In part one of the post covering Cold Days, we saw Harry embark on a new career path. Or two. And make some questionable decisions. In part two of our recap of the fourteenth book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, we see Harry and his friends grapple with the consequences of these career choices. Spoilers beyond the jump.
Our last post left off with Molly, Harry and Thomas leaving Demonreach. They drive to Thomas’s apartment and on the way Thomas explains that the Brighter Future Society, from Ghost Story, was Lara’s idea. That she’s allied with Marcone, though only in a strictly business way. Thomas explains that the Fomor are bad news, though the alliance in Chicago has kept them out. But other cities in the US aren’t doing so well. The White Council seems tied up in the Mediterranean. Lara and the Paranet have been helping keep the rest of the US. Thomas says that Lara’s getting scary, that she’s extending her reach into government. That she wants total control. Harry decides to put her on his to-do list.
As they pull into a parking garage, a car pulls up behind them. Fix, the Summer Knight, is in it. He is worried about Harry being the Winter Knight, what he’s capable of. What he might do. Fix gives Harry until noon to get out of town, or else he will come at him. And not in a fair fight. Of course Harry can’t just leave.
At Thomas’s apartment Harry makes a phone call, asking for a meeting, to an unknown individual, fully aware that Lara Raith’s bugs will pick up the conversation. Then, making sure no one can listen in, Harry summons Cat Sith and asks him to discourage any pursuit when they leave Thomas’s apartment. He also asks the malk to contact the Summer Lady and set up a meeting before noon to talk about Fix. Then he gets a call back telling him the meeting is on Accorded Neutral Ground, which of course means....
...Mac’s! As they approach, Molly senses a presence that she hasn’t felt since Chichen Itza. Inside, the person who Harry asked to meet is revealed. Donar Vadderung, Odin, the Allfather. Harry wants to chat with him and offers him a favor. And a nickel. Vadderung seems to know all about the island, what it contains and what’s about to happen to it. Vadderung, part of the Grey Council and knower of many secrets, tells Harry that the event that attacks the prison is likely going to happen in the next day. And nearby. Harry asks him to take over, but Vadderung tells him that only Harry can do it. It’s his island. He also says that he knows because Harry may have already done so.
Harry sends Molly to get some pizza and organize Toot’s guard. After she leaves, Thomas tells Harry that he’s looking at her like she’s food. Prey. Like a predator. Harry agrees to watch himself. The mantle of the Winter Knight is exerting influence—feelings of possessiveness, lust, being territorial. Then mist appears outside the bar and some creatures call for Harry to leave the bar. It’s almost unheard of for anyone to attack Accorded Neutral Ground.
Harry asks Mac if he should take it outside, but Mac just gets ready to shoot. Something explodes into the bar, a raggedy dark creature trailing cloth. Harry uses his magic to protect Mac and himself but takes a shot to his head. The thing is powerful. It eventually reveals itself to be a tall humanoid dressed in strips of cloth. It has no eyes, skin like a shark, and a ridge of bone where teeth should be. It urges Harry to surrender and his friends will be okay. Harry and Thomas quip at it until Mac tells Harry to just kill it. Sharkface calls Mac “watcher” and says he chose his road long ago (hmmm...).
Sharkface launches a psychic attack of despair that affects all three of them until Harry fights it off. Then he whips up a quick “feugo” and follows that up with physical blows, his fists actually icing up as he pummels the creature. But the fire ignites the alcohol. Sharkface takes the opportunity to slither away, and Harry uses his winter powers to stop the fire. He gets Thomas and Mac together and drops a bomb on them. Outsiders. That’s what the thing was. The big bad bogeymen of the series to date.
Harry explains a bit about Outsiders to Thomas, or rather what little is known. That they’re not of the universe. He refers to the one Outsider that Peabody released in Turn Coat and how many wizards it killed. Harry guesses that they’re planning a jailbreak at the Well. Harry makes to leave before the cops come, but stops and asks Mac for help. He knows that Mac knows something but Mac refuses to talk. All he does is indicate, by way of beer bottles, that there are three of them involved.
As Harry and Thomas leave, Cat Sith appears to say that the Summer Lady has agreed to his request for a meeting. At the Chicago Botanic Gardens. But only if Harry goes alone. Harry meets Lily near the Japanese garden and notices that she looks more than ever like Aurora. It’s a difficult meeting, both of them tense. Harry once more feels Lloyd Slate-like urges, but suppresses them. But not before Lily notices.
Harry manages to convince Lily that he hasn’t gone completely over to Mab. She hints that there’s something going on that Harry isn’t aware of. He allows her to touch him, which convinces her that “he’s not taken.” She reveals her cadre of faeries, her bodyguards, so to speak. Harry asks what’s going on, and after a quick spell of silence, Lily spills.
She says she was checking for a parasite, a poison. A mental plague that has been spreading. The thing that warped the minds of Victor Sells (Storm Front), Agent Denton (Fool Moon), and Leonid Kravos (Grave Peril). She also explains that people don’t speak of it because if someone is infected, they will seek to contain it. Then something unexpected happens—Maeve appears, allied with Lily. She says that Mab is infected by the contagion and that someone will have to destroy her to prevent her destroying the world.
