Literature: Mordant's Need

aka: The Mirror Of Her Dreams
Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the ... Wait, who the hell are you?!

Mordant's Need is a fantasy duology by Stephen R. Donaldson, consisting of The Mirror of her Dreams and A Man Rides Through.

Terisa Morgan is a Shrinking Violet living in a mirror-covered condominium. Obsessed with the idea that she is vanishing and that she exists to no one, she works the toneless days away until the night she meets Geraden. He comes through one of the mirrors in her room and persuades her to accompany him back through the mirror to his world, Mordant.

Once in Mordant, Terisa realizes that she is there for a reason the mirror-wielding magicians, called Imagers, believe she is The Chosen One to bring peace to Mordant, which is about to be attacked and is slowly deteriorating under the control of a mad king. Terisa thinks they are mistaken, but she cannot go back, especially after one of the most powerful Imagers, Master Eremis, begins to notice her.


  • Abusive Parents: Both of Terisa's parents, but especially her father, who is described as a cold, sarcastic man.
  • The Alcoholic: The Tor.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Elega, to Nyle.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Artagel is the best swordsman in all of Mordant, but the Monomach is better.
  • Anachronism Stew: Due to the Imagers' ability to access many worlds, at many different stages of development, a lot of anachronistic technology gets pulled into Mordant, but only in isolated examples which cannot be replicated (and advanced technologies have no way to maintain their power, so eventually run down and become useless).
  • Apologises a Lot: Geraden. Almost anything he says in the first half of the book is followed by "sorry." Terisa puts her foot down.
    Terisa: If you apologise more than three times a day, I'm going to kick you.note 
  • Arc Words / Book Ends: Hearing horns.
  • Arranged Marriage: Almost, between Elega and Geraden, before the events of the book. Elega put her foot down, because of Geraden's lack of drive and talent.
  • Badass Boast: After Terisa gives King Joyce a well-earned What the Hell, Hero? for his plan, he replies simply, "My lady, you have not seen me fight." It is then Terisa understands why the man inspires so much Undying Loyalty.
  • Bash Brothers: Argus and Ribuld. They are introduced at the beginning of the story and then treated almost as the same character. They are reasonably good at fighting, at least able to hold off Gart for some time. And the moment they're separated Argus dies.
    Ribuld: He doesn't have any family. Somebody has to bury him.
  • Batman Gambit: Master Eremis seems fond of these, but they don't always succeed ...
  • Berserk Button: Lebbick has a few - mostly dealing with his wife - and fairly violent ones (just ask Saddith. It's an Awesome Moment and Heartwarming Moment when Artagel presses a button that would normally illicit Unstoppable Rage in Lebbick but instead breaks him out of his Despair Event Horizon gently.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: High King Festten. Eremis derisively calls him a "sheepfucker" and states Festten only gets off having sex with animals.
  • Betty and Veronica: Geraden (Betty) and Eremis (Veronica), in a gender-flipped example. Geraden is a loveable, innocent man who trips constantly, has an infectuous smile, and is treated as an "amateur" by many. Eremis is The Casanova, and, while not handsome like Geraden, has no trouble with women. He oozes sexiness, power, and dominance. Fortunately for Geraden, Eremis is also the Big Bad who has been trying to have sex with Terisa before killing her for the entire book. "Betty" is victorious.
  • Big Brother Worship: Artagel gets this a lot from Geraden, and also Nyle.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The castle, Orison, with its secret passageways, dead ends, and misshaped architecture.
  • Black Sheep: Nyle. Instead of being loyal to the King like the rest of the Domne's sons, he chooses to plot insurrection. Both Artagel and Geraden are furious when they find out. Geraden eventually stops his brother, but before Nyle can divulge any more information, he's killed for his trouble.
  • Blue Eyes: Much is made of King Joyce's blue eyes. When he is playing the doddering old fool, they're watery and dull, but still a deep blue. When he drops the act, they become piercing and vibrantly blue.
  • Bookcase Passage: In a non-bookcase example, the secret passage in the Peacock Room. It's used at different times by Terisa, Master Quillon, Gart, and Adept Havelock. Castellan Lebbick knows about it and attempts to use it to prove Terisa is conspiring against the king. Saddith knows about it as well, and tells Master Eremis, who then tells Gart.
  • Break the Cutie: Geraden. He starts deteriorating with Artagel's near-death experience and keeps sliding ... and sliding ... and sliding ... until you think he has nothing left to lose. Then Nyle dies and the shit hits the fan.
  • Breaking Speech: Fails spectacularly when Artagel tries this on the High King's Monomach. He only manages to press the Berserk Button of The Stoic, which makes him even more deadly. However, it does give Nyle time to sneak up on him and stab him in the armpit, the only vulnerable spot between armor plates, to kill him.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Artagel. He is the best swordsman in all of Mordant, among other things, but he never rises in the ranks of the army.
  • Brown Eyes: Terisa and Geraden.
