The Elenium

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After ten years in exile, tired, aging Sir Sparhawk returns to his dirty, polluted home city of Cimmura to find that things have changed quite a bit in his absence. The incompetent King Aldreas has died under mysterious circumstances, and his youthful heir Ehlana is on the verge of death, her life preserved solely by an extremely risky spell. The city—and the kingdom of Elenia it rules—now is controlled in all but name by the corrupt Primate Annias of the Elene Church, who's put a puppet ruler in control and is stripping the treasury bare to pay for his private campaign for the head of the Church. And his ally, the fallen Pandion Knight Martel, is stirring up trouble across the continent to discredit and ultimately destroy the Church Knights to which Sparhawk belongs.

Gathering a party of various companions, including champions of the Church Knights, sorcerers of Styricum, street thieves, and his squire, Sparhawk sets out- both to thwart the designs of Annias, and to find a cure for the queen's suspicious illness. But increasingly, he and his companions are embroiled in a shadowy world of magic, powerful artifacts, and the evil God that craves them.

A Spiritual Successor to The Belgariad, the Elenium is nonetheless quite distinct and arguably serves as an example of David Eddings at his best. It is both darker and more medieval in feel while still avoiding a Crapsack World, and contrasts the usual callow protagonist on a climb to greatness with its own cast of predominantly seasoned, somewhat cynical professionals. Particularly notable in that none of the knights—who are, essentially, paladins—are Lawful Stupid, and that political action is increasingly as important to the story as classical adventuring.

There is a sequel trilogy called the Tamuli (which is covered here too).


Tropes used in The Elenium include:
  • Abusive Precursors: The Elder Gods.
  • Advantage Ball: The Church Knights, by dint of their training, reputation, and armor, which is not only protective but intimidating as well, tend to Curb Stomp any enemy force in combat, regardless of the opposition's numbers, equipment or tactics. The individual Knights tend to do this as well.
  • Accent Relapse: Inverted with Caalador, who speaks in an outrageously folksy Cammorian accent most of the time... until people tell him to cut it out.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Kurik, when the Basilica is under siege.
  • Accidental Marriage: Sparhawk accidentally proposes to Ehlana when, instead of returning a ring he borrowed from her, he instead puts his ring on her finger. Played with in that it's only accidental on his side. She knows from the beginning that he made a mistake, but she keeps him on the hook because she had wanted to marry him anyway.
  • Action Girl: Mirtai in The Tamuli. It helps that her entire race is like this - slavers who attack a group of teenage Atan girls with dreadful intent wind up as eunuchs.
  • Adipose Rex: Otha, the Emperor of Zemoch, is what happens when you take the villainous type of this trope and give him several centuries to perfect his laziness and corruption. He needs several strong men to carry his litter around (having long ago lost the ability to move under his own power) and is frequently described as a "slug" by the other characters.
  • The Alcoholic: All it takes to get Krager to spill his entire life story is a barrel of Arcian red wine. And some cash, maybe. But mostly the wine. While he gets away at the end of The Tamuli, it's mentioned that the drink has taken its toll on his body, and he isn't likely to live long.
    • Also King Wargun of Thalesia, who dies from the effects of a lifetime of hard drinking between the two series.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Elenian Trolls are twice as tall as a human, covered in fur and leathery hide, immortal (though not invulnerable), and they live in the frozen mountains of Thalesia where packs have to live miles apart from one another because they'll usually kill each other on sight. They're also distantly related to humans and have not only their own culture but their own gods.
    • And let's not even get into the Ogres. They're even bigger.
  • Exclusively Evil: Subverted with the Zemochs, who look like this at first but later turn out to be harmless after the Evil Overlord and his god that were ruling them were... forcibly removed. Played largely straight with the Cyrgai, though they're more like Always Stupid Evil as a result of centuries of inbreeding and fanaticism.
  • And I Must Scream: Happens to a Big Bad at the end of The Tamuli and to another minor villain. The Troll-Gods set them on fire and shove them into "No-Time," where they will run and burn alone forever.
  • Anti-Hero: Sparhawk, of the "Disney Anti-Hero" variety. He's got hard edges and can be rather petty or ruthless when he feels it's called for, but at heart he's an honorable man who lives for his duty to his knighthood, his nation, and especially his Queen.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Played for laughs in the last book when a Tamuli scholar refuses, like the rest of his race, to believe in Trolls. Ulath answers by calling a gargantuan, angry (illusionary) troll in the hall.
    • Also: 'I'm an agnostic, Divine One.' 'Would you like to examine that last sentence for logical consistency, Stragen?'
  • Army of the Ages: Cyrgon does this in The Tamuli, but it's less effective than most examples.
  • Artifact of Doom: Bhelliom. Sure, you can kill a god with it, but you'll have to spank the Troll-Gods first.
  • Armor Is Useless: Very averted. Armor is key to the Church Knights' way of battle, and while Atans fight in light armor they never actually clash with heavily armored troops and have the advantage of sheer size anyways.
    • Played straight with Azash's undead guardians in the end of the first trilogy. They all wear huge menacing armor with spikes that look very frightening, because that's what the Zemochians thought armor was for - but they never understood the real purpose with armor, so the Zemochian armor is clumsy, incredibly unwieldy, and doesn't even protect properly; all those spikes only serve to direct a blow towards weak points instead of deflecting them. In fact, the armor is worse than useless.
    • Also played with in the case of Adus, not because the armor is inherently useless but because it doesn't fit right. Also averted in that once he's down, his killer (a ten-year-old boy) needs help to get a sword through his breastplate to deliver a coup de grace.
    • Played with with Martel. It is not that his armor is useless (he is a trained Church Knight), but out of vanity he has his armor made in the finest (and heaviest) style in the world, with gold details and ornamentation on it, which tires him faster than the equally-skilled and equally-aged Sparhawk. And he admits it with his dying breaths.
  • Authority in Name Only: Avin Wargunsson might be King of Thalesia, but every one of his subjects treats him as a complete joke. The King of Rendor is also stated to be this.
  • Ax Crazy: Subverted in the Tamuli when the Knights go undercover. Bevier cuts down his lochaber and plays the part of a Psycho for Hire in Scarpa's army, and he hams it up so much everyone in the army camp is completely terrified of him.
    • Adus as well, cutting through his own troops to reach Kalten in the final battle, while roaring like an animal.
  • An Axe to Grind: Berit and Bevier. Especially Bevier, whose favored weapon is an intimidating lochaber axe. Characters frequently comment on just how murderous the thing looks, and he is fully capable of massive destruction with it.
    • Don't forget Ulath, the most traditional axe-wielder of the group.
    • And on the villainous side of things, Adus who abandons his usual sword in favour of an axe in the final confrontation of The Elenium.
  • Babies Ever After: Only for Sparhawk and Ehlana. Subverted in that their bouncing baby daughter is actually Aphrael. At the same time she exists as Flute. When they do eventually meet, nobody non-magical suspects a thing except Berit, who sees that Sparhawk, Sephrenia, and Vanion are remarkably twitchy about it.
    • Justified in that the poison Ehlana was given made her barren, and Aphrael figured she'd kill two birds with one stone- she needed somewhere safe to hide and get over the shock of a God's death (Ehlana's womb was perfect) and she'd give Ehlana the heir she needed.
  • Back from the Dead: A major part of the plot in The Tamuli is someone calling up armies from the past.
    • Kurik does this twice, as his presence is needed to banish/reclaim the Bhelliom.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sparhawk's and Ehlana's respective ancestors, which served as the initial basis for the bond between the two families.
  • Badass: Just about every knight in the party is a champion of one of the orders, and Sparhawk's squire, Kurik, is described as one of the most gifted hand-to-hand combatants in the world. Sparhawk takes the prize from all of them, however. This is a guy who'd make Cthulhu curl up into a foetal position on the floor, and he in fact does kill a reasonably similar God. Even more, he does it with style.
    • Kurik is an enormous badass in his own right, peaking when he meets an arrogant young nobleman while being browbeaten into wearing Bevier's armour and scares the daylights out of him. As a follow-up, the young man's father is so horrified his son was harrassing a bunch of badass Church Knights and is so profoundly ignorant that he didn't know who they were, he disowns the clown, banishes his friends and pack his own wife off to a monastery. Bevier later says Kurik's a bigger man than him because he'd have just decapitated the kid "after his second remark".
      • "You wouldn't dare!" "Try me."
      • "I have eight of my friends with me!" *spit* "That rabble?"
    • Sparhawk gets his own lines like this:

Ulath: Are you mad, Kalten? You want me to draw my sword on my own king?"
Kalten: Of course not - just on his funeral cortege. If Wargun goes up against Sparhawk he'll be drinking heavenly mead after the first pass.

    • Martel is an excellent villainous Badass.
    • Bergstern is a Badass Preacher, given that not even Sparhawk will risk a fight with him.
  • Badass Army: The Peloi and their ridiculously well-trained horses. Even the Church Knights step lightly around these guys. So does Otha, who invaded the West through Lamorkand in part because he didn't want to risk fighting the Peloi.
    • Of course the Church Knights. And the Atans, really.
  • Badass Bookworm: Bevier, a poet and amateur actor, student of military history and siege engineering. And that's when he isn't out and about decapitating people with his axe.
    • While Ulath doesn't fit the mold quite, being a quiet axe-wielding Boisterous Bruiser, he has plenty of opportunities to show his remarkable intellectual depth. Ulath explains this with that the winters in his homeland are so cold, you don't want to go outside, leaving plenty of time for study, music, storytelling, discussion and prayer.
  • Bad Boss: Azash, Annias, Martel, and especially Adus, who at one point cuts through his own troops to reach Kalten.
  • Bad Dreams: Sparhawk regularly dreams about the sound of the bells he followed after Martel's thugs attacked him in Rendor in the Backstory.
  • Battle Couple: Mirtai is a Hot Amazon and as much a warrior as any man. She towers over Kring, who is a horseman and about as deadly as she is—which deeply impresses Mirtai when she learns. It's hinted they eventually marry.
  • Be Quiet Nudge: Elhana attempts this with her husband. Of course, since he's wearing plate armour, all she gets out of it is a bruised elbow.
  • Berserk Button: If someone hurts Sephrenia, the entire Pandion Order will be out for blood. They all call her "little mother," and they are twenty-five thousand of the toughest and most highly trained knights on the planet. Not to mention that the other three orders—75,000 more knights—will tend to join in just on general principles.

Kalten: He can pull mountain ranges over his head to try to hide, but we'll still find him. The Church Knights aren't really very civilized, and when somebody hurts those we love, it brings out the worst in us.

    • Even Martel, apostate and traitor-cranked-up-to-eleven, feels this way. When Annias shows contempt about Sephrenia, Martel tells Annias that Sparhawk is, deep down, a decent guy. Martel isn't.
    • Additionally, Sparhawk takes it very, very personally if anybody does anything to the Queen he's loved and protected since she was seven years old.
  • Big Bad: Azash in the first trilogy. The second is a bit more complicated, with Cyrgon, Zalasta and Klael all vying for the role. By the end, even Krager has thrown in his hat for the title.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Annias. He's smart, and a decent Chessmaster, but his Smug Snake tendencies typically bite him in the hindquarters, and he's no match for Martel or the real Big Bad, Azash. Krager in the Tamuli.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Zalasta gets one of these moments in the Tamuli when he wipes out a powerful enemy sorcerer and a giant dinosaur during a battle. It's actually a big dramatic False-Flag Operation designed to win the Elenes' trust.
  • Black Knight: The first character we see in the series wears black platemail, has a crooked nose, carries a huge sword, rides an evil-looking horse and quietly threatens anyone who gets in his way. His name is Sparhawk and he's the protagonist.
    • The entire Pandion Order invokes this trope. They have a reputation for being cruel and implacable warriors who torture prisoners graphically in their chapterhouses. They planted those rumors themselves, to make enemies believe they're even more Badass than they already are.
  • Book Ends: The Elenium begins and, except for the epilogue, ends with Sparhawk slinking into Cimmura on a rainy night. The Tamuli begins the same way.
  • Break the Cutie: The Shining Ones is one huge one for Sephrenia. First, it's revealed that there's a powerful Styric magician working with the other side, and every Styric magician of that calibre happens to be her friend. Then she's forced to go to Delphaeus, the home of the race she believes killed her family. Then she witnesses the rest of the party forming an alliance with them and completely disregarding her feelings with some very unkind words (to be fair, they didn't know and she wouldn't tell them) and then it's revealed that her old friend Zalasta was the traitor, and he was also behind her parents' murder.
  • The Brute: Adus. Kalten describes him as putting armor on a gorilla... who doesn't bathe.... He's pretty much the archetype at its best: a mentally handicapped, rape and torture happy animalistic thug, who can't write and can barely read, but is a savant when it comes to small unit tactics, serves as The Dragon's chief enforcer, and is very, very dangerous in combat. Martel refers to him as a walking battle axe, and that's not too far off.
  • Catch Phrase: Sparhawk -- "Neighbor." Martel -- "Old boy." Ulath -- "I hate sieges." And of course,

Anyone: Whose turn is it to do the cooking?
Ulath: Yours.

"Behold!" Oscagne intoned quite formally. "Behold the seat of beauty and truth! Behold the home of wisdom and power! Behold fire-domed Matherion, the centre of the world!"

  • Clueless Chick Magnet: Berit, especially in Tamuli. Someone wonders if they should tell him, only to be shushed by ALL the women present. Apparently, his innocent cluelessness is part of his attractiveness.
    • Inverted by Bevier, who's attractive and knows it, but is pitching at the priesthood one day and refuses to act on it.
  • Cooldown Hug: Delivered by Kalten to Sephrenia in The Shining Ones.
  • Corrupt Church: The Elene Church was this in the past, which led to several factions breaking away and creating the Eshandists and the churches in the Elene kingdoms of Daresia. Some churchmen, notably Makova, are still corrupt, but there are others who aren't.
  • Crapsack World: Largely averted; though there are some hints at it in the settings, the people occupying them are pretty normal. Cimmura's a notable example setting-wise in that it's a polluted mess that's constantly being doused in rain, but it's also home to Ehlana, Sparhawk and a guild of Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters.
  • Critical Research Failure: An in-universe example: all the Trolls leave Thalesia in the Tamuli. Turns out Cyrgon summoned them to do his bidding because he thought they were Dawn-Men (the ancestors of both Trolls and humans).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Mirtai is very good at causing these, especially in her Backstory, including ripping the guts out of a group of killers while they were still alive and leaving them to burn to death in a blazing house with their guts around their feet. The other Atans encourage this. Justified because the guys in question had her owner killed.
    • Hilariously subverted when in the end of The Hidden City she kills a man by throwing him out a window. Kalten asks what she did, she tells him 'I defenestrated him' and he, believing that 'defenestrating' means something much worse, tells her that it's a terrible thing to do to a man until she clears up the meaning.
  • Crystal Prison: inverted in that the inhabitant is only in there to keep her alive.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Nearly every primary and secondary warrior character comments on this after fighting the Cyrgai. In fact almost the entire Tamuli proves to be a long-running series of these, with the heroes often commenting on how uncreative their opponents are. It's especially bad during the climax, when just about every battle is horrifically lopsided in favour of the heroes. Most notably Sparhawk versus Cyrgon, and Anakha versus Zalasta.
    • In Domes of Fire, both a party of mounted Atans and some of Bevier's knights are killed by Mooks with crossbows. Both are very, very angry, and it's pointed out that crossbows are game breakers in this world because they can effectively punch through any armour the knights have got. One of their next actions is to find the crossbow depository and take them out.
  • Cute Mute: Flute. Subverted in that she can talk but chooses not to until the second book.
  • Darker and Edgier: Though the specifics are often quite different, in Broad Strokes The Elenium can be thought of as a Darker and Edgier evolution or spiritual successor to The Belgariad.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The entire Thalesian race. Most of the main cast gets this way at times, too. It's Eddings, what do you expect?
    • Sarabian.

