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Easterners (a.k.a. Humans)
The protagonist of the novels within the present timeline. Belongs to the House of the Jhereg because they're the only ones who sell noble titles to Easterners.
- Anti-Hero: Vlad has a definite cruel and selfish side to his character, but is loyal to his friends and generally makes the world slightly better by the end of each novel.
- Character Development
- Combat Pragmatist
- Contract on the Hitman: From Phoenix onwards, and briefly in Jhereg. Hawk sees the Jhereg Council remove the price from Vlad's soul, but the Left Hand opening its own bids on his life.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Empathic Weapon: Godslayer, which can change from a sword to a dagger, heal Vlad, and nullify or turn back magic; is destined to kill Vlad's patron goddess Verra; and contains the soul of Lady Teldra.
- Fantastic Racism: It's defined his whole life, being a despised human in a majority-Dragaeran society. Later books often feature, to greater or lesser degrees, Vlad's realization that he himself has become more Dragaeran than human in personality. And always was one, in soul.
- First-Person Smartass: Essentially the Trope Namer.
- Hitman with a Heart
- Its Pronounced TROPAY: It's pronounced "Taltosh."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Knife Nut: He's carrying way less weaponry in Issola than he used to. This consists of a "mere" five knives and one sword.
- The Mafia
- Little Hero, Big War: Every book in a way, but especially Dragon.
- Meaningful Name: "Táltós" is Hungarian for a witch or magic user, which he is.
- Moral Dissonance: He's becoming more and more aware of it.
- Must Have Caffeine: Must Have Klava (Hungarian egg coffee)
- Pragmatic Hero: Best illustrated in "Teckla" where, while he admits to wanting the Empire overthrown sees, correctly, the revolution as doomed and refuses to support it. At the end he uses money he's accumulated to buy the disputed neighborhood and put it under his protection.
- Professional Killer
- Screw You, Elves!: His primary motivation for much of his life.
- Supreme Chef
- Weapon of Choice: A rapier, whatever pointy things he happens to have on his person at the moment, and Spellbreaker, a chain that disrupts magic spells, later incorporated into the Great Weapon Godslayer.
Vlad's (now estranged) wife, another Easterner, formerly one half of Adrilankha's greatest team of assassins.
- Action Girl
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Norathar, the future Dragon Empress.
- Hitman with a Heart
- In Love with the Mark: Well, she only fell for Vlad after she'd killed him and had his friends kill her in revenge.
- Knife Nut: Her partner Norathar was known as the Sword of the Jhereg; Cawti was the Dagger.
- La Résistance: She joined it. (Note, however, that they work more like a real-world radical group, organizing protests and such, than your standard fantasy rebels.)
- Lovely Angels: During her days as one half of a two-woman assassin team.
- Mysterious Past: She doesn't use a Patronymic anymore, and Word of God has mentioned some very interesting hints about her ancestry.
- Red Baron / Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Dagger of the Jhereg.
- Retired Badass: After deciding killing people for money is probably a bad thing.
- Soapbox Sadie: She comes across this way to Vlad sometimes after joining what amounts to a group of Marxist revolutionaries.
Vlad's grandfather and teacher in the ways of witchcraft and swordplay.
Vlad's Familiar, a jhereg — a small, venomous flying lizard, something like a miniature wyvern. He's fully sentient, and spends most of his time making snarky telepathic comments to Vlad. Raised from an egg by Vlad, he's completely at home in cities and among people, less so in the wild.
- Bond Creatures
- Intellectual Animal
- Phrase Catcher: Expect the phrase "Shut up, Loiosh," to show up at least once per book.
- Servile Snarker
- Shoulder-Sized Dragon
- Simple-Minded Wisdom: Loiosh isn't as clever as Vlad, and his motivations are fairly basic (safety and food), but he's a lot more sensible. A key part of his job is warning Vlad when his emotions are interfering with his thinking or are too stirred up for him to safely perform witchcraft.
- Snarky Nonhuman Sidekick
- Talking Animal: Telepathically, and only to Vlad.
- The Watson: We aren't always privy to the details of Vlad's plans, but he always has to explain them to Loiosh.
A wild-born female jhereg which Vlad summoned to help him when in dire straits, Rocza opted to remain with "the Provider" and become Loiosh's mate. She doesn't understand "soft ones" or their ways very well, so Loiosh acts as a middleman when Vlad needs to communicate with her.
