Literature / Villains by Necessity

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A fantasy novel written by Eve Forward.

Good has not only defeated Evil in the last great war, but continues to hunt down and eradicate all representatives of darkness. While this makes the world a happier, safer place for the common folk, this also puts the protagonist, Sam, out of a job. After all, Sam is an assassin, and since the world's in a state of peace, calm and goodness, there isn't much call for his services.

But wait! There's more: as the forces of Good continue to eradicate Evil, the balance of the world shifts. After Sam and his friend companion often annoying acquaintance Arcie narrowly escape the forces of Good, they stumble across a druid who tells them the ugly truth: if the forces of light continue to overwhelm darkness, the balance will be irreversibly disrupted and the world will be consumed by Good.

As in, cease to exist.

So, they form a Five-Bad Band of Evil Counterparts to Save The World and Set Wrong What Once Went Right. Mostly notable for taking the usual "Evil trying to take over the world" fantasy yarn and turning it on its head. Even if the villains aren't exactly all that evil.


Tropes include:

  • Always Night: Inverted. As the forces of Light proceed to spread unchecked throughout the world, night is getting shorter and shorter, moving closer to becoming Always Day.
  • Artifact of Doom: Valeriana's medallion is one of the last surviving Hellgates (called Darkgates in the book). A very small one, yes, but a Hellgate nonetheless. Given that, you'd think Sam would know better than to put the damn thing on, but that's part of its evil, tempting power...
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The very premise of the novel, with a small twist: if the world remains precisely balanced too long, it will be locked in stasis for all eternity. Periodic fluctuations in balance are just as vital as making sure neither side gets the upper hand for long.
  • Baleful Polymorph: It's implied that Blackmail's horse is actually his brother, transformed into a horse by Mizzamir.
  • Black Knight: Blackmail.
  • Brainwashed/Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The plainer term for "whitewashing", where a wizard in the service of Good forcibly drives out the evil in a person, leaving the victim in a state best described as Good Is Dumb. Could be considered a form of Mind Rape.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Well, Mizzamir seems to think it applies, and most everyone he talks to either agrees with him already or does by the time he's through with them (see Brainwashed). Subverted in that Sam refuses to give in and just keeps trying to kill him.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Sam almost never drinks since it could potentially interfere with his job, and he needs to keep his instincts and reflexes honed. As a result, when he does drink he goes down fast, though Arcie just attributes this to Six Landers' innate "fragility".
  • Cessation of Existence: The entire universe will be "sublimated" in a flash of light if the "Good" side isn't stopped.
  • Chess Motifs: "In chess, someone has to take the black pieces."
  • Chest Monster: Called an "Aydaptor", one nearly devours Arcie. Later it's domesticated with a spell into a pet by the adventuring party following them, to its horror.
  • Child by Rape: It turns out that Sam is one, via Mizzamir.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Almost deconstructed.
    • The reason why the druids are all but extinct. Once Good overpowered Evil, the druids were obligated as keepers of the balance to join with the forces of Evil. Unfortunately, they're Stereotypical Evil, and both sides killed the Druids...
    • In the present, the group remark on the stupidity of this trope as a stereotypically villainous act, since adhering to it is what led to evil being mostly wiped out. The villains note how backwards it is to be at the throats of your own allies, even when in a position where you can trust no one. They themselves manage Teeth-Clenched Teamwork to get through the adventure, eventually growing into actual trust.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Played straight and subverted. Sam wears black, Mizzamir wears white. The subversion lies in that Mizzamir is a deluded wizard who only cares about Light and Dark, not right or wrong. Sam is an assassin, but other than that quite a decent fellow.
    • Sam also notes that assassins take this to the logical extreme of wearing black undergarments, the better not to give away one's position if one's outer garments tear on an assignment and, as he puts it, "show a white bunny tail." At the start of the book, Sam has also had his naturally blond hair dyed black for the same reason.
  • Compelling Voice: Kaylana is able to use this power in a limited manner. She has to look in the subject's eyes, and it works better on animals than people. In the latter case it hurts her.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Spectrum Key, used to seal off the main Darkgate, then fragmented and each part hidden in a trial (just in case it's needed, however unlikely).
