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Literature: Nightrunner
A series of Heroic Fantasy novels by Lynn Flewelling that follows the adventures of two Loveable Rogues and their friends and allies.

A 16-year-old orphan named Alec is imprisoned and tortured for a crime he didn't commit. But just as he's starting to welcome the idea of his inevitable death, he is made to share his cell with the real criminal — a man named Seregil, who breaks them both out of their prison. Seregil, a spy/thief for hire, recognizes the innate thieving skills Alec possesses, and offers to take him on as his apprentice. Alec accepts, and is immediately drawn into deadly intrigues, an impending war, and a secret society of spies and wizards.

Seven books and a short stories anthology have been published so far. The second book is a sequel to the first, and the remaining are standalone. The seventh is supposedly the final book in the series.
  • Luck in the Shadows (1996)
  • Stalking Darkness (1997)
  • Traitor's Moon (1998)
  • Shadows Return (2008)
  • Glimpses (2010), short stories anthology
  • The White Road (2010)
  • Casket of Souls (2012)
  • Shards of Time (2014)

Flewelling has also written a spinoff, the Tamķr Triad, set in the same universe during a different time period.

This series is not to be confused with the more recent Night Runner, which is about vampires.

This series provides examples of:

  • A Lighter Shade Of Gray: Both Skala and Plenimar have no qualms to use war to further their interests, can be/are ruled by overly ambitious or incompetent rulers, use gruesome punishments, and are plagued with intrigues. However, the Skalans are presented as being more chivalrous and humane towards war prisoners and civilians, whereas slavery is well and alive in Plenimar and the Plenimaran soldiers are universally cruel.
  • Above Good and Evil: The Four Gods, who patronise both good and bad things (e.g. Illior/Aura gives light and knowledge but is a patron of thieves and madness; Sakor guards the hearth and brings the sun but favours Blood Knights etc). Also how rulership in Skala is decided: the Immortals only cares that it's a Queen from Thelamios bloodline, not whether she's a good or bad leader. Even if a man usurps a throne for good reasons, Bad Things will happen.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewage system of Rhiminee, according to the design of Queen Tamir the Great. In Stalking Darkness. "Why did they build it so big?" "So that the poisonous humours that can collect do so overhead, and the air down here is good." (Paraphrased, natch.)
  • Action Girl: Beka, Princess Klia and many others. Being one is actually a requirement to be Queen of Skala to the point where one princess is not actually in the line of succession because she lacks military prowess.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Lerans, the Guardian.
  • Animorphism: Nysander in particular is fond of this kind of magic. His Intrinsic Nature spell changes a person into the animal that most reflects their personality. He also changes Alec and Seregil into owls at one point to save them from falling to their deaths.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. Alec in particular proves just how lethal a skilled archer can be. Also, the Plenimarans dip their arrowheads in feces, specifically with the intent of causing infected wounds. This is what leads to Queen Idrilain's death.
  • Back from the Dead: Alec, courtesy of Sebrahn.
  • Bad Moon Rising: The comet, called a plague star.
  • Badass Princess/Lady of War: Practically obligatory in the matriarchal monarchy of Skala. Even when not in armor or military uniform, the female Skalan royals (and many of the nobility) are not to be underestimated, as most have extensive combat training and experience. Teenage Princess Elani greatly enjoys working archery contests, hunting or sword practice into her courtly activities much more than lounging about gossiping.
  • Battle Couple: Seregil and Alec. Beka and Nyal. Some others among the minor characters, such as Mirn and Steb.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The prophecy of the Guardian, the Shaft, the Vanguard, and the Guide
  • Big Brother Mentor: Seregil for Alec
  • Big Damn Kiss: Twice. First short before the climax of Stalking Darkness, resolving the long lingering UST, second in Shadows Return just before Alec gets killed.
  • Bi the Way: Seregil, Alec (after he gets over his Dalnan prudery), and a couple minor characters. Appears to be quite normal in Skalan and Aurėnfaie society.