- Country Mouse: Having lived wild before pairing with Loiosh, Rocza enjoys Vlad's time as a fugitive in the wilderness a lot more than her mate or Vlad.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Female jhereg are larger than males, and Loiosh sometimes has to remind Rocza to only distract Vlad's opponents, not necessarily poison them to death.
- Shoulder-Sized Dragon
- Xenofiction: Portions of Athyra are written from Rocza's point of view.
Verra, the Demon Goddess
The god of Elder Sorcery, Verra has been the patron goddess of Vlad's family for a long time. She was once a slave of the Jenoine, but rebelled against them and helped to force them off the planet. She appears as a very tall Dragaeran woman with an extra joint on each finger.
- The Chessmaster: She's playing some kind of very long game, but nobody knows the details yet.
- Deadpan Snarker: Even — actually, especially — in council with the other gods.
- The Hecate Sisters: Verra and her two sisters are the gods of the three branches of magic.
- Interspecies Romance: Well, they're both gods, but her lover Barlen appears to be some kind of reptilian...thing.
- Also, Adron.
- Jerkass Gods: Maybe a Jerk with a Heart of Gold to some degree, but it's still really up in the air at this point.
- Manipulative Bastard: She's quite willing to treat mortals as pawns to get what she wants.
- Opposites Attract: Barlen is said to be Verra's opposite in some kind of metaphysical sense.
- Rebellious Spirit: Flouts the rules other gods follow.
- Right-Hand Cat: A fluffy white one.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Barlen is Verra's lover and her nemesis.
- The Scottish Trope: The only one of the gods who doesn't believe in it. At one point, the Jenoine are described as "Those We Do Not Name Except For Verra Who Does."
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Verra does plenty of ethically dubious things, but it's hard to argue with her apparent goal of keeping the Jenoine off the planet.
Vlad's secretary, known for being so mysterious and gifted with uncanny stealth that he is a major source of Epileptic Trees, including the belief that he is actually the legendary assassin, Mario Greymist which he's not. Before joining House Jhereg, he was a Dragonlord.
- Cursed with Awesome: His amazing but unintentional ability to fade into the background made it impossible to command troops like a proper Dragon. It comes in very handy as a Jhereg, though.
- Deadpan Snarker
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: the House of Dragon isn't really treated as evil, but Kragar is an example of a character who is an exile because he doesn't at all fit his group's "hat". Dragons are known for their ambition and military prowess — while he's no pacifist (he works for Vlad, after all), he is totally unambitious and did something that got him booted out of his House. Exactly what he did is shrouded in mystery.
- Mysterious Past: What did he do to get himself kicked out, anyway? And why does Aliera hate him? And where does his permanent stealth mode come from?
- The Nondescript
- Red Herring
- Sassy Secretary: A rare male version.
- Servile Snarker
- Stealth Hi/Bye: All the time, unintentionally.
- Undying Loyalty: Despite the wealth, fame, and power that betraying Vlad would gain him, despite the fact that Vlad deliberately broke the rules of the Organization that Kragar still belongs to, and despite the fact that getting caught helping Vlad or even having contact with him would lead directly to his torture and death, Kragar has Vlad's back any time the latter is back in Adrilankha.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: He can be standing right in front of you, and you won't notice he's there until he speaks. And he can't turn it off.
Kiera the Thief
By far the greatest thief in Adrilankha and possibly the whole Empire. One of Vlad's oldest friends, she was the first Dragaeran to ever treat him with kindness and played a role in getting him to join the "business end" of House Jhereg. She is actually an alter ego of Sethra Lavode.
- Classy Cat-Burglar
- God Was My Copilot
- The Mentor
- Phantom Thief
- Stealth Expert
- The Smurfette Principle: Not within the series, but within the Jhereg itself — the group is divided between the Left Hand, an all-female group of magic users who deal in illegal spells and the Right Hand, an almost all-male group of assassins and professional criminals. Kiera is one of the few women in the latter group.
A high-ranking Dragonlord (third in line after Aliera and Norathar) who Vlad meets in Taltos. He hired Vlad as a security consultant for his home, and they gradually become friends.