Maeve goes on to say that Mab’s plan involves the island. Harry presses both Ladies, asking for direct answers, since they can’t lie. Lily says that the contagion is real and works as she says it does. Maeve confirms that Mab is infected and she’s examined her at the party. Maeve explains that Lea’s imprisonment in Arctis Tor from Proven Guilty was when Mab spread the contagion to her. They urge Harry to do something. Harry asks about Titania and Lily explains that she refuses to act, though she doesn’t know why. Harry can do something because his power is the same as Mab’s. As we’ve seen with Nicodemus and others, you can’t defend against the source of your own power.
Harry asks for any other bits of information and is told that he can’t speak of this to any of his friends for fear that they’re infected. And that, if he helps, Lily will speak to Fix. Maeve indicates that her people are going to attack Harry. It’s necessary to keep up appearances, after all. Leading the group is the Redcap. Lily helps to delay them by demanding Maeve introduce them, but as Harry’s fleeing he runs into a man in a leather jacket and the diminutive Captain Hook. Leather guy slams Harry with a baseball bat and Hook nails him. Harry recognizes Ace, the changeling from Summer Knight. And he smacks Harry in the head with his bat.
Ace is angry, trying to hurt Harry, so Harry plays along, hoping to last by taking some of the blows without breaking bones. Harry expects Thomas to help back him up, but Karrin Murphy appears instead. She puts Ace down, then swats his Little Folk friends from the air with a collapsible baton. Then Thomas shows up and Murphy manages to dig the cold iron nails out of Harry. Just in time for the Redcap and his buddies to appear.
There’s a bit of a standoff where Redcap lets loose that Ace is his changeling son, and then some of the Redcap’s lickspittles start to disappear as Cat Sith takes them out. Action erupts and Harry slings a few spells before tangling with Captain Hook. He takes a cut to the face and then they retreat, jumping into Thomas’s car, making for Molly’s apartment. Harry realizes that an unconscious Captain Hook is still stuck to his jacket. Then he passes out.
Harry wakes up to Butters giving him medical attention and removing fishhook barbs from under his skin. Seems cold iron interferes with the Winter Knight’s mojo. Butters also seems to think that Mab messed with Harry’s pain threshold, making him not realize the damage he’s sustained. Butters also lets Harry know that Murphy hasn’t been doing well. She’s run off most of her friends except for Butters and Molly.
She comes to talk to Harry as he changes clothes. She believes that Harry is Harry, but she’s worried that he’s going to become Mab’s. Not all at once, but little by little, all the while with Harry thinking he’s doing the right thing. She asks him to give up Bob. Harry agrees to let her give Bob back to Butters. Murphy also says that she found the Swords of the Cross and she’s not going to tell Harry where they are or give them back. Harry gets mad, more Winter Knight spillover, and he slams the door behind her, realizing he could break her neck. Murphy doesn’t flinch, she just takes Harry’s hands, asking for his trust. Harry backs away. Before she leaves, he asks her what happens if he does go bad. Her answer is heartbreaking. “I work with a lot of monsters these days.”
Molly arrives with Toot-toot, whom Harry puts in charge of guarding Captain Hook. Molly lays out a map of the area on the table after Thomas gets patched up and Harry starts marking nodes that could be used to power the attack on Demonreach. Harry will send the guard to scout out the six likely locations. Harry explains that it might be Mab they’re up against, with the Outsiders, but he also notes that Lily and Maeve might have been misled. Thinking about the contagion has Harry start to doubt the people around him. It could have spread easily. So he keeps things vague, bringing up the Black Council, the puppet masters. Though Harry admits, to himself at least, that the Black Council could be just another offshoot of the faceless enemy. Harry outlines the plan—to find the ritual site and wreck it. The only backup they can count on is Lara Raith and Murphy’s Viking squad. Then they let out Captain Hook who manages to make a break for it.
Which is when Toot saves the day, intercepting Captain Hook and almost taking him out until he invokes Winter Law, offering to become Harry’s prisoner in return for sanctuary. Harry can’t have him betray his previous agreements, though, so Harry says to screw Winter Law, which instantly removes the mantle of the Winter Knight from him, instantly restoring him to his paralyzed state. If he doesn’t uphold Winter Law, he loses his mojo. Luckily it comes back to him a moment later.
Toot explains that Hook is now Harry’s vassal. Harry asks for a name (not THE name) and it turns out it’s Lacuna. Also, Hook is female. She can’t tell Harry much without betraying the person she’s working for. Also she doesn’t like pizza. Instead she likes celery, green tea and cheese. It seems clear that Toot has an instant crush on her.
Harry sends his people off, then goes by himself to the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, otherwise known as the Magic Hedge. Harry points out that in addition to a bird sanctuary, it’s a place for gay men to meet up with other gay men, presumably for sex. There, Harry summons Titania, the Summer Queen, often referred to in the series, but never before seen. She appears for him, girded for battle, and beautiful in the way that Mab is, only different.
