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A mysterious creature who goes back in time to seek the help of the Roman general Belisarius to rise against evil.
- Alternate History Wank: Justifying this trope is part of its purpose in existence. Tropes Are Not Bad, because the result is AWESOME!
- Chessmaster Sidekick: To Belisarius who is this to Justinian and Theodora.
- Cunning Linguist: Teaches Belisarius language so fast that Belisarius is sometimes hard put to it to conceal his knowledge.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Played with. Aide actually has to learn that he has a soul from being around humans.
- Deadpan Snarker: Especially later on, as he develops his consciousness.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: Literally. As well as firearms, medicine, and assorted other technologies.
The evil that Aide and Belisarius are raising against.
- The Chessmaster: It knows exactly what it has to do in order to achieve its goals.
- Conqueror from the Future: It comes from the future to Take Over the World and change history.
- Cyborg: Part machine, part possessed woman.
- Demonic Possession: Of autistic girls no less.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Its Achilles' Heel. Link thinks of people as large-scale social movements and as numbers on a list, and does not understand the genuine heroics of its enemies. Thus, Belisarius is constantly able to surprise it in ways that the Link had written off as nigh-impossible.
- Evil Overlord: Rules over the tyrannical Malwa Empire from the shadows, orchestrating most of its atrocities.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Plans to create a eugenic racist empire.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: Well, to The Malwa.
- God-Emperor: Of the Indian Malwa Empire. It poses as a spirit sent by their deities, although those closest to it know the basics of what it really is.
- Insufferable Genius: A jackass genius who can act as a Living Lie Detector.
- Living Lie Detector: Uses subconscious and physical cues to determine whether a human is lying. Comes to bite it in the ass when Narses, a man who lies for a living, manages to bullshit it through telling carefully-selected truths.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Well, the singular. It's a eugenic robot from the future whose sole function is to safeguard human "purity" and does so by creating a proto-fascist state.
- The Spock: Well yeah, it's a computer. And its biggest flaw was being unwilling to learn how to understand human feelings. Humans were its slaves, not its comrades; it was not their "aide".
- Utopia Justifies the Means: For certain values of "utopia" that involve rigid caste hierarchies and blood purity, Link is willing to commit atrocities and even use unclean or low-caste tools to do the job.
Romans In General
- Badass Army: (They are Romans after all)
- Deadly Decadent Court: This is the culture that gave us the adjective "byzantine", remember? Belisarius sometimes seems to spend as much time manipulating the Emperor into letting him save the world rather than executing him as he does actually saving it.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Romans have a scientific and technological tradition that out-paces all the other civilizations presented. The Malwa have technology but don't really know how to use it because it was just given them out of hand. They think about it the way a spoiled rich kid thinks about money. Romans, by contrast, once proper hints are given are able to take to modern technology like a duck to water.
- Lightning Bruiser: When Belisarius' Cataphracts (heavy cavalry) are in the neighborhood, it is best for the enemy to be elsewhere.
- National Weapon: none as such but the most notable is their heavy, armor-piercing Horse Archer bows.
Bedouin Chief and Auxiliary Light Cavalryman in Belisarius' army.
- Had To Be Sharp: He's a bedouin darn it; he lives in the desert. That's why the Romans want him as a scout.
- Noble Savage: Averted. He is not particularly more noble than anyone else. He is however a skilled warrior.
- Puppet State: His tribe is a client of the Romans and sends warriors to serve in Belisarius' army.
- Seek the general who is not a warrior
- Animal Motifs: Is often compared to a mongoose, for his sideways approach to combat.
- Battle Couple: with Antonia. Though only rarely do they appear on the same battlefield they coordinate strategy together, and Rana Sanga once speculates that Antonia was assigned to the African theater because he knew that she would relieve him on time.
- Berserk Button: All of Belisarius' soldiers know that they had better not commit atrocities while he is in command.
- But I Read a Book About It: He is up on history, like many generals. As a bonus he is up on future history.
- The Chessmaster: His overall tactical plan for fighting the Malwa involves a great deal of manipulating them into doing what he wants, sometimes involving actions set in motion years in advance.
- Cincinnatus: He never would have considered usurping the throne even though he easily could have.
- Consummate Professional: it is often commented on that he has a very craftsman-like approach to battle, unlike his fellow generals, who tend towards a warrior-like approach.
- Country Mouse: It is noted that he is a Thracian and not a Greek. Thracians are pictured as the Byzantine equivalent of rednecks.
- Four-Star Badass: In addition to being the best general of his time, he is also capable of kicking ass on the battlefield, and has a habit of leading decisive charges.
- Frontline General: Which annoys his bodyguards Valentinian and Anastasius no end.
- Historical-Domain Character : Never visited by time travelers as far as we know, though.
- I Just Want To Be A Blacksmith: Often comments that he doesn't want to be a general in charge of saving the world, he'd really rather be a village blacksmith somewhere.
- Make an Example of Them: While not in Bad Boss levels, he is shown purging a few armies of incompetent or corrupt officers more or less terminally.
- Omniglot: is fluent in, at a minimum, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Ge'ez, Persian, Kushan, Ye-Tai, and Hindi — the last of which he has to hide for a while, since there was no reasonable explanation for how he could learn to speak it fluently with a native accent in a matter of months. Justified in that his learning is being assisted by an AI from the future.
- Phrase Catcher: "Deadly with a blade is Belisarius"
- Plunder: Belisarius has strict rules about who is allowed to be pillaged and when it is to be divided. Nonetheless his campaigns send his men home with plenty to spend.
- Touched by Vorlons: Aide doesn't just give him access to complete knowledge of the future that would have been. It also gives him nearly-supernatural perception and reflexes in combat.
- Surpassed the Teacher: Became an even better tactician and strategist than his mentor Maurice
- The Women Are Safe With Belisarius: And those who have a problem with this will have an interview with Valentinian.
- Purity in the whore
- Battle Couple: With Belisarius. Also has a whole cohort of Battle Couple s at the center of her force.
- The Dulcinea Effect: More then a bit. Not uncommon in the rare Real Life female warleaders in history.
- Had To Be Sharp: A rather odd variation. Her experience as a courtesan allowed her to read the thoughts of the Malwa she was spying on when they had decided to assassinate her. And growing up in the streets of Alexandria and being taught knife work by her father (a disreputable chariot-racer) helped her survive the assassination, not to mention helping several of the "assassins" to NOT survive it.
