The Squire (Catherine Foundling/ The Black Queen)
The Protagonist of A Practical Guide to Evil. Born in the years following the Praesi conquest of Callow and raised at the Imperial House for Tragically Orphaned Girls, Catherine was an excellent example of exactly what those facilities were designed throttle in the crib. Stubborn, driven, and precociously clever and charismatic, Catherine had all the signs of a Hero in the making. Black Knight was working a longer game however, and when they encounter each other one fateful night he offers her the name of The Squire, and the power to make the changes she seeks from within the institutions of the empire. Catherine accepts becoming one of the Empire's most powerful agents at a stroke.
Catherine's first aspect was Learn, after her confrontation with Heiress on the Blessed Isle she gained a second aspect: Struggle. During the Battle of Marchford her third aspect, Seek was corrupted by the demon and had to be permanently removed by Masego.
Following the events of the Battle of Liesse in which her Name was stripped from her and she had to win it back from Chider, she lost all of her aspects while also regaining the empty slot that had been lost to the demon. The first new aspect she gained was Take. The second aspect is Break and the third is Fall
After the second Battle of Liesse Catherine loses her connection to the name of Squire, retaining only a shadow of her previous aspects and her Mantle as the new Queen of Winter. She is now known by the title (not Name) of 'The Black Queen'.
- Action Girl: This. Catherine has been Named for two years and she already has two hero kills to her name, a third was done at her order and she won every battle she was involved in. She's a walking ball of death to anything she fights, from other Named to devils to demons. And she's just getting started.
- Action Survivor: During the Summerholm arc. Afterwards she develops her combat skills and becomes acclimated to her Name abilities so that she's more of a straightforward badass
- A God I Am Not: She is shocked and immediately denies it when The Dead King lists her as a fellow immortal, stating that all Villains are ''technically'' immortal already, and even he can still be killed.
- Anti-Villain: Somewhere between Well-Intentioned and In-Name-Only. She becomes more ruthless as time goes on but she still avoids clearly reprehensible practices like human sacrifice, torture etc and does her best to preserve innocent life. Her villainy is almost entirely a factor of being aligned with the Evil side. This however changes when she does become more willing to sacrifice innocents by the thousands just to maintain her power.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Zig-zagged. When she is first granted command of Rat Company it is in recognition of her achievement in taking command of the company and leading it to victory against truly ridiculous odds. In order to earn the command of the Legion, Catherine then has to come out victorious in a five-way melee commanding her own company, however she subverts this trope when she wins by cutting a deal with her most competent competitor rather than carrying the fight through to the bitter end. Once the Fifteenth Legion enters the field this becomes inverted: Although she's technically in charge, her physical power as The Squire forces her to focus on front line combat, and she delegates most tactical planning to Juniper, while still clearly being in command.
- Badass Creed: "Justifications only matter to the just."
- Badass Boast: She gets a few.
- "I don't win fights because I'm the Squire I win them because I'm Catherine Foundling. Watch them take a swing. See where it gets them."
- "Whether they be gods or kings or all the armies in Creation."
- Black Comedy: Catherine has a distinctly dark sense of humour. Mind you, a cynical take on life with bonus Gallows Humor are par for the course with a job in the armed forces of anywhere.
- Bi the Way: With a definite tilt towards females.
- Broken Pedestal: Goes so far as to stab Black in the gut and banish him from Callow due to his manipulations.
- Brought Down to Badass: Repeatedly.
- Covered in burns by Hell-Fire and a cut by an Absurdly Sharp Blade? Use your Necromatic abilities on yourself.
- Have your Name ripped out of your soul? Deliver a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the person who is no struggling to cope with the Super Senses they just stole.
- Book Four takes this Up to Eleven. She willingly feeds her status as a Physical God to Sve Noc. Shocked by this, Sve Noc saves her life and makes Catherine her first priestess, and allies with Callow.
- Brutal Honesty: Cat tends to tell it to you in ways both blunt and straight. Why lie when truth can get the job done?
- Came Back Wrong: She's had part of her soul amputated due to demonic corruption, was killed by The Lone Swordsman (with her corpse's head cut off), and was turned into a Humanoid Abomination and had her literal heart ripped out by the Winter King. Several characters question how much of the original Catherine is actually left.
- Daddy's Girl/ Daddy's Little Villain: Technically, she and Black aren't at all related. But, just you try telling all of his mates that, as most of them spend (or, in Catheine and Black's opinions, waste) time twitting both about how alike in attitude and humour they are. Down to mannerisms. The rest of the Calamities have a point, though — whatever their victims say.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has to be one just to keep up with her officers.
- Determinator: Woe betide foes who think that because she's bleeding out, she's got to be out for the count. It gets to the point where The Lone Swordsman repeatedly tries to warn others of what he's found out about her the hard way.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: Her pleas for compromise to the First Prince and the Grey Pilgrim are both turned down. Unfortunately, this was her attempt at seaching for an excuse not to pursue her third option: an invitation to Keter by the King of the Dead himself.
- The Dreaded: It takes some time, but Catherine eventually earns her reputation as the heir to the most successful tyrant on Calernia. By the time the Tenth Crusade rolls around, the Proceran commanders are clearly terrified of her.
- Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: After becoming the new Queen of Winter, she and her forces can use these to dramatically, if unpredictably, shorten the time it takes to march somewhere with no risk of being attacked en route.
- Fisher Queen: After becoming the Queen in Callow, Grey Pilgrim claims this as the reason why negotiation is not an option. According to him, the people of Callow living under the rule of a Villain will be influenced into Evil themselves, regardless of her intentions.
- Front Line General: The power of Catherine's name means that she is frequently needed on the front lines, however she usually prefers to stay out of the fray as long as possible, only getting directly involved in combat at the most decisive point in a given engagement. Over time, she stops embracing this trope so whole-heartedly, as her new powers and roles require her to be more of The Chessmaster.
- Godzilla Threshold: The power of Winter. After the Arcadia arc, Catherine is the sole titled noble in the fae Winter Court. Pulling on its power in a controlled way is easy enough, but when she breaks the bindings that connect her soul to this raw power, watch out.
- Hero Killer: She cripples the Hunter in the second Summerholm arc, then goes on to order the death of the Exiled Prince and then kills The Page in single combat at the battle of Three Hills. However, her credentials arguably aren't fully secure until she kills The Lone Swordsman in Liesse.
- By the beginning of Book 4, she has killed at least half a dozen heroic incursions into Callow, cementing her place as this.
- Heroes Prefer Redheads: Cuddly redheaded mages to be precise.
- High Priestess: Gets this position to Sve Noc.
- Honesty Is the Best Policy: When caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she tends to head for sheer audacity (and, at the very least, ~50+% truth, perhaps ~25% twisty omission and maybe 10-25% outright fib... give or take) over completely weaseling out of it. She owns both her faults and her strengths, thanks — including accepting the price of not being awesome enough to get out unscathed. And, she does get herself dinged; just, not as badly as you'd expect given the situations. This is mainly thanks to ducking the worst due to mostly going for this trope and combing with Crazy Awesome.
- Humanoid Abomination: After breaking Masego's shackles that held her Mantle in check Catherine fully comes into her powers as the Queen of the Winter Fae. As a result she is now less a person than a person-shaped magical construct that can bend, exploit or flat-out ignore normal Creational Laws.
- Kid with the Leash: While certainly not helpless in her own right, she becomes this for the Wild Hunt after claiming the Mantle of Winter, and Akua after binding her Soul Jar to her cloak. Being the High Priest for Sve Noc also counts, as they (usually) listen to her advice, despite not being under her control.
- Lame Pun Reaction: She absolutely hates puns and is none to happy that she's recruited a lot of people who love them.
- The Leader: She's mostly a mix of The Charismatic and The Headstrong but she's been known to pull some clever plans and manipulations in the mold of the Mastermind as well.
- Morality Chain: Is an odd version of this for Sve Noc. In large part, they keep her so that they can socialize with someone not their enemy or raised to worship them. This is so they won't get too detached from mortals and lose their Genre Saviness, as old gods like them often do.
- Pragmatic Villainy: She's still got L-plates on, but is well on the way to getting her licence.
- Refusal of the Call: When the Hashmallim try to turn her into the heroic Queen of Callow in Liesse, she flatly refuses and calls them out for being hypocrites.
- Take a Third Option: At the end of Book Four, she's stuck in the middle of a pitched battle between Akua and Sve Noc over her soul's worthiness. Mortally wounded, missing a large part of her soul, and having just come out of a Villainous BSoD, she interrupts. Catherine freely offers her unconditional surrender to Sve Noc, and humbly begs for aid for her people from the new deity. Sve Noc decides to not only spare her, but allies with her against the Dead King, technically fulfilling Catherine's obligations to the Dwarves, and gaining the army she went there to gather in the first place.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: She tries to play nice and limit casualties during the Tenth Crusade's initial push into Callow. She refused a plan that would have crippled Procer in the first few months of the Crusade as well as the use of any large rituals out of hope that being cordial would enable peace talks. The House of Light promptly declare her Arch-heretic of the East. She then decides to take The Dead King up on his offer of negotiations.
- Underestimating Badassery: People keep thinking she's a minor threat and paying a hard price for it. Even angels.
- Villains Never Lie: She certainly prefers to use truth, but isn't about to shackle herself to the practice. She tells the unvarnished truth most of the time — particularly if she knows her opponent is resistant to the idea that straightforward truth is even a thing. However, it just makes her lies harder to catch or refute when she does deploy them. Later on, her fae aspect makes any promise relatively binding. She can still be very specific with the wording though.
- Villain Protagonist: With everything she has done up to this point for her own selfish gain, as well as what "side" she's technically on, she definitely fits this.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: After getting the Mantle of Winter, it's power makes her more "traditionally evil" the longer she uses it in a battle. When this is devoured by Sve Noc at the end of Book Four, Cat enters an on-and-off Villainous BSoD out of horror over her actions.
The Adjutant (Hakram of the Howling Wolves)
Catherine's sergeant in the academy wargames, Hakram quickly proves himself indispensable with his quiet competence and uncanny encyclopedic knowledge of the social dynamics of the academy students. After she assumes command of the Fifteenth legion Catherine names Hakram her adjutant, which unexpectedly develops into a new Name, the first to appear among the orcs in generations.
Adjutant has three aspects: Stand, Find, and Rampage.
- Affably Evil: Hakram is quite suave and sophisticated in a smoothly jovial way. And, not just in a case of "for an orc": for practically anybody. Still has the whole "will kill you easily" air, though.
- Badass Bureaucrat: He wasn't what anybody would call bad at juggling the admin before he got his Name, but afterwards? Yikes: turbo charged! Also, Orc — pity anybody who tries to mess with his filing system...
- Battle Butler: Of a distinctly batman variety (no, not Batman — don't give Pickler ideas). He has a higher status than you'd expect, but he basically functions as this in his role as Adjunct to Catherine.
- Broken Ace: At first glance Hakram is pretty much the ideal Orc male — physically imposing, skilled at violence, stoic and sexually successful. He doesn't let on to anyone except Catherine that he doesn't like that role — he doesn't feel the bloodlust that normally defines his people and was essentially going through the motions until he ran into Catherine.
- Deadpan Snarker: Yup. Tusks greatly help with your deadpan delivery, apparently.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: As Hakram tells it, this was where he was at the time he met Catherine. He'd been coasting through life on the back of other's expectations and his own competence without ever finding something he cared enough about to fight for. It was only when Catherine showed him both how truly messed up the imperial system was and that it was possible to change it that he truly dedicated himself to something for the first time in his life.
- Determinator: Meeting Catherine put a fire under him. So much so, he not only shrugged of a major injury for her, but wrestled a new, and appropriate, Name from the ungrateful cosmos.
- The Lancer and/or The Dragon: Catherine's all-purpose right-hand man. His nascent Name seems to be built as a supporting role to the Squire.
- The Reliable One: Seems to have as large a part in running the Fifteenth as Catherine herself sometimes, and she's commented several times she lucked out majorly when she first got him as a sergeant. We see in the extra chapters that he's not above cleaning up messes before they ever get to her attention, including his own attempted assassination.
- Red Baron: got nicknamed "Hakram Deadhand" after losing a hand to the Lone Swordsman in Summerholm and quickly proved the nickname right by strangling an enemy priest to death at the Battle of Three Hills.
The Apprentice (Masego) The Hierophant
Warlock's adopted son who joins the Fifteenth legion after fighting with them in Summerholm. An extremely gifted mage who is largely apathetic about all non-magical matters. He quickly proves himself indispensable. His aspects are Glimpse, and Deconstruct. His Aspects as The Hierophant are Witness, Ruin and Wrest.
- Asexuality: Of the "I have loads of more interesting things to do" brand of doesn't-get-the-fuss. He's quite understanding of others having it as an important part of their lives, however (his love-bird dads help). Holds strong platonic affection for the Woe, particularly Archer.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Masego is prone to Brutal Honesty, he's extremely competent within his limited field of interest and uninterested in most things not related to it and he compulsively corrects, argues or clarifies small details. Catherine theorizes that some of his personality quirks may be from the effects of his name but we have no confirmation as of yet.
- Badass Bookworm: Masego had reportedly never been in actual combat before he met Catherine. Despite this he wipes the floor with pretty much every mage he comes up against. This was, perhaps, only to be expected when he was up against The Bumbling Conjurer but he also sends Heiress running and goes several rounds against a Demon of Corruption.
- De-Power: Book 5 has him lose his magic after being possessed by the Dead King.
- The Evil Genius: After he joins the Fifteenth he becomes their expert on all thing supernatural. He provides most information on their opposition through a combination of background knowledge and divination magic.
- For Science!: Well, "for empirical thaumatic studies", at least. Poking at Creation to see how it ticks! Yay!
- Freudian Excuse: He wants to dissect Creation to see how it works. The reason? He was raised in a pocket dimension and at quite tender age saw his world end.
- Friendless Background: Hinted at. Also hinted that both his dads have tried several times to socialise him in various ways with others of around his own age, only to have it not stick until relatively recently.
- Glass Eye: Gets a pair of glass eyes during the Arcadia arc, made from his magic spectacles after they blew up in his original eyes due to seeing the Sun of Summer up close. He can see with them at least as well as he could with his original eyes, even through the blindfold he wears over them.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual: His spectacles let him capture images and easily see spellwork, among other things.
- Grammar Nazi: He is obsessed with being exact when he talks. Catherine has theorized it's a weakness driven by his Name and he's literally incapable of letting imprecision go.
- Happily Adopted: At some point, Warlock bumped into a promising, very little lad with a propensity to learn magic. And, Tikolosche promptly started a "we can adopt and train him — oh, go on, you know you could do a much better job as a real Daddy to your apprentice than your master did with the whole master-pupil thing!" campaign. It worked (ulterior motives or not): Apprentice wouldn't have it any other way.
- Has Two Daddies: One of whom is an Incubus, the other is a scary-as-hell Warlock. They're both doting Papa Wolves he dearly loves.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Heiress makes a brief attempt to Show Some Leg hoping to bring him over to her side. He responds by deadpanning about vivisecting her.
- He does seem to be at least a little attracted to The Archer, however — or flummoxed: one of the two or both. And, Malicia can crack his chronic disinterest a little, too (but, she does that with everybody).
