The Royal Family
Reign of King Orso
King/Grand Duke Orso
The leader of Talins and potential next King of Styria. Introduced in The First Law.
- Affably Evil: For a man with his reputation, he can be surprisingly affectionate. He really did admire Monza and the only reason he turned on her was because he assumed she was in on her brother's scheme to have him deposed and replaced.
- Big Bad: He's the main target on Monza's revenge list.
- Big Damn Heroes: In Last Argument of Kings, he sends his fleet and ten thousand of his soldiers to the Union's aid during the Battle of Adua. The favor isn't returned in Best Served Cold, much to Orso's fury.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: As evidenced by him employing a woman and an openly gay man as commanders, he doesn't care about his subjects' gender or sexual preferences, as long as they're useful to him.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's heartbroken and furious after Ario is killed, and sends a small army of assassins after Monza in retaliation.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He's disgusted when Gobba expresses an interest in raping Monza while she's dying.
- Evil Wears Black: Always dresses in black, both in private and on the battlefield.
- Face Death with Dignity: Accepts his defeat rather gracefully, dying with a smile on his face.
- Non-Action Big Bad: A capable strategist and commander, but not particularly skilled in combat.
- Not So Different: Invokes this in his last moments, pointing out how both he and Monza built their lives around a single desire Benna and kingship, respectively that ultimately led to their downfall.
- Properly Paranoid: At first, him killing Monza seems like a bout of paranoia gone wrong, but Benna was planning on killing him and usurping him.
- Self-Made Man: Subverted. While his great-grandfather was a lowly mercenary who ascended the throne of Talins by conquest, Orso himself was born into wealth and hasn't worked a single day in his life. But he is aware of the political power that comes from being a self-made man, so hence Monza gets thrown off his veranda.
- Visionary Villain: Wants to bring peace to Styria by uniting the country under his rule.
- Villain Has a Point: As mentioned above, he was completely justified in having Benna killed. His only mistake was to believe that Monza was complicit in Benna's plan.
- Wicked Cultured: Decorates his palace with valuable pieces of art.
Orso's eldest son and heir.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Stabs Benna in the neck and makes a cruel joke when Gobba suggests raping Monza.
- The Dandy: Likes to dress in extravagant clothes, and apparently needs ten rooms just for his shoes.
- Disney Villain Death: Monza stabs him in the neck, then he stumbles out a window.
- The Evil Prince: In a subversion of the common depiction of this trope, he's actually the older son, and doesn't need to ascend in the line of succession, but he's still a selfish, sadistic asshole.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The foolish one, in contrast to the younger, but far more responsible Foscar.
- Hookers and Blow: Has a well-known fondness for prostitutes and drugs. This proves to be his downfall as Monza pretends to be a prostitute to get a chance to kill him.
- Oh, Crap!: When alone with a disguised Monza she removes her mask, giving him just enough time to recognize her and what's about to happen, before she stabs him in the neck.
- Royal Brat: Acts like spoiled, petulant child, much to his father's dismay.
- Sissy Villain: Cannot bear the thought of getting blood on his expensive clothes.
- Upper-Class Twit: Ario is vain, foppish, spoiled, and petulant.
Orso's younger son.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: He begs for his life when helpless before Monza, and unlike her previous targets, he's such a good person she decides to show him mercy. Unfortunately, Shivers takes the decision out of her hands.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: When Monza shows him mercy, Shivers picks him up and repeatedly smashes his head against the ground until it's squashed in.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The responsible sibling, contrasting with his vain and cruel brother.
- Guilt by Association: He had no idea that his father was planning on killing the Murcatto siblings and rushes out of the room because he doesn't want any part of it. The only reason why he's on Monza's list is because he was in the room when her brother was killed.
- Nice Guy: So nice that even Monza can't bring herself to kill him. Unfortunately for him, Shivers has no such scruples.
- Non-Action Guy: Appalled by violence, which is seen as a weakness by his father.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: He's shocked when Benna is murdered in front of his eyes, and leaves the room in disgust.
- Token Good Teammate: The only decent person in Orso's inner circle.
- The Wise Prince: Noted to be thoughtful, sober and polite. Unfortunately, being a good person in Styria only earns him a reputation as a weakling.
- Your Head Asplode: Shivers smashes his skull to a bloody pulp.
- See Adua
A disgraced Union commander, now in Orso's service.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: A highly skilled commander and world-class swordsman. He essentially spends his fight with Monza toying with her, and seemingly kills Cosca by running him through.
- Death by Irony: He's killed when the priceless statue of Stolicus that he intended to steal from Duke Salier's palace falls on him.
- The Dragon: He's Orso's top military commander following their attempted assassination of Monza, and he's one of Monza's few targets that can completely kick her ass one-on-one.
- Dual Wielding: With a long and a short blade, according to the classic Union-style.
- Just Toying with Them: His entire fight with Monza boils down to him doing this to her. To make things "fair" he switches to his non-dominant hand to duel with because hers is maimed. Then when he disarms her and injures her left hand, he hands her back her sword so they can make it "best of three." Monza speculates even if she hadn't been crippled and thrown off a mountain, she still wouldn't be a match for him.
- Master Swordsman: Considered one of the best fencers in the world. It's not exaggerated, as Monza finds out the hard way.
- Passive Aggressive Combat: Ganmark tends to respond to Benna and Monza's insults and outright hostility with slightly amused snark.
- Perpetual Frowner: Has a perpetually melancholic look and is described as humourless by Orso. The humorless part is not quite true as he can be snarky in a passive-agressive way.
- Straight Gay: Was forced to leave the Union army after it was discovered that he had a relationship with another male officer.
- Villain Ball: Monza is disarmed and injured, but instead of finishing her off, he gives her back her sword so they can make it "best of three." In fact the entire fight is just him toying with her. Naturally not finishing Monza and Cosca off immediately leads to his death. Especially jarring considering earlier on Ganmark wanted to make sure Monza was dead before throwing her off a mountain only to be overruled by Orso.