- Berserk Button: Insult his honor, or the memory of his uncle Adron, and he will slice you to ribbons. (Although if you're lucky you won't be permanently dead.) Raid the town he calls home and he will sacrifice your entire village to Verra.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Viscount of Adrilankha, Chapter the Ninety-Fifth: How Morrolan Battled a God.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu — Morrolan gets the attention of the aforementioned god by urinating on a statue of him.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He wears black all the time and lives in Castle Black — black being the colour of magic — but is not evil. Well, mostly.
- Empathic Weapon: Blackwand, a longsword. Vlad describes its aura as very aggressive and somehow feminine. It seems to aid Morrolan's sorcery, and can act on its own while he's unconscious.
- Honor Before Reason: He was willing to start a second Dragon-Jhereg War rather than give up a guest in his house — and was willing to die to prevent it, since his death would allow said guest to be killed without impugning his honor.
- I Gave My Word: No one dies in Castle Black. Permanently, that is.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He gets to Pet the Dog a couple of times per book.
- Magic Knight: One of the greatest sorcerers in the Empire, and an even better swordsman.
- Moral Dissonance: He once slaughtered three entire villages singlehandedly when he got pissed off. Teldra later explains that there was actually a somewhat understandable reason for it.
- Moses in the Bullrushes, leading to...
- Oblivious Adoption: Morrolan was around 100 years old by the time he finally learned that he wasn't an Easterner. He never seemed particularly curious about his abnormal height and agelessness.
- Ominous Floating Castle: Floating castles are out of fashion now, but he built one just to show off — though he might not have if he hadn't been forced to levitate the under-construction building to escape an army.
- Pretend Prejudice: He was raised by humans, so he's nowhere near as much of a bigot towards them as most Dragaerans.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Aliera.
Morrolan's cousin, an even higher-ranking Dragonlord who displays traditional Dragon traits (i.e. being a ruthless, self-absorbed jerkass) to an even greater extent than he does.
- Action Girl
- Berserk Button: Don't insult her late father, Adron. And don't mention her height. Seriously, just don't.
- BFS: For a while she was using her ancestor Kieron's greatsword, which was longer than she was tall.
- Black Magician Girl: She has absolutely no compunctions about studying (illegal) Elder Sorcery; she probably got it from her dad, who dissolved the capital city and threw the entire Empire into chaos for over 250 years with it.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Played with and discussed in Tiassa. There are countless generations between present-day Aliera and Kieron, but since she has her original memories, and since Kieron is apparently the only one she's ever considered worthy of having a child with... Then again, she didn't have those memories when she first met him. It's all very confused.
- Daddy's Little Villain/Even Bad Women Love Their Daddies: She's absolutely devoted to her late father, Adron. The one who accidentally destroyed the Empire in an attempted coup d'etat.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: She doesn't accept sympathy well. See Iorich.
- Empathic Weapon: Pathfinder, another BFS. Vlad says its aura feels neuter where Blackwand is feminine, and dangerous but not actively aggressive. As the name implies, it can locate people and objects.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Her temper is notoriously violent even for the House of the Dragon.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Her mother is the Demon Goddess Verra.
- Height Angst: Aliera is short for her race, and you should never comment on this because she has an incredibly deadly weapon and will end you.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Noticing a theme here?
- Kaleidoscope Eyes: A useful version, warning others of her temper/their impending death.
- Magic Knight: She's a slightly better sorcerer than she is a swordfighter...but she's so extremely good at both that it hardly makes a difference.
- The Napoleon: She's just a little over six feet tall, which is embarrassingly short for a Dragaeran. For a while she had a habit of wearing long skirts and levitating in order to look taller. Even after she got over that, she still has a Hair-Trigger Temper and mentioning her height is a particular Berserk Button.
- Noble Bigot: While she's a loyal friend to Vlad, she doesn't think much of Easterners in general — to the point of refusing to believe that Dragaerans are descended from them, despite being a brilliant geneticist who should know better.
- There's also some elements of Innocent Bigotry here, as she sometimes seems genuinely oblivious to the fact that, for instance, talking about invading the East in front of Vlad might bother him.
- Parody Sue: Aliera is beautiful, an amazing fighter, a powerful mage, the daughter of a goddess, has color-changing eyes...and is a real jerk.
