After ten years in exile, tired, aging Sir Sparhawk returns to his dirty, polluted home city of Cimmura to find that things have changed quite a bit in his absence. The incompetent King Aldreas has died under mysterious circumstances, and his youthful heir Ehlana is on the verge of death, her life preserved solely by an extremely risky spell. The city—and the kingdom of Elenia it rules—now is controlled in all but name by the corrupt Primate Annias of the Elene Church, who's put a puppet ruler in control and is stripping the treasury bare to pay for his private campaign for the head of the Church. And his ally, the fallen Pandion Knight Martel, is stirring up trouble across the continent to discredit and ultimately destroy the Church Knights to which Sparhawk belongs.Gathering a party of various companions, including champions of the Church Knights, sorcerers of Styricum, street thieves, and his squire, Sparhawk sets out- both to thwart the designs of Annias, and to find a cure for the queen's suspicious illness. But increasingly, he and his companions are embroiled in a shadowy world of magic, powerful artifacts, and the evil God that craves them.A Spiritual Successor to The Belgariad, the Elenium is nonetheless quite distinct and arguably serves as an example of David Eddings at his best. It is both darker and more medieval in feel while still avoiding a Crapsack World, and contrasts the usual callow protagonist on a climb to greatness with its own cast of predominantly seasoned, somewhat cynical professionals. Particularly notable in that none of the knights—who are, essentially, paladins—are Lawful Stupid, and that political action is increasingly as important to the story as classical adventuring.There is a sequel trilogy called the Tamuli (which is covered here too).
Accidental Marriage: Sparhawk accidentally proposes to Ehlana when, instead of returning her ancestral ring, twin to one he owns that symbolizes the link between their families, he instead puts his ring on her finger. Played with in that it's only accidental on his side. She knows from the beginning that he made a mistake, but she keeps him on the hook because she had wanted to marry him anyway.
Action Girl: Mirtai in The Tamuli. It helps that her entire race is like this - slavers who attack a group of teenage Atan girls with dreadful intent wind up as eunuchs.
Adipose Rex: Otha, the Emperor of Zemoch, is what happens when you take the villainous type of this trope and give him several centuries to perfect his laziness and corruption. He needs several strong men to carry his litter around (having long ago lost the ability to move under his own power) and is frequently described as a "slug" by the other characters.
Advantage Ball: The Church Knights, by dint of their training, reputation, and armor, which is not only protective but intimidating as well, tend to Curb Stomp any enemy force in combat, regardless of the opposition's numbers, equipment or tactics. The individual Knights tend to do this as well.
The Lamorks as well, by virtue of using crossbows, which can pierce even the armor of the Church Knights.
The Cyrgai possessed this in the distant past due to their advanced military strategies which made them a major threat to their more primitive neighbors. Most modern races hold the ball in comparison to the Cyrgai due to changes in military tactics and equipment.
Alas, Poor Villain: After everything Martel has done, when he lies dying Sparhawk and Sephrenia both gather to his side and mourn his death. Sephrenia even grants him her blessing, which she had withheld after Martel's fall from grace.
All it takes to get Krager to spill his entire life story is a barrel of Arcian red wine. And some cash, maybe. But mostly the wine. While he gets away at the end of The Tamuli, it's mentioned that the drink has taken its toll on his body, and he isn't likely to live long.
Also King Wargun of Thalesia, who reaches the same state between the two series.
All Are Equal in Death: Invoked in-universe when Sparhawk has to sneak into the catacombs under the Cimmura Cathedral.
Elenian Trolls are twice as tall as a human, covered in fur and leathery hide, immortal (though ''not'' invulnerable), and they live in the frozen mountains of Thalesia where packs have to live miles apart from one another because they'll usually kill each other on sight. They're also distantly related to humans and have not only their own culture but their own gods.
And let's not even get into the Ogres. They're even bigger.
Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted with the Zemochs, who look like this at first but later turn out to be harmless after the Evil Overlord and his god that were ruling them were... forcibly removed. Played largely straight with the Cyrgai, though they're more like Always Stupid Evil as a result of centuries of inbreeding and fanaticism.
Happens to a Big Bad at the end of The Tamuli and to another minor villain. The Troll-Gods set them on fire (and in the minor villain's case, shove him into "No-Time," a kind of frozen moment) so that they will run and burn alone forever.
Anti-Hero: Sparhawk, of the "Disney Anti-Hero" variety. He's got hard edges and can be rather petty or ruthless when he feels it's called for, but at heart he's an honorable man who lives for his duty to his knighthood, his nation, and especially his Queen.
Very averted. Armor is key to the Church Knights' way of battle, and while Atans fight in light armor they never actually clash with heavily armored troops and have the advantage of sheer size anyways.
Played straight with Azash's undead guardians in the end of the first trilogy. They all wear huge menacing armor with spikes that look very frightening, because that's what the Zemochs thought armor was for - but they never understood the real purpose for armor, so the Zemoch armor is clumsy, incredibly unwieldy, and doesn't even protect properly; all those spikes only serve to direct a blow towards weak points instead of deflecting them. In fact, the armor is worse than useless.
Also played with in the case of Adus, not because the armor is inherently useless but because it doesn't fit right. Also averted in that once he's down, his killer (an eight-year-old boy) needs help to get a sword through his breastplate to deliver a coup de grace.
Played with with Martel. It is not that his armor is useless (he is a trained Church Knight), but out of vanity he has his armor made in the finest (and heaviest) style in the world, with gold details and ornamentation on it, which tires him faster than the equally-skilled and equally-aged Sparhawk. And he admits it with his dying breaths.
Played straight, however, whenever crossbows are involved. Crossbow bolts can pierce armor as if it was a sheet of paper.
Artifact of Doom: Bhelliom. Sure, you can kill a god with it, but you'll have to spank the Troll-Gods first.
Artistic License – Biology: The Dawn-men, explicitly stated to be ancestral to both humans and trolls, resemble nothing that appears in our own evolutionary lineage.
Faran is at least 16 years old at the beginning of the series, as it takes around 6 years to train a warhorse and Martel remembers him from when he and Sparhawk were friends 10 years prior. The series takes about 2 years, with another 4 in the epilogue, and then 2 more between series, making him at least 24, but he's showing no signs of aging, despite horses only living about 30 years generally. His not aging might have something to do with a certain child goddess who likes to meddle and despises change.
Khalad does mention in the first book of the Tamuli that Sparhawk might want to start thinking about putting Faran out to pasture.
Ascended Extra: Zalasta. He appears briefly in the Elenium as a friend of Sephrenia, but becomes much more prominent in the Tamuli. He's also revealed to be a Big Bad Friend and has been behind a lot of events in the Elenium
Authority in Name Only: Prince Avin Wargunsson might be Regent of Thalesia (to become King when insane father finally finishes dying), but every one of his subjects treats him as a complete joke. The King of Rendor is also stated to be this.
Emperor Sarabian is treated this way by his own government in The Tamuli. His role has become so ceremonial that when he begins taking an active role in leading his empire, several characters wonder if it is even legal for him to do so at this point.
Subverted in the Tamuli when the Knights go undercover. Bevier cuts down the haft of his lochaber and plays the part of a Psycho for Hire in Scarpa's army, and he hams it up so much everyone in the army camp is completely terrified of him.
Adus as well, cutting through his own troops to reach Kalten in the final battle, while roaring like an animal.
Berit and Bevier. Especially Bevier, whose favored weapon is an intimidating lochaber axe note this is a lochaber.◊. Characters frequently comment on just how murderous the thing looks, and he is fully capable of massive destruction with it. In fact, it's so nasty looking that Azash flinches when the axe is thrown at him.
Ulath, the most traditional axe-wielder of the group.
And on the villainous side of things, Adus who abandons his usual sword in favor of an axe in the final confrontation of The Elenium.
Babies Ever After: Only for Sparhawk and Ehlana. Subverted in that their bouncing baby daughter is actually Aphrael.At the same time she exists as Flute. When they do eventually meet, nobody non-magical suspects a thing except Berit, who sees that Sparhawk, Sephrenia, and Vanion are remarkably twitchy about it.