- Wicked Cultured: A lover of arts, and a great admirer of the legendary military strategist Stolicus. He has made a point of telling his soldiers to not damage artwork in his conquests, as Ganmark fully intends to take them for his own collection.
Orso's personal bodyguard.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Monza crushes his hands and legs with a hammer, strangles him until he turns purple and finally bashes in his head.
- Dumb Muscle: He certainly wasn't hired for his brains. He's just a stupid, greedy thug that Orso keeps around to protect him.
- Fat Bastard: He's a cruel, overweight rapist.
- I Have a Family: Invokes this to stop Monza from killing him. Needless to say, it doesn't work.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: He's a notorious rapist, and would have violated Monza if Orso had not intervened. He even asks if he can rape Monza during her attempted assassination only for Orso to rebuke him, saying they're not animals.
- Starter Villain: The first target on Monza's list after spending a long period recuperating from being thrown off a mountain.
- Stout Strength: He's described as fat but still strong.
- Villains Want Mercy: Begs for his life when Monza is about to kill him. It doesn't work.
Reign of King Jappo
King Jappo mon Rogont Murcatto
The King of Styria and the only son of Grand Duchess Monza Murcatto of Talins, who crowned her son when he was seven-years-old after killing King Orso and crushing the other Styrian city-states in the intervening years. Though Grand Duke Rogont of Ospria is officially claimed to be his father to legitimize his claim to the throne, Jappo is possibly the son of Caul Shivers, whom Monza was romantically involved with around the same time.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: He's first crowned king when he's seven, though his mother wielded most of the power in his rule until he reached adulthood, and even afterwards she still mostly dictates Styrian policy.
- Dead Guy Junior: Jappo was named after his mother's deceased father.
- The Gadfly: He goes out of his way to make outrageous comments to Leo and Orso in their respective meetings, mostly as a way to measure their characters before forging any political alliances with them.
- The Hedonist: Like Orso, Jappo puts on a facade of being a bored hedonist only interested in satisfying his base pleasures. That's not to say that he doesn't enjoy sleeping around.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Since Grand Duke Rogont of Ospria briefly declared himself King of Styria before his death, Monza claims that Jappo is Rogont's son so that Jappo's claim on the throne has greater legitimacy. However, around the same time that Monza slept with Rogont, she had also been romantically involved with the Northman Caul Shivers, making the exact identity of Jappo's father a mystery. When Jappo unmasks during his meeting with Orso, Orso notes that Jappo looks much more like a Northman than a Styrian, pretty much confirming Shivers is his father.
- Not So Different: He shares many similarities with Orso. Both put on the facade of hedonistic cynics while really being competent idealists who want to improve the world at heart but are constrained by the people around them. Hell, they're both even named after their maternal grandfathers. Orso himself notes during their meeting that he could be talking to his own reflection.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Even though Leo promised him Sipani if Jappo supported him, Jappo doesn't view Leo's cause as righteous as Leo believes it is, and Jappo respects Orso for refusing to hand over Sipani, since it would mean betraying his sister, whose husband rules the city. Though Orso can only promise Jappo that things will stay the same between the Union and Styria, Jappo decides to stay neutral in the conflict between Leo and Orso instead of providing support for the former.
Monzcarro "Monza" Murato
POV: Best Served Cold
- "Mercy and weakness are the same thing."
Former Captain-General of the Thousand Swords, the most successful mercenary group in Styria. Despite her victories for Orso, the wannabe King betrays her, kills her brother and tries to kill her as well. Barely surviving, Monza becomes obsessed with revenge. Following the death of Orso, Monza becomes Grand Duchess of Talins. Later, she crowns her son as king of Styria.
- The Ace: A genius tactician, brilliant leader, incredible fighter and able to match wits with the best of them. Before chapter one anyways...
- Action Girl: In a world where warrior women are rare, she's one of the greatest military strategists alive, and a highly competent fighter besides.
- Appropriated Appellation: No one ever called Morza "the Snake of Tallins" as a compliment, but in one scene from Sharp Ends she's seen wearing a dress with embroidered snakes on it, clearly having decided to own the nickname.
- As the Good Book Says...: Often quotes to herself the maxims of famous scholars who wrote about military strategy.
- BrotherSister Incest: She and Benna were, quite famously, lovers. A deeper example than most as it's implied this was born out of a mutual dependence and need after the two were orphaned. Given the two would hit the age together, were the only member of the opposite sex near one another and Benna's utter dependence on Monza, coupled with Monza using him as her emotional crutch...
- Babies Ever After: At the book's end, she's pregnant. But whether by Rogont or Shivers, it's unclear. Officially, her son's father is Rogont, but The Trouble With Peace hints it's Shivers.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Shivers. Even in bed, she can't stop insulting him. It seems this is pretty usual for Monza with her lovers. She and Benna were even more vitriolic to one another.
- Broken Ace: After her mutilation.
- Dark Action Girl: On a bad day.
- Deadpan Snarker: A very dry one.
- Determinator: Possibly her most impressive trait. She's a good leader, a capable fighter, and an excellent tactician, but wouldn't have become any of those things if not for her stubbornness. And then there's the whole "surviving being thrown off a cliff" thing.
- A Father to His Men: Despite the ruthless attitude she maintains, she cared deeply about the welfare of her troops and deserved her popularity.
- General Ripper: They don't call her the Butcher of Caprile for nothing. Turns out, they call her that because her asshole brother didn't bother to carry out her orders to spare the civilians to the troops, and she's much more of a Colonel Badass.
- The Hero: Depending on whose side you're on, she's this or is the Big Bad.
- Handicapped Badass: Her past injuries have left her with chronic pains and limited use of her right hand. She's still an excellent fighter, just not as good a one as she used to be.
- I Was Quite a Looker: After her... ordeal, Monza believes she looks like a walking corpse.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's a much better person than she wants to admit - with good reason, considering what tends to happen to good people in her world.