  • Brutal Honesty: Terisa does this to Nyle, saying everything he did, betraying everyone he loved, was a complete Senseless Sacrifice. It almost destroys him, but it also allows him to understand that the people he did it for were complete liars.
  • The Caligula: High King Fessten, though it's only mentioned by other characters and not actually seen.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: On the other hand, Terisa is a really bad liar. Ironically, when Elega knows Terisa's lying, it makes her happy, because lying is being proactive.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Vagel. Eremis when he drops his act.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: For both Myste and Elega, it is exploring the secret passages throughout Orison. Elega uses this to hide from the Tor's men and the Castellan and also poison the water supply; Myste uses it to escape Orison and chase after the "Champion."
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Geraden's constant clumsiness. It may inconvenience him throughout the book, but it has also taught him how to recover quickly, and that makes all the difference when he attacks Nyle.
    • For Terisa, knowing how to play hop-board. It aids her in playing Prince Kragen to a stalemate and therefore saving him face.
  • The Chessmaster: Havelock, even while insane. Joyce heavily relies on him because, as Havelock says, Joyce tries to protect his checkers hopboard pieces, while Havelock is willing to sacrifice them.
  • The Chosen One: Geraden and Terisa, but no one knows how... yet. They are both suspected of harboring hitherto unknown powers of Imagery, and it's said outright that Terisa can sense where mirrors are focused and that Geraden features prominantly in the augury. The disbelief in Terisa and Geraden's powers causes the Congery to pick who they think is The Chosen One. This causes a wall to be blown out of Orison by the half-crazed futuristic warrior and for Geraden and Terisa to almost be killed by the subsequent rock fall.
  • Clairvoyance: Someone's future can be foretold by using a mirror on them then shattering it - each of the shards will show a scene from the future, though a few have no context. Havelock did this with an infant Joyce. It nearly killed Joyce, but thanks to what Havelock did, he knows that Myste will fall for the Champion, Elega will run to Kragen, and someone will try a power play on the throne.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Myste, with her romantic notions.
  • Composite Character: Stead is described as Geraden doing his best Eremis impression and half-succeeding.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Hoo, boy, lots of this.
    • Terisa has to choose between Geraden and Eremis, and Eremis even tries to get her to distrust and/or spy on Geraden because he's an evil bastard.
    • Nyle choosing between serving the King like his father and brothers, or betraying them to Alend for his love, Elega. Unfortunately for him, he chooses the latter and ends up being stabbed.
    • Geraden's choice is the King's orders ... or Terisa.
  • The Corruptible: Gilbur. No one knows by who yet, but he is.
    • Probably Master Eremis.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Geraden. Subverted with Eremis who recognizes Geraden's talent and constantly keeps him from learning his own power.
  • Death by Sex: Eremis' plan is to kill Terisa after having sex with her. Fortunately, Geraden keeps interrupting.
  • Declaration of Protection: Geraden, to the point of assigning two guards illegally to watch over her, and then, after that, his brother Artagel.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Gilbur. Vagel even mentions that Gilbur tends kill his sex partners rape victims, which Gilbur refers to as "male meat".
  • Description in the Mirror: Used rather neatly to show both Terisa's appearance and a large part of her characterisation.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Of all the characters in the book, the Tor gets it worst, and is reduced to a mass of blubbery flesh that gorges on wine.
  • The Dragon: The Monomach, who is a Legacy Character, and Arch-Imager Vagel for High King Festten. Gilbur is Eremis' Dragon, while Eremis is Vagel's Dragon. Oddly, none of the Dragon's are a Dragon with an Agenda.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Everything Terisa dreams about comes true, sort of. They come true but they're different in many ways.
  • Enemy Mine / Fantastic Racism: The Termigan despises Imagers and Alends. He only joins the final battle because he sees Kragen, the Alend Contender, fighting with Mordant's army. Joyce is told Termigan trusts his enemy more than he trusted his King.
  • Enfant Terrible / Self-Made Orphan: Eremis. You know that gigantic Sand Worm he summons at the end of the second book? He first summoned it at age ten. He also deliberately killed his family by creating a house fire.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep / Spell My Name with a "The": The leaders of each of Mordant's provinces are known by the name of their region, ie. The Tor, The Perdon, The Domne, etc.
  • Extreme Doormat: Terisa's mother, which Terisa inherited.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Alend is reminiscent of Turkey and Cadwal is reminiscent of Arabic culture.
  • Fantasy World Map: Subverted. A distinct lack of one, actually. Justified in that the story is told through the eyes of Terisa, and when names of places are thrown at her, the reader is as confused as she is.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: When Geraden and Terisa enter a deserted village, they find a pile of burnt corpses. Geraden guesses they're the ones who didn't get away. Terisa replies they might be the ones who did get away. Geraden's less than pleased at this idea.
