Literature / Elsabeth Soesten
The Adventures of Elsabeth Soesten
is a Low Fantasy
series by D. E. Wyatt, set in a world inspired by mid-15th Century western Europe
, with a particular focus on European Swordsmanship
while hanging a few lampshades along the way. The first story in the series, the novella No Good Deed...
, was released in October, 2013. It is followed by Bait and Switch
, a full-length novel, released in March, 2016.
Elsabeth Soesten is a skilled swordswoman and adventurer who travels from village to village, town to town
, looking for coin to be made, fair or foul. Of course things seldom work out so simply, and Elsabeth finds herself nearly always in trouble, either of her own devising or dragged into it kicking and screaming by her friend and companion, Brother Hieronymus
, leaving them to try and find a way out of it again with their heads attached and purses a little fatter.
The series contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Elsabeth encounters two in No Good Deed... The first is the sewers under Friuli Abbey, which she climbs up the privy shaft to infiltrate. Later, she ends up in a cistern that provides water for the castle of Leyen during times of siege, and has to find a way back out through a tunnel used for maintenance.
- Action Girl: Elsabeth. She's a skilled swordswoman in her own right, who in No Good Deed... infiltrates an abbey by spelunking its privy shaft, and can take out an assassin moments after awakening from a drunken daze.
- Action Survivor: However she just as often escapes by pure luck or because someone is manipulating everything behind the scenes.
- Acrofatic: Hieronymus is short and fat, but still a skilled swordsman.
- And the Adventure Continues: After the machinations of Father Garnerius and Lord Cuncz are exposed in No Good Deed... (that is to say, after Cuncz manipulates Elsabeth and Hieronymus into exposing the Abbot so he can turn in his own co-conspirator), Elsabeth and Hieronymus decide to continue their travels elsewhere when he lets them go as part of their reward. As quickly as possible.
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: At the beginning of No Good Deed, a very inebriated Elsabeth is stumbling up to her room at the local inn to meet with a paramour, when she is intercepted and grabbed by a cloaked figure. When she protests the man states he has no intent of raping her, and Elsabeth is initially flabbergasted at his lack of interest in her.
- Bad Ass Longcoat: Elsabeth soesten sports one of brown leather.
- Bait-and-Switch: The title of the second book and first full-length novel. Fittingly, the book pulls a couple: In the story itself, Elsabeth and Hieronymus are hired on by an orphan and his guardian to escort him on his Journey to Find Oneself, only for it to turn out to be a scam. On a meta-level, it starts out playing as a typical Heroic Fantasy story, until the Genre Shift after the con is revealed.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Elsabeth's face is quite badly bruised during her fight with Husson beneath Castle Auch, but avoids taking any injury which would likely be permanent.
- Big Bad:
- For No Good Deed..., Father Garnerius.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: He shares the role with Lord Cuncz. At least at first, as Cuncz eventually reveals he has an agenda of his own.
- From Bait And Switch: Husson.
- Bookcase Passage: One is present in the castle at Leyen. Lampshaded by Elsabeth when she finds it.
- Cool Horse: In No Good Deed... Elsabeth and Hieronymus steal a pair of very fine coursersnote from Lord Cuncz to escape him at Alsfeld Monastery.
- Corrupt Church: Zig-zagged. In No Good Deed... Farther Garnerius, the Abbot of Friuli Abbey has been playing politics behind the scenes to increase his influence against the Prince-Bishop of Bremen. However, Father Ehrhart of Alsfeld Monasery expresses his disdain for members of the clergy who abuse their positions.
- Deadpan Snarker: Elsabeth and Hieronymus both are quick with a smart remark with one another. However while Hieronymus is generally more diplomatic with others, Elsabeth snarks at pretty much everyone. Even church officials, much to Hieronymus's horror.
- Dirty Old Monk: Brother Hieronymus is a scheming friar who drinks ale by the barrel, can't pass up a brothel to save his life, shamelessly hits on and ogles his female companion, fights, gambles, and generally abuses his position for personal and financial gain or just to get himself out of trouble when it all blows up in his face. He also sanctimoniously calls said companion out on her own loose morals.
- In a moment of exasperation in No Good Deed... Elsabeth accuses Father Garnerius of Friuli Abbey of the same.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Elsabeth's attempt to seduce Lord Cuncz in No Good Deed... to gain access to his castle and search for information incriminating him in a plot against the local Prince-Bishop runs into trouble upon actually seeing him, and she very nearly forgets what she was there for in the first place and has to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Eternal Sexual Freedom: Averted. Elsabeth is a woman who fights, drinks and sleeps around in a Medieval European-style society. She gets away with it, but not without disapproval, including by her own friend and traveling companion.
- Fake Wizardry: Sinopus in Bait And Switch is just a well-traveled, educated, and highly-observant conman who uses stage magic and sleight of hand to fool gullible locals.
- Females Are More Innocent: Elsabeth exploits this in Bait And Switch, pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit after she's betrayed by Husson and left to take the fall for looting Auch's treasury. It's played with in that while the knight who captures her gives her some benefit of the doubt, he doesn't entirely take her at her word. His restraint in dealing with her nonetheless gives her the opening she needs to escape.
