single throne, pure white and, like the wall, impossibly high.

"Valaskjálf," Gard whispered, gesturing at the entire hall. "Hlidskjalf," with a nod to the throne.

"Gesundheit," I murmured.

I wished I hadn't a few minutes later, for as we approached the far end of the hall, I became aware that someone was sitting on the throne.

He was a man...or at least, he was man-shaped. His hair was iron-gray, his weathered face lined with wrinkles—but he didn't look elderly. In fact, he reminded me of Ebenezar McCoy, all sinew and gristle. He was wearing, incongruously enough, a dark navy Armani suit with gleaming black shoes. Ravens the size of eagles perched on both of his shoulders.

He had only one brightly glittering gray eye. But I could have sworn that even his empty eye socket was more than able to see. And when I glanced at his eye, just for a moment...it seemed to contain worlds.

"I see you have brought a mortal here, daughter," he said in a mild tone as we approached. "May I ask why?"

"The Warden-Knight of Winter has information about possible interference with our contract with the Baron of Chicago," Gard said, bowing low. "I thought it better if you heard what he said and thinks, rather than hearing my interpretation of it."

"Hmm." He gazed at me dispassionately. "And you consider your words so valuable, Warden-Knight?"

"Hell, no!" I said. "In fact, I don't know what I'm doing here. What can I tell a god that he doesn't already know? I thought gods were omniscient by definition. And please, not Warden-Knight. I'm Harry. Just Harry."

He stared down at me for a moment, and when he spoke again, there was laughter in his tone. "You do not consider yourself particularly wise or blesséd, then...Warden-Knight?"

I thought about that one. "Blessed, yeah. It's a privilege to be here, and not something that most people experience. But wise? Stars and stones, if I were wise, I'd have figured this mess out long since."

And with that, I launched into the explanation of all that had befallen John and me over the years, and how nothing ill had happened to one without something similar happening to the other. For good measure, I added in all that had occurred that day, from Hendricks breaking into my apartment to warn me to stay away from John to Murphy at long last taking up the sword. Mouse interrupted the story a few times with a series of short, deliberate barks and yips, but Odin didn't seem to mind.

"Thank you," he murmured, and I had the feeling that he was speaking to Mouse as well as to me. He nodded to Gard. "You were right to bring them here. This has gone on for far too long."

"Why did it go on for so long?" I asked. Gard groaned at that, but I ignored it. "I'm not criticizing. But you knew, right?"

He looked thoughtful, but didn't seem to be angry. I took heart from that. "You are a wizard. You strive to protect mortals who possess no power. But do you know what it is like to see the world as they see it, with no power and with no knowledge that worlds beyond theirs exist?"

I gulped. "No. And I'd really rather not find out."

I could feel rather than see his exasperation. "I have no thought to punish you for speaking boldly; why would I? You are as you are, and I have no quarrel with that."

"I'm sorry," I said, bowing my head in what was probably tardy respect. "I didn't mean to offend. I just wanted to know."

"Few gods incarnate," he said, his voice taking on a chanting rhythm. "We are among the mortals, but not of them; we walk among them, we work, we play, but we are not bound by blood or tied by flesh. We know your thoughts and your hearts, but our eyes do not see the world as you do, no more than you are one with the wood lice in your home's walls."

"Omniscience is its own limitation?" I said, blinking.

He actually laughed at that. "I like this one," he said to Gard. "He's original."

Then he turned back to me. "Hear this and understand. A man should be loyal through life to friends, to them and to friends of theirs. But never shall a man make offer of friendship to his foes."

I swallowed several times. "You mean I can't--"

"It would be unwise." I felt as if his gaze was pinning me to the ground. "You are frequently unwise, Wise One, and at times this has been the saving of you and of others. But this foe is not Lasciel's shadow, who saved you and died for it. This one mocks your mercy, and wields love like a dagger. This one will turn your love against you, if possible, and be the death and ruin of all your family and friends besides."

"Can you help us?" Another groan from Gard. "Er...please?"

"I will do what my contract with the Baron permits me to do," he said quietly. "How far I may go depends on you and your enemy."

"And...John?"

"What of him?"

"You don't disapprove?"

"Would it matter to you if I did? You have made your choice. And why should I reproach another for loving where he will? But tell him how you feel, and soon. Until today, all knew how you both felt save you and him.

"Now go," he added sternly. "No more will be gained by delaying here. Take the swiftest routes, daughter. I will preserve the lives and minds and spirits of the...of Mouse and Harry along the way."

And that's the last thing that I remember before Alfhild landed in an alley about a block from my apartment. It was full night when we arrived, but the air was full of cawings and cries and the rustle of dark wings.

"Ravens," Gard said in a matter-of-fact voice, and I shivered.

There was a battle coming.

And Odin's birds were waiting.

***
After Gard whispered some instructions to Alfhild, the horse launched herself into the air once more. I suppose a Chicago alley isn't a good place for a winged horse that can turn into a car at will.

Then we strode out of the alley together--Gard on my right side, Mouse on my left. I felt like a sheriff from an old Western, walking down a long dusty street to a shootout with a deadly outlaw. The theme song from High Noon was playing in my head.

As we neared my apartment building, I saw a few other people pulling up close by---the Carpenters in their minivan, Murphy and Luccio in the latter's battered Edsel station wagon, and John and Hendricks in a white mid-sized car that looked resolutely average. Knowing John, I was willing to bet that the President of the United States didn't ride in a car that was this well-protected—technologically or magically.

I turned to Gard, puzzled. "I thought you said that it would take a while to remove the protective spells around Marcone. And we just got back. How--?"

She gazed at me impatiently. "I began unweaving them when I walked out of the dojo, and I finished when we were halfway to Asgard. Is this truly important now?"

No. No, it wasn't. But it was easier than thinking about what I had to face in a few minutes.

I beckoned to the others; I had something to say, and if possible I wanted to shut out any possible magical eavesdroppers. Once we were all gathered together, I knelt, fished a piece of chalk out of one of my duster pockets, drew a somewhat lumpy circle around us all, and then infused the circle with a fraction of my will.

