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Literature / Kane Series

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The Kane series is a Heroic Fantasy series by Karl Edward Wagner, about a Barbarian Anti-Hero or Villain Protagonist who has been cursed by a Mad God to an eternal life of wandering.

Not to be confused with Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane. Or Charles Foster Kane. Or the WWE's Kane. Or the Messiah. Or Rick Riordan's Kane Family.


  1. Bloodstone (1975) - in the booty captured in a savage raid, Kane discovers a powerful relic.
  2. Dark Crusade (1976) - Kane encounters an ancient cult of evil, and its power-hungry leader.
  3. Darkness Weaves (1978) (editorially altered abridgement published in 1970 as "Darkness Weaves With Many Shades") - the mad sorceress Efrel seeks war and revenge on her erstwhile husband, king Netisten Maril, and enlists Kane as her general in command of an army of mercenaries and monsters.

Story collections

  • Death Angel's Shadow (1973)
    • "Reflections for the Winter of My Soul" - Kane meets a shapeshifting enemy who knows him (sequel to Dark Crusade).
    • "Cold Light" - a knight forms a band of crusaders and mercenaries in a quest to find and kill Kane.
    • "Mirage" - Kane meets another immortal and discovers that death is not the answer to his problems.
  • Night Winds (1978)
    • "Undertow" - a mistress of Kane seeks to escape from him with the aid of a young barbarian.
    • "Two Suns Setting" - in a stony desert, Kane encounters the last of an elder race.
    • "The Dark Muse" - Kane's poet friend takes inspiration from a journey to chaos.
    • "Raven's Eyrie" - a previous victim of Kane plans to send his soul to hell.
    • "Lynortis Reprise" - the survivors of a bloody siege meet a betrayer.
    • "Sing a Last Song of Valdese" - a mutilated wizard takes his revenge.
  • The Book of Kane (1985)
    • "Reflections for the Winter of My Soul", "Sing a Last Song of Valdese", "Raven's Eyrie" and:
    • "Misericorde" - Kane enters the keep of the cruel Vareishei clan.
    • "The Other One" - the gods are sometimes merciful; Kane is less so.


  • Abandoned Warehouse: In "Cold Light" this is where Kane fights two of Gaethaa's men. He lures them in and closes the door behind them to cut them off from the rest of his enemies.
  • Action Girl: Teres in Bloodstone.
  • Adventures in Comaland: Anyone who invokes the power of the Dark Muse gets to have one in a random dream. Unfortunately the Dark Muse doesn't care whether she puts you in a nice dream or a nightmare.
  • Ambiguous Gender: When they are first introduced in Bloodstone, Teres and Malchion are having a drunken, insult-laden knife throwing contest to determine who gets to enjoy the services of a newly acquired slave girl. After three pages it's revealed that Teres is Malchion's daughter. note 
  • Ambiguously Bi: While Teres becomes Kane's lover, upon returning to Breimen she invites a female slave to her bedchamber (the same one she's had a drunken fight over with her father).
  • Albinos Are Freaks: "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul" has Evingolis. Although the lord of the manor is proud to have secured him as his minstrel, most people in the manor dislike him and treat him with distrust, not only because of his looks but also his aloof manner and strange songs in even stranger languages. And they are right, since he is a vicious werewolf whose aim is to kill all humans in the manor.
  • Ancient Tomb: In Darkness Weaves Kane hides in an old burial cavern on the side of a mountain full of such tombs. These became abandoned because of a new religion that has introduced cremation and since they are believed to be ghoul-infested (not without reason), it is a perfect hiding place.
  • Anti-Hero: Kane and some of his companions.
  • Anti-Magic: In "Undertow" young barbarian Dragar has a Cool Sword that he calls Wizard's Bane. It was forged of "star metal" and can negate magic — it glows blue when it encounters a demonic creature, which flees instead of confronting Dragar. Unfortunately for the owner, anti-magic does not help against a superior swordsman.
  • Arc Words: "Night winds" in the collection under the same title. Each story contains the phrase at least once, sometimes as a chapter title ("Two Suns Setting"). And it's also the title of Opyros's opus magnum.
  • Artifact of Doom: In Bloodstone, Kane wants to use the eponymous device, an ancient, sentient, evil construct of alien origin and potentially limitless power, to achieve his aims. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Asshole Victim: Ionor in "Raven's Eyrie". Yes, it's bad that she had been raped by Kane after he slaughtered her family. But she and her family were murderous bandits who robbed and killed innocent victims staying at their inn. And when she was shot with a crossbow, it was because she was trying to sacrifice her daughter by Kane to the Devil.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Teres from Bloodstone and her father Malchion seem to believe that if Teres is to succeed in the Wollendan (warrior) culture as Malchion's heir, she must be the best and manliest warrior of all.