  • First Girl Wins: Or First Guy Wins in this case, played completely straight.
  • For the Evulz: Eremis has fun being evil.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • At first the book looks like this, both to Terisa and the reader. However by the end it's pretty clear there's only three factions. Neatly pointed out by Terisa to Master Quillion in quite a touching moment. When Quillion asks Terisa why she didn't tell anyone about Gart trying to kill her again Terisa asks, quite fairly, who Quillion expects her to trust.
    • The Tor is the wild card, behaving in a way even Joyce didn't expect, which both infuriates and warms him.
  • Groin Attack: Terisa does this once to Eremis. It succeeds in making him less trusting. Played for Laughs by Argus.
    Argus: I'm dying! Bastard unmanned me!
    Ribuld: Won't change your life.
  • Guttural Growler: Lebbick, but his bite is still far worse than his bark.
  • Handwave: When Terisa asks how they deal with natural mirrors and reflections (such as water or in each other's eyes), Joyce merely says they avoid trying to find them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Tor. In a tearjerking scene, he asks for a horse and some weapons to make one last charge. Fortunately, it's not a senseless one.
  • Hidden Depths: Invoked by Marganol, who picks Nyle as his new Contender because he sees things in Nyle no one else can see.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The fire cat is killed by having dung thrown on it. The dung ignites and burns the fire cat to death.
    • Imager Eremis sees himself in a flat mirror.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Oh, Saddith knows how to use this to her advantage, and even lectures Terisa on it. After Lebbick beats her up and disfigures her, she bares her maimed breasts to a crowd to highlight what he did.
  • I Shall Taunt You
    • Eremis loves doing this. It's hinted he gets sexually aroused from taunting his victims.
    • Joyce does this gloriously to Festten. He even says he's always wanted to laugh in Festten's face - and he does it without actually laughing.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Havelock comes after Vagel with a feather duster. Later, in an Offscreen Moment of Awesome, he's killed him by impaling him with a tree branch.
    Havelock: (hee hee) I'm coming, Vagel. I'm coming!
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: Used between Prince Kragen and his father. Averted in that Terisa desperately lectures Castellan Lebbick on the one-way usage of such birds.
  • It's All My Fault: Darsint marvels at Joyce's plan. He remarks he'd never think to make himself a target to save his men, and maybe that's why he lost his crew on Pythas, because he wasn't able to.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: As Terisa finds out the hard way ...
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: How Darsint kills the gigantic Sand Worm.
  • The Mad Hatter: Adept Havelock. He went insane after following Arch-Imager Vagel through a flat glass, and now spends his days playing checkers hop-board and talking about sex.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: A strong point of the series, the rules of "imagery" are well defined, interesting and major elements of the plot. Essentially mirrors in Mordant's world don't show whats in front of them but rather show what's happening at a specific point in the same world (if they're flat) or another world (if they're curved). Those with the talent can step into the mirrors themselves, teleporting themselves to the location shown, or teleport a creature or object visible in the mirror to where they are. Working with flat glass carries two dangers: stepping through a flat glass sends you mad unless you are an arch-imager, and should you happen to look in a flat mirror focused on where you're standing and thereby see yourself in the mirror your mind is permanently erased of everything, meaning you are for all intents and purposes dead. In fact, the reason Vagel, Geraden and Terisa are so important is that they can break the rules.
  • Magic Mirror: Geraden believes that Terisa is The Chosen One because she keeps a houseful of mirrors that show her own image and hasn't been harmed.
  • Medieval European Fantasy
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Played with in the series, especially with Terisa. Gets subverted in many ways by the end.
  • Missed the Call: Verdict's still out on who: The Champion or Terisa. Geraden's fate seems secure, though.
  • Neutral Female: Terisa is both a straight example but later uses her passivity as a weapon, highlighted when she tricks Eremis into seeing his own reflection in a mirror.
  • Nice Guy: Oh, Geraden ... Unfortunately, he begins a very dramatic downwards slide after his brother Artagel is injured, and the subsequent plots around Nyle that begin to pop up.
  • No Sense of Humor: Joyce, according to The Domne. However, he notes, that Joyce has a great sense of joy.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Subverted. Havelock is insane in that he can't communicate lucidly anymore save some brief periods. However, he's still The Chessmaster and is able to keep to his plan and react.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Havelock when he's lucid. Just don't ask him any questions.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Green, child-like creatures that absorb every living being they touch and multiply by splitting themselves like bacteria.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Terisa, all the way.
