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Literature / A Conspiracy of Serpents

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A Conspiracy Of Serpents is a supernatural-horror web novel by Lightysnake, and the fourth full-length entry in The Kindness of Devils. It can be read here.

Against the backdrop of a changing world and vanished gods, the forces of Heaven and Hell are forced to work together to confront a threat to all existence, while Hardestadt Delac and his allies are drawn into a sinister plot that threatens to entangle all reality within its coils.


The work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When hell is their only refuge and facing with demons who are not keen on sparing their lives, the archangel Jibrill resorts to begging Karai in order to save the lives of the angels under her care on her hands and knees to the shock of angel and demon alike.
  • All for Nothing: Aleviel has completely isolated herself from heaven and hell alike, only seeing her family on rare occasions, believing her entire war was for naught with the revelation that God died fighting the Outer Gods long ago.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Utterly averted. Like Satannus, Lucifer remembers and respects the memory of all the lives spent fighting in his own war.
  • The Atoner: Lucifer has become this long, long after the war that caused him to fall to Hell; as beloved as he is by his subjects, Lucifer is still haunted by all the deaths of his servitors in the war.
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  • Anyone Can Die: After several stories of relatively few if any major heroes biting the dust in previous stories, Serpents ratchets up the mortality rate something fierce: of the most major characters to die, Kaliya, Susanoo, Uriel, Satannus and Ra end up carking it for good.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Battle of Japan is a borderline Kaiju fight, with Kukulcan, Jormungandr and the Yamata no Orochi assuming their true forms: gigantic, massive serpents, only to be opposed by the other serpent gods and Oyuki and Fenrir transforming into a giant fox and wolf respectively.
  • Big Bad: The King of Serpents is the ultimate villain; a world devouring abomination who seeks to consume everything that ever was. His true identity is the Egyptian serpent Apophis.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The conspiracy is dismantled, Heaven and Hell are closer than they have been for eons, Grete and Kasumi are an item, and Apophis is thwarted and slain, but he and his forces have still wreaked colossal damage and many sacrifice their lives for victory—most notably Satannus, Hardestadt's old mentor and Soul-Bond. Regardless, Hardestadt honors her memory and continues to push onward with his family, as always.
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  • Brutal Honesty: Astaroth, Sin of Melancholy, lays into Lucifer over all they've done, good and the bad. One of his roles within the Seven is to serve as the one to tell Lucifer the truth, no matter how unpleasant it is.
  • Call-Back: Numerous:
    • Hardestadt refers to a "sorcerer" who was waiting to be proven wrong about his ambitions when calling out Apophis on him not actually having found an answer to the question of his purpose.
    • Grete calls back to Eliza numerous times and how much she played a role in her early life, something called to attention in And To All A Good Night and Empty Memories and Cold Graves.
    • Satannus and Hardestadt's final exchange hearkens back to the vow they made in The Kiss Of Wrath that made them Soul-Bonded; "blood of my blood, soul of my soul."
  • The Cameo: A strange, bearded man who worships the serpent god Glycon bids Grete good luck on her quest in chapter ten. She has no idea who it is.
  • Character Development: Apophis starts the story off as a rather generic bad guy who just wants to devour the entire Teraverse for nothing but pleasure, but as the story goes on, he begins questioning his actions, his relationship with Ra, and even dies feeling sadness for his actions.
  • Cold Ham: Compared to previous villains, the King of Serpents' evil is a lot less bombastic and more understated without ever actually losing much of the scale. Even when he starts to gain more emotional range, he's still quite subdued.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: As it turns out, Apophis is existentially unfulfilled by the constant repetition of devouring worlds full of souls, and as he starts to gain emotions, he's clouded by a "damnable uncertainty" that continues to follow him even as he reasons an ultimate goal for himself.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Apophis' true goal isn't to devour the Teraverse, but to conquer and spiritually break it, preserving it so he can devour the souls of all those who die forevermore.
  • Disability Immunity: Invoked when Hardestadt sliced his own eyes out to fight the Basilisk blind and cut off its sight-based powers, regenerating them at the end of the fight.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Yamada's final fate is to be dragged off shrieking by none other than Yig, who is very displeased with Yamada for having callously slaughtered those it considers its children.
