Heralds of Valdemar

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The Heralds of Valdemar is a Fantasy novel series written by Mercedes Lackey. The series is linked by its setting rather than focusing on a core group of characters; it covers roughly 3,000 years of history, all told. It is written mostly in the form of trilogies that do focus on a particular character, although there are a handful of independent novels as well.

The majority of the series revolves around The Kingdom of Valdemar and its protectors, the eponymous Heralds of Valdemar. Heralds are Heroes of one stripe or another called to defend Valdemar from the current Big Bad. Sometimes they have to go on The Quest for the MacGuffin that will save Valdemar, other times they have to root out The Mole or discover whatever Applied Phlebotinum solution they need to save the day. Almost always, it's a Coming of Age Story as well.

An important aspect of the Heralds of Valdemar is their Companions. Companions are, in essence, Cool Horses with human-level intelligence and telepathy. They deliver the Call to Adventure to new Heralds by instinctively seeking out and recruiting youngsters with latent Gifts and good hearts, and always find the one person for whom they were meant Because Destiny Says So. This usually happens at just the right time to get the newly Chosen trained just before the kingdom needs them.

Major novels in the Valdemar series, in roughly chronological order:

  • The Mage Wars: The prehistory of the Valdemar 'verse, including the eponymous war between Great Mages Urtho and Ma'ar that resulted in the Cataclysm and its aftermath, and the exile of the Kaled'a'in. Features the mighty Black Gryphon, Skandranon.
  • The Last Herald-Mage: Details the tragic life and ultimate Heroic Sacrifice of Vanyel Ashkevron, the most powerful Herald-Mage Valdemar has ever known. Features one of the first, if not the first, openly gay yet unambiguously heroic protagonists in fantasy literature.
  • The Collegium Chronicles consisting of Foundation, Intrigues, Changes, and Redoubt (forthcoming), following roughly fifty years after The Last Herald-Mage, featuring a young orphan named Mags and detailing the founding of the Heralds' Collegium and associated traditions.
  • Brightly Burning: A stand-alone novel detailing the short-lived life of Lavan Firestorm, a Firestarter and legend in Valdemar, who went mad and used his fire powers to incinerate the Karsite army and the surrounding land following the death of his Companion, the only being keeping him and his powers sane in the first place.
  • Vows and Honor: A duology, based on Mercedes Lackey's first published short stories, covering the adventures of Tarma and Kethry, mercenary warrior and mage, and their geased spellsword Need. The first novel, Oathbound, is a episodic collection of stories only loosely tied to the main continuity, but Oathbreakers firmly places it in and around Rethwellan and Valdemar. A third book, Oathblood, was published consisting of Tarma and Kethry short stories.
  • Exile's Duology: Tells the story of Alberich the Weaponmaster, who came from Karse, historical enemy of Valdemar. The first book, Exile's Honor, deals with Alberich's Choosing and how he settles in as a Herald, plus the events of the Tedrel War, the Tedrels being an entire nation of corrupt mercenaries that Karse hired. The second book, Exile's Valor, deals with Alberich's time in the years following the war and Queen Selenay's disastrous first marriage.
  • Take a Thief: Forms a rough trilogy with the previous two novels and tells the story of the young thief Skif, his Choosing and life as a Trainee, and his role in breaking up a slaver ring.
  • The Arrows Trilogy: Innocent farmgirl Talia is rescued from an Arranged Marriage and, with her empathic powers becomes the Queen's Own Herald, just as an old ally of the kingdom turns traitor and starts a deadly war. This was the first published trilogy set entirely in Valdemar.
  • By the Sword: A standalone novel introducing Kerowyn, mercenary and inheritor of Need (from Vows and Honor), who comes to lead her own mercenary company and eventually rescues Valdemar from a savage Hardorn attack.
  • Mage Winds: Elspeth, the Royal Brat, has come of age and is foretold to become Valdemar's first Herald-Mage in six hundred years. But she's not about to be controlled by destiny and ends up unexpectedly making allies of the magical Hawkbrothers, just as an ancient enemy returns and threatens to destroy both the Tayledras and Valdemar.
  • Mage Storms: In the aftermath of Hardorn's defeat, Valdemar has an uneasy assembly of newfound allies, including their historical enemy, Karse. Karal, a young Karsite priest and aide to the ambassador, must navigate the resulting political intrigue while a new threat arises from the Eastern Empire. But even this struggle may be moot in the face of the return of the three-thousand year old Cataclysm.
  • The Owl Trilogy: In the aftermath of the Mage Storms, young Darian, reluctant apprentice wizard, finds his life altered when his village is attacked by barbarians and he is forced to flee, finding sanctuary and tutelage with the Hawkbrothers. As he grows into his responsibilities, he finds himself an ambassador to the northern tribes.

Anthologies and other works:

  • Sword of Ice: And Other Tales of Valdemar
  • Sun In Glory
  • Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar
  • Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar
  • Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar
  • Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar
  • The Valdemar Companion: A Guide to Mercedes Lackey's World of Valdemar -- Nearly everything you wanted to know about Valdemar, plus a Valdemar novelette.
Tropes used in Heralds of Valdemar include:

Tropes A to M[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Abdicate the Throne: Elspeth, from the position of Heir, to take on the mantle of the first Herald-Mage since Vanyel's time.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Valdemaran mages pull off a lot of this in and following the Mage Winds trilogy, simply because they're too new at magic to know what ought to be impossible. This also leads directly to the use of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, when the artificers start getting involved. Firesong especially is not amused.
  • Action Bomb: A mage using the Final Strike technique effectively becomes one of these.
  • Action Girl: Most female Heralds. Jeri, Elspeth, Tarma, and Kerowyn are excellent examples.
  • After the End, of a sort: An event in the distant past called the Cataclysm violently reshaped large sections of the planet, and is generally responsible for most of history since it occurred.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause:
    • Kal'enel and whatever god(dess) is behind the Companions hold to a rule that humans are to solve their own problems wherever possible, and divine intervention is to be restricted to situations where they can't succeed on their own; for this reason, the Companions aren't allowed to get their hooves into humans' relationship problems unless they're asked for help. The gods are not above breaking this rule if they think it necessary, however.
    • Vkandis Sunlord averts this trope; he's a very activist god and not above purging his priesthood or protecting entire nations from invasion with a quick Bolt of Divine Retribution.
  • The Alliance: Between Valdemar and several neighboring kingdoms.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Bondbirds and Shin'a'in warsteeds are not quite Intellectual Animals, but are notably smarter than normal birds and horses thanks to extensive magically-augmented breeding programs.
  • Angst Coma: Vanyel in Magic's Price. Talia gets her coma in Arrow's Fall the old-fashioned way, but stays in it due to angst.
  • Animal Eyes: Nyara and An'desha have these, as the last physical remnants of their transformations at the hands of Mornelithe Falconsbane.
  • Anti-Villain: Grand Duke Tremaine, as decent a man as could survive in the Imperial court.
  • Ascended Demon: Attempted in The Oathbound, when Thalhkarsh is Brought Down to Normal and captured by priests. There are no indications that the project succeeded, as she isn't mentioned again in any other book.
  • Asexuality: Tarma, and the other Shin'a'in Swordsworn, due to religious vows. The Shin'a'in Goddess is both merciful and practical, however -- rather than force her adherents to torture themselves, she simply puts in a mental block preventing them from feeling any sexual desire for anything in the first place. But hey, they are all volunteers. In Tarma's case, it's necessary at first to keep her from being emotionally crippled due to her Rape as Backstory.
  • Author Appeal: Mercedes Lackey really likes birds (especially raptors) and avian creatures in general. There are the Hawkbrothers and their bondbirds, the gryphons, and the avian humanoid tervardi. She's very fond of horses, too. The Mage Winds trilogy includes an afterword all but admitting that the Companions and bondbirds are Lackey's wish-fulfillment compared to horses and raptors, and cautioning that real falconry and equestrianism are nothing like that, although still rewarding. (In at least one instance, a Herald rides a real horse and is surprised at her behavior compared to his Companion). May-December Romance is another one that recurs throughout her work.
  • Author Avatar: the character Myste is an obvious author self-insert (to make it clear how obvious, "Misty" is the author's nickname). And to make it even more obvious, Myste's position in the court is Herald-Chronicler, aka 'court historian', aka 'she writes down everything that's happening'. And she gets the hottest, most badass guy in the series, can't forget that.
  • Automaton Horses: Mainly averted (see Shown Their Work), but justified with the Companions, who use node magic to augment their endurance and can therefore run much faster and for much longer than any ordinary horse. They do still need to rest and eat eventually, although they are also much more capable of taking care of their own needs than ordinary horses.
  • Background Magic Field: Composed of Life Energy and used to power all Functional Magic.
  • Badass: Plenty to go around, but Alberich is the supreme example, whether he's in his prime or a Badass Grandpa.
  • Battle Couple: It's easier to list who is not.
  • Because Destiny Says So:
    • The usual explanation for why Companions Choose who they do, when they do it and why people with the Gifts that will be needed always seem to turn up in time to get them trained before they have to be put to use. Between advanced psychic powers, powerful wizards, and activist gods, these people have turned Because Destiny Says So into a science.
    • Lampshaded in Arrow's Fall, among other instances. To paraphrase: "The Firestarter we desperately needed to win this battle just happened to spend the night with a ForeSeer, who had a prophetic dream and kicked him out of bed just in time to get here? How does that happen?" To directly quote: "Pure, dumb Heralds' luck."
    • It's justified in The Last Herald-Mage as a magical web binding Heralds and their Companions that operates below the conscious level. Vanyel deliberately enhanced this web and tied it to the Heartstone he created beneath Haven. In Mage Storms, the workings of the web and its spells are explained completely.
  • Being Watched: Weaponized when Vanyel arranges for any non-Herald mages entering into Valdemar to be monitored by minor air spirits called vrondi, causing the mages to feel that they are being watched all the time. Unsurprisingly, this makes people extremely anxious to leave, and Valdemar is not bothered by magic for several hundred years.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Herald Talia is one of the nicest, kindest, and (literally!) most empathetic people in the world. But she has a point beyond which you just don't push it, and if you do... see the Mind Rape entry below.
  • Big Bad: Ma'ar, in the background or foreground of just about all of the novels through Mage Winds. After he's finally disposed of, the series lacks a clear major villain, substituting The Empire and The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Big Good:
    • Urtho, in The Black Gryphon. An interesting example because he didn't want to be a leader, but was forced into it because he was the only one who would stand up to Ma'ar. In Mage Storms, we learn that the historical view of Urtho varies among the Shin'a'in, the gryphons, and others.