- Historical-Domain Character: Interestingly enough the Real Life Antonina sometimes accompanied Belisarius on campaigns and was trusted with important staff and diplomatic duties. She was also known as a skilled court intriguer who could watch his back at the times when he left her in Constantinople.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Well a retired hooker. She does have a heart of gold.
- Improvised Weapon: Her murderous meat cleaver is destined to become a part of songs and legends.
- Mama Bear : The only secret she keeps from Belisarius concerns the fate of her son. She need not have worried.
- Morality Pet: Not to her husband (by a long shot), but to Theodora.
- Sleeping Their Way to the Top: A High-Class Call Girl instantly becomes respectable on marrying a great general, naturally enough. Antonina is however talented enough on her own account to allow her boost in status to make her a stateswoman and Lady of War.
Son of Antonina and adopted heir to the Roman Empire
Belisarius former mentor in the craft of arms. Now his executive officer.
- Catch Phrase: "No plan survives the first contact with the enemy. That's why he's called the enemy". Phrased a bit more crudely though.
- Genius Bruiser: He's a tough old soldier who has mastered the art of strategy and basic tactics (though once in the gunpowder age, he focuses more on the former).
- Grumpy Bear: He is as addicted to complaining as others are to drink.
- Surpassed the Teacher: He was the teacher, and was surpassed by his student Belisarius.
Aristocratic Roman General, known for his love of cataphract charges.
- Combat Aestheticist: Has a disaggreement with Maurice about this. When Sittas says that he dislikes the changes coming from technology, Maurice points out that he grew up in a war-torn countryside while Sittas grew up in a mansion in Constantinople, that if Maurice knew a better way of making a living he would take it, and that frankly he preferred just to survive thank you very much. Despite this, Sittas is sensible enough to be a skillful commander and actually does get to have some of his beloved cataphract charges.
- Fat Idiot: Definite subversion. Sittas is more than willing to act the part, has comparatively little formal education and is a completely shameless hedonist, but still manages to be a strategist even Belisarius speaks well of, as well as a very capable lancer.
- Onrushing Army: Except when he does it, it works.
Gossipy secretary who impugns Antonina's reputation for fidelity. Unaware that Belisarius and Antonina are playing him.
Bodyguard of Belisarius
- The Ace: He possesses great strength, even greater speed (he may be the fastest blade in the world), and a good amount of military knowledge. And he is perhaps THE most skilled combatant in the entire series (Raghunath Rao, Ousanas, Anastasius, and Rana Sanga are also top competitors, but in terms of sheer skill alone, he dominates).
- Animal Motifs: Valentinian is often referred to as a human weasel, due to his pinched face, extreme speed, and complete lack of compunction when it comes to killing. Indians, however, refer to him as the Mongoose, which has similar characteristics, but with overtones of courage and loyalty.
- Catch Phrase: When Belisarius wants someone disposed of he simply says "Valentinian".
- Combat Pragmatist: This is almost a religion to him. He has utter intolerance for any thought of any hand-to-hand combat technique that does not contribute to victory and is noted for the economy of his style. The one time he deviates is when he meets Rana Sanga who believes in Let's Fight Like Gentlemen. Valentinian is so impressed by Rana Sanga (as well as the fact that he can tell he is being promoted in reputation from "the weasel" to "the mongoose") that he decides to use a more spectacular technique for once and gets a scar for his pains. If he hadn't, though, he might actually have killed Sanga, thus preventing Sanga's Heel–Face Turn that brings the Rajputs to the good side.
- Crazy-Prepared: Again, his belief in perfectionism with regard to hand-to-hand combat is almost religious. He even took the time to train Rajiv Sanga how to fight with kitchen knives and household accessories. After all even a prince might find himself without a sword.
- Everyone Has Standards: While his morality is minimal and he has no inhibitions about killing, he is actually horrified by the sight of a war-rape victim the party finds at a slave market (even though he had been in sacked cities before and she is hardly the first rape-victim that he has seen), and while he would stoop to a utilitarian Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique if need be, he would have resigned if ordered to torture people simply to amuse the perversions of Malwa courtiers.
- Knife Nut: Even though he prefers other kinds of fighting, he always has several knives around. Just in case. It's even rumored that he wipes his behind with a dagger.
- Lightning Bruiser: Smaller than Anastasius, but still a big and strong man. He's also probably the single fastest warrior in the series, able to shoot two arrows to Anastasius's one and able to take on Rana Sanga, the greatest warrior in the entire series, on equal footing.
- Off with His Head!: The go-to guy for decapitations when you need someone executed.
- Poisonous Friend: He is not only Belisarius' bodyguard, he is his personal executioner.
- Retired Badass: When last seen he is joining Shakuntala's Praetorian Guard. In other words his retirement ticket is to be a badass.
- Sociopathic Hero: Many men lack the ability to kill at the drop of a hat. Valentinian kills without anyone having to even look at the hat.
Bodyguard of Belisarius
- The Ace: Face it: when you possess enormous strength, an immense amount of skill, perfect fitness, a ridiculously large amount of knowledge, and more than 7 feet in height, as well as being as fast as most other cataphracts...
- The Big Guy: Let's face it: if your strength is compared to that of a guy who ruptures bodies with a single spear thrust, and decapitates people with javelin throws… there's a good chance you'd be this. Even more so because of his immense skill (if not finesse) in combat.
- Genius Bruiser: He tortures new recruits… by cornering them and making them discuss history and philosophy with him. He is more than able to quote a historical battle while he's decapitating someone with a mace.
- Lightning Bruiser: You'd think he'd be a Mighty Glacier, but he has shown himself to be ridiculously fit and as fast as or faster than most other soldiers. And, well, he's a giant with immense fitness, loaded up with muscle and a master of the lance and mace.
- Retired Badass: Like Valentinian he joins Shakuntala's personal guard at the end, thus making being a badass his actual retirement ticket.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Played with. Like Rana Sanga, his strength is so great that he doesn't have any suitably strong opponents to practice against; while still a very skilled warrior, comparatively weaker men like Valentinian clearly have more advanced skills.