  • The Atoner: Erill from The Dark Crusade was forced to help Orted Ak-Ceddi's forces. She tries to make up for it by rescuing Jarvo. It does not go well.
  • Attempted Rape: In Bloodstone mercenary Ristkon tries to rape Teres. It does not go well for him.
  • Badass Biker: In "Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse", set in modern New Orleans, Kane and his sidekick Blacklight ride Harleys. Probably because they are the closest equivalent to a horse.
  • Badass Boast: Lord Gaethaa delivers one in Sebbei to present himself to the locals and enlist their cooperation in fighting Kane. It falls flat as they only want to be left alone.
  • Badass in Distress: Kane himself at the beginning of "Raven's Eyrie". He's badly wounded (even for his immense healing skills), carried by his few faithful men into an inn run by his victim bent on Revenge, he is pursued by a ruthless bounty hunter, not to mention the Demon Lord himself. And the only person that seems to want to help him is his daughter Klesst.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: In "Cold Light" Kane lures Jan and Mollyl into an abandoned warehouse and closes the doors behind them to cut them off the rest of their group. Jan, not being the brightest, throws his torch at his enemy—straight into a mound of old, dust-covered textiles and the fire spreads rapidly.
  • Beneath the Earth: Strange cavern system beneath dwarf king Brotemllain's burial cave in "Two Suns Setting". Inhabited by huge, white, blind beasts, including a yard-long white cockroaches, as well as sabretooth tigers.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: In "Cold Light", Rehhaile's psychic abilities reveal Kane's emotions to be frightening and alien, which leads her to be cautious when tending to him.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Most people care only about their self-interest, are brutal and cruel, which is only fitting for a race created by a Mad God, while elder races are degenerate and demented. Those who claim to be good are just as blood-thirsty and the few really good characters usually end badly, rather quickly. Kane himself, a Villain Protagonist or Anti-Hero at best, in comparison looks quite reasonable.
  • Body Horror: Half-men, survivors of the battle of Lynortis in "Lynortis Reprise". Heavily mutilated, lacking limbs, burnt - and some of them sport prosthetics, like a jaw made of steel.
  • Born from a Dead Woman: In her Back Story, Rehhaile from "Cold Light" was "torn out of her dead mother's womb" by a physician after the woman had succumbed to The Plague.
  • Cain and Abel: Kane is based on Cain from The Bible. He was one of the first humans, created by a Mad God. Kane was cursed for disobeying the god and killing his brother Abel, in this way bringing violence to newly-born humanity. Interestingly, in "Misericorde" Kane claims that Eve was his step-mother, which suggests his real mother was Lilith.
  • Casts No Shadow: Orted Ak-Ceddi in The Dark Crusade, after he's been touched by dark god Sataki and become his prophet.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In "Dark Muse" Opyros's lover Ceteol is described as wearing fashionable riding boots with silver spurs. These turn out to be quite useful before the night ends.
    • Erill from Dark Crusade is mentioned early on to always wear a jade headband. Several chapters later its sight on a child's neck convinces Jarvo that she has been killed.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Erill from Dark Crusade is a trained circus acrobat, which saves her life allowing her to survive an explosion. Regular guards are not so lucky.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Kane's daughter Klesst. Her mother Ionor was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Kane and when she ran away, she was already pregnant. Klesst grows up knowing perfectly well who her father was, since she shares his characteristic looks.
    • Implied with Sesi, since her mother was taken as a slave by her father, king Masale.
    • Efrel, in addition to being Half-Human Hybrid.
  • Church Police: The Defenders of Sataki in Dark Crusade, whose main aim is to hunt inuchiri—"those who betray the one faith" (in Sataki).
  • Circus Brat: Back Story of Erill in Dark Crusade. Her parents sold her to a brothel when she was a child but she ran away, hiding in a circus wagon. She then trained as a mime and an acrobat, which saves her life at a later point.
  • Clothing-Concealed Injury: In "Undertow", Kane's lover Dessylyn is usually seen wearing a wide collar of leather and silk with a large emerald set in it, which hides a scar left from the time when she hanged herself.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Upon learning about a plot to kill him, Netisten Maril from Darkness Weaves subjects conspirators to a long session of brutal torture, which includes cutting out their tongues, burning them with hot irons, killing their families before them and then roasting on spikes over slow fire.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Kane is jaded enough to be unfazed by horrific things, although he is able to recognize that they are horrifying.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Kane and Lages form an unlikely alliance at the end of Darkness Weaves, since they both want to see Efrel dead. It lasts even shorter than it was supposed to.