Justified in that the poison Ehlana was given made her barren, and Aphrael figured she'd kill two birds with one stone — she needed somewhere safe to hide and get over the shock of a God's death (Ehlana's womb was perfect) and she'd give Ehlana the heir she needed.
The only problem with that is Sephrenia getting miffed with Aphrael because she seems to know that the poison causes sterility, which seems odd, since it's also universally fatal.
Just about every knight in the party is a champion of one of the orders, and Sparhawk's squire, Kurik, is described as one of the most gifted hand-to-hand combatants in the world. Sparhawk takes the prize from all of them, however. This is a guy who'd make Cthulhu curl up into a fetal position on the floor, and he in fact does kill a reasonably similar God. Even more, he does it with style.
Kurik is an enormous badass in his own right, peaking when he meets an arrogant young nobleman while being browbeaten into wearing Bevier's armour and scares the daylights out of him. As a follow-up, the young man's father is so horrified (his son was harassing a bunch of badass Church Knights and is so profoundly ignorant that he didn't know who they were) that he disowns the clown, banishes his friends and packs his own wife off to a monastery. Bevier later says Kurik's a bigger man than him because he'd have just decapitated the kid "after his second remark".
Patriarch Bergsten is a Badass Preacher, given that not even Sparhawk will risk a fight with him. Ulath notes that Bergsten would have been the Preceptor of the Genidian Knights if he'd stayed in the order instead of taking the cloth. Patriarch Dolmant, as a former Pandion novice, may also qualify, although he's no doubt out of practice; it's stated that he was even a match for Sparhawk's father - and the Sparhawk line has always been renowned for its talent on the field of combat.
The Peloi and their ridiculously well-trained horses. Even the Church Knights step lightly around these guys. So does Otha, who invaded the West through Lamorkand in part because he didn't want to risk fighting the Peloi.
Of course the Church Knights.
And the Atans, really.
Subverted with the Cyrgai. 10,000 years ago, they were the most powerful military in the world, and now they are extinct or so everyone thinks. When they do run into Cyrgai in modern time, they are just as badass as they were 10,000 years ago...except everyone else has been Level Grinding in badass that entire time.
Bevier, a poet and amateur actor, student of military history and siege engineering. And that's when he isn't out and about decapitating people with his axe.
Ulath as well. One of the best fighters in the group, he mentions that the winters in Thalesia are so harsh that all one can do for months on end is read and think.
Bad Boss: Azash, Annias, Martel, and especially Adus, who at one point cuts through his own troops to reach Kalten.
Bad Dreams: Sparhawk regularly dreams about the sound of the bells he followed after Martel's thugs attacked him in Rendor in the Backstory.
Battle Couple: Mirtai is an Action Girl and as much a warrior as any man. She towers over Kring, who is a horseman and about as deadly as she is—which deeply impresses Mirtai when she learns. They get engaged, and due to their different cultures are planning to get married, twice, by the end of the Tamuli.
"Be Quiet!" Nudge: Ehlana attempts this with her husband. Of course, since he's wearing plate armor, all she gets out of it is a bruised elbow.
If someone hurts Sephrenia, the entire Pandion Order will be out for blood. They all call her "little mother," and they are twenty-five thousand of the toughest and most highly trained knights on the planet. Not to mention that the other three orders— 75,000 more knights— will tend to join in just on general principles.
Kalten:He can pull mountain ranges over his head to try to hide, but we'll still find him. The Church Knights aren't really very civilized, and when somebody hurts those we love, it brings out the worst in us.
Even Martel, apostate and traitor-cranked-up-to-eleven, feels this way. When Annias shows contempt toward Sephrenia, Martel warns Annias that Sparhawk is, deep down, a decent guy. Martel isn't.
Additionally, Sparhawk takes it very, very personally if anybody does anything to the Queen he's loved and protected since she was seven years old.
Berit, since he's crushing on Ehlana, also responds badly to this kind of behavior, just with less... restraint than Sparhawk.
Stragen reacts much the same way to Elron trying to kill Melidere. Pretty much par for the course in a David Eddings series, really, since having characters respond to threats to their loved ones with the rageof a dying star is something of a Signature Style of his.
Big Bad: Azash in the first trilogy. The second is a bit more complicated, with Cyrgon, Zalasta and Klael all vying for the role. By the end, even Krager has thrown in his hat for the title.
The first character we see in the series wears black plate, has a crooked nose, carries a huge sword, rides an evil-looking horse and quietly threatens anyone who gets in his way. His name is Sparhawk and he's the protagonist.
The entire Pandion Order invokes this trope. They have a reputation for being cruel and implacable warriors who torture prisoners graphically in their chapterhouses. They planted those rumors themselves, to make enemies believe they're even more Bad Ass than they already are (and to save them the trouble of actually having to torture people; that's a great deal of work, after all).
Blue and Orange Morality: The trolls think nothing of eating other sentient beings (indeed, failing to eat what you kill is actually a sin against their God of Eat, even if the killing was done for other reasons), but they are deeply offended by abductions, poisonings, hostage-taking and other things that humans are liable to dismiss as Dirty Business. The troll-gods take a personal interest in punishing guilty humans when they find out that such things exist.
Book Ends: The Elenium begins and, except for the epilogue, ends with Sparhawk slinking into Cimmura on a rainy night. The Tamuli begins the same way.
Break the Cutie: The Shining Ones is one huge one for Sephrenia. First, it's revealed that there's a powerful Styric magician working with the other side, and every Styric magician of that caliber happens to be her friend. Then she's forced to go to Delphaeus, the home of the race she believes killed her family. Then she witnesses the rest of the party forming an alliance with them and completely disregarding her feelings with some very unkind words (to be fair, they didn't know and she wouldn't tell them) and then it's revealed that her old friend Zalasta was the traitor, and he was also behind her parents' murder and would have had her killed too. All because he wanted her for himself and was jealous that she was the chosen High Priestess of Aphrael.
Brick Joke: Throughout the first trilogy, Sparhawk was booking passage on a particular ship giving the excuse that he was fleeing from an ugly heiress and her cousins to explain his desire for passage. Come the second trilogy, they end up on the same ship (Aphrael likes symmetry), and Sparhawk explains that he was caught by the cousins and forced to marry, gesturing to his beautiful wife.
The Brute: Adus. Kalten describes him as putting armor on a gorilla (who doesn't bathe). He's pretty much the archetype at its best: a mentally handicapped, rape- and torture-happy animalistic thug, who can't write and can barely read, but is a savant when it comes to small-unit tactics, serves as The Dragon's chief enforcer, and is very, very dangerous in combat. Martel refers to him as a walking battle axe, and that's not too far off.
Childhood Brain Damage: The main characters meet a secondary, clearly handicapped character who was kicked in the head when young by a cow.
Chivalrous Pervert: Almost every time the party stops in a tavern Kalten takes a pass at the barmaids. Ulath just may be a bigger pervert, though it's more of an Informed Ability with him because we don't actually see him doing it, just read about it later.
Chosen One: Anakha, Bhelliom's chosen one. That's Sparhawk to the rest of you.
Church Militant: The Church Knights, four holy orders of highly trained magic-using soldiers intended to defend the Church.
City of Gold: Matherion isn't quite gold, but the entire city is covered in polished nacre tiles that shine like a rainbow. Played with in that any time there's an earthquake or a brisk wind, some of the tiles fall off and the city looks like it has the pox. And the Empire subsequently goes through a financial crisis from buying new tiles.
"Behold!" Oscagne intoned quite formally. "Behold the seat of beauty and truth! Behold the home of wisdom and power! Behold fire-domed Matherion, the centre of the world!"
Berit, especially in Tamuli. Someone wonders if they should tell him, only to be shushed by ALL the women present. Apparently, his innocent cluelessness is part of his attractiveness.
Inverted by Bevier, who's attractive and knows it, but is pitching at the priesthood one day and refuses to act on it.
Cold Iron: Anathema to Bhelliom, so that any simple, mundane sword can destroy it, though doing so might obliterate the planet. Styrics and their gods also avoid iron, using bronze when metal tools are necessary, but this seems to be a cultural peculiarity rather than a weakness. It's revealed near the climax of the Tamuli that the Styric gods are actually sensitive to magnetism, and the way iron distorts magnetic fields is an extremely uncomfortable sensation for them, often described by Aphrael as "making my skin crawl".