  • The Dragon: The mysterious Yamada is the right-hand of the King of Serpents. His true identity is a blend of two mythological figures: Orochimaru and the Yamata no Orochi.
  • Exact Words: One shouldn't expect less from a Devil, but when Erin promises to ask Gregory Haines for clemency from Mammon...well, Mammon considers the vow fulfilled when Erin asks her. Erin never promised Mammon would do anything about the request, after all.
  • Exact Words: Yamada's response to the fate of Kaliya's family, when confronted that he wasn't ordered to kill them: "you did not order them spared".
  • Eye Scream: Hardestadt sliced his own eyes out to fight the Basilisk blind and cut off its sight-based powers, regenerating them at the end of the fight.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Apophis peacefully, if sorrowfully, accepts his final fate when he's finally undone by Hardestadt and Ra.
  • Forced into Evil: The Naga Kaliya would far rather not be serving the serpent conspiracy but states it is necessary to save those he loves.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Both Uriel and Satannus die with peaceful, happy smiles on their faces.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Uriel gives his own life for the sake of both Heaven and Hell, stalling Apophis and preventing him from devouring his soul.
  • Hero Killer:
    • The King of Serpents is a threat to even Heaven and Hell, establishing himself by ensnaring two devils and slaughtering them—an event that hasn't happened in eons.
    • His second-in-command, Yamada, is no less proficient, posing a very genuine, real threat to the heroes whenever he's on-stage. Kaliya and Susanoo both end up slain when they try and pick a fight with him directly.
  • Hero of Another Story: The god Susanoo no Mikoto has been walking the earth, having his own adventures. He and Hardestadt bond very quickly over this.
  • Heroic Willpower: Satannus's is so strong she wills her soul back into her body when Apophis mortally wounds her, leading to Apophis's utter shock in "nobody has a will that strong. Nobody."
  • Hidden Agenda Villain:
    • Apophis' scheme is, ostensibly, to devour the Teraverse. He keeps up this front for a while before revealing it's shifted; he instead wants to preserve it, and devour the souls of all those who die in a spiritually broken world forevermore.
    • Whoever the mysterious "Mr. Z" is, he's clearly running some sort of scheme behind the lines, something involving the mysterious "Black Sun".
  • I Don't Want to Die: Satannus has a moment where she's genuinely terrified before facing Apophis, realizing her final fate will be oblivion and that she doesn't want to die, before she steels herself and lets her wrath take over.
  • I Have Your Wife: Kaliya is forced to serve the Serpents as Apophis had taken his wives and children hostage. Yamada killed them not an hour after Kaliya pledged himself to the Serpent conspiracy.
  • Karmic Death: Yamada is killed by Yig via having all of the power within him completely drained, this being after Yamada did the exact same thing to Yig.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Gregory Haines, a willing asset to Siegfried's Pine Creek scheme in the previous story, is visited by the mysterious "Mr. Z" and left to the whims of his sadistic partner Kasarian, for ten minutes...
  • Kill the Ones You Love: She's already mortally wounded, but Hardestadt has to kill Satannus, his mentor and aunt, to prevent her soul from being devoured by Apophis.
  • The Last Dance: Satannus knows she's a goner when she finally takes on Apophis directly, but that doesn't stop her from putting in everything she has into the subsequent fight and nearly killing Apophis before her strength gives away.
  • Mad Scientist: Yamada, who created the drug Cobra, and plans to have the entire Teraverse converted into his own personal laboratory where he will experiment on countless people.
  • Master Swordsman: The King of Serpents more than holds his own against Hardestadt in their early duel.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: It took a long time, but Satannus finally dies in the arms of her beloved student.
  • Mercy Kill: To prevent Apophis from eating Satannus's soul, Hardestadt himself gives her the deathblow at her request.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Yamada has to remind himself about the Basilisk when discussing the members of the serpent conspiracy.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Lucifer and the angels are coming to grips with how their wars were pointless, and that they fought and killed one another over absolutely nothing. Likewise, Aleviel is wracked by guilt for the damage she has caused and refuses to break her solitude, save on rare occasions.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Unlike Nyarlathotep, Siegfried or Rich Jacobs, the King of Serpents has zero emotional attachment to making Hardestadt suffer or in toying with him. In a fight, he goes right for an immediate kill.