  • Black Speech: The language of Plenimar is reminiscent of this.
  • Blood Knight: In Skala they are considered to be Sakor touched. Many characters have mild elements of this trope like Beka, Klia, Myrhini, and even Micum.
  • Blood Magic: Necromancy, practiced by the Plenimaran elite. Mild variations (e.g. tracking people using their blood) are practiced by Oreska wizards though it's generally frown upon and the Aurėnfaie completely shun blood magic.
  • Can Not Spit It Out: Seregil has this as a chronic condition.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Akhendi charm bracelets.
  • The Clan: The various Aurėnfaie clans, complete with hats in the form of headscarves.
  • Colonel Badass: Princess Klia, of course. She loves battle and is *very* good at it.
  • Comforting Comforter: Seregil to Alec.
  • Cool Big Sis: Adzriel to Seregil. Beka takes this role for Alec too and it's implied her little sister Illia looks up to her that way.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nightrunning as well as being a Watcher cannot afford honourable fights. Seregil manages to instill this fighting philosophy to those he teaches (Alec and Beka).
  • Creepy Child: Sebrahn. He lives off Alec's blood, can cure any illness or injury and even bring people back from death, and kills men just by singing.
  • Cultured Badass: Seregil to a tee. Can fight like a demon and is a well known patron of arts, is well versed in gourmet food, and speaks a multitude of languages. He trains Alec to be the same. Also the Skalan nobles and royalty that are in the army. They have the education that befits their status and plenty of badass skills.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It would be easier to list the ones that do not indulge in this. Even high queen type Idrilain cannot help herself when two forgers declare their loyalty to her after they had been linked to the Lerans. Seregil and Thero engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat any time they are in proximity to each other. One person who never snarks is the eternally good natured Nysander.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Tym the thief has a healthy dose of respect and a smidge of loyalty toward Seregil after being defeated by him.
  • Disguised in Drag: Seregil in his Lady Gwethelyn persona is very convincing. Captain Rhal is very taken, and Alec finds him appealing even though he knows that Seregil is a man.
  • The Dragon: Vargūl Ashnazai for Duke Mardus
  • Double Entendre: At one point in the second novel Seregil is asked by Alec why he is heading to a brothel specializing in males for males, after having just spent time in one of a more traditional variety. He replies by saying that "Fowl never tastes as savory when you're hungry for venison." Given that Alec's animal form is a deer...
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Ylinestra puts Alec (a sixteen year old boy) under a spell and has sex with him while he is under the influence. And yet everyone seems to treat it lightly. Seregil even debates whether he should tease Alec about it. Nysander is annoyed that Ylinestra would use magic on an unwilling subject. Alec is a bit upset, but gets over it in no time.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Seregil. Frequently. Generally focused on Alec.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Well, almost everyone.
  • Fantastic Racism: Many Aurėnfaie consider themselves superior to Tirfaie (humans), in some parts of Aurėnen half-breeds are treated with disdain, though this is not true of all clans. Conversely, the Plenimarans prize the Aurėnfaie as slaves (and sacrifices for necromantic rites) and conduct slaving raids into Aurėnen as well as breeding 'faie slaves much as they would horses. Also, the Leran plots are based on the fact that the Skalan royal line has Aurėnfaie blood. The Hāzadriėlfaie though take the cake on racism, although it is revealed that this is because they have more dragon blood than other Aurėnfaie and can be used for some seriously messed up magic, hence they studiously avoid most other peoples, including other Aurėnfaie.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The Four: Astellus the Traveler, Dalna the Maker, Illior the Lightbearer and Sakor of the Flame are the primary deities worshiped by the peoples of the Three Lands. However, many Plenimarans have taken to following a foreign god, Seriamaius, the Eater of Death and patron of Necromancers, in the hopes that he will bring their nation victory over Skala and Mycena. There are also minor gods, such as Bilairy, who guards the gate to the afterlife. The Aurėnfaie are either henotheistic or monotheistic, worshiping only Aura (Illior) and none of the other gods.
