There is something that does not add up in the whole Harry - He Who Walks Behind affair...

According to Uriel every action undertaken by Outsider or Fallen One that does not pass the "free will violation" and "death in result" test needs to be addressed to balance the scales. Obviously sending the Outsider after Harry was a matter of choice for JDM, and according to rules Outsider is basically his tool in that "operation" (similar to Harry employing werewolves and pixies against Aurora), so no problem there... Except of killing of Stan...

When Harry had to deal with a demon sent after him by a warlock (Storm Front) collateral damage was certainly a possibility, but only as an accident. The toad demon did not go on a rampage across town until released by Harry (and I still don't get why demon gets any protection under the Laws Of Magic), obviously, as it was directed by warlocks will...

But shouldn't same apply to Outsiders?

When Stan was killed, there was neither need for it nor was it an accident... HWWBd did it for amusement really, without valid reason. It obviously had an impact on Harry, so should it not be addressed in any way? Also, it was Harry's defining moment, shaping him for the rest of his life, so why it just goes away?

Or am I wrong?

To further explain what I'm asking about.

It's not about Uriel explicitly. I'm just using him as an example, since it's very good one. Not a perfect one, obviously, but still very good.


must act to redress the imbalance, else free will concept is meaningless. It's either protected or not. He even says as much (I will find the relevant passage later).

But the main point in my question is not about Uriel, but the actions of a being who doesn't belong to our reality (never mind mortal world). We know, for example, that the Fallen can't act on their own (but only through the coin wielder; they cheat to get those wielders, true). Same applies to other immortal beings, i.e. Mab - Bob, for example, says to Harry it's the winter's knight job to whack mortals that irked her, but she herself can't. Again - mortal, free will, etc. All good here.

Presumably same applies to other Faerie. Even Erlking can kill mortals only when they're in his domain. Or while leading the Wild Hunt, but even then there's a choice involved: die or join.

There is no problem with the concept of demons and Outsiders as well. They do not belong in the mortal world and they can't get in unless invited (summoned), and are pure terror when let in and let loose. All good, here, too.

But as Harry explains in some detail, when summoning demons you take care of the protection (namely: integrity of the summoning ring) else the summoner is first one to get eaten by the creature he summoned (i.e. Madge's death in Blood Rites). There is a caveat, as always: summoner gets eaten unless he binds the being.

Which brings us to He Who Walks Behind. We know that the deal (??) JDM had with HWWBd was, to put it simply, to kill Harry. It wasn't a quid pro quo. It was a hard and specific deal (which is still in place as of Storm Front for sure, mentioned in Blood Rites, too), else HWWBd would attend to Harry last - as I pointed out in one of the comments - after killing everyone else on the planet. Again: those deals need to be literal or you end up in a... very bad position (or more likely being no more). I get that HWWBd is basically a tool of JDM, so everything he does stems from JDM free will to employ such dangerous tool. But in order to protect himself JDM can't let HWWBd do whatever it pleases.

So here's my problem: HWWBd shows every sign of working on it's own, and yet everything we know says he can't. Killing Stan appears as completely unsanctioned (yet it must be in any way for HWWBd to be able to do it, in accordance with facts we know about), so that seems to be a violation of the "Free will" rule - an not even Stan's, but anyone's of consequence in the whole situation.

  • As you say, that death helped shape Harry. And there was question in Harry's mind as to who was directing whom. Consider what Harry did next. I think the mortal death falls under the summoner, in this case.
    – Verdan
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:29
  • Out of interest, why is a laws-of-magic tag needed? I'm not sure how it benefits this post in any way... I have removed it as it's also a far to generic name that would conflate with other magical fantasy stories.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:36
  • 1
    I was looking in the book where Uriel explains to Harry about conditions when angels can act. He mentions actions of the Fallen trying to undermine Free Will, but I don't see reference to Outsiders there. This is during Harry's less than substantial time...
    – Verdan
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:41
  • 1
    Uriel is an Angel. The Fallen are Fallen Angels. They're in his jurisdiction; Outsiders aren't. There's a bit where he explains to Harry why Lasciel's whisper violated the rules which I think covers this, if nobody else beats me to it I might post an answer on that basis, but probably not until the weekend. Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 20:17
  • 1
    @AcePL, I don't think the assumption that real-world judaistic/christian doctrine necessarily applies exactly-as-is to the Dresden universe is well-founded. For a start, where would the Sidhe fit in? In the Dresden universe, they've been given the responsibility for defending reality against the Outsiders. But perhaps "jurisdiction" was a misleading way of putting it. I'll try to write up a full answer when I get time. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:59

3 Answers 3


Context and intent is everything.