- My Greatest Failure: Deep down, she sees Caprile as this... later on, she sees Benna's death and Shivers' turn to darkness as this.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Snake of Talins, the Butcher of Caprile.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: The justification (such as she needs one) for her Roaring Rampageof Revenge.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Her career as a soldier.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Subverted. Monza isn't particularly witty when she's killing people, and any time she tries to be it just sounds stupid.
- Rags to Riches: The story of her life.
- Really Gets Around: Carlot dan Eider says she had a very promiscuous reputation. Monza, however, indicates that this isn't the case. She was apparently faithful to Benna, her brother and lover who she loved deeply.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Usually Red, and has had a series of Blues - her brother, Shivers, and Cosca all count.
- Second Love: She tries to let Shivers be this to her. It doesn't work out.
- Scars Are Forever: Comes part and parcel when one survives being thrown off a mountain and then put back together by a wandering Eater.
- Tsundere: Insults and put-downs seem to be practically foreplay for her. Though she recalls much sweeter moments with Benna, particularly their times in their room, laughing and talking of their dreams for the future. Takes on a new meaning when the reason they shared the room was due to them being lovers.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Early on, she and Benna playfully trade jabs at one another, with the insults getting steadily more heated, ending with Benna calling her 'whore' and 'murderer.' Monza is simply amused. Given the nature of their relationship, this seems to be Belligerent Sexual Tension.
A practical in the Inquisition first introduced working under Superior Goyle. She accompanies Glokta to Dagoska in Before They Are Hanged to report on him. She eventually quits the Inquisition and, by the time of Best Served Cold has gone freelance. During the Age of Madness trilogy, Shylo has become Duchess Murcatto's Master of Whisperers.
- Action Mom: She's a capable fighter who does dirty work, first for the Inquisition, then later on as a freelancer. She's also the loving mother of three children.
- Chain Pain: Her weapon of choice is a chain with a cross-shaped blade at the end.
- Dark Action Girl: A torturer for the Inquisition who is one of the few people who can go toe-to-toe with Logen in a fight.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has her moments, especially when Cosca is involved.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite her unpleasant behavior to everyone else, she deeply loves her husband and children.
- Fiery Redhead: She's a fighter with a mop of spiky red hair.
- Good Parents: Despite her job as a killer and torturer for hire, Vitari is a loving, devoted mother to her three kids.
- Happily Married: While her husband is often away, and Vitari has tried several other relationships, she deeply adores her husband and treasures whenever he visits. The fact he's Shenkt, a superpowered cannibal assassin makes this even more surprising.
- Heroes Want Redheads: And so do villains: Both her husband and Morveer find her red hair a very attractive feature.
- Hired Guns: Monza hires her to help her assassinate the targets of her vengeance in Best Served Cold.
- Information Broker: Her primary job.
- Mama Bear: Do not touch Vitari's children.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Vitari leaves the Inquisition after Glokta threatened her children and flees the Union. In Best Served Cold, she leaves Monza's employ before her group makes it to Ospria, stating she'd rather take half pay and be alive than earn full pay and be dead after going into a war zone for a personal vendetta.
- Sixth Ranger: For Monza's group.
- The Spymaster: In the years between Best Served Cold and Age of Madness, she's become Duchess Murcatto's Master of Whisperers. Her main duties appear to be centered around espionage.
- Stealth Expert: She's very good at sneaking in and out of places.
- Torture Technician: As a former Practical of the Inquisition, she knows how to make people talk.
- Unholy Matrimony: She's a professional torturer and hired gun who's revealed to be married to Cas Shenkt, the world's most feared assassin and an Eater. Their relationship is one of the most loving and stable in the series.
- We Can Rule Together: She offers Vick a job working for Styria after Vick successfully foils Shylo's own plot to get Westport to secede from the Union.
- Worthy Opponent: She views Vick as such after she proves her cleverness by ruining Vitari's plans to have Westport join Styria. It's why she offers her a job instead of killing her.
Casamir dan Shenkt
POV: Best Served Cold
- "I do not kneel."
The world's most feared assassin, not that anyone knows it.
- The Ace: Shenkt is an invincible combatant, peerless assassin, and a mighty sorcerer, so much so that even other Eaters aren't lining up to challenge him. He's highly intelligent, well-educated, deeply cultured, and a fine chef. He's also almost certainly the most skilled surgeon in the world.
- Achilles' Heel: Shenkt has only one weakness. Or rather four...his beloved Vitari, and their children. He describes himself as helpless before the kids.
- Affably Evil: For an assassin and sorcerous cannibal, he's extremely polite.
- Apologetic Attacker: He'll kill you in a heartbeat if you're in his way, but he might have the decency to apologize for it.
- Badass Creed: "We do not kneel."
- Big Good: Unbelievably, set up at the end to be this in opposition to Bayaz and Khalul alike.
- Bullet Time: The manifestation of his Eating powers. It's unclear if this is universal to Eaters.
- Character Tics: He frequently hums in an unnervingly tuneless manner. Amusingly, this isn't because of any psychological issue- he's just tonedeaf.
- The Chessmaster: Bayaz and Khalul sit at opposite ends of a grand chessboard, playing against one another... Shenkt continuously rearranges the board and players to screw Bayaz over.
- Consummate Professional: He emphasizes his dedication to carrying out a mission when Orso hires him.
- Dark and Troubled Past: How he became an Eater is unknown, but he initially served Bayaz... something happened to make Shenkt despise him and work to bring him down.
- I'm a Humanitarian: And quite the gourmet, at that. He even carries around a nice array of spices for steaks and roasts, and loves liver pate.
- Morality Pet: His wife, Vitari and his three children by her.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: Well, at least he makes a pretty good effort not to, which is commendable given the setting, especially because, in addition to being an assassin, he's also a cannibal who is compelled to eat human flesh.
- Never My Fault: For all his niceties, Shenkt has a way of deflecting responsibility for his actions on occasion. It's not really his opponents' fault they don't know he's a cannibalistic superman so his usual 'I gave you a chance' is a bit of passing the buck.
- Pet the Dog: He always tries to do a bit of good/spare at least one person when "on the job"... although without much success.
