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Fanfic / Hope for the Heartless

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Hope for the Heartless is a fanfic of the Disney animated film The Black Cauldron, with some elements of The Chronicles of Prydain which the film adapted, by TheCacklingCactus, featuring as the main character the Horned King, the film's Big Bad, as he goes on a Redemption Quest.

The story starts almost two months after the events of the movie. Following the Horned King's defeat and death at the hands of the pig-keeper Taran and his friends, his soul was sealed inside the Black Cauldron and trapped in endless suffering. However, the Fates themselves unexpectedly contact him and set him free for the period of eighteen months. Before the time frame is up, he must perform a seemingly impossible assignment: he must earn a human's love in spite of all his sins. If he succeeds, he will deserve his permanent freedom from the Cauldron. Otherwise he shall be re-imprisoned for all eternity.

The Horned King finds himself resurrected, his castle restored to the way it was, and the Black Cauldron placed on the spot from where he used it. Of his old forces, only two return: Creeper and the only survivor of his two gwythaints. The Fates have also provided him four invisible creatures (who are fittingly called the Invisibles) as servants and counselors.

Soon the Horned King gets an unexpected visitor during a stormy night: Avalina, a 14-year-old brush farmer from the outskirts of Prydain. He initially intends to kill her, but being reminded of the task the Fates have given him, he decides to let her live. Nevertheless, he keeps her as his prisoner to keep Prydain unaware of his return. During the long months the prisoner and her jailer spend time together, the Horned King's task may yet prove out to be possible to complete. But his old mentor, Arawn Death-Lord, is determined to drag him back into the darkness…

Has two small fan videos in YouTube. One is made by Faerydae and is titled as "Horned King X Avalina Save Me". The other is made by Akemi Rain and is titled as "'Hope For The Heartless' Fanvideo".

Official Description: The Horned King is released from the Cauldron & mysteriously brought back to Prydain. Not even he knows why, except that the Fates have given him an impossible task he must complete before his time is up, or his soul will be sent back to the Cauldron. For all Eternity. For a short time, he controls his own Fate. Will he spend it wisely, or give in & revert back to his old ways?

This story provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the movie, the Horned King was a Non-Action Big Bad. In this story, he gets in some action scenes, proving in all of them that he's not someone to be trifled with.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The movie's Horned King was a complete Sociopath. Here, he becomes a Noble Demon.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The world of Prydain from the movie is expanded upon. One of the examples is the role of Arawn, who was merely hinted to be the monstrous soul trapped inside the Black Cauldron.
  • Alien Blood: The Horned King has thick blackish substance in the place of his life-force. It's called blood only due to lack of a better term, and it apparently hurts the Invisibles if they touch it.
  • Alliterative Title: Hope for the Heartless.
  • All-Loving Heroine: Avalina doesn't like seeing anyone hurt, not even her tormentors.
  • Ancient Evil: Before his defeat and imprisonment to the Black Cauldron, Arawn existed at least centuries before the Horned King — who's himself over one thousand years old — came into existence.
  • Anger Born of Worry: The Horned King is angry and concerned when Avalina uses the pain-transfer prayer to take his water-caused pain for herself. When she recovers from it, he promises that if she does that ever again, he'll make sure she'll regret it once she can stand again.
  • Ascended Extra: Arawn was in the movie merely hinted to be the cruel king sealed in the Black Cauldron. The fic makes him the Big Bad to the Horned King's Villain Protagonist.
  • Ax-Crazy: We get the Mad Pack, an entire wolf-pack of these. They suffer from an incurable disease similar to rabies, leading them to kill humans and animals just for the sake of killing. They've lost all their reason and natural instincts to the point that they attack on sight anything that moves, even an undead creature such as the Horned King.
  • Bad Boss: The Horned King is this toward Creeper as much as he was in the movie, but Avalina's influence causes this trope to become downplayed.
  • Beast and Beauty: The Horned King and Avalina are a non-romantic version of this trope.
  • Being Evil Sucks:
    • Before Avalina came along, Creeper has experienced for his entire life nothing but cruelty.
    • The Horned King begins slowly learning this thanks to Avalina.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Avalina guesses that Creeper became evil through the constant abuses the Horned King put him through.
  • Beneath the Mask:
    • Avalina is over time able to sense — mostly during the music hours — that the Horned King is under his cold and scary shell a very lonely, desperate and unloved person.
    • Mitternacht (or Malwolaeth/Diafol Ceffyl, as he was called at the time) was considered a monster by everyone, but Avalina was able to see that he just didn't know how to express his sorrow over the death of his rider other than through rage.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The Prankster duo of the Invisibles. They're nearly all the time fun-loving and optimistic sidekicks squeezing enjoyment out of nearly every situation, no matter how bad it might be. However, if you touch something they care about, they instantly turn into something Mother Nature herself couldn't rival in vindictiveness and malice. The first Invisible lampshades it with these words when the Horned King locks up Avalina, being pretty sure that the twins might do horrible things to the lich regardless of the Fates' instructions.
  • Big Bad: Arawn, the Death-Lord of Annuvin and the villain of the original books, is the Horned King's former master who was sealed inside the Black Cauldron centuries ago, and the reason that the Horned King committed all his atrocities that he is trying to atone for. He wants to have his former apprentice re-imprisoned with him so that he can continue torturing him forever; for that end, he's doing everything in his power to destroy his Redemption Quest and prevent Avalina from saving the Horned King's soul.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When the Fates inform the Horned King that Arawn can imprison him should his Redemption Quest fail, he starts begging for mercy, only to be silenced this way.
    The Horned King: No, Please No! Don't let…
    The Fates: SILENCE!
  • Big "WHAT?!": After Creeper and Avalina search for quite a while a suitable boy's name for Addie's baby and agree upon one, she announces that they'll just have to pick one from the girl's side as well. This trope is Creeper's reaction.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The author has invented at least some of the characters' names from a website that has many names and their meanings in Celtic, Gaelic or old Welsh. See the Meaningful Name/Meaningful Rename sections below for examples.
  • Blade Lock: In the 146th chapter, the Horned King does this while forcing Avalina against the wall at the end of their bout.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Completely averted throughout the fights shown in the story.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: After the battle against the Mad Pack, the Horned King's covered in the wolves' red blood and the black substance that functions as his blood.
  • Book Dumb:
    • Being a brush farmer, Avalina has never had the best of education, but the Horned King recognizes her as a bright child and passionate learner. Not satisfied with the idea of such potential being wasted on meager tasks, the lich starts educating her himself.
    • Avalina argues that Creeper has potential as well and convinces the Horned King to educate him too. The reluctant lich is surprised to learn that the goblin can count to twenty and picked up from Avalina the skill to make a rope.
  • Brick Joke: When the Invisibles first perform "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in front of the Horned King and Avalina, the girl wonders if she could get the sheet music. Many weeks (and several chapters) later, she tricks the Horned King to play with the piano that same tune. He's irritated by this and promises (unmaliciously though) to make her pay for that. Later (more chapters later), when they're spending time in Avalina's secret place, he catches her in the middle of their play, reminds her of that promise and gives her a Friendly Tickle Torture.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: The Horned King and Avalina, respectively.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The Horned King is forced to endure the Invisibles' numerous pranks without being able to retaliate physically.
    • The first Invisible is constantly trolled by its fellows.
    • Creeper retains this status from what was shown in the movie.
  • Byronic Hero: The Horned King becomes this as part of his Character Development; even though he remains dark, calculative and ruthless, he switches using his parole from the Cauldron to have revenge to taking care of the girl who has brought to his long life more than he's ever had.