- Odd Friendship: He, Cat and Hakram rub along surprisingly well, considering their various differences. It seems to surprise him a little, too. In Book 3, he is also the first of the Woe to befriend Archer.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Where Masego goes, the Fifteenth's enemies die.
- The Smart Guy / Evil Genius: Just like his father, Masego is very clearly the researcher and resident genius of the Woe.
The Archer (Indrani)
One of Ranger's minions, a young woman who is sent to retrieve The Hunter after the Empire agrees to return him to Refuge. By Book 3, she has decided to join Catherine's cause and has been bound as one of the Woe. One of her aspects is See, which allows her to see at incredible distances.
- Aloof Big Sister: Seems to be her relationship with Hunter, roughly.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Averted. In Book 5, she casually states that The Power of Love should help a plan, as she is in love with Masego.
- Anything That Moves / The Hedonist: Indrani will hit on just about anyone. When quizzed she points out that Named tend to get more of everything, power and danger, which means she's likely not destined for old age and should enjoy life while she can.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Her version of saying 'hi' is to deliver a casual beat-down to Adjutant, Apprentice, and Squire while the latter is convalescing from a battle with devils.
- The Big Guy / The Brute: It's not evident right away, but Archer fills this role within the Woe as the most skilled fighter of the crew. She was trained by Ranger, after all.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Female version, an arrogant, hard-drinking badass who picks fights and takes passes at people left and right.
- Boom, Headshot!: As one would expect for someone Named Archer. Book 5 has her on the recieving end of one courtesy of a Dead King-possessed Masego.
- Bow and Sword, in Accord: More of a long knife than a sword really (Legolas-style) but still fits the basic concept.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: At the last minute she and Hunter show up to help fight the Demon.
- Deadpan Snarker: OK, Tinkles really does deserve it, let's face it. The poor, dumb fool.
- First-Name Basis: She tells Catherine to call her by her given name (Indrani) at the end of Book 3, as a sign of loyalty.
- Friends with Benefits: With Catherine in Book 4.
- Odd Friendship: With Masego. Might be transitioning into a Chasity Couple.I know hes not interested in bedplay, Cat, Indrani snorted. Come on. Last time he saw me shirtless he asked if I needed healing.
The Thief (Vivienne Dartwick)
A Hero of Callowan origin that joins the Lone Swordsman's party for the rebellion in Callow. Although she is arguably the most effective member of the Swordsman's party (besides William himself) we know relatively little about her. She has an independent streak, tending to leave the party and operate solo for long stretches. This has continued in her role among the Woe as well.
- Ascended Extra: She's a side character in the main plot of Book 2, with slightly more importance in William's Interludes. In Book 3 she steps up to face off with Cat directly, and becomes a member of her growing Five-Man Band.
- Brought Down to Badass: She begins to fear she is losing her Name as her driving motivations change. This leads to some positive Character Development where she lets go of the anger that caused her to start stealing in the first place. This leads to her becoming the politician and diplomat of The Woe. She's skilled enough at this to be made heir apparent to the Crown.
- The Chick / The Dark Chick: The most idealistic and least villainous of the Woe, although in practice she operates more like a Sixth Ranger.
- Combat Pragmatist: The Thief tends to avoid direct conflict, preferring to strike from surprise. In a stand-up fight she isn't able to defeat Hakram even before he comes into his name.
- Hidden Depths: Quickly works out that the Wandering Bard isn't as spoony as she looks — and, starts surreptitiously sidling away from ground zero without drawing attention to it, beyond warning William he should think about getting out of dodge.
- Impossible Thief: She manages to steal a fleet of river galleys, somehow cramming them all into a Bag of Holding, then uses them to form a makeshift barricade at the battle of Liesse.
- Karmic Thief: Apparently, the underground thieving community of Callow follows this general principle, with scams that rely on the mark's own greed being preferred, and scams that don't being expressly forbiden from being used on innocent Callowan citizens. Praesi are fair targets for anything, of course.
- King of Thieves: Becomes the "king" of the Callowan thieving underground.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Doesn't hesitate to steal from her teammates.
- Morality Chain: Catherine trusts Thief with several code phrases that could be used to control, contain, or even kill her because she believes Thief has the firmest moral compass of The Woe, and has an actual worldly goal that would cause her to be directly opposed to measures that are too Evil.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Thief is ultimately loyal to Callow itself. This is the very reason she joins the Woe, as she realizes that Catherine truly has the country's best interests at heart.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Akua delivers a Breaking Speech about how Catherine's ambition would eventually drive her to become a new Empress in a bid to "fix" the world. Thief promptly retorts that Akua has gotten obsessed with justifying her defeat by convincing herself that Catherine was a Worthy Opponent who will succeed where she failed.
- Taken Up to Eleven when she calls Akua out for intentionally losing arguments like this in order to become more personable to The Woe.
- Token Good Teammate: Of the Woe. Adjutant has Undying Loyalty to Cat, not any particular ideals. Maeago's a Mad Scientist with a total Lack of Empathy towards anyone who isn't a close friend or family member. Archer is an unapologetic Hedonist and Thrill Seeker. Cat has similar goals for saving Callow, but mentions several times that Vivienne is simply a better person than her.
- Unexpected Successor: Catherine declares her heir to the Crown of Callow.
- Utility Party Member: She's very useful for stealth, as a spy-mistress, and removing enemy supplies and trump cards from the equation, but, much to her frustration, is a very poor combatant for a Named.
The Black Knight (Amadeus)The Empress Malicia's right-hand man and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Callow since the Conquest.The son of a small freeholder in the Empire's Green Stretch (and one of the light-skinned Duni minority), Black spent decades rising to the pinnacle of the imperial hierarchy along with the his allies, the Five Calamities and the Empress Malicia I (formerly an imperial concubine named Alaya). After leading Malicia's forces to victory in a brutal civil war, Black set about re-organizing the imperial legions of terror into a highly competent professional army loyal to him, a weapon which he then used to annex the Kingdom of Callow. The past twenty years have been spent consolidating these gains: Stomping on any hero that raises their head in Callow while managing the kingdom well enough to prevent widespread rebellious sentiment from spreading among the masses.As the story begins his efforts are beginning to fail as the narrative arc of the universe turns against the upstart empire. Heroes are popping up like mad- two or three a year at a rate that is only increasing and will soon overtake the calamities' capability to suppress. Meanwhile the Deadly Decadent Court in Praes gets more mutinous by the day and the Principate of Procer is gathering it's forces looking to finally drive the Praesi back to the wasteland. But Black has a plan. A plan to turn the rules of storytelling back against themselves. What he needs is an Anti-hero, a Callowan with a Praesi name who can change the story of Callow forever and bind the two nations together. Enter Catherine Foundling.
Black's aspects are Lead, Conquer and Destroy.
- Affably Evil: Like all the Calamities, he's a reasonably pleasant guy to be around. But... there is a distinct limit: show your Stupid Evil, Bond Villain Stupidity or particularly egregious Stupid Good off near him, and he'll quickly show you how little he appreciates it. Graphically and geographically, if needed.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Even before he became the Squire (and then the Black Knight), his analytical, abstract and asocial approach to Evil differed widely from the norm. He's actually worried he'll go too far over the edge with it in time, as Black Knights have a habit of going too far into deep end of madness.
- Black Comedy: His sense of humour is both dark and very, very cynical. Beware when he breaks out in some kind of smile. If somewhat lighter, kind of playful version, it's probably closer to a Cheshire Cat Grin. If playful in a completely different way, it's a disturbing Slasher Smile. In both cases... something is about to go very badly and ironically wrong for somebody he thinks deserves it.
- Blood Knight: All his aspects power up when he's brutally crushing his enemies in an open battle. Loathe though he is to openly admit it, it's a rush he can't avoid getting.
- Childhood Friends: Alaya the tavern-girl and Amadeus the farm-boy were friends long before Dread Empress Malacia and The Black Knight were allies.
- Cold Ham: He has a very cold and restrained affect but that doesn't cover up the fact that he loves his melodrama. He also is so careful not to act smug that it loops around and comes off as smugness.
- Dangerous Deserter: Amadeus enlisted in the Legions of Terror, where he was so inconsequential that they even misspelled his name on the roster. He then deserted after his first battle out of disgust for how incompetently it was conducted. Alone and far away from home, this teenage boy decided he was going to fix things.
- Deuteragonist: It could even be argued that the's the true protagonist of the story and Catherine is the Deuteragonist, seeing as how it is his plan that Catherine is implementing.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Malicia won the throne in large part due to his military skills and both the standing armies and the most powerful Named in the empire are loyal to Malicia only through their connection to Black. In many ways Black is more powerful than his mistress.
- Evil Is Sterile: He lives to break this trope so hard that it dies a death. The cycle of fabulously pointless creative schemes that are doomed to end in big, empty nothing since Status Quo Is God must go.
- The Gadfly/ Troll: If you know what's healthy for you, you don't mess up enough for him to come at you in fully remote Troll Mode. May all the Gods, those both Below and Above, help you if he's decided to hound you, because he will make a years-long campaign out of it to make a point, rather than just ending you quickly — those who wind up on the receiving end of this probably welcome Assassin eventually showing up. However, nothing stops him casually having a little subdued fun with you for the shared, companionable (if still somewhat spikey) giggles. Just ask Cat and Masego. And Malicia. And any other Calamity.
- Genre Savvy: Black knows all the genre cliches that run his universe, and he long ago worked out how best to exploit them. Just a few examples:
- He knows that trying to recruit by deceit or threats will inevitably lead to betrayal and so is careful to always be honest, generous and polite to those he works with long-term.
- He knows that it's pointless to try to pursue heroes after they flee a dramatic confrontation as it would clearly be too anti-climactic for them to be defeated that way and therefore the universe would not permit it.
- His empire has a well-run and effective system of orphanages, ensuring that any disaffected orphans who might be inclined to become rebellious heroes can receive a good education and prospects in life without rebellions or, failing that, can be carefully monitored by his agents and suffocated in their sleep if they appear intractable.
- It's also flat out stated that his actions and general lack of self-destructive tendencies has actually significantly limited the power of his Name. In terms of raw power he's probably the weakest Black Knight in centuries, but he views the trade-off as being worthwhile.
- Hero of Another Story: Oh, so played with. On the one hand, we do get some significant segments of his Villain Protagonist tale, from his own and others' perspectives, but our story is not his. On the other, he actively chose to be the Black Knight over becoming the White Knight, reasonably considering a White Knight to be incapable of changing anything in Praes' borked system permanently. On the gripping hand, willing sacrificing all of yourself (and those around you) to improve a broken system of governance so it functions for those being governed and not just the crazy arseholes who get to the top isn't exactly a straightforwardly Villainous thing, now, is it? And, he's not that powerful a Black Knight, to boot. Cat may not be the only twisted, battered and self-mutilating almost-Hero- definitely-monster in this tale, Pilgrim, dearest.
- Hero Killer: So often it's become routine, though Assassin has an even higher body count according to Word of God.
- Living Emotional Crutch: To Captain definitely, and possibly the other Calamities as well. When he is trapped in another Plane for a few days at one point Captain reacts by slaughtering an entire village in a fit of rage while Warlock mutilates the soul of an informant trying to locate him.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Parodied. Catherine is sure to ask him if she's his long-lost daughter the morning after they first meet. She's somewhat disappointed when he informs her that she is not.
- MayflyDecember Romance: When he started his relationship with Ranger he was in his twenties and she was several hundred years old. Of course since Black doesn't age either he's now pushing 60 so they're on somewhat more even footing.
- Mentor Ship: The love of his life is his mentor, The Ranger.
- Morality Chain: To Wekesa. Has implemented explicit rules limiting how much he's allowed to go all-out, and it's his potential displeasure that Wekesa thinks of when pondering civilian casualties (and that appears to be the only reason Wekesa notices those at all)
- Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: After the Second Battle of Liesse, he offers this to Catherine to apologize for using her the way he did. The response is a non-lethal stab to the gut because she still sees him as her father, and he probably had an Xantos Gambit set up anyway.
- Practical Joke: He's not above getting into a prank contest with his friends to blow off steam. Particularly Wekesa. Be afraid.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Most of his philosophy. This is especially apparent in the "One Sin, One Grace" principle he drills into the Legions of Terror
- Red Baron: said by Catherine to have a bunch of those. Most notable is "The Carrion Lord", usually used by his opponents.
- Single-Target Sexuality: The only person he's ever had sexual feelings for is apparently The Ranger.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: He does provide some basic swordsmanship lessons and a plenty of books to read. However he has no idea how to teach Catherine to use powers of her Name and actually never intended to as it would stunt her growth. Invoked, when he sends Catherine to Imperial College, putting her into lieutenant position in the company with worst results... pitted against the company with best results. It works.
- So Proud of You: If Cat continues going the way she is, he might just start ambushing his friends with his subdued equivalent of videos and baby pictures... Slapping demons down a few pegs and mugging angels makes for a very Proud Papa — not that he'll ever gush about it, as such. His not-gushing is about as obvious as his not-smug.She stabbed you, Black, he growled. Dont wave that away as youthful enthusiasm, because we certainly havent.One who rears a tiger should not complain of stripes, Amadeus quoted in Mtethwa.Your tiger put on a crown and raised an army after stealing three legions, Grem growled in Kharsum. Were past stripes.My tiger beat back an army twice the size of hers strengthened by the two most famous living heroes on Calernia, the dark-haired man laughed.Three legions, one of which was always hers, is a paltry price to pay for that.
- The Unfettered: Amadeus has been demonstrated to be utterly ruthless in his pursuit of his objective, up to and including using himself and his allies as merely sacrificial playing pieces in a long-term gambit. The whole "ignore morality" aspect unusually swings both sides, however, since he's done arguably moral things as well as smothered children in their cribs.
- Villainous Friendship: With the Calamities, his Squire and the Dread Empress herself.
The Ranger (Hye Su)For tropes relevant to The Ranger, see her entry in the Morally Ambiguous Names folder.
The Captain (Sabah)
The Black Knight's Right-hand woman and second in command of the Legions of Terror. An eight-foot tall Taghreb woman who's disarmingly easy-going and friendly but capable of bouts of extreme violence. Captain originally held the name of The Cursed, as she had inherited a bloodline curse that turned her into a werewolf. For a long time Amadeus was the only one who could calm her down when she transformed but sometime after he took the Name of Black Knight and before the crowning of Empress Malicia she underwent an ordeal, taking the name of The Captain and learning to control her transformations.
Her first known aspect, present from her days as the Cursed, is Obey which grants her more power when doing what Black tells her. He second aspect, Unleash, triggers her transformation into an unstoppable beast, and is likely another remnant of the Cursed.
- The Big Guy / The Brute: Enormous for a human (over eight feet tall) to the extent that some people think she has ogre blood. As the largest and physically strongest melee combatant of the group, Sabah clearly fills this role in the Calamities.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: She is killed in an offscreen confrontation with Champion, which was engineered by Bard through story tropes to ensure her death.
- Drop the Hammer: When she's not in wolf-mode.
- Evil Me Scares Me: Strictly speaking she's always evil but she certainly didn't appreciate being turned into a berserk killing machine back when she was The Cursed. Even today she shows signs of personality change when she is forced to transform several times during the Liesse rebellion and is clearly ashamed of it.