Cooldown Hug: Delivered by Kalten to Sephrenia in The Shining Ones. Given that he's a trained warrior, big enough to make three of her and knows she would never escalate her attempts to get out over scratching him and ineffectually hitting his chest, she doesn't have much choice but to give in eventually.
Corrupt Church: The Elene Church was this in the past, which led to several factions breaking away and creating the Eshandists and the churches in the Elene kingdoms of Daresia. Some churchmen, notably Makova, are still corrupt, but there are others who aren't.
Crapsack World: Largely averted; though there are some hints at it in the settings, the people occupying them are pretty normal. Cimmura's a notable example setting-wise in that it's a polluted mess that's constantly being doused in rain, but it's also home to Ehlana, Sparhawk and a guild of Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters.
Zemoch during the reign of Otha is described this way. Basically a cross between Mordor and the USSR.
Mirtai is very good at causing these, especially in her Backstory, including ripping the guts out of a pair of murderers while they were still alive and leaving them to burn to death in a blazing house with their guts around their feet. The other Atans encourage this. Justified because the guys in question had her owner killed.
Hilariously subverted when in the end of The Hidden City she kills a man by throwing him out a window. Kalten asks what she did, she tells him "I defenestrated him" and he, believing that "defenestrating" means something much worse, tells her that it's a terrible thing to do to a man until she clears up the meaning.
Sephrenia threatens a particularly obstinate Styric with this in the form of the "death spell," even going so far as to begin the incantation for it. Aphrael quickly chastises her with a reminder that she won't let Sephrenia cast that spell. Sephrenia just as quickly points out that he doesn't know that.
It's unclear whether Sephrenia is forbidden to cast that spell at all, or if it's just that Aphrael is unwilling to impose the death penalty for a bit of backtalk. If Sephrenia is able to cast the death spell in other circumstances and other gods would be more willing to punish blasphemy, that may have helped her bluff.
Crystal Prison: inverted in that the inhabitant is only in there to keep her alive.This is more of a short term Human Popsicle for Queen Ehlana, to save her from the poison until they can find a cure
This is also the Bhelliom's form on Earth, as it was forced into a sapphire in order to escape being trapped in iron.
Nearly every primary and secondary warrior character comments on this after fighting the Cyrgai. In fact almost the entire Tamuli proves to be a long-running series of these, with the heroes often commenting on how uncreative their opponents are. It's especially bad during the climax, when just about every battle is horrifically lopsided in favour of the heroes. Most notably Sparhawk versus Cyrgon, and Anakha versus Zalasta.
In Domes of Fire, both a party of mounted Atans and some of Bevier's knights are killed by Mooks with crossbows. Both are very, very angry, and it's pointed out that crossbows are game breakers in this world because they can effectively punch through any armour the knights have got. One of their next actions is to find the crossbow depository and take it out.
Cursed with Awesome: An unusually literal case with the Delphae. The apparent 'curse' aspect is controllable to the point of having off-switches, and it causes them to gradually develop greater magical abilities (all of it under their full control). Understandably, the Knights wonder why this counts as a curse, until it is explained that there is a difference in the fundamental nature of enchantments and curses — enchantments 'sing in the air', revealing their presence to anyone with magic nearby, while curses are quiet and dampen the 'sound' of magic around them. Since the Delphae are trying to hide, a curse was the most appropriate — even if it is only technically a curse.
Originally this case fit the trope more conventionally: the Delphae are innately nonviolent, which is why their god needed to give them an edge in the first place, but this means they aren't emotionally equipped for the horror of what their touch does. Having to actually use it tends to cause them massive despair.
Cute Mute: Flute. Subverted in that she can talk but chooses not to until the second book.
The kisses and such have an ulterior motive: they make those people love her. Bhelliom outright states he's afraid of her because of this, because she can essentially wrap anyone around her little finger, itself included.
Depraved Homosexual: Baron Harparin, one of Annias' minions, who is a pedophile. He's universally detested by all the characters and the butt of constant snide remarks from friend and foe alike. It's pretty clear that it is his pedophilia that people find despicable, not his homosexuality. One of Mirtai's former owners averts this while unfortunately falling victim to Bury Your Gays.
Azash presents a pretty good case. He may be the most evil of the Elder Gods, but he's also an emasculated Idiot Ball-carrying buffoon locked inside a clay idol. His minions can be pretty scary, though.
Cyrgon even more so. This is a guy who deliberately bred up a race of inbred musclemen who haven't changed in millennia.
Also justified in both cases. Azash is more like a primordial, evil force of nature than a real character, while Cyrgon is essentially the god of unthinking stagnation, having designed his chosen people at the dawn of time and become so attached to them that he is unwilling to change them one iota. His conservativism is a deliberate choice; despite his dislike of innovation, he learns quickly in a fight.
Dissonant Serenity: Sparhawk is more frightening when he gets quiet than when he rages and roars. Even more true with Bevier, whose faith cause leads him to take shockingly violent action once he is certain he is on firm theological and moral ground. At one point he not only decapitates a corrupt church soldier that refuses to let them pass, he then leads the man's terrified subordinates in chanting prayers for the dead man's soul.
The Dragon: Otha is technically this for Azash, but as he's physically not up to much Dragoning, Martel fills the role in the Final Battle. Later on, Cyrgon is pressed into duty to serve as this to Klael after arrogantly summoning it.
The Dreaded: The Shining Ones are the acme of terror for Tamuls, to the extent that even the Atans refuse to face them unless absolutely necessary. Subverted; they turn out to be a race of pacifisticMary Sues.
On the side of villainy: Adus, the Cyrgai, and Klael's Giant Mooks.
Kalten also counts. Though when it comes to social intelligence, he is more shrewd than anyone but Sparhawk thinks.
Dying Truce: The final duel scenes in this and The Tamuli both wrap up with Sparhawk delivering the fatal blow and then having a respectful (if short) conversation with the one he just killed.
Eldritch Abomination: All the Elder Gods are like this, apparently. Azash, as the worst of them, also crosses over to God of Evil, as he's evil by both the standards of mortals and other Eldritch Abominations. Klael is as far beyond the other Eldritch Abominations as they are beyond humans.
No matter how depraved he becomes, Martel never stops loving Sephrenia.
Lycheas and Arissa obviously care for each other, as does Lycheas's father Annias, demonstrated when he goes out of his way to get the two rescued from imprisonment and brings them into exile in Zemoch when his plan goes south.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Cyrgon, Cyrgon, Cyrgon. Summoning Klael, a being of infinite power and malevolence, capable of eating Gods for breakfast and picking its teeth with Eldritch Abominations, and trying to control it and make it his minion? That's just asking for trouble.
Evil Sorcerer: Otha. Martel tried to be this in the Backstory, but got caught and most of his powers were stripped away. Also Zalasta in the Tamuli.
Not taken to the all-consuming extent of the Belgariad, but in general the Elenes are English and French, the Thalasians are Scandinavians, the Cammorians are sort of Italian, the Pelosians are Russians (with the Peloi being Cossacks or Mongols) and Lamorks are Germans, the Styrics are Jews (though their religion is more like pre-Christian paganism, and they have some Roma influences thrown in as well), the Tamuls are Chinese, the Cyrgai are the worst examples of Greco-Romanic culture (particularly Sparta), and the Rendors are Arabs.
There are also a few Fantasy Counterpart Religions: the Church of Chyrellos is obviously the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of Astel and its leader are Expys of Eastern Orthodoxy and the Patriarch of Constantinople, respectively. And while the Rendors look like Muslims, at least from a xenophobic Western perspective, the history of their breakaway sect sounds a lot like the formation of Protestantism.
Fat Bastard: Otha. He hasn't had to actually move in centuries, to the point that he can't walk at all. Subverted by Platime, who despite his
criminal status is no worse than the protagonists.
Fate Worse Than Death: The touch of the Delphae, aka the Shining Ones, is regarded as this by Tamuls in general, to the point that they're willing to accept certain death of almost any other cause to escape it.
