Dresden Files
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Dresden Files

Battle Ground is the seventeenth novel in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, released on September 29th, 2020. It has thirty-six chapters.

Blurb[]

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

Plot[]

Prelude[]

Not one quip about hentai, Dresden.Lara Raith after fighting the kraken

While Harry Dresden, Karrin Murphy, Lara Raith and Freydis Gard are returning from Demonreach to Chicago, the Water Beetle is attacked by a kraken sent by the Fomor. After a short skirmish, Molly Carpenter arrives with a group of bull sharks to save the others, and Freydis kills the kraken with a grenade.

After docking the Water Beetle, Dresden and Murphy head to McAnally's Pub to warn the Chicago community of the coming battle, while the others return to Castle Marcone. At the pub, he warns Mac, who activates the placard from the cross of Jesus (a relic looted from Hades' Vault) to protect the patrons. Dresden convinces Murphy to stay behind to organize defenses at the Pub rather than join the main battle.

After borrowing a bicycle from Paranoid Gary, Dresden heads to Castle Marcone Headquarters. On the way, he is stopped by Detective Bradley and Rudolph, who want to detain him. Dresden exchanges a soulgaze with Bradley, who staggers and is distressed by what he saw. Rudolph draws his gun and accuses Dresden of attacking Bradley, who holds his position while commenting on Rudolph's poor trigger discipline. Bradley recovers, telling Rudolph to stand down and let Dresden go.

Upon reaching Castle Marcone, Dresden meets Vadderung's personal bodyguards, Hugin and Munin. After debating the merits of Dresden's continued existence, they knock him to the ground and kill a Fomor scout which looks like a small flying squid. Dresden continues into the castle, where he finds Carlos Ramirez. Carlos unsuccessfully tries to convince Dresden to confide in him, as the White Council is concerned about the company Dresden keeps. The two head to the rooftop to join the Senior Council.

Dresden, Ebenezar McCoy, and Mab discuss tactics for fighting Ethniu. Dresden plans to attempt to bind Ethniu at the lake shore, using a binding crystal to imprison her at the well in Demonreach. Because Ethniu is wearing Titanic bronze armor, she needs to be weakened significantly before making the attempt. The group joins the heads of other nations to discuss tactics for the coming battle.

As the Fomor scouts continue to assault the castle, Dresden summons Toot-Toot and Lacuna to aid in the defense. Convinced the assault could mean the end of pizza, tens of thousands of Wee Folk mobilize for war and take charge of killing the Fomor scouts. Shortly after, the Fomor begin the assault on Chicago in earnest. Though Dresden is directed to remain out of the fighting until the end, the sights and sounds of carnage in his old neighborhood cause him to start a rescue mission with Strength of a River in His Shoulders. They defeat a group of Huntsmen, and direct the civilians to take refuge in Castle Marcone.

Battle begins[]

Harry Dresden
So, we’re going to charge into the meat grinder as fast as we can to force her to hit us as hard as she can, and then hope that we can punch her lights out before the army gets here and starts killing everybody in sight.
Ebenezar McCoy
We… Aye, fair enough.
— The White Council's game plan

The White Council and the Summer Lady (assisted by Svartalfheim) deploy to the gaps between their three forward positions, intending to form a wall to block the Fomor's advance and force Ethniu to blast her way through them, giving them an opportunity to attack her in turn. However, McCoy and Cristos split from River Shoulders, River Shoulders, and the rest of the Wardens when Toot-Toot detects necromancy in Graceland Cemetery. In the cemetery they find Drakul himself, surrounded by six elder Black Court vampires, of which Mavra is the youngest. Pitched battle ensues, and although two elders are defeated, Wardens Yoshimo and Meyers are killed and abducted for transformation into more Black Court vampires, while Chandler was banished to the Nevernever. Drakul, a Starborn, did aim to aid Ethniu, but rather to capitalize on the chaos by adding recruits, and so they flee with their prizes without further conflict. Dresden vows to settle the score later.

Dresden drops off the human sacrifice they rescued from the vampires at an outpost with Lamar and Rawlins, the soldiers there beginning to believe that Dresden truly is a wizard. River Shoulders then carries Dresden and Ramirez to the embattled Senior Councilors McCoy and Cristos as they assist the Einherjaren against Octokongs. On arrival, Jotnar sound their horns and begin advancing toward them, much to the delight of the Einherjaren. Dresden creates a twenty foot thick wall of ice to slow them while McCoy and Cristos work together to transform the ground beneath their feet to quicksand, allowing the Einherjaren to kill the giants like a bunch of fire ants.