    • Solaris, in Mage Storms. As the first genuine High Priest of Vkandis in centuries, she has some pretty awesome powers but is only shown to exercise them once.
  • Binding Ancient Treaty: Established between Valdemar and Rethwellen at the end of Oathbreakers, then somehow forgotten by Valdemar by the time of By the Sword, when Valdemar needs Rethwellen's help fighting Hardorn. Kero, whose grandmother Kethry was vital in the events that forged the agreement, provides a gentle reminder of its existence.
  • Bishonen: Vanyel and Firesong in particular. Especially Firesong, who is described as though he stepped right out of a medieval fantasy anime.
  • Black Magic: Blood Magic and demon summoning. However, Blood Magic is not considered evil when it's only the caster's own blood (or Life Energy) involved, and/or the sacrifice is voluntary.
  • Blood Magic: One of the most potent forms of magic, this is based on the principles of Cast from Hit Points with a side of Sympathetic Magic: blood is both a literal and symbolic sacrifice and a rich source of power. It's also a lot easier to handle than node magic, to the point where even people without mage gifts can use primitive forms of it. Of course, it's also addictive and evil, because unless it's a voluntary sacrifice, you're taking it from other people without their consent. For this reason, it also carries strong overtones of cannibalism -- once you've practiced blood magic, it forever stains your soul.
  • Blue Eyes: All Companions have blue eyes, caused by channeling node-energy, which bleaches hair and eyes to white and blue, respectively.
  • Bluffing the Murderer:
    • A variant is employed by Talia and Elspeth in Arrow's Fall to catch the traitor in Selenay's court, by attempting to lure him into an Engineered Public Confession.
    • Another one is used by Karal in Storm Warning to catch the mole responsible for Ulrich's death, by presenting himself as an easy target for assassination.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Lavan attends a day school of this in Brightly Burning.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Vkandis does this to reestablish his true priesthood in a truly unmistakable way - see Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter.
  • Bond Creatures: The Companions, most prominently; also the bondbirds of the Tayledras. The Firecats of Karse may answer to this trope too. They're more independent-minded than their cousins the Companions, but still ultimately attached to one person.
  • A Boy and His X: Heralds could be described as "people with Psychic Powers and their Non Human Sidekicks". The bondbirds of the Tayledras occasionally play this role, particularly in Owl Knight.
  • Break-In Threat: In one book, a minor noble sends an assassin after the Empire's heir (who is also an assassin). The heir kills the man and leaves his body in the nursery of the noble's son.
  • Break the Cutie: Considered by many readers to be a trademark element of Lackey's plots.
    • Talia, quite comprehensively, in both Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall, albeit for separate reasons.
    • Vanyel throughout the Last Herald-Mage series. Each book puts him through a separate Trauma Conga Line.
  • Broken Bird: Winterhart of The Black Gryphon was a nascent Empath as a teen, but nobody noticed it. When the court of the High King was murdered by agents of Ma'ar with the aid of a fear-inducing artifact, she was particularly vulnerable and fled in terror, with psychic wounds that persist until Amberdrake breaks through her shell and helps her deal with them.
  • Burn the Witch: Until Solaris' reforms, this was the fate of any magically or psychically gifted Karsite not chosen for the priesthood. Specifically this is why Alberich is now a Valdemaran Herald rather than a Karsite Captain; his Companion had to rescue him from a burning barn after he too obviously used precognition to save a village from a bandit raid.
  • Bury Your Gays: One of the more notable inversions of this trope occurs in The Last Herald-Mage. The tragic suicide of Tylendel, Vanyel's first love, sets him on the path to become the titular last Herald-Mage, and the gods even return Tylendel to him as Bard Stefan, and then reunite them after death in apology for his suffering.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Vanyel to his father in Magic's Pawn, regarding his atrocious mistreatment of Vanyel in an attempt to prevent him from "turning gay".
    • Skandranon to Urtho in The Black Gryphon, regarding the latter's functional enslavement of the Gryphon race. He relents when he learns Urtho's true motives.
  • Call to Adventure: Delivered without fail by Companions; their Chosen may jump at the Call or try to refuse the Call, depending on their situation at the time. All accept eventually, though on one notable occasion the Call repudiated one of the Called.
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: Inflicted on Duke Tremaine by High Priest Solaris in payment for his murder of her friend. Also occurs when the Truth Spell is invoked. This is also true of mindspeech in the series, most of the time.
  • Canon Discontinuity: In the first two Arrows novels, it is mentioned that a Companion repudiates his Herald about once every couple of centuries. Starting with the third, the only repudiation to have occurred is with Tylendel in Magic's Pawn.
  • Canon Welding: The Tarma and Kethry stories pre-date the original Arrows trilogy -- Oathbreakers established that they had all taken place in Rethwellan and other kingdoms south of Valdemar, thus linking the two series.
  • The Cassandra: Talia is The Empath and has a one hundred percent flawless record at reading people. If anyone had taken her suspicions about Lord Orthallen seriously in Arrow's Fall, it would have averted a lot of tragedy. To his credit, Orthallen sows rumors about her reliability and tries to alienate her from her friends precisely to keep her off-balance and disbelieved.
    • She's also only thirteen years old at this point and fresh off the back of the turnip cart, with powers that are only incompletely understood and that her instructors are largely ignorant of the exact potential of and so don't have any reason to put major stock in. Really, it would have been a miracle if they had taken her seriously.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Mages who are low on Mana can do this. The ultimate version is known as a Final Strike and is invariably suicidal for the mage attempting it. It's also possible for mind-mages to overstress their Psychic Powers into unconsciousness or even coma.
  • Catgirl: Nyara, also a Mad Wizard's Beautiful Daughter, is this because her father magically experimented on her with the changes he intended to work on himself.
  • Celestial Paragons and Archangels: The Grove-Born Companions are essentially archangels in horse form. The Firecats and the Avatars of Kal'enel also qualify.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Urtho suffers from this more noticeably than any other major ruler. The war with Ma'ar forces him to some rather extreme (and for him, amoral) acts that he profoundly regrets.
  • Changing of the Guard: As noted above, the focus character changes between trilogies. (Did you expect the same characters for all 3000 years?) Certain villains (most especially Ma'ar) put in appearances throughout the series, and a number of protagonists have persisted as well, largely by Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Of a sort. Heraldic Trainees plucked away by their Companions from massively abusive childhoods usually find their "real" home and family in the Heraldic Circle.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Oathbreaking ceremony is mentioned in passing early in the first part of Oathbreakers, and unsurprisingly is a key part of the novel's resolution. Any piece of lore that Jadrek mentions also inevitably pays off at some point over the course of the story, most notably the legend of the Sword that Sings.
    • Urtho's personal portal into the High King's palace in The Black Gryphon. In a similar vein, the Anti-Magic box he has Skandranon "bomb" Ma'ar's forces with. The latter also serves to establish the explosive potency of magic nullification.
    • Karal's power is to be a "Channel", a very rare ability that can't even be trained. It's established right away in Storm Warning, which is good because he ends up using this ability at the climax of each and every novel in that series.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Several characters Talia meets in Arrow's Flight, particularly the trader Evan, play a part in advancing the plot in later books.
  • The Chessmaster: The gods, collectively, are the setting's ultimate chessmasters, manipulating the entire history of Velgarth from the Cataclysm onward to ensure that humanity can prevent a repeat performance when the Mage Storms hit.
  • Child Soldier: Some Herald trainees are young enough to qualify, but Kerowyn is probably the best example, taking up the apparently hopeless quest to rescue her brother's betrothed from captivity only to be aided by Tarma and Kethry.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Deconstructed with Need, which forces Chronic Hero Syndrome upon its bearers with no regard for any sense of proportion or self-preservation, before she wakes up in the Mage Winds trilogy. Played straight by Heralds, for whom it's more or less contractually obligated. It shows up among the Healers, too, especially during plague situations.
  • Circuit Judge: One of the primary everyday functions of the Heralds.
  • Clingy MacGuffin:
    • Need. Even Kerowyn, who refuses to allow Need to have the kind of hold over her that it did over her grandmother, isn't entirely sure she could get rid of it if she really needed to, and -- considering the pain she went through the one time she almost lost it -- generally isn't willing to find out.
    • A short story in Oathblood has Tarma and Kethry getting a cursed coin that requires serious action to get rid of.
  • Closet Key: Tylendel, for Vanyel. Firesong seems to be this for An'desha, but it is ultimately subverted as If It's You It's Okay.
  • Color Me Black: In Oathbound, Tarma and Kethry foil a bandit party that's been preying on caravans, killing the men outright and slaying the women after the bandits rape them. They kill the bandits, but save their leader. Said bandit leader gets transformed by illusion magic into a buxom blond woman, stripped naked, and sent back to his/her fellows. This comes back to bite the duo later, when the leader, having survived the experience, joins forces with the demon Thalkarsh.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The main philosophy of both Alberich and Kerowyn -- forget grace, beauty, and dignity; just attack for maximum damage with whatever you've got on hand.
  • Coming of Age Story: Many of the series' heroes are teenagers at their first appearance, and the stories follow their growth into adulthood as much as their progress on The Quest.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like:
    • Alberich is sentenced to be burned to death for saving a village from bandits. Why? Because he learned that the village would need to be saved through ForeSight, which marked him as a witch in the eyes of the Karsite priesthood.
    • Alberich himself does this afterwards because he's been "rescued" by his sworn enemy, which earns him the undying(ish) hatred of his countrymen. He gets over it later.
  • The Confidant: The Monarch's Own Herald, less formally known as the "King's Own" or the "Queen's Own", serves as the Monarch's most trusted and intimate counselor, able to give the unvarnished truth when necessary. This is done for the precise purpose of averting the usual emotional isolation of the Monarch's position.
  • Conjunction Interruption: When a character begins to say something, and he opens with "But," that is almost invariably a cue for someone to interrupt him. One exception occurs when the character starts with "But," and pauses himself, unable to think of anything further to say.
  • Con Lang: Shin'a'in/Tayledras/Kaled'a'in. Other languages are handled entirely by Translation Convention.
  • Continuity Nod: Main characters in one trilogy will frequently appear as minor characters in others.
  • Cool Chair: The throne of the Eastern Emperor, constructed of the personal weapons of the rulers of the countries the Empire has conquered.
  • Cool Gate: Gates, especially the rare permanent Gates.
  • Cool Horse: Again, the Companions; also Shin'a'in warsteeds.
