Story Notes for
"Dea Ex Machina, Dea Sub Iudicio"


by allaire mikháil

Posted 26 Jun 2007
Amended 28 Jun 2007


This story was born due to too much immersion in two, and only two, fandoms... if you count crossovers of any kind with Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a fandom, that is. I'd found Twisting the Hellmouth not too long ago after rediscovering my love for the Buffy-verse during the reworking of my Buffy/Angel recommendations page. Well-written epics like the Barb-verse by ljrahirah made certain that my interest for the new challenges awaiting a mature Buffy Summers and her friends post-Sunnydale never waned. I read about Buffy encountering the Goa'uld or Willow being faced with Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Many authors ignored the differences between the ways magic worked in the Buffy- and the Potter-verse, respectively, but a few made up explanations that sounded extremely believable.

That was where my other current favorite fandom came in: The Dresden Files. I'm quite certain that I would have never developed such a huge liking for what truthfully amounts to a pretty mediocre show if not for Terrence Mann. It was a stroke of brilliance on the creators' parts in choosing to make Bob, originally an air spirit of intellect trapped in a human skull, instead into the ghost of a dead and damned sorcerer. They might have been moved by necessity, but this decision had a huge impact on the finished product, especially once they asked Mann, originally chosen to do the voice work for the 'talking skull', to play the role of the ghost in question. Mann, a Broadway veteran, made Bob into a three-dimensional character who fascinated the fans even more than Paul Blackthorne's inspired portrayal of Harry Dresden.

The slash potential became obvious as early as the pilot episode, when Bob was clearly suffering untold agonies upon having to helplessly stand by and watch Harry get tortured. Episode 1x10, "What About Bob?", was so rife with slashy subtext that no one watching it could ignore it.

I fell for the Harry/Bob pairing. Hard. Perhaps harder than for any show - and pairing - since Miracles in 2003. For the first time since my disillusionment with Stargate: Atlantis did I feel the need to write.

The over-exposure to crossovers with the Buffy-verse sparked an idea when I ended up comparing the similarities and differences between both universes' supernatural worlds and magic.

What would happen if Willow Rosenberg met Harry Dresden? Wasn't she powerful enough to rock his world and challenge the complacency of the High Council? What if she freed Bob from his curse?

"Dea Ex Machina, Dea Sub Iudicio" was born, although back at that time, it was still called "We Rescind No Past Devotions" (from one of the lines of Willow and Tara's spell in episode 6x03, "After Life").

The story wrote itself, at least in the beginning. I knew Harry had to tell the story, and began skimming through several of Jim Butcher's novels in order to get a better idea of his voice.

I wanted to use the TV-verse, not the Book-verse, since frankly, I loved the former and hadn't been drawn in much by the latter. I liked TV!Harry better, and since Book!Harry's relationship with his Bob was far less intimate, I didn't experience an urgent need to enter what essentially amounted to an entirely different fandom. Still, Jim Butcher's universe fascinated me, and I resolved to use as much of it as possible - as long as it didn't contradict TV canon. Thankfully, the people at ljdresdenfic were immensely helpful, didn't mind my questions and pointed me towards the books that would most likely answer my most urgent questions.

The Wikipedia articles on The Dresden Files (Book- and TV-verse) as well as on its main characters (among them TV!Harry and TV!Bob) provided a good starting point, but I had to resort to Jim Butcher's novels - as I had been directed to - in order to clear up several things I was confused about.

First, I struggled with the seemingly incomparability of the Book-verse's "White Council" and "Senior Council" as opposed to the TV-verse's "High Council". They meant very different things. With what was I supposed to stick? In the end, I picked the TV- over the Book-verse and changed the Book-verse's setting to fit my need. So the High Council became more or less synonymous with the Senior Council, although its members grew by three so I could fit in the High Priestess of the Devon Coven.

The nature of demons - and of the vampires - in both the Buffy- as well as the Dresden-verse presented another obstacle. While the creators of both 'verses seemed to have read the Cthulhu-myth (their descriptions of the "Old Ones" were easy to merge), Buffy-type vampires only explained Harry's vampires of the Black Court. Thankfully, I could avoid the topic of the fae almost entirely.

