is a story written by Ursula Vernon
and is broken up into two or three parts depending on whether you're reading the novels or have read the Elfwood version. The draft on Elfwood was removed a few years back due to some censorship issues, but the story lives on in novel form.
The first book, "The House of Diamond", starts out with a 17-year-old girl named Lyra Volfrieds stumbling into the massacre of her entire house, which was orchestrated by her illegitimate brother. She barely manages to escape into the woods with her life and with her lack of survival skills and street smarts, would likely not escape the forest either. Fortunately for Lyra, an unlikely encounter with the anthropormorphic dog soldier
, Sadrao Majid earns her a new friend and a better chance at survival. Unfortunately, however, the assassination of her house turns into small fries in the face of the newer, bigger threat she has to deal with.
Along the way the duo meet up with half-elf love interest
named Trent, a pair of full-elf lesbian lovers, Jacyl
and they travel together for a while. Sadrao and Sinai teach Lyra fighting skills and the latter imparts a kind of magical combat knowledge, called the Kytha, upon her before they part ways. Sadrao and Lyra are left to deliver Trent to the House of Diamond to get him magically scanned while Sinai and Jacyl set out to the elf capital to deliver a message. They encounter a couple of Sadrao's old acquaintances, the Funny Animal
Spite, an anthropomorphic ermine/ferret and Gunnar, an anthropomorphic giant ground sloth. Trent gets captured and the remainder of the novel follows the rescue attempt.
The sequel, "The Mountain of Iron", starts with the party captured by a fairly impotent mage, and breaking free without too much difficulty. Later on Lyra gets lost and finds herself in a den of barbaric anthropomorphic hyenas. She is rescued and accompanied by a small black dog. It turns out that this black dog was actually cursed into that form by a wandering magician, and Lyra, falling into his trap, is transformed as well. Trent performs an act of magic to restore both Lyra and the dog (who is a woman going by the name Kuroinu) to humanity, and earns Sadrao's trust. Trent gets recaptured by his father. There is a great war at the foot of Ironspine between the elves and Vade's forces, and Sinai marches into Vade's fortress carried by her Kytha. Lyra is captured by Vade, and in his fortress she finds out that there is more than one face to evil.
Provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Oh boy... well, while Trent wasn't subject to much physical abuse, he was put through some of the most horrible emotional and psychological abuse imaginable.
- A Girl and Her Dog Soldier: Or quite possibly A Dog Soldier and His Girl.
- Action Girl: This series becomes jam-packed with them as it goes on. First it starts with Sinai and Jacyl and as Lyra develops her fighting skills, becomes one herself, then Spite comes along, and then there's the whole race of hyenas...
- Air-Vent Passageway: Deconstructed. It is portrayed as tough, claustrophobic going in the dark, with Lyra suffering several minor injuries, and a high chance of Lyra falling and breaking her neck. Or breaking something else that renders her unable to escape, and dying slowly over several days.
- Amazon Brigade: The hyena people.
- Animal Stereotypes: Sadrao the dog soldier is loyal and trustworthy, Spite the weasel/ferret is a cunning, bloodthirsty thief (albeit on the hero's side), Gunnar the giant sloth is slow and patient, and a brief encounter with a wolverine guard... well, you just don't want to mess with wolverines.
- Badass Bookworm: Lyra starts out as a bookworm and then becomes one of these.
- Badass Normal: Sadrao, although a seven-foot-tall anthropomorphic dog, does not possess any magic, supernatural powers or demonic blood. He is however, extremely badass.
- Bad Powers, Bad People: Justified in the sense that standard magical power is most easily gained by unscrupulous and distasteful means such as human sacrifice and ritual bloodletting. It's not hard to believe that the people who are willing to do this to get power are generally not nice people.
- Batman Gambit: Trent's tragic backstory and demure personality are all real, but are only parts of his True Self. The repression of his darker and crueler nature are engineered by the Big Bad in an attempt to lure his enemies into a sense of false security.
- Berserk Button: Sadrao, calm and polite, loyal to a fault. Then you decide to harass his charge...
- Beware the Nice Ones: Sadrao.
- The Big Guy: Sinai.
- Bi the Way: Kuroinu, and Lyra herself.
- Bond One-Liner: Averted. After their first fight, Sadrao says "well, that was invigorating!". Lyra, instead of some witty remark, just throws up.
- Broken Bird: Sinai.
- Chekhov's Skill: Learning Kuroinu's true name saves Lyra's life in her battle against Trent, when Lyra summons her to defeat his demon.
- Also lock-picking in House of Diamonds, but that's not saying very much as the entire reason that Sadrao makes Lyra practice it is because it will be of use later. It turns out to be when she is kidnapped by slavers and escapes via lock-picking.
- The Chick: Jacyl, and the forgettable girl rescued from the evil magician.
- Combat Pragmatist. Vernon comes up with something most people forget about furry combatants, specifically, their teeth.
