King & Retainers
A lawyer from Chicago left depressed by the death of his wife, Ben purchases the Kingship of Landover in an effort at regaining some of what he has lost. Stubborn, averse to violence, and determined to rule by the law, Ben proves to be a far more effective king than his detractors might hope.
- The Alcoholic: Admits that he's heading this way at the start of the series.
- The Chosen One: Regarded as such by the fairies.
- Determinator: Ben's stubborn refusal to give up, whatever the odds, is his most defining characteristic.
- Fish out of Water: Initially. He goes out of his way to try and correct this.
- The Good King: His goal in life is to be one.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: When's he's The Knight the only one of The Paladin's weapons that he keeps is his sword.
- Loners Are Freaks: Was always a loner and a bit of a social outcast in our world.
- Magnetic Hero: Earns the loyalty of his retainers, the River Master, and most of the Lords of the Greensward, the respect of Strabo, and the admiration of the fairies.
- Papa Wolf: Hurting Mistaya is a good way to bring Ben's wrath down upon you.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Strives to be one.
- Second Love: With Willow, as he recovers from the death of his first wife, Annie.
- Took a Level in Badass: Takes a number of them over the course of the series, starting when he accepts Kallendbor's challenge to box, continuing through his summoning of The Paladin, and continuing on as he becomes an increasinly resourceful ruler. In Tangle Box, a temporary level is forced on him when he becomes trapped in The Paladin's persona as The Knight.
Created from faerie magic, The Paladin is the eternal champion of the Kings of Landover, serving every ruler in living memory. Ben's ability to summon the knight to do battle for him is one of the proofs that he is a true King of Landover, rather than just another pretender. Unbeknownst to most, Ben—or a part of his conciousness—is The Paladin, projecting into the knight's armour, and taking on its persona, at the cost of his own memories.
- The Champion: To the Kings of Landover.
- Duel to the Death: With The Iron Mark in Magic Kingdom for Sale, Nightshade's monster in Wizard at Large, and the giant, the changeling, and the Ardsheal in Witches' Brew. That's in addition to all the other fights he finds himself in along the way.
- Evil Me Scares Me: The Paladin isn't evil per se, but taking on the knight's brutal persona takes its toll on Ben, and leaves him traumatized. There's a reason why the Tangle Box—a device which transforms a person into the worst version of themselves they can imagine—traps him as The Knight: a twisted version of Ben, modeled on The Paladin, with no memories save those of violence.
- The Faceless: The Paladin never raises his visor, likely because there isn't anything under the helmet.
- Knight In Shining Armour: Has the look, though not near as much of the personality.
- Magic Knight: The Paladin is a near-indestructible, magically summoned killing machine, drawn into being by the faerie magic in Ben's medallion.
- Implacable Man: The Paladin never stops coming, no matter what the odds against it. Even when overpowered by The Iron Mark, or torn to pieces by the Ardsheal, it keeps on coming.
- Lack of Empathy: The Paladin has no notion of mercy or sparing an enemy.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Always has a shield when mounted. Sometimes has one when fighting on foot.
- Power at a Price: Summoning The Paladin requires Ben to be subsumed in the knight's memories, drowning in hundreds of years' worth of combat and nothing else.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: The Paladin's psyche, such as it is, has been utterly destroyed by centuries of warfare. When Ben reverts to his own personality, he gets to keep this trauma.
- Sociopathic Soldier: The Paladin is a Type IV, with no empathy for his enemies, and no concept of mercy.
- Walking Armoury: How many weapons The Paladin carries varies depending on the situation, but at his most heavily armed he carries a lance, a broadsword, an axe, a mace, and a variety of knives and daggers.
- White Stallion: When mounted, he appears on one. Unlike The Paladin himself, the stallion can be killed, and will later be resurrected.
The inept, but well-meaning Court Wizard, Questor is one of Ben's closest friends and advisors, an honorary grandfather to his daughter Mistaya, and the half-brother of the rogue wizard, Meeks. While Questor's magic often fails, his heart is in the right place, and his knowledge of Landover is encyclopedic.
- Cain and Abel: With his manipulative half-brother, Meeks.
- Court Mage
- Inept Mage: Questor's magic frequently fails, with hilarious results.
- The Lancer: Ben's most trusted advisor and closest friend, and the one he trusts to run Landover whenever he is absent.
- Magic Misfire: All the time.
- Undying Loyalty: To Ben.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Questor's magic frequently misfires, but the actual amount he has at his disposal is considerable.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Abernathy
- Wizard Beard: A classic one.
The court scribe, who was transformed into a talking dog by Questor's magic. Smart, cynical, and sharp-tongued, Abernathy provides the realistic view to balance out Questor's optimism, and is, along with him, one of Ben's key advisers.