  • Cool Old Lady: Savil Ashkevron, in the Last Herald-Mage trilogy.
  • Cool Sword: Need, in spite of her unique drawbacks.
  • Corrupt Church: Played straight with the official sun-god worship of Karse... until the deity in question got sick of it and made his displeasure known.
  • Costume Porn: Usually at least once a novel.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: Early in By The Sword, Kerowyn reflects that finding a man who could accept her and her chosen lifestyle for what they are would be as likely as her horse talking to her. When she ends up in Valdemar in the last third of the book, it's not hard to see where this is going.
  • The Dark Side: Blood Magic is dangerously addictive to those who practice it thanks to Evil Feels Good, and it stains your soul, marking you indelibly with its taint. It's also a good way to get Drunk on the Dark Side.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The court of the Eastern Emperor, to the point where "master assassin" is considered a respectable entry on a prospective Emperor's resume, and one of the main characters reflects that being cursed to be unable to lie is the single most horrific fate that could ever possibly befall an Imperial nobleman.
  • Deadly Prank: Some unaffiliated students pull one on Talia -- as attempted murder. "Give our love to Talamir" indeed.
  • Death World: The Pelagirs are not a nice place to wander without native protection. Leftover magebuilt living weapons and other critters from a magical war two thousand years back, check. Flora/Fauna/People mutated by either the wave of magical power unleashed by the Cataclysm that ended said war or the abnormally high level of background mana even since, check. People both crazy/misanthropic enough to live there and Badass enough to survive, check. The most consistently benevolent people there (the Hawkbrothers, pledged to their goddess to decontaminate the place) will give intruders exactly one chance to properly justify their presence or flee before using lethal force.
  • Defector From Decadence: Admittedly Herald Alberich did not defect so much as get shanghaied but the end result remained thus. He protests it, too, once he recovers from his mad dash for freedom journey. He even considers - for a few moments anyways - having his bond between himself and his Companion severed. He doesn't go through with it, mostly because of the mention that it would leave both of them badly damaged but it seems a close thing, even so.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Kerowyn, who is not so much cold as very narrowly focused. Played arrow-straight in The Black Gryphon, with Winterhart. Played for Laughs in Oathbreakers with the bard Leslac, who thinks he can pull this on Tarma. He's badly wrong.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Skif in the Mage Winds trilogy.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Winterhart's backstory in The Black Gryphon, thoroughly justified by the Crapsack World setting at the time. Amberdrake, too, although he deals with it differently. Vanyel's upbringing is equally angst-ridden but is mainly told in the story.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Leslac, about Tarma and Kerowyn, frequently. While he usually gets the overall story right, he tends to be dead wrong about the fine details. The most inaccurate song he ever wrote was actually one where he was present for the events in question, but he deliberately rewrote the story to be more dramatic (The story as Tarma lived it: She was attacked by a drunk. She hit him with a broomstick. He accidentally cracked his skull on the fireplace and died. The drunk turned out to be an unpopular local noble. The story as Leslac told it: Tarma learned that the people were being oppressed by an evil overlord, so she called him out and slew him in an epic duel).
    • Later on Tarma and her friends conspire to deliberately take advantage of Leslac's unwillingness to actually learn anything about the people he sings about, when Leslac's determined romantic pursuit of Tarma (who is magically incapable of feeling sexual desire, as part of her consecration to the Shin'a'in Goddess as Swordsworn) begins to annoy the crap out of her. Then it occurs to Tarma that if Leslac's so butt-ignorant about the Swordsworn that he doesn't know their vow of chastity is magically enforced, it's possible to convince him that the 'female' Swordsworn are actually castrated men. Leslac being a world-class idiot, it works.
  • Dirty Mind Reading: Talia's Empathy leads to Sex by Proxy through both her Companion Rolan and the Herald-Trainee who has the room next to hers. Consequently, when she graduates to a full-fledged Herald, she chooses the topmost room in a tower of the Herald's Collegium as her residence. She remarks to Kris after their tryst that she may have been a virgin, but she wasn't naive.
  • Damsel in Distress: Happens on occasion - Dierna in By the Sword and Lady Myria in The Oathbound play it particularly straight - but in most cases the damsel in question does more than just sit around waiting for rescue. In one notable incident from the Oathblood anthology, the kidnapped girls manage to leave a scent trail for their rescuers to track them by, and then poison their kidnappers to slow them down for the rescue team to catch up, without being suspected until it was much too late.
  • Divided We Fall: The Tayledras and Shin'a'in do this, as they have diametrically opposite ideologies regarding the use of magic. It takes a direct order of their Goddess to get them to start working together. Also, in Mage Storms, Valdemar's nascent alliance is on extremely shaky political grounds and frequently suffers from this problem.
  • Doctor's Orders: Healers call the shots.
  • Doomed by Canon: Vanyel and Lavan Firestorm, both of whom have the conclusions of their stories told in Arrows of the Queen, the very first novel of the series.
  • Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest: Inverted somewhat with Stefen, who does not resemble Tylendel all that much but is more or less confirmed to be his reincarnation, making his lifebond with Vanyel not so much a replacement lifebond as a re-lifebond.
  • Downer Ending: The Foregone Conclusion of The Black Gryphon, with Urtho dead, Ma'ar Not Quite Dead, and the survivors of the Cataclysm forced to rebuild in exile, with their homeland all but annihilated.
  • Dreadful Musician: Used for comedy in the supplementary Filk song "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night". Both Tarma/Kethry and Kerowyn are also pursued throughout their careers by bards trying to sing (frequently awful) songs about their "heroic exploits". In Tarma's case, it's particularly hilarious because the bard in question, Leslac, believes himself the one to Defrost the Ice Queen, proving that he Did Not Do the Research about the Swordsworn.
    • For Kerowyn, it's also a problem because even if the song itself is good, amateur performers frequently aren't -- and she has perfect pitch, letting her know exactly how bad their singing is.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Some Foreseers have prophetic dreams. Vanyel has a recurring one which he deals with throughout his trilogy, predicting his ultimate confrontation with Leareth. He originally thought he'd resolved the prophecy in Magic's Pawn, but the dreams come back in Magic's Price.
  • Dripping Disturbance: In Exile's Valor, Selenay is already having trouble sleeping due to grief over her father's death, and the drip in the royal suite's bathing room isn't helping matters.
  • Driven to Suicide: Tylendel. Vanyel and Talia both make good tries at it, too. Bard Stefen is interrupted before he gets his chance.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Dirk, in Arrow's Fall, due to being wracked with guilt for having procrastinated on teaching one of his trainees a Dangerous Forbidden Technique which might have saved her life. She died trying to save infants from a fire while on her intern circuit. And of course, the one person who could help him resolve it, Talia, is in a Love Triangle with him and Kris. He doesn't snap out of it until he collapses completely.
  • Dual-Wielding: Mastered by Alberich.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Vanyel, Stefen, Lavan Firestorm, and even Herald Eldan (by description only) appear in the very first trilogy (by publication order).
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • Particularly in the Mage Storms trilogy when it seems as if The End of the World as We Know It is going to happen no matter what anyone does to stop it, and the eventual victory comes at a heavy cost for the heroes.
    • Bard Stefen gets a personal version -- he can join Vanyel in the Forest of Sorrows, but only if he works the rest of his life trying to dispel the stigma against "ordinary" Heralds.
  • The Empath: Empathy is a standard, if uncommon Psychic Power, generally found among Healers. Exceptional individuals who can project this ability are called MindHealers -- the most notable examples being Talia and Amberdrake. There are also a rare few evil empaths, said to leave a trail of twisted minds behind them.
  • Empathic Weapon: Need until she wakes up in Winds of Fate.
  • Emperor Scientist: Urtho and Ma'ar serve as good and evil varieties, doubling as Sorcerous Overlord.
  • The Empire: The Eastern Empire. An easy to miss reference in one book names it the Aurinalean Empire, but that name is never mentioned again.
  • Enemy Mine: Valdemar and Karse, which have been enemies time out of mind, unite against the threat of Ancar.
  • Ethical Slut: Many Heralds lean toward this. As few are willing to impose themselves on a spouse that would end up taking third place behind Duty and a Companion, friendly encounters with their colleagues are often seen as preferable.
  • Evil Chancellor:
    • Hulda infiltrates the courts of both Valdemar and Hardorn by posing as a nursemaid and seeking to corrupt their rulers' respective heirs.
    • Lord Orthallen straddles this and The Evil Prince. Despite being a senior member of the privy council and a close personal friend of three generations of the Valdemar Royal Family, he either instigated or was heavily involved in at least four plots against the crown over the course of 20 years while avoiding suspicion almost completely until the day of his death.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Ancar and Hulda, meet Mornelithe Falconsbane. Among several other examples, he takes their We Have Reserves strategy to truly epic heights.
  • The Evil Prince: Ancar of Hardorn. To a lesser (or at least less competent) extent Thanel of Rethwellan, Prince-Consort of Valdemar.
  • Excalibur in the Rust: In Oathbreakers, the long-lost Singing Sword of Rethwellan that is used to identify the country's rightful king is discovered to be none other than a rusty, dirty old sword that Kethry picked up along the wayside.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: "Siara" is the default honorific in the Eastern Empire, when its not clear exactly what the right one would be. Other places don't have this custom, probably because outside the Eastern Empire they don't usually kill people for addressing someone important without a proper honorific.
  • The Fagin: A Loveable Rogue type. Skif falls in with a group of young thieves led by an adult man (Bazie), who is unfortunately crippled; he gives them food, shelter and lessons (both educational and in how to be a good thief) in exchange for helping him out with his daily life and stealing for him.
  • Famed in Story: The story of Kerowyn's first heroic exploits follows her throughout the rest of By the Sword, rather to her chagrin. She follows in the footsteps of her mentors, Tarma and Kethry, whose mercenary careers are plagued by tales of their "heroic unselfish deeds". As they put it, it's tough to get paying jobs when people expect you to help them out of the goodness of your heart. Vanyel also gets quite a bit of this in Magic's Promise and especially in Magic's Price.
  • Fantasy Contraception: Female Heralds (and presumably, other women who venture afield) employ an herbal concoction that reduces or eliminates "moon days" and also has contraceptive properties.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Inflicted by Kethry on Idra's brother in Oathbreakers, as punishment for the betrayal of his kingdom and the brutal rape and murder of his sister.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lord Orthallen straddles this as well, most vividly seen (or not, rather) when he was acting as Selenay's confidant.
