[[quoteright:280:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/VillainsByNecessity_3050.jpg]]

A fantasy novel written by Eve Forward.

Good has not only defeated Evil in the last great war, but continues to hunt down and eradicate all representatives of darkness. While this makes the world a happier, safer place for the common folk, this also puts the protagonist, Sam, out of a job. After all, Sam is an [[HitmanWithAHeart assassin]], and since the [[{{Utopia}} world's in a state of peace, calm and goodness]], there isn't much call for his services.

But wait! There's more: as the forces of Good continue to eradicate Evil, the [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil balance of the world shifts]]. After Sam and his [[strike: friend]] [[strike: companion]] often annoying acquaintance Arcie narrowly escape the forces of Good, they stumble across a [[LastOfHisKind druid]] who tells them the ugly truth: if the forces of light continue to overwhelm darkness, the balance will be irreversibly disrupted and the world will be consumed by Good.

As in, ''cease to exist.''

So, they form a FiveBadBand of [[EvilCounterpart Evil Counterparts]] to SaveTheWorld and [[SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong Set Wrong What Once Went Right.]] Mostly notable for taking the usual "Evil trying to take over the world" fantasy yarn and turning it on its head. Even if the villains aren't exactly all that evil.

----
!!Tropes include:

* AcquiredPoisonImmunity: Sam is immune to just about every drug in existence other than [[CantHoldHisLiquor alcohol]].
* AerithAndBob: There's Sam and Robin alongside Arcie and Kaylana. Valeriana is soon nicknamed "Valerie", much to her distaste. Sam is short for Samalander (''not'' [[InsistentTerminology "Salamander"]]), rather than Samuel however. "Arcie" also turns out to be "R. C.", for "Reinhart Corallis".
* AlwaysChaoticEvil: Deconstructed with Valerie, whose entire race was wiped out for being "evil." While she at no point denies this, she also had loved ones and a family that were destroyed as a result, and is quick to point out that people's willingness to believe this trope meant it was okay for the heroes to commit what was essentially ''genocide.''
* ApocalypseHow: Of the ''Planetary'' scale; if the forces of light continue to overrun the world, the planet will be consumed by light, wiping out everything on it. While having a spiritual vision, Kaylana sees that such an action would inevitably upset the balance of neighboring worlds and possibly lead to a cascade effect, meaning that it could potentially be on a ''Multiversal'' scale as well.
* TheArchmage: Mizzamir, who even has this as his title. He is the most powerful wizard in the world left, and the only surviving Hero left from the Victory of Good against Evil [[spoiler: (at least before Sir Pryse is revealed as still alive)]].
* ArtifactOfDoom: Valeriana's medallion is one of the last surviving {{Hellgate}}s (called Darkgates in the book). A very small one, yes, but a {{Hellgate}} nonetheless. [[spoiler: Given that, you'd think Sam would know better than to put the damn thing on, but that's part of its evil, tempting power...]]
* BadassMustache: The legendary hero Sir Pryse was a paladin who sported one of these; apparently he set a trend since every other paladin who shows up in the story is described as boasting a thick, neatly-trimmed mustache. [[spoiler: When Blackmail removes his armor and reveals his identity, he's still got the same mustache he had as Sir Pryse, now just slightly graying from age.]]
* BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil: The very premise of the novel, with a small twist: if the world remains precisely balanced too long, it will be locked in stasis for all eternity. Periodic fluctuations in balance are just as vital as making sure neither side gets the upper hand for long.
* BalefulPolymorph: It's {{implied}} that [[spoiler:Blackmail's horse is actually his brother, transformed into a horse by Mizzamir.]]
* BeneathNotice: Arcie and Kaylana infiltrate Mizzamir's castle by disguising themselves as servants hired on as temp workers for the multinational wizard's conference that Mizzamir is hosting at the time. When they need to get into the archmage's personal tower, Arcie grabs a tray of wine glasses and asks one of the permanent staff for directions, to which the butler's only reaction while giving the directions is annoyance over the fact that this meant that yet another part of the castle would need extra cleaning when the conference was over.
* BenevolentMageRuler: Mizzamir serves as one to Natodik, which he apparently rules.
* BigGood - EvilOverlord: The book being what it is, Mizzamir blurs the line between these two tropes. He's working for the forces of good and attempting to purge all evil from the world, and will never take the life of an opponent. On the other hand, Mizzamir plays straight a lot of EvilOverlord tropes, constantly spying on foes from a spire of a castle, increasing his powerbase as the world changes, and manipulating his allies for his own ends.