- Baleful Polymorph: He's trapped in bipedal dog form thanks to Questor's magic.
- The Cynic: He would say realist.
- Deadpan Snarker: Second only to Strabo.
- Funny Animals: Stuck as one, courtesy of Questor.
- The Smart Guy: Fills this role in the group, being valued for his insight rather than any physical or magical skills he brings to the table.
- Undying Loyalty: To Ben.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Questor. They snipe at each other constantly, but when the chips are down, will back each other up.
A kobold who has sworn his service to the household of the Kings of Landover, Bunion is an ape-like being who acts as court runner and Ben's personal bodyguard. Unswervingly loyal, he is one of Ben's favourite companions, despite their lack of a shared language.
- The Big Guy: Despite being small, Bunion is easily the toughest member of Ben's core group of companions, and will never hesitate to throw himself into danger to protect the King.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys
- Undying Loyalty: To the throne of Landover in general and Ben in particular.
The kobold household cook at Sterling Silver.
- Chef of Iron: His primary duties are food preparation, but he is also a fighter nearly on par with Bunion.
The daughter of the River Master and a wood nymph, Willow is a sylph—a beautiful green skinned woman who occasionally transforms into a tree. She considers herself permanently tied to Ben; he takes a lot longer to come around to the idea.
- The Chick: Very much so.
- The Empath: She's all about reading emotions and helping people deal with them.
- Granola Girl: As you'd expect from somebody who turns into a tree.
- The Heart: It's Willow who acts as the glue that keeps the group together.
- Love at First Sight: On her part, declaring that she belongs to Ben after meeting him for the first time. Ben is naturally far more reluctant, and the two spend a fair period as friends before ever getting the Relationship Upgrade she's looking for.
- Love Freak: Very much so.
- Plant Person: Periodically transforms into a tree (no points for guessing what variety of tree). Even in humanoid form, she has green skin and hair and absorbs sunlight for energy. When she and Benjamin have a daughter, said daughter initially takes the form of a seed who must be planted in soil. Once she is finally born, however, she is much more human, but still has a magical connection to plant-life.
- Second Love: To Ben.
The most powerful of the Lords of the Greensward, Kallendbor is a political climber who views Ben Holiday as nothing more than a play-King, and goes out of his way to undermine his rule.
- Black Knight: As Rydall of Marnhull, an alias that Nightshade forces him to adopt.
- Character Death: In Witches' Brew
- Evil Redhead: He's not evil the way that Meeks, or The Gorse, or Nightshade are, but he's still a selfish man who is out only for himself.
- Fiery Redhead
- The Pawn: Used by The Darkling, The Gorse, and Nightshade in turn.
- The Rival: Ben's most prominent political rival.
The River Master
Willow's father, The River Master is the leader of the once-fairy who inhabit the lake country. While his relationships with both Ben and Willow are strained, he loves his granddaughter Mistaya, and eventually becomes an ally, if not a friend, of the crown.
- The Leader: Of the once-fairy.
The Iron Mark
Ruler of the demons of Abaddon, The Iron Mark is the most dangerous of its kind, and longs to conquer Landover so that he and his kind can use it as a bridge to reenter the world of faerie from. A deadly combatant, The Mark challenges each new King of Landover for the rulership of the country; until Ben Holiday, none dared to accept.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: How you get the title of Iron Mark.
- Beast of Battle/Horse of a Different Color: His wolf-serpent, a huge scaled combination of both the animals it is named for. He rides it to engage The Paladin in Mounted Combat.
- The Big Bad: Of Magic Kingdom for Sale. While Meeks, Strabo, and Nightshade all play their parts, it is the upcoming confrontation with The Mark that drives all of Ben's actions.
- Black Knight: Appears as an eight-foot, black-clad knight, with a skull visor.
- Character Death: Slain by The Paladin at the climax of the first novel.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils: King of the demons.
- Duel to the Death: Fights one against The Paladin.
- Evil Is Bigger: At eight feet in height, The Mark dwarfs The Paladin.
- Honor Before Reason: The Mark could have killed Ben at his coronation. He could have launched an invasion of Landover, and overrun the country. But instead he sticks to the rules of his agreement with Meeks and his challenge to Ben, waiting until the time of their appointed duel.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Carries a shield when facing The Paladin in Mounted Combat.
- Silent Antagonist: The only sound he ever emits is a hiss.
- Villain Respect: Pays it to Ben at his coronation.
- Villainous Valour: It isn't really touched on in-series, but all demons are apparently terrified of The Paladin. The Mark takes him on in single combat and nearly beats him.
- Walking Armory: Carries an axe, a mace, a sword, various knives, and a lance. This actually works against him, as The Paladin is twice able to arm himself from The Mark's own weapons' harness during their duel.