The Fettered: While generally unscrupulous in their tactics and unconcerned with most secular laws, the Church Knights are absolutely unwilling to break church law or disobey ecclesiastical orders, which allows Annias a Near Villain Victory, just because they aren't willing to simply assassinate him or reveal his atrocities without absolute proof.
Finger in the Mail: In The Tamuli, instructions to Sparhawk from Ehlana's kidnappers include a lock of her hair as verification.
Fire-Forged Friends: Sparhawk and Ehlana's ancestors, whose families are bound together after they end up back to back on a battlefield butchering bandits left and right.
Flanderisation: Kalten starts off Sparhawk's lifelong best friend and backup man; Sparkhawk's equal in general knowledge, raw cunning, and combat ability, but who never got the hang of magic because his talent with the Styric language is close to nil. This maintains throughout the first book, and after that Kalten begins a slide for being a big dumb guy who's somehow missed everyday information (like what a 'diagonal' is).
And then subverted, as the last couple books demonstrate that Kalten may not be book smart, but he thinks fast on his feet and can be remarkably clever. He's also shown to actually be able to understand the gist of most Styric conversations, even if he can't hope to pronounce the words.
Ultimately, it's a case of Kalten discovering Obfuscating Stupidity. He hides his intelligence behind the fact that everyone expects him to be stupid. Except Sparhawk, who's his main companion in the first book; the more he's around people who aren't Sparhawk, the stupider he acts.
Sparhawk: Kalten, sometimes you amaze me.
Kalten: I know, this stupid-looking face of mine is very useful sometimes.
Flowery Elizabethan English: Appears several times. All the speaking dead, whether they died centuries before or a few days before. A man playing a resurrected dead hero speaks this way, plagiarizing an old play. Also Bhelliom speaks this way.
Folk Hero: Sabre tries to be one of these in the Tamuli, but his Zorro act is lampshaded, subverted, mocked and generally played completely for laughs, with all the heroes treating him as a figure of fun and a complete joke. And then he kidnaps Ehlana and Alean in the last book. It's still played for laughs, with Scarpa and Krager ruthlessly mocking him nonstop. It is only fair, since Sabre had to have Krager help him with the kidnapping.
The Fundamentalist: Patriarch Ortzel, the arch-conservative Lamork churchman who's got his heart set on forbidding the Church Knights from using magic. But since he's not Annias everyone except Ehlana gets behind him as the good guys' candidate for Archprelate. Thankfully, he gets Character Development later and becomes more cosmopolitan.
Genius Bruiser: Most of the knights come close, but Ulath is probably the best example, being seven feet tall and silent, yet possessed of remarkable intellectual depth, particularly in the fields of religious study, history, and folklore.
Then there's Bhlokw, a Troll Priest who cheerfully engages Ulath in philosophical debate (such as whether the Gods should still be morally obeyed if they've gone crazy).
Gentleman Thief: Played perfectly straight with Stragen. Or should I say, Milord Stragen? Averted with Platime, whose attempts to be gentlemanly are wholly comical.
Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Klael shows up randomly in the final book of the second series and promptly takes over as Big Bad. Once explained it makes sense, and anyone familiar with The Malloreon could see something like that coming, but it was still rather jarring.
The Gods Must Be Lazy: The Elene God does not do one single thing through both series, although he is acknowledged as being real, incredibly powerful, and really boring at parties. The members of his Church Militant actually pray to the Styric gods for magical abilities he could easily grant them. Though one churchman suggests that maybe if they'd actually tried asking him to grant them powers they could have avoided the slight institutionalized heresy that their entire military wing is involved with.
The Elene God is based on God of the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Roman Catholic God, you are just supposed to have faith that he's working behind the scenes with his "grand plan" beyond your understanding.
On the other hand, if one considers that worshippers seem to be similar to their Gods, the Elenes highly value free will—as shown in Sparhawk's argument with Aphrael about her insistence in manipulating everyone's lives to her liking.
Then there are the Tamul gods, who are too busy partying and acting like children to actually do anything. Most Tamuli have trouble remembering any of their names.
Inverted with the Atan gods. They are real and probably as powerful as the Styric gods, and take a keen interest in their worshippers, but the Atans consider it disrespectful to ask the gods for things they could fix themselves. They do invoke the gods, but only for really important occasions like weddings and coming-of-age-ceremonies.
Aphrael states at one point that outside of human perception the air is positively littered with the ghosts of dead gods whose worshippers are all gone.
It's also implied that this may be the reason that the Elene god has commanded His followers to believe only in Him: He's afraid of the others poaching his followers. Aphrael reveals that in order for the knightly orders to receive Styric assistance, the Styric gods had to agree not to convert any knights.
The Delphae are a race that can kill with a touch thanks to a curse from their god and are hated by most other races in existence. This is all part of their god's master plan.
The Cyrgai were cursed so that they could not travel beyond the borders of their own nation, or they would die instantly. Cyrgon commanded that they immediately set about using their female slaves to breed an army that would be able to cross the border, as the slaves were not Cyrgai. In their zeal, the Cyrgai overlooked their own women and crossbred themselves into borderline extinction.
Played with extensively with the Atans, who as a whole believe they must always be "slaves" and that a completely "free" Atan is a very, very bad thing. This is due to them being such a Proud Warrior Race that generational blood feuds can be started over a disagreement about the weather, and so they as a race offered themselves as slaves to the Tamuls. Although, their "slavery" consists entirely of them agreeing to not kill anyone without permission and serve as the Tamuls' army, which allows them to be warriors and have glorious battles, without bringing their race to the edge of extinction from everyone killing everyone else for the slightest reason. And the Atans are all happy with this arrangement.
This is exemplified with Mirtai's case, where instead of the normal institutionalized slavery of her people, she was kidnapped and forced into a more personal slavery, and despite hating the more personal nature of her slavery (no, not that way) she repeatedly refused and scoffed at any attempt to free her by Ehlana after she became her "slave", always saying that it was impossible for her people to ever be free, normally followed by a long list of people Ehlana knows that Mirtai would have killed by now for some type of insult if she had been free.
To clarify, she tells Ehlana at one point that, had she been free, she would have killed a major character for the unpardonable sin of allowing his shadow to touch her.
It's worse than it sounds. A high-ranking Tamul official, outraged over Arjuni slave raids, once authorized a punitive Atan expedition into Arjuna—without giving them any limits. They actually hanged the King and drove his subjects into the southern jungles, thus starting an economic crisis. It took centuries to convince the Arjuni to emerge from their hiding place.
Alean, in a way. As a servant girl, she has no complaints about her indentured status other than her first employer (a noble notorious for his misdeeds, including raping his servants) and the fact that she and Kalten can't get married due to her common status.
Harmless Villain: Otha. Despite being the most powerful sorcerer in Zemoch and the mastermind behind the catastrophic invasion of the West, he's a Fat Bastard who can barely galvanize a corpse properly, as that would take thought. Sure, he fought Sephrenia on a pretty even basis, but it's implied that slinging attack spells is not a complicated concept.
Heal It With Booze: In the first book, Sparhawk does first aid on one of his companions by scrubbing the wound out with some cheap wine before bandaging it. When he gets back to base, Sephrenia, the team's medic/sorceress, is less than impressed.
Heroic Bastard: Talen and Stragen. Arguably Platime as well, considering that he's both one of the good guys and a self-admitted, unrepentant career criminal.
Melidere is introduced as Ehlana's lady-in-waiting, a baroness who is very intelligent but who knows that many feel threatened by intelligent, beautiful young women and so acts vacant because it's a good way to pick up information. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that she's also a criminal (her father shaved the edges of coins and re-milled them in order to create a rather significant fortune, and Melidere kept up the work).
Kalten as well. In a two minute span, he manages to slip coded messages to Ehlana that he knows she and Alean are there, and that he, Caalador, and Bevier are all in disguise nearby. Ehlana even says that he passed more information than Sparhawk could have in an hour.
Alean herself: a shy, demure servant girl who nonetheless comes up with a brilliant idea for safeguarding documents from the enemy (and then a way of spotting the forged documents that the heroes are looking for) while also enthralling Kalten, whose love-life has hitherto consisted of hitting on local barmaids, into settling down and becoming a proper husband.
