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"My organization has a name for this world, Wei Shi Lindon. We call it 'Cradle.' It is where we keep the infants."
Suriel, Phoenix of the Abidan
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Wei Shi Lindon lives in Sacred Valley, an isolated place where sacred artists train to master the magic of the world and themselves. Unfortunately, Lindon is an Unsouled, a cripple who will never be able to be as strong as any other sacred artist no matter how hard he tries. He is barely above an outcast, his every deed spit upon or ignored. At age fifteen, the average eight year old can easily defeat him in battle.

Everything changes at the Seven-Year Festival, when a rival clan summons their immortal Grand Patriarch from another world. As the Grand Patriarch is easily slaughtering his way through the most powerful sacred artists of the Valley, Lindon tries to help. He is killed as casually as one might brush off a speck of dirt. But then, time stops, a goddess descends from the sky, and throws the Grand Patriarch in prison. She congratulates Lindon on his courage, and reverses time to before the Grand Patriarch's interference, reviving the dead and removing their memories.

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Lindon, however, is allowed to remember. He is allowed to remember that his home is destined to be destroyed in thirty years time—and he will be able to do nothing to stop it. To save Sacred Valley, he must travel to the outside world, where even the strongest sacred artists from the Valley would be considered little more than children. There, he can find the power to save his home.

A series of fantasy novels by Will Wight. The series currently consists of eleven books, the first three of which have been gathered into the "Foundation" collection, Books four through six into the "Path of Gold," and books seven through nine into the "Rise of Lords."

  1. Unsouled (June 2016)
  2. Soulsmith (September 2016)
  3. Blackflame (April 2017)
  4. Skysworn (September 2017)
  5. Ghostwater (May 2018)
  6. Underlord (March 2019)
  7. Uncrowned (September 2019)
  8. Wintersteel (October 2020)
  9. Bloodline (2021) (April 2021)
  10. Reaper (2021) (November 2021)
  11. Dreadgod (July 2022)
  12. Waybound (2023)
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This series provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Laboratory:
    • Much of the overall plot of the series centers around a mysterious cursed ancient labyrinthine laboratory that has entrances all over the world, and the researchers' creations.
    • One of the plotlines in Ghostwater takes place in the discarded laboratory from a Monarch's failed experiment. For someone of far lower power like Lindon, even a Monarch's trash is a valuable (if dangerous) resource.
  • Accidental Pervert: When Lindon is stuck undergoing unnecessary medical treatment, he finally realizes that for the first time in his life, he has a high ranking and can just do as he likes. He leaves his tent, goes to find his friend Yerin, and ignores her doctor when she tries to stop him from going into her tent. He walks in on her topless, blushes, leaves, and apologizes to the doctor for ignoring her.
  • Accidental Proposal: In book 7, Yerin and Lindon are both rewarded customizable cloudships. Lindon points out that they could do a lot better if they combine their rewards into one ship. Yerin stares at him, and it takes him a minute to realize he just asked her to build a home with him. He doesn't rescind the offer, though.
  • The Alcatraz: Lindon is placed in a great many of these by the Skysworn to await his upcoming duel with Jai Long. Notably Eithan keeps breaking into them with apparent ease, so the Skysworn keep moving Lindon till they finally just give up after even their most secure facility is breached.
  • Almighty Janitor: In this world, one's Power Level generally is one's rank, which leads to this trope when someone can punch above their weight class.
    • In the first couple of books, Lindon makes a habit of defeating opponents well above his official Power Level - Iron and Jade at Foundation, Highgold at Iron, and so on - through ruthless Combat Pragmatism. Later, he Ranks Up beyond this, until he starts punching even higher.
    • Eithan is rated as the eleventh-strongest Underlord in the Blackflame Empire. He's sandbagging - he's probably the most powerful, but he doesn't like being too obvious about that. He's stronger than that, actually.
    • Discussed in Uncrowned. Eithan explains to Yerin that sometimes, the best way to increase one's fighting ability is not to rush the next level, but to build up one's skill at one's current level instead.
  • Always a Bigger Fish:
    • At every plateau of power, a sacred artist is practically undefeatable to anyone below them. Coppers can easily defeat Foundation artists, Irons can defeat Coppers, Jades can defeat Irons. There is a level above Jade, Gold, but there hasn't been a Gold in Sacred Valley in hundreds of years. And then Lindon finds out that the outside world considers Gold to be the first real level of the sacred arts—most people reach that level in their teens.
    • On a political scale, the Sacred Valley is an unimportant backwater that the Blackflame Empire doesn't even know exists. And the Blackflame Empire itself is a minor tributary of the Akura clan, who don't bother governing their lands directly because their Monarch is as far above the Emperor as the Emperor is above the people of the Sacred Valley. She's one of the most powerful people in Cradle...a name given to their world by the Abidan, because it's where they keep their infants.
  • Anti-Magic: Pure madra, the type every human is born with, disrupts other madra and is also great for working with soulsmith constructs. There are two major problems with it: There is no such thing as pure aura (meaning you can't cycle aura to restore your madra, you have to wait for your body to replenish it naturally), and pure madra can only affect madra. It has no effect on, say, someone throwing a rock at you. The vast majority of people outgrow pure madra shortly after they learn to walk, as they choose a Path with different types of madra and cycle those, which changes the composition of their cores. Lindon, since he was denied the right to study his family Path, kept pure madra much longer than normal. Once he split his core in two, he kept one pure when he used the other one to walk the Blackflame Path. Eithan also uses pure madra.
  • Anti-Mentor:
    • Lindon soon learns that no one in the Sacred Valley has any idea what they're doing. Practically everything they do to advance their sacred arts is horrendously wrong, hamstringing their own development to the point that no one in the Valley has reached Gold in centuries. Their cruelty towards Lindon ends up working in his favor, as they refused to teach him all these things that would have seriously crippled him.
    • Carried over to Uncrowned and Wintersteel where Orthos was forced to rebuild Wei Shi Kelsa's Iron Body because the residents of the Sacred Valley did not know that they could or should be tailored to your individual path.
  • Arc Words: The Blackflame trials have the family mottoes inscribed on tablets, which continue to be mentioned after the trials to illustrate the themes.
    • "The dragon advances." The text for the Enforcer technique. The original intent was for attendants to protect the Blackflame while they completed the trial—Lindon and Yerin use it to mean to always keep moving forward, no matter what. In Uncrowned, Naian Blackflame asks that the phrase is related to Lindon as his last words. Later in Bloodline, Lindon's Overlord revelation is "I... advance."
    • "The dragon destroys." The text for the Striker technique. The simplest (and thus the one that comes up the least after); it's all about blasting through your obstacles with pure, focused force.
    • "The dragon conquers." The text for the Ruler technique. The point is that the dragon will win, no matter what.
    • "The dragon descends." Lindon comes up with this on his own, for his secret Forger technique. Lindon is willing to use trickery, to fall to any level necessary to win.
  • Armor of Invincibility:
    • Armor in Cradle usually comes packed with constructs and different abilities that use the wearers Madra to fuel them, but it still can be completely negated by a powerful enough opponent. Sort of played straight in Wintersteel with Lindon's Powered Armor, it makes him monstrously powerful, but the financial cost to fix it each time is such that Lindon would rather just make himself stronger.
    • The Akura family has a type of armor from their bloodline. For those who have it, it forms an integral part of their Path. Interestingly, it's noted several times that the armor is completely indestructible—attacking the armor instead puts spiritual pressure on the user, eventually causing them to drop it.
  • Artificial Intelligence:
    • Suriel and the other Abidan each have one called a Presence, which collects information from entire planets, predicts the future centuries in advance, and helps her manage some of her more difficult abilities. Suriel occasionally has problems with it as it corrects her every time she makes a rough estimate.
