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Literature / The Obsidian Chronicles

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The Obsidian Chronicles is a fantasy trilogy by Lawrence Watt-Evans, which consists of these novels:

  • Dragon Weather (1999)
  • The Dragon Society (2001)
  • Dragon Venom (2003)

Young boy Arlian lives with his family in a small mountain village. One day the weather becomes unusually warm and cloudy; Arlian's grandfather calls it "the dragon weather", because in the old times dragons tended to fly on just such a weather. Sure enough, three dragons attack the village and burn everything and everyone—except for Arlian, who hides in a well. Some time later a small party of armed men, led by someone called "Lord Dragon", enter the village. Arlian hopes that they can help him get to civilization—but immediately, to his horror, he understands that the men are just here to loot the dead. They capture Arlian and sell him into slavery. And so it begins...

The first book starts basically as the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo WITH DRAGONS, as Arlian gets his freedom and begins his quest for revenge: on looters, on some evil lords, on Lord Dragon, and eventually—if he survives—on the dragons themselves.

Not to be confused with The Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.

This series provides examples of:

  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • The sex slaves in the House of Carnal Society have their feet amputated to prevent them running away.
    • Black also has the bandits who were capturing after attacking the caravan in the Desolation maimed by having their dominant hands amputated since otherwise they could attack travelers once again.
  • Background Magic Field: Magical energies run wild in the south, and many effects of them are highly unpleasant.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: There exists a form of magic that allows a person to remove their heart from their body in order to protect it from harm. This is used in an attempt to purge the human body of dragon venom.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: The method by which dragons reproduce is suitably alien and magical. Humans who ingest a mixture of human blood and dragon venom gain the "heart of a dragon". This magic gestates over several centuries until a newborn dragon bursts from the host's body. Arlian eventually determines there's a second aspect to this reproductive cycle: If a pregnant woman ingests the mixture, their unborn child will be born a god capable of controlling the dragons.
  • Blood Magic: Human blood is a necessary ingredient in giving someone a heart of the dragon.
  • Code of Honor: The nobles of Manfort abide by a strict one. For instance, an insult can be grounds to fight a duel if the insulted party doesn't get a sufficient apology.
  • Cold Iron: Some magical creatures have a weakness for this. Along with other things, it helps Arlian survive in the south. Some of the people who live there put up iron poles around their settlements to prevent them coming in.
  • Compelling Voice: It isn't a direct magical control, but having a heart of the dragon means a substantial charisma boost. When someone with a heart of the dragon speaks, others listen.
  • Demonic Possession: Not by a demon, but by raw magical force. Results differ depending on who or what was possessed: humans, animals, plants, mushrooms—there're many possibilities, but they are never pleasant.
  • Determinator: Whatever happens, Arlian simply never gives up.
  • Doomed Hometown: Arlian's village, which gets destroyed by dragons in the very beginning.
  • Duel to the Death: These are common among the nobles in Manfort. Arlian duels multiple people in the books and kills his opponents.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Lord Dragon is a ruthless, mostly nihilistic man who will do virtually anything. The sole exception it appears is breaking vows he makes.
  • From Bad to Worse: Arlian loses his entire family along with everyone else he'd known at the beginning of the first book when his village is destroyed by an angry dragon. Then scavengers come and enslave him after finding him alone out in the ruins.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The ruler of Tirikindaro, who is tremendously powerful, had pretty humble beginnings: it was a common leech, which got mutated by wild magic and later drunk some very special blood.
  • Glamour: Arlian has spells cast to hide his true face and pass as someone else, which also make him come off as more charismatic so people will let him do things more.
  • Handicapped Badass: Many dragonhearts are at least partly disabled by the injuries dragons inflicted on them which caused the ingestion of dragon venom that changed them. This does not make them any less dangerous in most cases.
  • Healing Factor: Dragonhearts never grow ill and heal very quickly from any injury which doesn't kill them at once.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Sweet, Rose and others in the House of Carnal Society brothel. They aid Arlian by providing him with food, shelter, clothing and advice, even when it risks them if it's discovered. Rose is murdered along with several others for it.
