Literature / Journey to Chaos

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Eric Watley, Mercenary Mage, at your service
Welcome to a world where magic and monsters are as common as homework and hotdogs.
Tagline

Journey to Chaos is an Urban Fantasy series by Brian Wilkerson. It takes place in the Constructed World of Tariatla and follows the adventures of Eric Watley, a mage for the Dragon's Lair mercenary guild. The stories consist of his missions for the guild, the mischief that Tasio the Trickster sends his way, and clashes with the enemies that he meets and makes.

It starts as a Low Fantasy, with Eric doing novice missions like running a client's errands or escorting a merchant caravan and builds up into an epic High Fantasy involving a conflict between deities.

Books in the series include:
  1. A Mage's Power (Published in December 2012)
  2. Looming Shadow (Published in December of 2014)
  3. Mana Mutation Menace (Published in December of 2015)
  4. Transcending Limitations (Published in May 2017)
  5. The Highest Power (Anticipated in 2018)

Tropes present throughout the series

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Captain Ginger Hasina can't get anyone's name right. She's too focused on her latest Mad Scientist medicine to bother. She's called Eric "Derek", Redstreak "Breadbeck" and Jemas, her own Number Two, as "James".
    • Nunnal Enaz has a localized case of this trope; she can't remember the names of her employees. Instead she calls them "Letter Guy" as in "A Guy", "B Guy," "C Guy" etc. Annala asked Wiol, a goddess who is aware of every possible future, if this would ever change. The answer? "No."
  • Action Dress Rip: Ataidar must have many ladies of war because both Kasile and Hailey have dresses designed with this in mind. The long and/or layered skirts can be quickly removed without tearing them through clever use of cords. In less urgent situations, like an impromptu duel instead of a life-or-death fight, Hailey also removed her high heels.
  • The Apprentice:
    • "Apprentice" is the first stage of membership in the Dragon's Lair mercenary company. It is followed by "Novice" and then "Regular".
    • Zettia become's Eric unofficial student in basic magic. Then Basilard's official pupil in Bladicraft.
  • Aura Vision:
    • Mages can learn the spell "Magic Sight" which enables them to see mana in the world around them. This is useful for spotting hidden runes, magical amplifiers, and other supernatural things like invisible people.
    • The "Third Eye" technique practiced by Retina and Tiza turns their own aura into an additional eye with which to see the world. It also works on ambient mana instead of reflected light like a physical human eye.
  • Auto Cannibalism:
    • Monsters are so stupid that it's not unusual to find them eating themselves in the fields. These breeds don't survive long.
    • Fresh off his recovery from mana mutation, Eric tries to eat his own hand because he misunderstood Kallen's use of the "foot in the mouth" metaphor. He doesn't actually do it because he decides that his hand doesn't taste good.
  • Background Magic Field: The reason why Eric can perform magic on Tariatla and not on Threa, is because the former has one of these and the later does not. Not only does it provide the mana for spells but it also gives rise to monsters through mana mutation and enables non-human animals to be as intelligent as humans. Ceiha, an island nation, is the only place in the world that isn't covered by this field, and such, magic is much more difficult there.
  • Badass Bookworm: To be a mage in this univese, you have to do a lot of studying. That fireball spell requires a working understanding of mana and the basics of how fire operates.
  • Barrier Warrior: A secondary skill all mages possess is the ability to project one's spirit as a barrier against physical and magical attack. It's so common even non-mages have it.
  • The Bartender: At Full Mug you will find Rab who is both the owner and operator. He'll listen to whatever problem you're having while brewing up some of his taverncraft and give advice as necessary. You don't even need to be in his tavern for the first one; if he sees you on the street it's the same deal. In Mana Mutation Menace, he listened to Eric's girl trouble (failed attempt at a Relationship Upgrade), Culmus' girl trouble (complicated Uptown Girl situation) and Basilard's girl trouble (his clan is rejecting his adopted daughter and she is rejecting them as well, including Basilard himself) but only had sage advice for the latter.
  • Beast and Beauty: After Eric mana mutates into a grendel, Kallen fills in the role of the gentle and understanding Beauty. She does this in her combat suit, due to the circumstances, but she had previously been dolled up in a kimono and make up, and Tasio laments the missed opportunity to snap "Beauty and the Beast" photos.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't call Tiza a "lady", not even respectfully. It's always an insult.
    • Don't touch Basilard's family sword, BloodDrinker. He'll notice even if he's unconscious.
    • Don't touch Old Man Aaloon's scrolls. He'll label you a thief and smack you with his staff.
  • Best Friend Manual: Eric spends the early parts of A Mage's Power studying his teammates' manuals because he likes puzzles. Thus, by the end of the adventure he's able to translate for others. For instance, when Tiza says, "You better do a good job healing (the patient) because I'm gonna beat them up later" what she really means to say is "I want (the patient) to be at full strength when I challenge them to an honorable duel".
  • Black Cloak: There is a band of rogues that call themselves the Black Cloaks, and use codenames like "Dark Staff" and "Dark Axe". Their purpose in A Mage's Power is to kidnap Ataidar's princess for their mysterious boss.
  • Bedlam House: There's an inversion with the Trickster's Shelter in Dnnac Ledo. It houses all the local elves who have gone insane due to immortality or traumatic experiences and it is run by a grandmotherly Apron Matron. She treats them as gently as porcelain and screens visitors to make sure their fragile states are not disturbed.
  • Blue-Collar Warlock:
    • All of the Dragon's Lair mages are mercenaries so their jobs tend to be skilled labor. This is especially the case with novices mages who are still learning their craft. Their gig is compared to a part-time job like bagging groceries.
    • The field agents for the International Community Dedicated to Magic Mutation do a lot of traveling in order to gather research materials and test equipment. Kallen, for instance, basically lives in a flying trailer.
  • Body Horror: Mana mutation provides many examples of this trope because it involves fundamental changes in someone's biology. They could grow new limbs or orficies, lose them, or become a radically different shape altogether. Parts of the victim's body could gain a life of their own and attack them.
  • Bound and Gagged:
    • During A Mage's Power, Kasile spends a couple weeks tied up due to her kidnapping by the Black Cloaks. Then again later, along with Eric, when she is framed for treason.
    • Looming Shadow
      • At the start, Emily is gagged for deliberately violating the Speak of the Devil taboo regarding Tasio. Then bound to prevent her from removing it.
      • A couple of zombie mooks try this on Tiza, but she was one step ahead of them.
      • Eric spends time shackled to a chair while held captive by Mr.15. Naturally, he's also gagged to prevent spell casting.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: This is the general problem with fighting reapers. Eric steals the divine authority one of them has over death in order to become immune to its magic, but he is still only mortal. He losses his advantage immediately after Reno Grade decides that he is a threat.
  • Bridal Carry:
    • When his wife is in the midst of an over-protective motherly rant, Retina utilizes this in combination with a "Shut Up" Kiss to remove her from the guild lobby and allow Tiza to continue her mission unhindered.
    • Tiza suffers a Power Strain Black Out in Ceiha and Nolien carries her in this fashion to someplace safer. When she wakes up, she uppercuts him because she doesn't like being treated like a Damsel in Distress. It's also embarrasing because of their UST.
  • Canine Companion: Kae Ninea never goes anywhere without her black lap partner, Jet.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Ordercrafters cannot lie because "Order does not abide lies". They're not even allowed Exact Words. This is because Order's honesty is one of the Magical Underpinnings of Reality. The world would not make sense if the god stabilizing reality lied or allowed anyone using his power to lie.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The reapers of the Abyss are organized into ranks and governed by laws and customs. Their scythe is the symbol of their office. For instance, Reno Grade is a third class trainee reaper whose scythe is blood red while Modil Pera is a first class senior reaper and carries a scythe with a gold blade.
  • Chest of Medals:
    • Eric's civilian boss on Threa wore one of these to his commerical energy company because he still thinks he's in the military.
    • When Tiza complains about the lack of recognition for capturing a criminal mage above her level, Basilard replies that if she wants a chest of medals she should join the Ataidar military. The Dragon's Lair doesn't do that sort of thing; mercenaries are only awarded their wages.
  • Child Soldier: The Dragon's Lair mercenary company has a reconstructed version of this trope. It accepts new members as young as ten years old but only as apprentices, and only part time. The vast bulk of their missions are harmless chores like painting someone's shop or collecting medical ingredients, because they are still in training. They don't go on missions with any danger until they have sufficient practice and even then their adult mentor is the one expected to do the heavy fighting. They won't be real soldiers until they have demonstrated both the maturity and the combat skill to handle being a real soldier. In other words, when they are no longer children.