That out of the way, my own perfectionist nature demanded that I pinpoint Bob - Hrothbert of Bainbridge's - time of birth (and death) as accurately as possible. The official resources were not very helpful, only pointing out that he was over 600 years old (see Wikidot: The Dresden Files for this fact).

That was when I went on a Google rampage. Endless hours of evaluating results later, I felt like I had scored a minor victory:

According to ancestry.com and Behind the Name, ROBERT meant "bright fame", derived from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements hrod "fame, renown" and beraht "bright, famous". A native Old English predecessor of similar form, Hreodbeorht (see Applied Language Solutions), was found occasionally in England before the Conquest in 1066. It was supplanted by the form of Robert that was introduced into England by the Normans and quickly became popular among all classes of society. It was the name of two dukes of Normandy in the 11th century: the father of William the Conqueror (sometimes identified with the legendary Robert the Devil), and his eldest son. It was borne by three kings of Scotland, notably Robert the Bruce (12741329), who freed Scotland from English domination. The altered short form Bob was very common.

I also researched "Bainbridge", but the results offered nothing particularly unexpected (see Wikipedia, ancestry.com and House of Names).

Meaning, according to his name at least, Bob lived most likely before 1066 and was therefore older than the mere 600 years he was believed to be.

Despite the allusion on the show that there was a legend surrounding the love between Hrothbert of Bainbridge and Winifred, the internet had no such story to tell. But wait - was "Winifred" even the correct spelling?

According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe who didn't contradict it when answering a question posed to him on the Jim-Butcher.com forums, WINIFRED indeed seemed to be the spelling used on the show. However, according to Wikipedia, that spelling is Modern English, with the older form being Winefride, in Welsh Gwenfrewi. Evidently, the latter was derived from the Welsh elements gwen "white, fair, blessed" and frewi "reconciliation, peace". Winifred was the name of a 7th-century Welsh saint and martyr. (And yes, thoughts of the "Brother Cadfael" books popped up in my head right then.)

I was certain that both versions of her name were being pronounced identically. So I resolved to use the spelling "Winifred" when someone in modern times spoke of her, and "Winefride" when Bob, who after all was her contemporary, mentioned her. I also decided that, due to the Welsh origin of the name, Winifred would have to either have lived in Wales or close to it on the other side of Offa's Dyke. An English village close-by that was old enough to have been mentioned in the Domesday Book was Oswestry (old name: Luvre). So that was where I decided my Winifred came from.

She was Winefride of Luvre, daughter of Berwyn, or, as my Harry would call her, Winifred of Oswestry, daughter of Berwin.

Considering Bob, especially taking into account the extended lifespan of wizards according to Jim Butcher's books, would most likely have been older than 55 (Terrence Mann's age during the filming of season 1), I resolved that my Bob would have spent many years wandering Great Britain, learning and amassing as much knowledge as he could, before he came to Luvre and met (and settled down with) Winefride.

I decided against Harry finding out every last detail about Bob's offenses against the Seven Laws of Magic that he got tried for as well as about the death of Winifred. Harry, as the narrator, would simply not be privy to everything Bob remembered from before his death.

Then I had to evaluate Bob's stance on homosexuality in general before I could justify him even considering sex with Harry.

I took 1066 as a rough starting point and looked at the developments regarding secular and Church law until that point in time.

According to the multiple sides I browsed (the most helpful were A History of Homophobia [1], [2], [3], [4], Homosexuality in the Middle Ages), and glbtq.com, at the time Bob was alive the Catholic Church hadn't yet damned homosexuality as severely as it would happen later. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian's laws that had been passed in the 6th century, ordaining death by burning for the "sin against nature", were no longer upheld.