  • Card-Carrying Villain:
    • The Horned King acknowledges himself as a monster (and initially is that by all means and purposes), but due to Avalina's influence, he slowly becomes more along the lines of a Noble Demon. Even then he thinks that he's the Master of All Evil, despite what other people may say.
    • Arawn is a straighter example of this trope to the point of having the Eviler than Thou attitude toward the Horned King.
  • Character Signature Song: "Yankee Doodle Dandy" seems to have become this for The Prankster Invisibles. Later the Invisibles sing endlessly "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows". At the end of the 142nd chapter, the Invisibles combine the aforementioned songs.
  • Chastity Dagger: The Horned King has the Invisibles craft a dagger for Avalina, and he gives it to her a week after her 15th birthday. He encourages her to keep it hidden if possible and use it should the need rise.
  • Closed Circle: The Invisibles are bound to the Horned King's castle and its courtyard.
  • Color-Coded Eyes: Combined with Elemental Eye Colors. Avalina's eyes are bright green with a rim of bright gold around the irises. She's a unique person who loves animals, and she gradually proves herself to have an extraordinarily strong aura of Life. When the Horned King sees her eyes clearly for the first time, they remind him of forests and sunlight. Later he says that they resemble sunlit emeralds.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When the Horned King starts teaching Avalina self-defense with the dagger he has given her, he encourages this philosophy; don't look for a fight, keep the weapon concealed if possible, take the first chance to flee from the fight, aim for the enemy's closest part to you and kill if there is no other way out.
    The Horned King: Contrary to what you may read about in your fairy tales and even some misguided history books, there is no such thing as a knife 'fight'. It will not be a duel, it will not be a joust you see civilized people doing or you may read about in stories. It will be combat, and chances are it will only last a few seconds. One uses a weapon against another not to fight, but to win, and if your opponent knows you have a knife, he will do everything in his power to prevent you from doing so. Your opponent will not be looking for a fight. He will be attempting to assassinate. As such, regardless of how quick you are, the odds are you will not have time to draw your weapon before you realize he has one. Therefore the absolute last thing you should do is try and fight him. Nor should you let him know you have a weapon. Keep it concealed at all times, if possible.
    Avalina: But, sir. If I'm too slow to even defend myself, why did you give me this?
    The Horned King: Because this weapon is not to fight with. Its purpose is to wound or kill if need be. Simply wounding someone and remaining to fight will only worsen your situation. If the predicament is dire enough to draw your weapon, then killing, more often than not, is the only way out. Particularly with a knife, there is no middle ground. However, if the slightest opportunity to flee arises, take it. Do not linger to do damage. Another myth many foolishly believe is that you will have time to aim for a certain area of the body. I have personally seen soldiers do this and they invariably lost, as their opponent simply did not care where they struck, so long as they overwhelmed and killed them. If you are ever forced to draw your weapon, aim for what is closest, regardless of what it is. The pain has a possibility of causing your opponent to withdraw slightly and allowing you to escape. [moves closer to the anxious Avalina to pacify her] Are you alright?
    Avalina: I don't want to kill. I don't want to hurt people…
    The Horned King: Nor do I wish you to. However, I would prefer you to do so and live rather than other possibilities.
  • Comforting Comforter: When Avalina falls asleep while in the library, the room gets cooler. The Invisibles cannot provide her a blanket due to their conjuring abilities being confiscated at the time, so the Horned King has to give his fur stole.
  • Constantly Curious: Avalina. Once she gets the courage to ask the Horned King about a variety of subjects, she can easily become excited of what she learns.
  • Continuity Nod: There are numerous references to the events of the movie.
    • It's remembered that the Black Cauldron was taken by the Witches of Morva, but it's currently situated right in the spot inside the Horned King's castle from where he used it.
    • The Horned King was never told Taran's name onscreen, which is why he keeps referring to him as "Pig-Keeper" even after Eilonwy tells him the name.
    • Taran asks Dallben to promise not to tell anyone about what he and Eilonwy are about to tell him. Dallben is shocked to be on the receiving end of his own words.
    • When Creeper sees the Horned King diving in the lake to save Avalina, he remembers how Taran agreed to comply with the lich's demands in order to save Hen-Wen's life. That's the closest thing the goblin has witnessed to this scenario: someone saving someone else's life with great personal risk.
    • The Horned King reveals that he collected slain soldiers to form the Cauldron-Born for centuries before he was even sure of the Cauldron's existence. It is a reference to what he said about them after they had been created; "all dead from centuries past". The scene is actually shown in one of the nightmares made by Arawn.
    • While Avalina is weeding her garden one day, she ends up finding one of the former Cauldron-Born. She realizes that the area around the castle's drawbridge is full of them, and there are probably hundreds of them. This event was written after the author remembered a certain scene from the movie: when the Black Cauldron's power left the Cauldron-Born, many of them collapsed on the lands around the drawbridge. The Invisibles had removed the skeletons inside the castle and the courtyard when they were reformed, but since they can't go outside that circle and the area was restored to the way it was before, of course the skeletons would still be there.
    • The Horned King's former henchmen are under the assumption that the lich's castle was never destroyed. That's explained by the fact that they fled well before the castle exploded. They also assume that Creeper and both of the gwythaints — along with anyone else inside the castle at the time — met their ends at the hands of the Cauldron-Born, like they witnessed happening to some of their own.
  • Cool Horse: Mitternacht, Avalina's faithful mount. He is a black Friesian that was originally the mount of a great knight (who happened to be Avalina's maternal uncle). When the knight was killed in combat, the horse became furious with grief, allowing no-one to ride him before Avalina. He's very protective of her and strong-willed, being the first known horse that hasn't lost its sanity for being near the Horned King for so long. He can even give humbling looks to the lich and scare away the spirit of Arawn himself from tormenting Avalina's dreams.
  • The Corruption: Avalina describes hatred this way while she withers under the Horned King's anger toward her. She says that it's the only emotion that doesn't need a living heart to stem from and is a demon of its own right.
    It could hardly even be called an emotion, this thing called Hate. It was more like a demon that took hold of you and consumed you from the inside out, leaving no room in your heart for anything else, until it eventually destroyed you. Your mind was not your own, given over to this demonic presence that mangled and devoured all it touched with as little effort as water freezing. Hate was impossible to control. The host was not the master. Rather, it was the opposite. There was nothing one could not do while under the influence of this malicious, wicked feeling. There was also nothing one could do of themselves unless Hate allowed them to do so.
  • Creating Life Is Unforeseen: Creeper was originally a non-living statue until the Horned King was preparing a concoction for an unstated purpose. The statue fell off the decaying castle that served as the work area and Creeper was born. That experiment had taken centuries to get to that point, and the Horned King despises Creeper for ruining it like that.
  • Cry into Chest: Avalina does this several times with the Horned King after his heart comes back to life.
  • Damsel in Distress: Avalina needs to be rescued by the Horned King several times.
  • Dark Is Evil/Dark Is Not Evil: Dark is shown from both sides of the morality spectrum.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: The Horned King has for so long been absorbed in his goal of finding the Black Cauldron in order to Take Over the World that he has forgotten much of his long past. He doesn't remember who he was before becoming Arawn's apprentice or the reason for his desire to conquer the world. As he spends time with Avalina, he receives several flashbacks of his past life.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Horned King can be one, especially towards the Invisibles. It's the only way he's able to compete against them with his inability to touch them physically. He may also qualify as Tall, Dark, and Snarky; he's taller than other characters with his height of about 6.5 feet, he's knowledgeable, and while he has no hair, he is a dark presence.
    • The Invisibles are very sarcastic, qualifying also as Servile Snarkers.