  • Off with His Head!: How Yamata no Orochi was taken care of in the past, though that tactic has been shown multiple times to only weaken the beast, not kill him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Apophis realizes just who he's taking on when Satannus fights him directly in her swan song: Neverkind.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    • The King of Serpents seeks to consume all of existence. Or that's the farce he presents—his goal is actually an inversion as he is trying to preserve the universe within his coils.
    • Yamada is a straight example, as with the power of Yig, he plans to not only slaughter all of earth, but also enact the complete destruction of Heaven and Hell.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Jormungandr is a special case, as he's a snake who can encircle a planet. Just him thrashing about in the ocean creates tidal waves and typhoons that do devastation all over the world.
  • Prophecy Twist: Only Susanoo or one with the heart of Amaterasu can wield the Kusanagi blade. Kasumi states Grete has her heart and as the incarnation of Amaterasu, this allows Grete to wield the sword.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jormungandr turns on Yamada at the end at cost of his life.
  • Rescue Romance: Grete and Kasumi's feelings for one another begin when Grete saves her from the serpent conspiracy.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Jormungandr is working for the Serpent Conspiracy to see the soul of Odin devoured by Apophis in retribution for all he's done to Jormungandr's family. Further moral concerns have ceased to matter to him.
  • Sadist: Yamada gets a sense of joy from annihilating planets and feeding their souls to Apophis. He also enjoys carving people up for thrills and satisfaction.
  • Ship Tease: Grete and the kitsune girl Kasumi begin getting quite friendly with one another.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Aleviel versus Apophis's true body, a black snake the size of a planet. The two pass one another and Apophis simply splits apart.
  • So Proud of You: Satannus isn't shy about telling Hardestadt of her pride in him as a student.
  • Soul Eating: The King of Serpents' forte. When he devours someone's soul, it's gone.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Susanoo's ill-considered direct attack on Yamada results in him being cut to ribbons in a few seconds.
  • Taking You with Me: Kaliya tries to throw himself and Yamada off the branches of Yggdrasil so Nidhoggr can devour both of them. It doesn't work, but props for the effort.
  • That's No Moon!: The 'Black Moon' that serves as Apophis's base of operations is in truth his true body: a black snake the size of a planet wrapped into a tight ball.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Satannus' name is passed on to the end of eternity as the epilogue posits, with everyone saying the same thing when the legendary warrior's name is spoken and one asks what happened to her: "she stood alone against the serpent."
  • Scaled Up: All the members of the serpent conspiracy assume the forms of gigantic snakes when they go One-Winged Angel.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The villains are all serpent monsters and deities from myth, and quite sinister.
  • Together in Death: Apophis and Ra take the walk into oblivion together at the end of the very final battle.
  • Tough Love: Nephera continues to show that she's a master practitioner; she gets Aleviel out of a funk by bluntly calling her a coward running from her mistakes, and telling her that Aleviel's threats in response are completely empty.
  • Tragic Villain: Apophis is revealed to be one in his final moments, as he starts to understand his ruined friendship with Ra, and for the first time starts to feel sorrow for his actions.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Lucifer remembers when he and the Archangels were siblings and close as you can get. Likwise, The god Ra once befriended Apophis himself to teach him of the beauty of the Teraverse.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Apophis becomes quite frustrated that Satannus and Hardestadt both refuse to just give up and die.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Apophis is torn to ribbons by Satannus in their fight and faces Hardestadt considerably weakened.
  • Worthy Opponent: The King of Serpents begins to see Hardestadt as one after their first clash.
  • You Are Not Alone: Nephera lends a hand to Aleviel in a crucial moment with a spot of Brutal Honesty telling her she's tortured herself enough for her mistakes and the others are in the fight against Apophis with her together now, no matter the divides of the past.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Apophis poisons Hardestadt in their first clash and he realizes that this means he's gotten a sudden dose of mortality if Apophis isn't stopped.
  • You Have Failed Me: Whoever "Mr. Z" is, he's quite unimpressed with Gregory Haines, and leaves him to the mercy of his Torture Technician Kasarian.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: The King of Serpents consumes the souls of his victims and does this on a grand scale. Yamada likens it to eating the souls of worlds.

Example of: