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"Above, a river of silver. Below, a river of gold."

Until the Light Takes Us note  is a hypothetical dark fantasy comic series written by your host, the deathless Sin Nanna. It was originally conceived as a Dungeons and Dragons game I ran for my friends, but due to conflicting schedules the campaign was discontinued after only 4 sessions that all fucking sucked, and I decided to take the considerable amount of story I had left and turn it into a graphic fantasy saga that, if we're lucky, I will never be allowed to inflict on the world. Thus far I've conceived the story as being divided into three volumes, with The Sorrows Of Koroviev serving as the second installment. That story has its own bloated page on this wiki, so this page will only cover the first volume and any other miscellaneous ideas I come up with.

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The story begins in the land of Indria, a large kingdom devastated by a decade long war with its neighbors, as well as a deadly new plague spreading across the continent known as "The Red Plague". We begin with a group of knights from the elite Militant Fraternal Order of the Holy Dawn, who are on a mission deep in the wilderness to apprehend a warlord named Arkan, a mercenary formerly in the service of the king who has gone rogue and taken over a large region of Indria for himself. The group is ambushed on the road by Arkan's men, and most of them are massacred except for our protagonists, Louvel and Stefan, who are taken alive by the mercenaries to be interrogated. While in captivity, they narrowly escape being tortured to death when a mysterious man in black robes arrives and frees them from their cell, allowing them to pursue vengeance against the warlord. However, the situation is much more complex than it initially seems, and the two young knights are soon drawn into a larger conspiracy that begins to drive them apart.

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If this comic had a soundtrack, it would be this. Or maybe this. Perhaps this?

Tropes this pretentious twaddle displays:

  • Abusive Parents: Miranda is implied to have been emotionally abusive to Emilie.
  • Abusive Precursors: The elves were total dicks.
  • Action Duo: Louvel and Stefan at first.
  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The elven library is a massive structure that has remained almost completely preserved from the ravages of time and still has functioning Magitek powering it.
  • Age Without Youth: The fate of the sage left behind in the library. All he accomplished with his immortality research was to make it so that his soul could never leave his body, no matter what happens to it. He's so old that his blood has dried up, but even after being decapitated, he's still alive.
  • Alien Geometries:
    • Elven structures seem to be located in their own separate pocket dimensions, as exhibited by the sage's library, which is much, much Bigger on the Inside.
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    • Emilie and Miranda use the same kind of magic to conceal their hut from unwanted visitors. You'll never find them if they don't want you to. Similarly, if they don't want you to leave, you could spend the rest of eternity wandering the fields and never find a way out.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: It's implied that Stefan is attracted to Louvel, but he hates himself for these feelings and tries to distance himself from Louvel as a result.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Emilie and Miranda's hut has about a dozen cats lurking around it, which are revealed to be their familiars.
  • Aloof Ally: The Man in Black and Emilie, to Louvel.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Man in Black. Whatever he is, he's definitely not a fan of the Church, but he doesn't act as an antagonist towards the heroes and never performs any overtly evil acts. Stefan considers him to be a demon, though, and his influence over Louvel after Louvel's Crisis of Faith is the main factor that drives the two apart. For my part, I have no clue if he's actually a villain either, but he's definitely not a nice person.
  • And I Must Scream: Subverted with Miranda, who is physically comatose but doesn't want to be woken up.
  • Animated Armor: Those suits of armor in the library turn out to not just be statues.
  • Anti-Hero: Louvel and Stefan, each in their own ways. Louvel is rather lax about his vows, has something of a Hair-Trigger Temper, and becomes increasingly cynical and withdrawn as he witnesses more horrors. Stefan is an uptight fundamentalist who can often be very judgmental of others, but has a strong moral compass nonetheless.
  • Anti-Villain: Stefan believes himself to The Chosen One destined to stop humankind from falling to evil, but undertakes some very questionable actions in the process.
  • Anyone Can Die: Very much in effect, though the casualty rate for main characters in Volume One is still much lower than that of Volume Two. By the end, the sage, Arkan, Miranda, King Philip, and Stefan are all dead.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Stefan, while trying to kill Louvel during the final battle.
  • Arc Words: More than a few, actually.
    • For the whole series: "This too shall pass" and "Are you lost?"
    • For Volume One: "I'd follow you anywhere" and "Fear death by water".
  • Armored Closet Gay: Stefan, which causes him massive amounts of fear and self-loathing. He attributes his attraction to men as the influence of demons trying to corrupt his soul, and tries to fight against it with obsessive prayer.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Arkan's army is a collection of some of the worst people on the planet, just barely held together by his personality cult.
  • Artificial Human: The sage inhabiting the library was evidently in the process of creating artificial elves, several of which were left unfinished and thus are missing limbs or patches of flesh.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • Attempted en masse by the sages when elven civilization started to decline, though it's heavily implied to have backfired on them.
    • This is also the likely origin for the Man in Black.
    • Miranda has already accomplished a partial form of this via continuous Astral Projection, but she still needs her physical body to act as an anchor. She may accomplish it in full upon her final death.
  • Astral Projection: Miranda's physical body is frail and comatose, but she's able to continue existing via this. According to Emilie, it's the closest humans have yet come to immortality.
  • Ax-Crazy: Arkan, and almost all of his men. King Philip also displays ever greater signs of this as his paranoia worsens.
  • Berserker Tears: Mixed with Tears of Remorse during the final battle. While drowning Stefan, Louvel is weeping profusely at being forced to kill his former friend.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Though the central conflict in Volume One is more Grey and Grey Morality.
  • Black Cloak: The Man in Black wears dark hooded robes which initially lead Louvel and Stefan to believe he's a simple monk.
