Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Loyal Enemies

Go To
She-wolf Shelena and her so-called enemy, wizard Veres.

Shelena: Just great! I found myself in a fascinating company! A banished wizard who can't conjure anything without fainting immediately, a dragon who runs away from overgrown wolves, an adolescent with consumption and a child!
Gloom: And a werewolf with a nasty character.
Veres: It's not your usual werewolf... She's a woman. And there's no elixir that'd help you with that.

Loyal Enemies ("Верные враги", "Vernye vragi") is a fantasy novel by Belarusian writer Olga Gromyko. It is set in Beloria, the same universe as her previous books.

Shelena is a werewolf. She moves from place to place, never staying for long, afraid of getting lynched should her identity ever be discovered. Currently, she's working as a herbalist's assistant in a small town on the border of Beloria. Her painstakingly-built daily routine is ruined, however, when she takes home a half-dead sorcerer who was left to die in a roadside ditch. The man is none other than Veres, a monster hunter who once tried to kill her, but Shelena wishes to settle the matter once and for all in an honorable manner, which means she first has to wait for him to heal.

Between Veres' distrust for her and his student Rest's hilarious antics as the boy tries to "save" his master from the "wild beast", something bad starts to happen in town, and whoever's behind it apparently sees it fit to include Shelena and Veres in their plans. They decide not to play by the rules, though. Accompanied by Rest and Veres' dragon-buddy Gloom, who wants to eat Shelena once he wins the game of cards with her, they set out to discover what's going on. But as it turns out, they are in way over their heads...


The novella A Trap for a Necromancer from the collection The Chronicles of Beloria also features the same characters. Here, Shelena and Veres get roped into hunting down a renegade necromancer in Beloria's capital city of Starmin.

This book contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Shelena is a werewolf and perfectly capable of killing in her wolf form. In human form, she's got better than average strength and reflexes and has actively trained for years to become a Master Swordswoman, which she proves in a duel against one of the mages who once tortured her in the book's final. She's also not too good to race a ghoul-werewolf hybrid through the woods or climb the city walls in her wolf form.
  • Action Mom:
    • Liara, when she is introduced, is already pregnant with her second child and still a working battle mage. Her husband occasionally tries to beg her to stop and think of herself, but gets shut down quickly, and Liara actively takes part in the final battle by wading in and sniping fireballs left, right and centre.
    • Advertisement:
    • The novella A Trap for a Necromancer reveals that Shelena herself, while perfectly fine with a peaceful life revolving mostly around doting on her baby son Roim, is and remains an Action Girl when the situation asks for it. As long as she knows Roim to be safe, she's ready to go out and hunt for thieves and renegade necromancers.
  • Adipose Rex: Shelena describes the elven king as only slightly chubby by human standards, but ridiculously overweight for an elf.
  • Affectionate Nickname: "Shel", Shelena's In-Series Nickname given to her by Veres, morphs into an Affectionate Nickname over the course of the book, as they go from enemies to friends and eventually to Official Couple.
  • All Trolls Are Different: They live in the same mountain region as the dwarves and enjoy beating in each other's skulls with those. They're not particularly smart or civilized, but live in a clan-like society and worship their anchestors, whom they throw into the lake they later take their water from or bath in. Before every major decision, like going to war, they ask for guidance from their Great Granddad, who may or may not exist. As the heroes find out after crashing that particular ceremony, the trolls are not beyond declaring that Great Granddad has gotten too full of himself.
  • Amazon Brigade: The dryads are a female-only One-Gender Race, which logically also applies to the army they send with the heroes into battle. Since the dryads are faster and more agile than most other races, they are the best archers around.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The Staff of Fertility is an elven artifact which amplifies their already inherent ability to shape the natural world around them and allows them to grow their city naturally. The downside is that it also acts as a downsized Cosmic Keystone for their part of Ash Grove and thus, its theft is a really big deal. It's shaped like a non-assuming piece of wood.
  • The Apprentice: Thirteen-year-old Rest is apprenticed to battle mage Veres for the entirety of the book. This is mostly Played for Laughs, first when he tries to 'avenge' his master who he thinks was killed and eaten by werewolf Shelena but has to use.. creative methods due to his lack of any actual skills yet, then when he and Veres break half of Shelena's kitchen utensils while trying to teach Rest levitation. As it turns out, Rest has a history of being apprenticed to various masters and getting kicked out. Based on this Shelena questions his adequacy for becoming a mage, but both Veres and Rest, especially Rest, are adamant that this time, it's going to work out just fine.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Invoked. When Shelena and Veres ready themselves to confront the virgin-eating basilisk terrorizing the dwarves, Veres magicks himself a whole body disguise as a woman. Shelena can't decide whether to be appalled or disgusted about the size of certain assets Veres gives himself, but Veres is confident to be hot as hell. And he proves to be right when they are confronted by a thug who's so distracted by the aforementioned assets he completely disregards how Veres never bothers to change his voice.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Necromancy, especially dark necromancy, is considered one of the worst forms of magic, and it's bad enough to justify torturing people who are suspected of practicing it. Despite that, mages are requiered to know its practices to be able to identify it. Veres is a skilled necromancer, although he only practises so-called neutral necromancy and uses his skills to summon spirits of the dead, and only when he's confident that they wouldn't oppose it.
  • The Bard: Hraik is a half-elf bard in one of the pubs in the town of Displacing. He's fiendishly intelligent and agile, being able to sing on without skipping a note when attacked by furious patrons, and is the only person to work out that Shelena is a werewolf without any explicit clues.
  • Basilisk and Cockatrice: The heroes help a dwarven community which is being terrorized by a house-sized basilisk demanding to be given fifty virgins. Since basilisks don't actually grow that big and cannot speak, they become suspicious and Shelena and Veres set out to investigate disguised as virgin nuns. They discover a group of thugs hired by the villains, who pretend to be the basilisk by magically projecting the illusion of a giant one onto the road, while the real basilisk is held in a cage — it's about wolf-sized and can turn people into stone with its eyes, but that takes energy and the basilisk in question is in such a sorry state that it makes a dash for the nearest wood when released.