  • Freaky Friday: Seregil and Thero
  • Friend to All Children: Alec all over the place. Micum too has a very soft spot for children, thanks to being a father of five.
  • Functional Magic: Multiple varieties. Inherent Gift magic is standard with the Aurėnfaie. The human Third Orėska wizards combine this with Rule Magic. Theurgy is employed by the Drysians and the Rhui'auros. Necromantic Arts are popular in Plenimar. Alchemy is studied by some wizards, and there are also dedicated specialists to this magical discipline. Magic Music is practiced by centaurs and the human Retha'noi mountain people.
  • Gayngst: Happens to Seregil when he falls in love with Micum and later Alec.
  • Gentleman Thief: Seregil
  • Genuine Human Hide: The ancient dyrmagnos Rhazat appears as a beautiful woman by literally wearing the necromantically transferred skin that she flayed off of Nhandi the Wise, the last Hierophant.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Seregil and Alec at the end of book seven. And BOY do they have reason to be glad.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Amusingly, Seregil and Thero have this dynamic. Seregil is good-looking and sociable whereas Thero is serious and bookish. They compete for Nysander's attention and always try to one-up each other.
  • God of Evil: Seriamaius. Worshiped with torture and human sacrifice. His eventual goal is to strip the bones of the world.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Phoria seems to be a mild version of one. She loves war, hates the sister by a different father who rivals her in popularity and thus can aim for the throne, bullies her weaker siblings, does not listen to perfectly sound advice if it goes against her perceptions. Also seems unable to see the bigger picture and long term consequences.
  • Going Native: Seregil, an Aurėnfaie, can blend in almost anywhere in human territory, and is particularly knowledgeable about Rhiminee life. He's also completely adapted to the human way of thinking and action to the point that other 'faie in Aurėnen find him strange.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Slightly subverted. Seregil already has an eye on Alec at that point and is very aware of it, but too concerned about exploiting Alec to act on his attraction. Still, him being jealous when a male prostitute gets touchy-feely with Alec is new (but then it again takes a good while for Seregil to admit that he is in love and not just in lust). However, during this same scene Alec likewise finds himself jealous of the men around Seregil and starts to question his own feelings.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Alec, half 'faie
  • Happily Married: Micum and Kari, Seregil and Alec (or, well, happily talķmenķos-bonded), Beka and Nyal and probably soon Thero and Klia.
  • Happiness in Slavery: BRUTALLY subverted with Alec's Master in "Shadows return" who expects Alec to be calm and cheerful at the prospect of a life as a test subject for Yakobins alchemic endeavours. And then there's his pet slave Khenir who will be freed soon and is happy at the prospect... but well... it still ends up a solid case B. Most 'faie slaves are either a type B or C and in general: et's just say, Mrs. Flewelling gets the point across that slavery is shit no matter how kind a slave owner deems themselves to be.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: The Functional Magic levels in this world are fairly high and magic can be readily used to, for example, transform people into animals or even inanimate objects. But healing is rarely a quick fix affair. In particular it is not always effective at curing diseases or poisoning. Hence the incredible value of a successfully created rhekaro.
  • Helping Hands: The Dyrmagnos
  • Heroic BSOD: Happens to Seregil after Nysander's death.
  • High Priest: The ancient Hierophants were effectively priest kings/queens of the early Three Lands and leaders of the worship of the Four. In modern times the individual gods have their own High Priests in each nation. Averted with the Aurėnfaie, whose Rhui'auros are the most committed clergy of Aura (Illior), but are mystics that have little to do with regular society.
  • The High Queen: Gherilain the First, Tamir, Idrilain the Second during the series, Princess Klia also has shades of this.
