Tough Traveling with Fantasy Review Barn — Dark Lord

I know I’ve been quiet this week, but I was (mostly) occupied with finishing up the final chapter of the rough draft of book 3, The Living Throne.  I got the last bit done today, and though the path ahead is still long and rocky, I’m glad to have finally gotten so many of these scenes out of my head and onto the pages.  I’ve been waiting to write some of them for almost a decade.

This actually dovetails with today’s Tough Traveling, because as the third book in the War of Memory Cycle, it gets us involved with the series’ version of a Dark Lord.  Mind you, this may be the third but it isn’t the last book; in my head, it’s a six-book story, but I am hitting a few traditional beats as I go along.

Remember: it’s not bad to use some traditional tropes, as long as you’re aware of them and willing to play them a bit differently.

Anyway, the Dark Lord:

There is always one of these in the background of every Tour, attempting to ruin everything and take over the world.  He will be so sinister that he will be seen by you only once or twice, probably near the end of the Tour.  Generally he will attack you through Minions (forces of terror, bound to his will), of which he will have large numbers.  When you do get to see him at last, you will not be surprised to find that he is black (see Color Coding) and shadowy and probably not wholly human.  He will make you feel very cold and small.  Actually, when it comes down to it, that is probably all he will do, having almost certainly exhausted his other resources earlier on.  You should be able to defeat him, with a little help from your Companions, without too much effort.  However, the Rules state that at this stage you will be exhausted yourself and possibly wounded by Magic.  So be careful.

Now, obviously I can’t talk too much about the events of book 3.  Beside the fact that there would be spoilers, I’ve also only just finished the rough draft, and many things are already slated to be changed.  But we’ve already met my Dark Lord-cognate in book 2, and I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know that he’s the Risen Phoenix Emperor.

Or would it?  Should I be talking about this?


Pike it.

Yes, it’s the Emperor.

He meets some of the criteria above for a Dark Lord.  Wants to take over the world, check.  Only seen a few times, check.  Lots of minions, check — though what Emperor worth his crown doesn’t have tons of minions?  They’re called soldiers!

The rest of it….ehh, not so much.  Black and shadowy?  Beside that being pretty damn backward these days, his whole ‘Risen Phoenix’ bit won’t allow him to be even the tiniest bit dark.  This is how we first see him, midway through book 2:


Aradys IV, Most Holy Risen Phoenix Emperor and Prime Scion of the Light, lounged like a venerable lion on the cushions of the lambent throne, his trim-bearded chin propped in one palm.  He was the elder image of his son, broad-shouldered and handsome in a distant way, but garbed in sandals and a simple robe and breeches of bleached linen—more like a petitioner than their lord.   The Imperial crown rested on his faded golden hair, a thin circlet with a single winged diamond at the brow.

His eyes, pale as morning sunlight, found his son’s, and he smiled warmly.  Kelturin’s hackles immediately went up.


Basically the visual opposite of a Dark Lord.  And while that is a trope all of its own (Light Is Not Good), which yeah, I sometimes hammer at, the story isn’t really about Light or Dark.  Those are just the team colors some of the characters like to wear as they do their best to bloody each other up.

Let’s see, what else is in the entry…  Not wholly human?  Well, the Emperor’s followers believe he is a descendant and/or a conduit of the Risen Light, while his detractors have some different theories.  He does have a son, though.  Sons imply biology, right?

Make you feel cold and small?  Mmm…not really, but then that’s the Dark end of the spectrum.  The Light does something else.

Exhausted his resources?  Defeated without too much effort?

Hold on while I laugh myself sick.

Now, obviously I can’t go any further into this.  I’m already halfway between teasing and spoiling (if I haven’t already spoiled a few things — maybe I shouldn’t have added that TVTropes link).  And the Tough Guide definitions always hit at the most stereotypical aspects of these fantasy tropes, with your Saurons and Voldemorts and the like.  But it rather shows you what people outside the genre assume it’s like, and what some people within the genre expect to see when they open a book.  Inhuman madmen with vast faceless armies who send wave after wave against our intrepid heroes until finally they are cornered in their lairs and brought down…

So yes, I have some of that.  But it’s not the crux of the story.  Thus why I can talk about it now, here in the middle of the series: because the true threat is much different by the end.

And as a side note, if you ignore the whole evil-and-trying-to-take-over-the-world bit, the Dark Lord title would rest much more comfortably on the shoulders of Kherus Morgwi.  He’s even called The Shadowlord.  But then again, he’s the god of shadows (and wenching, according to his detractors), so he’s rather allowed to be like that.  He’s actually quite friendly once you get to know him…

One of his many minions, shown with a coin for size.

About H. Anthe Davis

Worldbuilder. Self-published writer.
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