- Faith in the traitor
- Ambition Is Evil: In In the Heart of Darkness Narses knows he is being evil and curses himself for it, but his ambition is too powerful.
- Antivillain: In point of fact he is almost a hero at times and shows more loyalty toward Damodara than he did to Theodora. He also balks at assassinating Rana Sana's family because Even Evil Has Standards. In fact when doing so he refuses to be bribed by Link's offer to clone him, thus turning down his only chance at what a Eunuch could be expected to want most: descendants.
- Being Bullied Makes You Evil: It is said several times that one of his motives was the bigotry he endured until he was too powerful to be openly bigoted against with safety. This made him obsessed with showing the world he was better than them with his skill as a Chessmaster.
- Challenge Seeker: His greatest desire is to prove his skill at chessmastery and he lusts after intrigue the way some men lust after money and others after women. In a way he is a Blood Knight of intrigue.
- The Chessmaster: After meeting Link he actually calls her an amateur at chessmastery.
- Chessmaster Sidekick: To Damodara. How "loyal" he is to him is debatable but, hey, how else can one match wits with a superhuman force?
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Victory is boring. It's the plotting that he finds worthwhile, which leads him to betray one master after another. It seems to be an actual disorder, since one of the people he betrays is someone he considers an adoptive daughter, and he expresses regret at doing so.
- Consummate Professional: He is a complete professional at conspiracy.
- Eunuchs Are Evil: His "evilness level" varies through the series, but he is a eunuch.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: To Adjutasutra. To Theodora before that though he betrays her and cooperates in a conspiracy that would have ended in her life. Then saves her life before escaping when he decides the conspiracy is hopeless.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sort of. It is hard to distinguish where the line between this and simple disdain for Stupid Evil is in his case.
- Exact Words: It is said that no one could lie to Link. In a Crowning Moment of Awesome he hides his intentions simply by not saying anything that is strictly speaking untrue.
- Handicapped Badass: Narses is far more manly than many who are more physically manly.
- Heel–Face Revolving Door: His main schtick along with his chessmastery.
- Historical-Domain Character: In real life he was a courtier and a general. There are no stories of him plotting treason though.
- It Amused Me: Outwitting everyone in this world and several others amuses him.
- Irony: He might actually have been more useful to Rome because of his service to Damodara than he would have been if he stayed in Rome's service.
- Badass Bookworm: She has one of the biggest libraries in the entire world.
- Catch Phrase: "We are going to have so much fun"
- Challenge Seeker: Like Narses in this respect but not inclined to treason.
- Converted for Love and Politics: To Buddhism
- Culture Equals Costume: She wears the robes of a Byzantine noblewoman in India because making a political statement is worth a little sweat.
- Lady of War: Especially toward the end when she is actually commanding troops when Kungas is away at war.
- Not So Different: Perhaps one of the reasons she is able to guess what Narses is going to do better then others.
- Overt Operative: Her first cover was as The Mistress to a Roman general whom everyone knew preferred kind and gentle ladies as girlfriends.
- Shrouded in Myth: Her reputation as a Magnificent Bastard grows until local tribesmen think her a witch.
- The Spymaster: She is more amiable than the typical example of this trope, many of whom are a dour sort.
- The Woman Behind the Man: Subverted. Kungas is perfectly competent if not as intellectually qualified. But they are both prepared to play up this image for politics sake.
John of Rhodes
Roman naval officer and weapons designer
- Fake-Out Make-Out: He and Antonia deceive the curious by pretending to have an affair even though he himself says that her fidelity is Made of Iron.
Lieutenant of John of Rhodes
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Not as ruthless as some in this regard but has a strong belief in perfectionism.
One of the early companions of Belisarius. First seen as a naive young soldier. Latter becomes commander of Romes first high tech naval fleet.
- Live-Action Escort Mission: Several notable times escorts supplies up river past Malwa forts.
Emperor before excluded due to blindness. Determined to rectify his failures in his historical reign.
- Ambition Is Evil: Played with. Neither he nor Theodora are evil, at least not in the sense of being what someone of their time period would call a dreadful tyrant. Both however have conceived a lust for power from having risen from powerless circumstances and it did things to their personalities.
- Emperor Scientist: Subverted. He is an emperor who is also a scientist. But he did not become emperor by being a scientist.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Or at least his paranoid, suspicious nature cannot comprehend unconditional loyalty. In the fall of Constantinople in the Bad Future shown by Aide, that Justinian wonders why Belisarius never usurped him since the empire would probably have been better off with him in charge, and he can only respond with anguished incomprehension to the latter's reply of "I swore an oath."
- Good Is Not Nice: "He is not a nice man" "No, but he could be a great man."
- Grumpy Old Man: Scarcely middle-aged if that much; but very, very grumpy.
- Manly Wish For Tears: When he hears from Aide that his wife is doomed to die from cancer he comments that he regrets not being able to weep over her more then he regrets his lack of sight.
- Rags to Royalty: In the Backstory he was a peasant.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Usually, when his anger or suspicion aren't getting in his way.
- A Shared Suffering: With Theodora. They can't be considered Happily Married because they are both too big of grouches to be happily anything. But there is nothing wrong with their relationship and it is the only thing about either of them that can possibly be considered endearing.
- Worrying for the Wrong Reason: Belisarius' popularity made him so nervous that Irene hinted that Belisarius would actually be safer on a long and dangerous fact-finding trip to India. He didn't notice the Malwa conspiracy.
- Murder in the wife
- Ambition Is Evil: played with as with Justinian. Ambition doesn't make her evil but it does make her not nice.
- The Empress
- Ermine Cape Effect: She is quite good at it and absolutely insists on it. She was once a street girl, but now she is an Empress, and by golly she is going to act like one.
- Grumpy Old Woman: She is not quite 40, but the grumpy more than makes up for it.
- Phoetius and Tahmina later actually make a system for categorizing Theodora's moods. It mostly deals with the gradations of her bad moods as the times she is in a good mood are too seldom to bother with.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: She was of said profession before she married and she has a heart of gold mainly toward Justinian. A heart of iron toward almost everyone else.
- Never Be Hurt Again: She is almost obsessive about her Ermine Cape Effect to reassure herself that she is to powerful to be oppressed like the street girl she once was.
