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The Water Phoenix King is a webcomic most simply described by its creator, Kyle Marquis (also the writer/artist of Broken Space and designer of Genius: The Transgression RPG), as a mythic fantasy serial which updates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which is absolutely true.
After that, it gets significantly more complicated to explain — but can equally truthfully be called an epic High Fantasy adventure about a Genre Savvy Teen Genius Magical Girl Warrior who is also rather an Anti-Hero and more than a little Ax Crazy — her first exchange with her newly-revealed Spirit Advisor is a demand to assist her in Disposing of a Body not the one from her first Accidental Murder — but who doesn’t really want to be Evil (that business of summoning the Eldritch Abomination was a complete accident), her angst-ridden nerdy (yet Bishonen!) Mentor Archetype guardian Fallen Angel who constantly protests his unheroic inadequacy before flinging himself into the fray, the traumatized former lawyer with the horrific scar currently working as a bartender/bouncer/janitor who’s just crawled back from the Despair Event Horizon after ten years in the wilderness considering his immortality a curse not a blessing to take up his gun in one of the strangest rookie-veteran team-ups ever, and the rest of the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who either through fate or chance -- if there is any difference in this universe — have all Met In An Inn which has turned out to be the Inn Between the Worlds and stayed there under the protection of the Goddess of the Crossroads to try to save their country, and ultimately their homeworld itself, from the impending Doom that has turned out to be the inevitable consequence of humanity overthrowing the titular God-Emperor in a war that ended up embroiling nearly everyone on — or off — the planet. (Turns out The King is the Land holds doubly true when “divine right” is literal.)
Got all that? Either you want to be reading it already, or you need more assurance that it’s Better Than It Sounds. It is! And we haven’t even gotten to the zebra-riding samurai not-orcs, the dragonfly-riding insectile aliens, tortoise-riding traveling salesmen, the killer robots, the “war weasel,” the teenage aspiring-Templar nemesis with the BFS (mace, actually), the sword-vs-death-ray fights, or the cannibal demigods! (This troper was a very hard sell, but after “I can quit any time” wore thin admitted the inevitable and became volunteer PR staff.) Science Fiction or Fantasy? Don’t even go there, the answer is, "Both, of course!" The art is semi-realistic, a bit like early medieval miniature illustrations, densely detailed with rough but very expressive pen work and beautifully moody colors, and the story moves quickly.
So far, four issues out of a planned 24 are complete and free for reading online at the main site and mirrored at Drunk Duck, along with some background information on the world-building and brief character profiles.
- Accidental Murder: Anthem wasn't trying to kill the wounded courier whose identity and papers she stole but she certainly didn't handle the situation in a very gracious or humane way.
- Action Girl: Anthem, right off the bat, and later Ismene.
- Action Survivor: Gilgam, particularly at the beginning when he's terribly out of training and condition both; moreover he is as typical for his species short and wiry, something very obvious when he stands next to his boss or his coworker Reshma the blacksmith-turned-hostler at the inn. He's an ideal sniper and scout and a terrible melee fighter despite his superior speed and senses -- which doesn't stop him from trying to tank in emergencies, usually with less than optimal outcomes for him.
- Aerith and Bob: Averted almost entirely -- this troper has found only one name so far (the aforementioned Ismene) taken untranslated from Earth-Prime, and that could be a deliberate cue.
- Alchemy Is Magic
- Alpha Bitch: Anthem, back home in her village. Her upbringing as one of the Hadrakahn landed gentry still shows through from time to time, though she has made significant progress. (At the Inn of Silver Leaves, Shreyas has taken that spot.)
- Ancestral Weapon: Possibly the Lightning Gun, if it's the same as the weapon carried by one of the women in the old picture in Gilgam's room at the inn, shown at the beginning of Book 3.
- Ancient Astronauts: Played straight with the Ulenites, who came from the Moon, colonized parts of Chalt in ages past, and eventually withdrew back to the Moon for the most part, though belligerent factions there would like to reconquer the planet and have made a start with Esgavi. Subverted with the Wyrds, whose Ancient-Egyptian-influenced culture originated on the world, and only departed late in their history to live in floating cities, except for a few holdouts like Gilgam.
- Our Angels Are Different: The theology of this setting is complicated and vaguely neoplatonic. Angels are essentially avatars or self-aware aspects of the gods, who constantly emanate fragments of their consciousness, some of which reside in their emblems and images in household shrines. Thus Vish is sometimes insulted or dissed by being called a 'lar,'  by other beings.
- Annoying Arrows: Averted. In Book 4 we see that arrows have the impact of bullets, easily. (Well, except in the case of Revenants, who find them merely annoying.)
- Played straight but justified with Iseme, because of her Healing Factor.
- Anti-Hero: Anthem, at least for a while, and still being nagged to go over to The Dark Side by her own personal Demon-Dragon. Fortunately she has Vish and Gilgam looking out for her. Unfortunately, they have their own shelves full of Issues...
- The Archer: Momba Kawunei, who alternates between being, nearly, the Friendly Sniper and the Cold Sniper, depending.
- Ax Crazy: Anthem, Prince Thrale, Lord Ezheis... Hm, what do all of these characters have in common? Aside from coming from aristocratic backgrounds and having been raised under the authority of a god who said their peoples were the natural rulers of humanity, that is! Anthem, at least, is trying to deal with her "Off with their heads!" impulses in constructive ways.
- Badass Bookworm: Anthem, extremely so: if she hadn't been researching forbidden spells in the first place -- or been clever enough to put all the pieces together -- she never would have ended up in any of these situations.
- Badass Longcoat / Badass Long Robe: Many people wear cloaks or greatcoats in Chalt, but Gilgam's winter gear is a particularly good example. Varaxunax has a nice embroidered one, too.
- Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: The Bison Guards, unfortunately.
- Battle Couple: Gilgam and Corva, recently.
- Beast of Battle: Subverted, since Rosie never wanted to be a "war weasel" and, after killing her captor (who didn't read the Evil Overlord List!) has since avoided fights like a sensible animal.
- Because Destiny Says So: Averted, so far. If there's any Grand Schemer controlling everything, it's not apparent: right now it just looks like a football scrum of people acting, reacting, and scrambling wildly to catch up when their plans fall apart. Even, or especially, The Gods.
- Beetle Maniac: Gilgam has quite a few of these decorating his equipment. His pauldrons, the large pin which unfolds into a collar that connects them over his warmer-weather gear, and the charge crystals for his gun are all scarab-shaped, and his riding-beast is a robot that looks like a cross between an ant and a beetle of some sort. It makes sense...
- Being Good Sucks: Particularly for Vish, who forfeited much of his powers and took serious damage to do the right thing; but also for Ismene whose sacrifices haven't had much of a payoff either so far.
- Berserker Tears: Anthem in her first battle, quite understandably.
- Big Bad: Trying to explain this one ends up sounding like a "Who's on first?" routine. There's the Demon-Dragon Darumatha, who's a dragon, but not The Dragon, it's the Big Bad, except it's got a front man who would appear to be the Big Bad only it's not his "Dragon" but his Evil Genius, while at the same time it's trying to convince one of Our Heroes that We Can Rule Together too -- but it has another, older Nemesis who's also pulling strings and manipulating events from the shadows, and...that's the simple version.