  • Covered with Scars: Whatever is left of Efrel's body, with the exception of her hands and half of her face.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes/Icy Blue Eyes: Most people don't like looking Kane straight in the eyes, which burn with inhuman hatred and bloodlust.
  • Creepy Cave: In "Two Suns Setting" Kane and Dwassllir, the last king of giants, enter a cave that is the the burial place of an ancient giant king Brotemllain. It turns out to be dangerously unstable, as well as inhabited by strange underground creatures including huge blind cockroaches and a sabretooth tiger. Kane barely gets out alive. Dwassllir doesn't, and the cave becomes also his burial place.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Kane is "cursed" with immortality and the ability to heal all wounds. Fortunately, he rarely angsts. He mostly just kicks butt.
    • The sentiment is expressed in almost exact words:
    At times the awesome curse of immortality weighed on Kane beyond all endurance.
  • Darkness Equals Death: For Tepper in Dark Crusade it's quite literal—he ventures out only during the day and and night he stays in a locked room full of candles and oil lamps. And then Jarvo takes all of his light sources and Tepper is killed by his own shadow.
  • Dark Fantasy: Kane is one of the trope codifiers for this subgenre of fantasy. The stories have a grim, gothic tone, the main character is a brutal, mass murdering warrior who dances between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist territory, and his world makes Conan's Hyborian Age look downright decent by comparison.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In "The Dark Muse", Opyros is a somewhat well known poet, but not very popular because of the morbid tone of his works. In subsequent stories, long after his death, every literate character seems to know who he is and he is considered a genius.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Kane's job interview with Efrel to become her general involves fighting her bodyguard to the death, and then having sex with her, all without any advance warning. She later rapes M'Cori at the first opportunity. Made all the worse by her hideously mutilated body.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Almost all left alive in Demornte after The Plague have crossed it and now only want to be left alone with their brooding thoughts while they wait for death.
    Demornte, where ghosts stalk silent streets in step with the living, where the living walk side by side with their ghosts. And a man must look closely to tell one from the other.
  • The Devil:
    • Appears himself in "At First Just Ghostly" (set in our world) as Kane's antagonist.
    • In Kane's own world there's the Demonlord (aka Thro'ellet, Thoem, Lord Tloluvin, Lato), the embodiment of evil, who drags souls into Hell. Interestingly, when Kane addresses him, he uses another name, Sathonys.
  • Disability Superpower: Rehhaile from "Cold Light" is blind from birth. However, she can look into other people's minds to look through their eyes, she can also perceive their feelings and in some cases influence them.
  • Disposing of a Body: The titular inn in "Raven's Eyrie" has a convenient tunnel leading to the nearby fast-flowing river, as well as a pile of rock on the shores to weight the bodies with.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Dark Crusade chapter title "Goldfish" refers to both the fish in Esketra's pond, which are literally eating from her hand, and to Jarvo, whom she has figuratively doing the same thing.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Vampire Naichoryss in "Mirage", with pale skin and long, wavy black hair.
    A study of eerie beauty, cold and aloof as an exquisitely carven masterpiece of gem-set ivory and jet.
  • Elder Gods: Gods of Chaos in '"Sing the Last Song of Valdese".
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Scylredi in Darkness Weaves, the titular Bloodstone and others.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: One reason why Kane has a soft spot for his daughter Klesst is that she looks so much like his mother Lilith. In one story, it's implied that he also likes his stepmom Eve.
  • Evil Gloating: Evingolis does it at the end of "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul". The fact is, he knows that spending some time on this will not change Kane's situation a little bit—there is no chance of anyone appearing Big Damn Heroes-style and he is certain of his superiority.
  • Evil Redhead or at least very shady redhead.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: In Dark Crusade, Kane tells Erill that any place containing a portal to one of the demon worlds, such as the Lair of Yslsl, will "soon become ill-omened and shunned by the wise." The same is true for focus points of Bloodstone's energy lattice that enable Teleportation.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Kane is often pitted against villains even worse than him.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The setting of "Lynortis Reprise" is Western front of World War I, complete with trench warfare, poisonous gases and tragic fate of young men who were wounded in combat.
  • Femme Fatale: Dessylyn from "Undertow". Even Kane cannot keep track of the men she seduced and then led to their death.
  • Fever Dream Episode:
    • Large part of "Mirage", when Kane is first wounded and then slowly dying.
    • A segment of "Raven's Eyrie", when badly wounded, fevered and drugged Kane sees the mountains open before him and sees what's inside.