- Rags to Royalty: She was not just a Courtesan like Antonina but an actual Sex Slave. Antonina comments that while whisperers are more charitable toward her because at least she was picky about her clients, it should have been the other way because Theodora was forced rather then merely pressured by poverty.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Some of the time.
- Violently Protective Wife: After Justinian is blinded she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Beginning by urinating in the eyes of the torturer who blinded him.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: A rather grim version of this, especially compared to Shakuntala. But she is a good ruler if only for her husband's sake.
Michael of Macedonia
- Doubt in the prophet
Friend of Michael's. Theologian and cleric, part of a moderate branch of the Church that rises to prominence after failed Malwa manipulations discredit ultra-orthodox forces.
- Odd Friendship: Cassian is a mild-mannered fellow and Michael is definitely not. Also Cassian is an important member of the Church bureaucracy while Michael is a solitary hermit.
Calopodius the Blind
Young soldier who becomes chronicler of Belisarius' exploits
- Insatiable Newlyweds: Zigzagged. When first he saw his wife he had one night and then went off to war. When he met her later after being blinded in battle they were effectively still newlyweds. And this time they were insatiable.
Wife of Calopodius the Blind. Becomes famous for cleaning up hospitals in the rear area.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Not herself but she can get people to do so for her with a mixture of money and The Dulcinea Effect.
- Beware the Nice Ones: At least if you are an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Zig-Zagged. When first we meet her she is about to be raped and the two retired veterans nearby are too jaded to help until she offers money. Later she attracts this more and more.
- Gilded Cage: In her backstory.
- Good Is Not Soft: She wasn't a skilled medic as such. What she did do was hire a pair of soldiers as personal enforcers and then persuaded the staff of mismanaged millitary hospitals to observe proper sanitary conditions by the effective means of threatening to beat them up.
- Iron Lady: Though she doesn't show it until she finds incompetently run hospitals.
- Jeanne d'Archétype: More a Florence Nightingale archetype, but yeah.
- The Magnificent: She is called "The Wife". Perhaps also a subversion; not that badass sounding but the wounded soldiers who gave the name to her absolutely adore her
- It also might imply respect for her determination in her quest to find Callopedius
- Neat Freak: Played with. She is not too much of a Neat Freak to be kept from functioning in war torn frontier country. However she is definitely a Neat Freak about proper order in military hospitals. As well she should be.
- Nobility Marries Money: Anna's family is impoverished upper nobility. Calopodius's family is wealthy merchants.
Wounded Roman officer, Belisarius' chief of staff
- Happily Married (to the Persian noblewoman Sudaba)
- Self-Made Man (originally a baker's son)
Syrian peasants recruited to be the first gunpowder unit in the Roman Army and the core of Antonia's force.
- Battle Couple: Most of the men were young married and their wives came along
Maratha In General
- Passion in the virgin
- Beware the Nice Ones: She is a charismatic, but kind and likable girl who can kill men with her bare hands.
- Celibate Hero : Until she marries Rao.
- Chastity Couple: With Rao. Until they were kind of not. Then they were something else.
- Daddy's Girl: Reconstructed. Her father has too much of a Sugar and Ice Personality to look upon anyone with more then formal courtesy whatever his feelings. However Shakuntala realizes that he got Rao as her bodyguard and teacher because he cared about her deeply however incapable he was of showing affection.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Practically every man she meets is in love with her.
- Empress In Exile: As the heir of the Andra empire she was, until she could establish herself the head of a Government in Exile.
- Rousing Speech: She does this to convince the Kushans to change sides. The fact that she is a more likable employer then Venandekatra helped quite a bit.
- She-Fu: Possible subversion. She is an excellant fighter but doesn't defy the laws of physics.
- Teacher/Student Romance: with Raghunath Rao, but neither acts on it until she is Empress.
- Virgin Power: Well, she was a powerful virgin in the first half of the series. It gives her no magical power except for making it easier for Belisarius to manipulate Venandekatra's Lust.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Very much so. She is so devoted to her duty that she has to be convinced that Rao is the politically best match for her.
- Waif-Fu: Shakuntala is Ragunath Rao's prize protegé, probably a more skilled fighter than her bodyguards and phenomenally fast and strong. For a 4'10'', 90 lb. teenage girl.
- Wartime Wedding: Flaunted in front of the Malwa no less, with a delightfully gruesome chant about what this Battle Couple intends to do.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: She is poetically called "The black-eyed pearl of the Satavahanas."
One of the two most skilled fighters in India (the other is Rana Sanga), and a Maratha guerrilla commander.
- Catch Phrase: "Only the soul matters in the end"
- Celibate Hero: Until he marries Shakuntala of course. Except for one embarrassing incident when he was fourteen.
- Chastity Couple: With Shakuntala before marrying.
- Dance Battler: He is the best dancer in India and teaches Shakuntala in this as everything else. And Dancing Is Serious Business.
- I Have Many Names: The Panther of Maharashtra, the Wind of the Great Country, the Shield of the Deccan.
- I Want My Beloved To Be Strategically Canny: He is perfectly prepared to enjoy a royal wedding feast for someone else if it helps Shakuntala defeat her foes. That of course turns out to be unnecessary.
- Ninja: Rao isn't Japanese, obviously, but he proves very early on that he can ninja with the best of them.
- Weapon of Choice: He likes a lot of weapons, but his most singular one is his iron-clawed gauntlet.
- Decision in the slave
- Happiness in Slavery: To Belisarius before his service to Shakuntala. Justified because he would otherwise have had a worse slavery and Belisarius gave him a promise of future freedom and a cause to work for.
- Made a Slave: As part of his backstory
- Noble Bigot: He is more then a little uptight about caste sensibilities. To be fair he applies that even to himself; he is disturbed that Shakuntala wants him as a counselor as obviously only a Brahmin would be fit for such a job. In any case this prejudice interferes with his advice about Shakuntala's upcoming marriage.
Rajputs In General
- Heroic Lineage: Lampshaded. Rajputs say they are descended from heroes of Hindu Mythology which is why they call themselves Rajputs(sons of kings). Other tribes say they are descended from just another Barbarian Tribe. They do not say that around Rajputs though.
- Honor Before Reason: Foreigners are in fact exasperated at the eccentric fanaticism with which they regard their personal honor at times.