  • Honor Before Reason: Of all people Seregil throughout almost all of Traitor's moon - granted he acts this way to prove to the Aurėnfaie that he does have honor, unlike what they think of him and hopes to get his exile lifted - but damn when it includes letting himself being beaten up by a hostile party without even defending himself or returning to face an almost certain death sentence after running away - to do the RIGHT thing and prevent a war - because his honor says so - we really are with Alec and Nyal and all the folks who call Seregil out on it. And they are many.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: Alec's mother Iriya a Shaar was murdered by her own brothers for breaking the law and becoming pregnant with a half human child. Alec's father Amasa kills them in revenge later.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Alec and Ylinestra.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Ulan ķ Sathil develops this, and it motivates his involvement with a Plenimaran alchemist who is working to create a rhekaro, a magical creature with extraordinary healing powers. The experiment is a success, but Ulan never manages to benefit from it.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Alec, to underline his innocence despite his aptitude to be a spy.
  • Infant Immortality: Both averted early on and later played straight in Stalking Darkness.
  • It's All My Fault: Seregil. Often.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Averted.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Seregil and Alec. Most Aurėnfaie, really.
  • Long Lived/Wizards Live Longer: Aurėnfaie and Orėska wizards (who have Aurėnfaie ancestry anyway). It is unclear if other magic users have extended lifespans as well, although Necromancers may become undead.
  • Love Potion: The enchantment spell Ylinestra uses on Alec in the second book. She also wears at all times a magically alluring perfume. It is enthralling to men and sickening to women.
  • Loveable Rogue: The whole idea behind the series.
  • Lover and Beloved: The relationship between Seregil and Alec. It causes Seregil a good amount of angst.
  • MacGuffin: The various items that make up the Helm.
  • Mad Oracle: The human Oracle of Illior and the Aurėnfaie Rhui'auros, both of whom follow the same god of magic, knowledge and madness.
  • Magic Pants: Averted frequently, much to Alec's embarrassment.
  • Mangst: Seregil, oh gods, Seregil! It drives Alec, and pretty much everyone else, crazy at times.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ilar.
  • Master of Disguise: Seregil. The wizards also have a nifty spell that changes people's appearances.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Beka and Nyal. Thero and Klia.
  • Mind Rape: Vargūl Ashnazai's preferred method of torture.
  • Modest Royalty: Up to Eleven, only one of the royals that gets screen time seems to wear finery. The rest have a strong preference for military uniform.
  • Naļve Newcomer: Alec.
  • Never My Fault: Ilar blames Seregil for him being enslaved because Seregil inadvertently killed someone instead of just causing an embarrassment for his clan as planned. Nevermind that Seregil was very young and naive and manipulated into the whole thing by Ilar himself and that the slavery was orchestrated by Ulan, the person behind the plot to cause scandal for Seregil's clan.
  • No Biological Sex: Sebrahn. Also, the Four Gods, who are each said to be either or both genders.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When Ashnazai is killed, the magical barriers he put in place are weakened.
  • No Sense of Direction: Though being an expert tracker in the wood, Alec tends to get lost in big cities. However, he will learn the way after enough time.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Iia'sidra. As a fairly large nation where a significant chunk of the population can use magic, Aurėnen could easily be the dominant power in the region, eclipsing any or all of the Three Lands. But the many clan divisions and the contentious politics of the Iia'sidra tend to prevent the Aurėnfaie from acting as a unified nation.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Seregil and Alec pretend to be cultured nobles who are nonetheless naive about politics as part of their cover.
  • The Obi-Wan: Nysander.
  • Oh My Gods!:
    • "Illior's Finger!"
    • "Sakor's fist!"
    • "Bilairy's balls!"
    • "By the Maker!"
  • Old Retainer: Runcer, Seregil's butler counts. Also Lady Kassarie's servants.