- BFS: Yamra's stone Scepter. It has magic powers, not all as yet revealed, including Taken for Granite petrifaction and Family-Unfriendly Death dissolving but works just fine for crushing skulls. Maresh carries it slung across his back on a bandoleer, sensibly enough.
- Big Damn Heroes: Quite a few times, but Chapter 4 brings everything nicely full-circle from the beginning.
- Black Magician Girl: Played straight and subverted both, with Anthem and Ailari’s gifts -- to orthodox Yamrans like Maresh and the Blue Knight (and sometimes Dosh, depending on the day of the week) all witchcraft and sorcery are automatically evil and so are their practitioners; on the other hand, even though she was only acting in panicked self-defense, Anthem has done some pretty Dark stuff with her magic. (And without it, as well.)
Anthem: (to an annoying but harmless co-worker) Sometimes I hate things so much they go away.
- Bloodless Carnage: Averted. Boy howdy, is it averted! This is telegraphed from the first panels of the first row of the first page, with the partially-burned corpse of a failed teenage sorceress in closeup, but it’s still more than a bit of a shocker when Anthem guts Nasker Wont with a sickle and then vaporizes his remains with Wild Magic and that itself is a mere warning that things are going to get even more gory in future installments. It’s not glamorized, though. Likewise, there are no Pretty Little Headshots either.
- Bloody Hilarious: Often, especially in Chapter 1 -- though for this troper, only after the fact.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents: Subverted (see "Bloody Hilarious" above) in the aftermath of the scene in the page image -- everyone else thinks it's (poor little) Anthem!
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Only between chapters. Each new book begins with a recap of recent events narrated by the characters, as if they were actors discussing their roles in a screenplay, but otherwise staying in-character. Once the story proper resumes, the Fourth Wall stays intact throughout.
- Burn the Witch: Followers of the Water Phoenix King regard all forms of magic not taught and approved by their god to be blasphemy, though this didn't stop them from dabbling in alchemy and other forms as an easier path to longevity and power than the sanctioned practices of meditation and self-discipline. (Yamrans traditionally drowned prisoners, but same thing.) Lord Ezheis boasts of having killed many witches when their side was still in power, and the event that touched off the war leading to Yamra's overthrow appears to have been a crackdown on an independent city openly tolerant of magic. Anthem doesn't even wait around to find out what her own people would do to her for it.
- Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: Averted, along with Call a Smeerp a Rabbit. There are some small differences between Earth-Prime animals and the ones called the same names on Chalt, as might be expected on a world shaped by whimsical deities, but nothing egregious.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Captain Rasho and Sergeant Deemo of the Bison Guards, who are also respectively Ensign Newbie and Drill Sergeant Nasty.
- Cats Are Mean: More like "Cats Are Cats", as the Inn of Silver Leaves has many feline occupants all of whom seem to spend most of their time sleeping on various perches but they do persecute Arcoan the bokkminn (short insectile alien) busboy, stalking and chasing him around the halls until someone intervenes. He claims to be convinced that they will eat him someday, but they don't mess with the other bokkminn staying at the inn -- a soldier, even if he is only the disrespected "mascot" of the Bison Guards, he wears armor and carries a spear and seems to be generally far less impressed with most things -- and Arcoan claims to have been a champion tamer of riding dragonflies in the past, so something else strange seems to be going on there... Oh, and cats on Chalt have variously colored halos, thanks to what whimsical deity we don't yet know. Christopher Smart would approve.
- The Chessmaster: Lots! Ailari, Barrabon, Darumatha, and plenty of up-and-coming or aspiring chessmasters as plots and schemes abound.
- The Chick: Averted, subverted, preverted, you name it. Even if Anthem has performed magical healing on occasion -- No.
- Combat Pragmatist: More common than not in the story, to date. One of the Prince's guards learned the hard way not to threaten people in a barn where there are sharp-edged farm implements around, and several of the Blue Knight's men found out that their own campfire could be used against them in a fight.
- Comet of Doom: Chapter 4 (The title is "Temple of the Comet" after all!) This comet is an emanation of another powerful but dead god, and as such has potential to grant vast mystical powers to anyone who can control it, making it both very dangerous and a hot commodity.
- Consummate Liar: Gilgam's ability to bend, fold, spindle and otherwise mutilate the facts all the while conveying the essence of the truth has to be seen to be believed. Absolutely none of the particulars of his account of the battle in the first issue are correct, though they all match up to the evidence, they're all plausible, and the proper outcome of it all is the same as it would have been if he had told the truth. It's just simpler to spin a complicated explanation on the fly, all told (because nobody would believe the truth anyway) and serves Justice just as well -- though Father Xosu, god of Justice and Healing, might beg to disagree...
- Cool Sword: Several Magitek weapons, as well as ordinary swords without names or histories.
- Crapsack World: Chalt seems like this at first, what with the post-war-of-liberation desolation and continuing Warring States style anarchy, the feudal abuses inherent in all the systems, the history of genocides and atrocities and the impending apocalypse as the natural order of the cosmos breaks down causing food shortages and population displacement, but upon consideration it isn’t any more so than our own world. (It is, however, a World of Snark.)
- Cute and Psycho: Anthem, this being the technical term for the "Ax-Crazy Ingenue" role (of course somebody came up with a name for it, no matter how rare a combination it is.)
- Cyborg: The lunar ambassador's bodyguard in Chapter 2 of has both arms replaced with densely-folded ribbons of razor-edged, thought-controlled metal. Not someone you want to mess with.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Played straight, as Ailari is a goddess of Night and Trickery as well as Change, whose realms of patronage include not only gambling, merchants and messengers, but thieves and gallows and witches -- she’s kind of a cross between Isis, Hecate and Hermes, far closer to the original classical concepts of Fortuna/Tyche than modern notions of “Lady Luck” -- including the idea of the goddess as a kind of re-balancer of the cosmic scales, putting her thumb on the Scales of Justice to even things out and right old wrongs in unorthodox ways: her angel, Vish, had black wings and a dark, spiky halo before he fell, and his power has always manifested as a reverse-glow, with shadow starbursts instead of rays of light.
- Deadpan Snarker: Anthem, Gilgam, Varaxunax and Corva have all demonstrated superior snarking skills to date.
- Death Seeker: It's not completely clear at first if Gilgam is this, when he goes back into action. (It's more a combination of adrenaline junkie, severe overconfidence, and being on the upswing...it just goes along with a lot of angst about the war.)
- Defiant to the End: Gilgam, and to a much lesser extent, Anthem, when captured in the Library.
- Despair Event Horizon: While Anthem lurches towards this in her first reaction to her disastrous failure and fantasizes about an atoning suicide, that lasts only long enough for her to have a better impulse and run for it. Gilgam, on the other hand, has spent the years since war's end in a haze, having no idea what to do with his life afterward in classic Shell-Shocked Veteran mode. Survivor Guilt? PTSD? Just saw too much and had no way to process it? The pointlessness of it all in retrospect? All of the above? Regardless he's well and truly broken when we first encounter him, which makes the next part so much more awesome than if he were a more conventional hero.
Anthem: (of the bandits} And they're still out there. They killed -- I mean, they tried to kill me.
- Our Demons Are Different: This varies, since there are a variety of beings all called "demons" by different people in the story, ranging from relatively harmless and "normal" magical creatures like shapeshifters to incredibly powerful primordial beings who aspire to overthrow the existing pantheon and make themslves rulers of creation, tempting mortals to work their bidding on earth in order to bring this about with offers of power and hearts' desire...