- The friend across the field
- The Ace: At warfare, his mix of great skill and great strength make him this. While slightly less skilled and possibly a little slower than Valentinian, Rana Sanga is probably the best all-around warrior in the world, handily defeating Belisarius in a short match on the battlefield and only being stopped by Valentinian.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center: It shows around his family.
- Catch Phrase: "I swore an oath".
- Exact Words: Which Emperor did he pledge loyalty toward exactly?
- India's Strongest Man: Damodara mentions having seen him cut a man in half vertically.
- One-Man Army: He is widely considered to be the single greatest hand-to-hand fighter in the world, has never been defeated outright, is strong enough to cut a man in half vertically, and easily destroys the Malwa garrison at Kausambi with minimal casualties on his side.
- Trapped in Villainy: because of his oath and the threat to his family.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Inverted. Sanga is tall, strong, and described as the pinnacle of Rajput manhood. His wife is short, plump plain-looking and was grey-haired before her thirtieth birthday. Sanga loves her more than anything.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Played with. His incredible strength means that he couldn't train against a proper opponent; while he's certainly no slouch in the skill department, it's made clear in their duel that the comparatively Weak, but Skilled Valentinian has the edge in speed and skill. Anastasius has a similar problem.
Wife of Rana Sanga
- No Accounting for Taste : Rana Sanga, the greatest Warrior Prince in India is wildly in love with a plump, plain looking woman who is perfectly happy to Stay in the Kitchen.
- When She Smiles: Seeing her happy smile and the genuine warmth behind that smile is the reason Rana fell (and still is) madly in love with her.
Eldest Son of Rana Sanga
- Combat Pragmatist: Has been imbued with this religion by Valentinian.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: To us, Rajiv is a child soldier. To the world around him, he's just another young rookie being trained to fight.
- Kid Rajput
- I Am Not My Father: Toyed with. Rajiv's best combat instructor is the one that gets it into the kid's skull that he will never match his father in size and power so he should adjust his style accordingly before he gets himself killed.
- Improvised Weapon: He kills three trained mercenaries with a pick and shovel.
- Nice to the Waiter: One of his Crowning Moments was when Rana Sanga was storming the gate. He felt pity on several of the low-born Malwa mooks, rushed out and demanded fealty of them and then ordered them to get out of the way. When his father saw them he accepted their surrender. Whereupon Rajiv joined Rana Sanga in conquering the rest of the city.
- My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Quite true and Rajiv is very proud of that.
- Not So Different: After his first taste of combat, Rajiv realizes why his father was always so quiet.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Per his culture's idiom.
- Renowned Selective Mentor: One of the two people that survived a duel with his father winds up instructing him.
- So Proud of You: Rana Sanga's reaction to Rajiv. Specifically, Rajiv standing in front of the thousand or so Malwa Slave Mooks who he's just convinced to swear loyalty to him. Rana Sanga is so proud that he orders Rajiv to ride with him to battle for the first time.
Axumites In General
- Ascetic Aesthetic: Especially compared to other empires. They can put on a good parade from time to time though.
- Blade on a Stick: They love spears. Oh yes they do.
- Elective Monarchy: Sort of. While it is hereditary, the commanders of the Sarwen(regiments) have the right of veto.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Their emperor's list of titles is exactly the territories he is ruling at the time with no fol-de-rol about listing mythological claims and wishful thinking. When they conquer a territory it is added to the Emperor's title and when they lose it it is taken away. And that is that.
- Father Neptune: Every Axumite is apparently a Father Neptune.
- Modest Empire: Compared to all the other nations they make a positive fetish of unpretentiousness. To the point where they resemble ancient Sparta.
- National Weapon: Their spears are described as lovingly as if they were women.
- Semper Fi: Sort of. Their national style of war is as marines with spears.
- Chivalrous Pervert: This gets a little awkward when he gives Antonina a Male Gaze on their first meeting. Not something to do on a diplomatic mission. This is a minor incident but is brought up when Eon's qualifications for kingship are evaluated.
- Cursed With A Really Fun Job: Part of Belisarius's plan to fool Venandakatra in book 1 involves Eon having sex with an endless train of Maratha and Kushan prostitutes. When Eon, a famously amorous young man, starts complaining about how much sex he's having, the other soldiers are completely unsympathetic.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: It is magnificent. And indirectly results in the incredibly cathartic murder of Venandakatra.
- Everyone Has Standards: Eon will fuck pretty much any woman who will willingly copulate with him, but he almost kills Belisarius when he discovers that the latest naked woman delivered to his room is a traumatized survivor of gang-rape.
- Good People Have Good Sex: And he has a lot of it, as his coronation roast makes clear.
- The High King: His title is Nagusa Ngast meaning "King of Kings."
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Lampshaded by himself, when he thinks while dying that his Dying Moment of Awesome was really youthful stupidity that would be blown out of proportion by storytellers. In fact it was very heroic, and a severe blow to Malwa as well as raising Axum to untold heights. Eon simply carried it out in an unprofessional manner.
- Modest Royalty: He has moments of grandeur but most of the time he prefers to act as a high spirited youth, and treats everyone else as comrades.
- Nice to the Waiter: He always treats the palace servant girls well back home. And they respond gratefully. This is brought up when the sarwen judge his worthiness; the idea being that a King treats his country like he does his servants.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: His first official wife was a representative of an influential Arab tribe in a marriage that helped appease a budding rebellion. As a bonus she was very pretty, was a Spirited Young Lady, loved to read just like Eon, and was very useful at helping with paperwork.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Malwa kill his father, his brother, and his beloved concubines. Eon's response is a full commitment of Axum's armed forces to the war effort, and a savage assault on the Malwa coastline that eventually results in his Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Royal Brat: His cover in India was this. He managed to pull it off quite well though once or twice he couldn't stomach it.
The dawazz to Eon. A dawazz's job is to teach a member of the royal family the realities of the world, and teach them to overcome them and build morality. Along the way, it may be that the dawazz has to defend his charge. In both of these, Ousanas was the obvious choice.
- The Ace: The guy who tracked down Raghunath Rao himself, and then began discussing advanced philosophy with him. And, well, his spear strikes can rupture human bodies.
- Animal Motifs: Panther, like Rao. But also because he was once mauled by one.
- Blade on a Stick: His preferred weapon.