  • Cock Fight: Siron of Esrah and Culmus of Stratos fight each over Princess Kasile. They're so intense about it that they are not allowed to joust each other for fear of "accidents". In the aftermath of a Rescue Arc, she has to plead with them not to fight each other and even then there's a close call with Stab the Scorpion. When they make their Declaration of Protection to her, they glance sidelong at each other: "Your Highness is safe with me." This state of affairs is even more depressing for Kasile than the typical version; she confides in Eric, her surrogate big brother that she hoped they would become Bash Brothers.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry:
    • All elemental spells are tinged to a color depending on the element of the spell because the mana for the spell is colored by the Worldly Mana Gates. Thus we have brown for earth spells, red for fire spells, green for forest spells etc.
    • Some powers share colors but have something else that distinguishes them. For instance, both fire and bladi magic is red but the shade of red is different. Bladi magic is, naturally blood red.
    • Spiritual abilities don't have a color because they are technically not magic and so they come across as "clear". Ordercraft technically doesn't have a color either because it is the absence of chaos, which is the source of all the other kinds of magic. The closest that mortal minds can get to is "silver-grey". Chaoscraft itself is a similar case; it is seen as a "golden-brown" color.
  • Compelling Voice: The supernatural ability to make anyone obey spoken orders is part of the standard set of ordercraft abilities. Once in the grasp of a sufficiently mighty one it is impossible to escape without outside aid or chaotic abilities/items.
  • The Confidant: Eric is the only person with whom Kasile feels comfortable venting about The Chains Of Command. Part of this is because she can't hide anything from him anyway (due to being Mind Link Mates) and part is because he has absolutely no interest in her queenly title or her court and is thus impartial, and except for their friendship, unconnected.
  • Constructed World: The first several chapters of A Mage's Power are basically Eric learning about the world he's landed in. Subsequent books build on this.
  • Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: Tasio does this to tease with Eric when disguised as a beautiful human girl. Kallen, Tasio's favorite follower, also uses this pose to appear more girly to Eric when off-duty.
  • Crazy-Prepared
    • The Big Bad of the first book, Duke Selen Esrah made sure that nothing went wrong with his Evil Plan. He hired an enforcer to possess the king years before hand to make sure that the king would properly abidicate after the plan was launched, instead of escaping or comitting suicide. He was also prepared for his son to betray him, despite his son being the greatest benefactor of The Plan.
    • Sathel hides her intelligent field medic spiders on Nolien, without telling him, because a situation where Tiza is injuried and needs their help is likely to be an occasion that incapicates the spiders she hid on her as well. She also makes sure that Tiza has everything she could possibly need when going on a mission to Ceiha and then checks to make sure she has everything four times on the way to the guild lobby.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization:
    • The Dragon's Lair warrior guild trains its members in the use of mercenary magic and combat spirit techniques for the purpose of fighting monsters. With these skills, they can leave walled cities to trim the monster population and escort civilians. These monsters are all mindless carnivores (even the plants) because of the mana addling their brains.
    • The ICDMM (International Community Dedicated to Mana Mutation) sends out field agents to collect monsters (dead or alive) for the purpose of dissection and experimentation. Their goal is to understand mana mutation so that they can cure and/or treat it.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: The first book has this both defied and referenced. Eric kills an orc in defense of Annala and the two subsequently worry about him getting in trouble for this. So much that Annala immediately collects evidence against it. Fortunately, Eric's guild has a in-house advocate who calls the incident an open-and-shut case of self-defense. two books later this happens again and lands Eric in bigger trouble.
  • Cue the Rain: After Eric has been fired from his job and rejected by his crush, he expresses the belief that his day can't get any worse. Tasio grins as this trope comes into effect and Eric has to walk home in the rain. To add extra insult to injury, the rain stops the instant he arrives at his appartment.
  • Curse Cut Short: Basilard has taken Eric to see the Dragon's Lair in-house advocate because he's gotten himself into legal trouble. Reywal remarks how glad he is that his latest client is a rookie like Eric and not one of the guild's lunatics like Ginger Hasina because "that woman is fu"; he doesn't get any further because Basilard cuts him off.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Videlct Mens greatly amplifies the might of warriors and mages but overuse of it can kill them or drive them insane. This is why Tiza has to obey a number of rules set by mentor when using it. They boil down to "Don't use it unless you've passed the Godzilla Threshold".
  • The Dark Arts:
    • Bladicraft contains a number of techniques that are known as "Forbidden techniques" because they are either unethical, dangerous, or considered sacrilege. One of these is "Conversion" and it transforms another living thing into a member of the Bladi clan, which runs a high risk of killing them. Another is "Bladi Puppetry" which involves hijacking someone's blood vessels to mind control them. The last person to practice them was killed and then Unpersoned.
    • Ordercraft gives everyone the willies because it is contrary to reality, which is based on chaos, can shut down all other forms of magic, and will eventually corrupt its user into an Empty Shell. It's treated like a Necessary Evil and those who practice it legitimately, as guardians, are held in high esteem.
  • Defeat Means Respect:
    • A Mage's Power: Tej, a warrior from Kyraa, considered Tiza to be one more girl he could steal a kiss from (via prize from an official duel). After he losses to her, he has to admit that she's a warrior on his level. He still tries to steal a kiss, but that's because he's especially attracted to girl warriors on his level.
    • Mana Mutation Menace: Initially, Tiza and Hailey thought poorly of each other; Tiza that Hailey was an Upper-Class Twit and Hailey that Tiza was Dumb Muscle. They came to blows when their enmity reached a boiling point and it ended with a Cross Counter. They didn't become friends (immediately) but they had to acknowledge the other's ability.
  • Death of Personality: This trope is part of why mana mutation is so scary. All of your personality is wiped out and overwritten with that of a savage beast. As Basilard puts it "If a mana storm doesn't kill you, then it will kill the person you used to be".
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Eric, a mortal human mage, squares off against a reaper, a Physical God who is not only much more powerful than him physically but has the divine power to kill him with a thought. Eric steals this power and then punches him hard enough to knock him over. He is strangled for his efforts and has to be saved by another, higher ranking, reaper.
  • Dimensional Traveler: Tasio the Trickster can jump from World Fruit to World Fruit without a care. He drags Eric to Tariatla at the start of A Mage's Power, sends him back at the end, and then returns him to Tariatla at the start of Looming Shadow.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: It is never a good idea to taunt this world's deities.
    • A Mage's Power: Siron Esrah reacts with shock when Eric sasses Tasio because it is "the behavior of madmen to speak with such disrespect to the god of Tricksters!"
    • Looming Shadow: Kallen nearly dies from an avalanche and hypothermia because she challenged Snol, the Ice goddess. Later in the same book, Eric is strangled by a Grim Reaper for the same reason.
    • Mana Mutation Menace: Order himself, one of The Powers That Be, is called "namagumi" by two elves. The first one is promptly subdued, depowered and captured by what the elves would call a devil; the second one is indulged just long enough to learn that Resistance Is Futile, and then he is subdued and depowered.
  • Don't Say Such Stupid Things: During the climax of A Mage's Power, Eric is suffering greater self-esteem problems than usual due to Dengel's Grand Theft Me so Kasile shouts him down by reminding him of all the amazing things he's done on his own.
    Kasile: Eric! Listen to me! You can overcome Dengel!
    Eric: No, I—
    Kasile: Yes,you can! The synchronization worked both ways! I saw you challenge Laharg. I saw you save your team from the Xethras and perform element fusion to guide them out of the Yacian Caverns. Dengel never did that at your age! I saw you overcome the trials of the Altar of Rebirth with only your wits and tools. Did Dengel win all those bouts in the tournament? No! And when I need someone to talk to, I would pick you over Dengel any day. He's just a walking encyclopedia! You can beat him!
  • Dressing as the Enemy: When infiltrating the lair of the Black Cloaks, Eric knocks out a couple of them and steals their cloaks in order to pretend to be one of them. It still takes some quick thinking to sell the disguise, and if they weren't in a hurry, they might have paid more attention.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: The Rescue Arc in A Mage's Power is a zigzag on this trope. Culmus and Eric begin the arc knowing that because it is not an official Dragon's Lair mission, they're not going to be paid, and because they're skipping out on their real job, they're more likely to be punished. While raiding the bad guy's lair, Eric steals some of their stuff (weapons, supplies, etc.) that he can sell afterward. Kasile gives him a hug when they reunite which Eric thinks makes this mission worth it by itself. In the next arc, she says she can't reward him properly, and so she makes him her "co-conspirator" in her next pet project.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: The magic system features ten elements and all of them have an opposite that they are both strong and weak against. For instance, water puts out fire but heat from the fire can be used to evaporate the water. During Mana Mutation Menace, Eric uses air magic to prevent someone from teleporting with lightning magic.
