Literature: Heralds of Valdemar
The Heralds of Valdemar
is a Fantasy
novel series written by Mercedes Lackey
. The series is linked by its setting rather than focusing on a core group of characters; it covers roughly 3,000 years of history, all told. It is written mostly in the form of trilogies that do
focus on a particular character, although there are a handful of independent novels as well.
The majority of the series revolves around The Kingdom
of Valdemar and its protectors, the eponymous Heralds of Valdemar. Heralds are heroes
of one stripe or another called
to defend Valdemar from the current Big Bad
. Sometimes they have to go on The Quest
for the MacGuffin
that will save Valdemar, other times they have to root out The Mole
or discover whatever Applied Phlebotinum
solution they need to save the day. Almost always, it's a Coming-of-Age Story
An important aspect of the Heralds of Valdemar is their Companions. Companions are, in essence, Cool Horses
with human-level intelligence
and telepathy. They deliver the Call to Adventure
to new Heralds by instinctively seeking out and recruiting youngsters with latent Gifts
and good hearts, and always find the one person for whom they were meant Because Destiny Says So
. This usually happens at just the right time to get the newly Chosen trained just before the kingdom needs them.
Mercedes Lackey is also an award-winning filksinger, songwriter and lyricist, which means Valdemar also has a rich folk music tradition of its own. Most of the books list complete lyrics for the songs referenced within, and several books have companion albums containing this music as well as other songs inspired by the events and characters within, all published by Firebird Arts and Music.Now has a character page, which is under construction! To contribute, please click here!
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Major novels in the Valdemar series, in roughly chronological order:
- The Mage Wars: The prehistory of the Valdemar 'verse, including the eponymous war between Great Mages Urtho and Ma'ar that resulted in the Cataclysm and its aftermath, and the exile of the Kaled'a'in. Features the mighty Black Gryphon, Skandranon.
- The Last Herald-Mage: A trilogy that details the tragic life and ultimate Heroic Sacrifice of Vanyel Ashkevron, the most powerful Herald-Mage Valdemar has ever known. Features one of the first, if not the first, openly gay yet unambiguously heroic protagonists in fantasy literature.
- The Collegium Chronicles consisting of Foundation, Intrigues, Changes, Redoubt, and Bastion (October 2013), following roughly fifty years after The Last Herald-Mage, featuring a young orphan named Mags and detailing the founding of the Heralds' Collegium and associated traditions.
- The Herald Spy, a sequel to the Collegium Chronicles with an adult Herald Mags. The first book, Closer To Home, came out in October 2014.
- Brightly Burning: A stand-alone novel detailing the short-lived life of Lavan Firestorm, a Firestarter and legend in Valdemar, who went mad and used his fire powers to incinerate the Karsite army and the surrounding land following the death of his Companion, the only being keeping him and his powers sane in the first place.
- Vows and Honor: A duology, based on Mercedes Lackey's first published short stories, covering the adventures of Tarma and Kethry, mercenary warrior and mage, and their geased spellsword Need. The first novel, Oathbound, is a episodic collection of stories only loosely tied to the main continuity, but Oathbreakers firmly places it in and around Rethwellan and Valdemar. A third book, Oathblood, was published consisting of Tarma and Kethry short stories.
- Exile's Duology: Tells the story of Alberich the Weaponmaster, who came from Karse, historical enemy of Valdemar. The first book, Exile's Honor, deals with Alberich's Choosing and how he settles in as a Herald, plus the events of the Tedrel War, the Tedrels being an entire nation of corrupt mercenaries that Karse hired. The second book, Exile's Valor, deals with Alberich's time in the years following the war and Queen Selenay's disastrous first marriage.
- Take a Thief: Forms a rough trilogy with the previous two novels and tells the story of the young thief Skif, his Choosing and life as a Trainee, and his role in breaking up a slaver ring.
- The Arrows Trilogy: Innocent farmgirl Talia is rescued from an Arranged Marriage and, with her empathic powers becomes the Queen's Own Herald, just as an old ally of the kingdom turns traitor and starts a deadly war. This was the first published trilogy set entirely in Valdemar.
- By the Sword: A standalone novel introducing Kerowyn, mercenary and inheritor of Need (from Vows and Honor), who comes to lead her own mercenary company and eventually rescues Valdemar from a savage Hardorn attack.
- Mage Winds: Elspeth, the Royal Brat a decade earlier, has come of age and is foretold to become Valdemar's first Herald-Mage in six hundred years. But she's not about to be controlled by destiny and ends up unexpectedly making allies of the magical Hawkbrothers, just as an ancient enemy returns and threatens to destroy both the Tayledras and Valdemar.
- Mage Storms: In the aftermath of Hardorn's defeat, Valdemar has an uneasy assembly of newfound allies, including their historical enemy, Karse. Karal, a young Karsite priest and aide to the ambassador, must navigate the resulting political intrigue while a new threat arises from the Eastern Empire. But even this struggle may be moot in the face of the return of the three-thousand year old Cataclysm.
- The Owl Trilogy: In the aftermath of the Mage Storms, young Darian, reluctant apprentice wizard, finds his life altered when his village is attacked by barbarians and he is forced to flee, finding sanctuary and tutelage with the Hawkbrothers. As he grows into his responsibilities, he finds himself an ambassador to the northern tribes.
Anthologies and other works:
- Sword of Ice: And Other Tales of Valdemar
- Sun In Glory
- Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar
- Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar
- Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar
- Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar
- Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar
- No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar
- The Valdemar Companion: A Guide to Mercedes Lackey's World of Valdemar — Nearly everything you wanted to know about Valdemar, plus a Valdemar novelette.