- Distressed Damsel: Subverted, in that people often expect Anthem to be this, right before she reaches for the nearest sharp implement or confounds the Eldritch Abomination with logic and statistics.
- The Ditz: Keilindi. (Unless she's a really good actress -- which would put an interesting twist on her operatic ambitions.)
- Our Dragons Are Different: Yes and no -- on Chalt, dragons are a particular kind of one particular subclass of shapeshifter, they're essentially rogue A Is, and hoards make dragons, dragons don't make hoards. (This is amazingly cool and logical an explanation of why those things go together, and don't separate easily.) There is also some kind of largish reptilian animal called a drake hunted for its skin, but we have only seen things made from its leather so far, and it may not look much or anything like a traditional dragon.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Deemo of the Bison Guards, subverted in that he's not a very good officer or soldier himself. (They're a paramilitary, quasi-mercenary unit and pretty much Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop, unfortunately for Our Heroes and everyone else around.)
Gilgam: Sergeant, grab the--
- Duel to the Death: There have been two formal duels so far, the first between Prince Thrale and Dosh Ai-Nalyitta (he gets better) and the second between Yiggish warleader Momba Kawunei and his insubordinate officer Hokta Threng (who doesn't).
- Now the count is up to three duels.
- Dungeon Crawling: Since the present storyline is set in a part of the world that was fought over and occupied by multiple ancient civilizations for centuries, and the latest rulers were only recently dispossessed, this is a popular pasttime for would-be adventurers in the region.
- Dysfunction Junction: The crew at the Inn of Silver Leaves doesn't exactly fit the Nakama model -- there's far too much friction and separate goals for that, let alone outright hostility. Whether this will turn into fatal flaws under future stress, or weld together in time, we have no idea.
- Eldritch Abomination: Darumatha, the Demon-Dragon of Broken Hours (with a name like that...) It might appear in the form of one of your dead friends, fatal injuries and all, or it might take its real form of a vast serpentine coil of living metal scales, fangs, and spikes reaching all the way to the outer stars, a manifestation capable of making strong men vomit in terror, or as a charming young woman in evening dress who prattles cheerfully on about cutting hearts out. Or just go back and forth between all these shapes, apparently at random. It's really hard to say which is the worst.
- Ensign Newbie: Captain Rasho, being extremely young (despite Gilgam's sneer, he is old enough to shave -- barely, which may be why he sports the Perma Stubble) and it's implied that his parents purchased him a commission in the Bison Guards, not one of the better sorts of military units in his country. While brave enough personally, he's inexperienced and completely inept at giving orders that will be obeyed, a situation not helped by the lackluster group of losers under him who all joined up for the money, or because they failed at school or business, or because they want an excuse to beat people up and found this the best-paying, most legal way to do so. He's trying hard, but in way over his head.
- Escort Mission: The creator describes events in Chapter 4 as this trope.
Kyle: To Vish, this must be like the worst escort mission in the history of video games: "Okay, drag this useless, tiny, whining girl all over a dungeon and make sure the ancient horrors don’t rip her apart while she insults you." "Does she have any, uh, skills?" "She’s pretty good at math. Mind the pain monsters!" "Great."
- Even Evil Has Standards: For Lord Ezheis, the Blue Knight, it's waging war on his Hadrakahn compatriots; for Lord Kebra, it's necromancy, although his resolve was definitely weakening last we saw, but we didn't actually see him fall yet ETA: he has.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Both played straight and subverted in Chapter 2, with Ismene the Escavite princess-in-exile and head of La Résistance getting some guff about the absurdity of monarchy from radical egalitarian Gilgam after he rescues her and her loyal retainer from assassins, but acting like a true leader who cares for her people in strong contrast to her ex the arrogant and destructive Prince of Nammathar, and then herself turning out to be a patriotic shapeshifter who took on the identity of the real princess after the latter suicided rather than be taken prisoner by the Water Phoenix King's knights during the war. When her secret is revealed after she survives a "sunset wound" protecting the Prince she still loves this becomes a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and an Awesome Moment Of Crowning when it is later revealed that her people did not turn on her after learning she's an inhuman magical "abomination" and still regard her as their True Princess, to the confusion of her enemies.
- The Evil Prince: Thrale of Nammathar is pretty definitely this, even though it seems largely attributable to him being a Broken Ace due to the combination of having been tortured as a POW when he volunteered to help liberate Esgavi from the Yamran forces, and massive insecurity stemming from his failure to match his father's heroic reputation. Still, it's not like he's the only character who's been through that sort of thing or has family issues, and the others aren't trying to start another war in order to drown their inner demons in torrents of blood, beating up girls or provoking strangers to duels in order to get away with murder. He's way past Prince Charmless at this point.
- Evil Weapon: Anthem has acquired one recently, "Malice," the most powerful weapon created by an angel of Yamra known as The Torture Lord. Being Genre Savvy, she objects rather strenuously — "You're giving ME an evil sword?" — but Vish is surprisingly confident that it won't be a problem. The blade itself, which cleaves supernatural beings with ease, looks a little bit like a straightened katana with an extra hook cut from a redshifted nebula, and was made from Kawunei's agony during the time that he and Gilgam were PO Ws so essentially she's carrying around a piece of his soul; he is apparently resigned to it, but not terribly happy about this.
- Face Palm: A not-uncommon reaction around the Inn of Silver Leaves.
- Failed a Spot Check: Averted in Book 1, where Gilgam notices right away that someone has been working Dark magic in the barn, and then spots the footprints of enemies casing the joint earlier and other things awry in the surroundings; played straight later when he fails to notice Maresh shadowing them in the forest. Partly justified in that Maresh has gotten serious ninja powers with his upgrades, but serves to point out Gilgam's habitual overconfidence.
Anthem: I have a helpful god, remember? He can se things other people can't.
- Fan Service: Averted, deliberately per the creator. Yes, a comic with a teenage blonde protagonist, several cast regulars who are prostitutes, and an Evil Overlord Wannabe with a harem of Blue Space Babes, doesn’t focus on T&A or find excuses to spotlight their secondary sexual characteristics. That’s not to say there aren’t instances of nudity and people (not only women) in various states of undress -- the “M” rating isn’t just there to be edgy and there are multiple reasons for it, including the occasional brief sex scene -- but it’s not done to be titillating, just in a matter-of-fact nod-to-realism way. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of Costume Porn, justified by the real world historical settings the cultures in the story are modeled on or inspired by. (Understated, in fact, compared to the amount of bling found in portrait galleries up through the 18th century.) The detail level of clothing and gear, in this troper’s opinion, not only adds considerable visual interest to the pages but makes it easy to keep track of a large cast of characters. Moreover, as Hollywood has long known, historic costume is Hawt! all on its own! (There is also a bit of Continuity Porn in the costume department, for the attentive reader.)
- Fantasy Gun Control: Certainly possible with the level of alchemy here, but Given that this world has sorcerers who can light things on fire with their minds even if they're not terribly powerful or talented, carrying around anything with gunpowder in it would seem to be like carrying a self-destruct mechanism and giving all your enemies the password... (Since Wyrdish Lightning Guns take solid-state charge units, this wouldn't apply.)
- Fantasy Pantheon: We have not encountered all of the deities of Chalt to date, but a number of them, or aspects of them, have turned up in the form of the shrine gods on the inn's altar. Their conversation and commentary on events is often amusing as well as informative.