  • Fictional Board Game: In Dark Crusade, Kane plays a complicated board game with his second-in-command. It involves a hexagonal board, dice and pieces that are numbered 1-6. The roll of the die decides from which side of the hexagon a piece can be moved. There are as many pieces of each rank as their value and their numbers are hidden. When a player moves a piece next to the other player's piece, they can challenge the other player, who can accept the challenge or decline it and move back. If the challenge is accepted, the higher piece wins. As the numbers are hidden, the players have to have a very good memory to remember the value of their pieces, as well as that of their opponents. The game also serves to show Kane as a master of strategy.
  • Fold-Spindle Mutilation: Happens to Eberhos in "The Dark Muse" when his summoned demon panics.
  • Foreshadowing: In Darkness Weaves Kane mentions offhandedly that later copies and transcriptions of Alorri-Zrokros's Book of the Elders can be deadly because of errors and omissions. Which comes to bite him in Bloodstone.
  • Fortune Teller: Boree from Dark Crusade is a part of a carnival troupe. She uses cards and both times we see her trying to tell Erill's fortune, she looks scared and refuses to tell the girl what she's seen—and before the end of each day, something very bad happens to Erill.
  • Frog Men: The Rylliti, descendants of the elder race of Krelran, distinctly bachtrian in appearance, degenerate but deadly.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kane himself. Described as "a bit over six feet and carrying past three hundred pounds of bone, sinew, and muscle", he is surprisingly fast for his bulk and can use his sword of Carsultyal steel proficiently. However, he also used to be a sorcerer, can speak several languages including the Old Tongue, knows history and literature (and often also knew the authors personally). And he once performed an emergency tracheotomy.
  • God Is Dead: According to Kane in "At First Just Ghostly": "There was a god. I killed him."
  • God of Chaos: The Seven Nameless, old gods that exist in a dimension beyond good and evil, filled by timeless chaos. While they have their disciples, they don't usually interfere in the world.
  • Got Over Rape Instantly: In "Undertow" handsome and strong barbarian Dragar saves beautiful and noble Dessylyn from some street thugs who attempt to rape her. The two go on to become lovers.
  • Grand Theft Me: What Efrel does to M'Cori to get her Revenge and escape her mutilated body.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Efrel from Darkness Weaves. Her mother was raped by Scylredi and lost her mind. Efrel's mixed bloods explains why she could survive so much, her talent for dark arts and ability to communicate with Scylredi.
  • Hated by All: If Kane spends sufficient time in a region, he becomes hated by everyone there as a consequence of his own actions, necessitating that he flee to some distant land. How long it takes depends on the scope and magnitude of his activities.
  • The Heart: M'Cori in Darkness Weaves. She even brings imprisoned Lages flowers to cheer him up.
  • Hellhound: Serberys, Lord Tloluvin's hound. Red eyes, fetid breath, "bigger and blacker than a mountain bear", with a black tongue. And pity those who go out at night under Demonlord's moon, as that is when he goes hunting with his master.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: Kane is naturally left handed, but has trained himself to use his right hand almost equally well. He's skilled enough to fight two different foes at once while wielding dissimilar weapons, such as a sword in one hand and an axe in the other.
  • Heroism Motive Speech: "Cold Light" introduces Knight Templar Lord Gaethaa, aka "The Crusader", who was born as an aristocrat but got tired of his pampered life and decided to devote his life and resources to fighting evil. He delivers his speech to citizens of plague-wracked Sebbei—and it falls flat, as they have already crossed the Despair Event Horizon and only want to be left alone.
    I have made it my mission in life to hunt down and destroy the agents of evil who bring death and deprivation to the helpless! Too long has evil held sway over our lives - too long have the creatures of evil run unchecked among mankind! Evil has ruled the lives of men with the consuming might of merciless force - and mankind has had to bow to its terror or else be destroyed! But I have sworn to destroy the servants of evil wherever they hold mankind in thrall!
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In Dark Crusade, upon getting to Ingoldi, Erill and Javro find their place with the Theater Guild—and Javro is chosen to play himself in the patriotic pageant The Invincible March of the Sword of Sataki, which is highly praised by the authorities for its propaganda value.
  • High Priest: Gerwein, high priestess of the Temple of Shenan in Bloodstone. Barely thirty and very beautiful, she's also haughty, cold and a very talented politician. And she has access to a great library, not to mention some powerful artifact. Oh, and she brings up orphans to become virgin sacrifices, just in case.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "Cold Light" Cereb Ak-Cetee is taken by a demon he summoned into another dimension after Kane breaks the pentagram that held it. Similar fate befalls Eberhos in "Dark Muse".