    • The Ghostwater facility was the Monarch Northstrider's attempt to replicate a celestial Presence. It failed pretty utterly, but even the trash he left behind was invaluable to lesser sacred artists. A random speaker construct gains intelligence from being left in a pool for fifty years, and once combined with the rest of the pieces Northstrider left behind, is able to finish the project and become a true AI. Apparently the missing ingredient was that the Presence needs a will of its own, even if it just wants to serve.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • Once someone on Cradle reaches a sufficient power level (specifically Herald or Sage, either of which is the stage before Monarch), they can choose to ascend from their world and join the wider cosmos. In fact, this is possible on any world, but Cradle's magic system greatly encourages personal strength, so it happens with far more frequency. Most Iterations will be lucky to produce one ascendant being through their entire lifetime, but Cradle produces roughly one every century. Hence why the Abidan named it "Cradle." The Monarchs have all refused to ascend, and therefore are looked down on by the Abidan like teenagers throwing a tantrum.
    • In book 10, we find out that it's more than that. The Monarchs are, in fact, fully ascendant beings who absolutely should not be on the planet any more. The world is constantly trying to push them out, and their mere presence creates the Hunger aura that creates the Dreadbeasts and the Dreadgods. Lindon resolves to drag the Monarchs with him when he and his team ascend.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Cradle has one rule: The strong can do as they like. There are strict rules of honor and the like, but even they mostly boil down to "I might piss off too many strong people if I do this." Everything is backed by threat of force. Eithan tries to rule more gently, but doesn't have much success, and has to throw his weight around. This is played with, however, in that the honor system is based on theoretical asskicking potential. Lindon is seen as dishonorable for beating people of a higher rank, and not just because he does it through Combat Pragmatism.
  • Attack on One Is an Attack on All: This is why fighting the Dreadgods is considered a stalling measure at best, if someone were to damage one of them enough the others would become active and the damage would be incalculable. The last time a group of Monarchs attempted to do this it resulted in all but two of those Monarchs dying.
  • Aura Vision: What everyone in Cradle obtains when they reach the Copper cultivation level, referred to as Coppersight.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Those born into powerful clans have a far easier time advancing along their Path than the average sacred artist, thanks to the rare and expensive resources available to them: medicines and pills, training manuals and dream tablets, etc.
  • Background Magic Field: "Vital aura" is the natural energy of the world Cradle, and it gathers in all kinds of forms, such as fire aura, life aura, and even sword aura. Normally, aura is invisible and harmless, but sacred artists can cycle it into their bodies using special breathing exercises, eventually refining it into madra, which they use for all their techniques. Ruler-type techniques control the aura in the area for a certain purpose; Yerin's famous Endless Sword technique causes all sword aura in the area to go wild, basically attacking her opponents with the edges of their own weapons.
  • BFG: Launchers are a Magitek weapon that puts a Striker technique inside an object, basically making it a simple magical gun. They're not particularly popular, but Fisher Gesha discovers ways to have different techniques resonate and enhance each other, creating weapons capable of damaging enemies far above their power level. And of course, all the extra magic and bindings need a lot of space, resulting in massive magical cannons as big as the person using them.
  • Bizarro Elements: Aura and madra come in many different forms. You've got the basics like fire, water, life and death, then the weirder ones like dream and hunger. Since aura can also be influenced by human creations, some really weird types are perfectly commonplace; sword aura is technically a specialized type of force aura that gathers around edged weapons, but it's generally more common since people use sharp weapons more than blunt ones.
  • Black Swords Are Better: Netherclaw, the Archlord weapon that Yerin gets as a prize in the Uncrowned tournament, has a black blade. Yerin sometimes dual weilds it with her master's sword, which is white.
  • Bling of War: How the Eight Man Empire is seen at all times. Their armor allows a combination of four Sages and four Heralds to exist as a collective Monarch by combining their powers. The armor is unquestionably impressive, even miraculous... but it's also unnecessarily shiny.
  • Blood Magic: Blood madra Paths aren't particularly uncommon, and many healers combine it with life madra to great effect. However, blood Paths have a negative reputation because the most common source of blood aura is spilled blood. Paths that combine sword madra and blood madra are often disparagingly referred to as "slaughter Paths," since that's the most common way to advance them. And it doesn't help that one of the four Dreadgods is the Bleeding Phoenix, and its cultists/victims can quickly gain a lot of power by accepting its bloody children.
  • Bond Creature: While it's rare, a sacred artist can augment their madra and advancement by making a pact with a sacred beast rather than binding and consuming a Remnant. The specific reason why it's rare isn't mentioned, but presumably it's just that compatible Remnants are easier to obtain.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Lindon has a few of these. One of his key advantages throughout the series is that he has pure madra—the same kind children have—which has some Anti-Magic properties and some benefit to soulsmithing. When he eventually invents an Enforcement technique for his pure madra, all it does is improve his physical abilities a bit. It's not much, but compared to the explosive bursts of power from his other Enforcer technique, it's often more useful.
    • In a world where everyone has custom-made magical weapons, Eithan has ordinary janitor tools like brooms and shears. He reforges them in soulfire (which makes them Nigh-Invulnerable) and then uses them to kill people who can survive having mountains thrown at them.
    • Likewise, Eithan's solution to most problems is "throw madra at it." He has deep madra reserves due to his advanced cycling technique (which he teaches to Lindon), so he basically always has more power to use. As he says, there are other cycling techniques that improve recovery time and so on, but why worry about all that when you have so much power that you'll never run out? Underlords such as Eithan can also turn natural treasures into soulfire. Most underlords are miserly with their soulfire because natural treasures can be hard to find, but Eithan burns it casually because he is confident he can always find the needed resources with his Aurelius Sense.
  • Brains and Brawn: While Lindon and Yerin do not exclusively fit into these roles, they do have a preference for a they solve problems. Yerin is all about going all in a fight, and Lindon is about preparation and trying to think of a clever way to win.
  • Captured on Purpose: When the Sandvipers take Lindon and Yerin to be mining slaves in some extremely dangerous ruins, Eithan appears before the Sandvipers and begs to be enslaved "for his sins." They can tell there's some trick involved, but put a power-dampening collar on him and send him in with the others. Within five minutes, he's freed Lindon and Yerin, taken them to an even more dangerous section of the ruins, and locked Lindon in a room with monsters so he can train.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Subject One, the first Dreadgod, is traped in the Labrynth where he was created. Somewhat subverted in that he was created there and then never allowed to leave.
  • Casting a Shadow: The basis for almost all of the Akura family's various paths.
  • Caught in the Rain: A Ship Tease moment between Lindon and Yerin, where they take shelter in a cave. They have a heart-to-heart talk and lean on each other as they watch the rain together.
  • Caught the Heart on His Sleeve: Lindon does this with Yerin, and is embarrassed when he holds on for a little too long.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Queen Sha Miara of the Ninecloud Court is one of eight Monarchs in the world, and is still a child. This leads to a lot of questions, as Monarchs are by far the most powerful people in the world, and it typically takes them centuries to earn that power. A brief view of the Ninecloud Court in the epilogue of Underlord makes it clear that Sha Miara isn't merely pretending to be a child, she really is one, and it takes her court a lot of effort to keep her whims in check.
  • Clingy Costume: When she is introduced, Yerin wears a bloody red "rope" around her waist that can't be taken off and always appears on top of whatever else she's wearing.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Suriel gives Lindon a small marble, a glass bead with an ever-burning blue flame inside. The marble will let her find Lindon again when she chooses to, and cannot be lost because it is tied to him with strings of Fate. Many times, he drops the marble, or it is taken from him, only for him to find it again in his pocket minutes later.
  • Code of Honour: To a sacred artist, reputation and honor are everything. An artist keeps his word, respects and serves his clan or school, and honors those above him in rank. He also doesn't kill his juniors, but that's a much less important rule, so the weak had better treat the strong with respect. As Eithan explains, this system is the only thing keeping a world full of overpowered psychopaths from complete anarchy.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Every Abidan has a Presence, an Artificial Intelligence that collects and collates information. One of its uses is for combat simulations. Of course, since every individual Abidan is a Physical God, this function is rarely needed—and if it is needed, your opponent is quite likely so far beyond you that your Presence isn't much help. Lindon finishes the Monarch Northstrider's AI project, which was an attempt to replicate a celestial Presence, and ends up with one of his own. While it's much weaker since it hasn't had a chance to consume planets worth of information yet, it's still extremely useful since he's more likely to face people around his own power level.