- Pretend Prejudice: As Vlad puts it, "Morrolan, who doesn't hate Easterners as much as you'd expect, and Aliera, who doesn't hate me as much as you'd expect." But then again, Vlad IS her brother-in-soul.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Right-Hand Cat
- Small Girl Big Sword: Aliera is very short for a Dragaeran, but for a while carries a massive two-handed sword that is as tall as she is.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Morrolan.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Sort of. Because of spending a long time as a soul without a body, when restored to life, Aliera is as physically young as she was at the time she lost her body, whereas contemporaries who were alive the whole time are physically a lot older.
The legendary and feared Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, a figure who has been alive (and later undead) longer than anyone can remember, and is rumored to have actually come from the rock of Dzur Mountain itself. May be either a Dzur or a Dragon or some combination thereof; both houses have claimed she's a member at different points.
- The Archmage: She's the most powerful sorcerer in the history of the Empire. According to Vlad, she's forgotten more about sorcery than anyone else has ever learned.
- Baleful Polymorph: She's rumored to transform Dzur warriors who challenge her into animals.
- The Chessmaster
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Well, she's a vampire...but then again, no one noticed that she'd died for several thousand years.
- Empathic Weapon: Iceflame, a dagger. It's linked to Dzur Mountain somehow, but we don't really know what that means.
- Four-Star Badass: She's also considered one of the greatest war leaders of all time. Given half a chance to talk about military strategy, she can keep going for hours.
- Goth Girls Know Magic: Possibly most powerful wizard alive, and dressed all in black and possessing an unsettling pallor.
- Lady of Black Magic
- Our Vampires Are Different: We don't know the details, though, save for the fact that vampirism is not The Virus. It's implied that becoming undead as she did involves sneaking out of the Paths of the Dead on foot.
- Pals with Jesus / Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Vlad's friendship with her.
- Perky Goth: She's surprisingly friendly and down-to-earth, when she's not actively trying to scare you. In fact, she's probably one of the nicest Dragaerans Vlad knows.
- Person of Mass Destruction
- Physical God: Although she explicitly declined a chance to join the pantheon of the series, she might as well be a deity given how powerful and long-lived (for lack of a better term) she is.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Time Abyss: She's older than the entire Empire.
The Chatelaine of Castle Black, an Issola. Very polite, very smooth-talking, and an all-around wonderful person. During Issola, she was stabbed with a Morganti blade. Before her soul could be completely destroyed, Vlad managed to save most of it and use it to construct his Great Weapon, Godslayer, where it currently resides, dormant until she "awakens" in Hawk.
- All-Loving Hero: Sort of. The key to Teldra's charm is that it isn't an act — she really, genuinely likes almost everybody. That doesn't stop her from being just as ruthless as any of Vlad's other friends when she decides it's appropriate, however.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She genuinely likes people and is probably the kindest of Vlad's friends, but that does not mean it's a good idea to underestimate her.
- Cunning Linguist: She even speaks Jenoine.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: She manages to disrupt a Jenoine's concentration and the spell it was performing by insulting it at precisely the right time. Also, as befits her House, she struck without warning and managed to wound a Jenoine before she went down.
- Empathic Weapon: No, she doesn't have one — as of the end of Issola, she is one.
- Guile Hero: Not a trickster, but the kind of Guile Hero who relies on diplomacy, negotiation, charm and finesse rather than deception.
- The Jeeves: For Morrolan.
- Non-Action Guy: Okay, she's not a guy, but that doesn't usually matter for Dragaerans. She's pretty much the only major character who displays no combat skills of any kind.
- Platonic Life Partners: Her relationship with Vlad from Issola on.
- Silk Hiding Steel: She acts with perfect courtesy at all times...but remember that "courtesy" as Teldra defines it means not giving harm or insult to anyone else except intentionally when you judge it to be appropriate.
- The Social Expert
A Hawklord and master of psychic power whom Vlad turns to for aid with mind-reading and related matters. Reluctantly, because Daymar is socially-oblivious and really, really annoying.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Daymar can be extremely clueless and distracted by his own thoughts.
- Genius Ditz: Nobody knows more about psychics than Daymar, who serves as Mr. Exposition when he's asked by Vlad to explain how mental powers work. He also can't keep track of minor details like, say, Vlad being hunted by Jhereg assassins.
- It Runs in the Family: Evidently the case, as Daymar's uncle died of exhaustion shortly after inventing a magical wand that protects its bearer from falling asleep while working. It apparently never occurred to him that he still needed to sleep.