- Heralds, Harpers and Havoc (1988): Songs inspired by the Arrows trilogy
- Magic, Moondust, and Melancholy (1989): Includes two songs related to the Vows and Honor/By the Sword books
- Oathbound (1990): songs from the book of the same name
- Oathbreakers (1991) likewise
- Shadow Stalker (1994): songs from The Last Herald Mage
- By the Sword (1994): songs from the book of the same name
- Lovers, Lore, and Loss (1995) more songs about the Arrows trilogy
- Owlflight (2000): based on the trilogy of the same name.
- Sun and Shadow (2000): songs about the legendary Sunsinger and Shadowdancer
This series provides examples of:
Tropes A to M
- Cringe Comedy: Early in Storm Warning, Firesong jokingly flirts whith Darkwind right in front of other guests and An'desha, who's his lover at the time. An'desha, already tired, feeling excluded from the conversation and not realising the whole thing is a private joke between two good friends, gets really mad at them, culminating in almost killing Darkwind whith his magic without anyone noticing. In the meantime, the fake flirting between Firesong and Darkwind is so hilarous that the reader can easily be torn between laughing and wanting them to stop before An'desha gets pushed over the edge.
- Crushing Handshake: Alluded to in Take A Thief — when Skif and Deek agree to work together, Skif is impressed that Deek doesn't try this.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Karsite church and its god Vkandis have a distinctly Medieval Christian flavor to them. This comes complete with monotheistic worship, a hierarchical church complete with a pontiff and an emphasis on scripture.
- Cue the Flying Pigs: Early in By The Sword, Kerowyn reflects that finding a man who could accept her and her chosen lifestyle for what they are would be as likely as her horse talking to her. When she ends up in Valdemar in the last third of the book, it's not hard to see where this is going.
- The Dark Side: Blood Magic is dangerously addictive to those who practice it thanks to Evil Feels Good, and it stains your soul, marking you indelibly with its taint. It's also a good way to get Drunk on the Dark Side.
- Deadly Decadent Court: The court of the Eastern Emperor, to the point where "master assassin" is considered a respectable entry on a prospective Emperor's resume, and one of the main characters reflects that being cursed to be unable to lie is the single most horrific fate that could ever possibly befall an Imperial nobleman.
- Deadly Prank: Some unaffiliated students pull one on Talia — as attempted murder. "Give our love to Talamir" indeed.
- Death World: The Pelagirs are not a nice place to wander without native protection. Leftover magebuilt living weapons and other critters from a magical war two thousand years back, check. Flora/Fauna/People mutated by either the wave of magical power unleashed by the Cataclysm that ended said war or the abnormally high level of background mana even since, check. People both crazy/misanthropic enough to live there and Bad Ass enough to survive, check. The most consistently benevolent people there (the Hawkbrothers, pledged to their goddess to decontaminate the place) will give intruders exactly one chance to properly justify their presence or flee before using lethal force.
- Defector from Decadence: Admittedly Herald Alberich did not defect so much as get shanghaied but the end result remained thus. He protests it, too, once he recovers from his
mad dash for freedom journey. He even considers - for a few moments anyways - having his bond between himself and his Companion severed. He doesn't go through with it, mostly because of the mention that it would leave both of them badly damaged but it seems a close thing, even so.
- Duke Tremaine defects from the Eastern Empire.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Kerowyn, who is not so much cold as very narrowly focused. Played arrow-straight in The Black Gryphon, with Winterhart. Played for Laughs in Oathbreakers with the bard Leslac, who thinks he can pull this on Tarma. He's badly wrong.
- Derailing Love Interests: Skif in the Mage Winds trilogy.
- Deus Angst Machina: Winterhart's backstory in The Black Gryphon, thoroughly justified by the Crapsack World setting at the time. Amberdrake, too, although he deals with it differently. Vanyel's upbringing is equally angst-ridden but is mainly told in the story.
- Dirty Mind-Reading: Talia's Empathy leads to Sex by Proxy through both her Companion Rolan and the Herald-Trainee who has the room next to hers. Consequently, when she graduates to a full-fledged Herald, she chooses the topmost room in a tower of the Herald's Collegium as her residence. She remarks to Kris after their tryst that she may have been a virgin, but she wasn't naive.
- Distressed Damsel: Happens on occasion - Dierna in By the Sword and Lady Myria in The Oathbound play it particularly straight - but in most cases the damsel in question does more than just sit around waiting for rescue. In one notable incident from the Oathblood anthology, the kidnapped girls manage to leave a scent trail for their rescuers to track them by, and then poison their kidnappers to slow them down for the rescue team to catch up, without being suspected until it was much too late.
- Divided We Fall: The Tayledras and Shin'a'in do this, as they have diametrically opposite ideologies regarding the use of magic. It takes a direct order of their Goddess to get them to start working together. Also, in Mage Storms, Valdemar's nascent alliance is on extremely shaky political grounds and frequently suffers from this problem.
- Doctor's Orders: Healers call the shots.
- Don't Ask, Just Run: In Brightly Burning, foreseers see Lavan’s final firestorm just in time and all the Heralds start frantically calling the retreat to get their army out of the way before all hell breaks loose.
- Doomed by Canon: Vanyel Ashkevron and Lavan Firestorm, both of whom have the conclusions of their stories told in Arrows of the Queen, the very first novel of the series.
- Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Inverted somewhat with Stefen, who does not resemble Tylendel all that much but is more or less confirmed to be his reincarnation, making his lifebond with Vanyel not so much a replacement lifebond as a re-lifebond.
- Downer Ending: The Foregone Conclusion of The Black Gryphon, with Urtho dead, Ma'ar Not Quite Dead, and the survivors of the Cataclysm forced to rebuild in exile, with their homeland all but annihilated.