  • Fighting For a Homeland: A common theme across the series is that, while some mercenaries are scum, most hired fighters just want to get enough money together to buy some land, marry, and settle down. Tarma is a particular example, as her long-term goal is to build up enough fame and fortune to reestablish her Clan.
  • Fighting From the Inside: An'desha in Winds of Fury, from within the body that Mornelithe Falconsbane stole from him.
  • Filk Song: There are eight albums of songs written by Lackey. In the early series, the last book in each series had the song lyrics printed in the back as well as information on where to order cassette tapes of the songs.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: Vanyel after losing Tylendal. His deeply romantic (and deeply in denial) mother likes to tell young women "he lost his first love tragically" -- fortunately by the time Stef comes along she seems to have accepted things.
  • Fisher King: After years of misrule by Ancar, who ruined the land with magic, the people of Hardorn insist their new king go through a ceremony to become this so he won't even think about repeating the attempt.
  • Fish Out of Water: Newly-Chosen Heralds almost always have to go through a dramatic adjustment phase when they arrive at the Palace for training.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The Death Bell, which the Companions ring when a Herald dies.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Vanyel and Lavan Firestorm again, not to mention Urtho and the Cataclysm.
  • For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: Specifically invoked in Winds of Fury when a bunch of mages and a Catgirl have to sneak into Hardorn. "Where do you hide a red fish?" "In a pond full of red fish." And so they disguise themselves as a travelling circus whose gimmick is 'we actually have a mage capable of casting illusions' and 'behold our dancing girl, who has the most realistic catgirl costume ever'.
  • Freak Lab Accident: Vanyel has strong mage-potential but it takes a freak accident involving the backlash from a collapsing Gate to unlock his powers, transforming him into the third most powerful mage in history and granting him almost every other Gift in the book as well.
  • Friend to All Children: Tarma. Kids know it too, running to her for protection even when she's usually the scariest-looking thing in the room.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Kerowyn and Eldan in By the Sword.
  • Functional Magic: Has elements of almost all types.
  • Fusion Fic: A rare canon (on one side, at least) example can be found in the short story "Moving Targets", written by Lackey herself for one of the Valdemar anthologies. It's a fusion of Valdemar and, oddly, Scooby Doo. It has four Herald trainees and a kyree in a green flower-painted wagon solving a Scooby-Doo Hoax. It even includes the line "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you meddling Heralds."
  • Genki Girl: Natoli, almost to the point of being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl for Karal, if she weren't important to the story in many other ways.
  • Giant Flyer: Gryphons.
  • Glory Seeker: Tarma, quite unhappily. A wiser Shin'a'in cautions her that if she wants to attract quality persons to repopulate her clan, she'll have to rebuild its reputation personally.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: In The Oathbound, the demon Thalhkarsh attains a godlike state by drawing power from the worship and sacrifices by his followers. Averted in that there's no indication that the real gods (or the One, depending on how you look at it) need worship.
  • Good Feels Good: Heralds in general and especially Skif, who does a Heel Face Turn because of it, not that he was all that bad to start with.
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • Weaponmaster Alberich, who believes that he cannot afford to be kind or merciful to his students lest their training fail at a critical moment.
    • Alberich's successor, Kerowyn adopts the same rule, having come from a mercenary background and also having seen firsthand what happens to trainees whose weapons instructors are too easy on them.
    • Talia is a very reasonable person and good at sorting out people's problems, but her psychic ethics are largely restricted to people on her side. Enemies beware!
  • Grand Theft Me: Big Bad Ma'ar has been possessing his descendants for thousands of years.
  • Grim Up North: For Valdemar, the Northern Wastes; Valdemar itself is this for Rethwellan and Karse.
  • Groupie Brigade: Herald Alberich takes advantage of one of these in Exile's Valor. When he realizes that the actor Norris is trailing him, he goes into a large inn and "happens" to mention the fact that Norris is outside to a roomful of young ladies ... then dives for cover as they charge outside and mob Norris.
  • Healing Hands: The Healers generally have this as an ability, though it's stressed that it has limitations and it's best to use normal medicine as much as possible.
  • Healing Shiv: Need, though close contact or even physical proximity is just as effective.
  • Hell Hound: Wyrsa, pretty much.
  • "Hell Yes!" Moment: In Owl Knight, Darian and his companions are up against a snow-drake when heading northwest to find his parents. Things seem impossible, until Healer Keisha fires an arrow hitting it at the right spot. To Darian's amazement, Keisha runs right up to face the snow-drake, followed by younger sister Herald Shandi who shouts the Trope expression.
  • Heroic BSOD: Just about every major hero in the stories has at least one.
    • Vanyel, after the Gate backfire gives him Adept-level magic and nearly kills him (grief and self-pity).
    • Vanyel again, after being raped by bandits and subsequently Paying Evil Unto Evil (self-loathing).
    • Talia, when her Gift goes wild and nearly kills herself and Kris (self-loathing).
    • Talia again, after being imprisoned in Ancar's dungeons, subjected to rape and torture, and attempting suicide (despair).
    • Amberdrake, after Skandranon apparently fails to return from a mission (grief).
    • Karal, after Ulrich's death (grief), and Alta the Firecat (grief and guilt that he couldn't save both Karal and Ulrich).
  • Heroic RROD: Pushing one's magic (or Psychic Powers) too far can result in backlash; see also Cast from Hit Points.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Several. The Final Strike technique (used most notably by Vanyel) is basically a prepackaged Heroic Sacrifice in the form of a suicide-weapon-of-last-resort for mages, using all their energy at once in a huge explosion.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Tarma and Kethry, one of the classic examples in fiction. Tarma of course is celibate by divine oath, and Kethry is more than het enough for both of them, as she demonstrates by getting Happily Married at the end of Oathbreakers and having Babies Ever After. It doesn't stop them from being subjected to Ho Yay in-universe, though.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Hawkbrothers' Vales are these, until the events in the Mage Winds bring them out.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: Heralds (white), Bards (red), and Healers (green) all wear these in their normal duties. In each case it's because it's their job to be highly visible, even when being visible is sometimes a liability, like on the battlefield.
    • Two Heralds of note refuse to wear Whites, and both are Weaponmasters who come from a different country: Alberich and Kerowyn. Kerowyn calls it her "just shoot me" uniform and only a royal decree can get her into one. For his part, Alberich also prefers "grays" but will occasionally don Whites in order to disguise himself, as his reputation for disliking them is so well established.
    • In the Mage Winds series, the Hawkbrothers (specifically, their hertasi helpers) take such a dislike to Elspeth's Whites that they literally steal them until they can come up with something better. She insists on them remaining white, but they at least manage to make her the most stylish Herald in the history of Valdemar.
  • Honest Advisor: The position of Monarch's Own Herald exists so that the ruler always has at least one completely honest, absolutely trustworthy friend.
  • Horsing Around: There are several instances, including the famous gray stud of Forst Reach and a beautiful but brainless horse in Oathbreakers.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Dirk and Talia.
  • Hunting Accident: Prince Thanel's attempt to assassinate his wife Selenay, and also the official explanation for Thanel's death when the attempt failed.
  • Hurricane of Aphorisms: There are a lot of old Shin'a'in proverbs, and everyone loves to quote them.
  • Hurting Hero: Vanyel especially.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Dirk tries this in Arrow's Fall. Talia, the Love Interest in question, is not amused when she finally realizes what's going on.
  • Identical Grandson: "The Ashkevron family look tends to breed true, and when it doesn't the poor thing usually runs off to Haven."
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Vanyel, to a tavern wench. He doesn't understand why at first, because he doesn't yet realize that he's gay.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Kethry's backstory.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: One of the Heralds' defining traits. It's worth noting that the potential for this has to exist in order for the Companions to Choose them in the first place, and many a Herald with a troubled past has had to reconcile it before fully embracing his/her destiny. Also, Heralds are not completely incorruptible, but it is observed that evildoers couldn't possibly offer what it would take to do so. In the entire history of the kingdom, only one Herald has ever been repudiated: Tylendel, who wasn't corrupted but instead went mad and attempted a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The Infiltration: Tarma's role in Oathbreakers is to get inside the court in Rethwellan to uncover the truth of what happened to the King's sister. She does, and it is not pretty.
  • Instant Expert: One of Need's powers is to make its bearer a master swordsman if they are not already experienced in martial combat.
  • Intellectual Animal: Companions, most notably; also gryphons, Firecats, kyree, and hertasi, all of which were either divinely or magically created. Some of the smarter bondbirds also qualify - for example, Hyllar the hawkeagle, who demonstrates a capable grasp of abstract concepts such as "acting" and "sarcasm."
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Talia's close bond with her equestrian instructor Keren in the Arrows trilogy. Perhaps even moreso, her equally close friendship with the elderly and mostly retired Herald Jadus in Arrows of the Queen.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Skif and Nyara are only sort of an example, since Nyara was originally human before her father altered her. Later her Catgirl features are reverted until she's almost completely human in appearance.
    • Lavan Firestorm and his Companion do have a lifebond as well as a Companion bond; this is necessary to anchor his sanity.
    • There's something of a Deconstruction or justified aversion of this issue in the Mage Storms trilogy, where the true nature of most Companions (reincarnated Heralds) is revealed. The Companions go to great lengths to conceal this secret to avoid exactly the situation where a Herald is forced to confront a former loved one in a ... slightly different body.
  • Keystone Army: Several, mainly out of Hardorn. The "keystone" in most cases is the mage whose spells are keeping the massive conscript force controlled -- take him out and the army collapses.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Talia and Lavan Firestorm both catch a lot of this.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Ancar in the first trilogy, arguably.
  • The Kingdom: Valdemar. Hardorn and Karse start leaning this way in later books.
  • Lady of War: Queen Selenay; also something of a Winter Royal Lady, since she (like all Heralds) wears white on duty.
  • Large Ham:
    • Firesong, deliberately. He views showmanship as an inherent part of his art and when the opportunity comes to play at being a carnival charlatan, he hams it up with gusto.
    • Hilariously, Hyllarr the bondbird hawkeagle, who with only a little prompting from Darkwind proves more than willing to shamelessly ham up his injuries to get Starblade's sympathy.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Occasionally inflicted on Heralds by their Companions to preserve their Masquerade as being nothing more than supernaturally intelligent horses. Also, Vanyel's scheme to keep magic out of Valdemar is partly based on a massive node-powered amnesia spell that compels its inhabitants to forget that magic exists, or ever existed except in legend.
  • Ley Line: The basis of the magic system is Life Energy, which bleeds off of living things and collects into "streams" and "rivers" of energy called ley lines that eventually flow to another plane. Where two or more ley lines meet, they form a node, an extremely powerful magical energy source.