  • Big Eater: Battle mage Veres uses a long-term healing spell to heal himself after being beaten into a pulp at the start of the novel. The spell accelerates his metabolism and burns energy constantly, making him chronically hungry to the point that "Veres ate all our food" becomes a Running Gag in-story.
  • Blue-Collar Warlock: Mages put on robes and fancy hats only for special occasions. When your job is fighting monsters, practicality comes first and you don't want to stumble over the hem of your robe in an inopportune moment.
  • Bookends: The book opens and closes with parts of poems. The first one basically states that Legend Fades to Myth. The second one says that perhaps it's true, but while she's still alive, the narrator will do her best to make sure the myth has a happy ending.
  • Breath Weapon: Dragons can spew fire as befits them. Gloom in particular can also spew an inky substance Veres calls "the Darkness", which in their case, blinds their pursuers.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The book starts with the excellent battle mage Veres being beaten to a pulp by supposedly random tavern thugs. Throughout the entire story he's self-healing slowly but surely thanks to a special spell. The downside is that said spell consumes almost all of his magic, leaving him with only ten percent of his normal power and forcing him to rely on his swordsmanship and wit, as using even the smallest amount of magic makes him faint half the time.
  • Buxom Is Better: While Shelena is not exactly suffering from A-Cup Angst, she often remarks on how some of the women the party meets have bigger breasts and how those must be considered more attractive. Gloom certainly seems to think so. When Shelena steals a set of clothes from the Big Bad, she smugly asserts that the shirt is uncomfortably tight, meaning her assets are bigger — and thus, better.
  • The Casanova: Gloom the dragon likes to fashion himself a casanova and pretends to leave broken hearts behind everywhere. As it is, every dryad he tries his charms on snubs him and the one time he does manage to score, he can't even remember which sister he slept with and gets chased out of the house by an angry father.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: There are a whole bunch of Chekhov's Guns, so many that it becomes difficult to tell what's one and what is a false lead.
    • It's mentioned that Veres wrote a paper on werewolves as his thesis. This becomes important much later when it's revealed who the bad guy is, namely his ex-girlfriend Tairinn, who only pretended to love him to get said paper, which allowed her to breed hybrids.
    • Early in the book, Shelena visits the shop of Karst-e-Lat and mentions that dwarf shops are always guarded by specially trained rats which attack anyone who enters after the lights have been put out. Shortly before the end battle, she and Rest get captured by a bunch of thugs and brought to a broken-in dwarven shop. Shelena immediately notices the rats hiding in the dark corners and uses them to free herself by dousing the lights.
    • When asked why she never married if she had a suitor, as she claims, Shelena says he wanted her to drink an elixir which would make it impossible for her to take on her wolf form. She is later held captured by having been made to drink said elixir and almost dies as a consequence.
    • Much is talked about how Shelena's darkan glows in the presence of darklings, until it becomes attuned to her and stops doing so in her presence. Around rolls her final duel with one of her former tormentors and lo and behond, the darkan glowing tells her she's actually facing some kind of monster.
    • As they catch theirs, Veres explains that kelpies always want to return to water because they are actually river currents that look like white horses when on land. Shelena explicitly mentions that the ice on the river behind the battlefield has broken due to magic. After the final battle, one of the bad guys tries to steal Shelena's kelpie to flee. Veres lets him. Cue a loud splash and a drowned enemy.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tairinn is mentioned as Veres' dead former girlfriend, contributing to his Dark and Troubled Past. Turns out she's not nearly as dead as he thought. She faked her own death by werewolf after getting what she wanted from Veres — his research on werewolves. She shows up again as part of the villain duo.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early in the book, Shelena demonstrates that in werewolf form, she can climb the city walls as they haven't been maintained sufficiently. This skill comes in handily much later, when she climbs the enemy castle's wall with Veres on her back, which is the only way to get in as there is no visible gate.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Shelena was once captured by an Ax-Crazy monster hunter, who used her to teach his apprentice how to torture werewolves, which went on for days. She was eventually left to die. It is implied, though never confirmed, that they also snatched her child as well.
    • Veres was tortured for days by the Coucil of Mages because he refused to be telepathically interrogated on the matter of Tairinn's possible guilt in a necromancy incident. Torture of mages involves dislocating their wrists — and sometimes ankles, if they're deemed too clever — as most spells need hand gestures to work. He was deposited outside the city gates after they'd had enough, with his ankles, but not wrists, put back in place in the assumption that he would go mad and die after all this anyway.
  • Cool Horse: Kelpies are extremely durable, fast and capable of lifting heavy weights. The best thing about them, though, is that they walk on snow, sinking in only slightly no matter how much weight is put on them, which is absolutely useful as the action of the book takes place in winter and involves copious amounts of travelling. Their secret is that they aren't actually horses, but river currents that take the form of horses on land and remain such as long as they are kept bridled.
  • Cool Sword: Darkans are an entire category of cool swords. They're extremely sharp, beautifully decorated and roughly katana-shaped. As druidic weapons, they have an inbuilt Detect Evil ability and glow green in the presence of darklings. This actually proves more annoying than useful, as the darkan used in the story is wielded by werewolf Shelena. Try to sneak up on somebody with your sword shining like a glowstick.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Staff of Fertility (and oh boy, is there anybody in-story who doesn't snark at its name?) is an integral part of the elven half of Ash Grove, without which the giant plants constructing the elven town can't survive. Its theft is enough to put the dryad and elven halves of Ash Grove on the brink of war.
  • Covers Always Lie: Zig-zagged. The cover shows Shelena, Veres and their weaponry as they were described in the book, although it gets Shelena's age and skin tone wrong, as it does Veres'. That's probably one of the only cases where the foreign edition (Polish in this case) got the cover more true to the book than original, as it shows Shelena with olive skin.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Vampire kingdoms are alluded to a few times, and the islands, which are somewhere in Beloria, are mentioned as Veres' likely place of birth, but we don't even learn in what direction they lie.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Veres was a skilled, talented mage on the verge of handing in his thesis and becoming an archmage. Then the love of his life was suspected of being a crazy necromancer and he refused to be interrogated, believing her to be innocent. He was tortured for information for days, left the prison as a functional cripple, was banished from the capital, had all of his possessions confiscated and his career thus ruined. To top it off, his lover Tairinn was killed by a werewolf a week later. If not for his friend Gloom, he'd probably have died right there and then. The worst part? Tairinn wasn't innocent at all and never loved him, faking her own death.