  • Emotion Suppression: Ordercrafters face this as an occupational hazard because the source of their power, Order, is a god without emotion. The longer they are ordercrafters and the more they use their power, the more their emotions are suppressed until they can't feel anything at all. They have ways of managing this, such as aid from a chaotic deity.
  • Energy Ball:
    • The ability to fire magical energy from one's hand is a common skill. Even Tiza, who is not a mage, can use it.
    • Eric's first lesson in mercenary magic is how to focus mana in the palms of his hands and eject in the form of a sphere. This is a mana bolt. He later learns various such as the compressed bolt and mana barrage.
  • Engineered Heroics: In A Mage's Power, This is Plan A for the Big Bad, Duke Selen Esrah. He's hoping a Rescue Romance will rekindled the relationship between his son and his ex-girlfriend, Princess Kasile. He hires some rogues to do the kidnapping, infiltrates them with a couple of his own guards to guard against betrayal and then sends down his son. The problem is that his son is captured despite his efforts, and someone else gets the credit.
  • Enlightenment Superpower:
    • In Chaotic Philosophy there exists levels of enlightenment. The first of which is plain old magecraft which can be learned out of a book by anyone that can read, or anyone with a teacher.
    • Any mortal spirit can become a Razor Spirit with "spritual forging", which is basically long periods of meditation based on an ideal. This grants certain abilities and can make ones that the user already possesses stronger.
    • A vision quest inside Dengel's Cehian Lair grants Eric great wisdom and understanding about the immediate underlayer of reality and the true nature of magic
  • Enthralling Siren: The Rose Forest is home to Venus Fly Traps with a similar ability. Their song creates a bewitching illusion that ensares their victim and dulls their senses. In A Mage's Power, Eric encouters a beautiful wood Nymph playing a harp and is just barely saved from being the plant's next meal.
  • Everyone Is Armed: When Eric arrives in Ataidar, he discovers that everyone caries weapons all the time. When he asks about laws regulating weapons, Siron explains this trope is both necessary and practical. The world is infested with Always Chaotic Evil monsters and beyond that, it is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink with all manner of intelligent creature with natural weapons (tiger demons and their claws, orcs with their fists, elves with their shapeshifting, etc.). Trying to regulate weapon use among humans is a Sisyphean task. Besides, since combat magic is something anyone can learn out of a book everyone is armed anyways.
  • Fantastic Racism: There's a lot of bad blood between the species but this doesn't stop them from getting along for the most part. Eric's school friends, for instance, include two demons, an elf, and an albino human.
    • Some humans are prejudiced against demons, and think of them as "freaks" or "dumb animals". They think elves are a race of crazy people.
    • Some orcs are prejudiced against non-orcs for being weak in mind and body. The word for this is "soft skin".
    • Some elves are prejudiced against humans because of their mortality; "temps" as in "temporary".
  • Fantastic Science:
    • Magic is just one more branch of science, and mana one more form of energy to be studied, like solar radiation or electricity. The academic study of it is called "manaology".
    • The study of mana mutation is undertaken by the International Community Dedicated to Mana Mutation (ICDMM). Their mission statement is to figure out exactly how it works and then develop technology to treat and/or prevent it.
    • Lady Sias studies Mt.Daici and how Ceiha's unique climate (constant Fog clouds in a magicless countinent) affects its geology.
  • Faux Horrific: When Tiza offends Mia, the receptionist threatens to send Tiza on the most horrifiying of missions- trying on dresses for a seamstress! Tiza immediately apoglozies.
  • The Fettered:
    • Basilard mentions a number of things that he could or might want to do but refrains from doing them because "it would be against Guild policy". One item in that policy is "never kill the client".
    • The Leader of Roalt's Royal Guard Section 3 (Sedition Prevention) insists on averting/defying Police Brutality even when he himself considers the suspect to be "scum". This is because he believes even scum deserves due process.
    • Ironically, the tricksters are this. Despite being chaotic deities, they have a number of rules that they abide by. For instance, Tasio would love to help his "bestest friend", Eric, more often but Helping Would Be Kill Stealing. At the end of Looming Shadow, he remarks that he could, easily and on his own, deal with both that book's heavy, the Big Bad of the series, and any other villain. He doesn't because that invalid a large chunk of the chaotic belief system.
  • Flipping the Bird:
    • Anuzat is the first person to make such a "rude gesture" in A Mage's Power. She does it to someone who calls her "Cactus Stinger".
    • Looming Shadow
      • During the sequel this gesture is used by Second Skeleton to show his distaste to others because he lacks both vocal cords and expressive facial muscles.
      • When an ordercrafter was threatening Annala, Tasio appeared and waved to her. Then he retracted four of his fingers and waved to the ordercrafter. The ordercrafter backed down.
  • Food Chains: When Eric travels from his mundane world of Threa to the magical world of Tariatla, he is amazed at both the flavor of the food and drink he finds and how it invigorates him. When he makes a return trip to his homeworld, the native food and drink is both tasteless and unsatisfying. This even applies to the air so he constantly feels like he's suffocating. This is his most viseral motivation for finding a way back to Tariatla.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With:
    • This is the case with higher levels of magical powers. It's impossible for mortals to precieve what chaotic enegry or orderly influence truly look like and so instead they see golden-brown light and silver-grey light, respectively.
    • Noitearc, the Third Founding Deity, is thought to be a giant tree because that is the best way mortals can conceive it. The truth is much more complicated.
    • Reapers and Sowers exist as the abstract concepts "death" and life" respectively. Only their priesthoods are capable of seeing their true nature.
  • Functional Magic: Magic is using mana to a diverse and practical purpose.
    • Inherent Gift is rare because it follows specific bloodlines. Bladicraft, for instance, can only be used by members of the Bladi Clan.
    • Rule Magic is the most common variety practiced because anyone can learn it if they have a teacher or a book. It's called "magecraft" and it involves a lot of studying. The most important lesson is the Three Laws of Magecraft; Mana, Knowledge and Will Power. The second most important is that Rule Magic is a crutch for learning Force Magic. Rules make performing magic easier for beginniners. Experts don't need them.
    • Alchemy is ambigious. Since the study of mana is as old or older than the study of chemicals, no one bothers with a difference.
    • Device Magic is also common. Wards against spells and physical harm are often sold to warriors while an artist is more likely to buy something to asist their latest work. Both of them stop by the corner store.
    • Force Magic is present in pulling mana from the surrounding enviroment or from a Place of Power, but most mages are only good enough to pull it from their own soul. Once a mage has a sufficient level of skill and power, they can forgo Rule Magic and focus entirely on Force Magic.
    • White Magic is called "healing magic" while Black Magic is called "combat" or "battle magic". There is no color for magic that is neither.
  • Geeky Turn-On:
    • When Annala is enchanted to seduce her fellow nerd, her tactics are the minutes of the Mana Mutation Summit and a discussion of them from various religious, social and political perspectives. Eric is quickly won over.
    • The Dnnac Ledo public library has a "private reading room" that is implied to be reserved for bookworms who get aroused by their studies.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: A justified trope given the difference in culture.
    • "Abyss take it" is the Tariatlan version of "damn it". It means the same thing.
    • "Oh Trickster!" is the equivalent of "Oh my god".
  • Grim Reaper: A corps of reapers exist in the afterlife known as The Abyss. Their job is to oversee the dead, the dying and overall make sure that this aspect of reality is functioning properly. They typically appear to humans in the guise of a black cloaked figure and the symbol of their office is their scythe. Their master is simply called "Lord Death".
  • Good Shepherd: A running total of benevolent clergy
    • There is only one priestess to welcome Eric at the Temple of Zaticana because the others are busy volunteering. Vesta herself is friendly and helpful.
    • A (unnamed) priest from the Circle of Noitearc lives in Ceiha helping the locals to eek out a living by sheltering them from their oppressive government.
    • Abbot Tolis is the leader of the international protest of Latrot's use of ordercraft to brainwash sapients note  and has maintained this stance despite several attempts on his life.
    • Neuro is a member of the Broterhood of Death and he is introduced tracking a criminal necrocraft user. He compensates this criminal's victims as best as he can and blesses Tiza and Nolien's not-quite-there relationship.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: It's the "bodies are complicated" example. Healing mages are basically the world's version of doctors which means they go to medical school and learn about how the body works and how magic can be used to fix problems.
    • When Nolien is tending to someone's battle wounds in A Mage's Power, he has a ditty that goes along the lines of "stop the bleeding, check infection, reconnect the nerves and veins..."
