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Webcomic / Unsounded

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Sette leads Duane around by a more literal leash than normal.

Duane: Consider it, Sette: If a tree could think thoughts, what might it value?
Sette: Your face.
Duane: Peace. Peace in which to thrive and grow. Acutely empathic, the beast will with hostility react to your hostility. Entreat it peacefully, however, and it will in like fashion answer.
Sette: Ugh, walky roots are STOOPID critters.
— Chapter 1

Unsounded is a Fantasy Webcomic by Ashley Cope set in a world quite unlike our own, containing multi-faceted cultures with deep and dark histories, strangely different laws of physics, and magic so commonplace it's called by a different name.

The main story revolves around rude, loud-mouthed Sette Frummagem, daughter of the Lord of Thieves. Sette is on a mission from her Da,' and she'll lie, cheat, and steal to make sure it's a success (she'll lie, cheat, and steal anyway). Condemned to aid her in her rotten endeavours is a rotten corpse by the name of Duane Adelier, who seems oddly talented with the supernatural, and oddly not laying motionless in the dirt.

Events are quickly complicated by the appearance of the "Red Berry Boys,” a gang of criminals who at first appear to be simple slavers, but are soon discovered to have a stranger and much more disturbing agenda. That agenda appears to have an uncanny number of connections to Sette's mission, and as such Sette inadvertently finds herself wrapped up in their schemes. It's not long before she and Duane are in over their heads and under fire from all sides. Priorities change from just carrying out her appointed task to living to see the next sunrise.

The road is long and no one is what they seem. Never trust a thief, and never trust anyone who won't let you look into their eyes.

The author has also written supplemental prose stories in the same universe, which can be found here.

This webcomic provides examples of:

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  • Abnormal Ammo: Abby is killed when she's hit with the spinning pymaric blade projectiles of a weapon at the shrine, leaving her in pieces.
  • Abomination Accusation Attack: Duane tells Sette he wants nothing more than to put her over his knee. She calls him a "child-lover"; to which he responds that she'd cure anyone of such a perversion.
  • Aborted Arc: Very early in the comic's run, on certain pages, the comic's "index" link would instead bring up letters written by a researcher who found Duane's journal, implying that the comic is (possibly) pieced together from his and other accounts. The letter-writer has the initials "M.A.", which stand for Mikaila Adelier, providing early foreshadowing for her survival. However, these letters were removed from the comic around the start of chapter 5, and the author has since stated that they are no longer canon due to later changes in the script.
  • Accent Interest: Duane's accent attracts unfriendly interest more than once because it marks him as a native of Alderode, an insular, xenophobic country that's currently escalating hostilities with its neighbours. His knee-jerk Patriotic Fervor whenever Alderode is criticized doesn't help either.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: The Khert, being both the infrastructure of Kasslyne's reality and a melting pot of every memory anyone has ever had.
    Murkoph: "It's too bright in here and the fish keep lookin' at me."
    Cope's commentary: "If heaven doesn't look like a psychedelic album cover I don't wanna go."
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
  • Agony of the Feet:
    • Bastion can't bring anything but his body (and the torque wound into it) along when offsetting, so he's almost always barefoot. He ends up having to stop and yank long needles of First Silver out of his feet when he steps on the sharp pieces.
    • Gefendur tradition states that Tirna's feet were cut by blades of grass when her siblings cast her to the physical world as punishment.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Ephsephin, who, after being critically injured, begs his boss, Starfish, for a doctor. Starfish instead decides his mook has outlived his usefulness and bashes his brains in with a whiskey bottle.
    • Stockyard, despite being a far less sympathetic person than the above. He has a rather drawn-out and horrific death, involving many sharp objects and ultimately decapitation, and just when we're starting to get the idea that he might have some redeeming qualities (he chases Starfish away from Sette, for one thing). Anadyne also unwittingly accelerates his death by trying to save him.
  • All There in the Manual: Sort of. There's a ton of miscellaneous information about the setting and characters on Ashley's Formspring and Unsounded's wiki and Tumblr.
  • Alt Text:
    • During Sette's fall into the khert in chapter 7, the tab's title changes to what appears to be her thoughts.
    • Used very specifically in chapter 14 to show that the Etalarche curse has officially been cast on Roger, with the forward arrow, backwards arrow, index button, the page itself, and even the page's tab gaining text giving reasons to hate and kill Roger.
    • In the Infinite Canvas page depicting Duane sinking down to find Sara's body in chapter 16, the page title changes to "I'll bail no more," reflecting that this event has forced Duane to change his outlook.
    • During the Flashback to Duane's murder in chapter 16, the page titles read "Death holds no dominion," serving as Five-Second Foreshadowing that Mikaila is not as dead as previously assumed.
  • Always Identical Twins: Apparently in the world of Unsounded, fraternal twins simply aren't a thing. This is relevant, as in the Gefendur faith, twins are considered sacred, but they are also subjected to a ritual where one of the twins will be ritually sacrificed and cannibalized at the age of 21 while the other twin will be a member of the clergy for the rest of their life. When twins are born to a Gefendur family, they are taken and raised in a shrine away from the rest of the world, and the parents are given living compensations until the ritual takes place. In supplementary notes, it is stated that in Alderode, Ssaelit families that have twins will do whatever they can to obfuscate this fact, making the twins look and dress differently as possible, for fear that Gefendur families will kidnap their children to take them away to Gefendur shrines. How much of this is Ssaelit propoganda is ambiguous.
    • According to this answer from the author, fraternal twins do exist in Kasslyne, but they're only considered "twins" by Gefendur if they're born the same sex.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Sara and Ilya both die during the attack on the shrine, leaving their sisters befret. Ilya's twin is shown curled up bawling and Siya is shown crying and lashing out in her grief.
  • Animals Hate Him: As noted by Duane about himself. Possibly because he's dead.
  • Ankle Drag: When Sette in her greed manages to actually tick off the Mamalen Entak trying to get at the supposed treasure inside, she hides from it behind a rock only for it to snake one of its limbs around an grab her by the ankle to drag her from her hiding spot. She ends up knocked out, bloody and only avoids death because she's traveling with a powerful wright.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: If the khert is broken, strange things happen. Like your cup of coffee freezing and suddenly wanting to be your friend.
  • Anti-Magic: There are a few things that can interfere with pymary;
    • "First Materials,” leftovers from when the gods created the world (or so the religions claim), are separate from the universal khert(having an internal khert of their own), and are therefore immune to normal magical manipulation. This immunity also allows them to disrupt pymary if they pass through the khert lines a wright is using.
    • The khert emanates from the ground, and becomes thinner farther away from it.
    • Overloading and irritating the local khert with heavy or badly-performed spells can make further manipulation of it more dangerous.
    • Since spells target objects according to their material, mixes of different materials can complicate matters.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Older members of the long-lived Alderish castes tend to speak like they're still a century behind.
  • Anyone Can Die: Up until the final chapters the main characters (roughly defined as Duane, Sette, Quigley, Matti, Toma, Elka, and Jivi) seemed to be safe, but anyone else... well. When the silver goes on the rampage in the Deadly Nevergreen there's quite a culling of the secondary cast, and with the Crescian army bent on incinerating the town to cover up their treachery, it looks like the body count hasn't stopped ticking up.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Perceptive glamours work this way; they make people perceive something in a certain way, but the specifics of that perception varies by individual. Duane looks different to everyone he meets, for instance, as does Bastion Winalils when he's under an illusion - which comes back to bite him when two observers realise what they're seeing doesn't match up...
  • Arc Words: Live in your best world. It's practically Sette's catch phrase, and even Duane comes around to appreciating the phrase. But while it starts off with a positive meaning, it starts to turn darker as both Duane and Sette begin to sit in denial over their situations and the consequences of their actions.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Duane cut off Petr's arm using the sharpness of Petr's own blade to cast.
    • Will's arm was bitten off by Lowing Shaensigin when Damphir tossed him into her mouth.
    • Ricker's badly damaged leg ends up tearing off when he tries to crawl away from the vengeful survivors of his attack.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: While Duane complains about the unfairness of lives spent struggling after talking like his time in the military was righteous Ilganyag asks him a question that stops his rant:
    Duane: Nothing Endures! And that panicked, sweaty cognizance makes good men into monsters.
    Ilganyag: How many "monsters" did you and your good men kill?
  • Arranged Marriage: In Alderode if a person hasn't gotten married by a certain age—which age depends on their caste—the elders of their gher push for their marriage and find them a partner as everyone but Third Options is expected to have children. Mathis and Vienne were put together even though Vienne didn't want to get married and Mathis would have liked to stay a loner, and neither (at first) wanted to have children.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Here (spoilery). And also here (even more spoilery).
    Toma: We can conclude dismemberment is habitual for him. He eats people too.
    Elka: Plus he didn't make his bed. Tch, what an asshole.
  • Artificial Limbs: Lost an arm? No problem. There's a whole range of simulacra. Including cigar-lighting, weaponized, and self-lubricating.
  • Art Evolution: Not very extreme, but the character outlines become thinner and the coloring and shading become more detailed as the story goes on. But overall, the characters all look pretty much the same from when they started, the overall style hasn't changed at all.
  • Art Shift:
  • Ass Shove: The prostitute Bastion is seeing gets pissed when he reveals he didn't bring any money since he can't take anything with him while offsetting. She yells at him to shove his wallet up his rear then, and he replies he's tried that; it just falls out when he shifts.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • Starfish finds Sette when Stockyard has her restrained to keep her from messing up his plans and starts lifting her shirt to undress and rape her. Stockyard enters his office to the scene and physically tosses Starfish out, who flees like the coward he is when faced with an opponent who isn't a child or already dying.
    • Sette thwarts Starfish's second attempt to rape her by stabbing him in the groin with her hidden knife, after making him think she was going to try and slash him with the knife on the floor.
    • Sette and Boo jump to the rescue as one Lion of Mercy is trying to rape Ilia and another has grabbed Sara and Siya. Boo breaks the would be rapist's neck and Sara and Sette badly hurt the other solider, before Boo and Mistress Lori finish him off.
  • Author Catch Phrase: Kind of. Ashley's typical response to people asking spoiler-y or story-related questions on her Formspring is simply "I wonder."
  • Auto Cannibalism: Murkoph does this to feed himself in the absence of other food sources. Due to his Healing Factor he can do this indefinitely.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Duane and Sette may spend the majority of their time together loudly complaining about each others unpleasant personalities and how much they wish to be rid of each others company, but a strong parental bond lies underneath it. Evidence for this pops up frequently.
  • Background Magic Field: The khert.
  • Bag of Holding: Duane's bag has a function that allows it to act like an little artificial dimension, though trying to put any people in it will kill them as explained in this author post.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: It's confirmed that Sette has no nipples or belly button.
    From author comment: "Legality"? I would never let issues of legality effect what I draw. Sette looks the way she looks because that's how she's supposed to look.
  • Bawdy Song: In chapter 14, Duane and Lemuel sing a song to the other soldiers in their unit about how Soud girls are better than girls from the other castes. It has everyone laughing. It's also very very dirty.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: While initially Duane went along with his younger plats' claims that Duane still hadn't "lost a lad" after Jon's death to appease and keep their spirits up over time he started believing it himself. This is part of why reexamining the memory with his new mind which won't let him gloss over things and let things fade into the fog of memory like a human mind sets him spiraling.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: In "The Deadly Nevergreen 42": When Mikalia told her father "You are a toad!", and he says "Of course it came to pass.". Sette thinks it was this trope, but he just turned green.
  • Big Bad: Averted. While there are several major antagonists (see Big Bad Ensemble, below), there's no all-encompassing villain. The author discusses the trope, and why this is the case in the story:
    From Author Comment: I have never personally liked the concept of the Big Bad. It’s not realistic, and it serves to exonerate us all of responsibility. In my view, we’re all heroes and villains both, to someone or other, all at the same time. [...] Duane’s Big Bad is Duane. Sette’s Big Bad is Sette. This is not to say that there aren’t really powerful and influential antagonists gunning for both of them, or that they aren’t unwilling participants in schemes they can’t even currently comprehend - but this is mostly background noise. The real villains they have to overcome are themselves.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: In the comic's early days, there was no clearly defined main villain, with Starfish, the leader of the Red Berry Boys, acting as The Heavy for the story. As time passed, more powerful antagonists have been introduced, and candidates for Big Bad include: Delicieu, the true mastermind of the First Silver weapon; General Bell, who's plotting to usurp his Queen and destroy Alderode; Queen Sonorie herself who's backing the amoral Black Tongue Brotherhood for mysterious reasons; Ruckmearkha, a manipulative senet beast who's playing both sides; and Murkoph, an undead psychopath imprisoned in the khert.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Hetr, who despite being little more than a Mook is convinced they will be regarded as a pivotal figure by future historians. This is ultimately spoofed with their Lame Last Words: quoth Emil, "Don't worry, no one's gonna look them up."
  • Big Damn Heroes: A couple... but most recently, Jivi and Uaid's entrance during an incredibly hopeless situation for Mathis Quigley and his son takes the cake.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Mikaila's father is brutally mugged and murdered on her birthday.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: Murkoph, an actual cannibal, making comments on eating orphans or greeting people by asking to take a bite comes off as comedy as he's trapped in the khert and can't actually get at anyone. For now.
  • Black Comedy Pet Death: Apparently Mikaila went through two squirrels and a rabbit before her parents called it quits on her having pets, with the implication she killed them trying to practice pymary, and Duane half-jokes that he's terrified she'll next try to cast on her baby brother.
  • Blackface: Played with in an offhand mention. In Cresce, since most of the population is black, apparently paleface is used by Crescian actors to portray white characters. Mentioned by Elka when talking to Quigley about a play about him.
  • Blessed with Suck: The Platinum Caste of Alderode have the strongest connection to the Khert, and produce the most powerful wrights - but this connection significantly shortens their lifespan; none of them live past thirty. Plat boys are very often conscripted to become Child Soldiers and get thrown into the meat grinder of war, and Plat girls don't even get to benefit from their relationship with the khert, since women aren't allowed to practise pyrmary in Alderode.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: When Ephsephin gets badly injured as Jivi escapes from the Red Berry Boys the crook begs his boss "Starfish" for a doctor. Instead Starfish beats his head in with a nearby bottle, which is later seen with bits of hair, gore and brain stuck to it.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Emil runs the image obsessed Hetr through after Hetr has just made a rather ridiculous sounding statement in his bragging Hetr manages to say Don't... let those be my last words... as he falls. Emil responds with Don't worry. No one's ever gonna look them up.
  • Breeding Slave: This is the fate of any woman in territory conquered by Alderode. After the dammakhert is 'installed'' and since any child conceived in the dammakhert is automatically sorted into one of the Aldish castes, the Alds instigate mass rape with the specific intention of breeding as many children as possible; both to replenish the castes back in Alderode and to erase the conquered people.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Lemuel never thought his brother perfect, but he thought him better than the rest of the cowards and liars of his squad. When Duane did not immediately correct the young plat soldiers assigned to him when they say he's still never lost a lad after Jon dies something died in Lemuel. Duane was just trying not to break the children's spirits and did not actually agree, but Lem has no insight into his mind and as a (now older) child soldier himself views things differently.
    • Duane always saw Lemuel as the ideal Ssaelit man, a strong warrior with a clear head who follows the teachings well. He stays in denial even after re-examining memories that paint Lemuel as a disturbed child soldier right up until he realizes Lemuel lied to him about Miki's death and was complicit in Duane's assassination and being turned into an undead abomination.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Sette.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Murkoph trying to talk his way out of the khert:
    Murkoph: "I g-gotta get out... and do ch-charitable, philanthropic works, y'know. Soup kitchens. O-orphans. Orphan soup..."
  • Breaking In Old Habits: See Artificial Limbs above.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • ...Possibly. In this page, Sette stares at the camera while thinking "Is someone there?,” which could be interpreted as her detecting the presence of the reader. Such a thing certainly isn't unprecedented at that point.
      • Word of God says that the scene is intentionally left vague, and that it's up to the reader to decide whether or not Sette's truly breaking the fourth wall.
    • On this page, Murkoph grabs a knife from the decorations outside the page and begins using it to cut off a piece of his thumb for a snack.
  • Brick Joke:
  • Brown Note: The weeping plague is spread by eye contact.
  • The Brute: Ephsephin.
    • This has been handed off to Knock-Me-Down after Ephsephin's death.
  • Burial at Sea: Since the khert does not extend over the sea the major religions of Kasslyne treat the sea as hell, and burial there is sacrilegious. Starfish once cut up a family and tossed them in the sea to ensure the authorities wouldn't find them.
  • Bury Your Gays:
    • The story features several explicitly queer characters, but as of chapter 16, only Bastion and Roger remain alive.
    • In the final chapter Roger is left brain dead, but Ufal is revealed to be in a commited relationship with another man.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ephsephin.
  • By the Hair: Siya grabs Sette by the hair and yanks her back to scream at her in her grief when Sette shows up yelling for Sara, Siya and Ruffles to try to protect them after Sara died.
  • Cain and Abel: It is heavily implied that Duane's brother Lemuel had some sort of role in Duane's death, though the only thing that is certain that it doesn't seem to have been out of malice or jealousy judging by how Lemuel was crying after his final conversation with Duane that day and how he took care of the resurrected Duane before the latter fled Alderode.
  • Call-Back:
  • Came Back Wrong: Timofey was actually Bastion's first attempt at resurrection. He spent years sounding the khert collecting memories he was certain were his sister's, and plugged them into a construct hoping that when he turned it on, the resulting personality would be hers. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
  • Canine Companion: Emil's loyal canine Pantoffel follows him and protects him through long journeys and battle.