    • A fair number of stories open in the wake of Kane's latest scheme blowing up in his face, forcing him to run for his life and stumbling into another adventure along the way.
  • Humans Are Flawed: In "Two Suns Setting" that is the main point of the discussion between Kane and last king of dwarves Dwassllir. Dwassllir argues that humans are weak and would be nothing without their civilisation, which is like crutches to a cripple, while Kane points out that's exactly the point and that thanks to their inherent weakness and need for civilisations humans have become the fastest-growing race.
  • Human Subspecies: Kane and others of his ilk are a unique breed of humanity created by the Mad God. Kane's special abilities, except for his immortality, are derived from this biology.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Kane absolutely refuses to allow the god who cursed him to "win."
  • Innate Night Vision: Several characters in various stories remark on Kane's uncanny ability to move without any problems in the darkness. His daughter Klesst has inherited this, at least to an extent.
  • Inn of No Return: In "Raven's Eyrie", the eponymous inn. Before Kane's raid, it used to be a popular caravanserai, however, as it turns out, not all of its customers survived the night. Its single rooms—for particularly wealthy guests, of course—had hidden entries, while a tunnel leading to nearby river Cotras provided convenient means of getting rid of the bodies. And the disappearances could always be blamed on bandits, like Kane.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: In "The Gothic Touch", Kane teams up with Elric.
  • Karmic Death:
    • In "Cold Light" Mollyl, who liked to cause pain to his helpless victims and was the first to carry out Gaethaa's commands to torture and kill, dies in the most painful way of all Crusader's men: he burns alive.
    • Sitilvon from "Misericorde", who loves poisons, is poisoned by Kane (whom she was trying to poison herself).
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Alidore from "Cold Light", a young idealist who joins "The Crusader" Lord Gaethaa to fight evil but slowly begins to realise that his commander is a ruthless Knight Templar.
  • Knight Templar: Gaethaa (aka "The Crusader") from "Cold Light", devoted to fighting evil - up to and including evil's unwilling servants and slaves.
    He was a fanatic in the cause of good, and once he had recognized a center of evil, he trampled over every obstacle that would hinder him from burning it clean.
  • The Lad-ette: Teres from Bloodstone. She wants to be her father's successor in a warrior culture, so she drinks, fights and hunts like other men - she even gets into a knife-throwing contest over who will spend the night with her father's female slave.
    She was a strange creature, Teres, who had devoted most of her 25 years to denying her femininity, and with startling success. Her features were heavily drawn, though not masculine, and might have been called pretty, but for the thin scar crossing one cheek and a nose twice broken and never perfectly set.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Downplayed, there's implication that in his extremely long life - Kane had fathered children over the eons. But usually the kids just get their father's red hair, Klesst is his only known child to have inherited Kane's immortality and Innate Night Vision
  • Last of His Kind: Dwassllir, the last king of giants, in "Two Suns Setting".
  • Left for Dead: Lages in Darkness Weaves, Jarvo in Dark Crusade.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Kane's tactics in Bloodstone, when he manipulates Breimen to start war with Selonari, so that he can consolidate his power in Arrelarti.
  • Let the Past Burn: At the end of "Reflections on the Winter of my Soul", Kane sets the manor on fire with all the dead bodies inside and reflects on the life that he could have had — at least for a while.
  • Lightning Reveal: In Darkness Weaves It was a dark and stormy night when Arbas the Killer and young Imel were waiting for Kane in an old tomb... extended burst of chain lightning split the midnight skies and threw a flickering bluish light on the figure just entering the crypt. Startled, Imel was unable to suppress a gasp at the sight of the looming cloaked figure silhouetted darkly against the lightning-blasted torrent.
  • Lost Technology: The Scylredi technology in Darkness Weaves, the Bloodstone from Bloodstone.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Jarvo in Dark Crusade is so blinded by his love for Esketra that he does not see her for an Opportunistic Bastard she is (even though he knows very well that she's been unfaithful to him) and fails to notice that she's quite happy in her role as Orted's lover—and as a result brings doom onto people who have saved his life.
  • Mad Artist: Opyros from "Dark Muse". He is a young poet obsessed with the idea of writing a perfect poem about Gods of Darkness. To this end he befriends shady characters (like Kane himself), takes dangerous drugs and finally uses the titular Dark Muse, a dangerous artifact of old times. The experience drives him insane but helps him write his perfect poem which drives all listeners insane or kills them.
  • Mad God: The creator of humankind. And since he created humans in his own image, they inherited his madness.
  • Mad Scientist: At times, Kane has been this to occupy his time and in his worst moments will perform unethical experiments on unwilling subjects.