  • Blinded by the Light: Louvel ultimately kills Stefan by using his witch hand to generate an intense flash of light and sound, stunning Stefan long enough for Louvel to gain the upper hand.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Used during the final battle, which takes place by the sea. It's almost all Louvel's.
  • Body Horror:
    • What happens to those infected with the Red Plague. Imagine a cross between the garden variety black plague and ebola. It's said that the plague corrupts the body so severely that not even vultures will go near the corpses.
    • The sage is not in the best shape when he's finally seen, being so horrendously decrepit and aged that he can barely stand unassisted and he seems to be constantly shedding hair and flakes of skin.
    • Arkan's men cut three fingers off of Louvel's right hand on the first night of his captivity. That's not the horrific part. The horrific part is when contact with the lightstream causes his fingers to start slowly growing back as pale little stubs with no muscles, bones, or nerve endings in them, essentially a set of tumors on his hand.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Stefan shoots Arkan in the head with a crossbow while the latter is unaware.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Stefan believes homosexuality is a monstrous affront to God, but is a deeply closeted and insecure gay man himself. This is the cause of much self-hatred on his part.
  • Break the Cutie: Louvel and Stefan are both highly idealistic young men at the start of the story. Seeing Arkan's atrocities effectively breaks them both.
  • Broken Ace: Stefan is a model of knightly virtue and skill, but is secretly a complete mess of self-loathing, sexual anxiety, and religious mania who throws himself completely into his training because he believes it's the only thing that can save his soul from damnation.
  • Bury Your Gays: Played straight with Stefan, averted with Emilie.
  • Byronic Hero: Louvel.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Stefan is the knightly variant.
  • The Caligula: King Philip IV of Indria, who starts as merely a hedonistic Jerkass with the mentality of a high school jock, but falls deeper and deeper into violent religious paranoia as he becomes convinced that the end times are approaching.
  • Campaign Comic: Kind of. It's based on an abandoned Dungeons and Dragons campaign that I put entirely too much effort into, but when the campaign was actually underway we only got through the first one percent of the story before the game was abandoned. As it stands, the current story barely resembles the original plan for the campaign at all.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: One of my ambitions is to have every character look realistically distinct, even minor background characters.
  • Cat Scare: A minor example when Louvel is visiting Emilie, when he turns around to suddenly see a huge black cat sitting on the windowsill staring daggers at him. It's implied that Miranda is observing him through the cat's eyes at the time.
  • Celibate Hero: In theory, all knights of the Order are meant to be this. As it turns out, Louvel himself failed to adhere to this during his training, and it's one of the things that leads to him forsaking the Order for good.
  • Character Tics: Louvel grinds his teeth when irritated, Stefan prays under his breath when anxious.
  • The Chessmaster: The Man in Black and King Vladimir.
  • The Chosen One: Subverted and deconstructed by Stefan. After receiving what he believes is a holy vision, he comes to believe that he has been chosen by God to destroy the forces of evil (The Man in Black) and his servants (Louvel). This leads to him becoming even more of a Knight Templar and ultimately results in his death by Louvel's hand.
  • Church Militant: The many knightly orders of the Church.
  • Combat Breakdown: The final duel between Louvel and Stefan degenerates from an honorable sword duel into a savage, hand to hand brawl, and ends with Louvel physically wrestling Stefan to the ground and holding his head under the tide until he drowns.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Louvel, who doesn't see the value in chivalrous combat and fights dirty whenever possible, especially against Arkan's men.
    • Stefan is also this, such as when he shoots an unaware Arkan in the head with a crossbow rather than risk facing him in a sword fight, though he often goes to the trouble of appearing honorable when circumstances call for it. This is most clearly shown in their final duel, in which Stefan lures Louvel into a situation in which he has neither a shield nor his armor while Stefan is in full plate mail and wielding an Absurdly Sharp Blade. Though he grants Louvel the opportunity to die fighting honorably, it's clear to both parties that it's more of an execution than a duel. If Louvel didn't have his witch hand and Stefan hadn't frozen up before landing the killing blow, it would have been a complete Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Louvel looks exactly like Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal aged down a decade or so, while Stefan looks kind of like Ryan Gosling.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: The Eastern War was principally fought between a Vlad the Impaler expy and a Genghis Khan expy, with Viking expies fighting for both sides as mercenaries, automatically qualifying it as this.
  • Crapsack World: Dear lord is it ever.
  • Creepy Souvenir: A few of Arkan's troops are shown to have necklaces of human ears and teeth, presumably removed from the corpses of slain enemies.
  • Crisis of Faith: Louvel suffers a major one after witnessing Arkan's atrocities and the eldritch horrors of the elven library, causing him to abandon his faith in God and forsake his knighthood.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Every single word that comes out of the Man in Black's mouth.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: I didn't even bother to come up with a fictional pantheon or anything. They literally just worship God. That said, the lack of a Christ figure within the setting's religion actually makes it closer to a fantasy version of Judaism, albeit with the aesthetic trappings of medieval Catholicism. Actually plays into the greater Mind Screw of the story, as it's implied later on that this is an alternate version of our own world that was created by the actual Abrahamic God.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Elven civilization resembled this.
  • Curbstomp Battle:
    • The Knights of the Holy Dawn drastically underestimate the number of troops in Arkan's company and so get absolutely butchered by the ambush in the beginning, with only Louvel, Stefan, and a few others surviving to be taken prisoner. Of those, only Louvel and Stefan escape being executed because the Man in Black freed them.
    • The final duel is this for most of its duration. While Louvel is able to catch Stefan off guard with his magic, he's still unused to it and spends most of the fight just barely dodging and parrying Stefan's blows while being pushed back to the water. Only two things save him; one is Stefan freezing up as he prepares to deliver a coup-de-grace to a downed Louvel, and the other is Louvel quickly thinking to use his witch hand to generate a flashbang, blinding Stefan and allowing Louvel to tackle him beneath the waves.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Louvel's hand is healed improperly by the lightstream, causing it to look like a horrible mass of unmoving tumorous flesh, but its increased magical sensitivity allows him to use it as a natural catalyst for spells after Emilie teaches him some basic magic.