  • Common Tongue: Absolutely everyone on the planet speaks the same language, to the point that it doesn't even need a name. Lindon, who lives in a secluded valley that has had absolutely minimal contact with the outside world for a thousand years, has no trouble communicating with outsiders. Eventually it's explained that Emeriss Silentborn, one of the Monarchs, wanders the world spreading language and making sure everyone can communicate. Lindon mentions that he's heard of other languages, but has never actually encountered any. The closest is when he meets foreigners from the other side of the planet, who have accents so thick it takes time to sort out what they're saying.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Most sacred artists are not shy about using whatever they have at their disposal, but special mention goes to Lindon. He will happily set up traps, gadgets, and whatever else he needs to survive when fighting above his weight class (which happens a lot). Other sacred artists, who don't like having trouble with someone lower than them, call this cheating.
  • Cool Gate: One of the many ways of travel on Cradle. They are massively inefficient in terms of power consumption, and only Sages and Monarchs can make them, so they're used sparingly. The one from Eithan's homeland to the Blackflame Empire only opens once every ten years. One is set up as a method of escape for the Akura forces in Wintersteel in the event that their fighters lose the Uncrowned King tournament. Ends up being used as a method of evacuation anyways when a four-way fight between Akura Fury and three other Heralds begins.
  • Cool Sword: Yerin inherits her master's sword, which has a pure white blade made of wintersteel. It has a binding, but since it's an Archlord weapon she can't activate it. At least until she gets strong enough, and reveals that its binding is an Ice ruler technique.
  • Council of Angels: The Abidan, combined with Space Police. Lesser beings on the many Iterations call them Messengers from Heaven, and their primary antagonist is the Mad King.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Lindon spends most of the series weaker than basically everyone around him, and in this world, no one much cares if the weak are killed. So when someone decides to crush the annoying little insect instead of having a conversation, Lindon defends himself, often with lethal results. Multiple people have demanded duels of honor after he defended himself from an unprovoked attack. It doesn't help that he has a Face of a Thug, so everyone always assumes his peaceful overtures are just him mocking them.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • The Sacred Valley tests children to determine their affinity for sacred arts, and then they train only in those types of arts their entire lives. Yerin says she'd like to kill all the elders in the Valley for that garbage. In the outside world, you're considered a child if you haven't mastered techniques from all the types. In Bloodline, Elder Whisper explains that this started as an attempt to get around the suppression field by teaching children one technique at a time. Over the generations, everyone forgot that it was normal to learn more than one technique.
    • The Blackflame royal family cultivated Iron bodies that would improve the already incredible offensive power of the Blackflame Path. This backfired as the flames ate away at their minds and bodies; in a world where a sacred artist can still be in fighting shape at age one hundred, they were practically paralyzed at age sixty. Part of the reason Eithan gave Lindon an Iron body with such an overpowered Healing Factor was to handle the black flames.
    • Pure madra is excellent at disrupting other forms of madra... but can't be used for anything else, which is why just about everyone aligns their madra to a Path.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • In general, any time someone of a higher rank fights someone of a lower rank, the results are incredibly lopsided. Lindon is unusual in being able to occasionally defeat someone of higher rank, due to being a ruthless Combat Pragmatist.
    • Eithan and Sha Miara are nominally of the same rank. Their duel in the Uncrowned tournament lasted nine seconds, during which Sha Miara managed to touch Eithan once: a block that Eithan predicted and used as leverage for a follow-up blow.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Blackflame Path, a sacred art stolen from dragons, which was used to build an empire. In a world where Asskicking Equals Authority and everyone challenges everyone, no one challenges the Blackflame sacred artists. Not only is it focused on offense to an insane degree, but the flames are not designed for humans; they slowly eat away at mind and body, resulting in the imperial family slowly dying out without any outside intervention at all. When Eithan admits that he plans to train Lindon in this path, Cassias starts screaming.
  • Dark Secret: Dreadbeasts, Subject One, and the Dreadgods themselves only exist on Cradle because the Monarchs of the Iteration refuse to ascend like they're supposed to, leading to a build up in Hunger Aura. They all know this and to keep the people of Cradle from rising up against them they force anyone who reaches Sage or Herald to take an oath on their soul to not reveal this secret, ascend right then, or die. Tiberian Arelius was killed by Reigan Shen because he wanted to kill the Dreadgods and talk the other Monarchs into ascending. It's entirely possible that Emriss Silentborn was killed in her first life to keep this secret as she was originally intending to spread all knowledge to all corners of Cradle.
  • Death of Personality: Powerful, self-sustaining spirits are difficult to truly kill. However, if they take too much damage or exhaust themselves too much, they can destroy their personality. Their abilities and even memories will be largely unchanged, but it is unlikely for them to recover anything of who they truly were before. In Bloodline, Dross pushes himself too far to help fight the Wandering Titan. Lindon still has many of the benefits of a Presence while he is "dead," but knows that he likely won't ever truly get Dross back.
  • Death World: Magic is everywhere to the point that even random animals can use it, nearly anything that dies will leave behind a dangerous ghost, and the average person can punch through stone and will happily demonstrate on your skull. That's Sacred Valley, the safe and coddled place. Outside the Sacred Valley, not only are the ghosts and magical animals much stronger, but there are also horrifically mutated "dreadbeasts" that are just as dangerous as the rest but are impossible to tame, and even the random bandits are an order of magnitude stronger than the strongest people in Sacred Valley. And the rest of the universe considers this planet the safest in the universe.
  • Determinator: To reach Sage, a person must spend years honing their willpower, meaning that every character who has reached that stage is a determinator. Lindon brings it to another level though.
  • Divided We Fall: The squabbling Monarchs don't even agree that the Dreadgods rising is a bad thing. Which makes it hard for any of them to intervene when one does, because if they do, even when they beat the Dreadgod, they'll be weakened and their assets threatened by their rivals. Akura Malice was able to put the Bleeding Phoenix back to sleep and save the Blackflame Empire, but after that her hands were tied, and even that cost the Akura clan a lot. This is partly an excuse: they could defeat them any time but don't want to pay the personal price that it would require. They would rather spend the lives of their subjects.
    Fury: But half the Monarchs feel like cities and towns are only holding us back, and most of the other half are listening because there's nothing at stake for them. If it weren't for Northstrider, we'd have been run over already.
  • Don't Split the Party: Yerin and Lindon spend most of Ghostwater separated, as Lindon is trapped in an interdimensional treasure vault and Yerin is stuck outside surrounded by the people laying siege to the place. They worry about each other constantly, and they both privately note that this is the most time they've spent apart since they first met.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Lindon and Eithan both often give their opponents the chance to surrender, and refuse to kill defeated enemies. Everyone always gets mad. Multiple people have sworn vengeance on Lindon for leaving them alive.
  • Dramatic Irony: After his Screw This, I'm Outta Here Jai Long thinks to himself that he will never see Lindon again, since he and his sister intend to find and retreat to a legendary hidden valley. Unbeknownst to Jai Long, said valley is plainly the Sacred Valley Lindon originated from.
  • The Dreaded: The Jai Patriarch tries to hire assassins to kill Eithan. No one will take the job.
    Assassin: He doesn't just see you coming. He saw you when you got out of bed in the morning. [...] We'll take suicidal jobs, but this is just suicide.
  • Dug Too Deep: What the original empire of the Blackflame dragons did. They found the Labyrinth filled with sacred treasures and left the doors open for years. This caused the Dreadgods to all converge upon the Blackflame Empire and lay waste to it. When they were finished, the Empire was a fraction of a fraction of its original size and strength. Now entering the Labyrinth is considered a last resort and requires the emperor's approval to do so. Jai Daishou violated this restriction and his going into the Labyrinth (along with interference from the Abidan), caused the Bleeding Phoenix to attack the Blackflame Empire.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Rooms connected by tunnels? Check. Random traps? Check. Random monsters? Check. Treasures, both hidden and visible? Check. Powerful rewards in the deeps? Check. Most of Reaper is a dungeon crawl as the team explores the Labyrinth
  • Eccentric Mentor: Eithan often gives Lindon and Yerin bizarre orders that make no sense, such as locking Lindon in a room with monsters for two weeks. He will explain himself when pressed, and everything he does ultimately has a reason behind it. Yerin grudgingly admits that this isn't too different from how her master trained her; the difference is she doesn't trust Eithan enough to obey his seemingly random orders.
