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Literature / The Nekropolis Archives

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The Nekropolis Archives is a series by Tim Waggoner consisting of a number of novels and short stories.

Supernatural beings called the Darkfolk once shared the Earth with humans. However, centuries ago, they decided that humanity was becoming too numerous and too dangerous. Under the leadership of Father Dis, the Darkfolk decided to migrate to another dimension, a realm of perpetual darkness. There, they created the vast city of Nekropolis: a place where the creatures of the night could thrive and rule beneath the eternal twilight of the shadowsun. Dis divided the city into five Dominions, each to be ruled by the most powerful representative of a Darkfolk race: Gothtown, ruled by Darklord Galm of the Bloodborn; the Sprawl, ruled by Darklord Varvara of the Demonkin; the Wyldwood, ruled by Darklord Amon of the Shapeshifters; Glamere, ruled by Darklord Talaith of the Arcane; and the Boneyard, ruled by Darklord Edrigu of the Dead. With the Nightspire of Father Dis at the center of the city and the burning river Phlegethon surrounding it, Nekropolis has been able to grow and prosper into a thriving metropolis.

Matthew Richter was a police officer, until he pursued a suspect through a portal that led to Nekropolis. He soon died, but death wasn't the end: he became a free-willed zombie. Now unable to return home, as the preservation spells which prevent his body from rotting only work within Nekropolis, Matt puts his police experience to use as a private detective in the dark city. All he wants is to do a little good in a largely cold and uncaring world; but as it turns out, he might be the only person who can save it from destruction.

The series includes "Disarmed and Dangerous", Nekropolis, "The Midnight Watch", Dead Streets, "Zombie Interrupted", and Dark War. All are collected in an omnibus edition called The Nekropolis Archives.