Hidden Weapons: Mirtai is always armed, to the point where she carries a spoon with the handle sharpened to the point of being a shiv. Special mention is made of her being "not visibly armed" at Ehlana's wedding.
In the Tamuli, Mirtai is telling her life-story as part of a 'ritual of passage into adulthood', and when she gets to a certain point, she asks Danae to fetch her some water, since all the talking has made her thirsty. Naturally, this heralds the beginning of a slightly more sordid part of her tale, which wasn't really appropriate for children.
Lampshaded when Danae returns with the water and asks Mirtai if she has finished with the part that Danae isn't allowed to hear.
Holy Ground: From The Tamuli, there is a concern that an Elene-style church has been consecrated (it hasn't).
Horsing Around: Sir Sparhawk's horse Faran. Faran is infamous for his bad temper and a tendency to bite strangers (such that Sparhawk always has to warn handlers about it). In one of the later books, the child-goddess Aphrael tells Sparhawk that Faran only has a bad temper because he is trying to please Sparhawk by matching his personality. Much to Sparhawk's annoyance, Faran has a habit of prancing dramatically whenever Sparhawk rides him with his formal armour on. The horse is also remarked upon to be unusually intelligent, to the point of understanding Sparhawk's speech and having memorized the ritual entry into a Pandion Chapterhouse as well as Sparhawk has.
Sephrenia gets regular visits from the ghosts of several Pandion knights, while Sparhawk shares a little chat with the ghost of King Aldreas.
During the second book Tynian reveals himself as a Necromancer and goes around raising ghosts to help the party find Bhelliom. Sephrenia knows how it's done too, but she's The Chick, and thus claims (truthfully or not) that she's not strong enough to wrangle up ghosts. Given that necromancy is almost literally wrestling the dead into submission, she has a point.
The gods can see the destiny of every mortal, except one: Sparhawk. He's known as the Anakha, meaning "without destiny". This made the gods so nervous they considered killing him before he was even born.
Eventually it is revealed that Sparhawk is immune because he was infused with the power of Bhelliom, an elemental force older and stronger than any god. Even while that power was dormant, it was so great that no god could see his future.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bevier, with some variation. He behaves like the perfect devout knight, prays on a regular basis, feels guilty thinking about women... But as soon as he's certain that killing someone is morally justifiable, people who get in his way get to know what the business end of his giant lochaber axe feels like.
Berit in the Tamuli. His innocence is what draws Elysoun to him, despite his protestations against sleeping with a married woman (her culture has no taboo against adultery). He also doesn't understand innuendo, setting up a swordsmanship demonstration for the Atan ladies who wanted to learn more about "Elene weaponry". Eventually subverted; after Sparhawk gives him a talk about how sex really isn't that big a deal, he gives in to Elysoun's charms and even becomes a little jealous when she tells him she's sleeping around with other men as well.
Insane Troll Logic: From an actual Troll God no less. The reason that Tynian and Ulath can be in the "time of broken moments" and be jumped slightly through time so they exist in only the smallest, tiniest fraction of every moment rendering them unable to be seen/heard by anyone else, and yet perfectly see and understand everyone else they are trying to spy on? Because the Troll God Ghnomb thinks it works that way.
Karma Houdini: Arguably, Martel. Sure he dies, but it's a quick death after a fair fight, with the two people he cares about most by his side. In his own words, it's almost as good as a formal deathbed. And this after bringing untold suffering out of pure spite and greed. None of his victims died so well.
Subverted with Krager. He gets away scot-free after helping the bad guys in the Elenium and he gets away scot-free after helping the bad guys in the Tamuli. Once characters start complaining about that at the end of the Tamuli, it is revealed that what he did not get away scot-free from was drinking a lot of alcohol over the years. He's probably less than a year from death at the end of The Hidden City, and the only reason he's not really suffering is that he's so delirious he wouldn't even notice someone stabbing him to death.
Sabre, who certainly tries to affect the mannerisms of a Magnificent Bastard, but suffers from the fact that the closest he's ever come to the real deal is in old epics. The result is so thoroughly over-the-top and cliche that Sparhawk is amazed the guy's for real the first time he sees him. Of course, he's just a little fish in the grand scheme of things.
Then there's Lilias, who only makes one appearance but puts on one ridiculously hammy show for her neighborhood with Sparhawk until their performance resembles a badly-written romance novel. Also, Gag Boobs.
Aren't we forgetting Bevier as a one-eyed mercenary? He admitted to being an actor during his schooling, but I doubt he'd make it as a professional.
Faran, whenever Sparhawk is in his armor.
Even Sparhawk gets in on this when he is talking to Arasham, posing as a loyal disciple while pumping the old man for information.
Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: The final duel between Sparhawk and Martel fits the bill. Justified in that the book constantly drives home that Sparhawk and Martel are evenly matched and both of them want to find out who's truly better. Once the outcome is certain, Martel admits he never had any doubts. On his deathbed.
Load-Bearing Boss: After Azash and Otha are killed, the city of Zemoch starts to slowly fall apart as though thousands of years of attrition hit it all at once. It's less of a spectacular collapse and more of an accelerated decay.
Of the "Paladin" variety, although Pandions are more "Good but grey on the side of practicality." Technically all Church Knights are taught magic, but individual skills vary. In practice, Sparhawk does most of it. For extra special fun, the god who gives them magic powers is not the god they worship. Aphrael is working on it, though. The Church is aware of this, but prefers not to talk about it.
Subverted with Kalten, who's been taught by Sephrenia but is unable to make magic work and isn't ashamed to admit it. He just can't pronounce the Styric words, much less manage to think completely in Styric as necessary to cast spells. This is brought up as a joke every now and then.
Medieval Stasis: Averted for the most part. The history behind the Elene kingdoms includes bronze-age warriors and the discovery of iron, and when the Cyrgai show up in the second series they're all wearing bronze-age equipment and using antiquated phalanx tactics. Also, the borders of Cynesga have changed dramatically over time.
Mr. Exposition: Every major character fills this role at one point or another, but the worst offender is Xanetia. At one point in The Shining Ones, she reads the mind of The Chessmaster of the other side, and then explains exactly what he has been doing behind the scenes for the entirety of both trilogies to that point. In excruciating detail. In Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. For about three chapters.
My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Basically what happens whenever Kalten tries to speak Styric. Happens again when he is learning Tamul: he tries to say "smile" but it comes out wishing for a person's teeth to rot away. Also happens to Sparhawk in the first book when he magicks up a bouquet of flowers for Sephrenia but comes this close to conjuring up a handful of snakes.
Narm: In universe example. In the Tamuli, a funeral ends up being a source of laughter as the priest delivering the eulogy couldn't keep a straight face, as the deceased Prince Regent Avin Wargunson's skin was dyed purple from being drowned in red wine, and the people preparing the body couldn't get the wine out..
Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: Platime is one of these. Sure, he's committed almost every crime in the book, but not treason - and besides, he loves the Queen and pays his taxes!
He's also never practiced witchcraft, committed barratry, or had carnal knowledge of an animal. Truly, a virtuous man.
Never Learned to Read: Sephrenia, by choice. She doesn't want to start thinking in Elene, so she doesn't want to learn to read it just to be on the safe side. We find out in the Tamuli that she can read Styric. She's just been letting everyone think Styric doesn't have a written form.
No Biochemical Barriers: Possibly averted. The trolls aren't harmed by eating the Klael-soldiers, but they find the taste absolutely foul, and they probably gained no nutrition from it.
Definitely averted in the case of the Klael-soldiers' problems in Earth's atmosphere.
No Guy Wants an Amazon: Utterly averted by Kring, who worships Mirtai from the moment he sees her. In fact, the only worry he has about her is how the women of his tribe will react to dealing with such a strong-willed outsider. Also subverted in her past, as she had to ward off numerous rape attempts before becoming Ehlana's slave.
No Loves Intersect: Largely played straight, especially in the Tamuli. Averted, though, in the last book of the Elenium when Berit falls head over heels for Ehlana. It leads to an undercurrent of extended tension between him and Sparhawk. Fortunately Sparhawk is able to defuse it.
As she points out huffily, Sephrenia and other Styrics aren't nearly so simple as they appear. She's fully trained in logic (though she prefers intuition); she can read (just not Elene, as noted above), and she deliberately downplayed her own immense powers while in Elenia to avoid appearing too threatening.