    • Creeper has several moments of being sarcastic.
  • Debt Detester: During the below mentioned Go Through Me situation, the Horned King remembers how Taran saved Avalina from certain death and grudgingly admits to himself that he owes the pig-keeper. Before he leaves with Avalina, he decides to repay the debt in his own twisted way; by putting back in place the boy's shoulder that was dislocated during the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown the lich gave Taran.
  • Declaration of Protection: After the Horned King saves Avalina from drowning and she uses a prayer to the Fates to transfer his water-caused pain to herself and accepts his apology for the cruel treatment he has given her for the past weeks, he realizes how much he values her life over Taran's death and internally swears to protect her.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Avalina gets inside the Horned King's chilling shell over time.
  • Demoted to Extra: Taran, Eilonwy and any of their friends have been mentioned many times, but they have appeared only in a couple of chapters so far.
  • Determined Homesteader: Brush farmers are portrayed this way. They make their farms in Prydain's wilderness and visit civilization only twice or thrice a year. They work with a zest and a zeal not seen in industrial farmers. They're known for being honest, as they readily aid a neighbor in their time of need, and brave for choosing to live in Prydain's wilderness, which is known of its beasts.
  • Dirty Coward: Creeper is as cowardly as he was in the movie. It's kinda justified since he's only two feet tall and not a match for a grown human face-to-face. He has also spent his entire life under his terrifying master and with bullying soldiers, so he's naturally insecure. However, this trope is hinted to become subverted slowly.
  • Disappeared Dad: Avalina's father died four years before the beginning of the story.
  • Dog Pile of Doom: The A Type version occurs during the Horned King's fight against the Mad Pack.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Horned King and Arawn before him.
    • The Mad Pack is the most feared thing in the dangerous wilderness of Prydain.
  • Dream Weaver:
    • Arawn. He repeatedly torments Avalina through her dreams in order to keep her fear of the Horned King fresh. The dreams include the Horned King at his scariest, the Cauldron-Born, and deaths of her beloved ones.
    • The Invisibles are this as well, protecting Avalina from Arawn by changing the bad dreams he creates into positive ones. However, they can't alter ordinary nightmares.
  • Drunken Song: Creeper sings some parts from "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" after drinking too much mead.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Fates tell the Horned King that he must earn his freedom from the Black Cauldron as he alone earned his demise.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • When Avalina and the Horned King ride on Mitternacht to her secret place, Creeper decides to take his chance and leave his master's servitude. Addie is against it and he ends up striking her jaw. He doesn't know how to apologize and attempts to leave again. When he's at the drawbridge, he hears her sorrowful cry that reminds him of the one she made after realizing her mate was dead. He goes back and manages to apologize. She accepts it.
    • After the Horned King saves Avalina from drowning and she uses a prayer to transfer his pain to herself, he apologizes for the spiteful way he has lately treated her for interrupting his revenge on Taran, admitting that he cares more about having her with him than having Taran killed. She happily accepts the apology. After this, Mitternacht also lets go of his ire toward the lich for causing distress in his rider for weeks.
  • Eating Optional: Inverted. While the Horned King doesn't feel hunger like humans do, his body needs sustainment like mortal bodies do. Since he cannot taste or smell anything, eating is not a pleasant experience to him. It's implied that he can require sustainment through other ways and eats only because that's the only option available currently.
  • Emerald Power: The Horned King describes at one point Avalina's eyes to resemble sunlit emeralds. And given what she proves herself to be
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Avalina's two first meetings with the Horned King has him concealing himself in shadows. During their third meeting, he reveals himself fully to her by slowly walking out of the shadows.
  • Empathic Environment: Weeks after the incident with the Horned King's former soldiers, thick and thorny rosebushes grow on the borders of the lich's lands, barring the area from the rest of Prydain. The only explanation the lich can come up with is that the phenomenon is a manifestation of Avalina's fear of intruders coming to hurt her again in her little haven.
  • Empathic Healer: There is a prayer to the Fates that allows the prayer to transfer the pain of someone else into themselves. Avalina uses this after the Horned King saves her from drowning and the water inside his body leaves him in a painful state. Fortunately, the prayer transfers only the pain, not the cause of it.
  • Enemy to All Living Things:
    • Played with. The Horned King doesn't actively despise animals, but they instinctively avoid him or go mad in his presence. Even the gwythaint which is used to his aura of Death won't let him come near her. However, through Avalina's gentle urging, Mitternacht finds the mind to approach the lich and allow him to pet him. Eventually the horse even allows the Horned King to ride him. When the Horned King seems to lose his Walking Wasteland trait and visits for the first time Avalina's garden, the animals don't seem to mind him any more than they mind normal humans in general.
    • Played straight with Arawn who hates all sorts of life.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Avalina's first scene has her remembering one of the tales she knows, finding herself wondering how the Horned King could have become a monster and pitying the vanquished warlord despite herself.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After enduring for weeks cold shouldered treatment from the Horned King after she prevented his revenge on Taran, Avalina is saddened at how his recently reawakened heart seems to be dying again. She suddenly realizes from the word heart that since the Horned King now has real emotions due to having a living heart to receive them from, of course his now stronger anger would overwhelm him.
  • Even The Rats Won't Touch It: When Arran's friend Yale shows him the remains of the Mad Pack a fortnight after the pack's demise, the wolves' meat has been left untouched by other scavengers than flies, maggots and gnats.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Horned King is numerous times amazed at Avalina's purity and her ability to call a monster such as him her friend, having never believed that such a gentle creature can exist. The same applies to Creeper.
  • Evil Counterpart: The evil and death Arawn represents are the perfect antithesis of the goodness and life Avalina represents, including their respective roles in regards to the Horned King.
  • Eviler than Thou: Arawn towards the Horned King. The Death Lord was the only one who surpassed his former apprentice in cruelty. He even chews at the Horned King for becoming "a disgrace to the name of Evil".
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: When Avalina finally finds the courage to ask the Horned King if his appearance is inherent or the result of something that happened in the past, he lampshades this trope beautifully while adding some Anatomy of the Soul traits to the mix.
    The Horned King: The heart is the messenger from the soul to the body, and keeps the two bound together as one. When the body fails, the heart ceases to be, and the soul is released from the body and sent elsewhere. You can see this in your elderly, however there is another scenario. After killing someone, the heart, the origin of all morality and emotion, begins to corrode. Slowly, but it is noticeable. The more one kills, the more difficult the damage is to reverse. [...] After one has killed so much that the heart is gone and no longer holds the life in them, they begin to decay on the outside as well, as the heart binds the body and soul together, and without the heart, the soul cannot function properly. You see this with anyone who has killed before. They are alive, but they are not, and their outward appearance begins to reflect what they have become on the inside, and what they leave in their wake. I look like this because I am the embodiment of all that I have become. My heart turned to dust centuries ago, taking all life with it, and left me merely in a state of existence, my soul unable to work properly without it, thus my appearance.
  • Expy: The Prankster duo of the Invisibles clearly bear a striking resemblance to someone unspecified. Reviewers have suggested that to be Fred and George Weasley, but the Word of God has it that this is not the case.
  • Fertile Feet: Avalina turns out to be this, for she has an extraordinarily strong aura of Life. She gets the permission to tend a garden on the Horned King's lands during the autumn. Slowly her work brings results; by the spring, some green grows, worms appear in the soil, some birds appear to eat them, and the sun shines a little bit through the permanently cloudy sky. Suddenly an entire healthy forest appears in the place of dead trees in one night. The Invisibles had apparently put Creeper to fly with Addie and spread magical treedust all over the area to speed up the trees' growth. However, they say that Avalina had to first want the trees to grow. After Avalina's birthday, the lake's water becomes clean again, fish appear in it, and a deer herd briefly drinks the water. More animals appear soon after. The Horned King wonders how the effects of Avalina's aura have not been noticed before. The Invisibles theorize that because everything grew by itself where she lived before, her aura's influence wasn't needed.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The author has invented the language of Mrenagy to substitute Germany. It doubles as a Significant Anagram because "Mrenagy" is the word "Germany" rearranged.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: The Horned King when he has to dive in the castle's lake to save Avalina from drowning.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: While being treated by Avalina after his nearly fatal fight against the Mad Pack, the Horned King twitches his fingers when he regains consciousness.
  • First Time Feeling: The Horned King doesn't have a beating heart and due to that, no emotions. He explains Avalina that he feels only twisted, muted versions of real emotions. However, after experiencing for months something resembling positive emotions, his heart comes alive after centuries of being dormant. His emotions become stronger after this, both the positive and negative ones. After Avalina prevents his chance to have revenge on Taran, he's angry at her for weeks. Eventually she realizes that because the lich hasn't had to deal with real emotions for centuries, of course he would be overwhelmed by them.
  • Flashback Nightmare:
    • The first chapter narrates the Horned King's death as shown in the movie. The next chapter reveals that it was all Avalina's dream.
    • After the Horned King nearly kills Taran, it's revealed that the boy has relived the lich's death without variation almost every night for months.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: After becoming the victim of one of the Invisibles' infuriating pranks, the Horned King curses them under his breath in all the languages he knows, but retains himself from using English since Avalina is present.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the Horned King first gets a good look at Avalina's green eyes, they remind him of forests and sunlight.
    • When the Horned King wakes up after his exhausting battle with the Mad Pack and finds himself back in his castle, he looks for less than a second like he's been slapped in the face. Many chapters and months later, he's actually slapped in the face by Avalina of all people.
  • Framing Device: At the Horned King's demand, Avalina tells him how she came into the possession of Mitternacht four years earlier. Her story takes the length of eight and a half chapters.
  • Freudian Trio: The Invisibles, although there are four of them. The first Invisible acts as The Superego, the second and the third both act as The Id, and the fourth acts as The Ego.
    • The first Invisible acts as the group's leader, trying to keep others in line and being very frustrated by The Prankster duo's antics.
    • The second and the third Invisible are wild and like-minded pranksters who give little regard for the opinions of others.
    • The fourth Invisible is the most sensitive and reserved one, observing the others' antics and being amused by them, sometimes even joining The Prankster duo's schemes.
  • Friendless Background: Creeper has been abused by everyone around him for his entire life, and the Horned King has been doing evil for his own benefit for centuries. For both of them, Avalina is their first friend.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: After his long-dormant heart starts beating again, the Horned King develops the habit of giving these to Avalina at the end of their plays.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Avalina. The mere thought of hurting others horrifies her. This allows her to befriend Addie the gwythaint. She likes horses in particular.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Since the Horned King's demise, the few of his soldiers who survived have been terrorizing several villages and wanted while taking refuge in the wilderness. The Horned King is not surprised to learn that the barbarians have continued their ways even without him directing them.
  • From Dress to Dressing: After the Horned King wipes out the entire Mad Pack and falls unconscious, Avalina uses his shredded robe to make him bandages. Later she uses the fabric of her own skirt and cloak to do the same to Taran after the Horned King nearly kills him.
  • Functional Magic: A distinction is made between a spell and a prayer directed to the Fates; a spell's effects can be reversed unless otherwise noted (which is done rarely), while a prayer's effects can't be reversed by anyone else than the one who made the prayer in the first place.
  • Get Out!: The Horned King tells Avalina this after the she slaps him. He does this again when she later comes to start the music hour.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: All that's made clear about the Fates' reasons for granting the Horned King a chance to redeem himself is that they're obliged to it by circumstances beyond their range of control. They're clearly not happy about that.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: This trope (along with Battle Discretion Shot) is usually averted, like with the deaths of the Mad Pack wolves. However, when the Horned King, Creeper and Addie kill the bandits who kidnapped Avalina, she flees back to the castle under the lich's orders and the slaughter is left under the reader's imagination. However, in both of those instances, the remains are shown later.
  • Go Through Me: When the Horned King is about to finish what he started on Taran, Avalina comes between them, pleading him to stop. Eventually the lich concedes after remembering how Taran saved Avalina from falling into a chasm and leaves with her.
  • Grief Song: When Avalina met Malwolaeth (Mitternacht) for the second time, she realized that he acted like a savage beast because he didn't know how else to express his grief over the death of his rider. Having lost her father not long ago, the girl knew the feeling and sang "Adiós" by Jesse y Joy. It was a start for her friendship with the horse.
  • Groin Attack: A tied up Avalina gives this to the bandit who captured her in an effort to try and escape. It angers him so much that he tries to kill her.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Avalina is not a fighter or a magic user, but her aura of Life and great compassion even for the likes of the Horned King allow her to accomplish some things many people wouldn't even dream of. This includes befriending the lich in question, causing his heart to reawaken, riding a gwythaint and causing an entire healthy forest to grow in a lifeless area. The Horned King himself lampshades this trope twice at least. In one instance he says it to comfort Avalina during one of her moments of self-loathing. The other instance is when he refuses to give in to Arawn's temptations.
    The Horned King: …she is anything but weak. Her strengths appear as weaknesses, but I have never seen or heard of a mortal so strong that they cry for their enemies, and call a… creature like me… a friend.
  • Hellish Horse: Before being tamed by Avalina, Mitternacht was seen as one due to his violent rejection of a new rider. He was even called Diafol Ceffyl, which means Devil Horse in Welsh.
  • Heroic BSoD: Avalina enters this mode several times. One of the most notable ones is her weeks-lasting depression after the Horned King becomes angry with her for ruining his revenge on Taran. She avoids him out of fear, spending most her days either in her room or with Mitternacht and crying constantly. She can barely eat or sleep and weakens physically. She's temporarily pulled out of it by her above mentioned "Eureka!" Moment, but goes back into it after hearing the Horned King saying (thanks to Arawn) that she means nothing to her. Mitternacht and her snowfight with Creeper help her to her feet, but she gets fully past this only after the Horned King saves her from drowning and apologizes for his behavior.
  • His Story Repeats Itself: After hearing Avalina's story on how she met and tamed Mitternacht, the third Invisible notes how her situation with the horse back then isn't so different from her current situation with the Horned King (or the horse's situation back then with the lich's situation right now).
  • Holding Hands: After the Horned King has told Avalina how his actions resulted in his current appearance, she senses again his downcast existence. For the first time she comes next to him voluntarily and takes his hand. After the initial shock, he returns the gesture. It's not many days after this that his heart comes back to life.
  • Honest Advisor: The Invisibles serve as this to the Horned King. They are not afraid to bring forth their opinions to him since he can do nothing to hurt them physically.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Even before his eventual Character Development, the Horned King — himself The Dreaded to nearly everyone — has this mindset big-time toward both the Cauldron and Arawn.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Or If You Leave Him To Die, You Will Be Just Like Him when Avalina has the chance to escape the wounded and unconscious Horned King.
  • I Have Your Wife: After an earthquake interrupts the Horned King's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Taran, the boy ends up with Avalina on the newly-formed chasm's one side, with the Horned King and Eilonwy on the other side. The lich tells Taran to meet him at the bottom of the hill if he wants Eilonwy to live. The pig-keeper obeys him.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: While Avalina and Mitternacht are fleeing from the Mad Pack, they jump over a five feet tall log that has spear-like branches sticking out of it. Two of the wolves are impaled by them as they jump. Their deaths are slow as their remains prove two weeks later.