- Happily Married: To a mid-ranking imperial bureaucrat of all things.
- Impossibly Graceful Giant: She's far too agile and stealthy for an eight-foot-tall woman who's almost always decked out in full plate. Even Black is a little unnerved by how quiet she can be when she chooses to.
- Undying Loyalty: To Black. An anecdote early in the story describes her slaughtering an entire village in rage when he goes missing.
- Unstoppable Rage: When she's in beast mode she's fully capable of slaughtering entire armies. Even the Silver Spears, with hundreds of Heavy Cavalry led by two heroes, fled rather than attempt to fight her.
- Villainous Friendship: With the rest of the Calamities, but mostly with Black. It's telling that when she dies, Black becomes noticeably off-balance and loses his edge.
The Warlock (Wekesa)
An extremely powerful mage, Wekesa was the first member of the Calamities to join Black (when Wekesa was still The Apprentice and Amadeus was still The Squire). A magical prodigy born to an uncultivated Soninke bloodline, Wekesa became a fugitive when his master, the previous Warlock, attempted to murder him and eliminate a threat to his name. Wekesa would later kill his master during the civil war to place Malicia on the throne and claim the Name of The Warlock for himself. As the Warlock, his aspects are Link, Reflect, and Imbricate.
- Badass Gay: Go on, make mean-spirited jokes about his orientation and chosen partner to his face. We dare you... as long as you do it miles away from us, please and thanks.
- Character Death: He dies in Book 4 in order to protect his son from the unleashed miracles of the Ashurans attacking Thalassina.
- Colony Drop: Reasons not to piss him off... He can play cosmic, inter-dimentional, exhibition snooker aimed right at you, given enough prep time.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: If his son dies on your watch, he will outright end you. If you betray his friends, you won't be that lucky.
- Evil Sorcerer: Acts halfway between this and the Mad Scientist, running magical experiments and having apparently dissected gods in his basement at some point. Said to be massively powerful, and certainly wiped the floor with the heroes from the moment he started fighting them in Book II.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Catherine needs to remind herself rather forcefully that he's A) gay and B) more than 3 times her age. She still can't stop herself staring even while telling herself to quit it.
- Happily Married: He and Tikoloshe have a very close, harmonious pact together. To all intents and purposes, they're happily married with solid, mutual goals which also stretch to child-rearing. Being a fly in their ointment is not recommend, because if Wekesa doesn't get you, Tikoloshe probably will.
- Hero Killer: He took out The Wizard of the West in the backstory and he puts down the Bumbling Conjurer with a single gesture.
- Heroic Sacrifice: How he dies in Book 4: sacrificing himself to banish the power of a summoned entity in order to save Masego's life.
- Living MacGuffin: During the second Summerholm arc Catherine's objective is to prevent the heroes from killing him.
- Practical Joke: He has an almost pathological need to pull annoyingly petty pranks with high arcana when he's missing his husband or is just getting a bit bored or anxious. Nothing seriously deadly, mind you; particularly given the durability of his friends. Gets seriously silly when he and Amadeus start tit-for-tatting.
- Person of Mass Destruction: To the point that he's actually unable to avoid massive collateral damage when he uses combat magic. Presumably this is related to one of his aspects though we don't know which one.
- Pragmatic Villainy: He could have kidnapped and forcefully raised the boy who grew to be Apprentice using standard Sith-like child-rearing tactics. But, he quickly said "screw that inevitable death by his hands, thank you" by knuckling down and learning how to be the joint Dad of the Year for successive years in a row. Sure, the mage-training is still tricky and tough, but he's made a point of it also being both fair and interesting. Evil: hard, but fun!
- Red Baron: The Sovereign of the Red Skies.
- The Smart Guy: Wekesa's role in the Calamities is to be the researcher, and he's the one most knowledgeable about magic. With Ranger gone, however, his role in the present storyline is closer to The Dragon.
The Assassin (?)
The most mysterious of the Calamities and the only one who has yet to be seen even in flashback (as far as we know...). They spend most of her time outside the country dealing with the empire's enemies or undercover in the Kingdom of Callow eliminating heroes before they can become a nuisance.
- Genre Savvy: Assassin deliberately sets up a modus operandi in the way they kill, to throw the scent off of their other murders.
- Shapeshifter: Highly implied to be one, skilled enough to fool Name sight. Confirmed in Book 3, where they briefly adopt Black's form to dupe Diabolist.
- Undignified Death: Their preferred method of operation. While the deaths appear natural, they're also unlikely and undignified enough to not be. For example, drowning in your own chamber pot.
- It's later revealed that Assassin doesn't always kill this way: they set up a subtle pattern in their kills so that the rest of their murders would go unnoticed.
- Word of God: Apparently we've met them "on screen" by Book 2 Chapter 2.
Dread Empress Malicia I (Alaya)
- Power is mostly a matter of making the right corpses at the right time.
The current ruler of the Dread Empire of Praes. Alaya began her career as a barmaid in her fathers inn, conscripted into the Harem of the Dread Emperor Nefarious for her beauty. Alaya was able to use her position at court and her friendship with the young Black Knight to accumulate influence and ultimately to arrange the murder of Nefarious herself. After the Emperor's death Alaya claimed the throne with the assistance of Black Knight and the Calamities, defeating The Chancellor and would-be-emperor Baleful I in a civil war. Since then Malicia has ruled the empire in concert with Black, using her political skills to carefully manage the nobility while fear of Black's brutal reprisals keeps them in line.
- Compelling Voice: Many Names have some of this capability but Malicia's is apparently so potent that any agent that has been in the same room as her must be assumed to be compromised.
- Childhood Friends: Alaya the tavern-girl and Amadeus the farm-boy were friends long before Dread Empress Malacia and The Black Knight were allies.
- Distracted by the Sexy: She's gorgeous in her own right but she uses glamoured dresses and some kind of Name shenanigans to accentuate the effect, ensuring that no one ever has their wits about them when dealing with her.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: She was a waitress before she usurped the throne.
- Manipulative Bastard: No Empress can afford to be merely a pretty face relying on a group of heavies to keep alive at the top. And, she isn't: she's into chess — speedy or slow. Only the dimmest of Truebloods don't understand this.
- Non-Action Big Bad: She has no combat or military skills and does not seem to be a mage of any kind. Even her Name powers are geared towards politics and social manipulation rather than any kind of direct conflict.
- To Win Without Fighting: Her strategy in the Tenth Crusade has shades of this. She initially tries to steal Akua's Doomsday Device in order to stop the Good nations from invading and taking the risk of it being used. Her next strategy is to have the rebellious Callow and invading Crusaders wear each other down, while allying herself with The Dead King to split the Grand Alliance's forces against a bigger threat.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Sort of an inversion since the image she projects is one of an insanely sexy and whimsically violent temptress when she's actually a fairly conservative, calculating and pragmatic policy geek. Essentially she's Hilary Clinton pretending to be Catherine the Great while looking like Nefertiti wished she looked.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Quite possibly, her beauty certainly defies easy description and she outstrips the Heiress and the Baroness Dormer by a fair margin.
The Heiress (Akua Sahelian)The Diabolist
The Heiress to the High Lordship of Wolof (the home city of Dread Empress Triumphant and the most fabled center of black magic and the old Praesi ways), Akua Sahelian was raised and educated in the Deadly Decadent Court of Praes. Heiress adheres to the old school of Praesi villainy, and uses tools as diverse as bribery, blood magic, assassination, demon-summoning, slave soldiers and good old-fashioned mean girl shenanigans in her seemingly open-ended quest for ultimate power. Heiress first comes on to Catherine's radar as a possible rival claimant for the title of Squire. After Catherine defies and defeats her Heiress makes a point of undermining her at every turn.
Her motivations and drives have been expanded upon in Book 3, giving her both a morality pet in the form of her father to whom she would go to any length for and a wish to be free, from both her mother and the Empress. As the Diabolist, her aspects are Bind, Claim, and Call.
- Alpha Bitch: She always gets herself a posse of Betas to smug through, ASAP.
- Arch-Nemesis: One of two for Catherine, the other being the Lone Swordsman.
- Big Bad: For Book 1, seeing as how all the forces aligned against Catherine for most of the book are directed by her. In Book 2 she's more of a Big Bad Duumvirate with The Lone Swordsman. She goes right back to being the central villain for Book 3.
- Consummate Liar: She can seem so genuine when she wishes to! She should: she's obviously practiced for years. The effectiveness of it is somewhat mitigated by the fact she does it so often, a lot of people quickly catch wise, though. It means she has to double down and produce a whole web of fibs and half-truths to back her lies up with.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Oddly subverted. Akua is following in her scheming super-evil mother's footsteps but she doesn't have any real loyalty or affection for her and ultimately views her as a future enemy. It's actually her less-evil father who is her favorite parent.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Akua's only positive relationship seems to be with her father. It comes too little too late to humanize her much.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Her Fatal Flaw; she doesn't get how Pragmatic Villainy is often the smart option as well as the moral one.
- Evil Is Sexy: Much to Catherine's annoyance, she almost always appears this way. In part due to the Wastelander's habit of selectively breeding with talented mages, people with beautiful appearances, and the occasional magical monster.
- Evil Mentor: Becomes a political, magical, and historical adviser to Catherine of all people. Justified in that her shade is bound to Catherine's cloak and is only let out when she's useful. It is later revealed that she wants Cat to become her Superior Successor and one day seize the throne. This is justified by her Social Darwinist worldview rejecting the idea that she could be defeated by someone unimportant. However, she'll still escape and pursue her own ambitions if given a chance.
- Evil Genius: Surprisingly, Diabolist proves to be highly skilled at magic, showing off High Arcana and complex arrays that Wekesa marvels at. She clearly Took a Level in Badass between books. It's telling that after her 'death', Akua becomes Catherine's second advisor on magical phenomena as well her go-to girl on political maneuvering.
- Eye Scream: When Akua's shade seizes control of Catherine's unconscious body, Thief forces her to rip out her own constantly-regenerating left eye. Ten times.
- Fantastic Racism: She smugly reflects on how progressive and flexible she is, compared to many of her race and class. But, in reality, she's still got the Soninke blinkers and attitude in spades; she just doesn't realize it.
- Faux Affably Evil: After dying and having her shade trapped in Catherine's collar, Akua becomes a lot more pleasant and servile. It's an act, of course.
- Horrible Judge of Character: She's a finely-tuned political shark... as long as she's swimming in Praesi Trueblood waters. When dealing with others, though; not-so-much. She totally misread Catherine's threat-level because of her low birth, she disregards most of the Fifteenth's officers because of their status or species, she somehow thinks she can eventually wrap Black around her pinkie finger... and, writes Scribe and the Wandering Bard off as being fairly nonthreatening. These are not the hallmarks of good judgment.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: She's a very skilled mage, but keeps it largely under wraps so that her enemies will underestimate her.
- Magic Knight: She's trained in sword-fighting, but she considers it beneath her and it shows- Catherine trounces her with minimal effort when it comes to blows.
- Nominal Hero: Suprisingly, is interested in becoming this by the end of Book Four. More than anything, she wants to be influential and remembered. Literally citing The Power of Friendship when fighting a dark god helps accomplish that.
- Oh, Crap!!: Her reaction in a nutshell when Catherine breaks free of her aspects by giving herself over fully to the power of Winter, which ends predictably with her demise.
- Our Liches Are Different: She has herself a get-out-of-death-free card in the shape of a Soul Jar. Which... kind of makes her sort of a lich.
- Sixth Ranger: After she's been bound to Catherine's Mantle of Winter as a shade, she becomes a spiritual advisor on all things political to the Woe, eventually becoming a sort of pseudo-member.
- Smug Snake: Heiress is insufferably arrogant and almost all of her plans lean heavily on her family's wealth and connections to protect her from blowback. She's like a slightly more competent Draco Malfoy without any qualms about mass murder.
- Stupid Evil: She isn't stupid, but, if given a choice between Bond Villainy or "just get the job done", she'll go for the "convoluted acid pit full of demon-sharks with mandatory gloating" route every damn time.
- We Have Reserves: She views all of her assets that are not Praesi nobles as completely expendable. (The Praesi nobles are only mostly expendable.)
- Wicked Cultured: She certainly has the bearing, breeding, and class. Even better, she prides herself on being this trope and goes out of her way to emphasize how tastefully, classically Evil she is. Catherine and Black just see Bond Villain Stupidity, though.
The Scribe (Eudokia)
The unofficial sixth Calamity, The Scribe is never far from Black Knight's side, serving as his chief administrator and Spymaster.
- Already Done for You: One of her signature tricks is carrying out a particular function before the person it's intended for can even think to ask. Need a messenger to deliver news to the capital? Already left two hours ago. Want a disguise so you can discreetly sneak into town? Folded and ready. Catherine is both impressed and a little annoyed by this.Black: What would I do without you, Scribe?
Scribe: The same things. Just slower.
- Badass Bureaucrat: The Black Knight's rule of Callow is able to function effectively largely because he has Scribe serving as a compact, one-woman civil service, and intelligence agency.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: She's usually found in the corner with a lapdesk, quietly catching up on correspondence or whatever. Don't bug her by making her come over there herself to sort things out, though; it's scary.
- Friendly Rivalry: Seems to have something like this going on with Assassin, of all people.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: A few words in the right ears at the right time, the correct paperwork filled out and verified — [redacted] was, officially, never even a little problem to have managed existing.
- Hidden Depths: There are more than a few hints that she can be just as bad to get on the wrong side of as Black, Warlock or Assassin. So, annoy this mousey librarian-type at your own risk: she'll probably write you out of existence if she thinks it's worth the bother.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: To the Calamities, and by extension the entirety of Praes. She might not be a warrior, but her capacity to act as a tireless one-woman bureaucracy is one of the chief reasons the Empire runs as efficiently as it does.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Scribe is loyal to Black, not to the Empire and certainly not to the Empress.
- Non-Action Guy: She's not a warrior by any means (Black notes in the prologue that it's unusual to see her on a battlefield that's already mostly deserted), and her Name doesn't lend itself to fighting. Doesn't mean she isn't dangerous in her own way, though.
- Sixth Ranger: Not an official member of the Calamities as far as the history books are concerned, but they all treat Scribe as one of their own, and her contributions were a key factor in the success of the Conquest and its fallout.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Catherine spends time trying to work out how she can just turn up at your elbow unexpectedly from a starting position right across the room or the square. Teleportation?
- The Stoic: Almost constantly sports an emotionless demeanor. Catherine, who prides herself in her ability to get a rise out of others, can barely provoke a slight change in mood from Scribe at the best of times.
The Tyrant of Helike (Kairos Theodosian)
The Exiled Prince's precociously Evil Uncle who usurped the throne of the Free City of Helike from him three years before the events of the story (at the age of twelve). The young Tyrant quickly began what can only be described as a reign of terror, which apparently included making profanity and alcohol possession both capital offenses. He also evidently idolizes his famous predecessor Theodosius The Unconquered to the point that he appears to be attempting to duplicate his military exploits with provocation of the Principate of Procer.