- Levitating Lotus Position: How he's always posed when he pops up via teleportation. Vlad isn't quite sure if he does it to show off, and if so, why he'd think it's impressive considering how easily it can be done via sorcery.
- Literal-Minded: Once you finish telling Daymar why you think his help will be useful, you still need to ask him to help or he'll just keep nodding that, yes, you're right about that.
- Psychic Powers: Daymar's specialty, which comes in handy if Vlad needs someone's mind read or if he needs to work with the Hawklord to trace someone's location.
Telnan AKA Zugaron
A ditzy and friendly young Dzur who Vlad meets in the novel Dzur, and is an apprentice to Sethra Lavode. He wields a Great Weapon which it's implied that he was destined to hold. He also appears as narrator in the short story "The Desecrator", which explains how he got the sword.
- Affably Evil: Well, he thinks of himself as evil, anyway, and takes great pride in it, but he's really very cheerful and friendly, especially for a Dzur.
- Ax-Crazy: His Blood Knight tendencies reach this level at some points in "The Desecrator".
- BFS: His Great Weapon is massive even by Dragaeran standards which Vlad finds typical of a Dzur.
- Blood Knight
- Bad Powers, Good People: Carries a massively powerful Evil Weapon that wants to kill everything all the time, but he's a pretty decent guy anyway.
- Empathic Weapon: With a side of Evil Weapon — his sword Nightslayer, which in personality is an Ax-Crazy Omnicidal Maniac that makes Blackwand seem friendly by comparison.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: Good and evil are rather ambiguous in the series, but Telnan sort of fits since his positive quality of having no species prejudice is sort of balanced by a negative one of being rather inclined to slaughter anyone who gets in his way.
- Expy: He isn't one, but "The Desecrator" shows his sword to be one of Stormbringer in the The Elric Saga.
- Multiple-Choice Past: In Dzur, he tells Vlad that he named his sword Nightslayer because it sounds evil and cool. However, in the chronologically earlier "The Desecrator", the sword itself tells him to call it that.
A mysterious little girl who has appeared in most of the books. She many unusual powers, including an apparent ability to travel through time and space at will. The daughter of Aliera and Kieron the Conqueror, conceived while her father was still dead. She may not have actually been born yet, but she's not one to let that stop her.
- The Cutie
- Have We Met Yet?: "We've met already, Uncle Vlad."
- Kid from the Future
- Little Miss Almighty: Very strongly implied.
- Mind Screwdriver: Tiassa clarifies certain puzzling details about Devera.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Aliera can't meet her yet.
- Scaled Up: Heroic example: although she's not named outright, the dragon that takes part in the closing battle of Issola is strongly implied to be her.
- Shout-Out: Due to Devera's powers, she pops up in many other Steven Brust books, such as To Reign In Hell.
The Hero in the Khaavren Romances and an Expy of D'Artagnan of The Three Musketeers. By the time of the Vlad books, he has become the head of several good-ish Secret Police / State Sec organizations. He's a Tiassa, meaning his specialties are creativity, resourcefulness, and insight.
- Happily Married: To the Countess of Adrilankha, Daro.
- Heroic BSOD: He went downhill as the Interregnum went on and his guilt over the Emperor's death caught up to him.
- Hot-Blooded: As a youth, but he cooled considerably as he grew older (much like D'Artagnan).
- Lantern Jaw of Justice
- My Greatest Failure: Failing to prevent the assassination of the Emperor.
- The Quiet One: By Tiassa standards, at least, he's incredibly reticent.
- The Spymaster: As noted above, this is his role in the present.
Aerich Temma, Duke of Arylle
A Lyorn warrior who joined the Phoenix Guards with Khaavren, Pel, and Tazendra. The Lancer, and an Expy of Athos.
- Badass Bookworm
- Clear My Name: His parents were falsely accused of treason, and he wants to win back the family's honor and get revenge on those that tarnished his name.
- Gentleman and a Scholar
- Honor Before Reason: He's a Lyorn, so it's only to be expected.
- The Quiet One
- Real Men Wear Pink: He always wears an ankle-length skirt when fighting (it's the traditional Lyorn warrior costume), and his hobby is crocheting.