  • Canis Major: "The giant dogs represent the defeat of leisure and fealty by the capitalist demands of poorly compensated labour– haha, no, that’s a lie. Who doesn’t like giant dogs?"
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes that Duane has the actual soul of a human being. They all believe him to simply be a fancy plod who either has a complex but entirely fabricated personality or else memories from the khert embedded in him. Even Sette believes him to simply be a not truly thinking and feeling being until she falls into the khert and witnesses Duane's final day, leading her to treat him rather cruelly until she realizes the truth. It helps that he is literally the very first person to have his soul bound to his already dead body.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Though there isn't any real danger from Duane, when he follows Quigley back to where Quigley was staying, Quigley casually informs the lady hosting him that Duane is undead, which disables Duane's glamour.
    Quigley: Forgive me, I've been tailed. The tall one is an undead monster. Is there any coffee?
  • Catapult Nightmare: Averted here.
  • Category Traitor: Ruffle's brother and the other older Inak in her village berate her for befriending humans, and when they lock her in a closet she reveals that by this point she wants to be human rather than Inak and sees herself as fitting in more with her human friends than her own people.
  • The Chain of Harm: Mathis Quigley gets insulted by Starfish, and later takes it out on his son. To be fair, he's under a lot of pressure, since Starfish may "forget" to pay him.
  • Censored Child Death: While there are child deaths shown there's a little girl during the culling of Ethelmik shown crying over her mother's corpse while one of Bell's zealots strides towards her hands glowing with deadly spellcraft.
  • Central Theme:
    • "Live in your best world." This is Sette's motto, and is exemplified by her literally scratching out and covering up panels of the comic to replace them with comforting lies. Though the rest of the cast is less blatant about it, all of them construct their own realities shaped by their own ideals and delusions, lying to themselves and each other. From our omniscient perspective as the audience, we can see the holes and contradictions in all of these "best worlds", causing both frustration and understanding when characters either entrench their delusions or fight their way out to confront the ugly truth of reality.
      Duane: Lucidity's overrated. Sette is wiser than she knows with her talk of best worlds.
    • "Yours is not a world of forevers." Death and the impermanence of existence is a recurring theme and struggle for the characters. This is best demonstrated by the Aldish castes, who are born with vastly shortened or extended lifespans, with the shorter-lived castes struggling to make the most of their limited time and the longer-lived castes nonetheless feeling that anything less than infinity is too short. This is also the motivation of Bastion, whose motto is "Death is the gods' crime."
      Bastion: Mortality makes beasts of us. It is not the senet beasts who deserve that designation. They swim through eternity with enviable dispassion. It's we spiderpaws who sink claws into each other, thrashing for purchase from a plummet into the void. Death is the gods' crime.
    • Relatedly, faith and spirituality. Religion is a driving motivation for many characters, and both major countries are theocracies. Is this noble, or a foolish delusion by men unable to accept the finitude of their existence?
      Sessine: Yours is not a world of forevers.
      Duane: God is forever.
    • Nature vs. nurture. Class divides feature prominently in the story, with many characters coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. It's easy to condemn the thugs of Sharteshane, but did they ever have another choice, or was the trajectory of their life inevitable from the raw hand they were dealt? Characters repeatedly struggle to either escape from or live up to their predecessors' expectations. The Aldish castes are once again an example of the theme, with their lifespans and societal roles determined by birth.
    • "Courage redeems this world." This is a motto of the Ssaelit faith, and Duane's motto as well. Courage and cowardice features prominently in major characters' actions: They often rise to great heroic actions while still cowering from their own insecurities by retreating into their "best world". The most prominent example of this is probably Emil Toma, a Knight in Shining Armor who never hesitates to run into danger... because he's running away from a tumultuous scandal with his divorcee, and leaving his daughter in the lurch.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: The world of Unsounded has giant dogs in place of horses; some breeds are used to pull carriages, while others are suitable as mounts.
  • Chekhov's Gag: They need a soundproof room. He's gonna be loud.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The exploding mechanical mousetraps Jivi uses in his first appearance are later slipped into Ephsephin's whiskey, which blow apart when they're inside him, giving Jivi a chance to escape captivity.
    • A woman trying to get her dog magically reddened is warned that any more enchantment could "damage the khert," but what this means is not explained, and it seems unimportant to the main plot. Until several strips later, that is, when Sette does just that.
    • The page header changes every few chapters; chapter 9's features a knife and a rope. Both of these items are later grabbed by supernatural entities who exploit the Infinite Canvas. Murkoph grabs the knife here, but he hasn't used it for anything significant yet. The First Silver monster possessing Toby's corpse grabs the rope here, which it uses to kill Stockyard.
    • When Sette briefly escapes the dangerous situation in the Nevergreen, she arms up, gathering explosives, Toby's cinquedea... and an innocuous thin-bladed dagger which she tucks up one sleeve. The latter comes in handy as she pulls it from her sleeve to deliver a very painful (and deserved) Groin Attack on Starfish.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Cutter. He at first just seems to be a weird, minor bit character tagging along with the Red Berry Boys, but at the climax of the first arc, he reveals himself as the mastermind behind the whole operation.
  • Child Eater: While Murkoph wouldn't visit upon children some of the horrible actions he's happy to inflict on adults he's got no problem with eating them. He's very hungry.
  • Children Are Innocent: Surprisingly, yes. The kids get along much more amicably than the adults because they lack understanding of adult fear, hatreds, hurts, and prejudices. Matty's biggest concern in any situation is not angering his father. Even Sette, who is hardly innocent in the conventional sense, is motivated by a childlike faith in herself, her mission, her father and the self-serving Frummagen nonsense he's stuffed into her head.
  • Child Soldiers: Alderode's army recruits plat children for the front lines, to Cresce's disgust. Even extremely young plats naturally have a stronger connection to the khert than the most gifted soud wright in centuries. It's implied that older plats work in safer conditions, but the less skilled children aren't as valuable.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • The end of chapter 4 is almost literal. Duane has taken a dive off a cliff, and Sette prepares for one-on-one combat with Ephsephin. This is resolved in chapter 5 by revealing that Sette failed disastrously in her fight, but Duane was fine and just needed some time to climb back up.
    • The end of chapter 9 (also the end of volume 3) has one for just about every subplot. A servant eavesdropped on Toby's traitorous conversation with Ana, The silver is growing out of control, Elka is moments away from decapitation, and Sette and Duane are captured by Stockyard's crew. The third one is quickly resolved in chapter 10 by revealing that Elan was just out of frame the whole time, and pulls a Big Damn Hero to save Elka.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Ephsephin.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The major-character wrights have a particular color attached to most of their spells: Duane's are green, Quigley's are blue, and Anadyne's are purple. When they steal each other's spells, though, the colors can get mixed or rearranged. And Duane's spells seem to turn red when things get serious.
  • Comfort the Dying: Duane arrives at the Red Berry Boys hideout in time to find Cara cut open and dying on the table. He tries to heal her and comfort her, but she's ready to die and be with her parents and passes quickly.
  • Comically Inept Healing: When Sette bites off Vanilla's finger Stockyard dismisses Vanilla's cries for help with;
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: In the Gefendur religion twins are taken from their parents, placed in service to a temple and, when they turn 22, one of them is ritually killed and cannibalised. The twins themselves not only know this is going to happen but are fully aware which one of them is going to get the chop, and they regard it as a great honour. However the practice of 'kept twins' does creep out otherwise devout believers, such as Sette, Matty and Jivi.
  • Conlang: Tainish is a pretty elaborate invented language, and Ashley will often give translations when it's used on page though some readers are starting to be able to guess at what was said. Old Tainish is less built, though Ashley has given out lists of vocab.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: Lady Rilursa is very publicly attacked and assassinated by (hired) inak during her diplomatic visit to Sharteshane. This is because her death was framed as an inak uprising, and was meant to trigger unrest between humans and inak in Cresce.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: There's a wild-haired unwashed fellow in Mulimar who has drawn up his ideas on a wall that he stands before while proclaiming the Aldish eat their "lesser breeds" for immortality, and that they're pushing south because they're running out and need more victims. Even with the dislike of the Aldish everyone dismisses him as crazy.
  • Contraception Deception: Vienne and Mathis had discussed children and both declared they didn't want any and that to have them was to fall for the party line, so when Vienne got pregnant Mathis comforted her assuming it was unwanted and she'd be needing an abortion. She decided to keep it without contradicting him resulting in a son.
  • Cope by Pretending: Daddy's Little Villain Sette doesn't so much hide from things like being Ambiguously Human and her fears that she's an Inadequate Inheritor as she purposely creates a reality where those things aren't issues.
    Sette: I'm the best liar to ever climb to the highest peak of Mt. Bloodbasin.
    Duane: The volcano? Without shoes?
    Sette: I didn't really climb it.
    Duane: Then why did you—
    Sette: Because I'm the best liar! Lyin' ain't about lyin', it's about pickin' the best world and livin' in it, no matter what.
  • Creepy Child: The Plat children that Duane led during the Aldish civil war aren't...quite right in their heads. A combination of being put on the front lines of combat despite some of them not even being 10 years old and their short lifespans cause them to alternate between being utterly adorable and completely offputting. The biggest example would be when they attempt to cheer up Duane at the end of Ch.14. They say that his reputation of never having lost a lad is still unblemished because Jon, Duane's second in command who was bisected, was 18 (out of the average plat lifespan of 30 years). To them, he was old. So they cheerfully sing about how Duane has never lost a lad yet while Duane stares on in despair.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: When Murkoph attacks Duane and Sette in the khert Duane picks Sette up and runs, though his mind isn't clear and he's not sure which kid he's protecting from which danger.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Getting core leeched is a horrible way to die. It involves having a vital aspect of your physical makeup removed from your body by a wright. The khert then sees the rest of you as incomplete material and then painfully dissolves the rest of your body. It is 100% fatal.
  • Cult of Personality: Queen Maharaishala Sonorie of Cresce is extremely popular among her people, controls the press and has her portrait above an offering table in homes and shrines across the country. The near worship of the queen is not universal, there are plenty who are upset with her because she is not more on their northern neighbor, but it is very prevalent. She works hard to maintain her kind ethical motherly image and hides the less savory work she oversees.
  • Cultural Cringe: Quigley has no love for any government, but he despises the one of his homeland he once worked for and which killed his wife the best;
    "'Son of Alderode.' Ha, son of Alderode! I'd rather be son of a whore. Alderode is a Hell."
  • Cultured Badass: Duane, an extensively educated spellwright and cleric with a love of the opera. Also Quigley.
  • Curse Cut Short: Subverted here.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Gold/Soud caste, who are unaffected by the Dhammakhert in Alderode. Their countrymen distrust and look down on them because they can't be read through the khert, but it also means they can't be 'stung' and captured by the government, or have their minds twisted and warped into wanting to kill a particular person should someone cast the Etalarche curse.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sette rants at a sister-brother pair (even calling them "stupid damsels in distress") who were being menaced by some ruffians because they didn't do anything. In their defense, the sister did actually try to fend them off with a sharp "rat-poker" immediately before Duane and Sette arrive at the scene.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Though a suave and cocksure individual in the present day, Bastion had a truly horrific childhood. He ran away from his home in Alderode after the Weeping Plague tore through his family and killed his beloved older sister; he ended up with the Black Tongues... where he was apprenticed to a sociopathic sadist who alternately tortured and whored him out, with the full intention of killing him once he outlived his usefulness. His only friend throughout this period was fellow test subject Prakhuta, who ended up an Omnicidal Maniac driven insane by Delicieu's alterations to his soul. Bastion still ended up with a lot of issues, but it's a miracle he held on to any morality or sanity at all.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Duane is one of the walking dead. He is also arguably one of the most decent people in the comic.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Sette cut up the pet rat of one of her da's gang members and put it in his soup after he harassed her to get him to leave her be.
  • Dead Guy on Display:
    • In Alderode political dissidents are publicly strung up to be tortured and executed, and kept in hanging cages over the punishment pits. Those executed are held up to show the public what should happen if they try to fight the Vits Council.
    • The Black Tongues dress the skeletons of their order's deceased leaders in robes and suspend them with pymary over their headquarters.
  • Dead Hat Shot: The love hotel hostess with the distinctive tentacle hat is seen looking up as one of Bell's butchers enters the front door. Later her hat lays on the ruined desk she was sitting behind when Bastion is walking through the ruins of Ethelmik.
  • The Dead Have Eyes: Duane's eyes may be artificial pymarics, but they look realistic enough for the trope to apply to his un-glamoured face.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • Duane and Lemuel were raised by their father and grandfather after their mother died of complications giving birth to Lemuel. Lem's guilt over it manifested in nightmares where people would blame him for killing his mother.
    • Karl brings up the fact that women die in childbirth all the time when discussing how he's going to kill his wife once he's secured a noble title through marrying her.
  • Death Glare: Sette aims a pretty vicious one at Duane here.
  • Death of a Child: Kids have no special protection in Unsounded. Besides the numerous off-screen deaths caused by the Red Berry Boys, we have to witness the death of Cara in the very second chapter. It gets worse once we get a good look at Alderode, which uses Child Soldiers; Duane himself gruesomely kills some in chapter 14.
  • Deal with the Devil: Roger Foi-Hellick makes an agreement with Shaensigin, a powerful senet beast, to learn how to destroy the Dhammakhert in exchange for bringing her two toes, who she considers her children (and they consider her mother). She tells him that he must cause enough unrest in Alderode for them to cast the Etalarche curse on him, which will infect the country's population with a Hate Plague that specifically targets him. She neglects to tell him until after the curse is cast that the next step involves having his soul melted and dissected to learn the method of destroying the Dhammakhert, which will destroy his memories so thoroughly they will be unable to return to the khert as they normally would when one dies. Roger is not happy when he finds this out.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Bigotry abounds in the world of Unsounded, even in the majority of the 'good' characters.
    • Alderode has enforced religious equality, but it also has an ironclad caste system based on hair color. People of different classes are segregated and forbidden from marrying each other or interbreeding, they're expected to take stereotypical careers and the Gold and Bronze castes are heavily discriminated against. (The castes have real physiological differences: the upper caste, the Coppers, has a lifespan of centuries and almost no talent with pymary. The lower class, the Plats, die before 30 and are the most skilled wrights in the world...but this just means the Alderode government trains up Plat boys as Child Soldiers to get the most use out of them. This isn't a natural state of affairs: the castes are reinforced by an artificial khert and the laws against mixed-caste marriage.) It also has ubiquitous sexism, with women being barred from the public sphere and from practicing pymary in all but the rarest circumstances; and homosexuality, if not outright persecuted, is at least severely frowned upon.
    • Cresce is an honest-to-Twins communist state with social equality—but the people living there have no autonomy, the whole system only works because the two-toe lizards are forced to take the worst jobs that humans don't want to do and are one degree away from slaves, and the minority religion's members are ruthlessly hunted down and killed.
    • Every nation (excluding the Ssaelists of Alderode) practice the ritual sacrifice and cannibalization of twins, believing that twins are beloved by the Gefendur gods, and that the sacrificed twin is freed from the endless cycle of reincarnation, staying at the gods' sides. The surviving twin spends the rest of their life as a member of the clergy, taking care of other twin children until their turn comes at adulthood in shrines separate from society. The Ssaelists of Alderode find this practice abhorent and whenever they give birth to twins, they do everything they can to make the twins appear not to be out of the belief that Gefendur believers will steal the children away to be taken to a shrine, a belief that may or may not be Ssaelist propoganda.
    • Everyone hates the two-toed lizards. Everyone. Alderode doesn't basically enslave them like the Cresians do, but that's likely largely due to the absence of Two-Toe population in Aldeorde. At least one said lizard decides to fight back, but since everyone is indirectly responsible for the current state of the two-toes, he just starts killing everybody.
  • Destructive Saviour: While the Deadly Nevergreen was badly damaged prior to Sette's rescue of the survivors of Cutter's attack her rescue—overloading the locks controlling the underground river system used for smuggling beneath the building—had the whole building collapse.
  • Did You Die?: Played with. When Duane is telling a group of two toes and 2 Crescian twins about a story from his time in the military, one of the Crescian girls asks him if he died when he and most of the rest of his unit fell into a large pit. As he is undead and they know it, it is a fair question, but that was not where he died.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Duane and Sette break into the Red Berry Boys' hideout while the criminals are cutting open Cara to smuggle First Silver in her. They flee and leave the young girl to bleed out, and Duane arrives in time to try and fail to heal her, cradling her as she dies and murmurs innocent reassurances.
  • Died on Their Birthday: Duane Adelier and his daughter are both brutally murdered by a group of muggers on the daughter's birthday. One of the last things Duane saw before his eyes were gouged out was his daughter's lifeless corpse lying in front of him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jivi's mother is at sea but she was seen in the dream Jivi was having when he was introduced, and is mentioned a few times, he brings up the uncle he was living with before running but his father isn't mentioned. At Litrya Shrine someone finally asks after his father, and his response is that his dad is "super dead".
  • Disconnected by Death: When Elka uses the chirography in Ethelmik to call for backup and inform the capitol of the situation the operator on the other end gets stabbed from behind by General Bell in his effort to cover up his involvement in the smuggled silver. He then tries to cover up the splatter that was transmitted as an ink spill when he finishes off the message trying to manipulate Elka but Elka knows better.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Starfish, smiles mildy while beating Ephsephin's head in.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Starfish tries to reassure Quigley that the victims he wants Quigley to help him smuggle are doing more good than they would otherwise, since they're all runaways, vagrants and whores. Quigley is unimpressed though agrees to work with Starfish anyway for more money, and an agreement that he gets the kids once the trip is over. He quickly realizes all but Jivi are actually beyond saving.