- Dreadful Musician: Used for comedy in the supplementary filk song "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night". Both Tarma/Kethry and Kerowyn are also pursued throughout their careers by bards trying to sing (frequently awful) songs about their "heroic exploits". In Tarma's case, it's particularly hilarious because the bard in question, Leslac, believes himself the one to Defrost the Ice Queen, proving that he did no research about the Swordsworn.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Some Foreseers have prophetic dreams. Vanyel has a recurring one which he deals with throughout his trilogy, predicting his ultimate confrontation with Leareth. He originally thought he'd resolved the prophecy in Magic's Pawn, but the dreams come back in Magic's Price.
- Dripping Disturbance: In Exile's Valor, Selenay is already having trouble sleeping due to grief over her father's death, and the drip in the royal suite's bathing room isn't helping matters.
- Driven to Suicide: Tylendel. Vanyel and Talia both make good tries at it, too. Bard Stefen is interrupted before he gets his chance.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Dirk, in Arrow's Fall, due to being wracked with guilt for having procrastinated on teaching one of his trainees a Dangerous Forbidden Technique which might have saved her life. She died trying to save infants from a fire while on her intern circuit. And of course, the one person who could help him resolve it, Talia, is in a Love Triangle with him and Kris. He doesn't snap out of it until he collapses completely.
- Dual Wielding: Mastered by Alberich.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Vanyel, Stefen, and Lavan Firestorm are all mentioned, and Herald Eldan makes an appearance (by description only) in the very first trilogy published.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The Arrows trilogy includes a detailed description of Heraldic arrow code, a coded system of communication which is heavily used by Heralds and serves a plot-critical purpose on several occasions. This code is never mentioned again in subsequent books.
- Earn Your Happy Ending:
- Particularly in the Mage Storms trilogy when it seems as if The End of the World as We Know It is going to happen no matter what anyone does to stop it, and the eventual victory comes at a heavy cost for the heroes.
- Bard Stefen gets a personal version — he can join Vanyel in the Forest of Sorrows, but only if he works the rest of his life trying to dispel the stigma against "ordinary" Heralds.
- The Empath: Empathy is a standard, if uncommon Psychic Power, generally found among Healers. Exceptional individuals who can project this ability are called MindHealers — the most notable examples being Talia and Amberdrake. There are also a rare few evil empaths, said to leave a trail of twisted minds behind them.
- Empathic Weapon: Need until she wakes up in Winds of Fate.
- Emperor Scientist: Urtho and Ma'ar serve as good and evil varieties, doubling as Sorcerous Overlord.
- The Empire: The Eastern Empire. An easy to miss reference in one book names it the Aurinalean Empire, but it's never mentioned again.
- Enemy Mine: Valdemar and Karse, which have been enemies time out of mind, unite against the threat of Ancar. Subverted in that once they unite, they are no longer enemies.
- Ethical Slut: Many Heralds lean toward this. As few are willing impose themselves on a spouse that would end up taking third place behind Duty and a Companion, friendly encounters with their colleagues are often seen as preferable. Also, it's mentioned that, since Heralds can pretty much expect to die in the line of duty, many prefer to become hedonistic and "anything but chaste" in their off-duty hours rather than try to form a strong bond with a single person when either of them may never come home again.
- Evil Chancellor:
- Hulda infiltrates the courts of both Valdemar and Hardorn by posing as a nursemaid and seeking to corrupt their rulers' respective heirs.
- Lord Orthallen straddles this and The Evil Prince. Despite being a senior member of the privy council and a close personal friend of three generations of the Valdemar Royal Family, he either instigated or was heavily involved in at least four plots against the crown over the course of 20 years while avoiding suspicion almost completely until the day of his death.
- Eviler Than Thou: Ancar and Hulda, meet Mornelithe Falconsbane. Among several other examples, he takes their We Have Reserves strategy to truly epic heights.
- The Evil Prince: Ancar of Hardorn. To a lesser (or at least less competent) extent Thanel of Rethwellan, Prince-Consort of Valdemar.
- Excalibur in the Rust: In Oathbreakers, the long-lost Singing Sword of Rethwellan that is used to identify the country's rightful king is discovered to be none other than a rusty, dirty old sword that Kethry picked up along the wayside.
- Fantastic Honorifics: "Siara" is the default honorific, when its not clear what the right one would be.
- The Fagin: A Loveable Rogue type. Skif falls in with a group of young thieves led by an adult man (Bazie), who is unfortunately crippled; he gives them food, shelter and lessons (both educational and in how to be a good thief) in exchange for helping him out with his daily life and stealing for him.
- Famed In-Story: The story of Kerowyn's first heroic exploits follows her throughout the rest of By the Sword, rather to her chagrin. She follows in the footsteps of her mentors, Tarma and Kethry, whose mercenary careers are plagued by tales of their "heroic unselfish deeds". As they put it, it's tough to get paying jobs when people expect you to help them out of the goodness of your heart. Their kyree companion Warrl evidently became this as well; another kyree is introduced later whose favorite phrase is "my famous cousin Warrl!" Vanyel also gets quite a bit of this in Magic's Promise and especially in Magic's Price.
- Fantastic Nuke: The most powerful mages explicitly embody this concept, the most obvious example of which is the Cataclysm at the conclusion of the Mage Wars.
- Fantasy Contraception: Female Heralds (and presumably, other women who venture afield) employ an herbal concoction that reduces or eliminates "moon days" and also has contraceptive properties.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Inflicted by Kethry on Idra's brother in Oathbreakers, as punishment for the betrayal of his kingdom and the brutal rape and murder of his sister.