JOTNAR! JOTNAR OF MUSPELHEIM!— Einherjaren overjoyed to hear their ancient enemies

A single Jotun escapes and manages to smash the parking lot with the White Council inside, scattering everyone. The White Council retreats and Dresden is rescued by Butters, the Alphas, and Murphy. Bob explains that reality itself is under strain from such forces being unleashed in the city, as Ethniu herself has taken the field and is taking down skyscraper after skyscraper with blasts of the Eye of Balor. Mab's countermeasure is to shroud the city with psychic armor that dulls their pains and their fears, which the Eye requires to function. To have victory, Ethniu must eliminate Mab and her shroud — and Mab is obliging, standing still in a highly visible location for Ethniu to come to. Realizing that Mab is using herself as bait, Dresden has everyone rush to Mab's side.

En route, a facet of the Winter Knight's Mantle allows Dresden to reflexively create a Banner that draws angry men and women of Chicago to his side, along with a sizable quantity of Winterfae. Mab supplies them with weaponry from the Cloud Gate, the Svartalves create a defilade for them, the ex-military among them train and lead them, and Dresden himself reveals himself as a wizard to them. Sanya then takes command and orders them into position to attack the incoming legion of Fomor. Dresden, Murphy, and the Alphas then depart to save a childcare center in the path of the enemy's advance.

At the childcare center they discover Bradley and Rudolph defending it, and Bradley has to knock Rudolph out to get everyone to cooperate with the evacuation. However, Bradley isn't able to carry both his daughter and Rudolph, so Dresden has him leave Rudolph and escape with the Alphas and the other children while he and Murphy hold off Svangar, a Jotun who survived Thor himself. Dresden barely survives Svangar, until Murphy kills him with a rocket launcher. Their victory is short lived however, as Rudolph soon awakens and fatally shoots Murphy by accident, due to poor trigger discipline.

Murphy tries to tell Dresden she loves him, but dies before she can complete the sentence. Dresden doesn't believe his eyes at first, but when he does, he attempts to kill Rudolph. He nearly crushes Rudolph to death with kinetic force until Sanya interrupts him, forcing Dresden to dispatch Sanya. Dresden attempts to finish Rudolph off, only for Butters to also interrupt him. From earlier, Dresden assumes that the Sword of Faith won't harm mortals, and intends to simply walk through it — it burns him.

Left writhing on the ground in agony, Dresden submits and returns to the fight, having Mab arrange a fitting funeral for Murphy. Mab orders Dresden to kill Molly Carpenter should she perish, and explains that the Accorded Nations are working together for a chance at the Eye of Balor for themselves. Dresden and Sanya then split their forces, taking an offensive team of Chicagoans with them to take down a bridge that'd aid the Fomor's advance. After doing so, the initial salvo of shotguns from defilade wreaks havoc on the Fomor lines, killing well over a thousand of them. Ethniu then arrives and breaks their offensive with a blast of the Eye, forcing them to retreat. They do so in good order, coming under the protection of the defenders on the fortifications, where Dresden boosts everyone's morale after the defenders repulse the Fomor.

Grimalkin then telepathically reports to Dresden, showing a schism between King Corb, Ethniu, and Listen. Dresden learns that the Eye of Balor has a cooldown, and that Ethniu and King Corb will assault Mab together, before the vision cuts out as Listen discovers Grimalkin eavesdropping. Mab then sends her Sidhe cohort forward, accompanied by covering fog and dozens of illusory copies of her battalion. Their swords were cursed to petrify any creature wounded by them into stone, and although they met great success, the enemy counterattacked with spears of steel, which cut through the fae illusions and incapacitated Mab herself.

Dresden singlehandedly holds off twelve Fomor sorcerers he dubs the "Fomor Sorcerers' Club", or "FSC", until Butters can get the steel out of Mab's neck. Once done, Mab rises and kills two sorcerers for Harry's one, and the remaining nine retreat behind veils. Mab proclaims herself indebted to Butters for saving her, and they stand to face the incoming Fomor — which had been hiding three or four thousand additional troops under veil. Mab, alone except for her unicorn, Knight, and Butters, then stands up to the might of the Eye of Balor and stops it cold, surviving, although she collapses to the ground.

Final battle[]

Not to be outdone, Mab summons Odin himself at the head of the Wild Hunt and Winter Lady Molly Carpenter at the head of an army of Winterfae to attack the Fomor in the opening. Using her unicorn as a focus, Dresden blasts his way through the Fomor army until King Corb blasts his mount out from under him, forcing Dresden to use a kinetic bubble and his momentum to skip through the enemy lines like a stone on a river. At the back of the lines, Dresden drops a wall of earth on Listen, gets shot in the abdomen, and summons Titania while Butters holds an army off singlehandedly.