  • Impossible Task: The Horned King doesn't believe that he can gain a human's love, especially in the beginning. Some of the Invisibles, especially the first one, share the sentiment.
  • Indignant Slap: When the Horned King and Avalina argue about her act of interfering with the lich's chance of getting his revenge on Taran, she ends up slapping him when he tells her that he can hurt her family anytime. They're both shocked, but he remains angry with her for weeks.
  • Infinite Supplies: The Invisibles can conjure things out of thin air, even stuff that shouldn't exist in the setting and timeline the story takes place. They are always vague about where they get the stuff. When they disobey the Fates, they're confiscated of this ability for a while several times.
  • Instant Birth: Just Add Labor!: Downplayed. It's not revealed how long Addie is in labor when her baby is ready to be born, but after the water breaks, it takes several minutes for the birth to be complete.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: The Horned King (who's over one thousand years old) and Avalina (who's 14 at the start of the story) slowly form this, though the lich shows shades of a Parental Substitute.
  • Interspecies Friendship: There's Avalina (human) with the Horned King (lich), Creeper (goblin) and the Invisibles (creations of the Fates). She's also pretty close to Mitternacht (horse) and quickly befriends Addie (gwythaint). Also, Mitternacht and Addie become playmates through the races they have, with Avalina riding Mitternacht and Creeper riding Addie. Later, Addie's baby Gethin is added to the picture.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Before Taran and Eilonwy start telling Dallben about their almost fateful encounter with the Horned King and Avalina, Taran makes him promise not to tell anyone what they're about to tell him. Dallben is shocked by it sounding similar to what he told the boy when using Hen-Wen's oracular powers in the movie.
    • At one point Avalina has to puncture an abscess in Mitternacht's frog, but she has never done that before. The contradictory information she gets from books makes her unsure, as she doesn't want to hurt her horse. The Horned King advises her to trust her own judgement about what alternative would be best and not let doubt, second-guessing and the opinions of others to hinder her decision-making. It turns out that this is exactly what the Horned King’s former master Arawn had told him centuries ago. That advice had helped him to become both a powerful warlord and such a monstrous being.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: The Horned King acts like this regarding the positive emotions and hope that start awakening in him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Creeper starts out as the Jerkass he was in the movie, but he slowly softens up to Avalina.
    • The Horned King, while still completely ruthless against anyone else, eventually comes to treat Avalina, Creeper, the Invisibles, Mitternacht and the gwythaints as his True Companions.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: After Avalina convinces the Horned King to spare Taran, the lich is angry with her. After an argument that results in her slapping him, he seethes at her for weeks, prompting her to avoid him out of fear, cry daily and weaken physically. He hardly tries to rectify the situation out of anger and pride, and the situation worsens when Arawn prompts him to say out loud that Avalina means nothing to her and that he should have killed her long time ago. The lich realizes her presence only after saying that. The situation is resolved after the Horned King saves Avalina from drowning and he apologizes for his behavior.
  • Killed Off for Real: All the members of the more than thirty wolves large Mad Pack die either while chasing Avalina and Mitternacht or while fighting the Horned King. Later the bandit group of over twenty men (who are all former soldiers of the Horned King) who kidnap Avalina are slaughtered by the Horned King, Creeper and Addie.
  • Knife Fight: While teaching Avalina to handle her dagger, the Horned King says that this trope is a myth. It's not a civilized duel, but a real fight with victory as the goal.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A bandit group kidnaps Avalina from the Horned King's (their former master's) lands with the intention of selling her illegally into slavery, like they have done to numerous other children (if they haven't killed them first) for months. They're all slaughtered by the Horned King, Addie and Creeper (the same little goblin they all used to bully in the past).
  • Leaking Can of Evil: Arawn's spirit cannot exit the Black Cauldron, but he can communicate with others in their thoughts and influence their dreams.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At one point, when the Horned King attempts to leave and get away from the Invisibles, Avalina happily reminds that they haven't sung yet. The chapter ends with the Invisibles singing a combination of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows".
  • Life/Death Juxtaposition: The Horned King is the walking epitome of death and Avalina of life. However, the former gradually loses this status, leading the latter to continue this dynamic with Arawn.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Horned King was bad in the movie, but the exploration of his character makes him less menacing. While there are no musicals in the movie, this story provides many songs (both sad and happy ones). Avalina and the Invisibles also lessen seriousness of the pace. While the Horned King's past as a ruthless warlord is reminded of and some darker elements have been included (like the Mad Pack and Arawn), the story is overall more idealistic than the movie.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Horned King proves himself to be this during his fight against the Mad Pack. Not only he has Super-Strength, but his normally slow and deliberate moving hides deceptively well that he has snake-fast reflexes. He also receives multiple wounds from the wolves, losing much of his black substitute for blood, but he nonetheless keeps fighting and passes out only after killing all the wolves. It should also be noted that he wasn't at his best at the time, having received water on his face earlier and used the draining teleportation spell twice to get there.
  • Lima Syndrome: The Horned King imprisons Avalina in order to keep his resurrection a secret. After months of living with her, he genuinely starts to care for her.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Avalina causes pleasant feelings in the Horned King with her aura of Life and beautiful piano playing. After several months, they cause his heart to beat again. It eventually reaches a point where just mentioning her name makes his anger dissipate.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: A gwythaint's pregnancy lasts about a year.
  • Magical Incantation:
    • In order to get from the Fates the truth behind the Horned King's resurrection and Avalina's association with him through Hen-Wen, Dallben says an incantation similar to the one he used in the movie.
      Dallben: Hen-Wen, from you I do beseech. Knowledge that lies beyond my reach. Truth from lies, and lies from truth, separate the myth from proof.
    • The pain-transference prayer to the Fates is cast in the same way.
      "Oh Fates, please now hear my plea. Please grant me what I ask of thee. This pain that fills my friend so kind, I beg you, free him, and make it mine."
  • Manipulative Bastard: Arawn. Since he apparently cannot do anything physical from the Cauldron, he uses mind games to try and ruin the Horned King's relationship with Avalina.
  • Meaningful Name/Meaningful Rename: Avalina lampshades these tropes, arguing that names do matter and that if one's name no longer suits their personality, they should be renamed.
    • Mitternacht means Midnight in Germany (though the author has invented Mrenagy as the language). He was originally called Malwolaeth (Death in Welsh) or Diafol Ceffyl (Devil Horse in Welsh). After Avalina won his trust, she renamed him.
    • Avalina eventually christens the female gwythaint as Taranau Adeon, which means "Thunder Wings". The gwythaint appreciates it, though she's called Addie by everyone.
    • After Addie's baby is born and turns out to be a male, he's given a name Avalina has chosen with Creeper: Gethin, meaning "dark" or "dusky". She picked it up because of him being quite dark. Though the Horned King tells her that all gwythaints are dark when born and most lighten as they age, she has a feeling that Gethin will be quite dark when he grows up.
    • After the Horned King has regained a living heart, Avalina promises to invent him a new name. She eventually comes up with Morvenius, which apparently means "Release of a gentle man". The lich is honored by the meaning.
    • Taran is apparently named after some historical person. When the Horned King finally learns the boy's name from Eilonwy, the lich thinks that the pig-keeper is "as arrogant and useless as his namesake".
  • Mood-Swinger: The Horned King notes that Avalina seems to be able to switch between joyfulness and sadness in a moment.
  • Morality Pet: Avalina becomes one for the Horned King (with some strong Morality Chain vibes included), and, to a lesser extent, Creeper as well.
