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Webcomic / True Villains

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Priestess: Sebastian is six foot three, and could kill a dragon with his bare hands! He carries a magical sword that can cut through anything, his companions support him with powerful magic and unmatched strength, he can look into your eyes and destroy the sin in your soul with nothing more than a thought!
Sebastian: ... That's very flattering.

True Villains is a fantasy, villain-focused web comic written by Josh Kurtz and Madison Hughes, and drawn by Max Karpsten, with colors by Darren Urmey.

True Villains takes what you know about fantasy: how the good guys always win, the villains are definitely evil, mostly irredeemable, and always lose and flips it on its ear.

The comic follows the story of Sebastian Jalek, an alchemist/adventurer. After a run in with the famed villain Xaneth Antaris, he turns over to the side of villainy. Sebastian then makes fast friends with Elia the necromancer and takes in the orphaned Mia.

As the story expands, there are werewolves, elves, raging paladins, white-robed freaks, adventurers, crusaders, and much, much more.

Currently on indefinite hiatus. Can be found here.



  • Above Good and Evil:
    • Sebastian adopts this philosophy at the end of Saga Five. Xaneth claims to work for morally neutral goals; he just personally enjoys evil means of pursuing them.
    • The Gods represent concepts like progress, vision, and love, and are completely morally neutral: they will provide power to champions of good and genocidal maniacs alike if that will further their individual causes.
  • Aerith and Bob: We have Xaneth Antaris, Sebastian Jalek, Mia Jalek, Elia Redscallon, Bayn, Tom, Dexter Pheonix, and Gray.
  • Affably Evil: Elia and Xaneth mostly, but, various psychoses aside, the entire main cast fits this to some degree, even Bayn can be quite charming when the situation calls for it.
  • After the End: Most of the world is under the control of vampires and is a decidedly unpleasant place.
  • Age-Down Romance: Defied when the 88-year-old Evil Sorcerer Bayn finds himself the target of the six-year-old Mia's Puppy Love after he's turned into an eight-year-old and De-Powered. Although he becomes a bit less curmudgeonly as a child, he retains his mental age and firmly rebuffs any sign of infatuation from Mia.
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  • All-Powerful Bystander: Dexter, prophet of the God of Stability, is this by choice, as he explains.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Dexter, to Bayn.
  • And the Adventure Continues: After Sebastian takes on Xaneth's role and learns Lord Attera's plans.
  • Animated Armor: Amber.
  • Animesque: The original art style of the strip, but later and revised strips have a more realistic look.
  • Anti-Magic: While hopped up on divine power, the Paladin can remove the enchantments from Mia's magic armor simply by saying "Release". Alistor is simply immune to dark magic.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Attera seems to be in charge of Xaneth and very evil. Elia is a Card-Carrying Villain from a noble family that only disowned her when her homicidal streak ran too wide to cover up.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking : The Paladin nearly kills Sebastian and company, condones the torture of small children, namely Mia, and judging from his castle, has a horrible, awful taste in carpets.
  • Art Evolution: Look at the first comic, then look at anything from the newer series. Heck, even when the series wasn't changing artists every few minutes Maddie's art got steadily better over the course of Saga 1.
    • Even Max's art has grown ridiculously over his time as illustrator.
  • Art Imitates Life: Subverted, then invoked. The characters for the first production of the musical look similar to their comic counterparts. Then, after the second production and a few artists swaps, the characters took on similar appearances to their Real Life counterparts.
  • Art Shift: From normal remastered style straight to shoujo-style manga in this remastered page.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The knight who Sebastian kills to open Xaneth's dungeon, who was planning to kill him for the same reason.
    • No one in this comic is really on the moral high ground, but there's just something insufferable about Alistor. He probably deserved getting blown up.
    • The woman whose face Elia melts during her first appearance gleans no sympathy from the reader, as she'd just spent the last few pages threatening another young woman and Sebastian.
  • Author Tract: The writer constantly goes back to the argument of the "good guys" sometimes forced to do bad things as the entire reason why they're supposed to be disliked... even though the protagonists tend to do a lot worse and just for entirely selfish reasons. Well Sebastian at least, is deeply offended by the For The Greater Good trope. The other characters have more varied ideas on what good and evil. The villains are often willing to Disproportionate Retribution people who offend their sense of decency, cause their villains. ].
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Downplayed, but the one who does the most against Vampire!Grey? Cecille, who spots an opening in his defenses and cuts of his head. Not that that is enough to stop him...
  • Ax-Crazy: According to Word of God, before she met Xaneth, Elia was this. She has a lot more self control now, but is still prepared to go on a bloody slaughter simply to rescue one person.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sebastian, following his leveling up, and to a lesser extent, Elia.
  • Begin with a Finisher: Xaneth's first fight against Dove is a high-powered Wizard Duel. Xaneth's second fight against Dove consists of dropping a mocking note on him from high in the sky, followed immediately by a Fantastic Nuke.
  • Benevolent Boss: As far as villains go, Xaneth is actually a fairly decent guy to work for. He enjoys manipulating his followers and doesn't treat them with a huge amount of respect, but at the same time he doesn't needlessly throw their lives away or kill them as punishment for failure. He's even saved their lives on occasion and is remarkably forgiving of their various quirks that inhibit his plans.
  • Barrier Warrior: After getting a wand of defensive spells from his God, Bayn is now this.
  • Bee Afraid: The chests in Xaneth's dungeon are filled with bees, even when they are at the end of a complete and utter death trap.
  • Better Living Through Evil: Sebastian joins Xaneth and, in exchange, Xaneth doesn't kill him. Win-win! As a bonus, Sebastian gets a lot stronger under Xaneth.
  • Big Bad: Possibly Xaneth; he shows signs of complex planning and reasoning in some comics. Perhaps a Big Bad in training?
  • Big Damn Heroes : Mia teleports in to save Elia and Cecile from Gray.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: All over the place. However, most prominent is the fourth wall-shattering character Dexter Pheonix
  • Break the Cutie: With the death of Tom the golem, Mia is devastated to the point of temporarily losing her powers.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Xaneth uses an innocent bystander he calls "Carl" in his fight against the Necromancer.
  • Cain and Abel: Alyssa and Sebastian. Interestingly, in this case it's the good sibling, Alyssa, who wants the evil sibling, Sebastian, dead. Sebastian would rather Alyssa just ran away because he doesn't want to kill her.
  • Call-Back : At the end of Saga 3, Sebastian accuses Lord Attera of being the Man Behind the Man for Xaneth because he's actually Xaneth's father. Attera laughs him off, then kicks them all out of his home. At the end of Saga 9, Attera returns and tells Sebastian that He was Xaneth's creator, so Sebastian was mostly right.
  • Came Back Strong:
    • Xaneth tries to use Dove's soul as a bomb against Alyssa, but ends up bringing him back as a powerful demon.
    • Also "Carl" is just a no-name peasant whom Xaneth uses as a human shield against Dove, but is brought back by the priests of Nox as an enforcer with magical powers strong enough to hold Sebastian and Elia off.
    • Bayn is restored to his full power after fighting the vampirized Grey to the death, alone and with limited magic, satisfies his God's test of faith.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: the most common ability of the non-magical.
    • Sebastian suffers a crippling injury to his aura that drains his life force constantly, and forces him to train hard for three hours a day just to stay alive. After Bayn fixes the damage, that training catches up to him...
    • The mercenary Alistor, who can perform outright superhuman feats of strength and speed with ease.
    • As a dancer, Cecile is used to swinging a partner around, which makes an incredibly heavy broadsword easy by comparison.
    • The adventurer Brawn is strong enough to flip Tom one handed.
  • Chosen One: There is a chosen one of Nox, the god of fear, a warrior woman called Ritania whom Xaneth believes is destined to rise up and fight him. Xaneth being Xaneth, he's taking steps to prevent that.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Sebastian is trying to get over this, succeeding in Saga Five.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sebastaian and Xaneth's fights with The Paladin and The Man in White respectively are shown side-by-side, at first the two of them are getting stomped, then they turn it around.
  • Curse: Dexter Pheonix thinks they're hilarious. He cursed Xaneth so any pair of shoes he wears — or his feet, if barefoot — turns yellow, and cursed Bayn to have to call him "Dad" and be unable to get drunk.
  • Cuteness Overload : Elia cannot resist Mia's charms ... Xaneth? Not so much.
  • Dance Battler: Cecile calls her self-taught sword fighting style "Swing Dancing."
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Ritania
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Used when Mia sees Tom's lifeless body, tries to fix him, and fails.
  • Disability Superpower: Lurian's Shield is a spell which makes the caster completely impossible to scry, but it has a 95% chance of turning the caster blind, so almost no-one ever uses it. Since Zach is already blind, he can cast it as much as he likes.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Sebastian, after Xaneth's death.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Sebastian used to do this until he was contracted by Xaneth.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Phoenix family, for all it seems to only have three members.
  • Evil Costume Switch/Important Haircut: Sebastian cuts his hair and changes his clothes as a sign that he's completely gone over to evil.
  • Evil Counterpart: Each member of Alyssa's team is a good counterpart to one of Xaneth's minions: Alyssa to Sebastian, Olivia to Elia, Brawn to Tom and Zach to Bayn. Xaneth being as Genre Savvy as he is, matches them up that way when they attack Alyssa's camp.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Xaneth vs Dove (The Man in White), and Elia vs Malice.
    • The whole team vs the vampires.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Xaneth, Elia, Bayn, Dove, Lord Attera... it's a popular hobby.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Xaneth's dungeon is a hexagonal tower with no visible windows or doors.
  • Evil Virtues: All of them are evident in one cast member or another.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Literally. The Priestess thinks Sebastian is six foot three.
    • Sebastian says to Xaneth that he thought he'd be taller. Xaneth takes it in stride.
  • Exposition Diagram: Xaneth pulls out the Blackboard of Mystery to explain Mia's abilities to Sebastian.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Sebastian commits one and is seemingly firm in his decision. He did, after all, blow up a town.
  • Facepalm: Facewing
  • Fallen Hero: Gray after he becomes a vampire.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Fallen Angel Potion fits in a perfume vial and can level a town.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Xaneth is missing one armguard because it shattered when he tried to pull a Punch Parry on a time-warped Sebastian.
  • Fembot: Amber, a golem with a female name who is referred to as "she".
  • Finger Poke of Doom: When empowered by "Divine Favor" from his God, the Paladin can shatter swords and dispel wisps with a gesture and a word.
  • Five-Man Band: Alyssa and her team
  • Flash Step: Lord Attera
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Elia removes her clothes and skin to use as a decoy against an undead warrior.
  • Genius Bruiser: Brawn
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: There are infinite gods in the TV world, but only five have significant power because of how many people worship them.
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • The Paladin, Gray, is a literal Knight Templar with a mild case of Black and White Insanity.
    • Also Alyssa, while she is deginitely a force for good, she isn't the kind of person you want to spend time with.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Xaneth has traditional "angelic" feathered wings, but they're also solid black, so he occupies something of a middle ground in this trope, despite being squarely on the side of evil.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted in most fights, although Xeke biting a guy's head off gets a Shadow Discretion Shot.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Bayn, masterfully, see it here.
  • Hero Antagonist: The Paladin, of course; later, Alyssa and her team.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Alyssa, Ritania and the Paladin all wield swords in contrast to the protagonists' magic, automata, knives and brute force.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The Paladin challenges Sebastian to a one-one-one fight in their first meeting, and casts a ward on himself to keep Tom and Mia away so they can't interfere. Tom simply steps forward and stands next to Sebastian, and the Paladin's own ward knocks him back - if you're going to put a magic forcefield around yourself to block a specific person, make sure they aren't significantly stronger than you.
    • When Dove attacks Xaneth, Xaneth feeds his magic bomb to a bystander and shoots it straight back at him.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Alyssa believes this is what happened to Sebastian. It's a bit more complicated that that, but she's not entirely wrong.
  • Just a Machine: Subverted. Though Mia makes golems like Tom to fight for Xaneth, she says she doesn't design them so much as get to know them. They contain spirits of a sort, and Tom's death is mourned by the team.
  • Knight Templar: The Paladin takes his holy work very seriously, and goes to any lengths to defeat evil. Even torturing little children.
  • Lethal Harmless Powers: The only spells Bayn can still cast at his old power level are the purely defensive "Shield" and "Grounding". He uses them to subdue a demonic Dove in three moves, and can do a mean Shield Bash.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: As bad as Xaneth is, Dove makes him look positively heroic. Similarly, no matter how bad they are, Sebastian and his team are infinitely preferable to whatever the vampires are planning.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Dove the necromancer is so evil that even Xaneth looks good next to him, but he wears pure white at all times.
    • Galdara, the God of Progress, invests Paladins with Light-based powers — but is equally happy to lend its strength to murderous vampires. Word of God reveals that a demon of Galdara created the vampires in the first place.
  • Love Goddess: Ara is described as the God of Love, though not technically a goddess since the gods are genderless.
  • Loveable Rogue: Alistor is a subversion, he assumes the persona of a charming vagabond, but his casual murders and total lack of remorse make it clear that he's a sociopath who shouldn't be liked or admired.
  • Magitek: Mia's golems are basically magic robots.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Sebastian when his aura is damaged. It's even mentioned in the Artist's Blog.
    Elia: ...and if it goes on unchecked, you will wither away and die.
    Sebastian: ...Well. Crap.
  • Master of Illusion: The prophet of Nox, basically everything in her temple isn't really there. In fact, since illusions are a Secret Art, she may be the only one in the world. (Except for maybe Dexter, since he uses forms of magic no longer known.)
  • May–December Romance: Sebastian and Elia are moving in this direction.
  • Meaningful Name: Bayn's family have a natural resistance to fire, their name is Pheonix
  • Misery Builds Character: Sebastian cites this trope after pushing Bayn out of a moving cart.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-Universe. Xaneth goes from incensed that Sebastian will give his old friends a fair fight rather than stabbing them in the back, to delighted that not only does he have no such compunctions for Alastor, he poisoned him a week in advance!
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: The entire extended cast has only a couple of pure good or pure evil individuals, with everyone else occupying varying shades of grey.
  • Mr. Exposition: Sebastian's Constantly Curious Captain Obvious tendencies force Xaneth (occasionally Elia and once Bayn) into the role.
  • My Nayme Is: Dexter Pheonix, as he's happy to Lampshade.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Oh, how about....Malice?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Defeating the paladin Grey and kicking him off a cliff was awesome. And also probably the worst mistake made by anybody throughout the comic, as it lead directly to him being vampirized, killing Xaneth, and damn near wiping life from the entire kingdom. Good work.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Sebastian did to expose the Amberscar conspiracy, he had to lay low for a year to avoid fallout.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Sebastian's first task as Xaneth's apprentice is to blow up a small town called Dorn. Of course, the first passerby he meets there immediately mentions that she recently recovered from an illness... that everyone thought would be fatal... and now her whole family has moved in to celebrate. Understandably, Sebastian's already shaky resolve is jolted considerably.
  • Older Than They Look: Enough of the cast is that Sebastian comments on how nobody ages normally anymore.
    • 87-year-old Elia keeps fresh with Black Magic and stolen skins.
    • Bayn is in his 90s but is magically trapped in a child's body.
    • Xaneth is at least as old as Bayn but looks about thirty at most, probably thanks to being a demon.
    • The Paladin Gray, apparently, for reasons unknown.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Xaneth is one, and others have been mentioned.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Gray is abducted by a group of vampiric beings who are apparently religious zealots (who ironically follow the same god as him). Then they turned him.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Xeke. Also his sister Cecile is apparently a human born to werewolves.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Lord Attera seems to operate on a much larger scale than Xaneth. His idea of doing Xaneth a favour was to cast a spell on everyone in the region to make them underestimate him.
  • Painting the Medium: The Inexplicably Awesome Dexter gets this, subtly. People he teleports briefly stand astride two panels, and his speech bubbles have loopier tails than the other characters'.
  • Pet the Dog: Sebastian, Elia and even Xaneth think that Mia is too cute to kill.
    • Plus Elia freeing an elven slave girl from her human masters, although she does use an army of zombies to slaughter an entire mansion full of people to do it, so...
    • Mia eventually sets up a full on token economy based on this, making new golems for people only if they first provide her something from her wish-list, such as a tree house or sparkly pink walls.
  • Post–Wake-Up Realization: Sebastian wakes up woozy from a debilitating magical attack and takes three hours to clue in that the team Necromancer was dosing him with nice, fortifying cups of delicious virgin's blood.
  • Power Trio: All signs point to Sebastian, Brawn and Olivia having been one of these.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Gray and Alyssa have no problem crossing the line if they have to. Their followers tend to be a bit more Honor Before Reason though.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Xaneth operates on a fairly local level and avoids doing things For the Evulz, this means he has a pretty strong reputation and a reasonable level of power, but his actions are too small for the more powerful heroes to bother with him, even The Paladin is more focused on Sebastian than him.
  • Precocious Crush: Mia towards Bayn, though it's downplayed in that he's a ninety-year-old stuck in a ten-year-old body.
  • Protected by a Child: One of the reasons Gray does not just kill Sebastian when they first meet.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The protagonists.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Bayn gives one to the Paladin's Exalted Torturer. It reduces him to tears and leads him to see the error of his ways.
  • Required Secondary Powers: When escaping from Alyssa, Sebastian punches through a wall and learns that, while he is super strong and correspondingly tough, he is not immune to pain and punching brick still hurts.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Rereading the comic from the beginning after the conclusion of Saga 6 means that Xaneth's plans involving Sebastian take on a whole new dimension. He knew that Sebastian would become a powerful force in the future, so he engineered Sebastian gaining his superstrength and ensured that Sebastian would be under his control. On a less serious note, it also reveals why Xaneth put together such a strange ensemble for Sebastian, and why he seemed so put out when Sebastian first refused to wear it: his refusal at that point in time meant he wasn't going to become powerful until a later time.
  • Revision: Now updating with the redrawn early sagas. The events are the same, but some things are added or tweaked a little, for better storytelling.
  • Sad Clown: "Never feel sorry for anyone" is Xaneth's most important rule (probably why he gets so frustrated with Sebastian), and Elia is quite good at following it... with one exception made for this character type. See Pet the Dog.
    Elia: I can't help but pity the sadness behind a smiling face.
  • Sarcasm Failure: Mia's joke about being a vampire makes Bayn sober up and tell her not to joke about that. When a vampire does appear, it beats the entire team and tears Xaneth apart.
  • Scaled Up: The fake Chosen One transforms into a giant snake to fight Sebastian.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Xaneth's entire dungeon, for instance, you need a special key to unlock Xaneth's chamber at the end. He keeps said key in his chamber.
    • The Chosen One of Nox is an inversion, designed to trap smart people instead of dumb ones. There's a public Chosen One, and a "secret" one guarded in a hidden dungeon. The idea is that people like Xaneth would look too deep and go after the "secret" Chosen One (who is actually an illusion) and miss out the real one.
  • Secret Art: Many magical techniques, e.g. illusions, have been forgotten and all knowledge of them have been lost. The only people who know them are the prophets of the Gods.
  • Serial Killer: Elia, but Xaneth keeps her under control most of the time.
  • Shout-Out: Amber is in many ways a magical version of the T-1000.
  • Sickening Sweethearts: Xaneth probably regards any sweethearts as this, but the pair he's annoyed by onscreen is Sebastian and Elia.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Sebastian's sister, Alyssa, kidnaps him and tries assault Xaneth's dungeon.
  • Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains: Basically assured to happen, what with the Villain Protagonist and all. Some of their companions like Cecile and Xeke seem like downright good people, just friends with some very bad people. Sebastian fits in with Type I quite nicely as well.
  • Small, Annoying Creature: Squib, from Xaneth's perspective anyway: useless to his plans, loves him unconditionally and totally invincible. To Xaneth, that's the most irritating thing in the world.
    • Worse, in Squib's creation, Mia used Xaneth's bar of Arrantium, which he was saving to make "the perfect weapon". (Amusingly, Squib does work pretty well as a weapon...for Agustus, to defeat "Carl", whom Xaneth was bizarrely fond of. Makes you wonder why Xaneth even let Squib stay around, really...
  • Stable Time Loop: Dove enters the story through a rift in the time-space continuum with no backstory and an unexplained hatred of Xaneth in Saga 2, finally in Saga 7 we learn that this is due to Bayn and Xaneth pushing him through a portal into the past after stripping him of his new demonic powers.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Gray to Cee in "Fearless". Though slightly overshadowed by the broadsword to the head shortly thereafter.
  • Super Strength: Sebastian, Xeke, Tom, Brawn, Allistor, Gray, and of course Xaneth.
  • Talking Appliance Sidekick: Augustus, the amazing talking, dueling, pocket-watch.
  • The Archmage: Prophets of the various gods can use magics which been lost and all knowledge of them forgotten, making them extraordinarily powerful. Dexter is one, and the prophet of Nox is another.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Bayn is starting to act more like a child the longer he spends in his new body.
  • The Musical: Has its own page here
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sebastian, he can punch through swords now.
  • Too Upset to Create: Mia briefly loses her Golem-creating ability after Tom's destruction. Justified since her power calls and manipulates Spirits, which she can't do while her own spirit is weakened by grief.
  • Undying Loyalty: The main group are actually fairly close knit and loyal to each other, so much so that Sebastian's loyalty to Xaneth outweighs his loyalty to his oldest friends. This is probably because Xaneth is pretty good at providing something his followers want or need: he gives Sebastian a purpose in life, he gives Bayn protection in his weakened child form, he gives Mia a home and something resembling a family and Elia a way to indulge her psychotic urges without getting chased down by an angry mob.
  • Unsound Effect: SHOVE and GRAB
  • Villainous Friendship: Xaneth and Malice
  • Villainous Valor: Xaneth's crew look out for each other more than one would expect of evil people. For all Xaneth says he'll pull a You Have Failed Me on Sebastian, he still comes to his defense when necessary.
  • Villain Protagonist: With a title like True Villains, what can you expect?
  • Wicked Cultured: In Saga Three Sebastian and Elia infiltrate a formal party, when Sebastian tells her he can't dance she replies, "You're a villain now, learn to dance".
  • Worthy Opponent: The Paladin seems to view Sebastian as this.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: The Paladin's torturer can't bring himself to work on Mia, and getting an epic verbal beatdown from child!Bayn makes him quit.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Mia manages to kill Ritania by pretending to be an innocent victim of a monster attack (actually Amber). Subverted: Ritania decides it's worth the sacrifice of Mia's life to defeat the monster... partially because Mia went overboard with her storytelling and convinced her she was a chosen one of the god of silliness, destined to usher in an age of insanity and silly antics, which didn't appeal to Ritania at all.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Grey uses the broken end of his sword after Sebastian shattered it.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Persistent illusions (like the fake Chosen One) are illusions that have existed for so long that the world acknowledges them as real, meaning if the illusion kills you, you die.


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