    • As a necro priest, Brother Neuro is capable of healing by directing kon from one area to where it is needed. In this way he can mend serious injuries but he's just accelerating the natural healing process and doesn't truly know what he's doing. That's why he demures Tiza's praise and insists that Nolien is a superior healer.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • Generally averted as it is not easy to sneak past the guards in Roalt castle. During A Mage's Power this is played for laughs when Kasile sheepishly notes that her King Incognito disguise fooled her bodyguards. Mia replies that they must be "stupidheads".
    • Looming Shadow example; The guards in Mr.15's lair are smart enough to check for invisible people when they're looking for a mage, but they remain easy to fool because of that fact. They don't look for anything else.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Everyone (Except Eric) has no respect for guns because their projectiles can't kill anyone. The only exception is in Ceiha, because the "fantasy" part of Fantasy Gun Control does not apply there.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Tiza uses this trick during her duel in the Kyraa desert. She pretends to trip on her ceremonial clothes in order to scoop sand into her mouth with which to spit at the right moment. The surpise and distraction of getting sand in his eyes costs Tej the duel.
  • Happy Dance: When Eric recovers from a magical disease known as mana mutation, Kallen does a quick run around the room complete with Squee!.
  • Heroic Dog: One of the Dragon's Lair mercenaries is Jet, a black lab. He helps Eric find allies during a Rescue Arc.
  • Hero Secret Service: Trickster gods in general play this role to Tasio's "bestest friend", Eric Watley. In Looming Shadow, Tasio reveals that he and his siblings kept the worst dangers from even reaching him in the previous book. This is after one of said siblings, Poi, randomly appeared on a ship that Eric was traveling on, engaged in a cyrptic conversation with Eric's mentor about how important the boy was to their plans, and then saved him from enforcer possessed monsters.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In A Mage's Power, there's a moment where Kasile successfully fends off her kidnappers, and then their boss steps up and easily subdues her.
    • In Looming Shadow, Eric briefly gets the upper hand on Reno Grade but then the reaper demonstrates the true difference between a physical god and a merely enlightened mortal.
  • I Know What You Fear: Dengel protected his final lair with a "Fear Field", an array of magic runes that encompass anyone who approaches with an illussion of their worst fear. During Looming Shadow, all the members of Team Four are subjected to it as they climb Mt. Daci. Basilard sees his students dying and joining his previous students in blaming him for their death while his Evil Uncle kills him with his own sword. Nolien sees his younger brother become an Evil Overlord as First Duke of Heleti, abandon their parents, and abuse Tiza. Tiza sees herself back in the place that caused her amensia, her friends and mentors dead, and Nolien brainwashed into hating her. Guest star party member Zettai sees her abusive parents come back from the dead and kill her new friends. Eric sees Nulso take over Ataidar and turn Annala into a Sex Slave.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Elves zigzag this trope. The first time a female elf has sex she will become pregnant, no exceptions. After giving birth, she will be barren for a century or two and then be able to conceive again. Thus, the only siblings that can experience growing up as siblings are twins, triplets etc. If their population needs an emergency boost (such as after the Conversion War) then the males in the population can sex-shift into females and carry a child to term.
  • Invisible Means Undodgeable: Invisible spirit blasts are a lot harder to dodge then visible mana bolts but it is still doable. Eric prefers tanking them with a barrier to reduce the impact rather than take a chance at getting hit full force.
  • It Amused Me: Trickster gods in general do these things for amusement, because they are all children of the Goddess of Chaos.
    • Tasio the Trickster is a public nuisance in every city of Tariatla. According to a Roalt city wall commander, he would destroy a civilization or raise it to a new level of prosperity on a whim. "Most of the time, he's just a pest."
    • Zaticana, the goddess of language, caused a Curse of Babel because she thought the resulting confusion would be hilarious.
    • Remho would throw a capital city's population into a panic in the name of performance theather.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: There is a Downplayed Trope here. At the end of Looming Shadow, Eric asks if he can eat another human but since he is technically a grendel at that point (albeit one in human form) it's technically not cannibalism. However, he still identifies as a human (at first) and so the idea repluses him.
  • Immortality Begins at 20: Elves stop aging once they are fully grown because their Seed of Chaos rejuvenates them constantly. Eric notes that Nunnal Enaz looks younger than her mortal best friend despite being older.
  • Incompletely Trained: Eric fights an ordercrafter who did not complete his training due to personal arrogance and his impatience to start making money off it. He only had basic Anti-Magic and the ability to craft a Power Nullifier. Because of this, he is easily defeated by someone more knowledgeable. In fact, Nayr tells him that if he had completed his training then he wouldn't have lost.
  • Is It Something You Eat?: This is the case with all victims of mana mutation once they regain their sanity because of their new monster mindset. Basically everything is food, including any clothes they are handed or their own body parts.
  • Kaiju: The monsters in the S-Class desgination are the biggest and most dangerous of all. The ones known as "Tazul" are bigger than the capital city of Ataidar. Their abilities are called "almighty" and all the City Guards can do is shepherd civilians away from them. Only divine magic stands a good chance of stopping them.
  • Fantastic Drug: Mana can cause quite a high in sufficient concentrations. The vapor form known as "Fog" is the most common form. In the words of Basilard, "It goes straight to the soul. Even for mages like us it can be a heady experience. For Ceihans, I imagine it would be closer to ‘divine bliss.’" One of the villains in Looming Shadow operates a den of this stuff and charges kon instead of gold from his customers. They pay it, repeatedly, until they die, go insane, or mutate into a monster.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: This is a case of Playing With A Trope. In the magic world of Tariatla, gun use is absent despite it being an otherwise modern 21st century world. Basilard states this is because guns are Awesome, yet Impractical. It's a lot of noise to no effect and in the time it takes to build one, he could train a dozen people to use Hand Blasts, which would be more effective but less costly (soldier wages=ammo expenses). The one place in the entire world where guns are as lethal as they are in real life is Ceiha, which lacks mana and is therefore lacking most fantasty tropes.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: The Enlightenment Superpower that Eric acquires in Ceiha grants him increased spiritual power, vast stores of magical knowledge, and effortless fluency in a dead language. He uses the last one for "outrageous unfair translation fees".
  • Four is Death: When Eric uses a series of tricks to defeat Gruffle for the right of living under Cutlass Bridge, he frames the series of defeats as lessons for his guild junior; "lesson four is death, care to learn it?". This becomes a Running Gag between them as they clash throughout the series. In Mana Mutation Menace Gruffle has become a necromancer and states that he now knows "lesson four" far better than Eric does.
  • Forbidden Zone:
    • Any area of land deemed a Chaotic Zone is offlimits to civilians because it is a Place of Power and a spawning ground for monsters. Mercenaries aren't civilians so Eric can still go there.
    • The Necrohol of Siduban is the most dangerous place in the world and was the site of the worst tragedy in modern history.
  • Keep the Reward: The owner of the Long Horn Item shop gives Team Four a free item from his shop for the comedy routine (i.e. novice bickering) they performed while painting his shop. Nolien is about to say something along the lines of this trope but Tiza elbows him in the stomach and accepts. This scenario turns up again after the climax when Nolien heals Princess/Queen Kasile's injuries, but this time, it's reversed; Nolien elbows Tiza out of accepting a big reward.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: The Dragon's Lair Mercenary company has codified this trope. Rule number 6 is "not all that glitters is gold but it could still be worth a lot of money" and number 7 follows "so grab it whenever you can".
  • King Incognito: When Princess Kasile wants to go out in public unnoticed, she puts on commoner clothing and sneaks out. She has to add a hood or a hat because otherwise her hair and eye color would give away her Royal Blood. During A Mage's Power, she tries to pass herself off as a cowgirl but Mia sees right through it because it's only skindeep.
  • Lady and Knight:
    • Princess Kasile Landros Ataidar is a Bright Lady with several White Knights. While she does her Politically Active Princess thing to improve the lives of her subjects, she is often a target by bad guys or court rivals. Both Siron Esrah and Culmus Stratos are brave and noble warriors who protect her, and both of them have been her boyfriend (though not at the same time). However, the one she relies on the most, Eric Watley, is more like her big brother. During Mana Mutation Menace, one of the villains attacks her with a dragon golem and taunts her with how she never wins her own battles.
    • Annala invokes this trope in order to save Eric from The Grim Reaper (long story). Basically, The reaper made a bet with a trickster that Eric would not relapse into a savage monster mindset after recovering from mana mutation. After an incident of savagery, Annala says that he was not acting like a savage monster but a more noble creature called "A lady's knight" because he was protecting her.