Luccio was already gazing beyond the circle. She was avoiding looking at any of us, which made me suspect that she was using Wizard's Sight. "There are spells tangled with the wards on your threshold, Harry. And I think they've been there for a long time."

"Why didn't I notice?" I said, scowling at myself. "I take those wards down every damned day."

She sighed. "It's subtle, Harry. Very delicate work. If spells were colors, one strand which was supposed to be blue would be indigo, and another that was supposed to be yellow was now gold."

"Ah," I said, understanding. "So the wards mostly work the way they're supposed to. Enough so that I wouldn't notice immediately. And if I did spot that something was wrong, I'd just assume that the wards were decaying and needed a fresh infusion of magic."

Mouse whuffled. Call me crazy, but he sounded as if he was disgusted with himself for missing this.

"What do the—alterations—do?" John inquired politely.

Luccio continued gazing at my door. "They create an illusion based on what a person wants to believe, and persuades him or her that the illusion is true and must be defended at all costs."

"In other words," I said, naming the elephant in the room, "it's the same kind of magic that was used to mess with most of the wizards on the Council. Including you."

"Yes." She closed her eyes for a moment and concentrated, shutting off the Sight. "But I don't understand, Harry. It would have taken someone older than I am and far better trained than either of us to have cast such a spell. And that doesn't make sense."

"It will in a few minutes, I think." I turned to the others. "All right. We're going in. Mouse, once I get the wards down, you go in first. Then me. Luccio and Murph, you follow. Gard, you go with Hendricks and John. Michael and Charity, I want you to stay far in the rear. I don't want this thing grabbing any hostages. Understand?"

Michael gave me an agonized look. Charity, with the air of one who has been asked to do a difficult and unpleasant task and who intends to do it well, merely nodded.

Okay. No more stalling, Harry. Time to face the monster.

I pulled the sports bottle from the pocket I'd put it in so many hours ago, opened it and drained it to the last drop. Which, considering the taste, may have been the bravest thing I'll ever do. Then I broke the chalk circle with the toe of my boot, took down the wards and unlocked the door.

I looked down at Mouse. "After you," I murmured, and pushed the door open.

I expected him to bound in. He didn't. Instead, he stood on the threshold and barked—a long, low bark that reverberated in my bones.

I hadn't felt the spells in the room before then. But I certainly felt them shatter. I didn't know what all of them were, though I sensed a few right before they broke: charms to make others more receptive to deceit and lies, compulsions to force others to tell the truth, persuasions to allow the caster to seem more innocent, and a tracking spell that would be almost impossible to shake off.

The instant that the spells were down, Mouse leapt into the room, growling.

There was no one there.

I sighed. A veil, of course. And this one was about a thousand percent better than the ones Molly usually used around me. I not only couldn't see her, I could barely sense the magic the veil was using.

So I didn't try to sense her. Instead, I concentrated and opened my Sight.

I couldn't see Molly, even so. The veil concealed her. But I could see the veil. It was a shimmering curtain of liquid gold, a creation of rare and subtle beauty. I had no idea how to bring it down magically.

Which was why I walked past and nearly into it a few times, then lifted my staff and swung it through the veil like I was trying to hit a ninth-inning homer in the seventh game of the World Series. Veils aren't shields. Sometimes wizards forget that.

There was a resounding crack as my staff collided with...something.

And a second later, Molly was visible once more and was lying on the floor in front of me, rubbing her left shoulder. "Geez, Obi-Wan, what're you doing?" she demanded. "I was just practicing while you were out."

She sounded like the young woman I knew. But when she'd started speaking, I'd automatically turned toward her...and my Third Eye—the power that allows the Sight to work--was still open.

Molly and I had soulgazed once. I'd seen immense potential for power in her, good as well as evil. It occurred to me belatedly that if I'd supplemented that soulgaze with the Sight, I might have saved myself and everyone else a lot of grief. Because then I'd have found out not only what lay in Molly's soul, but who and what she fundamentally was.

The young woman sprawled in front of me looked, superficially, like Molly. Granted, this week in the real world Molly had bright green hair, while the hair of the Sight's version was stark white. Still, not too surprising for a platinum blonde. Normally, the term "Sidhe white" wouldn't have occurred to me.

A few other things were more of a tip-off. The serpent tattoo encircling her body was, I now saw, shot with threads of magic. Her expression was more mature. And her eyes...

Her eyes blazed with the conviction of a fanatic facing a hated enemy.

Me.

Seeing this took less than a second. Then, suddenly, a gigantic something that looked like a dog and a lion had been smushed together and then carved out of starlight leapt onto Molly, growling fiercely.

Mouse.

I drank in the sight of him for a moment or two--I so rarely get to see good and beautiful things with the Sight--and then closed my Third Eye.

"Harry—" Molly whimpered.

"Stop it," I said in a harsher voice than I'd ever used with her. "Hell's bells, stop pretending!"

She stared up at me, wide-eyed. "Harry, are you all right? Is something messing with you? Don't be mad. I just want to help." And she reached out toward my mind with a tentative spell.

I swatted it away as if it were an annoying fly.

I heard footsteps behind me, and then the door closing. The others had come in by now. Good.

I glanced at Mouse, who was continuing to growl and keep her pinned down, and thought I could risk a glance toward the others.

"This is the big bad?" Hendricks said incredulously. "Your apprentice? What, you can't handle a little girl on your own?"

"I must confess that I'm a bit bewildered by this, Mister Dresden," John said. "I don't understand why you'd attack a young girl, especially one so poor in combat situations. And in view of your notable and often ridiculous chivalry in other situations, I have to question why you are so bent on hurting this particular girl now."

Michael gazed at me with pleading eyes. "Harry, I don't know what's making you do this...but please. She's my daughter."

Murphy, who had drawn Fidelacchius and was now holding it ready in an attack position, gazed at the three of them thoughtfully. Then she looked at me. "How about you?" she asked. "Feeling ashamed of yourself because you're doing something you shouldn't?"

"Yeah. But I'm ignoring it. Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'm just trying to figure out why three grown men who knew that they were coming here to fight something magically powerful, subtle, dangerous and deceptive are suddenly so sure that the person who apparently came into your apartment without your permission while you were out must be an injured innocent. I'd also like to know why all of them keep referring to her as a little girl. Or a young girl. Because I know when Molly's birthday is, and she's nearly twenty-six. That's not a helpless little girl—that's a grown woman. And one who knows damned well how to manipulate men." Murphy grimaced. "I recognize the M.O. My sister Lisa has done the exact same thing for years."