  • Damsel in Distress: Subverted. Despite being kidnapped and held hostage by Stefan, Maria's life is never in any actual danger from Stefan himself, though he threatens to have her executed for harlotry once Louvel is taken care of.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Arkan's fortress is decorated with heads on pikes and naked corpses hanging from the trees, along with numerous other corpses strewn randomly about and left to rot.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Emilie, with Louvel as The Comically Serious.
  • Death Faked for You: Stefan tells his superiors that Louvel was killed with all the other knights of the Order when he returns to his superiors in Brom. For a time, they believe him.
  • Death Seeker: It's implied that Stefan lets Louvel kill him in the final battle, as he has Louvel at his mercy before hesitating just long enough for Louvel to recover and tackle him to the ground. To be certain, Stefan displays suicidal thoughts prior to this as a result of self-loathing he feels regarding his sexuality.
  • Death World: The moon is habitable, but extremely harsh. Its surface is mostly ocean, with the few landmasses being bare, frozen rock. The only life is mostly plants, fungi, and a variety of bizarre sea creatures, and the only structures are abandoned elven outposts.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Emilie initially treats Louvel coldly, frequently mocking his plight, but over time she comes to respect and sympathize with him. By the time he leaves the village, she earnestly wishes him luck on his quest.
    "Whatever it takes, Louvel, I hope you find it."
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The whole comic will be in black and white, to mimic the depressing art movies and black metal album covers that inspired it. I imagine it looking rather similar to From Hell.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Thanks to a decades long war, a virulent plague, and a badly timed famine, Indria's population has plummeted by millions and left much of the countryside completely abandoned.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Louvel, after losing his faith in God.
  • Deuteragonist: Neither Louvel nor Stefan really take precedence over each other as the central protagonist, and their motives are complex enough that both can be viewed as either the hero or the villain of the story. That said, one of them survives to the next volume, while the other one doesn't.
  • Drone of Dread: Inverted. The "angel voices" that Stefan begins hearing after his visions are described as a wordless ringing tone reminiscent of the tolling of a church bell.note  He perceives it as a positive thing, and the more he hears it the more he's able to decipher what it's telling him.
  • The Dung Ages: Played very straight.
  • Dying Race: The elves have already mostly disappeared.
  • The Eeyore: After the first story arc, Louvel is frequently depressed and pessimistic.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Apart from a temple area located aboveground that serves as an entrance, the elven library is entirely subterranean. It's later revealed that the large gate in the temple is actually a portal, and the library is located on the moon.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The "angels" are a somewhat benign but still highly eldritch example.
  • Eldritch Location: The elven library. On top of being home to enough eldritch lore to make anyone Go Mad from the Revelation, it displays some serious Alien Geometries and is eventually revealed to be located on the moon.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: The Man in Black does this a lot.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Louvel, after Emilie teaches him magic.
  • Energy Beings: The angels are amorphous beings that look something like amoebas or protozoa made out of extremely bright light, which is implied to be the same substance as the lightstream.
  • Erotic Dream: Stefan is implied to have had wet dreams involving Louvel in the past.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • In the opening combat scene, Louvel and Stefan kill several of the attacking mercenaries despite being caught off guard.
    • The Man in Black just kind of appears sitting next to Louvel and Stefan's cages while they're not looking. When they speak to him he immediately starts on his usual cryptic sermonizing.
  • Evil Overlord: Arkan.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Possibly the Man in Black, though his true motives are very difficult to guess at. He's openly opposed to God, for whatever that's worth.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: Seeing the unbridled brutality of Arkan and his men causes Louvel to lose his faith in God.
  • Expy:
    • Louvel looks and acts a whole lot like Antonius Block, and also has elements of Roland of Gilead and Musashi Miyamoto as portrayed in Vagabond.
    • Stefan's personality is a mixture of Sir Lancelot as portrayed in The Once and Future King and traditional depictions of Joan of Arc.
    • The Man in Black is a horrific Frankenstein's monster of multiple characters from different works. His appearance is based largely on Attila Csihar, particularly his live work with Sunn O))). In keeping with the references to The Seventh Seal, several of his scenes, especially when conversing with Louvel, are references to Death's scenes in that film. In addition, his role as a nameless Humanoid Abomination with mysterious motives who appears to the protagonist in dreams and gives cryptic advice is a ripoff of, among other things, the Man From Another Place and The Giant from Twin Peaks, and the G-Man from Half-Life. He can also be considered as something of a twisted version of Gandalf, and his role in King Philip's storyline is similar to the Red Death in The Masque of the Red Death.
    • Arkan is Ungern-Sternberg meets Colonel Kurtz. His Omnicidal Maniac tendencies are drawn from the Chinese warlord Zhang Xianzhong.
    • King Philip IV is an even crazier Henry VIII. He inadvertently shares a name with an actual king of France who is probably most famous for purging the Knights Templarnote , but the real King Philip IV was generally a competent and respected king and not The Caligula (aside from being a raging antisemite, anyway), so this is mostly just coincidence.
    • King Vladimir of Gorani is Vlad the Impaler by way of Peter the Great, with a little bit of Alexander Nevsky thrown in for good measure.
    • Vladimir's Arch-Enemy, the orcish king Guran, is basically orc Genghis Khan.
    • Miranda is one to Apollonia from Carnivàle, as the comatose mother of a woman with mystical abilities who is still conscious and able to interact with the world via Psychic Powers.