  • Disposable Woman:
    • Quigley's wife Vienne, who exists primarily to be his Cynicism Catalyst. A prose prequel gives her A Day in the Limelight. Played with, in that it's later revealed Quigley himself sold her out to the Aldish state, making her death much less sympathetic for him than was previously assumed.
    • Subverted with Duane's daughter Mikaila. Once again, her death exists as a Cynicism Catalyst that cements his hatred against Cresce, as he believes they were involved in the assassination. However, 9 chapters and ten real-life years later, it's revealed that she in fact survived, and she herself was shaped by the mistaken belief that Duane died that night.
    • Darkly lampshaded with Sara, whose death triggers a personal epiphany for Duane. Lori immediately snaps that she was "meant for more than teaching some ghoul how to see children as children" and didn't exist for his sake.
    • Gender flipped with Anadyne. Her boyfriend Toby and cousin Stockyard both die shortly after their introductions, providing the Cynicism Catalyst that pushes her to fuse with the First Silver monster.
  • Divine Incest: The four creator gods are imagined as siblings; two of them are married, and one version of the Creation Myth takes a decidedly physical interpretation of their activities. Being very much not Physical Gods, the incest element isn't seen as applicable.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Surely Cutter, the weird, rhyming, over-the-top lizard man, couldn't be the engineer behind the Fantastic Nuke! But he is, and a member of the Black Tongues to boot.
  • Doomed Hometown: Ruffles' home Inaktown was inadvertently destroyed by Waumsresh when he triggered a self destruct spell to destroy a Crescian weapons facility and the Aldish troops who'd slaughtered the inak rebels when they tried to help the Alds inside. He claims it a victory while sobbing when as far as he knows he was the only survivor.
  • Driven to Madness: The Horror Hunger and feeling of his flesh rotting and being eaten by maggots drove Duane to mindlessly flee his home after being raised from the dead, though he's put his mind back into a semblance of order by the time the story starts.
  • Dropping the Bombshell: During a One Scene, Two Monologues moment, Sette gets Duane's attention by screaming "I saw the Crescians kill you and Mikaila!"
  • Drowning Pit: When the self-destruct spell for the caverns beneath Litriya Shrine is set off the cavern containing Inaktown starts filling with water from the nearby river. Most of those inside were killed when the spell first went off and blew the walls, but by the time Duane tries to save those still there the cavern has filled entirely and there are no survivors left inside.
  • Dying Declaration of Hate: Those Alishmen in the presence of someone under the Etalarche Curse are filled with an all encompassing loathing for them and will try to kill them even if they have no way of even touching them and will merely kill themselves. Vampire's last words, to their cursed lover Roger after coming under sway of the curse and end up killed in self defense are;
    "I'll stomach it no longer! I'll abide this face no longer!"
  • Dying Town: The Crescian town of Ethelmik began to fail when its mines ran dry, leaving it vulnerable to foreign gangsters like Stockyard Frummagem. At the time of the comic, the citizens are being relocated by the communist State of Cresce, and those who remain are massacred by a rogue Crescian general in a False Flag Operation.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: A small example, but in flashbacks near the start when we can only Nary Frummagem's hands, they look rather thick as though belonging to someone with a stocky build. However, when we later see all of Nary, he's rather slim and gaunt.
  • Easter Egg: Some pages have additional bits "hidden" on them, usually in the form of a text bonus (in-universe newspapers, letters, journal entries, etc.)
  • Eaten Alive: Duane is usually pretty good about restraining himself before he loses consciousness at night, but one night when Sette moved him after he started slipping Turas entered the room to an unrestrained hungry zombie and was messily eaten alive. Duane was grossed out in the morning when he saw the ruined mess of a man and had to pry open his bandages to dump Turas' innards out.
  • Eldritch Ocean Abyss: Scripture teaches that the ocean floor — which is cut off from the Background Magic Field and therefore the afterlife as they understand it — is where the Gods built Hell, for the souls of the damned to be trapped in the frigid, crushing dark for all eternity.
  • Elemental Weapon: Keon has a spear pymaric loaded up with an electrical aspect, he's made is so fancy that it looks like it has a set of ghostly lightning teeth hovering in front of the spear tip.
  • Embarrassingly Painful Sunburn: Matty is very pale and ends up with an intense painful sunburn after he plays in the sun with Jivi and Sette. Sette offers him a (fake) sunburn cure if he trades her his sight aid and draws an eel with the pressure of her finger on his back.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ephsephin worries about being caught because they'll hang him in the town square where his mother will see.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Sette: "Politicks is a branch've roguery even Da don't abide."
    • Stockyard physically throws Starfish out the door when he catches him trying to molest Sette.
      Stockyard: "This... is for makin' me touch you."
    • Despite his questionable morals and role in Duane's assassination, Bastion did not hesitate to heal Mikaila after they were hurt by collateral damage. Whatever his other flaws, he takes his role as a doctor very seriously.
      • Additionally, the Mook who accidentally stabbed Mikaila in the first place looks extremely remorseful in the same scene, and calls for Bastion's help again when it looks like they're reopening their wounds.
  • Evil Counterpart: Duane may be flawed, but he tries to do what's right by his standards and abhors the deaths of innocents. Murkoph, the only other walking dead man with his memories and soul, is a monstrous cannibal and rapist who revels in it. To make the comparison more explicit Duane is shown with his face paint as a priest in life right before Murkoph, who has carved the same design into his face in some parody of piety, shows up for the first time.
  • Exact Words: "Kill me? A perplexing command."
  • Extinct in the Future: Since the Ssaelit religion adopted the lion as a symbol of their Deity of Human Origin's martyrdom and ascension, the rival Gefendur church hunted lions to extinction in an unsuccessful attempt to demoralize them.
  • Eye Scream: Duane's assassins stab his eyes out with a dagger.
  • Face Death with Despair: Stockyard starts off as an imposing and dignified crime boss. He dies while blubbering about his father and begging for a child to save him while the smoke eels in the area mock him using his own memories.
  • Fainting: Bastion passes out when Ilganyag strangles him for daring to question her plan, when he's starting to realize he's being used to carry out genocide, as he slips unconscious she acts like he's just passing out because he needs rest as she tells him to sleep.
  • Family Honor: Mistress Lori is considered bad luck, and others blame the attack on the shrine on the gods' displeasure that she was made Mistress, because her twin sister ran away and refused to be publicly drugged, butchered and eaten as a sacrifice. Lori makes a comment about Iori "abandoning" her, despite Iori keeping in touch with her sister, for having chosen to live and making Lori's sheltered and wealthy life a tiny bit more difficult since some people view her with mistrust because her sister wasn't sacrificed.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: If you thought Ephsephin getting his brains smashed out was bad, just wait until Zombie-Duane shreds Turas apart and messily devours half of him. Both of these get a Gory Discretion Shot; but in the latter case, Sette walks in on the aftermath, which is shown in gruesome detail.
  • Fan Disservice: In the flashback showing Vienne's torture and murder, her executioners are depicted symbolically as disgusting, inhuman monsters with More Teeth than the Osmond Family and visible genetalia. According to the author, this was an intentional defiance of how such scenes of women's vulnerability are often sexualized in other media.
  • Fantastic Drug: Many, the most common being "purple weed", which has similar effects to cannabis and is widely smoked in lieu of tobacco, as well as the stimulant krrf. The magical steroid "glut" is smoked for a temporary high and a boost in muscle growth, with prolonged use causing distinctive gigantism. This is why Bell is so large.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Hedgeapples are a common fruit, often used as an ingredient in bigger dishes. They're round with little nodules and light colored flesh and taste like woody pears.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The allepakh (literally "juicer") is a scaled-up Limited-Use Magical Device that discharges a liquefying spell from its point of impact. The Background Magic Field reflexively heats every affected substance to its natural melting point, causing a regional Magic Misfire that further destabilizes reality and shuts down other magic, destroying a square half-mile with the initial blast not counting further destruction via fire. What's particularly insidious is that the heat produced is technically a physical change, allowing it to bypass Anti-Magic protections.
    Elka: Whole area becomes... foul, boiling, dead soup. On fire.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Aldish society is divided into People of Hair Color.
      "Caste diversity equals Aldish strength. Caste purity equals Aldish power."
    • Most people look down on the reptilian two-toes, seeing them as dull, thieving pests. After humans tore down their homes for First Materials, banned their religions, and turned them into second-class citizens forced to only take menial jobs, most two-toes have no love for spiderpaws either.
  • Fantastic Slur:
    • "Pissmop" is one for Souds, an Aldish caste identified by their blonde hair.
    • "Insect" is one for the short-lived Hethllot. Quigley rebels against this by giving his custom spells insect themes.
    • The "two-toes" respond in kind by referring to the gangly, many-fingered humans as "spiderpaws.”
  • Fantastic Underclass: The two-toe lizard folk were driven from their underground homes after a disastrous first contact and now live on the margins of human society with none of the rights of citizenship, doing menial work. It goes From Bad to Worse when they're scapegoated for Princess Rilursa's murder and subjected to mass internment.
  • Fantasy: Quite. Beyond that, however, it doesn't readily fit into any of the subgenres. It could probably be best described as "Low Fantasy, high magic.”
  • Fartillery: A stormy farts a lightning bolt at Captain Hetr while he yells at it and its brethren for being obscene and causing a supernatural storm. NSFW
  • Fat Bastard: Starfish and Delicieu.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Duane could feel himself rotting after he became a galit. This is on top of all the other horrific things he has to deal with as part of being a zombie. In addition to that, zombies are a blasphemous abomination in his religion, so it's the rough equivalent of a devout Christian being turned into a slavering Satanic demon.
    • The people in the silver cart are still alive even after being turned into this, since it feeds on their suffering.
    • The fate that awaits Roger Foi-Hellick is this. He is allowing himself to be fed on by Ruckmearkha, an efheby whose venom is dissolving Roger's soul into spiritual soup that can be dissected and analyzed by Cresce's pymaric scientists so that they might be able to create a countermeasure to Alderode's Dhammakhert. What's particularly terrifying is that the memories consumed by Ruckmearkha are permanently lost, and won't be remembered by the khert when he does die. Oh, and all the time leading up to his soul being dissected when he's repeatedly being injected with the venom is no picnic either.
      • Even before that, being subjected to the Etalarche curse means that all Aldish people (save for the Soud caste) are compelled to violently hate him and want to kill him on sight. Including his lover, Mallory.
  • Fed to Pigs: Sette makes a joke about body disposal, saying "In Sharteshane pork eats you."
  • Feed It a Bomb: Beadman's Better Rat Traps work by blowing up after being eaten. Jivi later escapes imprisonment by feeding Ephsephin a bunch of them. In a subversion, this does not actually kill the target immediately; he has to be finished off later.
  • Fictional Currency:
    • The standard currency on Kasslyne is the "sem", a coin that's minted from various metals. People might specify the metal à la "gold sem" or leave it implicit, much like "two-fifty" could mean $2.50 or $250.00 in context.
    • Cresce is a communist state that abhors money, so citizens who produce beyond their required quotas earn Labour Points instead. These magic coins are keyed to the earner's aura so that they can't be spent by anyone else.
  • Fictional Document: The author cheekily claims that she has lots of information on the setting, but much of isn't in English and she hasn't scanlated it all.
  • Fighting Back Is Wrong: A frustrated Jivi is unnecessarily cruel to Sette and embarrasses her in front of a bunch of other kids, she responds in kind and a deeply upset Matty makes it clear that being mean and then being mean in response is an endless cycle that he wants no part of.
  • Fingore: When one of Stockyard's prostitutes acts rude and condescending to Sette while pointing her finger a little too close to Sette's face, Sette responds by biting the tip of her finger off.
  • Flashback Cut: Used to show Duane's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in chapter 7, here. Technically counts as a Flashback Within a Flashback, too, as chapter 7 is a Whole Episode Flashback.
    • Also used to show what happened after Duane's reanimation, here.
  • Flat "What": Duane's reaction to his daughter Mikaila asking him if he thinks "Will is cute.”
    • This is also Quigley's reaction to Starfish calling him useless in chapter 6.
  • Flaying Alive:
    • An Inak in the Crescian capitol who is being forced into an internment camp claws at a soldier who jabbed him in the head with a spear, knocking him to the ground and drawing blood. A mage in the crowd reacts by ripping the inak's skin off and throwing him to the mob.
    • Magus spells Eustace's skin off, he seems to still be alive when he falls through the door to Duane, but he'd dead by the time he tumbles down the rudimentary stairs.
  • Forced to Watch: Chitz, Matty's sight aid, can't be turned off. So, just For the Evulz, Starfish holds it in such a way that Matty is forced to watch Anadyne attempt to kill his father.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: Right as the self destruct spell is activated, but before it goes off and blows Inaktown's walls up, a bunch of beetles flee the cavern.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Subverted when Sette calls a pair of war criminals trying to rape her friends by a slur for them in Tainish, it's translated and shown in brackets. The author later confirmed that she yelled "Padopa!" at the soldiers in their native language rather than "Pissmop" as shown.
  • Foreshadowing: Subtle visual foreshadowing and metaphors are common.
    • In chapter 14 page 49, there is a statue of a man preaching to seven children, but one of the statues is broken in half. Later in the chapter, Jon — the seventh of Duane's Plat soldiers — is killed by a pymaric attack that cuts him in half.
    • In the final panel of chapter 16 page 59, Sara and Ilya's heads are obscured by the axe of the approaching soldier. Both of them die later in the chapter.
    • The reveal that Mikaila is alive and well at present day is heavily foreshadowed. When Bastion recounts to Rahm his involvement in Duane's assassination, he notes he was nearly killed by an Aldelier who wasn't Duane, and visually we see him being caught in some sort of explosion. One might assume Lemuel was the culprit, but such an attack wouldn't really be his style (aside from his lack of pymaric ability). And chapter 16 is chocked full of hints that one of Lemuel's young co-pilots is in fact Mikaila, which is revealed to be true when she attempts to use pymary on Duane, not realizing who he is, and the pymary is colored green just like Duane's.
  • Formulaic Magic: Pymaric spells are essentially programs spoken to the Khert in the Old Tainish language, complete with the potential for catastrophic glitches if functions are incorrectly described.
  • For Science!: The ethos of the Black Tongues, spellwrights who want the freedom to practice pymary however they want. Some work for the betterment of mankind; some dismantle infants.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Sette and Duane are ostensibly the "main" viewpoint characters and do get most of the screentime, but there are several secondary protagonists and plot threads the story alternates between as well. In some chapters, such as chapter 13, Duane and Sette actually get a minority of screentime.
  • Frame Break: Particularly momentous events spill over the sides of the comic.
  • Freaky Funeral Forms: The two main religions feel this way about each other. Gefendur bury their dead to return them to Mother Yerta and abhor Ssaelit cremation rituals as destroying a divine gift. Ssaelit cremate their dead to spare them from decay, which they see as one mark of the dead Gods' tyranny, and believe that burial jeopardizes the soul's reincarnation.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Quigley is well aware he's done something inexcusable, though as he says in Orphans the consequences of his actions were not what he thought they would be, they were much worse and have made him a death seeker ever since. What drove him to his panicked decision is understandable, if not excusable, especially since he'd deluded himself about what would happen but there are many who feel he came out of the thing a tragic hero which pisses him off to no end.
  • From Bad to Worse: While at the Crescian monastery, Duane learns from one of the waterwomen that some of their kind are being held within, so he goes snooping around for them. The first one he finds is a dead a decomposing child held in a tank. Around this point he starts losing his mind as night is starting to fall, meaning he has all of the rage from finding the dead child but none of his normal sanity to hold his anger in check. Then when Sette tries to drag him to a secluded spot, they get separated by the dinner procession of all of the children at the monastery going to dinner. She is unable to get back to him (partially due to getting distracted by talk of a play about the gods being put on my the children) before he sets a painting on fire and nearly kills the lady in charge of the monastery.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Subverted. Though she sees it as this, Sette outright lied and misled Duane to get him closer to Cresce than he would normally have agreed to.
  • Frustrated Overhead Scribble: When one of Stockyard's prostitutes has his cigarette stolen and is ordered to keep searching for Sette his irritation with the situation is exemplified by the thick black scribble in his speech bubble as he walks away.
  • Functional Magic: Sorcerers are called "wrights" (short for "spellwright"). Seems accessible enough that one of the mooks could use it while reading an instruction manual. Specifically, pymary is Rule Magic —it's controlled by speaking a Language of Magic with lots of rules and limitations that must be strictly adhered to.
  • Funetik Aksent: Sette's occasionally incomprehensible accent is a source of reader rage.
  • Funny Background Event:
  • Gag Penis: When stormies bother to fully materialize they've got dongs near as long as their legs. One smushes his against Uaid's windshield interrupting a conversation Duane and Quigley were having about the moon, by blocking their view of the moon. Duane asks if this is what it means to be cock-blocked. Another uses theirs to hit Keon in the head and knock him out of a fight.
  • Gambit Pileup: Seems like everybody is hatching up some complex plot which will inevitably come into conflict with each other.
    • In Alderode, there is a conspiracy involving Duane's murder, and it is heavily implied the Ald leadership wants to use Duane's death as justification to purge the religion of Gefendur from Alderode.
    • In Cresce, Queen Sonorie is secretly using Ruckmearkha's venom to literally melt Roger's soul in the hopes that she can find a way to counter Alderode's pymary. Meanwhile, General Bell is exploiting Sonorie's increasing unpopularity to stage a coup against her, believing she is too soft against Alderode.
    • In Sharteshane, Beadman is eager to remove Sonorie from the picture, as he believes she will destablize the stalemate between Cresce and Alderode that Sharteshane has profited greatly from. To this end, he has been secretly supporting General Bell's coup by providing him the tainted silver and using two-toes to assassinate Sonorie's sister, weakening her line of succession as well as causing massive civil unrest as Cresce initiates a fresh wave of discrimination against the two-toes.