Berit: Well, your Majesty, it was your wife, Elysoun- the one with the unusual costume.
Sarabian: Yes, I'm acquainted with her.

  • Decapitated Army: The Zemochs aren't really evil, and are happy to forgo any plans for war once Azash has been wiped out.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Aphrael could well be the patron saint of Deliberately Cute Children.
    • It turns out the child act is more or less A Form You Are Comfortable With - and Aphrael uses it entirely so people will pick her up and give her kisses. Her true form is actually quite adult and never clearly described save for her eyes and her lack of clothes.
      • The kisses and such have an ulterior motive: they make those people love her. Bhelliom outright states he's afraid of her because of this, because she can essentially wrap anyone around her little finger, itself included.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Baron Harparin, one of Annias' minions, who's a pedophile. He's universally detested by all the characters and the butt of constant snide remarks from friend and foe alike.
    • However, sympathetic gay characters do appear in Mirtai's backstory.
    • And it's pretty clear that it's his pedophilia that people find despicable, not his homosexuality.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: Azash presents a pretty good case. He may be the most evil of the Elder Gods, but he's also an emasculated Idiot Ball-carrying buffoon locked inside a clay idol. His minions can be pretty scary, though.
    • Cyrgon even more so. This is a guy who deliberately bred up a race of inbred musclemen who haven't changed in millennia.
    • Also justified in both cases. Azash is more like a primordial, evil force of nature than a real character, while Cyrgon is essentially the god of unthinking stagnation, having designed his chosen people at the dawn of time and become so attached to them that he is unwilling to change them one iota. His conservativism is a deliberate choice; despite his dislike of innovation, he learns quickly in a fight.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Azash gets wiped out by Sparhawk and Bhelliom in the third book. The other gods are understandably quite terrified.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Sparhawk is more frightening when he gets quiet than when he rages and roars. Even more true with Bevier, whose faith cause leads him to take shockingly violent action once he is certain he is on firm theological and moral ground. At one point he not only decapitates a corrupt church soldier that refuses to let them pass, he then leads the man's terrified subordinates in chanting prayers for the dead man's soul.
  • The Dragon: Otha is technically this for Azash, but as he's physically not up to much Dragoning, Martel fills the role in the Final Battle. Later on, Cyrgon is pressed into duty to serve as this to Klael after arrogantly summoning it.
  • Dual Age Modes: Although Aphrael spends most of her time as a child, she can be an adult if she wants. Or both at the same time.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted by Melidere.
  • Dumb Muscle: Adus, The Cyrgai, and Klael's Giant Mooks.
    • Kalten also counts. Though when it comes to social intelligence, he is more shrewd than anyone but Sparhawk thinks.
  • Eldritch Abomination: All the Elder Gods are like this, apparently. Azash, as the worst of them, also crosses over to God of Evil, as he's evil by both the standards of mortals and other Eldritch Abominations. Klael is as far beyond the other Eldritch Abominations as they are beyond humans.
  • Elective Mute: Flute, for the first book and part of the second.
  • The Empire: Zemoch. Tamuli is a more benevolent version, and the Cyrgai used to be this, until the rest of the world caught up to them and ultimately left them in the dust.
  • The Emperor: Otha, and the Too Dumb to Live King of the Cyrgai. Sarabian is a Reasonable Authority Figure though.
  • Endless Daytime: Sparhawk accidentally causes this when he uses Bhelliom to help him catch up with Martel ... but leaves the method up to the Troll-Gods.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: No matter how depraved he becomes, Martel never stops loving Sephrenia.
    • Lycheas and Arissa obviously care for each other, as does Lycheas's father Annias, demonstrated when he goes out of his way to get the two rescued from imprisonment and brings them into Zemochian exile when his plan goes south.
  • Evil Counterpart: Martel, to Sparhawk.
    • Klael to Bhelliom.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Cyrgon, Cyrgon, Cyrgon. Summoning Klael, a being of infinite power and malevolence, capable of eating Gods for breakfast and picking its teeth with Eldritch Abominations, and trying to control it and make it his minion? That's just asking for trouble.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Otha. Martel tried to be this in the Backstory, but got caught and most of his powers were stripped away. Also Zalasta in the Tamuli.
  • Expy: Too many to count, mostly lifted from The Belgariad.
  • Fantastic Racism: The quickest way to piss off a Troll is to insinuate that he might be an Ogre. Also there's the Elenes and the Styrics, the Styrics and Zemochs, the Styrics and the Delphae...
  • Fantastic Catholicism - the exception is that there is no Christ figure, so it's essentially Judaism in Catholic clothes.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Not taken to the all-consuming extent of the Belgariad, but in general the Elenes are English and French, the Thalasians are Scandinavians, the Cammorians are sort of Italian, the Pelosians are Russians (with the Peloi being Cossacks or Mongols) and Lamorks are Germans, the Styrics are Jews (though their religion is more like pre-Christian paganism, and they have some Roma influences thrown in as well), the Tamuls are Chinese, the Cyrgai are the worst examples of Greco-Romanic culture (particularly Sparta), and the Rendors are Arabs.
    • There are also a few Fantasy Counterpart Religions: the Church of Chyrellos is obviously the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of Astel and its leader are Expys of Eastern Orthodoxy and the Patriarch of Constantinople, respectively.
  • Fat Bastard: Otha. He hasn't had to actually move in centuries, to the point that he can't walk at all. Subverted by Platime, who despite his criminal status is no worse than the protagonists.
  • Finger in the Mail: In The Tamuli, instructions to Sparhawk from Ehlana's kidnappers include a lock of her hair as verification.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sparhawk and Ehlana's ancestors, whose families are bound together after they end up back to back on a battlefield butchering bandits left and right.
  • Five-Bad Band: The major human villains form one: Annias is a Big Bad Wannabe, Martel is his Dragon-in-Chief, Krager is the Evil Genius, Adus is The Brute, Princess Arissa is The Dark Chick, and Lycheas is The Load. Alternately, one can sub in Azash as The Big Bad, move Annias to the position of Evil Genius, and put Otha and Martel in as Co-Dragons. Martel still manages to be Dragon-in-Chief though.
  • Five-Man Band: Sparhawk -- The Hero, Kalten -- The Lancer, Kurik -- The Smart Guy, Sephrenia -- The Chick, Ulath/Tynian/Bevier/Berit -- The Big Guy. Tack on Talen and Flute as the Tagalong Kids and there you go. Or, if you like, you could make the BigGuys their own band-within-a-band: Tynian -- Big Lancer, Bevier -- Big Smart Guy, Ulath -- Big BIG Guy and Berit -- Big Chick
  • Flanderisation: Kalten starts off Sparhawk's lifelong best friend and backup man; Sparkhawk's equal in general knowledge, raw cunning, and combat ability, but who never got the hang of magic because his talent with the Styric language is close to nil. This maintains throughout the first book, and after that Kalten begins a slide for being a big dumb guy who's somehow missed everyday information (like what a 'diagonal' is).
    • And then subverted, as the last couple books demonstrate that Kalten may not be book smart, but he thinks fast on his feet and can be remarkably clever. He's also shown to actually be able to understand the gist of most Styric conversations, even if he can't hope to pronounce the words.
      • Ultimately, it's a case of Kalten discovering Obfuscating Stupidity. He hides his intelligence behind the fact that everyone expects him to be stupid.