Molly's eyes narrowed. Automatically, I cast a shield around my allies and me—not a hard force field, but something trickier and potentially less pleasant, at least for Molly.

A second later, a magical blow that would have shattered Murphy's mind if it had touched her hit the shield. If it had been a hard and durable shield, the spell probably would have broken the shield on impact, leaving the rest of us vulnerable while Murph was mentally assaulted. But this was a softer and more porous shield. It absorbed about half the energy in the spell. The rest went to me.

And oh dear God, was there a lot of it.

Luccio was rubbing her head. I'd hoped that she wouldn't be affected again—I knew that Luccio was a strong woman and that she'd be prepared for it—but I'd been wrong. And Murphy, still new to the sword, was painfully vulnerable. I didn't dare ask her to move away from the shield. The other men, of course, were a dead loss.

I nodded toward Mouse, who bared his teeth in a way that made Molly try to squish herself into the floor. Then I looked at Gard, but she, concerned with Hendricks and John, didn't budge. And Michael was already trying to limp over to Molly.

I didn't know what to do. Any attack I made to break Molly's concentration would only convince those under her influence that I had lost my mind or turned evil. At this point. I didn't need more people thinking that.

Then Charity stuck an arm in front of Michael to prevent his going any further, took a deep breath and said in the iciest tone I'd ever heard, "Margaret Amanda Katherine Carpenter, I demand to know what nonsense you're playing at! Spells and enchantments to invade and enthrall people's minds—don't you think that anyone here knows that's illegal? Stop this immediately and tell everyone what you've been up to...and why."

Molly's head slammed into the floor. "Don't you dare give me orders!" she screamed in a voice about twenty years too young for her. "Don't you dare!"

It wasn't as if Charity had any magical power, not any more. But as a mother she'd done the right thing automatically. She'd called Molly by her full Name, pronouncing it almost perfectly, and had given her a command. Molly could resist the command; Charity had no way of infusing it with her will. But as I saw a sad and knowing expression sweep across Charity's face, I knew that hadn't been the point. She'd given Molly a direct order.

And, as I knew from experience, Molly's concentration fell apart whenever she was told to do something she didn't want to do.

As the other men and Luccio began blinking as if they were surfacing from a sound sleep, Murphy strode over to Molly and placed Fidelacchius lightly on her throat. "Don't even think about doing that again," she said softly.

Molly sneered—which is not an easy thing to do when you have a Temple Dog sitting on your chest and baring his teeth, and a Knight of the Cross placing her sword at your throat. "You wouldn't."

"Yeah," I said. "'Cause it's not like she's a trained cop, sharpshooter and martial artist who's fought werewolves, plant monsters, trolls, ogres and a whole nest of Black Court vamps and their Renfields, not to mention a few Denarians. Murph is a softie. Everybody knows that."

If looks could kill, the glare Molly was giving me would have had me not only dead, but drawn and quartered. However, she shut up and stopped trying to ensorcel the rest of us, which to my mind was a plus.

I glanced at Murphy. "I'm going to have to catch you up on this later. I don't want her to hear it."

"Good idea. Just be sure that you do catch me up on it, okay?"

"Sure."

Then, sighing, I beckoned Michael to a chair—he'd been standing for a while, and I was going to have to cause him enough emotional agony without making his physical pain worse. Then I looked at Luccio. "Could you do what you did before in the dojo?"

She nodded. And a few minutes later, when we were all seated or standing on the other side of the room, Luccio cast her bubble of privacy spell, and I began to speak. First, for the benefit of Hendricks and John, I recapped the information Gard had given me about my being the Winter Knight in fact if not in title, and how this was affecting Summer in ways Titania didn't like.

"But what does this have to do with Molly?" Michael said, sounding lost. "Forgive me, Harry, but I don't understand."

"You will," I told him. "It's pretty simple.

"I started figuring out this afternoon that everything bad that happened to me also happened to you." I nodded to Marcone. "Nicodemus captured and tortured me as well as you, and he wanted to get both of us on his side. Two battles on Demonreach. Spike and Thomas—two brothers, in the metaphorical sense, who were taken apart by monsters. A traitor in the White Council, a traitor in your organization. Over and over, that weird doubling. And in magic, this kind of mirroring can be an intensifier."

Marcone nodded thoughtfully. "Possible. But what would be the point?"

"Weakening us. Breaking us. And then destruction." I ran my fingers through my hair. "And I think she'd been planning to do that for a long time. Not just us, either.

"It was the Denarians that gave me the idea. Something that both you and someone else said once, Michael—that a corrupted child raised in a Knight's family could be an effective weapon." I held up my hand to still his protests. "No, Molly isn't a Denarian. But Titania brought them here. She pointed them right at Chicago. She had to know when they tried to get little Harry.

"And that," I said, rubbing my chin, "made me think about faeries even more. Because they're very good at stealing children. There are even stories about children raised by them who don't want to leave Faerie.

"And that, of course, led me back to Arctis Tor. Because, let's face it, that was a weird kidnapping. Creatures of Winter have all of the Nevernever to choose from and they take the daughter of a Knight of the Cross straight to Winter's capital? Why? Because Mab wanted to piss off the Knights and the wizards? What would be the point? Mab is many things, but she isn't stupid."

I could see the comprehension dawning in John's green eyes. "Factions. Creatures of Winter—but loyal to Summer. Just as the wyldfae are loyal to you."

I nodded. "That's why Titania won't let the Summer Knight or the Summer Lady speak to me anymore. They helped at Arctis Tor, and I think that messed up her plans—which were to have me blamed for the black magic Molly was doing, since I'm always Prime Suspect Number One as far as the Council is concerned, and to put a mole in place. She failed at the first--"

"But not the second," Charity said, a look of horror sweeping across her face. "Molly."