- Fantasy World Map: This is also a map of the Cosmos, which is more critical than one might think, unless one is familiar with how Alchemy operates as a magical system...
- Forest Ranger: Not quite played straight, since he’s protecting travelers from the dangers of the forest and not the other way around for the most part (although this is what the original Trope Namer, the Rangers in LOTR, actually did) and somewhat ironic in that Gilgam started out as a city slicker whose first military experience was fighting as a harquebusier in conventional pikes-vs-cavalry engagements, and only later ended up functioning as a sniper/commando with the appropriate forest camo for the job. These days he’s guarding the highways from bandits and monsters as best he can since the local ruler doesn’t much care about the state of his domain (read: is completely mad) and the official patrols are composed of fops and bully-boys who would rather stay at the inn drinking than do their job, though he lately gained a deputy, and very recent developments have brought reinforcements, if of an ambiguous nature, into the picture.
Gilgam: (reassuring the latest rescuees) Don't worry, old man. I’ve been chased through these woods by lots of things.
- For the Evulz: Darumatha often claims to be doing this, but you can't take anything it says at face value. Listen closely and you'll catch the plain old Ambition underlying.
- Functional Magic: Several different systems are in operation, including Alchemy, Device Magic, Necromancy, Rule Magic, and Theurgy. The Scientific Method appears to be able to be applied to all of them to increase their efficiency, although this is somewhat controversial when it comes to dealing with the Gods.
Anthem: Of course it's not easy. If we do it wrong, mouths will open in the sky and children will be born with kestrel's heads, north will be south and cows will eat people. I know. I'm not asking if it's easy. I'm asking if it's possible.
- Fun Size: Played straight with Vish, who is a traditional shoulder-sized guardian angel, at least in his current manifestation, for reasons not fully clear, and finds it difficult to be taken seriously in consequence -- but subverted with Mixabokes, who was once a terrible but beautiful enforcer serving the god Yamra, an avatar of the goddess of binding (!) who nearly died in the war and was forced to transfer his consciousness to an imp's toadlike body, and is definitely not so ugly he's cute, now.
- Genre Savvy: Many characters are aware of history, so far:
- In issue #2, Anthem explicitly mocks past myths and legends as full of bad puns and creaky contrivances, and boasts of her intent to come up with all-new and different pranks worthy of her Trickster deity. (It doesn’t quite work out the way she planned.) Even earlier, she is filled with trepidation at having taken a mysterious potion coffee from an inhuman stranger, since that never turns out well for girls in stories!
- Lord Ezheis describes himself and his companions as "villains," even as he demonstrates that Even Evil Has Standards.
- Gilgam's threat to Anthem during the first exploration of the Library is pretty genre savvy as well.
- And Kebra's fear that he's being set up by his backer to take a fall reflects not simply paranoia but how such bargains typically go in tales.
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Dendi Mbako becomes one because thanks to the dislocation of the cosmos caused by the killing of the Water Phoenix King, he remains bound to his body despite his execution (it's not quote Death Takes a Holiday, but close). The twin aims of restoring himself to true life and taking revenge on the comrades who left him behind when they escaped gave him the motivation to achieve Lich status. Even decapitation isn't enough...
- Glass Cannon: Gilgam, with or without his gun -- though his fighting skills improved drastically between the time he first took up his gun again and the arrival of the lunar Embassy a few weeks later, he's very frank about the fact that "run away very fast" is still his preferred strategy when outnumbered without tactical advantage, because he's just too thin and wiry not to be flattened in melee if he gets cornered. Paradoxically, this just serves to make him even more insanely Badass, because he keeps determinedly tanking all the same, when there's no one else to do it.
Gilgam: [...]Let's say hello, and if they don't like us, let's run away.
- God-Emperor: Yamra, the Water Phoenix King, who according to his supporters was the benevolent ruler of creation, who favored his chosen race of Humans and protected the world from demons and other forces of Chaos. For some strange reason, most of humanity got fed up with this divinely-ordained Order and, eventually, rose up and overthrew him with the assistance of the other sentient races of Chalt, ten years before our story begins.
- God Is Evil: The feeling of those who opposed Yamra, and before him his progenitor Gurahl, including the Goddess Ailari and her supporters. Disputed, obviously, by those who want to restore some form of the old regime.
- The Good Chancellor: Jarjuna, the human hero of the land who rose from humble beginnings as a glassblower's son to lead the rebellion and kill the God-Emperor ten years ago, and who since then has struggled to reforge a safe and stable society out of the ruins. We haven't met him yet, but it was his deed of land to another war hero, Lt. Arduna Pathlo, that made the latter's dream of starting an inn possible, so he's ultimately responsible for most of what's going on, on one level. A lot of the resentment against him even from the nobles of his own side seems to come from his plebeian background and more egalitarian policies, as he appears to be doing as well as anyone could under the circumstances. Given he rallied an army and killed a god with his own sword, he would seem to count as a Badass Bureaucrat too.
- Good Is Not Nice: Gilgam embodies this -- being Really Seven Hundred Years Old is only part of the reason; it mostly seems caused by post-war disillusionment and depression, though he was probably always sarcastic and irreverent (he was a lawyer, after all) and being The Only Sane Man (in his mind, at least) doesn't help. Milat doesn't suffer fools gladly either, and everyone gets pretty testy from time to time, without actually being Evil.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Subverted. There was never any real question about his Alignment, but Gilgam's triple scar (it looks like he was clawed by a wildcat -- we eventually learn what really did it) quite disfiguring, really disturbing and wince-inducing at first, although one eventually gets used to it and almost stops noticing it until something happens to point out again just how close he came to losing that eye. (It's shocking how young he looks in the flashbacks before he got it.) He's still quite handsome, but it's despite, not because of. It doesn't seem to bother him at all now, either.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Trope does not appear to be in effect; one of the core cast chain-smokes, and while he is an openly mercenary and rather sleazy character, not so far an Evil one and on the side of the angels -- wait, that saying doesn't quite work in this universe -- has volunteered to help Our Heroes regardless of any reward. (Random guests around the bar have been seen indulging as well.) Truth in Television -- after all, it's not like you can Detect Evil by tobacco purchases in real life!
- Gory Discretion Shot: Averted; see "Bloodless Carnage." (The one exception so far is even more disturbing.)
- A Handful for An Eye: Early on in the first issue, Gilgam makes use of enemy campfire embers in melee, establishing his Glass Cannon and Trickster-Hero status at the same time.
- Hannibal Lecture: Darumatha's efforts to tempt Anthem into becoming its War Leader/Mortal Figurehead have included these.
- Heroic BSOD: Anthem whenever she has to face Maresh again and Gilgam after being recaptured by the Forgers of Pain. (They do get better.)
- He's Back: Book 4...
Anthem: How did he get a wyrd-gun?