  • The Lady's Favor: It's tradition for jousters of either gender to recieve something like this from their lovers/spouses etc. During A Mage's Power, the fact that Culmus is given one by Kasile is a Chekhov's Gun that enables a Rescue Arc later on. It ultimately ends up in Eric's possession, but he's solidly in a Like Brother and Sister relationship with the princess.
  • Lady-in-Waiting: Princess (later Queen) Kasile of Ataidar has a gaggle of ladies following her around. Among their duties are making sure she looks appropriately royal, even after she's stabbed through the chest during an attempted coup.
  • Language of Magic: Some mages, like Dengel, pretended to know a special, magical language to impress clients. It's actually gibberish. A mage of Dengel's standing didn't need to say anything at all.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Team Four went on a mission to Najica between A Mage's Power and Looming Shadow, and it was so embarrassing for Tiza and Nolien that they both agreed to forget it. Basilard, however, will not let them forget it because it involved some serious disciplinary action.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Eric and Kasile develop this sort of friendship in A Mage's Power due to a Mind Link Mates event. By the end of Looming Shadow he explictly refers to her as "my little sister" complete with Big Brother Instinct when it comes to her suitors.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome:
    • The Silver Dragon writes about how awesome immortality is in her autobiography. One of her hobbies is visiting a place after a century has passed; the mix of familiar and new is something "only an immortal can truly appreciate".
    • It's implied that Henry Pupil was already an old man two thousand years ago when he spoke with a young Dengel. He's still merrily recording history and looking for new sources of excitement.
  • Lizard Folk: There is a race called the lizard demons living on Tariatla. They look like mundane lizards except they're over five feet tall and walk on their hind legs. Eric meets one when he attends Roalt Public High, Oito. He's a prankster and a rookie jouster.
  • Lost Woods: The Rose Forest is made of trees that are constantly watching its inhabitants. Carnivorus Venus Fly Traps can mimick the effects of Enthralling Sirens. Every animal living here can wield magic and they don't take kindly to strangers. This is aside from the Always Chaotic Evil monsters roaming the area. When Eric first arrives in A Mage's Power, he would have died on three occassions if not for a local escort. The best part? This is not a "special magical forest". This is a "normal forest".
  • Love Is a Weakness: Ordercrafters find love to be the most useful of openings for their Mind Control, and Order himself uses it to sweeten a Deal with the Devil. For instance, in A Mage's Power, Duke Selen Esrah's loyalty to his country was corrupted into treason and sedition with the idea that his beloved son would be the best prince-consort the country could wish for. Further, in Mana Mutation Menace, Nolien agrees to become Order's mole in the Mana Mutation Summit in return for help in rescuing his Love Interest. Just moments prior, he effortlessly refused a similar deal when it was just his own life on the line.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Magic is a consistent and learnable skill in this verse. Introduction to Magecraft was written two thousand years ago and it is still the most popular reference guide for beginners because regardless of time or practioner, the basic rules of magic don't change. The Three Laws of Magecraft are as immutable as the Three Laws of Motion
    • 1.Mana. You can't do magic without mana because it is the root of all power.
    • 2. Knowledge. You have to know what you're doing. You can't just say say "Fireball!" while focusing hard if you don't how that spell is supposed to work
    • 3.Willpower. Since mana flows from the goddess Chaos, all magic can be seen as Wild Magic. Magecraft is the tamest of all forms of magic but a mage still needs a strong will to force mana to take the shape he/she wants and go into the direction that he/she desires.
  • Magic Kiss: Zaticana does this to impart her Omniglot blessing. When Eric tries to guess the magical mechanics of it, she says she just does it for fun.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality:
    • Everything that exists, the whole of creation, is chaotic energy that has been diluted and solidified. This is what creates both physical matter and ethereal souls. Earth, air, food, flesh etc. everything is fundamentally energy from Lady Chaos. Mages who truly understand this gain an Enlightenment Superpower that enables them to return physical objects to mana which is a lesser form of chaos. In other words, disentegrate them.
    • Every aspect of nature is represented by an avatar for the aggregate sentience of that element, which is responsible for making sure it runs smoothly.
    • If reapers and sowers don't do their job, then life and death go out of whack.
    • The general natural prosperity of a region is tied to its mana. The island nation of Ceiha is a wasteland because it doesn't have enough mana for plants to grow everywhere. Humans will basically feel less "alive" in areas of extremely low mana.
  • Magitek: All of Tariatla's technology is built using a mage's scientific understanding of the world. For instance, air conditioning uses wind magic and, instead of "cellphones", everyone's walking around with "scries" that do the same thing.
  • Make a Wish: There are numerous gods in Tariatla that select mortals deserving of aid and grant them a wish, but the manner in which they do so depends on the god. The world is big on free will and self-determination so they won't actually grant the wish so much as make it easier for the wisher to obtain what they want.
    • Fiol, goddess of fire, will essentially make the wisher Hot-Blooded by removing any inhibitions that may be blocking them and amplifying their passion for the wish.
    • Wiol, goddess of wind, will chart the many possible futures and show the wisher the one that will lead to their wish coming true.
    • Eaol, the god of earth, will endow them with the knowledge and experience they need.
    • Tasio, the trickster god, will become a personal Stealth Mentor and work In Mysterious Ways until the results came to fruition in a hilarious (to him at least) manner.
  • Make Sure He's Dead:
    • When Eric fights Tahart Ligo during A Mage's Power, his first target is Tahart's jugular vein. Then Eric stabs him several more times because orcs have "the tenacity of monsters" and Eric can't risk him recovering.
    • During Looming Shadow, Eric again stays behind to make sure that Mr.15 is truly dead. His teammates were unable to find Mr.15's body because Eric vaporized it.
    • It happens again in Mana Mutation Menace, where Eric must exert himself to overcome Gruffle's Healing Factor.
    Eric: Recover from that, troll.
  • Make Them Rot: This is a standard power of Grim Reapers because all things eventually decay and die. It can also be used by nercomancers. During Looming Shadow, Eric steals Reno Grade's Senescence necra podesta and thereby gains the power to decay physical objects.
  • Mana: The source of power for all magic (but not all spiritual skills). It flows from the Sea of Chaos, through the veins of Noitearc, and into world fruit through the Eleven Mana Gates. Then it can be used by the people living in those world fruit as fuel for spells. Its absense on Threa (Eric's homeworld) is the reason why no one on Threa can perform magic.
  • Mark of the Supernatural: If you see someone with Pointed Ears, then they are related, in some way, to chaotic energy and/or trickster gods.
  • Martial Arts and Crafts: In legal trouble, Eric visists his guild's in-house advocate, Reywal. The adovcate's assistant soon makes a fool of himself and Reywal assures Eric that he is skilled in Advocate Martial Arts. Then he says, "kidding! But seriously..."
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: The immediate chain presented is in the Dragon's Lair mercenary company. It is Basilard Bladi->Eric Watley->Zettai Centurion/ Bladi. Looming Shadow extends the chain back two thousand years by stating that Dengel Tymh taught the first batch of Dragon's Lair mages. Then it goes further back to Ariek Valeten, who taught Dengel.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: When Eric mana mutates into a grendel, his personality and worldview premanently change. Even after his sanity is restored, he thinks like a monster. He still has his human memories but they are interperted by his new monster mindset. He soon realizes that the mindset for monsters and mercenaries are strikingly similar and so there is little true change in his core personality.
  • Morality Chain: If Lieutenant Jemas wasn't around to remind Captain Hasina of social niceties like "it's rude to dissect otherworlders" or "don't pass out experimental medicine on street corners" that sort of thing would happen more often.
  • Motive Rant:
    • A Mage's Power: When Princess Kasile and her party corner Duke Selen Esrah during his coup, she demands an explanation for his actions. He talks about how she is a poor excuse for a future queen because of her arrogance and paranoia. He believes that taking the throne from her is for the good of Ataidar. He also doesn't like how she broke his son's heart and leands so heavily on outlaws for protecting the realm instead of nobles like himself. While all of this is true, he's actually Holding the Floor while waiting for his reserve troops.
    • Looming Shadow: The Crimson Killer explains his justifications for his actions to Eric. He's waiting for Eric's teammates to show up so he can arrange an exchange of Eric for the sword BloodDrinker. He's just killing time.
    • Mana Mutation Menace: Nulso Xialin, currently possessed by Order, explains why he is invading a village and enslaving its populace while he does so. Ordercrafter are empowered by Law and Stability, so they are supernaturally compelled by their own magic to justify such actions.
  • Multi-Melee Master: The use of multiple weapons is standard training in the Dragon's Lair mercenary company. At minimum, apprentices will learn mana bolts, basic martial arts (this is how you punch, kick, etc.) and a handheld weapon like a stave or a sword. If the apprentice joins Squads Two or Three they will also learn White Magic or Black Magic. Squad 5 takes this trope Up to Eleven: this group is skilled with everything. That's the requirement to join.