Uriel need to balance the scales not because Harry died, or because a fallen angel whispered in his ear - he had one whispering to him for 4 books before Uriel even showed his face in the plot, and he showed his face specifically because Harry dealt with that on his own.

A being outside the ordering of the world imposed it's will on Harry, in an instantaneous way that left Harry no way to understand what had happened, and no way to counter it's influence. You'll note, in the end, Uriel acts in such a way that only the consequences of that outside will were reversed, and not any of the other consequences that Harry would have naturally earned on his own.

Stan's death has too many contexts to be treated that directly.

Poor Stan. Bad night. The situation was not of his making, and there's no way he could have understood it. But that happens every day in the Dresdenverse.

  • Justin DuMorne summoned He Who Walks Behind to go after Harry - but that's just our assumption, as Harry himself points out after reviewing the memory. The Walker was clearly toying with Harry, and given it's supernatural and instant "presence", Harry should have been dead in any moment. So the Walker was in play by Justin's will, or another's, and the Walker had some wiggle room there.
  • Harry clued in to how the Walker operated quickly enough, always behind him. That would put his will into play though - if he'd thought ahead a little better, he could have moved the Walker away from Stan near instantly, as he already had stalled it briefly by spinning around. He watched him die in the window reflection after all.
  • Stan, poor Stan, decided to give in to his panic and run like hell. I don't blame him, but that is will of a sort, or a choice. If he hadn't run smack into the spell set over the gas station to trap Harry, maybe he would have had more of a chance.

There have been a great many more deaths at the hands of Outsiders. The Nemesis alone probably has the highest body count, and it operates entirely based on lies. Uriel is not there to protect everyone, and doing so would be as much of an interruption of free will.

  • That it might not been DuMorne is actually a valid point. It also implies that what killed Stan wasn't the Outsider, as well. As for rest. Uriel is there to protect free will. He himself says so. But he also says he can usually only act to balance the scales, so that implies reaction. You're right he can't be proactive when free will is in play. But it's not so always. Also, For now, all beings that fell victim to Nemesis - that we know of - weren't human, and for now just humans - or halfbreeds - have free will...
    – AcePL
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 18:33

While it is most probable that outsiders follow different rules than other entities (since they are not from our reality) the two situations are totally different. The outsider killing Stan was an overt act, the whispering fallen was subtle manipulation directly into Dresden's subconscious. Killing Stan did not do anything to Harry directly beyond scare and annoy him so there was no scale to balance. The fallen whispering manipulated Harry's thought process on a sub conscious level pushing him to suicide rather than face the inevitability (to his altered thoughts) of becoming a monster.

As to your confusion of why demons get protection under the laws of magic, they do not, at least not directly. You can summon and bargain with demons to your hearts content (Dresden summoned one in fool moon) however imposing your will directly upon the demon is a violation, so kill Dresden and I will give you a cookie is ok but kill Dresden cause I told you so is a no no. Of course summoning a demon to kill someone might still be using magic to kill someone.

On a slightly separate note Outsiders seem to possess free will themselves or at least some form of it. Otherwise what they were trying to do in cold days makes no sense no mortal would have wanted that.


Having reread the relevant passages something lied to Harry in order to drive him to suicide, the lie was a violation of the rules. The rules of cosmic beings could allow for murder while disallowing lies again this is if Outsiders are even bound by the same rules.

The demon binding thing probably should be its own question however its established that black magic alters a persons personality kind of like a drug, the law is not to protect demons the law is to keep a human from taking that first hit and wanting more.

  • You're right and not quite right. Stan was killed by an entity, which should not be in our reality in the first place. Overt or covert - doesn't matter. Free will is what matters and if something as a subtle manipulation warrants action to balance the scale then something so egregious as tearing someone apart most definitely is. And I'm not talking about Harry's scale, I'm talking about Stan's.
    – AcePL
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 9:57
  • As for demons protection - Morgan's testimony about Harry not binding it against it will and thus violating Laws Of Magic caused lifting the Doom of Damocles off Harry... I get the summoning and binding difference, but why binding of a demon is a violation? If it is, why then destroying Red Court with a curse by ritual isn't? Laws of Magic apply to mortals only, so again: why binding of a demon is violation?
    – AcePL
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 10:03
  • Agreed: binding is big issue. But it's relevant here. Harry explains precisely what is summoning and why you make damn sure your summoning circle is as perfect as possible and it spells out the difference between it and binding of will. It's especially relevant since one can summon any being from Nevernever or Outside, and ones from the former aren't all bad... That is why Binder is not guilty of breaking The Laws by that technicality: no free will involved. Or wasn't caught in the act, but then again: Harry knows him from warden's file, and it says there clearly: technically not guilty.
    – AcePL
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 9:54

So I think you're fundamentally misunderstanding or perhaps over-simplifying Uriel's comments.