  • The Fair Folk: Elves are pretty much like this, though they differ from traditional depictions in a few key ways. For example, their society was strictly divided into a caste system, and they were known for creating advanced technology.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The elves had one, with the sages at the very top and slaves and half-breeds on the very bottom. Notably, it's stated that the castes were so rigidly stratified and separate from one another that they basically spoke different languages, and only rarely directly interacted with each other.
  • Fantastic Racism: Every race thinks itself superior to every other race, including different ethnicities of their own race. The most violent form of this is undoubtedly the racial enmity between humans and orcs, which has resulted in some of the bloodiest, most horrific wars in this world's history.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart:
    • The war between Indria and Cymria is a mixture of The Hundred Years War and the Thirty Years' War.
    • The Eastern War is a mixture of the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe and Operation Barbarossa, with the Siege of Koroviev being analogous to the Siege of Leningrad, and the Battle of Veresevoy, where King Vladimir defeated the main body of the orcish host, being similar to the Battle on the Ice as portrayed in Alexander Nevsky.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: They're barely even "counterparts", they just have the names changed.
    • Indria is 14th century France with strong elements of Ireland.
    • Asa is Viking Age Scandinavia. Its status as a volcanic archipelago ruled by various Proud Warrior Race Guy clans that all hate each other is also reminiscent of feudal Japan.
    • Gorani is everything east of Poland amalgamated into one giant Überwald nation. Their eastern frontier, which is sparsely populated except for settlers, fur traders, and various tribes of orc and human barbarians, is reminiscent of a cold, medieval Wild West.
    • Orcs are blatant ripoffs of the Mongols and the Huns. The land they come from is transparently Siberia.
    • Cymria is England if the Normans never invaded and they somehow became an empire. This one is even more blatant than the others, as its name is derived from the native Welsh word for Wales, Cymru.
    • The elves are largely based on ancient Greece, with their caste system even being drawn from the system described in Plato's The Republic.
    • The Militant Fraternal Order of the Holy Dawn are the Knights Templar, right down to their eventual fate when they fall out of favor with the king.
  • Fantasy World Map: Yet another fantasy trope that gets played with, as the known world is limited to only part of one continent, meaning most maps are vague and inaccurate. Later, when Louvel is transported to the moon in the final volume, we get to see what the rest of the planet looks like, with several large continents visible, none of which remotely resemble our own.
  • A Father to His Men: Despite his many, many, many flaws, Arkan is legitimately one of these, living in the same conditions as his men and fighting in the frontlines right alongside them.
  • Femme Fatale: Subverted by Emilie, who Louvel thinks is an example at first. When Louvel warns her to not try seducing him, she laughs in his face and tells him she's not even attracted to men, let alone him.
    "In any case, you smell like pig shit."
  • Fingore: Louvel gets 3 of the fingers on his right hand cut off by one of Arkan's torturers, apparently because Arkan's shaman needs them for a spell. After he makes contact with the lightstream, they start to slowly grow back in a supremely Body Horror fashion.
  • First Kiss: We see Louvel's in a flashback, in a scene blatantly stolen from Ivan's Childhood.
  • Foil: Stefan and Louvel, who initially seem to be nearly identical in terms of conduct, but gradually become polar opposites of each other. Stefan is an extremely pious, somewhat uptight By-the-Book Cop who is obsessed with living up the chivalric code, while Louvel is far more lax about both the chivalric code and religious law, going so far as to secretly father a child with a village girl while still undergoing training. After encountering Arkan, Louvel becomes extremely disillusioned with the concept of knighthood and forsakes his vows, while Stefan becomes ever more convinced of their necessity, eventually undergoing the Rite of Revealing and entering the highest echelon of the Order. Stefan is a stoic, ascetic Celibate Hero who disdains alcohol and sex, while Louvel gets drunk frequently and clearly enjoys the attention he receives from women. Stefan is held up as a model of knightly virtue but is secretly riven with self-doubt and anxiety about his attraction to men, which eventually causes him to be a Death Seeker, while Louvel is branded a heretic and traitor to the crown but is a single minded Determinator about his goals with an indomitable will to survive. Finally, and most importantly, it's because of these aforementioned qualities that Louvel is chosen as a champion by the Man in Black, while Stefan is chosen to be a champion by the angels of the astral plane.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
    • Arkan has one for the orcs, having been impressed by their skill in battle while fighting against them during the Eastern War. Many of the troops under his command, including most of his inner circle, are orcs, and he speaks fluent orcish himself.
    • Many noblemen and academics in the human world are obsessed with elven civilization, in much the same way that medieval Europeans were obsessed with Greco-Roman civilization. The entire field of wizardry in the human world is more or less dedicated to catching up with what the elves already achieved thousands of years ago.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Man in Black's warning to "Fear death by water" ends up being pretty good advice for Stefan and King Philip.
    • During the Rite of Revealing, Stefan sees a shooting star falling into a garden, a very literal representation of the Black Stone hurdling towards Koroviev at that very moment.
    • While teaching Louvel how to use his witch hand, the first thing Emilie does is show him how to produce light and sound using it as a catalyst. This saves Louvel's life in the final duel, as he uses the witch hand to create an improvised flashbang that stops Stefan from beheading him and allows Louvel to gain the upper hand.
  • Forever War:
    • Indria and Cymria have been at war with each other on and off for about 3 decades now. The comic begins in the middle of a period of peace which nobody thinks is going to last. At the end of the first volume, following Philip's death, the Cymrians decide to restart it.
    • The kingdom of Gorani is also in a perpetual state of low level conflict with the orcish tribes on its eastern frontier, that occasionally flares up into massive, horrific wars such as the great invasion it suffered 20 years prior to the story.
    • This is also implied to be the case with the multiple clans that rule the different isles of Asa.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Heavily implied to be the case with the Man in Black.
