Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.
Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...
He's fighting to save his child.
Harry Dresden answers the phone, and Susan tells him that the Red Court has kidnapped their daughter. He and Mouse go to McAnally's to recover from the shock. Harry explains the situation, and Mac tells Harry that he must be careful. Something like this will test him like nothing else before.
Harry returns home, and cleans in preparation for Susan's visit. Susan and her partner, Martin, show up at about one in the morning. Harry and Susan argue about what the best course of action would have been to ensure their daughter Maggie's safety. Susan explains that she came into town because there is a Red Court outpost where they can try to get information about where the vampires are taking their daughter.
Martin drives Harry and Susan to the Red Court outpost- Harry's office building. The Reds had purchased it several years ago (and raised his rent) specifically because it was Harry's office. Martin and Susan tell Harry to wait outside- the data they need is probably on computers, and his magic would screw things up. As he waits outside, his instincts warn him of an incoming threat. He quickly throws up a veil, and is hidden from sight as a team of Red Court vampires enters the building. He follows them in undetected, and with the aid of Susan and Martin, is able to kill four of the five vampires that entered the building. The fifth manages to escape and warn the sixth vampire that waited outside as a scout. Harry, Susan, and Martin manage to escape down a back alley when the building explodes.
A cab drops Susan and Martin off at a cheap motel, where they can go over the data they were able to recover. The cab takes Harry back to his apartment. Harry is exhausted, having laced his spells at the building with soulfire, but manages to stay awake. Karrin Murphy comes by to get Harry's take on his now former office building exploding. Harry explains that the Red Court had wired it to blow. He then tells Murphy about his daughter being kidnapped. Murphy immediately volunteers to be part of the team to get her back.
In Edinburgh, Duchess Arianna Ortega, Paolo Ortega's widow, has shown up as a peace ambassador. The peace effort is robustly endorsed by Gregori Cristos, the newest member of the Senior Council who is backed by a large faction of the White Council. Even though the White Council has pledged her safe conduct, that doesn't stop Harry from challenging her to a duel in front of about a thousand other wizards. Arianna is all calm rationality while making sure Harry can see how mocking she is. Before Harry can do anything to get in more trouble with the Council, Anastasia Luccio leads him away.
Luccio takes him to the Warden's Worry Room, a place for Wardens to come and drink their frustrations away. Without ever going into detail, Harry reveals enough that Luccio knows what's going on. She councils him to not reveal Maggie's existence to anyone he doesn't trust with his life. While they are talking, the Merlin of the Council comes into the Worry Room, and tells Harry that the Council isn't interested in peace talks. They're gathering their strength for a massive strike that will wipe out the entire Red Court, once and for all. The Merlin orders Harry to stand down, Harry refuses, and walks out.
Susan and Martin meet Harry back at his apartment with the information they were trying to recover. It's a list of objects, most likely for use in a ritual. Harry sends Molly off to Father Forthill to see if he's heard of anything unusual coming from Mexico. Susan and Martin slip out under one of Molly's veils to see who is following them around town, and reporting their moves to the Red Court. When they leave, Harry goes to his lab. Bob tells Harry that the ritual objects are major dark magic, with the trigger being a sacrifice. Harry theorizes that his daughter will be sacrificed at the apex of the ritual to launch a major attack against the White Council.
Murphy comes by to tell Harry that Rudolph, formerly of Special Investigations, now of Internal Affairs, has pointed the FBI at both Harry and Murphy. Harry can expect the FBI to come by at any time. As soon as Murphy leaves, the FBI starts trying to kick Harry's door down.
Harry has Bob deactivate the wards around the apartment so that the relatively innocent FBI agents aren't killed trying to break in. In the meantime, Harry stuffs as much of his magical gear into a gym bag as he can fit, to make sure the FBI doesn't have any reason to suspect him of illegal activity. He grabs the Swords of the Cross, and opens a gate into the Nevernever, which he has never done from his apartment before. The gate opens...
...into a field of flowers, where absolutely nothing with claws or fangs or magic tries to attack him. Yet. He spends a few moments taking in the pleasant, peaceful sights before setting off. He walks up one of three paths. While on the path, he realizes that the flowers growing around him are primroses (a favorite of his faerie godmother, the Leanansidhe). It's at this point that a giant centipede attacks him. He slices it into two pieces with a carefully controlled blast of flame (much more precise than usual) but the creature regenerates, and becomes two centipede demons. He raises a wall infused with soulfire, which wards against the creatures long enough for Harry to hide Bob, the Swords, and the gym bag of magic items, and open a gate back to his apartment. He is swiftly taken into FBI custody.