- Faux Affably Evil: Lord Orthallen straddles this as well, most vividly seen (or not, rather) when he was acting as Selenay's confidant.
- Fighting for a Homeland: A common theme across the series is that, while some mercenaries are scum, most hired fighters just want to get enough money together to buy some land, marry, and settle down. Tarma is a particular example, as her long-term goal is to build up enough fame and fortune to reestablish her Clan.
- Fighting from the Inside: An'desha in Winds of Fury, from within the body that Mornelithe Falconsbane stole from him.
- Filk Song: There are eight albums of songs written by Lackey. In the early series, the last book in each series had the song lyrics printed in the back as well as information on where to order cassette tapes of the songs.
- The First Cut Is the Deepest: Vanyel after losing Tylendal. His deeply romantic (and deeply in denial) mother likes to tell young women "he lost his first love tragically" — fortunately by the time Stef comes along she seems to have accepted things.
- Fisher King: Inverted and invoked in Mage Storms. After years of misrule by Ancar, who ruined the land with magic, the people of Hardorn insist their new king go through a ceremony to magically bind him to the land in such a way that he will personally feel the effects of any abuses inflicted upon it.
- Fish out of Water: Newly-Chosen Heralds almost always have to go through a dramatic adjustment phase when they arrive at the Palace for training.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: The Death Bell, which the Companions ring when a Herald dies.
- Foregone Conclusion: Vanyel and Lavan Firestorm again, not to mention Urtho and the Cataclysm.
- Foreshadowing: In Mage’s Pawn, when Tylendal and Savil are talking about how to get through to Vanyel after his dreams of being a Bard are dashed, Savil asks if him attempting suicide is likely to be a problem. Tylendel replies that Vanyel is unlikely to go that far, however, if it was himself...
- For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Specifically invoked in Winds of Fury when a bunch of mages and a Cat Girl have to sneak into Hardorn. "Where do you hide a red fish?" "In a pond full of red fish."
- Forged Letter: In Brightly Burning, a forged letter is used to lure Lavan out where the assassins can get a shot at him.
- Fostering for Profit: Dialogue from Foundation hints that Cole Pieters may have been doing this with Mags and the other orphan children he had working in his mine. Since families with working children get a yearly stipend from the Crown if they have a child Chosen (until he or she becomes a full Herald), Cole Pieters could have continued it if he had been smart about things. However, he tried to obstruct Dallen from Chosing Mags, which resulted in him being found out.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Baron Valdemar, fleeing the corruption of the Eastern Empire with his followers, founded both his namesake kingdom and the Heralds.
- Freak Lab Accident: Vanyel has strong mage-potential but it takes a freak accident involving the backlash from a collapsing Gate to unlock his powers, transforming him into the third most powerful mage in history and granting him almost every other Gift in the book as well.
- Friend to All Children: Tarma. Kids know it too, running to her for protection even though she's usually the scariest-looking one in the room.
- Full-Frontal Assault: In The White Gryphon, Hadanelith, a Serial Killer and Mind-Rapist, conducts a series of assassinations against prominent members of Haighlei society... by climbing into their windows nude. This has several purposes: it shocks the victims, who are mainly high-class females, into being unable to resist; it avoids leaving evidence in the form of scraps of clothing or shoe-prints; it helps frame the White Gryphon delegation since no Haighlei would ever consider such an act; and it amuses him.
- Functional Magic: Has elements of almost all types.
- Geas: The magic sword Need, before it awakens, compels its bearers to go to the aid of women in trouble. Many of Tarma and Kethry's adventures are due to this effect, but Kerowyn uses her Mindspeech to get it to back off a bit so she can make her own choices in life.
- Genki Girl: Natoli, almost to the point of being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl for Karal, if she weren't important to the story in many other ways.
- Giant Flyer: Gryphons.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Kerowyn and Eldan in By the Sword.
- Glory Seeker: Tarma, quite unhappily. A wiser Shin'a'in cautions her that if she wants to attract quality persons to repopulate her clan, she'll have to rebuild its reputation personally.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: In The Oathbound, the demon Thalhkarsh attains a godlike state by drawing power from the worship and sacrifices by his followers. Averted in that there's no indication that the real gods (or the One, depending on how you look at it) need worship.
- Good Feels Good: Heralds in general and especially Skif, who does a Heel-Face Turn because of it, not that he was all that bad to start with.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted near the end of Arrow's Flight in which Talia allows a midwife to abort a young woman's pregnancy if she wishes it (which was due to her stepfather raping her and she'd found that it was non-viable anyway since the girl was underage).
- Good Is Not Nice:
- Weaponmaster Alberich, who believes that he cannot afford to be kind or merciful to his students lest their training fail at a critical moment.
- Alberich's successor, Kerowyn adopts the same rule, having come from a mercenary background and also having seen firsthand what happens to trainees whose weapons instructors are too easy on them.
- Talia is a very reasonable person and good at sorting out people's problems, but her psychic ethics are largely restricted to people on her side. Enemies beware!
- Grand Theft Me: Big Bad Ma'ar has been possessing his descendants for thousands of years.
- Grim Up North: For Valdemar, the Northern Wastes; Valdemar itself is this for Rethwellan and Karse.
- Groupie Brigade: Herald Alberich takes advantage of one of these in Exile's Valor. When he realizes that the actor Norris is trailing him, he goes into a large inn and "happens" to mention the fact that Norris is outside to a roomful of young ladies ... then dives for cover as they charge outside and mob Norris.
- Healing Hands: The Healers generally have this as an ability, though it's stressed that it has limitations and it's best to use normal medicine as much as possible.
- Healing Shiv: Need, though close contact or even physical proximity is just as effective.
- Hell Hound: Wyrsa, pretty much.