  • Life Energy: This forms the basis of all magic. See Ley Line above as well as Liquid Assets.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Skif and Talia swear blood brotherhood after their failed teenage romance. Interestingly, they mean it, and any UST becomes moot after Talia acknowledges her lifebond to Dirk. Also occurs between Talia and Kris, although they were lovers during her internship.
  • Liquid Assets: Healing magic (and its Dark Side counterpart, Blood Magic) explicitly work this way.
  • Living Lie Detector: All Heralds learn a "truth spell" which has this effect. Many can also perform an upgraded version which forces the subject to tell the truth.
  • Locked Room Mystery: The short story "Keys" requires Kethry to solve one of these. To add tension, Tarma is stuck outside fighting single combats with every warrior in the keep until she dies or Kethry figures it out, whichever comes first.
  • Long Running Book Series
  • Love At First Sight: Supposedly this is true of all lifebonds; By the Sword provides probably the most dramatic example.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Inverted with Lavan Firestorm, whose lovebond to his Companion kept him sane. When she died, he burned a mountain pass down to bare rock, along with the invading army that was in the pass at the time. (And himself, of course.)
  • Love Triangle: A Type 4 between Dirk, Kris, and Talia. At least, that's what Dirk thinks; his reluctance to "break up" Kris and Talia, while the two of them are trying to set Talia up with Dirk, causes a tremendous amount of heartbreak.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Gifts and true magic are portrayed fairly consistently, despite a bit of Early Installment Weirdness. Each novel in the series goes deeper into the underlying mechanics of the Valdemar 'verse and the actors behind it.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Three times in the series.
    • At the end of The Black Gryphon, the Cataclysm shatters magic over the entire continent and it takes years before things settle down enough that it's safe to use again.
    • Following The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, Vanyel's efforts to protect Valdemar from foreign mages and to ensure that "normal" Heraldic Gifts weren't seen as inferior to magic have the unintended side-effect of causing the country as a whole to forget that magic even exists. This gets revoked at the beginning of Winds of Fury, setting the stage for the return of the Herald-Mages.
    • At the end of Mage Storms, the Final Storm causes most nodes and ley lines to be drained and scattered across the land, depriving mages of most of their power. Again, it's stated that things will get back to normal eventually.
  • Magic Knight: Vanyel, Elspeth, and Darkwind are the most notable examples. Most Heralds and many Tayledras tend at least a little toward this. That said, true Magic Knights are rare, since keeping either martial or magical skills up to date is a full-time job, and doing both of them together pretty much precludes a social life.
  • Magic Music: The Bardic Gift.
  • Magitek: The Eastern Empire's infrastructure uses magical devices both in place of technology and in conjunction with it. Many of Urtho's devices also count.
  • The Magnificent:
    • Vanyel picks up quite a few epithets through between-books exploits; among other things, he becomes known as Vanyel Shadowstalker and Vanyel Demonsbane.
    • In Brightly Burning, Lavan Chitward becomes informally known in the Herald's Collegium as "Lavan Firestarter." (He is unaware that the name was actually bestowed on him by the King.) Down south on the Karsite border, he became "Herald Lavan Firestorm."
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted when a young man is the center of the Coming of Age Story; played straight elsewhere. In fairness, female Heralds aren't celibate, nor are they expected to be.
  • Masquerade: The Companions spend over a thousand years as partners to the Heralds without ever revealing their true natures: reincarnated Heralds, or even actual divine avatars in the case of Grove-Born Companions. This is deemed necessary as knowing it could cause the Heralds to worship or even become dependent on them, not to mention the trauma of knowing that a loved one came back in a forever-inaccessible form... or worse, didn't come back.
  • May-December Romance: a Author Appeal. Several appear early in the series:
    • Stefan is 17 and Vanyel is 35 when they meet.
    • Talia (19-20) marries mid-30s Dirk.
    • Sherrill is about 20 years younger than Keren who was about 20 years younger than Ylsa
    • Ancar (late 20s) and Hulda (probably 60s, possibly older) are a less positively portrayed couple.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Winterhart, which she chose deliberately in an attempt to conceal her tragic backstory.
    • Hawkbrothers take a use-name upon reaching adulthood, almost always reflecting some aspect of their personality. When something dramatically changes their personality, they may take a Meaningful Rename.
    • The High Priest directly appointed by the sun god is named "Solaris", Latin for "of the sun."
  • Meaningful Rename: Contributing to the tendency of the Tayledras to have Meaningful Names is the fact that they sometimes change their names following life-changing events. For example, Darkwind was called Songwind in the backstory of Winds of Fate, but he changed it when the Heartstone was sabotaged. The Mage Winds trilogy manages to play this for a bit of humor when Starblade quips that he considered changing his name to Starshadow to reflect that he feels like a shadow of his former self... but there's already a Shadowstar and it would be too confusing.
  • Medieval Stasis: Rigorously enforced throughout the series, with the raw beginnings of Steam Age technology emerging around Mage Storms. Justified in the sense that most societies have Functional Magic to do the job that technology might otherwise handle, with some (like the Eastern Empire) going all the way into Magitek. Valdemar had mind-magic and healing magic, even though "true magic" had been blocked by Vanyel's ghost until the end of Winds of Change.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Keisha refers to this in Owlsight, when she thinks back to when the village women cleaned up Justyn's old cottage. She concedes that he kept the treatment areas clean, but the living areas .... Later, when she first sees Darian's home in the new Vale, she can't believe at first that a single male lives there because it's so clean. (Darian does not score any aversion points, since the hertasi clean the place for him.)
    • Played straight in the Tarma & Kethry short story "Hero", where they end up seeking shelter with a farmer who had just lost his wife for one night while on the road... and end up staying longer because they are constitutionally incapable of riding on and leaving the poor man and his young children in that kind of mess. In the man's defense he was certainly trying to keep house, but with his oldest child barely old enough to keep the younger ones from falling into the privy and a farm to run without any farmhands, he had exactly zero hours in the day for housekeeping chores and zero helping hands to do it with. The story doesn't end until they find him a housekeeper.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Hoo boy. There's a reason most Mindspeaking Heralds won't poke around in another's thoughts without cause, and why many with untrained Gifts who haven't yet been Chosen have a miserable time.
  • Mindlink Mates: Lifebonded pairings, with all the angst and drama that typically accompanies the trope. Discussed in Winds of Fate between Stefen, Skif, and Nyara, and then again at greater length throughout the "Mage Storms" trilogy when Firesong (mistakenly) believes that having a lifebond would be the end of all disagreements and misunderstandings.
  • Mind Over Manners: The Incorruptible Pure Pureness of all Heralds means that they basically never abuse their mind-magic. Kerowyn, meanwhile, uses hers as little as possible mostly out of the fear that the people around her would not be able to trust her if they knew she could read their minds.
  • Mind Rape:
    • Practically a hobby of several villains, most notably Mornelithe Falconsbane. It's established that anyone with strong Empathy is capable of this, but since most of them become Healers or Heralds, it's extremely rare.
    • It's interesting to note that Talia, while mostly using her Empathy to help other Heralds who have had traumatic experiences, has done this as well on at least four occasions. The first was when she simply overwhelmed the mind of a madwoman to knock her out. The second occasion involved taking the worst nightmares of a boy who tried to seduce Elspeth and forcing him to experience it, then threatening to make him repeat the experience every time he closed his eyes if he said a word to anyone about what had happened. The third was when she lashed out at a dungeon guard who was hoping to rape her. The most extreme use of her powers ever, Mind Rape in the most literal sense, happened when she forced a man who had raped his stepdaughters to relive what they had felt in a constant neverending loop, from which he could only be freed if he acknowledged that what he'd done was wrong.
  • Modest Royalty: Nearly every good ruler. High Priest Solaris would be one if her role didn't require episcopal pomp; the Emperors of the Eastern Empire wouldn't be one except for their philosophy that austerity is more intimidating than opulence.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: The Shin'a'in Star-Eyed Goddess, as implied by her name, appears as a woman with starfield eyes. Souls chosen to serve her, called Avatars, have the same eyes.
  • Morality Chain: Lavan's Companion. When she dies, everything burns.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Her aforementioned Author Avatar is a chronicler or, in other words, a writer.
  • Mugging the Monster: Lavan Chitward was bullied at school by the older students. During one such session, his powers manifested and his tormentors paid the price.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Averted in Valdemar, where the prevailing philosophy is that any use of magic or psychic powers which costs energy should be saved for real emergencies.
    • Contrasted with Valdemar is the Eastern Empire, which relies so heavily on Magitek that their society is thrown into chaos when the Mage Storms hit and magic becomes unreliable.
    • Mags and his Companion Dallen share Mindspeech so strong that Dallen can control Mags' hands remotely. They use this to weave Midwinter presents.
  • Mutant Draft Board:
    • A borderline example. The Companions don't ask permission of their Chosen before they Choose them, and have, on a couple of occasions, forcibly seized the Herald-to-be and dragged him off against his will. However, the Omniscient Morality License is in play: the Companions never choose anyone who would not accept the Call to Adventure if they knew all the facts, and no Herald has refused to serve once he or she is made aware of the situation.
    • An in-story subversion occurs when Bard Lynnell kidnaps Stefan off the street and declares that "you belong to Valdemar now." Stefan thinks that he's about to be Made a Slave, but Stefan's actually bound for Bardic Collegium to be trained in using his Gift. (Lynnell is as undiplomatic as a sack of hammers and acted only after finding that Stef was in fact living on the streets, which led to a bit of confusion.)
    • Owlsight features an implied aversion when Keisha sees a Companion coming and panics at the thought that she'll be Chosen and expected to leave her village without its only Healer and herbalist - only for the Companion to turn towards her sister instead. Whether she was really on the verge of being Chosen or just jumping to conclusions is left deliberately unclear. However, elsewhere in the series it's stated more or less outright that some people who would otherwise make very good Heralds are specifically not Chosen because there is some other role that it is more vital for them to play; ultimately, as in so many other things, Because Destiny Says So is in full effect regarding who does or doesn't get Chosen.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Ma'ar, who goes so far as to declare the fact with his dying breath.

Tropes N to Z[edit | hide]

  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The Hawkbrothers' use-names.
  • Needle in A Needle Stack: Elspeth and company get into Hardorn by pretending to be over-the-top carnival hucksters within a larger caravan of same.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Vanyel gets acceptance from his family eventually, but it takes a very long time. Talia and Kerowyn, meanwhile, get this trope in full - especially Talia, who is completely disowned by the Holding she came from.