    • Werewolf Shelena has her share of bad memories. Among others, her first child was lynched, she had to leave a man she loved behind because he despised the wolf side of her and wanted her to kill it with an elixir, and she was once captured by an Ax-Crazy monster hunter and tortured for days before being left to die. That's not mentioning all the times she had to leave everything behind because people found out she's a werewolf.
    • Rest, Veres' apprentice, was thrown out of his home and by several masters he was apprenticed with, often for no good reason other than that they didn't want to feed another mouth anymore. Veres found him on the verge of dying from falling into the lake in the middle of winter beneath a flight of stairs, while his drunk father was about to beat him for falling in.
    • Virra is a seven-year-old half-elf girl who, due to her clan who all have the killing touch, is being shunned by both elves and humans. She lost her family to vicious bird-reptile monsters and has been told so often that she's a monster and worth nothing that she's started to believe it.
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Shelena has pale, blond hair and swarthy skin. This isn't remarked upon by anybody at all, though swarthy skin is noted to be trait of people from the islands. She is, however, a werewolf, so it may be due to her not actually being human.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Shelena won't miss any chance to snark, especially when she knows it will annoy someone.
      Veres: Shelena, I'm telling you for the tenth time...
      Shelena: You'd better think for the first.
    • Or when she is snarking in her inner monologue:
      He really might become a good battle mage in the future. After all, he was already quite good at running away from the monster looking as if he was gracing it by this.
    • Veres, while generally — unlike Shelena — less prone to shooting anything that comes to his mind right out his mouth, also has his moments.
      (After Shelena stomps on Gloom's tail, causing their task to be done with much ensuing hilarity)
      Veres: Indeed, you're just plain born to work together.
  • Detect Evil: Darkans are druidic swords that are enchanted to glow green when a darkling is nearby. This is more annoying than helpful, as the darkan in the story is owned by Shelena, a werewolf. Try to sneak up on somebody with your sword shining like a glowstick.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sure, the independent mages are vastly underrepresented in the Council of Mages, but is this really a reason to try to kill all court mages and bring the entire (working) system down?
  • Duel to the Death: During the final battle, Shelena challenges her unnamed former tormentor to a duel to the death after having tracked him down. Since her enemy is a mage and she intends the duel to be fought with only their swords, she uses archmage Veres' presence to intimidate him into compliance. It's a long, drawn-out thing, as both of them turn out to be capable sword fighters, but Shelena wins that particular contest of patience.
  • Everyone Can See It: Even ghosts and villains can see it that Shelena and Veres are made for each other. Delirna's ghost flat-out asks Shelena how Veres is in bed (before either is even aware of any feelings), and Big Bad Tairinn tells Veres to get his monster girlfriend away from her.
  • Face–Heel Turn: When the heroes find out who the evil guys are, namely Tairinn, Veres' long-lost love, who immediately claims she's only been doing this for him and oh how she's missed him, he falls for her charms all over again and joins them. He even comes down to Shelena's dungeon cell to gloat. Subverted because while Veres puts on a convincing act, he only does that to find out what they're planning and to have enough time to free Shelena.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: While they are investigating Lliotarel's chamber, Shelena notices that they are being watched and immediately drags Veres onto the bed and pretends to kiss and undress him. She counts on the observer to assume there was some residue of the Love Potion someone planted in Lliotarel's secret food stash, which Veres immediately sampled. Veres is alternately freaked out and angry as he's got a hard time believing it's not just another one of Shelena's games until he finally catches on.
  • Fantastic Science: There's Hermetic Magic, justifying the trope. Theoretical magic requires many hours, if not days or years, of meticulous planning and calculations, much like real-life engineering, and the mage academy of Beloria works much like a real life university. Theoretical magic is studied like maths or biology and students must write a thesis to gain a degree — for example, Veres' Baccalaureate paper is on the magical origins of darklings.
  • Fictional Document: There are footnotes in the book which seem to be written from an in-universe perspective, sometimes referring the more curious reader to in-universe documents on subjects such as the biology of werewolves or the witch rings of Beloria.
  • Fireballs: Fireballs are a beloved staple of Belorian battle mages and useful in any combat situation.
  • First-Person Smartass: Shelena's narration is chocke full of smartass comments on everything and everyone. When she can't snark freely in the elven part of Ash Grove, it goes Up to Eleven.
    He really might become a good battle mage in the future. After all, he was already quite good at running away from the monster looking as if he was gracing it by this.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Shelena and Veres are nominally mortal enemies, what with her being a werewolf and him a monster hunter specialized in werewolves. But setting aside Shelena's questionable decision to drag him half-dead out of a ditch and take him home to heal, there's some increasing romance subtext between them as the book goes on. Forced to work together, they have to share her hut, ride on the same horse and spend nights talking at the campfire. Shelena just can't keep her paws off Veres, sticking feathers up his nose at night and getting almost stabbed for her trouble. Veres, on his part, is very interested when the talk comes to Shelena's preferences in men, and he's always just around the corner when Shelena has gotten herself into trouble again. When asked by Delirna how Veres is in bed, instead of denying anything, Shelena's answer is 'Like a corpse.' And when Shelena almost dies from an arrow wound, Veres uses his own life force to drag her back from the brink of death. Enemies, mortal ones. Sure.
    Eventually, Shelena has a Love Epiphany, but that doesn't put the subtext to rest until the very end of the book, as Veres' point of view is never shown.
  • Footnote Fever: Shelena rarely feels the need to explain basic things (such as what the Raven Keep is or how much is one verst), so there are quite some footnotes. Interestingly, they seem to be written from an in-universe perspective, as they sometimes refer to Fictional Documents.
  • Functional Magic: Magic in this story is rule magic of the Hermetic Magic variety and you need an inherent gift to do it. All spells require focus, verbal components and hand gestures. A sufficiently proficient mage doesn't require the latter two, although focus itself makes it hard to concentrate the spell in one point. The more complex the spell, the more research and calculations must be made before trying to cast a spell, and the most complex require entire rituals and years of planning. Some complex spells, though, such as teleportation, can be cast easily if one does it in a place where they've been done before.