- "Hell Yes" Moment: In OwlKnight, Darian and his companions are up against a snow-drake when heading northwest to find his parents. Things seem impossible, until Healer Keisha fires an arrow hitting it at the right spot. To Darian's amazement, Keisha runs right up to face the snow-drake, followed by younger sister Herald Shandi who shouts the Trope expression.
- Heroic BSOD: Just about every major hero in the stories has at least one.
- Vanyel, after the Gate backfire gives him Adept-level magic and nearly kills him (grief and self-pity).
- Vanyel again, after being raped by bandits and subsequently Paying Evil Unto Evil (self-loathing).
- Talia, when her Gift goes wild and nearly kills herself and Kris (self-loathing).
- Talia again, after being imprisoned in Ancar's dungeons, subjected to rape and torture, and attempting suicide (despair).
- Amberdrake, after Skandranon apparently fails to return from a mission (grief).
- Karal, after Ulrich's death (grief), and Altra the Firecat (grief and guilt that he couldn't save both Karal and Ulrich).
- Heroic Fatigue: It is not uncommon for Heralds to experience this, however Vanyel suffers worse than most. Throughout the second two books he is in almost constant state of overwork, starting with returning after an entire year of filling in for five other Herald-Mages simultaneously on the battlelines.
- Heroic RROD: Pushing one's magic (or Psychic Powers) too far can result in backlash; see also Cast from Hit Points.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Several. The Final Strike technique (used most notably by Vanyel) is basically a prepackaged Heroic Sacrifice in the form of a suicide-weapon-of-last-resort for mages, using all their energy at once in a huge explosion.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tarma and Kethry, one of the classic examples in fiction. Tarma of course is celibate by divine oath, and Kethry is more than het enough for both of them, as she demonstrates by getting Happily Married at the end of Oathbreakers and having Babies Ever After. It doesn't stop them from being subjected to Ho Yay in-universe, though.
- Hidden Elf Village: The Hawkbrothers' Vales are these, until the events in the Mage Winds bring them out.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Heralds (white), Bards (red), and Healers (green) all wear these in their normal duties. In each case it's because it's their job to be highly visible, even when being visible is sometimes a liability, like on the battlefield.
- Two Heralds of note refuse to wear Whites, and both are Weaponmasters who come from a different country: Alberich and Kerowyn. Kerowyn calls it her "just shoot me" uniform and only a royal decree can get her into one. For his part, Alberich also prefers "grays" but will occasionally don Whites in order to disguise himself, as his reputation for disliking them is so well established.
- In the Mage Winds series, the Hawkbrothers (specifically, their hertasi helpers) take such a dislike to Elspeth's Whites that they literally steal them until they can come up with something better. She insists on them remaining white, but they at least manage to make her the most stylish Herald in the history of Valdemar.
- Honest Advisor: The position of Monarch's Own Herald exists so that the ruler always has at least one completely honest, absolutely trustworthy friend.
- Horsing Around: There are several instances, including the famous gray stud of Forst Reach and a beautiful but brainless horse in Oathbreakers.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Dirk and Talia.
- Hunting Accident: Prince Thanel's attempt to assassinate his wife Selenay, and also the official explanation for Thanel's death when the attempt failed.
- Hurricane Of Aphorisms: There are a lot of old Shin'a'in proverbs, and everyone loves to quote them.
- Hurting Hero: Vanyel especially.
- Hypocrite: At the end of the Mage Winds trilogy, Valdemarian agents travel into Hardorn with the express purpose of assassinating Ancar, Hulda, and Mornelithe Falconsbane, because of the threat they pose to Valdemar. Later, in the Mage Storms trilogy, the new leader of Hardorn attempts to assassinate several envoys to Valdemar because of the danger their alliance could pose to Hardorn. The former is treated as necessary and just, while the later is treated as heinous and evil, when the only real difference between the two situations is that the former was done by the protagonists to the Big Bads of two trilogies, and the latter by an Anti-Villain to a pair of purely strategic (and sympathetic) targets.
- I Call It "Vera": Generally averted — most fighters in the Valdemar 'verse are too much of a Combat Pragmatist to become sentimentally attached to any one weapon. Played straight with "Need," an Empathic Weapon, and various musical instruments. Lamshaded by Alberich in the Exile duology: he bans such weapons from the training salle.
- Idiot Ball: Near the end of the Mage Winds trilogy, Elspeth, princess of Valdemar, goes undercover in enemy territory. Among the weapons she brings? A knife emblazoned with the Valdemaran crest. A throwing knife. Which she uses for its intended purpose, on an envoy of the Eastern Empire — just as he's Gating back home. As one of her companions notes, "very subtle, Elspeth."
Skif: So the envoy arrives falling out of a gate with a knife that has the royal symbol of Valdemar carved on its pommel embedded in his throat. Why not just send the Eastern Emperor a note? 'Your father won the Horse Faire. Your mother tracks rabbits by scent. Love and kisses, Elspeth of Valdemar!'
- Imaginary Love Triangle:
- Gets almost ridiculous in Winds of Change. Darkwind likes Elspeth, Elspeth seems interested in return. Then Firesong shows up and Elspeth seems slightly more interested in him than in Darkwind. Firesong notices and has a talk with both of them "Sorry, I'm Gay and happen to like Darkwind. But I know Darkwind likes Elspeth, so I won't try anything". But Elspeth is in the middle of learning about Tayledras customs, so her thoughts after the talk are "Could Darkwind be Bi the Way and interested in Firesong?" (he's not).