  • Nice Guy: Karal, contractually due to being a priest, but this is his genuine personality and puts him in excellent standing with the good guys, as opposed to his political rivals and enemies who constantly underestimate him.
  • No Biological Sex: Kyree can be born male, female, or neuter. Famous kyree, including Warrl, tend to be neuter, since without any duty to have cubs, they're more free to leave the pack and go adventuring.
  • Non-Action Guy: Karal, in so many ways. It doesn't stop him from being The Hero of Mage Storms, though. Amberdrake too, in Mage Wars; his lack of martial skills becomes a plot point a few times.
  • The Oathbreaker: The "Oathbreaker's Curse" is specifically invoked in Oathbreakers by Tarma and Kethry in order to get revenge on the king of Rethwellan for the brutal murder of his sister. In By the Sword, the Skybolts also identify Ancar of Hardorn as an oathbreaker, and only the absence of any mages prevents them from invoking the same curse on him.
  • The Obi-Wan: Ulrich, Karal's mentor and Karsite ambassador to Valdemar, gets this deadly straight; he's killed by a magical assassination attempt halfway through Storm Warning, forcing Karal to take his place.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: Any powerful magic user is going to wind up with blue eyes regardless of what they were born with as a side effect from the amount of magic they use. Companions also have their blue eyes frequently mentioned, with newly Chosen Heralds usually spending a while staring into them when they first meet.
  • Oddly Common Rarity:
    • Lifebonds, supposedly very rare, are all over the earlier novels. Word of God says that Lackey realized this and backed off on them.
      • Also, lifebonds form when powerfully psychic people are under prolonged stress. While those two things are relatively rare among the general population, for obvious reasons they're pretty common among the main casts of the novels.
    • Companions bespeaking Heralds who are not their Chosen is said to be exceedingly rare. However, by the time of the Mage Winds trilogy, it seems they are entirely content to engage in Mindspeech with anyone who is not a Herald.
      • Explained in-text. The reason Companions don't bespeak people other than their Heralds isn't because they're trying to hide anything (after all, everybody already knows Companions are sentient creatures), but because they normally can't Mindspeech anyone without the Herald-Companion bond. However, if the recipient has Mindspeech of their own, or the Companion is one that had full-range Mindspeech in their previous life and still possesses it (like Herald Savil/Companion Sayvil), then nothing stops them from talking as much as they please.
  • Offered the Crown: Grand Duke Tremaine, for Hardorn (with conditions); a couple of Valdemaran monarchs wound up King or Queen after accidents befell their predecessors, King Randale, for one. Strongly implied to have happened to King Valdemar, the original monarch and namesake of The Kingdom.
  • Oh My Gods:
    • The setting has all manner of different gods and goddesses that various characters swear by; "Lady Bright" is popular among Valdemaran characters, while Kerowyn mostly swears by Agnira and sometimes one or both of her sister goddesses as well - occasionally very colorfully, when the situation calls for extra emphasis.
    • The Eastern Empire honors the "Hundred Little Gods" -- all the former Emperors and their consorts. As Tremane remarks, there aren't exactly a hundred, but it makes a nice round number to swear by.
  • Older and Wiser: Tarma and Kethry in By the Sword; Talia in The Mage Winds, Kerowyn in and after The Mage Storms. Among others.
  • Omniscient Morality License: The Companions exhibit this tendency from time to time, especially in the earlier novels, although Elspeth calls them out on it in Mage Winds. It later becomes subverted as we learn more about what Companions are.
    • Companions generally operate on the unspoken rule that they will only advise their Heralds, and then usually only when asked. Many tangled interpersonal squabbles could easily be resolved if the Companions would just get their hooves into it and sort their Heralds out, but when called on it, the Companions themselves state that their humans are expected to solve their own problems whenever possible. Justified in the sense that they are effectively avatars of the gods and obey a general divine Alien Non-Interference Clause about not messing around with human affairs unless absolutely necessary.
    • The few times the Companions do directly intervene with their divine authority, they usually wipe the memories of their Heralds afterwards. Again, this is specifically to prevent the Heralds from coming to worship the Companions or rely on them to solve all their problems.
    • The Gods themselves are revealed to have been playing this game for millennia; nearly every single one of the myriad disasters and near-disasters that have occurred since the first Cataclysm was engineered for the specific purpose of putting in place all the pieces necessary to avert the second Cataclysm.
  • Our Gods Are Greater: The precise nature of the gods is one of the few mysteries about the setting's magic system that remain unexplained.
    • Several Gods and Goddesses are worshipped; it's implied at some points that they may all be different faces of a single God and Goddess, which may in turn both be faces of The One, but the details don't always quite line up to support this. At least two gods - the Star-Eyed Goddess of the Shin'a'in, Tayledras, and Kaled'a'in clans, and Vkandis Sunlord of Karse and Iftel - are proven to exist and take active hands in the lives of their followers. Both are benevolent, but they're neither truly omnipotent or omniscient, and they can sometimes be jerks; their philosophy is that humans have a right and responsibility to solve their own problems whenever they can, but they aren't above abandoning that rule whenever they have an objective that needs to be accomplished. The big examples are the Laser-Guided Amnesia they use to protect their secrets, and Vkandis very unsubtly reorganizing his church hierarchy when he needed Karse on the Good Guys' team.
    • Several beings are worshipped that are clearly not a part of this pantheon. The Hundred Little Gods are the spirits of deceased emperors, although they grant no powers and may be fictitious; and Thalhkarsh is a demon who gains actual power from this. Demons and elemental spirits clearly come from somewhere, and it's unclear whether these are under the jurisdiction of the aforementioned gods or not. In addition, when the Star-Eyed puts in an appearance in Oathbreakers she comments with interest on the concept of Companions in a way that suggests she's not the power behind them, although this specific example may fall into Early Installment Weirdness which has since been quietly Retconned away, given developments in later novels.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different
  • Overprotective Dad: As part of the Changing of the Guard and shift in Character Focus throughout the various series, it's sometimes very amusing to witness how protective the previous protagonists get toward their offspring. The Silver Gryphon is almost entirely about this.
  • Parental Abandonment: Pops up from time to time, though less often than one might think, the most notable case probably being Darian of the Owl trilogy, for whom this is a major trauma.
  • Parental Incest: Many characters have this as part of their backstory.
    • The rapist stepfather that Talia deals with at the end of Arrow's Flight functions as a trial of her newfound maturity with respect to her Gift.
    • Among the many crimes of Mornelithe Falconsbane is using his daughter as a sex slave -- indeed, manipulating her via magic into being a sex slave.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil:
    • In Oathbound, Tarma and Kethry arrange the rape of a bandit infiltrator by sending him back to his companions, stripped naked and magically disguised as a woman.
    • Kethry's master sorcery in Oathbreakers involves harnessing the combined anger of all of the Sunhawks over their captain's brutal murder. It is used in a way that barely straddles the line between good and evil; it's even stated that Kethry's greatest challenge is not to let the sheer power of all that rage overwhelm her, lest she fall to The Dark Side.
    • Talia's literal Mind Rape of a (physical) rapist also qualifies; it was an act of calculated rage on her part, but she felt absolutely no remorse afterward, comparing it to shooting bandits and noting that if the man ever truly repents, he'll be freed.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Most Adept-class mages are this, but some get special mention. Among those with Psychic Powers rather than magic, Firestarters are similarly capable.
    • Vanyel Ashkevron gives his life in a Heroic Sacrifice that obliterates a powerful mage and the entire army he was leading into Valdemar. Even prior to this, he is viewed with fear among his own people as he is said to be able to level the city of Haven should he ever so choose.
    • Lavan Firestorm, a Firestarter, reduces an entire army (and himself) to ash and sterilizes the pass they came through in his own Heroic Sacrifice.
    • The grand prize goes to Great Mages Urtho and Ma'ar of prehistory, who between their own vast powers and their Magitek WMDs managed to completely change the face of 99% of the known world in a magical Cataclysm so powerful that it echoed through time to recur 3000 years later.
  • Phrase Catcher:
    • Vanyel at the beginning of Magic's Promise, when everyone he meets tells him that he looks like hell. Justified in that he does.
    • Elspeth in Winds Of Fury gets, "We thought you were dead!" After a while her traveling companions are calling it "the standard greeting."
    • Kerowyn in By The Sword cannot go out in public without people singing the song "Kerowyn's Ride" at her.
  • Place of Power: Nodes, the intersection of Ley Lines and the most powerful sources of magic in the world. The Tayledras take it even further, having been taught by their Goddess to build Heartstones, which augment and focus the power of nodes to accomplish tasks no other mage can hope to duplicate. They teach Vanyel how to do it, which leads to him building a Heartstone beneath Haven.
  • Planning with Props: In Winds of Fate. It backfires rather badly, thanks to the characters' failure to clean up their props before their plan goes into action.
  • Playing with Fire: Firestarters, one of the rarer Psychic Powers, do this.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Dirk, Kris, and Talia's Love Triangle would have been a lot easier to resolve if they had just talked to each other about it. Unfortunately, Talia gets thrown headfirst into Haven politics, Kris goes on a spree of debauchery, and Dirk falls victim to Drowning My Sorrows over an unrelated incident. The whole thing doesn't sort itself out until after Kris dies and Talia nearly dies.
  • Portal Cut:
    • Skandranon narrowly escapes this fate while retreating from Ma'ar's tower through a human-sized Gate. As it is, the narrow passage takes off a few feathers. He later barely escapes being trapped forever in the Nether Planes when the Gate he uses to escape Urtho's tower collapses.
    • When Wild Magic transports Darian's parents to the far north, his father's foot is left behind.
  • Power Levels: Mages are rated by their maximum capacity for handling magical energy, which is apparently genetic and (mostly) unalterable. Journeymen can only use power from within themselves and ambient power from their immediate environment, Masters can tap Ley Lines, and Adepts can tap nodes. While they are in training, mages may be identified by ranks below their maximum potential (example: a "Journeyman" with "Adept potential").
  • Prequel in the Lost Age:
    • The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, set in Vanyel's time before magic vanished from Valdemar.
    • The Mage Wars trilogy, set in the time leading up to the Cataclysm.
  • Private Military Contractors: Various mercenary companies, such as the Sunhawks (Vows and Honor) and the Skybolts (By the Sword). Some are bonded and affiliated with a trade union (the Mercenaries Guild) which keeps order.