  • Mordor: The Horned King's lands. The sky is permanently in red clouds, the lake's water is lifeless and poisonous, trees are dead, nothing green grows in the soil, and no animals of any kind appear. Despite this, Avalina tries to tend a garden there. She starts by the fall and gets results by the spring, making this trope subverted. See the Fertile Feet section above for more details.
  • Musical Chores: While tending to Mitternacht the day following her arrival to the Horned King's castle, Avalina sings a slightly altered version of S.J. Tucker's "Ravens in the Library".
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast:
    • When the Horned King first hears Avalina playing piano and singing, he notices that it has a soothing effect on him. He makes it a routine for her to play him music for an hour every day. It helps Avalina to get under his shell in the long run.
    • When Avalina encountered Malwolaeth (Mitternacht) for the second time, she managed to get close to him by singing about loss.
  • Mythology Gag: The Invisibles nickname the Horned King as "the ol'Bonehead". This is a reference to Disney animators' protest against the producers' renaming of their movie Basil of Baker Street into a more American-sounding The Great Mouse Detective. They wrote a hilarious list of "new American titles" for past Disney movies, such as The Girl with the See-through Shoe. The Black Cauldron was renamed as… The Evil Bonehead.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: The Invisibles are instructed by the Fates to obey the Horned King regardless of their own opinions. However, they can't harm anything on his orders or help him in harming them (but neither can they stop him from harming others by his own hand).
  • Never Learned to Read: Creeper. At Avalina and the Invisibles' urging, the Horned King attempts reluctantly to teach him.
  • Never My Fault: When Avalina is rescued by the Horned King, Creeper and Addie from the bandits, the one who captured her tries to kill her again, accusing her of leading the lich back to them. In reality, it's he who caused this to happen by kidnapping Avalina from the Horned King's lands in the first place. Also, she did warn them that she's under the lich's protection (though they didn't believe her as they didn't know of his resurrection).
  • Nice Girl: Avalina to the point that her purity is noted multiple times. The Horned King even calls her "an angel without wings" at one point.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Horned King does something beneficial to Prydain while saving Avalina's life multiple times. First he puts an end to the Mad Pack, the Ax-Crazy pack of Savage Wolves that has terrorized the humans and animals for two decades. Months later, the lich kills with Creeper and Addie's help the children-kidnapping and killing bandits who were his soldiers.
  • The Nicknamer: The second and the third Invisible invent all kinds of nicknames for people, mostly for the Horned King.
  • The Nightingale: This story is stored in one of the books of the library the Horned King provides for Avalina. It's written in a foreign language Avalina describes to look like chicken scratchings (probably Chinese, as the story is set in Imperial China by the Word of God). The Horned King translates the story for her, and it becomes her favorite.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Horned King collected his slain soldiers to form the Cauldron-Born for centuries. They were his corrupted joy, and are still at some level as shown when he collects with Creeper the remaining Cauldron-Born outside the castle to make Avalina feel easier there. Instead of ordering the Invisibles to make them vanish, he stores them to the dungeon level's cells where Avalina never goes, a level above the room containing the Black Cauldron. He does this despite knowing that he can't use them for anything anymore.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When the Horned King and Avalina encounter Taran and Eilonwy by chance while reaching a beautiful lookout, the lich is consumed by his bottled up hatred toward the boy and starts beating him up severely. He hardly notices pushing Avalina and Eilonwy out of the way repeatedly when they try to stop him. He's interrupted only by a sudden earthquake.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: It's made clear that the bandits who kidnap Avalina are working together only because there's strength in numbers and wouldn't need much to turn on each other. When one of the more paranoid ones keeps voicing his fear of gwythaint ghosts, he's killed by Avalina's captor.
  • No Sense of Humor: The Horned King starts out as this, but Avalina's influence causes this trope to become subverted. However, if you're not Avalina, you can expect the Horned King to show rather sarcastic humor.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: After enduring numerous pranks from the Invisibles for many months, the Horned King makes a mental recapitulation about them and finds in them two traits that remind him of himself; the Invisibles are deeply passionate about their work, like he had been about world domination, and like him, they have endless drive and ruthless determination to make something work, no matter how difficult that might be.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Creeper assists his master and Addie in slaughtering Avalina's captors with his claws (as he doesn't know how to wield weapons), enjoying every second of it. He's as bloodthirsty as the Horned King, he just doesn't often get to show it.
  • O.C. Stand-in:
    • The surviving gwythaint. It's revealed to be a female and quickly befriends Avalina. Avalina names her Taranau Adeon, though she's called Addie by everyone. It's revealed that the other gwythaint, which died at the end of the movie, was her mate and had impregnated her before his death. The baby is born by the spring.
    • One of the Horned King's former henchmen (the one who kidnaps Avalina) is revealed to be the one who almost killed Taran in the movie when the boy fell to the mess hall while trying to rescue Hen-Wen. The author chose that man to be the main threat to Avalina out of the bandits because his behavior during his brief appearance indicated that he enjoyed killing regardless of the victim's age.
  • One-Man Army: The Horned King against the Mad Pack of about thirty Ax-Crazy wolves. Only after they're all dead he collapses.
  • Only Sane Man: The first Invisible among the others. It certainly feels itself to be the only sane creature in the castle at times.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: Mitternacht. His original rider (Avalina's maternal knight uncle) allowed no-one else to ride him. After the knight died, the horse furiously rejected everyone who tried to tame him. Avalina earned his trust slowly, and Mitternacht hasn't allowed anyone else to ride him, not even King Gwydion. However, through Avalina's gentle encouragements, he allows the Horned King to ride him.
  • On Three: The third Invisible in the 146th chapter.
    The third Invisible: On the count of three. Three!
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Horned King tells Avalina that despite resembling dragons, gwythaints aren't those. He tells of his encounter with one dragon. It was built like a gwythaint, but it had four legs and bronze colored scales, and it was as large as two peasant houses put together. It didn't breathe fire (but he has heard tales from people who have actually seen firebreathers), but spat lava instead. He explains that some dragon types can accomplish this by eating rocks and digesting them into a lava-like substance.
  • Papa Wolf: The Horned King slowly becomes one toward Avalina, especially after his above-mentioned Declaration of Protection.
  • Pie in the Face: The Invisibles do this to the Horned King in front of Avalina as a way to lessen her fear of the lich that has risen because of Arawn. And it works!
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: When the Horned King is about to kill Creeper for hitting Avalina's face while she was in the dungeons and seemingly defying the order to stay out of the girl's sight, Avalina begs the lich to spare the goblin, reasoning that because she didn't see him clearly, he didn't defy the order. Deciding that a good argument deserves a reward, the lich lets Creeper live. After that incident, Avalina does this several more times when the Horned King intends at different point to punish Creeper and kill Taran.
  • Plucky Girl: Avalina. Despite everything she goes through throughout story (and before it), she remains a pure and positive girl.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: This happens to the Horned King after he has slaughtered the Mad Pack. Justified since he lost much of his "blood".
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • The Horned King describes himself as someone who doesn't believe in any sort of waste, especially when it pertains to him. For example, after saving Avalina from the Mad Pack, he's close to killing her out of fury, but he doesn't do it because then everything he went through to keep her would be for naught.
    The Horned King: [with his grip on Avalina's throat] I should kill you now, after all the trouble you've caused me.
    Avalina: Well, if you're going to kill me, then do it! There's nothing stopping you!
    [the lich tightens his grip, but after a moment he chuckles darkly]
    The Horned King: After all the trouble I've gone through to keep you? [grins maliciously at Avalina while glaring at her face-to-face] Then I would be the fool, child. [releases his grip]
    • The Horned King describes his former master Arawn this way; while heartless, the Death Lord of Annuvin doesn't believe in attacking something for no reason because it would be a waste of time, resources and energy. Instead, he would spot a potential threat and eliminate it without expending extra energy. Therefore, the reason he torments Avalina at all is because he sees her as a threat to his own long-term plans.