She's not the only one. Flute/Aphrael, Emperor Sarabian, and to an extent Bhelliom itself all qualify. Cyrgon's an interesting case, because his stupidity is genuine but a conscious choice stemming from his role as a god of unchanging militarism and tyranny; when push comes to shove, he can learn if he has to.
Also, Kalten. He really isn't very good at academic pursuits, including magic, but he's surprisingly sharp behind his exaggerated loveable oaf persona.
This is best exemplified in The Hidden City when Kalten, Caalador, and Bevier infiltrate Natayos to see if Ehlana and Alean are there. When Alean recognizes the disguised Kalten by how he walks, and Ehlana tells her to sing, he recognizes her voice... and immediately begins whistling a counterpoint to let them know he heard. Then he strikes up a conversation with the guards so he can slip in references to Caalador's accent and Bevier's axe. Ehlana herself calls him a "treasure" whom Alean should never let go of, since he gave them far more information than Sparhawk ever could have.
He is also the only one who is able to help Sephrenia deal with Zalasta's betrayal.
Melidere, one of Ehlana's ladies in waiting, puts on the show of a Dumb Blonde, while the truth is that Ehlana keeps her around for her brains.
The Obi-Wan: Kurik is one of these. He's older than Sparhawk, more skilled than basically all the Church Knights, and the heroes defer to him more often than not. And then he dies. He comes back in spirit a couple of times, whenever Aphrael takes the knights to the ocean cliff where they throw away and retrieve Bhelliom. During the retrieval Sparhawk has black spots appear in front of his eyes because he forgets to breathe. Kurik bashes him on the shoulder and calls him an idiot. Cracking put down from a dead guy!
Obstructive Bureaucrat: The government of the Tamuli in regard to their 'absolute power' Emperor. He comments that he has to look out the window to get an accurate weather report.
From The Tamuli, "This is Prince Sparhawk, the man who destroyed the Elder God Azash, and you've just insulted his wife." The listener reacts appropriately... by running for his life.
Sephrenia's reaction when Sparhawk suggests killing Azash.
Old Retainer: Kurik, who has been Sparhawk's squire for all of Sparhawk's life, and has repeatedly turned down knighthood in spite of kicking knightly arse on a regular basis in favour of remaining a squire. Sparhawk comments that Kurik is as much a part of him as his hands.
OOC Is Serious Business: In The Shining Ones, Sephrenia, who has been established as largely non-violent, begins to spout racial hatred toward the Delphae and pretty much begs the others to kill them. Turns out she thinks they killed her family.
The narrator also gets a spot of OOC: most of the action is narrated using informal modern English. During Sparhawk's final confrontation with Zalasta in The Hidden City, the narration abruptly shifts to stilted English in a hyper-formal register, and a few pages later, the reader discovers why.
Orcus on His Throne: Otha, justified by the fact that he's largely incapable of getting up off said throne by now.
The Elder Gods are implied to have created several races of these as servants; the only ones the reader ever meets are the Balrog-esque Damorks and the insectileScarily Competent Trackers called Seekers. There are also otherworldly monsters that serve Klael and show up in the Tamuli, but its unclear if they really qualify as "demons" or not.
Bhelliom stated the Klael-soldiers are in fact Humanoid Aliens from one of Klael's planets. They're pretty badass; if they weren't methane-breathers who wear out quickly in an Earth-like atmosphere things might have gone poorly. Fortunately, Khalad noticed their little quirk and was more than happy to exploit this.
Panacea: Any magical object presumably would work as a cure for Ehlana's ailment. Alas, magical objects are very rare in this world, as a creation of one requires for a god to permanently sacrifice part of their power. The protagonists eventually procure the Bhelliom which, it turns out, isn't a magical object, but a creator of their world imprisoned in stone.
Paper-Thin Disguise: The monastery Sparhawk returns to in Rendor seems innocent enough to the actual Rendors. Everyone else knows it's full of Cyrinic Knights there to spy on the Eshandists.
Martel gets one of these moments when Annias calls Sephrenia a witch, prompting Martel to grab him by the collar and threaten him with things much worse than Sparhawk could ever do should he ever talk trash about "my little mother" again. While it's Disproportionate Retribution,it's also a sign that Martel still cares about Sephrenia even after everything he's done.
There is also his genuine sadness to learn that Kurik had been killed, for he had the same level of respect for the squire that most knights had.
Krager of all people to Ehlana and Alean, after they've been mistreated by Scarpa.
Zalasta even gets one, when he apologizes to Ehlana after Scarpa's mistreatment of her and Alean, and during Ehlana's captivity he ensures that she is treated well and converses with her daily. Not that it makes the reader care about him after he stabs Sephrenia in the heart.
Aphrael and Azash, not to mention the Styric pantheon and Cyrgon. On top of them, Bhelliom and Klael.
Also the troll-gods. The Elene god is implied to be this as well, though he never puts in a personal appearance.
Planet of Hats: Generally averted in the first series, though the Pelosians do wear literal funny hats. The second series plays it straight: the Tamuls are lazy administrators, the Atans are gigantic warriors, the Styrics are wizards, the eastern Elenes are melodramatic slave owners, the Arjuni are slave traders, the Tegans are mind-numbingly boring, the Cynesgans are evil mongrel people, and the Valesians are free-love nudists.
Platonic Prostitution: Early on in the very first book, Sparhawk hires a prostitute because he wants to eavesdrop on some minor villains who are meeting in the room next to hers. The prostitute, a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who enjoys her work, considers herself to owe him a raincheck, which she reminds him about whenever they meet.
Poor Communication Kills: One of the Eshandist leaders had a problem being understood; when he yelled at his fanatic followers, "Fall upon your foes!" they heard "Fall upon your swords!" He spent the next several years wondering why he lost.
Power Glows: The Delphae. Bhelliom and Klael in their true forms, too.
Prevent The War: After Sparhawk destroys Azash, the heroes are at pains to prevent King Wargun from launching a genocidal war against Zemoch anyway, despite the Zemochs being entirely nonthreatening without the lash of their dark god.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Atans and the Cyrgai, who both suffer from cultural Idiot Balls to greater or lesser extent (the Atans never back down from a fight, no matter how unlikely they are to win it; the Cyrgai are completely incapable of change.) If you're wondering, Atans beat Cyrgai, hands down.
See Happiness in Slavery above; the Atans are so content to live exclusively as warriors that they willingly and intentionally enslaved their entire race to ensure their survival.
Reasonable Authority Figure: There are several, but Dolmant stands out. While corruption is far from universal in the church, he stands out above the rest in his honesty. Vanion and the other leaders of the Knightly orders also qualify.
Recruited From The Gutter: Talen starts out as a street thief and is brought into the travelling group by Sparhawk after Annias finds out he's been spying on his behalf. He later ends up a royal page (and Pandion novice-to-be) in the Tamuli. Although at least part of Sparhawk's motive is to keep Kurik's son safe.
The soldiers of the Church of Chyrellos might be a lampshade of this; they barely qualify as mooks, and they wear red tunics.
When confronted by Klael's giant alien warriors, even the Atans and the Church Knights fall into this catagory.
Religion of Evil: Worshippers of Azash seem to literally worship evil (or at least, what we miserable mortals see as evil), while the religion of Cyrgon exists to prop up a militaristic totalitarian state.
Religion Is Magic: Played with in that the Church Knights' magic doesn't come from the Elene God, but from the Styric pantheon. For reference, your average Elene peasant thinks nothing of burning down Styric villages and massacring them all. Nobody stops to consider that the Elene God might grant the same kind of magic to the Church Knights. In fact Sephrenia calls the Archprelate out on it.
It is noted that the Styric gods granting magic to the Church Knights had to agree not to try to convert their knights. Since Stragen is not a Church Knight and has no intention of becoming a Church Knight, his use of magic based on knowing Styric and being observant around Pandion Knights inadvertently more-or-less swears him to Aphrael (he basically reacts by shrugging and saying there are worse gods that could have happened with).