  • Older than They Look / Really 700 Years Old: The 'faie, and wizards.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The young ones are as common as lizards in Aurėnen, and roughly as intelligent. They do not become intelligent or develop magical powers until they reach a very large size and age, which only a few do.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The Aurėnfaie are typically beautiful, live for several hundred years, and were the first beings to possess magic. However, Flewelling herself has expressed distaste for stereotypical elves. Thus, while the Aurėnfaie are an entire race of Pretty Boys and Beautiful Girls, they do not possess such features as pointy ears and can pass for human with little effort. They also have a more diverse culture based on clans, many of which favor interests that in no way resemble "classic" elves, and even the clans appear to have some internal diversity. This surprises some characters.
    Seregil: You seemed to think we were all great mages or nectar-sipping fairy folk.
  • Our Gods Are Greater: Lots of differences of opinion here. The Four: Astellus, Dalna, Illior and Sakor are the traditional deities of the Three Lands. However, Illior and Sakor are definitely favored in Skala, whereas people in Mycena and the northern regions prefer Astellus and Dalna. The ruling class of Plenimar, a nation in which most people worship the Four as well, instead favor the foreign god Seriamaius because of the power he promises. Meanwhile, the Aurėnfaie exclusively worship Aura (Illior) and it appears to vary from person to person whether or not they even believe in the other gods. At the same time, the Retha'noi are quite adamant that their moon goddess is not the same deity as Aura/Illior.
  • Our Liches Are Different: The dyrmagnos are undead evil necromancers. They're almost impossible to kill, so the typical method of dealing with one is to cut it up into pieces and then scatter them far away from each other. Over centuries of time the (un)life will gradually fade from the pieces.
  • Overly Long Name: In the south a highborn person's name includes the given name, the names of same-sex parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and place of birth, much to Alec's perplexity. The standard way of politely referring to someone would be e.g. Seregil i Korit or Klia ä Idrilain. Alex has the abbreviated name of "Alec i Amasa Kerry" as he doesn't know all the names.
  • Parental Favoritism: Queen Idrilain clearly favored Klia over Phoria, a fact Phoria is very aware of.
  • Parental Abandonment: Seregil's father turned his back on him.
  • Patronymic: The standard naming system in Aurėnen and Skala. Women use matronymics.
  • Pretty Boy: Seregil is slender with long wavy hair and fine features, and he can pass as a beautiful woman with just a dress and some makeup. Also Alec, and most 'faie.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Seregil and Alec's relationship. Seregil even chooses to disbelieve a small portion of the Illorian Oracle's prophecy because he couldn't accept that he and Alec would end up together (despite being obviously attracted)
  • The Prophecy: A few. One is the reason Skala is ruled by a line of warrior queens. Then there's the prophecy of Seriamaius's return that drives the plot of the first two books. And though they've never actually given a prophecy about him, it's clear the oracles at Sarikali have at least some knowledge of Seregil's future. And the prediction about Sebrahn that Alec misinterprets.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Well, almost everyone. Micum seems immune.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Aurėnfaie, Aurėnen, Orėska, Rhui'auros, etc.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Alec is incensed when he discovers that the first house Seregil has him burgle is Seregil's own.
    • Seregil himself isn't too pleased that his beloved mentor Nysander is very cagey about the meaning of the symbol on the disc that nearly gets him and Alec killed, going as far as threatening to kill him if he tries to uncover the mystery. Later Seregil has an even nastier shock when it turns out that Nysander plans to get himself killed by Seregil's hand to permanently destroy the Helm.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Queen Idrilain, who executes traitors without mercy but would listen to advice and petition. Likewise, her eldest son Prince Korathan, despite being very loyal to his twin sister Phoria, does recognise and employ people who genuinely want to work for the good of Skala.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: The choice Seregil gives Alec at the very beginning.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Let's see now...
    • Book two: Seregil and Alec
    • Book four: Beka and Nyal
    • Book six: Klia and Thero
  • Religion is Magic: The drysians that serve as clergy of Dalna have magic that is separate from the Orėska magic that humans received from crossbreeding with the Aurėnfaie. The high priestess of Illior is shown as unleashing a magical attack at one point, and there are also oracles who receive prophetic insights. The Aurėnfaie Rhui'auros are explicitly called "wizard-priests". Necromancy is supposedly the gift of the god Seriamaius, and most necromancers worship him. However, their rituals lean more towards Blood Magic, Summon Magic and manipulation of Life Energy than directly invoking their deity for magic.