  • Eldritch Transformation: The Dreadgods were once ordinary sacred beasts who were transformed by an infusion of Hunger.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: A favorite travel method of the Akura family being their their paths are almost universally Shadow based and enough advancement allows them travel through shadows.
  • Eternal English:
    • While Suriel speaking Lindon's language is justified by her Presence (Lindon even notes her accent shifting to one he's more familiar with), no explanation is given for why the rest of the world shares a language with Sacred Valley. The Valley only had minimal contact with the rest of the world for thousands of years at least, but somehow Lindon understands everyone perfectly. No one even comments on his accent being especially odd.
    • Uncrowned reveals that Emriss Silentborn, the Monarch Remnant, travels around the world to make sure language doesn't change too much.
    • Wintersteel expands on this reveal. When she was alive, Emriss shared ALL knowledge throughout the world, going as far as to make constructs that would update with new knowledge automatically as it was discovered. She was killed by an alliance of three Monarchs who believed that sharing knowledge was dangerous. When Emriss came back as a Remnant, she came up with a new plan: make sure that everyone can speak to each other. Cooperation is more dangerous than knowledge.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Cradle culture is built around a constant battle for power, with the strong doing as they like with the weak. Partly because of this, almost nobody ever understands that Lindon generally doesn't want to fight or kill people, leading to the pointless deaths of a lot of people who should have known when to leave well enough alone.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: A staple of the architecture for the homes of the Akura family, right up to including Archlord level guard dog remnants that rest on a pile of skulls.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Sacred Beasts seem to have this in regards to their advancement levels. When they get to Underlord they have to decide how they will appear after their Revelation. Some decide to just become insanely large and others decide to change their appearance to that of another species. The Dragon King is notable for taking on the appearance of a male human child of maybe twelve years old and staying that way for hundreds of years.
  • Exact Words: Lindon finds the Akura trapped by dragons in a mockery of the Uncrowned King tournament, forced to fight for their amusement. Lindon, identifying it as a game, proposes a prize: The winner gets to take everything the loser has on them when they enter the ring. His opponent, of course, removes all her most valuable treasures before stepping into the ring. He consumes her life, madra, and spirit. For some reason, they aren't willing to play after that.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: All over the place in the universe of Cradle, most commonly in form of a Goldsign or due to merging with their remnant. After reaching Lowgold, Lindon's eyes take on a black sclera with red irises while he's using Blackflame. The entire Akura family seems to have the same purple eyes, save Fury whose eyes are red. Post merging with her Blood Shadow, Yerin's eyes are now red as well. The Vroshir Iri the Angler has electric blue triangular pupils as a result of her ascension from her homeworld.
  • Face of a Thug: Lindon looks like a troublemaker who starts fights for fun, and this only gets worse once he advances to an Iron body (which perfects his body and removes the last of his baby fat). While Lindon is a friendly man who would rather never fight anyone, every time he apologizes people think he is mocking them.
  • Fake–Real Turn: Jai Chen made up the idea of the Sect of Twin Stars on the spot to explain where a horde of refugees from Sacred Valley came from. The bluff took on a life of its own, and Lindon found himself with an actual sect at his command before he even knew about it.
    Eithan: Believe it or not, I had intended to consult you first. I had a plan for a grand reveal and everything. You do like tiger meat, don't you? Anyway, events got ahead of me, and I had to work quickly to bail out of a complicated situation. I do apologize.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Jai Daishou had a Auto-Revive script and a spare Remnant squirreled away in his Soul Space in the event of his death to fool whoever beat him into thinking he was gone. This ends up biting Eithan since he was certain he'd put Daishou down for good.
    • What Northstrider has been doing for years, Lindon knows that he is alive thanks to Suriel telling him, but no one believes him until Northstrider himself decides to stop hiding and takes over as the judge of the Uncrowned King tournament.
    • Eithan does it himself for comic effect in Wintersteel, but Lindon doesn't buy it for a second.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention:
    • The first is what the Sacred Valley uses: [clan] [family] [given]. So Wei Shi Lindon is Lindon of the Shi family of the Wei clan.
    • The Blackflame Empire, where most of the story takes place, uses [clan] [given], so Jai Long is Long of the Jai clan. Most clans always use their clan names and given names together (even Jai Long's sister calls him Jai Long), but the Akura clan that rules most of the continent typically just uses their given name in casual conversation; Akura Mercy is almost exclusively just called Mercy. Likewise, they are almost exclusively named after virtues, with the occasional vice thrown in (Mercy has a brother named Pride, and the matriarch is named Malice). Although, from the Akura clan's perspective, they're all virtues.
    • Third, the Arelius clan uses a familiar [given] [clan] format, so Eithan Arelius is Eithan of the Arelius clan. While they are well-established in the Blackflame Empire, they're foreigners from another continent, so presumably that's the format used over there. It also makes it convenient when they want to adopt promising young people into the family, as they can just slap their clan name on the end. Lindon becomes Wei Shi Lindon Arelius when he joins the family.
  • Fantastic Racism: Lindon's status as an Unsouled means he has no standing among his own people. He is allowed to live and eat, but little more. He is not allowed to learn any sacred arts beyond basic breathing techniques, he will not be allowed to marry, and anyone could kill him at any time if he annoyed them. Suriel does not approve of treating cripples this way, nevermind the fact that Lindon is nowhere near as crippled as Sacred Valley acts.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Lindon finds himself on the receiving end of this a lot. First off, as an Unsouled, in his home he is considered completely worthless and could be murdered by anyone at any time with no fear of reprisal. In the first book, some teenagers blame him for ruining their (illegal) hunt because he happened to be nearby, he is blamed for winning two different impossible fights that he was forced into, and near the end, someone is mad that Lindon survived a trial while someone else didn't—Lindon wasn't even nearby, but he still gets blamed. This tapers off once he leaves Sacred Valley since outside he is merely seen as weak rather than an abomination, but stronger people repeatedly call him an honorless coward for not dying when they decide to attack him for whatever random reason.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Flawed Prototype: Before he ascended, the man who would become Ozriel created Penance, the greatest weapon of Cradle, an arrowhead which would unerringly kill one single target. However, it apparently took him quite a while to perfect it, so in all his labs scattered around the world you could always find a handful of prototypes. Their exact capabilities compared to the final product are not explained, but they were all used up long ago.
  • Floating Water: Present in Ghostwater, forces Lindon and Orthos to swim through it to reach the next area. Oh and it's filled with giant carnivorous eels.
  • Flying on a Cloud: The primary method of transportation is the Thousand-Mile Cloud, a relatively simple construct that is basically cloud madra scripted to hold its shape. The rider feeds it madra, and it travels. Small clouds are only big enough for two people, but "cloudships" carry a building or two, and the Skysworn headquarters is an entire city on a massive cloud.
  • Flying Weapon: One of Lindon's prizes from the Uncrowned tournament is Wavedancer, a flying sword made of Wind and Water madra that he and Dross can take turns controlling with their minds during battle.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The fact that a Sage was able to be killed by a bunch of Jades foreshadows the eventual reveal that Sacred Valley is under a suppression field that keeps everyone at Jade level.
    • Yerin spends the entire series carrying her master's sword, an Archlord-level weapon. She mentions off-hand at one point that if she had a weapon "with a binding I could use," she'd be much more powerful. In the fight against Lindon, she is able to briefly use the sword's binding.
    • Mercy is noted to be impossibly clumsy; anyone with an Iron body should have nearly perfect balance, but she trips over her own feet on a regular basis. This is one of the first hints that she has artificially been sealed at a lower power level.