- Picky People Eater: Along the same lines as Hannibal Lecter, he eats the parts of people that will go toward making delicious dishes.
- Really 700 Years Old
- The Starscream: A rare heroic version. He stands in opposition to Bayaz, destroying whatever the egomaniac psychopath has built.
- That Man Is Dead: Shenkt thinks back to who he once was without much fondness.
- Two Aliases, One Character: He's the bone thief who saved Monza's life.
- Wicked Cultured: An excellent cook who carries around a spice kit. Which he uses to properly prepare human flesh.
The League of Eight
Grand Duke Rogont
The ruler of Ospria and founder of the League of Eight. He's Orso's main rival in securing complete dominance over Styria.
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: He's an ambitious, manipulative schemer who has no qualms about throwing his own allies under the bus for his personal gain, but he's still not as ruthless as Orso.
- Big Good: The image he tries to evoke, having founded the League of Eight to stop Orso from conquering all of Styria. Ultimately subverted, as he mostly cares about himself.
- The Chessmaster: Subverted. His attempt to weaken his political rivals within the League of Eight spectacularly backfires on him, and his plan to win the battle of Ospria only works due to Cosca's completely unrelated betrayal of Orso.
- Death by Irony: Killed along with the other leaders of the League of Eight by the very crown he fought for.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Mockingly referred to as the Prince of Prudence, the Count of Caution, and the Duke of Delay.
- Foil: To his ally Salier. While Salier tends to make rash decisions, Rogont is more cautious, but his unwillingness to take risks has cost him several decisive victories.
- Gone Horribly Right: Deliberately delayed his arrival at several battles in the early stages of the war, allowing his allies to be weakened in order to strengthen his own position. However, his plan worked too well, giving Orso an advantage over the League of Eight, and when Rogont finally decided to change track and show up in time at the High Bank, he was ambushed by Ganmark, causing him to lose the battle.
- The Rival: To Orso. Both want to become king of Styria, but while Orso isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, Rogont uses more subtle political maneuvering to achieve his goal.
Grand Duke Salier
The ruler of Visserine, one of Rogont's allies.
- Big Eater: Quite the gourmet, and massively obese.
- Defiant to the End: Attacks General Ganmark with a sword in one last act of defiance. Ganmark effortlessly kills him.
- Enemy Mine: He teams up with Monza to at least try to kill Ganmark before the city falls and he dies.
- Face Death with Dignity: Goes to great lengths to ensure this, dressing up in his finest military uniform as the Talinese troops storm his palace.
- Gallows Humor: By the time Monza and her crew arrive in Visserine, he knows that the city is doomed, and spends his last hours joking about his imminent death.
- General Failure: He's a very poor military leader, and has suffered multiple defeats against Orso's forces despite having the superior numbers.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Owns one of the greatest collections of art in the world.
The Thousand Swords
POV: Best Served Cold
- "Well, that's the thing about righteousness, everyone has their own brand. Gold, on the other hand, is universal. In my considerable experience, a man is better off worrying about what is good for his purse than what is simply... good."
A famed soldier of fortune who's often found without much at all. A chronic backstabber, self-admitted scoundrel, and notorious alcoholic, Cosca's mercenary career has him bouncing from place-to-place, wherever the money is most likely. He has a minor role in The First Law before becoming a point-of-view character in Best Served Cold.
- Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil: Cosca blurs the line between both extremes. On the one hand, he's charming, friendly, has a smile that radiates good humor and intentions, and his frequent acts of treachery are never personal or malicious. On the other hand, he admits that he doesn't really care about the men under his command despite pretending to, and he's willing to do all manner of unspeakable things without a shred of remorse. By the time of Red Country he's at his friendliest but also his most despicable.
- Alas, Poor Villain: He's thoroughly beyond the point of redemption by the end of Red Country but his final encounter with Temple shows Cosca to be a pathetic wretch who's thrown away everything good in his life and who's greatest desire is to go back and do everything over again. After he's mortally wounded, he recovers enough from his villainous breakdown to face his death with dignity, flashing his familiar smile that radiates good humor and intentions as he recalls the Final Speech he prepared. Then he dies before he can actually say it.
- The Alcoholic: He's rarely found sober. In Best Served Cold, I Need a Freaking Drink is practically his catchphrase.
- At Least I Admit It: Lorsen thinks of Cosca as a monster because of the pointless slaughter he tricked Lorsen into committing. Cosca calls him out, saying that even though he is a monster, so is Lorsen, but he hides it behind supposedly good intentions.
- A Father to His Men: Subverted. While he pretends to care about his troops, he really doesn't care if they live or die, and only cares about his own well-being, whereas the seemingly ruthless and amoral Monza was the real deal.
- Bait the Dog: Cosca is friendly, charismatic, hilarious and the near textbook definition of a Lovable Traitor during the events of the original trilogy. Best Served Cold makes him a POV character which humanizes him even more while still retaining his villainous qualities. Then Red Country comes along and Cosca maintains his charming and friendly attitude even while having innocent villages butchered for the sake of profit. He ends up being the final villain the heroes have to face as a result.
- Best Served Cold: After regaining control of the Thousand Swords, he pretends to have forgiven his three senior captains for forcing Monza to betray him out of pragmatism. In reality, he's still very vengeful and subtly arranges their deaths.
- Big Bad: Even though he's not behind the abduction of Shy's siblings, Cosca becomes the final villain of Red Country when he betrays Savian to the Inquisition, leading to Shy, Temple and Lamb working to bring him down.
- Broken Pedestal: Gave Monza and Benna a home and taught her to fight and both of them to read. Then he turned into a neglectful drunkard.
- Card-Carrying Villain: He admits to Lorsen that he's a monster and a villain who's only out for his own self-interest, but at least he doesn't use good intentions as a pretext for committing evil.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Openly admits that he's been on both sides of major conflicts all over the world, and can very easily switch sides if he's paid enough.
- Co-Dragons: With Shivers in Monza's group.
- The Corrupter: He tries to be this to Temple, whom he wants to succeed him as Captain-General of the Glorious Hand.
