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Literature / The Fires of Affliction

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"The huntsman blinked away from a shaft of sunlight. His eyes had yet to fail him, though at his age, they'd surely soon begin to. For now, they found his food, his hands caught and cooked it, and his belly kept him moving till he'd gathered enough. Men had lived as such since time began, though few still did in the age of city and sail. Most had their walls, their families, their lords. For all Khan knew, he was the only man in Gelland to have left all that behind."

The Fires of Affliction is a self-published novel by author Ryan Graff. The story follows a woodland huntsman named Khan Eilon, who fights to protect a magically gifted young woman from a sinister cult. As the story unfolds, he faces not only the girl's pursuers, but the ghosts of his own past.


The Fires of Affliction contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Roland Balfour, a gifted young knight with a bad habit of letting his grudge against Khan for killing Melissa cloud his better judgment.
  • Aerith and Bob: Varies by gender. The book's male characters have names like Khan, Talican, Cylas, Cedric, Dane, and Shalastan. Female characters include Melissa, Sarah, Elayne, and Lori (the latter of which is technically short for Alorica).
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Sir Roland may be the kingdom's best fighter, which does earn him the top spot on the mission to find the Mystery Cult's base. But he makes poor decisions, disregards advice from people he doesn't like, and is easily outwitted.
  • The Atoner: Khan lives in self-imposed exile after having killed his daughter Melissa in an accident.
  • The Big Guy: Talican Stell, a big, burly bartender and former war hero.
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  • The Captain: Roland, while on the mission to find the Night Sky's home base. Unfortunately for all involved, he's a better fighter than he is a commander.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Near the beginning of the story, Khan kills a giant wolf-man with Lori's help. Later, when he and his party come across its skeletal remains, he removes two of its fangs and gives one to Lori. Near the end of the book, when Khan and Lori have been imprisoned and separated, Lori hides the fang from her captors, then uses it to interrogate one of them.
    • Elayne demonstrates a flesh-colored wristband used for concealing weapons. Roland later uses one to escape from his cell.
      • A literal example: Early on, Khan finds evidence that Dane may have some kind of superweapon. Dane later reveals the weapon—one of the world's first firearms—and uses it to gun down the kingdom's greatest swordsman.
  • Cliffhanger: The book ends with the villain on the loose, war on the horizon, and the protagonist Khan willingly trapped in a dream of his ideal life.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Talican, a huge warrior who keeps opponents at bay with his sheer ferocity, solves a good number of Khan's problems in the early going. Midway through the story, he takes off to care for his pregnant wife, leaving Khan to get by without backup.
  • Divine Intervention: Faith healers are able to work miracles in the book's world, but the gifted ones are rare, and they seem to have more and more trouble convincing God to answer their prayers. After Finding the Cure fails, the heroes go this route to get Lori's poison cured.
  • Dream Weaver: The cult leader known as the Crowning Star has the ability to influence others' thoughts and dreams.
  • Driven to Suicide: Khan's wife Sarah, who walked into the sea after the death of their daughter.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Prince Jarden, after extended cult brainwashing.
  • The Faceless: The Crowning Star wears a magical hooded robe, which hides not only his face, but his voice as well (by masking it behind several others, earning him the nickname "The Man of Many Voices").
  • Find the Cure!: When Khan first finds Lori, he sees that she's been poisoned. The antidote, he soon learns, requires a rare herb, and the only patch of the herb within reach is in heavily fortified territory. Subverted in that the antidote only stalls the poison, and actually curing her requires a miracle.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The Crowning Star speaks in iambic pentameter up until The Reveal.
  • Honor Before Reason: In one of the book's supplementary stories, war veteran Talican describes how he yielded a key strategic position to the enemy, ruining his side's chances at winning a crucial siege, because he lost a duel with the enemy commander (and because he didn't want to slaughter the enemy regiment—none of whom, aside from their commander, were over twelve years old).
  • Ignored Expert: Being a learned surgeon, Cylas tries to tell Khan that there's no known cure for Lori's poisoning, but Khan is too busy trying to save her to listen.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Khan, knowing that the surgeon Cylas is a former priest in training, asks him to give a certain dead man his last rites. Cylas refuses, saying that he's not a priest. He's also not a fighter, but he finds himself in combat frequently, and spends most fights trying not to get killed.
  • King Incognito: The mystery girl Lori is actually Princess Alorica Durnham.
  • Knowledge Broker: Elayne Arnheim, the kingdom's chief of intelligence, who makes it her business to know everything about everyone.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Several times in the first half of the book, Khan faces certain death—only for Talican to rush in and save him. This happens so often that Khan starts a count in his head.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: When Roland defeats Shalastan the Wolf, his fall shakes the bridge they're standing on, and the bridge then collapses as Roland and Lori run for their lives.
  • The Mole: Dane Tresbitt introduces himself by antagonizing and threatening Khan. Khan quickly uncovers evidence tying him to the Night Sky. Later, Dane claims to be a spy infiltrating the Night Sky on behalf of the King, a fact the King's chief of intelligence later corroborates (though Dane still hates Khan for unrelated reasons). Still later, Dane goes on to reveal that he'd actually joined the Night Sky before having been recruited to spy on them, and is a Night Sky member through and through.
  • Mysterious Waif: Lori, who possesses supernatural powers she can't always control, a result of her half-faerie lineage.
  • Mystery Cult: A secret religious order known as the Night Sky. As of the end of the book, their motives and methods remain largely unknown, but they seem to have friends, agents, and strongholds everywhere.
  • Nerd Glasses: Cylas Arivel, a small-town doctor, wears these.
  • Never Found the Body: After the death of their daughter, Khan's wife Sarah walked into the sea to kill herself. Khan tried to recover her, but the waves pushed him away even as they let her through. She later emerges as the archvillain.
    • The heroes temporarily defeat Shalastan the Wolf by throwing him off a ship and into the ocean.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Prince Jarden helped Lori escape the cult by staying behind to hold them off. As a result, he was re-imprisoned and brainwashed, and now believes exactly as they do.
  • Off With Her Head: The cult gives Lori this sentence for refusing to submit. Roland saves her from the block at the last second.
  • Recurring Dreams: Khan's guilt over having accidentally killed his daughter gives him nightmares almost every night.
  • The Reveal: At the climax of the book, the Mystery Cult's masked leader pulls back her hood to reveal the face of Sarah Eilon, Khan's long-presumed-dead wife.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Roland, in the book's final battle, against Shalastan the Wolf.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: During his travels, Khan meets a friendly small-town priest named Donavan Jace. He's earnest, polite, eager to assist, great with kids, he's helped the local farmers get back on their feet...and, on the side, he recruits volunteers for the Night Sky.
  • Warrior Poet: Dane Tresbitt was a scrawny poet boy before he became a swordsman. He's been known to recite his own verse during fights, though his opponents are usually less than impressed.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: While Finding the Cure, Khan encounters hostile cultists, and is forced to kill several of them in self-defense. Later, he meets the mother of one of the men he killed, who desperately awaits news of her missing son.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Shalastan the Wolf, an otherwise-unstoppable beast-man, is deathly afraid of fire.
  • The X of Y