- Higher-Tech Species: Both the Wyrds and the Ulenites in comparison to everyone else; however, it's complicated by the fact that there are worlds with incompatible atmospheres and magical planes, too.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Averted. The inn's serving girls who freelance as prostitutes are a varied crew of individuals with their own aims and agendas; there's the bossy one, the quiet one, and the silly one, but each of them, though (so far) secondary characters, have backstories and aspirations beyond "pleasing men" and their work is neither glamorized nor handled exploitatively, but represented as a complicated thing where natural desires, social conventions, and moral hypocrisies collide in multiple standards. They're not "useless" either: all of them help reload crossbows during the fighting in Chapter 3, and more than that -- a particularly touching moment occurs when Kei and Meyra, both in borrowed arrow-proof tabards and Meyra clutching a bloody dagger, hug silently after the battle. Since then, there's been a bit of a Ship Tease between the leader of the triad, Shreyas, and the Captain of the Bison Guards, whose wounds she tended as well as other things -- whether this is a political gambit or True Love leading to a New Comedy farce scenario remains to be seen.
- Hot Chick with a Sword: Anthem and Ismene so far. (Corva's more the Lady of War archetype.)
- Horse of a Different Color: Saddle-broken zebras are not uncommon, and are particularly popular with Yigs, who really favor dramatic stripes, but the more common riding animal seems to be the bicorn, which as you'd expect from the name is a large ungulate with two straight, twisted horns on its head. Wild herds of them live on the grasslands of the Baltoo. (Gilgam, however, has a riding robot that looks like a giant bug, and Naksuanan, the Maheti merchant, rides a Galapagos-sized tortoise.)
- Humans Are Special: Played straight, since the Creator Gods of this world chose humans as their favored species. Not that this has worked out particularly well for us or them...
- Humans Are White: Averted. Pink-complexioned, light-haired people are not in the majority even among humans, being outnumbered by dark-hair and olive or dark complexions. Of the ten people who work at the inn, eight are human, one is a multi-colored insectile alien, one can pass for human if he leaves his hat on and avoids attention, and only two are white: Anthem and another girl, a knight's bastard who ran away to seek her fortune. There's a lot more to the ethno-religious situation on Chalt, in the wreckage of multiple cosmopolitan empires, but that gives a hint. Non-human races aren't all the same hue or color, either.
- Idiot Ball: Averted -- nobody carries one. People make decisions with insufficient information or do things for reasons that are not, overall, morally good or even practical ones, but everyone acts sensibly according to their own priorities, principles, and knowledge of the situation then available to them. This makes for better disasters and more suspense all around.
- I Know You Know I Know: Chapter 4, Gilgam to Kawunei after the latter points out he was bluffing with an unloaded weapon after the battle.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Subverted. When Anthem gains them by literal ex machina it is temporary, and she is completely aware that she needs real training in order to be any good without miraculous, and karmically dangerous, assistance. When she tries to learn for real she is so dismally bad at it that her trainer gives up in despair.
- In a Single Bound: Anthem gains this, along with enhanced speed and endurance, when she becomes a priestess of the Goddess of Journeys. Maresh gets it as part of his augmentation by Barrabon, and also partly as a matter of Supernatural Martial Arts Training.
- Infinite Supplies: Averted. Our Heroes' home base is situated at a major crossroads and is the first inn to be opened in the Chancellor's attempt to restore civilization to the war-torn wastelands, so in spite of the dangers of the highways they will not lack access to either money or goods so long as there is any trade moving at all. But food shortages and money woes are always on everyone's mind, partly because the effects reverberate throughout the realm and swiftly impact everyone else, as starving refugees and political exiles turn bandit from desperation.
- The Ingenue: Dosh thinks Anthem is this. This says a lot about Dosh...
- In Medias Res: WPK starts with our protagonist staggering away from the flames of a catastrophic magical explosion, and unfolds the backstory and setting as we travel along with her through this new-to-us world.
- Inn Between the Worlds: The Inn of Silver Leaves, built atop the ruins of an old wyrdish fort, bits of which Gilgam has been cannibalizing to install ever more modern conveniences; it has become a focal point not only for merchants and others traveling through the wasteland between cities, but for beings from other spheres, drawn there by the increase in magical and mystical power due to the actions of both Ailari and her servants, and their adversaries working against each other.
- Just Friends: Averted entirely. This troper finds it impressive how thoroughly it's averted, in fact -- there is never any point at which the bond between dainty, feminine teenaged Anthem and battered, rakish immortal Gilgam even hints at something sexually inappropriate. Their relationship segues back and forth between sensei/student and older/younger siblings conspiring in mischief to the rarer real-life phenomenon of two intergenerational individuals "clicking" as equals, when it could so easily be filled with the creepy, but -- well, it's still full of creepiness, but the creepy overtones have to do with their equally casual acceptance of violence and Eldritch Sorcery, and the meddling of the Gods, instead. A prime case in point: the sequence in the second issue when Gilgam manhandles her down to the basement and puts her in a time-out until she stops threatening to rip someone's throat out with her teeth or call down cthonic retribution from the heavens on their enemy-- who admittedly deserves a comeuppance but the former would be imprudent and the latter overkill for bystanders. It ends up a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, in a very sad way -- not least because for him to do that, given what she is and has done, is a braver thing than standing down TWO simultaneous armed mobs earlier in the issue. Even more impressive in that the aversion isn't done by means of any usual gimmick: Anthem is not a Purity Sue too innocently childlike to be thought of "in that way" and Gilgam doesn't consider humanity to be an insumountable obstacle to romance, either. They really are friends -- no "just" about it.
The Blue Knight: That voice...You! From the library!
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Arduna is seen in issue 5 cradling a very contented, blissed-out yellow tabby. (Ironically, the scene does come at the culmination of a round of political and military strategic plotting...)
- Knight Errant: Gilgam, though he's anchored his errantry to the inn for now, in a very practical arrangement.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Mostly subverted, but played straight in Book 2 with Sir Commito Ai-Chalse, who fills the Sapt role of older Mentor to Princess Ismene.
- Know When to Fold'Em: Gilgam's consoling speech to Anthem in the middle of book 2. Made ... peculiarly painful in that he doesn't actually seem to know how to do this himself when push comes to shove (tables involved or not.)
- Lady of War: Commander Corva, though "demure" doesn't quite fit someone who dual-wields cutlass and hatchet and brawls with the best of them. (She does have the Impossibly Cool Clothes, however.)
- Lightning Gun: Fairly short-range, but very lethal. Gilgam's only holds two charges at once, but it turns out there were drum-loading model of this Energy Weapon made...Yeah.
- Lost Technology: From several past civilizations, in fact. Fortunately one of the original Ancients is around to turn it on for them! Unfortunately he doesn't remember all the instructions...which is bad, when your security systems include Killer Robots.
- MacGuffin: The titular comet in issue #4.
- Made of Iron: Averted. People who get hit are slowed, or put down for the count, unless they're Undead. (That takes bisection with Magitek weapons.) Even superhuman physical abilities and magical protections are no match for concussions inflicted by the combination of an armored elbow and a stone floor, or getting thrown onto sharp glass.
- Magitek: Science and sorcery seem to go together like any two things that go well together, in this world -- there's no evident problem with mixing them or using them together in whatever combination of reality hacks gets the job done.