- Coming-of-Age Story: The Hero's personal growth from the start of the series to the finish is one of the main focuses. She starts off naive and helpless and gradually grows into a competent adult that can more than take care of herself in the real world.
- Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Trent's backstory.
- Cool Big Sis: Jacyl to Lyra.
- Cool Sword: Sadrao's Mohenja and the sword Kuroinu started a huge marketplace disturbance to steal.
- Corrupt Church: There's a theocratic town with at least three of these.
- Culture Clash: The girl they rescue unwittingly flaunts all Funny Animal forms of politeness, by cringing away from their touch, showing her teeth when she smiles and laughs, and trying to intervene in a battle for dominance.
- Death Seeker: Sinai.
- Didn't See That Coming: Lyra summons Kuroinu in her demon form while chained and at Vade's mercy, and her captor is throttled.
- Dragon Ascendant: Trent.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Sinai uses the last of her strength to charge Vade while riding a water demon horse. Spite takes out a truly terrifying Giant Flyer
- Our Elves Are Better: To the point of other races considering them snooty and xenophobic. We don't get to see much of them, though.
- Eternal Sexual Freedom: Averted. Two of the main cast are in a lesbian relationship, and Lyra, who was bought up conservative, is somewhat uncomfortable. Also, one of the partners actually thinks to ask Lyra if she's okay with it.
- Face-Heel Turn: Trent, towards the end.
- Fantastic Racism: Many people distrust non-humans, and at some locales, they're outright persecuted. The first real inn that Lyra and Sadrao stay at is a crappy one where the bartender gives them a room for a much higher price than what might have been asked of a human.
- Five-Man Band
- Funny Animal: Anthropomorphic animals are commonplace, and even humans are implied to be anthropomorphic monkeys.
- Gambit Pileup: The Big Bad's Evil Plan to manipulate Trent's personality into becoming crueler and more evil (by repressing all his good and gentle qualities) backfires on him when the newer, eviller Trent creates a plan of his own to usurp the Big Bad and cause him to be killed by his own demon.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted thoroughly. After Trent rapes Lyra, she uses her Kytha to not only abort the baby, but sterilize herself to keep it from ever happening again.
- The Hero: Lyra.
- Half-Human Hybrid: While most of the characters are more Funny Animal than Half-Human Hybrid, Trent is half-elf and Kuroinu is explicitly stated to be a demon-hybrid. The half part is debatable, though, given how diluted the demon blood must be after so many generations.
- On the other hand, Kuroinu may approach this from the other direction; it appears that any offspring of a demon is a demon, regardless of parentage.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Vade.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Gunnar and Spite.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Sadrao to Trent, about Lyra. This is more serious than most versions, since Trent is the son of Vade, and Sadrao doesn't trust him and is justifiably worried that the whole thing might be some dark scheme.
- Kick the Dog: While a lot of metaphorical dog-kicking goes on, kicking the dog without a reason is seen as something that only the weak and incompetent do. The really bad people will only kick the dog if it serves a purpose.
- The Lancer: Sadrao.
- Laughably Evil: Many "evil" mages are stated to be so ostentatious and overly concerned with appearance that the main threat they pose is inflicting their poor taste upon their victim's fashion sense.
- Mandatory Motherhood: Averted by Lyra Volfrieds when she is impregnated by Trent. Vade's plan was to have a great legacy and a powerful bloodline, and impregnating Lyra was just part of his plan. Her response to this when she found out was to use the Kytha to abort the unborn child and then to sterilize herself to prevent him from just trying again.
- Mook Chivalry: Averted; even a skilled soldier like Sadrao has trouble taking on three bandits, who even attack at once.
- Magical Abortion: Lyra isn't putting up with Mandatory Motherhood, no sir.
- Orphan's Ordeal
- Our Demons Are Different: They are Lovecraftian horrors, stretching into dimensions unknown, possessing bizarre body parts, with no two being exactly the same. And somehow they can breed with humans.
- Our Dragons Are Different: For one, they're extinct. Their closest living relatives are a race of Half-Human Hybrid types that have a friendly relationship with the standard Asian people.
- Papa Dog-Soldier: While Sadrao isn't Lyra's father, he certainly cares about her like he was.
- The Phoenix: The heroes encounter the last one (but with phoenixes, how can one really be sure?) in a swamp.
- Religion of Evil: There are quite a few of these.
- The Smart Guy: Trent.
- Tap on the Head: Lyra whacks a bandit over the head, and succeeds in... pissing him off.
- Take a Level in Badass: After learning how to harness the Kytha, Lyra becomes much more dangerous.
- Unfazed Everyman: Lyra.
- Virgin Power: Subverted with virgins being susceptible to the illusions of unicorns, which in this story are filthy, scavenging mongrels that would rather eat a virgin than rest its head in said virgin's lap.
- You All Meet in an Inn: Lyra and Sadrao meet up with future party members in inns on two occasions. The first time, Sadrao was actually looking for them.