And until the 13th century, there were no laws against homosexual sex in Europe, although between 569 to 1008, the so-called "penitentials" (handbooks of penances) were introduced. They were not secular law and only reglemented the penance required of members of the Catholic Church who had committed any of the "sins of Sodom". The basic penance consisted of exclusion from the sacraments, self-mortification (though younger boys were beaten with rods at the hands of older clerics), fasting on bread and water on holy days (which included most days), and general discomfort. The Penitential of Theodore the Archbishop of Canterbury in 670 required 1 year for inter-femoral contact (penis between thighs); 3 years for all lesbian activity, undifferentiated; 7 to 15 years for anal intercourse; 7 to 22 years for fellatio; and, for comparison, 7 to 10 years for murder; 15 years for infanticide (reduced to 7 years if the mother was a pauper). If caught kissing, boys under the age of 20 were subject to 6 special fasts; 8 fasts if it was "licentious kissing"; 10 fasts if it was "kissing with emission"; more if it involved mutual masturbation; and much longer if the partners were over the age of 20. Sometimes the penance was greater for the insertor than for the receptor.

In 1051, Saint Peter Damian, a member of the circle of papal reformers, denounced homosexuality, especially among the clergy. Pope Leo IX., however, questioned the severity of the penances, but did not deny the condemnation itself.

All that changed with the Crusades. The Catholic Church proclaimed that sodomy was rife in the Islam, and used that claim to denounce its enemy and gain support in the kingdoms in Europe. Beginning in 1116, the same claim was then made against heretics like the Henricians, the Albigensians, and later the Knight Templars in 1307. The reasons behind that were more an interest in the wealth amassed by the order than a true revulsion against the male/male orgies they did most likely take part in.

Anyway, that change was felt everywhere, and between 1250 and 1300 homosexual sex turned from a sinful, if legal, practice into a criminal act punishable by death. The motives of the lawmakers were explicitly religious; fear of the divine vengeance meted out to Sodom was often given as a reason for the new laws. The two most important English legal codes of the era proscribed death for male-male anal intercourse: burial while still alive, according to Fleta, or burning at the stake, according to Britton.

That brought me to the topic of the "burning at the stake", not only of accused homosexuals (although the term "homosexual" wasn't coined until 1869) and heretics, but also of people suspected of witchcraft.

The Medieval Inquisitions started in 1184 by a papal bull in response to the growing Catharist heresy in southern France. It was administered by local bishops. Mass heretical organizations posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church, and to its interpretation of Christian doctrines. However, the Inquisition at first was not very effective until the start of the Papal Inquisition staffed by professionals, primarily of the Dominican Order, in the 1230s. Torture was used after 1252. The classical period of witch-hunts in Europe fell into the Early Modern period or about 1450 to 1700, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, resulting in tens of thousands of executions.

Thankfully, that was long after Bob's time. The dates were helpful, however, in helping me decide why Buffy had never come across someone associated with the High Council in Rome.

The absence of Wardens or the High Council in Sunnydale or Cleveland was easily explained - after all, who would deliberately settle atop an active Hellmouth? Los Angeles was not very much harder, considering it housed the law firm of Wolfram and Hart. I invented a court ruling forbidding the High Council to ever settle in the city (an inside joke playing with the names of the main protagonists of the movies Warlock and Warlock III). London, I explained with the High Priestess of the Devon Coven exerting her influence. Rome, I blamed on the Inquisition, today the 'Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith'.

But back to Bob. Considering all of the above, I arbitrarily decided to make 972 the year of Bob's death, which meant that during his lifetime, male/male sex used to be legal and more or less common. He might have experienced the introduction of the penitentials, but I doubted he was a very devoted Christian, and I saw him as getting several offers once he came into a tavern to book a pallet for the night - two or more by women, and perhaps one by a man. Bob, oversexed as he is, would have accepted the most attractive of the available women and not given much thought to the men. Not because the idea of homosexual sex disgusted him, but because he already had all he could ever wish for with a knowledgeable wench to warm his bedding.

Later, after being cursed, I think he would have been amused at the Church's crackdown on homosexuality, and even more amused whenever one of his "masters" turned out to be a stuck-up upholder of moral standards, and secretly recall the most shocking actions he had ever been a witness to, wishing he could detail them out loud in order to witness the disgust crossing the face of one of the early Morningways.