- Death by Irony: Cosca spent his entire career betraying his employers. In the end, he's killed when his biographer literally stabs him in the back.
- Disney Death: In Best Served Cold, he's left for dead during the battle of Visserine, only to show up alive and well later in the book.
- The Dragon: In Red Country he's ostensibly subservient to Inquisitor Lorsen as they try to find the rebel leader, Conthus.
- Dragon with an Agenda: However, Cosca is Only in It for the Money and doesn't share Lorsen's pretensions of making a better world at all.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Given that he leads an army of hundreds of mercenaries, he's much more of a threat than his theoretical boss, who only has eight Practicals with him. In fact, Cosca ends up playing Lorsen like a fiddle, manipulating him into raiding the home of the Dragon People to get the fortune within by lying that rebels are connected to them.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Monza Murcatto is one of the only people that Cosca is confirmed to love. At first he was her mentor and surrogate father figure, but as time went on, he grew to love her romantically, though he never told her. As a result, Cosca actually agrees to help her put siege to Orso's fortress despite it not really being in his self interest.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He loathes poisoners after one of them assassinated his favorite mistress while trying to kill him. It explains his animosity towards Castor Morveer, who, unbeknownst to Cosca, was the poisoner that killed his mistress.
- Evil Is Easy: Leading a life of violence has made him neither happy nor rich, but he's long given up trying to be good because it's even harder.
- Evil Old Folks: By the time of Red Country, age has visibly caught up with him, and it has not made him kinder.
- Eviler Than Thou: In Red Country Waerdinur is responsible for the abduction of Shy's siblings, but other than that, he's not really a villain at all, just an extremist trying to help his people. Cosca proves himself as the true monster when his company butchers the Dragon People for their gold and he betrays Savian to the Inquisition.
- Face Death with Dignity: When he realizes he's been mortally wounded, he takes the entire affair with surprising dignity.
- Final Speech: He's said that he's had one prepared in the case of his death. When he's mortally wounded he has trouble recalling it at first. By the time he remembers, he dies before he can say it.
- Go Out with a Smile: He smiles one last time before he dies, the same smile that is remarked to radiate good humor and intentions.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He's run through with his own sword at the end of Red Country.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Run through with his own sword.
- In the Back: His biographer literally stabs him in the back, with Cosca's own sword no less.
- Karmic Death: After all the atrocities he committed over the course of the book, his death at the end of Red Country is incredibly cathartic. For extra irony, he's killed by the man he hired to write his biography.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch:
- He arranges the deaths of his treacherous senior captains in the Thousand Swords, not because they're evil bastards, but because they betrayed him in the past.
- In Red Country, he has Grega Cantliss hung by the neck. This isn't because the man is a despicable sociopath who traffics in children, but because he'd outlived his usefulness.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: Normally provides the Comic Relief, but don't let that fool you. He can be a surprisingly capable fighter when he has to, especially when the odds are against him.
- Lovable Rogue: Cosca may be a mercenary bastard, but damn if he isn't likable. This becomes less and less true with every appearance, culminating in his being arguable the Big Bad of Red Country.
- Morality Chain: Subverted. He says that he values Temple so much because he relies on him to be his conscience in the Company of the Gracious Hand. However, whenever Temple does raise a moral objection, Cosca almost always ignores him and carries out his ruthless actions anyway. Near the end, he admits he wants Temple to succeed him as Captain-General of the Gracious Hand, arguably making him The Corrupter.
- Only in It for the Money: The only reason he does anything really. While working for Lorsen, he makes it clear he has no interest in furthering the Union's interest in the Near and Far Countries, he just wants the money they're providing. He even ends up tricking Lorsen into going after the Dragon People for the vast fortune rumored to be in their lands.
- Parental Substitute: To Monza, making it even more heartbreaking when she was pressured into betraying him by Benna and Orso.
- Playing Both Sides: A tactic of his and Monza's in the past. They would split the company and engage in false batters for rival employers to get money from both of them. When Monza is forced to betray him, he finds out too late that the engagement is real this time.
- Private Military Contractors: Cosca is a career mercenary, and he's found himself as Captain-General of mercenary companies like the Thousand Swords, and, later, the Gracious Hand.
- Rogue Protagonist: While he's always been a self-serving bastard, he's outright nasty in Red Country and becomes the final villain of the book.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: He and the poisoner Morveer form a special breed of hatred for each other, even as they're forced to work together on the same team. Eventually, Morveer defects to Orso and tries to assassinate Cosca, only to be killed by him in turn.
- The Teetotaler: In Best Served Cold he stops drinking after the events at Visserine, drinking goat's milk instead. He happily goes back to drinking after killing Castor Morveer.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Forms this kind of relationship with Friendly, with Cosca being the garrulous weakling and Friendly the quiet bruiser.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Lost what little scruples he had in the years between Best Served Cold and Red Country.
- Villainous Breakdown: Goes completely off the rails in Red Country after he's robbed of his gold by Shy and Temple and betrayed by his own men.
- Villainous Friendship:
- He's one of the only people to treat Friendly decently during Best Served Cold, and Friendly repays that kindness by loyally serving him. Ten years later, Friendly is his right-hand man in the Company of the Gracious Hand.
- In Red Country, he seems to think he has one with Temple, the company's attorney. Everyone in the company thinks Temple is his favorite and Cosca says he relies on Temple to be his conscience. He doesn't take Temple running off on him personally and later reveals he wants Temple to succeed him as Captain-General of the Gracious Hand. When Temple betrays him a second time and steals his money, Cosca takes it far harder than normally.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Temple's final assessment of him. Cosca wants money because he plans on regaining his title of Duke of Visserine, but Temple points out that Cosca didn't want the Duchy when he had it and ended up throwing it away. He also points out that whenever Cosca does have money, he ends up losing it quickly. Notably, this actually seems to get through to Cosca, albeit temporarily.
- We Will Meet Again: He vows this to Temple as he's being arrested by Inquisitor Lorsen at the end of Red Country. He appears a lot sooner than expected when he makes one more attempt on the heroes lives at the end of the book.