  • Psychic Powers: Mind-Magic or Heraldic "Gifts", which range from the relatively benign, like FarSight or ForeSight, to the potentially devastating, like Firestarting. Gifts often vary in strength, and many Heralds have more than one. Inside Valdemar, practically anyone demonstrating these Gifts seems to end up Chosen; outside, Gifts pop up randomly from time to time, but less commonly, and only one other nation is mentioned making use of them on Valdemar's level.
  • Puberty Superpower: Heralds usually gain their Companions and their Gifts in their teens.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Glottal-stop apostrophes in the languages of the Kaled'a'in and Shin'a'in.
  • Puss in Boots: Court-Baron Melles' valet, who is a gifted assassin in semi-retirement.
  • Racial Remnant: The Tedrel Mercenaries are the survivors of nation of people. They became mercenaries and tried to get enough money to create a new homeland.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Elspeth is really not happy at being yanked around by the gods and flatly rejects their Omniscient Morality License. It takes until the Mage Storms trilogy for the gods' avatars to finally level with everyone, because otherwise Elspeth is likely to slip her leash again and put the whole plan in jeopardy.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Ancar, to Hulda, once it becomes apparent that she will not teach him any magic beyond Master level. Mornelithe Falconsbane capitalizes on this to foster rebellion in the young King. Of course, what she doesn't tell him (and Falconsbane has no intention of revealing) is that he lacks the potential to go beyond Master.
  • Rape as Backstory: Pretty often. See particularly Tarma, Kethry, and Nyara.
  • Rape as Drama: Talia, Vanyel.
  • Really Gets Around: Some Heralds. (It's explicit that they're not expected to be chaste while off-duty; Bard Stefen (before meeting Vanyel).
  • Rearing Horse: The official crest of Valdemar.
  • Reincarnation: Stefen in Magic's Price is more or less confirmed to be the reincarnation of Tylendel, and later books confirm that many Companions are reincarnated Heralds; in particular, Kerowyn's Companion Sayvil is implied to be the reincarnation of Vanyel's aunt Savil Ashkevron.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: Darian certainly has this reaction when he finds out Firesong k'Vala has moved to k'Valdemar Vale specifically to train him.
  • Retcon:
    • A minor one; the magic system utilized by Kethry in Vows and Honor undergoes a major and mostly unremarked upon revision in later works. A somewhat bare justification given in-story is that some mage schools apparently don't know about Ley Lines and therefore don't teach their students about them. Another justification is that Kethry was dumbing down her explanation for her audience, as she didn't have time to hold an entire Magical Theory 101 session.
    • Another minor one is concerning the death of Selenay's first husband and father-in-law. The first time (by order of publication) it's mentioned, it's implied that they happened at about the same time. In By The Sword, it's stated that learning about Thanel's treachery and death caused his father to die of shock. In Exile's Valor, the death of Thanel's father takes place nearly a year before Thanel's death.
    • In By the Sword, Kerowyn says that the Mercenaries' Guild has placed several representatives in Iftel over the years, but none stuck because they found living there too boring. In the Mage Storms trilogy, Iftel is revealed to be populated by Kaled'a'in and a good many nonhumans such as gryphons, something that one would think at least one of those Guild reps might have found remarkable.
      • Justified in that Iftel's Guild representatives were all Iftelian natives -- they're deliberately maintaining the kayfabe. Indeed, Iftel wouldn't have Guild representatives at all except for the fact that excluding the Mercenaries' Guild entirely would draw more attention to Iftel then simply allowing the Guild in, making sure all the resident factors are Iftelian citizens in on the secret, and having them consistently report such boring and unproductive conditions that no mercenary companies actually come to Iftel to look for business opportunities.
  • Retired Badass: Tarma in By the Sword.
  • Rightful King Returns: The final section of Oathbreakers involves working to put prince-in-exile Stefansen on the throne of Rethwellan.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Tarma goes on one of these when bandits kill her Clan.
    • Tylendel does it after his twin brother is assassinated, leading to his repudiation, and Vanyel has a brief but thorough one in Magic's Price.
    • Lavan Firestorm performs an almost-literal version against a Karsite invasion in Brightly Burning -- sadly, it is because his Companion had died and he is Taking You with Me.
  • Royal Brat: Princess Elspeth, thanks to Hulda's manipulations. It's even her unofficial nickname until Talia manages to civilize her.
  • Royally Screwed-Up: Almost completely averted in Valdemar thanks to the requirement that the Monarch must be a Herald. In full force, however, in Hardorn, and occasionally in Rethwellan.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Monarch must be a Herald. Heralds are all Special-Forces-qualified. However, the Heir is noted as the only Herald under orders to stay away from any danger they can reasonably avoid; when faced with a conflict between this injunction and her duty as a Herald-Mage to take the lead against the forces of evil, Elspeth is only able to resolve the conflict by abdicating her spot in the royal line of succession.
  • Ruling Couple: Selenay and Daren of Valdemar. In fact, any Valdemaran royal spouse will become a co-consort provided that they are also chosen as a herald. There are several examples of this in the back story.
  • Runaway Fiance: Talia, initially.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: This is part of the Heralds' job description, but none feel it more keenly than Vanyel.
  • Sapient Steed: The Companions and some of the intelligent ridable creatures like dyheli.
  • Secret Legacy: The ruling line of Valdemar is directly descended from Vanyel, the last Herald-Mage, by way of the King's mistress at the time. This was done very intentionally and then covered up just as deliberately, as: (a) the King had a disease preventing him from siring children, (b) Vanyel was widely known to be gay, and (c) Valdemar was in significant political turmoil and needed to maintain the continuity of the Royal bloodline -- and keep an alliance-marriage a viable option. This turns out to be an in-story Chekhov's Gun as, six hundred years later, Princess Elspeth inherits Vanyel's mage gifts and becomes the first new Herald-Mage since his death. It's implied that Herald Kris was a descendant of the same line.
  • Screw Destiny:
    • Elspeth, to the point where she gets Very Annoyed when people start mentioning Destinies. Need, naturally, approves -- while Gwena finds it irritating to the extreme. But then, Gwena was the one trying to shanghai her into a Glorious Destiny, wherein Elspeth would be the first of the Herald-Mages to return to Valdemar after the last one died, several centuries ago. Interestingly, she does return to Valdemar as a Herald-Mage, albeit by a completely different path then the Companions had intended.
    • The trope is subverted in a number of ways: strong-willed characters like Elspeth, Vanyel, and Kerowyn swear up and down that they are going to fight the winds of fate, but they all end up more or less where they're supposed to be anyway.
  • Self Insert: In story; the first time we meet Talia, she's daydreaming about having been a Herald accompanying Vanyel at his last stand. Herald-Chronicler Myste is the author's avatar.
  • Sex by Proxy: Blessed with Suck, Talia experiences this with Companion Rolan and nearby Herald-Trainees. She chooses a tower room as her Heraldic residence to ensure her own privacy.
  • She Is the King:
    • Solaris is High Priest, not Priestess, of Karse. Her title is "Son of the Sun." In Exile's Honor, set a generation earlier, the little boy (Vkandis in disguise) mentions to Herald Alberich his daughter who will be his Son.
    • In the second part of By the Sword, some ten-plus years prior to Solaris, Kerowyn notes that the High Priest leading Karse in its war against Rethwellan is purportedly a woman pretending to be a man, complete with faux mustache, styling herself "the true-born Son of the Sun."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Bard Aiken.
    • In Mage Storms, there's one line where an unnamed character uses a Catch Phrase from Ninja High School: "The world can be saved by steam!"
    • One country, never visited, but shown on the maps and briefly mentioned once or twice, is named Seejay (alternately spelled Ceejay). Also, there's the Terilee river, named for one of the administrators at Firebird Arts & Music, which carries a lot of stuff related to Valdemar.
  • Shown Their Work: Mercedes Lackey is an expert equestrian and falconer. Anything she writes about these subjects is as accurate as it gets, minus the magical trappings.
  • Shrinking Violet: Talia at first, due to crippling shyness. As she becomes a full Herald, she grows out of it.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Talia. The queen's Herald/personal advisor, she is patient, kind, and can fight with both a knife and a bow. Her style of close-range fighting is inspired by Skif's life on the street, and is implied to be entirely sneaky and dirty.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Vanyel, to later generations of Valdemarans. Of course, he was indeed every bit as powerful a mage as the legends tell, if not more.
  • Sketchy Successor:
    • Averted in Valdemar, where one must be Chosen as a Herald, with all the Incorruptible Pure Pureness that implies, in order to be eligible for the throne. It is in fact key to the origin of the Heraldic Circle: King Valdemar, concerned that one of his descendents would eventually fall into this trope, prayed to every God he could think of for a way to ensure that his successors would always be worthy people, and was answered by the appearance of three Companions who promptly Chose him, his son, and his herald.
    • Played straight, meanwhile, with the King of Hardorn, who was a pretty good king and ally of Valdemar until his son Ancar killed him and took over, enslaving his people and starting wars with Valdemar and Karse.
  • Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter: Inverted. The priests of Karse spent several centuries drifting away from the true tenets of their god Vkandis, falling further and further into vile corruption and demon-summoning, while still invoking Vkandis' name to cement their theocratic rule. One fine midwinter's day, during the annual high holy ceremonies of their religion, Vkandis chose to actually answer an invocation. The following events earned him the Fan Nickname 'Vkandis The Unsubtle'.
  • Snake Talk: Most of the Gryphons. But not in any evil or sinister sense; it's due to their vocal anatomy.
  • Spirit Advisor:
    • The Shin'a'in "Swordsworn" -- including Tarma -- become these after death, and help to train and advise living Swordsworn. The ghosts of Vanyel, Stefan, and Yfandes also act as Spirit Advisors briefly in The Mage Winds and The Mage Storms before finally moving on to "Bermuda".
    • Technically, the Companions themselves count, although they are embodied rather than incorporeal. So do the Firecats.
  • Squishy Wizard: Most mages, including Kethry except that Need makes up the difference in her case. It's mentioned that the reason for the squishiness of wizards is the time investment needed: "Fighter, mage, social life: pick two". Herald-Mages attain Magic Knight status instead by sacrificing the third one, and by getting the best and fastest possible training in both disciplines.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Sunsinger and Shadowdancer, in the backstory.
  • Strange Syntax Speaker: Herald Alberich speaks Valdemaran with Karsite word order. He was born and raised in Karse and only ended up in Valdemar after being kidnapped/rescued by a Companion, who eventually psychically fed Valdemaran vocabulary into his head... and only vocabulary.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Justified and used In-Universe with lifebonds. People most certainly do fall in love Because Destiny Says So, either because one or both individuals involved need someone to cling to to keep from going insane (the most common motivation) or because it's necessary to the gods' plans that the individuals involved marry.