    • For the Black Tongues, with their power and influence waning with the disappearance of Ilganyag, they have decided to renounce their vow of neutrality and have offered their services to Sonorie in return for legitimization. Winails is greatly opposed to this, and Duane is apparently key to his plans to stop them. Meanwhile, Prakhuta takes control of the tainted silver and plans to use it to not just destroy Alderode, but all of humanity in revenge for the discrimination they have subjected the two-toes to.
    • The senet beasts meanwhile have their own plans. Ruckmearkha is playing both Sonorie and Bell against each other purely for the enjoyment factor to see what happens. He's also greatly interested in Duane's nature as a self-aware plod, which is something he has never seen before. Meanwhile, Ilganyag is apparently trying to seduce Duane, as he seems to be the key to allowing her to finally escape the khert.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Duane demonstrates this before a pair of slavers, predicting their fates due to their role in the story.
    • Knock-Me-Down:
    "I got a policy of kids not watchin' me crash their parents. In ten years a masked avenger'll show up to ruin me day."
  • Gentle Giant: Uaid, the giant hollowed-out hill ogre of the Quigleys.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: An antagonistic woman unwisely points her finger inches away from Sette's face while delivering what she considers a Breaking Speech. Sette bites it off.
  • Gorn: Cope really loves her gore. The gore does tend to be more for dramatic or horrifying purposes than pure excitement, but it does dip into this occasionally.
    From Author Comment: Viscera are beautiful. I think we're lucky to have such pretty insides :3
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: How Cutter's silver is stopped (for now).
  • Glamour Failure: Glamours are relatively commonly used pymary, but they all tend to be rather fragile. For instance, Duane has employed two forms of pymary throughout the series, the first form he used only works as long as he avoids eye-contact, causing him to remain hooded at all times with the hood drawn low. The second method he employs later at Sette's insistence allows for eye contact, however it only works on the unknowing. If someone is told that he is using a glamour, they can see right through it. We see Bastion use a third method which draws features from the people around him that appears differently for anyone viewing him. He gets caught when people start talking about him and all describe him with completely different features and even skin color.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Etalarche Curse is so fundamentally vile and damning that it took a theocratic police state 10 years of political debates before they could stomach using it on an extremely effective rebel leader. It is so seldomly used that it has only been cast less than 12 times in the entirety of history, with it's namesake, the grandson of Ssael himself, being the very first victim.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Sneaking into Duane's room to kidnap Sette is a bad idea. Would have been a Sound-Only Death if not for the soundproofing.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: On the day Duane was assassinated graffiti saying March On, for the Aldish rebel group the March, had to be washed off the wall around the gher he lived in.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Stockyard, until chapter 9 when Sette confronts him directly. However, this comes with the reveal that he is, himself, small fry, and that there are villains of even greater scope afoot. There are also hints that someone named "Delicieu,” a member of the Black Tongues, is heading the Red Berry Boys operation. He too is confronted directly at the climax of the first arc, and he too hints at the existence of greater villains.
    • The Greater-Scope Villain of the second arc is General Kima Bell of Cresce, who is sponsoring the First Silver Fantastic Nuke to escalate the war between Cresce and Alderode behind the queen's back. As the protagonists are far from the capital, they can't confront him directly, but they do have to deal with the consequences of his warmongering.
  • Greed: The dangers of giving in to greed show up and are pointed out time and again. In Cresce greed is illegal, technically, as regular money is outlawed and people are to use labour points to purchase things, yet their nobility is still far more wealthy than the supposedly fairly treated laborers.
    • Quigley's fatal flaw is his susceptibility to greed. Even though he, Uaid and Matty are on the run from the Aldish and Crescian governments and he's disgusted by Starfish he's talked into smuggling Starfish and his cargo into Cresce despite having promised his son they'd go to Sharteshane and keep away from both superpowers that want his construct, and his head.
    • Human greed is what destroyed the Inak homelands. When they were unearthed they had many first materials, so people killed them and destroyed their villages for it. Then forced the survivors to convert to their religion and be second class citizens treated like slaves.
    • Though Rahm is showing his own hypocrisy at the time he points out to Quigley that greed has consequences when the silver Quigley helped transport gets a bunch of people killed.
  • Green Rocks: "First" versions of various materials, supposedly from when the gods created the world. They're required to craft pymarics, as they're the only objects that can hold a permanent enchantment.
  • Green Thumb: The ancient Tains, the first people to figure out how to use pymary, used it to grow plants, improve their farms and for healing. The traitor Ssael, who allied himself with the Gefendur invaders slaughtering the Tains for having a different religion, created the basis for modern pymary when he went against his people's decree and figured out how to use pymary for war and other things.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Just about everywhere you look. Very few characters are truly good, with even Duane, one of the most virtuous adults in the story has rather dark aspects to his character, most coming from his loyalty to Alderode and his hatred of Crescians (though considering they murdered him and his daughter, one can sympathize with his feelings). Matty is essentially the only purely good character, and he is also a rather young child. And then you get some truly sinister characters ranging from the pedophile slaver Starfish to the sadistic senet beast Ruck, who is a rapist in more ways than one.
    • Neither Cresce or Alderode are perfectly good or evil, with both sides having their good and bad sides. Cresce is arguably the more sympathetic country, which treats all its citizens equally and has a true communist system where everyone is given a job according to their talents and given comfortable enough living conditions. However, if one practices any religion besides Gefendur, they are burnt at the stake if found out, and the country has the unfortunate practice where twins are taken to be raised in a convent, where upon reaching adulthood the younger twin is ritually sacrificed and cannibalized. And, despite seeming like a communist country, they still retain the nobility. Worst of all, the two-toe lizards are slaves in everything but name, forced to do the worst jobs and unable to ever become citizens. Alderode is a rather oppressive theocracy with strict gender roles and a strictly enforced caste system based upon hair color (which isn't completely arbitrary, hair color indicates the person's lifespan and general pymaric potential). Ironically, despite being a theocracy, Alderode is the only country in the setting with actual religious freedom. Ssaelism and Gefendur can both be worshipped freely, though Gefendur elements within the country are plotting to change that. Alderode does get another strike against it due to its use of child soldiers, however.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Starfish beats a wounded Ephsephin to death with a wine bottle.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Starfish receives his just deserts in the form of a dagger right in the family jewels when he tries to abduct Sette.
    • Sette hasn't, as yet, inflicted the classic kick in the balls on any character, but she likes to threaten it - and she's delighted with the idea of seeing Matty get hit in the nuts.
    Sette: Chalktop, you're gonna knock your pea-balls up inta your eye sockets and your eyeballs inta the mooooon.
  • Guilt by Coincidence: Duane and Sette are mistaken for members of the Red Berry Boys while investigating an RBB hideout.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: After his enclave are confined to a single cavern for the actions of three teenagers, and told they will be kicked out into a supernatural storm in a country that is currently burning their people in the streets Masek tries to ally with Aldish invaders. Instead the fanatics gut him while snidely professing not to treat with the help.
  • HA HA HA—No: When Bastion earnestly tells Prakhuta that if they both deny Ilganyag's wishes and stick together they can prevent whatever genocidal plan she's set Prakhuta on Prakhuta responds by loudly pretending to cry at his tenderness for a minute while laughing.
  • Hair Antennae: Sette seems to have somewhat downplayed ones.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • A Mook chasing Duane is killed in this manner.
    • In chapter 14, Jon is cut in half at the waist by pymary during a pitched battle. To make it more horrifying, we first see Duane clutching their upper torso, before the camera pulls back to show us the extent of the damage.
    • Delicieu is split in half vertically by a pymary spell.
  • Harmful to Minors: As a young teenager, and during the course of 24 hours, Duane's brother Lemuel witnesses one of his friends and fellow soldiers get stabbed through the neck, causing him to have a small mental breakdown. The next day, he seems to have regained his sanity only to witness another friend and fellow soldier step on essentially a pymaric landmine that caused him to swell up and explode into a shower of gore, launching one of his teeth into Lemuel's face (giving him the scar he has at present day.) He sports a rather depressingly impressive Thousand-Yard Stare after.
  • Hate Plague: Alderode has a weaponized self inflicted one in the form of the Etalarche curse. Alderode's leadership essentially brainwash everyone within the Dhammakhert's domain to absolutely fear and hate the targeted individual with every fiber of their being, meaning that every Aldish citizen will do anything and everything in their power to make sure the afflicted target dies a horrible painful death. The first victim and namesake of the curse, Etalarche, was cursed for betraying his grandfather Ssael (the Ssael) to his death. In the end Etalarche was violently torn limb from limb by an angry mob. It's considered such a vile and drastic measure that it has only been used less than 12 times in history and it took a decade of debate before Alderode's leadership decided to cast it on the leader of a large faction of Aldish rebels that threaten to destabilize all of Alderode. It has its limitations, however: it can only be cast on and only affects those who were born and changed by the Dhammakhert, so Alderode couldn't cast it on the queen of Cresce for example. Also, as Souds like Duane are not affected by the Dhammakhert, they cannot be targeted or affected by the curse either. Also the target must be within the Dhammakhert to be targeted (and Alds outside the Dhammakhert also won't be mentally affected either).
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Pymary can sterilize wounds with perfect accuracy, stop bleeding, and support an injured area, but can't actually speed healing beyond maintaining a favourable environment.
  • Healthcare Motivation: Elan Aled will die without the treatment he gets from Bastion, who has him do illegal things for him as payment. His faith in the system he works for was also broken when he learned that Bastion's treatment for his heart condition isn't an illegal newfangled Black Tongue invention but something well known, which the state's doctors didn't tell him of when they gave him his fatal prognosis since he's not worth enough to the state for it to bother paying for his treatment.
  • Heroic BSoD: Anadyne suffers this after Toby and Stockyard's corpses are dumped in front of her. She completely ignores the climactic battle with an Eldritch Abomination going on behind her, as seen here.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • In chapter 11, Elan throws himself in front of the enemy forces to ensure Elka makes it to safety; he doesn't last long before the enemy wrights crush him between pillars of earth. The villain scores some Irony points by calling him a coward as he does so. It's implied that he did it because he was going to die soon anyway, as he had a heart condition and had gone several days without his treatment.
    • In chapter 16, Sara stays behind in a collapsing tunnel in order to save Siya's notebook, and is crushed before she can make it out. Interestingly, though, Word of God states that she did not intend to die and would not have made the sacrifice if she'd known it would cost her her life.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: While some of the murderers running around using religion as their excuse really believe what they're saying, even if their acts go against their religious doctrine, not all of them are strong believers in their religion.
    Sette: Stay away from 'im! I didn't like him! Not in the khert! Nor in your dead man's tale! He's like the paladins at home, like you: says he does as the gods say, but the gods tell him ever t'do as he were plannin' anyways.
  • Hilarious in Flashback:
    Duane, way before he met Sette (refering to his daughter Mikaila ): If I ever meet a more felonious and disrespectful little girl I'll kiss a Crescian!
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: While witnessing her father being beaten to death by thugs, Mikaila attempts to stun them with a flashbang spell. This does work as intended... but as the thugs flail around blindly, they stab her by mistake.
  • Horror Hunger: Duane and his metaphorical snake. Luckily he has it (mostly) under control.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Giant dogs are used as mounts, but they are also put to work as draft animals.
  • Human Traffickers: Starfish smuggles people across borders to sell as slaves, but when Sette and Duane come across him his current human cargo has actually been cut open to stash what he's actually smuggling inside them so he can look like he's just a slaver, when he's instead smuggling a pymaric weapon.
  • Humongous Mecha: Uaid is already a construct five stories tall and the Crescian fire-lopers tower over him, and are designed for war while Uaid is designed to protect those he carries from pymary.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • A Love Hotel receptionist is grossed out by Turas participating in a (fake) sexual roleplay. It's also a bit of hypocritical humor on the author's part, since she roleplayed the Unsounded universe for a long time. The same receptionist can be seen reading an Interspecies Romance novel while squicking over Sette pretending to be Duane's lover.
      Vera (love hotel receptionist): The deviants are always roleplayers. Now, did you want Octopus Alley or the Squid Suite?
    • And there's this.
      Iori: If I ever meet the two-toe that did that to you I'll knock its teeth out!
      Jivi: I hit him with a stool.
      Iori: Well, violence is never the answer.
    • Duane espousing the virtues of peaceful diplomacy and level-headed negotiation shortly after punching a politician in the face. Lemuel calls him out on this.
  • Hypocrite: The Central Theme is "Live in your best world," so there are a lot of characters lying to themselves and each other.
    • Duane is probably the biggest one among the central cast. He believes he is an upstanding hero and warrior of God who protects the innocent and punishes the wicked, but his definitions of "innocent" and "wicked" are conveniently fluid. He is biased by extreme fanaticism and nationalism that leads him to do truly awful things to the very children he claims to protect. This is exemplified by the Whole Episode Flashback to his time in the army, where he gleefully fries a group of traitorous rebel Child Soldiers... while claiming to be A Father to His Men to his own squad of Child Soldiers.
      • Additionally, in the same chapter, he proudly claims to have "never lost a lad," defying the expectation that he view Child Soldiers as canon fodder. One of his lads does in fact die in a later fight, but the other children assuage his guilt by insisting Jon "wasn't a lad", since he was the ripe old age of 18. Duane accepts this excuse, but his brother Lemuel (himself a Child Soldier at the time) clearly recognizes and is disgusted by his self-serving hypocrisy.
      • In chapter 16, Duane finally reunites with his long-lost brother... only to reject the exact same rhetoric he's been spouting the entire story when he hears it coming from someone else's mouth. Lemuel gives him a scathing rebuke for this, sneering that he lacks the courage to do dirty work and would rather pretend to be a hero by leaving it to others.
        Lemuel: The old hollow virtue. The old toothless indignation. Maybe you are Duane. Grand man for speeches, but when the time came to live the word how he shrank from threats to his tender sensibilities... Well, there aren't enough pages in Ssael's writing, nor Gefender scripture, nor even the goddamned book of Duane Adelier to detail all that's been lost to the tender sensibilities of weak men.
    • After the deaths of Sara and Ilya prompts Character Development from Duane by finally breaking through some of his own hypocrisy, Lori immediately lampshades the Disposable Woman trope by snapping the girls were "meant for more than this". That's pretty rich, considering the fate she "meant for" them was to be Human Sacrifices (with Ilya in particular trying to escape precisely that fate). What's worse is that she genuinely believes this, as her religious belief is that Human Sacrifices are a divine honor that ensures one a reward in paradise; just like with Duane, religion is a helluva drug.
      • While Duane does not call Lori out on this specifically, he does call her out on saying this after torturing the stormfolk around the shrine, including ripping out the heart of a baby. This gets through to Lori, causing her to break down in tears and agree to regrow the waterbaby from its heart.
    • Maur is a kind old man who genuinely believes in the potential of the Black Tongues' research to help humanity. But while he'll vocally condemn the abuses and atrocities committed by his less altruistic brothers, he won't lift a finger to actually stop them. This is particularly blatant in the case of Bastion, who was the last in a long line of "apprentices" who were horrifically abused and killed by Delicieu; Maur would give Bastion comforting words and a pat on the head, but never did anything to actually stop Delicieu from hurting him.
    • Lady Ilganyag calls Bastion out on killing so many in his goal of defeating death: "I would never kill anyone [...] But how many headstones pave your great ambitions, idiot child?" But this is, itself, hypocrisy, as her own scheme creating the First Silver monster makes her indirectly responsible for far more deaths than Bastion.
    • General Bell is a Crescian nationalist... who wants to abolish most of Cresce's core cultural values to replace them with Alderode's. He's also a religious fundamentalist... who wants to convert his country a different sect, again one favored by Alderode. He's incredibly ruthless and willing to commit atrocities for his cause, yet acts disgusted by Queen Sonorie's own ruthlessness. Toma sums it up well when they finally confront each other: Bell is ultimately loyal only to himself and his own lust for power, and he's willing to change his principles on a dime to get it.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: One of Ricker's squad turns away when his squadmates grab an already dying Masek and yank him around trying to demand answers out of him after they cut him open when he'd offered them aid.
  • Immortality Seeker: Bastion Wilalils is a doctor who seeks to cure death. Unfortunately, he is willing to commit murders and war crimes in the name of this noble goal.
  • Implausible Deniability: "I'm always nice," says Elka, immediately after OHKOing a random guard. A few pages earlier she was gleefully terrorizing several other unruly guards.
  • Impairment Shot: During the flashback to Duane's assassination there's a panel from his pov showing the double vision encroaching on him after getting hit with drugged darts.
  • Improvised Umbrella: Uaid rips up a tree and tries using it as an umbrella during his first appearance.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: When Duane's nature is revealed to Toma and Quigley, they immediately disregard the pressing threat in order to theorize that he's a mindless plod under someone else's control while Duane is standing right there. Eventually he gets fed up and uses pymary to knock their heads together.
    Quigley: ...This makes sense. No legitimate human could be such a prancing twat-
    Duane: 'Legitimate?!' Plat, shall I legitimately drop you from another cliff?!
  • Incompatible Orientation: Jon, Duane's lieutenant in the army, is in love with him, but Duane is straight as an arrow. Duane never realizes this, however, as Jon is killed in action before he can confess his feelings.
  • Inept Mage: One of the Red Berry Boys, Bette, casts spells by reading them directly out of a book with no understanding of the underlying principles, and Duane finds it trivial to seize control of his pymary. Duane's daughter Mikaila also makes a number of dangerous mistakes, although the fact that she's doing it at all at her age shows she has an aptitude for it.
  • Infinite Canvas: Makes liberal use of this, sometimes altering aspects of the website's background as well; see Painting the Medium, below. A notable example is a point where Sette falls through the page.
    Octopus Pymaric: Are you ready for something a little different?
  • In Medias Res: Chapter 1 starts with Sette and Duane already in the middle of their journey.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Sette's tail is a lion's tail, and don't you forget it!
    • Duane insists he is not a zombie, but a "galit" — a Tainish word that we later learn means "Damned One", confirming he's a walking existential crisis.
  • Intended Audience Reaction: Word of God explicitly says that Murkoph is designed to be as vile and hateable as possible, so the readers who despise him are perfectly justified in doing so.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Duane's intimate moment with Lady Ilganyag in the khert is rudely interrupted by Murkoph punching a hole through Duane's chest.
    Cope's commentary: "That's enough bird nookie for you, Romeo. Get your boney butt back to the plot."
  • Interrupted Suicide: Quigley in Orphans, twice.
  • Insult Misfire: Sette taunts Quigley, saying he couldn't spell "Dog" (in reply to him saying he would spell her into a cockroach). He in response spells out "Frummagem". As Sette is illiterate, she only catches that that isn't how dog is actually spelled, laughing to Duane about how wrong Quigley is, missing his insult.
  • In the Back:
    • Dhampir kills Danila by stabbing him in the back while Danila and Lemuel were hunting a boar, unaware any enimies lurked in the smoke.
    • When defending Lemuel from Lady Ilganyag's insinuations in chapter 12 Duane imagines his brother stabbing his rotting corpse through the back, which he frames as Lemuel doing his duty as an Aldishman, unaware Lemuel had already betrayed him to his death and beyond it.
  • In the Hood: Duane is almost always hooded, because direct eye contact tends to make him fumble the glamour concealing his skeletal face. Also, sunlight makes him itchy.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: The subtitle of every chapter takes this format. For example,
    • Chapter 01: The Reluctant Escort—In Which There Are Strange Beasts & Stranger Stirrings
    • Chapter 05: Darkening Sky—In Which Two Wrights Make A Wrong
    • The pattern is broken by chapter 10's subtitle, which is simply "Here There Be Monsters.”
    • The pattern is also broken by chapter 13's subtitle: "For Whom Do I Hope For Help, O Heavens, If Cruel Are Those Who Love Me?" This is a Shout-Out to La Susanna.
  • Ironic Death: Stockyard dies from hanging (which also decapitates him for good measure). He is clearly fixated on noose imagery (he ties his hair into noose shapes and uses noose iconography in his brothel), and his father was hanged —with an implication that he took the fall to save his son, no less.
  • It Is Beyond Saving:
    • Captain Hetr thinks Ethelmik is beyond saving and relishes in slaughtering the people there and razing it to the ground, even though the criminal conspiracy he's painted the entire town with as an excuse to kill every man, woman and child is one he's a vital part of.
    • Several characters have expressed such thoughts about humanity itself in Kasslyne, and they are unfortunately very powerful characters working on crafting superweapons to carry out the genocide they've decided is the answer.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Plods are usually referred to as "it" and intentionally given as few identifying features as possible to avoid the Uncanny Valley effect. And Stockyard reveals his true colors when he refers to Duane as "it" in conversation.
    And your Da earning a queen's ransom getting it back where it goes.
  • It Was a Gift: Matty treasures his hat because his frugal and emotionally distant father gave it to him.
  • Jerk Ass Woobie: Ephsephin. After getting thrashed by Duane and Sette multiple times... and then Captain Toma... you can't help but feel bad for him. Especially since he's made it clear that he's more or less a Punch-Clock Villain that's Just Following Orders.
    Ephsephin: I hate today.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Quigley's with the Red Berry Boys for the money, but he is completely against their brutal treatment of children and still cares for his son.
  • Kick the Dog:
  • Kid Amid the Chaos: In the ruins of Ethelmik while Bell's butchers are slaughtering the populace a little girl is seen crying over her mother's corpse, with a wright approaching her hands glowing with pymary a she's about to become the next victim to Bell's lust for power.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Duane used spelled fire to burn the Wandering Root when it attacked and nearly killed Sette. He also used it to burn the bodies inside once it was deceased.
    • Lemuel burned the unarmed and restrained rebel prisoners to death because one of their number killed his friend in battle. He later blamed the Crescians for it.
  • Killed Offscreen: Ilya is last seen running away into Litrya's Inaktown; her body is later found crushed under rubble after the self-destruct spell destroys Inaktown.
  • Kill the Cutie:
  • Knight Templar:
    • Kima Bell and his loyal followers genuinely believe they are doing their country a service by killing their queen and starting a genocidal war with Alderode, Cresce's long time foe. They think the Queen is too soft in her approach to fighting the Alds, and despise her for taking an Aldish defector as one of her husbands.
    • Several of the Lions of Mercy are fundamentalist Ssaelit who want to slaughter the Gefendur and see nothing wrong with raping and killing Crescian children, since they don't see them as children covered by the religious doctrine they claim to follow. They consider doing so only helping to undermine the Crescian queen, thus helping their own country.
  • Lad-ette: Elka. Sette also counts as a pre-pubescent version.
  • Lame Comeback: Sette is a master at these. "Your face" seems to be her favorite.
  • Lame Last Words: Spoofed with Hetr, who lives just long enough to regret them.
    Hetr: My name will blaze on history's page! My sacrifices leave schoolchildren in breathless awe! My soul is not a fart—!
    Hetr: Don't... let those be my last words...
    Emil: Don't worry. No one's ever gonna look them up.
  • Language Barrier: While everyone whose primary language is Tainish also speaks Continental well enough to be understood Uaid's control panel is all in Tainish, which causes trouble when Jivi comes to rescue the Qugileys using Uaid as he can't read the controls.
  • Language Fluency Denial: When Captain Toma comes across Matty and Jivi at the constable station Matty tries to pretend he doesn't speak Continental to avoid getting arrested. Mind at this point Toma and Matty had already met and had a conversation in Continental, so the attempt isn't worth much.
  • Language of Magic: Old Tainish, which is what wrights speak their incantations in. It's said that it was the language the gods used to shape the world, so by speaking it yourself, you can tap into that same power. Naturally, though, you have to be careful and very specific with your language, otherwise the spell may just blow up your organs.
  • Last Request: Sara turns back and takes the time to retreive Siya's book, meaning when the next blast tears through the shrine Sara ends up stuck instead of escaping with the others. They get the book — which she has argued with Siya over because she's not been put in — back to Siya, but they themselves are trapped when the passage collapses. Their final words as they realize they can't escape are "Don't leave me out."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Murkoph to Sette in the khert, after an in-universe flashback to Duane's life.
    Sette: Wh-what's going on?!
    Murkoph: Flashback. Dream sequence. Hallucinatory rrrrrevelation. Who put the little girl in the lead? Where's the plot-hole you came in through, darlin'?
    • Also used in a more literal fashion for dramatic effect, with the borders of the comic getting played with to show when something is off with the khert. See here.
  • Leave No Witnesses: When the magical weapon of mass destruction Bell is financing went off and destroyed a building and made a mess Bell has his loyals in the military destroy the whole town, hunting through it to pick off any survivors. This was also partially because a number of them were on his payroll, through intermediaries, and he planned to pin the whole mess on them.
  • A Light in the Distance: When Sette falls into the khert through a shadow she's in darkness, but as she creeps along she's able to see a light and heads towards it.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Sette has the same outfit for the entire story. Other characters have had to get different clothes whenever their current outfit gets damaged, but when Sette's blue shirt gets torn, she just happens to find an identical shirt in the town they were in, something she notes is pretty improbable.
  • Lint Value: Sette tries, and fails, to barter for a map being modified with a broken pymaric, a cloak clasp and a twig.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Sette's tail, extremely sharp teeth and ability to smell magic suggest she's not entirely human, and in her dad's gang this leads people to speculate that she's not really his.
  • Lizard Folk: Called "two-toes" here, named after the fact that they have, well, two toes. Call themselves Inak. They're pretty small compared to humans though. They used to be subterranean, so they have poor sight and hearing but excellent senses of smell, making them useful as trackers. Not actually reptiles, though, being warm-blooded and having no scales, among other things.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Duane's brother Lemuel has neck-length hair both as a teenager and as an adult. He is also much more popular with the ladies than Duane ever was (though ironically Duane is the one who got married, and to a beautiful woman no less.)
  • Love Hotels: Sette takes Duane to a Crescian equivalent, and manages to squick the attendant enough that she just slides the key across the counter.
  • Luminescent Blush: Duane does this here (especially in the lower-left panel), looking ridiculously cute in the process.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Duane grew a beard once, in a Patreon-only picture. Leysa used this to get rid of it.
  • Made a Slave: Starfish's victims were abducted and enslaved by him, then cut open to smuggle First Silver hidden inside their still living bodies.
  • Made from Real Girl Scouts: Cannibal pie!
  • Madness Mantra: A question on his Formspring resulted in Duane giving an answer that ended in one of these. Could also count as a Survival Mantra.
  • Mad Scientist: The Black Tongues (or "Ilganyag") are a group of lawless pymary researchers limited only by their imaginations and their own morals. Some are sane, kind individuals who honestly want to aid humanity in their pursuits, but others are... less scrupulous.
    Rahm (a Black Tongue himself): The Black Tongues are one brotherhood but each of us act independently. Some seek to better the world through pymary; dismantle the woes of humanity! Others dismantle infants.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: Pymary. Justified, though; see Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, below.
  • Magic Is Mental: Using it requires fluency in an archaic language and precise mathematical calculations.
  • Magic Knight: Duane is not only an exceptionally skilled wright but skilled with a staff as well. According to his Formspring account, when he was a military commander, he trained all the wrights under his command in weapon skills as well in order to defy Squishy Wizard.
  • Magic Mushroom: Bloodeye Wanderers are a type of mushroom that can crawl, fleeing from attacks or responding in kind en mass to poison a being. They are large gray mushrooms with poisonous spots of dripping crimson guttation.
  • Magical Sensory Effect: Sette has a supernaturally sensitive nose that can also smell magic, which is implied to be due to her uniquely strange connection to the Background Magic Field.
    Sette: [Watching a Wizard Duel] I'm gonna diiiiie... Stupid wrights, it's like they're fartin' at each other the most hostile way!
    Matty: Farts... You can smell pymary? I think it would smell lovely, like butter toast and Uaid feet.
    Sette: You know balls. Pymary stinks like greasy poo and tar.
  • Magitek: Pymarics. Usually of the bionic (replicating living creatures) variety. Due to how the magic system works, they can only be made out of special materials. Word of God explains in a colourful metaphor here.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: The reader might notice from the very first flashback images of Sette's "Da" Nary-A-Care that he lacks a tail and mouthful of sharp teeth. While we don't know what her mother looked like, it's been said that Sette is unique among the Frummagems, let alone the rest of the world, raising questions regarding her paternity. Sette comments briefly on a rumor about this, and seems inwardly concerned that she isn't Nary's daughter by blood. She is, however, determined to prove herself by merit.
  • The Man Behind the Man: On several levels. Stockyard is secretly helping Starfish and the Red Berry Boys transport the silver, which Cutter engineered and Stockyard and Elan claim is being abetted by the Queen of Cresce. Meanwhile, Stockyard captures Duane on what he claims was Nary Frummagem's instruction, and Nary was commissioned to return Duane to Alderode by the Aldish Lord Winalils, who was responsible for Duane's reanimation in the first place.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Most of the human cultures on the continent place special emphasis on settling down with a member of the opposite sex, having children and being able to support them. Same-sex relationships are disapproved of (though thankfully there's absolutely no religious discrimination) because such affairs get in the way of 'making babies'. It's taken to the extreme for the Platinum caste in Alderode as the country is in constant need of Plat soldiers for the army and they don't live beyond thirty; it's common for Plat girls to start having children only a little while after they first start menstruating, and it's unusual if they aren't pregnant by fifteen.
  • Mark of Shame: Inak pariahs are marked with a series of scars to warn off other Inak when their clan disowns them. The most striking scar is across their muzzle to the bone, taking a chunk of their lips and ensuring their teeth are always visible.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Though outwardly they portray it as marrying for love, the marriage between Queen Sonorie and the Aldish Roger Foi Hellick is this. Roger's soul has been changed in a way no other living Aldishman can claim due to being the victim of the Etelarch curse. He and Sonorie are working together so that Cresce may learn of a method to change or even destroy the Dhammakhert that surrounds Alderode, which would be crippling to them. There is nothing romantic between them (especially since Roger is gay), but they do have a close relationship of respect at the least. Though the outward ruse may throw off Alderode to what Sonorie is really up to, it also has the added side effect of making certain powerful people within her country think she has gone soft towards their eternal enemy.
  • Master of Illusion: Sort of. The illusory arts are Duane's favourite type of pymary, not necessarily because of practical application, but because of the artistic possibilities. He's still better at combat spells, though.
  • Master of Unlocking: Sette practices her lock-picking in her downtime and has never had trouble getting a lock open, once any pymaric traps on them are unlocked. She has the added benefit of being able to smell pymary, which lets her avoid traps.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Lemuel's mother died giving birth to him and his guilt over it manifested in nightmares where other kids would bully him over it saying he'd killed her.
  • Meaningful Background Event: During the flashback to the day that Duane was murdered, at one point he passes by Bastion, the man who orchestrated his death and brought him back to life.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Jivi's spectacular entrance echoes words from much earlier in the comic.
    • A visual example. In chapter 15, during his Sanity Slippage, Duane begins seeing the sacrificial twins at Litriya Shrine as hollow clay vessels, reflecting his religious beliefs that they are only puppets of the Gefendur church. In the next chapter, after Sara's death forces him to confront his own hypocrisy on the matter, he pictures himself in the same way.
    • The composition of 16-124 mirrors that of 01-16, with the page horizontally bisected by nationalist imagery and Lemuel featured prominently. (The author wanted to make 16-124 fully painted to truly parallel them, but ran out of time.) This is done to highlight how Duane's views on those things have changed in the interim.
  • Mega-Corp: Beadman's Betters is a giant company that produces just about everything, from food items, to sex toys, to weapons and magical constructs, and the owner of the company, Jab Beadman, is the power behind Sharteshane's Puppet King.
  • Mercy Kill: Cutter's victims who were cut open to smuggle the first silver and then warped to create a body for the thing, using their suffering as fuel, are killed by Toma and Duane as there is no saving them but they can be freed of their suffering.
  • Messianic Archetype: Ssael is something of a stand in for Jesus. He is the centrally worshiped figure of a religion that stems from another religion (though for very different reasons than Judaism.) Both Ssael and Jesus were killed due to their radical ideas. And the methods of their deaths became major icons in the resulting religions (the cross for Jesus, a lion for Ssaelism). The comparison ends there though as what they did after dying was completely different (Jesus rose from the dead while Ssael stayed in the realm of the dead and killed the Gefendur gods).
  • Mind Screw: In chapter 7. It starts when Sette falls through the page, and only gets weirder from there.
  • Mistress and Servant Boy: Sette and Duane, with the twist that the mistress is prepubescent.
  • Missing Mom: Sette claims her mother drowned when she was a baby; since Nary is her only source for this, who knows if it's true? She doesn't particularly seem to care, though.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Turas is from Madishane but due to his looks can pass as Crescian which the Red Berry Boys use to their advantage. Jivi later claims the Red Berry Boys were all from Sharteshane when he paints everyone from that country as criminal.
  • Mood Dissonance:
    • Duane's idealistic speech about waging war with honor and decency is contrasted with pictures of his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. "Only in Alderode are we free”, indeed.
    • When Mikaila drops the allepakh on Uaid and Matty, the most innocent and nice characters in the whole story, she cheers and whoops while shouting "Death to traitors!" while gliding away from the carnage.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • After seeing Duane's assassination in the khert Duane wakes up skinside to a tentacled sex toy slapping him in the face saying that it seems he passed out and his safe word is "abracadabra". When he says it deadpan he turns to see there is a man whose face has been mostly eaten and whose torso has been shredded and eaten by him while he was in the khert which upsets him, before he makes a quip noticing Turas's legs are intact so he can use their bones to replace his own damaged ones. He then realizes Sette is laying unresponsive on the floor and freaks fearing she's been killed.
    • After gruesomely murdering Delicieu and saving Bastion from certain death, Prakhuta cheerfully holds up Delicieu's flayed face like a mask, exclaiming "I'm a man now!"
  • Monster Whale: Typhoon Whales are vast, primordial entities from The Time of Myths, flying over the oceans and bringing hurricanes in their wake.
  • Morality Pet: Quigley is a pretty immoral person, who hates himself and has only been prevented from killing himself by his young son's intervention. With the death of his wife the only thing he really cares about is his son Matty and her memory.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Because the inak 'two-toes' can't use pymary, they don't have the option of spelling their ailments away and thus have a far better understanding of medicine, biology and how the body actually works. They've cottoned on to germ theory while the humans of Kasslyne think wounds get infested with ghosts from the khert, and an elderly inak is able to explain basic brain mechanics to a sceptical human audience.
  • Musical Episode: Despite being a comic with no actual audio, the story has multiple musical numbers. The first instance at the brothel was probably the most out of nowhere however; the second and third instances were Bastion and Duane and his brother entertaining guests and fellow soldiers respectively. But they were still involved musical numbers with proper choreography.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Quigley despises Alderode, at one point quipping that he'd rather be called the son of a whore than a son of Alderode.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Duane realizes that he's done something inexcusable in letting the Aldish soldiers into the shrine, an action he considered righteous until he saw the bloody consequences. When Sette tries to apologize to him for forcing him to stay in the shrine of a religion he finds heretical he stops her and says he cannot bear to hear, nor deserves, an apology given what he's wrought.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Duane thinks his daughter's murder at the hands of Black Tongues is this. And then it gets worse.
      • During his stay at Litriya shrine, he manages to accidentally orchestrate the destruction of the entire sanctuary; first he helps the Inak servants find the self-destruct codes, then he locks the headmistress up so she can't coordinate safely, then he sows doubt into the children's heads so they start acting out instead of staying in the safe room, then he stops the experimental torture powering the shrine's shields against the nearby armies, and finally, he delivers his Aldish comrades into the basement under the delusion that they will arrest everyone, whereas they proceed to betray his expectations and begin raping the girls and murdering the servants until the Inak have enough and hit the self-destruct. End result: The shrine explodes, most of the Inak are slaughtered, two of the girls die, and Duane is finally forced to realize his racism and bigotry has brought ruin to everyone his entire life. The only consolation is that the failure was so great, it also caused the death of a regiment of mass-murdering rapists. And the cherry on top? It turns out Mikaila is alive, meaning the hatred driving all this failure has been a lie.
    • Anadyne suffers severe Sanity Slippage from failing to save Stockyard and Toby during the First Silver monster's attack. In the following chapter, she has chosen to lie down and die, letting her arm literally rot off from a severe bacterial infection, while the thought "You let me fall" repeats in her head on loop. She is eventually snapped out of it by Prakhuta jamming the First Silver monster into her, which turns her despair into rage instead. Whether this is a healthier direction remains to be seen.
  • Mystical Plague: Regions in the nation of Alderode are afflicted by the Weeping Plague, which somehow spreads by making eye contact with a sufferer.
  • The Namesake: The title "Unsounded" seems like it's just a cool sounding fantasy name, but it's actually the place in the khert where all souls go after death before reincarnating, and is also where the gods or Ssael is depending on your religion. It is called the unsounded because wrights have been able to map out much of the khert through a technique known as sounding, but the technology isn't powerful enough to sound out the depths of the khert, so that place is the "unsounded". The story doesn't even begin to involve the khert itself until 7 chapters in, with most of the story just involving the living world.
  • Nausea Fuelinvoked: In-Universe, Sette's description of an infected toe.
    Duane: I'm six years without a stomach yet you've turned it.
  • Nerf Arm: The pair of swords Lemuel was planning to give Mikaila for her eighth birthday before everything went to hell were wooden, so they could still bang people up but she wouldn't be cutting anyone with them. An author comment says he ended up giving her the swords for her fourteenth birthday.
  • Never Found the Body: An early piece of Foreshadowing that Mikaila is Not Quite Dead: their body is absent from the final shot of Duane's corpse after his assassination. The author actually considered this so obvious she was surprised more people didn't pick up on it. Notably, this is averted in every other case; whenever a character dies offscreen, we do see the body not long after.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sette frees Murkoph from a supernatural prison after he promises to help her escape. Turns out that was a bad idea, because he's enough of a psychopath to put Starfish to shame.
  • Noble Bigot: Almost every main character, except for Sette, who's sort of the opposite. Duane is an Alderode nationalist who hates Cresce and is disdainful of of the Gefendur religion. Jivi and Toma are Crescians who hate Alderode. Quigley doesn't care for any of the above. And all of them save Sette think Duane is an abomination for being a sentient zombie (Duane himself also thinks this), though all other zombies are mindless drones, so this is somewhat understandable. Matty is the only one who isn't burdened with any real prejudices. They are all still decent people for the most part.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Duane suffered one in the past as punishment for striking a politician. Parts of it are shown via Flashback Cut here.
  • Nothing but Skulls: Litrya Shrine, and other twin shrines, has shelves full of the skulls of the previous twins. At Litrya most of them get knocked off their shelves into piles on the floor when the shrine is attacked.
  • No Woman's Land: Alderode doesn't give you a ton of options if you're female; women are meant to be wives and mothers and little else. (Unless they're from the Platinum caste; then they're often 'encouraged' to go into the sex trade.) They're not really expected to have jobs and certainly not have careers outside their ghers, plus they're not allowed to own property, vote or even use pymary, unless it's for making things look pretty. Not that different from plenty of past and present cultures in the real world, but it says a lot when a woman's best chance for real power and autonomy is the chance to take the Third Option and legally be seen and treated as a man; plenty of women from the Copper caste, who are relatively more liberated thanks to their long lifespans, take this route. But even then, women in the ghers communities primarily take the Third Option because they're forced to do it, since there may be no male heir in the family and, again, women can't own property or inherit. The other countries on the continent, particularly the matriarchal Cresce, condemn such misogyny as incredibly backward and barbaric.
  • The Nose Knows: Sette's is as acute as a scent hound, with sensitivity to magic on top.
  • Not His Blood: After Duane catches Jon as he's cut in half on the battlefield, Lemuel is concerned the blood across his abdomen is his own.
    Lemuel: Are you alright? Are you hurt? What's this?
    Duane: W-war's rouge.
  • Obfuscating Disability: When Sette talks about teaching Lucky Puppy how to be a better beggar so they could make jukrum it depicts her showing him to act like he needs a crutch.
  • Odd Couple: He's an elegant lich sorcerer. She's the foul-mouthed child of a thief king. Together, they... walk across a continent.
  • Offerings to the Gods:
    • The Gefendur often leave small offerings of money or goods at statues of the Twin Gods when they pray. The Lovable Rogue Sette tries bribing the Mother Yerta to turn a blind eye to the underhanded business she's planning.
    • In Alderode, people often burn locks of their hair as offerings when they pray. It's a symbolic gesture, as hair is the basis of their Fantastic Caste System and the subject of some superstition about Sympathetic Magic.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Stockyard is decapitated by a razor-wire noose.
    • In chapter 16, Duane is decapitated by Lemuel. Of course, since he's already dead, this is only an inconvenience.
  • Oh, Crap!:
  • Oh, My Gods!: Averted in the case of one religion, played straight in another. Ssaelit are monotheist, and so use "God" in the same way Judeo-Christians do for the most part. The Gefendur, being polytheists, have more unique religious exclamations.
  • Older Than They Look: Sette apparently stopped aging a few years ago, which makes her attractive to Starfish and a liability to her Da.' Her real age is unknown.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Duane tosses a rebel wright at Lemuel, and Lemuel manages to skewer the wright and a friend of his who was trying to save him with one jab.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: The Sharteshane King is just a figurehead bought and paid for by Jab Beadman of Beadman Industries who is the real power behind the throne and finagles its military to get rare materials and try to prevent wars that will reduce his clientele while supporting those whose fights have a chance of expanding the area where he can sell.
  • One Scene, Two Monologues: In chapter 8, after Duane realizes he is in Cresce, he goes on a self-righteous tirade while at the same time Sette rambles about her time in the khert. This is represented by the speech bubbles overlapping each other.
  • Origins Issue:
    • Chapter 7, composed primarily of a Whole Episode Flashback detailing Duane's life when he was alive, including the events that led to his death and reanimation.
    • The supplemental story Orphans is this for Quigley, detailing his time with the Black Tongues and establishing some of his motivations.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts start out as clusters of memories cleansed from the souls of the dead by the setting's Background Magic Field, the Khert. Some are intense enough to absorb similar memories and slip from the Khert to the physical world, where they seek out things that resonate with their theme. The most common are smoke eels, when ghosts of pain and suffering form ephemeral bodies of dust or smoke; and haunted pymarics, when ghosts hide inside Magitek and co-opt it for their own use. Sette's Team Pet Boo is an unusually complex and precocious ghost that holed up in a pymaric spider.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Vliegeng, the Aldish national mascot, are the closest thing the setting has to them. They're highly intelligent, and fly by gliding along the khert lines. Elite Aldish soldiers ride them.
  • Our Humans Are Different: Humans are unique in that they demonstrably possess a soul, which lets them access the Background Magic Field of the Khert and delivers their memories to the Khert upon death. Other sapient beings, such as the ancient Senet Beasts and the "Two-Toe" Lizard Folk, see this with some envy or consternation, not least because the dominant religion takes this as proof that Humanity Is Superior. The author has stated that humans also vary biologically from real life humans, partially because Unsounded's universe operates on different laws of reality than real life.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Duane fits this better than any other typical undead creature (though even then it's not a perfect fit, as he does not seem to have a Soul Jar); he has retained complete sentience despite being identical to an ordinary plod in most other respects. This appears to be a quite rare (if not unique) condition; Duane somehow maintaining his intelligence after his death and reanimation is evidently quite strange.
  • Our Souls Are Different: According to Word of God, they are essentially a depository of memories. Thoughts and feelings and such occur in the brain, the soul just retains memories and feelings experienced over a lifetime. Duane is unique in that his soul has managed to adapt to his rotting body. His brain has rotted away, so logically he shouldn't be even able to think or feel, but his soul has adjusted to his body's circumstances so that he has a thinking and feeling soul, something that so far is apparently one of a kind.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Actually something of a return to the original voodoo-zombie tradition. "Plods" are corpses that were deliberately reanimated with pymary, and are widely used as a cheap source of slave labor. They are considered quite ordinary in the countries that "employ" them; making a mindless magical meat-puppet do punishing work for days at a time is considered to be a more humane practice than enslaving living, feeling humans. Ssaelism, an offshoot religion that demands respectful treatment of human bodies, disagrees with this.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Black Tongues believe that the Twins and Ssael are false gods created by mankind and believe themselves beyond such superstitions. Interestingly though, Ilganyag, the source of much of the knowledge they have gained and the namesake of their organization (Ilganyag translates to Black Tongue), casually tells Duane that the Twins did exist and Ssael slew them, as Ssaelism states, though whether Ssael truly has achieved godhood has not been said. There is of course the very real question of how much Ilganyag is just manipulating Duane, but we do see Ilganyag mourning Ssael's disappearance with the added implication that he is Sette's father.
  • Painting the Medium: Characters lean across the comic borders, and some explosions leave debris across the page. The pages are made to look like a torn up notebook, but the background sometimes changes to reflect scenes in the story. A notable example is Murkoph grabbing a knife from the header image during chapter 9.
  • Panthera Awesome: The ancient Gefendur invaders of Tain rode giant lions more intelligent than those in our own world. After lions were used to hunt down and tear apart the traitor twice over Ssael the nascent religious cult he was building used them as a symbol of being freed from an imperfect body, and the Gefendur started slaughtering their lions, in their fervor eventually killing off not only all the lions but every cat in Kasslyne. Thus cats are extinct by the time the story starts.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The horrors people will carry out in the name of nationalism come up again and again in the conflict between Cresce and Alderode. Even plenty of otherwise decent people from both countries display the bigotry and hatred caused by nationalism.
  • Pedophile Priest: Murkoph makes a joke about kids not being safe with priests, as he tries to grab Sette from Duane so he can eat her.
  • People of Hair Color: The people of Alderode have demonyms derived from their hair colors, such as Coppers, Silvers and Plats.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Quigley: "I don't do executions, Starfish."
    • While drowning Quigley, Anadyne calls Starfish out for forcing Matty to watch, as well as his "smaller bodies = more money" plan.
    • Sette stopping Duane from killing a Crescian peaceguard Just Following Orders, also saving Jivi from being killed by Knock-Me-Down despite having no reason to do so.
    • An oddly violent example: While on the run from the Black Tongues, Bastion takes the time to blind a Corrupt Cop harassing an inak child, preventing him from hurting them further. Bastion in general treats inak with much more kindness and dignity than other human characters, due to an inak being his only friend growing up.
    • Bastion spares no hesitation healing Mikaila's life-threating injury, even though he just murdered their father.
    • During the Litriya arc, Duane starts Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and kicking puppies with wild abandon. But despite this, he treats the shrine's inak population with a dignity and respect denied to them by most other humans. (It's ambiguous, however, whether this was coming from a place of genuine altruism, or done performatively to prove his moral superiority over those degenerate Crescians.)
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Though the shot is from behind, the end of this strip has Murkoph in a very Pieta-like pose as he holds the flayed skin of his torso. This is quite a juxtaposition, as Murkoph is a highly depraved and sacrilegious character.
  • The Plague: Illness is a major issue in Kasslyne because the human healers have no understanding of it, with cold and flu analogs being very deadly. They're better at treating infection, only because the Tains left words that casters can use to kill bacteria. The problem is with the Gefendur culling of the Tains as heretics and destruction of their culture modern Kasslynians don't even know what bacteria actually are, thinking them ghosts.
  • The Place: The comic is named for many things. One of them being a place where the gods might be.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Duane spends time with the prostitutes of the Nevergreen by reading scripture to them. The prostitutes' response is to fall asleep from boredom.
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: There's a reason Duane always has his hood up.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Minnow is a water woman, so despite having—for the most part—the body of a human woman with blue skin she doesn't have much use for clothes. When she stops to run and swim around Duane he quickly averts his eyes and grabs a tarp for her to use as a cloak.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The Gefendur gods are two pairs of very different twins. Riv is a violent macho manly man while his twin Baelar is a quiet warrior scholar and poet. Yerta is a plump, loving fertility godess who loves creating life while her twin Tirna is a skinny wrathful trickster who doesn't understand the appeal of imprefect living things.
  • The Pollyanna: Young Matty Quigley. According to his bio on the cast page, "Three years ago Matty was struck blind but he still manages to see most silver linings."
  • Pose of Supplication: When Duane realizes just how horrifically he's messed things up he apologizes to Lori for Sara's death and the destruction of the shrine which his actions made possible kneeling and lying prostrate before her.
  • Powers as Programs: Every human in Kasslyne is born with a connection to the Khert, so anyone can become a spellwright through a pymaric rite that allows them to speak to the Khert through that connection. A rare few are born with that enhanced connection already in place.
  • Precursors: The Senet Beasts came before humans, most have been wiped out by humans who use the First Materials they're made of so many of the surviving ones will not hesitate to kill or trick humans they come across, and they do not reproduce. All Senet Beasts that are still around have been around ere the dawn of humanity.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Queen Sonorie limits blind patriotism in a time of war, shows patience and restraint, has many allies and friends instead of constant paranoia, and refuses to develop a WMD with massive collateral damage even if it could help her conquer the world. But behind closed doors, she's the one who ripped her husband's mind open with soul-melting neurotoxin to extract his Alderode state secrets, and outright admits to her council that she is sponsoring a cult of mad scientists with the intention of pardoning their crimes in exchange for permanent employment in Cresce.
  • Propaganda Machine:
    • In Cresce there are posters decrying the Aldish as snakes and baby killing blasphemers. The newspapers are controlled by the state and the information dolled out to control the populace, Bell subverting the queen's wishes and publishing an inflammatory report that the heir was killed by two-toe rebels before the investigation is complete allows him to start a deadly pogrom against them.
    • Alderode is a fascist surveillance state with posters glorifying the military, calling for caste purity and offering rewards for Crescian "pelts". Their newspapers also spread the state line, for instance Quigley killing everyone involved in murdering his wife and stealing her construct to take his son and run was presented to the public with no mention of , and claimed Quigley was a crazy radical who built the thing, murdered state officials and then went to ally himself with Cresce.
  • Public Execution: Stockyard's da was executed in a public hanging, which also seems to be the public execution method favored in Cresce. In Alderode Duane's assassins were publicly tortured for confessions and then decapitated.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Most of Starfish's employees, since none of them can measure up to his horrible bastardness. Except Cutter.
  • The Purge: During the rebellion known as the Foi-Hellick Affair the entire Foi-Hellick family—the leaders and employers of Avelpit for centuries—was taken out in the street an publicly disemboweled. Their followers were all hunted down and killed even after fighting had ended. Duane only seems to start realizing he might have been taking part in something horrific by aiding in the purge years after his own death.
  • Put Their Heads Together: When Duane's nature is revealed to Toma and Quigley, they immediately disregard the pressing threat in order to theorize that he's a mindless plod under someone else's control while Duane is standing right there. Eventually he gets fed up and uses pymary to knock their heads together.
    Quigley: ...This makes sense. No legitimate human could be such a prancing twat-
    Duane: 'Legitimate?!' Plat, shall I legitimately drop you from another cliff?!
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Inak are locked beneath the shrine because three of their teenagers broke into Lori's office. Then their rebel minded youth try to aid the invading Lions of Mercy in an enemy of my enemy situation, showing them the military facility hidden beneath the shrine only to be degraded, beaten and slaughtered. In response they trigger the self destruct spells for the facility. This destroys Inaktown to their surprise, killing everyone inside. Waumsresh describes their actions as winning, as they'd taken some spider paws with them.
    "Man...never sees. Like hatchlings. Anything smaller than them's only there to be eaten or toyed with. But now we've won."*sobs*"We've won."
  • Rain of Blood: Vampire's plats tear open a Vliegeng while it's flying over camp, raining blood and gore on the soldiers below.
  • The Rant: Unsounded hosts its author comment on a separate website (Tumblr) and it's set up in such a way that only the rant for the most recent page is readily available unless accessing the archive. It's not necessary for following the comic but can contain some amusing dark humor and extra context for things in the story.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Starfish, an established pedophile, grabs Cara and starts undressing her, sliding his hand up her as he lifts her dress and then the scene cuts away. It's left vague but heavily implied he raped her before giving her to Cutter.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Ricker and his Lions of Mercy were chosen for the mission to Litrya specifically to attack and rape the innocents inside while stealing the shrine's valuables and torching the place as the mission is intended as a piece of propaganda painting Queen Sonorie in a bad light for hiding a military installation beneath a holy site.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": When Duane wakes skinside to find Sette unresponsive on the floor he rushes to her side saying "not this, not this" as he fears his shambling corpse killed her while he wasn't home.
  • Rasputinian Death:
    • Duane did not go down easy. His assassins poisoned him, subsequently had several of their members killed in retaliation, then cut him, broke his arm and some other bits, pinned him, cut out his eyes and injected him with some form of the weeping plague which acted as a vector for the spellwork that tied his soul to his corpse.
    • The Lion of Mercy that grabbed Sara and Siya, and was slamming their heads against the wall while his friend tried to/raped Ilya behind them got a pencil stabbed through his mouth—cheek to cheek—by Sara, sliced in his arm and thigh by Sette, went down with Boo stabbing a bunch of holes in his face and eyes then tried to get up and attack the kids again only for Lori to cut his throat.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Implied for the Shadwe, who says Duane is "the finest wright I have seen in centuries."
    • All Jets and Coppers are potentially like this, due to their incredibly long lifespans.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Queen Sonorie is reluctant to accept the guilt of Ethelmik until more concrete evidence is found of any crimes that justified the town's destruction.
  • Regime Change: General Bell's coup against the Queen of Cresce turns out to have Aldish supporters with part of his plan including Alderode killing the queen in a military strike.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Queen Maharaishala didn't not want to be queen exactly, but felt uncomfortable with being made the heir when her sister was so much more hungry for it and she didn't think she had it in her to do some of the less savory things the position would require. At least this is how she remembers it decades later.
  • Reincarnation: Both the major Kasslyne religions, Gefendur and Ssaelism, teach that human souls are stripped of memories in the khert and reincarnated as they go through lives working towards their final incarnation and are deemed worthy of joining the gods/god. The khert stripping them of and storing their memories after death is provable and the whole thing is used to excuse genocidal bigotry. As other sentients don't have a Kasslyne soul they are considered inferior, and slaughtering a bunch of adherents of the opposing religion can be disregarded as sending them on to their next incarnation and closer to perfection.
  • Request for Privacy: When a majority of the Queen's Council decide to withdraw support from her dynasty, one of them unceremoniously moves the Chancellor out into the hallway with magic before they continue to debate.
    Councilor: Ufal, begone. This discussion is beyond a mere mouthpiece such as you.
  • La Résistance:
    • The March is the big rebel group against Alderode's surveillance state, but not much is known about them save that Vienne was building Uaid for their leader. She was tortured to death before she ever finished, but it's notable that Uaid is not a traditional war construct being designed to protect those he's carrying rather than kill opponents.
    • The rebels in the Foi-Hellick affair allied with Cresce and managed to dismantle the Dammakhert's surveillance capacities in their entire ginnal before they were hunted down and killed by the Aldish military.
  • The Reveal:
    • Chapter 10 has a big one: The identity of "Delicieu", intermittently mentioned as the mastermind behind the First Silver experiment, is Cutter. Chapter 13 adds the additional reveal that Delicieu is actually a human Black Tongue; Cutter (real name Prakhuta) killed him and stole his name.
    • Chapter 11 answers one of the series' Driving Questions: Who reanimated Duane? The answer: Bastion Winalils, a Black Tongue who has just been introduced.
    • Chapter 15 ends on a Wham Shot: The captain of the Aldish strike team harrying Litrya Shrine is none other than Lemuel Adelier, Duane's brother.
    • Chapter 16 has some whoppers. Quigley was the one who ratted Vienne out to the Aldish state, causing her torture and death and Matty's blindness — and Matty learns this along with the readers. It's all but confirmed Lemuel was in some way involved in Duane's assassination. And Mikaila, rather than having been killed alongside Duane six years ago, is alive and undercover as Lemuel's copilot.
    • Chapter 16 has another huge one: Mikaila did not die with Duane the night of his assassination as Duane previously assumed; moreover, she is serving in the army as Lemuel's copilot.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Was Mallory really just using Roger and secretly hated him, or were the vile words he was spewing before his death simply caused by the Etarlarche curse? Roger will never know, and neither will the reader.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The yellow fish spirits or "squishes" in the khert.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Quigley reportedly went on one of these after the government killed his wife Vienne, blinded Matty and confiscated Uaid the construct. He strapped Matty to his back and attacked the municipal office in a suicide run...which he managed to survive.
  • Royal Brat: Sette, by virtue of being a crime-king's daughter, though her brattishness is perhaps better explained by the rest of the clan's habit of kicking the shit out of her on a daily basis.
  • The Runaway: Cara ran away from her uncle after she was orphaned and forced to move in with him. She was subsequently abducted, enslaved and murdered by the Red Berry Boys.
  • Running Gag: The play written about Quigley that's very popular in Cresce. Every time he meets a new Crescian character, they inevitably bring up the play at some point, much to his dismay.
    • In chapter 7, Jivi is given a hat that is commonly worn by Crescians that he grows rather attached to. Eventually, Sette seems to grow attached to it as well as she begins repeatedly stealing it from him, which makes him increasingly annoyed.
  • Russian Reversal: Sette makes a joke about body disposal in her notoriously crime ridden home, saying "In Sharteshane pork eats you."
  • Sacrificial Lion: While there was always a feeling that anyone could die the main characters were safe up until chapter 16 where two major characters, two recurring named antagonists and a minor character Sette had just informally inducted into her "gang" all kicked it.
  • Say It with Hearts: The Nevergreen's greeters.
  • Say Your Prayers: When Ricker realizes he's dying he starts praying to Ssael to take him into the khert favorably.
"Ssael r-reveal to me th'way and sh-sheild me fr'm twin beasts that harry—AAA!"
  • Scenery Censor: In Chapter 12: Page 39, a Water Woman's privates are covered by hair.
  • Scenery Gorn: Bastion walks through the ruins of Ethelmik after Bell's butchers are done burning the town and slaughtering the populous.
  • Science Wizard: Pymary works through precise manipulation of Aspects of reality, so the talented spellwrights are the ones who train up in physics, biology, and materials science alongside the Language of Magic. In one side story, Wizarding School students discover and write an academic paper about the properties of laser light.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Murkoph, who is trapped in the khert, imprisoned by his own memories. Sette frees him.
  • Secret Message Wink: When Hetr send Abby along with a local Peaceguard to "make certain all the detail are correct in his report", she winks at a captive Emil as she passes him indicating that she's going to kill the Peaceguard member, to Emil's horror.
  • Secret Test of Character: In a side story about how Duane met his wife, we learn when he was moved to his caste's upper wards, there were many families who wanted to marry their daughters off to him, the new teacher of wrights in a major military unit. Of all of them, there was one woman who wasn't throwing herself at him. She had a cleft lip and a lazy eye, which put Duane off but he could see there was something else behind her eyes. She corners him at the church while he is praying to question him about whether the rumors that he murdered a fellow student at school were true (he had killed a student, but it was because he had been addled from a blow to the head from behind and used a lethal pymary without meaning to). After prodding him about his appearance and getting him to imply he plans to marry her (and glamour her face into something more attractive, Leysa removes a pymaric pin from her dress that causes the glamour on her face to dispel and return her eye and lip back to normal. She just wanted to make sure he wasn't a shallow man (or a murderer).
  • Secret Underground Passage: The old mining tunnels beneath Ethelmik are not exactly secret, but few know how to traverse them and as the town is dying smugglers take advantage of them and Ethelmik's location on the border of Cresce.
  • Sentimental Homemade Toy: The eight-year-old Matty Quigley has Chitz, a small stuffed blob that his mother sewed for him — very poorly, albeit with love. Since the attack that killed her and blinded him, it doubles as a Tragic Keepsake and is enchanted to "see" for him; he treats it like it's alive and keeps it on his shoulder.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: All the Aldish characters that have appeared so far seem prone to using vastly more complicated sentences and words than most of the other characters, though Duane is especially heavy on the long-winded Shakespearian dialogue, even compared to his fellow Aldishmen.
    • Murkoph shares this trait, although in a much more crude manner.
  • Sex Tourism: In Ethelmik with the mines used up and the crown preparing to shut down the town people are trying to keep their home afloat using brothels which entreat travelers and pilgrims to come in and spend foreign sem and local labor points.
  • Shaping Your Attacks: Gruftgrammer Quigley enjoys manifesting his pymary in the form of swarms of insects (appropriately named Swarm), due to 'insect' being a very common insult to the short-lived Plats.
    • Most wrights do this to a certain extent —their pymary can be tinted any colour they choose (for example, Duane likes to use green and gold).
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Sette can pull off the polished look if she puts in the effort, which she rarely does.
  • Shock and Awe: The storm-folk can create and direct lightening.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The flashback to Duane's life as a non-undead man with a wife and children is both this and Foregone Conclusion, especially for Mikaila, who gets quite a bit of character development before her sudden Impaled with Extreme Prejudice death at the hands of thugs who weren't even trying to kill her.
  • Showing Up Chauvinists: Vienne was a genius Magitek engineer and forgemaster who creates a revolutionary Construct design. She got by in her isolated village, but magic is illegal for women in her country, which led her to funnel aid to La Résistance and ultimately got her killed. In a prequel story, a resentful employee reports her to State Sec, so she evaporates the agent's head in front of him.
    Vienne: No one lets me do anything.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Everyone gets stranded at Litrya Shrine just days before they were set to put on a play about the Gefendur creation myth. Sette somehow gets chosen to play Tirna, and schemes with Sara, a girl she met at the shrine, to have Duane show up midplay as Ssael to ruin it (Sara is bored and wants to spice the event up.) However, Duane for the past few days has been undergoing a major case of Sanity Slippage due to multiple factors. He ends up assaulting Sara, scaring off Siya, Sara's twin who had been sympathetic to him, and apparently completely losing his mind after Lori's owl attacks him, ripping off half of the skin remaining on his face before he eats the bird alive and runs off the stage.
  • Sibling Murder: Lemuel was part of the conspiracy that saw to his brother's assassination. He was heartbroken over it, but convinced it was unavoidable.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Duane and his younger brother Lemuel are about as different as two brothers can be. Duane is master class wright while Lemuel is an expert warrior. Duane never quite fit in with being a foot soldier while Lemuel took to it like a fish to water. Duane has always been something of an awkward nerd while Lemuel was a very cool flirt who all the girls wanted. Lemuel has long flowing hair while Duane was balding at the time of his death. And probably most importantly, while Duane seems to have kept his sanity despite all the horrible things that have happened to him, it is implied that something has broken inside of Lemuel from the horrors of the civil war he endured as a relatively young teenager. About the only thing they have in common is being badass and being devoted Ssaelites.
  • Simplified Spellcasting:
    • Tacit casting, i.e. casting without the verbal component. It's an inherent trait, made possible by a mutation that allows wrights to "think" at the khert. Duane is capable of it, and it runs in his family.
    • Inverted by the Jet caste of Alderode, who cannot cast at range, requiring them to touch anything they want to alter. The Copper caste cannot cast at all.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The Vits Council uses the Dammakhert as an autocratic surveillance systems, with which they spy on, keep control of and "sting" dissidents among the populace of Alderode.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Sette is as vulgar as you'd expect for a child raised by thieves, but never goes beyond a PG-13 rating (unlike the villains, who drop F-bombs).
    Duane: Betimes the words that pour out your young mouth send chills through me.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: One of the ways Sette supplemented her pickpocket income to make sure she could pay her jukrum was by selling her granny's fake potions to superstitious sailors.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: The Black Tongues have been developing a knife that can cut memories from souls experimenting with efheby venom. At least one of their members hopes to use it medicinally to help people, but the others are less altruistic.
  • Soul Eating: Efheby venom turns the soul to mush, allowing the efheby to sort through it, see the victim's deepest secrets, and eventually devour it. They can envenom someone and mess with their memories without eating it, allowing them to mostly recover.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Beautifully subverted when Sette is grabbed by one arm, and uses the other to shove a knife into her attacker.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Aldish patriarchy believes women should be cosseted and protected, and that anything other than aesthetic pymary is "unfit for the gentler sex". One of the reasons Alderode hates Cresce is because they're disgusted by the way Crescian forces put women right on the front line.
  • Sticky Fingers: Sette.
  • Strange Salute: In Alderode, the standard salute is to touch the middle and ring fingers to the forehead, palm towards the face. The most formal version, used as Due to the Dead or as a gesture of sincere humility and deference, is to cover the face with the whole hand and bow deeply.
  • String Theory: The Conspiracy Theorist in Mulimar has put ideas on a wall with a bunch of picture with charcoal lines drawn between them. The woman who owns the hose eventually walks out tells him to beat it and chucks water on the defacing diagram.
  • Strip Buffer: In a tumblr post, it's revealed that Ms Cope keeps a buffer of at least fifty pages.
  • Stripperiffic: If this image is anything to go by, the clothing of the Crescian nobility (male and female) is elaborate, colorful and very revealing.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: According to Word of God, the reason magic is called "pymary" and not "magic" is because "magic" implies something unknown or mystical. This is not the case with pymary; it is a common fact of life and essential part of society. It's even taught in schools!
  • Suicide by Cop: Quigley attempts this (and fails) at the end of Orphans.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Sette's olfactory talents extend to being able to smell magic.
  • Superweapon Surprise: When Queen Sonorie decided to build a weapons factory underneath Litrya Shrine she turned a place that would normally be excluded from Aldish attack due to their treaty into a viable military target. Since the facility is hidden the Aldish thought it would be a soft target, but the weapons artificers had installed a self destruct and hidden a giant gun in the Yerta statue. The Aldish operation was a stunning failure in the face of these defenses and a few unexpected protectors.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: When Duane jumps into Inaktown to save Sette's friends, only to find it flooded with none left alive he hallucinates Sara's body as his daughter's, as they're both girls whose deaths he could have prevented and which he feels guilty for. He has far more standing to feel guilty over Sara's death than what happened to Mikaila though.
  • Take a Third Option: What happens if you're a woman in Alderode who isn't content with being a housewife, and wants to partake in a role normally only filled by men? Become a literal Third Option! Specifically, agree to be sterilized, bind your breasts and dress and act like a man in every way. If you do well, you'll be allowed to stay in your role, and eventually even marry (another woman) and adopt children! Just be prepared for more than a little discrimination along the way...and if you don't manage to prove yourself, you'll be exiled by your society.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted hilariously by Duane and Ephsephin's second brawl when the former gives his eloquent Let's Get Dangerous! speech. Cue facepalm from Sette.
  • Tap on the Head:
    • Starfish subdues Quigley through this method during their fight in chapter 6, and he wakes up a minute later with no evidence of cranial trauma.
    • Quigley suffers this again at the hands of Nora in chapter 16; he is knocked out for significantly longer, but again shows no evidence of lasting trauma.
  • Targeted Human Sacrifice: Gefendur shrines pay handsomely for sets of twins, who are raised in comfort at the shrines until the younger one is sacrificed and cannibalized and the older enters the priesthood. Ssaelit families take great pains to make twins look as different as possible, for fear of Gefendur kidnappers. In theory, the practice is entirely voluntary... but if a kept twin chooses to leave, their parents and hometown have to repay a huge amount of money, to say nothing of the fear of the gods' displeasure.
  • Tastes Like Disdain: Jivi loves turtle bacon whereas Sette doesn't care for her first taste of it, the least of the two children's disagreements. When Jivi argues with her over breakfast, she spits the wet, well-chewed mouthful into his hand, leaving him blank with shock.
  • Technical Euphemism: Ruffles is quick to note that Duane is spying on Sette. Duane proceeds to burst out of a closet and says this isn't true; "I was assessing the situation ere intruding!"
  • Technicolor Fire: Blue and teal fire is a sign the khert is on fire, and is a cold spectral flame that can be safely walked through.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: When trying to comfort Duane in her own way about his dead daughter Mikaila, Sette reckons that Mikaila will be reborn as someone wild and ruthless, like an assassin, a bear hunter, a serial killer, or a banker.
  • Theme Naming: It's subtle, but aside from the queen, all Crescians have a surname that is only 4 letters long. This is for religious reasons, being connected to the 4 gods of the Gefendur faith.
  • Themed Tattoos: Spouses in Alderode get "marriage brands" tattooed over their hearts. The tattoos aren't required to have a matching design, but have a weak pymaric link to each other.
  • The Theocracy: Alderode is one, but ironically it is the only country in the land with actual freedom of religion (everywhere else, if you aren't Gefendur you are likely to get burnt at the stake or hanged). This is one of its few positive points compared to Cresce.
  • There Was a Door: Jivi piloting Uaid.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Duane was pretty shaken up by his first kill, ashamed of the dishonorable technique he used and that he was upset about the way the guy he killed screamed because he's from a religion that values warriors. He tries sending a friend away asking what's stopping him from killing them too if he was willing to use a core leach without thinking about it, but they point out he's not going to kill a friend and the guy he killed had jumped him with a bunch of friends to kill him.
  • Thieves' Cant: Nary and his gang, including his daughter Sette, use a fair amount of real thieves' cant such as jukrum, and their name Frummagem is inspired from a bit meaning hanged or strangled—Fummagemmed.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Duane Adelier doesn't think to use an alias while laying low in the enemy nation of Cresce, so Sette introduces him as the more local-sounding Dune Adel. Thanks to his perceptive glamour, if people expect him to be Crescian, they see him as one.
    Sette: Naw, ya said it wrong! Dune. Dune Adel. You'll like him! Crescian as the Queen's larboard tit.
  • Title Drop:
    • Not the name of the comic itself, but a chapter, here.
    • The comic's title is dropped in the Interior Emanations side story —Duane expresses a desire to "sound the unsounded."
      • The title of that side story is also dropped, as the name of the paper Duane and his new friend Sarthos are writing. In universe, it is a reference to their theories on the inner workings of pymary and, out of universe (though Duane manages to make some connections himself in story), a reference to the side story's themes of personal character and skill being more than what appears on the surface.