  • Furry Reminder: Shelena, being a she-wolf part of the time, has a canine reproductive cycle, including being in heat. It doesn't seem to be accompanied by any significant changes in behaviour, though.
  • Geometric Magic: More complex rituals require various geometric figures — classical circles, triangles, squares and pentagramms — to work. This is Played for Laughs in A Trap for a Necromancer when Veres' idea of babysitting consists of drawing a pentagramm on the floor, plopping his own offspring on a pot and said pot inside the pentagramm and going off to do other things.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: When Shelena is injured by one of the wolf-ghoul hybrids that show up in Displacing and Veres wants to know what happened without Rest listening in, Shelena tells Rest to go down and get some potatoes out of the cellar, knowing he's hungry as hell.
  • Good Parents: A Trap for a Necromancer reveals that Shelena and Veres do indeed have a child and both are shown to be doting parents, though a bit quirky in the latter's case. Roim is always safe, fed and showered with love, and even though Shelena occasionally reminds herself to not be overbearing, she just can't help adoring her son.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Shelena realises she's in love with Veres in two parts, the second of which involves him kissing his former lover-turned-villain Tairinn. Even though it was just for show, Shelena needles him for his reasons until he tells her that when you close your eyes, you can imagine you're kissing anyone, yes, even her. It makes her so happy she cannot deny her feeling any longer.
  • Green Thumb: The Staff of Fertility, an artifact the elves use to keep their city alive, can make plants grow to incredible sizes and in desired shapes in an instant, although it must be active and present for the enhanced plants to stay alive, which becomes a problem when the staff is stolen. This is Played for Laughs upon it's triumphant return. Elven archmage Morriel uses the staff to make a fir grow in the middle of the throne room in celebration and only after having rejoiced at its sight for a proper amount of time do the elves notice that they're going to have to get rid of the thing the conventional way. Shelena mentions sawing sounds coming out of the throne room when the heroes take their leave from the elven kingdom.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: It initially looks like the elves don't want to take in the orphaned half-elf girl Virra because she is a half-breed. As it turns out, they aren't being snobbish because of her human blood, it's the elven part they're not too happy about. Virra is part layne, belonging to an elven clan whose members have the killing touch and tend to work as assassins.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Humans can have children with elves. Among named characters, Little Miss Badass Virra and Bard Hraik are half-elves. There's a strange tradition in mixed human-elf marriages where the elf among the parents always names the resulting child by deciding whether it looks/feels more like a human or an elf. This resulted in the sisters Danka and Virra, who have the same parents, receiving a human and an elven name, respectively.
  • Has a Type: Shelena can't stop swearing that Tall, Dark, and Handsome (that is, in a pinch, her so-called mortal enemy monster hunter Veres) is MOST CERTAINLY NOT her type. The light, strong and manly kind is, supposedly. Guess who becomes the Official Couple by the end of the book.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": The powerful elven Green Thumb artifact is called the Staff of Fertility. When the heroes first hear its name, Veres is at loss of words, Gloom snickers silently, and Shelena has to work hard to keep herself from laughing.
  • Hermetic Magic: Magic in Beloria can do almost anything, from teleportation to creating castles out of thin air, but most of the complex things require hours upon hours of meticulous planning. Veres sums it up once:
    Shelena: (referring to the villains' giant castle) So, how long did it take them to build that whopper?
    Veres: My guess is three hours. And a couple years of theoretical calculations.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Ash Grove ("ash" as in the tree) is an entire Hidden Elf City, although it's split into a dryad half and an elven half. Only the latter is hidden, and that's because the elves don't want dryads "infesting" their part of the city after some imagined spat. They've surrounded their city with illusions, making it look like there's nothing there from afar, and as the story is set in the middle of winter, the elves have also raised a magical snow wall for good measure. No dryads allowed. This falls flat, however, because they and the dryads share a spy agency and the dryads, themselves a very isolationist bunch squirreled away in their half of Ash Grove, just collectively shrug their shoulders. Both halves of Ash Grove remain in a state of eternal summer, the dryards due to their clever landscaping and the elves thanks to their Staff of Fertility.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • One can question Shelena's decision to take home and try to heal the man who tried to kill her once already. However, she wants to finish their matters properly, and a knife in the back is not a proper way at all.
    • Rest breathes this trope, his idea of honor being probably taken from some knight lore. First, he decides to take revenge on badass werewolf Action Girl Shelena for supposedly "eating" his master, even though he ought to know that she could easily have him as a midnight snack. When later he and Shelena are captured by hired thugs, he decides to act as if Shelena of all people was a Damsel in Distress, and refuses to abandon her even if he might save her by this. She endlessly curses him and calls him out on that, but Rest would not budge despite being scared out of his life.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: There's a long-time healing spell that allows to recover from nearly dying but it has some side effects. Veres uses it to heal himself but spends most of the book being chronically hungry and eating anything he can get his hands on, even if it might be unpalatable, because the food is immediately turned into energy and used to power the healing process.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Shelena works for a herbalist. She says once or twice that many of the man's mixtures are either a placebo or actually mildly harmful, and her werewolf senses let her make brews that actually work. Townsfolk has caught on to that and Shelena makes extra profit from selling her products on the side. Whenever the herbalist decides to threaten her about any of that, she points out that he's paying her peanuts and threatens to leave, taking half the customers with her.
  • Inept Mage: Rest is still an apprentice (and The Klutz at that), who actually forgets how to use his magic in situations when it might come in handy and is so insecure about it when he does use it, that it comes out too forceful and everything goes heads over bucket.
  • In-Series Nickname: Shel for Shelena. Veres, upon finding out her name, immediately takes to calling her that. She hates it, especially because that's what her former lover did, the one who couldn't accept her wholly, but it catches on and Gloom and even Virra try to use it as well. Shelena shuts both of them up quickly, but never manages to teach Veres to stop that and over time it become an Affectionate Nickname as the two of them become friends and eventually the Official Couple.