  • Four-Star Badass: King Vladimir defeated the largest orcish army ever assembled in open combat when he was just 17 years old, and went on to completely reverse his kingdom's fortunes in the war and drive out the invaders for good. Downplayed in that he had some excellent advisers helping him, but official chronicles don't mention their involvement in his victories in service of his personality cult.
  • Functional Magic: Magic mostly takes this form in this setting, with anyone theoretically being capable of casting any spell as long as they have the proper ingredients and rituals. That said, it's still extremely dangerous and unpredictable.
  • The Fundamentalist: The leader of the flagellants is a particularly extreme example. Stefan also has strong elements of this, particularly after he believes himself to be The Chosen One.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: The elves' mastery of magic allowed them to reach this technological level before they collapsed.
  • Gayngst: Stefan is a particularly tragic example, as, by his own religious beliefs, his homosexuality is a horrendous sin that condemns him to damnation. He's disgusted by his feelings and tries to suppress them with obsessive prayer, and is convinced that he is either being tempted by demons trying to corrupt him, or being tested on his faith by God.
  • Ghibli Hills: Northern Indria, where the main characters grew up. Relatively untouched by the war, it's paradise compared to the rest of Indria.
  • Glamour Failure: The Man in Black's physical form is an illusion he's projecting into the characters' minds, and is thus unaffected by the environment around it. For instance, when he appears outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, his robes remain completely still even as everything else is being blown about the by the wind. This is used to reinforce his Uncanny Valley factor.
  • A God Am I: Arkan is worshiped by some of his orcish troops as an avatar of their god of war. He wants to make it official by using elven magic to make himself immortal.
  • God Is Evil: A variant of this; the Man in Black argues to Louvel that God is apathetic to the suffering of humanity and thus does not deserve their worship.
  • Great Offscreen War: The war with Cymria is just barely offscreen, having come to an end only recently. It's explored in more detail in some of the short stories, however.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: The main conflict is more about Order Versus Chaos than it is about Good Versus Evil, even though Stefan perceives it as the latter.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Half-elves are treated like absolute shit in both human and elvish society; the same is true of half-orcs. Half-orcs are typically killed on sight in human lands, while orcs tend to use them as slave labor or cannon fodder. Half-elves have it only slightly better, as many of them are persecuted as witches, kidnapped to serve as prostitutes or concubines for human noblemen, or driven into exile in the wilderness.
  • Hate Sink: King Philip and the flagellant leader.
  • Hearing Voices: Stefan starts hearing a constant ringing in his ears after the Rite of Revealing, which the Grandmaster tells him are "the voices of the angels". It gradually becomes much more intelligible to him, far more so than for the other knights.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted. Everyone wears helmets into battle. We don't even get to see Louvel and Stefan's faces until the second chapter after Arkan's men unmask them.
  • Here There Be Dragons: The known world is limited to the subcontinent the story takes place on. To the north, south, and west there is open ocean that no explorer has returned from alive yet, and to the east there's barren tundra and inhospitable mountains inhabited by orcs, goblins, and barbarians, which no explorer has returned from alive yet.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Arkan manages to break into the elven laboratory to try and mine its secrets, but the homunculi inside proceed to massacre his army.
  • Homage:
    • The scene of Louvel and Maria's first date in the forest is stolen directly from a similar scene in Ivan's Childhood.
    • The final duel in Volume One is looted wholesale from Blade Runner 2049, right down to Louvel ending the battle by drowning Stefan in the tide. The aftermath of said duel, with Louvel waking up on the beach and seeing the Man in Black standing over him, is similar to the opening scene of The Seventh Seal.
    • The entire story is replete with references to The Seventh Seal, for that matter. The flagellants are ripped straight from that film, as are several scenes between Louvel and the Man in Black.
    • The Rite of Revealing is plagiarized from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, specifically the scene where Lieutenant Mamiya is thrown down a well in Mongolia and experiences a moment of strange, transcendental bliss when the sun shines down onto him.
    • King Philip's story arc is a Whole Plot Reference to The Masque of the Red Death, with Philip filling the role of Prospero and the Man in Black the role of the Red Death. It even climaxes with a Masquerade Ball.
    • The idea of having the main plot revolve around two morally grey protagonists who oppose each other rather than a protagonist and an antagonist was taken from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. The final duel is also partly inspired by the climax of that film.
    • The angels and the lightstream look like something out of Mushi Shi.
    • Emilie and Miranda live in a small hut in the middle of a field of tall grass, and use both magical and mundane traps hidden in the grass to protect themselves from marauding soldiers and witch hunters. This was inspired by the main characters in the film Onibaba.
  • Hordes from the East: The orcs are an absolutely textbook example.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Louvel and Maria in their teens, which is what led to their relationship.
  • Horny Vikings: The Norsemen, aside from a few specific religious beliefs, are more or less identical to their real life counterparts.
  • Horrifying Hero: Louvel begins to pick up aspects of this, especially with his mutilated right hand that he learns to cast black magic from.
  • Hot Witch: Emilie, though she subverts many aspects of this trope such as not being a Femme Fatale or Ms. Fanservice.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Man in Black is implied quite heavily to be one of these.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The lightstream is fairly close to the common conception of "hyperspace" and, while it's not an evil place and is heavily implied to be necessary for the existence of life, it is dangerous, poorly understood, and tends to devour anything that physically comes in contact with it.
  • I Have Your Wife: Stefan decides to draw Louvel out into the open by taking his lover Maria hostage.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: At least some of Arkan's men are implied to be cannibals, possibly including Arkan himself.
  • Immortality Seeker: Arkan wants to use the secrets of the elven sages to become immortal and make himself a god.
  • Intangible Man: It's eventually revealed that the Man in Black is one of these; the form that the protagonists see is essentially an illusion he's projecting into the world for their benefit.