  • Rescue Romance: Alec and Seregil. The rescuing is mutual.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Lord Seregil and Sir Alec of Ivywell, the personas used for moving among nobles.
  • The Rival: Thero to Seregil, for Nysander's affection and recognition.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The entire Skalan royal family. The Queen is also a general, as is the Princess Royal. In fact, each of her six children (bar one) is in the Army, and half of them die on the field of battle.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Rhazat, the ancient dyrmagnos who brought the art of Necromancy and the worship of Seriamaius to the Three Lands. The last Hierophant and her Aurėnfaie wizard lover imprisoned her in a Pocket Dimension that mirrored the sacred isle of Kouros. The creation of the prison triggered a cataclysm that caused the island to be virtually abandoned for a long time. But then simple natural erosion broke the magical seal on the Kouros side of the barrier allowing Rhazat to begin to exert influence on the island, which was once again inhabited and recently reclaimed by Skala, and prepare to make her escape.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Beka looks pretty in a dress.
    • Alec and Seregil use this trope to their advantage when playing different personas.
  • Shoot the Dog: Nysander's death.
  • Spy Fiction: Mostly of the Stale Beer flavor.
  • The Spymaster: Nysander and later Magyana (for a short while) and Thero, who manages an intelligence network known as the "Watchers". It's a hereditary post pass from master to disciple and the Watchers are active well beyond Skala borders. They work not only to uncover political plots but also to collect scholarly knowledge.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted. Nysander survives an all-out assault on his home to take part in the final battle of the second book, although he is badly weakened. Thero survives a deadly poison almost all by his own power. He even says it to the effect of "Why do you think wizards live so long? Because we're hard to destroy".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Alec's parents, Ireya ä Shaar and Amasa of Kerry.
  • Stern Chase: The first half of Luck in the Shadows.
  • The Stoic: Rieser the Hazad is a hardcore stoic.
  • Street Urchin: A network of them in Rhķminee.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Thryis and her family.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Seregil.
  • Taking the Bullet: Or rather, the arrow: near the end of Shadows Return.
  • Thinking Up Portals: The most common use of the Translocation spell works this way, creating a portal through which people and objects can move. This is because it is based on an older spell that created a "window" between two distant locations for the purposes of remote viewing and communication.
  • Time Abyss: Applies to all of the "dyrmagnos", necromancers turned into extremely long-lived, dried out, black husks. Prime example however would be Rhazat at an age of over 1000 years. She's the Mother of necromancy, bringing the art to Plenimar in the first place.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Most of the prostitutes/courtesans from the Street of Lights fit this trope. They make rather a lot in terms of cash and gifts from their patrons, who are mostly nobles or rich merchants and are free to selectively pick and choose who they will take as clients. There are, however, regular prostitutes patronized by the lower classes who do not fit this trope.
  • The Vamp: Ylinestra.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: As a child, Seregil always tries to please his father who he thinks blames him for his mother's death and thus is always cold and critical toward him. It proves to have disastrous consequences. Seregil retains a bit of this trait in his affection for Nysander.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Seregil, by Aurėnfaie standards. The faie typically not only live long but also mature more slowly than humans. At around 60 years-old, Seregil would normally be considered only a young adult in Aurėnen. However, Seregil's life in Skala, especially his spy career, has gained him lots of life experiences. Likewise, Alec is advised not to talk about his actual age when visiting Aurėnen, since he would literally be regarded as a child despite being almost an adult by Skalan standards.
  • Wizarding School: The Orėska House, of course.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: Book one, chapter one.

The Night of WishesFantasy LiteratureNights at the Circus

alternative title(s): Nightrunner
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