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Literature / Dilvish, the Damned

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Dilvish, the Damned is a series of Heroic Fantasy stories written by Roger Zelazny and collected in the books Dilvish, the Damned and The Changing Land.

The protagonist, Dilvish, was sent to Hell by the dark sorcerer Jelerak when he interrupted one of Jelerak's rituals. The stories recount his adventures after he escapes Hell two hundred years later, with a handful of Awesome, but Impractical destructive spells and a Sapient Steed named Black, and sets out for revenge on Jelerak.

This series provides examples of:

  • Automaton Horses: Justified example, as Black is a demon which has taken the form of a metal horse and requires no sustenance or maintenance.
  • Bring News Back: The whole story "Passage To Dilfar" is the attempt to bring the news back.
  • Deal with the Devil: Dilvish had to do one to get out of Hell.
  • Decoy Damsel: In one of the stories, Dilvish hears a Damsel in Distress. Black warns him about this, stating that it is the oldest trick in the book.
  • Escaped from Hell: Dilvish inadvertently interrupted a dark ritual. The sorcerer performing it turned his body to stone and banished his soul to Hell out of annoyance. He got out, but only with help.
  • Eye Color Change: Some witches have eyes that wax and wane with the moon.
  • Fallen Hero: It's stated that Jelerak used to be good many hundreds of years ago. But he crossed the Moral Event Horizon long ago.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Dilvish escaped from hell with the knowledge of several highly destructive dark spells called the "Awful Sayings." Unfortunately they are way too powerful and devastate an area as large as a city. He refrains from using them most of the time.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: In "Devil and the Dancer" an almost-forgotten god has only one worshiper left; she is very important to him and he has to do the things she wants, even if he finds them revolting.
  • Hellish Horse: Black is a fire-breathing, talking horse made of black steel and with cloven hooves.
  • Humanity Ensues: Black undergoes this transformation for a few hours as a result of the weirdness of Castle Timeless (also implying that this was his original form).
  • Identical Grandson: In The Changing Land, the resurrected priestess Semirama helps Dilvish because he happens to be the spitting image of his ancestor, who was her lover. Likewise, Arlata looks very much like her grandmother, who was Dilvish's former lover.
  • No Man of Woman Born: "The Bells of Shoredan" features a prophecy to the effect that "eyes will never see the weapon" that will kill a particular character. He is killed by an assassin with an invisible sword.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: In The Changing Land, the land around Castle Timeless is currently inhabited by the "mad" demi-god Tualua. Tualua is undergoing one of the "changes" common to his kind, which in this case causes the land surrounding the castle to be subject to all sorts of chaotic, unpredictable, and often-deadly effects.
  • Sapient Steed: Dilvish's steed, a steel horse that's the embodiment of a demon.
  • Sleight of Tongue: In The Changing Land, the resurrected priestess Semirama does this (with considerable... emphasis) to slip a key to Dilvish when he's chained in the dungeon of the Castle Timeless.
  • Taken for Granite: Dilvish's body is turned to stone while his soul is in Hell.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Changing Land features a demon named Melbrinionsadsazzersteldregandishfeltselior. The long name is necessary for the invocation ritual, and if the sorcerer attempting it were to get as much as one syllable wrong, the demon would kill him. Understandably, wizards are reluctant to attempt it. Subverted inasmuch as one of the antagonists is a wizard named Baran, whose native tongue is a horribly complicated agglutinative language, so he has no problem pronouncing the name and using the demon for errands.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: In The Changing Land, a wizard employs a "virgin detector spell" to locate a suitable sacrifice. The wizard is in a hurry to regain his power after a mishap and sacrificing a virgin is the quickest and easiest way. Naturally, the Big Damn Heroes arrive just in time.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Words are not the whole spell; they are just the trigger part, and without a properly readied magic they are meaningless.

Alternative Title(s): The Changing Land