  • Insult of Endearment: Shelena dubs Veres "the sorcerer" before she learns his name. Thing is, that's an in-universe insult as it implies charlatanry and Veres is a formally trained battle mage. The fact that he hates it at first only spurs Shelena on, though, and she continues to call him "sorcerer" even after they've become the Official Couple.
  • Invisible Monsters: The second generation of Mix-and-Match Critters bred by the villains, which ends up dubbed "manglers" by the villagers they attack, is an invisible wolf-werewolf hybrid bred to be vicious, insanely fast and resilent and docile in the presence of their masters. They also multiply by killing, twenty dead people per one new mangler, meaning one mangler can attack a village and out come five of them.
  • Ironic Echo: When asked about why she doesn't care much about men's looks, Shelena says it's because in the dark they all are grey anyway. Much later, when she accuses Veres of having kissed the vamp for real rather than pretending, he throws it right back at her, saying that while all men look grey in the dark, so do all women feel the same when you close your eyes.
  • Killed Offscreen:
    • Virra's sister Danka is found to have been killed by one of the bird-reptile monsters the heroes thought to just have successfully fought off. As a non-combatant, she'd been hiding in a corner and everyone thought her safe there.
    • When the final battle is over and it looks like a completely happy ending, battle mage Liara's corpse is dug up from the ruins of the villain's castle. She must've not gotten out fast enough when the retreat was announced.
  • Knight Errant: The Order of White Raven is full of those. They're sort of religious order whose aim is defending sapient races.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: One of the villains attempts to pull a Karma Houdini after the final battle by stealing one of the heroes' kelpies. Now, kelpies are actually water currents which take the form of white horses on land and have to be kept bridled or they run for the nearest body of water to reunite with it. Veres, pretending to be intimidated, lets Etvor have the horse — sans bridle. Thinking of only getting away as fast as possibe, Etvor lets the kelpie run freely and ends up drowning in the nearest icy river.
  • Last Minute Hookup: After a lot of Will They or Won't They?-tension, several Love Epiphanies and lots of Everyone Can See It, Shelena and Veres eventually just disappear into the bushes and have sex in the epilogue. Played for Laughs because Veres' apprentice Rest assumes they're going to try and kill each other. Though Shelena leaves immediately after, it is heavily implied they will see each other again regularly as she is confident that she's pregnant and Veres would want to see his child. The follow-up novella shows them still madly in love, living together and raising their son.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Shelena and Veres have sex exactly once, but when she's leaving immediately after, she seems confident that she's pregnant. Justified by the earlier established fact that she's in heat on that day. A Trap for a Necromancer reveals that they indeed have a child.
  • Little Miss Badass: Virra is a seven-year-old half-elf girl. She is, however, a great archer, a Knife Nut in training and a member of an elven clan gifted with the killing touch. She manages to take out a skilled, much, much older elven master mage, dozens of vicious bird-reptile monsters and a barely visible giant werewolf-bear hybrid, all while looking and behaving like a sweet child.
  • The Lost Lenore: Tairinn was Veres' girlfriend and they were madly in love with each other until he was arrested for Taking the Heat for something he believed she could not possibly have done. A week later she was killed by a werewolf. He became a monster hunter and a fervent hater of werewolves because of that and even calls her name when he's raving in fever years later. Too bad she never loved him, feigned her own death, the werewolf was her accomplice, and she's the villain of the story.
  • Love Epiphany: Shelena realizes she's in love with Veres in two parts. First, after Veres saves her life and takes care of her while she's recovering, she realizes that she has never been attracted to the Tall, Dark, and Handsome types, but Veres doesn't look — and smell — all that bad, though she tells herself to stop being silly. She then fully admits her feelings for him after catching herself being jealous of him kissing his former lover-turned-villain Tairinn, even if it was for show. Not that this makes her any less prone to snarking at him. Or herself:
    Shel, you've lost your mind! Soon, he'll be leading you around on a leash and you'll just be wagging your tail for all that happiness! Give yourself a shake, now!
  • Magic Knight: Veres feels comfortable with both his magic and his sword, and uses both to deadly effect. It's implied that most monster hunters are Magic Knights, as even if one of their talents won't work on a darkling, the other will, and they need the extra reflexes and Healing Factor magic gives them.
  • Magic Mushroom: During their stay with the trolls, the party are presented with a pot of pickled fly agarics. Suspicious that the trolls are trying to pull something funny — also, the stuff looks disgusting — , Shelena declares that since Veres is always hungry, he may have the entire pot. Eating it all makes him so sleepy, he cannot attend the trolls' grand spirit ceremony, but scrashes it midway behaving like he's either possessed or hallucinating. Turns out, the trolls never meant to poison the heroes. Instead, fly agaric is a rare delicacy for them and that was the last pot their leader had stashed away and it wouldn't have had any major effects had Veres not eaten the entire pot.
  • Magic Pants: To Shelena's eternal envy, Gloom can change forms from human to dragon and back without having to deal with clothing damage, he just blinks and comes out fully clothed.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Shelena at one point snarks that Gloom must be named thus because of his pessimistic character. But no, turns out that apart from breathing fire, Gloom can also breath a black, fog-like substance Veres calls "the Darkness".
    • Veres is short for "veresk", the Russian word for "heather". The dryads call Veres "Heather's Whisper". For them, the heather is a symbol of death and the otherworld due to its tendency to grow on barrows found near old battlefields. Yes, Veres likes to claim he's a battle mage, and he is, but as it turns out he's first and foremost a necromancer.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Invoked by Veres during his Face–Heel Turn. In his "You're Not My Type"-speech to Shelena he claims that since she is biologically a werewolf, she is ruled by wolven instincts even when she looks human and is acting on animalistic lust and expedience rather than love. Of course they both know that's not true.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The manglers are hybrids of a dozen creatures, both darklings and regular animals. We know for sure that there's a werewolf, ghoul and regular wolf in their genes, and their creator says she put much more in there.
  • Monster Progenitor: Werewolf Etvor is the progenitor of the various werewolf hybrids the heroes have to fight throughout the book. He produced them by coupling with wolves (which creates non-sentient werewolf-like wolves rather than true-blooded sentient werewolves) and some magical bio-engineering help from his co-villain.