  • Invisible to Normals: The Man in Black can only be seen by people he wants to see him. However, those gifted with extrasensory perception, such as knights who have undergone the Rite of Revealing and Natasha in Koroviev are perfectly capable of seeing him.
  • Ironic Death: Stefan's purpose is revealed to him when he stares directly into the sun while meditating, leaving him blind for a couple of days but with renewed spiritual insight. This directly leads to the final confrontation, where Louvel ends up killing him by generating an intense flash of light with his witch hand, blinding Stefan long enough for Louvel to tackle and drown him.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: A major part of why Louvel can't get back together with Maria; basically everyone in Indria wants him dead for betraying the Church and helping to kill the king, and her involvement with him is what led to her being kidnapped and almost killed in the first place. There's also the fact that Maria has largely moved on with her life and is betrothed to someone else, considering her brief affair with Louvel to be a youthful indiscretion that both she and him are now too mature for.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Stefan can be considered a Rare Male Example, as he's a pious young man of questionable mental state who begins Hearing Voices and believes himself to have been chosen by God to save his homeland from sinfulness and foreign invaders. However, he differs in a number of ways; most notably in that he's much more willing to personally engage in violence than is normal for this trope. He is also a virginal Celibate Hero, but only because he's a deeply closeted and self-loathing homosexual. He also doesn't accomplish quite as much as the real Jeanne d'Arc, and dies by water rather than fire.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Louvel can be rather antisocial and volatile and he makes a poor impression on most of the people he meets, but deep down he's a truly compassionate person with ironclad morals.
  • Karmic Death: Arkan killed thousands of people in his search for knowledge, cutting a path of destruction across the whole continent solely to find the library of the elves. Eventually, he does manage to find it, but the homunculi inside slaughter his army, the only elf inside is so old and senile as to be useless, and all the books are written in a language he can't read. Right as he starts to have a Villainous Breakdown over this, one of his former victims puts a crossbow bolt through his brain and kills him instantly, denying him the warrior's death his faith reveres.
  • Kick the Dog: Stefan seriously threatens Maria with execution for harlotry near the end.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Stefan is a deconstruction of this.
  • Kubrick Stare: Arkan mixes this with Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • Kudzu Plot: It is a fucking mess.
  • Lean and Mean: Most of Arkan's army, including Arkan himself, are noticeably thin from starvation.
  • The Lifestream: Referred to as "the river of light" and "the veins of the cosmos" by the Man in Black, it's a stream of strange golden light that seems to exist on a higher plane of reality than our own and is implied to be necessary for the creation of life. It apparently flows throughout the entire cosmos, is home to strange entities that are referred to as "angels", and is implied to be the substance that constitutes the sun. Blatantly, shamelessly stolen from Mushi Shi.
  • Light Is Not Good: The angels aren't exactly evil, but they don't seem to be wholly benevolent either.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Emilie.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Louvel's "witch hand", created by exposing his open wounds to the wild life-giving energies of the lightstream, resulting in his right hand becoming a grotesque mass of tumors that happens to be a powerful catalyst for channeling magic.
  • Low Fantasy: So low that it could be historical fiction if not for the wizards, elves, and orcs. Becomes more ambiguous once the Mind Screw Cosmic Horror elements start being introduced.
  • MacGuffin: Arkan's elven spellbook, which he claims is the source of his power. For some reason, the Man in Black is quite interested in acquiring it, and does so after Arkan falls to his death. There is another one in the possession of the Militant Fraternal Order of the Holy Dawn, which is part of the reason why King Philip ultimately declares them heretical. Again, the Man in Black manages to snatch this one up, while manipulating both Philip and Stefan to their deaths.
  • Magical Library: The elven library, which is absolutely massive, containing what must be the sum total of the knowledge of the sages. Stefan notes what a waste it is for it to be rediscovered by Arkan and his band of savage, illiterate barbarians.
  • Magitek: The elven sages were responsible for producing much of this, including using it for mundane purposes such as running water and public lighting. Most of it was lost when their civilization fell apart, however.
  • Master Swordsman: Stefan is a prodigy with a sword, easily defeating most of his fellow knights in sparring matches, and in the opening ambush scene he's one of the only knights to get any kills at all. The Grandmaster opines that he's the finest swordsman the Order has ever produced, and takes this as a further sign of Stefan's heavensent status.
  • Mathematician's Answer: The Man in Black tends to give mocking nonanswers whenever asked about his identity.
    Louvel: Who are you?
    The Man in Black: I am that which I am.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Arkan is named after a notorious Serbian war criminal. Overlaps with Names To Run Away From Very Fast.
    • Louvel is Old French for "Young wolf", making him an example of Awesome Mc Coolname. Stefan is derived from the Greek word stéphanos, meaning "wreath" or "crown" and by extension "reward" or "honor", which ties in nicely with his story arc of him apparently being chosen by God to save Indria from its sinfulness. It should be noted that both of these things are completely unintentional; Louvel's name was chosen by the person playing him in the original campaign, who had no knowledge of French and just thought it sounded cool, and I chose Stefan's name more or less randomly after deciding that his original name (Sturge) was fucking dumb.
    • Though I took her name from a completely unrelated Bloodborne boss, Maria's name also has some significance, as it's the name given to the dark patches on the moon that early astronomers assumed to be oceans. The moon and the ocean are two of the main motifs of the comic as described below, and it's additionally implied that in this setting, there actually are oceans on the moon.
  • Mission from God: After receiving his vision in the well, Stefan believes that he has been chosen by God to save Indria.
  • Motif: I'm pretentious enough to include multiple ones, which tie together and interact in various ways over the course of the story.
    • The sun: Within the setting, the sun is typically identified with God, and sunlight is believed to be a medium for holy revelations. This is best shown with the Rite of Revealing, which involves sitting at the bottom of a well meditating until the sun reaches its apex and shines directly into the well, revealing to the initiate their destiny. This is how Stefan comes to his revelation about his purpose.
    • The moon: As in real life occult traditions, the moon is associated with magic, femininity, and the irrational side of the mind (not necessarily in that order). The people of Asa believe that the god of magic lives in a palace on the moon, and witches are believed to draw their powers from moonlight, and Emilie mentions that Miranda used to spend hours observing the moon through her telescope. It moves up from a simple motif to an actual setting in the third volume, when it's revealed to be habitable and home to the last remnants of the elves.
    • The ocean: Primarily associated with fate and the unknown. It carries personal significance for the protagonists, as Louvel and Stefan trained together at a monastery on the northern coast of Indria from the time they were children, and Maria, Louvel's first love, lived in a fishing village nearby. While they were eloping, they would spend much time staring out at the sea, dreaming about their future together. The final battle occurs on the beach near the monastery, and is resolved when Louvel tackles a weakened Stefan to the ground and holds his head beneath the tide until he drowns.
    • Masks, and more generally, people hiding their faces. The Man in Black's face is usually shrouded in darkness; after obtaining his knighthood, Stefan wears a helmet that completely conceals his face into battlenote ; Miranda's face is hidden behind her Rapunzel Hair; Philip is fond of throwing masquerade balls for his Deadly Decadent Court (which Louvel infiltrates after disguising himself as a murdered nobleman); and most depressingly, Louvel covers his face with his hands after he murders Stefan, hiding the fact that he's crying.
  • Multinational Team: Arkan's army is composed of humans, orcs, and even halflings from all across the continent. All of them are scum.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Stefan experiences a split second of this as he's about to execute Louvel. This gives Louvel enough time to tackle him beneath the water and drown him.
  • Mysterious Benefactor: The Man in Black, to the main characters.
  • The Napoleon: Arkan is about 5'4, and dwarfed by most of his own troops.
  • Names To Run Away From Very Fast: As mentioned above, Arkan is named after a Serbian crime lord and war criminal. One of his lieutenants is a Norseman named Axlar Bjorn, which was the name of a real Icelandic serial killer.
  • Off with His Head!: Arkan beheads the sage when he finds him, which doesn't kill him.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Man in Black's most obvious power. Since it's implied his physical form is essentially a hologram of sorts, it's less teleportation and more him choosing when and where to appear.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: A smaller scale example with Arkan, who's decided to just massacre everyone in his corner of Indria.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They're Energy Beings that look like oversized, glowing protozoa that live in the astral plane and can be contacted by humans. It's debatable how sentient they are, but they're capable of granting prescience and extrasensory perception to certain humans, as well as healing anything from battle injuries to old age. They communicate mostly through abstract visons but can also "speak" by emitting what can only be described as a heavenly Drone of Dread. The Man in Black is interested in killing them.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They don't exist, for one thing. The only dragons mentioned are primordial nature spirits in the myths of the Norsemen who are closer in spirit to Chinese dragons than Western ones, while the people on the mainland don't even have myths about them.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Their main differences from the cliche depiction are that they lived in a strict caste-based society, they used a lot of Magitek to create nearly modern technology, and they're almost completely extinct. Aside from that they're basically how you'd expect them to be.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They're non-sentient, apelike creatures that live in the eastern wilderness and live in caves, somewhat similar to nekkers in The Witcher. They basically are to orcs what chimpanzees are to humans.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They're this setting's version of the Mongols, meaning they are much, much more militarily competent than regular fantasy orcs, having previously come close to completely destroying the largest, most warlike kingdom in the human realm in the setting's backstory despite being hugely outnumbered. They are renowned for their skills in archery and horse riding, and their National Weapon is a kind of long polearm reminiscent of a guan dao.
  • The Paladin: Stefan ends up becoming something pretty close to this.note 
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Stefan, as a result of his self-loathing for his homosexuality.
  • The Paranoiac: King Philip becomes increasingly convinced that everyone is plotting against him over the course of Volume One, leading to purges and mass executions of anyone he's even vaguely suspicious of.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: Most of Arkan's men are dressed like this.
  • Plague Doctor: Seen ominously lurking about the streets of Brom, mostly doing things like administering last rites to infectees or presiding over the burnings of corpses.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Stefan, prior to the final duel.
    You are no knight. But perhaps, you can at least die like one.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Orcs are reputed to be some of the fiercest warriors in the world. Norsemen are also like this, being Viking expies and all.
  • Psychotic Smirk: The few times the Man in Black smiles are all like this.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: King Philip is a grown man who behaves like a spoiled teenager.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The most recent phase of the war with Cymria is this for Indria, managing to get the Cymrians to accept a peace treaty that heavily favors them after several mutually devastating battles. The situation looks even bleaker for Indria once the plague arrives.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The Man in Black expresses open hatred for God, and encourages similar feelings in Louvel.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Miranda's hair has grown long in the time she's been comatose, and completely hides her face.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Emilie.
  • Red Right Hand: Almost literally. Louvel's mutilated right hand, with its hideous growths caused by exposure to the lightstream, is seen as a sign of his bargain with occult forces.
  • Satanic Archetype: The Man in Black is an Ambiguously Evil version of this. He encourages Louvel to abandon his faith in God and seek his own path in life, and overall is staunchly opposed to the Church and to God. Stefan believes him to be a demon. Overall, the views he expresses are somewhere between Deathspell Omega style metaphysical Satanism and some of the more esoteric, militant strains of Buddhism.
  • Scenery Gorn: The landscapes in the comic include desolate fields, ruined villages, squalid cities, and dark forests, all rendered in stark black and white. On the other hand...