  • Immortality Immorality: Humans with the heart of a dragon tend to grow colder and more alien to normal humans as time passes.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Although they can live for centuries, dragonhearts are incapable of having children.
  • Land of One City: Manfort is a city and its environs ruled by a Duke (although he's just a puppet of the Dragon Society).
  • Loophole Abuse: Members of the Dragon Society swear to not harm each other within Manfort. This just means they do outside of the city gates.
  • Love Confession: Sweet declares her love for Arlian after he saves her from slavery.
  • Made a Slave: Arlian is enslaved after surviving the destruction of his village when scavengers come to find anything valuable afterward.
  • The Magic Goes Away: In the south, wild magic runs strong and unchecked; but in the north, magic is weak and requires ages to master. An important part of Arlian's quest is learning the cause of this difference.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: Once several lords decided to run a small brothel. How did they ensure that the slave prostitutes won't run away? They just cut off their feet. No wonder Arlian adds the lords to his revenge list.
  • Master of Illusion: Arithein mages are very skilled at illusion spells. Their magic is far better at that than directly affecting things, to the point they can create massive, terrifying false monsters. Another common us is making glamours, which Arlian uses to great effect.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: Members of the Dragon Society swear to keep their secrets and never harm each other within Manfort or aid anyone else in doing so.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: On the first glance, they are almost standard issue: big, flying, evil and darn tough. The only difference is, they don't breath fire, but spit venom, which ignites on contact with air. But then we learn how they reproduce... And much later, in the last book, we get another surprise when we learn what they eat.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The wizards of southern city-state Kaltai Ol have devised spells to control monstrous nightstalkers, and use said nightstalkers to protect the city from other dangerous things. Alas, the nightstalkers eat human brains, and so the women of Kaltai Ol are almost always pregnant to ensure that the monsters are fed.
  • Protective Charm: Magical wards exist, and have varying strengths. At their weakest, they can compel a person who has a malicious intent to turn away from a protected area (however, this won't stop someone with a strong enough will) while the stronger ones can stop harmful spells within a specified area, but aren't impossible to break. However, if broken the person protected will be alerted so there's forewarning at least.
  • Puppet King: The Dukes of Manfort. In reality the Dragon Society runs the city and has for centuries, controlling the Dukes through having their chief advisors be senior members.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Humans with a heart of the dragon do age, but much slower than normal humans—maybe a dozen times slower. The oldest of the bunch is roughly 900 years old.
  • Revenge: It's the main driving force behind all Arlian's actions.
  • Sadist: Lord Dragon, on top of all his already established cruelty, likes to torture and murder people for fun.
  • Sex Slave: The prostitutes in the House of Carnal Society are prisoners, their feet amputated so they're unable to run away.
  • Slave Liberation: Arlian is freed from the mines by the overseer whose life he saved, as both a reward and to avoid trouble as a result.
  • Straw Nihilist: Lord Dragon is pretty nihilistic, telling Arlian in his view all people are filthy, worthless things no better than beasts, and he has no compunction about harm he does to them. The one principle which he upholds is keeping the vows he swore as a member of the Dragon Society.
  • Stronger with Age: Dragons grow stronger as they age, and change color accordingly. Arlian's village was attacked by three of Black Dragons, which are the oldest and strongest color.
  • Tracking Spell: Arlian has Thirif track Lord Dragon as he's pursuing him as a result of his unique blood standing out. It turns out that he's been tracked in turn though from traces of his dragonheart nature, so Lord Dragon is aware he's coming.
  • Vancian Magic: Spells or magic potions in the books' universe have to be carefully prepared ahead of time for a specific purpose. Once depleted they cannot be replenish quickly.
  • Weaksauce Weakness:
    • The dragons seem to be immune to steel weaponry. But obsidian works on them just fine.
    • The cat-creatures in the third novel are immune to steel, too. But silver affects them.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Dragonhearts live for centuries, up to a thousand years in some cases. Most don't care about mortals in part because they die so quickly in comparison.
  • Wild Magic: Magical energy and creatures are unchecked mostly in the south, unlike the north, with even the sky showing its affect. In some places, it runs so strong people's dreams can come alive.
  • You Killed My Father: Arlian's entire family and everyone else who lived in his village were killed by dragons. He vowed revenge on them as a result.