  • Mundane Solution: At one point the heroes encounter a gate made of compressed snow that they don't know how to open. Gloom proposes that he'll just fly over the gate in dragon form and ask somebody on the other side to open. Subverted when he doesn't manage to take off, but double subverted when he accidentally shoots fire at the gate. And... well, let's repeat it: it's made of compressed snow. Additionally, as they're leaving again, Veres asks an elf what the correct way to open the gate would've been. The answer? Just knock.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Werewolf Shelena has to constantly fight her wolf instinct to growl when in danger while she's in her human form and among people. She lets it run freely when alone or with her companions, but as Veres points out, she becomes careless and lets her claws and teeth come out a couple of times without meaning to.
  • Mystery Meat: Discussed for laughs by Shelena. In a village, the first thing Veres does is buy a whole basket of stuffed pierogies, while Shelena purchases a barbecued lizard. When dragon Gloom asks werewolf Shelena if she's considered that she's eating a distant relative of his, she snarks that, well, Veres isn't exactly considering that he's eating Fluffy over there. After a while, Gloom pulls her aside and asks if, well, those pierogies were really stuffed with Fluffy. Shelena's answer? How would she know which particular dog that was.
  • Natural Weapon: If in doubt, Shelena always can resort to using her werewolf claws and fangs to defend herself. Veres notes how she is unsual among werewolves because unlike other werewolves she can use them without fully transitioning into her wolf form.
  • Nature Spirit: The dryads are a One-Gender Race of nature spirits living in the dryad half of Ash Grove ("ash" as in the ash tree). They basically function like any normal kingdom, with a chosen dryad acting as The High Queen and their army being an Amazon Brigade, but due to their small population they share a spy agency with the elves next door. There's a wide-spread assumption that killing the tree a dryad uses as her home kills the dryad, but as protagonist Shelena explains, that just mightily annoys the dryad, who can just move into another tree but is likely to make life rather unpleasant for the perpetrator.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Loyal Enemies may be Low Fantasy, but it has its own Negative Space Wedgies in form of witch rings. They form naturally in random places and are usually dormant power sources. If the proper rite is made, though, they become portals into another world, and most of those other worlds they connect to are filled up to brim with darklings. They can be opened from both sides, which is why people prefer to stay away from them.
  • No Name Given: Neither Shelena's tormentor nor his student are named in the story. After killing both of them, Shelena admits that she doesn't really want to know, actually.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Since Shelena has to shed her clothes before transforming, she ends up running around completely naked in front of Veres and Rest several times. She notes how Veres stoically ignores that fact while Rest, being a teenage boy, has some trouble doing so.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: Played seriously and for laughs with Veres, who becomes nothing but skin and bones after being beaten almost to death and taking weeks to recuperate enough to even be able to eat on his own. Additionally, he uses a long-term healing spell on himself that accelerates his metabolism, turning him into a Big Eater and creating a Running Gag where Veres eats all the party's food without ever looking any better. The spell wears off towards the end of the book, culminating in Shelena's assessment that he ain't all that skinny anymore.
  • Not So Stoic: Veres usually never lets himself be provoked to anything more than a deadpan snark on the side but proves to be not entirely immune when Shelena decides she's in a bad enough mood to ignore any warnings and digs around inVeres' past, laughing to his face. She earns a not so stoic fist to the face.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Shelena casually mentions being at least twice as old as she looks, which is somewhere in her thirties. Justified as she is a werewolf.
    • Mages in this book can, through the help of magic, live up to two hundred years but look much younger than that. Shelena does the maths and comes to the conclusion that battle mage Veres is probably about the same age as her if not older, but also looks about the same age as she does.
  • One-Gender Race: Dryads are a females only race, leading to their ruler being The High Queen and their army an Amazon Brigade. It's not really explored how new dryads are born, but seeing how they're Nature Spirits, they probably don't need men.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The plot kicks off when Shelena encounters a nocturnal predator in the middle of the road in the middle of the day. Instead of showing off first as any shaggy would do before a fight, he attacks her immediately, and thus she begins her investigation.
    • When Shelena discovers that they are being watched while investigating the elven king Lliotarel's bed chamber, Shelena decides to go for dragging Veres onto the bed and starts smooching and undressing him, assuming he'd get the hint that something is not right. Subverted because nope, Veres just gets angry. As it happens, in his opinion it is absolutely not out of character for Shelena to pull such a stunt because she's bored or otherwise up to no good, prompting a lengthy muffled dialogue in which Shelena tries to convince Veres that she's not just doing this for shits and giggles.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: They're called gnomes, but technically, dwarves is what they are. They have a very detailed family structure and are organized in clans, considering relatives as "close" up to the tenth degree. They are known as merchants and great craftsmen, especially when it comes to metalwork and gems, and for their alcoholic brews, which they love. Not huge fans of trolls, with whom they enjoy bashing in each other's skulls for recreation.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The elves of Ash Grove are pointy-eared humanoids who can interbreed with humans. They're usually slimmer-built, stronger, more agile and longer-lived than humans and are absolutely convinced of their superiority over other races, a sentiment that said other races don't really share, calling the elves derogatively "the pointy-eared ones". Those living in Ash Grove utilize some kind of nature magic centered around an artefact known as the Staff of Fertility to make their city look like it grew naturally.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The term "darklings" covers a very wide variety of monsters, different both in appearance and character. Some look human, some don't. Some are demonic in nature, others like eating people, and some (such as Shelena) just want to live their lives in peace.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves are "darklings", creatures others consider foul, if not downright evil. Werewolves, in both wolf and human forms, have super strength, super reflexes, a superiour sense of smell and can see in the dark and speak human in their wolf form. There's mention of there being more than one species of werewolf, with the "true werewolf", of which protagonist Shelena is one, being able to change shape any time it wants to, although it's slightly painful and during the change their bones are brittle like eggshells. It's also not a pretty sight and Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing.
    As Shelena explains, werewolves can mate with other werewolves, humans and wolves, but the first option is usually not even wished on one's enemy because the resulting offspring gnaws its way into the world, killing the mother. Mating with wolves is considered a degenerate thing to do for any self-respecting werewolf because it produces barely sentient predators that are neither werewolf not wolf, meaning that the only viable options of procreation are mating with humans or by bite, although apparently the latter doesn't always work.
  • Parental Substitute: Rest spent most of his life as a poor kid nobody wanted to take care of and constantly kicked out of every apprenticeship he tried. Then Veres came, said that the boy had a magic gift and took him on as his apprentice. At the end of the story, another wizard mistakes them for family and Rest proudly answers that they might not be, but Veres is like a father to him.
  • Partial Transformation: Werewolf Shelena can partially transform certain parts of her body when in human form, like letting her claws and teeth grow, or adjusting her eyes to gain better vision in the dark. Veres points out that this is highly unusual and other werewolves cannot do that.
  • Pregnant Badass: Liara is pregnant with her second child and an asskicking battle mage. Her husband tries to make her stay at home at least until the child is born but she insists on fighting, and the fact that she's expecting doesn't slow her down in the slightest. Deconstructed when she dies in the final battle, buried under the ruined wall. The child, obviously, dies with her, and her grieving husband promises to himself that his living daughter will not become a mage under any circumstances.
  • Purple Prose: Elven etiquette requires the outsider to shower the elves with dozens of praises and grandiose names. When Veres talks to the elven king, it comes off as purple prose both to the reader and Shelena, who relays to us the first ten lines or so of titles he bestows upon Lliotarel and then states that Veres droned on in this fashion for five more minutes before finally getting to the point. Shelena likens this verbal output to diarrhea gained by eating pickled herring with milk. The elven king answers in kind, even though he clearly doesn't want to.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Shelena lampshades this when she tries to make the point that they've got little chances to win against the bad guys. As she puts it, her "fascinating company" consists of a banished wizard who can't conjure anything without fainting, a shape-shifting dragon who runs away from overgrown wolves, a sick adolescent with Honor Before Reason tendencies and a child. Though she neglects to mention that the latter is a Little Miss Badass. Not to be outdone in snarkiness, Veres shoots back that there's also a werewolf with a nasty character, and a female one at that.
  • Reality Ensues: Played for Laughs. When the heroes recover the Staff of Fertility, the elven king proves it's the real one by making a giant spruce grow in the middle of the throne room. It works, everybody cheers... And then they stop when they realize that, well, there's a giant spruce taking up most of the throne room and they'll have to remove it in the conventional way, then fix both the floor and the ceiling.
  • Running Gag:
    • In the first few chapters of the book, there are Rest's hapless and escalating attempts at saving his master from the "clutches" (actually care) of the "wild beast" (Shelena, a most civilized werewolf). He tries it with a sword, a crossbow, singing sorcerous incantatios beneath her window, ground pepper and five dead crows, among other things.
    • After master Veres tells him to quit the nonsense and move in, the next chapters often mention various pieces of kitchen utensils the two of them manage to break while Rest practises levitation.
    • Various races bestow their armies on the heroes as a gift for helping them and try to outdo each other in the size of those armies. The dryads give them a hundred archers. Upon hearing that, the elves give them two hundred elite fighters. And after hearing that, the dwarves give them their entire clan.
    • Veres' temporary Big Eater affliction drives Shelena mad. There's no piece of food he hasn't managed to gulp down before Shelena even thinks of having a snack, and Veres has the guts to ask for more.
    • Veres has an infuriating (to Shelena) habit of giving serious answers to her purposefully idiotic questions. She never learns to avoid either.
    • Shelena is very fond of claiming that of course she eats people, being an evil, evil werewolf. Everyone's eager to tell her to stop that already, we get it, but they still immediately look at her whenever someone goes missing or is found dead.
  • Second Love: Shelena and Veres are each other's second love. The former had to leave her first love behind because he demanded of her to deny half of herself, and the latter.. well, the Lost Lenore wasn't so lost, but very much a vamp.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Bard Hraik has figured out that Shelena's a werewolf, but keeps it to himself, as he likes her and doesn't want to see her lynched. She doesn't realize that until he alludes to it in one of his songs.
  • Serial Escalation: Played as a Running Gag. The dryad queen gives the heroes a unit of dryad soldiers. When the elven king learns about it, he gives them two units of elven soldiers to help them (and stick it to the dryads). And when the heroes help a local dwarven clan, the entire clan decides to aid them in their fight. Funnily enough, when the armies actually show up for the battle, there are even more members of the alliance.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: There's no explanation given for where the dragon Gloom's mass goes when he changes forms between dragon and human, despite being horse-sized as a dragon and an average human in size, respectively.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Shelena has to strip and stash her clothes away before shifting forms because they'd otherwise get torn in the process. When at one point she is magically forced to shift forms while clothed, she finds herself in the situation of having to cross the village while holding it all together with just two hands. As she puts it, the less is said about the incident, the better and she really hates the fact that dragon Gloom has Magic Pants.
  • Smoke Out: Weredragon Gloom can breathe a dark, thick, fog-like substance aptly called "the Darkness". The heroes use it once to escape a pack of werewolf-ghoul hybrids that's pursuing them.
  • Tail Slap: Gloom the dragon is very fond of using his tail in combat, swiping at enemies left, right and centre.
  • Taking the Heat: Veres refused to testify when his lover Tairinn was accused of raising the dead, effectively taking the heat for her. It didn't end well: he was tortured for days, and when he was finally let out, he could barely react to his surroundings, and was banished from Starmin and its magic academy, effectively ruining his career. Worse, Tairinn was killed shortly thereafter, making his sacrifice irrelevant. Even worse, she faked her death and was absolutely guilty.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Veres is, according to Shelena, dark (black hair, olive skin) and tall but decidedly not handsome as she's not attracted to this type of men. After spending a lot of time together and Veres healing after being beaten almost to death, though, Shelena has to admit that he ain't all that skinny anymore and most certainly handsome. He even turns out to be a match for Shelena in snarkiness.
  • Technicolor Blade: Darkans glow green when their inbuilt Detect Evil ability is activated, which is every time a darkling is nearby. This actually proves more annoying than useful, as the darkan used in the story is wielded by werewolf Shelena. Try to sneak up on somebody with your sword shining like a glowstick.
  • Title Drop: Shelena, when it comes time for the heroes to part, drops the title of the book on its last pages, in a mocking fashion:
    Shelena to Rest: What did you think, that we'd just tell each other something cliché, like "Goodbye, my loyal enemy, I'll miss you"?
  • Touch of Death: There's an elven clan called the layne who can kill with their touch. Seven-year-old Virra is one of them. Other elves treat them with attitudes varying from "I don't want to have them nearby." to "Well, they can't help it." Customarily, layne work as assassins. With the killing touch comes an uncanny knowledge of the whereabouts and status of life or death of their target.
  • Transformation Horror: Shelena describes her transformation from human to wolf and back as non-painful but horrifying to look at, as her bones have to change their structure and function and all of this happens in the open. She likens it to watching someone being turned inside out. Rest doesn't manage to look away quickly enough the first time she transforms in his presence and has to make a dash for the nearest bushes to vomit up his breakfast.
  • Two Girls to a Team: After it looks like The Smurfette Principle might strike for a while when Shelena is travelling with Veres, Gloom and Rest, Virra joins the team and it becomes two women (well, a girl and a she-werewolf) and three men (actually, one man, one dragon and one boy).
  • Unfortunate Names: The "Staff of Fertility" is a Green Thumb Amplifier Artifact, not any sort of Unusual Euphemism. Though people keep on snarking at the name in-universe, and Shelena uses it as an Unusual Euphemism at least once.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Ghyr" is an expletive used by most people in-universe but never explicitly explained. As it stands, it is phonetically rather close to a Russiannote  slang/swear word relating to a certain part of the male anatomy and is equally useful and used for all manner of expressions, just as "ghyr" is used in the book.
  • The Vamp: Tairinn. The only reason she approached Veres, slept with him and generally played his girlfriend was to get her hands on his writings about werewolves and their origins and magical capabilities, secretly laughing about Veres' moral integrity. It worked because of her innocent, alluring dark-haired looks. After having latched onto another man and faked her own death, she tries that shtick on Veres again in the finale, because she still hasn't figured out everything insinuated by his thesis, using her sex appeal to lure him to her side. This time, though, Veres sees through it.
  • Villain Team-Up: The Big Bad turns out to be a team of separate villains working together for a common goal and doing their best to off the heroes. There's Tairinn, Veres' ex-girlfriend who was once (correctly) accused of practicing dark forms of necromancy, and Etvor, a psychopathic werewolf, as well as a rogue monster hunter and his former apprentice who once tortured Shelena for hours, if not days, just for the sake of it.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: A house-sized basilisk terrorizes a dwarven community and demands to be given fifty virgins between the ages of twenty and fifty. The number of qualifying virgins drastically drops below twenty overnight. Smelling something fishy, the Shelena and Veres set out to investigate and find a bunch of thugs hired by the villains to somehow get them fifty people to sacrifice for a ritual, but fortunately, that can be averted.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Dragon Gloom and monster hunter Veres bicker and snark at each other all the time, but they genuinely like each other and it's implied that for both of them, the other is the only true friend.
    • As the story progresses, Veres and werewolf Shelena, his so-called enemy, slowly morph into friends as well, and then go even further, with the way their conversations go never changing from the Snark-to-Snark Combat they started as.
    • Veres and the elven archmage Morriel engage in mutual underhanded insults as soon as an opportunity arrises. Turns out they used to be best buds while they studied together at the Mage Academy and remain close friends even after Veres' exile. Shelena at one point strongly suspects that some of the elaborate insults flying back and forth are to drive her away and get some bro time but decides to be an annoyance and stays.
  • Weredragon: Dragons can take human forms until they come of age and lose that ability. Gloom is such a dragon and spends most of his page time in human form to better be able to travel and hide with his companions. Since the only thing that remains draconic in his human appearance are his eyes, he pretends to be blind by wearing a black piece of cloth over his eyes.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: There is a moment that doubles as a 'what the hell'-moment for both participants. Shelena's mocking of Tairinn, Veres' dead girlfriend, finally makes him slap her in front of the entire tavern. Though he's got a good reason considering Shelena's behaviour is just plain distasteful, he goes ahead and slaps a woman in front of everyone despite her having a rather good point in questioning Tairinn's motives. The only thing in her defense is that she's drunk at that time and Veres is emotionally very invested in keeping Tairinn's name clean, seeing as he suffered through torture for it. Shelena is enraged enough to expect Veres to apologize but after thinking it through decides to take the first step.
  • White Stallion: The heroes of the story get to ride three snow white horses which are extremely durable and fast. No-one else has a white horse, and Shelena, the heroine of the piece, ends up with a white stallion.
  • Will They or Won't They?: This is the question Shelena's and Veres' storyline ultimately points towards, what with their constant fighting but also obvious enjoyment of each other's company, even though they're nominally mortal enemies and remind each other of that regularly. Everyone Can See It, though (that is, everyone except Rest), and reactions vary from Delirna's "So, how's he in bed?" to the villain's "Get your monster girlfriend away from me!". It doesn't get any better after Shelena has a Love Epiphany right before the final battle and is only resolved via Last Minute Hookup in the epilogue.
  • You're Not My Type: Used a couple of times:
    • Played for Laughs in various instances of so-called mortal enemies werewolf Shelena and monster hunter Veres telling each other as much, unasked for. Shelena claims that scrawny and half-dead isn't her type, and who likes Tall, Dark, and Handsome anyway? And Veres informs her that blonde and foul-mouthed is nothing anybody would want. Guess who becomes the Official Couple by the end of the book.
    • Played for Drama twice in a row when Shelena is chained naked in the villain's dungeon. Etvor tells Shelena that all of her attempts to look unbreakable aren't going to make her his type, but she's good enough to rape and to produce werewolf-hybrids anyway. Shortly after, freshly face-heel-turned Veres comes waltzing down to declare that no matter what she may have tried, running around naked in front of him or nursing him back to life while threatening to kill him afterwards anyway would never make him fall for her because it shows that she is ruled by animalistic instincts and has no real heart for love, and that's disgusting and not his thing. Veres, at least, was bluffing and talking bullshit out his nose because he needed time to weave a spell to free Shelena and the villains were listening in.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: