Literature: Corvis Rebaine
Once, he was the most feared man in all of Imphallion. Clad in an enchanted suit of black armor, wielding the legendary demon-forged axe Sunder, channeling the mystic power of one of the lords of Hell, and standing at the head of an army of ruthless mercenaries, savage ogres, and psychotic gnomes, the Terror of the East swept across the land, destroying all who opposed him. But then, just at the very moment of his triumph, when all of Imphallion seemed within his grasp, Corvis Rebaine simply vanished, leaving his army to fall into disarray and taking with him only a single hostage, the young noblewoman Tyannon.
Almost 20 years later, in a remote village far from the cities he once sacked, Corvis and Tyannon live together happily as husband and wife, tending their small farm and raising their two children. But their domestic bliss soon finds itself shaken by the rise of a new threat to the nation: Audriss the Serpent, a ruthless warlord who has accumulated weapons, allies, and powers startlingly like Corvis's own and seems to be following the former conqueror's plans of decades past to the letter. And when a roving patrol of Audriss's troops abducts his daughter, Corvis knows that he cannot sit by from the sidelines.
Donning once more the skull helm that he had vowed to set aside forever, Corvis Rebaine sets out to reassemble the coterie upon which he built his short-lived empire — the cunning ogre Davro, the cannibalistic witch Seilloah, and the bound demon lord Khanda — and turn them, this time, not to conquering Imphallion but to rescuing it from Audriss's foul plot. But can he save a nation that still views him as its greatest villain? And, perhaps more importantly, can he save himself from the dark impulses that once made him every inch the man they fear?
A Dark Fantasy
series by Ari Marmell, previously best known as a freelance RPG writer and the author of several tie-in novels to Magic: The Gathering
. The series marks his first published work in an original setting. The first entry in the series, The Conqueror's Shadow
, was published in 2010. A sequel, The Warlord's Legacy
, appeared in 2011.
The Conqueror's Shadow contains the following tropes:
- The Archmage: Selakrian.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Let's just say that even morally neutral aristocrats are few and far between.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "Why are you here?"
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Tyannon gives Corvis one in a flashback.
- An Axe to Grind: Corvis's Morph Weapon, Sunder, takes the shape of an axe (but only when he wields it).
- Badass Grandpa: Corvis is now in his late fifties and hasn't been on the field of battle in better than fifteen years, but he can still take on an entire squad of soldiers singlehandedly (and that's without the aid of Sunder and Khanda).
- Batman Gambit: Audriss just loves these.
- Becoming the Mask: Both Corvis and Audriss, albeit in different ways.
- Black Cloak: Audriss wears one under his enchanted armor.
- Black Knight/Shoulders of Doom/Skeletons in the Coat Closet/Spikes of Villainy/Tin Tyrant: Corvis's armor. Mercilessly deconstructed when, after digging it out of his closet for the first time in over a decade, he is struck by how ridiculous it looks.
- The Blank: Audriss wears a featureless stone mask. For extra effect, it's polished so that those who look him in the eye see only a distorted reflection of themselves.
- Bloody Murder: Rheah Vhoune kills Mithraem by turning the iron in her blood into wood just before he drinks it.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: Corvis is content to let Audriss's conquest of Imphallion go unimpeded...until some of the warlord's soldiers abduct his daughter Mellorin.
- Call to Agriculture: Both Corvis and Davro retired to become farmers after the war. Davro has to be outright blackmailed by Corvis to get him to leave his farm.
- Chekhov's Armory
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Corvis is subjected to this by both Jassion and Lorum after he is captured.
- The Conqueror: What does it say in the title?
- Court Mage: Rheah Vhoune.
- Crystal Prison/Power Crystal/Sealed Evil in a Can: The demonic icons.
- Deadpan Snarker: Just about every major character, though Davro is the reigning king of snark.
- Deconstructor Fleet
- The Dragon:
- Velascienn, to both Corvis and Audriss. After he is killed by Davro, Mithraem, the leader of the Endless Legion, replaces him.
- One of the first things Corvis does after recruiting his new army is promote a new Dragon, the mercenary captain Losalis.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Deconstructed at length, with Corvis eventually either violating all his supposed standards or being forced to stand idly by while his allies do.
- Evil Overlord: But of course.
- Evil Versus Evil: Corvis may have good intentions (first giving Imphallion a better form of government, then later protecting his family), but he's still a ripe bastard willing to horribly slaughter thousands of innocent people to achieve his goals. And Audriss is, if anything, worse.
- Evil Weapon/Forged by the Gods/Morph Weapon/Named Weapons: The Kholben Shiar, demon-forged blades that hunger for carnage, can slice through any mundane blade with ease, and take a specific shape to reflect the soul of their wielder. Corvis's is an axe called Sunder, while Audriss's is a dagger called Talon.
- Exact Words: Corvis promised he'd set Khanda free. Didn't say he'd set him free in Imphallion.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Having your soul consumed by a demonic icon.
- Final Battle: Complete with three different armies slugging it out, the summoning of a pair of mythological monsters that begin laying waste to a city, The Dragon smacking around Corvis's companions, and, of course, a climactic fight between the Serpent and the Terror of the East.
- Flashback: Each chapter begins with a flashback to Corvis's first campaign, to his travels with Tyannon, or to Audriss's rise to power.
- Good Is Not Nice: Rheah Vhoune, the closest any character comes to being really "good," is an excellent illustration of this.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: At one point, Corvis, having been deprived of Sunder, uses the severed head of a fallen enemy as a makeshift flail.
- Happily Married: Tyannon and Corvis.