Titania is pissed, summoned by a mortal, by the man who killed her daughter. Harry wants to know if Mab is really herself or not. Titania says she hasn’t seen Mab in a long while. Harry pleads with her for help. Titania asks Harry what he thinks of the gay guys at the sanctuary. Harry says, in his words, “boink and let boink.” He doesn’t know if it’s right or wrong, but doesn’t really care. He doesn’t feel like he’s in a place to judge anyone. And also, he believes that people should be free to do what they want, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else.
Titania asks why Harry serves Mab. Harry explains it was a bargain. Titania says that Mab is a creature of reason. Cold logic. Titania is a creature of the heart. She wants to kill Harry for killing her daughter, visit a thousand million torments upon him for that. But she won’t. That wouldn’t bring Aurora back. She mentions that Elder Gruff helped her see that. She understands what had to be done, but can’t forgive Harry. What she ultimately gives Harry is the name of what it is he faces, the contagion. It’s called Nemesis, and it’s aware. She warns him not to speak its name lest it hear him. Then Titania leaves.
Harry then visits his grave and works another summoning. Using the power of death on Halloween, he summons Mother Winter this time. Nothing happens, until a huge hand appears and grabs his head, pulling him down through the bottom of his grace and into a dark chamber. Mother Winter seems as pissed off as Titania to be summoned. Maybe more so. She threatens to kill Harry, make him into stew. Harry asks her which Winter to believe—Maeve or Mab? He mentions Nemesis, and that he’s the Winter Knight. But Mother Winter seems determined to kill him and take back his mantle.
Mother Winter is keeping Harry down with pure will, but Harry has free will, he is headstrong and has been honing his will for years. He throws everything he has, with soulfire mixed in, and he frees himself. Harry mouths off, of course, and only just manages to avoid the cleaver Mother Winter throws at him. Mother Winter laughs and then the room lights.
Harry finds himself in the cottage he visited before to see Mothers Winter and Summer. Summer is nicer than Winter, but Harry is still on dangerous ground here. Summer offers to show Harry, but warns him, like some have in the past, that he can’t unsee what she will show him, he can’t unknow it. And it might be dangerous to him. He agrees to go with her. As they walk, they talk, like faeries often do, in riddles. But Mother Summer tells Harry that he still has a chance to stay himself as the Winter Knight. All the Knights do, but most fail.
Mother Summer changes Harry’s clothes to armor and tells him to stick close, then she takes them to a mountain where they oversee a huge battle being fought beyond an immense wall. Winter troops fighting against Outsiders. Thousands and thousands of troops. Mother Summer tells Harry they are on the borders of Faerie. Mab’s power is devoted to protecting reality from the Outsiders. Titania’s power is to protect people from Mab. Mother Summer says that if Mab dies, Maeve will gain control of those forces. The adversary, Nemesis, is seeking to open the gates for the Outsiders.
There are Summer Sidhe present as well. Medics, tending to the Winter soldiers. Then Rashid, the Gatekeeper appears, and the significance of his name is at long last made clear. He welcomes Harry to the Outer Gates. Rashid mentions that he knew Margaret LeFey and knows that she was Ebenezar’s daughter, meaning that the Blackstaff trusts him. He takes off his hood revealing his fake eye which Harry now recognizes as the same crystal as the gates and the wall. Rashid echoes something that Vadderung said, that Harry’s attracted some attention by coming back. Harry offers to help Rashid.
Harry asks Rashid how he can detect the adversary. Rashid says the Sight can help but he doesn’t recommend it. His eye apparently can see it. And the gates help them identify it as well. Harry asks what will happen if there’s a hiccup in Winter, if Mab goes and Maeve takes over. Rashid promises that it would be problematic. He also tells Harry the best thing he can do is to return to Chicago and keep being him. Rashid promises to help Harry with the White Council, with the paperwork to help reinstate him. But it’s all up to him. There is no other help. Harry asks to be taken back home.
Harry heads back to Molly’s and showers and considers what he’s learned. But nothing comes out as a clear answer. Then Lacuna lets him know as he’s getting dressed that he has a visitor. That visitor turns out to be Sarissa. She has been beaten and she carries a message from the Redcap. He’s taken Butters, Andi, Justine and Mac. He wants Harry to surrender to him before sundown, or else he’ll feed them to the rawhead. Harry tries to summon Cat Sith, but the malk doesn’t appear. Harry has Molly track their friends using the hair the Redcap so helpfully provided (as proof of their capture). There’s a bit more of the Winter Knight mantle being violent and sexual. Then they leave, letting Sarissa stay.
In the car, Molly says she can feel the urges in Harry, being a sensitive. Harry says it’s under control. He won’t take anything from her. She says it’s not taking if it’s given freely. But Harry doesn’t love her, and he can’t hurt her. They go to the Carpenter house where everyone is out, and Molly brings out Mouse. And therein follows a wonderful reunion as Harry’s dog is gleefully happy to see him.
What happens next? Do Harry and Molly rescue their friends without damage? Can Harry control his urges? Check back next week for the last post in the series.
Rajan Khanna is a writer, blogger, and narrator who is bound to find the wait for the next Dresden book to be agonizing. In the meantime, he will likely concoct grand scenarios to explain some of the ongoing plot threads. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.