    • Fury and Charity reference something that the children will learn when they reach Archlord, and Emriss Silentborn was murdered in her first life for trying to share knowledge. There's a Dark Secret that everyone figures out eventually, and is sworn to secrecy.
    • So much of Eithan foreshadows various reveals in Reaper.
      • He immediately realizes the significance of Suriel's marble, making him even more interested in Lindon. He has his own marble. Of course, it later turns out it's even more than that...
      • In his first appearance, he is looking for Yerin specifically, "or someone like her," and is well aware of who her master was. Eventually it is revealed that Tiberian Arelius is the one who gave the Sword Sage the key to the Labyrinth, likely at Eithan's suggestion.
      • Every single time he seriously demonstrates his strength, he is far more skilled than anyone of his advancement should be. Several people demand to know what he is, but he waves it off as focusing more on skills than advancement. While that's true, it's also a sign that he's already gone through all the levels before, and thus knows far more about the Sacred Arts than anyone else still on Cradle.
      • He is shocked when he thought he killed someone but was actually tricked. "That hasn't happened since—no, it's never happened!" In addition to being the Reaper (and thus very, very skilled at killing people), he's using pure madra instead of the destruction madra from his first life, in addition to the Death Icon. He isn't quite used to how much weaker he is now than he was the first time around, and thus was genuinely tricked.
      • He calls himself the greatest janitor in all existence. He's not just talking about Cradle. The Reaper cleaned the universe itself.
  • Giant Flyer: Cradle is filled with them, but notable among them are the older Dragons who can reach miles in length and the Bleeding Phoenix, which is so large it eclipses cities.
  • A God Am I: The most powerful someone can become before ascending to a higher world is Monarchs, but those who stay tend to have something "wrong" with them, in that they tend to be the type of person who likes ruling over lesser beings. With some this edges toward With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • God of Evil: The Dreadgods are four impossibly powerful beasts that exist for no other reason than to devour everything in the world. Every few centuries they wake up, and the Monarchs have to work together to derive them back. Just drive them back—killing them is absolutely impossible. One Dreadgod awakening is a regional catastrophe and generally dealt with by evacuating half a continent, but the last time all four woke up at once, the previous generation of Monarchs died defeating them. And of course they have legions of cultists worshiping them as an easy path to power, which usually involves draining everyone they meet.
    • And then there's Subject One, sometimes called the fifth Dreadgod, but more precisely the source from which the Dreadgods sprang, and to which they seek to return.
  • Godzilla Threshold: A Monarch engaging in combat is considered this. If they have to fight chances are that cities or large portions of the landscape will be destroyed in their wake. Especially because if a Monarch is fighting chances are it's going to be against another Monarch or a Dreadgod.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid:
    • The Blackflame Empire sends Eithan to the Akura homeland when the Bleeding Phoenix invades. The Empire has the manpower to fight Redmoon Hall, but none of them can match the Phoenix.
    • When the Monarchs realize that the rest of the Dreadbeasts are waking up, they move the Uncrowned King tournament forward a few years, in order to train and recruit promising new students faster.
    • Makiel issues the call to recruit more Abidan from the upper ranks of the Iterations. His people are powerful, but they are spread too thin fighting the Vroshir.
  • Hate Sink: Seishen Daji. No one in or outside of the books likes him. He seemingly only exists to be an angry jerk and even his more understandable traits, like wanting vengeance on Lindon for his brother Kiro, is tinged with the knowledge that he more wants to just show that he's better than Kiro.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: When Lindon returns to Sacred Valley to evacuate the residents, the local clans and Schools have...mixed reactions. Many either try to bunker down instead of run, or assume Lindon is lying to them as part of some scheme. Mercy herself has to use an Appeal to Force to get one clan moving.
  • Healing Factor:
    • Even the lowest of sacred artists can improve their healing ability by cycling madra through their body, but it gets really impressive at the Iron level. At that point, anything that doesn't kill you can be healed—and it takes a lot to kill you. Eithan intentionally gives Lindon an overpowered Bloodforged Iron body, which has an even higher healing factor, to the point that he can be back at full capacity in hours after a near-lethal wound.
    • Akura Pride's is even more impressive as it makes him essentially immune to bleeding out. He demonstrates this by stabbing himself directly in the throat while staring directly at Lindon.
  • Herd-Hitting Attack: Ruler techniques make use of the vital aura of the world, ruling it and forcing it to the practitioner's purpose. These techniques have a wide Area of Effect and are powerful, but they take time to set up (more if the right aspects of aura aren't around) and can be difficult.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Lindon, a Foundation-stage sacred artist who would have trouble fighting a skilled child, tries to attack the Grand Patriarch of the Li clan, who has been carving through Jades like grass. Lindon knows the attempt will kill him, but prays it will weaken the Grand Patriarch long enough for the Jades to take advantage. It has about as much effect as splashing a bucket of water at a mountain, and Lindon is slapped away. When Suriel arrives to fix everything, she praises his courage and lets him keep his memories so that he might be able to save his home from a coming disaster in a few decades.
    • The Jai clan patriarch insists on sticking with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, sending first Lowgolds against an enemy, then Highgolds, then Truegolds, and only if all of them are defeated will he finally fight himself. It would be an insult for him to fight directly before all his subordinates have been killed. Except in this case, their enemy is Jai Long, one of their own, and he has a spear that lets him consume Jai family madra to get stronger. By the time the stronger Golds face him, he is more than strong enough to defeat them.
    • Subverted by Fisher Gesha. After Lindon masterfully builds a bomb Fisher Gesha suspiciously accuses him of cheating. Lindon starts to apologize before Gesha gleefully interrupts him with, "No no! Cheat some more!" Unsurprisingly, Gesha, like Lindon, is a Combat Pragmatist.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: When Eithan drops Yerin and Lindon off to train alone for a few months, he warns them not to get "distracted." Yerin blushes and says she has too much self-control to do something that stupid. Eithan just bluntly says they're teenagers.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Subject One, the first Dreadgod, is a skeletally thin humanoid with six arms.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed:
    • Eithan is the 11th-ranked Underlord in the Blackflame Empire only because he chooses to be. When he faces the Jai Patriarch and all his top men, he is only concerned at first that someone else might see. Likewise, he later curb-stomps an Underlord of Redmoon Hall in the two minutes Eithan's allies aren't watching.
      Eithan: No witnesses. Good.
    • In Reaper, Eithan drops all pretense and reveals his actual ability as Ozriel, the Reaper, Eighth Judge of the Abidan Court and the most powerful being in the multiverse in a straight-up fight.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: One-Word Title style: Unsouled, Soulsmith, Blackflame, Skysworn, Ghostwater, Underlord, Uncrowned, Wintersteel, Bloodline, Reaper, Dreadgod, and Waybound.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Literally. Dross started out as a construct with some pre-programmed phrases he would speak under specific circumstances; he was little more than an automated greeter. He was annoying enough that someone tossed him in the Dream Water pool, which is used to sharpen the focus of mortal minds. After fifty years, he developed real intelligence and a mind of his own... but he was still stuck in the pool for five years until Lindon found him. He becomes a Presence on par with that of an Abidan's once he is able to finish the Monarch Northstrider's AI project.
  • Instant Armor: The Akura bloodline power lets them manifest crystalline purple armor, which can be just one part of their body or cover everything equally. Some time is spent describing the limitations of the armor, and how the Akura overcome these limitations.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Eithan wears these while taking a dive in the Uncrowned King tournament.
  • Internal Reformist:
    • Akura Mercy's family is one of the strongest on the continent, but she hates how they bow and scrape to everyone above them while demanding everyone below them do the same to them. She decided she would become the most powerful in her family so that she could change that. Her plan got derailed a bit when she had her Underlord revelation and realized that the real reason she learns the sacred arts is just so that her mother will be proud of her.
    • In Wintersteel, Lindon Consumes a black dragon Underlord who from his memories was a vocal opponent of the Dragon King's directive to destroy the empires of humanity and had adopted many human children to protect them from other dragons. Lindon awkwardly assures himself that the dragon will recover.