- "Rashomon"-Style: Either a sorcerer willing to furiously chase down a Teckla who dared stand up to him, or a nonmagical man of such dignity and calm that chastising a Teckla would be less proper than ignoring his insults, depending on who's telling the story. The actual events of that scene will likely never be known.
- Starcrossed Lovers: Tazendra loves him, though considering how ingrained his sense of propriety is, he likely never even considered returning it.
Pel, a.k.a. the Duke of Galstan
The Smart Guy, and an Expy of Aramis. House of the Yendi.
- Badass Bookworm
- The Casanova: Moreso in his youth.
- The Chessmaster
- The Dandy
- Gentleman and a Scholar
- Guile Hero
- Face–Heel Turn: Although unlike Aramis, he turns back in time.
- Manipulative Bastard: He's a Yendi. It goes with the territory.
- No Name Given: Pel also goes by the title of the Duke of Galstan, but Galstan doesn't actually have a duchy, and there is no one on the records of the House of Yendi named Pel. It's a very Yendi sort of title.
- The Smart Guy
- The Spymaster: In later books, and possibly in the present, too.
Tazendra, Baroness of Daavya
A Dzurlord warrior and sorcerer, to whom a noble cause is secondary to a desire to hit people with big swords. The Big Guy and the Expy of Porthos.
- Action Girl
- The Big Guy
- Blood Knight: This is the hat of her House, and she definitely fits it.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma
- Boisterous Bruiser: A rare female version.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Goes out taking down a Jenoine in single combat.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: See above.
- Gender Flip: A female version of Porthos.
- Genius Ditz: Tazendra is something of a cloudcuckoolander and sees things in the simplistic terms of a Dzur. Her friends regularly have to explain what's going on when the plot thickens too much for her. In spite of all this, she's a genius wizard and prone to very penetrating insights.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl
- Nice to the Waiter: The Khaavren books as well as the testimony of one of Aerich's Teckla in Teckla (see above) indicate that she is kindly toward her Teckla servants and well-liked by the them.
- Starcrossed Lovers: Tazendra casually mentions to Pel that the only man she would ever marry is Aerich, who she couldn't pursue because they belonged to different Houses.
- Took a Level in Badass: Not that she really needed another one, but she spent the Interregnum training as a wizard under Sethra.
- Unstoppable Rage: Another Dzur trait. It's particularly awesome in the last book, when she punches out Cthulhu while mortally wounded.
Empress Zerika IV
- To Hell and Back: Voluntarily entered the Paths of the Dead and came back out alive.
- The High Queen
- Interspecies Romance: Has a human lover.
- Last of Their Kind: She's the only Phoenix left.
- Oblivious Adoption: Always knew she was an orphan raised by Dragonlords, but she didn't know she was a Phoenix rather than a Dragon until Sethra started training her.
- Staring Down Cthulhu: Delivered an awesome "The Reason You Suck" Speech to an assembly of the gods before claiming the Orb and taking it with her out of the Paths of the Dead.
- Training from Hell: Sethra put her through this so that she'd be able to make her journey into the Paths of the Dead.
The greatest Jhereg assassin of Vlad's era, and possibly in the history of the Empire.
- Hitman with a Heart: Mario seems like a decent guy, for a Jhereg. Paarfi also paints him as a soft-hearted guy, falling in love with Aliera while on the job.
- Luke Nounverber: Although Greymist is a title, not a surname.
- Master of Disguise: In Five Hundred Years After, Mario disguises himself as a Teckla peasant as well as a guardsman of some aristocratic background. It helps that Jhereg are generally a mixture of various Houses.
- Memetic Badass: In-Universe: Mario is unquestionably the greatest assassin alive, and he's the go-to example when someone wants to describe the best of the best. When the Phoenix Guards come across an unsolvable murder, they declare "Mario did it".
- One job mentioned in Dzur was shanking a sorceress in the brain-stem as she emerged from a teleport, requiring him to know exactly where and when she would arrive and even which way she would face. He well deserves the reputation.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Grey is the color of death in Dragaeran culture, which makes "Mario Greymist" a much scarier name than it sounds like to humans.
- The Nondescript: As described by Vlad in Dzur, Mario is a plain, kind of paunchy middle aged guy who looks completely harmless (which is why Vlad suspects correctly he's a dangerous assassin)
- One Mario Limit: Uh, averted?