This series provides examples of the follow tropes:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Watchers originally had no physical form. They learned to assume shapes in order to interact with other beings. They primarily manifest as insects, but can also take any other form.
  • Abstract Eater: Waldemar is an ancient vampire who subsists on memories rather than blood. He runs the Great Library, selling information in exchange for eating one day's worth of memory from the person seeking it.
  • Alien Sky: The night sky above Nekropolis has no stars. The only source of light is Umbriel, the shadowsun, which remains in a fixed position instead of rising and setting.
  • Always Night: Nekropolis is located in the Null Plains, a realm of darkness. The main source of light is Umbriel, the shadowsun, which creates a permanent twilight.
  • And Show It to You: In Dead Streets, the Frankenstein creation Baristastein rips out a minotaur's heart and holds it up so he can watch it stop beating.
  • Back to the Womb: Late in Nekropolis, Matt offhandedly mentions that he was once hired to help a pregnant witch escape from her abusive husband, and during the pursuit, said husband ended up swapping Matt's mind with that of his client's unborn child, presumably in an attempt to slow them down. He doesn't reveal how this incident was resolved, but Varvara gets a kick out of the story.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Great Library of the Nekropolis is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.
  • Blank Book: Every book in the Great Library contains nothing but blank pages. The library is actually a physical manifestation of the memory of the ancient vampire Waldemar; when Waldemar "reads" from a book, he is actually recalling the information from the depths of his mind.
  • Casts No Shadow: Vampires, in addition to having no reflection, cast no shadow.
  • Cold Flames: Phlegethon, a river of green flame which surrounds Nekropolis, is cold rather than hot and burns the spirit rather than the flesh.
  • Death by Childbirth: Devona Kanti's mother died in childbirth. This is apparently typical when human mothers give birth to Dhampyr babies.
  • Dhampyr: Devona Kanti is the daughter of a vampire father and a human mother. She isn't as graceful as full vampires, her pallor isn't as white, and she is more emotional. Sunlight doesn't harm her, but suppresses her vampire powers. Additionally, while vampires have no reflection at all in mirrors, Devona has a blurred and foggy reflection.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lazlo, a demon friend of Matt's. He regularly drives through crowds at full speed, with the expectation that anyone in his way get out of it or get run over.
    "Surprise me, Lazlo," I said, "and try not to drive like a maniac for a ch-" That's as far as I got before Lazlo slammed on the gas and I was thrown back against the seat.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: The bounty hunter Overkill's real name is Christina Butts, which is why she prefers to go by her alias.
  • Explosive Leash: The Dominari, Nekropolis's crime syndicate, ensures that no one goes spilling any secrets they shouldn't by requiring all their members to be implanted with a parasitic tongue worm. It lays dormant unless the host tries to betray the Dominari, in which case it detonates and blows up their head.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: One of inmates in Tenebrus is a creature with a long tentacle covered in eyes. Matt points out that, while it certainly looks creepy, it is also a significant vulnerability
    Matt: Anything that has eyes all over its body should know better than to attack someone. It's like wearing armor made out of your own testicles.
  • Fantastic Racism: Vampires strongly dislike zombies, viewing them as an inferior form of undead. The Fever House, Nekropolis's best vampire-run hospital, will take patients of any species except zombie. There is also much distrust between the Demonkin and the Arcane, as the Arcane have a history of using magic to bind demons to unwilling service. While all forms of slavery including demon-binding are forbidden in Nekropolis, the Demonkin have long memories and still bear a grudge.
  • Feel No Pain: One of the benefits of being a zombie is that Matt feels no pain, even from major injury or loss of limbs.
  • Food Chain of Evil: Leech vines, thorny vines that wrap around victims and drain their blood, particularly love to drain the blood of vampires, who are generally not amused by the irony.
  • Glamour Failure: Vampires look human, but cast no reflection or shadow. Demons can change their form to disguise themselves, but they can't alter their kaleidoscopic eyes.
  • Grand Theft Me: After a werewolf named Honani kills a prostitute, Matt delivers justice by extracting Honani's soul and transfering the murdered woman's soul into his body.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In "Disarmed and Dangerous", a cyclops named Troilus tears Matt's arm off. Matt picks up the arm and uses it to jab Troilus's eye out.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Dhampyr Devona Kanti was born of a vampire father and human mother.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In Dark War, Tavi gets bitten in half by a rampaging dinosaur. However, due to being a lycanthrope with a powerful healing factor, he is able to survive.
  • Haunted Headquarters: In "The Midnight Watch", Devona buys Matt a building to use as the headquarters of his detective business. When he hears what a good deal she got for what should be prime real estate, it doesn't take long for Matt to realize that their office is going to be heavily haunted.
    Matt: Wait — let me guess. It's supposed to be haunted. And not just regular haunted, with a few ghosts flitting about the rooms to lend the place some gloomy atmosphere. It's haunted with a capital H, by some kind of unknown and incredibly deadly force that will shatter our minds, mutilate our bodies, and ravage our souls, right?
  • Historical Domain Character: The leader of the Hidden Light religious organization turns out to be Joan of Arc.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Demons and vampires are burned by Holy Water. Matt takes advantage of this by arming himself with a squirt gun filled with holy water, despite it being very illegal.
  • Literal Split Personality: The Watchers were originally a single entity with no concept of "self" or "other". When it first encountered other life and gained an understanding of the concept that multiple perspectives could exist, its mind divided into multiple entities embodying conflicting aspects of its personality. Gregor and Shamika are parts of it which are respectively repulsed and fascinated by the concept of "otherness".
  • Losing Your Head: In Dead Streets, Matt gets decapitated. Since he's already a zombie, it doesn't kill him; but it renders him unable to do anything but talk until he can get his head reattached.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The stasis fields used by Orlock to contain people he finds interesting trap the subjects in a pleasant illusory fantasy.
  • Mage Species: In Nekropolis, witches and warlocks are members of a race called the Arcane. They look human, and are capable of interbreeding with humans, but are actually a species of Darkfolk.
  • Magic Mirror: Each of the Darklords owns two magic mirrors capable of creating temporary portals between Nekropolis and Earth.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Leech vines are thorny vines which wrap around victims and drain their blood.