  • The Prankster: The second and the third Invisible. They pull various and creative pranks on the Horned King. Since he can't physically hurt them, he can only rage at them.
  • Predecessor Villain: The Horned King used to serve Arawn, the Death Lord of Annuvin. When Arawn tried to conquer Prydain and sought the Black Cauldron, he was unexpected defeated. Once the Horned King learned of his master's demise, he took over Arawn's remaining forces and conquered countries for himself while looking for the Cauldron himself.
  • Prone to Tears: Avalina. She's so easy to bring close to tears.
  • Psychoactive Powers: Weeks after the incident with the Horned King's former soldiers, thick and thorny rosebushes grow on the borders of the lich's lands, barring the area from the rest of Prydain. The only explanation the lich can come up with is that the phenomenon is a manifestation of Avalina's fear of intruders coming to hurt her again in her little haven.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Avalina isn't fond of purple as it reminds her of bruises and injuries, but after pondering about it while being bedridden, she realizes that it can also represent royalty, pride and wealth.
  • Reality Warper: The Invisibles can conjure just about any kind of object, and it's heavily implied they can even travel between dimensions. Lampshaded by the Horned King, who muses on how Taking Over the World would've been significantly easier if he'd had similar abilities.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Horned King is revealed to be over one thousand years old.
  • Redemption Quest: The Horned King is given a chance for something no soul condemned to the Black Cauldron has before received; to redeem himself.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Like in the movie, the Horned King's normally pitch black eyes turn blood red with black slit pupils when he's very angry.
  • Reflective Eyes: When the Horned King is about to choke Avalina to death after revealing his identity to her, he sees his own reflection in her eyes. Death reflected back at him actually makes him flinch before he locks the girl in the dungeons.
  • Resurrected for a Job: The Horned King is restored to his physical form and put on a Redemption Quest.
  • Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!: In the 146th chapter, the Invisibles hide forty-six alarm clocks everywhere they can in the Horned King's chambers while he sleeps. They and Avalina then observe as he angrily ransacks the room in search of the clocks that turn on one by one. He destroys seven of them before all the remaining clocks ring together in the tune of Rhett and Link's "Nilla Wafer Top Hat Time" song.
  • Running Gag:
    • The Invisibles putting glitter and confetti on the Horned King to annoy him.
    • The use of the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for humor.
  • Savage Wolves: The Mad Pack is a large pack of rabid wolves that has been terrorizing animals and humans of Prydain for twenty years, increasing in numbers over the years. The incurable disease they suffer from causes them to attack and kill on sight anything that moves. By the time they're faced, there's more than thirty of them.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Horned King will be forever imprisoned to the Black Cauldron if he doesn't fulfill the task the Fates have granted him. Meanwhile, the Cauldron contains the spirit of the Horned King's former master Arawn (though it's implied that there are others).
  • Secret-Keeper: When the Horned King allows Avalina to return to her mother and brother for three days to say her farewells, she convinces them to keep all about her situation a secret. They reluctantly agree, both to prevent mass panic from erupting from the knowledge of the Horned King's return and because they can't possibly do anything without endangering Avalina's life. Months later, after Taran and Eilonwy's almost fateful encounter with the Horned King and Avalina, they recount it to Dallben. They decide to remain silent for the same reasons as Avalina's family.
  • Shadow Archetype: Arawn is this to the Horned King. The Death Lord of Annuvin is the Horned King's eviler former mentor who also sought the Black Cauldron in order to conquer the world. After his death, he has for centuries been imprisoned for life inside the Cauldron. Simultaneously Arawn represents what the Horned King was before Avalina came to his life and what the master is trying to turn his apprentice back into, and what he would become should he remain forever trapped in the Cauldron.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Avalina. Not that she wasn't pretty before, but when the Invisibles make her wear silk dresses (something brush farmers hardly can afford for) and fix her hair for her meals with the Horned King, she can hardly recognize the beautiful young lady staring back at her from the mirror.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Taran is revealed to have had Flashback Nightmares of the Horned King's death almost every night. While his friends seem to have moved on with their lives, his dreams have driven him to regret his dreams of becoming a warrior or wishing that he had never been involved in the first place or even that he had thrown himself into the Black Cauldron instead of Gurgi. He continuously dwells upon the morality of his actions back then, never finding a comforting answer. He hasn't told anyone of his dreams, but he has a feeling that Dallben and Eilonwy know.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The author has done research for the chapter involving the Horned King giving Avalina her dagger about self-defense with a knife from any available sources. Also, the detail about the blade-preserving oily fur lining the scabbard has been recorded in ancient sheaths.
    • See the Bilingual Bonus section above for more information.
    • The text indicates that the author is knowledgeable about horses.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Horned King does this when Arawn starts trying to mess up with his head again after killing his former soldiers. Arawn tries to tempt his former apprentice with the sensation of killing again, even suggesting him to throttle Avalina as a practice for Taran's death.
    The Horned King: I will never harm her!
    Arawn: But you have. You've already harmed her in more ways than you care to recount. Ripping her from her family was an impeccable start. So why do you balk now? She knows the location of the Pig-Boy. She can tell you where he lives. You could finally get your long-awaited revenge…
    The Horned King:…I value Avalina's company more than the blood of the Pig-Keeper.
    Arawn: [snarls furiously for being unable to deny the truth of the claim] You're a disgrace to the name of Evil. There was a time you would have killed her instantly, without feeling, without deferment. And yet now, you not only refuse, but vehemently so. You are not the Huntsman you were. You were unbeatable! Undefeatable! And now, you've fallen in the most disgraceful way possible. Not by a sword or a spell, but a little peasant girl, so pathetic and weak it's a tragedy she's survived this long.
    The Horned King: But she is anything but weak. Her strengths appear as weaknesses, but I have never seen or heard of a mortal so strong that they cry for their enemies, and call a… creature like me… a friend.
  • Silly Love Song: When Avalina rides with the Horned King to her secret ridge, The Prankster Invisibles start singing loudly a parodied version of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", much to the first Invisible's discomfort. The fourth Invisible joins in, leading poor Dusty to run with its ears covered.
  • Single-Minded Twins: The second and the third Invisible act like these a lot of the time.
  • The Sleepless: The Horned King. The only explanation he gives Avalina for this is that "there is no rest for the wicked". He falls asleep for the first time in a millennium when he's in Avalina's garden for the first time.
  • Song of Courage: When Avalina and Mitternacht have to return from her family to the Horned King's castle, they're understandably sad. When they come to the border of lich's lands, Avalina starts to sing "Blowin' In The Wind". With its help, the horse and his rider are able to enter the castle, looking proud like soldiers.
  • Soul Jar: The Black Cauldron. See the Sealed Evil in a Can section above.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Played with. During the long months in the Horned King's castle, with the lich and Creeper being the only speaking creatures to talk to, Avalina finds herself not hating the Horned King like she should after the kindness he has shown her lately and the subtle changes in him since their first meeting (despite the initial cruelty and his countless sins before that). She realizes that a part of her wants to stay with him since he listens to her much more than her family. (Her increased chances of reading and playing piano, along with getting a chance to ride Addie, are also a factor.)
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: The Horned King slowly develops this. Avalina is usually the only one whom he allows to see his sugar side. Everyone else gets his ice side.