  • Made of Iron: Kane can take immense amounts of punishment and still fight on.
    • And Efrel, considering what she survived.
  • Magic from Technology: It is suggested that all magic is like this.
  • Magic Knight: Over the many eons he's lived, Kane has become an extremely knowledgeable sorcerer and may actually be as skilled in sorcery as he is in combat (though after the earliest stories, he seldom resorts to magic).
  • Masking the Deformity: General Javro in Dark Crusade wears a helm with a visor that looks like a snarling demon's face. Underneath, his own face is horribly disfigured by burns.
  • Master Poisoner: Sitilvon from "Misericorde" loves developing various poisons—she tests them on unfortunate people her family kidnaps.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Basically, every woman Kane is with, with the sole exception of Naichoryss. Especially Sesi from "Lynortis Reprise", who is a teen. He did try to make one of his lovers immortal. It did not go well.
  • Mind Rape:
    • When Kane uses the Lair of Yslsl to escape from Ceddi, Yslsl hits him hard with this in order to feed off of his emotions. Unfortunately for Yslsl, Kane hits back.
    • Bloodstone also tries this at one point, with about as much success.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes /Present Tense Narrative: The stories are told mainly in third person past tense, but occasionally short passages will switch mode and/or tense for effect:
    • "Mirage" contains a paragraph of Kane's internal monologue while he's incoherent from a head injury.
    • Several paragraphs in "Cold Light", which describe the dead land of Demornte, as well as short Prologue to "Lynortis Reprise", which in turn describe (again) the dead fortress of Lynortis.
    • Again in "Lynortis Reprise", a short fight scene starting with the moment a character shouts a warning and ending before the echoes of his scream die. Present tense is used here to make the fight more dynamic, almost in Bullet Time for Kane.
    • Similarly, in Dark Crusade, several paragraphs describing the battle between the Sword of Sataki and Sandotneri forces, again to make the scene more dynamic.
    Steel and space… and time?... is now.
    Sound is sundering steel and molten screams of rage and agony. The explosive death of a volcano, vomiting its fiery blood into the icy sea. Two waves of steel smash together. Time is still; space is motionless. Steel is totality.
  • Offing the Offspring: Ionor hates Kane and their daughter Klesst, and so she intends to sacrifice Klesst to Sathonys.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Happens quite often, as people swear by their gods (or demons): "Shenan's tits!", "Bright Ommem!", "By Lato's black heart!", "Thoem's beard!", "By the Seven Eyes of Lord Thro'ellet!"
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Esketra from Dark Crusade. She uses her good looks to her advantage, first seducing aspiring general Javro and then living in comfort as Orted Ak-Ceddi's lover. And she would betray anyone if she thought it would help her. Unfortunately for her, women are immune to her charms and Erill really wants to get her Revenge and rightly suspects that Esketra would be able to convince Javro to forgive her.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Giants are an elder race, described as generally proudly aloof, taciturn and scornful of human civilisation. Dwassllir, the last king of giants, is about eighteen feet tall, his hands are bigger than spades, and his speaking voice as loud as a man's shout. He turns out to be quite friendly.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul", second-rate astrologer states that there are three main types of werewolves: humans that can take wolf or semi-lupine form, demons that can take wolf form, wolves that can take human form (these being the most dangerous) and lead other wolves; as well as deluded humans who only believe they are wolves but do not shift form. The story deals with type three and four.
  • Pals with Jesus: In Bloodstone, it's revealed that Kane drops in to visit his buddy Jhaniikest, a minor goddess, every hundred years or so, and that she keeps some of his stuff stashed safely away for him. It's implied that they may be occasional lovers.
  • Pet the Dog: Kane has a few moments in various stories—in the two below there was nobody to see him do it so he wasn't just trying to make himself look better.
    • In "Two Suns Setting" he decides not to take king Brotemlain's crown, even though it would be worth a fortune, leaving it on dying Dwassllir's head instead.
    • In "Misericorde" he gives a comforting lie and a quick poison to a mutilated boy in agony. The narration states then that "Kane was seldom needlessly cruel".
  • The Plague: What happened to the land of Demornte in the Back Story to "Cold Light". When Kane arrives, the whole rich country has been turned into the land of the dead, with few survivors living their desolate lives in the capital Sebbei. It was also what granted Rehhaile her mystical powers.
    Dead Demornte. Demornte whose towns lie empty, whose farms are slowly returning to forest. Demornte where death has lain and life will no more linger. Land of death where only shadows move in empty cities, where the living are but a handful to the countless dead.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: In "Raven's Eyrie" Klesst has a recurring nightmare of a huge black hound with fiery red eyes that is hunting her. This is actually a Foreshadowing of the fate her mother Ionor has intended for her.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: An Ancient Artifact that Shenan's priestesses use to counteract the power of Bloodstone is powered by human sacrifice — virgins brought up in the Temple specifically for this purpose (even though human sacrifice has been banned by the rulers of Selonari).