- Master of Illusion: Vish, naturally, as an emissary of the Trickster; he has promised to train Anthem in this.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Yes ... and not exactly. There are knights in full plate with swords and shields riding around on big horse-things "covered in curtains", and other trappings indicative of "Western" inspired fantasy -- but it's not just Northern but also Mediterranean, there are other cultures both on and off the main continent with entirely different sorts of historical inspirations, and purely fantastic otherworldly ones as well. It could be a mess, a horrible "culture collage" of the most random sort, but somehow it's not. This troper finds that the simplest way of explaining it is: Imagine if the Conquistadors had allied with Tenochtitlan instead, returned to conquer Spain and formed a fusion culture and religion; the Armada had won; and the Stewarts hadn't just claimed "Divine Right" but actual divinity in their rule of the resulting combined Holy Human Empire, its protectorates and colonies across Europe and much of the Americas. And magic actually worked the way people still hoped it did in the 16th and 17th centuries, in the age of John Dee and Paracelsus, and the cosmos really was Neoplatonic and inhabited as the ancients believed. Everyone expects the Anglo-Aztec Inquisition -- but that doesn't mean they like it!
- Mentors: Vish fulfills the Giles role, for the most part, though he's not as Badass as "Ripper" by any means (better at bluffing, though) and has only recently accepted the need to help Anthem with weapons practice in addition to magical and mystical disciplines, since Gilgam has absolutely refused to train her in swordplay. (This is not because he objects to women in combat or thinks that she ought to stay "innocent," but may be related to his PTSD and fears of responsibility, or because he feels that whacking on her with beater swords would cause problems for their friendship. Gilgam also mentors Anthem, socially, but ... his mentoring comes off as a little skewed even at the best of times: "Cheer up, we still have enemies to kill!" would not be an acceptable pep talk to an anxious teenager, by most standards.)
- Mook Chivalry: Averted. Zerg Rush is the preferred tactic for dealing with adversaries.
- Mythopoeia: Chalt has its own pantheon of gods plus demigods and other supernatural beings, Creation Myth, and theologies attempting to explain The Gods and their ways.
- Neglectful Precursors: The Wyrds on the whole would seem to be this, going by some of Gilgam's bitterer remarks.
- Ninja: None, strictly speaking, so far; but Gilgam's hooded black and dark-green forest camo outfit looks the part, and he spends a lot of his time patrolling in high places like trees, cliff ledges, and the inn's own rooftop, bringing this trope pretty near the mark. Also making for some surreal visuals when he comes off-shift from one duty and immediately takes up another, while even the most arrogant Brute Squad member has difficulty coping with "Alien Ninja Bartender" as a paradigm...
- Not So Different: Darumatha to Anthem in its "Join me" speeches.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Several infamous war crimes and atrocities have been alluded to, but we have only seen one so far in flashbacks, during Chapter 2 during the conversation with the Escavite representatives, when Gilgam recalls stumbling into a scene of bodies stacked like cordwood after a retaliatory genocide committed by the alliance.
- Odd Job Gods: All of the deities fall into this multi-tasking category. Truth in Television, given ancient history.
- Only in It For the Money: Subverted; it looks like this at first when Gilgam begins to haggle with Arduna about how much they'll pay him to be both handyman and security for the inn, but then he swiftly points out that if he weren't honest, he could lie, pretend to take the lowball offer, and easily steal even more than he's asking. Instead of being emblematic of unheroically mercenary attitude, it's a strangely-powerful way of showing a Broken Hero answering The Call: for the first time in years he's standing up for himself and declaring that he's worth something, still. And it fits the whole pragmatic tone of the story, and one apparent moral of it, which is that people don't live on air, money doesn't grow on trees, and the old aristocratic attitude that commerce and toil are low and contemptible -- though wealth is anything but -- is itself a corrupting one.
- Paratext: Very restrained, for webcomics or for genre media these days. There's The Map, which has some short mythology and setting notes, Dramatis Personae pages for major and minor cast members -- and that's it, except for brief comments accompanying each page as posted, and a dry, often humorous Laconic summary in the author's Twitter feed announcing a new page.
- Playing with Syringes: Hadrakahn aristocrats were into this before the war put a stop to their rule, conducting experiments of undescribed but decidedly unpleasant type in the pursuit of earthly immortality -- even though it was a form of heresy revealing lack of faith in their God-Emperor. It's likely that this was a contributing factor to the rebellion itself, as it seems unlikely that most, if any, of the test subjects were volunteers. (Those channels running through the floors and walls of the ruined Temple of Natural Philosophy: not a gravy delivery system...)
- Pride Before a Fall: Maresh on the Temple roof in Book 4. Heh.
- Protective Charm: Gilgam has one in the form of a bronze wedjat, whose powers are undefined but which has "gone off" twice now (that we know of) in Anthem's presence, making it function as a "Detect Evil" gadget in addition to any defensive properties. Word of God says that Corva's shell brooch is also a talisman, but we haven't seen it do anything yet.
- Proud Scholar Race: The Wyrds, whose society had reached and/or surpassed 20th century technology even before they decided to leave the surface of the planet for floating island cities. Amusingly subverted in that while Gilgam is quite vain of his people's accomplishments, and while he is both literate and knowledgeable, he isn't an obsessive bookworm like Anthem, is quite happy to push off translating duties on her when he learns she can read Wyrdish (much to her annoyance) and Spock never had embarrassing moments when he couldn't remember what buttons to push, did he?
Gilgam: (handing her a battery-powered flashlight) Hold this. It makes light...with magic!
- Puppet King: Everybody wants one these days! Barrabon and Maresh are recruiting candidates for their revived theocracy, Darumatha has found a second-stringer when Anthem wouldn't play, it's just the thing to do when you don't think you can get away with ruling openly on Chalt.
- Quit Your Whining: Several occasions so far. Gilgam to Anthem during their cold-weather training hikes; Okidesha's idol to Vish in Chapter 3; Corva to Anthem during her latest duty-related freakout.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: The Wyrds, and gods/angels/demons, though all of these beings can be killed, if not easily.
- Vish, on the other hand, inverts this to Anthem's incredulity.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Very likely, Chancellor Jarjuna off in the distant capital; locally, Arduna, though unfortunately his authority is limited to the Inn of Silver Leaves. (Well, legally, anyways. Mission creep has begun to set in.)
- Refuge in Audacity: All. The. Time.
- The Remnant: Two, in fact -- the remains of Yamra's human army composed of Hadrakahn knights and their loyal retainers, and the Yiggish rebel lords and their followers who joined him in hopes of gaining power unavailable to them in their own empire, the Ngapp. They don't get along very well, but both make life difficult for their neighbors in post-war Chalt whether teamed up or not.
- The Rival: Maresh, the young Templar-in-training, though he would strongly disagree which of them is the Bad Guy of this story. (He would be The Woobie, except he's way too annoying for that.)
- Ronin: The Ngapp, who served Yamra in hopes of supplanting his rebellious human subjects, and were retroactively outlawed after their emperor decided to support the human resistance at the tail end of the war. Now exiled to the wastelands, men without a country or hope of pardon, they have turned bandits and raid against neighboring humans and their own people, the Yigs, indiscriminately. (Ironically, Kawunei is technically loyal to his treacherous liege Yoth, but only in order to better supplant him since Dreadlord Yoth's too paranoid and jealous to surround himself willingly with any but idiots (or at least people genre-savvy enough not to seem too competent), making his fears a self-fulfilling prophecy, thus skating right along the edge of this without going quite over.)
- Ruins for Ruins Sake: Averted, with the history of the realm involving ancient warring nations occupying the region for ages past. (It should be noted that the author lives in a part of the country where centuries-old stone walls running through the middle of dense woods are to even be remarked upon. This troper has found forgotten basements, gravestones, and wells on hikes in the Northeast, though never containing treasure, unfortunately -- or monsters, fortunately.)
- Samaritan Relationship Starter: Chapter 3 turns out to be this.
- Samurai: See "Ronin" above.
- Scary Shiny Glasses / The Glasses Come Off: Both averted. Kawunei only takes his glasses off to clean or fiddle with when it's quiet and safe, and he was plenty scary long before we ever saw his lenses flash in the darkness. (Something about the way he's quiet and polite and pleasant up until the instant he decides it's time to kill someone, and then does it. And Vish defeats him!) These tics just seem like little touches of realism. Definitely Stoic Spectacles, though his rivals may have mistaken them for Nerd Glasses. Might count as Megane -- YMMV.
- Schizo-Tech: Justified, with civilizations of different ages and even planetary origins all interacting on Chalt.
- Screwball Black Comedy: The first issue, from the breaking out of the coffee on to last page, is very much this, as Anthem becomes more and more frantic as the bodies mount up and she is threatened with discovery, even as nobody around her recognizes what a menace she is until it's far too late. This results in a lot of scenes that are simultaneously hilarious and totally wrong, all the while the suspense is ratcheted up to nailbiting levels. Her panic, and her solutions to the problems that result, shouldn't be funny at all. It's a strangely perverse version of the Noir aesthetic.
- Secret Identity: Played with interestingly as nobody at the inn is fooled by Anthem for long, but even after she reveals her real name and origins to her friends, she, and they, all continue to use her new one and never mention her past before outsiders.
- Shapeshifting Lover: Ismene.
- Single-Stroke Battle: The (foreshadowy) duel in Chapter 4. The Magitek weapon helps, but he's just that fast, too.
- Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Definitely gritty, with stuff worn out and broken from time,, battle and disrepair, but not making The Dung Ages mistake -- class, wealth, tradition, craftsmanship all affect the visual environment and material levels of civilization on Chalt. But everything does come at a cost, which is kind of the point of the story.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The scale is very well oiled. This troper feels it weighted towards "Cynicism," but then there are all these surprising Heartwarming moments! Only they tend to come, if not in a welter of gore, at least in situations fraught with and surrounded by, intense violence and brutal cruelty. So...yeah...?
- Snow Means Death: A lot of that, esecially in Book 3. Justified in the increased destperation caused by winter's onset.
- Snow Means Love: Book 3, in retrospect.
- Space Elves: The Wyrds, pretty much, of the Type II Enlightened Mystic Race kind -- they've got the longevity, speed, grace, superior senses, and the Pointy Ears -- with that making the Ulenites the Space Dwarves.
- Subverts most conventions in that both cultures are high-tech and mechanized, both have their present pacifists and warrior pasts, and both groups may have been fighting over territory more than ideology in antiquity, though we haven't really heard enough to be certain of historical motivations.
- And while the Wyrds presently may be in retreat from the unpleasantness of earthly life, well on their way to a Higher Plane as previous species have gone before, "dreaming in columns of lightning", the political situation is so delicate that Gilgam is able to bluff the Ulenite embassy over fears of this detente ending by pretending to be a semi-official representative of his people observing the proceedings.
- Moreover their culture isn't Celtic Mythology influenced at all, unless you want to get really obscure ; their futuristic tech isn't Crystal Spires and Togas, it's Crystal Pyramids And Scarabs and they look the part, with dark skin and kinky hair.
- We haven't him shaving or stubble-chinned, but from Gilgam's old family photos we know that Wyrds can grow full beards, as sported by one of his mother's companions.
- And he uses neither sword nor bow, carrying only a medium-sized knife and his gun which he uses as a bludgeon as often as not; since we haven't yet seen any other Wyrdish fighters in battle, it's not possible to say if this is an aversion or a subversion of the trope, in other words, if it's them or just him. There have been more than a few indications that he's not a "proper" Wyrd, if he ever was.
- However he does go on a lot about the inferiority of human culture and intellect, especially at first and/or when people annoy him.
- Space Whale: The Wisps, beings of pure energy that inhabit the upper atmosphere, and which were nearly hunted to extinction by early Wyrdish adventurers to power their devices until they worked out alternate energy sources. In Book 3, Gilgam mentions that his mother once captained such expeditions, one of the very few definite things he's said about his past.
- Spikes of Villainy: Averted/Subverted, since the Bison Guards are at worst Corrupt Cops and at best Incompetent Cops, but have impressively spiked pauldrons as part of their livery; while Arduna and Reshma both have helmets with spiky bits that look exactly like something Evil Minions would wear in traditional fantasy art, but are among the best of fellows in the story.
- Spooky Silent Library: Discovered when wild magic reveals the stairway to a new part of the complex of ruins over which the inn is built; it becomes rather less spooky after they deal with the bandits and magical guardians infesting the tunnels and start inventorying the rare books.
- Story Arc: Each chapter is a complete episode, but plot threads and characters carry over/under/around/through for the long haul. A very nice little instance of this long-term continuity is the glimpse of the Blue Knight (who does not appear in this issue in the present) in the background during a flashback to the invasion of Esgavi during the war, logically since he was once one of Yamra's important lords.
- Tagalong Kid: Anthem, in the earlier issues -- lately not so much as she now has two full jobs as the inn's accountant and official cleric of the goddess but she's also furiously Level Grinding now, so she may be planning on convincing Gilgam to let her come on patrols again:
Gilgam: Hell are you doing?
- Talking Is a Free Action: Averted; speech is always broken up to fit events on the page.
- Teen Genius: Anthem and Maresh, who being too clever for their own good managed to summon a very powerful demon by accident, and are both dealing with the consequences now, each of them having been saved by rival, warring camps of the gods. Anthem is superb at math and logic, but not so great at coping when reality fails to match her calculations; while Maresh runs on passion and emotion, and is great at manipulating and motivating people with the intensity of his convictions, but not necessarily able to see the wider picture. Between them, they're wreaking a lot of havoc in their nation of Vasgol...
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Many instances, as Chalt is an old world with many hierarchies in place, and yet hierarchies which have been disrupted by war and revolution:
- Anthem's failure to observe the formalities towards her nominal superiors gives away her imposture almost at once; Reshma, one of her co-workers who is himself a fugitive from
justicenobles outraged that a lowly blacksmith would dare to love their sister, tries to give her pointers about this early on, as her privileged upbringing makes it almost impossible for her to function as a commoner despite her wide reading and intellect.
- Later on, after she's given up pretending and is depending on her status as a cleric/clerk to protect her, she gets snippy with other people who don't address her with sufficient formality. This creates minor friction, a good bit of irony, and opportunities for snark all round.
- Gilgam, on the other hand, is entirely informal, demanding none and giving none and mocking the notion of inherited rank at all. This leaves most people very confused as to how to deal with him, since as one of The Ancients he ought to be the most formal of all, right? May just be even more tangled of a situation, as at the beginning he introduces himself as "a prince among wyrds" which probably was just scarcasm and a figure of speech but -- we just don't know. It's Rule of Funny and a very small possible visual clue versus low probability and no evidence at all either way.
- The trope is played absolutely straight when he's conducting the interrogation/negotiations with Commander Corva and addresses her as "Miss", which, well, might have been mere empty formality -- and equally, might have been another test. She corrects him quite firmly on that point -- making the occasion when she grants him, and him alone, First-Name Basis, a very important one indeed.
- Anthem's failure to observe the formalities towards her nominal superiors gives away her imposture almost at once; Reshma, one of her co-workers who is himself a fugitive from
- Translation Convention: It is given that everyone is speaking Vasyar, the majority language of this part of the world, unless speech is in brackets; different dialects and accents are indicated with more subtle internal cues or remarked upon by the characters.
- Treasure Map: In classic Treasure Island mode, this doesn't quite work out the way it's supposed to. (It gets hung over the bar -- bloodstains and all -- as a souvenir, afterward.)
Anthem: This looks like the map Naksuanan sold those two treasure-hunters. Except his was written in Vasyar, not Wyrdish. Here, for example, the cave under the Serpent Tower was labeled "Hall of Opals."
- Treasure Room: Subverted in Chapter 1, as the adventurers storm right past the real treasure in their anger at not having found the non-existent rooms full of jewels.
- Trickster Archetype: The goddess Ailari, patron of travelers, messengers, merchants, inns, freedom, and fortune. Her various servants and champions all embody these aspects in different ways, starting with Anthem's protests that she's nobody's servant, thankyouverymuch, and Gilgam's shameless Rules Lawyering and outright deceptions to see justice done without giving her away. (Vish, for all his Lawful inclinations, even wears Hermes' winged sandals.)
Vish: [...]Lady Luck. My Goddess. Yours now. Sanctifier of Journeys, Lady of Crossroads, Gallows-Girl of Thieves and the Courts of Night.
- The Unchosen One: Anthem, who was trying to be the savior of her village when it backfired bigtime, and Gilgam, who stepped into the gap because nobody else was there to do it, and Vish, going above and beyond the paramaters of his mission when duty called. Pretty much all the Good Guys so far, in fact, have just shouldered responsibilities with more or less grace answering no Call but their own internal promptings. Maresh was explicitly chosen by a god as champion, but this is not looking to be a very good thing...
- Uncoffee: Averted, as Anthem, a tea-drinker from the sticks who's never encountered "java" before, is introduced to it while pulling an all-nighter. Hilarity Ensues.
Ismene: Should I w--wake Anthem?
- Upperclass Twit: Dosh Ai-Nalyitta, a young adventurer from a minor aristocratic house loyal to the God-Emperor in the war and consequently fallen on hard times. He has enough good qualities to inspire loyalty from his friends even when he is being extremely annoying, but lacks the necessary discernment to keep out of major trouble, including seeing through overt flattery and manipulation. (Think Bertie Wooster as a cavalier with a sword and a big white horse-analogue.)
- Up to Eleven: Book 4 is basically this. Stuck in a rut, with dead victims and live bandits still turning up in your backyard despite your best efforts? Nothing you do seeming to halt the inevitable slide towards chaos? Not to mention the drearier aspects of your decidedly-unglamorous day job -- how can we make this worse? Hey, let's have your old army buddy the dashing cavalry officer show up full of grand ideas to take charge and set things right! Never mind you never wanted a military career and he's got his own problems by the ton (and his confidence won't last past this mission) -- this isn't much fun. Guess what! You cannot imagine how much worse this week is going to get! Or, alternately, are you fighting a rearguard action against your own Dark Side and losing ground steadily, while making no discernable progress whatsoever on your magical studies? Too bad -- you'll be needed to go BE the cavalry once all the trained fighter- and wizard-types have gotten themselves captured by the Undead Psycho Warlock. (That's right, you think you're oh-so-evil, huh?) Good luck with that! Oh, and did we mention that your old nemesis is back, with yet another power upgrade? Have fun! You guys are gonna wish it was still boring old yesterday!
- Virgin Tension: Completely averted. Anthem's sexual experience has never been stated one way or the other (she has expressed a Holmesian scornful bewilderment at the angst that others go through over matters of sex and love and societal hypocrisies surrounding them/we don't know/it doesn't matter) but at the outset Gilgam assumes that her reason for running away from home was a premarital pregnancy/abortion and subsequent disgrace (in fairness a much more reasonable assumption than "fleeing an Epic Sorcerous mishap") ... and that has no affect at all on his chivalrous behavior towards her when they're trapped by a band of fallen knights and retainers turned bandit, as she refuses to leave him to hold them off alone:
Gilgam: Scram, girlie. Now.
- Visionary Villain: Lots. All of Our Heroes' adversaries so far, at least in leadership roles, have grand aims of reshaping the world and gaining or regaining a place of power and respect in it. Some of them even believe, or claim to believe, that they're even doing it for the good of all.
- Visual Innuendo: There is a subtle bit of risque humor in Chapter 1 over the circumstances in which Anthem aquires her sword: she picks it up from where the macho, bullying Sergeant Deemo -- think Nobby Nobbs with none of the latter's good qualities -- has thrown it aside, revealed as an abject coward when the crisis comes...and earlier, when he tried to intimidate her, she employed aristocratic hauteur to quell him, calling him a "pitiful eunuch". Then she uses his discarded blade to chop off the sword-hand of the first of a bunch of would-be rapists, cutting short their gloating. (It may not be entirely coincidental that her first deliberate homicide was done with a sickle, either.) Swords run the gamut in this fantasy setting from Boring but Practical tools (hur, hur -- no, not that kind of tool) to impossible elemental creations so not surprising that their symbolism is all over the map, too.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Anthem and Gilgam, who snark at each other all the time. (It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.)
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Several different sorts - demons and gods (basically the same thing, just divided by who's winning) can do it easily, and ordinary creatures can slip the bonds of nature under certain, as-yet-indefinite circumstances and "overreach" themselves to become higher lifeforms. Such shapeshifters have uncanny powers of healing that can give them away when they try to pass for normal humans. They also, in keeping with many legendary traditions, retain some characteristic of their natural form, such as a skin cloak or a mark on their body which betrays their origin. Reactions to shapeshifters seems to vary by culture on Chalt, with orthodox Hadrakahns regarding them as demons to be slain even when they are trying to live harmless unobtrusive lives, while the magic-using Escavites seem to be less fazed by them. We have learned very recently that artificial shapeshifting for humans is also possible, through sorcery.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Yamran loyalists, but it's interesting how "Humanity needs us to rule again for their own good" exactly coincides with their self-interests. In this world, you're (marginally) safer sticking with the ones who honestly admit that they're in it for themselves.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Averted. Xenophobia is a major theme of the series, with Fantastic Racism and intra-human bigotry equally serious.
- White Mask of Doom: The Forgers of Pain. This troper finds them to be very, very far down into the Uncanny Valley due to their puppet-like aspects.
- Woman in White: Corva, obviously. (Off-duty she favors earth tones and darker neutrals.)
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: Defeating Yamra and his knights didn't usher in an age of peace and prosperity, didn't "end all wars" or right all wrongs; instead the grim aftermath for Chalt has been the legacy of widespread destruction, war crimes and ongoing political strife which is pretty much Truth in Television. Exacerbated by the fact that killing a god has messed up the cosmic balance as well.
- You All Meet in An Inn: Subverted in that they all stay at an inn, too -- the Inn of Silver Leaves becomes Our Heroes’ home base, which is fitting given that it’s doubly sacred ground to Ailari, being a place of commerce at a crossroads. This is convenient for the plot and provides plausible logistical support, as well as plenty of opportunities for conflict and situational humor.
- You Are Not Alone: A particularly awesome example at the end of Chapter 2, as Anthem tries to steel herself to going on the run again...