At the end of book two he murders the emissaries of all the Good Free Cities to the League Council, sparking an all-out war between the Good- and Evil-aligned Free Cities. It is revealed in Book 3 by The Wandering Bard that he is living a juggler's life. Keeping as many balls and plot threads up in the air as possible in order to ensure effective immortality because the first step never fails. It is nearly outright stated that Dread Emperor Irritant "The strangely successful" employed similar tactics.
- Ax-Crazy: At first, he seems to have some kind of Moral Sociopathy what with his strange moralistic decrees... But, he's actually just gone all-in on the theme of being totally evil and appears to be having the time of his life with it.
- Berserk Button: Despite his normally unflappable attitude, he has two big ones: being compared to his abusive father, and having a fate or destiny imposed on him.
- Card-Carrying Villain: To a tee. His whole philosophy seems to be that, if you're going to be evil, you might as well go all-out and enjoy it before your inevitable demise.
- The Caligula: Well, yeah. Seems to have decided on the old school Julio-Claudian model of tyranny as a template (poison included), so this is a natural byproduct.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: At the end of Book 5, The Grey Pilgrim curses him with this.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: At first he just looks like some kind of insane Royal Brat in the mold of a Joffrey Baratheon. It takes him less than a chapter to show how he earned his name. And, he keeps his foot on the accelerator.
- Disabled Snarker: Prior to ascending to the throne and gaining a Name he was a particularly bitter version of this. As Tyrant he's a flat out Large Ham though he still retains his snarky sense of humor.
- Enfante Terrible: He was 12 when he usurped the throne from his (older) nephew and 16 when he started what appears to be the first of the Uncivil Wars.
- Evil Uncle: Subverted. He's actually younger than the nephew whose throne he usurped, which rather goes against the idea of an experienced and powerful uncle usurping the throne from the virtuous, but young and vulnerable, true heir.
- Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Downplayed. He's generally pretty direct in stating his meaning, but he avoids actual profanity and tends to beg pardon for any brusque language he uses.
- Large HamI am Kairos Theodosian, Tyrant of Helike. And I say that my Rule extends even to the sky. Come servants of the heavens, the Age of Wonders is not dead yet. Not while I breathe.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: He sets up a banquet for the heroes in Delos with an extra helping of arsenic.
- One-Man Army: He routs Atalante's mercenary army single-handedly with the power of his name.
- Pragmatic Evil: Surprised? This cackling font of ostentatiously Classic Evil is quite deliberately hiding a metric tonne of meta-awareness under all that ham, which means that he can sneak the pragmatically moral or steely rational in amidst all the flamboyant bonkers he throws around. For starters, he's actively using his appearance of being "just another nutso Tyrant" to hide the extent of what he's capable of not just from the Calamities, but the Wandering Bard as well. Every hard-core, very nasty trick he's pulled has been a shell game used to attain goals beyond the obvious ones, yet others have been slow to realise this thanks to the show he makes of juggling obvious villain balls. And, when he does pull something moral-looking, such as the decree to reduce inebriation and drunkenness in the population at large, it just looks... like an eccentricity of no real note.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: He brings back the old Praesi trick of mass human sacrifice to power flying fortresses. Cue the tutting of the Calamities; his out-dated techniques work, but they're hideously inefficient, so it offends their sensibilities to see such a waste of that many victims. He could power other defences or weapons with that!
- Red Right Hand/ Red Eyes, Take Warning: Both. He has one seriously creepy red eye, rather than a clawed hand to tip you off that he's batting for Team Evil. And, it's not simply conjunctivitis.
- Screw Destiny: His motivation for going From Nobody to Nightmare. As The Un Favourite cripple child to his heroic relative, he desperately sought out his family's oracle temple for a source of hope. When he was informed that his destiny was to die within the year and not be remembered, he decided that if nothing he did would matter, he might as well have fun. Over four years later, he's still alive, and everyone knows of him.
Tyrant: Fate is a tug of war, you raggedly old thing. Do you think that the wishes of the conquered matter more than the contenders?Skien: [You die laughing. Or. You flee. Or. I am broken. Or. Everything burns. Or. Or. Why does it keep changing?
- In Book 5, Chapter 43, [[spoiler:The Skien tried to use his Spool aspect on him several times. The sudden influx of constantly shifting futures overwhelmed the Ratling.
- Slasher Smile: He never seems to stop smiling.
- Straight Edge Evil: He's not fond of profanity, or alcohol.
The Dead King (Neshamah)
A millennia old lich overlord who rules over The Necrocracy of Keter in the north, and one of the most powerful people on Calernia. Thousands of years ago, he was known as Neshamah, the last Prince of Sephirah, before gradually sacrificing the lion's share of his kingdom in order to fuel his ascension to power. Today, he rules his kingdom from the Serenity, his own personal slice of Hell. His plans and motives are a great mystery for the first three books, but he becomes a major player in Book 4.
- Arch-Enemy: The ancient enemy of the Procerans, although the fear and rancor is completely one-sided.
- A God Am I: Believes himself to be a god due to his vast power and immortality. Notable in that his proclamation seems to imply that the difference between gods and mortals simply seems to be having true power and not being beholden to death.
- Dimension Lord: He rules his own personal dimension of Hell (called 'the Serenity' by his followers).
- The Dreaded: The Dead King is one of - if not the- scariest Villains on Calernia.
- Genre Savvy: Neshamah is undoubtedly genre savvy. There aren't many characters in the Guide-verse who can outmaneuver the Wandering Bard for as long as he has.
- Evil Sorcerer: A powerful mage with centuries of experience.
- Friendly Enemy: He and The Wandering Bard (aka: "The Intercessor", but that's not her ''real'' name either). They've been thwarting each other for centuries, and can still hold cordial conversations. She's one of the few people he considers to be a fellow immortal.
- He and Ranger have... an understanding? A frenemyship? He treats her like a neighbourhood cat he's grown attached to and is training up? She's only a half-elf, so technically not immortal, but she could drop by to eat the food he puts out for her when she challenges the security systems for centuries, at least.
- Land of One City: His kingdom of Keter is a subversion, because while his foothold on Calernia is more or less one city, he also rules an entire dimension of Hell.
- More Than Mind Control: He has conditioned entire generations of humans within the Serenity to more or less worship him.
- Necromancer: He's the necromancer.
- Physical God: Considers himself to be an immortal of this caliber, and counts very few others to be in the same category; namely The Wandering Bard and, recently, Catherine.
- Self-Sacrifice Scheme: In Book 5, he willingly loses an unrecoverable piece of his soul to make his "defeat" against the Intercessor appear authentic, so that a smaller piece of his soul can get back to his main body with knowledge of her real plans.
- Time Abyss: It's unknown just exactly how old he is, but it's clear by the historical treatises that his original kingdom of Sephirah was destroyed at least several millennia ago.
- We Wait: The crux of his plan is to quietly build an army in his own personal hellscape while the rest of Calernia burns, until he's the only power left on the board. To quote Catherine:"He's not after the quickest or most effective way to rise... [he's after] the one that leaves no openings."
Dread Empress Maleficent IThe Founder of the Dread Empire. A Taghreb who united the Orcs, Goblins, Taghreb and Soninke tribes after the Miezan empire withdrew. Assassinated by an ancestor of the Sahelians who became the second Dread Empress.
Dread Empress Triumphant ( MAY SHE NEVER RETURN)The Greatest and most Terrible of all the Tyrants of Praes and perhaps of all Calernia's villains. Conquered the entire continent of Calernia 700 years prior to the story only to be defeated by the combined might of the First Crusade and an invasion of the Yan Tei Empire from across the sea. Following her death most of Praes was annexed into crusader states and the Empire would not regain it's original borders until Dread Emperor Terribilis II drove out the crusaders a generation later.Liked to summon demons, which she generally bound to the standards of her Legions, some of which are still lying around. Also made a habit of crucifying people or, better yet, forcing people to crucify their own loved ones which led to the cross being used as the Crusader symbol in Calernia (though not the symbol of any religion).
- Big Bad: The Biggest Ever.
- Classic Villain: She was Pride all the way.
- Like a Badass out of Hell: Whenever her name is mentioned most Praesi will make a prayer that she never return in order to ward off this possibility. Since a different Villain has actually managed to pull off something like this at least once in Calernia's history it may not be as improbable as it sounds.
Dread Emperor Terribilis IIProbably the best ruler the Empire had before Malicia. He took power a generation after Triumphant's fall and succeeded in reconquering the home territory of the empire and annexing part of Callow, reducing the kingdom to a Proceran client state. The only ruler prior to Black and Malicia to come close to solving the demographic problems that forced Praes into repeated, self-destructive invasions of Callow but he was assassinated before his plan could be fully implemented and the empire contracted back to it's prior borders afterwards.
- Big Book of War: He wrote one of the setting's two best-regarded books on warcraft.
- Expy: As the Emperor who united his people to drive out the crusader states, he resembles the real-life Egyptian King Saladin.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Calernia's Ur-example. Black is arguably his Spiritual Successor.
- Villainous Valor: His story was one of reconquering his homeland from the occupying crusader states, despite being firmly on the side of evil.
Dread Emperor TenebrousThe Emperor who built the Imperial Road. Had a promising early reign but is now mostly remembered for coming to hold the belief that he was actually a Giant Spider in a human body and using magic to physically transform himself into such a form before taking up residence in Ater's sewers. Rumored to still be alive down there.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Believed that he was one, and took steps to make physical reality conform to this belief.
- But You Screw One Goat!: Weirdly enough nobody seems to remember his infrastructure projects, impressive though they were.
- Mother Of Monsters: May be the ancestor of the Giant Spiders that still infest the sewers of the Empire's capital.
- Never Found the Body
Dread Emperor Malignant IIOne of the less impressive Dread Emperors. Best known for creating a subspecies of aquatic orcs for a failed invasion of Callow.
Dread Emperor NefariousThe Dread Emperor prior to Malicia. Notable mostly for his skill with magic, his incompetence in most other matters, and his venality. Attempted an invasion of Callow 20 years before Black's conquest that resulted in disaster when he was defeated by the Wizard of the West on the Field of Streges. After limping back from that defeat he spent the remainder of his reign abusing his concubines one of whom, a woman named Alaya, murdered him in order to ascend as Dread Empress Malicia.
- Asshole Victim: Let's just say few politically minded people were all that surprised when a member of his harem was involved in his downfall. And, just as many mourned his loss. If that. Not generally considered a high point of Praesi style, this guy.
- Dirty Old Man: After his invasion of Callow was defeated he spent the remainder of his reign indulging his lechery with whatever attractive women his soldiers could bring him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Murdered by one of the women he abducted and raped, who would then go on to become a far greater ruler than he.
- Sorcerous Overlord: Nefarious was apparently an unusually skilled mage, though not as skilled as the contemporary Wizard of the West.
The Lone Swordsman (William of Greenbury)
The first Callowan hero to rise to any significance since the conquest. A gritty avenger type who flies under the radar by operating independently (as the name implies) rather than gathering an army or party of heroes.
When Catherine arrives in Summerholm She attempts to hunt him down in order to prove herself worthy of the name of Squire. After she defeats him and the other claimants she sets him free, allowing him to start a rebellion against the empire and creating the chaos she believes is necessary to rise in the ranks. He becomes her recurring foe throughout the first two books.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Yup. William was once a bad boy. He then started trying to atone for what he'd done, but... Frankly, getting mind-raped into a Heroic Name, knowing you're always heading to the Fire Below whatever you do and getting very grim smiles painted on your soul enough that putting thousands of people through a similarly enforced turn to heroism like you're going through feels like a good idea? That's a bit excessive for a sentence for selfishly killing your sister in a bid to survive the militant crackdown her actions would cause, don't you think?
- Anti-Hero: Unscrupulous Hero verging on Designated Hero. He's a racist Jerkass who sadistically tortures prisoners and doesn't really care about the impacts of his actions on ordinary people. He's also willing to Bring an Angel of Contrition into Creation in the City of Liesse, essentially brainwashing every man, woman and child in the city into joining a Death or Glory crusade against evil.
- Arch-Nemesis: To Catherine, shares the role with Heiress.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: He may have been a victim of this when he first encountered the Hashmalim, and he tries to impose it on the entire city of Liesse.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Let's just say it's grim. Plenty for Freud to get to grips with, here.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: After his humiliation in the second Summerholm arc, he starts to learn a bit more humility and humanity under pressure from his comrades, though this doesn't stop him from pulling his summoning gambit in Liesse.
- Fantastic Racism: Explicitly does not believe that Goblins and Orcs qualify as people, believing them to be simply Always Chaotic Evil monsters (Note: This is very much not the case in the Practical Guideverse).
- Hopeless Boss Fight: He was Fated to Win against Catherine in Liesse to the point that he literally got back up and stabbed her while she was ramming a knife through his throat. Unfortunately she planned for this and turned it around on her in their next fight.
- Jerkass: He's like the anthropomorphic personification of sandpaper. By both intentionally and unintentionally grating on companions' and enemies' nerves alike, he wears most of them down until they stay as far away from him as possible... or, enjoy the thought of strangling him. Might be a Name thing. You can't do "Lone" if people easily flock to your sunny, gregarious personality, after all.
- One-Man Army: The Lone Swordsman is hands down one of the most physically dangerous people in the series to date and is shown mowing through Humans, Orcs, and Devils with equal ease.
- Took a Level in Badass: After his first defeat by Catherine he spends a year in Arcadia being pursued by the Wild Hunt and other otherworldly dangers, which toughens him up and gives him his last two aspects.
The Thief (Vivienne Dartwick)For tropes relevant to The Thief, see her entry in the Woe folder.
The Hunter (John)
One of Ranger's people in Refuge, he violates Ranger's rules in order to interfere in the Callowan rebellion beside the Lone Swordsman. Succinctly described as a "Streetwalker with a Spear" The Hunter wears minimal clothing and is covered in 'tribal' tattoos.
- An Arm and a Leg: Catherine cuts one of his hands off in their second fight in Summerholm.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: It's so bad, even his ally, Archer, continually takes the piss out of him for his crimes against both fashion and hubris.
- Blade on a Stick: His thing is two of them — he doesn't Dual Wield, though (thankfully — that would be so funny for Archer if he did). At least he has the sense to have a back-up for ranged options without disarming himself.
- Bling of War: Well, more "Ringing Of War". Lots of little, tinkling, very silver hawkbells in his hair to be "tribal". Along with pointless tats he goes shirtless to show off. Why?!
- Chainmail Bikini: Well, the male equivalent thereof. Leather pants, bells and eternally shirtless. Learns the hard way why skin-covering armour is a good thing in a fight.
- Cliché Storm: His dialogue consists mostly of bombastic boasts and overwrought condemnations of the depravity of his opponents. This gets even sillier after Catherine breaks his nose. A whole new meaning to Purple Prose, right there.
- Enemy Mine: Reluctantly agrees to help the Legion against the Demon of Corruption when it gets loose in Marchford.
- Stealth Expert: He's a Rogue-type. Somehow. Despite the pomposity and those stupid bells, he's still good at the sneak.
- Stripperiffic: He wears as little clothing as he can get away with, yet this doesn't impede him much when he can rely on the power of his name to slaughter Red Shirts. It's a pretty serious disadvantage when he gets in a slugging match with a heavily-armored Catherine and her equally martial Name, however.