Sparhawk: Kalten, sometimes you amaze me.
Kalten: I know, this stupid-looking face of mine is very useful sometimes.

  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Appears several times. All the speaking dead, whether they died centuries before or a few days before. A man playing a resurrected dead hero speaks this way, plagiarizing an old play. Also Bhelliom speaks this way.
  • Folk Hero: Sabre tries to be one of these in the Tamuli, but his Zorro act is lampshaded, subverted, mocked and generally played completely for laughs, with all the heroes treating him as a figure of fun and a complete joke.
    • And then he kidnaps Ehlana and Alean in the last book. It's still played for laughs, with Scarpa and Krager ruthlessly mocking him nonstop.
      • To be fair, the guy was an idiot and completely useless. He had Krager to help him with the kidnapping.
  • Frazetta Man: The Trolls embody this stereotype almost to a T, to the point of being so primitive it's stated they'd have died off centuries ago if they weren't immortal.
  • Friend Versus Lover
  • The Fundamentalist: Patriarch Ortzel, the arch-conservative Lamork churchman who's got his heart set on forbidding the Church Knights from using magic. But since he's not Annias everyone except Ehlana gets behind him as the good guys' candidate for Archprelate.
  • Genius Bruiser: Most of the knights come close, but Ulath is probably the best example, being seven feet tall, and silent, yet possessed of remarkable intellectual depth, particularly in the fields of religious study, history, and folklore.
  • Gentleman Thief: Played perfectly straight with Stragen. Or should I say, Milord Stragen? Averted with Platime, whose attempts to be gentlemanly are wholly comical.
  • Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: Arguably Klael, which shows up randomly in the final book of the second series and promptly takes over as Big Bad. Once explained it makes sense, and anyone familiar with The Malloreon could see something like that coming, but it was still rather jarring.
  • General Failure: Otha.
  • Giant Mooks: Klael's alien army in The Tamuli.
  • A God Am I: At the end of The Hidden City, Sparhawk realizes that as Anakha, he has more power than most of the gods. But he decides he doesn't want the responsibility and apparently gives it all up.
    • One conversation suggests that all mortal races are gradually evolving to become like Gods, with the Delphae taking an accelerated course.
  • God of Evil: Azash and Cyrgon.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: The Elene God does not do one single thing through both series, although he is acknowledged as being real, incredibly powerful, and really boring at parties. The members of his Church Militant actually pray to the Styric gods for magical abilities he could easily grant them. Though one churchman suggests that maybe if they'd actually tried asking him to grant them powers they could have avoided the slight institutionalized heresy that their entire military wing is involved with.
    • The Elene God is based on God of the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Roman Catholic God, you are just supposed to have faith that he's working behind the scenes with his "grand plan" beyond your understanding.
    • On the other hand, if one considers that their worshippers seem to be similar to their Gods, the Elene highly value free will - as shown in Sparhawk's argument with Aphrael about her insistence in manipulating everyone's lives to her liking.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The Elene god and Azash are probably the two most powerful deities in the world not counting Bhelliom and Klael because they have so many worshippers; ordinary Styric gods like Aphrael are substantially weaker. In the Tamuli, at one point the conspirators try to starve Aphrael to death by killing off enough of her worshippers that she'll lose the power to sustain herself.
    • Aphrael states at one point that outside of human perception the air is positively littered with the ghosts of dead gods whose worshippers are all gone.
    • It's also implied that this may be the reason that the Elene god has commanded His followers to believe only in Him: He's afraid of the others poaching his followers. Aphrael reveals that in order for the knightly orders to receive Styric assistance, the Styric gods had to agree not to convert any knights.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Atans are the result of an extended breeding experiment intended to produce the ultimate Proud Warrior Race Guys. They succeeded so perfectly that they were forced to sell themselves into slavery to the Tamuls to prevent their own overdeveloped killer instincts from killing off the entire race over, say, an argument over the weather.
    • The Delphae are a race that can kill with a touch thanks to a curse from their god and are hated by most other races in existance. This is all part of their god's master plan.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Inverted. Sparhawk's nose was broken and healed crooked, making him look cruel and ugly. Martel only has silver hair over a surprisingly youthful face.
    • Kring is noted as having several serious scars on his face and scalp, but they're noted as evidence the rather physical path to leadership in his tribe.
  • Hair of Gold: Ehlana. Sparhawk even thinks of it as "a wealth of pale blonde hair."
    • Sparhawk's biased, though.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Played with extensively with the Atans, who as a whole believe they must always be "slaves" and that a completely "free" Atan is a very, very bad thing. This is due to them being such a Proud Warrior Race that generational blood feuds can be started over a disagreement about the weather, and so they as a race offered themselves as slaves to the Tamuls. Although, their "slavery" consists entirely of them agreeing to not kill anyone without permission and serve as the Tamuls' army, which allows them to be warriors and have glorious battles, without bringing their race to the edge of extinction from everyone killing everyone else for the slightest reason. And the Atans are all happy with this arrangement.
    • This is exemplified with Mirtai's case where instead of the normal institutionalized slavery of her people she was kidnapped and forced into a more personal slavery, and despite hating the more personal nature of her slavery (no not that way) she repeatedly refused and scoffed at any attempt to free her by Ehlana after she became her "slave", always saying that it was impossible for her people to ever be free, normally followed by a long list of people Ehlana knows that Mirtai would have killed by now for some type of insult if she had been free.
      • To clarify, she tells Ehlana at one point that, had she been free, she would have killed a major character for the unpardonable sin of allowing his shadow to touch her.
    • It's worse than it sounds. A high-ranking Tamul official once authorised an Atan expedition into Arjuna- without giving them any limits. They hanged the King and drove his subjects into the southern jungles, thus starting an economic crisis. It took centuries to convince the Arjuni to emerge from their hiding place.
  • Harmless Villain: Otha. Despite being the most powerful sorcerer in Zemoch and the mastermind behind the catastrophic invasion of the West, he's a Fat Bastard who can barely galvanize a corpse properly.
    • Although he did fight Sephrenia on a pretty even basis, so maybe not.
      • The way he is described, Otha has a lot of raw power granted to him by Azash... while being too lazy and dumb to make good use of that power. So, he can barely galvanize a corpse properly, because that would take thought, but he can fight Sephrenia on a pretty even basis, because slinging attack spells is not a complicated concept.
  • Heroic Bastard: Talen and Stragen. Arguably Platime as well, considering that he's both one of the good guys and a self-admitted, unrepentant career criminal.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Tynian and Ulath.
  • Hidden Depths: Melidere is introduced as Ehlana's lady-in-waiting, a baroness who is very intelligent but who knows that many feel threatened by intelligent, beautiful young women and so acts vacant because it's a good way to pick up information. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that she's also a criminal (her father shaved the edges of coins and re-milled them in order to create a rather significant fortune, and Melidere kept up the work).
  • Hide and No Seek: In the Tamuli, Mirtai is telling her life-story as part of a 'ritual of passage into adulthood', and when she gets to a certain point, she asks Danae to fetch her some water, since all the talking has made her thirsty. Naturally, this heralds the beginning of a slightly more sordid part of her tale, which wasn't really appropriate for children.
  • Horsing Around: Sir Sparhawk's horse Faran. Faran is infamous for his bad temper and a tendency to bite strangers (such that Sparhawk always has to warn handlers about it). In one of the later books, the child-goddess Aphrael tells Sparhawk that Faran only has a bad temper because he is trying to please Sparhawk by matching his personality. Much to Sparhawk's annoyance, Faran has a habit of prancing whenever Sparhawk rides him with his formal armour on. The horse is also remarked upon to be unusually intelligent, to the point of understanding Sparhawk's speech and having memorized the ritual entry into a Pandion Chapterhouse as well as Sparhawk has.
  • Idiot Savant: Adus, when it comes to small unit tactics.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: The standard greeting among Styrics.
  • I See Dead People: Sephrenia gets regular visits from the ghosts of several Pandion knights, while Sparhawk shares a little chat with the ghost of King Aldreas.
    • During the second book Tynian reveals himself as a Necromancer and goes around raising ghosts to help the party find Bhelliom. Sephrenia knows how it's done too, but she's The Chick, and thus claims (truthfully or not) that she's not strong enough to wrangle up ghosts.
  • Immune to Fate: The gods can see the destiny of every mortal, except one: Sparhawk. He's known as the Anakha, meaning "without destiny". This made the gods so nervous they considered killing Sparhawk before he was even born.
    • Eventually it is revealed that Sparhawk is immune because he was infused with the power of Bhelliom, an elemental force older and stronger than any god. Even while that power was dormant, it was so great that no god could see Sparhawk's future.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bevier, with some variation. He behaves like the perfect devout knight, prays on a regular basis, feels guilty thinking about women... But as soon as he's certain that killing someone is morally justifiable, people who get in his way get to know what the business end of his giant lochaber axe feels like.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "The Baron Harparin was so pleased that he completely lost his head."