  • Scenery Porn: The elven ruins, the monastery, the fishing village, the astral plane, and the lightstream are all beautiful sights.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The montage showing Louvel and Maria's youthful romance tastefully cuts away before Their First Time.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: After Louvel basically uses a flashbang on him, all Stefan hears is a high pitched ringing sound. Because he's obviously unfamiliar with the effects of a flashbang, he initially thinks he's died and gone to heaven, and the tinnitus in his ears is the voice of the angels welcoming him home. Then the water starts pouring in through his faceplate, he realizes what's going on, and starts thinking that the tinnitus is actually the angels screaming in fear. He's partly right.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few, mainly to various movies and metal bands.
  • Signs of the End Times: It's believed by more than a few characters that the world is ending, and that the plague is God's punishment to the world for its sins.
  • Slut-Shaming: Though he's otherwise rather chivalrous to her, Stefan condemns Maria as a "harlot" for supposedly seducing Louvel, despite the fact that Louvel is the one who initiated their relationship.
  • Sole Survivor: Louvel and Stefan are the only survivors of the ambush in the first chapter. After they go their separate ways, Stefan returns to the Order's headquarters in Brom and tells them that he alone survived through the grace of God, earning much prestige for himself.
  • Splash of Color: I'm considering having the lightstream and other things related to the astral plane (such as the angels) be rendered in gold while the rest of the comic is black and white.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Louvel and Maria. They fell in love while Louvel was still in training at the monastery, and carried on a secret relationship for about 2 years. They were separated when Louvel had to head south for the mission that eventually brought him to Arkan, and unbeknownst to both at the time, Maria had gotten pregnant by him. When Stefan learns of this relationship, he uses it lure Louvel into a trap by sending him news of his son and then ambushing him when he returns to meet her. While Louvel manages to save Maria and the baby from being killed, they are never able to see each other again due to the fact that Louvel has been branded a heretic and is now wanted dead by everyone in Indria.
  • Starter Villain: Arkan, though the trauma he inflicts has lasting repercussions for the rest of the story.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The Man in Black has a habit of doing this. It's all but stated that Offscreen Teleportation is involved.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Teased, then subverted. Louvel initially believes that Stefan murdered Maria and her infant son, driving him to kill Stefan in a homicidal rage. He discovers afterwards that Maria was merely being held hostage by Stefan, and that she hasn't even been mistreated. It's implied that Stefan may have intentionally goaded Louvel into believing this so that he would kill him, as Stefan is heavily implied to be a Death Seeker, but refuses to kill himself on account of suicide being considered a terrible sin.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: King Philip is prone to doing this whenever he gets angry, which is often.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Despite being a fearsome adversary up to that point, Arkan is killed instantly via a crossbow bolt through the skull while he is transfixed by the sage's severed head.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Arkan's army is encamped in a massive swamp on the southern edge of Indria.
  • Tears of Joy: Stefan cries these after receiving his holy vision in the Rite of Revealing.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The elven spellbook that Arkan carries around. As it turns out, he can't read a word of it.
  • Tragedy: The central plot of Louvel and Stefan can be considered one of these.
  • Tragic Bromance: Louvel and Stefan.
  • Tragic Hero: Stefan, primarily, though Louvel could also count as one.
  • Trapped on the Astral Plane: The ultimate fate of most of the elves. Considering what the astral plane is like, it's probably not what they were hoping for. It's also implied this happens to Miranda after her body dies.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Man in Black and Emilie, to Louvel.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Stefan, in his attempts to destroy the Man in Black, ends up playing right into his hands. Louvel, on the other hand, is fully aware of what a pawn he is, but goes along with it because it's the only source of purpose in his life after his Crisis of Faith.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Subverted. While Arkan initially has a Freak Out! when he realizes that he can't read any of the text in the elven library and thus can't achieve enlightenment, he calms down after he beheads the sage, who is apparently still able to communicate with him afterwards via telepathy. When Louvel and Stefan find him in the audience chamber, Arkan is eerily calm, sitting crosslegged on the floor with the sage's head situated across from him like a student hearing a lecture from a teacher.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: I want the violence in this comic to be dirty, visceral, and painful to look at, in a manner reminiscent of movies such as Valhalla Rising and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.
  • War Is Hell: Indria was devastated by a massive war that could reignite at any moment. It's implied from the depopulated countryside that the war may have had a death toll in the millions, and mercenaries such as Arkan were allowed to Rape, Pillage, and Burn to their leisure due to Indria being too weak on its own to resist the invaders.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Louvel and Stefan go from brothers in arms to bitter adversaries over the course of Volume One.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Louvel tends to fixate in his memory on Maria's green eyes.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Both Louvel and Stefan at the start. They are comprehensively broken of this by Arkan.
  • Witch Classic: Emilie has aspects of it. She lives in an isolated hut in the wood with her comatose mother and about a dozen cats (which act as their familiars), she makes a living brewing potions and spells for the local villagers, and is reputed to have contact with demonic forces. She mostly focuses on practical, day-to-day magics such as brewing healing potions for the villagers and helping their crops survive the winter, but her mother was obsessed, like most of the wizarding world, with unlocking the secrets of the elven sages, leading Miranda to gain a reputation as a Wicked Witch.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Inverted. Wizards in this setting, at least in the human world, have shorter life expectancies than normal people, due to magic being dangerous and poorly understood.
  • Wretched Hive: Brom, the capital city of Indria, is a classic medieval shithole.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: At the end of the story, neither Louvel nor Maria are able to return to their old lives, as Louvel is wanted for his involvement with the death of King Philip and Maria is now associated with him. Louvel offers to take Maria with him at the end when he's preparing to leave the country, but she refuses. It is implied she eventually makes contact with Emilie and joins her coven in the third volume.

Once the master of the house has risen up and shut the door, you will stand outside, knocking and pleading "Lord, Lord, open up to us!" But He will say to you, "I do not know who you are."
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