The Bumbling Conjurer (Symeon)
The last and least of the Lone Swordsman's party, a comically inept mage whose name allows him to succeed through fortuitous incompetence. When the heroes infiltrate Summerholm he bumbles through a few fights with the Apprentice before being abruptly put down by The Warlock. And There Was Much Rejoicing.
- Achievements in Ignorance: His entire Name is apparently built around this. It has a rather large downside that makes him worse than inconsistent: the minute he gets a handle on whatever magic feat he's pulling, it fizzles out on him. Often at an awkward time, too.
- Crazy Awesome: When it works, it really, really works (well beyond established norms, even). But, when it does not, it goes really badly.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: He starts getting Curb Stomped the second Apprentice walks into the room and then gets stomped a few more times over the course of the evening. He refuses to stay down until Warlock shows up, however.
- Indy Ploy: Magic flavour. There's only so much prepping his Name will let him get away with, so he has to be all about the seat-of-pants, stabs-in-the-dark "plans".
The Wandering Bard (Almorava of Sylma)
For tropes relevant to The Wandering Bard see their entry in the Other Heroes folder.
The White Knight (Hanno)
A hero from the Thalassocracy of Ashur who comes out of self-exposed exile in the Titanomachy to join the war in the Free Cities. He's aligned with the Choir of Judgement but he abrogates the right to judge anyone himself, merely carrying out the judgement of the heavens.
- Cool Horse: One of his aspects is Ride and along with presumabely granting riding skills, it allows him to summon a horse made from holy light. Black thinks he massively under-utilises this aspect, since he could conceivably do far, far more with a light-based mount than just use a lance or sword while riding it jouster-style. Think "laser", "flight", "drone" and way, way more.
- Creative Sterility: Black accuses him of this — because Hanno refuses to include his own opinions or personality in whatever he does, he cannot be original and is not that good at learning.
- Ghost Memory: He spent his time in the Titanomachy accessing the memories of past White Knights. He had never been in combat before Delos but had the memories of hundreds of battles. The downside: he cuts-and-pastes skills without really getting to the heart of the tactics and strategies he uses them with.
- Heads or Tails?: He uses a coin flip to divine the judgement of the seraphim in a disturbingly Harvey Dent-ish fashion.
- I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: Provokes this kind of reaction from the Wandering Bard with his... idiosyncratic... take on what it means to be affiliated with Judgment without personally judging. And, when she practically sits up and leans forward to get a better look at the trope playing out in front of her, you know it's not a run of the mill iteration.
- Light 'em Up: In opposition to the Black Knights Casting a Shadow powers, Hanno has the stanards beams of damaging light attack.
- Skilled, but Naïve: While outclassing the current Black Knight in every point when it comes to pure raw power, he turns out no to be very effective when it comes to actually fight him. Is explained the first time we met him the he was trained in seclusion by the Titans his whole life in order to become an unstopable force of Good and to dedicate himself to the Heavens...yet ironically this two facts only hinder him since he lacks actual world experience when it comes to fighting flesh and blood villains and because of that he expects every villain to be like the ones in stories (something that Black clearly is not). Plus the Choir he draws his power from gives him Creative Sterility and a unability to learn leaving him to be nothing but a plaything to Black schemes the three times he fights him despite all of his power.
- The Smurfette Principle: Inverted, he's the only male member of his Five-Man Band.
- Summon Magic: As mentioned above, he can summon a horse made of light as part of his Ride aspect.
The Valiant Champion (Rafaella)
- Achievements in Ignorance: She takes absolutely no damage from the Tyrant's ghost army, with her explanation being: "Ghosts no real, can't hurt". That is not how ghosts work in the Guideverse.
- The Big Guy: Functions as this. When you want the bold-and-simple solution to a knotty combat problem, she's got you covered.
- Blood Knight: Quite openly takes joy in getting into Evil's face by trying to slice as many off the poor mooks as she can.
- Boisterous Bruiser: See above. She's a sunny person to be around in a tight corner. As long as you're on the same side.
- Hulk Speak: Although this is due to not being completely fluent in the other members of her party's native language rather than lack of intelligence
The Ashen Priestess (Irene)
- Disintegrator Ray: At least one of her powers allows her to cause enemies to disintegrate.
- Killed Offscreen: The Calamities thwart a ritual to kill Captain and replace the catalyst for the spell with a lock of her hair. The narration from Black puts enfasis on how the killing method of the ritual wasn't something quick and she problably died screaming. She becomes the first heroic casuality of her party as well.
- Properly Paranoid: Out of the four lines she speaks in their introductory chapter, three of them are her warning the rest of the party about imminent danger.
- Shoot the Medic First: The main reason why the Calamities kill her first, and ironically this end up backfiring on them.
- The Quiet One: She speaks four short sentences in the chapter that introduces the White Knight and the rest of the party, far fewer than any of the others.
The Hedge Wizard (Alkmene)
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Her whole name revolves around this. She has a spell for every school of sorcery that there is but she'll never become master of one of them and she can't never use the same spell twice in day
- Killed Off for Real:She is defeated by the Warlock and to ensure that she doesn't returns he burns her body to a crisp.
- The Red Mage: Described as having an 'eclectic' bag of magic tricks, rather than any one discipline.
- Squishy Wizard:Very powerful mage, but besides that she doesn't have very much to show
- The Smart Guy: The teams resident magical expert
- Voluntary Shapeshifter: Can at the very least assume the shape of a giant eagle.
The Wandering Bard ( Aoede of Nicae)
For tropes relevant to The Wandering Bard see their entry in the 'Other Heroes' folder
When Cordelia Hasenbach calls the Tenth Crusade against Procer and Callow, dozens of heroes from across Calernia answer the call.
The Grey Pilgrim (Tariq Isbili)
A hero from Levant who has been active for at least 60 years. He generally acts as The Mentor for other heroes from the Dominion. He accompanies Prince Amadis' invasion of northern Callow, and later serves as the mouthpiece and de facto leader of Calernia's assembled Heroes, coming into contact and clashing with Cat several times.
As the Grey Pilgrim, his aspects are Behold, Forgive, and Shine.
- Back from the Dead: His "Forgive" aspect undoes people's deaths. This is limited by the stipulations that it can only be done once a day, requires the person's corpse, can only be done once per person, the death was wasn't somehow natural or willing, and the people it's used on are ''different'' somehow. In Book 5, Chapter 51, Cat steals this aspect from his corpse so she can use it to revive him with it.
- Cry for the Devil: He tells Catherine that he views her this way.
- Good Is Not Nice: He is the first hero that Catherine has met who somewhat averts this.
- Played Straight. His Name allows him to create diseases just as easily as he can heal. He infects an unaware, Proceran fishing village with a deadly plague just before Black and several Legions arrive. Every single Proceran citizen and Praes Legionary in the area died, leaving Amadeus, the sole survivor, alone and cornered by six Heroes.
- Genre Savvy: This is one of the main reasons that makes him such an dangerous foe to Catherine and The Woe. Not only he is powerful but, he also knows how to manipulate the countless histories about heroes and villains to produce a result. He tries to use this to steer Cat to a path of redemptiom that will problably end up in her death. as a way of defeating her, and is pretty much the reason how he avoided the Mentor Occupational Hazard form below.
- The Good Chancellor: In his backstory, Tariq ends up effectively reigning over Levant as its regent after his sister is assassinated, while his nephew Izil grows up to inherit the Tattered Throne.
- Heroic Suicide: In Book 5, chapter 50, he pulls this.
- Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil: Subverted. Tariq winds up being forced to murder Izil, because it is clear to him that Izil plans on starting a continent-wide war between Levant and Procer.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: He's somehow avoided ever falling into this despite being The Obi-Wan for decades. This is what leads Cat to take him seriously.
- The Needs of the Many: This is the driving force behind the Grey Pilgrim. At every turn, the Role he plays as an agent of Above is fundamentally about reducing suffering to the people of Calernia, no matter the cost.
- Old Superhero: The oldest Named hero encountered in the story so far, and he is capable of truly awesome feats like calling entire pieces of heavenly firmament (read: stars) onto the battlefield. This is later revealed to be driven by Shine, his third aspect.
- Shout-Out: His Name 'The Grey Pilgrim' is one of Gandalf's nicknames (The English translation of 'Mithrandir').
- Technical Pacifist: Pilgrim does not kill his enemies directly - most of his on-screen appearances have featured him healing teammates as opposed to wielding his light to kill. Furthermore, when he does use lethal means (see the example above), it's always as a last resort and for what he believes is a higher purpose.
The Saint of Swords (Laurence de Montfort)
A Proceran hero who joins Amedis' invasion of northern Callow.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Apparently she can cut through magic and miracles. Unknown whether there's anything special about her sword or if it's all in the way she wields it. As of Book 5 it's been revealed that her sword is a completely normal longsword. It's all in her skills and the fact that she's a living domain embodying the concept of "sword"
- Good Is Not Nice: Unlike her companion, Laurence is abrasive, ruthless, and utterly uncompromising in the face of any opposition. She has nothing but contempt for most of Prince Amadis' faction among the Tenth Crusade.
- Jerkass: To put it simply she's and old and wrinkly asshole that seems to take pleasure in making constant death threaths to everyone, even her allies, and her go to action to solve a problem is to insult it and try to kill it even when there may be a better solution. Catherine calls her a bully, and considering all of her conversation with her and personality overall, se may be right.
- Murder Is the Best Solution:Her main method to everything.
- Knight Templar: She doesn't seem to be one at first but in the final extra chapter of Cordelia Hassenbach, Fatalism III, she leaves pretty clear that she is more than willing to sacrifice the enteriety of the Proceran Empire to defeat the Death King and Evil under the justification of: Good always wins . When Hassebanch confronts her about this she shrugs it off leaving in clear that she doesn't give a fuck about the countless dead procerans and instead just tells her to focus on how a new thing will born out the massive destruction of her country.
- Not Afraid to Die: She's well aware that she's old an her time is running out against an enemy like the Dead King, but she has accepted that she's problaby going to die and is okay with it as long she gets to take some undead with her.
- One-Man Army: This seems to be her shtick, along with Absurdly Sharp Blade.
- Red Baron: Regicide
- Shout-Out: Her surname is probably a reference to Simon de Montfort the elder,one of the leaders of the Albigensian crusade.
The Exiled Prince (Dorian Theodosian)
The rightful heir to the throne of the Free City of Helike, exiled by his Evil Uncle who usurped the throne from him. The Exiled Prince and his loyal band of mercenaries, the Silver Spears, join the Liesse rebellion early on, providing most of the Rebellion's professional soldiers.
After some initial success raiding the Legion's supply lines, the Prince is forced to retreat after an encounter with The Captain. After driving off the Exiled Prince in Summerholm the Fifteenth Legion's first field assignment is to hunt down the Silver Spears. The Silver Spears meet them in battle at one of the crossings of the Left Fork, and the Exiled Prince is treacherously and hilariously killed in the act of trying to challenge the Squire to single combat.
- Combat Pragmatist: He's a competent and ruthless commander, the circumstances leading to his death was actually a result of his pragmatism because he believed that The Squire would not be a match for him in single combat. His downfall was in underestimating the pragmatism of his opponent.
- Flat Character: Kairos outright calls him this to his face.
- Good Is Dumb: Did not apparently realize he needed to wear the helmet for his armor to turn away arrows from his face.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: His adherence to this trope hilariously leads to his demise.
- Pet the Dog: He (rightfully) calls the Lone Swordsman out on his blatant racism.
- Prince Charming: Even by heroic standards, he's considered handsome. He also fits the personality portion of this trope since he's definitely not as much of a Jerkass as the Lone Swordsman, though he's willing to be ruthless in battle.
- Warrior Prince: It's kind of in the job description...
The Page (Semia)
The Exiled Prince's (very) devoted sidekick, an androgynous young woman skilled with the rapier.
After the death of her master she leads the Silver Spears into battle against the fifteenth legion. Catherine grants her the single combat that was denied to the Exiled Prince and The Page becomes the first Hero to fall to the Squire.
- Ambiguous Gender: Seems to be a Name thing. Like a tarot Page or a cartomanic Jack, it seems like the Role wants to be two-for-the-price-of-one in person. Every character commenting on her looks rethinks her gender at some point. No exceptions.
- Designated Girl Fight: Catherine's first single combat against a Named is also against another woman.
- Everyone Can See It: Everyone can tell that she's totally in love with The Exiled Prince, except him... (possibly).
- Foe-Tossing Charge: She uses some sort of name trick to tear a path through the stakes laid down by the Fifteenth's sappers and then cuts her way through their ranks until Catherine intervenes.
- Fragile Speedster: She's very quick with a rapier but she eschews heavy armor, making her vulnerable to Catherine's brutally straightforward tactics.
The Augur (Agnes Hasenbach)
The cousin of the current First Prince of Procer who assumed the Name of The Augur during that country's civil war. Her Name allows to her to foretell the future and learn of distant events by observing the flight of birds.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Is worried about this happening to her if she looks too deeply into the wrong things. The Bard says that this is not an uncommon end for seers.There would be a day where she went too deep, glimpsed things so far beyond her understanding, that there would be no coming back. Not whole, not even close to it.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: Ornithomancy is her main method of getting her very detailed omens. With a huge side of aeromancy — weather.
- The Ophelia: She wears a skimpy sundress at court, has a pale, waifish appearance and spends long periods of time staring directly into the sun. Everyone at court just rolls with it because Names are weird that way.
- Oracular Urchin: She's locked into being this for as long as she lives. With exceptionally obtuse word salad into the bargain. She only misses Waif Prophet because she's got Blue Blood, decent health and personal status. She only looks spindly and pale enough to not survive a stiff breeze in full sunshine.
The Wandering Bard (Almorava of Symra/ Aoede of Nicae)
An Ashuran hero who joins The Lone Swordsman's party before the rebellion begins in southern Callow. Ridiculously dressed, constantly throwing back enough alcohol to kill a herd of livestock and a less-than-competent musician and singer, The Bard at first appears to be little more than comic relief. The jury's still out on how much of her silliness is an act, but there's certainly more to Almorava of Smyrna than meets the eye. She has the Genre Savvy that is the hallmark of her profession, with an understanding of the workings of fate rivaled only by the Black Knight. She has a tendency to appear (literally) whenever anything particularly plot-relevant is going on; no matter how much violence is directed her way she always manages to escape just in time; she seems to know intimate details of events she should be far too young to have witnessed and if nothing else, her liver must be superhuman.
The epilogue of Book 2 reveals that The Wandering Bard is actually some kind of body-hopping immortal entity that has lived since long before elves arrived on Calernia. The precise nature of this entity is still mysterious but it seems to always exist as a storytelling-based Name and although it switches bodies and identities it retains all of it's memories. It's also apparently scary enough to bully the Forever King. At the conclusion of Book 2 Almorava of Smyrna dies (apparently of alcohol poisoning) and the name passes on to a new host named Aoede of Nicae.