- Hobbes Was Right: The point is made over and over that Imphallion would be better off with one authoritarian ruler — be he a king or a military dictator — than under the control of the Guilds.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Audriss deliberately prods Corvis into coming out of retirement as part of a Batman Gambit.
- Hostage for MacGuffin: An interesting case: Seilloah offers the MacGuffin (which she hasn't got) to Audriss in exchange for the release of Corvis (who is actually being held captive by Jassion).
- I Gave My Word: This is apparently a character trait common to just about everyone in Imphallion, as long as the word in question was an oath sworn in the name of the god they worship.
- "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: Used no less than three times, by three separate characters.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Seilloah.
- Large and In Charge: Corvis used to be a big guy. Quite a bit of humor is mined from the fact that isn't quite so imposing anymore, despite wearing the same armor that was forged for him then.
- Like Cannot Cut Like: The only blade that one of the Kholben Shiar cannot cut straight through is another of its kind.
- The Lost Woods: Theaghl-gohlatch, the demon- and sidhe-infested woods where Seilloah makes her home.
- MacGuffin: Two of them: the Spellbook of The Archmage Selakrian...and the key to decoding the cipher it's written in.
- Magic Knight/Sorcerous Overlord: Both Corvis and Audriss, although both draw the bulk of their magical powers from their captured demons.
- Moral Myopia: Corvis suffers from this greatly as no matter how depraved his deeds are including the brutal massacre of thousands and sacking of entire cities, he never sees fault or puts blame on something else.
- The Mole: Khanda.
- The Napoleon: Audriss is repeatedly mentioned to be shorter than average. This is a subtle clue that he's not Jassion, Tyannon's younger brother, despite many a Red Herring to the contrary.
- No Badass to His Valet: Even at the height of his power, Corvis doesn't intimidate Velascienn a bit, because Velascienn knew him back when he was just Officer Corvis Rebaine of the Royal Army of Imphallion.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner
- Not Using the Z Word: The Endless Legion are never referred to as vampires.
- Only in It for the Money: Corvis's mercenary army. Even being tricked into believing they have personal reasons to seek revenge against Audriss doesn't prevent them from demanding part of their pay in advance.
- Only the Chosen May Wield: Someone hoping to use the demonic icons for their magic power must engage the demon trapped inside in a battle of wills. If they fail, Your Soul Is Mine.
- Our Demons Are Different: Nothing is really revealed about them, except that they are far, far more powerful than any human spellcaster, with the exception of Selrakian.
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Marmell's gnomes are bizarre, physically twisted, and murderous creatures that resemble stereotypical goblins more than standard fantasy gnomes.
- Our Ogres Are Hungrier: A proud warrior race of cyclopean giants.
- Our Vampires Are Different: In their natural state, they are patches of mist that can enter corpses and the bodies of those close to death and turn them into People Puppets. They're called "the Endless Legion" because killing the body simply allows them to switch to a new host...unless the body has been stabbed with a length of wood, in which case they are trapped within the wood and killed when they try to find a new host.
- Out-Gambitted: Seilloah tricks Audriss into helping Corvis escape from Jassion by making him think he's getting one over on her.
- Perspective Flip: Standard High Fantasy epic...except from the perspective of the Evil Overlord.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The ogres. Davro's rejection of the warrior's life is not just odd, it's blasphemy against their god.
- Punchclock Hero/Punchclock Villain: The mercenaries. It's made abundantly clear that the only difference between those on each side is which potential employer engaged their services first.
- Puppet King: The Regent Proper of Imphallion, who can only rest anything like actual power from the Guilds when the nation is staring down the barrel of total destruction.
- Putting the Band Back Together: Corvis spends the first half of the book doing this, although he finds out that some of the band are already onboard with Audriss.
- Regent for Life: Lorum (although there's no indication given that he had a hand in arranging whatever befell the heir to the throne).
- Retired Monster: Corvis when the book begins.
- Scary Impractical Armor: The impracticality of Corvis's black-and-bone armor is repeatedly and mercilessly lampshaded.
- Sequel Hook: Corvis decides not to assume command of Imphallion and goes back to his farm...along with the spell capable of controlling dozens of people and some personal effects that will allow him to use it on some of the most powerful of the Guildmasters.
- Servile Snarker/Snarky Nonhuman Sidekick: Khanda and Pekatherosh.
- Silver Has Mystic Powers: The runes on Audriss's enchanted armor are inlaid with silver.
- The Sociopath: Velascienn.
- The Soulless: Gnomes.
- Standard Fantasy Setting: Imphallion.
- Survivor Guilt: Jassion has a heaping helping.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: All over the place, especially from Davro (who never tires of reminding everyone that he's only there because Corvis is blackmailing him) and Khanda (who openly delights in tormenting Corvis).
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Scrupulously enforced.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Corvis just keeps on telling himself this in the flashbacks. When he finds out that it was all for nothing, he loses his cool just a bit.
- Weird Trade Union: There used to be a Sorcerers' Guild, until Selrakian broke it up.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Corvis. Audriss, too, until he becomes Drunk on the Dark Side.
- Wicked Witch: Seilloah has many of the traits listed on the trope's checklist (most of the ones she lacks relate to the stereotypical crone-like appearance).
- Wizards Live Longer: Both Rheah Vhoune and Seilloah look much younger than they actually are.
- Would Hurt a Child: Audriss orders the children of those who defy him impressed into slavery.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Corvis makes a claim to this, which Khanda takes special joy in mocking or outright subverting.
- Your Soul Is Mine: Khanda and Pekatherosh use Type II to fuel their magic.