- Would Hurt a Child: At the end of Red Country, he takes over the Buckhorm farm and takes their children hostage. When he encounters Temple, Shy and Lamb again, he threatens to kill the kids if they don't return the gold they stole for him, demonstrating that he's far beyond redemption at that point.
One of Monza's subordinates in the Thousand Swords, a mercenary army in Orso's service. Following his part in the attempted assassination of Monza, he becomes the new Captain-General of the company.
- Antivillain: He's a member of a notorious, cutthroat mercenary company, and he took part in his boss's betrayal, but he's still one of the least villainous members of the group. He tries to live up to his name and his reputation of loyalty, only for him to be forced to betray those he served by outside forces under pain of death.
- Apologetic Attacker: He apologizes to Monza even as he takes part in her attempted assassination.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Pulled underwater and drowned when his cloak gets caught in a waterwheel.
- Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: He's notably conflicted about his betrayal of Monza, apologizing to her as he stabs her with his dagger.
- Just Following Orders: His justification for his involvement in Benna's murder and Monza's attempted murder. He's clearly not happy about what he's been ordered to do, but does it anyway.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Nearly a literal example. His cloak gets caught on a waterwheel and he's dragged underwater and drowns.
- Ironic Nickname: Zigzagged. While he's known to be very loyal, he still betrays Monza on Orso's orders, albeit reluctantly. He comments on this when confronted by Monza, saying he was loyal to Cosca, but she betrayed the old man first.
- Klingon Promotion: He takes part in the attempted assassination of the Murcatto siblings and then takes Monza's place as the general of the Thousand Swords. Notably, he actually didn't want to take part in the assassination or the promotion, but his hand was forced by Orso.
- Not So Different: He points out that Monza's no better than he is. She was forced to betray Cosca by Duke Orso, and he was forced by Duke Orso to do the same to her.
- Old Soldier: Has served in the Thousand Swords for thirty years.
- The Peter Principle: Shivers observes that Carpi is a good soldier but a poor leader. He was only given his position because Orso wanted Monza out of the way and that meant the Thousand Swords would need a new commander.
- Private Military Contractors: He served as a captain in the infamous Thousand Swords mercenary army and fought for Duke Orso during the Years of Blood. He became leader after helping assassinate the Murcatto siblings, but only briefly.
- Save the Villain: Monza attempts this when she has second thoughts about killing him, but it's already too late.
- Undying Loyalty: Has this reputation, hence his nickname. Monza calls him a traitor but Carpi claims he wanted to be loyal to Cosca, until Monza forced him to betray him, then he tried to be loyal to her until Orso forced him to betray her.
- We Used to Be Friends: He was friends with Monza and Benna, and genuinely regrets having to kill them on Orso's orders. When Monza sees him again afterwards, she has a rush at happiness at seeing her old friend, before remembering what she has to do. His death ends up being largely accidental, and Monza even tries and fails to save him.
Monza's brother, whose death she seeks to avenge.
- Ambition Is Evil: Orso thought so, and with the reveal Benna was going behind Monza's back to have her supplant their employer, he was absolutely right.
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: Monza is apparently the only person in the world who is upset at Benna's death. By the end, even she admits that he had it coming, but avenges him anyway.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Loves needling Monza as much as possible, which she treats with amusement.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With his sister and lover, Monza. Insults seem to be their version of foreplay.
- Bratty Half-Pint: As a kid. Monza did most of the heavy lifting.
- BrotherSister Incest: Benna latched on to Monza as the only one he could love early on, and the two were lovers all through their adult years.
- Casual Kink: Monza's kinks with Shivers are apparently an indicator of what Benna enjoyed in bed and are her attempts to recreate it.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Benna embraced the idea that no-one mattered except him and his sister, and ran with it up until his death. He repeatedly betrayed their friends and/or allies when he alone decided they were no longer useful. Benna was planning to betray Duke Orso as well.
- The Dandy: Benna enjoyed wearing fine clothes and jewelry, and swapped out a plain, very well-made sword for an gilded rapier that would be useless in an actual fight.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Deeply loved Monza, not as a sister, but as a lover. Growing up with the five-years older Monza as the only female role model apparently made the two reach out for one another in ways that turned into lust. Despite it all, he truly wanted power, but power that he and Monza could share.
- Evil All Along: In truth, an amoral borderline sociopath who betrayed anyone who was ever kind to him, with the exception of Monza.
- Faux Affably Evil: Benna was charming in life, but everyone who actually knew him well has nothing good to say about him except Monza, calling him a two-faced snake who got what he deserved.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Implied to be what drove him and Monza together. Who made the first move is unknown.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Appears this way at first, but Benna is not a good person, even though he and Monza had an apparently incredibly passionate sex life.
- Killed Mid-Sentence
- Lack of Empathy: Benna cares very little for anyone who isn't Monza.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The whole plot of Best Served Cold is caused by Benna, as he bit off more than he could chew by attempting to betray Duke Orso. His plot was discovered quickly and Monza was implicated by association, causing both to be marked for death by the Duke.
- Non-Action Guy: Benna had no talent or interest in fighting. He stuck to running the company's finances and plotting behind the scenes.
- Opportunistic Bastard:
- Benna Murcatto is an amoral snake of a man who latches on to his talented elder sister Monza while she uses her skills in strategy, tactics and combat to bring them to higher positions. Benna's role seems to be deciding who to betray and when, while charming his way into the good graces of others. When they're taken in as kids by the mercenary Nicomo Cosca, Benna has him deposed when he realizes Monza is more popular than Cosca. when they attack a city known as Caprile, Benna takes the chance to "lose" Monza's orders to spare the populace to benefit him further. Finally, it's revealed Benna was going to double cross their current employer, Duke Orso, if Orso hadn't acted first to kill Benna before he got the chance.