- The Alcoholic: You'd be forgiven for thinking her powers simply have to be fuelled by the sheer amount of ethanol she chugs. The Lone Swordsman is pretty disgusted by this trait; Thief, not so much, no — she picks up on some of the undertones to this habit. Almorava dies, likely partially due to the effects of substance abuse as much as the plot demanding the Name get a new face at that dramatic instant. Short may live the next dying liver of the Wandering Bard: Aoede Edition — depending on how you map that continuity snarl of a "life".
- Beware the Silly Ones: That weaving-drunk, toppling-off-furniture-or-rooftop-shingles, totally random strummer and quipper? She can tell holier-than-thou, xenophobic Elves to eff off out of her business... and, have them to do it, too. Not. Harmless.
- We later learn why the elves fear her. She manipulated them into a war with the Dead King leading to the Elf King's son being killed and turned into an undead servant. All because she thought both the Dead King and the elves were getting too uppity.
- Big Bad: As the story progresses we get hints that the Bard is playing a much bigger game than anyone else with the possible exception of the Dead King, manipulating events, toppling kingdoms, causing empires to fall into madness and bloodshed all for some nebulous goal that would turn everyone Good or Evil against her if they knew it according to the Dead King once he discovers it.
- The Cynic: She might be fighting the Good fight (or something like it), but she holds absolutely no illusions about how clean and tidy it all is.
- Didn't See That Coming: For all her Genre Savvy, she can, very occasionally, get hit with this when people subvert the heck out of expected norms — or, absolutely insist on deconstructive Reality Ensues. Hierarch calling her out using statecraft and legal means and, thereby, dismissing her existence until, presumably, she gets a date and time to pitch up for her court appearance... kind of hit her like a bucket of ice cold water from nowhere. That's on top of Tyrant basically setting her up for that little stunt in the first place.
- Drowning My Sorrows: This seems to be a very significant part of why she drinks, well beyond the whole "bards get sloshed a lot" expectations heaped on the Role. Although, there are strong hints that she often plays this up for effect, too, by not nearly being as inebriated as her blood-alcohol number should suggest. It's clear that being the Wandering Bard is a horrible existence to have to endure, either sober or drunk.
- Friendly Enemy: Is surprisingly very cordial with The Dead King. They have been thwarting each other for so long that both appear to not take it personally anymore.
- Genre Savvy: Unquestionably the most savvy character in an entire cast full of them. That's including Black.
- Great Gazoo: She certainly functions as a seedy, cut-price model of the breed, which makes her easy to both write off or to try to teeth-clenchingly "ignore" as she ambles through doing or saying whatever. Only Black (and possibly Scribe) seems able to squelch her random show-ups and "charm". Other Calamities may also be able to trump her effects, but most people aren't as able to.
- Manipulative Bastard: Thanks to her weaponized genre-savviness and ability to be wherever the plot needs her to go, she is uniquely placed to manipulate the destinies of villains and heroes alike to great effect.
- Mysterious Backer: She's been indirectly influencing Creation for so long that even The Dead King himself considers her ancient.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Less new powers and more new locations as the plot demands. Black notes that she probably blinks out of Creation when she's not needed anywhere. Seems to be able to, among other things, peek at the 'script' and somehow even scares the Elves. Seems to be specifically able follow the threads of the Story (and even tweak it indirectly) by showing up at anything particularly important or relevant... though this is not without limits.
- Older Than They Look: Played with. Initially implied to just be a personality quirk it's revealed at the end of Book 2 that She's essentially a body-hopping immortal entity that predates the arrival of the Elves or the Miezans on the continent of Callerna. Her body is exactly as old as it looks, her mind on the other hand...
- Reality Warper: Amadeus is of the opinion it's actually inverted: reality warps her more than she does it. He's 100%, horrifically right about this. The Wandering Bard wears a lot of unfortunate faces, but she still isn't free to do as she pleases.
- Seen It All: Has this attitude, just to add to her general air of unreliable cynicism. With her, it's a really bad case of TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life, though. Little, if anything, is ever going to be totally novel for a Bard in a world running on narrative. Let alone one as old as she is.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: She has the least conspicuous Name of any we've seen. The only one sensitive enough to notice her presence with Name-Sense, so far, is Black Knight. She also regularly pulls this trope on her teammates, not just the Villains.
- Spoony Bard: In spades. She contributes little, if anything in terms of obviously useful skills to her party. Unless you count snark, terrible humour, drunken stupors or random, barely applicable general knowledge "useful" when trying to, e.g. hunt Calamities. She's a Lethal Joke Character who happens to be juggling a whole drawer full of bigger picture spoons.
- Stepford Snarker: She's snarky, alright. But, it's as much of a defense mechanism as it is part of the job description.
- Torture Is Ineffective: The Dead King once dissected her to try to figure out how her powers work. Not only did he find nothing, but she snarked at him through the entire process.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Not exactly unwitting, but she seems to literally only be able to give advice, not control people's actions. She can nudge the rock, but there are inevitably going to be paths down the mountain that take it places she'd rather not see it go.
- Wild Card: Although always on Team Good, how she goes about it looks pretty random to outsiders. She does things her way and for what she deems the greater good, even if it screws herself and her teammates over in some capacity.
Morally Ambiguous Names
The Ranger (Hye Su)
The Fifth Calamity and Black's lover. The offspring of an exiled admiral from across the Tyrian Sea and one of the few elves on the continent ever to leave the Golden Bloom, Hye Su was several centuries old by the time she met the Calamities. The Ranger doesn't fit neatly into the role of either hero of villain and prefers to go her own way, which she is able to do quite successfully both through her friendship with the Calamities and the fact that she is quite possibly the most dangerous fighter on the continent of Calernia. The Ranger fought with the Calamities to place Malicia on the throne of Praes but left the empire forever after the second Field of Streges, apparently out of disgust for the Empress. She now rules the woodland settlement of Refuge as The Lady of The Lake. Her Aspects are Learn, Perfect and Transcend.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Although she takes pride in not living up to the whole Jerkass Elf package, she is still way better than most when it comes to stealth and combat. And, she will let you know that with depressing ease.
- Badass Normal: Subverted hilariously. She has a Name but where other Named get a raw power boost or spectacular and destructive abilities her Aspects just make her really *really* good. Throw 200 years of training and fighting the strongest opponents she can finds on top for good measure and you have the strongest fighter on the continent who breaks into the City of the Dead for *fun*.
- Challenge Seeker: The Bonus Chapter focusing on her implies that this is basically what she lived for before meeting Black and joining the Calamities.
- I am the Ranger, she said. I hunt those worth hunting. Rejoice, you qualify.
- Friend Versus Lover: She was the lover to Malicia's friend and when Black ultimately chose his friend she left.
- Immortality Begins at 20: Gets the standard fantasy elf package.
- Really 700 Years Old: Well, at least two hundred.
The Archer (Indrani)For tropes relevant to The Archer, see her entry in the Woe folder.
Characters Without Names
The Dread Empire of Praes
The heiress to a minor Praesi holding and one of Akua Sahelian's retinue, as well as a mediocre mage. Barika is valued by Akua more for loyalty than connections or competence.
Catherine murders Barika during the first battle of Liesse.
- Butt-Monkey: Barika gets the shit kicked out of her quite a bit. On her first meeting with Catherine the Squire breaks her fingers just to make a point. Ultimately culminates in Catherine executing Barika with a crossbow after finally getting completely fed up with her bullshit.
- Deader Than Dead: After killing her Catherine goes the extra mile by having her buried in some nearby consecrated ground to make sure she won't be coming back.
- Fin Gore: Catherine breaks one of her fingers the first time they meet.
- Smug Snake: Contributes very little to Team Heiress besides smugness.
- Villainous Friendship: Akua seems to have been closer with Barika than her other flunkies, though this didn't stop Akua from using her as a decoy in a manner that ultimately got her killed.
The Legions of Terror
The Empire's standing army. Previously considered expendable cannon fodder by the Dread Emperors and their Noble peers, the Legions underwent major reforms overseen by The Black Knight after Malicia I gained the throne. The legions now incorporate non-humans as both regular troopers and officers rather than solely as auxiliaries and are now one of the highest-quality professional armies on Calernia, with a particular focus on magical support and siege warfare utilizing goblin alchemy. Their philosophy has changed as well organized around the Black Knight's Maxim of 'One Sin (Defeat), One Grace (victory)'.
- Combat Pragmatist: One Sin, One Grace.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: Key to the philosophy of the reformed legions. All of the empire's species and culture's are represented among the Legion's officers and their upper ranks include even stranger creatures such as a Dragon and a Vampire as generals.
- Magic Knight: Magical support is an area of particular focus for them. Magic is the only area where the modern legions emphasize quantity over quality however.
Marshall Grem One-Eye
The first Orc Chieftain to pledge his support to Empress Malicia's rebellion. Now commands the Imperial armies defending the Red Flower Vales.
A goblin matron whose tribe supported Black and Malicia in the civil war. Now commands the Legions responsible for keeping the Duchy of Daoine subdued.
General Istrid Knightsbane
The second Orc Chieftain to join Malicia's rebellion. Now commands the Sixth Legion, one of the two stationed in Summerholm at the start of the story. General Juniper is Istrid's daughter.
The Fifteenth Legion
The newest of the Legions of Terror, formed just as the Liesse rebellion begins and drawn almost entirely from new recruits and war college graduates. Catherine wins the command over the legion in the melee at the end of book one, and leads it into battle in book two.
- Five-Man Band: Catherine and the "Squire Faction" form one:
- The Big Bad: Catherine
- The Dragon: Hakram and Juniper have the role in two different ways: Hakram is Catherine's right-hand man, bodyguard and closest confidant. Whereas Juniper is her actual second-in-command who does most of the work directing her troops in battle.
- The Brute: Nauk in straight-up battles and Robber with... untraditional tactics
- The Evil Genius: Masego with magic, Pickler with technology, and Ratface with supplies
- The Dark Chick: Killian and Aisha
- Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: Much of the officer pool is drawn from Rat Company, which was the worst company at the war college with a years-long losing streak. Furthermore about half of the rank-and-file are Callowan, largely recruited from criminals. Fortunately the XO is the War College's most successful graduate in living memory, and she's eager to whip it into shape. Also, the Rat Company officers, for all their endearing flaws, are generally competent within their own areas of expertise as long as they are well-managed. Perhaps most importantly the Legion has a charismatic Callowan leader to bring them all together, and a small but growing group of Named to lead the charge.
Legate Juniper of the Red Shields
The leader of the most successful company at the Praesi war college. Catherine's company is assigned to is pitted against her in Catherine's firs battle, which Catherine barely manages to turn into a victory. After the wargame Catherine discovers that Juniper is the daughter of famous general Istrid Knightsbane, but determined to make a name for herself without special treatment. In the great melee ordered by Empress Malicia, Catherine and Juniper are pitted against each other a second time, but Catherine manages to bring Juniper to terms, agreeing to a draw in exchange for naming Juniper her Legate (Second-in-command) when she takes command of the Fifteenth Legion.
In recognition of her role in Catherine's victories at Three Hills, Marchford and Liesse, Juniper is made the youngest Praesi General since the reforms after the end of the Liesse Rebellion.
- Blood Knight: A more subtle version of this than is typical for orcs: there's nothing Juniper loves more than war and crushing her enemies, albeit with superior tactics instead of bloody melee. She blames her her mother for it.
- Colonel Badass:
- The nearest approximation of her rank, a legate is supposed to command a roughly regiment-sized unit of 2000 troops. In the idiosyncratic organization of the Fifteenth she's effectively the Legion's Executive Officer with Catherine as CO.
- Later a Four-Star Badass.
- Commander Contrarian: When she puts her foot down, there's no budging her without a lot of work.
- Disc-One Final Boss: She's the climactic enemy of book one.
- Odd Friendship: She and Aisha rub along surprisingly well, given their respective species. The common denominator being "smart women who like things ship shape and Bristol fashion, yet are surrounded by chronically riotous mess pups".
- The Straight Man: Has a regulation approved stick up her ass.
- The Strategist: Since the moment she was introduced as a student in the War College, Juniper has lost exactly once — to Catherine, who used a Name to scrape by with a technical win. She's been in two battles since she joined the Fifteenth, commanding a pure infantry force against an army that outnumbered it two to one (with cavalry) and a horrifying force of devils and corrupted mercenaries. Both were a Curb-Stomp Battle due to her superior tactics. Later battles continued this trend.
Commander Nauk of the Waxing Moons
A lieutenant in Rat company and the only officer besides Catherine to escape the rout at the beginning of the war games. Nauk is an aggressive and somewhat headstrong orc but he is not too proud to recognize Catherine's leadership when she directs the survivors to safety. With Hakram he becomes the first of her core of support within Rat Company and is rewarded with command of a Kabili in the newly-formed Fifteenth legion.
- The Berserker: Noted specifically not to be this, as Berserker Orcs can at least somewhat control and direct it. He has the "Red Rage" and will attack anything, including allies, if he gets significant emotional or physical trauma.
- Book Dumb: Relatively. He's hopeless with the paperwork, being far more an active and enthusiastic coal-face kind of people-person.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center: By orc standards, Nauk is actually a big ol' softy, especially with his emotional reaction to Nilin's death.
- Came Back Wrong: After a Summer Court fae burns over half his head, the healing mages were initially going to leave him to die, but Catherine refused. Eventually brought back by Warlock, but his perspective in the Battle of the Camps shows he now has severe anger issues, difficulty remembering things, and a profoundly warped view of the world.
- A Father to His Men: A gruff and liable to growl at them when his lads and lasses fluff it one, sure — but, he'll slog through the worst with them and defend them to the hilt if they're wronged.
The ogre Commander of the Legion's second Kabili, Hune was the commander of a company at War College (though not one of the top five). Fairly introverted and a stickler for rules, we otherwise know fairly little about Hune.
- Genius Bruiser
- Punch-Clock Villain: She does her job, and she does it well. That doesn't mean she likes it.
- The Quiet One
Staff Tribune Aisha Bishara
The Commander of one of the War College's top five companies, Aisha is a Taghreb noblewoman who has nevertheless completely assimilated into the culture of the Legions of Terror. Ratface's Ex-girlfriend and Juniper's best friend, Aisha nevertheless allies with Catherine during the melee, and subsequently betrays and is betrayed by her. When Catherine assumes command of the Fifteenth she brings Aisha into her general staff at Juniper's insistence, making Aisha the legion's only highborn senior officer.
- A Day in the Limelight: Along with Ratface she gets a lot more that her usual amount of focus during the Conspiracy short story. Hakram and Robber too, but it's less noticable since they already get more screentime.
- Blue Blood: Her bloodline is one of the oldest and most powerful ones native to the Tarhgreb — for all it isn't one of the, currently, more important ones. She doesn't like to highlight this, even though she knows her way around Tower politics.
- Playing with Fire: Downplayed, as she's got no active flame-throwing magic to her. However, there is a djinn in her family tree. She never gets sunburn, and good luck trying to burn her at the stake without assistance...
- Odd Friendship: She and Juniper, being often the calm voices of sweet reason, get along surprisingly well, considering their backgrounds.
- Good-Looking Privates: She's the Tarhgreb equivalent of a bombshell (think every last over-sensualised version of Sheherazade, ever). And, an Ice Queen.
- Spare to the Throne: She's the spare- third in line to a minor lordship.
- The Spymaster: She gets assigned this role near the end of the Liesse campaign.