"Molly," I agreed. "Oh, the fight was genuine enough; I don't think Titania would have grieved if we'd all been killed and Molly had to stumble back into the human world alone and traumatized. But I was wrong. It wasn't a kidnapping. It was just meant to look like one. One way or, Molly was going to escape; that was the point. It was—basically--the old switcheroo."

Michael, if possible, looked worse than Charity. "You're saying that Molly—the Molly we raised--was a changeling?"

"Or a shapeshifter," I said. "Someone who was really good at playing the part of a stubborn young human, anyway. And meanwhile, Molly—the human Molly—grew up in Faerie. Grew up thinking like a faerie, too, which means that both morality and the Laws of Magic are meaningless to her. She would have been trained to think of magic as something to use."

I sighed. "And time flows differently in the Nevernever. Centuries could have gone by, in faerie terms, while Molly aged at a mortal rate. Eighteen years old chronologically, with maybe two hundred years of training. And at the same time, eighteen wouldn't be very old to quasi-immortals. They wouldn't expect maturity of her.

"Whereas you two expected it of her double. You just didn't get it."

Luccio stared at me. "She really didn't attack her best friend or her boyfriend."

"No. She told me that—screamed it at me at the top of her lungs—but I thought she was just in denial. In fact, they weren't human Molly's friends at all; she never knew them. The shapeshifter attacked them, probably partly out of vengeance—Nelson was cheating on Shapeshifter Molly with Rosie, and faeries don't react well to losing human pets or territory, any more than humans do—and partly to establish a hatred for drugs and, by extension, Marcone. Who was too powerful in mortal terms and too knowledgeable about magic, and who had to be kept away from a certain wizard at all costs. An alliance between the two could be fatal.

"Molly, the mortal Molly, wasn't part of the human world till she was 'rescued'"--I put the word in airquotes--"from Arctis Tor. Which is why she never showed any remorse. How could she regret something that she didn't do?" I glanced at Luccio. "Not that she hasn't mindraped plenty of people since."

"Titania got her money's worth," Marcone murmured. "She'd planned on creating a completely loyal spy in the heart of a Knight's family, and she not only got that, but also obtained someone trusted by an insane wizard who was upsetting the balance of power...and by his colleagues, who had few defenses against faerie-trained neuromancy and psychomancy."

"Yeah. The shapeshifter posing as Molly was always hanging around me and Michael when his kids were little—she exerted some influence that way—but once Molly the human became my apprentice, she had an automatic in on my cases. And if I wouldn't tell her about them, she'd veil and follow me to crime scenes and to interviews. Murphy can attest to that. All very Nancy Drew. Stars and stones, I even thought it was cute. " I pinched the bridge of my nose.

Luccio swallowed heavily. "But...all the wardens and wizards that she affected...how did she reach them? Or Marcone's people, if she affected them?"

"For a wizard who has permanent access through Summer, it would not be hard," Marcone said. "Though I'll admit that I have no idea how difficult it is to open a portal into the Nevernever."

I shrugged. "She could have seen me do it any number of times. Or she could've been shown how to do it by a creature of Summer—or one loyal to Summer. It doesn't really matter. We already know her talents are way beyond anything we dreamed. If I hadn't called the morgue today---and if I hadn't gotten some good advice about checking for auras and magic before that—I never would have suspected her."

"Why?" Michael reminded me of a man poking at a sore tooth.

"She was there," I said. "She claimed to be seducing Butters---which, okay, sounds like a joke. I think that she said it to embarrass me; if I was embarrassed enough, I might just accept her news about where Murphy was, or let her come along on the case I was working. Pure misdirection.

"But then I noticed something. No sounds other than Molly's voice or Butters' voice. No music, and Butters loves having polka music play as he works. No sound of breathing or giggling or anything when Molly was supposed to be eavesdropping on Butters' call. I wasn't sure who or what I'd been talking to."

I sighed. "I suspect that, despite my dialing the right number, one of her spells rerouted the call to her cell. She wasn't expecting a call out of the blue, and illusions are tricky. She didn't have time to craft or simulate all the sounds you'd expect to hear in and around a morgue and be sure she got everything right. One wrong sound could have tipped me off. So she didn't use any extra sounds at all, and tried to convince me to go someplace she knew—Macanally's Pub—where she could intercept me and find out what case Murph was working on. After all, it might be crucial to Summer's interests.

"I knew something was off at the time. But it took me a while to recognize just how weird the absence of sound was.

"And when I checked—per advice—and saw the spells of illusion and deception on the phone, I started wondering how an enemy could have put them there. Because my wards are designed to protect me against outside invaders. Not against someone invading from within.

"There aren't many people who can get into my apartment. Murphy has an amulet, but she doesn't use magic. Hendricks got in earlier"--I could see by the shock in John's face that this was news to him--"but he loathes magic. Thomas can do simple spells, but nothing nearly of that caliber. And he hasn't come over to my place for a couple of years, anyway. There was only one person I could think of who had access to my apartment and who could do magic—and subtle magic, at that."

"Molly," Charity repeated grimly.

"Molly," I said sadly. "I didn't want to believe it. But every time I turned around, there she was. A sweet young girl who kept trying her best to be helpful...and who kept breaking the Third and Fourth Laws. Purely by accident, of course. I had to wonder, eventually, how you could 'accidentally' break the same Laws over and over again without noticing what you were doing." I turned to Luccio. "I'll report this to the Council, of course."

"I fail to see what that will accomplish, save to get you executed," Marcone retorted, "Unless you are panting to facilitate Titania's fondest wish, I would advise against it. At present, you are necessary to the safety of Chicago, and I doubt if that will change in the near future. And while I can see Titania's hand at work, I don't quite see why she would select me as a target."

I was just opening my mouth to say, Oh, suuuuuuuure you don't, when Murphy's voice rang out from across the room. "Harry! Look!"

I turned toward her voice and stared, for the wall closest to Molly was beginning to bulge outward. It looked like a giant soap bubble made of bricks and mortar.

And the brick bubble dissolved, and I was gazing at a portal into Summer...and a few hundred creatures of Faerie. Ogres, trolls, gruffs, ifrits, sylphs with razors for wings and claws, skinless cyclopean centaurs called nuckelavees...a mixed bag of killer creatures from Summer and Winter. Which was worrisome, but not nearly as bad what they'd brought along as playmates.