  • Super-Strength: The Horned King is strong enough to swing a massive log over his head like a club, throw off of himself numerous wolves swarming over him and break a rock by squeezing it with some of his fingers. According to himself, he easily possesses The Strength of Ten Men at least.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • Avalina toward the Horned King even before meeting him. One night (in the second chapter) she wonders what might have led him to become such a monster. The sympathy grows when she gets to know him over time, pushing away any hatred.
    • After reliving the Horned King's death nearly every night for months and realizing how desperate the lich was at the time, Taran feels against his will slightly guilty for ruining everything the Horned King had worked for and given any value to.
  • Talking with Signs: Since the Invisibles are forbidden to talk to Avalina, they communicate to her through parchments with text written on them.
  • Teleportation Sickness: The Horned King's teleportation spell is physically draining for him, especially over a long distance.
  • This Cannot Be!: This is the reaction of the various characters as they find out that the Horned King is alive.
  • Time Abyss: The Invisibles are creations of the Fates themselves, and it's stated that they've existed at least a millenium.
  • Toilet Humour: During one of the Invisibles' conversations, The Prankster duo repeatedly use the term "poop". The disgusted first Invisible eventually snaps and demands them to find a substitute for it, threatening to arrange the things so that they can never touch glitter or sparkly stuff again. The duo sounds initially shocked but then they take away their comrade's triumph by calling it a "dung heap".
  • Tranquil Fury: The Horned King is in this mode when he kills his former soldiers.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Mitternacht towards Avalina.
    • If you ever befriend a gwythaint, it would be loyal to you for life. If you ever give a gwythaint a reason to either hate or love you, it would do so with no happy medium.
  • Villainous Lament: During one rainy night, the Horned King reflects on his dormant memories, his choices, his reawakened heart, his inability to dream, Avalina and her purity. He feels that he has lost much that he can't regain. While he doesn't sing, pieces of "Nemo" have been added to the narration.
  • Villainous Rescue:
    • After the Horned King scares Avalina into fleeing the castle with Mitternacht, they're chased by the Mad Pack. They're eventually cornered, but before the wolves can kill them, the Horned King teleports there and kills most of the remaining wolves. He does this because Avalina is his only chance to remain free from the Black Cauldron.
    • When Eilonwy is about to fall into a newly-formed chasm caused by a sudden earthquake, the Horned King grabs her. He does that only due to realizing that the princess is dear to Avalina (he has come to genuinely care for her at this point). Then he takes her hostage to ensure that Taran won't try to flee.
    • When Avalina is close to drowning in cold water, the Horned King dives in to save her, fully aware of the dangers to himself.
    • Just when Avalina is about to be killed by the bandits who kidnapped her, the Horned King teleports there with Creeper and Addie just in time to free her and slaughter all the bandits.
  • Villain Protagonist: The story is narrated mostly through the Horned King's point of view, in addition to Avalina's.
  • The Voiceless: Invoked. The Invisibles are instructed that no-one besides the Horned King or Creeper is to hear them speaking. However, after the Invisibles disobey that order several times, the Fates eventually give up trying to enforce it.
  • Walking Wasteland: The Horned King. The ground and lake around his castle are lifeless, and the sun never shines there. Even after Avalina manages to bring some life there (even an entire forest), any plants brought near him quickly die. When he teleports to the forest clearing Avalina's captors have camped in, even the trees die. However, when he's convinced by Avalina to come to her garden for the first time, his presence doesn't kill off or scare any of the animals or plants.
  • Water Wake-up: Avalina gets one after she's captured by the Horned King's former men.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Water causes the Horned King severe burns. Snow has the same effect if it melts on him. Diluted water (such as tea) burns him as easily as pure water, though not as severely. However, he seems to be able to digest wine.
  • Wham Line: When Avalina and the Horned King encounter by chance two persons on a hill, the lich is consumed by hatred and the chapter ends with him saying "Pig-Keeper".
  • What a Drag: We get a humorous version when Creeper is stuck in the rope tied around a running Gethin.
  • What Is This Feeling?: The emotionless Horned King is confused by the pleasant feelings Avalina wakes up in him. His memories about them are faded to the extend that he has to describe them to her so that she can guess what they are. At one point, when the lich has wine in his mouth, it feels strange. After the Invisibles confirm that they've done nothing to his food, they realize that he has regained his sense of taste.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After the Horned King keeps Avalina locked up in the dungeons for two weeks with a barely sufficient feeding, one of the two prankster Invisibles finds her barely alive. It immediately rushes to scream at the Horned King's face about his cruelty towards Avalina and indifference for the chance he's been granted to be free of the Cauldron. It outright orders him to go to the dungeons and see the poor girl. The lich actually does that (though he claims that the reason is not the Invisible) and decides to let the Invisibles nurture Avalina back to health.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When the badly injured Horned King passes out after killing the entire Mad Pack, Avalina has the chance to leave him to die and return home. Her heart opposes this idea and battles against her head. Eventually she gives in to her heart and brings the lich back to his castle, telling her head that she couldn't ever forget leaving someone to die willingly and she'd be guilty of murder as much as the Horned King.
  • When He Smiles: The Horned King is eventually capable of this. Avalina lampshades it.
    Avalina: You have the most genuine smile of anyone I've ever met. When you're happy, I know it's real. Not a mask, like I've seen other people wear.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The story has more than one similarity to the infamous Beauty and the Beast story; a young smart peasant girl is imprisoned in a scary castle for months by a monstrous royalty who must earn a human's love to save himself from a Fate Worse than Death. Slowly the prisoner and her captor grow closer, with a turning point being when the captor scares the prisoner into fleeing the castle on horseback and saves her from Savage Wolves, nearly dying in the process. The prisoner then nurses her captor back to health.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Avalina. The Horned King is amazed at how she is able to stubbornly hold onto her values despite everything she goes through because of him or otherwise.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • After the Horned King reveals his identity to Avalina, he almost chokes her to death. Then he allows her to starve for days, almost causing her death. After those instances, he threatens multiple times to hurt her. Even after he warms up to her, he still feels no remorse for hurting Taran or Eilonwy.
    • A group of bandits (who happen to be the Horned King's former henchmen) kidnap Avalina and intend to sell her into illegal slavery. They have done this to numerous other children and even killed them. The bandit who kidnapped Avalina eventually gets fed up with her and is mere moments from stabbing her throat with a dagger when the Horned King arrives with Creeper and Addie to rescue her.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Avalina breaks down and decreases herself due to her physical weakness after she's released from the sickbed she has spent time in after nearly drowning. The Horned King puts an end to it and explains to her that she has a different kind of strength (other than physical, mental or emotional) that's also the most uncommon version of it.
    The Horned King: You have the strength to show compassion and kindness to anyone you meet. Even… something like me. And child, that is… The greatest kind of strength. One I am sure many see as nothing more than a myth. I… believed it to be nothing but complete nonsense myself, all those pathetic stories of young maidens so pure even the most savage of beasts would eat from their hands like pets and I believed them so kind it was nearly sickening. I never even pondered the possibility of such a creature existing, so fanciful was the notion. But… here you are, right in front of me, something I believed to be nothing more than a foolish tale spun by feebleminded tramps. And… You are anything but weak. Or nauseating.
  • You Are Number 6: The narration refers to the four Invisibles (when their point of view is in question) as the first, second, third and fourth Invisible.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!:
    • After the Invisibles perform "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for the first time and Avalina wonders if she could the sheet music for it, the Horned King's horrorstruck look screams this trope.
    • This is Creeper's reaction when Avalina figures out Addie's pregnancy.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Horned King kills his former soldiers partly because of this trope after saving Avalina.
  • You Read Too Much X: At least once the Horned King tells Avalina that she has read too many fairytales.