You stated that:

According to Uriel every action undertaken by Outsider or Fallen One that does not pass the "free will violation" and "death in result" test needs to be addressed to balance the scales.

That's not actually what happened in Changes, though. What happened was that

A demon lied to Harry in a way that caused Harry to use his free will to make a choice that resulted in Harry making a deal with Mab. The balance that Uriel restored was to tell Harry seven words of truth to balance the seven words of lie that the demon told Harry: specifically, that Mab cannot change who he is.

The point is that the test is a bit more complex than you make it out to be.

Uriel under his mantle of archangel is permitted to act (permitted, not compelled) when he is able to do something to redress an imbalance. That imbalance has to take the form of subverting a human's free will (as far as we know today). Merely killing someone doesn't subvert their free will, in that it doesn't cause them to make a choice (exercising their free will), it just takes their life away.

Further, there is no evidence to suggest that even if an imbalance occurs, Uriel is always compelled to redress the imbalance, only that he is able to do so. Consider that if it was only about fixing the imbalance, Uriel could have popped in immediately, told Harry the truth, and let him revise his choice.

I would contend that if Harry hadn't been the servant of Good that he has been, and didn't have the prior history he has, Uriel would not have helped him continue the fight. We know that Uriel does have a form of free will, as evidenced in Skin Game where:

Uriel chooses to give Michael his Grace to be able to stand up to Nicodemus, and take Murphy's place in the heist

Dresden has variously referred to Uriel as God's black ops agent or spook or bagman, implying that he doesn't always do things linearly to accomplish his goals.

Put those together, and you have an entity who is very likely to make the choices he is able to, within his nature, that further the goals of the Almighty. He could very easily choose when to tell Harry a truth, as well as which truth to tell him, in such a way as to also allow him to act in the furtherance of those angelic goals.

Compare to your case of Stan. I would contend that even if killing Stan represented a violation of Stan's free will (which I don't believe it does), Uriel was neither in obligation of helping out, nor would it have served Heaven's interests to do so.

  • Several points, which are in my edited question, too - sorry, forgot to drop a comment here I did that. Anyway: Uriel must act to redress the imbalance. Free will must be protected.Same deal would apply if the Fallen actually killed Harry outright (which is forbidden for them).Fallen CAN'T exert their will directly, because above (that is archangel steps in). Remember scene from Ghost Story when Harry asks him to help Molly? Also, Harry <SPOILER ALERT!> asked Uriel why not send him back, and the answer was?? Thus the test is both simple and complicated, but at least criteria are clear.
    – AcePL
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 12:48
  • Taking it all into account I'm applying same restrictions that Fallen have imposed on them to Outsiders as logical extension. Especially since, apparently, laws on summoning demons and opening Outer Gates are the same law. hence my question.
    – AcePL
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 12:53
  • Just noticed I never responded to this comment. You’re confusing the rules Uriel is bound to with the laws of magic. The laws of magic are a mortal construct, Uriel is bound by his heavenly mantle, which isn’t at all the same thing.
    – Paul
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:52
  • This is excellent point. But isn't ANYONE not mortal but not Outsider limited by one thing: they're forbidden from violating free will. Remember scene with Maeve and the fiddler in Summer Knight? She offed him, but only because he was careless with his wish. He was human basically cheated out of his life, but letter of the law stated his free will wasn't violated. And Uriel is tasked with protecting free will. Nowhere it says "only for those believing God of Bible"...
    – AcePL
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:45
  • I don't think we have enough information to confirm or deny your suggestion that everyone barring Mortals and Outsiders are forbidden from violating free will. Each entity "type" that we have encountered actually has slightly different rules of engagement. The only ones we know of that explicitly talk about balancing free will are the angels and demons (i.e. agents of God current and former). The Fae can trick and cajole (and do so all the time) and can even get folks to act in ways based on lies w/o repercussion.
    – Paul
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 23:05

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