- The one between Dirk, Kris and Talia was one also. Talia did have an affair with Kris during her internship, but it had ended by the time she realized she actually liked Dirk. Dirk picked up on remanents of their past relationship, deduced they were still together, leading to his attempt at I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Dirk tries this in Arrow's Fall. Talia, the Love Interest in question, is not amused when she finally realizes what's going on.
- Identical Grandson: "The Ashkevron family look tends to breed true, and when it doesn't the poor thing usually runs off to Haven."
- Ignore the Fanservice: Vanyel, to a tavern wench. He doesn't understand why at first, because he doesn't yet realize that he's gay.
- Impoverished Patrician: Kethry's backstory.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: One of the Heralds' defining traits. It's worth noting that the potential for this has to exist in order for the Companions to Choose them in the first place, and many a Herald with a troubled past has had to reconcile it before fully embracing his/her destiny. Also, Heralds are not completely incorruptible, but it is observed that evildoers couldn't possibly offer what it would take to do so. In the entire history of the kingdom, only one Herald has ever been repudiated: Tylendel, who wasn't corrupted but instead went mad and attempted a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- The Infiltration: Tarma's role in Oathbreakers is to get inside the court in Rethwellan to uncover the truth of what happened to the King's sister. She does, and it is not pretty.
- Instant Expert: One of Need's powers is to make its bearer a master swordfighter if they are not already experienced in martial combat, turning a Squishy Wizard like Kethry into a Magic Knight. In the hands of a completely unskilled bearer, the effect goes even further.
- Intellectual Animal: Companions, most notably; also gryphons, Firecats, kyree, and hertasi, all of which were either divinely or magically created. Some of the smarter bondbirds also qualify - for example, Hyllar the hawkeagle, who demonstrates a capable grasp of abstract concepts such as "acting" and "sarcasm."
- Intergenerational Friendship: Talia's close bond with her equestrian instructor Keren in the Arrows trilogy. Perhaps even moreso, her equally close friendship with the elderly and mostly retired Herald Jadus in Arrows of the Queen.
- Interspecies Romance:
- Skif and Nyara are only sort of an example, since Nyara was originally human before her father altered her. Later her Cat Girl features are reverted until she's almost completely human in appearance.
- Lavan Firestorm and his Companion do have a lifebond as well as a Companion bond; this is necessary to anchor his sanity.
- There's something of a deconstruction or justified aversion of this issue in the Mage Storms trilogy, where the true nature of most Companions (reincarnated Heralds) is revealed. The Companions go to great lengths to conceal this secret to avoid exactly the situation where a Herald is forced to confront a former loved one in a ... slightly different body.
- Just Between You and Me: Hadanelith in The White Gryphon does this after having Amberdrake and Skandranon captive. Skan lampshades this in the beginning by asking, "Good gods, does every half-baked villain have to boast about what he’s going to do before he does it? Can’t you just kill us so we don’t have to endure your boring speech?” Hadanelith retorts that he wants them to know everything so that they can suffer in not being able to thwart his plan. Skan and Amberdrake then proceed to feign boredom instead of interest to keep Hadanelith talking.
- Keystone Army: Several, mainly out of Hardorn. The "keystone" in most cases is the mage whose spells are keeping the massive conscript force controlled — take him out and the army collapses.
- Kids Are Cruel: Talia and Lavan Firestorm both catch a lot of this.
- Knight of Cerebus: Ancar in the first trilogy, arguably.
- The Kingdom: Valdemar. Hardorn and Karse start leaning this way in later books.
- Lady of War: Queen Selenay; also something of a Winter Royal Lady, since she (like all Heralds) wears white on duty.
- Lap Pillow: Tylendel does this with Vanyel the morning after they first get together. Vanyel’s reaction shows his gradual acceptance/realisation of their relationship.
- Large Ham:
- Firesong, deliberately. He views showmanship as an inherent part of his art and when the opportunity comes to play at being a carnival charlatan, he hams it up with gusto.
- Hilariously, Hyllarr the bondbird hawkeagle, who with only a little prompting from Darkwind proves more than willing to shamelessly ham up his injuries to get Starblade's sympathy.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Occasionally inflicted on Heralds by their Companions to preserve their Masquerade as being nothing more than supernaturally intelligent horses. Also, Vanyel's scheme to keep magic out of Valdemar is partly based on a massive node-powered amnesia spell that compels its inhabitants to forget that magic exists, or ever existed except in legend.
- Ley Line: The basis of the magic system is Life Energy, which bleeds off of living things and collects into "streams" and "rivers" of energy called ley lines that eventually flow to another plane. Where two or more ley lines meet, they form a node, an extremely powerful magical energy source.
- Life Energy: This forms the basis of all magic. See Ley Line above as well as Liquid Assets.
- Like Brother and Sister: Skif and Talia swear blood brotherhood after their failed teenage romance. Interestingly, they mean it, and any UST becomes moot after Talia acknowledges her lifebond to Dirk. Also occurs between Talia and Kris, although they were lovers during her internship.
- Liquid Assets: Healing magic (and its Dark Side counterpart, Blood Magic) explicitly work this way.
- Living Lie Detector:
- All Heralds learn a "truth spell" which has this effect. Many can also perform an upgraded version which forces the subject to tell the truth.
- Gryphons, Empaths, and powerful Mindspeakers such as dyheli can detect falsehood without resorting to magic. Occasional individuals, such as Hearld-Chronicler Myste, seem to have the ability as an independent Gift, as well.
- Locked Room Mystery: The short story "Keys" requires Kethry to solve one of these. To add tension, Tarma is stuck outside fighting single combats with every warrior in the keep until she dies or Kethry figures it out, whichever comes first.