  • Rape as Drama: It's a Donaldson story, what do you expect? Notable in that both Terisa and Geraden's brother Nyle are threatened by it.
  • Really Gets Around: Saddith and Eremis
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given by both Eremis and Nyle. Eremis' speech has to do with convincing Terisa that Geraden and Gilbur have been plotting together all along and is effectively an attempt to get her on his side. Nyle's speech is given to Geraden as to why he is betraying the king instead of aiding him like all his other brothers. Both times, the recipients of such speeches are unmoved.
  • Rebellious Princess:
    • Elega. Especially since it turns out she's been plotting against King Joyse the entire time with Prince Kragen and Nyle.
    • But also Myste, when she goes after the Champion and attempts to reason with him.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Artagel wants a third go-around with Gart, the High King's Monomach. Everyone thinks it's a bad idea. They're right.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The Perdon's fate, as a good man trying to help his King by betraying him is murdered along with all his men by the bad guys.
  • Royal Blood: Played straight with Elega, Torrent, and Myste. Subverted in Alend, where heirs - and not necessarily the king's sons - have to fight over who gains the throne. This provides the (innocent) reason why Prince Kragen arrives in Orison.
  • Safety in Indifference: Terisa developed her 'fading' as protection from her emotionally abusive parents, and is now sometimes able to invoke it at will, however other times it occurs spontaneously (hence why her apartment is full of mirrors - to prove she still exists when it comes over her).
  • Skyward Scream: When Tor brings his eldest son, who is dead and badly mutilated, to Joyce, the latter lets out one, and it looks like he'll finally take action, til Havelock reminds him he has to play hop-board. We later learn that Havelock is reminding Joyce there is a plan and to stick with it, and that Joyce's biggest weakness is that he must protect his loved ones, no matter the cost.
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: In a rare male example, Eremis is this to Terisa. She dreams about him and even dresses up in her sexiest gown and goes to his room, but finds him having sex with Saddith.
  • Snow Means Death: An interesting inversion on this trope. When Terisa arrives in Mordant, it's near the end of winter. All of its inhabitants are hoping for a late snowmelt, because the longer that the snow is on the ground, the harder it is for Alend and Cadwal to use the roads to attack Mordant.
  • Space Marine: The Champion
  • Super Soldier: The High King's Monomach, Gart. He is the most skilled swordsman there is out there, and his Apts are no less deadly. For Mordant, this exists in the form of Artagel, Geraden's eldest brother, although he's not as good as Gart, as revealed when they meet twice and both times Artagel is defeated.
  • Thicker Than Water: played straight with Artagel guarding Terisa for Geraden's sake and almost dying for it. Also with Nyle, when he comes back to save Geraden and Terisa from the strange monsters. Inverted with Terisa's parents being completely loveless and Elega betraying her father for Prince Kragen.
  • Title Drop / Shout-Out: The poem from John Meyers Meyer's Silverlock kinda, sorta name drops the titles of both books.
    Steeped in the vacuum of her dreams,
    A mirror's empty till
    A man rides through it.
  • Took a Level in Badass: When Terisa returns briefly to her world, she's shocked that her former employer, a Mission for the Poor Reverend, actually stood up to her father and had him auction her apartment. It gives her no shortage of joy and pride in him.
  • Triang Relations: Type 7, with Terisa as A, and Geraden and Eremis as B and C.
  • Trickster Mentor: Adept Havelock, being a blend between this and a Mad Scientist.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Joyce was so popular that even in his profoundly senile state, the Tor, Myste, Geraden and Lebbick support him, thick and thin.
    • Geraden's brothers. Eremis asks Artagel why he doesn't trust him. Artagel's response is simple: because Geraden doesn't.
  • The Unfavorite: Eremis — although he's able to work around it with his wits — and Nyle.
  • Up to Eleven: Terisa knows that all of The Domne's sons, including Geraden, take their traits to the extreme. Minnick is an obsessive homebody and farmer, Artagel is a Lovable Rogue and Swashbuckler extraordinaire, Stead is an extreme Lovable Sex Maniac, and so on.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Lebbick, making him scarier than anyone in the book.
  • The Vamp: Saddith. She sleeps with men to rise in social position.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Nyle and Elega.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Thanks to King Joyse's gambit, he gets a lot of it, before and after his Xanatos Gambit is revealed. To his credit, after he ends his act, he accepts full responsibility for his action, and apologizes to all injured parties, most of all Nyle.
  • The Wonka: Havelock. Just don't ask him any questions.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Darsint, which saves Myste's life.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: The High King's Monomach. It's the way Terisa is able to identify him.

Alternative Title(s):

The Mirror Of Her Dreams