Supply Tribune Ratface
The Captain of Rat Company, to which Catherine is assigned when she arrives at War College. After suffering a twelfth humiliating defeat, barely redeemed by Catherine leading a small remnant of the company to victory, he graciously surrenders command of the Company to Catherine and continues to serve as one of her lieutenants.
The bastard son of a Taghreb noble, Ratface (real name Hasan Qara) fled from his father's holdings when his father attempted to have him murdered to tidy up the line of succession. He stole enough money on his way out to fund his first year at war college, then turned to smuggling arms and drugs into Ater in order to fund the remainder of his education.
Although his tactical skills leave something to be desired, Ratface's 'unusual' background makes him well suited to a role as Quartermaster and his underworld connections also come in useful for intelligence gathering on campaign. Catherine recruit him into the Fifteenth as Supply Tribune.
- Archnemesis Dad: Let's just say their relationship is a little fraught and involves attempted murder on both sides...
- Bastard Bastard: Sure, he's our bastard, but still. When he's having a great day, somebody else generally isn't.
- Butt-Monkey: Oh yeah. He gets his ass handed to him in the first wargame, then gets abandoned to the enemy halfway through the second. Not to mention his continued, unrequited love for Aisha. He does get several chances to shine in Book Two and the Conspiracy short story.
- Killed Offscreen: A knife to the back of the neck courtesy of Malacia's assassination campaign against the new Kingdom of Callow.
- Corrupt Quartermaster: He'll find a way to get anything. Just... don't ask questions you don't want answers to about how.
- High School Hustler: Was this... continues the hustle after he leaves.
- The Scrounger: Getting things is his thing.
Senior Mage Killian
The Lieutenant commanding Rat Company's mage line, Killian is captured early in the first war game, but is rescued halfway through and helps Catherine to pull off a win. A Duni from the Green Stretch, Killian's magical ability is handicapped by her Fey ancestry which causes her to lose consciousness if she draws too much power. It also doesn't help with the discrimination she already suffers for being Duni. Nevertheless Killian is a skilled mage, and her power proves critically important in the final battle of the second war game. After assuming command of the Fifteenth legion, Catherine names Killian to her general staff as Senior Mage.
Catherine starts to nurse a crush on the redheaded mage during the second war game and sexual tension builds during the march from Ater to Summerholm. After the confrontation with the Lone Swordsman there the two begin a relationship that becomes increasingly adorable even as the campaign gets more dark and brutal and Catherine's actions become increasingly ruthless. Killian also forms a friendship with Masego.
- Ambiguously Bi: Like Catherine, there are hints that she swings predominantly girl-wards, though not exclusively so.
- The Chick: Oh yeah. Killian is gentle, sensitive, supportive, and seemingly almost everyone's friend, notwithstanding her ability to set people on fire. In the first book she could arguably share The Evil Genius role with Pickler, but in book two this role is taken by The Apprentice.
- Evil Redhead: Technically. She is an officer in the Legions of Terror after all.
- Fiery Redhead: Again, in the sense that she can literally set you on fire.
- Healing Hands: One of her skills lies in having decent healing magic.
- Playing with Fire: Although, she's a little better throwing fireballs about. And, the lightning.
- Shock and Awe: Her Signature Move.
- Understanding Boyfriend: To Catherine as of shortly into the second book.
- Weak, but Skilled: Her Fey blood gives her increased control when using magic but if she tries to draw power above a certain threshold it tries to modify her body to reflect her Fey heritage (growing wings, etc.). It's possible that if she could overcome this handicap she might be capable of high arcana but obviously that's never going to happen...
Senior Sapper Pickler
The last of Rat company's lieutenants, in command of the Sapper line. Like the rest of Rat Company's officers Pickler has a quirk that prevents her from advancing above her rank, in her case she's obsessed with the technical aspect of her craft and has minimal competence and less skill in the tactical or strategic aspects of officer training. That said, as long as she has competent subordinates to manage her unit on the battlefield she is an ingenious siege engineer, capable of innovations that can turn entire battles around. Consequently she is recruited into the Fifteenth's General Staff as senior sapper.
- Blue Blood: Well, technically her blood is black like most goblins but she is a matron's daughter.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Think a greener, smaller, madder and female Q...
- Dude Magnet: She's the object of affection of both Nauk and Robber, this has her somewhat bemused as Goblins generally only mate as part of a highly structured breeding program.
- The Evil Genius: She is to technology what Apprentice is to magic.
- Skewed Priorities: Pickler may perversely enjoy the attention she's getting, but neither lad chasing her (although both have charms) meets her own, personal standards. Neither can build a trebuchet from scratch to save their lives. Still, mother would not approve: a trebuchet is not as good a sign of dependability as a sound dam or some other form of structural engineering. Pickler feels vaguely guilty for not finding things that aren't tactical or chemical engineering all that thrilling in a potential mate.
Senior Tribune Nilin
Nauk's sergeant in Rat Company, a mild-mannered Soninke boy with an interest in architecture. Drafted into the Fifteenth legion as second-in-command of Nauk's Kabili.
Nilin is killed fighting the Silver Spears at the Battle of Three Hills. Several weeks later, Ratface discovers by investigating his effects that he was a spy for the Truebloods since before he entered the War College.
- Black Dude Dies First: Downplayed, as most Praes ethnicities, and the Fifteenth, are dark-skinned, but he's notable as the only prominent black male.
- Nice Guy: Nilin is so universally liked that the revelation that he was a traitor does serious damage to morale even weeks after his death.
- Punch-Clock Villain: It's implied it was working for Akua's house or never graduating the academy for him.
Best described as the sentient equivalent of a walking sack of razor blades, Robber is a Goblin's Goblin's Goblin. Irreverent, homicidal and so infuriatingly clever that a council of goblin matrons opted to let him join the Legions pretty much just to make him somebody else's problem. Catherine first enters the story of Tribune Robber when she stumbles into a last-minute appointment as a lieutenant in Rat Company on the eve of a war game against Juniper's First company. Ambushed and surrounded on the first night of the games, Callow and her desperate troopers are rescued from certain defeat by then-Sergeant Robber and his bold tenth of goblin scouts, who lead them to safety in the night. Robber later inadvertently provides Catherine with the idea for the Suicide Goats as well as leading the group that provides the necessary corpses. He is later appointed a Tribune in the newly formed 15th Legion under Senior Sapper Pickler. He is later given command of a detached goblin cohort dedicated to reconnaissance, sabotage, assassination and all forms of irregular warfare.
- Casual Danger Dialog: Always has a witty remark even in the middle of a pitched fight.
- Collector of the Strange: Repeated references are made to his jar of eyeballs, though it's never clearly stated whether this is an exaggeration or not.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Cat is eternally grateful he's pointed at her enemies rather than her.
- Mad Bomber: Few things in life cheer him up quite like a large explosion.
- Mildly Military: Has a 'unique' approach to military courtesy.
- Rated M for Manly: Stated by Pickler to be the goblin equivalent of this trope. Sneaky, underhanded, and clever and always showing it off.
- Pungeon Master: When he starts pun chains, the conversation runs downhill fast.
Claimants to the Name of Squire
When Black Knight chooses Catherine as his Squire there are already several candidates vying for the role. When Black and Catherine pass through Summerhome on the way to Praes she meets the other claimants and they compete for the Name by hunting the Lone Swordsman. Catherine is the only survivor.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Along with William the Claimants are the main antagonists of the first arc of the story.
- Five-Token Band: Between the three of them and Catherine, they have one of each of the empire's major human ethnic groups (Soninke, Taghreb and Callowan, though no Duni or Deoraithe unless Catherine counts as a Twofer Token Minority) plus a goblin to represent the non-humans.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad
Chider ( The Squire)
The first goblin ever to claim the name of Squire, Chider is the one to suggest the claimants form a truce and agree to settle their claims by competing to capture the Lone Swordsman. She takes a bribe from Heiress to kill Catherine, but fails and she is killed by the Lone Swordsman.
The Heiress reanimates Chider's corpse for later use as a weapon against Catherine. During the First Battle of Liesse Heiress is able to trap Catherine and strip her name from her, causing the name to revert to the Undead Chider. However Chider does not have time to develop her power as the Squire before she is destroyed permanently by Catherine.
- Death Is Cheap
- The Dragon: Serves this role for Heiress in the climax of book 2.
- Kill It with Fire: First character in the series to use Goblinfire.
- Red Right Hand: She's entirely red, unlike most goblins who are generally green or yellow.
- Shadow Archetype: She becomes this to Catherine after she takes up the mantle of Squire- Catherine has to defeat her without the use of her name, and in doing so she heals the damage that the Demon of Corruption did to her Name.
A Soninke girl who wears a white veil and fights with a spear. Also another Soninke girl who wears black and fights with a crossbow. It isn't clear whether they're sisters or duplicates or what, but it probably doesn't matter because both are killed in Summerhome- one by Catherine and the other by The Lone Swordsman. Oh well.
- Blade on a Stick
- Fantastic Racism: Very racist. Even for a Soninke.
- Me's a Crowd: Possibly, it's unclear why there were two of her but name powers seemed to be involved somehow.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Unceremoniously so, too.
A Taghreb boy who wears robes and a clay mask and fights with a scimitar.
- Jerkass: Would it kill him to not speak Bigot for five minutes? Well, indirectly, it did kill him by alienating every last candidate, so there's that.
- Malevolent Masked Man: He tries ever so hard. All the other candidates for the Name find it rather more annoying than the intended scary, however.
- Smug Snake: It actually seems to have been one of his aspects- he became more powerful when he was taunting and tormenting a wounded Catherine.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Welp, he earned it...
The Kingdom of Callow
Elizabeth Talbot, The Countess of Marchford
The best commander among the surviving Callowan nobles. She becomes the de facto leader of the first Liesse Rebellion.
Marchford is betrayed by her peasant levies, who surrender her to Black Knight in exchange for mercy. She is executed along with the Marchioness of Vale after both refuse to serve the Empire.
- Action Girl
- Anti-Climax Boss: Invoked. Black manipulates events so that the defeat of her main Rebel army becomes a total Anti-Climax, which means that the narrative weight shifts to Catherine's confrontation with the Lone Swordsman and Heiress in Liesse.
- Face Death with Dignity: She's willing to hang rather than submit to Black and the Empress, Black lets her die painlessly from poison instead.
- Lady of War
- Supporting Leader: She leads the military side of the Liesse Rebellion, the Aragorn to the Lone Swordsman's Frodo.
Gaston Caen, Duke of Liesse
The exiled Duke of Liesse and the figurehead of the First Liesse Rebellion. A generally shiftless and incompetent leader, remarkable only for his foresight in fleeing Callow before Laure had fallen to the Empire in the Conquest.
The Duke is killed by Assassin outside Vale, precipitating the collapse of the Rebel army.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: The reason why he's the only Callowan Duke outside of Daoine to survive the conquest.
- Upper-Class Twit
Anne Kendal, the Baroness Dormer
One of the mid-ranking nobles among the Liesse Rebels ( and the only one to survive the war.), The Heiress invades Callow with her mercenaries and sacks Dormer early in the war, forcing the baroness to spend most of the war defending her own lands. When the Fifteenth reaches Liesse she is in command of the Callowans in the garrison.
After the Legion breaches to walls Catherine offers terms to the Baroness which she accepts, bringing the rebellion to it's final conclusion. After the war Catherine arranges for the Baroness' life to be spared and she is the first Callowan, after the Squire, to be offered a seat on the new Ruling Council of Callow.
- Celeb Crush: Catherine's gotten over it, but a brief glimpse of the baroness as a child was what taught Catherine that she was into girls.
- Les Collaborateurs: She becomes one after the rebellion fails as a member of the Empire's ruling council.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: She surrenders to the Squire rather than condemn her men to death.
- Laser-Guided Karma: She was the only major leader of the rebellion who wasn't in it for her own political gain, and ends up being the only one who gets the opportunity to surrender to the Squire and thereby survive the war.
- Pragmatic Hero: Although not a Named, officially official "Hero", she's actually this. She always keeps a level head. As a result, although Good to her toenails, she bows her head to the reality of Evil being currently far too entrenched in Callow to defeat directly without destroying not just the sociopolitical entity that is Callow, but the people and countryside, too. Would that more official Heroes thought that way. She's working to mitigate the effects of Evil running things as much as possible, in the hope of Good prevailing down the line and Callow still being there to save.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: At least the most beautiful woman in Callow. Whenever Catherine has to formulate a list of the hottest women she's ever seen, Dormer is the first one she thinks of. However she admits that even the Baroness has nothing on the Empress.
The Duchy of Daoine
An ethnically distinct, autonomous region in the north of Callow, bordering the elven kingdom in the Golden Bloom. The Deoraithe (as its people are called) are the descendants of the original human inhabitants of the Golden Bloom, who were driven from their land centuries ago by the elves. They guard Callow's border with the orcs of the steppes while making plans to return to their homeland one day.
- Badass Army: The Watch uses some unknown magical means to grant themselves superhuman abilities. In addition to ludicrous amounts of training.
- It's eventually revealed that the source of the Watch's power is a necromantic construct made from the spirits of all the Deoraithe that have died since the loss of the Golden Bloom to the elves.
- Combat Pragmatist: The Deoraithe, and especially The Watch are known for a brutally efficient approach to war and politics.
The ruler of Daoine since before the conquest. Kegan was able to negotiate a fair amount of autonomy in her relationship with the Praes and has so far been reluctant to compromise that by involving herself in any rebellion or other mischief.
The Principate of Procer
First Prince Cordelia Hassenbach
The ruler of of the Principate of Procer, the ranking great power of Calernia and the most powerful nation aligned with the side of Good. The ruler of one of the Principate's Northern principalities, Hassenbach ascended to the throne of the Principate in the wake of a long and bloody civil war and has spent the time sense engaged in a cold war against the Empress Malicia's agents across the continent.
The First Prince believes that the Praesi cannot be permitted to hold Callow, and is plotting to launch a tenth crusade in order to drive them back to the wasteland and unite the forces of Good behind herself.
- Arch-Nemesis: To Empress Malicia.
- Badass Normal: Cordelia might not be a Named or even a competent warrior in her own right, but she's still a ruthless and capable politician who can play Xanatos Speed Chess with the best of them.
- Good Is Not Nice: Governing Procer is a balancing act, and she's definitely not afraid to chop bits of it off or up to stabilise it.
- Not So Different: Cordelia and Malicia are really very similar, both being political pragmatists in similar political situations.
- Refusal of the Call: In Book 5 Interlude: And Yet We Stand, Cordelia refuses the opportunity to gain a heroic Name, and refuses a villainous one as well mere moments later.Cordelia: "This land will know no queen, no empress, no pale-clad warden to stand above all others."
- She Is the King: That's First Prince to you, peasant.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: An inversion, much like her nemesis Malicia in that she's a ruthless and determined political operator playing the role of The High Queen.
Prince Klaus Papenheim
The Prince of Hannoven and Cordelia Hasenbach's main general. Prince Klaus grew up defending the Lycaonese Principalities from the Ratmen and the Kindgdom of the Dead, then went on to lead his niece, Cordelia's forces to victory in the Proceran Civil War.