  • Precursors: The Scylredi, Krelran and other unnamed "elder races" in Darkness Weaves and Bloodstone. Also Dwassllir, the last king of giants, in "Two Suns Setting".
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Subverted in Darkness Weaves: Roget, Lages and M'Cori each have their fortunes told. Roget's prophecy comes true, but the other two do not.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In Back Story to "Lynortis Reprise", when king Masale finally conquered and destroyed Lynortis (which would be impossible without a traitor leading him through hidden passages to the city), he had spent so much time, money and men on the two-year-long siege that he had to give up his dreams of conquering the land that lay beyond Lynortis.
  • Rage Helm: General Javro in Dark Crusade wears a helm with a visor that looks like a snarling demon's face. Underneath, his own face is horribly disfigured by burns.
  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: Teres from Bloodstone.
  • Rape as Drama: Happens in Cold Light, Alidore and Rehhaile are becoming increasingly close despite Rehhaile being Kane's occasional lover. Unfortunately the rest of Gaethaa's gang have been lusting for her and Gaethaa gives them his permission for them to gangrape her. This incident shows Alidore just how awful Gaethaa actually is.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn:
    • Mostly kept in Kane's Back Story, like his days as a pirate around Thovnos in Darkness Weaves or a bandit leader in "Raven's Eyrie".
    • What Orted Ak-Ceddi's titular Dark Crusade does to every town and city they conquer.
  • Rapid Aging: What happens in "Undertow" to Dessylyn after she's left without Kane's necromantic potions for too long.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "Cold Light" Rehhaile gives one to Alidore, pointing out just how twisted Gaethaa's idea of good and justice is, as well as their hypocrisy. Alidore at first rejects it, but it grows on him.
  • Religion of Evil: The cult of Sataki in Dark Crusade.
  • Red Right Hand: Kane's eyes burn with such inhuman hatred and bloodlust that most people feel uncomfortable in his presence. They are also his literal Mark of Cain.
  • Rescue Sex: In "Undertow" handsome and strong barbarian Dragar saves beautiful and noble Dessylyn from some street thugs who attempt to rape her when she happens to wander around seedy port district and they go on to become lovers. Subverted in that Dessylyn was never in any danger and it was all a ploy to get Dragar to kill Kane for her.
  • Revenge: Appears often in different stories.
    • Three of Gaethaa's men in "Cold Light", Jarvo in Dark Crusade, Sataki cultists in "Reflections on the Winter of my Soul" and Ionor in "Raven's Eyrie" all want revenge on Kane.
    • "Sing the Last Song of Valdese" is about cultist Korjonos's revenge on men who raped and killed his lover and mutilated him. It took him seven times seven years to achieve his goal.
    • In Darkness Weaves Efrel wants revenge on Netisten Maril for sentencing her to being dragged by an enraged bull through the streets of his city which turned her into a disfigured monster, while Netisten's nephew Lages wants revenge on both of them for the death of his father.
    • In Dark Crusade Erill wants revenge on Esketra, who caused the death of her friends and a lot of pain to her.
    • In "The Other One" Kane himself gathers an army to destroy the city of Andalar to avenge the death of his lover (and possibly the fact that he was robbed of his chance to become the most influential person in the place).
    • In "Misericorde" Josin hires Kane to kill his manipulative lover Tamaslei to avenge his own death.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Orted's titular Dark Crusade initially starts as a revolution led by a charismatic bandit leader against those who have money and power and his first followers are Ingoldi's poor. And then it devolves into Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
  • Sadist: Mollyl from "Cold Light". He joins Lord Gaethaa not because he wants to fight evil but because it gives him ample opportunities to inflict pain to others. The fact that he comes from the island of Pellin, infamous for its depravities, does not help, either.
  • Royal Bastard: Sesi from "Lynortis Reprise" is the daughter of king Masale and Reallis, whom he has taken as his Sex Slave.
  • Savage Wolves: Wolf pack that hunts around the mansion in "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul" and finally attacks it. They are led by a werewolf who is able to let them in and massacre everyone inside, with the sole exception of Kane.
  • Self-Made Orphan: In "Misericorde" the four Vareishei children killed their father to rule the Altharn Keep.
  • Sex for Services: In "Lynortis Reprise" teenage Sesi offers her body to Kane in exchange for him not giving her up to Jeresen's men. He muses that he could always take her by force but for some reason agrees.
