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Marked to Die

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"Everything is decided here... You cannot comprehend the magnitude - the rapture and the tragedy - of this moment, and yet you must if Nosgoth is to be dragged from the wreckage of its damnation. [...] You must understand, our presence here doesn't alter history. You and I meet here because we are compelled to - we have always met here. History is irredeemable! Drop a stone into a rushing river - the current simply courses around it and flows on as if the obstruction were never there. You and I are pebbles, Raziel, and have even less hope of disrupting the time-stream! The continuum of history is simply too strong, too resilient!"
Kain discussing Raziel that Kain was forcibly destined to be slain by Raziel in the Sarafan Stronghold at this very moment, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2

Sometimes in works of fiction, a special form of foreshadowing is used that is overt in a way that even the characters can see: something happens to someone that makes them a sure target for being killed off in the near future. Typically the mark of death is not fatal in a Truth in Television-type way; it does not refer to a potentially terminal illness or a life-threatening injury. The "mark", in this case, refers to a signal, either physically attached to the victim or separate, visible or invisible, that denotes that the character's time is limited.

Depending on the nature of the mark, the characters may or may not be aware of their impending doom. Physical blemishes, brandings, and other things applied directly to their body or clothing may seem perfectly innocuous, unless the character happens to be sufficiently genre savvy. The mark may also appear elsewhere, allowing it serve as a form of dramatic irony for the benefit of the audience. Prophetic dreams and visions may also serve as a "mark" of sorts, if it specifically claims that a character will soon die.

Subtrope of Portent of Doom.

See also: Secret Stab Wound, Incurable Cough of Death, Kiss of Death, and Black Spot. Compare You Are Already Dead.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the animated version of Ginga Densetsu Weed any time a character has their ear bitten off, it's a pretty sure sign their death is coming up pretty soon.
  • Death Note. Anyone whose name is written into the Death Note is marked to die after a period of time. By default this period is only a few seconds, but the writer can specify a longer span if they're so inclined.
    • Humans have an allotted time to live that is displayed above their heads when viewed through the eyes of a Shinigami.
  • In Izetta: The Last Witch, Izetta displayed her powers to the allied forces to convince them to help her and friend Archduchess Finé to fight the Germanians. Instead, the allies consider Izetta as great or greater threat than Germania and want her dead.
  • Getting the Brand of Sacrifice put on you in Berserk is usually a death sentence of the "getting Eaten Alive by demons" variety. Only two characters to date have survived being branded, and neither of them came out of the ordeal whole.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Astro City mini-series, The Dark Ages, a character is marked for death by the vigilante Blue Knight by the appearance of a crosshairs on the back of his neck.
  • In 'X (Dark Horse Comics)', this is X's trademark. A single diagonal slash across your face meant that you were warned and you'd better not break his rules again; if he completed the X, he killed you. No exceptions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: A character was marked with a literal black spot on his hand.
  • The creatures in the horror movie They mark their victims with a dime-sized sore that houses a long, thin bone. This mark is used to track their victims down when the creatures are ready to eat.
  • In The Frighteners, a number appears on the forehead of the person that the reaper is going to come after.
  • The Final Destination series is pretty much built on this trope.
  • Photos of characters slated to die in The Omen (1976) showed strange marks indicating the imminent cause of death.
  • L: change the WorLd: After writing his name in the Death Note at the end of the live action movie, L has 23 days left to live. Using that time to solve cases, L is essentially invincible until his time runs out.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the worst criminals whom Batman kicks the crap out of are left branded with a bat symbol. It's rumored that this constitutes being Marked to Die, as other prison inmates single out anyone thus branded for attack or abuse. The Ultimate Edition cut reveals that it's actually Lex Luthor who has some prisoners bribed to kill one such guy, in order to aggravate the conflict between Batman and Superman.

  • In Treasure Island, Billy Bones receives "The Black Spot," which means he's about to die.
  • Happens in a few Stephen King books.
    • In Insomnia, Ralph is able to tell when people are about to die when they are surrounded by a black "deathbag".
    • In Doctor Sleep, Danny has visions of flies crawling across a person's face when they are about to die or have a serious illness.
    • In King's The Dark Tower series, when a Ka-Tet is about to end, they feel Ka-Shume, a sense that the parting of ways is coming.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Ms.Gee, literally, by Hannah. Hannah threw her dead ancestors hand at Ms.Gee, and she caught it, dooming her to a horrible death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a third season episode of Criminal Minds, the victims all appear on "Have You Seen Me" posters before they disappear.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Curse of the Black Spot", anyone whose blood is drawn on the pirate ship has a black spot appear on their arm, and is promptly lured in and then disintegrated by a siren. It's subverted in the end: the "siren" is an advanced medical hologram, and the disintegration actually teleports them into a spaceship's sickbay.
    • In "Face the Raven", a minor character receiving one of these - a tattoo of a number which keeps changing, counting down the minutes until his death - drives the plot of the episode. Clara takes the mark onto herself partway through to free the original victim from it; unfortunately this turns out to make the mark impossible to remove and she dies at the end of the episode.
  • Agent Demetri Noh in FlashForward (2009); while everyone else has seen visions of themselves six months in the future, he has not, a strong indicator that he doesn't live that long.
  • In Cloak & Dagger (2018), one member of the Divine Pairing is destined to die to save New Orleans. In the season finale, flashbacks reveal that the sacrificial member always has some kind of marking on their upper arm (birthmark, scar, armband, etc.)

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Spirit Hunter series:
    • The horror game Spirit Hunter: Death Mark revolves around people who bear the eponymous Mark, who are fated to die after having it for too long, and suffer memory loss in the meantime (which affects their ability to live normally). Marks are the doing of malevolent spirits; they must be dispelled in order to cure their Marked victims. The Player Character has been Marked by a unique spirit in H City, leaving him with a Mark for the game's duration until he can finally locate and dispel that spirit, whoever or whatever it was.
    • In Spirit Hunter: NG, the victims of Kakuya's Game suffer from a particularly gruesome mark; when they get close to the time limit, extra mouths and boils manifest on their bodies. To boot, Akira's enhanced spiritual prowess allows him to hear the Madness Mantra that the mouths spew.