- On Caprile - it's not even that. There was no benefit to what happened. When Monza returned, she found Benna shitfaced from husk- in his absence the Baolish troops, less civilized than most, started the sack and the mercenaries gladly joined in. They later spun the story of it being on purpose because being a ruthless commander was better for Monza's reputation than admitting to an error/lack of control of her troops.
- Pet the Dog: For all his many faults, Benna's love for Monza was very genuine, extending to little intimacies as him just telling her how beautiful she looks.
- Posthumous Character: After chapter 1, although Benna's influence and impact on the story lingers enormously.
- Power Is Sexy: The higher he and Monza climb, the more he seemed to lust for her.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: Gets murdered by the Duke's closest men during a routine report and thrown off a cliff.
- Villainous Incest: Zigzagged to hell and back. This is probably the most humanizing aspect to Benna rather than an indicator of how depraved he is, and gives him the only redeeming qualities he had.
- You Need to Get Laid: He liked to tease Monza about this, and then take care of it for her himself.
A Countess serving as the lady-of-waiting to Queen Terez after she accompanies her to Adua. Seemingly inseparable childhood friends, in reality Terez and Shalere have loved each other their entire lives, but are forced to keep their relationship secret due to Grand Duke Orso's intentions to marry Terez off for political gain.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Shalere and Terez have been inseparable since childhood and are eventually revealed to be deeply in love with each other.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: She's taken as a hostage by Arch Lector Glokta who threatens her with torture should Shalere's true-love, Terez, continue not to perform her "wifely duties" by providing King Jezal heirs. Once released, Terez sends her away to Styria for her protection, with the two not seeing each other in years, despite still being very much in love. Then, in one of the few unambiguously heartwarming moments in the entire series, Terez's son Orso arranges for the two of them to finally reunite during The Trouble With Peace.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: When she reappears in The Trouble With Peace, Orso notes that she's just as beautiful as ever despite being in her sixties.
- I Have Your Wife: Once Glokta realizes the two are lovers, he has Shalere taken into custody under threat of torture should Terez not perform her "wifely duties" and bear at least three children for the Crown. ''The Trouble With Peace reveals she was eventually freed and Terez sent her away to Styria for her protection.
- I Will Wait for You: Terez told Shalere not to wait for her. Shalere disobeyed and waited for her anyway. For thirty years until they're finally reunited once more.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Like Terez, she's a refined noblewoman who's attracted to women.
- Rich Bitch: She comes across as this at first with her open disdain for Adua and the illegitimate King Jezal, but given the later revelation of her relationship with Terez, she has very good reason to be angry.
- Secret Relationship: Due to Terez's father wanting to marry her off for political gain, Shalere and Terez have had to keep their relationship a secret. Unfortunately, Glokta is able to figure it out.
POV: Best Served Cold
An ex-convict with a certain facility with numbers.
- Ambiguous Disorder: He struggles with social interaction, tends to take sarcastic or metaphorical comments literally, and is very dependent on certain rituals and routines, which implies that he is on the autism spectrum.
- Asexuality: Has no interest in sex and doesn't understand why everyone makes such a big deal of it. He does, however, feel intense sexual pleasure listening to Day counting during an operation.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Cosca is the only person in Monza's group to make an effort to connect with him. As a result, Friendly ends up gravitating to Cosca and ends up acting as his right-hand man and bodyguard.
- Berserk Button: Never insult his dice by calling them loaded. He may kill you for it.
- Brutal Honesty: He has absolutely no problem speaking his mind, no matter how ugly the truth may be.Cosca: What have you made of your time with me?Friendly: I preferred prison.
- The Brute: While he is far from stupid, his main role in Monza's group is to serve as hired muscle.
- The Comically Serious: Due to his brutal honesty and reserved nature, Friendly has some killer lines.Cosca: How do I look?Friendly: Like a pimp who lost his mind in a military tailor's.
- The Dragon: He becomes Cosca's right-hand man following the events of Best Served Cold, following him across the world on his mercenary exploits.
- Dual Wielding: Wields a knife and a cleaver in combat.
- Even Evil Has Standards: After Cosca orders him to murder a child if the heroes don't return his money in Red Country, Friendly confesses that he'd really rather not do it. Granted, he still prepares to do it, but he's not happy about it and is relieved when Cosca dies because he no longer has to.
- Genius Bruiser: Friendly is one of the most skilled fighters in the series and a mathematical prodigy.
- Good with Numbers: His interest in numbers is his most notable trait, and his refuge from a world he thinks is mad.
- Humble Goal: All he really wants is to do what he's told. Oh, and to count stuff.
- Innocently Insensitive: At one point he's working as a debt collector for a Loan Shark and, after having taken pretty much everything of value a debtor had (including his sword, and therefore his only real means of making money) as the latest down payment, he says that he'll be back next week. He does not understand why that causes the debtor to burst into tears - he meant it purely as an observation!
- Ironic Nickname: Played with. While not jovial, he's usually polite and nonconfrontational enough most of the time that it is fairly accurate. However, during those other times (when angered), he's a total psycho.
- Knife Nut: He uses knives. When he briefly uses another weapon, he finds that he doesn't like it.
- Literal-Minded: Due to his mental disorder, he tends to take figures of speech literally.Shivers: What do the dice say?Friendly: Dice say nothing. They are dice.
- Numerological Motif: Friendly can find meaning in a roll of his dice, and usually does so when he's being focused on. In particular, important events in his life have involved the number 6; such as when the six most dangerous convicts, himself included, brought order to Safety after a long riot.
- The Stoic: Mostly keeps to himself and rarely expresses any kind of emotion.
- Stout Strength: While not particularly tall, he is described as solidly built, with a thick neck wider than his skull.
- Token Good Teammate: Ironically ends up playing this role. Despite clearly having mental problems, he's the least actively malicious member of the team and the only one who isn't treacherous.
- Undying Loyalty: To Cosca. At first it's because Cosca is the only member of Monza's team that makes an effort to understand and be kind to him. As of Red Country, though, it seems like he stays with Cosca less out of loyalty and more because he has nowhere else to go.