  • Insane Troll Logic: From an actual Troll God no less. The reason that Tynian and Ulath can be in the "time of broken moments" and be jumped slightly through time so they exist in only the smallest, tiniest fraction of every moment rendering them unable to be seen/heard by anyone else, and yet perfectly see and understand everyone else they are trying to spy on? Because the Troll God Ghnomb thinks it works that way.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably, Martel. Sure he dies, but it's a quick death after a fair fight, with the two people he cares about most by his side. In his own words, it's almost as good as a formal deathbed. And this after bringing untold suffering out of pure spite and greed. None of his victims died so well.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: How Zalasta treat his bastard son Scarpa.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Bevier. All the Cyrinic Knights are generally like this, what with the burnished armor, white surcoats, and such, but Bevier plays it completely straight.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Sparhawk, of course, though most of the other knights fall into this territory.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Despite being a generation younger than his father, Khalad can do everything Kurik can do and immediately fills the squire role upon arrival. Justified because Khalad's family have always been squires for the various generations of Sparhawks and he's just following the tradition.
    • In fairness Eddings does give Khalad his own personality, but there really is a lot of Kurik there.
  • Large Ham: Sabre, who certainly tries to affect the mannerisms of a Magnificent Bastard, but suffers from the fact that the closest he's ever come to the real deal is in old epics. The result is so thoroughly over-the-top and cliche that Sparhawk is amazed the guy's for real the first time he sees him. Of course, he's just a little fish in the grand scheme of things.
    • Then there's Lilias, who only makes one appearance but puts on one ridiculously hammy show for her neighborhood with Sparhawk until their performance resembles a badly-written romance novel. Also, Gag Boobs.
    • Aren't we forgetting Bevier as a one-eyed mercenary? He admitted to being an actor during his schooling, but I doubt he'd make it as a professional.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: At least until the story shifts to Tamul, where it become a right-justified fantasy map.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: The final duel between Sparhawk and Martel fits the bill. Justified in that the book constantly drives home that Sparhawk and Martel are evenly matched and both of them want to find out who's truly better. Once the outcome is certain, Martel admits he never had any doubts. On his deathbed.
  • Little Miss Almighty: Aphrael, the Child Goddess
  • Load-Bearing Boss: After Azash and Otha are killed, the city of Zemoch starts to slowly fall apart as though thousands of years of attrition hit it all at once. It's less of a spectacular collapse and more of an accelerated decay.
  • Loveable Rogue: Talen. Oh so very Talen. Stragen also fits the bill.
  • Love Hungry: Aphrael.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Zalasta really, really wants to win over Sephrenia.
  • Magic Knight: Of the "Paladin" variety, although Pandions are more "Good but grey on the side of practicality." Technically all Church Knights are taught magic, but individual skills vary. In practice, Sparhawk does the most of it. For extra special fun, the god who gives them magic powers is not the god they worship. Aphrael is working on it, though.
    • The Church is aware of this, but prefers not to talk about it.
    • Subverted with Kalten, who's been taught by Sephrenia but is unable to make magic work and isn't ashamed to admit it. He just can't pronounce the Styric words necessary to cast spells. This is brought up as a joke every now and then.
      • To be fair, it was pointed out that it's not just pronunciation, you need to be able to think in Styric. Kalten's not really able to do so, so even if he could pronounce the words, his spells might not have worked.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Sure, Annias looks like the real villain, but his whole scheme was Martel's baby all along.
    • Don't forget Krager in the sequels.
    • And Zalasta
  • May–December Romance: Sparhawk has got a good 20 to 30 years on Ehlana. And Sephrenia is considerably older than Vanion. Like, orders of magnitude older.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: While this doesn't quite appear, the foundation is firmly set for Aphrael and Talen
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted for the most part. The history behind the Elene kingdoms includes bronze-age warriors and the discovery of iron, and when the Cyrgai show up in the second series they're all wearing bronze-age equipment and using antiquated phalanx tactics. Also, the borders of Cynesga have changed dramatically over time.
  • Megaton Punch: Berit delivers one of these when Talen's Bratty Half-Pint act starts to wear on the group. He throws in a punt for good measure.
  • Mordor: Zemoch is a classic example.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Basically what happens whenever Kalten tries to speak Styric. Also happens to Sparhawk in the first book when he magicks up a bouquet of flowers for Sephrenia but comes this close to conjuring up a handful of snakes.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Martel's name could be a historical Shout-Out to Charles Martel, a Frankish duke who stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe in the eighth century by using cunning, pragmatism and adaptability. And heavy professional infantry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours.
  • Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: Platime is one of these. Sure, he's committed almost every crime in the book, but not treason - and besides, he loves the Queen and pays his taxes!
  • Never Learned to Read: Sephrenia, by choice. She doesn't want to start thinking in Elene, so she doesn't want to learn to read it just to be on the safe side.
    • However, we find out in the Tamuli that she can read Styric. She's just been letting everyone think Styric doesn't have a written form.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Utterly averted by Kring who worships Mirtai from the moment he sees her. In fact, the only worry he has about her is how the women of his tribe will react to dealing with such a strongwilled outsider.
  • No Loves Intersect: Largely played straight, especially in the Tamuli. Heavily averted, though, in the last book of the Elenium when Berit falls head over heels for Ehlana. It leads to an undercurrent of extended tension between he and Sparhawk. Fortunately Sparhawk is able to defuse it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: As she points out huffily, Sephrenia and other Styrics aren't nearly so simple as they appear. She's fully trained in logic (though she prefers intuition); she can read (just not Elene as noted above), and she deliberately downplayed her own immense powers while in Elenia to avoid appearing too threatening.
    • She's not the only one. Flute/Aphrael, Emperor Sarabian, and to an extent Bhelliom itself all qualify. Cyrgon's an interesting case, because his stupidity is genuine but a conscious choice stemming from his role as a god of unchanging militarism and tyranny; when push comes to shove, he can learn if he has to.
    • Also, Kalten. He really isn't very good at academic pursuits, including magic, but he's surprisingly sharp behind his exaggerated loveable oaf persona.
      • This is best exemplified in The Hidden City when Kalten, Caalador, and Bevier infiltrate Natayos to see if Ehlana and Alean are there. When Alean recognizes the disguised Kalten by how he walks, and Ehlana tells her to sing, he recognizes her voice...and immediately begins whistling a counterpoint to let them know he heard. Then he strikes up a conversation with the guards so he can slip in references to Caalador's accent and Bevier's axe. Ehlana herself calls him a "treasure" whom Alean should never let go of, since he gave them far more information than Sparhawk ever could have.
    • Melidere, one of Ehlana's ladies in waiting, puts on the show of a Dumb Blonde, while the truth is that Ehlana keeps her around for her brains.
  • The Obi-Wan: Kurik is one of these. He's older than Sparhawk, more skilled than basically all the Church Knights, and the heroes defer to him more often than not. And then he dies. He comes back in spirit a couple of times, whenever Aphrael takes the knights to the ocean cliff where they throw away and retrieve Bhelliom. Sparhawk has black spots appear in front of his eyes because he forgets to breathe. Kurik: "Idiot." Cracking put down from a dead guy!
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The government of the Tamuli in regard to their 'absolute power' Emperor. He comments that he has to look out the window to get an accurate weather report.
  • Oh Crap: From The Tamuli, "This is Prince Sparhawk, the man who destroyed the Elder God Azash, and you've just insulted his wife." The listener reacts appropriately...running for his life.
    • Sephrenia's reaction when Sparhawk suggests killing Azash.
  • Old Retainer: Kurik, who has been Sparhawk's squire for all of Sparhawk's life, and has repeatedly turned down knighthood in spite of kicking knightly arse on a regular basis in favour of remaining a squire. Sparhawk comments that Kurik is as much a part of him as his hands.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In The Shining Ones, Sephrenia, who has been established as largely non-violent, begins to spout racial hatred toward the Delphae and pretty much begs the others to kill them. Turns out she thinks they killed her family.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Otha, justified by the fact that he's largely incapable of getting up off of said throne by now.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Elder Gods are implied to have created several races of these as servants; the only ones the reader ever meets are the Balrog-esque Damorks and the insectile Scarily Competent Trackers called Seekers. There are also otherworldly monsters that serve Klael and show up in the Tamuli, but its unclear if they really qualify as "demons" or not.
    • Bhelliom stated the Klael-soldiers are in fact Humanoid Aliens from one of Klael's planets. They'd be pretty badass if they weren't methane-breathers who wear out quickly in Earth's atmosphere. Khalad is more than happy to exploit this.