* BlackAndWhiteInsanity: The heroes suffer from this, and their attempt to only push for the forces of light endangers the world, kicking off the book's plot. Our own group of [[VillainProtagonist Villain Protagonists]] reason that the world is more complex than that, and attempting to categorize things leads to the heroes performing morally dubious actions simply because they're "on the right side."
* BlackKnight: Blackmail.
* {{Brainwashed}}/BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood: The plainer term for "whitewashing", where a wizard in the service of Good forcibly drives out the evil in a person, leaving the victim in a state best described as GoodIsDumb. Could be considered a form of MindRape.
* BroughtDownToNormal: [[spoiler: In order to acquire the final key, Sam is forced to give up his self-identity as an assassin. Blackmail helps him restore it just in time to have a final confrontation with Mizzamir.]]
* CantArgueWithElves: Well, Mizzamir seems to think it applies, and most everyone he talks to either agrees with him already or does by the time he's through with them (see {{Brainwashed}}). {{Subverted}} in that Sam refuses to give in and just keeps trying to kill him.
* CantHoldHisLiquor: Sam almost never drinks since it could potentially interfere with his job, and he needs to keep his instincts and reflexes honed. As a result, when he ''does'' drink he goes down fast, though Arcie just attributes this to Six Landers' innate "fragility".
* CessationOfExistence: The entire universe will be "sublimated" in a flash of light if the "Good" side isn't stopped.
* ChekhovsGun: Sam makes Kaylana a garland of exotic flowers. Many chapters later, she uses some of the flowers as reagents for a spell to save the party.
* ChessMotifs: "In chess, someone has to take the black pieces."
* ChestMonster: Called an "Aydaptor", one nearly devours Arcie. Later it's domesticated with a spell into a pet by the adventuring party following them, to its horror.
* ChildByRape: [[spoiler: It turns out that Sam is one, via Mizzamir]].
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Almost deconstructed.
** The reason why the druids are all but extinct. Once Good overpowered Evil, the druids were obligated as [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil keepers of the balance]] to join with the forces of Evil. Unfortunately, they're [[LawfulStupidChaoticStupid Stereotypical Evil, and both sides killed the Druids]]...
** In the present, the group remark on the stupidity of this trope as a stereotypically villainous act, since adhering to it is what led to evil being mostly wiped out. The villains note how backwards it is to be at the throats of your own allies, even when in a position where you can trust no one. They themselves manage TeethClenchedTeamwork to get through the adventure, eventually growing into actual trust.
* ColorCodedForYourConvenience: {{Played straight}} and subverted. Sam wears black, Mizzamir wears white. [[spoiler: The subversion lies in that Mizzamir is a ''deluded'' wizard who only cares about Light and Dark, not right or wrong. Sam is an assassin, but other than that quite a decent fellow.]]
** Sam also notes that assassins take this to the logical extreme of wearing black undergarments, the better not to give away one's position if one's outer garments tear on an assignment and, as he puts it, "show a white bunny tail." At the start of the book, Sam has also had his naturally blond hair dyed black for the same reason.
* CompellingVoice: Kaylana is able to use this power in a limited manner. She has to look in the subject's eyes, and it works better on animals than people. In the latter case it hurts her.
* CosmicKeystone: The Spectrum Key, used to seal off the main [[{{Hellgate}} Darkgate]], then fragmented and each part hidden in a trial (just in case it's needed, however unlikely).
* CruelMercy: Mizzamir's punishments on his enemies are ultimately this. He does everything ''but'' kill people who defy his rule but he'll do just about anything else. His dealings with criminals include [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood Whitewashing,]] [[TakenForGranite turning them to stone,]] and [[spoiler: [[BalefulPolymorph turning evil-doers into horses.]]]] As pointed out by the villains multiple times, many would prefer ''anything'' to what Mizzamir would do to them.
* CultOfPersonality: Mizzamir's home providence of Natodik has one based around him. Wizardry is a popular subject, everyone wears robes that mimic his, and citizens [[BigBrotherIsWatching believe he is watching them at all times.]]
* DamselInDistress: Zig-zagged. Finwick believes that Kaylana is being manipulated and misguided by the villains, possibly being held against her will, and resolves to rescue her. By sending a Dragon to abduct her and hold her hostage, requiring the villains to storm the Dragon's keep and save the damsel from the heroes.