  • Neck Snap: Matt has the strength to do it, and it's how he finishes off the warlock Yberio.
  • Nightmare of Normality: After getting collected and imprisoned in a stasis field by Orlock, Matt and Devona find themselves plunged into an illusion in which they were never a one-of-a-kind zombie detective and a half-vampire superheroine, but two perfectly ordinary human beings living a normal suburban life on Earth as a married couple with children of their own. However, it ultimately falls apart once traces the real world begins bleeding into the illusion, allowing Matt and Devona to awaken.
  • One-Winged Angel: After hounding Matt and Devona in multiple forms in the chase across the Wildwood, Darklord Amon is flung into the river Phlegethon and seemingly killed... only to rise again as a kaiju-sized monstrosity to continue his assault. However, instead of indulging in a glorious final battle, Matt realizes that they have no chance against him and resorts to negotiating.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demonkin come in a variety of forms; ranging from the classic Big Red Devil, to nightmarish amalgamations of insect and reptile parts, to truly abstract and alien conceptual embodiments. Most are capable of shapeshifting, but they are unable to disguise their distinctive kaleidoscopic eyes.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vampires of Nekropolis are called Bloodborn. In addition to having no reflection, they cast no shadow. They are less likely to be talented in magic than humans, but have the inherent ability to transform into a "travel form", which varies from individual to individual but is generally something like a cloud of mist or a flock of bats.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: There are two main types of zombie in Nekropolis: Flesh Eating Zombies which hunt in packs and hunger for human flesh (but only humans, which makes them more of a nuisance than a threat since most inhabitants of Nekropolis are Darkfolk); and Voodoo Zombies which mindlessly obey the orders of their creators. The main character, Matthew Richter, is a sentient and free-willed Revenant Zombie, but this is noted to be extremely unusual.
  • Perpetually Protean: A hallmark of Darklord Amon; as the king of the city's Shapeshifters, he can transform in ways that most of them can only dream of. His introductory scene features him transforming into a different shape on almost every page, each one concerned with hunting in some way - an English foxhunter, a gun-toting redneck, a fur-trapper, a prehistoric hunter...
  • Prehensile Hair: One of the prisoners in Tenebrus is a woman with long prehensile hair, which she unsuccessfully attempts to use to strangle Keket.
  • Primal Polymorphs:
    • Zig-zagged. The "Lykes" each have the power to assume a single animalistic form but despite their brutish reputation, they don't reject modern technology and several of them even sport cybernetic implants. On the other hand, their home district in Nekropolis is Wyldwood, a literal forest with a hunting lodge at its heart, and every year, the Lykes take part in a traditional Wild Hunt in they kill and eat specially bred live prey.
    • Darklord Amon, King of the Lykes, is a master shapeshifter who can transform in ways that his underlings can only dream of - even appearing Perpetually Protean when undisguised. He's also a strict traditionalist, living in the Wyldwood, hosting the Wild Hunt, and generally disapproving of more overtly modified Lykes... though upon finding that Matt Richter took out two cyborg Lykes, Amon is angry enough to extend the Wild Hunt to Matt and Devona.
  • Public Domain Character: A number of classic gothic horror characters appear in Nekropolis. Frankenstein's Monster runs the Foundry; Jack the Ripper works as a stagecoach driver; and three different vampires claiming to be Dracula are imprisoned in Tenebrus.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: In Dark War, Matt has a spell which allows him to pull the pieces of his body together if they're severed. However, the effects are only temporary; more in-depth repair is eventually necessary to fully reattach the severed parts.
  • Shapeshifter Showoff Session: During his big showdown with Matt, Lycanthropus Rex deliberately lengthens his transformation and the ensuing growth into a fifty-foot-tall giant so he can impress the onlookers. Even Matt admits that he puts on a pretty good show.
  • Shapeshifting Trickster: Amon, Darklord of the Lykes, is not only much more powerful and versatile than the various werebeasts throughout the city, but he's also a lot more deceptive and playful. During Matt and Devona's journey through the Wildwood, he poses as a friendly were-rabbit so he can guide them into an ambush at the heart of the forest. Then, he ropes them into the Wild Hunt, pursuing them across the forest in a lethal game of cat and mouse, herding them into traps and taking great delight in their mounting dismay.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Silver is highly effective against a variety of types of Darkfolk which are otherwise difficult to harm, including vampires, werewolves, demons. It is also used as a spell component, though its efficacy as a weapon means that it is treated as a controlled substance.
  • Sizeshifter: Lycanthropus Rex is a werewolf with the unique additional ability to increase his size, growing up to fifty feet tall.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: In Nekropolis, the thief who stole the Sunstone hid it inside a body. The body of one of the Sentinels, flesh golems which serve as the city's police force. Because Sentinels are among the few beings allowed access to the Nightspire, it is able to carry the Sunstone through the tower's protective wards without raising an alarm.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: An artificial blood substitute called aqua sanguis is available for vampires who do not wish to prey on humans.
  • Water Guns and Balloons: Matt carries a water gun filled with holy water for use against demons and vampires.
  • Weakened by the Light: The majority of Darkfolk find sunlight in some way uncomfortable, with vampires being the most severely affected. Thus, for the comfort of its residents, Nekropolis's light comes from Umbriel, the shadowsun, which perpetually casts dim twilight. The Sunstone, a magical artifact capable of producing sunlight, is treated like an Artifact of Doom because so many Darkfolk could be harmed by its light.
  • The Wild Hunt: Amon, the Darklord of Shapeshifters, holds a Wild Hunt once per year in celebration of the anniversary of the Descension.
  • The Worm That Walks: Molog, the Demon Lord of Insects, has a body made out of millions of insects. He is a Demilord, one step below the Darklords in power. The Watchers also tend to manifest in the form of insects, and gather together swarms of these component insects when they wish to assume larger forms.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: In Nekropolis, the preservation spells which sustain Matt's body are beginning to fail, leaving him with only a few days left before he rots away.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: Matt can't digest food anymore, so he has to puke anything he eats back up. He sometimes uses this as a combat technique, as anything stored in his stomach for a while becomes noxious enough to be toxic.