- Lonely at the Top: A common theme used for anyone in a position of authority, such as the various monarchs in the series. Selenay in particular had this problem, which is part of which allowed her to be so easily seduced by Prince Karathanelan. Rank-and-file Heralds largely avoid it, having their peers for company, but particularly powerful ones (whether politically, like the monarchs, or personally, like Herald-Mages in general and Vanyel in particular) do suffer from it.
Vanyel: Heralds are all lonely; we’re different [...] Herald-Mages are one step lonelier than that. Then there’s me.
- Long-Running Book Series
- Love at First Sight: Supposedly this is true of all lifebonds. By the Sword provides probably the most dramatic example without a lifebond.note
- Love Makes You Crazy: Inverted with Lavan Firestorm, whose lovebond to his Companion kept him sane. When she died, he burned a mountain pass down to bare rock, along with the invading army that was in the pass at the time. (And himself, of course.)
- Love Triangle: A Type 4 between Dirk, Kris, and Talia. At least, that's what Dirk thinks; his reluctance to "break up" Kris and Talia, while the two of them are trying to set Talia up with Dirk, causes a tremendous amount of heartbreak.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Gifts and true magic are portrayed fairly consistently, despite a bit of Early Installment Weirdness. Each novel in the series goes deeper into the underlying mechanics of the Valdemar 'verse and the actors behind it.
- The Magic Goes Away: Three times in the series.
- At the end of The Black Gryphon, the Cataclysm shatters magic over the entire continent and it takes years before things settle down enough that it's safe to use again.
- Following The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, Vanyel's efforts to protect Valdemar from foreign mages and to ensure that "normal" Heraldic Gifts weren't seen as inferior to magic have the unintended side-effect of causing the country as a whole to forget that magic even exists. This gets revoked at the beginning of Winds of Fury, setting the stage for the return of the Herald-Mages.
- At the end of Mage Storms, the Final Storm causes most nodes and ley lines to be drained and scattered across the land, depriving mages of most of their power. Again, it's stated that things will get back to normal eventually.
- Magic Knight: Vanyel, Elspeth, and Darkwind are the most notable examples. Most Heralds and many Tayledras tend at least a little toward this. That said, true Magic Knights are rare, since keeping either martial or magical skills up to date is a full-time job, and doing both of them together pretty much precludes a social life.
- Magic Music: The Bardic Gift.
- Magic Is a Monster Magnet: This is a danger particularly in the Peligirs where magic use can attract magic-twisted monsters. It also makes the mage obvious to any enemy mage.
- Magitek: The Eastern Empire's infrastructure uses magical devices both in place of technology and in conjunction with it. Many of Urtho's devices also count.
- The Magnificent:
- Vanyel picks up quite a few epithets through between-books exploits; among other things, he becomes known as Vanyel Shadowstalker and Vanyel Demonsbane.
- In Brightly Burning, Lavan Chitward becomes informally known in the Herald's Collegium as "Lavan Firestarter." (He is unaware that the name was actually bestowed on him by the King.) Down south on the Karsite border, he became "Herald Lavan Firestorm."
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted when a young man is the center of the Coming-of-Age Story; played straight elsewhere. In fairness, female Heralds aren't celibate, nor are they expected to be.
- Masquerade: The Companions spend over a thousand years as partners to the Heralds without ever revealing their true natures: reincarnated Heralds, or even actual divine avatars in the case of Grove-Born Companions. This is deemed necessary as knowing it could cause the Heralds to worship or even become dependent on them, not to mention the trauma of knowing that a loved one came back in a forever-inaccessible form... or worse, didn't come back.
- Masquerade Ball: In Exile's Valor, Selenay holds one when the official year of mourning is over for her father, partly as a way to see if Prince Thanel is serious about her.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: In one of the short stories, the main character is the youngest of twelve children in the royal family (his mother kept having twins and triplets). All of them were Chosen, which is why he rides Circuit rather than being kept to the palace and capital city.
- In the Collegium Chronicles, Herald Jakyr's parents belonged to a religion that believed in having as many children as possible for the Glory of God. He tells Mags that his parents had so many children that half the time they called them by the wrong names, and that according to the brother he still talks to, they never even noticed when he was Chosen and left. Jakyr ends the conversation by saying that "Just because you can have a quiverful of youngsters, it doesn't mean you should. Or any."
- May-December Romance: An Author Appeal. Several appear early in the series:
- Stefen is 17 and Vanyel is 35 when they meet.
- Talia (19-20) marries mid-30s Dirk.
- Keren is ten to fifteen years older than Sherrill.
- Ancar (late 20s) and Hulda (probably 60s, possibly older) are a less positively portrayed couple.
- Meaningful Name:
- Winterhart, which she chose deliberately in an attempt to conceal her tragic backstory.
- Hawkbrothers take a use-name upon reaching adulthood, almost always reflecting some aspect of their personality. When something dramatically changes their personality, they may take a Meaningful Rename.
- The High Priest directly appointed by the sun god is named "Solaris", Latin for "of the sun."
- Meaningful Rename: Contributing to the tendency of the Tayledras to have Meaningful Names is the fact that they sometimes change their names following life-changing events. For example, Darkwind was called Songwind in the backstory of Winds of Fate, but he changed it when the Heartstone was sabotaged. The Mage Winds trilogy manages to play this for a bit of humor when Starblade quips that he considered changing his name to Starshadow to reflect that he feels like a shadow of his former self... but there's already a Shadowstar and it would be too confusing.
- Medieval Stasis: Rigorously enforced throughout the series, with the raw beginnings of Steam Age technology emerging around Mage Storms. Justified in the sense that most societies have Functional Magic to do the jobs that technology might otherwise handle, with some (like the Eastern Empire) going all the way into Magitek. Valdemar had mind-magic and healing magic, even though "true magic" had been blocked by Vanyel's ghost until the end of Winds of Change.