* DarkIsNotEvil: Kaylana (and Robin after his HeelFaceTurn) are nominally part of the dark side, despite lacking evil traits. Sam and Arcie aren't particularly bad sorts either, their professions notwithstanding, and Blackmail, for all his BlackKnight trappings, proves to be downright noble. The only one of the "villains" who can really be described as "evil" in any way is Valeriana, and even she had children and a husband she loved [[spoiler: which also lends her a [[MonsterSobStory sympathetic backstory]] since they were slaughtered by "heroes".]]
* DeaderThanDead: In order to insure that someone ''stays'' dead (given that powerful healers are able to resurrect them), the assassins will burn the body, take off the head or cut out their heart. Sam's done about a dozen "permanent" hits.
* {{Deconstruction}}: This the book's goal in regards to fantasy fiction, turning the most basic idea -- good versus evil -- on its head. Some readers feel it fails though, since the "villains" are not so bad, with the "heroes" having very nasty sides in some cases.
* DefectorFromDecadence: [[spoiler:Sir Pryse, in the guise of the black knight Blackmail]], joins the "villains" when Mizzamir's KnightTemplar vision of "good" becomes apparent [[spoiler:with Mizzamir, it is implied, having [[BalefulPolymorph transformed Sir Pryse's brother into a horse]].]]
* DefrostingIceQueen: Kaylana. Over the course of the book she slowly warms up under Sam's romantic attention toward her, and at the end she finally laughs at something he says. It's implied they are together after this.
* DisappearedDad: Sam was raised by his mother alone, who could not remember who his father was or where he went. It turns out this is because [[spoiler: Mizzamir raped her, conceiving Sam, then wiped her memory to save his reputation.]]
* {{Druid}}: Kaylana, who's the [[LastOfHisKind last one left]]. There used to be thousands more, but they were all killed. Most of their traits are typical, though the book adds that they also believe in keeping the {{balance between good and evil}} (to the point of pure stupidity-this is what killed the others).
* EmbarrassingFirstName: "Arcie" comes from "R. C.", for Reinhart Corallis, much to Arcie's embarrassment when it's revealed near the end.
* TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt: This is the threat the protagonists are trying to stop. Assuming the forces of Good aren't thwarted, the entire world will be "sublimated"-vaporized in a flash of light.
* EpiphanicPrison: The Labyrinth of Dreams, the last test the protagonists face, works only if you believe in the illusions.
* EqualOpportunityEvil: A running theme throughout the book is that the villains don't really hold personal points against you for any reason as long as you can get results, while the heroes tend to be (at best) patronizing to anything that doesn't quite fall inside their worldview. Our heroes are a RagTagBunchOfMisfits of varying races and backgrounds that manage to get along and form friendships. The world's heroes, whoever, have been [[AlwaysChaoticEvil wiping out evil races]], [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood slowly eliminating all dissenting and "disruptive" opinions,]] and hunting down creatures [[NonMaliciousMonster who they've labeled as evil.]] Kaylana especially is regularly mocked by the heroes for being a Druid and following a "backward" religion that insists on balance as opposed to good destroying evil.
* EvenEvilHasLovedOnes: Arcie's thief-friend Kimi left the ThievesGuild for love. Also [[spoiler: Valerie, easily the evilest person in the entire party, lost her family and ''entire people'' to brutal slaughter by the Verdant Company, which is one reason she hates Fenwick so much. Blackmail left the Six Heroes for his brother's sake. Sam's first kill was of his mother's rapist]].
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Sam. He explicitly states that none of the assassins ever killed an entire family, plus they make their killing quick and painless.
* EvilFeelsGood: An implied effect of Valeriana's medallion.
* EvilGloating: {{Subverted}} [[spoiler: when Blackmail finally gets around to talking; he keeps fighting all the way through his monologue.]]
* TheEvilsOfFreeWill: In a rare twist, it's said by the "good" guys, who [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood "whitewash"]] villain's minds to make them good citizens.
* EvilVersusOblivion: The options facing the world. Ironically, it's the "good" side obliviously pushing the world toward destruction.
* EvilWeapon: Inverted; Finwick wields a holy blade called Truelight that exists to cut down evil. [[spoiler: Sam actually uses this weapon to cut off Mizzamir's head, reasoning that however truthful or holy you make a sword, it's always going to be a weapon made to kill.]]
* FaceHeelTurn: [[spoiler: Blackmail, as far as the Six Heroes are concerned.]] Also see HeelFaceTurn.
* {{Familiar}}: Valerie's raven Nightshade is hers, doing things such as spy or perform small tasks she orders. She also has genuine affection for him-he's more than just a tool. Good mages also often have them. The downside however is that having a familiar requires a kind of {{psychic link}}, so any harm is shared. Sam and Arcie quickly [[ExploitedTrope exploit]] the fact when Valerie takes over the group by holding Nightshade hostage until she gives up her amulet. Later, Nightshade fights some familiars of Good mages, and kills two in one go this way.
* FeedTheMole: [[spoiler: When Robin is found out, everybody starts giving him false info.]]
* FiveBadBand: Our protagonists, who coincidentally form the EvilCounterpart to the legendary Heroes that saved the world in the great war. Due to the book being what it is, the line between a typical FiveBadBand and the heroic FiveManBand winds up rather blurry.
** BigBad: Sam, professional assassin and HitmanWithAHeart, who keeps the band together and decides on the next course of action, thereby leading a team of villains to unleash unspeakable evil into the world. He's also personally devoted to murdering the archmage Mizzamir, striking from the shadows while he lives in the light.
** TheDragon: Arcie, a thief who robs everything he can find. Closer to TheLancer than a typical Dragon, being a voice of reason and largely acting as Sam's backup through the adventure.
** TheEvilGenius: Valerie, the sorceress who seeks the death of those who wiped out her people, bringing magical knowledge and ingenuity.
** TheBrute: Blackmail, a perpetually-mute BlackKnight who's by far the most physical presence of the group and the best at direct combat.
** TheDarkChick: Kaylana, who's really only villainous by association and seeks to restore balance to the world rather than cause the world any real harm.
** SixthRangerTraitor: Robin, the NonActionGuy who's sent to the group by Mizzamir to act as a spy. [[spoiler: He eventually has a HeelFaceTurn (depending on your viewpoint) after realizing the villains are right and the world is going to end, on the motivation of not wanting to die.]]
** TeamPet: Nightshade, Valerie's familiar. Also for a time Blackmail's horse.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: There are several hints about Blackmail [[spoiler: being Sir Pryce]] and Sam [[spoiler: being Mizzamir's son]]. Blackmail is from Kwartz, [[spoiler: Sir Pryce's country]], and defeated when a paladin whom he's fighting prays [[spoiler: to Sir Pryce]] for aid. Robin, while looking at a painting depicting the youthful Mizzamir, finds his features then look oddly familiar. [[spoiler: Because he resembles Sam. Plus the fact that a magical ward reacts to him and he can get a magic mirror to work, which shows he has latent ability inherited from Mizzamir.]] Also, Blackmail lingers over a mural showing Sir Pryce arguing with Mizzamir. [[spoiler: Similar conflict led to him breaking with the Light.]]
* GilliganCut: Quite often. One particular note is when sneaking into Mizzamir's tower, Valerie remarking how odd it is that such a powerful mage has no defense against prowlers. The narrative then cuts to Mizzamir's office, where a proximity alarm is going off, explaining that he would hear it if he weren't attending a magical symposium.
* GhibliHills: Natodik is made up of these, surrounding Mizzamir's shining white tower carved from diamond. The land used to be a harsh desert, but Mizzamir's magic transformed it into an idyllic paradise overflowing with greenery and life. To the villains, having to journey here is the equivalent of walking through {{Mordor}}.
* GoodCannotComprehendEvil: Almost deconstructed. After the forces of darkness have been all but entirely wiped out, heroes swarm the world brainwashing evil-doers and driving monsters to extinction. The fact that the world ''needs'' evil to exist (and will literally cease to be without it) is something none of them can understand, and the book's group of villain protagonists are forced to fight against them until the end.
* GoodIsDumb: The common and whitewashed segments of the population.
* GoodIsNotNice: There's Mizzamir, [[spoiler: who let's face it, is pretending to be a hero, even if he won't admit it to himself]]. There's several other "good" characters who indulge in less savory practices. Among the members of a "good" adventuring party were a woman who quite clearly wouldn't have taken "no" for an answer from Sam, while Fenwick tried to date-rape Kaylana, having dosed her drink with aphrodisiacs.
* GoodNeedsEvil: The book's central theme.
* HalfHumanHybrid: [[spoiler: Sam, whose father is Mizzamir, the elven archmage.]]
* HeelFaceBrainwashing: The effect of "whitewashing" is to turn evil people good by force.
* HeelFaceTurn: Robin and, before the start of the book, [[spoiler: Blackmail]], for certain values of "heel" and "face."
* HeroAntagonist: The side of light is, unknowingly, destroying their world by eradicating every speck of evil in it, to the point that they are annihilating everything that could be qualified as "not-light". This included the druids, who were keepers of balance, and the bards, who were more or less neutral. They then begin [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood whitewashing]] thieves, assassins, and other criminals, who were more or less just grey.
** The entire premise of the story is basically this: in a world of magic, once the {{BigBad}}s are fully eradicated, what would happen if the good guys started taking their intended plans for the betterment of the world ''to their inevitable conclusion?'' [[FridgeHorror After all, the only way you can remove all evil from the world is if you remove choice, and freedom, from the world.]]
* HeroesPreferSwords: Played straight in a weird way. Sam has a short sword that he carries with him, but prefers daggers, as he's a villain. None of the other members of the party use swords save Blackmail [[spoiler: (who, as it turns out, is actually a fallen hero).]] [[HeroAntagonist Prince Finwick, the hero pursuing our villains,]] uses a holy sword of truth.
* HeroicSuicide: The Dark Gate requires a death to open it. [[spoiler: Sir Pryse]] thus kills himself by jumping in, saving the world from destruction.
* HeroesWantRedheads: Kaylana, since she's got both Sam and Fenwick trying to get her attention.
* HitmanWithAHeart: Sam, who is an assassin but a caring, friendly person overall despite this.
* HumanMomNonhumanDad: [[spoiler: Sam, whose mother was human and whose father it turns out is an elf.]]
%%* ILied
* IncrediblyLamePun: When the knight in jet-black armor shows up, the protagonists have to come up with a name for him (he declines to give one, or even say anything). They settle on "Blackmail". For extra fun, [[spoiler: his real name is Sir Pryse.]]
** Not to mention, the names of the Six Lands themselves - Ein, Dous, Trois, Kwart, Seicks...
* ImprobableAimingSkills: Sam has an innate magical ability that manifests in how he throws his daggers. No matter when or where he throws, he always hits ''someone'' (even if it's not who he was aiming for). At one point he tosses Blackmail his enormously heavy broadsword in the midst of a battle and it manages to clear the distance to him despite physically being too heavy for him to throw that far.
* InternalReveal: The readers know from the start that Robin is a mole in the protagonists' group, but they don't find this out until much later in the book.
* ItsAlwaysSpring: Explained as a side effect of Good having such a stranglehold on the world; the characters note that it ''should'' by all rights be autumn, but the sun only stays up longer (to the point where Kaylana's attempt to tell time by the sun's position is four hours off) and the flowers only get more abundant.
* ItsForABook: After suffering through intense ClothingDamage throughout the adventure, Sam is forced to have his Assassin's Guild uniform mended by a tailor. When the conspicuously villainous outfit naturally attracts questions, he claims it's a costume for a play (specifically this world's version of Hamlet).
* ItsPersonal:
** Sam starts the book under the belief that the Assassin's Guild, the closest thing he has to a family, are all abandoning their trade because it's a much less stable business as evil is being wiped out of the world. After finding out exactly what [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood whitewashing]] actually entails, he realizes they were forced against their will into leaving their old lives behind, and vows to kill Mizzamir for it.
** Cited as [[spoiler: the reason behind Blackmail's final break with the Six Heroes. When his brother turned evil, he had asked Mizzamir to be merciful... and Mizzamir turned his brother into a warhorse. It's implied that this is the same warhorse he rode and lovingly cared for until Fenwick's men killed it.]]
** Valeriana's grudge against Sir Fenwick - the Verdant Company hunted her race to near total extinction, including her husband, daughter, and unborn son.
* KnightTemplar: So-called "Good" in a nutshell.
* [[LastOfHisKind Last Of Her Kind]]: Kaylana and Valeriana.
* LawfulStupid: The main problem with the premise is that it depends heavily on this and StupidGood behavior from the ostensibly "good" antagonists in order to keep them in conflict with the protagonists, who aside from Valeriana really aren't at all evil.
* LawyerFriendlyCameo: Barigans are stand-ins for hobbits, with Arcie going so far as to lampshade this. On a more parodic level, the Gnifty Gnomes are thinly-disguised Smurfs.
* LightIsNotGood: The behavior of the side of Light being obvious enough.
* LivingLieDetector: Kaylana has this talent, presumably due to being a druid. It does have drawbacks, such as lies of omission, and non-verbal communication.
* LukeIAmYourFather: [[spoiler: Mizzamir and Sam.]]
* MeaningfulName:
** Mizzamir names the novel's world "{{Chiaroscuro}}", which is Italian for "light-dark", referring to artwork that features this contrast, and of course the conflict centers on the struggle between the forces of Light and Dark.
** Blackmail meets the group by saving them from a Dragon of Light who's in the process of attacking them. The dragon's name? Lumathix, which literally means "light-toucher."
* MagicMirror: The group runs into one which reveals Robin is a spy to them, as he's seen meeting with Archmage Mizzamir while they're looking in on the latter.
* MirrorMatch: The final Test of the group has this as an obstacle, forcing Sam to battle against a copy of himself in order to claim the final keystone.
* MindRape: [[spoiler:Mizzamir did this to Sam's mother, to cover up his physically raping her. It left her permanently mentally damaged.]]
* TheMole / TheInfiltration: Robin, who's been sent to join the heroes as a spy for Mizzamir.
* MurderInc: The assassins guild Sam used to be a member of.
* MyNameIsInigoMontoya: Sam, during the climax. [[spoiler: Mizzamir raped his mother, conceiving him and indirectly putting Sam on the path to becoming an assassin. This leads to Mizzamir's death at his hand in the end.]]
* TheNeedless: One of the many things about Blackmail that raises questions from the rest of the group. He never sleeps, never eats, never tires.
* NeutralityBacklash: The druids tried to keep both sides in the war between good and evil from winning, as they knew that either side achieving absolute victory would be a disaster. This got them declared an enemy by both sides. By the start of the story (a century after the Victory), Kaylana was the only druid still alive.
* TheNightThatNeverEnds: Inverted. As the forces of light continue to spread unchecked through the world, it moves closer and closer to endless ''day.'' [[spoiler: By the end of the book, the world is sunny and bright in spite of it being eleven at night.]]
* NonActionGuy: Robin is really pretty useless in most combat scenarios, and tends to react to trouble by either running away or panicking. He gets better near the end, fighting fiercely along with the others.
* NoodleIncident: Blackmail completes Sir Pryse's test off-page, as story focus remains with the rest of the party. [[spoiler:Since Blackmail ''was'' Sir Pryse, he almost certainly passed the test easily, as he would have known exactly what it was going in.]]
* OffstageVillainy: Not one of the villain protagonists does anything ''really'' evil in the story, thus allowing us to sympathize with them. Anything like that is only mentioned as part of their past (for instance, Sam's apparently assassinated ''dozens'' of people).
* {{Parody}}: The book is one of the standard "Heroes have to save the world" plot, with some "bad guys" having to save the ''universe'' from the "good guys" after they won. It also generally parodies many fantasy cliches, with the ''{{Literature/Dragonlance}}'' characters being possibly more specifically parodied through one band of heroes who try to stop the protagonists, along with borrowing the idea that if good wins, it must turn evil itself in the end.
* PetTheDog: The group all have moments and relationships that keep them from being entirely evil people. The most obvious and present is Blackmail's sincere and touching love for his horse, [[spoiler: to the point of nearly hitting a DespairEventHorizon when it dies.]]
* PlotCoupon: The fragments of the Spectrum Key.
* PoisonIsEvil: Our protagonist, Sam, is an assassin with a vast knowledge of toxins and poisons, which he carries plenty of at all times, having spent years building up immunities to them. He also readily employs PoisonedWeapons and owns a PoisonRing (which, admittedly, he used to stash an extra dose of hay fever medicine rather than anything directly dangerous).
* PoisonRing: Sam owns one, which he uses to store allergy medication in.
* PragmaticVillainy: Robin spends most of the adventure confused why the group doesn't act like a stereotypical cutthroat band, and expecting them to backstab one another at any moment. The group realize talking to him that good and evil aren't black and white, and that being evil hardly means you need to kill your friends for no reason. Kaylana points out that had they behaved that way, the party wouldn't've lasted five minutes.
* ProfessionalKiller: Sam, though he [[HitmanWithAHeart isn't that bad of a person]]. There used to be an [[WeirdTradeUnion entire guild]] of them in his home city.
* ProudWarriorRace: The desert plainsmen of Ki'kartha. They've become more understanding and less hostile in recent years, in the sense that they now arrest trespassers in their land and hand them over to nearby civilized authorities rather than casually kill them as soon as they're found.
* PunnyName: Blackmail, named after his black armor, and Sir Pryse. [[spoiler:Who are the same person. [[TheReveal Surprise!]]]]
* TheQuietOne: Blackmail never talks, choosing to communicate with the group through gestures, if that.
* RagtagBunchOfMisfits: The protagonists, who are a black knight, an evil sorceress, a druid, a thief and assassin.
* RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil: Sam believes this, after walking in on his mother after she'd been raped by a drunk. He killed the man, and has killed other rapists since "off the books".
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: Kaylana, who was a child during the last war between Good and Evil... over a hundred and fifty years ago. [[spoiler: Blackmail tops her by being one of the heroes who FOUGHT in the war 150 years ago. In the present all he has is a bit of grey hair. He says his armor is enchanted, implying its magic kept him alive.]]
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: [[spoiler: After Blackmail reveals his true identity as Sir Pryse, he launches into one at Mizzamir, pointing out that his self-righteous attempt to change the world to fit his image has only endangered it, and that light and virtue are meaningless if one doesn't have the ability to choose it for themselves.]]
* TheReveal: Blackmail [[spoiler: is [[DefectorFromDecadence Sir Pryse]], one of the Six Heroes.]]
* SavingTheWorld: From the forces of so-called Good, no less.
* SelfMadeOrphan: [[spoiler:Sam, in the final battle. Though he didn't ''know'' that Mizzamir was his father until minutes before killing him for unrelated reasons.]]
* ShadowWalker: Sam, which turns out to be very useful in [[ProfessionalKiller his work]]. This involves traveling into a shadow world which is entered or exited through shadows, though it doesn't appear to make travel any faster, just easier getting into otherwise inaccessible places. It's stated there used to be others-apparently they all went into the shadow world one by one, though, and never returned... Naturally, the assassins decided it was best to stop teaching it after that. It seems this was due to being {{addictive magic}}, since Sam grows more and more unable to stand being in the normal world after he starts using it.
* ShoutOut: At one point Sam attempts to play off his assassin's garb as the costume for a play, "The Tragedy of Oswald, Prince of Volinar." Sam describes the plot as [[Theatre/{{Hamlet}} "the one where the fellow's uncle kills his father and marries his mother".]]
* SixthRangerTraitor: [[spoiler: Robin.]]
* SoulJar: The heart stone acts as a variant of this. It's also a subversion [[spoiler: as Sam is a hell of a lot ''more'' vulnerable having his gift locked away in the thing]].
* StalkerWithACrush: Fenwick is a womanizer to begin with, but when he spies Kaylana among the villain protagonists, he immediately decides that he must save her (and give her a personal tour of his quarters) because she's [[BeautyEqualsGoodness attractive]]. Doesn't sound creepy? While his constant spying is explainable as keeping tabs on the villains' progress, he obsesses over her presence in specific far more than professionally required. And then resorts to kidnapping her. ''By dragon''..
* StickyFingers: Arcie is the former leader of the (now defunct) Thieves Guild and pockets everything he comes across, even if they happen to be owned by his traveling companions.
* StupidNeutral: The druids. First in the backstory they switched sides once the [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil balance tipped in favor of the Light]]. Naturally the forces of Light killed them as traitors. The Dark meanwhile viewed them as spies for having so recently fought on the side of Light, and killed them as well. Kaylana, the last druid, learned nothing after this, telling her "dark" comrades that she'd turn on them if the Dark ever started winning. What a way to inspire trust...
* SugarApocalypse:
** Turns out that wickedness and evil are needed in the world, otherwise a cosmos of nothing but virtue and innocence will be wiped out in a great blinding light, essentially this trope.
** On a smaller scale, the protagonists at one point find a village of Gnifty Gnomes; tiny, disgustingly cute little critters who only want to play games and sing songs. After our villains narrowly escape their proposed party, Blackmail gallantly chops down a tree that crushes their village, wiping them out.
* SugarBowl: The world is slowly turning into this, with the brainless whitewashed populace only growing, the sun staying out for longer, and the night becoming brighter. The villains notice several times on their travels how sickeningly wholesome and sweet many of the landscapes they traverse are. [[spoiler: It's taken UpToEleven toward the end of the book as the world inches closer and closer to the end. The world has literally no shadows, even inside of people's mouths, and even the black clothing of our protagonists become bright, cheery colors. Nightshade, a raven, turns a bright blue.]]
* SuperpoweredEvilSide: [[spoiler: Sam, courtesy of Valeriana's medallion.]]
* SurveillanceAsThePlotDemands: Mizzamir plays the Palantir Ploy throughout the book. It seems to work perfectly at first, but the presence of both Kaylana and Valeriana in the group causes it to only give him some vague glimpses of the protagonists' progress (Arcie also damaged his scrying font while prying gemstones out of it, reducing the font's power). Later, the protagonists get ahold of a {{magic mirror}} which allows them to remotely view Mizzamir, conveniently revealing [[spoiler: that Robin in his spy.]]
* {{Synchronization}}: This is the downside of having {{familiar}}'s in the book's universe-anything which the familiar suffers the mage shares. Thus when Nightshade, Valerie's familiar, kills a good mage's bird familiar, the mage dies too. Sam and Arcie exploit the fact earlier too by threatening Nightshade so Valerie will release control of the group.
* TakenForGranite: Mizzamir inflicts this on Sam after a brief encounter, planning to come back and Whitewash him once he recovers from an injury. Valerie remarks that this is typical behavior for a "good" mage; transform criminals to stone, then leave them there until he decides what's to be done with them. Her personal opinion is that a BalefulPolymorph is more useful if you need to keep an enemy alive for a while -- frogs and newts are a lot easier to transport than several hundred pounds of stone, and don't attract attention if one suddenly appears in the middle of the street.
* TakeThat: To the Smurfs, and perhaps the fantasy genre overall.
* TautologicalTemplar: The side of Good is actually pretty damned evil. Not only is the world becoming "mystically unbalanced" by their actions but they've become a horrible dictatorship and most of them ''still'' insist that they are Good and all who oppose them are Evil.
** As it's put at one point-they know nothing of right or wrong, only Good and Evil.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: The party at the beginning. At one point they nearly end up coming to blows, before Kaylana gets the others to realize that none of them can complete the quest - or even survive in the long run - without the abilities of the others.
* ThievesCant: Arcie and Sam speak in rogues' cant multiple times throughout the book.
* ThievesGuild: Arcie was once guildmaster of one, and most cities apparently had them, although some only had competing independent gangs.
* ThrowingYourSwordAlwaysWorks: Zig-zagged. Fenwick tries to kill Sam by throwing his sword at him, and misses - the sword wasn't balanced for use as a projectile, and Fenwick wasn't trained in throwing weapons. Then Sam takes the sword and throws it back at the 'heroes', hitting his target - Sam ''has'' trained in throwing unbalanced swords, and has magically enhanced throwing skills on top of that.
* TrueCompanions: By the end of the book, the main characters.
* UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans: Or at least the Good crowd thinks it does, if it's even occurred to them that not everything they do is automatically right in the first place.
* VancianMagic: In keeping with the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' style fantasy parody, magic works this way. Valerie duels a good mage, and their spells keep harmlessly blocking each other until they use up all the ones they've prepared. They simply cast their last ones (which are not offensive) then politely take their leave of each other, as neither is capable of harm by magic at that point.
* VillainProtagonist: Sam, Arcie and Valeriana (an assassin, thief and dark sorceress), though the former two aren't as villainous.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: Kaylana turns into a horse at one point as a disguise. Fenwick, thinking she's a real horse, tries to ride off on her. She bucks him off.
* WarriorPrince: Fenwick, one of the [[HeroAntagonist heroes,]] is a proud knightly prince and a champion for the forces of light.
* WeirdTradeUnion: Assassins and thieves organized themselves into guilds in most cities. Sam (assassin) and Arcie (thief) had both been members of their respective guilds, with the latter a guildmaster.
* WhiteHairBlackHeart: Mizzamir. Though on the surface he is a kindly elven mage, he's also got no problem with brainwashing villains into becoming good. [[spoiler: Also it's eventually revealed he once committed rape and confused the victim's mind so she couldn't tell anyone, to protect his good name and reputation.]]
----