  • Dark is Not Evil: Kaylana (and Robin after his Heel–Face Turn) are nominally part of the dark side, despite lacking evil traits. Sam and Arcie aren't particularly bad sorts either, their professions notwithstanding, and Blackmail, for all his Black Knight trappings, proves to be downright noble. The only one of the "villains" who can really be described as "evil" in any way is Valeriana, and even she had children and a husband she loved which also lends her a sympathetic backstory since they were slaughtered by "heroes".
  • Deconstruction: The book's goal in regards to fantasy fiction.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Kaylana. Over the course of the book she slowly warms up under Sam's romantic attention toward her, and at the end she finally laughs at something he says. It's implied they are together after this.
  • Embarrassing First Name: "Arcie" comes from "R. C.", for Reinhart Corallis, much to Arcie's embarrassment when it's revealed near the end.
  • Epiphanic Prison: The Labyrinth of Dreams, the last test the protagonists face, works only if you believe in the illusions.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Arcie's thief-friend Kimi left the Thieves' Guild for love. Also Valerie, easily the evilest person in the entire party, lost her family and entire people to brutal slaughter by the Verdant Company, which is one reason she hates Fenwick so much. Blackmail left the Six Heroes for his brother's sake. Sam's first kill was of his mother's rapist.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Sam. He explicitly states that none of the assassins ever killed an entire family, plus they make their killing quick and painless.
  • Evil Feels Good: An implied effect of Valeriana's medallion.
  • Evil Gloating: Subverted when Blackmail finally gets around to talking; he keeps fighting all the way through his monologue.
  • The Evils of Free Will: In a rare twist, it's said by the "good" guys, who "whitewash" villain's minds to make them good citizens.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The options facing the world. Ironically, it's the "good" side obliviously pushing the world toward destruction.
  • Expy: Some good adventurers in the second half of the book bear a strong resemblance to the characters in the Dragonlance Chronicles books.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Blackmail, as far as the Six Heroes are concerned. Also see Heel–Face Turn.
  • Familiar: Valerie's raven Nightshade is hers, doing things such as spy or perform small tasks she orders. She also has genuine affection for him-he's more than just a tool. Good mages also often have them. The downside however is that having a familiar requires a kind of psychic link, so any harm is shared. Sam and Arcie quickly exploit the fact when Valerie takes over the group by holding Nightshade hostage until she gives up her amulet. Later, Nightshade fights some familiars of Good mages, and kills two in one go this way.
  • Feed the Mole: When Robin is found out, everybody starts giving him false info.
  • Five-Bad Band: With Robin as the Sixth Ranger.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several hints about Blackmail being Sir Pryce and Sam being Mizzamir's son. Blackmail is from Kwartz, Sir Pryce's country, follows the paladin code, and is apparently defeated when a paladin whom he's fighting prays to Sir Pryce for aid. Robin, while looking at a painting depicting the youthful Mizzamir and thinks his features then looks oddly familiar. Because he resembles Sam. Plus the fact that a magical warp reacts to him and he can get a magic mirror to work, which shows he has latent ability inherited from Mizzamir.
  • Good Is Dumb: The common and whitewashed segments of the population.
  • Good Is Not Nice: There's Mizzamir, who let's face it, is pretending to be a hero, even if he won't admit it to himself. There's several other "good" characters who indulge in less savory practices. Among the members of a "good" adventuring party were a woman who quite clearly wouldn't have taken "no" for an answer from Sam, while Fenwick tried to date-rape Kaylana, having dosed her drink with aphrodisiacs.
  • Good Needs Evil: The book's central theme.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Sam, whose father is Mizzamir, the elven archmage.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: The effect of "whitewashing" is to turn evil people good by force.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Robin and, before the start of the book, Blackmail, for certain values of "heel" and "face."
  • Hero Antagonist: The side of light is, unknowingly, destroying their world by eradicating every speck of evil in it, to the point that they are annihilating everything that could be qualified as "not-light". This included the druids, who were keepers of balance, and the bards, who were more or less neutral. They then begin whitewashing thieves, assassins, and other criminals, who were more or less just grey.
  • Heroic Suicide: The Dark Gate requires a death to open it. Sir Pryse thus kills himself by jumping in, saving the world from destruction.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Kaylana, since she's got both Sam and Fenwick trying to get her attention.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Sam, who is an assassin but a caring, friendly person overall despite this.
  • Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Sam, whose mother was human and whose father it turns out is an elf.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When the knight in jet-black armor shows up, the protagonists have to come up with a name for him (he declines to give one, or even say anything). They settle on "Blackmail". For extra fun, his real name is Sir Pryse.
    • Not to mention, the names of the Six Lands themselves - Ein, Dous, Trois, Kwart, Seicks...
  • It's Always Spring: Explained as a side effect of Good having such a stranglehold on the world; the characters note that it should by all rights be autumn, but the sun only stays up longer (to the point where Kaylana's attempt to tell time by the sun's position is four hours off) and the flowers only get more abundant.
  • It's Personal:
    • Sam starts the book under the belief that the Assassin's Guild, the closest thing he has to a family, are all abandoning their trade because it's a much less stable business as evil is being wiped out of the world. After finding out exactly what whitewashing actually entails, he realizes they were forced against their will into leaving their old lives behind, and vows to kill Mizzamir for it.
    • Cited as the reason behind Blackmail's final break with the Six Heroes. When his brother turned evil, he asked Mizzamir to be merciful... and Mizzamir turned his brother into a warhorse. It's implied that this is the same warhorse he rode and lovingly cared for until Fenwick's men killed it.
  • Knight Templar: So-called "Good" in a nutshell.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Kaylana and Valeriana.
  • Lawful Stupid: The main problem with the premise is that it depends heavily on this and Stupid Good behavior from the ostensibly "good" antagonists in order to keep them in conflict with the protagonists, who aside from Valeriana really aren't at all evil.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Barigans are stand-ins for hobbits, with Arcie going so far as to lampshade this. On a more parodic level, the Gnifty Gnomes are thinly-disguised Smurfs.
  • Light is Not Good: The behavior of the side of Light being obvious enough.
  • Living Lie Detector: Kaylana has this talent, presumably due to being a druid. It does have drawbacks, such as lies of omission.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mizzamir and Sam.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Mizzamir names the novel's world "Chiaroscuro", which is Italian for "light-dark", referring to artwork that features this contrast, and of course the conflict centers on the struggle between the forces of Light and Dark.
    • Blackmail meets the group by saving them from a Dragon of Light who's in the process of attacking them. The dragon's name? Lumathix, which literally means "light-toucher."
  • Mind Rape: Mizzamir did this to Sam's mother, to cover up his physically raping her. It left her permanently mentally damaged.
  • Murder, Inc.: The assassins guild Sam used to be a member of.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Sam, during the climax. Mizzamir raped his mother, conceiving him and indirectly putting Sam on the path to becoming an assassin. This leads to Mizzamir's death at his hand in the end.
  • The Needless: One of the many things about Blackmail that raises questions from the rest of the group. He never sleeps, never eats, never tires.
  • Neutrality Backlash: The druids tried to keep both sides in the war between good and evil from winning, as they knew that either side achieving absolute victory would be a disaster. This got them declared an enemy by both sides. By the start of the story (a century after the Victory), Kaylana was the only druid still alive.
  • Offstage Villainy: Not one of the villain protagonists does anything really evil in the story, thus allowing us to sympathize with them. Anything like that is only mentioned as part of their past (for instance Sam's apparently assassinated dozens of people).
  • Pet the Dog: The group all have moments and relationships that keep them from being entirely evil people. The most obvious and present is Blackmail's sincere and touching love for his horse, to the point of nearly hitting a Despair Event Horizon when it dies.
  • Plot Coupon: The fragments of the Spectrum Key.
  • Poison Is Evil: Our protagonist, Sam, is an assassin with a vast knowledge of toxins and poisons, which he carries plenty of at all times, having spent years building up immunities to them. He also readily employs Poisoned Weapons and owns a Poison Ring.
  • Poison Ring: Sam owns one, which he uses to store allergy medication in.
  • Professional Killer: Sam, though he isn't that bad of a person. There used to be an entire guild of them in his home city.
  • Punny Name: Blackmail, named after his black armor, and Sir Pryse.
  • The Quiet One: Blackmail never talks, choosing to communicate with the group through gestures, if that.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The protagonists, who are a black knight, an evil sorceress, a druid, a thief and assassin.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sam believes this, after walking in on his mother after she'd been raped by a drunk. He killed the man, and has killed other rapists since "off the books".
  • Really 700 Years Old: Kaylana, who was a child during the last war between Good and Evil... over a hundred and fifty years ago.
