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Literature / The Death Gate Cycle

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The Earth was destroyed.
Four worlds were created out of the ruin. Worlds for ourselves and the mensch: Air, Fire, Stone, Water.
Four Gates connect each world to the other: Arianus to Pryan to Abarrach to Chelestra.
A house of correction was built for our enemies: the Labyrinth.
The Labyrinth is connected to the other worlds through the Fifth Gate: the Nexus.
The Sixth Gate is the center, permitting entry: the Vortex.
And all was accomplished through the Seventh Gate.
The end was the beginning.
[in scrawled handwriting, possibly in blood] The beginning was our end.

Series of seven High Fantasy novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, generally considered one of their best works.

In the backstory, nuclear war devastated Planet Earth, and several new Human Subspecies mutated out of humanity: elves, dwarves and humans with demigod-like magical powers: the Sartan and the Patryn. These two races began to war over who would rule; eventually, the Sartan secured victory by remaking the Earth into four separate worlds, one for each element, which would then work together in harmony. (That's their children's catechism quoted above.) They imprisoned the Patryn within a "correctional facility", the Labyrinth, and built Death's Gate itself as the central nexus which made the whole Portal Network function. It was A Simple Plan. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Well. The Labyrinth went Off the Rails in a big way, turning from a giant maze into a Death World that took the Patryn untold generations to escape. Meanwhile, the four worlds descended into factionalism and chaos as humans, dwarves and elves began to fight amongst themselves. The sole exception was Abbarach, the World of Stone, where the "mensch" simply died out due to the world's volcanic atmosphere and the Sartan went their own way. None of this was according to plan, and the Sartan called to each other for help that never came. In the end, they declared it someone else's problem and put themselves into Human Popsicle beds to let things sort themselves out on their own.

And then the Patryn finally got loose.

The main character of the series is Haplo, a Patryn Villain Protagonist who, as of the first book, is sent out through Death's Gate to investigate the other worlds on behalf of his master, Lord Xar. His orders are a classic bait-and-switch: if Haplo causes as much chaos and death as possible, Xar can come in as the Big Damn Heroes later. The Sartan are also returning to finish their plan for utopia... at least, in the worlds where they aren't dead. Alfred, the other main character, is the Last of His Kind from Arianus, a Sartan whose power is equaled only by his clumsiness. Both races discover, however, that there are far more dangerous things in the universe than each other...

The books are divided into two broad arcs; books 1-4 deal with Haplo's explorations of each of the elemental worlds in turn and the search for answers over the disappearance of the Sartan, while books 5-7 deal with the broader conflict that engulfs all the worlds. They are, in order:

  1. Dragon Wing
  2. Elven Star
  3. Fire Sea
  4. Serpent Mage
  5. The Hand of Chaos
  6. Into the Labyrinth
  7. The Seventh Gate

The series was adapted into a graphical Adventure Game called Death Gate.

This series provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: How the Patryns see themselves. Closer inspection, however, proves that they do have a (rather strict) moral code, no matter how cynically they try to justify it.
  • Abusive Precursors: The Sartan had definite shades of this — at the very least, their opinion of the mensch races was low enough that they had no real issues with killing untold millions of them when they sundered the Earth. Not that the Patryn would have been any better, mind.
  • Action Girl:
    • Grundle comes from a culture where a young girl of her social status is expected to be proficient at things like axe-fighting and hammer-throwing and is perfectly willing to charge into battle against foes that far outclass her to keep her friends safe.
    • All Patryn women are as fully capable of fighting as their men; the Labyrinth isn't choosy when it comes to victims, after all, and no Patryn will take that threat lying down. Marit is the most obvious representative of this.
  • Affably Evil: Kleitus, while alive. This largely disappears after he becomes a lazar (he's certainly still the most affable of the lazar, but that's not saying a whole lot...)
  • After the End: After two ends, actually — an implied nuclear Armageddon that wiped out modern-day human civilization, and a definite magical one that destroyed the physical Earth and killed off millions of humans, elves and dwarves.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The serpents, who pretty much are Chaotic Evil given shape, and the monsters in the Labyrinth, which were created by magic gone haywire. Subverted with the Sartan and the Patryns: each of those races sees the other this way, but both are shown to be just as capable of good and evil as any other race.
  • Animate Dead: The basic spell used by the Sartan necromancers of Abarrach. The problem is, this is a universe based on Equivalent Exchange — for every corpse raised, someone of the same race dies untimely. This is theorized to be the cause of the decline of the Sartan. There's also the slight drawback to bringing someone back from the death too early. Instead of just a zombie, they come back as a lazar, which is far more intelligent and far more dangerous.
  • Anti-Hero: Haplo is initially a borderline Villain Protagonist, fiercely loyal to his people and his lord but willing to ruthlessly use anyone else he comes across to accomplish his goals, while Hugh the Hand is a professional assassin who has his own standards and sense of honor but knows full well that you don't advance as far as he has in his chosen profession by having an overabundance of conscience. Both eventually get Character Development moving them towards more conventionally heroic territory later in the series.
  • Anti-Villain: Lord Xar and Samah, as each other's Shadow Archetypes, both reflect this trope. Both men genuinely want to make the worlds a better place for their people — and both are also driven by megalomaniacal pride and bitter hatred of each others' races to do monstrous things in pursuit of that goal. And both of them in their last moments recognize and repent of the evil they did, for the cost of their lives.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • In the backstory, a likely Class 2 (Planetary, Social Collapse) came about as a result of a nuclear war that devastated human civilization and destroyed the refuges where elves and dwarves had been hiding since the Middle Ages, leaving the Earth in anarchy until the rise of the Sartan and Patryn.
    • The Sartan-Patryn war ended up causing a Class X (Planetary, Physical Annihilation) as the Sartan destroyed the Earth and remade it into five new worlds in a gambit to defeat the Patryn, killing millions of mensch in the process.
    • A Class 2 bordering on 3a (Planetary Scale, Species Extinction via engineered causes) struck the Sartan after the Sundering, as the use of necromancy in Abarrach caused Sartan everywhere to spontaneously die to balance the resurrected dead, while a host of unforeseen issues made their civilization to crumble into nothingness.
    • Another Class 2 bordering on 3 occurs in Pryan over the events of Elven Star, as the Tytans move through its inhabited lands, systematically killing and destroying anything they find. By the end of the book, they have annihilated every nation in the setting and slaughtered the majority of their inhabitants, scouring that part of Pryan clean of civilization. It's stated that this has been going on since the Sartan civilization fell, with the Tytans migrating over Pryan's surface and wiping out all civilization they find.
    • A Class 3b (Planetary Scale, Species Extinction via natural causes) occurred in the backstory of Abarrach, due to the world's highly hostile environment killing off all the mensch populations that the Sartan had brought with them, and eventually began to kill off the Sartan as well.
  • Arc Villain: Each of the first four books has a largely self-contained story with its own antagonist:
    • Dragon Wing: Sinistrad.
    • Elven Star: The tytans.
    • Fire Sea: Kleitus, who remains a supporting antagonist in the last three books.
    • Serpent Mage: The dragon-snakes who become the primary Big Bad of the remainder of the series.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The serpents will exist for as long as there is darkness in the mortal soul.
  • As You Know: Said almost word-for-word to Haplo by his benefactor at the start of the first book; in this context, because Xar is speechifying a bit to remind Haplo of the importance of their cause.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: The Patryns pretty much work this way; Lord Xar is the most powerful living Patryn, and all of his immediate subordinates are also highly Badass. On the Sartan side of things, Samah is both the head of the Sartan Council and the most powerful Sartan in history or so he thinks, but it's unclear if the head of the Council is always the most powerful.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • A Patryn's magic is centered around the heart-rune on their chest. As long as their rune-tattoos are active, they are nearly unkillable demigods. If the heart-rune is damaged or compromised, however, their entire being will begin to fall apart.
    • The dragon-snakes are completely immune to physical damage everywhere except for one spot — in their forehead, right between their eyes, where a solid blow from a rune-inscribed weapon will kill them dead.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: Alfred manages to pull off incredible feats of magic as he used to be a master wizard but adopted a bumbling, useless personality which took over to the point that he only shows his skills a few times and reverts to his bumbling personality with no memory of what he did.
  • Axe-Crazy: The Lazar exist in a state of constant torment which drives them to acts of incredible violence and bloodlust directed at the living.
  • Badass Normal: Hugh the Hand — even cursed, he's the one mensch Badass enough to survive the Labyrinth
    • His curse renders him incapable of dying, so that isn't a good example. A better one would be his killing the single most powerful human mage on his world in single combat, even though he temporarily died doing it.
    • The entire dwarven race of Abarrach. The elves and humans died so long ago they are considered myths, while the dwarves lasted almost as long as the Sartans-without magic to boot.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: one of the main themes of the series, literally hard-wired into the metaphysics of its world; see Functional Magic below for more elaboration
  • Bald of Evil: Sinistrad, to the point of being completely hairless.
  • Bastard Understudy: Bane is only ten years old, and already coming up with plans to rule Arianus and off his father as soon as he no longer needs him
  • Bat Out of Hell: Bloodsuckers, gigantic bats native to the Labyrinth whose fangs secrete a paralyzing venom that renders their prey immobile and helpless as the bat drains every drop of blood from their bodies.
  • Big Bad: Lord Xar initially appears to be this; the situation later develops into more of a Big Bad Ensemble with the addition of Kleitus, Samah later replaced by Ramu and the serpents who prove to be the greatest threat and the incarnation of evil and chaos.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Haplo's dog, who, contrary to one of the trope's requirements, is quite smart.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The serpents versus the dragons, who are the literal embodiements of the good and evil within the mortal character
  • Black Cloak: The Kir monks, Sinistrad, the necromancers of Abarrach, and sometimes Xar wear these.
  • Blessed with Suck: Hugh the Hand gets resurrected by Alfred and made immortal to boot, for the price of no longer being able to kill anything. Since he's an assassin, it's easy to see why he's not happy with this situation.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The Dutch version.
  • Came Back Wrong: The Sartan necromancer Jonathon tries to raise his recently killed wife Jera from the dead, but is too impatient to wait the requisite three days to allow her soul to safely depart. The result is a creature with echoes of Jera's personality, but is also completely insane, super-Sartanly powerful, and hellbent on revenge and making more of its kind. This is the origin of the lazar.
  • Canine Companion: Dog, who is always with Haplo even when it should be physically impossible. Justified because Dog is the literal manifestation of Haplo's soul.
  • Can't Argue with Elves:
    • Subverted. The Elves certainly think they're the superior race, but the other races have no problem with strongly disagreeing. Of course, it's not that hard when the elves of Arianus are The Empire, the elves of Pryan are elitist snobs, and the elves of Chelestra wear the hat of being a bunch of genius ditzes (Their magic is awesome, their diplomatic skills unrivaled. Their culture is... eccentric).
    • In any case, the true elves of this setting are the Sartans and the Patryns, who really don't like mere mortals arguing with them, but it's made pretty clear that they should — both have major faults they refuse to acknowledge.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Sinistrad. It's all in the name, which he actively chose as part of a deliberate effort to play up every Evil Sorcerer stereotype in the book and get himself dismissed by the other mysteriarchs as a harmless eccentric. They learned better to their sorrow.
  • Cargo Cult: This is what the religion of the dwarves/Gegs of Arianus boils down to. They were originally brought by the Sartans to serve the Kicksey-winsey, a continent-sized machine meant to supply Arianus with water and the other worlds with various goods, but since the Sartans vanished they have taken to literally worshipping the machine itself and the Sartans, whom they remember as the "Mangers", complete with priests known as "clarks". This is something the elves exploited by pretending to be gods, getting the Gegs to give them the precious water in exchange for shipfuls of garbage and refuse that the Gegs think is treasure.
  • Cast Herd: With four inhabited worlds (five counting the Labyrinth and Nexus as one) each with their own cast, plus characters like Haplo, Xar, Alfred and Sang-drax who span multiple worlds, it's a given that this series has a ton of characters in each sub-chapter.
  • Cat Folk: Tiger-men, monsters native to the Labyrinth, resemble outsized tigers capable of walking on their hind legs and provided with opposable thumbs. They're capable of dropping to all fours when running and are skilled climbers, but rarely enter forests due to their longtime enmity with the local Savage Wolves. They're also enthusiastic hunters and capable of crafting tools and using simple magic, but they rarely use this for more than crippling their prey — they prefer to kill their targets with their own fangs and claws.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: The humans of Arianus use a species of enormous flightless birds known as tiers as beasts of burden.
  • Charm Person: Bane was given an enchantment by Sinistrad that makes everyone dote on him. Not love him — there's a significant difference between the two that becomes a minor plot point.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Zifnab full stop. The Elves of Chelestra also have a reputation of being a more mild version of this, while the "ordinary" dead of Abarrach (who possess all their memories but not the consciousness to make sense of them) comes off as a more deeply creepy version.
  • The Corrupter: Basically the serpents' hat, though Sang-drax does it the most on-page
  • Creepy Child: Bane is precocious, brilliant and charming. He's also a budding sociopath who takes after his Evil Sorcerer biological father in the worst ways. Even Count Tretar, Evil Chancellor of the Tribus court, is unnerved when Bane shows his true colors.
  • Deadly Sparring: In the fifth book, Hugh the Hand is given a dagger by the assassin's guild that was made by the Sartan during ancient times and can transform into any weapon. The oldest recorded use of the weapon the guild has involves two elven brothers who found it among their deceased father's treasures; one brother took the dagger while the other grabbed a different blade. When they playfully sparred, the dagger suddenly changed into a longsword and impaled the other brother, much to the horror of the brother who was wielding it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Zifnab's nameless dragon. Haplo also does this at times.
  • Death World:
    • In the Labyrinth, everything will try and kill you. The land is barren, harsh and difficult to navigate, the plants yield little food and are filled with toxins and hidden thorns, and the native wildlife is composed of monsters ranging from Savage Wolves and giant Bloodsucking Bats to insectoid warriors whose every drop of blood turns into another of their kind and nearly invincible, sadistic dragons. Further, unlike other Death Worlds, the Labyrinth itself is literally, actively out to kill you, and can exercise considerable control over its monsters and its landscape to do this. Imagine yourself walking down a beach when you suddenly trip on a rock. The Labyrinth put it there when you weren't looking. Imagine yourself climbing up a hill when your handhold gives way, sending you rolling to the bottom. The Labyrinth did it. And imagine yourself camping out in a forest that's been cleared already when you hear the howls of a pack of wolfen closing in. Guess who called them in? The only reason the Labyrinth hasn't entirely wiped out its Patryn prisoners is that the magic that created it forces it to give them at least the merest fighting chance.
    • Abarrach is nearly as bad, although it's not actively malicious — it's just extremely alien and inhospitable. There is no natural light besides its seas and rivers of lava, the air is thick with toxic fumes and the slow cooling of its core is slowly but surely freezing the entire world. Between one thing and another, the mensch all died out and so did most of the wildlife. Only the Sartan survived; even then, only two city states still exist at the time of the books, and their inhabitants have to spend so much of their magic on just surviving that they might as well be mensch in all other aspects.
  • Decoy Protagonist: In Dragon Wing, Hugh the Hand seems like the main character right up until he dies. Elven Star has an entire cast of these, although this time you'd already be aware that the most important character in the book is actually Haplo. From Fire Sea onwards Haplo and Alfred are the obvious primary protagnists.
  • Deus Exit Machina: In Dragon Wing, either Haplo or Alfred could solve all the problems of the book in about two minutes. Unfortunately, Haplo dares not use his Patryn powers for fear of alerting the Sartan, and Alfred passes out every time something important happens.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Sinistrad is built up as Big Bad in the first book, but cosmically he's a little fish, especially when compared to the real bad guys
  • The Dragon: Haplo starts out as this to Lord Xar, ironic because he's still the main character. Sang-drax can be said to take this role; in a way he is the Big Bad, but he's more the avatar it takes to communicate with mortals (one of many) than the core of its consciousness, and is himself subordinate to the Royal One who is the serpents' true leader.
  • Dragon Rider: The humans of Arianus commonly use dragons as flying mounts in order to move between their world’s floating islands. However, these dragons are not fully tamed, and as such have to be bound with magic. If the spells fail, the dragon is very likely to turn on its rider.
  • Dyson Sphere: Pryan is a hollow sphere with an internal surface covered by miles-high jungles and with four small suns at its center. As the suns never set or move, it has no true night, with the closest being storms that move over its surface at regular intervals and provide some measure of darkness.
    • It is the biggest world by far, having far more surface area than even the pre-sundering Earth, and as there has simply not been enough time in the setting's relatively brief history for the mensch population to grow enough to inhabit more than a tiny part of its surface it is very sparsely populated. This is also why Zifnab gets an elf inventor to start shooting rockets day and night to attract Haplo's attention when he enters the world — it's all but stated that without some visual cue to head for, Haplo could have spent a lifetime flying over Pryan without ever coming across civilization.
    • Originally, it was designed by the Sartan to be essentially an enormous power plant for the same reasons that it's theorized high-tech civilizations would be driven to build such spheres — its shape meant that all the suns' energy would be captured without any being lost, which the Sartan could then transmit to the other worlds.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Zifnab. As a pre-sundering Sartan and one of the only survivors who opposed Samah's plans he's one of the wisest, most powerful characters in the series. Because of his extreme age and various trauma's he's suffered across the centuries, he's also completely loony and is as liable to quote old movies or have ridiculous arguments with his dragon as he is to actually offer useful advice — but if you can listen to him long enough, there's still a huge amount of key information about the history and nature of the worlds locked away in that brain.
  • Elemental Plane: The Sartan themed each of the main four worlds around a classical element: Arianus, a World in the Sky where people live on floating islands, is the world of air; Pryan, a Hollow World of sweltering temperatures and towering jungles, is the world of fire; Chelestra, another hollow world but full of water, where people live in hollow spaces within artificial floating structures, is the world of water; and Abarrach, a massive volume of rock honeycombed with caverns and tunnels and highly volcanic, is the world of stone.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: The key characteristic of the Labyrinth, to the point where the very geography can spontaneously alter itself just to screw its prisoners over. The only mercy built into it is that everything it throws at the Patryns is theoretically beatable, as it was at least ostensibly meant to be teaching its prisoners. From the perspective of the Patryns, as mercies go, that isn't one.
  • Evil Overlord: Subverted with Lord Xar, who fully intends to take over the universe and rule it with an iron fist, but is beloved by his Patryn followers and genuinely cares about them. Played straight with Kleitus.
  • Expy: Zifnab bears a distinct resemblance (down to the letters of his name) to Fizban from Dragonlance, though the two have very different backstories and motivations. According to Alfred, Zifnab spends his time after the series is done walking around and claiming he's God. Probably a nod towards Fizban being Paladine. However, Weiss and Hickman have disproved the theory that he's a deity, although he does demonstrate abilities beyond what anyone would expect from even an old and powerful Sartan, like living for thousands of years. There is an in-universe justification for his knowledge — it's heavily implied that Zifnab read a great deal of fiction, including the Dragonlance novels, in his youth.
  • Eye Scream: A species of giant, birdlike creatures native to the Labyrinth will relentlessly attempt to peck out their prey's eyes, before devouring their target once there are rendered blind and helpless.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Hoo boy. Sartan and Patryns hate each other, the mensch races hate each other, the Sartan and Patryns look down on the mensch, and the mensch resent the "demigods". The serpents, of course, love all this.
    • This becomes a plot point in Elven Star, where the racial hatred and prejudice between the elves, humans and dwarves is very strong and open. One particularly glaring example would be the elf Calandra, who considers all humans to be, so to speak, subhuman, and with the bad logic typical of racism she holds them to be barely more than animals but also highly devious, cunning and untrustworthy (which her own brother says to her makes no logical sense). This kind of virulent racism and accompanying violence was one of the reasons the original paradise the Sartan built for the mensch fell apart, and it's implied one of the reasons the Tytans were able to slaughter them so easily: if the mensch has stood together instead of abandoning and turning on each other, they may even have had a chance to survive — but they didn't, and they died.
    • The one aversion is the world of Chelestra, where interspecies rivalry amongst the mensch is strong... but their commitment towards alliance and peaceful coexistence is stronger. This leads mensch leaders to be present at the first contact between Patryn and Sartan in thousands of years... and, seeing their hostility, offer to mediate.
  • Fantastic Slurs: The elves often refer to the humans as "beasts". The Elves of Arianus refer to the dwarfs as Gegs, which is short for gega'rega, which means "insect".
  • Fearless Undead: The cadavers of Abarrach will always keep coming no matter how much danger they're in — after all, they mostly live in their memories from life played on loop and barely register their actual surroundings, so why wouldn't they? The lazar are even more like this — they're aware of the world around them, but their existence by itself is such agony all other threats pale in comparison.
  • Fighting a Shadow: You can't kill the serpents permanently: if you try, they'll just re-form in a few days, twice as powerful as before — although it's implied that Sang-drax's death somehow stuck.
  • Flat World: While Pryan is technically a Dyson Sphere with miles-high jungles covering its inner surface, it gives this impression "on the ground". Most of its inhabitants live on the moss plains, vast expanses of moss stretching between the limbs of the world's titanic trees that are big and strong enough to bear the weight cities and even small seas. These plains tend to terminate rather suddenly, ending in enormous drops and chasms where the land suddenly stops and the waters of the moss seas thunder down into the seemingly endless darkness.
  • Footnote Fever: The books have a fair amount of footnotes dotting their text, most commonly providing clarification and exposition on various bits of lore and worldbuilding that would not otherwise fit in the text itself without bogging down the narrative flow. As part of the Framing Device, they are presented as authorial asides and clarifications inserted by Alfred and Haplo for the benefit of in-universe readers.
  • Framing Device: The seven books of the Death Gate Cycle were written by Alfred and Haplo themselves, and occasionally contain footnotes from the two to clarify various in-world concepts or provide elaborative details.
  • Functional Magic:
    • Patryn and Sartan runic magic works by essentially "choosing" any of a number of possibilities and making that possibility reality, bound and directed using a complex system of interacting runes (which the Sartan draw in midair as needed and the Patryn tattoo on their bodies). For example, a Sartan or Patryn who wanted to move a heavy load to a given place would select a reality where the load happens to be where they want it to be. They could also theoretically choose one where it floats up and levitates to where they want it to go, but as this would require working against several laws of physics, this possibility would be more "distant" and more difficult to achieve.
    • Some mensch also have magical powers; human wizards have Elemental Powers and mental magic, while elven wizards make enchanted objects and Magitek. Even the most powerful of these, though, are said to be less than the lowest levels of Sartan/Patryn power.
  • Fungus Humongous: At one point, while very deep down in the jungles of Pryan, Roland, Rega and Paithan come across a massive fungus jutting out of one the trees, large enough to serve as a temporary support for their caravan.
  • Garden of Evil: Parts of the Labyrinth are like this; the rest is more like Mordor. Different flavors of lethal environment for everyone!
  • Giant Flyer:
    • Among the numerous varieties of dragons in existence, the dragons of Arianus and of the Labyrinth are all able to fly.
    • The Labyrinth is home to very literal Leathery-Winged Avians who prefer to go after their prey's eyes, blinding them and leaving them helpless before the avians swoop in for the kill.
  • Giant Spider: Tyros are colossal spiders native to Pryan whose front pair of legs has become adapted for manipulating objects. They are commonly used as beasts of burden by the local civilizations, due to their ability to navigate the treetops of the miles-high jungles that cover Pryan. Their webs are also used to make bridges across gaps in the treetops.
  • God: Implied to exist in some form, though it's left unclear whether there's a personal deity out there or if the impersonal force of cosmic balance is the Ultimate.note 
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The Sartan versus the Patryn. Neither race is anything close to Always Chaotic Evil, but if you're a mensch, neither is exactly friendly, either...
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Royal One is the ultimate ruler of the serpents, but he only plays a major role in Serpent Mage. He gets killed off by Alfred at the end of the book, returns to life in Hand of Chaos, and afterwards plays no meaningful role in the story, with Sang-drax taking over as The Heavy and The Face of the serpents as a faction. Haplo also speculates that the serpents are merely the minions of some even greater evil power, but if so, such a being's existence is never confirmed.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: A notable aversion; the different races explicitly can't have children together, the only exception being Sartan and Patryns. This is strong proof that they are actually two factions of the same race with very different philosophies on magic... just don't tell them that. That being said, the only explicit hybrid mentioned that his Sartan magic wasn't at the level of a pure Sartan, though whether this is due to his Patryn blood, Patryn tattoos, or Patryn upbringing is unclear.
  • Healing Factor: Patryns can trance to heal most injuries. Having another Patryn on hand to lend their magic speeds the process up exponentially, although it requires the other Patron to literally give over some of their health.
  • Hive Mind: The gushni, jellyfish-like creatures the dragon-snakes use as spies, have a species-wide shared consciousness. This is what makes them useful as spies: once a gushni learns something, all other gushni everywhere also know it and can report it.
  • Horse of a Different Color:
    • The natives of Pryan ride giant flying squirrels called cargans to navigate the treetops of their world’s colossal jungles.
    • The Sartan of Abarrach use mud dragons, large chameleon-like lizards, as mounts for their undead armies.
  • Human Subspecies: Sartan and Patryn all evolved out of basic human stock.
  • Hydra Problem: If a single drop of a Chaodyn's blood hits the ground, another Chaodyn will spring up fully formed alongside its regenerated progenitor. The only way to stop this is to deliver a wound that kills them before any of their blood hits the ground.
  • I Know Your True Name: The true name of a Sartan holds power over them, which is why most Sartan never reveal their true names to anyone but family or closest friends, using mundane names in public. The only exceptions are Samah and his council, who are so powerful that they have no need to fear their names being used against them.
    • Patryns' true names have power too, but they generally don't have to worry about this form of attack, as their spoken names are just approximations of their real names — the runes tattooed over their hearts, which they only let those who are close to them read. This does lead to another form of Achilles' Heel, though, because if the "heart-rune" is attacked or damage, a Patryn's whole magical essence will begin to unravel.
    • Patryn magic is actually based on this concept. A Patryn enchantment works by identifying the Name of the object that the caster wishes to cast a spell on and altering it so that it becomes the Name of what the caster wishes to have. Said object then changes to match the Name.
  • Implacable Man:
    • The Lazar, which will keep coming even after they've been dismembered.
    • The tytans, who slaughter their way across an empire, go around an ocean to the next part of civilization, then begin to kill everything there as well. The only things that have an effect on them are arrows in the shape of dragons, and even that only makes them scared.
  • Inept Mage: Alfred has the distinction of being an inept mage with a tremendous amount of raw talent — he's inadvertently raised the dead and turned himself into a dragon. Haplo at one point remarks that Alfred's only talents are raising the dead and tailoring.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: A version of this is used for long-distance messaging in Pryan using a species of fictional birds know as the faultless, which are intelligent enough for it to be possible to train them to fly back and forth between two specific locations.
  • Instant Runes: Both Sartan and Patryns use runes to create their spells. Sartan summon their runes out of midair as part of their elaborate spellcasting rituals; Patryns avert this trope by simply tattooing the runes directly on their bodies for maximum ease of use.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When crossing the deep jungle of Pryan, Roland, Rega and Paithan realize that something is very wrong when they realize that the jungle has gone completely, utterly quiet due to the Tytans approaching, a phenomenon that repeats itself whenever the Tytans show up.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Lord Xar does this in the last three books though it might be more fair to say that Sang-drax pushed him off. Haplo manages to stop him before he hits bottom.
  • Liquid Assets: When two Patryns "join the circle", the uninjured one literally shares his/her strength with the other, leaving both of them half-hurt.
  • Living Labyrinth. The Labyrinth itself is a sapient Death World that actively has it in for its inhabitants and will actively manipulate its terrain and fauna to try and do them in. It's only restriction is that it has to give you a fighting chance — every monster or obstacle in the Labyrinth can be beaten. Figuring out how before it kills you is the hard part.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Alfred defeats a serpent by trapping it in its own mind.
  • Made a Slave: Slavery exists in several places in the mensch worlds, and numerous examples show up in the books. Most commonly, the slaves seen tend to be humans enslaved by elves in Arianus and Pryan.
  • Mage Species: Sartan and Patryns. All members of both races possess immense magical abilities far beyond what mensch wizards can accomplish, to the point that they are sometimes explicitly referred to as demigods.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: To the point where the authors actually wrote appendices to some of the books explaining in great detail how the magic system of the series works.
  • Magic Knight: The Patryns are experts at combining their magic with physical combat skills.
  • Magic Music: Elven magic is mostly channeled vocally, and as such music can play a big part in it, usually by affecting their emotions or calling up ancestral memories. Due to the way it taps into the Elven psyche, it can be used this way by anyone, which is how the humans were able to defeat an elven army by singing an extremely nostalgic elven song.
  • Magitek: Both the Sartan and the elves use this a lot; Patryns often use runes to enhance their tools and weapons, which might be considered a primitive form of Magitek.
  • The Magocracy: While the Tribus Empire of the elves of Arianus is officially ruled by the imperial family, it’s made clear that the wizards who keep the empire’s magitek running — and more specifically the Council of the Arcane who oversees the elven wizards — are the true rulers of the elven empire.
  • Meaningful Name: Bane, Xar (Czar), Sinistrad. To be fair, the last two were names that were deliberately taken and the first was deliberately given. Also Haplo, which means "alone" or "lonely" in the Patryn tongue; its roots are in Greek where it means "single" or "simple".
  • Mega Dungeon: The Labyrinth is a mega-scale dungeon where the Patryn were imprisoned by their rival demigod-like beings, the Sartan. It took them generations to reach the final floor and the exit to the rest of the world(s).
  • Mordor: Abarrach is basically a Single-Biome Planet of subterranean Mordor. Parts of the Labyrinth are Mordor-like as well.
  • Motive Decay: Xar goes from wanting to build a better future for the Patryns to wanting to lead the Patryns to conquer the universe because it's their birthright to wanting to conquer the universe for his own benefit. This is spelled out in tear-jerking fashion in The Seventh Gate when he wonders exactly how he got from "save my people" to "Evil Overlord" —and then hears the sound of Sang-drax's laughter in his mind...
  • Muggles: The mensch races. It's explicitly stated that the most powerful mysteriarchs — human wizards from Arianus who are stated to be the most powerful mensch spell-casters around — begin to approach the level of magic of a particularly unskilled Patryn or Sartan.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Brotherhood of the Hand, the guild of assassins of Arianus.
  • Necromancer: What the Sartan of Abarrach have degenerated into. Xar learns the spells too later on, but isn't very good at them (much to his frustration).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jonathon. His planet was already on the way down but his accidental creation of the Lazar nearly finished off every living thing on it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Several times. Alfred's done it so much that even he no longer believes he's competent, Zifnab's dragon pretends to be a ravening beast when he's one of the wisest characters in the series, and even Zifnab's weirdness isn't all genuine (just most of it). Sinistrad is an odd variation: Rather than pretending to be stupid, he casts himself as a deliberately over-the-top Card-Carrying Villain, causing the other mysteriarchs to dismiss him as a harmless eccentric. They are very wrong.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Subverted twice. The tytans look like this but all they want is to go home; Haplo mistakes the serpents for this, but as Sang-drax points out, they need mortal suffering in order to survive, so destroying the world is just about the one thing that would kill them too.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Many of the Sartan believe they operate under one of these.
  • Only Sane Man: Zifnab's dragon often has this sort of attitude. Seeing as it's coming from a several-ton green reptile who half the time acts like a butler and might well be considered a minor deity, this is distinctly humorous in and of itself.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Sartan, an entire culture of The Fettered, versus the Patryn, Ineffectual Loners whose highest loyalty is to the family. Ironically, their magic systems reverse this trend — Sartan magic is much more spiritual and mystical and is treated as an art, while Patryn magic is incredibly structured and treated like a science.
  • Our Dragons Are Different:
    • The dragon-snakes and the dragons of Pryan aren't actually dragons, just immensely powerful shapechangers who prefer to appear in draconic form. The former resemble immense, slime-covered, limbless serpents, while the latter are equally large creatures resembling the traditional Western dragon but without wings.
    • Besides them, there are a number of flesh-and-blood dragon species inhabiting the various worlds, which are descended from the true dragons of ancient Earth that were carried to the new worlds by the Sartan:
      • There are a couple of different dragon species on Arianus, which are intelligent but not sapient and often enspelled and trained by humans as flying mounts between the floating islands (they're not domesticated, though, and the spells have to be periodically renewed to make sure they stay tame). Elves, whose magic cannot replicate the necessary spells, instead hunt and kill them, and use their remains to make their flying ships. The quicksilver dragons of the High Realm are wingless but can still fly (for that matter, they're faster fliers than any winged dragon) and are the most intelligent of the Arianus dragons. Quicksilver dragons can only be controlled by the most powerful of wizards, and even then the mage is in constant mental struggle with the dragon.
      • The fire dragons of Abarrach are basically giant, sapient black serpents that live in lava. They're intelligent and telepathic, but have few interactions with civilized beings — the mensch and Sartan hunted them to near-extinction in the past, and the surviving fire dragons despise them for it.
      • The blood dragons of the Labyrinth are some of the most powerful creatures in the series, the most feared and dangerous natives of the Labyrinth — which, given the many varieties of monsters that live there, is saying something — and actively evil and sadistic. They make a point of keeping captured prey alive as long as possible, torturing it all the while for their own enjoyment. In terms of appearance they're fairly classic Western dragons, with blood-red scales.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: While they vary from world to world like the other mensch races, all dwarves share a couple of characteristics, including a natural propensity to be Proud Warrior Race Guys (although they never war against each other if they can help it), a deep love of music and song and a preference for living underground (which manifests in Arianus’s World in the Sky by them living inside their floating island and never going outside if they can help it, and in Pryan’s towering jungles by living in cities burrowed into the lower trunks of the trees, with miles of canopy and moss plains between themselves and the suns).
    • Averted with the "Gegs" of Arianus, a race of peaceful and unimaginative factory workers oppressed by the Tribus elves. Their ancestors played it straight, and it’s stated in the first book that they are oppressed by the elves because the elves are afraid of what would happen if they realized they're actually a Proud Warrior Race. They later realize it. The elves don't like it a one bit.
    • Played straight with the dwarves on the other two mensch worlds, which are much more in line with traditional stereotypes.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves (with the exception of the Chelestran ones) tend to be quite racist and see themselves as the most superior race, the humans as beasts and the dwarves as less than beasts — a largely unwarranted attitude: for all their airs, they're no less muggles than the humans and dwarves compared to the Patryn and Sartan.
    • The elves of Arianus rule the Tribus Empire that rules much of the world and is served by the Gegs (dwarves), whom the elves have essentially scammed into revering them as gods in exchange for garbage. They also used to rule the human islands, until a rebellion threw them out.
    • The elves of Pryan are more or less a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of England at the height of the British Empire but with slavery, generally being a culture of very stuck-up and casually racist fops and dandies.
    • The elves of Chelestra are generally benevolent, but a bit odd and airheaded.
    • In an inversion of how this trope is usually played, the elves (whose magic is mostly suited to making Magitek and enchanted objects) are actually less attuned to the natural world than the humans (who instead tend towards elemental and mental magic): it's a great irritation for the Arianus elves that they cannot replicate the magic humans use to tame and ride dragons, while the humans of Pryan are better farmers than the local elves, who have yet to master basic crop rotation.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The Tytans, giant humanoids with a gaping hole where their eyes should be who were artifically created by the Sartan to operate their Magitek and police the mensch. With their creators gone, the Tytans now rampage across Pryan, annihilating everything in their path.
  • Our Humans Are Different: Humans have a natural affinity for mental and elemental magic, in contrast to the elves' affinity for Magitek and the creation of enchanted objects and the Sartan and Patryn's powerful probability-based magic. In something of a twist, this makes the humans, as a species, considerably more closely tied to natural life than the elves are — their mental magic, for instance, allows the humans of Arianus to tame dragons, which the elves cannot, while the humans of Pryan are better farmers than the local elves, who have not even mastered basic crop rotation. The humans of Chelestra are also notable in-universe for their dark skin, which the elves and dwarves of their world do not share, to the point that black skin is considered as characteristic of humans as the pointy ears of elves and the beards and short stature of dwarves.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Mermaids are mentioned in passing in one of the appendices as being among the creatures imported by the Sartan to populate Chelestra's waters. Nothing else is mentioned of them, but as they're counted in a series of animal species and are never referenced among the sapients of the setting, it's likely that they're not especially intelligent creatures.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The cadavers of Abarrach represent the "mindless servant" type (mostly). The lazar, on the other hand, are basically what you get by combining Our Zombies Are Different with Our Liches Are Different and a little bit of Our Vampires Are Different on the side. They're extremely intelligent, retain the magical powers they had in life (and are capable of learning new ones) and are completely Ax-Crazy, driven by a need to kill the living and create more of their kind.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Sartan and Patryns have outgrown the "silly superstition" of gods, and the Sartan at least discourage any mensch under their influence from believing in such beings either. Of course, the series proves them very wrong when actual divine beings show up, and unfortunately the most proactive of them are the vile serpents...
  • Pet the Dog: Literal, with Haplo.
  • Physical God: Sartan and Patryns are this compared to the mensch, and are generally referred to as "demigods" throughout the books
  • Planet of Hats: Played straight with the mensch races, all of whom are rather hatty (though which race his which hat varies from world to world). Deconstructed with the "demigods"
  • Power Nullifier: The seawater of Chelestra, created by the rules of the universe to counter the imbalance caused by Sartan and Patryn magic. Any "demigod" who gets dunked in it will find him or herself all too mortal until they dry out.
  • Power Glows: Patryn and Sartan runes both glow when magic is being used, as do Patryn tattoos when their wearer is in danger.
  • Precious Puppies: Why Dog is, well, a dog, given that he's actually a familiar of Haplo's.
  • Press X to Die: Among the spells you learned along the way was 'Self-Immolate', which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin — using the spell would instantly kill you. It did, however, turn out useful when fighting a mirror image of yourself. Just scribe a mirrored version of the spell's runes — which does nothing — and your copy would dutifully flip it and kill himself.
  • Professional Killer: Hugh is an assassin, and is later revealed to be part of an assassin's guild (well, they mostly do assassinations, but have a hand in a lot of other crime on Arianus as well).
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Patryns can be quite brutal and ruthless enemies, but they take great pride in their cultural identitity and combat skills, and follow an uncompromising code of honor — at least among each other. Several of the mensch cultures also qualify.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: And the Serpents are Genre Savvy about it. This trope is the reason their default form is giant snakes.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A part of the uniform of the Geg High Froman is a cape made of tier feathers, a gift from the elves representing the Gegs' desire to symbolically fly up to heaven and literally ascend to a paradise island higher in Arianus once they become worthy of living alongside the elves. The tier, as noted earlier in Dragon Wing, is a flightless bird that the elves consider repulsive and unclean. If the cape represents anything, it is the contempt the elves hold the effectively enslaved Gegs in and the lies they tell them.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: The dolphins and whales of Chelestra are sapient, capable of speech and allied with the mensch who live there. The whales don't show up much, while the dolphins are enthusiastic gossips.
  • Savage Wolves: Wolfen, wolflike monsters the size of a man that hunt in packs thirty to forty strong, are one of the many kinds of monsters that the Labyrinth uses to torment its Patryn prisoners.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • How the Sartan see the Patryns. The Patryns in turn see themselves as a Sealed Good in a Can. They are unquestionably Sealed Badasses In A Can
    • The Serpents too, though their can was a block of ice that formed around them naturally rather than a deliberate act of imprisonment.
  • Secret Relationship: King Stephen and Queen Anne, who entered an Arranged Marriage to end a feud between the Kingdom of Uylandia (his) and the Volkaran Isles (hers). Zigzagged Trope: they are married to each other. They have bitter shouting matches in court... which keeps the Evil Chancellors off-balance. Behind closed doors, they are very Happily Married.
  • Slave Galley: Humans made prisoners by the Tribus elves of Arianus are often forced into flight harnesses to move the wings of the elves' flying ships, a very difficult and dangerous task. Later, after the human/elven war ends, the need to move galleys still remains and the elves resort to paying volunteer rowers instead — and a lot of former galley slaves, having built up quite a bit of practice and without many other career options, sign up for this job. The narration notes that, somewhat paradoxically, many become quite proud of their career, now that they are doing it by choice as paid professionals.
  • Soul Fragment: Haplo's dog is actually an externalization of part of his soul which he inadvertently created in the Labyrinth to give himself something to live for. Not coincidentally, Haplo's character development can be tracked by the current state of his relationship with the dog.
  • Squishy Wizard: Many Sartan, especially Alfred
  • Standard Fantasy Races: Humans are the most overtly mundane race in the setting, elves are long-lived, magical and aloof, and dwarves are stout, strong, like living underground and are good with machinery. There are also dragons, which depending on the specific kind are either ravening animals or powerful, intelligent beings who remain aloof from the humanoid civilizations.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Only it's a dwarf doing the grabbing, so it's lower than usual.
  • Starter Villain: Sinistrad is the main villain of the first book and dies at the end of it, but the consequences of his scheming — especially in how they bring Haplo, Alfred, Bane and Hugh into contact with each other — would indirectly set much of the rest of the plot in motion, even as villains much bigger and badder than he is take center stage.
  • The Undead: Two basic kinds exist:
    • The first, just called "cadavers", are semi-sentient and can be trained to do simple tasks (and complex ones if they have an overseer). They resemble basic shambling corpses, with their indistinct, mist-like soul hovering behind them.
    • A corpse raied too quickly, however, becomes a Lazar — its soul hasn't had time to fully depart and the process of raising it fuses the soul and body in a single tortured whole. The resulting creature is completely sapient and quite insane.
    • There's also Hugh the Hand, who was turned into an undead by Alfred's improvising and is apparently unique.
  • Too Broken to Break: The Lazar are undead monsters whose souls are fused with their bodies in unimaginable torment. They can shrug off almost anything, even dismemberment, and do because every instant of their existence is far worse.
  • Too Dumb to Live: One family member of the elven main character of Elven Star is this, as she's so fixated on running the family business that she repeatedly dismisses alarm horns as drills and even with omnicidal, giant magical creatures practically at the house's doorstep just thinks everyone else is being crazy. Unsurprisingly, she dies. Then comes a subversion when she has a final conversation with her brother from behind a closed door as the Tytans approach and he comes to the realization that deep down she does realize the truth, but can't find the strength to cope with it.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Dog loves sausages.
  • Tree Top Town: In Pryan, the elves prefer to build their cities among the very tops of the world-jungle's canopy, with homes and shops built on the larger branches and connected by mazes of rope bridges, in contrast to the humans (who mostly settle the moss plains stretched between the giant tree limbs) and the dwarves (who inhabit cities carved into the trunks of the trees deeper down).
  • Treetop World: Pryan, the world of fire, is a hollow sphere where intense humidity, constant rains, and the light and heat from the four suns at its center have caused its inner surface to become covered in miles-high jungles. The trees' branches support moss plains as large as countries and thick enough to bear the weight of regular-sized forests and small seas, while the forest floor is a lightless underworld of pillar-like trunks leading down to the mazelike tunnels of the humus layer. The elves and humans live in the canopies and on the moss plains, respectively, so far above the ground that stones are rare enough to serve as currency, while the dwarves dig their cities into the trunks of the trees much deeper down.
  • True Companions: Patryn culture is pretty much made of this. They're not a friendly or openly affectionate people by any stretch, but if they accept you as part of their family, they will remain loyal practically to their dying breath (and expect the same in return).
  • Upsetting the Balance: a major theme of the series. To wit, both the Big Good serpents of Pryan and the Big Bad dragon-snakes of Chelestra were spawned in an attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong... And that's just the start.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Samah's motivation in a nutshell. Taking the Sartan's idealism and emphasis on community to an unhealthy extreme, he's determined to build a perfect world — even if he has to pave over the rest of the cosmos to do it. This motivation is shared among the other Sartan of his faction, most obviously his son Ramu.
  • Villain Protagonist: Arguably Haplo in the first two books; starting in book three he becomes a more solid Anti-Hero as he starts to question his Lord and be pitted against people far worse than he is.
  • Villains Never Lie: Sinistrad outright told his wife to be that he is evil, and that she would regret her decision to be with him. "If you marry me, you marry darkness." She thought he was being romantic and mysterious. Possibly a Take That! at the more rabid Raistlin-fangirls.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Serpents and dragons can change their form into whatever they want (Sang-drax, for example, is fond of appearing as an elven aristocrat). Alfred can also change his form to that of a green-and-golden dragon.
  • Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere: The Lazar have this problem, though it's not so much that they need to feed on the living as the presence of living beings simply sends them into Axe-Crazy fits. Jonathon can resist this; Kleitus can too, but only when it suits his purposes.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Humans are easily the shortest-lived of the major races. Elves and dwarves both have a couple of centuries in them, it's never explicitly spelled out how long Sartan and Patryns live beyond that it's a really long time, and dragons and serpents are functionally immortal.
  • We Have Reserves: One of Hugh's early contracts (shown in a flashback) is against a mercenary commander who abandoned his men to die over and over again so he wouldn't have to share the contract fees. His client was a collection of widows and relatives of people he'd gotten killed who couldn't afford Hugh's services individually.
  • Weird Currency: The natives of Pryan use stones as others would use coins. This is because Pryan is a Treetop World where civilization exists primarily in the canopies of immense rainforests, separated from the ground by miles of branches, epiphytic mosses, and tangled masses of roots and humus. Actual stones reach the canopies so rarely that their scarcity makes them an effective form of currency.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Samah; Balthazar in Fire Sea, though he grows into a more purely heroic character by Seventh Gate, Xar until his murder for refusing to disastrously reunite the worlds.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Jera; she was specifically mentioned to have remained a lazar and left with Kleitus at the end of Book 3 but is never mentioned again aside from one blind-and-you'll miss it reference in Into the Labyrinth.
    • While all the natives of the four elemental worlds do not appear in the books about the other elemental worlds and get downgraded in importance in the last three books which involve multiple worlds, Grundle and her friends on Chelestra end up dropping out of the story entirely, as there are a grand total of two scenes taking place there after Haplo leaves.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: The universe is encompassed by "the Omniwave", which is the set of all possibilities in existence and is constantly working to keep itself in balance. Rune-magic works by allowing the user to select a new possibility and weave it into the extant fabric of the universe. In other words, the Patryn and Sartan literally alter probability until what they want comes into being. (It also leads to less extravagant spellcasting than usual; while summoning a fireball might work, opening a hole in the floor to escape through is closer to the current reality and thus easier to invoke.)
  • World in the Sky: Arianus, the world of air, is a series of islands and small continents floating at different heights in a world-sized volume of air. Some thought was put into how this kind of world would work — the islands are made of "coralite", a substance excreted by worm-like animals that contains many small bubbles of lighter-than-air gas (actual stone is very rare and precious). Drought is also an issue, as rain soaks straight into the porous coralite and out of reach, and as such water is a very valuable resource, while most native plants have specialized adaptations for storing or producing water. Transportation is mainly by flying ship or dragonback. Unusually for this trope, it's an explicitly vertically oriented World in the Sky, and changes in air pressure are noted to be an issue as one moves between its Low, Mid and High Realms.
  • World Shapes: The elemental worlds created by the Patryn take some decidedly shapes:
    • Arianus, the world of air, is a World in the Sky where people live on floating islands above the eternal storm of the Maelstrom, which fills the lower third or so of its volume. Water is scarce, since the island's spongy substrate doesn't retain it well.
    • Pryan, the world of fire, is a Hollow World with a much larger surface area than the modern Earth. Its inner surface is covered by jungle of miles-high trees, and humanoid civilizations exist primarily in their canopies and on country-sized mats of epiphytic moss.
    • Abarrach, the world of stone, is a solid mass of rock honeycombed by tunnels and caverns. Its core is highly volcanic and its outer areas deathly cold; civilization can only exist in a Goldlilocks zone between them, and even there is struggles to survive.
    • Chelestra, the world of water, is an egg-shaped mass of ice within which a "seasun" orbits, cyclically thawing out and re-freezing floating islands within which people live.
    • The Labyrinth, a prison-world created for the Sartan, the ancient enemies of the Patryn, is a circular flattened world consisting of an outer, mazelike area divided by a large number of geographic gates and an inner, safe area containing a paradisiacal city.
  • World Sundering: A major part of the backstory. In a successful attempt at winning the magical war between themselves and the Patryn, the Sartan sundered the Earth and remade it into the four elemental worlds and the Labyrinth.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Among the elves of Arianus, it’s traditional for the members of the royal family to have their souls captured and bound after death, continuing to serve their realm by helping to power their wizards’ magic.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Lazar cause one of these on Abarrach.