Characters / Belisarius Series

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Future Beings


A mysterious creature who goes back in time to seek the help of the Roman general Belisarius to rise against evil.


The evil Aide and Belisarius are raising against.


    Romans In General 

  • Badass Army: (They are Romans after all)
  • Combat Pragmatist
  • Consummate Professional
  • 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.
  • The Empire
  • 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.

Seek the general who is not a warrior

Roman General and Title Character

  • 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.
  • The Chosen One
  • Combat Pragmatist
  • 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.
  • A Father to His Men
  • 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.
  • Genius Bruiser
  • Guile Hero
  • Happily Married
  • The Hero
  • 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.
  • The Strategist
  • 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.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: One of his favorite methods.

Purity in the whore

Former courtesan and Belisarius' wife

Son of Antonina and adopted heir to the Roman Empire

Belisarius former mentor in the craft of arms. Now his executive officer.

  • Four-Star Badass
  • 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.
  • The Lancer
  • Old Soldier
  • Surpassed the Teacher: He was the teacher, and was surpassed by his student Belisarius.

Aristocratic Roman General, known for his love of cataphract charges.

  • Blue Blood
  • Blood Knight
  • Cavalry Officer
  • 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.
  • Badass
  • Battle Butler
  • Bodyguarding a Badass
  • 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.
  • Consummate Professional
  • 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.
  • Master Swordsman
  • Off with His Head!: The go-to guy for decapitations when you need someone executed.
  • Old Soldier
  • 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.
  • Those Two Guys: With Anastasius

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...
  • Bad Ass: When you and Valentinian are considered equal in the amount of punishment can deal out...
  • 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.
  • The Philosopher
  • 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.
  • Warrior Poet
  • Weapon of Choice: Mace

Faith in the traitor

Traitorous Roman Spymaster. Once Theodora's mentor but betrays her and the Roman Empire because of his ambition.


    John of Rhodes 
Roman naval officer and weapons designer

Lieutenant of John of Rhodes

One of the early companions of Belisarius. First seen as a naive young soldier. Latter becomes commander of Romes first high tech naval fleet.

Emperor before excluded due to blindness. Determined to rectify his failures in his historical reign.

Murder in the wife

Justinian's devoted wife and Empress. Regent after his blindness.

    Michael of Macedonia 
Doubt in the prophet

Monk who first discovers Aide

    Bishop Cassian 
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.

    Calopodius the Blind 
Young soldier who becomes chronicler of Belisarius' exploits

Wife of Calopodius the Blind. Becomes famous for cleaning up hospitals in the rear area.

Wounded Roman officer, Belisarius' chief of staff

    Theodoran Cohort 
Syrian peasants recruited to be the first gunpowder unit in the Roman Army and the core of Antonia's force.


    Maratha In General 

Passion in the virgin

Indian Princess rescued by Belisarius so she can lead a revolt.

    Raghunath Rao 
One of the two most skilled fighters in India (the other is Rana Sanga), and a Maratha guerrilla commander.

    Dadaji Holkar 
Decision in the slave

  • The Good Chancellor
  • 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.
  • Rags to Riches
  • Retired Badass Bookworm: In his backstory it is told that he was a Maratha warrior when he was young and saw the duel between Rao and Rana Sanga.
  • Parental Substitute: To Shakuntala. More like substitute uncle, or substitute grandparent but you get the point.


    Rajputs In General 

    Rana Sanga 
The friend across the field

Rajput prince and vassal of the Malwan Empire. Generally regarded to be the best frontline warrior in India, other than Raghunath Rao.

  • 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.
  • Animal Motifs: Tiger
  • Bad Ass: He defeats a lot of people, nearly offs Belisarius and defeats Valentinian in an incredibly close match (basically, Valentinian was actually about to win, but then lost the match due to a complete fluke and a bit of arrogance). The only one to ever fight him to a draw was Raghunath Rao, and everyone was shocked when it happened.
    • That duel was when both men were young and headstrong; both have only grown more Bad Ass since then.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: It shows around his family.
  • Cavalry Officer
  • Catch Phrase: "I swore an oath".
  • Doting Parent
  • Exact Words: Which Emperor did he pledge loyalty toward exactly?
  • Happily Married
  • Heel–Face Turn
  • Honor Before Reason
  • I Gave My Word
  • India's Strongest Man: Damodara mentions having seen him cut a man in half vertically.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Zigzagged.
  • 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.
  • Papa Wolf
  • The Patriarch
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy
  • 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.
  • Warrior Prince
  • Worthy Opponent

    Lady Sanga 
Wife of Rana Sanga

    Rajiv Sanga 
Eldest Son of Rana Sanga


    Axumites In General 


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.
  • Bad Ass: One of the greatest in the series. Who else could hunt down Raghunath Rao without being detected and then discuss philosophy with him?
  • Battle Butler
  • Blade on a Stick: His preferred weapon.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • 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?
  • The Good Chancellor: After Eon becomes King
  • 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'.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt
  • 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.
  • Stern Teacher

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.

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 Chick
  • 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.
  • Ojou
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage
  • Sexy Secretary: To Eon
  • The Smart Girl
  • Succession Crisis: She lived through two major succession crises' in the series, one when Eon's family was killed (which she was called upon to solve) and one after the death of Eon when the only heir was a baby.


    Persians in General 

Emperor of Iran and non-Iran

  • The Chessmaster
  • 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.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • 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.

  • Cavalry Officer
  • Cultured Badass
  • 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.
  • Officer and a Gentleman
  • 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 
  • Badass: Kushans are widely acknowledged as being among the best infantry available; highlights include being the only troops to actually give the give Khusrau's soldiers trouble at the siege of Babylon, and being the only source of measurable casualties (besides friendly fire) to Belisarius's troops at the first major battle with the Malwa.
  • 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.
  • Fighting for a Homeland
  • 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.
  • Heel–Face Turn
  • 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.
  • Worthy Opponent



    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.
  • Religion of Evil: They follow Link.
  • Slave Mooks: It uses these.
  • Stupid Evil: Oh, honestly!
  • Take Over the World: Their goal.
  • 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.

    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.

    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.
  • Man Child: 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 Eleven. 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 Eleven. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: And how!
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Pawn: To Belisarius.
  • 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.
  • The Rival: To Belisarius.
  • 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.

    Lady Damodara 
Wife of Damodara. Generously granted a palace in the Malwa capital, Kausambi, while Damodara is on campaign.

    Nanda Lal 
Malwan spymaster.

  • 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.
    • Pet the Dog/Mercy Kill: Orders one of his bodyguards to quickly and cleanly behead some of Venandakatra's traumatized sex slaves when Venandakatra protests Nanda Lal's orders.
  • 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

Henchman of Narses, and one of the most skilled secret agents in India.


    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.