      • They're pretty badass even with their limitations. If it weren't for that one little problem, they'd be unstoppable.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: There's an amusing scene where Sparhawk has to write an elaborate series of fake letters detailing him and his friends hunting down an imaginary plot as part of a ruse. He gets really into it, adding new plots, dribbling in characters, and is still polishing it when his friends finally forcibly take the quill away from him.
    • And when Ehlana starts reading it, she can tell almost immediately that it's a ruse because it's too eloquently-written for Sparhawk and can't possibly be anything but a story.
  • Panacea: The Bhelliom is originally sought as a cure to Ehlana's ailment, and used principally to that end. Another stone is mentioned which has similar healing powers.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The monastery Sparhawk returns to in Rendor seems innocent enough to the actual Rendors. Everyone else knows it's full of Cyrinic Knights there to spy on the Eshandists.
  • Pet the Dog: Martel gets one of these moments when Annias calls Sephrenia a witch, prompting Martel to grab him by the collar and threaten him with things much worse than Sparhawk could ever do should he ever talk trash about "my little mother" again. While it's also Disproportionate Retribution it's also a sign that Martel still cares about Sephrenia even after everything he's done.
    • There is also his genuine sadness to learn that Kurik had been killed, for he had the same level of respect that most knights had.
    • Krager of all people to Ehlana, after they've been mistreated by Scarpa.
  • Physical God: Aphrael and Azash, not to mention the Styric pantheon and Cyrgon. On top of them, Bhelliom and Klael.
    • Also the troll-gods. The Elene god is implied to be this as well, though he never puts in a personal appearance.
  • Planet of Hats: Generally averted in the first series, though the Pelosians do wear literal funny hats. The second series plays it straight: the Tamuls are lazy administrators, the Atans are gigantic warriors, the Styrics are wizards, the eastern Elenes are melodramatic slave owners, the Arjuni are slave traders, the Tegans are mind-numbingly boring, the Cynesgans are evil mongrel people, and the Valesians are free-love nudists.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Early on in the very first book, Sparhawk hires a prostitute because he wants to eavesdrop on some minor villains who are meeting in the room next to hers. The prostitute, a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who enjoys her work, considers herself to owe him a raincheck, which she reminds him about whenever they meet.
  • Poor Communication Kills: One of the Eshandist leaders had a problem being understood; when he yelled at his followers to "Fall upon your foes!" they heard "fall upon your swords!" He spent the next several years wondering why he lost.
  • Power Glows: The Delphae. Bhelliom and Klael in their true forms, too.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Atans and the Cyrgai, who both suffer from cultural Idiot Balls to greater or lesser extent (the Atans never back down from a fight, no matter how unlikely they are to win it; the Cyrgai are completely incapable of change.) If you're wondering, Atans beat Cyrgai, hands down.
  • Psycho for Hire: Adus, Martel's Brute and walking battle axe. In The Tamuli Bevier does an amazingingly Large Hammy impression of one.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Krager, who's just in it for the booze.
  • Rape as Backstory: This happened to Alean repeatedly, much to Kalten's consternation.
    • Averted with Mirtai, whose old master tries to rape her and pays for it. A lot.
  • Really Gets Around: Princess Arissa, who's literally slept with most of Cimmura, including her brother, King Aldreas and Annias.
    • Elysoun is technically this in the Tamuli, though since she's also Ms. Fanservice it's played for laughs. And Fetish Fuel, of course.
      • The difference between the two is that Elysoun does it because it isn't a sin in her culture, Arissa does it because it is a sin in her culture.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: The knights constantly ask about Sephrenia's real age. It quickly becomes a Running Gag.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: There are several, but Dolmant stands out. While corruption is far from universal in the church, he stands out above the rest in his honesty. Vanion and the other leaders of the Knightly orders also qualify.
  • Redshirt Army: The Cyrgai.
    • The soldiers of the Church of Chyrellos might be a lampshade of this; they barely qualify as mooks, and they wear red tunics.
  • Religion of Evil: Worshippers of Azash seem to literally worship evil (or at least, what we miserable mortals see as evil), while the religion of Cyrgon exists to prop up a militaristic totalitarian state.
  • Religion Is Magic: Played with in that the Church Knights' magic doesn't come from the Elene God, but from the Styric pantheon. For reference, your average Elene peasant thinks nothing of burning down Styric villages and massacring them all. Nobody stops to consider that the Elene God might grant the same kind of magic to the Church Knights. In fact Sephrenia calls the Archprelate out on it.
  • Retcon: In The Sapphire Rose, Sephrenia is outraged at Mirtai referring to Ehlana as her owner and seems not to know much about the Atans or the Daresian continent. It's revealed in The Shining Ones that Sephrenia is from Astel originally, and even though she spends lots of time away from the Daresian continent, it just seems unlikely that she wouldn't have heard of the Atans or their status as slaves, especially as they also guard the Styric city of Sarsos. It is possible however that because Sephrenia was concealing the existence of Sarsos, her true education, and the nature of the Styric people, she had to adopt such an attitude since she otherwise couldn't prove how she knew of the Atans and their slavery. Not seeming to know much about Daresia also falls under her Obfuscating Stupidity act.
  • Retired Badass: Vanion in the second series. His anecdotal Crowning Moment of Awesome may arguably be when he, a battered old man not far removed from being saved from his deathbed, challenges the entire population of Sarsos to a race to prove a point about their lack of physical fitness. He gets out to a big lead until he trips in a rabbit hole and sprains his ankle. And he still wins.
  • Retirony: one of the Preceptors is 70 years old when he sets out with the Church Knights. Klael sets up an ambush, and he brought some followers.
  • Revenge Before Reason: This might as well be Lamorkand's national motto. The entire country is in a constant state of turmoil because landowners will go to war at the drop of the hat.
  • Royal Decree: The written variation. The Council were about to destroy it...until they're reminded that destroying a royal decree is punished by death.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Mostly used realistically. The royals play pivotal roles as leaders in many events, but only rarely get their hands dirty. Subverted hilariously by King Soros of Pelosia, who comes along for the ride with The Cavalry but spends so much time praying it's up to Patriarch Bergsten to run the show.
  • Sacrificial Lion: For the entire trilogy, we've seen that Kurik is a match for any of the knights, and indeed instructed several of them in combat. This makes it especially jarring when he is unceremoniously slaughtered by Adus.
  • Save The Queen: The plot of the first two and a half books.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: When Sparhawk and company reach Zemoch they find a horde of undead soldiers wearing this. It gives them pause until they realize it's worse than useless. Apparently the Zemochs saw fully-armoured Church Knights bearing down on them during the last war but didn't understand the point of plate mail. They only knew it was really damn scary, so they started making armour designed entirely to intimidate.
    • Of course, this also relates to a somewhat extended Crowning Moment of Funny, as Sephrenia points out how pathetic it is that the entire Elene world is shaking over their boots over a complete moron who can't even think of a decent purpose to create the above undead., and also as Talen gives a hilarious suggestion to Berit with what to do after they pass said soldiers...
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The Seekers of Azash.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Azash, who was sealed inside a clay idol of himself. He did find some ways around this, however- it turns out his spirit can enter any identical idol as well, and he had a huge temple-fortress built around the original. The Cyrgai later on are more like Sealed Evil In A City
  • Sedgwick Speech: In the midst of the big siege in the third book Ulesim gets up in front of the Rendors and delivers a huge speech about attacking the city relentlessly. And then Kurik nails him between the eyes with a crossbow bolt in mid-sentence. The ensuing chatter is a minor Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Semi-Divine: The Delphaes in The Shining Ones started as humans but now are slowly evolving into gods. As a result, they possess awesome powers, but they can also melt alive anyone who gets too close to them. Eventually, they fully evolve into gods and leave the earth forever.
  • She's All Grown Up: Ehlana, as Sparhawk quickly discovers.
  • Shipper on Deck: Aphrael, about midway through the Tamuli.
  • Shout-Out / Homage: The entire subplot involving Ghasek in The Ruby Knight (involving the Chekhov's Gunman Bellina no less) could have been lifted straight out of a Hammer Horror movie. The terrified people in the nearby village, the Hate Plague-infected minstrel, the creepy forest setting with its chilling moonlight, the haunted castle, the discovery in the basement, the Fate Worse Than Death for Bellina in the end—it has it all. And it was incredibly effective, disturbing, and a major source of Nightmare Fuel to some.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Mirtai, the Atan giantess who towers over all the Church Knights. She could pass for Tall, Dark and Bishoujo if you overlook the dozen or so knives she carries everywhere. That includes knives strapped to her knees specifically for kneeing men in the crotch.
  • The Siege: One of these forms a large arc in the third book. There's another one in the Tamuli. They come into play as a running gag, too: Thalesians hate sieges. (They're perfectly willing to engage in one, and do it very competently, but they hate sieges. Just ask them.)
    • When Ulath is called on his constant vocal hatred of sieges despite being almost as quick as resident siege guru Bevier to suggest forting up, hilarity ensues:

Ulath: Thalesians are supposed to hate sieges. We're not patient enough for them.
Bevier: Didn't King Wargun's grandfather endure a siege for 6 years once?
Ulath: Yes, but he didn't enjoy it.

  • Sinister Minister: Primate Annias, who doubles as Elenia's Evil Chancellor.
  • Smug Snake: Annias and Otha.
    • Krager in The Tamuli. In his first appearance he boasts about how everything Martel (the true Magnificent Bastard of the series) accomplished was due to his tutelage, how if it had been Krager advising Azash then he surely would have won, how the defeat he just suffered was merely an inconvenience, and how Sparhawk would be facing far greater opposition than before. It then turns out that all of Cyrgon and co's schemes are thwarted far easier than Martel and Azash's, their ranks consist of idiots and Harmless Villains, and it becomes very clear that Krager was talking out his ass.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Apparently averted, as Cyrgon, the Tamuli's God of Evil, is less powerful, less intelligent (arguably), and less evil than the Elenium's Azash. And then in the third book, Klael shows up...
  • Squishy Wizard: Otha is an unusually literal version of this trope.
  • Spanner in the Works: Sephrenia and Aphrael were consistently doing this to Zalasta without ever realizing it.
  • Streetwalker: Prostitutes pop up in minor speaking roles quite often, especially early in the Elenium. They're usually portrayed sympathetically. Sparhawk even gets a brief adventure gathering evidence in a brothel. And this Troper says that without so much as a wink.
  • Strictly Formula: The series, like The Belgariad, quite deliberately and shamelessly rips from myth and medieval literature. And it's awesome. As Eddings put it with respect to the Belgariad, ripping off myth is "the literary equivalent of peddling dope."
  • Sticky Fingers: Talen. It's become a Running Gag.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: Averted. The God of the Atans doesn't go in for grand displays (except on very important ceremonies), and his people don't bother him much unless it's important, so he's on the unusual side for a god. The flip side is he is obligated to at least see what a worshiper wants when they do call for his attention.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Xanetia positively oozes these. She's effectively immortal, she can read minds and thus promptly discovers the Manipulative Bastard, she can melt people and scenery to goo with a touch, she can touch Bhelliom without being obliterated, she can turn invisible, and her magic makes absolutely no "sound." Once she joins the party she's effectively a one-stop shop for all your Game Breaker needs.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Zalasta's mooks include Scarpa, Sabre and Krager - an insane misogynist, an effeminate poseur and a drunk respectively. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, indeed. (He's quite aware he's doing so, too.)
  • Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: Mirtai nails EVERY trait of the trope perfectly, but her status as a Proud Warrior Race Guy Knife Nut disqualifies her from it.
  • Terrain Sculpting: when trolls invade northern Tamuli, the Bhelliom responds by creating a humongous escarpment to separate them.
  • Thieves' Guild: Played straight and on a grand scale. Sure, Platime's chief thief in Cimmura, but every town everywhere has its own thieves' guild, and they all coordinate to some extent.
  • Time Stands Still: Played straight by the Troll-Gods, starting when Sparhawk browbeats Ghnomb into helping him catch up to Martel. Used pretty heavily in the second series.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Cyrgai exemplify this trope to its most literal extent: by breeding almost exclusively with Cynesgans they essentially bred their own race out of existence until Cyrgon stepped in. At this point they're so hopelessly inbred and isolated they can barely function. Forget bronze age armour, standard issue for these guys is the Idiot Ball.
    • Hell, Cyrgon himself. And it's entirely deliberate, seeing as he is capable of adapting and thinking but freely chooses not to. Still, trying to make a minion out of Klael was a bit of a bonehead move. To say the least.
    • This is how the king of the Atans dies in the Tamuli. He attacks an enormous Eldritch Abomination several thousand times larger than himself, on foot, with a sword, without realizing that it might actually be able to kill him. He dies feeling sorry for it, because it's been unfortunate enough to come up against him.
  • Torture Cellar: Bellina has one of these. The Pandions are rumoured to have them, too - as does the Church of Chyrellos, though everyone insists they never get used.
  • Tranquil Fury: Sparhawk, oh good God Sparhawk. At the end of book three, when Kurik dies, Sparhawk murders his way through many, many soldiers in a state of complete serene anger and is only distracted when Kalten suggests he go kill Martel. It also works because its is going to be more satisfying taking his anger on one who is responsible for his death. Then there is the last book when Sparhawk learns Ehlana was kidnapped. A lot of people expect him to go Berserk, instead, he shuts down his emotions after a little angsting, he then works out plans to nullify his enemies plots and arranges for several armies to head towards the stronghold, ( each army, by the way, is more than capable of butchering the Cyrgai armies.)
  • Trickster Archetype: Aphrael is one of the weakest gods, but she's very good at getting what she wants via a combination of clever planning and Obfuscating Cuteness.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Averted. The Knights have full plate armour but usually travel in mailshirts because the actual armor is such a damned inconvenience most of the time.
    • For example, there is a scene in which Sparhawk wakes up one morning and basicly finds an excuse not to put his armor on just yet, especially after it's had all night to get chilled.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Sparhawk's friends constantly make cracks about how ugly he is. Ehlana, on the other hand, is anything but.
    • This ties into a Running Gag throughout the Elenium where Sparhawk keeps booking passage with a sailor named Sorgi by telling him he's running away from an ugly heiress whose cousins want to force him to marry her. They meet again in the Tamuli, and Sorgi sees Ehlana.