Vampires. Red Court Vampires.

Molly, agent of Summer, had invited them in.

"Jesus," whispered Hendricks. "Look at 'em all."

"How many weapons do we have?" Luccio asked. Something about the set of her jaw said that she was thinking of valiant last stands.

Gard shook her head. "Not enough." And with that, she reached down, grabbed the arm of the couch, and twisted it off.

"Hey, that's my furniture!"

She didn't even look at me as she plunged into the fray. "Would you prefer to have furniture or a life, Dresden?"

And then there was no time for anything but fighting.

Gard had the best time of it, I think, for she stabbed, beat and choked dozens of faeries and vampires with the couch arm. The fact that the arm was spiked with steel nails definitely helped. Hendricks, who seemed to have an inexhaustable number of clips, did his best to sidestep the vampires and perforate, in his words, "every stinkin' faerie from here to Antarctica." Marcone had enough knives to stock a store, and he used all of them. Luccio sent hex after hex at vampires and faeries alike. I hurled fireballs and cyclones at them. Mouse bit off spell after newly formed spell. Charity used everything that she could lay her hands on to protect her husband who—being Michael—was also trying valiantly to protect her. And Murphy's vorpal blade went snicker-snack.

And it wasn't enough. We were knocking ourselves out trying to stop Molly and her minions (which sounds suspiciously like a 1950s girl group), and it wasn't working. We didn't have the numbers, the weapons or the magic. Despite the fact that we were managing to kill some of them, the faeries and vampires were toying with us, and we all knew it.

There was only one thing left that I could do to stop them, and I needed John's help for that.

Hurling wind spells left and right, I picked my way over to John. "Hey," I said, speaking as softly as I could in the middle of a battle. "John. I need you."

"I'm flattered, Mister Dresden," he said dryly, "but you may observe that we are in the middle of a war."

"I need you in the kitchen—right now—to help stop the war."

His glance swept across the room and our pitiful numbers. "You can't do whatever you need to do here?"

"Uh...yeah, I could, but you'd kill me later if I did."

"Whereas if we withdraw from the battle--?"

"You won't have to kill me, and there will still be a later."

"That does sound like an improvement." And slowly, carefully, we inched our way across the living room into my kitchen.

Once the door had closed, he turned to me. "All right. What in the world can we do here that we can't do out there?"

"This," I said. And I bent down and kissed him.

I'd done something similar before, fueling spells before with the lust from a kiss with a White Court succubus who just happened to be my stepsister. And that was when I hadn't had a potion coursing through my veins that drew power to me.

But drawing driblets of power from an army of faeries and vamps wasn't enough. I needed something that would kick the potion into high gear. And...well, Bob had made a point of telling me about this potion and the power of love in practically the same breath, so to speak.

I'd never kissed a man before. The stubble was a surprise. So was his smell, which was a mixture, at the moment, of sweat, blood, gunpowder, an expensive and eminently forgettable citrus cologne, and Chicago. His back was more muscular than those of the women I'd loved, and his arms were stronger—I wasn't sure if he was going to hold me or wrestle me to the ground. It was all unfamiliar and bewildering...and when I kissed him, I could feel my entire body sighing, Yes. This.

I'd like to think that it was a fantastic kiss, but it probably wasn't. I was too lost in wonder to turn the kissage into something psychedelic. I do know that when I came up for air, his eyes were dilated to the point where there was just a very thin rim of green around a pool of black, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing.

"As always, you have an unerring sense of timing," he said—which would have sounded more impressive if he hadn't been breathless. "I should warn you that if this is your idea of a joke, I will never forgive you."

"John," I explained, "shut up." And with that, I kissed him again.

I swear I heard him murmur, "Oh, God," for a moment before he growled deep in his throat and slammed me up against the wall.

When we parted for air again, he was the first to speak. "We must go back. I will not leave them to die alone."

"Way ahead of you there, John. Except for the part about our side dying, because that's so not going to to happen." I gave him an impudent grin. "Watch."

I opened the kitchen door a crack. None of the faeries or vamps had pursued us; apparently they were having more fun elsewhere. Their mistake.

Then I lifted my staff and spoke three words. "Cyclis exuviarum veneficarum!" And a small golden mini-cyclone shot from my staff and whirled out to the living room.

A minute later, the screams of rage and panic began.

I'd been really specific about that spell. That's why I'd used the word "exuviarum"--"of spoils taken from the enemy." In this case, the spoil was the magic of my foes.

A spell couldn't deprive anyone of magic for good. But it could soak up all the magic around the vamps and the faeries as if it were a huge vacuum cleaner. Which might give us an advantage.

At least, that was what I thought it would do. As it turned out, the emotional amplification that I got from kissing John plus my own interpretation of the spell made it just a little bit stronger.

The spell didn't merely soak up the magical energy my foes were using. It cut off further access to magic—at least temporarily. That was probably due to my interpretation of "spoils." When I think of plunder, I don't think of it as something that can be taken back five minutes later by the plunder-ee.

This put the faeries in a very nasty situation. All the magic that they had been drawing on and casting had suddenly and abruptly been sucked away. And, because they couldn't access the magic of the world around them for the moment, this meant that they had to draw rather heavily on their reserves. And of course, once their magic moved out of the reserves and started becoming active, my spell sucked it away again.

I'd worked myself into this state once by overusing my magic. It had been like being a deafblind quadruple amputee. Everything I had, every method that I used to sense the world, even things so automatic that I was barely aware of them, had been gone. And my entire body had felt as if it had been filled with stabbing flames.

I'd survived, mostly through desperation, the courage of others, using power from seriously questionable sources, and sheer dumb luck. But it had taken me a month to get back to what I considered normal. And I'd had nightmares for years.

But I'm human. I could survive without magic. I wouldn't want to—being a wizard is who and what I am—but I could.

Faeries, however, are creatures of magic. And these faeries had just lost a hell of a lot of energy while being cut off from the power in this room.

Ever see a fish drowning in air?

As the creatures of Faerie collapsed to the floor---and trust me, you haven't lived until you've seen a weakened and haggard troll—I checked to see what the vampires were doing. And I got a nasty surprise.