- Worthy Opponent: Acknowledges Ben as one at his coronation, offering him a salute and a barely perceptible bow.
The older half-brother of Questor Thews, Meeks was Court Wizard before Questor, and sought to escape from Landover by selling the country to the highest bidder. Manipulative and underhanded, Meeks does his best to make sure Ben's kingship fails so that he can regain possession of his bestselling product.
- Beast of Battle/Horse of a Different Color: Summons the twin of The Mark's wolf-serpent to act as his mount. It flies, breathes fire, and at one point, massacres a band of wood nymphs for him.
- The Big Bad: Of The Black Unicorn, when he retakes Landover from Ben and drives him into exile.
- Bigger Bad: In Magic Kingdom for Sale, where The Iron Mark is the direct threat, and Meeks remains offstage, despite all the problems the cast is dealing with being his fault directly or indirectly.
- Cain and Abel: With his half-brother and abuse victim, Questor Thews.
- Court Mage: Had the job before Questor.
- Evil Cripple: Meeks is missing his right arm.
- Evil Chancellor: To both the old king, and his son Michel Ard Rhi.
- Evil Old Folks: Appears as an old, badly battered man.
- Evil Sorcerer: A fairly archetypal one. When in Landover he even dons an appropriately sinister robe of gunmetal blue.
- Foil: Questor is well-meaning but inept, and totally loyal to the kingdom. Meeks is competent but selfish, and is perfectly prepared to destroy the kingdom for his own benefit.
- Greed: For wealth and magical power alike.
- Manipulative Bastard: Preys on the hopes of his clientele, while at the same time making sure he only selects failures. In The Black Unicorn he tries to manipulate Ben into discarding the medallion and giving up the kingship.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: His books of magic are fueled by the souls of the unicorns trapped within them.
- Red Right Hand: Meeks is missing his right arm, and keeps his left arm and hand concealed within a sleeve and black glove.
- Underestimating Badassery: Badly underestimated Ben in Magic Kingdom for Sale, and spends most of The Black Unicorn trying to rectify this.
An evil fairy being that was trapped in the Tangle Box, The Gorse is unwittingly freed by Horris Kew and Biggar, whom it forces to do its bidding, trapping Ben, Strabo, and Nightshade in the Tangle Box in its place, while it recruits Abaddon's demons to invade Landover.
- The Big Bad: Of Tangle Box.
- Black Cloak
- In the Hood: Always keeps its face concealed.
- Manipulative Bastard: Strings Horris, Biggar, Kallendbor, and the demons along, playing all of them as part of its scheme for vengeance against the fairies.
- Revenge: Seeks revenge on the fairies who imprisoned it.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Tangle Box was specifically designed to trap The Gorse and keep it from threatening the rest of the world.
The witch who rules the Deep Fell, and Ben's most perennial adversary, Nightshade is a cold, utterly selfish being who disdains human emotion, and feels that she has the right to do whatever she wants. Her enmity with Ben eventually turns deeply personal after the events of Tangle Box, as she aims to destroy everyone and everything he cares about.
- Archenemy: Foes like Meeks, The Gorse, and The Iron Mark come and go, but Nightshade is always there, plotting against Landover in general and Ben personally.
- The Big Bad: Of Witches' Brew.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Tries to arrange to have Ben die at the hands of his daughter because their alter egos were romantically involved in the Tangle Box. Jesus, ma'am. To be fair, from her (admittedly warped) perspective, by sleeping with her when neither of them knew who they were, Ben effectively raped her (never mind that, since it was consensual on both ends, she raped him as well).
- Freudian Excuse: Between her father abandoning her, her mother's suicide, and her betrayal by her lover, Nightshade has enough baggage to fill Heathrow Airport. And yet none of it adequately explains how she has become what she has become, a fact the witch herself seems to be aware of.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Her father was a shapeshifting fairy and her mother was a human woman who practiced witchcraft.
- Hot Witch: One of the first things that Ben notices about her when they first meet is that she is beautiful:Ben didn't know what artist had created the witch, whether god or devil, but some thought had gone into the sculpting. Nightshade was a striking woman.
- It's All About Me: Nightshade is out only for herself and sees everything through the lens of how it affects her.
- It's Personal: Following their time in the Tangle Box, where the two of them, trapped in the personas of The Knight and The Lady respectively, shared a brief romance, Nightshade makes killing Ben her personal mission in life.
- Lack of Empathy: Not only does Nightshade lack empathy for anybody, she regards showing it, or any other positive emotion, as a weakness. When trapped as The Lady—a personification of her worst fears—she regains her sense of empathy, something she subsequently regards as a massive betrayal.