Retcon: In The Sapphire Rose, Sephrenia is outraged at Mirtai referring to Ehlana as her owner and seems not to know much about the Atans or the Daresian continent. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that Sephrenia is from Astel originally, and even though she spends a lot of time away from the Daresian continent, it just seems unlikely that she wouldn't have heard of the Atans or their status as slaves, especially as they also guard the Styric city of Sarsos. It is possible, however, that because Sephrenia was concealing the existence of Sarsos, her true education, and the nature of the Styric people, she had to adopt such an attitude since she otherwise couldn't prove how she knew of the Atans and their slavery. Not seeming to know much about Daresia also falls under her Obfuscating Stupidity act.
It's possible that she was shocked to see an Atana in personal slavery in Eosia, as opposed to the institutional slavery that the Atans live in under the Tamuls.
In The Ruby Knight, Berit spends quite some time swimming around in a lake during the search for the Bhelliom. In Domes of Fire, Sparhawk makes a remark to the effect that he isn't sure Berit knows how to swim. Huh.
In The Sapphire Rose, the box in which the Bhelliom is placed before being thrown into the ocean is described as being made of steel (to restrain the jewel's power) and lined with gold (to conceal its presence), and is secured with a keyless padlock. In The Shining Ones, upon being retrieved, the box is described as being made of gold and having no keyhole or padlock.
In The Ruby Knight, Sephrenia refers to the Troll Gods as "wise". Later, in the Tamuli, Xanetia says that the five Troll Gods combined have the intellect of a 5 year old child.
Retired Badass: Vanion in the second series. His anecdotal Crowning Moment of Awesome may arguably be when he, a battered old man not far removed from being saved from his deathbed, challenges the entire population of Sarsos to a race to prove a point about their lack of physical fitness. He gets out to a big lead until he trips in a rabbit hole and sprains his ankle. And he still wins.
Revenge Before Reason: This might as well be Lamorkand's national motto. The entire country is in a constant state of turmoil because landowners will go to war at the drop of the hat.
Roll in the Hay: Kurik strongly implies that his eldest was conceived in this manner, and later, while visiting his farm, he and his wife (whom he had not seen for several months) enter the scene with him muttering that the boys need to do better at weeding the thistles out of the hay.
Royal Decree: The written variation. The Council are about to destroy it... until they're reminded that destroying a royal decree is punished by death.
Becomes a circular argument with a Cynesgan border guard. Sparhawk presents a decree from Sarabian granting their party passage through all borders in the Empire. The guard believes it is a fake and asserts that it is punishable by death to forge a royal decree, and Sparhawk retorts that it is punishable by death to ignore one. He reasons that one of them is about to be in big trouble. The guard, it turns out. The Knights kill all the border guards when they realize that the delay is so reinforcements can arrive.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Mostly used realistically. The royals play pivotal roles as leaders in many events, but only rarely get their hands dirty. Subverted hilariously by King Soros of Pelosia, who comes along for the ride with The Cavalry but spends so much time praying it's up to Patriarch Bergsten to run the show.
Running Gag: Several, some of which spread across both trilogies:
Sparhawk often shudders at the theologial ramifications of various actions/events.
Sparhawk never remembers to oil his equipment, leading to it getting rusty.
Sacrificial Lion: For the entire trilogy, we've seen that Kurik is a match for any of the knights, and indeed instructed several of them in combat. This makes it especially jarring when he is unceremoniously slaughtered by Adus.
Sapient Steed: Faran is not only foul-tempered and fond of showing off, he's also very intelligent. Aphrael once remarked Faran acts the way he does because that's what Sparhawk expects in his steed.
Save The Queen: The plot of the first two and a half books. Makes a reappearance in the final novel as well.
Scary Impractical Armor: When Sparhawk and company reach Zemoch they find a horde of undead soldiers wearing this. It gives them pause until they realize it's worse than useless. Apparently the Zemochs saw fully-armoured Church Knights bearing down on them during the last war but didn't understand the point of plate mail. They only knew it was really damn scary, so they started making armour designed entirely to intimidate.
Of course, this also relates to a somewhat extended Crowning Moment of Funny, as Sephrenia points out how pathetic it is that the entire Elene world is shaking over their boots over a complete moron who can't even think of a decent purpose to create the above undead., and also as Talen gives a hilarious suggestion to Berit as to what to do after they pass said soldiers...
Azash, who was sealed inside a clay idol of himself. He did find some ways around this, however—it turns out his spirit can enter any identical idol as well, and he had a huge temple-fortress built around the original.
The Cyrgai later on are more like Sealed Evil In A City.
Klæl is sorta this (although the can is a form of a mountain-sized monster). In its real form it's much more powerful eternal spirit of destruction, but series of mishaps made it stuck as a giant monster.
Sedgwick Speech: In the midst of the big siege in the third book Ulesim gets up in front of the Rendors and delivers a huge speech about attacking the city relentlessly. And then Kurik nails him between the eyes with a crossbow bolt in mid-sentence. The ensuing chatter is a minor Crowning Moment of Funny.
Semi-Divine: The Delphaes in The Shining Ones started as humans but now are slowly evolving into gods. As a result, they possess awesome powers, but they can also melt alive anyone who gets too close to them. Eventually, they fully evolve into gods and leave the earth forever.
Servant Race: The Cynesgans started existence as a race of literal bastards, born from women raped by Cyrgai soldiers. They were pressed into service as cannon fodder and scapegoats and later purposefully bred by the Cyrgai in an attempt to create an army immune to the curse that kept pure-blooded Cyrgai from leaving their own lands.
Shout-Out / Homage: The entire subplot involving Ghasek in The Ruby Knight (involving the Chekhov's Gunman Bellina no less) could have been lifted straight out of a Hammer Horror movie. The terrified people in the nearby village, the Hate Plague-infected minstrel, the creepy forest setting with its chilling moonlight, the haunted castle, the discovery in the basement, the Fate Worse Than Death for Bellina in the end—it has it all. And it was incredibly effective, disturbing, and a major source of horror to some.
The Siege: One of these forms a large arc in the third book. There's another one in the Tamuli. They come into play as a running gag, too: Thalesians hate sieges. (They're perfectly willing to engage in one, and do it very competently, but they hate sieges. Just ask them.)
When Ulath is called on his constant vocal hatred of sieges despite being almost as quick as resident siege guru Bevier to suggest forting up, hilarity ensues:
Ulath: Thalesians are supposed to hate sieges. We're not patient enough for them.
Bevier: Didn't King Wargun's grandfather endure a siege for 6 years once?
Krager in The Tamuli. In his first appearance he boasts about how everything Martel (the true Magnificent Bastard of the series) accomplished was due to his tutelage, how if it had been Krager advising Azash then he surely would have won, how the defeat he just suffered was merely an inconvenience, and how Sparhawk would be facing far greater opposition than before. It then turns out that all of Cyrgon and co's schemes are thwarted far easier than Martel and Azash's, their ranks consist of idiots and Harmless Villains, and it becomes very clear that Krager was talking out his ass.
Spanner in the Works: Sephrenia and Aphrael were consistently doing this to Zalasta without ever realizing it.
Streetwalker: Prostitutes pop up in minor speaking roles quite often, especially early in the Elenium. They're usually portrayed sympathetically. Sparhawk even gets a brief adventure gathering evidence in a brothel. And this Troper says that without so much as a wink.
Strictly Formula: The series, like The Belgariad, quite deliberately and shamelessly rips from myth and medieval literature. And it's awesome. As Eddings put it with respect to the Belgariad, ripping off myth is "the literary equivalent of peddling dope."
Sticky Fingers: Talen. It's become a Running Gag, to the point where Sparhawk automatically tells Talen to empty his pockets if there's a chance he might have stolen any small valuables recently.
Stop Worshipping Me: Averted. The God of the Atans doesn't go in for grand displays (except during very important ceremonies), and his people don't bother him much unless it's important, so he's on the unusual side for a god. The flip side is he is obligated to at least see what a worshipper wants when they do call for his attention. Used to advantage when Aphrael needs his permission to take an Atan to her personal domain for healing.