The Red Court's fleshmasks were falling from them in bits and pieces. And, thanks to my spell, they couldn't grow new ones. They were exposed as what they were—human-sized bat-like creatures with black leathery skin coated with slime, cavernous jaws and empty eyes.

And they were furious.

I heard a gasp of shock from Charity and an "Oh, fuck," from Hendricks.

As the vampires surged forward, their narcotic saliva dripping from their fangs, I decided it was time for Harry's Plan, Part Two.

Quickly I drew the cyclone of stolen energy into my body, trying not to let myself bask in how good it felt, reminding myself that this wasn't something I could get used to. Then, as the power coursed through me, I whispered, "Cyclis zephyrus!"

A breeze began blowing around the room, carrying a number of things with it—bills, Post-It notes, pencils and handkerchiefs. No one paid any attention, save to swat the items out of the way and give them an occasional disgusted glare.

"Bravo, Mister Dresden," John said, pulling a knife out of I-don't-know-where. "A valiant effort. But it seems to have failed." He stepped forward, as if to go back to the battle...which, admittedly, was becoming desperate.

I gripped his arm with my burned hand, lifted my staff and shouted, "Fuego sudaria!"

Every handkerchief rotating in the air instantly burst into flames. Ordinarily this would just create fireballs, but these were special handkerchiefs. The kind that I use to store potions materials. Each contained a beam of sunlight.

My magic, the flames and the sunlight merged to create a dozen or so miniature suns.

I'd been working on this spell since before the White Court had brokered a peace between the Red Court and the wizards. When peace was declared, I had a perfectly good offensive spell and nowhere to use it except for home defense. So that was what I'd done. I'd never used it before, except in experiments. I'd only used it now because we were out of options and I knew two things for certain:

Red Court vampires and faeries don't like sunlight.

And right now, both groups were suffering from magic deprivation...and were thus extremely vulnerable.

It didn't take long after that. The vampires and faeries writhed about and tried to crawl off into corners, but they didn't get very far. And, speaking as someone who's tried this, it's not easy to fight an enemy when they're armed and standing up and you're flat on your back, weakened and in great pain. The vampires still had talons and teeth and saliva that drugged anyone it touched into a state of euphoria, the ogres and trolls still had fists and feet like blunt instruments, the nuckelavees still had poisonous breath...but the sunlight was a killer, and they couldn't get away from it. Between the mini-suns, swords, knives, guns, the broken-off arm of a couch, Michael's cane and Mouse's barks, we overcame them very quickly. And we didn't leave a single one alive to tell the tale.

"Hey, the portal's gone," Hendricks said as we flopped down to rest in various spots that were unstained by the black ichor of vampire blood or the blue-green goo that faeries use.

"Yeah," I said. "The spell I stole active magic—spells that they were using--away from my enemies. I guess it interpreted Molly as an enemy." I glanced over at Molly, who was still pinned to the ground by Mouse. "Correctly, as it happens."

"What are you going to do with her?" Michael asked, rubbing his bad leg.

Luccio gazed at Molly as if she were a new and particularly lethal virus. "Death is the traditional means of dealing with warlocks."

Hendricks looked at Luccio as if he couldn't believe the idiocy of wizards. "That's stupid. You guys keep treating her like a human who's fucked up. You gotta stop doing that. She thinks faerie, so treat her like a faerie. Put her someplace where she can't get to Summer or Winter, with someone who can actually do her kind of magic and do it better than she can. Cut her off from her magic, if you have to. But don't kill her! Jesus Christ, you realize how many plots and secrets she's got in that little head? Like, you know, which of the boss's people have been affected? Thought he was one of your barons now. Or hell, which of your people were affected that you don't know about yet. You can't afford to lose that shit!"

"She doesn't deserve to get away with it again," Luccio said sternly. "As long as she lives she's going to be a threat."

"What, like him?" Hendricks said, jerking a thumb in my direction. "Don't like him, but you need more people who can be that kind of threat. And exile, prison and rehab ain't 'getting away with it.'" He glanced at Marcone, who was sitting to the left of me. "Believe me, I know."

"As long as you do not offer her friendship," Gard said sternly, and I knew that Odin's words had been echoing in her mind as they had in mine. "She has played the helpless and innocent maiden for far too long."

After that it was all over but the negotiations with the Senior Council; no one ever considered talking to Titania. And when Luccio and Murphy left, Molly—forcibly escorted by Mouse—went with them.

Shortly after that, Michael and Charity went home more than a little shell-shocked. It's not easy to discover that the person you love and that you thought loved you was a complete lie. I'd learned this when I was sixteen and my teacher and adoptive father first attempted to enslave me, and then tried to kill me. I couldn't say that I was over it yet.

But I'd learned to live with it. Hopefully, they would too.

Finally, we were down to me, John, Hendricks and Gard. And a murmured command or two was enough to banish them...albeit very reluctantly. Hendricks gave me a death glare over his shoulder as he left. Remember. Anything happens to him, I'll kill you.

Once the door closed after them, John looked at me and addressed me for the first time since I'd made the mini-suns appear. And he sounded as if he was starting in the middle of an argument.

"You cannot do this lightly, you know. I'm selfish. If you want to experiment--if this is some brief indulgence before you meet up with yet another curvaceous blonde or brunette—then I would rather you found someone else. And if you think being with me will change or corrupt you, then it's better if we don't start. You're better as you are."

"John. Idiot." I reached out and cupped his stubbled face in my hands. "Stop with the warnings. They're not going to change anything. I've wanted you for a long time. I just didn't realize until today that coming out was even possible...or that it wasn't necessary. Because they know, John. They all know. I mean, I haven't spoken to the Alphas or Thomas or Eb McCoy or...well, a lot of people. But everyone I talked to today was like, 'Duh, Harry. We know you like guys. We've known that for years.' Hell's bells, even Odin knew. And approved.

"I'm not sayin' everyone is thrilled," I continued. "Hendricks is worried about your proclivities and mine getting us killed, Murph is going to have issues about having to work with a Mafia don in her Knight capacity, never mind one who's her consultant's...something. 'Boyfriend' sounds too kiddish. I don't even wanna get into the White Court's reaction. And I think we can safely say that Titania hates the idea and has been trying to keep us apart for a while. I mean, there's a few billion problems.