At the FBI headquarters, he meets Agent Barry Tilly, who has a small talent that allows him to tell when he's being lied to. Tilly admits that he doesn't think Harry could have blown up his own office building—his apartment is too cluttered, and disorganized bomb makers don't have much of a life expectancy. Off the record, Harry tells Tilly to look at the records of the company that owned the office building, and into the affairs of Paolo Ortega. Tilly lets Harry go.
Outside, Harry is mobbed by reporters when a dark sedan rolls by and someone inside it shoots Harry three times. Protected by his leather duster, Harry is unharmed, but unable to get a look at who shot him. Molly drives up a minute later in the Blue Beetle, and takes him home. On the way, Harry declines going to Michael Carpenter for assistance. Michael would be happy to help, but that would forgo the protection surrounding him and his family, keeping them safe from the supernatural world. Harry won't let that happen.
Back at the apartment, Mouse growls in warning as Harry walks down the steps. Inside, he finds his godmother, Lea, in his recliner, petting Mister, and Martin and Susan incapacitated. They talk, and Lea promises to keep Harry's bag safe until he needs it. In a flash of intuition, Harry asks Lea if his mother had left him a legacy, to be held in trust until he needed it. Lea smiles, and produces a ruby carved into the shape of a pentagon. It is the sum of Margaret LeFay's knowledge of the Ways of the Nevernever—where they have been, where they are, and where they will be. Great power, at a great price. Harry's mother lost the ability to sleep soundly. The effect may be worse for Harry, or it may be nothing at all. Despite the risks, Harry takes the jewel, noting that it is the perfect thing for a father to be able to Show Up for his child.
Martin and Susan wake up, and talk about how they're going to get to the storage facility where the ritual objects were being kept. Harry casually mentions that he's already been there, taken notes, and come back. Susan laughs, and they head out an hour later.
Once there, Harry passes out watered down flight potions that should act as a parachute as they scale a cliff. They short out the security cameras, distract the guardsmen and dogs, and break in. Even though the computer records have been erased, and the physical records destroyed, the trio is able to discover that all of the ritual objects are headed to Mexico because the Red Court still had to transit some other ritual objects (the employees for the delivery had been careless and forgotten it, mandating a second order, and because the truck hasn't left, they still have the records).
Back at the apartment, Harry finds out that Wardens Luccio and Ramirez, as well as several other Wardens, have been detained under suspicion of wanting to sabotage the peace efforts. The White Council will not support Harry as he tries to get his daughter back. Since the Council won't help, Harry turns to individuals.
He first calls Ebenezar McCoy, who flatly refuses to help. He orders Harry to attend a gathering of the Grey Council at one of their safe houses, and cuts their connection. After several more hours of summoning, Harry turns to Ivy, the Archive. She is under compulsion to not tell Harry where the ritual is being held, or to provide aid of any kind, as it may change the outcome of the future. However, after Harry threatens to turn to demonic aid she tells Harry that the last person he wants to see may have information that would help (sin is so vague Harry will only be able to use it if he's smart enough to work out what it means it technically isn't breaking her nuetrality). So his next call is to Gentleman Johnny Marcone.
Marcone and Harry meet at Burger King. After a few verbal jabs, Marcone admits that he's never regretted giving Harry help against their mutual enemies. And since the Red Court plans to sacrifice a child, Marcone is willing to give Harry what aid he can. His security consultant, Gard, tells Harry that her boss wants to meet with him. Her boss is Donar Vadderung, CEO of Monoc Securities, aka Odin.
In Oslo, Harry, Gard, and Vadderung meet in his office. Vadderdung has a policy of being prepared, and as such he has been able to procure the location of where the ritual will be held. Vadderung freely tells Harry that the ritual will be taking place in Chichen Itza, and that he is on Harry's side. The ritual that the Reds are preparing is the same one that Victor Sells used in Storm Front. It's a bloodline curse that will seek out the sacrifice's closest blood relations; first, her brothers and sisters, if any, then her parents and their brothers and sisters, and then the grandparents, and so on up the tree until the entire bloodline is extinguished. Vadderung also tells Harry that the Lords of Outer Night and the Red King himself will face off against Harry, and that they are
almost as powerful as Vadderung himself. Vadderung also tells Harry that he will not be able to survive the fight as he is. To prove it, Vadderung flattens Harry to the ground with nothing more than the power of his will. He leaves Harry doughnuts and tea as a parting snack.