- Flynning: Discussed. Elsabeth's fighting style is efficient and economical in movement, and her thought processes exhibit great disdain for swordsmen who prefer the flashier techniques of the tournament fighters. During a fight at the beginning of No Good Deed..., Elsabeth makes rather quick work of an adversary precisely because his more elaborate style allows her to use quick and direct attacks to overcome his guard. She's equally disparaging of masters who teach such a style.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Elsabeth is dozing after a late-night tryst with a wandering minstrel at the inn at Friuli when she's awoken by an assassin attempting to knife her. She throws her covers over him as a distraction and finished him off stark-naked.
- Gambit Pile Up: One occurs in No Good Deed... Father Garnerius, Lord Cuncz, and the Prince-Bishop of Bremen all have their own agendas, with Cuncz playing both sides off the other, while Elsabeth and Hieronymus get caught up in the middle. Garnerius used Cuncz to stymie Lord Emrich, the Margrave of Ortenau and establish his own power base against the Prince-Bishop of Bremen. The Prince-Bishop is suspicious of Garnerius, and arranges with Cuncz to investigate. Cuncz is playing along with Garnerius while carrying out the Bishop's investigation, with his own goal being to secure all of Garnerius's information about his parentage (the illegitimate son of Emrich and one of his mistresses) and the bonus of gaining control of Friuli in the aftermath when Garnerius is removed. Elsabeth and Hieronymus get involved merely by happenstance; they're hired by Garnerius to recover the stolen reliquary where he hid part of the incriminating evidence against him, not realizing that the original thieves were actually agents hired by Cuncz, with whom he was conspiring to begin with! After returning the reliquary, Cuncz improvises and decides to use Elsabeth and Hieronymus to finish carrying out his plans to rid himself of Garnerius.
And then he seduces Elsabeth by letting her think she's seducing him to get access to the paper's she's trying to steal from him, just because he wanted to bone her.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Elsabeth drinks, dances, and hooks up with traveling minstrels.
- Heroic Seductress: It may take some stretching of the term "heroic," but in No Good Deed Elsabeth is not the least bit hesitant to sleep with Lord Cuncz as an easy means of gaining access to some documents she's come to steal. It's also made clear when she describes the plan to Hieronymus that she's used this particular trick many times in the past. The plan nearly falls off the rails and she has to resort to drugging him, because rather than getting an opportunity to slip away later after he falls asleep, Cuncz was ready and able to go all night. It also turns out to be subverted in that Cuncz wants her to have the documents and knew why she was there all along. He just went with it for the opportunity to bed her.
- Honey Trap: Elsabeth tries this in No Good Deed... She and Hieronymus are hired to spy on Lord Cuncz, the Baron of Leyen, to determine his part in a conspiracy against the local Prince-Bishop. Needing a way into his castle to search for any incriminating evidence, she settles on this approach to gain access upon hearing rumors from a couple townsfolk of young local women being taken to him for the night before being returned the next morning. It's ultimately subverted, however. It turns out that Elsabeth's and Hieronymus's Mysterious Employer is actually Cuncz himself, who is setting up his co-conspirator for his own ends, and he wants her to find the papers. So Cuncz plays along and seduces her by letting Elsabeth think she's seducing him, by playing along with his attempts to seduce her. The real kicker is that none of this is even necessary to his plans at all; Cuncz just goes with it to take advantage of the opportunity to bed her!
- Hypocrite: Hieronymus, shamelessly so. He's constantly Slut-Shaming Elsabeth, despite frequently making lewd remarks about and hitting on her, all while frequenting brothels himsef.
- In Medias Res: No Good Deed... begins with Elsabeth and Hieronymus surrounded by outlaws demanding they turn over a stolen reliquary the pair had in turn stolen from the outlaws.
- Large Ham: The Hooded Man aka, Lord Cuncz
"Well, what have we here? A whore, a friar, and an abbot all walk into an abbey. Hmm, I am sure you all have heard that one before, so let us forget the jokes."
- Lampshade Hanging: A bit:
- In No Good Deed... Elsabeth discovers a Bookcase Passage and mentally snarks how they always hide passages behind bookshelves.
- No Good Deed... again: The first time Elsabeth confronts the Hooded Man she remarks that conspiring with mysterious strangers in an inn late at night is too much like minstrel's tales for her.
- And again from No Good Deed..., Cuncz points out how stupid it is to hide something important inside a golden reliquary; that's one of the first things common thieves breaking into a church would grab. Garnerius's secret vault would also tip off a thief that something valuable was hidden there. Cuncz, by contrast, elected to hide his documents in plain sight; among another stack of papers in a leather case inside his desk which, in a largely illiterate society, would require anyone looking for those particular papers would have to be literate themselves to know it was what they're looking for.
- Back at it again in Bait And Switch, where Elsabeth and Hieronymus point out everything wrong with Maerten's story. Turns out their instincts were right, but Elsabeth was compromised in spite of her misgivings. Fortunately they both had the presence of mind to take precautions, and manage to turn the tables on Maerten and Husson.