With the inauguration of the 10th Crusade, Klaus is placed in command of the Proceran forces sent into the Red Flower Vales.
Prince Amadis Millenan
The Prince of Iserre. He kept his principality largely out of the Civil War and became the main leader of the opposition after Cordelia Hasenbach rose to power. Amadis supports an expansionist policy for the Principate, against the directives of the First Prince.
Prince Amadis is placed in command of the Proceran army that invades Callow by way of the Staircase at the start of the 10th crusade.
The Empire Ever Dark
- Ambiguous Gender: Drow consider the powerful ("The Mighty") to be above such concepts as gender. Referring to powerful Drow with anything other than a gender-neutral term is seen as an insult.
- Asexuality: They, as a rule, have little-to-no sexual or romantic desire. Reproduction is seen as a chore for the weak Drow to occasionally engage in to keep the population of the Sigil up. On the bright side, rape is unheard of in their culture.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: When you gain another Drow's life force/magical energy/knowledge by killing them and harvesting the "Night" from their corpse, and your society is based around Asskicking Equals Authority, the concept of loyalty or swearing oaths seems rather odd.
- Combat by Champion: Their society emphasizes the powerful tribal chief (Sigil-Holders), lieutenants (Rylleh), and other "Mighty" in the hierarchy over the "cattle" of the rest of the citizens and soldiers in a Sigil. As a result, if the Sigil-Holder and Lieutenants are killed, the majority of a Sigil will surrender.
- Klingon Promotion: Drow can only gain status by harvesting the Night from the bodies of others. The more powerful, the more Night a Drow has. This makes it very tempting to take out one's leader and absorb his power.
- Soldier vs. Warrior: Firmly on the "Warrior" side, much to their detriment when the organized, better equipped "Soldier" Dwarves invade.
- Vestigial Empire: They live in the ruins of the massive Underground Cities carved with ancient poetry and the defaced art of their once-great civilization.
The Kingdom Under
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: They make the best weaponry, and siege engines known in this world. They definitely do not sell those to surface-dwellers though. Instead, they sell cheaper, less-powerful models, and keep the good stuff for their own armies. This is the main reason the Praesans value Gobinsteel and Goblin-made siege engines so much.
- They also have a habit of stealing magical artifacts, and then selling it back to surface-dwellers as "miracles of dwarven blacksmithing" a couple of decades later.
- Dug Too Deep: Usually the cause of this. They claim rights to anything below a certain depths. A mine belonging to another species going too deep is seen as theft, and isn't taken well.
- One-Gender Race: Implied to be this, as no one is really sure how they reproduce. There are rumors that they can swallow a stone and spit up a dwarven baby a few months later though.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Slightly below average human height, rock-like skin, uncertainly long lifespans, rather secretive, and sporting Badass Beards.
- Fantastic Racism: They generally view their short-lived, technologically-backwards upstairs neighbors as inherently inferior, in an Innocently Insensitive way. They don't consider human's sentient enough to actually hold property, and are visibly bemused when Catherine claims someone is her subordinate. To them, all humans are so primitive that the idea of them having a hierarchy within themselves is amusing.
- Guilt-Free Extermination War: Against the Drow, who occupy the underground territories of the North-East. They hold no real ill-will towards the Drow, but want the territory and view Drow as nothing more than pests.
- Higher-Tech Species: Much more advanced in this aspect than any known society, except of course the mysterious Gnomes.
- The Need for Mead: They consider it poor form to drink liquor while negotiating... because it's too light. They have harder stuff to drink over business.
- Sticky Fingers: Since other species can't own property in their eyes, anything on the surface is free game. Since resisting can be met with entire cities being sunk into the ground and the survivors slaughtered, surface-dwellers allow it.
- One notable example is a Human Nobleman almost becoming completely bankrupt after having to buy back his own family jewels from a Dwarf.
The Golden Bloom
- Ambiguous Gender: Their marble-like skin, slim physiques, and generally inhuman appearance make them appear rather androgynous.
- Absolute Xenophobe: Elves on other continents actually live alongside other species and semi-often interbreed. The Golden Bloom Elves are a extremely racist splinter group.
- Childless Dystopia: No elf has been born on the Calernia since they arrived.
- Fantastic Racism: They view all non-elves, and non-Heroes as vermin, and will kill any who approach The Golden Bloom.
- Genocide Backfire: When they arrived on Calernia, they slaughtered all of the previous inhabitants of their forest. This earned the absolute hatred of the surviving Deoraithe, and accidentally cursed the land into a Childless Dystopia.
- Good Is Not Nice: Technically are considered Good-aligned, but definitely not friendly.
- Half-Human Hybrid: These are rare, with the only known one being Ranger. The Elves of The Golden Bloom view them as an insult to their Master Race and try to kill them.
- Our Elves Are Better: They are relatively immortal, impossibly fast and strong, and better at magic than any other race.
- Sacred Language: If they have to interact with non-Elves for some reason, they use supernatural body language or mental projections of concepts. Using "inferior" tongues is seen as degrading. The idea of a Human speaking the Elvish Tongue, however, is seen as absolutely horrifying blasphemy.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Their reaction to Dread Empress Triumphant's Conquest and the Tenth Crusade was to faze The Golden Bloom out of Creation so they wouldn't have to get involved.
- Blue and Orange Morality: They run on tropes, not morals. Unless a very specific trope they have as their embodiment lets them, of course. In a highly specific way that must be tailored by the story being played out.
- Born-Again Immortality: Fae are reborn when their Seasonal Court is reformed in an ever-repeating cycle.
- Cold Iron: Iron weaponry causes them immense, often debilitating pain.
- The Fair Folk: Boy, howdy. They're rather more ideas and themes than they are actual personalities. Very powerful, very extreme ideas.
- Physical God: The more powerful Fae nobles are more or less this. Especially true of the King and Queen.
- Seasonal Baggage: The two Courts of Fae present at any one time always represent two opposing seasons in a continuous cycle. The Summer Court Fae generally have fire or nature powers, while the Winter Court Fae often have darkness, ice, orwind powers. They really don't like each other.
The Wild Hunt
- Carnival of Killers: They are sociopaths who will watch happily as one of their own is tortured and humiliated in front of them. They have no stake in mortal conflicts or moral code. They just really like to kill.
- Doom Troops: For Catherine. They'd been sadistically hunting humans and other creatures in the Waning Woods for millennia. Humanity's recent wars are just an opportunity to hunt more entertaining game.
- Mook Lieutenant: Larat, a former Prince of the Winter Court, is their current leader. He holds no love for the others, but keeps them in line to avoid punishment on himself. Catherine actually refers to him as her "Treacherous Lieutenant".
- Mounted Combat / Lightning Bruiser: Their specialty due to their surprisingly vicious Unicorns and ability to use portals between dimensions.
- Seasonal Baggage: Seemingly Inverted. They are made up of Fae from both the Summer and Winter Court, and show no internal division along these lines. Masego wants to dissect some to figure out just what it is that sets them apart from other Fae.
- Body Language: Giants are implied to have a complex and meaningful system of nonverbal communication. The White Knight and The Witch of the Woods, two Heroes trained by Giants, can use it to communicate.
- Great Offscreen War: Procer apparently attacked the Titanomachy in a particularly brutal or unexpected way a few generations ago. Whatever happened, The First Prince was not at all surprised when the Giants did not show up to join the Procean-centered Tenth Crusade.
- Magic Music: The Witch of the Woods is a spellsinger taught by the Giants. This form of magic can become so powerful that a practitioner once created a large lake (now named The Titan's Pond) as collateral damage from a battle.
- The Nose Knows: When The White Knight was ship-wrecked on the shores of the Titanomachy, the first Giant to find him could immediately smell the lingering scent of the Seraphim on him.
- Only Friend: The Dominion of Levant is the only country they tend to interact with. Others, they tend to attack on sight.
- Bungling Inventor: Heavily Inverted. They are scarily competent.
- The Dreaded: Their location, territory, and government are all entirely unknown. They are apparently watching everything everyone is doing, including underground, secluded Goblin researchers. They are the one's responsible for utterly destroying this world's version of Atlantis in one day. No one wants to cross them.
- The Black Knight immediately hurried off to destroy the Goblin Tribe responsible for earning a red letter to Praes, only to find out upon arriving that the tribe had already killed all of their researchers and destroyed the findings.
- Higher-Tech Species: They have flying machines and civilization-eradicating weaponry, while all other species are still mastering siege weaponry and medieval warfare.
- Medieval Stasis / Enforced Technology Levels: Their sole apparent reason to interact with other species is to prevent any civilization from getting too technologically advanced.
- Rule of Three: They send a red letter of warning the first time a country is progressing too much in a given field of technology. The second time, they send a more strongly-worded red letter. The third time? They Leave No Survivors.
- Shrouded in Myth: Most of the population thinks that they are a make-believe race of tinkerers. Those in power know nothing about them except the danger they pose.
- Boisterous Weakling: As a rule, they are smaller and weaker than humans or orcs, but make up for it with agility, tenacity, and generally over-the-top personalities.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Their culture holds secrecy, ruthlessness and opportunism as core virtues, and generally do not fit into Human concepts of morality.
- Fantastic Racism: Humans outside of Praes often believe them to be corrupted Dwarves and therefor inherently Evil abominations.
- Humans Are Ugly: Due to their blunt teeth, odd morals, and apparently gangly appearance, humans are considered unattractive by Goblins.
- Matriarchy: Goblin Tribes are led by Matrons. Females are given "important" duties such as leadership, and raising children, while hard labor and warfare are reserved for the subservient males.
- The Migration: An unspecifically long time ago, the Goblins were evicted from their subterranean homeland and forced to their current, shallower homes and mines. The dwarves saw the act of not killing all the Goblins before taking their land to be very generous.
- Pyro Maniac: Their alchemy-manufactured explosives make them very valuable to The Empire of Praes. They come in four main kinds: poisonous gas, general explosives, flash grenades, and Goblinfire: a supernatural green fire that burns for seven days and will consume anything, including magic, in a kind of combination between Hellfire and Anti-Magic.
- Sacred Language: Goblins refuse to share their language "stone-tongue" with outsiders. Any Goblin who speaks it where outsiders can hear is killed, and the compromised words are soon changed to prevent any attempts at translation.
- The Matrons have their own, even more secret dialect that uses the same words, but draws slightly different meanings from them.
- The Sneaky Guy: Due to their small size, night-vision, and generally cunning nature, they are the Praes' go-to troops for scouting, harassment of enemy forces, and infiltrating enemy strongholds.
- We Are as Mayflies: Goblins have shorter natural life-spans than most other species. Living into one's thirties is seen as ancient, and some Goblins are sent to the War College at the fairly mature age of ten.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Played with. Goblin's have a different view of romance than most sentient species. Physical affection is alien to their culture, and two Goblins can be considered "together" romantically while breeding with others and never breeding with each other. One's fangs are considered a prominent sign of beauty to them.
- The Juggernaut: Much larger than Orcs (though presumably smaller than the Giants) at over ten feet tall, soldiers from this species always act as Heavies. While very hard to put down, they are vulnerable to being overrun by superior numbers, so are usually used as shock troops.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Due to their small population and foreign origin, it is implied that they generally have no real stake in Praes. Still, they have a quota of soldiers to send to the Legions of Terror, and they do their job well.
- Slave Race: They were one of these for The Mizean Empire. A small number were brought over to Calernia after The War of Chains, where they were absorbed into The Empire of Praes after the occupier's empire collapsed.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Played with. They are a human-eating race that glorifies war, but also possess human-level intelligence, often have a Noble Demon nature, and are usually quite friendly to comrades-in-arms, regardless of species.
- The Berserker: Some orcs are prone to entering a state of euphoric fury in battle. Taken Up to Eleven by those with the condition of "Blood Rage", which has similar symptoms, only so uncontrollably triggered by taking enough physical damage or a great enough emotional shock. An Orc in a Blood Rage is unable to distinguish friend from foe, and is almost impossible to put down non-lethally.
- A Father to His Men: Orcs as a whole hold The Black Knight Amadeus in very high regard for his military reforms which prevented Orc soldiers from being used as Cannon Fodder, allowed all races into the War College, and led them to great victories.
- Fantastic Racism: Usually viewed as illiterate brutes by the Praesan nobility, and as outright monsters by the rest of the continent.
- Humans Are Ugly: Orcs see sharp and large fangs as attractive, and are generally put-off by humanity's comparatively frail bodies and "cow teeth".
- Hungry Menace: Long ago, The Empire of Praes learned exactly the amount of meat that needs to be given to Orc troops to prevent starvation, but enough for them to be too bloodthirsty to question how they were being used as cannon-fodder and meat-shields for the rest of the army.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Orcs are largely carnivorous and usually prefer their meat raw. They also instinctively view any living thing as a possible meal, including Humans, Goblins, and other Orcs. Since the Reforms by The Black Knight, they're only allowed to eat enemy corpses to supplement their rations.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: The Orc warbands used to Rape, Pillage, and Burn across the Steppes and surrounding areas, with all of their human neighbors living in terror and subjugation. When the Mezian Empire invaded in The War of Chains, many peoples were subjugated, but none hit harder than the Orcs. Their population was decimated, their warbands destroyed, their warrior-priest Shamans wiped out to the point that magical ability was almost entirely removed from the gene pool, and they became a slave/warrior race.
- Things weren't much better under The Empire of Praes. For millennia, they didn't even developed Named due to their decimated culture.
- Soldier vs. Warrior: Before the Military Reforms of The Black Knight, Orcs were "warriors" wielding broadswords and battle-axes. After The Black Knight's Reforms, they immediately started adopting "soldier" tactics, with a corresponding dramatic increase in life-span and effectiveness.
The Chain of Hunger
- Always Chaotic Evil: They have no concept of morality, society, or mercy: only hunger.
- Evolution Power-Up: Ratlings grow throughout their entire lives due to their unique biology. The bipedal Ratlings who last long enough grow into larger quadrupedal Ancient Ones. Ancient Ones who last long enough turn into the near-mythical Horned Lords: bipedal rats that are over sixty feet tall and capable of human speech.
- Horror Hunger: Their characterizing trait is always being on the verge of starvation due to their unique biology. They'll eat literally anything, often leading to Monstrous Cannibalism, and Humans being Devoured by the Horde.
- Leave No Survivors: They have no concept of giving or receiving surrender. Dread Empress Triumphant famously killed over ninety percent of their population, and they would still not stop attacking.
- Monster Lord: The last known stage of Ratling growth is the mysterious Horned Lords. They have human-equivalent intelligence, the capability for human speech, and are over sixty feet tall. The scariest part about them though? They can become Named.
- Poisoned Weapons: They often coat their primitive, barbed weaponry in poison.
- Rat Men: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Ratlings are a savage, bipedal, semi-intelligent species of rodent-like humanoids.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: The average Ratling is already larger than any rodent found on earth, but those who survive long enough evolve into Ancient Ones, which are large enough to act as siege engines.
- The Swarm: Constantly on the verge of starvation, these semi-intelligent beings often surge southwards on a murderous search for food. Because of this, they're often referred to as "The Ratling Plague".
- Zerg Rush: Their main tactic. Considering they attack due to chronic overpopulation and comparative lack of food, the huge death toll this usually results in only helps matters.