"But." I took my hands away from his face and held out my arms. "Yours. Stubborn. Quixotic. Anger management issues up the wazoo. Trouble incarnate. But yours, if you want."

He stared at me for a few minutes. "Didn't it ever occur to you to come out to me first?"

"Um...no? I kind of thought you knew."

"And you call me an idiot..." He threw back his head and laughed for a long time. I couldn't help but notice that it made him look years younger.

Then he pounced, pinning me down as effectively as Mouse had pinned down Molly.

"So," he said in a conversational tone that didn't quite hide a tigerish growl. "I think it's time that we had a real date, as opposed to an implicit one. Have you ever watched the sun come up on an island?"

"No..."

"Then I think we should go immediately. It's only a few hours till dawn, after all."

We did arrive on Demonreach before dawn, but by the time the sun rose a few hours later, neither of us saw it.

We were...preoccupied.

***

End Notes: The term "chivalry lemming" is used in the TV Tropes Dresden Files section to describe Harry. Frankly, I think that describes Harry perfectly. The term "Xanatos gambit," which refers to an extremely complex plan put in place by an extraordinarily devious villain, can also be found at TV Tropes.

The Dog Latin Harry quotes when "blessing" Murphy can be found here.

The spells "Cyclis exuviarum veneficarum!" and "Fuego sudaria" are non-canonical, and the Latin is as correct as I could make it. "Exuviarum veneficarum" does mean "of the magical spoils of the enemy," while "sudaria" is the plural for "sudarium," which is Latin for "handkerchief" or "towel."

The following lines, spoken by Odin, are from W.H. Auden's and P.B. Taylor's translation of The Havamal (The Words of the High One) and can be found here:
A man should be loyal through life to friends,
To them and to friends of theirs,
But never shall a man make offer
Of friendship to his foes
.

And of course, when Harry speaks of Murphy's vorpal blade going snicker-snack, he's quoting "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll.
 
 
Current Mood: busy
 
 
 
Kevin Jonesmulder200 on May 11th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
What a fabulous story! I also like Harry's revelation that he likes Marcone as more than just a friend and the embarrassment that everyone already knows.

And the fact that Molly was a traitor was a surprise but at the same time very fitting.
Gehayi: cocky grin (songstressicons)gehayi on May 11th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm so glad you liked it!
beachkid on May 11th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
hopefully you know my absolute <3 for this fic. the more island!time the better, and nothing quite beats poor charity's rather exasperated explosion. changling!molly remains distressing, and it's rather a treat how comparatively easily the chlorofiend was defeated, compared to in Summer Knight; harry's grown up a little. and has mouse. michael needs a lesson in what are his secrets and what aren't, and murphy/luccio ftw. \o/ hooray! island story!


Edited at 2009-05-11 04:27 pm (UTC)
Gehayi: happy wizard (gehayi)gehayi on May 11th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
Charity has had so much to worry about with Harry--his magic, his being a trouble magnet, his knowing her secret, and his habit of eying Michael's muscles on top of it all. It's a wonder the poor woman even speaks to him.

And yes, Michael does need to learn what is and is not secret. DESPERATELY.

Harry is doing better against chlorofiends these days. I suppose years of practice and a few power upgrades help. Plus, you know, Mouse. You gotta love a dog that can shatter a car window with his voice.

and murphy/luccio ftw.

You know what I'm proudest of? That Murphy/Luccio doesn't in any way contradict Murphy/Kincaid.

And I am so very glad you love it! *beams!*


Edited at 2009-05-11 04:51 pm (UTC)
duckgirlieduckgirlie on May 11th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
Y'know, the word 'epic' is misused a lot lately, not least by me, but in this instance, I feel confident I'm using it correctly.

This was Epic. The capital E is very important.
Gehayi: dresden/marcone (beachkid)gehayi on May 11th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm quite enormously flattered!
mizface on May 11th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
Y'know, the problem with fics like this is that I read them and then I *want* them to be canon, because they're so terrifc. And then they *aren't* and I read books in the "real" series and am disappointed because this? Is how it should be.

Which is to say I enjoyed this story immensely.
Gehayi: shinykaylee (aladriana)gehayi on May 11th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
I love it when someone wishes my stories were canon. That's hugely, enormously flattering.

And...I'm with you, obviously. This is how it should be.
indusnmindusnm on May 12th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
This is really good, professional good. You've obviously worked really hard on getting an authentic, voice, and I can definitely feel it.

Thanks for posting!
Gehayi: storyteller (yuki_onna)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very glad to know that it's good in a professional way; I try to make everything I write, fanfic and profic, of good quality.
Fancyspinnerfancyspinner on May 12th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
Bravo! Very awesome! Loved the island and how its kind of alive.
Gehayi: shinykaylee (aladriana)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
Loved the island and how its kind of alive.

Thank you! That was my interpretation of Turn Coat. Harry did seem to be in communication with the island, or at least with its genius loci.

And I'm so glad that you thought that the story was awesome!
Settiai: Dresden -- totallygay81settiai on May 12th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. This was amazing.
Gehayi: turn coat (art by mcgrath)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
Oh, excellent! Thank you! I'm so glad you think so!
Silver Wolf: Dresden Filessilverwolf on May 12th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
That was truly awesome!
Gehayi: happy wizard (gehayi)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 05:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm delighted that you liked it!
The Mellifluous Leaper 182: DF - Wizardleaper182 on May 12th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
\o/ \o/ \o/

At least I know what you meant about Molly actually getting serious consequences for her actions. I've been annoyed with her since she was introduced (sadly), and I liked her getting her comeuppance.

That said, all of the things you've mentioned in this fic -- the duality of John and Harry's troubles, all of these little revelations about the series thus far (which are freaking completely true, omg) -- have me thinking about the series. I have no idea if jimbutcher intended for all of that to happen, or if he just wrote that out subconsciously, but I totally got hit with the cluebat when you pointed those things out with this fic. It's always nice to read essays/fic from fellow fans and realize new things about the series that I'd never thought of or considered before.