    • The title is finally dropped in the comic proper here.
    • Chapter 11: "Only a cause directs a good man against his nature."
    • Chapter 12: We find out where Duane got his phrase from - an atheist Black Tongue: "Sound the great unsounded. Beat at the gods' door and hear it ring hollow!"
  • Token Good Teammate:
    • Elan may have been Trapped in Villainy, and had a minor Heel–Face Revolving Door problem but he was the only one of Captain Hetr's men not to go along with his plan. When Hetr came back to Ethelmik to raze it to the ground Elan sacrificed himself to give Emil and Elka time to escape.
    • Of the Ssaelit priests listening to Councilor Bodie's genocidal plan Duane is the only one who speaks against it on moral grounds. Some of the others speak against it because they're afraid they won't be able to contain the mystical disease or it will make them unpopular, Duane sees it as an unforgivable and dishonorable act. He was still helping uphold a fascist surveillance state, he was just not as reprehensible as his colleagues.
    • Eustace seemed to be the only member of "Vampire"'s revolutionary group who was not okay with sacrificing their plat child casters to set a khert fire allowing Roger to come into Alderode without getting hit by the Etalarche Curse. It still happened but he was so pissed about it Captain Claggert thought he might be about to betray Vampire.
    • For a rather low value of "good" there is a single member of Ricker's squad who dislikes Ricker's raping and pillaging antics. He listened and took heed of Duane's admonishments, did not attack any kids, and turned away though followed orders when ordered to attack unarmed Masek. He was killed quick and near painlessly when the self destruct spell was set off.
  • Tomboy: Take a wild guess.
  • Tongue-Out Insult: When Duane relates to Sette that in Alderode women are forbidden from learning pymary and considered unsuited for it she sticks out her tongue in an echo of his memory of Mikaila doing the same thing.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies:
    • The chapter preview for chapter 6 claims that "not everyone will live to see the sunrise." Ephsephin kicks it midway through, and Turas at the very end.
    • Similarly, the preview for chapter 10 promises that "some heads will be lost.” This turns out to be literal in one case.
  • Torn Apart by the Mob: When the Inak in the capitol are being forced from their homes into interment camps because Rilursa was assassinated by some Inak in another country an angry crowd gathers to jeer at them. One father turns and claws and the soldier who knocked him down with a spear and a wright in the crowd rips his skin off, setting the crowd into a frenzy as they attack and tear apart any Inak they can get their hands on.
  • Touch the Intangible: Rahm, a rogue spellwright in the Black Tongue Ancient Conspiracy, can touch and harm the otherwise-Intangible Timofey due to his Anti-Magic rings, to Timofey's considerable dismay. It's all the more impressive because Timofey, as a Construct, is effectively made of Anti-Magic.
  • Tragic Stillbirth: Dawn is haunted by the memory of her stillborn son, and when the smoke eels want to force her to suffer memories of her worst day they form a mnemonic phantom of him to torment her.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: The darts shot at Duane to start off his assassination and transformation into their world's first zombie retaining it's mind/soul are laced with sedative. There's not much worry about overdosing as the attackers are planning to kill him anyway, they just want him immobilized for a bit before they finish him off.
  • Translation Punctuation: The comic uses angle brackets when translating Tainish to Continental. However, lines spoken in Tainish are occasionally left untranslated. Translations of these lines can be found in the series wiki.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: Starfish smuggles the First Silver by kidnapping people and having them cut open to hide it from authorities as he poses as a slaver.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback:
    • Glimpses of Sette's life at home are occasionally shown in dark, damaged, and obscured panels, suggesting that her dear ol' Da is not a great guy, contrary to what she claims him to be.
    • Quigley gets one in chapter 6.
    • Duane's tragic backstory is revealed in chapter 7.
  • Twins Are Special: The Gods are believed to be two sets of twins, so twins are sacred in the Gefendur religion. Temples pay handsome fees to adopt twins, who are raised to adulthood in comfort, after which the younger one is sacrificed and the older is inducted into the priesthood.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: We learn the identity of the mastermind behind the First Silver operation, "Delicieu,” midway through the first arc. It's not until the end that we learn that name is an alias adopted by Cutter. The next arc twists it even further, though, revealing "Delicieu" is actually one alias shared by two characters: The first Delicieu was a human Black Tongue who served as the abusive mentor of both Bastion and Cutter (real name Prakhuta). After killing him, Prakhuta published their scientific work under his name, knowing the world would never accept them if they came from an inak.
  • Two-Faced: Captain Hetr got burned on one side of his face while razing Ethelmik to the ground, to hide his own group's involvement in buying and moving a super-weapon. Thereafter his mustache and hair were a mess on that side in addition to his scar and blood red eye.
  • Undignified Death: The wright Hart in Ethelmik is killed by his own spell backfiring and blowing him up when he's crowded by a bunch of floating pymparic butts designed to advertise a local brothel.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: Quigley wakes up after a Near-Death Experience to find that his son and an ally have brought them to safety and that his injuries are bandaged. He doesn't remark on his nudity at first, but over breakfast...
    Quigley: For your generosity, madam, we are indebted.
    Iori: Oh, you paid your debt last night when I stitched that head of yours. I haven't had my hands all over a man so pretty since...
  • Unsound Effect: When one of the stormfolk clock Keon in the head with their cock the sfx is "kok".
  • Urban Segregation: In Aldish cities people live in walled ghers determined by their caste to preserve caste purity and try to keep the undesirable castes from mixing with the elites. Their public transportation is also segregated, as soud and semon caste members have to sit in top deck exposed seating rather than inside.
  • Urine Trouble: Sette startles Matty while he's using the bucket in his prison cell. Startled, his aim slips upwards to the barred window Sette is talking though.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them:
    • Wrights often use the blade of an opponents weapon to cut or kill them with, by taking the sharpness of it to craft their own cutting spell which dissolves the blade.
    • Emil catches a miner turned smuggler's axe and then splits his skull open with it.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • This is the theme of chapter 11, "Only A Cause", as well as the theme of arc it introduces. The political scene is full of actors who genuinely believe their vision of the world would be a utopia, and are willing to do horrific things to bring it to fruition.
    • This is a common attitude of the more moral Black Tongues. They are willing to commit terrible sacrifices (including enabling the abuses of their decidedly less moral brethren) in the name of science. Their inventions demonstrably do change society for the better... but at what cost?
    • Bastion (himself a Black Tongue) is in deep with this rationalization. His goal is to cure death itself, surely a worthy cause... But he's willing to destabilize entire countries and precipitate mass death just for a chance to advance this research. It even leads him to enable the atrocities of Omnicidal Maniac Prakhuta, because he believed Prakhuta likewise had a noble goal at the end. When he discovers Prakhuta in fact does not, it sparks a major crisis of faith in him.
      • Prakhuta calls him out on this, and the trope in general, during a "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
        "Yes! All those tragic deaths! If only I could be like you! But I can't be a pretty human pretending the greater good pressed my hand and made me a murderer! I can't make it all better by being saaaad afterwards! Bastion's allowed to kill because he cries a-bloo-hoo-hoo once the blood's dry!"
  • Vice City: Sharteshane has a reputation as a home to criminals run by gangs, and its capitol Sharteshane City is shown to have prostitutes carrying out their business in the streets while pickpockets slip through the crowds and Jab Beadman, a gangster who bought his way into the nobility, is the real power behind the throne. Sharteshane's rulers being a bunch of gangs hiding beneath the husk of monarchy allows people who would be executed elsewhere in Kasslyne as heretics, traitors or escaped slaves to live decent(ish) lives by paying a protection fee.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Ephsephin does not take the events of chapter 5 well.
  • Villainous Rescue: Stockyard may have tied her to the chair in the first place, but he does play the cavalry nicely in chapter 10, saving Sette from in-progress molestation (and very likely an in-progress kidnapping, given how he was untying her) by Starfish with a well-timed punch.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Glover, part of a squad that attacked Litrya Shrine specifically to enjoy themselves raping and murdering defenseless children and teenagers, cries "No! my soul's not ready!" when he realizes he's about to be crushed into the shape of an urn by another wright.
  • Visual Pun: The lady acting as General Bell's arm candy during the Treenahin festival is dressed in a candy costume.
  • War Is Hell: The ongoing war between Cresce and Alderode is mostly shown in the bloody aftermath of battles, or battles are shown from the perspective of civilians caught in its way. It's all consequences and brutality rather than glory.
  • We Are as Mayflies:
    • The Copper and Jet castes in Alderode can live up to 400 and 250 respectively, and so tend to accumulate the most political and economic power in their families.
    • Inverted with the Platinum caste, who die of accelerated old age at 30. The Gefendur faith believes them to be on their last mortal incarnation before being called to join the gods. The Silver caste lives a little longer, generally lasting about 50 years naturally.
    • In the middle lie the Bronze and Gold castes. The Bronze live anywhere from 50 to 150 years. The Golds live as long as the average human, as they are average humans. They are the one caste that is unaffected by the Dhammakhert. They are just genetically brilliantly blonde which coincidentally fits them into the thematic scheme of the castes.
    • Senet beasts live forever unless an outside force kills them. However, since new senet beasts are never born, humans as a species might very well outlive them all.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Sette and Duane do not get along together at the beginning to say the least. Sette doesn't like how moralizing Duane is and would rather him just act as her attack zombie, while Duane grates against Sette's rudeness and lack of empathy for others. They do start getting along better as time passes, but Sette's repeated lies about where she is taking Duane take a toll on their relationship. It isn't until they reach their true destination and escape betrayal and disaster that they seem to find a real understanding.
  • Weather Manipulation: Stormfolk can control and create weather, forming violent storms out of group liaisons with each other or simple rain clouds should they wish on their own.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: Kasslyne is permeated with a Background Magic Field to which the local human analogs are bound, and while there are some flora and fauna that overlap with earth's most are unique and are used to create a different cuisine. Strawberry Fish—which are freshwater fish intentionally infested with a parasitic worm and served uncooked at room temperature fresh out of a tank—are a popular snack. A popular breakfast item is a colorful savory cereal made up of crunchy bits that taste like shrimp and salty biscuits served in warm monny milk topped with monny cheese.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Sette, in one of her darkest moments, reveals her fear that she isn't human. Duane reassures her on this point, pointing out that the language of magic considers her human.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Duane manages to keep fairly upbeat and distant from the lives being taken while a soldier, until he comes across the mangled bodies of the enemies' child wrights who remind him of the child wrights he himself has been put in charge of. His reaction is horrified and he briefly tries to talk Lemuel into helping him take the child soldiers in their regiment and flee.
  • Wham Episode:
  • Wham Line:
    • Stockyard revealing the true purpose of Sette's mission:
      Stockyard: 'Course [I know what Duane is]! A fancy new plod got away from its master, eh? And your Da earning a queen's ransom getting it back where it goes.
    • The first arc's villain is revealed this way:
      Cutter: I've little use for names but perhaps when your rotting tongue is finished screaming it can manage "Delicieu". How do you do.
    • "Who reanimated Duane?" is a longstanding question throughout the first arc. In chapter 11 it's revealed in a single line:
      Bastion: I brought [Duane] back! [I] beat death!
    • Stated by Lady Ilganyag, seemingly proving that Ssaelism is technically the more "correct" religion of the setting,:
      Ilganyag: Oh, Ssael. My friend, where are you?
    • In chapter 16, we finally learn the meaning of the word Duane uses to refer to himself:
      Lemuel: Galit. Th-that's the word for what you are! Galit. "Damned One!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • One page after the reveal that Lady Ilganyag knows and misses Ssael, we see ''baby Sette'' in the khert, sitting next to a baby lion. Considering that lions are an important icon in Ssaelism, it is heavily implied that Ssael is Sette's father.
    • At the end of Chapter 15, the storms around Litraya Shrine have cleared...meaning an Aldish strike force can attack and destroy the shrine, the weapons that Cresce have been created, and anyone in the building. And leading the strike force is Lemuel Adelier.
    • In chapter 16, when Siya pulls back some rubble to help rescue Ruffles, she suddenly sees the body of Ilya.
    • Later in the chapter, Duane makes his way onto Lemuel's Vliegeng and one of Lemuel's copilots attacks Duane with pymary. Green pymary, just like Duane's. He rips off the co-pilot's helmet to reveal that Mikaila is under it, alive and well after her apparent death the night Duane was assassinated.
  • When Trees Attack: The Mamalen Entak (Wandering Root) was the antagonist of the first chapter. Bittersweet portrayal.
  • Whole Episode Flashback:
    • The majority of chapter 7 is a flashback to Duane's life before he became a zombie. The beginning of the chapter has a few unrelated scenes that advance the present-day plotline, however.
    • Chapter 14 is Duane telling the story of his meeting with the Salt Lizard, a senet beast worshiped by the local two-toes, back in his military days.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Inverted. When General Bell pulls a You Know Too Much on an Innocent Bystander, his assistant quips that he could have just asked her to keep quiet.
  • Wizard Duel: Duane and Quigley in chapter 5. By the end, though, it turns into an all-out brawl as Quigley starts breaking rules with abandon, culminating in him calling a powerful summon beast.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • The Red Berry Boys target children to capture, vivisect, and stuff full of silver that traps them in a tortured coma to feed off their pain. Their leader Starfish is a sadistic pedophile.
    • Murkoph has taken a bite out of Sette.
    • By necessity, any country that comes into conflict with Alderode and its Plat soldiers, including Alderode itself during civil wars.
  • Wretched Hive: Sharteshane.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A critically wounded Ephsephin begs Starfish for a doctor. Instead, he decided to put him out of his misery...gleefully.
  • Your Head Asplode: In combat, Quigley wields the Solidity of nearby rocks to swat people's heads into goo.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Leadership positions in Sharteshane's underworld are gained by a less powerful member of the group killing their leader. Nary took over his gang by killing his da, and he expects and raised Sette to at least try to do the same. This is part of the origin of the "predators never die old" saying.

    Interior Emanations 
Interior Emanations
  • Bigot with a Crush: Duane is repelled and disgusted when he learns his new friend Sarthos is a Third Option, considering it nigh heretical to give up womanhood and become a wright despite not being born male. Before he can put in motion his plan to cut ties a bully tries to kill him, Sarthos helps save his life and the two of them end up having sex in a closet. Duane is upset to realize Sarthos took the fall for the bully who ended up killed in the fight and kicked out of school, and is concerned Sarthos may be exiled or killed for arriving home without having proven to be "worth the loss of their womanhood" as was demanded of them.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Sarthos has been missing for decades by the time Unsounded starts, but gets obliquely referenced by Lemuel and Duane. They're one of the main characters of the side story "Interior Emanations".
  • Killing in Self-Defense: The first time Duane killed someone it was a bully who had gathered a group of friends to jump and kill Duane out of jealousy. While killing him made his friends flee and saved Duane's life he was traumatized by what he'd done, especially because he Core Leeched the other boy which is not considered an honorable way to do things.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Duane and a fellow student at the academy, Sarthos. Firstly because a relationship with anyone outside your caste is an extreme social taboo —and secondly because Sarthos, as a Third Option, is legally a man.

    Vienne of Seferpine 
  • Bond One-Liner: Vienne delivers one after killing an Aseptick who came to investigate her rebellious activities. It's not directly related to her kill, though, and is actually addressed to a bystander who previously gave her a chauvinist speech about how women can only do what their husbands allow them to.
    Gerald cried out. Vienne regarded him over one shoulder, dropping the pymaric in her pocket.
    “No one lets me do anything,” she said.
  • Book Ends: Vienne of Seferpine begins and ends with an assessment of Vienne's capabilities. But while the beginning is upbeat and confident in tone, the ending is troubled and uncertain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Vienne mentions fairly early that she has a cache of weapons in case the government comes for her, including a pymaric that makes Your Head Asplode. She uses that pymaric to kill a government assassin sent to investigate the forge later in the story.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Vienne is years dead by the time of the story, only brought up in reference to her husband's guilt over her death and her surviving work, but she's the main character of the side story Vienne of Seferpine.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Wick Madigan gets caught by the Aldish government, killed, mutilated and strung up at a crossroads as a warning against those who might try to do anything against the current bigoted totalitarian rule.
  • Doomed by Canon: Inverted in Vienne of Seferpine. We know Vienne can't die until she finishes Chitz and upgrades Uaid. The former requirement is eventually completed, but not the latter, and the story does not end with her death as some might have been expecting.
  • Your Head Asplode: Vienne of Seferpine reveals that Vienne had a pymaric weapon that could reduce a man's head to vapor, kept for self-defense in case the government came for her.

  • Cute Mute: Matty is an adorable child whose just survived a very traumatising experience and hasn't spoken since.
  • Death Seeker: Mathis has lost his will to live, and is only barely abstaining from killing himself outright because he wants to ensure Vienne's son is looked after and safe first.
  • Elective Mute: Matty hasn't spoken since his mother's murder and getting blinded by the government assassins that killed his mother and her workers. Mathis has confirmed that Matty's physically capable of speech, and by the end of the story Matty talks once more in order to ask his father not to leave him.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Mathis gets interrupted by his son while he cuts into his own chest with a burning blade, and again when he takes Uaid into a fight he doesn't plan to survive.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Matty finally starts talking again to tell his father not to leave him.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Matty has to talk his dad out of killing himself twice, though he has the advantage of not needing to say much as Mathis' feeling of duty towards his son is the only thing keeping him alive and he only tries to kill himself when he thinks he's found people better than himself that Matty likes being with to leave him with. This is good because Matty's been mute since his mother's murder.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: In the side story "Orphans" Quigley uses a heated knife to burn and cut away his wedding brand before attempting to commit suicide, out of feelings of guilt and despair over his wife's murder.