- Red Baron: Vlad and Paarfi give different explanations for why he's called Greymist, but either would count as Earn Your Title.
- Shrouded in Myth: He's known as the greatest assassin ever and is a legend among Jhereg, with few knowing which stories about him are true.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Mario is very average looking, while his lover Aliera is noted for her beauty. (Of course, Mario is a Master of Disguise, so the plain guy Vlad meets might not actually be his true appearance.)
Paarfi of Roundwood
A writer from the House of the Hawk, Paarfi is the in-universe author of the Khaavren Romances. His first love is history, but scholarship doesn't pay the bills, and he's not too proud to turn his skills toward adventure novels — especially not after his second book, The Phoenix Guards, turned out to be wildly popular.
The Seventeen Houses
The most noble of the Houses. Representing decay and rebirth, they reside at the beginning/end of the Cycle. Phoenix are the best and brightest of the Empire, but as they get older, they slide into decadence and hedonism. Due to the fact that only those born while an actual phoenix is flying overhead are actually counted as a member, they are the smallest house by far. During the Vlad books, only one is left.
- Deadly Decadent Court: How most Phoenix reigns end up, with the exception of Zerika I (the first empress) and Zerika IV (the first post-Interregnum empress). Zerika IV opines that the key is knowing to abdicate before decadence sets in, while Paarfi writes Tortaalik's reign as hopelessly adrift from the literal start, though it grows worse with time.
- The Hedonist: All Phoenix have a hedonistic streak that gets stronger as they grow older, and eventually becomes overwhelming.
- Last of Their Kind: Zerika IV, the Empress during the Vlad books.
The House of war and conquest. These guys are leaders and warriors, and during the time of most of the books, the second most powerful House. Several major characters belong to the House of the Dragon.
Historians and record-keepers. The Lyorn interest in history comes from a passion for upholding tradition and honor; because of this, they're usually accorded automatic respect by other Dragaerans.
- Badass Bookworm: The Lyorn warriors.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Despite their propensity for scholarship, Lyorn are far too concerned about proper behavior to become creepy nerds like many Athyra or infuriatingly smug like many Hawklords.
- Honor Before Reason: A Lyorn's personal integrity is absolutely impeccable.
Passionate and enthusiastic, Tiassa are associated with creativity, inspiration, resourcefulness and insight. The usual assumption is that the Tiassa is the "idea guy."
One of the upper-middle-class Houses, Hawklords are curious, perceptive, and somewhat detached from the world around them. They seem to be mostly researchers or scholars.
Where House Dragon are soldiers, Dzur are adventurers and gloryhounds. They love nothing more than a fight where the odds are against them, and the worse they're outmatched, the better.
- BFS: Endemic.
- Blood Knight: They like fights where the odds are against them, the closer to genuinely impossible the better.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Dragons fight out of pride, Lyorn fight to defend tradition, Orca fight for money...Dzur fight for the sheer joy of it.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Not necessarily because they care about compassion or justice, but because nothing is more fun for a Dzur than a really dangerous adventure, and siding with the underdog makes for more of a challenge.
- The Ditz: Dzur tend to come across as stupid to most non-Dzur. This isn't exactly true; the Dzur just have a distinctive way of thinking that usually strikes others as straightforward to the point of simplicity.
- For this reason, clever Dzur often seem to have Genius Ditz tendencies.
- Fearless Fool: By reputation — non-Dzur tend to assume the reason Dzur are always charging headlong into obviously unwinnable battles is that they're Too Dumb to Live. They're wrong, though — it's not that Dzur don't understand impossible odds, they understand just fine and they like it that way.
- Glory Seeker
- Honor Before Reason: Taken as a point of pride.
- I Will Fight Some More Forever: Dzur love doomed last stands.
- Martyrdom Culture: Everyone's gotta die sometime, and to the Dzur there's no better way to go than in glorious battle against a far more powerful opponent.
- Proud Warrior Race
- Unstoppable Rage: Most of the time, Dzur in battle are enjoying themselves. If you actually manage to make them mad, though, they're scarier than Dragons.
The courtier House. Issola tend to be polite, charming, and diplomatic. But don't get too comfortable — the other thing they're associated with is surprise.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Issola are courteous and incredibly likeable, but it is not a good idea to start thinking of them as harmless.