Titania's arrival is accompanied by lightning that cauterizes Dresden's wound. She then faces the Eye herself, but rather than block it cold as Mab had, she diverts it around herself and into the air, which had been filled with the cold of Winter since Molly's arrival. The conflicting energies create a torrential downpour that grounds the chaotic energy of the city and leave Ethniu with nothing to power the Eye, allowing Titania, Odin, and the Erlking to fight Ethniu simultaneously. Ethniu emerges victorious, although wounded and crazed, with Odin's lightning spear in hand. With it, she prepares to kill Dresden.

Butters stands before Ethniu and speaks with the voice of Uriel, bidding Ethniu to depart, and soon after an army of Summerfae arrive with Marcone in the lead, the White Court and Council backing him up with Summer. Ethniu's reinforcements have been destroyed and the legion of Fomor are now surrounded on all sides by Winter and Summer. Ethniu flees to to the Fomor and rallies them to her, preparing to hold off Marcone's army even as King Corb holds off Molly's army. The two Knights of the Sword, the Archive, and the Blackstaff cut their way through the soldiers. Ethniu fires on Ebenezar, allowing the Archive to blast Ethniu aside while Ebenezar redirects the lightning back into the crowd of Fomor.

In the void Marcone leads a charge, and Sigrun Gard breaks Ethniu's ankle. Marcone manages to stab her in the eye, but it only reddens, and she would have speared Marcone if not for Hendricks taking the mortal wound for him, allowing him to escape. Ethniu then blasted Cristos to death, broke Ebenezar's pelvis with the butt of her spear, and cracked the Archive's sternum, sending them all to the ground. River Shoulders soars through lightning unharmed to bear tackle Ethniu, but she stops him cold and dislocates his shoulder, only for Listens to Wind to fall on top of her in the form of a grizzly bear. This saves River Shoulders, but Ethniu breaks the bear's back, leaving Listens to Wind defeated on his back.

GungnirOdin calls to his spear of lightning

With the powerhouses defeated, Dresden assembles the Spear of Destiny with the dagger from Hades' Vault affixed to his staff, and challenges Ethniu even as the Knights of the Cross flank her. She manages to dispatch Butters, but Sanya cuts her with Esperacchius. After screaming, Ethniu disarms Sanya, sends Sanya and Dresden to the ground, and cauterizes her wound in fire to prevent anyone getting her blood. Just before Ethniu can use the Eye on Dresden, Odin suddenly wakens, and his spear betrays her, twisting in her hands to plunge into the Eye of Balor. The Eye's energy then rebounds on Ethniu in a wall of light that blackens the side of her skull and blasts her left arm clean off.

In Ethniu's vulnerable moment, with her skull wounded from the Eye, Lara Raith kicks her in the back of the head and sends the loosened Eye flying from her skull. Marcone recovers it and flees toward Lake Michigan, with Dresden and Ethniu in hot pursuit. Marcone distracts and taunts Ethniu before throwing the Eye in Lake Michigan, so Ethniu breaks his neck. However, Marcone survived with Thorned Namshiel's Coin, and had used the opportunity to get close enough to her to stab the Titan with an infernal blade, providing Dresden with blood for the binding.

Bob
Oh hell no!
Harry Dresden
Bob, we're going to bind a Titan.
Bob
Fuck that! I'm going to Utah! Stuff like this never happens in Utah!
— Bob has to act as the circle to bind Ethniu

After reclaiming the Eye, Ethniu emerges to do battle with Namshiel, who kept teleporting around her and taunting her in a formal British accent. With Namshiel eventually sent into Lake Michigan, Ethniu turns to Dresden, who at that moment traps her in a circle. Ethniu responds by showing him an image of his family, and the Carpenter family, being killed. However, Dresden can tell it's a ruse by the absence of Mouse — this was merely an illusion created by Molly that Dresden would recognize. Knowing his family are alive, he pits his will against the Titan and wins, completing the binding.

Bound, bound, bound! Thrice said and done! Begone!
Alfred!— Harry Dresden consigns Ethniu to the Well

Tossing the green crystal into Lake Michigan, Dresden summons Demonreach forth. The island's spirit arrives in a tidal wave that crashes down upon Ethniu, and drags her into the depths below. Marcone then protects himself and Dresden in a concrete box to weather the tidal wave, and although he could have fought with Dresden for the Eye that rolled to shore, he instead cedes it to Dresden and departs. Exhausted, Dresden watches as Sidhe and mortal alike drive King Corb's army to the lake; however, only King Corb and his personal retinue actually make it. The rest are caught in a blistering hail of bullets from a fleet of helicopters from the National Guard, completely destroying the main body of the Fomor's troops and ending the battle.