Story-Breaker Power: Xanetia positively oozes these. She's effectively immortal, she can read minds and thus promptly discovers the Manipulative Bastard, she can melt people and scenery to goo with a touch, she can touch Bhelliom without being obliterated, she can turn invisible, and her magic makes absolutely no "sound." Once she joins the party she's effectively a one-stop shop for all your Game Breaker needs. There are several issues, though; firstly, Sephrenia starts out loathing her, due to old racial prejudice (and the fact she thinks Xanetia's people killed her family), causing everyone to futilely attempt reasoning with her, and she eventually breaks from the group for a while. Secondly everyone else on the continent is terrified of the Delphae and Xanetia is almost constantly in disguise, which she admits is somewhat painful for her. Thirdly, she is not only a helper, she is a hostage for her people's good faith; if they betray the party, Xanetia - effectively their crown princess - is to be killed. This causes various degrees of tension for some time.
Stout Strength: By the time of The Tamuli, the knights of Sparhawk's generation are middle-aged, and they're no longer as slim and trim as they once were. Kalten in particular tends to strain the buttons on his doublet. They'll still cut you clean in two with one blow, even if you're wearing bronze armor (steel tends to take a bit more effort).
Strange Secret Entrance: The city of Cyrga is found this way, involving a long and detailed set of instructions from an oasis across the desert and culminating with finding the exact spot where an illusion conceals an entrance through the mountains by lining them up with the Pillars of Cyrgon.
Sugar Bowl: Aphrael's world, where lovable animals romp in peace under a rainbow sky.
Surrounded by Idiots: Zalasta's mooks include Scarpa, Sabre and Krager - an insane misogynist, an effeminate poseur and a drunk respectively. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, indeed. (He's quite aware he's doing so, too.)
Too Dumb to Live: The Cyrgai exemplify this trope to its most literal extent: by breeding almost exclusively with Cynesgans they essentially bred their own race out of existenceuntil Cyrgon stepped in. At this point they're so hopelessly inbred and isolated they can barely function. Forget bronze age armour, standard issue kit for these guys is the Idiot Ball.
Hell, Cyrgon himself. And it's entirely deliberate, seeing as he is capable of adapting and thinking but freely chooses not to. Still, trying to make a minion out of Klael was a bit of a bonehead move. To say the least.
This is how the king of the Atans dies in the Tamuli. He attacks an enormous Eldritch Abomination several thousand times larger than himself, on foot, with a sword, without realizing that it might actually be able to kill him. He dies feeling sorry for it, because it's been unfortunate enough to come up against him.
Top God: His worshipers insist that the Elene God is this (when they're not denying the existence of other gods completely). He's not - He isn't qualitatively different from any of the other gods, nor does he have any authority over them unless they enter His territory. He is however far more powerful than any of the other gods due to His immense number of worshipers.
Torture Cellar: Bellina has one of these. The Pandions are rumoured to have them, too - as does the Church of Chyrellos, though everyone insists they never get used.
The faux-Elenic castle in The Tamuli had a lovingly recreated one. Stragen used it to ensure the musicians played an actual fanfare rather than notably discordant Tamul music.
Tranquil Fury: Sparhawk, oh good God Sparhawk. At the end of The Sapphire Rose, when Kurik dies, Sparhawk murders his way through many, many soldiers in a state of complete serene anger and is only distracted when Kalten suggests he go kill Martel. It works because it's going to be more satisfying taking his anger out on the one who is ultimately responsible. Then there's The Hidden City, when Sparhawk learns that Ehlana was kidnapped. A lot of people expect him to go berserk, but instead, he shuts down his emotions after a little angsting, then works out plans to nullify his enemies' plots and arranges for several armies to head towards the stronghold. ( Each army, by the way, is individually more than capable of butchering the Cyrgai armies.)
Trickster Archetype: Aphrael is one of the weakest gods, but she's very good at getting what she wants via a combination of clever planning and Obfuscating Cuteness.
24-Hour Armor: Averted. The Knights have full plate armour but usually travel in mailshirts because the actual armor is such a damned inconvenience most of the time.
For example, there is a scene in which Sparhawk wakes up one morning and basically finds an excuse not to put his armor on just yet, because it's had all night to get chilled.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Sparhawk's friends constantly make cracks about how ugly he is. Ehlana, on the other hand, is anything but.
This ties into a Running Gag throughout the Elenium where Sparhawk keeps booking passage with a sailor named Sorgi by telling him he's running away from an ugly heiress whose cousins want to force him to marry her. They meet again in the Tamuli, and Sorgi sees Ehlana.
Sorgi: "They didn't force you to marry her, did they?"
Sparhawk: "I'm afraid so, my friend. That's my wife on that grey horse there."
Sorgi: (stares with his mouth hanging open)
Sparhawk: (mournfully) "Horrible, isn't it?"
Also Kring and Mirtai. Subverted in that Kring's scars, which have been gained in numerous battles, make Mirtai decide he's worth marrying.
Unwanted Harem: Berit develops one of these in the second series. Apparently something about his eyelashes drives women wild.
The Un-Reveal: In The Shining Ones there's a few mentions of the Cyrgai Wars, in which the Delphae and Styrics made an alliance and battled the Cyrgai, only for (allegedly) the Styrics to betray them, nearly causing the Delphae to become extinct. This sparked a feud between the races that was never resolved, and the actual truth was blurred so much that pretty much everyone has their own story. Sparhawk repeatedly asks Xanetia and Sephrenia to tell him the truth, and when they refuse, he threatens to ask Bhelliom, since it's a neutral observer. This horrifies both of them, but eventually Sparhawk gets so fed up of their bitchy cat-fight that he tells them that he no longer cares about what happened, and he wants their fighting to stop. We never do find out what happened.
The Vamp: Arissa, although her efforts to subvert the protagonists fail spectacularly.
Villain Ball/Idiot Ball: Annias grabs this in the first book by carrying out the second phase of one of his schemes before determining that the first step succeeded, with predictably poor results. This is noted by Sparhawk as being very out of character (Smug Snake that he is, Annias isn't that sloppy), and is one of the first signs that something (read: Azash) is messing with the lesser villains' minds. The same thing happens to Martel when Sparhawk puts a freeze on one of his schemes.
It's explained that at least part of it was because they were being controlled by a Styric -Elenes and other races have complex, sharp minds, but Styrics are generally simpler and will be taken in by simple things—so while the ploys would have worked on Styrics, they didn't work on Elenes, and especially not the good guys, who knew Annias and Martel well enough to know how they generally operated.
Each Cyrgai was issued a personal Idiot Ball at birth, and they were executed if they ever lost it, i.e. began to show signs of becoming too intelligent.
Villain Forgot to Level Grind: The Cyrgai never got any weaker, but believing they represented perfection they never bothered changing, and so the rest of the world buckled down for some serious level-grinding (ten thousand years worth) and blew past them. Against modern Church Knights and Atans the Cyrgai are hilariously useless.
The Cyrgai actually have fossilized. Lack of actual opposition turned their martial training into little more than a formalized dance which gets easily taken apart by any competent warrior with real-world experience. Likewise, they spent a lot of time looking impressive but it's not a good idea to strike a heroic pose during a real fight.
Villainous Breakdown: Zalasta was always pretty crazy, but he was very good at hiding it. After seeing his grand plans crash down around him, however, he pretty much completely loses it and is almost totally Axe Crazy by the time he crashes Sephrenia's wedding at the end.
Vow of Celibacy: The first book notes that the Pandion Knights had originally taken an oath to never marry (and by implication never have sex). However, due to a shortage of Pandions and applicants for knighthood they were allowed by the church to take back their vows so they could marry and have children.
Even though they hate each others' guts until the final battle, Martel admits that he still has respect for Sparhawk. Also crosses over with Foe Yay; he refers to Sparhawk and Sephrenia as the only two people he's ever truly loved, and at another point he remarks:
I'd give my soul to be a man like Sparhawk.
Cyrgon at his end.
Wrong Insult Offence: In Domes of Fire, Stragen takes the Styric Council to task for not being more proactive in the emerging crisis in Daresia. When one of the Councillors answers by calling him a bastard, he shrugs it off... because he literally is the illegitimate son of a nobleman. He then proceeds to point out he is also a swindler, murderer, and thief (since he is also the head of a thieves' guild), glibly implying that anything they could call him would not be insulting in the least.