- Men Can't Keep House: Keisha refers to this in Owlsight, when she thinks back to when the village women cleaned up Justyn's old cottage. She concedes that he kept the treatment areas clean, but the living areas .... Later, when she first sees Darian's home in the new Vale, she can't believe at first that a single male lives there because it's so clean. (Darian does not score any aversion points, since the hertasi clean the place for him.)
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Hoo boy. There's a reason most Mindspeaking Heralds won't poke around in another's thoughts without cause, and why many with untrained Gifts who haven't yet been Chosen have a miserable time.
- Mindlink Mates: Lifebonded pairings, with all the angst and drama that typically accompanies the trope. Discussed in Winds of Fate between Stefen, Skif, and Nyara, and then again at greater length throughout the "Mage Storms" trilogy when Firesong (mistakenly) believes that having a lifebond would be the end of all disagreements and misunderstandings.
- Mind Over Manners:
- The Incorruptible Pure Pureness of all Heralds means that they basically never abuse their mind-magic.
- Kerowyn uses hers as little as possible mostly out of the fear that the people around her would not be able to trust her if they knew she could read their minds.
- Most individuals with mind-gifts are either Heralds (and thus nigh-immune to corruption), or otherwise trained in a profession that comes with a code of ethical conduct. Twisted Empaths and telepaths are rare and horrifying.
- Mind Rape:
- Practically a hobby of several villains, most notably Mornelithe Falconsbane. It's established that anyone with strong Empathy is capable of this, but since most of them become Healers or Heralds, it's extremely rare.
- Talia, while mostly using her Empathy to help other Heralds who have had traumatic experiences, has done this as well on at least four occasions. The first was when she simply overwhelmed the mind of a madwoman to knock her out. The second occasion involved taking the worst nightmares of a boy who tried to seduce Elspeth and forcing him to experience it, then threatening to make him repeat the experience every time he closed his eyes if he said a word to anyone about what had happened. The third was when she lashed out at a dungeon guard who was hoping to rape her. The most extreme use of her powers ever, Mind Rape in the most literal sense, happened when she forced a man who had raped his stepdaughters to relive what they had felt in a constant neverending loop, from which he could only be freed if he acknowledged that what he'd done was wrong.
- Modest Royalty: Nearly every good ruler. High Priest Solaris would be one if her role didn't require episcopal pomp; the Emperors of the Eastern Empire wouldn't be one except for their philosophy that austerity is more intimidating than opulence.
- Monochromatic Eyes: The Shin'a'in Star-Eyed Goddess, as implied by her name, appears as a woman with starfield eyes. Souls chosen to serve her, called Avatars, have the same eyes.
- Morality Chain: Lavan's Companion. When she dies, everything burns.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Her aforementioned Author Avatar is a chronicler or, in other words, a writer.
- Mugging the Monster: Lavan Chitward was bullied at school by the older students. During one such session, his powers manifested and his tormentors paid the price.
- Mundane Luxury: Used repeatedly with heraldic trainees, who are provided comfortable-but-not-decadent lifestyles; for nobility, it's a significant step down, but for others this trope is in full effect.
- Talia was raised in a culture with extremely strict traditions, and gender roles in particular; she's initially overwhelmed by such concepts as "not being forced to marry someone she doesn't want to" and "being allowed to read during her free time". And "having free time", for that matter.
- Skif, a former thief, is amazed that trainees recieve a modest stipend. The idea that anyone would just give them money is utterly foreign to him.
- Mags, a child slave at a gem mine before he was Chosen, is probably the best example. He considers it the height of luxury to have food that is both wholesome and plentiful, not to mention clothes that are more than rags.
- Mundane Utility:
- Averted in Valdemar, where the prevailing philosophy is that any use of magic or psychic powers which costs energy should be saved for real emergencies.
- Contrasted with Valdemar is the Eastern Empire, which relies so heavily on Magitek that their society is thrown into chaos when the Mage Storms hit and magic becomes unreliable.
- Mags and his Companion Dallen share Mindspeech so strong that Dallen can control Mags' hands remotely. They use this to weave Midwinter presents.
- Mutant Draft Board:
- A borderline example. The Companions don't ask permission of their Chosen before they Choose them, and have, on a couple of occasions, forcibly seized the Herald-to-be and dragged him off against his will. However, the Omniscient Morality License is in play: the Companions never choose anyone who would not accept the Call to Adventure if they knew all the facts, and no Herald has refused to serve once he or she is made aware of the situation.
- An in-story subversion occurs in Stefen's backstory in Magic's Price: as he relates to Vanyel, Bard Lynnell kidnapped him right off the street declaring that "you belong to Valdemar now." In fact Lynnell had recognized Stefen's extremely potent Bardic Gift and - being as undiplomatic as a sack of hammers - stopped only to confirm that he was in fact living on the street with no blood kin before grabbing him to pack off to the Bardic Collegium for training.
- Owlsight features an implied aversion when Keisha sees a Companion coming and panics at the thought that she'll be Chosen and expected to leave her village without its only Healer and herbalist - only for the Companion to turn towards her sister instead. Whether she was really on the verge of being Chosen or just jumping to conclusions is left deliberately unclear. However, elsewhere in the series it's stated more or less outright that some people who would otherwise make very good Heralds are specifically not Chosen because there is some other role that it is more vital for them to play; Arrows of the Queen specifically notes that those with the Healing Gifts are almost never Chosen because they are needed far more as Healers than as Heralds. Ultimately, as in so many other things, Because Destiny Says So is in full effect regarding who does or doesn't get Chosen.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Ma'ar, who goes so far as to declare the fact with his dying breath.
Tropes N to Z