    • In Reaper we find out that Ozriel has been this the entire time. His strongest desire is to form a team who's sole purpose is saving worlds from corruption, but unfortunately the Abidan in general would much rather purge those corrupted worlds from The Way because A Million is a Statistic.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • When Elder Whitehall says that the new disciples of the Heaven's Glory school could use "any means at their disposal" to complete the Trial of Glorious Ascension, he didn't mean that Lindon should con his way into getting a ride in a carriage. Elder Rahm, on the other hand, clearly realizes Lindon cheated and is fine with it.
    • The Blackflame Path is the Path the previous masters of the Empire used, and it is looked down on for being exceedingly violent and dangerous to both the user and everyone around them. But as Eithan points out, it's not actually illegal, if only because no one is stupid enough to actually use it. Lindon's dual cores and Bloodforged Iron body make him even better suited for the Path than the original Blackflames. He ultimately gets arrested by the Skysworn, but there's little they can do since he hasn't broken any laws.
  • Made of Iron: When a sacred artist reaches Iron level, not only does their strength and toughness greatly increase, but so does their healing. While in the Sacred Valley they considered every Iron body the same as every other, outside they know how to create improved and specialized Iron bodies that will making it easier to reach higher levels (it's one of the reasons the Sacred Valley's progression is so slow).
    • The Sandvipers use the Bloodforged Iron body, which grants improved healing, by taking a single prick of sandviper venom and drinking a thimble of sandviper blood. Eithan gives Lindon a Bloodforged Iron body by having four sandvipers bite him directly and then drink all their blood. Lindon's body is ridiculously overpowered, to the point that he has trouble keeping up with it considering his madra supply.
    • Yerin has the Steelborn Iron body, which is supposed to be the best in the world for pure strength. It basically lets her body Enforce itself, which is important because the Path of the Endless Sword is terrible at full-body Enforcement.
      Yerin: Master dropped me in a black pool, and it stung like fire. Water drilled right down into me until I thought I was dead for sure. Three days and three nights I squirmed like a worm on a frying pan, breathing through a reed. Then he let me out.
    • Eithan has the Raindrop Iron body, which is said to enhance reflexes to the point that one can weave between raindrops (he immediately notes that it's an exagerration). He got it by... playing games. Catching birds, running as fast as he could, hitting balls with sticks, that sort of thing. The two people who were just discussing the Training from Hell Iron bodies require glare at him.
      Eithan: What can I say? Not everyone grows up suffering in the wilderness.
    • Between Uncrowned and Wintersteel, Orthos goes through the lengthy process of removing Wei Shi Kelsa's old malformed Iron body and replacing it with one that will best fit her path. Not too much detail is given on the Skyhunter Iron body, but it has something to do with tracking objects in flight.
  • Mana: "Madra" is the energy sacred artists use for everything, from the flashiest techniques to basic body reinforcement. It is made by cycling "aura," the natural energy of the world, through their bodies in specialized breathing exercises.
  • Master of None: The reason why no one learns more than one Path. Even if you could find two Paths with compatible madra and find someone willing to teach you, you'd still have to focus on them both separately. Instead of having two full-power Paths, you'd have two half-power Paths, which is deadly when there are such major differences in power levels in the world. Lindon finds a loophole by splitting his core (letting him use madra types that would otherwise conflict), a Path that is relatively quick to advance and extremely powerful, and by training at every waking moment.
  • Min-Maxing: Really good mentors (especially Eithan) will pick combinations of Path and Iron Body for their students that give them the greatest possible power, taking into account their students' other abilities. In particular, this is used for the Removed Achilles' Heel, as the Iron Body can mitigate the weaknesses of the Path. Also, the Blackflame path is one of almost pure destructive power, but Lindon's Path of Twin Stars means he can employ two Paths at once, meaning that he has a wider array of abilities through his second core (a pure madra path).
  • Moral Myopia: Due to the constant use of Asskicking Equals Authority, the vast majority of sacred artists are bullies who will do anything to get ahead, and then call an honor duel when someone else does the same thing to them. Lindon has, on multiple occasions, been called an honorless dog for the crime of not dying when someone much more powerful randomly attacked him.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The people in and around Sacred Valley tend to have dark hair, so when Lindon first encounters Eithan, he assumes the latter's long yellow locks are his Goldsign. In reality, he's just naturally blond.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: Advancing to Underlord requires a revelation about why you practice the sacred arts in the first place. Lindon's revelation is that he hated being the weakest, most useless person in Sacred Valley, and never wants to feel that way again. Yerin's revelation is that she hates losing people close to her.
  • Never Learned to Read: Yerin. She didn't have a chance to learn as a child, and once she joined the Sword Sage he didn't consider it important to teach her. At first she seems a little embarrassed when she tells Lindon about it, but later she jokes about it. Notably, she does have at least some basic understanding of scripts, something that is immediately relevant to being a sacred artist. In Wintersteel the Winter Sage is appalled at this and declares that she will teach her. In Dreadgod, Yerin mentions that she didn't make much progress until Lindon took over the teaching, because she found his lessons more fun.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Lindon is shockingly kind and compassionate considering his upbringing, constantly worried about slaves and workers who are getting hurt by the titanic events he's involved in. His entire reason for becoming stronger is so that he can save Sacred Valley from a coming cataclysm, despite the fact that no one in the Valley except maybe his family cares for him in the slightest.
    • Eithan dislikes the constant dog-eat-dog nature of the world, where the strong bully the weak and everyone tries to fight everyone else. He has repeatedly forgiven major slights to his honor that he could have used as excuses to execute his enemies, and often uses his omniscience to make minor corrections to make people happier (such as moving a ladder half an inch so that it won't fall).
    • Akura Fury is similar to Eithan, in that as long as someone is trying their best at whatever they're doing he will treat them with the utmost respect. This is why his opinion of Eithan dips in a major way after Eithan takes a dive in the Uncrowned King Tournament.
  • No Sense of Personal Space:
    • Eithan loves insert himself into conversations by basically resting his head on the shoulder of whoever's talking.
    • Ruby is basically plastered to Lindon's side for the two chapters they're together in Wintersteel and this seems to have carried over to Yerin after her and Ruby's Fusion Dance.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: By Cradle standards, Jai Long is powerful (one in ten thousand) but not particularly special. However, by Sacred Valley standards, he's a warrior of legendary strength and skill. He hopes to exploit this by moving to Sacred Valley when he wants to retire from the sacred arts, though it doesn't work out that way.
  • Not So Omniscient After All: Eithan's powerful bloodline ability, combined with his spy network (which has plenty of people with a lesser version of the same ability), means that he is almost never blindsided in any situation. When he is, the results are always extremely dangerous. The Jai Patriarch manages to trick him with a magic item that resurrects him a single time, with a bound Remnant to fake his death. This almost causes the end of the world, as Jai is desperate enough to gather a forbidden treasure that accidentally awakens a Dreadgod.
  • Official Couple: After eight books and several in universe years together, Lindon and Yerin finally reconcile their feelings for each other and share a kiss in Wintersteel.
  • The Omniscient:
    • The Signature Move of the Arelius family involves spreading out a wide net of madra that lets you sense absolutely everything in range. At minimum this is a dozen feet, but Eithan can cover at least a small city. It's considered polite not to acknowledge all this, though, resulting in Cassias relaying a message to Eithan that everyone knows Eithan heard. Ozriel, the founding patriarch of the Aurelius, clan seems to have senses that cover the entire multiverse. Even the other Abidan only refer to him as him most of the time so as to avoid his notice.
      Lindon: You can see the future?
      Eithan: Better! I can see the present.
    • All Monarchs seem to have this to a certain extent. In particular, they can extend their spiritual sense anywhere their name is spoken aloud.