  • Saving the World: From the forces of so-called Good, no less.
  • Shadow Walker: Sam, which turns out to be very useful in his work. This involves traveling into a shadow world which is entered or exited through shadows, though it doesn't appear to make travel any faster, just easier getting into otherwise inaccessible places. It's stated there used to be others-apparently they all went into the shadow world one by one, though, and never returned... Naturally, the assassins decided it was best to stop teaching it after that. It seems this was due to being addictive magic, since Sam grows more and more unable to stand being in the normal world after he starts using it.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Robin.
  • Soul Jar: The heart stone acts as a variant of this. It's also a subversion as Sam is a hell of a lot more vulnerable having his gift locked away in the thing.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Fenwick.
  • Sticky Fingers: Arcie is the former leader of the (now defunct) Thieves Guild and pockets everything he comes across, even if they happen to be owned by his traveling companions.
  • Stupid Neutral: The druids. First in the backstory they switched sides once the balance tipped in favor of the Light. Naturally the forces of Light killed them as traitors. The Dark meanwhile viewed them as spies for having so recently fought on the side of Light, and killed them as well. Kaylana, the last druid, learned nothing after this, telling her "dark" comrades that she'd turn on them if the Dark ever started winning. What a way to inspire trust...
  • Sugar Apocalypse:
    • Turns out that wickedness and evil are needed in the world, otherwise a cosmos of nothing but virtue and innocence will be wiped out in a great blinding light, essentially this trope.
    • On a smaller scale, the protagonists at one point find a village of Gnifty Gnomes; tiny, disgustingly cute little critters who only want to play games and sing songs. After our villains narrowly escape their proposed party, Blackmail gallantly chops down a tree that crushes their village, wiping them out.
  • Sugar Bowl: The world is slowly turning into this, with the brainless whitewashed populace only growing, the sun staying out for longer, and the night becoming brighter. The villains notice several times on their travels how sickeningly wholesome and sweet many of the landscapes they traverse are.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Sam, courtesy of Valeriana's medallion.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Mizzamir plays the Palantir Ploy throughout the book. It seems to work perfectly at first, but the presence of both Kaylana and Valeriana in the group causes it to only give him some vague glimpses of the protagonist's progress. Later, the protagonists get ahold of a magic mirror which allows them to remotely view Mizzamir, conveniently revealing that Robin in his spy.
  • Take That: To the Smurfs, and perhaps the fantasy genre overall.
  • Tautological Templar: The side of Good is actually pretty damned evil. Not only is the world becoming "mystically unbalanced" by their actions but they've become a horrible dictatorship and most of them still insist that they are Good and all who oppose them are Evil.
    • As it's put at one point-they know nothing of right or wrong, only Good and Evil.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: This is the threat the protagonists are trying to stop. Assuming the forces of Good aren't thwarted, the entire world will be "sublimated"-vaporized in a flash of light.
  • The Mole / The Infiltration: Robin, who's been sent to join the heroes as a spy for Mizzamir.
  • The Reveal: Blackmail is Sir Pryse, one of the Six Heroes.
  • Thieves' Cant: Arcie and Sam speak in rogues' cant when planning to attack Valerie.
  • Thieves' Guild: Arcie was once guildmaster of one, and most cities apparently had them, although some only had competing independent gangs.
  • True Companions: By the end of the book, the main characters.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Or at least the Good crowd thinks it does, if it's even occurred to them that not everything they do is automatically right in the first place.
  • Villain Protagonist: Sam, Arcie and Valeriana, though the latter two aren't as villainous.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Kaylana turns into a horse at one point as a disguise. Fenwick, thinking she's a real horse, tries to ride off on her. She bucks him off.
  • Warrior Prince: Fenwick, one of the heroes, is a proud knightly prince and a champion for the forces of light.
  • Weird Trade Union: Assassins and thieves organized themselves into guilds in most cities. Sam (assassin) and Arcie (thief) had both been members of their respective guilds, with the latter a guildmaster.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Mizzamir. Though on the surface he is a kindly elven mage, he's also got no problem with brainwashing villains into becoming good. Also it's eventually revealed he once committed rape and confused the victim's mind so she couldn't tell anyone, to protect his good name and reputation.

Alternative Title(s): Villains By Necessity

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