As I said, the rest of the story was a logical outcome of the original setting as well as of the characters' most likely reactions to the events developing.

For the ritual, I bastardized the spell transcripts from the Buffy episodes 2x22, "Becoming (2)", and 6x03, "After Life", and interjected a few details taken from The Pagan Library on Wiccan rituals and spells.

I was very put out when the aforementioned logic demanded that I restructure the steps of the ritual and put the creation of a new body for Bob before the freeing of his soul from the curse that bound it. I had to chuck a variation on Willow's solidifying spell I had come up early with,

"Child of words, I will free thee, child of words, from thy curse.
'Tis no forfeit but a torture, overstep did they their rights.
Judge and jury, executioners, they let anger be their guide.
With their actions did they bind thee, my intention wills its end.
No more suff'ring, no more slav'ry, with my motions, come to pass.
Mortal bonds replace thy shackles, give thee substance, give thee mass."

that I was quite proud of and rework the metre - which was a bitch, let me tell you.

Apart from that, I discovered (quite as Jim Butcher must have) that gaming prepares you well for the writing of fantasy fiction. I often pretended that Harry was my role-playing character, and had him react to the present situation as I would have if I had been playing him in a campaign.

I also relied on gaming resources, mainly the core rulebook of "Vampire: The Masquerade" (which led me to researching the color of auras as they would be perceived by a Vampire gaming character with Auspex), and the Monster Manual of my "Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition" rule books. This was where I fudged a bit and decided to make Ancient Mai into the half-bred descendant of a Naga. Jumping onto the canon- and fanon-based bandwagon of making her a dragon using its talent of Polymorph Self to appear human didn't sit well with me, and I wanted something new and fresh. The "monster" in question couldn't be wholly evil, its eyes had to be of a reddish color, it had to be able to look human, and it had to have the ability to cast spells. Nagas, according to D&D, cannot change their form to appear human, but the manual also didn't mention whether or not they might be able to breed with humans. I almost made Mai the daughter of an Efreet, and only my unwillingness to delve into Arabic folklore as well as the hierarchic structure of the City of Brass and the Inner Planes made me decide on the Naga aspect.

Then I got my mind set on using Latin, and ran into a wall. I have never learned a word of it (if one doesn't count a deep, abiding love for the The Adventures of Asterix comic books), and online research was, due to me having no idea of Latin sentence structure, a pointless waste of time. Thankfully, ljtemve jotted down the title I wanted after barely a moment of thought, and the members of ljin_latine took less than a day to answer my request. I was stunned and grateful, and happy to use what they provided me with.

The title is a bit of self-mockery, playing on the old vehicle of the "god from the machine" who appears in Greek and Roman tragedies to save the day and resolve a situation that is beyond hope. Which was, after all, more or less what I had Willow do by rendering Bob human with nary an effort. I had my goddess save him, then I had her put on trial. What else could the title be?

I watched and re-watched all the The Dresden Files episodes. I annoyed anyone willing to listen by trying to "convert" them to the fandom. I begged "A Chorus Line" (with Terrence Mann as Larry) off ljslashbabe. I watched two episodes of Law and Order just because of him (despite the fact that my opinion of that show and its spin-offs is rather low).

I've been more active in fandom-specific lj communities than, well, ever.

I have never written a longer story. Not even "Really Sleeping In Light", the result of my total obsession with Babylon 5, comes close. I might never write something novella-length again. I don't regret a moment spent in this fandom. It was a wholly new experience.

Beta thanks belong to ljtemve who is far too generous with her time and has no aversion against braving new fandoms just to help out someone unsure of their grasp of correct English grammar. I'm still shocked at her fluency in written Latin. ljpinkdoom was also very involved during the first stages of this story, and her encouragement helped me a lot when I had to force myself to keep writing even through the occasional writer's block or bout of self-doubt.

I'll stop blabbering now, I promise. Enjoy the story.


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