- Low Fantasy: The world is based on 15th Century Western Europe, and there's no fantastic creatures or magic to be found.
- Magical Asian: Sinopus' assistants in Bait And Switch evoke the trope. Subverted in that they're not magical at all, but just part of a group of con artists using Elsabeth and Hieronymus as patsies in their latest scheme.
- Manipulative Bastard: Lord Cuncz in No Good Deed..., bonus points for being an actual bastard, as well. Garnerius arranged for his adoption and legitimation with the previous Baron of Leyen because he thought Cuncz would be easily controlled and disposed of when he was ready to make a political move against the Prince-Bishop of Bremen. Cuncz in turned played him behind the scenes, working with the Prince-Bishop to expose the Abbot's machinations and have Friuli Abbey added to his fief as a reward. When Elsabeth and Hieronymus unwittingly foil his plans to recover incriminating evidence against the Abbot, he just uses them to carry out his plans instead. And then he seduces Elsabeth by letting her seduce him as part of her plans to steal the documents from he he actually wants her to steal, for no other reason than he wanted to sleep with her!
- Master Swordsman: Elsabeth and Hieronymus both are highly skilled with the sword, the former preferring the longsword, while Hieronymus prefers the sword and buckler. No Good Deed... opens with the pair surrounded and outnumbered by bandits, and still kill four of them and send the fifth running for his life in short order.
- Meaningful Name: Hieronymus often calls Elsabeth "Tetty," which is a rare short form for Elizabeth (of which Elsabeth is itself a rare variation). Tetty also means "testy" or "irritable," and Elsabeth can be both.
- Medieval European Fantasy: The setting is mostly patterned off mid-15th Century Europe, particularly the area of the Holy Roman Empire.
- Mysterious Employer: In No Good Deed..., after Elsabeth and Hieronymus inadvertently spoil the Prince-Bishop of Bremen's investigation into Father Garnerius, they are approached by one of his agents, identified only as the Hooded Man, whose features are disguised by a cloak and hood and careful use of the shadows, and who hires them to finish the job they interfered with. It's later revealed that the Bishop's agent is actually Lord Cuncz, who has his own agenda.
- Noodle Incident: Mentioned frequently as they relate to the current situation. Usually involving something particularly embarrassing befalling Hieronymus.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Maerten has one in Bait And Switch, and Elsabeth and Hieronymus lampshade everything wrong with the trope. And then it's subverted when the whole thing ends up being a con.
- Really Gets Around: Elsabeth, especially according to Hieronymus. Not that he's any better about it.
- Rival Dojos: One facet of the world is the intense rivalry between the various masters and schools of fencing. Elsabeth particularly disdains show-fighters trained in the styles of Russdorfer and da Lucca (such as Husson in Bait And Switch).
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Two of Elsabeth's most prominent features are her copper hair and green eyes.
- She's Got Legs: Elsabeth's other most prominent feature are her long and shapely legs.
- Slashed Throat: Husson's fate in Bait And Switch after a duel with Elsabeth.
- Spanner in the Works: In No Good Deed... Elsabeth and Hieronymus accidentally foil Cuncz's plans to steal incriminating information about himself from Father Garnerius when Garnerius hires them to recover the reliquary (where the Abbot stashed the documents) stolen by Cuncz's agents. Cuncz just shrugs off the setback and hires them to finish the mission instead.
- Swashbuckler: The series has several elements of the genre. Unlike many examples, the series actually has a character who makes use of a buckler.
- Sword Fight: No Good Deed... opens on one between Elsabeth and Hieronymus, and a gang of outlaws (though only one, the leader, is carrying a weapon that qualifies as a sword. He uses a kriegsmesser). It goes poorly for the outlaws.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Elsabeth and Hieronymus are constantly sniping at and insulting each other. The very first scene of No Good Deed... has Elsabeth and Hieronymus yelling at each other over the predicament they're currently in, which is only mostly to get the outlaws surrounding them to let down their guard enough so the pair can take them unawares.
- Walking the Earth: Elsabeth and Hieronymus have no permanent residence and constantly move from place to place seeing what work can be had. Justified for Hieronymus; as a friar he is tasked to travel and tend to the souls of people wherever he goes, though Elsabeth's reasons for wandering have not been revealed.
- Warrior Monk: Hieronymus is no slouch with a sword and buckler, and studied with a master named Leonardus in his youth, whom he holds in high esteem.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Elsabeth is caught off-guard by Husson when the reach the vault beneath Castle Auch, and after a fight gets locked inside. When the knight commanding the garrison is summoned and lets her out, she feigns hysterics and claims to have been forced into helping him. Subverted in that the knight doesn't entirely believe her, but lets her go because he doesn't have any evidence she was involved. He puts a tail on her, but Elsabeth and Hieronymus are able to slip out of Auch anyway.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: When Elsabeth and Hieronymus accidentally spoil Cuncz's attempt to steal incriminating information from Father Garnerius in No Good Deed..., he quickly improvises and decides to just use them to recover the information instead.