- Manipulative Bastard: Nightshade's manipulation and control over Mistaya in Witches' Brew is quite horrifying to watch. No matter what objections Mistaya might raise to the version of reality that Nightshade presents her with, the witch always has an explanation that sounds reasonable enough to keep Mistaya complacent.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Never trust a woman named Nightshade.
- Never My Fault: Both she and Ben bear some responsibility (though not much given that they were under a spell) for what happened in the Tangle Box. Nightshade puts all the blame on him in order to absolve herself of having actually cared about somebody.
- Neutral No Longer: Nightshade originally met King Benjamin when he came to her hoping to recruit her as an ally; up until that time, she had not opposed him or the previous kings (see Orcus On His Throne infra). After their first meeting, she became his inveterate enemy.
- Orcus on His Throne: Nightshade was evil pretty much from the start (see Freudian Excuse supra), but there was nothing to indicate that she had been actively opposed to the kings of Landover prior to her first meeting with Ben. In fact, when Questor had warned Ben against meeting her, he said that the last real king had wanted nothing to do with her. Nightshade did not become Ben's enemy until after their first meeting.
- Parental Abandonment: Her fairy father walked out on her and her mother very early on. Her mother later left her in order to return to the mists in what was essentially suicide.
- Really 700 Years Old: Nightshade is hundreds, if not thousands of years old.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Red and glowing.
- Skunk Stripe: Has a single streak of white hair in her black mane.
- Statuesque Stunner: Taller than any man in the series and coldly beautiful.
- Super Strength: Can throw people around with ease.
- Voluntary Shape Shifting: Often takes the form of a red-eyed crow.
- Wicked Witch: She's not ugly, but she hits all the other possible requirements.
- Woman Scorned: One possible reading of her actions in Tangle Box and Witches' Brew.
The last dragon in the multiverse, Strabo inhabits the wastelands at the edge of Ben's realm, making them his home. Unfriendly, antisocial, and at the same time, desperately lonely, the dragon is an enemy turned frequent, if uneasy ally, of Ben's.
- Affably Evil: Even when he was Ben's enemy Strabo was never anything less than polite, and he's far from the most unreasonable creature in Landover. As long as no one bothers Strabo, he's happy to not bother them.
- Aloof Ally: Becomes one by Witches' Brew. He'd still prefer to be left alone, but he not only goes looking for Mistaya at Willow's request, but saves Ben from the wurm.
- Always a Bigger Fish: Is the bigger fish in question when Ben is attacked by Nightshade's wurm, finishing it with a few snaps of his jaws.
- Big Damn Heroes: All the time.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sarcasm is Strabo's default mode.
- Evil vs. Evil: When he fights Nightshade in The Black Unicorn. By the time of Tangle Box he's too close to being Ben's friend to qualify as evil when he tackles The Gorse.
- HeelFace Turn: Strabo was never fully a heel and he never entirely becomes a face, but he does shift from an antagonist who wants Ben dead, to a fairly reliable ally. The turning point is Tangle Box, where, in contrast to Nightshade, Strabo is able to put aside his enmity with Ben in view of their shared experience in the Box.
- Hidden Depths: Revealed in The Tangle Box. He pretends to be aloof and to only want to be left alone, but his persona in the Tangle Box is the Gargoyle, a hideous beast that elicits disgust and fear wherever he goes. Given that the Tangle Box makes you into what you most fear, this suggests Strabo is afraid he will only ever be feared and hated, but never loved. His time in the box also reveals just how much intelligence and what a breadth of knowledge he possesses, although these aspects of him were more "withheld" from those he viewed as his inferiors than "hidden."
- Our Dragons Are Different: Strabo is right on the line between the classic, fairytale monster dragon, and the friendly dragons of modern fantasy fiction.
- Spanner in the Works: To Nightshade in Witches' Brew. In the space of a few chapters he a) proves that Rydall and Marnhull do not exist, b) saves Ben from the wurm, and c) points the king's suspicions firmly in Nightshade's direction.
A prism cat in the service of the fairies, Edgewood Dirk is one of their favoured agents, representing them in Landover on several occasions. Haughty and aloof, he is not a being to be trifled with.
- Cats Are Magic: Dirk is a prism cat, an innately magical creature who can transform into crystal and use light as a weapon.
- Cats Are Snarkers: Can't go a page without a sarcastic comment.
- Cats Are Superior: Loves to remind everybody of how much better it is to be a cat than a human.
- Deus ex Machina: Invoked and averted. Dirk refuses to be one.
- Genre Savvy: Aided by the fact that the fairies often seem to have told him the plot in advance.
- Light 'em Up: Manipulates light in order to throw fire and repel magic.
- Mouth of Sauron: Inverted. Dirk speaks not for the Ultimate Evil, but for the True Neutral fairies.