  • Mundane Utility: This verse uses mana in place of electricity, and so magic is used in every appliance and aspect of daily life.
    • The air conditioning in Eric's bridge house is wind magic.
    • Scries (cell phone equivalents) use runes in place of circuitry.
    • Locks use enchanted crystals instead of metal keys.
  • New Super Power: Every time Eric learns/receives new powers there is an adjustment period. In Looming Shadow it was acting like a Cloud Cuckoo Lander while his Enlightenment Superpower settled in. In Mana Mutation Menace, he struggled to come to terms with his Grendel body; the ICDMM had a laboratory and danger room for him to experiment.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Something happened in Najica between Nolien and Tiza while they were in the country on a mission. They refuse to talk about it but it involved their obvious attraction to each other and some manner of danger. It remains a sore spot months later.
    • There's some crisis in the Dragon's Lair kitchen that involves a spoon, and that has happened more than once.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Bladicraft can transform a human into a humanoid mana breed known as a "Bladi". This gives them their own bladicraft in addition to greater physical durability and tenacity. Despite these benefits, the Bladi Clan has only propagated through the old fashioned way because the clan itself considers Bladi Conversion to be the Dark Arts. The transformation is painful, the survival rate is low, and the clan's orthodoxy states that simply sharing their blood would not make the newcomer their family member. In Looming Shadow, Ataidar's Royal Mage requested Basilard Bladi's assistance in using Bladi Conversion as part of a cure for Mana Mutation and he was outright refused. The last person who tried this was unpersoned and the Bladi they created is considered an abomination.
  • Number Two:
    • Retis is the second in command for the Dragon's Lair mercenary guild. He works directly under Ridley the Dragoness and maintains peace within the guild building
    • Samael's title is "Right hand of Death and Overseer of Necrocraft". She is the highest ranking Grim Reaper in Lord Death's Celestial Bureaucracy.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: In the first book of the series, Tasio the Trickster expresses interest in changing Eric's eyes from the Innocent variety to one of these. Sure enough, Eric has developed the "Evil Eye" technique and made great strides in learning magecraft.
  • Omniglot:
    • Zaticana can speak every language that exists as one of her divine authorities. She can bestow this ability on others as a blessing, but it only works for spoken languages. Throwing in the written version would be "too easy".
    • Tasio reveals that he can do this too but only if his sister says he can.
  • Only Smart People May Pass:
    • This happens twice in A Mage's Power:
      • When Eric tries to enter the Temple of Zaticana, his path is blocked by the temple's guards. They declare that "No earthbound mortal may cross this temple threshold." Eric quickly figures out that instead of forbidding mortals to enter the temple, the statement means they want him to jump across, i.e. prove he is not "earth bound".
      • The entrance to the Black Cloaks' hideout is carefully hidden and guarded. To enter without setting off alarms, Eric has to use several spells in combination
    • In Looming Shadow, Eric has to pass several tests of magical knowledge to breach the security measures on Dengel's Lair.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Order and Chaos are in a perpetual Divine Conflict for control over the multiverse contained within Noitearc, the Great Tree That Supports the Worlds. Elves call this "The First War". Chaos desires worlds of infinite possible change and Order desires worlds of permanent and unchangeable stability.
    • A Mage's Power: Eric reads a story that portrays the founding gods Order and Chaos as family in a multiverse origin story while glazing over their animosity.
    • Looming Shadow and Mana Mutation Menace sees mana mutation become the latest front in the First War. If there is a magical illness in your world that can turn people into savage monsters, what is the best way to deal with it? Accept the danger and find a cure or reject it entirely and accept Order's domination?
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: When Eric meets one of these in A Mage's Power, the narration takes care to make a distinction. This is not a creature with the lower body of a horsre and the upper body of a human, but a horse with a human head. It also has a snake for a tail. He thinks Eric is the weirdo.
  • Our Ghosts are Different: There is a difference between a "soul/spirit" and a "ghost". The former is the genuine spiritual essence of the person; their Heart Drive so to speak. The latter is a spiritual echo of the former; it's compared to the residue that milk leaves behind on a glass. Like the glass, long standing buildings need to be cleaned of this residue or it will interfere with magecraft and cause sympathetic hallucinations. The souls themselves are pulled to The Abyss ninety percent of the time. In the case of a real soul hanging around someplace, they're referred to as "mana breed" and included in the federal census.
    • The Unniversity of Roalt's History Department is a designated historical resevior and so it is "haunted" by allumni.
    • One such example of this is "Grey Dengel", the scholarly aspect of Dengel Tymh that was haunting his Cehia Lair. It had no idea it wasn't alive until Eric came along and stirred him into awareness
  • Our Mages Are Different:
    • Generally speaking, mages are like scholars. Everyone has the ability to use magic so the only thing that separates the mages from the muggles is the willingness to sit down and study.
    • Dragon's Lair mercenaries, like Eric, are closer to Athletes because they incorporate magic into martial arts.
    • In some cases, mages are like priests. Lady Sias Daici, for instance, can use silent earth magic because she has lived like a cloistered nun on Mount Daici for years. note 
  • Our Monsters Are Weird The source of all monster are the mutations caused excessive exposure to mana. Mana comes from the goddess, Lady Chaos. Thus, the monsters spawned are very weird indeed.
    • A Mage's Power: boasts of a horse, that has a human head, and a snake tail, and thinks that Eric (a bog standard human) is the weirdo. Eric later sees monsters that look like they were "stitched together by a mad scientist".
    • Looming Shadow has a creature whose fur is premanently shaped into a question mark and a giant pelican that hosts a smaller monser in its beak.
  • Painful Transformation:
    • The transformation caused by mana mutation is always painful because it reshapes the victim's body at random. All the while the brain is receving signals of what's happening, including for ones that it doesn't know how to interpret.
    • Looming Shadow has many examples of how painful this can be. Patrick Lumberson lay halfway between human and fitzger with mana sparking on him like electricity. Kallen encounters a monster in the midst of transforming and mistakes its screams of pain for threatening hisses. The reader sees into Eric's mind when it is shorting out from a mana explosion.
  • Physical Religion:
    • Eric learns first hand how personal the religions based on Tariatla's trickster gods can be. When he goes to the Temple of Zaticana for a blessing, there is no ritual of any kind. Zaticana herself shows up and kisses him on the mouth.
    • Ataidar's government has a Department of Trickster Management and Maintenance because the tricksters are known to cause physical and measurable trouble.
    • "The Trickster made me do it" is a valid legal defense because everyone knows that Tasio is a Manipulative Bastard and Trickster Mentor.
  • Place of Power: Zones were mana gathers into heavy concentrations are known as "Fog Clouds" because the magical energy is so intense that it forms a visible Fog that obscures visibility. Breathing the air within this cloud can send anyone's physical or magical power through the roof. It can also send them over the edge of sanity.
  • Petting Zoo People: These sort of creatures exist in Tariatla and are returned to as "demons" or "beast folk".
    • Oito looks exactly like a lizard, except he's over five feet tall, walks on his hind legs, and can use his claws like human hands.
    • Anuzat is a kangaroo but completely human in behavior. She wears clothing, engages in commerce, and hires bodyguards like the Dragon's Lair mercenaries.
  • Physical God:
    • Tricksters are physical manifestations of the goddess Lady Chaos, whose true form mortals cannot grasp. All of them can fly, teleport and possess Complete Immortality but the level of divine power varies between them depending on their attunement.
    • When reapers manifest in physical reality, they take a physical form and this form is usually whatever the locals think of Death. Regardless of their form, their supernatural ability is far and away beyond any mortal mage.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: This is generally the case with recovered victims of mana mutation. The monsanity (i.e. mental of a monster) of the victim removes any nudity taboo they might have had and think clothes are something to eat.
    • Averted in Looming Shadow, where Kallen has a lengthy discussion with post-mana mutation Eric before telling him to get dressed. Ostensibly, this was for research into the mindset of mana-born demons but you never know...
    • Played straight in Mana Mutation Menace with Tiza and post mana-mutation Nolien. She tosses him a labcoat from a nearby scientist to cover up and then has to insist he put it on because he doesn't see the point.
  • Pointy Ears: Elves and tricksters have the "basically human" type of point. For the former, it's because they are classified as humanoid mana breeds. For the later, it's A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • Power Dyes Your Hair:
    • Kasile would be a pure brunette if not for her Royal Blood. It creates streaks of fire red.
    • Whenever a human becomes a transhuman, their hair color will shift to reflect the color of the power that changed them. Zettai's blone becomes blood red after becoming a Bladi.