Back at the apartment, Harry updates Molly, Susan, and Martin about the location of the ritual. Susan kisses Harry, and is about to lose control, but is brought back to reality by Martin. As they go outside for a walk, Harry starts thinking about ways he can save Maggie. He dwells on the different beings that have offered him power.
Harry meets Murphy at McAnally's Pub to update her on the situation. They decide the best course of action is to talk to Rudolph, since he's most likely being used as a cat's-paw by the Reds.
Harry and Molly stake out Rudolph's house, which is in a much nicer neighborhood than a police detective should be able to afford. Harry's brother, Thomas Raith meets them there, and Harry tells him that he's now an uncle. Thomas laughs until he realizes what Harry means. They talk about trying to get Lara Raith and the rest of the White Court to intervene. Harry would normally shoot down this idea without a second thought, but now he has the second thought. He tells Thomas he would prefer not to call on the Whites, but he will if necessary. Thomas hears breaking glass coming from Rudolph's house, and everyone takes off.
A demon comes out of the house, taking everyone by surprise. Thomas and Harry and struck down, but Molly distracts the creature before it can finish them off. This buys Thomas enough time to recover, and join the fight. The creature runs off, and Molly, Mouse, and Thomas run after it, leaving Harry alone. Two sets of glowing red eyes rush Harry and carry him off.
The Eebs (Esmerelda and Esteban Batiste, the vampires trailing Susan and Martin) had brought the demon (an Ik'k'uox) to kill Rudolph once they were finished with him. They tell Harry he has three options to save his daughter: gift her to the Red King, kill himself, or be turned into a vampire. Harry stalls them long enough for everyone else to find him and rescue him. The Eebs are driven off. Harry limps back to Rudolph's house and sees that the Blue Beetle has been completely destroyed.
Back at the apartment, Molly and Thomas talk about where they can take Harry. Without either of them really thinking about it, they initiate a soulgaze. Thomas almost begins to feed on her, but Mouse drives him off. Thomas almost attacks Mouse until Harry brings Thomas back to his senses. Thomas leaves, and Harry lectures Molly on being more careful. As they gather their things to leave, a Molotov cocktail is thrown from a passing car, and sets Harry's boardinghouse on fire.
Even though he's wounded, Harry is able to break through the roof of his apartment into his landlady's apartment. Before he climbs up, he breaks a window so Mister can escape. He warns the landlady of the fire, and helps her escape. They get a ladder to warn the Willoughbys, who live on the second floor. Harry falls off the ladder, but Sanya comes and saves the Willoughbys. Harry can't feel his legs.
Sanya and Molly take Harry to the church, being careful not to jostle his back too much. Harry visualizes his summoning circle and calls the archangel Uriel. Uriel says that he's not able to give Harry any more aid; Harry made his choices of his own free will, and those choices brought him to this point. Harry begs, but Uriel will not relent. Uriel does put Harry's doubts at rest by saying that Maggie really is his daughter, and that she's alive and well, for now. He leaves, and Harry calls on Mab, the Winter Queen, Queen of Air and Darkness.
Harry's spirit is transported to the Nevernever, to the Stone Table where he killed the Summer Lady, Aurora, in Summer Knight . Mab speaks to Harry through the Leanansidhe, since using her true voice would leave Harry broken and bleeding on the ground. Harry tells Mab that he wants power, and that he will take up the mantle of the Winter Knight. When his motives are questioned, he says that Mab is less evil than his other options. If he called the Denarian Lasciel, it wouldn't take long before he'd give in to his darker side. And he would kill a lot of people outright if he used Kemmler's Darkhallow to become a demigod. Mab requires Harry to kill Lloyd Slate, the previous Winter Knight, on the Stone Table, and they consummate their bargain.
Harry wakes up back in the church as Waldo Butters is using a defibrillator to shock his heart into beating again. Harry hexes the machine in his confusion. An assassin comes in, shoots Butters twice, and aims at Harry. Harry is able to use a new ice spell to freeze the gun, and the assassin is captured. It turns out that Butters was wearing a Kevlar vest he OK though bruised a bit.
Harry tells Father Forthill to see what he can find out about the security around Chichen Itza. He and Sanya question the assassin, Stevie D, and find out that Susan (or someone who looked like her) had hired the hit on Harry.
Harry calls on Major-General Toot-toot Minimus of the Za-Lord's Guard to find out where Susan and Martin are. He bribes Toot and the rest of the Guard with pizza. They return shortly, and report that Susan and Martin are in FBI custody. Harry goes to the FBI building, explains to Agent Tilly what's going on, and tells Tilly to verify the story with Susan. As soon as Tilly leaves, the Red Court attacks.
Harry, Murphy, Susan, and Tilly protect Rudolph as the Red Court moves through the building, trying to kill everyone inside. Harry casts an illusion of the others so they can escape without the Red Court noticing. Harry opens a gate to the Nevernever, Susan follows him in, with the Reds and their pet demon, the Ick, not far behind.
The gate opens into the Erlking's hall. Harry is able to use a slip of the Erlking's tongue to claim guestright for him, Susan, and the Reds. He listens to both sides of the story, and decides that the only way to know who is telling the truth of matters is to have a trial by combat. Harry and Susan face off against the Ik'k'uox and another Red vampire.
In the opening seconds of the battle, Harry is able to quickly finish the Red by sending a blast of force into him, and causing the Ick to crush him underfoot. Susan and Harry face off together against the Ick, and Susan is knocked out. Harry is able to use some of the power that he got from Mab to knock the Ick down long enough to bring the ceiling crashing down. With the conclusion of the battle, the remaining Red vampires are taken to the playgrounds of the goblin lords. Harry and Susan leave the Nevernever, to find that several hours have passed, and Harry fears that they won't get to Chichen Itza in time to stop the ritual. After Susan points out that the ritual may well occur after midnight, giving Harry the strength to keep fighting.
The Leanansidhe pulls up in a limo, and is able to get them back to the church in record time. She changes Harry's clothes into a suit of armor with a wider range of enchantments than his duster normally has, and does the same for Susan. Harry, Martin, Susan, Thomas, Mouse, Molly, Sanya, and Murphy get their gear together for the assault. Harry entrusts Murphy with the Sword Fidelacchius, and Susan with Amoracchius. He says it will only be for the battle, after which the swords will be returned to him. Ebenezar McCoy contacts him, and despite being furious initially he softens after Harry explains that a.) the location of the ritual is one of the most powerful magic spots on earth, as well as a place the reds haven't used for almost 500 years, and b.) that the little girl is his daughter.
Harry leads them through several gates, using his mother's gem to find the correct paths. Once in the jungles of Mexico, Lea changes everyone but Mouse into hounds, and they bound off through the jungle to the outskirts of Chichen Itza. As a hound, Harry is able to understand when Mouse speaks; they also arrive at the temple in less then ten minutes. Mouse tells Lea to change everyone back, or he will kill her, and get them back that way. Lea laughs at first, but quickly complies when Mouse starts to gather power. A vampire stumbles on the group, but isn't silenced before he sets off the alarm.
Harry taps into the ley line around Chichen Itza, and uses a massive earth spell to flatten a wave of hundrends vampires sent against them. He issues another challenge to Duchess Arianna, which is accepted due to the Red King's desire to see Arianna dead (because Harry's claim is equally legitimate the Red King can't allow Arianna to sacrifice Maggie, since if he does then Harry will die before he has a chance to collect his debt, making him guilty of violating his own laws; as such he can force Arianna to accept Harry's petition first, and should Harry win Arianna will be unable to perform the ritual due to being dead.)
Before the duel begins, Harry meets the Red King, who is shorter than Harry was expecting. Speaking through a translator, the Red King promises that Maggie won't be harmed until after the duel. During the conversation, Harry notices that the Red King isn't able to control his blood thirst, and is a slave to his cravings, much like a drug addict.
The Red King issues conditions for the duel: magic only, no physical contact, or the duel is forfeit. Arianna and Harry square off against one another, with Arianna summoning water magic to combat Harry's typical fire. She uses the steam as a distraction to sneak up behind Harry, but he uses his Sight to track her under the veil. She blasts him against a wall, but Harry's armor enables him to survive. Arianna throws huge chunks of rock at Harry, but he manages to avoid and redirect them back to her. She slips under a veil again and tries to sneak behind Harry once more. Harry uses this repitition to end the duel decisively, by striking her at the perfect opportunity.