  • Show Within a Show: In Dark Crusade Erill and Javro get back to Ingoldi, where they find employment with the Theater Guild and take part in the production of patriotic pageant The Invincible March of the Sword of Sataki. This allows Javro to get into Orted's citadel when they are invited to perform their play to celebrate Kane's return from successful military campaign.
  • Shrouded in Myth: People who encounter Kane often become uneasy at his uncanny resemblance to an evil "Kane" from myth and legend. Probably because he's the same Kane.
  • Sinister Subway: In "At First Just Ghostly" an abandoned tunnel of London underground is the place where burnt-out writer Cody Lennox meets Satan himself. As well as Kane and Klesst.
  • Sinister Suffocation: In "Lynortis Reprise", Sesi is tortured by being hanged with a rope around her wrists and around her neck, so that she either suffers the pain of dislocated shoulder joints or slowly suffocates.
  • Spider-Sense: Hundreds of years of living dangerously and dabbling in dark arts seem to have led to Kane evolving a kind of sixth sense that warns him of imminent danger, which can be seen in "The Dark Muse".
  • Squishy Wizard: Puriali from "Misericorde" is described as the smallest of the Vareishei clan, slight of build and bony.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Kane and his daughter Klesst both have red hair, blue eyes and very long fingers—as well as share the uncanny ability to see in the dark. Puriali from "Misericorde" also has red hair and blue eyes and Kane acknowledges that the boy can be his descendant.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Kranor-Rill in Bloodstone is dangerous, full of razor-sharp or tangling vines, poisonous snakes and spiders, deadly quicksand, as well as simply unpleasant, with scum-covered ponds, noxious quagmires and bloodthirsty mosquitos and leeches. And then there are the Rylliti, descendants of an elder race, degenerate but hard to kill.
  • Teleportation: Bloodstone can teleport Kane to certain places, at first not very far from its location. As Kane mentions, coincidentally these points of focus are surrounded by macabre legends.
  • Time Abyss: Kane has been around at least since the end of the "Golden Age" of mankind's creation. Necessarily so, since he caused the end of that age.
  • Titled After the Song: Several of the chapter titles in Dark Crusade are taken from rock lyrics and album titles of the late '60s and early '70s:
  • Villain Protagonist: Kane is an unrepentant murderer with the blood of entire civilizations on his hands, a rapist and the man who introduced violence to humanity. He's also the lead character and is often placed with monsters worse and more destructive than he is. It helps that most of his really atrocious deeds are kept in his Back Story.
  • War Is Hell: In Back Story to "Lynortis Reprise", two-year-long siege of Lynortis was a nightmare for everyone involved, the attackers, the defenders and the civilians. It was so bad that the half-men—maimed survivors from both sides of the conflict, who decided to stay in Lynortis's ruins—worship "The Bringer of Peace", that is the traitor who finally led Masale's armies into the city through hidden passages, even thought it ended in a massacre. The traitor Kane himself thought it was a Hopeless War and just wanted everything to end.
  • Weather Report Opening:
    • "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul" starts—fittingly—with a description of winter blizzard.
    Outside, the blizzard gathered howling force with each minute—a fury of white crystalline coldness whose blasts penetrated the thick stone walls, raced through dark hallways and billowed the heavy tapestries.
    • "Mirage" opens with a description of a terribly hot summer day, which saps strenght of a group of mercenaries trying to escape following a lost war.
  • White Wolves Are Special: The leader of the wolf pack in "Reflections on the Winter of My Soul" is a big white wolf with red eyes. He's a vicious werewolf who enjoys slaughtering humans.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Kane has a moment of this in "Cold Light". He gets over it when Lord Gaethaa's men come to kill him.
    • In Bloodstone, Kane explains to Teres exactly why immortality is awful.
  • Worthy Opponent: Evingolis perceives Kane as such.
    "Well Kane, this has been a most interesting game. I salute you. You have led an extraordinary career, to use an absurd understatement. I admire you. Perhaps I understand you. And you of all men are the first to command my respect."
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • In Dark Crusade, Kane doesn't hesitate to kill the child who spears his horse during the fight to get to the Tower of Yslsl.
    • Ionor from "Raven's Eyrie" is ready to give her own seven-year-old daughter Klesst to Demonlord in order to get her revenge.
    • Sitilvon from "Misericorde" kidnaps children to test poisons on them (she killed forty children to test various parts of the monkshood plant), while her brother Puriali uses them in divination.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Why the Vareishei children killed their father, expressed in almost exact words.
    Puriali: "Together we killed our father when his usefulness was outlived."