Need I say that I loved seeing Bob? It was like reading book!Bob, and while TV!Bob is really a favorite, there's stuff I love about book!Bob too. <3

ETA: Also, Mouse. Nothing else need be said.

Edited at 2009-05-12 04:20 am (UTC)
Gehayi: cocky grin (songstressicons)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
I've been annoyed with her since she was introduced (sadly)

So have I, and for a long time I regarded her as Butcher's Sue--the pretty young woman who keeps getting away with murder for no clear reason.

And then it was revealed in Turn Coat that:

1) Luccio--who had the most wished-on-her relationship with Harry ever--was revealed to have been under mind control for years; and

2) A rather large number of young wizards were revealed to have been put under mind control as well by an older wizard. But we didn't know who was working with him, or who he was working for. Not only that, the young wizards had been under control for several years (I think the in-book estimate was three or four).

So very much mind control going on.

And by coincidence, there was a young woman in the cast already who was canonically good at mental magic, and who kept invading minds and persuading people against their will seemingly by accident. And no matter how many times she broke the Laws, she always got off.

Maybe that wasn't a symptom of her Sueishness. Maybe that was a clue. Maybe she was persuading people to let her off. She did break the Fourth Law a fair bit. And it didn't seem to bother her.

And wasn't it interesting that most of the wizards who were the victims of this magic were younger wizards--effectively, Molly's contemporaries?

And that even those who knew that she had the means to affect minds--such as Harry and the Senior Council--didn't suspect her for a second, even though Harry gets suspected at the drop of a fedora?

And wasn't it interesting that Molly kept being described as a innocent girl/young girl/kid...even though she was in her early to mid-twenties by now?

Hmmm. Something wasn't right here.

And then I realized something. By Molly's admission, she first used magic a couple of years before Dead Beat, casting a veil when she was about fifteen or sixteen. And then I remembered Harry saying that one of the first things that most kids do when they discover magic is use their will to make others do what they want. And it doesn't take long for a young Dresdenverse wizard to develop a taste for black magic, according to Harry and the Council. Weeks, maybe months.

Then figure that Molly had at least two years of mental magic under her belt by the time Harry caught up with her, plus about three years apprenticeship. She had a long time to get addicted to the black.

So I started thinking about it, and this was the result. I didn't want Molly to be the villain. I didn't want anyone to feel that I was demonizing her to get her out of the way of Harry/John. But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that Molly was evil. And that she was certain beyond question that she was doing good.

That said, all of the things you've mentioned in this fic -- the duality of John and Harry's troubles, all of these little revelations about the series thus far (which are freaking completely true, omg) -- have me thinking about the series. I have no idea if jimbutcher intended for all of that to happen, or if he just wrote that out subconsciously, but I totally got hit with the cluebat when you pointed those things out with this fic. It's always nice to read essays/fic from fellow fans and realize new things about the series that I'd never thought of or considered before.

Thank you! I'm glad I made you think about it. Butcher is, I think, up to something more subtle than I expected.

Need I say that I loved seeing Bob? It was like reading book!Bob, and while TV!Bob is really a favorite, there's stuff I love about book!Bob too. <3

ETA: Also, Mouse. Nothing else need be said.


They were great fun to write. I enjoyed that a great deal.

And thank you again!
Jamie P. Blazeluxluthor on May 12th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
Ohhh, what a wonderfull sory!!!
harrys and Johns evolution was charming. The unveiling of the plot was just perfect..and I did liked that Molly was the traitor.
The island was beautiful!
Thanks a lot for sharing:)
Gehayi: harry with hat (art by mcgrath)gehayi on May 12th, 2009 06:19 am (UTC)
Thank you so very much! I'm delighted that you enjoyed so many aspects of the story. (And I'm very pleased and relieved that you liked Molly being the traitor.)
(Deleted comment)
Gehayi: cocky grin (songstressicons)gehayi on May 15th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
Gah! Thanks for telling me about the link! (I fixed it almost as soon as you told me, but I hadn't had a chance to say so before now.)

And thank you. I'm very glad that the dialogue is good and that the story is easy to read and un-clunky. (Clarity is something I strive for, especially with stories that have complicated plots.)
jade_dragoness: harry dresdenjade_dragoness on May 12th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
*sighs with deep and heartfelt delight*

I could reread this fic a bajillion times. *pleased*

Thank you so much for writing it!
Gehayi: harry with hat (art by mcgrath)gehayi on May 17th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU for loving it, and for wanting to re-read it!
Kriskristories on May 12th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
This was absolutely wonderful and completely captivating. The only thing bothering me is that it felt a little rushed, but it didn't detract from anything.

Thank you so much for sharing! This is definitely going into my 'reread often' pile, though I'll admit, I'd like to see more about them building on the island.
Gehayi: cocky grin (songstressicons)gehayi on May 17th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
There may be more of them on the island in the future. Demonreach is a place with a personality. (And John Marcone has his own stories to tell, too.)

And thank YOU! I'm so flattered that you found it captivating!
drovardrovar on May 12th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
What a great story! The dialog and characterization are spot on, and you tie a great plot right back into the whole series, fantastic work.
Gehayi: happy wizard (gehayi)gehayi on May 17th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm especially pleased that you found the characterization spot-on--I worried about whether or not people would find Harry and Molly believable. I'm very glad you did.
samjohnssonsamjohnsson on May 13th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
Huh. Jim Butcher posted a new story. Coolness.

...wait...

Butcher didn't write this. Wow. Awesomeness.

I will echo S_R_T, though - part III felt a little rushed - I kinda had to check at one point if I had skipped over a section. When he "explained the phone call" to Michael et alia, he seems to pull the step-by-step of the Xanatos Gambit out of thin air.

On a side note, somehow, considering the about of time Harry spent with the Alphas, including [Billy's girl], Harry using "Xanatos Gambit" doesn't sound odd at all.
Gehayi: happy wizard (gehayi)gehayi on May 17th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry it felt a bit rushed. I'll work on that in the future.

On the plus side, this really made my week:

Huh. Jim Butcher posted a new story. Coolness.

...wait...

Butcher didn't write this. Wow. Awesomeness.


Thank you SO much!
(no subject) - samjohnsson on May 18th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC) (Expand)