  • One-Hit Kill: Essentially what the Abidan weapon Penance is, which makes sense as it was created by Ozriel, the Abidan's Reaper. In Wintersteel Yerin uses it to instantly kill a Monarch who is orders of magnitude more powerful than she is. The amount of power she had in that moment terrified her.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: When something filled with madra dies, it leaves behind a Remnant, the remains of its power. Weaker Remnants act completely at random, but stronger ones have some intelligence and are even capable of speech. Notably, Remnants actually get stronger the longer they last, rather than weaker.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In Reaper Eithan wears the same outfit for three days straight, and since he usually changes clothes at least twice per day, Lindon worries that he might be dying.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Subverted. Yerin and Lindon are adopted by the Aurelius family and begin training as outer disciples. Eithan proudly tells them that they are the first and second-ranked outer disciples, respectively. Since they haven't met a single other outer disciple and Eithan is The Gadfly, they assume they're the only outer disciples at the moment. But when the Skysworn demand their ranks and Lindon explains, he is informed that there are thousands of outer disciples in the Aurelius family, and assume he's screwing with them. He's not, and judging by the progress the two make, Eithan wasn't either.
  • Parasol of Pain: Eithan briefly uses a Parasol infused with Soulfire to beat on Longhook before finishing him off.
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling: Ghostwater, once Monarch Northstrider's research facility, now more of a garbage heap. Lindon jumps from Lowgold to Truegold while spending some time inside, drinking magic water and killing and eating sacred fish.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: After a certain level of advancement nearly all of the residents of Cradle have the ability to become this. Chief among them are all of the Monarchs, Heralds, Sages, and Ascended Beings such as the Abidan. The Abidan have members among them that fit comfortably in the Planet Destroyer trope.
  • Planet Spaceship: A necessity for the Vroshir. The void between universes is nothing but corrosive, horrific Chaos. The only thing that keeps it at bay is a healthy world with millions of living human souls. The Abidan control and watch over normal worlds, but the Vroshir are those who are criminals under Abidan law, so they can't find safety there. The solution is to kidnap people by the millions and force them to live on nomadic planets, giving the individual Vroshir a mobile base of operations.
  • Pocket Dimension:
    • What all of Ghostwater is, created by the Monarch Northstrider as a research facility. Abandoned by him when it apparently failed, but still picked over every once and awhile because "The trash of a Monarch is still the treasure of lesser beings".
    • Thanks to The Bleeding Phoenix waking up and destroying Ghostwater's anchor to Cradle, it slowly falls apart.
    • Northstrider creates another one of these as a reward for Yerin's advancement in the Uncrowned King Tournament. This one will only last a day, but thanks to Year Inside, Hour Outside, they will get thirty-six days inside of it.
    • What all Void Keys essentially are. We have seen them as small as a picknick basket and as big as a barn when opened. They are controlled by small constructs that are kept on one's person.
    • Sophara receives one that turned out to be the late Aurelius Monarch's vacation home. After her death at his hands it comes into Lindon's possession.
  • Power Levels:
    • According to Sacred Valley, there are five power levels: Foundation, Copper, Iron, Jade, and Gold. No one has reached Gold in centuries. As it turns out, the outside world considers Gold to be the first level of a real sacred artist; everything below that is for children. Gold is split into Lowgold, Highgold, and Truegold, the Lord level is split into Underlord, Overlord, and Archlord, and above that are the Heralds, the Sages, and finally the Monarchs. Monarchs are the strongest a sacred artist can be before leaving the planet; apparently Heralds and Sages have the choice to either stay and rule or leave and become even more powerful.
    • And then subverted once more is revealed about the nature of Heralds and Sages: in contrast to the earlier stages, which have a strict order of progression, the latter are more freeform - an Archlord can advance directly to Herald or to Sage, and a Monarch is 'just' someone who is both a Herald and a Sage. In fact, it's not even strictly necessary to reach Archlord first. During the events of Wintersteel, Yerin becomes an Overlord-level Herald by fusing with her blood shadow, and Lindon an Underlord-level Sage by invoking the Void Icon.
    • Sages and Heralds are half-ascendant beings. Monarchs are fully ascendant beings who are supposed to leave the world. The fact that they remain creates Hunger Aura, which weakens all other aura in the world. The first attempt to fix this created the Dreadgods, and now the more Monarchs there are in Cradle the more powerful the Dreadgods are. If all the Monarchs left, the Dreadgods and Dreadbeasts would disappear over the course of decades. The Monarchs are well aware of this.
  • Powers Do the Fighting: Present in some paths, very evident in certain types of Blood and Shadow paths. Part of Yan Shoumei's problem with her path is that she is so reliant on her Blood Shadow to fight for her, when it goes down she has to quickly retreat.
  • Practical Currency: The standard currency is a "scale," a coin made of Forged pure madra (though the actual shape doesn't matter). Pure madra can be given to children to advance them faster, or be used to activate magical devices and items. Pure madra is the type that humans are born with, but due to its limited uses nearly everyone gives it up for something else very quickly. Scales are therefore made using special devices to purify aura, though the extremely rare adults who use pure madra can just forge scales themselves, making them richer than usual for their advancement. It is also perfectly possible to forge non-pure scales, but those are only useful to people of the exact same madra type, so they're less common.
  • Reality Warper: All Sages and Monarchs are this. Heralds can do it to a lesser degree. Yerin eventually gains reality warping strength due to her iron body, and Lindon gains enough to at least be able to hold hands with Yerin without having his hand pulverized thanks to his theft of power from Yan Shoumei's Blood Shadow.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Elder Rahm of the Heaven's Glory school is perfectly happy to have Lindon as a student despite him being an Unsouled, makes it clear he knows Lindon cheated his way in but praises him anyway, and offers him a small but honorable job helping to maintain the smallest treasure vault. Lindon feels guilty that he has to rob him on the way out, and asks Yerin not to kill him. Later subverted in Bloodline, when he stubbornly refuses to believe that Sacred Valley is about to be destroyed because the news comes from Lindon.
    • Eithan is the highest ranking sacred artist around for quite a long time, but avoids exerting his authority as much as possible. He forgives slights to his honor, gives Lindon and Yerin plenty of instruction, and treats his subordinates well. He claims that his only goal is to have people who can walk his Path beside him.
  • The Red Mage: The Twin Stars technique allows a person to split their core and their madra, which was traditionally seen as a useless curiosity. The Path of Twin Stars, however, allows someone with a split core to master two separate paths. Lindon uses this to combine the awe-inspiring Blackflame Path with a new Anti-Magic path that relies on pure madra.
  • Removed Achilles' Heel: Every Path has its strengths and weaknesses. A well-chosen Iron body, however, can mitigate or eliminate the weaknesses of more overspecialized paths. Lindon's Bloodforged Iron body, while not as directly powerful as the offensive bodies of the original Blackflame Emperors, can heal from and survive the corrosive power of the Blackflame Path. And since Yerin's Endless Sword Path has no useful Enforcement techniques, she received a Steelborn Iron body that Enforces itself.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In Unsouled, Yerin explains that the Sword Sage was killed by being poisoned and then dogpiled in his sleep by every Jade in the Heaven's Glory school. Initially, it's presented as a measure of how powerful he is that he still managed to kill half the attackers. Later, as we find out more about the relative power levels, it becomes obvious that not only should they not have been able to kill him, they should not have been able to disturb his sleep. Turns out the Valley-wide suppression field is to blame.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Jai Long tells Gokren that Eithan distracted Kral long enough for Eithan's disciple to stab him in the back, and this was all unnecessary because if Eithan had just revealed his identity they would have given him whatever he wanted. What actually happened was Kral flippantly decided to murder Lindon (who was so far below Kral he could have been ignored completely), and attacked Eithan. Then, after Eithan decided not to kill them all out of spite (which would have been well within his rights), he did him the favor of warning him that Lindon wasn't dead. Kral died facing Lindon head-on, and Lindon won with luck and skill.
  • Semantic Superpower: The defining trait of a Sage is connecting to an Icon, an abstract concept which gives the Sage Authority over the scope of that Icon. Their ability to reality warp is limited by the nature of the Icon or Icons they can access. But a powerful sage can use the concept creatively to achieve various effects, such as using the void icon to empty a shelf of a cup to move it to another place.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Lindon and Yerin have a lot over the series, mostly of the subtle kind. Early on she makes an unbreakable vow to help him, but that quickly gets ignored when she goes above and beyond the call of duty. When they are separated in Ghostwater they are both extremely uncomfortable, not just because they are worried about each other but simply because they don't like being apart. And in Underlord Yerin says she wants to go back to Sacred Valley with him one day and meet his parents.