Aftermath[]

I am the doubt that wards away sleep. I am the flaw that corrupts, the infected wound, the false fork in the trail. I am the gnawer, the worm in the book, the maggot that burrows in the mind’s eye. I am He Who Walks Beside.Justine

Dresden assures that Murphy will get her proper burial, only for Goodman Grey and Lara Raith to arrive in rage, Grey having fought with Lara's security personnel in their mutual attempts to protect Justine. Lara then calls in her last favor from Mab, demanding that Harry take Justine to see Thomas. Dresden agrees, and they ride Mab's unicorn to the docks. There, Dresden pieces together that Justine is infected by Nemesis, which is truly only an alias for He Who Walks Beside. The Walker had threatened to kill Justine if Thomas did not attack Etri, and planned to use Dresden to gain access to the Well so that it could unleash the imprisoned gods therein, wreaking havoc on the world. Instead, Dresden slipped into the water and was rescued by Demonreach, who spirited him to safety.

After the dust settled, Riley brings Dresden to shore to see Murphy, but only Odin's symbol is left where her corpse was. It symbolizes a "check mark", a new Einherjar "picked up and in transit" to Valhalla, just like Hendricks. Gard and Dresden grieve together for the incipient revenants, their steadfast friends in life, and the Paranet even holds a wake for them and all the other departed. All told, sixty thousand people died, and over a hundred thousand were made into refugees. More took sick and died with power and water disrupted, although the Summer was unseasonably mild thanks to either the Queens of Faerie or simple luck. A coffin was filled with pictures of the fallen and buried in Dresden's grave in Graceland, the headstone replaced with a new one with a new, simple inscription:

They defended Chicago.

In the aftermath of the funeral, done largely by Butters, Dresden speaks with Michael Carpenter about forming his own organization. Ramirez then arrives and declares Dresden banished from the White Council, and they intend to enforce the Laws of Magic on Dresden as well, sending McCoy to murder him if he steps out of line in any fashion (and executing McCoy if McCoy refuses). Dresden fires back that he has Ethniu bound to his will, and the might of Winter at his back, and so he will continue as always — leaving them in peace if they do the same for him.

With the aegis of the White Council no longer shielding him, Dresden stays indoors for a time to avoid attacks by lesser creatures thinking to capitalize on his vulnerability. Charity nurses him back to health, and then he attends the inaugural meeting of the Unseelie Accords Executive Ministry (to which the White Council was not invited), using Mab to gain entry. The mortal world is in denial, declaring it a "major terrorist attack" while controlling all access to the city via the military, keeping word contained; this is facilitated by the destructive energies of the Eye of Balor making photographic and video evidence gathering nigh on impossible.

Marcone's hold on the situation is tenuous, with those in the city thoroughly exposed to the supernatural, although Lara believes she can deflect federal intrusion. However, the Library of Congress' Special Collections Division cannot be easily redirected, and must be dealt with. However, as the Accorded nations planned to deal with the situation, treating both the Fomor and humanity at large as potential foes, Dresden takes the opportunity to present a different approach. He suggests giving humanitarian aid to humanity to show their benevolence and avoid conflict altogether, on the basis of a violation of guest right and repayment of debts incurred to humanity. The Accorded nations agree, on the condition that the Fomor, as those ultimately responsible, are indebted to pay off the expenses of those nations who contribute to the humanitarian aid.

Not yet done, Dresden presses his personal claim of debts owed him by Marcone, for coming to the aid of his realm and banishing the Titan. Although Marcone argues that the Eye is compensation enough, Dresden feigns ignorance of its location, and declares that he lost his home (Molly's apartment, as the Svartalves no longer wish him to be their guest) while defending Marcone's home. Under the weight of the Accorded nations, Marcone caves and accedes to Dresden's request for ownership of the castle built atop his old apartment. Marcone, good to his word, clears out and leaves the castle for Dresden to fix up with Michael Carpenter. In the castle itself, Mab exposes that Lara Raith has asked, for her third favor, to be bound in alliance to the Winter Court. Mab announces that she has accepted the request and Lara will marry Harry immediately, thereby granting Lara's request via marriage to Mab's Winter Knight. Harry, Molly, and Lara are all taken by surprise but manage to convince Mab delay for a year because of propriety.

Unable to move Mab further in this, Dresden leaves with Molly for the Carpenter household, where her father admits that he and Charity have long since known Molly was the new Winter Lady. He accepts her with love and gentle reproof.

References[]