Sorgi: "They didn't force you to marry her, did they?"
Sparhawk: "I'm afraid so, my friend. That's my wife on that grey horse there."
Sorgi: (stares with his mouth hanging open)
Sparhawk: (mournfully) "Horrible, isn't it?"

    • Also Kring and Mirtai. Subverted in that Kring's scars, which have been gained in numerous battles, make Mirtai decide he's worth marrying.
  • Unskilled but Strong: Otha was granted terrible powers by Azash. He has no clue what to do with them, since he's a not particularly bright or ambitious shepherd who happened to stumble across an Eldritch Abomination. This is best shown by him raising a legion of terrible undead warriors. They defend the square they are standing on, and react to nothing else. This is an enemy that could be defeated by walking around it. Or by giving just one soldier a push onto another square...
  • Unwanted Harem: Berit develops one of these in the second series. Apparently something about his eyelashes drives women wild.
  • The Un-Reveal: In The Shining Ones there's a few mentions of the Cyrgai Wars, in which the Delphae and Styrics made an alliance and battled the Cyrgai, only for (allegedly) the Styrics to betray them, nearly causing the Delphae to become extinct. This sparked a feud between the races that was never resolved, and the actual truth was blurred so that pretty much everyone has their own story. Sparhawk repeatedly asks Xanetia and Sephrenia to tell him the truth, and when they refuse, he threatens to ask Bhelliom, since it's a neutral observer. This horrifies both of them, but eventually Sparhawk gets so fed up of their bitchy cat-fight that he tells them that he no longer cares about what happened, and he wants their fighting to stop. We never do find out what happened.
  • The Vamp: Arissa, although her efforts to subvert the protagonists fail spectacularly.
  • Villain Ball/Idiot Ball: Annias grabs this in the first book by carrying out the second phase of one of his schemes before determining that the first step succeeded, to predicably failing results. This is noted by Sparhawk as being very out of character (Smug Snake that he is, Annias isn't that sloppy), and is one of the first signs that something (read Azash) is messing with the lesser villains' minds, same thing with Martel when Sparhawk puts a freeze on one of his schemes.
    • It's explained that at least part of it was because they were being controlled by a Styric- Elenes and other races have complex, sharp minds, but Styrics are generally simpler and will be taken in by simple things- so while the ploys would have worked on Styrics, they didn't work on Elenes, and especially not the good guys, who knew Annias and Martel well enough to know how they generally operated.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: The Cyrgai never got any weaker, but believing they represented perfection they never bothered changing, and so the rest of the world buckled down for some serious level-grinding (ten thousand years worth) and blew past them. Against modern Church Knights and Atans the Cyrgai are hilariously useless.
    • The Cyrgai actually have fossilized. Lack of actual opposition turned their martial training into little more than a formalized dance which gets easily taken apart by any competent warrior with real-world experience. Likewise, they spent a lot of time looking impressive but it's not a good idea to strike a heroic pose during a real fight.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zalasta was always pretty crazy, but he was very good at hiding it. After seeing his grand plans crash down around him, however, he pretty much completely loses it and is almost totally Axe Crazy by the time he crashes Sephrenia's wedding at the end.
  • Villainous Glutton: Otha, oh so much.
  • Villainous Incest: Aldreas and Arissa.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy: Martel, though he's Sparhawk's age and it's hinted that his hair is the result of some hereditary version of Disease Bleach.
  • Wife Husbandry: Sort of. Ehlana settles on Sparhawk years before she hits puberty, but that wasn't his own doing. Aphrael also settles on Talen but they're much closer in apparent age.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Played with early in the first book when Sephrenia decks out Sparhawk and Kalten in elaborate disguises so they can move around Cimmura without drawing the attention of the church soldiers. It doesn't work.
  • Worthy Opponent: Even though they hate each others' guts until the final battle, Martel admits that he still has respect for Sparhawk. Also crosses over with Foe Yay; he refers to Sparhawk and Sephrenia as the only two people he's ever truly loved, and at another point he remarks:

I'd give my soul to be a man like Sparhawk.