  • Street Urchin: Skif, Stefan, and a number of other characters.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Ashkevron family.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Valdemaran mages and mind-mages tend to this, especially when a bunch of artificers get into the act in Mage Storms.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Both mage powers and mind magic are inherited and inheritable, generally, although they can also hang around latent or spontaneously arise.
  • Superpower Lottery: An incident involving the creation of a Gate left Vanyel Ashkevron with not only Adept-level mage ability but just about all Psychic Powers the Heralds knew of to one degree or another. Of course the same incident led directly to his lover's suicide so...
  • Suspicious Spending: In one of the short stories, Tarma figures out who The Mole is by realizing that one of the guards is wearing jewelery and riding a horse that he shouldn't be able to afford (though this is only considered to be grounds for suspicion, not proof in and of itself).
  • Sword and Sorcerer: Tarma and Kethry are this precisely, although it's played with a bit in that Need, their geased sword, makes Kethry a master fighter and Tarma immune to magic.
  • Symbol Motif Clothing: The Tayledras will often have a motif repeated in their clothing, usually something to do with birds or feathers. Given their relationship with birds of prey, this is entirely fitting.
  • Take Me Instead!: Standard Heraldic MO. Any Herald would die for the Monarch, for another Herald, or for Duty.
  • Taking You with Me: The purpose of a mage's Final Strike.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Kero and Eldan in By The Sword. For ten years (and she had no clue he was actually doing it).
  • Talking Weapon: Need, after she regains full awareness in Winds of Fate.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Heralds, Companions, and others with a strong 'Fetching' gift can move living things and even themselves. It apparently feels jolting, like a sudden strong leap, and is somewhat unpleasant for the target.
  • This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman: Karal is a 'Channel' -- a type of mage who can safely transmit huge amounts of magical energy. His talent is absolutely critical at the climax of each book in the Mage Storms trilogy but otherwise he's the equivalent of a non-mage.
  • Together in Death: Vanyel and Stefan/Tylendel.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tarma and Kethry. Subverted a bit, because tomboy Tarma is the one who most adores babies and children.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: In The White Gryphon.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The price Vanyel apparently pays for his earthshattering powers is to be hated by his family, targeted by every enemy of Valdemar, and lose nearly everyone he cares about. Subtly justified with the revelation in Magic's Price that there really is someone who has it in for him and has been deliberately trying to destroy him.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening:
    • Talia in Arrows of the Queen develops her Empathy normally but it's not fully awakened until she's dropped into a freezing river in an assassination attempt and has to call Rolan for help. Later in the novel, the death of a Herald's lifebonded partner unlocks her latent Mindspeech.
    • Vanyel in The Last Herald-Mage has his gifts triggered when his lover/soulmate commits suicide and he takes the full backlash from the closing of the Gate that his latent power helped open.
    • In Brightly Burning, Lavan's Firestarter gift was starting to come through as a normal Puberty Superpower, but being tortured by the older students snapped it on full-power.
  • Trilogy Creep: The Collegium Chronicles trilogy has expanded to a quartet.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: Gryphons tend to speak this way, although some, like Skandranon, can manage perfect diction. They also have a touch of Snake Talk.
  • Tsundere: Elspeth.
  • Tyke Bomb: Ancar of Hardorn is one of the single most successful examples (at least until Rage Against the Mentor started kicking in after several years on the throne). The irony is that he was Hulda's second choice -- Elspeth would have become this had Talia not interfered, and a much more powerful one to boot due to being a potential Adept.
  • Uncoffee: Bitteralm appears to be this verse's coffee equivalent (though most people just stick to strong tea).
  • The Unfavourite:
    • Queen Selenay's relationship with her eldest daughter was complicated well into the latter's adulthood by the former's fear that she subconciously regarded her as this. The fact that Elspeth looked a fair bit like her father did not help.
    • Vanyel Ashkevron's early life is a perfect example. His father instructs his armsmaster to beat Vanyel so badly that he breaks his arm, rather than accept that his son is not going to live up to his standards of "manliness".
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Shaych", short for "shay'a'chern", a Tayledras word meaning "homosexual", which has become a loanword in Valdemaran from the time of Vanyel. In the area of Rethwellan and the other kingdoms to the south of Valdemar, the Shin'a'in word "she'chorne" is used. "Fey" is also used pretty generally, presumably because of its rhyming similarity to "gay" and implication of otherness.
  • The Verse: The name of the planet on which the series takes place is Velgarth, but this is never mentioned other than in the introduction of the first trilogy written.
  • Villain Decay: Justified and actually invoked in-universe in the form of Ma'ar, as his method for cheating death down the centuries gradually damages his psyche more and more, until the heroes are finally able to bring him down in Winds of Fury. Mind you, even in his emotionally-cripped, erratic, semi-functional latest incarnation, he's still terrifyingly competent and thorough, and it's revealed later that the gods have been very carefully planning this--allowing him to reincarnate time and time again--until he can be killed in just such a way as to preserve the knowledge he carried over from the Mage Wars.
  • Vomiting Cop: Chapter 9 of Changes turns into an episode of CSI: Haven when four enemy spies are found dead. Two summertime days of decomposition make several hardened Guardsmen "violently ill," but the Special Squad of CSIs are unfazed.
  • We Can Rule Together: A truly astonishing number of villains try this ploy on Vanyel. It never works, but it doesn't stop them from trying.
  • We Have Reserves: Accurately sums up the attitude of both Ancar and Falconsbane towards military tactics, and also nearly wipes out the Skybolts.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Vanyel is troubled by this for a significant portion of his life... not so much to get his father to approve of his accomplishments as to approve of him.
    • Subverted in Winds of Fate with Darkwind and his father. In his youth, Darkwind was close to his parents. But when the Heartstone was sabotaged, and Darkwind's mother died, his father turned against him. It turns out that Darkwind's father is Mind Controlled by the Big Bad and is deliberately trying to drive his son away to protect him, in the only way he can. When the spell is broken, Darkwind is amazed at the change in his personality and wonders how he could have failed to notice.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Heraldic arrow-code, which gets a very detailed description in the "Arrows" trilogy and is critical to the plot of the third book, has never appeared again.
    • Fridge Brilliance: By the next time we see Heralds in wartime action after the 'Arrows' trilogy Kerowyn has effectively taken over as spymaster of Valdemar, and her Skybolt mercenaries have assumed many of the special-operations and long-range reconnaissance duties from the Heralds -- and not only have none of the above ever been trained in arrow-code, but Kerowyn's the sort of personality who'd find it to be frivolous and would just order her people to learn how to use regular ciphers or message-spells.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Played every which way but straight. Most characters with minimal or very specialized talents soon find ways to demonstrate that Heart Is an Awesome Power.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Firesong gets lambasted in the Mage Storms trilogy for his fits of jealous rage over An'desha's friendship with Karal. It turns out he was being driven crazy by the storms themselves, so all ends up forgiven.
  • When She Smiles: Talia is often regarded this way, since she's serious so much of the time. During her wedding preparations, Jeri laments, "Two hours I spend on her, and in the blink of an eye he makes everything I've done look insignificant!"
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Vanyel gets a lot of this from his family.
  • Wife Husbandry: Reversed; Hulda raised Ancar to be a tyrant king, and being his lover was merely a part of that. Also subverted in that Hulda regards him as merely a tool and is more than willing to cast him aside once he outlives his usefulness.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
    • Talia is precocious enough as a thirteen year old girl to have an insightful conversation with Queen Selenay before even knowing who she is. This as much as her empathy makes her ideally suited to be the Queen's Own.
    • In Exile's Valor, Alberich speculates that the Herald's training is a rushed maturation process. By the time most Heralds are graduated at 18 years, they are as mature as people in their 30s.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity:
    • The traumatic awakening of Lavan Firestorm's powers leaves him mentally fragile and only his bond with his Companion keeps him sane and his power in check. When she dies, all bets are off.
    • This almost certainly would have happened to Vanyel, were it not for his mentor's relationship with the Tayledras.
    • Talia has an early bout with this, due to her abilities as The Empath and the fact that the Collegium critically failed when training her, leaving her completely unable to control her gift. Kris, under circumstances that amount to direct divine intervention, manages to get her Gift trained before she loses it completely, but nearly gets killed while doing so.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: One of the driving tenets behind nearly every Herald's character. Herald-Mage Vanyel and Queen's Own Herald Talia have this to a particularly high degree.
  • Wizarding School: There are several schools of magic, with White Winds being the most mentioned one, that has several branches since all graduating mages that reach Master or Adept level are supposed to found schools of their own. Tarma and Kethry end up starting a combination fighting/mage school towards the end of Oathbreakers. In the Owls trilogy, it's mentioned that a Mage Collegium was set up so that non-Herald Mages can get training and learn to use their magic ethically.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Many Queens (and Kings, for that matter) of Valdemar would be this, save for the Monarch's Own Herald whose job it is to act as an absolutely trustworthy confidant. Before Talia showed up, Selenay was on the verge of truly falling victim to the isolation of her position, and made some disastrous choices that nearly cost her life and caused her daughter to be a Royal Brat. Upon coming of age, Elspeth renounces her claim to throne because she is the only Adept-class Herald-Mage in Valdemar but there are several potential Royal Heirs, and the duties of the one office are entirely conflicting with those of the other.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In-Universe. Vanyel discovers to his dismay, near the beginning of Magic's Promise, that people fear him as a potentially one. A Herald himself goes to serve Vanyel, rather than sending a page and risking a Freak-Out that blows up the Palace (or even the entire city of Haven).
  • World Sundering: The Cataclysm
  • World-Wrecking Wave: The Cataclysm, which takes the form of waves of magical energy emanating from the twin foci of Ma'ar and Urtho's citadels. Where the interaction of the waves produces a "crest", massive destruction is wrought even by comparison with the original purely physical blast. In Mage Storms, the Valdemaran artificers plan much of the Allies' defense against the storms on the basis of a geometric analysis of the wave patterns.
  • You Didn't Ask: Elspeth is infuriated when she finds out that her Companion, Gwena, never bothered to tell her that she is also a mage. Or Grove-born.
  • You Shall Not Pass:
    • Vanyel pulls a great big one at the end of Magic's Price.
    • Darian's master pulls one at the start of OwlFlight, leaving Darian with massive unresolved guilt over his dislike and contempt for the old man.