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Literature / Dread Companion

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Dread Companion is a SF/Fantasy novel by Andre Norton.

Rather than be shoved into a slot by bureaucracy, Kilda takes a job taking care of two children. One, Bartare, is a Creepy Child, with a companion that her brother Oomart calls "She" and the "Green Lady" and fears. They, with the children's mother, arrive on a planet to find that the children's father has died, and Kilda takes over for the children while the mother collapses.

When they go on a sight-seeing trip, Bartare lures her brother off and insists on doing something with stones. Kilda, following, is trapped with them in another world, where to eat its food is to be transformed into one of its beings..


Tropes included:

  • A Friend in Need: Kilda throws food to the creature dogging them.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Kilda to Kosgro, when they hide in the notus grove.
  • The Ageless: The inhabitants of the dark realm.
  • Anti-Magic: The notus blossom. Unfortunately for Jorth Kosgro it affects him as well as the enchantments on him.
  • Baleful Polymorph: the effect of the fruit that the land grows. Kilda's skin and hair turn green and her toes try to turn into roots. Kosgro...Was Once a Man.
  • Blood Magic: At one point, Kilda needs to bleed to get a guide. The guide is a bunch of grass she's uprooted—equal sacrifice is required.
  • Changeling Tale: Bartare is described as a changeling.
  • Commonality Connection: Kilda acquired her mentor at the creche through their shared curiosity and desire for intellectual adventures.
  • Cool Gate: Getting in or out of the Dark Realm requires one.
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  • Creepy Child: Bartare in spades.
  • Dispel Magic: The notus blooms undo the Folk's enchantments, and, to a certain extent, the Baleful Polymorph effects of eating the Folk's food.
  • Determinator: Kilda will not let anything stop her from rescuing the children under her charge and returning them safely home.
  • Evil Smells Bad: The Dark Ones. They don't realize it, which helps when they hunt you
  • Exact Words: Kosgro makes the Lady promise them not a gate but "their own" one.
    • Kosgro also notes at the end that he never promised anybody in the colony that he'd take one of the men with him.
  • The Fair Folk: Made explicit in the frame story.
  • Food Chains: Kilda's supplies are the only thing that ensures their freedom
  • Healing Herb: The notus helps treat Kosgro's wounds.
  • "Hell, Yes!" Moment: Kilda pinning Kosgro's bandages in place with his Survey insignia.
  • Home Sweet Home: Kilda and Kosgro are completely dead-set on returning to their own place.
  • I Know Your True Name: The Dark Ones must answer to their true names; it is the law.
  • Immortality: The Folk can be killed, but are otherwise immortal.
  • Improvised Weapon: Kilda fills a bag with rocks. It's a handy weapon...until she loses it.
  • Ingesting Knowledge: The fruit also tells them things
  • In Harm's Way: If Kilda had been male, she would have loved being a scout and explorer.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: At the end, Kilda is told she must marry and bear children due to being the only single woman on a planet with a population of several dozen. She decides to Take a Third Option.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Kilda can't and won't leave Bartare—even if she wants to stay.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: She
  • Parental Abandonment: Kilda, at birth. The children suffer a milder version during the novel: their father dies in an accident and their mother has a nervous breakdown (implied to be partly Bartare's doing) and is confined to bed rest.
  • Plucky Girl: Kilda is only about eighteen.
  • Ritual Magic: Bartare learns it from The Lady.
  • Royal Brat: The children's mother is a rather languid version.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: The heroes return to find they've been gone about fifty years, and things have changed. There has been a war and the colony has collapsed to a mere few dozen people.
  • Was Once a Man: Kosgro has spent so much time in the Dark Realm that Kilda doesn't even realize he is human, at first.
  • Walking Wasteland: Bartare makes Kilda's hand wither a flower
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: What we are told in the opening line is that Kilda has aged only a year though it's been decades. and centuries for Kosgro.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The problem with going through the gate.