- Cunning Linguist
- Guile Hero: The diplomat kind.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat
- Politeness Judo
- Silk Hiding Steel: An issola is a beautiful white heron-like bird. But, as Vlad points out, it's also a predator, and when it hunts it'll strike so fast you never even see it move. And then it'll go right back to standing there, looking lovely and graceful. It's particularly notable that the bird strikes by bowing.
- The Social Expert
- Verbal Judo
- Wandering Minstrel: Occasionally, although most well-off Issola view performing "social music" as slumming.
A middle-class House, associated with tenacity and unpredictability. And...that's about all we know.
Builders and architects. However, they're also associated with destruction — there's mention of book-burnings during previous Vallista reigns. The line summing them up in the verse about the Cycle says, "Vallista rends and then rebuilds."
- The Blacksmith: A common Vallista occupation.
The house of corruption and greed, Jhereg are primarily associated with organized crime, although not every member of the house is a part of the criminal organization. Male Jhereg mostly join the "Right Hand," a.k.a. "the Organization," which handles your standard assassinations, protection rackets and other mundane crimes; women join "the Left Hand of the Jhereg," a.k.a. "the Bitch Patrol," a separate organization that specializes in illegal sorcery. The Jhereg is also one of two Houses that will openly accept half-breeds, outcasts, and Easterners, the other being House Teckla.
- Black Mage: The entire Left Hand.
- The Dark Arts: A specialty of both sides of the House.
- The Mafia
- The Syndicate
- Thieves' Guild
Associated with justice and retribution, this House runs the legal system. Judges, lawyers, jailers — all Iorich.
A middle-class House, associated with planning and entrapment. Seems to include a lot of craftsmen — weavers, carpenters, and cobblers have been mentioned. Both associations fit the House animal, which weaves enormous webs.
Need a ludicrously convoluted scheme? These are the guys. Well summed up by Vlad's Lightbulb Joke:
- How many Yendi does it take to sharpen a sword? Three. One to sharpen it, and one to confuse the issue.
- The Chessmaster
- Complexity Addiction
- Guile Hero: The ones who choose to use their powers for good, anyway.
- Manipulative Bastard
- The Plan: You can never tell if you're caught in a Yendi's scheme. The house is named after a poisonous serpent that bites people without them noticing until they suddenly die several minutes later.
A ruthlessly commercial House, Orca will do almost anything for money, and have a reputation as brutal thugs. Due to their focus on trade, they're often sailors, as befits their House animal.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive
- Intrepid Merchant: Although not always positively portrayed.
- Jerkass: They are often rather unpleasant both personally and in terms of activities. There's even a scene in Iorich where Vlad bonds with Dragearans of diverse classes and Houses over a shared hatred of the Orca. Not to mention that while Vlad usually learns a lesson about the complexity of a House's traits, the lesson he learns in Orca is that he hates Orca even more than he did previously.
- Father or Mother Neptune
- Mooks: Although they're usually thought of as merchant sailors, the House of the Orca is also associated with brutality, so when you need to pay some goons to beat someone up, they're the House you go to. Vlad runs into a lot of Orca mooks.
- Proud Merchant Race
The peasants. Most live in small rural farming communities; the rest serve nobles as maids or lackeys. The vast majority of Dragaerans are in House Teckla, since anyone can join, but they don't get much of a voice and are usually treated with disdain by all non-Teckla Dragaerans. Even so, they have their place in the Cycle like all other Houses; Teckla always take over through a peasant uprising, and rule the Empire as a Republic during their term in power.
A middle-class House, associated with metamorphosis, change, adaptation and endurance. As they're much less predictable than the other Houses, individual Jhegaala are sometimes treated with mild suspicion by people who don't know them well.
- Character Development: The one trait all Jhegaala have in common is constantly growing and changing.
Wizards and philosophers.
- Court Mage: The Imperial Wizard usually comes from this House.
- Evil Sorcerer: Some of the nastiest pieces of work in the Empire are Athyra. The Left Hand of the Jhereg was founded by some particularly corrupt Athyra who were booted out of the House.
- Lack of Empathy: Vlad says the reason there are so many nasty Athyra out there is that they spend so much time in solitary study and contemplation that they start thinking of people as abstractions, becoming completely divorced from morality and empathy.
- The Philosopher: Most Athyra that aren't wizards.