With Arianna dead, Harry says he'll take his daughter back, but the Red King betrays him. Maggie wasn't to be harmed until after the duel, and it is now after the duel. He sends a vampire to kill Maggie.
With this betrayal, all hell breaks loose. Lea summons twelve figures in hooded grey cloaks; the Grey Council has come to fight alongside Harry. Ebenezar McCoy overwhelms the Lords of Outer Night, and uses his position as the Blackstaff to kill hundreds of mortal security guards who are opening fire on the combatants with machine guns.
Harry, Murphy, and Sanya fight their way back to the temple where Maggie is about to be sacrificed. Susan, under one of the enchantments that Lea gave her, protects Maggie from the Red King and his Lords. Martin walks in, and overpowers Susan. It's revealed that Martin has been working for the Red Court for centuries, required to control his bloodlust and bring down the Fellowship of Saint Giles in exchange for a place of nobility within the Red Court.
Harry deduces that it was Martin who betrayed Maggie to Arianna, and uses a communion spell to put his thoughts in Susan's head. When this betrayal is confirmed, Susan loses control of herself, and tears out Martin's throat, changing her into a Red Court vampire. Before Martin dies, Harry does a soulgaze on him, and sees that Martin had planned everything to give Harry this opportunity to bring down the Red Court once and for all. Martin had seen the oppressive tyranny of the Reds for himself, and was willing to die for the chance to end their scourge. This enables Harry and Lea (who snuck in disguised as one of the Lords) to strike at the Lords, breaking down the prison while simultaneously distracting the Red King even further.
In the confusion, Harry is able to overpower the Red King (heavily injuring him in the process), and take the knife that was going to be used in the ritual. Unfortunately, the Red King summons his soldiers to kill Harry's family as a final act of spite. Harry places Susan on the altar, telling her that she has the chance to bring every Red down, once and for all. He tells her that he will keep Maggie safe. Then he uses the knife.
With Susan's death on the ritual knife, the bloodline curse seeks out everyone who shares the Red Court blood. Full vampires have their hearts torn out of their chests and shredded. Half turned vampires either become normal humans, or age quickly before dying, depending on how long they've lived that half life. With the prisoners freed, even the half-turned vampires that are normal humans still aren't safe. The prisoners tear several of them to shreds, and few, if any, escape from their former captives.
Harry picks Maggie up, and carries her through Vadderung's gate and back into Chicago. He drops her off at Saint Mary of the Angels, and goes to Thomas' boat, the Water Beetle. Murphy takes care of Maggie, while Harry remains detatched. To ensure her safety, Maggie will be placed for adoption in a place where even he does not know).
With this last quest done, he now belongs to Mab and the Winter Court. He knows that he won't be able to remain the man he was, and reflects on the changes that have happened to him recently. His car is gone, along with his staff and blasting rod. His house is gone, along with everything magical left in the lab. His office is gone. All he has left of the tattered remains of his life is his mother's pentacle necklace, the gem she left him, Bob the Skull, and the two Swords, as well as Maggie.
Murphy comes by the boat to say goodbye. Rudolph has started another investigation against her, and her commanding officer in SI, expects that he can get her half pension, but she'll lose her job as a police officer. Harry offers her the Sword, but she declines. She doesn't want a rebound career, not until she's had a chance to think about things. Her plans are to get drunk and have mindless sex with the next reasonably healthy male that walks by. Before he can stop himself, Harry propositions her. She accepts, and will pick him up in an hour to get started.
Harry spends the next forty minutes getting ready, and walks out onto the deck of the boat. His foot slips, something thuds into the wall behind him, and he notices a bullet hole in his shirt. He falls over the boat, and into the water of Lake Michigan.
Plot points introduced Edit
- Harry Dresden and Susan Rodriguez have a daughter, Margaret Angelica.
- Harry takes up the mantle of the Winter Knight.
- Ebenezar McCoy is the father of Margaret LeFay, making him Harry's grandfather.
- First novel after the formation of the Grey Council.
- Harry Dresden's apartment, office, and Blue Beetle are destroyed.
- Susan is killed in the Ritual to destroy the Red Court.
- The Destruction of the Red Court opens up a power gab in Central America.
- Murphy loses her job at the CPD.
- Harry is shot in the back and falls into Lake Michigan, presumably killed.
- Main article: List of The Dresden Files characters
- Margaret Angelica
- Karrin Murphy
- Thomas Raith
- Ebenezar McCoy
- The Red King