    • Lindon and Jai Chen get a bit. Not only does he heal her fractured soul, but it's implied that in the original timeline where Lindon did not leave Sacred Valley, she was the woman who he would eventually marry. Suriel even notes the oddity that they ended up crossing paths after the major Fate change.
    • Lindon and Akura Grace have a couple of scenes, culminating in her asking Akura Charity to propose an Arranged Marriage between Grace and Lindon.
    • Lindon gets the tiniest dash with several other Akura women. Not only does Pride mistakenly think that Lindon and Mercy are dating, but Mercy is notably horrified at the thought of Lindon specifically seeing her shamed. Lindon and Charity grow to have a healthy respect for each other over their association, and she gives him permission to call her by name after he becomes a Sage. And then there's Malice, who shamelessly flirts with Lindon every time she sees him. Lindon doesn't notice.
  • Spirit Cultivation Genre: Literally everyone is a sacred artist, meaning they practice cultivation. Lindon is the weakest in Sacred Valley due to being an Un-Sorcerer, but he is the one who discovers that his home is going to be destroyed in thirty years. He needs to become one of the strongest beings in the world in an impossibly short timeframe to stand a chance of saving everyone.
  • Stealth Mentor: Akura Charity is annoyed at Lindon for letting her nephew die, but is not so petty as to kill him. Instead, she finds some extremely powerful people and has them fight him, knowing that this will improve his own advancement and make him more useful to her in the future. Even Mercy, who understands Charity's plans and how she works, finds this a bit cruel.
  • Summoning Ritual: Is basically what kicks off the main plot of the story. Without Li Markuth being summoned to the Sacred Valley and Suriel arriving to banish him she would never have been able to witness Lindon attack Li and would not have given Lindon the knowledge to survive and advance.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Absolutely everyone trains in the sacred arts, which result in incredible powers of attack and defense, a supernaturally powerful body, and even utility abilities like Forging items out of thin air. Since anyone can become stronger in every single way with dedication and practice, there is no reason not to learn the sacred arts. This has, unfortunately, resulted in a culture obsessed with strength, where little matters besides how good you are at fighting.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security:
    • Eithan walks into the most secure Skysworn cells, including ones intended to contain someone exactly like him, multiple times without trouble. To make it even more annoying for the jailers, he brings along Yerin, Fisher Gesha, and a turtle the size of a car. He doesn't bother breaking out the prisoner, he just wants to make sure he has a chance to train while in prison.
    • Lindon proves that he is Eithan's apprentice in Wintersteel by breaking through every security measure that the Nine Cloud Court puts in front of him to reach Yerin and Mercy.
      • He does so again in Dreadgod by robbing the Monarchs.
  • Sword Beam: Yerin can use sword madra to create this effect.
  • Sword of Damocles: Yerin attempts to invoke this in Wintersteel. After winning the Uncrowned King tournament and taking control of Penance, which can kill any one being in Cradle, Kiuran asks her who she's going to kill. She says that she wants to hold it for later, because the threat of annihilation is a far more potent tool than just killing someone off. Kiuran tells her that she's absolutely right, but he can't allow it because it'd disrupt the existing Balance of Power in Cradle.
  • Training from Hell: Standard practice for all sacred artists. The Sword Sage trapped Yerin in a ring of razor-sharp swords so close that every time she breathed she cut herself, and Eithan locked Lindon in a room with monsters for two weeks. Lindon isn't much better himself, constantly pushing himself even farther and doing the equivalent of training with weights on his arms.
    Yerin: Only storms can turn a fish into a dragon.
  • Un-Sorcerer: When Lindon was tested as a child in the Sacred Valley, it was determined he had no affinity for the sacred arts. He was named an "Unsouled," a cripple to be spat upon and ignored. He wasn't allowed to learn any of the sacred arts beyond some basic breathing exercises. By the time Lindon was sixteen, he was only barely strong enough to fight children. As it turns out, the Sacred Valley is full of idiots who have no idea what they're talking about. Lindon's "disability" is so minor that most cultures don't even have a name for it; he has to train a bit harder, but not that much harder.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind:
    • Averted; when Lindon has a duel with a Highgold in a year's time, Eithan promises him that with training, he'll have a good chance of defeating a Highgold by then. After Lindon leaves, Yerin notes that Eithan didn't mention his opponent won't be a Highgold by the time of their duel, since he just got his hands on a weapon that gives him a Cannibalism Superpower.
    • In Bloodline, however, Jai Long, who has spent the last couple of years in Sacred Valley's suppression field, assumes that Lindon is still Gold like he is. He is shocked when he realizes that Lindon is an Underlord, and doesn't believe that he's a Sage until he witnesses his Sage Authority in action.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting:
    • Sacred Beasts that reach a certain level of advancement seem to gain this ability. Xorrus of the Gold Dragons is seen both in the form of a young beautiful woman and a mile long dragon.
    • Orthos leaves the party in Underlord to try and determine what his next form would be, Lindon jokes that he could finally turn into the Dragon he has called himself since the beginning, but he says he might look like a human the next time they meet.
    • Orthos doesn't look like a human when he finally does advance to Underlord, instead he grows to the size of a baby Dreadgod, but since that form is too large to travel easily he then shapeshifts again to the size of a normal baby turtle.
  • We ARE Struggling Together:
    • While the Monarchs are supposed to be cooperating against the Dreadgods, in practice they still constantly snipe at each other even in emergencies. And of course, everyone under the Monarchs does the same.
    • Reaper reveals that the Dreadgods only exist at all because the Monarchs of Cradle refuse to ascend. Their continued presence on the Iteration creates artificial Hunger Madra which feeds into the Dreadgods themselves. They all have taken an oath upon reaching Herald/Sage to not reveal this Dark Secret to the world and force all new Heralds/Sages to take this same oath or ascend upon pain of death.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Orthos the dragon-turtle does not like heights. This causes problems, as the primary method of transportation in the Empire is by cloudship. He spends most of his time tucked in his shell, ignoring everything around him.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: The Abidan have the ability to manipulate Fate, often on the scale of a world. For example, there was only a one-in-a-hundred chance that the Jai Patriarch's betrayal of his vows would wake up a Dreadgod, but Makiel loaded the dice.
  • The Worf Effect: Lindon and Yerin spend much of book 2 worrying about Jai Long and Kral, two Highgold sacred artists who could kill them both in a heartbeat. Then Eithan forces an entire room full of Golds to kneel merely by unveiling his core.
  • Workaholic: Lindon started his journey in the sacred arts some ten years late, and thus has to hit the training hard in order to catch up—and harder still to get strong enough to stop a coming catastrophe. The thing is, he never stops. Ever. Fisher Gesha lambastes Eithan for the fact that they're in the cultural heart of the Empire but Lindon hasn't seen any of it because he's been training non-stop for a full year, when told to take a break he decides to join an elite police force instead, and he ends up reaching Underlord (an advancement level many people never reach) at age 18, and becomes the youngest Sage in centuries. Not counting the times he is knocked unconscious, the only times he takes a break is when his friends actively threaten him.
    Mercy: I've never seen you voluntarily take a break. Even in the Skysworn, you were cycling or practicing until you collapsed. Do you not have any hobbies?
    Lindon: I used to work in a library.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: Yerin's general response to her emotions is "train, preferably by killing something." Of course, that's her response to everything, but she does note it makes her feel better when she's confused and doesn't know what else to do.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Subverted. Lindon was shown the future and is actively improving himself to fight that fate. At the time, Suriel had plotted out his future, but did not anticipate him running into Eithan and Ozriel's own alterations to fate. When Eithan and Lindon met it caused a massive shift in fate throughout the world, and the Abidan wonder if they should do something about it. But then the Mad King begins accelerating his own plans, and the Abidan decide that having more powerful allies rising out of Cradle isn't a bad thing.

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