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Literature / The Elenium
aka: The Tamuli

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After ten years in exile, tired, aging Sir Sparhawk returns to his dirty, polluted home city of Cimmura to find that things have changed quite a bit in his absence. The incompetent King Aldreas has died under mysterious circumstances, and his youthful heir Ehlana is on the verge of death, her life preserved solely by an extremely risky spell. The city—and the kingdom of Elenia it rules—now is controlled in all but name by the corrupt Primate Annias of the Elene Church, who's put a puppet ruler in control and is stripping the treasury bare to pay for his private campaign for the head of the Church. And his ally, the fallen Pandion Knight Martel, is stirring up trouble across the continent to discredit and ultimately destroy the Church Knights to which Sparhawk belongs.

Gathering a party of various companions, including champions of the Church Knights, sorcerers of Styricum, street thieves, and his squire, Sparhawk sets out- both to thwart the designs of Annias, and to find a cure for the queen's suspicious illness. But increasingly, he and his companions are embroiled in a shadowy world of magic, powerful artifacts, and the evil God that craves them.

A Spiritual Successor to The Belgariad, the Elenium is nonetheless quite distinct and arguably serves as an example of David Eddings at his best. It is both darker and more medieval in feel while still avoiding a Crapsack World, and contrasts the usual callow protagonist on a climb to greatness with its own cast of predominantly seasoned, somewhat cynical professionals. Particularly notable in that none of the knights—who are, essentially, paladins—are Lawful Stupid, and that political action is increasingly as important to the story as classical adventuring.


There is a sequel trilogy called the Tamuli (which is covered here too).

Novels in the series

The Elenium

  • The Diamond Throne
  • The Ruby Knight
  • The Sapphire Rose

The Tamuli

  • Domes of Fire
  • The Shining Ones
  • The Hidden City

This series provides examples of:

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  • Abusive Precursors: The Elder Gods.
  • Accent Relapse: Inverted with Caalador, who speaks in an outrageously folksy Cammorian accent most of the time... until people tell him to cut it out.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Kurik, when the Basilica is under siege.
  • Accidental Proposal: Sparhawk accidentally proposes to Ehlana when, instead of returning her ancestral ring, twin to one he owns that symbolizes the link between their families, he instead puts his ring on her finger. Played with in that it's only accidental on his side. She knows from the beginning that he made a mistake, but she keeps him on the hook because she had wanted to marry him anyway.
  • Action Girl: Mirtai in the Tamuli. It helps that her entire race is like this - slavers who attack a group of teenage Atan girls with dreadful intent wind up as eunuchs.
  • Adipose Rex: Otha, the Emperor of Zemoch, is what happens when you take the villainous type of this trope and give him several centuries to perfect his laziness and corruption. He needs several strong men to carry his litter around (having long ago lost the ability to move under his own power) and is frequently described as a "slug" by the other characters.
  • Advantage Ball: The Church Knights, by dint of their training, reputation, and armor, which is not only protective but intimidating as well, tend to Curb Stomp any enemy force in combat, regardless of the opposition's numbers, equipment or tactics. The individual Knights tend to do this as well.
    • The Lamorks as well, by virtue of using crossbows, which can pierce even the armor of the Church Knights.
    • The Cyrgai possessed this in the distant past due to their advanced military strategies which made them a major threat to their more primitive neighbors. Most modern races hold the ball in comparison to the Cyrgai due to changes in military tactics and equipment.
    • In the Tamuli, this is the Atans' hat. They outclass everyone else to such an extent that entire enemy armies have surrendered rather than fight them. Mirtai demonstrates that even Church Knights are no match in dismounted combat by knocking Kalten on his ass without much effort - mounted knights would probably be more of a challenge as Atans don't seem to use missile weapons or polearms.
    • The Atans' lack of polearms and ranged weapons becomes an issue when encountering Trolls and Klael-soldiers, both of whom are more than a march for an Atan in hand-to-hand. The only ranged weapon the Atans use is the bow, but bows are for hunting exclusively and not considered "proper" weapons of war. Kring and Berit run themselves ragged trying to convince the Atans that javelins and crossbows are proper weapons of war.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: After everything Martel has done, when he lies dying Sparhawk and Sephrenia both gather to his side and mourn his death. Sephrenia even grants him her blessing, which she had withheld after Martel's fall from grace.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • All it takes to get Krager to spill his entire life story is a barrel of Arcian red wine. And some cash, maybe. But mostly the wine. While he gets away at the end of the Tamuli, it's mentioned that the drink has taken its toll on his body, and he isn't likely to live long.
    • Also King Wargun of Thalesia, who by the end of the Elenium is said to be dying from his destroyed liver.
  • All Are Equal in Death: Invoked in-universe when Sparhawk has to sneak into the catacombs under the Cimmura Cathedral.
  • All Trolls Are Different:
    • Elenian Trolls are twice as tall as a human, covered in fur and leathery hide, immortal (though not invulnerable), and they live in the frozen mountains of Thalesia where packs have to live miles apart from one another because they'll usually kill each other on sight. They're also distantly related to humans and have not only their own culture but their own gods.
    • And let's not even get into the Ogres. They're even bigger.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted with the Zemochs, who look like this at first but later turn out to be harmless after the Evil Overlord and his god that were ruling them were... forcibly removed. Following the end if the war, the opposing nations focused primarily on rebuilding the nation and rehabilitating the Zemochs rather than on retributive punishment. Played largely straight with the Cyrgai, though they're more like Always Stupid Evil as a result of centuries of inbreeding and fanaticism.
  • And I Must Scream:
  • Anti-Hero: Sparhawk, of the "Disney Anti-Hero" variety. He's got hard edges and can be rather petty or ruthless when he feels it's called for, but at heart he's an honorable man who lives for his duty to his knighthood, his nation, and especially his Queen.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Played for laughs in the last book when a Tamuli scholar refuses, like the rest of his race, to believe in Trolls. Ulath answers by calling a gargantuan, angry (illusionary) troll in the hall.
    • Also: 'I'm an agnostic, Divine One.' 'Would you like to examine that last sentence for logical consistency, Stragen?'note 
    • The prelates of the Hierarchy suffer from an especially glaring case, where they dismiss all Styrics gods and creatures even though they are blatantly existing and using their powers, including granting magic to the Styrics and their acolytes, while blindly and unquestioningly believing in their one true god, who does absolutely nothing during the entirety of the series and might as well not even exist.
  • Army of the Ages: Cyrgon does this in the Tamuli, but it's less effective than most examples.
  • Armor Is Useless:
    • Very averted. Armor is key to the Church Knights' way of battle, and while Atans fight in light armor they never actually clash with heavily armored troops and have the advantage of sheer size anyways.
    • Played straight with Azash's undead guardians in the end of the first trilogy. They all wear huge menacing armor with spikes that look very frightening, because that's what the Zemochs thought armor was for - but they never understood the real purpose for armor, so the Zemoch armor is clumsy, incredibly unwieldy, and doesn't even protect properly; all those spikes only serve to direct a blow towards weak points instead of deflecting them. In fact, the armor is worse than useless.
    • Also played with in the case of Adus, not because the armor is inherently useless but because it doesn't fit right. Also averted in that once he's down, his killer (an eight-year-old boy) needs help to get a sword through his breastplate to deliver a coup de grace.
    • Played with with Martel. It is not that his armor is useless (he is a trained Church Knight), but out of vanity he has his armor made in the finest (and heaviest) style in the world, with gold details and ornamentation on it, which tires him faster than the equally-skilled and equally-aged Sparhawk. And he admits it with his dying breaths.
    • Played straight, however, whenever crossbows are involved. Crossbow bolts can pierce armor as if it was a sheet of paper.
  • Artifact Alias: The Styric foundling Flute is known by the end of the second novel to be the Child-Goddess Aphrael, but she's still commonly called Flute.
  • Artifact of Doom: Bhelliom. Sure, you can kill a god with it, but you'll have to spank the Troll-Gods first.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The Dawn-men, explicitly stated to be ancestral to both humans and trolls, resemble nothing that appears in our own evolutionary lineage.
    • Faran is at least 16 years old at the beginning of the series, as it takes around 6 years to train a warhorse and Martel remembers him from when he and Sparhawk were friends 10 years prior. The series takes about 2 years, with another 4 in the epilogue, and then 2 more between series, making him at least 24, but he's showing no signs of aging, despite horses only living about 30 years generally.note  His not aging might have something to do with a certain Child-Goddess who likes to meddle and despises change (and is shown to share a mutual fondness with him).
      • Khalad does mention in the first book of the Tamuli that Sparhawk might want to start thinking about putting Faran out to pasture.
  • Artistic License – Military: There's a big deal made of the Cyrgai (Expies of Ancient Greece using Phalanx tactics) being hopelessly obsolete against "modern tactics", like the Eastern Peloi javalin-armed light cavalry using hit-and-run tactics. In actuality, said javelin-throwing light cavalry tactic is as ancient as the Phalanx itself, being used by the Persian armies in their war against Greece. Yes, the one where they were soundly defeated.
  • Ascended Extra: Zalasta. He appears briefly in the Elenium as a friend of Sephrenia, but becomes much more prominent in the Tamuli. He's also revealed to be a Big Bad Friend and responsible for a lot of events in the Elenium.
  • Authority in Name Only: Prince Avin Wargunsson might be Regent of Thalesia (to become King when insane father finally finishes dying), but every one of his subjects treats him as a complete joke. The King of Rendor is also stated to be this.
    • Emperor Sarabian is treated this way by his own government in the Tamuli. His role has become so ceremonial that when he begins taking an active role in leading his empire, several characters wonder if it is even legal for him to do so at this point.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Subverted in the Tamuli when the Knights go undercover. Bevier cuts down the haft of his lochaber and plays the part of a Psycho for Hire in Scarpa's army, and he hams it up so much everyone in the army camp is completely terrified of him.
    • Adus as well, cutting through his own troops to reach Kalten in the final battle, while roaring like an animal.
  • An Axe to Grind:
    • Berit and Bevier. Especially Bevier, whose favored weapon is an intimidating lochaber axe note . Characters frequently comment on just how murderous the thing looks, and he is fully capable of massive destruction with it. In fact, it's so nasty looking that Azash flinches when the axe is thrown at him.
    • Ulath, the most traditional axe-wielder of the group.
    • And on the villainous side of things, Adus abandons his usual sword in favor of an axe in the final confrontation of the Elenium.
  • Babies Ever After: Only for Sparhawk and Ehlana. Subverted in that their bouncing baby daughter is actually Aphrael. At the same time she exists as Flute. When they do eventually meet, nobody non-magical (or non-human) suspects a thing except Berit, who sees that Sparhawk, Sephrenia, and Vanion are remarkably twitchy about it.
    • Justified in that the poison Ehlana was given made her barren, and Aphrael figured she'd kill two birds with one stone — she needed somewhere safe to hide and get over the shock of a God's death (Ehlana's womb was perfect) and she'd give Ehlana the heir she needed.
    • The only problem with that is Sephrenia getting miffed with Aphrael because she seems to know that the poison causes sterility, which seems odd, since it's also universally fatal.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • A major part of the plot in the Tamuli is someone calling up armies from the past.
    • Kurik does this twice, as his presence is needed to banish/reclaim the Bhelliom.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sparhawk's and Ehlana's respective ancestors, which served as the initial basis for the bond between the two families.
  • Badass Army:
    • The Peloi and their ridiculously well-trained horses. Even the Church Knights step lightly around these guys. So does Otha, who invaded the West through Lamorkand in part because he didn't want to risk fighting the Peloi.
    • Of course the Church Knights.
    • And the Atans, really.
    • Subverted with the Cyrgai. 10,000 years ago, they were the most powerful military in the world, and now they are extinct or so everyone thinks. When they do run into Cyrgai in modern time, they are just as badass as they were 10,000 years ago...except everyone else has been Level Grinding in badass that entire time.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Bevier, a poet and amateur actor, student of military history and siege engineering. And that's when he isn't out and about decapitating people with his axe.
    • Ulath as well. One of the best fighters in the group, he mentions that the winters in Thalesia are so harsh that all one can do for months on end is read and think.
  • Bad Boss: Azash, Annias, Martel, and especially Adus, who at one point cuts through his own troops to reach Kalten.
  • Bastard Angst: Stragen is hypersensitive about his illegitimate birth.
  • Battle Couple: Mirtai is an Action Girl and as much a warrior as any man. She towers over Kring, who is a horseman and about as deadly as she is—which deeply impresses Mirtai when she learns. They get engaged, and due to their different cultures are planning to get married, twice, by the end of the Tamuli.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Ehlana attempts this with her husband. Of course, since he's wearing plate armor, all she gets out of it is a bruised elbow.
  • Big Bad: Azash in the first trilogy. The second is a bit more complicated, with Cyrgon, Zalasta and Klael all vying for the role. By the end, even Krager has thrown in his hat for the title.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Annias. He's smart, and a decent Chessmaster, but his Smug Snake tendencies typically bite him in the hindquarters, and he's no match for Martel or the real Big Bad, Azash. This is actually lampshaded and justified in-series when Vanion and Ehlana both point out that Annias used to be extremely clever and competent, with only his recent schemes being obvious, pathetic, and easily abrogated. Sephrenia then explains that Azash tends to ruin his followers by influencing or outright forcing them to be more like him—and while he himself is a competent Big Bad in terms of power, his ability to be clever and subtle, particularly within the bounds of the more sophisticated Elene culture, is next to nil.
    • Krager in the Tamuli.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Invoked by Platime, when he seals his loyalty to Queen Ehlana. He tells her that she's the same as his own little sister now, and anyone who crosses her will have to deal with him. He even addresses her as "baby sister" for the rest of the books.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Zalasta gets one of these moments in the Tamuli when he wipes out a powerful enemy sorcerer and a giant dinosaur during a battle. It's actually a big dramatic False Flag Operation designed to win the Elenes' trust.
  • Black Knight:
    • The first character we see in the series wears black plate, has a crooked nose, carries a huge sword, rides an evil-looking horse and quietly threatens anyone who gets in his way. His name is Sparhawk and he's the protagonist.
    • The entire Pandion Order invokes this trope. They have a reputation for being cruel and implacable warriors who torture prisoners graphically in their chapterhouses. They planted those rumors themselves, to make enemies believe they're even more badass than they already are (and to save them the trouble of actually having to torture people; that's a great deal of work, after all). They actually prefer not having to slaughter their enemies most of the time and cultivate this reputation to encourage enemy forces to surrender rather than fight.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The trolls think nothing of eating other sentient beings (indeed, failing to eat what you kill is actually a sin against their God of Eat, even if the killing was done for other reasons), but they are deeply offended by abductions, poisonings, hostage-taking and other things that humans are liable to dismiss as Dirty Business. The troll-gods take a personal interest in punishing guilty humans when they find out that such things exist.
  • Bookends: The Elenium begins and, except for the epilogue, ends with Sparhawk slinking into Cimmura on a rainy night. The Tamuli begins the same way.
  • Break the Cutie: The Shining Ones is one huge one for Sephrenia. First, it's revealed that there's a powerful Styric magician working with the other side, and every Styric magician of that caliber happens to be her friend. Then she's forced to go to Delphaeus, the home of the race she believes killed her family. Then she witnesses the rest of the party forming an alliance with them and completely disregarding her feelings with some very unkind words (to be fair, they didn't know and she wouldn't tell them) and then it's revealed that her old friend Zalasta was the traitor, and he was also behind her parents' murder and would have had her killed too. All because he wanted her for himself and was jealous that she was the chosen High Priestess of Aphrael.
  • Brick Joke: Throughout the first trilogy, Sparhawk was booking passage on a particular ship giving the excuse that he was fleeing from an ugly heiress and her cousins to explain his desire for passage. Come the second trilogy, they end up on the same ship (Aphrael likes symmetry), and Sparhawk explains that he was caught by the cousins and forced to marry, gesturing to his beautiful wife.
    • The first book even starts setting up one in the first chapter, as an annoying noble interrupts Sparhawk's attempt to kill Krager. Sparhawk casts a spell on said noble as he leaves. Several chapters later, said noble comes to the Pandion chapterhouse with a massive boil on his nose that Sparhawk encourages him to get lanced. Sephrenia calls Sparhawk out on the fact that said boil was not a natural occurance, to Sparhawk's amusement.
  • The Brute: Adus. Kalten describes him as putting armor on a gorilla (who doesn't bathe). He's pretty much the archetype at its best: a mentally handicapped, rape- and torture-happy animalistic thug, who can't write and can barely read, but is a savant when it comes to small-unit tactics, serves as The Dragon's chief enforcer, and is very, very dangerous in combat. Martel refers to him as a walking battle axe, and that's not too far off.
  • Bury Your Gays: Mirtai's former owner.

  • Catchphrase: Sparhawk — "Neighbor." Martel — "Old boy." Ulath — "I hate sieges." And of course,
    Anyone: Whose turn is it to do the cooking?
    Ulath: Yours.
  • The Cavalry: Wargun and his Redshirt Army.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sparhawk's ring. Aldreas' spear.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lady Bellena first shows up, unnamed, in the first book, learning magic from a Zemoch. Book 2 has her showing up using those powers to terrorize a village and her brother's keep.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bevier's study of history and acting.
  • The Chessmaster: Zalasta. Xanetia's recap of how he is directly involved in everything bad that's happened in both the ''Elenium'' and the ''Tamuli'' up to that point goes on for around 20 pages.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: The main characters meet a secondary, clearly handicapped character who was kicked in the head when young by a cow.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Almost every time the party stops in a tavern Kalten takes a pass at the barmaids. Ulath just may be a bigger pervert, though it's more of an Informed Ability with him because we don't actually see him doing it, just read about it later.
  • Chosen One: Anakha, Bhelliom's chosen one. That's Sparhawk to the rest of you.
  • Church Militant: The Church Knights, four holy orders of highly trained magic-using soldiers intended to defend the Church.
    • There is also the Church Soldiers, rather less trained soldiers. Unlike the Church Knights they aren't technically part of the priesthood themselves, but they are soldiers for the Church, just answering to significant priests rather than operating as autonomous knightly orders. Consequently they mostly show up as mooks for Annias.
  • City of Gold: Matherion isn't quite gold, but the entire city is covered in polished nacre (mother of pearl) tiles that shine like a rainbow. Played with in that any time there's an earthquake or a brisk wind, some of the tiles fall off and the city looks like it has the pox. And the Empire subsequently goes through a financial crisis from buying new tiles.
    "Behold!" Oscagne intoned quite formally. "Behold the seat of beauty and truth! Behold the home of wisdom and power! Behold fire-domed Matherion, the centre of the world!"
  • Clueless Chick Magnet:
    • Berit, especially in Tamuli. Someone wonders if they should tell him, only to be shushed by ALL the women present. Apparently, his innocent cluelessness is part of his attractiveness.
    • Inverted by Bevier, who's attractive and knows it, but is pitching at the priesthood one day and refuses to act on it.
  • Cold Iron: Anathema to Bhelliom, so that any simple, mundane sword can destroy it, though doing so might obliterate the planet. Styrics and their gods also avoid iron, using bronze when metal tools are necessary, but this seems to be a cultural peculiarity rather than a weakness. It's revealed near the climax of the Tamuli that the Styric gods are actually sensitive to magnetism, and the way iron distorts magnetic fields is an extremely uncomfortable sensation for them, often described by Aphrael as "making my skin crawl".
  • Cooldown Hug: Delivered by Kalten to Sephrenia in The Shining Ones. Given that he's a trained warrior, big enough to make three of her and knows she would never escalate her attempts to get out over scratching him and ineffectually hitting his chest, she doesn't have much choice but to give in eventually.
  • Cool Horse: Faran, Sparhawk's mount.
  • Corrupt Church: The Elene Church was this in the past, which led to several factions breaking away and creating the Eshandists and the churches in the Elene kingdoms of Daresia. Some churchmen, notably Makova, are still corrupt, but there are others who aren't.
  • Crapsack World: Largely averted; though there are some hints at it in the settings, the people occupying them are pretty normal. Cimmura's a notable example setting-wise in that it's a polluted mess that's constantly being doused in rain, but it's also home to Ehlana, Sparhawk and a guild of Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters.
    • Zemoch during the reign of Otha is described this way. Basically a cross between Mordor and the USSR.
  • Critical Research Failure: An in-universe example: all the Trolls leave Thalesia in the Tamuli. Turns out Cyrgon summoned them to do his bidding because he thought they were Dawn-Men (the ancestors of both Trolls and humans).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Mirtai is very good at causing these, especially in her Backstory, including ripping the guts out of a pair of murderers while they were still alive and leaving them to burn to death in a blazing house with their guts around their feet. The other Atans encourage this. Justified because the guys in question had her owner killed.
    • Hilariously subverted when in the end of The Hidden City she kills a man by throwing him out a window. Kalten asks what she did, she tells him "I defenestrated him" and he, believing that "defenestrating" means something much worse, tells her that it's a terrible thing to do to a man until she clears up the meaning.
    • Sephrenia threatens a particularly obstinate Styric with this in the form of the "death spell," even going so far as to begin the incantation for it. Aphrael quickly chastises her with a reminder that she won't let Sephrenia cast that spell. Sephrenia just as quickly points out that he doesn't know that.
      • It's unclear whether Sephrenia is forbidden to cast that spell at all, or if it's just that Aphrael is unwilling to impose the death penalty for a bit of backtalk. If Sephrenia is able to cast the death spell in other circumstances and other gods would be more willing to punish blasphemy, that may have helped her bluff.
  • Crystal Prison: inverted in that the inhabitant is only in there to keep her alive.This is more of a short term Human Popsicle for Queen Ehlana, to save her from the poison until they can find a cure
    • This is also the Bhelliom's form on Earth, as it was forced into a sapphire in order to escape being trapped in iron.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Nearly every primary and secondary warrior character comments on this after fighting the Cyrgai. In fact almost the entire Tamuli proves to be a long-running series of these, with the heroes often commenting on how uncreative their opponents are. It's especially bad during the climax, when just about every battle is horrifically lopsided in favour of the heroes. It's most notable with Sparhawk versus Cyrgon, and Anakha versus Zalasta.
    • In Domes of Fire, both a party of mounted Atans and some of Bevier's knights are killed by Mooks with crossbows. Both are very, very angry, and it's pointed out that crossbows are game breakers in this world because they can effectively punch through any armour the knights have got. One of their next actions is to find the crossbow depository and take it out.
  • Cursed with Awesome: An unusually literal case with the Delphae. The apparent 'curse' aspect is controllable to the point of having off-switches, and it causes them to gradually develop greater magical abilities (all of it under their full control). Understandably, the Knights wonder why this counts as a curse, until it is explained that there is a difference in the fundamental nature of enchantments and curses — enchantments 'sing in the air', revealing their presence to anyone with magic nearby, while curses are quiet and dampen the 'sound' of magic around them. Since the Delphae are trying to hide, a curse was the most appropriate — even if it is only technically a curse.
    • Originally this case fit the trope more conventionally: the Delphae are innately nonviolent, which is why their god needed to give them an edge in the first place, but this means they aren't emotionally equipped for the horror of what their touch does. Having to actually use it tends to cause them massive despair.
  • Cute Mute: Flute. Subverted in that she can talk, but chooses not to until the second book.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Mirtai's backstory in The Tamuli involves being captured by slavers as a child. She pulled the handle off the spoon they gave her, and sharpened the metal shank.
  • Darker and Edgier: Though the specifics are often quite different, in Broad Strokes the Elenium can be thought of as a Darker and Edgier evolution or spiritual successor to The Belgariad.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The entire Thalesian race. Most of the main cast gets this way at times, too. It's Eddings, what do you expect?
    • Sarabian.
    Berit: Well, Your Majesty, it was your wife, Elysoun - the one with the unusual costume.
    Sarabian: Yes, I'm acquainted with her.
  • Decapitated Army: The Zemochs aren't really evil, and are happy to forgo any plans for war once Azash has been wiped out.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Aphrael. It turns out the child act is more or less A Form You Are Comfortable With - and Aphrael uses it entirely so people will pick her up and give her kisses. Her true form is actually quite adult and never clearly described save for her eyes and her lack of clothes.

    The kisses and such have an ulterior motive: they make those people love her. Bhelliom outright states it's afraid of her because of this, because she can essentially wrap anyone around her little finger, itself included.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Baron Harparin, one of Annias' minions, who is a pedophile. He's universally detested by all the characters and the butt of constant snide remarks from friend and foe alike. It's pretty clear that it is his pedophilia that people find despicable, not his homosexuality. One of Mirtai's former owners averts this while unfortunately falling victim to Bury Your Gays.
  • The Devil Is a Loser:
    • Azash presents a pretty good case. He may be the most evil of the Elder Gods, but he's also an emasculated Idiot Ball-carrying buffoon locked inside a clay idol. His minions can be pretty scary, though.
    • Cyrgon even more so. This is a guy who deliberately bred up a race of inbred musclemen who haven't changed in millennia.
    • Also justified in both cases. Azash is more like a primordial, evil force of nature than a real character, while Cyrgon is essentially the god of unthinking stagnation, having designed his chosen people at the dawn of time and become so attached to them that he is unwilling to change them one iota. His conservativism is a deliberate choice; despite his dislike of innovation, he learns quickly in a fight.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: Klael shows up randomly in the final book of the second series and promptly takes over as Big Bad. Once explained it makes sense, and anyone familiar with The Malloreon could see something like that coming, but it was still rather jarring.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Azash gets wiped out by Sparhawk and Bhelliom in the third book. The other gods are understandably quite terrified.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Sparhawk is more frightening when he gets quiet than when he rages and roars. Even more true with Bevier, whose faith cause leads him to take shockingly violent action once he is certain he is on firm theological and moral ground. At one point he not only decapitates a corrupt church soldier that refuses to let them pass, he then leads the man's terrified subordinates in chanting prayers for the dead man's soul.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Invoked and damn near weaponized in the Tamuli, as a method to avert attention to the messages being sent between Ehlana and Sarabian via Melidere. The baroness keeps everyone so locked on her hips, they probably didn’t even realize she had hands or anything in them.
  • The Dragon: Otha is technically this for Azash, but as he's physically not up to much Dragoning, Martel fills the role in the Final Battle. Later on, Cyrgon is pressed into duty to serve as this to Klael after arrogantly summoning it.
  • The Dreaded: The Shining Ones are the acme of terror for Tamuls, to the extent that even the Atans refuse to face them unless absolutely necessary. Subverted; they turn out to be a race of pacifistic Mary Sues.
  • Dual Age Modes: Although Aphrael spends most of her time as a child, she can be an adult if she wants. Or both at the same time.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted by Melidere. On the surface, she's Ehlana's air-headed lady-in-waiting. In practice, she's simultaneously one of Ehlana's chief advisors and a successful white-collar criminal.
  • Dumb Muscle:
    • On the side of villainy: Adus, the Cyrgai, and Klael's Giant Mooks.
    • Kalten appears to be this, but it's actually Obfuscating Stupidity. He's actually smarter than Sparhawk in some ways (and gets to demonstrate this in his own personal Moment of Awesome in the second trilogy).
  • Dying Truce: The final duel scenes in both trilogies both wrap up with Sparhawk delivering the fatal blow and then having a respectful (if short) conversation with the one he just killed.

  • Eager Rookie: Played with. Sparhawk told a young knight to guard Sephrenia, but agreed to let him take part in the battle (his first) when Sephrenia said she didn't need a guard. The knight was then killed by Adus. This was notably foreshadowed - after their first meeting, Sparhawk tells Vanion "He's too good for this world, you know. God will probably be calling him home soon."
  • Eldritch Abomination: All the Elder Gods are like this, apparently. Azash, as the worst of them, also crosses over to God of Evil, as he's evil by both the standards of mortals and other Eldritch Abominations. Klael is as far beyond the other Eldritch Abominations as they are beyond humans.
  • Elective Mute: Flute, for the first book and part of the second.
  • The Emperor: Otha, and the Too Dumb to Live King of the Cyrgai. Sarabian is a Reasonable Authority Figure though.
  • The Empire: Zemoch. Tamul is a more benevolent version, and the Cyrgai used to be this, until the rest of the world caught up to them and ultimately left them in the dust.
  • Endless Daytime: Sparhawk accidentally causes this when he uses Bhelliom to help him catch up with Martel ... but leaves the method up to the Troll-Gods.
  • Ethnic God: Each race has at least one god; most have a pantheon, while the Styrics have over a thousand. It's never explained whether the gods made the races or vice-versa, but the connection is apparently insoluble: on a few occasions, Aphrael has to get the Elene god's permission to act on his people.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas:
    • No matter how depraved he becomes, Martel never stops loving Sephrenia.
    • Lycheas and Arissa obviously care for each other, as does Lycheas's father Annias, demonstrated when he goes out of his way to get the two rescued from imprisonment and brings them into exile in Zemoch when his plan goes south.
    • Scarpa calls out for his mother while he is melted into goo by the Delphaeic curse This is an interesting one, as he had his mother killed when he began his Start of Darkness.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Martel, to Sparhawk.
    • Klael to Bhelliom.
  • Evil Former Friend: Zalasta becomes this to Sephrenia
    • Martel is this to Sparhawk.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Cyrgon, Cyrgon, Cyrgon. Summoning Klael, a being of infinite power and malevolence, capable of eating Gods for breakfast and picking its teeth with Eldritch Abominations, and trying to control it and make it his minion? That's just asking for trouble.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Otha. Martel tried to be this in the Backstory, but got caught and most of his powers were stripped away. Also Zalasta in the Tamuli.
  • Expy: Many from The Belgariad, mostly due to filling identical archetypes.
    • Melidere = Velvet (Liselle)
    • Stragen = Silk (Kheldar)
    • Tynian/Ulath = Barak
    • Sarabian = 'Zakath
    • Xanetia = Cyradis
    • Delphae = Dals
    • Tamul Empire = Mallorean Empire
    • Matherion = Mal Zeth
    • Bhelliom and Klael = The Light Prophecy and Dark Prophecy
    • Azash = Torak
  • False Friend: Zalasta, to everyone who isn't Sephrenia. To her, he ends up as an Evil Former Friend.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: The Church of Chyrellos—except that there is no Christ figure, so it's essentially Judaism in Catholic clothes.
  • Fantastic Racism: The quickest way to piss off a Troll is to insinuate that he might be an Ogre. Also there's the Elenes and the Styrics, the Styrics and the Zemochs, the Styrics and the Delphae...
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Not taken to the all-consuming extent of the Belgariad, but in general the Elenes are English and French, the Thalasians are Scandinavians, the Cammorians are sort of Italian, the Pelosians are Russians (with the Peloi being Cossacks or Mongols) and Lamorks are Germans, the Styrics are Jews (though their religion is more like pre-Christian paganism, and they have some Roma influences thrown in as well), the Tamuls are Chinese, the Cyrgai are the worst examples of Greco-Romanic culture (particularly Sparta), and the Rendors are Arabs.
    • There are also a few Fantasy Counterpart Religions: the Church of Chyrellos is obviously the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of Astel and its leader are Expys of Eastern Orthodoxy and the Patriarch of Constantinople, respectively. And while the Rendors look like Muslims, at least from a xenophobic Western perspective, the history of their breakaway sect sounds a lot like the formation of Protestantism.
  • Fat Bastard: Otha. He hasn't had to actually move in centuries, to the point that he can't walk at all. Subverted by Platime, who despite his criminal status is no worse than the protagonists.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The touch of the Delphae, aka the Shining Ones, is regarded as this by Tamuls in general, to the point that they're willing to accept certain death of almost any other cause to escape it.
  • Feeling Their Age: Sir Sparhawk is middle-aged at the beginning of the first book, and several times it's noted that he hasn't got the speed or stamina he had as a younger man.
  • The Fettered: While generally unscrupulous in their tactics and unconcerned with most secular laws, the Church Knights are absolutely unwilling to break church law or disobey ecclesiastical orders, which allows Annias a Near-Villain Victory, just because they aren't willing to simply assassinate him or reveal his atrocities without absolute proof.
  • Finger in the Mail: In the Tamuli, instructions to Sparhawk from Ehlana's kidnappers include a lock of her hair as verification.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sparhawk and Ehlana's ancestors, whose families become bound together after they end up back to back on a battlefield butchering bandits left and right.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Flanderisation: Kalten starts off Sparhawk's lifelong best friend and backup man; Sparkhawk's equal in general knowledge, raw cunning, and combat ability, but who never got the hang of magic because his talent with the Styric language is close to nil. This maintains throughout the first book, and after that Kalten begins a slide for being a big dumb guy who's somehow missed everyday information (like what a 'diagonal' is).
    • And then subverted, as the last couple books demonstrate that Kalten may not be book smart, but he thinks fast on his feet and can be remarkably clever. He's also shown to actually be able to understand the gist of most Styric conversations, even if he can't hope to pronounce the words.
      • Ultimately, it's a case of Kalten discovering Obfuscating Stupidity. He hides his intelligence behind the fact that everyone expects him to be stupid. The only exception is Sparhawk, who's his main companion in the first book and has been his friend since childhood; the more he's around people who aren't Sparhawk, the stupider he acts.
      Sparhawk: Kalten, sometimes you amaze me.
      Kalten: I know, this stupid-looking face of mine is very useful sometimes.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Appears several times. All the speaking dead, whether they died centuries before or a few days before. A man playing a resurrected dead hero speaks this way, plagiarizing an old play. Also Bhelliom speaks this way.
  • Folk Hero: Sabre tries to be one of these in the Tamuli, but his Zorro act is lampshaded, subverted, mocked and generally played completely for laughs, with all the heroes treating him as a figure of fun and a complete joke. And then he kidnaps Ehlana and Alean in the last book. It's still played for laughs, with Scarpa and Krager ruthlessly mocking him nonstop. It is only fair, since Sabre had to have Krager help him with the kidnapping.
    • This is part of the standard model for the bad guys' plan in The Tamuli, with the various provinces getting a modern folk hero/rebel leader (buffed up with magic to help charisma if they're someone like Elron/Sabre) and a resurrected historic folk hero to lead the anti-Tamuli uprising (anti-Elene Church uprising in the nascent Lamorkand implementation). One of the things that first makes people suspect Scarpa might be a bit different from the other rebel leaders is that the resurrected Arjunan folk hero is pretty much an afterthought that even the Arjunans aren't particularly fond of.
  • Frazetta Man:
    • The Trolls embody this stereotype almost to a T, to the point of being so primitive it's stated they'd have died off centuries ago if they weren't immortal. Essentially nine-foot tall apes, they are incapable of using any weapon other than clubs and tend not to work in groups, but still possess a language and their own gods.
    • Trolls, Elenes, and Styrics are all descended from the Dawn-Men, a race of carnivorous apes who walked the earth eons ago. Far larger than Elenes or Styrics, the Dawn-Men were still smaller than Trolls (though even harder to kill), and while capable of working in groups and making flint weapons (abilities Styrics and Elenes would later build on, but Trolls would abandon), lacked language skills (something all of their descendants would develop). Cyrgon, amusingly, cannot tell Trolls and Dawn-Men apart.
  • Full-Frontal Assault:
    • Bellina, under Azash's curse, who hangs out naked in her brother's cellar butchering and eating children alive.
      • And then inverted when the Knights run across a horde of naked revelers trying to summon Azash into a clay idol, and promptly assault them.
    • Also done by Lillias during her farewell to Sparhawk.
  • The Fundamentalist: Patriarch Ortzel, the arch-conservative Lamork churchman who's got his heart set on forbidding the Church Knights from using magic. But since he's not Annias, everyone except Ehlana gets behind him as the good guys' candidate for Archprelate. Thankfully, he gets Character Development later and becomes more cosmopolitan.

  • Genius Bruiser: Most of the knights come close, but Ulath is probably the best example, being seven feet tall and silent, yet possessed of remarkable intellectual depth, particularly in the fields of religious study, history, and folklore.
    • Then there's Bhlokw, a Troll Priest who cheerfully engages Ulath in philosophical debate (such as whether there's still a moral obligation to obey the Gods if they've gone crazy).
  • Gentleman Thief: Played perfectly straight with Stragen. Or should I say, Milord Stragen? Averted with Platime, whose attempts to be gentlemanly are wholly comical.
  • Giant Mooks: Klael's alien army in the Tamuli.
  • A God Am I: One conversation suggests that all mortal races are gradually evolving to become like Gods, with the Delphae taking an accelerated course.
  • A God, I Am Not: At the end of The Hidden City, Sparhawk realizes that as Anakha, he has more power than most of the gods. But he decides he doesn't want the responsibility and gives it all up.
  • God-Emperor: In The Tamuli it's the inverted form, with Cyrgon, a god who is also the earthly ruler of the people of the same name.
  • God of Evil: Azash and Cyrgon.
  • God of Fire: Ulath enumerates the Troll Gods for his fellow Church Knights. Among these is Khwaj, the god of fire, whom Sparhawk later compels to turn their campfire into a listening device to spy on their enemies.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: The Elene God does not do one single thing through both series, although he is acknowledged as being real, incredibly powerful, and really boring at parties. The members of his Church Militant actually pray to the Styric gods for magical abilities he could easily grant them. Though one churchman suggests that maybe if they'd actually tried asking him to grant them powers they could have avoided the slight institutionalized heresy that their entire military wing is involved with.
    • The Elene God is based on God of the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Roman Catholic God, you are just supposed to have faith that he's working behind the scenes with his "grand plan" beyond your understanding.
    • The Tamul gods are too busy partying and acting like children to actually do anything. Most Tamuli have trouble remembering any of their names.
    • Inverted with the Atan god. He is real and probably as powerful as the Styric gods, and takes a keen interest in their worshippers, but the Atans consider it disrespectful to ask the gods for things they could fix themselves. They do invoke their god, but only for really important occasions like weddings and coming-of-age-ceremonies (who only occur within Atan, so very few people other than the Atans know about it).
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly:
    • The Elene god and Azash are probably the two most powerful deities in the world not counting Bhelliom and Klael because they have so many worshippers; ordinary Styric gods like Aphrael are substantially weaker. In the Tamuli, at one point the conspirators try to starve Aphrael to death by killing off enough of her worshippers that she'll lose the power to sustain herself.
    • Aphrael states at one point that outside of human perception, the air is positively littered with the ghosts of dead gods whose worshippers are all gone.
    • It's also implied that this may be the reason that the Elene god has commanded His followers to believe only in Him: He's afraid of the others poaching his followers. Aphrael reveals that in order for the knightly orders to receive Styric assistance, the Styric gods had to agree not to convert any knights.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • The Atans are the result of an extended breeding experiment intended to produce the ultimate Proud Warrior Race Guys. They succeeded so perfectly that they were forced to sell themselves into slavery to the Tamuls to prevent their own overdeveloped killer instincts from killing off the entire race over, say, an argument over the weather.
    • The Delphae are a race that can kill with a touch thanks to a curse from their god and are hated by most other races in existence. This is all part of their god's master plan.
    • The Cyrgai were cursed so that they could not travel beyond the borders of their own nation, or they would die instantly. Cyrgon commanded that they immediately set about using their female slaves to breed an army that would be able to cross the border, as the slaves were not Cyrgai. In their zeal, the Cyrgai overlooked their own women and crossbred themselves into borderline extinction.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Kurik and Aslade still have a very active sex life until his death, and he presumably had one with Elys as well. Once they get married, Sparhawk and Ehlana are active enough that Danae complains about it.
    ‘Don’t keep mother up all night,’ [Danae] said back over her shoulder, ‘and please try to be quiet. Why do you two always have to make so much noise?’
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • Inverted. Sparhawk's nose was broken and healed crooked, making him look cruel and ugly. Martel only has silver hair over a surprisingly youthful face.
    • Kring is described as having several serious scars on his face and scalp, but they're noted as evidence of the rather physical path to leadership in his tribe.
  • Happily Adopted: It only gets a brief mention in the Elenium, but Kalten was essentially this; after his parents were killed in an accident when he was a child, he was taken in by Sparhawk's parents and the two boys were raised together. Sparhawk's narrative notes that "in some ways, they were closer than brothers."
  • Happiness in Slavery:
    • Played with extensively with the Atans, who as a whole believe they must always be "slaves" and that a completely "free" Atan is a very, very bad thing. This is due to them being such a Proud Warrior Race that generational blood feuds can be started over a disagreement about the weather, and so they as a race offered themselves as slaves to the Tamuls. However, their "slavery" consists entirely of them agreeing to not kill anyone without permission and serve as the Tamuls' army, which allows them to be warriors and have glorious battles, without bringing their race to the edge of extinction from everyone killing everyone else for the slightest reason. And the Atans are all happy with this arrangement.
    • This is exemplified with Mirtai's case, where instead of the normal institutionalized slavery of her people, she was kidnapped and forced into a more personal slavery. But despite hating the more personal nature of her slavery (no, not that way), she repeatedly refused and scoffed at any attempt to free her by Ehlana after she became her "slave", always saying that it was impossible for her people to ever be free, normally followed by a long list of people Ehlana knows that Mirtai would have killed by now for some type of insult if she had been free.
      • To clarify, she tells Ehlana at one point that, had she been free, she would have killed a major character for the unpardonable sin of allowing his shadow to touch her.
    • It's worse than it sounds. A high-ranking Tamul official, outraged over Arjuni slave raids, once authorized a punitive Atan expedition into Arjuna—without giving them any limits. They actually hanged the King and drove his subjects into the southern jungles, thus starting an economic crisis. It took centuries to convince the Arjuni to emerge from their hiding place.
    • Alean, in a way. As a servant girl, she has no complaints about her indentured status other than her first employer (a noble notorious for his misdeeds, including raping his servants) and the fact that she and Kalten can't get married due to her common status.
  • Heal It with Booze: In the first book, Sparhawk does first aid on one of his companions by scrubbing the wound out with some cheap wine before bandaging it. When he gets back to base, Sephrenia, the team's medic/sorceress, is less than impressed.
  • Heroic Bastard: Talen and Stragen. Arguably Platime as well, considering that he's both one of the good guys and a self-admitted, unrepentant career criminal.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tynian and Ulath.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Melidere is introduced as Ehlana's lady-in-waiting, a baroness who is very intelligent but who knows that many feel threatened by intelligent, beautiful young women and so acts vacant because it's a good way to pick up information. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that she's also a criminal (her father shaved the edges of coins and re-milled them in order to create a rather significant fortune, and Melidere kept up the work).
    • Kalten as well. In a two minute span, he manages to slip coded messages to Ehlana that he knows she and Alean are there, and that he, Caalador, and Bevier are all in disguise nearby. Ehlana even says that he passed more information than Sparhawk could have in an hour.
    • Alean herself: a shy, demure servant girl who nonetheless comes up with a brilliant idea for safeguarding documents from the enemy (and then a way of spotting the forged documents that the heroes are looking for) while also enthralling Kalten, whose love-life has hitherto consisted of hitting on local barmaids, into settling down and becoming a proper husband.
  • Hidden Weapons: Mirtai is always armed, to the point where she carries a spoon with the handle sharpened to the point of being a shiv. Special mention is made of her being "not visibly armed" at Ehlana's wedding.
  • Hide and No Seek: In the Tamuli, used by Mirtai to Danae, telling her to get some water, and giving her time to say things that weren't appropriate for children to hear:
    • Mirtai is telling her life-story as part of a 'ritual of passage into adulthood', and when she gets to a certain point, she does this.
    • Lampshaded when Danae returns with the water and asks Mirtai if she has finished with the part that Danae isn't allowed to hear.
  • Holy Ground: From the Tamuli, there is a concern that an Elene-style church has been consecrated (it hasn't).
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Invoked whenever any female character kisses another female character with variations of "you shouldn't do that, it gives the wrong kinds of ideas"
  • Horns of Barbarism: The Genidian Knights (based in Thalesia, a Viking Fantasy Counterpart Culture) wear horned helmets as part of their formal armor. Justified in that the horns in question come from ogres, and are much harder than steel; they're additional head protection.
  • Horsing Around: Sir Sparhawk's horse Faran. Faran is infamous for his bad temper and a tendency to bite strangers (such that Sparhawk always has to warn handlers about it). In one of the later books, the Child-Goddess Aphrael tells Sparhawk that Faran only has a bad temper because he is trying to please Sparhawk by matching his personality. Much to Sparhawk's annoyance, Faran has a habit of prancing dramatically whenever Sparhawk rides him with his formal armour on. The horse is also remarked upon to be unusually intelligent, to the point of understanding Sparhawk's speech and having memorized the ritual entry into a Pandion Chapterhouse as well as Sparhawk has; he's furthermore incredibly loyal to Sparhawk, so much that Sparhawk can occasionally call on Faran to do what needs to be done without explicit commands and has no fear but that Faran will comply.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sparhawk and Ehlana.
  • Human Subspecies: The first series has the Elenes (taller, capable of logical thinking, decidedly unintuitive), the Styrics (smaller, incapable of logic, very intuitive and connected to their gods) and the Trolls (nine foot tall predatory apes sitting somewhere between Killer Gorilla and Frazetta Man). All are descended from the Dawn-Men, a race of huge carnivorous ape-men who walked the earth eons previously. The sequel series introduced the various races of the Tamul Empire; how they fit into the equation is not entirely clear, though the Atans' bulk is the result of a breeding program.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A Running Gag in the Tamuli is Stragan's displeasure with Baroness Melidere, one of Queen Ehlana's closest friends. She acts as, in Stragan's words, "She makes it seem as if the light in her eyes is the sun streaming through the hole in the back of her head." He flat out says, "I hate dishonest people." This coming from the leader of all the criminals in the capital of Thalesia.

  • Idiot Savant: Adus, when it comes to small-unit tactics.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Zalasta to Sephrenia. He stabs her and then tells her "I love you."
  • I Kiss Your Hand: The standard greeting among Styrics.
  • I See Dead People:
    • Sephrenia gets regular visits from the ghosts of several Pandion knights, while Sparhawk shares a little chat with the ghost of King Aldreas.
    • During the second book, Tynian reveals himself as a Necromancer and goes around raising ghosts to help the party find Bhelliom. Sephrenia knows how it's done too, but she's The Chick, and thus claims (truthfully or not) that she's not strong enough to wrangle up ghosts. "I'm a little small for that sort of thing." Given that necromancy is almost literally wrestling the dead into submission, and she's described as being a rather tiny woman, she has a point.
  • Immune to Fate:
    • The gods can see the destiny of every mortal, except one: Sparhawk. He's known as the Anakha, meaning "without destiny". This made the gods so nervous they considered killing him before he was even born.
    • Eventually it is revealed that Sparhawk is immune because he was infused with the power of Bhelliom, an elemental force older and stronger than any god. Even while that power was dormant, it was so great that no god could see his future.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bevier, with some variation. He behaves like the perfect devout knight, prays on a regular basis, feels guilty thinking about women... But as soon as he's certain that killing someone is morally justifiable, people who get in his way get to know what the business end of his giant lochaber axe feels like.
    • Berit in the Tamuli. His innocence is what draws Elysoun to him, despite his protestations against sleeping with a married woman (her culture has no taboo against adultery). He also doesn't understand innuendo, setting up a swordsmanship demonstration for the Atan ladies who wanted to learn more about "Elene weaponry". Eventually subverted; after Sparhawk gives him a talk about how sex really isn't that big a deal, he gives in to Elysoun's charms and even becomes a little jealous when she tells him she's sleeping around with other men as well.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "The Baron Harparin was so pleased that he completely lost his head."
  • Indy Ploy: Styrics are terrible at these, mostly due to them not taking surprises well or being particularly quick on their proverbial feet. Sparhawk pulling one of these, therefore, ends up confounding their foes several times, particularly with Martel’s plot with Arasham.
  • Insane Troll Logic: From an actual Troll God no less. The reason that Tynian and Ulath can be in the "time of broken moments" and be jumped slightly through time so they exist in only the smallest, tiniest fraction of every moment rendering them unable to be seen/heard by anyone else, and yet perfectly see and understand everyone else they are trying to spy on? Because the Troll God Ghnomb thinks it works that way.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably, Martel. Sure he dies, but it's a quick death after a fair fight, with the two people he cares about most by his side. In his own words, it's almost as good as a formal deathbed. And this after bringing untold suffering out of pure spite and greed. None of his victims died so well.
    • Subverted with Krager. He gets away scot-free after helping the bad guys in the Elenium and he gets away scot-free after helping the bad guys in the Tamuli. Once characters start complaining about that at the end of the Tamuli, it is revealed that what he did not get away scot-free from was drinking a lot of alcohol over the years. He's probably less than a year from death at the end of The Hidden City, and the only reason he's not really suffering is that he's so delirious he wouldn't even notice someone stabbing him to death.
    • Sabre appears to make it through the end of the series alive (we last see him cowering under the furniture while the Delphae kill Scarpa). Appropriate, since he is more of a Butt-Monkey than actually evil.
      • Of course, given the number of powerful, violent people who are very, very angry with him, he may not have escaped for long.
  • Keystone Army: Various ancient armies that have been brought forwards in time in The Tamuli disappear when their leader is killed, leaving only the (rapidly-mummifying) bodies of any other dead.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: How Zalasta treats his bastard son Scarpa.
  • Killer Outfit: Mentioned as the reason why the Genidian Knights wear chainmail instead of the other orders' traditional platemail: a previous precentor tried to order them to align with the other orders. Thalesia has a lot of rivers, so the majority of the order refused, as platemail is a bit hard to remove when you're drowning. The precentor, in his platemail, and another knight in chainmail were dumped into a river. The latter shucked off the chainmail and swam to the surface. The former... didn't. They then elected their current precentor, who was smart enough not to suggest something so foolish.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Bevier. All the Cyrinic Knights are generally like this, what with the burnished armor, white surcoats, and such, but Bevier plays it completely straight.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Sparhawk, of course, though most of the other knights fall into this territory.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Despite being a generation younger than his father, Khalad can do everything Kurik can do and immediately fills the squire role upon arrival. Justified because Khalad's family have always been squires for the various generations of Sparhawks and he's just following the tradition. In fairness, Eddings does give Khalad his own personality, but there really is a lot of Kurik there.
  • Large Ham:
    • Sabre, who certainly tries to affect the mannerisms of a Magnificent Bastard, but suffers from the fact that the closest he's ever come to the real deal is in old epics. The result is so thoroughly over-the-top and cliche that Sparhawk is amazed the guy's for real the first time he sees him. Of course, he's just a little fish in the grand scheme of things.
    • Then there's Lilias, who only makes one appearance but puts on one ridiculously hammy show for her neighborhood with Sparhawk until their performance resembles a badly-written romance novel. Also, Gag Boobs.
    • Aren't we forgetting Bevier as a one-eyed mercenary? He admitted to being an actor during his schooling, but I doubt he'd make it as a professional.
    • Faran, whenever Sparhawk is in his armor.
    • Even Sparhawk gets in on this when he is talking to Arasham, posing as a loyal disciple while pumping the old man for information.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sparhawk, twice. See Lemony Narrator below.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: At least until the story shifts to Tamul, where it become a right-justified fantasy map.
  • Legacy of Service: A two-tiered example. The Sparhawks have been (institutionalized, hereditary) champions of the monarchs of Elenia for several generations, and Kurik's family have been squires to the Sparhawks for several (though unlike the Sparhawk's champion undated) generations. By the end of the Elenium, Sparhawk is set to be the last Sparhawk champion, as his wife is the monarch of Elenia, and they will only have the one — female — child. However, while Kurik died, his son Khalad stepped into the squire role as per tradition, and it's implied that unlike Kurik he will not be able to avoid knighthood, and the family might end up replacing the Sparhawks as the champions of the Elenian monarchy.
  • Lemony Narrator: Played with (added to a few isolated examples of it being Played for Laughs) when the third person narration of Sparhawk's inner monologue turns into garish Purple Prose, then comments upon Sparhawk noticing it and groaning inwardly. It's actually a minor plot point. Blame Aphrael. It happens again but Up to Eleven with Sparhawk/Anakha actually complaining outwardly about it at the last book's climax. It's actually a bigger plot point. Blame Bhelliom.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: The final duel between Sparhawk and Martel fits the bill. Justified in that the book constantly drives home that Sparhawk and Martel are evenly matched and both of them want to find out who's truly better. Once the outcome is certain, Martel admits he never had any doubts. On his deathbed.
  • Little Miss Almighty: Aphrael, the Child Goddess
  • Load-Bearing Boss: After Azash and Otha are killed, the city of Zemoch starts to slowly fall apart as though thousands of years of attrition hit it all at once. It's less of a spectacular collapse and more of an accelerated decay.
  • Loveable Rogue: Talen. Oh so very Talen. Stragen also fits the bill.
  • Love Hungry: Aphrael.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Zalasta really, really wants to win over Sephrenia.

  • Magical Barefooter: Flute, a mystical child and goddess, always has bare feet. And her feet always have grass stains, even when she's been inside all day, invoking Fertile Feet.
  • Magical Jew: Styrics are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Jews, and they are a race of magicians who basically mentored the Elenes in the ways of magic and mysticism. In particular, the protagonist Sparhawk was taught by the Styric priestess Sephrenia.
  • Magic Knight:
    • Of the "Paladin" variety, although Pandions are more "Good but grey on the side of practicality." Technically all Church Knights are taught magic, but individual skills vary. In practice, Sparhawk does most of it. For extra special fun, the god who gives them magic powers is not the god they worship. Aphrael is working on it, though. The Church is aware of this, but prefers not to talk about it.
    • Subverted with Kalten, who's been taught by Sephrenia but is unable to make magic work and isn't ashamed to admit it. He just can't pronounce the Styric words, much less manage to think completely in Styric as necessary to cast spells. This is brought up as a joke every now and then.
  • The Man in Front of the Man:
    • Sure, Annias looks like the real villain, but his whole scheme was Martel's baby all along.
    • Similarly, Krager takes the credit in the sequels.
    • And Zalasta was behind both of them.
  • May–December Romance: Sparhawk has got a good 20 to 30 years on Ehlana. And Sephrenia is considerably older than Vanion. Like, orders of magnitude older.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: While this doesn't quite appear, the foundation is firmly set for Aphrael and Talen.
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted for the most part. The history behind the Elene kingdoms includes bronze-age warriors and the discovery of iron, and when the Cyrgai show up in the second series they're all wearing bronze-age equipment and using antiquated phalanx tactics. Also, the borders of Cynesga have changed dramatically over time.
  • Megaton Punch: Berit delivers one of these when Talen's Bratty Half-Pint act starts to wear on the group. He throws in a punt for good measure.
  • The Mentor: Kurik is one of these. He's older than Sparhawk, more skilled than basically all the Church Knights, and the heroes defer to him more often than not. And then he dies. He comes back in spirit a couple of times, whenever Aphrael takes the knights to the ocean cliff where they throw away and retrieve Bhelliom. During the retrieval Sparhawk has black spots appear in front of his eyes because he forgets to breathe. Kurik bashes him on the shoulder and calls him an idiot. Cracking put down from a dead guy!
  • Mood Whiplash: This exchange in the third book:
    Sephrenia: Sparhawk, stop! Bhelliom's tampering with your thoughts. It's trying to lure you into using it. Each time you do, its hold on you grows stronger. Think about something else.
    Kurik: Like Aphrael? Or is she dangerous too?
    Sephrenia: (Smiles) Oh yes, very dangerous. She'll capture your soul even faster than Bhelliom will.
  • Mordor: Zemoch is a classic example.
  • Mr. Exposition: Every major character fills this role at one point or another, but the worst offender is Xanetia. At one point in The Shining Ones, she reads the mind of The Chessmaster of the other side, and then explains exactly what he has been doing behind the scenes for the entirety of both trilogies to that point. In excruciating detail. In Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. For about three chapters.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Basically what happens whenever Kalten tries to speak Styric. Happens again when he is learning Tamul: he tries to say "smile" but it comes out wishing for a person's teeth to rot away. Also happens to Sparhawk in the first book when he magicks up a bouquet of flowers for Sephrenia but comes this close to conjuring up a handful of snakes.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Martel's name could be a historical Shout-Out to Charles Martel, a Frankish duke who stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe in the eighth century by using cunning, pragmatism and adaptability. And heavy professional infantry.
  • Narm: In universe example. In the Tamuli, a funeral ends up being a source of laughter as the priest delivering the eulogy couldn't keep a straight face, as the deceased Prince Regent Avin Wargunson's skin was dyed purple from being drowned in red wine, and the people preparing the body couldn't get the wine out..
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Platime is one of these. Sure, he's committed almost every crime in the book, but not treason - and besides, he loves the Queen and pays his taxes!
    • He's also never practiced witchcraft, committed barratry (mostly because he doesn't know what it is), or had carnal knowledge of an animal. Truly, a virtuous man.
  • Never Learned to Read: Sephrenia, by choice. She doesn't want to start thinking in Elene, so she doesn't want to learn to read it just to be on the safe side. We find out in the Tamuli that she can read Styric. She's just been letting everyone think Styric doesn't have a written form.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Possibly averted. The trolls aren't harmed by eating the Klael-soldiers, but they find the taste absolutely foul, and they probably gained no nutrition from it.
    • Definitely averted in the case of the Klael-soldiers' problems in Earth's atmosphere.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Utterly averted by Kring, who worships Mirtai from the moment he sees her. In fact, the only worry he has about her is how the women of his tribe will react to dealing with such a strong-willed outsider. Also subverted in her past, as she had to ward off numerous rape attempts before becoming Ehlana's slave.
  • No Loves Intersect: Largely played straight, especially in the Tamuli. Averted, though, in the last book of the Elenium, when Berit falls head over heels for Ehlana. It leads to an undercurrent of extended tension between him and Sparhawk. Fortunately, Sparhawk figures out the problem and is able to defuse it.

  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • As she points out huffily, Sephrenia and other Styrics aren't nearly so simple as they appear. She's fully trained in logic (though she prefers intuition); she can read (just not Elene, as noted above), and she deliberately downplays her own immense powers while in Elenia to avoid appearing too threatening.
    • She's not the only one. Flute/Aphrael, Emperor Sarabian, and to an extent Bhelliom itself all qualify. Cyrgon's an interesting case, because his stupidity is genuine but a conscious choice stemming from his role as a god of unchanging militarism and tyranny; when push comes to shove, he can learn if he has to.
    • Also, Kalten. He really isn't very good at academic pursuits, including magic, but he's surprisingly sharp behind his exaggerated loveable oaf persona.
      • This is best exemplified in The Hidden City when Kalten, Caalador, and Bevier infiltrate Natayos to see if Ehlana and Alean are there. When Alean recognizes the disguised Kalten by how he walks, and Ehlana tells her to sing, he recognizes her voice... and immediately begins whistling a counterpoint to let them know he heard. Then he strikes up a conversation with the guards so he can slip in references to Caalador's accent and Bevier's axe. Ehlana herself calls him a "treasure" whom Alean should never let go of, since he gave them far more information than Sparhawk ever could have.
      • He is also the only one who is able to help Sephrenia deal with Zalasta's betrayal.
    • Melidere, one of Ehlana's ladies in waiting, puts on the show of a Dumb Blonde, while the truth is that Ehlana keeps her around for her brains.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The government of Tamul, in regard to their 'absolute power' Emperor. He comments that he has to look out the window to get an accurate weather report.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • From the Tamuli, "This is Prince Sparhawk, the man who destroyed the Elder God Azash, and you've just insulted his wife." The listener reacts appropriately... by running for his life.
    • Sephrenia's reaction when Sparhawk suggests killing Azash.
  • Old Retainer: Kurik, who has been Sparhawk's squire for all of Sparhawk's life, and has repeatedly turned down knighthood in spite of kicking knightly arse on a regular basis in favour of remaining a squire. Sparhawk comments that Kurik is as much a part of him as his hands.
  • One-Hour Work Week: There are monks whose sole duty is to perform certain obscure rituals during the funeral of the Archprelate. Which means that they only have to do about fifteen minutes of work each every two to three decades.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In The Shining Ones, Sephrenia, who has been established as largely non-violent, begins to spout racial hatred toward the Delphae and pretty much begs the others to kill them. Turns out she thinks they killed her family.
    • The narrator also gets a spot of OOC: most of the action is narrated using informal modern English. During Sparhawk's final confrontation with Zalasta in The Hidden City, the narration abruptly shifts to stilted English in a hyper-formal register, and a few pages later, the reader discovers why.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Otha, justified by the fact that he's largely incapable of getting up off said throne by now.
  • Orphaned Etymology: Bevier's Lochaber axe, though a real and effective weapon, stands out a little in a setting without a Lochaber.
  • Our Demons Are Different:
    • The Elder Gods are implied to have created several races of these as servants; the only ones the reader ever meets are the Balrog-esque Damorks and the insectile Scarily Competent Trackers called Seekers. There are also otherworldly monsters that serve Klael and show up in the Tamuli, but it's unclear if they really qualify as "demons" or not.
    • Bhelliom stated the Klael-soldiers are in fact Humanoid Aliens from one of Klael's planets. They're pretty badass; if they weren't methane-breathers who wear out quickly in an Earth-like atmosphere things might have gone poorly. Fortunately, Khalad noticed their little quirk and was more than happy to exploit this.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Female toplessness is not considered nudity in Valesian culture. Of course, Empress Elysoun is well aware of the effect that walking around with her boobs out has on men from other cultures, and she takes full advantage of it. Even when she's going to an Elene-hosted party, she'll have her Elene dress modified so her assets are still front and center.
  • Panacea: Any magical object presumably would work as a cure for Ehlana's ailment. Alas, magical objects are very rare in this world, as a creation of one requires for a god to permanently sacrifice part of their power. The protagonists eventually procure the Bhelliom which, it turns out, isn't a magical object, but a creator of their world imprisoned in stone.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The monastery Sparhawk returns to in Rendor seems innocent enough to the actual Rendors. Everyone else knows it's full of Cyrinic Knights there to spy on the Eshandists.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Martel gets one of these moments when Annias calls Sephrenia a witch, prompting Martel to grab him by the collar and threaten him with things much worse than Sparhawk could ever do should he ever talk trash about "my little mother" again. While it's Disproportionate Retribution,it's also a sign that Martel still cares about Sephrenia even after everything he's done.
    • There is also his genuine sadness to learn that Kurik had been killed, for he had the same level of respect for the squire that most knights had.
    • Krager of all people to Ehlana and Alean, after they've been mistreated by Scarpa.
    • Zalasta even gets one, when he apologizes to Ehlana after Scarpa's mistreatment of her and Alean, and during Ehlana's captivity he ensures that she is treated well and converses with her daily. Not that it makes the reader care about him after he stabs Sephrenia in the heart.
  • Physical God:
    • Aphrael and Azash, not to mention the Styric pantheon and Cyrgon. On top of them, Bhelliom and Klael.
    • Also the troll-gods. The Elene god is implied to be this as well, though he never puts in a personal appearance.
  • Planet of Hats: Generally averted in the first series, though the Pelosians do wear literal funny hats. The second series plays it straight: the Tamuls are lazy administrators, the Atans are gigantic warriors, the Styrics are wizards, the eastern Elenes are melodramatic slave owners, the Arjuni are slave traders, the Tegans are mind-numbingly boring, the Cynesgans are evil mongrel people, and the Valesians are free-love nudists.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Early on in the very first book, Sparhawk hires a prostitute because he wants to eavesdrop on some minor villains who are meeting in the room next to hers. The prostitute, a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who enjoys her work, considers herself to owe him a raincheck, which she reminds him about whenever they meet.
  • Poison Ring: At one point in the Tamuli, Khalad is looking for a way to conceal Sparhawk's ring. He pays a jeweler to take one of these rings apart and mount the "lid" to cover the ruby.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • One of the Eshandist leaders had a problem being understood; when he yelled at his fanatic followers, "Fall upon your foes!" they heard "Fall upon your swords!" He spent the next several years wondering why he lost.
    • More like "poor communication mildly inconveniences" in this instance, but: Alean loves Kalten. Kalten loves Alean. Alean thinks he will never notice her because she's just a maid. Kalten thinks Alean could never look at him that way because notorious womanizer. Then Kalten starts trying to get himself killed on the battlefield because he's so lovelorn, and suddenly Alean starts communicating. Volubly, and at great length. Cue glorious hookup.
  • Power Glows: The Delphae. Bhelliom and Klael in their true forms, too.
  • Prevent the War: After Sparhawk destroys Azash, the heroes are at pains to prevent King Wargun from launching a genocidal war against Zemoch anyway, despite the Zemochs being entirely nonthreatening without the lash of their dark god.
  • Primitive Clubs: Most trolls are armed with clubs, since they lack the metalworking necessary to manufacture swords, and their arms aren't shaped right for stabbing with a spear.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Atans and the Cyrgai, who both suffer from cultural Idiot Balls to greater or lesser extent (the Atans never back down from a fight, no matter how unlikely they are to win it; the Cyrgai are completely incapable of change.) If you're wondering, Atans beat Cyrgai, hands down.
    • See Happiness in Slavery above; the Atans are so content to live exclusively as warriors that they willingly and intentionally enslaved their entire race to ensure their survival.
  • Psycho for Hire: Adus, Martel's Brute and walking battle axe. In the Tamuli, Bevier does an amazingly Large Hammy impression of one.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Krager, who's just in it for the booze.

  • Rape as Backstory:
    • This happened to Alean repeatedly, much to Kalten's consternation.
    • Averted with Mirtai, whose old master tried to rape her and paid for it. A lot.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Princess Arissa, who's literally slept with most of Cimmura, including King Aldreas (her brother) and Annias — the latter when she was twelve years old.
    • Elysoun is technically this in the Tamuli, though since she's also Ms. Fanservice it's played for laughs.
      • The difference between the two is that Elysoun does it because it isn't a sin in her culture. Arissa does it because it is a sin in her culture.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The knights constantly ask about Sephrenia's real age. It quickly becomes a Running Gag. It's eventually revealed by the Child-Goddess Aphrael that there's absolutely no way to know for sure, but the last time she herself took a human form (which was possibly thousands of years ago), Sephrenia was the eldest daughter of the couple she chose for her parents.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: There are several, but Dolmant stands out. While corruption is far from universal in the church, he stands out above the rest in his honesty. Vanion and the other leaders of the Knightly orders also qualify.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Talen starts out as a street thief and is brought into the travelling group by Sparhawk after Annias finds out he's been spying on the knight's behalf. He later ends up a royal page (and Pandion novice-to-be) in the Tamuli. Although at least part of Sparhawk's motive is to keep Kurik's son safe. It's even implied at the end of the Elenium that he may be Princess Danae's royal consort in the future. (Of course, Danae is really Aphrael.)
  • Redshirt Army:
    • The soldiers of the Church of Chyrellos might be a lampshade of this; they barely qualify as mooks, and they wear red tunics.
    • The Cyrgai.
    • When confronted by Klael's giant alien warriors, even the Atans and the Church Knights fall into this category.
  • Religion of Evil: Worshippers of Azash seem to literally worship evil (or at least, what we miserable mortals see as evil), while the religion of Cyrgon exists to prop up a militaristic totalitarian state.
  • Religion Is Magic:
    • Played with in that the Church Knights' magic doesn't come from the Elene God, but from the Styric pantheon. For reference, your average Elene peasant thinks nothing of burning down Styric villages and massacring them all. Nobody stops to consider that the Elene God might grant the same kind of magic to the Church Knights. In fact Sephrenia calls the Archprelate out on it.
    • It is noted that the Styric gods granting magic to the Church Knights had to agree not to try to convert their knights. Since Stragen is not a Church Knight and has no intention of becoming a Church Knight, his use of magic based on knowing Styric and being observant around Pandion Knights inadvertently more-or-less swears him to Aphrael (he basically reacts by shrugging and saying there are worse gods that could have happened with).
  • Replaced with Replica: Aphrael sneaks one of the rings that are the key to Bhelliom's power note  off Ehlana's finger, replacing it with a fake. (She pulled the same trick on Ghwerig in the backstory, swiping both rings.)
  • Retcon: In The Sapphire Rose, Sephrenia is outraged at Mirtai referring to Ehlana as her owner and seems not to know much about the Atans or the Daresian continent. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that Sephrenia is from Astel originally, and even though she spends a lot of time away from the Daresian continent, it just seems unlikely that she wouldn't have heard of the Atans or their status as slaves, especially as they also guard the Styric city of Sarsos. It is possible, however, that because Sephrenia was concealing the existence of Sarsos, her true education, and the nature of the Styric people, she had to adopt such an attitude since she otherwise couldn't prove how she knew of the Atans and their slavery. Not seeming to know much about Daresia also falls under her Obfuscating Stupidity act.
    • It's possible that she was shocked to see an Atana in personal slavery in Eosia, as opposed to the institutional slavery that the Atans live in under the Tamuls.
    • In The Ruby Knight, Berit spends quite some time swimming around in a lake during the search for the Bhelliom. In Domes of Fire, Sparhawk makes a remark to the effect that he isn't sure Berit knows how to swim. Huh.
      • Diving while wearing only loincloth in a lake where he had his head above water while probing the ground with his feet is different from swimming in a castle moat deep enough to drown in while wearing full evening wear.
      • Happens with Kalten as well. In the Elenium, we see him swimming in the lake looking for the Bhelliom. In the Tamuli, he's terrified of being under water, meaning that he needs to be drugged by the Beer of the Gods before being dragged through a flooded passage.
    • In The Sapphire Rose, the box in which the Bhelliom is placed before being thrown into the ocean is described as being made of steel (to restrain the jewel's power) and lined with gold (to conceal its presence), and is secured with a keyless padlock. In The Shining Ones, upon being retrieved, the box is described as being made of gold and having no keyhole or padlock.
    • In The Ruby Knight, Sephrenia refers to the Troll Gods as "wise". Later, in the Tamuli, Xanetia says that the five Troll Gods combined have the intellect of a five-year-old child.
  • Retired Badass: Vanion in the second series. His anecdotal Moment of Awesome may arguably be when he, a battered old man not far removed from being saved from his deathbed, challenges the entire population of Sarsos to a race to prove a point about their lack of physical fitness. He gets out to a big lead until he trips in a rabbit hole and sprains his ankle. And he still wins.
  • Revenge Before Reason: This might as well be Lamorkand's national motto. The entire country is in a constant state of turmoil because landowners will go to war at the drop of the hat.
  • Roll in the Hay: Kurik strongly implies that his eldest was conceived in this manner, and later, while visiting his farm, he and his wife (whom he had not seen for several months) enter the scene with him muttering that the boys need to do better at weeding the thistles out of the hay.
  • Royal Decree: The written variation. The Council are about to destroy it... until they're reminded that destroying a royal decree is punished by death.
    • Becomes a circular argument with a Cynesgan border guard. Sparhawk presents a decree from Sarabian granting their party passage through all borders in the Empire. The guard believes it is a fake and asserts that it is punishable by death to forge a royal decree, and Sparhawk retorts that it is punishable by death to ignore one. He reasons that one of them is about to be in big trouble. The guard, it turns out. The Knights kill all the border guards when they realize that the delay is so reinforcements can arrive.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Mostly used realistically. The royals play pivotal roles as leaders in many events, but only rarely get their hands dirty. Subverted hilariously by King Soros of Pelosia, who comes along for the ride with The Cavalry but spends so much time praying it's up to Patriarch Bergsten to run the show.
  • Running Gag: Several, some of which spread across both trilogies:

  • Sacrificial Lion: For the entire trilogy, we've seen that Kurik is a match for any of the knights, and indeed instructed several of them in combat. This makes it especially jarring when he is unceremoniously slaughtered by Adus.
  • Sapient Steed: Faran is not only foul-tempered and fond of showing off, he's also very intelligent. Aphrael once remarked Faran acts the way he does because that's what Sparhawk expects in his steed.
  • Save The Queen: The plot of the first two and a half books. Makes a reappearance in the final novel as well.
  • Say Your Prayers: Inverted. After killing a corrupt church soldier, Bevier leads the man's subordinates in prayers for his soul. It's an effective intimidation tactic, but given how devout Bevier is, it's entirely possible that the prayers were sincere. After all, just because you have to kill a man doesn't mean you want to send him to Hell.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: When Sparhawk and company reach Zemoch they find a horde of undead soldiers wearing this. It gives them pause until they realize it's worse than useless. Apparently the Zemochs saw fully-armoured Church Knights bearing down on them during the last war but didn't understand the point of plate mail. They only knew it was really damn scary, so they started making armour designed entirely to intimidate.
    • Of course, this also relates to a somewhat extended Funny Moment, as Sephrenia points out how pathetic it is that the entire Elene world is shaking over their boots over a complete moron who can't even think of a decent purpose to create the above undead., and also as Talen gives a hilarious suggestion to Berit as to what to do after they pass said soldiers...
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The Seekers of Azash.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Bhelliom is a (mostly) benevolent and very powerful creator of the world.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Azash, who was sealed inside a clay idol of himself. He did find some ways around this, however—it turns out his spirit can enter any identical idol as well, and he had a huge temple-fortress built around the original.
    • The Cyrgai later on are more like Sealed Evil In A City.
    • Klæl is sorta this (although the can is a form of a mountain-sized monster). In its real form it's much more powerful eternal spirit of destruction, but series of mishaps made it stuck as a giant monster.
  • Sedgwick Speech: In the midst of the big siege in the third book Ulesim gets up in front of the Rendors and delivers a huge speech about attacking the city relentlessly. And then Kurik nails him between the eyes with a crossbow bolt in mid-sentence. The ensuing chatter is a minor Funny Moment.
  • Semi-Divine: The Delphaes in The Shining Ones started as humans but now are slowly evolving into gods. As a result, they possess awesome powers, but they can also melt alive anyone who gets too close to them. Eventually, they fully evolve into gods and leave the earth forever.
  • Servant Race: The Cynesgans started existence as a race of literal bastards, born from women raped by Cyrgai soldiers. They were pressed into service as cannon fodder and scapegoats and later purposefully bred by the Cyrgai in an attempt to create an army immune to the curse that kept pure-blooded Cyrgai from leaving their own lands.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Just as things get interesting on Sparhawk's wedding night, the narrator starts admiring the city outside the window.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: ELYSOUN
  • She Is All Grown Up: Ehlana, as Sparhawk quickly discovers.
  • Shining City: Fire-Domed Matherion in The Tamuli.
  • Shipper on Deck: Aphrael, about midway through the Tamuli.
  • Shout-Out / Homage: The entire subplot involving Ghasek in The Ruby Knight (involving the Chekhov's Gunman Bellina no less) could have been lifted straight out of a Hammer Horror movie. The terrified people in the nearby village, the Hate Plague-infected minstrel, the creepy forest setting with its chilling moonlight, the haunted castle, the discovery in the basement, the Fate Worse than Death for Bellina in the end—it has it all. And it was incredibly effective, disturbing, and a major source of horror to some.
    Why me?
  • The Siege: One of these forms a large arc in the third book. There's another one in the Tamuli. They come into play as a running gag, too: Thalesians hate sieges. (They're perfectly willing to engage in one, and do it very competently, but they hate sieges. Just ask them.)
    • When Ulath is called on his constant vocal hatred of sieges despite being almost as quick as resident siege guru Bevier to suggest forting up, hilarity ensues:
      Ulath: Thalesians are supposed to hate sieges. We're not patient enough for them.
      Bevier: Didn't King Wargun's grandfather endure a siege for 6 years once?
      Ulath: Yes, but he didn't enjoy it.
  • The Singing Mute: Flute switches to singing wordlessly when she drops her signature flute in the ocean by mistake. Subverted when she reveals that she was always able to speak and is a God in Human Form.
  • Sinister Minister: Primate Annias, who doubles as Elenia's Evil Chancellor.
  • Smug Snake: Annias and Otha.
    • Krager in the Tamuli. In his first appearance he boasts about how everything Martel (the true Magnificent Bastard of the series) accomplished was due to his tutelage, how if it had been Krager advising Azash then he surely would have won, how the defeat he just suffered was merely an inconvenience, and how Sparhawk would be facing far greater opposition than before. It then turns out that all of Cyrgon and co's schemes are thwarted far easier than Martel and Azash's, their ranks consist of idiots and Harmless Villains, and it becomes very clear that Krager was talking out his ass.
  • So Near, Yet So Far: The first book starts out with Sparhawk being taken to see Queen Ehlana, except that she is placed in suspended animation inside her crystal casing in order to keep her alive. Most of the rest of the trilogy consists of him and his companions searching for a way to cure her.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Apparently averted, as Cyrgon, the God of Evil in the Tamuli, is less powerful, less intelligent (arguably), and less evil than Azash in the Elenium. And then in the third book, Klael shows up...
  • Spanner in the Works: Sephrenia and Aphrael were consistently doing this to Zalasta without ever realizing it.
  • Squishy Wizard: Otha is an unusually literal version of this trope.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Mirtai, the Atan giantess who towers over all the Church Knights. She could pass for tall and dark if you overlook the dozen or so knives she carries everywhere. That includes knives strapped to her knees specifically for kneeing men in the crotch. According to Talen, she even has a pair built into the soles of her shoes.
  • Sticky Fingers: Talen. It's become a Running Gag, to the point where Sparhawk automatically tells Talen to empty his pockets if there's a chance he might have stolen any small valuables recently.
  • Stock Medieval Meal: On one occasion when Kalten is suckered into fixing breakfast for the knights, he slices bread and cheese for everyone and asks if this gets him off the hook.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Averted. The God of the Atans doesn't go in for grand displays (except during very important ceremonies), and his people don't bother him much unless it's important, so he's on the unusual side for a god. The flip side is he is obligated to at least see what a worshipper wants when they do call for his attention. Used to advantage when Aphrael needs his permission to take an Atan to her personal domain for healing.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Xanetia positively oozes these. She's effectively immortal, she can read minds and thus promptly discovers the Manipulative Bastard, she can melt people and scenery to goo with a touch, she can touch Bhelliom without being obliterated, she can turn invisible, and her magic makes absolutely no "sound." Once she joins the party she's effectively a one-stop shop for all your Game-Breaker needs. There are several issues, though; firstly, Sephrenia starts out loathing her, due to old racial prejudice (and the fact she thinks Xanetia's people killed her family), causing everyone to futilely attempt reasoning with her, and she eventually breaks from the group for a while. Secondly everyone else on the continent is terrified of the Delphae and Xanetia is almost constantly in disguise, which she admits is somewhat painful for her. Thirdly, she is not only a helper, she is a hostage for her people's good faith; if they betray the party, Xanetia - effectively their crown princess - is to be killed. This causes various degrees of tension for some time.
  • Stout Strength: By the time of the Tamuli, the knights of Sparhawk's generation are middle-aged, and they're no longer as slim and trim as they once were. Kalten in particular tends to strain the buttons on his doublet. They'll still cut you clean in two with one blow, even if you're wearing bronze armor (steel tends to take a bit more effort).
  • Strange Secret Entrance: The city of Cyrga is found this way, involving a long and detailed set of instructions from an oasis across the desert and culminating with finding the exact spot where an illusion conceals an entrance through the mountains by lining them up with the Pillars of Cyrgon.
  • Streetwalker: Prostitutes pop up in minor speaking roles quite often, especially early in the Elenium. They're usually portrayed sympathetically. Sparhawk even gets a brief adventure gathering evidence in a brothel. And this Troper says that without so much as a wink.
  • Strictly Formula: The series, like The Belgariad, quite deliberately and shamelessly rips from myth and medieval literature. And it's awesome. As Eddings put it with respect to the Belgariad, ripping off myth is "the literary equivalent of peddling dope."
  • Suddenly Significant Rule: In the Elenium, the rank of Apprentice Knight is not really used anymore - until it means that the not-yet-knighted Berit can wear armour while he rides out with Sparhawk and Company to face Azash.
  • Sugar Bowl: Aphrael's realm, where lovable animals romp in peace under a rainbow sky.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Zalasta's mooks include Scarpa, Sabre and Krager - an insane misogynist, an effeminate poseur and a drunk respectively. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, indeed. (He's quite aware he's doing so, too.)
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Kurik is replaced by his son, Khalad, in the Tamuli.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted. Ulath gets knocked on the head during the siege of Chyrellos. He slips into a coma, and when he wakes up he is extremely confused, forgetting which continent he is on and who his comrades are. He eventually makes a full recovery, but even with magical aid it's a slow, arduous process. Also, it's mentioned that without his scarily good helmet, he would have died.
  • Terrain Sculpting: when trolls invade northern Tamul, the Bhelliom responds by creating a humongous escarpment to separate them.
    • When two of the knights are dealing with the troll Gods, Schlee(the god of ice) makes a scale model of the continent down to the smallest discernible details.
  • Thieves' Guild: Played straight and on a grand scale. Sure, Platime's chief thief in Cimmura, but every town everywhere has its own thieves' guild, and they all coordinate to some extent.
  • Time Stands Still: Played straight by the Troll-Gods, starting when Sparhawk browbeats Ghnomb into helping him catch up to Martel. Used pretty heavily in the second series.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Cyrgai exemplify this trope to its most literal extent: by breeding almost exclusively with Cynesgans they essentially bred their own race out of existence until Cyrgon stepped in. At this point they're so hopelessly inbred and isolated they can barely function. Forget bronze age armour, standard issue kit for these guys is the Idiot Ball.
    • A particularly literal case has the Cyrgai walking themselves to death as they pursued a group of Peloi cavalry, and reached the line of an ancient curse that the Styric Gods placed around their territory to prevent them from escaping. The first few soldiers dying might not qualify, but the ensuing ranks, watching their fellows die in front of them are definitely like this.
    • Hell, Cyrgon himself. And it's entirely deliberate, seeing as he is capable of adapting and thinking but freely chooses not to. Still, trying to make a minion out of Klael was a bit of a bonehead move. To say the least.
    • This is how the king of the Atans dies in the Tamuli. He attacks an enormous Eldritch Abomination several thousand times larger than himself, on foot, with a sword, without realizing that it might actually be able to kill him. He dies feeling sorry for it, because it's been unfortunate enough to come up against him.
  • Top God: His worshipers insist that the Elene God is this (when they're not denying the existence of other gods completely). He's not - He isn't qualitatively different from any of the other gods, nor does he have any authority over them unless they enter His territory. He is however far more powerful than any of the other gods due to His immense number of worshipers.
  • Torture Cellar: Bellina has one of these. The Pandions are rumoured to have them, too - as does the Church of Chyrellos, though everyone insists they never get used.
    • The faux-Elenic castle in the Tamuli has a lovingly recreated one. Stragen uses it to ensure the musicians play an actual fanfare rather than notably discordant Tamul music.
  • Trail of Blood: Exploited toward the end. Sparhawk and his friends try to navigate a maze by following blood drops from a wounded enemy. Then they discover 1) the blood drops aren't from any of the injured Zemochs, because 2) they aren't blood, and 3) they're only there to keep people in the killing-ground maze, the real entrance to the temple is elsewhere.
  • Tranquil Fury: Sparhawk, oh good God Sparhawk. At the end of The Sapphire Rose, when Kurik dies, Sparhawk murders his way through many, many soldiers in a state of complete serene anger and is only distracted when Kalten suggests he go kill Martel. It works because it's going to be more satisfying taking his anger out on the one who is ultimately responsible. Then there's The Hidden City, when Sparhawk learns that Ehlana was kidnapped. A lot of people expect him to go berserk, but instead, he shuts down his emotions after a little angsting, then works out plans to nullify his enemies' plots and arranges for several armies to head towards the stronghold. ( Each army, by the way, is individually more than capable of butchering the Cyrgai armies.)
  • Trickster God: Aphrael is one of the weakest gods, but she's very good at getting what she wants via a combination of clever planning and Obfuscating Cuteness.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Averted. The Knights have full plate armour but usually travel in mailshirts because the actual armor is such a damned inconvenience most of the time.
    • For example, there is a scene in which Sparhawk wakes up one morning and basically finds an excuse not to put his armor on just yet, because it's had all night to get chilled.

  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Sparhawk's friends constantly make cracks about how ugly he is. Ehlana, on the other hand, is anything but.
    • This ties into a Running Gag throughout the Elenium, where Sparhawk keeps booking passage with a sailor named Sorgi by telling him he's running away from an ugly heiress whose cousins want to force him to marry her. They meet again in the Tamuli, and Sorgi sees Ehlana.
    Sorgi: "They didn't force you to marry her, did they?"
    Sparhawk: "I'm afraid so, my friend. That's my wife on that grey horse there."
    Sorgi: (stares with his mouth hanging open)
    Sparhawk: (mournfully) "Horrible, isn't it?"
    • Also Kring and Mirtai. Subverted in that Kring's scars, which have been gained in numerous battles, make Mirtai decide he's worth marrying.
  • The Un-Reveal: In The Shining Ones there's a few mentions of the Cyrgai Wars, in which the Delphae and Styrics made an alliance and battled the Cyrgai, only for (allegedly) the Styrics to betray them, nearly causing the Delphae to become extinct. This sparked a feud between the races that was never resolved, and the actual truth was blurred so much that pretty much everyone has their own story. Sparhawk repeatedly asks Xanetia and Sephrenia to tell him the truth, and when they refuse, he threatens to ask Bhelliom, since it's a neutral observer. This horrifies both of them, but eventually Sparhawk gets so fed up of their bitchy cat-fight that he tells them that he no longer cares about what happened, and just he wants their fighting to stop. We never do find out what happened.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Otha was granted terrible powers by Azash. He has no clue what to do with them, since he's a not particularly bright or ambitious shepherd who happened to stumble across an Eldritch Abomination. This is best shown by him raising a legion of terrible undead warriors. They defend the flagstone they are standing on, and react to nothing else. This is an enemy that could be defeated by walking around it. Or by giving just one soldier a push onto another square...
  • Unwanted Harem: Berit develops one of these in the second series. Apparently something about his eyelashes drives women wild.
  • The Vamp: Arissa, although her efforts to subvert the protagonists fail spectacularly.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Played with. Khalad vows to kill Krager for his role in Kurik's death, but then is told that Krager is dying of liver failure and is too delirious to even feel a sword being run into him. Vengeance would mean nothing. Khalad, being the practical sort he is, accepts this...but resolves to hunt Krager down and kill him anyway, not out of vengeance but because It's the Only Way to Be Sure.
  • Villain Ball/Idiot Ball: Annias grabs this in the first book by carrying out the second phase of one of his schemes before determining that the first step succeeded, with predictably poor results. This is noted by Sparhawk as being very out of character (Smug Snake that he is, Annias isn't that sloppy), and is one of the first signs that something (read: Azash) is messing with the lesser villains' minds. The same thing happens to Martel when Sparhawk puts a freeze on one of his schemes.
    • It's explained that at least part of it was because they were being controlled by a Styric -Elenes and other races have complex, sharp minds, but Styrics are generally simpler and will be taken in by simple things—so while the ploys would have worked on Styrics, they didn't work on Elenes, and especially not the good guys, who knew Annias and Martel well enough to know how they generally operated.
    • Each Cyrgai was issued a personal Idiot Ball at birth, and they were executed if they ever lost it, i.e. began to show signs of becoming too intelligent.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: The Cyrgai never got any weaker, but believing they represented perfection they never bothered changing, and so the rest of the world buckled down for some serious level-grinding (ten thousand years worth) and blew past them. Against modern Church Knights and Atans the Cyrgai are hilariously useless.
    • The Cyrgai actually have fossilized. Lack of actual opposition turned their martial training into little more than a formalized dance which gets easily taken apart by any competent warrior with real-world experience. Likewise, they spent a lot of time looking impressive but it's not a good idea to strike a heroic pose during a real fight.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zalasta was always pretty crazy, but he was very good at hiding it. After seeing his grand plans crash down around him, however, he pretty much completely loses it and is almost totally Axe-Crazy by the time he crashes Sephrenia's wedding at the end.
  • Villainous Glutton: Otha, oh so much.
  • Villainous Incest: Aldreas and Arissa.
  • Vow of Celibacy: The first book notes that the Pandion Knights had originally taken an oath to never marry (and by implication never have sex). However, due to a shortage of Pandions and applicants for knighthood they were allowed by the church to take back their vows so they could marry and have children. It'd also implied that knights are allowed to have sex while undercover, such as Sparhawk's relationship with Lillias.
    • Elene priests are supposed to be celibate, which is presumably where the Pandion celibacy came from (Church Knights technically belong to the priesthood).

  • Wife Husbandry:
    • Sort of. Ehlana settles on Sparhawk years before she hits puberty, but that wasn't his own doing.
    • Aphrael also settles on Talen but they're much closer in apparent age.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Played with early in the first book when Sephrenia decks out Sparhawk and Kalten in elaborate disguises so they can move around Cimmura without drawing the attention of the church soldiers. It doesn't work.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Even though they hate each others' guts until the final battle, Martel admits that he still has respect for Sparhawk. Also crosses over with Foe Yay; he refers to Sparhawk and Sephrenia as the only two people he's ever truly loved, and at another point he remarks:
    I'd give my soul to be a man like Sparhawk.
    • Cyrgon at his end.
  • Wrong Insult Offence:
    • In Domes of Fire, Stragen takes the Styric Council to task for not being more proactive in the emerging crisis in Daresia. When one of the Councillors answers by calling him a bastard, he shrugs it off... because he literally is the illegitimate son of a nobleman. He then proceeds to point out he is also a swindler, murderer, and thief (since he is also the head of a thieves' guild), glibly implying that anything they could call him would not be insulting in the least. Goes into Funny territory, since he does it in their own language.
    • Oscagne also has deep objections to Tamuls being referred to as "godless yellow dogs". The Tamuls have plenty of gods (and given a few minutes to think he might even be able to remember some of their names) and the Tamul skin tone is more...
    Yes, but that's not very flattering either. We like to think of ourselves as "golden-skinned".
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: It's spelled Klæl, for no apparent reason, although a reasonable guess is that it is to emphasize Klæl's utterly alien nature.
  • You Have Failed Me: Said word for word by Azash, as he kills both Otha and Annias amidst his death throes.
  • Zerg Rush: The Rendors' main tactic.

Alternative Title(s): The Tamuli, Elenium, Domes Of Fire, The Shining Ones, The Hidden City, The Diamond Throne, The Ruby Knight, The Sapphire Rose


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