- Dope Slap: prone to giving this to Eon. It's his job.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: He is Eon's own personal drill sergeant nasty
- Elective Broken Language: He speaks like You No Take Candle at first, but it's really just an act.
- Genius Bruiser: He mastered seven languages by the time he was 12. The other eighteen soon followed after. And did we mention that he's in the same league of strength as Anastasius?
- Happiness in Slavery: Justified. He is a rather odd sort of slave.
- Lightning Bruiser: He can track Raghunath Rao, and demonstrates that he is perfectly capable of killing him. His strength is also on par with Anastasius'.
- Noble Savage: Subverted. He was originally from an uncivilized African tribe, but he is quite cultured, as well as one of the most intelligent characters in the series.
- The Philosopher: He prefers Plato. This leads to a friendly rivalry with Raghunath Rao and Anastasius, who loudly and somewhat melodramatically disagree.
- Scary Black Man: Not really; he usually doesn't appear very menacing, usually relying on the others in his party to put on a grand show. But then, the pirates start swarming on board, and you learn what a man who hunts lions, elephants, and buffalo can do to human flesh.
Half-Ethopian, Half-Arab. Formally an partisan fighter leading bedouin against Axumite incursions but decided the fight was hopeless. Latter served Eon's father in the same role as Ousanas, and became a councilor of Eon.
- Ambadassador: When first met he was an escort to Eon's mission to Constantinople.
Wife of Eon. Chosen from a number of candidates by to cement relations between Axum and protectorate Arab tribes.
- Beauty Contest: Winner of a political beauty pagent so to speak; she was chosen for political usefulness but beauty was a consideration because it makes it easier for the king to fulfill his duty.
- The Chief's Daughter: Sort of. Her father is a sheik of a powerful merchant clan
- The Consigliere: She helped with bookkeeping, both for her father and for Eon.
- Culture Equals Costume: Eon insists that she be married without a veil because she is now an Axumite consort.
- Daddy's Girl: She got along with her father so well that she almost was disappointed to marry a king and leave him. Her father was a Doting Parent who amazingly actually taught her to read.
- Geeky Turn-On: One of the things that makes her love Eon is the fact that he has one of the biggest libraries in the world.
- Mandatory Motherhood: She is almost rejected because she looks too skinny to produce heirs despite being beautiful and intelligent.
Persians in General
Emperor of Iran and non-Iran
- The Good King: Plays this up, but is actually a very competent and intelligent ruler.
- Historical-Domain Character: Known to Sassanid history buffs as Khosrau I Anushiruwan, who reformed the Persian army and tax system, sacked Antioch, and is generally regarded as the greatest Sassanid Shahanshah. His tax code reforms were used for nearly a thousand years after his death by the various Persian and Muslim empires in the Middle East.
- The Magnificent: Aide reveals to Belisarius that Khusrau will one day be known as Khusrau Anushirvan, or Khusrau of the immortal soul.
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Khusrau's full title is "King of Kings of Iran and non-Iran."
- That's actually a subversion. To true Persians, according to the book, every part of the Persian empire that isn't Iranian is simply Non-Iran as things non-Iranian are unworthy of calling to attention.
Persian General and contact of Belisarius
Commander of Persian troops serving beside Belisarius.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: His wine goblets are so expensive that the Romans are reluctant to drink from them until told that he is so rich that he didn't need to think about the price, that he had two chests of them, and anyway if they dropped them his thick and gorgeous rug on his tent floor would keep them from breaking.
- Non-Idle Rich: He looks just like a typical Upper-Class Twit, but Belisarius notes the scar on his thumb came from pulling a bow-string and the wrinkles around his eyes came from straining them examining the terrain of battlefields.
- Young Bow: He is young and somewhat inexperienced compared to Baresmanas but still a Badasss
Incompetant Persian general who commanded against Belisarius before the war with the Malwa. Goaded into making a stupid assault and presenting Belisarius with a great victory.
Persian Princess who marries Photius cementing alliance with Rome.
Wife of Agathius who travels with him on campaign.
Kushans In General
- Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Kungas' men. Because anyone who could be Shakuntala's jailor would be a very effective bodyguard for her.
- Combat Pragmatist: Part of what makes them so badass.
- The Engineer: After their Heel–Face Turn they manage to change the course of one of the biggest rivers in the world and change it back again to trap the enemy.
- Happiness in Slavery : Played with. After being captured the defecting Kushan POWs insist on being called Belisarius' "slaves" for the sake of propriety even though they are obviously happier fighting against Malwa then for it.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: They are efficient as horsemen, as footmen, and as sappers; they can fight in both the plains and the mountains. The only thing they have a hard time adapting to is naval warfare and they can at least intimidate sailors on ships they requisition.
- Proud Warrior Race: More of a Proud Soldier Race; their main strengths are that they fight as a unit and have iron discipline on top of their copious skill.
- Rising Empire: The Kushans go from lower-mid ranking vassals of the Malwa to an independent regional empire that's rapidly reaching into central and northern Asia and tears a chunk of land out of the north of Malwa. In five years.
- Da Chief: Both as Shakuntula's jailor and later as head of her first Praetorian Guard.
- Feudal Overlord: The Pathan call him "great king" instead of king because calling him king would imply that they are his subjects whereas "great king" means simply that their tribal chiefs do homage to him.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Founder of a renewed Kushite empire that is.
- Heroic Lineage: Lampshaded when Irene tells him that she has discovered that he is descended from both Alexander the Great and Buddha.
- The High King: His title among the Pathans is "Great King".
- Modest Royalty: Zig-zagged. He occasionally takes on royal affectations for political purposes. But he is at heart an Old Soldier and has to much Common Sense for such things.
- The Extremist Was Right: Kungas in fact does some pretty brutal things at the begining of his reign to intimidate the local tribes into accepting him as Feudal Overlord.
- The Stoic: Kungas' expressions are so subtle that only those very familiar with him can tell what he is feeling.
Malwa in General
- The Empire: An Indian empire.
- Empire with a Dark Secret: They are ruled by an evil robot.
- Establishing Character Moment: They first appear in Aide's vision as a massive, unstoppable army subjecting the Roman Empire to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. The first time we see them for real, they're doing exactly that to Andhra, slaughtering just about everyone in the capital except for its teenage princess Shakuntala, who is then taken to be the concubine of the series' resident psychopath.