- Would Hurt a Child: He prepares to obey Cosca's order to kill a child but he makes it clear he really, really doesn't want to, and is relieved when Cosca dies because he no longer "has to."
POV: Best Served Cold
A poisoner of great repute.
- Acquired Poison Immunity: Regularly takes small doses of his own poisons. It doesn't save him in the end.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Different from Friendly, but he seems to combine narcissism, poor social skills, and lack of empathy. Worth noting, despite acting like a sociopath, in his own point of view segments he genuinely attempts to patch untrusting relationships and make friends with others - and then blames them when his creepy behavior (such as joking about poisoning them) puts them off more.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Morveer tends to murder pretty much everyone he's remotely connected to, his old teacher, his apprentices, his allies, his employers, and his beloved mother. Usually it's out of a paranoid belief that they'd try to kill him first.
- Deceptive Disciple: He learned the art of poisoning from his master, Moumah-yin-Beck, then killed him.
- Enfant Terrible: Not only did he poison his own mother, he also poisoned all the staff of the orphanage he was sent to and most of the children.
- Establishing Character Moment: His first meeting with Monza and Shivers at Morveer's country estate sees him poisoning both of them with a paralytic agent in the food and drink he's offered them, just to make sure that Monza is being honest with him.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: He often reflects on his departed mother, who he misses and seems to be the only person he actually loves. It's later revealed that he poisoned her as well for unknown reasons.
- Evil Genius: His role in Monza's group.
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: All of his "jokes" are spectacularly unfunny, and his most poorly timed ones could actually cause someone to try and kill him, like his assistant Day.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Cosca kills him by stabbing him with one of his own poison needles.
- Insufferable Genius: He's a genius in his field, but also incredibly arrogant and condescending.
- Jerkass: Of tremendous proportions. He belittles practically everyone he comes into contact with, especially his own allies.
- Jerkass Has a Point: He may be a shithead, but he's excellent at killing people, and doesn't hesitate to point out when Monza & co. bungle their own end of the various killings.
- Karmic Death: After spending the entire book reminding both Day and himself how common it is for poisoners to die of their own poisons, this is exactly what happens to him.
- Lack of Empathy: Unsurprisingly, given his profession. Also ties into his characterization as The Sociopath.
- Magic Versus Science: Considers himself a man of science and dismisses magic as mere superstition, leading to a minor Freak Out when he's confronted with real magic.
- Master Poisoner: Both his skill and job title, and he's very insistent on being addressed as this in a professional setting; he's killed a lot of important targets to get it.
- Never My Fault: And how! Every time he murdered someone close to them, he blames them for it.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: His poisoning of the leaders of the League of Eight leads to Monza becoming Grand Duchess at the end of the novel. Also, his attempt on Cosca's life fails because Cosca temporarily stopped drinking which Morveer himself had advised him to do.
- Non-Action Guy: He never wants to be on the front lines of a fight, and spends most of his first time in the ambush of Faithful Carpi having a panic attack and trying to flee by kicking his way out of a barn.
- No Social Skills: Often played for Black Comedy. At one point, he attempts to lighten the mood during dinner by cheerily claiming that he poisoned everyone's bowls.
- The Paranoiac: Morveer is actually a paranoid lunatic who justifies murdering his allies or employers by sincerely believing they'd kill him first if he didn't act quick enough.
- Professional Killer: With emphasis on professional. Morveer has made a career out of killing heavily-guarded targets, and accordingly charges a high rate for his skills.
- Retirony: Suffers a humiliating Karmic Death on his last job.
- Self-Made Orphan: Poisoned his own mother when he was young, which led to him being taken to the orphanage.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: Uses the alias Rotsac Reevrom, which is just his name backwards and amuses him.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Has a tendency to talk like this, much to Shivers' annoyance.
- Smug Snake: While he's good at his job, he's nowhere near as clever, or as cautious, as he thinks he is, and constantly ends up in humiliating circumstances because of it.
- The Sociopath: Implied. Morveer has an inflated sense of his own ego, is incapable of empathy, murders close associates out of a paranoid belief they'd kill him if he didn't kill them first. He is more three-dimensional than most examples of the trope as he wants to connect with other people, and occasionally makes efforts to do so, but his inability to understand people sabotages his efforts and only makes him more frustrated when people aren't receptive to his efforts.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Poisons every ledger in the bank to make sure that Mauthis dies, killing dozens of innocents in the process. It's also revealed that he killed the whole staff and most of the children at the orphanage he grew up at because we was bullied by some kids.
- The Apprentice: To Morveer, naturally. She's trying to learn the poisoning arts from him.
- Bastard Understudy: She's learning to be a professional poisoner from Morveer. She seems to be looking forward to the day where she surpasses him, and Morveer even notices her smiling when it looks like he's about to die at one point.
- Big Eater: Has a huge appetite and is frequently seen eating something.
- Cute and Psycho: She has a lot of childish mannerisms and is learning to be an assassin like her boss. However, when Moveer's not around, she drops her cutesy behavior, revealing it's just an act.
- Dark Chick: In Monza's group.
- Ironic Death: She's another poisoner killed by poison.
- Perky Female Minion: Played with a bit in that while her overall appearance and manner fits the trope, when Morveer is out of earshot, she drops a lot of her childish mannerisms and indicates that she finds him as annoying as everyone else does.
- Poison-and-Cure Gambit: Subverted. After she tries and fails to kill Morveer, her master stabs her with a poisoned needle and then offers her the antidote. She begs for her life and Morveer gives her the antidote, only for him to reveal afterwards that the needle he pricked her with wasn't poisoned, but the "antidote" she just drank was.
- Unwitting Pawn: After Monza starts to distrust Morveer's loyalty, she tries to sow some discord between Day and Morveer by suggesting Morveer might try to defect to Orso and use Day as a scapegoat. When Morveer makes a joke to the same effect later, Day tries to kill him, ironically causing Morveer to defect for real.
- Yes-Man: Day acts obedient and admiring towards Morveer and repeats a lot of his mottos. However, when he's not around, she reveals that she finds him just as insufferable and annoying as everyone else.