  • Power Strain Black Out: Eric casts three spells without chants in quick succession while simultaneously using his burgeoning Casting a Shadow power under the tropical sun, and in a land that lacks mana. He passes out seconds later and when he wakes up, he needs a Mana Potion just to stand up.
  • Psychopomp: The primary role of the Reaper Corps is to guide lost or anchored souls to the Abyss. They only look like grim reapers because that is what most mortals understand. Ideally, they won't have to do any "reaping" of their own but it is sometimes necessary to effect their primary function.
  • Religion Is Magic: The magic used by priests is different from the magic used by laymen in that the priest uses "faith" in place of "will power" in the Three Laws of Magic system. A sufficiently devout priest can even ignore a lack of mana under the right circumstances. Lady Sias Daichi, for instance, can cast high level earth and gravity magic in Ceiha (a land without mana) because she lives like a cloistered nun on Mount Daichi.
  • Power Crystal: In the world of Tariatla there exists a mineral known as "Soiléir" that absorbs magical power and stories it. Eric and Kallen have these in the shape of a clear arrowhead crystal attached to the end of their respective Magic Staff. Eric steals part of a reaper's divinity with it, which gives him access to Make Them Rot necromancy.
  • The Power of Love:
    • Generally speaking, love is one of the domains of Chaos (as is all emotion) and used for holy chaos magic.
    • In the third book, Mana Mutation Menace, Eric's Declaration of Protection to Annala enables him to overcome ordercraft mind control (with chaotic assistance from Annala herself).
    • Also in the third book, The Four Loves are essential to the only known method of curing "monsanity", A.K.A. mental mana mutation. Even after the Face–Monster Turn, there is at least one person that the new monster refuses to attack. This person can then help a specialist restore the victim's sanity.
  • The Powers That Be: The Three Founding Deities (Chaos, Order, and Noitearc) and the Three Natural Order Gods (Life, Death and Time) live beyond the physical world and exist as abstract beings. Though rarely seen they are responsible for daily life. In particular, they are responsible for the events in Eric's life and in the lives of the foes that he faces.
  • Quirky Town: Roalt, capital of Ataidar, has some strange folks in it. The artists make their homes reflect whatever their style and medium might be, the warriors consider a giant snake sneaking in through the waterways as a boon of good fortune, and shenanigans regularly occur in places of worship, because the deities worshipped there are trickster gods.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Revas is a hotblooded cat beastfolk who is quick to extend his claws, whether metaphorically or literally. Oito is a cool headed lizard beastfolk who is reasonable and remains calm in high stress situations. The former has red hair and the latter has blue scales.
  • Red String of Fate: Eric states that there is one of these between his teammates, Tiza and Nolien. After acquiring an Enlightenment Superpower during Looming Shadow, he says "I can see it! The connection is red and strong and" Tiza shoved a biscuit into his mouth to cut off the rest. She doesn't want to acknowledge their UST.
  • Respawning Enemies: Monsters are created by a natural phenomenon called "mana mutation". No matter how many are killed by hunters and the like there will always be more. Studying this monster re-spawning is a major plot point in both Looming Shadow as well as Mana Mutation Menace
  • Ride the Lightning: When Kallen receives a blessing from Ligol, the lightning goddess, one of the abilities this grants her is teleporting via this method. Her body, and that of anyone touching her, transforms into lightning and then strikes where she wants to land. This means she can't use to go anywhere lightning wouldn't be able to reach, such as, a room deep underground.
  • Royal Blood: The royal family of Ataidar traces its origins to Fiol, the country's founder and the avatar of the Grand Elemental Sentience Fire, so it's a big deal. If anyone marries into the family then they don't have the blood and thus possess considerably less authority. Queen Kasile claims that this trope is why Ataidar has a more stable government than Acemo, which is a republic to the north.
  • Saintly Church:
    • The Temple of Zaticana volunteers as translators and advocates literacy.
    • The Brotherhood of Death work as hospices and also police in the case of necrocraft crimes.
  • Savage Wolves: Wolf-like monsers known as Xethras live in the Yacian Cavern and rank as C class monsters. They hunt in packs and are the reason that merchants need to hire professional mercenaries in addition to their own guards if they want to pass through.
  • Seiza Squirm: Kallen Selios, arrogant mana mutation field agent, demonstrates Hidden Depths in this fashion during Looming Shadow. She has to take part in a formal tea ceremony with the lightning goddess, Ligol, while in this position. Failure to do so is punished by lightning strike. She passes effortlessly, while her sidekick, Emily, is less naturally composed.
  • See the Invisible: Defying this trope is something that Eric has to do while on a Rescue Arc. The kidnappers are using surveilance magitek to spot intruders and a diferent sort to spot concealment spells used to hide from the first sort. Thus, Eric creates an invisiblity spell within his personal spirit barrier.
  • Semi-Divine:
    • Kasile is a direct descendent of the fire goddess Fiol, but there's a lot of human blood between the two of them. She's basically mortal but has access to divine magic.
    • Elves in general fit this trope because they carry fragments of Chaos inside them. It makes them into beings that are halfway between humans and tricksters.
  • Screwy Squirrel:
    • Trickster gods in general are like this. Zaticana caused a Curse of Babel because she thought it would be funny, Remoh terrorizes entire cities in the name of "performance art" and Tasio makes water pipes burst or fills buildings with skunks. However, they make sure nobody is hurt and they often have a Trickster Mentor style ulterior motive.
    • Aio is a high energy boy that loves messing with people, especially Eric. One time, he snuck up behind Eric while he was reading and shut the book on his head.
  • Secret Art: Magic has a lot of these.
    • In A Mage's Power, Dengel teaches Eric a tracking spell that cannot be blocked or obstructed by any means. This makes Eric the first person to ever learn it because it is Awesome, but Impractical. Dengel never bothered to name it because he knew no one he taught in his previous life time would ever use it.
    • In Looming Shadow, Grey Dengel teaches Eric "Mana Conversion" which enables him to dissolve physical matter into mana for use in spells. No one else knows this because it is an Enlightenment Superpower that few can achieve with their sanity intact.
  • Secret Test: Team Four is told that their first mission is to determine what snacks their respective captains like in time for their Captain's Meeting. This involves going to each lounge and meeting every person in each Squad. Nolien works out that this is not a mission at all, but more of an orientation; the true purpose was to familarize themselves with the guild and the people that compose it. It's implied that this is why Nolien becomes the team's corporal.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend:
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Basilard considers it his duty as Eric's mentor to encourage the boy's budding relationship with Annala. Likewise, Annala's mother, Nunnal, is eager to see her daughter married off to Eric.
    • Kallen and Mia like pushing Nolien and Tiza together because their red-face denials are amusing.
  • Simple Staff:
    • The quarterstaff is likely the most popular weapon in the Dragon's Lair company. Two of its squads use them for magical combat, one for physical combat , and then a fourth does both.
    • Annala Enaz adds a quarterstaff to her arsenal after becoming a chaos priestess.
  • Sinister Scythe: Scythes are used by reapers and the death priests that assist them. They're as much a symbol of office as a weapon
  • Society of Immortals: Towns such as Dnnac Ledo are populated by elves and much of their culture is about making productive use of eternal life. Adults teach their children to find their "Eternal Hobby", Walk the Earth, and regularly visit their immortal relatives.
  • Sssssnaketalk
    • Oito, the lizard demon, speaks like this, much to Eric's amazement.
    Eric: Huh...they really do talk like that.
    • A royal knight commander, who is also a lizard demon, has this affect. It must be hard to give orders.
  • Sparse List of Rules: The Dragon's Lair Charter has a number of rules governing mercenary behavior but as far as Looming Shadow, only the fourth one has been mentioned: "Never kill the client".
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Some trickster gods are against anyone worshipping them, but their reasons for doing so, and how strongly they feel about it, varies among them.
    • Tasio strongly dislikes it because he advocates free will and self-determination. As such, he discourages people from praying to him for a Divine Intervention by pranking them whenever they so much as say his name.
    • Zaticana's a downplayed case; she's fine with the temple and clergy but she doesn't like the formality. She'd rather have friends than supplicants.
    • Remho doesn't mind at all, because his followers are typically actors and playwrights and he is a director with a corps of muses.
  • Superhuman Trafficking: Tariatla has a brisk trade in the enslavement of elves, who, in this verse, are basically humans infused with chaotic energy. They're immortal and possess a Healing Factor and so they are used for perpetual labor and dangerous operations, as well as "eternal virgins".
  • Superpowerful Genetics:
    • The Bladi Clan is made of humans with Blood Magic. That is, blood magic that is literally in their blood.
    • The royal family of Ataidar has their Royalty Super Power following their bloodline.
    • Elves pass their Seed of Chaos parent to child. In this way, the seed mutates them in the womb.
  • A Taste of Power:
    • Looming Shadow: During an emergency (surprise appearance of a kaiju), Eric and Tiza are granted use of special armor that elevates their abilities beyond what they are used to. They have to give the armor back afterward.
    • Mana Mutation Menace: As part of his Deal with the Devil, Nolien is granted a one-time boost to both his magical power and his supply of mana. He marvels at what he is temporarily capable of and thinks that he won't be this powerful again for decades.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Eric always feels ill after teleporting, and the longer the distance the worse he feels. It's a Running Gag, and unfortunately for him, the teleports get longer as the series goes on. It's treated as similar to motion sickness; some people are more sensitive to it than others. No one else has a problem with it.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • This trope is known locally as "tempting Tasio". Just saying his name is believed to be enough to provoke some petty inconvenice or large scale calamity.
    • When Eric hits rock bottom at the start of A Mage's Power, he believes his day can't get worse. Cue the Rain and Tasio's glee.
    Tasio: Oh you shouldn't have said that!
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Eric had this problem during A Mage's Power. Oliver was not even a house guest but an apartment neighbor and yet he still hung out in Eric's apartment, ate his food, and watched TV late into the night. Eric was too much of an Extreme Doormat to tell him to leave. By the time of Looming Shadow a troll squats in his bridge house, and they "settle it like mercenaries" with a duel.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Creating a portal is one of the most difficult forms of magic. The first person shown to be capable of it was Nulso Xialin, a greater mage and a veteran ordercrafter and even then he needed a Background Magic Field created by his patron god through a monument. With this boost he created a perfectly symmetrical hole between Roalt castle and Southern Ataidar so he could drag Annala through it and towards eternal slavery. For the second portal he tried to drain the required energy from her Seed of Chaos.
  • Transhuman: Zettai used to be perfectly human but the addition of Bladi blood to her system made her more than human. It gave her access to a rare branch of magic and the ability to survive her soul being removed from her body.
  • Trickster Archetype: Tasio the Trickster flies in and out of mortal life, bring hope or despair as he fancies. On an average day, he's just a pest.
  • 20 Bear Asses: The only reason that Eric meets Kallen in Mambi during Looming Shadow is that she's collecting one hundred monsters for mana mutation research. The drop rate for the elemental ice energy that she needs is frustratingly low.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: When Eric talks about how he wants to get stronger and advance through the ranks of his guild, Tasio quotes this trope to tease him about his crush on Annala. Eric denies this is the case.
  • Undead Tax Exemption: Two aversions:
    • A grown person dropping in from another world happens often enough in Tariatla that no one bats an eye at it. It's easy for Eric to gain citizenship papers, a job, an apartment, etc.
    • Vaya is an Artificial Human created by a fugitive in hiding. Thus, when Professor Haburt wants to adopt her, he has to make up a cover story about finding her on the street because she was abandoned by her parents due to the country's regular food shortages. There's no Ceihan paperwork to support this but the scenarnio is plausible enough for Ataidaran paperwork to be created. Since she's a clone of his real daughter, he also has to change her name as well as her hair and eye color so no one suspects a link between them.
  • Unperson: There was a person in the Bladi Clan who did something so horrible that the rest of the clan excommunicated him. After that they did their best to forget about him and even people outside the clan will skirt the issue when the incident comes up. When Basilard Bladi comes face to the face with this person, he insists on addressing him as "The Exile".
  • Unwanted Assistance: Eric gets like this everytime Tasio tries to help him, starting with the first time they met; it ended with him getting fired and looking foolish in front of his crush. Tasio is a Trickster Archetype, so it's hard to tell when he's sincerely trying to help, when it's just for shits and giggles, and when he's in a more mentor-y mood.
  • Uplifted Animal: This trope is the difference between the animals of Eric's non-magical homeworld (Threa) and the animals of the magical world that he finds himself in (Tariatla). There's a certain level of mana saturation that increases the intelligence of animals to a human level. While they still can't communicate with humans, this is more of a language barrier than anything else and in any case it is resolved by Zaticana, the goddess of languages.
  • Uptown Girl:
    • Annala's family is pretty high status in Dnnac Ledo (her mom is an R&D company CEO, her dad's an ambassador, and her aunt is the police chief) while Eric is a Blue-Collar Warlock whose only family is his guild. Little attention is brought to this fact because it's overshadowed by other factors. Her family encourages it because of his devotion to her; the only one to object is her twin, who wouldn't accept anyone on principle.
    • Nolien and Tiza; he's the heir to one of Ataidar's Four Pillars and she is an "alley cat" orphan. Any objections to their not-quite-there-yet relationship were cancelled when Tiza demonstrated that she was only one with enough Power of Love to restore Nolien's sanity after he mana mutated.
  • Was Once a Man: There are all manner of creepy, dangerous, and/or scary monsters roaming Tariatla, and a good many of them used to be sapient. Perfectly civil and friendly, until they were mana mutated. During Looming Shadow, Kallen encounters a monster and is about to kill it, when she realizes that it hasn't transforming yet, and that its threatening roars were actually screams of pain.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: Annala created a bow that makes the arrows nocked to it capable of doing great harm to reapers. She calls it a "Deathkiller bow". While it can "kill them" in terms of destroying their physical body, it cannot (as of Mana Mutation Menace) truly destroy them.
  • Whatevermancy: Tariatla has "Taverncraft", which is an offshoot of "magecraft" otherwise known as "practical magic" (as opposed to "manaology" which is the academic study of mana). It is magic used by people who work in taverns to mix drinks (alcoholic and otherwise). They have magic spells and everything.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Spells are nothing more than a Power Crutch. They help with focus but are ultimately unnecessary. What you really need for magic is to understand the magical theory behind the spells. Novices like Eric need them but experts like Basilard and Dengel do not.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech:
    • For all of A Mage's Power, Eric lacked confidence in his own abilities and leaned heavily on the spirit of Dengel as a Heroic Host. When they have a falling out, Eric musters the courage to confront him, and once he is victorius, he announces that he doesn't need Dengel anymore. He will face the future on his own strength alone.
    Eric: "I don't need your power. I don't need your encouragement. I don't need you. Now begone."
    • Tiza has suffered amensia for years before the series began. It causes her confusion about her past and identity. Then she meets Haburt, who she's subconsciously terrified of but she refuses to admit to it. When he makes his move and recreates a crucial momment from her past, she admits to this fear and steps forward confidently to overcome it. Then he sheds light on her past and tells her the identity of her parents.
  • Upperclass Twit: Tiza has a special name for these kinds of people, "tent", after the big and flouncy clothes they wear. It means "a dainty and/or weak person, most often wealthy, who never does any sort of work and forces others to wait on them hand and foot".
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Gods in general are like this.
    • The innards of Noitearc, the Great Tree that Supports the Worlds, are seen as tunnels of rainbow light by the mortals traveling them. This is because they can't comprehend its true nature.
    • Right in the first chapter of the first book, Tasio's true form is stated to be something "far less pleasing" to behold than his default elven form.
    • Reapers look like The Grim Reaper because that's what humans are familiar with. Being abstract creatures, they shift their physical manifestation in order to appear more comforting (rogue reapers do the same to inspire terror).
  • You Can't Fight Fate: According to Wiol, the goddess of the Element Wind and Knowledge of the Future, there are certain things that are guaranteed to happen, but there are many ways in which they could happen. For instance, say there are two people who are destined to marry each other, they could either do just that, go Undercover as Lovers, engage in Courtly Love, jointly become parental substitutes for the same kid, etc. There is no possible future where something along the lines of "these two people marry each other" does not happen.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Due to the elevated mana levels in Tariatla compared to Threa, humans can be born with any kind of hair color. It has to do with Lady Chaos' influence increasing the genetic variation in hair pigments. Indeed, Ginger Hasina is shocked that people from Threa can't have blue hair.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Whenever Tasio says what great potential Eric has as a trickster, Eric's response is disgust until Transcending Limitations, where he embraces this part of himself.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here:
    • When Eric returns to his home world of Threa, he has to restrict his use of magecraft because his mana will not reload. He's almost out when he returns to Tariatla.
    • Tariatlan mages are careful about using magic inside a Fog cloud because the Background Magic Field is highly charged and unstable. There's no telling what a spell would do in such a place, but the most likely outcome is an explosion that will kill and/or mutate the caster.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: One application of Soulcraft is to force the soul of another from their body using one's own soul. Then it can be eaten for power or imprisoned in another vessel.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/JourneyToChaos