- Impaling With Extreme Prejudice: They seem to have an odd fascination with this.
- Malwan Mook Hand-to-Hand Combat Academy
- In-universe, the Malwa's military incompetence is the subject of much ribald comedy among the Roman soldiers.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Apparently no one else in the entire world is as fond of it as they. You'd think an empire led by a robot devoted to breeding purity would find a less erratic method.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: They don't just do this because military discipline fails—they do this as a policy.
- We Have Reserves: They even have a humorously long train of spare generals, going through at least six supreme commanders in the books. (Their fates: exiled for incompetence, exiled for incompetence, executed for incompetence, either executed to cover the Link's tracks or killed by the enemy, defected and stole the throne, and last but not least, Lord Samudra, who just hid in his fort and waited for everything to be over.)
Great Lady Holi
One of a series of women chosen to be the avatar or "sheath" of Link, and raised specifically for this purpose. When Link takes over their personality is erased and they are simply Link.Holi died during the Siege of Charax. She was replaced by Great Lady Sati.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Link eats her soul.
- Evil Old Folks: Old and controlled by Link.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: An avatar of the Big Bad acting as a queen.
- Woman Behind The Man: As Link's "sheath".
- Wicked Witch: Well, sort of. She fits the archetype, being an old croon with unearthly powers.
Great Lady Sati
Holi's successor. This time a young woman. Dies when her army is trapped by Belisarius while attempting to prevent Domadara's coup. Replaced by Great Lady Rani, an eight year old girl.
- Beauty Is Bad: Beautiful and evil.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Link eats her soul.
- Femme Fatale: Sort of. She actually tries to gain a dynastic marriage with Rana Sanga (naturally involving his wife's murder)
- God Save Us from the Queen!: An avatar of the Big Bad acting as a queen.
- Woman Behind the Man: As Link's "sheath".
Great Lady Rani
Last sheath of Link. Eight years old. Captured by an assassination team after the storming of the Malwa capital and brought to Damodara where she is executed.
- The Caligula: It is not safe to be one of his immediate subordinates, at all.
- The Emperor: The puppet emperor of the Malwa.
- Epic Fail: His attempts to counter Lord and Lady Damodara's plots in book 6 essentially consist of "throw soldiers at problem", "execute officers when they fail", "promote untested junior officers", and "rinse and repeat". Predictably, he loses all support and is ousted.
- Manchild: His evil ranting in book 6 can come off as this.
- Puppet King: Link holds all the real power.
Venandakatra the Vile
A Malwan lord that takes the Deadly Decadent Court trope Up to 11. Living exponent of every vice known to man and some that aren't.
- 0% Approval Rating: Even the other Malwa think he's disgusting.
- Bad Boss: All Malwa nobles except Damodara are this, but Venandakatra takes it Up to 11. He would be a parody if people didn't actually suffer as a result of his orders.
- Brain Bleach: His presence requires a lot of this. He is not called the Vile One for nothing.
- The Caligula: So much so that his being appointed to an important post is followed within mere months by a full-scale rebellion that eventually tears out a major state from Malwa's flank.
- Conspicuous Consumption: A rather thinly-built man, who has become obese from too much feasting and not enough exercise.
- Disproportionate Retribution: His response to any inconvenience. He has everyone who survived Raghunath Rao's rescue of Shakuntala impaled for failing at the impossible task of stopping him, including an old woman. His policy with regards to the rebellion in the Deccan is to punish every villager in areas where rebellions occur, and impalement is the least severe punishment he inflicts on them.
- Dirty Coward: Fittingly for such an irredeemable character. His last moments are spent mostly whimpering in terror and wetting himself.
- Dirty Old Man: He's described as being in his late middle years, and finds Shakuntala, then 17, to be too old for his tastes, not that he minds too much.
- Epic Fail: His attempted siege of Deogiri, which ends with the humiliation of Raghunath Rao having a party on the city's walls with an Axumite battalion mooning Venandakatra's entire army. Nanda Lal comes by shortly thereafter to tell Venandakatra to pack up and head home.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Part of why he's such a perfect dupe for Belisarius. Venandakatra, an accomplished practitioner of every conceivable depravity, assumes that other men are ruled by their vices and attempts to gain leverage over them through said vices. When confronted with a genuinely virtuous man who is willing to pretend to be a corrupt lecher (namely, Belisarius), Venandakatra is tricked into letting his guard down in exactly the way Belisarius wanted.
- Evil Is Hammy: His Psychopathic Manchild antics come off as this, especially if you have a strong stomach. Helped by the protagonists regularly remarking on his idiocy and sadism.
- Fat Bastard: His overeating has made him into one, despite his naturally thin build.
- For the Evulz: Let's face it, pretty much every sick and twisted thing Venandakatra does, he does because he likes it.
- General Failure: To the point that Belisarius lets him live because his very presence will forment rebellion in Malwa territory.
- Gorn: He loves this. Anything to do with causing suffering and feeling power is his delight. Hey a man's got to have some hobbies doesn't he?
- Hate Sink: To the audience and to the Maratha rebels, both due to his sheer brutality.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: He almost had Shakuntala.
- More like she almost had him.
- Karmic Death: Raghunath Rao emasculates and castrates him and severs the nerves in his arms and legs before impaling him on the short stake he carved his throne into.
- It's All About Me: During his death he considers it of no importance that the city is being stormed and everyone else has a battle to fight. He is going to have an escort to guard his precious sedan-chair and if he can't have that it is proof that his men are failing their duty.
- The Load: To the Malwa. While actually rather devious, his sheer sadism and obnoxious evil makes him a walking encouragement for rebellion.
- Lust: For Shakuntala. This makes him the perfect dupe for Belisarius and inadvertently leads to the demise of the Malwa Empire.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Subverted. He indeed has lots of wealth and he drags enough of it into the field with him to make a full-scale palace (which does little for his already negligible military effectiveness). However he has absolutely no taste in how he displays it.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Subverted. No he is not "The Ruthless", he is not "The Cruel", nor is he "The Terrible". He is the Vile One. People may fear his mooks but they will never respect him personally.
- Pædo Hunt: Implied in his POV chapter in book 1, confirmed later on.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: His favorite hobbies. As long as it doesn't require him to do any actual fighting.
- Royal Brat: His Catch Phrase is basically "I am the Emperor's first cousin!"
- Sadist: He enjoys inflicting gruesome tortures for his own entertainment. He's a sadist in the sexual sense as well, brutalizing the pubescent girls he keeps as concubines so viciously that he often kills them.
- Serial Killer: It is implied that he eventually kills most of his Sex Slaves.
- Sex Slave: He tortures them in the process until they are completely traumatized even though he has enough power to have the minimal decency to just order them to have sex with him rather than physically ravishing them. It is specially noted that in other countries "concubine" means "aristocrat's pampered junior wife" whereas to him it means "Venandakatra's next rape victim".
- The Sociopath: Venandakatra loves three things: being rich, eating himself into an early grave, and doing the most depraved things humanly imaginable to whatever poor bastard is within easy reach. Emotions like "love" and "respect" seem to be foreign to him.
- Stupid Evil: Even for the Malwa. Nanda Lal even calls him out on it.
- Villainous Glutton: He loves feasting.
A Malwan Lord and Belisarius' rival.
- Anti-Villain: For his time, a decent and extremely competent leader and man... who's born and raised in a racist hellhole.
- Becoming the Mask: With Rajputs. He puts on the mask of an honorable warrior until it starts to actually fit him.
- The Emperor: After Skandagupta.
- Going Native: With Rajputs to some degree. This only makes him more willing to throw Skandagupta under the bus.
- Heel–Face Turn: And he ends up as The Emperor because of it.
- Only Sane Man: To the Malwa. He's also their sole competent general, mostly since he actually listens to his subordinates and is more concerned with practicality than with comfort.
- Pragmatic Villainy: He calls himself "practical". Rana Sanga notes that this means he doesn't consider himself honorable but that he does at least consider himself sane, and evil in Damodara's experience usually turns out to be Stupid Evil. Damodara is prepared to carry out schemes, assassinations, and even occasional war crimes. What he is not going to do is spectacular cruelty for the fun of it, especially when it is counterproductive.
- As The Emperor of Malwa, he issues draconian punishments against the Amaravati garrison when it tracks a war-crime-laden trail of destruction across three Malwa vassal provinces.
- Token Good Teammate: To the Malwa. He's no saint (nobody is, in the early Middle Ages), but unlike Venandakatra or the Ye-tai, he isn't gratuitously cruel and prefers Pragmatic Villainy.
- Trapped in Villainy: Because his family is held hostage.
- The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: Basically Narses's plan for Damodara in books 5 and 6. Eventually results in Damodara seizing the throne in a neat coup.
Wife of Damodara. Generously granted a palace in the Malwa capital, Kausambi, while Damodara is on campaign.
- Badass in Distress: Personally takes part in arranging her escape by having tunnels dug under the palace.
- The Chessmaster: Arranges her family's escape from under Skandagupta's nose, causing the Emperor to experience a rather severe bout of childish rage.
- Grande Dame: An stately older woman.
- Combat Pragmatist: A master of Pragmatic Villainy.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even Nanda Lal, a thoroughly ruthless and evil man who practically salivates at the thought of Raghunath Rao's flayed skin being delivered to him, is a little disgusted by Venandakatra's tastes.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Unlike most Malwa, subverted, but then double subverted in book 6. Belisarius initially fools him, but only because Nanda Lal was acting on false information that Belisarius had painstakingly concocted and the spymaster only had a few hours total to interact with Belisarius. Even so, Nanda Lal still took sensible precautions and later correctly asserted that eliminating Raghunath Rao would cripple the Maratha rebels. Unfortunately, the distraction of dealing with the rest of the Malwa, the Link's constant interference, and Narses's machinations left Nanda Lal unaware of a plot against him, and he was killed by a Ye-Tai general called Toramana, who Narses had subverted and brought in to his plot.
- Out-Gambitted: By Narses.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The only Malwa who really falls solidly here, since Damodara is more of an Anti-Villain.
- The Spymaster: And a notably good one. Unfortunately, Narses is better.
- Mercy in the killer
- The Dragon: To Narses who in turn is one of Damodara's dragons.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He considers pimps to be subhuman.
- Hitman with a Heart: He actually seems to have a bit of compassion toward Holkar's daughters in his rather grim sort of way. He has rather less compassion toward the pimp who owned them.
- Non-Japanese Ninja: Not really a ninja as he is not Japanese, but the author implies that there is a similar attitude toward assassin skills in India.
- Pet the Dog: To Holkar's children. It doesn't seem to be only motivated by Narses' desire to have a favor to call in at Shakuntala's court.
- Professional Killer: Continues the Running Gag of pimp brutalization by complaining that his skills are getting rusty to Narses when ordered to recover Holkar's daughters. He's also a Consummate Professional.
- Stealth Expert: His specialty.
- Undying Loyalty: Toward a strong Malwa Empire, which is why he has no problem supporting Damodara's coup when he comes to see the Link-backed rule beginning to unravel. While he considers Narses a Parental Substitute, he declares he would kill the eunuch without hesitation should his plots turn against a strong Malwa Empire's interest—even if he'd regret having to do so.
Ye-Tai In General
Asian Steppe nomads serving as Military Police for the Malwa. Valiant but savage and dishonorable.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Later somewhat subverted.
- Barbarian Tribe: Of Asian Steppe nomads.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: To the Malwa Slave Mooks.
- Hidden Depths: They're a lot smarter and more pragmatic than people give them credit for, and many Ye-Tai end up switching sides to the Kushans or Damodara when it's obvious that Malwa is no longer able to sustain itself.
- The Horde: Described similarly to traditional depictions of the Huns and Mongols, although they are a different ethnic group.
- Outscare the Enemy: The way the Malwa use them.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Many switch sides at the end of the war when it's clear that Malwa is screwed.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Their popular pastime, as befitting the Malwa's most favored vassals.
- Soldier Versus Warrior: Ye-Tai are big, terrifying, skilled, and undisciplined. Roman troops are a bit smaller, skilled, and highly disciplined. Ye-Tai forces take heavy casualties every time they face a solid Roman unit, though to their credit they never desert from battle.
- Villainous Valour: Frequently commented upon by the heroes. Ye-Tai may be savage, undisciplined, and cruel, but not one Ye-Tai character is ever a coward, "on-screen" or off.